A Cure For Frostbite.
Frostbitten let out an involuntary yelp as his paw hit against a sharp stone. Frustrated, he kicked at it- sending it spinning across the cold floor and hitting the left hand wall. Hollowed-out holes lined the wall and the clatter of the rock caused several berries to cascade out of various ones.
"Oh, fox dung," he mumbled and stopped his insistent pacing to recollect the scattered ingredients: ingredients for important use in his work. After all, Frostbitten was the medicine cat of Thunder Clan. "Grr, if I have to wait any longer, I'll go crazy!" the pale tabby growled, but it was a worried growl, almost desperate. "If that Ratpaw doesn't hurry up, these kits aren't going to make it."
Finally, there was the sound of heavy breathing and paw steps at the entrance as a small bedraggled looking she-cat stumbled in: her fur was tatted and matted, her paws scarred with what looked like the bite marks of cat teeth. She held a sprig with several flowers and leaves attached to it in her mouth and placed it down in front of the pale older tabby.
"S-sorry I took so long, Frostbitten, it's just the chick weed was so hard to find and-"
"Well, as long as you're not too late, you are forgiven," Frostbitten cut off the young cat. "These kits have serious green cough and need treatment now!" He picked up the herbs in his mouth and padded towards a veil of ivy, which led to the 'sick bay' containing two kits and their panicked mother. The mottled queen was licking her kits furiously, her face pulled into a state of anxious worry only a mother could have.
"That's enough now, miss," Frostbitten cooed. "You've been a very attentive mother, but now you must leave while I prepare the medicine."
"B-but, please, can't I stay? The-they are my kits after all
"NO!" Frostbitten snapped, but then retreated back to his soothing tone "I-I mean, no, you can't. I know you're worried, but I'm sure you're aware my medicine is the best out of all the clans; no sick kit has died under my watch, I can assure you of that. Now run along. I'll get Ratpaw to collect you once I'm done."
And with that, Frostbitten pointed his tail towards the entrance, stepping back to allow the sulking queen to pass.
He watched eyes narrowed as Ratpaw led the queen to her den.
I didn't ask her to do that, that apprentice never listens. He thought to himself before swiftly turning to face the kits. His white and grey pelt caught sunlight from a hole in the stone ceiling as he walked, giving his pelt its signature ice blue sheen: the reason for his name.
"Now then, I'm going to crush these herbs and then add that one ingredient that makes all my medicines so potent, I'd let you kits watch, but seems you're too sick to move, such a shame. Wait here!" he snickered.
A little talking was fine. Those kits could barely walk or understand him; they were too young.
Frostbitten padded into a dark crevice that led out through the back of the moss-lined sick bay; it was a tight squeeze and damp. He made sure no cat ever saw him enter or leave- this was the secret to his success, after all, not just any cat could know. But with his head already enveloped in complete darkness, he did not notice the strange glare of a blue grey pair of eyes watching him.
Ratpaw stood in the sick bay, her head tilted in confusion as her mentor's lithe body disappeared into the crevice. She'd seen him do this a few times, but a slight feeling of unease always stopped her from asking about it or even more so following him. As she sat there, her nerves began to cause her body to shiver, she lay down and subconsciously began to gnaw at her paws- a habit she was known for in times of stress. Ratpaw didn't deal well with pressure and always tried to avoid it; she had wanted to become a warrior like her siblings and den mates. But when it came to practice battles or assessments of hunting, she always panicked and reverted to her mind numbing habit of chewing at her claws and paws leaving permanent scars. Painful reminders of her failure.
The shuffling sound coming from the crevice made Ratpaw snap awake from her gnawing delusion and run out of the sick bay to feint, rearranging the herbs and berries stored near the cave's entrance.
Frostbitten squeezed back through the crevice holding moss soaked with what looked like juice from the chickweed, water, and something else. Ratpaw could smell it from where she stood, it was always that same familiar smell: the smell of something warm, moist, almost sickly but cold and empty too, not like any herb she'd ever scented, and it was always after Frostbitten had been in that crevice. Her curiosity grew and she peeked through the ivory curtain to see him squeezing the moss in his jaws letting the liquid drip into one of the kits mouths before moving to medicate the other.
"Alright, that should fix you right up, little ones," Frostbitten cooed again in his soft and gentle voice. He then turned to leave the sick bay, the draping ivory sweeping along his back as he exited.
"Ratpaw, my dear, has that miserable old elder chewed up all that alder bark I prescribed him?" Ratpaw perked up and turned to face her mentor.
"Uh, yes! That tooth ache Thornfeather was complaining about should be gone in no time!"
"Very good," Frostbitten mewed. "Now I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. Care to join me on a trip to the fresh-kill pile?" The pale tabby stretched as he spoke, Ratpaw nodding in agreement. As much as she felt nervous around other cats, she couldn't disappoint her mentor. Besides, he was easily angered.
Both cats padded outside into the sunlight. It was a lazy summer afternoon, and a golden glow was touching everything as the sky faded from blue to dove-gray.
Out in the clearing, almost every part of the clan was visible. The thorn coated opening to the nursery, the woven leaves leading into the apprentice den, and beside it, the warrior den.
Up on a rocky outcrop, the ivy-draped opening to the leader's den could slightly be made out. But of course, none of this was much relevant to the two cats as their eyes remained focused on the fresh kill pile, which lay directly ahead of them.
