● overgrown juniper trees n desert willow trees over an abandoned, decaying boxcar and the remnants of some train tracks
● the clearing / ground is juniper needles or sandy, loamy dirt
● pretty shady & provides a nice place to relax in the greenleaf heat durin the day
● a small creek runs near the other side of the train tracks; there's a fallen log north along the rails that bridges the creek nicely, allowing for passage to west creek. further north a little ways, the north end of the creek turns inta a small pond n ends there.
● generally pretty easyta spot if you know whatta look for
● the main camp is situated with a clearing in a circle-ish shape; left, between the nursery and retiree's quarters, is the path that leads to the traintracks and creek. the right has mostly cliffs and solid rock + dirt alongside the thick living and dead tree trunks fortifyin the camp.
● the (other? main?) entrance is to the south of the clan, between the healer's den n apprentice's quarters
● more of a desert / desert-adjacent forest that the clan calls the 'dry forest', since the trees're mostly california junipers & desert willows, with a smattering of pinyon pine trees; gets more foresty the deeper in you go, but the camp location is sort of a mix between desert forest n desert-adjacent forest
● pines & junipers become more common the closerta the creek you go, n help transition into more of a true forest/plains area much further west past westcreek or into a deep forest/mountain area with oaks far, far northrails
prey in the area;
● scraps (1 fp)
● mouse (2 fp)
● small fish (2 fp)
● weasel (3 fp)
● rabbit (4 fp)
● bird (4 fp)
● red-tailed hawk (5 fp) (also a predator)
other native animals;
● small snakes
● various reptiles
● burrowing owls
● kit foxes
◌ leader's den -- an overgrown, decayin boxcar in the back of camp, centered in the exact middle of the clan's clearin. moss n willow branches obfuscate the entrance to the car that serves as the leader's den, while the back of the car is completely overgrown with two particularly massive juniper trees n a particularly large willow tree that provide a large portion of shade to the camp. the leader often sits on toppa the boxcar to call clan meetings, climbing up the nearby rocks that were pushed against it to make it climbable.
cats call it the railsbox, since ex-east twolegplace cats recognize them as parta the pelts of thundersnakes.
◌ carrier's quarters -- the main warriors' den, situated to the right of camp in a giant hollowed out log supplemented with broken pieces of wood from the train-tracks, moss, & branches from both typesa trees that's been nestled into overhang and treetrunks. the largest den in the clan. the fresh-kill pile is located between the carrier's quarters and the leader's den.
◌ healer's den -- medcat's den, situated to the left of camp near the entrance under several large willow tree branches and boughs. moss and feathers help pad out the den, with several bedding areas inside and a naturally carved-up set of rocks serving as makeshift 'shelves' for herbs. additions get occasionally added when extra rocks or logs are found that're movable to keep the place as clear n usable as it can be.
◌ retiree's quarters -- the den of retired cats, located to the left of camp further away from the healer's den. made of a rotted, hollow log, a juniper tree with particularly low-hangin limbs, n a lotta diggin inta the dirt.
◌ apprentice's quarters -- located to the right of camp near the entrance in an overhang of cliff and rock, nestled into tree trunks with supplemented broken wooden pieces and willow + juniper branches. the apprentices sleep here.
◌ nursery -- the place where kits live with their parents. located to the left of camp opposite vertically from the retiree's quarters, under a heavy overhang supplemented and fortified by big, flat rocks, the occasional small scavenged piece of train-track metal, and branches.
◌ the moonglass -- followin the decrepit, decayed train tracks north past the clan a bit n past creekpond takes you further inta the trees n undergrowth, eventually cominta a very small clearin with an old, worn-down circle of flat metal, still reflective enoughta see yourself in within the center, on the ground surrounded entirely by thick trees n bushes. the moonlight of the full moon strikes this metal piece exactly, n has become the area that the clan goes to for starclan visits due to it's solitude n unnatural, otherworldly appearance.
◌ the rails -- broken, overgrown, decayed & abandoned traintracks that run north n south parallel to the creek (for a bit, at least) right outside camp near the nursery n retiree's quarters. used for a variety of things, such as directions, the other entrance to the clan, scavengin materials, herbs, etc. newly-named carriers hold a silent vigil next to the rails for one night.
◌ creekpond -- the small pond that the northern end of the creek tapers off inta, located at the halfway point between the clan n the moonglass.
east of camp (eastrails) --
◌ east twolegplace -- a few days', almost a quarter-moon, journey through the forest - shorter, if you skip rests - eventually nets you at the outer roads of east twolegplace, a middling not-quite-city and luckysong's place of origin. the urban town continues the drier climate that takes hold about halfway west through the forest, the juniper trees abound; many kittypets, strays/loners, and rogues live here. most cats of east twolegplace know of the forest cats, even moreso since smokeclan settled in the forest.
west of the creek (west creek) --
◌ ??? -- wip!
south of camp (southrails) --
◌ tree of ashes -- four trees intergrown & intertwined together that makes up the fire walkers' den slightly south of the southern camp entrance. it's close enough to not require more than a 1-2 minute walk to camp, and the fire walkers that still live with the express live here.
