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.


10. Chapter 8

Yellowfang growled defiantly at the approaching pawsteps, but Firepaww could see the fear in her eyes. It was one thing to have a scrap with a simple apprentice, but an entire patrol, while still half-starved and wounded? It would take a fool to not be afraid. "So long, kitty," she muttered, struggling to her paws. "Thanks for the meal, but I'd best be off." However, she wobbled unsteadily before falling. "Fox-dung!"

It was too late for her to run. Firepaw shrank back as Leopardfur pushed her way through the honeysuckle bushes, followed quickly by Crookedstar, Blackclaw, Loudbelly, and Silverpaw. Just great! Firepaw thought hopelessly, shrinking back. Not only am I caught feeding a trespasser, it's by the clan deputy and leader...

Firepaw meowed a shaky greeting to his clanmates. Silverpaw sneered at him, smirking as he stood side-by-side with Loudbelly.

"Firepaw?" Crookedstar stared at him evenly. "What have we here? An enemy warrior- recently fed, by the smell of it."

"I'll bet he was revealing our secrets to this rogue!" Blackclaw snarled.

"Silence!" Leopardfur snapped, lashing her tail.

"She was weak and hungry…" Firepaw tried, keeping his head low.

"And you?" Crookedstar asked. "I see that you did not eat any, but yet you still are all the way out here, catching prey for the enemy. Why did you feel so inclined to neglect your original task and feed this outsider?"

Firepaw was not fooled by the soft tone of his leader- Crookedstar was clearly furious. And yet, beneath it, he seemed tired. Deflated, almost, as though he had already been dealing with bigger problems and was forcing himself to summon up the energy to be angry about this situation.

Before he could try again, he heard Silverpaw hiss, "Once a kittypet, always a kittypet!"

"Too weak and soft-pawed for his own good!" Loudbelly added.

Crookedstar ignored them both and glanced at Yellowfang before starting. "My, Firepaw, it seems you have captured a ShadowClan cat. One many of us know well. You are Yellowfang, ShadowClan's medicine cat, aren't you? What are you doing in RiverClan? You're quite far from home."

"That's none of your business!" Yellowfang hissed. "I was ShadowClan's medicine cat. I walk alone now."

Firepaw was a bit surprised. He'd guessed she was from another clan- but he had really been right about her being ShadowClan? Perhaps he should have given her a few more blows for good measure after all.

"Yellowfang," Leopardfur raised a brow. "You must have fallen upon hard times to have been beaten by an apprentice with only two moons of training."

Yellowfang curled her lip as Blackclaw spoke again. "Firepaw should be punished! He fed an enemy warrior and neglected his duties!"

"But I-" Firepaw wanted to tell them he had done his task as instructed, but Crookedstar cut him off.

"I don't want your excuses," he snapped, before flattening his fur again. "We will take Yellowfang to our camp and hold her as prisoner until we know more. I'll deal with her and Firepaw once I know more."

"What more is there to know?" Loudbelly demanded. "Firepaw's a traitor- he should be banished to live with this filthy rogue!"

"Shut your mouth!" Leopardfur whirled upon the tom. "You will respect your leader's decision. We have dealt with enough trouble today- or would you like to punished too for ignoring your leader's words? Want to make it two cats who have broken the code today?"

Loudbelly shrank back, and Crookedstar laid his tail across his deputy's shoulders. "Thank you, Leopardfur, but that will be enough." Regardless, he shot Loudbelly a look. "And besides, all clans speak of Yellowfang's bravery and wisdom. You would do well to give her due respect. Can you walk?" he asked Yellowfang, stepping closer. "Do you need help?"

"I have three good legs," Yellowfang growled, forcing herself to stand.

Her eyes were glazed with pain, but Firepaw watched with a twinge of sympathy as she went on. A flicker of respect crossed Crookedstar's face as the patrol surrounded her and they walked on towards camp.

Firepaw and Silverpaw fell behind, and Firepaw wanted nothing more than to collapse right then and there rather than walk with the rude tom.

