The simple chat of the men grew louder as Sarah descended the front stairs. Chatter that abruptly stopped as they caught sight of her. The men quickly contained their surprise except Mike whose mouth opened in awe. Sarah couldn’t help but smile when Kevin nudged him. Mike quickly shut his mouth, but the puppy dog look did not leave his eyes. Suddenly embarrassed Sarah’s gaze sought Jason’s. He quickly stepped forward to meet her upon the last step.
“Well men?” Jason asked as he placed Sarah’s hand on his arm to escort her.
There was a moment of silence and exchanged glances before Mike blurted out, “She’s female.”
Somehow Sarah managed to contain her laughter. “Of course I’m female.” She looked at the men who were all chuckling and shaking their heads at a very embarrassed Mike. “But don’t let that fool you." She scanned the group. "I could still floor and pin anyone of you.”
Mathew snorted as her gaze ended with him. Sarah smiled.
“Well dinner is ready, and while Sarah cooked, Margaret is laying the food on the table as we speak.” Lady Abigail interrupted whatever other chatter might have started.
“You don’t look like you cooked.” Allen stated.
“I changed.” Sarah resisted the urge to stick out her tongue. She was glad to see them all again. But, where is Brad? she discreetly thought to Jason as he helped her sit.
Buried back in Azure, may the Gods give him peace, was his subdued response.
“Oh,” Sarah couldn’t help the slight exclamation. Thankfully the sound of chairs scraping meant that only Jason heard. He squeezed her shoulder slightly before taking his seat.
“So what is for dinner?” Jess asked, rubbing his hands together as he pulled his bowl of stew towards him. A sharp look from Lady Abigail made him quickly put down his spoon.
“Hearty Beef Stew with Cheddar Beer bread.” Sarah grinned at their puzzled looks. “Now I won’t guarantee its taste,” she swallowed a chuckle when she caught a Lady Abigail hand flourish out of the corner of her eye, “as I didn’t have the same ingredients as I did in the field.”
Most of the men smiled as they broke off pieces of bread. They would have started eating if Lady Abigail hadn’t politely coughed to gain their attention. She turned to Sarah. “Would you kindly say the blessing child?”
Surprised Sarah looked at her, “Me?”
“Please child,” Lady Abigail stated as everyone bowed their heads.
“Um,” Sarah followed suit and looked at the table. She wracked her brain for anything that she could say. But when talk of religion gave her a headache there was only one that came to mind: “Good food, good friends, good God let’s eat!”
Mathew rocked back in his chair nearly toppling himself over as he tried not to laugh. The rest of the men hid their grins behind hands or napkins as best they could. Only Jason’s expression remained impassive though Sarah could feel his mirth. But it was Lady Abigail’s harsh gaze that made her cheeks flush.
You could have helped, she thought at Jason as she shot a glare his direction.
But it was Scout perfect, he thought back, though it should have been Gods.
“It was my father’s favorite,” Sarah explained with a shrug. It wasn’t her fault Lady Abigail hadn’t been able to teach her any proper blessings.
“My goodness what mirth and I haven’t even poured the Cider yet!” Margaret exclaimed as she entered with a pitcher.
“Did you not hear Sarah’s blessing?” Lady Abigail asked as Margaret poured the cool liquid into their mugs. Margaret shook her head. “It was,” Lady Abigail looked at Sarah then back at Margaret, “unique.”
Mathew, having just set his chair upright, nearly toppled over again. Smiles ran around the table as Margaret poured the cider. Plates were now filled with food and mugs brimming with liquid, still they all waited, their eyes watching Lady Abigail. As soon as she picked up her spoon, everyone fell to eating and the dinning room was filled with the sound of contented eating.
One by one the men pushed their chairs back slightly, silverware set down and mugs in hand, their bellies now full. Sarah followed suit and took the opportunity to ask Kevin about his sweetheart. Soon she was smiling, awash in a river of information from them all. Margaret came around twice more with the cider before their chatter diminished. As the silenced lengthened, Mathew leaned on the table and looked directly at Sarah.
“Are you ready to take the First Year trials?” He kept his tone carefully neutral, though Sarah could feel Jason bristle.
Sarah returned Mathew’s gaze. “I’m as ready as I’ll ever be considering I don’t even know what they entail or when they are.”
A smile slowly spread across Mathew's face. “Oh, not much really.” He was clearly enjoying telling her. “Just some sword fighting, trekking through the woods, and actual scouting. Oh,” his eyes gained a impish gleam, “and they start in two weeks.”
“Two weeks!” Sarah turned to Jason, suddenly panicked.
“Just opt out of archery and you will do fine,” he stated calmly.
“Easy for you to say,” she snorted.