There will be three, kin of your kin . . . who hold the power of the stars in their paws.
A mysterious murder in the ranks has ripped ThunderClan apart. But more secrets still remain to be discovered.
Jayfeather is determined to find out who his real parents are. But he'll have to trample through a forest of lies in order to uncover the truth. Hollyleaf is shocked by her Clan's disobedience of the warrior code, and distraught enough to strike out at someone she's always admired. And Lionblaze must bear horrified witness to events that will change everything he believes.
In the harshest days of leaf-bare Clanmate turns upon Clanmate, danger lurks behind familiar faces, and one more warrior may be lost forever. . . .
Dead bracken rustled beneath Lionblaze's paws as he stalked through the forest. Above the leafless trees, the sky was dark and empty. Terror raised the hairs on the young warrior's neck, and he shivered from ears to tail-tip.
This is a place that has never known the light of StarClan.
He padded on, skirting clumps of fern and nosing under bushes, but he found no sight or scent of other cats. I've had enough of this, he thought, tugging his tail free from a trailing bramble. Panic sparked in his mind as he stared at the darkness that stretched away between the trees. What if I never find my way out of here?
"Looking for me?"
Lionblaze jumped and spun around. "Tigerstar!"
The massive warrior had appeared around the edge of a bramble thicket. His tabby pelt shone with a strange light that reminded Lionblaze of the sickly glow of fungus on dead trees.
"You've missed a lot of training," Tigerstar meowed, padding forward until he stood a tail-length from the Thunder-Clan warrior. "You should have come back sooner."
"No, I shouldn't!" Lionblaze blurted out. "I shouldn't have come here at all, and you never should have trained me. Bramble-claw isn't my father! You're not my kin!"
Tigerstar blinked once, but he showed no surprise, not even a flick of his ears. His amber eyes narrowed to slits, and he seemed to be waiting for Lionblaze to say more.
"You . . . you knew!" Lionblaze whispered. The trees seemed to spin around him. Squirrelflight isn't the only cat who kept secrets!
"Of course I knew." Tigerstar shrugged. "It's not important. You were willing enough to learn from me, weren't you?"
"Blood isn't everything," Tigerstar snarled. His lip curled, showing the glint of sharp fangs. "Just ask Firestar."
Lionblaze felt his neck fur begin to bristle as fury coursed through him. "Firestar's a finer warrior than you ever were."
"Don't forget that he's not your kin, either," Tigerstar hissed softly. "There's no point defending him now."
Lionblaze stared at the dusk-lit warrior. Does he know who my real father is? "You knew all along that I wasn't Firestar's kin," he growled. "You let me believe a lie!"
Tigerstar twitched one ear. "So?"
Rage and frustration overwhelmed Lionblaze. Leaping into the air, he threw himself at Tigerstar and tried to push him over. He battered at the tabby warrior's head and shoulders, his claws unsheathed, tearing out huge clumps of fur. But the red haze of fury that filled his head made him clumsy, unfocused. His blows landed at random, barely scratching Tigerstar's skin.
The huge tabby tom went limp, letting himself drop to one side and hooking one paw around Lionblaze's leg to unbalance him. Lionblaze landed among the bracken with a jolt that drove the breath from his body. A heartbeat later he felt a huge paw clamp down on his shoulders, pinning him to the ground.
"I've taught you better than that, little warrior," Tigerstar taunted him. "You're out of practice."
Taking a deep breath, Lionblaze heaved himself upward. Tigerstar leaped back and crouched a fox-length away, his amber eyes burning.
"I'll show you who's out of practice," Lionblaze panted.
He forced his anger down, summoning a cold determination—all the fighting moves he had ever learned were at the tips of his claws. When Tigerstar sprang at him, he was prepared; he dived forward and hurled himself underneath his opponent's belly. As soon as Tigerstar's paws hit the ground, Lionblaze whipped around and landed a couple of blows on the tabby tom's hindquarters before leaping out of range.
Tigerstar spun to face him. "Better," he meowed, mockery still in his voice. "I have mentored you well."
Before Lionblaze could reply, the huge tabby darted toward him, veering aside at the last moment and lashing out with one forepaw as he passed. Lionblaze felt Tigerstar's claws rake along his side, and blood begin trickling out of the scratches. Fear stabbed at him. What happens if he kills me here? Will I be really dead?
His mind cleared. Tigerstar was hurtling toward him again. Lionblaze scrambled aside; he aimed a blow, but felt his claws slide harmlessly through the tabby's pelt.
"Too slow," Tigerstar spat. "You'll have to work harder, now you know that prophecy wasn't meant for you. That was for Firestar's kin, wasn't it?"
Lionblaze knew that the tabby tom was trying to make him too angry to fight. I won't listen! All I need to do is win this battle!
He sprang at Tigerstar again, twisting in the air as he had been taught during those long nighttime visits, and landed squarely on the massive tabby's broad shoulders. Digging in with his claws, he stretched forward and sank his teeth into Tigerstar's neck.
Tigerstar tried the same trick of going limp and pulling Lionblaze down with him, but this time Lionblaze was ready. He wriggled out from underneath the heavy body, battering with his hind paws at Tigerstar's exposed stomach fur.
"I'm not falling for that trick twice!" he hissed.
Tigerstar struggled to get up, but blood was pouring from a gash in his belly; he stumbled down again, rolling onto his back. Lionblaze planted one forepaw on Tigerstar's chest and held the other, claws extended, against his neck.
The tabby glared up at him; for a heartbeat, fear flashed in his blazing amber eyes. "Do you really think you could kill me?" he growled. "You'd never do it."
"No." Lionblaze sheathed his claws and stepped back. "You're already dead."
He turned and stalked away, his pelt still bristling and all his senses alert in case Tigerstar followed and leaped on him again. But there was no sound from the dark warrior, and soon he was left behind among the endless trees.
Lionblaze's mind whirled. He had beaten Tigerstar! Maybe I do have power after all . . . but how can I, if I'm not one of the Three?