== Chapter 5 =

The immense crying of war had ceased in place of serenity; but with this serenity came belligerence and uncertainty. As agreed upon between Shisostar's FireClan and MarineStar's RiverClan, the riverbank had been ceded to FireClan in order to avoid an escalation of violence. This allowed for cats of FireClan to acquire fish as a new source of food for the clan, but left RiverClan in a much more vulnerable position. This would also lessen the trade value of fish between clans, as both FireClan and RiverClan would be producing this good. Be as it may, the FireClan cats still lacked the expertise of catching aquatic life, unlike the RiverClan cats, who specialized in this field.

Within the primary FireClan encampment, Sakurapaw and Mirukupaw went about their business having a mature discussion on the most recent war against RiverClan. Both were on the same page, yet, had two very different ways of looking at the outcome.

Mirukupaw sat by the apprentice dens to take a rest, there he explained, "RiverClan did not deserve that territory. If you poison our elders for no reason, you best be ready for a fight; RiverClan was not ready."

"Sure, but I've been somewhat skeptical as of late on whether or not this really was an attack."

The pupils of Mirukupaw sharpened, "Skeptical? Of course it was an attack!" Sakurapaw returned a half hostile gaze. "Have you not seen the condition of our elders? They've been poisoned with a disease. How could you possibly question the authenticity of the attack?"

Silence broke the two apart for a moment, Sakurapaw's answer was calm and rational, "Perhaps it was an accident?"

"Wha- Wha- an accident!?"

"Keep in mind, they didn't send us a camp's worth of dead rats, they sent us two or three—which they shared. Maybe it was just a sick pair of rats." The hostility in Mirukupaw's eyes remained strong, but Sakurapaw did not fall to this. "All I'm saying is that there's a very high chance that only one or two of those rats are infected. Remember, not all of the elders were infected. That implies that, perhaps, only the elders who ate from a certain corpse were infected."

Any critical thinker would acknowledge this as a very probable scenario and even perhaps one worth bringing up with Shisostar. Nevertheless, Mirukupaw retained his immense zeal for the daimyo's declaration of having been attacked.

"Great cherry blossom, Sakurapaw. You're sounding like a traitor."

Sakurapaw barred his teeth, "I'm sounding like a warrior with an opened mind. If RiverClan honestly did poison us, then fine, they deserve everything that has come to them and more." He whipped his head with a disgruntled growl, "But do not punish an innocent civilization of felines for something they did not do."

Mirukupaw's only response was to narrow his eyes, Sakurapaw did so as well in retaliation. It was an argument of zeal versus rationality. The few moments of hostile staring left an unwell feeling in both their stomachs, both wondered if this were about to convert into a brawl. Sakurapaw may be one pawstep away from becoming a pledged FireClan warrior, but Mirukupaw was the much more loyal individual one. He felt that rationality best be left with the daimyo and deputy—for they are the wisest in his eyes.

The silence was at long last broken, however, as Suilenpaw and Chiyapaw both made their debut for the day. The two she-cats moved between the two with very optimistic faces. Both Sakurapaw and Mirukupaw stopped what they were doing and gave the two their attention.

"Hi!" Suilenpaw greeted.

The two toms exchanged one last glance, deciding to drop the somewhat pointless argument. Mirukupaw looked down at Suilenpaw and nodded with glee, "Hello, Suilenpaw."

Chiyapaw whipped her gold tail back and forth and jumped back and forth, "You guys want to play?"

Mirukupaw closed his eyes, "I don't know, Sakurapaw may be busy—seeing as to how he'll be made a warrior very soon."

Sakurapaw denounced this point, "Irrelevant, I can continue to act youthful even when I am a warrior."

Suilenpaw and Chiyapaw alike found joy in finally hearing their friend declare that he may continue fun activities with the apprentices even after becoming a warrior. Be as it may, this was said to trample Mirukupaw's sudden return of hostility. Though Mirukupaw found initial offense in this, he eased up and closed his eyes again, ready to calm down.

