Part 9

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Running-Deer suffered several emotions as she watched the white hunter and his kill; passing confusion, muted anger and mild jealousy of success matched only to that of her utter failure.

It was the second time on this hunt that she'd been so eloquently misled by her prey.

Her respect had grown for the white man that she hunted, while her muted anger roiled even more with the admission.

Distraction from having followed the wrong trail would take time to figure out; time her quarry would use against her to get yet further away.

Of that, there was little doubt.

She watched as the hunter reached over to plant his hunting knife in the dirt before he wiped his hands with a rag that was red with blood.

He continued to hum as he rose to drag and position the animal for further butchering.

Although the man before her appeared confident, she was just as sure that he, like most white men, were not nearly as skilled as own her people were at storage of meat for the winter season and beyond.

Their application of herbs was more often than not poorly chosen at best.

One clear advantage that she would enjoy now was that this hunter appeared much larger than her quarry, perhaps a difference also marked in their mixed trail easier to find, track and follow.

Much like the horse trick earlier, this would only slow her down, but not stop her entirely as much as he may have hoped otherwise.

Running-Deer was now more determined than ever to prove that as she turned back to the trail with renewed focus.

Much like snakes that had chased one another back and forth, several trails twisted together before they split at a low ridge.

Blood intermixed with blood; foot prints intermixed with foot prints; animal intermixed with man.

The animal blood was darker red, to have shown the lesser severity of its initial wounds; while bright blood from a possible lung wound just as clearly indicated that her quarry had been unable to stop his own bleeding as he went.

Good for her, but not so good for him.

Lighter prints and blood had come from the old house that she'd seen earlier, while the other trails led away and back down into the swale.

She put herself in the place of her prey; an imagined white man and his simple thoughts of survival and safety.

Wounded, hurried and aware of her growing threat behind him, he'd heard the same shots that she had, from the same direction.

That the hunter was where she'd found him as much like her quarry had, was well beyond any doubt.

And now she knew exactly where her white man had run off to.

The same place that she would have chosen to hide, had she been badly wounded and chased without mercy - the old house behind her.

Cautious as a wolf stalking a hare, Running-Deer moved away from the trail to approach the house from the far side.

He would undoubtedly have expected her to come back the same way that she'd passed earlier.

This time, it would be her turn to surprise him.

Nothing stirred as she approached the house.

There was little or no obvious sign that the white man had returned; nothing on the hard packed ground either, while the subtle caress of unease was suddenly back in force as every hair on the back of her neck rose as one.

There was that half open window with a dark stain beneath it to consider; undoubtedly just another sign of those who'd once lived there, of that she was sure.

With great care she moved around to the front of the house where she found the door locked and apparently untouched.

She lowered her bow and turned her back to the door while she considered her next option.

The dark stain that she'd seen beneath the window suddenly gave her pause; had it been there earlier when she'd first passed by?

Creak of wood from behind her made her whirl; only to catch the door as it knocked her off her feet and hard onto her back, stunned against the packed earth beneath it.

Her world quickly faded from color to grey to black as the spirits completely abandoned her.

"That ... g'dammed ... stain." She managed to mumble before she passed out completely and her body relaxed beneath the door.


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