When True Son discovers that he is going to be returned to his original white family, he has difficulty remaining calm and strong even though he has been trained to face physical pain. For as long as he can remember, True Son has been a member of the Indian village of Tuscarawas. The fifteen-year-old boy was adopted eleven years ago by Cuyloga, a Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Indian, in order to replace a child he had lost to "yellow vomit." True Son believes that his Indian father took out all of his white blood and thoughts and replaced them with noble Indian blood, making True Son his child. Because True Son does not consider himself white anymore, he is shocked to find out that he must leave, even though he has heard news for days that the Indians are being forced to return their white prisoners.
In an attempt to stay with his Indian family, True Son blackens his face with ashes and hides in a hollowed-out tree. He refuses to live with the whites since he sees them as enemies. However, Cuyloga soon finds him and embarrasses him by tying him up once they are back in the village. The next day, True Son is led out of the village by his Indian father while the rest of his family members, including his favorite cousin Half Arrow, from whom he has never been separated, watch on.
True Son is very confused during the trip to the white camp. He cannot understand why his wise Indian father is making him leave, and he wonders whether Cuyloga left some white blood in his body. When they reach the whites, the boy is overwhelmed with repulsion. He is sickened by the smell of white people and struggles to be free of Cuyloga's grasp. But when his father tells the white soldiers that True Son is now theirs, True Son finally realizes that there is nothing he can do. He lies face down on the ground until a white named Del tells Cuyloga that all Indians must leave by nighttime. Del can speak the Lenni Lenapi language, and True Son thinks he is called "Del" because "Delaware" is what the whites call the Lenni Lenapi.
As Cuyloga leaves, he tells True Son to behave as an Indian and to give him no shame. True Son listens to his father's footsteps fading away, and he becomes extremely homesick for Tuscarawas. He imagines the beautiful autumn sky and trees of his village, and he can picture his family and friends playing or gathered over a fire in the cool November weather. Curled up in his bearskin, True Son thinks about how his home has never seemed so wonderful to him and begins to cry.
In time, he becomes aware of Del, the guard who has been assigned to watch over him. Del is about twenty years old, has red hair, and wears a hunting shirt and cape. True Son is angered to see that the guard is laughing at him. Full of hatred, the boy vows to kill Del once his hands are untied.
Del Hardy, a white soldier and True Son's guard, thinks that his mission with Colonel Bouquet will mark the last time he will travel down the Allegheny River. Although he would later serve under several more generals, he will always feel the most loyal to Bouquet, a man he describes as peaceful but "mad as a wolverine." Bouquet leads Del and his troop through dangerous Indian territory as if it were no problem at all. The men march through areas in which Indians outnumber them, and many, including Del, never believe that they will reach their destination at the Forks of Muskingham.