Fire and Shadow

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


35. Chapter Thirty-Five

Firefang felt his fur stand up at the sight of his old rival: Blackfoot, the former deputy of ShadowClan under Brokenstar and his strongest supporter. "What are you doing here?" He spat. Beside him, Nightpaw hissed. She hadn't forgotten Blackfoot's efforts to drive out or kill Firefang on Brokentail's orders.

Blackfoot extended his claws and hissed back, the fur on his shoulders standing up. Ravenwing shot Firefang an appealing look before meowing fiercely in Blackfoot's ear. "This isn't what you're here for!"

"He's right." Another cat chimed in as a gray skinny tom stepped out of the shadows. Firefang almost forgot about Blackfoot for a moment as he gaped at the familiar scent.

"Boulder?" It was Firefang's mentor from his apprentice days and another ex-ShadowClan cat. The orange deputy felt a flurry of emotions. Fondness for his old mentor, sadness that Boulder had followed Brokentail into exile, mixed with anger for that decision and suspicion for his and Blackfoot's reason for coming back now.

The gray tom dipped his head respectfully. "It's good to see you again Firefang." Blackfoot snorted, looking less than thrilled. Firefang turned to Ravenwing.

"Ravenwing, what's going on?" The ThunderClan tom quickly explained about his trip to the ThunderClan camp and what he'd saw and discussed with Cinderpelt and Whitestorm.

As he got to the end, Ravenwing concluded. "Whitestorm said noticed that Blackfoot and some of the other former ShadowClan cats didn't like this alliance with BloodClan and ShadowClan being caught between this Blood'Clan' and TigerClan. They started talking and Whitestorm said that they had some information to tell you."

Firefang narrowed his eyes. "Is that so?" He asked, directed not at Ravenwing but Blackfoot. The large white cat drew his lips back.

"If I though it was wrong to let one kittypet into the forest why would I want an entire so-called 'Clan' of kittypets and rogues in?" Blackfoot spat. "Tigerstar and his filthy allies care nothing about restoring Brokenstar to his rightful place as leader of ShadowClan…they just want to make him little more than a deputy while Tigerstar rules over the whole forest and Brokenstar is too foolish to realize it!"

Boulder nodded. "If we—if I—felt it was wrong to violate the warrior code and overthrow Brokenstar, then the steps he and Tigerstar have taken are even worse." The skinny gray cat twitched his ears and looked down. "You showed us all how Tigerstar is a ruthless murderer and we've seen for ourselves that he is a tyrant who cares nothing for the warrior code. If Brokenst—if Brokentail," he corrected himself. "Cannot see that and persists on seeking to be allies with him…then I cannot support him any further."

Blackfoot frowned but didn't disagree with Boulder. Firefang looked at Boulder. "I'm glad that you've come to realize that…but from what I've seen of Brokentail and Tigerstar, they're very similar. What made you change your view?"

"I thought I owed Brokentail because he brought me into ShadowClan. And I thought that he was only acting in ShadowClan's best interest when we fought WindClan. And when he admitted to killing Raggedstar and those kits in training…I thought I should still follow him because the word of a Clan leader is law." Boulder looked away for a moment. "But Brokentail was never so foolish as to seek out BloodClan in order to conquer the whole forest!"

Blackfoot spoke up, not even attempting to explain himself. "Boulder has some…familiarity with them." He meowed coolly, a look not far from contempt on his face.

Boulder bowed his head, less in acknowledgement and more in shame. "I belonged to BloodClan once. I left many moons ago, but Brokentail knew about my past. He told Tigerstar and Tigerstar had me show him the way to BloodClan." He glanced down at his paws, ears twitching uncomfortably. "I-I thought that they would just use BloodClan as a bluff, a way to convince the other Clans to reinstate Brokentail. But when Tigerstar threatened to destroy every Clan and every cat that opposed him, I knew he wasn't bluffing."

Taking a deep breath, the skinny gray tom pressed on. "Their leader is Scourge, the small black tom we saw at Fourtrees. I was born in Twolegplace. I know too much about Scourge and his warriors. The first thing I remember is playing with my littermates on a patch of waste ground. Our mother taught us to hunt and find food among Twoleg rubbish. Later on she showed us how to defend ourselves."

"Your mother mentored you?" Firefang asked in confusion.

"If you can call it that." His old mentor replied. "BloodClan doesn't have a proper system of mentors and apprentices. It's not a Clan at all in the way we forest cats understand it. It's not really a Clan at all. Most cats listen to Scourge because he's the strongest and most vicious, and Bone is a kind of deputy, insofar as he carries out Scourge's dirty work." Boulder's lip curled in disgust.

