Fire and Shadow

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


21. Chapter Twenty-One

"Let all those cats old enough to catch their own prey join here beneath the Smooth Boulder for a Clan meeting!" Brokenstar's traditional yowl was a fierce and angry bellow of rage. When the cats of ShadowClan gathered they were greeted with the startling sight of seeing Firefang, Gorsepaw, and Onewhisker lying bleeding at the foot of the boulder, surrounded by Brokenstar's Elite.

"Warriors of ShadowClan!" Brokenstar boomed. "We have traitors among us! Traitors who conspired with other Clans to destroy us!" He briefly retailed what he had overheard them saying in the medicine cat den.

Firefang looked up at Brokenstar defiantly and spat. "My loyalty has always been—and only been—to ShadowClan. I don't need to conspire with other Clans to destroy ShadowClan when you've been doing an excellent job of it by yourself."

Blackfoot growled. "You're going to be crowfood when we're through with you!"

Looking down Brokenstar hissed. "For your crimes there is only one punishment for you all: Death!"

Murmurs and gasps ran through the ShadowClan cats. Above them all was Brightflower's wail of horror. "NO!" She shrieked. After the loss of her own kits she had fed and raised Gorsepaw as her own, almost thinking of him as her own kit. To lose him was to like losing her kits all over again. "You can't!"

Nightpaw yowled in protest. "Y-you can't do that to Firefang!"

Brokenstar roared above the din. "QUIET! The word of a Clan leader is law! Firefang is a traitor and the others are WindClan! For the good of ShadowClan they must die!"

"No." A new voice meowed. Yellowfang pushed her way to the front of the Clan. "Firefang is going to save ShadowClan!"

"He is a TRAITOR!" Brokenstar spat, his mouth frothing and his eyes glinting with pure fury and hate. "I AM ShadowClan! And if you oppose me then you must be a traitor too!"

"You are the only traitor here!" Once again, cats' eyes turned to see who had dared to speak out—it was Nightpelt, flanked by the other banished elders. "You have betrayed our Clan and our Code and are leading us all to ruin! If there is any shred of decency, of honor, left within you; then you will step down."

"NEVER!" Brokenstar bellowed. "ShadowClan, attack!" While his Elite bristled and unsheathed his claws the rest of the Clan looked torn, glancing to one another as if in waiting for something but they didn't know what it was.

Firefang stood boldly, if a bit unsteadily. "Clanmates, I have always been proud and honored to be part of ShadowClan. I was taught the warrior's code and swore to uphold it. I still do…even if Brokenstar no longer does. Look at what he has done to RiverClan and WindClan! Look at what he has done to ShadowClan! How many kits have died young because he forced them into apprenticeship too soon? How many died fighting WindClan for no reason?" A ShadowClan warrior, Flintfang, nodded grimly. He had lost his apprentice Badgerpaw in the battle with WindClan.

Emboldened Firefang meowed louder and quicker. "Why did he say that WindClan killed Raggedstar and Blossomkit and the others, then turn around and tell the other Clans that we drove out WindClan because we needed more prey? Why did he demand more territory and prety even AFTER we drove out WindClan and lost many Clanmates to do so? Brokenstar never tells the truth except by accident and knows no more of honor or the warrior's code than the lowliest rogue."

"ShadowClan, hear me!" Nightpelt raised his voice. "Our Clan was not always like this. When Raggedstar led ShadowClan, we were feared for our strength. But in those days our strength came from the warrior code and Clan loyalty, not from fear and bloodlust."

The pause Nightpelt's words have provoked was the last straw. With an angry shriek Brokenstar leaped down to attack Nightpelt. Firefang sprang into the air, colliding with Brokenstar in midair. The two cats rolled on the ground, hissing and clawing and biting at one another. Blackfoot moved to aid Brokenstar but was tackled by Nightpelt. Jaggedtooth and Clawface moved in to aid their leader and deputy when the Yellowfang led the elders in Nightpelt and Firefang's support. Soon the whole ShadowClan camp was alive in biting, rolling, and clawing cats as Clanmate turned against Clanmate.

