The World of Stories and Fables Chapter 19

Katy Abbe, Columnist

The town was pretty lively, despite the hushed rumors of monster wolves that were rolling around. There were stalls of cheerful people selling their wares, children running around and playing, but my favorite part might have been all the bright green grass growing everywhere. After being in a town of the dead, it was nice to be surrounded by life.

“Jason, it smells so good here.” I extended my arms into the air and twirled, inhaling the fresh scent of freshly cut grass. However, when I tried to move forward my foot snagged on a rock, and I stumbled backward with a cry. I slammed into Jason’s chest but he steadied himself in time, making sure that we both didn’t fall during impact.

“Please watch where you’re going.” Jason sighed, pushing me away. I frowned, turning to face him as I walked backwards.

“Are you upset with me?” I asked, crossing my arms. “For not remembering you?”

“What?” He scowled, looking behind me. “Just face forward, you’ll bump into something.”

“But I feel like we should talk about this.” I turned and fell back to his side, watching him expectantly. “You don’t seem happy with Arthur or me.”

“Diane.” Jason exhaled, running a hand through his hair tiredly. “It’s complicated.”

“Well, help me to understand.” I insisted. He met my gaze, his eyes swimming with a mix of emotions I couldn’t really identify.

“You’re really clueless, you know that.” Jason rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“I don’t really remember anything, so yeah, I am a bit clueless.” I pouted. He lifted his hand to the side of my temple and slowly tugged at something. I looked to the side, surprised for a moment as he tugged the pink flower from my hair. I had forgotten it was still there.

“Do you know what this means?” Jason asked, pinching the stem between his fingers and twirling it.

“It’s a flower?” I asked, plucking it from his grasp and bringing the petals to my nose. I sniffed gently, enjoying the sweetness of the flower. “It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just something sweet.”

“You really are an idiot.” Jason sighed as I tucked the flower behind my ear again. “But it’s just as well. Arthur is just as clueless.” He added underneath his breath.

“What?” I asked, tilting my head.

“Nothing.” he muttered, looking forward. “Let’s just find this healer.” He pointed down the street. “She should be somewhere around here.” I followed his finger and nodded, keeping my eyes open for something that would indicate the presence of a healer.

After a few minutes of walking, I caught a glimpse of a small sign sitting outside of a tent that simply read, “Healer.” I pointed it out to Jason and he nodded, quickening his pace.

The outside of the tent was lackluster. I was surprised by how plain the emerald green material looked next to the other stalls and buildings that weren’t altogether much to look at anyway. But the tent stood there, with a makeshift wooden sign next to it. Jason gave me a look and I shrugged. He rolled his eyes and pushed open the flap and slipped inside. I followed, carefully looking into the dimly lit tent.

The first thing to hit me was an overwhelming blast of lavender, cinnamon, and a collection of other herbs and spices that had strong scents. I let out a gasp, choking on the sudden smell, before bringing my hand to my nose, doing my best to shelter it from the smell but only succeeding in looking silly.

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I was stunned by how lovely the inside looked. The walls were covered in oriental carpets, and spices hung from the ceiling. Carpets and pillows covered the floor, and a long, short table sat by the right wall, holding vials upon vials of herbs and other medicines.

In the back of the tent, a fat, round table stood with an older woman sitting on the floor. She was bent over a flower that had peculiarly shaped petals; they were almost hood shaped. Her bony fingers were carefully pulling the petals apart, causing a sort of ooze to drip onto the table. Her long white hair fell from behind her ear, dangling over the flower. I expected her to pull the hair away from her eyes, but she didn’t remove her focus from her task at hand.

“State your business, dears.” She mumbled quietly, still keeping her eyes trained onto the flower. “And hurry it up, we don’t want to be caught outside after dusk.”

“We’re here for a friend: he was bitten by a wolf and he needs medical attention immediately.” Jason explained curtly.

“A wolf?” She glanced up, recognition flashing through her eyes.

“Yes, there was a pack and he was just protecting me from them.” I interjected, feeling a shiver run down my spine. I felt unnerved by the woman’s sudden narrowing of the eyes, almost like she thought Arthur was a danger.

“I see,” The old woman looked down at the flower in her hands. “I have just the thing. He has a fever, correct? Lightheadedness?”

“He does have the fever, but he hasn’t mentioned lightheadedness.” Jason explained as she placed the flower down carefully and grabbed an empty vial. “He’s too proud for that.” I shot Jason a glare, but he ignored me.

“Yes, yes.” The old woman nodded, filling the vial with a green liquid. She then added a few herbs, and then she slid her finger through the liquid that was oozing from the flower she was toying with before and let droplets fall into the green vial.

“This should help save your friend.” She said, shaking the vial in her hand before handing it to me. “It reduces fever, and will get rid of the infection.”

