“You had this young man with you for... what, six years?"
Halt shrugged. "Near enough," he replied.
"And did you ever understand a word he was saying?"
"Not a lot of the time, no," Halt said.
Crowley shook his head in wonder. "It's just as well he didn't go into the Diplomatic Service. We'd be at war with half a dozen countries by now if he was on the loose."
Will drew a deep breath to begin talking. He noticed that both men took an involuntary half step backward and he decided he'd better try to keep it as simple as possible.”
“Halt! How are you? What have you been doing? Where's Abelard? How's Crowley? What's this all about?"
"I'm glad to see you rate my horse more important than our Corps Commandant," Halt said, one eyebrow rising in the expression that Will knew so well. Early in their relationship, he had thought it was an expression of displeasure. He had learned years ago that it was, for Halt, the equivalent of a smile.”
“I circled the site before I came in. If there's anyone within five kilometers, I'll eat my quiver."
Halt regarded him, eyebrow arched once more. "Anyone?"
"Anyone other than Crowley," Will amended, making a dismissive gesture. "I saw him watching me from that hide he always uses about two kilometers out. I assumed he'd be back in here by now."
Halt cleared his throat loudly. "Oh, you saw him, did you?" he said. "I imagine he'll be overjoyed to hear that." Secretly, he was pleased with his former pupil. In spite of his curiosity and obvious excitement, he hadn't forgotten to take the precautions that had been drilled into him. THat augured well for what lay ahead, Halt thought, a sudden grimness settling onto his manner.
Will didn't notice the momentary change of mood. He was loosening Tug
saddle girth. As he spoke, his voice was muffled against the horses's flank. "he's becoming too much a creature of habit," he said. "he's used that hide for the last three Gatherings. It's time he tried something new. Everyone must be onto it by now."
Rangers constantly competed with each other to see before being seen and each year's Gathering was a time of heightened competition. Halt nodded thoughtfully. Crowley had constructed teh virtually invisible observation post some four years previously. Alone among the younger Rangers, Will had tumbled to it after one year. Halt had never mentioned to him that he was the only one who knew of Crowley's hide. The concealed post was the Ranger Commandant's pride and joy.
"Well, perhaps not everyone," he said. Will emerged from behind his horse, grinning at the thought of the head of the Ranger Corps thinking he had remained hidden from sight as he watched Will's approach.
"All the same, perhaps he's getting a bit long in the tooth to be skulking around hiding in the bushes, don't you think?" he said cheerfully. Halt considered the question for a moment.
"Long in the tooth? Well, that's one opinion. Mind you, his silent movement skills are still as good as ever," he said meaningfully.
The grin on Will's face slowly faded. He resisted the temptation to look over his shoulder.
"He's standing behind me, isn't he?" he asked Halt. THe older Ranger nodded.
"He's standing behind me, isn't he?" Will continued and Halt nodded once more.
"Is he...close enough to have heard what I said?" Will finally managed to ask, fearin teh worst. This time, Halt didn't have to answer.
"Oh, good grief no," came a familiar voice from behind him. "he's so old and decrepit these days he's as deaf as a post."
Will's shoulders sagged and he turned to see the sandy-haired Commandant standing a few meters away.
The younger man's eyes dropped.
"Hullo, Crowley," he said, then mumbled, "Ahhh...I'm sorry about that."
Crowley glared at teh young Ranger for a few more seconds, then he couldn't help teh grin breaking out on his face.
"No harm done," he said, adding with a small note of triumph, "It's not often these days I amange to get the better of one of you young ones."
Secretly, he was impressed at teh news that Will had spotted his hiding place. Only the sarpest eyes could have picked it. Crowley had been in the business of seeing without being seen for thirty years or more, and despite what Will believed, he was still an absolute master of camouflage and unseen movement.”
“You won't get much with only ten men," Will said, in a reasonable tone of voice. Gundar snorted angrily.
"Ten? I've got twenty-seven men behind me!" There was an angry growl of assent from his men-although Ulf didn't join in, Gundar noticed.
This time, when the Ranger spoke, there was no trace of the pleasant, reasonable tone. Instead, the voice was hard and cold.
"You haven't reached the castle yet," Will said. "I've got twenty-three arrows in my quiver still, and a further dozen in my packsaddle. And you've got several kilometers to go-all within bowshot of the trees there. Bad shot as I am, I should be able to account for more than half your men. Then you'll be facing the garrison with just ten men.”
“The the uncertainty was dispelled and the melancholy lifted as he saw a familiar stocky figure moving near one of the tents.
"Halt!" he cried out gladly, and a slight pressure with his knees set Tug galloping through the deserted Gathering site. The dog, caught by surprise, barked once, then shot in pursuit like an arrow from a bow.
The grim-faced Ranger straightened from the fire at the sound of his former student's voice. He stood, hands on hips and a frown on his face as Will and Tug careered toward him. But inside, there was a lightening of his heart that he never failed to feel when in Will's company. Not for the first time, the realization hit Halt that Will was no longer a mere boy. No one wore the Silver Oakleaf if he hadn't proven himself to be worthy. Despite himself, he felt a surge of pride.”
“Don't concentrate on the obvious. They might want you to miss something else.”
“The mace prodded
Will in the back again. That little habit was starting to annoy him and he was tempted to take the weapon from the sergeant major and do a little prodding of his own.”
“It's a lot easier to heal an
injured body than a damaged soul.”
“Face your fears, Halt had always thought him, and more often than not they fade like mist in the sunshine”
“Be beholden to no one, he had said. Make sure you owe nobody any favors.”
“You'd be surprised what people will believe. Usually, the bigger and the more improbable the lie, the more willing they are to believe it.”
“As I said, when a person is unpopular, it's so easy to think badly of him”
“There was nothing he could do about it, so there was no point worrying about it.”
“lay quietly. “Were you planning on leaving us?” he added mildly.”
“I see your capacity for addition has improved,”
“A Ranger carries the lives of two dozen men with him, the old saying went. Edwina thought then that John Buttle might need to watch his”
“I don`t know if he was English but he spoke like it. He said good afternoon when everybody else said hardy weather or she looks like rain.”
“Was that what it meant to be alive - moving from a brightly lit corridor into a darkened room at every step? Sometimes it felt that way.”
“I love you" Ty said, the quiet words devoid of any self-consciousness of his usual bravado. " And I've never been able to say that before with such conviction. I can't remember a time when you weren't the first thing I thought of, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I don't care what stands in our way.”
“If you don't agree with me, I have two words for you: shut the fuck up.”
“Вообще-то, им выдалась такая неделька, что после нее вполне законно ввязаться в массовую драку.”
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