Sparrow troop, Prince Hermanus and James scrambled up the rocky face and disappeared under the Willow boughs. As Sarah did so, she felt as though Jason was next to her though she couldn’t see him.
Sarah? he queried.
We found our base camp, she told him.
“You look a little faded there, Smith.” Sparrow spoke.
Sarah blinked and then smiled. “It’s the Willow. It pulls Jason and I together.” She moved to sit by the trunk. Does it work that way for Laura and Philip?
I will have to ask in the morning. He seemed to be moving and a moment later, he was next to her under the Willow.
Sarah smiled. So how do I tell you where we are?
Sparrow will set up the tent, or at least the poles, which will allow us to use the Splinter to bring us in once we are close enough. Can you get to a place where you can see the lay of the land? If you hold the image in your head I might be able to see.
I can climb the Willow. Sarah stated as she did just that, despite the few gasps from the group below.
That could be considered sacrilege, Jason told her, slightly amused.
I think the Gods will forgive me, Sarah responded as she climbed as high as she could go and peered out of the branches.
Looking around Sarah scanned the shore of the lake and found she could see the fortress. It stood black under the moon, a wide swath of lighter land around it, before the dark of the forest. Studying that view she memorized it as best she could and climbed down, the image firmly embedded in her mind.
That will be hard to get to and you are not camped as close as I’d like, Jason stated.
Yes, but James stated that, since your escape, patrols go further out and the clearing was also enlarged. And...
I know, Jason sighed. Shame there probably are not any Willows closer.
James was surprised to find this one wasn’t burnt.
Go rejoin Sparrow and stay from under the Willow unless you need me, Jason commanded. The pull is too strong with the two of us wearing Willow Cloth.
Aye Aye Sergeant, Sarah saluted him and stepped from under the Willow and into the grotto.
“Are you sure this will work?” James was looking very worried as he helped Sparrow and her men set up the tent.
“Sure,” Sarah said, not really having heard the question but presuming it was about the tent. “Setting it up like a lean-to will allow the snow to fall down into the back, letting it hide in a natural sort of way. The Willow provides protection from the front, but I seriously hope you can make a smokeless fire or the smoke could give us away.”
James looked to Sparrow and then to Sarah.
“He was speaking of our mission," Sparrow stated, "but thank you for seconding his thoughts on the tent set up,” she stated. “Why don’t you two talk it through under the Willow in the morning?”
“Make that by the Willow, apparently it pulls Phoenix to me too much.”
Sarah shrugged off the odd looks and helped set up the tent and fire pit. They huddled in the tent to sleep, taking turns to watch pairs. Sarah, partnered with Prince Hermanus, took the first watch. It was cold up on the rock above the grotto, but it had a good vantage point.
“How are we going to get in and rescue the Princess?” he asked breaking their silence.
Sarah didn’t speak as her eyes flicked about, her mind on his question.
“It is only so long that she will stay unharmed. If HE even suspects her capture is not doing what he wants he will kill her.”
The boy was truly worried and Sarah felt for him. She reached over and squeezed his knee. Continually watching the horizon, she remembered a watch of Jason’s she’d interrupted months ago.
“We’ll find a way,” Sarah told him. “In the morning, you, and I, and James will discuss every possible way we can think of.”