The plot thickens.. haha! I own nothing used in the Ranger's Apprentice Novels. They all belong to John Flanagan (the lucky bastard!)

Will felt my knife to his neck with crystal sharpness. The fire steadily moved toward them, its raw power clenching the grounds along the way. Will could smell the air heavily scented with the pungent thickness of smoke. Will moved to grab the mans arm but, he pressed the knife sharper into his neck. He could feel the knife dig into his skin with a sort of hot prickling sensation.

"Don't move unless you want you neck's skin to be sliced slow in layers," said the dark man, slowly and dispassionately.

"What do you want," snarled Will, as he reached for the smaller dagger hidden in the folds of cloak.

"For you to come quietly and stop pulling your hidden dagger," the man commented casually. Will let his fingers slide a tiny ways away from the dagger, keeping himself near enough to it to grab it quickly. He turned slightly sideways and glanced at the man with his peripheral vision. He was a big man at least six and a half feet tall and two hundred fifty pounds. He was in good shape with bulging muscles. He had stubble and quick, witty, dark eyes. His hair was a crimson red color that was illuminated by the roaring fires.

"I do suppose that you are familiar with the geography of these realms, Ranger," said the other man in a kind of commanding and deep voice. He kept looking a the fire, watching it dance sand move closer.

"Not enough to help you, you--" Will started and cut off as he felt the knife slowly dig into the tender skin of his neck.

"I need even the tiniest help and I think you are perfect for a job like this," commented the man, turning around. He had scars carved out of his face but, looked charming and attractive even so. His light blue eyes took in every feature and his dark hair swayed in the slight breeze.

"You know something about what I want-- the land the earth and the Three Step Pass," he said looking at Will as a expectant Father would look at a son, " I suggest that you help or I'm afraid that the Rangers and the Diplomatic Services will have some nastily affecting deaths in the near future.

He turned back to Will smiling with nearly sadistic glee.

"What's so important about the Three Step Pass that makes you want it so bad," Will demanded, as he felt the knife slowly going taking another skin.

"No one talks to the Master that way," growled the large man from behind Will.

The man stood and watched as the larger man striped a few layers of skin. Will nearly cried out in pain as he got to he much more tender parts of the skin. Will writhed back forth but, the man had a firm grip on Will.

"That's enough, John," the other man said, after the third slice of think skin was stripped away. Will panted as the searing pain fled through him. He could feel the darkness edging all around him and making him feel dizzy and weak. Everything around him started to swirl and he could feel himself slipping away.

"Bring him to the wagon and help put this fire out," was the last thing Will had heard before everything went black.

.........................................................................................

Back in Redmont, Alyss woke with a dreadful feeling. She had seen Will being taken prisoner but, had been so useless to stop it. She could feel the cold winter air come in from her bedroom window , tainted with flecks of memories of intense heat and pain. She could feel her body sweating from the dream. She went quickly to the desk and looked at the letter she had written him. It was short due to her lack of time. She could feel her eyes watering. She still hadn't forgotten the pain she had felt when she learned that Will had been kidnapped, last time. She knew that it would be too late but, she wrote a quick letter to both Halt and Arald speaking of the dream and its meanings. She hope d that it would be enough to help him. She quickly dressed and headed up to Baron Arald's study.

The guards of Arald's study noticed her and asked," Courier Alyss, what brings you so late."

"I have an important message for Baron Arald. Is he there?"

"He left but, he should be back soon," responded the guard.

"Thank-you. I'll leave this on his desk," Alyss said, opening the door to the baron's study. It was warm and furnished simply. The room was dark but, she could see well enough. She placed the note gently and left the room. She set off to give Halt the next letter-- and she had a feeling she was going to be doing a lot of talking. She sighed and started down the stairs. She journeyed the long way Halt's cabin at the edge of the forest. A surprising situation met her eyes as she saw Halt fighting a large man with his Saxe dagger.