John Skipper is thrown into the world of the mountain-dwelling Cherokee after his family is murdered. During his stay in the care of the Cherokee people, he meets Tsalahi Hinote. John subsequently takes his revenge on his family’s murderer and departs, taking Tsalahi with him. John’s impetuous actions catch up with him years later when his youngest son, George Washington Skipper, is abducted by a Cherokee woman. George’s older brother Samuel blames himself. George, who has been renamed Runaway Swimmer, grows up to become the protégé to a Cherokee leader. Samuel is a farmer and has a son named after the brother he still mourns. When his son is called into service, Samuel volunteers in an attempt to protect him. Meanwhile, Runaway, is sent to Mobile, Alabama to train soldiers who, in his estimation, are all too old or too young to fight. The brothers look for a future that may never be, and remember a past that could have been.