◌ creekclan -- following south along the creek eventually leads you over here!
◌ river reststop -- further south from creekclan along the river leads you here, one of the many 'rest stops', temporary little camps that have an area for cats to sleep, a fresh kill pile, and a small den for herbs. assists on longer journeys southrails.
north of camp (northrails) --
◌ moonglass -- see "notable places"
◌ the great oak forest -- a big, dark green oak forest that stretches far northrails after you find it, itself fairly far northrails to begin with. going eastrails from the great oak forest eventually takes you to the mountains.
◌ oak reststop -- one of the many 'rest stops', temporary little camps that have an area for cats to sleep, a fresh kill pile, and a small den for herbs. assists on longer journeys northrails.
often shortened to 'the express', 'smoke express', or smokeclan.
founded by luckysong is a... strong word to put it, when the clan more or less founded itself with luckysong sorta bein in the middle of it. originally a kittypet, when birdie was abruptly dumped in the dry, overhang and cliff-riddled woods and his twolegs sped away followin a particularly nasty vet bill neither of them wanted to pay, a disoriented n confused cat would spend three days wanderin within the dense undergrowth further into the territory until stumbling upon the boxcar that'd become the leader's den.
initially started as just a place for him to live, other loners, drifters, ex-warriors from other clans and kittypets of all origins began to run across him and stay in the area. his first deputy was shadewish, banished for his constant breaking of code by visiting other clans; even though it was a minor infraction, he was formally banished and forced to leave the territory, wandering upstream the creek on the other side of the train tracks until noticing luckysong's hideout. this is how birdie would learn of the warrior code, and formally become a 'warrior' himself after a vivid dream from starclan the following night that gifted him his new name -- luckysong, named for his luck in surviving the experience and the charismatic song he'd soon spread across the wind.
not truly an "established" clan, luckysong would spend four moons visiting other clans north and south of the loose territory expanse, establishing a name for himself in running errands, messages, odd jobs and deliveries from clan to clan inna way that didn't technically break the warrior code. star-crossed lovers from different clans relied on his work; medic cats who needed herbs in dangerous places often paid back his willinness by encouragin him to take some back with him.
ever-resourceful and no longer the delirious kittypet who initially was recovering, realizing that the service was valuable and could quickly allow them to sustain themselves as a clan, luckysong quickly established the drifting smoke express as "a clan for the clanless", and dubbed them smokeclan informally to aid in fellow clans' remembering them for repeat service. if you could pay - in prey, hunting rights for a day, herbs, shiny objects, building materials from your territory, feathers, etc - they'd run your errand or delivery for you. the clan continued to grow as the deputy made deliveries and jobs nearer twolegplace, to the east of the woods, and recruited fellow loners, strays, and kittypets back inta the drifting smoke express.
the truth is, the express isn't the first clan to carry the name of smokeclan & the concept of the carrier; though luckysong isn't aware of his kittypet ancestory's far-back roots, he's actually a few generations descended from the only surviving kits to carry carrier blood from the original smokeclan, the ancestors that reside in starclan that would go on to notice an abandoned kittypet in the dry forest & pronounce him luckystar.
the original smokeclan was a clan on the verge of collapse inherited by loyal deputy deadtwist, who upon being named deadstar announced his original plan to help the clan thrive - the role of carriers, replacin warriors, who hunted & explored but most importantly did jobs for others in return for herbs and fresh-kill to help the clan survive in the harshest leaf-bare they'd ever seen. while the plan worked & the concept of the express began properly here, it wasn't meant to last. as their first medcat would grimly be burdened with the knowledge of carrying, the original smokeclan was doomed to fail - a few carriers, livid at the mockery of the warrior code deadstar was touting as their clan & a single carrier scorned by his father's exile from the deputy position before slyspots was announced deputy would spell their downfall, poisoning both of their only medcats to weaken the clan enough to be susceptible to a single planned attack by a clan that the original smokeclan had been helping loyally. that clan only wanted the hunting territory that smokeclan occupied, & thinking of them as weak, soft-hearted code-breakers, the clan was reduced to nothing... or so deadstar thought.
