Fire and Shadow

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


31. Chapter Thirty-One

Firefang wandered around the ShadowClan camp, his fur about ready to fall out in fret and worry. It was the day after the Gathering and only two more before Tigerstar's deadline run out. Even though Firefang was aware that he wasn't the leader of the Clan, he felt the ultimate responsibility for this situation was on him. After all, it was Firefang who was the chief object of Tigerstar's hatred and who had taken the lead in exposing him and in toppling Brokentail.

Inside him, the ShadowClan warrior's heart wrestled with his mind. He wanted to march into the ThunderClan camp and let Tigerstar do what he would with him if he spared ShadowClan. It would have been a noble gesture worthy of the pre-Tigerstar ThunderClan. But Firefang wasn't a ThunderClan cat. Firefang was ShadowClan. Cunning, proud, dispassionate in analysis and clever enough to know that as much as Tigerstar hated him, this wasn't about him. Tigerstar wouldn't stop short of ruling the entire forest and all four Clans.

Negotiation was clearly not an option. The only choice then was to fight. "But," Firefang thought bleakly. "There has never been a battle in history of the forest like this." Three Clans united against a Clan led by a murdering tyrant allied with as many rogues and loners as all four Clans combined.

Cats were going to die, Firefang realized morosely. Forest Clans or BloodClan, ThunderClan or ShadowClan, it made no difference. Cats, many cats, would die on all sides as a result of this battle. And the outcome didn't look too good for the warrior Clans.

Firefang thought back to his first battle, the fight that drove WindClan out of its territory. Brownpaw, a fellow apprentice and a friend had died in that battle. How many friends would he lose this time?

Continuing to wander around the camp, the orange tabby felt himself stop and examine each part of the camp and each cat withing it; as if trying to etch every detail in his mind forever.

He poked his head into nursery, which lay within a hollow shielded by a thornbush. Inside the queens sat, nursuing the kits and trying to sooth them. Even in here, the kits felt the stress of the Clan and its warriors.

Firefang's eyes met Brightflower first, the mother of Volepaw and Mosspaw, both of whom were killed as kits by Brokentail's 'training.' He also thought of poor Blossomkit, her white fur stained red with blood, another victim of Brokentail's cruel practices. Tallpoppy, a long-legged light brown tabby she-cat with amber eyes, looked up. Beside her was Darkflower and Fernshade, Badgerpaw's mother. Both had moved out of the nursurey but stopped by to check on the queens now living there.

He moved on, wandering about the camp. Runningnose darted into the camp with a mouthful of herbs. Right behind him came Littlecloud, carrying even more herbs in anticipation of the battle. Firefang felt his whisker's twitch in bemusement. He remembered Littlecloud when he was small—well, smaller—when he was a kit pushed into apprenticeship before his time. So small, so nervous he would never have survived if Brokentail remained leader. Ever since then, Littlecloud had been tailing behind Runningnose, trying to pick up whatever knowledge of herbs that he could. He'd make a good medicine cat someday…if he got the chance, Firefang mentally added.

Littlecloud's denmate Whitethroat sat nervously by the freshkill pile as he ate a vole. There was another one of Brokentail's early recruits. He reminded Firefang a bit of Ravenwing, being a somewhat scrawny and nervous warrior, but one he knew he could depend on. Firefang spied Rowanclaw and lifted his tail in greeting when the other warrior met his gaze. Rowanclaw gave a rough nod. The two had never been close, Rowanclaw haven been trained as an apprentice by Jaggedtooth, one of Brokentail's former elite. Rowanclaw had never let Firefang forget his kittypet roots…but when push came to shove, Rowanclaw stood by the warrior code and had never given anyone doubts about his loyalty to his Clan or his clanmates.

Underneath the bramble bush was the warrior's den. Firefang spied Stumpytail inside, Brownpaw's mentor when he had been alive. He mourned his death and helped fight against Brokentail's elite. Flintfang had a similar story, his apprentice Badgerpaw had died in that same battle. He also saw the Clan's elders: Ashfur, Cinderfur, and Dawncloud, who had rallied behind Nightpelt in opposing Brokentail and had been banished from the camp for it. They may have been past their prime, but their loyalty and willingness to fight was never in doubt.

