papa, can you hear me? || croak

The sun settled to sleep and the moon rose to illuminate the land in an ethereal light. Once the moon settled comfortably into the sky, the swamplands sprung to life.

Those that heard silence in the darkness had never truly opened their ears:

A cricket ensemble played a melancholic symphony. Toads croaked with vibrato as they sang the blues. Every so often, wistful hoots from the otherwise silent owls danced along to the rhythm of the night.

Salamander took solace beneath the twinkling lights overhead. The night sky never changed: a much-welcomed sight given the current state of the lands.

Unfortunately, the blue molly was incapable of shaking swatting away the gnats buzzing around in her mind. Tensions continued to build each day. Every day Salamander found herself wondering: "will this be the day that I choose where I stand?"

Her stomach twisted at the fact that her formerly unwavering loyalty had been faltering. She attempted to shove the feelings down but they always resurfaced. Salamander had always faithfully followed her family's orders until the day Hare Whiskers died - the day her blood ties began to become diluted with water.

At first, everything was fine. She didn't question the chosen heir. Granted - she did admit to herself that it was a pity that Frog's Croak hadn't been chosen instead (which, admittedly, was a biased thought). Biased thoughts began to solidify into true beliefs when the Pine cats started to move in. If Frog's Croak had been elected leader then these awful thoughts she considered would have never crossed her mind.

Salamander hung her head in shame, teeth clamped bitterly together. The outcome might have still been the same but she trusted her family. Unfortunately, the shocking truth that her trust and loyalty were possibly one-sided settled in more and more each day.

Toad's Leap never considered her view. Instead, he doubted her for raising questions. Salamander had always been a silent defender of the family: ready and willing to stand by their sides whenever the situation called. However, her family's ties with the cats that lived in the marsh were apparently stronger than the ones connecting them.

Claws dug into the mud as a growl rumbled in her chest. She hated the fact that no one saw her side. But, more importantly, she hated the fact she considered "betraying" her family to be a potential option in the foreseeable future. Salamander tried to justify it by saying her family turned their backs on her concerns first when, in reality, she had pushed them away with her ideology.

Eyes watered but no tears fell. Salamander refused to cry- refused to appear weak. The molly was lured away from her thoughts when a familiar scent crossed her nose.

"Fa-Father?" Salamander winced at the fragility of her voice.

@Frog's Croak
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[ This song came on while i was writing, and i think it sets a nice mood <3 ]

A lovely night, a darkened sky, twinkling with those familiar lights. Ever present, always shining light upon those who needed it the most, doing their best to form a path for them. And who would be lingering so close tonight but Salamander. Upset lately, it isn't difficult to tell. With brows furrowed and claws unconciously tearing at the forest floor, she was unsure.

She notices him. Momentarily distracted from whatever thinking she was doing, she speaks. A scarred ear flickers in acknowledgment before he's turning to her. His face is neutral, but with the warmth he regards his children with. A slight quirk of his lips. "Sally," he replies.

He takes his own invitation to sit, sighing as the weight sets on his haunches— the exaggerated habbit of an old man. He allows his eyes to rest for a few moments, enjoying the cool breeze that whisks past short fur, offsetting the humid warmth of greenleaf. "A nice night, isn't it?" he comments idly. There's a slight sway in his posture, an air of humor he only displays around her. "And yet you're spending it inside that head of yours."

Moss green eyes blink open. "What's on your mind, then?"
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His words hit true; Salamander had been trapped within her mind. It wasn't unusual to see her so thoughtful. Rational logic led a lot of her choices which required forethought. This manner of thinking, however, was different and threatened to consume her.

A practiced detached expression smoothed over her face previously convoluted by emotions. A practiced, false pretense that warded off many. Unfortunately, her father wasn't one of those: his observant eyes saw all.

"Grown cats are attacking children." she began cooly. "Lands beyond our hunting grounds - such as the moors - are abundant in prey but egos refuse to see clearly. They'd rather go hungry and blame anyone besides themselves for their lack of adaptation."

A passionate flame melted her cool tone, "They haven't tried to talk until the tensions were too high. Instead, false rumors were allowed to be spread." Salamander sighed.

"Now everyone is looking at me like a traitor because I'd rather not be a savage feral cat. I've always followed Hare Whiskers and your orders without questions but.. I"m struggling to follow these orders because they don't feel just." Salamander didn't dare to look up at her father. ​
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Her avoidance does not go unnoticed. Cool luminaries seem to flicker to and fro, never straying too close to his own. The steel in her voice seems to crumble away all-to-quickly. He listens in serene quiet. The crickets chirp, blissfully unaware of any struggle. It was a strange thought. That this conflict overtaking the lives of so many was a non-issue to the creatures living in the same space.

And Sally eventually quiets, her voice trailing off into the night, quickly overtaken by the night's ambiance. He considers his next words, a thoughtful hum as the star's judge him silently. The moon shines overhead. He stops his swaying.

"Nobody likes change," he replies, even-toned. "'Specially when so many of us weren't born into this sort of security. Finally had what they were looking for after so long, and now that's being threatened..." He thinks to what Sally said, about adapting. "I mean, look at me. Really think these legs could go chasing' anything out on the moor?" he asks, voice lilting with light humor. 'Course, he'd only say that to her. Far as the rest were concerned, he could hunt anywhere he pleased.

