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.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12172890/1/Blazing-Book-Two-Fire-and-Ice

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8. Chapter 7

Fireheart narrowed his eyes against the harsh sunlight as he followed Bluefur out of the tunnel. He stood to the side as the WindClan cats slowly filed out behind him. They blinked rapidly in the light, all seeming slightly dazed by the sudden change.

I wonder just how long they were down there, Fireheart thought.

"First things first," Bluefur meowed loudly. "We need to cross the Thunderpath."

Tallstar nodded. "We'll split into three groups to cross. Deadfoot will lead the first, Mudclaw will lead the second, and I will go with the third group."

Fireheart had expected Bluefur to be irritated, but she dipped her head in agreement. "I'll join the last group," she decided.

"Deadfoot, take the apprentices, queens, and elders," Tallstar ordered. "Warriors will follow after."

Bluefur still led the way towards the Thunderpath, while Tallstar remained beside his deputy, a few paces behind Fireheart and Snowbird.

"Be careful this time," Fireheart meowed. "You got lucky the first time we crossed."

Snowbird flicked her tail, unfazed. "I'm not worried at all!" she chirped. "We found WindClan. How much harder could getting home be?"

Fireheart glanced over his shoulder. While he didn't want to put a damper on her enthusiasm, he wasn't so sure himself. "Still," he said. "Be careful."

As the cats began to break into groups, Fireheart found himself among the elders and queens as most of the warriors pulled away, save for a few that remained to help them along.

A young brown she-cat—right around Snowbird's age, Fireheart reasoned—stopped beside him as the first group lined up to cross. "We crossed at night when we came here," she whispered. "There weren't any monsters then."

Fireheart glanced down at her. "It'll be okay," he promised, despite his own worry. "Snowbird, Bluefur, and I all made it across just fine. The monsters won't hit us if we're careful."

The apprentice nodded, but he could still sense her trembling with fright.

A pair of monsters raced by, side-by-side. "Soon!" Deadfoot shouted. "Hold the line!"

"Are your parents close?" Fireheart asked. Maybe she would feel more at ease with them. "Your mother or your father?"

The apprentice shook her head. "My father died before I was born. ShadowClan killed my mother."

Fireheart felt a wave of pity. These cats have been through so much, he thought. I can't imagine what they've lost. "I'm sorry," he meowed. "What's your name?"

The apprentice glanced up at him. "It's Runningpaw."

"Nice to meet you." Fireheart looked back up at the Thunderpath. Deadfoot was now bracing himself as a few more monsters whizzed past. There must be a gap coming up, he thought. "I'm Fireheart. Stick by my side, alright? I promise I won't let anything happen to you."

Runningpaw gulped loudly, but she nodded again. "I will."

"Now!" Deadfoot yowled, and sprung forward onto the Thunderpath. Two queens were closest behind him, each with a squealing kit dangling from their jaws.

"Come on!" Fireheart ordered, and the pair darted into the hard, hot surface. The elders hurried along as quickly as they could, but none could run as fast as the younger cats among them.

Fireheart forced himself not to follow his instinct and race to the other side as fast as his paws would carry him. Instead, he tried to keep his pace close to poor Runningpaw's. As they reached the other end together, Fireheart could feel the ground tremble, signaling that another monster was on its way. "Hurry!" he snapped, heart racing. A shiny monster was gaining on them from the right, but luckily, they managed to throw themselves to the ditch on the other side before it shot past.

Runningpaw was shaking beside him, but she looked back at the Thunderpath with an exhilarant grin. "We made it!"

Fireheart smiled down at her. "We sure did."

Snowbird's group crossed much more quickly than Fireheart's had, and with a few moments to spare before another group of monsters raced by them. She shot him a smug grin. "Told you so!"

The cats that had already passed waited anxiously for the last group. Tallstar watched, long tail raised, as the monsters just kept coming. Every time it seemed like a break was coming, another monster would come roaring towards them.

Finally, Fireheart saw Tallstar crouch down. "After this blue one! One, two…" The monster zoomed past them, and the WindClan leader roared, "Go!"

The group began to run across. Fireheart spotted Bluefur straggling behind. The senior warrior was panting heavily, but she was doing her best to keep up with the faster warriors.

A huge monster was racing towards them from their right, with no indication of slowing. Tallstar seemed to realize this as he suddenly skidded to a halt and yowled, "Stop! There's a monster coming!"

A few of the faster warriors kept going, and ran safely to the other side. Some panicked and froze in place, right in the path of the oncoming monster. The rest managed to stop, like Tallstar, and began to shout for their clanmates to move.

The monster was only a few fox-lengths away when the cats finally came to their senses and leaped back, but one trembling she-cat stared back at the monster, frozen in place. Fireheart watched as Bluefur shot forward and grabbed the she-cat by the scruff. She pulled back, and the monster charged past.

Fireheart heard a sickening crunch, and his heart dropped to his stomach. He sighed in relief as he saw that Bluefur was still standing, but after Runningpaw gasped, he realized what had happened.

