|"I'd work harder than any cat to be a great leader, and leave my paw print on all the Clans. I can't let Ashfur destroy all my plans."|
|— Hollyleaf to herself in Long Shadows, page 300-301|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty six of Long Shadows. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 26 (of 28)
- Page Numbers: 300-305
- It's the afternoon of the Gathering, and Hollyleaf feels as though her world is crumbling. She believed once Sol was driven off, everything in the Clan would become normal again. But now the looming threat of Ashfur hangs overhead like a tree going to collapse. Her black paws itch with restlessness, and she slips from the camp and into the forest. The ThunderClan warrior feels powerless, especially now since she isn't like her brothers: one of the Three. Her belief in the prophecy made her feel strong, but Ashfur ripped that from her. A cat with the power of the stars could've been able to stop it, but now, plain Hollyleaf, no longer related to Firestar, cannot do much.
- Fury floods through her, and the black she-cat pauses, her rage hot. Her claws dig into the soil; more than anything else, Hollyleaf wants to become one of the Three, and be special, with a destiny. The slender warrior believes that she deserves such, and the neer tears her stomach like hunger pains. She knows she'll work hard as a leader, and leave her marks on each Clan, and can't let Ashfur take that away. Forcing down the rage, Hollyleaf pads on. Since the storm, more rain had fallen, leaving the ground boggy and sodden, causing her to leap and jump over debris.
- The strong scent of a ThunderClan cat washes over the she-cat, and Ashfur appears, causing her to jump slightly. The pale gray tom rounds around from a gnarled tree trunk, and Hollyleaf snaps at him, accusing him of creeping around. The flecked warrior says he isn't, and informs her of following a fox trail. Ashfur mentions how Brackenfur scented it, but the long-legged she-cat doesn't talk. The two face each other; Ashfur's blue eyes are wide and wary, and he asks what she wants. Hollyleaf curtly responds, and he appears disconcerted by this. The short-furred cat challenges her if she'll plead with him like Squirrelflight and her siblings do.
- The slender black cat feels satisfied at Ashfur's startled appearance, and tells him she can't stop him from betraying ThunderClan. The gray tom's neck fur spikes up, replying that he isn't a traitor, but his former love interest, Squirrelflight, is, for lying. Hollyleaf spits in disgust, accusing him of trying to weaken the Clan so soon after the Great Battle, and the pale cat bares his fangs. Stretching his neck toward the long-haired she-cat, he growls that her attempt in scaring him is unsuccessful. She stands her ground against her Clanmate, stating he doesn't scare her, like nothing does, unlike his attempt of trying to drive her former foster mother out. Ashfur's dark eyes narrow, and he promises Hollyleaf that he'll purr over the end results. Without waiting, he spins around, and heads off through the forest.
- The sun sinks behind a ragged patch of clouds, and Firestar beckons his chosen cats together. Shadows creep into camp, and the warriors of StarClan begin to dot the sky, stained with scarlet. The ThunderClan leader seems to notice the absence of one cat: Ashfur, and looks around. Hollyleaf exchanges looks with Lionblaze, and the others, Brambleclaw, Dustpelt, Ferncloud, Graystripe, Cloudtail, and Cinderheart cluster around Firestar; Jayfeather and Leafpool make their way over to join. However, Ashfur does not show up, and the flame-colored tom's tail flicks, betraying his annoyance. He recounts the gray warrior requesting to come, and neither him nor Squirrelflight are present. Dustpelt says they'll be late; tension now churns in Hollyleaf's stomach.
- The black she-cat doesn't want to imagine Ashfur, or even stand around waiting for her rival. She thinks that if he doesn't turn up, it'll be better for every cat, for he revealed in the fire that he'd tried to kill Firestar, but shows no concern for Squirrelflight. Graystripe suggests Ashfur went ahead, and Firestar begins to lead the patrol from the camp and to the Gathering. The dark ginger tabby leads the way through the thorn barrier, and Hollyleaf falls in behind with her brothers. She knows how desperate they must be, in finding Ashfur, and can sense their anxiety crackling from them, resembling lightning. Despite this, neither of them speak the gray tom's name. Only barely leaving the tunnel, is when Squirrelflight makes an appearance. She bounds up to them, breathless, her ginger fur clumped and soaking, mud clotting her pelt.
- She apologizes, and Brambleclaw licks her ear, asking of her whereabouts. The ginger warrior explains of trying to get herbs for Leafpool, near ShadowClan, but she slipped in some mud. The brown tabby affectionately calls her a mouse-brain, then tells her she can stay behind if she'd like. Squirrelflight rejects the offer, and Firestar calls for them to hurry, before continuing on. He heads for the lake, and the forest floor is still soaked from the rains, and cats have to scramble through muddy ditches, or over branches that had fallen. Hollyleaf barely notices this, feeling as though she's gazing into her future, dark with betrayal and fear. She wonders if the code can be broken, despite many efforts.
- The ThunderClan cats emerge from the trees, and pad down for the lake, right at the edge, turning for WindClan. A full moons hangs in the sky, and Hollyleaf glances up, noticing no clouds drifting over or near it. She swallows, thinking of StarClan showing their anger. Firestar waves his long tail, telling his Clanmates to hurry, for the other Clans will be waiting. Now clear of the trees and mud, the ginger tom sets a brisk pace, causing the warriors to have to run after him. Hollyleaf still stays behind, with her littermates, then sees Firestar halt on the stream that marks WindClan's border. Graystripe, who is right behind the leader, lets out a startled yowl. Foreboding fills Hollyleaf from tail-tip to ears, and she forces herself to move faster, running along the lake's edge, her stomach fur brushing the pebbles.
- Lionblaze keeps pace with her, and when she reaches the bank, the black cat pushes through the crowd. She halts, and stares into the stream. Wedged between a rock just below her, is the lifeless body of a cat, floating in the water. The cat's fur is dark and wet, and his tail waves like he's still alive. Dustpelt is the first one to talk, and reveals the dead cat as Ashfur.
Notes and references
|Long Shadows chapters|
|Prologue • Chapter 1 • Chapter 2 • Chapter 3 • Chapter 4 • Chapter 5 • Chapter 6 • Chapter 7 • Chapter 8 • Chapter 9 • Chapter 10 • Chapter 11 • Chapter 12 • Chapter 13 • Chapter 14 • Chapter 15 • Chapter 16 • Chapter 17 • Chapter 18 • Chapter 19 • Chapter 20 • Chapter 21 • Chapter 22 • Chapter 23 • Chapter 24 • Chapter 25 • Chapter 26 • Chapter 27 • Chapter 28|
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