Fire and Shadow

AU. Rusty has been adopted not by ThunderClan...but ShadowClan!


40. Chapter Forty

Firefang winced as he stiffly made his way into Mothermouth. It was three suns after the battle with BloodClan. He was so sodden with cobwebs that Onewhisker joked that his pelt looked like a tortoiseshell's. Still, all of them bore reminders of their recent battles. Ravenwing's black fur his most of his wounds, but the way he favored his left paw indicated the injuries he'd sustained. Mistyfoot looked, well, practically radiant. Her fur looked sleek and full, and she was as strong as ever. Onewhisker's pelt showed his injuries a little more readily. It would be a while before all the Clans were up to fighting strength, but there would be little need to fight so there should be little cause to aggravate injuries.

After Tigerstar's death things had concluded rapidly. The dogs were dead and what was left of BloodClan was in no mood or shape to fight. Their leaders were dead and those that could run had already fled back to Twolegplace. Those that remained were frightened, weak and all too ready to surrender.

The BloodClan cats were ordered to dig a grave to bury the BloodClan cats. The Clan cats that had been killed were taken back by their Clanmates to their respective camps for a proper burial. None was needed for the dead cats of BloodClan, who were buried en masse in a place not far from Fourtrees, in ThunderClan territory. Hopefully, their bodies would help nurture the soil to re-grow the burnt forest.

The dogs were dragged off the cliff and thrown into the river below, to be washed away forever. Fortunately the current was strong so there wasn't any risk of them fouling the water; they would be washed far away. The most hated cats of BloodClan—Tigerstar, Scourge, Bone, Darkstripe, Brokentail, Jaggedtooth, and Clawface—were likewise tossed into the river. They weren't worthy of an honest grave.

The medicine cats worked themselves into exhaustion tending for all the wounded cats. First the warrior Clan cats but then even the injured BloodClan cats. Afterwards the cats of what used to be BloodClan were sent back to Twolegplace, to tell all the cats there of their defeat and would happen if they ever tried invading the forest again.

It was then that Firefang learned of the death of Yellowfang. Even now he felt a pang of loss for that tough old bird. And she was far from the only casualty.

Yellowfang. Leopardstar. Mudclaw. Whitestorm. Ashfur. Cinderfur. Dawncloud. Nightstar. Tallstar. And those were just the cats Firefang had known personally. Every Clan had suffered losses, especially heavily were sustained by the older cats and elders who had joined the battle. The hierarchy of all four Clans was in shambles. In fact, Firefang had realized with dismay, every leader and deputy who was in place when he came to the forest was dead (with one exception) and now, after the battle, the leaders were all dead.

ThunderClan had lost Bluestar and not one but two deputies: first Redtail and then Lionheart. Even their medicine cat, Spottedleaf, was dead though her death—and that of two elders—was the result of a fire that had ravaged ThunderClan territory. And with Tigerstar and his deputy Darkstripe dead, ThunderClan was left leaderless and without a medicine cat, for Spottedleaf had no apprentice. The succession was unclear. It was Whitestorm, mortally wounded in the battle, who urged his Clanmates to name Ravenwing as the next leader of ThunderClan. There were no other alternatives, so his Clan agreed. Whitestorm went to StarClan soon afterwards.

In RiverClan they'd suffered the loss of Oakheart, Crookedstar's deputy at the start of the Time of Troubles, as it was starting to become known. When Crookedstar met his own demise at the claws of Tigerstar his new deputy became leader, Leopardstar. But she too was dead now: killed by Scourge. That left Mistyfoot, Leopardstar's own deputy, to take her place.

ShadowClan had overthrown and driven out Brokentail and his followers. But Nightstar—who, nine lives or one, had been a better leader than Brokentail could ever be—was dead at Tigerstar's claws, as was all of ShadowClan's elders and Yellowfang. An entire generation, gone. And that left out the kits killed under Brokenstar's "training." It was a good thing Nightstar had named Firefang as his deputy otherwise ShadowClan would be in turmoil.

