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Bramblestar's Nine Lives
A Warriors Adventure by Antoinette Bishop
"This way," said Jayfeather, as he trotted confidently up the rocky slope despite his blindness. Brambleclaw followed, bracken snagging his dark tabby coat. "Is it up there?" he called. "Yes," the gray tabby medicine cat replied as he paused and pointed towards the Moonpool with his tail. "It's right over here." Brableclaw quickened his pace and scrambled up the slope beside Jayfeather, and his eyes widened as he gazed at the ancient pool. The moon and stars reflected off the glass-like surface and the banks were dimpled with paw marks from the cats of long ago. "Come on," Jayfeather said impatiently. "We have to go so you can get your nine lives." Brambleclaw's fur stood on its ends as reality struck him. He was the leader of ThunderClan now and he had to do his duty. He followed Jayfeather and sat beside the Moonpool. "Now watch me," Jayfeather instructed as he lapped some of the clear water and lied down on the smooth bank. Brambleclaw did the same and he lied down and shut his eyes and when he opened his eyes he was standing in a clearing surrounded by four ancient oaks. In the center of the clearing, a massive black boulder stood planted so firmly it looked as though it had grown out of the ground. Brambleclaw gazed around in wonder. "Am I at…Fourtrees?" "Well done, Brambleclaw." He looked up and saw another cat standing on the boulder, a gray queen with brilliant blue eyes. She leaped off the boulder and landed in front of him. "Bluestar, is this really Fourtrees?" The queen nodded. "Yes, the Fourtrees will always be a part of the Clans, even after the Twolegs destroyed it." She waved her tail and more cats came out into the clearing. "These cats are all here to give you your nine lives." She looked him squarely in the eye. "Are you ready?" The tabby warrior nodded. "Yes, Bluestar, I'm ready." The gray queen stepped forward and touched her nose to his. "I give you this life for wisdom, so you will always have the knowledge of making the right choice, just like I did when I chose you to represent ThunderClan on the Great Journey." Brambleclaw sunk his claws into the soft earth and gritted his teeth as raw energy surged through his body. The pain was incredible, far worse than any battle wound he had received when he was a warrior, but there was something about it that made it seem worth the pain. Brambleclaw stepped back; his head spinning as the pain slowly ebbed away from his body. He dipped his head. Bluestar took a step back and waved her tail and a stocky gray tom padded into the clearing. "I have someone for you to meet. This is my son Stonefur; he wants to give you a life." Brambleclaw straightened and braced himself for the pain as the gray warrior touched his nose to his. "I give you this life for strength, not just outer but inner because a leader needs both to defend his Clanmates." Brambleclaw sank his claws into to the ground as agony surged through him, sending fire to every one of his muscles from his nose to his tail, but despite the pain he felt strong enough to knock down a tree, or crush a boulder with his bare paws. When Stonefur stepped back beside Bluestar he could still feel the strength rushing through his body. It had hurt a lot worse than his first life but somehow he recovered faster and he smoothed his fur and sheathed his claws. He swung his head around when he saw a flash of orange fur in the trees as a young ginger tom stepped into the clearing. "Flametail!" Brambleclaw cried as the former ShadowClan medicine cat apprentice approached him. "I'm…I'm so sorry about what happened to you." The ginger tom shrugged. "It was my time. All that matters is that now the Clans know the truth. My only regret is that Littlecloud doesn't have someone to take his place." Realization hit Brambleclaw like a thorn in his pad. What would happen to ShadowClan when the elderly medicine cat died? He pushed the thought away when Flametail reached up and touched his nose. "I give you this life for honesty, so you will always be truthful and not let lies tear apart your Clan or any other." Brambleclaw dug his claws into the ground and braced himself for another wave of crippling agony, but it never came. Instead he felt light and liberated, like he was a bird fly through the trees. The truth will set you free. A voice echoed in his ears. Brambleclaw opened his eyes and saw Flametail standing in front of him. He dipped his head and walked over to sit beside Stonefur. Brambleclaw