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The Child in Silver by Thomas Lupus
SUMMARY: A serious fantasy tale about a hunter who encounters more than he bargains for in the cold region of The Gash.
The Child in Silver
As the winter winds died in the west and the bite of frost and snow seemed to dwindle with every passing day he decided to head inland. His instincts served him well. Winter was a harsh time. It brought with it a majesty, a transformation of the landscape and new challenges for those that must survive it. It also brought death, and a promise. A pledge of a new beginning when the White Season had passed. It did not come alone, however.
Baerus had hunted the lands of the south west all his life. It was remarkable that he was still alive, given the nature of his existence and also given the place where he now chose to ply his trade. He had survived the impossible, overcome the insurmountable and fought against odds that would have made most small armies turn and run. He was a hunter and a storyteller. It was fair to say that somewhere among his many encounters and the spinning of the yarn, some glimmer of truth existed in all the stories he told. It could be argued that they made him almost a legend in certain corners of the land, but in the cold and the darkness of the wild legends had no place, and only Baerus the man mattered.
He had entered the Gash, a harsh exposed area of land to the north and almost six days walk from what could be considered to be civilisation. The Great River ran directly through it, and the land rose sharply at either side, changing from thick marsh to high cliff top. There the winds raged and tore through the lofty peaks, making the summit an even more dangerous and uncomfortable place to be. Even for the indigenous wildlife.
At the riverside bare trees were abundant, as was the dense undergrowth of varied description. As the slopes got steeper the trees became increasingly dense and thick with leaves leading to the very uppermost edges of the cliff faces where they grew at such angles you would think it impossible. The Gash was a place of impossibilities however, and chief among them was the continued hope of survival without a very special kind of knowledge.
"Ah, Baerus" they would say. "Where have you been? Tell us all the things you have seen this time."
And so he would tell them. He would talk about the snaring of lions in the eastern lands and of forests full of strange and exotic plants that would devour men whole. He would talk about great serpents to the southern seas and the high peaks he had climbed to reach the snow eagles to the north. Every skin he traded had a story and every scar a finely woven romance. It made for good company and even better, the free wine would flow. It also made for a certain reputation, and it was this reputation that kept him alive in the "civilised" wilderness.
He had seen forty seasons, and his life had been surprisingly kind to his appearance. He was tall and lean, not big but powerful and fast. His short dark hair had acquired patches of silver and among the odd scar there were only slight traces of age on his skin. His clothes were as the man, made for survival and not for etiquette. He wore a mix of light grey furs and smooth cloth hooded robe of the darkest green.