Swanwings was anxiously waiting for the patrol to return. Had Mistyfur been able to convince Ripplestar not to fight?
Swanwings saw a patrol of horses start to cross the River. She breathed a sigh of relief. The battle had not happened after all. Ripplestar came first, looking furious, followed by Mudpelt, Frogleg, and Toadnose. Mistyfur led Fishleap, Goosefeather, and Beaversplash a little ways behind the other horses.
Swanwings walked up to Mistyfur. "What happened?"
"We protested the battle. SwiftHerd left when I told them you were against the battle. But now Mudpelt is mad at us," Mistyfur sighed, looking weary. "I don't know what to do."
Swanwings' heart ached for Mistyfur. "How about you, me, and Fishleap go talk to him. I'm sure he'll come around."
Mistyfur looked more hopeful. "All right."
Swanwings led Mistyfur and Fishleap to where Mudpelt was talking to Toadnose.
"Mudpelt," Swanwings neighed. "Could we talk to you?"
"Sure," he answered nonchalantly, but Swanwings could see the hurt in his eyes.
She led them to a spot just outside of camp.
"Mudpelt, we know you're feeling hurt that you weren't in on this. But we knew you supported Ripplestar, and in order for you not to betray her we thought it would be best if you didn't know anything," Swanwings whinnied.
Fishleap nodded. "It's true. But just know we all love you."
Mistyfur looked up, her eyes full of sadness and pain. "I love you so much, Mudpelt."
Mudpelt stared at Mistyfur for a few heartbeats, and then rubbed his head against her neck. He touched muzzles with Fishleap, and then walked over to Swanwings."Swanwings, we're twins. That bond runs deeper than anything," Mudpelt neighed, then touched noses with her warmly. Swanwings felt truly blessed to have such wonderful family.
Frogleg intercepted Beaversplash who was walking towards the nursery. He trotted in Beaversplash's path and pinned his ears. Beaversplash looked surprised.
"We all know that this was your idea, TreeHerd trash," Frogleg neighed loudly. "You would never fight TreeHerd, since you're their spy!"
Swanwings gasped in shock. She couldn't believe Frogleg could still think that after all Beaversplash had done to prove himself. Nightriver trotted over to stand beside Frogleg.
"Go back where you belong, and take your traitor mate and her foal with you," he snorted furiously.
Beaversplash looked furious. "How dare you insult Mosstail and Lakefoal?"
He reared up, but Nightriver and Frogleg also reared up. They met midair with a huge crash of hooves and started fighting furiously. Please let this stop, Swanwings prayed in horror. It was two against one, and Beaversplash didn't have a chance.
Mudpelt started heading toward the fighting horses, looking furious.
Swanwings looked around to see Ripplestar trotting over to the horses. She looked livid.
"Mistyfur, what happened?" she asked, turning to her deputy.
Mistyfur stepped forward. "Nightriver and Frogleg were insulting Beaversplash, Mosstail, and Lakefoal. Beaversplash reared up at them and they started fighting."
"So Beaversplash started it," Ripplestar neighed turning away from Mistyfur.
"No, Nightriver and Frogleg started it," Mudpelt cut in angrily, but Ripplestar ignored him.
"I am disappointed in you, Beaversplash," Ripplestar neighed. "Attacking your Herdmates is against the Warrior Code. I would have thought you would have known that, even if you were TreeHerd. "
Swanwings realized then that this punishment wouldn't be just, and that Ripplestar was still angry about being betrayed in battle.
"Beaversplash, you are banned from WaterHerd for one week. If any warrior sees you on our territory, we will treat you as we would any trespasser," Ripplestar continued coldly.
Swanwings gasped in shock, and she felt Mudpelt stiffen beside her. She stepped forward.
"Ripplestar, is this justifiable by StarHerd?" she asked.
"This is his chance to go back to TreeHerd if he wants to," Ripplestar answered. "If he comes back, he will be a WaterHerd warrior again."
Nightriver and Frogleg exchanged a look, jeering at Beaversplash's misfortune.
Beaversplash looked shocked, but he nodded to Ripplestar. "I accept my punishment, but may I see Mosstail and Lakefoal before I go?"
Ripplestar nodded, and he trotted into the nursery. Swanwings felt sick to her stomach. How could StarHerd let this happen? She heard a loud neigh, filled with pain. Beaversplash walked out of the nursery, but Mosstail trotted after him.
"You can't do this!" she screamed to Ripplestar. "I'll go with him!"
Beaversplash gently shook his head. "Think of Lakefoal. I'll be back in a week, okay?"
Mosstail reluctantly nodded. "Come back soon."
"I promise," Beaversplash replied.
He turned away from her and walked slowly out of the camp. He never looked behind him, and the whole Herd watched as he became smaller and smaller. When he disappeared from sight Mosstail gave a little whicker of sorrow and trotted into the nursery. Mistyfur walked after her.
Ripplestar turned to Nightriver and Frogleg. "It is wrong to taunt your Herdmates. Don't do it again."
She walked into her den. Swanwings pinned her ears. They hadn't gotten punished at all! That wasn't right. She saw the horses around her dispersing, the sun had set already, and so she walked into her den and fell asleep.