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.


21. Chapter 19

Fireheart blinked as the reeds surrounding the camp rustled and Silverthorn and Shadepelt pushed their ways through, looking wary. In a heartbeat, Fireheart was surprised to see that they were followed by Thistlestar, Lionheart, Tigerclaw, and a blue-furred she-cat. Thistlestar had his head and tail raised proudly, despite being in an enemy camp, and Tigerclaw looked about as smug as a fox, as he often was. The she-cat, however, seemed cool, collected, and regal, unlike her leader and deputy.

The ginger tom frowned, and found himself stiffening uncomfortably at the sight. What are ThunderClan doing here? As he watched them enter camp, he noted that like Sandpaw, they still bore scabbing wounds from ShadowClan's attack. Why hasn't their medicine cat healed them yet? Though he had heard little about Spottedleaf, Mudfur had spoken highly of her, so Fireheart couldn't wrap his head around why she had been so neglectful.

Thistlestar raised his chin, gaze ablaze as he scanned the RiverClan camp. "I demand to speak with Crookedstar!"

Blackclaw and Beetlenose approached the patrol, eyes narrowed. They stood side by side, shoulders squared as they stared down the intruding cats. "He's hunting," Blackclaw growled. "You can speak to his warriors."

Beetlenose nodded. "Anything Crookedstar needs to know, we need to know."

Thistlestar turned his gaze upon the two warriors, and fixed them with a fierce glare. It was clear he had no patience for warriors. Probably thinks they're below him, Fireheart thought crossly. "I will wait for his return," he said firmly, as he took a seat and wrapped his thick tail across his paws. "My warriors will cause no trouble." He glanced at Tigerclaw, and the tabby deputy sat down and jerked his head for Lionheart and the blue she-cat to do the same.

Beetlenose glowered, but said nothing. The two toms each sat, watching the patrol like hawks. For once, Fireheart was grateful for the pair's suspicious nature- he certainly wasn't sure he trusted them either. Sandpaw did mention that he wanted to make a deal with Crookedstar… but I don't trust him or that Tigerclaw. He narrowed his eyes as he watched Thistlestar's patrol sit quietly. They're all a tough-looking bunch, that's for sure. I've never seen that she-cat before, though.

Grasspaw padded up to Fireheart and sat beside him; his eyes never strayed from the ThunderClan cats. "I wonder why they're all here? It can't be good, if Thistlestar brought his toughest warriors."

Fireheart nodded. "Do you know who the she-cat is?"

Grasspaw nodded. "Bluefur. She's the most senior warrior in ThunderClan, right along with Thistlestar himself. I heard that even though they're both outstanding warriors, they rarely get along. Her three kits are pretty formidable warriors too… Stonefur, Mosstail, and Mistyfoot, I think."

"Hmm." Fireheart hummed. "I hope they aren't here long." Though it had been moons ago, the memory of ThunderClan warriors chasing him through their forest to kill him as a kit was still fresh in his mind.

The Clan was uneasy the whole time Thistlestar and his warriors were in camp. It was quiet, aside from a few dubious whispers that passed between those who were in camp. However, it wasn't too long before Crookedstar, Loudbelly, and Petaldust pushed their ways through the reed wall, and stared at the visitors in surprise.

"What is the meaning of this?" Crookedstar asked, as he padded towards Thistlestar.

"I need to speak with you," Thistlestar said, tail flicking adamantly. "Immediately."

Crookedstar narrowed his eyes before he nodded slightly. "Very well." As he turned away, he jerked his head towards his den. "Follow me."

Lionheart and Bluefur stayed behind as Tigerclaw and Thistlestar followed the RiverClan leader to his den.

Grasspaw narrowed his eyes as the pair watched them go. "I guess we'll have to wait and see what he wants."

Fireheart nodded silently. I shouldn't tell him I was talking to Sandpaw. And I definitely can't say anything about giving her fresh-kill!

By the time they emerged from Crookedstar's den, word of Thistlestar's arrival had spread around camp to those just returning from patrols, and many RiverClanners were waiting agitatedly to hear what ThunderClan had visited them for.

Fireheart noticed that Thistlestar was smiling to himself as he flicked his tail at his warriors, beckoning them to follow. Without a word, Bluefur and Lionheart dipped their heads and rose, and the four ThunderClan warriors departed the camp, silent as they had arrived.

Fireheart let his shoulders sag- he hadn't realized he had been holding so much tension in.

Crookedstar's yowl startled him a bit as the leader shouted, "All cats old enough to swim gather beneath the Rockpile to hear my words!"

As soon as RiverClan had converged together beneath the pile, the big tabby began to speak. "As you know, Thistlestar visited me today," he began, sitting down. "He asked that RiverClan join him in a temporary alliance against ShadowClan— I agreed."

Fireheart found himself a bit surprised as many of his clanmates began yowling their approval.

"We'll defeat Brokenstar once and for all!" Whiteclaw declared.

"ShadowClan will pay for the prey they've taken from us!" Beetlenose yowled.

"When's the battle?" Silverthorn demanded eagerly, tail lashing.

