Argent wondered what Bildad wanted this time. The man had the reputation for being the greatest of the True Warriors, but Argent knew that whenever he was stumped, it was Simon he came to for help. He thought of the last time Bildad had found them, around a year ago. They had just finished hunting down the rare, sky-ore that would eventually become Barwolfripper, and were on their way to find Monroe, the only mastersmith Simon respected enough to forge it. Bildad’s appearance had caused a five lunar cycle delay, just long enough to add the additional challenge of convincing Monroe to come out of retirement. The delay had been caused by the fact that, while Jabbed was away scouting, a pack of weirs had assaulted and turned his entire household. The trail was too cold for anyone else to track and Bildad needed Simon’s help.
“I’ll not be part of some common posse. Travelling with you like one of your lapdogs.”
“Simon, Simon, Simon … from anyone else those words would require blood.”
“You’ve been spending too much time with your pets if you believe words alone justify shedding untainted blood.”
“They are warriors Simon, not pets. And good warriors at that.”
Simon spat on the ground.
“They aren’t True Warriors! And I’ll not remain in a conversation where you continue to tarnish the name. The Assembly made it clear you weren’t to apply it to your mercenaries.”
Argent remembered Bildad taking a deep breath, holding it and letting it out slowly before continuing.
“O.K. You’re right, I’m sorry. They aren’t True Warriors, but they aren’t mercenaries either. They are rangers. Good men who hate infected and fight for honour, not money. You’d like them if you gave them half a chance.”
“All the more reason to stay clear of them. I’ll not fight beside and befriend a man I’ll only have to slay the first time he makes a mistake and is turned into a dog.”
“Then help me train them so they don’t make mistakes!”
“Everyone makes mistakes.”
“I don’t, and you don’t. Not since Leah.”
“And I don’t plan to now by yoking together with men who would burst into flames if they tried to enter the Warren.”
“Festering Wounds! It’s not like I’m asking you to marry them! Tell me this Simon, how else are we supposed to field an army large enough to defeat the horde of weirs out there? They are growing in numbers. The number of True Believers is shrinking every day. Among those who do still say they serve Ferus, only a fraction could survive the Warren and earn his Lordship. These are all things you know. What else would you have me do?”
Simon looked up from the brook he had been staring at and finally locked eyes with Bildad.
“Trust the prophesy.”
“Have you considered that the fulfilment of that prophesy might require us to get off our rears and do something to make it happen?”
Simon returned his gaze to the brook and remained silent.
“Forget it, I didn’t come here to have this argument with you again. I knew you wouldn’t ride with the rangers, so I sent most of them up north, the rest are awaiting my return. I came alone with three of my fastest steeds. I hope you consider Jabbed’s loss dire enough that you would deign delivering justice to his attackers. Even if it means degrading yourself and riding on a saddle that was once polluted by a lapdog.”
“There was never any question of if I would take up the hunt. The only question was if I would take it up with you.”
And so they had rode.