Mudpelt joyously followed the other WaterHerd horses back to the camp. They had defeated SunHerd! And no horse from WaterHerd had died, though Whitewater was badly injured. Apparently, he had tried to be everywhere at once to protect Marshhoof. Every horse was wounded, and Mudpelt's leg ached, but they were all safe.
Ripplestar stopped dead when they got to the camp. Mudpelt stood beside her, shocked. Silverstream and Ottertail were lying on the ground, Mistyfur and Fishleap were fighting two horses each, Frogleg was fighting one horse, and Swanwings was lying in the entrance to the nursery with Helos and another horse standing over her.
Mudpelt charged into the camp, with his Herdmates right behind him. He ran to the nursery and forced himself between Swanwings and Helos. Helos whirled around and tried to run away, but was blocked by more WaterHerd warriors. Helos jumped in to the River, sputtering and flailing.
"Follow him!" Whitewater ordered, jumping in after him.
Toadnose and Mosstail quickly followed Whitewater and helped him to force Helos back into the camp.
The remaining SunHerd horses had fled, leaving Helos alone. He stood there, his calm gone, furiously pinning his ears. His pelt dripped with water. With a huge effort, he forced his eyes to get the same calm look he always wore.
"Let me go," he neighed. "I have done nothing wrong."
"You killed Ottertail!" Mudpelt neighed.
"You tried to kill the foals!" Mistyfur put in.
"You tried to kill Swanwings!" Fishleap added angrily.
Ripplestar walked in front of him. "You have committed many crimes."
"Then let me go, and I promise to leave here forever," Helos neighed.
"No," Ripplestar neighed, causing some of the horses to look at her in surprise. "You are too dangerous. We will keep you here as a prisoner."
Mudpelt had heard of that happening before, but it had never happened during his life. He watched as Toadnose and Nightriver nudged the prisoner toward a small tunnel between the nursery cave and the medicine cave. Swanwings stored some herbs she rarely used in there.
Mudpelt saw that Swanwings was being taken care of by Mosstail. Fishleap and Mistyfur walked into the nursery, to the delighted whinnies of their foals. Nightriver had decided to guard the prisoner. Silverstream was being dragged out to be buried by Goosefeather and Splashstream, while Ottertail was being dragged out to be buried by Toadnose and Ripplestar. Mudpelt felt a lump in his throat at the sight of his mother and his mentor. He wished he could help bury them, but he needed to see if Swanwings was alright.
Mudpelt hurried over to Swanwings, just as she stood up. Mudpelt and Mosstail stood on either side of her to support her.
"I need to go help my Herdmates," she neighed, trying to walk away from them.
Mudpelt gently stopped her. "Swanwings, you could be injured. See to yourself first."
Swanwings gave him a glare so cold, he backed away.
"I must take care of my Herdmates," she neighed.
She started forward and began to treat horses. Mudpelt shook his head. How was it she wasn't injured after what that SunHerd horse had done to her? But even as he felt annoyed at her stubbornness, he felt proud of her determination. He watched as she called Lakehoof to help her, which Lakehoof did eagerly.
Mudpelt limped over to Ripplestar. She looked lost in thought.
"We need to do something to raise their spirits," Ripplestar muttered, but she didn't seem to be talking to any horse in particular.
"Lakehoof is doing well helping Swanwings," Mudpelt neighed.
"That's it!" Ripplestar neighed, a light coming into her eyes.
She walked over to Goosefeather.
"Goosefeather, do you think Lakehoof is ready to become a warrior?" Ripplestar asked.
"She fought well in the battle yesterday and she has trained hard. I think she is ready," Goosefeather neighed.
Ripplestar nodded and trotted toward Fishleap, who was letting Bluefoal play in the River.
"Fishleap, do you think Marshhoof is ready to become a warrior?" Ripplestar asked.
"From her training with me, I think so. She can be a bit impertinent, but she works hard," Fishleap neighed.
Ripplestar nodded and walked over to where Whitewater was lying on the ground.
"Whitewater, do you think Marshhoof is ready to become a warrior?" Ripplestar asked.
"Yes! She is the greatest warrior I know!" Whitewater answered.
Ripplestar nodded triumphantly and trotted onto Grasshill. "Let all the horses of WaterHerd gather underneath the Grasshill for a Herd meeting."
The battle-weary horses walked toward her. Swanwings was bent over Whitewater, who looked awful. She looked at Ripplestar in irritation, but walked to her place below Grasshill. Mudpelt walked to his place also.
"Lakehoof and Marshhoof, please step forward," Ripplestar neighed.
The two apprentices looked up in surprise. Marshhoof walked forward, with Lakehoof following behind her.
"Marshhoof and Lakehoof, you fought like warriors in the battle. You are not quite two years old, but I feel that you deserve this. Marshhoof, you will now be known as Marshmane. WaterHerd honors your perseverance and strength. Lakehoof, you will now be known as Lakenose. WaterHerd honors your loyalty and kindness. You are now both warriors of WaterHerd by the will of StarHerd," Ripplestar finished.
"Marshmane! Lakenose!" the Herd neighed loudly.
Marshmane was praised by Splashstream and Toadnose, and then trotted over to Whitewater. Lakenose was surrounded by Mosstail and Beaversplash as they congratulated her. Mudpelt watched proudly as the two apprentices went to stand watch, as night was falling. He walked to the place where the warriors slept and fell asleep.