gather what's left / post-battle

*:・゚✧*:・゚✧ The march home from the war they were bullied into is grim and difficult. Cats are bearing the weight of their fallen friends. They are limping from torn flesh and battered bodies, broken bones. They are realizing with every step that injustice has occurred, that they have lost so much due to greed and their own stubborn refusal to seek safety elsewhere.

They are suffering, and there is only more to come.

Blaise's paws are not bloody. He had initiated Rain's retaliation, had run from Briar and her battle party as though each of them chased him and meant to purge him from the forest. Had burst into camp with his flanks heaving, his words a stutter of fear. "Briar's here. She's--she's--says it's war."

He almost hadn't gone back to the great clearing between the massive oaks. He had almost deigned to either stay in camp and tend to those left behind, or, in some part of his mind, return to his housefolk's nest and pray to some higher being they would be there to let him in. His own cowardice had astonished him, though, and finally he had mustered up scraps of courage and gone to the battlefield.

Carnage. Blaise had never seen a dead cat before, never wanted to again. Marigold, Sarsparilla, Char, Onceler, his friend Haku, the firefly watcher. Rain himself, throat torn and eyes blank, unseeing.

Blaise has the images of their frozen bodies and snarled face burned into his brain. He will never get rid of them. And furthermore--what had happened after--the cats made up of silver wind and starlight--

He blunders into camp and slows to a stop, staring at his ginger paws. What do they do now, he wonders. What do they do? Rain is dead. The cat who had welcomed him into the colony with open arms is gone. Has he any claim to stay here? Who will lead them now?

Because after hearing what the star cats had said... it does not seem like things are over. Peace has not been won. There is more to do, even if they don't know exactly what that is yet.

// takes place directly after the battle, just a thread for the pine cats to return home and decompress / discuss / mourn / etc !!

Where there once was rage and bloodlust, there is a serene grief. Fritter had trudged home by herself, not bothering to seek her friend out- it would not have felt right after seeing Marigolds young body sprawled dead on the ground, seeing Rain himself being taken down. Inwardly Fritter finds herself... blaming herself. If she had just been stronger, quicker to burst from the undergrowth and on to Soot, maybe Marigold would still be walking alongside the pinecats. Bile rises in her throat and a deep rooted ache spreads through her bones. She has failed these cats, failed everyone, Tugger, Finch, Marigold, Rain, everyone. Her wounds sting like nothing else but the knowledge of loss cuts deeper than any scratches or bites she had received. She finds herself wishing that the star filled cats struck down the living instead.

Fritter is sitting off to the side of the camp, not bothering to lick her wounds- she deserved this. She deserved the pain she felt, the blood crusting her fur. Tears threaten to bubble up, she can feel them, but nothing falls but a half-hearted sigh. Dull eyes scan the camp for remaining survivors, I never noticed how vibrant this camp was until now. Until the cats that made it vibrant fell to the ground lifeless. Blaise is standing in the middle of the camp and she can tell he's struggling with everything, she can see it in his eyes, the lack of shine. "Are you... okay?" she speaks up, breaking the silence that had fallen over them before she cringed. "No... No ones okay." she answers her own question with a bow of her head. "What do we do without them? Do we go back, bury our dead?" her own voice wavers, cracks, splinters like a cracked piece of wood. She would be lying if she said she was confident in the future. No... This battle showed that the future was uncertain, not guaranteed... What were they to do?

The beginnings of new scars decorated Ember's flank as she limped into camp, each marking another hard won victory. Her shoulder got the worst of it, torn into by tooth and claw both, it was a mess of blood and fur. A wound she'd be feeling for the rest of her life. It was an injury befitting the battle she'd fought. Over and over again she had bested the challenges put before her. It had been the longest, hardest fight of her life, but she had survived it. Any other day, she might have considered that a triumph.

Now though, looking at the bloodied frames of her groupmates mates around her, she didn't feel that. She didn't feel much of anything. There was a pit in her stomach as her heart broke anew at how small and desperate their number looked now. It was her own failure staring her in the face. Even though she had tried to battle back the marsh cats, given her all to send them running back to their own camp and save her friends, it hadn't worked.

