Mudpelt woke up and stretched. It had been three moons since Wavetail had been made a warrior. Bluepond had been made a warrior a moon ago. Blackshell had been made a warrior just the previous day. It was now fully Greenleaf, and it was very hot. The River was low, and the stream between their territory and StoneHerd's was almost completely dried up. Mudpelt knew his Herd was lucky to have a constant supply of water. He could see the other Herds were skinny and unkempt.
Since the River was so low, Mistystar had ordered that no horse could actually go into the River. They had to drink standing on the bank. If they wanted to bathe or eat riverweeds, they had to go to the Lake or the Great River. Mudpelt knew this made sense, because if a horse disturbed the mud at the bottom of the River the water would be unfit to drink for a long time.
Mudpelt walked to the freshly gathered pile. He passed Marshmane, who was obviously pregnant, even to him. Whitewater walked up to Mudpelt.
"Mudpelt, will you lead the SwiftHerd patrol?" he asked.
Mudpelt nodded. "Lakenose, Goosefeather, want to come?"
They nodded and walked up to him.
Bluepond walked up to Whitewater. "Can I go on the gathering patrol?"
"You've asked that every day!" Whitewater neighed, shaking his head. "Why don't you go with Mudpelt instead?"
Bluepond looked disappointed, but nodded and followed Mudpelt out of the camp.
That night, Mudpelt followed Mistystar as she led the Herd to a Herdmeet. She led them the long way across the Island so they wouldn't disturb the mud. They were the last Herd to arrive. Mudpelt stood next to Toadnose.
"Let the Herdmeet begin!" Ashstar neighed.
The leaders neighed their news. Mudpelt wasn't really paying attention, because he was watching a SwiftHerd apprentice and a TreeHerd apprentice practice battle moves with each other. The battle was getting more and more intense, but no horse was stopping it.
The SwiftHerd apprentice kicked at the TreeHerd apprentice, making him bleed. Mudpelt pushed between them.
"Enough," he neighed. "You should be ashamed to be fighting at a Herdmeet."
Some SwiftHerd and TreeHerd horses pinned their ears and stepped toward him.
"It's none of WaterHerd's business what our apprentices do," one neighed.
"Stay away," another added.
Mudpelt pinned his ears, but backed away. He didn't want to fight at a Herdmeet. Toadnose, Mosstail, and Fishleap all came to his side. They tensed, ready to fight.
But suddenly, the clearing went dark. Mudpelt looked up and saw that a cloud covered the moon.
"It's a sign!" Sunwings neighed. "StarHerd are angry!"
The TreeHerd and SwiftHerd horses looked around worriedly and backed away. Mudpelt sighed in relief.
"This Herdmeet is over," Mistystar neighed.
The horses started to head back to where their Herd gathered. Mudpelt joined the group of WaterHerd horses and waited as Mistystar made sure every horse was there.
"Wait, where's Bluepond?" Fishleap asked.
"Mudpelt and Goosefeather, will you look for her?" Mistystar asked.
Mudpelt nodded and headed back toward the hill were the leaders stood. There were very few horses left, and Mudpelt couldn't see her anywhere.
Mudpelt saw her emerge from a large group of bushes. A SwiftHerd stallion walked out behind her. Bluepond's eyes widened when she saw Mudpelt. She turned and nipped the stallion, pinning her ears.
"Stay away!" she neighed.
The stallion hesitated, and then cantered away.
"What was that about?" Mudpelt asked.
"I was, uh, making dirt," Bluepond explained. "I went into the bushes to make dirt, but the stallion came in and wanted my spot, because he had to make dirt too. But I chased him away."
"Ok," Mudpelt neighed. "But you're making the whole Herd wait."
"Sorry," Bluepond neighed.
She followed him to where the Herd was waiting. Mistystar led them home. Mudpelt thought Bluepond's story was strange, but shrugged it off.