They sat by their packs until Marcus suddenly scrambled up to his feet. “Your Highness!” he bowed low to the Prince.
“Lordling Marcus,” The Prince looked surprised to see Marcus here. “I had wondered where your father had sent you, since I have not seen you at court in recent months.”
“Lordling Marcus has been a Hopeful for three years now, Your Highness” Jason remarked casually. Please be respectful Sarah; however, was the message he sent her.
Suddenly the Prince noticed Sarah as she finally rose to give him a cursory bow. “What is she doing here?” Sarah noted that Marcus looked from the Prince to her.
“I believe you know what he is doing here, Your Highness” Jason corrected the Prince.
The Prince glared at Jason. “I mean why has he,” the Prince spat out the gender, “not gone back with the others yet.”
“Hopeful Smith,” Sergeant Wolf came up to them, “and Hopeful Marcus have been guiding the raft back and forth, Your Highness. Now if the two Hopefuls are ready, we’ll take our final trip across.”
Sarah and Marcus nodded and loaded the last two packs on the raft. Looking disdainfully at it, the Prince hesitated to climb on board.
“Hopeful Marcus supervised the building,” Sarah stated as she took her position beside the raft, “Your Highness.”
The Prince looked from her to Marcus who inclined his head in the affirmative. So the Prince climbed aboard, only to perch regally on the two packs as if they were a throne. Sarah stiffled her amusement because he didn't look all that comfortable.
Having only three people and two packs made Sarah and Marcus’s work a little easier. When they got to the other side there was no one waiting. Wolf and Phoenix jumped off as soon as the water was shallow enough and helped to drag the raft as far up on shore as possible.
Why can’t he help? Sarah thought to Jason a bit annoyed that the Prince hadn’t done any work that she could see.
There is rank and protocol that must be followed Sarah, came Jason’s resigned answer. I know it is hard for you to so, but you must learn.
Sarah sighed as they gave a last heave to pull the raft from the water. Though she didn’t respond, she knew he was right. When in Rome, she remembered, do as the Romans do.
“Hopefuls,” Wolf’s orders broke her thoughts, “Disassemble this raft, send the logs downstream and place the ropes in your packs.” Sarah and Marcus nodded. “When you are done, you will follow Sergeant Phoenix back to the barracks. You are to keep quiet about seeing his Royal Highness here.” He gave them each a hard beady eyed stare.
“Yes Sergeant,” they said in near unison.
“Sergeant Phoenix, you know what to do.”
“That I do Sergeant Wolf.” Jason nodded to the man.
With a howl Sergeant Wolf began to run up stream. As he disappeared in the foliage Sarah swore she saw him turn into an actual wolf. Taking apart the raft wasn’t hard, once they’d gotten the knots untied at least.
Sarah wondered if maybe she should have suggested canoes or using paddles. Still they hadn’t needed to fell any trees. After all it was part of the scout code to not harm unless necessary. Although, she smiled at the thought, they probably hadn’t intended that to cover the environment.
“Ready men?” Jason asked as she and Marcus shouldered their packs. I want the Prince behind me and Marcus behind him. Smith you bring up the rear.”
“Yes Sergeant,” Sarah stepped back to let the Prince and Marcus in front of her as Jason headed off.
You are in charge of letting me know if anyone begins to fall behind, Jason thought to her.
Mentally or verbally? Sarah asked mischievously.
Mentally Sarah, Jason chuckled, I don’t think these two would appreciate being beat by a woman.
Marcus certainly doesn’t seem to like it, she grinned nearly stumbling on a log.
Just focus on keeping up and letting me know if they falter.
Yes Sergeant. Sarah knew Jason was right. Now was not the time for friendly banter with him, but for following his orders. After all she was the Hopeful and he the Scout Sergeant.
Their trip though the trees was short and uneventful. Once they were on the hard packed rode the going was definitely much easier. Nor was it as muddy as Sarah expected it to be. Either it had been well built or the sun had done a good job of drying it out. She didn’t really care why though. She was just grateful that she could see the barracks and her clothing was dry.
Jason stopped and they all followed suit. “Hopefuls Smith and Marcus, you are to continue to the barracks dinner will be awaiting your arrival.” He dismissed them with a wave. “Your Highness, if you will follow me, I am sure there is dinner waiting for us as well.”