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Reuniting and New Beginnings Edit

Altered end of 'Battle For Skandia.'

I couldn't stop myself from bouncing with joy. We were home and still alive! It was a miracle! The crowd below us cheered excitedly. The King himself was running forward as we docked. Evanlyn ran down the entry port in the Skandian wolfship toward her father. King Duncan embraced the returned princess. My heart swelled at the sight and I glanced around to see everyone else grinning as much as I was. The rest of us treaded off the ship and faced the crowd. Baron Arald came waving and shouting our names enthusiastically. 

"Will! Nerida! Welcome back!" He shouted. Will walked toward the man who had housed him for years and tried to make a formal bow. I followed suit when the Baron grabbed our hands and started pumping enthusiastically.

"Welcome home you two! And well done! Well done!" At that point he let go of our friends and I realized that the Baron was more interested in Will. I didn't mind since I wasn't a ward at his fief. I began to back away to give them room. I yelped when someone grabbed my shoulders with a firm grip. 

"You are insane! Insane I say!" I laughed at the relieved face of Gilan. I tried not to cry because I missed him terribly and was so glad that he was there. He shook his head in amazement. 

"God, it's so good to see you!" He grinned. He threw his arms around me and I dug my face into his shoulder. Gentle tears began to form in my eyes but I rubbed them away when I nuzzled Gilan's shoulder. He pulled back grinning. I smiled. 

"Did you have fun catching Foldar without me?" I asked. 

"He was bored to death!" A voice replied. I looked over Gilan's shoulder to a familiar young girl. Sadie smiled. 

"I had to lock him in his cabin to stop him from swimming all the way to Skandia for you guys." She said with her arms folded. I ran over and hugged my friend. 

"I missed you!" She murmured in my ear. I hugged her real tight for a moment longer and then pulled back. Good thing I did, other wise we would have both been knocked to the ground by the on coming train that was Will.

"Sadie!" He exclaimed and ran into the young girl, throwing his arms around her in a hug. Sadie laughed at Will's enthusiasm and hugged him back. I turned back to Gilan and couldn't stop myself from squeezing him once more. My mentor chuckled. Sadie then pulled away from Will and scanned the crowd quickly. 

"Where's Halt?" She asked. Gilan's smile melted and he scanned the crowd as well for his former mentor. I grabbed both of their hands and led them to the ship. There we saw Halt, still standing by the great steering oar of the wolfship. The King looked up at the Ranger and gestured him over. 

"Come ashore, Halt. You're home." The King said. The Ranger stood awkwardly, staring at the King sorrowfully. He shook his head. 

"Your majesty, the year of banishment still has three weeks to run." He said. 

"Banishment!" Will and I exclaimed in shock. Questions buzzed in my mind but I let Will spill. Gilan laid a hand on my shoulder comfortingly but I was staring wide eyed at Halt. King Duncan waved his hand in a dismissal gesture. 

"A few incautious words, that was all. He was drunk and we've all forgotten what he said and I forgive him, so for god's sake man, come ashore." I arched an eyebrow when I heard that Halt was drunk. That seemed so unlike the Ranger and it made me worry a little more. Halt didn't move from his place. 

"Your majesty, nothing would make me happier. But you must uphold the law," He said in a low voice. Lord Anthony, the King's chamberlain, spoke up from beside the King and Evanlyn. 

"Halt is right, your majesty." Gilan and I both frowned at the chamberlain. It was supposed to be a somewhat threatening frown but to others it might have looked like thoughtful frown. Lord Anthony didn't notice our frowns and continued to the King. 

"After all, he did say that you were the issue of an encounter between your father and a traveling hatcha-hatcha dancer." A gasp of horror escaped the lips of the crowd. I pursed my lips to hold back the grin forming on my lips. I snorted and Gilan gently elbowed me and I glanced up at him to see a glimmer of amusement in his eyes.

"Thank you for reminding us all, Anthony." The King muttered through gritted teeth. Beside the King, Evanlyn began to laugh. Everyone turned to eye the princess and her informal behavior. Evanlyn's bellows of laughter made me begin to snicker. Gilan was continuing to elbow me gently but I waved him away. 

"I'm so sorry everyone. But if you ever knew my grandmother, you'd understand why my grandfather might have been tempted! My grandma had a face like a robber's dog - and a temperature to match it!" Evanlyn stated making my snicker some more. 

