Oakleaf Bearers is the fourth book in the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. The book is also called Battle for Skandia in the USA and Australia. This book was a finalist for the 2006 Aurealis Award - Children's Novel.
The book continues where the previous book left off. In The Icebound Land, Evanlyn and Will had been captured and sold as slaves in Skandia but with help from Erak, had managed to escape. Meanwhile, Halt and Horace traveled across Gallica, defeating false knights, and ridding Gallica of the warlord Deparnieux.They are now ready to cross the border into Skandia and save Will. Meanwhile, in Skandia, Will has overcome his addiction to warmweed and finally regains his senses.
CapturedEditThe Battle for Skandia starts with Evanlyn, now revealed to be Princess Cassandra, out checking traps for food when she is taken by a Temujai , she doesn't realise who he is and is knocked unconscious then slung on the back of his horse and carried off.
Will, who had stayed behind at the cabin, still weak from his time being addicted to warmweed; sets off after waking up and realizing Evanlyn hasn't returned when she should've been back hours ago. He finds the tracks where she was taken by the Temujai and pieces together the puzzle then sets off in pursuit of the horseman who has taken Evanlyn armed with a low-power hunting bow and a few blankets.
Halt and Horace are about to cross the Skandian border, with Horace possing as a Gallican ambassador to negotiate a hire of some Wolfships using a forged document made by Halt who has forged the seal of King Henri of Gallica, which Horace disapproves of. When they get to the fort they find a dozen Skandians lying dead, shot by archers. Halt manages to recognize an arrow, shot by the Temujai and becomes instantly worried. Two decades ago, the Temujai had nearly conquered the continent, but with politics and a dish of bad clams, the invasion was stopped. Halt then tracks the archers who are on horseback sensing that something suspicious is going on.
As they are tracking the Temujai, Tug, who has been travelling with Horace and Halt suddenly starts to act strange, letting out shrill whinneys and acting agitated, Halt is puzzled and dismounts to calm him before the two carry on though Tug still acts strangely, acting as if wants to bolt. Halt notices something strange in the tracks, another persons footprints have appeared, this person is on foot. This is Will though Halt doen't realise it at the time and they continue tracking.
Meanwhile, Will was tracking Evanlyn and the horseman who took her after Evanlyn didn't return to the cabin; he comes across her as a captive of a Temujai scouting party, though Will doesn't realize they are scouts at that stage. Will, exhausted realizes that there is nothing he can do at this stage and, for the moment, Evanlyn is safe so he beds down in the shelter of a pine tree and goes to sleep.In the morning he goes back to the camp to see one of the Temujai about to kill his friend but Will shoots him in the arm with a small hunting bow, distracting him. He is about to be shot by one of the warriors when Halt and Horace appear on the scene, after managing to track the Temujai down, and come to Will and Evanlyn's aid. Halt uses his Longbow to shoot most of the Temujai whilst Horace defends Evanlyn and manages to take one of the soldiers captive, knocking him unconscious at Halt's command.
Halt and Will then share a hug, Will sobbing with relief and delight at seeing his mentor, Halt is surprised to feel a tear sliding down his cheek as well as he hugs his apprentice. Evanlyn then gives Horace a hug, delighted that they are here to help them. Horace grins broadly and returns the hug.
Halt and the group, after being reunited, are then captured by Jarl Erak, the former Skandian who had helped Evanlyn and Will to escape in book three. Erak had been trying to track down the people who shot the Skandians at the other gate, and hastily came to a conclusion that Halt was the one that did it. Halt gave a list of reasons, which convinced the senior Jarl listen to him. Halt, Evanlyn, Will, and Horace are now forced to stay in Skandia because the Temujai have blocked their only exit to their homeland.
The Enemy of my Enemy...Edit
Halt came to a decision in trying to get Ragnak, the Oberjarl, to allow him to become their strategist as he had lived and fought with and against the Temujai before, thus knowing their battle plans and style of fighting. Halt and Erak also manage to find the main army of the Temujai, followed with a very narrow escape because of Erak's clumsiness. Will later comes up with an idea that enables him to build up a group of 100 archers to fight against the Temujai in the battle, and then he and Halt manage to convince the Oberjarl to give the slaves a reward for fighting, their freedom, which Ragnak had to very reluctanctly accept. Halt also uses guerilla tactics by leaving a group of Skandians to raid the army's food supplies, wagons, and to run off their horses, to cause confusion among the army and also to delay them. In addition, Ragnak was convinced to put out wolfships onto the sea to raid the seaward side of the Temujai army.
