The walk progressed in silence, unsurprisingly, for Featherpaw felt no pull to break it. The likelihood of keeping her mentor in a reasonable mood decreased if she happened to say the wrong thing, so the apprentice decided to merely wait until spoken to, or she had something important to say. Something she figured was unlikely, for the moment, as she padded along silently just behind her mentor.
At least she kept track of their route and surroundings, determined to remember it for next time. She really did want to do her best and make her mentor proud - no matter what her clanmates thought of her, Featherpaw truly just wanted to help them, and she knew that making sure she remembered all she was taught was a good step in the right direction.
A shame it was far from easy. Yet still she was better at it than fighting.
Soon enough they reached the riverside, and though Flickerfrost sat down, Featherpaw hesitated, instead turning alertly to face her mentor. No doubt commands would be coming now, and the apprentice was not about to seem any degree of disinterested or rude. An opportunity to show what she had been learning? Well, of course that made sense, and Flickerfrost seemed to have faith in her ability...maybe. Yet still, the thought left her a little uncertain. Could she actually find the right herbs? What if she got it wrong?
Shuffling her paws, Featherpaw managed a nervous nod. "Y-yes Flickerfrost."
Take as long as you need. If you need help, I'll help you. Featherpaw willed the words echoing in her mind to soothe her a little, forcing her muscles to relax and her mind to start tracking through everything she had learned. Right. Coltsfoot, hopefully.
Setting off along the riverbank, Featherpaw made sure to carefully go over her surroundings, eyes peeled for yellow flowers and nose tuned for what she hoped was a correct recollection of the plant's smell. Eventually she found a target after a few 'not its', and padded toward it, peering at the fluffy yellow flowers. However, she met a bump in her trail. They looked so alike...was it coltsfoot, or dandelion? Not that it really mattered too much, whilst looking for both...but what if Flickerfrost wanted her to say what one it was! She probably would. There had to be a way to tell them apart, right? She could not recall the differences between the flowers themselves, but she could swear Flickerfrost had mentioned once...
'Leaf shape, Feather!' The thought flickered through her mind, managing to bat away some of her rising panic. Right, of course. They had different leaves. Dandelion was...longer, right? And coltsfoot was...the rounder one? Directing her gaze beyond the flowers, Featherpaw studied the rounded leaves with their strange little gap near the base, before waving her tail and turning her attention back to where she had left Flickerfrost.
"I found coltsfoot!" Despite her usual nervousness, there was a tinge of proud happiness in the apprentice's tone as she directed a paw lightly toward the herb in question, though she did have to swallow back an I think before it spluttered out, wary of irritating her mentor again like before. She did not seem to like her constant doubt, but it really was hard to fight off.
Notes | happy bby found herself a plant Tagged | Flickerfrost
As she waited, Flickerfrost yawned, stretching her entire body out as Featherpaw bounded away. She figured she had some time to herself with how indecisive Featherpaw tended to be. Yawning again, she laid down, rolling on her back and stretching her limbs out. It was sunny enough outside that she could feel it's warmth, despite the chill in the air. She kept an eye cracked to watch out for Featherpaw but ultimately let her mind settle and relaxed.
At Featherpaw's call, she grumbled to herself, cracking her eyes open - when had they both shut? - and blinking until her vision stabilized. It was harder to see Featherpaw, upside down as she was, but she could make out the shape of the plants next to her and sure enough, it was coltsfoot. "Don't celebrate anything just yet, apprentice. You've still got two others to find, or did you forget?" Her tone held no hostility, and she figured it was praise enough to keep Featherpaw on her toes and away from getting cocky. Not that Featherpaw could ever be cocky, with her personality, but still. "That's correct. Leave it there for now. See if you can find dandelions around first, and then we'll collect some of each before we set off for some tansy." Flickerfrost let her eyes close once more, but she refused to fall asleep again. It wouldn't be long before Featherpaw sorted out which was dandelion. They were both practically surrounded in them.
At least Flickerfrost seemed far more relaxed now, sprawled out as she was on the bank as she waited, eyes closed and breathing even. Featherpaw would have assumed her asleep, did she not promptly crack her eyes back open to stare over at her when she called her attention. Still, the apprentice felt a little bad for disturbing her, even if she was relieved it did not seem to earn her ire. Again.
Though even if she had not angered her...Featherpaw still set her ears back at the slight scolding, no matter how mild it was. In fact, it entirely lacked any hostility, and the apprentice could almost image a hint of amusement to the older molly's tone. Almost, but not quite. Instead, Featherpaw pressed the thought aside and nodded quickly. "Of course," blurted out from her maw obediently, and she shunned her former pride as she immediately set about seeking the other herb.
