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That afternoon there was a funeral for those we lost. Other than my dad there was only one other casualty, though 2 were seriously injured, one with a broken leg and another lost 3 fingers. Nearly ahundred people showed up at the cemetery to bury the clothing of our loved ones. Dad died several months ago and there was no money to spend on preservatives, so he was buried in a mass grave near the now named Ruby Ford. His only valuables were his sword and armour which belonged to the Lord, so they brought his clothes to bury in his stead. After the war ended Lord Stark generously gave each family of someone who died a gift of 2 silver stags, enough that if mother wasn’t working and we only got essentials to live for about 200 days, all 4 of us. That time would normally be used for widows to find another husband and for orphans to be sent to relatives. For us there would be no one willing and able to accept 3 young children who were nothing more than burdens to them, no matter how pretty mum is. Her pay from the inn wouldn’t be enough for all of us, not when we are still growing. I will not allow our family to be split apart, I gave my word to dad.

After the funeral we went back to our homes and I asked to be excused so I could get some space. After I got permission I went to the woods and killed 2 birds in quick succession. I then carried them to Ser Ethan’s house. Knocking on the door I waited, birds in hand.

“What is it can’t it wait till... Ben? What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be with your family? Nevermind, it doesn’t matter. Ben I would like to apologize, I wasn’t able to look after David, it was just so fucking chaotic and …" Ethan came out with a bottle in hand, starting to ramble when he noticed who he was speaking to.

“I want to be a hunter.” I say holding up the 2 birds. They were a pair of magpies in the middle of courting when I struck them both with a stone, one flung from each hand.

Ethan stares at me in confusion as he starts to gather himself. “Ben what are you saying?”

“I caught these 2 in the 2 hours since the funeral. I need someone to register me and pay the deposit. Please lend me the money, I'll pay you back?” I ask him, looking him straight in the eye.

He must have seen something unexpected, because he drew back slightly, then thinking about what I said, before asking.

“Why?”

Without hesitation I answered, “I promised Dad I would look after the family, I intend to keep it”.

He looks at me for a good second, before sighing, followed by a short chuckle.

“By the gods, David was a lucky man to get a son like you, My own boy is nearly twice your age yet he still lies to me when he promises me he’ll learn his letters, misspell my name will he... Tell you what give me those 2 and we’ll head down to the Margrave tomorrow and sign you up. No need to pay me back just invite me to your house now and then to taste your catch, it been ages since I've seen Elsa and I bet she’s nearly as beautiful as her mother now.” Ethan says with a genuine smile on his face, and a far-away look in his eyes. I still don’t know if he was looking to the past or the future.

 

Edward Marley POV (margrave)

 

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the streets are busy. Nothing could be better.

It’s been 3 years since the Trident and is now the 1st of March, the beginning of the Spring market, one of the busiest times of the year for the village, except for the harvest season and definitely the most cheerful. Spring has officially begun; the roads are clear and the merchants have arrived with both locals and travellers from the local farming settlements selling what the they’ve produced and buying gifts to celebrate surviving the winter. It was definitely a lot better this year than after the war. Not only was the winter particularly harsh that year, but the deaths caused a lot of farms in the North to be undermanned and food was in short supply. We lost over 2 dozen people that winter to cold and starvation alone on top of another dozen to the usual reasons.

As I look down at the busy street from my usual seat this time of the year, when I take a break from my work and the wife looks at clothes and trinkets from the peddlers, to watch the sign of prosperity for our village I spot an amusing sight down next to where the hunters have set up their tables to sell their smoked meats, jerky and venison sausages.

“COME GET YOUR LEATHERS HERE, GLOVES, BOOTS AND HATS, SPECIAL ORDERS AVAILABLE FOR MAKE AND DELIVERY, PRICE NEGOTIABLE!!!” An oddly loud and high pitched voice cuts through the noise of the surroundings.

When Ethan came to the manor all those years ago asking to sign a 5-year-old boy for a hunting license I thought he was out of his mind. I knew who he was, barely, he was the oldest grandson of Ed my old cook who died last year. The few times I asked about his family he would always talk about how proud he was of his grandson who he claimed to be a genius. I would smile and dismiss it as the phase all elders get when talking about their juniors, but after seeing what he can do I realise he was downplaying it if anything.

In the first year he was catching enough birds, rabbits and even foxes that he made around 4 stags on the meat alone. If it was just his hunting skills then I could pass it off as being talented, but what he does after is the real genius. Just looking at how he sets up his table is enough to wonder if I should hire him as my steward.

First he never sells the entire animals and instead keeps the furs and leathers, his mother turns them into clothes, the cheaper and more common rabbits are made into the gloves, boots and hats he’s shouting about, with thicker ones being made during the winter market and thinner work gloves for the spring before the market, while the more expensive foxes and the occasional badger are made into luxury hats, scarves and capes, peddling to the upper class in town or the travelling peddlers who are heading back to the larger towns and cities where they will resell for a profit. These tricks are nothing special, after all just about every hunter here is doing the same. The impressive thing is what he does on the side.

He set up next to the other hunters not just because that’s where the people looking for leathers go, but also because he wants to sell to them as well. Since last year he has been selling well made arrows and even self-made long bows that are way too big for him but are much better than the other hunter’s and are almost made like they were meant for each individual hunter. At the start it seemed like most were too stubborn to use another’s bow, when the few who did purchase one due to the quality and low starting price got much better catches than them, the orders soon flowed in. Because of this, and that he doesn’t sell his meat at markets, he has a relatively good reputation among the hunters. Most don’t concern themselves with the few coppers lost from sharing the leather business and those that did and tried to cause him trouble would be told to scram by Ethan if they were lucky, or have their tables kicked over, ruining their food by the guards if they weren’t.

The reason this sight is amusing despite seeing it several times for the past couple years, is that I can see a small shadow creeping up behind Ben while he’s talking to a haggler. One of the guards see it as well but decides to wait and watch the show.

 

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