Fire and Shadow

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


33. Chapter Thirty-Three

Back in the ShadowClan camp, the lonliest warrior in the forest sat alone, apart from everyone and everything he ever knew or loved. The exiled ThunderClan warrior Ravenwing sat at the entrance to the ShadowClan camp and stared out across the open night sky to the thunderpath and beyond it, ThunderClan's territory. Home.

Ravenwing sighed. He was doomed the moment Bluestar, StarClan keep her safe, made Tigerclaw his mentor. Tigerclaw never appreciated his love of peace or his sympathy for different sides of an argument. To Tigerclaw, Ravenwing's reserve was merely cowardice. Ravenwing often thought he'd be happier not following the path of the warrior but that choice was taken away from him. There was no one else in ThunderClan to oppose Tigerstar. He couldn't leave that battle to be fought by his friends and allies in ShadowClan, RiverClan, and WindClan. There had to be a genuine ThunderClan opposition to Tigerstar, or else ThunderClan would be lost forever.

If ThunderClan followed Tigerstar and those rogues—Tigerstar's so-called TigerClan-into battle, then the other three forest Clans would have no choice but to destroy ThunderClan along with Tigerstar, Brokentail, and the rogues of Blood'Clan.' But Ravenwing knew he couldn't do it alone. He had to get assistance from his Clanmates.

"But that just leaves the little questions of who…and how." Ravenwing thought to himself, curling his tail around his feet as he thought about who in his Clan he could trust to oppose Tigerstar. While most of the Clan, he was sure, were appalled at the charges he and Firefang leveled against him and probably even thought them true; it was still no small or easy task to stand up to your own Clan leader.

Still, because of who and what Tigerstar was some in the Clan would discard what he and Firefang and Mistyfoot had said. A few might even support him knowing full well that the charges were true—here Ravenwing thought darkly of Darkstripe. And even those who did believe them might not be willing to take ShadowClan's route and overthrow their own leader, especially when ThunderClan was in such a vulnerable position: trapped between Tigerstar's allies in BloodClan and the risk of starvation in their fire-ravaged territory if ThunderClan didn't go along in Tigerstar's dream of conquest.

Ravenwing stood. "Well, there's only one way to find out what help I can get from my Clan." He thought to himself. "Firefang's going to need all the help he can get and there's no one else who stands a chance of getting close to ThunderClan in one piece." He thought about telling Firefang what he was doing, but knew he would only try to talk him out of it. Besides, he mused wryly, the last time he saw the ShadowClan deputy, there was a certain black she-cat who was occupying his attention.

Without a word, Ravenwing exited the camp and made his way across ShadowClan territory. His paws felt uncomfortable as he walked across the pine laden ground in the pitchblack night. How ShadowClan cats did this, he'd never know. The thunderpath was thankfully quiet as he made his way across. He could've headed to ThunderClan territory by crossing through Fourtrees, but knew it'd be more heavily patrolled. It was a small matter to use his knowledge of ThunderClan patrol habits to make his way across his home territory. The fire had devastated much of the forest, so he had less cover to use.

Fortunately with his black pelt, the darkness of the night, and his own ThunderClan scent, any cat on patrol would have had a hard time finding him. If they were even looking. Perhaps Ravenwing's greatest advantage was the fact that Tigerstar would never expect Ravenwing to try to sneak into the ThunderClan camp; dismissing his former apprentice as a coward. And because Tigerstar didn't think it was possible, no one else could either.

The brambles around the ThunderClan were blackened and mostly destroyed, rendering them useless for defense—but for Ravenwing, they made the perfect place to hide. The camp was in the process of being restored, but from the half-finished and even sloppy nature of the work, Ravenwing guessed that rebuilding the camp wasn't at the top of Tigerstar's priorities.

"No, conquering the forest and soaking the ground with blood are his priorities." Ravenwing thought bitterly. While it was dark, the camp was still alive with activity. Try as he might though, Ravenwing didn't see Tigerstar or his accomplices, Brokentail or that small black tom who led the rogues. He did see Darkstripe strutting around, yowling orders at cats. But not just any cats. "Elders!" Ravenwing realized with horror. He was making the elders carry out the work of dragging away the burnt and damaged brambles and moss and replace them with new ones.

