Blazing - Book Two: Fire and Ice

With Brokenstar and his cronies in exile, ShadowClan is no longer a threat. When ShadowClan's new leader demands that the three Clans work together to bring back WindClan, Fireheart must journey away from home to find a lost Clan. But as the days grow colder, and a pretty face lingers across the river, Fireheart finds himself questioning his loyalty- both to his Clan and the Code.


2. Chapter 1

The full moon shone above Fourtrees, illuminating the clearing. The clearing was full of cats, and RiverClan stood at the top of the slope, ready to join the gathering. Loud conversation could be heard from below as the two other Clans talked in peace.

"Go on, RiverClan," Crookedstar said, and with a flick of his tail, they began to hurry down the slope towards the cats already there.

Fireheart bounded down alongside his friend, Grassfoot. I wonder how ShadowClan has been faring, he thought as they slowed at the bottom. Crookedstar hurried on ahead, and headed for the Great Rock.

"Let's go!" Grassfoot purred, and flicked Fireheart with his tail. "This is my first Gathering as a warrior. I'm going to go rub it in that Dustpaw's face."

Fireheart chuckled in amusement and followed him into the crowd of cats. He noted that the ShadowClan cats, despite having been left battered and leaderless, seemed strong and well-fed now.

It had been nearly a moon since RiverClan and ThunderClan had attacked ShadowClan to drive Brokenstar and his followers from the Clans for good. They had succeeded, and Brokentail had fled the Clans, but ShadowClan had been left without a leader or deputy.

Grassfoot dodged around a cat in front of them, but Fireheart was too slow to realize they were there, and he bumped right into the cat.

"Watch where you're going!" The she-cat hissed and turned upon him. "You dim-witted-… oh. Hello, Fireheart."

Fireheart blinked. "Sandpaw!" He gave her an apologetic smile. "We've got to stop meeting at Gatherings like this."

Sandpaw rolled her eyes. "More like you need to start watching where you're going," she retorted. "Anyway, I'm a warrior now—my name is Sandbird."

"That's great to hear!" Fireheart purred. "Congratulations. Is Graypaw a warrior too?"

Sandbird nodded. "He's Graystripe now, and Dustclaw became a warrior with us."

"Is Graystripe here?" Fireheart asked, and glanced around. "I ought to say hello to him too."

"Nope, he's back at camp with a bellyache. Dustclaw, on the other hand, went off to antagonize some ShadowClan cats," Sandbird told him with a flick of her tail. "Looks like you're stuck here with me."

Fireheart looked back ahead to tell Grassfoot he was going to sit for awhile, but the tom had already disappeared.

"Your friend is gone," The ginger she-cat pointed out, and her eyes gleamed with humor as she looked back at him. "Looks like you're really stuck with me now."

Fireheart, for once, didn't feel that overwhelming sense of awkwardness as he sat beside her. "That's alright," he said. "So long as you don't try to rip my pelt off!"

Sandbird rolled her eyes. "You kittypets are so worried about everything," she retorted, though there was no malice– only light teasing behind the comment.

"ShadowClan looks well," Fireheart commented, and inclined his head towards a sleek tortoiseshell she-cat that passed by. "I'm surprised at how quickly they turned around. It's only been a moon and they already seem so… strong."

"They must have a powerful new leader," Sandbird meowed and twitched her whiskers thoughtfully. "I wonder who? I don't see anyone on the Great Rock, but knowing ShadowClan, they're probably waiting until the last moment just to add to the drama of it all."

Fireheart raised a brow. "Are ThunderClan cats really so judgemental?"

Sandbird gave him an incredulous look. "Fireheart," she said, slowly, as though she was explaining something to a kit. "All Clans are judgemental. We call you fish-faces, and you call us squirrel-chasers. It's just the way things work. Besides," she added with another twitch of her whiskers. "Aren't you dying to know, too?"

"Well, yes," Fireheart admitted. "It's a wonder they managed to recover so well. I suppose that means Brokentail really is gone?"

Sandbird's eyes darkened for a moment. "Evil never really dies, you know," she said quietly. "Even if Brokentail is gone, there will always be someone to cause trouble."

Fireheart glanced at her, a little surprised. "Surely you think there must be peace now, with him gone?"

Sandbird shrugged half-heartedly. "Not really. RiverClan and ThunderClan have warred over Sunningrocks for generations, and now with WindClan's territory empty, all Clans are going to want to get their paws on it." With a flick of her tail, she added, "Although I doubt Thistlestar will want it terribly. It's pretty far from ThunderClan."

