Written by Xandiion.
Echostripe always wanted to be a great medicine cat of ThunderClan, and to serve her Clan as best as she can. But as a dark secret looms over her and her kits, Echostripe must make a decision that will decide her fate.
Echostripe stiffened. She brushed off the dust from her pelt. The air was stale and hazy. No one could see that clearly now. Leaf-bare was coming, and prey would be scarce.
She sniffed the herbs on the rock. "Greenpaw! We need more herbs."
The apprentice poked his head out. "Of what?"
"Poppy seeds of course," Echostripe snapped irritably. Did Greenpaw know nothing?
Greenpaw stepped back, eyes clouded with anxiety and confusion. "O-ok." And he left the den.
Echostripe scratched the back of her ear. Why did I snap at him? It's not Greenpaw's fault he had no idea what to get. She forced herself to concentrate on Firestone. The elder's throat was sore, and he was coughing often. What do I use for him? Echostripe grunted. She knew this! She grabbed a clump of raspberry leaves, then dropped it.
Echostripe sighed and with tansy in her jaws, made her way to Firestone, who was coughing.
"It's fine, Firestone. Eat this, and you'll be fine," Echostripe soothed. The elder looked up at her. Echostripe placed a small dose of tansy at his paws, and Firestone weakly ate it, doing his best not to choke. She winced.
"You should feel better with that, Firestone," Echostripe told him. "I'll give you some more tansy tomorrow, ok?" As Firestone began to lift his head up to look at Echostripe, she quickly rushed out of the den.
"Echostripe!" Flamestar greeted her warmly. Echostripe looked into her leader's eyes, not realizing he was there at first. "Is everything ok? Greenpaw told me that you were a bit grumpy before." He let out a mrrow of laughter. "Anyways, how's Firestone doing? Tell me his cough is alright."
Echostripe shifted her paws nervously. Firestone was Flamestar's father- the leader of course would want to know how the elder was. "He's fine," Echostripe lied. "Firestone has been coughing a bit recently- he wasn't had any greencough symptoms yet, but just in case, I don't want anyone seeing him yet."
Flamestar sighed. "Thanks, Echostripe, for taking care of Firestone."
"Well, I'm a medicine cat... and its my job..." she trailed away as Flamestar dipped his head and walked away.
She sighed and walked briskly out of camp before any other cat could see her. She needed some peace. Echostripe headed for the camp entrance and rested beneath a huge gorse bush, taking a deep breath.
I didn't really sleep well last night. This unusual status of me is only for a while. When I sleep properly tonight, I'll be better in the morning.
Echostripe drew in her breath, forcing herself to believe it. She lay down for a while and rose up, seeing Greenpaw come back with poppy seeds wrapped in some leaves. Guilt twisted her heart. She was too hard on Greenpaw, when all he had tried to go was help Echostripe and become a full medicine cat.
I'll apologize to him later, I just need to check on Firestone now.
Seriously, what's up with me? A prophecy? What would happen to the Clan? Echostripe lay beneath the gorse bush, thoughts unsettled.
Echostripe was dreaming.
Dark clouds blocked her vision. She twisted and turned, groaning. Thick mist covered her sight. Echostripe squinted, gasping when she made out the faint shape of a cat.
A wiry brown tabby cat looked ever so lonely, gazing down and studying her paws. Echostripe's eyes moved to two kits- one black and the other white, facing the older tabby. But then, both of them turned away from each other, and disappeared through the mist.
Echostripe woke to her disturbing dream. A cat was prodding her on the side. She turned, seeing Greenpaw looming over her. "You've overslept." Greenpaw teased. Echostripe pushed herself up with all her might, though her head throbbed with pain and tiredness.
"Are you ok?" Greenpaw asked, his eyes wide with concern.
"I'm fine. I'm just tired." Echostripe muttered.
Greenpaw narrowed his eyes, but said nothing. A shiver went down Echostripe's spine. Does he know something?
Echostripe forced herself to ignore what was going on. She slipped behind, to have a check on Firestone while Greenpaw does the herbs.
"How's your cough?" Echostripe asked. Firestone glanced at her weakly.
"My throat feels like its burning." He croaked the words out.
Echostripe gave him another dose of tansy, then went out to grab some soaked moss for the elder. "Here. You must be thirsty."
Firestone shot her a grateful glance. "You must be really dedicated to your Clanmates, Echostripe. You're a good mentor to Greenpaw." He purred. "He's a fast learner. You're lucky to have him as your apprentice." Firestone lowered his voice. "StarClan must have great dreams for you. And for your Clan."
Echostripe dipped her head and padded away into the shadows, guilt overwhelming her. What about my meetings with Ginger?
Memories filled her mind as she remember the once gentle, humorous tom, now aggressive and treacherous. Ginger had once pretended to help ThunderClan, but revealed to be a spy...
Worry washed over Echostripe. Is Ginger what is distracting me? Do I still have feelings left for him, even though he betrayed my Clan?
Echostripe snarled to herself. No way! Ginger means nothing to me now. He and I are strangers. I am loyal to my Clan.
