The stormpeak mountains were obscured by a ferocious blizzard, amongst the swirling flakes, hid a small boy. He was unimpeded by the dark and the vicious storm buffeting him. The wind roared so loud that two men standing a foot apart wouldn't have been able to hear each other, yet these conditions caused no bother for Snow.
Now I'm not talking about the white wet substance which falls from the sky here, I'm talking about the small boy hiding amongst the drifts and trees.
Snow hated his name, he always wished that his mother had named him something much more, normal. But alas Snow was not destined to be normal. His mother had told him this on several occasions when Snow complained to her in the privacy of their home about his unusual name or even more unusual looks. Of course Snow could only complained in privet, his mother was the only person who had ever heard him speak. But that wasn't hard as Snow and his mother lived alone in the mountains.
The nearest humans to Snow and his mother were the soldiers stationed out in Fort Brennan over a hundred leagues away down the mountains and the nearest town was another thirty leagues beyond that.
But back to our small boy in the blizzard...
Snow was a few leagues up the mountain looking for any signs of bear tracks that morning Snow and his mother had returned to their little camp-site situated in the mouth of a cave halfway up the tallest peak in the stormpeak mountains after a hunting trip to find their camp-site had been destroyed. It had clearly been ravaged by a bear.
Their home furs (the ones they used when they weren't out hunting game or travelling) had been ripped to shreds and the last of their dried jerky had been eaten by the ferocious beast. Judging from the tracks, the bear was a fully grown male and a big one at that, his strides were almost twice as long as Snow himself.
Of course that wasn't difficult as at the tender age of twelve Snow was only just five foot. No where near his mothers six foot two. In fact if you looked at Snow and his mother you would think that they were just travelling companions as Snows mother Helena was a statuesque six foot two with a rounded figure and ample breasts. Her jet black hair hung down to the small of her back in a tied ponytail and her chocolate-brown skin clearly marked her as someone clearly not native to the mountains.
While in contrast Snow stood at a measly five foot and was so thin that if he turned sideways he would disappear, or so his mother always told him. He also had shockingly white hair and pale skin with eyes that were the colour of pure ice. Naturally Snow wondered if Helena really was his mother as after all he looked nothing like her! But when asked this by Snow she just told him that he took more after his father, a mysterious figure who if his mother was to be believed was some sort of elemental guardian of the mountains.
Now at nightfall Snow was still out searching for tracks trying to locate the beast which had destroyed the camp-site they had set up only days before. But despite his fantastic ability to see and hear much better than most in the middle of a blizzard, not even he could find any sign of the bear as all tracks were being blown away by the blizzard as soon as they were made. Looking back the way he had came Snow could not even see his tracks for barely more than a foot away, the blizzard made light work of them.
The hair on the back of Snows neck prickled and stood on end. It was almost like this storm had been meant to obscure the tracks of the bear he thought. It was very unusual for bears to come out before a blizzard, they instinctively knew when storms were coming and like most animals they hunkered down to ride it out. Snow couldn't help but think that a bear would not be out and attacking their camp-site unless they were starving and their hunger overrode their natural fear of the storm. But this bear looked to be huge and left deep prints, so it clearly wasn't in need of food Snow thought with a touch of anxiety.
Something felt a little off to him. He'd lived in the mountains for years and never had he known a storm hit so hard or ferociously. This storm was even taking it's toll on him! He had grown up in these storms and could navigate through them better even than his mother who was so well known for her craft in the mountains she was known as The Snow Leopard.
The Shang had given her that name for two reasons she told Snow. The first because she was such a graceful and fast fighter that she did almost look part feline, and secondly because her woodsman ship and tracking skills were so fantastic but to an almost extraordinary level in the mountains.
Snow had studied under his mother since before he could remember. He had only ever visited the Fort twice and the town beyond that once and that was only to warn the local huntsmen of a pack of wolves that Helena and Snow had discovered one year. Wolves in the mountains and woods were always a problem. A good sized pack could scare away the game in no time.
"But a bloody bear is even worse" Grumbled Snow under his breath.
Usually Helena and Snow wouldn't directly get involved with such problems, they typically lived off small game and any roots or vegetables they could get, but an aggravated bear was a serious problem and needed to be dealt with and quickly. So of course Snow and Helena had spilt up, Helena going south through the woods to try and find the bear and warn the Fort and Snow to the north to try and find any sign of the bear, but he had found nothing, he could only assume it had gone south from their camp.
Snow kicked a clump of ice in anger and in the process managed to slip over and hit his head on a tree. Coming out with a list of curses that would make a sailor blush Snow cradled his head. His mother had never had any problem in swearing around him before and he had learnt many curses in five different languages.
As he lay on the ground with his pack positioned uncomfortably under him the sound of laughing came to him. With reflexes that few people could pull off on a normal day, let alone on ice in the middle of a blizzard, Snow leaped to his feet shed his pack and outer fur coat and drew his knife.
A wicked looking thing only eight inches long and curved it looked like a deadly weapon but would be little use against the giant before him.
Snows jaw literally dropped as he took in the sight before him.
A shabbily dressed man with hair just like his own but with a wild white beard to match stood barely ten feet away from Snow. He hadn't even heard the man approach which was impossible, not even his mother could sneak up on him and this man was almost a foot taller than his mothers six foot two and he was very thickly built. He shouldn't have been able to get within fifty yards of Snow without Snow hearing him!
The stranger chuckled again at the sight of Snow wielding his little dagger with his mouth agape, the idea of being hurt by the knife seemingly didn't occur to the giant. He looked at Snow with laughter and expectation in his eyes mixed with something else he'd always seen in his mothers eyes, Love and pride.
Snow swallowed heavily as he observed the presence before him. He was so obviously masculine and rugged unlike Snow's own lean frame but he looked so similar to him, power seemed to emanate from the giant. And he'd crept up on him, his mother said the only person she'd ever met who'd been able to do that to her besides Snow was Snow's father. The implications of this struck Snow like an avalanche.
Snow was proud at how steady his voice had sounded despite the fact that his emotions were in turmoil.
The man opposite him positively beamed when he heard Snow, displacing Snows fears of the rugged giant, but then seemed to remember where he was and the smile faded into a grimace with sadness in his eyes.
"Son, there is much we must talk about but the time for that is not now." His fathers voice was deep rumble that reminded Snow of avalanches and the roar of the wind through the trees. The hair on the back of Snows neck prickled as he heard that voice. "Our time is short, by rights I should not be here now but your mother made me promise that when the time came I would come to you."
Snows stomach dropped through the floor. A sense of dread washed over him as he heard those words and saw the sadness in his fathers eyes. Keeping his face a mask of calm Snow asked with a strong voice "What has happened to my mother? Is it the bear? Is she hurt?"
As he said the words he hoped that this giant would say that she was fine, he hoped that he would be able to call him a liar if he said other wise but Snow instinctively knew that this was his Father and he wouldn't lie to him.
The sadness in the strangers eyes turned to one of pity. "Son, your mother is dead." His voice was so quiet that by rights Snow shouldn't have heard him. But he did and he read the words on his lips as he said it.
Despair crashed through Snow. What would he do without his mother? Where would he go? He'd go mad on his own in these mountains. Then a glimmer of hope flared in his chest.
"Will you be staying?" Snow asked with hope in his voice.
His fathers face now turned to an expression of shame and sadness. Snow had his answer, he was alone. He was only twelve, alone in the mountains. But he was not helpless. His mother had seen to that.
Snow stuck his chin out and his eyes took on dangerous glint and his voice became hard. "Where is she?"