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.


4. Chapter 2

"Well?" Thistlestar hissed. "Get up and fight, wretched kittypet!"

Lionheart was staring at him coldly, despite trying to soothe his leader, and Graypaw only watched helplessly.

Rusty forced himself to his paws. Maybe I can give him a good scratch, he thought, not believing it for a moment. I can surprise him and run home and never come back and-

Thistlestar leaped, swinging a mighty paw and scoring his claws across Rusty's chest and knocking him away again. Rusty let out a pained cry as he crashed to the forest floor again. Twice more he tried to rise, and twice more Thistlestar struck him down, leaving dozens of hair-thin scratches on his hide. The dark tom sneered down at him cruelly. Rusty couldn't but think that Thistlestar enjoyed hurting him.

Rusty was kicked again into a patch of soft, loose earth. As Thistlestar advanced, he hissed, "Weak kittypet! Your fight against Graypaw was clearly a fluke. You won't even stand up to me!" Rusty scowled, feeling a sudden rush of adrenaline. He would not go down like this, beaten down into the dust like an alley rat! As Thistlestar raised a paw, ready to strike, Rusty acted swiftly, scraping his paw against the loose dirt and swinging it up into Thistlestar's face. He nearly grinned in satisfaction as the dirt was flung into Thistlestar's eyes. The gray tom roared in fury, stumbling back in surprise. As he shook his head furiously, Rusty leaped to his paws and raced under Thistlestar's belly, streaking past a surprised but still Lionheart, into the unknown forest.

"Kittypet!" Thistlestar yowled, his roar carrying through the forest as Rusty raced away. "I'll murder you! Your entrails will be spread from here to Highstones!"

Rusty flattened his ears, leaping over a clump of fallen bracken. He had no idea where he was going, or where his home was. All he knew was that his wounds burned and that he needed to run.

Rusty thought countless times that he heard noises behind him, but nothing leaped out to claw at him. He wasn't sure how long he'd ran, but eventually his muscles burned, screaming for relief. Rusty found a hollow under a tree and curled up inside, panting heavily as he cowered inside. He laid there for hours, possibly, and once heard voices in the distance.

As the sky began to darken, however, he emerged from the burrow. His legs were still sore, but he figured he should keep moving. He stood still by the tree for a few moments. Do I go back? he wondered. I don't know if I'd be able to find my way, let alone without running into Thistlestar and ThunderClan. If only I'd listened to Smudge… he sighed. Maybe if I keep going I'll find someone friendly who can help me. As he walked, he winced. I hope I can get home soon so I can get these scratches mended.

Rusty continued onward through the forest, much more slowly than before. His legs still burned and his wounds ached something terrible. He glanced at the sky to see it cascaded in orange and pink hues- but he hardly enjoyed it. Rusty had a better view from his fence, and he wasn't feeling so cheerful as to sit and watch it set in the treetops.

As dusk fell, crickets chirped throughout the forest. Rusty let out a sigh. Surely he'd at least be safe for the night.

"There he is! I smell him!"

"Are you certain, Longtail?"

"Of course, Darkstripe!"

"Wait, it's fresh!"

And then he heard that familiar snarl. "After him, then! I won't let kittypets think they can wander in and out of my land as they please!"

Rusty's heart sunk. No! Without another thought, he took off, crashing through the undergrowth.

"Aha! After him!"

Rusty forced himself to pump his legs even harder than earlier. His chest burned painfully as his lungs heaved for air, his muscles strained to leap over fallen logs and thick undergrowth, and his wounds stung terribly as they hit leaves and branches and thorns.

Rusty could tell the warriors were gaining on him. Their crashing and yowling was rapidly becoming closer and closer- no matter how fast he ran, they were much, much faster.

Suddenly, the treeline ended, and Rusty felt warm stones beneath his paws. Ahead of him, he heard the sound of fresh, moving water- a river was ahead of him, across the sand-colored warm rocks. Though he tried to keep running, he was tripped up by the unexpected rocks, and he fell, unbalanced. Rusty cried out in pain as his head cracked sharply against a stone. He remained sprawled on the rocks, stunned and hopeless.

As the ThunderClan cats burst from the trees, hissing victoriously, another yowl sounded from the river. "ThunderClan intruders!"

Rusty raised his head weakly to see sleek, dripping cats burst from the river.

"Leave this place, Oakheart!" he heard Thistlestar yowl. "This kittypet is my intruder, and Sunningrocks belongs to me!"