He sighs, the light puff of laughter dying down but a few moments later. He doesn't spare a glance to his daughter just yet, afraid of the expression he might see. The tom rolls his shoulders, huffing a soft grunt as he does so. "'Course... It's been seasons now, hasn't it?" And he glances to his daughter. His face twists into one of exasperation, of annoyance. Couldn't have Sally thinking he didn't agree with her now, could he? "Sick of it."

"Maybe we need this land more than we'd like to admit," he huffs, rolling the stiff muscles of his neck. "But acting like a band of strays isn't helping us none. Struggling, maybe. Scrapping with a kid over a mouse struggling? Not quite." he snorts a dry laugh, though his muzzle wrinkles at the memory. News that had turned his mood sour the moment he'd heard it. "Never liked that scrappy one, Willow. Woulda' hoped she'd be exiled. 'Course, I don't make the calls around here, do I? You're no traitor for having morals, Sal."
She didn't react - not even a single twitch of her whiskers - when her father responded with light humor. Internally, she groaned. She was being serious and she wanted to be taken seriously. But she would never raise her voice against her father. No, she respected him far too much to swat away his words. Because, despite the light-hearted response, Salamander knew that there was wisdom to be found.

"And here I thought you were invincible." Her biting sarcasm was little more than a nibble - her defense mechanisms wavering. "Not everyone needs to travel there to hunt. We just need a hunting band or two. I think it'd be worth the extra walking distance. Remember the hare I brought back? They're fuc-" Salamander cut herself off, reminding herself that she was in the presence of her father, "Feisty critters who don't go down without a fight but they have enough meat on their bones to feed more than one cat sufficiently." Compared to the usual toads and lizards, the hare managed to fill stomachs that day.

Hearing Willow's name, an instinctive hiss pushed forcefully through her teeth. "Briar would never. Besides, plenty of our own are content with defending the actions of the perpetrator . The victim, they say, deserved it." An expert in body language wasn't necessary to see the stance Salamander took regarding the situation. "If they're old enough to hunt then they're old enough to fight." She bitterly regurgitated the argument used.

"What if it had been Ribbit or Toad?" Her heart shattered thinking of her nephews being thrust into this mess that the grownups had caused. "She returned with her head held high and she received praise. Praise be the assailant who attacked and stole from a child. Praise be the fully-grown adult for being incapable of hunting her own damn food." Fur bristled and hackles raised as her tongue laced with venom, "Praise be the one who showed those silly little kittypets that wild cats should be completely feral because who the fuck needs morals, right?"

"She's getting applauded while I.. while even my own brother has questioned my loyalty. And Bone... Bone too. Cats that know how much energy I've put into our home and my family." Why were her cheeks so warm? A paw touched her cheek - Oh... Tears. When was the last time Salamander had truly cried? Never. At least, not in front of anyone who could report the tale.

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Never before has he seen Sally so talkative. Stress conducts her thoughts, obvious in the way it goads her frenzied mind. Frog's Croak keeps his jaw shut, his stance neutral, but never once straying away from his daughter. He would hear her, listen to all she had to say, even if there was so little he could do.

His lips press into a thin line, a scared muzzle crinkling under the weight of what she's feeling. Any praise Willow's received. The cool words of Briar's sister, so much crueler than the leader even chose to be. It was the reality of the situation, rising tensions that would give way to something more eventually. He was no diplomat.

He slides closer to Sally, offering comfort in the best way he could, words not to be trusted from his maw. He's long since been reserved to this conflict, accepted the reality. No matter how things changed around here, he'd never be able to leave his home.

Perhaps it's a different story for Sally.

His question is simple. He no longer bothers to lighten the mood with ramblings of an old man. He merely sighs, approaches her as a father. "Well," he says, and his voice is rough. There's a speck of something-- an inch of fear that worries its way into his heart. He leans against his daughter's form, just barely. "What will you do about it, then?"
As emotions simmered, high-strung energy deflated. Exhaustion dulled her teal eyes as the fiery passion behind them died down. She flinched at her father's touch but relaxed when he simply leaned gently against her.

The last time she'd openly sought her father's comfort was when she was a wee kitten. She was a grown adult and shouldn't be crying to her father like this. But... Just for tonight, she wanted to be a child again. She was tired of being strong and responsible.

"I don't know." Salamander admitted as she leaned into her father's warmth. "What can I do?" Her voice cracked under her weariness.

"All I can do is follow orders and fight by my family's sides if it comes down to it." Salamander hoped that wouldn't be the conclusion but the possibility of a happening ending was slim - if not impossible.

"Until then.. I'll keep hunting. Perhaps with solid and frequent evidence of an alternative solution... " Actions spoke louder than words, right? However, as of right now, Salamander didn't want to budge. "Can.. Can we please just stay like this for a little?"
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His gaze lingers. Perhaps for longer than it should.

The answer is both comforting and wholly unsatisfying. She seeks to change their minds... but with how far things have come, would that truly be possible? To rid them of their fury, keep them from springing at their neighbors with the promise of a different source of food? Changing their way of life just to accommodate others who had moved in so suddenly?

No, they had far too much pride for that. Hopeful, hopeful Sally.

At least, he would still have his daughter with him for a while longer. He dips his head, accepting her answer. Not satisfied, but accepting. She's a comforting weight against him. Slate-grey fur meets his own tabby pelt. Father and daughter. His eyes slip shut. "...'Course."

The night brings warmth.
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