Fireheart narrowed his eyes and looked up at the massive gray-furred tom on the Great Rock. Who knows what he wants, Fireheart thought. Maybe she's right—evil doesn't go away so easily.

"And then there's ShadowClan," Sandbird continued. "We don't know who their leader is now. For all we know, it could be someone just as bad as Brokenstar—or even worse."

"I hope not," Fireheart muttered darkly. "I've had enough of ShadowClan tyrants to last me nine lives."

Crookedstar let out a yowl, and conversation among the Clans began to falter. Fireheart pricked his ears and stretched up to get a better view of the third cat that was ascending the Great Rock.

A russet-furred she-cat stood, head held high, beside Crookedstar. Thistlestar dipped his head. "Welcome, Russetfur."

She didn't seem too bad, Fireheart thought, relieved. Maybe ShadowClan will be peaceful now.

The ShadowClan she-cat nodded curtly and flicked an ear. "I am Russetstar now."

"Congratulations," Crookedstar replied smoothly. "Would you like to speak first, then?"

Russetstar sat and wrapped her tail around her paws. "Thank you. ShadowClan is faring miraculously well. Our cats are stronger than ever, and there is no trace of Brokentail or his fellow outcasts on our territory. Shortly after ThunderClan and RiverClan left us, I received my nine lives from StarClan, and I have chosen Tallpoppy as my deputy." She paused, and a few cats shouted their congratulations. A pretty tortoiseshell stood from where she had been seated, near the base of the Great Rock with Tigerclaw and Leopardfur.

"That is all we have to report," Russetstar concluded, and glanced at Crookedstar expectantly.

Crookedstar nodded at her and began his report. "RiverClan has also been doing well, despite the coming season of Leafbare. Twolegs seem to hate the cold as always, so the river has been plentiful with the last of the season's fish and we have been undisturbed by them. Skyheart recently kitted, and is now the mother of two healthy kits."

Fireheart purred a little at the announcement. Skyheart had a surprisingly easy kitting, and her two kits, Sprucekit and Pinekit, seemed quite healthy. Mudfur said it was surely a blessing from StarClan, given the approaching Leafbare. Mallowtail's kits were beside themselves with excitement, but were quickly disappointed to hear that it would be at least a moon before the pair could play with them.

And those kits are getting so big! Fireheart thought. Surely they'll be ready to be apprenticed soon.

"We also have two new warriors," Crookedstar continued. "Grassfoot and Vixenfrost."

"Grassfoot!" Many cats cheered. "Vixenfrost!"

Crookedstar nodded once more and sat. "That will be all."

Thistlestar pricked his ears and began to speak. "ThunderClan is strong," he meowed, voice hard and cold as ever. "Though we lost our medicine cat, Spottedleaf, days before the battle with ShadowClan, one of our apprentices has stepped up to take her place. We thank RiverClan and their medicine cats for mentoring Ravenpaw in the ways of a medicine cat." His gratitude was obviously forced, but Crookedstar dipped his head in acknowledgement nonetheless.

"Spottedleaf was a great medicine cat," Sandbird murmured. "She was so kind."

Fireheart gave his companion a sympathetic look. "I'm so sorry," he mewed quietly. "Her life is a great loss."

Sandbird glanced up at him, seeming almost surprised by the genuine sympathy, before she nodded once and looked back up at Thistlestar.

"That will be all," Thistlestar finished. "That brings this Gathering to an—"

"Wait!" Russetstar interrupted him, and leaped back up to her paws. "There is one more thing I wish to say."

Thistlestar narrowed his eyes with displeasure, but sat down without argument. "Very well," he grumbled.

Russetstar dipped her head to him before addressing the Clans. "Cats of all Clans," she started, "I know as well as you all that Brokenstar committed too many terrible crimes against all Clans. I, and all my Clan, lived under his leadership. We know better than most. He trained three-moon old kids until they died, just days into their apprenticeship; he made cats hardly old enough to be apprentices warriors, and he relentlessly attacked and robbed the other Clans of their land and prey."

"Get on with it!" Tigerclaw shouted, and glared up at the russet-furred leader.

Russetstar's eyes glittered with irritation as she looked down at the deputy, but didn't address his outburst. "I feel a personal responsibility to right some of his most horrible wrongs. This is why I ask that RiverClan and ThunderClan join us in searching for WindClan, so that we can bring them back to the land they belong in."

Fireheart flattened his ears against the sudden yowls of protest that erupted from the gathered cats.

