"Watch out Blackpaw," Sharptooth, his mentor warned the apprentice, "Don't lose your balance, or the prey will know you are there.":
Blackpaw nodded carefully, his eyes focused on the prey before him.
In the meanwhile a savage beast was watching the mentor and apprentice from behind the cover of a bush preparing to strike. It's black and white stripes bushy as it bared it's long and scary teeth.
Meanwhile, cats in the stars watched the scene below them play out sadly.
"It going to happen now," they murmured among themselves, "They are soon going to realize their fate... and the choice it will require them to make."
Beneath the starry cats two clans, BriarClan and DawnClan were in the middle of a heated battle. Several months of anger at the other clan was available in the cats as they scratched and bit and jumped on those other cats around them.
Brackenpaw was eager to get away from the battle without any scratches as he umped from cat to cat, not spending too much time wih any.
But luck wasn't on his side that night.
The dark clouds of the day continued to darken and the cats of StarClan sighed, as the dark moment approached, preparing to rip so many things into tiny shreds.
The destinies of the two apprentices was about to be rattled and shook. Nothing would ever be the same.
"Where am I," Blackpaw blinked his eyes slowly. A lush green forest lied right ahead of his feet, as he took slow and cautious steps forward, "Is this a dream?"
He took a quick glance around, to see if there were any cats around him, and when he saw none he felt his chest fluttering in panic.
What happened to me?
He tried to reach back into his hazy memories, trying to search for anything. But all he found was nothing. Nothing but a pair of beautiful emerald eyes clashing against a deep gray pelt. A she-cat, whom he didn't even know the identity of, but nothing else.
And, of course, his name.
He let out a puff of frustration. He had to be someone, right? And he had to be somewhere... As he continued to gaze at the grassy ground beneath his feet he felt an elevated feeling taking over him, as the grass slowly started to fade, to be replaced by clouds.
He let out a scream of horror, and looked around to find something to cling to, but everything around him had faded away into clouds and skies.
What is wrong?
He convinced himself that he was dreaming. No other explanation for the obscure things happening around him. That was until the clouds before him seemed to become transparent. He paused for a moment, hesitating before he took a small step forward, realizing that if it was a dream, the worst couldn't be that bad...
But what met him was worse.
Beneath the clouds he could see a lush forest, similar to the one which had been before him not too long ago. Cats mingled down there, as he saw some arguing, some hunting and some just eating. It felt familiar to him... a little too familiar.
And that was when he saw the eyes. Even from so far away he couldn't miss the way they shined, almost lighting up the whole forest, pushing their way out of her messy fur. Blackpaw's heart skipped a leap; and he wasn't sure if it was in joy or fear. She was the one thing he could recall... and yet she was so far away.
Just a dream he told himself, as he took slow steps back, and tried not to collapse into tears of frustration and fear. He felt lost and confused, unsure of where to go, who he was or what to do, just a dumb little dream...
I wonder what StarClan feels like? Brackenpaw wondered as the world around him began to spin and everything in it turned fuzzy. The forest began to fade from his sight, in a flash of light, but before it could completely leave him he felt blue eyes, burning into his, a desperate gleam in them, as they clashed against ginger fur.
"Please stay with me, Brackenpaw," she begged him, her eyes getting blurry, "Please be strong and fight the pain. You have to stay alive for the clan," her voice cracked, "For me."
She sounded so desperate Blackpaw would have done anything for her. But this wasn't something he could do. He had no control of the spinning lights and sounds as he blinked his eyes shut.
He soon found himself facing darkness, but didn't struggle to break free.
He waited for someone to find him. And someone did; rather they both seemed to find each other. There was a horror-struck look on the toms face as he was taking a few careful steps back. He didn't even notice Brackenpaw watching on the side.
"Hello," he whispered, and when the tom didn't reply, or even hear, a little louder, "Hello!"
He snapped his head around, his wide eyes took Brackenpaw in for a moment, "Who are you?" he softly asked, "Where is this place..."
