shadowclan apprentice | torbie | dsh | tags
When Tansypaw wakes, it is in a place she doesn’t recognize. It’s dark, with trees that stretch so far upwards that Tansypaw cannot see the points where their branches meet the starless sky. In front of her stands a cat, taupe colored with green eyes and a wound that sluggishly weeps on his shoulder.
“Hello,” He murmurs when he sees her rise, “I’m Boletenose.”
Tansypaw realizes that she isn’t dreaming at the same time as she realizes she should be. She looks around, wary of her surroundings. The tom opposite of her has a small, friendly smile that eases Tansypaw somewhat. “Bolete?” She prompts.
“Yeah no, I mean— what is that?”
The smile folds into a frown, then returns once more, “Curious girl. It’s a mushroom.”
Tansypaw looks to her left, where a cluster of unassuming brown mushrooms grow from the base of a tree.
“No not those—“ The smile stretches until it looks forced. Boletenose takes a long breath, “Listen, let’s try and focus, okay Tansypaw?”
Tansypaw doesn’t know what she is supposed to be focusing on, but she nods anyway. Just as Boletenose opens his mouth, a thought occurs to Tansypaw. “I didn’t tell you my name.”
He exhales, and closes his eyes, face lifted slightly upwards. Remembering herself, Tansypaw looks down, “Sorry, I’ll— I’ll be quiet now.” She wants him to like her, and here she is being rude when she’s supposed to be focusing. When Tansypaw looks back up, Boletenose is wearing that soft, warm smile. Something Tansypaw didn’t know was pulled tight in her chest loosens. He doesn’t hate her.
“Now, if you will let me speak,” Tansypaw deflates under his eyes, “You came here for one reason. I’ve been watching you, and I feel you have potential that you haven’t met yet. I can teach you how to be a better apprentice and, in turn, a better warrior. Wouldn’t you like that?” There is a silence that follows as Boletenose waits for Tansypaw to reply. “You can speak now,” He adds.
“Are you okay?” She blurts.
“Am I-? Have you even been listening?” He’s trying not to let his annoyance show, he’s trying to be nice to Tansypaw and she’s ruining it. Her ears fold.
“I have! I have been! It’s just that uh, you’re bleeding,” Her eyes find the wound. It isn’t terrible, but the sight of blood is making her nervous. What if it gets infected?
“I’m dead,” Boletenose intones.
Tansypaw blinks, “But are you okay?”
Boletenose makes a sharp turn and presses the top of his head against a nearby tree, muttering curses. Guilty, Tansypaw shuffles her feet. She’s never met anyone dead before; it’s probably rude to check on them. A scratched shoulder might seem rather small compared to being dead, but Boletenose isn’t visibly dead. Just visibly injured.
When he seems to have collected himself, he turns his attention back to Tansypaw, who sits straighter under his watch, “How about we get all of your questions out of the way, since I can tell interrupting is a problem for you? Then we can talk about the things that are actually important.”
The shame feels heavy in her chest and makes her ears burn. She’s already messing this up! If she could just keep her mouth closed, Boletenose wouldn’t have to take this break for her. Still, her questions rise in her throat, and she has been given an opportunity to ask them, “Am I dead?”
Boletenose shakes his head, “No, you are still alive, and the clanmates you may recognize here are still alive.”
“Is this StarClan?”
“Something like that,”
“What does that mean?”
“What’s important for you to know is that I am one of your warrior ancestors, and that I’ve been looking out for you here in the afterlife,” It sounds like StarClan to Tansypaw, but Boletenose’s expression seems to grow more and more rigid the further she presses the topic.
“You said I have potential I’m not meeting,” It seems to be what Boletenose wants to talk about, and so Tansypaw steers the conversation back into that direction. Boletenose’s face relaxes marginally without actually looking anymore relaxed.
“Yes. I will be your mentor-”
“I already have a mentor!” Tansypaw wilts when Boletenose gives her a sharp look. She gestures for him to continue.
“As I was saying, I will be your mentor here, when you sleep. You will still train with Darkflame when you are awake, but you must not tell her about your training here.”
Boletenose pauses, and Tansypaw takes it as her turn to speak, “Why not?”
“Because, Tansypaw, you are falling behind because you are a bad apprentice. It isn’t Darkflame’s fault that you aren’t doing the best you can be, it’s your fault. If she hears about this however, she’ll blame herself. You don’t want to upset her, do you?” Boletenose is smiling, and Tansypaw thinks that this is the first real smile she’s seen from him.
“No, no! I want to- I want to be a good apprentice!”
“To do that, you’ll need my help.”
Tansypaw nods, frantic, “You’ll help me? And Darkflame will-”
“Be quiet!” Boletenose snaps, and Tansypaw’s mouth clicks shut. It hadn’t taken him long to raise his voice at her. “If StarClan were merciful you would have been born without a tongue. Now, show me what you know so far.”
Ears still pinned back, Tansypaw falls into a hunting crouch and takes a few, prowling steps forward.
