John Flanagan: Erak_s ransom

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John Flanagan Erak_s ransom
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    Erak_s ransom
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    Фэнтези / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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'Excellent! So Will Treaty you shall be!' Crowley wrote the name at the bottom of a form and swung it round to face Will, handing him the quill pen. 'Just sign there at the bottom and we're done.'

He watched as Will scratched his signature at the bottom of the parchment form, then slapped his hands on the table top in satisfaction.

'There, all done! Congratulations, Will, you're a Ranger now. Well done! Is there anything to drink?' He addressed the last part to Halt.

Will sat stunned. That was it? He'd expected… he didn't know what he'd expected but he certainly hadn't expected this breezy, off-the-cuff 'Sign here and you're a Ranger' approach.

'Is that all?' he blurted out.

Crowley and Halt exchanged slightly puzzled glances. Then Crowley pursed his lips thoughtfully.

'Um… it seems to be… Listed your training, mentioned a few achievements, made sure you know which end of an arrow is the sharp part… decided on your new name… I think that's… ' Then it seemed that understanding dawned on him and his eyes opened wide.

'Of course! You have to have your Silver… whatsis, don't you?' he took hold of the chain that held his own Silver Oakleaf around his throat and shook it lightly. It was the badge of a fully fledged Ranger. Then he began to search through his pockets, frowning.

'Had it here! Had it here! Where the devil is it… wait. I heard something fall on the boards as I came in! Must have dropped it. Just check outside the front door, will you, Will?,

Too stunned to talk, Will rose and went to the door. As he set his hand on the latch, he looked back at the two Rangers, still seated at the table. Crowley made a small shooing motion with the back of his hand, urging him to go outside. Will was. still looking back, at them when he opened the door and stepped through onto the verandah.

'CONGRATULATIONS!'

The massive cry went up from at least forty throats. He swung round in shock to find all his friends gathered in the clearing outside, around a table laid for a feast, their faces beaming with smiles. Baron Arald, Sir Rodney, Lady Pauline and Master Chubb were all there. So were Jenny and George, his former wardmates. There were a dozen others in the Ranger uniform – men he had met and worked with over the past five years. And wonder of wonders, there were Erak and Svengal, bellowing his name and waving their huge axes overhead in his praise. Close by them stood Horace and Gilan, both brandishing their swords overhead as well. It looked like a dangerous section of the crowd to be in, Will thought.

After the first concerted shout, people began cheering and calling his name, laughing and waving to him.

Halt and Crowley joined him on the verandah. The Commandant was doubled over with laughter.

'Oh, if you could have seen yourself!' he wheezed. 'Your face! Your face! It was priceless! "Is that all?" ' He mimicked Will's plaintive tones and doubled over again.

Will turned to Halt accusingly. His teacher grinned at him.

'Your face was a study,' he said.

'Do you do that to all apprentices?' Will asked.

Halt nodded vigorously. 'Every one. Stops them getting a swelled head at the last minute. You have to swear never to let an apprentice in on the secret.'

He touched Will's sleeve and pointed.

'But only the luckiest, or the best, get this.'

Will looked in the direction he indicated and felt a lump rise to his throat. Side by side, Alyss and Evanlyn were walking slowly across the clearing towards him, carrying a small red satin cushion between them.

Alyss, tall, poised, ash blonde and beautiful in her elegant Courier's robe.

Evanlyn, tomboyish, grinning, honey blonde and beautiful in her own way.

And on the cushion between them, gleaming in the errant rays of the late afternoon sun that found its way through the trees, lay a simple, silver oakleaf amulet on a chain – symbol of everything Will had been striving for in the past five years. Now his.

The two girls lifted it from the cushion and together, draped it over his bowed head while the assembled crowd cheered themselves hoarse. Then, driven by the same impulse, they kissed him – Alyss on the left cheek, Evanlyn on the right.

And then glared daggers at each other.

'Let's get this party started!' said Crowley hurriedly. And catching Will by the arm, he drew him down to the group of friends waiting to congratulate him.


***

It was a party that would go down in the annals of Castle Redmont. The last guests were still celebrating as the sun began to rise. Will and Horace, his oldest friend, sat on the little verandah watching the last dancers stagger out of the clearing and head for home.

'Do you feel like a Ranger at last?' Horace asked him.

Will shook his head ruefully. 'I feel absolutely overwhelmed by the whole thing,' he said. Then, after a few seconds, he confided, 'You know, a few weeks back, I didn't think I was ready for this.'

'And now?' Horace prompted.

'Now I know that if you wait till you think you are ready, you'll wait all your life.'

The young knight nodded. 'I couldn't have put it better,' he said. 'That's exactly how I felt when we came back from Skandia and Duncan knighted me. "I'm not ready", I kept wanting to say.'

'But you were,' Will said.

Horace nodded. 'Yes. Maybe our teachers do know what they're doing, after all. Halt thinks the world of you, you know. When we were in prison in Maashava, he knew you'd turn up to get us out. He must have been proud to see you graduate today. Following in his footsteps.'

'They're big footsteps to follow in,' Will said. 'I guess that's why I thought I wasn't ready. I knew I'd never be as wise or as capable or as courageous as Halt. I could never be like him. Crowley said it today: there's only one Halt.'

Horace looked at him very seriously, appraising him, thinking of all he had learned about this remarkable young man in the past five years.

'You may not ever be exactly like him,' he said. 'But there won't be a lot in it.'

Then the two friends leaned back and watched the sun rise clear of the trees.

'Best time of the day,' said Will.

'Yes,' Horace agreed. 'What's for breakfast?'



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