Mudpelt took one last bite of grass from the freshly gathered pile. He watched Whitewater survey the just-waking horses as they ate or neighed to each other. He walked over to him.
"Do you want some help?" Mudpelt asked.
"Yes," Whitewater replied, looking at him gratefully.
"I have a good bit of knowledge about deputyship, seeing as how I was the deputy's mate and was even the deputy myself for a short time," Mudpelt neighed. "Usually, Mistystar would send out one border patrol for each border at night and one in the morning. Then she would send out two or three gathering patrols at sunhigh."
Whitewater nodded. "Thanks, Mudpelt."
Mudpelt walked away so it wouldn't seem like he was telling Whitewater what to do.
"I'll lead the SwiftHerd border patrol. I'll take Beaversplash and Lakenose. Toadnose, you can lead the StoneHerd border patrol. Pick two horses to go with you. Nightriver, take Wavehoof to the training ground," Whitewater neighed, trying to sound confident.
Nightriver glared at Whitewater, and then pointedly turned his back on him.
Fishleap, who was letting Bluefoal get some fresh air, snorted angrily.
"Are you ignoring your deputy?" she neighed furiously.
Nightriver pinned his ears and stepped toward her, but as he did so Mistystar stepped out of her den.
"Is there a problem?" she asked, her ears back warningly.
"No," Nightriver reluctantly neighed, turning away.
"Make sure the patrols watch out for SunHerd," Mistyfur neighed. "They might have decided they would rather have our territory than trek to some far off place."
Toadnose called Mosstail and Marshmane to him and the patrols set off. Nightriver called to Wavehoof and walked out of the camp, glaring at any horse that crossed his path.
Mudpelt walked over to Mistystar and rubbed noses with her lovingly.
"Don't worry about Nightriver and Splashstream," Mudpelt reassured her. "They just like to be difficult."
"I know Nightriver wanted to be made deputy, but he just wasn't the right choice," Mistystar sighed.
"Are you ready for the Herdmeet tonight?" Mudpelt asked, changing the subject.
"I'm nervous," Mistystar admitted.
"You'll be fine," Mudpelt assured her.
That night, Mudpelt trotted into Fourstones with his Herd. He noticed the chill bite to the air. Leaffall was there. Mudpelt looked around Fourstones and noticed that TreeHerd had not yet arrived.
Mudpelt watched proudly as Mistystar walked up to join Rabbitstar and Blizzardstar. Whitewater joined Tumbleweed and Hawktalon below them. The StoneHerd and SwiftHerd horses still glared angrily at WaterHerd.
They must not know that Helos is gone, Mudpelt realized.
TreeHerd trotted into the clearing and took their places. As Birchstar took his place, he neighed for the Herdmeet to begin.
"Why don't you start, Mistyfur?" Birchstar neighed. "Where is Ripplestar?"
"She's dead," Mistystar neighed. "StarHerd has given me my name. Whitewater is my deputy."
"How did she die?" Blizzardstar asked, not looking very sad.
"SunHerd attacked us," Mistystar neighed. "They freed Helos, who killed Ripplestar. SunHerd left and promised never to return"
Many of the horses looked relieved that Helos was gone.
Blizzardstar, however, shook his head. "Helos should be dead."
The rest of the leaders told their news, and Rabbitstar ended the Herdmeet. Mistystar walked up to Mudpelt, looking relieved.
"That went well," she neighed. "The other leaders were much warmer to me when I told them Helos was gone."
Mistystar called the WaterHerd horses to her and they trotted home.