Fire and Shadow

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


30. Chapter Thirty

The entire forest was rocked by the news of Tigerstar's devastating attack on RiverClan, even as they had welcomed ThunderClan cats fleeing the fire that ravaged their own territory. RiverClan had been driven from their home as ThunderClan claimed both their territory and RiverClan's as their own. However ThunderClan was spread too thin to effectively control both territories, so RiverClan managed to scrape out an existence by the area close to Fourtrees, as far from Tigerstar as they could get. Crookedstar was dead.

In an already traumatic episode, the killing of Crookedstar seemed a particularly nasty shock. The RiverClan leader was on his final life when the attack came, but nonetheless he threw himself into the fray, taking on Tigerstar himself. Mortally wounded, Crookedstar lead his Clan in retreating and had died just after RiverClan established themselves in the Fourtrees-bound areas of RiverClan and ThunderClan territory. Leopardstar, having received her nine lives from StarClan, led a Clan without a home.

Firefang prevailed on Nighstar and Tallstar to help RiverClan however they could, finally confiding in Nightstar what he knew about Tigerstar. When he was finished, Nightstar didn't hesitate in agreeing. Patrols were sent out near RiverClan as a show of support to make sure Tigerstar didn't attack them further. When the time came for the Gathering, it was the tensest Gathering in living memory.

RiverClan was temporarily granted shelter on the ShadowClan and WindClan sides of Fourtrees, so that the approaching ThunderClan cats wouldn't have to pass through them. While fighting on the eve of the truce was unthinkable, so were the events leading up to the Gathering. And with Tigerstar, none knew what to expect. The other Clans were on edge and kept comfort with the knowledge that all of RiverClan was nearby, should Tigerstar violate the truce at attack at Fourtrees.

As soon as ShadowClan arrived, Firefang sought out his allies in RiverClan and WindClan while waiting for ThunderClan to arrive. Naturally, he looked for Mistyfoot first. As soon as RiverClan relocated, she rejoined her Clan. "Mistyfoot!" He called, waving his tail as he spotted her.

Looking up, Mistyfoot padded over to him. "Firefang, hello. What is ShadowClan going to do about Tigerstar?"

"We'll have to see what he has to say for himself." Firefang meowed. "Then it shouldn't be too hard for the other Clans to pressure him into leaving your territory." He managed a weak smile. "You'll be reeking of fish again before you know it."

Mistyfoot purred and butted her head against his shoulder. "Watch it furball. That's no way to speak to the RiverClan deputy!"

"Deputy?" Firefang looked at her in surprise. "Leopardstar made you her deputy?"

"Right after she got her nine lives from StarClan. I would've thought that she'd chose my brother Stonefur, but I guess she felt she needed a cat who could make alliances with other Clans."

Firefang purred. "Don't sell yourself short, you would've been my first choice for a deputy too."

"Flatterer." Mistyfoot snorted. "No wonder Leopardstar likes you."

"She does not!" Firefang gaped in astonishment. "I don't think Leopardstar liked her own mother!"

With a wry nod, Mistyfoot conceded the point. "Heh, you haven't met her mother, but I take your point. I didn't meant that she liked you that way but you did make quite an impression on her when you helped our Clan against Brokentail. And given our long history of fighting with ThunderClan and our lack of fighting with ShadowClan it isn't that surprising that Leopardstar would look to someone like you as an ally." Mistyfoot paused deliberately. "That and you ARE a handsome tom. Who knows? Maybe Leopardstar really does like you that way…"

"Very funny." Firefang muttered, his skin flushing beneath his fur. He was saved from having to answer when Onewhisker approached.

"ThunderClan should be here soon." He warned. "I don't know about your leaders, but Tallstar isn't about to take having a Clan driven from their home lying down."

Firefang nodded. "Nightstar isn't going to either. Especially not after I told him what I knew about Tigerstar."

"You finally told him?" Mistyfoot asked. "Then he can tell the entire forest once ThunderClan arrives! That ought to stop him once and for all!"

"I can only hope—" Firefang began. He broke off, ears perked up when he heard a yowl as the ThunderClan delegation arrived. Without breaking stride, Tigerstar boldly climbed the Great Rock and yowled loudly for attention; marking the start of the Gathering. Firefang slipped over to the base of the rock with the other deputies as the leaders gathered atop it.

