Chapter 2

The Bog

Ah! Move out of my way!” the young bull cried as he stampeded past Thicken. “Look! I’m as strong as Blackmor!”

Thicken grunted and watched in amusement as the older calf bucked and turned around to scratch the earth with his forehoof and glower at them, excitement gleaming in his dark young eyes.

You don’t come close!” Thicken snorted in laughter.

Yeah, Hoofkick!” agreed Prairie beside him, flicking her tail and giggling. “Blackmor’s said to be bigger than the foothills!” she cried, unaware of her close genetic ties with the legendary beast.

And he can run over the prairies like thunder!” Thicken added enthusiastically.

Ah, I could beat ‘em,” huffed Hoofkick, eyeing them in a challenge. “And whoever says otherwise will have to answer to me.”

The offer was tempting, unfortunately Hoofkick was a yearling, and therefore several times the size of little Thicken and Prairie. To them his thwarting figure was in their favor, because the bull was their friend and playmate.

He had come over to meet them within the nursery that was assembled when the herd decided to rest and graze that day. After last night’s traveling, they had chosen a striking area within the borders of the forest, where a brook gurgled peacefully by, its churning surface penetrated by cattail, its muddy banks laden with sweet grass that glittered with late morning dew.

As cows and young bulls munched in tranquility near the more open lands of the valley, the calves had stumbled near the creek in an indent in the timberline. Near the pines that bristled at the forest’s borders, a small group of cows lie together, tails and ears flicking in irritation from humming insects. Sedgla was among them, carefully observing her calf along with the herd’s other youngsters.

Hoofkick was one of the few yearlings that paid the nurslings the least bit of attention, for most of his peers were too busy eating, sleeping, and practicing in brawls. Unbeknownst to him, his presence caused Sedgla and the other mothers to remain in an alert, uneasy state. He was, after all, much larger than the nursery calves who suckled and still remained in practically velvet, rusty-tan coats.

Thicken snorted again, and Prairie grinned mischievously at her friends.

I knew it,” snickered Hoofkick, rolling his eyes. “Nothing but babies.”

Hey! We’re not babies!” Prairie then huffed, flicking her tail again. “C’mon, Thicken. Let’s show him! Let’s show him we’re not babies!”

Thicken was in a state of such strong anticipation, he did not even reply. Instead, he and Prairie turned and charged. The young adolescent grinned, entertained, and he swung his large head to block the blow. Both calves head-butted the bridge of Hoofkick’s broad face, inflicting no damage whatsoever. Prairie continued to bump the bull’s skull as Thicken stepped back and evaluated the whole situation. Then quite abruptly, he turned, trotted to Hoofkick’s side, and rammed into his ribs.

Uff!” a smuggled cry escaped Hoofkick’s lips, but he just grunted and backed up, tossing his head to shield himself from a second attack.

Ha! I hurt you, didn’t I!” cried Thicken, so elated by his achievement, he couldn’t help but wag his tail and buck at the air.

No you didn’t.” Hoofkick quickly lied. “You just–gar!”

Prairie had struck his exposed chest at the moment Hoofkick was distracted.

So did I!” she laughed.

Cheaters,” the yearling puffed, his expression a combination of frustration and liveliness.

What’s going on here?” a crude voice asked out of nowhere.

The three calves stopped and looked to see the shadow of Sedgla blanked over them. Her face was calm yet infuriated at the same time.

Sedgla!” Prairie exclaimed with an enthusiastic jolt.

Thicken and Hoofkick glanced warily from one another, knowing very well Sedgla’s disdainful personality.

For the Dam’s sake, young Prairie! What is going on? Why are you three making such racket? Even the crows have fluttered away because of you!” she replied with an edge to her voice.

Prairie’s ears and tail immediately lowered at the scolding. “We were just playing,” she murmured, suddenly quiet.

The cow scowled, and snapped, “Well keep it down! You’re interrupting the grazing time. And my poor little Cudleaf was suckling. You should know better–you’re a cow. Shame on you, Prairie, for bucking about like a bull. You really are our leader’s calf.” she then added, more to herself.

Prairie desperately looked over to her friends for support. Evidently Sedgla did not miss it, for she followed her gaze and shook her head at the males.

And you two,” she barked, narrowing her eyes. “Nothing more than bucking, snorting bulls! Stop your roughhousing–you should act more like my Cudleaf. Thicken, learn from him!”

