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.


6. Chapter 5

Fireheart scraped together the sheep's wool and nodded to himself, satisfied with his work. The nest was certainly crude, but they would only be spending one night here before they moved on to find WindClan.

Snowbird was already asleep, and laid belly up in her nest. She snored quietly, and her whiskers twitched occasionally in her sleep.

Bluefur settled down in her nest, and tucked her paws under her chest. She gazed up at Silverpelt for a while, and appeared to be deep in thought. As Fireheart sat down to give himself a quick grooming, she glanced at him and asked, "Did anyone ever tell you the story of how the Clans formed?"

Fireheart blinked, a little surprised, but shook his head. "No," he meowed. "I didn't hear many stories as an apprentice. Aside from the elders' boasting, of course," he added with a purr.

"Hmm." Bluefur's tail twitched as she returned her attention to the expanse of stars above. She was silent for a few moments before she meowed, "Well… I suppose I might as well tell you. Before the Clans, the forest was filled with loners. There was no code, no honor, and certainly no loyalty. Cats hunted for themselves or for their small bands, but even those groups turned on each other at the drop of a feather."

Fireheart's ears pricked with interest, and he moved to lay down on his side to listen. "Yeah?"

Bluefur nodded slowly. "The cats then were no better than vicious rogues who would fight over a scrap of prey. They fought endlessly over slivers of territory, desperate to stake out a safe home for themselves or their families. Some would have killed just for a bite of crow-food. But eventually, two brothers came to lead their own bands of cats. Their names are lost to time, but we still remember their history."

Bluefur curled her tail around herself as she continued. "One brother wanted only peace for all the cats of the forest, while the other was greedy for land and followers. He believed the only way to be safe was to establish borders and challenge all those who didn't follow him and dared to step on his land. Though this was later adopted as part of our code, the second brother was cruel, and many lives were lost due to his selfishness."

Fireheart frowned and shifted his paws. It's strange to think of a time before borders, he thought. When I was still a kittypet, it made no sense, but now that I'm a warrior… I see the value in keeping cats like Brokenstar and Thistlestar out.

"Eventually, the tensions between the brothers were too high," Bluefur went on. "Even cats who had no group were dragged into their feud, and one night… a fight broke out in a clearing in the woods. The battle raged between all cats. Friends and siblings turned on one another, and countless lives were lost until the grass was soaked in the blood of the fallen."

"Who won?" Fireheart asked, curiously. "That sounds like a terrible war."

"No cat won that night," Bluefur said, quietly, as she looked back at Fireheart. "As the brothers realized the err of their ways, spirits rose from the bodies of those who had died. The living looked upon their loved ones with awe, and the spirits declared there would be no more battles fought on those grounds. They ordered that there must be a truce in the place they had fought in, and that clearing became what we know as Fourtrees."

"This is why we have the full-moon truce," Bluefur explained. "We honor the wishes of those that died in the first battle. Those cats then ordered that the rogues must find a way to unite themselves, and then—" she tipped her head back to look back up at the stars— "They went to the sky and became StarClan."

Fireheart followed her gaze to the sky. "When I joined RiverClan, a friend told me about the stars. He said each one is a fallen warrior—a member of StarClan."

Bluefur dipped her head. "Even as the wounds of the cats were still healing, the tensions were not resolved. They decided to follow the wishes of the spirits and meet peacefully under Fourtrees to discuss how they must live now. The spirits had warned them that they must find a way to unite, or they would all perish. So they came to the agreement that cats needed to form a group with rigid loyalty and carve out territory. But who would lead the cats?" She paused to yawn before continuing. "One cat, massive and striking, strode forward from the masses and declared he should lead. "My name is Thunder!" he had roared with all the night of a lion. "I can hunt through the deep undergrowth of the forest and fight to defend my home. I should lead us."'

Fireheart twitched his whiskers in amusement. "I imagine that didn't go over well with everyone."

