Disclaimer: I don't own Warriors, Erin Hunter does.
Jayfeather knew that everything was so different for him.
Unlike himself, a medicine cat whose connection to StarClan was deeper than anyone else in history, Lionblaze was a warrior (albeit a blessed one) who had never been to StarClan's holy grounds before. The only dead cats he had met were Tigerstar and Hawkfrost, and that didn't exactly endear him to the deceased.
"I know, it's nothing like the Dark Forest." Jayfeather meowed quietly as the brothers walked across the starry clearing through the Moonpool. There were no StarClan cats to be seen yet, but Jayfeather knew better than to grow impatient. They would come when it's time.
Lionblaze nodded, looking slightly unnerved. Jayfeather understood perfectly; although it wasn't in his place to think this, Lionblaze was so young. Being a Clan leader in his age would be quite a stress on his brother. Although it was no trouble for him to try and find out, now he usually refrained from spying on Lionblaze or Doveflight's mind for the sake of their privacy.
"Do you think Firestar is watching from up there?" Lionblaze asked him rather suddenly, looking up at the starlit sky. Both of them still grieved for what happened to Firestar. Although he had died a noble death, every Clan cat knew that there would be no leader like him ever again. "Will he see us and be proud?"
"I can see you now," said a calm, strong voice behind them. Whirling around in shock, Jayfeather and Lionblaze saw Firestar perched on a small rock behind them, an unfathomable nobility surrounding his starlit pelt and his blazing green eyes.
"And I am proud," he meowed.
"Firestar..." Lionblaze's voice was almost pained as he looked at their lost leader. Like Jayfeather, Firestar's death dealt a hard blow to him; while no external harm could hurt him, he was just as vulnerable as anyone else to his own mind.
But Firestar was not alone. Hundreds of stars began showering down from the heavens around him, until his form was completely surrounded by an ocean of starry pelts and shining eyes. Even Jayfeather was awed by the sight; it was indeed something glorious to behold. Lionblaze was speechless beside him.
But then Jayfeather's attention was diverted by a different cat stepping out from the throng of StarClan warriors. Jayfeather recognized her gray pelt and hard eyes easily enough, but beside him he could feel Lionblaze grow wary from the she-cat's queer appearance.
"Yellowfang," Jayfeather nodded at her, trying to make things easier for his brother.
"Jayfeather, by now you should know that I despise formality of all sorts."
Well, thanks for your assistance.
Ignoring Jayfeather's saracastical thought, Yellowfang slowly walked up to Lionblaze until they were at a whisker's distance. The golden tom seemed to almost flinch from the old cat's intense gaze.
"Welcome, Lionblaze," rasped Yellowfang. "Are you ready to receive your nine lives from StarClan?"
"I - I am," stammered Lionblaze, obviously taken aback by her briskness. Jayfeather supressed a sigh, wondering what kind of effect her gruffness will hold over his brother's current fragile self-esteem.
"Don't panic," Yellowfang cautioned Lionblaze as she brought her nose to his. "With this life I give you willpower. Use it so that nothing will sway you from doing what is right."
Jayfeather had been watching (in both senses) their interaction closely, partly out of concern for his brother and partly out of curiosity. As soon as Yellowfang's words were out he could suddenly feel a change in Lionblaze; he felt the golden tom's heart abruptly constrict as if a snake had coiled around it. Slowly as if the grip was tightning, the pressure began to grow larger and larger until he was convinced that his heart would burst from the lack of air -
And then it was over. The pressure left him as Yellowfang's nose moved away from Lionblaze. The she-cat stepped back, giving another intense look at the gasping brothers.
"If you still think your birth was a mistake," her rasping voice shook Jayfeather into consciousness. "Know that we are here to disprove it. You have turned out well."
Jayfeather wondered for a while of her meaning, then shook his head cooly. Did she still think believe that they were dwelling on it?"
"I know now that it's not true," Lionblaze affirmed his thought beside him.
"Good," was all the old cat said as she retreated further back, allowing a small black shape to replace her. At first Jayfeather wondered where he had seen the she-cat with blazing green eyes and glossy black pelt before he heard Lionblaze exclaim "Hollyleaf?"
