Up In Smoke: Chapter Seventeen
Sandpaw blinked open her eyes wearily. Late afternoon light streamed into the medicine den, illuminating cats’ pelts with a soft, warm golden glow. As she stretched, her shoulder wound flared up again, beginning to sting like wildfire. As she recoiled in pain, Lilypaw looked up from sorting herbs.
“Does it hurt? Sorry about that. One second.” She placed a leaf in the correct alcove before turning back to Sandpaw. "Dock for soothing pain, right?” she called into the back stores of herbs.
“Yep!” Leopardspots’ voice called back. “Use the new stuff, and throw out the old leaves when you’re done treating your patient!”
“Thanks!” Lilypaw called. She used a paw to gently remove the bloody cobwebs from Sandpaw’s shoulder wound, then picked up a leaf from the pile she had just been sorting, using her paw to rub it firmly but not painfully over the wound. The stinging lessened, and Lilypaw proceeded to replace her cobwebs with fresh ones.
After the medicine apprentice went back to sorting herbs, Sandpaw took the opportunity to look around at the other cats. Rookpaw was snoozing next to her, cobwebs covering almost all of his cheeks and forehead. She leaned over and licked him on the ear, glad to see he was okay, and he rolled onto his side with a small mrrow of protest in his sleep. She shook her head. Bouldershade had some serious injuries on his flanks and belly, and it saddened her a little to see him like this. He’ll probably be joining the elders soon. She sighed, thinking of Vixenstar; Bouldershade was at least fifteen moons younger than her, and he was aging. StreamClan’s leader was getting old too. Sandpaw shook her head. Kestrelmist had a vicious slash down her chest and belly, and Willownose’s leg was bleeding through the cobwebs. Sandpaw couldn’t get back to sleep, so she decided to have a look around camp. Russettail and Sootleaf were sharing tongues lazily on a warm sunny rock just outside camp. Duskfire was nowhere to be seen, Hazelpelt and Littlebrook were having a casual conversation by the dwindling fresh-kill pile, and Thistledusk was reluctantly letting Brindlepad groom his unruly fur. Chestnutleap and Maplepaw weren’t there; judging from how little prey there was on the pile, they were probably hunting; maybe with Duskfire, Flintriver and Troutpaw, considering those cats weren’t there either. Blossomleap, Quailfeather, Mothshadow and Sprucegaze were chatting quietly. Almost every cat Sandpaw saw around camp had wounds from the battle.
“Shellkit! Swankit!” came the tired protest of Cloverspark from the nursery. Maybe I can help out. Sandpaw entered the nursery, where the two energetic kits were climbing all over Cloverspark, who looked tired out and in need of sleep.
“Hey, Cloverspark? I could play with the kits while you take a nap, if you want,” Sandpaw offered.
“Thanks, Sandpaw,” the queen sighed, relieved. “Ask your mother or Littlebrook to help if they’re too much of a pawful.”
“We are NOT a pawful!” squeaked Shellkit indignantly. “We are as well-behaved as STARCLAN CATS!”
“Yeah! We’re SO GOOD!” added Swankit before collapsing in giggles.
“Come on, kits,” Sandpaw mewed, stifling a burst of laughter. As she turned to lead them out of the nursery, she felt tiny paws scuffle at the tip of her tail, and she chuckled, seeing Shellkit under her tail, tiny paws batting at the fur.
“Are you getting beaten by a tail?” Swankit purred.
“NO!” spluttered the tom-kit. “I’m beating it!” Sandpaw swiped her tail away from the young kit, laughing.
“Come on, kits, let’s play a game,” she mewed. She drew a line in the sand with her claw, then drew another farther away. “Whoever can jump from this line to that one gets a badger ride!”
“I’m gonna beat you!” Swankit yowled, lining up her paws at the line. She jumped messily, sprawling face-first in the dust. The white she-kit spluttered indignantly, quickly washing her face before lining up behind Shellkit for another try. Shellkit made a good leap, but got his paw caught in a dip in the ground and ended up sprawled on his side. The next time Swankit tried, Sandpaw gently used her tail to adjust the kit’s stance so she jumped better. However, the young she-kit still fell short of the line. Sandpaw gave the same treatment to Shellkit, and, determined, he pushed off with his back legs, stretching out his front paws as he tumbled over the line.
“Great job!” Sandpaw called.
“I get a badger ride!” called the tom triumphantly, scampering back over to her and clambering on her back as she crouched down for him.
“Hang on!” the apprentice cautioned him as he wrapped her long fur around his claws. She began to stomp around, gently moving her shoulders back and forth. Shellkit squealed with delight while Swankit wove around Sandpaw’s feet, trying to trip her.
That afternoon, Sandpaw had the most fun she’d ever had since she was a kit herself. And if she had learned anything from that play session with the kits, it was that they would grow into great warriors.