Mudpelt trotted towards the SwiftHerd border with Splashstream and Whitewater. He had assigned himself for the sunhigh patrol, though part of him wished he had stayed back at camp. It was Greenleaf, and very hot. Luckily it wasn't a drought, but he felt like he would melt.
He felt light in spite of the heat. He was so happy that he was deputy, even if it was only temporarily. And his beautiful colt had been born. He felt ready to burst with pride. He wanted to neigh his joy to the whole world.
Splashstream wouldn't even talk to Beaversplash, or acknowledge he existed. It was awkward for him and Beaversplash. He had hoped that forcing them to patrol together would help them accept their differences, but so far it wasn't working. He sighed, and continued trotting.
As they neared the SwiftHerd border, he saw a horse standing on the border. He led the patrol to a halt in front of the horse. It was a light brown and white stallion with pale blue eyes.
"I am Helos," he said. "Will you take me to your camp?"
Mudpelt blinked in surprise.
"Why do you want to go to our camp?" Whitewater asked.
Mudpelt looked over, surprised that he was taking control when Mudpelt was leading the patrol.
"To learn," Helos replied calmly. "SwiftHerd has already allowed me to observe their ways."
"We're not SwiftHerd," Whitewater pointed out.
Mudpelt softly snorted, looking pointedly at Whitewater. He seemed to realize his mistake and stepped back, looking ashamed.
"We'll take him back to the camp," Mudpelt neighed. "Ripplestar can decide what to do with him."
Helos dipped his head. "Thank you."
Mudpelt turned and trotted back toward the camp. He noticed that Splashstream stayed behind Helos the whole time, so he would never be out of her sight. He rolled his eyes.
When they entered the camp, all of the horses stopped what they were doing to stare. Ripplestar walked over to the patrol, followed by Swanwings.
"Who is this, Mudpelt?" Ripplestar asked.
"His name is Helos," Mudpelt replied. "He says he wants to learn our ways."
Several of the Herd whickered suspiciously.
"And he says SwiftHerd already let him observe them," Whitewater added.
Helos stepped forward. "I am just passing through. I seek knowledge in my travels."
"Well, I suppose it's all right," Ripplestar neighed. "What do you think Mudpelt?"
Mudpelt paused to consider. "I think it's fine as long as he doesn't pass this knowledge to the other Herds."
Ripplestar nodded. "And you, Swanwings?"
"StarHerd sent me a dream," she replied, then hesitated. "They were…divided."
Ripplestar nodded. "Then you can stay, but you must leave at sundown."
Helos dipped his head. "Thank you."
He walked to the edge of the camp and stood there, watching all the horses. Mudpelt thought it was strange to have some loner watching everything they did. And it made his fur prickle when Helos looked at him with those pale eyes. He walked into the nursery to get away, and greeted Mistyfur. Wavefoal walked up to him pinning his ears.
"Intruder!" he neighed, rearing up at Mudpelt.
Mudpelt nickered in amusement, and dodged his colt's hooves.
"You can't get me!" Mudpelt neighed.
Wavefoal charged at Mudpelt again, and they played for a few minutes. Finally, Mudpelt stopped.
"I give up!" he neighed.
Mistyfur rolled her eyes. "Any horse would think you were a colt too, Mudpelt."
Mudpelt neighed goodbye to every horse, and walked out of the nursery. He saw Mosstail walking up to him.
"I don't know if this is right," she neighed. "I feel like he's learning all of our secrets."
Mudpelt nodded. "But it doesn't seem like he's doing any harm."
"I suppose," Mosstail replied.
As the light faded, all of the horses came back to the camp and ate or neighed with friends.
"I am leaving now," Helos announced.
Ripplestar stepped toward him. "You'll need an escort to the border. Mudpelt and Mosstail, go with him."
Helos nodded. "Thank you for allowing me to observe you."
Mudpelt let Mosstail take the lead and followed Helos out of the camp. As soon as they were out, Mosstail stopped and turned to face Helos.
"Which border do you want to go to?" she asked.
"The StoneHerd border," he replied. "I will observe them next."
Mosstail nodded and headed that way. She stopped at the border where the stream was the smallest and he could cross the easiest.
"Just be off our territory before the morning patrol gets here," Mudpelt neighed.
Helos nodded, looking at him with his strange pale eyes. Mudpelt turned and trotted away, with Mosstail following. Helos was strange, but Mudpelt prayed to StarHerd they would never see him again.