Argent watched as Simon stood up and stretched. He was pretty sure he had managed to stay awake the entire second half of the night for his watch. He had definitely been awake when Simon rose. That hadn’t been easy to do, but at least there was nothing new this morning to add to Simon’s disappointment in him. Simon strode toward him and Argent lowered his head to receive the daily reminder of their destiny. However, after a long pause with no hand coming to rest on his head, Argent peeked up and saw his father just standing in front of him, looking at him, making no move to pray over him today.
Simon cleared his throat and looked into the distance.
“I did something yesterday that I never thought I was capable of doing. I raised Argentum against a True Warrior. It doesn’t excuse your selfishness at condemning the valley to more decades of misery, but neither does your foolishness excuse my own mistake. I repent, to you and to Ferus.”
Argent was stunned … Simon apologizing? Maybe things would work out after all.
“I’m sorry too.”
With that over, Argent bowed his head again but instead of the prayer, Simon just kept talking.
“I did a lot of thinking while I was on watch and you were dawdling the first half of last night. Obviously Bildad was right about me not training you enough. Maybe he’s right about other things too. Once we get to Phoentown we should part ways. Bildad often stays with a smith there, Narn. You met him when you were younger, before he gave up the hunt. He could forge at least half of Barwolfripper into a decent, silver lined weapon. Maybe you could even salvage a pair of weapons out of the two halves. Then … then you should take Bildad up on his offer and join his rangers.”
Argent’s shame grew with each sentence he heard. Simon was relegating him to the category of a washed up Warrior, no longer able to hunt. Or worse, a band of mercenaries.
“Me … a lap dog?”
Simon grunted and turned away to bundle up his supplies. The message was clear, even though Argent had technically passed the quest, by having the flute transfigured instead of Barwolfripper, he had failed his father. There would be no morning prayer today or any day to come. The prophesy no longer applied to him.
Argent numbly went through the rest of his morning routine. He didn’t have much to pack up as he had never laid out his bedroll, so even in his stupor he was still ready to go when Simon started off again. He found it hard to get breakfast past the lump in his throat and ended up shoving most of the dried meat and berries into his pouch. However, by the time they stopped for lunch he had worked up enough of an appetite that his noon meal made it down.
As the day drew to a close, he was barely able to keep his feet moving without stumbling over the terrain. Eventually, Simon chose a spot and set up camp. Argent wanted to talk with him about what he had said that morning. He’d managed to form a couple of arguments about why Simon should let him stay. How he could help train the new son, or even just do servant duties giving them more time to focus on important things. However, he was so tired he still hadn’t put together a suitable sentence to introduce the topic when dinner was finished. Then Simon’s words cut off any chance for discussion that night.
“You’re on first watch”
Argent cringed, but Simon had already rolled over and closed his eyes. Argent hadn’t had a real sleep since before the Warren, and that sleep had been so full of anxiety it barely counted. Still he could hardly say “would you mind taking first watch instead?” if he wanted to be able to successfully argue he was useful to have around.
Argent tried to find a spot that was as uncomfortable as the one he had found the previous night but soon realized he would have to find another strategy. His lids were just too heavy, and if he kept moving, he’d disturb Simon’s sleep. Instead he pulled the penny whistle from his belt for the first time that day and spent some time admiring it. He brought it in front of his lips and ran through the fingering for some strings of notes, being careful not to actually blow through it. That worked to distract him for a while but eventually his arms tired and he dropped them to his lap. He looked up at the stars and estimated he still had over half of his watch left. It would be hard but He could do this.
Argent quietly placed some more wood on the camp fire and then closed his eyes and listened to the breeze through the tree limbs and the crackling of the flames. If it had been this quiet in the spring through autumn, he’d think something was amiss, but there was still enough snow on the ground to effectively absorb the noise of the faraway small creatures who hadn’t migrated or gone into hibernation. The fire was also keeping critters from coming too close so the silence was to be expected.
Argent looked around. Something wasn’t right. He stood up and walked toward some juniper, peering past he saw two weirs fighting over the carcass of some hapless animal. He wanted to reach for his sword, call for Simon, do something … but he was unable. He stood frozen to the spot and mute. Part of Argent’s mind had already categorized them, high ranking, experienced, dangerous. There was no mistaking these, they were lean but not starving. Festering, but not decrepit or mindless. Argent felt himself take a step back and then one of the two turned to look at him. Ashamed, he turned to run, his vocal chords refusing to give warning. He looked over his shoulder to see a weir gaining on him. Jagged teeth preparing to slash.
Argent woke from the nightmare screaming. Unfortunately waking provided him with no relief, as the weir from his dream was still charging him … now only a hand’s breadth from his face.