Now that his pack was balanced properly Michael was keeping up just fine with the rest of them. In fact Sarah was now the slow poke of the group as they trekked through the woods. Over the river and through the woods, Sarah sang to herself. If only she had a sleigh and horse to pull it. Then again it’d have to be much colder to have a sleigh and, despite the seeming lack of rain all summer, Sarah liked the temperate climate here.
Her thoughts were interrupted as she became aware of a roaring. It started low but had grown louder over the course of the last few seconds. Nick stopped, only to suddenly pick up his pace again at the sound of a wolf howl.
“High Ground, Now!” He shouted to them, turning left to lead them up the hill they had been skirting.
The sound continued to grow in intensity. It sounded so familiar and yet so strange to Sarah. The only thing she could equate it to was a busy highway, until she remembered the river crossing into Azure. But even the sound of water rushing back up that river was nothing compared to this. Hazarding a glance downhill, Sarah saw water swirling amid trees.
“What happened?” Sarah asked no one in particular. She’d heard of flash floods before, but she didn’t think it had rained nearly enough for that.
“Don’t know,” London stated.
Nick stopped them under a large oak that provided the most protection from the drizzling rain. Not that it mattered much since they were already soaked. Sarah could have worn her shoes to cross the stream and they would be no wetter than they were now. Taking the canteen from Nick, she took a swig. There was another wolf howl.
Cocking her head Sarah held the water in her mouth as she listened to the howls with Nick. London and Michael tried to listen as well, but Sarah could tell understood less than she did. The howling stopped and Sarah swallowed. Michael began to speak, but Nick held up a hand just as the howling began again.
“Wolf Troop?” London whispered once the howling had stopped.
“Aye,” Nick responded as Sarah nodded. “Better eat a ration bar now. It will be a bit before we stop for supper.”
“Why?” Michael asked, clearly wishing to continue.
“We’re going to go non-stop till we join the others at the final river crossing.”
Nick pulled rations out of his small courier bag and handed them out. Once he’d washed his down with water he motioned them on. They stuck to the ridge and every now and then Sarah could see where the water had rushed through the trees. It hadn’t done as much damage as she’d have expected given the sound it had made.
“So what was the howling all about?” London finally asked the question they’d all been wondering. Sarah had only been able to pick up two words, river and trouble.
Nick didn’t look back as he responded. “Apparently the dam up river broke and the resulting rush of water has washed out the foot bridge we’d normally use to get back to the barracks.”
“Just from today’s rain?” It just didn’t seem possible to Sarah, not unless it had poured considerably last night.
Nick shrugged as he began to head them downhill. “Don’t know, but we’ll likely be stranded on this side till tomorrow.”
“Stranded?” a hint of panic crept into Michael’s voice.
Sarah refused to believe they were actually stranded. Surely these guys knew of a way to get across. Unless, she realized, the water was moving too fast. The stepping stones would be out of the question, though. A dozen thoughts ran through her head as she imagined varying scenarios. Of course there was no way to know what would work until she saw the place they were trying to cross.