Fire and Shadow

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


26. Chapter Twenty-Six

The next morning the journeying warriors braced themselves for their journey across the monstrous Thunderpath. Fortunately, there seemed to be few monsters in the early hours. Even so, the harsh acrid stench and the rumble of distant monsters was enough to leave all the cats on edge.

Onewhisker dug his claws in and out of the grass, less scared and more aggravated by this latest problem when he was so close to finding his Clan. Ravenwing's tail twitched nervously, like a black worm. Firefang seriously considered stepping on it just to get it to stop, but refrained. His own fur was on end, making him resemble nothing so much as an orange hedgehog. Mistyfoot, as ever, looked like the stereotypically beautiful and graceful RiverClan she-cat, except for how often her head would twitch this way and that at the slightest sound from the ThunderPath.

Poor Gorsepaw was a bundle of nerves, his eyes so wide he looked like an owl as he turned his head this way and that. He kept up a steady stream of mostly nonsensical babbling about nothing in particular.

As one lonely monster sped path he couldn't help but ask, "If the Twolegs go into the monsters and out again without being eaten, maybe they aren't exactly monsters?"

Onewhisker gave an amused purr. "And what would you have us call them then?"

Gorsepaw was silent for a heartbeat and then blurted out, "Hrududu!" There was a pause as all four warriors stopped to look at the apprentice, who lowered his ears in embarrassment.

"…a what?" Ravenwing blinked. Gorsepaw muttered lowly as he licked his chestfur, not looking up.

"Well, that's the noise it makes as it goes by, doesn't it?" Mistyfoot prodded over and gave him a lick on the ear.

"That it does, and a good name it is." She purred, looking at the others. "Right?" The toms gave each other a wink and nodded.

His embarrassment lessened, Gorsepaw strode off. Onewhisker chuckled as soon as he was out of earshot to Firefang. "'Hrududu?' Huh, sounds rabbit-brained to me." Firefang chuckled and flicked Onewhisker's ear with his tail.

"Don't say that to him though. He's young and excited. Come on, let's cross this while there are still only a few monsters out. Or Hrududus rather."

Onewhisker and Mistyfoot went first, darting quickly across the Thunderpath. Firefang's heart was in his throat the entire time until he saw Mistyfoot's tail waving at him from the other side. At a nod to Ravenwing and Gorsepaw they braced themselves and then darted forward, Firefang and Ravenwing flanking the young apprentice.

When they got to the otherside Ravenwing was panting heavily, despite it being a relatively short distance. "You okay?" Firefang asked in concern.

"…Fine." Ravenwing wheezed, his body shaking for a minute. "Just nerves." He let out a nervous mrow. Then he paused and lowered his voice so only Firefang could hear. "I really envy you, you know. I wish I was brave like you; like a real warrior…instead of nervous all the time."

Firefang's eyes widened then dropped his head down closer to his friend's. "There are different kinds of brave. You live with your fears and fight them every day. And you live in the belly of a beast, knowing what you know about Tigerclaw and trying to stop him. You're braver than you know. Most other cats would crack under the pressure of what you're trying to do. Stop being so hard on yourself."

Ravenwing managed to look grateful and embarrassed all at once and licked his paw to hide his face. "Thanks."

Smiling, Firefang raised his head and called to the others. "Come on, we still have a Clan to find."

Onewhisker yowled. "Look! Up ahead!" The others turned to look. A small blazing fire burned bright against the early morning darkness. It was a Twoleg camp, with sleeping Twolegs sprawled around the flame. Of this wasn't much cause for concern or alarm. They could simply bypass the Twolegs…but what was of importance was that in the light of the flames they could see the silhouettes of cats. Several cats.

Ears perked up in excitement, Onewhisker darted forward. "Onewhisker, wait!" Mistyfoot called out, too late. The Twolegs had begun to stir. Groaning, one of them threw something shiny at the cats, shattering as it hit the ground; sending sharp shards across the ground. He shouted something angrily and the other Twolegs started to stir. The WindClan cats—if indeed, that's who they were—bolted. Onewhisker only narrowly avoided being hit as something exploded beside him, showering him with dust and wood splinters.

"Run! Follow them!" Firefang shouted. Mistyfoot quickly shoved Gorsepaw in the direction that the WindClan cats had taken before the young apprentice had time to seize up in fright. Onewhisker skidded as he turned and bolted away from the Twolegs with all the speed of a WindClan cat. Firefang and Ravenwing had a bit of a headstart on him and they soon followed the scent of the cats back to the Thunderpath, diving down a hole shrouded in shadows, a tunnel or cave of some sort.

Firefang paused at the entrance, turning back to make sure his companions had all come through okay. As soon as they were all accounted for, Firefang took a deep breath and started in. He winced at the gross, slimy and wet ground of the tunnel and went slowly--trying to adjust to the lack of light.

The smell of crowfood and reek of too many bodies pressed into too little space assailed him. The stench was overpowering, but at least the scent was unmistakably WindClan.

A yowl from a sentry rang through the tunnel as the skinny, half-starved cats started to hiss and growl. They quickly surrounded the traveling cats, cordoning them off from their elders, queens, and kits. Firefang resisted the urge to unsheathe his claws and quickly whispered for the others not to either. These cats were ready to tear them to shreds!

One WindClan warrior with a torn ear stepped forward to take a whiff of their scent. His back arced and he issued furiously as he picked up Firefang's scent. "ShadowClan!"


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