Of course one herb would not be enough to please. How foolish.
Well, at least she had gotten it right. That meant dandelion would be easy enough, too, wouldn't it? Tail flicking behind her, the apprentice looked around until she located her target soon enough, easier to find than the coltsfoot she had been seeking originally, before she ducked her head to check the leaves to be certain.
This time, the apprentice kept any pride in check, not wanting to irritate the older healer, and called her attention a little more carefully this time. "I-I found it. Should we collect them now?" For a moment, Featherpaw fell into her habit of shuffling her paws, gaze lingering down toward them, before she snapped it back to her mentor and stilled, willing herself to wait a little calmer for her next command.
She found the herbs - how bad could a reaction to a possibly stupid question be?
Featherpaw's mood swings were giving her whiplash. Though, she supposed it was her own fault. Another tried and failed method. Would she ever get it right? She sighed, rolling over and stretching as Featherpaw left to search again, groaning as her body popped. It was quiet out, the sound of the river still peaceful and relaxing in the background. She made a mental note to come back some other time, marking it as a spot that might relax her when she got too frustrated in camp. Flickerfrost suspected it would only get colder as the moons went on. Maybe more of a Greenleaf thing then.
She pulled her gaze away from the moving water, dragging it to where Featherpaw was foraging. Her apprentice hadn't needed her so far, which was something Flickerfrost expected to happen. She was smart, just shy. Inexperienced, maybe. But she was still young, and had room to grow. Above all, that's what Flickerfrost was there for - a mentor, a teacher. She didn't need to be a friend. But she also wanted Featherpaw to confide in her. Trust her. She scoffed to herself. What a way they both still had to go.
"Yes. Grab some dandelion. I'll grab the coltsfoot." She trotted over to where Featherpaw had originally found the coltsfoot, nipping as some stalks at their bases and taking inventory of the ones she left. If she grabbed them all now, there would be none left when the weather turned for the worst. "Only grab a few," she called, hoping she wasn't too late. Once she had collected what she needed, she trotted back out to the clearing she was previously.
"The sun is high now, but it won't be forever. Let's get that tansy now." And with that, she left towards the forest, though once more at a slower pace.
The confirmation to begin collecting dandelion as Flickerfrost headed off to the coltsfoot was enough to will Featherpaw to relax again. She was sure she could do that much, at least, and promptly set about delicately nipping the stems to collect them in a small pile.
A short way into her collecting, however, the apprentice paused. She was not sure how much her mentor intended her to collect, but something was telling her that more might be overshooting. She did not want to harm the plant, especially come leafbare, and it was a less crucial herb to them right now than the tansy or coltsfoot.
Hesitating, the apprentice drew her muzzle away from another stem, and glanced toward her mentor.
Before the words could so much as pass her muzzle, Flickerfrost spoke up in warning, and Featherpaw flicked her ears, relieved. Good, this must be a fine amount then, no need for more. Nodding softly, the apprentice paused a second longer, before gently collecting the dandelion she had gathered and padding toward the older feline, tail flicking behind her and gaze scanning over her mentor's own collection for comparison. Good, Featherpaw must have done fine, then.
The herbs still held gently in her maw, careful as she was not to damage them, the apprentice merely gave a nod at the decision to head off and collect the tansy. No verbal praise, sure, but no scolding either, which meant surely she had done fine. Still, Featherpaw scanned her mentor's gaze in the brief moment before Flickerfrost turned away, before heading after her.
This was a good day, all things considered. Maybe things would be fine after all.
The walk to their next destination, somewhere in the middle of the forest, took a bit longer than just reaching the river from camp, with the path she had set for them. Herb gathering wasn't exactly hard, but with a slightly longer walk, Flickerfrost had more time to think of what to say to Featherpaw. Oh, the issue wasn't what to say, she had plenty to say to her apprentice. The issue dealt with how to say it. Featherpaw was too innocent at heart to fully understand her tough love approach. She'd have to be more direct, and she wasn't sure how without either setting Featherpaw off or riling herself up. Tricky indeed.
She still hadn't decided by the time they finally reached their destination. She scoffed internally but didn't let her self-inflicted irritation show. "Show me," she said softly, a command though it held no hostility or rudeness. Flickerfrost settled herself on her rear, tail wrapped neatly around her paws in a show of gracefulness as she tracked Featherpaw with her eyes, despite the fact that they weren't really seeing. Immediately, she was lost in her thoughts again.
