A shorter chapter this time, but since I want to get things moving I wanted to put this one out there as well.
Artemisia flinched thoroughly as the Legionnaire's voice broke the befallen silence. Galahad seeing her to turn pale as a sheet as she twirled around, to find the young man to be standing a few paces away from her. To have emerged from the bushes after listening in to their ongoing quarrel for a while along with the others until the last bit had forced him to show himself…To demand an explanation to the outrageous disclosure the girl had just exposed, Artemisia blinking in fear as then watched him walk towards her with tardy steps. Realizing him to have heard everything.
"What did you just say?" Accius repeated. Despite of his stoic mien and bemused tone her seeing his eyes to peer back at her sharply in an instant as he narrowed them. In suspicion, a small crowd starting to draw closer to them as Galahad shot the Legionnaire a chagrined, but also a cautious look after taking note the way the young man's jaw clenched once he returned Artemisia's stare. The knight however next giving the girl a regretful look as well, as neither he had known the boy to be so close to overhear their exchange.
"Nothing", Artemisia hurried to say, trying to brush the matter off with that nervous smile she wore to mislead the lad, somber turned Accius however perusing her with that piercing gaze of his until all of a sudden took her by the arm to force her to respond once she didn't. Gauging at Artemisia his eyes filled with doubt once he took in her unsettled state, being able to tell her to be lying, and before Galahad could do anything to stop him, for the shock of the girl he dragged her away from Galahad who was soon joined by his comrades as the dispute then intensified. This time the quiet of the clearing getting disrupted by Accius' booming voice as it began to question Artemisia, harass her to speak.
"What did you just say to him? About our child", Accius asked, although his question sounded more like an accusation. Artemisia giving his hand gripping to her arm tightly a flustered look as the lad then brought her closer, for no avail her trying to wriggle herself free of his strong hold which sole purpose was to keep her anchored to him…Not to let her get away. "My child?"
"You're hurting me", Artemisia wailed, trying to appease the lad, but her lack of a sufficient answer yet again only further aggravated him. Instead of letting go him giving her a firm shake once he grabbed her palm that had risen to ward off his manhandling, to coerce the truth out of her. In his growing ire utterly ignorant to the pain and dread he was placing the girl under with his all the while more baleful behavior.
"What did you say, Artemisia?! What lies did you just tell…about my child?" Accius bellowed, glancing down to Artemisia's midriff as she simply looked back at him helplessly…In fear of the so abrupt change in his character unlike she'd never laid witness before, and which truthfully right then reminded her very much of Argus. As the Legionnaire didn't after all release her Gawain and Lancelot trying to come forth to intervene, but were however stopped by Arthur once Marius' guards swiftly rushed to the scene. To keep the knights at bay, along with Galahad, who by then had been forced to retreat from the youth, to simply follow from the sidelines how Artemisia was confronted with the young man's all the while amassing rage.
"Accius", she called him. Pleadingly as tried to beckon to his sweeter side, the side she'd once grown to care for, which was now nowhere to be found however as his eyes this time narrowed into vexed slits once he shook her again. More heatedly and caused the girl to cower in fright, as if his crass words would've been the fist that threatened to strike her when she didn't admit to what he was suspecting her of.
"Am I not the father? Tell me!" he shouted. Terrifying the already frantic girl, who however was only rendered unable to answer at the face of his livid conduct. As she then only broke into distraught tears Accius' mien contorting with unspeakable hatred after a brief look of understanding crossed his face once he arrived to the correct conclusion himself, his free hand clamping around her other arm. Artemisia wincing as his fingers dug into her skin, bruising her, her not helping but trembling at his infuriated tone as he lost all manner of composure and proceeded to yell at her. In such fury that it almost caused her knees to buckle, at the utter shock of seeing the boy she'd come to love to act so viciously.
"Who is it? Who is it that you opened your legs to when I wasn't there to unveil your deceit?" Accius demanded, completely bypassing the look of rebuttal Artemisia gave him.
"Please…You don't understand", she breathed, in vain trying to bring down his anger, as he simply saw it as her attempt to downplay the betrayal he believed her to have committed. For the further throe of the girl him tightening his grip of her, forcing her to try to lean away once he drew her near, to sneer at her face angrily when she refused to confess.
