Fire and Shadow

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


16. Chapter Sixteen

Under the cloak of darkness and a cloud-shrouded moon, three cats representing the three remaining warrior Clans returned to Fourtrees.

Firefang arrived just in time to see Mistyfoot and Ravenwing facing one another in the clearing with their bodies tensed. "You both made it without trouble?" He meowed, needing to know if they were seen.

Mistyfoot gave a simple nod. Ravenwing's tail flicked and he looked down. "I—I had a little trouble getting out of camp without being seen." He admitted. "My apprentice is very...exuberant."

"I know how that can be." Firefang gave a small purr of amusement before turning serious again. "I think its time the three of us share what we know about what's going on in the forest...for the safety of all our Clans." He regarded Mistyfoot and then Ravenwing stolidly. "I know your Clans are rivals who have fought recently...but this is the time to put Clan rivalries aside. There are too many secrets, too many lies. The Warrior Code is being broken all for the sake of ambition and power."

"Brokenstar." Mistyfoot growled at the exact same time that Ravenwing meowed, "Tigerclaw." The RiverClan cat blinked in surprise. "What?"

Ravenwing looked to the forest floor as if searching for strength and then turned to the two cats in the clearing. "I—I know you both came here to talk about Brokenstar and what he's been doing to the forest, but I have to tell you; I have to warn you—"

"That Tigerstar murdered his way into becoming the ThunderClan deputy?" Firefang growled. "I know."

"Well, I don't!" Mistyfoot gasped in horror. "What are you talking about?"

Firefang sighed. "This wasn't how I wanted to start this..." He then explained: "This is the reason I came to talk to you about the battle at Sunningrocks. Tigerclaw was claiming inside ThunderClan that Oakheart killed Redtail and that he killed Oakheart in revenge; trying to make himself a Clan hero so he'd be made deputy."

Mistyfoot looked shocked. "Then, that means that..."

"Tigerclaw killed Redtail." Ravenwing cut in suddenly. "I--I saw him do it."

He stared ahead of him, his eyes dark as he journeyed back in his mind to the battle at the Sunningrocks. Firefang saw—and suspected Mistyfoot did too—his confidence beginning to ebb. The black warrior was losing himself in his memories, reliving the fear and the burden of what he alone knew.

"I'd been wounded in the shoulder. And Redtail—he was our deputy then, as you know—told me to hide in a crack in the rock until it was safe to get away. I was just going to make a dash for it when I saw Redtail attack a RiverClan cat. I think it was that gray warrior called Stonefur." Mistyfoot's ears perked up suddenly. "Redtail knocked Stonefur off his paws, and looked as if he was about to sink in his claws for some serious injury."

"Why didn't he?" Firefang asked.

"Oakheart came out of nowhere. He sank his teeth into Redtail's scruff and pulled him off Stonefur. Stonefur ran away."

"What next?"

"Redtail spat at Oakheart. He asked him if RiverClan warriors were unable to fight their own battles. Redtail was brave. The RiverClan deputy was twice his size. And then...then Okaheart said a strange thing. He told Redtail, 'No ThunderClan cat will ever harm that warrior.'"

"What?" Mistyfoot gaped in shock.

"But the Clans fight all the time. What's so special about Stonefur?" Firefang mewed.

Mistyfoot turned her head and regarded Firefang with a half-annoyed, half-amused expression. "He's my brother."

"...Oh." Firefang winced, trying not to blush.

"But that doesn't explain what Oakheart meant." Mistyfoot conceded, feeling generous.

Firefang mewed thoughtfully. "Then Oakheart was his father, too. Is that why he wanted to protect him from ThunderClan cats?"

"No!" Mistyfoot's eyes flashed blue fire. "Oakheart never tried to protect either of us. He wanted us to be warriors like him, and bring honor to the Clan."

"Then why...?" Ravenwing started.

"I don't know." She sounded genuinely puzzled. She shook her head. "So what did Redtail do after Oakheart said that?"

Ravenwing's ears pricked up, his eyes wide. "He flew at Oakheart. He bowled him right off his paws and underneath a rocky overhand. I...I couldn't see them, though I could hear them snarling. And then I heard a rumbling sound, and the rock collapsed on top of them!" Mistyfoot couldn't help letting out a low moan.

"Please, go on." Firfang mewed softly. He hated putting Ravenwing and Mistyfoot through this, but he had to know the truth.

"I heard a screech from Oakheart and I saw his tail sticking out from under the rocks." Ravenwing closed his eyes, as if wanting to shut out the sight. Mistyfoot looked down. "Just then I heard Tigerclaw behind me. He ordered me to back to the camp, but I'd only gone a little way when I realized I had no idea if Redtail was okay after the rockfall. So I crept back, past all the RiverClan warriors that were running away. And when I got to the rocks, Redtail was charing out of the dust. His tail was straight up and his fur stood on end, but he was all right, not a scratch on him that I could see. And he ran straight into Tigerclaw, who was in the shadows."