Later on, after preparations had been made ready by Halt, Evanlyn follows Slagor, a shifty-looking wolfship captain and manages to overhear his plan to betray Skandia by bringing 150 Temujai cavalry people to attack the back of Skandian army by transporting the Temujai across the sea on several wolfships. Later, Slagor discovers that she is the Princess of Araluen and daughter to King Duncan, who Ragnak had a Vallasvow made against, vowing to kill any member of his family. Ragnak the Objarl and Erak gets into a small fight due to the fact that Ragnak had made a vow to kill her while Erak had made a promise to protect her, not knowing that she was the Princess. Halt then asks if there was a time limit, of which Ragnak slowly understands that he could postpone it. However, Halt then asks what Slagor's ships were doing at an island, of which leads on to explaining the Oberjarl that Slagor had been planning to betray him. After a long argument, it was decided (with Will's help) that 3 ships would go to the place where the supposedly Temujai would be waiting.
Later on, they arrive and unsurprisingly, the find the Temujai there and confirms it with the leader, of which he says "Where is Slagor" in his second sentence. The men of the Skandians were disappointed as treachery was a big dishonor and conduct of the Skandian law. They do, however, manage to trick the Temujai into getting them off at an island and leave them there, as Will had suggested earlier in the story.
The Battle for SkandiaEdit
Further on in the story, the Temujai begins their first attack and, as Halt had said, made a fake retreat, with the Skandians purposelly following their "ambush". Halt, however, had placed a group of Skandians to ambush the Temujai. This causes the Temujai to be driven back and the General of the army, along with the Colonel, were very, very surprised because the Skandians were not behaving anything at all from what they've heard. The next attack was followed by Will's archers, of which they manage to take out 5/6 of the Ulan. They managed to stay concealed during this attack but the colonel managed to get this vital information to his General before dying. During the third attack, the General manages to pinpoint their location and sends in a group of the best cavalry they had to take the archers out. Will's men, being distracted by the main attack, were ambushed and the enemy managed to take around 25-50 people out.
Later on, Will and Horace fight side by side while Ragnak and his bodyguards go into a beserk stage of fighting, the dream of any Skandian. Will saves Evanlyn's life at the last second and the General finally decides to retreat due to the fact that it was too costly to go on to invade the quad's homeland (the Temujai had no navy, so they wanted to defeat the Skandians to gain access to defeating the other countries. The Temujai have never been defeated.)
After the BattleEdit
After the battle, Ragnak was cremated honorably; he died as a berserker with over two dozen wounds in his body, half a dozen which could have caused death in ordinary circumstances. Erak surprisngly finds out that he is Oberjarl now after being voted by the other jarls to the high rank in Skandian society. Halt and Erak make a treaty with Araluen, and the Princess helps seal it, as a person who wields royal authority needs to seal any treaty between countries (Halt, being banished, no longer wears the oakleaf). Erak takes the group back to their home in Araluen on his wolfship as one last voyage for him before he officially takes up his role as oberjarl.
After a long happy union, Will and Evanlyn then find out that Halt has been banished; Erak saves the awkward moment by trying to include it in their treaty to pardon him, of which King Duncan agrees.
In the end, Halt was rewarded with his reunion back with the Rangers, Horace with his knighthood and position as captain of the Royal Guards, company commander, and Will was offered to become one of the Royal Scouts, a high position of the King's army that trains archers and that only nobles could probably have; this would give him fame and reputation, but Will, in his heart and out loud, turns the offer down. There is surprise and a little confusion at this in the hall, but King Duncan understands and tells the apprentice so. Evanlyn is saddened because she wanted Will to stay at the castle with her and her father so they could grow closer. Will tries to see her and tell her why he turned down the offer but she wouldn't see him.
The book ends with Halt and Will riding back to Redmont with Horace and Cassandra watching from the battlements as the two ride away.
|Books in the Ranger's Apprentice Series|