"Oh I understand! Understand that aside for what you've made yourself appear, you are nothing but a conniving tart who went behind my back, fooling around with other men…Tricking me to become the father of that bastard you're now carrying."
"No! That's not…true. Accius please…It hurts", Artemisia beseeched him, desperate now, causing Acius' forehead to crease in fury until it was now Fulcinia who rushed past the guards. Despite of continuing to keep a watchful eye on the knights overseeing the vehement argument allowing the woman to pass as she hurried to come stand next to her husband's nephew, also trying to appeal to him.
"Please Accius, don't do this. Let the girl go", she urged him, however gasping herself once Accius turned his callous eyes over to her with no sign of relenting and simply next summoned the nearest guard over. Next beckoning to his aunt, and in spite of Artemisia sending alarmed looks after her, for her not to leave, the woman was removed by the guard. Only to be next hauled to the side by her own husband who shot her a look of anger himself for daring to get involved. Accius however then surprising the onlookers by finally letting Artemisia go, shoving her away forcefully after studying her in aversion. Contempt that then was the sole emotion left on his face, where his such outright hatred brought Artemisia closer to a final breaking point with each new pitiless word that then left Accius' lips.
"He was right about you. Argus warned me that you were just like every other girl despite of being a vestal…and he was right", he announced. Artemisia shaking her head in denial as tried to capture his gaze, to assure him that whatever he was now thinking of her wasn't true, that he needed to believe her. The girl's voice but desolate as she replied, extending an imploring hand towards the lad.
"No. Accius no, it's not true…It…It was him who…He was lying. I didn't want to, but he made me…He forced me."
Artemisia tried to approach him, to go over to him, but was brought to a startled halt as Accius was only riled by her answer. Him bringing her intentions to naught by taking hold of her arms again, even further enraged.
"Enough! Who is the father, Artemisia! Say it!" he snapped, his fierce eyes drilling into Artemisia's and she tried to escape him. To escape the situation she'd suddenly been placed in by a simple slip of a tongue and which now threatened to tear her whole world apart, and which caused her then to stay silent once more as she tried to fight against Accius' hold. Leveling shaken glances at him, trying to understand why he was doing this to her, how could he accuse her of betraying him and manhandle her so roughly just to know the truth. In the end Accius' imperative, terrifying demeanor succeeding in having her give in in a rush of overwhelming panic as the lad continued to pressure her, his latest behest causing her to jump for a scare. "Say it!"
"It's Argus!" Artemisia cried out. Not being able to bear Accius badgering her any further, and she was then instantly freed of the young man's steely grip. All anger draining from Accius' face as he simply stared at the girl in shock of his own, taking in what she'd just said as she took a couple of stumbling steps away from him, eyes filled with tears as she then whispered the long concealed truth one more time…In spite of it herself, ignoring the familiar pain that then erupted at the pit of her stomach as she finally made her confession. "It's Argus…"
"No… How dare you?" Accius mused. Making a slow headshake until his anger soon flared to a whole new level after he exchanged a look with forlorn Artemisia. His fuming gaze riveting to her as he began to approach her, not a shred of understanding in him, as for Artemisia's further torment he was eyeing at her only shabbily. Nothing currently about him reminding her of the lad she knew as he then continued, his eyes turning but cold and unfeeling. "Don't you dare say that! My brother would never do that to me. He would never betray me…Where you…You're just the type of hussy he said you were. And I was too blind to see it…But have been woken to the truth, hearing it from your own lips."
"No, Accius, please believe me! I didn't want this to happen…I didn't…I didn't want to lie to you. I just couldn't…tell you. Say anything. I was so scared. Ashamed and…after your brother sneaked into the temple and forced himself on me I…I knew I could never tell you, for I knew how much you love him. Please, Accius, forgive me…I didn't want this to happen", Artemisia pleaded, once more trying to come over to him with an entreating expression, but she could only gasp back in alarm once he countered with a virulent glare. Jabbing an accusing hand to her way to keep her at a distance.
"I will never forgive you for making a fool of me…For making me abandon a profitable career in the army because of your deception, for daring to use my brother and lie that it was him who left you pregnant when it was you who went ahead and slept with some wretched cur…before claimed the bastard as mine, you whore."
