A/N: Edit- August, 2013. Hello, everyone! I have decided to turn this into a one shot, because I want to. The edit won't show up, though, so don't be confused if it still says 2012. Also, this is not linear.The story is marked as a complete oneshot, but I may decide to add another scene to it in the future. If I do, it will probably be posted as a second chapter, and then integrated into the first chapter.
I apologize for the poor writing, but I wrote this in Fifth Grade. Why haven't I deleted this? Too lazy.
Oh, and - b.s. aleksandraand Nessime12 are translating this into Polish, separately. I'm not sure if they have posted anything yet, but check them out, anyway, if you have time.
Disclaimer: What do you mean, disclaimer? I own the world! Mwa-ha-ha!
"But he deserved to be thrown in the moat. " Halt stated petulantly, crossing his arms. "He's a stupid buffoon. A very stupid buffoon."
"No, he did not. And he is not a buffoon."
"He stole my coffee!"
The baron sighed as he peered at Halt. "Sir Dubert is an ambassador from Arrida and a noble. Hence, the Sir in his name. You can't go around throwing nobles in moats. If it had been Celtica, it might have started a war."
"He took my coffee!" Halt protested again, scowling fiercely.
"I don't care if he danced a jig on your head in woodern clogs! So what, he stole you coffee? You can't throw an ambassador from Arrida in the moat! Do you know how much trouble the king went to, getting them to even agree to a treaty? " Baron Arald reprimanded.
Very exasperated sigh.
"Okay, Halt. I know he stole your coffee. Maybe he deserved to be thrown in the moat. Perhaps that was his just deserts. But you can't go and put piranhas in the moat. He can't even swim, for goodness's sake. He could have gotten hurt or drowned if the maid hadn't fished him out. If he had died, there would have been chaos, and who knows what would have happened to you."
"But he stole my coffee! He deserved to drown in the moat!" Halt repeated again, looking confused that Baron Arald hadn't realized the seriousness of what the buffoon what-is-his-name, oh yes, Sir Dubert had done.
Baron Arald sighed again. He knew that Rangers were addicted to their coffee, but he had never truly realized how addicted they were. Really, throwing the ambassador into the moat? And filling the moat with piranhas? That was going bit extreme. Not a bit. A lot extreme. Rangers must truly like coffee. And Halt was only an apprentice.
"Hmmm? Oh sorry, I was thinking." the baron said as he heard Halt mutter something.
"I said," Halt said slowly, like he was teaching a very young child the fundamentals of addition. "How would a idiot like Dubert become an ambassador in the first place? He doesn't seem very smart, or very diplomatic. And how would he be chosen to make the treaty, since it's that important."
"I suppose he became an ambassador because he's a noble. And Dubert isn't an idiot. Don't go around insulting him. He'll get mad, and then maybe he will start a war. We need the treaty, and if a stupid, coffee-addicted, Ranger's apprentice is the reason we didn't get one, the king will have your head on a platter and your body decomposing somewhere in a jail cell." Arald replied.
Halt thought quietly for a minute.
"Does your head hurt now?"
"Because you were thinking," Halt explained at the baron's look of bafflement. "That must be hard for you."
"No, my head does not hurt. In fact, it is perfectly fine. "
The clock tower struck one, jolting Baron Arald back to his former path. What was he doing? Oh yes, he was telling Halt his punishment for throwing the ambassador in the moat.
"Halt. Your punishment. You are going to write an apology to Sir Dubert for dunking him in the moat. A very polite and most importantly, very sincere letter. Lie if you must. I know you're good at lying. Don't even try to deny it, you're a Ranger. Oh, and write a letter to the maid who had to fish him out too. That poor girl."
"Yes, sir." Halt muttered darkly as he walked to the door.
"God, I need painkillers," he heard the baron moan and he left.
"I can't believe you like that stuff," Halt said scornfully as he gathered firewood. "It's just like brown goop. Very disgusting brown goop. No, very, very, disgusting brown goop."
"Hey! Coffee is very delicious! It's the best drink ever invented. No, it is too delicious to call it a drink. It's an elixir. It isn't my fault you Hibernians have a deprived culture!" His former mentor, Pritchard, replied, as he began taking some of the "brown goop", as Halt had said, out of the bags. "Everyone likes coffee."
"I do believe," Halt muttered, starting the fire, "that no one, except for you Rangers, enjoys drinking this disgusting liquid. Baron Arald hates it."
"Well, you are a Ranger, so shut your mouth! No one in their right mind should insult good, heavenly, tasty, coffee." Pritchard yelled back from where he was unsaddling the horses. "Besides, how do you know that coffee is so disgusting if you've never even tasted it?"
