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  1. Fanmade video (not actual trailer - is a bit gory!): From the books - Halt's Cabin PS: Taking reader-liberty to adapt the story. This gives the background of how Elize ended up as... The Ranger's Apprentice Choosing Day was the pivotal point in the life of the castle wards. They were orphan children raised by the generosity of Baron Arald, the Lord of Redmont Fief. For the most part, their parents had died in the service of the fief, and the Baron saw it as his responsibility to care for and raise the children of his former subjects-and to give them an opportunity to improve their station in life wherever possible. Choosing Day provided that opportunity. In less than nine hours, Elize realized, she would face the Choosing. Elize's father was a cavalry lieutenant who had died in the battle at Hackham Heath, when Morgarath's Wargal army had been defeated and driven back to the mountains. Elize's mother, devastated by her loss, succumbed to a fever some weeks after giving birth. So there was plenty of room in the Ward for the girl child, and Baron Arald was, at heart, a kindly man. The huge fig tree growing close by the castle's central tower had often afforded the girl a haven. Heights held no fear for Will, her friend and he climbed smoothly into the tree, continuing long after Elize stopped - she was not as comfortable with heights. There was a rustle of soft feathers and a barn owl landed on the next branch, its head swiveling, its huge eyes catching every last ray of the faint light. It studied Elize without concern, seeming to know it had nothing to fear from her. It was a hunter. A silent flyer. A ruler of the night. In less than nine hours, she realized, they would face the Choosing. A long time later, as if in answer upon a silent question, they simultaneously caught the other's gaze. Silently, apprehension almost palpable, they climbed down from the tree and made their way to their respective dormitories. On the morrow they have to face Baron Arald and the Craftmasters, hoping to be each chosen as Apprentice, preferably together. oOo The Craftschool heads entered Baron Arald's room in no particular order of precedence. As a group, they admired and respected one another and so rarely stood on strict ceremonial procedure. Sir Rodney, head of the Battleschool, came first. Next came the Horsemaster, responsible for the care and training of the castle's mighty battlehorses. Lady Pauline followed. Lady Pauline, who had been awarded the title in her own right for her work in foreign policy for the kingdom, was head of the Diplomatic Service in Redmont. It was perhaps only natural that Nigel, the Scribemaster, followed close behind Lady Pauline. They had been discussing matters of mutual interest while they waited for Martin to summon them. Nigel and Lady Pauline were close friends as well as professional colleagues. It was Nigel's trained scribes who prepared the official documents and communiques that were so often delivered by Lady Pauline's diplomats. Master Chubb, the castle cook, came in last of all. Inevitably, he was a fat, round-bellied man, wearing a cook's white jacket and tall hat. He was known to have a terrible temper that could flare as quickly as oil spilled on a fire, and most of the wards treated him with considerable caution. Elize, eyes down, shifting nervously from one foot to the other, suddenly had the strange sensation that someone was watching her. She looked up and actually started with surprise as she met the dark, unfathomable gaze of Halt, the Ranger. She realized that the mysterious figure must have slipped in through a side door while everyone's attention was on the Craftmasters as they made their entrance. Halt stood behind the Baron's chair and slightly to one side, dressed in his usual brown and gray clothes and wrapped in his long, mottled gray and green Ranger's cloak. Halt was an unnerving person. He had a habit of coming up on you when you least expected it-and you never heard his approach. One by one each ward was chosen by a Craftmaster, until only Elize was left. The two (Will and Elize) have garnered quite a reputation for themselves, one scaling the tower to the kitchen's windows, relieving the Master Cook of his pies, still steaming, cooling off on the window sill, while the other kept an eye on the guards. On another occasion Elize wrote quite the missive which saw them getting two whole days off tutoring! Luckily her skills with animals of all kinds had saved them on yet another occasion when they were supposed to be planting fields. The Horsemaster's favourite plough horse had been attacked by a swarm of bees, and Elize and Will had managed to pull him to safety in the small lake, until only his head was sticking out of the water. Elize's continued whispers had calmed him enough that he didn't panic, but ducked his head under