Halt left the cabin, his lanky apprentice close behind. "What are we doing, Halt?" Gilan asked cheerfully. Halt didn't answer. Gilan sighed, and continued prodding. "Halt. Halt. Halt. What-are-we-doing. Halt. Halt."
Halt's lips visibly pursed, but the older Ranger remained silent.
"Halt!" Gilan said again, very emphatically.
"What?!" Halt responded crossly, irritated that he had answered first, though not in the mood to listen to his student's usual conversation.
"I asked what we were doing."
"Going to see the Baron! Stop asking so many questions."
Gilan bit his lip, surprised at the very agitated tone. Entering the stables, Halt immediately moved to saddle Abelard. "Could I ride bareback?" Gilan asked, peeking out of his mare's stall.
Halt clenched his teeth, his temper near boiling point. "No more questions! Do what you want!"
Gilan hastily ducked back into the stall to slip Blaze's bridle in. "Why are you in such bad mood?" The only thing Gilan received in answer was one of Abelard's brushes thrown at the back of his head.
The two shaggy Ranger horses approached Castle Redmont. Gilan hadn't asked anymore questions, still fuming slightly from being hit with a brush. As they approached the gate, however, Gilan's curiosity got the better of him. "Are you mad at the Baron?"
Halt closed his eyes for a few seconds. Then, opening them, he dismounted Abelard. "Get off your horse."
"Get off your horse. Now."
Confused, Gilan slid off Blaze. "Why?"
"Come over here. Leave Blaze."
Suspicious, Gilan walked over to Halt. A second later, he registered three things. One, Halt's hand grabbing his collar. Two, flying through the air. And three, hitting the water with a splash. Staggering to his feet, coughing water, the apprentice spluttered, "W-w-what was that for?!"
Halt was already remounted. "I told you not to ask me any more questions." He called behind him as he continued through the gate into the courtyard.
Gilan found himself alone, save Blaze and several guards. The guards were trying unsuccessfully to muffle their snickers of laughter. Gilan glared them into silence. Blaze was watching him curiously.
Why are you standing in the water?
"Oh, be quiet." Gilan told his mare as he climbed out of the moat, then attempted to wring the excess moisture off his cloak and tunic.
Ha. That's funny.
Gilan sighed, knowing he would never get the last word with his horse. Especially his horse.
Gilan, still dripping water, climbed the stairs to Baron Arald's office. Behind the door, he could hear voices, which he recognized as Baron Arald's and Halt. Pausing behind the door, the tall apprentice listened to the conversation for a few moments.
"Arald, no." Halt said, speaking in the firm, almost exasperated tone he used whenever Gilan did something rather stupid. Which, Gilan thought wryly, tended to be quite often.
"Halt, this only happens once in a lifetime. It is, say..." Arald gave a cough. Gilan swore he was trying to conceal a laugh. "A momentous occasion."
Halt's voice was as cold as ice. "No. You are not going to celebrate my birthday, of all ridiculous things to celebrate!"
Gilan gave an explosive sneezing sound as he tried ineffectively to mask his laughter. Knowing his cover was blown, Gilan pushed the door open, moving into sight of Halt's glower. Shaking his head, the lanky apprentice asked, amused. "You threw me into the moat over THIS? That seems a bit drastic!
Arald blinked. "Halt? You threw your own apprentice into the moat?"
Halt shrugged, unconcerned. "I did. He's young- young people bounce. Especially this one, all the time."
Gilan added helpfully, "Except this time it was more like splattering rather hard against a body of water."
Halt rolled his eyes. "Thank you, Gilan. Now, before we were so rudely interrupted, I believe the Baron was about tell me that he would stop this nonsense. That is, if he values his life."
Arald edged a bit further away from the small, grizzled Ranger. He didn't think Halt would go through on a threat that extreme, but it was better to be safe then sorry. "Fine, Halt. We won't celebrate your birthday, if you really don't want us too." Arald sighed wistfully. "Though it would have been fun... And Pauline would have been there..." Arald glanced up quickly to see what effect his words had made, but the Ranger and his apprentice had already gone.
Halt swung easily up onto Abelard. Gilan was a little less eager. "Blaze is shedding." The boy said distastefully. "Her hair will get all over me."
"You're the one who wanted to ride bareback." Halt replied unconcernedly.
"That was before I knew I was going to get shoved into a moat." Gilan muttered under his breath as he vaulted onto his horse, sighing as he thought about how hairy his clothes were going to be.
Halt turned Abelard, a smile touching his lips. Not a bad birthday, The Ranger mused.