Fire and Shadow

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

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4992672/1/Fire-and-Shadow

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3. Chapter Three

The sun was starting to go down when Rusty stirred. Half the day had gone past since he was brought in. Yawning, he pried one eye open. He faintly heard the medicine cat—Yellowfang, he recalled—tell Runningnose to "get Brokenstar." His ears perked up as he heard Runningnose leave.

Rusty lifted his head and looked around. "W-where..." Yellowfang walked over, something clenched in her mouth. She dropped it beside his head. Rusty looked to see that it was a wet ball of moss

"Here. Drink." Yellowfang said curtly. "You're about to have company—be respectful and you may walk out of here with your ears. Maybe." Rusty's eyes widened at that, causing Yellowfang's whiskers to droop. "Look," she said a touch more softly. "Everything will be fine. Just...don't say anything mousebrained."

"Yellowfang." A strong voiced rumbled from behind them. Brokenstar strode in, nodding curtly to Yellowfang. "You can go." His voice left no room for question or doubt. With one last look at Rusty, the medicine cat walked out of her den, leaving the two of them alone.

Rusty looked up at Brokenstar. He was truly a sight to behold...like something that stepped out of one of Smudge's stories about the ferocious forest cats...only it wasn't just some story to Rusty anymore. "Who are you?" The young cat meowed.

Smoothly, Brokenstar replied "I am Brokenstar, the leader of ShadowClan. You are in my camp." He nodded, keeping his face neutral. "You are a kittypet. What is your name?"

Rusty's eyes widened, his tail standing up. He didn't know much but he knew that if the leader of these cats was talking to him, it was serious. "My name is Rusty...what's a kittypet?"

This time Brokenstar only narrowly avoided expressing the annoyance he felt. "A cat who lives with twolegs." He couldn't resist a snort of derision. "Your collar is a giveaway."

"...Oh." Rusty meowed, his ears flattening. "You're one of the forest cats, aren't you?"

"Yes...there are four clans living in the forest: ShadowClan, ThunderClan, RiverClan, and WindClan. This is ShadowClan. The cat who attacked you was from ThunderClan." Brokenstar paused for effect. "You're lucky my patrol found you when it did."

Rusty didn't doubt it. "Thank you." He meowed. "And I'm sorry that I trespassed—I tried telling that other cat that, but—"

Brokenstar waved his tail for silence, "ThunderClan is in the habit of giving orders and not in the habit of listening. You did well to escape from ThunderClan...and to have struck a blow on Tigerclaw, one of the most dangerous warriors in all the clans." He nodded to the tuft of Tigerclaw's fur caught between Rusty's claws. Brokenstar paused, scarcely believing what he was saying. "You are not a normal kittypet young Rusty. A normal kittypet would never have dared leave the safety of their twolegs and explore the forest." He lowered his voice. "You...were interested in the forest, weren't you?"

Rusty nodded quickly. "Y-yes. I—I just wanted to see what it was like. I kept having these dreams and something just...called to me! So I went out to hunt and then—" Brokenstar nodded.

"I see....well, I offer you the chance to have what you desire. I'm will allow you to join ShadowClan."

Eyes wide, Rusty found himself gaping. "B-but, I need time to think....my twolegs will be worried! And—"

"You cannot go back." Brokenstar interrupted. "The only way would be to go back through ThunderClan territory. You were lucky once. I would not count on being so lucky again." He smiled, as if trying not to give the impression that his 'offer' was anything but. "We will hold a ceremony tonight where we will formally make you part of the clan. I will see you then."

Brokenstar strode out of the den, leaving a very confused and stunned Rusty behind, trying to decide if his dream was being fulfilled...or if he was a prisoner.

&&&

Night fell. Rusty was still wrestling with what to do when two cats "escorted" him out of the medicine cat's den. They had barely gone two tail lengths from the entrance when they stopped and turned around. As his vision adjusted, Rusty looked up. Standing atop of a smooth boulder that made up half of the medicine cat den was Brokenstar. A second boulder, propped up against the first, created a sheltered half-cave that was the medicine den.

"Let all those cats old enough to catch their own prey join here beneath the Smooth Boulder for a Clan meeting!" Brokenstar yowled.

Rusty's fur stood on end as cat scents assailed him from all sides. More cats than he imagined lived in the forest converged on the site and soon Rusty found himself in the center of a ring of cats. He felt their collective gaze on him and it was decidedly not friendly. He spied Wetpaw nodding friendly, and there was Brownpaw looking uncomfortable for some reason. The others were murmuring and muttering to themselves, looking none too happy with the situation.

"Today we welcome a new cat into our clan. With our enemies all around us and our territory the most prey-poor, we in ShadowClan must always be strong. This cat, though only a kitten, has shown great promise. It is my intention to have him trained alongside our other apprentices."

An outraged yowl burst forth from the assembled cats, with one voice rising above the rest. "Impossible! He stinks of twolegs! He wears their collar! Once a kittypet, always a kittypet!" Rusty looked back and forth, searching for the voice. A gray tom raised his head higher to be seen, he glowered at Rusty and Brokenstar with near equal venom.

Rusty felt his heart beat faster. Beside him Blackfoot whispered in his ear. "ShadowClan cats do not show fear. Control yourself."

"Silence!" Brokenstar growled angrily. "I am the Clan leader Ashfur. My decision is final."

Ashfur stood up, lashing his tail angrily. "A WindClan kit could knock that kittypet over. He's no warrior and he never will be!" Their were yowls of agreement from the assembled cats, but not many. Few would speak out openly against something Brokenstar had done...even if more privately agreed with him.

