Tilting her head slightly, Firestar angled her nose upward toward the sky. The wind had just recently shifting and it took her a moment to adjust. Having relocated the scent of rabbit, Firestar looked back toward her hunting mates. ” Pay attention to the wind, Brightpool said there were a few rabbits living in the unused tunnels. If we are lucky we can bring home more than just two rabbits,” Firestar meowed waiting for those in her company to nod. Echopaw smiled toward her leader, clearly pleased at the chance to be hunting with Firestar. Normally the calico leader spent hunted with her mate or her own kits or not at all. Firestar’s time was often occupied by various duties that befell the short leader.
Her lack of tail meant that she had to use her voice or head to direct those around her. ”Whitesparrow and Echopaw, check the tunnel to the east. Wildstripe and I will check the tunnel to the west,” She told the party, waiting for them to agree to her request. The two tunnels they spoke of were close together, just only a dozen fox-lengths apart. An easy distance to sprint between. Firestar was taking a gamble, in dividing her group. The gamble was if the rabbits were faster than the two cats coming to their den however, it remained a risk Firestar was willing to take.
Returning her attention to Wildstripe, her elder brother, the calico she-cat gave a chirp to bring his attention to her. ”Follow me Wildstripe,” She told him, before heading toward the western tunnel, she paused once to check that Whitesparrow and Echopaw had found the correct abandoned tunnel.
Focusing her attention on the scents around her, Firestar wasn’t pleased to notice that all traces of rabbits were stale. Annoyed she turned to Wildstripe to gauge if her brother could notice something she hadn’t. As she waited, Firestar kept her ears perked for any noise. Even if they were able to hunt for rabbits they could maybe snag a few birds.
Wildstripe kept his nose to the wind as soon as they began this venture. After the trouble he'd gotten into over leafbare he didn't want to give his sister a reason to send him to the elder's den. Being a blind cat that still actively hunted and performed the duties of a warrior meant that whenever his leader thought he couldn't perform those duties adequately any longer she had every right to make him retire. He'd be unhappy, but he'd accept the judgement. He was getting older, but so far his other senses hadn't failed him yet. Today, as he was getting the rare chance to hunt with her, he was determined to prove himself to her once again.
Better still, though she'd been so distant as of late, was the lovely Whitesparrow having joined the hunt with her newest little apprentice. He knew the she-cat was to his left and back a bit, just from her scent and the sound of her paws. She hadn't been really interacting much with the clan lately, and he wondered if she was contemplating retiring herself. She was older than he was, and well earned her rest. It could be that she was training one final apprentice before seeking to retire, but he wasn't sure. She hadn't quite been her usual sweet self since Rookfrost had left them.
His thoughts returned to the hunt as Firestar spoke, giving her orders and splitting their group. Her he could follow easily as well, latched on to the most concentrated amount of her scent. His ears swiveled towards her then about, listening to the tunnels as well as to their fellows. He could hear Whitesparrow telling Echopaw something, and could tell the she-cat was less than pleased for some reason. He'd ask her later.
"The tunnels are quiet." He told her after awhile, listening carefully for any sign that the rabbits they were hunting had simply moved their nests further in due to the leafbare cold that had only just passed. There was a different scent in the air here. Then he stepped on something and it crunched under his paws.
He took a further step deeper into the tunnel then backed up as he caught the scent of another predator and not a feline one. "Something isn't right. There's a heavy blood-scent just here, and I think I just stepped on a rabbit carcass."
Just as his words left his lips a loud yowling scream rent the air followed by the faint sound of Whitesparrow's voice echoing through the interconnected tunnels as she told her apprentice to run.
there's always a new challenge to keep you motivated
Firestar remained vigilant. There was a certain tension in the air, something she wasn't able to place but she knew it unsettled her. Doing her best not to let the sense of uneasy be noticed in her scent, Firestar directed her attention toward Wildstripe. Her blind sibling who had done so much to over come his disability would be her down fall. She wanted to protect him from harm but knew there was only so much she could do.
Pushing those dark thoughts aside, Firestar returned her focused attention to Wildstripe, barely catching what he said. Firetsar trusted Wildstripe's easier than her own and quickly followed after her brother into the tunnel. A sharp metallic scent of blood filled her nose she didn't like it. Something was wrong.
