The forest that was once lush green was now hidden under a thick white coat. Newleaf was coming, but still the icy wind swept through the lifeless branches of the trees, hurling snow into Fireheart's eyes. Fireheart stopped to shake the snow off his deep ginger fur as a loud meow sounded in front of him "Not used to the cold, kittypet?"
A bulky dark brown tabby tom trotted across the snow, his massive paws lifting off snow as he padded forward. This warrior was known as Tigerclaw, Thunderclan's deputy. Following close behind was a pale tabby tom named Longtail, a follower of Tigerclaw, who couldn't hold a mrrow of laughter at Fireheart's pathetic look. The handsome ginger tom was soaked wet with spiky ice formed on the tip of his tail. Just moments earlier, Fireheart had fallen into the icy current of a river that was flowing around the border of Thunderclan's territory. But the true reason for his fall into the river was that, due to the floods happening around the forest lately, the three cats went on a mission to see if they could make it to the Gathering. And under Tigerclaw's orders, Fireheart almost drowned as he tested an unstable log in the river. Luckily he was saved by Longtail, who knew better that a warrior in need was to be helped no matter what.
"I'll survive..." Fireheart was almost sure that the reason for Tigerclaw's order was to get him killed in an "accident". But Fireheart was determined to reveal Tigerclaw's treachery to the Clan. Tigerclaw was the one who killed Redtail, Thunderclan's former deputy in order to become deputy himself.
"I've survived worse than that, so don't worry about me." Tigerclaw swung around to glare at the ginger warrior, his amber eyes burning with hatred. But just then, Longtail whirled around with ears pricked.
"Did you hear that?"
Tigerclaw remained plastered to the ground, still glaring at Fireheart. Longtail lifted his head and took in the cold breeze of the forest.
"I can smell cats... They are not of our clan."
Tigerclaw suddenly swung around and trotted rapidly towards Longtail who slowly dropped into a crouch "In our territory?!" Tigerclaw exclaimed.
"Yes, it's quite fresh. I think we may have just missed them," Replied Longtail with a whisper. Fireheart crouched lower, aware that his coat would be glowing among such blank scenery. Opening his mouth to taste the air, Fireheart could make out two different smells that the cats carried; the forest scent and Thunderpath' scent.
"I can smell them too."
Fireheart and Longtail lay low while Tigerclaw seemed more thoughtful than cautious. Longtail lashed his tail uneasily as he awaited his deputy's order. After a moment of reflection, Tigerclaw straightened up his posture and meowed in a low tone, "Well, let's find out. Longtail
lead the way."
At first, Longtail hesitated a little, but eventually he regained his posture and carefully followed the trail.
Everything was quiet around them except for the sound of running water. The scent grew stronger as they reached the frozen bushes. Longtail suddenly came to a halt. Fireheart crept beneath the bush behind Longtail, who remained plastered in his spot. Tigerclaw flexed his muscles impatiently before speaking.
"What's the matter, Longtail?"
Longtail glanced back at Tigerclaw. "There's something over there," he meowed quietly. Shouldering his way beside Longtail, Tigerclaw's amber gaze peered out of their hiding spot. Fireheart struggled his way beside the two other toms. Though he tried to focus his eyes for the slightest sign of a cat, Fireheart couldn't see anything but the white landscape. But after shaking the snow off his face, Fireheart was able to make out a slender silhouette of a cat twisting its head as it licked its shoulders. It was a long-haired white she-cat grooming her bright pelage. She was visibly unaware of their presence.
"A rogue cat?" asked Fireheart.
"Doesn't seem like it, her coat is pretty clean and well cared, for a rogue cat," Longtail murmured. Tigerclaw emitted a low growl and spat "Rogue cat or not, she has no right to be trespassing!"
Tigerclaw emerged from the bushes, nape and shoulders bristling. The white she cat slowly turned around to look at the three cats before her very position. But at the sight of Tigerclaw's approach, the she-cat immediately shrunk down. She peeled back in submission as she desperately tried to show them she was no threat to them.
"What are you doing trespassing in our territory?" demanded Tigerclaw in a hiss. The beautiful she-cat backed up a little before answering him; she was clearly taken by surprise.
