Fire and Shadow

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


39. Chapter Thirty-Nine

Firefang's paws pounded hard against the ground, fairly flying away from Fourtrees. Now he knew what a WindClan cat felt like. But he could still feel Tigerstar gaining on him. Firefang paused briefly to look behind him then wished he hadn't. His claws looked huge. The ShadowClan deputy looked ahead just in time to stop short before he ran off a sheer drop at WindClan's border with RiverClan, where a cliff lead a long way down to the river below.

Scrambling quickly, Firefang leapt back away from the edge. He turned to face his foe just in time to see Tigerstar's claws grow large in front of him as the new leader of BloodClan struck. Firefang was knocked over, tumbling over his side and sent sprawling on the ground.

He coughed, trying to get the sand and dirt out of his mouth. Tigerstar growled as Firefang scrambled to his paws. "So it's come down to this, little kittypet." He hissed menacingly. "I am the greatest warrior the forest has ever seen! I've killed the leaders of all four Clans, a feat never performed before. Bluestar, Crookedstar, Tallstar, Nightstar…I've conquered them all! I have nine full lives and you have barely the one you were born with. You have no chance."

"And you…have no honor." Firefang spat back. "You're a liar, a murderer, and the lowliest piece of foxdung on four legs. You've violated the warrior code in more ways than I thought fathomable, and I lived under Brokentail!"

"True warriors make their own rules. It's your world that's restricted by petty rules and expectations." Tigerstar hissed.

"A true warrior's heart needs no rules! I can do no evil!" Firefang shot back. "The rules exist for cats like you…because you're not a true warrior: You're a coward!"

Tigerstar's yowled furiously as he charged at Firefang, intent on flaying him alive; on piece at a time.

Mistyfoot clawed at a BloodClan cat, causing him to screech in pain and run away. Mistyfoot hissed weakly as he fled, but her heart wasn't in it. She was growing tired, aching from half a dozen wounds, and feeling frustrated at not being able to do something about the situation. With Firefang luring Tigerstar away—and oh how she ached at not being able to help him!—Mistyfoot was the highest ranking Clan cat left on the battle field and thus de facto leader of the four warrior Clans.

The responsibility rested heavily on her young shoulders. The deaths of Scourge and Brokentail and Tigerstar's departure had left BloodClan leaderless but there just so many of them! And to make matters harder for Mistyfoot, it seemed as if the best and fastest warriors of WindClan had apparently deserted the battle. She growled, working her claws into the dirt.

A sudden familiar yowl made her whip her head around. She spotted Onewhisker and Ravenwing rolling and scratching in a furious fight with Clawface. Ravenwing; not the greatest of warriors, and Onewhisker; tired from heated battling already, were unable to keep up with Clawface's vicious attacks.

Mistyfoot leapt into the fray, claws slashing. Clawface was bleeding from two separate wounds before he was able to turn and meet her. The RiverClan she-cat was tired, frustrated, and a fine mixture of worried and furious about Firefang being off by himself. She might not be able to do anything to help Firefang against Tigerstar…but fortunately she knew who she could take her frustrations and worries out on!

She yowled as she struck out at Clawface, again and again; faster than he could react. Her claws scored bloody gashes all over the tom's body, shrugging off or ignoring the wounds Clawface managed to land on her. Her blood was up, her fur bristling and her teeth and claws were stained with his blood. Clawface fell on his side hard and started to plead. "I…I give up! Please! Stop!"

"Mistyfoot!" Ravenwing yowled. "He's had enough." He let his tail rest on her shoulder. "Stop." Panting heavily, Mistyfoot stepped back and allowed Clawface to climb to his paws.

"Go." She rasped hoarsely, her voice thick with thinly controlled rage. "Run away. And never return." Mistyfoot turned and started to stalk away, Ravenwing leaning against her. Clawface panted, one eye closed as blood from a facial wound dripped into it. His eye glinted with rage and fury as he slowly stalked behind her. He raised a claw, intent on bringing it down on her neck.