For a moment, Jayfeather didn't understand what his brother was talking about. The last image both of them had of their lost sister was a devastated young warrior crushed under her own grief, her green eyes hardened into jade orbs of anger and sadness. The image and the healthy she-cat standing proudly in front of him was so different that for that moment it didn't occur to him that this was truly their sister.
"Yes, it's me," said Hollyleaf softly as she touched noses with a still-dazed Jayfeather, then with Lionblaze. Jayfeather was so numbed by the profound difference between their sister in life and death that he almost didn't hear her meow: "With this life I give you justice. Use it to determine right or wrong, and what you must do for your Clan."
Unprepared as he was, Jayfeather felt Lionblaze nearly recoil as he took the same motion. His body suddenly felt very cold, as if he had been sitting outside at leaf-bare all night. Except that while normal coldness numbs as one gets used to it, this chill seemed to seep into him the more time it passed. Within moments it had spread into his heart, freezing it, killing it -
As if aware of her brothers' agony, Hollyleaf released Lionblaze's nose quickly, making the feeling vanish. She didn't walk back into where she appeared from like Yellowfang did, but strolled past Jayfeather and Lionblaze to the opposite side of the crowd.
"I'll miss you," Lionblaze murmured to her as their pelts brushed by.
"We already do," Jayfeather added.
"I know," replied Hollyleaf with a content purr, then vanished into the starry pelts.
Because Jayfeather was looking back at her for quite a while, he only bothered to turn back after a sharp intake of breath from Lionblaze. Turning back Jayfeather recognized Rippletail, the RiverClan warrior who had journeyed with Lionblaze and Doveflight some moons ago to bring back water to the lake. Altough Rippletail didn't survive to witness their success, he was well mourn by all the four Clans.
"Rippletail..." There was guilt in Lionblaze's voice as he touched noses with Rippletail, who only purred lightly.
"With this life I give you endurance. Use it when hardships on your Clan becomes too much to bear," he said as his life entered Lionblaze. Simultaneously, Jayfeather stiffened as StarClan's holy ground suddenly vanished around him.
"What - " he gasped, and instantly regretted it as water rushed in to silence him. Then it was easy to convince himself that somehow he was underwater. It wasn't as if Jayfeather couldn't swim (not well, but average for a non-RiverClan warrior), but no cat can swim in a body of water where he couldn't tell up or down. Hopelessly lost in the never-ending blueness, his flailing limbs slowly began to fail and his mind began screaming: I'm drowning!
If he had really voiced that out loud he would have been extremely embarassed, as the vision was shortly over as soon as the thought was out; he wasn't even sure if the thought was his or his brother's.
"You can stop feeling sorry for me, Lionblaze," Rippletail was meowing to Lionblaze as Jayfeather shook his head in slight confusion. "Our journey together was the best thing I've ever had in my life. I have no regrets."
"I'm glad you think so," Lionblaze said quietly as the RiverClan warrior retreated. Jayfeather would have had more concern for his brother's feelings, if it weren't for the hauntingly familiar face that came to greet him and Lionblaze.
"Honeyfern!" The brothers gasped out simultaneously. Honeyfern was the sister of Cinderheart, Lionblaze's mate. Shortly before Hollyleaf's vanishing she was killed from a snake bite, its venom so deadly that she died before Jayfeather and even Leafpool could do anything. She was sorely missed by her sisters, and Lionblaze and Jayfeather knew that feeling too well.
This time Lionblaze touched noses with her eagerly enough.
"With this life I give you purity. Sometimes it's a good idea to let your mind wander back to the good innocent times." Honryfern purred as the fourth life stirred within Lionblaze.
Good answer, thought Jayfeather after glimpsing her life from Lionblaze. But of all things, why is the life of purity passed in venom? For he could easily feel the poison spreading out through his brother's veins (figuratively, of course) in the same manner that Honeyfern's own life was lost. This time Jayfeather had the sense to keep his mind out of the precedure, and he was glad when it was over.
