The wind began to strengthen as Read Leaf and the hunters spread out to retrace Quick Foot’s steps. Every few moments they had to stop and look back because the wind was moving freshly fallen snow and concealing their steps.
Elk Nose, one of the band elders, had warned not to go out looking for Quick Foot until the wind was calmer, but Red Leaf was stubborn and decided not to listen. His brother needed to be found and he wasn’t going to let anyone decide how, or when that should be done.
Bent Stick was not as sure as Red Leaf that looking for Quick foot in this weather was a good idea, or something that the band hunters should be doing instead of defending the band and preparing for the next hunt. The next hunt…there was always another hunt to prepare for. The band had been relying on food reserves for a few weeks and there was an ever-decreasing amount to go around. Taking time away from hunting to search for Quick Foot – although a great hunter and brother of the band leader – was less a priority than a luxury. Bent Stick was not about to let his disagreement be known, though, as Red Leaf had occasionally displayed a temper that rivaled the Great Bears of the North.
The days were shorter as the temperatures grew colder and the time needed to mount a search was demanding. The terrain was less-than-kind as well. The ridge, near to the river that the band called home was known to have jagged edges that stretched for hundreds of feet. Only a few of the hunters were able to traverse these ridges without risking serious injury and death. Bent Stick, while being one of the band’s better climbers was nervous about attempting any such climbs given the wind and the snow that currently blanketed the land as far as the eye could see.
Red Leaf saw what he thought were human tracks, leading toward another hill to the south. As he signaled to the other hunters, his foot slipped and he fell forward into the snow. As Bent Stick turned and noticed Red Leaf slipping, he also noticed a small pack of wolves heading in a westerly direction, crossing the potential path of the hunters. Wolves were not as pervasive as smaller, less threatening animals in the area the band called home, but occasionally the wolves did encroach.
The threat of the wolves, the wind, the snow, and the lack of all available hunters meant that Red Leaf’s quest to find his brother was not only risky, but foolish.
Back at the encampment, Elk Nose, his mate Smiles-a-lot, and a few of the band children were just finished with collecting the old woman’s goods and disposing of her body just far enough away to not lure any predators toward them. Without making a noise, Quick Foot, carrying two dead rabbits, approached from the east and began to look about the encampment to discern what was happening.
Quick Foot, being a sharp hunter, and knowing how things should have looked, realized that something was very wrong with his band. Sensing this, he ran toward Elk Nose with an inquisitive look and asked “Where are Red Leaf and the others?” Elk Nose, looking bewildered and confused, told Quick Foot that they were searching for him.