Ravenwing had heard from Firefang how Brokentail violated the warrior code by banishing the elders from the camp. It appeared that Tigerstar and his followers had the same idea. If they were too old to fight, then what use were they, except as laborers?

From Ravenwing's viewpoint he could look around the camp and tried to take stock of who was present. It looked like about half the Clan was gone, including Tigerstar. "Probably staying in the conquered RiverClan camp." He thought. "It's safer and in better condition than the camp here." It also looked as if part of BloodClan and a few of Brokentail's exiled ShadowClan elites and allied rogues were also present.

That made sense. Tigerstar wouldn't ever bring himself to let himself lose control of either camp and was too canny to let his partners in crime out of sight, lest they seize control of one of the camps and turn on him. Tigerstar, Brokentail, and the leader of BloodClan were probably in the RiverClan camp while Tigerstar left Darkstrike in charge of the ThunderClan camp, dividing their forces between the two camps.

Ravenwing crouched low trying to see what cat he could catch to talk to. He saw Dustpelt and winced. Dustpelt was an apprentice the same time Ravenwing was. In fact, they were brothers but Dustpelt went out of his way to try to deny any relation with him. They did not get on well. True, Redtail was Dustpelt's mentor and so he'd have an interest in seeing justice done there, but since Tigerstar finished his apprenticeship it would be even if Dustpelt believed Ravenwing's claims about Tigerstar killing Redtail.

While prickly and unpleasant, Ravenwing didn't think Dustpelt was a blind, bloody follower of Tigerstar. But he couldn't take that risk. It had to be a cat Ravenwing could trust implicitly.

Ravenwing spied Longtail sitting guard outside the medicine cat's den. Ravenwing felt a pang of mourning as he recalled Spottedleaf's death in the fire that devastated the territory. But that begged the question of just what the pale tabby was guarding then…Ravenwing's eyes widened as he spied movement within the medicine cat den. It was his old friend, Graystripe.

Ravenwing winced. If there was any cat he could've gone to, it would've been Graystripe. Graystripe was his longtime friend, often his only friend, during his apprenticeship. But with Tigerstar controlling ThunderClan it made all too much sense for him to be kept underguard. Graystripe would be on the outs with Tigerstar for fathering kits with a RiverClan she-cat. Ravenwing stopped and thanked StarClan that those two kits had managed to escape with RiverClan. Who knows what would've happened if Tigerstar got his claws on them. But Graystripe probably ended up under guard as a safeguard against any further 'disloyalty.'

Finally, he had a lucky break. A dark gray she-cat walked past where Ravenwing was hiding as she returned from the dirtplace. Ravenwing recognized her instantly. He quietly hissed at her. "Cinderpelt!"

Her fur bristling in shock, Cinderpelt whirled around. "Ravenwing? Are you mousebrained? What are you doing here?"

"Shush!" He hissed. "Not so loud! You want to alert the whole camp?"

"What are you doing here?" She asked her old mentor again, remembering to lower her voice to a soft meow. "Tigerstar will kill you if you're found!"

Ravenwing hurriedly pressed on. "Cinderpelt, listen; I need your help. I need to find any cats here who are willing to oppose Tigerstar. Will you help me?" There, he said it. Now he only hoped the faith he placed in the cat he apprenticed wasn't misplaced.

Cinderpelt paused, her eyes darting this way and that. Her answer, when it came, was a whispered meow. "Yes."

He had to stop himself from purring aloud. "Thank you Cinderpelt!" He whispered. "How many cats in ThunderClan support Tigerstar? Who can you trust?"

"I don't know." She said, answering both questions at once. "A lot of cats—a lot of cats didn't want to believe what you said at the Gathering. They didn't want to believe you and your friends; most cats don't want to take the word of a cat from another Clan against their own clanmate. But even those who didn't believe you at first started to when Tigerstar allied with those fox-hearted rogues and Brokentail, when he started threatening to wipe out the other Clans if they didn't join 'TigerClan,' practically turning the elders into apprentices and training apprentices with unsheathed claws…Tigerstar's destroying and perverting everything! If it isn't for training warriors or making new ones, he doesn't care. We still have no medicine cat, no one to heal injuries or tend to the sick…his view is that if you aren't strong enough to survive, TigerClan is better off without you."

