|"Some of the sleeping cats around him, the friends he loved, the warriors he trusted, would be lost to him. Win or lose, some of the cats Firestar led out to battle would not come back. And they would die because he had ordered them to fight. A pang of grief shook him, so deep and painful that he almost wailed aloud."|
|— Firestar's thoughts in The Darkest Hour, page 215|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty two of The Darkest Hour. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 22 (of 30)
- Page Numbers: 226-235
- The sun begins to set on the river, turning it to a moving sheet of flame, and comforting Firestar. He stands on top of Sunningrocks and looks over RiverClan territory, wondering what tomorrow will bring. Beside him, Sandstorm shakes her head and presses her warm flank close to his. Firestar recalls how, after returning from the ruined WindClan camp, he had asked the ginger warrior to patrol with him, as he felt a need to get away from the rest of his Clan for a while to prepare for the meeting with Tigerstar. However, the ginger tom hadn't wanted to be completely alone, and he is comforted by his mate's presence. He remembers how they had skirted Snakerocks and followed the Thunderpath up to the ShadowClan border to renew the scent markings as far as Fourtrees, before returning along the RiverClan border. There hadn't been a sign of TigerClan intruders, and the borders are secure, but Firestar knows that if they battle TigerClan, it will be much more than borders, as it will be the climax of his conflict with Tigerstar that had started since he first entered the forest.
- Firestar lingers on the rocks, savoring being along with Sandstorm, and he meows that they must expect a battle, as Tigerstar is determined to make himself ruler of the whole forest. Sandstorm replies that ThunderClan bears the worst of it, and wonders how many warriors WindClan could offer them after that day. Although her voice is troubled, Firestar knows that every cat in ThunderClan would fight bravely beside him, regardless on if they had WindClan's alliance.
- The fiery light is dying and Firestar gazes at his beloved forest, where a single star glitters in the violet sky. He silently asks Bluestar if it is her and if she is still watching him, and he hopes that his former leader is still protecting her loved Clan. Firestar knows that if they survive the next day's meeting with Tigerstar, as well as his quest for absolute power, it will be because StarClan knew that the forest needed four Clans.
- Everything is completely still and silent, and Firestar feels as if the whole forest is holding its breath, waiting for the coming dawn. He murmurs to Sandstorm that he loves her and pushes his muzzle against her side and the ginger she-cat turns her head to meet her gaze, eyes glowing. She replies that she loves him too, and adds that she knows that he will bring them through tomorrow, whatever happens. Firestar wishes that he could share her conviction, but lets himself be soothed by her trust in him, and he mews that they need to get rest.
- By the time the two cats return to the ravine, the night is chilly, with frost sparkling on the grass and surface of the rocks. As Firestar emerges from the gorse tunnel, Whitestorm looms out of the darkness and meows that he was starting to worry about his leader. Firestar replies that he is fine, as there isn't even a mouse stirring outside, and Whitestorm responds that it is a pity, as they could do with a few. The deputy gives Firestar a quick report of the patrols he had sent out and the watch he had set onto camp, and finishes that Firestar should get some sleep, as it will be a tough day tomorrow. Firestar agrees that he will, and thanks the white tom. Whitestorm fades back into the darkness again and, as he retreats, meows that he will check on the sentries.
- Once he is out of reach, Sandstorm comments to Firestar that he couldn't have chosen a finer deputy, and Firestar agrees, stating that he doesn't know what he would do without him. Sandstorm looks at her mate, sadness and wisdom in her green eyes. She meows that she might find out tomorrow, as cats will die if Tigerstar makes them fight. Firestar agrees, but thinks of how he has only just thought about what it would truly mean. He realizes that some of his sleeping Clanmates will be lost to him, and die because he ordered them to fight the battle. He is shook by a deep, painful pang of grief and repeats that he knows, but asks what he can do. Sandstorm softly suggests that he goes on, as Firestar has a duty as a leader, which he does brilliantly.
- Firestar is humbled and Sandstorm presses her muzzle against his, murmuring that she should get some sleep. Firestar protests, finding that he cannot face the prospect of the shadowy, solitary den under the Highrock, and explains that he doens't want to be alone, and he invites Sandstorm to come and share his den. She dips her head and agrees, and Firestar gives her ear a quick lick before leading the way across the clearing. Although the lichen curtain at the entrance still hasn't grown back after the fire, the den lays in deep shadow. Firestar realizes that an apprentice has left a rabbit for him, and, remembering his hunger, crouches beside Sandstorm and shares the prey with her, swallowing with quick, famished gulps. Sandstorm purrs that she needed that and extends her front paws, arching her back in a long stretch. She yawns, noting that she could sleep for a moon, and when Firestar arranges his mossy bedding to make a sleeping place for her, she curls up and closes her eyes.
- Sandstorm murmurs a good night to Firestar, who touches his nose to her fur and wishes her the same. Soon, the pale ginger she-cat's breathing is soft and regular and Firestar knows that she is asleep. However, despite his weariness, the ginger tom doesn't feel ready to curl up beside her, but instead sits watching while the moon rises and spills pale light through the entrance to the den, touching Sandstorm's fur to silver. Firestar thinks that she is beautiful and precious to him, but might die tomorrow, and realizes that that is what it means to be a leader. He is unsure if he can endure the pain, although he knows that at dawn, he will take up the burden that StarClan had laid on him. As Firestar settles himself into the moss beside Sandstorm, he silently pleads StarClan to help him bear it well, and takes comforts from Sandstorm's fur as he finally falls asleep.
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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