“...at the time, King Herbert felt that to remain safe, the kingdom needed an effective intelligence force."
"An intelligent force?" said Will.
"Not intelligent. Intelligence. Although it does help if your intelligence force was also intelligent.”
“People will think what they want to," he said quietly. Never take too much notice of it.”
“Strange, he thought, how seldom people tend to look up”
“Halt looked up at the trees above him.
"Why does this boy ask so many questions?" he asked the trees.
Naturally, they didn't answer.”
“Halt Halt," said Gilan stepping out into the open.”
“I said, names aren't important," he repeated. There was a silence between them for some seconds, then the Ranger said: "Do you know what is important?"
Will shook his head.
"Supper is important!”
“Once you best a man, never gloat. Be generous and find something in his actions to praise. He won't enjoy being bested but he'll make a good face about it. Show him you appreciate it. Praise can win you a friend. Gloating will only ever make enemies.”
“Bryn looked from Halt to Horace and back again. He saw no pity in either face.
"I don't want to," he said in a very small voice. Horace found it hard to reconcile this cringing figure with the sneering bully who had been making his life hell for the past few months. Halt appeared to consider Bryn's statement.
"We'll note your protest," he said cheerfully. "Now continue, please.”
“Take one more step and I'll put an arrow through you."
Will tried to model his voice on the quiet, threatening tone Halt had used. He had retrieved several of his arrows from the nearest target and now he had one of them ready, laid on the bowstring. Halt glanced around approvingly.
"Good idea," he said. "Aim for the left calf. It's a very painful wound.”
“It's the Kalkara. they're hunting. ”
“Halt's heavy-shafted, long arrow was almost buried in its side, driven there by the full power of the Ranger's mighty longbow. He'd stuck the charging monster right behind the left shoulder, driving the head of the arrow into and through the pig's massive heart.
A perfect shot.
Halt reined in Abelard in a shower of snow and hurled himself to the ground, throwing his arms around the shaking boy. Will, overcome with relief, buried his face into the rough cloth of the Rang'ers cloak. He didn't want anyone to see the tears of relief that wer streaming down his face.
Gently, Halt took the knife from WIll's hand.
"What on earth where you hoping to do with this?" he asked.”
“The Rangers were founded over one hundred and fifty years ago, in King Herbert's reign. Do you know anything about him?" Halt looked sideways at the boy sitting beside him, tossing the question out quickly to see his response.
Will hesitated. He vaugely remembered the name from history lessons in the Ward, but he couldn't remember any details. Still, he decided he'd try to bluff his way through it...
"Oh ... yes," he said, "King Herbert. We learned about him."
"Really?" said the Ranger expansively. "Perhaps you could tell me a little about him?" He leaned back and crossed his legs, getting himself comfortable...
"He was ..." he hesitated, pretending to gather his thoughts. "The king." That much he was sure of. Halt merely smiled and made a rolling gesture with his hand that meant go on.
"He was the king ... a hundred and fifty years ago," Will said, trying to sound certain of his facts. The Ranger smiled at him, gesturing for him to continue yet again.
"Ummm ... well, I seem to recall that he was the one who founded the Ranger Corps," he said hopefully, and Halt raised his eyebrows in mock surprise.
"Really? You recall that, do you?”
“Sometimes, he thought wryly, a reputation for being right all the time could be a heavy burden.”
“What about you three, where are you going?"
Even before Halt answered, Will knew what he was going to say. But that didn't make it any less terrifying or blood-chilling when the words were said.
"We're going after the Kalkara.”
“What Rangers do, or more correctly, what Rangers’ apprentices do, is the housework.”
Will had a sinking feeling as the suspicion struck him that he’d made a tactical error. “The…housework?” he repeated. Halt nodded, looking distinctly pleased with himself.
“That’s right. Take a look around.” He paused, gesturing around the interior of the cabin for Will to do as he suggested, then continued, “See ay servants?”
“No, sir,” Will said slowly.
“No sir indeed!” Halt said. “Because this isn’t a mighty castle with a staff of servants. This is a lowly cabin. And it has water to be fetched and firewood to be chopped and floors to be swept and rugs to be beaten. And who do you suppose might do all those things, boy?”
Will tried to think of some answer other than the one which now seemed inevitable. Nothing came to mind, so he finally said, in a defeated tone, “Would that be me, sir?”
“I believe it would be,” the Ranger told him, then rattled off a list of instructions crisply. “Bucket there. Barrel outside the door. Water in the river. Ax in the lean-to, firewood behind the cabin. Broom by the door and I believe you can probably see where the floor might be?”
“Yes, sir,” said Will, beginning to roll up his sleeves.”
“The sun was trembling on the brink of the world, the shadows at their longest, and they still had several kilometers to go.”
“Then he had run, unarmed and bleeding, trusting to the maze like confusion of the ruins to evade the monster behind him.”
“I'm sure we're all nervous," Alyss said. She directed one of her rare smiles at Will. "We'd be stupid not to be."
"Well, I'm not!" Horace said, then reddened as Alyss raised one eyebrow and Jenny giggled.”
“Will hadn’t seen him come into the room. He realized that the mysterious figure must have slipped in through a side door while everyone’s attention was on the Craftmasters as they made their entrance. Now he stood behind the Baron’s chair and slightly to one side, dressed in his usual brown and gray clothes and wrapped in his long, mottled gray and green Ranger’s cloak. Halt was an unnerving person. He had a habit of coming up on you when you least expected it—and you never heard his approach. The superstitious villagers believed that Rangers practiced a form of magic that made them invisible to ordinary people. Will wasn’t sure if he believed that—but he wasn’t sure he disbelieved it either. He wondered why Halt was here today. He wasn’t recognized as one of the Craftmasters and, as far as Will knew, he hadn’t attended a Choosing session prior to this one.”
“Halt and Gilan looked at him, then looked at each other, and said in chorus: “You’re an apprentice. You’re not ready to think.” Then”
“was an old Ranger joke and they all smiled.”
“Then, marveling at the recuperative powers and endurance of the Ranger horse breed, he tightened the girths on Blaze’s saddle and swung astride the bay, groaning softly as he did so. Ranger horses might recover quickly. Ranger apprentices took a little longer. It”
“Horace was big for his age and a natural athlete. The chances that he would be refused were virtually nonexistent. Horace was exactly the type of recruit that Sir Rodney looked for in his warrior apprentices. Strong, athletic, fit. And, thought Will a trifle sourly, not too bright.”
“Dear girl with the red scarf,
People will come and go in our lives. Most of them we won’t give a second thought to as soon as the door closes behind them. But I had always imagined that you would leave the deepest, everlasting mark.
“The first and last duty of the lover of the game of baseball,” Peavine’s book began, whether in the stands or on the field, is the same as that of the lover of life itself: to pay attention to it. When it comes to the position of catcher, as all but fools and shortstops will freely acknowledge, this solemn requirement is doubled.”
“And she said that sometimes you wish for something very hard, it can kind of come true inside your own head, and it can seem real.”
“The uproar among the masses would be suppressed, then the information discredited and forgotten.”
“Fuck…Alexis…Lex. I need you…God, I need you so bad I can’t fucking see.”
“I think I want you more than anything I’ve ever wanted. Not in all my life.”
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