Frostbitten walked over to the pile and looked thoughtfully at the mass of birds and rodents available. He scooped up a collared-dove; holding one of its wings between his jaws, he found somewhere to settle down and enjoy his meal.
Ratpaw was less confident in her food choice. She had picked a small field mouse, despite the bountiful choices available.
Ratpaw was always like that. She didn't like taking prey that she thought better cats than her would prefer so she always stuck herself with the 'leftovers'. She picked the mouse up by its tail and sat down beside Frostbitten to eat.
As she sat there, passing mouse between paw-to-paw deciding on where best to start her meal, Frostbitten stopped crunching the remaining bones of his dove's wing in order to speak to her.
"Oh, Ratpaw, I'll never understand why you do that..." He began.
"Do what?" the mottled apprentice mumbled, not looking away from her meal.
"Always choose the most scrawniest meal no matter what, you clearly don't enjoy it." The older cat remarked.
"Well, food is food. Besides, there are other cats who need bigger meals than me! Queens nursing young, elders fighting illness, our leader, and our battle scarred warriors... Unlike them, I won't suffer if my prey isn't heartily. The others need all the strength they can get." This time, the apprentice made eye contact with her mentor and faked a small smile.
The gray-white tabby frowned slightly before replying. "But surely the most important member of a clan is their medicines cat, my dear. After all, who helps those young queens, who treats those sick elders, who heals those warriors' wounds and who talks with star clan? Really now, Ratpaw, you should give yourself more credit. One day, you will be a full medicine cat too. We can't have a medicine cat who can't even keep herself fed properly..." Frostbitten stopped himself, looking at his apprentice.
He was starting to look very distressed; tears had formed in the corners of her eyes. The pale tabby sighed; she always did this. I can't give this cat any advice without her turning on the water works!
He closed his eyes for a second to avoid himself yelling at her to be less sensitive. He bit his tongue and decided to continue of a different note.
"Look, Ratpaw, no need to get upset. I'm just telling you that you need more respect for yourself," Frostbitten stood. "I'm going to go back and check on those kits now. You finish up that mouse, and tonight we will go out hunting and get you a proper meal, okay?"
Ratpaw mumbled something and nodded, turning her head back to her now rather battered mouse and began to eat.
As Frostbitten padded away, he couldn't help narrowing his ice-blue eyes at a cat was approaching Ratpaw. The cat was a young warrior apprentice: Ratpaw's friend, her only friend. Though this cat was too much of a distraction for the apprentice- or at least that is how Frostbitten had always viewed him.
As Ratpaw heard a cat approaching, she looked up from her half-eaten meal and smiled. A beautiful Burmese marked cat had trotted up to her. The cream and black cat beamed his own smile back, amber eyes aglow.
"Hiya, Eaglepaw," the mottled apprentice mewed in delight. "I haven't seen you in a while!"
"Likewise, Ratpaw! I hope Frostbitten isn't working you too hard. I swear, that cat only thinks about his medicine duties; he never hangs out with other cats. I don't want him turning you into
well, him!" the young cat winked cheekily.
Ratpaw stifled a giggle. "Don't talk like that! He might hear you!"
"Oh, yeah? Let him; I'd box that no-good-weirdo's ears in. Maybe that would knock some fun into that mouse-brain of his!" Eaglepaw made a ready-to-pounce pose in suggestion which turned out to be too much for Ratpaw and let out her laughter finally. "And, speaking of knocking the fun back into certain mouse-brains, you are long overdue!"
The black and brown apprentice saw his opportunity, took it, and playfully pounced Ratpaw knocking her over. To which Ratpaw responded by biting the Burmese-colored
cat's ears. The two tussled for a while, much to the dismay of nearby warriors before finally collapsing side by side. After catching their breath, both apprentices continued to
"Oh yeah, Ratpaw did you hear, there is a warrior ceremony tomorrow and yours truly should be getting his warrior name!" Eaglepaw said triumphantly.
"Wow, really, already?" Ratpaw mewed in response. She knew Eaglepaw was a good hunter and a skilled fighter, but it still seemed too soon for him to become a full-fledged warrior.
"Yup," he replied coolly. "At least my mentor Firefog thinks so! I already know Breezepaw and Ivypaw will be getting their warrior names; they've been apprentices forever!"
The two cats continued chatting, but the sound of a stern voice broke their conversation.
"Eaglepaw, are you coming or what?" a longhaired ginger tom meowed. He was standing a good few feet away, but his loud voice was enough to reach any cats ears.
"Coming, Firefog! Sorry, Ratpaw, but I've got to go on the evening patrol tonight." Eaglepaw continued, "Firefog told me about it earlier; I think he's pretty angry because I'm late already. Bah, mentors, no fun!" Eaglepaw stuck out his tongue in a disapproving face so only Ratpaw could see.
The she-cat giggled in response, "It's fine. You go ahead; Frostbitten isn't too happy about how long I'm taking either."
"See you tomorrow, then?" Eaglepaw called as he ran over to where his mentor was waiting.
"Yeah, tomorrow!" the mottled apprentice replied as she watched the black and tan cat disappear over the horizon. Ratpaw couldn't wipe the smile from her face. Talking to Eaglepaw always made her happy. He was such a nice cat, though she knew because of the warrior code, they could never be. He would always be special to her, and that night Ratpaw felt like she could walk to Star Clan and back.
However, it would be the last time she would ever feel like that as the turn of events to follow would bring great sorrow and turmoil over the clan.