Almost tempted to call Wildstripe back, Firestar let her brother head further into the cavern and letting his nose be his guide. "Careful," She cautioned until he pointed out what he most likely stepped on. Following after her brother she noticed the broken bones and a sting of fear shot up her back. The yowls of her fellow clanmates startled her and she quickly feel into the offensive. Turning sharply she knew it was safer to run toward the tunnel above ground instead of venturing further into it. She couldn't be sure if the tunnel itself was sturdy enough to allow for running through it.
"We shouldn't go through the tunnel we can't be sure its safe. We need to go the way they went," Firestar explained to Wildstripe before taking the lead and running toward the other end of the tunnel.
Her heart started to pound in her chest until they arrived at the other end then suddenly a sense of dread overcame her. Laying in the grass covered in a what seemed to be deep scratches was Echopaw. The young she-cat seemed to be breathing but for how long, Firestar wasn't sure. The source of the she-cats wounds was quickly found out to be a badger, which so quickly cornered Whitesparrow. It seemed Firestar was right, the tunnel was weaker on his end and caved in slightly, likely because the badger charged out of it. Whitesparrow was captive with a newly crumbled tunnel at her back and a snarling badger at her front.
Doing her best to remain calm in the face of such a danger, Firestar looked toward Wildstripe. "Go to Echopaw get her to Kindleflare, I'm going to try and help Whitesparrow," Firestar ordered, charging forward and launching herself on to the back of the badger, claws ready to dig deep into the flesh of her enemy.
His heart was beating very fast in his chest, blind eyes wide as his ears flicked back and forth while chaos errupted around him. He was used to danger, the life of a warrior was never a safe one, but this was Whitesparrow, and this was Firestar. The two most important felines in his life, the ones that made his dark world worth living. And they were both in trouble from this thing. But, he'd been given an order, and the apprentice might not have the time it took for him to decide. So, as a LightningClan warrior, he had to obey his leader.
He had followed her, and his fur stood out on end as the badger snarled and charged from the other tunnel. From Firestar he knew Echopaw was injured, but not of the she-cat that had mentored him.
Wildstripe did as he was told, darting over to where the heavy scent of Echopaw's blood was leading him. It was as he reached her that he heard Whitesparrow's voice again, and she was very cross.
The she-cat hissed loudly, a snarl tearing from her lips as she realized that her apprentice was so badly injured. Though Wildstripe couldn't see her she looked at him and then met Firestar's gaze as her blue eyes turned glacial, all pretense of being nice fading from her before she launched herself at the badger and dug in with claws and fangs. "How dare you hurt my apprentice! The nerve!" She dug her claws into the thick pelt and dug, sending the badger into a frenzied tangle of limbs.
Wildstripe had snagged Echopaw by the scruff and was moving her to safety when the badger ran into him. He hissed and lashed out, feeling his claws connect with the beast.
"Don't just stand there, you mouse-brain! Attack before it kills you!"
Moons as her apprentice, and years being in love with this particular she-cat, made him jump when she gave him an order. The apprentice was in trouble here, he couldn't see to know where the attack was coming from, and he had to protect them. He had to try. "Firestar!" He called for his sister first, and then was knocked back as pain streaked through him.
"In front of you! Jump and attack!" He had no choice. He leapt at the badger.
there's always a new challenge to keep you motivated
Notes : Whitesparrow is already injured from the tunnel collapse, she's on the badger's back at the moment, but can be tossed whenever. Wildstripe is on the other side, and the badger is in range to catch him at the throat because he doesn't know where it is and there's so much noise and blood everywhere he is actually at the mercy of those around him. Feel free to hurt either of them.
Firestar missed with her jump, the badger was far too quick for her clumsy attack. Instead she landed on the other side of it, turning sharply to face it again. She blamed her misstep on her concern for those around her. The badger was attempting to shake Whitesparrow off and flail about in the process. More inclined to chase the badger away instead of killing the beast, Firestar geared up for another attack. As Whitesparrow's called out to brother, Firestar's attention went to him right away. The monster was coming right for him!
Lunging forward Firestar relied heavily on her smaller size to dart around the badger's claws. Wildstripe managed to claw at the badger's face but that only angered the creature more. Pushing back her own sense of self-preservation Firestar collided with Wildstripe. The last thing she wanted was for her brother to die in front of her.
