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The WFW 2013 Community Holiday Clanfic!

Enjoy. :)

A Jolly Good Leaf-Bare

Emerging from the warriors' den and crossly licking a particularly stubborn patch of fur down on her chest, Wetstream gazes in awe up at the sky - from which small, circular white flakes are falling from the clouds. A few of them catch in trees and have already begun to form small piles around the camp. Behind Wetstream, a pair of the younger warriors, Brightsong and Nightshadow, charge into the clearing and all but dive towards one of the building snow drifts. The deputy pads cautiously after them.

The young warriors seem eager about this new, foreign substance, though Wetstream's a bit more hesitant. Sure, she's heard tales about what happens every leaf-bare, but this is her first actual leaf-bare. She was born the previous Newleaf, and, well, these things were kind of strange. 

"What are you waiting for?" yowls Redpoppy, careening past Wetstream. "C'mon!"

Not to be outdone by her friend and former apprentice, Wetstream grins and, with a change in heart and mind, plunges after the russet she-cat. Together, the pair rocket towards one of the empty piles of snow. Redpoppy is the first to make a move, not stopping or hesitating for a moment and flinging herself into the snow. She sinks into the drift until only the tip of her tail is visible, glowing against the snow like a bright crimson bloodstain. Wetstream launches herself after Redpoppy.

Redpoppy sits up and shakes snow from her ears, staring in affectionate wonder at the rest of the camp. Fireblaze, one of the younger warriors and Redpoppy's just-graduated apprentice, pads from the confines of the warriors' den. As usual, the fiery she-cat has a slight frown on her face and is scrutinizing the white camp with bright eyes. 

"C'mon," Redpoppy calls, "have some fun, Fireblaze!"

Though the sun is just barely peeping over the horizon, more cats begin to filter from the warriors' and apprentices' dens. Riverkit frolicks from the nursery with wide eyes. He bats one silvery-gray paw at the falling snow. Rainsplash, joined by Riverkit's sister Brookfall, slips from the warrior's den with a wide yawn, and troops towards the foot of the Highrock in the center of the camp. Both shaking snow from their ears and waving their tails cheerily, Wetstream and Redpoppy join their friends beneath the Highrock as they wait for Bramblestar to summon them for the routine Clan meeting.

Redtail - a tom almost identical to Redpoppy in size and color - joins a couple of his friends (Brookfall's mate Gorsefur and the likes). A pale gray tabby troops from the medicine den, head bowed, and takes a seat beside Wetstream. Her paws reek of the sharp tang customary to the herbs with which she works.

Across the clearing, a ginger and white she-cat hauls herself to the outskirts of the meeting. She doesn't seem bothered by the isolation, and she calls out to one of her friends - a pretty gray and white she-cat by the name of Owlfeather - with ease. 

"Owlfeather," Skyfall, the cat with the mangled leg, says, a smile curling her lips, "get out of the fresh-kill pile and get your fat behind over here! The meeting's about to start and you don't want to be the only cat late."

Reluctantly, Owlfeather obliges and joins her friend on the fringe of the meeting. She's chatting with Skyfall when her attention suddenly drifts to a thick-furred black tom stalking from the warriors' den. Instantly, Owlfeather goes a little bit gushy and can't meet Skyfall's gaze. Her friend just rolls her eyes and stops talking, chuckling slightly when Owlfeather keeps nodding and fueling the conversation with, "Yeah,"s and "Uh-huh, definitely"s. The tom who captured Owlfeather's attention, Izaya, just smirks and takes a seat in the front row. 

A muscular brown tabby weaves through the crowd, which parts for her as though she is of utmost lordship - which, in a way, she is. Bramblestar leaps onto the Highrock without hesitation, her muscles rippling beneath her glossy pelt. She turns and faces her audience, green eyes calculating and says with little preamble, "All patrols for the day have been cancelled in favor of the weather."

Immediately, a cheer arises from the gathered cats. A fluffy white tom leaps to his feet, yowling his approval. He nearly trips over himself in embarrassment as he resumes his seat. Beside him, Mistybird mouths Nice one, WhitetalonHer black ears twitch at her friend's antics and though she opens her mouth again to continue poking fun at the flushing white tom, Bramblestar silences the crowd with a yowl. Everyonre returns their attention to their young leader, though excitement still dances behind every pair of eyes. A couple of kits go rolling past in a play tussle, and Bramblestar smiles in amusement. 