WindClan lost cats both during Brokentail's assault on their territory and during their time in exile. Noble Tallstar was dead, also killed by Tigerstar. Deadfoot was the only deputy or leader from the time of Firefang's arrival to survive. But due to the injuries he sustained in the battle, he stated that he was retiring to the elder's den and would not serve as leader or deputy to WindClan. But before he stepped down he pushed for Onestar to take his place as deputy and thus, when Deadfoot stepped down, Onestar would become the next leader of WindClan.

And so, three days later, all four cats: Firefang, Mistyfoot, Onewhisker, and Ravenwing undertook their journey to the Moonstone, together. It was highly unusual, but then, there had never been four leaders named at the same time since the forming of the Clans untold moons ago. Accompanied by Runningnose, Mudfur, Barkstripe, and Graystripe, they ventured into the heart of Mothermouth.

The last addition was something of a shock to many cats, Firefang included. Graystripe a medicine cat? Without knowing him very well he struck Firefang as solid, dependable warrior without being overburdened by any great intelligence. But perhaps he was being uncharitable. In any event, his opinion didn't matter. What mattered was that ThunderClan could have a new leader receive his nine lives unaccompanied by a medicine cat.

And the night after the battle StarClan had sent a message to Mudfur, Barkstripe, Runningnose and Graystripe himself. To his credit, the gray furred warrior had worked with the medicine cats in treating the injured and being a medicine cat would deal nicely with the dilemma of his kits being raised in RiverClan. As a non-combatant medicine cat, Graystripe wouldn't be involved in the battles between his Clan and his kits' Clan.

The solution seemed elegant…though he would need a lot of assistance and training from the other medicine cats, which wouldn't be too much of a problem. The Clans were hardly about to go back to border disputes and skirmishes so soon after the Great Battle.

Firefang felt his breath catch as he laid eyes on the Moonstone. What would happen when he placed his nose against it, as Runningnose told him to do? Would he see StarClan? Would they find a kittypet worthy of becoming a leader of ShadowClan? What if they rejected him? He quickly flicked his eyes towards his companions and saw that each of them was having more-or-less similar thoughts. Ravenwing was probably the most nervous. Of all the cast there, his claim for leadership was the least solid; he was not chosen as a deputy before.

At an encouraged nod from Runningnose, Firefang padded forward and gently pressed his nose against the Moonstone. Mistyfoot, Onewhisker, and—with some trepidation—Ravenwing, did the same. Soon all four cats were lying peacefully at the foot of the Moonstone.

Firefang shivered. He was cold and stiff, colder than he had ever known. All four of the chosen cats felt the same way. Though they didn't recognize it at the time, their life was being taken by StarClan so they could receive the nine lives from StarClan. He blinked when he found himself in the hollow at Fourtrees at the foot of the Great Rock. The others were there too, both the future Clan leaders and their medicine cats. It was night outside, and the starts filled the entire sky from horizon to horizon. The stars and the sky had never seemed so close before.

Then one of the stars came down from the heavens and became a cat that landed gracefully on the ground. Then, one by one, every star in the sky came down as warrior ancestors from ages gone by appeared to greet their descendants as Fourtrees filled itself with more cats than a dozen Gatherings. Frost sparkled at their paws and glittered in their eyes. Their pelts were white flame. They carried the scent of ice and fire and the wild places of the night. StarClan had arrived.

Mistyfoot, Ravenwing, Onewhisker all gaped at the sight. They saw parents, Clanmates, friends, ancestors of old…all were there. Firefang felt the same as he spied familiar faces in the ranks of StarClan and a bittersweet feeling that he had no ancestors here. He was an outsider. The four cats dipped their heads in respect.

"Welcome." The sound seemed to be coming from every cat Firefang knew but was at the same time one voice. "Are you ready to receive your nine lives?"

"Yes." Firefang, Mistyfoot, Onewhisker, and Ravenwing meowed at once. The ranks of StarClan parted to let four cats forward. Firefang caught his breath as he recognized the four previous leaders of their respective Clans—not counting the evil Brokentail and Tigerstar—Nightstar of ShadowClan, Crookedstar of RiverClan, Tallstar of WindClan, and Bluestar of ThunderClan.

