pardons and favorsMature

Chapter Forty-One
Atlas, then Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word count: 1,318

“We have enough on our minds as it is, my Princess, it seems foolish to take on the problems of a stray vampire.”

She could hardly look at him.  How could everyone be so heartless?  The woman was lost; lost, and alone and probably frightened.  So frightened, thought Atlas, suddenly very sharply aware of the tumultuous time-bomb she’d locked away in the other room.   “She doesn’t have anyone else, Els!  Do you expect me to stand idly by while the poor woman struggles in her new life?”

Elseron sighed, but it was the sigh of a man who knew, perhaps too well, exactly what he was up against.  As if he could taste the emotions pooling inside of her.  “Atlas, what do you wish me to do?  Hunt down another vampire, delay our priorities, until I can find one we can trust?”

She knew it was not an easy task, she wasn’t a fool; but that was why she’d come to him instead of sending one of his nameless, faceless guards.  She shook her head, “I guess you’re right,” she said, her tone a weak acknowledgement of her own feelings.  She wanted to help the woman because she knew how it felt to be lost without a guide, she thought; the outer-world was not like she had been expecting, and those that inhabited it were certainly more hostile than she’d ever predicted.  She understood that.  She understood being in a world she did not understand, surrounded by creatures and myths and humans that she didn’t know anything about.  Who could one trust in a world like this?  Who could one rely on?

It was that desperation that cried out inside of her.  It demanded that she help the woman.  It demanded that she see this through.  She couldn’t simply pawn the woman off, she couldn’t forget about her.  It was against her entire purpose.  A Queen, a real Queen, existed to benefit her people.

Who was to say where the line was drawn that made a person hers or another’s?  How was she supposed to differentiate?  The woman had found her way to Atlas’ doorstep, like a stray in the rain, and Atlas couldn’t simply look away.  There was sympathy in Elseron’s eyes, but his jaw was set and she knew he would not come to agree with her.

It was a reckless use of their time, of their resources, and that was the assessment he would stand behind.  He would not stop her from doing as she pleased, but he would not agree.

Atlas heard the distant sound of footsteps coming down the hallway.  She turned as Phaedos entered the room.  Instantly, she knew the solution.

She realized with a start that she had missed the sight of him.

Elseron was leaning against the wall behind Atlas when Phaedos walked in.  He moved to a point across from both of them, forming a somewhat disfigured triangle with their positions, so he could see them at the same time.  Elseron did not seem pleased with the conversation that had stopped abruptly upon Phaedos’ arrival, but Phaedos was entering the room blind to the topic.  He wondered what they were arguing about; then he wondered if they were arguing about him, and decided he did not want to know any longer.

It did not seem fate was on his side.

Atlas turned her honey eyes to him and sighed, “Phaedos, would you please find someone to help that vampire get herself together?”

He couldn’t deny that he had been expecting almost anything except that.

“I beg your pardon, my Queen, but I do not see that her issues are your duty to resolve for her.  She’s a grown woman.”

The growing understanding in Atlas’ eyes said, with perfect clarity, that she was about to round-house kick both of them simultaneously.  He stepped back once, with a liquid kind of instinct that was familiar to him; but even for him the motion was too early, too flighty – and beneath the stoic mask of his expression, it bothered him.  He’d flinched; and not even just flinched, he thought, disgusted, but a caitiff, ready to bolt, full-body flinch from a woman who had made no real threat.

He did not like the way Elseron was looking at him; it wasn’t a nasty look, but quite the opposite.  As if he were agreeing with Phaedos, or – more accurately, as if Phaedos were taking Elseron’s side in an argument he hadn’t been aware he was part of.

The pieces fell together.  Goddammit.  He held up his hand to shield himself from the hellfire about to burst forth from Atlas.  “But if you have decided to be so generous as to assist the woman, then I believe I know of someone that could help.”

Elseron did not scowl, necessarily, but Phaedos could not safely say Elseron wasn’t scowling.  He could say about as much for the contorted expression of relief on Atlas’ features.  She was not quite relieved, either; as if she were wondering if she wanted to bring another unknown into her world.  He supposed she did have a startling amount of strangers wandering around.  Once her eyes met his across the gap between them, he realized it wasn’t about bringing someone new in.  It was about something much greater than that.

She was relieved that he wasn’t craven, while she hated that her view had been contested.  She’d obviously just been battling it out with Elseron over the same topic, whether or not she had expected less argument from him was unclear.

Phaedos may have felt somewhat sick every time he was near her, as if his stomach was ready to leap from his throat and flee, taking his heart and his lungs with it, but he was not a recreant; nor was he a man easily fooled into stupidity by the woman of his fancy.

He was many things, but a skirt-chasing coward was not one of them.  However, she was his Queen.  He would take her orders if she wished to voice them.  She clearly did.

“Find her,” Atlas said, her tone regal and commanding.  Phaedos kept his eyes on Elseron.

Quietly, Phaedos said, “Him.”


Phaedos was outside of the mansion, ringing the same number on his cell phone a hundred times, when the door creaked open.

His first glance recognized the tips of her silver-white curls, his second glance stopped everything.  He wasn’t sure what it was that struck him so fiercely about her – but he had his guesses.  Her eyes were darker in the sunlight, which was something he hadn’t expected at all.  Looking then, he thought the color reminded him of a redwood tree.  Her skin practically glowed.

“Phaedos,” she said, “there you are.  I have something I wish to discuss with you.”

He straightened his posture; rising from his leant position against the wall, and pulling his shoulders back.  He pocketed his phone.  “What would that be, your majesty?”

She frowned at him, and for a moment he was certain she was going to point out that she preferred ‘Atlas,’ but she did not, and said instead, “You will be taking your orders directly from me, now.”

“Is that so?”  He paused, letting his eyes memorize the sight before him.  He was hardly listening, despite his best efforts; the color of her eyes was distracting his thoughts.  "How does Elseron feel about this?"

The shift in her posture was barely visible, but he caught it.  Perking up, he focused more of his attention on her words.  She said, "Elseron and I will work that out."

“Might I ask why you wish this?”

She offered him a jovial smile and said, “No, you may not.”  She gestured to his pocket, “I will let you answer that.”

He quirked his brow at her, puzzled, and as she shut the door behind her, the phone in his pocket vibrated.

The End

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