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.


7. Chapter 5

The next morning, when Firepaw's muscles were a little less stiff, he and Dawnbright set out to tour the entirety of RiverClan's territory.

"...The river, as you know, flows along our border." They were standing along the riverbank, staring out at Sunningrocks across. Firepaw couldn't help but shiver a little at the memory of how he had nearly died there. Dawnbright twitched her tail as she went on. "Many, many generations ago, the river flowed around Sunningrocks, so that it was on our side of the territory. However, massive flooding changed the course of the river, and now Sunningrocks is on the ThunderClan side of the border. For as long as any of us can remember, we've been fighting over the rights to it." The ginger-and-white she-cat frowned. "Honestly, I don't think you or I will live to see the day the conflict ends. As a warrior, you're certain to fight battles- and most of them will probably be right there, defending the ancient honor of RiverClan."

Firepaw felt a thrill of excitement as he listened. A warrior… the possibility seemed so far away.

"Some day, soon, you'll know how to swim this very river," Dawnbright continued. "But we won't begin that training for another few days, I think, and I'll start you off in the shallows."

"Is it…" Firepaw swallowed, staring at the rushing water. "...Dangerous?"

"Not for us," Dawnbright meowed briskly. "As a RiverClan cat, you'll know how to swim through the strongest currents, dive to the bottom of the river, and traverse the water." She gave him a reassuring smile. "Many fear the water because they do not know it. RiverClan is the strongest clan in the forest because we do not fear the water. We love and respect it. Yes, the river carries its dangers, but only to those who can't withstand it." Dawnbright finally turned to pad upstream. "Come, it's time we moved on."

The pair travelled on up the river for some time, and Firepaw admired RiverClan's territory- his territory- as Dawnbright pointed out choice hunting spots or simply quiet, secluded locations. Though there weren't many trees, those that stood were beautiful and not cramped together, as they had been in the forest. Smooth beech trees stood tall and proud, while elegant willows cast shade over parts of the river.

"Up ahead, there's a twoleg bridge," Dawnbright explained. "Just before it, twolegs sometimes stay. They set up odd pelt dens and hunt for fish in Greenleaf. Usually, they don't cause too much trouble, but we try to stay away from them." She veered away from the river, heading north, where the peaks of Highstones could be seen in the far distance. Out this way, there was the beginnings of a moor, covered in bright wild flowers. As they travelled, a few huge brown creatures could be spotted grazing.

"What are those?" Firepaw whispered, staring at the creatures oddly.

"Don't worry, they're just horses," Dawnbright explained passively. "They usually just graze here. The twolegs sometimes bring sheep here, which are about half a horse's size and look like clouds." She twitched her whiskers in amusement at Firepaw's nervousness. "Don't worry, they're peaceful creatures. You could probably take a nap under them and they wouldn't mind. If you do ever get close to them, though, move slowly, because if they get spooked, they'll buck and could trample you easily."

Firepaw nodded, but still eyed the tall horses suspiciously as they went on. Dawnbright eventually flicked her tail to their right, where green-pelt shelters were set up near a large stone bridge, and noted that that was the twoleg site and bridge. Soon they headed back towards the river, where it was now much farther below them.

"This is the gorge," Dawnbright explained. "Step forward, carefully. Apprentices are never allowed near it except for when it's shown to them."

Firepaw came forward cautiously, then peered over the end. His stomach surged in the slightest as he saw the swirling white water.

"The river is deadly here," She cautioned him. "But, it keeps WindClan from invading. All land on that side of the river is theirs."

Firepaw gazed out across the gorge. Across the river, there was a wide moorland that was just slightly uphill.

"In fact," Dawnbright added, "Here comes WindClan."

Firepaw narrowed his eyes, confused, until he saw three tall, lithe cats streaking after a rabbit down the hillside. He was amazed by their speed- he'd never seen cats moving so quickly. One tom, a young brown tabby, overtook his patrol and caught up to the rabbit before leaping, pouncing, and killing it.

"Don't try what they do," Dawnbright purred. "Few cats outside of WindClan could ever catch up to a rabbit like that."

The brown tabby proudly picked up his hare as his patrol caught up to them. The three warriors spotted the pair and waved their tails in greeting before approaching the gorge. When they were within speaking distance, a brown and gray she-cat gave them a friendly meow. "Hello, Dawnbright," she called. "Who's that? New apprentice?"

"That's Sorrelleap," Dawnbright murmured to Firepaw. "WindClan is friendly enough to us because we rarely cause trouble for each other." She looked back up at the she-cat and nodded. "This is Firepaw."

The brown tabby who had caught the rabbit dropped his catch and nodded to them. "How's the prey running- or swimming?"

"Fine enough," Dawnbright purred. Her eyes travelled to the dead rabbit. "Yours runs too fast for my liking."

The WindClan warriors chuckled good-naturally. "Well, we're just going to mark the borders and be off," Sorrelleap said, twitching her whiskers. "Good luck with training, Firepaw!" The WindClan cats turned and headed downstream.

"Thanks!" Firepaw called after her, smiling. Well, at least not everyone is as heartless as ThunderClan.

"Let's get going," Dawnbright decided, turning away from the gorge. "There's still more yet to see."

