Warriors isn't mine.
The dappled she-cat's eyes wandered over the Clan, watching her Clanmates wander.
She had a decision to make, and there were several candidates.
She studied Windfoot; the gray tom was sharing a sparrow with Blazeheart. Windfoot was not suited for deputy, even if he was several seasons younger. The gray tom was not serious enough for the rank. Blazeheart would've been a good choice, if not for the fact he was the same age as Windfoot.
She glanced at some of the younger warriors, returning from patrol. Whitepelt carried several pieces of prey, leading Sparrow-wing and Darkstream. The white tom could be deputy. He was very steady and loyal.
Pebblestar hesitated though, she wasn't sure on him. Whitepelt could be deputy, but could he be leader? Pebblestar knew she was getting old; Leopardshadow's wish to retire only emphasized this, so she had to consider the next deputy as the next leader.
Somehow, Whitepelt wasn't that cat. Darkstream wasn't either; the black she-cat was a good warrior, but not deputy material.
Cloudflower padded up to them, Darkstream nodded to something the white she-cat said.
Pebblestar hesitated; Cloudflower and Darkstream had mentored Smokeflight and Sootleap. They'd required a firm paw, probably two of the most demanding apprentices. However… Pebblestar narrowed her eyes, running a Clan was a little different then mentoring. She had disregarded Sparrow-wing, far too young, and he'd had no apprentice.
Though Smokeflight and Sootleap had made her think of a different cat. Their older brother Skyheart…
The gray tom had his father's seriousness, unlike his brothers, and seemed highly intelligent. He was eager to serve, and would make a very good choice.
"Thinking about my successor?"
Pebblestar had long grown used to her deputy's habit of sneaking up on her, "yes, Leopardshadow."
The dappled she-cat sat down, ears flicking. "I think Smokeflight and Sootleap are ruled out."
Pebblestar huffed slightly, shaking her head, "they're good warriors."
"I didn't say they weren't. But neither of them would make a good deputy."
"Or a good leader." Pebblestar murmured softly, searching the gathered cats again.
"What was that Pebblestar?" Leopardshadow asked, "you aren't leaving any time soon."
"I'm older than you Leopardshadow. I was apprentices with Spottedthorn. I'm not planning on leaving but my reign won't last forever."
Her deputy was quite for several heartbeats. "This is true. So who have you ruled out."
"Sparrow-wing and Kestrelclaw. Neither have had an apprentice and Kestrelclaw is hotheaded, while Sparrow-wing is too young."
Her deputy nodded, "who else?"
"Windfoot and Blazeheart." Pebblestar admitted. "Tigerfrost…"
Her deputy was nodding, "so the obvious ones." She gave her a playful look; the gray in her muzzle hadn't stolen the she-cat's spirit.
Pebblestar looked away, flattened her ears, "I don't think Cloudflower, Darkstream or Whitepelt."
Leopardshadow made a noise, "Whitepelt?"
"He's a good choice for deputy. Loyal, steadfast, brave."
"But not a leader." The other she-cat finished, nodding her head, "what about Brightwhisker?"
Pebblestar perked her ears, Whitepelt's mate had the makings of a good leader, "she could've been my choice."
Leopardshadow tilted her head, "Then why not her?"
"She's expecting another litter. Mousetail informed me the other day."
Leopardshadow looked surprised, but she narrowed her eyes and then nodded, "Well that's good news for the Clan, but that does rule her out."
Pebblestar flicked her tail, remaining quiet.
"It should be a young cat, willing to learn, but old enough to have sway on their own."
Pebblestar glanced over; Leopardshadow seemed thoughtful, her tail tip tapping against the ground.
"Honeynose or Emberpelt?"
"Neither have had an apprentice."
Leopardshadow made a noise in her throat, "well, you're overlooking a few cats."
The leader pricked her ears, "oh?"
"You didn't mention Skyheart."
"I was considering him. Yes, he wasn't a mentor long, but he did have an apprentice." Pebblestar agreed, a strange cough had claimed his apprentice; Wrenpaw had been too small to fight it off. "I was leaning towards him. He's serious and loyal, he's got courage, and he can handle cats, after all he's good with his brothers."
Pebblestar looked at Leopardshadow, "but nothing. I think he's a good choice."
"Is he the next Clan leader though?" Leopardshadow asked, Pebblestar eyed her strangely. Her deputy seemed to disagree with her choice.
"You don't think he is?"
"I think he could be." Leopardshadow admitted, shifting how she sat on the loose ground, "but I think there's someone you're forgetting."
"Skyheart isn't dominant enough. He'd make an excellent deputy, but he's not ready to be a leader."
