|"Suddenly understanding dawned on Firestar like a ray of sunlight striking through branches. Four Clans would become two; did that mean ThunderClan must join with WindClan?"|
|— Firestar thinking about the prophecy in The Darkest Hour, page 198|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter eighteen of The Darkest Hour. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 18 (of 30)
- Page Numbers: 190-203
- Firestar echoes Brackenfur's words in alarm, and asks what happened to Tawnypaw. Whitestorm responds that they are unsure. He is calmer than Brackenfur, but his eyes give away his concern. He says that it was Bramblepaw who first said that he couldn't find his sister. The white tom had thought he was making a fuss about nothing, but they had searched the camp and she was not there, nor had any cat seen her leave. Brackenfur interrupts, saying that it was his fault. Whitestorm assures him that it is not his fault, and that he had sent him on hunting patrol, and no cat expected him to be in two places at once. At this, Brackenfur shakes his head despairingly. Firestar orders him to fetch Bramblepaw, and Thornclaw bounds off at once to the apprentice's den.
- While Firestar waits, he sends Ravenpaw and the three RiverClan cats to see Cinderpelt, and Graystripe tags along with them to check on his kits. Although he is drenched from the icy river, he shows love and affection as he crosses the clearing. When the group of cats are gone, Whitestorm says to Firestar that he doesn't know what to think about Tawnypaw's disappearance. He thinks that she wandered off by herself and got stuck somewhere or lost. Brackenfur angrily adds on, saying that she could be in ShadowClan and Tigerstar may have stolen her. Firestar quietly tells them that Tigerstar was over in RiverClan's territory with Blackfoot and Darkstripe.
- Whitestorm twitches his ears in surprise, and Firestar thinks he'll tell his deputy more as soon as possible. Cloudtail says Tigerstar sent another cat to do his dirty work, referring to Tawnypaw's disappearance. Firestar asks Whitestorm if any ShadowClan or RiverClan cats were scented in ThunderClan's territory, and he replies no. Firestar then concludes she left willingly, thinking she went hunting by herself for a change, but he thinks of the earlier incident with Smallear when he compared her with her bloodthirsty father, making her mad. The ginger leader thinks if he misjudged how upset Tawnypaw was when Bramblepaw breaks his thoughts.
- Firestar orders the apprentice to tell him the last thing Tawnypaw did before her disappearance. Bramblepaw says she was doing the regular apprentice chores, his eyes scared and confused. He says they changed the elder's bedding and brought them fresh-kill, and he went to Cinderpelt to get mouse bile for Smallear's tick, and when he came back Tawnypaw was gone. Firestar asks where he looked, and Bramblepaw says he went to the place where he got the moss for bedding and checked the training hollow as well. Firestar nods, and asks if she said something to the elders. Whitestorm replies that he asked the elders, but they couldn't remember anything out of the ordinary.
- Firestar then inquires if Tawnypaw said anything to her mother Goldenflower. Whitestorm says Goldenflower was frantic, and he sent her and Mousefur to look at Tallpines. The leader asks Bramblepaw if he tried to track her, and Brackenfur says they tracked her all the way up to the ravine but then they lost her scent. Firestar hesitates, and he wants to believe that there would be a reasonable explanation for Tawnypaw's absence. He thinks StarClan forbid him wishing a young apprentice would be lying injured somewhere, but that would be preferable to his worst fear: Tawnypaw leaving to join her father Tigerstar.
- Bramblepaw suddenly says he wants to try and track her again, and Cloudtail agrees to come with him. Firestar gives them a nod of approval, considering Cloudtail is one of the best trackers in the Clan. He also sends Thornclaw and Sandstorm with them, and he leads them up the ravine. Exhaustion drags at Firestar's paws; the night is half over and he hasn't slept. He wants nothing better than to settle down in his den with a piece of fresh-kill, but he knows it would be a long time before being able to do that. Firestar easily picks up Tawnypaw's scent, but just like Brackenfur had said, when the patrol reaches the top of the ravine her scent trail ends.
