Chapter 16

The next morning I awoke to the morning sun seeping through the thick canvass walls of the tent. Will was still fast asleep with drool running down his face. I smiled, that would be perfect blackmail material! A loud yawn from the other side of the tent alerted me to the fact that Ishea was waking up. Cielema walked into the tent with three plates heaped full of delicious food. The smell of the coffee she was also carrying woke Will up from his slumber.

"Coffee", he said sleepily while rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

"No Will", I replied sarcastically, "Its heated mud".

"Well someone must feel better", he remarked with a small chuckle, "You even have your sarcasm back. You know, maybe you should have stayed incapacitated longer, it probably would be easier to deal with you."

"I feel unloved" I replied with mock hurt and dug into my breakfast with gusto enjoying the light meal the Bedullin provided for us. "Cielema", I said, " You are an amazing cook."

She smiled and said, " Its thanks enough to see someone enjoy my food". She then gathered up the plates and left the three of us to talk.

Will looked over at Ishea first and asked, "How are you feeling?"

Ishea paused and tipped her head to one side, pondering the question. She finally decided what to say and replied, "I feel much better than I did the last time I was awake."

Will appeared satisfied with her answer and turned to me and said, "I know you feel well enough to be sarcastic so you're out of the woods. So now I want to hear your account of your first solo mission."

I paused for a moment and Ishea as if sensing the reason for my hesitation came over to sit next to me on my cot. I then began to tell my tale and I didn't hold back anything, explaining all my shortcomings, every failure that happened. Will's comment about wanting to hear my story indicated he had already spoken with Talmar. What did Talmar say about me? And what if Will found my efforts inadequate? What if the mission showed I didn't show enough talent to be an apprentice? Girls weren't usually accepted into the corps, he had a reason to dismiss me already. I felt a sinking feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach as worries overran my mind. When I finished my story I lowered my eyes to the cot I was sitting on with Ishea in shame. Why would Will keep wasting his time with a Girl who obviously didn't have enough talent to become a ranger?

Will was silent for what felt like an eternity before saying something that shocked me to the core. "Amber, you did well"

"What", the words leapt from my mouth, "But I allowed my guard to drop in the fight and didn't even realize I was injured, and I passed out on my partner, and I couldn't even do my job on the mission." By now I was rambling, the words were rushing out of my mouth in a jumble with no sort of order or structure, each and everyone of them pointing to my inadequacy. Ishea just wrapped her arms around me offering silent comfort trying in her own way to cease my ramblings.

"Amber", Will said quietly and then repeated my name louder when I didn't respond, "Amber".

I stopped and closed my mouth with and audible click. "Amber" Will shook his head and said, "Why would you ever think you were inadequate? For god's sake Amber, you've only been an apprentice for two months now. Why would you think that I would find you inadequate without training? What have I told you about rangers?"

"Um, lots of things", I said still not meeting Wills eyes thankful for Ishea's presence by my side.

"Rangers and how we practice", Will said patiently trying for a specific mantra.

I commanded my mind to go back to the beginning of my apprenticeship; it felt so long ago, not just two short months. I went through my memories of lessons in the shady clearing, how Will teased and encouraged me and one phrase stuck out from when Will was teaching me to throw my knives. " An ordinary person practices until he gets it right", I repeated, "A ranger practices until he never gets it wrong".

"And how would you have had enough practice in the two months of our partnership to get to that level?", Will queried.

I smiled, Will was cheering me up, something no one else had been able to do since I left the palace ward. I sensed somewhere inside of me that he would be cheering me up many times during our years together. Will said he didn't think I was a failure at all.

I stood up, making my way out of Ishea's arms and closed my eyes for the duration of the dizziness, before walking over to my mentor and threw my arms around him in a tight hug. "Thank you Will", whispered, "Thank you"

Alright another chapter, more fluff and a resolution of Amber's self esteem issues for the moment. So next chapter you can look forward to their reuniting with Halt and friends. They will also settle the deal over the horses. I am working on a oneshot centering around Halt after the ending of this story. If you have any suggestions for how you want me to wrap up the story or develop Ishea's or Amber's characters tell me. Thank you and please review