Though the she-cat was still alive, she was splayed out on the Thunderpath, moaning in pain. The closest warriors hurried to her aid, helped her to her paws, and began to lead her to the other side.

"Did she get hit?" Fireheart meowed. "I heard something—" he swallowed back his words as he saw her tail. It had been crushed, and was now a mangled, bloody mess. He felt sick as he saw that the end of it lay on the Thunderpath where the monster had ran right over it. "Great StarClan," he whispered.

"Poor Wrenflight!" Runningpaw exclaimed. "That looks horrible."

The group finished crossing before another monster came, and Wrenflight immediately collapsed as soon as grass was under her paws. "My tail!" she wailed. "It hurts so much!"

Mudclaw lashed his tail in contempt. "If you had moved when Tallstar gave the order, you wouldn't have lost it!"

"Mudclaw," Tallstar growled. "Leave her be." He padded closer to Wrenflight and glanced around. "Barkface," he meowed. "Where's Barkface?"

Fireheart stepped aside as a brown tom padded by him. "I'm here, Tallstar." He crouched beside Wrenflight and studied her tail for a moment. He glanced back up at Tallstar. "There's not really anything I can do right now. I'll have to find something later to keep off infection, but… We're just going to have to carry on."

Wrenflight let out a low whimper, but after a few moments, she pushed herself up to her paws. A young brown tabby rushed to her side and let her lean against him.

"You heard Barkface," Tallstar meowed. "We go on."

Sandbird's muscles ached as she flopped down in her nest. She had just come back from a hunting patrol, and had chased a rabbit for far too long before she'd managed to catch it. Finally, however, she was in her nest and able to rest.

After a short groom of her dusty pelt, she curled up in a tight ball, and it wasn't long before she finally drifted off.

Sandbird awoke in a forest. She immediately felt uneasy—this wasn't ThunderClan's lush forest. The earth smelled of muck and death, the trees seemed to be rotting, and the sky was dark overhead, even though it didn't quite seem to be night. Her paws squelched in the mud as she took a cautious step forward.

What is this place? she wondered. This had to be a dream, and yet… it felt eerily real. She angled her ears around, trying to catch any sound of life, but all she heard was the rustling of tree branches.

I guess I'll just… walk.

Sandbird slowly started to pad through the forest. She wasn't sure how long she had been walking when her ears catch the faintest sound of voices up ahead. The ginger she-cat started to walk faster, and the voices get louder.

Her ears flattened nervously as she heard growls and hisses—someone was fighting. She swallowed before she pushed through the undergrowth. A clearing stood before her, and two cats were rolling in the dirt, wrestling for dominance. She spotted two other cats stalking around at the edge of the clearing. It almost looks like a training session, she thought. But these cats are too old to be apprentices!

With a jolt, she realized one of the fighting cats was Tigerclaw. With a snarl, his claws sliced through his opponent's nose.

Sandbird stared across the clearing at the two onlookers. One was Thistlestar, watching with a dark gleam in his eye, and the other was a huge tortoiseshell she-cat she had never seen before. Almost as soon as she recognized him, Thistlestar caught her gaze. "Stop," he ordered.

Tigerclaw rolled away from his opponent and sat down, head held high. The other tom slunk a few paces back to tend to his bleeding nose.

"We have a guest," Thistlestar meowed. "Sandbird, come out of the ferns."

I've no choice now, she thought, and stepped forward cautiously. "Sorry for intruding," she said. "Though I'm not… sure where we are."

Tigerclaw looked on at her with a mixture of surprise and respect in his eyes. He didn't expect to see me here, Sandbird thought. But Thistlestar doesn't seem surprised at all.

"Hardly matters where we are," Thistlestar chuckled. "All you need know is that only the best warriors can come to train here with us." He nodded to the tortoiseshell she-cat beside him. "This is Mapleshade. The tom Tigerclaw was sparring with is Blackfoot."

Blackfoot! Sandbird had hardly remembered what the former deputy looked like—but he looked nothing like his former self. Blackfoot had always looked proud and strong, sitting among the Clan deputies, but now he was scrawny and his pelt was filthy. He really does look like a rogue.

Mapleshade, though… I've never heard that name before. She glanced back at the she-cat, who had an unreadable expression as she stared back at Sandbird.

"This is a dream, though, isn't it?" Sandbird asked. "How can you all be here?"

Tigerclaw snorted, and Mapleshade rolled her eyes.

Thistlestar only flicked an ear. "Medicine cats dream with StarClan to learn. Why shouldn't great warriors be able to do the same?"

So this is StarClan! The thought both excited and confused her. It's… not what I imagined, though. Everything seems like it's… rotting. Maybe there's different parts of StarClan?She pushed the thought away. It wasn't for her to question her ancestors. If Thistlestar is telling the truth, they chose me to dream with them.

She couldn't resist the small wave of pride that thought brought.

Her leader didn't wait for a response. Thistlestar twitched his tail and meowed, "This is where we learn how to be better warriors. Far better than any other." He jerked his head towards Mapleshade. "I've already spoken to Mapleshade about you."