- Firestar begins to suspect that she had leaped from rock to rock, where her scent wouldn't linger so as to confuse any cats trying to follow and find her. Firestar's worst fear floods back into his mind: Tawnypaw being so unhappy in ThunderClan that she felt she had to leave. His thoughts are interrupted by Cloudtail announcing that the missing apprentice went this way. When Firestar bounds over to him, he catches the faintest trace of Tawnypaw's scent. They follow it through the trees, their noses to the ground as they focus on cat scent among the stronger, distracting smell of prey. No other cat scents join the apprentice's scents, proving she has been alone for that far. However, they lose the scent trail, and not even Cloudtail's sharp nose can find a continuation of her scent.
- A cold wind springs up, driving clouds over the moon and ruffling the cats' fur. Rain begins to fall as Firestar takes one last look to find her scent, but he finds no trace of it. Cloudtail complains about the icy rain, which would most likely wash any trace of the missing apprentice's scent away. Firestar reluctantly agrees to give up, so he calls Thornclaw and Sandstorm back, and tells them they can't do any more. Sandstorm stares at the trail, and thinks that Tawnypaw may have gone to Fourtrees. Firestar thinks that makes sense, Fourtrees would be the obvious place to go to talk to another cat or cross into another Clan. Every inch of his fur prickles with dread, he knew he couldn't persuade himself anymore that she wandered off to hunt, and he could see from the troubled looks of his warriors that they shared his growing conviction- Tawnypaw had gone to ShadowClan.
- When the patrol returns to camp, Brackenfur and Bramblepaw are still anxiously waiting in the clearing. Goldenflower and Mousefur join them. All four cats look bedraggled and despairing in the heavy rain. Goldenflower asks Firestar what he found, and he tells her he found nothing and doesn't know where she is. The distressed she-cat asks him sharply why he isn't looking, and he tells her his patrol can't search in the dark and rain, and Tawnypaw could be anywhere. Goldenflower asks if he cared, her voice high with anger. She thinks that her daughter left deliberately and he didn't trust her. Firestar struggles to answer, knowing that accusation is half-true. Goldenflower doesn't wait for an answer and disappears into the brambles of the warrior's den.
- The ginger leader calls for the she-cat to wait, but Sandstorm stops him.She sympathetically meows that Goldenflower doesn't know what she is saying, and she'll calm her down. Sandstorm bounds off to do so. Feeling tired and discouraged, Firestar turns to Bramblepaw, expecting a similar accusation like Goldenflower's. But his apprentice just stands there quietly, and the look in his amber eyes is unreadable. He says it's okay to Firestar, that he did his best, and thanks him. With his head down and tail drooping the apprentice walks to the apprentice's den. Firestar watches him go, and exhaustion floods over him. To him, it has felt like several moons since Graystripe had suggested to go to RiverClan to see his kits.
- A gray dawn begins to seep into the sky, and Firestar desperately needs to rest, but there's one more duty to perform first. He has to visit Cinderpelt and make sure the RiverClan cats are recovering from their ordeal. As he pads across the clearing to the medicine cat's den, Firestar feels all his doubts about his leadership well up inside him again. One warrior banished, and gone to join his enemy, who is willing to kill to prove his new loyalties. One apprentice vanished, and the whole forest caught up in terror and hatred that he saw no way to combat. The vision of wearing the mane of LionClan's cats that he had seen in that stream seemed a long way away. If StarClan had destined Firestar for greatness, he can't help but wonder if they chose the wrong cat.
