(At this point in the novel, the Baron and his crew are introduced.)
The Baron Pan Bordolo always waxed his mustache. He used a treatment called Liverpool Silver, which smelled a little like dried clams stewed in musket grease, and he applied it every morning. He would curl the ends into perfect ringlets which would close around either side of his nose when he smiled.
The Baron was not nearly old nor stuffy enough for such a fashion to look becoming on him. He claimed to wear the curled stache for two reasons: first, that it made his eyes twinkle, and second, that no matter how harsh the wind, his mustache would never freeze.
This seems a somewhat irrelevant function, given that—when we meet him—the Baron’s eye brows and lashes were entirely caked in ice and snow. But because his Liverpudlian Anti-Freeze kept the frost off his upper lip, the Baron remained happy, even when his companions were not.
It was quite cold on the mountain—to all parties but the Baron’s mustache. They had been walking for hours along peaks and through snow drifts that were well-higher than their knees, and which had quite surely soaked all of their trouser cuffs.
The five walked steadily eastward in single file, with the Baron taking second. In front of him walked a thin man; behind him followed an old man, a short man, and a giant man, who, with the help of two noble beasts of burden, towed a roofed wooden cart.
In a clarion voice, that rang out with the grandeur of churchbells, the Baron called over the wind, “Fletcher! Any sign of the road?”
The thin man called Fletcher had long, golden-brown hair, which was always tethered behind his head. He had large eyes that magnified his every expression and gave him a childlike fascination with just about everything. Everything, that is, except snails; Fletcher despised snails.
“Nothing, boss!” he called back, “If there’s a path anywhere ‘round here, we’ve already lost it.”
The short man behind the old man was holding a sharp black cane, which he struck through the snow. Upon impact, he tore the skewer from the earth and authoritatively declared, “No one’s walked on this spot for a hundred years.”
“Thank you, Geru!” the Baron shouted. “Oswald, can you see any lights ahead?”
The old man, straight grey hair streaming down from beneath his tweed cap, squinted against the pelting snow and demanded, “What, what, what?”
The short man called Geru, a short, square face to match his short, square body, reached up to grab hold of Oswald’s elbow. The old man called Oswald started, with another pair of shivering, “What”s as Geru yelled up to him, his high clanging voice breaking against the cold air:
“He asked if you see any lights ahead!”
“Oh! Oh, lights! Yes, lights!” the old man muttered—or was possibly yelling; we cannot be certain. Oswald proceeded to rummage through a long faded coat, fishing about for a telescope, which turned out to be over his shoulder. Putting the telescope up to his eye, he announced, “It’s white, sir Baron. White, white all around.”
“Well, this is no good,” said the Baron, and his mustache bobbed in agreement. “Pigby!” he called to the last in their line, “how are the yaks looking?”
The giant man called Pigby had a thick leather belt about his chest. The belt was tethered to the wagon tongue which was tethered to the yaks and thereafter to the wagon. To the trained eye, it would have appeared that Pigby was pulling more wagon weight than either of the beasts beside him. The giant man had no hair and no hat to match, and was blacker than any single person on the continent of Europe.
Pigby looked to the large animals on either side of him and bellowed up to the Baron, “They’ll be needing a rest soon, sir!”
“We might need to make camp for the night,” said the Baron.
“Night?” said Geru, a mode of irritation in his tone, “It might as well be mid-afternoon for all we can see through the clouds.”
It was of course late afternoon, but Geru was right in that it made no difference. They had walked into a doozie of a blizzard during a doozie of a winter, and the sky looked to be night above anyway.
The Baron stopped walking. The old man, the short man, and finally the giant man with the two beasts also stopped. The thin man walked only a few paces farther before turning back to face his lord for instructions.
Baron Pan Bordolo sighed. He reached into his pocket and drew out a chain, at the end of which was a round gold locket. He opened what should have been a compass, but which turned out to be a mirror. He tugged twice at the edge of his stache, inspecting the state of the wax, then sighed a final time before closing it.