Fire and Shadow

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


37. Chapter Thirty-Seven

In the clearing the melee between the four forest Clans and BloodClan raged on. Here a BloodClan cat sunk his claws into a RiverClan cat; there a WindClan warrior dug her teeth into another BloodClan cat's shoulder. It was chaos.

Darkstripe growled as he batted and clawed at a RiverClan tom until he yowled and ran off, bleeding. Darkstripe spat. None of the Clans—not even ThunderClan!—were worthy of him and Tigerstar. They had all turned against them. Cowards and kittypet lovers all!

And speaking of…Darkstripe bared his teeth as he spied Mousefur clawing at the belly of a BloodClan cat. He went into a hunter's crouch, preparing to spring on her unprotected back as if she was so much prey. Just as he was about to pounce, another cat collided with him, bowling him over. Yowling, Darkstripe scrambled to break away form his attacker and climb back to his paws. His attacker did the same, facing him with a snarl. "Longtail! You traitor!"

The pale tabby hissed back at him. "You're the traitor Darkstripe! I'm loyal to ThunderClan!"

"A weak pack of fools too scared to embrace power when it's offered to them!" The dark tabby spat back.

Longtail growled. "This is for Poppydawn!" He yowled as he sprung at his former mentor. Hissing and spitting the two ThunderClan cats tore at each other with tooth and claw. Darkstripe bit down on Longtail's namesake tail. Longtail screeched and clawed at Darkstripe's belly. The dark tabby yowled and let go as Longtail whirled and sunk his claws into Darkstripe's shoulders.

Darkstripe fell over, trying to land on the pale warrior. Longtail scrambled away at the last second but that gave Darkstripe the time to slash his claws along Longtail's flank. Longtail yowled. As Darkstripe was preparing to inflict some serious damage on his one-time apprentice Darkstripe's other ex-apprentice Dustpelt leapt onto his back, clawing and scratching.

Besieged by two cats at once Darkstripe turned and fled. He almost bowled into a tortoiseshell BloodClan cat. The tortoiseshell whirled and, smelling the scent of ThunderClan, slashed Darkstripe across the throat. Blood seeped into the dark tom's chest fur as he gurgled and gasped. With a hiss, the BloodClan cat slashed Darkstripe once across the face, taking out his right eye. Then, satisfied that Darkstripe was finished, the BloodClan warrior sprang into another part of the battle, leaving Darkstripe to gasp and bleed to death alone in the dust.

Ravenwing ducked and weaved through the masses of screeching, writhing, battling cats. He looked up when he heard a loud yowl of pain. He saw a cat so covered with blood that it took him a moment to spot a patch of his real, white fur. Whitestorm! He was being overpowered by Scourge's deputy, the huge black-and-white tom called Bone.

The savage cat was preparing to finish Whitestorm with a slash to the throat when a series of yowls distracted him. Ravenwing looked on in amazement as Gorsepaw of WindClan led a patrol of apprentices: Dawnpaw of RiverClan; Fernpaw, Ashpaw, Bramblepaw and Tawnypaw of ThunderClan; and Cedarpaw, Oakpaw and Nightpaw of ShadowClan. They overran Bone in sheer numbers, biting, scratching and clawing for all they were worth. Bone writhed and tried to throw them off, but they clung to him like brambles. Tail twitching as he bled from dozens of cuts Bone toppled over. He would never get up again. Gorsepaw let out a hoarse yowl of triumph as Ravenwing dragged Whitestorm to the medicine cats.

The fighting was at its heaviest and fiercest at the center of the clearing where the leaders of the forest Clans were being targeted by BloodClan's forces. Clan warriors fought to defend their leaders and the battle became very bloody. The Clan lines were holding their own against BloodClan, though the cost was high as dog studded claws spilled Clan blood on the clearing ground. But the Clan lines began to fail as Tigerstar threw himself into the fray.

He was known as the fiercest warrior in all the Clans and Tigerstar was certainly living up to his reputation. Tigerstar batted opponents away as if hardened Clan warriors were mere apprentices. Deadfoot, the WindClan deputy, let out a savage yowl as he clawed at Tigerstar's sides as the ThunderClan leader was busy batting away at Mudclaw's belly. Tigerstar let the wounded WindClan warrior go as he turned to face his new opponent. His long claws scored long bloody gashes along Deadfoot's side. Deadfoot bit at Tigerstar's neck but the long haired tabby whirled and headbutted Deadfoot in his injured side. The deputy fell over and Tigerstar bared his teeth, ready to sink his teeth into Deadfoot's exposed throat and finish the fight, for good.