"I don't know who I am," Brackenpaw honestly replied. He had realized it when the soft blue eyes met his. All he could remember were the eyes, and his name. Brackenpaw. "But I know we are dead. This is StarClan..."
Blackpaw felt his heart harden, "Dead..." he whispered, "I am dead..."
"Of course you are. What else did you think?" but this time it wasn't the strange apprentice that spoke. It was a cat that was walking up from behind him.
She was a beautiful tortoise with a cautious and sympathetic smile across her face, "You must feel so lost," she continued, "Let me take you somewhere that there are other cats who can help you."
Blackpaw sent Brackenpaw a curious glance but the apprentice was not looking at him. He just nodded at the cat, "Sure," he dipped his head, "And thanks."
She shrugged, "No problem, just follow me," she slowly began to paddle away, and realizing he had nothing else to do, Blackpaw followed the two cats.
Starclan, he thought as he looked around, admiring the view of the forest below him, I might be able to like it... If I knew who I was and how I came to be here...
Brackenpaw glanced around nervously, at the cats who were staring at him expectantly. He forced himself not to look up, into their experienced eyes as the murmured among themselves, obviously talking about the two new apprentices who had arrived to join them.
The she-cat who had found them before, was giving them her best smile, trying not to show the concern of whatever discussion they were having.
Brackenpaw turned to the other apprentice, "How does it feel to be dead?" he asked the apprentice, "Any... different than usual," he waited patiently as the apprentice thought for a moment before replying.
"I wouldn't know," he finally sighed, "I can't remember my life, so I don't know what it feels like to be alive. I can't compare two things when I don't even know one."
Brackenpaw looked down at his paws, not admitting to the tom that the same exact thing was true for him and he knew nothing about his life except that his name was Brackenpaw and he knew someone called Redwillow.
Finally the StarClan cats stopped whispering and turned to them; as Brackenpaw could tell they had made up their minds on whatever they were discussing. He felt his stomach harden, What if they are not going to let us in because we are too young? Or because we don't remember our past?
But StarClan didn't seem to have even discussed that possibility.
"What are your names?" one cat asked them, and the two apprentices exchanged a quick look with each other, before Brackenpaw answered first.
"And you?" she turned to the jet black apprentice with blue eyes, whom Brackenpaw realized, he still didn't know the name of.
"I'm Blackpaw," he replied, "And that is all I can tell you about myself as I don't know anything else."
There was a worried glance passing between the warriors, and they turned to Brackenpaw, "Can you remember anything?" they asked him, "Anything at all."
"Just my name... and a she-cat. One with beautiful blue eyes."
The reaction was silence.
A moment later there was an eruption of noise from the cats, which was quickly quieted down by the flick of a tail from the largest cat among them.
"Are you sure," he asked the two apprentices and they nodded without hesitating. The toms eyes widened, "We were warned that something like this might happen a little while ago... I wasn't ready to believe it..." he turned to his cats, "Do any of you know who the next cat to die in the forest will be."
"Blackbracken," a tom responded, "He will die tonight because of the whitecough he has caught. It's causing him a lot of damage."
The cat who had been addressing them paused, "They are the ones."
"Which ones?" Blackpaw asked, slightly frustrated with their secrecy, "what is wrong with us?"
"Nothing," he flicked his tail, "Well... actually I think I have some pretty good news for you two... You don't remember your lives... your pasts... and who you really are. Maybe it is because you need to relive it."
"Relive it?" Brackenpaw sounded confused.
He sighed, "You two were born at the same time, although you never knew it. And you two both died at the same time," he waited expectantly for their response.
"What does that have to do with anything," Blackpaw felt weary of their long questionings, "And what do you mean by 'relive'? Do we get our bodies back?"
He laughed, "Once you die the life in your body can never be returned. But spirits can continue to live on the land beneath us if StarClan decides it necessary."
"So you are going to resurrect us as two new kits and we won't remember this either?"