Again, Blackfoot meowed in Rusty's ear. "He's challenging you. Are you going to back done?" Rusty paused, trying to drown out all the other noises and distractions as Ashfur crept around the circle, haranguing and arguing.

Suddenly Ashfur stopped right by Rusty's side and hissed in his ear. "Crawl back to your twolegs...only real cats belong in ShadowClan."

Seething, his hackles raised, Rusty threw himself on Ashfur, biting and scratching with rage and desperation. Caught blindsided, Ashfur was totally unprepared for the attack and could not bring the fury Rusty brought with him to he fight.

The two battling cats thrashed around on the ground. Rusty scratched Ashfur's flanks, scoring red streaks. The older cat yowled and bit his teeth into Rusty's collar. As they thrashed and writhed, Rusty felt himself starting to choke as the collar constricted. His vision started to fade in and out until...the collar snapped. Rusty tumbled over backwards as his collar broke; Ashfur fell away too, the collar still in his mouth.

Seeing the two opponents separated, Brokenstar leaped down from boulder between them. "Enough!" He yowled. "StarClan has made its decision clear with the breaking of the collar! His kittypet life is behind him, he is now free to become a warrior!"

The ShadowClan leader looked around as if challenging anyone to dispute it. Ashfur lay on the ground, panting. The rest of the Clan was silent. Brokenstar glowered at Ashfur and the pawful of cats who walked over to help him up. They were all elders, whose support for Brokenstar's leadership had been rather lackluster, instead harkening back to Raggedstar's rule: Ashfur, Dawncloud, Cinderfur, and Nightpelt.

The last one was particularly troublesome. Nightpelt was the senior warrior under Raggedstar and never cared much for Brokenstar. Yellowfang too, was troublesome, being Raggedstar's devoted medicine cat. Brokenstar trusted neither of them. "I want you out of the main camp." He meowed to the four old guard cats. There was a sharp intake of breath at that declaration. "You are not banished from our Clan or our territory....but you are not to remain in the camp, until I deem it fit." His eyes narrowed. "Now go."

Cinderfur and Dawncloud helped Ashfur up and guided him out of the circle. Nightpelt bristled, eyes narrowing. "You go against StarClan at your own peril Brokenstar." He meowed, shooting a baleful glance at Rusty as he went. It was he who had been outside Brokenstar's den earlier when Blackfoot went in. He knew what Brokenstar was doing: surrounding himself with cats who were loyal only to him and not to the clan.

This kittypet was only the latest. Before him there was the loner Boulder and then before him he had recruited within the clan Blackfoot, Clawface, and Jaggedtooth. He was building his own private elite within the ranks of ShadowClan. Nightpelt knew what was happening...but that came of no comfort to him since he'd been utterly powerless to stop it. And now he was banished from his own home. Shaking his head sadly, Nightpelt started to walk out of the camp with only one last backward glance. He briefly caught Yellowfang's eye. She was bristling in anger. He shook his head at her. While Brokenstar might not be able to banish a medicine cat—yet—there wasn't anything she could do to help them now. With a sad twitch of his whiskers, Nightpelt walked out of the camp.

Brokenstar waited for them to depart before he continued, turning back to Rusty. "From this day, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Firepaw." Brokenstar smirked inwardly at the name. There was no question that this was the cat of the prophecy...what the prophecy meant with another matter. Still, best to keep a close eye on him until he was sure. "I ask StarClan to watch over you and guide you until you find in your paws the strength and courage of a warrior."

Rusty panted heavily, the thrill of the fight taking him by surprise...he was drawn to the warriors life. "Do I want to stay though?" He asked himself, wishing that he'd been given a choice...but he knew Brokenstar hadn't offered him one. Still, he mused, best to keep his options open. After all, he could always escape once they let their guard down...he hoped.

Brokenstar looked around the assembled cats. "...Boulder, you will be mentor to this apprentice. You are a true and trusted warrior, and I hope you will pass this knowledge to your new apprentice." Boulder looked up in shock.

"But Brokenstar, I—" Brokenstar narrowed his eyes.

"Yes of course....Wetpaw, you will now be mentored by Jaggedtooth." His whiskers twitched, ignoring Wetpaw's look of disappointment and Boulder's shock. A few cats' hackles were raised over the unusual step of switching an apprentice's mentor, but after Ashfur's defeat and the banishing of the elders there was no possibility of challenging Brokenstar on that. Indeed, of everything he'd done tonight, changing mentors was the least shocking. "This meeting is over. Apprentices, show Firepaw the apprentice den."

Brokenstar headed for his own den, leading the meeting to break up. Rusty looked around as the assembled cats went their separate ways, a few of them nodding in his direction or calling out a few greetings. "Welcome Firepaw!" "Well fought!" "Firepaw!" "Firepaw?"

That last one was Wetpaw, who was looking at Firepaw with a mixture of excitement and unhappiness. "The den for apprentices is this way...c'mon." Firepaw nodded.

"Thanks..." He started off in the direction Wetpaw indicated, then turned when he realized Wetpaw wasn't coming with him. Wetpaw was looking over at Boulder who was making his way to the warrior's den. Their gaze met briefly. Boulder looked down and shook his head sadly. Wetpaw's ears flattened and his tail drooped down, then he turned back to show Firepaw the way. Firepaw looked back at Boulder just as the warrior turned to look back at him. His mentor's expression—Firepaw's mind still reeled that he was now a warrior apprentice with a mentor in a clan of warriors!—was not a happy one. Firepaw looked away, following Wetpaw to the apprentice's den, wondering just what he'd gotten himself into.

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