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Listen. I like you, Hawkwing. You're different from the other SkyClan cats. You're more like me. Surely you realize your best chance of survival will be with me and my rogues? We're going to take the gorge for ourselves. Join us! We're so good together, Hawkwing. We understand each other. I'll make you my deputy.
~ Darktail to Hawkwing after revealing his true intentions.

Darktail is a major villain in Erin Hunter's Warriors book series. He serves as the Big Bad of the six-book story arc A Vision of Shadows, being the main antagonist of the first half and a posthumous antagonist of the second half. He is also the initial antagonist of the super edition Hawkwing's Journey.

History

Darktail was born as the result of a forbidden relationship between Onewhisker, a young WindClan warrior, and Smoke, a beautiful, pampered kittypet. While still heavily pregnant, Smoke wanted to join WindClan so that her kittens could be brought up as warriors (Onewhisker having never told her the harsher side of the Warrior life). Onewhisker denied Smoke's request, partly out of fear for himself, as he knew he would be in trouble for mating with a kittypet (mating with non-Clan cats was forbidden by the Warrior Code), and partly for Smoke's own safety, as she was too delicate for life in the wild. The only one of her litter to survive was Darktail, and when he was old enough, Smoke took him to his father, begging for Onewhisker to at least let him join the Clan. However, Onewhisker rejected his son for the same reason he'd rejected Smoke; partly because he knew the fact that he sired a kit with a kittypet would ruin his reputation, and partly because he feared that Darktail would not be able to survive being a Clan cat. This double rejection infuriated Smoke, and she turned on Onewhisker, swearing that she would raise Darktail alone and teach him to hate the Clans who had rejected him.

What exactly happened to Darktail afterwards is unknown, as a very long period of time (several years at least) passed between his father's rejection and when he reappeared next. However, apparently his father's rejection and his mother's teachings had a dramatically negative effect on his personality; he grew into a cold and bitter cat with cruelty and vengeance. By the time Darktail resurfaced, he had become the leader of a large group of rogue cats that attempted to copy the Clans' way of life, but had no code of honour. He sought to hunt down the Warrior Clans and destroy them for rejecting him all those years ago. He and his right-hand cat Rain joined SkyClan, the long-lost fifth Clan, but later betrayed them by bringing in the rest of their group and driving them away.

Not long afterwards, a small group of Warrior cats led by the medicine cat apprentice Alderpaw came searching for SkyClan, but came across Darktail and his group instead. Alderheart and his friends were deceived by Darktail into thinking he and his group were SkyClan, but eventually discovered the truth. They were taken prisoner, but quickly escaped. Darktail and his group secretly followed them to the Clans' territories.

Darktail and his group eventually managed to take over ShadowClan's territory, with many of its cats choosing to join them, as they were fed up with Rowanstar for being a "weak leader". Darktail dubbed his group "The Kin", although the title had no real meaning to it. He drowned any cat who tried to leave the Kin. At one point, Onewhisker, now Onestar and leader of WindClan, as well as the other Clans, launched a full-scale attack on Darktail and his minions. During the battle, Onestar personally fought Darktail and came very close to killing him, but before he could do so, Darktail whispered in his ear that "that surely a cat who had rejected and killed his own son would end up in the Dark Forest". These words horrified Onestar and made him afraid for his soul. He ordered his Clan to retreat, leaving the remaining Clan cats at a serious disadvantage and resulting in them losing the battle.

Darktail decided to target RiverClan next, as it had taken the worst damage in the battle. He and his "Kin" took over RiverClan's territory easily, due to their superior numbers, RiverClan's wounds and Darktail's clever, but brutal tactics. After the battle stopped, Darktail refused to allow RiverClan to treat their wounded Clanmates, instead keeping them as prisoners. He also refused to let them take their dead for burial, instead leaving them to rot and even callously dismissing them as "carrion". Darktail sadistically tortured the captured RiverClan cats by leaving their wounds to fester and refusing to feed them unless they swore their loyalty to the Kin. Although the RiverClan prisoners eventually, and reluctantly, gave in, Darktail continued to starve them anyway for his own amusement.

However, keeping the RiverClan cats prisoner ultimately proved to be a mistake, as they eventually broke free and rose up against the Kin. The majority of the former ShadowClan cats sided with them, forcing the Kin to flee and regroup. Later, SkyClan reappeared and all five Clans took on Darktail's group. Most of Darktail's rogues fled and a now fully determined Onestar took on his son, eventually driving him into a lake, where their battle took them further and further out until both of them went under and neither surfaced.

