The sun glinted in the sky as I ambled towards the forest. The fresh scent of dew painted grass filled my nostrils and I inhaled excitedly, loving how the crisp air stung the insides of my nose. I flung my arms into the air and stretched as I yawned. The sun felt so good against my skin and Arthur’s clothes were blissfully easy to move in and as soft as wool. My quest was off to a great start, and I was confident that it would go smoothly.
After about an hour I had made it to the forest. The cool shade offered by the leaves felt heavenly against my warm and toasty arms. I quickly found the path that would lead me through the forest and skipped down the leaf covered dirt road. My feet crunched against the dead leaf carcasses and chipmunks twittered merrily as they ran in and out of the shadows.
Once my feet grew tired and my legs started to feel like lead, I decided to take a break. I found a little patch of dirt just a bit off the path and plopped down. I glanced up at the trees, aiming to determine the sun’s position to guess what time it was, but the leaves were too thick. With a sigh, I reached into the satchel and pulled out a chunk of bread and cheese and the canteen Chase had packed among a few other essentials; such as a roll of gauze tape and other herbs to be used for medicine.
As I nibbled on the cheese and sipped my water, I wondered how long it would take to reach the forest’s exit. I wondered how long I had been walking. I wanted to say that it was around the afternoon, but with the trees blocking my view of the sun I had no idea how to confirm that.
Once I finished my light snack, I pushed myself to my feet and started down the path again. As I walked, the sounds of the forest began to slowly grow softer and softer. The chipmunks stopped chirping and scrambling around, the birds tweeting began to grow unsettled and edgy. I slowed my pace, cautiously glancing around, suddenly noticing every creeping shadow and sudden rustle. I felt my heart pound as I clutched my satchel strap.
Things didn’t look up as I continued through the forest. Soon the shadows grew darker and the pleasant sounds of chattering creatures and swaying leaves dissolved, leaving an ominous silence that snapped with the occasional twig. Deeper in the forest I thought I started to catch glowing eyes watching me from the bushes and trees. My pulse quickened and my palms grew sweaty as they shivered in the cold air.
I quickened my pace, eager to get away from the forest and out into the open again, but the path weaved on. With each turn I hoped that I would find the light of day, but instead the pathway only grew darker and darker. I started to jog.
As I ran, the path became narrower and narrower. I felt a pair of eyes watching me, but whenever I looked back, there was nothing but darkness and an eery shiver running down my spine. I started to pant as my lungs struggled to gather air while I ran, but I didn’t think much of it. I was too concerned with getting out of the forest away from the eyes I was sure were watching me.
Suddenly, a howl vibrated through the air and I felt my blood run cold. I glanced in the direction of the noise and felt my heart drop to my stomach as I watched a large hunched figure emerge from the shadows.
The creature was filthy. It had the snout of a dog, claws as sharp as a dragon’s, grey, moss-covered fur spouting from it’s bone hugging skin in uneven patches. I inhaled sharply as the disfigured wolf-like creature snarled, baring its yellow fangs that were dipped with scarlet blood. It curled its back, which was already humpish before, but now even more so, and flicked its matted grey tail. It was getting ready to pounce.
With my heart pounding and my voice caught in my throat, I whirled on the pads of my feet and took off running. The wolf let out a howl and took off after me. I glanced back, screaming as the wolf quickly exceeded my pace and flew after me. I willed myself to go faster and pushed my feet against the path. I weaved with the dirt road and the wolf trailed behind. I panted, and felt my stomach constrict with cramps, but I refused to stop.
As I ran, I began to notice more and more shadows around me. Howling and barking came from every direction, and I realized that I had a whole pack following me. My heart thudded into my stomach and I gave one more lunge forward, hoping to put distance between me and the first wolf, but even if I had managed to, it was too late.
Two more ugly and misshapen wolves ran onto the path ahead of me. Together, they turned in a little circle and skidded to a stop, staring me in the eye with blood-shot gazes. I yelped and put my foot out in a sudden stop. I tripped and slid to the ground just a few feet away from the monsters. More wolves slipped out of the shadows and my pulse drummed in my ears as they circled around me.
