Chapter One Hundred and One
Atlas, Eden, Phaedos, by rhetoric
Word Count: 1,357
Moments before Waking the Demon
Atlas kept herself in tight control.
The walls around her were ancient; runes and hieroglyphs lined the walls, they glowed darkly – as blood beneath a black light. There were no lights in the hall; there was no light coming from any direction, but she recognized her surroundings, even amongst the shadows. She was in Atlantis, in the great hall – but things were missing. The portraits of the greatest of the royals were gone, the walls bare but for the unholy runes. The wall sconces and doorways were strangely absent. It was then that a sickening swell of dread began to rise up within her – smothering all sense of reason and patience; she could see no way out – no window, no door, no break in the constant stretch of walls. She moved closer to the wall, forcing her steps despite the quiver in her bones. She extended a shaking finger to the wall, dragging the tip down one of the hieroglyphs.
She sniffed at it and there was no longer a need to search for information.
It was blood, and it was Elseron’s.
It was then that she noticed something that set her nerves on edge; something that sent her heart racing wildly in her chest, rushing blood through her veins in such a panicked attempt at life that she thought her heart might burst with the effort.
Seven devils in the hieroglyphs.
If the superstitious stories of the ancestors were accurate, she would be dead before the day was done.
Atlas opened her eyes.
Eden was growing tired of the tiny alley ways, the crowded corners, and watching eyes. She couldn’t do this forever, she reminded herself, and willed her hands to pull the hood of her cowl back. She knew it would not be long until someone saw her and reported to the Encantado royalty. Someone would be hunting her within an hour.
It took ten minutes.
She led them on a chase, first, spreading her scent all over the city. She’d even sliced at the flesh of her own arm to leave a trail. She wasn’t trying to escape, to vanish into the background and never be seen again. She was hiding from someone others would expect she run to, and running directly into the all-too-eager-arms of Encantado royalty.
She’d caught Phaedos’ scent in the breeze and knew he would be foolish enough to seek her out. It was not the time; he had other things he should be focusing on. Wasting time chasing her ghost would have to be one of them. She had an objective to reach.
She let them catch her just outside of the palace walls, in a corner of shadows and mysterious sounds, their fleshy grip on her arm vaguely reminiscent of old, putrid cheese-cloth.
Unforgiving emerald eyes met hers across the bloodied mess of a man that had been tossed to the ground at Atlas’ feet. Pilot was dangerously close to a killing spree – she could taste it in the air – a misty after-scent that hung in the back of her throat, dripping down onto her tongue and burning with a sharp acidity she couldn’t place.
Gabriel was different, somehow.
The previously scrawny and anemic man was suddenly sturdier, but she couldn’t quite name why - he hadn’t gained weight, he hadn’t even obviously eaten, but his body seemed to have been restructured. She watched as the suicide wounds on his arms began to knit themselves together and, stunned at the prospect she was considering as an explanation, her eyes darted back to Pilot’s.
His face didn’t change, didn’t shift – he stood statue still, stoic and menacing and silent. She had to ask. “What have you done?”
“What was necessary,” he said, and shoved Gabriel closer to Atlas with the toe of his boot. To the beaten, newly turned vampire, he said, “Get up and take us to Encante.”
Surprisingly, Gabriel did.
He’d already spent too long seeking her out. Elseron could be dead, Dante stranded in a ceaseless battle until he collapsed, Arisa torn to bits… He’d spent so long chasing down the ghost of a woman he once knew that he couldn’t be certain the rest of the world hadn’t fallen to shit. He knew when Eden didn’t want to be found; she’d spent most of their lives not wanting to be found and it draped over her scent like a warning sign. He stood at the crest of the mountain and stood to peer over the edge, his suit mask pulled over his face so he could remain a silent, unnoticed predator. A flash of white in a far corner of the palace walls caught his attention, and he didn’t need to be close enough to see.
She’d allowed herself to get captured, the fool. He sighed. She was Pilot’s problem, now, he told himself, and descended from the mountain top back to the city streets.
He could feel the press of Atlas’ consciousness in the back of his mind. She was coming. He had to make it to the gate.
She didn’t fight them, even though her muscles sang for it – for the rip and tear and bruising of battle. She ignored it. They dragged her into the depths of the palace, deep into the roots of the mountain where the air was thick and dank, where the light was gobbled up by the darkness. Darkness as thick and wide and deep as the ocean engulfed first the guards, then her own body, but Eden didn’t need light to see.
She didn’t need her eyes to see. She closed them, gently touching eyelashes to eyelashes, and blocked out the sounds of a torture chamber.
She told herself, this doesn’t matter.
Chains wrapped around her wrists tightly, pinching her skin and muscles between the links; her arms lifted above her head until the pull drew up her torso, then her hips, and eventually, her feet. Dangling from the ceiling, suspended by her pinched wrists, the blood leaving her fingers, she told herself, this is as good a place to die as any.
She felt her feet touch the sandstone mountain and her eyes snapped open. She waited for no one, she waited for nothing. She was running through the gate, throwing her hands out in front of her and casting the barrier open with the sheer force of her will. She came to a stop between the bent and twisted iron gates. She felt the wind of her inheritance blow through her, scanning the area, hunting down those that belonged to her.
Her eyes found Elseron instantly, the enormous, demonic bear crouched beside him. As she looked, Dante’s form shifted to the bear she was used to, but it didn’t matter. She knew her own, regardless of form. Without turning her eyes from Elseron’s battered mess of a body, she said to Melody, “Arisa is in the kitchens. Bring Arisa and Dante back here.”
Even to Atlas, her voice was unusual. It never fluctuated in tone, every vowel and consonant even and inflectionless; a howl of wind through the dense forest, unbroken and unshakable. Too massive for the world in which it was speaking.
She didn’t need to tell Pilot what to do – the Dealer was gone before she realized he should be near her. On the outskirts of her peripheral vision, she could make out a flash of sapphire, a lightning quick burst of blonde hair. She knew he was at her side before he spoke, before his hand clasped hers tightly. He said, “You shouldn’t have come.”
Her eyes never left Elseron.
She said, “I shouldn’t have left,” and released the wellspring of fury she’d been holding behind placid honey eyes. Psychokinetic energy burst forth from her chest, an explosion of azure blue light that grew and pulsed and expanded and encompassed everything, at first.
She willed it to shrink, to separate from itself and develop small bubbles of electric Atlantean inheritance around those she chose to protect. Phaedos did not ask why she did not project a shield around the two of them.
*author note: i am going to work on the second chapter later, i think. also, this is really unedited at the moment (til i come back to do the other chapter) 'cos i've got to work on some other stuff first.