the tui's last song

by bramblefire

for dogwood's short story contest

"if i could, i would spend my nine lives to save yours."

As Barkstar approached the camp for the first time, the first time after becoming the leader of RustleClan, he felt pretty nervous.

A mix of emotions was flooding through the young tom’s head. Grief for his previous leader, Twigstar, came out at him, for one. The leader, leader for his entire life, was gone: struck down by the massive wave of greencough that was sweeping the Clan.

So far, he’d been lucky. Others, however, hadn’t been. Many had caught the sickness, and some had died. The Clan was grieving for those that had been lost.

Worry stung at him for the cats that were sick. It especially hurt that he had family that was sick – his mate was one of the cats that had been struck down. Seeing the camp entrance not too far ahead of him now, he felt sick to the stomach; before he left, he heard that his mate was not doing well at all.

She’ll be fine. Barkstar tried to reassure himself, but nonetheless he still felt worried. She’ll recover, I just feel it.

He had now arrived at camp. For one moment, his pawsteps faltered as he reached the entrance: it was almost as if Barkstar didn’t want some of his burning questions to be answered. Next, although a little reluctantly, he stepped in.

As he came in, Barkstar noticed that the few cats in the clearing suddenly fell deathly silent. For a moment, they stared at him with an unblinking gaze, and it made him feel rather uncomfortable. Just because I’m leader doesn’t mean you all have to stare –

His thoughts were cut off as a young apprentice made an excited noise and ran towards him. The small cat’s gray fur was fluffed up as he made his way towards his new leader. As he approached, he slowed down to a stop, and looked up at Barkstar excitedly.

“Hi, Barkfur – no, Barkstar! Congratulations on your nine lives,” the apprentice mewed excitedly, voice high-pitched. He then paused for a moment, hesitating slightly, before mewing: “Duskfern and Yellowflower want to see you, by the way.”

At the first part of the apprentice’s words, Barkstar had felt happy, but all of that feeling vanished at the mention of the second part. …Oh dear, she’d better be okay! Trying not to act alarmed, the mottled brown cat mewed in his calmest voice: “Okay, thanks Stonepaw. I’ll be on my way over there.”

Stonepaw gave a quick nod before scampering away again. Barkstar swore the tom had a sad look in his eyes as he went, and dread filled him.

He shuddered, fearing the worst as he headed over to the medicine den. It wasn’t that far away, being close to the camp entrance, but this time it felt hike the distance took hours to travel. As Barkstar reached the entrance, peering into the den, he wasn’t sure what he was going to be told – but he strongly hoped that it wasn’t for the reason he thought it was for.

A dark shape suddenly appeared, green eyes fixed on him. “Barkstar, you’ve come at last,” Duskfern mewed, as the dark tabby medicine cat turned towards him. “Stonepaw told you to come here, yes?”

Barkstar nodded. “He did, Duskfern.”

Duskfern shook his head. “Okay, I thought so.” The brown cat exhaled, before he turned back towards the new leader. “Well… uh, I’m sorry to break this to you at this time, but…”

Suddenly, Barkstar knew what Duskfern was about to tell him. “No…” he wailed, looking down. “She’s…”

Duskfern nodded: “I’m afraid so: Tuifall’s not going to survive. You should probably go in and say your goodbyes: she’s getting pretty weak, and there’s nothing more we can do for her.”

“No…” Barkstar’s voice became a whimper now: he was in disbelief. I can’t lose her… not now, not now…! He was rendered speechless as Duskfern directed him through to another area of the medicine den.

Here, it smelt of sickness – it was disgusting, in Barkstar’s opinion, but if he wanted to say goodbye to Tuifall he had no choice. There was where he found her: in a nest, sprawled out, coughing and breathing rapidly. She looked miserable, but as she noticed him, he saw her eyes light up.

“Barkfur – no, Barkstar,” she whispered, her voice hoarse. “I – I’m sorry.” At this, the black she-cat broke out into a cough, amber eyes closing for a moment. “I…”

Tuifall fell silent, lost for words, and Barkstar, too, didn’t know what to say. All he wanted to do was wail, but he held his tongue. “It’s okay,” he mewed, trying to reassure both of them, but it only made the pain feel much worse.

His mate let out a weak purr at that. “I – I wish.” She coughed again. “I… I don’t want to go… I’m not ready.” Tuifall tried to shuffle in her nest, but she was so weak that she couldn’t really move – and Barkstar couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. His mate, once powerful and strong, had been reduced to a weak mess as a result of greencough. It was about to claim her.

“I…” Barkstar knew he felt the same way – he didn’t want her to go, that was for sure. He loved her so much… but he wasn’t sure how to state it. He paused for a while, thinking, keeping his gaze on his mate.

Then, suddenly, he thought of something.

Bending over to his mate, he touched noses with her. They touched noses, and he whispered the words he’d chosen to her: “If I could, I would spend my nine lives to save yours.”

A very weak purr escaped Tuifall. That was her response to that: and it didn’t last very long before she fell silent. For the last time, the black she-cat breathed out, and she fell still.

She was gone now.

Unmoving, Barkstar continued to stay by Tuifall’s body. This, he knew was the last time he’d ever see her – and he was grieving.

author's note

oops only just realized that I never wrote an author's note for this wHOOPS. I wrote this in may 2017 and i'm writing this in October of the same year. gj brams, gj.

also to clear this up super quick a tui is a type of bird. so yeah, tuifall's name kinaa doesn't make sense xD. then again, how many names in warriors don't make any sense?

so yeah this was written for that contest thing ("if I could, I would spend my nine lives to save yours"). something happened to that contest, I don't remember exactly what, oh well. I enjoyed writing this though!!! poor barkstar though </3

thanks for reading this, and I hope you enjoyed it! <3

until next time,

so look out down below

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