It was peaceful in the woods. Birds chirped and a snowy fox slinked through the underbrush, his eyes flitting from side to side.
Yet something didn’t feel right.
Starpebble flared her wings, sniffing the air. She felt very nervous today.
A branch broke somewhere behind her and she whirled, baring her teeth, flaring her wings. “Who’s there?”
Her older brother stepped out from behind a tree, holding out his mint-colored wings peacefully. “It’s just me, relax! Why are you so jumpy today?”
Starpebble folded her pale blue wings. “I don’t know,” she said shortly.
Snowstone tilted his head. “If you say so….”
Starpebble turned and began to trot back to the herd. Suddenly screams broke out in front of her and another weanling like herself was galloping toward her. It was Rainshine, the over-stallion's daughter, and her eyes were wide with terror. “Run!” she screamed. “It’s a raid!”
There was a thundering of hooves behind her and a heavy stallion burst through the trees, his eyes narrowed angrily, a wound on his neck bleeding heavily. Starpebble was frozen in fright.
He raced toward her but was sent rolling by a white figure crashing into him from the side, biting and kicking at him and waving his wings widely around the stallion’s face. “Run!” screamed Snowstone to Starpebble, his eyes flashing.
Starpebble turned and fled. The branches scratched her silver hide fiercely, and her white mane caught on branches. She did not look back even once, so great was her terror.
Eventually she slowed down, and began to realize she was safe.
She turned and lifted off, soaring above the trees back the way she had come, her heart beating wildly, her mind racing.
She spotted a gray shape below her, lying limp on the forest floor. She circled down, her heat in her mouth. Landing beside the figure, her heart broke.
It was her father, Fogfire, his breaths coming slow and short, his chest deeply gouged. He opened his eyes and saw her.
Starpebble sank to the ground beside him, cradling his head in her wings. “Father, I’m here. Please don’t die, please please, please!”
His eyes closed, and he murmured, “I was chasing a-- Mountain Herd steed-- he snatched Rainshine-- I tried to stop him-- but another came from behind and broke my wing-- then they attacked me-- oh, Moonfrost, I saw them take Snowstone-- no, please, not my son….”
His voice trailed off and he went very still. His black mane was ruffled by a slight breeze and one navy feather flitted along the ground. Starpebble stared at him, her eyes filling with tears. Her father, her loving, strong, brave father, was dead.
At first she couldn’t believe it.
Then Starpebble bowed her head to his wings and wept.