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.


7. Chapter 6

Sandbird raked her claws down a brown tabby's side. He stumbled on the stones as he let out of yelp of pain. Growling, she leaped forward and knocked him to the ground. She dug her claws into his shoulder and twisted with all her strength. The tom shrieked in pain. He squirmed for a moment before he kicked her in the gut and rolled away.

With a wheeze, she staggered. Though she expected the tom to fight back again, he turned, ran for the river, and dove into the water.

"Coward!" she yowled, with a competuous lash of her tail.

But as four more sleek cats leaped out of the dark water, Sandbird gulped. Reinforcements had yet to arrive, and RiverClan just continued to outnumber them. It seemed that for every cat that went running home, a pawful more were ready to replace them.

Silverthorn was among them. His eyes burned with fury, and as he locked eyes with Sandbird, he let out a ferocious snarl. "ThunderClan flea-bag!"

Sandbird arched her spine as she readied herself for the fight. While Silverthorn's clanmates went for the other ThunderClan warriors, he stalked towards her. "Not so brave without that frog-brain to defend you, are you?"

"Come here and I'll show a thing about fighting, half-breed!" She spat, tail whipping.

Silverthorn's lips curled furiously. "Fireheart know you talk like that?"

What is it with him and always screeching about Fireheart? "Shut up!" Sandbird snapped. She braced herself to spring, but before she could attack him, a heavy weight slammed on her back and forced her to the ground. She yowled as her chin clipped sharply against a rock and her jaws snapped shut. Two large paws pressed against her shoulders, and she found it impossible to move. She groaned, and paired seared through her jaws.

Silverthorn smirked. "You were so busy trying to goad me again that you didn't even hear Heavystep strolling up behind you. ThunderClan cats really do have acorns for brains!" Sandbird glared up and bore her fangs at him, but the tabby warrior cuffed her ears as though scolding a naughty kit.

Sandbird tried to struggle, but Heavystep held her down easily. His claws dug painfully into her shoulders, and she let out a hiss of anger. "You fat badger!" she spat, but Heavystep just grunted, amused. Silverthorn stalked closer, claws unsheathed. StarClan, help me!

"ThunderClan, to me!"

Sandbird's ears pricked with hope as she heard Thistlestar's yowl. The weight on her back disappeared as Heavystep leaped back to avoid the ThunderClan reinforcements. Silverthorn stepped backwards with a hiss, uncertain. Warriors raced out from the ferns, screeching and yowling their battle cries.

Sandbird remained limp for a few more moments to catch her breath. Longtail launched himself at Heavystep, and the two cats rolled away as they clawed at one another.

"Sandbird!" she heard Dustpelt call from behind her.

She pushed herself up to her paws. "I'm fine!" she meowed.

Dustpelt bared his fangs as he stared down Silverthorn. "You just don't know when to quit, do you?"

Silverthorn arched his back and spat, wordlessly. Dustclaw shot forward, and the pair reared up to lock their paws around one another.

As the toms struggled to wrestle the other to the ground, Sandbird turned away to find a new opponent. She spotted a black tom - Blackclaw, she recalled - that was stalking circles around Cinderpaw. Though the young apprentice glared back without a trace of fear, she was terribly outclassed by the senior warrior.

With a yowl, Sandbird charged towards him. Blackclaw jerked his head around at her cry, and Cinderpaw took the opportunity to sink her teeth into his tail. Sandbird launched herself forward and slammed into his side, claws outstretched. As they fell to the ground, she raked her claws down his side and bit into his shoulder. Blackclaw shrieked furiously before he flailed his hindlegs and kicked her in the side. They both rolled away, panting.

Cinderpaw darted in and scratched at his flank. Spitting, the RiverClan warrior turned to face her. Sandbird slashed at his other side, and the tom hissed in pain. Blackclaw jumped backwards to avoid the pair of she-cats, but as he straightened up again to attack, another yowl made him freeze.

"Retreat!" a RiverClan cat caterwauled. "RiverClan, retreat!"

Sandbird stood still as wet warriors raced past her and dove into the river. Pride burned in her chest as the final cat leaped into the water to swim back home.

Thistlestar threw back his head and let out a mighty yowl of victory. ThunderClan soon began to join him in celebration. Sandbird shared their joy, but she did not cry out with them. Instead, she let her shoulders sag as she caught her breath.

A strong victory, for sure, she thought. But what were they thinking? Why send a tiny patrol to steal back Sunningrocks? This was asking for trouble! Sandbird took another look around the blood-covered stones. A single body lay there—the body of a stranger—but though many were injured, ThunderClan suffered no losses. We were lucky this time, Sandbird thought. But such recklessness is going to get cats killed.

"Thistlestar!" Darkstripe called. Other warriors seemed to have noticed the RiverClan body, and a few were staring with unreadable expressions. "What should we do with the body?"

Sandbird watched silently as Thistlestar padded over and gazed down upon it. After a moment of thought, he spat on it. A few cats gasped loudly in surprise.