Crookedstar raised his chin. "In two days time, when ThunderClan has recovered from ShadowClan's most recent attack. Which brings me to my next point…" His gaze searched the Clan until it settled on one cat. "Yellowfang."

Confused, Fireheart looked over his shoulder at the ragged she-cat. Yellowfang…?

Crookedstar flicked his tail. "Thistlestar admitted to me that ShadowClan has murdered Spottedleaf, their only medicine cat. Will you help mend the wounds of their most injured, provided they supply you the herbs?"

Before Yellowfang could reply, Blackclaw let out a hiss. "Mend enemy warriors? You must be joking!"

Yellowfang fixed him with a glare. "Would you rather go into battle alongside weak deadweights, or healthy warriors?" Without waiting for a reply, she scoffed and looked up at Crookedstar. "I will, so long as they meet me at Sunningrocks and I have an escort. I don't trust Thistlestar, but I'll help his warriors if it means finally overthrowing Brokenstar."

Leopardfur nodded. "That would be wise. Thistlestar is probably desperate- I wouldn't put it past him to attack or kidnap you should we leave you without defense."

A few other warriors nodded quietly as well. Fireheart smiled to himself- it seemed that others were beginning to value Yellowfang's presence in RiverClan.

Crookedstar nodded. "I agree. Tomorrow morning, you will meet ThunderClan at Sunningrocks. Make sure to take someone with you. In the meantime, everyone else- prepare. Rest, eat, and make sure you are ready for the coming battle. Though we will have ThunderClan on our side, I suspect it will not be an easy fight." Many of Fireheart's clanmates nodded firmly. It was clear everyone was filled with determination to defeat Brokenstar and his dastardly followers.

Seeing there was no complaint, Crookedstar set his jaw. "Then this meeting is dismissed. Leopardfur, will you organize a patrol to catch up to Thistlestar and tell him the terms of meeting with Yellowfang?"

Leopardfur nodded. "Of course. I'll lead it myself, and take…" She paused for a moment, scanning the gathered cats. "Reedtail, Heavystep, and Fireheart."

Fireheart pricked his ears. I'm going into ThunderClan territory?

Crookedstar nodded and scrambled down from the Rockpile. "Meeting dismissed."

"Come on," Leopardfur called as the Clan began to disperse. "I'd rather we didn't have to walk all the way to their camp."

Fireheart rose to his paws obediently and followed the dappled golden she-cat. Reedtail and Heavystep both hurried over, and Leopardfur quickly led them through the reeds towards the river.

"Have either of you ever been to ThunderClan?" Fireheart asked curiously, and glanced at Heavystep.

"Only twice," Reedtail replied with a shrug. "There's too many thorns and brambles for my liking."

Heavystep grunted in agreement. "We fought them once in their territory. Out in the open we can overpower them, but they're as slippery as fish when they can hide behind their undergrowth."

"Quit chatting and hurry up," Leopardfur grumbled as she padded into the river. "I don't want to be wasting daylight when we have so much to prepare for."

Heavystep rolled his eyes before he hurried into the rushing water after his deputy. After they exchanged a glance, Fireheart and Reedtail dove in after them.

The swim across was short– it hadn't rained in awhile, so the river wasn't swollen, and the current was not strong. Fireheart scrambled up onto the stones of Sunningrocks and shook out his glossy pelt, then waited for his clanmates to do the same.

Leopardfur nodded when she saw they were all ready. "Let's go."

Fireheart was on high alert as soon as they pushed their way through the dead bracken that bordered Sunningrocks.

Heavystep and Reedtail had been right- ThunderClan land was full of tall undergrowth. The ferns stretched just above his head, young fronds still unfurling as they grew. There was all manner of grasses and small plants beneath his paws, from rich herbs and small flowers to tiny tree sprouts. Molding leaves, acorns, and animal scat littered the forest floor, and it seemed as though thick bushes full of berries and brambles were pressing in around him from all sides.

Fireheart was surprised by how beautiful he found it. It was very different from RiverClan- they certainly didn't compare in foliage- and the scents and loud birdsong were quite different from that of the ones in his own territory.

They trekked on in silence, each cat in the patrol wary and aware of their surroundings. Fireheart felt like a clumsy badger stumbling through all the plants. He was making so much noise, and had no idea how he would ever manage as a hunter here.

Fireheart's green eyes widened as he heard the ferns and undergrowth rustle loudly before them. He narrowed his eyes and braced himself, and waited as the crashing grew in volume. Leopardfur, Heavystep, and Reedtail all waited cautiously.

A thick-furred white warrior pushed his way through the foliage, eyes narrowed. He was followed by a hissing dark tabby, a dusky brown she-cat, and a glossy blue-furred she-cat. Fireheart didn't recognize any of them.

"RiverClan intruders!" The tabby spat, before the white tom flicked his tail over his jaws.

"What are you doing here?" The leading tom asked, as he squared his shoulders. "You're on ThunderClan territory."

