private call me a casualty || frog's ribbit

Bloodshot eyes, thinning fur, and sunken ribs. The ghastly molly lingered in the shadows where even the moonlight couldn't reach. It would be easy to mistake her for a spiteful spirit, unable to leave the earth do to unfinished business. However, stardust didn't cling to her pelt nor illuminate her steps. Unfortunately, life still caused her heart to beat.

The forsaken warrior wanted to spend the night alone in her den - so, like any other night. But the full moon beckoned the five clans from their nests. Untrustworthy in the eyes of the clan she'd be forced into servitude too, Emberstar wanted her to attend: to stay close, to keep an eye on her. In her mind, she had completed the quest she'd set out to do. A life for a life.

Unfortunately, the chipper molly had been claimed and accepted by the stars so she couldn't experience the cold death that swept her precious nephew and mentee away.

Seeing the narcissistic leaders clinging together, the molly felt sick. They had simply stood on branches and claimed lands. Why hadn't StarClan chosen the leaders? Why only the medicine cats? Because there were multiple leaders up there who did not deserve such a dignified title.

However, she hardly gave them more than a few moments of silent loathing. She had more important souls to find among the gathered cats. The elderly Frog's Croak caught her eyes from the treeline but she didn't say a word. Instead, she breathed a sigh of relief. She was glad he was well.

And then she saw Ribbit and couldn't breathe.

Guilt gnawed at her already shriveled, broken heart. She wanted to turn tail and leave. She had no right to approach him - not even the right to see him. Selfishly, though, she wanted to wrap her nephew into her embrace and never let him go. But, no, that was no longer her job. She'd lost the title of "aunt" the moment she failed his brother.

Still, she crept into his peripheral vision like the ghoul she had withered away to. A flick of the tail to draw his attention, beckoning him into the forest. If he wanted to, of course. She understood if he never wanted to see her again; stars, she didn't even want to see her ugly, distorted reflection.

@frog's ribbit​

By now, the brown tabby should have realized that Salamander wasn't coming to the gathering. But it was the only bit of hope he had to hold onto, the idea of being able to see his aunt at gatherings - to tell her how things were going, to tell her that he missed her and that she should come back home.

But, marsh-hued eyes kept searching for her within the large crowd of nameless faces, even if his hopes were rapidly diminishing.

A flash of blue appears in front of him, and he lets out a gasp, looking up at the beckoning feline to make sure. Though she looked different from the Salamander he remembers, Ribbit knows:

It's her.

The tom looks around to make sure no one's paying attention - though, he isn't sure anyone would notice or even care about his departure anyway, those around him wrapped up in hearing news from past clanmates and other clans - before following her into the depths of the forest.

"Salamander? Is it... Is it really you?" he asks, despite being certain it was, indeed, his aunt that he followed into the forest, "Where... Where have you been?"
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Ears pinned against her head as she turned her head away in shame. Teal eyes drowned in guilt and struggled to look at Frog's Ribbit. Her heart ached, claws digging deeper and deeper into the faintly beating organ when she noticed how much he's grown. In pursuing her justice and running away from the demons that lurked in the marshes, she'd forgotten how much she would be missing.

"Is it really you?" No, Salamander had died and been buried somewhere in the marshes where she'd never be found. "Yes... it's me. But I - I'm not Salamander anymore." For once, her voice sounded so tiny and almost child-like. "Didn't Frog's Croak tell you?" Surely, he'd been informed of his disgraced aunt who didn't deserve the name given to her at birth. She had betrayed them all and the sullied name had been returned so that no further harm could be done to the family's reputation.

"I traversed to unclaimed lands but I was always nearby, keeping an ear on any news in case..." In case something happened to you or any cherished cat l ft behind. "But then StarClan called upon me and tasked me with being the medicine cat of ThunderClan while also giving me a new name." Another name she had tarnished; a name that had yet to truly be earned which is why she held her tongue.

If she never left, would things have turned out differently? If she'd faced the warmongering cats head-on then she could have, at the very least, died by the paws of former friends rather than slowly deteriorate into dust. "I'm... I'm so sorry." For leaving, for being unable to save Leaping Toad, and for a whole lot more that weighed heavy on her conscience. If she told him the second part of why she left, besides friends turning claws and teeth onto her, would he understand? That she had been searching for Leaping Toad's killer? Or would he too be disgusted by her murderous intent? ​
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"Didn't Frog's Croak tell you?"

