Rahkki wrapped his arms around Echofrost's neck, tears streaming down his face. "I'm going to miss you, Sula," he said, using the Sandwen name he gave her. Echofrost curled her neck around Rahkki's body, her eyes stinging with unshed tears. She was going to miss this boy, too.
Rahkki's family, Darthan, Brauk, and the new Queen of the Fifth, Feylah Stormrunner, stood around them watching. I'Lenna was hugging Shysong, calling her Firo and saying goodbye.
These Landwalker Cubs had taught Echofrost, the one pegasus the least likely to trust anyone, to at least trust them. They have gone through so much together, both Rahkki and Echofrost had matching scars to prove it, and now she and Shysong were going to leave them to join Storm Herd and travel south to their new territory.
Echofrost pulled away at the thought of the new territory. She was going to miss Rahkki, but she was eager to get going. Rahkki seemed to understand and he pulled away, too. "Take care of yourselves, all right?" He said.
"Yes, and teach those Kihlari your ways," I'Lenna said, nodding to the pegasi Dewberry and Redfire persuaded to join Storm Herd. Echofrost didn't understand their words, but she did know it was time to go. She turned and trotted next to Hazelwind at the front of the herd, Shysong following close behind. Hazelwind put his muzzle in the crook of her neck and flared his nostrils, drinking in her scent. "Are you ready to go home?" He asked.
Home. Echofrost thought about that. "Star once said something about home. He said he once thought home was where you lived. Then he thought home was where you died. He finally said that home was where you love." She looked at Storm Herd, at every mare and stallion, elder and foal, wild and tame. Then her eyes swept over Hazelwind's shining buckskin hide, and glistening jade feathers, and his long forelock covering one of his eyes. "I agree with Star," she said. "I am already home." She leaned into Hazelwind, nuzzling him.
Hazelwind nickered happily and nuzzled her back. "Let's go," he said. He lifted his head to address Storm Herd, but stopped when Echofrost lifted hers.
"Wait, I... I have to do something." She reached with her neck and plucked a long, purple flight feather, then she trotted back to Rahkki. His eyes opened wide as she dropped it into his hands. He stared at the feather for a few moments, then looked up and threw himself at Echofrost, hugging her one last time. Echofrost startled at the sudden movement, but quickly relaxed and wrapped her wings around him, taking in his scent like he was her own colt. When they finally pulled away, both their eyes were misty with more tears.
Rahkki looked into her eyes. "Goodbye, Sula," he whispered. "I love you."
Echofrost turned and started walking away, but halfway back to the herd, she turned her head to Rahkki and, even though she knew he couldn't understand her, she whispered, "Goodbye, Rahkki. And... thank you. For everything."
Then she reached Storm Herd, and Hazelwind gave the signal. Every steed turned and started walking south to their new territory.
Echofrost couldn't stop herself from looking back one more time and she saw some Sandwen Landwalkers protesting and running to get their Kihlari, but Feylah said something, and all stopped watch Storm Herd walk away.
Echofrost sighed her relief and approval, then faced ahead, never looking back again. She was on her way to a new territory, and there they would make new legends, new rules, and new families. And she would go there with Storm Herd following, and Hazelwind at her side.
Seven days had passed Storm Herd had left the Fifth Clan and now the pegasi were resting at the base of some tall mountains. Every steed had walked the whole way because some pegasi were too injured from the recent battle to fly, some elders were to old, and most of the foals weren't ready to fly higher than the trees, yet. So they decided to walk so they could stay together.
Echofrost was lying with Hazelwind, preening his feathers, when Redfire trotted past towards a group of foals. She lifted her head and whinnied for him, and he stopped and turned toward her. "Yes, Echofrost?" He said, dipping his head toward her. "What can I do for you?"
"I was just wondering how long it will take for us to cross the mountains?" She swishes her tail, swatting a fly that landed on her flank.
Redfire thought for a moment. "Three days at most. We'll have to watch for Landwalkers in the east, and, once we cross the mountains, also in the west." He looked toward the towering mountains in front of them. "After we are on the other side, it will take one more day until we are in our new territory."
Echofrost dipped her head to the tall, copper, Desert Herd stallion and said, "Thank you." And Redfire trotted away to tell stories and legends to the foals and yearling.
