|"Well? Are you still sure that you want to stand and fight?"|
|— Tigerstar in The Darkest Hour, page 225|
- Below contains in-depth information for chapter twenty one of The Darkest Hour. If you are looking for a shorter summary of the entire book, please check the main article.
- Chapter Number: 21 (of 30)
- Page Numbers: 217-225
- Firestar awakes to find Sandstorm still asleep in his den. He carefully steps out of the den into the chilly morning. The clearing is deserted until Whitestorm steps out, and tells Firestar he sent out the dawn patrol to the ShadowClan border. The ginger leader approves of this, Tigerstar could bring some cats to Fourtrees and another group of cats to attack ThunderClan. Firestar tells Whitestorm he's in charge of the camp with as many warriors he can spare. The deputy agrees and tells him to take as much strength as he needs. He also talks about how Brightheart is shaping up to be a great fighter thanks to Cloudtail, and the elders can still raise a few claws.
- Firestar predicts the elders will have to be pushed to fight, and thanks Whitestorm. He walks over to Cinderpelt's den and asks if everything is in order. Cinderpelt says everything's in order with a grave look in her eyes. He asks her if she thinks there's a battle coming and if StarClan told her. Cinderpelt tells Firestar that she can tell by common sense and she doesn't need omens to tell her everything. Firestar knows she's right, but her words chill him to the bone.
- With a momentous meeting ahead, he wonders why there has been no sign from StarClan, and if their warrior ancestors abandoned them in ThunderClan's greatest time of need. He wonders if he should have gone to the Moonstone to share with StarClan, and he asks Cinderpelt why StarClan is being silent. She shakes her head, but tells Firestar she knows StarClan hasn't forgotten them, and how their warrior ancestors decreed long ago that there should be four Clans in the forest, and they won't stand to let Tigerstar change that. As Firestar thanks her and walks away to muster his warriors, he wishes he shares her faith.
- A stiff breeze is blowing as Firestar leads his warriors up the slope to Fourtrees, rippling the grass and carrying the scents of many cats. Each gust brings a string of rain from the gray clouds pushing each other in the sky. At the top of the slope, he crouches in the shelter of the bushes to look down at the clearing. Cloudtail appears next to him almost immediately, and asks Firestar why they are standing around when they should get on with the meeting. The ginger leader replies he wants to know what's going on in case they run into an ambush. He turns to his warriors and raises his voice, and yowls they know why they're here. Tigerstar wants them to join TigerClan and he won't take no for an answer. Firestar wants to believe they can get out of this without a fight, but he isn't sure. As he finishes speaking, Cloudtail flicks the ginger cat's shoulder with his tail and points to the hollow. Firestar finds Tallstar and WindClan approaching them.
- Firestar announces WindClan is here and calls his warriors to meet them. He leads the way to the hollow and comes face-to-face with Tallstar. The WindClan leader dips his head in greeting and welcomes the ThunderClan leader, and says this is a black day for the forest. Firestar agrees, but he says the Clans will stand for what is right by the warrior code no matter what happens. Firestar is shocked at the amount of warriors Tallstar brought with him, remembering the attack on WindClan's camp the day before and how he expected a smaller group of warriors at Fourtrees. Instead practically every WindClan warrior is there, still showing scars of the raid on their camp, but their eyes are bright and determined. He finds his friend Onewhisker, a long red weal showing on his flank, and Morningflower, her eyes cold and longing to avenge the death of her son Gorsepaw.
- Firestar reflects that Tigerstar might have a nasty shock to see all the WindClan warriors ready to fight him. He takes a breath, and tells the cats to go. Tallstar tells him to lead on. Firestar is startled that the old and experienced leader gave him such an honor. He waves his tail to signal the united Clans- LionClan. With pride, Firestar knows this is his destiny. He stalks down the slope through the bushes, all his senses alert for attack. But he hears nothing but the rustle of his own warriors. The scent of TigerClan is still a long way off. As Firestar leads his cats into the clearing, the bushes on the opposite side of him part and Tigerstar steps out to face him, Blackfoot, Darkstripe, and Leopardstar flanking him like vengeful shadows.