He thinks for a moment. There's plenty of things his grandfather's told him, sure, but, Ribbit didn't have any ill-will towards the blue feline. Salamander didn't do nothing wrong, as far as he's aware, and Ribbit didn't understand why she felt the need to give up her name.

In his eyes, the cat before him would always be his aunt - would always be Salamander.

"Well, I'm not gonna call you Nobody," he says, a torn ear twitching at the thought, "Or, Nothing. Your name is Salamander. I don't... I don't care if you gave it back to Frog's Croak, or whatever happened. I'm not calling you that."

The brown tom listens to his aunt's story of her whereabouts - of how StarClan called for her to be medicine cat of ThunderClan. Like Bonejaw, he remembers, thinking back to the two's fight shortly after the Great Battle. But, wait! Which one was ThunderClan again? That was... the oak forest? Ribbit's been there before! It's not too far from the marshes, perhaps he could visit! He's about to suggest such, before realizing - if Bonejaw was no longer called Bone, what was Salamander's name?

"If StarClan's given you a new name, then, what do I call you? Salamanderfur?"

An apology is uttered, and his excitement towards seeing his aunt - towards learning where she's been - quells. He remembers, then, all that has happened in such a short time, a wave of sadness washing over him. Leaping Toad is gone. His aunt had left. The Marsh Group had been renamed ShadowClan. Frog's Ribbit wonders if it would only be a matter of time before his own name changes too - by the will of StarClan, or whatever the reasoning may be.

But, his aunt was standing in front of him, something he'd never be able to say about his brother ever again. Something he hadn't been able to say about him for a moon or two already. He is glad to have this moment, even if he doesn't know when it will ever happen again.

"I'm not mad at you," he tells his aunt. He had no reason to be.
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You're wrong, little one. Salamander had been an honorable cat, a loyal warrior, and a family-orientated molly. Emotions had been kept in check for years, swallowed down and shoved aside when called upon. This new cat had been ravaged by neigh uncontrollable emotions and tossed a quietly sworn oath to the depths of the murky swamp. Salamander stayed behind in the marsh group - ShadowClan - while this husk powered by raw emotions scoured the lands.

Yet, at the same time, she wasn't Cinderfrost either.

Cinderfrost had been entrusted with the health of ThunderClan. Hare Whiskers called upon a soul that had been whole and undamaged. Because how in the world would someone as tormented as she be capable of healing, counseling, and guiding an entire clan? Those three words still sounded so vague and cryptic. What had StarClan expected from a trained soldier who only knew how to lick wounds? They had sent her along with no guidance yet, somehow, she was supposed to achieve this great destiny. In some alternative dimension, StarClan received the cat they called upon. Unfortunately, in this dimension, they received her.

So, how in the world did she introduce herself?

Conflicted, she toyed between Salamander and Cinderfrost. Neither option was her but Leaping Toad wouldn't accept that. "Cinderfrost. she replied hesitantly, voice as quiet as a mouse, "That's the name Hare Whiskers and the stars use." It occurred to her that she hadn't ever referred to herself as "Cinderfrost".

"You should be mad, little one. I promised I would protect both Leaping Toad and Ash. I failed them both." Not to mention she had openly spoken out against Briarstar. She hoped that Cicadastar and Sootstar had been met with as much agitation she faced. When tensions had been rising, she was seen as a traitor and kittypet loyalist by most in the colony but she'd never left. She had fought by their sides. Those two, however, also openly spoke out against the she-cat by leaving to rule their own clans. "And then... I left like a coward." As much as she wanted to say that she left to prevent further harm to her family's name, she'd been hiding and running like a chicken.

The molly remained silent for a while before, seemingly out of the blue, asking, "If you had the chance to get revenge on your brother's killer would you take it?"
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Cinderfrost, his aunt finally introduces herself as.

It's no Salamander - a name Ribbit would much rather prefer to call her - but, he supposes Cinderfrost fit as well. If that's what StarClan wanted her to be named, if that's what Hare Whiskers - someone he wasn't even sure was alive, by the time he and Toad were born - wanted her to be named. Ribbit isn't sure, however, if that's what she wanted to be named.

