Sparrow and her scouts returned that evening and Sarah told them of the planned meeting. By the end of the next day the other two groups had found a Willow to camp under. The three sergeants, Phoenix, Sparrow and Griffon all gathered under the bows. With them were the three communicators, Sarah, Laura and Philip.
I thought you wanted James? Sarah asked when she’d been told to let him stay with the scouts.
He gave you all he knew and the others feel better if he didn’t know everything we discuss. Now, Jason was in Sergeant mode, I am presenting this idea as my own. They will be more likely to accept it.
Alright, Sarah sighed, I just want this done and over with.
Are you sure you are ready to do this? Jason asked, sudden concern coloring his mental voice.
Ready as I’ll ever be, she thought back at him with her characteristic nervousness. I just hope you aren’t right about James.
Jason did not respond to that. Instead, he began explaining the plan. Sarah spoke his words to Sparrow who listened intently. There was a bit of silence as the other two sergeants thought about Jason’s idea. Then Sparrow began with questions that Sarah relayed as fast as she could. Jason repeated them before answering.
It was an odd way of communication, especially when Sparrow wanted to ask Griffon a question. Sarah would have to relay it to Jason who would relay it to Laura, she would relay it to Philip who would relay it to Griffon. The answer returned was often garbled. Sarah felt as though she was playing a giant game of telephone only the stakes were a bit higher than just keeping kids occupied at a youth group retreat.
Enough, Jason at last commanded. Griffon, how close do you think you are from Sparrow’s location?
There was a pause before Jason relayed the response, with instructions to Sarah who relayed it to Sparrow. “Griffon should be near here in about two days. Phoenix requests we wait until the two groups are together before sending James and I into the Fortress. While we wait we are to gather supplies and as much information as possible, including trying to scout out the village James has mentioned.”
Sparrow nodded and Sarah passed on her acquiescence.
Good, then this meeting is adjourned. Jason stood and walked out from under the Willow.
Sarah stood and stretched her legs herself and went to see what had been thrown together for lunch. It was decent enough and Sparrow joined them as soon as David indicated that stew was ready. Once everyone had eaten Sparrow informed them of the plan.
“We will keep an eye out for Griffon Troop, as they are maybe two days out from us. Once they arrive Sarah will be escorted into the fortress as James’s prisoner.” She looked to the Azurean Prince. “You will stay with us, Your Highness, and help us on the outside as a symbol of hope.”
“So you will gather forces from Azure to attack the Fortress?” James asked.
“We shall see. There is much still to be discussed that is done better face to face. Even more important is the information the two of you will be gathering from the inside.”
James bowed his head in acquiescence.
That evening Sarah sat last watch with James. The man was pensive and his eyes barely moved from the castle.
“A quinny for your thoughts?” Sarah asked him.
“You asked me that yesterday, what do you mean by it?”
“It’s just an expression.” Sarah shrugged. “For when you care about what someone is thinking.”
“I thought they didn’t have quinnies in the Areni Plains.” James still hadn’t looked at her.
“I’m not from the Plains,” Sarah stated quietly. “Nor from Vervell or Azure,” she sighed as she looked out to the castle. “Anyway,” Sarah pulled herself together before James could ask any questions. “What is it that has you so pensive?”
“It is a very harsh and military world inside that castle. If you were male, you would not last a day, despite your skill in combat, unless you could hold your tongue.”
Sarah nodded. “I know,” she whispered.
She was well aware that she was not cut out for military life. Her short stint in the Training Barracks had been enough of an example of that.
“But, you are female,” James stated the obvious as he gazed at the black towers rising above the lake. “What they will do to you is worse.”
“I had a deal with the General last time,” Sarah pulled herself up straight. “And if you think...”
“Then you best remind him of that.” James stood as a chirp called them down for breakfast. “For, once we are inside, I will not be able to protect you.”
Swallowing, Sarah stood and turned to see the sun rising. She took a deep breath and let it out before leaving their vantage point for breakfast.