Ravenwing noticed him out of the corner of his eye. "Mistyfoot, look out!" Clawface let out a yowl as he started to bring his claw down, before either cat could move to avoid the blow. His yowl came out as a startled interrupted squawk as a black blur crashed into him.

Clawface rolled over before something pinned him down on his back. He looked up into the furious gaze of a black furred she-cat. It was Nightpaw.

She hissed and brought down her paw, claws unsheathed. Clawface gurgled as his lifeblood spilled out of his throat. Nightpaw leapt off him, turning to Mistyfoot. "You okay?" She meowed.

Mistyfoot, slightly stunned, nodded. "Yes. Thank you." She dipped her head. Nightpaw flicked her tail.

"C'mon, we've got more of these filthy rogues to shred." She mewed as she let out a warrior's yowl and rushed back into the battle. Mistyfoot shook her head as she followed her. Firefang sure could pick 'em.

Firefang let out a grunt as he slammed hard against the ground. Tigerstar was batting him around like a kit playing with a mouse.

Wincing, he climbed to his paws. Blood was dripping into his eye from a cut on his forehead and his fur was matted with blood and dust. To his grim satisfaction Tigerstar's cheek was bleeding and his ear torn, but the battle had been distinctly uneven.

Baring his teeth Tigerstar growled. "You don't have the strength to defeat me."

Firefang twitched his whiskers as he replied cheekily. "Maybe not but I can still kick your tail." Tigerstar growled and leapt at him. It wasn't very smart to bait him into getting angrier in a fight. But Firefang's concern wasn't for the fight itself. He would duck and evade and generally do everything he could to drag out this battle as long as he could.

Of course, he had to admit to himself that he was tiring faster than Tigerstar and that his foe had lives to spare. Dragging this out was hurting him more than the BloodClan leader. But this was only one battle. Firefang was interested in winning the war. The only problem being that he might not be around to see it.

Tigerstar cursed as his claws scratched the ground when Firefang leapt aside. Then he leapt at Firefang again. Firefang leapt to the side and clawed at where Tigerstar landed. He managed to score a bloody furrow in his flank. Tigerstar yowled as Firefang leapt back before he could return the blow. "Stand still you frightened little mouse!"

"What's wrong?" Firefang panted. "That big head of yours getting too heavy to lug around?"

"This isn't how Clan cats fight, kittypet!" Tigerstar hissed. Then he paused as if considering something. "This isn't how ShadowClan fights—" His eyes widened as if he'd been struck. "—You've been stalling!" He blurted out in sudden realization.

Firefang dug his claws into the ground. Then he tackled Tigerstar. He couldn't let him go back to the main battle! He just needed to buy some more time!

Mistyfoot let out a screech as she reared on her hind legs to bat at the head and ears of a BloodClan cat. The Clans were being pushed towards the Great Rock with BloodClan cutting them off from the forest. "Hold the line!" She yowled. "Hold the line!" She looked up and down the clearing.

She saw her brother Stonefur sinking his teeth into a BloodClan warrior's shoulder. She saw Ravenwing and Cinderpelt battling side by side in a group if BloodClan cats, while Tornear and Blackclaw rushed to their aid. Nightpaw and Gorsepaw were leading their 'apprentice patrol'—Swiftpaw, Brightpaw, Dawnpaw, Oakpaw, Tawnypaw, and Bramblepaw—in swarming and overwhelming the larger, slower BloodClan cats and then moving on before BloodClan cats could counterattack.

Boulder, Wetfoot and Rowanclaw were enveloped by a ring of BloodClan warriors, fighting furiously. Graystripe, Blackfoot, and Russetfur leapt on the BloodClan cats from the rear, letting Boulder and the others rejoin the Clan line.

Warriors from the four Clans were fighting together, intermingled and dispersed among each other, irrespective of Clan. It was an amazing sight. Mistyfoot would've appreciated it more if not for the fact that they were in risk of losing. Mistyfoot looked up to the sky. "StarClan, send me a sign! What can I do?"

Her plea was answered by a sudden yowl of "Gangway!" Mistyfoot blinked in surprise as the ThunderClan warrior Runningwind came zooming into the clearing, working his way through the ranks of BloodClan so fast that he seemed little more than a blur.

