‘Sarah,’ Jason said, coming to the fire where Sarah sat, ‘I’m sorry.’
Sarah looked up, his tone of voice different from that of the task master he’d just been. Jason crouched beside her. ‘No, it’s okay,’ she looked back into the fire. ‘I understand what you’re trying to do.’ Sarah began to bank the fire and turned to face him. ‘I don’t even know if I could harm anyone, let alone kill them. That’s just not how I was brought up.’
‘Even if they were trying to kill you?’ Jason asked astonished.
‘I,’ Sarah sighed, ‘I don’t know.’ She looked out through the waterfall. ‘If I’m lucky the technique I was taught for breaking legs will work.’
‘It will all be over soon.’
‘Then what Jay?’ she asked looking back at him. ‘I have no family, no home,’ she buried her head in her hands.
‘You have me,’ he said sounding slightly hurt.
Sarah looked over at him, not bothering to wipe her eyes. ‘For how long? Obviously your whole life isn’t like this. Who’s going to understand our friendship, your parents, your girlfriend?’
‘Girl friend? Jason looked at her puzzled.
‘Fiancée, betrothed, lady you’re courting,’ Sarah replied trying to translate, poking the fire yet again.
‘I haven’t courted anyone since Lady Angelina.’
Sarah looked at him in disbelief. ‘You’re serious?’ he nodded. ‘Oh come on, a guy like you without some lady on his arm, that’s un-believable.’
Jason smiled and shrugged. ‘Believe me there are women who are interested, but,’ he sighed and his smile fell, ‘you are right, our friendship is,’ he struggled for a word
‘Preposterous?’ Sarah supplied.
‘No,’ Jason said shaking his head, ‘it is beyond their comprehension.’
‘Figures,’ Sarah hung her head. ‘So how do I fit in?’ she whispered, feeling more like a burden than she had before. She was easily killable in a sword fight, so what real good was she to the scout troop. Worse, even after her week with Rebecca, she was clueless on running a medieval household. Jason moved and knelt before her. Reaching out, he gently wiped a tear from her cheek.
‘A camp follower Phoenix, really that just isn’t like you,’ a jolly voice startled them and Jason spun around immediately positioning himself between Sarah and the man, his weapons half drawn.
‘Ah, Scout Sergeant Griffon,’ Jason stated and Sarah saw him relax his stance and let his weapons fall back into their sheaths. ‘You are a little earlier than expected.’
‘Better early than late,’ he said trying to look around Jason at Sarah.
Jason stepped aside. ‘This is my Friend,’ he emphasized the word, ‘Sarah, she,’ he looked at Sarah and then at Griffon, ‘has fallen into hard times. Sarah, this is Scout Sergeant Griffon. Mathew and I trained under him.’
‘Nice to meet you,’ Sarah stood, uncertain whether or not to offer her hand for a hand shake. Thankfully Griffon extended his and Sarah took it, but instead of a shake he kissed it. Sarah stepped back blushing.
‘And tell me,’ his question was directed at Jason, though he was pondering Sarah, ‘why is it she’s been outfitted as a scout and not sent to that great mother of yours?’
Jason grinned, ‘Sarah is doing quite well holding her own out here with us. It would be a pity to lose such an asset.’
‘Asset indeed,’ Griffon chuckled. Sarah finished banking the fire. ‘Can she use the sword she carries?’
‘Better than most first years,’ Jason stated with pride.
Sarah looked up, disbelieving. ‘Seriously?’ After all the criticism he’d given her, he was now praising her. Jason smiled and nodded. Sarah shook her head. ‘Right, well, the stew’s cooked and there’s more than enough for the three of us.’
‘Ah, food, something us Scouts don’t get enough of eh, Phoenix?’ Griffon gave Jason a friendly slap on the back.
‘You ought to change cooks then,’ Jason chuckled.
They ate in silence for a while. Griffon’s face showed rapt enjoyment. ‘Now if only Roz had learned to cook like that,’ he said at last, getting up to get another bowlful.
‘Roz wouldn’t have made it past the first month of training.’ Jason said.
‘True,’ Griffon replied sitting back down. He looked at Sarah. ‘Did you know Phoenix almost didn’t make it though his first year?’ Sarah shook her head and Jason groaned. He picked up his bowl and Sarah’s and headed to the wash pool.
Sarah leaned toward Griffon, eager to learn more about Jason. ‘So, how’d he make it through?’
‘Well you see he kept disappearing at odd times, always apologetic about it, said he couldn’t help it. But since he’d missed half his classes, they didn’t want to give him the first year test. Now I knew the boy had potential, but I had to convince the General to let him take the test. I figured he’d pass it and I’d take him into my troop and pull out his potential as we went. You know what that boy did?’ Sarah shook her head. ‘He went and got the best marks of the class and had to fend off troop offers. But he refused ‘em all, asking to be in mine, since I’d had such faith in him.’ Griffon was clearly proud. ‘Now look at him,’ Sarah turned to see Jason walking back to them. ‘He’s the youngest seasoned scout leader we got, even if he does have an odd habit of disappearing and reappearing when you least expect it.’
Jason rolled his eyes. ‘Griffon likes to exaggerate.’
‘Well a tall tale is better than no tale.’ Griffon stated, eating his soup. ‘I bet he won’t tell you why he’s been given the name of Phoenix.’
‘Griffon,’ Jason was clearly embarrassed by Griffon’s boasting, which only made Sarah want to know more.
‘I ain’t going to tell no details,’ he admonished Jason with his spoon. ‘See he was out lead’n a Scout Troop for the first time. They made some blunder, and got themselves captured by the enemy. A nasty guy he is; they say he actually enjoys torturing people himself.’ Sarah shuddered. ‘There ain’t never been anyone who’d ever escaped from the man to say, and Phoenix here won’t tell yah.’ Griffon scrapped the last of the soup out of his bowl. ‘But you see, this boy here,’ he slapped Jason on the back, eliciting another eye roll, ‘well he risked his own life an’ limb to get all his boys out. They showed up at the nearest scout center, all tattered and torn, after we’d thought them dead and gone. Most of ‘em weren’t fit to be sent back out. But this boy here, recovered full on, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, he was. They was hesitant to send ‘em back out with another troop. But I know, now, they’s glad they did.’ Griffon leaned in toward Sarah. ‘And you know why he did it?’ She shook her head. ‘He told me there was some girl he had to see again, and if he’d only gotten himself out an’ not the rest, she’d never forgive him.’ Griffon picked up his bowl and went to the washing pool.
Sarah eyed Jason with a smile. ‘Lady Angelina?’ she asked quietly. Jason shook his head. ‘Rosalina then?’ Jason only shook his head then and Sarah tried to remember how long he’d been a scout and what girl’s name he muttered back then.
‘Griffon likes to embellish,’ Jason said, ‘and you should go get some rest. Tomorrow is another day.’
Sarah frowned. Jason’s face had lost its cheer. ‘Sure thing Phoenix,’ Sarah saluted him. She went to her bed roll pondering what Griffon told her. Even if they were tall tales, they and Jason’s behavior this evening, had reminded her of the Jason she knew from the Grove. And that, she thought, was a comforting fact. Sarah sighed and slipped into sleep, happy and exhausted.