"Why did you leave the mountains? Did you need something to fight over so badly? Before you came, we hunted and slept, and lay in the sun. We fought over prey, but no cat ever killed another. You brought death here."
The rivalry between Gray Wing and Clear Sky has driven a bitter wedge between all of the forest cats. As Thunder and Gray Wing struggle to find a peaceful path for the future, tensions are growing—and soon more blood will be shed.
Since fleeing from Clear Sky's camp in the forest, Thunder has safely returned to settle on the moor with Gray Wing. But the rivalries that have plagued the cats for moons are growing stronger. Gray Wing still believes there is a way for both groups to live in peace, while Clear Sky insists that harsh rules and divided territories are the only hope for the future.
What started as a misunderstanding between two brothers has spread far and wide—and now every mountain cat, rogue, and kittypet who settles in the forest will be forced to pick a side.
Detailed Plot Summary
Gray Wing is sitting at the edge of the old tribe camp by the waterfall, back in the mountains. An elder complains about stones in their nest. Jay Frost, a kit of the Tribe, offers to pick them out, but a queen argues that his pads are still too soft to do work. The elder says that Jay Frost's pads will need to harden soon. Lion's Roar tries to get Misty Water to eat a mouse but she continues to refuse, insisting that it is the last piece of prey. Another tom points out that the hunting party may bring back more prey soon. Gray Wing spots Twisted Branch and Snow Hare, calling out their names and approaching them. He is startled by four kits that interfere with his path, and he realizes then that Dewy Leaf must have kitted. Stoneteller calls out Gray Wing's name from the back of the cave. He asks if she can see him, and Stoneteller tells him that they share the same dream.
Stoneteller is interested in what is going on in the forest - and Gray Wing tells her that everyone is okay, although he keeps his uneasiness about Jagged Peak and Clear Sky to himself. Gray Wing starts thinking about how he failed everyone - his mom, Quiet Rain, who probably wouldn't even recognize Clear Sky, Jagged Peak, his own brother, and his cats. Stoneteller seems to realize what he was thinking, and assures him that it's not his fault. She says that having little makes cats share - but having too much makes cats greedy, a direct reference to Clear Sky and how much territory he has and how much more he is claiming. She warns Gray Wing that there will be war, and greed is only the beginning. When Gray Wing tells her of Turtle Tail's affection for him and how he has returned them, Stoneteller is glad that he recognized the strength of her love. Stoneteller starts to fade away, and Gray Wing is desperate to bring her back. Stoneteller tells him she has faith in him - and she always will.
Clear Sky watches Frost and Thunder leave his camp, for Frost cannot serve Clear Sky's band of cats as he is injured. Thunder decides to go with him, and Clear Sky notices Falling Feather who comments, saying she almost wished she could go with them. Clear Sky outright confronts Falling Feather, who accuses Clear Sky of not caring for his cats. Outraged, Clear Sky claws Falling Feather, Falling Feather is shocked, and Clear Sky apologizes, but makes her know that his authority won't be undermined. Following this event, Clear Sky calls a meeting - and tells his cats that anyone may tell Falling Feather what to do, or eat her prey, for she is less than a snake at this point until her trust can be assured. Clear Sky, wary of battle with his brother's warriors, starts to plan for training, having two new recruits, Fircone and Nettle, fight with each other. He is impressed by their ferocity - and knows that if they're this fierce with Clanmates, they'd be more in battle with enemies. And he knows that with more training they would be deadly.