"I'm happy for my Clan. Tell my sisters and Berrynose that I said hi," Honeyfern mewed to Lionblaze as she stepped back, a pleading look in her eyes. Even in death she was soft. Of course, Jayfeather had met her before as a StarClan cat, but it was rather amusing to consider.
"Of course," Lionblaze promised, licking Honeyfern's ears quickly before she let another cat take her place; now both brothers were familiar with this warrior as well...
"Longtail," Lionblaze breathed, as if he was being worn out purely by being surprised. Jayfeather, as familiar with StarClan cats as he was, was also speechless. He noticed that while Longtail was a frail, blind elder during the time he was Jayfeather's Clanmate, here in StarClan he looked only slightly older than themselves, his pelt glossy (leaving out starry) and his clear eyes gleaming with starlight.
"Talking later," Longtail chuckled as he drew his nose to Lionblaze, who answered the gesture in a daze. In an amused voice he meowed: "With this life I give you honesty. Do not be afraid of the truth, for life is a choice between the right and the easy."
This life came slower than the others, but Jayfeather recognized (this time through Lionblaze) the sensation instantly: exhaustion. Not only his muscles, but every part of his body began swaying dangerously in pure exhaustion, screaming at him to let them rest. But he WAS resting, wasn't he? It was as if he had suddenly grown older within a matter of seconds.
Thankfully the feeling ended swiftly. Longtail wordlessly walked back to his fellow StarClan warriors. However, he did turn back once and meowed: "Don't grieve for me, young ones. Thanks to that tree I got my sight back quicker than I expected."
"I - " Jayfeather knew his brother was about to say "I'm sorry," but hearing Longtail's words he abruptly changed it to "I - I'm glad."
Longtail gave them a final purr, and vanished among the crowd. Jayfeather recognized the next cat, a familiar tortoiseshell she-cat, although Lionblaze seemed confused by a face he didn't know. Quite obvious, as she died before their parents were born.
"She's Spottedleaf, our medicine cat when Firestar first came to ThunderClan," he quickly whispered to his brother, who nodded with a small "Oh,". Of course he too was familiar with the nursery tales mothers would tell their kits about the talented medicine cat that was killed in a ShadowClan attack when Firestar was still an apprentice. He left out the part of the she-cat being in love with Firestar, for obvious reasons.
Spottedleaf's expression was almost maternal as her nose met his brother's. "With this life I give you guidance. Use it to lead your Clan through hardship just as Firestar had done for you," she said kindly as her life passed into Lionblaze.
The sensation that Jayfeather felt through Lionblaze was so unique that later when asked by Doveflight about it he failed to describe it except as a feeling of a wildly fluttering heart. Anyhow, he was less glad than usual when the feeling ended.
"I'm so happy that Firestar had such noble cats as his kin," Spottedleaf was mewing to Lionblaze when Jayfeather's heart had calmed down. Lionblaze seemed flattered at the praise (he had grown remarkably humble since StarClan knew when), but he also seemd curious about the remark.
"It's... complicated," Jayfeather whispered to him quickly, and he didn't demand an explanation.
Spottedleaf retreated with the same dear look in her face, allowing another familiar face (again, only to Jayfeather) to take her place.
"Feathertail!" Jayfeather exclaimed, while a small part of his mind registered surprise from Lionblaze. Again, the story of Stormfur's sister, who had accompanied Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight (and their father) on a quest to find Midinght the badger and died to save the Tribe of Rushing Water, was a very popular nursery tale, even outside RiverClan. After all, she and her friends have saved all the four Clans.
"Hello, Jayfeather, Lionblaze," she replied him kindly, her blue eyes glistening. Swiftly walking up to Lionblaze and placing her nose upon his, she meowed softly: "With this life I give you love. Learn to love your Clan, love your kin... and especially love Cinderheart." Was Jayfeather imagining things, or did she just wink as she said that?
However he didn't complain, as the life that entered Lionblaze was so good. He would later describe it only as 'a vision of flying', but he never told anyone about what he had seen during his flight or what he felt of it. Such were the experiences with leaders who receive peculiar (and brilliant) lives.