"Who is she?" He finally asked.

"Yellowfang?" Silverpaw blinked, more surprised Firepaw was even talking to him than he was by the question itself. For a moment, Firepaw expected him to give a jab or insult, but Silverpaw responded after hesitating. "She is- was- ShadowClan's medicine cat. I don't know a lot, except that she became a warrior before she trained as a medicine cat, which isn't usual. I guess she's a loner now."

"A loner?" Firepaw echoed curiously.

"A loner doesn't have any clan ties or twolegs," Silverpaw explained, rolling his eyes. "Loudbelly says they're untrustworthy. No warrior code or sense of honor."

"I might be a loner once Crookedstar's through with me," Firepaw sighed.

Silverpaw snorted. "As much as I'd love to see you get tossed out of my clan, Crookedstar probably won't do that. He's pretty pleased with himself to have such an important cat prisoner."

Firepaw didn't answer, and simply padded on with a heavy heart and sore wounds. This wasn't how he wanted his first solo task to end.

Crookedstar flicked his tail as they padded into camp. "Take Yellowfang to Mudfur," he told Leopardfur. "I'll talk to Firepaw."

The ginger apprentice watched as the ragged she-cat separated from the patrol and walked towards Mudfur's den with Leopardfur. As she padded across camp, the clan seemed to notice her arrival, and upon their realization that this was a prisoner, and a ShadowClan cat, at that, they began to taunt and jeer at her.

Firepaw was impressed at how Yellowfang only twitched an ear and ignored the insults. The deputy and the loner disappeared into Mudfur's den, and the calls died down, but were replaced with curious mutters.

"Come," Crookedstar ordered, turning and padding towards his den. Head and tail low, Firepaw followed, and they ducked into the den.

Crookedstar turned about and sat, tucking his paws neatly. The huge tom seemed regal as always, but still, quite tired. He shifted his twisted jaw for a moment, as though trying to think of what even to inquire of the apprentice. "Just start from the beginning," he sighed. "Tell me everything, Firepaw."

Firepaw sat down, wanting nothing more than to fall into his own nest and rest for three days straight. "I went to Sunningrocks, like I was told- honest!" He flinched under Crookedstar's stern gaze. "I ran into a ThunderClan apprentice there… Graypaw. He'd been sent to mark Sunningrocks himself. We had a scrap, but he gave in quickly. He almost left, but then a fox chased him back, and we fought it off together." Firepaw licked his stinging shoulder again. "It gave me this. Then Graypaw went home, and I figured I'd be safer walking across the bridge, so I wouldn't slip on the rocks, and I was pretty tired after fighting the fox."

"Just as I crossed the bridge, I heard yowling and saw Yellowfang being chased by a ThunderClan patrol. She attacked me, and we fought until I wounded her leg and she collapsed." Firepaw lowered his gaze guiltily. "She wanted me to kill her… I couldn't do that! She was hungry and weak, and I felt bad for her."

"And so you caught her prey and fed her," Crookedstar finished, tail twitching.

"I'm sorry," Firepaw sighed. "I didn't want to break the code, but I couldn't let her starve like that!"

"I understand your pity for her," Crookedstar meowed after a moment. "You showed great compassion- and I won't pretend that I am not impressed that you fought not one, but three enemies today. Weak or not, I am surprised you managed to defeat a cat like Yellowfang. But-" The tabby frowned. "I will also not deny that you broke the warrior code. That cannot go unpunished. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Crookedstar," Firepaw replied sullenly.

"Very well." Crookedstar paused for a moment. "Then until your punishment is revoked, you will care for Yellowfang as though she were Graypool. You will hunt for her, you will fetch her bedding, clear away her dirt, and crack her ticks."

Clear away her dirt? Firepaw almost wished the fox had killed him after all. Bowing his head, he murmured, "Yes, Crookedstar." After a moment, he asked, "What will happen to her?"