Bluefur chuckled and shook her head. "Thunder had many good friends, but there were others who believed they should lead. A slim queen raised her head and yowled, "I am Wind, and I should lead us! I can race across my moorland faster than a hawk can fly, and I can fight as well as any who should challenge me." Like Thunder, Wind had her supporters, but two more cats came forward, both carrying a calm and less brazen air. The first, a glossy tom, spoke slowly. "My name is River," he told them. "I can swim through the rivers and know more about the healing herbs of this land than any of you. I believe I am fit to lead."'

"Let me guess," Fireheart purred. "The last cat was named Shadow?"

Bluefur cast him a scathing look, but he could see the humor gleaming in her eyes. "Don't be cheeky!" she chided, before she snorted and shook her head. "But yes, the final cat was a dark she-cat by the name of Shadow. "I can stalk for hours without making a single sound, hunt through the night, and vanish without a trace. Our enemies will never see us coming under my leadership. I should be our leader." The cats nearly fought again, each vying for a different leader, until the stars came down from the sky in the forms of their loved ones and decreed that each cat would lead their own Clan. So the forest cats took to the group that represented their strengths, and went to their own territories. We have lived in the Clans ever since."

Fireheart yawned and stretched out to lay his head down on the ground. "Will you tell me another story?" he asked, quietly. "Like I said, I haven't… heard many."

Bluefur seemed to have the smallest of smiles before she nodded. "Alright. My kits used to love the stories of the great Clans. Long before the times of our Clans, great cats roamed the woods. They were big as horses, and had claws as long as your tail, as well as teeth that could crush stones…"

When they started off in the morning, both Bluefur and Fireheart agreed that Snowbird could lead the way. She seemed to have a sharper nose than even Bluefur, and picked up a trail where the senior warrior could not.

"Perhaps she has some value after all," Bluefur muttered into Fireheart's ear as they walked. Snowbird bounded along up ahead, pausing every now and then to scent the air and adjust their course.

Fireheart chuckled. "She's just young, that's all."

"Young and a pain in my tail," Bluefur retorted, though Fireheart caught the amused smile that tugged at her lips for a brief moment. She shook her head, and added, "In all seriousness, she's been given far too much responsibility for a cat her age. It's no wonder she's… a pawful, given that she didn't have the chance to mature before becoming a warrior."

"And here I was thinking you just hated her," Fireheart said, teasingly, and flicked the queen with his tail.

Bluefur snorted. "Don't mistake my understanding for liking her."

Fireheart rolled his eyes and looked back up ahead at Snowbird, who was sniffing at a clump of heather, tail raised. He was surprised at how he actually found himself feeling fondness for the young she-cat—she was annoying, certainly, but Snowbird was young and she meant well.

Snowbird bounded up a short slope, where she stopped to look over her shoulder at her companions. "Hurry up!" she called. "You're going to want to see this."

Bluefur and Fireheart shared a confused glance before they hurried up the grassy slope to join her.

"That's where we're headed," Snowbird said grimly, nodding ahead of them.

Just on the horizon lay a great tangle of Thunderpaths. Some stretched across the land, while others were held in the air by stone pillars. Monsters raced across them, faster than Fireheart had ever seen.

Fireheart swallowed. "You're sure?"

Snowbird nodded once. "I'm sure of it."

"Well," Bluefur meowed, voice dry. "Let's get going, then."

As they neared the Thunderpaths, Fireheart grew increasingly nervous. Even the ground beneath his paws seemed to tremble from the rush of monsters over the paths. Despite the stench of monsters and twolegs, Snowbird led the way easily, following a scent trail that neither Bluefur nor Fireheart could catch.

They reached the side of one Thunderpath, and Fireheart kneaded his paws anxiously. "Do we have to cross?"

Snowbird dipped her head. For the first time, she seemed grim. "Their scent goes this way. It's fresh."

Bluefur craned her neck to stare down to their left. "As soon as I give the word, we run. You both need to run faster than you've ran in your lives. These monsters run much faster than the ones on our Thunderpath."

Fireheart crouched down as he prepared himself to spring forward. This is just like running from Thistlestar, he thought. You just have to run as hard as you can.

A group of monsters raced past, whipping them with a strong gust, and the path was suddenly clear.

"Now!" Bluefur shouted, as she sprang from the side of the Thunderpath. "Run!"

