The sun was near its zenith when they finally arrived at the Training barracks. The place reminded Sarah of the Scout compound at Griffon’s only there wasn’t a town in sight. Sounds of activity came from the large building which they stopped in front of. Jason hopped off as did Sarah before the cart continued on disappearing around the barraks. Stepping up to the door, Jason knocked loudly before opening it.
“Ah, Scout Sergeant Phoenix,” a man appeared before them as they entered. “I’ve been curious to see what you have for us since I received the King’s command.” He gave Sarah the once over. “Are you really staking your rank on him passing?”
Jason smiled as he handed over a rolled paper. “Yes, Scout Commander Josiah, I am. Smith may have a pretty face and cook like a woman,” Jason nodded to Sarah who rolled her eyes at him, “but do not let that fool you. He is a good man in a fight and has already proven his worth to my troop. I do not think Smith will fail here.”
Commander Josiah chuckled. “I hope you are right Sergeant Phoenix. It would be a pity to lose you to the lower ranks.”
“Oh, I think he will surprise you.” Jason turned to Sarah and gripped her arm in farewell. “Good luck Smith.” Turning and walking out the door he left her standing in the hall with the Commander.
Standing at attention as best she could, Sarah tried to not fidget. Commander Josiah spent so long studying her that she wondered if he knew she was female or was about to figure it out for himself. At last he shook his head and focused on her eyes. His gaze bore into her and she thought of the stories her brothers had told her of boot camp. This wasn’t going to be a picnic; then again Sarah hadn’t expected it to be.
“You have a pretty face and clean hands Hopeful Smith. I hope you are not afraid to dirty yourself.” He stepped forward his face level with hers.
“No, s, Commander.” Sarah caught herself from calling him Sir.
“Good,” he stepped back slightly, though his gaze never wavered. “I’ve seen a lot of Hopefuls come through here in my years. Most of them get crushed. Scout life isn't glamorous and it’s got nothing to do with faith or wenches. We’re the ones charged with keeping this kingdom secure. We provided vital information to the King and Knights about This kingdom. As a scout you’ll be expected to be out in the field in any kind of weather. You’ll be out there for six to eight months of the year. Your months off will be not be of leisure either. You’ll be expected to have a trade for use in supporting your troop and your post.” He stopped to give her a hard look. “Do you have a trade Hopeful Smith?”
“Farmer, Sir.” Sarah cringed slightly as Commander Josiah quickly corrected her.
“I’m not a Knight, Hopeful, I’m a Commander.”
“Sorry Commander, where I’m from Sir is the title of respect used by the military.” Sarah really needed to stop thinking in terms of home. If only her brothers could see her now, joining the military to prove a boast. Robert would roll with laughter.
Commander Josiah studied her. “And were you a part of that military?”
“No, s, Commander, but my older brothers were.”
“And why weren’t you?”
“Our Mother needed one of us to stay home and care for the farm.” It was the easiest and most believable explanation Sarah could think of.
Commander Josiah looked ponderous for a moment. Then he snapped back to focus. “Well you’re not there anymore, you’re here. You follow our rules and learn our code. You got that Hopeful Smith?”
“Yes s, Commander.”
“All right, let’s get you tested then. See where your skills lie.”