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.


3. Chapter 2

The strong wind buffeted Fireheart as they padded through the tall grasses of WindClan's moorland territory. Fireheart hadn't been here much, but he'd never enjoyed it—while there were some pretty wildflowers that didn't grow in RiverClan, it was otherwise sparse and exposed. There were very few trees, and the tall grass and clumps of heather and gorse made it hard to see.

It didn't help that he had poor company, either.

It had only been about an hour or so since Fireheart, Bluefur, and Snowbird had met at Fourtrees. Bluefur had remained stonily silent the entire time, while Snowbird continued to bombard them both with questions and remark about how exciting it was that they were going on an adventure.

"Wow," Snowbird gasped, and Fireheart resisted the urge to groan. "WindClan's territory is just so big! It must be so exciting to run around chasing hares all day on the moor like this. Have you ever caught a hare? I was chasing one, once, but it dove into its burrow and I ran right into a tree and—"

Bluefur lashed her tail irritably. "Lower your voice," she ordered, sharply. "We've nearly reached WindClan's camp. Something - or someone - may have taken up their camp in their absence."

"Wow," Snowbird whispered. "That's so–"

"Exciting?" Fireheart remarked dryly and flattened his ears. StarClan help me.

Bluefur snorted and pulled ahead to take the lead as they continued to trudge through the tall, dry grasses. To her credit, Snowbird did stop talking, but Fireheart put a fox-length of distance between them as she began to flick her tail wildly about in anticipation.

She's hardly old enough to be a seasoned apprentice, let alone a warrior, Fireheart thought, and frowned as he watched her bound after Bluefur, wide-eyed. Why would Russetstar send such a young cat?

They reached the top of the slope to find a steep dip in the ground that must have been WindClan's camp. But now, it was in a tattered disarray. One great stone sat in the center of the camp, and to it side was the rotting remains of what must have been their fresh-kill pile. Moss was scattered outside burrows in the walls of the slope, and flies buzzed around two corpses of long-dead cats.

Snowbird gasped, low and quiet. "Are they… are they…?"

Bluefur nodded solemnly. "They've been dead for a long time. WindClan must have left in a great hurry if they'd leave their dead behind." She curled her lip in displeasure. "The least Brokenstar could have done was had his warriors bury them." She led the way down the short slope into WindClan's camp. "Let's have a look around," Bluefur meowed. "Keep your wits about you."

"Why is she leading us?" Snowbird whispered to Fireheart. She looked up at him. "Don't you want to lead?"

Fireheart looked away uncomfortably. "Bluefur has more experience than I do," he replied. "If she wants to lead, I don't care."

Snowbird hummed thoughtfully, but didn't press him any further.

Fireheart watched as Bluefur approached one of the bodies. She looked like she was trying to conceal her anger as she stared down at the stiff corpse. He padded after her, wrinkling his nose at the stench of death and decay. "Did you know them?" he asked.

Bluefur shook her head. "I don't recognize the other, but this cat was one of the oldest elders in the Clans. To die this way, and be left out for the carrion…" she let out a low growl. "It's the greatest disrespect."

Snowbird padded closer and gagged dramatically. "Ew. That's so gross. And the smell–!"

Bluefur whirled upon the young she-cat. "Show some respect," she spat. "This cat died because of your Clan's attack. She was left to rot because of ShadowClan's disregard for the warrior code."

Snowbird recoiled as though Bluefur had struck her. Her head and tail hung low with shame. "I-I'm sorry…"

Fireheart frowned, uncomfortable with Bluefur's harshness. She may have a warrior's name, but she's old enough to be a young apprentice. She probably wasn't even in the battle, and if she was, she would have only been a kit. He turned to Bluefur. "She didn't know better," he said firmly. "Give her a break. Snowbird is young."

"Too young to be on a mission like this," Bluefur retorted sharply. She looked away and stared back down at the elder's body. "She deserves a proper burial."

"WindClan can bury her when we bring them home," Fireheart insisted. "They might not like to know we interfered with their ceremonies."

Bluefur lashed her tail. "They might not like coming home to rotting crow-food, either."

Fireheart glanced at the sky. We're going to waste time arguing like this, he thought. "If we go now, we'll be able to cover more ground before nightfall. The sooner we find WindClan, the sooner we can all go home. For all we know, they're just outside of their borders. But if we stay around here, we're just wasting daylight."

"I think we should go," Snowbird chimed in. "I want to find WindClan!"

Bluefur flattened her ears, and Fireheart thought she would refuse. "Fine," she growled. "Let's go." The blue-gray warrior padded past the two younger cats and headed back for the slope where they first had come into the camp.

"See?" Snowbird's eyes gleamed as she whispered, "You can lead." Without waiting for a reply, she hurried after Bluefur.

Fireheart frowned. How are we going to ever bring WindClan home if we can't even work together?

The journey up the moor was coldly silent. Not even Snowbird had a comment to contribute.

Bluefur led the way again, but kept ahead of Fireheart and Snowbird by a few paces. She had been visibly irritated since they'd left WindClan's camp, and Fireheart had a feeling she would continue to be for the better part of the trip.

After some time, Bluefur stopped. "I know a friend that lives a little ways ahead. We can stay with him for the night."

Snowbird, discomfort with Bluefur forgotten, bounced towards her. "Who is he?" she asked. "Is he nice? Is he a rogue? Why are you friends with a rogue? Are you in l—"

"That's enough!" Bluefur cut her off, sharply, and bristled her fur. "You need to learn to keep your muzzle out of other cats' business."

Snowbird blinked rapidly, as though surprised by Bluefur's cold reply. "But I just want to know—"

"You'll meet him when we get there," Bluefur said, her tone indicating that she didn't want to continue discussing it.

