Nightriver's Warriors Ceremony
Mudpelt looked up from his dead father's fur when the sun peeked over the horizon. The elders, Minnowmane and Ottertail, came out of their den to bury Waterpearl. Mudpelt stepped back from his body, tying to cope with his grief. Mistyfur pressed herself against him, wordlessly reminding him of her love.
"I'm so sorry," she whickered. "Waterpearl was a great horse."
Ripplestar neighed to Mistyfur and she trotted off to her. Mudpelt saw Silverstream also plodding toward Ripplestar.
Swanwings looked at him. "You know he's with StarHerd now. He'll always watch over us."
Mudpelt tried to imagine Waterpearl as one of the fast fading stars in the sky. He wished he had Swanwings' certainty of StarHerd's existence.
Mistyfur trotted over to him. "Ripplestar wants to see you."
Mudpelt nodded to Swanwings and then followed Mistyfur over to Ripplestar. Mudpelt nodded respectfully to Ripplestar and waited for her to begin.
"Nighthoof fought like a warrior in the battle yesterday. He has also reached the age of two years. Do you think he is ready to become a warrior?" Ripplestar asked.
Mudpelt answered right away. "Definitely. I've taught him all I could teach. He's a skilled swimmer and fighter."
Ripplestar nodded. "Then we'll have his ceremony now. Mistyfur, go tell Toadnose and Splashstream. Mudpelt, go tell Nighthoof."
Mudpelt trotted to the apprentices' den, his mind happily thinking of how his apprentice was going to be made a warrior! He looked in to see Nighthoof resting with one foot cocked. He looked up when Mudpelt entered.
"More training?" Nighthoof queried.
"No," Mudpelt replied. "You're going to be made a warrior!"
Nighthoof blinked at him in surprise. "Me? A warrior?"
Mudpelt nodded. "And you've earned it."
Nighthoof's eyes lit up with delight. "Thank you, Mudpelt. You've been a great mentor."
Mudpelt nodded and watched as Nighthoof made a huge effort to control his expression of delight and left. Mudpelt followed him out to see him join Splashstream and Toadnose.
"Let all the members of WaterHerd gather here for a Herd meeting," Ripplestar neighed.
Mudpelt stood next to Silverstream. The rest of the Herd gathered and stood, looking up at Ripplestar.
"Nighthoof, come forward," Ripplestar whinnied.
Nighthoof walked proudly forward, boldly looking Ripplestar in the eye.
"Nighthoof, you have trained hard and it is time for you to become a warrior. Nighthoof, you will now be known as Nightriver. WaterHerd honors our bravery and strength. You are now a warrior of WaterHerd by the will of StarHerd," Ripplestar finished.
She walked down to touch noses with Nightriver whose eyes were glowing with pride.
The Herd burst out in neighs and whinnies of congratulations. Toadnose and Splashstream both went up and congratulated him. Mudpelt looked at his former apprentice, glowing with pride.
Mudpelt congratulated Mudpelt, but just as he was finishing Ripplestar gave a loud neigh for silence. The horses looked at one another in confusion, wasn't the ceremony over?
"Silverstream, come forward," Ripplestar neighed.
The Herd all looked curiously at her as she walked forward.
"Is it your wish to give up the name of warrior and join the elders?" Ripplestar asked.
Silverstream nodded. "It is."
"Then I now declare you an elder of WaterHerd. May StarHerd grant you many seasons of rest," Ripplestar whinnied.
Silverstream got up and walked over to the elders. Ottertail nodded at her and Minnowmane nuzzled her shoulder.
Mudpelt was shocked. He had just lost his father, and now it seemed as if he had lost his mother as well. He shook his head sadly. At least he could still visit Silverstream.
Mudpelt saw the sun begin to sink and watched Nightriver stand at the entrance to the camp, looking out into the night. To become a warrior, he would have to stand vigil all night without speaking.
Mudpelt looked up at the appearing stars in the darkening sky and made a silent plea to StarHerd. Please watch over Waterpearl.