The weeks and the months went by, and Hamish was distracted by the fact that he still hadn’t been brought back home by training Whitie. Some of the puppies from his litter were being trained as guard dogs, and others were being trained for hunting, but Whitie was all Hamish’s to train.
At first, he had thought that someone would take the puppy away from him when he was big enough to start training for a specific job, but no one ever came for him. Hamish was relieved by this, since he hadn’t wanted to give Whitie up to anyone.
He had thought about trying to train Whitie to only hunt for deer; he had wanted to find the white stag again. He wanted to know why he had been chosen for good luck, instead of someone else, and why (if he was lucky) he was still where he didn’t want to be.
There had to be a reason.
It was slow going, teaching Whitie what he wanted (sometimes he would get distracted by foxes or racoons, and he would have to be put back on track), but Hamish was determined to train him up as well as he could, and he was having fun while doing iit.
Slowly, the seasons changed, and despite missing his mother, he thought about her less and less as time went by. He thought about his friends occasionally, but the more he spent training Whitie, and the more time he spent with Elanor and the others, the less he thought about them.
Before he knew what had happened, two years had passed, and Whitie was the best trained dog in the company. He thought little of his old life, knowing now that he wasn’t going to make it away from the Romani, and thinking about his old life only hurt him.
One day, he took Whitie out and they were searching for the white stag. After catching a trail, Whitie took off at a run, and Hamish had to hurry to follow, but he kept falling farther and father behind. Luckily, Whitie’s barks and howls were loud enough for him to follow, even when he had gone out of sight.
When Hamish finally caught up (a stitch in his side making him double over in pain), a stag was getting ready to charge at Whitie. But as had happened before, this stag was a completely regular one and not at all white.
As the animal lowered its head and looked as though it was going to charge at Whitie, Hamish hurried over and pulled his dog away, trying his best to make the dog come with him and stop barking. Those antlers looked sharp, and he did not want any of their points to end up in any part of him.
Whitie came away unwillingly, and after they were far enough away, the stag took its chance to make a break for it (running off in a different direction than the one the two of them were going).
When it was gone, Whitie looked up at Hamish with a disapproving look.
“There is no need for you to look at me like that,” Hamish said to Whitie. “I know I trained you to chase after stags, but that is not the one that we are looking for. There is one specific one that we are trying to find. I’ve explained that to you before.”
Whitie huffed at him, as though the search for one specific one didn’t matter when they had found so many others over the months and years.
Hamish started to walk back toward the encampment, and when Whitie didn’t follow right away, he was sure that he was going to have to go back and force the dog to come with him (so he wouldn’t continue to follow the wrong stag and end up getting himself hurt). But when he stopped and looked back, Whitie trotted up to him and walked with him without a fight.
The whole way back, he kept feeling like there were eyes on him, but whenever he would look around, he didn’t see anything. He thought that he must have been imagining things; if something big enough to make him paranoid was watching him, he would have caught a glimpse of it at some point (and Whitie would have reacted to it as well).
When they were close enough to the encampment that they could hear people talking and laughing, Hamish looked back one more time, and this time, he thought that he caught a shadow moving among the trees. He took a few steps back in the direction that he had come, trying to get a better look, but whatever he had thought he saw was no longer there.
He turned back toward the camp and went to the space between the wagons, sitting down on a stool. Not long after, Elanor brought a stool over to where he wa sitting and sat down next to him, smiling broadly at him.
“Did you go out hunting?” Elanor asked, and he nodded. “Did you find anything?”
“Whitie found a stag,” Hamish said, and Elanor’s face brightened, “but it wasn’t the one that I’ve been looking for.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” she said, her face falling. “It would have been good if he could have.”
“Yeah,” he agreed without much enthusiasm. “I’d really like some answers about what this whole good luck thing is supposed to be about.”
“I’m sure you would,” she said, “I would, too, if I were you.”
He was glad that she hadn’t gotten tired of being his friend, and that she had always been willing to talk to him about whatever it was that he wanted to talk about; he had probably talked about the stag far more than she had wanted to, but she never complained.
That night, after they ate, and Fern had told a story, Hamish wandered off to be by himself. He wasn’t ready to go to bed yet, but he didn’t want to be around people right then.
Staying in the shadows, he moved around the camp silently. It was while he was in the shadows that he came across a few of the men talking to each other (far away from where everyone else was gathered), and they were speaking in hushed tones.
“Do you think the boy knows?” the first man said.
“Of course, he doesn’t,” the second one said. “If he did, he wouldn’t keep searching for it, would he? He would give it up for a lost cause.”
“It’s kind of sad,” the third one said, “how he thinks he’s going to find it. But it sure was good eating.”
“And it’s kind of sad,” the first one said, “how he thinks that the nod the beast gave him was what would bring the good luck.” The three of them laughed. “Has no idea that it was the eating of it that brings the good luck. But I doubt that Fern or Elanor is ever going to let him have any idea of that. They seem to have him well in hand.”
“And that doesn’t seem to be the only thing he isn’t aware of,” the third one said.
“You mean how we’re not going to take him back home?” the second one said. “I would have thought he would have gotten a good idea about that.”
“He may have,” the third one said, “but that’s not the part that I was talking about.”
There was a silence between them that was heavy with unsaid words, and Hamish tried to will them to keep talking; he wanted to know what it was that he should know. He didn’t like that there were so many things that he was being kept in the dark about, but it was at this point that Fern started calling his name, and the three men moved toward her.
Hamish ran a few yards away, so when he got out of the shadows (and back into the light), it would look like he had been somewhere else, and no one would think that he had heard the conversation between the three men.
“Oh, there you are,” Fern said in relief as she raised a hand toward him and made a motion for him to come back toward the fire. “You shouldn’t go out in the darkness by yourself. There are many dangers out there.”
Yes, he thought, but there are many dangers in here, too.