As the sun started to rise, lighting up the jungle around them. Echofrost and Hazelwind groomed each other, and preened the others feathers. Echofrost watching Storm Herd as she worked, the tame steeds who chose to be wild definitely stood out among the fierce, wild steeds. They walked around, staring at the wild pegasi, amazed by their sharpened hooves, muscular bodies, and fierce tempers. Some flew any moment they were able, while others, still used to only flying with a Landwalker on their back, stayed on the ground, hesitant to lift off. Most of the mares, stallion, and elders were in groups, exchanging stories. Some broodmares stared at the stallions, having only been allowed to see a few in their lifetimes. Redfire, Dewberry, Graystone, and some other wild pegasi, grouped with the foals, teaching them everything from old stories, to new legends, skills from every herd and battles from long ago, and the foals, weanlings, and yearlings, including Windheart and Thornblaze, stared wide eyed, every now and then asking questions.
"Some things will take some getting used to," said Hazelwind, "and some pegasi still have a lot to learn, but we are finally a real herd."
Echofrost nickered her agreement. They have come a long way since they arrived at the southern continent, skinny, hungry, and no hope for the future, and now they were well-fed, almost doubled in size, and ready for a new beginning.
The sun was well above the horizon when Hazelwind said "I think we should get going now, or we'll never leave this jungle." He stood up and called for the herd to get ready.
As all the pegasi gathered together and started walking toward the mountains, Dewberry cantered toward Echofrost, with a worried look on her face, and Windheart and Thornblaze by her side.
"What's wrong?" Echfrost asked as the mare settled next to her. She touched noses with her little niece and nephew.
"Nothing right now," Dewberry answered. "I'm just worried about the foals climbing this mountain."
"I'm sure they'll be fine." Echofrost eyed the colts and fillies. "They all can fly if they slip, and if anything happens, the adults can help them."
Dewberry sighed. "I know, but I can't help but have this feeling that something bad is going to happen."
Echofrost opened her mouth to assure Dewberry that everything will be fine, but quickly shut it again. The truth was, she had been having that feeling too, but she just ignored it, refusing to let it bother her or distract her from the more important things. So instead, she said, "If anything happens to the foals, I will do everything in my power to save them."
Dewberry nodded, looking a bit relieved, but still worried. She looked at her twin foals. "I just dont want to loose the only connection, besides you, to Bumblewind that I have left."
Echofrost sighed, understanding. She wrapped one of her wings over the pinto's back. "Nothing will happen to Windheart or Thornblaze. Not while I'm alive."
She had said a similar thing to Shysong a while ago. It was an unrealistic promise, and they both knew it, but Dewberry seemed to have needed to hear it. She touched Echofrost for head with her own. "Thank you, Echofrost. You're a wonderful leader." Then she turned and trotted away to follow Storm Herd as they ascended the mountain, her twin pinto foals following closely behind like her shadow, leaving Echofrost staring after them, breathless.
Leader? Is that what Storm Herd though she was? Their lead mare? She never thought of herself as a lead mare before. Wait. She shook her head. What if Hazelwind became Storm Herd's over-stallion? Would he choose her to be lead mare? To be his MATE? More importantly, should she accept? What if he picked a different mare? Echofrost looked at Hazelwind, at his proudly arched neck, his focused eyes, and his determined expression. He was so much like his sire, Thundersky, and Echofrost had no doubt he would one day be over-stallion.
Echofrost shook her head again, trying to clear her mind of that nagging question. Would he pick me to be his mate? None of that mattered right now. The only thing that did matter right now, was crossing the southern mountains, keeping the foals safe, and settling the herd in their new territory. Echofrost emptied her mind from all things other than those, and trotted to her best friend, Hazelwind.
When Hazelwind saw her, his eyes lit up. He pressed his cheek against Echofrost's and nickered happily. "For a moment, I thought you weren't coming!" He teased.
Echofrost nudged him playfully then settled and leaned into him. "I wouldn't miss any moment to travel with you." And with that, she folded her wings neatly on her back, and started toward the mountain, side by side with Hazelwind, leaving the past and heading for the future. Echofrost, Hazelwind, Dewberry, and the rest of Storm Herd was finally on their way home.
I hope you enjoyed chapter two of A New Beginning! I'm sorry it took so long for this to come out. It so much harder than I thought to write my own book. I'm still thinking of what I should do for chapter three, but I will have that come out for you guys as soon as I can!
Happy flying! (Idk... 😄)