Disclaimer: I do not own Ranger's Apprentice or any of its characters
Thank you to the amazing, awesome, epic writer Mychele O'Carrick of Clonmel for helping me so much with my stories and this one's title and some details in it
Thank you Lovergirlofbooks for the many reviews you have given me in the past.
Thank you to the anomynus reviewer that called themselves a Bralt wannabe. That made my day:)
I told one or two of you I wouldn't be posting till next weekend but I got time because teachers are not cruel and did not give us homework for the last weekend of school:)
Crowley waved to several castle inhabitants as he passed them on the dirt path winding down to the cabin situated in the clearing in the forest by Castle Araluen. It was a pleasant summer day with the sun shining and the different colors of flowers scattered haphazardly in the grass surrounding him. As he went farther from the castle on the somewhat grown in path the inhabitant numbers dwindled until it was just him and his horse. He didn't mind; as all Rangers did, he had a special bond with his horse that caused him to think of him as a person. After a few minutes more riding they reached the clearing where the cabin sat. Crowley checked Cropper and patted his neck before dismounting and climbing the few steps of the verandah. He didn't use the cabin as a home anymore as he lived in the castle but he used it as a storage unit for the never ceasing amount of reports, books and maps that he had collected over the years. He opened the door and walked a few paces into the deserted cabin and reached the first box that started the barrier to the rest of the cabin. He grunted as he hefted the box into his arms and carried it outside.
"Seems like a good place to start," he muttered as he set the box down beside a chair on the verandah. Turning towards Cropper he made the 'free' signal which enabled the horse to wander around the small clearing and graze. "Might as well get comfortable; we won't be leaving anytime soon," he added darkly as he looked down at the box again.
Today was one of his very rare days that he had no present reports and matters to deal with but being the commandant he had collected bunches of reports and stowed them away over his course of leadership. Every few years he would go through them and take out the ones that marked unimportant robberies or other crimes while he kept the things that could help them solve cases that were still open or catch murderers who were still at large. Crowley sat down in the chair and reflected how it would have been nice to bring some coffee but quickly shook the idea away. Coffee was only a distraction and he needed to get this cabin cleared out. He bent down and picked up the first report on the pile. After a brief scanning he placed it back down by the box. This time he grabbed a small pile of reports and began reading.
The commandant sat there for a few hours reading and sorting the various papers. As he bent down to get yet another small bundle of papers he noticed Cropper had stopped grazing and was standing tense with his ears pricked. Crowley frowned and sat back up, listening intently. It was a few seconds before the light breeze carried it to him but he could hear what sounded like a small party of people speaking. A few more minutes revealed his assumption to be right. The voices got louder and louder until Crowley realized that they were going to pass right through the clearing in a few minutes. He shrugged; there really wasn't much harm in that.
He motioned to Cropper to calm down and the horse shook his mane before returning to the important task of finding perfect grass. Crowley was still listening intently and could catch snatches of words. As they drew nearer he could make out more.
"My lord, I believe we are close to Castle Araluen now. Would you like me to assemble the party?" The voice was slightly squeaky but carried certain authority that could only come with a high ranking position.
"Might as well; you're not going to stop pestering me about it until I say yes." This voice was deep and sounded as if the owner were used to being in control. Crowley frowned; it sounded vaguely familiar but he couldn't quite place it. "Are you sure you know where we are going? I haven't seen sight of a path since you lead us off it a few days ago." He sounded agitated.
"Yes, my lord. I learned of this shortcut a couple of years ago. It will bring us out into a clearing and then all we have to do is follow the path to the castle." The squeaky voice sounded eager to show off what he knew. Crowley rolled his eyes; it was hardly a shortcut if you had to fight through off road terrain.
Crowley thought for a moment. The party was obviously some sort of royal assembly and most likely from one of the fiefs. They wouldn't be any trouble but his years of being a Ranger had him suspecting even the seemingly impossible. He grabbed his longbow that he had lain down beside the chair with the quiver. A heartbeat later the bow was nocked with an arrow and Crowley stood from the chair. He disappeared into the shadows surrounding where he assumed the group would come out of the forest. He waited a few more minutes listening to the approaching horses. When he listened close enough he could hear muffled curses as brambles clung onto a coat and tore a stitch. By the time they were a few meters from breaking cover Crowley had counted six different sets of hoof beats.
"How is this shortcut?" The deep voice snarled as he emerged from the clearing. Crowley had been right in suspecting that he was a baron of sorts. The fit looking man sat astride a startling white mare and had a look of importance about him. His short brown hair was flecked with white and his goatee had the same streaks in it. Under thick brows his dark green eyes were swinging lazily across the clearing taking in the details. His face was thin and pale flesh gave it a sinister look.
"We are at the Ranger's clearing; he stays up at the castle so nobody takes residence here," the squeaky voice said and Crowley took his eyes off the broad baron. This figure was slightly smaller but dressed in the same finery as the baron if not a little bit less extravagant. His hair was silver with no trace of anything else and even on his smaller horse it was apparent that he was at least a head shorter than the man he rode next to. Crowley assumed he would be the baron's assistant. Crowley shifted his gaze once more as six armed and mounted knights rode out from cover as well. They took up positions surrounding the baron with one man a side.
"Well if nobody's here then let's stay. The king can wait until tomorrow; we've been riding all day and I'm quite sick of it." The baron looked to his left where the cabin lay and huffed. "Not much of a place for one as myself." Crowley's brow came together at the remark. This man had always held himself above all others and been an unpleasant person to be around.
"No, I rather think you should travel the remaining mile," Crowley said disdainfully as he stepped out of the shadows. His face remained hidden under his cowl and his bow was held loosely in his hand but the other man noticed that an arrow was still nocked.
"Men!" the assistant shouted and the knights turned towards Crowley with their swords poised for fight.
"No need for that," Crowley answered as he looked at each in turn. They all seemed sure of their weapons and he had no doubt that they would cut him to bits fairly quickly. As Crowley as expected the knights lowered their weapons as they saw he was a King's Ranger. Even thick skulled knights knew enough not to mess with a Ranger.
"What are you doing?" snarled a voice from behind the knights. "You respond to me; why are you not attacking?" it added before they could answer.
"Well I doubt they'd want to go against a King's Ranger," Crowley answered coldly. He watched as the muscular figure of the baron dismounted and shoved past the knights to see who was disrupting their travel. He glared at the figure that was at least a head smaller than he.
"And who cares about that? A Ranger is just another term for a lying snoop," the baron replied disrespectfully. Crowley looked at him with his brow furrowed; this man really hadn't changed much.
"Watch your tongue," Crowley answered in a grave tone. The baron looked at the small figure with disgust. He hated these men and how they went around in the shadows doing whatever and spying on others.
"And what gives you the right to tell me that? Even if you are a pesky forester with an overblown title; I am Lord Feller of Candell Fief." The man looked down at Crowley and saw a face hidden in the cowl that he could vaguely remember but it was still to hidden in shadow to determine who it was.
Crowley glared at the man for a moment more before reaching his hand up slowly to pull back his cowl. As it fell back at his shoulders the shock was evident in the baron's eyes. He even took a pace back. The knights stirred uneasily but Crowley noticed how they stayed back with the assistant.
"You never really did like the Rangers or understand their importance. I suppose that's why you disowned me when I started training," Crowley said icily as he looked the man in the eye. He never really did have any place in his heart for a cowardly father.
Tell me what you hate, what you like. If this idea seems good or if it doesn't seem good:)