The Leader Who Sought War

"Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-but there is no peace. ...Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" -Patrick Henry

For RBW, who hates unfinished stories, and her most excellent majesty who owns everyone and everything.

"Who will join me in a battle against WindClan?" Morningstar yowled to his starving Clanmates. For over a moon Morningstar allowed ThunderClan to be bullied by Rabbitstar's prey-stealing warriors. Beechfur could hardly believe his ears- they were going to fight!

"We will!" he and his Clanmates finally choursed.

"We're really going to fight?" Rockpaw asked.

"We are." Morningstar faced Pearnose, the medicine cat. "Prepare your supplies. Fallowpaw will help you. So will Mothwhisker. I know he wants to serve his Clan once more."

The Pearnose nodded, and guided the elder and her apprentice to the medicine cat den.

"When will we attack?" Beechfur asked.

"As soon as the herbs are fetched and we work out a basic strategy."

"I think it would be folly to attack the camp," Featherwing mewed. "It would be an even match at the very best. But if we can overpower a large border patrol, we would suffer few wounds and they'd be slaughtered."

"We could chase off one patrol and fall back to our camp so they can't counter attack," an elder, Amberpelt, said.

"Let's use the Lightning Strike," Beechfur suggested. "It's not ideal agaist WindClan, since they're swift, but one patrol wouldn't chase an entire Clan, and I think they would expect us to retreat."

"But what would prevent them from running for backup in the first place?" Pineclaw asked. There was a pause.

"Um... Maybe we could run really fast?" Beechfur's apprentice, Thornpaw, weakly suggested.

"They seem to be willing to fight," said Pineclaw, "but not even Rabbitstar himself would take on an entire Clan."

"Maybe they won't know it's the whole Clan," said Beechfur. "If a small patrol comes up, they would attack. Then the rest of ThunderClan could close them in."

"Perfect," said Morningstar. "Deal many wounds, Clanmates. We have to let them know that they are no longer welcome."

"We're ready," Fallowpaw muttered through a huge mouthful of spider webs. "There may not be many herbs left, but we have cobwebs."

"Good," said Morningstar. "But we have lost Leafstorm to greencough, and I must first appoint a new deputy before we attack. I say these words before the body of Leafstorm, that her spirit may hear and approve of my choice. Beechfur will be the new deputy of ThunderClan."

"Beechfur!" Thornpaw yowled. "Beechfur!" A warm glow spread through the tabby warrior as his Clanmates called his name.

"I will do my best to serve you. All of you!" he promised. Wild enthusiasim mixed with a heavy sense of duty inside of Beechfur. "I will honor Leafstorm's legacy."

Mossheart dipped her head to Beechfur, then turned to Morningstar. "All the warriors must eat," she said. "Don't leave anything for the queens. You need it far more, and it would help us more for you to fight your best then for us to have a few mouthfuls."

"But-" the gray leader stammered. "But I can't-"

"You must. Do it for us, and for ThunderClan."

"I...but...Fine. Share the food among the warriors and apprentices."

Beechfur stalked toward the few pieces of fresh-kill and crow-food. He and Pineclaw destribuated them so each prey was split between about four cats. Beechfur only got two bitter mouthfuls of a squirrel that was found dead on the Thunderpath. But at least his stomach had something in it.

"StarClan bless you!" Mossheart called as the warriors streamed out of 's heart fluttered like a jittery sparrow. Part of him was filled with excitement and determination, the other half with fear. I may end up as the deputy with the shortest service ever. For that matter, any of the cats around him might never make it back to camp. But if they didn't fight, all of ThunderClan might die out. He raised his head and tried to dismiss his worry, but he still couldn't focus entirely on the finalized battle plan Morningstar was telling them. The patrol, at last, made it to Fourtrees.

"Here I will leave you," Mothwhisker said quietly, setting down the cobwebs he held. "Good luck." The elder stumbled back toward camp. Featherwing sniffed the air. She was the best tracker in the forest.

"There's a WindClan patrol near the Thunderpath," she instantly reported. "More than three cats, I think. But they're heading away from here."

"Then you must be quick," Morningstar whispered to Beechfur. "Try to lead them closer to us." Beechfur dipped his head. Morningstar had explained what Beechfur was to do during the walk to Fourtrees. Pineclaw, Featherwing, and Thornpaw followed Beechfur as he darted off. As Fourtrees faded from sight, Featherwing pointed with her tail at the distant WindClan cats. There were four warriors and an older apprentice.

"I smell ThunderClan," one ginger tom growled as Beechfur's cats drew nearer.

"Over there!" a she-cat named Grasstail hissed. The WindClan warriors turned and dashed toward Beechfur.

