The Prince glanced at Sarah’s extended arm and then her face but did not make a motion to return her gesture of truce. Sighing she withdrew the offer as Adam’s feet hit the ground. She noticed he was carrying the Prince’s pack for him.
“Am I still leading?” she asked him.
“I think so,” Adam looked from her to the Prince.
“Then I am, so before you get the Splinter out, you really ought to let His Highness carry his own pack.” Adam looked from the Prince to her. “If he wants to of course, I doubt the extra weight would slow you down.”
“I’ll carry my stuff, Scout,” the Prince snippily agreed after a moment’s thought.
Sarah hid her smile. Given the Prince’s ego she wasn’t surprised he’d taken the unspoken challenge.
Adam dutifully handed it over. “Here you are Your Highness.”
“Splinter please,” Sarah requested as the Prince adjusted his gear. “Half day?” she asked as she watched it split out.
“Little more than that, maybe three quarters at most given the speed we traveled yesterday.” Adam responded.
“Alright,” Sarah waited a moment. “Ready?” She looked back and got nods from the men. “Then we’re off.”
They moved through the woods as the sun rose. It was one of those beautiful crisp autumn mornings. If it hadn’t been for the General lurking out there somewhere Sarah would have really enjoyed it. They stopped by a trickle of water to eat a morning ration. The Prince wrinkled his nose as he turned the round cake over in his hands.
“Sorry Your Highness,” Sarah off handedly apologized, “no time to cook anything. We need to focus on returning to Sergeant Deer and then back to the Barracks.” She bit into her cake.
Cake wasn’t the right word given there was nothing sweet about the bar. It was fatty and meaty and somewhat disgusting. So Sarah could understand where the Prince’s distaste came from. Maybe she’d take it on as a project later; make scout food better. She smiled.
Sarah’s statement was cut off by the howling of a wolf. Abort, if she translated correctly.
“Message is getting out.” Adam nodded. “Everyone will be heading back to camp now.”
“Then let’s go.”
They heard the howl three more times before they stopped for a quick lunch.
“Is this really what you eat while scouting?” the Prince furrowed his brows at his ration.
“Yes, your highness,” Adam replied, “standard issue.”
“Camp fire cooking is better.” Sarah stated.
“Especially when you cook Smith.” Adam grinned.
“Of course it’s better when she cooks,” the Prince looked disgusted at Sarah.
Adam looked puzzled from the Prince to Sarah. “Long story,” Sarah responded. “Let’s move.”
They hadn’t been moving for too long when the sound of a horn echoed through the woods.
“Sergeant Deer is calling us in.” Adam responded when Sarah looked back. “By the sounds of it, we aren’t that far away.”
Adam was correct. It didn’t take much more than a few more minutes before they entered the camp. Deer blew his horn again as they came to a stop before him. The sound was deafening. He quickly moved the horn from his lips.
“Well, that was quick.” Sergeant Deer’s eyes evaluated the Prince, “you brought a guest?”
“Safety precaution, Sergeant” Sarah informed him.
“So ye be the group that brings the disturbing news?”
“Well at least we’re on day five and most pairs will be on their way back. If everyone double times it, we can be on the road by supper.”
Sarah sighed at that news. She wanted to keep moving, but while in theory a smaller group might go unnoticed, they wouldn’t stand a chance if they were found. Deer was obviously working with the logic that there would be safety in numbers. Since it would make the Prince easier to protect Sarah agreed.
Glancing about she noticed the Prince had settled on a rock by the tent. He was clearly sulking. She looked back to Sergeant Deer who raised his eyebrows at her.
“Do you think you could talk to him,” she indicated the Prince with her head, “I don’t know if he understands the danger he’s in, and I certainly know he didn’t like to hear it from me.”
“He won’t like it from me either, but even I don’t know the full extent of the danger we face.” Deer held up a hand to keep Sarah from talking. “No need to tell me now, best wait till everyone is here so you don’t have to go repeating yourself.”
“Right.” Sarah sighed yet again and decided to forage for herbs; anything to take her mind off what she knew.