A tale of Dragons
Artemis and Atticus
“There weren’t always dragons in the valley,” her father’s voice echoes through her thoughts as Aurora traverses the mountainous terrain. She looks up at the towering Mt. Aure with trepidation. Her village elders may think she’s ready for the journey but she’s not so sure.
“If only you were here,” her voice, naught but a whisper, carries through the stillness of the forest and a bird rustles through the trees at the sudden noise. Its wings carry it high into the brisk morning sky and Aurora follows it until it disappears behind the trees. The interaction makes her feel as empty as ever and she continues to retreat into the past. Her father’s dulcet tones fill the silence with sweet memory and his voice resonates between the trees as she remembers the tale of dragons.
Artemis is as beautiful and wild as the goddess of the hunt from whom she attributes her namesake. Her silver hair paints a trail through the trees like shooting stars on a dark moonless night, but suddenly her dance comes to halt. Atticus, admittedly distracted by his wife dancing effortlessly through the forest, swiftly shifts his weight onto one foot to avoid colliding with her. He swivels on his left foot changing his momentum into a graceful spin and narrowly avoids his wife as he deftly skids to a stop. If Artemis is the moon, majestic and blindingly beautiful, illuminating the quiet night sky. Atticus can only be described as her cold but loyal shadow. His raven hair and ruby red eyes perfectly complement her light with subtle darkness. His passion for his two girls, his entire purpose in life, knows no equal in all the land.
Artemis gently brushes her husband’s face, “There has always been but one thing you enjoy more than the thrill of the hunt.” She flashes him a knowing smile. “Perhaps we can wait until after we catch our prey, my love?”
“It’ll be difficult, but for you, I suppose I can manage.” Atticus bows in an exaggerated gesture. As he lifts his head Artemis can’t contain her laughter after seeing the ridiculous grin spread across his hooded face.
“You truly are an ugly creature!” She exclaims.
Faking a pout Atticus replies, “I’m offended, surely there was a ‘my’ missing from that statement.”
“Oh, of course. You're my ugly creature, all mine,” Artemis declares. She throws her arms around his slender shoulders reaching up affectionately and pecks his cheek with a quick kiss. Atticus replies with a smile even more ridiculous than the last.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
As her gaze falls from her husband’s face, again, Artemis remembers the reason she signaled him to stop in the first place. “Look, my love, this is peculiar, to say the least.” Nodding towards an enormous tree completely uprooted from the ground followed by another desecrated in the same manner. Walking over to the toppled Eldritch tree, Atticus notices bright stains painted on the neighboring foliage. The liquid is almost glowing and has an undeniable sense of foreboding associated with it. This blood was never meant to be spilled.
“It seems that whatever tore up these trees is mortally wounded.” Something feels wrong, Atticus thinks. He decides to keep the thought to himself for now.
“What could have done this to an Eldritch tree though? I know of nothing in this forest, predator or not, that is capable of such a feat.”
“Hmm, perhaps a treant?" Atticus looks at the tree quizzically. "But they would never cause this much destruction willingly and I know of none which reside this close to civilization. Or even a large Naga...but their territories are much farther to the south. They couldn’t possibly survive a winter here,” Atticus states. He debunks both theories out loud for Artemis to hear. “The spirit of the forest…” He says under his breath, muttering it more to himself than to anyone else. There are only a handful of mortals who have ever seen the elusive spirits. In fact, most humans write them off as mere myth and legend. The elves, and certain individuals like Aurora’s parents, know otherwise.
“Nevertheless there was a fight here. And there's evidence of a struggle between two undeniably powerful creatures. I can still feel the remnants of immensely powerful magical essences here. The only thing capable of emitting mana like this is a spirit of overwhelming strength, but that makes no sense. Nothing, creature or humanoid, would ever challenge a forest spirit!” Artemis says. It would be suicide, and yet something managed to hurt it. Not to mention the fact that they are peaceful beings and are not thought to interact with anyone or anything directly other than sustaining the forest’s growth…” Artemis theorizes aloud.
Atticus’s gaze meets his wife’s and they come to the same conclusion simultaneously. “The only possibility is that it’s fighting to protect this forest. I truly hope we’re wrong. If our enemy is an entity strong enough to wound a forest spirit this could end very, very badly…” The uncharacteristic waver in his voice betrays his desire to hide his inner terror from his wife. Revealing the dread he feels for the people and creatures that call this forest their home.
Artemis wears a mournful smile as she slowly walks over to her husband. She reaches up and cradles his head between her calloused hands. “You really are a softy beneath that gruff exterior of yours.” One of the many reasons why I absolutely adore you, she thinks to herself. Pulling him down to her, Artemis’s lips are a spark that ignites Atticus back to reality.
As she pulls away Atticus reaches out and pulls her into a warm embrace. “Your ability to draw me away from the brink never ceases to amaze me,” he speaks, his speech muffled by her hair. Atticus positions her face in front of his and looks into her eyes longingly, “If only we could stay entwined like this eternally...I could drown in your gaze forever.” This particular eternity passes in mere seconds. Fingers entwined Atticus rests his forehead against hers. “Let’s follow the trail. We have a duty to this forest and its people.”
Artemis smiles as she takes a moment to give thanks to the Goddess of the hunt for placing this beautiful man into her life. She kisses him on the hand, “Of course my love. Let’s prevent a disaster.” Unease is a foreign emotion for Atticus and he tries his best not to let it show. Artemis can read the exhilaration in her husband’s crimson eyes, yet it’s mixed with something she’s never seen before, which worries her more than she cares to admit. She darts off in the direction of the spirit, following in its destructive wake. Atticus is in tow two steps behind her, her ever-loyal shadow, her other half. She masks her worry with her faith, with Atticus by her side she knows they can prevail. Together, their potential is limitless and their possibilities are endless.