"We don't plan to ressurect you this time," he claimed, "And we won't wipe the few memories that you have and continue to build..." he paused, "We are going to inject your spirit into that of a cat who is about to die to keep him alive."
"Why?" Brackenpaw asked from beside Blackpaw, "What is the point of this."
"Blackbracken must live," he whispered, "We don't know why yet but we know that he has to stay alive... Something is happening in his clans, that he will have to prevent."
"But Blackbracken is only one cat," Blackpaw pointed out, as he felt his insides struggling to conceal their excitement, he was going to live again!
"You will share the body," he claimed and just like that; all of Blackpaw's excitement dissapeared.
Blackpaw couldn't say he exactly felt squished sharing a body with another cat but it felt uncomfortable. Like someone had trespassed on his territory and he had to resist the urge to attack the spirit of Brackenpaw which he could also feel resting inside the body that felt like it was his.
"Blackbracken," Blackpaw turned around to face a strong ginger tabby tom, and gasped. It was the leader of BriarClan, Scarstar.
"What's wrong?" the leader asked, confused, "Is your whitecough getting worse."
"Nope," Blackpaw could hardly believe the words that escaped his mouth. Because he wasn't the one that said them, and he could feel Brackenpaw continuing to talk for him, "I was just uh..."
"It's okay if you need to go to the medicine cat den," he squinted his eyes at Blackbracken, "There is no need to feel upset. I am sure you will heal soon."
"I am fine," this time Blackpaw beat Brackenpaw to it, "A mouse just ran through my paws... I think at the sound of your voice."
He narrowed his eyes, "Fine," he shrugged, "But if I hear the smallest cough I am sending you back to the medicine cat den where Lilyscent can deal with you. I can't afford to get the clan sick.
Blackbracken nodded, in a combined effort of both Blackpaw and Brackenpaw as Blackpaw began to grow more and more annoyed with the presence of Brackenpaw in his body.
Turning away from the leader Brackbracken decided to go hunting. Blackpaw felt himself being pulled in one direction while Brackenpaw appeared to be taking a step in the other.
"Let me try to catch this one," Blackbracken murmured to himself, "I seem to remember being good with mouse.
"Fine," Brackenpaw heard himself, more like Blackpaw, replying, "But don't miss it. I really wanted to catch the rabbit that just went by."
"I am just regaining my memory," Brackenpaw claimed, "I can't remember all of the hunting advice. I can't even remember one peace. I am trying to guess how to hunt now. Don't forget how many you missed."
There was no response from himself as he pulled in his hindlegs and leaped at the mouse. After a seconds hesitation and a few seconds worth of chasing it was in his jaws.
"I knew I could do it," he commented, again with no reply.
Blackpaw played with the bedding on the nest, and rolled around a moment, before trying to go to sleep. But his body felt like it was in all the wrong angles and the last thing on his mind was sleep. He was thinking about StarClan, his true purpose, why he had to stay alive, and of course... eyes.
Life isn't easy being someone you are not, he thought bitterly, I wonder how long I will have to cope with the prospect of sharing a body, and not being able to be my own person.
But the answer was simple and plain.
Blackpaw, and Brackenpaw, would never get to be themselves again. Not until their second dying breath. They were bound together in a search to discover who they really were.
But first they would have to discover who everyone else thought they were.
Brackenpaw felt his heart pounding as he took soft but brisk steps towards the she-cat, who obviously didn't belong to BriarClan. But he found that didn't matter to him.
And it didn't seem to matter to her either.
She eyed him curiously, "You remind me of someone I know. It's not as much the way you look but..." she paused, "The way you walk and hunt and smile... it just seems to familiar."
Brackenpaw didn't respond. He was far too caught up in the pretty eyes of the cat he faces, unable to pull himself out of the spell, out of the blueness, out of his past.
"What is your name?" he softly asked her, "Are you a warrior yet."
She remained quiet for a moment before speaking, "My name is Bluestorm," she whispered, "After my eyes. And I just became a warrior a few nights ago..." she paused and Brackenpaw could see tears clouding her eyes, "I was supposed to become a warrior with my best friend but he... he... he died," a fat tear rolled down her cheek,"His name was Brackenpaw and he was murmuring for our elder..."
