Swanhoof's Apprentice Ceremony
Swanfoal couldn't help prancing as her mother frantically licked her coat.
"Hold still! You must look perfect," Silverstream neighed.
Mudfoal nickered at the look on Swanfoal's face. Swanfoal snorted at him.
Then Silverstream turned on him.
"Come here! I have to hurry!" She began hysterically licking him.
Swanfoal thought excitedly of the ceremony. She and Mudfoal were going to be made into apprentices! Waterpearl poked his head in the den.
"It's time," he neighed, looking lovingly at his foals.
Silverstream gave Mudfoal one last lick. "Just finished."
She looked down at them with soft brown eyes. "I'm so proud of you both."
Swanfoal took a deep breath as she followed Silverstream out of the cave into the blinding sunlight. Mudfoal's fur was shining in the just setting sun's light. She hoped hers was too. She tried to twist her head around to look, but she couldn't see.
She heard a loud neigh. "Let all the members of WaterHerd gather here beneath the Grasshill for a Herd meeting!"
She looked up to see many horses walking over to where Reedstar was standing on a short but steep hill. Rippletail was standing below the hill to his right, and Mosswings was standing below to his left. Just seeing Mosswings gave her a shiver of nervousness. She knew she would be standing up there someday.
Silverstream nudged them both forward to the front of the crowd, then left to stand next to Waterpearl. Swanfoal exchanged a nervous glance with Mudfoal, glad to have him beside her.
Reedstar continued, "This is a very important day for the Herd. Mudfoal, come forward."
Mudfoal braced his shoulders and met his leader's gaze squarely. He stepped forward.
"Mudfoal, you have reached the age of one year. It is time you became an apprentice," Reedstar neighed.
He looked into the Herd. "Ottertail, come forward."
Ottertail was a tough brown and white paint mare. She stepped forward next to Mudfoal.
"Ottertail, you are tough and wise. May you pass these qualities on to Mudfoal as his mentor. Mudfoal, I now name you Mudhoof by the will of StarHerd."
The Herd chanted together, "Mudhoof! Mudhoof!" Swanfoal chanted with them, pleased that her brother was an apprentice.
Reedstar raised his hoof for silence. "Swanfoal, come forward."
The whole Herd was quiet, staring at her. She felt awkward under their gaze, but she searched until she found Silverstream's face, glowing with pride. Her pride gave Swanfoal the strength to move forward under her leader's searing gaze.
"Swanfoal, you have reached the age of one moon. It is time you became an apprentice."
Reedstar looked down to his left. "Mosswings, come forward."
Mosswings walked down to stand next to Swanfoal.
"Mosswings, you are a great medicine horse. May you teach Swanfoal the mysteries of being a medicine horse," Reedstar neighed to Mosswings.
He looked back to Swanfoal. "I now name you Swanhoof, by the will of StarHerd."
As soon as Reedstar finished speaking the whole Herd started chanting her name and crowding around her. She saw Silverstream, Waterpearl, and Mudhoof come to congratulate her.
"Congratulations," Mudhoof neighed.
"You too," she whinnied, rubbing noses with him.
Silverstream looked sadly at them. "I'll miss you both so much."
"They're not going anywhere, Silverstream," Waterpearl gently neighed. "We're both proud of you."
Toadhoof trotted up to them. "Come on! It's almost sundown, I'll show you where you'll be sleeping."
Mudhoof and Swanhoof exchanged an excited glance, and nodded. Swanhoof said her goodbyes and followed Toadhoof to the apprentices' den.
"I made you nests earlier today," Toadhoof neighed proudly.
"Thanks, Toadhoof," Mudhoof whinnied, looking gratefully at his friend.
"Yes, thank you," Swanhoof added.
Swanhoof suddenly felt exhausted. She felt ashamed, but she wanted Silverstream beside her. You're an apprentice now, she told herself firmly. She sighed, and laid down in her nest. She could hear Mudhoof and Toadhoof whickering to each other, but she twitched her ears to tune them out.
She was tired, but her mind was fully awake. She couldn't help but think of how tomorrow she would be initiated by StarHerd. What if she didn't pass? What if they rejected her?
Her thoughts suddenly went to Silverstream. She thought of the cozy nursery, of Silverstream's calm presence reassuring her, of Mudhoof lying beside her. She yawned, closed her eyes, and fell asleep.