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.


4. Chapter 3


Sandbird padded from the warriors' den with a wide yawn. Tigerclaw was in the center of camp, already organizing patrols. For a moment, the ginger she-cat considered heading for the fresh-kill pile, but she didn't feel a pang of hunger yet, and the pile was looking quite small at the moment. She instead arched her back in a stretch before she padded towards Tigerclaw to join the other warriors who were awaiting orders.

"Willowpelt, Whitestorm, and Darkstripe," Tigerclaw called. "Take the ShadowClan border. Bring Brackenpaw." His tail swept across the grassy ground as he glanced thoughtfully around the gathered warriors. "Mosstail, lead a hunting party to Snakerocks, and I want Longtail and Mousefur to take Cinderpaw to Tallpines."

His dark amber gaze fell upon Sandbird, and the ginger she-cat pricked her ears. "Sandbird…" he mused. "You'll escort Ravenpaw to RiverClan today."

Sandbird wrinkled her nose distastefully, but didn't argue. "Yes, Tigerclaw." She turned away and flicked her tail in irritation. I should have a real warrior's task, not some medicine cat escort detail! It wasn't that she disliked Ravenpaw, but she certainly wasn't up to spending the day in RiverClan, being stared at by fat cats who reeked of fish and listening to a pair of old medicine cats drone on about herbs.

On her way to Ravenpaw's den, she came across Dustclaw. The brown tabby stopped in front of her. "Taking Ravenpaw to RiverClan?" he asked, a teasing note in his voice.

"Unfortunately," Sandbird sighed, and rolled her eyes. "I'm sure you're going to be off leading some big patrol?"

"No, I'm free until dusk," Dustclaw meowed with a flick of his ears. "I can come with you."

Sandbird frowned doubtfully. "You want to come with Ravenpaw and I and sit in RiverClan all day?" Dustclaw and Ravenpaw were brothers, but they'd never gotten along. They were complete opposites- Dustclaw was fierce, hot-headed, and quick to anger, but Ravenpaw was quiet and logical and quite sensitive. She couldn't quite say that they fought, but it was more that Dustclaw was often rude and shrewd to Ravenpaw, and Ravenpaw would get his feelings hurt and sulk.

Dustclaw snorted. "Trust me, I'm not going for Ravenpaw."

Sandbird narrowed her eyes in the slightest, but shrugged. "If you want to spend your day bored out of your mind, be my guest."

"I'll be waiting by the entrance," Dustclaw meowed with a flick of his tail, and brushed past her to head off.

Sandbird padded into the medicine cat den. "Ravenpaw?" she called. "Dustclaw and I are taking you to RiverClan."

The sleek black tom sat up from where he had been crouched over an assortment of herbs. "Tigerclaw seems to think I've forgotten how to fight," Ravenpaw huffed. "I can defend myself just fine!" he shook his head impatiently. "Sorry, Sandbird. Let's go! I've been waiting all morning for Tigerclaw to give me an escort so I can leave."

Sandbird twitched her whiskers. "Well, let's leave, then. The sooner we get this over with, the better."

She turned around led the way out of the den. They crossed camp and headed for the gorse tunnel, where Dustclaw was already standing stiffly as he waited for them.

Graystripe was sitting on sentry duty, and he grinned at Sandbird and Ravenpaw as they approached. "Hey, say hello to Fireheart for me, will you?"

Sandbird was about to agree, but stopped as she remembered that he had volunteered to find WindClan. She scowled and instead replied, "He's not there. He's going on that mission to bring WindClan back."

Graystripe swallowed, and Sandbird noticed the glimmer of worry in his eyes. "Isn't that where Thistlestar sent Bluefur?"

"Yes," Sandbird nodded, eyes narrowed. "I told the mouse-brain he was throwing away his life, but he wouldn't listen."

Graystripe shifted his paws with a frown. "They better make it and come home soon."

"Can we go, or you going to keep gossiping like a pair of doves?" Dustclaw grumbled.

Sandbird privately agreed with Graystripe, but not wishing to further irritate Dustclaw, meowed a quick goodbye to the gray tom as they padded through the gorse tunnel.

"Graystripe's right," Ravenpaw murmured to Sandbird. "There's no telling what Thistlestar will do now that Bluefur's gone."

Sandbird nodded silently. Thistlestar had been a leader hungry for power and eager to spill blood for as long as any cat could remember. In his older age, he became a seasoned warrior and considered their battles more carefully, but that didn't mean ThunderClan wasn't fighting. Before the battle when RiverClan last claimed Sunningrocks, the two Clans had clashed constantly. Battles were fought every few days, and both sides lost too many lives. ThunderClan was smaller than it had been in seasons.