The moment the feeling was over Jayfeather heard Feathertail purr, not to Lionblaze but to him: "My, Jayfeather... have I ever told you how much you remind me of Crowfeather?"
Moons before, both brothers would have bristled with rage at that in the least. But now, after all that happened, they could now think of their parents and be proud.
"Crowfeather loves you, more than you realize," mewed Feathertail, as if reading his mind. "And because of that... so do I."
"Feathertail..." Lionblaze murmured, touched. Jayfeather knew that Tawnypelt had told his brother about Feathertail and Crowfeather during their journey to the Tribe. Lionblaze knew how much Crowfeather loved Feathertail, despite his equal amount of love to Leafpool.
Feathertail fondly licked his ears before retreating as another cat trotted forward. As the two cats passed each other Jayfeather thought he heard Feathertail whispering to the other cat: "Good luck. I hope you don't shock Lionblaze to death."
"Thanks," the returning voice would have contained some saracasm in it, if it hadn't been marred with nervousness. That prompted Jayfeather, whose eyes were only on Feathertail, to look at the incoming she-cat.
His eyes froze at the same time that his thoughts did. Lionblaze must have noticed the change, for Jayfeather vaguely sensed him petrifying beside him as well.
"No way," Lionblaze whispered. Jayfeather could almost agree with him... except that he knew that there could be a reason to see a certain gray she-cat with blue eyes here in StarClan, when she was actually sleeping back in ThunderClan.
"C-Cinderheart?" Lionblaze gasped, trying to take a step toward her. Jayfeather quickly stopped him by touching his shoulder with his tail, but he couldn't erase the confused look from his brother's face. "What are you doing here? Are you - are you - "
'Cinderheart' only smiled back at him. (A/N: I've just realized... Can cats SMILE?)
"I told you he'd think she's dead," Yellowfang meowed as she came up to the brothers again, amusement gleaming in her starry amber eyes. "Lionblaze, this is Cinderpelt, my apprentice and Leafpool's mentor."
Lionblaze's eyes slightly cleared as he observed the gray she-cat in front of him closely. Jayfeather could tell that Cinderpelt looked slightly older than her incarnation as a warrior, and her eyes were shining with wisdom that was usually hidden deep within Cinderheart's consciousness.
"I'm sorry, for a moment I thought you were Cinderheart," Lionblaze told her embarassedly. Then with a pause he added: "But you are her kin, aren't you? I heard that you were Brackenfur's littermate..."
His voice trailed away as his eyes locked with Cinderpelt's. Jayfeather didn't need to explain; there was no doubt that the laughing eyes gazing back at him were the very same blue pools of courage and wisdom that he loved and admired.
"But how?" He wondered to no one in particular.
"I don't like admitting this," said Cinderpelt sheepishly. "But it was never my destiny to become a medicine cat. I would have served my Clan as a warrior if it hadn't been for Tigerstar's trap. Before my death StarClan offered me a chance to... to do it again, to be reborn as a warrior and fulfill my destiny."
Lionblaze was speechless for a while. Then, slowly turning to Jayfeather he asked: "Did you know?"
"Yes," Jayfeather admitted. "Only me and Leafpool. Cinderheart didn't find out until a few days ago." To his relief Lionblaze didn't press him on the matter, and he silently thanked him for all the shock and pressure he was enduring right now. Sometimes, when he glimpsed into his brother's thoughts, it felt as if he was carrying a mountain over his shoulders.
To his relief, though, Lionblaze's shock was replaced by deep joy sooner than he thought. A purr rose from his throat as he touched noses with his mate, a sound coming from so deep in his chest that it sounded as if it had no bottom.
"With this life I give you compassion," Cinderpelt purred back, her own happiness echoing with that of Lionblaze. "Use it to sooth those who feel that they have been denied. It can save more lives than teeth or claws can."
Jayfeather honestly tried to keep out of his brother's mind this time, but it was as if Cinderpelt was demanding him to witness this ceremony. This life was as good as Spottedleaf's; his whole being seemed to be filled with something sweet, and contentness spread across his body. A small purr managed to escape him as the short exchange ended.
