Sorry people for taking so long, i'm a lazy bum. Well, i don't know if this is a filler or what but please enjoy and don't hate me too much for taking so long. i actually enjoy living;)

The cold air of winter bit at Ella's fingers and nose. Her eyes scanned the ground in front of her and in her peripheral vision. She didn't move her head under the hood of her cloak, as Gilan had engraved in her head.

She was leading the way to the small clearing where the targets were. Gilan, who was amazing at moving without being seen, was making barely audible footfalls in the mushy snow. Ella could tell he was behind her still because there was the occasional shift in his weight when he almost, almost, lost his balance.

This expedition was, as Gilan called it, "a refresher." Ella had just gotten back from a mission to a small castle in Celtica. She was going undercover to see what the feuding households were arguing about. It was a petty gripe and she was only there for a few weeks.

Whenever Ella had to go on a mission, she always had to stay in that place for a long time. She needed to create her character and build relationships so she could reap the information out of the superiors and people.

The trip to Celtica was a success and there's nothing for Araluen to worry about, just some added border protection. So far, after five missions, Ella hadn't gotten figured out. Each trip she had a new alias. Her favorite part of the missions were making the character up and acting like them.

Right now, Ella was proving to Gilan that she hadn't become "rusty" in her training. So far, so good. They were only a few yards from the entrance to the clearing. Ella didn't feel like going the direct route, straight out into the open. She kept walking, past the worn down path that she'd come to know and love. The ground was covered in mushy, wet snow that had turned to brown yuck from the mud. Luckily, the ground was damp so there was less of a chance of there being a sound from her footsteps.

A cedar was in the center of her track, so Ella sidestepped around it cautiously. She rested her hand on the red bark of the tree, to keep her balanced. Her hand came to something thin, stringy and it stuck to her. She drew her hand off of the tree, not really worried about what she'd just touched, and entered the clearing from a break in the interlocking branches.

Gilan was standing in the clearing, nodding in approval. Ella grinned and threw her hood back. She felt something tickling her hand. She glanced down and saw a relatively large spider crawling up her arm.

She screamed and shook her arms frantically. The spider flew off and Ella stamped it into the ground. "Gross!" she said, wiping her hand on her pants.

Gilan just looked at her in disbelief and laughed. "Haven't changed at all, have you?"

"Nope, and I'm proud of it," Ella said, unslinging her bow off her back.

She walked up to Gilan and stood in front of him. He looked her up and down, like he always did after one of her missions. "I think you're taller," he said, after his evaluation.

"No, you just shrank. You're getting old, Gil," Ella replied.

Gilan chuckled and patted Ella on the head.

The rest of the day consisted of drills with the throwing knife, saxe knife, and bow. Gilan liked what he saw. Ella had incredible focus, strength and a "do it right the first time" attitude. Her skills with the bow were improving every session, but they were still considered mediocre in the Ranger world. Although when Ella did mess up, she beat herself up about it; Gilan was still working with her on that aspect.

By the end of the day, Ella was drenched in sweat and dirty. It wasn't the best outcome because it was freezing and the sweat practically froze. Gilan was bored from all the walking and training, so he decided to have a race back home. Ella thought it was unfair because he was tall and had longer legs. She played along with it still, and ended up losing, just as she thought.

Ella hadn't been home since she got back from Celtica. Gilan had met her at Castle Meric and made her go and practice. Ella didn't complain, but now she wish she had. Gilan occasionally gave into her complaining, but that was rare.

"You hungry?" Gilan asked as soon as he stepped foot into the cabin.

"Do you still have to ask?" Ella replied, carrying her pack to her room.

It hadn't changed much, but there were flowers in a vase on her night table and a new book on her bed. Ella read the first page of the text then placed it on her book shelf. She glanced out her door to see if Gilan had started cooking. He hadn't. Ella gathered up some dry clothes and her towel.

"Taking Blaze to the pond. I'll be back by dinner," Ella called as she opened the front door and exited the homely cabin.

She knew that Gilan would understand where she was going. It their little code for her going down to the creek to bathe. It was much less awkward than actually saying it flat out. The sun was starting to set, so Ella hurried out to the barn to get Blaze.

"Hey, girl," she whispered as she entered the small barn.

Blaze poked her bay head over the stall door and whinnied. Ella grabbed a carrot from the bag in the tack room.

Ella fed Blaze the carrot and retrieved Blaze's bridle from the tack room. She folded her towel like a saddle blanket over Blaze's back. Ella led Blaze out of the barn and mounted. She grabbed some mane and leaped up onto Blaze's back."That's a girl," Ella said, urging Blaze into a trot.

