As a warrior, it was a surprise to him that he'd been asked to help the medicine cat gather herbs rather than sent out on patrol or hunting. As a more practical cat he understood the importance of herbs for the coming cold. If they ran out before the thaw came, they would all be in trouble. So he did as he was told and traveled over to their esteemed medicine cat's den and waited outside for her to come out. "Bluejay! Gorsetail has sent me to see if you need any help with your herb gathering."
Even if he were to become a pack-cat, carrying all the herbs back in whatever bushel they were put into for such purposes, at least he would be helping the clan in the long run. It was a different task for him at least. If he were to be honest with himself, Falconstorm felt as if he was on the wrong path. He had done everything he could to be a strong warrior, a successful hunter, but it never seemed to be enough. He wanted to do more, to be something more. But he knew he had to be content. If he were really on the wrong path then StarClan would step in and make things right.
Perhaps it was simply that he was itching to do something more than his routine? He'd soon speak with Gorsetail about potentially sending him on border patrol more often, maybe break up what his duties were so that he could get out of this rut he was in. Barring that, it might be time for him to consider asking for the duty to bring prey to the kits and queens. Sometimes all he needed was to see their little faces, and know that he was helping keep they and their mothers well fed and protected.
She was moments away from setting out to collect herbs when she heard Falconstorm's call. She peeked outside of her den, wearing a welcoming smile, as he explained how he had been sent by Gorsetail to help her. "Oh, well I suppose there's always room for company on my outings. I appreciate that you came." It didn't matter to her that his presence had been an order from their deputy. Collecting herbs, no matter what anyone said, wasn't nearly as tedious or boring as it was made out to be; even a well-rounded warrior, much like Falconstorm, would be able to enjoy it as long as he let himself. She retreated into her den to fetch an extra beech leaf before reappearing and setting it at his paws. "Here," she said, waving her tail for him to walk with her politely, "you'll be able to carry more with this than your teeth."
The conversation fell flat as they walked, and Bluejay cleared her throat, glancing up at him through the corner of her eye. "It was nice of you to join me. I know there were other duties you likely would've preferred to tend to." She wanted everyone to love medicine as much as she did, but she knew better than to force it upon somebody unwilling. "I'll be able to find marigold just fine on my own as I need it—it's very common to our territory—so while I have two sets of eyes I'd like to look for horsetail and raspberry leaves for now. Horsetail has tall, bristly stems, and raspberry leaves are—well—next to raspberries." She lifted her head above the shrubbery in search of what she was looking for. "If you think you've found some but are a little unsure, please ask before you touch it. Some plants are harmful and I'd hate for you to end up getting hurt."
He gave her a slow smile, tipping his head once she noticed him at the entrance of her den. "I don't mind. A break of routine is always refreshing." And it would give him time to think on all that was weighing on his mind. He didn't understand why she brought him a leaf until she explained it to him and he nodded. "Thank you Bluejay." He fell into step next to the medicine cat, keeping his eyes and ears on the world around them even as he tried to keep up with their conversation.
"Honestly this was probably the best thing I could have been assigned to today." He felt almost compelled to speak what was on his mind with the medicine cat, though he'd told himself he'd wait and discuss it with their deputy later. "Have you ever had a moment where you wondered if you'd wandered onto the wrong path for your life?" He looked at the she-cat for a moment then a the path ahead. Maybe what he was experiencing had a cure the medicine cat could give him. He doubted it, but what did he know about medicine cats and their ways?
She told him what she was looking for, and as a warrior he wanted to ask about other things too. "I'll remember that." He gave her another small smile. "I know, I know, don't eat the weird smelling mushrooms." He hoped she got that he was joking, because it didn't always come out with the bite of sarcasm that carried with his voice at times. "Is there anything more I should watch for? Anything you're low on?" He wanted to make sure their trip was productive, while at the same time not burdening their medicine cat with coming back out again on her own.
Coming across a small bundle of horsetail, the bluish gray she-cat gently plucked it and then tucked it into her beech leaf for protection. The two of them were off to a good start, and she checked over her shoulder to see how he was holding up just in time to catch his comment. His words caught her by surprise, for it wasn’t often that a warrior admitted to preferring to gather herbs, but it brought a genuine smile to her lips nonetheless. She loved to hear that her job was appreciated. She didn’t like to think that she fished for compliments, but it was a hard field to be in at times, and it warmed her heart to know someone like Falconstorm—hardened to the harsh life of a fighter—could see value in it.
When Falconstorm’s question reached her ears, she allowed for a moment of pause, setting her beech leaf in front of her paws so she could properly meet his eyes and have a conversation with him. They were out in the forest to collect herbs for her stock, that was true, but if something was on his mind she was always available to talk. His well-being came first. “Of course,” she answered honestly, “you might not remember, Falconstorm, but I received a warrior name just like you did before Littletimber chose me as his apprentice.” She knew she would do whatever it took to keep TreeClan, her family, safe and unharmed, but it had never been easy for Bluejay to put her beliefs aside and unsheathe her claws. She had a distinctive memory of battle training with Lionstar. It had gone well, all things considered, but her heart hadn’t been in it.
