ReplacementsMature

Swallowing all his pain and hurt feelings Elseron stared at the startled face of Atlas as she spun in her seat, he could see her mind working in overdrive in a vain attempt to try and find a logical explanation to how nearly every object in the room had lifted into the air. He had felt her power. Deep inside her that had for the past century been locked away from her own consciousness, surrounded in a wall of ancient magic since her birth. Since the first moment he had held her in his arms and then passed her to the king. But now the wall had fallen. Now her power washed over him in great shuddering waves of untapped, unbridled energy. He couldn't be jealous or pity himself now. She needed him. 'My Princess calm down,' he said releasing the cast iron grip from his axe handle letting it drop back through the belt loop. 'Everything's fine.'

'Fine? FINE?' she yelled firing from the bed. 'Everything is most certainly not fine! Everything...it all...' suddenly her panicked breaths became laboured, wheezier. 'Elseron...' she gasped as her fear finally consumed her. Catching her before she fell Elseron slowly lowered her to the ground, holding her in his armoured arms as gently as he could.

'Princess look at me,' she continued to struggle for her breaths fighting against his hold. 'Atlas!' he said more forcefully. Her fearful amber pools met his and held there, her chest rising and falling haphazardly, her tattoos flashing more vigorously as she struggled to control her emotions. 'Atlas just breathe...everything's fine...I'm here...nothing is going to hurt you while I'm here. You know that.' the words pained him as he spoke them. She doesn't want you here! She wants a younger fitter half-breed with an attractive face! The petty insecure part of his mind whispered in his ear, but Atlas's need overwrote everything else. Steadily her breathing eased, her eyes relaxed as she stared at him. Soon she was back to her normal self. Albeit a more exhausted version. 'My Princess every ruler of Atlantis for generations has gone through what you are now. Just try to relax and not fight it.'

'I can't it's not right! It's alien! It's...'

'Natural.' he tried to force a smile but he didn't think it had worked. Lifting her up in his arms she protested for a moment before a fresh wave of exhaustion swept over her. 'Atlas this is the change.' he said laying her down on the hard bed they had bought for the night in the rancid hotel. 'Every ruler of Atlantis since the days before the decent has had...abilities. To protect their people if the need required.' She looked at him with tired eyes but the spark of recognition was slowly seeping back into them. 'How do you think your ancestors sank an entire city?'

'I...I never really thought...'

'Yes well. The powers of old Atlantis run through your blood, I can feel it awakening in you. It's like...' he thumbed around for the right metaphor. 'It's like a fire, at first there is no flame...but steadily it gets hotter and hotter until it's a raging inferno. Your powers are just awakening. Soon they'll be completely at your disposal. Until that time they will be unstable, try to keep your emotions calm, powerful feelings like anger or grief set it off. Which is what happened here tonight,' tiredly her head nodded along. She's exhausted. 'Now sleep my Little Princess.'

'No...There’s things that need to be done. Things I need to tell you...' she attempted to sit up but Elseron pushed her shoulders back down against the screaming protest of his broken arm.

'"Things" can wait until morning. Rest my Princess...I'll be here.' She doesn't want you here you old fool! Without another word of protest her head dropped onto the pillow and she was gone to the land of dreams. Watching her take her first few gentle breaths Elseron felt a tear run down his face. Her words rang through his head at a million miles per hour. I want you to gather a team...But you will begin with Phaedos Elias. Whether she had seen his heartbreak he couldn't say. But those words...You’re too old! The voice whispered. Phaedos wouldn't have let her get attacked by humans. He protected her whilst you stood and talked with the wolves while he protected her...you're being replaced. He knew it. He could feel it. But why not! She should replace him. He'd become old and lax, twice they had left the company of Finneous and twice she had nearly gotten captured. 'I'm sorry my Little Princess.' he spoke wiping the tear away and coughing to repress the others he could feel building behind his eyes. 'You deserve someone better than me.' Standing he would have walked out then and there...but he swore he'd stay and care for her.

This last night I will stand as your Guardian. Checking the room for anything harmful as he had done before in Finneous's underground hostel he remembered the thousands of times he had done this before back at the palace. The impatient girl waiting to dive into her bed and hear one of his stories. Several times he'd found hidden assassins. But that was decades ago. When he found nothing he removed his tunic to reveal his gleaming set of Atlantean armour, it was a magical metal. Strong as diamonds with a pearlescent blue sheen to its surface where the Smith had sung magic into the metal as he beat it into the correct shape. His set was covered in scratches and dents after years of fighting, but the steel still gleamed as if it were brand new. The King had given him this armour in a full lavish ceremony...with the nursemaid sitting in the Queens throne, holding the small bundle of scarlet silk with the tiny princess he had been charged with keeping safe hiding somewhere beneath its folds. At first he saw the idea of the High Commander of the Royal Knights guarding a baby as insane, even as an affront to him. Some kind of cruel joke.