Instead of going to their usual water place, Ella went farther downstream where there was a deeper pool. In the winter it was tinted blue from an unknown mountain stream. Ella dismounted and let Blaze stand as a sort of screen between. She bathed quickly because the water was freezing. She wrapped herself in the towel that had been on Blaze's back. It was warm from the pony's body heat.

Ella leaned against Blaze's shoulder and let the extra heat help dry her. When only her hair was wet, Ella changed into her spare clothes. She clipped her cloak on too, and then tied her hair up in a high ponytail. Ella mounted Blaze again, and turned to the road.

The sun was almost on the horizon, and the sky was rapidly turning from grey to black. Once they were on the road, Ella urged Blaze into a canter. Blaze was excited to go faster, and so was Ella. They used each other's excitement for the amount of energy needed to accelerate. Before Ella knew it, they were galloping.

Luckily, there weren't many carts or people on the road so Ella didn't have to worry as much about control. They galloped on until Ella realized they had passed the path that lead to Gilan's. Ella brought Blaze back to a walk and turned toward home.

Ella thought about the people she had met on her latest mission. They were very polite and seemed to have liked Ella, though Celticans were mysterious when it came to newcomers. She wondered what her next mission would be.

"I doubt I'll have another until after the Gathering," Ella said to Blaze. Blaze flicked an ear back at Ella's voice.

Ella talked more to Blaze on the way back home. Ella heard a cart coming up the road at a fast pace. She glanced back to see if she knew the person. The cart came around the bend in the road and it felt like she'd been smacked in the face with realization. The skinny, scruffy horse pulling the overloaded cart was none other than Titan. His buckskin color was faded and washed out. The man in the cart was fat and whipped Titan when he stumbled or slackened his already fast canter. The cart was loaded in barrels and crates that were overflowing.

Ella felt a surge of rage toward the man and a wave of sadness toward her beloved battle horse. Then her Ranger training kicked in. He was never actually mine, and he's in the hands of a different person, it's not my problem, she thought strictly.

The cart passed and Ella saw the recognition in Titan's eyes when he passed her. I'm sorry Titan, she thought. And just like that, they were gone.

Ella didn't linger in that place on the road, knowing people could get suspicious if they were watching and she didn't want to linger in her thoughts either.

"Hey, I was wondering when you'd get back," Gilan said as Ella came in the house.

"What? Oh, yeah, sorry. I was just taking Blaze for a ride," she replied as she disappeared into her room.

Gilan stood for a moment, staring at Ella's closed door. I'll never understand girls, he thought as he started getting ingredients for food.

It had been an hour at least since Ella had gotten home. Gilan, still stirring the stew, tossed a boot at Ella's door.

"What?" she said with irritation.

"Dinner," Gilan replied, brushing off her tone.

"Oh, alright," she sighed, relaxing slightly.

Gilan served each with a bowl of piping hot stew. They ate in silence, partly because Gilan didn't have anything new to say and he sensed that Ella was in no talking mood.

"Gil," Ella suddenly said, when her bowl was completely empty.

"Yes?" he replied, looking at Ella.

"I can tell you anything, right?" Ella saw Gilan hesitate, then added, "at least to a certain extent."

"Oh, yeah, anything," Gilan shrugged, now that the air was clear between them.

"Good," Ella sighed. She didn't speak for a few minutes to figure out how to phrase what she wanted to say. "So, remember the weekend you came to pick me up?" she saw Gilan nod then continued. "okay so, one of the nights I went onto Farmer Dale's property." She waited for Gilan to nod in recollection. "and there was that horse," she faltered slightly on the phrase.

"And?" Gilan prodded, because Ella had stopped speaking.

"Forget it, it's not important actually. You done?" she shook her head and stood up.

Gilan let her take his dish and sat at the table long after Ella had retreated to her room. I'm so lost, he thought, resting his head in his hands.

Titan felt the sting of the whip hit his rump, the pull of the wagon behind him and the ache in his knees. His harness was too tight so he couldn't pull properly. They were half way up the hill and Titan was losing his energy and strength. The sting of the whip came again and the man in the wagon yelled at him.

Trying to put his head down to aid him in the pulling, he felt quick stings on his rump and up his back. Finally, not able to take it anymore, Titan's knees buckled underneath him. He fell and the wagon was tipped on its side, sending the man and the goods rolling down the hill.

The side of the harness dug into Titan's side as he laid there, longing for the warm touch of the girl he knew to trust.

Hmmm? Do you like it? you better 'cause i've kept you waiting long enough. R&R? if you'd like, you don't have to since i treated you guys to badly:(