Leopardfur dipped her head. "I know. We're your allies now, in case your leader didn't inform you. He asked us to send a medicine cat to tend to your wounded, and we came to tell ThunderClan that we will provide them treatment so long as their wounded meet us and Sunningrocks."

"How can we trust them?" The tabby hissed, tail lashing. "They know we have no medicine cat-"

"Hush," the blue she-cat hissed, and shouldered him.

The white tom seemed to relax, and nodded. "I see. Thank you. I'll tell Thistlestar. When should we come to Sunningrocks?"

"Sun-high tomorrow," Leopardfur replied, as her gaze flickered towards the dark tabby whose back was still arched. His fur bristled along his spine.

Fireheart's eyes narrowed and he fixed the tabby with a glare. No- he did recognize this tom. This was the cat who attacked him and held him down at Sunningrocks when he was a kit. His throat tightened with a sudden anger, and the tabby curled his lip at him.

"Relax," Sunfish whispered in Fireheart's ear. He took a breath and forced his fur flat. We're allies now, he reminded himself.

The white tom nodded and shot the growling warrior a stern look. Finally he tossed his head and stood down, and started to wash his fur down. With a shake of his head, he looked back at Leopardfur. "I'll pass the message along to Thistlestar. Mousefur and Mistyfoot can escort you to the border."

Leopardfur looked irritated but she didn't complain as the brown she-cat and blue-gray she-cat stepped forward, and nodded at the white tom.

The white tom turned around, flicked his tail for the tabby to follow, and padded back through the bracken the way he'd came. The tabby watched them a moment more, before he spat and followed.

"Sorry for Darkstripe's attitude," Mistyfoot said, as she padded past them to take the lead. "He's rather the distrustful sort."

Every Clan must have warriors like that, Fireheart thought dryly, starkly reminded of Beetlenose and Blackclaw.

Mousefur said nothing as she took up the rear, and the patrol quietly followed Mistyfoot back through the woods. It was clear neither were too pleased to be tasked with escorting them.

As they made their way through a particularly thick patch of blackberries- which Fireheart was sure the ThunderClan cats were doing on purpose- the ginger tom stepped on a thorn and tripped a bit, stumbling off-balance and causing Mousefur to bump right into him.

The small she-cat recoiled sharply, and hissed, "Watch it, kittypet!"

Fireheart bristled, as he limped a few steps away. "Excuse me?"

Reedtail and Heavystep both arched their backs, eyes narrowed. Mousefur curled her lip and spat. "Don't play dumb. You're a kittypet, and I don't want your twoleg pet filth on me!"

Heavystep stepped towards her, straightening up and raising his thick tail in the air. "Say that again," he growled.

"Heavystep," Leopardfur cautioned, voice low. "Stand down."

Mousefur, not to be intimidated, stepped forward until they were right up in each other's faces. "Your kittypet friend," she said, slowly, baring her teeth. "Is an embarrassment to the name of a warrior."

Mistyfoot turned around, eyes wide. "Mousefur!" she cried.

Heavystep thrust his muzzle in her face. "I'll give you one more chance to shut up."

Fireheart swallowed. This is not how this was supposed to go! "Heavystep…" he tried. "Just leave it."

Heavystep ignored him. Mousefur curled her lip as they faced off. "Coward."

This wasn't going to end well.

Heavystep lunged forward, snarling, and bowled Mousefur over. Spitting and screeching, the she-cat fought back fiercely, reaching up to swipe and claw at the stocky tom's chest. She kicked at his belly, and he rolled away. The two tumbled over and over, wrestling, spitting, and clawing.

"Heavystep!" Leopardfur shouted, bristling in fury. She leaped into the fray, and attempted to push her way through the fighting pair. However, the two simply ducked out of the way, snapping at each other again. "Reedtail!" She snapped, and the tabby leaped to her aid.

Leopardfur shot forward again, and this time sunk her jaws into Heavystep's scruff and pulled him backwards. Reedtail shot between them, fight momentarily pulled apart, and he shoved Mousefur back. Instead of giving up, Mousefur just latched her claws into Reedtail's pelt and dragged him to the ground with her.

"Mousefur, you bee-brain!" Mistyfoot finally dove for the fight, and after a moment of tussling, she managed to slam her paws on the smaller she-cat's hip, using her sturdier build and greater weight to hold the spitting she-cat down.

When both cats were firmly separated and held back, they eventually relaxed, hissed, and pushed their respective clanmate away, only to glare at one another and lash their tails in silent dislike. Leopardfur shook her head in disgust. "You can be sure Heavystep will be speaking to Crookedstar about this… incident." She gave Mistyfoot a glance. "I apologize on my warrior's behalf."

Mistyfoot wrinkled her nose, and glared at Mousefur. "Both cats provoked this one," she growled, as she flicked the she-cat with her tail. "Go back to camp. I can lead them back myself."

"Good riddance," Mousefur hissed, before she whipped around and bound off through the thick undergrowth.

Right back at you, Fireheart thought bitterly, and then glanced gratefully at Heavystep. While he didn't want to endanger the truce by having fights break out, he was glad to have clanmates who would readily defend him. What a rude she-cat!

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