Swanwings reluctantly woke up as a horse nudged her. She looked up to see Mudpelt standing in front of her.
"It's time for the Herdmeet," he neighed.
She yawned, and followed him into the bright moonlight. It had been almost a moon since the battle with SunHerd, and the WaterHerd horses had mostly recovered from their wounds. As she walked through the horses that were gathered for the Herdmeet, she noticed that Splashstream was visibly pregnant. Splashstream didn't seem like a likely broodmare because of her sharp tongue, but she had a way with foals, and always was softer with them.
Swanwings was pulled out of her thoughts as Ripplestar charged across the River, her Herd following. Swanwings flew over, since her white coat would get muddy and she wanted to look nice for the Herdmeet.
WaterHerd were the third Herd to get there. They only waited on SwiftHerd. Swanwings walked to where the medicine horses gathered. Cherrywings greeted her warmly, while Cragwings nodded to her.
Cloudhoof followed behind Sunwings, looking nervously excited.
Rabbitstar neighed to start the Herdmeet, and every horse was silent.
"When we arrived in our camp after the battle, we found that there were SunHerd horses in our camp, trying to kill every horse. Arrya was leading them," Rabbitstar neighed.
"Don't you mean Sagetail?" Ripplestar interrupted.
"No," Rabbitstar neighed. "She is no longer a Herd horse, so she shall not have a Herd name. We chased out the intruders before they had a chance to kill any horse, thank StarHerd. I also want to honor the SwiftHerd horses that died in the battle."
"The same thing happened in TreeHerd," Birchstar added. "One filly and one elder were killed. I would like to honor those horses and the TreeHerd horses that died in the battle."
"This also happened in StoneHerd," Blizzardstar neighed. "I would like to honor Icestar, who fell during the battle. I have received my name from StarHerd, and named Hawktalon as my deputy."
Ripplestar stepped forward. "We are sorry for your loss, Blizzardstar. We have named two new warriors, Lakenose and Marshmane. We lost two elders during the attack, and we honor them. Our attack was led by Helos himself, but before he could escape we captured him."
There were whickers of joy from the gathered horses.
"We are keeping him prisoner," Ripplestar finished.
"What?" Blizzardstar neighed angrily. "He deserves to be punished!"
"Look at what he did to all of us," Rabbitstar neighed, pinning his ears.
"He should be killed," Blizzardstar neighed. "And if WaterHerd are too cowardly to do it, give him to us!"
There were neighs of approval from the StoneHerd horses.
"The Warrior Code says to have mercy," Ripplestar neighed in outrage. "Would you have us kill him in cold blood?"
"He did try to kill our foals and elders," Birchstar put in.
Ripplestar swished her tail. "You will not tell me how to run my Herd. This Herdmeet is over."
Ripplestar trotted down the hill and walked towards WaterHerd territory. Swanwings turned to see Cragwings glaring at her. Cherrywings and Sunwings looked uncomfortable, but looked away when she tried to meet their gaze. She walked toward Ripplestar, mindful of the angry whinnies and bared teeth her Herdmates received as they walked away.
Nightriver was facing off with a StoneHerd warrior. He reared up at him, but Splashstream pushed him away.
"Fool!" Splashstream neighed, pushing him away. "This is a Herdmeet! Do you want to bring the wrath of StarHerd upon you?"
Nightriver ducked his head angrily and walked away.
Swanwings walked back into the camp feeling confused. StarHerd wouldn't want them to kill Helos, would they? He had done horrible things, but wouldn't killing Helos make them as bad as he was? She saw Mudpelt walking toward her.
"Mudpelt, what do you think?" Swanwings asked.
He hesitated. "I think that the other Herds are going to do something about Helos if Ripplestar doesn't. And I'm not sure if WaterHerd horses will fight to support a horse that tried to kill them."
"That's true," Swanwings neighed. "But I don't think killing him is the answer."
"Neither do I, but what other options are there?" Mudpelt asked.
Swanwings couldn't answer. The situation seemed hopeless. But surely there must be something they could do. Swanwings prayed to StarHerd for answers, hoping that their heavenly ancestors would have some insight they didn't.