The four former leaders sat opposite of the four leaders to be. Bluestar meowed. "It is unusual for more than one leader to gain their nine lives at the same time, much less for all four leaders to do so; and never before have leadership ceremonies been conducted together."

"It is usually a most private of experiences, but your destinies have been intertwined." Crookedstar added.

"Were it not for the four of you, the Clans would have been destroyed. In honoring you, we honor the best that the Clans have to offer." Tallstar agreed.

Nightstar nodded as he looked to Firefang. "You slew Tigerstar in one fight; never before has a cat lost all nine lives in a single blow. StarClan will tell of this deed for moons to come." He dipped his head. "What you did was intelligent and cunning…traits every ShadowClan cat is taught to embody. You—and your companions—saved this forest and for that we are forever grateful. You are not born of the forest, but truly, you are its heart. Stand and receive your nine lives."

Firefang, Mistyfoot, Onewhisker, and Ravenwing stood. Four cats walked from the ranks of StarClan and each went to one of the four cats awaiting their nine lives. Firefang felt a pang in his heart as he recognized the first cat coming over to him. It was Brownpaw, his friend from his apprenticeship days. The reserved, somewhat meek cat had died in Brokentail's invasion of WindClan. Firefang noticed with only half a mind as Mistyfoot was visited by Leopardstar, Ravenwing by Lionheart, and Onewhisker by Mudclaw.

Brownpaw dipped his head. "With this life, I give you loyalty to your friends, your Clan, and what you know to be right; use it well to guide your Clan in times of trouble." Brownpaw touched his nose to Firefang's. The ginger cat dug his claws into the ground as pain shot through his entire body, from head to tail. He could dimly hear his companions experiencing the same thing. Then Brownpaw and the others withdrew back to the ranks of StarClan as four more cats approached.

He had little time to brace himself before the next cat stood before him. Firefang felt a bitterspike plunge into his heart as he saw Blossomkit approach. She was so tiny to walk with StarClan, but she wasn't small enough to prevent Brokentail from trying to train her with unsheathed claws, even before she was six moons old. Behind her stood Volepaw and Mosspaw who both perished under Brokentail's training, as well as Badgerfang, who trained early and died in the battle with WindClan. Mistyfoot meanwhile was being visited by Mosskit, her long dead sister; Onewhisker by Adderkit, his own littermate; and Ravenwing by Spottedleaf.

Blossomkit stood before Firefang, as her eyes shone with a wisdom far beyond her years. "With this life I give you mentoring; use it well to train the young cats of your Clan." Again, Firefang had to brace himself for the impact of the life he was receiving.

Then Yellowfang approached Firefang next as his friends received their own visitors. For the others, the cats giving this life were their mothers. Ravenwing rubbed his head against Robinwing's, Onewhisker gently brushed Dawnstripe's face with his whiskers, while Mistyfoot let Graypool rest her muzzle on top of her head. Mistyfoot's grief was still raw, as Graypool died of shock and exhaustion when Tigerstar drove RiverClan out of their territory. While Yellowfang was obviously not Firefang's mother their relationship was as close a thing as Firefang had known since coming to ShadowClan. She was his confidant, his friend, and his co-conspirator.

With a gleam of humor in her eye, the former medicine cat meowed, "With this life I give you love; use it well when dealing with the cats you care about…including Nightpaw." She added with a smirk. Unlike the other times, gaining this life was enjoyable and comforting. He wished it could go on forever.

But soon the next cat came to him and the others. Whitestorm made his way to Ravenwing and Onewhisker was pleasantly surprised to see Redclaw, his father, approach him. Mistyfoot gasped as her own father, Oakheart, approached her. Firefang promised himself to check on her later to see how she was doing. This was a very emotional ceremony for her. But he was distracted when Ashfur, the ShadowClan elder he had fought with when he first came to ShadowClan, approached. Ashfur hadn't trusted Firefang and thought him to be a creature of Brokentail. But he came to see that he had misjudged Firefang and stood with him in opposing Brokentail. Now Ashfur looked young and fit and padded proudly over to his Clanmate. "With this life, I give you intelligence and cunning; use them well."