“He has an infection?” I asked, looking down at the vial curiously, watching the green herbs float in the light green liquid. “How can you tell without looking at his wound?”

“Many men have fallen ill to wolf bites.” The woman answered grimly. “They sleep during all hours of the sun, serving only the moon each and every moment they can. Their eyes are bloodshot, their teeth have sharpened, and their wounds pulse with an ever growing throb. I fear for this village, fear that soon we will all be consumed by the shadows.”

“Uh….” My eyes widened. I felt a hand wrap around my elbow, and whirled back to meet Jason’s steady eyes. He motioned toward the door and I nodded. As we both took a step back, I asked the woman what she wanted in return for the medicine.

“Nothing.” She sighed, getting back to her work of dissecting the flower. “For there is no point in worldly possessions any longer.”

“Riiiiiight.” Jason nodded behind me. “Well, thank you very much for the help, we’ll just be going now.” He gave my arm a tug and we both advanced towards the door, quickly escaping the flap and into the street. The sun was just starting to set, setting the sky ablaze with pink and orange.

“That was really creepy.” I said, eyeing the vial nervously as we started back for the inn. “Do you think this stuff is safe? Should we really let Arthur drink this?”

“Eh, it should be fine.” Jason shrugged, plucking the vial from my hands and bringing it close to his eyes. “She’s a healer, it’s her job to help.”

“But she didn’t require any money…” I trailed off. That wasn’t a strong point, but it was enough to make me hesitant; the whole you get what you paid for deal.

“So she’s a hippie who doesn’t care about that stuff. It doesn’t matter. Right now this is Arthur’s only hope.” He gave me a look.

“I guess, but still-” I tried to argue, but a yell came from down the street, interrupting me. We both glanced toward the yell, spotting an angry group of people waving sharp objects and farming tools in the air, right outside of the inn. Wide-eyed and curious, Jason and I rushed down the street, just in time to catch wisps of the yelling.

“We can’t let these wolves control us!” One man bellowed.

“We need to rid ourselves of these pests!” A woman called.

“Daddy hathn’t come back from the foretht! Thomeone hath to thave him!” A young child with a lisp cried. I glanced to Jason worriedly. Things were getting heated quickly.

“Ladies, gentleman, calm down, calm down!” A man at the front of the inn shouted, waving his arms. No one seemed to hear him, for they all continued their frantic screaming. I watched as the man leaped onto a nearby crate and bring his cupped hands to his mouth.

“SHUT YOUR YAPPING AND LISTEN YOU DAMNED FOOLS!” He roared. The voices hushed and the man nodded, satisfied.

“There now, Ladies and Gentleman, I agree that the wolves have been a nuisance for far too long. I propose we gather a search team to venture into the forest to find the pack, and rid ourselves of these beasts once and for all.” He projected grandly. When there were only a few whispers, the man sighed.

“Come now, come now, are there no volunteers? The wolves can be beaten. They’re foolish animals, and we are the great human beings, who can think for ourselves. Would we sit by and watch as these beasts fest on our food and torment our flock, our wives, our children?” He pleaded.

“NO!” The men in the crowd shouted, causing the women and children to beam.

“Will you ride with me to the forest? To protect the land that is rightfully ours?” The man cheered, his eyes wide and face flushed.

“YES!” The vibrant cry from everyone echoed down the street.

“And will you fight for the ones you treasure dearly? Will you protect them from these monsters?” The man egged on, his face beet red.

“Yeah!” A cry came from behind me. I whirled around, my mouth dropping as my gaze fell onto Jason, who was raising his hand into the air. His eyes were trained onto the man and I followed his gaze, mortified. The man standing on the box looked surprised by the sound. He scanned the crowd until his gaze met Jason’s. He beamed, his golden hair falling into his eyes as he motioned for Jason to join him.

“You there, boy, you’ll help us with the wolves, won’t you?” He brushed his hair aside.

“I will!” Jason pushed past me, shoving the vial into my hands and making his way to the man. “I will do anything to help!” He beamed at the crowd, but sent a piercing look toward me. I took a step back, aghast at his behavior.

“Jason?” I mouthed, frowning at him.

“Atta boy!” The man gave him a thunk on the back. Jason puffed his chest proudly. “You’ll make your ma and pa proud!” The man turned to the rest of the mob and raised his arms into the air. “Together, we can save this town! Together, we can beat these wolves! Who’s with me?”

“WE ARE!” The whole group cried, screaming and hollering with glee.

“Excellent! Then everyone, follow me!” The man jumped from his crate, giving Jason a pat on the back as he moved to the front of the mob, ushering them to follow. I rushed over to Jason, giving him an outraged look.

“How? What are you? Jason!” I stuttered as he walked with the group. I struggled to keep up.

