While everyone was getting settled into their bed rolls, Sparrow pulled Sarah aside to speak in hushed whispers on the other side of the pines. The snow was still falling quietly, though Sarah sensed that the storm would probably be over by morning. But, it wasn’t the weather Sparrow was interested in, but Phoenix’s take on their following Ryan.
Despite Ryan’s Willow travel, Sparrow wasn’t sure she wanted to trust the boy with leading the group. Sarah pointed out that he had led them to the pines. To which Sparrow countered with the fact that the Willow was in the pines. She was certain there weren’t enough Willows for Ryan to lead them Willow by Willow to the Temple. Jason agreed with that point.
“Not to mention it means he spends a whole day away from his family,” Sparrow added. “And you know how disappearances like that affect family.”
The comment was clearly aimed at Jason, but Sarah groaned anyway. How many times am I going to have to hear about your disappearances? she asked after she relayed the statement.
Jason thought for a moment before replying. You might as well tell her it was you I was visiting. After all if I had not disappeared to visit you then you would not eventually been brought here to help us defeat Wholawski and rescue Princess Allmarah.
Sarah laughed and relayed Jason’s logic. Sparrow didn’t look very convinced.
“Scouts honor,” Sarah stated with all seriousness, but Jason interrupted her before she could say anything else.
Sparrow is to trust Ryan for a day, his manner had returned to a sergeant’s gruffness. We’ll evaluate where both groups are at the end of tomorrow. If yours ends up in any direction other than south of where you began, Sparrow will take over. Make sure Sparrow knows this is an order Scout Smith.
Sparrow nodded in acquiescence, though she didn’t look happy about what Sarah had relayed.
“Really,” Sarah stated as they moved back under the pines, “we have nothing to lose so long as we continue to head south right?”
Sparrow shrugged and motioned Sarah to her bedroll where Ryan was curled up and asleep. Gently moving the boy aside, Sarah joined him. He shifted in his sleep, but otherwise did not wake.
Dawn came too soon and the sun had barely risen before Sparrow had them set out. Ryan was perched on the front of Harriet and Tralee’s horse while Sparrow skied beside them. By mid day they’d back tracked half a dozen times and Tralee had fallen off thrice. While big enough to carry two, the horse was not set up for three, especially when the third person was a very wiggly boy. Sparrow called a halt and they fed the horses and ate some food themselves.
“Phoenix requests a report on our progress,” Sarah called forward, as they readied to move on.
“We’re nearly there,” Ryan replied, jiggling in his excitement and knocking Tralee off once more.
The girl landed with a soft thud on the snow and Charles immediately went to help her up. Sarah sighed and looked to Sparrow.
“We’ve been travelling in a south-east direction, overall, but the terrain and cold is taking its toll.” Sparrow looked about them and shook her head. “If we don’t reach this Temple of Ryan’s in another couple of hours I’m calling a halt so we can make a shelter for the night.”
Jason thanked Sarah for the update, but made no other comment and the group moved on. Slowly but surely they continued in a generally southern direction, threading their way through the mountains. When Tralee fell into the snow for a sixth time, Sparrow removed Ryan from the horse. For the next hour or so he rode piggy back on the skiers.
“You’re sure you know where we're going?” Sparrow asked as Ryan was transferred to her back.
“Uh huh,” Ryan nodded, “I can hear the river, so we’re getting close.”
“Is there anything we can help you look for?” Sparrow sighed.
“Well the Gods said there would be a track that used to lead from the road to the Temple and village, only the village got demolished when the river changed course, but the Temple was left, but no one wanted to rebuild the village so the whole place got abandoned and...”
“Sparrow!” Charles shouted from a rock out cropping he’d skied to.
“Report.” Sparrow skied over to him.
“If I’m not mistaken, there’s the river and what looks to be...”
“The Temple!” Ryan began bouncing, as Sparrow joined Charles. “That’s it! That’s it!”
“Ryan!” Sarah called out. “You’re going to topple Sergeant Sparrow!”
“Oh sorry,” he tried to calm down, but his excitement was palpable.
“All right,” Sparrow returned and handed Ryan up to Harriet. “You stay still and I’ll lead us down to the Temple.”