Old Tricks for an Old DogMature

Sitting in his and Atlas's room Elseron chewed on his thumbnail as Melody sat behind him with a pair of scissors in hand. Snipping away at the long silver locks that had fallen low enough to touch his chest, shirtless his eyes drifted to the wounds that Atlas had healed for him, they weren't scars per say. But every now and again he would move and the light would catch the regenerated skin differently, they were just a slight shade lighter than the rest of his body and seemed to shimmer almost. A perverse smile twisted his lips, I'm like Atlas with her tattoos. Melody was gabbering away as she worked, he would have liked to have been the gentlemen he was and listened to her, but his mind was swimming. Encante...Of all the places in all the worlds, Phaedos's brother had to be there! An underground fortress city that was just, if not more so, well defended from attack and infiltration as Atlantis, locked away from the realm of mortals by Gatekeepers and filled with the Encantos.

That fact more than any other was one that filled him with dread. He'd been up against them only once, long before Atlas was born. They were a paradox in flesh and bone those people, immortal, immune to sickness of the mind or body and yet they craved the pleasures of the human world. The pleasures of love, of the flesh, but they also sought out their hardships, heartbreak, pain, suffering. It was in a way a kind of twisted Sadomasochism, the pain of mortals gave them pleasure...that was until the last war against Atlantis. Elseron had lead the army, King Atlas's right hand. They took the city within a week, its palace a month and Elseron had taken the Sea Stone chair by force after pulling the Mad King Atraxia from it and battling him one to one. For all their beauty and grace a martial prowess rested behind the Encantos's slender frames that Elseron had not expected when he first stormed the city...but after fighting warrior after warrior for over a month. The Mad King had been simple.

After the Mad King an alliance had been signed, it was a taught one at best but had sufficed for over a century, the Encantos were not to enter Atlantis without direct permission from the ruling monarch and the same was said for Atlanteans heading for Encante. It had served but hadn't been necessary in a way, the new King had seemed to put his city on lockdown. Elseron hadn't seen or even heard of someone seeing an Encantos since he had taken the city, maybe Pilot had it right? Maybe they had destroyed themselves...No. No they're alive...I'd have know from the Gatekeepers if the city had become ruin. As silver strands of hair fell onto the floor around him Elseron found his hand on his axe head, finger running along the edge of the blade as he thought, chewing his thumbnail still. How I am to let Atlas walk straight into the city that wishes her dead? Maybe the new King would be different? He would have liked to have hoped so...but in his heart of hearts he knew it was hoping too much. Atlanteans and Encantos's were fire and ice, ying and yang, positive and negative. It seemed programmed in their DNA not to like each other.

'Where's Atlas then?' Melody asked over the snipping in his ear, pulling him out of the thoughts.

'She's...' Where is she actually? Tapping into the link he found her on the roof of the hotel with Phaedos, they were...Drawing his mind out quickly and coughing Elseron rubbed his eyes. 'She's on the roof with Phaedos.'

'Oh...' the frosty tension that comment brought stopped Melody, but only for a moment. 'You're doing very well with all that Elseron.'

'With what?'

'Well...Atlas and Phaedos...I mean. You practically raised her, Atlas see's you like a second father. You're dealing with it better than I thought you would, I mean...you haven't cut him in half yet.'

'There's still time.' He smiled looked over his shoulder to her. She laughed softly before brushing his shoulders with her hand.

'Done.' handing him the mirror Elseron took it and surprisingly liked what he saw. His hair was straighter without the weight of the curling ends, the great silver streaks fell to just above his shoulders, and Arisa had gotten her wish. He had one thin braid down the right side of his face, he liked it. It made him look more of a warrior somehow.

'Good job, thanks Melody.' he said standing, shaking off the stray strands of hair that still clung to his skin.  

'You're welcome.' as she left she stopped in the doorway. 'Elseron, I'm sorry if you think I'm overstepping the boundaries between us...but Atlas isn't replacing you with Phaedos.' face dropping Elseron stared at the young vampire, she faltered under his iron hard gaze before stammering on. 'You mean more to her than any other man in this world Elseron, she...she loves you very much.' Melody gave a weak smile to him, standing nervously in the doorway waiting for Elseron to respond. The truth was, he didn't know how to respond. He'd had these feelings since the moment Phaedos had joined them, had he made them that obvious. I told you she's replacing you you old fool! Spat the tiny voice from the darkest recess of his mind.