slyspots's only mate, taken in secret, was a kittypet to the far south in a small desert-bound twolegplace - luckysong would be descended from slyspots' kits, many moons later, & go on to found the express proper again. in the meantime, the first medcat of the original smokeclan, owlwing, bitter & disillusioned with the fact that the ancestors of the five great clans just allowed their clan to be driven into nothingness simply because they saw in the future another cat would found the express better & stronger, chose to walk in new skies of the silverpelt for smokeclan. thus, the star express formed - starclan's hunting territory for smokeclan / the drifting smoke express, along the silverrails (or silverpath, as it was known in owlwing's time). the express as we know it now only ever has known the star express as starclan, with both titles used interchangeably just as smokeclan and the express are used interchangeably for the clan itself.
owlwing himself refers to them now as the ancestral smokeclan, something that sandwillow agrees with after speaking with him in his dreams.
the clan itself takes many "formal" n "informal" titles, to better situate the clan itself as well as it's many associates; formal titles are the basic, easily-understood clan roles his deputy explained to him and starclan would elaborate on after their crowning of the first doc. the informal titles are the ones used by the clan itself, substituing carrier or courier for warrior (from terms luckysong had heard often by his twolegs in association with twolegs that carried various things to nests), doc for medcat (another kittypet holdover), and retired for the elderly when it became an actual position that required a name. luckysong himself uses the correct, leaderly term of luckystar when dealing with those outside of the clan; inside the clan itself, however, he still uses his original starclan-given carrier name, and doesn't particularly think of himself as all that much higher above the rest of the clan.
the title of fire walker is a unique rank bestowed to carriers revealed to have been granted particularly unusual powers from starclan; the name comes from the fact that fire is what creates smoke, and firewalkers are often assigned to live at the rest stop camps far from the express, keeping established connections with clans further out, performing deliveries or providing medical aid, depending on their original rank; this isn't always true, and the fire walkers that don't live abroad as representatives live slightly south of the southern camp entrance, under a particularly large clump of trees intergrown together known as the tree of ashes.
these fire walkers are essentially treated as carriers or medcats otherwise, and show up to camp every morning to be assigned duties like any other carrier or assist with treatment as any other medcat. the role was primarily established after a series of problems related to the first fire walker of luckysong's time's powers causing deepseated problems in his role as a medcat apprentice, and was sent southrails. their powers may mean they're selected for more difficult deliveries and problems that the clan is having than the average carrier, especially if it seems unsolvable to a normal one!
while the title is seen as respectable for the rare few that live at the tree of ashes, most fire walkers & carriers alike see it for what it kind of is - a nicer exile. cats with extraordinarily unusual supernatural powers are... well, terrifying to the average cat and seen as a safety threat. fire walkers, while they live at the rest stops established on the longer journeys and often recruit cats interested in joining to send back to the express, actually must take orders from any other clanmate that isn't a kit in the absence of the leader/deputy, rather than being the temporary deputy of their rest stop. they're only allowedta visit camp once every three moons as a sort of informal express 'gathering' of the fire walkers, and otherwise hunt for themselves at rest stops, taking deliveries and sending their earned rewards back with a visiting carrier to the clan.
luckysong admits that the system isn't perfect, but cats with that level of supernatural power are a rightful threat to the clan even if they can control it, and are better off farther out helping the clan's reach.
due to the high concentration of former loners, ex kittypets, and rogues, the drifting smoke express tends to know a variety more twoleg words from visiting around twolegplace, although it's only really useful when dealing with nonclan cats.
it's fairly standard for smokeclan cats on longer deliveries to take herbs with them, n in some cases such as the journey to east twolegplace, establish a smaller "rest stop" camp at one or more midpoints to recover in and catch their breath. it's not uncommon for carriers taking longer jobs to be gone from camp for a moon at a time, so survival skills, hunting skills, and gathering skills are prioritized first for apprentice trainin before they learn fighting skills. the clan's fighting style has adapted over time, from it's roots in "proper" clan fighting techniques to incorporating heavy inspiration from rogues and strays that shared secrets with the clan or even joined the clan; luckysong firmly states that the objective of any fight is to get out alive in any cases, by any means possible. defending the clan's camp itself is something worth laying your life down for, but pretty much nothing else is except for your current delivery.
smokeclan territory is just called the clan's huntin territory n is marked daily by the huntin patrol n adventure patrols; any cat is welcometa pass through on their journies, but outsider huntin is forbidden in leaf-bare due to prey scarcity. strange cats met by adventure patrols, deliveries, n huntin patrols are taken backta the camp for a night to rest if they're amicable, otherwise left alone.
patrols are divided into hunting patrols, sent daily n consistina 1-3 cats that hunt prey for the clan, exploration / adventure patrols (shortened sometimesta explore or just adventure patrols) consistin of 1-3 cats that are sent out to map out area, gather herbs, remark the borders n help map out further n further areas, n delivery missions, shortenedta deliveries almost always that consist of a mission/job given by other cats, or rarely a cat within smokeclan itself! gather patrols consist of 1 cat sent out to gather herbs exclusively within the huntin territory, n is often appointed by the medcat when they're runnin low on somethin that hasn't been gathered from an explore patrol.
