Jason stopped just before the third gate to look at Sarah. “Sir, which you seem fond of using, is reserved for Knights, as Madame is reserved for their wives.”
“Right!” Sarah nodded, making sure to file that tidbit of information in an easily accessible place in her brain.
“Now,” Jason began moving forward, picking up the pace as they wound their way through the three levels of market. “You’ve been out with my troop so you have a general sense of what we do; however,” he glanced at her again, “you have missed much of the basics.”
“Basics?” Sarah asked wondering what on earth the basics could be.
“Yes, Hopeful Smith,” he grinned sideways at her, “basics. Things like the Scout Code of Conduct, the Scout Oath and Scout Protocol. You’ll get these in a condensed format over the next two weeks. You will also be given a placement test when you arrive. This is just standard procedure.”
“And the Trials?” Sarah was hoping he’d be more forth coming with information than last night.
“Consist of fighting, trekking and scouting, as Scout Mathew stated, all of which takes place over the course of another fortnight.”
“So fourteen days plus another fourteen before the trials start?” Sarah swallowed at the prospect of being a 'man' for a whole month.
A horn blew from atop the wall, startling Sarah as they joined the gathering of people waiting for the gate to open. Everyone took a step back as the door creaked and groaned its way open. Clanking chains echoed down the street as the portcullis rose before them. The horn blew once more, its sound muffling the clang of the portcullis being locked into place. Jason did not speak until they were out of the crowd and on the road heading north.
“Yes Smith, you will be there for a whole month.” He seemed to find it humorous to call her Smith. “As for the trials they start with a day of combat, which is followed by a day of trekking on a predetermined course lead by a seasoned scout. The last bit, and most time consuming is the mock scouting runs. There Hopefuls are paired with seasoned Scouts and pitted against each other.”
Jason looked behind them and smiled. He stopped in the shade of an oak tree and waved to the cart that was coming up to them before continuing. “You know what it is like at base camp, where supplies are replenished from the wild, but here you will be doing what my men and I do when away from base camp and not traveling to the next.”
“Will it be hard?” Sarah asked nervously as the cart came to a halt alongside them.
Jason did not answer Sarah’s question. Instead he spoke with the cart driver, whom he apparently knew, and procured them a ride to the barracks. Once they were settled in and off Jason turned to her.
“The Scout Trials are not easy. They are not made to be. Scout life is hard and the weather can make it difficult. That is part of why the Trials are held in the rainy season. However,” he smiled upon her, “knowing you as I do, you will rise to the challenge and succeed.” His face again became that of the Scout Sergeant. “Do you remember your warrior way?”
“You mean that moment of 'holy-crap he’s actually intent on hurting me and liking it'?” Sarah asked. That had been the one moment when Jason had scared the crap out of her.
Jason laughed. “I did not like it. I was enjoying the challenge.”
Sarah snorted, “Same difference.”
Jason looked to the rising sun. “You will do fine. I have faith in you.”
Faith, that’s what she needed in herself. I can do this, Sarah thought, hell I have to do this. Jason had already put enough on the line for her sake. She had just never known how much until now. Watching Verdas receed into the distance they sat in companionable silence, thinking.