All I want is you
A lonely rider rode through the fields at night. He moved like a ghost: no sounds and when you blinked with your eyes, he had vanished. The moon was at her highest point, giving the rider enough light to see where he rode. He looked down to the woman in his arms, who was slightly breathing. Almost with no sound, he spoke to her. “We’ll be home soon Alyss, please stay with me.” She didn’t respond, just like the last couple of hours. Louder, the rider encouraged his horse to run faster. “Come on Tug, we need to get to home!” As if he understood Will, Tug ran as fast as in Arrida, racing against Sandstorm. Don’t worry, I’ll bring you there within a blink of an eye! They rode for more hours without stopping. Finally, when the sun arose, they arrived at the cabin. Halt was at the castle with lady Pauline and wouldn’t be back until Sunday evening. Will brought Alyss inside, laying her on the couch. He ran back to Tug, got their bags and brought them inside. Afterwards he brought Tug to the stable and brushed him quickly. “I’m sorry buddy, I will come back as soon as Alyss is stable.” Tug bumped him head softly against his rider’s shoulder. “Thank you so much, I don’t know how things would have been without you.” Just go, I’ll be fine, the Ranger horse seemed to say. Will hurried back inside to the courier and gently undressed her. Her dress was red coloured from blood, but he didn’t know if it was hers or from the soldiers they fought with. He cleaned her face, braided her hair and dressed her in one of his night pants. In that way it would be easier to clean the wounds. Then he looked at the injuries. Some were small, but there was one which made him insecure. It was a stab wound in her right-side, and it was still bleeding a lot. He grabbed some bandages, a salve without warmweed in it and also a needle and thread. Will went to the fireplace and made a fire. When it was warm enough, he placed his throwing knife in it and waited until he could use it. He turned around and did his best to stay calm. He couldn’t make any mistakes. He removed the old bandage, causing a new stream of blood. He had taken a small bowl with warm water and gently cleaned the wound. Afterwards, he took his knife and burned the bacteria which could be present. Alyss moaned a bit and Will felt sorry for her. “I’m sorry Alyss, but I have to. Just a little longer and then I’m done.” He wasn’t sure if Alyss heard him, but it helped him to focus on his work. Will laid his knife aside and started with the stiches. He had expected that his friend would feel it, but she barely moved. One last time he whipped the blood away and put a new bandage on it. First it was still dark red, but soon it turned pink. That must be good, he thought. He lifted her from the couch and brought her to his room, where he laid her in his bed.
Will went back to the living room, cleaned the things he had used and made himself some coffee. While drinking it, he thought about what had happened. They had gone to the meeting and Alyss made a good impression during the meetings. Will wasn’t allowed to attend them, but she told him what they had been talking about. While Alyss was in the castle, he walked through the village and visited Tyon, the Ranger of the fief. They exchanged some news and Tyon was glad to see Will again. They had met each other during the Gathering and within short time they became good friends. After a week, Alyss and Will headed back home, but there was something which made Will alert. A day before, Alyss had told him that a man came after her. When she confronted him, he told her that he would love to have her as his wife. She responded that she was already married, but that she and her husband had lost their wedding rings due to a robbery at the beginning of their travel. He apologized and left her alone, but the courier had the feeling they would meet again, although he wouldn’t be so nice the next time.
A lot of questions came up in his mind, as well as imagines of Alyss being injured and that he wasn’t able to protect her. That was the reason why she had asked him to come along. And since he was a Ranger, she didn’t need an escort to watch over her. Will sighed and went to Alyss to see how she was doing. The bandage was still pink, so he could leave it like that. At that moment, he felt a pain in his chest and left arm. Concerned she might see it, he left his room and cured himself.
He tried his best, but it was not enough. Two days had passed and Alyss’ condition had gotten worse. Apart from the injury, she also became sick. The first night it appeared and hadn’t changed at all. Will was tired, wounded and becoming sick as well. If he continued like this, he would fall on the ground, not able to get up. And then Halt would find him like that and Alyss… No, he said to himself, you’re a Ranger and you can handle this. He sat down after checking upon his friend and went through all the options. One sentence ran through his mind over and over again. You must inform Halt and Pauline. You must inform Halt and Pauline. You must… That was clear, but how should he do that? He didn’t trust the situation enough the leave her all alone. There was no one else around to send to the castle, so what- As a gift from heaven, he heard a knock. At first, he was disappointed to see a servant, but then he gave him a small letter. “Bring this to Ranger Halt and lady Pauline. It’s urgent.” The servant saluted him and ran towards the castle. “Now I hope they will receive it in time,” he whispered, while looking over his shoulder at his room.
