Why Will can only be a Ranger. It's like hitting a target.

There are times during his apprenticeship that Will thinks he's not meant to be a Ranger. He can shoot with the best of them and become invisible in the blink of an eye, but when Halt starts taking him out on real Ranger duties, he begins to have his doubts. Halt speaks of Ranger's as the kingdoms shaowy spys, an unseen line of protection, and Will is happy to be part of such an important, isolated group. But underneath the lessons in stealth and arrow-shooting and knife-throwing there is an unspoken statement.

He will use these skills to kill. He is being taught to murder someone and leave no trace. He is an assassin.

Will spent a lot of his early life dreaming of being a warrior, a knight, a hero. He thought of the adoration of the ones he protected, the ones he had saved. Never did he think of those he would kill to protect them. Not once did he realize his enemies had families who would mourn them, or that the other side had reasons as good as his own, lives of their own. He was young and untouched by death or loss. Even his parents could not count, for they were dead before he knew them.

The he and Halt encounter a bandit's ambush.

They notice the signs far before, and Halt decided they are to split up and circle around, catch the bandits unaware. The full Ranger trusts him to accomplish this task. Will's group has three men in it; he can see them.

It's like hitting a target.

The first man goes down with an arrow behind his knee. The other two are frozen with shock long enough that he can get a second one. Then the third is on his feet and barreling toward will with a huge axe raised above his head and Will's starting to sweat. He fires. The bow slips in his hands, his aim is way off. That arrow's not going to hit--

The third man goes down with a feathered shaft protruding from his left eye.

It was like hitting a target. Like taking down a rabbit, or a deer. Hunting. It's like the man isn't even human.

Will is numb at first, because it doesn't really hit home that he's ended a sentient life. He knows the man's not getting up again, but somehow he can't believe that one sharp little stick can take down so big an opponent, who was just so alive moments ago. It's all very distant.

It hits him later, and as he's doubling over and seeing his lunch again, he wants the numbness back.

And Will knows he can never be anything but a Ranger, because that one was enough. Rangers do not have to see the faces of their victims, as knights do. They do not have to acknowledge the humanity of those they kill to protect.

Will has to force himself not to say anything to Horace every time they meet and he sees a look in his friend's eyes that wasn't there when they were younger.

I'm sorry. He sees blood on Horace's hands and his own clean ones and wants to burn the warrior's sword in a fire fed by his bow.

I've had this lying around on paper for a while, decided to finally type it up. Ranger's Apprentice is one of my favorite series. I wish I could have done the last bit better, but my eyes are burning and I need sleep. So, meh. I leave it.