if i cut out all the noise - starling

She had never felt so tired before. The return from camp had been a disaster; everyone was mad and upset and confused, the cat who had been named their medicine cat was a murderer, and her promise had been broken. During her walk back from Moonstone, everything had felt so perfect. Like all the work she had been putting in for her clan was finally coming together. How had it fallen apart so quickly?

It was late now, the sun had set and Cinder had fallen asleep. No longer needing to keep an eye on her, Emberstar finally had a moment to herself. Silently, she had pulled herself out of cam, it no longer felt as comfortable as it once had. She was settled now into the roots of a great oak, slowly cleaning the last of the blood out of her fur. The stars shimmered above her, and she wondered if they had known what Cinder would do. If it had been a part of their plan. Had they given her nine lives so that she could survive it?

She paused in her work, glancing up. Her mouth opened to ask them but the words didn't come. Instead a heavy sigh tore itself from her. Her gaze fell back down to the blood still matted into her fur. What a mess.

// @starling
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Starling had been one of those to express her outrage, disdain. It was her first time watching death, and her first time witnessing the ‘miracles’ of this so called Starclan. To think there was a higher power tugging the string and making cats blindly follow, it made her sick to her stomach. If she had stopped to think, she’d fall apart, so she had kept herself busy with providing the clan with fresh prey. She had left out as soon as everything dispersed and now that the sun had traded out with the moon, she decides its a decent time to come back.

She’s carrying a squirrel in her mouth, ears pinned back as she watched her paws strike against the earth. She feels like nothing was real, all fake, apart of a cruel play of the stars. She shudders as she remembers the tear of soft underbelly, the maniacal look in Cinder’s eyes. The chill of the cold night wind brought her out of her thoughts and before her laid Ember between the roots of a giant oak tree. Slightly surprised, her grip on the squirrel loosens and falls out of her mouth.

Shes not sure what she wants to say at this point. She wants to beg and cry and ask Ember if shes okay, but another part of her wants to get mad at her for letting the murderer stay. Nothing comes out as she sighs, picking up the squirrel once more and trudging over to Ember, dropping it in front of her. “Hungry?” she asks, her words a blunt knife as she stares down at the blood matted in the other females fur. Her eyes soften slightly. She had never been good at comforting people.

Moments go past before she speaks up once more. “Are you okay?” she finally asks, seating herself and curling her tail around her paws. She’s glad, glad to see Ember is still alive but the conflicting battle still fights within. She looked up to Ember as a role model, it hurt to see her slaughtered in front of her. Perhaps Ember was naive to believe that all cats had good in them, perhaps she was not, Starling idly flicks an ear and waits for her response.

A voice cut through her thoughts as a squirrel dropped down in front of her. With a glance up she saw black fur blotting out her view of the stars. She smiled. "You bet I am!" she declared with a laugh, pulling the squirrel toward her. It wasn't until she took the first bite that she realized how true that was. She hadn't eaten since she left for moonstone, between Starclan and Cinder she'd been too busy. Now, with a fresh meal dropped in front of her, she couldn't resist digging in. Though, she did at least pause between bites to show her gratitude. "Thanks!"

The question caught her off guard. She paused in her chewing, swallowed slowly. It was weird to think it was the first time she had been asked that since it happened. Everyone had been too caught up with her decision she guessed.

Still, she knew her answer.

"Of course I'm okay!" Ember reassured her with a grin. "Cinder can't hurt me in any way that matters, the stars made sure of that. You don't need to worry about me." She spoke with a warm certainty that she did not feel. Her tail touched affectionately to Starling's side. "I'm just sorry you had to see that."
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Ember immediately digs in to the meal she brought and she turns her head, hiding a flushed smile. “Of course,” her tone is lighter as she takes a deep breath to remove the smile from her face, turning back to Ember. She watches the girl pause and she tilts her head. “If you ever need food in the future, i’ll catch you a fresh thing.” she nods to herself, a favor for their leader.

Her response seems solid but Starling can’t help but be suspicious. She puffs out a breath, unfurling her tail from her paws and thumping it against the ground in slight frustration, though she masks it as just boredom. “It’s fine. Don’t make this about me.” she keeps her tone even, playful undertones as she flicks an ear. “Are you sure? I couldn’t imagine what it feels like. It’s kind of silly, isn’t it? The stars, I didn’t believe those cats existed till I saw you… die.” she cringes, knowing that Ember didn’t really ‘die’, but she did, and there was blood, and she watched Embers stomach be torn open.

