- 10 a (Argentum’s Song – PG)
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?
- 10 b (Argentum’s Song – PG)
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.