The World of Stories and Fables Chapter 17

Katy Abbe, Columnist

The dry scent of rotten grass and musty air slammed into me. I let out a groan and shot forward, blinking wildly in the dark. I gave my eyes a moment to adjust before I glanced around. We were in the same place we started, clustered by a rock just outside of a dead town. Arthur was shifting and groaning next to me, rubbing his eyes and his bandaged arm. Jason was just a few feet ahead, rubbing his head. I glanced up toward the sky, which was inky black with specks of stars dotted across. The moon hung overhead, casting white light over the land. It wasn’t quite full, for a small sliver was left out, but I had no doubt that the next night would bring a full circle of pure white.

“Is everyone alright?” I asked, looking from Jason to Arthur.

“Fine.” Jason said coolly, lifting his hands and shrugging.

“I’m alright.” Arthur winced, rubbing his arm. I glanced at it, grimacing at it’s swelling.

“Your arm’s bugging you?” I leaned over, trying to access its condition in the dim light.

“A little, we just need to find a healer, and I’ll be fine.” He insisted, pushing me away gently before he pushed himself to his feet. I followed his lead, but Jason remained firmly on the ground.

“Are you guys really going to go off now?” He asked, leaning back in the dead grass with a sigh. “It’s not really wise to bumble around in the dark.”

“But Arthur-” I began only to be cut off.

“No, he’s right, Artemis.” Arthur shook his head, dropping his things and leaning back against the rock, groaning as he did. “We need to get our rest.”

“Besides, Akonito is just a half-day’s walk away. We’ll be there soon.” Jason insisted. “I have a buddy who runs the inn, he’s great.”

“A con-artist too, no doubt.” Arthur grumbled as he leaned against the rock.

“Oh, and is he skilled.” Jason commented dryly, closing his eyes.

“Artemis,” Arthur glanced up at me gently as I met his gaze. His eyes were a bit red, and he looked horribly tired. “Go ahead and get comfortable, I doubt there are any animals around and it’s too hot to make a fire, so it should be safe to sleep here.” I nodded, biting back an objection. Arthur was exhausted, Jason wasn’t budging, it may have been best to turn in for the night.

“Alright.” I knelt down by his bandaged arm. “But I’d like to clean this first.” I pulled bandages out of my bag and a water canteen. Arthur made a face, but didn’t say anything as I prepared everything.

“Alright, hold on for a moment,” I muttered as I began unwrapping the gauze. Arthur groaned as I tugged the bandage from his arm. It was covered in dried blood, and as I pulled the layer of darkened blood away the wound split open more, causing fresh blood to drip in droplets of crimson. Arthur gripped at the ground, tightening his fists, but he didn’t protest.

“You alright?” I asked as I took the canteen and poured a stream down his arm. He winced and nodded, biting his lip.

“I’m fine. Just hurry.” He muttered curtly, closing his eyes. I quickened my movements as I dabbed lightly at his arm with a hankie. I was unable to clean the wound completely, as in some places, the blood flowed faster than I could wipe it away, but in other places, I was able to clear away the dried bits of blood and the fresher drops.

Overall, I could only manage to make it cleaner. Arthur’s arm was a wreck, with a line of teeth marks bleeding in a crescent moon shape, and with the skin around the marks blistering and oozing a sickly yellow liquid. I wasn’t sure if I did much to clean it up, but I told myself that every little bit counted.

Arthur was relieved once I began wrapping his arm up again. All through the cleaning he gritted his teeth and let a few growls of pain escape, but once I removed my hands and the blood and pus-soaked cloth for good he began to visibly relax. His muscles weren’t so tight, and he’s expression wasn’t strained. I gently fastened the gauze and moved back, giving him so space.

“Better?” I asked, preparing myself for a dissatisfied remark.

“Yes.” He nodded slowly, looking down at his arm and grimacing as he turned it. “It hurts, but not as badly.” He looked up with a forced, but heart-felt smile. “Thank you, Artemis.”

“Yeah, no problem.” I raised my eyebrows, surprised by his gentleness. “It was the least I could do.” He smirked after I said that, leaning back against the rock and holding my gaze. I sat, petrified for a moment, as his bright blue eyes flashed in the moonlight. Something curled his lips and he started to chuckle before tearing his gaze away. Bewildered, I demanded he tell me what was so funny.

“Nothing,” he shook his head, closing his eyes and leaning back like he was ready to sleep. “I just never realized how pretty your eyes are in the moonlight. They look like violets, with morning dew sprinkled around the petals.” My jaw dropped as I struggled to respond. Where in the heck did that come from? Arthur let out a carefree laugh, but he didn’t open his eyes.

“My apologies. I’m a bit tired, and we could all use some sleep. Thank you for dressing my wound, it helps immensely with the pain.” With that and a smile on his lips, he slouched against the rock and silenced himself, surely not asleep yet, but he made it clear that he was well on his way. I still sat though, watching him with wide eyes, expecting him to wake up and take back the compliment.

“Just go to sleep, Diane.” Jason mumbled from his position after a few moments. “You can bug him about it tomorrow, but not tonight.”

“Al-alright…” I nodded as I put my things away and propped my bag up to use as a pillow. I spread out in the dead grass, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Arthur, whose chest was rising and falling calmly. I wondered why on earth he would make a comment like that. He didn’t seem the type to randomly compliment someone’s eyes, let alone mine, the eyes belonging to the person who dragged him into too many messes to count. It could have been the pain talking; he was so high on the throbbing sensation in his arm that he didn’t know what he was saying. That made more sense than anything.

Violets with morning dew. I thought as I shifted my head into a comfortable position, or as comfortable as was possible on a chucky bag filled with supplies. Why would he say my eyes were pretty? It was probably the same reason I thought his were. It didn’t mean anything, just a comment, an acknowledgement of colorful irises. Yeah, that’s it. Keep telling yourself that, Artemis. With a heavy sigh, I let my eyes close as I forced myself to drift to sleep.