Sarah turned away from Sergeant Wolf and the Scouts. Heading into the woods she hoped Wolf was right that something might turn up at her fire pit. Otherwise, given her snaring ability, it would be a very vegetarian meal. Still, Sarah hummed happily to herself as she moved away from where Marcus was shouting his orders. There was a similar herb variety here as there had been in the north and, she had noticed rabbit spore on the trek here.
Setting up traps in three promising locations Sarah began her return trip. As she went, she gathered as much dry kindling as she could along with any other branches that might be dry, or sappy, enough to burn. Once back by the water, she scanned the area.
The rain had stopped, but the trees would drip continually on any fire she got going. There was one spot, where the overhanging foliage was less dense. It would have to do. Carefully setting her load down Sarah shook as much water as she could off the branches. Then, upon retrieving a small spade from her pack, she set about making her fire pit.
Nine small sods later Sarah had a decent sized pit; big enough to roast a small deer in fact. Knowing that she wasn’t likely to catch one of those, she started the fire. Once it was going, she collected pots form packs, filled them with water and placed them over the flames. For now the logs she was drying above the fire worked as a grate, later she'd need to set up tripods.
By the time she’d gotten that all done, raft construction had begun. Now Sarah just needed to find someone to tend the fire while she went out to check her traps.
“Jeremy, what do you think you are doing?” Sarah looked through the trees to see Marcus yelling at the Hopeful. “I said clove hitch, not overhand knot!”
Well, Sarah thought with a slight smile, Jeremy wasn’t a Prince, but then again Marcus wasn’t a General. She did need an assistant though. Adding a few more logs to the fire before she stood Sarah glanced to the raft building. Hopeful Jeremy was definitely getting the brunt of Marcus’s frustration. Sarah left her fire pit with a slight smile and wandered down to the water’s edge.
“Hey Marcus?” She clapped him on the back. He looked at her through narrowed eyes. “Can I borrow one of your raft makers to help tend the fire and prepare our supper?”
“Which one do you want?” He glared at Jeremy who fumbled with some rope.
“I was thinking Hopeful Jeremy,” she stated.
Jeremy looked up at them, his eyes pleading her to take him away.
“You are relived form this duty,” Marcus growled at the poor boy. “Go help Smith with his woman’s work.”
“Thanks Marcus,” she slapped him on the back. “You’re a real hero. Come on Jeremy,” she raised her voice ever so slightly, “we’ll go make sure there’s a hot supper waiting for everyone.”
As suspected there were appreciative sounds from those working on the raft. Sarah smiled. Leading Hopeful Jeremy to the fire pit she gave him instructions on how to tend it. Once there, she demonstrated what he needed to do. Watching him for a few minutes, Sarah made sure he had understood. Satisfied that her fire wouldn’t go out, she set off to check her traps.
Just as soon as she got out of the line of sight with the camp a hand shot out from a bush and grabbed her arm. Instinct kicked in and before Sarah could think she had flipped the perpetrator onto his back. He blinked up at her, obviously just as surprised by what had happened as she was. His surprise was quickly replaced by annoyance, while Sarah smiled slightly.
“Sorry Your Highness,” she apologized as the Prince scrambled up. He ignored her proffered hand so she pulled it back. “But you should have thought before you grabbed me like that.”
The Prince was in the same scout clothing as the rest of the Hopefuls. Judging by its looks Sarah could tell he’d taken a few dives into the mud today. She watched, still smiling slightly as he maneuvered back into his hiding spot.
“This is your entire fault,” the Prince snapped.
“My fault?” she asked puzzled. “What’s my fault? Because I certainly didn’t cause the rain or flood.”
“It is your fault that I am out here in this blasted weather acting as if I am but a commoner trying to prove my worth.” He stood regally, trying to lord over her.
“How?” Sarah could not follow his logic at all.
Sarah, be respectful! Jason’s voice came into her head as he spoke from behind her. “Your Highness,” he bowed slightly. “I recommend you leave off and let Smith return to his purpose of gathering food to cook.”
“Well that’s womanly enough,” the Prince snorted, calming down only slightly.
Sarah nearly bit her tongue. “Good day Your Highness,” she quipped, “I hope you’ll join us for supper.” Sarah turned on her heel with the most cursory of bows and marched off.
“I am Not mingling with them!” She heard him sneer but she didn’t hear what Jay said in return.
It wasn’t that Sarah was trying to pick a fight with the Prince or annoy him. He just, just offended and annoyed her. She twisted the neck of a rabbit caught in the first snare. She’d told Jason once that she’d didn’t know if she could kill someone even if they were trying to kill her. Yet here she was letting her anger and frustration kill an innocent rabbit. Blinking back a tear she tried to sooth her nerved by listening to the sound of running water.
“I think I’d rather just collect meat from a butcher,” Sarah stated to herself. “I mean,” she sighed, “I know you have to kill animals to eat them, but I think I’d rather not be the one doing the killing.”
Suddenly Sarah heard a plethora of wolf howls and barks. Listening with her head cocked to the side, Sarah tried to decipher what was being said. Unfortunately it was all wolfish to her. Sarah chuckled slightly as she moved to the other two traps. Both of them were empty and, in a way, she was glad.
“So,” she spoke to the dead rabbit. “How am I going to make you feed twenty-five plus men?” Sighing she headed back to the fire, collecting what she could of herbs and tubers along the way.