Oh, c’mon!” Hoofkick blurted, before he could help it, though he quickly regretted the outcry.

When she rounded on the yearling, her eyes were ablaze, and even Prairie trembled. “You are the worst of it!” she snarled so loudly, the other cows had lifted their heads to watch in curiosity. “You’re old enough to know better; set an example for the little ones!”

Hoofkick grunted and cringed by the scornfully cruel words, before tossing his head and running off to the other yearlings.

Hoofkick, wait!” cried Thicken.

Both confused and startled, Prairie turned to Thicken and suggested half-heartedly, “Let’s go play by the creek.”

Without waiting for an answer, she trotted away from Sedgla, Thicken right behind her. When they huddled side by side, gazing down at the flowing stream, the two calves shared an equal amount of bewilderment.

What did she mean, ‘You really are our leader’s calf’?” Prairie asked, her voice weak and hurt.

Ah, nothin’. Sedgla’s just a mean cow, that’s what Mama says.” he replied. His eager tone showed how he had already recovered from the recent outburst. “C’mon. Let’s go find Hoofkick again.”

Prairie was obviously not satisfied with the answer. “Do you think Sedgla even likes me?”

No.” Thicken bluntly answered, clearly without much regard to her feelings.

But she used to be very nice to me.”

Not anymore. She doesn’t seem to like calves very much–especially bulls.”

Except her precious Cudleaf.” the little calf suddenly spat, her voice high and mocking when she named Sedgla’s son.

Yeah, but Cudleaf’s a sissy piece of deer dung,” Thicken laughed.

Prairie could not help but giggle, a load sliding off her chest at her friend’s lifting spirit. But when she looked over her shoulder at the many loafing cows and scattered playing calves, she could not help but frown once more. When her eyes finally fell upon the tiny orange bull lying peacefully beside Sedgla’s hooves, she cringed at a twinge of irritation. She also felt that Thicken’s comment was true, for little Cudleaf was well looked after, yet never allowed to play by himself–wherever he was, Sedgla was not far away. He was in fact, the runt of the herd’s latest calves, having been born last out of the whole Thunder-Sedge. His pathetically scrawny body helped to express his figure as nothing but fragile.

Suddenly, an idea flickered in the she-calf’s mind, and Prairie’s ears perked as she said, “Let’s show her.”

Huh? Who?” Thicken then asked, interested, though part of his fascination was focused on a monarch butterfly, its wings blotched in orange and black. The thing seemed obsessed with fluttering in front of his snout.

Sedgla.” Prairie answered, still gazing at the half-asleep Cudleaf.

Show her what?” questioned the bull.

Then, out of sheer luck, Sedgla began to walk away from her dear calf, over to another cow some yards across the clearing.

C’mon,” she hissed, and trotted over to Cudleaf, smiling once more.

Sedgla had departed, but not without leaving her son in good horns; the cows of the nursery were still watching him closely. They chewed their cuds, surveying Prairie and Thicken as they neared.

Hi, Cudleaf,” Prairie exclaimed, rather loudly.

The nursling lifted his head from the ground where he lie. He moved his muzzle up to Prairie’s, replying, “H–hi.”

Do you wanna play with us?” she asked.

Me?” Cudleaf asked, stunned. Obviously he had not frolicked and played as much as the normal calf his age should have.

Of course you. Who else, silly?” Prairie went on, swishing her tail in amusement. “C’mon, let’s go play!”

Prairie,” a nearby adult said. “What are you doing?”

The calf looked over at the female bison that was one of Sedgla’s friends and–to say the least–followers. She was well known for helping to spread hearsay about their leader, and judged others just as unfairly as Sedgla herself.

Nothing.” Prairie answered, trying to seem as innocent as ever.

The cow just snorted and frowned, twitching an ear. “If you’re going to play, be careful.” she advised them warningly.

Oh, we’ll be careful.” Thicken promised.

What are we gonna do?” Cudleaf exclaimed, scrambling to his hooves.

Just c’mon.”

The three tiny bison bounded away, back to the brook, where they charged up and down the muddy bank, bucking and crying out in high playful calls. They snorted and gurgled and leapt here and there, even splashing each other with muck and water. Cudleaf was clearly enjoying himself. Even Prairie and Thicken were laughing with joy.

Eventually, as exhaustion temporarily overtook their delicate, young bodies, the calves stopped to rest. The trio lowered their heads at the bank, greedily gulping up the icy water to kill their dehydration.

