Apparently giving myself deadlines makes me avoid them.
Cringepaw awoke to being forcefully dragged out of the apprentice’s den by his mentor, Armleg. He had barely slept the night before as he was too excited, but this was definitely not how he wanted to be woken up. He had to give props to Armleg, though. The cat wasn’t much bigger than Cringepaw himself, yet the tom pulled him along with relative ease.
“Alright, I’m up!” grumbled the apprentice, to which Armleg promptly dropped him in response.
“About time!” Armleg mewed curtly. “All the other apprentices are already up and—” He caught sight of Weedheart and Mountaindew walking to the fresh-kill pile and winked. Both were so caught up in his radiant beauty that they fell facefirst into the pile of prey. Cringepaw looked on in admiration and vowed to wake up earlier so as not to miss valuable training such as this. Armleg purred in satisfaction and started briskly walking out of camp. The apprentice followed him, shaking off sleep that still clung to him like wet moss.
“Don’t we get to eat before we train?” he asked blearily.
“Winners get dinners. Or breakfasts, in this case. Besides, you spent your time for eating asleep.”
Cringepaw sighed and resigned himself to an empty stomach. At least it was a beautiful morning. The sun shone through the trees and warmed his pelt, making his rude awakening a little more bearable. He shook out his pelt as they walked, trying to get the dust out.
“First lesson in your apprenticeship; I’m always right. My training style is one of the best— nay, THE best, around. Everyone tries to copy it, but none can do it like me. I call it TAME, which stands for Totally Awesome Mentoring Experience. Awesome for me and not for you, because it’s essentially child labor, but let’s not get into that.”
Mentor and apprentice arrived at the training area. It was a large clearing with ancient trees surrounding it. The clearing was mostly dirt from the countless paws that had been there before. The other apprentices were already there with their mentors. Foxbreath, a red tom with a black tail was trying to calm down an undersized ball of light grey fluff that Cringepaw recognized as Mumblepaw. She looked inconsolable over something, and Cringepaw strained to hear what Foxbreath was saying over the sound of her wailing.
“...It’s okay, he’s in a better place now, there’s no reason to cry about it, he was just a caterpillar. He was bound to be stepped on sometime!”
Mumblepaw whipped around, her eyes ablaze. “Just a caterpillar? JUST a caterpillar? I’ll have you know that Twiggy fought off eight BADGERS. BY HIMSELF! Could you do that? No! Because you’re not a caterpillar, that’s why!” she spat, doing anything but mumbling. Foxbreath looked like he wanted a tree to fall on him and backed away from his screaming apprentice. He caught sight of Armleg and Cringepaw and ran over to them.
“Oh thank the stars you’re finally here Armleg!” he cast a reproachful look at the apprentice then went on. “You have to help me, I accidentally stepped on Twiggy this morning and Mumblepaw has been doing this for hours. I didn’t know her lungs were big enough to produce such volume and I think I’m going deaf!”
”I’ll handle it.” Armleg started towards Foxbreath’s apprentice, motioning for his own apprentice to follow.
When Mumblepaw saw them coming her way, she wailed even louder and went into a fresh bout of hysterics. Armleg leaned over to Cringepaw and yelled into his ear, “Second lesson of your apprenticeship; always be helpful to your Clanmates. Then you can use them to your advantage when the time comes and guilt them into killing your mate because she was threatening to expose your forbidden relationship with the current medicine cat. But you didn’t hear it from me.”
Cringepaw took a minute to process the information and then sat down to watch Armleg at work.
The large tom crouched down to Mumblepaw’s level. She was currently shredding a leaf with her claws to lay over the dead caterpillar, all the while screeching her lungs out.
“Hey Mumblepaw?” Armleg said gently. “Listen to me for a minute.”
The apprentice glared at him but stopped screaming. “What.”
”I know you’re sad about Twiggy, but remember this, it’s very important.” Mumblepaw sat up straight and attentively. “You’ll never amount to anything in the Clan. You’re mediocre warrior material at best, and the only reason you’ll pass your assessment is because no one will want to deal with you. You will die in obscurity and no one will love you,” Armleg concluded, his voice still soothing.”No one.”
Mumblepaw sniffled and stood up. “Thank you, Armleg.” she said sincerely. “I feel much better now.”
”Now that that’s over, we can start training for the day.” Armleg said, padding to the middle of the clearing. “But where are the other four, Mellowflare and Moonpaw, and Jinglebell and Specialpaw?”
”Out hunting. They decided that they couldn’t wait for you and Cringepaw and left.” Replied Foxbreath, looking considerably more at ease now that his apprentice had stopped blowing out his eardrums.
“Hmm. Alright then, let’s start training without them, then.”
Mumblepaw shuffled over to Cringepaw. “Today is going to be the worst day of your life so far,” she mumbled.
Cringepaw stared at her and started to ask what she meant, but Armleg has already made his way over to them.
“Nothing like a good ol’ swim in the rapids for the first day of training, huh Cringepaw?”