True to Sergeant’s Fox’s word they were on the move before the sun was up. In fact when the two Sergeants made their rounds through the sleeping bodies there was barely enough light to see by. But by the time everyone was ready the sky had lightened considerably and Sarah knew it wouldn’t be long till the sun rose.
Why, she wondered does it have to be another beautiful day that I can’t enjoy?
They walked grouped now; Scouts forming a loose outer ring, while the Hopefuls were ringed around the Prince. Sarah occupied herself by trying to determine why. Was it in hope that the General would put his best men first, which meant the Scouts would have the best chance against them? Or were they trying to protect the Hopefuls from having to engage in battle it could be helped?
The reason for Prince Theodoso, Sarah was happy to finally know his name, being in the middle was obvious. The General’s men would have to get through all fourteen Scouts and twelve Hopefuls before they could get to him. Unless, she suddenly thought looking above her, they have archers in the trees.
Sarah’s eyes began to flit to the tree branches ahead of them. There was no way she could watch everywhere at once. She began to wonder how she would protect the Prince if anything happened. Was it better to stand in front of him or behind him? Would she have to knock him out to keep him out of the fight like the General’s men had done to Prince Hermanos? Then again, how could she give her life for a man she did not like, knowing full well Jason expected her to and would in her stead.
“My life for my country and all it’s worth,” she whispered, hoping to strengthen her resolve.
Reed must have heard her for he continued, “My King and commander rule this berth.”
A few others picked up the next line, “My Sergeant who leads me in him I trust.”
Then just about the whole group finished quietly, “My faith in the Gods till I am dust.”
A second passed before another voice began the chant again. Their pace quickened as the Sergeants led them in another round. Suddenly Sergeant Deer’s hand shot up and the group stopped in quick silence. Sarah’s ears strained to listen past the sounds of the woods.
Sergeant Fox sent two Scouts out front. A few moments later Sergeant Deer motioned the group onward. It was nearly mid day before they stopped.
“We’ll rest here a short bit,” Sergeant Deer informed them quietly. “The Barracks are still a good days journey from here. Be sure to fill those canteens to the very top. I don’t want to have to stop until we absolutely have to.” He looked about the group. “Do you understand?”
“Yes Sergeant,” everyone but the Prince stated.
Sergeant Deer looked to where Prince Theodoso stood. “Sorry we have to push you so hard, Your Highness, but it is for your safety.”
Prince Theodoso nodded as he handed his canteen to Marcus, who immediately set about filling it for him. Rolling her eyes Sarah stood behind him waiting to fill her own canteen.
“Brown Noser,” she whispered as Marcus passed, knowing full well he wouldn’t understand what she meant.
“Filly,” Marcus shot back having understood her intent.
Sarah shook her head as she wondered what kind of insult filly was. A female horse, really? she thought as she finished filling her canteen and moved to let another Scout take her place.
“Move out,” Sergeant Deer motioned them onward.
Having drunk nearly half of her water in the process of eating her ration Sarah quickly re-filled her canteen. She jogged to catch up to the group.
Jay? Sarah’s mind called out to him.
Sarah, he sounded distant, are you in trouble?
No, she paused as she realized something. Were you asleep?
I am sleeping when I can, where I can. We have barricaded ourselves quite thoroughly though. Sarah could tell he was satisfied with what they had done. Is the Prince safe?
Sarah glanced at Prince Theodoso’s back, but before she could say yes a wolf call rang out. Everyone listened. Deer responded back and the resulting message was very complex.
Good, Jason’s voice startled Sarah, Wolf Troop will be joining you soon.
You heard that? Sarah asked.
You are under a Willow are you not? Jason responded puzzled.
No, Sarah adjusted her pack, but apparently Prince Theodoso thought I should carry all four tent poles.
I shall have to remember that, Jason mused, though it might be unwieldy to fight with poles on one’s back.
Jay seemed to slip back into a light sleep and Sarah decided it was probably best not to disturb him as much as she wanted to. She found herself chomping at the bit, as her father would say. She wanted to move faster, but they could only go as fast as the slowest Hopeful.
Stopping once more, this time in the late afternoon, they filled their canteens and ate. There was no sight or sound of Wolf Troop by the time they started moving again. Sarah hoped that Jay hadn’t miss-heard the message, coming as it was through her. She had no idea how their communication worked, just that it did. But the thought of Wolf Troop joining them was comforting.
Sarah cut off her thoughts as she stumbled over a large root. She needed to keep more focus on the ground ahead to keep up speed. God, I wish something would happen, she thought, for the tension was beginning to get to her. Although, she amended, given what could happen, maybe I don't.