Finally, Prairie lifted her head, watching her friend and the little calf carefully, then asked with a smirk, “Cudleaf, why don’t you ever play?”

The miniature bull looked up, curiously, and replied, “I do. I play with Mama all the time.”

No, I mean with other calves,” she went on, enjoying the fact that she was poking a sensitive spot.

Frowning, Cudleaf admitted, “I don’t know. But I’m playing with you guys right now. And it’s fun!”

Still grinning, Prairie flicked her tail mischievously and suggested, “Let’s all go to the mesa in the midlands.”

Cudleaf blinked in surprise, saying, “But that’s out of the nursery; Mama wants me to stay with the grownups, and both of you, too.”

What? You always do what Mama tells you?” sneered Thicken.

Cudleaf’s ears fell, but he did not reply.

That’s where me and Thicken play.” Prairie said.

Nah uh.” Cudleaf doubted. “You haven’t even been there.”

We went out at Dark–”

When everyone was asleep.” finished Thicken.

Cudleaf’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Really? Wasn’t it scary?”


Only when the mountain lions attacked.” Prairie added with emphasis.

Whoa. What’d ya guys do?”

Butted ‘em, o’ course,” the other bull answered, playfully ramming the air with his head.

But you got no horns.”

Shrugging, Thicken said casually, “Didn’t stop me.”

Before they said anything else, Prairie hastily exclaimed, “Yeah, but the best part was when the ghosts came out.”

G–ghosts? What are ghosts?” Cudleaf asked in sheer curiosity.

Dead bison.” she answered. “And other animals. Their spirits roam the mesa.”

No! You’re lying!” Sedgla’s calf huffed.

Am not!”

Are too!”

It’s true!”

Then prove it!”

The suggestion was followed by a few seconds of satisfactory silence. Thicken and Prairie grinned to each other, then looked back to the smallest of the bunch.

Fine.” Prairie agreed, and began to the timberline. “Let’s go.”

Thicken immediately followed in step.

Wait!” Cudleaf cried. “Where are you going?”

Gonna go prove it.” she answered over her shoulder.


Are you gonna come or not?” Thicken finally asked, stopping and turning to the smallest of the group. “I mean, you can stay here … if you’re afraid.”

I’m not afraid.” Cudleaf stated, somewhat quietly.

OK, then let’s go.”

Cudleaf frowned, and glanced over to the cows as the two calves watched him. Finally, the bull trailed after, and the three set off into the woods, easily slipping away from the nursery full of other youngsters whom the adults were preoccupied with.

The trio melted into the copse together, treading among the groves, all in a line with Prairie leading. It was fine at first, listening to the charming songs of the birds and insects that filled the forest with life, as they scented the lingering aromas of pine and spruce. A minute went by, then another, and another, until after five minutes they had completely lost sight and scent of the Thunder-Sedge. Instead, their birth-herd’s company was replaced by the surrounding wilderness that ultimately fell together, giving the calves an uncomfortable sensation mixed with a foggy pleasure to be free.

Their bliss, of course, would have been destroyed were it not for the very ignorance that drove them on. After all, none of them were over the age of two months, and had never been far from their mothers or, if so, from their babysitters; had they been wise enough, each would be feeling a strong instinct to stay at the nursery. Unfortunately, due to the earlier situation plagued on by Sedgla herself, Prairie was determined more than ever to get her revenge, and so the intuition to return to the herd was left only as an irritating itch in the back of her mind. This only helped Thicken and even Cudleaf to relax and follow.

One sore feeling, however, remained; it was that they were all used to open lands and ranges–a comfort passed on to them from generation to generation, from the very first bison that roamed the ancient vast plains.

In the midst of the unfamiliar forest, the calves continued onward, listening to the singing of the willow flycatchers over the persistent knockings of a redheaded woodpecker busy at work on the trunk of a bur oak. They moved over moist ground strewn with pine needles, occasionally jumping at the sharp crack of a twig which snapped beneath one’s hoof, or the rustle of a gentle gale as it whispered hauntingly through the trees. Here and there the monstrous groves towered up high above them into a thick canopy where the sunlight was only just barely able to filter through, dappling the brown earthy carpet of the woodland.

Cudleaf had gasped and scampered between Prairie and Thicken at the chatter of an angry gray squirrel perched on a limp limb only a few yards overhead. They soon came across a rotting log, which stretched out in front of them, lifeless, as if it had once been a magnificent tree that was brutally yanked up from its roots and tossed away by a vicious, unforgiving storm. Its death it seemed, was mocked by the fingers of brown lichen that stretched over its exposed side, as well as an assortment of toadstools sprouting up here and there, and even a curtain of dark moss was draped over its side.