All of it had meant nothing. The only thing she had managed to do was survive.

The feeling threatened to eat her from the inside out. She had never felt so helpless. There was no escape from it within her, so she turned outward. Sought her groupmates. They still needed her she reasoned, those that were still living, she could help them. At least she hoped she could, she didn't think she could bear being so helpless again.

"We will be okay though." Ember attempted to reassure brightly as her steps led her to Blaise and Fritter, struggling to find a smile. "The cats from the stars, they said so, Rain said so. Our friends are in the stars now and they came down to tell us what to do to make everything work out." She insisted with a vigor she hadn't expected. The words were as much to persuade herself as they were the others. How badly she needed to believe they were true. "We just need to follow their guidance. Right?"

The question of what to do with the bodies, however was another matter. "Um," she attempted, before trailing off. There had just been so many of them. Where were they even meant to start? It wasn't like they could just leave them there either, it was in the middle of the territory.
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Red stumbles back into the camp with glazed over eyes, unseeing to the world around him which seemed to have dulled in color, become less sharp around the edges. He holds on paw close to his body, dried blood sticking to it. A grim reminder that he had been injured, the sight of the blood reminding him how close to death he had come.

He did not know what to do in this world without his father. The silver tom had become a constant in his life, someone to turn to when he needed help or advice, a shoulder to cry on or a body to hide behind because he knew his dad would always protect him, no matter what. He had proved it to be true. Red wished it not so.

He did not want to walk into the clearing where they made their home and realize how empty it was. Without his dad or the other cats who had lost their lives it just didn’t feel the same. As they arrive at their destination he looks up and around and his eyes land on Blaise as he heads the straggled group, then drift over to Fritter as she speaks then Ember all in turn.

He does not see how it will be okay, his father is gone and Red finds no comfort in the knowledge he is among the stars. Selfishly, he wants him here, not off somewhere in the sky. He does not say as much though, choosing instead to hold his tongue.

It was almost heartbreaking to see how badly injured his comrates looked as they returned back to camp at final last. But it also made it clear that his decision to not take part and instead stay back here to watch over the camp and the ones who was unable to take part in the fight had been the right one. Even if they had not been the ones who had called out for this pointless war Black was happily spared from it. But now when they where back though the black tom would hurry himself over to greet his comrates back home. " Heya guuuuuys!, welcome back!." he would greet cheerfully like he couldn't read the room at all. " Sooooo, did we win?." he asked his face revealing he had all of this time had fate in them all that victory would be thier today. However, his smile and happy face faded of instantly when the atmosphere finally caught up to him, and how down everyone looked.

" Oh, so it went that bad huh?." It was a statement to himself speaking out aloud of course, as it slowly sink in to him that this battle not had went so well he had been hoping for it should have. But what to expect?. Wars never lead to anything good, just death and fallen comrates that they never would see again. That was why he rather run away from it then having to face it straight on. Perhaps Blaise should have made the same decision earlier that day, to tell everyone to run instead of leading them into a bloodbath alongside Rain who also seemed nowhere to be found. Decisions after decisions, whatever got decided there always seemed to be bottled up regrets behind them all. Maybe there never truly was a good decision when it come to war. Solely guilt and blaming. Aha, how ugly war could be.

If anything Black hated wars because look how awkward it was now?. He would never dare claim to be good to be considerate when it come to others feelings or being the comfort they all might need from him right now. He was good at making cats laugh or just chase him angrily through the territory because of having gone to far with a joke or a prank, but words of console wasn't his thing at all!.