"Don't grab any until you're absolutely sure. Again, I'll help, but I want to see what you remember first. Leave what you're carrying here, and we'll collect it all when we're done here." She'd have the words to say when Featherpaw was done. She was sure of it, and if she didn't, well, fake it until you make it. She only hoped things didn't go horribly wrong.
The walk from the river to supposedly where the tansy would be collected was indeed a longer one, though Featherpaw was hardly surprised that it progressed in silence. Not that the young apprentice was complaining, for Flickerfrost was not the easiest feline for her to get comfortable with after Hailstrike. While deep down she knew her mentor was not going to hurt her, it was an easier thing to be aware of with a calm mind, and after all that happened...well, it was not the easiest thing for Featherpaw to achieve.
It was better to just say nothing at all if she wanted to keep it.
Eventually they arrived, Featherpaw assumed, for her mentor sat down and gave her a single command, though at least went on to follow it with some instructions. Deciding better than to speak up, the apprentice gave a nod to show she understood, before she placed her herbs gently by Flickerfrost and set about her search.
While she did not remember exactly when the plant bloomed, or what its leaves looked like, she had a pretty good idea for what its flower did. It seemed to have less lookalikes than some others, like the Coltsfoot and Dandelions. She was, however, realizing that a lot of herbs seemed to have yellow flowers. Was it a healing color, yellow? Perhaps yellow and green were just a lucky combination for medicine cats.
Tail flicking behind her the apprentice smiled softly to herself as she recognized the shape and color of the flowers she spotted, counting herself lucky that they did indeed seem to have bloomed in leaf-fall. The leaves were different on this plant, almost fern like, and the flowers were rounded, yet strangely flattened in the middle, like someone had pressed a very small paw into their center.
After giving them a quick sniff, partway to be certain, as well as to better remember what they looked and smelled like, she glanced back toward her mentor. This time she was not sure how to approach it. Flickerfrost seemed to dislike her hesitance, yet she had also been told not to celebrate in finding the herbs either. She sure was not an easy one to please.
Trying to settle for a medium, the apprentice gestured toward the herb softly. "I found it," was offered in a perhaps forcefully calmed tone, an attempt to please her mentor and get a feel for what the older molly wanted from her, even if her uncertainty still radiated in her eyes and the habit she clung to of kneading her forepaws slightly. It was ingrained into her to seek what pleased others - a safety mechanism, some called it, though she never sought to tell anyone why.
She would probably look like a wimp to have feared her own mother, anyway.
"Good job, Featherpaw," Flickerfrost called, but did not move from her spot. It was a good job - Flickerfrost hadn't picked very hard herbs for their scavenger hunt, though they did look similar enough that it provided some difficulty. Featherpaw hadn't messed up one and that was enough to show she was learning. Inwardly, she breathed a sigh of relief. No matter what she was doing wrong to get them to bond, at least she was teaching her apprentice correctly. That had to count for something.
"Go ahead and pick some. The same amount as before should be good." Her tail flicked to the small pile she had next to her, nodding at it to show what she was talking about. They didn't want to have to carry too much back to camp either. She'd made that mistake before and had been punished for her - her jaw hurt for three days after that.
It was now or never. If she didn't speak up, she never would and that just didn't sit well with her. She gathered the few words she had planned out and just let her mind take over. "Featherpaw, do you want to be a medicine cat? Is it something you, yourself want? Or are you trying to prove something?" She hadn't wanted her words to come out sternly or hostile and thankfully they didn't, but she couldn't be sure if they sounded accusatory or not. She didn't want their conversation to get off to a rough start because StarClan only knew how badly it would end if it did.
Featherpaw had to admit, the praise - with no ifs or buts to be heard of - warmed her. Ears flicking, the apprentice gave a quick nod the the command, spared a brief glance toward the pile she was gestured to for reference, before her attention drifted back to the herb and she set about lightly nipping the stems to collect some into a small pile at her paws.
As she was picking the herbs, Flickerfrost's words admittedly surprised her, and she paused in her task to glance uncertainly toward her mentor. Did she seem uninterested? Was her mentor thinking of replacing her? The very thought made the apprentice's eyes widen, not quite panicked, but looking a little hurt. She tried to hide it in a hurried nod as her tail flickered behind her. She really was not sure what to say to convince Flickerfrost - she really was a hard cat to sway.
If she was going to replace her, Featherpaw figured there was little she could do to change her mind.
