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.


24. Chapter 22

It was quiet in RiverClan, and the morning air was filled with the scents of worry and tension. Today was the day—Today RiverClan and ThunderClan would attack ShadowClan as a united force and hopefully drive Brokenstar and his followers from the territories forever.

Not long after the morning dew had dried, Crookedstar let out a yowl to call together the Clan. RiverClan crowded around the Rockpile, as they anxiously awaited his announcement.

Fireheart stared solemnly up at Crookedstar as the RiverClan leader scanned the Clan. Still full of uncertainty about the battle, his tail flicked nervously. I don't want war, The warrior thought. But maybe… maybe sometimes the only way to reach peace is to fight for it.

"Cats of RiverClan," Crookedstar began. "Today we fight against ShadowClan, as you know. Those of you in the battle should be ready shortly after this meeting ends. We will meet our allies at the twoleg bridge and head towards ShadowClan from there. As for those of you remaining here, I ask that you stay in camp in case of a pressing situation. Beetlenose, you will be in charge until we return."

The smoky tom pricked his ears and dipped his head. "I'll do my best."

"That is all," Crookedstar finished. "I will speak briefly with Leopardfur, and then we will leave." He leaped down from the Rockpile and padded towards his den, Leopardfur close behind.

Cats began to split up, and those who were not fighting came to the sides of their close friends to wish them well. Fireheart watched as Whiteclaw, in an unusually tender moment, pressed his muzzle to Mallowtail's before he nosed each of their kits.

Fireheart blinked as Yellowfang padded up to him, eyes narrowed. "Listen," she huffed gruffly. "Brokenstar and his cats aren't afraid to kill. But not everyone supports him, especially after he exiled the elders."

Fireheart's green eyes widened. "He did that?"

Yellowfang nodded. "Yes. I have a favor to ask of you—be aware of those on your side. I suspect Thistlestar and that deputy of his won't care if you have allies in ShadowClan, who want nothing more than to see Brokenstar dead. They just want to spill blood. But I trust you, Fireheart, to see the good in my birth Clan." The medicine cat flicked him with her thick tail. "And for StarClan's sake, don't get your foolish self killed."

Fireheart purred a little. "Well, don't drop dead while I'm away, you old badger." More seriously, he added, "I'll do my best. I don't… I don't want to see anyone die, especially not another kit."

Yellowfang sighed heavily. "Sometimes, Fireheart, death is inevitable."

Before he could say any more, Fireheart heard Crookedstar yowl; the signal that it was time to depart. The ginger tom quickly touched his nose to Yellowfang's ear before he turned away and joined the patrol that was gathering at the camp entrance.

Leopardfur's critical gaze swept over the patrol before she nodded. "They're all here, Crookedstar."

The RiverClan leader lashed his tail once. "Then let us go." Fireheart noticed that today, Crookedstar stood a little taller and prouder than usual, and there was a fierce glint of determination in his eye that Fireheart had not seen in a long time.

When they arrived at the Twoleg bridge, Fireheart spotted ThunderClan sitting on the opposite end, talking quietly among themselves. Thistlestar and Tigerclaw stood to greet the RiverClan patrol as they crossed to join them.

"About time," Tigerclaw growled.

"Hush," Thistlestar tossed his deputy a stern look before he padded forward to stand before Crookedstar. "Greetings. Are your cats ready to fight?"

Crookedstar dipped his head. "It's been many seasons since RiverClan has launched a full attack like this… But they're ready."

Thistlestar nodded curtly. "Good. Let's get this over with. The sooner Brokenstar joins the Dark Forest, the better." He flicked his tail, and his warriors stood.

Together, the two Clans continued on through the grassy field. Fireheart found himself surprised at how easily the two rival Clans fell in step with one another, mingling as though they had always been one. War can bring even the worst of enemies together, Fireheart thought, and shook his head a little as he walked.

A familiar voice came from beside him as a sandy-ginger she-cat joined him. "Hey."

"Sandpaw?" Fireheart blinked. "Aren't you injured?"

Sandpaw shrugged. "The scratch is doing better since Yellowfang treated it. Besides, Thistlestar doesn't care, and Tigerclaw says this our second chance to prove we're ready to become warriors."

"...Second chance?" Fireheart echoed, as a frown played across his lips. "Did you fail your assessment?"

