Valorous Knight And She Named After a Revered Huntress @linwood
Chapter 5

Galahad stoked the embers of the campfire, invoking the flames that had threatened to die out during the long moment the fire had been left unattended by him while he'd been too occupied with his musings to notice, until the chill of the night had begun to creep upon him through the layered clothes due to the weakening source of warmth. The fire now once more burning brightly the young knight claiming a couple of pieces of wood and dropped them into the tiny pyre, the flames instantly feasting upon them and soon enough flared up into a strong blaze. Content with the results Galahad then dropping the stick as in turn of the wooden poker claimed his weapon back to his hands, resuming his tending of the blade after spending a brief amount of time in listening to their surroundings in case of any alarming sounds as the risen sparks danced in the air, their brief glow fading and returning the knight's attention back to the work of his hands. The hours of the solitary watch to have grown too tedious for he had decided to entertain himself with the only past-time he usually had; cleaning and caring for his effects. Indeed the scraping sound of the stone moving across the blade being the sole sound heard in the dark for a while as he continued to sit there, unbothered by even a single rustle of the surrounding wild. Galahad looking up at times to only give his sleeping comrades or resting horses fleeting observing glances for any sight of unrest, after going through the familiar act of polishing and sharpening all of his knives and whatnot and checking their condition the mere sitting by the fire grew so tiresome again that he came close to even wish for an unexpected attack of Pikts to enliven this beyond peaceful passing of the time.

With a sudden shudder Galahad rose to his feet and wrapped the extra cloak he'd previously found from his saddlebags around himself more tightly upon walking away from the fire, to go stare at the moon lit wilderness reaching far beyond their campsite, however straying not too far to remain within close distance with his sword in case something unexpected would occur. Finding himself marveling at the thought of there still to be places like this that were completely untouched by man, mere wild beyond the reach of the Roman Empire and ruled by nothing but the laws of nature…But once he came to remember the danger that resided behind that delusively tranquil scenery and ambled back to his seat after rounding the fireplace a couple of times to dispel the chill from his limbs, abrupt moans coming from behind him caused his oversensitive instincts to kick in and whip around. Drawn sword in his hand, but despite of him facing anything perilous he discovered to be greeted by nothing but further stillness of the night, which was stirred soon after only by a new series of restless wails he then learned to be uttered by Artemisia. Galahad giving the asleep girl a quizzical look as sheathed his sword, sitting back down with a relaxed sigh upon realizing nothing to be amiss despite of her to have spooked him by simply suffering from a nightmare it seemed. The young knight returning his focus back to the fire but soon spied her to continue to squirm in the arms of the Legionnaire, quick inspection performed over them telling him the girl to be more bothered by the young man's embrace than reassured by it, and it didn't take long for Galahad to understand Artemisia to be in a state of utter panic upon clearly fighting against the heavy limb secured around her, until she suddenly snapped out of her terrifying dream. The frightened scream that slipped her lips to have finally also woken Accius when her furious trashing about hadn't, and with a confused look given to the rattled girl he propelled himself to a half sitting position after blinking the heavy dream he'd himself been under from his eyes. Galahad watching how Artemisia backed away from him, rising to her feet surprisingly nimbly as her jumpy, widened eyes looked about wildly until finally fixating onto the bewildered young man at her feet.

"What's wrong?" she heard Accius ask, seeing his questionable eyes to sweep over her concernedly, but as she then returned his gaze for a moment and although it had clearly been his voice that had addressed her, it wasn't him she was looking at…It wasn't him who was calling her name but someone entirely else, Artemisia feeling herself begin to quiver as she fearfully behold the scene currently unfolding in front of her, terrified by what those arms that just previously had hold her had felt while around her, craving for intimacy. How they trapped her and kept her from moving while her eyes roamed on the face of the man looking back at her, with a scared lurch of her heart her taking in his deceitfully handsome features, the very sight of him filling her with absolute dread as she now watched him rise from the bed to throw an arm towards her. To grab her wrist and haul her back to him, to keep her from running as ordered her to stay still, to not to resist him. Artemisia not finding her voice despite of the horror the touch of him placed her under, but as an immediate response to that fear coursing through her veins she then proceeded to struggle, to escape him, the hands of the Legionnaire that then locked her head between them bringing the frantic girl back to reality and she realized to be far away from those horrors she's just relived. Completely safe, just seeing things… That she was indeed looking into the familiar eyes of Accius, which however reminded so much of the irises she'd gazed into a brief instant ago that as a response to that foul insight she flinched away from him once his voice finally shattered her terrifying reverie. The Legionnaire as well as the woken knights giving her puzzled looks once she shot back to her feet despite of the young man's successful act of bringing her back to her knees to quell her, Artemisia blinking in realization as returned Accius' stare, despite of her efforts however the fear not leaving her fully and as his hand made a move to settle onto her cheek, re-inflicting the nightmarish vision she turned away from him. Too ashamed and too unsettled by the panic induced emotions the previous remembrance had let loose in her to face him, to give him a chance to witness her jar and to earn an explanation.

