Swanwings had never seen the camp so empty. Only the elders were here to guard the broodmares. Ottertail stood looking towards the SwiftHerd border. Frogleg paced back and forth. Silverstream stood in the middle of the camp, looking worried and unsure of herself.
Swanwings walked over to Silverstream and stood pressed against her. They were both worried about Mudpelt. Swanwings hated battle, because some horse was always injured or never came back.
Swanwings heard hooves coming toward the camp, and she pricked her ears hopefully. But the first horse she saw was Helos, walking calmly towards them. He was followed by six horses, who looked beat up from the battle. Helos, however, didn't have any scratches on him.
"We warned you we'd kill all of you," he neighed calmly. "And we will."
"Attack!" Frogleg neighed, cantering toward the SunHerd horses.
Swanwings trotted back to the nursery, just like they'd practiced. She watched Fishleap and Mistyfur join the fight, and then stood in the entrance to the nursery, with Bluefoal and Wavefoal behind her. She couldn't fight, as StarHerd commanded, but she could use herself as a barrier between the SunHerd horses and the foals.
It was six against five, and three were elders! Swanwings knew with horror that they couldn't win. She prayed that StarHerd would send help, but deep down she knew that if they had gotten this far, help wouldn't come.
She watched with dismay as the horse fighting Ottertail slowly wore her down. She slipped and went down, and the horse slammed down onto her. She was still.
"No!" Swanwings neighed in shock.
Helos glanced at her, staring at her with unfathomable blue eyes. Finally, he neighed to the horse that had killed Ottertail, and he followed Helos toward Swanwings. Mistyfur saw where they were heading and broke away from her attacker to run toward Helos. But another horse knocked Silverstream to the ground and ran to block her.
Mistyfur and Fishleap struggled helplessly to get past the SunHerd horses, but couldn't. Swanwings saw the panic in their eyes, and vowed she wouldn't let them down.
Helos stopped in front of Swanwings. He must have seen the determination in her eyes, because he sighed and signaled the other horse to attack. The stallion pinned his ears and reared up at her, coming down hard on her shoulder. She trembled, but stood. He came down again, and her legs collapsed. She had the horrible feeling that she had failed as the blackness took her.
Swanwings woke up and looked around in confusion. She gasped as she realized where she was. She was in the clearing where she usually met Mosswings. She looked around, and saw that the clearing was filled with horses whose fur sparkled like the stars. She couldn't be dead, could she?
She relaxed as she saw Mosswings walking toward her.
"Mosswings," she greeted her. "I'm not dead, am I?"
"Your time has not yet come," Mosswings replied.
"Then why am I here?" Swanwings asked.
"Your body needs time to recover," Mosswings neighed.
"But I need to return!" Swanwings protested. "Helos will kill the foals!"
"Patience, dear one," Mosswings soothed her. "You will return when you are ready."
Swanwings felt the ground sucking the warmth from her again, just like when her time visiting StarHerd was up. She watched as the StarHerd horses ran around and around, faster and faster until they became a mist that flew into her, filling her with renewed energy. She let herself be pulled away, watching StarHerd's territory fade.