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.


25. Chapter 23

Fireheart sighed in relief as he padded into camp, just behind a limping Reedtail. Though most warriors had a few injuries, there were no severe wounds, and not a single casualty.

Grasspaw trod alongside him, head bowed with exhaustion. "We really did it, huh?"

"Yeah," Fireheart agreed, and grinned at his friend. "We did."

"RiverClan!" Crookedstar yowled. The cats who had stayed behind pricked their ears, clearly eager to hear the news of the battle. Wasting no time, he hurried ahead of his clanmates and ascended the Rockpile. "We've won!"

Cheers and yowls erupted from the RiverClan cats.

"RiverClan! RiverClan! RiverClan!"

Crookedstar lashed his tail, and the Clan fell into silence. "Brokenstar and his closest allies have been exiled from ShadowClan. We have agreed to allow peace, and ShadowClan promised we would have no more trouble from their cats."

"Who leads ShadowClan now?" Beetlenose asked.

"I suppose we will find out at the next Gathering," Crookedstar explained simply. "ShadowClan's business is out of our paws."

"What of ThunderClan?" Graypool rasped. "That Thistlestar will be back to invading Sunningrocks in no time."

Crookedstar gave the elder a small smile. "In due time, Graypool. For now, there are other matters to attend to—Grasspaw, Vixenpaw, please, come forward."

"Hey," Fireheart whispered and shouldered the tabby apprentice beside him. "That's you!"

"That is me," Grasspaw purred and gave Fireheart an affectionate glance before he padded towards the Rockpile. Vixenpaw quickly joined him, head and tail both raised high with pride.

"These apprentices have proved themselves in the battle against ShadowClan," Crookedstar decreed. "I, Crookedstar, leader of RiverClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as warriors in turn."

He leaped down from the Rockpile to stand before Vixenpaw. "Do you, Vixenpaw, promise to uphold the warrior code and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?"

Vixenpaw nodded firmly. "I do," she said, voice unwavering.

Crookedstar laid his muzzle on her head. "Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Vixenpaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Vixenfrost. StarClan honors your dedication and bravery, and we welcome you as a full warrior of RiverClan."

Vixenfrost licked Crookedstar's shoulder in respect, and the RiverClan leader turned away to address her brother. "Grasspaw," he said. "Do you promise to uphold the warrior code and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"

Grasspaw grinned easily and twitched his whiskers. "I sure do!"

Crookedstar chuckled. "Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name." The tabby tom pressed his muzzle to Grasspaw's head. "Grasspaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Grassfoot. StarClan honors your strength and courage, and we welcome you as a full warrior of RiverClan."

Grassfoot licked his leader's shoulder, and Crookedstar stepped back. "Grassfoot! Vixenfrost!" he began to chant, and the Clan quickly picked up the cry.

"Grassfoot! Vixenfrost! Grassfoot! Vixenfrost!"

Fireheart threw back his head and yowled along with them, full of pride for his friends. "Grassfoot! Vixenfrost!"

Crookedstar raised his head as the cheers began to fall. "Let us feast and enjoy this victory!"

The Clan broke apart—some headed for the fresh-kill pile, while others pressed around the newly named warriors to give their congratulations.

Fireheart padded towards Grassfoot. He waited for Sunfish to give her son's ear a happy lick before he stepped forward with a smile. "You did it!"

Grassfoot grinned and shouldered him. "I did! It feels great."

Fireheart laughed. "Just wait for your vigil. Staying up all night is not fun when you have patrols the next day." He flicked Grassfoot with his tail. "Seriously, though, I'm glad. We hardly get any time together ever since I became a warrior."

Grassfoot just chuckled lightheartedly. "Just you wait! You won't be able to get rid of me now."

Fireheart glanced at Vixenfrost. The black she-cat stood before Shadepelt, and the pair were both staring at their paws. "I ought to congratulate your sister, too."

Grassfoot smiled knowingly and shook his head. "Oh, I think you'd better wait. There's a lover's quarrel being reconciled."

Fireheart glanced at Grassfoot, eyes wide. What did he...? "A… lover's quarrel? Wait, you mean that Vixenfrost and Shadepelt…?"

Grassfoot snickered and nudged him again. "You oblivious badger!" He purred. "Those two have been padding after each other for ages. Seriously, we've been betting our dawn patrols on how long it would take for you to realize." Grassfoot cast a smug look at Silverthorn from across camp. "Silverthorn owes me my next three dawn patrols. He gave it another moon."

Fireheart just rolled his eyes good-naturedly and shoved his friend back. "You're all the worst," he said with an amused smile. "I can't believe I consider you my friends."