Now, as a medicine cat, her heart was in it each and every day. “I would’ve been content to serve as a warrior for my entire life, for there is next to nothing I wouldn’t do for TreeClan, but StarClan had a different path in mind for me. I was never able to fight. Truly fight. I could unsheathe my claws in the name of protecting my friends and family, but I feared the day I’d have to draw someone’s blood. Littletimber and our ancestors knew there was another path for me, and thankfully, I found it before I had to do something I didn’t want to do.” She smiled, hoping he’d see that she understood what he was feeling on some level. The question remained, however, as to what he wanted to do if he was unsatisfied. She wouldn’t push him—not yet—but she offered him a knowing look as she twisted over her shoulder and plucked another handful of horsetail. “That’s right. No weird smelling mushrooms, or else I’ll hardly trust you outside of camp with me again.” Her voice was laced with amusement despite the sarcasm (whether purposeful or not) in his tone. “We’ll focus on horsetail and raspberry leaves for now. I don’t want to overwhelm you with an abundance of herbs and descriptions.”
He tilted his ears towards the she-cat as she spoke to him, having stopped to gather one of the required plants on the far side of their path, giving her time to answer his question while tucking the plant into his leaf with his paws and eventually his nose. Anything to make sure it was settled safely in the leaf for proper carrying. He didn't want to be responsible for them not bringing home enough. He then had to figure out how to pick up the folded leaf without spilling the contents back onto the ground, which took him a minute.
As she had settled her leaf down he did so as well, giving up on trying to pick it up properly until he could watch her pick it up with plants inside the fold. Really, it shouldn't be this difficult. His ears actually flattened to his skull as she kept talking about how she'd felt and how things had gone for her. "I am not...disinclined to the life of a warrior. I'm good at what I do, I should be content with my life. But its..." He looked to her then out at the sky, at a loss for long moments. "StarClan why is it so hard to explain myself?" He wasn't talking to her, but he did shift his gaze to address her next. "Fighting and battle, the hunt and the ability to protect my clan, that is my purpose. It has always been so, and yet I feel as if I've..." A hiss tore out of him and he came back to his paws, pacing back and forth before the she-cat and her herbs. "I can go no further. Its like I've come up against a surface I can't climb up, no matter how I claw and scratch trying to catch a bit of leverage. And at the top of this sheer climb is the rest of my path. And I can't reach it."
He had earned the 'storm' part of his name as a nod to his temperament. He could hold onto something, let it build inside of him, and then unleash it in a fury. On the other side he tended to come on fast in a hunt or a fight, rolling in and striking before moving on again. In this case it was his emotional state, the build up of everything that had been bothering him over the past several weeks, coming forth all at once. He told himself to just let it go, that it wasn't worth this amount of stress in his life, but speaking on it now, and to someone that wasn't a warrior at her heart, somehow made him feel as if he had to get it all out. That he'd feel better not by witholding, but by simply purging it from him like a troublesome hairball.
Falconstorm realized his sides were heaving as if he'd been running, or fighting. His ears had snapped up and his fur was on end. Well, this wasn't how he normally was. "Sorry Bluejay." He told the medicine cat, forcing himself to actually lay on the ground so that he could concentrate on the forest around him and calm his nerves. He rested his head next to the beach leaf that contained the little he'd gathered, and knew he had to get up and keep going. The clan needed herbs, and their medicine cat needed help. So he rose, his movements sharp rather than fluid, and gathered up his leaf bundle once again.
Her eyes widened as Falconstorm dove headfirst into a speech she hadn’t anticipated from him. He always struck her as a calm, collected warrior, but this was a side of him she wasn’t used to. Even when he hissed and started to pace back and forth the medicine remained eerily still and attentive; she knew it wasn’t meant for her, and that it would be wrong to take it personally, but she struggled nonetheless to calm her nerves for a brief moment in time. “The forest will continue to surprise you, Falconstorm.” Bluejay began hesitantly, offering him a warm smile in the place of words in regards to his apology. “You might think you’ve reached the end of your potential, but I don’t believe that for a second. There’s always something that can be improved, or something that can be learned.” With that said, she reached down and cusped her beech leaf on either end, folding it in her mouth to prevent its contents from spilling onto the ground. She lifted her eyes to his, a single brow raised. His struggle hadn’t gone unnoticed, and she knew he was sharp enough of mind to realize that there had been a greater purpose behind her actions than to so simply continue hunting for herbs.
It was difficult to imagine feeling… stuck like he did. As a medicine cat, Bluejay was thrown a lot of curveballs. She’d dealt with situations she never would’ve expected prior to her change in career. It was refreshing, but frightening nonetheless. It was a lot of pressure to balance the lives of her Clanmates as best as she could, and single-handedly now that her mentor had passed on, but she wouldn’t take away from the difficulties that came with being a warrior as well. The door to her den was always open if he needed to expel his thoughts, and she hoped he’d know that without it needing to be said. All she could do was hope that he found what he was desperately searching for. No path was finished before death. Falconstorm’s purpose wasn’t concluded no matter what he said; it simply wasn’t a truth she could accept.
Bluejay spotted a raspberry bush and tentatively plucked a handful of leaves, lowering her beech leaf to the forest floor in order to tuck them inside. Her carrier was nearly full, and she glanced over her shoulder to note his progress. Soon enough they would be able to return to camp.