A/N: Just a fun little fic I wrote. Hope you enjoy! I do not own Ranger's Apprentice or any of its characters.
Halt was having a bad day. It had been nearly a week since he'd had any coffee, and he wasn't taking it very well. His head throbbed and his hands were shaking - both of which were signs of withdrawal. Already, he'd snapped at some civilians as his mood deteriorated along with his concentration and energy.
Why hadn't he had coffee, you ask?
Well, someone had had the - admittedly smart and highly effective - idea of crippling the Rangers by sabotaging the coffee supply. As a result, Halt, like everyone else, had lost that hot, earthy, aromatic drink their lives depended on. Which, of course, was what coffee was to everyone.
On top of that, some bandits had decided to start acting up near Redmont, which meant that Halt - cause who else? - had to go and deal with them. And the icing on top? Will was to be coming for a visit about… now.
Now. He would be at Halt's cabin this moment, only to find a note reading:
Out hunting bandits. No coffee - secret stash already emptied. Back tonight, with luck.
Speaking of the bandits, they were casually trotting down the road on stolen horses while Halt was stuck following on foot, crouching uncomfortably in the bushes. His patience had long since worn down, so he decided to take them now, seeing as there were only four men.
Well, okay, not at that moment. Halt wasn't a legendary Ranger for no reason, and he certainly hadn't gotten to be through rash decisions spurred by minor - moderate - discomfort.
So, he waited for the bandits to settle down for lunch. They carelessly dismounted and set up a campfire in a space open to attacks from all sides. Without bothering to set up a watch, the seven men quickly dissolved into loud conversation as they waited for their lunch to roast.
Carefully, silently, Halt raised his bow, nocking an arrow as he did so. Though he'd been told to bring the bandits in alive, he was irritable and knew trying to reason with the men was impossible. Which meant he'd have to incapacitate them. Then drag them all the way back to Redmont. Which would take much longer than, say, capturing the leader and killing the rest.
For a moment, his conscience and his duty rebelled against the idea, but the thought of Will pushed him past the edge. And so, he drew back the string, aimed, and fired, striking the leader, who had stood up presumably to go relieve himself, on the left calf. Immediately, six more arrows followed, with five of them hitting their mark. One man had managed to raise his shield in time to catch the heavy black-shafted projectile.
Sighing, Halt drew his knives, preparing to handle the sword the man had drawn. Surprisingly, especially given the display of carelessness, the man was a decent sword fighter, using his shield and sword in relatively effective chains of attacks; however, he was hard-pressed to win against Halt. Nevertheless, the two fought for a few minutes, during which Halt lost his saxe knife, until Halt finally managed to disarm and end his opponent.
By this point, the tremors had returned full force to Halt's hands, and he was caught off guard when the leader rose and charged him with a spear. With no time to draw his bow, Halt's only choice was the throwing knife in his hands.
In what should've been a nearly automatic motion, Halt raised the knife and aimed, taking much longer as he struggled, trying to steady his hand. Forced to throw and hope for the best, Halt watched as the knife spun through the air, seemingly in slow motion…
And wobbled harmlessly past the right of its intended target, meeting nothing but air.
He'd missed. He, Halt, the legendary, eight-foot-tall Ranger who strangled bears with bare his hands, had missed a simple country bandit three feet away from him.
The grey-shafted, goose-feathered arrow that brought down the bandit leader just before he could stab Halt barely registered.
When it did, though, Halt almost wished the bandit had gotten him.
"Halt!" A young man's voice called from behind, solidifying Halt's apprehension.
Turning, Halt found the expected unwieldy mop of brown hair and humorous eyes belonging to his former apprentice. "Will. Shouldn't you be at the cabin?"
Will grinned, and Halt knew it had already begun. "From the looks of things, you're lucky I wasn't. Don't I get a thank you for saving your life, Halt?"
For a moment, Halt considered the possibility that Will hadn't seen. Staying quiet, Halt's only response was a baleful glare.
With a cheeky grin, Will walked over to the bandit camp and rifled around. A few moments later, he shouted "Aha!" and held a sack up triumphantly in the air. "These guys were our coffee bandits. Figured they'd have some of the goods."
Gruffly, Halt turned away and mounted Abelard. "Let's go back to the cabin. We can talk there."
There was a whoosh and then a solid thud as something embedded itself into a tree next to Halt's head.
Looking over, he found his throwing knife sticking out of the bark. Silently, he yanked it out and sheathed it aggressively.
He could hear the laughter in Will's voice as the other added, "I'm sure you would've missed it."
By the next Gathering, word had reached Gilan and Crowley, and Halt had seriously considered stabbing himself in the foot to avoid going. In the end, he steeled himself and forced himself to go.
He found Will talking to the aforementioned two when he arrived.
"...wasn't just the coffee; I've been seeing some more gray hair and wrinkles. Maybe his vision's deteriorating too…"
Halt's throwing knife flew past, clipping off some of Will's hair and meeting the nearest tree.
With a bright smile, Will turned and cried, "Halt! So glad you could make it!"
"Yeah!" Gilan affirmed with an equally wide grin. "We were worried you'd… miss… this special event!"
As the three burst into laughter, Halt sighed in exasperation.
Respect was a thing of the past…
A/N: Thanks a bunch for reading!