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.


13. Chapter 11

Firepaw peered over the slope into Fourtrees, eyes wide with wonder. Below him, a mass of cats had grouped together, and he could hear the chatter of conversation rising from the clans.

"RiverClan," Crookedstar said. "You may join the gathering." He leaped over the slope, and quickly padded down towards the clearing.

"Let's go!" Grasspaw whispered in excitement, before he bounded down. "Race you!"

Purring, Firepaw took to his paws and hared down the slope after him. The two toms ran down into the clearing, jostling one another.

Fox-dung! Firepaw tried to skid to a halt before he careened straight into a cat who'd strolled into their path.

"Watch it, crow-food!" The big tom spat, tail lashing. "Doesn't RiverClan teach it's apprentices respect?"

"S-sorry," Firepaw mumbled, awed by the huge tom. He was even bigger than Beetlenose!

Grasspaw whispered a quick apology before the tom snarled and continued on. When he had gone, Grasspaw straightened. "I think that was Clawface!" he gasped. "He's huge!"

"First time?" A young she-cat, about their age, asked, glancing over her shoulder.

Grasspaw dipped his head. "Yep. You smell like ThunderClan."

"And you smell like dead fish," The pale ginger she-cat retorted. "Fitting, being that you're from RiverClan."

"What's your name?" Firepaw asked, tilting his head. He wanted to learn about all the clans, and ThunderClan especially piqued his interest. It was hard not to be curious when these were the cats who'd chased both him and Yellowfang away with the intent of murder. Graypaw isn't so bad, though.

She stared at him warily for a moment before replying. "Sandpaw. You?"

"I'm Firepaw." The ginger tom sat down, scooting a bit closer.

Sandpaw narrowed her eyes. "I don't remember hearing your name called at the gatherings before."

A familiar gray tom pushed his way through a pair of cats to join them. "That's because you stayed home last time, Sandpaw!"

"Graypaw!" Firepaw purred, glad to see the ThunderClan apprentice.

"Who's this?" He asked, blinking at Grasspaw.

"Grasspaw," the tabby replied. He gave Firepaw an odd look as though confused as to why he was so friendly with the tom.

"So," Firepaw asked. "Who are all the cats by that huge rock?"

"You really don't know?" Sandpaw snorted. Shrugging, she looked up at the three cats perched on top of the huge stone. Firepaw realized that not only Crookedstar was there, but so was Thistlestar. "Well, the big gray tom is my leader, Thistlestar. You'll never meet a better fighter than him… Though Tigerclaw, our deputy, certainly can match his strength. He's the big tabby… well, looks like he hasn't taken his seat yet, actually.."

A low voice sounded from behind them. Firepaw felt his neck fur bristle at the sound. "Not giving away ThunderClan secrets, are you, Sandpaw?"

He saw Sandpaw swallow a little. She glanced over her shoulder. "No, Tigerclaw."

Firepaw turned around and stiffened.

Tigerclaw was certainly large, and hard muscles rippled beneath his dark tabby pelt. He had yellow eyes that seemed to pierce right through Firepaw, as though he were already evaluating his weaknesses. Firepaw felt exposed beneath this tom's stare. Thistlestar was terrifying in his own brute force sort of way, but Tigerclaw… Tigerclaw was cold. Calculating.

"Ho," Tigerclaw chuckled darkly. "What have we here? I believe I recognize this RiverClan apprentice."

Firepaw swallowed, hard.

"Aren't you that little kittypet we chased off two moons ago? Hmm, that was the battle where Oakheart tragically died, wasn't it?"

Sandpaw recoiled. "You're a kittypet?"

Ears flat, he replied, "I was…"

"Firepaw is a warrior apprentice now!" Grasspaw cut in, jumping to his defense. "He can fight and hunt like any other warrior!"

"I'd like to see that," Tigerclaw flicked his tail. "But I must be on my way. I'm sure Thistlestar won't want to waste any moonlight."

Shouldering past Firepaw, the massive tabby padded away and dissolved quietly into the crowd.

Sandpaw curled her lip. "I can't believe RiverClan accepted a kittypet into their ranks."

Firepaw stared at his paws, scowling. Why did Tigerclaw have to say that?

Graypaw rolled his eyes. "Sandpaw's just prickly."

"I guess," Firepaw muttered, and Sandpaw shot a glare at the gray tom.

"I'm going to find Dustpaw," she hissed. "I don't waste time with kittypets."

Firepaw frowned as he watched her go. So much for that.

"Don't mind her," Graypaw said good-naturedly. "I can finish the introductions. That scary looking tom on the edge of the Great Rock is Brokenstar. He's pretty creepy, isn't he?"

