Blazing - Book One: Into the Wild

Seasons ago, Bluefur refused to give up her kits, and Thistleclaw became deputy in her place. Thistlestar leads his clan cruelly, greedy for land. In his territorial rage, he chases away and injures young kittypet Rusty. RiverClan rescues Rusty and accepts him into their clan, but while he just wants to learn the ways of his clan, he finds himself in the middle of a desperate war.


12. Chapter 10

By the next morning, a light rain began to fall upon the clan, drizzling down the dens of RiverClan.

Firepaw woke up to a cold den, and quickly made his way out to check up Yellowfang. The old she-cat squinted at him as he approached. "My bones ache," she complained. "Has it been raining all night?"

"Since moonhigh," he sighed. Tilting his head, he asked, "Would you like me to move your nest closer to the nursery? It's sheltered there."

"Pah!" Yellowfang hissed. "And be kept up by crying kits? As if!"

Firepaw flinched. Wrong subject again. "Alright, but at least let me get you some dry moss."

Yellowfang nodded. "Thank you, Firepaw."

Firepaw stared at her, startled. He'd never heard the she-cat thank him for anything, and certainly not call him by name! Was she coming down with something?

"Well?" Yellowfang snapped. "Get on with it, you lump!"

Firepaw couldn't resist a purr of amusement. She'll never let up, will she? "I'll be back soon," he promised, turning away quickly. He nearly crashed into Mallowtail, who was standing behind him. "Oh, hello," he smiled. "Did you come here to see Yellowfang?"

Mallowtail curled her lip at the mention of the she-cat. "What would I want with her? No, Crookedstar is looking for you."

Firepaw blinked and stared past her towards Crookedstar's den. The massive tabby was sitting just outside his den, grooming his chest. "Thanks, Mallowtail," he said, as he padded by towards his leader.

"Ah, Firepaw," Crookedstar smiled as the ginger tom sat in front of him. "Tell me, how is Yellowfang?"

"Her bedding is soaked, so I was going to fetch her some dry moss," Firepaw explained. Did I forget to do something? "I was going to feed her right after."

"I'll have one of the warriors take care of it," Crookedstar said dismissively. "Do you think she's well enough to hunt for herself yet?"

Firepaw shook his head. "No, but she is starting to walk well enough."

"I spoke to her yesterday," Crookedstar said, twitching an ear. "She spoke quite fondly of you. I suspect she wasn't always so bad-tempered- in fact, I could probably grow to enjoy her company myself! Firepaw, I believe you've done your part in caring for Yellowfang. It is time for you to return to your apprentice duties."

Firepaw straightened instantly, brightening. "Thank you, Crookedstar!"

The massive tabby smiled. "Now, go join the others by the camp entrance. Leopardfur, Blackclaw, and Beetlenose will be assessing all of the apprentices' skills today."

Firepaw nodded, but frowned as he turned away. Great, he thought. Blackclaw and Beetlenose hate me enough. And who knows what Leopardfur thinks about anyone. She's harder to read than Yellowfang!

Indeed, the apprentices were all gathered in a cluster by the camp entrance, joined by the two warriors and Clan deputy.

"Finally joining the real warriors, kittypet?" Silverpaw sneered as he sat beside Grasspaw.

The ginger apprentice rolled his eyes but ignored the silver tom. He wasn't going to going to let anyone ruin this for him.

"Alright, everyone is here," Leopardfur finally said. "First we're going to take you to the beech trees for some battle practice- then we'll be doing a bit of training in the water. Afterwards, you'll split up and hunt. Understood?"

When each apprentice had nodded, she rose. "Come," The dappled she-cat meowed. "We've got much to cover before the day is out. And keep in mind- your success today will determine whether or not you will be attending the gathering."

Firepaw exchanged an excited glance with Grasspaw. The gathering! He had never been, and this was finally his chance to go.

Silverpaw screeched as Heavypaw reared up, throwing him off his back. Shadepaw quickly pounced on the tabby tom, holding him as he struggled desperately. Meanwhile, Firepaw launched himself at Heavypaw, striking blow after blow on the stocky tom's ears as he tried to drive him back.

They were fighting in partners, and Firepaw's partnership with Silverpaw was an absolute mess. Both toms were determined to win, but neither was really working with the other. On the other hand, Heavypaw and Shadepaw seemed unstoppable.