It was confused, terrible, and worse than any normal battle. Cats fought one another, grappling and clawing often without knowing whose side they were on. But when Ashfoot and a battered but still fighting Onewhisker trounced Jaggedtooth, it soon became clear that Nightpelt and Firefang had a clear majority on their side. Soon the only supporters Brokenstar could count on was from Blackfoot, Clawface, Jagedtooth, and—to Firefang's dismay—Boulder.

Firefang though, had other worries. Brokenstar was a fierce fighter, much larger and more experienced than Firefang and—as Brokenstar reminded him—had more than one life to lose; which Firefang didn't.

The two combatants broke away briefly as the swirl of battle swept them apart. When Firefang clampered to his feet he found himself face to face with his old mentor: Boulder. His fur was bristling and his claws were unsheathed.

"Boulder…don't." Firefang pleaded. "Don't fight for Brokenstar…he doesn't deserve your loyalty!"

Boulder growled. "Without him I'd either be still scratching out an existence among the worst of the rogues and loners of Twolegplace or dead. Without Brokenstar, I'd be nothing.

Firefang shook his head. "No…without the warrior code, we're nothing. You taught me that. And Broenstar proved it." Boulder hesitated, a torn look on his face as he stared at his apprentice—the closest thing he had to family in the Clan, if not the whole world. But before he could make up his mind he was knocked aside by Wetfoot and Clawface as they rolled around on the ground.

The orange warrior would've sprang to aid his oldest friend when a swipe from Blackfoot caught him across the muzzle. He stumbled to the side, shaking his head to clear it. "I knew you were trouble from the moment I first saw you, kittypet." He spat.

Firfang growled, arching his back. "Then I bet you feel pretty stupid in bringing me back to camp then, don't you?"

Blackfoot hissed as if clawed. "From the moment you set foot in my Clan I know you were aiming ingratiated yourself with Brokenstar to take my place as deputy and then overthrow him the first chance you got. Well it isn't going to happen!"

Since talking reason was clearly not an option Firefang opted to launch himself at Blackfoot. His claws raked down the side of Blackfoot's face. The deputy howled and bit down into Firefang's shoulder. With a kick with his hind leg, Firefang managed to push Blackfoot off balance long enough for him to slash at his underbelly, clawing at the inside of his legs. Blackfoot retaliated by sinking his claws into Firefang's flank and using his greater size to pin Firefang under him.

He kicked and squirmed and bit, but Firefang could not dislodge the bulkier warrior. Brokenstar opened his mouth and prepared to bite down on Firefang's neck when he suddenly let out a yowl of pain and scampered off. Amazed, Firefang saw Nightpaw biting down hard on his tail, not letting go no matter how hard the deputy scratched and clawed at her. Ashfur and Dawncloud jumped into the fray to help her.

Brokenstar meanwhile, had found a new opponent. He spat at Yellowfang as they broke apart after she clawed out a clump of fur from his pelt. "I never thought you would be harder to kill than my father!"

"You killed Raggedstar?" Yellowfang looked horrified, stunned worse than any physical blow. All around them, the fighting died down…or at least came to a ragged pause as Yellowfang's outburst rose above the sounds of battle.

Brokenstar gloated with malice. "You found his body. Didn't you recognize my fur between his claws?" Yellowfang stared in horror "He was a soft and foolish leader. He deserved to die."

"No!" Yellowfang shouted. "And Brightflower's kits? Did they deserve to die too?"

There was a hard, evil look in Brokenstar's eyes. "Those kits were weak." He said scornfully. "They would have been no use to ShadowClan. If I hadn't killed them, some other warrior would have." Brightflower let out a wail of grief. Brokenstar ignored her, as he ignored the shock looks from his clanmates. "I should have killed you when I had the chance. It seems I must have some of my father's softness. I was a fool to let you live."

"No! No more killing!" Firefang let out a warrior's yowl and charged Brokenstar, butting him in the side. He started battering Brokenstar with his paws, claws unsheathed. Brokenstar bit down on Firefang's paw, hard. Gritting his teeth in pain, Firefang slashed a long gash across Brokenstar's back. The two rolled around on the ground as they bit and scratched one another.

