Back at the camp of the Lone Eaters, Mik-api watches Red Paint cook. She reminds him of his own wife who died forty years earlier. She was a Black Paint slave who had been captured during a war with the Pikunis, and Mik-api quickly fell in love with her. She died after just two years, and Mik-api never took another wife—he “was satisfied with his memories of his Black Paint wife.” He had learned his own magic from a Black Paint many-faces man and the Pikunis have grown to fear and respect his healing powers.
As the Lone Eaters’ many-faces man, Mik-api has substantial power and standing in the tribe. It is not uncommon for a man of Mik-api’s status to take multiple wives, but his love for his late wife has sustained him. His refusal to take another wife is evidence of his deep love for her.
Mik-api remarks to Red Paint that she “looks different,” and then he guesses that she is with child. Red Paint tells him that she had hoped to surprise her father; she would like him to name the child during the naming ceremony. Now, however, Yellow Kidney has been gone for sixteen sleeps, and she regrets not telling him sooner. He would have stayed then, Red Paint thinks.
Again, Red Paint and her child are negatively affected by Yellow Kidney’s self-centered actions. Abandoning his family has made his life easier, but he hurts his family in return. Red Paint’s regret is a product of Yellow Kidney’s selfishness.
Mik-api has been dreaming for the last three nights, but his dreaming powers are beginning to weaken with age, and his dream is incomplete. Still, he senses the dream has to do with Yellow Kidney, and Mik-api has a bad feeling. Mik-api doesn’t tell Red Paint about his dreams. Instead, he tries to comfort her.
Mik-api’s magic as a many-faces man means that he senses Yellow Kidney’s death. Even in his weaken state, Mik-api’s dreaming powers are a reflection of his connection and service to this people.
Fools Crow enters the lodge, surprising Mik-api. Raven had told Mik-api that Fools Crow was out looking for Fast Horse, and he didn’t expect him back so soon. Fools Crow mentions that some Napikwan hunters have been killed near camp and, once again, Owl Child and his gang are the suspected culprits. Red Paint begins to feel uneasy—because Owl Child and his crew continue to kill Napikwans, the seizers are sure to attack. Mik-api smiles at Red Paint but she can see that his eyes are troubled.
As a woman, Red Paint does not attend camp meetings and she is not privy to all of Owl Child’s offenses and the trouble that he is sure to bring to the Pikunis. Still, Red Paint senses the trouble, and she has sensed for some time that Fast Horse is a bad egg. Even Mik-api tries to placate her with a smile, but she doesn’t by it.
Joe Kipp sits overlooking the Lone Eaters’ camp. He thinks back to years earlier when he used to hunt with some of the Pikunis. They respected him then, but he knows that they won’t after today. As he looks at the camp and watches the people below, he realizes that the Pikunis have not changed, “but the world they live in has.” He looks at his pocket watch and plans the remainder of his day. He can deliver the message and make it back to his own camp by nightfall.
Joe Kipp is proof that the Pikunis’ world is changing. Unlike the Pikunis, he has assimilated into the Napikwans, but the Pikunis will never agree to change. Joe knows that they are doomed, and he rides from camp to camp delivering bad news to his people.
Later that night, the elder Lone Eaters meet to discuss Joe Kipp’s message. The seizer chiefs would like to meet with the Pikuni chiefs for a discussion. Three Bears knows that it must be about Owl Child, but he doesn’t know what the seizers expect him to do—he can’t control Owl Child or the other young warriors. He can’t keep them from stealing Napikwan horses, and he can’t keep Owl Child from killing.
Three Bears’s helplessness in controlling Owl Child and his gang parallels his helplessness in saving his people from the Napikwans. Even if Owl Child were not such a problem, the Napikwan chiefs would find another reason to make war against the Pikuni people.
Rides-at-the-door fears that the proposed meeting with the seizer chiefs is a ploy to get all the Pikuni chiefs in one place so that they can be easily executed. “We are being squeezed, Three Bears,” he says. He tells him that Mountain Chief desires war, and Heavy Runner, another Pikuni chief, wants to negotiate peace and treat with the seizers. All the other chiefs fall somewhere in the middle and could be persuaded either way. Rides-at-the-door suspects that the seizers are attempting to divide them between those who will follow Mountain Chief and those who will align with Heavy Runner. “Either way, we lose,” Rides-at-the-door says.
Rides-at-the-door’s comment about their losing fight is further evidence of their dire circumstances. His fear that the meeting is a trick to annihilate his people is a product of what has already happened to the neighboring tribes to the east. The Parted Hair People have already been violently eliminated, and the Napikwan chiefs are surely planning the Pikunis’ destruction as well.
“Perhaps it is useless to resist?” questions Three Bears. Rides-at-the-door, however, insists they must, but that they also must give something to the seizers to placate them, even that means finding Owl Child and killing him. Both agree that if pressed, they will align themselves with Mountain Chief and will not surrender to the seizers. Three Bears suspects that their days living as they choose are “numbered,” but he will not conform to Napikwan ways. “I will die first,” Three Bears says.
The Pikunis will always resist. Three Bears and Rides-at-the-door will never willingly live the life of a Napikwan, and they would rather die than assimilate. Their willingness to fight even though they are guaranteed to lose underscores their perseverance and determination to continue their way of life.