Pebblestar shrugged, "I'm not dying. I'd have a few seasons to train him."
"You would." The golden she-cat blinked, "but what about all that trouble he used to get into as an apprentice."
"Those five were always in trouble, and look how Webp- Webriver turned out." Pebblestar replied, stumbling over the medicine cat apprentice's name. He'd recently earned his name, at the last half-moon.
"But Webriver was always on the path to be a medicine cat." The deputy murmured softly, "Skyheart's path wasn't so certain."
"He was always going to be a warrior." The leader corrected, though she got what Leopardshadow was saying, "and in any case it was Pantherstrike that lead them all into mischief."
Leopardshadow stared at her as though Pebblestar had just watched a rabbit run past without trying to catch it.
Laughter came from the creek, as Pantherstrike and Falconheart splashed up to the bank, their apprentices at their heels. Brindlepaw and Beechpaw were wet but had their heads held high.
"That was perfect Brindlepaw, someday you're going to be dangerous in water fights." Pantherstrike praised his apprentice.
"Don't forget Beechpaw, he held his own." Falconheart rested his tail on the brown tom, "I say they earned a meal."
The black tom nodded, and the two sprinted to the prey-pile, tails streaming behind them.
"Pantherstrike, you were on dusk patrol the other day weren't you?"
The black tom looked up, meeting Whitepelt's gaze, "yes, why?"
"Were you near the upstream border?"
Pantherstrike nodded, "something happen?"
"We smelled rogue." Whitepelt curled his muzzle, "it was faint enough that we couldn't tell if the border had been crossed, but we were hopping you'd know something."
Pantherstrike padded towards them, Falconheart at his side, "don't you think I would've reported evidence of rogues? I didn't smell anything then, but it was pretty damp."
Whitepelt nodded, "we were hunting, so it wasn't near the border, but it could've been an accident."
Pantherstrike sat down, turning to Falconheart, "we probably shouldn't take the apprentices there then, just in case."
"True. Shame, there's always plenty of prey there."
"Exactly why rogues might start hunting there." Darkstream chimed in, joining the three toms.
Pantherstrike nodded, "I say we ought to send a few more hunting patrols that way. There's good hunting there, and that way we increase our prescience there. Obviously border patrols, but hunting patrols would put us there at different times of the day as well."
"Meaning if they're avoiding border patrols they might get caught by a hunting patrol!" Falconheart finished, the silver tabby nodding along to his brother's suggestion, "great idea!"
Sparrow-wing sat down, "who should be on those patrols?"
"Do I look like deputy to you?" Pantherstrike teased, giving a small laugh, "it's just an idea. We can suggest it to Leopardshadow, that's all."
"You should!" Brindlepaw bounced at her mentor's paws, "I think it's a really smart idea!"
Pantherstrike shrugged, "I will, but it's up to Leopardshadow, and we don't even know there is a rogue."
Leopardshadow turned to Pebblestar, "what do you think?"
"I think it's a good idea." The leader replied, "but that doesn't solve the deputy problem."
Her deputy leaned back on her haunches, "why did you name him Pantherstrike?"
"His quickness to act."
"So he's reckless?"
Pebblestar huffed, "I wouldn't call him that. He's willing to take a risk, but he's not charging blindly. He's quick on his paws, and creative."
Her deputy nodded, "and other cats know this. He's a young warrior, but Whitepelt and Darkstream respected his idea."
Pebblestar looked at her, "where are you going with this?"
"You need a dominant leader, Pebblestar." Leopardshadow replied, "he's always been one."
Pebblestar glanced back at the black tom, who was still discussing things with Whitepelt and Darkstream, "he's still a bit impulsive."
"But he has Falconheart." Her deputy murmured, "and his brother slows him down just enough."
Pebblestar stayed quiet, studying the two warriors. Pantherstrike had always ended up leading the others, with Falconheart constantly at his brother's side.
"Skyheart still looks to him for leadership. He can't be deputy and look to one of his warriors." Leopardshadow murmured, "he could outgrow it if given the role, but I think there would be problems. His leadership wouldn't be stable."
Pebblestar made a soft noise, with-holding judgment for now.
"This is just my opinion, it is your choice. But Pantherstrike is a good choice."
Pebblestar nodded, "thank you Leopardshadow, you know I value your opinion." She got to her paws, still examining the black furred warrior.
"The patrols will all be back at sun-high." The deputy added, glancing up at where the sun was approaching the middle of the sky.
Pebblestar dipped her head, and touched noses with the other she-cat, "I'll say it later, but I'm grateful for your support and help all these seasons."
Leopardshadow dipped her head, "it was my pleasure to serve beside you."