Stepping carefully through the sparse undergrowth, Swanfeather had to be careful not to get his long silver fur caught on the grasping branches around him. RiverClan cats traditionally stuck to fishing, but his mentor had lived for a time in ThunderClan and had passed on his technique for catching birds, squirrels, and mice. Being able to hunt on land could help get the Clan through the worst of leafbare, when the ice over the river was too thick to break. Swanfeather liked to keep his skills honed, and set aside some time every once in a while to venture into the small patches of woodland at the edges of RiverClan's land to practice stalking and pouncing. And he might as well admit - he had a secret fondness for land prey. The taste reminded him of greenleaf days spent hunting with his mentor.
There was a certain appeal to the ThunderClan style of hunting. The way squirrels sprinted madly away, birds fluttered in shock trying to take to the air, mice dashed for their tiny dens - it was a lot more challenging than newleaf fishing, when the minnows practically swam directly into his claws. Swanfeather felt it kept his mind sharp, and body agile and strong.
His eyes locked on his hapless prey. A wiry grey squirrel, rifling through a clearing in the undergrowth in pursuit of seeds. Swanfeather felt his muscles tense as he crept slowly towards it. Carefully now, he thought. Just like how Thornflank taught you. He pulled himself along, belly low to the ground, feeling his anticipation rising with every step. His muscles bunched, then exploded beneath him. He shot towards the squirrel, which chirped in fear before attempting to scramble away - but it had been dead the moment Swanfeather had spotted it. He tasted blood as he delivered the killing bite.
The rich scent of the meat wafted up towards him, and he decided to settle down and eat it in the forested patch. He had already delivered his morning's catches - a couple plump carp - to the kits and queens, and he didn't think the elders would appreciate him bringing home a squirrel. The last time he did, they complained about it "stinking like ThunderClan" in the camp. And of course, there was always the risk of being called a squirrel-eater by some smart-mouth. Better just to get rid of the evidence, he thought.
Swanfeather ate lazily, letting the newleaf sun warm his pelt. It had been many moons since he had eaten squirrel. About halfway through his meal, he felt the gentle breeze subtly switch directions. As it did, a new scent filled his mouth, and he nearly choked on the squirrel. He lunged to his feet, frantically scanning the forest around him for the source of the rank, disgusting smell. For a second, all he heard was the sound of his heart pounding in his chest as he spotted a flash of russet red fur through the trees. Then the creature was out in the small clearing with him, snarling contemptuously and its eyes bright with sinister intelligence. Its gaze bored into his own. Fox! And a huge one at that. He'd driven off a few foxes in his life, but this one was massive - would he be able to defend himself against it?
Swanfeather couldn't navigate the traps of the undergrowth like it could - if he turned tail and ran now, his fate would surely be the same as the squirrel's. Trying to control his breathing, he turned to face it and assumed a battle position. If this mangy thing was going to try to kill him, he wouldn't go down without a fight.