The Rangers are an elite Special Forces Corps in the medieval Kingdom of Araluen. They are the eyes and ears of the Kingdom, the intelligence gatherers, the scouts and the troubleshooters.
Each Ranger is an expert archer, and they carry two knives - one for throwing, and one for hunting. Rangers are also highly skilled at tracking, concealment and unseen movement. They wear strange mottled cloaks in grey and green so they can blend in to the colours of whatever landscape they find themselves in, whether a dappled forest glade or the shadows of a castle at night. Their ability to become virtually invisible has led common folk to view them with fear, thinking the Rangers must use black magic.
Rangers ride a special breed of horse that looks like a nondescript, shaggy pony but has amazing speed and almost limitless endurance. A Ranger horse will respond only to its master, will warn of danger and respond instinctively to the Ranger's commands, and it will run all day if it is asked to, leaving the knights' mighty battlehorses floundering in its dust.
There are fifty Rangers in the Corps, one for each of the Kingdom's Fiefs. Although they work with the Barons, the Rangers answer only to the King. Their leader is a man called Crowley, and Halt, Will's mentor, is one of Crowley's inner circle of senior Rangers. In time of war they work with the highest commanders of the King's army, giving tactical advice and providing intelligence on the enemy's movements.
Occasionally, a young man who is judged to have the qualities of honesty, courage, agility and intelligence – the hallmarks of a Ranger – will be invited to undertake a five-year apprenticeship that will develop his natural abilities and instruct him in the almost supernatural skills of a Ranger. If he passes his first year, he is given a bronze medallion in the shape of an oakleaf. If he graduates, the bronze will be exchanged for the silver oakleaf of an Oakleaf Bearer – a Ranger of the Kingdom of Araluen.
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