But there were times when Bluefur had been able to sway the Clan away from wanting to fight. She could never change Thistlestar's mind alone, but she would go quietly around ThunderClan, mentioning how dangerous the battle would be, or reminding the warriors of the lives they had just lost. She had a pawful of close supporters—Sandbird's father, Redtail, Willowpelt, Stonefur, and Mistyfoot. Whitestorm was close to her, too, and agreed with what she said, but being Thistlestar's son put him in an awkward position. It didn't help Bluefur that Redtail had died a few moons ago.

Dustclaw led the way up the ravine, a few long paces ahead of Ravenpaw and Sandbird. Though it was sunny, it was a cool day in the shade-covered forest. The grass and surrounding bracken had started to wither and brown, a clear sign that Leafbare was on the horizon.

"How's your training going?" Sandbird asked, with a glance at her companion.

Ravenpaw smiled. "It's actually been great. Yellowfang and Mudfur are both so wise, and they've taught me a lot already. I was a little worried that it would be difficult… but it's all been so easy so far. I just can't wait for the half-moon so I can finally meet StarClan."

Sandbird was quiet for a moment, before she asked, "Is it hard, not being a warrior?" I can't imagine giving up the life of a warrior to sort herbs all day. Running beside my Clanmates, hunting for fresh-kill, defending our land… it's not something I'd give up in a heartbeat.

Ravenpaw shrugged. "Well… I do miss some things. Hunting with you all was fun, and I wasn't bad at it."

Sandbird snorted and flicked him with her tail. "I'd say!" The ginger she-cat chuckled as a smile tugged at her lips. "Remember that time you caught an adder?"

Ravenpaw let out a purr. "Even Tigerclaw couldn't complain!" The black tom sighed a little and glanced up at the sky. "There are other things, though. Being a medicine cat is lonely. I train alone, I gather herbs alone, and I sleep in a den alone. I guess I'll always be alone, in a way."

"That's not true," Sandbird argued, and frowned lightly. "You still have friends."

Ravenpaw shook his head. "I'll never have another cat who understands what my life is, though. When I was training to be a warrior, I thought everyone was more or less the same and fit in somewhere. But I stand alone now. In some ways, I have more responsibilities than Tigerclaw—or I will, at least." He glanced at Sandbird, and his voice was low as he added, "I'll never have a mate."

There was a certain intensity in his eyes that made Sandbird look away uncomfortably. She wasn't oblivious to the feelings that both Ravenpaw and Dustclaw seemed to have for her, although Dustclaw was thankfully less obvious about it. Sandbird could spend time with him without being reminded of his crush. Dustclaw was hot-headed and could be brash and didn't focus on his own feelings much, but Ravenpaw had a more quiet, thoughtful nature, and conveyed his feelings without having to say them.

"Yeah," Sandbird muttered. "That's a shame." She moved a little faster to catch up to Dustclaw. The tom flicked an ear in acknowledgement, but remained silent. At least Dustclaw knows when to be quiet, Sandbird thought, a little sourly.

The walk to Sunningrocks was quiet. Dustclaw and Sandbird didn't speak, and remained in a comfortable silence, while Ravenpaw seemed content to stay a few paces behind.

I wonder if he expects Dustclaw and I to become mates, Sandbird thought to herself. As if!

When they reached the sun-warmed, rocky shore, Ravenpaw pulled ahead and headed for the stepping stones. "Come on!" he meowed. "Stepping stones are faster than going all the way to the twoleg bridge."

Sandbird curled her lip slightly. She wasn't fond of crossing the river. RiverClan's camp always remained unattacked for one reason—the river. Arguably the safest camp in the forest, no Clan had good reason to attack the heart of RiverClan. ShadowClan was too far to really benefit from a full-scale raid, the gorge separated WindClan from any quick route to RiverClan, and the river was a strong barrier against ThunderClan. While the twoleg bridge served as a possible route, it was too much of a detour for a retreat, and a raiding patrol could easily be cut off from escape. Thistlestar had attempted crossing the stepping stones to attack, once, but they'd been quickly met by furious defenders before they all get across, and an apprentice had drowned in the mad rush back across the stones. That was the first and last time that Thistlestar would attempt an attack on RiverClan's camp.

Ravenpaw led the way to the river's edge, and without waiting for his companions, leaped from the shore and landed easily on the first exposed stone.

"Wait up, will you?" Dustclaw grumbled with a flick of his tail.

Sandbird sighed and brushed past him to jump to the first stone after Ravenpaw moved. They quickly crossed the stones, and Sandbird couldn't be more relieved when they reached the other side.

