A bell rang through the hall as someone called out, “Leave your weapons and armor on your beds. Lay ‘em out neat for inspection and get down to breakfast.”
Groans arose from many in Class B, including Sarah. Blinking her bleary eyes open she noticed that the sun had not yet risen.
“Well,” Reed mumbled, “the sooner it starts the sooner it’s over right?”
“Right.” Sarah swung her legs out of bed and rummaged through her trunk.
Armor and weapons now on the made bed, Sarah grabbed her clothing to go to the privy. Marcus watched her with narrowed eyes and furrowed brow. Flashing him a smile, she chuckled silently as his furrow deepened. She heard Reed tease him about his pinning yesterday. A sigh escaped her lips as she realized she’d have to ask them to give Marcus a break. They might not realize what they were reminding him of, but Sarah did. She didn't think Marcus would be one who could get over the fact he'd been beaten by a girl.
Using the privacy of the privy Sarah relived herself and changed. She'd changed her bindings last night, the ball Reed having put them in a perfect size to sneak out with her water pitcher. Ready at last Sarah made her way back to the dining hall a nervous knot tying itself in her stomach.
A cacophony of noise greeted her as she stepped inside. There seemed to be three times the number of Hopefuls in training. Even the two tables used as a buffet were occupied by men.
“Smith!” Reed’s voice cut through the din.
Looking towards the sound Sarah saw him waving to her from a table that was not their usual location.
“Bit of a free for all this morning,” Reed grinned at her as she joined them.
Sarah returned the smile. “Hey,” her smiled widened as she noticed Allen, Jess, Mike and Kevin at their table. She greeted them each with an arm grip. “You guys here to make sure I pass?”
Chuckles ran along the table, but before anyone could comment the metal was struck twice. The voices of Scouts and Hopefuls joined together in near unison to recite the Scout Oath.
“My life for my country and all that it’s worth.
My King and Commander rule my berth.
My faith in the Gods till I am dust.
My sergeant who leads me; in him I trust.”
Chairs scraped upon the floor and silence, broken only by the sounds of eating, settled upon the room.
Reed spoke between mouthfuls. “I don’t think Smith can fail. I mean he’s got an advantage.”
“I do?” Sarah looked at him puzzled.
“Well you’ve at least fought a seasoned scout before,” Kirk nodded to Mike who just looked at his plate.
“I think that just makes me more nervous,” Sarah replied, setting down her bread as another knot twisted her stomach.
“Why? Phoenix said you’d managed to knock him out,” Allen stated.
Sarah groaned as all eyes turned to her.
“They say he’s the best,” Aaron whispered.
“Yeah, well I just got lucky,” she shrugged. They didn’t seem to take that excuse. Sarah glared at Allen, who only smiled. “Look,” Sarah shook her head, “Phoenix had been training me hard for seven plus days, I was bound to get lucky at some point.”
Kevin opened his mouth to say something more when a single tenor note reverberated through the room. All eyes rotated towards the door by the metal gong as chairs again scraped the floor. A stately figure stepped through and Sarah quickly bowed her head with the rest as she recognized the King.
“At ease my subjects.” King Demetrioso smiled at the gathering.
Everyone’s head came up and Sarah noticed the Prince, aloof and sneering, behind the King. She was amazed at the contrast between the two. How one could produce the other, she had no idea. Turning to his right the King began to greet each Hopeful in turn while the Prince stood rigid at the door, his eyes scrutinizing the room. Sarah decided to watch the King.
“What is your name Hopeful?” King Demetrioso stopped at their table.
“L-L-London, Your Majesty.”
“Good luck my boy,” The King gripped an awestruck London’s arm before moving on to the next.
“Kirk, Your Majesty.” Kirk bobbed his head.
“Good luck my boy.” The King gripped his arm as well.
“Reed, Your Majesty.” Reed made a slight bow.
“Good luck my boy.” Reed returned the King's grip hesitantly.
“Smith, Your Majesty,” Sarah caught herself from curtsying.
The King smiled. “Good luck my boy.” He winked as he gripped her arm before moving on.
Once his rounds were finished he rejoined his son. The tenor note again reverberated through the room, though Sarah could not see the source.
“Are you ready to prove yourselves worthy of becoming a Scout?” The King called out to the assembled Hopefuls.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” their voices rang out clearly through the hall.
“Then let the Trials begin!” The King placed his hunting horn to his lips and blew.
In the ensuing chaos Seven Scout Sergeants directed the Hopefuls to don their armor and weapons and then gather in the back field.