But Blackbracken was no longer listening. He had tuned out and was listening to his beating heart. He could feel Blackpaw inside of him, a little uncomfortable at the situation but he ignored the RoseClan apprentice. This moment had to be perfect. He knew this she-cat.
And she was the first step towards discovering his identity.
"My name is Blackbracken," he whispered, and then paused a moment, debating whether or not to tell Bluestorm the truth. He decided against it, "I love your eyes..." he trailed off, "They remind me of..." he stuttered not sure what to say but the ginger she-cat didn't hold it against him.
"Thanks," she whispered before quickly turning around, "I have to go back to my clan now... but I want to meet you later if that is okay... could I come here tomorrow night?" she asked her eyes wide, pleading and despearte in a way that Brackenpaw couldn't have turned down even if he didn't want to.
"Of course," he purred.
"Are you sure we have never met before?" Blackpaw was far too deep into the trance that the green eyes had put him under to care about anything less.
He mumbled something that probably came out inaudible.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, "That was a really dumb question... I wanted to know if you might remember me from anywhere, because I know that you remind me of some one."
Blackbracken shifted awkwardly, "You must be thinking about someone else," he whispered, "I don't even know your name..."
"I'm Greeneye," she whispered, "A new warrior in RoseClan."
"Oh," Blackbracken paused for a moment while Blackpaw tried to think of something, anything to say, "That's a nice name," he claimed, "It suits you well. I really like your eyes."
She smiled a little cautiously, "I noticed."
"Oh," Blackpaw felt ready to burst from embarassment.
"Let's meet here tomorrow night," she whispered suddenly, "I have to go soon. Um... you seem like a nice cat," she flicked her tail kindly, "Although I can't shake off the feeling I know you."
"Me neither," Blackbracken replied when she wasn't listening.
"Blackbracken are you okay?" an amused purr came from the cat across him, who neither Blackpaw nor Brackenpaw knew, "Your paws seem to be splitting you in half.
"Ha, ha," they both answered at the same time, denying that it was true, and that their legs, did in fact, appear to be taking the body in different directions.
Blackpaw wished their was a way they could mentally communicate because the only way they could communicate was when they actually spoke. And the clan would hear them if they had a conversation in the middle of camp.
He laughed, "Well, decide which direction you want to go to and head that direction already. The camp can't bother to have you clogging it, while you try to sort out your body, and which voice you would rather listen to."
Both cats attempted to make Blackbracken roll their eyes, but since they each rolled their eye a different way so his eyes just glitched for a moment before staying in place.
Fortunately for him, Blackpaw was far more stubborn than the other apprentice who soon gave up and let them walk in the direction that Blackpaw pleased.
Blackpaw couldn't help feeling a swell of pride. He had always known that he would be a good leader and it was obvious that he would have to be the one to lead the other apprentice. He decided that he would announce it once they were far away enough from camp.
"What?" Brackenpaw felt like he had been bit in the stomach, "You are saying that you want to take complete control over the body while I watch you live my life?"
"I don't mean that," Brackenpaw felt his voice pausing for a moment and wanted to throw himself into the river if it meant Blackpaw would drown along with him, "I want to lead our body, not take control over it. There is a difference. I am a natural leader and you saw what happened in camp this morning.
"Couldn't we take turns?" Brackenpaw knew he sounded desperate but he didn't attempt to hide it, "I do want to enjoy this life to."
"The clan would realize," he heard himself responding, "Remember that this isn't about living again. StarClan needs our help and your selfishness can't get in the way of that."
Brackenpaw sighed, realizing that the tom was right. But before he completely agreed he remembered to stop himself, "What about Bluestorm? I have to continue seeing her," he no longer cared how pleading he sounded, "I need to learn my past and who I really am. I already knew that I loved her."
