Hey everyone! Merry Christmas or whatever other holliday that you celebrate!! 😀 Sooo, this is not really christmassy.. But you guys have been waiting on it for quite a while. So here it is, my contrubution to the christmas present madness: a new part of Artemis and Elaine their story. Hope you enjoy the story, the festivities and that you have a wonderful 2017!
Artemis was looking at the orange sky through the castle window. The sun was coming up and though it promised to be a beautiful day, right now it was still freezing. The cold made her even happier to be in the warmth of the castle though and in Elaine’s arms.
The princess was sitting on Elaine’s lap, leaning back against her. She loved feeling the embrace of the lady’s arms, cradling her. It made her feel safe and secure. She trusted Elaine to always protect her, but only with Elaine’s arms around her, she felt completely invincible.
Artemis shifted into another position and let out a content sigh.
“Y’know… You make a great comfy chair,” Artemis told Elaine.
Elaine chuckled, “Maybe I should become a professional.”
“Nah, I’d rather keep you all for myself,” the princess said while snuggling even deeper into Elaine’s embrace.
Since the duel, the two women had settled into a comfortable pattern together. Every morning they would have breakfast in the great hall. Artemis wasn’t fond of eating there, but Elaine insisted as she was of the opinion that it was an important part of being the heir to the throne. It was usually okay though, as the whispers had died down since Elaine first arrived. People had started to get used to the lady’s presence and as they began to get to know her better, they began to respect her as the woman of great skill and power she was. Elaine was a formidable leader and the people recognised her love for her country and subjects and admired it.
After breakfast, Artemis and Elaine would train together. They usually switched weapons every day, but they would always do sword training. Elaine was the best teacher Artemis could’ve hoped for when it came to sword fighting and she was getting better by the day. They both enjoyed each other’s presence while training and liked to have a little bit of competition once in a while. It kept them both on their toes.
When they were done training, they would both go their own way. Elaine went to deal with her duties as a lady. She was usually found in the room that had become her office, since she had been staying at the castle more permanently, behind her big wooden desk filled with organised stacks of official looking papers. In the mean time, Artemis went to follow her lessons. The lessons differed from day to day, but mostly Artemis just thought they were dull, extremely dull. She really didn´t see the importance of learning a dozen foreign languages, or how to properly greet someone in some faraway country she´d never been and would probably never go. The princess would much rather be out riding, relaxing or doing something adventurous.
Artemis and Elaine usually didn´t meet again until dinner, which they also ate in the great hall most of the time. With dinner, Elaine would sometimes let Artemis convince her to eat in private though. After they ate, the two women would do something for themselves; walk through the palace gardens, go for a ride or spend the evening in each other’s arms.
Right now, they were using the spare time they had left before breakfast to just relax and be together for a moment, enjoying each other’s presence.
“Elaine?” Artemis’ voice sounded hesitant.
“Can’t we just skip my lessons and training for today and go to the lake?”
“No, love, we can’t,” the lady responded, friendly, but with a firm undertone. “Your lessons are too important. You will need them one day.”
“But, it’s just one afternoon. Surely I won’t miss anything important if I take just one day off,” the princess said with a pout.
“It may seem that way, but one day you will be in a foreign country trying to keep the peace and then one little bit of information can be vital. It could be as little as a smile while business that could be the difference between peace and war. I know some countries where smiling during business is interpreted as calling your business partner weak. You’d think you are being friendly and they would think you are mocking them. It is important to learn those distinctions.”
“I guess,” Artemis said sulking a little, but not pushing it any further.
They sat in silence as the whole palace begun to awaken and bubble with life and soon after a servant came in.
“Breakfast is almost ready, your highness, my lady. Will you be needing any assistance?”
“No, tha—“ Elaine had started to respond, when the princess interrupted her.
“Yes, please. Prepare a bath and send someone in to groom me.”
The servant let out a, “yes, your highness,” and quickly disappeared again.
Elaine looked at Artemis who just smiles and shrugged.
“I felt like bathing today.”
Elaine looked a bit baffled but she said nothing and started going about her usual morning routine.
“Better get going then,” she said to Artemis who had plopped down on the bed landing a swat on her bottom. “They’ll be back with your bath any minute.”