"Hey!" Galahad shouted. Once more trying to push past the guards who'd by then dropped their weapons, but instantly raised them as he tried to go over to the pair. The Legionnaire or Artemisia however paying no attention to him or to the rest of the spectators as the girl only returned Accius' stare in outrage, gutted. Her tears resuming and although she now truly feared him she couldn't help but stand there, to cast another pleading look into the lad's eyes as he came to her instead. Her hands slowly rising to settle onto his chest, to beg him to listen.
"Accius, it's true! I swear to you that I didn't want this…He always tried to allure me but I refused him…Because I love you", she told him, the truth, the Legionnaire however responding by only swatting her hands away.
"No. You betrayed me. You played me for a fool and deceived me. You're a slut."
"Accius, please. Don't do this, I love you and have always cared for you…I would never betray you…"
"Accius, look at me."
Artemisia's voice was stuck in her throat and all she could utter was a startled, stunted outcry as in a fit of absolute rage Accius suddenly revealed his sword and caused everyone within the clearing to stiffen as in a split of a second he pointed it at the girl. In an initial threat of cutting her, but the blade only brought her to an utter standstill as her eyes widened when the steel settled onto her neck. Artemisia not as much minding the danger that weapon was putting her in as much as the utter shock that then took over her, the fact that Accius had drawn that blade and seemed fully prepared to use it on her, placing her under such daunted stupor that she didn't even notice how Galahad and his fellow knights then ran over to them. Galahad's own bared sword rising to threaten the Legionnaire once he'd cleared a path for himself through the Roman soldiers, and after making their way through the guards Gawain, Bors and Lancelot also leveled their blades at the infuriated Accius. Arthur simply standing at the sidelines, showing no intention of interfering with his knights' actions this time around despite of the outraged looks he then received from the young man's uncle.
"Cut her and you die", Galahad hissed. As a initiative for the lad to back off him pushing the tip of his sword closer so that it pressed against his ribs, enabling him a clean strike straight into his heart even through the thick leather of his uniform. Accius' irreverent attention shifting from the petrified Artemisia to him and the men exchanged a death glare until after a moment his irises focused back to the girl. Causing her to gasp as she saw the way he next glowered at her, looking at her like a mere vermin, and she felt no relief when he drew the blade away from her neck. Visible quiver setting into her limbs once her nerves and another twinge of great pain cutting through her abdomen then caused her to snap, shoving her over the edge. Artemisia letting out a horrified, shocked breath as she stared after the lad who was striding away in anger, the sight of his distancing back only adding to her despair as she then realized what had come close to happen, and new stream of effusive tears instantly blurred her vision as she collapsed. So rapidly that Galahad almost failed to catch her in time as she flopped down, her briefly held back shock starting to unravel in form of intense, distraught snivels once despite of everything she still called after the boy. Twice, however gaining not a single look back from the lad who simply went along with his uncle…Paying no heed to her evident heartbreak.
After sending the Legionnaire off with equally scalding leers the knights turned to watch how the girl's eyes searched the ground, in indescribable anguish, until she then only wept. The men exchanging pitying glances with one another until Galahad sheathed his blade while followed Artemisia to bend over, in unexpected not only emotional but physical ache that then briefly overcame her toil like before, even if the lad's clinical apathy hadn't left her in enough pain as it was. Galahad calling for her a couple of times, to bring an end to her ceaseless deplore, but by the time he managed to get through to her she shoved his comforting hand away. From amongst her anguished wails telling him to get away until a new, but this time notably more painful spasm brought out an outcry from her and Galahad watched Artemisia to clutch to her stomach. Her hands that previously had taken support from the cold, frosty ground now rising to cradle her midriff as her sobs then blended with frequent, agonized moans, and alarmed by this new change in her he instantly dropped to his knees. Brushing her hair out of the way to level a concerned look at her, to know what was wrong.
