It is now Leaf-fall, Valley Year 8
The weather is now crisp and cool, with hints of frost forming overnight in the later moons. Prey is becoming scarce, leaves are changing colors. The valley feels busier somehow.
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"That was a strong kick," She mused to herself as her body remained curled up tightly in the nursery. Luckily her nest was warm and kept away the chill of the leafbare wind. With her kits no longer kicking, she tucked her nose under her paws to help sleep. She barely closed her eyes until a sharp pain caused her to gasp. Attempting to get up, she found her legs shaky, unable to hold her weight. Something was wrong. A weakness overcame the calico she-cat as she tried to make any sort of sound. Her mouth was dry and the only sounds escaping her were panting gasp for air. Her claws had become fully extended with the pain that was now sprawling across her entire body.
Her distant memory of labor wasn't comparable to her current state. It was far too painful. Clawing at the cold ground Firestar forced her body to move, all she managed to do was crawl pitifully from her nest. "Help!" She cried with a hoarseness to her voice that prevented it from carrying very far. Turning back to examine her hind legs that were barely able to propel her forward, Firestar saw a mess of blood.
A renewed panic flooded her system, prompting the expecting queen to yowl with all her might. "HELP!!" A set of pawsteps came toward the nursery, it was Goldensong, an elder who had been visiting Firestar from time to time. The golden she-cat saw the look of pain, saw the mess and without further command she bolted toward Kindleflare's den.
Firestar begged for StarClan to keep her kits safe, told them to take all her lives at once as long as they made it safe and alive. However, her desperate prayer to StarClan was cut short as a painful shockwave of a contraction dug like hot stones into every fiber of her being. Was this some kind of penance? Wasn't losing Mapleheart punishment enough? Her distraction was short lived as another wave of pain wash over her, making her heart hammer in her chest.
Gasping for air, her amber eyes closed as she tried to relax into the process of birthing. Not that it helped much. As her kit came into the world, yowling for her mother, Firestar barely found the strength to nudge the she-kit. All her energy had been stolen early on and as she tried to focus on grooming the she-kit clean, another wave of pain forced her to lay flat. Why so much pain? Why wouldn't it end?
Broken down into a mess of pain and spasms, Firestar felt the birth of a second kit but couldn't put her head up high enough to even see if the kit was alive or not. All she could do was lay her head back, eyes glossy. It didn't take long for it to happen, Firestar felt the tug into death's embrace and for the first time she went willingly, she used it as an escape from the pain, a fact she'd never repeat to another living soul.
when Goldensong arrived with those needed to help with the birth, the elderly she-cat rushed to aid the newly born tom-kit and clean him up before she realized that Firestar had faded during the labor. Panic prickled in Goldensong as she sought out Kindleflare for help.
A shriek pierced the darkness of her slumber. Stumbling to her paws messily, Kindleflare blinked blearily as she scrambled for some sort of information as to what that was, and whether it had been a dream or not. Her stomach dropped when Goldensong appeared to tell her there was something wrong with Firestar. Snapping up basic herbs she might need for kit birth, Kindleflare quickly followed Goldensong to the nursery, where she was immediately greeted with the scent of blood. Shock seized the ginger healer for a fraction of a second, because of three things her dark amber eyes noted.
One, there was blood everywhere.
Two, there was a pair of kits lying on the ground, in need of attention to bring them into the world properly.
Three, Firestar wasn't breathing.
Her training snapped her into motion, registering that Goldensong was headed to the more recently born tom kit. Knowing this, Kindleflare dropped her herbs and moved to Firestar's head. In her distress, the queen had sprawled out, straining her neck as she shrieked for help. When she returned from StarClan, the particular pose would make breathing near impossible for the weakened queen. With purposeful yet gentle motions, Kindleflare rearranged the leader's head and muzzle to a more relaxed position. Satisfied, the healer's attention landed on Firestar's belly. Nosing along the temporarily deceased queen's fur, LightningClan's medicine cat searched for any signs of kits still trapped within.
Noting that Firestar no longer seemed quite as distended, and not feeling any signs of life, Kindleflare shifted to the she-kit lying nearby. With a few rough passes of her tongue, Kindleflare waited until she heard the newborn squeal in protest before accepting the kit was healthy. Gently guiding her to Goldensong's warmth, the medicine cat glanced back towards Firestar's comatose form. Briefly wondering if Russetfall would appear (and partially hoping he wouldn't until Firestar had returned), Kindleflare repeated the tongue rasping on the little tom after timidly taking him from Goldensong. The tom's response wasn't quite as rebellious, but she couldn't hear any sign of fluid in his lungs.