"Warriors are free to take their apprentices wherever they like, but are warned to keep an eye out for any tresspassers. We may be having a snow day, but the other Clans will likely not be," Bramblestar cautions, her tail lashing. 

The gathering begins to disband. Bramblestar spies one of her younger warriors, Cherryfeather, leaping into the air in excitement. She quickly becomes the subject of a couple of elders' amusement and blushes in embarrassment, before trotting out the thorn tunnel after her former mentor and a few of the younger warriors. Spottedblaze trots after her, mewing loudly and excitedly for the rest of the patrol to hear. 

A few tail-lengths away, a fluffy black she-cat is conversing with Redpoppy and a similarly-colored friend of hers, whose face is furrowed in a frown. 

"..and then, if he says anything mean, I'll jump on him!"

"A truce is upheld between all of the Clans at the Gathering, Fuzzywhisker," Redpoppy reminds the first, fluffier she-cat. "StarClan will grow angry with us if we do, in any manner, break or endanger this truce. Clouds might cover the moon and the other Clans will surely turn a disdainful eye. And then, you know, Bramblestar might put you on elder-duty for a moon."

The second she-cat laughs, adding, "That'd be funny to see."

Fuzzywhisker flicks her friend in the face, tail lashing crossly. "Can it, Jetfeather," Fuzzywhisker growls, ruffling her crumpled whiskers. She turns to Redpoppy. "I guess you're right. But if he claws me first, can I fight back? Please? Because then it'd be self-defense and StarClan would surely rather have me fight back than die at the hands of that IceClan flea-bag, Toadheart."

Redpoppy's reply is lost in the laughter of a couple of warriors as they bound past the conversating trio and towards the thorn tunnel. Spottedpool, a black and orange she-cat, huffs along beside the group, her amber eye flashing. A white-and-black she-cat (whom Fuzzywhisker and Jetfeather identify as Ripplesoul , a rather jumpy she-cat with a flaring temper) looks as though she's treading on shards of ice. Disapprovingly, Redpoppy clucks at the group and turns back to the warriors with whom she was talking, only to find that they'd already attached themselves to the end of the train likely going to the frozen lake. Sighing, Redpoppy sidles over to talk to Wetstream.

Already, a few cats have gathered at the edge of the lake. Twolegs slip and slide across the far end, but the SnowClan warriors and apprentices pay them little attention, far too eager to try their own hand (rather, paw) at balancing on the slippery ice. Bramblestar is one of the cats leading the small entourage, and so she steps out first. 

Immediately, she's fallen almost flat on her face. The ice pops and crackles, but doesn't crack as Bramblestar struggles to clamber to her feet amidst the laughter of her audience on shore. Grinning, she glides in a circle, much more balanced, and then slides back towards the shore. 

Troutstream, a gray tabby tom, steps confidently onto the ice. Immediately, though, he pulls a Bramblestar as his legs slip out from beneath him and he's splayed flat out on the ice. Yowling in embarrassment and fluffing out his fur to dispel the chill of the ice, Troutstream crawls to the bank of the frozen lake and huddles at the edge, tail lashing. A flush creeps up his cheeks and he shrinks a bit into the treeline, trying to hide himself from view. Bramblestar chuckles.

A dark brown tabby she-cat takes the ice, stepping onto the ice. She tenses, but her shoulders soon relax and she's sliding gracefully across the lake, tail sticking straight out for balance. She seems at ease.

"Nice job, Thornslash," Redtail calls encouragingly, his green eyes bright. "But I think I can do better."

Thornslash twirls gracefully on the ice and glares a challenge across the chipped expanse at Redtail. One of her eyebrows is quirked over amber eyes, and the long, thin scar on her face draws her expression into a scowl. "Oh yeah?" she calls teasingly, sliding backwards a few paw-lengths. "I bet you a half moon of elder duty you fall within the first couple counts on the ice."

The opposing tom's eyes narrow, but he replies confidently, "You're on."

"One...two...three..." the gathered cats chant after Redtail steps onto the ice. He slides as soon as his paws touch the lake, but he quickly evens himself out. "...five...six..."

Confidently, Redtail throws a glance over his shoulder at the crowd, like he's expecting each and every she-cat to swoon at his smoldering emerald gaze. Thornslash's confident expression is flickering and she cranes her neck a little bit to see her opponent's face. When Redtail turns around to face her, however, to the Clan's rising cheer of "...eight..." his legs go pinwheeling and his claws are scrabbling at the ice. The russet tom tries in vain to regain his balance but to no avail - he slips, Troutstream-style, and lands on his belly. 

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