As he landed another swipe across Heavypaw's face, Firepaw thought, I need to throw him off balance… otherwise, he's much too strong for me. Thinking quickly, Firepaw faked a trip, and stumbled as though off-balance. Heavypaw reacted quickly, and reared up, preparing to crush Firepaw beneath him with his hefty paws.

Firepaw swiftly slammed his forepaws on the ground and spun on them, lashing out with his hind legs. He felt his feet collide with Heavypaw's legs, and as the brown tom wobbled, Firepaw dove away in time for the tom to topple over with a startled yowl.

"Silverpaw!" Firepaw called, seeing that the tom was dodging another attack from Shadepaw. "We need to work together!"

"Work with you, kittypet?" Shadepaw hissed. "Never!" He snapped at Shadepaw's ear, only missing it by a hair-length.

Heavypaw was now rising again. Fox-dung! Firepaw thought, and sprang forward. Recalling his battle with Yellowfang, Firepaw aimed for Heavypaw's hind leg and sank his teeth lightly into the soft spot just near the tom's hip. Heavypaw let out a yowl and writhed, kicking Firepaw in the head.

"Enough!" Leopardfur ordered.

Firepaw backed away from Heavypaw, shaking his head from the blow. He glanced back at Silverpaw. The tabby had been pinned again by Shadepaw, who was grinning down triumphantly at him.

"Firepaw and Silverpaw, your team work was disastrous. At least Firepaw attempted to work with you- I'm disappointed in you, Silverpaw."

The apprentice wouldn't meet his deputy's eyes. Arrogant furrball! Firepaw thought scornfully.

Leopardfur then spat, "You certainly won't be going to the gathering, Silverpaw, unless you manage to extremely impress me later today." Lashing her tail, she glanced at Beetlenose. "Assess them in the water. I'm going to speak privately with the two of them."

"What's the point?" Beetlenose snorted. "Silverpaw is right. That dumb kittypet can't accomplish anything."

Leopardfur's eyes blazed. "Were you watching the battle, Beetlenose, or dozing off? Should your skills as a warrior be tested today?"

Firepaw had an inkling of a feeling that her fury came more from being backmouthed rather than the insults towards him, but he was enjoying seeing both Beetlenose and Silverpaw getting chewed out.

Beetlenose snarled and looked away.

"Both of you, follow me," Leopardfur ordered, turning around. Reluctantly, Silverpaw and Firepaw followed as the others got up and began to head towards the river. Once the others were gone, they sat just outside the training circle. "I don't even know where to begin with you two."

"Firepaw's useless!" Silverpaw spat. "I shouldn't have been paired up with him. He's the one who messed me up!"

Firepaw bristled indignantly. "That's not true!" he protested. "I tried to get you to work with me!"

"Exactly," Leopardfur growled. "Silverpaw, as a cat born and raised in RiverClan, I would expect you to be better behaved than young Firepaw. Kittypet blood or not, he is your clanmate, and you will treat him as such."

"Bah!" Silverpaw hissed. "I'll never be friends with a kittypet!"

"I never said friends," Leopardfur snorted. "I'm saying to be his clanmate! Friendships can come and go, but loyalty to your clan and the cats within it should be a stronger tie than anything else you may know. Firepaw has trained with us like any other apprentice, and he has earned that loyalty."

"He will never be my clanmate!" Silverpaw exploded. Firepaw flinched at the ferocity of his tone. "I'll never be loyal to any stinking kittypet!" Bristling, he spat, "I don't care if I don't go to the stupid gathering! I didn't even want to go in the first place!"

"Get back to camp," Leopardfur snarled. "You certainly won't be attending. In fact, you can spend the rest of the day caring for Yellowfang, and if I hear a single complaint from her about her treatment… well, let's just say caring for Yellowfang will seem like a blessing."

Silverpaw spat and turned away before he raced off, tail lashing.

"Go join the others at the river," Leopardfur growled. "I'm going to speak with Crookedstar before you all hunt."

Firepaw pressed himself low to the ground, eyeing the bushy-tailed squirrel before him. He would have to catch it before it could reach the nearest tree, or it would be gone for good.

Pawstep by pawstep, the fiery tom crept closer. Judging that he was close enough, Firepaw shot forward, paws extended. The squirrel hardly had a moment to spin about before Firepaw was upon it and snapped it's neck with a sharp bite.

Dropping his kill, Firepaw took a look at the sky. The sun was beginning to dip lower towards the horizon. It would be sun-down soon. I should be getting back. Grabbing the squirrel, Firepaw padded off towards camp.

