I don't own the characters of Ranger's Apprentice. Disclaimer for whole story.

SPOILERS from Book 5 onwards.

No Flames, Reviews Appreciated.

'Loyalty to Araluen comes before loyalty to anything else.' When Gilan takes on Halt's advice and becomes cold to those around him, neglect other Rangers, he finds one person who still manages to warm his heart.

Jenny/Gilan, Will/Alyss, Horace/Cassie

Chapter 1:

|| Priorities ||


The shadows stretched out beyond the tree that stood firmly against the cold winds. The tree's branches swayed and bent in the wind, but the trunk was so great that it withheld the force of the breeze.

Below the thick tree sat a solitary figure.

His face was hidden deep in a cowl that shimmered with greys and greens, so that anyone who wandered past would not notice him unless he made movement.

Halt squatted easily, one arm resting on his hip, in range to grab his saxe knife if need be, as if expecting danger.

Of course, if Halt was facing real danger, he wouldn't rely on his saxe, but of his longbow that was slung across his shoulder.

Which led to the next point: Halt wasn't in danger. He was however, practising with his apprentice.

The objective for him was to evade his apprentice until sundown, which was not far, as the shadows indicated the suns position from where he was.

Halt had so far not seen anything that would show that his apprentice had caught his tracks around the forest near where his cabin lay. But then again, if his apprentice was acting like a true Ranger, he would not give away any signs if he was anywhere near Halt.

Carefully, he pulled out the saxe to tilt it around the tree, so he could see a rough reflection in the blade.

There was nobody in sight, not that Halt expected anyone.

With footsteps that were quieter that any skilled hunting animal, he crept around the huge tree, using the dappled shadows to conceal his movement, until he came to the next tree that would hide him.

Satisfied he had not been seen, Halt gently let the breath he had held.

As Halt glanced at the sky, his brown hair fell across his face, reminding him again that he needed to cut it. The sun was well near sunset, hovering slightly above the hills that lay west of Halt's position.

There would be maybe 10 minutes of this exercise left, before Halt could walk back to his cabin, carefree.

Deciding he may as well begin making his way back to his home, Halt once again used his saxe knife to see if anyone lay beyond his hiding place.

When nothing came up in the make-shift mirror, he got ready to rise to his feet, as quietly as possible.

As he did, a slight crack of a branch behind him, made him freeze.

With concealed movement, he used the saxe to reflect backwards, and saw only a mouse scurrying across the forest floor. Checking to make sure it was only a mouse, Halt turned around, although it wasn't very noticeably due to his cowl.

He resisted the urge to grunt at himself, before a thin blade pressed quickly but gently to his neck.

'Gotcha,' whispered a young male's voice.

Halt closed his eyes tightly, his mouth setting into a thin, grim line. He let out a sigh that made the young man behind him laugh.

'Gilan, how did you catch me? Gods, there was only 5 minutes left. I thought you'd given up.' He grumbled.

Gilan laughed once more, sheathing the blade that he had placed to Halt's neck.

'Ah Halt... you know me. I've got my ways.'

Halt turned to narrow his eyes at his apprentice.

Gilan may only have a week before his final assessment, but he was still an apprentice, even if an accomplished one.

A Ranger should never be arrogant.

Then again, Halt thought. I didn't think he'd make the time limit, and look what happened.

But Halt would never voice his thoughts to his already cocky apprentice.

'Well you passed the test, obviously. It was a surprise you used your sword though, I thought it would make too much noise.' Halt observed.

Ranger's used bows, stealth and two knives balanced for throwing, the saxe able to block sword strikes as well, but not swords.

Gilan's father was a Battlemaster and although Gilan had chosen to be Halt's apprentice, he had learnt to use a sword from a young age, and used it still in his Ranger training.

'I guess I wanted to show off.' Gilan said, and winked at his grumpy master.

Halt narrowed his eyes once more with his brow furrowed, that the added cowl only made it more intimidating.

'Gilan, the Ranger Gathering is in a few days. I have no doubt you will pass the assessment, even if you do get nervous. But there are some things we need to talk about. After the test and when you are a full Ranger, you won't be with me anymore.'

'I know that.' Gilan replied, a grin spreading across his handsome face.

