the role you made me play || medicine cat ceremony

"What am I doing?" she asked the wind but it remained still and silent. Perhaps her self-exile had finally splintered the rest of her weary mind. The dream hadn't been some fanciful vision - she'd been mistaken. Besides, Hare Whiskers would have never appeared to her. That should have been her clue that it had all been an elaborate hallucination. No one wanted her, especially not the prestigious former leader of the marsh cats. She'd sullied her family's name and acted dishonorably toward the colony.

But didn't they also treat her in a distasteful manner? Everyone had grown too accustomed to her following orders without hesitation or question; that's how it had been when she was under Hare Whisker's command. Probably still would have been a drone if he were alive. She'd been content knowing a leader she admired, a leader she full-heartedly believed in, was the one giving the instructions.

However, her unwavering loyalty had been questioned when Briar called for war. She transformed from a silent, obedient soldier into an outspoken heretic. The respect she offered them hadn't been mirrored back. Instead, accusations were immediately shouted in her direction. Traitor they said. And then after the tragic war... Her words were met with violence despite her injured state. Bone struck first and latched teeth into her vulnerable throat. She defended herself. When the fight was broken up, though, she was the one scolded. Bone had attacked a fellow member yet it was she who received scolding from Distant Cicada.

Why would Hare Whiskers differ from their opinion? He wouldn't. This was all an elaborate setup from her own mind; being nameless, homeless, and unwanted left a heavy toll on her. To protect herself, she'd created a realistic delusion that compelled her forward. That was the only logical explanation so why did her paws follow the path that had been laid out in her fantasies?

The nameless shadow stuck close to the ground, senses alert for an ambush, as she skirted around the moors. It was a long trek but the self-exiled loner didn't wish to cross into "WindClan's" territory. Ghosts of her past lurked there: they didn't need more reasons to haunt her. Unkempt fur clung tightly to her ribcage. She, herself, was a ghastly version of a past self. She tip-toed across the moors she'd once openly danced through, hunting fat rabbits for a colony that never appreciated her efforts. These... These should be hers. No, that was silly: she'd never been a good leader as proven when everyone turned their backs on her.

After briefly crossing through the moor, she spotted the cave. She hesitated. This meant nothing. Surely she'd come across the landmark in a previous venture and had instilled the image into her dreams. This was stupid and silly but she played the role of the fool perfectly. Since she'd come all the way here she might as well check, right?

A shiver ran along her spine as she stumbled through the cave. Unlike her dream, it was pitch black. She sighed. That was the answer, then. It had all been a fairytale. One more paw step forward caused her to bump into something...

and then the cavern was highlighted in beautiful colors.

Wait. This couldn't be real, could it?

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He'd been waiting patiently for his old friend to finally listen, to heed the signs he was sending her. Time and time again she had ignored his messages. But finally, here she was, falling asleep by the glittering stone and awakening in a starry clearing surrounding by lush green trees and bright skies. Before her would sit a familiar tom, a smile across his grizzled face. Even in death, he appeared in his senior state. Not old, per say, but certainly not young. It was at this stage in his life when he was happiest. He had his colony, his family, and things were good. So that's how he would appear here and now.

"You look different than when we last saw each other, Salamander," He mewed, voice deep as ever. He got to his paws and padded forward leisurely, tail swaying at his heels and stardust in his wake. "It's good to see you, old friend." "SPEECH."
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Stupid, stupid, stupid. She'd let her defenses down and had, surely, been ambushed. She had become one with the cosmos. Panicked eyes flickered down to her paws. Solid. That was a good sign, right? Unlike the spirits from the bloodshed battlefield, she lacked a certain translucency and stardust did not intertwine with her fur.

Then this was just a dream. Thank the stars. Unfinished business needed to be settled before she could offer herself to the night sky. At the same time, she didn't remember falling asleep. Had she truly been that sleep deprived?

Teal eyes scanned her surroundings and, almost immediately, stopped on the visage of a familiar cat. Excluding
the twinkling constellations in his pelt, he looked exactly the same. Suddenly, she felt conscious of every knot that tangled her blue fur and every rib that attempted to reach out of her sides. As per usual, Hare Whiskers was regal with a commanding, charismatic aura.

Dead cats really did walk among the stars, didn't they? The concept had been difficult for the logical molly to wrap around her head. Despite seeing Ash and Leaping Toad, she assumed a mass wave of hysteria had paused the angry claws and gnashing teeth. After all, the "ghosts" had been awfully quiet upon the clan formation. But it wasn't a one time thing.

The blue mink visibly flinched when Hare Whiskers called her by a name she no longer wore. "I'm sorry, sir, but that is no longer my name. It doesn't not belong to me. My fa- Frog's Croak is in possession of it. Though tarnished, I hope he is able to find someone more worthy of the name. Someone who can repair his legacy." Frog's Croak. Her heart ached and stomach churned at his name. She hoped he was okay- that everyone was okay and didn't suffer any consequences for her "betrayal".