'It is sunup soon Miss Ellner, you should rest.' his tone was colder than he would have liked and seemed to hurt the young woman, he immediately felt bad but she turned and left before he could apologise. You're being replaced! snickered the voice.

'Shut up!' he spat into the air. Changing into a pair of dark denim 'jeans' and a white dress shirt Elseron sat himself into the armchair and returned his thoughts back onto their upcoming trip to Encante.

'Els?' asked a soft voice from the doorway. Snapping open his eyes he blinked them into focus and soon saw Atlas walking towards him. 'I like the new hair cut,' squinting at him her smile grew as she bent over and lifted the small braid into her hands. 'What's this?' she laughed.

'Arisa insisted.' he smiled despite the war that was raging on in his head. It felt like Dante's claws had pierced his skull and were now slowly spinning, collecting up his brain matter like cotton candy. 'And you can't talk. You braided my hair hundreds of times as a child.'

'I remember.' she said smiling, as she sat onto the edge of her bed her eyes glanced over him. 'You look awful Els...when was the last time you slept?' her feelings ignited the link, the small tendril of thought like the brushing of a feather against his soul. He ignored the question.

'My Princess...I've been thinking. This trip to Encante will be perilously dangerous for all of us, but most of all you. The Encantos's are devious spirits and I don't like the idea of you being so exposed in front of them all, that is why I want to take your place on this mission.' her face fell into a mask of concentration and just the smallest hint of confusion. 'Have me go to Encante as the Lord Commander of the Royal Knights and discuss our terms of Phaedos's brother’s release with the king.' For a long moment Atlas just looked at him, her golden eyes scanning him from chin to hairline.

'And where will I be during this daring raid? Back here? The worrying woman waiting for her warriors to return?' her tone was ice.

'Of course not. You will come with us, Melody and Arisa too. The Silver Servants where white cowls with veils, that should be sufficient to disguise you.' That really crossed her line and her anger flashed like a firework in his head.

'I am the Queen of Atlantis! I will not enter the city of our greatest enemy dressed as a servant Els! It's...it's...'

'The safest way of keeping you safe and in my sight my Princess.' he interrupted as she searched for the correct words to vent her anger.

'And you think you entering the city will be best, the knight who has sacked it in the past.' she said in triumph.

'The way I see it the new King wouldn't be sitting in the Sea Stone chair with the driftwood crown atop his head if it wasn't for me. My Little Princess, you know...'

'Don't you "Little Princess" me Els, this plan is safe yes but fraught with troubles. The king will not certainly see you when he will definitely see me, the Gatekeepers could keep you waiting hours when I would get through straight away and the Silver Servants wear dresses of white with cowls and veils!' that was her trump card, and he knew it. 'Now either you have a stash of such garments in this room somewhere or one of our entourage has the ability to sow!'

'I can sow...' said a tiny voice. Looking to the door simultaneously Guardian and Queen both saw the tiny form of Arisa in the doorway. Arisa I love you! Atlas shot him a smouldering look as his words rung through her consciousness.

'Really?' asked Elseron.

'Sure. What do you need?'

'Fabric! We don't have...' Atlas begun.

'There's a fabric store around the corner and I managed to get a large amount of upperworld money from the ruins of Elve's mansion.' Atlas opened her mouth but no rebuttal came. Atlas this is safest for you my Little Princess...don't make an old knight beg. Almost instantly her body relaxed, her gaze softening until eventually her head won over her pride and she nodded to him with a sigh. 'Arisa go with Melody and Phaedos, get as much white silk as you can buy for dresses for you Melody and the Queen, with a white leather robe with a cowl and veil.' he said drawing her over and pulling the digital money from his pocket.

'A new dress? Yey!' she screamed happily snatching the money from his hand and tearing out of the room to grab Melody and Phaedos.

The End

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