Soon enough their attention was abruptly distracted by the rustle of a nearby sword fern. From among its green innards darted a small, lengthy, creature the color of chestnut. It stopped sharply a few feet away, gawking at them through its beady little eyes, for it had not seen such a sight; a trio of baby bison by themselves among the thicker parts of the forest. They could only gape back at it, but soon enough the mink dashed away, too busy to dawdle; she had young kits of her own to feed.

The bison soon moved deeper into the trees, and more and more shadows broadened, and less sunlight came through the gaps overhead, so that eventually they were moving through dark, chilly blankets of atmosphere. As the forest seemed to fall into itself, even Prairie could not help but tremble inwardly at its unfriendly imminence. Fortunately, and to everyone’s relief, a piece of practically bare land began to slope upward, with many more beams of welcoming light stretching forth through the trees.

Climbing the incline, the calves began to feel a sort of anxiety slip, and they all grinned as a light breeze tousled their short pelts. In fact, the three began to laugh and run once more, bounding happily and kicking the air in utter joy.

When the sun was high and noon heated the late spring day, the youngsters had finally stumbled upon flatland again. The forest had transformed into a highland full of crags and rocky slopes decorated in wild alpine sunflowers that waved in the gust like yellow, fragile bodies dancing with the wind.

Prairie continued to lead the group until they came to a small plateau that overlooked part of the forest. They were awed for several moments, looking out to where the trees stretched far, appearing to them like giant standing monsters, a world ruled only by them. The slope had led the nurslings a good thirty yards overhead. After that, Prairie started on again and, as she rounded a giant boulder, she flared her nostrils at the unpleasant odor that hit her nose. By the expressions of the bulls, they too, felt the same way about the environment.

The damp smell was drifting from the murky, green and brown waters of a bog that sat, nestled in the crooked rocks of the highlands. Mosquitoes swarmed the area, and unfamiliar, ravaged looking trees grew, their finger-like roots breaking the surface of the swamp as their untidy trunks climbed high above everything else. Frogs and toads croaked obnoxiously from all around. Plants and lily pads floated here and there on the discolored water, and as the young bison neared the marsh, they noticed a strange but soft padding of Iceland moss beneath their hooves. Eventually, Prairie’s feet began to sink into a damp muck beside the water and she anxiously stepped back.

What is this place?” asked Cudleaf in wonder.

It’s where we saw the ghosts,” answered Prairie, suddenly eager to burst Cudleaf’s fun.

We did?” Thicken asked, then added as Prairie nipped at his ear, “I mean, we did!”

Cudleaf looked doubtful, glancing from one to the other, though there was no hiding his enthralled expression.

No Free-Roamer comes here,” Cudleaf then pointed out in suspicion.

Prairie blinked at the comment, and Thicken thoughtfully replied, “Well, we’re here.”

Yeah,” she hastily agreed.

But I see no ghosts.” Cudleaf exclaimed.

Prairie turned and began to walk slowly along the water’s edge, her head turned, watching the swamp in interest. Thicken followed while Cudleaf trailed behind.

Well, I think you’re lying,” the littlest calf went on.

She merely replied, in an almost bored-like tone, “Is that true?”


Well, why do you say that?”

“‘Cause you haven’t proved it yet!”

Prairie rapidly swung her body and churned the mire and moss beneath her hooves so that she was facing Thicken and Cudleaf.

I’ll prove it. Go look in the water.” she suddenly demanded, fiercely, her baby blue eyes prickles of pure mischief.

But the bull’s ears folded back at the edge in her voice. “What? Why?”

You want us to prove it, right?” Thicken then chimed in, obviously enjoying every second of Cudleaf’s anticipation and fear.

Yeah but–”

Go look in the water; you’ll see a ghost.”

Cudleaf looked over to give the swamp an expression of utter dread. He clearly did not wish to go anymore near the marsh, but of course, Prairie and Thicken were watching and waiting. Finally heaving a heavy sigh, the littlest calf inched to the edge of the swamp, and craned his neck. But, as he moved over the murky water that was clouded with a combination of mud and fungi and strange plants, Cudleaf could not help but cry out. For Thicken and Prairie had smashed into his hindquarters and forced him over the bank. The water sloshed and splashed, moving together like a disturbed beast when the calf broke through.

