'You stay here!' ordered Elseron to the beaten man that Phaedos had found. The mousy man scurried into the corner nearly falling into the waterfall as Elseron approached him. 'Do you hear me? You move or you leave without us...and I'll break your neck!'
'Elseron!' whispered Atlas. Turning to face the huge city he saw three royal escorts sashaying down the long main street towards them.
'Get down!' he coughed thrusting the battered man behind one of the dozens of statues that lined the cave entrance. The Encantos looked exactly as he remembered them. Tall creatures with hawk like features, high angular cheekbones and the slightest green tinge to their skin, not enough to make them look sickly but enough to make them look...well...not human. It was hard to tell the difference between sexes though, the women looked as feminine as the men and their unisex robes didn't help matters, but the distinct bulge of a pair of breasts on the middle Encantos tipped him off as she neared them. He had to say this for them. They were beautiful creatures. Eden rose to her full height as Elseron stood at the fake queens side, Pilot was on his right, Atlas behind them on his left. The Encantos stopped before them all with glistening smiles and bowed ridiculously low to them.
'Queen Atlas.' said the woman as she rose, brushing the locks of her emerald hair from her face with a delicate swipe of her hand. Blue eyes glinting with happiness. 'Great King Aenarion grants you welcome into his city and humbly requests and audience.'
'Of course,' bowed Eden. 'That is why we are here after all.'
'Excellent your Majesty...then please, follow us.'
Aenarion lounged in his throne with a smile touching his lips as he watched the jester juggle rocks and blades in his hands and feet before his children. His Queen smiled at his side, and his mistress beside her, and his second mistress beside her. All laughing and smiling as the clever harlequin cart wheeled around the Seastone hall, the youngest of his children, Illyria, was still a babe on the breast, but the rest of his nineteen children all sat on the steps of dias before his throne giggling away, the oldest legitimate child, Brax the Drowned Prince, stood in a fine set of emerald robes with his hands pressed behind his back over his father’s shoulder. A stern expression cast onto his face, 'Come my son! Smile!' whispered Aenarion.
'I don't feel like smiling.' the ninety year old teenager said coldly. 'The Atlantean Queen is coming up the steps of our palace any minute and you sit with your children and b*astard children laughing at a clown!' raged the boy sending a hand to the sword he carried on his hip.
'Oh, and what would you have me do. You will be king soon after me! So tell!' smiled Aenarion looking up into the handsome face of his son, he had so much of his mother in him.
'Attack! Rouse the army and take Atlantis! Kidnap the Queen and force her to take you to a Gatekeeper. The city has never been more vulnerable Father! The Great Atlas was what made the city strong, reports say this new Queen is little more than a girl!'
'I see...and what would you do with the Stalwart Shield? What would you do when the finest warrior Atlantis has ever seen took to the field in shining armour and axe in hand?' Brax humphhed and shook his shoulders.
'I'd kill him.' bellowing a huge laugh that echoed around the large hall Aenarion soon felt the pain of a stitch working up his ribs. Even his Queen, Emillia, had to smile.
'Barely out the City Guards and he can already kill the Stalwart Shield!' he said laughing at his sons bravado.
'You've seen me with a blade father, you...'
'And you haven't seen the Shield, I have. That man was born to swing that axe and need I remind you that he is the one that sacked this city and killed the mad king?'
'Yes but the mad king was MAD!' shouted Brax making the jester stop and eighteen faces all spin to look at him and Aenarion. Dropping his smile the Green King rose to his feet and squared off with his son.
'Is this what you want boy?' asked Aenarion taking the carved driftwood crown from his head. Brax looked sheepishly to the floor. 'Do you think you're ready to lead? Huh? Or do you wish for the crown of another city? One greater than our own?' Brax fondled his sword handle still looking to the floor. Shaking his head. Aenarion placed the crown on top of his dyed purple locks and clasped his son around the back of the neck. 'My son you will be king after me, you will have rule over five million of our kind. You must learn that not all things can be solved with swords Brax, something’s require patience, ice...not fire. Yes?'