- Standing on the Highrock, Firestar watches his Clan emerge from their dens. It is the morning after he made the expedition to RiverClan, and he has called a meeting to inform the Clan about what happened, and to explain the presence of Mistyfoot, Featherpaw, and Stormpaw. Mistyfoot is seen standing at the base the Highrock with the two apprentices and Graystripe and Cinderpelt. Firestar is pleased that they look stronger, as if their energy had come back with a great meal and Cinderpelt's care. Ravenpaw left at dawn, his injured ear swathed with cobweb and a gleam in his eyes as he recalled the battle on the stepping stones. He said it was amazing as his battle moves came back to him, and how he hadn't forgotten them.
- Firestar thanks him and tells him he is a great friend to ThunderClan. Ravenpaw says that the Clan needs many friends with Tigerstar's rise to power. The loner spends a few moments near Bluestar's grave and then leaves for the barn. Firestar wonders if he should call on Ravenpaw to help him again. Tigerstar's enemies would have to unite to drive him out of the forest, yet he knows the final confrontation is his alone. He waits for the Clan cats to settle near the Highrock, and then he begins to speak. He talks about how ThunderClan's all heard by now that he, Graystripe, and Ravenpaw went to RiverClan's territory last night and he describes the prey strewn around and the Bonehill, and Tigerstar's hatred of half-Clan cats and Stonefur's murder. The cats below him shudder and flatten themselves against the ground in sympathy and terror.
- Dustpelt growls that they should attack ShadowClan now for revenge, but Firestar says it's not as simple as that. ThunderClan cannot take on ShadowClan and RiverClan alone expecting to win. Cloudtail retorts that they could try, and he disagrees. There would be warriors from both Clans in RiverClan's camp, and he doesn't expect Tigerstar had left the ShadowClan camp unguarded. He tells his warriors that he doesn't like what Tigerstar is doing, and he is afraid of what he might do in the future. Firestar says he'd like to know what StarClan would want them to do, but they haven't told the dark ginger leader yet. He asks if they spoke to Cinderpelt, but she replies they haven't. Cloudtail angrily flicks his ears and sits down, and Brightheart rubs his shoulder to calm him down.
- In the brief pause, Firestar wonders if it was true to say that he had received no message from StarClan. There had been the vision in the stream, where he was wearing LionClan's glory. He thinks about the prophecy Bluestar gave him: Four will become two, lion and tiger will join in battle. Suddenly, understanding dawns on him like a ray of sunlight striking through branches. Four Clans will become two, he thinks it means ThunderClan must merge with WindClan. Dustpelt yowls impatiently at Firestar, telling him they're still here. The ginger leader apologizes, and explains that he called the cats here to welcome the three RiverClan cats, and that they know Mistyfoot, Featherpaw, and Stormpaw.
- He says they should offer the three RiverClan cats a place in ThunderClan until it is safe for them to go home. Murmuring breaks out around the clearing as he makes the suggestion. Most of the Clan agrees with Firestar, but some look uncertain. Longtail voices his doubts, saying he feels bad for all they've been through, but if they stay, he asks what they would eat. It is the middle of leaf-bare, and ThunderClan needs to feed itself. Graystripe jumps up and says he'll hunt for the RiverClan cats and catch enough prey to feed them and ThunderClan. Mistyfoot says they're not helpless, and she and the apprentices want a day or two to gain stronger so they can hunt for themselves and for ThunderClan.
- Mousefur stands up and says directly to Firestar it isn't a question on who's going to hunt. It is a harder leaf-bare for ThunderClan after the fire, and the dusky brown she-cat says the RiverClan cats should go home so they can get enough prey to fight TigerClan. Before Firestar is able to speak Sandstorm points out they can't go home or they will be murdered like Stonefur due to being half-Clan. Brackenfur asks if they want ThunderClan to be known to send cats to their death. Mousefur looks down at her paws, her fur bristling with anger. Whitestorm says it's worth mentioning that these cats are half ThunderClan, and they have a right to ask them for shelter. From his vantage point on the Highrock, Firestar sees a ripple of shock pass through his cats as they turn to stare at Mistyfoot, standing like a living shadow of their former leader. Remembering how hostile the Clan had been to her and Stonefur when they shared tongues with Bluestar's body, he realizes that Whitestorm took quite the risk in reminding them.