"I'll be waiting for you back in ThunderClan," mewed Cinderpelt as she passed between Lionblaze and Jayfeather. As she went behind her pelt began to pale as if she was fading away. Both brothers looked back in surprise, and saw that she indeed was slowly fading away. But as the medicine cat looked back at them she already looked more like the energetic and bright warrior they had always known.
"Oh, and by the way," she said as she suddenly walked back to Lionblaze. Then, after licking his ear, she whispered tenderly into it: "I love you."
"I know," Lionblaze purred softly, licking her back. Cinderheart purred softly as her form completely faded away, her soul returning to her body in ThunderClan where she belonged.
Jayfeather touched his brother's shoulder with his tail again. They exchanged a look together, and their eyes told many meanings to each other.
But at present they both squared their shoulders, because they had a pretty good idea of who was going to grant Lionblaze his last life.
Jayfeather turned back from where Cinderheart disappeared to see Firestar and Lionblaze face to face. Despite their former leader's unmatched glory as a noble leader and a StarClan warrior, Lionblaze's own nobility almost seemed to match his, with their identical golden pelts well-matched against each other and Firestar's brilliant green eyes locked with Lionblaze's shining amber ones.
"With this life I give you faith. Believe in what you think is right, and make no hesitation in acting on it." Firestar's voice was strong and soft at the same time as his nose touched Lionblaze's. As Jayfeather stood silently beside them, feeling Firestar's life flooding into Lionblaze, he detected a... change in Lionblaze. This time he truly did not know how to describe this feeling, as Lionblaze's own emotion was altering as he received the sensation. In the closest way he can describe it, Jayfeather sensed something awakening in his brother's mind, as if something greater than cat had been slumbering inside him and had woken up now. And unlike the other lives, even after the flow of life was over the feeling did not disappear.
At this point Jayfeather drew back from Lionblaze and looked at his face, and was astonished to find that something was changed in his expression as well, already nobler and greater than Jayfeather had ever seen him. He truly was the leader of ThunderClan now.
"Skywatcher had forseen the coming of the Three long ago, and passed that knowledge to me," Firestar's voice was strangely distant as he had his back turned to them and stared up at the moon and the clear night sky.
Then, facing Lionblaze again, he said in a strong voice: "I do not know if your Prophecy has been fulfilled, but if it isn't this might be another step to it. So rise, Lionstar, and be a leader that has been unheard of in all the Clans' history!"
"Lionstar!" Jayfeather quickly seized the honor of being the first to call his brothers by his new name, and all the StarClan cats quickly followed him, their voices echoing in the glorious night sky, which will be whispering the newest leader's name for at least several moons.
"Do you think Doveflight has been watching us during the ceremony?" Lionstar asked Jayfeather as the brothers walked back to the Clan. The night was still deep, and most of the warriors would be sleeping save the ones on watch.
"She wouldn't have seen us in StarClan. And besides, she knows better than that," replied the medicine cat wryly. "Although I wouldn't put it past her to be watching us right now."
As they neared the thorn entrance, the brothers walked on as Foxleap, who was apparantly taking watch, notice them and bow deeply before his new leader. Then he gently slapped a neat bundle of gray fur lying beside him, which jerked upright with a confused "A-what? they're back?"
"Wake up, sleepyhead," purred Lionstar in amusement as he ran his tail over Doveflight's back.
"If I may guess, you tried to watch us all the way from the Moonpool and fell asleep," chuckled Jayfeather as he walked into the medicine den. When he reached the entrance he briefly turned around to see his brother looking up at the Highledge and the leader's den, as if trying to absorb the fact that the place was now his. Then he looked around at his beloved Clan and squared his shoulders, no doubt getting ready for leading the future of ThunderClan into a better tomorrow.
"Well, I'm back," he said, almost to himself.
Well, that's the end of that. Apologies for the long hiatus, and ... dunno if anything else will show up anytime soon. Until then, R&R!