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.


23. Chapter 21

It was late in the day, and getting warm. Patrols had returned, and Loudbelly and Whiteclaw had taken Fireheart and Silverthorn's places on sentry duty.

Heavystep and Silverstream were padding towards the fresh-kill pile, and Heavystep raised his tail as he saw Fireheart and Silverthorn return into camp. "Hey!" He called cheerfully. "Want to join us for a meal? Shadepelt, Mosspelt, Vixenpaw, and Grasspaw are all coming too."

Fireheart pricked his ears. It had been some time before they had all gotten together in a group. "Sure!"

Silverthorn shrugged. "I guess… but Heavystep, haven't you done absolutely nothing all day?"

Heavystep looked uncomfortable, but Silverstream jumped to his defense in a heartbeat. "He's just tired, okay?" She practically snapped. "Everyone has their off days!"

"Sheesh, okay." Silverthorn looked surprised, and shared a wide-eyed, confused glance with Fireheart. Fireheart just shrugged.

Heavystep looked away and followed Silverstream as the pair padded towards the fresh-kill pile.

Fireheart watched them go. They spend a lot of time together, he realized. I wonder if…? Then he shook his head. No; assuming something like that was just about as silly as assuming Shadepelt and Vixenpaw had it for each other just because they spent time together!

"Let's go, before Silverstream tries to bite our heads off again," Silverthorn muttered as he brushed by Fireheart. Fireheart just shook his head again and followed them to the fresh-kill pile.

Grasspaw and Mosspelt were already situated, fat fish between their paws. Shadepelt and Vixenpaw were approaching as well, tails lifted in greeting. Fireheart quickly snatched a young salmon and carried it over to join them.

"You ready for the battle?" Grasspaw asked as he kneaded his paws in anticipation. "Sedgecreek says my battle moves have gotten way better!"

Fireheart shrugged half-heartedly. Honestly, he still wasn't sure what to make of it—yes, Brokenstar and his followers were horrendous cats, but surely all of ShadowClan wasn't! He chewed his lip for a moment. What if we end up destroying them, or wiping them out? That won't make us any better than them…

Silverthorn his thoughts as he sat down heavily, blue jay in his jaws. "I, for one, am more than ready," he growled as he dropped his meal between his paws. "Those menaces have mistreated the rest of us for too long!"

"I wonder who will go," Shadepelt wondered aloud. She was seated between Fireheart and Vixenpaw. "Crookedstar will choose experienced warriors, surely?"

"He better send Grasspaw and I," Vixenpaw declared, tossing her head. "It's about time we proved we're ready to be warriors!"

Shadepelt threw her a worried glance. "I hope not. Brokenstar and his cats will kill without second thought."

Vixenpaw bristled. "I can take care of myself!" With a growl, she stood and stormed away. Her thick tail lashed furiously behind her.

Shadepelt flinched. "Vixenpaw, I didn't mean it like that!" She jumped to her paws and hurried after the black she-cat.

Fireheart watched them go, perplexed. "What was that about?"

Grasspaw shot him an incredulous look. "Seriously?"

Fireheart frowned. "What? Vixenpaw practically bit her head off!"

"Trouble in paradise?" Mosspelt joked, shaking her head as she leaned forward to take a bite of a carp between her paws.

Fireheart just looked around at the dumbfounded faces, feeling very much like he was missing out on something that everyone else was in on.

As they finished their meal, a yowl erupted from the Rockpile. Fireheart raised his head, surprised, to see Crookedstar standing atop the pile. "All cats old enough to swim gather beneath the Rockpile to hear my words!"

Silverstream stretched and swiped her tongue across her jaws. "I wonder what that's about?"

Silverthorn looked sharply at her. "You mean Crookedstar didn't tell you anything?"

Silverstream curled her lip. "Just because I'm Crookedstar's daughter doesn't mean I hear everything, Silverthorn." She scoffed in irritation and padded towards the pile.

Fireheart frowned as he watched Heavystep hurry after her, and saw Silverthorn's annoyed expression. It seems like our group is falling apart, he thought, with a twinge of sadness. Silverthorn and Silverstream are getting into it with each other, Shadepelt and Vixenpaw are fighting, and Heavystep just lays around. But where do I fall? He pushed these thoughts aside as he approached the Rockpile.