Back with Gray Wing, he notices his cats anxious - responding to Clear Sky's threats just as he is responding to his anxiety about Gray Wing attacking. Wind Runner insists they react first, but Gray Wing is hesitant, worrying about what would happen if his cats got hurt. His cats start pointing out the murders Clear Sky committed, and how bloodthirsty he has been. Gray Wing is torn on believing if his brother is a murderer, but before he can question it anymore, he starts to get ideas on where Clear Sky will expand his territory. Wind Runner starts to join in, and so do more of his cats, which leads to them devising a plan if Clear Sky dares to expand his territory more. However, Rainswept Flower interrupts them, pointing out that she smells Thunder. At first, Gray Wing is confused, wondering if she means rain, but he spots Thunder with Frost. Gray Wing asks why he left with Frost, and although he knows one of the reason is because he cares about Frost - Thunder also admits that he has no father, disowning Clear Sky and refusing to acknowledge that a heartless cat such as he had fathered him. Gray Wing brings up the idea of talking to Clear Sky peacefully to discuss the borders and how he was expanding them, and Thunder instantly agrees, thinking it will work.
Gray Wing discusses it with Tall Shadow, who agrees, and notices that Wind Runner is expecting Gorse Fur's kits. Gray Wing announces his idea to his cats, and they agree, several cats volunteering to come with him. Gray Wing notices that his adopted son, Pebble Heart, starts to have unsettling nightmares - he describes it as all his kin under the four trees, the appointed meeting place, being gone. Gray Wing wonders if this is a sign of the future, but helplessly prays that it isn't. Now that Thunder has returned to the moor cats, his welcome is greeted by enthusiasm and hesitance. He sees cats teaching the kits battle moves, and tries to interfere, believing that there is no need for a battle. Some cats, such as Jagged Peak, are hesitant to welcome him - as he left for Clear Sky's camp and has returned, so his loyalty is thought to be wavering. Hawk Swoop, Thunder's foster mother after Storm died and Clear Sky kicked him out, assures Thunder that Jagged Peak is a good cat, and that he just misunderstands things sometimes. Wind Runner is also one of the cats who don't welcome Thunder, as she heavily disagrees with his decision not to fight. Thunder gives in and realizes that if they are going to fight, then they will fight properly.
Tall Shadow and Gray Wing both agree that they should officially welcome Wind Runner and Gorse Fur into their group of cats. But Tall Shadow receives the news of Wind Runner excepting kits, and she instantly becomes hesitant. She is unsure if this is the best time to have kits, for Clear Sky is spoiling for a fight and they would lose warriors in the fight, as Wind Runner won't be able to partake. But Tall Shadow decides to welcome her in the group regardless, and every cat exclaims their agreement - talking about the positive things that the couple had done for them while their time in the group. After they are officially welcomed, the cats start bringing up the idea of talking to Clear Sky. Some cats are hesitant if Clear Sky will listen - especially Jagged Peak. But Gray Wing is certain that Clear Sky will listen to him - because after all, they are brothers. And everything that they'd been through must bind them together, and not push them apart.
Clear Sky is training Misty's kits, Alder and Birch. He wants them to grow up and learn how to fight, so he decides to start them at an early age, considering their mother is dead and can't help them. However, while training, a dog attacks the group. Petal helps Clear Sky chase it off, and they chase it to the moor side, where Twolegs await. Petal is agitated that Clear Sky trained them to attack rather then hide from enemies, and Clear Sky finds himself disagreeing with the fact that they're too young to fight. He pauses for a moment - and wonders if Gray Wing, Quiet Rain, or Bright Stream would agree with him. Back at his camp in the forest, Thorn and Dew find Clear Sky. They convince Clear Sky that they're capable of joining - and tell them that they know what goes on in Gray Wing's camp. They tell him about Wind Runner and Gorse Fur's warrior ceremony, although not knowing it was the ceremony and not stating it. Clear Sky starts putting pieces together - and gets the assumption that Thunder was spying on Clear Sky and his cats to prepare Gray Wing for a battle. Clear Sky is infuriated, and knows that there'll be war between him and his brother. Clear Sky looks to the moor, and asks himself if Gray Wing wants battle. And he'll give him better than that. He'll give him war.
