Quick Foot returns

Quick Foot, although disoriented, spotted White Eye, his cousin and a veteran hunter. He got his attention and asked him what was happening. White Eye explained and expressed his concern for Red Leaf and the others as, by this point, they had been gone for the entire morning.

Quick Foot was very angry about his brother running off to find him and leaving the band basically defenseless as the weather was changing and predators were attacking more frequently in fear and preparation for the winter months. Elk Nose assured him that there was no reason to be angry as Red Leaf and the others were capable and knowledgeable hunters and would return safely in a few hours.

Red Leaf confronted Bent Stick about his doubts…”Why do you question me?” Bent Stick explained that in order for the band to be both fed and protected, they would need to start back towards the encampment soon in order to beat the setting sun. Red Leaf denounced Bent Stick’s suggestion as it would be just as easy for them to sleep near the edge of the ridge for the night and either return to the encampment in the morning, or continue their search for Quick Foot.

At this point, Red Leaf’s concern for his brother was mounting and was exacerbated by his own doubts about the weather, his abilities, and the potential for attack by predators. He knew that Bent Stick was right, they should head home and attempt to find Quick Foot later, but how much later? The weather was unkind during the early winter months, and no one was more aware of this than Red Leaf.

At the encampment, Elk Nose was helping Snowbird, one of the band children, to tie her pack together so she could join her mother. Her mother had been mated to a member of another band, from across the valley and would be leaving soon to join him. Elk Nose was telling Snowbird the story of a badger that is always walking, to stay warm, and find food. He tells this story to all of the children when the band is about to move, to help calm them and explain why the band has to move. Quick Foot, half-listening while contemplating his brother’s fate, decides to ask Two Toes about her mate, Bent Stick.

Two Toes tells Quick Foot that her mate, and his brother were very worried and determined to find him. As she began to explain this Quick Foot wondered why no one knew that he had gone hunting in the early morning chill. Two Toes asks him if he told anyone that he had planned on going hunting. Quick Foot was stunned to realize that the only person he had told was the old woman, and that she had died before anyone else woke and therefore had not been able to tell anyone else that Quick Foot would return shortly after sunrise.

Knowing now that the old woman hadn’t told anyone about Quick Foot’s plans, he wanted to know how she had died. Honey Horn stopped him and described her body to him. This made him think that only a wolf or bear could have attacked her. But he knew wolves hunted in packs and bears would have destroyed more than just her body. As confusing as all of this was to Quick Foot, he now knew that his only choice was to go and find Red Leaf and the others so they would not be lost to the predators.

Quick Foot asked Elk Nose to join him, but Elk Nose was old, frail, and no longer able to run or keep pace with the hunters. Quick Foot realized the only male that would be physically able to manage was Small Fox, a boy of about 8 years. This seemed like a hopeless situation and one that would only worsen as the sun set. Quick Foot ran to Elk Nose to tell him that at sunrise, he would be setting out to find Red Leaf and the others if they did not return.