"Well, I know because, I'm Halt, the fierce, eight foot tall Ranger who can kill bears with a finger and who can wipe out a herd of wild boars with two arrows! And that eight foot tall Ranger, who, may I remind you, is psychic, agrees that coffee is disgusting." Halt answered loftily, the very impression of the boastful nobleman they had met earlier that day.
"You haven't even tried coffee yet! If you tried coffee, I'm sure that you would agree that coffee is delicious. And you know those tales aren't true. You're barely five feet! You're the shortest ranger in service." he added. "Actually, the shortest Ranger in the history of Rangers in service."
"Fine. I'll try coffee in the morning, but if I still think it's revolting, which I will, then you have to swear not to keep bothering me anymore!" Halt said, annoyed. He was not the shortest Ranger in service. He was not.
Pritchard stirred the coffee in the pot, adding water, while Halt prepared the stew.
"It's almost ready now." Pritchard sung teasingly. "Time for coffee!"
"I can't believe I said I would do it. It must have been because the lack of sleep had addled my brains," Halt grumbled sleepily.
Pritchard poured out the dark brown liquid into two cups, and passed the larger cup to Halt.
"Come one, Halt. It's great. Really." he encouraged, smirking.
Halt sighed irritatedly and took his cup. He raised it to his lips and took a teeny, tiny, sip. He scowled.
"Bigger, Halt, or you won't get the taste." Pritchard said.
He sighed, louder this time, and swallowed.
"Hmmmmmmm. This is good!" he muttered quietly, suprised, then swallowed again. Then he took another sip, before he remembered that Pritchard was still watching him drink the coffee. and made a disgusted face.
"This is disgusting!" Halt lied. "I still think that you must be crazy to like this horrible substance." He made a show of dumping the coffee back into the pot, making loud blegh! noises.
Pritchard smiled and pretended not to notice. He was used to Halt.
"Horsie! Horsie! Oh look, Mama, look, look, it's a horsie! It's sooooooooooooo cute! Awwwwwww. Mama, can I pet it? I want to pet the cute horsie! Oh pleeeaase can I pet it? Pleeeeeaaaaaaaaassee?" The four year old boy pleaded.
His mother grinned, amused, as she watched the Ranger shrink away from the gleeful boy.
"Now, Gilan, if you want to pet the horsie you have to ask the nice Ranger politely whether you can pet his horsie, okay? He's very nice. Just say, 'Excuse me, Halt, can I pet your horse?'." Yeah right, he's nice, she added under her breath.
Gilan frowned. He didn't want to talk to the short, grim, ranger. He was scary. But he wanted to pet the horsie. But then again, he didn't like the very, very, scary ranger. But the horsie was sooooo cute!
Finally, his want to "pet the cute horsie" won out as he asked tentatively:
"Ummm, Mr. Big, Scary, Very Dangerous, Ranger, please-don't-kill-me, can I pet your horsie? Pleeeeeeaase! I really want to pet your horsie!" he asked as nicely as possible, pasting on his "cutesy" face.
Halt grimaced, then nodded, trying his best to smile and look friendly. Why had he agreed to let Sir David and his wife bring their loud, talkative, child? He must have been mad, or more likely, too annoyed to listen to what they were saying and had agreed absentmindedly.
He didn't understand how people thought children were cute.
"Mama, the big ranger is scaring me. Is he okay? His face is all scrunchy-bunchy like Dada's when he's ill." Gilan whispered loudly to his mother while stroking Abelard's mane.
Halt realized, belatedly, that his heroic efforts to smile had failed. Oh, well. He hadn't really expected it to work.
"Well, Gilan, why don't you ask him if he's okay? Maybe you can give him that healing tonic of yours that Dada said was so good." his mother replied soothingly. She grinned at Halt, with a look too innocent to be innocent.
Gilan grinned evilly. He had invented a "healing potion" that got rid of any illness.
Or at least he thought it did, which meant it did. Right?
He had carried it around in his pocket in a leaf from the day he had made the "Tonic. His "Tonic" was actually made of rotten apples, water, grass, dirty hay, and soggy, smushed-up barley. It was actually quite delicious.
If you happened to be a horse.
Which Halt most definitely wasn't. (Though Pritchard had his doubts.)
"Okay, Mama. I'm gonna to give him some of my tonic! Come here Mr. Ranger. It's gonna make you feel better!" he yelled with childish glee at Halt's look of fright.
Halt backed away slowly as the shrieking Gilan ran towards him with his dripping mess in his hand.