Thunder and Jackdaw's Cry accidentally run into Petal, but unbeknownst to them Falling Feather is with Petal. Jackdaw's Cry is surprised to see his sister, and Petal is furious with them. Petal starts to talk about how boundaries will put an end to fights, but Thunder and Jackdaw's Cry - who want to speak to Clear Sky about Gray Wing wanting to talk to him at the Fourtrees, insist on speaking to Clear Sky without taking any regards to Petal's rambling. Thunder, about to fight his way into Clear Sky's camp, is relieved when Petal lets them go. He sees Clear Sky on a low oak branch - and he tells his son he thought he saw the last of him, with pure menace in his voice. Clear Sky focuses on his son, blaming himself for trusting him and letting himself get betrayed. When Thunder and Jackdaw's Cry tell Clear Sky that Gray Wing wants to talk, Clear Sky is surprised, wondering why Gray Wing would go through that when all he wants is a battle. Clear Sky tells the two cats that he put boundaries because he wants his cats to flourish - and Jackdaw's Cry is disgusted, pointing out how he sent Frost away to die, trained Jagged Peak until he crippled him, and has orphan kits in the camp because he killed their mother, and asks if he really considers that flourishing. Clear Sky flashes back several insults, but eventually goes back to camp, and agrees to meet Gray Wing at full moon in the Fourtrees, but at a price. Clear Sky insists on leaving Jackdaw's Cry in the camp until they meet, and decides that whatever happens at the meeting, his cats can do whatever they want to Jackdaw's Cry. As Thunder leaves, Clear Sky starts preparing for war.
Thunder is still worried by the fact that he left Jackdaw's Cry in Clear Sky's camp. An unfamiliar cat pounces on him and starts to battle him, and Thunder reacts with claws. When he scratches the tom's nose, the tom tells Thunder he was just playing. Thunder asks who he is, and he tells him that his name is Tom. Thunder tells him that he knows he's a tom, and asks him for his name. Tom tries to explain that it's his real name, and he asks if Bumble is around. Thunder tries to explain to Tom that she is dead, and Thunder shows Tom to her grave. Tom reveals to Thunder that Turtle Tail was his mate and left him with her kits, and asks Thunder to bring him to her, assuming that she lives with them. But Thunder refuses, saying that instead he'll tell Turtle Tail that he saw Tom. Tom isn't satisfied by this, and says to tell Turtle Tail that he'll wait at Bumble's grave until she comes, and that he won't go anywhere. He'll wait as long as it takes. Thunder, realizing that Tom is dangerous, lies to Tom, saying that he will tell Turtle Tail that. He runs away - back to camp, and his spirits are lifted by the thought of peace in the woods.
Thunder breaks the news of Tom to Gray Wing and Turtle Tail, and Gray Wing takes Turtle Tail and Tall Shadow to meet him. They end up getting into a brawl - and they win. Tom still insists on meeting his kits, but Turtle Tail won't let him. As they start to leave, Tom calls out that it was a shame that Bumble died and not Turtle Tail. Gray Wing stiffens at this, but they return to camp unharmed. As Gray Wing tries to sleep, he gets a dream from Stoneteller - to not sleep, for there is danger. Gray Wing jerks his head up, surprised to find himself in his own nest, with Turtle Tail asleep beside him. Gray Wing closes his eyes and drifted back into sleep. He awakes, hearing Turtle Tail's voice calling him, already dawn. He sees Rainswept Flower hurrying across the clearing , while Cloud Spots carries herbs towards the brambles. Turtle Tail breaks the news to him that Wind Runner had begun her kitting. However, Wind Runner's kitting is rather early. Despite the early kitting, Wind Runner gives birth to four healthy kits - two she-kits and two toms.
Oddly enough, Turtle Tail's kits disappear at the same time. Several cats volunteer to search the forest, but Thunder finds Jagged Peak, and he reveals to him that Turtle Tail has gone after Tom, and both Thunder and Lightning Tail pursue the tom. Clear Sky runs into Tom himself, with a few other cats at his heels. Tom explains to Clear Sky that he is sorry for treading on his land, yet he intends to bring his kits home. Clear Sky comments on how they don't look like plump, soft kittypets - they look like muscle and bone, just like wild kits. Clear Sky warns Tom to stay off his territory and returns to his camp, instructing his cats to train. He purposely chooses Falling Feather to be Snake's opponent because she is Jackdaw's Cry's sister. After the training session, Clear Sky leaves Jackdaw's Cry to starve, and runs into Thunder, who asks him if they've seen Turtle Tail or her kits. Clear Sky tells Thunder that kits should be with their father, and Thunder asks him if that's why he sent him away twice. Clear Sky sneers at this, and knows that Thunder always wanted to be with Gray Wing, so he continues to disown him, and sends him off his land.