"What's going on?" She demanded when he stopped in the Clan lines. "Where were you? And where are the WindClan warriors?"

Runningwind shook his head, out of breath. "Get…get back." He panted. "We…we formed a chain…led them back…" His whiskers twitched. "I…was last…they're fine…Get back!"

Mistyfoot looked at him. "Led what back? What are you talking abou—"

"Lead them back!" Runningwind yowled, his eyes glinting in urgency. "No time—!"

Suddenly, over the screeches and yowls of the battling cats, a long baying howl was heard. The sounds of fighting died away as fierce barks and growls grew louder and louder. The cats could then make out words in all the fierce noise. "Pack pack! Kill kill!"

Before anyone could twitch a whisker the pack of enormous, slobbering dogs that WindClan encountered on the way back from exile burst into Fourtrees. Barking and snarling they fell on the ranks of BloodClan from the rear and soon waded through them until they were in the heart of the BloodClan formation, biting, clawing and snarling for all they were worth.

Horrified BloodClan cats wailed in fear and desperation. Many on the outermost ranks fled back to the safety of Twolegplace. Others were trapped between the dogs and the forest Clans. Others shrieked and wailed as the dogs tore into them. Whether by chance or design or luck or the will of StarClan, the dogs had ended up in the middle of BloodClan, where the most vicious and cruel of Scourge's advisors and lackeys—in short, those most likely and capable to lead BloodClan with Scourge and Bone dead—had stayed, safe by surrounding themselves with ranks of lesser warriors. It was this dark heart of BloodClan that the dogs ripped into.

A cat let out a horrified screech as a dog's teeth crunched his sides and shook him like a chew toy. Another gurgled and died as a massive paw ripped away most of his face. BloodClan warriors were now caught between the pack and the Clans. Cats who tried to fight the Clans fell prey to the dogs from behind.

It was a bloodbath. BloodClan cats armed with dog-studded claws and collars fought for their lives against the ravenous pack. Those who could flee had done so, the rest were trapped and left with no choice but to fight or die. They fought frantically, but without direction as their leaders were torn to shreds by the dogs. With the dog teeth on their claws and their small size the BloodClan cats were able to inflict more damage than a regular cat would've been able to. But the dogs were much larger and the muscle behind their own teeth and claws was much more than any a small cat could bring to bear.

Here a dog whined and fell on its side, blood seeping out of its throat while a whole patrol of cats yowled in fear and dismay as the pack set upon them. Now and again a Clan cat would leap into the fray, slash quickly at a dog, and drag a wounded BloodClan cat out of the way. Even for foes as merciless and vile as BloodClan, it was no easy thing for a cat to leave another cat out to die at the teeth of a dog.

Tigerstar's ears perked at the sound of dog's barking and cat's shrieking as he glared at Firefang with such intensity that it almost knocked the ShadowClan warrior off his paws. "YOU! This was your plan all along!"

Firefang dug his claws into the ground. "Looks like you lost your Clan…again." Tigerstar bristled. First ThunderClan rejected his leadership and now his new Clan was in ruins.

"Die!" Tigerstar howled as he threw himself at Firefang. The ShadowClan deputy met his charge head-on with one of his own. No more stalling. No more delay tactics. Now there was only the fight.

The two cats locked together in a ball of fur, claws, and teeth. Firefang let out a gasp as Tigerstar scratched at his flank. Firefang let himself roll over and then lashed out with all four legs, battering Tigerstar's belly.

"When I finish with you," Tigerstar growled. "I'll rip apart your friends, your Clanmates, every cat who ever so much as shared tongues with you!"

Heart pounding, blood racing Firefang gave a fierce snarl. "No. You. Won't!" He charged at him.

Mistyfoot leapt aside as the immense body of another dog landed just beside her, dead. Most of the dog pack had been overcome through sheer force of numbers, but not without ripping out the black heart of BloodClan with them. But the largest, fiercest dog—the leader of the pack—was unassailable. Soon it would be the blood of Clan cats on his claws, and on his teeth.