Ravenwing let his jaw drop open. He didn't even think Tigerstar could have sunk this low! "Then, other cats would support us if we tried to remove Tigerstar?"

Cinderpelt nodded. "Most of them would. Even Longtail is starting to look uneasy. I think it was the order that the elders eat after the warriors and apprentices that upset him the most. Tigerstar's own kits—Bramblepaw and Tawnypaw—are scared of him! Really, the only ThunderClan cat whose still supports him is probably Darkstripe." She made a face. No one cared for the dark furred tom who Tigerstar made deputy.

"If so many cats are against him," Ravenwing started. "Then why—"

"Why haven't we opposed him?" She finished for him. "The only reason why the Clan hasn't moved against him is because of all those rogues. Tigerstar would order BloodClan to wipe us all out in a heartbeat if he thought we'd move against him. We're practically prisoners in our own camp! Even if we manage to beat Darkstripe and the rogues here, they'll just run to Tigerstar in the RiverClan camp and-"

"I know." Ravenwing closed his eyes. "I noticed that half the Clan was gone." This wasn't good. If Tigerstar ever learned that ThunderClan turned against him, he'd have the other half of the Clan in his and BloodClan's clutches at the captured RiverClan camp. Hostages at best. Victims at worst.

"Who can I-?" Ravenwing started when a sudden yowl interrupted him.

"You there! What are you doing?" A harsh voice demanded. Cinderpelt turned around, obscuring Ravenwing's hiding place with her body. It was one of the rogues. Ravenwing almost gagged at the smell of twoleg rubbish and the sight of the dog tooth-studded collar around his neck.

Smoothly, Cinderpelt answered without missing a beat. "I had a bad piece of freshkill." The rogue scoffed.

"So, a high and mighty forest warrior's stomach can't handle a little piece of freshkill?" He sneered. "When you've lived like we have, eating things far worse than this without complaint, then you can think yourselves the toughest cats around. Until then…" He gestured back to the warrior's den with his tail. "Get a move on."

"I will." Cinderpelt said, her eyes glinting dangerous. Slightly louder than normal she mewed. "Perhaps I should go look for Whitestorm. Yes, Whitestorm always knows what to do." The rogue looked at her as if she started singing like a bird. He just grunted and moved aside, letting Cinderpelt brush past him on her way to the warrior's den.

Ravenwing waited while Cinderpelt padded into the warriors den. A few moments later, Whitestorm walked out. The senior warrior looked as noble and strong as ever, like one of the four great trees in the heart of the forest. Whitestorm, carefully avoiding any undue attention, made his way over to where Ravenwing was waiting.

A soft meow murmured. "Ravenwing?"

"It's me." He replied, looking up at the white tom. "Thank you for meeting with me."

Whitestorm nodded. "Cinderpelt has told you about our situation?" He more stated than asked.

Ravenwing nodded, wracking his brain, trying to think what Firefang would need to know. "Are there any cats who have come to you who've wanted to openly stand up to Tigerstar and fight?"

Whitestorm nodded. "Cinderpelt, Mousefur, Runningwind—I know Graystripe would but he's under guard all the time—and Sandstorm." Ravenwing's ears twitched. That made sense. Redtail was her father, after all. "Even Longtail's been looking at me as if he's wanted to tell me something. As for the others, any one of them would challenge Tigerstar in a heartbeat but I've cautioned them against it. ThunderClan can't prevail against him alone, especially with BloodClan cats all about."

Ravenwing nodded. "That's what I figured."

Whitestorm narrowed his eyes. "But we've not been completely helpless. I have found a cat willing to help us."

That certainly perked Ravenwing's interest. "Really? Who?"

"Here he comes now." Whitestorm nodded his head towards an approaching cat who had just started their way. Ravenwing felt his eyes widen until they were as large as the moon at a Gathering when the cat stepped into view and sat next to Whitestorm.


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