The day didn’t dawn fast enough for Sarah. Adam seemed to be of the same feeling, for he too was awake when she glanced at him. Neither of them looked down as they folded up their blankets. Sarah swallowed as she hefted her pack to her shoulders. There was only one way to get down through the branches and Adam indicated she should go first.
The smell of the dead cub hit her at the last branch. Bile rose in her throat and Sarah swallowed it. She didn’t manage to swallow the next round when she hit the ground facing the carcass. Adam said nothing as he dropped beside her, head turned away from the cub.
“Why would anyone blind and de-tail a bear cub?” Sarah asked.
“Because they either do not know the law of the King’s Forest or wish to defy the King and all Vervell stands for,” Adam spoke fiercely.
Sarah stepped upwind and took a few deep breaths to control her nausea. Just think of it as a dissected pig she thought as she turned to watch Adam examining the ground around the cub.
Sarah knelt down nearby and joined in the examination. The ground was covered with wolf tracks. “How big do wolves get around here?” Sarah asked shocked by the size of one of the prints. Looking further away from the carcass Sarah could easily see the trail the cub had made through the forest.
Adam looked up from his investigation and slowly stood. “You don’t know?” Sarah shook her head. “Then you ought to have paid more attention to your classes.”
“Hey,” Sarah held up her hands in surrender, “I only joined about two weeks before the trials, by Phoenix’s recommendation and the King’s orders.” Adam’s face softened slightly. “I know a bit about tracking and such from back home, but I don’t know the specifics of here. It’s so similar and yet so different.”
“Right.” Adam came over to examine the print she had found.
“So,” Sarah broke the lengthening silence. “What exactly is the law of the King’s Forest?”
Adam stood and gave her another hard look. “Every child is taught the laws.”
“As was I,” Sarah tried to ease his obvious discomfort, “but I wasn’t born and raised in Vervell.”
“Then you are Azurian?” Adam’s eyes narrowed even more and he looked ready to fight her.
“No!” Sarah threw up her hands yet again. “As Reed stated I’m from the United States of America, a place so far away that I had to get here by Willow.”
“By Willow?” Adam asked relaxing just slightly.
“Yes,” Sarah took another deep breath and looked at the earth. “If I hadn’t been under that Willow, if Phoenix hadn’t found me, I would be as dead as the rest of my family.” She swallowed and raised her eyes to meet Adam’s gaze. “Vervell is my country now.”
For a while they stood in silence. Sarah held herself steady. I am who I am, she thought, please for the love of God accept that. Adam suddenly broke eye contact and went back to studying the tracks and the path the bear cub had made to enter the small clearing in which they stood. After another moment Sarah sighed and was about to ask to see the Splinter when Adam stood and spoke.
“The law of the King’s Forest is simple.” He studied her. “Kill only what you need and leave no part unused or unburied.”
“So,” Sarah pondered the law briefly, “maiming a cub in a manner that nulls its chances of survival would be breaking that law,” she looked to him for confirmation.
“Nulls?” Adam asked puzzled.
Sarah blinked. “Negates its chance of survival?” Adam's expression remaind blank. “Ruins its chance of survival.”
“Yes,” Adam nodded, “exactly.”
“Then,” Sarah remembered the duties that had been drilled in her head, “as Scouts our duty is to find out who did this.” A smile began to creep across Adam’s face. “So, why don't we,” she smiled back.
Adam nodded and Sarah began to look for the best way to do just that.