When Crookedstar was satisfied with the attendance, he sat, wrapping his thick tail around his paws. "I have only a short few things to say," he began. "First, as you should all know, the battle against ShadowClan begins tomorrow. Leopardfur and I have discussed and decided that the following cats will participate—" The entire Clan held their breaths— "Of course, Leopardfur and I. Then there will be Blackclaw, Whiteclaw, Voleclaw, Sedgecreek, Reedtail, Sunfish, Fireheart, Shadepelt, Silverthorn, Heavystep, Vixenpaw, and Grasspaw."

Fireheart pricked his ears. So I will be going.

Beetlenose and Loudbelly both looked irritated that they had not been chosen to fight, but only shuffled their paws and flattened their ears.

Crookedstar continued after a moment. "Be prepared," he continued. "Those in the battle will not patrol for the rest of the day, so that you will have time to prepare. Now, moving on…" He glanced at Yellowfang and Mudfur, who sat close to the pile. "Your medicine cats have taken on an apprentice. They will be training Ravenpaw of ThunderClan until he can independently care for ThunderClan."

Blackclaw raised his head and snarled, "That's ridiculous!"

Silverthorn agreed with an irritated flick of his ears. "Training our enemies? That's just dangerous!"

Yellowfang rose and glared at the outspoken protesters. "I am a medicine cat," she hissed. "Clan boundaries are different for me than they are for you. It matters not who leads a Clan or how infuriating a Clan may be, they must have a medicine cat so they can survive and have a connection to StarClan. ShadowClan committed a horrible deed when they killed Spottedleaf."

Mudfur nodded. "It's already been decided. We agreed with Crookedstar that he must come here to train. In a situation like this, we would ask each medicine cat to help, but that simply isn't possible now."

Crookedstar flicked his ears. "As they said, this has been decided, and is not up for debate. Ravenpaw of ThunderClan will have safe entry to RiverClan until he becomes a full medicine cat." He flicked his tail. "This meeting is dismissed."

Cats broke apart, some finding small groups to gossip about Ravenpaw or the coming battle, while others headed for the fresh-kill pile or their dens.

Fireheart stretched. Not sure what to do. Perhaps I'll going hunting, anyway…

"Hey, Fireheart?" The ginger tom blinked as Mallowtail hurried up to him. "Would you mind watching my kits while they swim for a bit? I was going to stretch my legs with Whiteclaw."

Fireheart dipped his head and purred. "Of course!" He was fond of Mallowtail, so watching her kits for a while was hardly a chore to him. "Where are they?"

Mallowtail jerked her head in the direction of the nursery. "Behind the nursery. I told them to wait until someone came to watch them, but I wouldn't be surprised if Sparrowkit was already halfway to ThunderClan." She sighed and shook her head. "Oh, which reminds me- don't let them go past the reeds and cattails! The current gets stronger past there and they haven't had enough practice for that yet."

Don't go past the reeds, he repeated internally. "Got it!"

Mallowtail padded away to touch noses with Whiteclaw, while Fireheart headed for the nursery. He veered around the den to see four kits on the riverbank. Here, the river came right up along the nursery— there was hardly more than a tail-length of space between the den and the water.

As soon as he arrived, Sparrowkit leaped to her paws. "Finally!" She exclaimed. "I've been waiting for moons!" Before Fireheart could say a word, she shot forward and splashed in.

Fireheart sighed. "Your mother says to not go past the reeds!"

Cedarkit, the biggest of the littler, crept forward and sniffed the water. With a nonchalant shrug, he padded in— in a much calmer manner— and struck out towards Sparrowkit. Fireheart smiled- he was clearly a natural.

Duskkit took her time, but didn't seem nervous. She slowly headed in until she was up to her shoulders in water, and then began to swim, silent as a hunting otter.

Stormkit, still the smallest of the litter, tottered in on shaky legs. Fireheart could tell he was nervous.

Sparrowkit seemed to have no qualms about the river, and was soon splashing her siblings and growling like a badger. "Take that, ShadowClan scum!" She yowled as she slammed her paws down on the water and splashed it right in Cedarkit's face.

Cedarkit let out a mock growl. "Feel my claws, fish-face!" He leaped towards her, but fell short as she hopped back, and flopped into the water ungracefully.

Fireheart turned his attention to Stormkit, who still seemed to be struggling. The tiny tortoiseshell was unsteady, and his nose kept dipping below the surface, causing him to splutter.

"Hold your chin up, Stormkit!" Fireheart called. "And try to extend your strokes as far as you can."

