âI wouldnât want any more of them on my territory; thatâs for sure.â
âShadowClan cats are better than most of us at hiding,â Firestar pointed out under his breath.
Blackstar stepped back, nudging Tallstar. âGo on, itâs your turn,â he meowed.
The WindClan leader dipped his head before advancing to the edge of the rock. âAll is well in WindClan,â he reported. âAshfoot has a new litter of three kits. Onewhisker and Mudclaw chased off a fox who seemed to think it would be happier living on the moors than in the woods.â
âWe soon changed its mind!â Mudclaw, the WindClan deputy, yowled from where he sat at the base of the Great Rock.
âYouâd better keep a lookout for it,â Tallstar continued to Leopardstar. âIt crossed into your territory near the river.â
âThank you for that, Tallstar,â the RiverClan leader replied dryly. âAnother fox is just what we need. Iâll warn the patrols.â
Firestar reminded himself to do the same. RiverClan territory was narrow there, and if the fox had kept going it could easily have crossed into ThunderClan.
Meanwhile, Leopardstar had stepped forward. âAs usual in greenleaf, there are more Twolegs around,â she meowed. âThey bring boats onto the river, and their kits play in the water and frighten the fish. This season the river is low, so there arenât quite as many Twolegs as usual. However, we have no problem feeding ourselves.â
Firestar wondered if that was completely true. If the water was low in the river then surely there wouldnât be so many fish either. But it wasnât his place to argue, and he knew that Leopardstar, like all the leaders, wouldnât want her Clan to seem weak from lack of food.
âThunderClan has a new warrior too,â he announced when Leopardstar stepped back. âBramblepaw had his warrior ceremony, and is now Brambleclaw.â
Another chorus of congratulations broke out, while Brambleclaw sat beside his sister and acknowledged them with an embarrassed dip of his head. While he waited for thenoise to die down, Firestar decided not to mention Longtailâs accident. Before the next Gathering, Cinderpelt would probably have healed the tabby warriorâs eyes, and the whole incident would be forgotten.
âOur prey is plentiful and the Twolegs arenât bothering us,â he finished.
It wasnât often that a Gathering ended so quickly, with no serious disturbances to report from outside, and no reason for quarrels among the Clans. As Blackstar brought it to a close, Firestar looked down into the hollow. It was harder and harder to remember how it had looked after the battle with BloodClan, when the grass was stained red and the bodies of forest cats and the invaders from Twolegplace lay scattered across the clearing. He had lost his first life then, seeing a pale outline of himself take its place among the warriors of StarClan.
The starry cats had given him the courage to fight on when they told him there had always been four Clans living in the forest, and there always would be.
Life would go on like this forever; Firestar found the thought comforting. The daily routine of patrols, the toil of finding prey and training apprenticesâeven disturbing events like Longtailâs injury and his own unexplained dreamsâseemed small and insignificant when placed beside the unending pattern of Clan life. Firestar was part of a long, long line of cats all driven by loyalty to their Clanmates and the warrior code. Even when he had lost his last life, the Great Oaks would still be here, one for each Clan, until his name had been long forgotten.
C HAPTER 4
The Gathering was over. Firestar bunched his muscles to leap down into the clearing. As he looked for a space to land, he froze, gripping the surface of the rock with his claws. The hollow suddenly seemed more crowded than usual. Sleek,