Will was so angry at himself. For many reasons. One, he had let himself become addicted to warmweed. Two, because he had failed Halt. Three, he was weak and stupid.
He kicked a rock. He looked at Tug. No matter what you think, you're not weak. Halt knows that as well as I do. "Thanks Tug, but Halt knows I'm weak."
He had been training in the yard, and Halt was watching him. They had just gotten back from Skandia, and Will was behind in his training. He was horrible. At everything.
He had fired an arrow, sure it would hit its mark. It had went one foot off to the left and missed the target entirely.
Will had seen how lousy he was, knew he would never improve, knew he was weak, and, worst of all, knew he had failed Halt.
So, he had taken off on Tug, and ridden deep into the forest. He cried now, stuffing his face into Tug's mane.
He heard footsteps behind him, and lifted his head. It was Halt. Halt dismounted, then walked over Will.
"Will," he began, "I know you're behind in your training, but that's not your fault. Its mine. I should have rescued you earlier. I should have not let you go to Celtica."
"But then again, if you hadn't then all of Araluen would be in danger. You, Evanlyn, and Horace burned down Morgarath's bridge.
"You're not weak. You're not stupid. You're very brave and strong, Will. Its not your fault you got addicted. Its not."
"Will, you've never failed me. You've exceeded my expectations. And, I'm proud of you, son."
Will looked up, eyes filled with tears, and stared at Halt. He had said it. He had said it. Son.
And then, Will ran up to Halt and burrowed himself in his arms. Halt hugged him back. Will started crying. But this time, because of relief.
"Thanks, Dad." he whispered.
A WEEK LATER…
Will shot an arrow. It hit the bulls eye. Ever since that night in the woods, since he had been reassured he wasn't weak, he had improved in training.
Inside the cabin, Halt watched silently. He had said the right words, that night. The boy was anything but weak. He was very proud of him.
And what he had said that night, about Will being his son, was true also. Will had become something of a son to him. "I am so proud of you, son." he whispered.
And he really was.