Her artillery of trick arrows took care of the gigantic, orange-feathered and weirdass bird things that shoved her around a mile back, but now she was left with just her crossbow's pre-loaded arrows.
Artemis scaled up the length of this rocky cliff, and swallowed back a gag as the filthy bog below her let out a whiff of something foul. If it had to be compared to something, it would be what old, sweat-crusted gym socks smelled like when they were ducked in milk expired by a few years. There would be no possible way to wash out that stench if she fell in.
Her hands clawed desperately for purchase of the rock slide as one of her boots caught between two slippery rocks, squeezing her toes within her boot uncomfortably. Fighting off another rush of vertigo as she gazed over her shoulder at the drop, and definitely trying not to focus on the noxious fumes, Artemis abandoned her trapped boot and pushed on — thankful to discover smoother footing.
The crystal ball nestled a black, leather glove dimmed with Artemis's image. "She would go to such great lengths to retrieve someone like… you." Another glove pushed fiercely through strands of red hair. The person kneeling on the stone floor mumbled a sleepy protest at this, bright green eyes swallowed up by his pupils. The costumed, blond man huffed, almost pouting as he observed Wally swaying in place on his knees, sickly gray and perspiring heavily underneath his Kid Flash uniform. "What on the damned earth could be so special about such a little, insignificant bug like you?"
"Nothing," Artemis called out, rudely kicking in the chamber door. Her cheeks flushed with exertion. "Right now, you're just a bigger pain in my ass than he is," she droned, scowling with some triumph.
The self-proclaimed Goblin King did not indicate any surprise to her entrance and clapped his hands together, slowly. "You've made it through my labyrinth, child. Aren't you fortunate?" At the same moment, Artemis quickly drew out her collapsible crossbow, aiming it right for the mid-level of his excessively glittery head.
"Don't even blink." She demanded, gritting and baring her teeth, "You're gonna return us both from Wack-a-do Land right now. Or things are gonna get very hairy. You've just made me run around for twelve hours, turning me in circles to get me lost and fighting off monsters… so I'm really not in the negotiating mood, you overgrown fairy boy."
"You do not scare me, little girl." A clear laugh. Enchanting. "You remember all of that… but do you remember how you managed to find yourself here in the first place?" The Goblin King made an understanding, soft sigh when Artemis' gray eyes narrowed and her lips twitched to press into a thin line. "That's right… judging by the guilty look on your face, you remember your words."
"So what?" she snapped. "I didn't even mean—"
"—to wish your friend away forever and ever?" Artemis glanced away as he whispered, "I was doing you a favor— and without even asking for anything in return, my dear."
Still kneeling to the floor by the Goblin King's side, a glassy-eyed Wally stared ahead, heaving in and releasing loud, erratic breathes through his open mouth.
"What did you mean when you said he'd become one of you?"
He patted the top of Wally's head, smiling prettily. "Must you be so insistent on spoiling the end of your fairytale?" A horrible, white-hot anger flared right inside Artemis's chest.
"What did you DO to him, you sick FREAK?" she hissed. Her teammate began coughing violently, his spine bending forward, hands supporting him from falling flat. Her own features pinched and paled with anxiety as he struggled to catch his breath, Wally's entire body jerking with the effort to keep oxygen coming into his lungs with hideous gasping and coughing.
"Answer this riddle first." The Goblin King juggled his crystal ball between his hands, skillfully. "Oh," he cheerfully reminded her as she had gone silent, "and do try to remember your manners. Your little friend doesn't appear to have much time left to him." He waited until her wide eyes met his before reciting aloud, "How does one rouse the maiden in the glass coffin along with the sleeping kingdom?"
Artemis shook her head, muddied ponytail bobbing. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Wally's coughing worsened.
"I…" Her voice cracked. "A fairytale? Is that…?"
When the corners of his rosy pink lips went up, she added, trying to contain her panic, "Something like…Cinderella, right? Right?"
