Swanwings took another mouthful of grass, feeling despair creep over her. Mudpelt's attempt to rescue the imprisoned horses had failed. What could they do now?
She looked up to see a strange horse walking toward the camp. Mudpelt pinned his ears and stepped toward it. Swanwings looked closer. The horse looked strangely familiar. Her suspicions were confirmed when Mudpelt froze, his eyes wide.
As the horse stepped into the camp, Swanwings saw to her surprise that it was Mistystar! Mudpelt leaped forward, and he and Mistystar joyously greeted each other.
Nightriver grumpily stepped out of his den, where he had beem napping.
"What's going on?" he snapped.
He froze when he saw Mistystar. "No, it can't be. You're dead!"
Mistystar stepped forward, her eyes gleaming. "But it is. Splashstream's attempt to kill me failed."
The Herd whickered in surprise. None of them had heard Swanwings' message from StarHerd, except Mudpelt. Swanwings paused for a moment. Hadn't Mosswings told her that Mistystar was dead? No, she remembered, she had said Splashstream had left Mistystar for dead, not that she was actually dead.
"Nightriver never got his name from StarHerd," Swanwings neighed. "He lied."
The Herd whickered angrily. Then, they began to neigh "Mistystar!" "Mistystar!"
Nightriver pinned his ears. "If you try to take this Herd from me, I'll tell Hawkstar and the entire council and other three Herds will force you to give up your leadership."
Mistystar pinned her ears. "I have no desire to take over the Herd. I have a safe place where many horses can stay. Who'll come with me?"
Mudpelt immediately neighed, "I will."
Mosstail stepped forward first. Fishleap and Goosefeather stepped forward next. Wavehoof stepped forward, followed by Bluehoof. Silverstream stepped forward next. Whitewater looked between Nightriver and the others uncertainly. Then he stepped forward, Marshmane by his side. Swanwings stepped forward last.
Only Blackhoof and Frogleg were left standing by Nightriver.
"Hawkstar will know! He'll find you," Nightriver neighed angrily.
Mistystar looked confused. "Where are Lakenose and Beaversplash?"
Mudpelt explained what Hawktalon had done to them. Mistystar looked outraged.
"He will pay for that," she snapped.
She turned and led her Herd away from the camp.
"What happened?" Swanwings asked.
"I was on a gathering patrol near Nofurplace. I heard a noise behind me, and saw Splashstream coming toward me. I wasn't afraid because I thought a Herd horse would never hurt a Herdmate. But she bit my throat, and I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was in the place where you were, Swanwings, the 'barn', the Nofur horses called it. The Nofur horses told me that they had alerted their Nofur when they saw me, and the Nofur had healed my wound while I was unconscious. When I was well enough, the Nofur let me out in the meadow. The Nofur horses were very kind to me, but I knew I had to return to my Herd. I tried to escape, but I was too weak to jump the logs that confined me. I had to wait until I had all my strength to jump them, which was today," Mistystar explained.
By the time she had finished her story, they had left WaterHerd territory and were between Nofurplace and SwiftHerd territory. Swanwings saw many horses shiver as they passed the spot where the Herds had fought SunHerd. They were heading toward the place where SunHerd had come from.
"After Arrya took Helos and promised SunHerd would leave, I decided to check and make sure they were gone," Mistystar neighed. "They were, and I also saw that they had found a great place to make their camp."
Mistystar led them to a place where the ground sloped upward, forming a plateau. At the top, pine trees ringed the edge. In the center was a grassy meadow.
"They could see all from up there and not be seen themselves," Mistystar neighed. "And I'll need two horses to be on watch. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled on WaterHerd and SwiftHerd territory."
Mosstail and Marshmane volunteered and entered the ring of trees.
"So what are we going to do now?" Swanwings heard Mudpelt ask.
"There's a Herdmeet tonight," Mistystar replied. "And I plan on attending it."