“Adam!” Sarah called again having received no respons. “Adam?” She turned slowly looking for him. Spotting him a short distance away she ran to his side.
“A Willow tree,” he choked indicating the hacked and burnt tree before him. “How could anyone destroy a Willow tree?”
Sarah looked at his pale face and then to the tree. She stepped forward. Something crunched under her foot. Looking down she saw she had stepped upon a bone. Though black and charred it and the other bones around it clearly showed they used to be a human child. Sarah jumped to the side, off the skeleton.
“JASON!” she screamed in both mind and voice. She stood shaking with the thought of what might have gone on here.
I minute later Jason appeared, short of breath. “Sarah are you okay? Are you hurt? What’s...” his words faded out as he looked to where Sarah pointed at the ground.
“General Wholowski,” she whispered.
“What?” He looked back up at her.
“You can’t see it, but beyond this broken burnt Willow tree was a camp set up exactly like the one you sent me to.”
Jason looked from her to the Willow. “Mother of Godwoods!” It was clear he could see what she did. He grabbed Sarah’s shoulders in a firm but ghostly grip. “Sarah. You have get back to the others and warn them of this. The King and Prince are in grave danger. Go now!” He let go of her and quickly spun around on his own mission. “If you find the Prince,” he spun back to face her, “protect him at all costs!” Then he was gone.
“Come on.” Sarah turned to Adam who stood immobile, eyes flicking from the skeleton to the burnt tree. She had no idea if he had witnessed her exchange or not. “Come on Adam, we have to tell Sergeant Deer. General Wholowski did this!”
Still he stared, unmoving, mouth slightly agape. He's lean and thin, Sarah thought I should be able to carry him, right? Shouldering Adam in the gut she hoisted him up into a fireman’s hold. Trudging forward she kept muttering, “Come on Adam, snap out of it.” She could really use that Splinter now.
As she began making her way through the brush Sarah did the only other thing she could think of; recite the Scout oath.
“My life for my country and all that it’s worth.” Please let this work, she thought.
“My King and Commander rule this berth.” Adam stirred slightly on her shoulder.
“My faith in the Gods till I am dust.” He said the line with her.
Sarah stopped and set him down.
“My sergeant who leads me; in him I trust.” they finished.
Sarah studied Adam. He was still visibly shaken. The Willow was a tree of obviously significance. Someday she hoped she could learn why without obtaining a splitting headache.
“Can I see the Splinter please?” Sarah asked. “We need to get back to base camp and tell Sergeant Deer.”
“Will it work?” Adam asked as he shakily pulled it from his haversack.
Sarah stared at him for a moment. “Why wouldn’t it?” she asked puzzled.
“The Willow,” he stammered, “it’s burnt. The Splinter, it’s made from Willow,” his voice trailed off.
“Adam,” she placed a hand on his shoulder. “That was only one Willow. There are many others that still stand. Of course the Splinter will work.”
Adam nodded and carefully placed the Splinter into the cap of water. They watched as it split. The grey moved to point North while the tan swung round to point in nearly the same direction Sarah had been heading.
“They said General Wholowski was Godless,” Adam stated shuddering as Sarah led them onwards. “I thought that was just a rumor.”
Sarah had no response to that, so they walked on in silence.
“Do you think the King is in danger?” Adam spoke again at a short rest break. He looked to her, as if she was now the expert.
“Well he’s got Phoenix Troop to protect him, as well as others right?” Adam nodded. “Then he ought to be fine.” Sarah consulted the Splinter and they headed off again.
Jason had charged her with protecting the Prince, at all costs. My life for my country, the scout oath stated. Oh God, she thought biting her lip, are you really going to test me on that?