The Battle Of Hackham Heath by John A. FlanaganThe Battle Of Hackham Heath by John A. Flanagan

The Battle Of Hackham Heath

byJohn A. Flanagan

Paperback | October 10, 2017

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John Flanagan, author of the bestselling Ranger's Apprentice fantasy adventure epic, delivers a second prequel to Ruins of Gorlan, the novel that started it all, with Halt and Crowley preparing for war against a near-unstoppable enemy
 
When the former Baron Morgarath escaped to avoid punishment for treason, an uneasy peace fell on Araluen. But Morgarath, now in hiding, is already planning his next move, recruiting an army of savage, overpowering beasts known as Wargals. Newly crowned King Duncan knows he must assemble his troops for battle.
 
To find out the full extent of Morgarath’s plan of attack, Halt prepares for a seemingly impossible task--climbing the deadly cliffs of the Mountains of Rain and Night and venturing deep into enemy territory to spy. After all, the winner of this war could be determined by one wrong move.
 
At the Battle of Hackham Heath, the fate of a Kingdom will be decided. This origin story of how Halt came to be Araluen’s most famous Ranger – and how war will decide the future of the next generation – will thrill Ranger’s Apprentice fans and new readers alike.
John Flanagan grew up in Sydney, Australia, hoping to be a writer, and after a successful career in advertising and television, he began writing a series of short stories for his son, Michael, in order to encourage him to read. Those stories would eventually become The Ruins of Gorlan, Book 1 of the Ranger’s Apprentice epic. Together w...
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Title:The Battle Of Hackham HeathFormat:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 7.77 × 5.13 × 0.93 inPublished:October 10, 2017Publisher:Penguin Young Reader GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0142427330