"No thanks to you all," Sandpaw muttered, before she glanced at him. "Don't you remember the attack Graypaw, Dustpaw, Ravenpaw, and I fought in against you on Sunningrocks? That was our assessment."

Fireheart's eyes widened. "That's… kind of horrible. What if you had died?"

Sandpaw raised a brow. "I just told you we attacked you to become warriors, and you're worried about our lives?" She shook her head, but Fireheart noticed her smile a little. "Like I said… you're the strangest cat I've ever met."

"Thanks, I guess," Fireheart replied, not sure whether or not he should take that as a compliment or an insult. "But are you sure you can fight?"

He winced a little at the suddenly fierce glare Sandpaw threw him. "Either I fight, or Brokenstar's cronies kill me. I'm not weak, and I'm sure not about to die today."

"Sorry," Fireheart mumbled. "I didn't mean to offend you."

The two fell into a tense silence, until a muscular gray tom shoved his way between them. "Fireheart!" Graypaw purred. "Long time, no see."

"Graypaw," Fireheart smiled, a little relieved at his appearance. "It's been a while."

"It sure has!" The gray tom exclaimed cheerfully, as though he was unaware of the mild tension between the two cats. "I'll be honest, I still can't believe you're a warrior—and before me, no less!"

Fireheart gave his chest an embarrassed lick before he glanced over Graypaw's shoulders at Sandpaw, who was now scowling. What's her deal? "Sandpaw says you might become warriors after this, though."

Graypaw nodded, and his eyes glinted with determination. "That's right," he said. "I just wish Ravenpaw was with us, though… I miss training alongside him."

Sandpaw shrugged. "He was too anxious to ever make a good warrior. He's doing what's best for himself and the Clan."

Graypaw shot her an annoyed look. "Whatever."

Fireheart was spared another awkward silence when Silverthorn glanced over his shoulder and called for him. "Fireheart!"

"I should go see what he wants," Fireheart said, a little apologetically. "Good luck." Without waiting for a response he hurried ahead, and brushed past a few ThunderClan cats before he reached Silverthorn.

The silver tabby jerked his head towards the pair of apprentices. "What was that all about?"

Fireheart shrugged. "We were just talking. They're…" He was going to say friends, but he wasn't even sure he should call the ThunderClan cats that. "...acquaintances," he finished, lamely. "Graypaw was the first Clan cat I ever met, and I've spoken to Sandpaw a few times."

Silverthorn narrowed his eyes. "Don't get the wrong idea with them, Fireheart," he growled. "No matter how this battle goes, they'll always be our enemies."

Fireheart bristled slightly. "We just talk sometimes," he defended himself. "And I didn't ask for your advice. We're hardly friends ourselves."

Silverthorn let out a frustrated growl. "Fine," he snapped. "Excuse me for trying to help you." Ears flat, he bounded ahead, leaving Fireheart alone in the middle of the traveling Clans.

Fireheart sighed and flicked his tail irritably. What is it with Silverthorn? He thought. One moment he wants to shove me into the gorge, and the next he's trying to give me life advice.

The two Clans soon reached the Thunderpath and lined up in the ditch alongside it. "On my mark!" Thistlestar shouted as he watched the moving monsters with sharp, keen eyes. "Almost… now!"

Half the group charged across as the final monster roared by. Fireheart was in the second group, and kneaded his paws in anticipation as he waited for their turn. He'd never crossed himself, but he knew that even just a bump from one of the monsters could seriously put him in a world of hurt… or worse.

Leopardfur crouched as monsters continued to speed by. "Gap coming up in a few seconds… go!" She leaped from the ditch and raced across, and the rest of the remaining cats followers suit.

Fireheart's heart nearly beat out of his chest as he pelted across the rough, dark surface, and he nearly thought his paw pads were going to rip off entirely.

"Monster!" Darkstripe shrieked, putting on an extra burst of speed and rushing past Fireheart.

The ginger warrior could hear the rumbling monster gaining on them, but he wasted no time looking. Fireheart bunched up his muscles, and leaped, clearing the distance to the other side and landed in a heap in the ditch.

"Are you okay?" He heard Silverthorn ask, and looked up to see the silver tom standing over him.

"I'm fine," Fireheart grunted as he pushed himself up to his paws. "Than—"

"Good," Silverthorn spat, cutting him off, and whipped around to continue walking.

Fireheart narrowed his eyes in frustration as they continued on into the marshy pine forest. Arrogant minnow-brain.