"Cats of all Clans!" Tigerstar yowled loudly. "I have news for you. Listen well, for great change is coming to the forest. Great change. And StarClan has shown it to me that it is ThunderClan's task to prepare every cat in the forest to meet it."

"Every cat?" Firefang heard Tallstar murmur from his place on the Great Rock. "Tigerstar—"

But Tigerstar ignored him and continued on. "ThunderClan has the favor of StarClan. We are blessed because we survived the fire, and I have received the blessing of our warrior ancestors most of all because it was my task to restore the Clan and make it great again. With the death of our medicine cat Spottedleaf and her lack of an apprentice, StarClan has made me both medicine cat and leader of ThunderClan." A low steady stream of murmurs greeted that announcement. No cat had ever been a leader and a medicine cat, let alone a self-appointed one!

Tigerstar continued on, heedless. "All of you know that changes have already come to us—unwelcome changes beyond our control. Last leaf-bare much of the forest was covered by floods. A fire swept through ThunderClan territory. Twolegs are moving into our territory in even greater numbers. And now a pack of dogs is on the loose. Life is growing harder, and as the forest changes around us, we must change to meet the crisis. StarClan has shown me the way. To survive the hardship ahead of us, we must join together. As four Clans, we waste our energies in striving against each other. As one, we would be strong. We must unite!" Outraged yowls and shouts of the other three Clans rang out. ThunderClan's response was a combination of stunned silence, shifty murmurings, and some yowls of support, largely from Tigerstar's deputy, Darkstripe. Tigerstar dipped his head to the stunned leaders of WindClan, RiverClan, and ShadowClan as he concluded. "We have come to invite you to join the new TigerClan. Let us rule the forest together in friendship and peace."

Nightstar stepped forward. Despite being older and smaller than the ThunderClan leader, there was no fear in the ShadowClan leader's eyes. "TigerClan was the name of the one of the great Clans of ancient times. Tigerstar has no right to use it now. Nor does he have the right to change the number of Clans in the forest. We have lived as four Clans for innumerable seasons, following the warrior code laid down for us by StarClan. To throw aside our ancient ways would bring disaster!"

Tallstar nodded in fierce agreement. "I'll die before I join my Clan to yours!" He snarled. Leopardstar nodded in fierce agreement, her claws raking at the rock. Tigerstar's eye glinted but he refrained from showing his anger.

"Nightstar, Tallstar, I understand. These are important matters, and older cats like yourselves will need time to see that what I'm suggesting is for the good of all our Clans."

"We're not so old that we've lost our wits, you piece of fox dung!" Nightstar snarled.

Tallstar growled. "Make us, if you can."

"Make you?" Tigerstar had the effrontery to look offended. "I came here in peace with a plan to help us all. Tallstar, Nightstar, I want you to recognize that this is the right decision and come to me willingly. But don't delay too long. StarClan will not wait forever."

"You dare speak of StarClan?!" Hissed Nightstar. "A rat knows more of StarClan than you!"

Tigerstar's lip curled. "This from an old cat who only became leader by overthrowing the real leader of his Clan? This from a cat who made a kittypet his deputy?" He sneered as he raised his tail in signal. A surprised yowl went up as another group of cats entered Fourtrees. Firefang bristled as he recognized Brokentail, the deposed tyrant of ShadowClan and his exiled followers. Tigerstar glared at Nightstar. "If you are too foolish to know what is good for you, then my ally Brokenstar will have to retake his rightful place as leader of ShadowClan and HE will join with me. Together, ThunderClan and ShadowClan will form a new TigerClan and rule the forest!"

"Never!" Cats whirled to see who had spoken up. A lone small black she-cat stood among the ranks of ShadowClan. It was Nightpaw. "ShadowClan will never join you and we'll never accept Brokentail as our leader!" Firefang looked at her in amazement. He no longer saw the young, naive apprentice who had a crush on him. He saw a brave, determined warrior standing up for the honor of her Clan and her way of life. She looked…stunning. Nightpaw went on. "We cast Brokentail out for violating the warrior code and we'll drive you out for doing the same!" Loud cries of approval rang out from every side of Fourtrees at her words.