"Move! Get back to camp!" She yowled at him, as the badger geared up for an attack. Somewhere in the mix of Firestar pushing Wildstripe, Whitesparrow had been chucked from the badger's back. There was a tiny sliver of guilt when Firestar noticed that she-cat hadn't gotten up again but the leader made no move to attend to her. Instead she remained a sort of barrier between her brother and the snarling badger.
The terrible creature lunged forward for a third time, but Firestar was ready. Jumping for him again the calico leader collided hard with him. Her lack of size was made up in the fury of her claws. Raking across every bit of flesh she tried to ignore the powerful scent of blood that filled the air. The beast roared in pain and backed away, providing more space for Wildstripe and Echopaw to make their escape. She only prayed that they could, unaware of how Echopaw was injured, could the apprentice even move?
Turning slightly to check on him and the apprentice Firestar realized it was a mistake all too late.
A heavy claw struck the side of her body, sending the she-cat skirting across the grass. Blood flowing from the heavy gash in her side. Feeling all sense of warmth escaped her, Firestar barely managed to utter a cry.
"RUN!" She all she managed before darkness overcame her.
He wanted to do as she told him, wanted to obey, but there was so much noise now, so much muddled the scent that would lead him home. The area was alive with startled creatures making a run for it, with the snarls of the badger and the hissing of his former mentor. And then, the world shattered. He heard someone hit the ground with a terrible crunching sound, and Firestar had collided with him, sending him sprawling.
"RUN!" She told him to run, but the badger and the apprentice and Whitesparrow. Wildstripe snapped. He went for the closest one to him, to Firestar, and stood over her, cringing at the feeling of blood between his paws. He fluffed up and hissed and snarled at the badger, until the injured beast finally decided that they weren't worth the fuss and fled. Either that or it was too injured, he didn't know.
He was trembling, from fear or exhaustion, he didn't know. But Firestar would make things right, or Whitesparrow would guide him home. Everything would be alright. He leaned over and nuzzled his sister. "Firestar, are you okay? Did it get you?" He nudged her over and over, heart sinking as she didn't respond. "Firestar?" He left her for a moment, pain suddenly streaking along his front paw as he realized he'd broken a leg. Still, he nudged Echopaw the same way, hearing only a soft groan from her to tell him she still lived for the time being. So he grabbed her at the scruff and angled his massive form until he got her across his shoulders. She was still small enough to stay there, hopefully. "Hang on, I'll bring you home to your mother." He told the youngster, limping over to poke at Firestar again.
"Please wake up. Which way is home? The scents here are all muddled and the area is too loud. Firestar, we have to go home." He kept nudging her, until he heard a weak voice call out to him.
"Wildstripe, she's out. Turn your nose to the north, you know the way home. Take care...of yourself." His heart sank more and he felt the stinging in his blind eyes.
"Shut it, mousebrain." He flinched. "Turn your nose north and take them home. I'm done. Don't bother sending them back for me. I'd rather die out here where its quiet. Do this last thing for me. Go home, take them home. Be a good tom now, and do as I say."
"Yes Whitesparrow." His voice shook, but he had to respect her wishes. So he nudged at Firestar again then carefully found her nape and grabbed her there to start slowly dragging the three of them home. He had no idea she was already dead, nor that the apprentice would be gone before they got home. He had to do as he was told.
there's always a new challenge to keep you motivated
The best and worst part about being a leader was the nine lives. Pain burned at every nerve ending, bile filled her throat and an ache set deep within her that wouldn't be shaken for days. The first time Firestar lost a life she was fighting against the StoneClan cats for ownership of the Sun Stones. The high of their victory out-weighed the ache in her bones, but there was no victory today.
As quickly as the life left her Firestar found herself in the misty field of StarClan. Standing in front of her was her mother, a she-cat of gruff outward appearance and even harsher personality.
"You died protecting him," She stated simply, perhaps expecting Firestar to be ashamed of her actions.
"He is my brother, why wouldn't I die for him?" Firestar replied back, doing her best to not wince at the sensation of her heart re-starting. Losing a life was never easy and each life time she did it would get harder to come back.