Whereas ThunderClan was bright and lush, ShadowClan was darker, and heavy with the scent of mud and pine sap. The tall trees loomed over them, casting dark shadows across the land and the invading cats.

Fireheart supposed he could see some of the beauty here, too—the stones were covered in all manner of soft mosses and lichens, bright flowers blossomed in the patches of sunlight, and speckled toadstools rose from decaying logs and branches.

Thistlestar and Crookedstar halted from the front of the group, and both leaders raised their tails to stop their clanmates. "There's someone ahead," Thistlestar hissed, before he sprang forward into the towering ferns before him. A sharp screech rang out, and Fireheart pricked his ears. What if that's one of the elders?

Ignoring Leopardfur's hiss, the ginger tom pushed his way forward and rushed through the undergrowth. Thistlestar had a flat-faced black-and-white queen on her back, and despite being skinny and aged, she struggled as hard as she could.

"Murdering ShadowClan scum!" Thistlestar spat. "Your blood will be the first to be spilled."

"Wait!" she protested. "I'm not—"

"Your lies won't save you!" Thistlestar roared, opening his jaws to attack her throat.

"Stop!" Fireheart yowled as he leaped forward, and taking the leader by surprised, shoved him away. "She's an elder!"

Thistlestar turned on him and bared his teeth. "You kittypet annoyance," he spat. "She deserves no mercy."

Fireheart stared him down. He could feel his paws trembling, and for a moment, the image of the massive tom looming over him as a kit flashed into his mind. I'm not a kit anymore, he reminded himself. "Yellowfang told me Brokenstar exiled the elders. Not everyone in ShadowClan supports him."

The queen sat up and coughed. "He's right," she said. "Brokenstar threw us out. There are cats in ShadowClan who would be glad to see him exiled."

Thistlestar narrowed his eyes. "How can we trust you?"

The queen glared at him. "I can smell ThunderClan and RiverClan. Brokenstar won't stand a chance. What do I have to gain from deceiving you? I'll die out here unless ShadowClan takes the other elders and I back."

Thistlestar was silent for a long moment. "It's clear!" he called, and the two Clans pushed their ways through the bracken.

"Who's this mange-pelt?" A ThunderClan warrior hissed, while others stared suspiciously.

"Our guide," Thistlestar growled. "Lead the way, elder. And you, kittypet, can go ahead with her, since you're so keen on protecting her."

Fireheart held his ground. You're not my leader, he thought.

"Fireheart stays with us," Crookedstar said with a flick of his tail. His eyes narrowed in the slightest—he was clearly not pleased that Thistlestar was trying to order around one of his warriors.

Fireheart looked from the ragged queen to Thistlestar. "No, I will go," he said, and raised his chin. "I'm not afraid to lead."

Thistlestar curled his lip a little in displeasure as Fireheart pointedly strode past him. The elderly queen stood and followed, and shot a final glare at the ThunderClan leader

"Thank you," the elder mewed, once they were a few fox-lengths ahead. "My name is Brightflower. You said you knew Yellowfang…?"

Fireheart nodded. "I'm Fireheart. She's become a medicine cat of RiverClan. Were you two friends? She doesn't speak much of ShadowClan."

Brightflower's eyes dimmed with grief. "She's my daughter," she murmured. "She was thrown out when my second litter was found dead. Yellowfang was at the scene of their murder, and Brokenstar accused her. I believed him, and I was so angry…" She sighed. "But now that Brokenstar has become the monster he is, I can't believe I ever believed in him."

Fireheart frowned. "She told me that she was framed and cast out."

Brightflower nodded. "We all believed him. We were all so blind… Now my mate is dead, and I'm an exile for being too old to hunt properly."

"I'm so sorry," Fireheart murmured. "ShadowClan sounds awful."

Brightflower shook her head. "Any Clan can become corrupt under a bad leader, Fireheart. Just look at ThunderClan…" She lowered her voice. "Thistlestar has never been kind. Don't trust him. After this battle, he'll go right back to trying to destroy your Clan. He thrives off of battling."

Fireheart felt chilled by her words, and again, the memory of his first encounter came rushing back. He gritted his teeth and tried to force the thought away. "Yeah," he agreed. "I don't trust him."

"Shh…" Brightflower whispered, ears flat. "We're here."

Thistlestar and Crookedstar stood closest to the entrance. "We need to move quickly," Thistlestar hissed. "Before those rats scent us."