I was such a fool. It had been the best job he could have wished for. Atlas had been a beautiful baby, so much of her mother in her. She laughed and giggled and hardly ever cried, when she started to speak she had difficulty saying his name so for about fifteen years he had been known as 'Sir Ewserwon' to his friends. After that it had been just one big blur. Now he stood in a tiny stinking human hotel room old and white when he used to be dark and powerful. The last thing you can do for her is make sure her next Guardian is right. Dante immediately sprang to mind. But he'll be shunned in Atlantis. High Commander a Lycan misfit...no. He'd be killed. For what seemed like days he stood at the foot of the Queen's bed, armoured, facing the door with his pole-axe resting against his shoulder.

'Don't you look grand.' whispered a tired voice. Turning he saw her looking at him, rubbing her eye with her knuckle just like she had done as a child. Staggering out into the hallway where he stood vigilant after she had a nightmare, white hair sticking out at obscene angles. She smiled at him, he forced a smile but it mustn’t have been very convincing because she moved to speak.

'How are you feeling Princess?' he asked quickly moving to sit on the edge of her bed, his eyes glanced to the clock on the side rather than at her face. Has it only been three hours? She shrugged.

'Better...but it feels...like...'

'Like the top of your skull is missing and your scared your soul might fly out?' she looked surprised.

'Yes! Exactly! How did you know?'

'I heard your father say such once.' she sat up and rested her head into her fingers.

'It feels so bizarre Elseron...but at the same time...amazing!' she reached out her hand to the bedside table. The clock immediately began to shuddering in its place. Reaching out gently he took her arm and lowered it, being careful not to startle her because the last thing he needed was her blowing the walls out from the room.

'Best not use them so early my Princess. They will be unstable, until you learn a better sense of control then you can start to use them...but discreetly!' he warned. She nodded along and sighed once again resting her head into her hands. The silence grew taught as he shuffled in his place, the words  were catching behind his teeth. Just say them and have it done with! 'Princess I have been considering your words earlier, and I agree with them.' She looked at him with a huge smile. She could at least pretend to look upset couldn't she. Whispered the voice in his ear. 'I agree you need new guards up here, I will consider Mr Elias for my position and anyone else you recommend to me to guard you up here.'

'Wait...what? Elseron...' she said quickly.

'Princess please let me finish these words are hard enough to say,' he bit but immediately regretted it. 'I...I'm sorry Atlas. I will consider Mr Elias to replace me but I must insist upon returning to Atlantis you appoint Jory High Commander,'

'No Elseron please...' she said raising her hands to him.

'Princess please. For any love you may have left for me, I know I have failed you these past few hours but let this be my last request! Jory is my squire, he is strong, smart, a natural leader, he is friendly with you...' he rattled off desperately trying to win her over without looking at her. He couldn't look. He'd break in half if he looked at her. Suddenly a soft hand clamped his mouth shut and twisted his head to look at her, her Amber eyes boring into his.

'Elseron. What in spirits name are you talking about?' she said looking baffled. 'Are you quitting?' He shouted into her hand.

'What! No of course not Princess!' he said upon her release of it.

'Then why are you talking about Phaedos replacing you?' Confusion shot through him like a spear.

'I...erm...You said you wished for a team...'

'Yes...for you to lead until we get back home.' His heart sank before firing into his head through his skull and out of the building. 'Elseron...did you really think I would send you away after all these years?' tears swam behind her amber irises.

'I...I have failed you.' A dry laugh fired from her lips.

'Elseron...you stood surrounded by a gang of humans and fought like the Knight you are to protect me, tonight you stood against Lycans and won! Sir Elseron you are my Knight...my Guardian. You have been there since my earliest memories, more so than my father. You are my rock...my shield. My backbone and my shadow. There is nothing you could do to make me replace you.' she said with a soft smile as her hand stroked down his stubble covered cheek. Despite his best effort tears flew down his face. Only two. But they were enough for her to rocket over to him and wrap her arms around him. 'You're my Guardian...' she whispered.

'Always and forever,' he whispered back hugging her gently. Being careful not to crush her in his armoured arms.

'And that is never going to change Elseron. Ever.'

The End

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