“I’m going to prove to you that I’m not as helpless as that bastard of the knight thinks I am.” Jason smirked. “What’s that twat doing right now? Laying helplessly in bed, but not me, I’m going to make a change. You watch, Artemis.” My heart pounded in my chest as his words slammed into me.

“Jason, that’s ridiculous.” I scowled, feeling a bit panicked. Wanting to help people was one thing, but putting yourself in danger for a petty rivalry that I still didn’t understand made my stomach churn.

“You think so now.” Jason shrugged, “but you wait here with your knight, and I can prove to you that I’m better than him. I’ll return in the morning having slain all the wolves.” He shot me a smile before hurrying into the crowd. I tried to follow, shouting angrily for him to come back, but my cries fell to the ground, unheard or simply ignored. With a frustrated growl I ran back to the inn.

The young barmaids were still serving half-drunken men when I ran through the door. They offered me gentle smiles, but I found myself too upset to return the favor. Instead, I flew up the staircase and down the hall, halting outside of Arthur’s room.

“Arthur! Arthur! I need your help!” I cried, pounding on the door, clutching the vial to my chest. There was a groan from inside, and my heart dropped stomach.

“Arthur? Arthur are you alright!?” I called, the panic in my voice rising. There was a grunt, and Arthur’s weak voice came from inside the room.

“I’m fine, Artemis…..” he moaned. I shot my knocking hand to the doorknob and tried to turn it, but it was locked shut. My breath caught in my throat.

“I’m ok, I’m fine, just-” He paused, letting out a cry of pain. I jumped, tears welling in my eyes as I slammed my hand into the door, sending a sharp crack down the hallway.

“Arthur, you aren’t ok! Tell me what’s wrong!” I screamed, my voice high-pitched as I tried to keep it level. Hot tears slid down my cheeks as I kicked the door.

“Artemis, please,” his voice was getting fainter and fainter. My hand quivered as I brought it to my lips, holding back a sob. I hated feeling useless. I hated knowing that Arthur was suffering because of me, and that soon Jason would be too. I hated being unable to help them. I hated it all.

“Artemis, I just need some time to be alone, please,” his voice was shaking as he begged.

“Fine!” I cried, gripping the vial tightly. I gave his door one more kick before turning on my heels and yanking the key out of my pockets. I unlocked the door to my room and slipped inside quickly, slamming the door behind me loudly.

Once I was inside my room, I tossed the key and vial onto the lumpy mattress. I leaned against the door, feeling the tears rise in my eyes and steadily follow each other down my cheeks. I sniffled as I fell to the floor, bringing my knees to my chest as I pressed myself to the door.

As I cried, I scolded myself. I reprimanded myself for being such an idiot, for being unable to help people, for making Arthur and Jason so upset, the list went on and on, and I felt bad for every part of it.

After a few minutes of just letting it all out in a storm of salt water, a darkness overcame the room. I glanced up, running my hand underneath my leaking nose as I glanced out the window, meeting a dark sky riddled with stars and a full moon. There was a distant howl coming from the direction of the forest, that sent shivers down my spine.

As a few more minutes passed, my tears slowed to a stop, leaving a crusty line of salt on my cheeks. I sat for a minute, still too upset to get up, but when my stomach growled I pushed myself to my shaking feet. I glanced at my bed, where my things lay scattered. With a quivering exhale, I shuffled over to my bed and occupied myself by looking around my satchel. The food plenish was low, but Chase had snuck in a pouch of coins in the bottom corner of the bag. I peered inside, looking at the disorganized pile of gold, silver, and copper coins with a frown. I had no idea what each coin was worth, but I thought I would have enough for a warm meal.

With a few gold coins in hand, I wandered toward the door, my mouth starting to water as I thought about getting a warm soup with some bread to dip in it. My stomach gurgled at the thought and I eagerly grabbed the doorknob, ready to leave when a thought stopped me; Arthur.

Glancing back at the bed, my eyes fell onto the green vial. He really did need his medicine, and soup would be perfect for him if he was ill. I, however, wasn’t sure I was ready to try to talk to him again. I turned back to the door, tightening my grip around the knob determinedly.

He’s sick, he needs help. The thought ran through my mind. He needs you. It’s your fault he’s in so much pain. He saved your life and this is how you repay him? I groaned inwardly, hating myself. With my heart beating rapidly, I released the knob and swiped the vial from the bed. Without another thought, I exited my room and took a step across the hall. I knocked gently on his door.

“Arthur? I have your medicine, and I’m going to get dinner, is there anything in particular that you’d like?” I called softy, my voice void of energy. Silence was all that greeted me and I felt my heart flip with disappointment.

“Arthur?” I tried one more time, a bit louder. Still no reply came and I let out a sigh. I tucked the vial into my pocket and shuffled away, heading to the bar with an empty stomach and a heavy heart.