But even he could tell her not to be alright, that she was under great deal of pain she still refused his help, leaving Galahad no other option but to give in once she once more rejected his hands that had made an attempt of grasping her. With a distressed frown of his own the young knight stepping back once Gawain's guiding palm had settled onto his shoulder and brought him to his feet, but once they then observed Marius' wife to once more hasten to the frantic, weeping girl, they witnessed also her to be eventually driven away once the woman failed to coax her to stand up. Reluctantly Galahad then joining his fellow knights as they walked farther away, Artemisia's intense sobbing turning more and more unbearable to listen by each step, as she was then left there to the freezing ground to cry out her heartache. Utterly devastated.
Now that the incident was over everyone had gone back to their respective resting places either by the fire or their prepared shelters. However after casting another sorrowful look at Artemisia's hunched form Galahad's anger flaring and he whipped his head around to cast a glare at the Legionnaire who was currently sharing a meal along with his uncle and his cousin, completely heedless to the torment he'd just but the poor girl through, and without thinking Galahad drew his sword again in a flash. Striding forth.
"I kill him", he snapped, however with low enough voice for only his brothers in arms to hear him, and indeed before he'd managed to act on his fury fueled promise Bors and Gawain took hold of him. Preventing him from only getting himself slain by Marius' guards as Lancelot came to stand in front of him, blocking his path.
"Do that. We'll gladly watch you do it, help you. He deserves it. But not now. Don't upset the girl any more than she already is", Lancelot reminded him. Although his voice had reflected the same kind of contempt Galahad currently felt him now nodding towards Artemisia, and his young companion's rage was then cleared once he fathomed him to be correct. As despicable as he was, killing the young man out of anger definitely not easing her sentiments, and once Lancelot and the others then next cast remarkable glances at the soldiers surrounding Marius and his nephew Galahad had to admit his short-sightedness…That his spite would not indeed serve him in any way other than have him killed should he raise his weapon against the lad, therefore with a bilious breath him shaking the men's hands off of himself before slipped his weapon back to its scabbard. Simply opting to scowl at the Legionnaire murderously as next observed him to leave the campfire mid-dinner, to go attend to his horse.
"The bastard definitely deserves it", Gawain agreed. Talking to no one in particular however as also cast a fleeting scowl at the lad until turned to eye at Galahad. To make sure he was no longer up to murdering him and putting their Commander into more unneeded trouble until took off, leaving him in the company of only Bors after Lancelot had also been quick to leave. The burly knight's attention soon shifting over to Galahad as well once he noticed the young man's knuckles to turn white as his fingers gripped around the hilt of his once more sheathed blade. Equally repulsed by the Roman boy Bors then offering to ease Galahad's anger with his following contemptuous remark.
"If I were you I'd kill him. Stick a knife to him when he's sleeping and feed his gonads to the dogs."
Galahad raised his eyebrows. Watching Marius' wife to return to her family and ignore something her husband said to her, instead going straight over to Accius who was now busy polishing his saddle. "I might as well still do that."
"Do you love her?" Fulcinia demanded, coming to stand beside the nephew of her husband. Unimpressed and very much ashamed of how little she'd come to discover the lad to differ from the rest of his male relatives aside for her own son. Despite of the harsh expression the woman was wearing as she eyed at him in disapproval the young man not even lifting his eyes from his work. Proceeding to cleanse the harness.
"I never said I did. All I ever felt was simple attraction that any man would feel for a pretty woman…One that fades. And after this", Accius replied, at first fully indifferently until his tone gained a mordant edge once he cast a sideways glance at Artemisia."…it seems she wasn't worth even that much."
"You cannot be this heartless. She has some all this way from Rome under the impression of you making her your wife. You can't just abandon her and blame her for what your brother has done", Fulcinia argued, appalled, left almost speechless by his cruelty.
"Do not affront my family woman. For you were ever just married to it", Accius snapped venomously, taking the woman aback as his vexed gaze finally darted up to her, but she did then simply frown at him in disbelief despite of his warning.
"Look at yourself, how disgracefully you're behaving…If you were my son I would not suffer you treating that poor girl so poorly. So viciously even she had done nothing to deserve it", she informed him. Gaining but an impassive quirk of an eyebrow from the lad.
"Then thankfully I am not."
"She is not to blame for your brother's brutality! Accius, you promised to care for her. So take responsibility for Argus' misdeeds and fulfill your promise, marry her and do what is right by providing for this child. His child."
