Chapter 5: An Evil Arises
“One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” - William
“Don’t tell me what to do! You will kill that Ranger!” Gannon snarls, rising to his feet as he growls at one of his henchmen.
“We’ve tried, sir. It’s nearly impossible to kill a Ranger,” he points out, intimidated by the powerful figure staring him down.
“We have done it before, we can do it again. Our cause is great, so we must take great measures to ensure its success. Disposing of the Ranger Corps would be one,” Gannon spits, pulling out a knife. “And killing those who aren’t dedicated to the cause would be another.” The knife flashes as it reflects the candlelight. Gannon goes quiet for a moment as he studies the knife. He looks up at the henchman facing him, “You are dedicated to this cause, aren’t you?” he continues in a low, dangerous tone.
“Yes sir!” his underling agrees readily, all too aware of the consequences he may face if he disagrees.
“THEN KILL THE RANGER!” Gannon roars.
“Yes sir. I’ll do it right away sir,” he mumbles, stepping away from Gannon. He exits the room quickly, fearing for his life. Gannon paces across the small room, his feet thudding quietly against the wooden floor as he walks. He looks up at his deputy, Derrick, who is sitting calmly in a chair.
“This is taking too long. I need to move faster. I have followers, and gain more almost daily,”
Gannon explains to him. “Yet, I don’t want my organization to be discovered. If the Rangers knew of my plans, things would become doubly hard. They still think the old Commandant died in his sleep. Ha! Poisoning the old geezer was a brilliant scheme of mine.”
Gannon sits in one of the chairs that furnish the room. “Although, getting rid of the famous Will Treaty, and his teacher, Halt, is proving to be harder than I thought.”
“You almost had him when you hired Jory Ruhl and his gang,” Derrick comments, “After killing his wife, he wasn’t exactly focusing on anything but revenge. Your men also took care of a different Ranger… Liam Arkwright, I think was his name.”
“But Will Treaty still got away! Him and his blasted apprentice!”
Derrick sighs, “Yes, true enough.”
Gannon waves his hand dismissively, “Enough on that. You said you had news?”
“Yes. One of the rangers has taken on an apprentice.”
Gannon stiffens his eyes flashing angrily, “What! Which one?”
“The one who was recently assigned to Whitby fief, Alix Jasperson,” Derrick explains, repeating what his informant had told him.
A strange look crosses Gannon’s face, “You don’t mean…”
Derrick nods, “It’s her.”
“Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice reduces the imperfection.” - Toba Beta
“Rea, stepping on twigs doesn’t help your silent movement skills,” Alix comments dryly, listening to her apprentice creep through the trees around the cabin, “Try moving slower, and pay extra attention to where you are placing your feet.” Rea nods and concentrates harder. “Better,” Alix approves. “But remember, the more you practice, the better you will get.”
“Alright, I’ll keep on practicing. What else do I have to learn other than archery, the double knife defense, knife throwing, and map reading?”
Alix raises an eyebrow, “Many, many other things.”
Rea grins back. “I think I can handle it.”
“Good. Follow me.”
Intrigued, Rea quickly follows Alix. “Where are we going?”
“You will find out soon.” Alix says, leading her in an unfamiliar direction. They meander down a faint trail through the woods for quite a while. Rea looks around her curiously. “Should only be a few more minutes,” Alix says, glancing at her apprentice.
Young Bob was the horse trainer for the Ranger Corps. However, since they were living in Whitby Fief and Bob's farm was in Redmont fief, Alix had arranged for her and her apprentice's horse to be brought to a small clearing in the woods when she herself would introduce Rea to her horse.
Soon, they arrive at a clearing where on the far side two horses are grazing quietly. Rea gazes at the horses, admiring them. Alix whistles quietly and they both come trotting over to her.
“Which one’s yours?”
“This one. Her name is Willow.” Alix says, smiling as the indicated horse nudges her.
“What’s the other one called?” Rea asks stepping up to pet it.
“He’s a beauty.”
Alix nods, grinning.
“He’s a ranger horse, he’s got special skills and abilities that assist our own,” Alix explains.
“He can alert you if a stranger, or friend, is approaching.”
Alix nods, “They’re truly one-of-a-kind.”
“Can I ride him?”
“Sure, but you need to tell him a special phrase before you get on,” Alix replies.
Rea frowns. “A special phrase?”
Alix nods, “Yes. A special phrase. Should I repeat it again for you?”
“That’s crazy. I’ve never heard of such a thing. You’re joking.” With that Rea steps up and mounts Kicker.
Alix shrugs, “Have it your way.” she says, stepping back a few paces.
For a moment, Rea sits on the horse’s back. Then, she realizes something was wrong. The next moment, she goes flying backwards off the horse and lands hard on the ground. She looks up at Alix, who is trying to restrain her laughter.
“Another lesson I’ve learned today: always trust your mentor,” Rea says with a groan as she gets up, dusting off her pants.
Alix nods, grinning, “Very true. Now, how would you like that special phrase?”
“Yes, please,” Rea says with a grin.
“Say ‘Be my friend’ to him.”
“‘Be my friend’? Is that what I’m supposed to tell him? Right after he bucked me off?”
Alix nods again, “Exactly. You’ve got the right idea.”
Frowning, Rea steps up cautiously to Kicker again. She glances at Alix who nods. With that Rea takes a deep breath and whispers ‘Be my friend.’ into Kicker’s ear.
“He’ll let you ride him now.”
Rea hesitates then mounts. She gently presses her heels into his sides and he starts forward at a walking pace.
Willow nickers next to Alix, You didn’t believe your mentor about the secret phrase even after I bucked you off. Alix frowns slightly at her horse, “I was young then” she mutters quietly to her.
Rea urges Kicker to go a little faster and they trot easily around the clearing.
That’s a terrible excuse. Willow seems to say as she tosses her head. Alix rolls her eyes, ignoring her horse “So, how do you like Kicker?” she calls to Rea.
“He’s wonderful!” she calls back.
Alix smiles, “How do you feel about riding back to the cabin?”
“That would be great!”
Alix nods, mounting Willow, “Then let’s be on our way.”