exploration patrols can be away from camp for a while, as can deliveries keep cats away for extended time. for exploration patrols, the exact amount of time may be appointed by the leader or deputy, or simply agreed upon by the adventurin cat(s) n passed alongta the leader or deputy before leaving. an apprentice can't tag along for exploration patrols longer than a day's length, & can't take deliveries, since too many things could go wrong or distract them. a mentor may take their apprentice along with them for a delivery once a moon, so long as the delivery isn't longer than a quarter-moon in length.
the carrier's code:
1. defend the clan, even with your life. you may have friends & mate[s] outside of the clan, but you must always return home, & you must put it aside to fight them if they one day attack the camp.
2. retired cats, nursin kitwatchers, sick/injured cats, n kits must eat first before carriers.
3. prey is killed only to be eaten. don't waste prey, for a leafbare could come that'll make you wish you had that one piece you lost.
4. a kit must be 6 moons or older to begin trainin as an apprentice.
5. newly-named carriers must hold a silent vigil for one night at the rails.
6. a cat cannot be named deputy without having trained at least one apprentice.
7. after the loss of a deputy (via promotion or otherwise), a new one must be named before moonhigh.
8. hunting ground borders must be marked daily. the only appropriate time to challenge trespassers is those who hunt in leafbare.
9. a carrier doesn't need to kill to win a battle, unless it's in self defense with no other option. carriers are allowed to attack exiles on sight, however.
10. a medic cat may only take a mate after training an apprentice to full medcat. if a medcat has no apprentice, or their apprentice was lost after completin their training (via death or exile), they can't take a mate until another has been appointed and trained.
11. all cats are welcome to cross through smokeclan territory and stay a night. outsider hunting is forbidden in leaf-bare.
12. a delivery is more important than anything, save for your clan. unless your life is in mortal danger, you must do everythin you can to complete your current delivery patrol.
13. fire walkers sent out to rest stops may only visit the clan once a season, and otherwise must stay at their assigned post. should they fail to show up to two consecutive gatherings, they will be considered as having left the clan voluntarily.
eras refer to the 'arcs' upon which in the timeline cats eventually pass on/new cats are apprenticed/etc; for the sake of my sanity unless it's part of the current 'arc' / via explore, cats won't be listed as dead unless necessary & moons won't change unless a kit/apprentice is aging in the current era.
ancestral smoke -- AS / ancestral smokeclan; the ancestors / star express era that details the short rise & fall of the original drifting smoke express & how their ancestors bided their time for luckysong's era.
a new breeze -- ANB, the first arc, the Current Era covering roughly 30 moons after the founding of the express formally!
settling winds -- SW, arc 2, ???
express cats have a variety of unique terminology fashioned from the languages of many ex kittypets, strays & loners that incorporate words learned from their interactions with twolegs and other cats!
rails - what many clan cats recognize as a silverpath, the wood-and-metal h-shaped paths that thundersnakes run along. a modern thundersnake den & silverpath exists in east twolegplace, meaning that luckysong and many other clan members learned the twoleg word for them was 'rails' - much shorter!
glass - clear, shiny, reflective stuff in twolegplace nests that bars entry from anything, including cats and twolegs. very brittle.
ink - colored liquids that twolegs dump on thin sheets of plant matter to make patterns.
railsbox - the disembodied segments of a thundersnake; many liken it to their pelts, but thunderpelts doesn't quite convey the sturdiness or grandiosity of them. as they're almost always found near rails, this caught on.
medic - the express's formal term for cats with medicinal knowledge alongside the affectionate nickname of 'doc'. likely has roots in kittypet origins.
kits are given their prefix and the suffix -kit, although within the clan the -kit may be dropped frequently as it's more of a placeholder formality to distinguish them from loners / kittypets not officially in the clan.
apprentices take the suffix -paw, as starclan elaborated on as well as [deputy] explained originally.
full-fledged carriers are given a suffix by luckysong reflecting any manner of things about them, from personality traits to tics to physical descriptions.
-star is the leader's suffix, although luckysong only uses it when addressed by anyone not officially in the clan.
the term 'medcat' is just a shortened form of medic cat. likewise, kitwatcher is just... well... a cat who's watchin over kits. listen, if it wasn't broke for the dead, why fix it?
loners and kittypets with a kittypet name (one word) that refuse a suffix when joining will automatically be given the suffix -smoke, to signify their affiliation. again, like kits, this is often dropped within the clan itself, but is required when addressing those outside of the clan. this is the only time -smoke can be used as a suffix. smoke as a prefix can only be designated by the leader.