'Yes Father.' looking to him for the first time Aenarion smiled at his son who smiled back weakly. 'I'm sorry.'
'You have nothing to be sorry for my son.' kissing his forehead Aenarion turned and dropped back into his throne. The jester and every one of his children looking to him. 'Continue please jester.'
'My king!' said a powerful voice as the carved driftwood doors swung inward. 'They come.' Rising Aenarion smiled at Emillia who smiled back excitedly.
'Leave us jester, children up up all you! Quickly now we have to make a fine impression!' as the children worked themselves into the practiced formation Aenarion stood before them, hands behind his back, watching with keen eyes as six figures moved up the steps into the Seastone Hall. Watching them approach he noted the gate and stance of each of them, the Queen stood before three servants dressed and cowled in white. Beside the young woman strode the broad powerful form of Sir Elseron, He hasn't changed. Thought the Green King with a grin, and beside him strode another, taller, knight. But he wasn't half as broad as the Shield. Taking the initiative Sir Elseron moved forward quicker than the rest and Aenarion spread his arms. 'Sir Elseron, the Stalwart Shield in this hall again! On a mission of peace this time I hope! I do not feel the need to be a head shorter.' Smiling the Shield clasped Aenarion's forearm in a strong handshake.
'Good to see you again after so long great king.' those tattoos he had still stood out so evidently against his flesh, if anything they seemed brighter than he remembered. It must be the light in here. 'May I introduce you,' turning the Atlantean Queen stepped forward. 'Too Queen Atlas, ruler of the Ocean City the first of her name.' For a second Aenarion paused to study the young woman, she was beautiful. Even he could see that. She would sire me some fine looking children. He thought staring at that milk pale skin and warm golden eyes. Her earthy brown locks were tied back into an elegant pony tail and her own tattoos flashed and pulsed periodically. As if in time with her heartbeat.
'Oh my good Queen, rumours of your beauty have reached even the Encantos,' as she held out her hand Aenarion took it and kissed it making sure not to break eye contact, the smell of her flesh filling his nostrils. 'For once the gossips were right.'
'You flatter me my King,' smiled the gorgeous Atlantean.
'No please let us drop such formalities, call me Aenarion.'
'Very well.' she smiled with a small bow of her head.
'My great condolences to you my Queen for the loss of your father, the Great Atlas was a good king and my respect for him was boundless.' Looking suddenly uncomfortable Atlas simply forced a smile and nodded. 'Now please allow me to make introductions, Queen Atlas, these are my children. My youngest Illyria in her mother’s arms then Gideon, Balton, Elissia, Morvan, Lucretsia, Cerci, Caitlin, Morpheus, Tobias, Lindow, Marcus, Tyxia, Olleso, Morgana, Maxum, Tyrion, Azreal and finally my eldest son, Brax the Drowned Prince of Encante. Then my Queen, Emillia the Fair Haired, my first wife Victoria and my second wife Io.' as one each of his children bowed or curtsied towards the Queen and her entourage. Brax bowed low keeping a hand on his sword and Aenarion's three wives all curtsied.
'A pleasure to meet you all,' Atlas said with a broad smile. 'They are all so beautiful.'
'Coming from you my Queen that certainly is a compliment.' he smiled. 'Children go with your mothers,' steadily his nineteen babies followed their mothers out of the marble hall to their rooms in the vast Palace. 'Do you mind if my eldest stays? He has yet to learn the ways of kingship and this meeting would be a fine lesson.' Atlas faltered, eyes glancing to her guardian for a moment before saying,
'Alas, the reason we are here is a...delicate one. Perhaps on another visit.' she said directly to Brax.
'You heard her Majesty.' Aenarion said to his eldest son. Who, with a great degree of poorly hidden anger, bowed to Atlas before striding off out of the hall. Looking back to the young Queen Aenarion found her eyes on the Seastone chair. 'Beautiful is it not.' he smiled.
'Very much so.' said the queen as he eyes danced over the beautifully carved boulder of jade.