Grassfoot licked his lips and eyed the fresh-kill pile hungrily. "I don't know about you, but I'd love to get some grub before this gluttons eat it all."

"Glutton yourself!" Fireheart purred. "I'm sure with little practice you could easily be out-eating Heavystep."

Side-by-side, the two toms headed for the fresh-kill pile. Yellowfang and Mudfur were each looking through the fresh-kill, while Silverthorn had just picked up a robin. When he turned and saw Fireheart, the warrior expected another biting comment. Instead, Silverthorn dropped the bird with a frown. "Hey," he huffed.

Grassfoot just rolled his eyes and brushed past the two of them. "I'm staying out of this one!" he meowed over his shoulder as he hurried towards the fresh-kill pile.

"Hello," Fireheart replied curtly. "Got another criticism for me today?"

"About that," Silverthorn flicked his tail awkwardly. "I'm… sorry. Just—I'm glad you're alright." He stared down at his paws, and surprised Fireheart with his humility. "I shouldn't have snapped earlier. ThunderClan is just— well, they've been causing problems for us long before you came here. I don't trust them, and certainly not around my clanmates."

Fireheart gave him a weak smile. "Trust me," he said, and Silverthorn glanced back up to meet his gaze. "I'm not fond of them as a whole either. They just don't all seem to bad."

"Maybe," Silverthorn said, but his tone made it clear he didn't actually agree. "Either way. Glad you're okay." He quickly snatched up his robin and padded past Fireheart, ears flat.

That was… unusual, for him, Fireheart thought. But at least he hasn't gone back to hating me. Fireheart shook his head and joined Grassfoot at the fresh-kill pile.

"Meet me by the usual spot when you've got food," Grassfoot told him as he brushed by.

Fireheart nodded as he glanced over the pile. He looked up as Yellowfang padded close to him. "How are they?" she murmured quietly.

Fireheart knew she was talking about ShadowClan. "Battered, but… I think they'll do fine." Yellowfang let out a sigh, and Fireheart leaned in a little closer and added, "I met your mother. Brightflower—she seemed… regretful. About what happened when you were exiled."

Yellowfang's eyes filled with grief. "I can hardly blame her for wanting to see me cast out. I may not have killed those kits, but it looked that way…" She shook her head. "Perhaps I will see her at the next gathering. Thank you, Fireheart."

"Of course," Fireheart touched his nose to her ear.

"Keeping my meal companion from me, Fireheart?" Mudfur called with a smile. "Get on with you and be with your friends."

Yellowfang cast a fond look at the medicine cat over her shoulder. "The old coot is right," she said. "Go on, Fireheart."

Fireheart purred and grabbed a young trout before he headed for Grassfoot, who was sitting beside Silverstream and Heavystep. He sat next to Grassfoot, and smiled as he noticed the quiet closeness Silverstream and Heavystep had. They sat close enough that their pelts occasionally brushed, and every now and then their tails would curl over the other's. Maybe I wasn't wrong to wonder about them after all, Fireheart thought.

Soon, Shadepelt and Vixenfrost joined them, and both looked happier than Fireheart had seen in some time. They gazed at each other with an intense fondness when they thought no one was looking, and Fireheart almost chuckled as he realized how foolish he had been not to notice it before.

It was not long before Mosspelt ushered Silverthorn towards the group, despite his grumbled and muttered protests. Fireheart looked up and shared a glance with the tom, and hoped he knew that Fireheart had no ill will towards him.

We've all come so far, Fireheart thought as he took a bite of his fish. I grew up alongside these cats, and now we're all warriors… and somehow, we managed to stick together.

Though RiverClan was full of joy, and it seemed peace was on the horizon, Fireheart could not help but feel unsettled. ShadowClan may not be a threat anymore, but who knows what Brokentail will do, even if he is a rogue… and it can't be long before Thistlestar is back to his old tricks.

But something more nagged in the back of his mind—something Brokenstar had said. His words echoed in Fireheart's head. "I expected more of you, at least," he had hissed at Thistlestar. It could have just been the words of an angry, cornered cat, but something about it made Fireheart think it meant more than that. Do they know each other? he wondered. More than leaders of rival Clans normally would?

Fireheart tried to push the thoughts away with a sigh. RiverClan's troubles were far from over, that much was certain. But today was a day of celebration, and a day like this didn't need to be ruined with worrying of the future. Brokenstar has been overthrown, the Clans are safe, and the last of my friends are warriors, he thought. RiverClan continues to grow stronger. We can deal with whatever is coming. But for today… for today we can celebrate our victory. We've earned it.

To be continued...

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