|"Stonefur, I will give you a chance to show your loyalty to TigerClan. Kill these two half-Clan apprentices."|
|— Tigerstar to Stonefur in The Darkest Hour, page 168|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter fifteen of The Darkest Hour. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 15 (of 30)
- Page Numbers: 164-172
- Graystripe growls deep in his throat and gathers himself to spring, but Firestar stops him, leaping onto his friend before he can leave the shadow of the reeds, mewing that if Tigerstar sees them, they'll be crowfood. Ravenpaw agrees, helping to retain Graystripe. The gray warrior is writhing desperately as if he didn't hear, snarling to let him go, saying he'll flay the piece of fox-dung and rip his heart out. Firestar repeats no in an agonized whisper, saying they'll be slaughtered if they show themselves, and he promises they won't leave his kits, but they've got to wait for the right moment to rescue them. Graystripe goes on struggling for a moment, then subsides with a grunt of agreement. Firestar lets him go, nodding to Ravenpaw to do that same.
- While they had been holding Graystripe down, Tigerstar had begun to speak, his voice drowning the noise of their scuffle in the reeds. He begins by addressing the cats of TigerClan, saying they know the hardships they have to face, the cold leaf-bare threatens them, Twolegs, and the other two Clans in the forest, who haven't yet realized the wisdom of joining the united Clan. Firestar's tail tip twitches with anger and he flashes Graystripe a look. But his friend's burning gaze is fixed on his two kits, cowering at the base of the Bonehill; unaware of Firestar's glance. Tigerstar goes on, that surrounded as they are by enemies, they must be sure of the loyalty of their own warriors, there is no room in TigerClan for the halfhearted, no cat to who will waver in battle or turn on their own Clan, they will not tolerate traitors.
- Firestar thinks to himself, all traitors, except the one who leads them; and Darkstripe, who would have watched his Clan be devoured by dogs. The cats in the clearing break out into yowls of agreement, and Tigerstar allows the clamor to continue for a moment before signaling with his tail for silence, and the noise dies down. He begins to speak once more, saying they especially will not tolerate the abomination of half-Clan cats, no loyal warrior would ever take a mate from a different Clan, diluting the pure blood that their warrior ancestors decreed for them. He goes on that Bluestar and Graystipe both flouted the warrior code when they took mates from RiverClan, and the kits of such a union can never be trusted. Tigerstar pauses, and his deputy Blackfoot yowls out filth, then Darkstripe joins, then all the others. This time Tigerstat lets them fall quiet in their own time, gazing over the cats below him with calm satisfaction.
- With horror, Firestar realizes Tigerstar and Blackfoot must have rehearsed this. He notices it is the ShadowClan warriors who yowl the loudest, while the RiverClan cats join in, less enthusiastically; Firestar guesses they may not completely agree with Tigerstar, but they don't dare remain silent. Featherpaw and Stormpaw flatten themselves close to the ground, as if afraid of being swept away in the Clan's fury. Stonefur crouches over them as if he can protect them, and he gazes around with defiance in his eyes. Firestar wonders where Mistyfoot is. Tigerstar speaks again, meowing that half-Clan cats have been tolerated until now, there is no place in TigerClan for warriors who owe allegiance to two Clans, and asks how can they trust them to not betray their secrets or turn on them, or if they can expect StarClan to fight on TigerClan's side if they allow those who are not pure of heart and blood to walk freely among them.
- Darkstripe screeches no, flexing his claws and lashing his tail from side to side. Tigerstar announces they must get rid of the abominations, then their Clan will be clean again and they can be sure favor of StarClan. Stonefur springs to his paws, so weak, he stumbles and almost falls, but he manages to stay upright and face Tigerstar, snarling that no one has ever questioned his loyalty, and tells him to come down to his face and tell him he's a traitor. Firestar wants to wail aloud at the Stonefur's hopeless courage. Tigerstar could swat him aside with one paw, and yet Stonefur remains defiant. He insists that he and Mistyfoot never even knew their Bluestar was their mother until a few moons ago, they have been loyal RiverClan warriors all their lives, and says to let any cat who thinks differently come out and prove it.
- Tigerstar sweeps his tail angrily toward Leopardstar, growling that she showed poor judgment when she chose Stonefur as her deputy, and RiverClan is choked by the weeds of treachery, they must root them out. To Firestar's dismay, Leopardstar bows her head, the gesture showing just how far Tigerstar's power extends, that the once powerful leader of RiverClan is unable or unwilling to protect her own deputy. Yet the dark tabby's words give Firestar hope. It sounds as if Tigerstar is about to banish Stonefur and the two apprentices, if he did, then Firestar and his friends could wait for them at the border, ready to take them back to ThunderClan where they will be safe.