Firefang bit down hard on one of Brokenstar's ears then slashed and clawed at his face. As Nightpelt and Yellowfang moved in to help Brokenstar decided he had finally had enough. With a yowl of anger and pain, Brokenstar turned and fled.

Panting and bleeding, Firefang looked around. ShadowClan looked stunned at the battle and the revelations. Nightpelt strode forward into the silence. "Brokenstar's evil reign is at an end…he is banished from ShadowClan forever. He is not worthy of being called by the name of a Clan leader…from now on he is merely Brokentail." He spat. "And if he sets a paw in our territory we'll treat him like any other trespasser." There were yowls of approval from ShadowClan.

Yellowfang nodded, looked both resolute and—to Firefang at least—a bit sad. "Brokentail is gone. ShadowClan needs a new leader to return us to the path of honor." She turned to Nightpelt. "There is no more a noble cat than Nightpelt. StarClan I'm sure will approve."

"Nightpelt! Nightpelt!" The calls rang out. Nightpelt climbed to the top of the smooth boulder.

"Thank you." Nightpelt dipped his head to his clanmates. "What I have done, I have done for the good of ShadowClan. I wish it had not been necessary, but Brokentail left me no recourse. I will do all I can to restore our Clan's honor and root our actions in the warrior's code." His eyes looked across the camp. "I did not do this alone…there is one cat whose bravery, honor, and strength deserves to be recognized; Firefang," startled, the orange tabby looked up. Nightpelt looked down upon him. "I want you to be my deputy."

"I—I—I'm honored!" Firefang stammered, lowering his head.

"Firefang! Firefang!" As unbelievable as it seemed, the camp was alive in cheering the kittypet turned warrior turned deputy, with Wetfoot, Yellowfang, and Nightpaw yowling the loudest.

Nightpelt flicked his tail. "I know you will prove to be as good a deputy as you have been a credit to our Clan." He turned and glowered at Brokenstar—Brokentail's—abandoned Elite as they huddled together in the middle of the camp. "And as for you—"

"Wait!" Firefang interrupted knowing what Nightpelt was about to say. "We should give them a choice…now that Brokenstar is gone we should give them a chance to prove that they are loyal to ShadowClan. Nightpelt looked at his new deputy with annoyance.

He growled. "It's better than what they deserve…but very well." He looked to Blackfoot, Clawface, Jaggedtooth, and Boulder. "You have a choice: decide where your loyalties lie. With Brokentail—" Nightpelt jerked his head in a direction that led out of camp. "—or with ShadowClan."

Blackfoot spat. "Brokenstar is the true leader of ShadowClan…not you traitors!"

"A kittypet for deputy?" Clawface jeered. "If ShadowClan has become so weak and polluted to make him deputy then it is no Clan at all!" Jaggedtooth nodded in agreement.

Firefang padded over to Boulder. "Boulder…please. ShadowClan needs you—I still need you—Brokentail is gone."

Boulder met his gaze evenly and mewed. "Brokenstar was the one who accepted me into ShadowClan; I owe everything to him. If it weren't for him I wouldn't even be in ShadowClan."

"Following Brokentail will mean having to leave the Clan." Firefang pointed out. "And Brokentail accepted me in too, and I'm still here. You don't have to stay loyal to Brokentail…the Clan will never turn away a loyal cat, so long as remains loyal and honorable. Please…don't go."

Boulder took a moment in answering and Firefang dared to hope that he was going to accept. Firefang felt his face fall when the gray tom shook his head. "Without Brokenstar I'd be eking out an existence in Twoleg place I wouldn't wish on a fox. I could no sooner foreswear my leader than I could give up hunting."

Blackfoot spat roughly at the rest of ShadowClan. "Traitors!" he spat. He got up and beckoned Jaggedtooth, Clawface and Boulder with his tail. "We'll go…this place is no longer our home. It stinks of kittypets." The cats of ShadowClan cleared a path to the camp's entrance and let the four cats go.

Firefang sadly watched as boulder went then looked to Nightpelt and Yellowfang. He breathed a deep sigh of relief; scarcely believing it. Brokentail was gone. It was over.

At least, that's what he believed…

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