She urges him to be mad once more, and Ribbit must think about it once again. In the midst of his grief and the processing of his brother's death, Ribbit was certain he'd blamed others for the fault of Leaping Toad's demise. But, he doesn't think he ever blamed Cinderfrost in any of it. Not that he can recall, at least? Himself? Sure. The one who killed Toad? Of course. Even Briarstar and Rain, he'd held a moment of resentment towards, for starting this whole thing, for starting the Great Battle.

But, did Ribbit ever blame his aunt?

He doesn't think so.

"But he was protecting me," he tells her. "Toad was protecting me. If it weren't for him, you'd be morning my loss instead. He saved me." Part of him still wishes Toad hadn't tried to be a hero. That it was Ribbit that his family lost, instead. But, he tried his beset to push those thoughts away, to keep himself distracted.

"Wouldn't that be something he learned from you? Protecting others? Didn't Ash do similar?" He isn't all too certain, on Ash's part. To this day, he'd only heard bits and pieces of the story, but, he thinks he must have done similar. That he would have, anyway.

"Others left too, you know. You're not the only one." Maybe not in the same manner as Cinderfrost did, but, they still left, all the same. There wouldn't be five clans, if others stayed in the marshes.

And then, she asks another question. One that's answer Ribbit doesn't know for certain, but still knows he must pick his words wisely.

Would he take revenge, if he had the chance?

It takes a moment for him to answer, but eventually he does.

"No," the brown tabby tells her, uncertainty heavy in his voice, "He's bigger than me. I wouldn't have a chance."

He'd end up just like Leaping Toad, the moment that flash of orange saw him. He was sure of it.
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Guilt tightened its grip on her chest. "I didn't teach them well enough. I failed them." She looked defeated. Had teaching them only defensive manuevers been their doom? The molly had assumed they wouldn't need to know how to attack nor any other complicated techniques: after all, who would attack those as young as Ash and Leaping Toad?

That assumption had been miserably wrong and they suffered for her foolish, naive thoughts.

His words caused her chest to rumble with a deep, low growl. The fact that he acknowledged the cat had been bigger then him, and still would be, infuriated the she-cat. How dare someone choose anyone other than someone their size for a fight?"Then, what if I had the chance to extract justice and vengeance for you?"

A dark storm raged in her eyes. In the end, Ash had wished that she'd never intervened: that her claws never saught out the ones responsible for his death. "I ask because.. I found someone who helped in Ash's death." A statement she still thought to be true. "But then I walked with Ash in my dreams. He.. wasn't happy with my actions." A lot of cats weren't.

"What would Toad want?" Frog's Ribbit knew his brother more than she - the two always been by each other's sides. To see Frog's Ribbit without him... "And what would you want?"

"After I left, I've been searching for his killer. I want - wanted? - to atone for my failure." What in the Stars did she want now? Hare Whiskers and Ash urged her use her paws for healing. However, her claws would be a weapon for Frog's Ribbit if he asked. She would throw her destiny away if that's what he asked her to do. "If I ever do successfully find him, how should I act? Do you wish me to forgive like Ash or would you prefer an eye for an eye?" It must be odd to hear his aunt in such a way: killing had always been a last resort for the honorable Salamander. Which is why that name no longer belonged in her company. Whatever or whoever she was had drastically changed.​

He hesitates.

Ribbit wants many things. He wants Leaping Toad back. He wants the Marsh Group to be back to the way it was. He wants Cinderfrost back home, to be called Salamander, once again. He wants Gecko to be okay, for her to be free from mourning her lost son.

But, does he want the orange tom to die? Does he want Cinderfrost to kill him?

He isn't sure.

He thinks back to the Great Battle, to the snowy white kit he'd briefly been friends with. How the orange tom hadn't cared to attack Ribbit and Toad, though they were all part of the same fight. It wasn't until Ribbit had neared the kit, had gone to check on the cowering lad, that the slightly older tom had sprung towards them. That he ordered the kit to go home, after Toad's blood was spilled.

So, whoever it was that killed his brother, must have known the white kit. Must have known him enough to feel the need to protect him.

Would killing his brother's murder mean that someone else would also lose someone?

He isn't sure how he feels about that.

"Toad would want him dead, if it were me that he killed," Frog's Ribbit makes the mistake of saying, "But, I --" He pauses again to think over his words, only to just shake his head.

"How would you be able to find him? It took me this long to find you, after all," he informs her, tail flicking from side to side behind him, a signal of his nerves rising, "He could be anywhere, by now."

Part of him begins to hope that he is, at least.
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