Chapter Thirty
Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,166 

The sight before him was not the sight he had expected.

Phaedos stood in the doorway, the fire and rage simmering beneath his skin; his entire existence prepared to demolish whatever could be threatening the Queen.

What he saw before him, frankly, he thought would surprise even Elseron.  Atlas was leaned against the edge of the dresser, the mirror shaking wildly behind her as if recently struck by a great force, her curls wind-blown and stunning.  Her eyes were bright with the light of small suns, but her expression was calm and stoic, untroubled.

His heartbeat, frantic a moment before, settled into its even rhythm.  She was fine.

He slowly turned his eyes from her, seeking out her guest, whom he had known about as soon as the window had been breached, and smirked.

He said nothing as Gramtag shook the dirt and soot from his clothes, he simply waited.

Gramtag said, “I will tell you who hired me.”

The silence that filled the air was thick and sticky with expectation and unspoken malice.

He paused before continuing, as if prolonging his words intentionally.  “There is a small family of Atlanteans living discretely in Nevada.  They do not know that I am aware of their true heritage; they are well disguised as humans with dark hair and tanned skin – but I know what they really are.”

“That cannot be,” said Atlas, her tone neutral and empty.

“I am telling you what I know,” Gramtag replied, his tone almost identical to Atlas’.  That, however, was not what Phaedos heard; Phaedos heard disrespect, the arrogant tone of an insolent bastard with no right to look upon the Queen – let alone speak to her.

“You will not contest the judgment of the Queen,” Phaedos said, and even though he made the effort to suppress it, to control it, his voice was the low, threatening growl of a predator. “You will show her your respect!”

Atlas’ voice was a low murmur, but the sound reached his ears as if she were screaming.  “Phaedos, I do not need assistance in this matter.”

He would not argue the Queen, not when he had just scolded another man for the same infraction.  He turned immediately, without a word, and left the room.


Two-point-five hours later.

It was dark and the path was winding before him; he scowled as he prowled the evening shadows.  His neck was sore and tight, he could feel the bruises pulsating against his flesh in rhythmic time to his heartbeat.  He had been sent from the house like a misbehaving pet, exiled to the outdoors to scan the perimeter like a new guard.

He supposed, to Elseron, that was all he was.  He frowned as he thought of the way Atlas had dismissed him; he struggled with his feelings on the matter.  A part of him was able to recognize that he’d been in the wrong, but the greater part of him simply could not imagine how he had been.

He sighed and shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket.  It wasn’t particularly cold, but the air had a chill to it that left him with a stiff neck and a bone-deep frore he couldn’t shake.  He had done three separate scans; taking a new path each time so as to be certain; but he doubted his meticulousness would matter to Elseron.  He would not be easy to win over.

Aside from that, Phaedos was struggling to see a way out of the world that seemed to be caving in around him.  He had never before seen a person in half as much danger as Atlas was in – and he was having great trouble imagining her coming out of this well.  The prospect of losing her terrified him – as the prospect of the sun dying out terrified others; a looming, vague threat that barely materialized itself in his mind, but which shook him to the very core, shook him with the knowledge that it would be the very end of times were the events to actually come to pass.

He had one card up his sleeve, but it was a card he had tried to bury – tried to lose beneath layers of clothes and guilt and the weight of going day to day with that kind of black mark.

He had just opened the door to the house, brushing off two of the new guards as he did so, when he felt the static in the air.  It was an electric kind of pressure – focused in the mind and eyes rather than the rest of the body.  It was Elseron, Phaedos knew, and he was close by.  Very close, thought Phaedos.

Turning abruptly to the right, he met Elseron’s eyes unintentionally; he did not back down or shift his gaze, however, and instead chose to meet those frost eyes.

“Elseron,” he said, “I was just going to seek you out.  I have something I wish to discuss with you.”

The cold eyes did not move; he wasn’t even sure they blinked.  Elseron’s voice was equally flat and empty of inflection.  “And that would be?”

“I would prefer to discuss this in private.”

Elseron stepped aside and followed Phaedos down the hall into the library.  Doing a quick once-over of the room to be sure it was unoccupied, Phaedos clasped his hands behind his back in common Atlantean attention.  “I have a possible attribute to your team, Elseron,” he began, approaching the subject as he would a business proposal.  “I know, whether you wish to admit it or not, that you are desperate for an army of men to help you guard our Queen, and I have one man I can recommend.”

“Our Queen?”  Elseron’s expression was only slightly bemused, but it was merely a murky peek at the thoughts beneath.  He clearly did not think Phaedos knew the sort of loyalty that Elseron possessed, especially toward Atlas.

Phaedos frowned, and said nothing.

Eventually, Elseron gestured with his hand, and said, “Continue.”

“I have a twin,” he said, and let the statement stand alone for a long moment; as if those words should have been all he needed to say for Elseron to figure out who he was – if he hadn’t already.

Elseron’s expression did not change.

Phaedos continued, “In case you have not already made the connections, I am Anicetus, son of Heracles.  My brother is Alexiares.”

He waited for Elseron’s eyes to shift, to twitch, to acknowledge that he had spoken – but no acknowledgment came.

“I see,” he said, graciously half-bowing as he continued, “I shall take my leave of your time, then, Sir Elseron.  I am sure you have much to do.”

“Where is your brother now, Anicetus?”

The words stopped him as he reached for the doorknob.  He paused, but said, “The last time I saw my brother was on a beach somewhere in Ko Si Chang, in the Gulf of Thailand.”

“And when was this?”

“Exactly eleven years, six months, and one week ago, Sir.”




Author note:  sorry i had to post it one half at a time, guys, but it's done now!

The End

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