[Author's note: This happens shortly durring Phoenix Rising "Flood!". I was tempted to write out all of the Prince's trials, but I decided that would be too much work and distract me from what the main story. But I thought you all might appreciate this bit on the Prince you love to hate.]
Jason looked back to see how Prince Theodoso was doing. The young man was at least in good shape, though Jason doubted he wouldn’t be able to keep the pace for more than this trial. In fact, even if they had left first Jason felt they would still be last back to the barracks. He smiled to himself as he easily leapt a log that made the Prince stumble. He was close enough that he’d been able to feel Sarah’s progress, though he couldn’t ‘hear’ what she and her companions were saying.
“Are we going to break at any point?” The Prince’s words came between his heavy breathing.
“As soon as we cross the river, Your Highness” Jason responded.
Perhaps he was pushing the Prince too hard. But everything was screaming at him to get to high ground and the closest high ground was across the swollen river. It did not take Jason long to assess how to get across.
“Jump stone to stone Your Highness,” Jason paused at the water’s edge “and keep heading up hill. I will be right behind you.”
Prince Theodoso looked at Jason as if he was crazy. “I am to get my feet wet?”
“I should think they are wet already, your highness.” Jason smiled grimly. “Mine certainly are. Additionally we need to get to high ground.”
“Your Highness, I do not question my gut instinct, I follow it. Now cross and keep going up!” The Prince still did not move. Jason took a deep breath to remain calm. “Your Highness, your father wanted you to take these trials the same as any Hopeful. He then commanded me to be in charge of your testing; therefore, any rank you may feel you have over me is null and void.” Jason gave the young man a steely stare. “My sergeant who leads me; in him I trust. Now go!” Jason stepped toward the Prince.
Theodoso’s eyes widened as if Jason had been speaking in many voices at once. And Jason head nearly felt the same. He did not take the time to ponder it, instead following the Prince who was crossing the stream as quickly as possible. Jason’s feet hand only just touched the solid ground, when Wolf Troop began their howling warning.
“High ground now!” Jason began scrambling up the steepest part of the hill.
Quickly following the Prince wasn’t having an easy time of it. Jason could hear the roaring water now. He knew it would be upon them at any moment.
“Argh!” the Prince wailed and Jason turned to see he had slipped back down.
Without thinking Jason hooked a leg around a tree and grabbed the Prince. He tightened his grip on the man’s arms as the water came roaring upon them. Suddenly aware that the he was being swept away The Prince threw his other arm out to grab Jason. With a mighty heave Jason pulled the lad to safety. They moved further up the hill as the water rushed past them.
“Now,” Jason smiled at the Prince, “Your Highness, we rest.” Jason sat upon a rock and pulled two ration bars from his haversack. He handed on to the Prince who looked a bit shaken.
“How did you...”
But his highness’s question was interrupted by howling from wolf troop. Knowing that he was the last one to cross, Jason howled his own message, letting them know the Prince was safe. A howl and a bark came back acknowledging his reply. He smiled grimly and looked back to the Prince.
“How did I know the dam was going to break and flood the river?” the Prince nodded. “i didn’t your highness,” Jason told him, “but in the eight years I have been a scout, and nay even before that, I have learned to trust my instincts. The Gods have never lead me astray.”
“Even when you were captured by General Wholawski of Azure?’ The Prince smirked as if he’d found a flaw with Jason’s logic.
“Even my captivity had a purpose, Your Highness,” Jason took a swig from his canteen before handing it to the Prince. “Though I may have questioned it at the time, I am beginning to see how it may serve the Gods’ will.” He stood and took his canteen back. “Now will we move until we reach the place where the others have begun to gather.”