Phaedos, the tight-rope acrobatMature

Chapter Twenty
Atlas, then Phaedos, by rhetoric 
Word Count: 1,070 

Elseron had decided it would be a wise move to relocate their base operations; even in the dim lighting of the above-ground, below-standard motel he was skittish and prone to paranoid behavior. They sat in their second hotel room of the night, not including Finneous' hideaway hotel or the mansion they were arranging to transfer to, and he was already talking of making another switch. Whatever it was he kept rushing to see out of the window, he did not seem to like.

"Elseron, please; let us rest for a while and switch hotel rooms tomorrow. It has been a long day. We came to the outer-world twenty-six hours ago, my Guardian; it is time to rest." She held her hand out to him, palm up; it was a gesture of welcoming, an invitation to join her on the couch. On the table in front of her sat two mugs of tea; only one of them full, untouched. "Your tea's gone cold, Els, please?" The shortened name was strange on her tongue, but she liked the familiarity of it. She let it stand.

His eyes were softer when he glanced to her, then, in recognition of her plea. With one last glance out of the window, he settled himself into the couch and lifted his mug. He took a gulp from it, and she thought he was allowing the bitterness of the cold tea to linger in his throat and distance his attention from the activities of a world he could not predict.

Shifting her eyes to the table, Atlas wondered briefly how she knew that. She shook it off as Elseron rose once more and reached for his cloak. She did not ask where he was going.

*

Phaedos opened the door to his apartment to be greeted by the coldest blue eyes he had ever seen. He bowed respectfully to Elseron as he stepped aside to let the man in. "Come right in, Elseron," he said, drying his hands on the dish rag hooked through his belt loop. He extended his hand to shake but Elseron stared blankly at him until he retracted it.

"It has been requested by her majesty that you be considered for a position in a team of guards, I am here to discuss this with you."

Phaedos nodded, "Yes, Elseron, I recently informed her of my interest in keeping her safe."

"You have too much interest," Elseron said, and his tone was unquestionable, he was stating fact and nothing more. It was not up for debate.

"Perhaps that is true," Phaedos acquiesced, brushing off the emotional implications of admitting it to himself.

"You will not be allowed to guard her," Elseron said, his decree of mistrust clear, "but you will be given a position in the guard."

"That is very much appreciated, Elseron. I am at your command."

"Others will be allowed nearer to her than you," the tone that came from Elseron was more menacing than anything Phaedos had ever experienced, but he stood his ground. He would not be scared off with trivial threats. Elseron continued, "I do not trust your interest in my Queen and, when it is in my power to do so, you will be kept farthest from her at all times."

As he looked sternly into the icy eyes of his guest, as he recognized what could only be considered unconditional loyalty, as he realized that this man was juggling a double-edged sword, he understood Elseron's stance in the situation. He would protect Atlas until his dying breath, even if it was from herself.

"Yes, Sir," Phaedos said, hoping his acceptance would be the show of respect that it was meant to be. "I do not care if I am nothing more than the errand boy for the errand boy, Elseron, I simply want to know I am helping."

*

She had beckoned him, or else he would not have come.

He stood on the small terrace of a mansion in the country. It had taken him an hour to get there from the city, even on his motorcycle, and he had nearly missed it. The mansion itself, while a lovely stone monument to the achievements of man, had been abandoned by it's creators and overtaken by nature. Vines of ivy covered most of the once-white stone. The rock path to the door was uneven and treacherous; the rocks jutted up at odd angles and in unexpected intervals, the nearby plants grew without restriction. The clearing the mansion had been hidden away in was surrounded by dense forest for miles in every direction.

Atlas joined him on the terrace, wrapped in a silk shawl that fell to her hips and accentuated the navy blue depths of her silk dress. The line of her figure was prominent, even in the dirty shadows of pre-dawn, and he tried not to notice the ethereal beauty of the woman beside him.

"Thank you for coming," she said, and her voice held the smallest hint of amusement - as if she understood his hesitation but not the threat behind it.

"I will always answer your call, Atlas," he said, not turning to her - keeping his eyes on the horizon above the tree tops.

"I was hoping you would take me somewhere," she said, her tone indicating that she now understood he would not.

Curious, he looked to her, then, and asked, "Where did you wish to go?"

Her eyes were warm even though she shivered in the breeze; her lips were in a tight line and, for a moment, he did not think she would answer. "The zoo."

He laughed; he could not help it.

She frowned and shook her head, the frown quivering at the edges as if she appreciated the humor but was fighting it. She said, "Elseron is gathering his guard and I am under strict orders to not go looking for trouble. So I will seek out my curiosities, instead."

He chewed on the prospect for a while; mulling over the details, the potential dangers. He was not on duty, he had not even been informed when to be prepared for it - so he was not disobeying any orders. It was his time he would be donating, and he had not been forbidden to see her upon her request.

"I will take you to the zoo," he said, shrugging as if it were a casual decision.

She smiled, then, and for an instant it felt as if it had been.


The End

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