Sarah wished she could have watched the sun rise, but the surrounding woods blocked her view. Not that she had time to enjoy it, for her eyes were in constant motion trying to spot movement in the trees. Still she smiled to herself as she took a deep breath of the fresh clean air. There was a hint of wood smoke and Sarah glanced at Adam, who was slowly stretching from his position.
“Does anyone live near here?” she asked him.
“Could be some nobles out hunting, but like as not no one is out here but us.” He finished stretching and stood. “Most people know better than to be in the King’s Forest while the Scout Trials are going on.”
“Ah,” Sarah nodded and followed him back into camp.
She smiled to see the fire had been started to reheat the leftovers from last night. Pulling her mess kit form her haversack, though Sarah still thought of it as a courier bag, she helped herself to breakfast.
“Watch reports,” Sergeant Deer asked once everyone was seated.
Each Hopeful reported what they had seen at night, and there wasn’t anything much of note. After breakfast everyone quietly prepared for scouting. Rations were divided up among them all as they repacked their packs. They would be bringing only the bare necessities; mess kit, rope, japon, and one blanket. The blanket would serve two purposes, they learned, first it kept the mess kit form rattling, and second it and the japon would be used to keep warm at night.
“Ready?” Adam asked as Sarah finished tying her pack closed.
Sarah nodded as they shouldered their equipment. Canteen bouncing on her right hip, sword and haversack on her left, Sarah led them out of camp.
“Good luck Hopefuls,” Sergeant Deer called out as the groups disappeared into the woods.
Sarah looked back behind her. The tent was up and on its front pole flew a red banner subtlety stamped with a deer. It wasn’t nearly as camouflaged as she remembered Phoenix Troop’s being. Then again they were far from the border with Azure…
“You going to lead us Smith?” Adam asked, interrupting her thoughts.
“Right,” Sarah said resuming movement. Camp would soon be out ear shot and, “How do we make a loop and find our way back?” she asked stopping yet again.
“Well once you got the feel for it, making the loop is simple. But for the Trials, take each day as a straight path, angling to be parallel to camp for the third day and heading straight back on the fifth,” was Adam's response.
“So what do you use to angle yourself and know which way base camp is?” Sarah asked a little frustrated with the lack of a usable answer. “Surely you have some sort of device that allows you to navigate through unknown land.”
Adam tapped his head with a smile. “Well if you have enough faith you can let the Gods guide you.”
Sarah couldn’t help but groan. These Gods weren’t making things easy for her. Especially as she could feel a headache creeping up on her.
“The rest of us pray for guidance but double check ourselves with these.”
Adam smiled and pulled a small object from his haversack. For a moment Sarah had no idea what it was. She watched with curiosity as he pulled the cap off his canteen and poured a little water in it. Then he placed the item gently in it. She watched as the item split in two, like the hands on a clock. One, which was light brown in color, oriented itself so that the sharper end pointed in the direction they’d just come. The other, dark grey in color, pointed in a different direction. She watched as Adam slowly rotated the cap.
“Oh!” Sarah pulled the cap off of her canteen to examine it. Sure enough there were markings in even intervals around it. One of them was marked with an N. “It’s a compass.”
Adam looked at her confused for a moment then looked back at his cap. “I suppose you could call it a compass, though it’s a might small.”
Sarah capped her canteen and looked closer at what he held. “Well the grey one points North, but what does the tan one do.”
“That’s The Splinter,” Adam explained, clearly surprised she didn’t know, “and by the grace of the Gods it always points to base camp.”
“Always?” Now Sarah was curious despite the growing headache.
“Always,” Adam confirmed, holding the cap out to her.
No sooner did Sarah touch it than her headache became a migraine. She stumbled backward into a tree, eyes closed. “Oh God,” she muttered as her hand went to her head and she slumped down hoping it would go away soon.