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.


11. Chapter 9

Firepaw blinked as he felt Grasspaw prod him with a paw. "You'd better go see Yellowfang," he mewed. "She doesn't look too happy."

Firepaw followed the tabby's gaze across camp to where Yellowfang was sheltered under a tangle of broken reeds. As Grasspaw said, she was glaring at him in a way that made his skin crawl. You and me both, Yellowfang. "Alright," Firepaw sighed. "Have fun training."

"Oh, don't be such a grump!" Grasspaw said, nudging him playfully. "I'm sure you'll be training again in no time."

Don't bet on it, Firepaw thought sullenly before he rose to his paws and padded towards the she-cat.

"Ah, kittypet," Yellowfang said as he approached. "My leg is acting up again. Fetch me a poultice- marigold and goldenrod should do well… and get me a poppy seed, while you're at it!"

Firepaw lashed his tail. "Fine, but don't call me a kittypet."

Yellowfang eyed the apprentice, smiling slyly. "But you are a kittypet, aren't you? Your mother a kittypet? Your father? You were born and raised with twolegs, yes?"

"I was a kittypet," Firepaw growled. "I'm a RiverClan cat now."

Yellowfang ignored him with a sniff. "It's humiliating, being watched over by a helpless kittypet! They're useless- only exist for eating rotten slop and dung pellets, and sleeping! They're too fat and slow to put up a proper fight… if I hadn't been so hungry, you'd be dust!"

"Shut up!" Firepaw snapped, and the she-cat blinked. "It doesn't matter that I was a kittypet; you'd be humiliated no matter who was caring for you! It could be Crookedstar himself or one of ShadowClan's queens- you're just embarrassed to have to rely on anyone for help! Why, you're just a spiteful old bone-bag!"

He heard a wheeze from Yellowfang, and for a heartbeat, thought he'd sent her into a coughing fit. Then he realized she was laughing. "Ha!" Yellowfang chuckled, shaking with mirth. "My, kitty, you've got a little spunk hidden under that gentle guise! Get on with you, and go fetch that poultice."

Frowning, he nodded and turned away towards Mudfur's den. Inside, the dark tom was sorting herbs as usual. "Horsetail… goldenrod… a bit of honeycomb- ah, Firepaw!" He gave the apprentice a friendly nod. "Need something for Yellowfang, or is your fox bite acting up?"

"It's fine," Firepaw smiled at the medicine cat. It had been five sunrises since he'd fought the fox and been caught with Yellowfang, and the wound had healed well. "Can I get some herbs for Yellowfang's leg?"

Mudfur nodded. "Just a moment." The medicine cat rose and headed deeper into the den, where he stored the herbs, and returned with a small wad of herbs. He dropped them at Firepaw's paws. "Just chew these up and lick them onto her wound."

"Thanks," Firepaw sighed, shuddering at the thought of tasting her rotten pelt again. He grabbed the herb bundle and quickly retreated, padding back towards Yellowfang's shelter.

On his way back, Firepaw spotted Blackclaw and Whiteclaw eyeing him, as though they were watching his every move. Firepaw curled his lip, but said nothing to the toms. Watch all you like, furballs. Neither of you are leader or deputy, nor my mentor, so there's not much you can do to torture me. Firepaw lashed his tail and continued on towards Yellowfang.

"Finally!" Yellowfang rasped, pulling the herbs towards her the moment Firepaw set them down. "I can handle my own wounds, thank you very much! I'm not quite a bag of bones yet."

Firepaw twitched his whiskers in surprise and amusement at her teasing manner. The she-cat went from mood to mood so quickly that it was hard to know what to expect. "Suit yourself," he shrugged.

"Now, before you leave me in peace, fetch me something to eat- I'm starving!" Yellowfang ordered, picking up the herbs in her jaws as she began to chew.

Firepaw flicked his tail and turned away. She might not be all bad, but I sure hope I get to train again soon.

Firepaw sat up in nest and stretched, finding himself to be the only cat awake, aside from Heavypaw, who was still sprawled in his nest regardless.

Another dull day of hunting for Yellowfang, Firepaw thought, yawning. He leaned forward, pushing out his paws to stretch his legs and shoulders. Giving his pelt a final shake, he prodded Grasspaw. "Hey. Wake up."

"Mrrh?" Grasspaw opened one eye slowly. "Aw, Firepaw, I was having this great dream about catching a huge salmon…"

Firepaw rolled his eyes. "Come on, you lazy lump. It's past sunrise."

Grasspaw shouldered his sister, who was sleeping in a nest close to his. "Get up, lazy lump."

