- 1a (Argentum’s Song – PG)
Part I – Argentum’s Source
Argent blew two short blasts on the sentry horn. Before he removed the horn from his lips Simon was already on his feet by the camp-fire. His creased, weathered face took a moment to sweep the frost covered clearing before his dark eyes looked up the redwood and locked with Argent’s.
Argent didn’t need to answer. The beasts had heard the horn as well and given up stealth. Their blood curdling war-cries echoed off the mountain pass slightly south of the clearing where the caravan had set up camp. The merchant, servants and other guards were beginning to wake but most hadn’t even made it out of their bedrolls by the time the two attackers charged past the last of the foliage.
Argent hefted a leg over his perch and slipped to a branch below. Moving as quickly as possible, he wrapped his arms around the large limb, swung so his legs dangled and dropped. His bent knees absorbed most of the shock of landing on the frozen ground. He grabbed Barwolfripper from where he had left it standing against the tree and spun. He had the claymore half out of its sheath before he realized he was too late.
In the time it had taken Argent to get out of the tree, Simon had already dealt with the creatures. The grey one had been cut neatly in two down the middle, probably before it even knew what had happened. The darker one had made it to the camp-fire before Simon’s Wolfripper had found its mark mid-spine. Its face still shuddered slightly, stunned at the metal that had paralyzed it so easily. The shock almost made the twisted and distorted features compassion worthy. Almost, but not quite. Particularly because Argent’s mind was occupied by the fact that he had once again been too slow to make his first kill.
- 1b (Argentum’s Song – PG)
Simon twisted the hilt and, when the monster’s movement ceased, his sandalled foot pushed it off the blade. The corpse tumbled onto the bedroll Ladin, the merchant, was scrambling out of.
“Th-Thank you … I could have been bitten.”
Franklin, Ladin’s body guard, came running to his side with sabre drawn. He was a little late by Argent’s measure and the young noble looked like he knew it and was itching for a chance to redeem himself. Simon nodded curtly at the two men and bent to clean Wolfripper on the beast’s pelt. Argent admired the rainbow aura that reflected off the weapon in the moonlight. Argentum … the pure metal after which he had been named. Not the counterfeit alloy that tinkers and alchemists tried to pass off as Argentum but the real thing. The counterfeit, like the silver that made up most of its content, could penetrate weir-hide given enough force. However, only Argentum would pierce it like a hot needle through wax.
Argent looked to Barwolfripper, his own sword, and drew it the rest of the way from its sheath. The huge blade was nearly as tall as he was and was Wolfripper’s twin in every way. Except the aura. Barwolfripper was only dull metal with a silver edge and tip. Argent saw Simon watching him as Argent strapped the leather sheath to his back and replaced Barwolfripper.
“Don’t worry. It won’t be long now. Another half cycle and Barwolfripper will be complete.”
It was an uncharacteristic display of comfort and caught Argent off guard.
“Yes Sir. Not long now.”
Argent hoped his voice didn’t make it obvious that his heart wasn’t in his response. He wished he had Simon’s faith. He wished he knew he was going to pass the test. But the truth was, he didn’t.
- 1c (Argentum’s Song – PG)
The body guard shouldered past Argent, closer to Simon.
“Sooner than that I think. It won’t take nearly fifteen days to reach Pheonton now, we’re already nearly through the pass.”
Simon pointedly did not make eye contact with Franklin and gestured to the weirwolves.
“What’s your assessment?”
Argent looked the two corpses over. They were fairly nondescript with the same long, scraggly weir-hide, skewed misshaped skeletons and jagged, murderous teeth that all weirs possessed. The faces were gaunt and haggard, and they seemed divorced enough from humanity to have been suffering from the illness for quite a while. He hazarded a guess.
“Mid-stage scouts or scavengers? Thought a small caravan was prey they could handle on their own?”
Simon shook his head.
“No. Look at the ribs showing through the skin. Haven’t eaten anything for weeks. Probably since infection. That’s why they look further along than they are. Nothing but early stage runts, shunned by their pack and desperate.”
Franklin swaggered over to the far corpse and lifted a limb for a better look.
“I agree, you can tell by -”
“Fool! Step away and don’t touch anything. Do you think this is game? Do you want to be infected?”
The shocked young man dropped the limb and wiped his hand repeatedly on his tunic as Simon’s long pace quickly ate up the distance between them.
“But they’re dead. They can’t bite anymore.”
“Last night you still mocked the existence of weirs, but now you know more of infection than I?”
- 1d (Argentum’s Song – PG)
Ladin stiffened as he observed the confrontation. He backed up against his personal sledge and his eyes flitted to the snow covered vegetation surrounding their clearing.
“What do we do to ensure infection doesn’t occur? Could there be more out there?”
“Build pyres over them and burn them. Don’t touch them. And yes, of course there are more out there.”
Simon grabbed Franklin’s wrist and twisted his arm so the hand that had come in contact with the weir was clearly illuminated by the moon.
“Argent get our supplies. Today we head east up the mountain.”
Argent obediently started toward the supply sledge, glad for an excuse to miss what might happen next. He glanced down at the leather and fur strips wrapped and tied around his wiry legs as he did so. Beneath those wraps was a hand breadth scar on his left calf where Simon had removed a chunk of flesh he thought might have been infected. Simon prohibited alcohol so there had been nothing to dull the pain. He didn’t envy Franklin the cure that was coming if infection was suspected.
“What? You can’t leave us now. Please just stay with us long enough to get us through the pass.”
Argent couldn’t help but grin at Ladin’s outburst. Apparently the merchant thought barbarians had a purpose after all. They weren’t just there to tell ‘weir-tales’ and be laughed at. As he knelt and began untying the sledge’s cover, he heard Simon respond.
“In our scouting trips we’ve only seen signs of two weirs close by. I was planning to hunt them today and leave tomorrow. Their attack has made that unnecessary. If you hurry, you should make it to Phoentown before any others pick up your scent.”
- 1e (Argentum’s Song – PG)
Ladin turned and burrowed into his private sledge. His upper torso disappeared behind the canvas and the muted thuds and clangs suggested a frantic search. Argent was almost done bundling their few provisions into two furs by the time Ladin emerged. The merchant had two fists full of much more silver than Argent could count.
“Simon, please take this. I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye but you must know how valuable an asset you are to the caravan. Take it as a token of gratitude for saving my life. I’ll give you as much again if you will just accompany us to the town.”
Argent sucked in his breath. Bad move Ladin … very bad move. You don’t try to buy a True Warrior’s service. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Simon slowly release Franklin’s wrist.
“You would dare steal my reward?”
The huge Warrior turned and advanced upon the confused and retreating merchant.
“You would dare tempt me to receive mammon for the service that I give freely to my Lord?”
Argent saw Ladin’s eyes glance at the claymore on Simon’s back. Wolfripper had only ever been used against infected, but Ladin couldn’t know that. He likely just wanted to get out of the confrontation with his head intact. Argent figured he had better step in before things got worse.
“Sir. I think it was a misunderstanding. I think Ladin meant it as a gift, not payment, right?”
“Yes … yes, a gift.”
“I will take no such filthy gift.”
The merchant cowered before Simon’s righteous anger.
“Maybe it would be best if we did part ways after all?”