Sure enough just after noon they reached the spot where the other three groups that had left the barracks before them were gathered. Scouts and Hopefuls huddled under the trees watching the water rushing by. It wasn’t rushing all that fast, Sarah thought, at least not near the ‘shore’. Setting down her pack, she found a stout and tall walking stick and then proceeded to take her shoes off.
“What are you doing?” London asked her curiously.
“Going to go test the water,” she responded
“Trying to show off, more likely” Marcus snorted as he and Reed joined them.
Sarah stood. “I’m not showing off,” she told him, “I’m showing initiative.” They looked blankly at her and Sarah sighed. “I’m trying to solve our problem.”
“Why?” This time it was Reed who questioned her. “The Scouts said they’d have a boat here by morning to ferry us across.”
“Well,” Sarah thought for a moment and glanced again at the water. “I don’t know about you guys, but I’d like to sleep in my own bed, tonight.”
“Good point,” Reed nodded.
“Whatever, follow Smith if you like,” Marcus grumbled as he went back to the others, dragging with Michael with him.
Sarah shrugged and found herself a long sturdy stick. Walking to the water’s edge she stopped to look up stream and down before wadding in. The water was too muddy to give a clear idea of where the original streambed was. That part, she reminded herself, would be where the current was strongest. Carefully, using the stick to judge the ground before stepping on it, Sarah waded out into the swollen stream.
About a quarter of the way across the ground dropped sharply. Sarah nearly submerged herself trying to find the bottom with the stick. But if she hadn’t taken it with her, she would have stepped from water that was only waist deep into water that was well over her head. Current tugging at her thighs she turned around and made her way back to shore. The water was slow enough that she didn’t fear drowning; it was the others, whose swimming skills she had no idea of, that she was worried about. It’d been a few years since she’d been a lifeguard let alone actually having used any live saving techniques.
A boat was certainly their best bet for crossing. More like a canoe, she thought given the number of trees now in the water. Still a raft might work, if they could find a really long pole, or enough good swimmers to guide it. Aaron and Kirk had joined Reed and London by the time she returned to shallow water.
“Thought of something?” Reed asked as Sarah tried to wring her pants out.
Sarah looked up and realized he wasn’t the only one looking at her. It seemed nearly everyone was. No wonder Marcus felt she was showing off. Maybe she shouldn’t have pulled that ‘stunt’, as her brothers liked to say.
“If we can build a raft it shouldn’t be too hard to cross, especially if we have a few strong swimmers to guide it.”
“Do you know how to build a raft?” Nick asked.
“Um,” Sarah suddenly felt her cheeks heat up. “In theory, yes, but I’ve never built one before.”
“I have,” Marcus spoke up.
Sarah sighed with relief as everyone turned to him. She didn’t mind leading a small group, but there were now about twenty people here. Marcus certainly seemed much more suited to the job. At least he liked bossing people about more than Sarah did.
“Are you helping Smith?” Marcus quipped at her after he’d barked out orders for log hunting.
“I thought I’d work on making a nice warm supper, since the rain’s let up enough to get a fire going.” Sarah looked towards the sky thoughtfully. It was hard to see through the trees, but the sun was definitely coming through stronger.
“Good luck with that,” Marcus snorted as he moved out to supervise the Hopefuls gathering wood.
Sarah rummaged through her pack and found a small pouch. As she suspected the one Jason had given her for herb collecting was standard issue. She slung it over her shoulder along and filled it with trapping supplies. Finding dry wood was going to be an issue; everything had been soaked by the rain. Moving to the gathered Scouts, she was surprised to see Scout Sergeant Wolf there.
“Ye aren't helping Hopeful Marcus?” Wolf appraised her with his beady eyes.
“We tend to,” she searched for a suitable word, “clash.” She gave Wolf a wry grin. “So I figured I’d see about making something warm to eat.”
“So why aren’t ye out hunting and gathering?” Wolf asked her.
Sarah felt her face flush. “Well I’m a horrible shot with a bow. Nor can I fish, trap a small animal and go looking for herbs all at once, so I was hoping someone could help.”
“Hm,” Wolf pondered her for a moment before looking out over the water. “Normally we’re not supposed to help Hopefuls during trekking. Got to figure it all out themselves ye know.”
Sarah’s heart sank. “Yeah, I figured,’ she sighed, “but it doesn’t hurt to ask.”
Wolf grinned at her. “No it don’t. Ye never know, something might show up at ye fire pit should ye get it going.” He gave her a wink.