"That's ridiculous!" Beetlenose hissed. "I won't risk my hide for a Clan that's good as dead!"

"This is a waste of time!" Runningwind of ThunderClan agreed. "We have better things to do!"

"We have kits to care for!"

"Apprentices to train!"

"Leafbare to prepare for!"

Russetstar lashed her tail. "As a Clan leader, you will hear my words!" Protests dropped at the sudden fury in her voice. Her pelt bristled as she spoke. "There should be four Clans in the forest," she said. "There always have been. Brokenstar disturbed the ancient balance of our Clans, and we must work together to make amends."

"Must?" Thistlestar growled, ears flat.

Russetstar appeared unfazed. She raised her chin, defiant against his glowering stare. "Must."

Fireheart looked to Crookedstar. What does he want? he wondered. WindClan should be brought back to the forest, I think… Their absence could start another war, like Sandbird said. And they deserve to have their home back.

Crookedstar's expression was hard to read, though he didn't sound enthusiastic. "You want us to spend our time searching out WindClan?" he asked with an impassive flick of his ear. "I'm not sure my warriors would be pleased to be sent on this mission when we could be preparing for Leafbare."

Russetstar shook her head. "No. All I ask is that each Clan send one warrior. The journey would be faster that way, and the rest of us can continue our lives without much burden."

Fireheart narrowed his eyes as he caught the smallest of smirks on Thistlestar's face. "I suppose I have a warrior to spare," he drawled. "I will send one cat." Is he planning something?

Crookedstar looked displeased at Thistlestar's offer, as though he had expected the tom to refuse. "I will not force any of my cats to go," he decided. "If any of my warriors wish to volunteer for this, they may do so now."

Fireheart blinked at his decision, and looked around to see if any of his Clanmates would offer. Surely someone will? he thought, a little uncertainly. A few long moments passed, and each RiverClan cat within eyeshot seemed to have become very interested in their own paws.

Fireheart frowned. Will no one do it? He swallowed and stared back up at Crookedstar. Then I will. He rose to all fours, and ignored the bewildered look Sandbird shot him. "I volunteer!" He called, tail and chin raised high.

He gulped as Crookedstar's frown only seemed to deepen. "Very well," the tabby muttered. "Fireheart will go with you."

Russetstar's eyes gleamed. "Thank you," she said. "I plan to send my warrior at sun-high tomorrow."

"Our warriors can meet here, then," Thistlestar decided. "Is that all?"

Russetstar nodded and began to hurry down the Great Rock. Crookedstar, still frowning, followed her down.

"This Gathering is dismissed!" Thistlestar yowled.

Sandbird shouldered Fireheart. "You absolute mouse-brain!" she hissed. "Don't you see that's a death mission you're going on?"

Fireheart widened his eyes, mockingly. "StarClan, I could almost think you cared about whether or not I made it back alive."

Sandbird bristled furiously, and Fireheart took a step back. "Shut up," she hissed. "Do whatever you want. You're a fool, anyway." She whipped around and hurried off to join her Clanmates at the edge of the clearing.

Fireheart stared after her, puzzled and surprised. She's just like Silverthorn, he thought sourly. Trying to claw my ears off one minute, and then calling me fish-brained the next.

"What were you thinking?" a voice hissed from behind him.

Speak of the badger… Fireheart thought with a wince as he turned to face a bristling silver tabby. "What is it, Silverthorn?" he snapped.

"You've got tadpoles for brains, is what!" Silverthorn retorted and lashed his tail. "It's obvious Crookedstar didn't want anyone to go."

Fireheart narrowed his eyes. "He said I would go," he replied tensely. "It's already done. If you're actually so worried about me, maybe don't be an absolute pain-in-my-tail all the time?"

Silverthorn and Fireheart had a history, and it wasn't exactly pretty. Silverthorn had antagonized him from the moment he joined RiverClan. He insulted and taunted Fireheart throughout their apprenticeship, and he'd even tried to push Fireheart into the gorge during his warrior assessment. But he hadn't been able to bring himself to do it, and had admitted to Fireheart that his father was a kittypet who'd betrayed his mother and killed her. Since then, they'd kept a shaky but steady peace between them.

Though... Fireheart still wasn't sure he would call Silverthorn a friend.

Silverthorn curled his lip. "Maybe I wouldn't be such a pain if you weren't flirting with ThunderClan she-cats and throwing your life away for a dead Clan!"

Fireheart blinked, surprised, and stammered, "I… I wasn't flirting! Sandbird is a friend! Or, at least, she's a better friend than you!"

