The World of Stories and Fables Chapter 11

Katy Abbe, Columnist

After Arthur left, I quickly got to work. I jumped from my bed and began making a mental list of everything I’d need. I would need food, water, a change of clothes, and the sword. That was basically it, right? I was confident that I could have Gilgamesh beaten within a day. No problem.

I started my search at the closet in my room. There wasn’t much to be found, except for my t-shirt and jeans and a few other simple outfits that Arthur must have purchased for me. Curiously, I pulled out two dresses that were simply made. They appeared to be sacks that once held potatoes with random seams and embroidery. I suppose they had character and with it a sort of charm, but I would never wear them.

With a heavy sigh, I returned the outfits to the closet and scanned the room. There wasn’t much I could use, there was the nightstand, the practically empty wardrobe, and the bed with the sword under the covers. I did not have much to work with.

I began pacing the room, wondering what I should do. I wanted to slip away before Arthur knew I was awake, but I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere with only a sword.

Suddenly, the scent of bacon wafted into my nose. I raised an eyebrow and made my way over to the door. Carefully, I peeked out and the scent of crispy meat and the sound of crackling oil emanated from the kitchen. My mouth began to water and I wanted nothing more than to run into the kitchen and irritate Arthur as he cooked, but, I needed to get supplies and get the heck out of there before Arthur could be the wiser. Arthur…

My gaze darted across the hallway and landed onto the door that led to Arthur’s room. He had to have an abundance of clothes I could borrow, and maybe something to carry supplies with. He was a knight, he had to have something. With a cautious glance towards the kitchen, I carefully glided down the hallway and slipped into Arthur’s room.

Arthur’s room was horrifically neat. The floor was empty and everything had a clear place. His bed lay in the corner, tightly pressed against the wall, with the sheets so tight you could drop a dragon on it and the poor thing wouldn’t need its wings to fly. His desk held a tidy little writing area with a large stack of parchment on one corner with an ink bottle and feathered pen sitting next to it. A few feet away from the desk I found what I was looking for; an old wardrobe.

I ran over to the red wood dresser and flung open the double doors. I let out a squeal of delight as my gaze fell onto the colorful array of tunics, pants and the few cloaks he had stocked. I ran my fingers against the soft fabrics and inhaled the comfortable scent of pine and lavender. I hoped that Arthur wouldn’t mind too much if I grabbed a couple.

Footsteps echoed down the hall and I felt my heart pound as I swiped a couple of tunics and pants. Knowing a belt could prove useful, I also grabbed a brown sash of cloth to hold up the trousers. The footsteps grew louder and I frantically searched for a place to hide. I thought about hiding in the wardrobe, but that would be cramped and hard to explain if I was caught. I could cower beneath the desk, but that would be easy to catch. The doorknob began to turn and with a sharp inhale I jumped behind the bed and prayed that Arthur wouldn’t stay in his room for long.

The door creaked open and I felt my palms grow sweaty as I held my breath. Soft footsteps tapped in the room and my heart fell into my stomach as a shadow loomed over me. I froze, not daring to look up, and quickly tried to process a viable excuse for rummaging through his things when I was supposed to be sick. Nothing came to my blank mind as sweat formed on my brow.

“Artemis?” Chase’s young voice said curiously. “What are you doing?” I whirled around with my heart pounding. Chase! Chase was the one who caught me!

“Ah!” I cried, moving to my knees and wrapping my arms around Chase’s bewildered figure. God, I thought, if Arthur had caught me I would have been dead. I pulled back from Chase and beamed at the child; the child who was constantly trying to prove his bravery, the child who was thrilled with a girl fighting a dragon, the child who could help me slip away without his brother being the wiser.

“Chase! I just dropped something, sorry about that!” I put on my most dazzling smile as I held out the tunic and pants. Chase tilted his head, holding my gaze carefully before smiling himself.

“Are you getting clothes for Arthur? Do you need help?” He hopped over to the wardrobe and opened it eagerly.

“Ah, no, no, that’s ok.” I said quickly, closing the door as he looked up at me with wide eyes. I met his gaze and knelt down. “I’m grabbing the clothes for me, but you can’t tell Arthur.”

“What? Why not?” Chase frowned.

“Well, I have a…” I paused, trying to think of the right word. What was it knights did to help people? “…a I have a quest- I have a quest!” I smiled once I recalled the word. “I have a quest and Arthur can’t know about it because he likes to be the one to go on quests.”

“Oh!” Chase smiled and gave a little jump. “So if Arthur finds out, he’ll make you stay home and go for you? He’s brave like that.” Chase crooned proudly.

“Yes, but remember the dragon? I’m just as brave and can go on my own quests. Right?” I forced a smile, silently pleading for the kid to side with me.

“You’re super brave, Artemis!” Chase beamed, his small teeth gleaming brightly. “You can do anything, just like Arthur!”

“Thank you,” I breathed out with relief, leaning down and giving him a hug. “I can do anything, and I want to go on this quest myself. But, I need your help.” I pulled back and gave him a serious look.

“I help you on your quest?!” Chase’s eyes widened to the size of bowls and his mouth dropped to the floor. “Arthur never lets me help him!”

“That’s right,” I nodded, feeling a bit bad for Chase. “But, I need your help here. I need you to get a few things for me, and to keep my quest a secret. Can you do that for me?”

“Yes!” Chase gave a jump. He paused, blushing as a thought came to him. With a solemn look. He brought his hand to his forehead and gave me a salute. “I promise to help you on your quest, Lady Artemis!” I stifled a giggle and gave a little curtsy.