"Cassie!" King Duncan scolded her lightly. There was a glimmer of amusement in his eyes which he tried to mask. I then decided to speak up between my snickers. 

"With all do respect, you majesty, that is absolutely hilarious." I said. Gilan's sharp elbow jabbed deeper into my ribs and I exclaimed in pain. If the King heard my comment he didn't say anything and showed no interest of having heard it. I glanced up at Gilan and mouthed an apology at his stern look. 

"Surely, Lord Anthony, it's within my powers to pardon Halt from the last three weeks of his sentence." King Duncan said. Anthony shook his head.

"It would be most irregular, your majesty." 

"KING DUNCAN!" Erak Starfollower boomed. When he had the attention of everyone around him he cleared his throat, realizing that he had spoken possibly a little too loudly. 

"Perhaps I could request that you grant this pardon - as a gesture of goodwill to seal the treaty between our two countries?" 

"Good thinking!" Duncan muttered. "Well?" He added to Lord Anthony. The chamberlain paused for a moment in thought.

"Such a request wouldn't set any precedents, your majesty. And this is a very special occasion, after all." The Lord said. 

"So be it!" said the King quickly. He turned to Halt who was waiting rather patiently. "All right, Halt, you're pardoned - so for god's sakes man, come ashore and let's have a drink to celebrate!" Halt smiled softly and stepped of the wolfship onto familiar soil. The moment his foot touched the ground Sadie ran headlong into him with tears in her eyes. Halt squeezed her gratefully. I smiled at the two who had grown clos thanks to Lady Pauline, Sadie's adopted daughter. The Ranger Corps Commandant, Crowley, stepped up to Halt and handed him the silver oakleaf insignia.

"You might be needing this again." I was able to catch the Commandant's words. I cheered for Halt with much excitement. I grabbed the nearest person, who was Gilan, and kissed his cheek in my excitement. I didn't even pay attention to his priceless reaction I was too joyful. Dancing around, I grateful to have everyone home with me.

***

Halt and Pauline's wedding. One of the top events marked as my happiest moments in my life. Sure I wasn't getting married, but seeing the grim Ranger that had been a father figure to me, get married was still exciting.

And it might have been the first time I wore a dress in public. I am not the fancy type of person but absolutely loved the dress that I was wearing. Alyss helped me pick it out so that is matched my style but also stayed elegant and beautiful. When I showed Sadie my dress she said that I looked like an entire new person. I was about to comment the same thing about her when I realized that she had been raised by Pauline most of the time so the girl had worn a dress more than once unlike myself. 

The ceremony was absolutely beautiful. Baron Arald of Redmont gave a speech adding in ridiculous puns and jokes that were so bad that I felt bad that he found them funny. Apparently many others felt the same way.

Pauline was the most beautiful bride I had ever seen! A white gown that was elegant as the Courier was. Although I hadn't been to many weddings before this one (none what so ever) I would always remember Lady Pauline being a goddess like figure in the eyes of many. Alyss, Jenny, and Sadie were the bridesmaids. I was offered to be one but I didn't want the bride to have too many bridesmaids. Pauline insisted that numbers were no big deal so I agreed as long as I didn't have to give a speech. Between me and her, I may have been a bit frightened of being on stage. She laughed gently and agreed saying that she would do anything to have me by her side and my heart warmed at the Courier.

Will was the best man, Gilan the second groomsman, and Horace was the usher. The Rangers at the wedding (including Crowley) had tried to figure out outfitting that would match their usual style of mottled cloaks, knifes, and the quiver full of arrows. I tried to pry Gilan to show me his outfit but he told me sternly that I would have to wait for the wedding to see it.

As for training, Gilan and moved the training down a little for the week before the wedding. I rarely trained with him, but usually when he was away and I had spare time I tossed the sword around and used the target. But we were mostly busy with wedding preparations along the lines of clothing, schedules, and worst of all dancing. Gilan and Jenny Dalby apparently had to dance for the wedding and they practiced for 3 days. I didn't do much practicing, thinking that I didn't really need to dance much at the wedding, but I made sure to get the basic steps in my memory. Unfortunately for Will, the Ranger apprentice didn't know that we had to dance and he didn't practice. And I wasn't man enough to tell him because I wanted him to see him be a total fumblefoot on his dance with Alyss. 