Firepaw stared up at the tom. Brokenstar sat poised, eyes narrowed to slits as he scanned the clans. Firepaw saw the gleam of claws, and noticed that he was gripping the stone with them. Brokenstar had a broad face and a short muzzle, and the tail that whisked over his paws was kinked down the middle. Firepaw shivered. Yeah. Creepy.

"Hey!" Graypaw mewed after a moment. "You should come meet Ravenpaw. He's skittish, but he tells great stories at gatherings." With a glance at Grasspaw, he added, "You can come too, if you want."

"Alright." Grasspaw stood and together they followed Graypaw as they weaved throughout the clearing.

"Oh!" Graypaw meowed. "On our way, I can show you the medicine cats of our clans." As they headed towards the Great Rock, Firepaw spotted Tigerclaw speaking to a few other warriors of mixed clans.

Tigerclaw scored his claws across the earth. "I wrestled like a LionClan cat. Three warriors tried to hold me but I threw them off without too much difficulty before I tore the she-cat's ear, and sent her screeching back into the river."

He's talking about the battle with Oakheart! Firepaw found himself stiffening. Sedgecreek had been complaining about some tom who'd torn half her ear off in that battle. Firepaw turned away, throat tightening. That was when Oakheart died for saving me.

They padded closer towards the rock, and to its left he saw Mudfur with a pawful of other cats. He flicked his tail towards a pretty young tortoiseshell. "That's Spottedleaf, our medicine cat." The gray tom then shifted his gaze towards a smaller gray-and-white tom. "That's Runningnose of ShadowClan."

Firepaw twitched his whiskers. The tom's nose was wet and crusted around the edges. "I can see why they call him Runningnose," he purred. "It looks like he can't cure his own cold!"

Runningnose was telling the cats, who were mostly queens and elders, about an old herb that used to grow in ShadowClan. "Moons ago, we used it to cure kit-cough. But now the herb has all died out, and kits have died needlessly from illness without it. I'm still trying to find a replacements."

A ThunderClan queen gasped quietly, and Mudfur laid his tail on the medicine cat's shoulder. "If I figure out anything, I'll let you know. Then again, RiverClan rarely gets any kit-cough."

"Something like that would have never happened in the time of the great clans," A ThunderClan queen sighed.

"Indeed," nodded a tabby ShadowClan she-cat. "The great clans would have destroyed any threat with ease! If TigerClan roamed the forest, no twolegs would dare step foot on our land."

Firepaw jumped a little at a small voice beside them. "What's TigerClan?" Firepaw glanced down to see a tiny black tom staring up at them.

"TigerClan is one of the great clans that roamed the forest generations ago," Graypaw explained to the tiny apprentice. "They were big as horses, the cats of the night, with jet-black stripes. Then there's LionClan. They were…" He frowned, trying to recall.

"Oh!" The black tom squeaked. "I've heard of them! They're big and golden like the sun and have magnificent manes."

"That's it," Graypaw nodded. "And then there was one other… SpottyClan or something."

"I believe you would be thinking of LeopardClan, young Graypaw," came a deep, familiar voice from behind them.

They turned around to see a large golden tom standing still, eyes gleaming in the moonlight. Lionheart! "You have LeopardClan to thank for your speed and agility." After a moment, his gaze traveled to Firepaw. Eyes widening slightly, he meowed, "Hm. Aren't you that kittypet that Graypaw had a scrap with a few moons back?"

Firepaw lifted his chin. I won't let him think I'm afraid again. "I'm a RiverClan apprentice."

Lionheart blinked before he nodded. "Well. Congratulations, then." With a slight smile at Graypaw, he added, "So, Graypaw, are you simply forgetful, or do you not appreciate our elders' stories and wisdom?"

"I remembered LionClan," the little ShadowClan apprentice mewed, gazing up at Lionheart with wide eyes.

Lionheart's eyes narrowed as he gazed down at the tom. "You're ShadowClan, aren't you?" When the tom nodded, he asked, "And how many moons are you?"

The tom's eyes widened as he seemed to deflate. "S-six moons," he said quietly.

"Awfully small for six moons," Lionheart stared hard at the apprentice.

"My mother was small, too." The tom gulped before turning away and scurrying away into the crowd.

"Hmm." Lionheart stared after him. "Well, good luck with your training… what was it, your name?"

"Firepaw." The ginger tom was a bit confused. The apprentice seemed small, but… Does Lionheart suspect he's younger than he said?

Graypaw looked about ready to set off again in search of the cat he'd called Ravenpaw, a yowl sounded from the Great Rock.

"Where is WindClan?" Demanded an elder as cats hushed. A number of cats yowled their agreement.

