After five days of waiting and wondering, Mudpelt finally saw Splashstream and Toadnose crossing the River. The Herd lined up again and waited.
"All of the horses have been found to be disloyal to MoonHerd," Splashstream announced.
"What will you do with them?" Mosstail asked, her eyes wide.
Splashstream looked at her coldly. "The great Hawkstar will do as he wishes."
Mosstail pinned her ears and started to rear, but Mudpelt was grateful to see Swanwings put out one wing to stop her. Splashstream and Toadnose swam across the River and out of sight.
"We should feel grateful to Hawkstar," Nightriver neighed. "He has found out the traitors in our Herd and removed them so we are not threatened by them."
Mudpelt felt a new resolve. He knew what he had to do. He quietly told Swanwings and Mosstail to meet him near Dirtplace after sundown. Just after he ate, Mudpelt surreptitiously slipped out of the camp. The rest of the horses soon followed him.
"We need to rescue them," he neighed.
The others nodded.
"But how?" Mosstail asked.
"We'll volunteer for the gathering patrol that gives food to the council tomorrow," Mudpelt neighed. "Then we can at least see where they're being kept."
The other horses nodded, their eyes gleaming in the sun's dying rays.
The next day at sunhigh, Mudpelt led Mosstail towards Fourstones. Whitewater hadn't expected anything when they'd all volunteered to go on this patrol, and luckily Nightriver had been on a border patrol still. Splashstream had swum over again that morning and announced that they shouldn't patrol borders with other Herds since they were all one Herd.
Mudpelt and the others dropped their grass on the pile. Mudpelt looked around, but to his dismay didn't see any sign of the captive horses. On the way back, he noticed Toadnose by himself getting a drink from the River.
"Toadnose," Mudpelt neighed. "Do you know where the captive horses are being kept?"
"They're being kept in a cave just inside StoneHerd territory," Toadnose neighed, and then hesitated. "I don't think I should've told you that."
"See you later," Mudpelt quickly neighed.
He walked over to confer with the others, who had heard Toadnose.
"I'm sure it's guarded," Mosstail neighed. "We should go at night when they'll be more tired and the council asleep."
That night, Mudpelt and Mosstail stood in a small copse of pine trees and waited for the council to go to sleep. A StoneHerd stallion crossed the border to Fourstones with another horse beside him. Mudpelt saw to his horror that it was Beaversplash.
The StoneHerd horse nudged Beaversplash into the middle of the council, who were in a circle.
"You are a traitor to MoonHerd," Hawktalon neighed coldly.
"Traitor!" Bushtail neighed, rearing up at Beaversplash.
Beaversplash reared up to meet him, but the other council horses closed in , kicking and biting him. Mosstail would have run to him, but Mudpelt forcibly held her back.
The council members continued, while Hawktalon stood watching coldly from Highhill.
Finally, Beaversplash fell with a whinny of pain. Hawktalon signaled and the council horses formed their circle again. The StoneHerd stallion nudged Beaversplash harshly until he staggered to his feet. He followed the StoneHerd horse out of the circle to the jeers of the council members.
When he was gone, the horses separated to sleep. Mudpelt noticed that although Hawktalon tried to make them one Herd, the council horses slept with their Herdmates. The WaterHerd horses waited until they were sure every horse was asleep, and then headed for where the StoneHerd stallion and Beaversplash had disappeared. It wasn't hard to follow the scent of blood even though it was dark.
Mudpelt smelled StoneHerd, and quickly motioned for Mosstail to hide. They stood in the shadow behind some pine trees. Mudpelt saw the cave, but to his dismay he also saw that four StoneHerd horses were guarding it.
Mosstail took a step forward. "We can take them!"
"I don't think so," Mudpelt softly whickered. "And if they whinnied Hawktalon and the council would hear and come running."
"I think I smell something," a StoneHerd stallion neighed.
He looked suspiciously at the pine trees where the WaterHerd horses stood. Mudpelt turned to leave, but saw that Mosstail was reluctant to go.
"You won't help your loved ones by joining them," he snapped.
Mosstail reluctantly nodded and followed him. By the time the StoneHerd stallion got to the place where they had been, they were already gone.