"Firefang." The warrior turned and saw his old friend Wetfoot, the first friend he made in ShadowClan.

He nodded to him. "Hello Wetfoot." The gray tabby nodded back.

"Making sure everyone's ready for when we send ThunderClan and their new 'friends' mewling for help?" He asked cheerfully. Firefang shook his head but couldn't resist a smile at his old friend's irrepressive good nature. He knew Wetfoot wasn't as happy-go-lucky as he sounded and that he too, had to be on end. They both remembered Wetfoot sounded optimistic before the battle with WindClan. The result was WindClan's flight and the death of many cats, including their mutual friend Brownpaw.

Wetfoot looked down as if having the same thought. "…You think we can really beat them?" He asked in all seriousness. "Tigerstar is the best warrior the forest has seen in generations, maybe ever. And those rogues…" His fur fluffed up in fear and digust.

"We don't have any other choice." Firefang answered. "But between us, RiverClan, WindClan and with the aid of StarClan, we'll surprise them yet."

"Well said." Yellowfang mewed. The two toms whirled in surprise as the old medicine cat strode between them. "Firefang, Nightstar wants to see you in his den."

Blinking, the orange tom nodded. Wetfoot stretched "I'll see you around later Firefang." Firefang nodded back absently as he turned to follow Yellowfang.

"Has StarClan shown you anything about the battle?" He asked her lowly. Yellowfang stiffened slightly, then seemed to relax.

"Too much and not enough." She said softly. "I don't know how the battle will end."

Perplexed, Firfang tried to press. "But what do you mean by—"

"We're here." She announced suddenly. Sure enough, they had arrived at the roots of the big oak tree were the leader's den was. "Nighstar is waiting for you." Firefang opened his mouth and then closed it again. If Yellowfang didn't want to talk about something, the only thing he'd get for pressing her would be a tongue lashing.

"…Okay. Thank you Yellowfang." He was about to enter the den but stopped short. Something compelled him to turn his head and say, "Yellowfang…I don't think I've ever really thanked you for everything you've done for me since I came, have I? You've been my confidant, my ally, and my friend. Thank you."

Yellowfang let a rare smile cross her broad flat face. "Keep up that mushy gunk and I'll have to drag you into my den for delirium!" She purred. "Now go on you big furball…and thanks."

Firefang nodded one more time and then stepped in. "You sent for me Nightstar? What is it?" Firefang asked.

Nightstar hesistated before answering, taking a deep breath as if what he was about to say didn't come easily. "As you know, we are going up against ThunderClan and this so-called Blood'Clan'. With both Tigerstar and Brokentail on their side, that means they have two cats with several lives granted by StarClan. Tigerstar has nine lives and Brokentail has two or three left himself. That makes them incredibly dangerous all on their own."

"But you and Tallstar and Leopardstar all have extra lives too!" Firefang pointed out.

"Tallstar is an old cat and has been leader for many moons. I don't know how many lives he has left but if he has even half of his original nine lives, I would be surprised. Leopardstar is young and strong and has all nine lives."

"As do you." Firefang pointed out. "You received your name and lives not that long ago and you haven't lost any lives." At Nightstar's expression, Firefang felt a gnaw of worry in his gut. "You…haven't lost any lives have you?"

Nighstar shook his head. "No, but not for the reason you think. I was never given my nine lives. StarClan rejected my claim of leadership."

"W-what?" Firefang gaped.

"Brokentail still has the lives he gained when he became leader. As long as he lives, StarClan cannot award nine lives to another ShadowClan cat." Nighstar's voice was tired and bitter. "I am old, and have only the one life I was born with."

Firefang looked horrified. "Perhaps you should stay behind…" He started to suggest. Nightstar leapt to his feet, a look of fury on his face.

"I may be old, but I'm not going to sit out the battle that decides the destiny of the forest!" His eyes gleamed. "One life or nine, I will take my chances with the rest of my Clan and the forest!" Firefang dipped his head.

"Yes Nightstar." He mewed. Getting to his paws he added. "What else should I do to prepare for the battle?"

Nightstar looked at him tiredly. "Pray hard, fight harder and we may just get through this. If StarClan wills it."

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