It was through many sleepless night and many miles traveled that Cadeyrn Cinderclaw finally came to find the humble, quiet village of Westfall, and in the wee hours of the morning, tired footpaws were finally given a much needed rest.
A tiny gathering of homes and shops, centered around an ornate, sculpted fountain, Westfall was not protected by an army, a magical enchantment, or even a simple wall of brick around the perimeter. The harsh trails leading up to the village could scarcely be called such, and there were those who claimed that there were more bodies around Westfall than there were trees.
The trees were actually quite plentiful, and though no bodies could easily be found, the warning was clear, so much that wizards across the whole of Canada knew the saying: “Those who are lost will find death before they find Westfall.”
Cadeyrn Cinderclaw was determined to change all of that. His was a hearty and brave soul, so much that he alienated his fellow wizards from time to time. He was called arrogant and brash, and he knew that if he made the pilgrimage to Westfall, he would have to make it alone.
So great was his joy when he arrived at the village that he fell down to his knees and scooped pawfuls of snow up into his palms and threw it up into the air, allowing the flakes to fall back down into the nooks of his fur. His pants were in tatters, and his cloak scarcely reached the small of his back, but somehow, he’d survived the lengthy climb to the place where the greatest of all magic was said to exist.
His jubilation was cut short, however, by the complete and utter lack of magic in the village. Cold as the trails leading up to Westfall were, there was a bitterness on the breeze unlike anything Cadeyrn had ever known. The thick and plentiful fur upon his body did nothing to disguise the blades of frost that cut into his skin, and the rumor of hearty, brave villagers was struck down by his own eyes; not a single soul dared to wander outside of their cottages.
Were he not so brash, Cadeyrn would surely have passed away on his knees, left to be a statue of frozen flesh and snow, but his quest could not end there. Clinging to the excitement of his triumph, he burst through the door of the first cottage to his right and collapsed into the home of a timid couple who had never known life outside of the village. The faintest aura of red surrounded Cadeyrn, and the unusual warmth creeping off of his body filled them with a determination unlike anything they’d ever known.
It was just enough to help them past their fear of the stranger. Though Caderyn could scarcely move any longer, the cowardly cats found his presence to be inspiring, and they lifted his body into a small guest bed, where they covered him in blankets and tended to his wounds.
“Why do you people live this way?” he asked, as the hours went by, and his body rapidly recovered. “Why would you allow your village to fall into such a terrible state?”
The blowing snow and freezing rain kept Westfall in a constant state of white drifts and bitter, deadly cold. Many of the houses were difficult to see at all, and though the village was hardly wider than a one hundred men standing shoulder to shoulder, the terrible weather made it nigh impossible to see from one end to the other.
“Our ancestors told us that Westfall was once a calm and peaceful paradise, but when the magic in our land was stolen to create a powerful artifact, nature itself turned on our people and tried to destroy us. No one dared to oppose the wizard who created the object, and we lot were too weak and cowardly to leave before terrible winds and bitter cold engulfed our whole village. Now, it is certain death to try and leave this place! We rarely even get the chance to leave the house!”
A man of great, muscular stature, Caderyn Cinderclaw looked like a giant against the smaller, lighter frames of the snow leopards. They were clearly starving, but what little food they had in their cottage, they were willing to share with the canine, despite it meaning that they would soon starve. Caderyn knew that there was no way to change the weather itself, and there was too much work to be done to ever return the village to its former glory.
He could think of only one option. The snow leopards were terrified at the idea of leaving, the same as Caderyn’s colleagues were terrified of going to Westfall in the first place. Brave, brash, and perhaps a little arrogant, Caderyn never thought he would fail to reach Westfall, but he also never believed it would be in such a dire state.
Now, he truly believed his journey to be fate, more than a cocky parade.
“The glory of Westfall will live on in legend,” Caderyn suggested, “But her people will perish if they don’t leave immediately.”
“But we know nothing of the outside world! We barely know our own neighbors!”
“And you will learn, strangers. Just as you have helped me in my hour of need, so will the world help you, if you so much as give it the chance to do so.”
The morning sun had long passed over the village, and Caderyn waited for it to come around again the next day before he took to the village fountain.
“Villagers of Westfall! This is your greatest hour! Rumors of your magic have existed for years, but if you stay any longer, it will disappear forever! Now is the time to go out into the world and prove yourselves!”
At first, no one answered the call. He stood by the fountain, where water last ran decades ago, and he waited.
Snow gathered on the bridge of his muzzle, and still, he waited.
Ice began to build around the gaps in his paws, and still, he waited.
It wasn’t until the sun, nearly blotted out by the thick wall of clouds above, shined directly on Caderyn Cinderclaw that the snow leopards who saved him finally emerged, and stood with him in the fountain. They, too, called out to their fellow villagers, and one by one, doors began to open, and weak, starving villagers looked fearfully upon the stranger that Caderyn was.
In their moment of greatest struggle, however, he appeared not as the demon of the outside world that they feared, but as the angel of mercy who would lead them from their struggles.
It was not wisdom, not grace or determination, but hot, burning passion that opened the way forth for the villagers of Westfall. They trusted in Caderyn, and when every cottage was boarded up, and every ration gathered, he lead what became known as the first “March of Westfall,” wherein brave souls journey to the forgotten village and camp there overnight, to pay their respects to the greatness it once held.
After days of hiking, on the other side of the bitterly cold valleys that surrounded Westfall, many of the villagers saw the unabashed sun for the first time, and Caderyn Cinderclaw was red with the glory of its warmth. The snow leopards were saved by the same bravery that he was once admonished for, and among them, the most magically inclined followed Caderyn well beyond the reaches of their first victory march.
They were his first students at Dogwarts, when the doors finally opened…