Mudpelt walked over to grab another mouthful of grass and deposit it on his small pile. It was still too cold for very much grass to grow. Mudpelt was leading a gathering patrol. Splashstream and Lakenose were with him, but he had lost sight of them.
Mudpelt heard whinnies and looked up to see that he had neared the training area. He walked over to it, and saw Nightriver and Mosstail watching as Wavehoof and Blackhoof fought.
"Dodge him, Blackhoof," Mosstail neighed as Wavehoof reared up at him.
But Blackhoof was too slow and Wavehoof pushed him to the ground. Mudpelt shook his head. He knew it was because of Wavehoof and other horses that Blackhoof had become snappy with a short temper, just like Splashstream.
Wavehoof pranced triumphantly around. Blackhoof looked angry and defeated. Wavehoof looked up and saw Mudpelt.
"Did you see me win? I'm going to be the best warrior in the Herd!" Wavehoof boasted.
"That was a nice move," Mudpelt neighed. "But I have to go."
He returned to his grass pile. He had just gotten a large pile when he saw Wavehoof galloping toward him.
"Mudpelt! There's something wrong with Whitewater!" Wavehoof gasped, his eyes wide.
"Go get Swanwings and Mistystar! Where is he?" Mudpelt demanded.
"Just past the training area," Wavehoof answered, before turning around and galloping back to the camp.
Mudpelt galloped toward the training area. He saw Nightriver, Mosstail, and Blackhoof staring at something on the ground. He trotted up to them and saw Whitewater laying on his side. His eyes were rolled back in his head and he was twitching.
"What happened?" Mudpelt asked.
"I went to make dirt, and I found him here," Mosstail answered, her eyes wide.
After a short while, Swanwings and Mistystar came galloping toward them. Swanwings sniffed at Whitewater.
"He was poisoned," Swanwings neighed.
Mosstail told them what she had seen. Swanwings walked around Whitewater, sniffing at plants she saw. When she came to one she nodded seriously.
"There's some poison hemlock here," Swanwings neighed. "He could've eaten it by accident. Take him back to my den."
Mudpelt helped Mosstail, Mistystar, and Nightriver take Whitewater's body back to the camp. When he emerged from the nursery, Mistystar turned to him, looking worried.
"I hope he'll be all right," she neighed.
"I hope so, too," Mudpelt replied.
Mistystar climbed the Grasshill.
"Let all the horses of WaterHerd gather here for a Herd meeting," she neighed.
"Whitewater has been poisoned," she neighed when the Herd had gathered. "He ate some poison hemlock by accident. Swanwings is treating him now."
Marshmane gasped loudly and trotted to the medicine den. Fishleap and Goosefeather looked at each other in horror and also headed for the medicine den. Mudpelt followed them, and overheard Swanwings neighing to them.
"He will most likely get better, but it will take a long time for the poison to expel from his system," Swanwings explained. "But I need to work now, so come back later."
"I need to stay with him!" Marshmane insisted.
"I need to treat him," Swanwings neighed firmly. "Now go."
Fishleap and Goosefeather walked out of the medicine den, their heads low. Marshmane followed them, looking angry. Mudpelt felt bad for them, but he needed to talk to Mistystar. He caught up to her and told her what he had heard.
"I'll have to choose a temporary deputy," she neighed. "But who?"
Mistystar sighed. "I'm going to take a walk and think about it."
Mudpelt nodded and watched her go. This was a decision she would have to make herself.
As the moon rose higher, Mudpelt saw Mistystar walking toward him.
"Have you made a decision?" he asked her.
She blinked at him and nodded slowly. Mudpelt noticed her steps were a bit unsteady and her pupils were larger than normal. She climbed the Grasshill and staggered to a stop.
"Let the horses of WaterHerd come for a meeting!" she neighed.
The Herd gathered below and looked at her expectantly. She blinked at them for a few moments.
"Nightriver will be the new deputy," she announced.
The Herd whickered to each other in surprise.
"Why Nightriver?" Fishleap asked in surprise.
"StarHerd spoke to me," Mistystar answered, her eyes glossing over with the memory. "I felt like I was flying, and I heard them neigh Nightriver's name to me."
Nightriver proudly stood up and walked to the deputy's spot.
"Thank you, Mistystar," he neighed. "I am honored."
Splashstream and Toadnose looked proud. Mudpelt was surprised Mistystar had picked him, but he certainly had the ambition. Mistystar walked down from Grasshill, oblivious to the shaking heads and pinned ears at her choice. She walked into her den. Mudpelt pressed against her side and quickly fell asleep.
He awoke to Mistystar's groan.
"My head hurts horribly," she neighed, grimacing in pain.
"Go see Swanwings," Mudpelt muttered sleepily.
"I'll just go for a walk," Mistystar neighed.
Mudpelt closed his eyes and went back to sleep.