Thunder and Lightning Tail find the track of Turtle Tail, yet they need to cross a river. They spot River Ripple, who generously guides them across the river. However, while tracking down Tom - they see the dead body of Turtle Tail, having had been hit by a monster. After grieving for their lost friend, they are led through Twolegplace by a kittypet named Flower, they soon find Tom, who refuses to give up his kits - so Lightning Tail, Thunder, and River Ripple cleverly devise a plan in which they distract Tom and take the kits away. They return to camp - upon breaking the news that Turtle Tail is dead, and that one of Wind Runner's kits, Emberkit, had passed away. Gray Wing is absolutely devastated, and Wind Runner, who had wished him grief because he didn't understand her pain of losing a kit, apologizes to him, Pebble Heart treats him, and Tall Shadow comforts him. Afterwards, they bury Emberkit despite Wind Runner's protests, and honor Turtle Tail for they could not retrieve her body. Gray Wing silently grieves for Turtle Tail, telling her that he will not fail her, and he had loved her always. Thunder comforts him, saying that he misses his mother, but he's glad he doesn't have to face the world alone. Gray Wing hears Turtle Tail whisper to him - that he must stop Clear Sky from dragging his cats into war.
The day comes where the meeting between Clear Sky and Gray Wing takes place. Pebble Heart warns Gray Wing about the meeting as he takes a few cats with him, Tall Shadow and Thunder. While Tall Shadow explores the four trees where they're supposed to meet, Gray Wing explains how Pebble Heart's dreams are much like Stoneteller's, and that he thinks they are prophecies. However, they see Clear Sky - and that he had brought every single cat in his camp with him. Clear Sky commands that Gray Wing shows himself, stating they came here to talk. Thunder gets into a quarrel with his father when the three cats jump up to the large stone to talk to him - accusing Clear Sky of wanting Thunder to be cruel just like him. Gray Wing apologizes for him, and tries to remind Clear Sky of the memories they shared in the mountains - how they felt full, how they played with each other, how they were content, etc.
Tall Shadow takes her place to talk, telling Clear Sky that the forest did not grow for him to claim it to himself. She asks if they can be united in the fact that the land lives on and that they must honor and protect it, as it shelters them and feeds them. Clear Sky almost takes her words into consideration - until Jackdaw's Cry catches a bat and eats it. Cats from Clear Sky's side are furious, saying it was their prey, but Jackdaw's Cry complains it was because he hadn't eaten since he was in Clear Sky's camp. Thunder is shocked, and repeats Clear Sky's words of promising to not let him go hungry. Clear Sky hushes him, telling him that he's disloyal, ungrateful, and that he shouldn't exist - and then he calls the signal to attack. Realizing they are outnumbered, Thunder is sent for help, but being pursued by numerous cats on the opposing side. He manages to outsmart them, and brings cats from Gray Wing's territory, leading them into battle. Clear Sky had trapped Gray Wing and the rest of his cats, and leaps down to attack the cats Thunder had brought. The cats leap into battle, and in the process, Fircone, Hawk's Swoop, Frost, Rainswept Flower, Falling Feather, and Jackdaw's Cry all are slaughtered. While Clear Sky kills Rainswept Flower after she accuses him of being greedy, Thunder observes that his father was glad he killed another cat. Clear Sky pins down Gray Wing, about to kill him - for his brother won't give in. Gray Wing comes to terms with this, telling Clear Sky to kill him. To kill him and live with the memory. To tell the stars he won. He tells Clear Sky that he's greedy for power, he bosses every cat around - he always has, and he always would. That he's so greedy for power that he'd kill his own brother to achieve it. Clear Sky stops, and releases Gray Wing, declaring the battle over.