Firefang was surprised when only three cats walked forth from StarClan. One was a tom with a ginger-red tail—Redtail—he determined when he stopped in front of Ravenwing; a beautiful gray she-cat—Silverstream—who stopped in front of Mistyfoot; and Morningflower, the mother of Gorsepaw. She approached both Firefang and Onewhisker who stood side by side.

She fondly looked at both of them for mentoring and caring for her kit. She meowed. "With life I give you compassion; use it well for the elders of your Clan, and the sick, and all those weaker than yourself." Firefang knew Morningflower was referring to Firefang's defense of Onewhisker and of Gorsepaw, her son, when Brokentail ruled.

Morningflower touched Onewhisker's nose, then Firefang's before withdrawing with the others. Then the four former leaders of the Clans stepped forward again.

Tallstar climbed to his paws. "The four of us will now give each of you a life, despite not being Clanmates. This is something we do not do lightly, but because you four represent the best that the warrior code stands for."

Tallstar walked over first. He touched his nose to each of theirs and said "With this life I give you courage; use it well to defend your Clans and what you know to be right." One by one, each cat trembled at the course of energy that ran through them when Tallstar gave them a life.

Then Crookedstar approached. "With this life I give you strength; use it in your battles, and to shoulder the burdens you face as leaders." He then went and touched noses with each of the four new leaders. Again, Firefang felt more pain than he ever had before.

Then it was time for Bluestar. She went over to Firefang first, which was strange because the other leaders had started with their own successor and made their way on to the others. "With this life I give you nobility, certainty, and faith; use it well to lead your Clans in the ways of StarClan and warrior code…and in what is right." She added. Firefang felt a strange connection with this ThunderClan leader. Once again, she seemed to him as an inside-out Brokentail. If he had been a ThunderClan cat, he would've followed her anywhere. He watched as she made her way over to Mistyfoot, her daughter. Firefang couldn't hear what the two she-cats said, but judging from the way Mistyfoot reacted it had to have been something important.

Firefang looked up in time to see Nighstar approach. He didn't know whether to feel happy or sad at his approach. Nightstar was the noblest cat Firefang knew. He led ShadowClan with only the one life he was granted at birth, but led it no less bravely than any leader with nine lives. StarClan failed to grant him his nine lives so long as Brokentail lived. But here in StarClan he was an equal to other Clan leaders who had led nine full lives. And he was no longer an old, weakened tom but strong and proud as he was in his prime.

He murmured softly for Firefang's ears only. "I knew I chose well when I made you my deputy." Firefang bowed his head. Louder, Nightstar mewed. "With this life I give you a sense of justice; use it well as you judge the actions of others, and your own." Firefang gaped at the sheer power that swept over him. Nightstar moved over to the other three cats and then withdrew.

"I hail you by your new names Firestar, Mistystar, Ravenstar, Onestar." Nightstar meowed proudly.

"You old lives are no more. You have now received the nine lives of a leader, and StarClan grants to you the guardianship of your Clans. Defend it well; care for young and old; honor your ancestors and the traditions of the warrior code; live each life with pride and dignity."

"Firestar! Mistystar! Ravenstar! Onestar!" The cheers rang out from every cat in StarClan until all of Fourtrees echoed the call. "Firestar! Mistystar! Ravenstar! Onestar!"

When the four cats awoke, they were back in Mothermouth, at the base of the Moonstone. They got to their paws and looked at one another in amazement. What an experience—and one they could share with no one but each other! Firestar rubbed his side against Mistystar's. "Are you alright?" He mewed softly. Her experience was probably the most emotional for she received lives from her mother, her father, the she-cat who had raised her as her mother, as well as two friends and a leader who had all died recently.

Mistystar's flanks trembled slightly and she exhaled. "I'm…alright. Thank you Firestar." Firestar was nearly knocked over as she used his new name for the first time. He was now Firestar, leader of ShadowClan. And she was Mistystar, leader of RiverClan.

"Let's go." Onestar rose, licking at his chest. "Our Clans are waiting at Fourtrees for our return…and for the naming of our deputies."