Crookedstar looked thoughtful. "She'll be staying here. If we're lucky, she'll tell us ShadowClan secrets." With a sigh, he added, "StarClan knows we need them now."

Firepaw furrowed his brow. What could that mean?

Crookedstar flicked his tail. "You're dismissed. I must make a few announcements."

Firepaw padded from the den, followed by his leader. Everyone on the patrol looked on edge… and what was that about needing ShadowClan secrets? Is ShadowClan causing trouble for us?

Crookedstar leaped up the Rockpile, where announcements were made. "All cats old enough to swim gather here for a clan meeting!"

Most cats were already in the center of camp, due to the arrival of Yellowfang, but those who were not padded out from their dens to listen. Firepaw watched as Graypool slowly walked towards the gathered clan, and Mallowtail appeared in the nursery entrance to view from afar.

When Crookedstar saw that everyone was present, he began. "As you probably know, we captured a ShadowClan cat today- none other than their medicine cat, Yellowfang."

"Don't medicine cats have the right to travel where they please?" Skyheart called, frowning.

"Normally, yes," Crookedstar nodded. "But Yellowfang claims she walks alone now. I will not question that claim."

Instantly, protests rose.

"She's a spy!"

"She's here to reveal our secrets!"

"Drive her out!"

"Kill her!"

"Silence!" Leopardfur yowled. "Let your leader speak!"

Crookedstar nodded at her before going on. "Think. Why would she not use her status as a medicine cat to her advantage? She is starved and weak, and could have asked for prey and herbs quite easily. I see no reason to believe she is lying." There were a few suspicious mutters, but what Crookedstar was saying did make sense.

No clan cat should be that hungry, Firepaw thought, shifting his paws.

Crookedstar looked much more solemn now. "As some of you know may know, I took a patrol to meet with Brokenstar today."

Firepaw blinked as Grasspaw crept closer and sat beside him. "Who's Brokenstar?" he whispered to the brown tom.

Grasspaw twitched his whiskers. "ShadowClan's new leader. I haven't seen him yet, but Heavypaw says he's downright scary!"

"Until further notice, ShadowClan has permission to hunt on our lands."

Then the outrage really started.

"What?!" Petaldust screeched. "Are you out of your mind?"

"I won't give my prey to those crow-food eaters!" Beetlenose spat.

"I say we fight them instead of just hand over prey!" Frogleap cried.

"What about my kits?" Whiteclaw demanded. "Our clan has four new mouths to feed!"

"Enough!" Crookedstar ordered, tail lashing. "My decision is for the good of our clan. They will hunt here, and they will only take four pieces of prey per day. If we catch them infringing on this agreement, then- and only then- will we fight."

"But Crookedstar, why?" Sunfish asked, eyes wide.

The tabby leader sighed heavily. "Because ShadowClan has driven WindClan from the forest, and I will not allow the same to happen to us."

A hushed silence fell over the clan as they began to exchange horrified glances. Firepaw's eyes widened in shock. ShadowClan… drove WindClan out? That's wrong! How could they do such a thing?

Crookedstar bowed his head. "Brokenstar himself brought us to WindClan to see for ourselves."

"Their scent is stale," Leopardfur added. "They've been gone at least a quarter moon."

"What could I do?" Crookedstar went on. "I do not know ShadowClan's true strength, but if they were capable of driving a clan from the territory they have lived in for generations… I fear they are a greater threat than ThunderClan."

"Thistlestar was bad enough!" Blackclaw finally hissed. "But he never did anything this terrible."

Graypool nodded in agreement. "It is one thing to be arrogant and hungry for battle… it is another to spit in the faces of our ancestors this way."

Crookedstar dipped his head to the elder. "I know. But until our apprentices are warriors, I fear we may not be able to best ShadowClan." Raising his head with a new look of determination, he declared, "The training of all our apprentices shall be sped up. I want each of them battle-ready as soon as possible."

"And then we will fight?" Blackclaw prompted.

"We will see," Crookedstar said, leaping from the Rockpile. "We will see."

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