"I am no threat to your Clan..." her voice was soft as she mewed her words. But Fireheart was intrigued by her presence here; if what she said was true then why would she risk her life coming all the way here? It just made no sense to him. She must be hiding something, Fireheart reasoned.
"Is there a reason for your coming here?" Fireheart meowed. The beautiful she-cat blinked at Fireheart. She sat down, curled her tail neatly around her delicate frame and prepared her words wisely.
"I was sent to speak with the leader of each Clan."
As she pronounced her words, Tigerclaw cut her off by throwing himself forward, the fur on his shoulders rippling as his muscles tensed underneath his coat. The she-cat lightly dropped back into submission at Tigerclaw's brutal manners. Tigerclaw drew his lips back at the she-cat, demanding more detailed explanations. But at that very moment, a second scent wafted towards Fireheart on the cold breeze. As he opened his mouth, he drew the scent into his throat to identify it. The scent of Thunderpath, he concluded, tipping his head to one side. Suddenly, he remembered the early smells detected by Longtail. Two different smells: the forest scent and Thunderpath' scent. The white coat she-cat carried the forest's scent so, who carried the Thunderpath' scent? Dropping down into a crouch, with all senses alert, he looked around agitatedly for another intruder. But as soon as he tried to spot the other trespasser, Longtail's sharp yowl made him jump. As he regained his initial posture, Fireheart caught a glimpse of dark fur disappear from his sight and a second later, he was pushed off his paws and tumbled down onto the snow. Shaken up by the slight pain on his flank, Fireheart found himself witnessing a battle. Tigerclaw was wrestling with another cat almost as big and bulky as himself. Both fought fiercely, massive frames smacking into one another while powerful claws tore patches of fur onto the snowy ground. Confused, Fireheart whirled around as he anticipated an attack but instead, he found himself facing Longtail who seemed as confused as he was. Unable to help, Fireheart had to constantly jump out of the way of the two wrestling cats, who'd charge at each other, spitting and clawing while kicking blood stained snow off the ground. Just as Fireheart was beginning to think this battle would never end, the dark massive cat thrust himself with great power at Tigerclaw, who hit the ground with all his weight. As Tigerclaw tried to stand up, the dark cat landed onto him while pushing his unsheathed claws against Tigerclaw's throat thus pinning him down. Both cats were panting deeply, their flanks heaving with every gasp. Tigerclaw struggled to stand but was pushed deeper into the snow by the massive cat. Tigerclaw was visibly drained out of strength. Fireheart hesitated to help his deputy; Tigerclaw had watched Fireheart near death several times without helping him out. He remembered his fight with the deputy of Riverclan, Leopardfur. Tigerclaw watched him being shreds to pieces by the angered deputy. Either way, Fireheart couldn't stand there doing nothing. He wasn't a traitor; he would not resort to Tigerclaw's level.
Fireheart tensed his muscles and sprang forward at the trespasser. He raked his claws against the massive cat's spine, and then firmly gripped himself against the dark cat's back. The intruder yowled in pain. As he released Tigerclaw from his large weight, the dark cat spun around, throwing Fireheart off his back. The movement was so sudden that Fireheart felt his breath being knocked out from his lungs after hitting the ground. He was astonished to see the amount of strength that cat still possessed even after his fight with Tigerclaw.
"You better stay out of this Fireheart! This is my battle. I don't need the help of a kittypet. I can fight my own battles!" hissed Tigerclaw after staggering to his paws. A soft mew was then heard "Fireheart?" As Fireheart turned to look at the dark intruder, his eyes caught sight of the white coated she-cat, who slowly emerged from behind the dark cat's frame.
"You are Fireheart from Thunderclan, is that right?" she asked.
Fireheart hesitated, but replied "Y-Yes?" He flicked his tail uneasily.
"My name is Silverpelt. I was sent by Starclan to share dreams with the leader of Thunderclan, Bluestar."
A long silence followed her words. Fireheart watched the massive cat, the one that had attacked Tigerclaw so fiercely, dip his head in a respectful gesture to the beautiful white she-cat. He slightly felt his fur on his neck beginning to prickle in disbelief.