Varamyr Sixskins was a lord of sorts. He lived alone in a hall of moss and mud and hewn logs that had once been Haggon's, attended by his beasts. A dozen villages did him homage in bread and salt and cider, offering him fruit from their orchards and vegetables from their gardens. His meat he got himself. Whenever he desired a woman he sent his shadowcat to stalk her, and whatever girl he'd cast his eye upon would follow meekly to his bed. Some came weeping, aye, but still they came. Varamyr gave them his seed, took a hank of their hair to remember them by, and sent them back.

From time to time, some village hero would come with spear in hand to slay the beastling and save a sister or a lover or a daughter. Those he killed, but he never harmed the women. Some he even blessed with children. Runts. Small, puny things, and not one with the gift. But he was eager today, he heard a fanciful tales of boy Wizard from the village. If there really was one with the true gift, even if it was not one his bastards then this day was really blessed by gods, old and new. Varamyr Sixskins would know the truth of that soon enough.

The power Varamyr wielded was fraction of what a true skinchanger can summon. That was why it was important to be cautions. For all he knew this boy could be trained and he did not want to start his second life so soon.

Haggon had trained him well but his teacher was a moral fool and feared gods above all. What were the gods, but flights of fancy of normal people who didn't understand the supernatural. I will test him first, if he is truly gifted then I will tame him, raise him, teach him and when time is right I will wear his skin, Varamyr thought, fantasizing about the marvelous power he could wield in a Wizards body. It will be hardest skinchanging he had ever done, men were always most willful of souls and a young men most of them. But trust was the only way to the soul and he needed the boy to trust him.

Shadowcat trotted quietly around the village and entered it cautiously. The streets were empty, except for a small wolf that darted away as they came near. The huts were new and strong. Varamyr followed the shdowcat, his shadowcat through the village until they came to a hut which didn't have a fleck of snow on its roof. Oh how curious. The shadowcat stopped suddenly, rolling its eyes nervously.

Going in another skinchangers territory was always a big risk, though they had a government of sorts, skinchangers were paranoid sort. You don't know when a giant werewolf is going to rip you apart. His shadowcat refused to go near the snowless hut. He had half the mind to slip in its skin and scout first but leaving his body defenseless this near a skinchangers home was foolishness of enormous magnitude.

As he neared the door, Varamyr could feel the heat warming his body. Varamyr's thoughts were still whirling when the door opened. A tall raven-haired youth stood in the door. He was holding a wooden stick in one hand and a short golden sword with the other. And then he spoke, "Who are you skinchanger and what do you want from me?"

A/N: Please forgive the awful grammar.