"Still technically against the code," the tom said, but he was clear from his tone that he couldn't care less. "I'm Swanfeather, by the way. Nice to meet you, Rosebriar." His ear flicked amusedly. The molly was clearly a little uncomfortable, and her serious, professional attitude couldn't help but spark his desire to lighten the mood a little. Even though she was a complete stranger, speaking formally just felt too unnatural on his tongue.

    "Glad you like it here. I do too, that's why I live here," he said as he stepped a little closer. Not too close -- he wanted to dissipate the tension, not make her think he was a murderer. "Do you need any help getting back to WindClan?" He tipped his head slightly as he asked, his obnoxious grin replaced by something smaller and more genuine. He was pretty sure she could follow her own scent trail back, but it never hurt to ask.

    As soon as the angry words had left his mouth Swanfeather felt guilty. He was supposed to be a grown warrior, and here we was yelling at apprentices who were just minding their own business. As soon as the other cat replied with taunting of his own, the fight instantly went out of the tom and his aggressive stance slumped. Now he was just frustrated with himself, and he wondered why he had even started this confrontation when he clearly didn't have the energy to follow through.

    "I -" He stuttered as he tried to think of something to say. Clearly this sharp-tongued apprentice wasn't one to back down. What would defuse him? Swanfeather wasn't good with words on the best of days, and now he was too physically and mentally exhausted to do anything but tell the truth. "You're right," he mumbled out. "You weren't doing anything wrong. Sorry I yelled at you, I guess." He never had quite gotten the hang of apologizing, and the words felt uncomfortable on his tongue. But it was better than getting into a brawl, he supposed.

    Jaws slightly open to taste the air, Swanfeather blinked in surprise to find that Oceanpaw had veered sharply away from the hard-packed earth of the main path. He stepped carefully forward, now more bemused than ever about the apprentice's motives. When he came upon a cluster of bushes blocking the way, he thought for sure he had made a mistake. But the scent trail was unmistakable. He was about to squeeze through the tangle of branches and leaves when Oceanpaw's voice rang out in the darkness.

    One gray paw frozen mid-step, a surprised, anxious jolt shot through Swanfeather's chest. Would she be mad that he had followed her? Then he gave his head a small shake. Well, it doesn't matter if she's angry with me. She's the one who broke the rules! I'm only doing what I'm supposed to, he thought. But from the way his ears flattened guiltily, it was clear that he didn't believe that.

    "It's just me, Oceanpaw," he admitted, maneuvering himself through the shrubs. "I saw you leave camp. I just wanted to make sure you were safe. You know you're not supposed to be out here this late." His tone was kind and apologetic, never one to be too excited about being the authority figure. He padded a little farther into the clearing, too afraid that Oceanpaw would be angry with him to sit beside her. "Why did you come out here?" He asked softly, glancing up at the night sky to see the hundreds of pinpricks of white light glittering hypnotically above.

    Well then, this was turning into a proper patrol. Swanfeather stiffened a little at the sight of Twistedstar, more intimidated than he cared to admit by the new leader. He neither knew her well nor knew what she thought of him, and was anxious to make a good impression. He was a little happier to see Hawkpaw approach. The tom was lot more comfortable around apprentices than leaders, since he didn't have to worry too much about embarrassing himself in front of them. Not that embarrassing himself was something which happened often, but it was technically a possibility.

    He gave Twistedstar and Hawkpaw a quick dip of his head in greeting and a friendly, if slightly self-conscious grin. "Well, would you all like to go to Fourtrees? It's pretty cool, especially if you've never been before," he said, an excited sparkle back in his eyes as his thoughts shifted from Twistedstar to adventuring with the apprentices. "And since we're not going to the Gatherings right now, you probably won't have a reason to go otherwise..." He raised his brows expectantly for the other cats' thoughts, grinning happily.

    "Hmm..." Swanfeather unconsciously pawed at the wild fur on his cheeks, trying to smooth it down as he mulled over where to take the apprentices. They were both probably bored to death of water duty. He couldn't blame them -- he was too. And the river was still poisoned, so swimming wasn't an option...

    The two siblings were both pretty young. Maybe there were some parts of the expansive territory they had yet to see? "Have you two been to Fourtrees yet? Or maybe me and Bluepaw can help you collect herbs?" He mused aloud. Although he had some other ideas in mind, the tom wasn't about to suggest anything even remotely dangerous.

    A smile curled the corners of the tom's mouth as he padded into camp. A plump vole was clutched delicately in his teeth. He was admittedly terrible at hunting on land, and a catch like this was a rare achievement for him. Swanfeather almost wanted to shelter in his favorite spot, a shaded corner of the camp clearing, to watch the fresh-kill pile from a distance and see which cat would get to eat the fruit of his efforts. But it was probably about time to go fetch some water for the kits instead.

