The two men who had been huddled about a fire, quickly came to attention the moment they saw the women arrive. One man stepped forward and bowed to the Princess, and to Miriam. Miriam stepped closer to Sarah.
“Is there something we can do for you, Your Highness, my lady?” he nodded to each in turn.
“We wish to exercise the Lady Miriam’s horse,” Allmarah answered, “and accustom her to carrying two.”
“As you wish, your highness,” the man responded with a bow.
He turned to his men and whispered orders. One man went into the canvas shelter and brought out the tack, while another moved into the paddock. As soon as the horse was brought forward, she was saddled by the two men.
“Do you need a page, your highness?” the man asked as he held the riens.
“No thank you,” Allmarah replied. “We’re quite capable, thank you.”
She startled the man by taking the reins from him and leading the horse away. Sarah chuckled slightly at the expressions of the men. Following Allmarah they soon stopped at a stump, just about the right height for giving them enough of a boost to be able to mount the beasts. Almmarah looked at the group.
“I know that I and my maids know how to ride a horse and I presume, Lady Miriam does as well. But, Goodwomen Katherine and Sarah, do you?”
“I’m a bit rusty,” Sarah admitted and then had to explain, “I mean it’s been a while since I’ve ridden regularly, though I did recently ride from the training Barracks back to Verdas.”
Princess Allmarah nodded and looked to Katherine.
“It’s been a while for me as well, and about the only thing I’ve ever done is just sat on the horse while it followed someone.”
After some thought Allmarah had them mount. First, Lady Miriam and Katherine, with the baby held between them, then Tralee with Harriet behind her and lastly Allmarah and Sarah. Given her injuries, Sarah had to mount opposite the normal side. It proved an interesting challenge and Allmarah nearly knocked herself off the saddle trying to help, but at last she got on.
“We’ll take it at a walk,” Allmarah set her horse to motion, “just follow me.”
Allmarah lead their group around the encampment by the walls. They weren’t complete walls, but it was enough of a fence to slow any enemy down. Or maybe it was only to deter wild animals. Either way, atop the horses she could see past the barrier where people were practicing skiing. Some of their attempts made her feel better about her own measly skills.
On their second pass Sergeant Sparrow stopped them. “Princess I want Scout Smith in front of you...”
“Who?” Allmarah sounded perplexed.
“Me,” Sarah spoke up and Allmarah looked back at her.
“You are a Scout?”
“Well she would have been,” Sparrow stated, “if the trials hadn’t ended in disaster and her gender hadn’t been discovered. Now,” her tone stalled more questions. “Scout Smith, have you ever fought from a horse before?”
“No, Sergeant,” Sarah replied.
“Well, after supper we’ll drill you in that,” Sparrow turned her attention to the other pairs. “Katherine. I want you in front and the baby strapped to your back. The Skathains will make you a pack for that. Lady Miriam can entertain the babe and keep it quiet as we travel. Additionally, I want Harriet in front.”
Once they had rearranged themselves, Sparrow sent them off on another loop. They completed two before it was time for supper. Conversations were hushed and the Vervelleans that Sarah spotted looked exhausted. Throughout the meal each group leader was called to the head table to talk with the Jason and Alara. When all the leaders had gone up, there was a sort of hushed silence that fell about the room as the head table talked quietly.
It seemed like forever till Jason and a Gwythryn stood. Someone clanged a pot for them, though they already had the attention of everyone in the room. This time it was Gwythryn who spoke first. It was all Greek to Sarah, but something he said made them all laugh and she wished she knew what it was. Finally he stepped aside and let Jason have the floor.
“Your group leaders have all reported to us on the progress you’ve made learning to ski. The report was favorable, so we will head out at dawn tomorrow. Those of you deemed un-teachable will be given a seat on a horse. A few of you will be given additional training this afternoon. The rest of you will be expected to help begin the dismantling of this village.” Jason looked around at everyone.
“Yes Sergeant,” came voices from about the room.
“Now clean up and get to the work your leaders assign you.”
Jason nodded and strode down the aisle, followed by the other leaders. A fleeting smile crossed his face as his glance rested upon Sarah. Lady Miriam, Sarah noticed, hid her face from her father’s gaze. Lord Farquad’s sigh was audible and Sarah saw Jason give the man’s shoulder a squeeze.
Once the leaders were past, Sergeant Sparrow looked at her group. “Prince Hermanus,” she nodded to the boy, “you and Kevin are to practice your skiing a bit more. Major James and Charles, you will help with the dismantling. Scout Smith and I shall be training on horseback.”
“And us?” Princess Allmarah indicted the rest of the ladies.
“I reccomend you keep out of the way or help as you can.” Sparrow smiled.