Mapleshade sat and drew her tongue over her paw. "I've observed you fighting," she said. "You have potential. I told Thistlestar I would train you. My last apprentice… was a disappointment."

She's going to train me? Sandbird frowned. Is this what Thistlestar was talking about after the battle?

Tigerclaw glanced at the StarClan warrior, surprised. Blackfoot just continued to ignore them as he licked his wounds.

"You don't seem excited," the tortoiseshell meowed. "Don't you want to become one of the greatest warriors in the forest?"

"I… yes," Sandbird stammered. "I'm sorry. I just… wasn't expecting this."

Mapleshade purred, as though amused. "Come along. Let's leave the toms to their fighting. It's clear who's winning here." She cast a sour glance at Blackfoot, who only showed his teeth.

Blackfoot still confused her. What's a rogue doing training in StarClan? Sandbird wondered. Or did ShadowClan take him back in? He was one of Brokenstar's closest followers!

Still, Sandbird obediently crossed the clearing and followed Mapleshade as the she-cat turned and led her away, back into dense, dark undergrowth.

"Again!" she heard Thistlestar yowl. "Put some effort into it, Blackfoot, or you'll be feeling my claws next!"

"Where are we going?" Sandbird asked, glancing at Mapleshade. The large she-cat was thoroughly intimidating—she was bigger than even Tigerclaw, and had countless battle scars across her pelt. She had a feeling Mapleshade could easily take even Thistlestar in a fight.

"I'm going to introduce you to some other cats," Mapleshade said. "Many cats here stick to the shadows… but these cats help to train better warriors—or are in training themselves. You'll work alongside them often."

I'm going to meet more StarClan warriors? Sandbird thought. I wonder what Ravenpaw would say!

They padded on for a few minutes in silence. Up ahead, Sandbird could hear a few quiet voices, and this time, it didn't seem like anyone was fighting.

Mapleshade stopped her short of the next clearing. "Before you meet these cats," she meowed, "You must promise not to speak to any of your Clanmates about what you hear, see, or learn here. Training here is a secret. Can you make that promise?" her glittering eyes felt piercing as she stared hard at Sandbird.

"I—I promise," Sandbird quickly replied. I guess it's like how medicine cats can't share what StarClan tells them?

"Good," Mapleshade purred. "My last apprentice didn't know how to keep his promises. Let's hope you aren't a disappointment like him." She flicked her tail, signaling for Sandbird to follow. "Come along then."

Sandbird swallowed as she followed her into the clearing. Something just felt off about this place… but Sandbird couldn't figure out what it was.

The sun was setting behind the traveling Clan. They had walked all day without stopping to rest, and kept a surprisingly fast pace for such starved cats.

Fireheart noted the exhaustion in their eyes, however. Some of the worse-off cats seemed ready to collapse at any moment.

"Just a little further," Bluestar meowed to Tallstar. The two had been at the head of the group for most of the day. Fireheart and Snowbird had followed close behind, and Runningpaw had quietly stayed close to Fireheart ever since they crossed the Thunderpath. "My friend will let us stay with him. We can continue on to WindClan in the morning."

Fireheart pricked his ears hopefully. We'll stay with Barley again? His mouth began to water at the thought of all the plump mice that seemed to infest the barn.

Tallstar nodded tiredly. "I wish we could just go all the way," he admitted. "But my Clan is too tired—and so am I."

"You'll be home soon," Bluefur promised. "And there is no Brokenstar to fight your Clan now."

"What happened to him?" Tallstar asked, voice taking on a sharp edge. "Is he dead?"

Bluefur shook her head. "No. He was banished from the Clan and stripped of his leader's name. He only has a few followers left, but whether they stick together or parted ways, I do not know. We haven't seen a whisker of them since."

Tallstar lashed his tail. "He should have died for his crimes."

Bluefur didn't reply. Fireheart couldn't tell if she was avoiding offending the leader, or if she privately agreed with him.

They reached Barley's barn by the time the sun had fully set. The journey back was much shorter than it had been to find WindClan—this time, they weren't wandering aimlessly, and every cat from the apprentices to the weakest elder had pushed themselves as hard as they could.

Barley was waiting at the entrance to the barn when they all made it to the top of the hill. "I saw you all coming a while ago," he meowed, not seeming put-off by the appearance of an entire Clan on his hunting grounds. He grinned at Bluefur. "Guess your mission was a success, huh?" Without waiting for a reply, he turned and padded inside. "You're all welcome to stay as long as you need."

One by one, the cats followed Barley into the barn. The WindClan cats seemed to perk up at the idea of a nest and at the tantalizing scent of mice that filled the barn.

Fireheart was exhausted, but his stomach urged him to stay awake and find a meal. He peeled off from the group, trying to scent the air.

"You're welcome to as many mice as you all need," Barley was telling Tallstar. "There's more than I can eat, that's for sure!"

Fireheart still wasn't used to hunting this sort of prey, but he managed to catch two plump mice. Somehow, the presence of so many cats didn't seem to scare the mice away, and every cat was able to eat something.

After Fireheart devoured his mice, he found himself a place to sleep, and curled up on a soft pile of hay.

 
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