As voices fell, Thistlestar raised his head. "WindClan may not have yet arrived, but Brokenstar wishes to speak anyway."

The massive tom stood, dipping his head to Thistlestar before he addressed the gathered clans. "Friends, I come to you tonight to discuss the dire needs of ShadowClan…"

"Where are the WindClan representatives?" Lionheart called, eyes narrowed.

"It is unprecedented to begin without them!" Shouted a one-eyed elder.

"Silence!" Brokenstar roared, drawing himself up to his full height. "As ShadowClan's leader, it is my right to address you here!" His voice was thick with malice, and his tail lashed with fury. Firepaw could practically feel the waves of fear rolling off a number of cats.

Brokenstar began again when it was quiet. "We all know the harsh Leaf-bare and late New-leaf have left us with little prey in our lands. RiverClan and ThunderClan have needlessly lost kits due to starvation, but our kits thrive! However, with so little prey, it is difficult to feed their hungry bellies in our territory."

As the crowd listened anxiously, Firepaw bristled. You're a coward, is what! He could sense the scorn and frustration from his clanmates, who already knew what was coming.

"The needs of ShadowClan are simple," Brokenstar said. "The other clans must share their hunting grounds with us."

"Must?" A white warrior rose, eyes blazing.

"Clans have never shared hunting rights!" Yowled another ThunderClan elder. "This is outrageous!"

"Must," Brokenstar growled, eyeing the warrior. "Should our kits be punished for being stronger? WindClan failed to understand reason, and in the end, we were forced to drive them from their territory."

Forced! Firepaw thought indignantly.

"What?" Graypaw whispered. "That's… he can't!"

"It's already done," Grasspaw hissed.

"I have already agreed with Brokenstar's proposal," Crookedstar said. "They are allowed to take fish from the river."

"Cowards!" Hissed a ThunderClan queen. Anger and humiliation rose from the RiverClan warriors in their mutters and snarls.

"I feel it is best for our clan- for all clans. There is no need to spill blood over prey when RiverClan has plenty to spare." Crookedstar sighed resignedly.

Wait… Firepaw narrowed his eyes. Crookedstar said they could take fish from the river. ShadowClan could never learn to fish like we do! He found himself smiling a little. At least they won't be too much of a bother.

"What of you, Thistlestar?" Tigerclaw growled, eyeing his leader. "Have you accepted this ridiculous idea?"

"I have agreed upon nothing other than that I shall discuss it with my clan when we return," Thistlestar said, though the clench in his jaw revealed the thinly veiled anger he bared.

"I will not ask for your answer tonight," Brokenstar said, voice thick with arrogance after Crookedstar's statement. After a moment, he spoke again. "My friends, I have one more matter to discuss with you- one that involves the safety of all your kits."

A ripple of worry and anger rippled through the clans, and Firepaw dug his claws into the grass. Was this another threat, or a legitimate warning?"

"One of our cats has spurned the warrior code and turned rogue," Brokenstar explained. "She looks like a mangy stray, but has a bite like TigerClan. I urge you to put an end to her if you see her… and to keep a close eye on your kits until she is stopped."

Firepaw's eyes widened. Is he talking about Yellowfang? Looking around, he saw a number of other RiverClan warriors bristling and snarling, sharing glances- it was clear they were all thinking of one cat.


No! Firepaw flattened his ears. Yellowfang might be a grouch, but she would never harm kits… Flinching, he recalled when she had lashed out at Stormkit. But she was upset and startled. I refuse to believe she'd endanger a kit!

Brokenstar leaped down from the Great Rock. Exchanging glances, Crookedstar and Thistlestar followed suit. "This gathering is over!" Thistlestar yowled.

"Bye, Firepaw," Graypaw meowed, his voice tense. Waving his tail in farewell, the tom spun around and hurried to join his clanmates.

Firepaw stared after his own clanmates, ears pricked as he heard their conversation.

"It must be Yellowfang!" Beetlenose spat.

"She did attack Mallowtail's smallest kit…" Petaldust growled, hackles raising.

"I knew it was trouble to keep her!" Loudbelly snarled, scoring his claws across the earth. "We must put a stop to her!"

Heart racing, Firepaw backed away. I have to warn her! He whipped around and broke into a hard sprint across the clearing and up the slope. A few cats glanced his way, but none seemed to take notice or care.

Panting, the ginger tom glanced over his shoulder at his clanmates. Most looked furious, with eyes narrowed to slots and lashing tails as they grouped together.

Firepaw's throat tightened with determination as he ran off again towards home. A seed of worry rooted itself in the back of his mind. If he helped Yellowfang now, would he be risking his own position in RiverClan?

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