The relief she felt upon knowing the two kits were healthy was nearly overwhelming. After gently laying the tom kit next to his sister between Goldensong's paws, Kindleflare returned to the abandoned herb pile and picked out the usual mixture including raspberry leaves. Although Firestar had finished giving birth, the loss of a life would require strengthening herbs to properly overcome. Making a mental note to bring another mix of herbs to help the older queen with producing milk, Kindleflare shifted her gaze to the bobbed tail calico's form. Clearing her throat quietly, she scrounged up what courage she could muster to call gently.
"F-Firestar? Can y-you hear m-me? We n-need you t-to... To c-come back n-now. You h-have two b-beautiful kits here w-waiting for their m-mother." She didn't want to rush the leader's encounter with StarClan, but the first few moments together with kits were important for the development of a bond. Maternal detachment was a nagging worry worming its way into the healer's mind just then.
He'd only left her side to get a drink, to bring back a moss ball so that his beloved would have something as well. He hadn't thought anything could happen for the short time he spent away from her side. He was wrong. She was so close to kitting he hadn't been leaving her side, but this had needed to be done.
He heard the commotion before he saw it, the shriek that sounded through the camp, Goldensong heading for Kindleflare's den. Something was wrong. He dropped his moss ball and made the dash for the nursery, ignoring the twinges from the scars on his body and the effects of the cold on his joints. His heart in his throat he slid to a stop just after Kindleflare arrived. And stood in horror.
"Firestar?" His voice sounded hoarse, lost, small. Their medicine cat was already talking to her, coaxing her back. But his gaze never left her small form. Dead. His mate was dead, lost another life, ripped from his side again. His heart constricted painfully and for a moment he couldn't breathe.
Even knowing she would return, that she had extra lives, didn't stop the grief from nearly overwhelming him. He plopped to his rear then let himself fall into a laying position as he tried to make the world make sense again. And then, through his haze, he heard the mewling.
Kits. His kits. Their kits. They needed his attention now, not some stranger's. They needed him to protect them, to provide for them until their mother was back. Firestar would return. She had to. The kits needed her. He shuddered then managed his paws and went to lay next to Goldensong. Without a word he leaned his big head under her chin and plucked first one and then the second of his newborn kits from between her paws. He nestled them against his pelt and laid his tail across them, curling up to keep them warm.
Russetfall could concentrate on them, could pour his efforts and his protection out towards keeping them warm and ready for their mother's milk. It kept him from dwelling too much on the realization that his mate had died giving birth to their kits.
After a moment he lifted his head and started grooming them, gentle purring rumbling out of his chest. "Everything will be alright, my darlings." He cast his gaze worriedly to Firestar, waiting for some sign that his beloved had returned to him.
Firestar woke to a mist covered field. The air was crisp but lacked any motion, it was as if time was standing still. Realizing she was standing up, Firestar scanned the grass around her in a frantic search. She was looking for the cat that would send her back, someone to let her return. She needed to get to them, welcome them into the world.
The longer she stood there, stronger became the feeling of tension. Was she not allowed to go back? Had StarClan taken all her lives back in one single blow? A mixture of anger and sorrow filled her chest and Firestar yowled out. She needed to go back!
In an attempt to seek out who was going to send her back, Firestar tired to move but felt her paws stuck to the ground. Terrified that her fate was sealed, she looked down to find them appearing to be stuck in the muddy earth. Then seemingly out of nowhere the scent of Mapleheart came to her.
Turning her head quick enough she felt her neck crack, Firestar came nose to nose with her daughter. Relief flooded her but Mapleheart didn't seem pleased.
"You can't remain stuck in your grief," Mapleheart scolded her mother and instantly Firestar felt her ears heat up. It was one thing to be scolded but something entirely different to be by her daughter.
"What you are asking me to do is impossible,"
"Wasn't the fire enough? We lost so many," Mapleheart reminded her, Firestar felt her ears tilt back. So it had been a punishment. "You can go back to them but you can't hold on to your grief forever or it will eat you up inside," Mapleheart explained, pressing her nose to her mother's forehead. Firestar had attempted to utter a reply but she was too late.
Darkness then brightness.
Blinking rapidly to rid herself of the spots in her vision, Firestar realized where she was again. Pain surged up her body again but this time it was manageable and just the fading cramps of the rest of labor. Once she got her bearings being back in the living world, Firestar tilted her head to see Russetfall with their kits. He had gotten back just in time to tend to them and keep them warm.
"G-g-give them to me. I n-n-need to nurse them," She managed to croak out her voice tired and raw despite the new life within her. Waiting for Russetfall to do as she asked, Firestar titled her head toward Kindleflare then Goldensong.