"Rain!" His voice was clear, deeper than it had been at the beginning of the year and a little rough now in anticipation of the mating season. All the stallions were getting restless and excited. It was the same every year. Rainsong turned away from the mountain vista she was contemplating to look at her younger brother, his grey coat the color of a cloud just waiting to drop its load of rain on the poor mortal beasts below. He even had black stockings, as though he'd splashed through a puddle on the way to meet her, which was honestly more than a little likely.
With a sigh, she settled her wings against her back and pinned back her ears - the grumpy older sister who did not appreciate being shouted at. "Yes, Cloud? What do you want?"
"Hey, hey you know that pretty gold filly from down the valley, yeah? The one with the white wings?" He pranced on the spot, flagging his tail excitedly as he circled his sister, nipping at her hindquarters and making her jerk forward with a snort.
"Her name is Finch, and yes I know her. Why?"
"Can you introduce me?" Cloud looked like he was going to bust with excitement at any second, and Rain didn't want to be in the vicinity if/when that happened. There was nothing she wanted less than to introduce her little brother to some unsuspecting young filly, but if she didn't then he was going to do something appallingly stupid to get her attention. That wasn't the sort of thing she wanted on her conscience if she could avoid it.
With a sigh, Rain lifted her head and scanned the scattered herd for Finch, spotting her near the spring with two of her friends. "You're going to be insufferable until I do it anyway, so let's just get it over with."
The walk down to the spring wasn't long, but it was long enough for Rain to wish fervently she'd refused him, because Cloud was as she'd said - insufferable.
When they finally reached the spring, Cloud was nearly hovering with excitement, dancing around Rain like a yearling on his first outing. "Finch, can you spare a moment?" Rain's tone was one of exhausted defeat, and Finch looked nervously at her friends before cautiously approaching the older mare. "This is my little brother, Cloud. He's interested in you and he's an idiot. Whatever he says, don't believe a word of it, but there you go." Rain tossed her head in irritation as Cloud nipped her flank again, and stepped out of his way so he could prance up to Finch, flaring his wings in as impressive a gesture as he could manage. With a snort, Rain turned away, leaving the nervous filly and her new beau to sort things out between themselves. She hoped Finch gave him a good kick or two before turning him down, but that would be up to her. Rain herself had done something very similar in her first year at the Thunder Dance, but every mare had her standards. Settling for someone lower than those standards wasn't something Rain was willing to do, even if others did.
Her reverie was broken by a squeal of terror, and Rain's ears snapped up in time to catch a colt's shrill cry of "UNICORN!"
The river was lower at the western end and sometimes they forded the water to try to push the herd east and over the rocky bit they called the Ledge. It was where the youngsters took their first gliding jumps and learned how to fly. Roosting below it would mean needing to find somewhere else to teach the fledglings, and that was an area they didn't want to give up. Not now, not ever.
As the colt came tearing down the valley toward the main body of the herd, three big stallions rose into the air on dark wings. Rain threw her own wings open and leapt into the air, pumping hard to gain speed. She was further away than the other warriors, and could only see the glint of unicorn horns in the sun, jewel tones catching and throwing back the light in spears of color. She also saw something the others didn't. A group of three unicorns fording the river closer at hand, heading for the dell where the foals played.
Rain tilted her wings, brushing the grass with her hooves as she changed direction and bugled her challenge as loudly as any stallion. The unicorns paused in the shallows, saw she was only one warrior, and raised their horns to meet her, charging toward the dell.