    Dropping the vole on the fresh-kill pile, he gave an impressed nod to the apprentice already standing over it. "Wow, a squirrel," he said, raising an eyebrow. "You apprentices are lucky to be so small and maneuverable. I'm way too clumsy to get a hold on prey like that." He gave the younger cat a friendly grin before beginning to nose through the pile, looking for something small to eat before going out to the cleanwater pond. His head suddenly perked up again as he turned to look at the apprentice. "Bluepaw, right? I don't think we've talked much before."

    //hi!! welcome to rc <3 was the title of this post a purposeful reference to the youtuber lol

    Fox-dung. The warrior cursed under his breath, eyes narrowed to slits as he stormed forward. Just moments before, a wiry red squirrel had slipped out from between the warrior's grasping claws and slithered into the bushes, never to be seen again. He gritted his teeth in frustration at the thought of the lost meal. With the river's fish inedible the warriors often had to go to their nests hungry, but he at least hoped the kits would remain well-fed until the water was clean again. Well, you're not doing a great job of making that happen, huh?

    Feeling betrayed by his clumsy paws and lumbering, prey-scaring frame, Swanfeather couldn't stand the thought of returning to camp empty-pawed once again. I need to calm down, he thought. Exhaling a long, slow breath, he made his way to the gorge, where the rushing of the waterfall would drown his swirling thoughts.

    Spotting the dark shape of another cat across the border, he felt a burst of happiness and trotted closer, hoping that his gaze would meet Smokehaze or Rosebriar's. His excitement quickly deflated when he realized it was just a WindClan apprentice staring out over RiverClan. The sight was just too perfectly designed to taunt him, and his frustration returned in full force. Who does he think he is, sitting there with his stupid rabbit like he owns the place? Some part of him knew that the other cat had done nothing wrong, that he was directing his anger to the wrong place. But the mere thought that this apprentice was doing a better job feeding his clan than he was made his blood boil.

    "Hey!" He growled at the other tom, tail lashing. "Clear off the border if you don't have any business here, rabbit-breath!"

    Swanfeather chuckled at the other cat's words, his exhaustion lifting at the excitement of a break from the mundane. There was something about the other cat's stubbornness that was amusing. "Well, you've been trying to catch a meal on RiverClan territory, rabbit-breath," he said, laughter in his voice. "That's technically against the warrior code, but don't worry. I won't tell." Then his gaze flickered up to her face, and his breath caught in his throat. She was a WindClan cat, but pretty nonetheless. A lazy half-grin still plastered on his face, the tom's heart thumped a little quicker. Oh no, I'm no good at talking to mollies... don't embarrass yourself, mouse-brain. "So then, how are you enjoying RiverClan, uh...?" He glanced at her with raised brows, asking for her name without words.

    A rumpled, dark-furred figure padded sleepily out of the warrior's den. His mouth stretched in a wide yawn. With all the extra time and effort that now had to go into just keeping the clan alive, he hadn't slept in this late for days. Swanfeather shook out his long pelt, reluctantly steeling his mind for another exhausting day. He felt there was almost something unfair about having this kind of hardship during the warm season. He was mentally prepared to accept that leafbare existence could be difficult, but when the sun was high and the sky was a clear blue, things were supposed to be easy.

    Tired eyes fixated on the meager fresh-kill pile, the warrior almost tripped right over Heronswoop. Immediately his foggy thoughts cleared as he looked at collapsed molly in shock. He crouched, yellow gaze anxiously searching hers. "What happened? Are you hurt? Are you sick? Do you need a medicine cat?" The questions tumbled out at lightning speed, his brow furrowed in worry for his friend.

    Half-lidded yellow eyes watched Oceanpaw sneak out of the camp. Should I go after her? He wasn't one to tell someone else what to do, but at the same time... he wanted to make sure she was safe.

    Swanfeather hadn't connected much with his niece during her kithood, too awkward and unsure of himself around children to really spend any time around them. And although he'd never say it to Nightgaze out loud, he had felt it was wrong to involve himself in the affairs of a family that wasn't his by blood. But since he had started mentoring Dreampaw and Nightfall had begun to cling to him like honey on fur, the tom hadn't had the option to avoid younger cats of late. Besides, now that Nightgaze was so ill, he had begun to feel something resembling responsibility for Oceanpaw.

