“I wonder when they’ll come looking for us.”
Oliver peeked over his shoulder, staring at the girl as she climbed easily behind him. Luka didn’t dare to make a comment, but the exasperation read easily in his eyes. Artemis was still convinced that they’d all be saved, a thought that no one else shared.
Incapable of coming up with a response, he turned silently towards the nonexistent path, driving a way through the trees and brush. It was all so alive, he wasn’t sure it was real. The ground constantly produced sprouts from the mulch underfoot, all of them of different varieties. As they trekked steadily up the incline towards the central peak, Oliver would note them for their uses. This one was tall, but easy to climb. That one’s leaves were broad and thick, good for making roofs. These branches were springy, but strong. Birds nibbled on the fruits of a particular tree; they were edible.
By the time the sun was overhead, they’d come to the base of the mountain. A steep cliff wall stood before them, blocking any further advancement. Artemis stepped up and tested the steadfastness of the stone makeup, and was dismayed when a large chunk of stone dropped easily with her touch.
“Climbing this would be quite the gamble,” she frowned, turning for them. “Should we try to see if there’s a way around? Or is the mountain not our real goal here?”
“Food is,” Luka nodded. “And a good place to establish ourselves would be nice.” He looked at Oliver at that moment, “but choosing a place would probably be in his jurisdiction.”
“It’d be better if we could find a place next to fresh water,” Oliver said, “resources we can get elsewhere.”
“Well, then, objective number one is to find fresh water. Which is irritating when you’re on an island surrounded by salty seas,” Artemis sighed, walking along the wall. “Maybe we should just follow this. We might eventually come to a place where run water off of the peak travels down to the ocean.”
The boys agreed soundly and began yet another journey along the cliff’s face.
“Do you think we’ll be able to get to the others in time?” Artemis asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?” Luka glanced over at her.
“It’s taken us long enough to get this far, but if we’re stuck in the middle of the forest at night, who’s to say we’d be alright? Not to mention that we’d have to navigate ourselves back to the camp without a map…and then get to whatever place we’ve found.”
“If it worries you so much, we’ll send Oliver to go get them. You were in Navigation, right?” he looked at the older boy with a high expectation.
“Not entirely…but I am experienced with this sort of thing,” Oliver was chuckling. “We were at South-West. The mountain was due North.” He pointed back in the direction they’d come from. “Making that West, and our entry point just about…” his finger motioned off between the trees, “there. Given the distance we’ve traveled, and the distance that we will travel, it shouldn’t be hard to create a route that points me directly back to the entry location. From there, the camp will be easy to find.” He gave another of those all-knowing smiles, never missing a step as they journeyed onward, “Even besides that, the stars should be out tonight, so I’ll be fine.”
Artemis scowled, “I suppose camping skills come in handy.”
“Organization is only good for times when there are things to organize,” Luka told her.
“So what were you detailed in, mister know-it-all?”
“Then were you a boy scout or something?”
“Not at all,” Luka shook his head. “I’m just…a boy.”
“Well, I’m not,” Oliver pointed out. “So just point all of that anger right on over to him.”
“Thanks a lot, buddy.”
With that, the trio fell back to silence.