( ) soft moonlight illuminates the water ahead as the sun finishes its slow decline into sleep. the meadows and marshes of the territory are quiet, birds returning to their nests and frogs not yet croaking, but as the dark shape approaches the river, they take comfort in the rushing sound of liquid over stone. the river is one constant that will never leave. right now, it's the only stability they think they have. slender paws slot easily into the trails they've known for moons as they follow the familiar route towards their new namesake, and the feline can feel the quiet breeze of night air flitting through their fur. it's a perfectly clear evening- everything should be wonderful. it should be... but it's not. anxiety chews at their insides, the lump in their chest growing bigger with each pawstep they take towards their destination. there is only a small feeling of relief that this day is over, but it is overpowered by the far more pressing emotion. they are confused.

this place is their home and will always be. it has never occurred to them, throughout all the moons they've lived here, that they'll ever have to sacrifice it. thoughts drift back to icy eyes and a rumbling growl, a paw, claws unsheathed, pounding on wood as orders are barked out. their chest tightens, sturdy pawsteps wobbling for a moment as they finally reach the tree. it stands, isolated amongst lower bushes and reeds, on the bank, and they almost sob at the overwhelming scent of home. the comfort that the sight brings them only adds to the anxiety that is now clawing its way up their throat, threatening to split their jaws and tumble out. they inch closer, finally opening their mouth to speak. "buck?" the name comes out in a whimper, and they bite their tongue, claws flexing in the soft dirt. "bucky? are you here?" willowroot cranes their neck, scanning the tangled place they know at least one nest remains. stars, they pray the woman will not turn and attack on sight. with tears sparking in verdant green eyes, the now-warrior waits, breath short, as if any sudden movement or sound will send the tree crumbling to the ground, and with it, any chance of reconciliation.


the journey of a curse, to somewhat of a loved figure, back to some disenchanted beast. it's a cruel and unwelcomed fate, and the lonesome home she had made had never felt as cold as it did now. the whispering branches of the willow, mournful as the resident that still resides, strokes the darkened fur with comfort. the world is closing her out, and her kin are gone. buck supposes this was always her fate, a life of destitution and forced to mourn for something that can never come back. she has wept and wept, enough to leave the land fertile and sorrowful. everything buck had ever cherished was now property of riverclan, with her only savior being the one thing she can never leave. how many cats she had tricked in these finals days, how many struggled to retrieve her from the water. all to drive her out. she used to be something among the river. something good and gracious. now she's seen as nothing more than a rabid animal.

the call of her name leaves the woman to tuck herself further in. she is in no mood to deal with wandering cats. yet the voice persists and corners her, with a slow realization that it is caraway, she holds still. it has been hard to think of caraway, in multiple ways. the betrayal is nothing short of heartbreaking, and she is not sure how to face the other. it does not help with the envy that bubbles up and chokes her whenever she is to catch sight of the smoke with that child they had saved. caraway is a good cat, fairer and kinder than buck, but she cannot help the anger and sorrow at the sight of such beauty. it should have been her. she should still have her child. something bright and pure by her side, something that is of her and of the river.

the rapid blinking to try and rid of her burning eyes as she knows that caraway will not leave. they will haunt her like a ghost until the buckskin is ready to face it. the emergence of the scarred woman is not how it used to be. she used to be quick and welcoming as she ushered her once-kin into the willow roots. now, she is defending it from a traitor. eyes blown wide with grief and anguish, but the snarl that gnarls her features does not beckon caraway closer. her claws dig in the cool dirt, with a head low and haunches tight. "caraway."
( ) caraway. her old name sends a pang into her chest, and she almost corrects the other, before she wonders if the woman would even care. the femme likes caraway better than willowroot anyway. it's the name she's always had. willowroot is simply a symbol of clanship, her allegiance to the place her child calls home. swallowing hard, she begins to step forth before halting, observing the cold tone, defensive stance, and watchful eyes. the reaction hurts more than any scar or scratch has, piercing into her very psyche. this woman, sisterlike in nature, the most family she's ever had, stands now, statuesque in front of the home she's known forever. the whistling wind rustles the leaves of the willow and sends a chill down to the bones of the ebony feline. she blinks, willing the tears from her eyes and taking a shuttering breath before she speaks. "they're going to drive you out." jaws snap shut, eyes widening as she gathers her thoughts. "cicada... his name is cicadastar now and he got powers or something from the stars? i think he has nine lives, or at least that's what he said. he came back to the camp all angry and shouted something about chasing the loners out and not accepting newcomers. he made all the recent joiners who weren't from the pine or marsh step forward and he gave us new names. he branded us to riverclan."

a soft snarl forms on her lips as she describes the horror that had been the meeting. "he demanded that those who were loyal to riverclan chase out anyone they come across. i had to come tell you, warn you, or something." her voice turns pleading, eyes widening as she bows her head. "i'm so sorry buck. i couldn't let boar loose another parental figure. i couldn't leave her there. she's just a kid. so i can't leave, i can't. i won't leave the river. it doesn't belong to cicadastar, but he has numbers and he's angry." tufted ears flatten, paws shuffling at the earth as she rambles. "buck please, the medicine cat said he'd talk to cicadastar for you. we'll convince him to let you in. i can't let you be chased away. please..." her voice finally breaks, and she stands, pathetic and emotional, in front of the woman. the moon soars overhead, dusty light dimming as the sun finally vanishes. the river rushes ever on.

the pang of hurt that runs through caraway is noticeable to the defensive river cat, and she almost lets out a shaky breath at the action. the one cat that buck could rely upon, sharing what ails her mind and troubles her soul. she listens to the story that caraway spins for her, everything that buck had already known would happen. all because buck didn't drive out that foolish tom the moment he stepped upon the river lands. he had been a plague to the land, and she was the only one who had shouted out this prophecy.

there's little for buck to reply to. she knows she is no longer welcomed in her own home. with the way mahi had greeted her, telling her how he was supposed to run her off. he didn't, and buck would doubt his ability to even do so, but the threat lingers. the pain that lingers within her caged ribs, fluttering like a hummer bird who is desperate for a flower to feed upon. weak and frantic and hungry. the fisher's brain, solely wired for survival, seems to finally understand that caraway is not here as an enemy. not after they are pleading with her the same way raccoon had.

they claimed that they still need buck, but she can't see a reason to linger with these clan cats. they were old enough to fend for themselves and buck should simply leave it that way. caraway's voice is breaking, and buck is looking away from her kin. awkward and unused to all this fuss surrounding her, and she thinks that caraway should move on. "no." is all she answers to the breaking soul before her. buck had refused beesong's service before, and there is no reason to change. "i have no reason to follow him. i will not be stripped of my name and freedom. you two are free to do what you want, but i've given my answer before and it will not change." the woman stands tall and defiant in front of the smokened feline. the moon is the only thing that keeps her alight in the dark, with eyes heavy upon her kin.

"i know the chances i am taking, but i will not be forced off my home. cicada and the stars be damned to the murkiest of waters. " these cats have little time to figure out their survival. they're relying on two cats to relay the key of survival. buck was the only one to figure it out, and spread her teachings through the two. but now a group of cats will be shunned from the light.