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Posted June 4, 2012
Halt pushed her roughly against the courtyard wall. He pulled out a pair of thumb cuffs and put them on Alessandra's hands. She offered no restraint. He dangled a striker in front of her eyes. "Don't make me use this on you," he growled. She avoided his gaze. Now was not the time to banter with words, or fight. So she remained still and quiet. Halt stepped back and watched her. Her shoulders were slumped in defeat and there was pain in her eyes as she stared at the ground. Just as well, he thought. Crowley had been tending his wound, oblivious to the exchange. Now he looked up to see Alessandra suitably held at bay and Halt crossing over to help him. He went to rise, then winced at the sudden lance of pain erupting from his body. Halt stood by him now and Crowley leaned heavily on his shoulder for support. He focused his attention to the young woman in front of him. There was a long pause. Then, "Crowley, I'm sorry. Really, I am. I--" "Don't waste your breath, girl. You know full well what you did was disgraceful. I cannot believe you had the notion to act like that." "I know, I know, please, just hear me out--" "Disrespectful. In every possible way. To me, to Halt, the entire Corps. Even your king! You know better. I am very, very, very disappointed in you, Alessandra." She swallowed nervously. "Sir, please--" "No." The reply cut like a whip and she actually flinched at the sound of it. "I've had it with you. We have given you way too many chances, Alessandra. It's over." Her eyes flickered with fear. "What do you mean?" Crowley fixed her with a look of disgust. "Alessandra Romano, from this day forward you are hereby expelled from the Ranger Corps of Araluen by the authority granted to me as Commandmant by King Dumcan. No longer shall you wear the silver oakleaf, symbol of a fully-fledged Ranger. You will be stripped of your post as Ranger of Norgate Fief and are no longer welcome at any Gatherings, or to anything involving Ranger affairs. As a result, your unofficial apprentice is forsaken from your care and entrusted to the Corps to be given a new mentor. All contact with her will be stopped and avoided. You will not, under any circumstances, share any secrets or skills of the Corps to anyone, under pain of death. As of this very moment in time, you are rejected by the Ranger Corps and honor bound to put these rules into effect." Alessandra felt numb, listening in disbelief. What had she done? Then thoughts of Silvia overtook her initial shock. She'd never see her again. How would she react? Her heart ached. Her head spun. An onslaught of emotions raced through her, panic building up inside her body, overwhelming, conflicting, and controlling, too much at once---she sank down to the ground with her head back, eyes shut tight. Breathe, she told herself. In and out. In and out. Maybe it's a dream, maybe none of that happened. In and out. In and out. Yeah, right, a different, sarcastic part of her whispered. And maybe Gilan isn't dead. Silvia could be here, too. Why don't you call her and see? She shook her head, clearing her mind of such things. Alessandra heard Crowley and Halt talking quietly to each other. She strained to hear what was being said. "--she couldn't have gone far," Halt was saying. "What about Alessandra?" That was Crowley. "You can watch her. Make sure she doesn't escape. I'll send someone along to tell you when I've got her." Got who? she wondered briefly.
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