Day three of the trials dawned bright, though the morning gong woke them before the sun could be seen. Sarah stepped outside and took a deep breath of fresh air. She had never known air so fresh. Aside from the wood smoke of the cooking fires there was nothing to pollute the atmosphere.
“How do you manage to be so happy in the mornings?” Kirk grumbled as they made their way to breakfast.
Sarah shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve always loved mornings. The day is fresh and you just never know what might happen.”
“We know what is going on happen today,” Marcus muttered, “a mock scouting run.”
“Yes, but yesterday we knew we were trekking, but we didn’t know we’d be building a raft to cross a flooded stream.” Sarah grinned at him.
“I don’t think that counts as something to be happy for,” Michael remarked. He automatically flinched, but for once Marcus didn’t strike.
“Perhaps, but we did prove ourselves by getting across it.” Not even Marcus refuted Sarah on that fact.
As usual the group split apart to find seats. It seemed as though more scouts were breaking their fast with them there had been on the first day. Unfortunately, Sarah saw no one from Troop Phoenix. Splitting up again her group sat at two adjacent tables. The ring of metal sounded through the hall, first once then twice. Everyone turned upon their heels to face the King standing at the front of the Hall.
“Good Morning Hopefuls,” The King greeted them.
“Good Morning Your Majesty,” they all replied. Sarah noted the Prince was conspicuously absent.
“Today marks the start of the last and longest part of the trials. Are you ready to see what Scouting is really about?” The King's twinkling gaze swept the room.
“Yes Your Majesty,” the Hopefuls chorused.
“Well then let us eat and get moving!” The King hit the metal once more and a flood of voices rang through the room.
“My life for my Country and all that it’s worth.
My King and Commander rule my berth.
My faith in the Gods till I am dust.
My Sergeant who leads me; in him I trust.”
The King had left the room by the time the oath had been recited so everyone immediately fell to eating. Unlike the first morning, nerves didn’t affect anyone at Sarah’s table; they all ate a hardy breakfast. Speculations ran around the tables at just how the mock scouting runs would happen. The scouts would only say it would be explained once everyone was in the field.
“Come on Smith,” Reed turned in his chair to look at Sarah. “Surely you can take a guess at what it might be, given you’ve been on a real scout run.”
“I have no clue.” Sarah shrugged. "Seriously," she stated to his disbelieving gaze.
Before Reed asked again the metal was hit twice. A page stood at the end of the room. “Leave your dishes where they lie and return to your rooms. Packs are waiting upon you bed, you may add spare clothing if you like. Scout Sergeants Lion, Fox, Deer and Sparrow will stop by to collect those Hopefuls assigned to their troop. Do not leave the room otherwise.” The page left as everyone rose and shuffled back upstairs.
Packs indeed were waiting for Class B when they reached their room. Sarah was the first of them to open her trunk and pull out spare clothing.
“I know what that is,” Marcus hissed as she pulled out her balled up binding strip.
Sarah looked up at him mildly. He gave her a smug grin. “Come on Marcus, you have all the information,” she cajoled him. “You’ve done this twice before why can’t you tell us what’s going to happen?” Everyone looked expectantly towards Marcus.
“I am not allowed to tell,” he leaned towards her, eyes narrowed, “am I?”
Sarah sighed and straightened up having added everything she wanted to her pack. “I thought you promised to stop being a stuck up prick.”
Stiff shirt Sarah, Jason’s mirth filtered through.
“You know I agree,” Reed spoke up. “You’ve been more full of yourself than a hay cart ever since I got here and we're all sick of it.”
“Not all of you.” Marcus looked to Bennett and Michael.
“Well,” Michael slid away from Marcus and over to Reed and Smith.
“Traitor,” Marcus muttered.
“Marcus,” Sarah sighed, “seriously.” He glared at her. “Don’t make me pin you until a Scout Sergeant comes to take you away.”
Please tell me I am not grouped with him, Sarah mentally pleaded to Jason as Marcus snorted and turned to pack his pack.
No, Jason responded, nor is the Prince in your group either.
Thank God! Her response got a chuckle from him.