I'm NOT Overreacting

Chapter 10

"Halt! Halt!"

The named Ranger glanced up from where he was stirring spices into the simmering stew on the stove. Sighing, he set the spoon down and moved toward the half open door. "Gilan, I swear, if you've braided another ribbon into Abelard's mane..." he trailed off. "Gilan, what are you doing?"

Gilan was standing bareback on Blaze, his long arms held out to the side for balance. The bay mare was standing placidly, her head down to crop the green grass. "I saw these trick riders today in the riding ring at the castle. They can do handstands, and run the horses while they're standing-" He broke off, teetering as Blaze took a step toward a particularly tasty-looking piece of grass.

Halt pinched the bridge of his nose. "Gilan, get down before you break your neck."

Gilan sighed sadly and complied. "It would have been fun. Can't you imagine me doing a handstand on Blaze?" As he said this, the tall blonde boy attempted a handstand, instead overshooting and landing with an grunt on his back.

Halt shook his head. "Oddly enough, no, I can't. Dinner will be ready soon. Make yourself useful and set the table."

"Alright," Gilan said, getting to his feet and straightening his tunic. Following Halt towards the cabin stairs, the boy's face widened into a smile as an idea struck him. "Halt, what if someone did a cartwheel on a horse? I mean, it obviously wouldn't work while the horse was moving, but maybe you could do one while the horse was standing as a way to-" Whatever Gilan had been about to say was cut off as he tripped halfway up the stairs, effectively causing him to fall.

Halt blinked. "You realize that's the third time you've fallen going up the stairs in the past week. Stairs shouldn't be that difficult."

Gilan grumbled as he climbed to his feet. "I wasn't watching and I missed a step. It happens when you have long legs, you know. Well, you might not..." And with what little dignity he had left, Gilan strode into the cabin, his head turned so that Halt couldn't see his smirk.

Halt frowned, his eyes narrowing. "Sarcasm is so very ugly on you, boy!" he called grumpily. Oh, the woes of having an apprentice with enough sarcasm to match his own. "At least I don't trip on something as simple as the six stairs on our porch!"

"Gilan, put some gloves on, for pities sake. It's cold enough outside that if you don't, your fingers will be red, swollen and numb by the time we get back," Halt said as he pulled his cloak on. The Ranger knew of his student's strong dislike of gloves (he claimed that they were too bulky) and knew that if he didn't insist, Gilan would simply rather suffer through the cold then wear them.

Gilan groaned and pulled the left glove on. "They're just so big!" he complained. "I can barely move my fingers."

Halt raised his eyebrow. "That's an exaggeration. Come on." The Ranger opened the cabin door to be met with a gust of wind and snowflakes. "We're practicing unseen movement today."

Gilan visibly brightened, as Halt had known he would. Gilan was a natural at unseen movement. All Rangers were trained to do it, and all were experts at it, but Gilan could take it to another level. Together, the teacher and student moved onto the porch, each taking a deep breath of the cool, crisp winter air. Gilan smiled, the cold already turning the tip of his nose red. Taking a large bound, Gilan started down the stairs.

And slipped as his foot hit a patch of ice.

His arms flailing, the boy would have spectacularly face planted had Halt's hand not shot out and grabbed his collar. Hauling his student back upright, Halt grunted. "You've got to learn to slow down. You're too hasty; if you had looked closer you would've noticed the ice."

Gilan bit his lip and regretted it a second later. He always got exceptionally dry skin in the winter, and biting his lip had made a crack open. "Sorry. You're right."

Halt nodded, noting the sincerity in his student's words. A second later he said thoughtfully, "You know, if I had a royal for every time you've fallen up or down the stairs, I'd be a rich man."

Gilan bit his lip again, opening another crack. He tasted a spot of blood on his tongue and shuddered. "It's not that bad."

Halt raised an eyebrow. "Hmm. That's up for debate."

Halt eyed the repaired veranda critically. A heavy wind storm had sent a tree crashing through the porch roof, and Arald had sent men to do repairs on it, using funds set aside for the Ranger of the fief. The men had done a good job repairing, but had made slight variations from the original, including the height. Just looking at it, the Ranger could already tell it was too short for his tall, lanky apprentice. Halt could walk under it without a problem, but it would certainly swipe Gilan's forehead. Halt shrugged. They could fix it later; in the mean time, Halt made a mental note to remind his apprentice to duck.

Several minutes later, Halt had set a pot of coffee boiling and was sitting comfortably in his chair when the door burst open, letting in wind, leaves, and a very windswept Gilan. Halt couldn't help giving a faint smile. Gilan, with his tousled blonde hair scattered with dried leaves, his red cheeks, his slightly upward titled nose pink and running slightly, and with a bright smile that seemed to radiate happiness to everything around him. How did I get so lucky? Halt mused to himself, then quickly wiped the smile from his face as he scolded himself. Getting sentimental in my old age.

"Bit of a breeze out there," Gilan greeted, shaking the debris from his hair. Halt snorted at the massive understatement. The youth continued, "The veranda looks great, by the way, but it feels shorter then I remembered. I felt like I had to duck..." Gilan trailed off, his forehead creased in thought, though it cleared a second later. "It might just be me. Anyway..."

Halt took a sip of his freshly poured coffee. "I shot some venison for Monica," the Ranger said, nodding to the wrapped packages on the table. "You might consider taking it to her, if you don't mind going back out into that gale."

Gilan immediately nodded. "Sure," he said, picking up the packages. "It's not that bad out there." Halt, once again, felt a surge of fondness for his ever willing apprentice.

"Don't be too long. I'll start a stew." Halt offered, and Gilan nodded.

"I'll be back in a bit," Gilan said, then swinging open the cabin door, braced himself and bolted out into the heavy wind. Halt, for a reason he didn't know, felt the need to call out a warning.

"Mind the veranda!" He called quickly, a second too late.

THUD. A tumbling sound, followed by resumed footsteps.

Halt winced at the sound. "We'll really have to fix that veranda," he said to himself. A moment later he continued thoughtfully, "Two hundred and seventy seven. Hmm."

Halt sighed as Gilan tripped. Again. "How, pray tell, do you honestly manage to still trip on those insignificant stairs? You've lived in this cabin for four and a half years, about?"

Gilan irritably stood, glaring at the offending step. "We need wider stairs. I naturally want to take a longer step, but the stupid stair always gets in the way."

"Take a shorter stride."

Gilan groaned. "It's easy for you! These steps are Halt-sized!"

Halt raised in eyebrow. "Halt-sized? I think of them as more average Ranger sized. It's not my fault your height's enough to be bothersome."

"It's not mine, either! Blame my parents."

Halt paused momentarily, unable to come up with a suitable comeback to Gilan's rather accurate statement. Slightly miffed, the Ranger changed the subject to a conversation he could win. "Do you know exactly how many times you've tripped on those steps? I do."

Gilan raised an eyebrow (it bothered Halt that Gilan was such a natural at one of his pet expressions) and answered dubiously, "The exact number?"

Halt nodded smugly. "Including that stumble from just now, you've tripped exactly eight hundred and three times."

Gilan blinked. "You've got to be kidding. You've kept track of every single stumble?"

"The ones that I've seen or heard, anyway. There's been more, I'm sure."

Gilan shook his head in disbelief. "Halt, most people have better things to do with their lives then memorize the exact number of how many times their apprentice has tripped on the stairs."

Halt raised an eyebrow. "Most apprentices don't stumble on the stairs enough times to warrant counting."

Gilan sighed in defeat. "Touché... Though I doubt anyone cares but you, Halt."

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