Their journey got off to a rocky start. Five times the company halted to rescue some skier from a snow bank. It didn’t take long before just about every horse was doubled up. Three men were picked up by the supply wagons due to injuries. At last they reached the road and the going became easier. The snow was still drifted, but mostly to either side, creating a sort of pocket for them to travel through.
They halted around midday and rations were eaten before they set off again. It had seemed like they had barely gotten going again when snow started falling. Spitting snow was what Sarah would call it and she was gazing off into the woods when Jason’s voice interrupted her.
“PHOENIX ARISE” It rang out from inside and outside her head. Sarah! Tell Sparrow to go south east towards the river!
“Sparrow,” Sarah called forward, as horses sprinted past them. “We’re to head south east towards the river.”
“You heard her group!” Sparrow diverted herself and swished over the snow bank on their left.
Sarah urged the horse off the track to follow the Scout Sergeant. Sparrow stopped and indicated Sarah to go ahead.
“Why aren’t we rushing ahead to help?” Prince Hermanus’s voice floated forward to her.
“We’re not a group of fighters, Your Highness,” Sparrow responded. “Phoenix is leading, his instructions come through Sarah. We do as we are told.”
“What about our tracks?” Charles asked as they began to maneuver slowly through the trees. As if to answer the snow started falling faster.
“They’ll be covered in no time,” Sparrow grunted as she returned to the lead. “We’ll head east first, to get as far from the battle as possible, then we’ll head south. Keep an ear on Phoenix,” she directed her last comment to Sarah.
Sarah nodded, “I am.”
Hunkered down in her the saddle to avoid be slapped in the face by branches, Sarah listened to the fighting through her link with Jason. Between that and the turns they had to make to avoid rough terrain, Sarah lost all sense of direction. Sparrow stopped them occasionally to check her compass as the snow fall continued blanket them in silence.
“We need to find shelter of some sort.” Sparrow stated as the group gathered to eat from their rations.
“There should be clusters of pines that would provide some shelter form the storm.” James stated.
“Or a Willow Grove,” Princess Allmarah sighed.
James looked to the Princess. “If I could find a Willow Grove, Your Highness...” Looking to Katherine and his babe he sighed.
“Let’s keep moving,” Sparrow shook her head. “Everyone keep an eye out for any sort of shelter; rock out cropping, cluster of trees, even a single Willow would do.”
The horses plodded along and Sarah checked back in with Jason. The fighting had stopped and he was busy with questioning people. She decided not to bother him, but, as the light began to fade, she wondered if she should.
Sarah lifted her head up, brining her horse to a stop as Sparrow held up a hand for silence.
“Is that the wind?” Princess Allmarah shivered.
“RYAN?” Sarah called back certain she recognized the voice.
“SARAH!” Ryan called back.
“Bear’s son?” Sparrow looked back at Sarah. “What in the horses...”
“Ryan, where are you?” Sarah called out.
“In a Willow tree, but I can’t see through this snow!”
Sparrow took out her splinter. “Keep him shouting,” she nodded to Sarah, “and we’ll try to follow his voice.”
“Ryan!” Sarah shouted to the wind. “When I call Marco you call Polo as loud as you can!”
“Polo?” Sarah could hear the puzzlement in Ryan's voice and felt the odd stares of those around her.
“MARCO,” she called.
“POLO," he answered.
Sparrow adjusted their course. Whenever the Sergeant nodded, Sarah would call out Marco and they listened to Ryan’s Polo. Forging onwards, they had to backtrack only once before finding a ring of pines.
“Marco,” Sarah called one more time, her voice nearly hoarse.