|"Ashfur would have destroyed the whole Clan if he'd lived for one more night."|
|— Hollyleaf to Lionblaze in Long Shadows, page 310|
- Lionblaze sinks his claws into the stream's bank, managing to wail in dismay. Although no grief comes for the dead Ashfur, he knows his former mentor would've spoken terrible words, but now, he's silenced forever. The words will never be spoken; Lionblaze exchanges a look with Hollyleaf, another cat Ashfur tried to victimize, and knows she's just as relieved as him. The golden-brown tom hopes nobody else can sense their feelings, and then Firestar orders them to get Ashfur out. Dustpelt slides into the water, the stream washing his stomach fur, and the senior warrior grips the gray tom's shoulder. He tugs, causing Ferncloud to anxiously warn him to be careful.
- Graystripe enters after his Clanmate, and together, he and Dustpelt free Ashfur from the rocks. They haul the lifeless body onto the bank, and Leafpool crouches beside the pale gray warrior. She places one white paw on his chest, sniffing him rapidly; Jayfeather stands beside her, whiskers quivering. Leafpool announces Ashfur is dead, and Cinderheart questions his cause of death, eyes wide. The gray tabby suggests he'd drowned, but Squirrelflight steps in, reminding everyone of her falling into ShadowClan's stream, for any cat can easily drown with high waters. Cloudtail, however, snorts, saying that Ashfur is strong, and couldn't have drowned like a kit. The fluffy white tom declares they look at WindClan.
- Firestar contradicts the statement, by taking another whiff at Ashfur's body, informing Cloudtail of no WindClan scent. His niece points out the water, which might've washed it off. The ThunderClan leader swiftly glances around, then orders Graystripe and Dustpelt to carry the dead warrior back to camp, for if they stall, the other Clans will be waiting. Lionblaze volunteers to help, and the ginger tom thanks him, then carries on. The golden tom picks up Ashfur, which hangs like a dead weight between them, and make back for camp, struggling. As the trio drag the gray tom up to the tunnel entrance, Thornclaw's fur rises, and he asks what happened.
- Dustpelt explains to the guarding warrior, while Lionblaze and Graystripe carry Ashfur to the center of camp. The moonlight shines silver on the limp cat's fur; to Lionblaze, his old mentor looks strangely small in death, and finds it hard to imagine the power he'd held, the power to bring shame upon him and Squirrelflight, and bring ThunderClan down. The tabby tom flinches, hearing a distraught cry, seeing as Whitewing had emerged from the warriors' den. Birchfall follows her, and the white she-cat wails if a fox caught him. Lionblaze shakes his head, telling her they'd found him at the WindClan border, and that Ashfur could've drowned. Whitewing shudders, and Birchfall presses his muzzle against hers, reminding her of her kits.
- The white warrior nods, and, slowly, makes her way over to Ashfur's soaked body. She settles down, and presses her nose into his pale speckled pelt. Birchfall crouches at her side, sorrowfully meowing Ashfur was a good mentor. By now, more cats come from their dens, and form a ragged circle around their fallen Clanmate. Some question each other, in shocked, quiet tones. Mousefur states WindClan will be at the bottom of the mystery, and the dusky-brown elder approaches with Longtail. Honeyfern speaks up, voice shaking, guessing StarClan will be angry. Graystripe says that Ashfur was just unlucky, but the brown elder snorts in disbelief. She crouches beside the body, and Lionblaze lifts his head to look at the moon.
- The clouds cleared away; maybe Firestar had been right, and StarClan had no need to show their anger. The big tabby tom sighs, and crouches down, pushing his nose into Ashfur's fur. The scent on his Clanmate's fur is nothing but mud and water, and closing his eyes, hopes nobody around him can sense that instead of grieving, his mind is numb with relief.
- Lionblaze had stayed with Ashfur until the sky begins to grow pale, showing the first signs of dawn. His Clanmates came and went, speaking in hushed voices, and at last, he hears movement in the thorn tunnel. Firestar and his patrol is finally returning from the Gathering, and the tabby tom strethes his muscles, which cramped up, and looks around to see his sister, Hollyleaf, approaching him swiftly. Her green eyes shine with fierce light, and the black she-cat hisses that Firestar didn't mention a single thing about Ashfur's death. Lionblaze's golden pelt prickles with surprise, before noticing some cats are giving Hollyleaf curious looks as she passes. He covers her mouth with his tail, then draws her from Ashfur's corpse by a few steps. She continues to speak angrily, telling her brother Firestar had only talked about prey, then thanked StarClan.
- Lionblaze suggests their leader might not have wanted ThunderClan to look weak, but Hollyleaf spits that if one cat dies, they aren't weak. He isn't able to work out why she's so mad; the slender black cat says every Clan leader reports tragedies like that, and he asks if anyone noticed anything was wrong. Hollyleaf mentions that Squirrelflight isn't the only one good at lying, and Lionblaze reminds her Firestar has his reasons, and since StarClan didn't cover the moon, they couldn't have been angry. The black she-cat only replies with a disgusted snort, and the golden-brown tom presses his muzzle to hers. The amber-eyed tom suggests sitting vigil for Ashfur, causing his sister to get angry once more, calling the dead warrior mange-ridden, then stating that he'd have destroyed the Clan if he lived one more night.
- Without waiting for a response, Hollyleaf whirls around, then stalks to the warriors' den. Lionblaze watches her depart, hoping she can sleep off her troubles, before padding back over to Ashfur's gray body, and settling down.
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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