The nineteen days it had taken to get to the General’s camp were eaten up in ten. Jason set a hard pace that Sarah found hard to keep up. She wasn’t the slowest though, the Prince complained to her a couple times. Sarah just shrugged figuring Jason was moving them as fast as possible to the border. She was just glad not to have to take a watch, since she fell asleep exhausted each night.
They pushed hard that tenth day. By night fall Sarah could hear the river in the distance. Still Jason pushed them on. They moved slower now, with night upon them. Even when the moon rose it would give only a little light. Sarah wondered if they would get to rest before or after crossing the river.
Prince Hermanus sighed beside her. She gave him the most cheery smile she could muster. ‘We’ll cross the river soon and be able to slow down,’ she whispered to him, hoping she was telling the truth. Suddenly rustling came from all around them as armed men jumped from trees and bushes. Phoenix troop immediately surrounded Sarah and the Prince.
‘PHOENIX ARISE!’ Jason’s voice rang out loud and clear as swords were pulled from their scabbards. Sarah moved to unsheathe hers when a searing pain ripped though her shoulder and she passed out.
Slowly regaining consciousness, Sarah groaned. Her head pounded and her shoulder killed. Some one had bandaged it.
‘We’re lucky casualties weren’t worse,’ she heard Griffon say.
‘Yes, I suppose we are,’ was Jason’s grim answer. Sarah groaned again with pain as she was lifted onto a bed of some kind.
‘Her only wound was from the dart?’ Griffon asked.
‘No other marks on her.’ Sarah didn’t recognize the voice.
‘Think it was meant for his Highness?’ Jason asked.
‘I don’t know,’ was Griffon’s response.
Sarah’s litter was lifted. Someone shouted ‘Now!’ and Sarah felt herself move forward, but she couldn’t open her eyes. By the splashing she knew they were crossing the river. About halfway across she rolled to vomit off the edge, nearly causing her litter bearer’s to spill her into the water. How embarrassing, she thought. At least she felt better. Sarah eyes slowly blinked open.
A half moon was high in the sky and the stars twinkled above. Sarah stared at them until her eyes crossed. Closing them for a second Sarah felt an odd vertigo. If you discount the shoulder, she thought, I feel as though I’ve had one shot too many at the bar. ‘Halt.’ Griffon called. ‘We’ll rest here.’ Sarah’s litter was gently set down. She groaned, wanting the vertigo to go away.
‘Sarah?’ She opened her eyes part way to see Jason. It was hard to read his expression, but it was grim, grimmer than his normal scout face.
‘Water,’ she managed to get out. He pulled out his canteen and gave it to her. She drank a little, but when Jason tried to take it back, she held tight. ‘Please’ was all she could get out. Jason let go.
‘If you need me, I’ll be right here,’ he told her as he unfurled his bed roll nearby.
Sarah sipped from the canteen all through the night between bouts of fitful sleep. She’d emptied it by the time false dawn appeared and had finally fallen asleep.