Red Son found a large circle of men were waiting around the tent as he stepped out into the still rising sun, blinking as his eyes adjusted from the dim fire to the bright morning light.
"Red Son." Curled Beard stood before Red Son. He was the strongest and bravest hunter in the tribe. His dark hair matched his cold stare quite well. "Do you know why the council has gathered today?"
"I am of age Curled Beard. You are here to demand I prove myself as a man."
The council was silent in the cold morning air. A feint chuckle came from Curled Beard. "You are correct Red Son. You must prove yourself. You know what we ask of you?"
"I am to travel to the Gray Valley to get my sharp flint."
"You are not a man until you have your flint. With it you will kill to feed your children and make fire to warm your wife. We will not make you a man, the power you gain from your flint is what makes men men and beasts beast. This is the lands way. Go now Red Sun and prove your strength."
Red Sun spoke not a word. He did not realize today would be the day of his trial, but he was prepared. He was to go to the Gray Valley alone and unarmed. If he returned with his flint, he would be a man. Red Son removed his pelts. His large frame did not shiver from the cold. The trial must be made quickly, you leave with nothing, and without your pelts you are likely to freeze come nightfall. Red Son Knew he needed to leave quickly. There was little time to waste.
The man to be walked through the village, the men of the tribe fallowing close behind. A pale dark haired woman looked up at Red Son as he passed by. Red Son was forbidden to speak to anyone until he returned from trial, he stood there at the woman and wondered if he would return. It was not uncommon for the cold to claim boys in their trial, and the Gray Valley is a very dangerous place. Red Son could see the worry in the woman's eyes. He could see the worry in her heart knowing her son might not return. She knew the law though, and with that she looked away.
Red Son stepped out of the village and into his trial. He knew the men were watching as he left, but knew to look back would be weakness. He knew his family had enough shame, he must be strong.
The snow was cold on Red Son's bare feet, the stream season was just starting, there was still much snow from the bad season. The day would be short and night fall would be quick. It was a difficult time to go out to trial, but Red Son was not afraid. Bare trees formed a tangled forest between the village and Valley. Ghostly trees springing out of the frozen earth with spidery branches. The cold youth noticed something in the snow and crouched to get a better look. They were tracks in the snow. They looked like the belonged to a wolf, but they looked old. Red Son snapped a thick branch off of a tree to be safe. The Crack of timber was loud in the cold silent forest echoing in the distance. Red Son turned and saw a young bear standing a way off. the brush had covered it from his sight, but at the sound of the breaking branch the beast stood up alert and ready. Red Son stared at the animal, it's dark thick fur shielding it from the cold, it's claws granting it the strength to take what it wanted. The bear was not yet full grown, but still a large and imposing opponent none the less. Red Son tightened his grip on his make-shift club. It broke from the tree rough, sharp splinters marked where it has grown from the tree. A boy was no match against a bear, Red Son stared at the bear a moment longer. Like himself the beast stood looking at the intruder, evaluating the risks of combat. Red Son turned and walked away from the scene.
The forest was full of downed branches that scratched at his bare legs, desperate to stop the boy, trying to cut him, to sting him, to kill his warriors spirit. But the will of Red Son is greater than that of cruel branches.
A long tail was perched in a tree above Red Son. The small vermin watched the boy nervously. Time was a factor, the sun was high in the sky and he had still not yet reached the valley. The snow was slowing him more that expected, but he must have strength and his stomach was empty. Slowly Red Son crouched for a stone. He knew he must not disrupt the creature and give it cause to flee. It was safe enough in the tree, if no sudden movements were made he was sure it would remain in its position. Not taking his eye of his quarry Red Son felt along the ground and chose a stone about the size of his fist, and with a quick snap of his wrist knocked the rodent out of the tree.
Red Son was upon it quickly and sank his teeth into the animal. Warm blood filled his mouth and he crouched there naked in the forest eating a rat. Sometimes for a man to survive he must be as a beast.
Red Son found the ground changing around him. It was becoming rocky and uneven. The scrawny trees were growing scarce and being replaced by sharp slates of stone. Red Son looked down into the Gray Valley.