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Authors: John A. Flanagan

The Tournament at Gorlan

BOOK: The Tournament at Gorlan
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Also by John Flanagan

THE RANGER'S APPRENTICE EPIC

BOOK 1: THE RUINS OF GORLAN

BOOK 2: THE BURNING BRIDGE

BOOK 3: THE ICEBOUND LAND

BOOK 4: THE BATTLE FOR SKANDIA

BOOK 5: THE SORCERER OF THE NORTH

BOOK 6: THE SIEGE OF MACINDAW

BOOK 7: ERAK'S RANSOM

BOOK 8: THE KINGS OF CLONMEL

BOOK 9: HALT'S PERIL

BOOK 10: THE EMPEROR OF NIHON-JA

BOOK 11: THE LOST STORIES

BOOK 12: THE ROYAL RANGER

BROTHERBAND CHRONICLES

BOOK 1: THE OUTCASTS

BOOK 2: THE INVADERS

BOOK 3: THE HUNTERS

BOOK 4: SLAVES OF SOCORRO

BOOK 5: SCORPION MOUNTAIN

P
HILOMEL
B
OOKS

an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

Copyright © 2015 by John Flanagan. Published in Australia by Random House Australia in 2015. Map copyright © by Mathematics courtesy Random House Australia.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Philomel Books is a registered trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

ISBN 978-0-698-17412-2

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Contents

Also by John Flanagan

Title Page

Copyright

Map

Foreword

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Epilogue

About the Author

FOREWORD

T
HE
EVENTS
D
ESCRIBED
IN
THIS
BOO
K
FOLLOW
DIRECTLY
from the short story “The Hibernian,” published in Book 11 of the Ranger's Apprentice series,
The Lost Stories
.

For those who have not read “The Hibernian,” it describes how Halt and Crowley first met as younger men when Halt came to the Kingdom of Araluen as a fugitive from his homeland of Hibernia. Halt was the rightful heir to the throne of Clonmel, but his younger twin brother attempted to kill him and seize the throne. Saddened and embittered by his brother's behavior, but unwilling to fight his own flesh and blood, Halt chose instead to leave Hibernia behind.

He arrives in Araluen at a time when Morgarath, Baron of Gorlan Fief and the Kingdom's foremost knight, is engaged upon a carefully planned attempt to seize power. One of his first steps is to weaken and destroy the Ranger Corps, an elite special forces unit who are the eyes and ears of the Kingdom and the
most powerful group supporting the existing King. Over a period of several years, Morgarath has organized for the more senior Rangers to be falsely accused of crimes and forced to abandon their posts or flee the country. He has replaced them with his own sycophants and toadies.

Morgarath is an influential figure and has gained King Oswald's confidence, convincing him that his son, Prince Duncan, has been conspiring to murder him. Oswald takes refuge in Castle Gorlan, under Morgarath's protection. As time passes, Morgarath's protection becomes increasingly oppressive and the King finds himself a virtual prisoner.

Crowley, a recently commissioned Ranger, trained in the traditional skills by an old Ranger named Pritchard, is disillusioned by Morgarath's scheming. Shortly after he meets Halt, he decides to reform the Ranger Corps. He plans to recruit the few remaining members of the original group and seek a royal charter from Prince Duncan. Crowley discovers that, like himself, Halt has been trained by Pritchard, one of the first of the Rangers to be driven out of the Kingdom by Morgarath. This seals
their friendship. The bond between them is reinforced when Halt joins Crowley to fight off an attack by half a dozen of Morgarath's soldiers.

With Morgarath's men hot on their heels, Halt decides to join Crowley in his search for Prince Duncan. Together, they set off on their quest, with the ever-present threat of Morgarath's enmity behind them.

1

I
T
HAD
BEEN
RAINING
FOR
A
WEEK
.

Not heavy rain, but a steady, persistent, soaking rain that finally overcame the protective oil in their woolen cloaks and worked its way into the fabric itself, making it heavy and sodden.

And cold.

