They took a recuperative break and made a point to pick a few safe-looking articles from nearby trees. Artemis ate most ravenously, not having had very much for several days. Her face was already beginning to look a bit gaunt, and her arms and legs would occasionally shake. How she’d managed to come so far none of them knew, but she pressed constantly forward with the willpower of a locomotive.
They had been walking for nearly two hours. Artemis had half the mind to give up, and had the mountain not always been looming over her left-hand side, she would have thought they’d been moving in circles. She was about to command them to turn back when the sound of water reached their ears. It wasn’t much later when the trees finally gave way to a vast pool, clear as day and deep as a well. Artemis ran to its bank and immediately cupped a handful to her mouth. Her stomach danced with celebration as the sweet, cold nourishment woke her body.
“Clean,” Oliver nodded, running his hand through the ripples.
A waterfall raged down into the depths of the pool, falling a good thirty feet from the cliff’s edge high above. Years upon years of the water’s destructive power had carved a deep niche into the rocky face, and punched a bowl in the forest floor. Boulders peeked out from the sheer face, and from them grew vast and vibrant flora. Oliver set off along the bank, his hand running against the trees as he walked.
“We’ll definitely set up camp just about here,” said Luka. He turned abruptly towards Oliver, cupping his hands around his mouth, “So how far away do you think our old camp is?”
Oliver turned and pointed left of the mountain. Artemis blinked at him and furrowed her eyebrows. Had they gone so far already, to be almost on the other side of the island?
Oliver completed his prospecting in due time, and found his way back to them.
“It’s near perfect, here,” he concluded. “But I’m not sure there’s going to be enough time to get back to camp and then bring everyone here. Not before dark, at least. We’ll have to either go back tonight and stay there, or stay here and leave in the morning. But I’m sure that we won’t want to leave everyone at camp wondering where we’ve gone.”
“We could start planning out our…localization,” Artemis spoke slowly.
“You mean, our living here without hopes of being rescued,” Luka snickered.
“I was right, admit it,” Luka snorted.
“Oh come now, it’s not so hard to say ‘I’m wrong’, now, is it?”
“I said shut up!” Artemis flared.
Before either of the boys could do anything, Luka was reeling. The back of Artemis’s hand was growing very steadily red, as was Luka’s left cheek. Her eyes were glassy, a film of water pooling slowly against her bottom lid. Her teeth had latched on to her lip, so tightly it might have drawn blood.
Oliver put a hand on her shoulder, but she jerked very quickly away from him. She wasn’t capable of accepting such things, not in that state.
“You two, just leave. Go back and get them, and I’ll figure things out here. I’ll be fine, I can climb trees. And besides that, I’m sure that the forest is more dangerous. You’ll need the two of you to get through alive.”
“Stop it, Artemis,” Luka growled. “You’re a—.”
“A what? A girl? Yes, Luka, I’m a girl, and I’m just as good as you. We found what we needed, and everyone needs it, so go get them,” Artemis countered expertly, pointing towards the mountain.
Oliver gently nudged her arm to the left.
“Go, Luka. I’ll watch her.”
Artemis slapped his hand away and stalked away, towards the far edge of the pool, grunting at them, “I don’t need a damn babysitter! Leave, already!”
She sat down angrily and hugged her knees. She listened to their hushed voices, listened as they disappeared. When she glanced back towards the trees where they’d stood, she found that they were gone, as she’d commanded.