Swanwings took another bite from the freshly gathered pile, and then looked at the entrance. It had been a week since Beaversplash left, and she was watching for him to return. She prayed to StarHerd that he was safe. She still felt hot with anger whenever she thought about the injustice that had been done to him. She shook her head to clear her thoughts.
She thought sadly about Mosstail, who had been devastated when Beaversplash left. I should go visit her, she thought, looking towards the nursery. Splashstream had been ignoring Mosstail since her mate and colt were the ones that had been insulting Beaversplash. Mistyfur and Mudpelt had tried to stop by the nursery as often as they could, but all the warriors had been working on rebuilding the camp after a long winter. Swanwings would have gone earlier, but she had been busy building up her store of herbs again.
Swanwings walked into the nursery, and was met with a squeal of delight from Lakefoal.
"Swanwings! Did you bring Beaversplash?" she asked excitedly.
Swanwings lowered her head to press her nose against the filly's forelock. "I'm so sorry, little one, but I didn't."
Mosstail walked over to Swanwings. "I'm sorry, Swanwings. She says that to every horse."
"That's all right," Swanwings replied. She looked into Mosstail's eyes, and saw a dull sadness there. She was still suffering, but was trying to keep it back for her filly.
"I am happy he's coming back today, but what if something has happened to him?" Mosstail asked, her worry showing through her mask. "Have you had any sign from StarHerd?"
Swanwings shook her head. "No. But I'm sure he's alright, he's a strong WaterHerd stallion."
She heard a snort, and turned to see Splashstream looking at her with an expression of disbelief. Marshfoal was looking longingly through Splashstream's legs at Lakefoal. Swanwings knew they had been good friends before Splashstream had forbidden them to play together.
Swanwings glared pointedly at Splashstream. "He is a WaterHerd warrior. And a great one."
Splashstream tossed her head angrily, but Swanwings turned away. Mosstail looked grateful.
"StarHerd approve of him, so don't let any other horse give you doubts," Swanwings neighed softly to her.
Swanwings neighed her goodbyes, and then walked out of the den. Her eyes adjusted to the sunlight quickly, as there was barely any. It was very cloudy, and there was a strong wind blowing. She tasted rain on the air.
It was almost sunhigh, and she fixed her gaze out towards SwiftHerd territory. Mudpelt had said Beaversplash had gone that way. If he didn't return now, something might have happened. What if Beaversplash never came? Would Ripplestar send out a patrol to look for him? What if he was injured? She felt a nose on her shoulder, and looked over to see Mudpelt beside her. Their gazes met, and then they both relaxed.
There was a crowd gathering now. Most of the Herd was looking in the same direction. Even the elders came out of their den, though they were complaining about the cold wind. Mosstail came out of the nursery, bringing Lakefoal with her. Mudpelt trotted over to the shivering filly, and stood on the other side of her, helping Mosstail to block the wind. Even Ripplestar came over, though she looked a bit angry about it. Only Nightriver, Frogleg, Splashstream, and Marshfoal were nowhere to be seen.
Swanwings perked her ears as she saw a shape coming toward them. Oh, StarHerd, please let it be Beaversplash, she pleaded. The horses muttered to one another, looking at the distant shape come closer and closer. As it came through small group of pine trees, Swanwings could see that it was Beaversplash. Mosstail gave a whinny of delight, and raced toward him. They met with much neighing, but Swanwings saw that Beaversplash was limping.
Suddenly, Mosstail gave a neigh of horror, and Swanwings knew something was wrong. She raced over to Beaversplash, and saw what he had been trying to hide. There was a huge gash on his flank, which was swollen and bloody. The rest of the Herd had come up to him by now, and they all shrank back in horror.
"Come to my den right now," Swanwings ordered.
She turned and walked toward her den, going over in her mind what herbs she would need. She thanked StarHerd that she had replenished most of her stock today. As she walked toward her den, a huge rumble of thunder and slash of lightning split the sky. The clouds opened up and rain poured out of the sky. Each drop was huge and almost hurt when they hit Swanwings' skin.
She heard horses neighing and frantically running to get to shelter. She stepped into her den and heard Beaversplash right behind her. As she looked for herbs, she asked him what had happened.
"Some wolves outside of SwiftHerd's territory thought I'd be an easy meal. They were wrong," he replied.
Swanwings pulled the herbs she needed from their rock crevices and set to work.
After what felt like hours of working on Beaversplash's wound, Swanwings finally let herself drift off. The wound would heal, but he would limp for a few days. Mistyfur and Mudpelt had braved the storm to get news of Beaversplash and bring it to Mosstail. Swanwings listened to the sound of rain pouring against the roof of her den, and let it lull her to sleep.