"How sweet," Blackpaw's voice was brisk, "But this isn't a moppy love story. We have business to do and I can't have your pathetic feelings getting in the way."
"Then why will you continue to see Greeneye?" Brackenpaw demanded furiously.
Blackpaw sighed, realizing he couldn't win that fight, "Fine," he finally whispered, "But I lead your body the rest of the time."
It wasn't like he had a choice.
"Blackbracken," Brackenpaw felt himself whirling around and facing his favorite blue eyes, and almost felt as if he was glancing into a sea.
"Yes?" he whispered, trying to enjoy the time he actually got to use his body, without having Blackpaw make every move for him.
"I..." she stammered for a moment before pulling her bright eyes back up, "I love you."
Brackenpaw didn't hesitate to reply, "I love you too."
"But we are in different clans," pain cracked through her voice, "I don't want to make you come to mine but I can't imagine going to yours."
"I'm sorry," Blackbracken croaked, "But I just couldn't leave my clan for you... And I don't want to force you to join our clan so that you can be with me... I don't mind keeping this a secret."
But she obviously did, "It's okay," she whispered, "You won't be forcing me," a soft smile crept across her face, "I woul.d be happy to join BriarClan for you, Blackbrakcen. You remind me so much of the old cat I used to love and I would give anything for him," her eyes softened even more, "I would give anything for you too."
"But what about your family?" he asked her, "Your friends and your clan. You can't just ditch them like that. You worked so hard to make your friends and your family would be heartbroken."
"It's worth it," she whispered, and for a moment Brackenpaw believed her. He believed every word she whispered and fell under their trance.
Although he would soon be woken up by the call of reality.
"What were you thinking?" Blackpaw asked furiously as he faced the pool which lied beneath his feet. It was a quiet place, where cats didn't come making it the perfect place for their discussions.
"I couldn't turn her down," the voice cracked, "She was so sweet and sincere."
"Can I remind you?" Blackpaw snapped, furiously, "That Greeneye already offered to come to the clan. The night before you offered that to Bluestorm.
He heard a loud gasp, "I didn't remember that," he heard the apprentice murmur, "I was not paying attention when you were meting with Greeneyes."
"Why not?" Blackpaw felt too stressed to worry about patience.
"It's not my life anymore," he heard the apprentice mumble, "Why should I worry about anything that happens if I won't have to do anything because of it. Why should I have to pay attention to a life that is not mine? Why should I care, Blackpaw? Why should I care?"
Blackpaw realized that the apprentice had a point but he was not prepared to admit it, "You should pay attention," he hissed, "Because StarClan sent us here to get something done. Not for you to mop over your blue-eyed friend," he knew he was being hypocritical but he couldn't help it. Brackenpaw was just acting so... selfish!
"So now what?" he heard the apprentice murmur.
"The two she-cats will both come tomorrow night," he sneered angrily, "I don't get why you had to invite yours too," he forced himself to stop scolding, "You will speak to Bluestorm before she arrives and tell her not to come."
"No," the toms voice was harsh, "We will have to send both away. Or we will face the embarassment of meeting them both in camp."
"I thought we agreed that I was in charge?" Blackpaw snapped.
"When it didn't come to she-cats," he heard himself replying, "I thought we agreed on that."
Blackpaw sighed, hating that the apprentice was right, "Fine," he mumbled, "We will tell them both to stay in their clans because we feel guilty."
Blackbracken nodded in response, "I can't say I am pleased, but I guess it's a deal."
"I'm sorry Bluestorm," and he really was. It took every once of strength and courage inside of Blackbracken to mutter those words, "But my clan won't allow it."
"They won't?" hurt and disbelief entered her eyes, "Or are you just saying that because you are afraid of the way you are going to be looked at. I thought our love was more important than the way other cats viewed us," there was an unbelieving look on her face, like she felt she was in a dream.
"They won't," he responded, "And you mean more to me than the popularity in my clan," he paused, "Is it okay if we continue to meet in private? At least until we come up with a better plan?"