Theres silence after she speaks. “What was it like? If you don’t mind me asking. Did you… see them? The star cats?” she asks gently, shuffling her paws awkwardly. “Do you want help with… watching Cinder?” she asks, knowing shes fully ready go help watch the executioner of Ember. She inwardly decides that if Ember needed anything, she’d be there. She’d watch like a hawk, like a starling.

"Aww, thanks! You're too sweet." The flame-point intoned with warm affection, giving the molly beside her a little nuzzle. "We should go hunting together sometime, then we can catch each other something." She offered with a smile. That sounded like a great time, set all the complicated leader stuff aside for a moment and focus on something simple that she knew how to do; hunt. All with a friendly face at her side.

She stayed silent as Starling continued, digging into the prey she had been given. Once she finished, she took a moment to consider the question. Her eyes raised back to the stars. "I always believed, I mean, I knew them before they went up there." A pause. "Some of them, at least. And yeah, I saw them. Twice now. Once after the battle and once last night, both times it was..." It took her a few seconds to decide how to describe them. She tilted her head in thought. "Like looking at yourself in a pool. They looked like they had in life, but different. Made of starlight rather than real things, less solid but also more... alive. Free of whatever troubled them before."

Ember weighed her own words for a moment, turning them over in her mind again and again. Eventually, she simply shrugged. "It was weird." She summarized with a laugh. The air she had given them was too heavy for her liking, they were still just her friends after all. Just, different now.

Conversely, the next question needed no consideration.

"No." She told Starling firmly, her gaze snapping swiftly to her. It was a moment before she caught herself. Hid her worry and smiled once more. "I'm the one with lives to spare, not you. Besides, I'm supposed to be the leader around here remember? It's my job to keep all of you safe, not the other way around. So let me do that." Ember said with a soft laugh. "Cinder only got me the once because she caught me off guard. That won't happen again. I told you, you don't need to worry about me."
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( ) Ember nuzzles her and if cats could blush in embarassment she would be glowing, she turns her chin up and looks away. She tells her they should hunt together and now she feels her pelt burning, did Ember really have that high hopes for her, good enough to hunt with the leader of the clan? "Okay," she agrees, kind of giddy with excitement. She refuses to let it show and lets her pelt smooth after a couple of seconds.

The tone has turned now and Starling listens to Ember as she describes what she had seen. She knew them. Somehow it holds everything. She knew Ember before she died. Somehow, she finds herself staring at the same sky Ember was, the twinkling stars feel even more lonely. Were they watching? Who were they? "Thats weird." she decides with a nod, squinting at them. Made of Starlight, she wonders if she'd ever see them. Would she be there when she dies? Would Ember? She looks back and tries hard to imagine Ember with stars in her fur. "Doesn't fit. You look better alive." a humorless joke that falls flat and she slightly cringes.

Her stern no struck her out of a thought and she stares with slightly narrowed eyes. "I guess. But what makes you so sure the stars aren't playing a game with you?" her own tone twinges with slight worry. "A pawn, for them. What if this was what they wanted all along? I wasn't there for the battle... But i've hears stories. Maybe they're mad."

That's weird.

Emberstar couldn't help but snort. "It is weird." She stated with unabashed humor. Starling was right, after all. The concept of Starclan was funny and strange and unbelievable and weird. That was still true, even though she had seen all of them with her own eyes. Even though her heart still mourned for them. There was still humor in what they were now.

Though Starling didn't like her own joke, Emberstar loved it. She cracked up, laughing long and loud. It took a moment for her to gather herself. "I'm glad you agree! I think I look better alive too." Her reply came through dying chuckles.

There was no humor in what was suggested next though. Bewilderment passed across her expression. "Mad?" she asked in confusion, as if the idea of it didn't make any sense. Which it didn't, not to her. "No, no, they were my friends. I mean, the ones I didn't fight against were. They wouldn't-" Her own words didn't make as much sense as they should have, that unsettled her. She thought a moment longer. "You didn't know them." She rationalized, that was the only reason Starling had suggested this. "Rain and Haku and everyone, they wouldn't do that. We fought side by side and afterward... afterward they looked me in the eyes and gave me the lives i have now. Told me to be a good leader."

The answer still didn't sit well with her for some reason. The very idea that Starling had suggested made her uncomfortable in a way she didn't like. So she spoke up again. "Even if it was true," she began slowly, with a laugh. Making it clear with every word that it wasn't true. "It'd still be my job as leader to keep you safe. I'm not going to let you put yourself in danger for me, that's not right. I can handle myself." She tried to sound reassuring.
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