"This is good news, Sakurapaw." Mirukupaw dug his paw down into the ground a slight bit and admitted, "You were charged with leading the supply line in that battle, saved Suilenpaw, and got a taste of true war. I admit, you're the most deserving of us all to become a warrior, and no one disagrees with me."

Sakurapaw looked at the two she-cats, both nodded in agreement. This had an immediate positive effect on the soon-to-be warriors, and any negative feelings about Mirukupaw had now vanished as a result.

"Thank you, Mirukupaw, everyone."

Everyone soon came to be silent, even Mirukupaw expressing some sudden joy for Sakurapaw. The silence was again broken by Suilenpaw, who shot her tail upward.

"Okay, let's go and play a-"

At that moment, the entire camp had been made alert by a panicking Fogshade—the very obese tom warrior of the clan. The fat cat was followed by Salmontail—the adventuring she-cat warrior often criticized for exploring too far out of camp. Both cats were frantic and making a run for the daimyo's den with panicking meows.

Every apprentice convened together and watched from a distance, the sick elders raised their heads to watch and the other warriors ready for battle. Shisostar and Sushitail stepped out of the daimyo's den with concerned looks.

"Daimyo! Daimyo!" Fogshade panicked.

The deputy moved aside to let Shisostar march forward, there he stood above the den with a strong gaze. The fat cat stopped before his leader along with Salmontail.

"What is it, warriors?"

Fogshade dipped his head down, "...my goodness, I could go for some water..."

Salmontail launched her tail up and barred her teeth, "Daimyo! It's SnowClan! They've come for us!"

Both Shisostar and Sushitail barred their teeth as well, "What!? Are you sure!?"

Suddenly, from the camp's entrance, eight very thick-furred warriors made their appearance in two rows. The SnowClan cats marched straight into FireClan camp without an invitation, and strangest of all was that they mustered together what appeared to be every warrior they had for this appearance. All FireClan warriors got into combat stances, prepared for combat with the intruding SnowClan cats. Shisostar was left with quivering eyes of fear, such an unprecedented event did not work well in their favor, if the intentions were bad.

The two lines of very fluffy felines stopped about a fox-length away from the daimyo's den. Through the center came a very fast moving brown tom known as Bambootail—deputy of SnowClan. Like with every SnowClan cat, his fur was very long and loose.

Bambootail got down and dipped his head to Shisostar, "Announcing the renowned and unquestionably beautiful daimyo of SnowClan. Her royal highness and proud leader, Brustlestar!"

With this introduction came a white she-cat with fur longer than any other cat in the camp. As proclaimed, her physical beauty was unmatched. Two crystal-colored eyes, organized fur, a tail almost the size of a squirrel, and two expressionless eyes. Brustlestar, leader of SnowClan, made her way to the front and looked up at Shisostar. Both leaders were expressionless to an extent. Many FireClan cats watched with petrified expressions, it was a rare sight seeing the entire leadership of a clan present in neutral or hostile territory. If the battle were executed in the correct way, Shisostar could have both the daimyo and deputy of SnowClan captured or killed—this was not something he planned on considering, though.

After moments of dead silence between the leaders, Brustlestar struck her paw down in front of her with no facial change. "It is to my understanding that FireClan has annexed the riverbank of RiverClan into their territory?"

Shisostar nodded, "That's right."

"Was this an act of imperialism or justified expansion? My diplomat informed me of your situation with the elder poisoning, but did some sick elders really give you the right to rip RiverClan apart?"

This question was posed more so as an argument to Shisostar, and so he treated it as so, "I assure you, I have enough evidence to establish that this was a failed plot to sicken our warriors. RiverClan was unaware of the fact that we would always give our elders first serving come leaf-bare. Had our warriors been infected instead, RiverClan would have invaded us for our territory."

Brustlestar tilted her head, "And you intend on keeping the riverbank?"

"As we see fit, yes. FireClan will put it to better use."