    Raising himself to his paws, Swanfeather padded quietly after Oceanpaw, following her scent to wherever she had gone. You can't be out this late, he recited in his mind. It's dangerous and against the rules. Bleh. Even thinking something like that put him off a little. He cast his gaze around the dark reeds, wondering where the apprentice had slipped away to.

    "We're not sure where the poison came from," Swanfeather admitted to the WindClan leader. "I'd guess Twolegs, since the water has that dirty, sooty smell they carry around. But we're still trying to find out." He dipped his head gratefully at Lizardstar's offer. "RiverClan is still doing okay for now. But thank you for your generosity." There was no telling what would happen in the future, though. What if the poison got worse and his clan began to starve? What if it spread? Would WindClan be so generous then? He hoped that in a time of crisis, the clans would work together rather than fight over what remained... but he couldn't be sure.

    Hearing the note of sadness that crept into Oceanpaw's last words, the warrior's heart clenched in sympathy. No doubt that the talk of the poisoned river had reminded her of Thistlekit. Poor thing, he thought. It must be so hard to lose family... Quickly picking up where the apprentice had trailed off, he brought his gaze back to Lizardstar and the other WindClan cats.

    "Exactly. The poison can put even a fully grown cat in the medicine den for weeks, and it's especially dangerous to kits and apprentices. You may want to issue a warning to your clan to avoid any rivers or streams that smell off..." Pausing for a moment, Swanfeather tried to remember if there was anything else they needed to know. "Oh - and be careful about prey too, since it can drink the poison and pass it on." Well, that was about it. A little anticlimactic perhaps, but the task had been an important one. "That's all we know so far. If anything else happens, I'm sure Twistedstar will send another message to the other clans."

    if want him to be gone maybe you could just throw down a quick 'oops ow cliff was captured by twolegs' and then when he's back he just,,, escaped

    Of course Oceanpaw wasn't tired, he thought amusedly. "The warriors are pretty nice, from what I've seen," Swanfeather said. "But Nightstar didn't really know Lizardstar before she got sick. So we're here to make a good impression." Although she was young, he felt that Oceanpaw was already mature enough to understand these kinds of things.

    Just as he finished speaking, he glanced up to see Smokehaze approaching. His heartbeat sped up a little at the sight of the black molly. Good to see you again, he thought. But he wasn't here for personal reasons, and he offered only a familiar smile to let her know that he had not forgotten her. This patrol? Oh - right, I told her... Although it was an innocuous little detail, Swanfeather made a mental note to be more careful of what he said to other clan cats in the future. Then another large she-cat appeared, and he dipped his head politely to both.

    "Hello. I'm Swanfeather and this is Oceanpaw," he said, gesturing briefly to the apprentice. "Yes, we're here to speak with Lizardstar, on behalf of Twistedstar. Or the deputy, if he's not available." The formal words felt unnatural on his tongue.

    As he and Oceanpaw got farther away from camp, the exhaustion in Swanfeather's limbs was slowly replaced by excitement. He couldn't wait to speak with Lizardstar. Even though the task was fairly mundane it was his first step into participating in clan politics, and hopefully there would be more to come. Trotting at a quick pace, they were soon past the gorge and at the edge of the territory.

    It was the third time the warrior had been here in less than a moon. The sight of the moors and the powerful scent of the border markings were almost becoming familiar. "How are you holding up, kid?" He asked, grinning apologetically as he turned to Oceanpaw, suddenly aware that the little ball of energy had probably never been on a journey this long before. "Relax for now, 'cause there's nothing to do but wait." Swanfeather settled himself, wrapping his thick tail around his paws to keep out the cool newleaf breeze. The sun was past its peak, and an afternoon patrol was due any time. For now, the tom's amber gaze just stared meditatively out over the flat, grassy plains of WindClan. But the way his heart was thumping in his chest, he was anything but relaxed.


    //please wait for ocean to respond before posting! <3

    Well, that was it for the meeting. Swanfeather wondered if he should be feeling more affected; after all, RiverClan was reshaping itself before his eyes, changing what he had always known. Or was it? Nothing stays the same forever. Smokehaze’s words echoed in his ears.

    Hmph. This kind of thinking wasn’t for him when he was this tired. Twistedstar and Gladefall would do a good job, and that was that.

    He stood up and shook out his long, dark pelt. A flick of his tail beckoned Oceanpaw over. “Ready to go?” He asked, stretching out his legs in preparation for the walk. It wasn’t going to be a long journey, but after the past few days of fetching water and hunting almost nonstop, Swanfeather wasn’t feeling as up to adventure as usual. Still, he offered the new apprentice a friendly, if tired, grin as he led their little patrol out of the camp and towards the open moors.