Accius locked gazes with Fulcinia, his flaming eyes showing nothing but absolute refusal as they held hers. Leaving the woman only stunned with his following cold response. "I'll have nothing further to do with that harlot. She and that bastard may as well rot in hell for all I care."
Galahad gritted his teeth as he overheard Accius' reply, but was surprised as he peered over to the pair and then saw how Marius' wife did also slap the lad. However only incurring herself his hatred as Accius shot to his feet and grabbed the woman, despite of the plead of his younger cousin simply brushing Alecto's deterring hand away until pushed his mother away in irritation. This time Galahad not being able to control himself, and although he had made an attempt to not be led on by his ire he now loped over to the disgruntled Legionnaire. The minute their eyes met it being too late for Gawain or any of the knights to interfere this time as Galahad confronted the lad in turn.
"You", he spat. Receiving but a scornful leer from the Legionnaire who angled his jaw at the sight of his arrival, the least fazed by the clear animosity coming off of him. Galahad beckoning to Artemisia who was still on the ground, her face now buried into her palms until she underwent another contraction, forcing her to bend over again in agony. "She's your responsibility…She loves you…Only you. And you're all she has."
"She should've thought of that before she involved herself with another man ", Accius stated, Galahad narrowing his eyes.
"She isn't at fault here. It was your cur of a brother who raped her and left her with that child that shall ever be but a constant reminder of what he did to her!"
"Am I supposed to regard your slander as proof? Her claims of my brother's guilt?" Accius asked. Squinting as well as leant closer to the Sarmatian knight, raising his eyebrows conceitedly as his lips were then graced even by a derisive hint of a smile once he gauged at Galahad. "I don't think so."
"You can't just leave her."
"I will. But you are welcome to her. I bestow both her and that brat for you to deal with as you please…I certainly have no use for a deceitful whore like her, so this arrangement should suit you well taken the manner you've been coveting her for yourself all this time", Accius told him. Galahad blinking in at first utter dismay until his fury finally took the best of him and he made an infuriated pout, punching the lad so that he crashed against the tree trunk his horse had been tied to. Scaring the animal, this time however it being Arthur who rushed forth to come stand between him and Accius once Marius immediately called out to his guards. The soldiers charging to shield the Legionnaire from Galahad's further attacks, where Arthur forced him to back away from the stricken lad. Leveling a stern look at him.
"Enough", he said. Galahad locking gazes with him at the sound of his domineering voice, but although he didn't wish for nothing more than to endow the obnoxious Roman snot another hit once he saw the split lip he'd managed to scathe him with, Galahad yielded to Arthur's voiceless command. Stepping back while his Commander turned over to furious Marius and his nephew, bending his head apologetically. "Forgive me, my lord. I apologize."
"You should…For ever deciding to grant such barbarians an honor to become the champions of Rome", Marius retorted, wrapping a guiding arm around Accius' shoulders, while Arthur simply returned his baleful stare stoically once the man's eyes then rounded the faces of his knights. Accius also casting the Roman Commander a slight leer while his fingers felt around his jaw until he spat blood from his mouth, at Arthur's feet before was led away by his uncle back to the campfire. Galahad now casting a remorseful look at his Commander, finally realizing the error in his conduct, which he hadn't come to consider until witnessing Marius' even worsened attitude towards Arthur…All thanks to his impulsiveness.
"The girl", Arthur spoke, cutting him off as faced the taken aback Galahad with a solemn expression and despite of his severity exchanged a remarkable look with him, until his gaze finally traveled over to Artemisia. What he said next however containing much more than what he actually let on, and Galahad couldn't help but feel a sting of shame at the slight rebuke imbedded into is words as listened. Nodding meekly after Arthur left once finished with him, leaving him to his own ponders. "Once she's calmed down make sure to get her back to the wagon. The night will turn frigid."
He said that, but once Arthur had gone on his way and Galahad turned around to look over to where Artemisia had remained, the earlier feel of ease and facility he'd experienced while sitting with her by the fire now only twisting into something unpleasant and harrowing in itself as he oversaw those bitter tears she continued to shed…Over a man who just like it had been clear to him from the beginning, was not worthy of her such woe.