The next morning was nearly the same as the first, only there was a sense of excitement in the air. Every now and then Ryan would jump up and down saying "exploring, exploring," over and over until Martha told him to "hush and have patience". Ralph occasionally started singing about it, which was slightly better. On occasion his voice would hit an awkward note making them cringe.
They were also baking bread early. Sarah’s loaf was a bit better today, though it would require a plethora of water to make it eatable, or so she thought. Still, Martha packed it in the basket. A basket now filled with bread, cheese and apples all nestled around a large covered jug with water in it.
Martha had spoken with that day’s Trial Masters for Trevor and Travis. Sarah wasn’t quite sure what a trial master was, but she knew it meant the twins would be joining them. Soon a knock at the door set Ryan and Ralph to squealing. Shortly after, the twins came bursting through the back door into the kitchen. The cacophony of noise was deafening.
“QUIET!” Martha’s voice reverberated against the windows.
All four boys stopped mid motion and faced their mother.
“Are all your chores done?” she asked, glancing sternly at each boy in turn.
“Yes, mother,” came the chorus of their reply.
“Travis and Trevor grab the basket. Ryan and Ralph get the blanket and let’s go.”
In a slightly more orderly fashion the family traipsed out of the house to the waiting cart. Sarah stopped for a second in the door. Greg, apparently, was the same man that had given Sarah and Richard a ride into town. He gave Sarah a puzzled glance, but said nothing. Martha climbed up front with Greg and Sarah clambered in back with the boys. Ryan immediately plopped himself in her lap and the twins flanked her.
“So what exactly are we looking for?” Greg asked as he and Martha turned to look at Sarah.
“Um," Sarah frowned a moment in thought, "someplace that's slightly wooded, but not an orchard or full forest.”
“I think I know a place not too far from here.” Greg turned back to the front and started the wagon.
They went through the small town, past the main square. It looked a lot like the village Sarah had stayed in with Phoenix Troop. God, how long ago had that been, she wondered. Thinking of them made her think of Jason and she wondered when she’d see him again. Of course she didn’t get to think very long because Ryan began a litany of questions. He wanted to know where they were going and why they were going and when would they get there. It was Ralph; however, who asked the inevitable question.
"Are we there yet?"
They had just passed the last building of town when he asked it and Sarah could barely contain her laughter. Poor Ralph sounded as if they’d been on the road all night. Of course given Ryan’s rapid fire of questions, Sarah felt about the same way.
Greg kept to the main road a little longer before he turned the cart onto a small unused track. The cart really began to bounce around as it followed the shallow ruts. Sarah and the boys immediately gripped the cart railing and held on for dear life. Finally Greg pulled to a stop at the edge of a corpse of trees. It seemed a decent place to look for herbs Sarah thought.
Ryan immediately began his questioning again as Sarah scanned the area. She tried to answer as best she could until Martha scolded the boys and told them to go explore with Uncle Greg. The boys immediately attached themselves to Greg and tried to pull him in four different directions. He obviously didn’t mind it as his face broke into a grin. Somehow he managed to set them off in a single direction, opposite to the way Sarah and Martha headed.
Martha pulled out the little cloth bags she’d brought with them and followed behind Sarah. Sarah scanned in and around the trees. There didn’t seem to be the plethora of herbs that she’d found while out with Jason and his men. Still she at least found some of the basics; parsley, mint, rosemary and thyme. There was no basil, which bummed her out slightly.
Carefully Sarah and Martha up rooted two or three plants for each herb found. Sarah felt as though she was destroying the ecosystem. Plant and animal species had been dying off at such a rapid rate back home that uprooting just one plant could be considered a federal offence. Reminding herself she was transplanting them so they could flourish in a well tended garden, eased some of her discomfort.
“MOMMY!” Ryan’s scream cut through the air.