- Tigerstar speaks again, his voice measured and cold, saying he will give Stonefur a chance to prove his loyalty to TigerClan if he kills the two apprentices. An eerie silence spreads through the clearing, broken only by Graystripe's gasp of outrage, but luckily the TigerClan warriors are too focused on the scene in front of them that no cat hears. Graystripe whispers to Firestar that they have to do something, and his claws dig into the ground, his muscles bunched, ready to spring, yet his eyes are fixed on his leader as if he won't attack without the order. Ravenpaw's eyes are bright with distress, and turns to Firestar, saying they can't just watch them die. Firestar feels his fur prickling with tension, knowing he can't stay crouched here in hiding with Graystripe's kits are slaughtered a few fox-lengths away. If all else failed, he is willing to give up his life to save them. He murmurs to just wait a moment to see what Stonefur does.
- The warrior had turned to face Leopardstar while they were talking, growling that he takes orders from her, she must know this is wrong, asking what she wants him to do. For a heartbeat, Leopardstar looks uncertain, and again Firestar begins to hope that she will take stand against Tigerstar and stop the destruction on her Clan. But he has underestimated the strength of her ambition, and her misguided faith that Tigerstar offers an invincible future. She finally meows that these are difficult times, as they fight for survival they must count on every one of their Clanmates, there is no room for divided loyalties, and to do as Tigerstar says. Stonefur holds her gaze for a moment more, then faces the two apprentices, and they shrink away from him, their eyes glazed with terror. Stormpaw gives his sister a comforting lick, promising they'll fight him, he won't let Stonefur kill them. Firestar desperately thinks those are brave words, noting that Stonefur is a skilled and experienced warrior, and even in his weak state, he is formidable for two half-trained apprentices, who have obviously been ill-treated and imprisoned as well.
- Stonefur gives Stormpaw a little nod, just like any mentor approving of his apprentices' courage, then he turns to look up at Tigerstar, spitting he'll have to kill him first. Tigerstar narrows his eyes and flicks his tail at Darkstripe, ordering him to kill the RiverClan warrior. Darkstripe crouches low, every hair on his pelt quivering with joy that Tigerstar has given him a chance to prove his loyalty to TigerClan, and with a grunt of effort, he hurls himself at Stonefur. Pity and fear throbs through Firestar, as he can only see one end to the fight. Stonefur is so weak, he will be no match for Darkstripe. He wants to leap into the clearing and fight on the blue-gray warrior's side, but he knows it will be suicidal with so many enemies around.
- Yet Stonefur's skills have not deserted him, and quick as lightning, he drops backward so that instead of landing on his shoulders, Darkstripe is faced with all four paws, claws unsheathed. Firestar feels his throat tighten. remembering a day during his apprenticeship when Bluestar had taught him that very move. He silently begs that if Bluestar is seeing this, to help her son. The two warriors are a clawing, screeching knot of fur in the clearing, and the rest of the cats scramble back to give them space, still keeping the same eerie silence. They are so intent on the battle that Firestar wonders for a moment if this is the best time to rescue the apprentices, but Tigerstar is still crouched at the top of the Bonehill with a clear view of the whole clearing; he would easily spot them.
- Stonefur has fastened his teeth into Darkstripe's scruff and is trying to shake him, but Darkstripe's greater size and strength is too much, and he loses his grip, the two warriors spring apart, breathing hard. Blood is trickling from a scratch above Darkstripe's left eye, and clumps of fur are missing from his flank. Stonefur's pelt is even more ragged, and as he shakes a forepaw, spots of blood spatter the ground. Blackfoot jeers Darkstripe to get a move on, he's fighting like a kittypet. With a hiss of fury, Darkstripe launches another attack, but Stonefur is ready. Slipping to one side, he rakes his claws down the dark warrior's side, and follows up with a blow to his back leg as Darkstripe crashes past him. Stonefur staggers from the force of the impact, but by the time Darkstripe regains his paws, he has recovered, and this time, Stonefur goes on the attack, bowling the tom over and fastening his teeth and claws into his neck.
- Firestar hears Graystripe's intake of breath, his yellow eyes are blazing, and on his other side Ravenpaw is sinking his unsheathed claws into the ground. Firestar feels hope burn in his belly, wondering if it is possible Stonefur will win. But Tigerstar has no intention of letting the blue-gray warrior escape. As Darkstripe struggles to break free, the massive tabby flicks his ears at Blackfoot, ordering him to finish it. The deputy flings himself into the battle, biting Stonefur's shoulder and dragging him off of Darkstripe, ducking to avoid flailing paws. Darkstripe springs on Stonefur to hold his hindquarters down, while Blackfoot scores his claws across his throat. Stonefur lets out a gurgling cry that is cut short. The TigerClan cats release him and stand back. Stonefur's body convulses as blood wells from his throat.
- A thin wailing goes up from the watching cats, strengthening into a cry of triumph. Even after a brief hesitation, Leopardstar joins in. The two apprentices are the only cats to remain silent, their terrified eyes fixed on the warrior who died to save them. Firestar can only stare in horror as Stonefur goes limp and the last breath leaves his body.
Notes and references
|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|
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