"I only wish you would have cared for the little one.," Her mother added, which only served to confuse Firestar. But as if she was summoned, the small form of Echopaw emerged from the mist, eyes bright and avoid of any sign of suffering. Firestar felt her heart almost stop again. Echopaw had died, what was she going to tell her mother? Would Echopaw's mother expect revenge? The badger was clearly a beast from some terrible place. Firestar wouldn't want any of her warriors to face it again.
No..no..I told Wildstripe to get you away,"
"You expected a blind cat to save an apprentice?" Her mother shot back, ears pinned slightly.
"Stop! You can't blame Wildstripe!" A different voice this time, a new cat Firestar hadn't realized had joined them. In front of her in a sheen of stars and mist was Whitesparrow. A flicker of gratitude shone in Firestar's eyes, thankful for the older she-cat for protecting her brother.
"I am sorry we lost you both," Firestar said first to Echopaw then to Whitesparrow. Both she-cats accepted Firestar's words with a nod and just like that they were gone.
In a whirlwind of colors and a pulling sensation Firestar was gasping for breath with her brother's maw softly on her neck. Struggling for a moment Firestar managed to alert to her brother she was back and alive again.
"Wildstripe" She attempted to meow but her voice was ragged and raw. Wildstripe must have realized what happened and let his sister go before stumbling to the ground on his own. Firestar tried to get to her legs but realized they were shaky, instead she crawled forward and pressed into Wildstripe's side. Nudging Echopaw's body off of his back, Firestar attempted to groom her brother in an effort to comfort him.
"I'm here Wildstripe, we are almost home. I'm so proud of you," She whispered to him. Firestar didn't stop her gentle grooming even when the metallic taste of blood coated her tongue. She laid beside him, the idea of falling asleep was tempting but she had to remain a little alert. They were likely a few fox-lengths away from the camp, someone would either smell them or happen upon them. In the mean time Firestar was going to remain near her brother's side.
The distinctive metallic tang of blood drifted to the tuxedo tom's nostrils as he padded by the camp entrance. Ears pricked forward as jaws parted, tasting the air just to be certain as he pushed forward. Sharp yellow eyes landed upon the collapsed forms of three Clan members, prompting the tuxedo tom to step backward and angle himself toward the medicine cat den. "Kindleflare." His voice was loud, but without panic. A familiar orange and white tabby face popped out from the darkness of the medicine cat den. His sister's confused gaze blinked back at him from across camp.
"Firestar, Wildstripe and Echopaw are just outside. They are injured." He paused only a moment to see the realization flash through his sister's gaze, before turning around and striding out of the camp once more. He approached the injured cats with confidence, ears perked up attentively as his yellow eyes scanned the situation. "Kindleflare is on her way." He told them evenly, tasting the air again. Another scent caught his attention, a Clanmate's with the unmistakable tang of blood. A lot of it. Focusing his eyes on Firestar, aware that she was at least conscious, he questioned her as pawsteps sounded behind him.
"Firestar, where is Whitesparrow." Palescreech arrived at his flank, turning a questioning gaze upon him as he waited. Just behind her was Kindleflare, bundle of herbs in her jaw. With the LightningClan leader's permission, Nightstep would go and fetch what was undoubtedly the body of a Clanmate.
Note: 43 moons old
Her brother's voice startled her out of a quiet day, Kindeflare's heart skipping a beat. Though Nightstep was not necessarily the most expressive of cats, the flat tone in his voice told her something wasn't right. His words only helped solidify her concern, and she scrabbled into action as rapidly as she could manage, backpedaling into the den in a rush to gather the herbs required for the task at paw. Cobwebs, marigold, dock, dandelion leaves. Satisfied that she had enough to at least begin treatment, the medicine cat jumped out of her den and scrabbled after her brother's scent.
Her heart leapt into her throat upon seeing the limp figures before her. Stumbling slightly, Kindleflare pressed her nose against the smallest of the bodies. Her heart sank, feeling that the heat had already begun to slip from the apprentice's body and hearing the silence in Echopaw's chest. M-May you rest in StarC-Clan, Echopaw. She prayed silently, before turning her attention to the older cats. She wasn't sure whether Wildstripe was conscious or not, but as she stepped forward, she mewed softly to alert the tom of her intentions.