The first wolf trotted to the circle and they all paused, looking to the first- who I assumed was the leader- and awaited his signal. The Alpha let out a harsh growl and the other wolves started towards me. My chest shook as fear flooded into me. I covered my head with my arms and hunched over, as if thinking that if I couldn’t see them then they couldn’t see me was applicable to the situation. However I could still hear them.
Their thirsty panting, their guttural growls, and the dribbling of their drool. I covered my ears and let out a whimper, waiting to die with one of their razor sharp jaws snapping my neck. There would be blood everywhere as they fought over my meat. And the bottom of the runt would only have the option of licking the crimson blood from my white bones. I was going to die.
“ARTEMIS!” Arthur’s voice flew through my head. I let out a gasp but didn’t look up. Arthur, Chase, I wouldn’t get to see them again. My eyes watered and I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. I broke my promise to Chase.
The wolves growled and their paws ceased to pat against the dirt. My heart pounded as I wondered if I dared to look. I even had to wonder for a moment if I was still alive, had something really distracted them from eating me?
“ARTEMIS!” Arthur’s voice rang again. My heart skipped a beat as I whirled my head around. My eyes flashed as I blinked between the tears and cried out as Arthur’s lanky figure came running towards me.
“Arthur, no!” I yelled, jumping to my feet. A look of terror passed through his deep blue eyes as he looked passed me. Before I could return a questioning look, something heavy slammed into me and I fell face first into the ground. The scent of dried blood and decay filled my nostrils as one of the wolves pinned me down and growled. Drool fell just inches from my nose and I shivered as the wolf held me.
Arthur quickened his pace, unsheathing his sword, when the Alpha let out a ghastly howl. The other wolves responded with their own beastly growls and bounded towards Arthur. I let out a cry, trying to warn him to run, but the wolf pinning me down pushed on my back with a threatening snarl.
“Arthur!” I choked out, finding it hard to breathe. He glanced towards me and winced as he held his sword and swung it at the ascending pack. A few wolves dodged the attack, while others let out yelps as his sword sliced through their matted coats. One wolf lunged towards Arthur’s leg and he dodged neatly, swinging his sword down and slicing through one wolf’s leg. My stomach churned as the severed leg went flying and the injured wolf crashed into the ground. The wolves turned momentarily to their wounded and then back to Arthur, a look of burning condemnation in their cold dark eyes.
“Arthur!” I cried again, struggling to push the wolf away from me. The wolf let out a harsh bark, but I refused to acknowledge it. Instead, I used all my strength to roll sideways. The wolf lost its footing and I took the chance to pull in my legs and give its stomach a kick. The wolf fell away with a yelp, momentarily stunged, and I leaped to my feet.
“Artemis, get out of here!” Arthur called as a few of the other wolves started slinking my way.
“No! I can’t leave you here!” I shouted with a frown. The wolf I had kicked let out a growl as it pushed itself to its feet, glaring at me coldly. I unsheathed my sword and held it out, using it to put distance between me and the oncoming wolves.
“Artemis! Aim for their legs! Restrict their mobility!” Arthur yelled. I sent a frightened glance his way and bit my lip as he continued to hack at the wolves. A few lay wounded by him and few were still fighting, their jaws seeping with blood.
“Their legs.” I repeated with my heart pounding. I took in a shaken breath and eyed the wolves firmly. One leaped at me and I awkwardly swung my sword. I managed to hit its chest, but not hard enough to leave anything more than a scratch. The wolf yelped from the paper cut and the others quickly followed. The lunged and I backed away, swinging my sword helplessly as they backed me into a tree.
“Artemis!” Arthur cried. I looked over just as he kicked his last wolf in its mouth and came running to my aid. I glanced back down to the wolves and pointed my sword at them. The wolves avoided the tip of the blade and snarled as they paced in front of my, looking for a way past the weapon.