"I do, really," she promised quickly, ears settling part way back as she let her gaze shift slightly to meet her mentor's, before dropping down to her paws. "I was n-never any good at fighting or hunting, and I just want to help others, not hurt them... I-I felt bad whenever W-Wolfpaw was hurt and I didn't know how to help him...Th-this way I can."
Scared to ask the question right away, Featherpaw went back to picking the herbs as she let her words settle in for her mentor. Once content with her carefully collected pile - she was not about to let her uncertainty mess up the herbs, they were far more important after all. Once that was done, however, she gave in and cast an uncertain glance toward Flickerfrost, yet to move any closer to her, the herbs still piled neatly at her paws.
"A-are you...going to replace me?" It would not be the first time someone decided she was not good enough. Really, she should just be used to it by now. She was not good enough for the warriors of her clan, or for her father, and especially not her mother - why would this be any different? Featherpaw had thought she was doing okay, but maybe she was just too nervous to be a healer - or perhaps it was because some of the warriors were still refusing to let Bonestar's kin treat their wounds?
Looking a little defeated, Featherpaw brought her herbs to her mentor, before taking a step back to stare at her paws.
Flickerfrost waited, toes curling against the ground as she let Featherpaw gather a response together, resisting the urge to hurry her. It was a simple yes or no. It shouldn't require thought. And still thought was placed and Flickerfrost had to fight to keep her temper down. Finally, one was given and she felt her temper grow, the urge to sneer and spit so blinding that she almost did without hesitation, before remembering herself and her apprentice and breathing deeply to calm. Still, her words were harsh when they were released and there was no stopping it - she wasn't perfect, after-all.
"So you chose the path of a medicine cat because you're no good at hunting and fighting." She waited a moment, getting to her paws and resisting the urge to pace around. Her tail twitched at her side. "Wanting to help your brother is one thing, but something that can be done as a warrior. As a medicine cat, your duty is to the entire Clan." Giving up, Flickerfrost turned to pacing, her tail swishing as she went. Featherpaw's words reached her and she hissed softly, not pausing in her pacing but waiting until Featherpaw had brought over her collection and waited for an answer.
"Do you want me to replace you, apprentice?" It wouldn't be an easy task; not many ever voluntarily chose the path of healing, not with generations and generations of cats who loved nothing more than to fight and kill, like the savages they were. She was not like them. She suspected neither was Featherpaw, but she needed to cover her bases. If she must, she'd find another. "I have no intention to. That's not what this conversation is about." Her teeth bared as she turned away from her apprentice in her pacing, but returned to being hidden when she turned back around, finally stopping a paw-step away from her apprentice. She bent her head just slightly so that she could look Featherpaw in the eye, her gaze hard and bright.
"I ask because you are straying from the path. A medicine cat must heal any and all, regardless of their personal opinions. You are fearful of your clanmates and flinch away. And I'm not stupid, I know that they don't come to you. Is it because you're afraid of them?"
Flickerfrost's words sent a shock through the apprentice, causing her to jolt back not only at the words themselves, but the harshness of the tone they were offered with. Featherpaw barely even registered Flickerfrost beginning to pace as she scrambled to collect her thoughts without trembling like a leaf, eyes shot wide and ears pinned back as she stared at her mentor. Did she really think that was the only reason? Well, maybe it was partially the reason, but...frantically, Featherpaw shook her head.
"N-no, I don't w-want to hurt anyone," she squeaked out, scrabbling for something that would make her mentor believe her, change her mind about what Featherpaw was truly beginning to believe was a decision to simply be rid of her. "Not unless it will will make them better..." she trailed off, voice earnest yet meek.
Flickerfrost kept going, likely drowning out her apprentice in her own annoyance. Featherpaw did not complain, just let the harsh words wash over her as she piteously accepted them. Her gaze refused to budge from her paws, even as she fiercely shook her head. Of course she did not want to be replaced! Why would she even try convince the molly to keep her on if she wanted to stop? Featherpaw sunk a little lower to the ground, swallowing thickly. She felt strangely guilty, and she had not even done anything wrong. Maybe because she was weak, and she knew it. She was always weak. Had she ever even stood up for herself, even once?
Would she ever be able to?
At first all Featherpaw saw of her mentor when she approached was two dappled, snowy paws. Yet the closeness of the older molly forced the younger's gaze nervously upward to meet hers. Immediately she flinched at the lack of distance, and her eyes darted across her mentor for any signs of aggression, of her life being held on the line yet again. She did not see any obvious ones, but that sure did not mean they weren't there.