"Artemisia, what is wrong with you? Don't you know who I am?" Accius demanded. Irritated even due to the few near punches he'd received from the skittish girl once he'd but tried to snap her out of the dream she'd been under. Following her example by standing, but after eyeing at her jittery profile for a while he sighed. Still but confused as were the other now awake spectators observing the two of them him bringing a careful hand up, to this time more successfully smooth Artemisia's neck. "What is it?"

"Nothing", Artemisia replied, lied more like as it was obvious to Galahad who saw her jolt while under the Legionnaire's touch, and she turned further away from him after offering the young man a nervous smile that seemed to be enough to deceive him. Therefore the young man allowing her to further hide her true state from him by trying to appear calm, although her hands that then clasped around her clothes and the wary, fearful looks she was giving to the other men currently staring at her told a different story to Galahad. Wanted she or not right at that moment him seeing right through her pretences even if her lover didn't, and because of this he simply frowned at Artemisia while followed her now cast a curt helpless look down at her stomach. Her arms soon settling upon it as she ended the befallen silence, squeezing her eyes shut when she thought no one could see her. "I'm fine…I just…was having terrible nightmares."

Galahad saw how she winced at the mention of that, but as often he was, Accius was too oblivious to take notice himself and only released another sigh. After eyeing at the girl from behind simply retreating back to their shared tressle, laying down. Artemisia giving him a subtle glance to see whether or not he'd come to suspect anything as felt the horrendous memory plaguing her to cause her heart to squeeze again, Accius' gentle voice not whisking away the sense of once more returned quilt as many times before, but this time only made it worse. His rather unheeding reaction this time around but furthering her agitation, making it impossible for her to do as he then bid her.

"They were just dreams. It's over now, come. Let us sleep", he mused, settling back under the covers while hold out an expectant arm. His eyes to have already closed and he was half asleep when after a moment of hesitation Artemisia finally joined him, gingerly resuming her position by the young man's side, calming herself by reminding her anxious heart that the man with him to be Accius and not the one who had brought her such discomfort while in his arms…Once her eyes had also closed in an attempt to fall back asleep, them however snapping back open the moment Accius' arm dropped down and his palm stationed itself on her waist, and with a flicker of instant unease she rose again at the ghostly feel of the same detestable fingers... The same bloodcurdling breath on her skin that brought upon a subtle quiver once the knights observed her to give unbothered Accius an odd look, until she soon begun to walk back and forth restlessly. The men soon reaching a consensus that it must've been the child keeping her awake once they noticed her to land a hand to the side of her belly like they'd often see her do these days, and which probably had caused her to wake them as well.

"I already thought Galahad to have dozed off and something dangerous to be upon us", Lancelot mused as tossed his own weapon on the ground he'd snatched it from the minute he'd heard Artemisia scream. Releasing a sigh as his fleeting smile was replaced by frustration and he shook his head upon looking over to the unnerved young woman, rolling onto his back. "But it was just her."

"She never should've come here...The wild is no place for timid girls like her, so I hope getting woken up in middle of the night by her skittish antics doesn't become a constant peeve to us who are trying to catch a moment's rest", Bors murmured ill-humoredly upon to have been freed from his guarding duty but a couple of hours ago and laid back down himself, turning his back to his comrades. Arthur tilting a head at his words as himself gave Artemisia a look, knowing one.

"She can hardly be blamed. She's lived a very sheltered life until now, so she must be more afraid than we can imagine of being suddenly thrust in middle of such perils. And unborn children are often highly active during nighttime, so it is no wonder she is having such hard time resting peacefully, it all resulting in nightmares. I understand this must be difficult for her and won't hold it against her, taken her circumstances."

"What do you mean?" Gawain questioned, measuring Arthur until cast a fleeting look at Artemisia, in brief peak of interest. "Do you know something that we don't?"

"Aside for the fact that the man she's with is a lowly deserter?" Bors commented, still not sleeping, and the others heard him release an entertained snort. "The pompous bastard surely put up an amusing show in trying to hide it."

"I cannot sleep when you keep pacing like that…Just come here, settle down", Accius' annoyed voice interrupted the knights' conversation, and they silenced to hear Artemisia's response. The girl halting to meet the curt stare of the palled Legionnaire who oblivious to the knights' conversation about them peered up to her until beckoned her to lay down next to him impatiently, Artemisia however only shaking her head. Having no intention of doing so and unsettling herself even further, needing to quell her rapidly throbbing heart first.

"No…I'm going to stay up for awhile…I don't feel like sleeping", she stated, it being true that she didn't want to close her eyes again only for the nightmares to return, but also Arthur had been correct about the baby to have started its usual wriggling like most nights and she felt herself quite shaken in her current state. Her not looking at Accius upon speaking, but she could hear his vexation from that sigh that escaped his lips then as he turned on his back. Claiming the space previously reserved for Artemisia, giving in.

