The Chance of a Coin
The wind howled down the rugged slopes of the towering mountain, driving before it a flurry of snow and a knife edged chill that cut right to the bone. A tall man stood on the narrow path that wound its way up the mountain side, between teetering boulders that perched precariously and gnarled, stubby trees that had been swept flat by the elements. He wore a voluminous fur lined cloak of rich crimson that was caught and tugged at by the winds. A gloved hand rested lightly upon the gilded hilt of a rapier at his side. The other hand was raised towards the wind, as if to ward it off. Indeed, it seemed almost as if it was working, for the snows bent around him rather than land upon him.
Long of face, his pale eyes were peering out from beneath wind tossed dark hair, down a sheer cliff face that the path ran along the top of.
“This is crazy, Peregrine,” he said, speaking loud so as to be heard above the wind.
Half way down the cliff face a woman perched, her auburn hair streaming out around her. She looked upwards to the man, amber eyes aglow with some inner fey. Her cloak had been rolled up and stored with her pack atop the cliff, along with her boots and a heavy bladed broadsword. She retained her knife, thrust through her belt, and she wore a coat of hardened leather and mail. Bare feet sought out narrow ledges on the cliff face for purchase while finger tips clung to slender protrusions.
“I was born in country like this, Blade,” she shouted back up to the man. “I’ve made more difficult climbs as a child. Besides, I saw something down here.”
“Yes, death,” Blade answered morosely. Staring down beyond her, there was something else to be seen. Below, much further below, a ledge jutted out from the side of the mountain before once more plunging into the depths of a valley, where in a swift flowing river churned white as it surged along to crash out into the distant plains. Two bodies lay on the ledge, frozen from their exposure to the wild elements. One of them lay with his arm outstretched towards what appeared to be a coin purse that teetered on the edge of the ledge. It was impossible to say whether it had been what had lured the two down to the ledge, or if one of them had dropped it in a fall.
Peregrine turned her attention to her descent. Bare feet found purchase in narrow cracks in the stone. She moved with all the grace and surety of a mountain goat, flowing down the face of the cliff. Blaze stood amazed at her progress, watching as she went, swinging from one protrusion to the next. He could climb, and climb well, but she had been born to it, as she had said, and was attempting a climb he would have thought twice about even attempting. A single slip would send her plunging to her death, much as it had the two who had proceeded her.
The wait was interminable before she at last set foot on the ledge, shaking out the fatigue from her arms and shoulders that had come from the climb down. Blade watched as she knelt beside the two bodies each in turn, inspecting them. Only they did she reach for the purse. She bounced it on her hand before tucking it into her belt.
Returning to the cliff face, Peregrine began her ascent, picking her way back up along the precarious route she had discovered on the way down. After some time she hauled herself back up over the top and rejoined Blade on the path. A broad grin split her face. Recovering her boots and cloak, she began to put them back on.
“Satisfied?” Blade inquired of her.
“I got what I went for.”
“And what exactly was that, pray tell.”
Peregrine took the pouch out from her belt and emptied the contents onto her hand. A single copper coin spilt out, one of unknown origin and much corroded by age and wear.
“You went for all that effort for a single coin?”
Peregrine shrugged her shoulders. “We are not alone in risking much for the chance of a coin,” she replied, “Much as those two fellows down below did. They weren’t locals, that much is for sure.” She bounced the coin on the palm of her hand before turning to look out over the valley.
Then with a flick of her fingers she sent it sailing out over the depths to begin its plunge downwards. For a moment it caught the sunlight and glinted and then it was gone.
Picking up her sword and pack, she laughed as she caught sight of Blade’s amused expression. “Come, let us be continuing on our way. There is much more coin to be made where we are going, and besides that one was bad luck. It has lured two men to their deaths and I could not leave it behind where it would lure more.”