shadowclan apprentice | torbie | dsh | tags
The dark forest remains unchanging. In the waking world, the chill in the mornings sinks its claws deeper, clings to pelts for longer throughout the day. Frost colors the landscape, and the elders complain that the first hard frost is soon to come. The passage of time is marked by the changing world.
The dark forest, place of no stars, is different. It is a world in stasis, locked in the scent of fresh blood, locked under dark skies, in rough faces. The slimy waters do not rise and lower with the changing season, and the mushrooms that grow from the bases of the trees remain forever at their fullest, with wide, stretched caps. The air is always cold, but it does not threaten to frost the world in white.
Time is, instead, marked by personal change. Tansypaw trains at night, and fears she is becoming worse rather than better under the relentless insults from her dark forest mentor. Boletenose doles out his criticisms with a malicious glee, often and harsh. His praise is given sparingly, and feels far sweeter to Tansypaw’s ears than anything else. It is earned, she knows, bloody.
Unlike the gentle teaching of Darkstar, which burn with unfamiliarity, Boletenose’s sharpened words strike Tansypaw in a way that is familiar, a way she understands. They are two different kinds of ache entirely, Boletenose’s harshness she has learned from her mother before.
Tansypaw’s confidence comes before her improvement and, as everything else, it is fought for. It’s a night that Tansypaw has lost, as she does more often than not. She is sat alway from the others, and it is Boletenose that sits at her right, leaning over her. His words are stinging as they always are as Tansypaw licks her wounds, ears folded against her neck.
Then: a flash of anger, indignation. It isn’t fair, she thinks with the bitterness of someone seasons her senior. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right, and Boletenose would shut up if he knew what was good for him. Hasn’t he said that to Tansypaw before? And then he had-
Tansypaw had swiped her claws at Boletenose’s face, and in his surprise he hadn’t backed away. A crooked line bleeds across the bridge of his nose and in that moment, Tansypaw is powerful. Boletenose is silent, and Tansypaw stands, straightens her shoulders. Boletenose’s shock fades, and as he snarls, Tansypaw cowers, ducks her head when Boletenose raises his own claws.
In the morning, she will wake with a bloodied cheek and the memory of fleeting victory.
After that, she stands up for herself more to Boletenose, and still she flinches when he retaliates. She doesn’t fight to win, nor does she fight to impress Boletenose, instead, she fights for that feeling. Broken skin, bloodied claws, a look of surprise. Victory, if only for a moment. It is this that brings a shift to her training, what causes her burgeoning skills to bloom into something more.
For the first time, Tansypaw wins a fight without struggle, and Boletenose praises her in such a way that Tansypaw craves his approval all over again, wants to make him proud. He smiles, and Tansypaw resents him, and she wants him to love her. Her self worth is a pendulum that shifts from one heartbeat to the next, but at the start of a spar, as Tansypaw and her opponent circle like courting falcons, she feels that spike of I need not win, only hurt them, and it is with this thought process that she does win.
When the spar is over and Tansypaw steps away with a bloody-toothed smile, Boletenose matches with his own grin and tells her that there is hope for her to be a good warrior yet. Tansypaw wants and she wants and she wants. Anything, anything to be good, worthy, and when her opponent is pinned, Tansypaw can feel as though she is, if only for as long as it takes for the defeated to rise to their paws and limp away to tend to their fresh wounds. It is then that the floating feeling fades, and Tansypaw feels worse than before.
Boletenose had taught Tansypaw that it is pain that teaches her. From his claws she learns not to check on the defeated, and under his watchful eyes she learns to be silent more. Tansypaw feels as though she is walking across the point where a branch has tapered to it’s thinnest, feels as though every step must be careful, planned, and even then she may plummet. He teaches her, and despite everything, Tansypaw learns.
In the morning, despite her exhaustion, Tansypaw is quicker. More thoughtful in her motion, less likely to fail. She stands if she is expecting someone to try and push her down, ready to fight the world. A nascent confrontation in the making. Her fur gleams, groomed to a careful perfection, and her yellow eyes glint under the sunlight. Day by day, Tansypaw grows into herself, and around her the world grows colder.