He frowned with mild concern, tapping a manicured finger to the wooden grandfather clock in the room.
"You might want to keep an eye on your time."
Artemis dug her fingernails against the hunter green fabric of her cowl, shutting her eyes tightly when Wally sank to the polished stone floor, shuddering on his left side with muffled, painful choking.
Bit, by bit, by bit… the length of her costumed shoulders sank downwards.
"Please, stop this…" she muttered, hands sliding until they fell limp at her sides. "I'll do anything you ask me to do. Just… please."
Sympathetically, the Goblin King ushered her into the crook of his arm, smoothing the front of his white ruffled shirt as if reaching an important point to this conversation.
"Come now," he chided, wiping her thumb beneath a trembling eyelid when she reopened her eyes. "Fretful and childish tears do not suit a queen."
Artemis let her voice crack again, "Queen?"
"Rule by my side here, with me… successful… beautiful… worshipped… accepted as you are." He murmured, knowingly, and Artemis's head ached terribly, "Isn't that what you always wanted?"
Her tongue darted out between her lips, sweeping against her bottom lip and tasting the string of blood from the gash.
"C-…can I tell you something?" she asked, smiling awkwardly when the Goblin King leaned in to hear her, mismatched eyes following the path of her mouth. Artemis's smile widened, darkening when she snatched his wrist and twisted it until bone popped out of place. "I may not have a regular childhood," she spat at him and his flabbergast expression, "…but I'VE seen this movie before at a babysitter's."
Her green gloved hand tore into his sparkly, midnight jacket to pull out the crystal ball, and held it high over her head (—traffic blaring).
Screaming echoed (—against the smoggy city sky) into the dazzling, iridescent light shooting up from (—rooftop) where the object's impact made.
A burst of warm, city heat smacked Artemis face first and she jolted upright from doubling over, clutching her throbbing head.
Not more than a couple feet, Mad Hatter howled out "Nonononoooo!" and crawled over to collect the broken pieces of his newest invention. He let out a long, tortured sob, glaring outright at her until Artemis's combat boot hit him square in the gut, forcing a groaning "Ohh~…" before she punched him out cold with her balled up right fist, snapping his head back and allowing him to crumple.
That's right. Hallucination. A big, whopping mindtrip around Gotham. Kid Flash had been missing a few hours and she-…
Artemis raced across the other end of the building's rooftop, kneepads cushioning her as she grabbed a motionless Wally, maneuvering him onto his back. Yanking back both of their cowls and the Kid Flash goggles, her fingertips touched cooling sweat on his nose and lips fading to ashy blue. No air pulling or escaping.
(What did Mad Hatter mean anyway?)
"Come on, you idiot…!" Artemis growled, pumping her hands in compressions against his chest.
(How does one rouse the maiden in the glass coffin along with the sleeping kingdom?)
She tilted his head back and closed his nostrils with her shaking fingers, opening her mouth over his and blowing air in.
(All fairytales usually end happy… when the prince kisses the…)
Wally's spine bowed in when he snapped back to the living world. His crimson-colored gloves shoved her away. Wally sucked in air on his own, noisily, eyes beginning to water.
"Why does my mouth taste like glue?" her teammate questioned, heaving still with his back to the roof. She gestured a bit thoughtlessly, closing then opening her mouth.
"…I have no idea."
It wasn't a lie.
Their communicators beeped and flashed signal-red. Neither of them lifted a finger for them.
Wally licked at his mouth, experimentally. "That's glitter," he monotoned.
"…It's on my face, isn't it?"
Artemis mirrored him, feeling the thin coating on her own chapped mouth. Her gravel-scratched, bleeding toes wiggled — boot still missing. At least she was still single.
"Yeah," she confirmed. "It is."
"Artemis wishes Wally away to the Goblin King. Nothing about that bodes well.
Bonus: And what the hell does the Goblin King mean by 'or he'll be one of us?', she just doesn't think Wally would cope with being a magical creature..."