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.


2. Prologue

A half-moon glowed on the smooth granite boulders, turning them silver. The silence was broken only by the quiet splash of water from the swift black river and the whisper of wind in the trees in the forest beyond.

There was a stirring in the shadows, and from all around lithe dark shapes crept stealthily over the rocks. Unsheathed claws glinted in the moonlight. Wary eyes flashed like amber. And then, as if on a silent signal, the creatures leaped at each other, and suddenly the rocks were alive with wrestling, screeching cats.

At the center of the frenzy of fur and claws, a muscular gray tom pinned a sleek, damp-furred bracken-colored tom to the ground and drew his head up triumphantly. "Oakheart!" the tom growled. "How, dare you hunt in our territory? The Sunningrocks belong to ThunderClan!"

"After tonight, Stonefur, this will be just another RiverClan hunting ground!" the bracken-colored tom spat back, struggling slightly.

A warning yowl came from the shore, shrill and anxious.

"Look out! More RiverClan warriors are coming!"

Stonefur turned to see sleek wet bodies sliding out of the water below the rocks. The drenched RiverClan warriors bounded silently up the shore and hurled themselves into battle without even stopping to shake the water from their fur. He let out a furious growl at the sight of the reinforcements.

The dark tom glared down at Oakheart. "You may swim like otters, but you and your warriors do not belong in this forest!" He drew back his lips and showed his teeth as the cat struggled beneath him.

The desperate scream of a ThunderClan she-cat rose above the clamor. A wiry RiverClan tom had pinned the brown warrior flat on her belly. Now he lunged toward her neck with jaws still dripping from his swim across the river.

Stonefur heard the cry and let go of Oakheart. With a mighty leap, he knocked the enemy warrior away from the she-cat. "Quick Mousefur, run!" he ordered, before turning on the RiverClan tom who had threatened her. Mousefur scrambled to her paws, wincing from a deep gash on her shoulder, and raced away.

Behind her, Stonefur spat with rage as the RiverClan tom sliced open his nose. Blood blinded him for an instant, but he lunged forward regardless and sank his teeth into the hind leg of his enemy. The RiverClan cat squealed and struggled free.

"Stonefur!" The yowl came from a warrior with a tail as red as fox fur. "This is useless! There are too many RiverClan warriors!"

"No, Redtail! ThunderClan will never be beaten!" Stonefur yowled back, leaping to Redtail's side. "This is our territory! We can't give it up like frightened mice!" Blood was welling around his broad gray muzzle, and he shook his head impatiently scattering scarlet drops onto the rocks.

"ThunderClan will honor your courage, Stonefur, but we cannot afford to lose any more of our warriors," Redtail urged. "Thistlestar would never expect his warriors to fight against these impossible odds. We will have another chance to avenge this defeat." He met Stonefur's blue-gaze steadily, then reared away and sprang onto a boulder at the edge of the trees. Stonefur felt a rush of pride at the compliment, but with another glance at the RiverClan intruders, he burned with fury.

"Retreat, ThunderClan! Retreat!" he yowled. At once his warriors squirmed and struggled away from their opponents. Spitting and snarling, they backed toward Redtail. for a heartbeat the RiverClan cats looked confused. Was this battle so easily won? Then Oakheart yowled a jubilant cry. As soon as they heard him, the RiverClan warriors raised their their voices and joined their deputy in caterwauling their victory.

Redtail looked down at his warriors. With a flick of his tail, he gave the signal and the ThunderClan cats dived down the far side of the Sunningrocks, then disappeared into the trees.

Stonefur followed last. He hesitated at the edge of the forest and glanced back at the bloodstained battlefield. His face was grim, and his eyes furious slits. Then he leaped after his Clan into the silent forest.

In a deserted clearing, deep in the moonlit forest, an aged gray-and-white tom sat alone, staring up as the clear night sky. All around him in the shadows he could hear the breathing and stirrings of sleeping cats as they rested after the night's defeat.

A small, pretty tortoiseshell she-cat emerged from a dark corner, her pawsteps quick and soundless.

The gray tom dipped his head in greeting. "How is Mousefur?" he meowed.

"Her wounds are deep, Thistlestar," answered the tortoiseshell, settling herself on the night-cool grass. "But she is young and strong; she will heal quickly."

"And the others?"

"They will all recover, too."

Thistlestar sighed. "We are lucky not to have lost any of our warriors this time. You are a gifted medicine cat, Spottedleaf." He tilted his head again and studied the stars. After a silent moment, his eyes narrowed to slits. "I am angered by tonight's defeat. ThunderClan has not been beaten in its own territory since I became leader," he muttered. "These are difficult times for our Clan. The season of newleaf is late, and there have been fewer kits. ThunderClan needs more warriors if it is to survive." Thistlestar let out a quiet growl. "But when we recover, RiverClan will be sorely punished for their deeds."

