Swanhoof's head spun as she raced back to the camp. Will we make it back in time? she wondered desperately.
As the patrol burst into the camp, she saw to her relief the surprised faces of her Herdmates as they stood in the middle of the camp. Shellpelt poked his head out from under the oak tree.
Reedstar immediately turned around and started issuing orders. "Waterpearl, Darkpool, stand guard for the rest of the night."
They nodded and went to stand in front of the camp. Luckily, their camp was almost totally surrounded by water, but there was one side that was vulnerable.
Mosswings found Swanhoof and flashed her a sympathetic look. "You look scared out of your fur. Let the warriors worry about it. Now get some sleep."
Swanhoof raised her head to argue, but to her surprise found she was exhausted. The adrenaline of the night had worn off. She nodded to Mosswings and stumbled off to their den. She was asleep as soon as she closed her eyes.
Swanhoof dreamed she saw Riverwings. He stared in horror, his eyes locked on something behind her.
"Run, Swanhoof," he neighed.
She tried to run but she suddenly felt the ground drop away beneath her. She was falling and there was nothing but blackness around her. She heard a horse neigh in pain and she was falling, falling…
She jerked open her eyes. She was back in the medicine den, with Mosswings sleeping next to her. Her fur prickled, and she couldn't help but feel that even though she had escaped her dream something was still wrong.
"Mosswings," she whispered. "Wake up."
Mosswings slowly opened her eyes and blinked sleepily at her. "What?"
Swanhoof realized that she didn't really know what was wrong.
"Well…something's wrong," she tried to explain. "I had a dream, and now I've just go this feeling that something is wrong."
Mosswings instantly stepped forward, all the tiredness gone from her eyes. "You had a dream? This is serious. It may be a message from StarHerd."
Swanhoof widened her eyes in surprise. StarHerd sent me a message, she thought wonderingly.
Swanhoof heard a horrible neigh from outside. It's the neigh from my dream, she thought, horrified. She raced outside, trying to adjust her eyes to the dark.
She heard Reedstar's cry, "It's a cougar! Defend the camp!"
Swanhoof whipped her head around to see a huge cat on top of a horse that was on the ground, with Waterpearl stomping desperately on its back. The cougar bit down and the horse below it went limp. She saw the cougar turn to face Waterpearl, but before it could pounce Reedstar reared up at it with the rest of the warriors behind him. The cougar knew it was outnumbered, and with an angry snarl it turned and slunk out into the night.
Mosswings immediately ran to the horse on the ground. Swanhoof trotted up too, only to see with horror that it was Darkpool. Mosswings gave Darkpool a nudge with her nose, but nothing happened. She looked up at Reedstar with eyes full of sadness.
"She's dead," Mosswings neighed.
Swanhoof stared down in horror. Darkpool's black fur was matted with blood, and her eyes stared unseeingly away.
Reedstar shook his head with sadness. "She was a great warrior."
Swanhoof saw Frogleg trotting over to her, followed by Toadhoof. Frogleg was Darkpool's mate, and Toadhoof their foal.
She took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, but Darkpool's dead."
Frogleg's eyes widened, and he ran over to her. He pressed his muzzle into her fur. He let out keening neighs of grief.
Toadhoof just stopped, his ears pinned and his teeth bared as if he could fight off the grief of her death. But, slowly, he became limp, his head hung and his eyes went blank with shock. He walked over to his mother's body and stood there, staring off into the distance.
Swanhoof turned to see Waterpearl wincing as Mosswings pressed herbs on the long scratches running down his side. His eyes were filled with pain. Silverstream and Mudhoof were by his side, comforting him. Swanhoof walked over to join them.
She saw Silverstream turn to her, her eyes wide with grief. Swanhoof knew how she must be feeling; she had just lost her best friend and almost lost her mate. Swanhoof pressed her muzzle against her mother's, trying to comfort her. Silverstream blinked gratefully at her, and then turned back to Waterpearl.
"Don't worry," Waterpearl winced. "It takes more than a few scratches to keep me down."
"Actually, I want you to rest for at least a few suns. No warrior duties," Mosswings neighed. "You don't want to open the wounds again."
"Of course not," Waterpearl responded.
"Now go and get some sleep. It will help you heal faster," Mosswings ordered.
Waterpearl nodded and headed off to the place in the middle of the camp where the warriors slept, followed by Silverstream while Mudhoof went to the apprentices' den.
Mosswings turned to Swanhoof and neighed, "You'd better get some sleep too."
Swanhoof nodded, suddenly realizing how tired she was. She stumbled into the medicine den and fell asleep.