Argent was aware of noises around him as he floated just on the other side of consciousness. His head throbbed and his eyes shut even tighter as external stimuli tried to drag him back to reality. The noises merged into a single voice he recognized. The voice of his father calling his name. Argent brought his will to bear on the fight and clawed his way back to consciousness. He cracked his eyelids and groaned as light hammered into the back of his skull. A skull that already hurt enough as it was. He lifted a hand to the back of his head and it came away wet, and sticky.
The smell of blood penetrated his nostrils and kicked his survival instinct into action. Argent finally pushed past his discomfort and into a state of alertness. He grabbed for his weapon, only to realize it and its sheath were missing from his back. He nearly jumped to his feet but his location registered in time to keep him from doing so. He was lying on a gravel slope dropping over a precipice less than a hairsbreadth away. Any sudden movements could easily send him slipping down and over. He bit his lip and slowly pushed himself further away.
What had happened? The last thing he remembered was climbing into the crevice. Had he slipped and cracked his head? That would explain the blood, but not his missing weapon, his current location, or the setting sun. He looked above and behind him. The mountain rose up steeply to an angle that was almost a cliff face. A small trail traced from his current location up to a small cave about half way up. His bruised and battered body suggested he was responsible for that particular scrape through the snow and undergrowth. Simon’s face crested the ridge.
“There you are, that took longer than I was expecting! I was beginning to worry that you had failed. Why didn’t you answer when I called?”
Simon’s eyes narrowed and his facial muscles tensed.
“Where is the sword?”
Argent shrugged weakly and watched as the warrior scampered down the rock face as sure footed as a mountain goat. Walking up to the precipice he looked over the edge and his tension melted away.
“There it is. You’ve got to take better care of it though. A gift from Ferus needs more respect than that.”
Argent remained mute as he scrambled to join his father at the edge. Still feeling dizzy he didn’t stay there for long but retreated after he saw the cord attached to Barwolfripper and its sheath snagged on a scrawny cedar shoot stubbornly growing out of the mountainside at an impossible angle. Simon seemed to notice his wounds for the first time.
“Well I guess you did have a nasty tumble, and you are only the second person in these parts to have discovered a new entrance to the Warren.”
Simon pointed his chin toward the cave, and grabbed Argent by the shoulder.
“It must run in the family. Make your way up to our supplies, I’ll retrieve Barwolfripper and meet you up there to help you tend your wounds. Looks like you’ll have at least one good scar to remember this quest by. And Argent …”
Simon locked eyes with him before continuing.
“… I’m proud of you son.”
Argent had been longing to hear those words for as long as he could remember. So why did they fall empty and hollow in him now? Why was it fear rather than gratitude that sprung up within him? Why couldn’t he remember having done anything to earn them?