Swanwings shook her head as she watched Nightriver rush around the camp, frantically trying to make everything look perfect.
"Bluehoof, you're covered with dirt!" Nightriver neighed. "Go get in the River and wash it off! You don't want Hawkstar to see you like that."
Bluehoof ducked her head embarrassedly and trotted down to the River.
"But why are we doing this?" Fishleap asked.
"Because Hawkstar and the entire council are coming to inspect us and if we aren't perfect, he'll take it out on me," Nightriver neighed, pinning his ears. "And whatever Hawktalon does to me, I'll do doubly to the horse that causes his displeasure."
Bluehoof arrived back from the River just in time, as Hawktalon and the council were trotting toward them from the direction of Nofurplace.
"They must have just inspected StoneHerd," Mudpelt softly whickered to Swanwings.
Hawktalon surveyed the WaterHerd horses, who were lined up in a semicircle. Nightriver stepped forward and dipped his head to him, and then Whitewater did the same.
"Well done, Nightstar," Hawktalon neighed. "But I have an important announcement to make. I have seen that some horses are not happy with what I have done. These horses are disloyal to MoonHerd. I only want loyal horses in my Herd. Therefore, all horses that were born in a different Herd or have parents that were born in a different Herd must be tested for their loyalty. Today at sundown council members will be sent to collect these horses. If you are loyal to your Herd, you have nothing to fear."
Hawktalon's eyes glinted coldly as he turned and headed toward SwiftHerd territory, the council following behind him. Swanwings felt sick. She knew this was just an excuse for Hawktalon to persecute horses like Beaversplash. StoneHerd had always been the most insistent that horses stay true to the Herd they were born into.
Swanwings walked over to Mosstail, Lakenose, and Beaversplash, who were rubbing noses with each other.
"Why don't you run away, Beaversplash and Lakenose?" Swanwings suggested. "It would be safer."
"I could never leave Mosstail," Beaversplash neighed.
"And I could never leave Mudpelt," Mosstail neighed.
Swanwings looked at the sky. The sun was starting to set. It would begin soon.
"Line up!" Nightriver neighed. "Get back to your places."
The Herd lined up in the semi circle again. This time, the council horses swam across the River from Fourstones. As they got closer, Swanwings could see it was Splashstream and Toadnose.
"Let all the horses Hawkstar has requested come forward," Splashstream neighed, looking around coldly.
Beaversplash stepped forward, Lakenose by his side. Mosstail watched them go, shaking her head sadly. They got to the other side of the River and disappeared from sight.