ISBN - 13:9780142427330

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Chapter 1It was dark and clammy and damp in the tunnel.   Even though Halt wasn’t a tall man, he found he had to stoop as he made his way along, and his shoulders brushed the rough, unlined clay walls on either side. The flickering lamp held by the miner who was leading the way cast a dim yellow light, shot with grotesque shadows.   “How far down are we?” Crowley asked from behind him. The thick, heavy air in the tunnel seemed to muffle his voice, although Halt could hear a note of nervousness in it. Crowley, like Halt, disliked cramped and confined spaces like this, preferring the clean open air of the forest and fields aboveground. How miners could work in these conditions was beyond Halt’s understanding.   The miner turned back to face them briefly. “About five meters,” he said. “We’ve been slanting down since we entered the tunnel. Not far to go now.”   At his words, Halt felt the massive weight of earth and clay above them bearing down on him. His chest constricted and he had difficulty breathing. He felt his heart begin to race and paused, breathing slowly and deeply, allowing his tensed limbs and body to relax. The sooner they were out of here, the better it would suit him. Crowley, not noticing that Halt had stopped, bumped into him from behind and muttered an apology.   “Mind this shoring,” the miner said gruffly, indicating the timber frames that supported the walls and roof of the tunnel. “Knock one of these loose and you’ll likely bring the whole thing down on us.”   The two Rangers started moving again, taking exaggerated care not to bump against the timber beams. In the distance, Halt fancied he could hear a faint clinking sound—metal on rock. For a moment he thought he might be imagining it, but the miner confirmed it for him.   “That’s the lads at work,” he said. “Hear them? They’re widening the gallery under the walls.”   He set off again and they followed, anxious not to be left out of the shallow pool of light cast by the lamp. The clinking grew louder. It didn’t sound as if anyone were wielding their picks too vigorously and Halt remarked on the fact.   The miner laughed grimly. “You don’t go bashing away in earth like this,” he said, “else you’ll have a collapse on your hands. Slow and steady does it.”   Ahead, Halt could see a small circle of yellow light. As they proceeded, it became larger and brighter. Eventually, they arrived at a widened gallery, set at right angles to the tunnel. It was heavily braced with timber shoring and ran four or five meters to either side of the tunnel, forming a T-shaped intersection. The roof was higher here, at least a meter higher than Halt’s head. He sighed with relief and stood upright, easing his cramped back and shoulder muscles. He heard Crowley do the same.   “Are we under the walls?” the Ranger Commandant asked.   The miner nodded, pointing to a massive piece of granite protruding through the clay roof of the tunnel to one side. The rock was squared off and had obviously been shaped by man’s hand. Timber beams were set in place all around and under it, supporting it.   “That’s part of the foundation for the wall there,” he told them. He held the lamp higher and they could see that the line of shaped rock continued along the gallery where they were standing. More timber shoring held it firmly in place.   The clinking sound, which had become appreciably louder since they’d entered the gallery, stopped now and a stooped figure emerged from the shadows to their left. There was really no need to stoop here, Halt thought. There was plenty of headroom. But perhaps it was a habit borne of long practice and many years spent underground in mines and tunnels.   The newcomer stopped and nodded a greeting to their guide. Then he took a few seconds to glance curiously at the two Rangers. He knew who they were—all the miners did—but belowground he was more accustomed to seeing other miners and diggers, clad in leather aprons and hoods to protect their clothes from the mud and dirt of the tunnel. These two, in their gray-and-green-mottled cloaks, with their weapons belts around their waists, were a novelty down here.   “Morning, Alwyn,” he said now. “Morning, Rangers.”   Halt and Crowley mumbled a reply, although how anyone could keep track of the time of day down here, Halt had no idea.   “Morning, Dafyd. Are you done?” their guide asked.   The newcomer nodded several times. “Just about. A little more digging and shoring up—say another fifteen minutes. Then we can start bringing in the combustibles.”   The gallery they were in had far more supporting timber than the tunnel they had traversed to get here. Halt assumed that was because the tunnel itself was low and narrow, and roughly oval in shape, providing natural support for the walls. Here, where the open space was wider, there was a need for more frames and beams to support the ceiling, and the massive foundation stones of the wall above them, which the digging had undermined along the length of the gallery. As he thought of that, he felt his chest constrict and a moment of unreasoning fearswept through him. If he didn’t check that quickly, he knew, it could turn to panic—blind, debilitating panic. Once again, he forced his tense body to relax, beginning with his fingers, hands and arms, letting the calming feeling spread through his body. He breathed deeply, slowing his breathing rate. He felt his heart hammer less stridently in his chest.   “Don’t know how they get used to this,” he muttered to Crowley.   Alwyn gave a short snort of laughter. “Spend your life in the mines and you get so it doesn’t bother you.” He gestured around the shadowy gallery where they were standing. “I started going below the ground when I was ten,” he said. “This is like a big open meadow to me.”   “Some meadow,” Crowley said, shaking his head.   Alwyn raised his eyebrows. He knew that most people were fearful when they were in tunnels, but he and his men were used to it. So long as the tunnel was properly dug and firmly reinforced, there was no danger. He indicated the ground under the foundation stone.   “We’ll pile brushwood and firewood and combustibles there,” he said. “Then we’ll set it alight. As it burns, it’ll destroy the framing and support beams so they collapse. Then nature will take a hand and the part of the wall directly above will fall into the tunnel. Once it goes, the surrounding structure will collapse with it.”   “Who’ll light the fire?” Crowley asked. He and Halt had been tasked with destroying Castle Gorlan but he hoped that responsibility didn’t extend to personally lighting the fire. Alwyn quickly dispelled that fear.   “Best I do it,” he said. “It’ll get pretty dark and smoky in here once the fire’s going. Easy to lose your bearings and blunder around. I’m used to it so I’ll do it.”   “Good,” said Crowley, the relief all too evident in his voice.   “It’s quite spectacular,” Alwyn told them. “Mind you, for a long while, it seems nothing’s happening. Then the wall starts to subside, cracks form through the masonry, and the whole thing comes down.”   “I think I’d rather be on the surface when that happens,” Halt said.   Alwyn regarded him without humor. “That’s definitely the place to be. Now we should get out of the way and let the crew bring in the firewood and put it in place.”   Halt and Crowley exchanged a look. These men knew their job, they realized. There would be little purpose in staying to watch once they began building the fire. In cases like this, delegation was to be encouraged.   “Let’s get back to the surface,” Halt said, and Crowley indicated for Alwyn to lead the way.   ***   They emerged into the bright sunlight a few minutes later, shaking the damp clay and dirt from their cloaks and blinking like moles after the darkness of the tunnel.   The fresh forest air was a welcome change after the dank, musty air they had breathed belowground, redolent with the smell of wet clay, freshly dug dirt, and the reek of smoky oil lamps.   Crowley glanced left and right, spotting locations where two other tunnels had been dug. “Do we need to inspect the others?”   Alwyn shook his head. “No different from this one.”   Crowley looked a little relieved. “What about the keep?” he asked, indicating the tall, graceful tower that stood surrounded by the castle walls. “Are you treating it the same way?”   “No need for a tunnel there,” Alwyn told them. “We’ll set fire to it and leave it to burn. Once the timber ceiling beams and the floors are gone, the remaining stonework will be weakened from the heat and the fact that there’s no more cross support.” He turned and indicated a trebuchet standing twenty meters away, crouching like some malevolent prehistoric animal, its long, double-jointed throwing arm towering above them.   “Then we’ll hit it a few times with that infernal machine. A couple of solid rocks crashing into the weakened structure should bring it down quite nicely.”   “Nicely? Strange choice of words.” Crowley regarded the castle a little sadly. “It’s a beautiful building,” he said quietly. “Seems a shame to destroy it.”   When Morgarath, the former Baron of Gorlan Fief, had retreated to the south after his failed attempt to seize control of the Kingdom, Prince Duncan ordered his castle to be torn down, leaving the rebel baron with no potential headquarters in the country.   “It’s not beautiful,” Halt replied. “It’s an evil place where evil things happened. I’ll be glad to see it destroyed. You’ll be doing us a favor,” he added, to Alwyn.   The miner shrugged. He and his team had been lent to Duncan by the King of neighboring Celtica, where they spent their lives tearing silver and tin from the earth, deep below the surface.   “A job’s a job,” he said. “We’ll be glad to be heading home again.” He glanced away, shading his eyes and peering at the other two tunnel mouths in turn. “Looks like they’re getting ready to set the fires there as well.”   The Rangers followed his gaze. At each, they could see men dressed in the mud-stained leather clothes the miners all wore, carrying bundles of firewood and kindling into the tunnels. Close by, a third group was beginning to carry similar bundles into the tunnel they had vacated.   “Give us an hour to get things ready,” Alwyn said. “Then we’ll light the fires.”   His manner was a little distant. He had shown the highranking visitors through the tunnel, as requested. That had delayed his work by a good hour or so and now he was keen to get back to it, topple the walls of Castle Gorlan and be on his way home.   “Might as well have something to eat,” Crowley said, jerking his head toward the small campsite he and Halt had set up the day before.   “You do that,” Alwyn told him. “I’ll start organizing the fire in the keep tower.”   The two Rangers set out for their campsite. As they walked, Crowley idly brushed a clump of dried clay from the shoulder of his cloak.   “I suppose it takes a certain mind-set to be a miner,” he said, still thinking of the dark, airless tunnel they had so recently been in.   Halt smiled grimly. “I suppose they say the same thing about Rangers.”