Argent carefully picked his way up the mountainside using all four limbs. Internally he was just as carefully picking his way through the information he had gathered to try to find a conclusion that made sense. He clearly hadn’t burst into flames in the Warren. That implied Ferus hadn’t rejected him. Maybe he had completed the quest in the Warren, earned Ferus’ Lordship and then tripped on the way out, knocking his head hard enough to remove the whole event from his memory? He certainly wouldn’t put it past himself to screw up that much. Leave it to him to find a way to ruin the most important day of his life. Argent couldn’t remember a time when he had felt more embarrassed. Maybe he could just bluff his way around it with vague answers and no one would have to know.
Some loose rocks slipped out from under his left foot and Argent could feel himself starting to follow them. However before he could have a repeat of his previous fall, a strong hand gripped his upper arm and steadied him. He looked over to see that Simon, with two sheathed swords hanging on his back, had already caught up. With his support it was much easier to cover the remainder of the distance and they soon found themselves standing by the spruce tree where they had left the rest of the gear. Argent had never seen his father so happy. There was a perpetual smile on his face and his eyes glowed. Simon reverently removed Barwolfripper’s scabbard from his back.
“We’ll get the water and bandages out in a second, but may I take a peak for myself first? I have after all been waiting for this moment even longer than you have. At long last, the prophesy can be fulfilled!”
Argent nodded his assent. He could hardly say he was just as excited to glimpse the transfigured metal as his father was without giving his secret away. He glued his eyes to the narrow slit where hilt and scabbard met as his father unfastened the leather loop that held the sheath secure and then pulled the weapon free.
Argent’s heart dropped to the pit of his stomach. As soon as the weapon was drawn, his eyes darted to his Simon’s face and witnessed an expression of confusion and fear he had never seen there before. Then, almost as quickly as it came, it was replaced by a familiar cold fury.
“What happened in there boy?”
The slow quiet words passed through the frigid air between them and barely registered in Argent’s mind. His gaze had already returned to the claymore in Simon’s hand. It looked identical to how it had looked when he had sheathed it after it’s most recent cleaning. Simon’s interrogation continued.
“Does this look like Argentum to you?”
Argent eventually found his voice and managed to whisper a response.
“I … I don’t know …”
“You don’t know?”
Simon’s cold rage had been replaced by the red hot fury that had been hiding below the surface. His question rattled Argent’s eardrums and caused him to move back.
“Well maybe this will give you a hint.”
Simon drew Wolf ripper from his back and held the two claymores side by side.
“Do they look the same to you?”
Argent could feel tears of shame and fear beginning to well up. It was obvious Barwolfripper had not been transfigured. Only Simon’s weapon had the aura indicating acceptance by Ferus. Argent had failed. He hadn’t been good enough and Ferus had rejected him.
“Still not sure? Maybe this little test will make things clear.”
Simon tossed Barwolfripper straight up in the air. Then, as it began its descent, he brought Wolfripper in an arc splitting the lesser metal down the length of the blade and hilt. Barwolfripper fell in two halves to either side of the furious warrior.
“That, boy, is not Argentum.”
The conversation with Bildad on the trail up came unbidden to Argent’s mind. His suggestion that Argent might fail didn’t seem to be moot after all.
A glimmer in Simon’s eyes showed he had reached the same conclusion. Argent retreated until his back was against the spruce and there was nowhere left to go. Simon raised Wolfripper and slowly closed the distance between them.
“The only reason I can think of that Ferus let you, a failure, out of The Warren alive, is to test my faith.”
Argent’s hand instinctively dug into his pouch and grasped his mother’s flute as Simon took another step.
“Unlike you, I will not fail.”
Argent closed his eyes and raised his arms above his head as the blow began to fall.