Of Silver and Gold, and of Lichen

Writing Prompt: There’s a very good, very surprising reason for why the Ranger uses silver bullets.

“It’s cheaper, don’t cost me half as much as gold would.” the Ranger, a black woman in her late fifties with grey hair tied back against her scalp and weather-beaten walking stick lain out across lap, said simply, nodding at the young man sat before her.

“Really, that’s it?” the man, a man named Abraham, looked disappointed. His curious blue eyes relaxed upon the gild of the Ranger’s rifle, “But you do hunt monstrosities, such as Lichen, do you not?”

“I do.” the Ranger smiled, “And you shouldn’t believe all that they be writing in them bedtime stories. Let me ask you this,” the Ranger took a dull iron crock pot from the dwindling fire and offered it to Abraham, who gladly accepted, “what do you suppose the King’s bullets are made of?” she ran a finger deftly over the gold gilding of her gun.

“The King is a vein man,” Abraham argued, “he’d wear gold slippers if such a thing were possible to make.”

“It is possible.” the Ranger gestured for the hair band tied around her wrist, and sure enough the strands that formed it were that of solid gold, “As for our King, there’s reasons above vanity for why he chooses gold.”

“And what might those reasons be?” Abraham asked, gladly sipping from his steaming pot of broth.

“Careful,” the Ranger warned, “it’s awful hot.” she blew gently over her own bowl before taking a sip herself. With her eyes peering out at Abraham from over the lip of her bowl she answered, “Magic, mostly.”

“Magic?” Abraham spat the word out in surprise.

“That’s what I said now, wasn’t it?”

Abraham shook his head, “There’s no such thing as magic. Take the curse of the Lichen, that was proven to be no more than a disease.”

“Not a moments ago you believed there to be no such thing as golden slippers.” the Ranger gave a short, unloving laugh, “How naive the young are. Here you sit, before age and before wisdom, thinking you know all there is to of our world. I envy you.”

Abraham scowled over his bowl, trying as hard as he could to hide his contempt. He may have been young, but he was far from naive. What could this old hag of a woman know that hadn’t already been written up by learned men far more renowned for knowledge than herself? Silver bullets… nothing but a joke.

“Surprise me,” Abraham said finally, “what does magic have to do with gold?”

“Gold is a conductor, the King chooses to make his bullets from it so that he can enchant ’em. It’s a waste, if you be asking me. Call it overkill. Why burn a village down to chase out the one man? It makes no sense.”

“On that at least we agree.” Abraham sighed, resolute in the fact he might never make sense of what the Ranger was trying to learn him.

“The problem with conductors,” the Ranger continued on, unperturbed by Abraham’s youth, “is that they have no sides.” she waited on the young man’s blank expression, ‘What I mean is, they ain’t neither for or against you, they simply are. Where the King can conduct magic from his precious golden bullets, so can any other man, or woman,” she grinned, ” well-versed in magic.”

“The King, a man of magic?” Abraham couldn’t help but laugh, spilling hot broth over the rim of his bowl and into his lap, causing him to madly waft the stain with his hands, “Now I’ve heard it all.” he finished, still chuckling to himself.

The Ranger’s eyes were tired and unsettling things, they wearied of this youngling’s nonsense, “You’d do well to listen, this may just save your life one day. I use silver bullets ’cause I can make a hundred for the price of just one made of gold. And one bullet is all it takes of either metal. Both silver and gold can kill a Lichen. A fair shot to the head, right between the eyes, that’s all it takes.

“There’s no fear of silver, a Lichen ‘ll charge all the same whether you be holding a blood dripping rare steak or a cross of silver ingot.” there was a sudden awareness to the Ranger’s face, a flash of light that stole her attention from the young man, her gaze shifting to watch the distant shadows, “Where your King can kill a handful of these creatures,” she carried up her rifle with a speed that Abraham had thought impossible from so old a character, “I can kill hundreds of the bastards.” her finger twitched over the rifle’s trigger, spilling from the mouth of the gun a single silver bullet. It flew deafeningly across the fire, over Abraham’s shoulder, coming to rest in the soft of some hair-laden shadow that had reared up behind the man.

“What the hell was that?” Abraham jumped up from his seat, turning to face the now-dead-corpse of that which had been just inches from his being.

“That,” the Ranger hacked up spit and loosed it on the ground, “was Lichen.”

Abraham sat himself back down, his breath caught in his throat, a throat that under different circumstances might have been dutifully torn apart. He dusted himself down and said only this, “I do believe, Ms Helsing, that you were going to explain to me how men of magic might interfere with gold?”

“And women.” the Ranger said with a smile, “And women.”

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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