with her, and the bees had to fly off. "Is there any one of you who could use this girl?" Baron Arald said. One by one, silently, the Craftmasters shook their heads. "There is something you should know about her, my lord," Halt said. Halt's voice was deep and soft-spoken, with the slightest burr of a Hibernian accent still noticeable. He stepped forward now and handed the Baron a sheet of paper, folded double. Arald unfolded it, studied the words written there and frowned. "You're sure of this, Halt?" he said. "Indeed, my lord." oOo Halt's cottage lay some distance away from both castle and village, nestling under the shelter of the trees at the edge of the forest. The sun was just rising over the trees as Elize made her way to the log cabin. A thin spiral of smoke was rising from the chimney, so she reasoned that Halt was already up and about. Elize stepped up onto the verandah that ran the length of one side of the house, hesitated for a moment, then, taking a deep breath, she knocked firmly on the door. "Come in," said a voice from inside. Elize opened the door and went into the cottage. It was small but surprisingly neat and comfortable-looking inside. She found herself in the main room, a combined living and dining area, with a small kitchen at one end, separated from the main area by a pine bench. There were comfortable chairs ranged around a fire, a well-scrubbed wooden table and pots and pans that gleamed from much polishing. There was even a vase of brightly colored wildflowers on the mantel shelf, and the early morning sun streamed cheerfully through a large window. Two other rooms led off the main room. Halt sat in one of the chairs, his booted feet resting on the table. "At least you're on time," he said gruffly. "Have you had your breakfast yet?" "Yes, sir," said Elize, staring in fascination at the Ranger. This was the first time she had ever seen Halt without his gray-green cloak and hood. The Ranger was wearing simple brown and gray woolen clothes and soft-looking leather boots. He was older than Elize had realized. His hair and beard were short and dark, but peppered with steel gray flecks. They were both roughly trimmed and Elize thought they looked as if Halt had cut them himself with his hunting knife. The Ranger stood up. He was surprisingly small in build. That was something else that Elize had never realized. The gray cloak had concealed a lot about Halt. He was slim and not at all tall. But there was a sense of power and whipcord strength about him so that his lack of height and bulk didn't make him any less daunting a figure. "That'll be your room. You can put your things in there." He moved away to the woodstove in the kitchen area and Elize hesitantly entered the room he had indicated. It was small but, like the rest of the cottage, it was also clean and comfortable-looking. A small bed lay alongside one wall. There was a wardrobe for clothes and a rough table with a washing basin and jug on it. There was also, Elize noticed, another vase of freshly picked wildflowers adding a bright spot of color to the room. She put her small bundle of clothes and belongings on the bed and went back into the main room. "What Rangers do, or more correctly, what Rangers' apprentices do, is the housework." Elize had a sinking feeling as the suspicion struck her that she'd made a tactical error. "The… housework?" she repeated. Halt nodded, looking distinctly pleased with himself. "That's right. Take a look around." He paused, gesturing around the interior of the cabin for Elize to do as he suggested, then continued, "See any servants?" "No, sir," Elize said slowly. "No sir indeed!" Halt said. "Because this isn't a mighty castle with a staff of servants. This is a lowly cabin. And it has water to be fetched and firewood to be chopped and floors to be swept and rugs to be beaten. And who do you suppose might do all those things, girl?" Elize tried to think of some answer other than the one which now seemed inevitable. Nothing came to mind, so she finally said, in a defeated tone, "Would that be me, sir?" "I believe it would be," the Ranger told her, then rattled off a list of instructions crisply. "Bucket there. Barrel outside the door. Water in the river. Ax in the lean-to, firewood behind the cabin. Broom by the door and I believe you can probably see where the floor might be?" "Yes, sir," said Elize, beginning to roll up her sleeves. She'd noticed the water barrel as she approached, obviously holding the day's water supply for the cabin. She estimated that it would hold twenty or thirty buckets full. With a sigh, she realized she was going to have a busy morning. As she walked outside, the empty bucket in one hand, she heard the Ranger say contentedly as he poured himself a mug of coffee and sat down again: "I'd forgotten how much fun having an apprentice can be." oOo
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