Firefang thought back. "Bone? Is he that the big black-and-white cat we saw at Fourtrees?"

Boulder nodded. "He's almost as bad as Scourge. Any cats who don't do as they're told are chased off, if they're lucky, or more likely killed."

"What about kits and elders?" Firefang asked.

"A she-cat's mate will probably hunt for her while she's nursing her kits. Even Scourge realized that if there are no kits, sooner or later there's no Clan. But elders, or cats who are sick or injured-well, they're left to fend for themselves. It's kill or be killed, hunt or starve. There's no room for weakness." Boulder's voice was virtually flat, with a soft underlying tremor of something Firefang couldn't indentify. He guessed that saying it aloud made Boulder realize how much Brokentail and Tigerstar had made their Clans like BloodClan. Firefang supposed that Boulder had recognized that on some level and that had facilitated his decision to finally separate himself from Brokentail's evil.

"Then why follow Scourge?" Firefang sounded disgusted.

"Some of them enjoy killing." Boulder's tone was cold and eyes were bleak, staring at something Firefang couldn't see "And others are too scared to do anything else. You can't lead your own life in Twolegplace if you're not a kittypet without a Twoleg nest to go to. Either you're with Scourge or against him, and the cats who are against him don't last long."

"Then…there's no hope?" Firefang felt a great weight pressing on his chest. Was he leading them all to their deaths? Boulder shook his head.

"No, there is hope." Boulder looked at Firefang squarely in the eyes. "Scourge's one great strength is his one great weakness. Scourage and his warriors don't believe in StarClan." Firefang seemed dubious. "BloodClan has no medicine cat. I've already told you, they don't care for the sick, and if they don't believe in StarClan, there aren't any signs that could be interpreted."

"And you're telling me that's a weakness? All it means is they can do as they like, with no code of honor to stop them." Firefang curled his lip. "No different than Brokentail or Tigerstar."

"That's true." Boulder admitted. "But think, Firefang. Without the warrior code you might be just as bloodthirsty as Scourge. You might even be better at fighting him. But without the belief in StarClan—what are you then?"

Firefang said nothing. Neither did Ravenwing, Nightpaw or Blackfoot.

Finally Boulder climbed to his paws and stretched. He regarded his former apprentice evenly. "I told you once that if StarClan were merciful then you'd never need to know about where I came from. I'm sorry that they weren't. But now you know everything that I can tell you about BloodClan. And I'll be right there with you, come what may." Boulder bowed his head to his deputy. "I was born of BloodClan, like you were born a kittypet, but we are both ShadowClan to the core. I told you once that the honor I felt of being the first cat not born of the Clans to be adopted was lessened by your arrival. I was wrong. My honor's been enhanced, because I had the honor of being your mentor. Deputy." He dipped his head respectfully.

Blackfoot, a look of distaste on his face, meowed, "I have gathered a few warriors who feel as Boulder and I do and wish to belong to ShadowClan; a true strong, independent ShadowClan, not merely a lackey of TigerClan or BloodClan. If Brokentail is content to serve at Tigerstar's paws then he is not fit to lead." He continued on, carefully examining Firefang for his reaction. The ShadowClan deputy was keeping a stolid expression, not letting on what he was thinking.

"I will fight alongside the Clans tomorrow against Tigerstar and Scourge, in return for letting us rejoin ShadowClan." Blackfoot meowed.

Firefang mewed sharply. "That is for Nightstar to decide." Then, more evenly he asked, "How many cats would be willing join us?"

"Clawface and Jaggedtooth have had little trouble adjusting to the new order of things." Blackfoot hissed in disgust. Boulder spat as well. Firefang wasn't surprised. Those two were scum. "But there are at least two rogues who are or were in BloodClan who like the sound of Clan life and have even taken Clan names: Russetfur and Nightwhisper."

Only four? Firefang wanted to yowl. Blackfoot must've guessed that his offer of support wasn't that impressive so he quickly added, "Whitestorm has sounded out his Clanmates and won their support. Tigerstar will have no ThunderClan support in the battle tomorrow. Except for Darkstripe," Blackfoot added parenthetically. "And he's about as much use as a dead fox."

Firefang nodded, barely even listening to his evaluation of the ThunderClan deputy. For the first time since the arrival of BloodClan, he felt a stirring of hope. The four Clans of the forest are coming together, like a lion fighting the tiger prowling the forest!

The only question was: would that even be enough? The Clans would find out tomorrow.

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