Fire and Shadow: Chapter One
Rusty was overwhelmed by all the new sensations of the forest: the sights, the scents, the sounds! Everything was like a revelation to the young kitten. He was so enthralled he hardly noticed that he had ventured so far into the forest that his housefolk's nest was no longer in sight.
A sudden noise in the bushes ahead of him caused him to crouch down. His nostrils widened as he sought to take in the scent of whatever was there. His fur raised in an attempt to make himself seem larger to whatever was out there and his claws unsheathed themselves. Rusty slowly crawled forward, sniffing at the bush. He let out a startled yowl as a pair of sparrows burst out of the bushes and in a startled flurry flew up into the branches.
Rusty purred at himself, shaking his head in amusement in getting worked up over a few measly birds...it was at that moment that something barreled out of the bushes next to him, caught him in the side, and sent him tumbling. Rusty yowled as he felt claws and teeth bite into him. From beneath his attacker, Rusty hissed and spat; kicking his legs. A lucky blow managed to catch his assailant on the side of the head and Rusty soon extricated himself from the bottom. Rusty clawed and bit at his opponent until Rusty forced him back.
His attacker was a small black tom kitten, about the same age and size as Rusty himself but with one major difference—no collar. Rusty hissed, splaying his claws as he prepared for another attack. But his attacker merely paused to lick his paw. "Hi." He meowed friendly, as if the past fight was of no consequence. "You fight really well for a kittypet! I'm Ravenpaw."
Rusty paused, wondering if this was a trap or distraction...then quickly discarded the idea. "I'm Rusty." He licked his own chest fur, trying to clean his dirtied fur and lessen the sting of some of the scratches. "What are you doing out here? Are you one of the forest cats?" Ravenpaw nodded.
"Ravenpaw!" An angry yowl burst from behind them. Rusty whirled around, his ears flattening as a large, amber eyed tom with the biggest claws he'd ever seen strode from the bushes. "Is this your idea of defending our borders?" He growled. "You're never going to become a warrior if you cannot even drive off a kittypet?" He hissed the word as if it were something hateful. "RiverClan already attacked us on one border and stole Sunningrocks. Would you have every cat in the forest bearing down on our other border?" He demanded. as Ravenpaw flattened his ears and looked down in shame.
"I-I'm sorry Tigerclaw." Ravenpaw meowed pitifully. Tigerclaw ignored him and glared fiercely at Rusty.
"This is ThunderClan territory, kittypet."
"I'm-I'm sorry, I didn't know..."Rusty said, his voice wavering as he took a half step back.
Tigerclaw growled as he bore down on him, claws unsheathed. "Then I'm going to make sure you never forget it again..."
Ravenpaw spoke up from behind. "B-but if he's just a kittypet, then why—" Tigerclaw glared back at Ravenpaw.
"Because we cannot tolerate any weakness in our defenses!" He yowled back at his apprentice. "If you ever wish to be a warrior then learn to follow orders and show no mercy to ANY enemy!" Rusty didn't wait around to hear Tigerclaw demean his apprentice. He turned around and bolted through the brushes. Though he didn't know where he was going, he knew he couldn't stay there. Rusty didn't dare look back, but the angry yowl from Tigerclaw and the snapping of twigs and rustling of leaves was evidence enough that he was following him.
The forest start to clear out, Rusty could see it thinning. Then he was out...and before him stretched a long, black harsh smelling path that assailed Rusty's senses. He paused for a second too long and barely had time to register his surprise as Tigerclaw bound out of the underbrush and sent Rusty reeling with a smack of his large paw.
Landing hard on his side, Rusty winced as he climbed back to his paws. "...I don't want a fight..."
"Good." Tigerclaw purred. "Because this isn't going to be one." He raised a mammoth paw, claws out. Suddenly, a slight scent distracted the large tabby. He hesitated, turning his head to the other side of the black path for a mere second. But that was enough. Rusty, full of desperation and fear lashed out and scored a glancing blow right above Tigerclaw's eye. Rusty rolled away and sprung to his paws again as Tigerclaw yowled in pain and anger. After putting some distance between them, Rusty turned around hissing and spitting at Tigerclaw, claws splayed.
Suddenly an amused mrow broke out. Tigerclaw and Rusty both turned to its source. Rusty saw them before he scented them. A party of cat stood watching from the other side of the path. "It seems the mighty ThunderClan can't even intimidate a kittypet anymore!" Said a brown tom with a short tail. A battle scarred brown tom stood next to him and called out, "Look out Tigerclaw, that kittypet looks fierce! Better visit your medicine cat for those scratches!"
Visibly stung, Tigerclaw growled and leaped at Rusty. The poor house kitten suffered a slash along his chest. With no other place to go, Rusty jumped onto the black path, edging towards the other cats. Tigerclaw growled and approached the path.
"Ah ah ah." Meowed the leader of the party on the other side, a large white tom with jet black paws. "This is ShadowClan territory. You cannot step foot on our side of the Thunder Path." Tigerclaw stared daggers at him.
"I know perfectly well where I am Blackfoot." He growled. "That kittypet strayed into ThunderClan territory. I was teaching him a lesson about boundaries." Tigerclaw looked at Blackfoot in the eye and went on. "Something for all cats to bear in mind."
An amused purr broke from Blackfoot as he responded. "So instead of regaining the Sunningrocks from RiverClan you find your time better spent attacking a lost kittypet half your size. Truly, tales of your courage do not disappoint."
The mocking meows of laughter made Tigerclaw dig his claws into the Thunderpath, trembling in barely repressed rage. "He is a kittypet. He's now your problem. Drive him off and be done with it!" Stumpytail and Clawface, the two cats who had spoken up earlier, edged forward trapping Rusty on the Thunderpath—midway between ThunderClan and ShadowClan territory. Blackfoot raised his voice. "Hold." Stumpytail and Clawface paused and took a half-step back. "ShadowClan does not take orders from ThunderClan. We will decide what to do with the kittypet."
Rusty, tired and weak, decided that his best bet lay with the cats who didn't want to tear him to shreds. He weaved his way over to ShadowClan side. Blackfoot nodded to the apprentices of the two warriors with him. "Brownpaw, Wetpaw. Escort the kittypet back to our camp. Have him see Yellowfang for his injuries."
Two smaller cats, both roughly Rusty's size, made their way over to him tentatively. Not out of fear but more out of confusion. "Um, follow us," Wetpaw said as he made his way over to one side of Rusty, with Brownpaw on the other. They guided him forward, laying their tails over the orange-furred cat's back.
Tigerclaw glowered. "This isn't over." Without waiting for a reply, he turned back and disappeared into the forest.
As soon as he left, Clawface turned to Blackfoot. "Why did you help that kittypet?"
Blackfoot's ready answer was, "Because it annoyed him. Because it will not do to have any cat think they can give ShadowClan orders; especially ThunderClan." He lashed his tail. "Besides...Brokenstar instructed that I keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary." He looked back at the small orange kitten being guided back to the ShadowClan camp. "And something tells me that kittypet definitely qualifies."
To Be Continued...
Warriors ｩ Erin Hunter