Sarah wasn’t sure how much she could learn in one afternoon about fighting from horseback. She limped along with Sparrow back to where the Skathains kept their horses. The woman who’d translated for them before was already there, along with another woman. Sparrow spoke with the two women as one of the men fetched the horse.
“This is Brianne,” Sparrow introduced Sarah to new woman. “It’s her horse you’re riding. She’s one of their healers, so she’ll be riding with the injured. But, it’s always good to have the horse’s trainer and owner when teaching someone new how to fight from its back.”
The four of them, along with Brianne’s horse and another moved off to the track in the woods that lead to the lake. Sparrow explained it was most like the terrain they would be traveling on. Sparrow would ride behind Sarah, so she would be accustomed to a passenger behind her, while Brianne would play the attacker.
“I want you to focus most on being able to fend her off and gallop ahead.”
“Not stay and fight?”
“Safety of the Princess first,” Sparrow stated. “Remember the most important rule of scouting.”
“Avoid conflict, if at all possible.” Sarah nodded and Sparrow smiled.
Instructions were passed between Sparrow and Brianne and soon they were mounted. For the next few hours, Sarah spent her time using her sword and horse to waylay an attack and bolt for the trees. Finally, Sparrow called a halt and Sarah spotted Jason among the trees. He came forward and held the reins as she and Sparrow dismounted.
“Are you sure you want to marry her?” Sparrow asked him with a smile.
Jason looked over at Sparrow with his eyebrows raised. “You have an objection?”
“No,” Sparrow chuckled as she took the reins from him. “But it is a pity Vervell doesn’t see the use of woman warriors. I know a few Areni tribes that would be proud to claim her.”
“Claim me?” Sarah didn’t really like the sound of that.
Jason stopped Sarah from continuing forward. “I think Sparrow means claim you as one of their tribe, rather than as a possession.” He smiled at her. “I do not know much of the Areni culture, but I suspect that was a high compliment.”
“Well that’s good, I guess,” Sarah nodded as she shivered. “So long as it doesn’t get me into trouble like your last complement.”
Sarah laughed at the embarrassment that leaked through her connection with Jay and she looped her good arm around him. “Come on, it’s cold out here, and maybe with Miriam taking to Katherine and James’s baby we can sleep together.” She grinned at the connotation, which was lost on Jay.
“Not likely, we’re down to the two biggest buildings. You’ll be sleeping with the other ladies, while I sleep with all the men.”
“Bah,” Sarah wrinkled her nose. “And I thought Tri-Luna was about living together like husband and wife.”
“I know,” Jason sighed. He stopped them and swung around to face her. “But by the time we reach home our Tri-Luna will be near over.”
His grin was contagious and Sarah found herself smiling at him. Giving her a quick kiss, he took her arm in his and they continued their walk back to camp. Arriving at the main hall, Jason turned on his Scout Sergeant mode and Sarah dropped her arm from his. She let him stride forward as she hobbled her way to table eight and her group.
Katherine and the baby were being fitted into a back carrier that made Sarah think of a papoose. The infant wasn’t too certain of this method of travel, until Lady Miriam began to entertain him. Once dinner was over the hall was cleared of platters and tables. Soon bed rolls came out and she and the other ladies retired to their corner of the room. Miriam slept in the corner, with Sarah and Katherine in a protective grouping around her.
Sarah was glad that being wounded excused her from sentry duty. She didn’t think she’d be able to function the next day if she had to stay up any later, wake up early, or otherwise have her sleep disrupted. As it was, the baby’s whimpers throughout the night disrupted her rest.
Morning was heralded with a piercing whistle, that brought Sarah to her feet. Or at least she would have ended on her feet, if her injured leg hadn’t buckled under her. Cursing quietly under her breath, Sarah knelt and rolled up her bedding. She helped the other women of her group do the same.
“The sun’s not even up yet,” Tralee whispered as Sparrow and the boys of the group strapped their bedding to the horses.
Sarah nondded as she rubbed her arms, trying to get a little more warmth into them. She envied the skiers who would soon be warm from exercise.
“It’s a long way to go,” Sparrow stated, “and the sooner we are off the sooner we get back.”
The girls were given a nod from James as he stepped back from the last horse, and they mounted up. Sparrow gave out instruction for the order in which they would travel. The horses gave snorts of impatience as they waited for their signal to go. At last it came and Sparrow headed out.
“No one is to pass me unless I order it,” she reminded them.