"Garrett, can you please slow down?" Kayley pleaded, slipping on yet another root and falling to her knees.
"NO" Came the irritated reply from somewhere ahead. Kayley groaned and pushed herself to her feet, muscles protesting. She made it about thirty more seconds until she tripped again, this time pain erupting in her left hand.
Looking down, Kayley saw that her hand had landed on some bright red moss. Upon closer inspection, the tendrils of scarlet moss were revealed to have tiny barbs on them. Kayley gasped in pain as she pulled her hand away, blood beginning to drip onto the ground.
As she watched, some of her blood landed on the moss, which seemed to sprout more tendrils as she watched.
Kayley propelled herself forwards, wanting to get closer to her guide and farther away from blood sucking moss.
"Garrett?" Kayley called ahead, scanning the area around her. Why did her stoic companion have to be wearing green? He was practically impossible to see.
"Garrett!" she cried, searching frantically. Her pulse raced at the prospect of being lost in the forbidden forest with no one to lead her to Camelot. If she didn't get to the castle, then her mother would die, and the kind would die, and oh-
"For heaven's sake. Keep your voice down" Garrett said, appearing from around a tree several feet in front of her. How had she missed him...?
As Garrett took off again, Kayley tried to keep up, but her vision blurred, causing her to stumble into a tree. Her heart pounded in her ears, and the forest swam in front of her eyes.
"G-Garrett?" She mumbled, falling to her knees. The last thing Kayley remembered was a burning pain in her left hand...
Garrett stopped for what seemed like the millionth time that day. Traveling with women was beyond troublesome. First the girl had to do this, she had to do that, she thought they were going the wrong way, she was hungry, blah blah blah. Troublesome with a capital T.
Aedon screeched from high above his head. Garrett listened intently. Apparently Kayley was passed out around two hundred feet back.
"Do all women do this?" He asked the quiet trees. When none of them decided to answer, he turned around and headed back the way he came.
"Kayley!" He called after a while. She must be unconscious, or she would be shrieking his name like a parrot. Garrett started to poke around the forest floor step by step, helped by Aedon.
After a moment, the stick landed on something soft and body-shaped. Garrett poked harder. When the body didn't move, he stooped down, worried expression replacing the irritated one.
"Kayley" He said, prodding her shoulder. He felt for a pulse, grimacing when her heart fluttered like a hummingbird. Too fast.
"What happened?" He growled at the falcon perched nearby. Aedon screeched, flapping his wings agitatedly.
"Bloodmoss? Of all the dangerous things in this forest, she has to pick the one that will actually kill her?" Garrett thundered. Aedon screeched some more.
Garrett picked Kayley up, racking his brains for the nearest water source. Luckily for them, there was a lake only a few minutes away. Kayley might just live after all...
"Women" He grumbled.
Once at the lake, Garrett sent Aedon off for some healing plants, then set about finding the bitten site.
Bloodmoss was possibly the most dangerous plant he knew of in the forest. It looked harmless enough, but when touched, the venomous barbs latched onto the skin, causing blood to gush from the wound and the poison to kill the system.
If not treated immediately, the blood fed the plant, which kept tracking its venom in your blood. Brought a whole new meaning to "Moving bush" If Garrett didn't work fast enough, the venom would work its course and he would have to keep moving or burn the entire forest down to get all the moss.
Garrett found the bite quick enough, then began to douse Kayley's hand in the lake, rubbing and squeezing it to drain some of the blood out of her system. Soon the water around them was red.
Aedon took longer than he had anticipated, and Garrett began to get nervous, checking over his shoulder for any signs of red. It would take a while for the moss to catch up, but that didn't make it any less eerie.
As much as he hated to admit it, Kayley had grown on him the past few days. Sure, they were headed to the last place on earth Garrett wanted to see, but she was the first company he'd had in years.
Absently, Garrett smoothed a lock of hair away from Kayley's face, tracing the contours of her cheeks. After a moment, he got a good idea of her features in his head. She was quite pretty, not at all like he had pictured from her voice.
A nearly silent beat of wings alerted him to Aedon's return. The falcon dropped a pile of leaves in Garrett's lap and he instantly set to work applying them one after the other to Kayley's hand.
"Come on" He found himself muttering after he applied all the leaves there were. He could feel the magic of the last one healing Kayley's injury, she would wake any minute.
Sure enough, Kayley stirred a moment later, shifting a little.