Shisostar startled the SnowClan cats and many FireClan cats as he then proceeded to step off of his den and move toward the luxurious SnowClan leader. She remained still and still expressionless as four SnowClan cats blocked the FireClan leader's path. He stood a rabbit length away from her and continued.

"How ironic that you've come today. I was hoping to have a personal outing with you in the forest one of these days." Brustlestar revealed interest in this, Shisostar whipped his tail aside and tilted his head toward the forest, "Would you be so kind to favor me in a diplomatic walk?"

Several looks of discontent were being sent at Brustlestar, one of which came from her dear deputy. Nonetheless, she nodded and moved away from her warriors. The two clan leaders departed out of the camp together, leaving all of SnowClan and FireClan to convene amongst each other—a rare opportunity. Of course, both parties had to wonder what it was Shisostar wanted with Brustlestar.

Not much later, the two clan leaders took slow steps past various weeds together. Brustlestar moved straight and expressionless like royalty, Shisostar had the walking pose of great elegance. The SnowClan leader kept her eyes closed up until a flower brushed against her face, in which she glanced at Shisostar.

"I am unsure of how I feel about your expansion. I will leave things at that."

Shisostar rebuttaled, "Elders are the greatest source of knowledge, dear leader. Without elders, we lose our great history; if all the elders in the world were to perish, we would have no recollection of the past—no way to prevent tyranny from rising once more."

"Your point?"

"This attack by RiverClan was no more honorable than if they tried to kill our kits. A destructive and pointless motive. If RiverClan wishes to erase history by killing our elders, they must be punished. Wouldn't you agree?"

Brustlestar stopped in front of a muddy puddle, "Punishment? Absolutely. But what was wrong with making a territorial demand? Why not demand fish subsidies to FireClan instead? Less food for them, more for FireClan—and more valuable, too."

Shisostar offered no sign of agreement with her idea, "It is like my father once explained to me..." The RiverClan leader offered her fullest attention. "There are two types of life, the prey and predator. The prey will never be allowed the freedom to live free unless the predator is somehow attended to. The predator cannot be stopped unless the prey expands its resources, allies, and living condition."

Some humor was taken out of this by Brustlestar, who shook her head, "If I'm grasping this correctly, you are labeling FireClan as the prey, not the predator?"

"FireClan must protect its primary interest—the clan. RiverClan foolishly insisted on obstructing the tranquility within FireClan, and so they have been put in their place." Shisostar sent his she-cat adversary a somewhat threatening gaze, "FireClan will continue to subjugate if threatened."

Brustlestar looked away from him and continued walking, he soon followed. The two now entered a field of flowers and leaves, where the talks continued.

"Shisostar, in case you haven't figured things out, I am merely concerned for the safety of my own clan. Our great ancestors divided this land in even quarters so that we could all live without fear of conquest. With your new acquisition, FireClan now encompasses thirty-seven percent of this land."

"I understand your concern and how you may view this as a very belligerent act."

"Oh, you do?" she asked with doubt.

Shisostar nodded, "And I have a proposition for you that will, hopefully, ease your concern." He turned to face a twoleg settlement out in the distance, "But let us discuss this matter in a more private area."

Sakurapaw and Mirukupaw remained together and were gazing toward the somewhat motionless warriors of SnowClan. Each cat was tense and beyond nervous, others tried to hide these feelings—such as Bambootail.

"My goodness," Sakurapaw muttered. "The fur on those cats are enormous. That can't be good for fighting."

Before Mirukupaw could respond, he dipped his head in honor to the approaching deputy, who would instead answer Sakurapaw.

Sushitail shook his head, "Not at the moment, the daimyo even believes that SnowClan fears us during this time. But during leaf-bare, you don't mess with SnowClan. The general rule of paw is that the colder it is, and the more snow that piles up, the more deadly those cats become." The three cats looked toward the SnowClan warriors, and for a brief moment they caught their cats staring as well. Both parties looked away soon after. "Legend has it that SnowClan has never lost a war during leaf-bare. They use the horrid cold attrition to demoralize the opposition."