Tension breaks out between the cats, despite the battle being over - yet, however, the spirit cats break it. Warriors that had fallen in battle or other reasons fall from the sky and onto the ground - one of them being Storm. Turtle Tail is among them, calling Clear Sky a fool, telling him to learn from his mistakes. She then talks to Gray Wing - confronting him, but then telling him they bring a message. Gray Wing is uneasy if he wants to hear this message or not. Storm confronts Clear Sky as well, asking if killing cats was courageous, but then realizes that fear is what drove Clear Sky. She tells the cats that fear is a powerful instinct - one that only the strongest cats can resist. She remarks that they had shown them that death is nothing for them to fear - that it is not the end. Storm declares it is time to make things right. It becomes Shaded Moss' turn to confront a cat. He tells Tall Shadow that she wasn't here to kill cats, for one cat has a choice, and is only as foolish as the prey she chases. River Ripple appears, and talks about his say on the situation, but Clear Sky calls him out, saying he's not one of them. This infuriates Storm, for she yells at Clear Sky to stop ordering every cat around. A falling star appears, and the spirit cats acknowledge it as a sign. They tell the cats that they all live under the same stars - that a single moon shines onto their nests - and that they came to tell them one thing. Unite or die. Clear Sky then promises them from then on, the cats would live as one. And with that, they disappear, telling the cats to meet them at the next full moon at the four trees. The cats wonder what they meant, but Tall Shadow disregards them, saying that they should bury the bodies of the fallen before anything.
Wind is seen looking across the river, asking her friend, Branch, if they could eat some of the river cats' fresh kill. Branch is shocked, commenting sharply on how Wind would want to eat fish. Wind explains that she is so hungry - that she'd eat anything, fish or not. Branch is offended, believing Wind doesn't trust him to find food. Wind comments that they'd been hunting all day, recalling how Branch had refused the offer from kind cats that offered to share their food. Snowflakes start to fall from the sky, and Wind notices that Branch's fur is ruffled - knowing that it wasn't the snowflakes that chilled him to the bone, but the fact that he had taken care of Wind through the cold season when her sister and mother died. Wind knows that Branch feels obliged to take care of her, and she is comforted by the fact that he will always take care of her. Wind smells a dog, but Branch puts it off, turning to stalk a rabbit. The rabbit escapes from him, but when Branch stalks it closely, it freezes, with Branch looking up. Wind doesn't understand why he is stalking at such a juicy bit of prey, but then a dog attacks her, the same one she had scented. Branch comes to her defense, fending the dog off, however, not at a good cost, for Wind's leg is terribly injured.
She asks Branch if she is going to die, but Branch purposely avoids the question, leaving Wind to harbor in fear. Branch comes back, promising to bring her food, yet Wind notices a hardness in his voice. Wind assumes it was because of fear, and he leaves. Yet, the next morning, there is no sign of him. However, there is a dead rabbit next to her. Wind guesses Branch had brought it, but she still can't find him. She prays for him to come back - for she needs him desperately. For a couple of days, the pain in Wind's leg subsides, and she is feeling better enough to walk. She notices that no scent of dog remained on the location where she and Branch had been attacked, but there was also no scent of Branch. She stops - wondering if Branch had left her. But it was impossible. He couldn't have. Wind recalls the hardness in his meow and the distant way he had looked at her, and she tries to push it away. However, she keeps remembering the harsh gazes and sharp glances that Branch would flash at her, and realizes that Branch lusted for the open moor. She asks herself why Branch would want to be tied down with a weakened companion - like her. She realizes she is alone, but knows that she can hunt, fight, and survive. She deems that no cat would ever abandon her again, yet she narrows her thoughts to one single goal. To find food.