Vixenpaw rolled over in her nest and growled quietly. "Fine, fine."

Silverpaw sat up a moment later. "Who's turn is it to feed Graypool and Mallowtail?"

Heavypaw snorted. "Might as well be Firepaw again, since he's supposed to hunt and care for that old coot."

Firepaw found himself bristling slightly. "She's not all bad," he said. "And Crookedstar said we should treat her with respect. She has more experience being a warrior and a healer than any of you!"

"You're awfully defensive of that mange-ball," Silverpaw growled. "Are you planning something with her, kittypet?"

"What would I be planning with Yellowfang?" Firepaw snorted.

"Oh, don't bother." Mosspaw kicked her brother from her nest. "He's a grouch in the morning, that's all. I'll go get Graypool and Mallowtail their breakfast so you lazy lot can eat."

The pretty tortoiseshell rose and padded out of the den. After a moment, Silverpaw followed, brushing past Firepaw rather roughly. Firepaw growled at him, and wanted to snap at the prickly apprentice's tail as it whisked past his nose.

"Silverpaw will get over himself some day," Grasspaw meowed good-naturedly, sitting up. "But we might as well get up. Sedgecreek will have my tail if I'm late again!"

Vixenpaw rolled her eyes. "I don't think Sedgecreek has it in her to take your tail. She's too nice!"

"Let's just get going," Firepaw sighed. "I'm sure Yellowfang will start yowling for me if I don't hurry up and catch her something!"

"You're right," Grasspaw chuckled. "Now there's a cat who'd rip your tail off and feed it to you if you didn't obey her!"

"Ah, there you are, kitty," Yellowfang said as Firepaw approached with a squirrel in his jaws. "A touch scrawny, but it will do."

What a stuck-up she-cat! He thought, dropping it at her paws. I'd bet a rat's tail ThunderClan would feed her scraps and crow-food if they had her in their paws!

"Now, there's an itch in my tail that I can't just get. Give it a wash, will you?" Yellowfang pulled the squirrel close and took a messy bite. Firepaw's belly rumbled with hunger. He still hadn't eaten today. As he turned to sit at her thick tail, he wrinkled his nose. She still reeked. Shuddering, he sat and got down to work, rasping his tongue over her thick tail.

As he cleaned, he watched as two kits tumbled out of the nursery on short, trembling legs. "Wow!" One squeaked. "Camp is so big!"

The second, who Firepaw recognized as little Stormkit, the runt of the litter, let out an excited mew. "Come on, guys! It's great!"

Mallowtail then emerged from the nursery, nudging her other two kits outside. She gave Firepaw a friendly blink. "It's their first time out," she purred proudly.

The four kits raced about, ducking under the paws of cats who were going about their business. Some quietly hissed at the tiny nuisances, but others chuckled at their antics. Healthy kits were a good sign for RiverClan.

Eventually, the four kits started to mock battle. "Feel my teeth, Brokenstar!" Stormkit crowed, pouncing on Sparrowkit's back.

Firepaw frowned as Yellowfang stiffened a bit. Had he accidentally snagged her pelt on a claw?

Sparrowkit let out a growl of mock fury before giving her brother a sharp kick. Stormkit was sent tumbling, and rolled right into Yellowfang's paw.

"Get away from me, you scrap!" She suddenly shrieked, startling Firepaw. Yellowfang lashed out, knocking Stormkit away from her. The tiny tortoiseshell tom let out a piteous mewl, and Mallowtail's head shot up from where she had been eating.

Turning about, the queen bounded towards her son, and pulled him close, glaring ferociously at Yellowfang. "What did you do to him?" She demanded, baring her teeth. Not waiting for an answer, she spat, "You're a menace! No wonder ShadowClan got rid of you!" Snatching up Stormkit in her jaws, the queen whipped back around and retreated to the nursery to comfort her son.

"What was that for?" Firepaw asked, a little shaken by both Yellowfang's attack and Mallowtail's outburst. "He was just playing."

"He was being an annoyance!" Yellowfang hissed. "Kits should stay in the nursery. Out of sight of cats with work to do."

"Did you ever have kids of your own, though?" Firepaw asked. It was odd for any cat to be so hostile towards kits. There must be some reason behind it.

"Don't be foolish!" Yellowfang snapped, bristling. "Medicine cats are forbidden from taking a mate."

"But what about before that, when you were a warrior?" Firepaw prompted curiously.

"No!" She hissed. "I… have no kits of my own. Keep your nose where it belongs- out if my business. Let's just say… bad things happen to kits when they're around me." The anger in Yellowfang's tone had faded, replaced now by an almost forlorn sadness. "They should all keep their distance."