'Well you are going to have a whole Fief to yourself. All the people under it will look towards you for guidance. The Battlemaster and Baron or Lord will look for your advice as well, that's a huge responsibility.' Halt went on.

'I know Halt. Do you think I can't handle it?' Gilan asked, his face crestfallen.

'I just think you aren't taking this seriously enough. You can't be arrogant, and you can't show off all the time Gilan. I think once you are on your own, your priorities might be out of order.'

Gilan frowned at his master, his expression echoing one of Halt's favourite.

Halt for his part, chose to give an expressionless face altogether, to show the seriousness of his words.

'I am loyal Halt. You know that.' Gilan offered his friend and mentor.

'To yourself maybe.' Halt replied automatically, his voice sharper than intended.

It hurt to be so harsh to Gilan. He had been like a son to him the past few years. Halt would miss him dearly when he went to look after his own Fief. But he knew he could not let Gilan become a full Ranger without telling him what he needed to tell him, so his conscience could rest.

'Gilan, if you are to become an Araluen Ranger, you must follow this simple rule:

Loyalty to Araluen, and the King, comes before your loyalty to everything else. Including yourself.'

After a long pause in which both men stared at each other, Gilan nodded. He knew Halt was right.

Halt was always right.

'I understand. I will be loyal to the Kingdom, I promise.' He vowed.

Halt recognised the sincerity in his friend's voice, and he clapped Gilan on the back, to ease the tension that had risen between them.

'I know. You never break your promises.' Halt told him, as they began their way back to Halt's cabin.

Gilan rested the back of his head on his hands. He lay on the soft grass outside his cabin home.

His cloak stopped the ground from itching his back, as well as blending him into the background. Not that passers-by would wander near a Ranger's home.

He had received an invitation from Lady Pauline earlier that day from Castle Redmont.

A wedding invitation.

Gilan was incredibly happy for Halt to find someone to settle down with. He may be a hero, but he was getting old, and although he would never tell Halt that, it made him feel better than he could have a slightly quieter life than previous.

But Halt's unexpected invitation to his wedding irked Gilan. The invite had forced him to reflect upon a memory.

All those years ago, before he had passed his apprentice assessment and become Ranger Gilan of Meric Fief, Halt had told him that loyalty to the Kingdom came before everything else.

Gilan was not an unfriendly person. He had many Ranger friends, and the Meric Fief Battlemaster and Baron appreciated him as a friend, not just as a fellow advisor.

He had made good friends with Halt's current apprentice, Will, and was good friends with Halt himself.

But he did not appeal to strangers. He was regarded as secretive and mysterious, as many Ranger's were. It frustrated Gilan that he could not show his true personality to those people, and prove them wrong.

If Gilan was being fair, he knew he had many friends that worked with the Rangers. And Halt wasn't marrying a random peasant lady from some farming family. He was marrying the Diplomatic Service Craftmaster. Lady Pauline helped many of the more dangerous Ranger missions in her lifetime, and so she wouldn't be a burden on Halt's work ethic as a Ranger.

But Gilan longed for that partner in life, if not now then eventually, but he couldn't see anyone that suited his life as a Ranger.

There were few females in the Corps, not due to sexism, simply that many girls chose to be Couriers rather than Rangers. Apart from Lady Pauline, and Will's crush, Alyss (Gilan was one of many that noticed this fact), Gilan had not worked with other Couriers in detail, only messengers once in a while.

He stood up, brushing off grass from his cloak, and stepped inside to make his dinner, before deciding to visit the village in the morning to buy a wedding gift for Halt.

He may be jealous of his previous mentor and friend, but he was very happy for him too.

Gilan knew grinding his teeth in thought would not help him in anyway, so he cleared his mind and focused on simply being Ranger Gilan for now.

Although he knew he would probably return to the problem tomorrow.

Author's Note:

I thought this pairing was cute... so I decided to take up the challenge of writing about Jenny/Gilan. The 7th book hints the relationship, and so does Will in the 8th, so if the story becomes greater than a few chapters, it will most likely be different to the events in the book. (So bear with me.)

Reviews are always appreciated, hence my appreciation of reviewers! :)

I'll try and stay in character I promise.

- Mae.