"Come on Mr. Ranger. It's very good. Dada said so!"
Halt gave up and ran.
"Hey, come back! You didn't try my potion yet!"
"You know, Mama, Mr. Ranger isn't so bad, even if he did say that my potion tasted worse than King Duncan's cooking. I'm sure he was trying to be nice, 'cuz you said King Duncan was good, so his cooking must be good too. And I didn't even have time to finish petting his horsie. I never knew Rangers could run so fast. Maybe we can visit him again?" Gilan asked his mother as they left Halt's cabin.
"Maybe we will, Gilan." his mother replied.
"Let's come back tomorrow!"
"Halt. Halt. Stop grooming Abelard. We have a visitor." Halt's mentor, Pritchard, whispered to him.
"Hmmm? Oh, sorry." Halt looked up from brushing his horse. "Who's she?"
A slender, petite, girl around ten or nine stood in the doorway.
"That's Pauline. She's apprenticed to the Courier that yelled at you yesterday for ... that incident."
"Rosalind said he wanted the- Hat boy? Hal boy? Something? Never mind- to come tomorrow for his punishment." she read, squinting at the parchment. "She says that he shouldn't wear any fancy clothes, unless he wants them getting dunked in moat water. And don't wear any shoes, because they might get eaten. And she says that you should feel lucky you're getting off lightly. Next time she'll take away your coffee."
"Good grief! Coffee? I only-" Halt stopped at Pauline's look of reproach. "What? It was a prank! Only a prank! A boy has to have some fun in his life, doesn't he?"
"Weeeeelll, I don't know. She didn't tell me. Said that I was better off learning the structures and laws of the ruling houses of southern Arrida. Rubbish." Pauline pouted. "Fat lot of good that does. What did you do? Rosalind was screaming her head off at you. She's normally the calmest Courier in service. I've never seen her so riled up. Tell me?"
"I didn't do anything!" Hat replied, affronted. " I just-" Halt remembered what Pauline's mentor had said ("Tell and I'll chop your head off and feed it to the poor mastiff next door!"), and stopped himself. He didn't appreciate the idea of his head stuck in the stomach of that dog, in the loosest form of the word.
"What? What did you do? Tell me ? Pleeeeeeeeaaaaase?" Pauline pleaded, very curious. "I won't tell her. I promise, promise. Pretty please with whatever your favorite food is with ice cream on top? Cross my heart and hope to die - "
"Ahem. I'm stilll here?" Pritchard interrupted. He didn't enjoy the thought of what Rosalind would do to him if she even suspected that Halt had told someone other than himself. He liked his face exactly the way it was. Especially his eyes. He liked being able to see perfectly fine. " Pauline, I think you should be going now. She'll be mad if you're late. No fraternising with the enemy, as she says."
"Okay. Since you won't tell me, I guess that I'll have to listen to Rosalind and not tell you your punishment after all. You poor, poor, little boy. Bye bye! See you tomorrow, when I come laugh at you after your punishment." She said brightly, and flounced off.
"Hey! I am not a little boy. I'm older than you! And - come back! I'll tell you!" Halt yelled as he ran out the door. "Stupid girl."
Pritchard watched as Halt chased after the laughing girl. "Ah. Young love."
Halt came back an hour later, muddy, and very, very grumpy, wearing his signature scowl. His clothes were soaking wet, shivering violently whenever the wind blew.
"She is a monster."
Halt stared at the toddler sitting on the cot. He stared. And stared, and stared.
Halt had never taken care of children before. He had been an only child, and really, he hated children. They were whiny little brats that cried, and spit, and hadn't the self-control to take care of themselves, which, Halt thought, was something the Creator should have made an innate ability for everyone the moment they were born. How was he supposed to take care of a one-year old child?
The baby - Will, he thought - gurgled.
Language, Halt. Abe snorted. There are children present. Don't contaminate their thoughts, will you?
Halt glared at his horse. "Shut up. No more apples for you, Abe."
The horse protested. You blasted, damned, son of a -
"Language. Don't want to contaminate Will's thoughts, right?" he said mockingly, parroting his horse's words - thoughts, really. Who knew if he could really talk? After all, maybe all the Rangers were crazy.
The toddler cried out again.
Halt sighed. What was he going to do with him? He started towards his pack of food that he had kept on the table, and took out some of the brown bread to give to Will. He walked over to Will and handed it to him.
"Eat." he said awkwardly. He glared, the Halt's-Solution-To- Everything-In-Existence. Except, apparently, for toddlers.
Will glared back at Halt, throwing the bread back at him.