Straying? Because they would not let her treat them? If even possible at this rate, the apprentice shrunk further in on herself. Yet despite ever muscle screaming at her to put distance between them, to turn tail and run, experience of that always angering Hailstrike further rooted her to the spot. Instead, her voice lowered to a trembling murmur, fear plain in her eyes - and this time, not for her role. "I-its because of her," she stammered out faintly, not even daring to mention the she-cat's name, much less call her a mother. "Th-they don't trust m-me, and...and I....I-I don't wanna be afraid...but they..."
When had she stopped breathing? The apprentice was not even sure, though she barely registered it even now. Her gaze flickered to meet that of her mentor briefly, before darting away, skimming her form for clues of danger again, more warning signs than her memory was already screaming at her as, slowly, she attempted to inch backward and away. She didn't want to be afraid. Yet that did not change the fact she was.
'Stupid kit,' she scolded herself, in a voice that sounded suspiciously in her mind like her mother's.
Flickerfrost sighed heavily. She was forgetting herself in her anger. After another moment's pause, she grimaced, removing herself from Featherpaw's personal space entirely and giving her room to breathe. "Sorry. I shouldn't have." What else could she say? Clearly she was frightening the poor child and she doubted a simple apology would make up for it but what else could she do? "I'm sorry," she repeated. "I believe you. You aren't the first to choose the life of a medicine cat for the reason of not wanting to hurt others and I'm sorry if I'm making it seem like that's a bad reason. It isn't. There's been far too much bloodshed recently."
Her eyes narrowed. "Who's her?" There were plenty of mollies in GorgeClan; Flickerfrost would go as far as saying there were more females than males at the point, and four of them made up the highest ranking members of the Clan. So the possibility of picking out one her of them all and getting it correct? Probably not high. Was it someone in particular that was bullying Featherpaw?
Was Featherpaw even breathing anymore? Alarm spiked through Flickerfrost and her tail lashed uneasily. "Look, Featherpaw, I know I'm not ... the best mentor, and probably not even one that you wish you had. I'm rude, and I don't really care about half of the Clan and every cat knows it. But," she paused, nose scrunching up as if she had a bad taste in her mouth. "I'll try harder to be a better mentor if you can try harder not to let others bully you. I'll stick up for you when I can, because you're my apprentice and like it or not, you're mine to protect, alright? You're stronger than others think you are."
Suddenly exhausted, she returned herself to the pile of herbs they had collected. "C'mon, Featherpaw. Let's get back. It's going to get dark soon." And with that, she grabbed what she could of the herbs and started off in the direction of camp. They could talk more about it some other time.
And she was gone. Just as Featherpaw mentally readied herself for a strike, entire body wound tight yet not an inch of her moving to run, the words washed over her. Sorry? As though not understanding what the word even meant, Featherpaw simply stared up at her in wide-eyed shock and confusion as she backed up out of her space, offering further apologies until the fact registered in Featherpaw's mind that any danger had passed.
Yet that still left a question unanswered, one which Flickerfrost was quick as ever to pursue. Her? The apprentice flinched slightly, but she knew she had been vague. Wolfpaw would have understood. Heck, there were a few others who might have, too. Even Pearfrost knew who she spoke of without needing a name. Yet Flickerfrost had never asked. She never seemed to judge her apprentice for her heritage, unlike most others, and so perhaps she truly had no idea.
Featherpaw's gaze fell to the ground. "H-hailstrike." Perhaps it was strange, how a single name could be said with such pain and sadness, such fear. To be afraid of a cat who was no longer present, no longer even alive...many judged Featherpaw for it. She could not blame them, really - she judged herself for it, too. Was it not foolish, how much that molly affected her even now? Her ability to just coexist with the slightest reminders of her?
'Strong?' Featherpaw was not so sure about that. However, she was somewhat relieved. She was not being replaced, or attacked, or punished. She was being...supported? Understood, even? Almost. Slowly willing herself to relax, the apprentice rose slowly, hesitantly to her paws, though subconsciously she still took a step back, avoiding her mentor's gaze.
At the command to gather the herbs, Featherpaw was quick to obey, though as she followed, the distance between them did not close. It would take time, perhaps. Truly, Featherpaw wanted to trust her mentor, to be able to rely on and confide in her. All she had ever wanted was to be supported, to be wanted, to finally be good enough for someone just the way she was. Yet first, perhaps she would have to become good enough for herself. Until then, well...all she could really do was try.