Congratulations to Arlothia and pixie blue, you got the movie quote! It was from How to Train Your Dragon, and the original quote was, "We're Vikings. It's an occupational hazard." I changed it from Vikings to Rangers. ^_^ Yeah, I'm not sure any of you remember that thing from last chapter… It's been a while. I'm so sorry!
Like I said in my A/N that I'm replacing with this chapter, I've been having a major case of writer's block because I had absolutely NO IDEA what to write. So thank you SO MUCH to those who reviewed to give me ideas, I'm combining a few of the ones I like best that could fit in. I got the plot mostly ready now, so enjoy! Oh, and thank you Arlothia for reminding me to update this thing or it might have been accidentally abandoned… O_O
Last thing: this note is to anyone who's read the Halt's Peril. I haven't, so if I get anything wrong from there, just deal with it, kay? I can't do too much about it. Anyhoo, to the long-awaited twelfth chapter! If it is long-awaited, that is.
Disclaimer: I don't own Ranger's Apprentice.
Halt raised an eyebrow as Caitlyn neared the escort.
"Are you blushing, Caitlyn?" he asked, softly and incredulously.
She glared at him. "No, I just ran the whole way here."
"The whole way here from where?"
The coloring rose in her cheeks, Halt was sure of it. "None of your business," she snapped.
She turned and stalked toward where Will was talking to a knight and a lady.
"Horace, Cassandra, it's good to see you two!" Will exclaimed, embracing the knight and clapping him on the back. "Even though it's only been two months since I've last seen you, Horace."
Cassandra noticed Caitlyn standing nearby. "Hello," she said graciously. "I'm Cassandra, Crown Princess. Who might you be?"
"I'm Caitlyn Carrick," she replied. She noticed that the knight, Horace, gave her a curious look.
"I think I've heard that name before," he said thoughtfully.
"Probably in Hibernia," Will told him.
Cassandra looked between the two. "Hibernia? You heard her name in Hibernia?"
Caitlyn gave a short, light laugh. "I suppose that makes sense."
Cassandra raised an eyebrow. "I feel like I've been left out."
"Same with me, actually," Horace admitted.
Caitlyn sighed. "I am, unfortunately, Halt's sister."
As Cassandra blinked and Horace stared, Will muttered, "Is that unfortunate for him or for you?"
"Him, of course," Caitlyn said with a smile.
"Halt said you were dead," Horace said, then winced at how blunt and stupid that sounded. Caitlyn, however, didn't seem to mind much.
"He thought I was, apparently. I set that record straight rather quickly."
"I never knew that Halt had a sister in the first place," Cassandra said, eyeing at Caitlyn thoughtfully. The inspection made Caitlyn squirm, but she didn't let on.
The escort began to move. "Looks like we're heading out now," Will said, beginning to move in the direction of the soldiers. He didn't get far, however, as someone tackled him from behind.
"What, you thought you could leave without saying goodbye?" Alyss asked him sternly.
Will smiled broadly and embraced her. "Goodbye," he muttered in her ear. "I'll see you as soon as I get back."
Cassandra watched with a slightly downturned mouth. Horace noticed this and nudged her.
"Why does that still bother you?" he asked. "I mean, you have me, don't you?" he added with a smile.
Cassandra smiled back and leaned her head on his shoulder, still watching Will and Alyss. "It's just habit, I think."
Caitlyn watched the courier and Ranger with amusement—especially when she saw a similar display between Halt and Pauline a little ways away. Halt, however, didn't look as loving as Will did; Pauline seemed to be able to put up with that, however. Anyone who really knew Halt also knew that he was a lot softer on the inside then he would ever let on.
Alyss gave Will a parting peck on the cheek, and then turned, heading toward the castle. Pauline fell in to step next to her.
"I'm finally going home," Caitlyn whispered to herself, a smile growing on her face. But trouble would strike before she got that far.
Tennyson narrowed his eyes at the group. He recognized a few of them, that was the problem. There was the young knight who'd battled his Gennesnovans (A/N I probably spelled that wrong, sorry) and the other young man who'd exposed his plot to poison the knight. And worst of all, there was the man who he'd thought he'd done away with. Ferris, the king. What was he doing here in Araluen? Though it was true that he was heading in the direction of Hibernia—perhaps he was going home after a trip. That could explain it, Tennyson supposed.
The man next to him let out a sharp breath. "Her," he muttered.