Fireheart leaped forward onto the Thunderpath, and forced himself to swallow down his fear. He raced forward, paws scraping the hard surface of the path. Snowbird ran only a tail-length behind him, and Bluefur was nearly at the end.

Then Fireheart felt the ground tremble in the slightest, and he glanced to his side to see three monsters charging straight for them. They were far down the path, but they were traveling swiftly, and would reach them in seconds.

"Snowbird!" Fireheart yowled. "Run!"

"I am!" the she-cat shrieked.

Bluefur was already standing in the ditch on the other side. "Hurry!" she shouted.

Fireheart leaped, clearing the distance between him and the ditch and landed in the dirt near Bluefur. He turned around to see Snowbird crouched down, low to the ground, still on the Thunderpath. Her eyes were wide and she curled her thick tail around herself as a red monster raced for her.

"No!" Fireheart screeched.

It was too late. The monster ran straight over the she-cat, and not a single sound escaped her.

Fireheart clenched his eyes shut. Not Snowbird, he thought. She's so young, she shouldn't —

"Fireheart!" Bluefur gasped. "Look!"

He opened his eyes, and Snowbird was sitting up in the same place, blinking rapidly. She shook herself a little, stood up, and hurried to join them. "It didn't even crush my tail!" she exclaimed. Her eyes were gleaming, and it seemed that any former trace of fear was gone.

"But you—it—" Fireheart stammered, shocked. "How?"

Snowbird twitched her whiskers. "I saw it coming for me and I thought I was a goner. But there was a huge gap between its paws, so I just ducked down and got as small as I could, and it went right over me! Monsters must be pretty mouse-brained."

Fireheart rolled his eyes, but his heart was still pounding. "I thought it crushed you."

Bluefur shook her head sternly, but Fireheart could tell that the queen was relieved, too. "Next time, keep up." Bluefur meowed. "You might not be so lucky again."

Snowbird shook out her pelt again and straightened up. "Let's go!" she meowed. "We're close."

She was right—even Fireheart could pick up the smell of the WindClan Warriors now. It was masked by the stench of the monsters, but it was there, and he knew that they had to be nearby.

"I can't imagine settling in a place like this," Bluefur grumbled.

"They're desperate," Fireheart meowed. "Probably couldn't stand to travel any further."

"Let's hope they can stand to travel back home," Bluefur retorted.

"Here!" Snowbird exclaimed. She stood beside a wide, open stone tunnel. As Fireheart walked towards it, his lip curled from the stench that wafted out.

"We have to go in there?" he asked, swallowing back bile. Either WindClan cats had no sense of smell, or they really were that desperate.

Snowbird dipped her head, and, without waiting for further argument, stepped in and started to pad down the tunnel.

"Let's go," muttered Bluefur, who clearly shared Fireheart's enthusiasm. She followed Snowbird in, and Fireheart sighed as he ducked his head and stepped inside.

The tunnel was about as enjoyable as Fireheart anticipated. Heavy stench of rot and the Thunderpaths overwhelmed Fireheart's senses, and it was hard to swallow back the bile that rose in his throat. Though he was unfamiliar with the scent of WindClan, he could smell the fear-scent of many cats as they progressed through the tunnel.

Bluefur's tail flicked lightly against his nose as she turned. Fireheart felt the turn in the tunnel with his whiskers a moment later, and he followed his companions down the turn. The tunnel began to slope downwards, and Fireheart could hear the sound of trickling water up ahead—and only a moment later, the faint sounds of conversation reached his ears.

"We're nearly there!" Snowbird meowed, voice barely above a whisper.

Bluefur stepped to the side, and Fireheart's whiskers no longer brushed the side of a tunnel. Light shone down from a grate high above, faintly illuminating the open space they were in. Though the three cats stood in the mouth of the dark tunnel, they could see the open cave before them. Flat, smooth ground stretched on either side of a dirty, dark stream—clearly the source of the horrid stench.

They were not alone. Cats were huddled together in small groups, unaware of the intruders. They looked like skin-and-bones, and Fireheart marveled at the fact that they'd managed to survive down here.

