Diclaimer: I do not own Ranger's Apprentice or any of the characters. I only own this plot and the OC Mychele, and I don't get any money for this.

The wind stirred the leaves on the trees surrounding the small clearing; in its center sputtered a glowing fire. This particular woods of sorts was one of the few to be found in Clonmel. And a perfect place for hiding bandits!

Sitting disconsolately around the weak fire were four ragged, unkempt persons. Actually, one of the persons slumped rather than sat on the ground; he was bound and gagged: Captive! The slumped form moaned and wriggled closer to the fire. One of the men, a tall, muscular man in his forties, wearing a woolen shirt, sheepskin vest, leggings, and tall leather boots with a nasty curved blade in his belt, viciously kicked the captive.

"Lie still laddo, else ye'll be feelin' the flat o' mah sickle on yer mis'rable back," he snarled. "Arrat! We need mor' wood on t'fire; get on!" he commanded his similarly dressed subordinate, who looked about ten years younger than him. Arrat rose and picked up a hatchet which was lying nearby, grunting as he left the meager warmth of the fire and tramped into the cold to collect more wood.

The large man, obviously the leader of the group, turned to the youngest of the brigands- a scrawny, freckled young man in his late teens – and commanded:

"Billy boy, yer takin' first watch. Tie up that bag o' filth to a tree and stand guard."

Billy boy whined piteously. "Awww, I dun' wanna leave t'fire! Why d'ya gotta be so mean Barney?"

"Cuz Ah'll flay ye alive iffn ye don'! Get goin' ye scum!" said Barney.

Billy boy stood reluctantly to see to the prisoner's night accommodations. As the brigands settled down for the night, none noticed the pair of dark eyes watching from the tree to which Billy boy had tied the prisoner.

No-one ever thinks to look up…