Then Tallstar, old but still capable of putting up a fight, sprang to his deputy's assistance. He scratched Tigerstar above his eye. The ThunderClan leader was brutal in his response. He lashed out with teeth and claws, faster than the older cat could respond. He must've scored three hits for every one that Tallstar could respond with. Within moments the old WindClan leader was bleeding from half a dozen wounds on his face, his sides, and his chest.

Tigerstar was ready to tear his throat out when Nightstar and Leopardstar sprung to Tallstar's aid. The black ShadowClan leader clawed at Tigerstar's legs and was rewarded with a kick to the face. Leopardstar slashed Tigerstar's ear, earning a yowl of pain for her efforts.

Seeing their leaders in distress, Firefang and Onewhisker leapt in to drag them to the medicine cats while Leopardstar kept Tigerstar busy. Firefang ran over to Nightstar while Onewhisker tended to Tallstar. "Quickly let's get them out of here!" Firefang called. "How's Tallstar?" He asked as he bent over Nightstar.

Onewhisker nudged his leader with his head. He looked up, his face mournful. "He's dead."

Firefang winced as if struck. He had grown to respect and admire the WindClan leader as he aided WindClan's return from exile. Onewhisker grabbed his leader by the scruff and carried his limp body as if it weighed nothing at all. The WindClan warrior dragged him away from the battle as Firefang nudged Nightstar.

"Nighstar?" The orange warrior mewed. "Are you alright?" He felt his heart race in the moment that it took Nightstar to answer. It felt like a moon before he replied.

"I'll…" Nightstar coughed, specks of blood spraying on the ground. Firefang stared in horror. "…be with StarClan soon."

"No." Firefang whispered in horror. "Nighstar, I—" The old ShadowClan leader shook his head weakly.

"No, I go to see old friends and Clanmates." He shuddered. "Ashfur is dead. Cinderfur and Dawnflower are dead. I am the last of my generation." He coughed, hacking up blood as if he had a hairball caught in his throat. "I-it is time for the young to lead." He looked up at his deputy imploringly. "F-firefang. You must lead, when I'm gone." His body shuddered as he coughed more blood. "Save ShadowClan. Save all the Clans. Promise me."

"I—I promise." Firefang closed his eyes and looked down. Nightstar shuddered as his breath came in shallow gasps that soon came fewer and slower. And then he was gone. Firefang licked his leader's head. "May StarClan light your path Nightstar." He murmured to his leader, his Clanmate and his Clan's source of redemption since Brokentail's vile leadership. Then he sadly picked up his fallen leader and carried him away from the battle.

Fire and determination set in his every pawstep. Tigerstar would pay for this. And he would keep his promise and save the Clans from BloodClan. Gently he deposited Nightstar's body next to Tallstar's. It was somehow fitting and somehow odd that the leaders of two Clans who were so often bitter enemies would die side by side against the same foe. Both were old, noble cats of honor. The forest would not see their like again. With an angry growl Firefang whirled and ran back to the battle, eager to sink his claws into Tigerstar's pelt. But when he returned he saw that Tigerstar was gone, and Leopardstar was now arching her back at a new foe: Scourge, the leader of BloodClan.

Firefang saw her intent. If she could take down the leader of BloodClan, then his army of rogue cats would lose heart and flee. Leopardstar, already bloodied from her battles with Tigerstar, leapt at the small black tom. Scourge nimbly stepped aside and knocked her over. It was then that Firefang saw Scourge's claws: his long dog-tooth reinforced claws.

Mistyfoot saw her leader in distress at the same time Firefang did. She yowled. "No!" Before either cat could move a muscle, Scourge slashed Leopardstar's underside open from chin to tail with one brutal slice. Blood bubbled from the wound as Leopardstar writhed and gurgled and then lay still. Firefang realized that she had lost a life. Then she stirred, only to writhe in torment again. StarClan couldn't heal her wound. She would just die, lose a life, and return to die again until she ran out of lives. Firefang felt a chill run down his spine as he stood there in silent horror. StarClan have mercy!

Leopardstar died five more times before she stopped writhing for good. Firefang realized that she had already lost three lives in this battle before meeting Scourge. She was a young cat who had only just received her nine lives. She could've led her Clan for a long time. But not now.

He also realized with growing horror that Leopardstar was the last Clan leader the forest had. Tallstar was dead, Nightstar was dead and now Leopardstar as well. Only Tigerstar remained. And he still had nine full lives to fight and die with. How could he possibly defeat the greatest warrior in the forest when he was armed with nine lives and Firefang had only the one he was born with?

Firefang bared his teeth and bristled. It doesn't matter how. I'll just have to. I don't have any choice. Deal with Scourge first, then find Tigerstar. Before he could spring at Scourge he saw someone else had beaten him to the punch. He realized with growing horror that he knew the blue-furred she cat screeching at Scourge with claws unsheathed and completely overcome with grief and rage.

It was Mistyfoot.

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