A warning yowl sounded from one of the cats as they spotted Fireheart and his companions, and in a flurry of movement, the cats were on their paws, whipping their heads around.

"Stand your ground," Bluefur muttered. "Keep your fur flat and your tails low. We do not want to look hostile. Be respectful." Though her words seemed mostly for Snowbird, who was starting to bristle nervously, Fireheart had to take a deep breath to keep his fur smooth. WindClan may have been nearly starved to death, but they outnumbered Fireheart, Bluefur, and Snowbird.

The WindClan warriors darted forward and stood in a rigid line, but they stopped just a few fox-lengths short of the tunnel. The warriors' tails whipped back and forth as they stared down the newcomers.

Oh, StarClan, Fireheart thought with a nervous gulp. What have we gotten ourselves into?

A warm breeze ruffled Sandbird's pelt as she climbed to the top of the ravine. Mosstail leaped up beside her, and Mistyfoot was only a step behind.

Mosstail took a deep breath and sighed. "It's such a nice day," she remarked. "One of the last before frost sets in."

"One of the last that I'll be patrolling," Mistyfoot grumbled.

Sandbird glanced at the queen and chuckled. "You upset that you're going to have to move into the nursery in a few days?"

Mistyfoot heaved a sigh as they began to pad onward. "No, I'll be glad for the rest. It's getting harder to carry out my duties, but… doesn't mean I won't miss running through the woods!"

Mosstail laughed. "Must be pretty annoying having Runningwind breathing down your neck over it!"

Mistyfoot shook her head. "No, no," she meowed. "He's been great. Hasn't been pushing me at all, actually, which is a nice surprise." She rolled her eyes. "But that Ravenpaw! He said if I don't move in he'll slip poppy seeds into my meal and drag me there himself. I swear, he thinks he's been made leader or something."

They all laughed at that. Though Ravenpaw had been an anxious mess as an apprentice, too afraid to so much as look his own mentor in the eye, he had started to flourish in his role of a medicine cat.

It's probably that Yellowfang, Sandbird thought. She's got a sharper tongue than a snake!

Mistyfoot shouldered her sister. "What about you?" she asked. "Any cats in your life I've yet to hear about?"

Mosstail shuddered. "StarClan, no. I mean, have you seen the toms ThunderClan has to offer?"

Sandbird snorted. "Oh, come on. Didn't you and Longtail 'go hunting' a moon ago together? Whatever happened to that?"

"Ugh, don't remind me," Mosstail groaned. "That was hardly more than a passing fling. He might be handsome, sure, but that tom's proud as a fox and has twice the attitude!"

"A fling?" Mistyfoot meowed, a little disbelievingly. "You're kidding."

Mosstail shrugged. "What? It was fun for the few days I could stand his company. It was just a fling. Anyway," she glanced at Sandbird. "What about you?"

Sandbird blinked. "Er… no. No one."

The sisters exchanged a look. "You expect us to believe that?" Mistyfoot asked. "It's obvious there's something happening with you and Dustclaw." With another roll of her eyes, she added, "Or maybe it's just another fling."

Sandbird wrinkled her nose. Seriously? she thought. Why does everyone think we're padding after each other? "I'm not involved with Dustclaw. For StarClan's sake, you two are like a pair of elders."

Mosstail smirked. "Maybe you're not involved, but there must be something going on there. Come on, even I can see that Dustclaw is decently handsome."

"Oh, for the love of…" Sandbird muttered. "Did we come here to hunt, or to gossip about my non-existent love life?"

"Personally," Mosstail meowed. "I'm just here for the gossip."

Sandbird let out a growl of annoyance and sped up. "Well, I'm hunting!"

Mosstail and Mistyfoot snickered as she hurried ahead.

"Oh, come on!" Mosstail called. "We were just teasing!"

"I won't tell Dustclaw about how flustered you were!" Mistyfoot laughed.

"Not to worry, Sandbird, we're great with secrets!"

"Won't breathe a word of it to Dustclaw!"

"Just don't tell my mother about Longtail when she gets back!"

"Shut up!" Sandbird shouted with a glare at the pair over her shoulder.

A flock of birds lifted off from a nearby oak.