The wiry warrior queen pursues after a large, white rabbit, running as fast as the wind and killing it with a swift swipe. As she starts to eat her prey, she hears kits complaining about how hungry they are, and one cat saying that they all would starve had he not leave to catch something for them. She decides against eating the rabbit, and approaches them, introducing herself. Frog and Willow, the kits, are immediately terrified, warning each other to run away, as Tansy had always told them to do. Wind tells Willow that she wouldn't hurt her brother, Frog. She drops her rabbit in front of the kits, and Willow explains that Tansy's milk had tried up, so the kits couldn't eat. When Wind asks what's wrong with her, Willow explains that she got a thorn in her paw. Wind informs her that it was probably infected, giving her a remedy. Wind is about to eat a bite of her rabbit, when she is reminded about when she had nearly starved after Branch had abandoned her. She lets the kits eat the prey, but when they are finished, she spots Tansy and gives her the remains of the rabbit. Wind crossly comments on the fact that she isn't surprised that Tansy gets thorns in her paws, due to her shelter in a gorse bush. Tansy tells Wind she didn't know where to shelter, formerly being strays in Twolegplace. Wind snorts, saying that no place is safe for a cat who doesn't know how to look after herself. She gives them advice on where to shelter, gives Tansy the prey, and starts to depart. Tansy begs her to share some prey, but Wind tells her that she is a loner, and she doesn't share prey. Tansy counters that, saying that they shared prey with her. Wind reminds her she gave her prey - she didn't share it.
A cat with dark gray striped fur appears from the moor, telling Wind that she was very kind. Wind retorts, telling him that she wasn't being kind, merely that starving cats attract disease. He comments that he hopes the rain will arrive prior to the lightning, commenting that the moor can burn when heather is too dry. Wind ignores the stranger, knowing she has food to catch. The cat offers to catch her another rabbit, and Wind replies that she prefers to hunt alone. He tells her that he noticed, and he introduces himself as Gorse. He engages Wind in conversation, telling her where he grew up, what prey he liked, etc. Wind starts to get furious with herself to talking for a loner, and asserts herself that she needs to hunt. Gorse tries to offer her help, but Wind abruptly turns him away. As she hunts, she realizes that lightning struck through the air, and a holly tree had taken the worst of it - bursting into flames.
Wind hears a shriek of terror, and instantly knows it belongs to the kits. Wind saves the kits - but Frog is especially hard. Tansy tries to save Frog herself, but she fails. Wind attempts to save him as well - but she almost falls due to the branch being too thin. Gorse takes over, telling Wind to calm Frog down. Frog lets himself drop due to advice by Wind and Gorse, but is still frightened because he doesn't know Gorse and doesn't trust him. Wind reassures him, reminding that he didn't know her until she gave him her prey. Frog lets go of the branch, and Gorse catches him. Rain starts to fall down from the sky, but Wind is hesitant on whether it will put out the fire. However, the rain proves her wrong, pouring on the tree. Each of the cats prove to be fine - yet Wind questions Gorse. Gorse purrs, asking if she cares. After Tansy and her kits thank Gorse and Wind and find shelter, Gorse and Wind head off on their own, finding their own shelter. They fall asleep, and when Wind wakes up, she finds that Gorse isn't there. She feels a pang of disappointment, but reminds herself that she walks alone. Suddenly, Gorse appears with a plump rabbit in his jaws. Wind realizes that this is his den, and Gorse nudges the rabbit closer to her. Wind realizes that she feels content in here - and at the fact that Gorse had come back.
Kate had confirmed the title for The First Battle on her Facebook page.
The spirits included towards the end of this book are all from an early version of StarClan.
HarperCollins has released the first three books in the Dawn of the Clans arc, The Sun Trail, Thunder Rising, and The First Battle, as a three-book collection. This collection is only available through HarperCollins are sold as digital copies.
End of Spoiler Warning
The First Battle (EN), HarperCollins (hardcover), 8 April 2014
The First Battle (EN), HarperCollins (eBook), 8 April 2014
The First Battle (EN), HarperCollins (Library Binding), 8 April 2014
The First Battle (EN), HarperCollins (paperback), 7 April 2015