“What is this supposed to be?” All of the kindness has left his voice, and Tansypaw is more sorry than she has words to explain.
Without breaking from her crouch, she responds. “A hunting crouch. For, for catching frogs.”
Boletenose flicks an appraising eye over her form, “It’s sloppy.”
“Darkflame says I’m getting better,” Tansypaw doesn’t know why she’s defending herself, she’s here to learn from Boletenose, and he wouldn’t be acting like this if she just knew how to behave without being annoying.
“Have you caught anything yet with this crouch?”
Tansypaw breaks form and looks to her paws.
“Thought so. Better doesn’t mean good or right. Now, show me how well you spar.” When Tansypaw looks around for a sparring partner, Boletenose’s tail lashes, “With me. We’ll go until you draw blood on me.”
“You want me to hurt you?” She takes a step backwards.
Boletenose scoffs, “I want you to try.”
Tansypaw eyes his shoulder warily. If someone else was able to do that, maybe it wasn’t so hard? Boletenose seems to have followed her gaze, “When we are done, you can meet the other apprentices. Some of them are your age, and they need help getting stronger just like you do. Don’t you want to meet other apprentices just like you?” Tansypaw nods, “Then you’ll have to attack me.”
Okay. It’s okay.
Boletenose has fallen into a defensive crouch, his eyes trained on Tansypaw. It feels like so much has happened, and she’s feeling overwhelmed, but Boletenose is trying to assess her, so that he can help her. Tansypaw finds that she should be more grateful, but cannot muster up the feeling.
She just needs to attack him and draw blood. Tansypaw needs to be willing to do this if she is going to be a warrior and fight for her clan, but it’s hard. ShadowClan isn’t in any danger, and Boletenose is trying to be nice to her. If she wasn’t so herself, he probably wouldn’t have yelled. Tansypaw needs to be good, she needs to be willing to hurt Boletenose.
Tansypaw jumps at him, and Boletenose easily bats her to the ground. Before she can rise, he pins her, his claws digging into her flank. “You’re hurting me!” She cries as she tries to get away, prompting him to only drive his claws deeper, “I’m bleeding, your supposed to stop!” But he had said they would only stop when Tansypaw drew blood, didn’t he? He didn’t say anything about how hurt Tansypaw could get.
She swipes her claws at him, hitting his chin. The both of them freeze, Boletenose with his claws still in her side, and Tansypaw, her paw still held in the position it was in immediately after she had scratched him. She watches as the blood wells slowly from the scratch. Boletenose only withdraws when a drop of it lands on Tansypaw.
As soon as he pulls away, Tansypaw is on her paws. She runs, ducking behind a nearby tree, “I don’t want to train with you!” She hollers when she hears his footfalls approaching.
“Tansypaw…” His voice is soft once more. She can hear him coming around the trunk.
“Leave me alone!” Tansypaw turns her back to him.
“Tansypaw!” He snaps, and Tansypaw turns to face him.
“See?” His chin is still bleeding, as is his shoulder, “When I try to be gentle with you, you close down, but when I’m harsher, I get your attention. You’re the same way with your training. I didn’t like hurting you, but it’s the only way you learn. And you have learned. Don’t you feel like you learned something?”
Tansypaw shakes her head.
“But you have learned.” Boletenose stresses, “I bet you wouldn’t try just charging at an enemy like that again.”
She thinks about it. “No, I wouldn’t.”
“And if it was just a regular spar, you wouldn’t have learned the lesson nearly as quickly.” Boletenose steps close, rests his chin atop her head. She can feel his blood soaking into her fur, “It wasn’t fun for me, but it’s the only way to get through to you.”
Tansypaw feels twisted up inside, “I don’t want to do that again,”
“You want to be useful to your clan. Think about how proud Darkflame will be when you start not just improving in your lessons, but doing things right?”
Her chest aches with want. Boletenose backs away so that he may look her in the eye. “Anyway, I said you could meet the other apprentices after I assessed you, and you wouldn’t want to leave before you could do that, would you?” Tansypaw isn’t certain she knows how to leave. She doesn’t know where she is.
“And they’ll… want to be my friends?” She prompts tentatively.
“They’ll be like your family,” He assures, and Tansypaw stands.
The two of them walk in silence for a time, Boletenose leading and Tansypaw trailing behind. There aren’t any landmarks that Tansypaw can discern, but Boletenose moves with an assuredness that tells Tansypaw that he knows where he is going. Without the movement of the moon as a guide, Tansypaw cannot tell for just how long they’ve travelled, but by the time they reach a clearing populated by other cats, her mood has brightened considerably.
Boletenose has shown her a way that he can teach her, and the stinging in her side is just helping her learn. She can be good, can do good, and Boletenose will help her. Tansypaw hesitates as they grow nearer to the clearing- the spar thats happening is going the same way as Tansypaw’s had gone with Boletenose: bloody. Only, they aren’t stopping.
Sensing her hesitance, Boletenose nudges her, and Tansypaw reminds herself that this is essential to her learning. She takes a few steps ahead of Boletenose, entering the clearing.