"Do what you want. I'm going to if you won't…"

And so he did. After a brief moment even the knights hearing him begin to snore quietly, leaving Artemisia to give him a wistful look upon sighing herself. Grimacing at the uncomfortable weight of her stomach that made her every movement feel slow and laborious, like often these days her feeling her whole body to be ailed by some form of impediment, were it the swelling in her ankles or the mere ache of her back. Not any position proving comfortable enough for her to ease the ailments, was she awake or asleep. With this time around a frustrated sigh her exchanging brief looks with the still staring knights until trudged across the clearing, to go over to the small stream she remembered to have spotted a small distance away from their camp to go wash her face. Hoping that perhaps rinsing her face with some cold water would help in ridding the terrible recollections from her head.

"She must've come from a Vestal temple. Her robes sure look like belonging to a woman living as a Vestal, but she must've run away from her temple", Arthur revealed once Artemisia was out of earshot, returning Gawain's questionable stare while attracted the interest of the other knights.

"That Legionnaire did say them to have hailed from Rome", Tristan reminded, supporting Arthur's theory, Lancelot however finding this revelation but amusing once he reviewed all that little he'd come to know about the girl.

"And we all know why…For I hear Vestals are priestesses freed from the binds of marriage and other common expectations of women, and at the beginning of their decades long service are obliged to give an oath of absolute chastity…Which seemingly wasn't an option for her, and certainly the lad wasn't after the much coveted honor or fortune marrying a former Vestal is considered to bring a man in Rome", Lancelot remarked, cheeky smile playing on his lips briefly and his words were supported by the brief look he directed at Artemisia's baby belly, no word more needing to be said to indicate why she had ended up the way she was. "Not to mention the substantial pension he forsook by claiming her virtue straight out instead of biding his time like any extortionate man would..."

"We cannot know what circumstances brought those two together and caused her to desert her oath in order to run away with him…All we know is that she is here, and it is not our business to castigate the reasons that have brought her here", Arthur reminded, bringing his men slight laughter to naught. Although his knights' usual jeering comments weren't anything he hadn't heard before, him however finding this particular matter to be handled with more discretion, as they indeed didn't know almost anything about this young couple…And taken the fact of what he suspected Artemisia's background to be, it added only more sensitivity to her relationship to the young man accompanying him, undoubtedly the child that she was expecting partially playing a part in the lad deserting from the army and them fleeing from Rome together. The situation altogether more delicate for his men to be so openly joking about their circumstances, and after hearing Arthur's remark the men did seem like understanding his point. Some of them however not being able to deter themselves from not viewing the situation so tactfully.

"I bet it's the Roman. He simply couldn't resist the temptation of conquering a sacred virgin like any common whore usually frequented by him, so forced his manly virtues upon her…And here they are, the fallen son of an esteemed General and defiled Priestess, on the run like a little happy family they are, in wait of their little bastard to be born."

"I think you're absolutely right, Bors. Why else would she have ended up here amongst the dangers of the world with a child, unless she was forced to? You saw her just now…She was afraid of him."

"What are they, Arthur? Vestals?" Galahad suddenly asked, to have chosen not to take part in his comrades' taunting simply for the fact that he knew much more about Artemisia than they did, and therefore didn't simply have a heart to make such jests about her he in other circumstances perhaps would've found equally amusing. Instead more curious about her background him looking over to his Commander in honest interest, to have never heard of a mention of a Vestal temple before, Arthur re-opening his eyes to math his gaze.

"They are commonly known as servants of Vesta, Goddess of the hearth and home. Acting as her Priestesses and tasked with the duty of guarding her sacred flame through the undergoing of rituals, to maintain her holy fire which is considered the source of the very household fire of the Emperor's himself, since any Roman could receive fire from their temple to their own use. Vestals are very respected in Rome, and their temple has been even given the privilege of preservation of numerous sacred artifacts and wills of important figures such as Emperors and their inner circle. The Vestals are usually chosen to serve the Goddess at a very young age and are taken from their families, forbidden to leave the temple grounds until their eventual retirement unless summoned to take part in ceremonies or other gatherings where their presence is required…But often only longer served Vestals have such right."

Galahad only nodded his head in understanding, upon not receiving any more inquiries from him or the other knights also Arthur resuming his slumber. And so did the rest of the men, leaving Galahad once more on his own to guard the campsite with nothing but himself to keep him company. Soon enough upon thinking over Gawain's earlier words them causing him to think, and once everyone else were once again sleeping soundly in their prospective spots, he considered whether there could've been any truth to what had just been discussed about Artemisia…That judging by the way she'd just behaved she was actually afraid of the Legionnaire? Which would mean that she hadn't come all this way out of her own volition, and only in fear of him? But on the other hand, from everything he'd witnessed Galahad was quite certain Artemisia to truly have feelings for the lad…But about his true intentions he couldn't be sure of.

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