The only SnowClan cat to continue staring at the FireClan deputy was Bambootail. He soon began to discuss a matter with his own clan members. Sakurapaw looked over at the cats, then back at Sushitail.

Sushitail continued, "We mustn't trifle with SnowClan during leaf-bare. If they want something from us during the cold season, expect the worst fight of your life."

Not too much later, Shisostar and Brustlestar convened together over a massive wooden red bridge created by the twolegs. The two leaders sat together looking down into the water stream below the bridge.

Shisostar brushed his whiskers down against the wood and spoke, "Did you know that we are related?"

This news struck Brustlestar across the face, "No, what?"

"It is true. You and I share the same great-great-grandfather, Edostar—third and last monarch of FrostClan before its collapse."

"My, I did not know that."

FrostClan was a dual-monarchy once encompassing half of the current explored land. It was the predecessor clan of SnowClan and FogClan—two shogun clans that would replace FrostClan. No living cats from the FrostClan era lived to this day.

Shisostar continued, "I've always been very intrigued by the tales of FrostClan—a clan that predated the daimyo system. One could say that FrostClan was the world's only existing imperial dynasty."

"I am familiar with FrostClan. I am, technically, the heir to the throne."

Shisostar became silent for several moments, then turned his head very slowly, "I am also aware of the fact that SnowClan and FogClan were incorrectly divided..." Brustlestar turned her head with much intrigue. "When dividing the territory evenly, bad measurements were made, and FogClan was given an extra fox-length of two hundred. This means SnowClan actually makes up about twenty percent of this land—not twenty-five."

Brustlestar let out a slight yelp, "I knew our territory seemed a bit short..!"

"Quite. SnowClan, rightfully, reserves what the FogClan cats call the 'Snake-pit territory'."

"Oh, but who cares about that land? It's infested by hidden snakes and very dangerous to any cat."

Shisostar looked deep into her eyes, "For now, yes. During leaf-bare, however, the snakes are gone and it becomes an excellent area to hunt in."

Brustlestar narrowed her eyes, "What are you getting at, Shisostar? Are you trying to insist that I make demands to FogClan?"

"What I am proposing is a non-aggression pact—a mutual oath that we shall not attack each other for a set number of three or four seasons."

"And why would I accept this offer, Shisostar?"

The FireClan leader looked toward the twoleg settlement and nodded, "Because if you and I were to swear off peace with each other for many seasons, we could invade FogClan together without fear of our respective clan mates becoming disgruntled and nervous of betrayal." Before Brustlestar could respond, Shisostar added, "I am proposing that we help SnowClan by pushing your rightful claim for the Snake-pit territory and thus overwhelming the FogClan cats. Of course, we would push our own little demand onto FogClan as compensation for our services..."

Brustlestar revealed a concerned look, "I don't know about this. I support a non-aggression pact between our two clans—excluding leaf-bare," Shisostar barred his teeth at her counter-offer. "But pushing a sudden fight onto FogClan? I don't know. And this doesn't help ease my mind if FireClan grows even more."

"Ah, but SnowClan would as well."

"True, but..."

Shisostar stood up and faced the she-cat, "Don't you see, dear leader? Great Ancestors soar through the sky every day and even the twolegs are beginning to act very unusual. These are all signs from our ancestors, signs that we must work toward unifying this land—or suffer the consequences."

Brustlestar lowered her eyelids and looked away for many moments. Shisostar remained staring at her, hoping for a full agreement. He was still conflicted with the fact that she wanted to exclude leaf-bare from the non-aggression pact—the only time SnowClan fights at its fullest ability. This was, understandably, very threatening.

She soon turned to face him, "My only offer is that I will sign a non-aggression pact excluding leaf-bare. I will consider pushing war against FogClan and get back to you on this matter if we believe it is a plausible conflict to win."

Shisostar barred his teeth again and looked away, but nodded, "Very well. I hope to fight beside SnowClan very soon..."

To be continued...