"But the year is only just beginning," Spottedleaf pointed out calmly. There will be more kits when greenleaf comes."And our warriors cannot fight needlessly forever, she thought privately with a flick of her tail.

The gray-and-white tom twitched his broad shoulders in a hint of a shrug. "Perhaps. But training our young to become warriors takes time. If ThunderClan is to defend its territory, it must have new warriors as soon as possible."

"Are you asking StarClan for answers?" meowed Spottedleaf gently, following Thistlestar's gaze staring up at the swath of stars glittering in the dark sky.

"...No," Thistlestar answered carefully. "StarClan has never fought our battles for us, and I don't see them coming down from the stars to do so anytime soon." At Spottedleaf's quiet huff, he added, "But I would not turn away a word of advice from our ancestors if they offered it." He glanced at his medicine cat. "Has StarClan spoken to you, Spottedleaf?"

"Not for some moons, Thistlestar."
She sighed, returning her gaze to the stars above.

Suddenly a shooting star blazed over the treetops. Spottedleaf's tail twitched and the fur along her spine bristled.

Thistlestar's ears pricked but he remained silent as Spottedleaf continued to gaze upward.

After a few moments, Spottedleaf lowered her head and she turned to Thistlestar. "It was a message from StarClan," she murmured. A distant look came into her eyes. "Fire will burn away at the shadows of the forest, and cleanse with water's gentle flow."

"Fire?" Thistlestar echoed. "Does that mean fire will save our clan?" He frowned. "Is fire supposed to defeat our enemies for us?"

Spottedleaf shook her head. "I do not know," she admitted. "But this is the message StarClan has chosen to share with me."

The ThunderClan leader fixed his amber gaze on the medicine cat. "You have never been wrong before, Spottedleaf," he meowed. "If StarClan has spoken, then it must be so." He stared up at the sky. "Fire is going to save our clan."

Across the river, another clan was much more jovial in manner. Cats tossed fat fish to one another, reveling in the first victory they had in seasons.

Oakheart nudged the large tabby beside him. "Cheer up!" he purred. "We finally gave Thistlestar a taste of his own medicine! He won't be scrounging around here for land for at least another moon."

The large tabby sighed. "But then what, Oakheart?" He stared down at the carp at his paws, uneaten. "How many more battles must we fight against Thistlestar and his cats? That tom is hungry for RiverClan blood, and he has been such since he was a young warrior. It won't be long before they have more strong warriors and attack in full force."

"Crookedstar, you think too much," Oakheart chuckled, nudging the tom again. "Eat! This is a sign good as any that RiverClan is stronger than ever. Sunningrocks is finally ours again, which just means more hunting grounds for us."

Crookedstar glanced at his brother, tired smile as lopsided as the twisted jaw he was named for. "I suppose you're right," he sighed. "This is a great victory for us." He gave his brother a grateful nod. "Thanks to your leadership in it, that is."

Oakheart puffed out his chest. Despite being a senior warrior in his clan, he still kept the energy and charisma of a young cat. "Our warriors are strong," he said, grinning. "This victory can only boost their spirits and make them stronger."

Crookedstar nodded, but gave no reply. My clan is still struggling, regardless, he thought. Thistlestar is relentless. RiverClan needs more young warriors if it is to survive.

"Crookedstar, I need to speak with you."

The light tabby turned to face a thick-furred brown tom. His eyes gleamed in the moonlight, though his expression was guarded.

Crookedstar nodded. "Of course, Mudfur." He glanced at his deputy. "Feel free to eat my fish."

Oakheart swiped his tongue over his lips. "My pleasure."

Mudfur led his leader a bit sways from the rest of the clan, towards a secluded reedbed. "StarClan has spoken to me."

Crookedstar's ears pricked. "They have? What did they say?"

Mudfur frowned. "It was… cryptic. Brambleberry came to me during the battle, as I dozed off. She told me…" he furrowed his brow as he attempted to recall her exact words. "She said, 'Fire brings destruction, but new life. It releases holds and ties to things unwanted and burns away at evils unseen.' I asked her what she meant, and what fire had to do with anything. She pushed a burning pinecone towards me, and told me to watch as it crackled and sizzled, until the cone was ash and fresh seeds scattered on the ground."

Crookedstar blinked. "What?"

Mudfur nodded. "It was odd, but- well, I think she was trying to remind me of what happens after a fire, it can kill, but it allows new life. Wipes the slate clean, so to speak."

"Get on with it, Mudfur," Crookedstar prompted. "I can tell you are not finished."

"No-" Mudfur shook his head, expression grim. "She told me one more thing…"

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