"Lakehoof! Marshhoof! Lakehoof! Marshhoof!"
Mudpelt stood proudly watching his daughter's daughter being accepted as an apprentice. Mosstail and Beaversplash, standing just in front of Mudpelt, were also watching Lakehoof look proudly around her Herd with Marshhoof by her side. Splashstream and Toadnose walked forward to congratulate Marshhoof. Mistyfur nudged Mudpelt, and he saw that Mosstail and Beaversplash were walking up to Lakehoof. He hurried after Mistyfur and joined the small group surrounding Lakehoof.
"You've done so well!" Mosstail neighed, rubbing her nose against Lakehoof's coat.
"We're very proud of you," Beaversplash whinnied, looking proudly down at her.
Lakehoof looked up at all of them, her eyes glittering with excitement. Goosefeather walked over, looking pleasantly surprised to have been chose as a mentor.
"Well, uh, I guess I'm your mentor," he stammered.
Lakehoof nodded shyly.
Whitehoof trotted over and interrupted them.
"C'mon, Lakehoof, I'll show you where you're going to sleep," he neighed.
Lakehoof trotted off with him. She joined Marshhoof who was waiting for them by their new den.
Goosefeather looked down. "I don't think I'll be a very good mentor."
Fishleap trotted over. "I'm sure you will be. You just need to be firm with her."
Mudpelt left the two new mentors, and stepped over to Mosstail.
"It feels hard at first, but after a while you'll get over it," Mistyfur was saying to Mosstail.
Mosstail shook her head. "It feels like I've lost my filly forever."
Beaversplash rubbed his nose against her fur.
The next morning, Mudpelt woke to a nudge from Mistyfur. He blinked open his eyes. The pink light from the sun was poking over the hills.
"Mudpelt," Mistyfur whispered, careful not to wake up the sleeping horses around them.
"What?" he sleepily mumbled.
"I want you to go with the new apprentices and their mentors when they explore the territory. I'm still worried about the Nofurs," she neighed.
Mudpelt shivered as he thought of the Nofurs that had imprisoned him.
"I thought that if you escaped once, you could do it again," Mistyfur explained. "But if you don't want to, I can get another horse to."
Mudpelt considered refusing, but his pride wouldn't let him. "I'll do it."
Mistyfur rubbed her nose with his. "Be safe."
"Of course," he replied.
He walked over to the freshly gathered pile where Fishleap, Goosefeather, Marshhoof, and Lakehoof were eating. Mudhoof and Lakehoof looked tired and Goosefeather looked nervous. Once they had finished eating. Fishleap and Goosefeather looked at him.
"Let's go," he neighed.
As he trotted out of the camp, he heard Marshhoof neigh grumpily, "I don't see why we had to leave so early."
"Come on, Marshhoof. We're apprentices now," Lakehoof neighed excitedly.
Marshhoof snorted, but picked up her pace.
The patrol headed toward the StoneHerd border. Fishleap neighed nonstop, explaining everything they saw around them. The trees grew thicker, and the birds chirped and chattered. The River dwindled to a stream. Mudpelt stopped and waited as Fishleap let the apprentices sniff the StoneHerd scent marks across the stream. Marshhoof snorted at the strong scent.
They continued on until they reached the end of the trees. Here, their territory ended and Nofurplace began. Mudpelt had been with the patrol sent to thank the Nofur horses for rescuing Swanwings, so he recognized them in their field. He struggled to calm his pounding heart, and stepped out of the trees. Fishleap bounded over to the fence, and whinnied a hello to the Nofur horses. Goosefeather and the apprentices cautiously emerged from the trees. The Nofur horses cantered over to them.
"Hello!" Striker neighed happily.
Hunter tipped his head to the side and showed his teeth. Katara pinned her ears and refused to come any closer. Cowboy sniffed noses with Fishleap.
"These are two new apprentices," Mudpelt explained, nosing Lakehoof and Marshhoof forward. "Lakehoof and Marshhoof. Lakehoof is related to Swanwings."
Lakehoof shyly dipped her head, and Marshhoof pinned her ears, eyeing them with contempt.
"They're cute," Striker neighed fondly.
Mudpelt looked at the sky. It was already sunhigh.
"I think we'd better go. We've still got some territory to explore," Mudpelt neighed.
"Bye-bye!" Cowboy whinnied.
Mudpelt led the way back into the trees, feeling hugely relieved to be away from Nofurplace.
"I can't believe we were talking to Nofur pets," Marshhoof neighed, snorting in contempt.
Mudpelt felt Fishleap tense up beside him. He knew she had always been grateful to the Nofur horses for rescuing Swanwings, and he felt the same way.
"My mother says…" Marshhoof began.
"Your mother isn't here now," Fishleap snapped, whirling around to face her. "They rescued Swanwings."
"It's Swanwings' own fault she was there!" Marshhoof whinnied angrily.
Mudpelt couldn't help nickering a bit. Marshhoof and Fishleap were both strong-willed horses; he had known they would clash someday. Marshhoof and Fishleap both neighed furiously at each other, ears pinned. Mudpelt gestured with his nose for Goosefeather and Lakehoof to follow him.
"They can catch up when they're done," he neighed, walking away.
They walked silently toward the SwiftHerd border. Soon, Fishleap and Marshhoof trotted up to them. Marshhoof looked sulky, and Fishleap looked angry. As they neared the SwiftHerd border, Mudpelt saw a lone horse on the hill. He drew closer, and saw to his surprise that it was Arrya. Fishleap cantered over to her and they greeted each other warmly.
"Arrya!" Mudpelt neighed. "What are you doing here?"
"It's Sagetail now," she corrected him. "I'm just here looking, it's a great view."
"How do you like it in SwiftHerd?" Fishleap asked.
"It's great, but strange," Sagetail replied. "There's so many horses, and rules."
Mudpelt nodded sympathetically.
"But there's the running," Sagetail brightened up. "There's so much room, and I feel like I fly over the ground. And when we go on patrol, I feel like I'm in an unstoppable thunderstorm of hooves."
Mudpelt preferred swimming to running, but he didn't say so.
"But they rarely let me go on patrols," Sagetail sighed. "They usually just let me do whatever I want. They're probably hoping I'll decide to go back home."
"Surely they need another warrior," Fishleap protested.
"I'm not built like they are," Sagetail shook her head. "I'm not as fast."
"Well, we'd better go," Mudpelt neighed.
"All right," Sagetail replied, looking sad. "Goodbye."
Mudpelt shook his head. Mares! He turned towards home and started cantering away, the patrol following him.