“Thank you, Sir Chase, I am greatly indebted to you.” Chase beamed and quickly asked what I needed. I told him to grab me foods that travel well and something to hold supplies in. I told him to meet me back in my room and the little boy nodded excitedly.

While he ran off to the kitchen, I snuck back to my room to change. I closed the door softly behind my and quickly stripped and pulled on Arthur’s ocean blue tunic and his rustic brown pants. I tied the sash around my middle and looped it through the scabbard for easy access and travel. Just a little bit after I finished, there was a knock at the door. I ran over and was about to open the door when a voice came from the other side, causing my fingers to freeze.

“Artemis?” Arthur’s voice called gently. My heart thumped and I leaped across the room, stepping as lightly as I could and jumping into bed.

“Come in,” I called out as I brought the covers to my cheeks and slid down in bed. The door squeaked open and I offered a smile towards Arthur as my gaze darted to the door. In the corner of my eye, something pink caught my attention. My gaze flickered down to the nightgown I had left crumpled in a heap. My cheeks flushed as I quickly turned to Arthur, hoping that he wouldn’t notice it and hopefully not realize what I was planning to do.

“Are you feeling any better this morning?” Arthur asked gently, ambling over to my bed side with concern in his blue eyes. “Chase said you asked him to get you breakfast.”

“I did,” I nodded, my voice tight as I pulled the covers closer. “I’m a little hungry, but I think I’ll just sleep for the rest of the day.” I lied, painfully aware of the red creeping up my cheeks.

“Are you feeling any better?” Arthur sighed, kneeling down and brushing his hand against my forehead. My cheeks grew hotter and I looked away as he made a disgruntled noise. “You’re burning up, I’ll have to find some herbs at the market today…”

“I’ll be fine.” I forced out uneasily. “I’m just a little hot is all…”

“Then don’t have the covers so high.” Arthur reached for the sheets which I pulled out of his grasp.

“NO!” I cried frantically, pulling back into the bed and gripping the fabrics tightly. Arthur raised his eyebrows suspiciously and I avoided his gaze. My eyes darted to the nightgown on the floor and with a skipped heartbeat I quickly looked towards the window, but it was too late. Arthur had seen me react to the nightgown and he had followed my gaze to the crumpled dress.

“Ah-ahem,” Arthur let out nervously. Surprised, I turned back to him, raising an eyebrow as his cheeks took on a pinkish color. “M-my apologies, I did not realize you were…” he trailed off, glancing at the outline of my body in the sheets before quickly meeting my gaze.

“Arthur?” I asked, starting to catch onto why his cheeks were becoming redder and redder by the second. I bit my lips and felt my cheeks burn.

“I am so sorry,” Arthur got to his feet and headed stiffly to the door. “I didn’t- um, I’ll send Chase back with your foot, um, food, your food, I’ll send Chase back with your food- I-” He fumbled as he opened the door and head out. “I’m sorry.” He said quickly before disappearing and shutting the door behind him.

When he left, I stayed in bed for a few moments, with thousands of different thoughts running through my head. I should have been happy that he didn’t suspect I was hiding anything under the covers except for the parts of me that defined my gender, but I still couldn’t stop thinking about the way he blushed. I found it cute when he was flustered and unguarded. It was different from his usual proper and composed manor. The only problem was that when he was flustered, I couldn’t help but feel flustered, especially when I thought about how I was the reason he was flustered; more importantly my supposedly naked body was the reason.

I hid my face in my hands and groaned as my cheeks continued to burn. I didn’t remove my hands until Chase knocked on the door and clarified that it was him.

“Come in,” I sighed as I forced myself to roll out of bed. Chase opened the door and held out a satchel that was bulging with food. I gave him an excited smile and grabbed the other pair of clothing I borrowed from Arthur. Chase handed me the satchel and I neatly tucked the outfit next to the bag of breads, cured meat, and a chunk of cheese.

“Arthur went down to the market,” Chase explained brightly as I slung the satchel over my shoulder. “He won’t be back for awhile, when he comes back, I’ll cover for you!” He grinned brightly.

“Thanks, Chase.” I gave him another hug. “You’ve been a big help!” He beamed and I felt my heart well up with affection. He really was a sweetheart, him and his brother.

“Well, I better get going.” I gave his hair a ruffle and headed out of the room and into the hallway. Chase trailed behind me.

“When will you be back?” Chase asked as I made my way outside.

“I’m not sure.” I admitted, scanning the world outside and finding the forest in the horizon. “It might take a really long time.”

“Oh,” Chase frowned. “But you will come back, right?” I glanced back at Chase and held his gaze carefully. He looked so upset and pained, like he was scared of never seeing me again. But why?

“Sure, yes,” I gave him a gentle grin. “Of course I’ll be back. I promise.” I knew that I would do everything I could to keep that promise.

“Good,” Chase smiled, his emerald eyes glittering in the morning sunlight. He paused a moment, scanning my eyes curiously before running up to me. He gave me a quick hug, and was running off before I could return it.

“Good luck, Artemis!” Chase yelled as he ran back to his house. “Good luck on your quest!”

“Thank you!” I waved with a smile, waiting until he reached the house. He stopped by the door and waved, watching me eagerly. I readjusted my satchel and gave one more wave before heading to the forest.

As I hiked towards the ominous world of trees, I felt a bit of nervousness cause my heart to skip a beat. I had a large task ahead of me, and I wasn’t even sure if I could succeed, but I needed to try. I had to, but… With a worried glance, I looked back at Arthur and Chase’s home one last time. It was a speck on the horizon, a slowly dissolving image, but looking back I couldn’t help but feel relieved and safe. I knew that despite everything, the little boy who was still waiting by that speck, waving at me even as I grew smaller and smaller, was waiting for me to come back.

I knew that I would.