All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian Copyright Act 1968), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Ranger’s Apprentice 1 & 2 Bindup
ePub ISBN 9781742745626
Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
Sydney New York Toronto
London Auckland Johannesburg
The Ruins of Gorlan first published by Random House Australia in 2004
The Burning Bridge first published by Random House Australia in 2005
This bindup edition first published in 2006
Copyright © John Flanagan 2004–2006
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
National Library of Australia
Flanagan, John, 1944–.
For primary students.
ISBN 978 1 74166 225 2.
ISBN 1 74166 225 7.
Cover and text design by Mathematics
Cover photographs by Quentin Jones
Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan
Book 2: The Burning Bridge
About the Author
Preview of book 3: The Icebound Land
Read on for An Extract from the Icebound Land
Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, former Baron of Gorlan in the Kingdom of Araluen, looked out over his bleak, rainswept domain and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed.
This was all that was left to him now – a jumble of rugged granite cliffs, tumbled boulders and icy mountains. Of sheer gorges and steep narrow passes. Of gravel and rock, with never a tree or a sign of green to break the monotony.
Even though it had been fifteen years since he had been driven back into this forbidding realm that had become his prison, he could still remember the pleasant green glades and thickly forested hills of his former fief. The streams filled with fish and the fields rich with crops and game. Gorlan had been a beautiful, living place. The Mountains of Rain and Night were dead and desolate.
A platoon of Wargals was drilling in the castle yard below him. Morgarath watched them for a few seconds, listening to the guttural, rhythmic chant that accompanied all their movements. They were stocky, misshapen beings, with features that were halfway human, but with a long, brutish muzzle and fangs like a bear or a large dog.
Avoiding all contact with humans, the Wargals had lived and bred in these remote mountains since ancient times. No one in living memory had ever set eyes upon one, but rumours and legends had persisted of a savage tribe of semi-intelligent beasts in the mountains. Morgarath, planning a revolt against the Kingdom of Araluen, had left Gorlan Fief to seek them out. If such creatures existed, they would give him an edge in the war that was to come.
It took him months but he eventually found them. Aside from their wordless chant, Wargals had no spoken language, relying on a primitive form of thought awareness for communication. But their minds were simple and their intellects basic. As a result, they had been totally susceptible to domination by a superior intelligence and willpower. Morgarath bent them to his will and they became the perfect army for him – ugly beyond nightmares, utterly pitiless and bound totally to his mental orders.
Now, looking at them, he remembered the brightly dressed knights in glittering armour who used to compete in tourneys at Castle Gorlan, their silk-gowned ladies cheering them on and applauding their skills. Mentally comparing them to these black-furred, misshapen creatures, he cursed again.
The Wargals, attuned to his thoughts, sensed his disturbance and stirred uncomfortably, pausing in what they were doing. Angrily, he directed them back to their drill and the chanting resumed.
Morgarath moved away from the unglazed window, closer to the fire that seemed utterly incapable of dispelling the damp and chill from this gloomy castle. Fifteen years, he thought to himself again. Fifteen years since he had rebelled against the newly crowned King Duncan, a youth in his twenties. He had planned it all carefully as the old king’s sickness progressed, banking on the indecision and confusion that would follow his death to split the other barons and give Morgarath his opportunity to seize the throne.
Secretly, he had trained his army of Wargals, massing them up here in the mountains, ready for the moment to strike. Then, in the days of confusion and grief following the king’s death, when the barons travelled to Castle Araluen for the funeral rites, leaving their armies leaderless, he had attacked, overrunning the south-eastern quarter of the Kingdom in a matter of days, routing the confused, leaderless forces that tried to oppose him.
Duncan, young and inexpe
rienced, could never have stood against him. The Kingdom was his for the taking. The throne was his for the asking.
Then Lord Northolt, the old king’s supreme army commander, had rallied some of the younger barons into a loyal confederation, giving strength to Duncan’s resolve and stiffening the wavering courage of the others. The armies met at Hackham Heath, close by the Slipsunder River, and the battle swayed in the balance for five hours, with attack and counterattack and massive loss of life. The Slipsunder was a shallow river, but its treacherous reaches of quicksand and soft mud formed an impassable barrier, protecting Morgarath’s right flank.
But then one of those grey-cloaked meddlers known as Rangers led a force of heavy cavalry across a secret ford ten kilometres upstream. The armoured horsemen appeared at the crucial moment of the battle and fell upon the rear of Morgarath’s army.
The Wargals, trained in the tumbled rocks of the mountains, had one weakness. They feared horses and could never stand against such a surprise cavalry attack. They broke, retreating to the narrow confines of Three Step Pass, and back to the Mountains of Rain and Night. Morgarath, his rebellion defeated, went with them. And here he had been exiled these fifteen years. Waiting, plotting, hating the men who had done this to him.
Now, he thought, it was time for his revenge. His spies told him the Kingdom had grown slack and complacent and his presence here was all but forgotten. The name Morgarath was a name of legend nowadays, a name mothers used to hush fractious children, threatening that if they did not behave, the black lord Morgarath would come for them.
The time was ripe. Once again, he would lead his Wargals into an attack. But this time he would have allies. And this time, he would sow the ground with uncertainty and confusion beforehand. This time, none of those who conspired against him previously would be left alive to aid King Duncan.
For the Wargals were not the only ancient, terrifying creatures he had found in these sombre mountains. He had two other allies, even more fearsome – the dreadful beasts known as the Kalkara.
The time was ripe to unleash them.
‘Try to eat something, Will. Tomorrow’s a big day, after all.’
