“Sarah!” A little figure came running from the trees and stopped before them. “Its warmer in the middle, there’s a Willow Tree there and no snow on the ground. It’s not even wet ground…”
“Thank you Ryan,” Sarah nodded. “I think we’re all a little too tired for chatter right now.”
“You get around don’t you?” Sparrow gazed at the boy, but motioned for quiet before Ryan could talk again. “Everyone dismount and we’ll see about sheltering here for the night.”
There was just enough of a break on one side of the Pine Grove to let them lead their horses inside. True it was shelter from the storm, but it wasn’t much warmer.
“Shame they are Pine trees not Willows,” Prince Hermanus muttered with a shiver.
“Pine around the Willow, Willow around the Dogwood,” Sarah shrugged as she limped to the Willow tree.
Sarah? Jason’s presence increased in her head. How does your group fare?
Ryan found us shelter for the evening, she responded, in a pine grove surrounding a Willow.
Eat and rest, Jason told her, we’ll figure out what to do in the morning. Let Sparrow know that all is well and we have replaced more than we lost with men from the Major’s forces. Also ask James how many Majors we should expect to encounter on our journey home.
Sarah relayed the information and question.
“Four to six,” James stated after some thought. Then he growled and stood. “But don’t trust me.” He began to pace. “I might have been made Major over the castle force, but I wasn’t there when Wholawski sent out his summons. It’s been less than a week, which is when he said the first force would arrive.” James stared into the pine trees and Miriam and Ryan both edged towards Sarah.
Sarah heard Jason sigh mentally. We cannot know everything, he told her, either Wholwaski miscalculated the passage of time, or he was lying.
“James,” Sarah spoke softly and the man turned towards her. “It’s not your fault. No one knows everything.”
“I know.” The man sighed and looked back at Katherine and their babe, “But I was hoping we’d be further down the mountain before the first attack.”
“Well it’s nothing we can do anything about,” Sparrow stated smartly. “How about we get some warm food into our bellies? I think it would do us all some good.”
“Want me to bring some by Willow,” Ryan grinned. “Mother always has extra!”
Before anyone could reply the boy scampered up the Willow and was gone in a flash of blinding light.
“Well that explains how he’s been getting around,” Sparrow remarked.
The ladies tended a fire under Sarah’s direction while Sparrow and the other men cared for the horses. She wondered if they should have asked Ryan to bring hay for the beasts, but they seemed to be content with the oat from the packs. Either Jason had known her group was going to get split off, or they’d decided it was easier if everyone carried what they needed rather than have it bundled in a supply wagon. Whatever the reason, she was grateful it had been done that way.
The Willow flashed again, and Ryan appeared. The boy was crouched upon the ground, the handle of a soup pot slung over his shoulder. In front of him, and clutched tightly was a basket. He grinned and set everything but the pack on his back down.
“The Grand-Pairents showed up and helped mother put this together for you. There’s soup for tonight, and we can keep the kettle and then travel rations for the trip to the Temple...”
“Temple?” Katherine perked up. “There is a temple nearby?”
“Uh huh,” Ryan nodded his head. “They gave me, di, dire, directions so I’m supposed to take you to it.”
“You are?” Sparrow looked at the little boy sternly.
“Uh huh,” he nodded. “You’re to meet everyone else there the Grand-Pairents are going to try and get you more supplies and...”
“Is that so?” Sparrow seemed amused by the little boy’s tirade.
“Uh hun,” Ryan nodded again. “The Gods told me so.”
Sparrow shook her head. “You have some faith there little man.”