Grouped by SticksMature

Sarah hobbled back inside and sat down by the fire. After a while she moved to lean against the wall where she dozed in fits and starts. A chill woke her up and she looked to see the door open.

“Hey Jay.” Sarah pulled herself up.

Jason let the door close and looked from her to the bed, puzzled. We have company? He asked mentally as he moved to where Sarah stood.

Lady Miriam, Sarah responded, she is distrustful of her father, really all men, right now, given...

Jason nodded at the same time Lady Miriam emitted a squeak. The girl drew herself as close to the wall as she could. Jason bowed to her.

“I am Sergeant Phoenix and, as Goodwoman Sarah will assure you, I mean no harm.” He looked back to Sarah. “I came to check on you and let you know that dinner will be served shortly. I am requesting you attend along with Lady Miriam.” He turned back to the young woman, “that is if you are up for it, My Lady.”

He bowed to them both. Then, taking Sarah’s hand, he kissed it and left. For a moment the two women sat in silence, Sarah massaged her wounded leg and shoulder. When she looked to Miriam the woman had relaxed slightly, so Sarah moved to sit on the bed next to her.

“Are you up for going?”

The girl worried her hands and bit her lip. “There will be people there?”

“Yes, though probably not as boisterous as last night.”

“Still there are...”

“A lot of men,” Sarah completed and the girl nodded. “I guarantee none of them would treat you as you were treated in the fortress.”

“How, how can you be sure?” Miriam looked up into Sarah’s face.

“Well for one, there are women among the Skanthains, and I suspect they wouldn’t put up with such behavior.” Sarah smiled. “Plus every single Vervellean I know would castrate anyone that tried.” The girl still looked unconvinced. Sarah took her hand. “You can stay here if you like, but I should go. I’m sure we can sit with Mistress Laura and Weathermage Lynn so you can be surrounded by women.”

Silence stretched between them for so long that Sarah almost gave up on Lady  Miriam going, but at last she rose. “If we can sit with the women...”

Smiling Sarah rose and the two of them walked through the cold air to the main hall. There were a lot of people there and Miriam nearly knocked Sarah over a few times trying to avoid brushing up against any men. Finally they found the table of Vervellean women. Sarah caught their attention and Princess Allmarah made room for them.

Talk at the table was scarce during the meal, though Sarah politely inquired about the horse Allmarah had chosen. Harriet and Tralee looked exhausted, as did most of the Vervellean men Sarah had seen. Inquiry into that only gave her some mumblings about learning to ski. So Alara hadn’t been kidding about having everyone ski down the mountain. It almost made Sarah glad she was too injured to do so. The one time she’d tried skiing, she’d fallen flat on her face in less than a minute.

When the eating had slowed and talk began to start up around them someone clanged upon a pot. Looking up Sarah noticed that Jason, Lord Farquad and Gwythryn stood ready at the front of the room. Once all was silent, Jason stepped forward and began to speak.

“Tomorrow morning you will start practicing in groups. These groups have been assigned based upon many factors, but they will be the ones you will travel with from here to Verdas. It is a long trek and we will be taking the roads. But, with such a large company…” He smiled as many eyes looked to the Skathains and chuckled. “I do not think we will have any issues."

"Lord Farquad,” Jason gestured to the man, “has assured us that the Eastern Lords of Azure are friendly to our plight, as they are more aware of the General’s true disposition.” His last word met with many snorts of humor and agreement.

Stepping back, Jason let Gwythryn have the floor. Sarah couldn’t understand a word he said, but she presumed he was translating to the Skathains. When he finished Jason stepped forward and continued.

“Your progress in learning to ski, for those who have just picked up the skill, will determine when we leave...”

“How do we know what group we’re in?” someone Sarah didn’t recognize spoke up.

Jason smiled in tolerance. “You will be given a notched stick,” he held one up, “the number of notches will match those of the poles that will be set by the tables at breakfast. We will pass them out shortly, so please remain seated until you are dismissed.”

Jason stepped back and nodded to Gwythryn, who translated to the Skathains once more. When he was done, Jason, Lord Farquad, and Gwythyrn, with the help of Alara and James, picked up bundles of sticks and began to move through the tables to hand them out.

Jason stopped at Sarah's table first.

The End

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