That had to be why Hare Whiskers called her here. She'd defended the kittypets and loners; claimed the marsh cats had been warmongers when diplomatic solutions (like the moors) had been available. If she'd tried harder.. could she have prevented the deaths of those she cared for? If she had caught more rabbits, fed more bellies, voiced her opinion.

No, not the latter. Any mention of disdain towards the idea of war had been met with hostile remarks.

She struggled to grasp onto her slipping composure. Back straightened, she mirrored the shell of her past self, her past life. "Where are we, sir?" Where and why were the questions burning her tongue but she stuck with asking the former. The why was obvious.. although she prayed otherwise.

A chuckle rumbled in his throat as the she-cat spoke and he shook his head gently, still padding towards her. "You young cats, all so dramatic." His voice wasn't crude or malicious, just amused as he stopped in front of the silvery blue she-cat and gazed at her with kind eyes. "Every cat has a name," He added on, his reminder carrying a paternal tone as if he were gently reminding a kit of someone obvious. He would move to rest his tail across her shoulders before gesturing with his head for her to follow. "We are in StarClan. Everyone who was lost, and everyone who will be lost will live in peace here." As he spoke, he guided her through the starlit forest, flicking his star-spangled tail behind him. Eventually, they stopped in a familiar clearing, with four towering oak trees surrounding a jagged boulder. Fourtrees. "Do you know why you're here, Salamander?" He mewed gruffly, turning his head to look at her. "SPEECH."
"Every cat has a name." Then call her loner, rogue, traitor - anything but that named. She was no longer that cat. "Salamander" had died on the battlefield. She was nought but a shell, the shedded skin of a snake that had been disposed.

The molly flinched at his gentle touch but, eventually, melted into it. She had never been the most outgoing, preferring to watch from the shadows, but there was a stark different between "being alone" and "loneliness". Contacts had been severed when she left the marsh. She hadn't seen another cat since that day; especially considering her avoidance when signs of another were detected. Though the loneliness pained her, the idea of being rejected hurt ten times more.

With his tail drapped across her shoulders, tense and weary muscles began to relax. In that moment, the blue mink looked peaceful. "Leaping Toad.. and Ash.. are here, right?" Leaping Toad had been so, so close when the cats ascended from the stars. She remembered desperately reaching out, frantically trying to pull her to him, but she couldn't; he phased right through her grasping paws. It was the second that time he had been so close while she hopelessly watched.

"Where are they? Are they safe? Can I see them?" They had to be here: in this idyllic paradise where they could grow and live the life that had been snuffed out far too soon. Both toms deserved it after their heroic sacrifices. She winced, recalling how she told Ash not to play the hero. How she'd comforted Toad and Ribbit, promising she'd protect them. But she'd been worthless.

Guilt, anger, and sadness caused her knees to nearly buckle beneath their weight. The land was no longer a battlefield stained with blood and tears. But she could still see it as invasive thoughts disturbed the fleeting peace she'd found for a mere heartbeat.

"I am not her!" she snapped, emotions running rampant in her voice. She paused, struggling to regain her composure, "I apologize for my outburst, sir, but I no longer wish to be associated with that name." She couldn't tarnish her family's reputation further.

As for why she was here? She could loudly hear Bone telling her that she chose kittypets over the group. Eyes glared at her from the shadows. "Keep your mouth shut" they wordlessly implied. "To receive my punishment, sir." Relaxed muscles became rigid once again.

Hare Whiskers nodded slowly, eyes still fixated on the Great Rock. "They are here, and they are safe. But tonight is not for sentiment, Sal." Once again, he'd ignore her requests to quit using her name. One might think he was teasing at this point until they would see the look in his eyes as he finally turned towards her again. His gaze blazed with a white-hot fire, and it was like he was back in his prime, leading his cats with all of the strength he once held. He was more serious than he'd ever been in life. "You are not here for any punishment, old friend. You have a much greater destiny lying ahead of you."

"The forest is now divided into five clans, but that doesn't mean peace. Cats will always find reason to fight, but they will also love, and protect, and defend with all their hearts. Cats are warriors, and at their charge is their leaders. But that isn't all that is needed for prosperity. These clans will need a beacon, a link between their world and the stars. Someone to help guide them, heal them, counsel them."

"That cat will be you, Sal."
His rumbling voice came to a halt and he gazed upon her with rapt attention. The fate he was assigning her, it was one of the most prestigious lives a cat could hold. "The world is changing, and you are going to be a part of it. It's time to move on from your anger, your rage. Mistakes will always happen; no cat is spared from making them. You are done living in the past, and it is time to accept your future."

The grizzled tabby then strode to stand in front of her, orange eyes burning into her own. "You don't want your name? Fine. But you will have a name. By the powers of StarClan, I give you a new title. When you awaken, you will be Cinderfrost, medicine cat of ThunderClan." His voice bellowed, seeming to echo within the clearing with the authority of a thousand leaders. It was done. "SPEECH."