Rusty tried to stand, but a dark gray-and-black ThunderClan tom shot forward and slammed him into the stones sharply. Rusty couldn't help but cry out again in pain. "Not so fast, kittypet," the dark tabby spat.

The bracken-colored river cat stepped forward, flanked by four more warriors. "If you weren't so busy yowling and scaring off your own prey, Thistlestar, you might've noticed we'd placed the new border markers. I'd take my cats off of Sunningrocks if I were you." His eyes travelled down to the trembling form of Rusty, and he curled his lips. "You're hunting a kittypet kit? Have you no shame? Look at him! You could have cuffed him over the ears and sent him home with no trouble." He tsked sharply. "First you trespass on RiverClan land, and then we catch you breaking the code harming a kit."

"He was a trespasser, and he disrespected Thistlestar," The dark tabby snarled. "ThunderClan doesn't take that lightly, Oakheart."

"Now that's where we understand each other," Oakheart said, before he lashed his tail to both sides. "I have the same low-tolerance for intruders." As though it were a signal, the four cats behind him screeched and leaped forward, lunging on the ThunderClan cats.

Rusty gasped in relief as the dark tabby on top of him was thrown off by a ginger-and-white she-cat, still dripping wet from the river. Breifly, Rusty wondered how the cats stood the water, but he scrambled to paws, pushing away the thought. He stood still for a moment as the clearing erupted with shrieks of fury and splatters of blood across the stones.

"Kittypet!" Oakheart snapped, and for an awful heartbeat, Rusty thought his savior was about to turn on him and kill him, too. "Go to the river and wait there!" He scanned what he'd called 'Sunningrocks'. "Dawnbright!" he called, and the ginger-and-white she-cat that had tackled the tabby raised her head. She now had the tabby pinned, and he was struggling beneath her paws. "Leave that fish-heart. Take the kit across the river and warn Crookedstar of the battle."

Dawnbright hesitated before she clawed the tabby across the face and leaped away, running back towards Rusty. "Come on!" She ordered as she passed him. Rusty followed, his movements more forced than ever. When they were at the riverbank, Rusty gulped. "Come on," she repeated. "It's not that bad." Dawnbright glanced at him. "Well… you're definitely tired and probably don't know how to swim. I'll try and carry you across, but make sure you keep your head up."

She nudged him towards the river, and Rusty stepped into it, trembling. Dawnbright bent down and grasped his scruff in her jaws, and with a huff, she lifted him just off the ground. Then, she padded in with ease, and before he knew it, Rusty was up to his jaws in water and Dawnbright was swimming strongly across the river. Rusty gasped as he was nearly submerged in water, and did his best to keep his head up. In a few moments, they had crossed, and Rusty was relieved to feel the soft earth beneath his paws again. He all but collapsed right then and there.

Dawnbright glanced over her shoulder, and Rusty followed her gaze. He watched as Oakheart and Thistlestar both reared and crashed into each other, locking their forelegs around each other's necks as they wrestled for dominance. Thistlestar overpowered him, slamming him into the ground. Nearby, a black kitten- about the same size as Graypaw, Rusty reckoned- hissed at one of the RiverClan warriors. Danwbright frowned, turning away. "They'll manage," she told him, but it sounded like she was comforting herself. "Come, if you're lucky, Crookedstar will let Mudfur treat your wounds."

Rusty gulped at the words 'if you're lucky'. What was the alternative? Would RiverClan kill him like ThunderClan had planned to?

Not far from the riverbank was a long reedbed, mingled with ferns. A gap between the reeds opened up before them. Dawnbright glanced at him. "Can you smell my clan?"

Rusty frowned before parting his jaws to taste the air. The smell of fish wavered in the air, along with cat-scent, though each trail smelled just like the next. His mouth watered at the smell of fresh fish- on occasion, his housefolk would give him some out of a tin can, and though salty and a bit metallic, it was a treat for sure. "I smell... cats. And fish."

"You look hungry," Dawnbright pointed out, twitching her tail. "I suppose being chased through the forest all day will do that to you." She led him through the reeds, into the opening. "Stick close to me," she meowed. "My clan will smell your kittypet scent the moment you walk in."

Rusty blinked, but followed. Could cats really be that perceptive?

