The World of Stories and Fables Chapter 8

Katy Abby, Columnist

I spent the rest of the morning with Chase, reading different stories about knights and dragons and princesses. He was active during the reading, shouting out in excitement when the knight had the upperhand over the dragon and booing when the dragon was winning. He loved to point out all the times the knights were being brave, he even asserted that some of the princesses were brave, standing up to dragons and not giving up when it was hard. It was all rather adorable, the way his emerald green eyes would light up and darken accordingly.

Finally, Arthur returned and helped us reshelve the books. After we cleaned up, I asked Arthur if we could visit the market. He agreed, seeing no reason not to, and led the way.

“So what did you and Zander find out?” I asked as we walked, watching Chase skip ahead.

“Not much,” Arthur admitted, looking up at the cloudy sky. “We haven’t found out anything about where you came from. Zander is unable to track the memory, and we still don’t have a solid plan to face Gilgamesh.” I frowned, wondering why it was so hard to figure out where my home was. I wondered if anyone missed me, or if I was really better off with no memory. I bit my lip and shook my head, it would be better not to dwell on a past that I could not recall. I looked up towards Arthur and forced a smile.

“Is there, like, a magic wand that can beat him?” I teased. That was how it was in stories.

“This isn’t some fairy tale.” Arthur gave me a look. “There is no wand or anything like that. If there were, I have a hard time imagining anyone wouldn’t have found it by now. No, to beat Gilgamesh we need to figure out how to cut off his powers and lock him away when he’s weak. Zander has a spell that can trap Gilgamesh in a glass ball, but he has no idea how or if it’s even possible to strip him of his powers.”

“Well there’s a way of getting them.” I mused, bringing my hand to my chin. “If he can get more power there must be a way for him to lose it.”

“That’s what I keep saying.” Arthur nodded as we reached a cobblestone road and continued into town. “I know Gilgamesh can be beaten, but I just don’t know how.”

“I bet you’ll think of something.” I said as we entered the market place. Arthur gave me a small smile but I felt he didn’t believe me. His blue eyes were swimming with worry.

“Hey! Arthur! Artemis!” Chase called. I looked over to the small boy who was jumping and waving for our attention. “Mister Silver is cooking dragon heart soup! Can we get some? Please?”

“Alright,” Arthur reached into his tunic pocket, pulling out a jingling pouch. “Go on ahead, we’ll catch up.” Chase squealed and scrambled down the road, disappeared in the crowd.

“Dragon heart soup?” I grimaced. I couldn’t imagine how they harvested the heart of a dragon. I mean, sure, kill it, but how the heck were they supposed to transport an organ that large? The dragon I dealt with must have had a heart the size of the treehouse.

“There isn’t actually dragon heart in it.” Arthur chuckled, seeing my disgust. “It’s just a soup made with tomatoes and beef chunks. It’s a bright scarlet color from the tomatoes and has a few spices. It’s just called dragon heart because it’s so fiery and red like a dragon and said only one with a dragon heart can stomach it. Chase likes to pretend he’s eating a real dragon though, specifically one he felled.”

“Awwww.” I cooed. “That’s actually really sweet. He has a spectacular imagination.”

“I suppose.” Arthur furrowed his eyebrows. “But I’m afraid he might get carried away… He’s a bit too brash at the best of times.” I nodded, thinking back to how he was so willing to fight that dragon.

We continued on in silence and I amused myself by taking in the market around me. There were voices everywhere, laughing and talking merrily as they purchased goods. The jigging of coins filled the air as customer’s paid for their food.

I could not help but feel out of place as I scanned the sea of royally clad people. Merchants wore rich purple garments with golden trim and the rest walked around in bright colors of green, blue, and brown with silver and copper sashes and accents. From the heft of the velvet purses I saw and the artful detail in the people’s fashions, I concluded that the kingdom was well off and merry.

Everywhere was busy, and the buildings were as elegant as the people. I had a hard time taking in all the marble structures with tarps covering the stalls. I enjoyed seeing all the colorful array of fresh foods and lovely hand crafted silks and knitted clothes. One woman with auburn skin and silky raven black hair dressed in a lovely glossimer dress waved me over to inspect a few of her necklaces made of gold and rose quartz. I had to decline, and she went onto the next passerby as Arthur led me further down the line of shops.

“There’s so many stores.” I said with awe.

“During time of celebrations, the king likes to invite merchants from other countries to come and sell their wares. It gets a little busy.” Arthur explained, looking a bit distracted. He sniffed the air and frowned. “Does it smell like something is burning?” I sniffed the crisp air, catching a hint of smoke when there was a scream. Everyone in the area turned towards the cry and watched with wide eyes as a scarlet tarp smoked over one of the stalls. I gasped as my gaze fell onto an older man with a round belly and shiny head was yelling out fire. He was waving his arms under the tarp and making a large rukus, screaming at the top of his lungs about his family and wares.

“Wait here.” Arthur commanded as he ran towards the stall, weaving between a frantic mob.Failing to heed his advice, I followed behind him, eager to find out what was happening. Once I got closer, I could see that marble building behind the stall was covered and filled with burning fabrics that the yelling man had been selling. He was gesturing towards the door to the inside of his house, trying to break through the burning pile of fabrics as someone held him back. A cry came from the building and I noticed that a woman holding a baby to her breast was coughing inside. Arthur, who hadn’t noticed me yet, started yelling for people to get water. Some listened while others continued crying hysterically. Thinking nothing was really going to get down in time to help the mother and her baby, I leaped into action.

I ran past Arthur and the screaming husband/father and jumped through the flaming doorway. The flames licked my clothes and the embers stung my flesh. I yelped as I rolled to the ground on the other side of the doorway. I heard Arthur’s faint yell and the louder hacking of the woman and the wailing of her baby.

I shook myself and leaped to my feet, scanning the smoke filled room while the black haze made my eyes water. I located the mother and baby on the other side of the room. The mother was looking at me with weary, large black eyes as she held her baby tightly. Smoke filled my lungs and I coughed as I made my way around the piles of burning blankets and clothes. I reached the mother and tried to tell her I was there to help, but my voice caught on the clog of ashes in my throat. The mother seemed to understand, however, and let me lead her towards the door.

We ran towards the flames, and I forced out in a hoarse voice an order for her to cover her baby and to jump over the flames and roll. She looked at me with frightened eyes, but slowly nodded. I instructed her to go first and she readied herself. She took a flying leap over the flickering flames and rolled across the ground of the other side. I heard a cry of celebration and readied myself.

The smoke was getting thicker and I felt like it was clogging my head. I found it harder to breath and became a bit dizzy from the lack of oxygen. There was yell, from outside, but it was all drowned out by the roar of the pyre around me. I felt myself stumble back, and I thought about how easy it would be to just lay down and rest. It was becoming harder and harder to stand.

“Artemis! JUMP!” A voice bellowed. Something clicked in my hazy mind and I realized that I needed to jump. I tried to inhale, but the smoke invaded my lungs, drying out my throat and causing me to choke on ashes. I wanted to rest, to breath, but I had to jump first. With one last burst of willpower, I pushed myself over the fire. I tripped and tumbled, hitting my head as I rolled through burning flames and then into dirt.

I heard someone call my name before the world became as black as smoke.