[Author’s note: I cut out the introduction bit as that was just about word for word from chapter 12, A Tour and More (part 2) of Phoenix Triumphant. Well it is until General Hector greets Sarah. I’m still trying to figure out his personality. But it’s became gruffer over the course of writing. Anyway this is a direction the story didn’t go. You’ll see what I mean when I get to posting chapters 13 and 14 in Phoenix Triumphant.]
General Hector took Sarah’s arm in the grip that she was more familiar and comfortable with. “And so we meet officially at last,” he smiled, “though I wish it were under happier circumstance, still I heard you were pivotal during the attack on the trails.”
“Well I don’t think pivotal would be the right word to use.”
“You were at the Scout Trials?” Ryan asked excitedly, taking Sarah’s hand back for his own. “What was it like? What do they test you on? Did you have to face one hundred men screaming at you with swords?”
They all looked at Ryan and blinked. Sir Merlin looked back to Sarah first.
“So you were there when it happened?”
“She was,” General Hector responded before Sarah could, “under the name of Smith. Hopefully I’ll be receiving the reports from the Trials soon.”
“Then she is the one the King mentioned?”
Sir Merlin turned to study Sarah closer. She immediately stood taller as his eyes gazed over her. “I’m not sure I can believe you.”
“Oh, trust me I was there,” Sarah pulled off her cap, “there’s no other reason I’d have my hair cut so short.”
General Hector chuckled. Sir Merlin’s eyes went wide, and an exclamation was heard from the door.
“By the Gods Graces!”
Sir Merlin immediately turned to his wife as Sarah’s cheeks flushed. The Grand Moyther had mentioned something about warning Lady Vivian before she took off the cap, so much for that.
General Hector stepped to stand beside Sarah and she suddenly realized she was slightly taller than the man. “Don’t mind Lady Vivian, she’s a good woman if a bit dramatic at times.”
“Ah,” Sarah smiled. “What do you think Ryan?” Sarah looked at the boy still holding tight to her hand, “shall we go see if we can start dinner?”
“Yeah,” Ryan followed Sarah into the Kitchen.
They weren’t there for very long when Madame Vivian came in. “You shouldn’t be working in such long skirts. Surely you have something else to cook in?”
“I think so,” Sarah smiled at the woman who looked a little less startled now.
“You think so? How can you not know what you have in your wardrobe?” Madame Vivian exclaimed as she took a pot from Sarah.
“Cause Lady Abigail had it all made for her. She was borrowing Rosaline’s clothing when she came here,” Ryan explained to the woman.
“Well you might as well go find out if you wish to help with dinner.”
“Sarah makes really yummy food,” Ryan stated.
“Enough Ryan,” Sarah laughed. “You stay here and Be Useful,” Sarah looked up at the Madame. “He’s great for brining in wood and tending the fire.”
“Oh yes, right!” Ryan stood at attention. “What do you need Madame.”
Sarah left a puzzled Madame in the kitchen with an almost overly helpful Ryan and went upstairs. Once in her room she quickly shed the skirt and jacket she’d changed into after her bath. Why Lady Abigail had thought they were more appropriate, she didn’t know. What Sarah did know was that, she wasn’t quite sure what to wear.
Looking at the pile of clothing Sarah found the shortest skirt, best for being near a cooking fire. Next she found the lightest and shortest jacket. There was a chemise that didn’t have lace on the edges like the one she wore. It was also a bit shorter, so it wouldn’t show under her chosen skirt.
It took more time than she would have liked but Sarah returned as quickly as she could. When she got there Ryan was hauling in wood, three pieces at a time, while Madam Vivian was chopping up potatoes.
“What can you cook?” Madam Vivian asked.
“She makes a really good stew,” Ryan stated as he set his logs down.
“Stew is what I am best at,” Sarah admitted, “though the taste lies in herbs that are not normally grown in a garden.”
“You harvest herbs from the wild?”
“Something like that.”
“Well get we have other vegetables to chop. See what you can do with them. I’ll tend to the bread and roast.”
Madam Vivian moved about the large kitchen with ease and practice of many years. Every time Sarah thought she had a moment to spare there was something else to be done. The size of the place didn’t help. She thought it was a bit big until she remembered the large room with all the tables.
“How often do you use the large hall?” Sarah asked as she tested her stew.
“Some years it feels like we use it daily. This year has been slow, though with the disaster at the Trails we’ll be likely holding memorials for the next month,” she sighed.