Chapter Eighty One
Atlas, by rhetoric
Word Count: 889
She waited patiently for Elseron and Phaedos to find her. Her feet propped up on a footstool, her laptop open in her lap. She continued her search. It never seemed to come to a conclusion; all of her small leads were dead ends. The outlook was beginning to seem rather bleak. Her options were rapidly narrowing down.
There was a single, distinct tap on her window.
Then it opened from the outside and a long, lithe form slipped inside. She hadn’t realized the window had been unlocked, and when she thought about it, it seemed rather unlikely. Elseron had swept the room. She knew, then, that it had been locked.
Pilot shut the window behind him and she offered him a harmless frown. He smirked, as if they shared a secret.
“Greetings, your Highness. I hope you were not trying to lose me.”
She dropped her gaze back to her screen. “There was a Lycan problem at the mansion. Phaedos hasn’t been able to reach you.”
He offered no explanation. “It was not a bother to find you, dear Queen, perhaps we should reconsider your hideout?”
She puzzled, briefly, over why exactly he felt it appropriate to address her so bluntly. She met his forest green eyes and rolled her shoulders.
“Elseron and Phaedos are on their way for a meeting; perhaps we will discuss it.”
“Ah,” he said, pausing. He tilted his head downward slightly, as if trying to peek at her face as she looked upon her laptop screen. “Have I upset you, your Highness?”
She sighed, “No, Pilot; it’s nothing. Just, knock, will you?”
He blinked as if processing her request. Then he nodded, “Aye,” he said, “You have my apologies for any assumptious behavior on my part.”
She met his eyes again, this time out of curiosity. There was a subtle inflection behind his words that she could not quite decipher. She studied his expression, the set to his mouth, the depths of his eyes; but still it escaped her.
“Why do I get the feeling you do not apologize very often, Pilot?”
He smiled, and the gesture was relaxed and charming. She felt comforted by it, and subsequently only more confused. “That is probably because I do not apologize very often.”
“Why do you apologize now, to me, then?”
He smiled again, but it was only with his eyes. “Your Guardian would find himself in a dangerous predicament if I were to answer that question, your Highness. Let us drop the matter,” he said, gesturing with a nod at the door, “Your men are on their way. Shall I stay for the meeting?”
Compulsively, she said, “Yes.”
When Elseron swung open the door she could hear the fury in his thoughts like the slow roll of thunder. When did he get here?
“Elseron, Pilot will be joining our meeting,” Atlas said, and her tone was impartial but matter-of-fact.
Elseron scowled at Pilot and it was open and plain and menacing. They had argued, and Atlas wondered what the argument had been about.
She realized then, that she was beginning to feel left out of something. Missing a loop somewhere.
“Do you two wish to inform me what it is you’re at odds about? Perhaps I can help you resolve it,” she looked from one to the other. Pilot stood casually, hands in his jacket pocket, leaning against the wall beside the window. Elseron seemed to be fuming at the very sight of the vampire, but he kept himself in tight control – it was only the cold fury in his eyes, and the whispering breeze of it in the tone of his thoughts, that gave him away.
Phaedos shut the door and took the recliner beside Atlas’ in silence. He seemed content to let Elseron rage over Pilot, so long as someone was.
“Ask me again later, Princess,” Elseron said, and his words were carefully contained.
“Fine,” she said, brushing it off, “Can we get on to the meeting?”
“We need to discuss the matter of my brother,” Phaedos said, spitting out the words as if they were uncomfortable to keep in his mouth. “I know where I can find him, but I don’t know if I can convince him to leave.”
“What would give you trouble?” She didn’t look at him, allowing him the privacy of his own emotions. She continued to scroll through page after page on the laptop.
“I am uncertain if he is there willingly,” Phaedos hesitated then, for the shortest of breaths, “or not.”
“Where is he?” Elseron pulled over the ergonomic computer chair and settled into it, propping his axe up against his knee.
Pilot chortled, rolling onto the side of his shoulder against the wall so he could look directly at Phaedos, and said, “But the Encantado haven’t been around for hundreds of years.”
“Your point?” The snide edge to Phaedos’ response was the first sign of frustration at the vampire.
“How did your brother wind up in Encante?” Elseron broke in, settling the conversation.
“He fell in love,” Phaedos answered, keeping his eyes carefully off of Atlas. “He chose her.”
A weighty silence pressed down on the room, for a long moment all Atlas could do was count her heartbeats and wait for someone else to push forward.
At long last, Pilot did. “When do we leave for Encante?”