Fire and Shadow

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


27. Chapter Twenty-Seven

Within seconds fierce war cries and yowls echoed off the walls of the tunnel by the enraged WindClan cats. "ShadowClan!" "Attack!" "Kill them! Kill them all!"

Firefang tensed. There was no place to retreat to, they were completely surrounded. There was no room to maneuver and the air was so thick with tension that if he so much as sneezed, the warriors of WindClan would tear him and his friends apart before they could get a word in.

A mud furred warrior, dug his claws into the ground. "Kill them! Shred them!" He shrieked with rage, to wild yowls of approval.

"Hold!" A firm commanding voice shouted out over the din. A small opening appeared in the lines of WindClan as two cats pushed their way through. The first was a black tom with a stubby, twisted front paw and a scarred muzzle. The other was an older black and white tom with a very long tail and amber eyes. Firefang remembered him from the Gathering. He was Tallstar the Clan's leader. Even after so much trauma, loss, and exile, they still conducted themselves like a Clan.

Tallstar stepped forward, his eyes narrowing as he scanned the strange cats before him. He too, smelled the smell of ShadowClan—among other scents—but it wasn't until he came close that he smelled something familiar. Firefang saw that the situation had defused just enough to let him risk getting a word in edgewise when Tallstar's eyes widened.

"StarClan—can it be? Onewhisker, that IS you isn' it? We thought you dead!" Gasps and murmurs rose from WindClan as Onewhisker took a slow step forward, standing in front of his party and nodding respectfully to his Clan leader.

"Tallstar…it has been too long." He looked around at his Clan. "I have missed you all dearly and I thank StarClan that I can stand with you all once again!" He flicked his tail backwards at his companions. "Don't harm my friends—it is not what you think! We come representing all the Clans—to bring WindClan home!"

The startled yowls and incessant talking between the various cats soon made it impossible for anything else to be heard above the din. Finally Tallstar raised his long tail and yowled loudly. "Enough!" Having once again gotten the attention of his Clan, Tallstar looked coolly at Onewhisker and his friends. "We cannot return to the forest Onewhisker, though I dearly wish it were so. It is not safe there with Brokenstar and his evil." His eyes narrowed. "Why do you travel with one of his warriors?"

Onewhisker steadily regarded his leader and took a breath. "Brokenstar is now Brokentail. He has been banished. No Clan will have him, much less as a leader!" He stepped aside and nodded to Firefang, who wisely had ceded the role of spokescat to Onewhisker. "…and HE is the cat who more than any other is responsible for Brokentail's ouster and banishment. During the attack on our Clan Firefang saved me from one of Brokenstar's thugs and made sure my life was spared. While a prisoner he showed me every bit of kindness and compassion that he could. When he realized the depth of Brokenstar's evil he worked tirelessly to overthrow him, even allying with myself, Ravenwing of ThunderClan and Mistyfoot of RiverClan--" at this he indicated the other two warriors in their party, "to depose him, while doing his best to make sure that Gorsepaw here knew of WindClan heritage."

Tallstar whipped around, staring at the small apprentice that stood in the middle of their party. "That is Gorsepaw? Morningflower's kit?"

The apprentice flattened his ears, suddenly embarrassed by all the attention focused on him. "Y-yes…"

Tallstar's gaze softened. "I knew your mother well, she was a great warrior and Clanmate." Gorsepaw looked down mewing out a soft thank you. Tallstar looked up at Firefang as if noticing him for the first time. At a nodd to his Clanmates, they took a step back, no longer looking as though they would tear the 'intruders' apart. "…You are a most odd ShadowClan warrior."

Firefang twitched his ears in acknowledgment. "I've only ever tried to do what was right." He mewed. "What Onewhisker said is true. Brokentail is no longer part of ShadowClan. Nightstar is now our leader. We've come to bring WindClan back."

A thoughtful look passed Tallstar's face. "Nightstar…that would have been Nightpelt, then. I knew him when we were both apprentices. Honorable enough, but not a cat to be so generous to his rivals." Tallstar's eyes narrowed as he dropped his voice. "Tell me young warrior…what's the real reason you want us back?"

Even a casual look was enough to let Firefang know that denying it would be futile. But he wasn't prepared to tell a Clan leader about what he and the others had found out about Tigerstar. It would be simply their word against Tigerstar's and could incite a Clan war if the accusations got out before they could be proven. So Firefang decided to be straightforward…if vague and unspecific. In other words: typical ShadowClan.

"Nightstar has repudiated Brokentail's crimes…but there are cats in other clans who will find it difficult to pass up the opportunity to take advantage of WindClan's absence to further their own ambitions. The longer you delay, the harder it will be to prevent an ambitious cat into claiming your territory for their own Clan—and cementing the rise of a new Brokenstar in another Clan. For the sake of all the Clans, WindClan must return."

Tallstar blinked once, regarding Firefang evenly. After a long pause he dipped his head. "Agreed." Louder, he called to his Clan. "We shall return to our territory!"

Wild yowls greeted Tallstar's decision as a glimmer of hope rallied in the eyes of WindClan's cats. Onewhisker threw back his head and yowled louder than all of his Clanmates. He was no longer a prisoner nor a guest in another Clan: he was home with his own at last.

Tallstar looked to Firefang and nodded. "We will return to the forest immediately."

Firefang dipped his head. "May we accompany you back?" He asked diplomatically. After moons in exile, many cats of WindClan were thin and weak, especially their elders. Tallstar's eyes flashed at the implication that his Clan needed help, but was too wise not to deny reality.

"You may." He nodded. Then he added in a lower voice. "Thank you Firefang."

He hardly heard him. Firefang had to fight to keep a stupid grin off his face. He had done it! WindClan would return! Tigerstar's plan to ally with the Twoplace rogues was stopped! Now he could be isolated from the other Clans and—with Ravenwing's help—within ThunderClan too, until he could be removed.

Firefang would look back on this moment with pride with what he had done…and rue his own youthful naivety. He still had a hard, long road ahead. No one saw what was coming next.

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