Crookedstar nodded. "Let's go. StarClan be with us."

"ThunderClan!" Thistlestar threw back his head and roared. "Attack!" Wasting no time, the massive tom raced through the camp entrance, and his warriors poured in after him.

"RiverClan, to me!" Crookedstar yowled, leading their charge into the camp.

Fireheart was only just behind his leader as they rushed into ShadowClan's camp. His eyes widened as he saw Thistlestar leap on the back of Clawface, and ThunderClan cats eagerly began to attack the other ShadowClan cats.

It was instant chaos. ShadowClan was clearly terribly outnumbered, but they were fighting like lions to defend their camp.

"Brokenstar!" Fireheart heard Tigerclaw screech. "Show your face!"

Fireheart first camp face-to-face with a thick-furred gray-and-brown she-cat. "Fish-face!" The she-cat spat. "You cowards couldn't even fight us alone!" She leaped forward, claws extended, and Fireheart only barely managed to roll out of the way. He let out a sharp, startled cry as he felt her teeth in his tail, and the ginger warrior lashed out with a hind leg in response, and kicked her directly in the eye.

The she-cat let out a howl and stumbled back as she shook her head, momentarily blinded. Fireheart took the opportunity to get up and tear into her shoulder with a well-aimed swipe. She staggered, unbalanced, and let out another hiss of fury and pain.

Fireheart had been readying himself to spring when heavy paws gripped his haunches and shoved him to the ground from behind. He swallowed as he recognized Blackfoot, ShadowClan's massive and ferocious deputy. "If it isn't the kittypet warrior," He sneered smugly. "This should be easy."

Fireheart tried to squirm away, but the larger tom easily slammed his paws on Fireheart's exposed belly, and painfully winded him. Fireheart gasped for breath as Blackfoot pressed a paw to his throat. "Say hello to StarClan for me," he snarled.

Fireheart could hardly move, still trying to recover from his last blow. I don't want to die like this!

Much to Fireheart's surprise, a gray cat slammed into Blackfoot's side and threw him off balance. Blackfoot stumbled back and released Fireheart. "You traitor!" He spat, and stared wide-eyed at Fireheart's savior.

"Flintfang!" Fireheart gasped as he recognized the tom.

Flintfang flicked his ear. "You're a traitor to StarClan and the warrior code, Blackfoot," he spat. "I'm sure our ancestors will forgive me!" He threw himself at his deputy, and the two toms rolled away as they clawed and hissed and spat.

Fireheart lay limp for another moment to catch his breath before he heaved himself up to his paws and scanned the camp to observe the battle. Like Flintfang, it seemed many ShadowClan cats had turned on their clanmates—a russet-furred she-cat clawed at the she-cat Fireheart had fought earlier, and Brightflower was attacking a young tom with Stonefur of ThunderClan. He glimpsed Vixenpaw and Shadepelt fighting side-by-side while Reedtail tackled a scarred tom.

Fireheart stiffened as he saw Darkstripe holding down a mewling Cedarpaw. Letting out a low growl, he leaped up and charged across the clearing, dodged the fighting cats, and hurled himself at Darkstripe. "Leave him alone!" He spat, roughly headbutting the warrior in the side. "He's a kit, for StarClan's sake!"

Darkstripe whirled upon him. "Pathetic kittypet," he hissed. "All of these cats should be killed for what they've done!"

Yellowfang's words echoed in Fireheart's head. They only want to spill blood… "Then go kill Brokenstar or Blackfoot," Fireheart snarled. "Leave kits out of your bloodthirst."

Cedarpaw trembled and crept behind Fireheart. "I don't like Brokenstar," he whimpered. "He's real mean."

Darkstripe sneered down at the kit before he glanced back at Fireheart. "If we weren't allies, I'd kill you right where you stand." With a furious lash of his tail, Darkstripe backed away and leaped back into the fray.

Fireheart looked down at Cedarpaw. "Are there queens in the nursery?" He asked. Cedarpaw nodded, and Fireheart continued. "Go to the nursery. You shouldn't be fighting."

Cedarpaw stared down at his paws. "But Brokenstar—"

"We're here to get rid of him," Fireheart said, eyes narrowed. "You'll be safe, Cedarpaw, I promise."

Cedarpaw hesitated before he nodded and hurried off across camp and ducked into a sheltered den. Fireheart turned back to the battle. However, it seemed most fighting had stilled, with all eyes on the cats in the center of camp.

