Nine moons had passed. Trouthoof had just been made an apprentice. His mentor was Lakenose. Bluepond was almost due and Mosstail had moved to the nursery.
Mudpelt was sleeping, until a shrill whinny pierced the air. He opened his eyes and looked around. He saw Mosstail emerge from the nursery and hurry into Swanwings den. Bluepond must be delivering.
Mudpelt watched as Swanwings walked into the nursery, leaving Mosstail to guard the door. Blackshell trotted over to Mosstail, and appeared to be arguing with her. But Mosstail shook her head and Blackshell walked away, swishing his tail.
Over the past moons, it had been harder for Mudpelt to tell that Blackshell and Bluepond were pretending to be mates. And he saw actual worry on Blackshell's face as he paced outside the nursery.
After a while, Swanwings came out of the nursery.
"It's a healthy filly," she neighed. "Blackshell, you can go in now."
Swanwings walked towards him. "She's a blue roan."
Mudpelt sighed in relief. If the filly had been a color other than black or blue roan, horses would have gotten suspicious.
"I've got to get back," Swanwings neighed.
She turned and walked back into the nursery. Soon after, Blackshell walked out, looking happy.
"We named her Lilyfoal," Blackshell announced proudly.
Several of the horses nodded, but Wavetail just shook his head and snorted.
Whitewater looked around. "Since every horse is awake, we might as well start the patrols. Mudpelt, you can lead the SwiftHerd patrol. Toadnose, you can lead the SwiftHerd patrol."
Mudpelt nodded. "Beaversplash, Wavetail, and Fishleap, want to come?"
The three horses nodded and followed Mudpelt along the River out of the camp. It was Newleaf, and the River was flowing fast. He noticed that the stream was higher, but still easy enough to cross.
He stopped as he heard a rustle in some bushes in front of him. He warily remembered the last time he had been there, when Blizzardstar had died. Mudpelt saw a horse emerge from the bushes. He almost nickered to see that it was just a colt. He looked scared, but defiant.
"Who are you?" Mudpelt asked.
"I'm Pebblefoal," the colt answered.
"He must be from StoneHerd," Beaversplash neighed.
"We must drive him back into his own territory," Wavetail neighed, pinning his ears.
"He's just a colt!" Fishleap put in.
"Why are you on our territory?" Mudpelt asked.
"I snuck away from the nursery while Frostfur was sleeping," Pebblefoal answered defiantly.
"Then no StoneHerd horse will come looking for him for a long time," Mudpelt neighed. "And we can't cross the border. We'll have to take him back to our camp. Wavetail, stay here so if any StoneHerd horses come looking for him you can escort one of them to our camp."
"Come with us," Mudpelt ordered Pebblefoal.
He started walking back toward the camp, knowing if he trotted Pebblefoal would have trouble keeping up. When they finally arrived in the camp, the WaterHerd horses stared at the colt the patrol had brought with them.
Mistystar walked up to Mudpelt. "Who is that?"
Mudpelt told her the whole story. When he finished, she nodded.
"You did the right thing," she neighed. "Now we just need some horse to look after him."
"I will," Mosstail volunteered. "He can stay with me in the nursery."
Mistystar nodded her approval. Pebblefoal walked over to Mosstail, his defiance fading as he breathed in her motherly scent. Mosstail walked in to the nursery and the two disappeared inside.
That night, Mudpelt saw Wavetail trotting toward the camp with another horse. As they got closer, Mudpelt could see that it was Bouldermane. Mistystar walked out to meet them, followed by Whitewater.
"You have one of our foals," Bouldermane neighed. "I am here to bargain for his return."
"Bargain?" Mistystar exclaimed. "We were just keeping him safe until a StoneHerd horse came and got him."
"You kidnapped him!" Bouldermane neighed angrily.
Mistystar flattened her ears, but kept calm. "Why don't you ask Pebblefoal? Mosstail, bring him here!"
Mosstail walked out of the nursery with Pebblefoal plastered to her side.
"Pebblefoal, could you tell him what happened to you?" Mosstail asked gently.
Pebblefoal recited his story again.
"Just give him to me, then," Bouldermane demanded.
Mosstail gently pushed Pebblefoal toward Bouldermane. "He'll take you back to Frostfur."
For a moment, Pebblefoal looked torn. But then he turned and walked up to Bouldermane.
"Beaversplash, escort them to the border," Mistystar ordered.
Beaversplash nodded and led the two StoneHerd horses back to their territory. Mudpelt shook his head. It had been a strange day. He hoped StoneHerd would decide WaterHerd hadn't kidnapped Pebblefoal. But only StarHerd knew. After all, StoneHerd weren't the brightest Herd.