"What, Nathan?" he asked softly. Nathan was his best recruit, originally from the higher-ups thanks to a lucky marriage, then degraded as his wife had turned him in for abuse—and when committed against a lady of her station, it had proven to be disastrous for him. Nathan pointed out one of two women sitting around the fire, along with the three men Tennyson had recognized. The woman had dark hair and bore a passing resemblance to Ferris.
"She's Lady Caitlyn, sister to King Ferris. Also my former wife, if you remember."
Tennyson gave a decisive nod at the information. He figured that Nathan wouldn't much care if she were killed, so he could see no reason to take precautions in his revenge against the three. He turned to the rest of the small group of warriors he'd brought with him.
"Now for an attack plan," he said with a smirk.
As the escort prepared to move on to Araluen's west coast, toward Hibernia. Halt turned at a soft whinny from Abelard. Had he sensed something? Again, the horse tossed his head. Something was wrong, strangers near camp, judging by the well-trained horse's actions.
"Where?" the Ranger asked softly.
Abelard obediently turned his head in the direction of the trees to Halt's right. Nearly at the same time, Halt heard something whistle through the air. Instinctively, he spun around with an arrow already nocked to the string of the longbow he kept handy at all times. His turn saved his back from being fatally torn through by the crossbow bolt; instead, his left shoulder took the blow. As the bolt buried itself into the flesh, Halt's arrow flew wide as he was forced to let go of his bow. With a grunted curse in pain, his right hand automatically went to the shaft sticking out of his shoulder.
Will heard the bolt and his master's swearing. He turned instantly and shot to where the bolt had come from. There was a sharp cry of pain as the crossbow wielding man went down. More bolts were fired, but they were ready now.
The several men surrounded Cassandra to protect her as the other men, including Horace and Will, went on the attack. Halt attacked with his saxe in his right hand, but without his other arm he wasn't doing anywhere near the damage his could have. Men seemed to come from everywhere.
"I killed you already," someone behind Halt hissed.
The Ranger turned to find Tennyson glaring at him with a fierce distorted scowl on his face. "If you had I'd hardly be here at the moment, wouldn't I?" he responded with unerring logic.
"My man shot you in the back," Tennyson argued. Halt hated the men who wouldn't bow to even visible evidence—this one in particular.
"I'm afraid he was only my twin brother," Halt smirked. "I'm the long lost heir, haven't you heard? Oh yes, that's right, you were chased out of Hibernia long before that was realized, weren't you?"
Tennyson blinked. "I could have sworn you were part of this."
Halt grinned sardonically. "Oh, I was. I suppose you could say I set Ferris up to getting rid of you. I take full responsibility for that." Before Tennyson could retort, Halt roughly thrust his saxe into this man's belly.
"And I take full responsibility for that too," Halt told the corpse.
The skirmish lasted only a few more minutes. Finally the only enemies who remained were the ones who lay still, the rest having fled. Halt walked over to where the escort was gathering, gripping his wounded shoulder so tightly his knuckles were white. Halfway there, Will intercepted him and led him to a tent despite Halt's protests.
"We need get that shoulder tended to," Will told him. "And knowing you, I'm going to have to be the one who makes sure that happens. Then I can maybe help the other wounded soldiers."
Halt sighed and gave in. "Fine. If you need help, ask Caitlyn. She'd be good at this kind of thing."
Will nodded. "Okay."
After dressing Halt's shoulder, Will looked for Caitlyn. Brow furrowed when he couldn't find her, he nudged Horace's arm as he passed. "Where's Caitlyn?"
The knight paused to glance around. "She's not walking around here, from what I can tell. She's not among the wounded either."
Will experienced a brief moment of dread. "She's not dead, is she?" Anxiously, he looked to where the bodies had been placed. Caitlyn's was not there and he exhaled in relief, imagining only for an instant his mentor's grief if his sister had been killed so soon after them being reunited. Then relief turned to confusion.
"Horace, if she's not here, where is she?" His eyes widened and he turned to Horace.
"You don't think those people took her, do you?"
Argh, that ending was nowhere near how intense I wanted it to be. *sigh* I'll just have to deal with that, I guess. At least I finally got this chapter up.
FYI, next chapter in Trick of the Eyes is coming along pretty hard too. I'm finding it tricky to type what's going on with the Celtica expedition without totally copying it right out of the book, so I'm trying to get around that. Sorry, I'll try to get a move on.
Review please! And yes, I believe I deserve to get a couple rants from not updating for more than three weeks. ^_^ Again, terribly sorry.