"Fine," she huffed, before storming off, leaving Brackbracken with feeling that it was not fine at all.
"I understand," Greeneye lowered her eyes cautiosly, "But I don't think you can blame me for my suspicions," she hesitated, "I just can't help wondering."
Blackbracken nuzzled against Greeneye as Blackpaw felt a pang of remorse. He could have lived with this cat and now he had lost the opportunity. All because of the stuck up Brackenpaw with whom he was being forced to share a body.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled, "It's just the way things are."
A loud sigh came from her, "I understand... I guess."
"We can continue to meet," Blackbracken offered kindly, "I couldn't imagine going a day without seeing you. I would hope that you feel the same way."
She nodded, although her nod didn't seem enthusiastic at all, "I do, Blackbracken. And I guess I will be here tonight so that I can speak with you again."
Blackbracken purred, "You better."
But she didn't.
And neither did Bluestorm.
"This is all your fault," Brackenpaw whispered as he glanced into the small pond, trying to get a glimpse of what he looked like, "I wish you had never sent Bluestorm off."
"Well I lost Greeneye," the warrior countered, "Because of you."
Is that really me? Brackenpaw wondered into his reflection. It almost did look like him; but it looked like Blackpaw too and the features it shared with Blackpaw seemed to dominate the similarities between Brackenpaw and Blackbracken. Just like he has done with Blackbracken's actions. Brackenpaw thought sourly.
"I loved Bluestorm," he whispered, "She was the one thing I had... and now I have lost her."
"I loved Greeneye," he heard himself replying with much more confidence than he had used.
"But you had something else," Brackenpaw countered, "You had a body to use. I don't. I don't have anything anymore except for the hopes that she might return."
"What if I told you I could give you more?"
Blackbracken turned around in shock, curious to who had interrupted their session talking with each other, and bothered to come to the peaceful lake.
It was the medicine cat of BriarClan, with her beautiful cream coat; Lilyscent.
There was silence between the cats for a short period of time, as neither removed their eye from the other, while each dared the other to speak first.
Lilyscent won the dare.
"Excuse me?" Blackpaw felt his claws scratching against the dirt in worry of what the medicine cat may have heard and learned.
"It's fine," she flicked her tail in dismissal, "I heard everything," there was a smug and proud look on her face, "Not that I had not suspected it."
"Suspected what?" Blackpaw asked, his heart racing.
She rolled her eyes, "Aren't you going to let the other cat speak too? It seems to me like you have taken control over the body you were supposed to share."
"Why does that concern you?"
She shrugged, "It doesn't."
"Then what do you want?" Blackbracken bared his teeth, "And why are you even here? If Scarstar sent you tell him that I do not have whitecough."
"Of course you don't," she replied sweetly, "I am here because I wanted to make you aware of an opportunity. Something that could solve your struggle..."
"What is that?" she had immediately caught the attention of Blackpaw and he was willing to bet that Brackenpaw was listening even more closely.
She flicked her tail, indicating for them to come closer together so that no cat could hear what the medicine cat was about to say, "This goes against everything my code taught me..." she whispered, "But I never wanted this code. And if I need to break the medicine cat code to escape it, that is what I will do."
Blackpaw felt a nervous churn in his stomach, "What is it?" he asked, "Are we going to find you a new mate or something? What do you want out of this?"
She paused for a moment, before she sighed, "I have a disease," she finally whispered, "One that prevents me from fighting or hunting. The normal duties of a warrior."
"What is it called?" Blackbracken asked confused, "I have never heard of a disease like that before."
She flicked her tail at them, "Of course not," she scolded, "It's rare and there isn't even a name for it. But I can't waste time bothering to describe it. What I want out of this is the body of Blackbracken," she must have caught the horrid look on his face because she quickly added, "You will have your own body by then. That way, you will each have your own bodies and I can become a warrior."
"What do we have to do?" Blackpaw asked, getting a little worried, "To obtain this body."
She leaned even further in, prepared to scare the young apprentices with the words she murmured next.
