Swanwings tore the leaves off another burdock root. She was organizing her supplies, since there was nothing else to do. It had only been a few days since they had stolen from TreeHerd, but it had warmed up. The wind had stopped and it had stopped snowing, but there was still a lot of snow in the camp and it was cold. She didn't want to leave her den and have to plow through the hardened snow drifts.
Tonight was a Herdmeet. Swanwings was worried about what TreeHerd would say about their stealing. She shook her head. She didn't think StarHerd would be on their side if they stole from another Herd.
Ripplestar neighed from outside and Swanwings reluctantly put down her herbs and walked outside. She crunched uncomfortably through the snow, wishing she could be flying. Ripplestar was listing the horses that would go to the Herdmeet.
"Nightriver, Fishleap, Goosefeather, Toadnose, Whitehoof, and Streammane," Ripplestar finished.
Swanwings gathered with the group that had been called. When they trotted to the River, she lifted into the air and flew over. She stood under a pine tree while the patrol crossed one by one. She flew over them as they attempted to canter or trotted through the hardened snow that cracked when they put weight on it. It was a hard journey, and by the time they got to Fourstones some of them were sweating.
They were the last Herd there, and Swanwings flew over to where the medicine horses had gathered. She noticed when WaterHerd came in the TreeHerd horses pinned their ears at them and moved away.
Cherrywings was looking uncomfortably at the ground; usually she would be whinnying away to Swanwings.
"I'm so sorry, Cherrywings," Swanwings pleaded with her friend. "I really tried to stop them, but Reedstar wouldn't listen."
Cherrywings looked up at her in relief. "Really, Swanwings? I knew it!"
"I told Reedstar StarHerd wouldn't approve," Swanwings neighed.
"I suppose that's all you could do," Cherrywings neighed in relief.
Sunwings introduced his new apprentice, Cloudhoof. Cloudhoof was a light brown stallion with light grey wings. He looked eager to learn, and very excited.
Swanwings looked up to see Blossomstar step forward.
"I want to thank Swanwings for her help to SwiftHerd. Two of our apprentices had wandered into WaterHerd territory, and one fell into the Lake. Swanwings rescued her," Blossomstar neighed.
Swanwings looked down shyly as all the horses looked at her. Cherrywings looked proudly at her. Cragwings just looked sullen.
Sunwings neighed," Yes, thank you."
Blossomstar continued to report news of her Herd. Then Icestar stepped forward and gave the news of his Herd.
Swanwings wasn't really listening; she was worried about what Birchstar would say.
Finally, Icestar stepped back and Birchstar stepped forward.
"Ripplestar, you have something to answer to. Your warriors were caught trespassing on our territory and stealing our grass. This is a violation of the warrior code," Birchstar neighed angrily.
"Our foals were starving," Ripplestar put in, her ears back.
"That still does not give you the right to steal from us," Birchstar argued.
"Have you forgotten how TreeHerd attacked us unnecessarily? I did what I had to for my Herd," Ripplestar whinnied, looking as though she would rear up at Birchstar.
Birchstar opened his mouth to reply, but suddenly the clearing went dark. A cloud had covered the moon. The gathered horses whinnied in fear.
Swanwings shook her head. StarHerd was angry the Herds were fighting at a Herdmeet.
"This Herdmeet is over by the will of StarHerd," Icestar neighed.
Birchstar and Ripplestar traded one last hate-filled glance, and then trotted down from the Highhill. Swanwings noticed Ripplestar talking to Blossomstar, and Birchstar talking to Icestar.
She hurried through the panicking horses to find her Herd. Ripplestar gathered them together with a flip of her head and cantered away.
When they got back to the camp, Swanwings headed for her den. She could see the horses that had been at the Herdmeet were spooked. She hoped this would be enough to make them see that they were wrong. She fell asleep.
She woke up to find herself in the familiar clearing where Mosstail visited her. But, to her surprise, Reedstar came out of the trees instead.
"Swanwings, you must help convince the Herd that Ripplestar is wrong," he neighed.
"But what can I do?" Swanwings whinnied.
"Convince them," Reedstar neighed again, but he was fading.
Swanwings opened her eyes to find herself back in her den. How could she convince the Herd that their leader was wrong?
Swanwings blinked in surprise to see Mistyfur dart into her den.
"Swanwings!" Mistyfur neighed.
"Mistyfur? What are you doing here?" Swanwings asked.
"There are some horses who want to see you," Mistyfur replied.
Swanwings followed her out into the camp. There was still a little while until dawn. Mistyfur kept to the shadows, creeping across the camp toward the Lake. When they had gone a ways from camp she relaxed. She led Swanwings toward a large group of horses.
"I got her," Mistyfur called to them.
Swanwings saw Goosefeather, Fishleap, Beaversplash, and Whitehoof.
"What is this?" Swanwings asked.
"We wanted to know if StarHerd approve of what Ripplestar is doing," Mistyfur asked.
"They don't," Swanwings answered. "I had a dream from them just before you got me."
The horses started whispering among themselves.
"You see? We need to stop this battle from happening," Mistyfur neighed.
"Wait. What battle?" Swanwings asked, confused.
"Reedstar told me that she plans to attack TreeHerd tomorrow. And Blossomstar agreed to fight with her," Mistyfur whinnied.
"And Icestar was talking to Birchstar after the Herdmeet, so we can be pretty sure they will be allies," Fishleap put in.
"So, I hoped you all would stand with me against Ripplestar," Mistyfur neighed, turning to the gathered horses.
The horses whispered to each other again.
Beaversplash stepped forward first. "I'll stand beside you, Mistyfur. If Mosstail didn't have a foal I know she would as well."
"Thank you," Mistyfur neighed.
Fishleap, Goosefeather, and Whitehoof stepped forward next.
"Swanwings, you're my sister. If you say StarHerd doesn't want this then I'll stand by you," Fishleap whinnied.
"And we'll follow you," Goosefeather neighed lovingly to Fishleap.
"Thank you all," Mistyfur addressed the horses. "I know how much I'm asking of you."
"Just know that StarHerd are on your side," Swanwings added.
She noticed some of them still exchanged nervous glances. To tell the truth, she was nervous for them as well. What would Ripplestar do when she found out? All she knew was that it was StarHerd's will, and she must trust in StarHerd.