James knocked upon the Hall’s side entrance loudly, causing the buzz of activity inside to die down. Following him, Sarah made her way onto the dais where Wholawski was waiting. The man stood, and everyone else in the hall fallowed suit. She immediately became wary, feeling like the fly invited into the spider’s parlor.
“Come and have a seat, Goodwoman Sarah Smith,” the General spoke civilly and gestured to the chair next to his.
Sarah gingerly sat down, assuring that her skirt didn’t show the split that made it pants. James pushed her in and Wholawski sat down in his chair. He clapped twice and all the men sat down. Moving from the dais James, went to take his place at the head of a table.
Sharon served Sarah and Wholawski, as other women served the rest of the men. Once the servants had left, General Wholawski spoke once more.
“The men you see before you are the best of my forces.” He smiled as he stabbed at his meat. “They are the ones I lead personally. I believe you have met a few of them before.”
Sarah looked dubiously over the crowd before her. The only one she really recognized was James, as she’d spent more time with him than any of the others. A short fight over food broke out at one of the other tables.
“They could use better manners,” she stated.
“Ah, well,” The General mused, “not all good swordsmanship can come with such manners as Phoenix.”
Sarah bit back a comment that even the Hopefuls had better manners than these guys.
“So tell me,” The General spoke again after a lapse of silence. “What happened while you were out among the trees with my Assassin?”
Sarah took a bite to avoid answering the question right away. Pondering the situation she figured the truth would be better. The less lies she had to keep track of the easier it would be. She swallowed.
“He tried to force me,” Sarah stated as evenly as she could muster. “I fought back.”
“You were not trying to run away?” There was amusement in his eyes, as if he’d found a lie to catch her in.
Sarah returned his stare. “And where would I run to in the middle of winter?”
“Perhaps you made allies on your trip from Vervell to here.”
Sarah snorted once more and returned to her food deciding it was best not to answer.
“So senior Captain Chester tried to force you?” Wholawski asked after a few moments.
“Yes,” Sarah stated as she took another bite of food.
“Would you like to punish him?”
Sarah looked startled at the man. “I should think having been beaten by a girl would be punishment enough.”
She stabbed at her food again. A chuckle from the General made her look back at him.
“Did you beat his brother York as well?” he asked.
“Didn’t have to,” Sarah set her utensils down, “Phoenix killed him for me.”
“Ah, at last we come back round to Phoenix, the man who gave you the poison to cook with.”
“It was a drug, not poison,” Sarah felt the need to clarify, “intended to make the men more susceptible to mind tricks.”
“But tell me more about Phoenix.” Wholawski leaned in towards her, his beady eyes gleaming.
Sarah shrugged, mustering the courage to say what she had to. “He’s dead.”
“So James told me.” Sarah wanted to wipe the sneer off Wholawski's face. “But I would expect no less since I shot two Nigiri bolts into his back.”
Looking into the man’s eyes Sarah asked, “Are we done?”
“Oh no,” the General chuckled, “we’ve just begun. Come.” He stood and clapped his hands twice. “James!”
James stood and hurried up to the dais. “Yes, General?”
“Send someone to fetch our coats, along with one for Goodwoman Sarah. The Major’s ought to fit. I think it is time to give her a tour.”
“Of course General Wholawski.” James bowed.