Firepaw sat silently on the soft, damp earth of the riverbank. He was poised, perfectly still, a single paw just slightly raised off the ground. The river rushed on, and he could see large fish swimming downstream, farther into the current. He could wait.

Finally, a silver minnow swam closer, the sun dancing off its shimmering scales. Firepaw narrowed his eyes before he struck, swift as a snake, and scooped the fish out of the water. It flipped through the air and landed on the ground, flopping in determination to return to the water. Firepaw quickly spun around and slammed a paw on it before killing it with a small, sharp bite.

"Well-done!" Dawnbright purred, padding towards her apprentice from where she had been waiting and watching. It had been four days since she had shown Firepaw the territory, and this was his first catch. He felt a rush of pride as he glanced down at the dead minnow. However small it may be, every bite counted, now that Mallowtail's little kits had been born. He grinned as he looked up at his mentor. I'm a real RiverClan apprentice now. Every time he had eaten, he had felt a pang of guilt for not being able to contribute anything in return.

"You'll be swimming in and catching carp and trout like it's second nature before you know it!" She chuckled, flicking him with his tail.

By sun-down, Firepaw had managed to catch four more minnows, and though he was stiff from having to sit so long, he was utterly proud of his improvement. He carried his catches into camp, head and tail raised high. Before they parted ways, his mentor gave him another approving smile. Firepaw was glad that she was his mentor- she was patient and encouraging, but also allowed him to prove himself rather than assume he couldn't do anything. He nearly shuddered as he tried to imagine what it would be like to have Whiteclaw or Beetlenose as his mentor.

Firepaw dropped his catches on the pile, before thinking and grabbing three of them again. I should bring these to Mallowtail. I haven't seen her kits yet! He turned and padded towards the nursery, before a growl stopped him.

"Taking all that for yourself, kittypet?" Silverpaw hissed from his left, where he was crouched over a vole.

"Actually," Firepaw muttered around the minnows. "I caught these, and I'm bringing them all to Mallowtail." He ignored Silverpaw's glare as he flicked his tail and continued into the nursery.

Mallowtail was curled up around her kits, who were suckling noisily at her belly. She raised her head as he entered, and he was glad to see Whiteclaw, her mate, was nowhere to be seen. "Hello, Firepaw," she purred.

He dropped the minnows at her paws. "I brought these for you," he meowed.

Her eyes lit up at the fresh-kill. "Thanks!" she said. "I'm starved, and eating for five will do that to you."

Firepaw's ears pricked. "Four kits?" he asked. "How are they?"

Mallowtail swept her tail way from her belly, and Firepaw could now completely see the four little bundles. One was a perfect picture of her mother; white with dark ginger tabby patches. The second was the largest, a dark brown tabby, while the third was black up to her tail-tip, which was snow-white. The final one was the runt of the litter, a tiny tortoiseshell-and-white kit.

Mallowtail touched a paw to the first ginger-and-white kit. "Her name is Sparrowkit," she purred, before moving onto the black she-kit. "Duskkit." She swept her tail across the brown tabby. "Cedarkit." She stared at the tiny tortie, smiling tiredly. "Mudfur said he was the surprise of the litter. His name is Stormkit."

"He?" Firepaw stared at the tortoiseshell is surprise. "Aren't all tortoiseshells she-cats?"

Mallowtail shook her head. "Mudfur said they're very rare, but they are possible. It's even rarer for them to be able to have kits. There's a tom- Redtail- in ThunderClan, and he has a daughter." She frowned a little. "Mudfur doesn't know if there's a way to know if they can, but that's alright." Mallowtail purred quietly again. "There's no use worrying about something like that."

There was a rustle as another cat entered the nursery and hissed. Firepaw nearly groaned as he heard Whiteclaw hiss, "What's he doing here?"

"Bringing me food, Whiteclaw," Mallowtail replied, tone a bit short as she looked up her mate. "It wouldn't hurt to be polite, or at the least not spit insults at him every time you cross paths."

"I don't want to talk about this right now," Whiteclaw growled, glaring at Firepaw. If looks could kill, Firepaw would be seeing StarClan right now. "Get out, kittypet."

"Whatever," Firepaw hissed before turning around and padding out.

He headed back towards the fresh-kill pile as he felt a pang of hunger. Firepaw hooked a small, fat carp off the pile and dragged it a few fox-lengths away from the pile. He glared down it, all the anger from the jeering insults he received daily flooding back to him. Firepaw curled his claws into the fish, wishing for a heartbeat he could do the same to Whiteclaw, or Beetlenose, or Silverpaw, or Blackclaw, or anyone who was cruel to him.

Then he shook his head, frowning as he pulled his claws out. No… I don't want that. Firepaw didn't really want to hurt his clanmates, he just wanted them to shut up once in awhile. He narrowed his eyes in determination as he saw Beetlenose across camp, sharing tongues with Sunfish. I'll prove them all wrong. I'll get stronger, I'll become a better hunter. I'll be the best warrior they've ever seen! Then they'll see I'm not a useless kittypet.

But… Firepaw had to wonder- even if he did something like becoming clan leader, would cats ever truly respect him, or was his birthplace all that they cared about?

He stared down at the carp again, which only stared back with its dead, uninspiring eyes. Well… All I can do is try. And I'm going to try my hardest.

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