'You Atlantean's have no Gods, only your Spirits. But in our mythology the God of the ocean was drowned by the God of land, yet the ocean God fought so much he tore off a part of the earth God pulling it down with him to the depths of the ocean. Creating Encante, it is said that throne is the first rock the God's fallen body touched, our ancestors carved from that rock a throne and it has been the Seastone chair ever since. The seat of all Encante's power.'
'What a wonderful story,' smiled the young woman as she continued to scan the chair.
'Please do not think me rude your Majesty but,'
'Oh of course!' she said pulling herself back onto him. 'May we be seated?' clicking his fingers five servants appeared carrying chairs and a small wooden table and soon Aenarion was sat across a full table of food and wine from the Atlantean Queen. 'I have been hoping in my rule that the relationship between our two cities will become stronger Aenarion. We are allies in an underwater world, we need each other.'
'And you hope to strengthen these relationships with? A marriage perhaps! That will tie our nations together forever, Brax is a strong young Prince.'
'I'm sure,' said the flustered Queen. 'But a marriage pact is not what I intended, do not think me a fool Brax is a handsome man and I'm sure he would be a good king.' as the Queen talked Aenarion took note of how the servants and her knights had arranged themselves around her. Elseron stood on her left, not right, before one of the cowled servants who he noticed hadn't served their Queen anything. Odd. 'So this is my proposal. Open borders between Encante and Atlantis.' Aenarion tweaked an eyebrow.
'Such a thing has not been known since the sinking your highness...such an act requires acts of great trusts. From both sides.'
'Which is why I am also proposing an exchange of sorts, a good faith payment. An entire regiment of Royal Knights.' Something’s off.
'You are happy with losing so many of your men Sir Elseron?' staring into those hard blue eyes Aenarion searched for the truth.
'You are a fine leader King Aenarion, I know they will be in good hands.' bowed the old knight.
'Just so...' clicking his fingers Aenarion sat back into his chair. 'You! Pour my wine!' the cowled servant behind Elseron lifted her head slightly before moving around the massive man, picking up the crystal jug of wine Aenarion raised his glass to her, staring into that cowl as she poured. 'May I ask what, good faith payment, you wish from me?' he asked still staring into that white cowl.
'A citizen of my city says his brother is here.' Looking to Atlas he saw he golden eyes slightly sheepish.
'You wish for He Who Wards Off War.' said the Green King sipping from his wine, the girl replacing the crystal jug and taking her place by her fellow servants side. 'Alexaires has been a member of this city for many years, he is a close friend and happily married man, only one wife but the Greeks always did things differently.'
'His wife is more than welcome in Atlantis, as will anyone else he wishes to bring.'
'I see.' hummed Aenarion leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table. Suddenly he pulled his dagger from its hidden sheath and stabbed it down onto the table, sending plates and glasses jumping into the air. Watching in the split seconds of the threat who reacted and how. Atlas jumped back towards the younger, taller knight, while Elseron dropped a hand to his axe while stepping gently to one side covering the servant girl with the whole of his body. 'Apologies.' smiled Aenarion. 'I do hate spiders.'
'Have you taken leave of your senses!' shouted the Queen. 'There was no spider!'
'No...But it’s interesting none the less. You see my Queen...once you've been a ruler as long as I have; you learn to play the game. To expect the unexpected. What I didn't expect after such a blatant violent act was that you would reach back for that vampire behind you instead of your loyal Guardian. Who instead of trying to protect you throws himself in front of a servant girl instead...' smiling at the now terrified beauty Aenarion sat back. 'Your beauty is legend my Queen, but so is your glorious silver hair.'
'Let's go.' said Elseron tapping the imposter on the shoulder.
'There's no escape Elseron, don't make this difficult.'
'You can't get your knights in position quick enough Aenarion,' laughing the Green King shifted the driftwood crown on his head.
'Elseron my old friend you're getting old, I deployed them the minute you stepped foot in my city.' with that the group bolted like startled rabbits for the door. Aenarion watched them go, humming as he took a bight of a succulent golden skinned pear.