Ravenstar nodded. "Right, let's go." He meowed with more confidence than he had ever had before. He would still be the same reserved, thoughtful cat as always, but perhaps now not quite as nervous and self-doubting.

The four leaders and their medicine cats headed away from Mothermouth and back to the forest. The four leaders were faintly trembling with excitement and hunger—they were not permitted to eat anything before heading to the Moonstone.

Soon they found themselves at Fourtrees, where virtually every cat in the forest had gathered. They would always be four Clans in the forest—but perhaps they need not think of their rivals as fox-hearted monsters. They were cats, like them; and so they shared this moment when they would learn, together, if their leaders received their nine lives and who their deputies would be.

"Here they come!" Some cat yowled as Firestar, Mistystar, Ravenstar, and Onestar and the medicine cats came into view. Cats moved out of their way to let them get to the Great Rock. A ThunderClan queen gently picked up her kit and walked him out of the way. "C'mon Snowkit, let's make way."

Quickly the leaders bound to the top of the Great Rock while their medicine cats sat at the bottom. "Cats of RiverClan, ShadowClan, ThunderClan, and WindClan!" Mistystar yowled loudly. "I have returned from Fourtrees and have received my nine lives from StarClan! We have all received our nine lives and granted us leadership over our respective Clans."

"Mistystar! Firestar! Ravenstar! Onestar!" Came the jubilant cries from below. Firestar noticed that most cats had cheered the names of all four leaders, despite being from different Clans. A good sign, he thought.

Mistystar held up her tail for silence. "Now we have the duty of choosing who will be the next deputy for our Clans." Cats all around murmured anxiously. Mistystar waited for silence before continuing. "I say these words before StarClan, that the spirits of our ancestors may hear and approve my choice." She said slowly and solemnly. "Stonefur will be the new deputy of RiverClan."

Mistystar's brother blinked in surprise as RiverClan cats started to purr and yowl his name. "Stonefur! Stonefur!" Even cats from other Clans cheered. Then he looked up and dipped his head to Mistystar. "I accept, I will work hard to make RiverClan strong."

Then Onestar made his way to the front. "I say these words before StarClan, that the spirits of our ancestors may hear and approve my choice." He said proudly. "Thrushwing will be the new deputy of WindClan." If Stonefur was surprised by the announcement, then Thrushwing was astonished. The WindClan she-cat opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out. Or, if any did, it was quickly drowned out by the mass of WindClan and other cats cheering her name. Thrushwing licked her chestfur in embarrassment and gave a stiff nod to Onestar, accepting the post.

Firestar was about to go next when the crowed had quieted, but Ravenstar beat him to the punch. Firestar couldn't help but let him go first. If he could display a little initiative, then Firestar certainl wouldn't stop him. "I say these words before StarClan, that the spirits of our ancestors may hear and approve my choice." Ravenstar's mew was steady but not terribly loud. "…Longtail will be the new deputy of ThunderClan."

Murmurs of surprise rang through the cats of Fourtrees and Firestar himself was surprised. But he soon saw the wisdom in Ravenstar's choice. Ravenstar would have to heal any potential rift in ThunderClan between Tigerstar's former supporters—Longtail, Dustpelt, Goldenflower and her two kits with Tigerstar, Bramblepaw and Tawnypaw—and show the rest of the forest that ThunderClan was united. Cinderpelt was the first to call out her new deputy's name. "Longtail! Longtail!" Soon the rest of ThunderClan and the other cats were cheering as well.

"T-thank you Ravenstar." Longtail meowed, clearly choked up with emotion, relief and gratitude in his eyes. "I will serve ThunderClan faithfully!"

"You always have." Ravenstar mewed then stepped back.

Finally it was Firestar's turn. He had thought and thought about whom to make his deputy ever since the battle. He quickly scanned across the clearing. He saw his mentor, Boulder, sitting among a knot of ShadowClan warriors. Boulder was a great fighter and brought knowledge from outside the forest that Clanborn cats lacked. But Firestar also knew that while his own kittypet roots were more-or-less tolerated within ShadowClan, if he elevated another non-Clanborn cat to a leadership position it would spark resentment from the rest of the Clan.