“Have you seen the princess?” Elaine asked a maid, who was milling around in the kitchen.
The maid stopped for a second to answer, “no m’lady, she hasn’t been here, as far as I know,” and then quickly continued rushing around in the kitchen, trying to keep everything running smoothly.
Elaine sighed and walked away again, looking for the next person she could question about Artemis’ whereabouts. Elaine was worried, the princess didn’t seem to have been seen by anyone for the last few hours and she was nowhere to be found.
When the lady turned around the corner, she bumped into another woman who was hurriedly walking through the castle, probably doing exact the same thing as Elaine was doing, looking for Artemis. It was the princess’ teacher and she was wearing a very worried expression.
“Oh, excuse me, I’m so sorry my lady,” the woman said.
“It’s fine Elizabeth. I presume you have no idea where the princess is either?” This last sentence was said more as a statement than a question, as Artemis was supposed to be at her lessons right now and that Elizabeth was looking for her obviously meant that the princess had failed to show.
“No, sadly, I do not. I was hoping that you might know,” Elizabeth said, running her hand through her hair.
The teacher’s hair was blond and wavy. She was small, a lot less tall than Elaine, but all muscle. You could see she was an old woman, but you couldn’t feel it. Her spirit was still as young and fresh as ever. Her eyes were keen, but right now they were mostly worried. You could see she was truly concerned for the young princess.
“She hasn’t said anything to you to indicate where she might have gone?” Elizabeth asked.
Elaine frowned, “I have an idea, I’m just hoping I’m incorrect.”
Elaine was thinking back to her conversation with Artemis that morning. She was getting more certain of where the young woman had disappeared to by the minute; although she really hoped Artemis hadn’t gone out to the lake on her own.
“I think I can find her,” Elaine told Elizabeth.
She then turned towards a maid who was nearby, “could you ask the stable boys to ready my horse?”
“Yes my Lady, right away.”
Artemis dove underwater again, swimming to the other side of the lake. It was beautiful weather. The sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly. The water was cold, but as long as Artemis didn’t stay in too long, it was divine. She would let herself dry up and bake in the sun and when she was hot again, she’d go back into the water to cool off.
It was a beautiful lake, decorated by a clear blue waterfall at the side and surrounded by the deep, rich green of the forest.
Artemis let out a content sigh. It was great to take a break for a while. This lake always gave her a safe and relaxed feeling and she could use that right now. Elaine always acted like Artemis didn’t take and understand her responsibilities. Artemis could understand why her love got that feeling, but she didn’t feel like Elaine understood. Slowly, Artemis felt the weight of the crown being pushed onto her and she understood what it was asking from her. That was exactly what made her so scared. How could she ever rule a kingdom? She was too young, but she knew there was a war upcoming. Her father tried to hide the gravity of the attacks from her, writing them off as the cattle robbers that were just being extra violent in their attempts this year, but she knew better and she knew it could be any time now. She let herself float of her back, the thoughts milling through her head like an angry swarm of bees. Usually coming here would have silenced the thoughts for a bit, but it seemed that today, even the lake couldn’t calm her. She tried to relax and swam another few laps.
A rustling from a nearby bush drove Artemis out of the world of her thoughts and into the present. Out of instinct, she instantly dove under water and swam to a collection of rocks that would hide her from the intruder’s sight.
After the initial shock she had to laugh at her own scared behaviour. It was probably just Elaine who had discovered where she went and came after her. She was about to just swim back into the open when she heard a man’s voice calling out to her.
“I know you’re here princess. Why don’t you come out and play with me?” It sounded crude and scary and Artemis thanked the gods that she had hid because of what she had considered a ‘silly instinct’ a moment ago.
Artemis couldn’t see the man, but his horrible cold sneer had said enough. She felt her stomach drop. How could she have been so stupid? She was all on her own and she had gone away without telling anybody where she went. If something happened to her now, no one would have a clue as to where to look for her. And her weapons were all on the shore, she had nothing to defend herself with.
