Elseron sat in the strange 'car' with Dante behind the wheel; how he had acquired the motor vehicle he didn't know...and didn't really care. It had been a long drive with several wrong turns as Elseron's memory failed them, but eventually they found the great mansion. Nestled in a think woodland with it's back to a set of small mountains covered in verdurous lands and carpets of deep green grass turned black in the darkness of the night. The mansion was not too dissimilar from the one he had left Atlas at, spirits that had nearly broken him, having to leave her alone in that massive house with only the protection of the night and the house's size to protect her. But he had too. Atlas needed guards. And this was the only place he could think of, they were the only people they could trust. Its walls were illuminated by strange lights that sat on the ground and the roof, a guard post sat before the huge cast iron gate with a single man in a deep blue uniform sat reading a book whilst occasionally glancing at the small holo-screens on his desk.
The pair sat in their vehicle in the shadows of the long driveway that lead through the woods. 'Anything?' asked Elseron when Dante rolled down the window to smell the cold night air. He took a good long draft of air through his nose, flaring his wide nostrils.
'Nothing.' he spoke eventually. Relief washed over him in a massive wave as he stared at the massive house, he wasn't sure how they'd react to his unexpected visit. But he wasn't here for himself...he was here for his Princess, that would make them understand...he hoped. 'How long did you say it's been since you last saw her?' A century. He said to himself. She'd been so young, barely past her hundredth birthday; he had been a much younger man. A hundred years. Elseron shook his head and ran his hand down to his axe for luck.
'Let’s go.' he said softly. Dante seemed unaltered by the fact that he hadn't answered the question and simply turned the key and put his foot down, inching them forwards out of the woods towards the guard station. When the gravel beneath the car became loud enough the guard looked up and leaned out of the box while Elseron wound his window down.
'Can I help you sirs?' asked the guard.
'I'm here to see Lady Waters.' Elseron said confidently, the guards face did look familiar but when he smelt his scent Elseron found him to be human. Why do you look familiar? When he was pulled from his thoughts the guard pointed to a small silver box on the top corner of the station.
'Look into the camera please sir.' Picking up a tiny earphone a whole light blue screen moulded around the guards face, it was an odd sightseeing the view from the camera on the guards face. Suddenly he began talking. 'Sorry to disturb Ma'am but you have visitors...I...yes Ma'am...of course.' looking back to him the guard shook his head. 'I'm sorry sirs but the Lady doesn't know you, I must please ask you to leave the premises.' No...Elseron thought in despair, it had been a hundred years. 'Sir?'
'Elve!' Elseron said to the camera quickly drawing his axe and holding it out of the window.
'Sir! Put the weapon down!' shouted the guard reaching for a baton at his hip. 'Sir this is your final...Ma'am?...of course Ma'am.' said the human releasing the pressure on the device in his ear, his hand let go of the baton and pressed a button on the desk opening the electric gates. 'Welcome sir. Lady Waters will be waiting for you.' Dante drove forward leaving the human in his small box, they followed the gravelled path before the great house came looming over them like some artificial mountain. Rounding a grand spurting fountain Dante pulled up outside a long flight of steps that lead to the grand front door to the mansion, before they even had chance to open the doors two men rushed out carrying pole-axes wearing similar blue suits to the human.
'Sir Elseron,' bowed one of the knights while the other got into the car taking the keys from Dante. 'Your car will be parked in the garage with the others Sir, Lady Oaken is in the reading room awaiting your company.' Nodding to the knight Elseron stared around the grounds.
'Dante, do a sweep of the surrounding area. If it’s all clear come find me.' the huge hulking man took his orders with a proud nod before he sprinted off into the darkness as quick as a bolt of lightning. He may not be a knight but he sure acts like one. 'I will see Elve now.'
'Follow me please sir.' he smiled with a bow before they walked up the sandstone steps and into the huge mansion. For such a big home with so many windows it was a dark and almost foreboding place to be in, busts of people he didn't know stared down at him with lifeless marble eyes from specially carved alcoves in the walls whilst they passed huge grand paintings of strange scenes, many involving a man with a short brown beard and long hair. Elseron allowed himself a smile. Those paintings reminded him bizarrely of Dante. As they moved into another corridor his boots began to strike loudly against the marble floor, its black and white chessboard tiles as polished as the axe the knight carried. It took over a minute before they came to the correct room and by that time Elseron had seen so many knights he had trained he felt like he had somehow taken a step back into Atlantis. Maybe he had? She had a Gatekeeper in a literal sense. Don't be foolish you old dolt! He was human. But he had looked familiar... 'Lady Oaken will be inside sir.' With that the knight turned and left him stood outside the small door.