He had also considered choosing one of the other former rogues like Nightwhisper and Russetfur who had been integrated—or in Boulder and Blackfoot's case, reintegrated—into ShadowClan. There was a certain logic in choosing one of them to unite the Clan as Ravenstar had done with his choice of Longtail. And Blackfoot had been a deputy once before, under Brokentail.

Ultimately though, Firestar had chosen against it. He needed a choice no cat in ShadowClan could object to. One who would compliment Firestar's own strengths and weaknesses. "I say these words before StarClan, that the spirits of our ancestors may hear and approve my choice." Firestar mewed. "Rowanclaw will be the new deputy of ShadowClan."

Rowanclaw was certainly surprised. The two had never gotten along that well, even as apprentices. In fact Rowanclaw, prompted by Jaggedtooth, had taunted Firestar about his kittypet roots. But Firestar knew that he could ultimately rely on him to do what was best for ShadowClan and he also knew that he needed a voice of potential dissent close at paw to listen to and keep an eye on as needed. "Rowanclaw! Rowanclaw!" ShadowClan cheered as Rowanclaw nodded gruffly.

Firestar let it go on for a while before lifting up his tail for quiet. "I have another ceremony to perform." He said to the surprise of the cats watching. "Nightpaw, Oakpaw, step forward." Knowing murmurs ran through the Clans as the two ShadowClan apprentices made their way to the base of the Great Rock, accompanied by their mentors.

Looking down, Firestar addressed the two mentors, Darkflower and Wetfoot. "Darkflower has your apprentice, Nightpaw, learned the skills of a warrior? Has she studied the warrior code and understood what it means to every cat?"

"Yes Firestar." The ShadowClan she-cat said proudly. Firestar nodded then turned to Wetfoot, his oldest friend in ShadowClan. "And Wetfoot, has your apprentice, Oakpaw, learned the skills of a warrior? Has he studied the warrior code and understood what it means to every cat?"

"He has." Wetfoot nodded. Nightpaw and Oakpaw stood up straight, staring up at their leader.

Firestar looked down, proudly. "I, Firestar, leader of ShadowClan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warrior in their turn. Nightpaw, Oakpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your clan, even at the cost of your life?

"I do." Oakpaw meowed quickly. Ravenpaw looked up at Firestar gratefully, love and appreciation shining in her eyes.

"I do." She mewed, softly but firmly.

"Then by the powers of StarClan I give you your warrior name, Nightpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Nightwing. StarClan honors your bravery and your passion and we welcome you as a full warrior of ShadowClan." Firestar made his way down Great Rock in order to rest his muzzle on her head. Nightwing licked his shoulder and, breaking with tradition, gently nuzzled his head. Firestar drew back, letting Nightwing step back to let Oakpaw through. "Oakpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Oakfur. StarClan honors your loyalty and your courage and we welcome you as a full warrior of ShadowClan." Then he again rested his muzzle on Oakfur's head and Oakfur licked Firestar's shoulder.

"Nightwing! Oakfur! Nightwing! Oakfur!" All the cats raised their voices, the loudest coming from ShadowClan itself.

Then the other three leaders, catching on, decided to name some apprentices of their own. Mistystar stepped forward to name the RiverClan apprentice Dawnpaw, Dawnflower much to the pride of her mentor, Heavystep. Then Onestar named his own apprentice, Gorsepaw, a full warrior named Gorseclaw. Firestar purred with pride, for he had mentored Gorsepaw when he was being kept in ShadowClan. He hoped—he knew—that his mother, Morningflower, was watching from StarClan. Ravenstar honored two apprentices, Swiftpaw and Brightpaw. Swiftpaw had been Longtail's apprentice and the new deputy was proud as his apprentice became Swiftfoot. Brightpaw's ceremony was bittersweet, for her mentor had been Whitestorm. When she was named Brightheart, the Clans cheered both her name and Whitestorm's.

When the time finally came for the Clans to separate and return to their respective territories and camps, Firestar felt as if life was perfect. Nightwing strode beside him, her tail intertwined with his, as he led his Clan home.

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