Battered, bruised, tired, bleeding, sweating great bullets of perspiration Elseron stood in the small, albeit nearly destroyed room, with his pole-axe in both hands panting like a dog. For nearly five hours he and Pilot had been battling each other, his elegant rapier had moved like a dart, just the briefest of warnings before Elseron had to react and block the whip thin blade or risk being turned into a walking pin cushion. Both had stripped to the skin after the second hour wearing nothing but the breeches on their legs. Pilot was making out that he wasn't as exhausted as Elseron was, but Elseron could see the weight of the blade beginning to weigh down on his shoulder, his nostrils flaring wildly as he sucked in great lung full’s of air, he moved less on the balls of his feet too. After the third hour Elseron had been sure that he was more than adequate to train Melody, but...he kept going. Not to torture the vampire or try to make him concede...but because he loved the fight.
The thrill of a good competition from the man across from him, this lean vampire with his disdainful air of superiority. But Elseron knew that air...he carried it around with him every moment of every day, its the look a man got when he became a leader. Elseron could best every guard in this house with his eyes closed, the Demi-God, Melody...Dante had power and ferocity but with speed, skill and technique Elseron could best him too, maybe. But Pilot. This whip of a vampire. For the first time in nearly three hundred years Elseron had met his equal. 'Have I passed your inspection...sir?' asked Pilot rolling his bleeding shoulder in its socket. It was a tiny cut and he'd given Elseron as many.
'Yes.' he said simply. Standing at ease Elseron placed one hand behind his back while staring into the leaf green eyes of the dark dweller. He...is going to be very useful. Pilot flicked his rapier clean of blood with a sharp snap of his wrist before resting the tip of the blade on the floor.
'Excellent. I will start training your vampire at your bequest sir.' With that he gathered his clothes under one arm, sheathed his rapier and headed to the door but before he left the room he turned to look back at him. 'It was a pleasure Sir Elseron.' he said with a bow of his head and a small smile.
'To you as well Sir.' Elseron said nodding back. He feels the same as I do...he enjoyed that. In a blink of an eye Pilot was gone leaving Elseron alone in the wrecked room. His axe had broken several floorboards, smashed a mirror and dug a huge crater in the wall whilst Pilot's rapier had sliced a book case in two, cut in half a pair of silk curtains and put a scratch in the antique wallpaper as long as Elseron's axe. The small coffee table that Elseron had fallen onto after Pilot had flung him into the air like a rag doll was nothing but splinters, the plastic bottles of water slowly leaking their contents into the oak wood floor. 'Looks like Phaedos came through,' Elseron smiled as his axe handle retracted back into itself before he was able to place it through his belt loop. With adrenaline still coursing through his system Elseron gathered his clothes and left, he needed to tell Atlas.
'Hey,' said Dante's deep voice as he stepped out into the corridor. Dante was walking from the direction of Melody's room clutching a white cloth to his arm that was slowly staining a bright crimson.
'Dante, is everything well?'
'Oh this, just a scratch from her feed.' said Dante with a shrug. Eventually his eyes were drawn to the room Elseron had just left.
'How is her strength coming?' he said quickly trying to take Dante away from the room.
'She's doing...well....What the f*ck happened here!' he boomed with a broad smile.
'Her Majesty saw it prudent to train Melody in her new powers. I was simply testing her teaching to make sure he was up to the job.'
'And?' he asked with a sharp mischievous glint to his eyes.
'He's...acceptable. Speaking of training,' Elseron said quickly walking with Dante down the corridor. 'How is the Queens secret lessons with Phaedos going?'
'Well enough. She's stronger than she looks and could give you a run for your money using one of them bloody axes.'
'Did you offer your services?' Dante laughed hoarsely.
'Aye...but she declined. Between you and me Elseron...I think she does it more for alone time with our Demi-God than for the training itself.' A rock dropped through his stomach, he knew this was coming, he had seen it the moment she had first laid eyes on him back in the aqua’s hostel. Phaedos Elias...
'I see.' the words struck from Elseron's mouth stronger than he thought they would. Dante looked down at him and lifted an eye brow.
'You're taking this better than I thought.'
'The Queen is entitled to spend her time with whoever she pleases.' he said coldly. 'Seen as her Majesty doesn't want your services I suggest you offer them to Melody,'
'And when you say offer...'