Legacy

Even after his death, Darktail's evil actions continued to affect the Clans. Some cats, mostly RiverClan, blamed Rowanstar, and ShadowClan as a whole, for the suffering they endured under Darktail, as Rowanstar failed to deal with Darktail and ShadowClan chose to join the cruel rogue leader. The ShadowClan cats were deeply ashamed of their decision to follow Darktail, as it nearly destroyed their Clan, as well as the other Clans. Harestar, the new WindClan leader, reminded the Clans that it was Onestar's rejection of his son that brought about Darktail's vengeance. However, he asserted that, whatever Onestar did to his son, Darktail chose his own cruel, dangerous and murderous path, and that the Clans should remember that Onestar made up for his past mistakes by sacrificing himself to destroy Darktail, his own son, so as to put an end to his cruelty.

Physical Appearance

Darktail is a large, muscular glossy white tomcat with blue eyes, black spots and a long black tail, hence his name.

Personality and traits

Viciously ruthless and arrogantly sadistic, but also subtlety manipulative, Darktail is one of the darkest and most dangerous characters in the Warriors universe. He has no mercy, compassion or respect for his enemies or for cats that are weaker than himself, and his favourite way of killing his victims is by drowning them. However, he also likes to physically and psychologically torture his victims. A prime example of Darktail's sadism is shown when he captured four injured RiverClan cats and tortured them by leaving their wounds to fester, depriving them of food and humiliating them by forcing them to swear an oath of loyalty to him in return for food, and then continuing to starve them anyway. Another notable example of Darktail's sadism is shown when he attempted to punish Violetpaw for betraying him by drowning her best friend, Needeletail, right in front of her. As stated by Darktail himself, he did this because he knew killing Needletail would hurt Violetpaw more than anything else.

Darktail is very intelligent; he is a cunning and deceitful, but also highly charismatic planner. For example, he was able to gather a fairly large number of rogue cats together and gain their absolute loyalty, with a few remaining devoted to him even after his death. He was also able to not only tempt ShadowClan's younger members away from their Clan, but eventually convinced almost the entire Clan to turn against their "weak leader" and follow him instead. He is also a fairly patient and calculating tactician, and might have very well succeeded in destroying all the Clans if his own father hadn't finally gained the courage to put him down.

Darktail is an extremist and Social Darwinist, believing only the strong deserve to survive. As noted by Dragonfly, one of his more reluctant followers, he isn't only intolerant of sick cats, but actually despises them and outright abuses them, berating them for being sick and even attempting to prevent them from healing themselves, believing they don't deserve to live. While Darktail does value his followers for their loyalty and usefulness, he will abandon them without a second thought if any of them get sick or in trouble with predators, even if that cat has been one of his most loyal followers.

Darktail is also a liar and a hypocrite; he is treacherous, deceptive, and despite his claims to the country, has no personal sense of honour or responsibility. At one point, he states that he believes sharing is "very important", but this is a outright lie because, as mentally noted by Violetpaw, Darktail only shares when it suits his own personal needs. Furthermore, despite being a strong and capable fighter and tactician, he is not above using brutal or underhanded methods to win battles; e.g. ordering his henchmen to attack his opponant while their back is turned or sending the weaker cats onto the battlefield first as fodder. Darktail has no respect for his enemies, and demonstrates this by refusing to bury their bodies or even to let their friends bury them.

However, there is a deeper motivation behind Darktail's horrific actions. According to Onestar and Darktail himself, Darktail's cruel nature and actions are rooted from his father's rejection of him as a kit and his mother, Smoke, subsequently raising him to hate the Clans for this rejection. As stated by Onestar, the reason why Darktail hates and disrespects the warrior life is because he was denied the chance to understand it.

Abilities

Darktail is a formidable fighter, notably defeating Mistfeather and Reedwhisker, both of who were fully trained warrior cats, and Rowanstar and Onestar, who were Clan leaders, all in single combat, respectively. However, it should be noted that all of these cats were not at the peak of their strength when Darktail fought them; Mistfeather was half-starved and weakened from living as a loner, Rowanstar was still recovering from an illness, Reedwhisker was already injured from a previous battle, and Onestar was very old and not quite as strong as he once was. However, Darktail was able to overpower his healthy and skillful second-in-command Rain with relative ease when the latter challenged him for leadership.

In addition to his physical abilities, Darktail is highly intelligent; he is a expert tactician and a master manipulater. He was able to gain the absolute loyalty of many cats such as rogues and even trained warriors, and guide his "Kin" to defeat RiverClan. Under his leadership, the Kin became one of the greatest threats the Clans have ever faced, and might have very well succeeded in destroying them if Onestar hadn't finally found the courage to end him.

Trivia

  • Darktail is ranked number 3 on the Best of the Worst list of Warriors villains. On this list, it stated that what makes Darktail such a noteworthy villain is not his prowess as a fighter or his deadly army, but his particularly cruel way of punishing betrayals and his subtler qualities as a manipulator.
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