‘I come,’ she began, ‘from another world.’ Sarah stared thoughtfully into the fire, gathering her words. She could feel the men’s attention drawn to her. ‘A long time ago, my world was much like this one. Back then people believed in magic, unicorns, dragons, heaven and hell. Women took care of the house and children. Men provided the women and children what was needed to survive. Slowly magic was replaced by Science and things began to change. A man set out to prove the world was not flat but round, like a ball. And so it was. It was discovered that the sun did not revolve around the world, but the world around the sun.’ Sarah smiled as she heard some disbelieving noises coming from the men.
‘The great countries of the day split up newly discovered lands into colonies. But one by one the colonies chose their own freedom and to become their own country. Even as all this happened, the manner in which wars were fought changed. No longer did armies meet in a field of battle with swords and spears and bows. They began to fight with weapons that allowed you to kill your enemy from farther away. Some weapons would injure a bunch of men at a time all in one shot. The seas began to be contested territory. Shipping lanes were set, trade between countries began in earnest and the world began to be ruled by merchants instead of royalty. As the world continued to change, new machines were developed to help make daily life easier. Villages grew into towns, towns grew into cities and cities grew even larger.’ Sarah paused and brought her hand back into her lap. She had a habit of talking with them. All the men were listening to her, fascinated, even Jason. Sarah picked up a stick and poked the fire. As the sparks flew into the night she continued.
‘A war broke out, and soon all of the large countries were involved. They called it the War to end all Wars and when it was over, the women decided it was time their voices were heard by the government. With all the conveniences they had for their home, they had free time to devote to the world. But before they won their right, a Second World War broke out. Now all the able bodied men were fighting, leaving a small work force to build the flying machines, which were used to destroy buildings, the weapons used to kill, and the carriages used to convey men from one place to another. So the women stepped up to do their part for their country and for the first time began supporting themselves outside the home. When the war was over the men came back to fill the jobs they left, but women had tasted that freedom and wanted more. This time they won their right to be heard as well as their right to decide their own future. Conflict still ran rampant through the world, but things settled down for a while.’ Sarah set aside the stick she’d been using to poke the fire. It burned bright and looked up to the stars.
‘By the time I was born,’ she continued, ‘women and men had the same opportunities. Marriage and raising children was optional. A couple without children was as common as a single person with one. Whatever choice a woman or man made, society accepted it, for the most part. Even an unmarried woman had the right to bear a child if she wished.’ There were some gasps of astonishment from her audience. ‘Unless of course she was young,’ Sarah smiled, ‘and in that society you might be legally an adult at age 18, but you weren’t considered to be an adult until 25.’
Sarah looked back around at the men. There were a lot of astonished looks at that last statement. ‘So, that’s where I came from,’ she sat up, breaking her poking stick in half to feed it to the fire. ‘I grew up with 5 brothers and acted more as a boy in my youth than a girl. Even as I grew older the majority of my friends have been male. While I have only a rudimentary knowledge of the sword, I have some training in self defense.’ Her eyes flicked to Mathew for a moment to see if he’d comment. He kept silent. ‘I’ve been camping out in the woods since I was two, but I have no clue as to what it takes to run a house or raise a child.’
‘You’re a good cook,’ Jess said.
Sarah smiled, ‘Thank you, but I’m afraid cooking over a camp fire doesn’t quite equate to cooking or baking in a fireplace. I’m just lucky that the plants and animals here are similar to home.’
‘Why not live as a man?’ the question came from Brad
‘I can’t,’ Sarah responded with a shrug, ‘Jason gave me the option, but,’ Sarah struggled with words. ‘I am who I am. I don’t think I really could.’
‘Then why are you here instead of where you came from?’ Mathew spoke at last.
Jason answered before Sarah could. ‘That is a question best answered on another night. We need our rest for the travel days ahead.’ He stood and went to where he had set his bed roll. Slowly the rest of the men followed his example. Sarah banked the fire before going to hers. Soon the camp was quiet, as all but the man on watch fell asleep.