The wedding began, with the King stating his job as the Patron-Sponsor of the wedding. I noticed Halt gazing at the ceiling when King Duncan told of his duties being that he was "charged with adding a sense of royal cachet" to the event. I didn't really understand what that meant and noted that I would ask Halt about it later. 

The guests of the wedding feasted. Thanks to Redmont fief's cook Chubb, the feast was an absolute delight and so very thankful for the wonderful food in my empty stomach. 

I was taking another bite of a small meat pie when Gilan decided to join me. I looked up at him and gulped down the rest of my bite. 

"You have been awfully curious for a week now about my clothing," he began, "So here I am. What do you think?" He asked. I couldn't speak for a moment. A literal moment that passed as quickly as it arrived. Gilan looked incredibly handsome. He wore a belted sleeveless tunic over a white silken shirt. The tunic was made of fine leather in a perfect rich leaf green color. A miniature silver oakleaf insignia was sewn into the left side of his chest. Instead of the usual dark mottled cloak of the Rangers, he wore a cape that was made to resemble the famous cloaks. 

I stood facing him and inspecting him. 

"You look impressive!" I said smiling. "Absolutely dashing I must say." I said nudging him in a teasing manner. He chuckled. He glanced down at me quickly, fixing the cape resting on his right shoulder awkwardly.

"You look amazing as well." He murmured. I glanced down at the dress I was wearing. Its length came right above my ankles which allowed some room for dancing. The dress was white and a dark green ribbon was laced around my middle to add some color to the dress. I didn't wear any nice shoes, just my worn out brown leather boots which probably stood out from the elegant like gown. My hair was pulled up with small white flowers tied into my hair. I really did feel pretty. 

"Thanks." I murmured. He frowned. 

"I don't think I have ever seen you in a dress." He said. I shrugged.

"I don't think I have ever worn a dress." I smiled chuckling. He smiled and then turned away when someone called everyone's attention. We took our seats at our selected tables. I was sitting between Alyss and Sadie in our table. Will made a speech as best man and then sat down on Alyss' other side. I patted my brother on the back.

"Your speech was great!" I said. He smiled. 

"I hope so." He shrugged slightly. 

"She's right. That was really sweet Will." Alyss murmured to him. I smiled slightly at the Courier assistant and then turned to Sadie. Luckily she wasn't busy speaking to someone else. 

"Is Will still oblivious about the whole…dancing thing?" Sadie asked in a hushed tone. I guess her voice wasn't low enough for the boy to hear. He sat p straighter staring at Sadie with a frown. 

"Pardon?" He asked, quite terrified now. Alyss smiled gracefully at him. 

"You have to dance Will. She was just wondering if you still didn't know about that." She repeated. Will's eyes widened. 

"Why?" He said his voice cracking slightly. "I thought only the bride and groom danced." Alyss nodded. 

"Yes that is true. But then they are followed by the best man and maid of honor. Then by the second groomsman and second bridesmaid." The Courier apprentice explained. Will's eyes showed slight panic. He turned to Gilan who was seated a few chairs away from him.

"Gil! Did you know we have to dance?" He hissed. Gilan grinned broadly. 

"Oh yes! Jenny and I have been practicing for the past three days. Haven't we, Jenny?" He glanced at the young girl seated beside him. She nodded smiling at him and gazing at him with an admiring twinkle in her eyes. When I saw the look in her eyes I felt something odd in my stomach. I could tell that she liked my mentor by the way she looked at him but for some reason I didn't like that. I shook my head and turned back to the conversation. Sadie was giggling. 

"Oh poor Will." She murmured. I whispered to her,

"I'm more worried for Alyss. My brother is going to be stepping on her toes all night with his unpracticed dancing skills." I smirked. Alyss turned to us, slightly raising an eyebrow. 

"I'm sure Will won't be doing that all of tonight. But let's hope he is a fast learner." She added with a wink. Will glared at us.

"This is not funny!" He hissed. Alyss smiled gently.

"Sorry Will. We won't make fun of you anymore." She promised. 

"To your face at least." I added before Alyss gently pushed me away. I turned back to Sadie. She was still grinning from ear to ear. But she was gazing a few tables away to her mother Lady Pauline. I smiled.

"How do you feel about Halt being your new father?" I asked her softly. She turned to me and somehow her grin widened. The pure joy in her eyes said enough but she spoke. 

"I wouldn't want anyone else." She murmured. I threw an arm around my friend and gave her a side hug.

Written by: Nerida Treaty