Chapter 11

Mothbright sighed as the Clan walked back to camp. Splashpaw glanced back at her from ahead; his siblings Sunpaw and Flowerpaw were with him. Flowerpaw was hovering nervously, and Sunpaw was shirtless, having given up his shirt as a temporary binding for Splashpaw's left arm. Mothbright wasn't exactly sure what had happened to the apprentice's arm, but it was clearly giving him pain, and she suspected a fracture at best.

Mothbright pricked her ears at sobbing from behind her. She glanced back and saw Brackenpaw crying in Lionstar's arms. She turned away considerately; Brackenpaw's father Falconpelt had been killed in the battle. Mothbright swallowed. She's taking it hard. I would, too.

Scorchpaw and Nightpaw were by the nekos that bore Falconpelt's body to the heart of LightningClan. Tears ran down their faces, too; even the silent Nightpaw had given up on hiding the tears. Their respective mentors Russetfang and Floodfang came up beside them, comforting them with soft words and gentle touches.

"Leave me alone!"

That was Scorchpaw. The apprentice had the fiery personality of his father, and it was showing in his attitude. Mothbright could almost taste the turmoil of rage and grief in the young neko. Scorchpaw pushed roughly by Mothbright, aggravating a wound, but she bit her tongue and did not call after him as he ran blindly ahead.

Battle is not worth the pain, Mothbright reflected. But we have to remember that this is what we promised at our apprentice ceremonies, our warrior ceremonies, and even by being born into LightningClan. We vowed to protect and defend the Clan at any cost, even that of our own lives. And Falconpelt has indeed kept that vow to the fullest.

"We're here, Splashpaw," Flowerpaw murmured.

"Great StarClan!" Mosspaw ran up to Splashpaw as his head lolled, obviously jokingly.

"I'm dying," he moaned dramatically.

Mosspaw giggled. "You are not dying. You are totally alive, and you are going to get that arm treated." The shine in her eyes vanished as she looked at it. It's bad, Mothbright realized.

Splashpaw's spark of humor warmed Mothbright. And, though lives will be lost, the Clan will go on. We will live to fight another day.

"Come on," Mosspaw murmured to Mothbright as she helped Splashpaw support his arm properly. "We will live to fight another day."

"I know," Mothbright whispered. "I know."

Emberblaze looked at his sisters strangely as he passed. "I've got two fluff-heads for sisters," he joked, dabbing at a still-bleeding wound. "Talking StarClan and prophecies."

"We're not!" Mothbright objected. "I just said…."

"Oh, quit it," Mosspaw said, nudging Mothbright with her foot as she guided Splashpaw into camp. "He's a big brother; it's what they do. Come on. If you just stand in the forest, those wounds will never heal."

Mothbright smiled gratefully and followed her sister into camp.

She couldn't tell if the camp was mourning or buzzing with excitement. Firelight wept in one corner, clutching a blanket that was probably Falconpelt's. Robinheart's kits Redkit, Tigerkit, Mousekit, and Larkkit were darting around the clearing, pestering every unoccupied neko.

"Are you busy?" Larkkit chirped as Iceberry hurried past.

"Oh, Splashpaw! I heard you were dying!" Iceberry gasped, half-serious.

"I am," Splashpaw croaked. "The rogue came at me, club ready to smack me to StarClan. He—"

"Splashpaw," Mosspaw murmured, pointing out Larkkit to him. The little brown-and-white-haired girl was listening, green eyes wide, to Splashpaw's story.

"Sorry," the boy muttered. "Just kidding. Larkkit, Flowerpaw will tell you everything." The girl was good with the younger ones. Larkkit grinned and hared away.

Splashpaw screwed up his face, grimacing for a moment before continuing. "I was dodging a blow to my legs when I slipped and fell. I think I slipped in blood. A lot of this—" He looked at the stains on his clothes. "—is not mine. I tried to catch myself and landed on my wrist. Believe it or not, the rogue let me go. I think he cared a bit."

"That's nice." Iceberry's voice was crisp. "But I need to help your wrist, not be happy that a rogue had a heart. Come to the medicine den. You too, Mothbright. Mosspaw can treat your wounds and watch me with Splashpaw."

Splashpaw looked at Iceberry as she led him away. "Do you have to examine me thoroughly?"

"Yes." Iceberry barely broke stride. She paused in the entrance to the medicine hut. "But you're a man," she teased, turning to look at him. "It shouldn't bother you. We're not being that thorough."

"Right." Splashpaw flushed, glancing at Mothbright, before ducking into the hut.

Mothbright followed them in. Mosspaw guided her to a spot on the edge of the hut, where bowls of poultices waited for use. Iceberry took a cot from the floor and laid it on a large piece of wood, long enough for even muscular men to lie on and thick enough to be comfortable for the healer.

"Take it off," Iceberry ordered, tugging on Splashpaw's blood-spattered shirt.

Mothbright was distracted by a sting of pain on her upper arm. Mosspaw had rinsed a wound and was now smearing goop into it.

"Take it easy," Mothbright winced.

Mosspaw pressed more gently. "Sorry," she whispered, "I was watching Iceberry."

Mothbright directed her attention back to the medicine cat. She was unbinding the temporary sling on Splashpaw's arm. Beneath the sling, the affected wrist was wrapped tightly with a torn shirt, likely the same from which the sling was taken. Iceberry gently pulled the shredded fabric away from the injury.

"That's nasty." Mosspaw winced. "Lots of swelling."

The wrist was red, swollen, and obviously given the apprentice pain. When Iceberry reached out to touch it he snatched his arm back, a tear on his face.

"I have to feel it," Iceberry said, reaching for the wrist. Splashpaw held out his trembling arm, and the medicine neko gently prodded the swollen area. Splashpaw cried out, more tears joining the first.

"Stop," he pleaded.

"Hm. Sit." Iceberry gestured at the block of wood and began talking, half to Mosspaw and half to herself. "The swelling's pretty bad."

"Understatement," Mosspaw muttered under her breath.

"True," Iceberry admitted, seeming to have heard her apprentice. "I am sure that there is a broken bone involved, but I won't know for sure until the swelling comes down. Moss, are you done with Mothbright yet?"

"I just finished," Mosspaw answered, getting to her feet. "Mothbright's good to go."

"Great job. Come here, and I'll show you how to bring the swelling down."

"Comfrey?" Mosspaw guessed, coming over.

"Correct." Iceberry looked at Mothbright. "You're free to go."

Mothbright dipped her head. "Thank you, Iceberry."

Iceberry seemed surprised by Mothbright's show of respect but did not comment on it. "You're welcome."

Mothbright smiled at Mosspaw and left.

Only then did she remember her dream that she had before the battle.

Mystifying. Please review~!