Chapter 13

Blaze followed Claw, Frost, Adder, and Strike as they made their way to the place where tributes were given. It was a tree at the edge of BloodClan territory closest to the other Clans. Its wide leaves made a welcome relief from the heat of the sun.

Blaze smelled MudClan and saw Sludge leading some cats toward them.

He dipped his head to Claw. “Sadly, our only queen’s kits drowned when they went too close to the river.”

This was not unheard of, though it was uncommon.

“Very well,” Claw meowed. “Make sure you have some tributes by next moon.”

Sludge looked at Blaze out of the corner of his eye as if daring him to say something. When Blaze didn’t, Sludge dipped his head to Claw and led his warriors away.

When Branch led LeafClan up to Claw, he said that no queens had had any kits yet. Claw looked a bit disbelieving, but let the Clan go. When CloudClan came, Sunbeam said that their kits had died of sickness.

Claw’s eyes narrowed and his tail whipped back and forth when Sunbeam told him this. Blaze wondered if he would figure it out.

“So you’re saying you have no toms,” Claw meowed.

Sunbeam nodded.

“Then you won’t mind showing us your camp to prove it,” Claw meowed.

Sunbeam shook his head. “Of course not.”

Claw followed Sunbeam and his warriors into CloudClan territory, with Blaze, Frost, Adder, and Strike following him. When they arrived in the camp, the CloudClan cats could only be seen as eyes in the darkness of their dens.

Claw assigned each of them to search different dens. Blaze padded into the entrance of one, and saw three elders huddled together in the corner. One of them walked menacingly toward him, but Blaze hissed at him.

“I just came to look for the kits,” Blaze meowed. “Obviously they aren’t here.”

The elder stopped and Blaze turned to leave the den.

“There are just elders in there,” Blaze reported to Claw.

Blaze saw Claw grow increasingly frustrated as the rest of the cats reported no kits.

“Very well,” Claw meowed. “Then one of your elders will have to do as tribute.”

Sunbeam hissed at Claw. “You can’t do that! The elders are of no use to you!”

“We need sacrifices for our ancestors,” Claw meowed.

Sunbeam crouched down, and looked as though he was going to pounce on Claw. All of the BloodClan and CloudClan warriors were tense, waiting to see what he would do. Blaze knew they would be seriously outnumbered if they fought here. Sunbeam took a deep breath and raised himself to a sitting position.

“Bring out the elders!” Sunbeam ordered.

A CloudClan warrior disappeared into the den and led out the three elders. They tried not to show their fear, though Blaze could smell it.

“We will take him,” Claw meowed, pointing with his tail to a muscular tom.

“You have given great service to your Clan,” Sunbeam meowed to the elder. “StarClan will honor you.”

The elder nodded and followed the BloodClan warriors out of the camp. Blaze didn’t know what to think. Claw had just taken an elder for no reason. Was it right that he should die to soothe Claw’s anger?

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