'Why me?' said Dante with a sudden hardness in his voice.
'She trusts you, knows you and I want someone I can trust in that room with her and the dark dweller.' Elseron said as they stopped at a convergence point of three corridors.
'I thought you said her teacher was acceptable.'
'Just because he's a good fight doesn't mean I trust him, he's here because of an old favour and nothing more. He has no allegiance to Atlas, that makes him dangerous. And because he's a good fight...more so. Keep an eye on him Dante.'
'You know your trusts comes with a sh*t load of catches.' smiled Dante.
'You were the one that saved my life,' Elseron smiled back as he moved down the corridor towards Atlas's room. Soon he was there and the guard saluted him as he reached the improvised door. 'At ease soldier...stand watch at the end of the corridor and tell you replacement to do the same.'
'Yes Sir Elseron!' he said briskly before picking up his pole-axe and marching off down the corridor. Knocking on the doorjamb as he always did Elseron whispered,
'Princess.' no reply. 'Atlas!' Lifting the cloth quickly he found her sleeping on her bed, her chest rising and falling periodically with the softest hint of a snore brushing past her lips. Breathing in relief Elseron moved into the room quietly, making sure not to make any unnecessary noises as he moved over the creaking floorboards. As silently as his bulky frame would allow he moved to her washroom and started the hard task of cleaning all the cuts Pilot had left him with. Seven in total. Nothing more than scratches really that would heal over in the next few days. He could have cut me to ribbons if he wanted too...but then again I could have killed him just as many times as he cut me. When he was sure that the cuts were clean he bathed and dressed himself quietly before finally taking his axe from his hip and lowering himself down into the arm chair beside Atlas's bed. She was facing him this way, eyes closed, tattoos so dim they were almost nonexistent, silver white hair glistening in the moon light.
He had barely sat himself down for thirty seconds when he heard, 'Els.' the softest whisper into her pillow.
'How can I do all that and you awaken with the creaking of a chair spring?' he smiled.
'I woke when you first walked in,' she smiled lifting her eye lids slowly to reveal those huge amber pools of liquid gold.
'Go back to sleep my Little Princess, all is well.' For half a heartbeat her eyes were closed.
'Yes Princess,' he said closing his own eyes and resting his head against the chair.
'Tell me about my mother...' cracking his eyes open Elseron looked to her, she was looking at him with those huge eyes and somehow she wasn't the Queen anymore, she was that little girl who he used to tell stories too.
'Atlas now isn't...'
'My Father never told me about her, not even her name, and if I ever brought it up he would get angry and shout at me to be quiet.' Elseron remembered that, one day Atlas and the King were having dinner when she asked about her mother, he went into such a rage Atlas came running to Elseron. She...she has a right to know.
'She...she was called Ariel,' even at the mention of her name her face immediately burst into his psyche. 'She had pale skin...long, curly brown hair...she was beautiful.' He looked down to his Princess as tears glistened over her eyes...her eyes...her eyes. 'You have her eyes,' looking away Elseron found his hands tightening around his axe and he didn't know why.
'Did you know her?' Yes.
'No...not really. Only through guarding the king.' he lied.
'How...how did she...' She didn't have to finish the question.
'During your labour she...she got a fever, it unleashed all the powers in her mind, like what happened to you.'
'Is that how you knew that magic?' she said shakily. Elseron just nodded unable to look at her; if he did he'd crack and tell her every detail.
'Once the Midwife put you in my arms I held you for a few seconds before I ran out and gave you to the king...the Midwife said I was insane but I tried to quell the storm in her head. She...she didn't make it. She died in my arms.' as a tear ran down her face Atlas reached over and took his hand from his axe and held it tightly.
'Even then you were willing to risk your life for a woman you hardly knew. Why?' Atlantis needs its Queen. Was what he wanted to say but what came out was,
'No daughter should grow up without a mother.' it was only a whisper but Atlas's hand tightened around his fingers in response.
'I love you Els.' fighting back his emotions he brought up enough nerve to look at her but found her sound asleep, the ghosts of a tear being absorbed into her pillow.
'I love you Atlas,' closing his eyes her face danced around him, smiling and beautiful, and a tear rolled down his face. Ariel.