"Run!" the ThunderClan deputy meowed. The hungry warriors fled toward Fourtrees. But a particularly swift apprentice was gaining on Pineclaw. Would the plan work? Fourtrees was getting nearer, but the WindClan cats were only a few fox-lengths from Pineclaw, and Thornpaw was only a few paces farther. Beechfur noticed, with relief, Morningstar's group ducking into ditches up ahead. He hoped that his pursurers hadn't noticed too. "Don't fight..." he gasped to Pineclaw, who was glancing back with bared teeth at the apprentice chasing him. "Run..." Beechfur forced his aching legs forward. Just ten more fox-lengths and they'd be close enough to the waiting ThunderClan cats. Just seven more fox-lengths. Just five. Four. He heard Pineclaw screech with pain and instinctively turned his head. The apprentice had grabbed the warriors tail!

"Keep running!" Featherwing insisted. Beechfur forced himself to turn around. Just two more fox-lengths. Just one more-!

"ThunderClan! Attack!" Morningstar yowled. Warriors flooded around them, surrounding the WindClan patrol. Pineclaw turned to bite the apprentice, as Hornetclaw pounced down to pull the WindClan cat away. Beechfur slashed the ginger tom's nose as Morningstar bit the enemy's hind leg, and Featherwing, Rockpaw, and Dockleaf pounced on Grasstail. The ginger WindClan cat whirled around to snap at Morningstar's ears, scraping them, and at the same time, knocked Beechfur over with a back kick. "Retreat!" Morningstar called, adding an unusually high screech afterward. Beechfur knew what that meant. He nugded the leafbare-thin ginger tom aside and dashed toward Fourtrees.

"Cowards!" Grasstail growled. "ThunderClan can't even stand against a patrol with half the cats they have!"

"Morningstar's a weakling!" the apprentice added. In the shelter of the Great Oaks, Pearnose hastily pressed cobwebs on Pineclaw's wounds, while Fallowpaw stopped Dockleaf's scratch from bleeding.

"All done," Pearnose breathed. "No more serious wounds."

"The lightning shall strike again!" Morningstar declared. The gray and white tom shot out. Beechfur raised his tail, signling the others to follow, and dashed after him. They circled around the WindClan cats, who were heading in the general direction of the Thunderpath. "Mrrr-Owwl!" Morningstar screeched, and once again ThunderClan desended on the warriors. Beechfur pounced on a gray she-cat whom he thought was called Sleetfur. She writhed under him, but Beechfur held her firmly. He reconized her scent from on his own territory.

"Prey-thief!" he insulted, digging his claws in. He reared his head and have her a fierce bite on the shoulder. Soon the angry yowles of the WindClan cats turned to terrified screeches. Sleetfur squirmed away from Beechfur and fled without looking back. Rockpaw and Morningstar both gave Grasstail a final bite, and the tabby she-cat fled also. Then Pineclaw and some other warriors chased off the ginger tom, as Thornpaw pinned the enemy apprentice.

"Tell your mouse-stealing friends to stay away," Beechfur's apprentice growled. Then Thornpaw slashed the foe's belly before releasing the small WindClan cat.

"We won," Morningstar said. "We won. Thank you, Songbird."

"Hey, look over here!" Fallowpaw called. "Looks like that patrol caught some rabbits!" Beechfur egarly limped over. The medicine cat's apprentice had found a store of four rabbits and a skinny hare.

"We'll eat well tonight!" Thornpaw cheered. "More than enough for the queens, kits, and elders!"

"Let's see how WindClan likes going hungry," Pineclaw agreed. Beechfur turned to Morningstar for approval.

The leader slowly nodded. "WindClan stole more than this from us." Rockpaw yowled happily and scooped up the hare. "Let's hurry, before they bring backup," said Morningstar. Beechfur grabbed a rabbit and turned toward Fourtrees. He turned toward Featherwing.

"Lets's go home," He mumbled.

"Tonight we sit vigil for Leafstorm," Morningstar announced to his cheerful Clanmates back at camp. "But that won't be the only vigil. Beechfur, has your apprentice learned the ways of a warrior?"

"Y-yes Morningstar!"

"Thornpaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?"

"I do!"

"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Thornpaw, from this moment on you will be known as Thorntooth. StarClan honors your courage and spirit, and we welcome you as a full warrior of ThunderClan."

"Thorntooth! Thorntooth!" Joy blossomed in Beechfur's heart. Despite the loss of Leafstorm, the Clan had much hope. The battle had been won, WindClan was defeated, the cats' bellies were full with rabbit, and a new warrior had joined the ranks of the Clan. Beechfur's only wish was to be a deputy worthy of the cats he served- a deputy worthy of ThunderClan.