Mudpelt watched lovingly as Wavefoal showed off his fighting moves. He reared up and then kicked out. Bluefoal watched from next to Fishleap.
"Attack!" a horse neighed from outside the nursery.
Wavefoal lost his concentration during his kick and kicked Bluefoal in the head. She fell down, neighing in surprise. Mistyfur and Fishleap both hurried over to her.
"Is she all right?" Mudpelt asked, inching toward the entrance.
Mistyfur nodded and he raced out. Blinking in surprise, he saw horses from the three other Herds struggling to get across the River.
"Give us Helos!" Blizzardstar neighed from the opposite shore.
"Never!" Ripplestar neighed.
Mudpelt started toward the River, but stopped as he heard horses behind him. He turned around to see the horses of SunHerd coming toward him. Arrya trotted up to him.
"They want to hurt Helos. We will fight with you," she neighed.
Mudpelt nodded and led the way toward the River. Mudpelt reared up at a StoneHerd mare. He saw a horse rear up beside him, and stopped dead when he saw it was Wavefoal.
"I'll help fight!" Wavefoal neighed.
"No!" Mudpelt neighed furiously. "Get back to the nursery!"
Mudpelt walked behind Wavefoal on the way back to the nursery, kicking out at any horse that got too close. He walked into the nursery, and to his frustration saw that Mistyfur was gone.
"Where is she?" he asked Fishleap.
"She went to find Wavefoal," Fishleap replied.
"I'll go and find her, but make sure you keep an eye on Wavefoal," Mudpelt neighed.
He trotted out of the nursery, shaking his head angrily. He should be fighting for his Herd. He saw a glimpse of Mistyfur, and cantered up to her.
"Wavefoal is back in the nursery!" he neighed when he caught up to her.
She nodded and galloped back. Mudpelt turned to fight, but most of the other Herd horses were retreating. He nipped one SwiftHerd stallion who lingered too long. Nightriver and Toadnose, who had been guarding Helos, looked the most hurt.
The SunHerd horses faced the WaterHerd horses.
"We thank you for your help," Ripplestar neighed, walking forward.
"We didn't want them to hurt Helos," Arrya neighed. "But for our part in the fight, give us Helos. We swear to leave and never return."
Ripplestar hesitated. "I told you before that I don't trust the word of a loner."
"We just fought for you!" Arrya neighed angrily.
"And because of that Helos won't be harmed," Ripplestar neighed. "We will always treat him well."
Arrya looked furious. "You are making a mistake."
"And it is because of your help that I am not taking you a prisoner and driving SunHerd out," Ripplestar neighed warningly.
Arrya turned and trotted out, swishing her tail, with SunHerd following her.
Mudpelt couldn't help but feel that this was a mistake, and that Ripplestar would regret this.
It had been two moons since the battle. Wavefoal had been made into Wavehoof. His mentor was Nightriver. Mistyfur had gone back to her deputy duties. Mudpelt felt a bit sad he wasn't deputy anymore, but he knew Mistyfur was the true deputy. Splashstream had just had a colt, Blackfoal. He was all black like Splashstream.
Mudpelt walked up to Swanwings, who looked tired. She had been awoken at all hours of the night by Splashstream, who wanted to make sure that her colt would survive his first night. Mudpelt thought Blackfoal looked fine, though he was very small.
Toadnose came out of the nursery and spotted Swanwings.
"Swanwings, Splashstream wants you again," Toadnose neighed apologetically.
"Why don't you just tell her Blackfoal's going to be fine and to stop pestering you?" Mudpelt asked.
"Because I understand how she feels," Swanwings replied. "She knows she's getting older, and this is her last foal."
Swanwings nudged Mudpelt affectionately and followed Toadnose into the nursery. Mudpelt spotted Wavehoof near the freshly gathered pile and walked over to him.
"Why aren't you training?" Mudpelt asked.
"Mistyfur said she needed Nightriver to guard Helos, so I have to clean the dens," Wavefoal complained. "Cleaning all of the dens is crazy. I'm just one horse."
"Bluefoal will be an apprentice soon, and she can help you," Mudpelt nickered.
Mudpelt heard the pounding of hoofbeats, and looked up to see SunHerd horses walking towards their camp, with Arrya in the lead. Ripplestar walked up to Arrya.
"Give us Helos or we will fight you for him," Arrya neighed.
Ripplestar pinned her ears. "Never! WaterHerd, attack!"
Mudpelt raced toward the SunHerd horses. He reared up at a stallion, slamming down on his shoulders.
"Mudpelt, help Nightriver guard Helos!" he heard Ripplestar whinny.
He saw Nightriver was fighting Arrya and another mare. He shoved the mare aside so he was between her and the cave. He saw Helos rear up at Nightriver from behind. He turned to help but the mare reared up at him. He reared up to meet her, neighing fiercely. He saw Nightriver fall out of the corner of his eye. He pushed the mare away and walked over to Nightriver. Mudpelt put his head down near Nightriver's and listened carefully. When he heard him take a breath, he sighed in relief.
He scanned the fighting horses for Helos. He saw him come up behind Ripplestar as she fought another horse. Helos shoved Ripplestar as she reared up, throwing her off balance. Mudpelt wanted to run to her, but he had to stay and guard Nightriver. Nightriver had been his apprentice, and Mudpelt felt bonded to him. Ripplestar crashed to the ground. She fought to get up, but Helos smashed down on her neck and she lay still.
"No!" Mudpelt whinnied.
He started toward Helos, but stopped when he saw a SunHerd horse trotting toward the unconscious Nightriver with an evil gleam in his eye. Mudpelt put himself between the horse and Nightriver. He glared at the horse until he backed away.
"Retreat, SunHerd!" Helos neighed.
The SunHerd horses started to retreat.
"Tell Ripplestar that we will leave now," Arrya neighed from where she stood by Helos' side. "We will find our own place to live far away from here."
Mudpelt saw Helos' ears flicker when Arrya said Ripplestar. Obviously he hadn't told her yet. The SunHerd horses followed Helos as they trotted away.
Mudpelt trotted over to Swanwings as she cautiously emerged from her den.
"Nightriver is hurt badly and I think Ripplestar is dead," he neighed.