Brackenpaw felt his heart rip. How could he possibly do what Lilyscent had asked him to? It was a horrible thought that the medicine cat could be banished for if the word came out.
But what other choice did he have?
Could he really live the rest of his life in this body, sharing it with a cat that easily managed to boss him around and dominate him?
But could he live knowing that he did what he had to in order to keep his own body?
Brackenpaw wondered if he would be able to even live at all, no matter what choice he made, but he forced himself to let those thoughts go.
The morning would reveal everything when Lilyscent would bring the cats they needed and test how much the two cats actually cared about their freedom.
And their honor.
"Wait here," Liluscent whispered urgently, "I'll go get your bodies soon. In the meanwhile why don't you two try to discuss how you plan to do the same thing to two cats at the same time."
"Does it have to be at the same time?" Blackbracken asked as Blackpaw could feel his heart quickening; as he still tried to face the decision he was about to make and what he would chose.
If he got a body it would be one that he didn't have to share; and one that belonged to RoseClan where Greeneye lived. And the one he was sure that he lived before he died. He could learn his past, he could become mates with Greeneye and he might stand a chance at becoming a leader.
He could learn his past.
What did he have to lose?
If he was caught he could be kicked out of the clans, but Lilyscent had assured them that no such thing would happen. And she would be careful about that too.
Her position as the medicine cat was at stake.
But he couldn't think of anything else he might lose, from killing an apprentice so that he could take their body. But was it quite as big of a deal for him as he was making it to be? He had a body, Brackenpaw had let him use it and it didn't feel like sharing to him at all. Except during the rare occasion in which if he failed he might lose the body, but that wasn't much of a loss.
How much did he really have to gain?
Could he live knowing what he did just to gain a little more comfort and privacy?
Brackenpaw would have no problem letting him keep charge of the body and hadn't StarClan said it was necessary that Blackbracken remained alive.
Heart beating like thunder as he could hear nothing but the sound of his breathing and see nothing but his reflection in the water below, he finally made his choice.
And deep down, he knew it was the right choice, and felt proud of himself for making it.
Brackenpaw looked down into the pond below him.
Who really am I? he wondered as he gazed into it dreamily, not wanting to be pulled out of his reflection... his and Blackpaw's.
And it showed him all of the answers.
He was not Brackenpaw anymore, as long as he remained in this body. He was the hidden traits of Blackbracken which were being drowned out by the stronger ones of Blackpaw.
He is ruling me... Brackenpaw realized, he isn't letting me live. He isn't letting me be, his insides filled with pain, jealousy and envy at the theft. At the way the dark apprentice had managed to manipulate him so easily. The way he didn't even need to put up a fight.
The way Brackenpaw hadn't bothered to fight back.
And he knew that if he didn't act at that moment, if he didn't take what StarClan had been willing to give him, he would never ever get it. Blackpaw would always rule Blackbracken, and Brackenpaw would never escape his shadows. He would live his life as nothing but a memory... and a spirit.
And at that point as Brackenpaw looked into the pond he knew what he was going to do; the only thing he could do in this situation. Not the right choice.
The only choice.
He tried to turn his head away from the pond, scared of what had happened to his reflection. Scared of what kind of beast he would see when he looked into it.
But he couldn't.
Blackpaw still had control over the body.
Blackpaw wasn't the slightest bit prepared for it. One moment he was staring at the small pond and the next moment he had his head snapped up and he was facing two young apprentices.
"Lilyscent said you needed to speak with us," one of the cats whimpered, "She said it was very important... Are you going to hurt us."
"Don't listen to Lilyscent," he urged the cats, "Get out of here," he flicked his tail but the cats wouldn't move, curiosity keeping them there.
"Is something wrong?" their voices were soft and worried.
"Attack," he heard himself hissing, "Attack them!"
"Attack!" Brackenpaw's head was whirling. What was wrong with Blackpaw? Why was he sending them away? He was supposed to attack them.
"I thought you were a good cat," he heard Blackpaw responding to him, "We already have a body and we can't claim two just to be a bit more comfortable."
