|"For a heartbeat he thought he was back in his dream at Fourtrees. He remembered the blood that had come oozing out of that hill of bones, and longed to flee in terror. But this was far worse than the dream because Firestar knew that it was happening now, in the real world."|
|— Firestar's thoughts when he sees Bonehill in The Darkest Hour, page 161|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter fourteen of The Darkest Hour. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 14 (of 30)
- Page Numbers: 152-163
- Graystripe tells Firestar that he wants to ask him something. The leader of ThunderClan is crouched by the nettle patch. He has just seen Brackenfur head out for evening patrol and he's now eating his share of fresh-kill before rounding up his own patrol to check on the ShadowClan border. He replies with sure, what is it. Graystripe crouches beside him, but before he can speak, Tawnypaw comes stalking out of the elders' den, her head and tail held high as she heads for the gorse tunnel, her eyes blazing with fury. Bramblepaw emerges behind her, his jaws clamped on a bundle of moss, a worried look on his face. Firestar calls to Tawnypaw, asking what's wrong. For a heartbeat he thinks the apprentice is going to ignore him, but then she veers sharply to stand in front of him, and spits Smallear's name, adding that if a cat ever asked to get his fur clawed off; but Firestar cuts her off before she can finish, saying she shouldn't talk about elders like that, Smallear has given good service to the Clan and they should respect that.
- Tawnypaw asks what about a bit of respect for her, and she's so furious she seems to forget that she's talking to her leader. She says that just because she was a little late going to clear out the old bedding, Smallear said that Tigerstar never wanted to serve the elders either, and he could see she was going to turn out just like her father. She scrapes her claws on the sandy floor of the clearing as if she is picturing it's the old toms fur. Tawnypaw adds that it's not the first time he's said things either, and she doesn't see why she should put up with it.
- While she is speaking, Bramblepaw has come to join them, putting the moss he is carrying down, meowing she knows Smallear's joints are aching because of the cold weather. Tawnypaw flares up at her brother, saying he's not her mentor, he shouldn't tell her what to do. Firestar tells Tawnypaw to calm down. He wants to reassure her no cat believes she will end up like her father, but he knows that isn't entirely true. He says she's doing well as an apprentice and she's going to make a great warrior, sooner or later the Clan will see.
- Bramblepaw meows that's what he's been telling her, then adds to his sister that they've got to live with what Tigerstar did, that's the only way the Clan will believe in their loyalty. Graystripe puts in that some cats already believe in it, and Bramblepaw flashes him a grateful glance. The worst of Tawnypaw's fury is fading, though her eyes still burn, and with a toss of her head, she turns away, flinging her parting words over her shoulder as she stalks toward the gorse tunnel; she's going to fetch fresh moss.
- Bramblepaw apologizes to Firestar once she leaves, saying she's right to be upset though. Firestar reassures him he knows, and if he catches Smallear at a good moment, he'll have a word with him. Bramblepaw thanks him, dipping his head, then picks up the moss and hurries after his sister. Firestar gazes worriedly after the two apprentices, and decides he must talk to Smallear soon. Constantly taunting the young cats about their parentage isn't the way to ensure their loyalty to the Clan.
- Realizing that Graystripe is still waiting patiently beside him, he tells him to say what's on his mind. Graystripe confesses it's his kits, ever since the Gathering, he can't get them out of his mind, Mistyfoot and Stonefur weren't there, so he couldn't ask them for news, but now that Tigerstar has essentially taken over RiverClan, he's sure his kits are in danger.
- Firestar takes a bite of vole and chews thoughtfully, mewing he doesn't see why they should be at more risk than any other cat. He adds that Tigerstar will want to look after all the apprentices to guarantee a strong fighting force. Graystripe doesn't look reassured, and he points out that Tigerstar knows who their father is, he hates him and he's worried he'll take that out on Featherpaw and Stormpaw. Firestar realizes Graystripe has a fair point about Tigerstar's hostility, and he asks what would he like to do. Graystripe nervously blinks, and says that he wanted Firestar to come with him across the river and bring them back to ThunderClan. Firestar stares at his friend, asking him if he's completely mouse-brained, asking his Clan leader to stroll into RiverClan territory and steal a couple of apprentices.
- Graystripe scrapes his forepaw on the ground, mewing, well if you put it like that. Firestar tries to control his shock, asking how else would he put it. But Graystripe's suggestion is too close to Brokentail's old crime of stealing kits. If Firestar agreed and RiverClan found out, they would be justified in attacking ThunderClan, and with the help of ShadowClan, that was a risk Firestar can't take. Graystripe turns and begins to retreat with his tail drooping, mewing he knew he wouldn't listen.