"Oh, look what you've done," Mosstail joked. "Now that you've scared off the prey, it looks like we've got no choice but to keep gossiping!"

Sandbird was about to reply when Swiftpaw came crashing through the undergrowth, pelt bushed up and eyes wide with fear. "Help!" he yowled.

Sandbird noticed that he was bleeding from a scratch on his shoulder. "Swiftpaw, what happened?" she demanded.

"RiverClan!" he panted. "Tigerclaw sent some of us to try and mark Sunningrocks, but they spotted us and attacked! We're terribly outnumbered, but he ordered us not to give it up… Whitestorm sent me for reinforcements."

Mistyfoot nodded, all trace of humor gone. "You're nearly to camp," she said. "Keep going, and get Ravenpaw to check your wounds. Do not come back to the battle. We'll go on ahead and join the fight."

Swiftpaw nodded quickly and broke off into a run again.

Mosstail shot a worried look at Mistyfoot. "You should go back to camp," she insisted. "The kits—"

Mistyfoot shook her head. "I won't lay about while you fight. Don't argue, Mosstail, we're wasting time."

Sandbird privately agreed with Mosstail, but she knew Mistyfoot was right—further debate would waste time and risk the lives of their Clanmates. "Let's go," she meowed. "He said they're outnumbered. We need to get there as quickly as possible."

Mosstail looked concerned, but she sighed and nodded. "Alright."

Sandbird led the way through the undergrowth as they began to run for Sunningrocks. She wasn't afraid to fight—she never was—but she was concerned about something. Why in StarClan's name did Tigerclaw quietly send such a small party to Sunningrocks? she wondered. Was this another test, or is he just getting reckless without Bluefur to keep him in check?

As they neared Sunningrocks, Sandbird could pick up the sounds of yowls and screeches coming from the rocks. Sunningrocks soon came into view, and it was clear that ThunderClan was outnumbered at least two-to-one. The RiverClan cats swarmed the rocks. Willowpelt was backed against a large stone, faced by three soaked cats. Stonefur fought back-to-back with Whitestorm, surrounded by enemies, and Mistlepaw was pinned to the ground by a heavy brown tom.

Willowpelt's eyes gleamed with hope as she spotted Sandbird and her companions racing towards Sunningrocks. "Thank StarClan, they made it!"

Distracted, her assailants turned to see the source of her excitement. Willowpelt took the opportunity to claw at one warrior's face.

Mosspelt shot past Sandbird, screeching, and leaped on the back of one of the cats attacking Stonefur.

Sandbird took a breath. There was no more time to think. She darted forward, and threw herself into the fray.

Though the WindClan cats stood rigidly, and looked ready to spring forward, they stood still. Moments passed, and yet they still did not charge any closer.

They're waiting for their leader, Fireheart realized, with a slight feeling of relief. They won't attack us without an order.

After a few more moments, the cats parted to make way for a tall black-and-white tom that padded forward. A black tom limped along behind him.

"Who are you?" the black-and-white tom demanded. Though he was clearly weak, he held his head and his long tail high with pride.

"Tallstar," Bluefur meowed, and dipped her head respectfully. "I am Bluefur of ThunderClan, and these are my companions, Snowbird and Fireheart. We've come to bring you home."

"Home?" a tabby warrior spat contemptuously. "We have no home anymore. ShadowClan made certain of that."

Snowbird parted her jaws as though to speak, but Bluefur slapped her tail across the young warrior's jaws. "Brokenstar and his allies are in exile," she explained. "It was the wish of ShadowClan's newest leader that you return home."

Tallstar flicked an ear, and glanced at the warrior who spoke. "Silence, Mudclaw." He stared evenly back at Bluefur. "Brokenstar is truly gone?"

Bluefur nodded. "ShadowClan themselves would gladly kill him if he stepped foot on their territory. Most cats didn't agree with his ways."

"Hmm." Tallstar's tail twitched. The black tom at his side whispered into his ear, and the leader nodded. "Well, we're hardly surviving down here, feeding on rats under the Thunderpath." He turned and beckoned for them to follow with a flick of his tail. "Come. We can give you a meal before we depart."

