Sarah stopped at the door of the main hall, Lady Miriam like a shadow behind her. The tables were rearranged. Sarah didn’t envy the ones who’d gotten that job, given they’d probably been up early to do it. The nice part though, was the wide path that now ran down the middle of the hall. It gave Miriam plenty of room to avoid accidental contact with any men.
“Do you see a stick with eight notches?” Sarah scanned the room, “Or Princess Allmarah.”
Turning to the right, Sarah noticed someone waving and realized it was Prince Hermanus. Seeing as it gave her a direction, Sarah walked his way and soon realized that Princess Allmarah was there as well. Lady Miriam shied away from the Prince, though Sarah gave a slight bow.
“There’s room here,” a woman’s voice drew Sarah’s eyes to the end of the table.
Katherine smiled at Miriam as Sarah ushered the girl down to sit by Katherine.
“You have a baby?” Miriam peered at the bundle in Katherine’s arms.
“Only one to survive that man’s fortress,” she held the infant up for the young woman’s inspection.
“Whose is he?” she asked as the child smiled at her,
“Mine,” James sat down across from Katherine.
Lady Miriam squeaked and hid her head in Sarah’s shoulder. “He was... he was one of them,” she whispered.
“James is on the good side. He’d never hurt you,” Sarah insisted. “Right James?”
“No,” James stated as he bowed his head, “but if she hates me for what I did not stop, I deserve it.” Sarah furrowed her brows at him, but he ignored her, looking instead to Lady Miriam. “I do swear that from this day forth I will protect you as a cousin should.”
“As we all shall,” Sergeant Sparrow took a seat beside James; Scouts Charles and Kevin joining shortly after. “Now,” the woman’s gaze swept the table, “it looks like we are all here so, dig in before the food gets cold.”
Conversation at the table was livelier than it was the last evening. Now that the thought of going home was in everybody’s mind, it was hard not to talk about home. Sarah discovered that Charles was looking forward to his time off as it was the only time he got to go home to the Areni Plains. Kevin was, of course, looking forward to seeing his mother and sweetheart again. Sarah confessed that she was looking forward to the end of her Tri-Luna, which got a couple smirks. James sighed and mumbled something about not really knowing what he was going to do.
“You’ll be my General,” Prince Hermanus proclaimed. “Or at least a military advisor,” he amended as his eyes wavered over to the Lord Farquad and his group.
“Like as not I’ll be acting as a Major,” James nodded. “It is the fate of Katherine and our child I fear for.”
“They can come home with me.” Lady Miriam’s statement was barely audible and she didn’t take her eyes of the child, who was cooing at her.
Sarah turned her smile from Miriam to James. “I think they will be well taken care of.”
“Yes,” James sighed once more, “but we are not properly married, nor the child bless by the Gods.”
There were little nods around the table and Sarah felt a bit excluded as she didn’t understand his concern. Jason? She sent a thought to wherever he might be in the room.
He must have had an ear on her conversation for he answered before she asked a question. Wholawski was never blessed nor were his parents ever married.
So? Sarah thought back at him as she took another bite to stay out of the current conversation. Obviously there was a lot she still had to learn about this society.
But before Jason could explain, someone clanged upon a pot. Once more silence settled upon the room and all eyes focused forward to where the leaders stood.
“As I mentioned last night,” Jason spoke, “you are breakfasting with the people with whom you shall be traveling.” He paused and Gwythryn translated. “I know that for many groups there are language barriers and perhaps some harbored animosity. You must let them slide. The men and women you are with are the ones who you will depend upon. Should we be attacked, and we expect to be attacked, you are to stay with your group as if they were your Scout Troop or Unit.”
Again, Gwythryn translated before Jason continued.
“Remember men, and women,” he nodded to their table most pointedly, “it is a good five hundred miles to Vervell and another six hundred to Verdas. The days are short and the nights are long, but the sooner you show your ability to ski, the sooner we head home to our loved ones.”
A couple huzzahs rang out from various parts of the room, but Jason held up his hand for silence as Gwythryn began to speak. Rather than more huzzahs at the end of his speech, as Sarah expected, there were chuckling instead.
“Now,” Jason smiled, “when you are done eating, find the poles marked with your number outside and the Azureans and Skathains will help you master skiing.”