- Firestar tells him he is listening and to come back, they can think about this. As Graystripe stops, Firestar goes on, saying that he doesn't know that Featherpaw and Stormpaw are in danger, and they're apprentices now, not kits, they have the right to decide their own future, what if they want to stay in RiverClan. Graystripe sounds despairing as he says he knows. He adds to not worry about it, he understands there's nothing he can do to help. Firestar says he didn't say that, and against his better judgement, he knows he can't stand by and do nothing to help his friend.
- Graystripe pricks his ears, half hopeful as Firestar carries on, saying, suppose they go over there quietly, just the two of them, and check on them, and if they're okay, then he doesn't need to worry any more, if not, he'll tell them there's a place for them in ThunderClan, if that's what they choose. Graystripe's yellow eyes begin to glow as Firestar speaks, and he thanks him, then asks if they can go now. Firestar answers they can if he would like to, he justs needs to finish eating. He tells Graystripe to go find Whitestorm and tell him he's in charge of the camp, he quickly adds to not tell him where they're going. Graystripe bounds off to the warriors' den, while Firestar swallows the last of his vole.
- By the time he has finished, Graystripe has reappeared and the two head for the mouth in the gorse tunnel. However, they stop short as a familiar black shape slips into the clearing. Firestar happily exclaims Ravenpaw's name, saying it's good to see him. Ravenpaw responds that it's good to see him, and touches his nose in greeting to Firestar, then Graystripe. He mews he hasn't seen Graystripe in moons, and asks how he's doing. The warrior replies he's fine, and it's easy to see Ravenpaw's doing well, while he eyes the black tom's glossy pelt. Ravenpaw explains that he came to pay his respects to Bluestar, reminding Firestar that he said he could.
- Firestar says of course, glancing at Graystripe, whose paws are working urgently in his haste to be off. He asks Ravenpaw if he can go and find Cinderpelt, she'll show him the place Bluestar is buried, he and Graystripe are off on a mission. Ravenpaw half enviously meows that it sounds like the old days, and asks what is it this time. Graystripe tells him in a rush that they're going over to RiverClan to check on his kits, he's worried about them, now that Tigerstar is taking over. Ravenpaw's shocked look reminds Firestar that he knows nothing of the recent developments in the forest, and he rapidly tells the tom what Tigerstar had announced at the last Gathering. When he finishes, Ravenpaw hisses that that's a disaster, then asks if there's anything he can do to help, and offers to go with them.
- His eyes are gleaming, and Firestar guesses that Ravenpaw is excited by the prospect of adventure, and thinks about how different he is now, from the nervous apprentice he once was. He agrees, trusting his instincts that it would be good to have Ravenpaw with them. As they bound through the forest, with his two oldest friends beside him, Firestar feels his mind flood with memories of how they trained and hunted together as apprentices, and for a short time, he can almost imagine that those days have returned, that he has shed his responsibilities like falling leaves and is young and carefree again. But he knows that's impossible. He is ThunderClan's leader now, and he can't escape from his duty to the cat's who depended on him.
- The sun has gone down by the time they reach the edge of the forest. Warning his friends to stay back, Firestar creeps through the undergrowth until he can look out over the river. In front of him lay the stepping-stones, the easiest route into RiverClan territory. As he peers into the cold gray water, he catches a strong scent of cat's - RiverClan and ShadowClan mixed. A patrol is making its way along the opposite bank, and they're too far away for Firestar to be sure which cats they are, but he can't see the blue-gray pelts of Mistyfoot and Stonefur. He feels a pang of disappointment. If either of them had been near the border, Graystripe could have asked them for news and the matter would have been ended, but now they will have to go right into RiverClan's territory.
- Firestar knows he is risking everything on slipping in and out again, quietly and unobserved. If it is ever found out that a Clan leader had trespassed on another Clan's territory, he would be in trouble, but he knows he has to do it for Graystripe. The gray warrior has crept up beside him, asking in a whisper, what's the matter, why are they waiting here. Firestar angles his ears toward the patrol. A moment later, they disappear into a reed bed and their scent slowly fades. Firestar gives the okay to go. He leads the way, leaping from one stepping-stone to the next. He thinks back to the floods last leaf-bare, when he and Graystripe had almost drowned saving Mistyfoot's two kits. Leopardstar has conveniently forgotten that now, he realizes, as well as how the two ThunderClan warriors had helped the starving Clan by taking them fresh-kill from their own hunting grounds. But there is no point in thinking about it now.
- Reaching the far bank, Firestar slides into the shelter of a clump of reeds and checks once again that no enemy cat's are around. All he can scent are the traces of the patrol, steadily growing fainter. Treading softly, he makes his way upriver toward the RiverClan camp, Graystripe and Ravenpaw follow, silent as shadows. Suddenly, a new scent drifts on the breeze, and Firestar pauses, his whiskers twitching, and his eyes widen as he recoginzes the reek of carrion, crowfood that has rotted for days, and now its stentch poisons the air. Forgetting about the need for silence, Ravenpaw lets out a growl, asking what the smell is. Firestar swallows the bile that rises in his throat, mewing that he doesn't know, he'd say it is a foxhole, but there's no scent of fox. Graystripe mutters that whatever it is, it stinks, then says they need to keep going before someone catches them.