pricked his ears and scanned the trees waiting for the next cat to come out, and soon he say a gray-flecked pelt. "Ferncloud!" He cried as the pretty she-cat bounded over to him. "Brambleclaw, it's good to see you again," she said as she touched her nose to his. "I give you this life for protection, not only for you but for your Clanmates, so you can keep them safe from the oldest elder to the youngest kit." Brambleclaw was certainly unprepared for this life, for the energy that surged through his body was unbelievable. In his mind he envisioned enemies attacking his Clanmates. Anger surged through him and he lashed out and killed the enemies without hesitation. Eventually the pain stopped and he opened his eyes to see Ferncloud sitting beside Flametail. Suddenly, in the corner of his eye he saw a flash of gray. He spun around and his jaw dropped when he saw a lanky, pale gray tom with darker gray flecks. "Ashfur!" Brambleclaw's voice was mixed with anger and surprise as the gray warrior approached him, his blue eyes shining with sorrow and guilt. "Brambleclaw…"he whispered. "Oh Brambleclaw…I'm…so, so, so very sorry for all the trouble and pain I've caused you and Squirrelflight and Jayfeather and Hollyleaf and Lionblaze. I won't be able to live with myself unless you forgive me and accept the life I wish to give you." Brambleclaw stared into Ashfur's eyes, looking for signs of deception, but he couldn't find any; he was truly sorry for what he did. "So do you forgive me?" The gray warrior pressed. Brambleclaw nodded. "Yes Ashfur, I forgive you." "Oh thank you! Thank you Brambleclaw! You don't know how much this means to me! I feel so relieved!" He stepped forward and touched his nose to his. "I give you this life for justice, so you will always know what is right even in the hardest situations." Brambleclaw gritted his teeth as harsh memories flashed through his mind. He saw his brother Hawkfrost lying on the ground before him, blood oozing from the mortal wound he had given him in order to save Firestar. Brambleclaw opened his eyes to see Ashfur still standing in front of him. The gray warrior dipped his head. "Thank you." He turned and went to sit beside Ferncloud. Brambleclaw stared at the undergrowth, and his heart lifted when he saw a beautiful, pale ginger queen step into the clearing. "Mother!" He cried as he rushed over to meet her. Goldenflower gave her son an affectionate lick between the ears. "I'm so proud of you!" "Thank you." Sadness suddenly flooded his heart. "I miss you so much." She put her muzzle to his cheek. "I know, I miss you too, but don't be sad. You'll be with me again someday, but for now I'm going to give you this life." She touched her nose to his. "I give you this life for patience, so you won't lose your temper even when dealing with the most rebellious warrior, the most bitter rival Clan, the rowdiest kit, and the grumpiest elder." As the energy flowed through Brambleclaw, he didn't feel any pain only a soothing, almost comforting feeling, but the sensation didn't last long and it was soon over. Goldenflower was still standing in front of him. "My brave boy," she said, giving him another affectionate lick before turning around to sit beside Ashfur. Brambleclaw craned his neck and looked around for the next cat. Who would it be this time? Suddenly he heard a rustling and from out of the trees was a long-legged black she-cat. Tears filled his eyes as he watched the cat he raised as his daughter approach him. "Hollyleaf!" He sobbed. "Oh Hollyleaf, I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry! I should have protected you!" The black she-cat paused in from of him. "From what?" she asked. "Defending my Clan?" "No, no," Brambleclaw sobbed, his tears blinding him. "I should of saved you…Hawkfrost was my brother. I was supposed to be the one who was supposed to fight him, not you. You had your whole life ahead of you…" "So did Ivypool! What was I suppose to do, watch while that pile of fox-dung tore out her throat?!" "You're right…but, when I saw them…take you into the camp…I felt like I failed as a father…" Hollyleaf snarled, her green eyes flashing angrily. She reared back on her hind legs and slammed her forepaws into his shoulders. "How can you say that?! How can you say that, Brambleclaw?! After everything you and Squirrelflight how been through together?! After everything Lionblaze, Jayfeather, and I have been through together?! We've wouldn't have gotten through it if you hadn't taught us how to be strong!" "I know but I'm…" "What? Not my real father? Who was there