"W-Wildstripe, it's me, Kindleflare. I'm g-going to check y-your wounds and s-start bandaging you up." Even as she spoke, her paws began to work. She pulled apart some of the cobwebs, nosing her way through the tom's fur, searching for the source of the blood coating his pelt. An ear pivoted toward their leader, the LightningClan medicine cat clearing her throat slightly. "F-Firestar, c-can you tell m-me what happened?" She thought she could scent the lingering remnants of a badger on their fur, and the thought sent shivers down her spine.
He kept walking, keeping his nose north as Whitesparrow had told him. Keep going, he could hear her telling him. Don't stop until you get home, you bring that kit back to her mother. And he'd always done as his former mentor told him. He walked despite the pain in his body, despite the wounds decorating his flanks that he could feel but not see. Because she'd told him to head north and go home. She'd told him to bring them home. He'd promised Echopaw he'd take her to her mother.
"We'll be home soon." He told them, feeling his body shake with each step he took. After awhile his body was on automatic, just putting one paw in front of the other as he stumbled blindly towards home. "StarClan let me wake up in my den and this all be a bad dream." He prayed, though he knew it was stupid. It was only later, when Firestar started moving and he eased her to the ground, that things really caught up to him. He let her down then started trying to scoot them all towards camp again, only for his legs to give out and his large frame to finally hit the ground in a heap. His paws kept moving like he expected to be moving, body still trying to take him home, but he was out.
He didn't feel his sister cozy up to him, didn't feel her grooming him or that she'd pulled Echopaw from his back. He had nothing left to give at the moment, all his strength spent getting them this far with one leg shattered and blood trailing behind him from their combined wounds.
Wildstripe returned to consciousness in a hazy manner at the sound of other cats. Their voices didn't register as friendly, and so he thought perhaps StarClan was whispering to him for some reason. Go this way, they seemed to say. Head north, for home.
He nudged at Firestar and tried to scoot her along for a step before falling to his side again. Only then did he recognize Kindleflare's voice. "I have to get Echopaw back to camp. To her mother. I promised her." He had no idea the young apprentice was already part of StarClan.
there's always a new challenge to keep you motivated
Her ears twitched toward the sound of Nightstep's voice. Struggling to pull herself to her paws. Firestar attempted to regain som sort of footing but still found it difficult. Her chest still hurt and breathing remained a challenge but steadily she was getting better.
Upon the arrival of Kindleflare and Nightstep, Firestar felt a rush of relief. They were safe and someone could tend to Wildstripe. Barely able to come to a sitting position, Firestar did her best to focus her attention on Nightstep's words. Her venture to StarClan and back had clearly left her slightly dazed.
"Whitesparrow is in StarClan," Firestar answered her voice still ragged but also returning just like all her other senses. Her attention drifted from the mostly black tom to the the ginger and white medicine cat. Grateful it was Kindleflare tending to her brother and not Rookfrost. Firestar watched for a moment as Kindleflare talked Wildstripe throughwhat she was doing to him. Kindness seemed to be Kindleflare's main trait, something Wildstripe needed.
What Wildstripe said about Echopaw returned an all too familiar sense of sorrow to the calico leader. Bending down to her brother cheek, she pressed her nose to him and tried to purr even if it came out strange.
"Echopaw is hunting in StarClan now," She told him softly, trying not to upset him further. It wasn't his fault the she-cat didn't make it and Firestar already knew she would be dealing with Echopaw's mother in order to protect Wildstripe.
Hearing the question directed to her, Firestar attempted to square her shoulders to answer with a calm and collected voice.
"We were hunting near the tunnels when a badger attacked Echopaw and Whitesparrow. The foul creature must have been living in the tunnels," Firestar paused, reliving thehorrid events in her head. "Wildstripe and I arrived too late. Echopaw was severely injured and I attempted to drive the badger away with Whitesparrow, but it went after Wildstripe who was trying to help Echopaw. There was a lot of thrashing and clawing," Firestar paused again, she was to the point in the event where she lost a life. She had no regrets for losing it but she wasn't quite sure if she needed to tell NIghtstep. The last thing she wanted was any of her clanmates to think her weak. Deciding it was best to tell the truth, Firestar returned to the telling.
"I lost a life, hence my current condition but don't fret over me. Wildstripe need you more," Firestar stated the first bit to the cats present and the last to Kindleflare.
"We will need to sent a patrol out to ensure the badger is gone. It won't be an attack patrol but a scouting patrol. No one is to engage with the badger if it is in our territory. I'll need Redscar to lead that," She said aloud as a way to remind herself as well as to have witnessed to her plan.