By the time Cudleaf penetrated its surface again, coughing and sputtering–the swamp was fairly shallow–Prairie and Thicken were heaving with laughter. They watched as Cudleaf struggled to the bank, soaked in swamp muck to the point that his practically orange hair was discolored and sticking to his skin. The calf was so shaken up by the attack, that he could do nothing but call out for his mother, climbing up the muddy slope and knocking past the other two, melting once more into the forest, his cries echoing from tree to tree.

It took another couple of minutes for Thicken and Prairie to calm down, but when it came for them to be serious again, the calves stood, wondering what exactly to do next.

Thicken started with, “What d’ we–” but he was quickly cut off by an ear-cracking sound. Both calves hushed, gazing intently at each other, ears perked, eyes wide. They waited a few more seconds, before jumping at what seemed another deep grunt or even bellow.

That’s not Cudleaf.” Prairie hissed urgently. “Let’s see what it is.”

She turned and scrambled away from the swamp, Thicken at her side. They ran around the giant boulder from before, their hooves clicking loudly on rocky surfaces.

Argh!” Prairie blurted, without meaning to as she skidded to a desperate halt, right at the cracking frame of the precipice that watched over the forest. Thicken as well, had a hard time stopping, his hooves accidentally kicking out loose gravel that plummeted over the edge. Before either could speak, the bellow shot out from the distance for a third time, finally revealing the loudmouthed animal.

Is that …?” muttered Thicken in awe, more to himself.

Blackmor.” finished Prairie, just as enthralled.

Less than a hundred yards away, upon the brow of a verdant foothill, stood a monster-sized bull, his chest out and chin raised proudly to the sky. He stood in the early spring day, misty breath lingering out from black lips, his dark pelt gleaming in the rays of sunlight that filtered through the canopy. One more cry shot out from his agape mouth, before another bull trotted over, then another and another, until the face of the land was covered with male bison.

And look, the Slit-Hoof herd!” Prairie went on breathlessly.

I’m gonna be in the Slit-Hoof one Light.” exclaimed Thicken, not taking his eyes off the exciting scene.

Prairie immediately snorted in laughter at the statement, saying, “I’d like to see that Light, Thicken.”

Thicken did not reply; the two were still caught in a state of shock and thrill. After all, they had never seen another bison outside of their herd; they had only heard stories and legends of other Free-Roamers.

Is that really Blackmor?” Prairie finally asked.

Well, he’s black and he’s big.” Thicken said in a matter-of-fact kind of way.

Why is he calling out like that?”

Dunno. Maybe we should tell someone.” the little bull suggested.

Prairie tore her gaze and stared at her friend with wide eyes, a stab of fear suddenly bubbling in the pit of her stomach. “Thicken, what are we gonna say t’ Mama n’ the others?”

As long as they don’t notice …”

They’ll notice if the herd started going already. Look, the sun’s already high.”

Thicken frowned, realizing the situation, before replying wearily, “And stupid Cudleaf’ll tell on us.”

Nodding, and shooting one last envious glance to the famous Blackmor, Prairie muttered, “C’mon.” and turned around to hastily lead the way back to the nursery.

The calves were lucky that no predator had noticed the opportunity to an easy meal as they ran by; they were lucky enough–even if they didn’t fully appreciate it yet–that they had made it back in one piece. Eventually the little ones came to the edge of the woods beside the bubbling creek, a few yards off from the clearing. The pair huddled together in the confines of shadows that draped over them by the forest’s brush.

D’ ya think they’ve noticed?” hissed Thicken.

Prairie glanced back and forth. There was a significantly less amount of bison left in the clearing as she stood, watching as the remaining cows grazed idly, and nurslings were scattered out, playing and running back and forth from their mothers to the brook and back.

I don’t think so.” she replied quietly. “But let’s be careful to sneak in.”

Thicken nodded in agreement, and the pair carefully slipped in from the paddock’s side. They moved slowly through speckled trout lily and sweet grass that sprouted up from the field’s surface, dotting the meadow with yellow. As the cows continued to nibble on random sedges and forbs from the meadow as well as shoots and bark near the trees, Prairie’s bubble of fear began to ebb away. She even felt a new wave of exhilaration, when all of a sudden the dark frame of a cow fell over the two calves. Gasping in surprise, she pulled herself to a stop beside Thicken, staring in shock at the face of a vicious looking Sedgla.