Artemis was absolutely petrified. She could feel her hands shaking when she concentrated on then. Mostly she just didn’t feel her body at all though, she felt numb. Her mind was reeling, and her emotions and thoughts were creating a whirlwind around her, as if they were attacking a threat. Only she was not the threat. Right now, she was her own only hope and she’d be damned if she didn’t go down with a fight. She might be feeling like a scared little girl right now, but she couldn’t act like one. She couldn’t let her emotions get to her.
Artemis pictured Elaine in her head. What would she say if she were here? She would probably tell the princess to toughen up and keep calm. She’d admonish her for not thinking rationally, for giving in to her fear and hiding like a scared little girl, instead of fighting like the warrior Elaine knew Artemis was.
Artemis imagined all these words and much more being spoken to her in Elaine’s warm, calm voice. She was so longing to hear that voice again. What if she never did?
The icy voice called out for her again. The voice sounded sing songy this time, like a ghost song or one of those songs that they sing in wars. “Come out, come out wherever you are, princess. You can’t hide forever.”
That moment, Artemis got so frightened that everything went numb and her instincts took over completely. She quickly scanned around her for anything she could use as a weapon. A sturdy, fairly straight branch caught her eye and a sharp rock. It wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but it was better than nothing. Slowly, she could feel herself turn over a switch in her head, she was no longer a helpless girl, but a warrior ready to fight for her life with the little she had.
The voice had sounded a lot closer this time, so she was sure she was running out of time.
It turned out she was right. Just a moment after she thought that, the man came around the corner, charging right in. Artemis was ready though and she fought back with all her might. She was using a small branch she picked up as an improvised staff to block the man’s attacks and deal out a blow once in a while. And the stone was being utilized to try and do some serious damage to this hideous man, instead of just getting in a few blows.
Artemis was on the verge of losing the fight though. The man was clearly not a great fighter, certainly not better than the princess; anyone with even a bit of an eye for that sort of thing could have seen that. What the attacker did have was a very big advantage. He was fully clothed and wearing protective gear, where Artemis was only wearing the undergarments in which she had been swimming. More importantly though, where Artemis had a branch and a stone, he had a sword and probably a few daggers as well as other weapons.
Artemis did a wild attempt to attack the man, having been on defence for too long, but she shouldn’t have. He blocked all her attempts and before she had time to recuperate, he attacked. He managed to create a big wound in Artemis’ leg with his attack and the princess was trying hard to keep herself standing up, but she knew she had nearly lost the battle.
When she finally did fall down, the man just grabbed her and put her over his shoulder. “We are going to have so much fun,” he said with a sinister laugh.
That was when Artemis first heard the hooves of a horse that was running towards them and she prayed it was Elaine who had come for her. A moment later, the man seemed to hear them too, as he was suddenly in a big hurry. That soothed Artemis a little since that meant it were not friends of her captor.
The horse raced into the clearing as the man was putting her over the back of his own steed and a moment later the princess could hear swords clashing.
It was over very soon, with a blood curling scream coming from the man’s lips. Right after that Elaine was next to her.
“Is he dead?” Artemis asked, though she was fairly sure what the answer would be.
“Yes he is,” Elaine said, her voice grim, “I figured you’d prefer that.” Her voice filled with more warmth again as she asked, “are you okay?”
Artemis groaned, “I think so, my leg isn’t though.”
The wound on Artemis’ leg was deep and filth from the dirt that had found its way inside it. The filth was slowly getting less and though that was a good thing, the reason behind it was not. The princess was losing blood at an alarming speed.
Elaine got some cloth out of her saddle bag to wrap the Artemis’ wound tightly, to try and stop or at least slow down the bleeding.
“We need to get you back to the castle. I really don’t know what you were thinking coming out here alone. You know it’s not safe for you outside the castle.” Elaine held Artemis closely as she said this. “You were brave though dear, a true warrior even without a sword, you did well.”
They sat like that for a moment before Elaine could bring herself to let go of her love and prepare them for their ride home. Elaine hoisted the dead body over the one of their horses and the mounted the other horse together. The man’s steed would have to stay for now, but they would send someone to fetch it.
Elaine took the reins of Artemis’ horse, which was the one they were riding, because she knew that that way, she wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the other horse would follow, she knew her horse would follow her wherever she wanted her to.
With that, they were on their way back to the castle, the two women together and a horse with a dead body lying over it following them.