"NO! I WANT MOMMY!" he screamed, trying his best to kick Halt to Nihon-ja and back. Halt cringed, and looked to Abelard for help.
Abelard tossed his head and glowered at him. No. You can deal with whiny little brats yourself, since I contaminate their thoughts.
"I'll give you an apple."
"No. I'm sorry, okay?"
Then no help.
"Fine, you greedy little monster. Now help me, and it better work, or there are no apples for a month." There went his signature glare.
Abelard calmly trotted over to Will and nudged him. He stopped screaming almost immediately, and gazed at Abelard with adoring brown eyes wide with awe. He had never seen such a small horse before. Or such a cute one.
"Horsie! Horsie, save me from the evil man! He scary!" he whispered loudly to him, ducking his head so Halt wouldn't hear him. "I think he want to eat me. Help me."
Abe nudged the bread and stared at it pointedly. Eat, he seemed to be saying to Will. Eat, or no "saving-from-the-evil-scary-man". He poked the toddler again on the shoulder. Eat.
Will stared at the horse.
"It's not going to-"
It worked. Halt sighed and tossed him five apples.
I'm bored. Abelard complained as he trotted along the forest path. We've been traveling for three hours.
"We're almost there. Araluen is only a few more miles. Besides, it's your fault we stopped at the pass. You wanted apples, and you just had to have them right then and there." Halt told his horse, sighing.
Easy for you to say. You're the one riding, I'm the one carrying all these bags and the very fat, and thus heavy Ranger Halt. So I deserve apples, you lazy idiot. Abe countered, shaking his mane and tail twice.
Halt glared. "Shut up. I'm not fat, and I said you could have some oats when we get back. You are the lazy idiot horse. Not my fau-"
Shush, spoiled brat. We've got some people following us. Or at least, an some people good at riding with extremely well-trained horses about fifty meters behind us, and if they aren't following us, they are acting very suspiciously for a group of innocent travelers. Abe said, snorting quietly.
"Well, we'll just have to give them a suprise, won't we." Halt said almost inaudibly, smiling evilly. "Finally, some fun at last. It'll be enough to relieve your boredom, won't it, Abe? Then you can stop complaining and whining."
He and his horse slowed down gradually, practically imperceptibly.
"How far behind is he?"
Twelve meters, around the bend.
He stopped and Halt slid an arrow from his case and through the bowstring, pointing his bow in the direction of the bend, waiting for the group to pass past the bend in the path so he could shoot accurately.
He waited, then the men in front appeared.
Halt pulled quickly, peircing the arm of the first man, automatically noticing that he was dressed in rather expensive fabric. Not hesitanting, he turned slightly, quickly shooting two of the men behing him, aiming not to kill, but to injure, only lightly grazing their arm or leg, but enough to stop them from attacking him, if that was their purpose
The first, more expensively dressed man fell to the ground, crying in pain.
He walked over, Abe following a foot behind him.
"What can I do for you, gentlemen?" He asked pleasantly, smiling insincerely.
One of the men he hadn't shot, on account of him having an appearance of a well-fed ( fat), comfortable(lazy) pacifist(coward), who would probably be too weak to actually attack him, stepped forward, stuttering.
"Have you any idea who you just shot, you ignorant peasant!?"
"Well, yes. I presume he is one of the people who happened to be following me?"
"Shut up, Perkins." The man who had fallen sat up slowlyand laughed. "You're right. I apologize. I was just trying to find out if I could elude you for a few feet. I didn't think you would shoot us, but it is my fault entirely for being so foolish. We didn't mean to seem like we were going to attack you."
"I said, shut up, Perkins." He turned to Halt. "I'm sorry for the trouble. Now if you excuse me, I have to continue on my way."
Halt glared at him. Then he sighed. Those types of lords who wanted to be able to boast that they have managed to stalk the "greatest, famed, best Ranger in service" without being caught were so irritating. He had dealt with them before, and no one ever wanted to take the message and quit. "You are excused. Now go away. I have to get to somewhere in a few hours. Shoo."
Then he turned on his heel, deliberately rude, mounted Abelard, and left cantering quickly down the road, ignoring the suprised sputters the men he had shot were making.
"Abe, which lord do you think that idiot was?" he asked his horse.
You mean you didn't recognize him? Are you mad, dumb, or both? Abelard replied, laughing the way he always did when Halt did something especially stupid.
"Why? Have I met him before? Was he the Baron of Macindaw? But isn't he too young to be the baron?"
You owe me an apple.
"Who was he?"
King Duncan. Bravo, Halt. You just shot the king.