Author's Note:

Thanks for the reviews on Hero, I haven't had time to update it :|But I will, eventually. In the meantime I came up with this. It's 2-chaptered since its 1am... Set somewhere after Book 9. (Why do I love that section in the series, I have no idea.)

It was quite fun to write, really got me in the mood for RA fiction. Might update Majesty or another story soon too ^ ^

You know the drill, no flames etc.


Swordsmasters


For the Ranger Corps Commandant's birthday, it was a small, coveted affair made up of those who he considered his closest friends and advisers.

Crowley had been gifted from the King of Araluen, Duncan, a few days before hand. Duncan knew of his friend's secretive nature and decided that it would at least have a chance at being kept secret if the King wasn't there. The two were close friends and since they were within the same Fief, they could celebrate Crowley's birthday without a retinue of guards.

Many Ranger's had arrived, but not all since they had Fief's to look after. Others from all tiers of society had also come. Most noticeably were Rangers Halt and Will, who were stationed at Redmont Fief. Alongside them was the Swordsmaster Horace, who stationed at Crowley's Fief, Araluen.

The event was held on the private lands of the King, outside Castle Araluen and away from prying eyes of nearby villagers. It was simple in execution, Ranger's were solitary and subtle people and being the head of the Corps, Crowley was no different.

All in all it was an enjoyable festivity, where everyone happily celebrated another year into their friend's life.

Evanlyn, (who was actually Princess Cassandra in disguise), happily mingled with the gathered people; most of who were her advisers as well. Since Crowley was Castle Araluen's Ranger, she had been allowed to slip unnoticed into the celebration. In any event, she adored being able to pretend she wasn't the heir to the throne.

She stood apart from Crowley as he conversed with Halt and Lady Pauline, no doubt retelling stories of them when they were younger.

To her left she could see Gilan and Will having a friendly banter about who had the best shooting ability. Everyone knew that Will was a fantastic shot with his longbow, almost and sometimes arguably better than his former mentor. But Gilan was more experienced as well as a highly talented Ranger.

"I think you're all talk." Will voiced loudly, grinning stupidly as he did, but he said it jokingly.

Gilan rolled his eyes. "Alright, I've had enough of this. We're seeing who has the better accuracy; we'll let the results speak for themselves."

Will shrugged. "If you say so Gil."

The two Ranger's made their way over to their horses to secure some arrows as well as their bows. Evanlyn could still see them arguing from her position, but she knew that despite all their challenging of each other, the two were good, firm friends. It was all fun and games.

Horace came to stand beside her, looking very comfortable in his usual knight regalia. She knew he hated dressing for formal occasions and had to smile at his enthusiasm. He sighed with contentment.

"Having fun?" He asked her idly.

"Yes, I am actually."

"What are they up to?" He asked her curiously, his blue eyes following the two Rangers.

"Gilan challenged Will." She told him, smiling slightly.

"Ah."

"No comment on the matter?"

Horace shrugged noncommittally. "Everyone knows Will is the better shot. Gilan's a master at unseen movement; they have their own elite skills."

Evanlyn grinned. "You're right, but it'll still be fun to watch."

Gilan and Will returned, each sporting their trademark quiver and longbow.

"You can go first." Will told the older Ranger. "Pick your target."

Gilan raised his eyebrows. "How generous of you." He noted sarcastically, but Evanlyn could hear the humour within his tone. The unusually tall Ranger sighted a target, one of the few trees that lay on the outskirts of Castle Araluen's borders; the distance was quite far even for a longbow, which would make accuracy harder. Allowing himself a few seconds to adjust his aim, he let the black-shafted arrow fly loose: straight in the centre of the tree.

Will nodded. "Great shot Gil." His tone relayed the sincerity. Because after all, Gilan had made a very good shot. Few archers in the Kingdom could achieve it.

"Your turn." Gilan nodded towards Will.

Usually, Will wasn't one to show off. Usually he shied away from praise and tried to make people see the real events that happened. But today he felt he needed to defend his honour. He took aim, within the same time Gilan had, and let the arrow fly loose.

Unsurprisingly, it landed smack-bang in the middle of Gilan's own arrow.

Gilan laughed, a deep hearty sound that displayed his humility. "Okay, you're right; you have much better aim then me." He admitted, grinning broadly.

"What have I told you? Practise!" Halt scolded from his place next to Lady Pauline.

Gilan laughed again, unfazed by his former mentor's prying. "I've been practising since you told me that Halt. Face it, he's a natural."

Halt grunted slightly, folding his arms as he did. "Well then use your other talents. Didn't I teach you anything?"

"What? For me to fight against him with my sword? That's not very fair." Gilan scoffed.

"I'm sure I could defend myself." Will voiced, still smiling.

"Swordsman against swordsman?" Gilan asked, bemused. "I don't think so."

Halt nodded. "See? Now you're thinking. You're a Swordsmaster after all; there are few people in this Kingdom who could beat you."

"Maybe I couldn't." Will agreed. "But I know someone who could." Gilan and Halt frowned momentarily. Seeing the confusion on their faces, Will told them helpfully, "Horace could do it, I bet."

From his spot where he leant lazily against a tree, Horace jumped slightly at his sudden involvement. Evanlyn suppressed a giggle.

"I know Horace is a fantastic knight and all Will, but Gilan has studied under MacNeil." Halt informed him.

Will was suddenly very eager to defend his friend. He totally missed the light tone of his former mentor's, and might have caught on that he was being toyed with, if he wasn't so excited about the prospect of finding out who was the greater Swordsmaster. "But Horace was knighted at such a young age. And he's Cassandra's Champion. That has to show for something, right?"

Halt nodded slightly. "Well I suppose it does." He voiced neutrally.

Will glanced back at his friend, ignoring the look of apprehension across Horace's face. "So? Let's see. Let's find out who's the master here."

Gilan smiled brightly at the idea. "I've already been beaten today; I have to find some way to redeem myself in the eyes of my Commandant," he announced. (At this Crowley placed his palm to his face.)

Horace unfurled his arms and held them up in a gesture of peace. "Hey, wait a minute. No one's asked if I wanted to do this."

Halt shrugged. "As the Princess' Champion you're duty bound to accept a direct challenge. You have your own honour to defend." He noted.

Still looking uneasy, Gilan stepped forward with an outstretched hand. "Come on Horace, it will be me and you. One on one. Warrior against warrior. No hard feelings either." He grinned lopsidedly.

He still looked as if he would refuse. Seeing the action, Will intervened. "And you really can't reject a challenge in front of Evanlyn either." He voiced, nodding in the direction of the undercover Princess.

Horace looked helplessly towards Evanlyn.

In response, she pouted, her bright green eyes begging for him to accept. She knew he had a soft spot for her and was quite interested herself in finding out whether Gilan was strong enough to beat Horace.

Sighing in resignation, Horace straightened up.

"It seems I have no choice. I accept, Gilan."


A/N:

If you like, drop a review; otherwise sit tight for Chap 2, which shall be soon :)

- Mae.