Swanwings watched the rambunctious young filly bounce around the nursery.
"Now, Fishfoal, stop that," Silverstream scolded.
Swanwings often came to the nursery to talk with her mother and just relax.
"She looks very healthy," Swanwings commented.
"Well I think she's adorable," Mistyfur put in.
Mistyfur had recently come to stay in the nursery; her belly was getting very big. That meant Silverstream, Mudpelt, Mistyfur, and Swanwings had seen a lot of each other lately.
Fishfoal suddenly froze. "Intruder," she whispered, sniffing the air.
She stood silently by the entrance to the nursery as the hoofbeats got closer. A horse ducked into the cave and Fishfoal neighed fiercely, rearing up at the intruder.
Goosehoof jumped in surprise and neighed with alarm as the sharp little hooves came down on his flank.
He relaxed when he saw it was Fishfoal.
"Great ambush," he neighed. "I would be running scared if I had been a real enemy."
Fishfoal drew herself up and proudly strutted to Silverstream's side, her neck and tail high.
"Minnowmane wants you to look at Shellpelt, Swanwings. He says he's been wheezing all day," Goosehoof explained.
"All right," Swanwings nodded.
She whinnied a good-bye to Silverstream, Mistyfur, and Fishfoal, and then trotted out of the nursery and across the camp.
When she reached the elders' den she saw Shellpelt on his side, wheezing.
"Good, you're here," Minnowmane neighed. "I can't get a wink of sleep with him carrying on like that."
Swanwings knew Minnowmane's gruff manner came only from concern for his denmate.
"He has a fever. I'll bring him some feverfew right away," Swanwings whinnied.
She trotted to her den and grabbed some feverfew. She heard a rasping noise from behind her, and turned to see Mosswings lying on her side, struggling to breathe. Swanwings dropped the feverfew and went to her side.
"Mosswings! Are you all right," Swanwings desperately asked.
"I am going to StarHerd now. You will be a great medicine horse for WaterHerd," Mosswings managed to choke out.
"No! Mosswings, you can't leave me," Swanwings neighed frantically.
Mosswings closed her eyes and slowly stopped breathing.
Swanwings felt as if her world had been turned over. Her mentor had gone to join StarHerd. She pressed a trembling muzzle against Mosswings cold pelt.
She heard hoofbeats and looked up to see Goosehoof walking in.
"I was just wondering where Shellpelt's herbs…" he cut off abruptly, staring in shock and horror at Mosswings' body.
"I'm so sorry," he neighed.
Goosehoof started to leave, but Swanwings called him back.
I can't abandon my duties because she died, she thought.
She nosed the feverfew she had dropped towards him.
"Give those to Shellpelt to eat," she directed Goosehoof.
He nodded and picked up the herbs. He shot her one more sympathetic glance, then left.
Swanwings went out into the camp and found Reedstar.
"Mosswings is dead," she whinnied bluntly.
Reedstar pinned his ears in surprise, then he shook his head.
"She was a great medicine horse," he sadly neighed.
Reedstar went up to Mudpelt and Waterpearl and talked to them quietly for a few heartbeats. Swanwings saw them nod, then head toward the medicine den to bring Mosswings' body out. Swanwings felt blank with shock. As Mudpelt and Waterpearl laid her body on the ground, she walked over and pressed her nose against Mosswings' fur. She heard the gasps of shock when her Herdmates saw or heard of Mosswings' death. Many members of the Herd came to touch Mosswings' fur or to gently nose Swanwings in sympathy. Swanwings sat with her all through the night, remembering how kind and caring Mosswings had been.
When the morning light peeked over the River, Swanwings got up. The elders would bury Mosswings, but first she needed to get on with her life. She prayed to StarHerd for guidance in being the only medicine horse. Looking up, she saw Fishfoal bucking in play outside the nursery, and knew that life would go on for WaterHerd.