Her heart seized in her chest upon hearing Wildstripe's words. Unsure as to how to tell the blind tom that the young apprentice had passed to StarClan, Kindleflare was almost relieved to have Firestar step in and deliver the news. Almost. Wincing slightly, Kindleflare touched her nose to the warrior's ear softly, hoping to bring him some form of comfort. "She... She walks with S-StarClan n-now, Wildstripe. But you brought her h-home. You're here..." She mewed softly, her ears pivoting atop her head as Firestar continued on, telling of the events that had caused the death of two Clan mates.
Kindleflare's fears were confirmed, the LightningClan figurehead mentioning a badger attack. Immediately setting to work to stave of any infection that may stem from a badger's claws, the ginger and white she-cat listened carefully to Firestar's account. The she-cat seemed to hesitate, glancing toward Nightstep before reluctantly explaining she'd lost a life. Flicking her ear and mentally reminding herself to speak with Firestar later about her life count, Kindleflare couldn't help but wonder why in the name of StarClan Firestar had seemed so uncertain. Certainly, Nightstep wouldn't do anything uncouth with the information revealed..?
Remaining quiet until the LightningClan leader was finished, Kindleflare finished up with tending to Wildstripe's wounds. Glancing behind her, she motioned to her brother and his mate. "P-Palescreech, c-could you help Wildstripe to my den? N-Nightstep, Echopaw needs to be b-brought into camp." Next, she glanced back to their leader, stepping toward her slowly. "F-Firestar, please allow me to t-treat you now..? Would you prefer... To come to m-my den with Wildstripe, or y-your den?" She meowed, offering her shoulder for support should the calico leader decide to take it. Most of her figured Firestar would refuse, but.. She'd be remiss as a medicine cat if she didn't at least try.
He was barely concious, and his entire body hurt from his wounds. But he was concious enough to hear the news. "No....but I...I promised her she'd see her mother, I promised to see her home." He tried to get up, body shaking with exhaustion and blood loss. "I tried so hard, Kindleflare. I tried. What will I tell her mother? I have to tell her, its my fault, I didn't leave when Firestar told me to. My weakness, my blindness, got Echopaw killed." And his heart broke as his legs gave out again, shaking with sorrow. "I tried..."
He didn't even realize that he was likely in shock, his breath coming in quick pants as he felt his heart break. What sort of warrior was he, that he couldn't protect the young ones from harm? He hadn't listened in time, hadn't been able to do anything but get in the way once there was blood and noise and his senses were worked over terribly. StarClan had punished his stubborn pride to stay a warrior by destroying a family. "I'm sorry Echopaw." He felt his body tip to the side, the world beginning to spin around him. "So sorry, I failed."
What finally did his flagging strength in, was news that his sister had died. She'd lost a life in order to save him, and he'd still failed. The three legs that were working moved in the dirt and air as he lay there, like that would get him up again. "Firestar, where are you? Please forgive me for failing you." As a warrior, his inability to listen to his leader had caused not one but two deaths. The badger and his pride. "Sorry..." The world went dark then, as his body finally gave up the fight in keeping him conscious.
there's always a new challenge to keep you motivated
Firestar was truly grateful for Kindleflare's care. She was also glad it wasn't Rookfrost tending to her brother, that devil of a cat was long gone from them. Standing on shaky legs, Firestar declined Kindleflare's offer for support with a shake of her head.
What pained the calico she-cat more then her own wounds were the sad and heartbreaking words coming from her brother. Despite being a leader for a good part of her life, Firestar wasn't prepared to deal with Wildstripe's anguished cries.
She could handle helping him deal with the loss of Echopaw. The entire clan would mourn her but it was the words that he saw himself as a failure that hurt her the most.
Doing her best to press and nuzzle into his cheek and neck, she tried to purr but lack of energy made it nearly impossible. Instead she tried to remind him that she was still very much alive and there for him. "Hush, you need to rest. I am not angry at you. It was StarClan's will," She told him finding comfort in turning to their ancestors when life got too difficult.
A short rush of panic filled Firestar as she watched him fall back again, exhaustion finally catching up with him. Looking toward Kindleflare then to Nightsep and Palescreech, Firestar exhaled loudly.