As they had done for the previous few nights, Halt and Crowley were camping out in the woods. Halt suggested that they should avoid towns and villages until they were sure they were clear of Morgarath's sphere of influence, and Crowley initially agreed. Halt, after all, had more experience of traveling as a fugitive than he did. Now, however, he wasn't quite so sure about the decision.

They were sitting under a rectangular oilskin sheet that they had spread between four trees, with the lower side angled so that the rain would run off it. The ground beneath them was saturated and they had constructed low cots from tree branches to keep them off the wet earth. Each cot consisted of a rectangular frame, with a series of short crosspieces, and leafy boughs laid across it to form a rough mattress. Each day, they would disassemble the frames and carry the longer timber pieces with them, lashed in a bundle.

A few meters away, their horses were tethered. The animals huddled together, sharing their body warmth and keeping their hindquarters turned to the wind and rain.

Halt shivered and pulled his cloak more tightly around him. As he moved, a runnel of water ran off the cowl and landed on his nose, continuing its downward passage to drip off the end. Seeing it, Crowley laughed.

Halt turned an accusing eye on him. “What do you find so
amusing?” he asked coldly.

Crowley, also huddled inside his cloak, nodded his head toward his friend. “You sitting there, hunched over and dripping, like an old man with a runny nose,” he said. Unfortunately, the shrugging movement dislodged a stream of water from his own cowl and the drops ran down his nose. He sniffed, the smile dying on his face.

“You find it amusing that I'm soaked to the skin and dying of cold?” Halt asked.

Crowley made as if to shrug, then realized that such a movement would send more water running, and restrained himself. “Not amusing, perhaps. But certainly
diverting
.”

Halt turned, very carefully, to face him. “And from what does this sight divert you?” he asked, with careful attention to his grammar. When Halt was in a bad mood, he invariably paid careful attention to his grammar.

“From the fact that I'm also sitting here with water running off my nose, cold, wet and miserable,” Crowley said.

Halt considered that. “You're uncomfortable?”

Crowley nodded, sending more water cascading. “Totally,” he said.

“Some Ranger you turned out to be,” Halt told him. “I thought Rangers could face the worst discomfort in the line of duty with a smile on their lips and a song in their heart. I didn't realize they would sit around whining and complaining.”

“Facing discomfort doesn't mean I'm not entitled to whine and complain about it. Besides, only a few minutes ago, I was laughing and cheerful.” Crowley shivered, and pulled his cloak tighter. More water ran off it. “These cloaks are good up to a point. But once the water has soaked into them, they're worse
than nothing.”

“If you were sitting here wrapped in nothing you'd soon see the difference,” Halt replied. Crowley grunted, and a brief silence fell over the campsite, broken only by the persistent patter of rain on the leaves and the occasional stomp of one of the horses' hooves.

They were faced with another cold supper. The air was so moisture laden that getting a spark to take from Halt's flint and steel to ignite a handful of tinder would be beyond his capabilities. And even if he could manage that, there was no dry firewood. Usually, they traveled with an emergency supply of tinder and kindling, but they had run out of both two days previously.

Pity, Halt thought. Even a small fire would have provided some warmth, and the flames would have given them a psychological boost as well. He reached for the pack on the cot beside him and found a piece of beef jerky. He bit some off and began to chew methodically, his jaws working on the tough, flinty meat. Maybe the exercise of chewing the jerky would warm him, he thought. The meat was certainly tough enough to require considerable effort from his jaws. Slowly, the smoked meat flavor began to release from the jerky and fill his mouth. Then, of course, he realized how very hungry he really was, and how little opportunity he would have to relieve that hunger.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Being cold and hungry was miserable. Being wet was equally so. Being all three was well nigh unbearable.

“I've been thinking . . . ,” Crowley began, leaving the sentence hanging for a few seconds.

Halt shook his head. “And here am I without pencil or parchment to record this momentous event.”

Crowley raised an eyebrow in his direction. At least, he thought, that didn't send water cascading down his face. He raised his other eyebrow as well, just to make sure. No cascade, so he relaxed them both.

