It had been over two moons since Mistystar had been made leader. Bluehoof had been made an apprentice. She had had a cold vigil, since it was now fully Leafbare and the snow was thick on the ground. Her mentor was Beaversplash.
Swanwings peered cautiously out of her den. The snow was blowing so thickly she could barely see. She hated going out in it. But she had to check on the elders and Blackfoal. They were the most affected by the cold.
She stepped out into the storm, keeping her wings pressed against her sides. The warriors were huddled together, with the most senior warriors in the middle. Mistystar and Mudpelt were pressed against each other under the overhang that made the leaders' den. The elders' tree had lost all its leaves, but luckily its branches were thick and close together. The apprentices were huddled together under their overhang.
Swanwings hurried into the nursery, grateful for the warmth inside. Splashstream and Toadnose were on either side of Blackfoal. He was shivering pitifully. He had always been a bit sickly and weak. Swanwings sniffed at his forehead, and touched her nose to it. He felt strangely hot, and smelled of disease.
Greencough, Swanwings thought with a jolt.
Greencough was dreaded among the Herds. It spread quickly and left horses weak or dead.
"Splashstream, Toadnose, have you visited any horse or has any horse come in here today?" Swanwings asked sharply.
"I visited the elders," Toadnose answered, looking confused. "I gave them some grass."
"I didn't," Splashstream neighed.
Swanwings trotted out of the den, thanking StarHerd that the storm was calming.
"Mosstail!" she neighed. "Guard the nursery. Don't let any horse in or out, except me!"
Mosstail looked confused, but hurried over. Swanwings trotted into the elders' den, smelling with despair the stench of sickness. Frogleg was lying down. He struggled to breathe, and had a rasping cough.
Swanwings struggled to calm her panic. "Can you stand up, Frogleg? We need to go to the nursery."
Frogleg unsteadily rose to his hooves and leaned against Swanwings. They walked past the Herd, who were all staring at them. Swanwings motioned for Mosstail to move, and she did so. Swanwings helped Frogleg into the nursery, and then turned to face the Herd. She headed toward Mistystar, who was standing next to Mudpelt.
"They have greencough," she neighed quietly.
Mistystar gasped. "You're sure?"
Swanwings nodded. "I've tried to keep all the horses who've been exposed together. The nursery will have to be quarantined."
Mistystar started telling the Herd what had happened. Swanwings walked into her den to look for herbs. She grabbed as many as she had, which was only a meager mouthful since it was Leafbare. She doled out the herbs equally, giving each horse only a little.
"Blackfoal needs more," Splashstream demanded.
Blackfoal was lying down, his flanks heaving as he tried to breathe.
"That's all there is," Swanwings sighed.
"What? What kind of medicine horse do you think you are?" Splashstream asked angrily.
"I'm sure she's doing her best," Toadnose tried to comfort her.
Swanwings backed out of the den, unsure of what to do. She wished Cherrywings was there. Splashstream suddenly remembered when she had helped Cherrywings cure her sick Herdmates. Maybe Cherrywings would do the same for her now!
She trotted over to Mistystar.
"I need more herbs or I can't help those horses. Could I go to TreeHerd and ask Cherrywings for some?" she asked.
Mistystar paused. "All right. But if they ask for something in return, ok it with me first. And I want you to take Fishleap with you. Since you're both white, you can blend in better."
"Thank you," Swanwings neighed.
She quickly explained the situation to Fishleap, who led the way towards Fourstones. They crossed the River on the ice, since it was completely frozen. They cautiously stepped into TreeHerd territory. The snow wasn't as deep because of the trees. A large brown shape loomed up out of the trees. Swanwings recognized him as Owltree.
"What do you want?" he asked coldly.
"We need to speak to Cherrywings," Swanwings neighed.
Owltree led them deeper into the forest. He stopped before they got to the camp.
"Wait here," he ordered, before walking away.
He was soon back, followed by Birchstar and Cherrywings. Swanwings explained her situation.
"We have plenty of herbs to spare," Cherrywings neighed, looking to Birchstar for his approval.
He nodded. "Very well."
Cherrywings trotted away. She came back with a mouthful of herbs, followed by an apprentice who had another mouthful. They both dropped them on the ground.
"Thank you," Swanwings neighed gratefully.
"Anytime," Cherrywings replied, her eyes sparkling.
Swanwings and Fishleap each picked up a mouthful of herbs.
"Owltree, escort them back to Fourstones," Birchstar ordered.
Owltree dipped his head and headed through the trees. Swanwings and Fishleap followed. They left Owltree at Fourstones and continued into their territory. Swanwings dropped the herbs in her den, and Fishleap did the same. She thanked Fishleap, grabbed a mouthful of herbs, and headed for the nursery.
It was very crowded and stank of sickness. Every horse in there had at least a slight cough, but Blackfoal and Frogleg were the worst. Swanwings gave out the herbs and prayed to StarHerd they would get better.