This is my first story so please go easy on me. Reviews are appreciated so I will know that people are actually reading my story.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Ranger's Apprentice Series or its characters.
A special gathering had occurred at Castle Araluen. The Rangers Will, Halt, Crowley and Gilan were in the castle throne room along with Cassandra, Horace, Alyss, Jenny, Lady Pauline, Sir Rodney and Baron Arald. They had all been called to Castle Araluen for very secret reasons that hadn't been divulged to them by the Duncan, yet.
"So, I assume you're wondering why I've summoned you all here today," said King Duncan when the room had final settled down.
"No, of course not Dad. We already knew," replied Cassandra, sarcastically.
Duncan went on, ignoring Cassandra's outburst, "I have just received some books on the life of Will and we've been asked to read them."
"On my life?" asked Will.
"Would you like me to clean your ears out for you?" asked Halt.
"Can I read first?" asked Gilan.
"Of course," replied Duncan and he handed the book to Gilan.
"The Ruins of Gorlan," read Gilan.
"Morgarath," "What a lovely way to start the book," said Horace. "What a lovely way to make a damn interruption," Halt retaliated. Halt apologised immediately after he was given a warning look from Pauline.
Gilan continued. "Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, former Baron of Gorlan in the Kingdom of Araluen, looked out over his bleak, rainswept domain and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed.
"Good to know the old fellow was so happy there," muttered Crowley
"This was all that was left to him know – a jumble of rugged granite cliffs, tumbled boulders and icy mountains. Of sheer gorges and steep narrow passes. Of gravel rock, with never a tree or a sign of green to break the monotony."
"Sounds like a lovely place," said Will
"How can anyone live there?" Jenny spoke, "There's no sign of life."
"I don't think I want to know how he survived," Crowley replied.
"Even though it had been fifteen years since he had been driven back into this forbidding realm that had become his prison, he could still remember the pleasant green glades and thickly forested hills of his former fief. The streams filled with fish and the fields rich with crops and game. Gorlan had been a beautiful, living place. The mountains of Rain and Night were dead and desolate.
"It's actually quite hard to imagine Gorlan like that. It looks so lifeless now," said Gilan.
"It was beautiful place," said Arald.
"Indeed Arald, it was," Duncan mused.
"A platoon of Wargals was drilling in the castle yard below him.
"That's just like how we run things at the battleschool," said Rodney
"Mogarath watched them for a few seconds, listening to the guttural, rhythmic chant that accompanied all their movements. They were stock misshapen beings, with features that were halfway human, but with a long brutish muzzle and fangs like a bear or a large dog."
"They certainly are nasty," Duncan said.
"Avoiding all contact with humans, the Wargals had lived and bred in these remote mountains since ancient times.
"No wonder there are so many of them," said Will.
"No they just magically appeared," muttered Cassandra.
"If you all keep interrupting we will never make it past the prologue," Gilan yelled.
Everyone just stared at him for a moment. He hastily apologised and continued.
"No one in living memory had ever set eyes upon one, but rumours and legends had persisted of a savage tribe of semi-intelligent beasts in the mountains."
"Semi-intelligent, could have fooled me," Crowley said.
"I think they already did old man," retaliated Halt.
"If Crowley's an old man than what are you?" Alyss joked.
The whole room laughed and Halt tried to keep his dignity by putting on his most fearsome face. Unknown to everyone else, Halt was actually laughing and the only person who realised was Pauline.
"Morgarath, planning a revolt against the Kingdom of Araluen, had left Gorlan fief to seek them out. If such creatures existed, they would give him an edge to the war that was to come."
At this line, Halt thought about how he fought in the battle of Hackham Heath. He remembered how Daniel fought against the Wargals with such strength and courage and how Will was so very much like Daniel.
"It took him months but he eventually found them. Aside from their wordless chant, Wargals had no spoken language, relying on a primitive form of thought awareness for communication. But their minds were simple and their intellects basic. As a result, they had been totally susceptible to domination by a superior intelligence and willpower. Morgarath bent them to his will and they became the perfect army for him – ugly beyond nightmares, utterly pitiless and bound totally to his mental orders.
Now looking at them, he remembered the brightly dressed knights in glittering armour who used to compete in tourneys at Castle Gorlan, their silk gowned ladies cheering them on and applauding their skills. "
"I wouldn't applaud Horace on his skill. It would give him a bigger head than the one he already has," exclaimed the young princess.
Everyone burst into laughter as said knight began to turn a deep shade of red.
"Mentally comparing them to these black-furred, misshapen creatures, he cursed again."
"He's not very happy is he," said Arald.
Arald wondered why nobody laughed at his attempt at humour.
"The Wargals attuned to his thoughts, sensed his thoughts and stirred uncomfortably, pausing in what they were doing."
"I never knew they could attune to human thought," said Duncan.
"Angrily, he directed them back to their drill and the chanting resumed.
Morgarath moved away from the unglazed window, closer to the fire that seemed utterly incapable of dispelling the damp and chill from this gloomy castle. Fifteen years, he thought to himself again. Fifteen years since he had rebelled against the newly crowned King Duncan,"
"Do I get a prize for being the first mentioned in Will's story?" Duncan joked.
"A youth in his twenties. He had planned it all carefully as the old king's sickness progressed, banking on the indecision and confusion that would follow his death to split the other barons and give Morgarath his opportunity to seize the throne.
Secretly, he had trained his army of Wargals, massing them up here in the mountains, ready for the moment to strike. Then, in the days of confusion and grief following the king's death, when the barons Morgarath his opportunity to seize the throne.
Duncan, young and inexperienced, could never have stood against him. The kingdom was his for the taking. The throne was his for the asking."
"Is not," muttered Cassandra and she continued muttering death threats for the next minute.
"Cassie," started Horace, "He's already dead".
Then Lord Northolt, the old king's supreme army commander, had rallied some of the younger barons into a loyal confederation, giving strength to Duncan's resolve and stiffening the wavering courage of the others. The armies had met at Hackham Heath, close by the Slipsunder River, and the battle swayed in the balance for five hours, with attack and counterattack and massive loss of life. The Slipsunder was a shallow river, but its treacherous reaches of quicksand and soft mud had formed an impassable barrier, protecting Morgarath's right flank."
"That really got annoying," said Crowley
"But then one of those grey-cloaked meddlers known as Rangers led a force of heavy cavalry across a secret ford ten kilometres upstream."
"Ranger's rule," yelled Will, and Halt just raised his eyebrow.
"The armoured horsemen appeared at the crucial moment of the battle and fell upon the rear of Morgarath's army.
The Wargals, trained in the tumbled rocks of the mountains, had one weakness. They feared horses and could never stand against such a surprise cavalry attack. They broke, retreating to the narrow confines of Three Step Pass, and back to the Mountains of Rain and Night. Morgarath, his rebellion defeated, went with them. And here he had been exiled these fifteen years. Waiting, plotting, hating the men who had done this to him. Now, he thought, it was time for his revenge."
"He didn't get it," Arald gleefully said.
"And thank God he didn't," said Rodney and Duncan in unison.
"The time was ripe. Once again, he would lead his Wargals into an attack. But this time he would have allies. And this time he would sow the ground with uncertainty and confusion beforehand. This time none of those who conspired against him previously would be left alive to aid King Duncan. For the Wargals were not the only ancient, terrifying creatures he had found in these sombre mountains."
"To right he is," muttered Halt. Halt remembered what had happened at the Ruins of Gorlan and how he and Will had nearly lost their lives.
"He had two other allies, even more fearsome-the dreadful beasts known as the Kalkara.
The time was ripe to unleash them."