"Hah!" Silverthorn laughed harshly. "Please. I used to see the way my sister looked whenever she saw Vixenfrost. If you don't see it, that just makes you a bigger fool than I thought." The silver tom turned and padded towards where RiverClan was already retreating up the slope. His tail lashed behind him furiously.

Fireheart let out a growl and followed him. She's just a friend! he thought. He's the minnow-brain. Silverthorn needs to mind his own business.

Fireheart awoke from a rough prod to his belly. He let out a groan and opened one eye to see Dawnbright standing over him with a frown.

"Get up!" she hissed, and jabbed him again. "It's nearly sun-high already, you minnow-brain."

"What?" Fireheart's head shot up, and he blinked rapidly. "But I'm meeting the others at Fourtees at sun-high!"

Dawnbright heaved a heavy sigh. "My old apprentice, sleeping like Heavystep. Who would have thought! Get up, you lazy badger—Yellowfang says you need to eat some traveling herbs."

Fireheart grunted and pushed himself to his paws. "Sorry," he muttered as he shook out his pelt. "I guess I didn't sleep well last night."

"Either way, you better hurry," Dawnbright advised him. "She said she'll send Beetlenose after you next if I don't get you there right away."

Fireheart shuddered. "I'd better go, then."

"I'm coming with you," Dawnbright told him as they left the warriors' den. "To Fourtrees, that is."

Fireheart smiled. "Really? Thank you."

Dawnbright nodded. "Of course. We haven't spent much time together since you became a warrior, and Crookedstar doesn't trust ThunderClan or ShadowClan."

Russetstar seemed genuine, Fireheart thought privately. Why is everyone always so mistrustful? Brokenstar was horrible, but not every ShadowClan cat can be like him. Right?

Fireheart ducked inside the medicine cats' den. Yellowfang glanced up and narrowed her eyes. "Well!" she huffed. "It's about time. I'll be amazed if they haven't already wandered off without you." She pushed a bundle of herbs towards him. "Eat these."

Fireheart grimaced before he bent down and chewed on the herbs. He had to hold back the urge to fetch as the bitter taste hit his tongue, but he choked the herbs down anyway. "Thanks, I guess."

Yellowfang flicked her tail. "Those will keep your strength up for the day, at least. Now get going, and come back in one piece."

Fireheart hesitated as he turned away. "Do you… do you really think I can find WindClan?"

Yellowfang gave him a rare, small smile. "I believe cats don't give you enough credit, Fireheart. Now go—they won't wait for you."

Fireheart flashed her a grin and headed back out of the den. Dawnbright jerked her head towards the camp entrance. "Let's get a move on."

His former mentor headed right for the reeds, not giving Fireheart a moment to say any goodbyes. Though he wasn't sure who he would say goodbye to—patrols had already gone out, and for the most part, camp was empty. Fireheart followed close behind and exchanged a nod with Frogleap as they passed him through the reeds.

"Let's head for the bridge," Dawnbright suggested. "That'll be the fastest way."

Fireheart nodded and fell in step beside her. "Hopefully we won't be too late."

Dawnbright let out a purr of amusement. "Perhaps if you'd woken up earlier we wouldn't have to find out!" She flicked him with her tail affectionately. "I'll have you know that I'm proud of you, though. You've hardly been a warrior for two moons and you're already off on a mission to save a Clan. StarClan, I still remember when you were just a kit and I was dragging you into the river!" She smiled fondly. "You've always been quite brave."

Fireheart sighed. "Not everyone thinks so. Silverthorn nearly ripped my ears off last night and called me a fool."

Dawnbright twitched her whiskers. "You may think Silverthorn hates you, Fireheart, but he gave that up a long time ago. He cares about you, same as any Clanmate."

She's right, Fireheart thought. Silverthorn and I stopped being rivals moons ago. I haven't hated him for a long while, either.

"He's hard to get along with, though," Dawnbright went on. "Silverthorn's never really had any friends. His sisters have always been friendly and likable, but Silverthorn is a bitter cat, and I don't know that he can change as long as he remains so lonely."

Fireheart blinked, and for a moment, felt a prick of guilt. I never thought of it like that. "He told me about his parents," he meowed, solemnly. "I'm not surprised he's so bitter."

Dawnbright raised a brow. "I'm surprised he told you that. RiverClan knows all about it, but… it's not exactly something we speak about anymore."

"That's why he hated me," Fireheart explained. "He despised kittypets because of his father. I think… that whenever he looked at me, he only thought of what his father did."