- Firestar disagrees, saying he knows he's worried, but this is too strange, they have to investigate. As few tail-lengths ahead, a tiny stream flows sluggishly into the main river. Firestar turns to follow it through more reeds. The stench grows stronger, and beneath the smell of crowfood, he begins to pick up the scent of many cat's, a mixture of ShadowClan and RiverClan like the patrol. He halts and signals for his friends to do the same as he begins to make out noises somewhere ahead; movement in the reeds and the voices of cat's mingling together. Graystripe wonders what it is, they're no where near the camp. Firestar flicks the tip of his tail for silence.
- More cautiously than ever, he creeps on again until the reeds begin to thin out and he comes to the edge of a clearing. He flattens himself against the damp ground and crawls as far forward as he will dare and looks out. At once, he has to clamp his teeth hard to keep back a yowl of shock and anger. The stream runs along one side of the clearing, its near stagnant waters clogged by the remains of fresh-kill carelessly flung there and left to rot. Cat's crouch on the bank, tearing at prey, but this is not what has roused Firestar's fury.
- Opposite his hiding place, on the far side of the clearing, is a vast hill of bones, they gleam like stripped branches in the last watery daylight, some tiny shrew bones no bigger than teeth, and others as big as the leg bone of a fox or badger. Icy trembling seizes Firestar's body. For a heartbeat, he thinks back to his dream at Fourtrees, remembering the blood that had came oozing out of the hill of bones, and longed to flee in terror. But this is far worse because this isn't a dream, this is actually happening now in the real world. Crouched on the top of the pile, his fur black against the sun-bleached remains, is Tigerstar, leader of the new united Clan.
- Firestar forces himself to stay hidden. He has to find out what Tigerstar is doing. Graystripe and Ravenpaw creep forward to crouch beside him. Ravenpaw's fur bristles and Graystripe looks as if he's going to be sick. After the first shock ebbs, Firestar examines the scene more closely. The hill is made up of only prey bones, not mixed with cat like in his dream. On the other side is Leopardstar, her gaze flickering nervously back and forth across the clearing. He wonders if she regrets what has happened to her Clan, and he guesses that her ambition to make her Clan strong had blinded her to Tigerstar's real nature. But whatever the former RiverClan leader felt, it is too late to go back. Graystripe whispers that he can't see his kits. Mistyfoot and Stonefur aren't in sight either, Firestar realizes. In fact, most of the cat's in the clearing come from ShadowClan, though he spots the RiverClan warriors Mudfur and Heavystep, and there is no sign of the medicine cat, and he wonders if that is significant.
- He is still watching, too stunned to know what to do next, when Tigerstar rises to his paws, a few small bones rattle down the side of the hill. The dark tabby's eyes blaze in the fading light as he lets out a triumphant yowl, calling a meeting together. Immediately, the cat's in the clearing approach the hill, crouching low in respect, others appearing from the reeds. Ravenpaw murmurs that he must have built the hill to look like the Highrock, so he can look down on his Clan.
- The tabby waits until his warriors are all in place and announces that it is time for the trail to begin, fetch the prisoners. Firestar and Graystripe exchange a bewildered look, wondering what prisoners, has he already began to mount an attack on WindClan. At Tigerstar's order, a ShaddowClan warrior named Jaggedtooth, vanishes into the reeds. He returns a few moments later, dragging another cat with him. At first Firestar doesn't recognize the skinny gray warrior, his fur unkempt and one ear shredded and bleeding. Then, as Jaggedtooth pushes him into the circle of cat's beneath the Bonehill, Firestar realizes it's Stonefur. He feels Graystripe stiffen beside him, and puts out a warning paw for his friend to not give them away. Graystripe's ears twitch but he stays still and silent, watching.
- The reeds part again, this time Firestar knows at once who steps into the clearing, his fur sleek and head raised proudly; Darkstripe. Firestar's belly clenches with anger and he silently calls the former ThunderClan warrior a traitor. More movement in the reeds heralds the arrival of another ShadowClan warrior, who is shepherding two smaller cats, one silver-gray, the other with thick, gray fur. They are as thin as Stonefur, their steps unsteady as they stagger into the clearing. Huddling together in the shadow of the Bonehill, they look around with wide, scared eyes. An icy chill grips Firestar's muscles. The two young cats are Graystripe's kits, Featherpaw and Stormpaw.
- When Firestar, Graystripe, and Ravenpaw are at the Bonehill, it is mentioned no medicine cat is present, despite the RiverClan medicine cat, Mudfur, was mentioned to be present earlier, but is mistakenly said to be a warrior.
Notes and references
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 152
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 156
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 153
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 154
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 158
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 159
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 161
- Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 162
|The Darkest Hour 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 • Chapter 29 • Chapter 30|