Gilan's infectious laugh rang through the relative quiet of the Gathering Grounds. The young apprentice was sitting at a campfire with the Commandant, Crowley. Halt had gone to visit some of his other comrades - the Rangers, though a tight-knit group, were very busy and rarely were able to visit each other for social means.
"He-he didn't!" The tall apprentice managed to choke out through his mirth.
Crowley grinned, his hazel eyes bright with amusement. "I swear, he did. Halt's bow slipped, and that big brown battlehorse bucked. Halt's face was as pale as a sheet." Crowley gave a snort of laughter at the memory.
It was pure bad luck that Halt had chosen that moment to return. Giving Crowley a withered glare, Halt said dryly, "Stop poisoning his mind, Crowley."
"You rode a battlehorse, Halt?" Gilan cut in, still giggling.
Halt glared at Crowley again. Turning to enter his tent, the gray bearded Ranger replied gratingly, "Giggling is for girls, Gilan."
After Halt had taken his indignant leave, Crowley, an impish grin on his face, had taken Gilan and laid out a foundation for a prank. Gilan had enthusiastically agreed.
"I'll get Halt away from his bow. Then-" Crowley began.
"How?" Gilan interrupted. He had originally been intimidated by the Commandant, but Crowley was sportive and genuinely likable. Gilan also held him in some awe, not only because he was the Commandant, but also because he could tease Halt, and didn't seem worried about any consequences - though, that might come with the rank of being Commandant. "How will you get him away from his bow? He never goes anywhere without the thing."
Crowley waved his hand, unconcerned. "That's for me to worry about. You are in charge of this." He gestured to a small jar of what was unmistakably tree sap. The redheaded Ranger was always an advocate of pranking his grim faced best friend; however, no one ever had the nerve to assist him. Halt was an intimidating figure, even to other Rangers. This, Crowley reasoned, was why he had warmed so quickly to Gilan. In Halt's apprentice was an ally, because in Crowley's experience, apprentices could never resist bothering their masters. "Slather this on where he holds it."
Gilan took the jar, a mischievous smile on his face. "Ok. Let's get started."
Gilan looked alertly at the sound of Crowley's voice. His mentor had moved from his tent to the campfire, and looked in the direction of his friend's voice.
"Halt, I need you." Crowley continued now that he knew he had caught the other man's attention. "Some of the first year apprentices keep dropping their bow hand. I was thinking if they saw the best and were given a few pointers, they would work a little harder to fix it."
Halt raised an eyebrow. "They should already be working harder to fix it," he countered quietly.
Crowley groaned. "Don't argue with your Commandant, Halt."
Halt sighed, then stood, picking up his longbow as he did so. Crowley, however, shook his head. "Not with your longbow. The technique is a bit different than the recurve. I have a recurve bow ready for you."
Halt paused, then set his bow down. "Aren't you needy?" He muttered in an undertone. Crowley caught the words, but elected not to comment. Turning toward the archery field, the two friends began walking.
After they left, Gilan quickly glided out of the trees. Taking the jar of sap from his belt, the boy removed the lip, and, using a small rag, proceeded to wipe the sticky liquid over the smooth wood of Halt's bow. His part finished, Gilan, after a quick glance around him, quietly hurried away.
"Only one of them was dropping his bow hand." Halt chastised Crowley as they walked back to their tents. Crowley had set up his tent near Halt and Gilan's, due to the friendship that he and the former shared - after all, they had reformed the Corps together. Halt continued, "I'm anxious to shoot my bow again after playing with that recurve."
"What do you say, then?" Crowley asked, far too innocently. "Say we go shoot like men before dark?"
Halt cast Crowley a suspicious glance, but none the less picked up his longbow. His forehead creased, then his eyebrows pulled together in anger. "GILAN! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY BOW!?"
Gilan, who was very nearly back at their campsite when Halt's very angry voice made itself heard, stopped in his tracks. Halt had never sounded that angry before, and Gilan couldn't help but wonder if he had gone a few steps too far.
Halt, whose gaze had landed on his tall, slim, and very scared looking apprentice, began to stalk toward him, looking almost like a wildcat moving in for the kill.
"It was Crowley's idea!" The boy yelped as he turned and ran.
Crowley was on his feet and running the moment Halt had began moving toward his apprentice. At Gilan's words, Halt whirled around. "CROWLEY!" He roared.
Crowley and Gilan spent the rest of the evening running from a very angry grey bearded someone. Gilan eventually resorted to scurrying up a tree, Crowley soon following suit. Gilan had learned Halt had never been willing to chase his apprentice up trees - probably, Gilan thought dully, because he could wait at the bottom to prevent his student from coming down. Trees were a last ditch effort, but right now, they sounded considerably better then facing a still furious Halt.
"You shouldn't hold your Commandant hostage in a tree, Halt!" Crowley called down some hours later. Halt had settled himself at the base of the pine with water, soap, and a tub of butter, and worked to remove the sap from his precious bow.
"You shouldn't put sap on Halt's bow, Crowley!" Halt mimicked.
Gilan moaned. "This is bad enough for you, Crowley, but I have to live with him!"
And Halt's satisfied voice floated up to them. "You know that's right!"