Brackentail managed to keep most of his attention on Thunderfrost’s story, but he kept sneaking looks at Cloudpepper when he could. He managed to catch her eye once and she gave him a half smile. Brackentail’s heart turned over. He decided right then that he would never be in a contest for Morningleaf. He would always be hooves-over-wings devoted to Cloudpepper.
According to the intense inspection that Brackentail gave her as opposed to Thunderblaze’s inspection, Cloudpepper had a star on her forehead and a snip on her nose. Brackentail’s gaze swept over her flea-bitten gray hide and rested for a little while on her perfect dull yellow wings tipped in silver.
Cloudpepper noticed his gaze and, uncomfortable, shuffled her wings over her back and stamped a hoof. This didn’t deter Brackentail at all, he looked down at her legs instead. They were very well built, and her front right leg had a stocking. Switching over to her back legs, Brackentail noticed that both of them had small white socks.
After Thunderfrost finished his story, the onslaught of questions ensued.
“Why didn’t you make yourself known to Thunderblaze?” Lakefrost asked.
“I told you. Nightwing might have killed me for bringing light to someone,” Thunderfrost replied bitterly.
“Why didn’t you tell him when we were building the Freedom Tribute?” Redstorm said.
“I didn’t think it was the right time,” Thunderfrost answered evasively. Thunderblaze, who hadn’t been listening attentively because he had already heard it, spoke up. “You keep saying, ‘It wasn’t the right time.’ Why wasn’t it then, and why is it now?”
Thunderfrost went to answer but was interrupted by Cloudpepper. “Tell him to stop staring at me!” she whinnied to the others, gesturing at Brackentail. “It’s rude, and I don’t need a stallion!” The others glanced from the young mare to Thunderfrost, tolerant smiles on their faces. “I don’t! There is no romance here,–” Cloudpepper gestured to Thunderfrost and herself “– we’re just good friends, and I don’t need him intruding on me!”
The others looked at Brackentail. Mentally, Morningleaf was jumping with joy that her temporary companion had feelings for someone else, because it left room for her and Star.
This didn’t make Brackentail any more comfortable. Cloudpepper kept staring at him intently and offensively. She was determined to show him that she didn’t need a stallion. That is, until the six-year-old stallion Brightforest and his mother Pinewood, having woken up and heard that Thunderfrost was back, walked into the circle.