Brackenpaw could hardly believe the injustice... but then again he almost could. This was Blackpaw the greedy tom who so easily took the chance of living again away from Brackenpaw and hogged it all for himself without feeling a scrap of sympathy.
"If you won't do it I will," he hissed, and forcing himself to break free of Blackpaw's influence he hurled Blackbracken at the apprentices, willing to so anything to get his freedom back.
"NO!" he heard a loud screech as Blackbracken hit the ground sharply, and Brackenpaw could feel pain against his jaws, as he forced himself back up and began to chase the apprentices.
By now, the apprentices had realized that it was not safe to remain there and were running away, trying to escape the dark cat. But determination drove Brackenpaw as he fought off Blackpaw and pounced again, both claws outstreched.
This time he didn't miss.
Blackpaw looked at his bloody paws in horror before the cats who lied beneath them. He had just killed a cat.
If Brackenpaw were there, he would have leaped on the cat, to see if he liked it when others attacked him. But Brackenpaw wasn't there.
At least in a way that Blackpaw could harm the tom without harming himself.
But did he really want to live after he had technically been responsible for the life of two cats.
The answer was simple and easy to find.
And so much easier to accept.
"What are you doing?" Brackenpaw cried in pain as he felt a pair of claws, his own claws coming against his cheek, "Are you trying to kill yourself?"
"I am trying to kill you," the voice hissed, "And if that means I will die in the process, I am fine with it. I would rather be dead than share a body with a killer."
Grief and pain blinded Brackenpaw's thoughts and he refused to think of the lives which he had claimed, "You left me no choice!"
But even he knew that was wrong.
"You failed, Brackenpaw!" he heard Blackpaw yowl as another swipe from himself slashed across his head again, this time his nose and he could feel the blood leaving his body, "And that means I failed too!"
Brackenpaw tried to break free; of Blackbracken, of Blackpaw and of his guilt. But it was no use. He was trapped under a tent of emotions he had created for himself.
And now that he had taken these steps, there would be no turning back.
In pain, misery and and guilt but not regret Blackbracken finally let go of the stress on his legs and threw his body onto the ground; bloody, battered and distraught.
It wasn't worth it...'
It wasn't worth my freedom.
"You have disappointing us," the two apprentices couldn't see the cats around them, but the voices were harsh and fierce. One that only made them feel worse, "We trusted you, we gave you a second life, and the opportunity to discover who you were, but you ruined it. You failed to get along."
Neither of the apprentices said anything.
There was nothing to say.
"You will not go to the DarkForest," the voice claimed, and both cats couldn't help having their spirits lifted in hope, that perhaps they were about to earn StarClan; something they knew they didn't deserve but wouldn't hesitate to accept anyways.
"You will be going to the land beyond StarClan and the DarkForest," he claimed, crushing all of their new found hope, "A land for the spirits of spirits, as nothing can ever fade completely, as much as we would like to do that to you."
"Nothing can ever leave the state of existence," the cat sighed, "And neither shall you. In this world of deceased spirits however, I must warn you. You will have to live together in order to survive. You will have to become partners.
For real this time.
A dark and shaded land, filled with all sorts of cats; good and bad. Dwelling together, cats who must either face their crimes and rot along with them or those who have done good and will relish on those deeds during the time they spend there. The only thing they will ever have to relish.
Blackpaw and Brackenpaw are among those who will rot.
But there is one thing that makes this pair different from the other miserable cats around them as they walk and eat and talk together.
They have each other.
They have put their past behind; their hatred towards each other, the resentment they feel because they believe they are not the ones truly responsible for being denied access into StarClan.
And it may not be the best life. Both probably wish they had made a different choice when they were living; the first time or the last, but at least they can hate their fates together.
For real this time, as they don't have to make the world chose between them; as they worry about being to weak to get noticed or needing control over the other.
They are no longer the black or the bracken.
In the dark and gory land they are forced to live in they have become partners; the black and the bracken.