Dawnbright pushed through the reeds, and in a heartbeat, they were standing in a wide clearing. RiverClan's camp was flat and sunny, and the earth looked soft and trodden. A number of cats were stretched out in the sun, dozing or grooming one another. Beyond, dens appeared to be constructed out of more reeds, cleverly pushed and woven together intricately. They almost looked like large birds' nests, in a way. Rusty noticed that a few of the dens had shiny objects and shells woven among them, which let the sun shine across them, scattering pretty lights across the clearing. It was almost surprising. Though he hadn't been sure what to expect, he wasn't expecting a tranquil clearing with calm, happy cats. Smudge was exaggerating… well, a little, maybe, he thought, flinching at the still painful memory of being flung to the ground by Thistlestar and clawed to shreds. His scratches were still stinging, even more so after being chased through the forest.

After hardly a moment, however, many of the cats raised their heads, and as they spotted him, they narrowed their eyes and muttered to one another. Rusty tried not to bristle nervously- he didn't want to appear hostile.

"This way," Dawnbright said, ignoring the stares. She led him to one of the smaller reed-dens, and called inside. "Crookedstar? I need to see you."

"Of course, Dawnbright. Come in." A deep voice replied, and they stepped inside. A huge, light brown tom was crouched over a half-eaten trout. Rusty's eyes widened as he saw the tom's twisted jaw. How did that happen? he wondered.

The light tabby frowned. "Why did you bring a kittypet here?"

"Thistlestar and his cats attacked this kit," Dawnbright explained, nudging Rusty closer. "They clawed him and chased him all the way to Sunningrocks. Darkstripe had him pinned to the rocks when we found him. Oakheart wanted me to bring him to you."

Crookedstar looked Rusty up and down. "Hmm. You ran all this way to Sunningrocks? Impressive, for a kittypet, and a kit at that." His frown turned sympathetic as he noticed Rusty's scratches. "Take him to Mudfur," he ordered. "ThunderClan may have forgotten the code, but RiverClan will not turn away an injured kittypet." He gave Rusty a friendly blink, and the ginger tom was filled with relief. "What's your name, kittypet?"

"Rusty," he meowed. He quickly added, "Th-thank you. I thought they were going to kill me."

Crookedstar sighed. "They would have. You were lucky that Oakheart was there." He glanced at Dawnbright. "Are they fighting?" When she nodded, he sighed heavily again. "How many?"

Dawnbright frowned, thinking. "It was Thistlestar, Darkstripe, that tabby… Longtail, I think his name is, and a shrimpy little apprentice."

Crookedstar frowned again. "After you bring Rusty to Mudfur's den, bring Blackclaw and Skyheart and help chase them off. I will not lose Sunningrocks to them."

"Understood," Dawnbright said, then nudged Rusty again. "Let's go." After they left the den, he was escorted across camp to another reed den. As they passed, a few cats hissed.


"Why'd you bring that here?"

"Don't waste Mudfur's herbs on a kittypet!"

Dawnbright ignored them. Rusty flattened his ears, but said nothing.

Inside this den, an older, thick-furred brown tom was sitting in the back, sorting dried leaves. "Hmm?" he looked over his shoulder before narrowing his eyes. "What's this?"

"ThunderClan hurt this kittypet kit," Dawnbright explained again. "Oakheart sent me with him back here. There'll probably be more wounds soon, since they're fighting."

Mudfur padded closer, sniffing at Rusty, who shrank back a little. "I don't bite," Mudfur chuckled. "I'll fix those scratches. Kittypet or not, I won't turn away a hurt kit."

"Goodbye, Rusty," Dawnbright meowed over her shoulder as she turned away. "I'll give someone a good scratch for you."

Rusty blinked in surprise. She actually sounded friendly.

Mudfur scraped together some moss into a rough nest. "You must be exhausted," he said, shuffling back to the herb pile. "Rest. You'll be safe here for tonight, at least."

Rusty was suddenly aware again of how overwhelmingly tired he was. Not to mention, he was still wet from the river, and shivering.

"Lick your fur the wrong way," Mudfur instructed. "I'll help in a moment."

Rusty mumbled a thanks before stepping into and curling up in his nest. It wasn't the cloth-and-wool bed he had in his house, but it was still surprisingly comfortable. He tiredly lapped at his pelt, though he found it was difficult to lick his fur back on his own. True to his word, Mudfur soon turned and began to groom Rusty's pelt for him. It didn't take long for the soothing grooming to lull him to sleep.

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