Chatter erupted again as all the men tried to give Sarah advice and debated on what she ought to be taught first. Sarah looked from one man to the next, becoming more and more bewildered as the comments washed over her.
Jay? She pleaded silently.
Wait, was his response.
Lady Abigail was the only other one who was silent. Mathew kept tossing out comments that would cause arguments; just like Sarah's brother Richard. When the volume rose to near shouting Jason stood. Holding up his hand he signaled for silence. It was not long before the voices ceased and all eyes were on him.
“Unfortunately it is not up to us to continue training Sarah.”
“What?” Allen interjected.
“Why not?” Mathew asked with a half smile.
“A messanger stopped by my house shortly before we headed out. Sarah is to report to the training barracks first thing tomorrow to join the rest of the Hopefuls.” Jason turned to Sarah, “You will be going by the name of Smith.”
Sarah nodded, swallowing the lump of nerves that had suddenly risen in her throat.
“Well,” Lady Abigail stood. Chairs scrapped the floor as everyone stood to join her. “It is always an interesting evening when Scout Troop Phoenix comes to call. Tonight was certainly no exception.”
Lady Abigail led the group to the front door, effectively dismissing them for the evening. Sarah stood beside her, receiving each man’s thanks and well wishes.
“Sorry to have gotten you into this,” Kevin whispered.
Sarah glanced at Jason and then back to Kevin. “I think we all got ourselves into it.”
“Hope you pass,” Mathew stated as he passed by, not bothering to thank her at all.
Mike lingered with his hand on Sarah’s. “I didn’t think,” he started, his stare making Sarah shift. “I mean,” he tried again. “I didn’t mean to be so hard on you in the field,” he gushed.
Sarah snorted as she reclaimed her hand. “That was nothing compared to what Phoenix put me through.”
Mike looked to Jason, shock on his face. Jason chuckled as his hand reached for Sarah’s. “She knocked me out too.” Looking from Jason to Sarah and at their clasped hands Mike turned beet red and fled. “He’s not as bad as Mathew when it comes to women,"Jason commented, "but Mike does have a weak spot for them.”
“Right,” Sarah sighed. She noticed that Lady Abigail had disappeared. “Speaking of Mathew, what’s up with him? I swear he’s gone from liking me to hating me”
Jason shrugged. “Could be anything with him. I suspect he’s annoyed at being denied consideration for a Sergeant’s position.”
“Oh,” though Sarah doubted that was the whole story. There was obviously some grudge between them, which she half suspected she featured in. Jason distracted her thoughts by turning to face her. She smiled at him. “Guess it’s back to being one of the boys again, huh?”
“I wish you did not have to,” he sighed.
“Well you’re the one who said I was better than most first years,” she teased.
Jason looked down, embarrassed. “The Gods know it is a trial for both of us.”
Sarah hugged him. “I’ll keep faith in my God, if you keep faith in yours.”
Jason returned the hug then pulled back slightly. “It is about faith is it not?” His hand cupped her cheek and she looked up, ever so slightly, to meet his gaze. “I have faith in you Sarah.” His lips touched hers gently, before he pulled back.
“How long are the Trials?” she asked, suddenly needing to know how long they would be apart.
Sarah pouted. “That wasn’t much of a kiss to sustain me for that long.”
Jason grinned before he pulled himself up straight. He let Sarah go and stepped back, once more the commanding Scout Sergeant. “I will be over first thing tomorrow morning to collect Hopeful Smith.” His voice was directed down the hall, where Sarah supposed his mother would hear him. His face turned to her. “You really are better than most First Years, Sarah. Not to mention you have already had first hand scouting experience.”
Sarah snorted, and a smile broke through his austere expression. “I don’t think staying at base camp, tackling an archer and getting knocked out first thing in an ambush, count.”
“There is more to scouting than fighting,” Jason chuckled. Placing a hand on her shoulder he continued, “Have faith in yourself, trust your gut and you will do well.” His hand moved to clasp her arm and they said goodbye as Sergeant to Scout.