- The massive tabby's eyes gleam as he spots Firestar, and the young ThunderClan leader realizes this war is personal for him too. Tigerstar wants nothing more than to sink his claws into his pelt and tear him to pieces. Instead of making Firestar afraid, the knowledge exhilarates him. He coolly greets Tigerstar and asks if he's still looking for the RiverClan prisoners. The massive tabby snarls he'll regret that day's work, and Firestar says to try and make him. Tigerstar doesn't reply, but waits as more of TigerClan's warriors appear through the bushes. He realizes that TigerClan is a formidable group, though some warriors still bear wounds and claw marks from the raid on WindClan's camp the previous day. Firestar's heart begins to thump painfully as he realizes the battle he has feared so long might be unleashed any moment.
- Tigerstar takes a pace forward, his head raised challengingly as he asks if ThunderClan and WindClan have thought about his offer, and they have two choices- join TigerClan or be destroyed. Firestar and Tallstar exchange a glance with each other, and they know there is no need for words. They have decided what their response will be. Firestar speaks for him and Tallstar, and rejects Tigerstar's offer, stating the forest is never meant to be ruled by one Clan, especially one led by a dishonorable murderer. The TigerClan leader softly says it will be, not even defending himself against the ginger leader's accusation. He says with or without Firestar, they will be destroyed by sunset, and the time of the four Clans will be over. Firestar says the answer is still no, and ThunderClan will not submit, and Tallstar says nor will WindClan.
- Tigerstar growls that their courage matches with their stupidity. The massive leader pauses and rakes his gaze over the ThunderClan and WindClan cats. Firestar hears snarls from the TigerClan cats standing behind their leader and forces himself not to flinch away from their glittering eyes and bristling fur. For a few heartbeats no cat moves, and he braces himself for Tigerstar's order to attack when he hears a choking cry calling out Tawnypaw's name. Firestar finds Bramblepaw standing rigid beside him, staring into the ranks of their enemies. He follows the apprentice's gaze, and he finds Tawnypaw standing beside the ShadowClan warrior Oakfur. Brackenfur asks what she is doing standing over there, thrusting himself over to Firestar's other side. He says that Tigerstar stole her.
- Tigerstar denies stealing his daughter, and says she came to them willingly. Firestar doesn't know whether to believe him or not. Tawnypaw looks at the ground as if she doesn't want to meet the eyes of her brother and former mentor. He has to admit she doesn't look like a prisoner, instead she looks uncomfortable being at the center of attention. Bramblepaw calls out to his sister again, saying she's a ThunderClan cat and for her to come back. Firestar winces at the pain in the young cat's voice, remembering the agony of losing Graystripe when his friend chose to leave and join RiverClan. Tawnypaw stays silent. Tigerstar meows to Bramblepaw, telling him to come with TigerClan. He says his sister made the right choice, and they will rule the forest and he can share the power.
- Firestar sees Bramblepaw's muscles tense. At last, after all of the suspicions and doubts he had about the apprentice, the young cat faces a simple choice. Firestar wonders what the decision will be. Tigerstar prompts his son to say something, telling him ThunderClan is finished and there's nothing there for him. Bramblepaw growls about joining his father. The apprentice pauses and swallows as he fights to control his anger. When he speaks again his words ring out loud and clear so every cat can hear him. He repeats what he said before, saying he wouldn't join because of what his father has done and he'd rather die than join him. ThunderClan cats murmur their approval of Bramblepaw's decision. Tigerstar's eyes smolder with rage as he hisses if his son is sure, and he won't make the offer twice. He asks Bramblepaw to join now or he will die. The apprentice retorts that at least he'll go to StarClan as a loyal ThunderClan cat, his head high.
- Firestar feels pride thrilling through him from nose to tail-tip. There can be no greater challenge to Tigerstar's power than for his own son rejecting him in favor of the Clan he despised. Tigerstar spits at Bramblepaw, calling him a fool and that he'll stay and die with the rest of ThunderClan. Firestar braces himself as he waits for his enemy to launch his attack, convinced the battle is upon them. Instead, Blackfoot raises his tail in a signal. The bushes on the opposite side of the slope rustle, and the ThunderClan leader's eyes widen in shock as more cats emerge into the clearing.
- Firestar has never seen these cats before, they are skinny with ragged fur, but Firestar senses strength in their wiry limbs. The stench of crow-food and the Thunderpath roll off them, and he knows these are no forest cats. The warriors of ThunderClan and WindClan stare in disbelief as more and more of the strangers pad into the clearing. They fan out into a circle around TigerClan, row after row of them, more cats that Firestar can remember seeing all together in the forest, even at a Gathering. Tigerstar then demands silkily if the ThunderClan and WindClan cats still want to stand and fight.
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|