when I needed advice? Who was there when I had a thorn stuck in my paw? Who taught me how to catch my first mouse? Who was cheering the loudest when I became a warrior? Who was always there when I needed him, no matter what it was or what he was doing he was always there because he loved me more than anything else?!" Tears flowed from her eyes. "It was you, Brambleclaw, not Crowfeather. You are my father!" She put her head on top of his, her tears mixing with his. Hollyleaf pulled back and stared into his eyes. "I love you, Brambleclaw. That's why I want to give you this." She reached forward and touched her nose to his. "I give you this life for loyalty, so you're heart will always lie within your Clan and the ones you love, no matter where you are or how long you're gone." The energy that flowed through Brambleclaw was not painful, but a feeling that made him feel as though he was attached to the ground, like trees in the forest. He blinked and saw Hollyleaf. "That's why I came back," she murmured. "I knew in my heart it was right to return to my Clan." She turned and took her place beside Goldenflower. Brambleclaw straightened, the grief raw and heavy in his heart. Suddenly a new cat came into his vision, a tom cat with a coat like flame. "Firestar!" "Brambleclaw," the former ThunderClan leader purred. "My apprentice, my deputy, my successor. I give you this life for acceptance, so you'll judge a cat not by his blood, but by his heart. Just like I did for you." He stepped forward and touched his nose to his. Memories surged through Brambleclaw's mind. He remembered being a kit, and having his Clan fearing and resenting him because he was Tigerstar's son. Many moons went by, and he had just been appointed deputy, and the whole Clan was cheering his name. The fear and resentment towards him that had once clouded their gaze was replaced by love and pride. Brambleclaw stepped back and stared into Firestar's green eyes. "I have to be honest with you Brambleclaw," the flame-colored tom began. "When you were a kit, I was afraid of you, and only because you were Tigerstar's son. That was wrong of me in every way. I learned to see past that though, and I've grown to love you like my own son. My daughters were right about you, and not for a heartbeat have I regretted my choice." Firestar's praise warmed Brambleclaw from his whiskers down to his tail. He never knew the former Clan leader always felt that way about him, although Brambleclaw loved him like a father. Firestar dipped his head. "I know you'll lead my Clan well. There is not a doubt in my mind." He turned away and sat by Hollyleaf. Brambleclaw gazed around the clearing, but no cat stepped forward to give him his last life. He began to panic. Are they going to only give me eight lives? Is StarClan punishing me because I'm Tigerstar's son? "Relax," Bluestar purred. He looked up to see her standing beside him, her tail-tip on his shoulder. "She'll be here soon. It's an awfully long journey from the Tribe of Endless Hunting." He pointed with her tail to a silvery object in the distance. "There she is now." Brambleclaw screwed up his eyes and saw a cat running in the distance. She came closer and closer to the clearing and leaped over Highrock in a single bound. Her silver pelt glowed like a falling star. "Feathertail!" Brambleclaw cried as he bounded over to meet his old friend. He wasn't sure what to say because he hadn't seen her in so long. "How are things in the Tribe?" He said, the only thing that came to his mind. "Wonderful," the RiverClan she-cat purred. "Stormfur's kits are to-bes now; they're both going to be cave-guards like him." "That's great," Brambleclaw said. "And as you know, I'm ThunderClan leader now." "Yes you are, but you need one more thing Brambleclaw." She stepped forward and touched her nose to his. "I give you this life for love, so you will care for and protect your Clan with every ounce of your strength. You must also have love for cats of other Clans, because although we have our differences, we are all one." The life that surged within him made Brambleclaw feel warm all over. He felt strong and courgeous, and also comforted and safe. We will always be with you. He heard Feathertail breathe in his ear. You will make a great leader Bramblestar… When he opened his eyes, Bramblestar was lying by the Moonpool. He heard Jayfeather stir beside him. "Are you ready to go?" asked the medicine cat sleepily. The new ThunderClan leader rose to his paws and saw the first light off dawn appear over the horizon. "Yes, I'm ready. Let's go home."