Mudfoal reared up, striking with his front legs on the enemy. I must defend the camp, he thought. He brought his front legs down on the enemy's side, bringing her crashing down.
He sighed. Not again!
"How many times have I told you not to play rough with Swanfoal! You might hurt her wings," Silverstream angrily neighed.
"Sorry, Silverstream," he sighed.
"I'm all right Silverstream. We were just playing," Swanfoal added.
"You don't understand how precious your wings are, Swanfoal," Silverstream whickered gently. "Mudfoal shouldn't be playing so roughly."
She turned to Mudfoal. "I'm sorry Mudfoal, but can't you play some games that aren't as rough?"
"I guess," he shrugged.
It was so unfair. The whole Herd treated Swanfoal like she was StarHerd's chosen. Even though StarHerd had chosen her, he thought. StarHerd sent a winged foal to be the medicine horse when the old medicine horse was going to die.
He shrugged the thought off. He knew she was important, but that didn't mean he wasn't. When warriors came to the nursery, it was always to gape at Swanfoal. They didn't care about him.
"Hey," Swanfoal came up to him and nudged him. "You know I hate all the attention I get, don't you? I just want to be normal and serve my Herd."
"Yeah, I know," Mudfoal blinked gratefully at her. "That's okay."
"You want to race?" Swanfoal asked.
"No thanks," Mudfoal neighed.
He ignored Swanfoal's hurt look and walked over to a corner of the nursery. If he wanted to be noticed, he would have to be special. How can I be special? he thought. He walked around a few times until it hit him. He could be the best fighter in the Herd!
Mudfoal trotted over to Toadfoal, who was almost an apprentice. He looked up at the larger colt.
"Hey, Mudfoal," Toadfoal neighed.
"Will you practice fighting with me?" Mudfoal asked.
Toadfoal looked surprised. "Sure, but I'm older than you."
"I need practice," Mudfoal insisted.
Toadfoal thought for a moment, and then nodded his head. "Darkpool, could I go outside with Mudfoal to practice a few moves for when I'm an apprentice?"
Darkpool looked up from where she was talking with Silverstream and nodded.
"If that's okay with you, Silverstream," she added.
Silverstream nodded too. "But make sure you don't stray far from the den."
Mudfoal and Toadfoal both nodded, but before they could leave Swanfoal bounded up.
"Can I go too?" she asked brightly.
Toadfoal opened his mouth to agree, but Mudfoal interrupted him. "No. You know Silverstream doesn't want you to hurt your wings."
"It's true, Swanfoal," Silverstream put in. "Why don't you take a nap instead?"
Swanfoal looked downcast, but she nodded and turned back to Silverstream.
Toadfoal led the way out of the cave into the bright sunlight. Mudfoal blinked to clear his eyes, and then turned to Toadfoal. He and Toadfoal faced each other. Mudfoal felt like he couldn't be still any longer, so he ran at Toadfoal and reared up. Toadfoal ducked out of the way and rammed Mudfoal's side. Mudfoal fell in a cloud of dust.
He got up quickly, but was startled to see that a small crowd had gathered around them. Mistyhoof, Splashhoof, and Waterpearl stood a short ways away. Mudfoal's heart quickened as he met Waterpearl's eyes. He knew he had to impress his father.
"Good move, Toadfoal," Mistyhoof put in. "But if you had been a bit slower Mudfoal would have had you."
Mudfoal and Toadfoal squared up again. This time it was Toadfoal who made the first move. He reared up at Mudfoal and came down. Mudfoal dodged, barely escaping Toadfoal's hooves.
Mudfoal reared up at Toadfoal, but before he could strike Silverstream came out of the nursery.
"Mudfoal, Toadfoal, you've played for long enough. It's time to come inside and take a nap," she neighed, looking in surprise at the horses gathered around them.
Mudfoal and Toadfoal reluctantly nodded. Waterpearl walked over to Mudfoal.
"Good job," he neighed, before walking away.
Mistyhoof and Nighthoof walked away as Mudfoal and Toadfoal turned to follow Silverstream into the nursery. Mudfoal felt a jolt of pride go through him. His father thought he had done a good job! He would surely be the best fighter in now.