Stormkit's ears pricked, and he let out a nervous squeak as water ran over his nose. Snorting the water out, he held his chin up out of the water. "O-okay!" The advice seem to help–he was moving a little faster now, with far less splashing.

"Great work!" Fireheart purred. "You'll be swimming like a fish in no time." He scanned the shallows for the other kits. Duskkit was still easily gliding through the water, Cedarkit was stopping on the shore to inspect a snail, and Sparrowkit…

"Sparrowkit!" Fireheart shouted. "Come back here!"

The she-cat was swimming for the edge of the reeds, seemingly intent on getting through. Her ear flicked, but she ignored the warrior and just kept going.

"Sparrowkit!" Fireheart tried again, standing. "The current is too strong out there!"

As though to prove his point, as soon as Sparrowkit pushed through the reeds, she let out a shriek as she was swept off her course by the river.

"Oh, StarClan…" Fireheart gritted his teeth before he leaped into the water and began to wade towards the reeds. "You three, stay right here!" He ordered, before he dove through the reeds and into the river.

The current wasn't too strong for a grown cat like Fireheart, but it seemed to be pulling Sparrowkit down the river much faster than Fireheart would've liked. He could still see her shape, paws flailing as she wailed, and he began to swim into the current. "I'm coming!" he yowled, as he swam as quickly as he could.

His heart clenched with fear when he saw Sparrowkit disappear under the water for a moment, but she quickly bobbed back to the top, spluttering and coughing. Fireheart kicked his legs as hard as he could, and he quickly began to gain on her. "I've almost got you!" Fireheart called.

"Fireheart!" Sparrowkit cried, turning herself around to face him. It looked like she was trying to swim for him, but she was only slowing herself down a little.

Fireheart finally reached the kit, swam forward, and snatched her scruff in his jaws. He let out a grunt as he felt her weight pull him a bit, but he held her up as best he could and struck out for the shore. When he had regained his footing, the ginger tom began to pad through the shallow water back to the reedbed. Sparrowkit hung in his jaws like a deadweight, but he could hear her tired yet noisy panting.

When Fireheart reached the reedbed, he found Skyheart sitting on the shore, Sparrowkit's littermates pressed to her sides. "You got her!" Skyheart sighed in relief. "These three told me what happened."

Fireheart set the soaked kit down and sat down heavily. "She's alright."

Sparrowkit raised her head to gaze up at Fireheart. "That was…"

Fireheart expected 'scary', 'horrible', or even 'terrifying', but Sparrowkit kneaded her paws and exclaimed, "Awesome!"

Skyheart narrowed her eyes furiously. "Listen here, you little upstart!" The queen snapped. "You could have drowned, or been carried off by a heron, or otherwise died! Imagine what that would have done to your siblings, or your mother, for StarClan's sake!"

Sparrowkit lowered her head, startled by the sudden scolding. "I just wanted-…"

"That doesn't matter," Skyheart huffed. "You disobeyed Fireheart and Mallowtail and nearly got yourself killed." With a sigh, she reached out and pulled Sparrowkit close. "Oh, come here."

Fireheart smiled a little as he watched the queen rasp her tongue over Sparrowkit's head. "I'm glad you're alright," she murmured. Skyheart glanced up at Fireheart and blinked gratefully. "Thank you." she prodded Sparrowkit. "Don't you have something to say, too?"

Sparrowkit looked up at Fireheart solemnly. "Th–thank you, Fireheart."

Fireheart nodded and smiled at the young kit. "Of course. Just save the swimming out there for when you're an apprentice. I don't want to have be jumping in to save you every day!"

Sparrowkit nodded hurriedly. "Okay. I will!"

Skyheart rose and ushered the kits away from the river, and back towards the nursery.

Fireheart stretched, noting the soreness in his muscles. He sat and began to lap at his pelt to get it drier. I should sleep, He thought, stretching out a hind leg to lick his fur. I'll need all the rest I can get before tomorrow.

When he was satisfied with his pelt, Fireheart rose and padded back into camp, and headed straight for the warriors' den. Inside, Sunfish, Whiteclaw, and Heavystep were already sleeping. Briefly, Fireheart wondered just what Heavystep's deal was—as Silverthorn had remarked earlier, he'd already spent the day lounging around—but he pushed the thought away with a sigh and curled up in his nest. Fireheart's mind buzzed with worries about tomorrow's battle, but somehow, StarClan soon granted him a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

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