I had been in the forest for a few days, searching for life of some sort. There hadn’t been any towns, or houses, or even people. And I was so hungry. I only had a dagger, and I didn’t know how to hunt. I didn’t even know how to survive out here, and I wasn’t doing very good at it. I was sore and hungry and dirty. And my back was killing me, from an infection that had made its way into the wound.
I kept walking, though, even when I felt the pain shoot up my back. I couldn’t see straight since I hadn’t had any water for a few days either, so I was dehydrated, and delirious. So delirious that I didn’t know when I had walked into someone.
I fell onto my back, grunting in pain as my wounds hit the ground. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t. I heard someone say, “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
I looked up, my eyes clearing for a second, to see a woman, about eighteen years old. She had pitch black hair, and piercing green eyes. She reached out a hand, and my first instinct is to reach for my dagger. Which had somehow been thrown across the small clearing that I had wandered into. There were two tents in the clearing.
The woman called out, “Rowan, get out here! I need your help!”
As she yelled a man, about the same age as the woman, came out of one of the tents. He had blonde hair, and dark grey eyes. He looked eerily like Camden, but he had darker blonde hair than Camden.
Camden. I really missed him. He was my friend, and he would be ridiculous trying to get me to relax. To laugh. He was never successful though. I had perfected my poker face.
The man, Rowan, came over, and talked to the woman. I heard the name Artemis, but nothing else of the conversation. I was fading in and out of consciousness, the last few days of no food, no water, and endless pain catching up to me.
I felt someone picking me up. I didn’t know who. Every time they took a step pain shot up my back, the tempting darkness pulling me down. I tried to fight it. I couldn’t trust these people. I didn’t know them, and they could be Mordecai’s allies for all I know. But I lost the fight. And the darkness welcomed me with opened arms, which I fell into in relief as well as fear.
I woke up to muttering. I was still groggy and weak, but I tried to move away from the muttering. I quietly patted around me to see if I could find a weapon of some sort. I was unsuccessful. Then I hear, “I think she’s waking up. Go and get her some water.”
I heard rustling, and then the zipper of a tent being unzipped. Then gentle, calloused hands shaking my bare shoulder. Wait a second… a bare shoulder. My shoulder was bare and that meant my scars were on full display. I grabbed the hand, and twisted. The person cried out in pain, and I opened my eyes. It was the woman. She hit a pressure point on my wrist making me let go of her.
“I’m trying to help you,” she said, anger in her voice, “So will you please stop trying to hurt us?”
I pushed her away and tried to sit up, but my back screamed in pain. I winced slightly, and slowly laid back down. I asked, “Don’t you work for Mordecai?”
She shook her head in confusion, “Who are you talking about? I don’t know anyone named Mordecai. Me and Rowan were taking a vacation. We’re guards.”
I was confused now. Where was I?
“Where am I?” I asked.
“About three miles from the Academy,” she said. “Me and Rowan just left a day ago, and we haven’t moved from here since yesterday.”
My eyes widened, “We’re three miles from the Academy? What direction?”
“South,” she said, pointing, what I think, is south. So that means we were still in the north. Closer to the Academy. “Do you want us to take you there?”
“No,” I said, “I can get there myself.”
I tried to get up again only to collapse back onto the bed. I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t have the strength to even get myself off of the ground. Rowan came back seconds after, a jug of water in hand. The woman grabbed a glass, and poured water into my mouth. I couldn’t even hold the damn cup. I could feel tears pricking my eyes. I pushed them back.
I was not weak. I was strong. Maybe not physically, but I had escaped Mordecai with nothing but my will and fire.
“Rowan,” the woman said, getting Rowan’s attention, “I think we should take her back to the Academy.” She turned to me. “What’s your name?”
They probably all knew who I was just by name, but I told her anyway, “Blaze.”
Her eyes widened once she realized who I was. She turned back to Rowan, who also had surprise on his face. “You’re Blaze, part of the Chosen?” I nodded my head. “Well, I’m Artemis, and me and Rowan are taking you back to the Academy right now. Rowan, start packing up. It’ll only take us a few hours to get back.”
Rowan nodded and exited the tent. Artemis helped me up, and walked me out of the tent. Now that it was coming back to me it made sense that I had heard her name when I passed out.
She sat me up, and led me out of the tent, setting me down against a tree. In just the right position to see them pack up. I was useless, and all I could do was watch them pack up. When they were done they walked over to me, backpacks on, and more or less picked me up. I had one arm over each of their shoulders, so that I could walk between but I had enough support that if my weak legs gave out I wouldn’t collapse to the ground.
We walked for hours, taking a few breaks for food and water. I was so hungry, but they kept me to small portions of food, obviously guessing I hadn’t been properly fed in a while. And I knew I couldn’t pig out on food after not eating for so long, but I was so hungry.
When we made it to the Academy I was out of it. I was exhausted, and all I could focus on was staying upright. Putting one foot in front of another. Artemis and Rowan told a guard to warn the nurses we were coming. When we got to the doors there were nurses and doctors crowding it, a stretcher in front of them ready for me. And I couldn’t refuse it because I couldn’t fight them.
They rolled me into the Academy, and just before I closed my eyes in exhaustion I saw him.