It had been one moon since the greencough. All of the horses had recovered, but Blackfoal was still weak and sickly. He had reached one year, but Mistystar couldn't make him an apprentice yet.
Mudpelt watched Whitewater assign the patrols. He had gotten much surer of himself, and with practice he was a great deputy. Mudpelt shivered in the early morning air. The snow had just started melting, though the air still felt chilly.
"Mudpelt, I want you to lead the StoneHerd patrol," Whitewater neighed. "Pick three horses to go with you."
Mudpelt nodded and looked around at the horses. "Toadnose, Nightriver, and Marshmane."
They walked over to him. Wavehoof trotted excitedly over.
"Wavehoof, you're staying to clean the dens today," Nightriver neighed.
Wavehoof's face fell. "But I want to go on the patrol."
"No," Nightriver glared at him.
Wavehoof looked pleadingly at Mudpelt. "Mudpelt, can I please go?"
"If your mentor says you can't, then no," Mudpelt replied.
Wavehoof pinned his ears. "Fine."
He stomped away.
"He's got your spirit, Mudpelt," Toadnose nickered.
Mudpelt nickered as well. "All right, let's go."
They trotted toward Nofurplace, keeping the River on their left. The River slowly dwindled until it was nothing but a stream. Mudpelt heard a bush rattle in front of him and stopped, his ears pricked.
A horse staggered in front of them, bleeding all over. Mudpelt realized to his horror it was Blizzardstar. He fell down with a crash.
"Blizzardstar!" Mudpelt neighed.
Mudpelt rushed over to him, but he closed his eyes and didn't open them again. The WaterHerd horses stared at each other in horror. What had just happened?
Mudpelt heard rustling on the other side of the stream, and turned to face it. Hawktalon burst out of the trees and came to a stop at the edge of the stream. He was followed by Sleettail and Wolfpelt.
Hawktalon's eyes widened in shock. "Blizzardstar!"
Hawktalon pinned his ears at the WaterHerd horses. "You killed him!"
Mudpelt blinked in shock. "Of course we didn't. We found him on our territory, already dying."
"We follow the Warrior Code!" Nightriver added angrily.
Hawktalon shook his head, and Mudpelt could see he still didn't believe him.
"Will you at least let us take his body back to our camp," Hawktalon asked.
"Of course!" Mudpelt neighed indignantly. "We would never try to stop you!"
Hawktalon watched them suspiciously while Sleettail and Wolfpelt took their leaders' body across the stream.
"You'll pay for this!" Hawktalon neighed, before disappearing into the trees.
The WaterHerd horses stood there looking stunned. Mudpelt forced himself to focus.
"Let's go back to camp," he neighed. "We need to report this to Mistystar."
He led the horses in silence back to the camp. Mistystar trotted up to him.
"You look worried," she neighed. "What happened?"
He told her everything. When he was done, she shook her head.
"This is bad," she neighed. "Now we have an enemy."
Whitewater, who had been listening, asked, "What should we do?"
"Increase the patrols on the StoneHerd border," Mistystar answered. "That's all we can do."
Mudpelt prayed to StarHerd that Hawktalon would realize that WaterHerd had not killed Blizzardstar. He wondered what had happened to him. His wounds looked like they were made by another horse. Could it have been a loner? Or SunHerd? And why had Blizzardstar been alone on WaterHerd territory?
Mudpelt shook his head. He had no answers to these questions, but he felt that something big was about to happen and all the Herds would be affected.