"And that was when--" Firefang started.

"Yes." Ravenwing's claws flexed as if he were back in the battle. "Tigerclaw grabbed Redtail and pinned him down. Redtail struggled, but he couldn't break free. And.." He swallowed and looked down. "Tigerclaw sank his teeth into Redtail's throat, and it was all over." He dropped his chin onto his paws looking despondent. Firefang moved closer and pressed his body against Ravenwing's flank comfortingly. "I—I raced back to camp, I tried to tell everyone what I saw...but I passed out before I could. Then Tigerclaw was there and he told his I kept quiet. After all, who would they believe? The great warrior Tigerclaw or the scrawny nervous apprentice?" Ravenwing sounded miserable. "Worse...there wasn't anyone I could talk to about it. Graystripe was my friend but...I didn't think there was anything he could do so I decided not to burden him by telling him the truth."

Mistyfoot just stood back looking stunned, her shoulder fur standing on end. "...and Lionheart?" She mewed gently. Ravenpaw nodded sadly.

"T-tigerclaw was on patrol...Darkstripe came back to camp, saying that Tigerclaw found evidence of ShadowClan on our side of the border and wanted Lionheart to see it for himself. Lionheart went, following a scent mark Tigerclaw had placed...right on the Thunderpath itself." Ravenpaw looked down. "A monster struck him before he knew what was happening. Graystripe was crushed. He was his mentor..."

"An accident." Firefang spat in sarcasm.

"The only reason he left me alive is because he isn't sure how much I know...and he it wouldn't reflect too well on him his own apprentice died." Ravenwing sighed. "It's for much the same reason he pushed for me to be made a warrior was; so he wouldn't look bad if I failed. And he gave me Cinderpaw so she would be loyal to him too."

"So he's using cats he mentored and the cats they mentor to build a support base for him." Firefang mused. "Brokenstar does the same thing."

"StarClan..." Mistyfoot sat down. Firefang growled.

"I promise you, we will expose Tigerclaw for what he is." He nodded solemnly. "But Tigerclaw isn't the main problem: Brokenstar is. Leafbare is fast approaching and WindClan is still out there alone. Their scent is fading...soon it'll be impossible to find them again. Brokenstar has Onewhisker imprisoned in our camp since WindClan was driven out." Firefang took a breath. "And my apprentice Gorsepaw was taken from WindClan as well."

Mistyfoot growled. "That piece of foxdung!" She spat. Firefang nodded.

"...and now he's been stealing prey from RiverClan which is growing so hungry that they've been raiding ThunderClan." The ShadowClan warrior continued. "We need ThunderClan to stand up to Brokenstar. Then maybe RiverClan can too."

"I hope so." Mistyfoot meowed. "A lot of cats are unhappy with Crookedstar's decision."

"But, Brokenstar isn't the only problem." Ravenwing protested. "I overheard Tigerclaw talking to Bluestar...he's found a, I don't know, some group of rogues and loners in Twolegplace. He says he can make a deal with their leader; give them WindClan territory in exchange for helping ThunderClan stop ShadowClan."

"He can't be serious!" Mistyfoot spat. "Turn to rogues and loners against fellow warriors?"

"What did Bluestar say?" Firefang asked anxiously.

"She said no." Both cats visibly relaxed. Ravenwing went on. "Tigerclaw wasn't happy...but I don't think he's gonna let it drop for long."

"We can't let Bluestar allow Tigerclaw to make that deal." Firefang said decisively. "I promised Onewhisker I'd bring WindClan back and that's what I mean to do. And a war between those rogues and ThunderClan on one side against ShadowClan on the other could destroy the forest and the Clans forever!"

Mistyfoot nodded in agreement, lashing her tail. "So what do we do?"

"What we have to do is take care of Brokenstar." Firefang mewed. "Get rid of him and ShadowClan can return to normal, bring back WindClan and make peace with the other Clans: eliminate any need for Bluestar to be forced by Tigerclaw to make an alliance with those rogues. Then we can expose Tigerclaw for what he really is. Can I count on your aid?"

Ravenwing nodded firmly. "For Redtail."

"For all the Clans." Mistyfoot nodded, walking up beside the two toms. "We're in this together."

"Us and Onewhisker." Firefang nodded. "The four of us will stop Brokenstar and Tigerclaw and restore the four Clans to the forest, united under the Warrior Code. StarClan aid us."

Mistyfoot and Ravenwing exchanged a glance and nodded solemnly. Spoken like a true Clan leader!

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