She growled. She had to get that dog out of there! Quickly, she called out a command. "Onewhisker! Ravenwing! Nightpaw! Come with me!" She leaped down from the great rock and at the head of the other three cats, ran at the dogs.

"Hey flea-brain! I'm talking to you, you mange-pelted mousebrain!" She yowled at the lead dog until she had his attention. "Come and get me!"

The dog growled and leapt to attack Mistyfoot and her companions. Mistyfoot leapt back, narrowly avoiding its snarling jaws and ran, her friends in tow. The dog followed her, barking and howling.

Firefang snarled as Tigerstar's claws sliced at his sides. He whirled and clawed Tigerstar's nose open. "This ends here!" He never felt so strong. Firefang let out a roar worthy of LionClan, felt himself running with the grace, speed, and power of LeopardClan and when he struck, he struck with the fierceness of TigerClan. He could feel all the warriors of StarClan stand with him as he attacked.

Tigerstar yowled in pain as he was struck again and again. "This is for Nightstar!" Firefang meowed, his claws tearing Tigerstar's ear. "For Crookedstar!" He bit down on Tigerstar's shoulder. "For Tallstar!" He struck again. "For Bluestar! Lionheart! Redtail! Leopardstar!" Firestar could barely see, a red haze had descended over his eyes as he struck at his hated enemy.

Finally his vision started returning. The haze faded away and Firefang felt his energy deserted him. He panted, exhausted and bloody. Backing away, he looked at Tigerstar. The once proud leader of ThunderClan's pelt was slick with blood. His ears were gaping holds and strips held together by a few thin scraps of flesh. His teeth were stained with blood and one of his claws had been wrenched out of his paw. Most glaringly, the right side of his face was shredded and crisscrossed with claw marks. A huge gaping hole was all that was left of his right eye.

He was collapsed on his side, panting. "You…think…you've won?" Tigerstar spat, blood in his spit.

"I haven't even lost this life…and even if I do—I still have eight more. You can't win." Slowly, Tigerstar hauled himself back to his paws. Firefang arched his spine and hissed, but it was more an empty threat than anything. He was exhausted; he had nothing left.

Tigerstar's one remaining eye glinted as he slowly made his way over to Firefang, his claw ready to rip out the ShadowClan deputy's throat. Suddenly there was a screech of a cat and a loud bark. Both cats turned just in time to see Mistyfoot, Nightpaw, Ravenwing, and Onestar burst into sight, an enormous dog right on their heels. They split up, two going to the left and two going to the right. The dog, confused, went straight on at full speed. He lost interest in them when he saw Tigerstar.

"Pack! Pack! Kill! Kill!" It barked as it leapt. Tigerstar met its leap with a pounce of his own. He screeched as the dog's teeth dug into his body, lashing out from the dog's jaws. Not for nothing was Tigerstar the fiercest warrior in all the Clans. Wounded, blinded in one eye, and exhausted, he still managed to bite and scratch at the dog's face even as its teeth clamped down on him. The dog let out a whine and shook its head back and forth. There was an audible crack and a pain-filled yowl from Tigerstar as his back was broken.

The dog, unable to see, tried to dig in its paws and stop but only ended up skidding and sliding; until the dog—and Tigerstar—slid right off the edge of the cliff and down into the river gorge below. The fearful and angry cries of the lead dog and Tigerstar merged into one as the plummeted down, down to the river below.

Firefang and the others rushed and looked down the cliff just in time to see a splash as the two entangled foes landed in the river. They watched for a long time in case one of them managed to climb out. They never did.

"W-we did it?" Ravenwing meowed; half statement, half question.

"Unbelievable." Onewhisker breathed.

Nightpaw looked down. "Is he…dead?"

"Is it over?" Mistyfoot asked.

Firefang shook his head. "Not yet." Astonished, the four cats turned to look at him. Firefang didn't explain further. He just turned around and scraped dirt over the edge of the cliff with his hind legs, as if he were burying his dirt.

He turned around and said simply, "Now it's over."

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