"Throw it in the river," he ordered. "RiverClan stole our land, and they must learn the consequences of such transgressions. They will die like this rogue did, and they will go without being helped to StarClan. RiverClan will know they cannot fight and die on ThunderClan soil."

A hush fell over the ThunderClan warriors. Even Tigerclaw looked slightly unsettled, though he said nothing.

Longtail gulped. "Thistlestar, surely we can leave the body for them to find…"

Thistlestar glared fiercely at the young warrior. "Question me again," he said, slowly, emphasizing each word. "And you will join this corpse at the bottom of the river."

A chill ran through Sandbird. I know Thistlestar can be cruel, she thought. But would he really kill his own warriors?

Tigerclaw flicked his tail. Though his voice was steady, there was still an uncertain look in his eye. "Longtail, you can dispose of the body."

Longtail sunk low to the ground, and Sandbird's heart twisted with pity. Longtail was rude and irritating, but even he didn't deserve to be forced to carry out such a horrible act. There may not be a code against it, but… every warrior simply knew there were actions in war that are truly dishonorable.

"Do as he says," Thistlestar ordered.

Every cat watched wordlessly as Longtail slowly sank his jaws into the dead warrior's scruff and began to drag them towards the river. Sandbird couldn't hear the rustle of tree branches or birdsong—it was as though the forest itself was holding its breath, waiting to see if Longtail truly would carry out the deed. He dragged it along, agonizingly slow, until he stood paw-deep in the water.

Longtail looked like he was going to just drop the body in the shallows, but Thistlestar curled his lip. "Throw it in where the current will drag it, mouse-brain."

Oh, Bluefur would surely spit in Thistlestar's face if she were here! Sandbird thought. She kneaded her paws anxiously. StarClan will be furious.

Longtail froze for a few moments before he dragged it further, and with great effort, pulled it into the current. All of ThunderClan's warriors watched in silence as the body floated downstream and vanished from sight.

"Whitestorm, Tigerclaw, stay behind and mark all of Sunningrocks," Thistlestar ordered. "Everyone else, back to camp. We will eat well tonight to celebrate our victory over those mange-ridden fools."

No one spoke. The proud feeling of victory was gone—instead, they all felt the shame of what Thistlestar had just made Longtail do. The ThunderClan cats slowly stood and padded back into the forest.

Thick, dark clouds had settled in the sky over ThunderClan territory by the time they returned to camp. Only in the safety of camp did the cats begin to speak again in quiet tones, but the uneasy feeling that hung over them all still did not leave.

Sandbird still felt sick, but she didn't know what to do. She should go to Ravenpaw to have her wounds checked, but she hardly felt like bothering him when other cats had much more severe injuries.

Her gaze fell upon the elders' den. Smallear and Thrushpelt both sat outside the den, peering up at the dark sky through slitted eyes. She padded towards them without really thinking about it.

Thrushpelt smiled as he noticed her. "Ah, Sandbird. Was the battle lost? Everyone seems…"

"Downcast," Smallear sniffed. "Much like the weather."

"We won," Sandbird meowed. "But…" her voice trailed off, uncertain.

"Hmm." Smallear shuffled his paws. "I can tell you need to talk. Come inside, young one."

Sandbird nodded gratefully before she followed the pair of old toms into the den. Patchpelt and Halftail were sharing a sparrow at one side of the den, while One-eye was dozing off in her nest.

"Ah, Sandbird," Halftail rasped. "How did the battle go? Was Sunningrocks won back?"

One-eye opened her eye and coughed. "What?" she meowed. "What happened?"

"Oh, nothing yet, you daft mouse," Patchpelt sighed. "Let Sandbird speak!"

Sandbird sat down and sighed. "We did win," she meowed. "Sunningrocks belongs to ThunderClan again."

"As it well should!" One-eye huffed.

"Then why the long face?" Smallear grumbled. "Didn't mention anyone dying. Young cats these days, always finding a reason to mope…"

Sandbird shook her head. "Only a RiverClan cat died."

Thrushpelt nudged her gently. "Was it you that…?"

Sandbird frowned. "No. I didn't see who did. That's not the point. Thistlestar… when we saw the body, he spat on it and ordered Longtail to throw it in the river. Far enough in so that the river dragged it away."

Halftail and Thrushpelt gasped. One-eye sat straight up and curled her lip. Smallear was the first to speak. "He did what?"

Sandbird nodded. "No one… nobody wanted to, least of all Longtail. He looked mortified."

One-eye lashed her tail. "StarClan will curse us for this!" She was the oldest cat in ThunderClan, and by far the most superstitious. "Never have I heard of such… such…" she broke off into dubious muttering.

"If Bluefur were here…" Thrushpelt growled.

"This never would've happened if Bluefur were here," Halftail snapped. "This is why the clouds came… StarClan will surely punish us all for what he's done."

Sandbird sat silently as the elders went back and forth about the curses and consequences that StarClan would deliver upon them. In an odd way, it reassured her to know the elders were outraged, but it did nothing to help the unease she felt.

Smallear kneaded his paws furiously. "I ought to have a word or two with Thistlestar about this."

"Do what you will," Halftail hissed. "I'm going to speak with Ravenpaw. He can beg StarClan for forgiveness."