“I think we might have crossed the border out of Gorlan Fief,” he continued. Halt grunted, a noncommittal sound.

Crowley took that as a signal to expound on his theory. “That river we crossed late this afternoon, I think that might have been the Crowsfoot River, and that's the border between Gorlan and Keramon Fiefs.”

“Equally,” said Halt, “it might have been the Salmon River, and as I recall from the map, that's still kilometers inside Gorlan.”

But Crowley shook his head. “The Salmon is much narrower—much faster running. And it's farther west, closer to Redmont. So unless our navigation is well off the mark, we wouldn't have come close to it.”

“Well, you were the one doing the navigating,” Halt said.

Crowley gave him a hurt look. “My map reading and sense of direction aren't wonderful. But I'm rarely twenty or thirty kilometers offline.”

“Rarely, of course, implies that sometimes you are,” Halt pointed out. But Crowley stuck to his point.

“Not this time. And as I say, the Salmon is narrower and faster running.”

Halt decided to concede. “So, if you are right, what point are you making?”

Crowley shifted as cold water ran down inside his cloak. Halt was right, he thought, it might feel miserable sitting huddled in a soaking cloak, but at least it still kept most of the water
out—and it did allow some body heat to be retained, damp as it might be.

“My point is, if we've moved out of Gorlan Fief, we might be able to look for an inn in a village and spend a few nights.”

“You think Morgarath would stop at the border between the two fiefs?” asked Halt.

Crowley stuck out his bottom lip. “Perhaps not Morgarath himself,” he admitted. “But if he sent some of his men after us—and we don't even know for sure that he has—they might well decide to turn back once they reached the limits of the fief. Particularly in this sort of weather. They won't be enjoying it any more than we are.”

“It's possible,” Halt said. “So do you have a village in mind?”

Crowley nodded. He'd been studying the map before the light failed. “There's a village called Woolsey,” he said. “I'd guess it's about ten kilometers away and a little off the beaten track. It's big enough to have a tavern or an inn. And if it doesn't, we could always look for lodgings with one of the villagers.”

Halt said nothing, considering the idea. Then a problem occurred to Crowley.

“Of course, we'd need money,” he said. “Usually when I'm traveling, I pay with a chit that can be reclaimed from the Corps. But I can hardly do that now.”

Since their confrontation with Morgarath, and the fight with his men, they had decided that Crowley should relinquish his identity as a Ranger. Morgarath's men would be looking for a member of the Corps. So far, Morgarath was probably unaware that Halt had joined Crowley. To this end, Crowley had set aside his mottled Ranger cloak and was wearing a simple wool cloak in a dark gray color. Halt's cloak was a forest green. Both colors
were adequate for concealment, and not as instantly recognizable as Ranger cloaks.

“I have money,” Halt said, and Crowley looked at him with relief. “But it's Hibernian. I'm not sure if innkeepers here will accept it.”

“Is it gold?” Crowley asked and, when Halt nodded, he continued. “They'll accept it.”

“Well then,” Halt said, “tomorrow we'll head for Woolsey village. It'll give us a chance to dry out our clothes and our gear. And the horses will benefit from spending a couple of nights in a stable.”

“Or even a week?” Crowley suggested optimistically.

Halt turned a baleful eye on him, peering at him through the multiple drips of water that were now running from his cowl.

Crowley shrugged. “A couple of nights is good.”

“Let's turn in,” Halt said, yawning. It had been a long day and the thought of a dry bed on the morrow was an attractive one. He lay down carefully and, shivering slightly, wrapped the soaking wet cloak around him, pulling the cowl high up over his head. A gust of wind shook the tarpaulin above them and water
cascaded down on three sides. He shivered again.

“To blazes with Morgarath's men,” Halt muttered. “I want a nice roaring fire tomorrow night.”

“And a hearty beef stew,” came Crowley's muffled voice.

“And a hearty beef stew,” Halt agreed.

BOOK: The Tournament at Gorlan
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