Fireheart sighed heavily, but said nothing. Hopefully Bluefur's friend is more sociable than she is.

As they reached the top of the slope, a large red barn came into view. Bluefur nodded towards the structure. "He lives in there."

Fireheart twitched his whiskers as he gazed upon the barn curiously. Is he a kittypet? the tom wondered. It's been some time since I've seen another one. But Fireheart had a feeling Bluefur would appreciate his questions about as much as she did Snowbird's, so he told himself he would just wait and see.

They shortly reached the large barn, and Bluefur padded up to the wide, open doors. "Hello?" she called. "Barley? Are you here?"

There was a heavy thump as a big black-and-white tom jumped down from the rafters above and landed on the hay-covered floor. He raised his tail in a friendly manner and beamed. "Well, if it isn't Bluefur! It's been moons since I've seen you. What are ThunderClan doing around these parts?"

"You look well, Barley," Bluefur said with a small smile. "But these cats aren't ThunderClan. ShadowClan, RiverClan, and ThunderClan have all agreed to work together to find WindClan."

"I'm Snowbird!" the young she-cat told him, cheerfully. "I'm from ShadowClan!"

Fireheart stepped forward and gave the tom a friendly blink. "And I'm Fireheart of RiverClan," he meowed. "Bluefur told us you might have shelter for the night."

Barley nodded easily. "Oh, sure, I never mind visitors. Gets a bit lonely up here." He glanced back at Bluefur and frowned. "Shame about WindClan, though. I saw them all flee that night, but I wasn't sure what caused them to leave in such a hurry. I went to check out their camp the next day, and it was empty and reeking of ShadowClan."

"Brokenstar chased them out," Bluefur explained. "But he's been driven from the Clans for good."

"Hmm," Barley hummed. "That's good to hear." He shook his head and gestured for them to follow with a flick of his tail. "But let's not stand around chatting. Come in! Help yourself to the hay, and there's plenty of mice around if you're hungry."

Fireheart felt at ease with the friendly tom, and followed him into the barn. Piles of hay were scattered throughout the building, and Fireheart could smell the warm scent of mouse throughout the barn. His mouth watered at the thought of food—he'd been in such a hurry that he hadn't eaten this morning, and they hadn't stopped to hunt all day.

Barley chuckled. "I can tell you're hungry. Go on, hunt all you like. There's enough mice here to feed all four Clans twice!"

Fireheart swiped his tongue across his lips at the thought of fresh-kill. "I'll have to take you up on that!"

Barley headed towards the middle of the barn, where most of the hay was piled. "Come on, Bluefur, let's catch up. I've got to hear about the latest ThunderClan drama!"

Bluefur snorted and shook her head, but followed her old friend. Snowbird, eyes wide with excitement, hurried off to their right. Fireheart parted his jaws to taste the air. The scent of mouse was unusually heavy in the air, and it was hard to pinpoint one scent.

Thankfully, Fireheart caught sight of a movement near one of the walls and dropped into a crouch. A mouse had ventured out from the safety of the wooden walls and was scurrying about the hay. He crept forward, a little uncertain. Most of his hunting involved diving in the river or scooping up fish from the shore—hunting this way was not his forte, and he felt a little ungainly.

As he got within four fox-lengths of the mouse, it's head shot up, and it began to dart away. "Frog-dung!" he cursed, and leaped for the rodent. He missed, and it raced for a pile of straw.

Suddenly, Snowbird shot out from behind a bale of hay and pounced perfectly. She crushed the mouse beneath her paws and killed it with a swift bite. She looked over at Fireheart and beamed.

Fireheart blinked in surprise. "How did you do that?"

Snowbird sat down and drew her tongue across a dainty white paw. "ShadowClan are the best stalkers in all the forest," she explained. "We hunt in the middle of the night so we can perfect sneaking up on prey." She grinned again and inclined her head towards the mouse. "You can have this one! Tallpoppy's been saying I need to practice hunting anyway." Fireheart watched, a little dumbfounded, as she rose and padded off again, plumy tail raised high in the air.

Fireheart settled down in the hay nest that Barley had made him. Snowbird was already fast asleep beside him, and Bluefur and Barley were curled up a little ways away, still deep in quiet conversation. He could catch some of what they were saying, and though he felt a little bad about eavesdropping, Fireheart angled his ears to hear their words better.

"...and Tigerclaw just went along with it?" Barley asked. "Doesn't sound like him.

"Oh, he was furious," Bluefur meowed. "Wanted to shred Ravenpaw, but Thistlestar promised him another apprentice when Frostfur's youngest kits are old enough."

They must be talking about Ravenpaw being a medicine cat, Fireheart realized. I imagine Tigerclaw would be pretty upset.

"And your kits?" Barley asked. "How are they?"

Bluefur purred quietly. "Stonefur is a greatly respected warrior, and Mistyfoot has just settled down with Runningwind. Mosstail finally got her first apprentice. They're all doing great."

"What about that Oakheart?"

The question startled Fireheart. Oakheart? What about Oakheart? Fireheart had never known the former RiverClan deputy, but he had led a battle against ThunderClan to save Fireheart's life.

Bluefur was silent for a few moments before she replied, "He's dead," she whispered, voice soft. "He died a few moons ago in a fight with one of our patrols. Apparently it was no cat's fault—he was crushed under a boulder."

Barley's voice was quiet and sympathetic as he replied, "I'm sorry, Bluefur."

Fireheart flattened his ears and curled up into a tight ball, feeling very much like he had just heard something neither he, nor any cat, was ever supposed to hear.

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