One-eye pushed herself up to her paws. "I'm going to find Dappletail."

Thrushpelt twitched his whiskers. "She's in the nursery. Brindleface started kitting while you were asleep."

"And you didn't wake me?" One-eye demanded. "StarClan's sake…" the elderly queen hobbled out of the den, grumbling all over again.

Sandbird's eyes widened. "Brindleface is kitting?"

Patchpelt nodded. "Don't fret. She finished before you all returned. An easy kitting. We took it as a good sign, but…" he shook his head. "We shall see."

Sandbird dipped her head and backed out of the den. I should go see her, she thought. Brindleface was her mother, and while they weren't particularly close—Sandbird had been more friendly with Redtail when the pair split up—they got along well, and she cared about her.

One-eye was sitting outside the nursery, still looking cross. "Tell that Dappletail to get her pelt out here!"

Sandbird dipped her head. "Sure, One-eye." She ducked her head as she entered the nursery. Brindleface was curled around her newborn kits, while Dappletail sat over her, and went back and forth from crooning quietly to sniffing the kits.

"Hello, Brindleface," Sandbird meowed. "I didn't realize you started kitting this morning."

Brindleface looked up and smiled wearily. "Oh, Ravenpaw didn't want to make a fuss. It was an easy kitting—much unlike yours!"

Sandbird twitched her whiskers in amusement. Brindleface had always liked to tell her that she came out fighting like all of LionClan. "Glad to hear it." She then realized the nursery was empty, save for her mother and the elder, and she tilted her head. "Where are the other queens?"

Dappletail flicked her tail. "They all went for a walk. Graystripe escorted them. You should've seen how excited those kits were to go off with a warrior!"

Brindleface beckoned Sandbird closer with her tail. "Come meet your siblings."

Siblings. It felt strange to think it—she had been the only kit in her litter. Sandbird padded closer and crouched down to examine the kits. All four were varying shades of gray, ranging from a pale soot-gray to nearly black. Each were suckling quietly, eyes closed and ears pressed flat to their heads. "They're so…" Sandbird blinked and sat back up. "Small." She could hardly recall Frostfur's kits being this tiny—but, then again, she hadn't visited Frostfur when she first kitted.

Brindleface purred softly in tired amusement. "All kits are."

"Have you named them yet?" Sandbird asked.

The queen shook her head. "I'm waiting for Whitestorm to return." Her eyes widened, round with fright. "Oh—! The battle! Is he—"

"Don't worry. He's just marking Sunningrocks with Tigerclaw," Sandbird assured her. "He'll be a while. But he isn't hurt."

Brindleface sighed. "Thank StarClan."

"Speaking of the battle…" Sandbird glanced up at Dappletail. "One-eye wants to talk to you about it. Though I'm sure all the elders have something to say…"

Dappletail nodded. "Thank you. Brindleface, are you alright to wait until Ravenpaw finishes up with the wounded?"

Brindleface nodded and purred. "I'm fine, Dappletail. Thank you for keeping me company."

"I should get going too," Sandbird meowed, as Dappletail brushed by gently. "I need some sleep. Congratulations on the kits." She leaned forward and quickly licked her mother's ear before she turned and departed.

Much to her disdain, Thistlestar was sitting outside the nursery. She hoped that he had come to check up on the newest additions to ThunderClan, but she could tell by the prick of his ears that Thistlestar was waiting for her. A single drop of rain landed on her nose as she nodded quickly at him.

"Sandbird," he meowed, dipping his head in greeting. "I trust you weren't injured in the battle?"

"No," she replied. Sandbird's tail stomach twinged again at the thought of what Thistlestar had forced Longtail to do. "A few scratches, that's all."

"Good." Thistlestar sniffed before he nodded towards the mouth of the den. "How is Brindleface's litter?"

"Four kits, all healthy," Sandbird meowed. Her voice remained curt—not too sharp, but certainly guarded. She knew that Thistlestar was beginning to put his trust in her, but she certainly was far from trusting him. "Have you come to see them?"

"No," Thistlestar grunted. "Just came to see that you were well. Seeing as you are, go rest. I have something important to show you, but not now."

Sandbird flicked an ear. "Oh?"

The ThunderClan leader nodded. "Yes. I saw you in the battle, fighting Blackclaw. You're still quite skilled, but you can always stand to learn a few more tricks."

Sandbird felt a twinge of irritation. What? Is he going to put me through apprentice training again? "With all due respect, Thistlestar," she replied. "I believe my fighting ability is fine."

"It is," Thistlestar chuckled. "You're not being punished, Sandbird. Just wait and see. I think you'll find this is something more of a reward. Now, go rest." He stood and padded away towards his den.

Sandbird watched him go, puzzled. Hardly an hour ago, he had threatened Longtail's life, and now he was back to talking about 'rewards'. She shook her head and padded towards the warriors den. I guess I don't have a choice, she thought. I suppose I'll just have to 'wait and see' what he has in store for me.

The few droplets quickly picked up into steady rainfall, and Sandbird dove into her nest as quickly as she could.

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