Two young warriors upriver, whom Sandbird hadn't spotted before, came towards them, hackles raised. She recognized the black she-cat, Vixenfrost, but couldn't put a name to her gray-furred companion.

The gray she-cat touched her tail to Vixenfrost's shoulder. "Wait," she cautioned her. "It's just Ravenpaw."

Vixenfrost flicked her tail. "Why did Thistlestar feel the need to send two warriors?" she asked, with an almost mocking tone. "You'd think he's worried that after a moon we're going to steal away your medicine cat."

Dustclaw bared his teeth. "I just came along because I love listening to RiverClan make themselves sound like tough mouse-brains."

Vixenfrost curled her lip, but Ravenpaw intervened smoothly. "Nice to see you, Shadepelt!" he purred. "How's the fishing going?"

Shadepelt gave the medicine cat apprentice a tight-lipped smile. "It's alright. Sparrowkit and Cedarkit have missed you. I'm sure they'll be glad to see you."

Vixenfrost shook her head. "Let's just bring them back to camp and get back to fishing. I'm going to catch that massive carp."

Shadepelt gave her an affectionate glance. "Whatever you want." She turned around and flicked her tail for the ThunderClan to follow.

Vixenfrost waited for the trio to pass her before she took up the rear. Sandbird had to force herself to keep her fur flat. RiverClan are our enemies, she thought uncomfortably. They've killed our Clanmates, and now we have to be civil so they'll train Ravenpaw.

The walk towards the gap in the reeds was short. Shadepelt led the way down the short slope, and they were in the camp of RiverClan.

Sandbird was glad to see that, for the most part, the camp was relatively empty. Three warriors were picking through the fresh-kill pile while four kits tumbled around in front of what she assumed was the nursery.

Yellowfang, a ragged gray she-cat, ducked out of the medicine cats' den and fixed her gaze on the ThunderClan cats. "Ravenpaw!" she barked out. "About time, I'd say! Get your lazy pelt over here. We'll be checking up on Skyheart's kits today."

Despite the she-cat's nearly scathing tone, Ravenpaw just laughed and nodded. "Alright, I'm coming!"

Sandbird sat down, feeling quite awkward with the stares the few warriors were giving her. Dustclaw sat beside her, ears flat, clearly just as comfortable as she was.

"So…" Dustclaw mumbled. "Nice weather we're having?"

Sandbird sighed and rolled her eyes. Small talk. Great. This is going to be the longest day of my life.

It had been a few hours since they'd arrived in RiverClan. Though no cat had tried to talk to them, the silent stares continued and only increased as some cats returned from patrols.

Sandbird had laid down in the sun, and she had decided that she might as well groom herself thoroughly if she had to waste her day like this. As she was cleaning the dirt from her claws on a forepaw, she felt a weight slam heavily on her tail. The she-cat bristled and looked over her shoulder to see a ginger-and-white she-kit, who had pounced right on her tail. "Excuse me?" Sandbird growled. "Didn't your mother teach you not to go pouncing on strangers' tails?"

The she-cat let out a squeak and jumped back. "S-sorry!" she blurted. "Cedarkit dared me! He said ThunderClan have too many acorns in their brains and you wouldn't notice."

Sandbird flattened her ears and curled her tail towards herself. What a rude kit! "Well, I did."

The kit crept closer to her. "Are you Ravenpaw's friend? He's nice. He gave me a honeycomb once!"

Sandbird twitched her whiskers. She's awfully curious. "You could say that," she replied coolly. "What's your name?"

The kit seemed to brighten. "I'm Sparrowkit!" she chirped. "Are you a warrior? Did you fight ShadowClan with us?"

"Yes and yes," she meowed. "I got my warrior name after fighting in that battle—I'm Sandbird."

"Wow," Sparrowkit breathed. "I can't wait to be a warrior. I'm not scared of anything!"

Sandbird chuckled, her irritation with the kit gone. "That's just foolish," she said. "Even the best warrior has fears. If you're not afraid of the right things, you'll just get into trouble."

"But Fireheart always saves me," Sparrowkit argued. "He's the best!"

Sandbird blinked. "Oh?"

Sparrowkit nodded solemnly, eyes wide. "One time, me 'n Stormkit wanted to explore, but we got chased by a dog! But Fireheart and Silverthorn fought him and scared him off. And another time, I wanted to swim farther than the cattails—because those are so boring—but the current was really strong! Mama says I could've drowned, but Fireheart jumped in and saved me. He's my best friend!"