She remembered her shock and hollowness of her heart when Ginger betrayed her. When he showed up with a group of rogues that stole prey from the Clan.
Echostripe found a sunny spot and lay down in the sun, basking herself, grooming her fur.
I hope I can stick to what I say...
Echostripe heard Greenpaw's voice calling urgently. "What now? Are we running low on comfrey?" She grunted. "We can sort that out in the morning! It's in the middle of the night."
"No! Firestone. I think- I think he's dying." Greenpaw told her.
Shock filled Echostripe. "Go fetch Flamestar. He'll want to be there. I'll- I'll take care of Firestone as much as I can in his last moments."
Greenpaw nodded as he raced away towards Flamestar's den. Echostripe bustled into the elders' den, seeing Firestone groaning, and a fellow elder Stickpelt gently stroking his fur with his tail.
Echostripe bent down. "How are you?" She asked softly. Firestone lifted his head softly, but broke into coughing fits when he started speaking. Echostripe lay her paw on the elder's back.
Flamestar walked into the den, bending down to see his father. He let his muzzle rest on his head, whispering a few words.
Echostripe paniked. Firestone! He can't die now. Greenpaw entered with a chunk of ice in his jaws, dropping it at Firestone's paws.
"Drink." Greenpaw ordered.
Firestone bent forwards feebly and Flamestar gently nudged it towards Firestone. "Do as Greenpaw says," the leader told Firestone.
As the weak elder lapped against the ice, Echostripe saw Greenpaw staring out into the night sky blankly. "Are you ok?" She asked her apprentice. Greenpaw didn't look around to face her.
"It's ok. You can rely on me," Echostripe soothed.
Greenpaw faced her, trembling. "What if Firestone actually dies? What if we can't save him? Does an elder's death mean some bad omen for the Clan? Remember Ashleaf's death just a moon ago?" He turned away, scared.
Echostripe shut her eyes tight, trying to force the memory of the young warrior's death out of her mind. It felt fresh, so recently, though that was over three moons ago. She deeply blamed herself for not saving the warrior. Does he forgive me in StarClan?
"Echostripe!" Greenpaw's mew jerked her alert. "Come in..."
Firestone looked like a mess. He spluttered, and Flamestar lay his paw on his father's shoulder. The leader's eyes were deeply troubled.
"Goodbye... Flamestar... thank Echostripe and Greenpaw for me..." Firestone's eyes looked as if he was already staring into the forests of StarClan. His shoulders shook and Firestone convulsed, giving a huge shudder, then his head fell limp.
Flamestar let out a wail, and let his head rest on Firestone's flank. "Firestone!" His eyes were clouded with grief, and his voice was filled with pain.
Not a lot of cats were close with their warrior fathers, but Echostripe knew all their life, Flamestar had been close with Firestone, since Flamestar's mother, Willowleaf, had died of greencough. Echostripe could remember Firestone's eyes shining with pride was Flamestar, then Flamebreeze was announced deputy of ThunderClan, and Flamestar's worry when Echostripe informed him of Firestone's coughing illness.
Echostripe turned and saw trouble in Greenpaw's eyes. "Don't worry, Greenpaw," she murmured to her apprentice. "Death comes to every cat. You can't possibly save everyone. But this will only be the first when you become a full medicine cat."
Echostripe watched as the elders, Stickpelt and Redfur carried Firestone's bory and gently lay it in the middle of the camp. Flamestar still looked sad and Greenpaw was troubled. Although he had been an apprentice for many moons now, Firestone's death was his first death.
She approached Greenpaw. "I need to tell Flamestar that the vigil needs to be postponed. We're going to the Moonpool tonight." Echostripe stopped. What would Flamestar think, his medicine cats missing his father's vigil?
Then her thoughts raced to Greenpaw. He was competent, caring and knowledgeable about herbs. He was hardworking. And he was experienced. "And on that, Greenpaw. It's time you stop being an apprentice, and become a full medicine cat!"
Greenpaw's eyes lit up like fire. "Really? You really think I'm ready?"
Echostripe nodded. "Of course!"
Greenpaw dipped his head. "Thanks, Echostripe," he mewed shyly. "I'll be a great medicine cat, you'll see!"
Echostripe smiled. "I think I already know that!" She nuzzled Greenpaw affectionately. Greenpaw smiled back.
"I"ve given you travelling herbs," Echostripe told Greenpaw, nudging the herbs to him. "I've taken them already. You need to eat them, for the energy for the journey. I just need to inform Flamestar that we must postpone Firestone's vigil."
Greenpaw sighed. "Bad timing."
"But still..." Echostripe trailed on. She slowly padded to Flamestar's den, poking her head in.
"Flamestar? Can we talk?" Echostripe didn't want to disturb her leader after his grief.
"Yes?" Flamestar's orange pelt glowed in the darkness. "What is it, Echostripe."
"I'm not able to make it to Firestone's vigil, I'm sorry, Flamestar." Echostripe told him. "I need to attend the medicine cat meeting. I'm making Greenpaw into a full medicine cat!"