Black didn't know when exactly he had started to stare down at his own paws, lacking words to say as he wished he could be somewhere else right now, anywhere but here no matter how heartless that might sound. He wanted more then anything else to distance himself from situations such like this. That was then, Ember said something rather absurd that catch the clueless tom's attention. The cats from the stars?. Okay wow that was taking it a bit to rough then necessery needed wasn't it?. " Uhm, i think you hit your head a little bit to hard out there Em..." or maybe she was in denial over thier fallen ones..Not like he could blame her for sounding crazy right now he guess. " Maybe you should lay down or something. Maybe everyone should. All of you look like you just have come back from the dead..." Another uncalling thing to say in this very moment..but when had Black ever been good at shutting his mouth?.
( ✧ ) The trek back home had been miserable, to say the least. A sorry patrol of ruffed-up cats, quiet in their shared grievance. A cloud seemed to hang over their heads, following the group home despite the supposed words of the fallen. (He wasn't sure if he quite believed that tale, but found few other ways to string together what he'd heard.) Others had taken it much better than he, Ember with her words of encouragement about as empty as her own head. He fails to find any solace in the words of the dead. The rhymes they had spit back at the living held no importance to him.

Impassive, that was his stance. Dull eyes stare straight at nothing at all. His own paws felt foreign to himself, a touch he couldn't collaborate with any sight. His weight leans against someone else's. It's uncomfortable, foreign, relying on strength that isn't his own.

The words of... his groupmates, he supposes, are little more than dull static in his ears—low murmurings of grief and half-hearted cheer from Ember. The question of the bodies strikes somewhat of a chord. It was a question that left even her speechless. Perhaps he was lucky to not lay eyes on the aftermath.

A cheerful greeting stands out amongst the crowd, its utterly uncanny amongst the others. Star's nostrils flare in a heavy breath, exasperated. Did we win? It was the sort of question a wide-eyed kit would ask. A soul with cotton in their head and stars in their eyes. They did not sound like a kit, though. The tom's brows pinch together.

And in a way, he could relate. The fallen ones, oh, he hadn't the pleasure of seeing them with his own eyes. It sounded made up, like a story you'd tell to kits. But even then, he'd be a little more sensitive about it. Blinding Star smiles, tight-lipped. "Wow." his jaws part in a humorless chuckle. "Are you stupid? Doesn't take a genius to notice... Oh! A lot more of us left than those of us coming back now, isn't that right?" he glances behind himself, before letting out another bark of laughter. "I can't even see, and I could tell you that. Maybe you should take a breather yourself..." his words peter out into something half-hearted. Sharp pain between his eyes hits him again at full force, a dull, throbbing ache.

Where Squall would usually stand beside his father, he finds himself standing beside a sibling instead.

Red, who almost died. Red, who Rain saved. Red, who Squall should've gotten to first, so Rain could still be standing here, with Red taking Squall's space beside his father. So the group could still have someone to lead them.

So someone could ask Rain just what exactly he means, with all his creeper vine talk.

The silver tabby is unable to look at Blaise. He knows he's trying to find blame in this, trying to find a reason to be angry that they were brought into battle by the flame point's words of warning. But, ultimately, Squall knows that, if it weren't Blaise, it would've been someone else, or worse, no one - resulting in potentially worse, all within his own home.

And yet, Squall can't help but wonder - just where was the newcomer during the battle?

Squall didn't think he saw the flame-furred tom at any point between his warning and Rain's message. Surely he was there. He wouldn't spread a warning, and then... just run, right? He hoped not, at least.

Fritter's voice shakes him out of his thoughts, distracts him from the rising anger forming within his grief.

"Rain deserves a better place to lay," he says, a tremble in his voice at the image of his father's lifeless form, neck ripped open, just left within the abandoned battlefield. At the image of everyone left behind - young and old, parents and children and siblings, all with killing blows delivered by a fight that shouldn't have had to happen. "They... They all do."

A cheerful voice breaks through the sadness - one too cheerful for the current atmosphere. One that fuels his anger.

"You're kidding, right?" he asks, a snarl rising in his voice as he turns to look at the black-furred feline. "Look around. Can't you see what damage has been done? We're injured. Some died. Cats lost their parents, their kits. And you're asking if we won?" If it weren't for Rain's demands for peace - and the fact that Black was part of the same group as him - he would attack. But no, he wouldn't go against his father's words.
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