Sandbird raised her brows, a little surprised. I never realized Fireheart was… brave. She shook her head a little. "What if Fireheart isn't there to save you?" she challenged.

"Oh, he'll always save me," Sparrowkit said, quite matter-of-factly.

Sandbird laughed a little, but didn't argue. She's still a kit, she thought. She'll grow up some day.

A muscular silver tabby padded up to them, lip curled in the slightest. "Sparrowkit, is she bothering you?" he growled.

Sparrowkit blinked up at him. "No!" she meowed. "We were talking about Fireheart."

The silver tabby glared fiercely at Sandbird. "Were you, now?" he glanced back down at Sparrowkit. "Go see if Graypool has a story. Even if we're not tearing out each other's fur, ThunderClan are our enemies." He gave Sandbird a scornful look. "Just because we decided to do them a favor doesn't make us friends."

Sparrowkit shrugged, but stood up and started off towards another den. "Bye!"

The tom turned his glare back upon Sandbird. "And you," he growled. "Stay away from Fireheart. In fact, just stay away from RiverClan."

Sandbird curled her lip. What's his name? she thought to herself. "Silverthorn, right?" she replied with an irritated flick of her tail. "Stay out of my business. Trust me, I want nothing more than to get out of your reeking camp."

Silverthorn snorted and tossed his head. "Yeah, right. Quit hanging around Fireheart every chance you get. I know exactly what you're after and he doesn't need some ThunderClan flea-pelt distracting him."

Excuse me? Sandbird's hackles began to rise as she sat up. "How dare you!" she spat furiously. "Like you said, we're enemy warriors. I don't need my loyalty questioned by some fat, smelly excuse for a Half-Clanner!"

Silverthorn let out a ferocious snarl, and before the tabby could brace herself, he attacked. The RiverClan tom launched himself forward and knocked her onto her back. Sandbird screeched as keen claws raked down her shoulder and tore it open. She struggled to retaliate, but she was pinned at an awkward angle with both hind legs twisted to one side, away from the reach of his soft belly.

To Sandbird's relief, Dustclaw took only a moment to yowl furiously and leap for Sandbird's assailant. Thank StarClan! she thought, relieved, as Dustclaw slammed full-force into Silverthorn and bowled him over. The two tumbled away, over and over, as they spat and tore at each other.

An enraged yowl sounded throughout the camp. "Stop this!"

Sandbird sat up shakily to see Crookedstar standing in the mouth of his den, features twisted with anger. Dustclaw and Silverthorn scrambled away from each other, ears flat and tails bushed up.

The massive RiverClan leader stepped slowly towards the warriors. "I welcome you into my Clan, after all ThunderClan has done to us, and this is how you repay our generosity?" he let out a snarl. "Get out. Take your apprentice and leave. My patience for ThunderClan has been worn thin, and this is the last time I invite you into my camp. Get out."

Dustpelt glared at the Clan leader, indignantly. "He attacked first! I was defending my Clanmate!"

Crookedstar glanced at Sandbird, and he narrowed his eyes at the sight of her bleeding shoulder. "Is this true?" he growled as he looked back at Silverthorn.

"She called me a fat, smelly Half-Clanner!" Silverthorn hissed. His tail whipped furiously from side to side.

Crookedstar glanced back at Sandbird. "Is that true?"

Sandbird looked down at her paws. "Yes," she muttered.

A low growl rumbled in Crookedstar's throat as he looked back and forth between the three cats. Before he could speak, Ravenpaw hurried out of the nursery. "Please don't send me away!" he pleaded, and Crookedstar turned his attention to him. "I know my Clanmates have greatly disrespected you," he meowed. "But please allow me continue to train."

Sandbird swallowed as a wave of guilt hit her. I shouldn't have provoked him, she thought. What if Crookedstar refuses to continue training Ravenpaw? Thistlestar will have my pelt!

Crookedstar flattened his ears, and took a few moments to respond. "Fine," he finally decided. "But you will come alone from now on. I will not have my warriors getting into fights with your more… arrogant Clanmates."

Sandbird narrowed her eyes in displeasure, but knew better than to talk back to the leader of RiverClan. She heard a quiet growl from Dustclaw as he padded towards her, bleeding from his ear and missing a patch of fur on his shoulder.

Ravenpaw brightened. "Thank you so much," he meowed, and dipped his head respectfully. "You won't have any more problems like this."

Crookedstar nodded and glared at Sandbird and Dustclaw. "Go home," he ordered. "You aren't welcome here anymore."

Sandbird nodded silently and forced herself to keep her fur flat as she stood and padded towards the camp entrance. Thistlestar is going to be furious.

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