After an hour, he heard how Tug greeted two horses. The young Ranger opened the door and ran towards him former mentor, where he collapsed into Halt’s arms. “Where is Alyss?” lady Pauline asked. “Inside, on my bed.” She hurried to go to her former apprentice and when she found her, she froze. Alyss was pale and suffering from a high fever. Pauline placed her hand on the courier’s head and for the first time, Alyss opened her eyes. “Pauline, I-“ “Don’t say anything, my dear.” When she saw that Alyss was looking for Will, she said, “He’s with Halt. You will come with me to the castle. There the doctor can look after you. Do you think you can ride to the castle?” As response, the young woman stood up, put on her cloak and went outside while Pauline supported her. Will had passed out and Halt looked at his wife. “I will stay here with him, in that way they can both focus on their own recovery.” Then, he looked at Alyss. “He will be fine. He’s a strong man.” “I know he is,” she said with a soft voice. The women rode to the castle while Halt laid Will in his bed.
The sun’s light awoke him. He had been sleeping for a while now and blinked a couple of times to get his sight sharp. Will tried to sit, but his chest and arm protested. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a soft voice from his left said. He looked aside and saw Halt sitting in a chair, while drinking coffee and reading some rapports. He stood up and felt Will’s head. “It’s better than yesterday, but I think it’s not over yet. You got some infections from your wounds because you didn’t pay attention to them.” “I had to take care of Alyss,” was all Will could say. The pain became worse and he also felt the urge to scratch the wounds. “No, we’ve been there before and that only ended up in a longer recovery time. Be a good boy and don’t touch them with your fingers, understood?” Will smiled when Halt called him boy. It reminded him of his first weeks with the grizzly Ranger.
After his graduation, Will had talked with Crowley and had asked him if he could stay with Halt until he got his own fief. Knowing that the two had a special bond and also because there wasn’t a place for Will to work, Crowley had agreed with Will’s request. To give Halt the opportunity to be with his wife, they had agreed that Halt would stay at the cabin throughout the week and during the weekends at the castle. The work of a Ranger never quitted, so it was an excellent chance for Will to be on his own and do research by himself as well as helping the villagers and attending meetings with the Baron and his men.
“Let’s have a look at your wounds, shall we?” Will wasn’t wearing a night shirt because it was too warm for him, so Halt could inspect the wounds easily. He didn’t say a lot but pressed at several points around the wounds to see until where Will felt the pain. “Your left arm should be fine within some days and if it heals well, it won’t leave a scar. Your chest, however, is more complicated.” Although it wasn’t deep, it still needed stiches and since it was all red and irritating, Halt had to wash it and also needed to kill the bacteria with his hot knife. “I’ll be back within some minutes.” While Halt was getting everything he needed, Will was thinking of Alyss. It had been a day now and he hoped that she was doing fine. He hadn’t heard some news about her and was worried things had gone wrong. He wouldn’t be able to forgive himself if something happened to her because he waited too long to get help. “Put the blankets and your pillow aside, will you? And try not to move,” Halt instructed him. Will did as he was told and tried to minimalize his moves as much as possible. On his left arm he had a small cut from a dagger, but he was hit by a sword on his chest. The attacker had placed the point at his heart, but when he wanted to stab Will, the Ranger stepped away and the sword left a diagonal cut. “I’m almost done Will. Are you feeling alright?” Halt asked after nearly twenty minutes. “Yes, only a bit dizzy,” was the reply. “Well, you’ve lost a lot of blood. Luckily not enough to bleed to death.” Halt smiled but noticed that Will had closed his eyes. He made the last knot and put some bandage on. “It should be okay for now. Take your rest. If you need me, I’m nearby,” he whispered, while going through the brown hair of the young man.
In the castle, Alyss woke up in the hospital wing. She couldn’t remember a lot of things, only that she was hurt, and that Will took care of her. Will. She looked around, searching him, but didn’t find her friend. Instead, she saw lady Pauline sitting next to her. “I’m so glad to see you awake again. Your wound seemed worse than it actually was. It was close to a blood vessel, so that’s why you bled so much.” Alyss took a closer look at her side and saw that it was well healing and her other wounds too. “The doctor said that Will had done a great job by stitching it.” “How’s Will? He was also injured, even worse than me.” She looked the woman in front of her in her eyes and hoped to find some answer, but during her training Pauline had learned to hide her emotions and Alyss knew it wouldn’t work. She herself had also learned that trick. “He will be fine, you’ll see. Halt makes sure that Will will recover, and I make sure that you’ll too.” They sat in silence, until Alyss decided that she wanted to sleep more. “I want to tell you what happened when I’m awake.” “I’ll be there if that happens,” Pauline replied, placing a soft kiss on Alyss’ head.