F–foolish! Horrible!” she stammered, trembling in fury, her snarling voice quivering. It was as if rage had overthrown her normal figure, and now she could not even get the words she wanted out. A soaked Cudleaf stood, shaking beneath his mother’s protective frame. “I can’t believe you! Horrible!”

The shouts were attracting company, for cows in all directions were nearing, and nurslings and yearlings watched in both amusement and confusion. Prairie felt herself wavering where she stood, but, as the other adults approached, she also sensed Thicken growing rigid beside her. Her heart plummeted as she noticed her mother trotting over, Lightrain not far behind.

Bellneth glowered down at her daughter and Thicken. She opened her mouth to speak, but was quickly cut off as Sedgla rounded on her matriarch to fix her a deadly stare.

Look what your calf did to my son!” she cried out, stepping aside to reveal Cudleaf. A couple of exaggerated gasps filled the audience of Free-Roamers, and a wave of scattered muttering took over. “You need to control your kin, Bellneth!”

Abstract nodding from the others caused the leader to snort and stomp the ground in anger. She raised her tail, nostrils flaring, but before she could start, Lightrain called out desperately, “Please. They’re just calves.”

More whispers and nods filled the group, but Sedgla just scowled and snapped back, “It’s her calf. She is no better than her own calf!”

Sedgla, please,” hissed Lightrain impatiently. “Would you stop–”

There were bulls!” Prairie suddenly blurted, without really meaning to.

Thicken turned his head sharply, and whispered urgently into her ear, “What are you doing?”

What do you mean bulls?” someone questioned over all the fuss, and almost immediately, the herd fell silent, all eyes on the calves.

Prairie flinched, forcing herself to stay still instead of following her instinct and dashing beneath her mother for comfort.

Thicken and I saw bulls at the mesa where the bog is.” she exclaimed.

There was a sharp intake of breath, and Sedgla cried, “You went to the bog?”

Prairie’s ears fell and Thicken kicked the ground in anger beside her.

Bulls.” Bellneth repeated pensively, speaking for the first time. Everyone was silent now, listening to their leader’s words. She studied her daughter for a long moment, before asking in an unreadable tone, “There are bulls?”

Yes. Blackmor.” answered Prairie hastily.

Another wave of shock and gossip overtook the herd, and by then Thicken caught onto the meaning of the mentioning of bulls; it was a distraction from their own mischief.

Yeah. Blackmor! Blackmor and the Slit-Hoof!” he bellowed for all to hear.

Sedgla was the first to react, as always. “The Slit-Hoof!” the bison roared. “See what’s happened under Bellneth’s reign? We’re being followed by a bachelor-group when the rut is not for another two full moons yet!”

The cows bobbed their heads in agreement once more, exchanging harsh statements among themselves. All at once a surge of voices flared up:

That could mean danger!”

Make the bulls go away! They’re not wanted!”

It’s Bellneth’s fault; she let Blackmor trail us!”

It’s unnatural!”

Prairie lowered her head, but narrowed her eyes at the nervous, quivering Cudleaf, who refused to make eye contact. Bellneth stood, all anger and frustration absent. Instead, her eyes were replaced with shock and distance as she stared out into the woods, past the calves and cows. It was as if she herself was a ghost, unaware of what was happening. Only Lightrain who remained in a cool state, overseeing the whole controversy with strong determination.

Please, let us all stay calm.” she demanded over the herd’s voices. Luckily, Lightrain was well respected by everyone, and so they heeded her words. “There is no reason for this; all the calves are now safe, and we can move on.” she continued as the others hushed once more.

But the bulls–” someone started, but she interrupted with, “There is no reason to feel uneasy, they do us no harm.”

And your calves?” Sedgla snorted, glaring down at Prairie and Thicken, who seemed to sink under her gaze.

We’ll deal with our calves on our own, Sedgla. Thank you.” Lightrain replied, a tone of warning in her voice. “If we could just …”

A few cows grunted and gasped, moving aside as Bellneth suddenly shot through them, heading toward the copse.

Sedgla quickly snatched the opportunity and cried out, “You see! Our beloved leader is leaving us. Leaving us for the bulls!”

No one spoke out this time. The herd only gawked, watching in awe as their matriarch slowly moved away. But Bellneth had frozen at Sedgla’s cruel words, and even Prairie could see her mother lowering her head. After an uneasy moment, she started on again, melting into the trees, leaving her daughter and the herd.