"Brave and wise," Dawnbright chuckled. In a more serious note, she added, "Just… give him a chance, will you? I think the two of you could be good friends if you got to know one another."

I could always use more friends in RiverClan, Fireheart thought. Even though he had trained in and fought for RiverClan, many cats still disliked him. Silverthorn isn't half-bad when we aren't fighting. "I will, when I get back," he promised.

They went on in a comfortable silence. The day was actually pretty lovely, aside from the coming journey. It was certainly one of the last few warmer days of the season, before the temperature would begin to drop for Leafbare. The leaves of the beech and willow trees along the river had dried and become yellow, gold, and orange, and covered the ground underpaw. And the river was still full and beautiful as ever, much to all of RiverClan's joy.

They soon reached the stone twoleg bridge that spanned the distance to the other shore. Together, they padded across the warm surface towards the other side.

Fireheart blinked as he spotted two she-cats a little ways down the dirt twoleg path before them. "Who's there?" he called and raised his tail.

The she-cats stopped and turned to look at him. He quickly recognized them as Bluefur and Mistyfoot of ThunderClan.

Bluefur twitched her whiskers calmly. "Are you Fireheart? Thistlestar sent me to meet you and another at Fourtrees."

Fireheart picked up the pace to catch up to the senior warrior. "That's me," he meowed. "You're Bluefur, right? It's nice to meet you."

Bluefur dipped her head, before she leaned forward to sniff him. "The kittypet warrior," she remarked, though her voice was even, and without contempt. "I've been curious about the cat that escaped Thistlestar as a kit. Well met, Fireheart."

Fireheart gave his chest an embarrassed lick. Her statement came off as an odd form of praise, and it was nice not to be insulted for his kittypet heritage.

"Shall we?" Mistyfoot asked, and gestured towards the path with her tail. "I'm sure whoever ShadowClan sent is impatient, knowing them."

"That's what I've been trying to say," Dawnbright exclaimed, with a roll of her eyes. "Let's get going."

They fell in step beside the two ThunderClan cats, who remained silent as they walked down the dirt path. Fireheart glanced at Bluefur a few times, and considered trying to make conversation, but didn't say anything. It'll be good having such an experienced warrior with us, he thought. I'm sure I can learn a lot from her.

The four great oaks soon loomed above them, and the cats veered off the path and headed for the sacred meeting place. As they reached the edge of the slope, Bluefur stopped, and touched Mistyfoot's shoulder with her tail tip. "Go home," she meowed. "I'll be fine from here."

Fireheart noticed that Mistyfoot's eyes glittered with worry. "Alright," she relented. "But you take care of yourself. I know you'll come home. ThunderClan needs you."

Bluefur's voice was low and hard as she replied, "I know."

Fireheart briefly wondered if there was a greater, unspoken reason that Mistyfoot felt Bluefur was so needed in ThunderClan, but he thought better than to stick his muzzle where it didn't belong.

Mistyfoot pressed her nose to her mother's cheek before she turned away and started back for ThunderClan.

Bluefur led the way down the slope towards the clearing. Two cats sat beneath the Great Rock, and both looked up silently as the trio approached. Both were young, certainly younger than Fireheart, and while Fireheart wasn't sure who the white she-cat was, he recognized the tom beside her as Ratscar.

The white she-cat bounced up onto her paws. "Oh, hello!" she chirped. "Are you all coming with me? I'm Snowbird! Isn't this all so exciting?"

Fireheart swallowed. This might be a long journey after all. "Er… I'm Fireheart."

Dawnbright twitched her whiskers and gave Fireheart an amused, almost teasing glance. "And I'm leaving. Good luck, you three. Come home soon." She turned away and hurried off, and Fireheart felt even more awkward.

"Oh! Oh!" Snowbird exclaimed. "I know about you. You saved Cedarpaw once! And aren't you a kittypet? What's that like? Did you really eat rabbit droppings and badger dung? Did you—"

"We ought to be going," Bluefur cut her off, clearly not pleased with their traveling companion. "I'm Bluefur."

Ratscar narrowed his eyes and glared back and forth from Fireheart to Bluefur. "Hurt my sister and I'll shred you," he swore, before he rose stiffly and padded away. "See you, Snowbird."

"Bye!" Snowbird purred. "Oh, this is just so exciting! A real adventure! I'm so glad Russetstar let me go. I can't wait to find WindClan! Are they scary? Are they—"

Snowbird continued to chatter like a noisy bird, and Fireheart and Bluefur exchanged an already weary glance. This is going to be a very long trip.

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