"Garrett?" She croaked. A small rush of relief went through the nomad to hear her voice.
"I'm here" He said, putting one hand under her neck and the other on her hip. She grasped one of his forearms.
"Thank you" She murmured. Garrett could picture her eyes staring up at him. Her lovely... er...
"What color are your eyes?" Garrett asked, suddenly burning to know.
"Brown" She replied. "Why?"
"I wondered" He replied offhandedly. Now he could picture her lovely brown eyes staring up at him in adoration.
Adoration? Where in Merlin's name had that come from.
"Well" Garrett said, realizing he was blushing. "On your feet, let's move" He said gruffly.
"Garrett" Kayley pleaded. The nomad gave her a little shove, effectively rolling her into the water. As she coughed and spluttered, Garrett got to his feet and began to leave the clearing.
A quiet sob stopped him, and he paused. The sobs continued, and he heard the splash of water as Kayley pulled herself out of the lake.
"Kayley, i'm-" Garret began, guilt rising in him. A wet form pushed past him, the sobs continuing.
"Kayley, please" Garrett tried again. She ignored him. Aedon screeched, and garrett turned to where he thought to bird was perched.
"I realized that was a mistake! I'm trying to fix it, don't you see!" He shouted at the falcon. Aedon was silent for a moment, then screeched again. A piercing scream split the silent forest. Garrett raced toward he sound's origin, heart pounding.
"Garrett, help!" Kayley cried. Garrett felt his way forwards, trying to figure what was happening.
"There's these red tendrils wrapping around my legs- AH! I can't move!" Kayley cried when she saw he had no idea what to do. Aedon swooped overhead, crying out directions to Garrett.
Moving fast, Garrett pulled up a piece of wood from the ground. Aedon dropped from his perch, something wet dribbling onto the wood. Garret threw the wood as hard as he could into the tendrils, then picked up another, him and Aedon repeating the process.
When the second piece of wood was coated in the wet liquid, Garrett tossed it as hard as he could in the opposite direction of where they were.
"It's working!" Kayley cried, stumbling forwards. Aedon shrieked one last time, and Garrett caught Kayley before she could fall.
"Are you hurt?" Garrett asked, running his hands down her arms for signs of injury. Finding none, he let Kayley go, stepping back.
"I think we should make camp" He continued. "I've had quite enough excitement for today" Not allowing his companion any time to argue, Garrett began to walk back towards the lake. He knew of a cave nearby they could shelter in for the night.
"Thank you for everything" Kayley said an hour later, after they had eaten and gotten a fire going.
"You're welcome" Garrett replied, letting a smile slip onto his face. He could picture Kayley smiling back.
"What was that thing with the roots you saved me from?" Kayley asked. Garrett leaned back against the cave wall, then felt Kayley scoot next to him. Close enough to touch...
"The Bloodmoss you touched had been tracking you. If you hadn't run right into it, then it would have lost the scent. As it was, Aedon collected the blood of a treetoad and dripped it on the wood you saw me throw"
"Poor tree toad" Kayley said, scooting the tiniest bit closer.
"It was a necessary price to pay for your life" Garrett said. He turned his head to look at his companion, wishing for the world he could see her now.
"What are you thinking?" He asked, his arm gaining a mind of its own. Without really knowing what he was doing, he began to trace the line of her jaw with his thumb. He heard a small intake of breath.
Suddenly, Garrett felt soft lips on his. He jerked away, unsure of what had happened.
"I-i'm sorry GArrett, I don't know what came over me, I-" He cut Kayley's flow of apologies off by drawing her close and kissing her again. Unsure of what to do, he moved his lips ever so slightly, kneading Kayley's mouth with his.
She must have liked it, since her slender form melted into his. Garrett felt himself being pushed sideways, and ended up on his back, with Kayley laying on his chest. They disentangled after a moment, Garrett just running his hand through her hair.
He tugged at the band holding her hair back, and the slightly damp tresses fanned out over them.
"What color is your hair?" He asked.
"Red" Kayley replied, smoothing her hand over his shoulder. Garrett fingered a curl, picturing the shade of it. Nearly a dark brown, he guessed. Some women had this color of hair in Camelot, but he didn't think that any he had seen during his employment there compared to the woman in his arms now.
No more words were exchanged between them, and that's how they stayed that night, Kayley curled into Garrett's chest and Aedon watching them like a hawk, well... Falcon.
Just another day in the Forbidden Forest.