Spirits guide me. He thought before turning the golden handle and walking in to the reading room. Like the rest of the house this room was dimly lit with only three oil burning lamps on the walls barely burning but they gave off enough light for him to notice shelves of books...another bust...a set of armour. But the greatest source of light was the fire that burned in the middle of the room, orange flames licking up the chimney breast in great thermal tongues as the wood fuelled their hunger. And sitting in front of the fire on a small fainting sofa, in nothing but a pair of leather slippers and a silk robe...was Elvernoi Waters. Or Elvernoi Oaken she was now called after she married her husband, a distant relative of the Royal Family but who never got bored of pointing out that fact. She had barely changed. Still curvaceous, still full lipped, still as long and elegant as she had been all those years ago, still Elve. 'Elve.' he said tentatively shutting the door quietly.
'How long has it been Elseron?' she asked staring down at the wood panelled floor.
'Too long Elve.' he said choosing his words carefully. That pushed a sarcastic laugh out of her as she brushed a soft strand of hair out of her face with elegant porcelain fingers.
'I'm not even sure why I let you in Elseron...after what you did to me I should hate you,' she paused drifting her eyes to the ceiling; he didn't say anything but just took a step forward towards her. 'A hundred years...' she muttered. 'I had to leave after...It was too painful staying...seeing your face everywhere I went...hearing people cheer your name.'
'I don't even want to look at you Elseron,' she laughed to herself still staring at the elaborately decorated ceiling. 'Again I'm not sure why...I want to think it's because if I did I'd kick you out...but I know it's because if I do it will bring every feeling I have buried over the last century back to the surface.' Circling around the sofa Elseron stood at its side, looking into the emerald eyes that wouldn't look back at him. 'I can always hope that age has made you ugly.' she joked as a tear ran down her cheek.
'Elve,' he said softly. Slowly, very slowly her eyes found his hair, his face, his lips, then eventually his eyes.
'No luck there then,' she smiled softly as another tear rolled down the elegant curve of her jawbone. 'Hello Elseron...' she whispered.
'Hello Elve,' he said quietly. He wasn't sure she had heard because to him the roar of the fire sounded louder than his voice. 'You look beautiful.'
'You look old.' she said harshly before she closed her eyes with a shake of her head. 'Forgive me...'
'There is nothing to forgive.' She looked at him again as she wrapped her arms around herself.
'You're still handsome...'
'And you've still got eye problems.' he dared say with a smile, thankfully she smiled brushing the tears away. An uncomfortable silence grew in the room as she looked at him, such a piercing, searching look her face an impenetrable mask of pain and hurt.
'What do you want Elseron?' she croaked finally.
'I...I need your help Elve. The Queen needs your help.' Elve laughed dryly shooting to her feet turning her back onto him. Rubbing her fingers against her forehead with one hand resting on her hip.
'How dare you! You come here after one hundred years, with her. And have the bare faced effrontery to ask for my help after what you did to me!'
'I had to make a choice.' he said helplessly.
'And you didn't choose our marriage!' she screamed turning on him. An accusing finger pointing at his heart. 'How long was it planned? Since I came of age! And when the King clapped his hands,'
'I had to choose between my life or my duty!' he interrupted defensively and a little more forcefully than he would have liked.
'Lies!' she spat. Her beautiful face etched in anger. 'You had to make a choice between me or her and you chose her!' fresh tears rolled down her face as they stood apart from one another. 'I loved you Elseron...' she whispered, her voice undernoted with true heart breaking pain.
'Did you ever love me?'
'Answer the question!' she yelled.
'No Elve!' he yelled causing her to jump in shock. 'No I never loved you! Is that what you want to hear? The wedding was all my families’ idea because I couldn't have to woman I truly loved.' the look on her face tore out a piece of his heart. This is for Atlas. He kept telling himself over and over as Elve backed away and dropped back onto the sofa. 'Elve you were beautiful, and funny and I could have sat with you and talked for days...but you weren't the woman I loved.' he kneeled before her. He saw the slap coming but let it hit. The pain stinging up his cheek.
'I loved you! It's taken me a hundred years to get you out of my heart and here you are...I'm sorry I couldn't be her for you Elseron, but...' tears fell down her face from her emerald eyes. The pearlescent sheen to them glittering even more in the firelight. Her hands cupped his bearded face gently, 'I could have made you forget about her...forget about that axe she gave you and this mission you put onto yourself...' Tears grew behind his eyes as her faced danced in front of his vision. The most beautiful creature he'd ever seen, her eyes smiling at him as they stared at each other across the court.
'No you couldn't Elve...I'm sorry.' she closed her eyes and sat back into her sofa folding her arms across her chest, hugging herself softly. 'You loved me...and I love Atlas...Please Elve. You're the only one I can trust here. I'm begging you, please, help me and I will forever be in your debt.' A dry laugh coughed from between her lips.
'Take what you want, do what you want...just get out of my sight.' She whispered painfully. Smiling even though he knew he shouldn't Elseron rose, kissing her on the forehead.
'Thank you.' Then he turned and left as tears came from her in great shuddering sobs.