The Way into the Gray Valley was steep. The sun was going down and it was growing cold. Red Son knew that it would be night by the time he reached the bottom of the valley. The cold would be unbearable.
Red Son slowly began to climb down the sharp cold rocks. The slick snow made Red Son keep a slow pace through his descent.
The light was poor in the valley, it was difficult to see and Red Son could not help but to step on a sharp branch. He recoiled in pain and lost his footing on the slick stone. The poor boy tumbled down the slope, rocks scraping his elbows and scraping his knees. Slowly he picked himself up, bruised and beaten. He could just make out the last rays of sun over the ridge. He could not endure the cold night. Red Son would die this night in the Gray Valley, but not as those many boys before him had. Red Son would find his flint. He would Die a man's death in the cold.
Red Son continued down into the valley as rain began to pour. It was the first rain of the season, it truly was the stream season now. Red Son thought of how Stone Jaw would plant a harvest, how Running Laughter would pick flowers for her and mother, How Red Son would never see the ones he loved again. Red Son looked to his feet and saw that there was flint. He had arrived at the bottom of the valley. He picked up the flint, he was now a man, and he was prepared to die.
Death was to come. A loud tumult came over the valley, Red Son could see nothing in the dark, rain was pouring heavily now and the Great Sky was making his horrible roars. The sky flashed just in time for Red Son to see a rush of muddy water tearing down the valley.
The flood swept Red Son up as a child does an insect, and with equal regard to his life. The water pulled him under and grated him along the sharp river bed. Red Son swam toward the shore, but the cruel branches returned to claw at him as he desperately tried to pull himself out of the water. Red Son slowly drug himself on to land. He was bruised and battered, Numb to the cold sting of the rain and to the warm streams of blood running down his back. His strength was gone. This was where he would die.
A flash of lightning lit the sky. Death approached Red Son. Death did not feel the rain through his warm fur nor did he fear any hunter with his sharp claws. Red Son looked up to see a young bear, not quite full grown standing before him. Red Son was too tired to run. A boy was no match for a bear.
Red Son was no boy. Red Son clutched his sharp flint to his chest. Rain drops hung in his beard as he rose to his feet. Where was this bears trial? This bear had no ordeal, no test. It was simply given its warmth, it was simply given its claws. Red Son had earned his. Red Son was a man, and this man was going to kill.
The man's cry crashed through the valley louder than the flood, the bear flinched at the sound as the bloody naked man threw himself upon the bear and dug his flint into its shoulder. The bear let out a cry of alarm and swatted at Red Son, but the man was fast. He ducked the blow and brought his flint up under the bears right arm and into its tendon. The left arm hit Red Son hard in the face knocking him to the ground. He put a finger to his face and felt a deep gash connecting from his jaw to the corner of his mouth where the bear's claw went in. Red Son's claw lay buried where it was stabbed beneath the bear's arm. The bear had little use of its right arm now, but Red Son was unarmed. To survive sometimes a man must act as a beast. Red Son threw himself at the bear once again and drove his thumb into an eye. The poor beat let out a harsh bellow of pain and Red Son quickly sent an elbow into the beasts jaw. The bear stumbled back from the impact, it's paws in the air. Red Son saw his chance. He pulled the flint from the bears wound and ran behind the dazed animal and poured out its throat.
Feeling came all at once. The sting on his cheek where the claws had sank, the freezing rain. Red Son lay on the ground a moment breathing heavily, and then he got up.
Low Eyes sat gravely in his tent eyes on the ground.
"He may yet be alive father," Stone Jaw offered in comfort. "Perhaps he found shelter for the night."
"Nobody returns after dark." Low Eyes looked at the lonely spear in the corner. "He is defenseless out there. If beasts don't have him, the cold will. The Great Sky killed your brother tonight Stone Jaw."
The dark haired woman began to cry and Low Eyes slowly stood up at rested a hand on her shoulder. "We are lucky Storm Hair. We still have healthy strong children. We must be grateful for what the earth allows us."
A crash of lightning outside caused Running Laughter to jump. Tears began to well up in her eyes. A could shiver ran up her spine as a hand placed itself on her shoulder.
Standing behind her in the doorway was a man. A bloodied bear skin was draped over his shoulders and head. Blood dripped from his hands and a deep cut on his jaw. The man was covered in mud and scratched covered his arms and legs. The man stepped into the tent and threw a piece of flint to the ground as he lowered the bear skin.
"Your Red Son has returned. Your Red Son is a man."