Jenny, blonde, pretty and cheerful, gestured towards Will’s barely touched plate and smiled encouragingly at him. Will made an attempt to return the smile but it was a dismal failure. He picked at the plate before him, piled high with his favourite foods. Tonight, his stomach knotted tight with tension and anticipation, he could hardly bring himself to swallow a bite.
Tomorrow would be a big day, he knew. He knew it all too well, in fact. Tomorrow would be the biggest day in his life, because tomorrow was the Choosing Day and it would determine how he spent the rest of his life.
‘Nerves, I imagine,’ said George, setting down his loaded fork and seizing the lapels of his jacket in a judicious manner. He was a thin, gangly and studious boy, fascinated by rules and regulations and with a penchant for examining and debating both sides of any question – sometimes at great length. ‘Dreadful thing, nervousness. It can just freeze you up so you can’t think, can’t eat, can’t speak.’
‘I’m not nervous,’ Will said quickly, noticing that Horace had looked up, ready to form a sarcastic comment.
George nodded several times, considering Will’s statement. ‘On the other hand,’ he added, ‘a little nervousness can actually improve performance. It can heighten your perceptions and sharpen your reactions. So, the fact that you are worried, if, in fact, you are, is not necessarily something to be worried about, of itself – so to speak.’
In spite of himself, a wry smile touched Will’s mouth. George would be a natural in the legal profession, he thought. He would almost certainly be the Scribemaster’s choice on the following morning. Perhaps, Will thought, that was at the heart of his own problem. He was the only one of the five wardmates who had any fears about the Choosing that would take place within twelve hours.
‘He ought to be nervous!’ Horace scoffed. ‘After all, which Craftmaster is going to want him as an apprentice?’
‘I’m sure we’re all nervous,’ Alyss said. She directed one of her rare smiles at Will. ‘We’d be stupid not to be.’
‘Well, I’m not!’ Horace said, then reddened as Alyss raised one eyebrow and Jenny giggled.
It was typical of Alyss, Will thought. He knew that the tall, graceful girl had already been promised a place as an apprentice by Lady Pauline, head of Castle Redmont’s Diplomatic Service. Her pretence that she was nervous about the following day, and her tact in refraining from pointing out Horace’s gaffe, showed that she was already a diplomat of some skill.
Jenny, of course, would gravitate immediately to the castle kitchens, domain of Master Chubb, Redmont’s Head Chef. He was a man renowned throughout the Kingdom for the banquets served in the castle’s massive dining hall. Jenny loved food and cooking and her easygoing nature and unfailing good humour would make her an invaluable staff member in the turmoil of the castle kitchens.
Battleschool would be Horace’s choice. Will glanced at his wardmate now, hungrily tucking into the roast turkey, ham and potatoes that he had heaped onto his plate. Horace was big for his age and a natural athlete. The chances that he would be refused were virtually nonexistent. Horace was exactly the type of recruit that Sir Rodney looked for in his warrior apprentices. Strong, athletic, fit. And, thought Will a trifle sourly, not too bright. Battleschool was the path to knighthood for boys like Horace – born commoners but with the physical abilities to serve as knights of the Kingdom.
Which left Will. What would his choice be? More importantly, as Horace had pointed out, what Craftmaster would accept him as an apprentice?
For 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.
Each year, castle wards turning fifteen could apply to be apprenticed to the masters of the various crafts that served the castle and its people. Ordinarily, craft apprentices were selected by dint of their parents’ occupations or influence with the Craftmasters. The castle wards usually had no such influence and this was their chance to win a future for themselves.
Those wards who weren’t chosen, or for whom no openings could be found, would be assigned to farming families in the nearby village, providing farm labour to raise the crops and animals that fed the castle inhabitants. It was rare for this to happen, Will knew. The Baron and his Craftmasters usually went out of their way to fit the wards into one craft or another. But it could happen and it was a fate he feared more than anything.
Horace caught his eye now and gave him a smug smile.
‘Still planning on applying for Battleschool, Will?’ he asked, through a mouthful of turkey and potatoes. ‘Better eat something then. You’ll need to build yourself up a little.’
He snorted with laughter and Will glowered at him. A few weeks previously, Horace had overheard Will confiding to Alyss that he desperately wanted to be selected for Battleschool, and he had made Will’s life a misery ever since, pointing out on every possible occasion that Will’s slight build was totally unsuited for the rigours of Battleschool training.
The fact that Horace was probably right only made matters worse. Where Horace was tall and muscular, Will was small and wiry. He was agile and fast and surprisingly strong but he simply didn’t have the size that he knew was required of Battleschool apprentices. He’d hoped against hope for the past few years that he would have what people called his ‘growing spurt’ before the Choosing Day came around. But it had never happened and now the day was nearly here.
As Will said nothing, Horace sensed that he had scored a verbal hit. This was a rarity in their turbulent relati
onship. Over the past few years, he and Will had clashed repeatedly. Being the stronger of the two, Horace usually got the better of Will, although very occasionally Will’s speed and agility allowed him to get in a surprise kick or a punch and then escape before Horace could catch him.
But while Horace generally had the best of their physical clashes, it was unusual for him to win any of their verbal encounters. Will’s wit was as agile as the rest of him and he almost always managed to have the last word. In fact, it was this tendency that often led to trouble between them: Will was yet to learn that having the last word was not always a good idea. Horace decided now to press his advantage.
‘You need muscles to get into Battleschool, Will. Real muscles,’ he said, glancing at the others around the table to see if anyone disagreed. The other wards, uncomfortable at the growing tension between the two boys, concentrated on their plates.
‘Particularly between the ears,’ Will replied and, unfortunately, Jenny couldn’t refrain from giggling. Horace’s face flushed and he started to rise from his seat. But Will was quicker and he was already at the door before Horace could disentangle himself from his chair. He contented himself with hurling a final insult after his retreating wardmate.