Tigerclaw and Leopardfur had Blackfoot pinned to the ground, while Crookedstar and Thistlestar circled Brokenstar, who snarled with all the rage of a hungry dog. "Just admit defeat," Crookedstar growled. "Your cats are outnumbered."

"I say we just kill him," Thistlestar snapped. "The Clans would be better off without him." Many cats, ShadowClan included, hissed their agreement eagerly.

Crookedstar shook his head. "Brokenstar, if you surrender now, you can flee with your life and never bother the Clans again."

Brokenstar glared up at Crookedstar, full of malice and hate. "You think you StarClan-obsessed fools can get rid of me?" He cast a scornful look at Thistlestar. "I expected more of you, at least."

"You are a foolish kit compared to me," Thistlestar snapped, eyes narrowed to furious slits. "Leave before I ignore Crookedstar's offer and tear out your throat."

Fireheart expected Brokenstar to refuse—he began to crouch low, as though preparing himself to strike—but after a long, tense moment, his shoulders slumped in defeat. "I'll leave," He relented, bitterly.

Crookedstar raised his chin. "Those of you would follow this exile are to leave with him and live the lives of rogues. You've disgraced your clanmates and the name of a warrior."

Some ShadowClan cats began to hiss and shove one another, until they had pushed a few cats into the middle with Brokenstar. Tigerclaw roughly shouldered Blackfoot towards them. "These are his closest warriors," A ShadowClan tom growled. "We don't want them to stay."

"Your life as a leader is no more, Brokentail," Thistlestar hissed. "Take your cats and live out the rest of your lives as disgraced rogues."

Brokentail let out a wordless snarl and lashed his tail. The cats nearest to the camp entrance parted to allow the exiles to leave. Brokentail, ears flat, led them through and out of camp, and as soon as the last rogue's tail vanished from sight, the cats began to caterwaul their victory.

Fireheart threw back his head and yowled with them. We actually did it! He thought. Brokenstar–Brokentail is gone for good. These cats can live in peace now.

When the cheers fell, a russet-furred she-cat pushed her way to the center where Thistlestar and Crookedstar stood. She dipped her head respectfully. "My name is Russetfur. ShadowClan thanks you," she said. "Brokenstar was a tyrant. Many of us did not agree with his ways."

Thistlestar curled his lip. "And yet you invaded the lands of both our Clans and chased out WindClan."

Russetfur nodded with a flick of her ear. "The word of a leader is law," she explained, simply. "Our actions may have been wrong, but we had to follow our leader's wishes. I hope that ThunderClan and RiverClan can allow us peace and time to recover."

Thistlestar opened his jaws to speak, but Crookedstar cut him off. "Of course," The RiverClan leader said. "ShadowClan deserves a chance at peace, same as all Clans."

Thistlestar glared, but didn't argue. "I suppose," he muttered, but Fireheart narrowed his eyes at the words. That fox wouldn't know peace if it hit him in the nose, he thought.

Thistlestar flicked his tail. "Whitestorm, Stonefur, make sure the rogues leave."

The two warriors parted from the group and hurried out of ShadowClan's camp. Thistlestar glanced at the russet-furred she-cat. "ThunderClan will take our leave." With another flick of his tail, his clanmates grouped around him, and without any parting words, they departed.

"We'd best leave as well," Crookedstar decided. "Good luck to you and your Clan."

"Thank you, again," Russetfur said gratefully. "You won't be having anymore trouble from ShadowClan."

Crookedstar nodded curtly. "Good to hear. RiverClan, we're leaving."

Fireheart began to pad towards his clanmates, but stopped as he spotted Flintfang licking a scratch on his leg. He hurried up the the warrior. "Flintfang," Fireheart greeted him. "Thank you for saving me. I thought I was crow-food."

Flintfang glanced up and shrugged. "You saved my son's life. I figured I should return the favor."

Fireheart nodded. "Either way– thank you." He turned away and headed towards his clanmates, who were starting to file out of camp.

Fireheart cast one final glance at ShadowClan over his shoulder before he pushed his way through the tunnel. The Clan was wounded, leaderless, and clearly exhausted, but he could see the hope in their eyes gleaming brighter than Silverpelt.

They'll be alright, Fireheart thought with a smile as he watched queens creep from the nursery, eyes wide with relief. Brokentail's reign is over.

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