Firefang, seeing the moment had arrived, step up. Yowling loudly for attention he called out. "Cats of all Clans, and especially cats of ThunderClan,

Cats of WindClan, RiverClan, ShadowClan and especially ThunderClan. I can stay silent no longer. You cannot trust Tigerstar any more than you would trust a cornered badger. The truth is this cat is power-hungry and dangerous and he is willing to to murder other cats to get what he wants. Tigerstar's crimes speak for themselves. It was Tigerstar who murdered Redtail, hoping to be made deputy himself!"

The Clans were stunned into silence. ThunderClan started murmuring amongst themselves. Darkstripe was heard to loudly meow, "Lies!"

"No, it's the truth!" Ravenwing leapt to his paws. "I saw Tigerstar kill Redtail myself! His story about Oakheart killing Redtail was a lie! Oakheart was dead before Redtail was killed!" Tigerstar bared his teeth and growled at his former apprentice.

Mistyfoot got up and nodded. "Ravenwing speaks the truth! All RiverClan knows how my father died. He was crushed when the rocks by Sunningrock fell on him. No cat killed him and Oakheart would NEVER kill without need." RiverClan nodded in affirmation.

Firefang, seeing the looks of confusion and doubt in most of the ThunderClan group, pressed his advantage. "But after Redtail was murdered it was Lionheart who was chosen to be deputy, but Tigerstar set a trap for him by the Thunderpath so a monster struck him down. When Tigerstar achieved his ambition at last, it wasn't enough. He wanted to be leader of his Clan. He laid another trap for Bluestar near Snakerocks for to be killed by snakes!" The Clans looked stunned, reeling from this information. Firefang looked around. "This is Tigerstar's history. It all shows one thing—that he'll do anything for power. If he promised you a share of the forest, peace, or a better life, don't believe him. He won't give up one pawprint, not to you or any cat."

Tigerstar growled, extending his claws. Darkstripe and Brokentail edged closer to the Great Rock, ready to support him. But Tigerstar merely raised his tail in signal. The bushes around Fourtrees rustled as cats appearead from all sides. Hidden downwind until now, their stench became overpowering. They stank of carrion, Thunderpaths, and Twoleg rubbish. Some wore collars studded with teeth. They were skinny, ragged, generally unkempt, but you could see the wiry strength in their limbs. And in their numbers. Row after row of them emerged, more cats Firefang had ever seen at one time. The cats at the Gathering were soon completely outnumbered and surrounded. In the front of this veritable army was two cats; one was massive black-and-white tom with green eyes with a scar between them, presumable their leader. The other was a small black tom with one white paw, and icy-blue eyes that were colder than all the winds on the moor.

Pleased with himself, Tigerstar flicked his tail. "Well are you still sure that you want to stand and fight?" He gloated.

"So, Tigerstar, do you want to tell us who your new friends are?" Firefang mewed flatly.

Tigerstar nodded gladly. "This is BloodClan. They come from Twolegplace. I have brought them to the forest to persuade you foolish cats to join with me. I knew you wouldn't have the sense to agree on your own. You see? I am even more powerful than StarClan, for I have changed the Clans of the forest from four to two. TigerClan and BloodClan will rule together." He looked out at the leaders and cats of the Clans. "Accept this fate…or die."

Somehow the presence of the leaders of the other three Clans vanished from Firefang's mind as he took it upon himself to answer for them. "No, Tigerstar. If you want to fight, let us fight. StarClan will show who is more powerful." Not a single cat spoke out against him.

"You mouse-brained fools!" Tigerstar spat. "I was prepared to come and talk with you today. Just remember that it was you who drove us to this. And when your Clan mates are dying around, you they will blame you with their last breath." He leapt down from the Great Rock, flanked by Darkstripe and Brokentail as he approached the ThunderClan and BloodClan cats.

He stopped and turned to the gathered cats. "I will give you three days to reconsider. If your leaders refuse, I'd suggest you remove them unless you want their stubbornness to be your deaths." Glaring at Ravenwing, he added. "You, traitor, are no longer ThunderClan. If you value your life, leave the forest now. Because all TigerClan and BloodClan warriors will be ordered to kill you on sight." Ravenwing sat down without a word. Tigerstar flicked his tail. "Let us go."

ThunderClan fell into step behind its leader, almost as if in a daze. BloodClan did not budge, earning a nasty look from Tigerstar. Then, casually, the small black tom nodded to his large black and white companion, who raised his own tail. Only then did BloodClan accompany ThunderClan out.

"Remember!" Tigerstar called as he left. "Three days! Submit or make your peace with StarClan."

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