“Artemis!” Arthur cried urgently. I looked over in his direction just as a shadow loomed over me. I whirled around and screamed as a wolf that had jumped towards me drew closer. Before I could react, Arthur pushed me aside and lifted his arm from protection. The wolf came down, it’s jaws gaping, and crashed into Arthur. Arthur let out a cry of pain as the wolf clamped its mouth around his arm. I let out a scream and began waking the wolf with the flat of my sword. The other wolves backed away, watching as Arthur writhed in pain and I beat on their brother.
“Get away!” I screeched, my voice dry and cracked, as the wolf continued to gnaw on Arthur’s arm. Arthur yelled, trying to push the wolf away, but it wouldn’t let go. Finally, I gave the wolf a hard kick to the head and it let go of his arm with a yelp. It jumped away from Arthur and howled in pain as it ran back towards the forest. Arthur let out a gasp, panting and shaking when I stepped over him protectively.
“Get away!” I yelled at the rest of the wolves, glaring at them as I held my sword firmly in front of me. “Get away and never come back!” The wolves let out a growl of disapproval, eyeing me with slitted gleaming eyes. After a moment of hard staring, the wolves slowly backed away, snarling as they retreated. I stood there, petrified for a moment, wearily glancing around for more wolves still hiding in the shadows.
“Give it a rest… Artemis.” Arthur exhaled weakly, his head rolling against my leg. “They’re gone.” I looked down, frowning as he pushed himself towards the tree.
He was horribly pale, with his eyes wide and strained as he leaned against the tree bark and slumped. He let out a grunt and held his bloody arm. I sheathed my sword and quickly fell to his side.
“Arthur-!” I muttered, feeling tears well up in my eyes as the blood dribbled from the jagged gash. Quickly, I pulled out my satchel and started rummaging through it. I took the water canteen and then the bandages Chase had thoughtfully packed. I slowly poured the water over his wound, much to his distress.
“Ah-!” Arthur cried out in pain. I winced and slowed the water to a trickle.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered as I used the underside of my tunic to mop up the excess blood. He grunted, but stayed still as I cleaned his gash as best as I could. I then took the gauze and quickly wrapped it around his arm.
“Ouch!” He exclaimed when my fingers slipped and pulled a bit too tightly.
“Sorry,” I grimaced. He only groaned in response and I frowned.
Once his wound was cleaned up and bandaged, we sat in silence for a little, each taking a second to gather ourselves after the ordeal. My heart was still pounding, I couldn’t get the wolves cold glare out of my head. Or Arthur, struggling against the beast as it latched onto his arm…
I turned towards Arthur, whose eyes were shut tightly as his chest rose and fell erratically. He had done all that to save me… He may have even been searching for me when he came to my rescue. He really did make a good knight, I thought, as I brushed his messy light brown hair behind his ear. This was all my fault.
“I’m sorry.” I whispered again, leaning towards him and resting my head against his shoulder. Tears welled up in my eyes and I shut them quickly, trying to hold back the salty drops. Something gentle nudged my cheek and I blinked my eyes open as Arthur lifted his good hand towards my cheeks.
“Why don’t you listen to me?” He forced out with frustration, though his voice was not unkind.
“I don’t know.” I answered softly, bringing my hand to his and slipping my fingers through it carefully. “But I would have accepted my death just now, you didn’t have to save me.”
“Why the hell do you have a death wish?” His voice rumble in his chest between ragged breaths.
“That’s not what I meant.” I sighed, looking up at him pleadingly. “I mean I know the consequences of my actions, I wouldn’t have blamed you for not doing a thing when the wolves attacked.”
“Idiot.” Arthur mumbled, closing his eyes. “You have to be stupid to think I wouldn’t help if you needed it.” I looked at him with surprise.
“Arthur-” I began to say, but his breathing had already steadied itself and he had nodded off, exhausted from all the fighting and the gaping wound in his arm. I let out a sigh and leaned into him. I decided to stay by his side and protect him when he woke up. But when he was ready to return home, I wouldn’t go with him. I still had to face Gilgamesh.