Jenny: Catch Your Breath

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"Meg!" Coming to himself just in time, Artos reached out and snagged the mare's flying reins. He hit the ground, vision blurring with the spinning dark, but he had the mare. She squealed and shuddered, standing over him with the arrows hissing round her head. Then instinct jolted her, and she stepped astride him, shielding his body with her bulk.

Gaius, where are you? He pinched his eyes shut and looked through the scrub. No Gaius. No, of course not. Gaius is at home. Breathe, Artos! Breathe! What is the damage done...?

He struggled upward to a sitting position, arm looped through Nutmeg's stirrup to hold himself steady. His leg showed up a bloody mess: the arrow had torn across the pommel, taking some leather with it, and had gouged through the inner of his thigh. Something was not moving, something had come undone. He tried to bring his leg around as he would to sit a horse's barrel and the muscles screamed in protest.

Something has been cut. But how badly?

Arm still through the stirrup, the mare glancing round and round anxiously for help, he thrust his first two fingers into the gash and probed, teeth on edge, to assess the damage. The blood was coming evenly and freely. Soon he was coated across his lap and up to his elbows in his own blood.

"Artos!"

A shout went up from above him and someone crashed to his side. Through the sweat and blood he saw Caleb's face.

"Can't move it," Artos ground out. "They've cut something. Get me up! Meg! Meg! My sword - !" As Caleb hooked his arms under his own, the mare shuffled into the leaves and hauled up his heavy soiled sword by her teeth. It was wretched work getting him back astride her; he left her flank a red mess, but at last he was on, gripping with one leg, the other uselessly dangling. "Put my foot in the stirrup, Caleb," Artos ordered. The other made no protest, but even he flinched as he slid the throbbing foot into the stirrup.

"This is not going to be beautiful," he murmured.

"No, sir. What now, sir?"

Now he wanted Gaius, but he could not have him. Leg gone out or not, he could not leave a job unfinished. "Burn them out," he told Caleb. "I'll be right beside you. But burn them, Caleb. Burn the vermin out."

"Yes, sir!"

~~~~

The air had gone sticky from the sun, but in the shadow of the burnside willows it was pleasant. The Guttersnipe lay in the shallows, half-dozing in the warmth. Gwenhywfar watched her face intently and sometimes caught a little flicker of something passing over her brow, as though she dreamed and was not fond of the dreaming.

What do you see in there, child? she wondered. You are so small, a mere pawn. Can you see the movements the Great Ones are making all around you? Can you see how the world is turning, and how we turn the world? And what do you think - she looked round at the sylvan quiet - of the world that we are making? Well, perhaps it is not so finished as to be seen just yet.

She broke off her thoughts as Domitia approached. She heard the girl out, and nodded, but asked instead, "How did he seem? Is he well this morning?"

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Meg is quite amazing. Fetching Artos's sword?

"This isn't going to be beautiful" made me smile. It reminded me of "This isn't going to be big on dignity!" :-)

I dearly hope Artos hasn't cut the femeral artery... From what I hear, it's as bad as the juggular.

~Lys

Jenny said...

No, he hasn't. An essential muscle to horseback riding has been damaged, but not irreparably.

That's just part of the glory of those horses: they're trained like that from wee spindly things. ^.^ And I thought that line might make you chuckle.

~Jenny

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