Upon his return, he spotted Blackclaw waiting just outside the camp entrance. "A scrawny squirrel," He commented snidely. "Fitting."

"I caught more prey," Firepaw replied around the squirrel. "I buried it back-"

"Yes, I know. I was watching." Blackclaw whipped around and strode into camp. "You'll be lucky if you get to attend this gathering, kittypet."

Arrogant bee-brain! Firepaw thought, glaring at the smoky tom as he followed him into camp.

He made three more trips in and out of camp to retrieve his prey. Sitting beside his small pile, he was quite proud. It wasn't as big as Heavypaw or Vixenpaw's, but it was pretty impressive and easily rivaled the other apprentices.

Leopardfur sifted through his collection of fresh-kill. "Hmm. Two starlings, a mouse, two squirrels, three voles, and a finch. Not bad."

Firepaw puffed out his chest proudly. Coming from Leopardfur, 'not bad' was a decent compliment.

"You may all eat," Leopardfur whisked her tail dismissively. "I will speak to Crookedstar." The dappled she-cat turned away and headed for the leader's den.

Firepaw instinctively picked up the finch he had caught to take to Yellowfang, before he remembered it was no longer his task. Glancing at the she-cat, he saw she had a sour expression. I may as well feed her anyway. Silverpaw probably forgot. He padded over towards the she-cat and dropped the finch at her paws.

Yellowfang sniffed. "Aren't you supposed to be through with me?"

"Technically," Firepaw shrugged, sitting back on his haunches. He didn't feel very hungry. He was too excited by the prospect of going. "Silverpaw was supposed to care for you today."

"Silverpaw?" Yellowfang frowned. "That bratty upstart who cleaned my ticks earlier?"

"Probably," Firepaw chuckled.

Yellowfang snorted. "I've seen him around. He walks about like he's StarClan's gift to the forest. Too short if you ask me. Stubby legs never does warriors any good."

Firepaw couldn't resist a laugh. "He's pretty arrogant. I was supposed to train with him as my partner in a fight. He refused to work with me and snapped at Leopardfur."

He heard a quiet chuckle before Yellowfang looked at him oddly. "What are you still doing around me?" she asked, tail flicking. "You're not my caretaker anymore."

Firepaw wasn't terribly sure himself. "Well…" he shrugged after a moment. "You don't make terrible company when you aren't trying to bite my head off."

Yellowfang let out a cackle of laughter before she shook her head. "Go eat with your friends and leave me in peace."

Firepaw dipped his head and retreated back to the gaggle of apprentices, who were now swapping prey and boasting about their catches.

"So I flew over this log," Shadepaw was saying. Vixenpaw leaned in, eyes wide. "And that rabbit tried to run. It got hardly a whisker-length before I pounced! And I rolled head-over-tail before I finally got a strong grip on it. Then I pinned it, and, well," She motioned to the plump rabbit before it. "Dinner."

"Okay, but let me tell you about how I caught this-" Grasspaw began.

Crookedstar's call interrupted them. "All cats old enough to swim gather beneath the Rockpile to hear my words!"

"-Nevermind!" Grasspaw turned around quickly, eyes wide. "Come on, Firepaw! Let's find out if we got chosen."

When the clan had gathered, Crookedstar began. "First, before I announce who is attending the gathering, I would like to congratulate Skyheart. In a few days time, she will be moving into the nursery."

Firepaw blinked in surprise before glancing at the warrior. She was sitting tall with pride, eyes bright. I wonder who the father is? He had never noticed Skyheart particularly close to any tom. After a heartbeat, he noticed her tail laying over Reedtail's, who had his chest puffed out.

"In about two moons time, we will have new lives in the clan," Crookedstar purred. "Now, as for the gathering. Those attending will be Whiteclaw, Dawnbright, Skyheart, Reedtail, Loudbelly, Silverstream, Frogleap, Blackclaw, Beetlenose, Voleclaw, Heavypaw, Shadepaw, Grasspaw, Vixenpaw, and Firepaw."

With a slight start, Firepaw realized that nearly every cat in camp had been summoned. Does Crookedstar want us to look strong?

Grasspaw pressed against Firepaw. "We're going!" he exclaimed.

Firepaw blinked. Wait- yes! Crookedstar called my name! He jumped up, excitement rushing through him. "What do you think it'll be like?"

"I don't know," Grasspaw purred. "But I bet it'll be great! I bet all the best warriors in the clans will be there! Tigerclaw, Stonefur, Clawface..."

Firepaw nodded, grinning. I can't believe I'm actually going!

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