The rain continued well into the twelfth day, cleansing and muddying them all. Not that it really mattered, Sarah thought, since bath night had come and gone and was not likely to come again until mid Trial. At least she wasn’t the only one who shied away from the public bathing. But at this point Sarah was much more concerned with passing the Trials. Marcus was the only one who had been through them before and he wasn’t answering any questions. Not even a single word about them to Bennett, the loyallist of his followers.
Rising into a cloud free sky the sun had dried the fields by lunch time. It was Sarah's fourteenth day here and the last day before the First Year Trials began. Swords left by the door, everyone shuffled into the dining hall to eat supper. Nerves knotted in Sarah's stomach as she took her place at the table. The metal was struck once only and everyone turned to face Commander Josiah standing at the head of the room.
“As you all know the First Year Trials begin tomorrow with a test of your combat skills: sword, hand-to-hand, as well as archery.” There were several groans including Sarah’s and Aaron’s. Commander Josiah smiled. “The next day you will be taken on a trek and trust me our seasoned scouts have designed it to be the toughest I’ve seen yet.” More groans met this announcement. “And last but not least, and the best part of the trials," his grin widened, "is our nine day scouting excursion. You will all be paired up with a scout and sent out to scout the King’s Forest.”
A Hopeful at the Class C table tentatively raised his hand.
“Yes Hopeful Jeremy?” the Commander asked the boy, who looked to be the youngest here.
“Is it true that the King will be here to oversee the Trials? And,” the boy continued, “and is it true that you can take them more than once if you fail?”
“Yes to both questions,” Commander Josiah nodded. He looked towards Class B. “In fact Hopeful Marcus is here for his third year.”
“How many times can you take the Trials?” Hopeful Jeremy looked at the Commander wide eyed.
“Thrice,” the Commander stated. “Now eat up boys, you’ve got the rest of the afternoon off. I recommend you use it wisely.” Commander Josiah rapped the gong twice and left the room.
Twenty-two voices chimed in and stated the scout oath before sitting to wolf down their food. Everyone wanted to eat and leave apparently, though Sarah had no clue what she was going to do with her afternoon. Wishing she could visit Jason was silly since she couldn't kiss him. Still his calming presence would do her a world of good.
“So what are you going to do with your half day?” Reed asked.
Sarah refocused her attention back to him, Aaron, and Kirk. They had cleaned the table and were now headed to their room.
“My cousin said he’d meet me in town if he was off duty today,” Kirk told them.
“This your cousin whose a scout?” Reed asked.
“Yeah, he’s,” but before Kirk could finish Marcus, Bennett and Michael nearly bowled them off the stairs. London hung back at the top.
“Hey Smith, you’re going to have a trough of a time with your armor.” Marcus nudged his cronies, who obediently snickered.
“Am I now?” Sarah raised an eyebrow at him wondering what on earth he’d done this time.
“Yeah you might want to fetch it before it gets too soggy,” Bennett quipped, only to receive a whack to the head from Marcus.
“Idiot,” Marcus muttered as they left.
London apologetically flattened to let them pass. Glancing back, Sarah noticed that he didn’t follow Marcus.