"Alright," Firepaw finally said. It was obvious this was a sore subject for Yellowfang. I wonder what happened to make her leave ShadowClan. "Just… don't go snapping at any more kits. The clan dislikes you enough as it is."

Yellowfang huffed slightly and said nothing more, settling her chin on her paws. She seemed to be spacing out; her orange eyes were slightly glazed with pain.

After a bit more washing, Firepaw glanced up. "There were a few ticks I couldn't pull."

"Well!" Yellowfang snorted. "Good thing you didn't. you daft fool! I don't want tick head embedded in my rear! Now go fetch some mouse bile from that medicine cat of yours. At least he seems to have some sense."

Despite the insults, Firepaw found himself chuckling. There was the old Yellowfang he knew. "I'll fetch some now!" He said, happy to be free of his grooming. The ginger tom quickly rose and padded off towards Mudfur's den again. On his way, cats were crisscrossing camp, carrying reeds, moss, and feathers as they built up the dens and camp walls. Ever since the news of WindClan's disappearance and ShadowClan's hunting rights, camp had been buzzing with activity. Even Graypool was helping Loudbelly and Heavypaw scrape out a large hole for the fresh-kill pile.

Dawnbright, Leopardfur, and Silverstream were padding into camp, each carrying a few fish. They dropped their catches, and shared a few words with Voleclaw before he padded out of camp with Petaldust and Beetlenose.

Firepaw ducked into Mudfur's den to see the thick-furred tom preparing some sort of herbs. "Hello," he called. "Could I get some mouse bile for Yellowfang?"

"In a moment," Mudfur flicked his tail as he pushed a dock leaf-wrapped bundle of herbs towards a small pile of similar wraps.

Firepaw twitched his whiskers. "What's that you're making?"

"Preparations," the medicine cat sighed. "Never know what could happen." After he rolled three more bundes, he heaved himself to his paws. "Alright. Mouse bile, right?"

Firepaw bobbed his head. "Yep."

Quickly Mudfur returned with wad of bile-soaked moss stuck to a stick and placed it at Firepaw's feet. "Here you go. Now, don't forget to wash your paws in the river after, or your denmates won't be fond of you at all!" Whisking back around, the medicine cat set himself back to work.

"There," Firepaw said as he pressed the moss into the last tick. The insect released it's grip, and Firepaw quickly stuck it with a claw to kill it. "All done."

"Good!" Yellowfang sighed, exasperated. "Took you long enough. Now that your paws are already filthy, you can clear away my dirt and then get on with whatever it is RiverClan apprentices do." She parted her jaws in a yawn, revealing her blackened teeth. "I suppose I'll take a nap."

When Firepaw had finished, he hurried off towards the camp entrance to go to the river.

"Firepaw!" The apprentice paused as he spotted Graypool calling out to him. "Where are you off to, youngster?"

"Washing my paws," he explained. "I was getting rid of Yellowfang's ticks."

"Ah," Graypool smiled knowingly. "Well, I won't keep you from doing it. But be sure you don't come back empty-pawed! We need a stock of fresh-kill more now than ever."

Firepaw dipped his head to the elder. "Of course."

The young tom headed out of camp and towards the river. It was about sun-high, and the day was warm and sunny. Firepaw splashed into the river, sighing with relief as the water washed over his paws.

"Hey!" Grasspaw's head shot up from farther downstream. "Whaddya say, Mosspaw, is that a red furry fish?"

Firepaw purred in amusement and waded in deeper before he struck out for the two apprentices. As he paddled towards them, he called back, "What are you two doing here? Where's Sedgecreek and Petaldust?"

"They told us to spend the afternoon fishing," Mosspaw replied, swimming in a neat circle around him. "You'd think we're about to be attacked!"

Firepaw gasped, startled, as Vixenpaw burst from the water with a small carp in her jaws. Quickly heading to the shoreline, the black she-cat leaped from the water and pinned the fish before killing it. "What'd I miss?"

"Mosspaw says we're acting like we're due to be attacked," Grasspaw replied.

"Well, we might as well be getting ready," Vixenpaw shrugged. "ShadowClan's already taken hunting rights to our land, and chased away WindClan. It's only a matter of time before Brokenstar gets bored again."

Firepaw frowned as he began to tread water. "You think so?"

Grasspaw rolled his eyes. "Well, on that happy note, we've still got an afternoon of fishing ahead of us. Care to join us?"

"Sure!" Firepaw purred, swimming closer to join his friends. After all, even if he was responsible for the grouchiest cat in the four clans, he could still have a nice, warm afternoon of swimming with his fellow apprentices.

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