Swanhoof's Journey to MoonTree
"Now watch carefully, Swanhoof," Mosswings whinnied.
Frogleg stood on three legs, holding his bleeding leg up with a grimace of pain.
"Just a scratch," he neighed bravely, clenching his teeth.
Mosswings pressed leaves with her teeth against his leg. She held it there until the bleeding stopped, then spat out the soiled leaves.
"How did you get cut, Frogleg?" Mosswings asked.
"I was swimming and I hit it on a rock," he replied.
"Well then Swanhoof, what would we need to put on his cut?" Mosswings tested her.
Swanhoof thought fast. "Marigold in case of infection."
"Good," Mosswings nodded. "And poppy seeds for the pain."
"Okay," neighed Swanhoof. She walked over to where the herbs were stored and grabbed some poppy seeds and marigold. Mosswings chewed the marigold into a pulp, and then applied it to his leg. She then gave Frogleg the poppy seeds to eat.
"Eat these, and then go rest," she ordered.
"Thanks," Frogleg nodded. He limped out of the den.
Mosswings turned to Swanhoof. "You're learning fast. Now we'd better get ready to go. We need to be to the MoonTree by moonhigh."
Swanhoof felt her stomach clench with nervousness. It was the half-moon, when all the medicine horses from the different Herds met to journey to the MoonTree and receive messages from StarHerd. This was also the time that Mosswings would present her as an apprentice medicine horse to StarHerd. This would be the first time she would meet with StarHerd, their warrior ancestors who lived in Silverpelt above them. Swanhoof was so nervous. What if StarHerd rejected her?
Mosswings looked back at Swanhoof. "Let's go."
Swanhoof nodded. As they headed across the camp, it still surprised her that the horses nodded respectfully at her and Mosswings. She had only been a medicine apprentice for a few suns, and she wasn't used to the respect the other horses treated her with.
She took a deep breath and took off, flapping her wings and she flew after Mosswings. They stopped for frequent rests because she hadn't been able to practice flying very much. StarTree was a long ways away, all the way past SwiftHerd's territory.
When they finally arrived, Swanhoof landed, panting.
Mosswings looked at her sympathetically. "Don't worry, it'll get easier."
Swanhoof heard a beating sound in the air above them, and looked up to see a brown stallion with yellow wings. He landed and trotted over to them.
"Mosswings," he neighed as he touched noses with her. "This must be your new apprentice."
"Yes, Sunwings," Mosswings replied. "This is Swanhoof."
Sunwings walked up to Swanhoof and sniffed her nose.
"Greetings, Swanhoof," he whinnied.
Swanhoof dipped her head politely. "Greetings."
"Sunwings is SwiftHerd's medicine horse," Mosswings explained.
Swanhoof looked at him and understood why. He was very lean with long legs.
Swanhoof heard the beating of more wings, and looked up to see a powerfully built, all white stallion flapping down. As he walked up to them, his eyes glinted coldly. Swanhoof shivered. He nodded at Mosswings and Sunwings.
Mosswings stepped forward and motioned with her head for Swanhoof to come forward as well. "Snowwings, this is Swanhoof, my apprentice."
Snowwings nodded at Swanhoof. "Welcome."
Mosswings looked at Swanhoof. "Snowwings is StoneHerd's medicine horse."
Of course, Swanhoof thought. She had heard that StoneHerd horses were very strong and cold.
She turned to see two more horses landing. The first was an old brown stallion with brown wings, the second a brown mare with red wings.
Mosswings stepped forward. "Swanhoof, this is Branchwings and his apprentice Cherryhoof. They are the medicine horses of TreeHerd."
She turned to Branchwings. "Branchwings, meet my apprentice, Swanhoof."
Branchwings looked at her with warmth in his eyes. "Congratulations, little one."
Swanhoof ducked her head. "Thank you."
"Are we going?" asked Snowwings irritably.
"Of course," Mosswings replied.
The horses started walking up a crest of grass. Cherryhoof trotted over to Swanhoof.
"Hi," Cherryhoof neighed.
"Hi," Swanhoof replied shyly. Cherryhoof was older than her, and she felt she should show her respect.
"Doesn't Snowwings act like he's got something up his tail?" Cherryhoof nickered, her eyes gleaming mischievously.
Swanhoof's jaw dropped.
"Oh, come on. Lighten up. It's just a joke," Cherryhoof whinnied and nudged Swanhoof.
Swanhoof couldn't help but let out a nicker. Cherryhoof acted like she was still a filly!
As they came over the crest of the hill, Swanhoof saw the horses gathering around a huge stump.
"Is this MoonTree?" she whispered to Cherryhoof.
"Yes," Cherryhoof replied.
"But, well, it's not a tree," Swanhoof whispered.
"Well we couldn't call it MoonStump now could we," Cherryhoof whispered impishly.
Swanhoof nickered, and then trotted down to join Mosswings.
As she stopped, she saw that it wasn't just a stump. It was hardened, it felt like stone. Also, it had rocks inside it that sparkled when they caught the moonlight.
Mosswings stepped up on the stump. Her neigh rang out in the still night air. "StarHerd, I bring before you Swanhoof. You have chosen her to be the next medicine horse of WaterHerd. I present her to you now as my apprentice."
Swanhoof trembled with joy and nervousness as Mosswings jumped down and touched noses with her.
Branchwings clambered up the stump. He started speaking; "StarHerd, I am getting old. My apprentice, Cherryhoof, has learned your ways well. I now present her to you as a full medicine horse. I name you Cherrywings, by the will of StarHerd."
Swanhoof looked at her and nodded, happy for her new friend.
Cherrywings' eyes sparkled in the moonlight as she touched noses with Branchwings.
"Are we ready to begin," Sunwings asked.
"Yes," Branchwings whinnied.
All of the medicine horses gathered around the MoonTree and pressed their nose to it and closed their eyes. Swanhoof quickly followed their lead and was surprised to feel that the bark was stone hard and icy cold. She waited, and felt colder and colder. Finally, she opened her eyes. Where am I? She was next to a river, but it didn't look like the one near the camp. She was in a bright open meadow surrounded by dark trees.
Swanhoof looked over to see Mosswings touching noses with a bright golden stallion with blue wings. Mosswings looked at Swanhoof, and motioned with her head for her to come over. Swanhoof trotted up to the horse, whose fur sparkled as if stars were embedded in it.
"Welcome, Swanhoof," he whinnied. "I am Riverwings, Mosswings' mentor."
Then, it seemed as if his neigh contained many, many horses' neighs in it.
"StarHerd accepts you, Swanhoof, as Mosswings' apprentice."
Mosswings looked at her proudly. Swanhoof felt excitement course through her. I am meeting a horse from StarHerd, she thought elatedly.
Suddenly, the scene faded and she saw a flash of her mother running with other horses, of her father swimming, and of her brother on the Island.
The scenes faded, leaving only darkness and she opened her eyes. She was back at MoonTree with the other medicine horses starting to wake up around her. She felt exhilarated. She had shared dreams with StarHerd, and they had accepted her! As she flew back to the camp, she felt excited for what was to come in her life as an apprentice medicine horse of WaterHerd.