hidden cityMature

Chapter Ninety One
Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 721

Phaedos knocked once.  It was time; there was no going back any longer.  Within moments, they would be transported to Encante by the one and only person to have ever made it out.  It seemed Encante left lingering reminder on those that managed to flee its walls.

Elseron opened the door and they didn’t need to speak.  Phaedos stepped into the hotel room, allowing his eyes to roam over every member of the group hunkered down in the cramped room.  What a mismatched array of people, he mused, and turned back to Elseron.

“This is Gabriel,” he said, gesturing to the bruised and bloodied man following him inside.  “He will be our transport,” Phaedos said, grabbing Gabriel’s arm with a crushing grip and pulling him forward, “Won’t you, Gabriel?”

Gabriel didn’t speak; he kept his head down, his knotted mess of black hair falling into his eyes.  He tongued his split lip.

“Good enough,” Phaedos said, shoving him into a chair where he could keep a closer eye on him.  He looked back to Elseron, knowing the face of the Guardian would be one of the few in the room that didn’t disapprove of how broken the man in the chair was.

Some things had to be done.  There was no room for difficult partnerships in their current situation; certain measures had to be implemented.  Even if they toed the line between right and wrong, Phaedos reminded himself.

“Gabriel will transport all of us to the front gate of Encante.”  He turned and gestured to the hulking man in the corner, the long legged vampire woman sitting snugly against him.  “Dante,” he said, “you and I will circle around and sneak in through the cracks in the system.”  He turned to the group, “Everyone wears the armor, is that understood?”

There were no protests, so he pressed on.  “Dante and I will be hidden from the security systems, but you will all be visible.  Take great care with diplomatic relations – the Encante are notoriously unfriendly to everyone except humans.”

He looked to Elseron for approval and the Stalwart Shield nodded at him, saying, “Everyone get changed and return here immediately.”

The group dispersed, save Phaedos, Elseron, and Gabriel, and for a moment the room was eerily silent.  Trusting that Elseron would not take his eyes off Gabriel, Phaedos moved to Atlas and pulled her against him.  His heart hurt in his chest, twisted and stuttered with the pressure of his terror.  He said nothing, for a while, just allowed himself to stand with her.

Her voice was low, so quiet he wondered if he were really hearing it at all.  “Be careful,” she said, and her concern was apparent in the quiver to the words.

He held her tighter, matching the volume of his voice to hers, and said, “If you run into trouble, you know what to do, right?”

She nodded and he accepted that he would have to trust her.  He couldn’t control everything – and it didn’t matter that he had never been more unwilling to put anything at risk before.  He could feel her heartbeat matching his, the rhythmic beat trembling through his ribcage.

Just when he thought he might scoop her up and flee the room, the city, the continent with her in his arms, the others began to return; and soon, his chance had passed and he was facing Gabriel with his hand around his throat, and then the world around them went white.

His feet were on mostly dry land, and it was a strange understanding that came over him as his eyes took in the magnitude of the world in front of him.  Encante was an entire city built beneath an underwater mountain; behind them, the ocean fell as a waterfall, trapping them between it and the gate.

Before them spread a great and wide city like an opened book, hidden in the cracks and crevices, sheltered by some invisible glitch in nature; hieroglyphs decorated the mountain in warm shades of cream and contrasting shadows of steel gray - most depicting varying blends of human and dolphin figures.  He gestured to Dante and they pulled up the hooded masks of their body suits and vanished into the gloom surrounding the walls of the city, leaving Elseron and Pilot to guard those most precious to them.

*author note: sorry it's so short, guys; you know i'm usually good for at least 1k.  didn't get it finished last night and am not willing to spend a whole lot of time on it tonight in favor of taking a whole night off. so. i might flesh it out more tomorrow but for now, this is it.

The End

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