Swanwings blinked open her eyes. It was the middle of the night, but something had woken her. She smelled Mosswings' scent and relaxed. She must be receiving a message from StarHerd.
"Swanwings," a voice neighed.
"Mosswings?" Swanwings neighed, looking around for her.
She saw her faint outline silhouetted in the entrance to the cave.
"Follow me," Mosswings neighed, walking away.
Swanwings walked after her. The camp was still. They crossed the River, which was flowing again but very cold. Swanwings was glad she could fly over it. They came to the edge of Fourstones and stopped, concealed by a small grove of pine trees.
Swanwings saw to her surprise horses gathered there. A horse stood on Highhill. Swanwings recognized him as Hawktalon. Swanwings couldn't make out what horses were there, as they were facing away from her and were in shadow. She could tell, however, that they were not only StoneHerd horses.
"I am Hawkstar, the new leader of StoneHerd," Hawkstar neighed. "My new deputy is Sleettail."
The horses whinnied or dipped their heads to him.
"You are here because you don't believe your leader is right for your Herd. I plan to be the high leader of all four Herds, and bring them together. The Herds shouldn't fight each other, they should be united. I need horses loyal to me to lead their Herds. Are there any willing to do this?" Hawkstar neighed.
"I'll be the leader of TreeHerd," a horse neighed.
"I would be willing to be the leader of SwiftHerd," another horse neighed.
"And I will be the leader of WaterHerd," a horse neighed.
Swanwings gasped. What WaterHerd horse would betray their Herd?
"But how do we get rid of our leaders?" a horse asked.
"Kill them," Hawkstar replied. "I already killed Blizzardstar. It was easy."
"But why did StarHerd give you your name?" a horse asked.
"They didn't," Hawkstar answered nonchalantly. "I don't need those fools' help. I earned my place as leader."
"Should we kill the deputy too?" another horse asked.
"Not if you don't have to," Hawkstar replied. "If you have the numbers, you can fight for it. If not, be creative. It's best to have as many warriors fighting for you as you can, including the deputy."
Hawkstar looked at the sky, which was slowly turning grey. "We'll meet here at the next quarter moon."
"Come," Mosswings neighed as the horses started to disperse.
Swanwings couldn't believe what she had seen. She walked into her den and fell asleep.
She woke to the calm and happy sounds of the Herd going on with their normal business. She hated to ruin it with her worries, but she knew this was a great threat.
She walked over to Mistystar, Whitewater, and Mudpelt, and quietly told them the whole story. They looked horrified when she finished.
"The Herd must not know about this," Mistystar neighed. "We don't want them to panic."
"We should do something to take their mind off StoneHerd," Whitewater added.
Mistystar thought for a few moments. Then she brightened, and trotted up Grasshill.
"Let all the horses of WaterHerd gather here for a Herd meeting," she neighed.
The Herd gathered under the Grasshill. Swanwings took her place below Mistystar.
"Blackfoal, you are over the age of one year and it is time for you to become an apprentice," Mistystar neighed.
Splashstream proudly nudged Blackfoal forward.
"Mosstail, you are a kind and loyal warrior. I hope you will pass this on to your apprentice," Mistystar neighed.
Mosstail stepped forward, looking happily surprised.
"Blackfoal, I now name you Blackhoof!" Mistystar neighed.
Toadnose and Splashstream rubbed noses, looking proud.
Swanwings saw Wavehoof look dubiously at Blackhoof and neigh to Bluehoof, "He's too weak and small to be an apprentice."
"Yeah," Bluehoof agreed, glaring at Blackhoof.
Swanwings knew Bluehoof went along with anything he told her to do. She prayed to StarHerd that the WaterHerd horses would see past Blackhoof's appearance, and into his heart.