- However, there is no hostility this time, and even Longtail and Mousefur are silent. The story of what happened to the RiverClan cats beside the Bonehill had swung ThunderClan's sympathy to them. The warriors relax, their shock subsiding, with a few murmurs of agreement with Whitestorm's statement. Firestar looks down at the RiverClan cats where they sit at the base of the rock with Graystripe and Cinderpelt, and welcomes them to ThunderClan. Mistyfoot bows her head in gratitude and thanks him. He says it was the right thing to do, and he hopes they'll feel better soon. Cinderpelt tells the ThunderClan leader the RiverClan cats will be fine with good food and rest. Featherpaw shudders and says there was no bedding in the horrible hole, and Mistyfoot tells her apprentice she doesn't need to worry about that anymore, and tells her to concentrate on getting strong again so she can resume her training.
- Firestar remembers that Mistyfoot is Featherpaw's mentor. He wonders about the difficulty of training an apprentice in unfamiliar territory when Graystripe asks if he could mentor Stormpaw since his mentor Stonefur was murdered. Firestar says it's a good idea, and is awarded by the pleasure and the glow of pride in Graystripe's eyes as he looks at his son. He says he'll do the ceremony right away, and he isn't sure if it's necessary, given that Stormpaw isn't truly a member of ThunderClan, but there is something inside of him that longs to make contact with StarClan through the old rituals. Firestar leaps down from the Highrock and beckons Stormpaw over with his tail. The apprentice walks over, a little shaky but holding his head high.
- Firestar says the ancient words of the ceremony and officially makes Graystripe Stormpaw's mentor. He says that Graystripe has borne suffering with a warrior's spirit, and he expects for him to pass down his skills to his new apprentice. Graystripe nods solemnly, then pads over to his son and touches noses with him. He catches Brackenfur's eye, the young tom is pleased that his former mentor has a new apprentice. The leader brings the meeting to an end, and descends from the Highrock. Glancing around, he spots Sandstorm and asks if she can do a favor for him, and she asks what for. Firestar says that Mistyfoot would have trouble mentoring Featherpaw in ThunderClan territory. She doesn't know where the training hollow is, or the dangers, or the best places for prey.
- Firestar hesitates, not sure if what he is about to suggest is a good idea. Not long ago he picked Brackenfur instead of her to mentor Tawnypaw, and Sandstorm was deeply offended that he passed her over, and she might take offense again at his new idea. Sandstorm asks for Firestar to go on, and he asks for her to help Mistyfoot with Featherpaw's training, and he can't think of any cat who would be better. Sandstorm gives him a long, measured look and asks if he can get around her that easily with some flattery. A embarrassed Firestar attempts to speak, but Sandstorm lets out a purr of laughter. She says she'll help Mistyfoot and calls him a stupid furball. Sandstorm says she'll have a word with Mistyfoot now, and relief washes over Firestar. He thanks Sandstorm when a loud wailing interrupts him.
- The cats in the clearing stare at the gorse tunnel. Firestar can't see what had just alarmed them, but he catches the tang of blood in the air and unfamiliar cat scent. As he reaches the entrance, a cat limps out almost wounded beyond recognition. Blood drips from a long gash in his flank, his fur is matted with sand and dust, and his eyes are closed. Firestar makes out the dark mottled pelt under the dirt and distinguishes the scent of WindClan. The newcomer is Mudclaw, barely able to stand from pain and exhaustion. He asks Mudclaw what happened, and the injured warrior staggers toward him. He asks for him to help WindClan as TigerClan is attacking their camp.
Notes and references
- ↑ Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 190
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, chapter 18
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 191
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 194
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 197
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 199
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 198
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 196
- ↑ Revealed in The Darkest Hour, page 203
|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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