Fireheart wanted to wrinkle his nose at the thought of eating a sewage-covered rat, but he knew better than to refuse. Sometimes crowfood is better than no food, he thought.

"Will we leave today?" a skinny queen asked as Tallstar passed by her.

The leader nodded to her as he walked by. "We must, Morningflower. It's been too long."

Morningflower's eyes were wide with worry, but she only nodded and crept away without another word.

The WindClan cats finally broke apart and dispersed. A few followed Tallstar towards what seemed to be the meager makings of a fresh-kill pile, but most went back to their clusters to whisper.

Fireheart followed Tallstar to the pile. Bluefur walked side-by-side with leader. She seemed comfortable beside him—not at all fazed by the surrounding warriors or the WindClan leader himself.

Tallstar stopped at the pile, and Fireheart felt a wave of guilt at the thought of taking a piece, even if the smell was terrible. Only a few rats lay on the ground, cold and stiff and reeking of the Thunderpath.

"I must talk with my deputy," Tallstar meowed. "But please, eat." He turned quickly as Fireheart was stepping forward, and the two bumped into each other.

Ears flat with embarrassment, Fireheart stepped back. "Sorry!" he blurted. Fireheart, you frog-brain!

Tallstar dipped his head. "Excuse—" he started, but broke off as he met Fireheart's eyes. His jaws remained parted for a long moment, before he whispered, "J-Jake?"

Jake? Fireheart blinked. "That's my—"

Tallstar shook his head and took a few steps back. "Forgive me, I… made a mistake. You look like… someone I knew."

"Wait!" Fireheart meowed, as Tallstar began to turn away. "Jake is my father. You knew him?" How does the leader of WindClan know my father?

"Your…" Tallstar stared at him again. "Father." He smiled faintly. "You have such a striking resemblance." He seemed to hesitate, before he meowed, "Please, share fresh-kill with me."

Fireheart had been considering passing up on a meal, but an invitation to eat with a Clan leader was not something to refuse. "O-of course," he replied. "Thank you."

Tallstar returned to the pile for a moment to grab a rat. He jerked his head for Fireheart to follow as he padded towards an empty spot near the dark stream. The tom sat down and dropped the rat at his paws.

Fireheart sat across from him. He swallowed awkwardly, unsure of what to say. "How did you know Jake?" he asked, a little hesitantly.

Tallstar sighed heavily, before he smiled. "Jake was my best friend. It's been seasons upon seasons since I've seen him… but he was the closest friend I've ever had." He blinked at Fireheart. "So… you were a kittypet? Your mother was a kittypet as well?"

Fireheart nodded. "I'm a warrior now," he said firmly.

Tallstar leaned down to sniff the rat. "I mean no judgement," he promised. "Jake is one of the bravest cats I've ever known. He could show some of my warriors a thing or two about fighting foxes! It doesn't surprise me one of his kin found their way to the Clans." He took a bite and chewed slowly. After swallowing, he asked, "Are you two close?"

Fireheart shook his head. "It's not really the same for most kittypets. I met him once, but he didn't live near us. He was nice, but I was young. I don't remember much."

Tallstar flicked his tail. "That's a shame," he meowed. "Though he seems to have passed on his courage regardless."

Fireheart dipped his head gratefully. "Thank you."

Tallstar shook his head. "No, I owe you my thanks—all of WindClan does. We would have died like rats in these tunnels had you and your companions not come for us."

Deadfoot padded up to the pair and dipped his head briefly. "Pardon me," he meowed. "Tallstar, we should talk before we leave. The elders are fretting."

"Of course," Tallstar agreed with a nod. "Fireheart, excuse me. Perhaps we can speak more later."

Fireheart nodded. "I'd like that." He watched as Tallstar padded away with his deputy. He lowered his gaze to the rat Tallstar had left. The tom bent down to take a bite. It would be nice to know more about Jake, he thought. I'm surprised a Clan leader would befriend a kittypet, though. Was Tallstar a kittypet, too? He shook his head at the audacity of the thought. The way everyone talks, I'm the only kittypet-born warrior. Besides, it's not like the Clans would ever let a kittypet lead a Clan!

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