“Let’s skip the meeting part, I’ll hear that from Alyss later on. Tell me what happened when you rode back home.” It was a few days later and Will felt much better than before. He was still concerned about the woman, but Halt had told him she was also recovering well. “I was alert, especially after Alyss told me that a man wanted to marry her.” Something in his voice made Halt laugh. He knew, just as Pauline and all their friends, that his former apprentice and the young courier liked each other, but they hadn’t said it. Not yet, he thought. “What did you do?” he asked. “As you taught me: don’t act suspicious. We said farewell to the others and rode back to Redmont. The whole travel everything went well, except the last night. We wanted to sleep in a tavern but before we entered the village, we were attacked by those men. I don’t know where they came from, but I suppose that they were from Picta.” Halt’s eyebrows rose. “Picta you say? Why do you think that?” He had taught Will to think before acting or saying anything. Throughout the years, Will had mastered this skill and he always made sure to collect as much information as needed to make a conclusion. “They didn’t speak the common language and half of their face was painted blue.” The Rangers talked for almost an hour, until the point where Will yawned a couple of time in a row. The conversation made him tired and he went back to bed. Halt stayed alone in the living room, drinking his last drip of coffee.
Pauline sat across her husband, enjoying a cup of tea. He had just informed her about the attack and now it was Pauline’s turn to tell about the meeting. She talked with a soft voice, afraid to awake the sleeping boy. She finished her part with a sigh. “Why do people have to behave like this? Threating a young woman and man, for what?” She shook her head. This wasn’t a nice trip for Alyss, yet she knew that it was nothing compared to what happened with Will five years ago. Halt took her hand in his. “The world isn’t a nice place and can be cruel, but that’s doesn’t stop them to do the right thing.” She bent over the table and kissed him. “Thank you, darling.” They heard some noise coming from Will’s room. “Do you want to tell him?”
The music from the musicians was cheerful. They celebrated the defeat of the Kalkara and the rescue of their Baron and Ranger. “Who’s going to dance with me?” Jenny asked. Horace was faster than Will and guided her to the dancefloor. “Do you want to dance as well?” Will asked Alyss. “No, thank you. I’m not a great dancer.” Instead, they talked, although they could barely hear what the other said. At the end of the evening, Alyss came closer and placed a soft kiss on his lips. Later, when he closed his eyes to sleep, he could still feel them.
Frankly, he could feel it again. He opened his eyes and saw a smiling face next to him. “Alyss!” He hugged her, forgetting she was injured too. All of sudden, he let her go, as he remembered it again. “Don’t worry, I’m almost better. The doctor took good care of me. He said that within two weeks, the wounds should be all healed.” Will couldn’t keep his eyes of her. He was glad to see her smiling again. Still, her pale face appeared at him during the nights, keeping him and Halt awake. “Are you still worrying about that? Neither of us could’ve known that we were followed. We were almost home and were longing to our beds. Don’t blame yourself.” Will shook his head and sat up straight in bed. “That’s the whole point. I came with you to protect you and keep you save during the meetings. But when you needed me, I wasn’t there to do my job. I’m so sorry that you had to deal with all of this.” Tears fell down from his cheeks and he didn’t try to hide them. Alyss came closer and whipped them away with her thumb. “Don’t cry, that’s makes me cry too.” They looked in each other’s eyes and held hands. “Next time you should bring an escort with you, they can protect you.” Will concentrated on her hands and rubbed them gently. She opened her mouth to protest, but Will wasn’t finished yet. “An escort is what you need. It’s the reason why couriers never ask us Rangers to go with them.” Alyss lifted his head up to look him in the eyes again. “Maybe that’s what I need, but not what I want.” Will was confused and she could see it in his eyes. “All I want is a cheerful, smart Ranger, trained by the best Rangers of the whole Kingdom. A Ranger who, at the age of sixteen, went through hell but at the same time fought a war to help those who helped him. The man who made a treaty with that country and with many more.” She paused for a moment to give the young man across her some time to think. They had talked about them a lot of times and Will made it clear that she deserved someone better than him, but that wasn’t what she wanted. “All I want is you, Will Treaty.” Then, she closed the gap between them and kissed her loved one with passion. To her surprise and relieve, Will did the same. He embraced her and she could feel how her heartbeat rose. Yes, this was the man she wanted to spend her life with. This was the man she loved.