They traveled a full five days, moving cautiously. Each step brought them closer to contested lands. Each evening at camp the men looked to Jason for his part of the tale. Each night he kept silent, until they reached their destination. They set up camp inside a rocky grotto on the edge of a rocky and gnarled forest. As they gathered around the small fire for the evening meal, Jason told everyone their assignments. This time Kevin would be staying with Sarah at camp. Or was it she would be staying with Kevin, Sarah wondered while she ate. As the light faded and Sarah banked the fire, Jason spoke.
‘Matt asked why Sarah is here instead of in her world.’ All faces turned to him. He looked at each of his men, and then at Sarah. He continued, ‘First you must understand that I met her many years ago, on my tenth birthday. You see my father finally gave me a metal sword, but no one would let me practice with it. So I snuck out into the woods by the manor where I proceeded to banish many imaginary enemies. I was on my third dragon when I heard a voice above me.’ Sarah closed her eyes and smiled, remembering that day. ‘When I looked up there was Sarah, hanging upside down in a tree.’ There were a few gasps from the audience and Sarah opened her eyes to grin at them.
‘Were you in her world?’ asked Kevin, eyes wide.
‘No, the Grove, as we called it, was more like,’ Jason paused to think, ‘a room between our world and hers, though neither of us could go to the other’s world.
‘Where is the Grove?’ questioned Allen.
‘Out behind the barn,’ Sarah sighed, her smile fading. ‘Or at least it was for me.’
Jason frowned slightly. ‘For me the Grove was not in a single location. I have found the Grove close to this campsite, and as far away as Tracerville. One thing that was consistent was the physical limitations. While Sarah and I could touch and handle anything that belonged to the Grove, we could not touch each other, or anything that came from the other’s world.’
‘So how did she get here,’ came from Mathew.
Jason looked sternly at the group. ‘I am trying to tell you that, if you will listen.’ They seemed restless tonight, Sarah thought. ‘As you know I took the last ten day watch to spare Kevin. I also took it because I felt the Grove was nearby.’ He held his hand up as Jess opened his mouth. ‘Do not ask how, because I can not explain it. I also knew that something was wrong. These feelings were confirmed, because when I stepped into the Grove, the air felt heavy and hard to breath, while the light filtering through the leaves was an odd color. And then,’ he looked at Sarah, and she hung her head knowing what he was about to tell next, ‘I turned and saw Sarah’s mother standing at her worlds entrance, holding Sarah. Sarah was unconscious and it was obvious her mother could come no further. I went to her and she gave Sarah to me, asking me to take her and care for her. I discovered that the rules of the Grove had broken, and I was able to take Sarah from her mother. No sooner had I done so than there was a very loud noise and the ground buckled beneath me. I stumble backwards, trying to retain my balance, until I was on the steady ground of this world, Sarah still unconscious in my arms.’ Sarah fought back the tears that were welling up. ‘I could not get back into the Grove then, nor do I think we ever will.’
‘Why not?’ Mike asked.
‘Because my world is dead,’ Sarah answered, bitterness in her voice. She poked the fire violently. ‘It was killed by weapons of mass destruction. That I am alive is amazing. That I am not dying, a miracle.’
‘How can a whole world be destroyed?’ Mathew disbelieved her.
Sarah looked at him, wondering, for a moment, how to explain a nuclear war to people who didn’t even have guns. ‘My world developed a weapon that could fly through the sky like an arrow, only it was much bigger and could go much farther. When it exploded, so much energy would be released that it would damage a huge area.’ Puzzled looks met her gaze as she glanced at each of the men. Sarah re-thought her explanation. ‘Think of what happens when you throw a snowball at a rock. Now scale that snowball’s mark on the rock to the size of,’ she frowned trying to think of what to compare it to,‘a giant lake,’ she said finally. The men’s eyes grew wide. ‘That is the area one weapon would destroy. But it damaged even more because of how it changed the air. That air would make everything sick. And, eventually everything touched by that changed air would die.’ Sarah sighed. ‘The day Jason brought me to this world was the day everyone’s worst fear came to pass. A third world war had broken out and every country was unleashing these weapons upon every other country. I,’ Sarah stopped and turned away from them. She could no longer fight the tears.
The men slowly stood. A few of them gently touched her shoulder with words of sympathy before going to their bedrolls. The last hand lingered on her shoulder and she looked up at Jason. He gave her shoulder a squeeze with a half smile. She smiled sadly back. No matter what happened, she still had Jay, she thought. Though it was going to take getting used to the fact that he was real, not some imaginary friend. Hell, she thought, going to her own bed roll, this whole world was going to take some getting used to. ‘Just let me keep Jay,’ she whispered to what ever God, or Gods, might be listening.