Long forgotten hallways spanned out before Elseron as he bound to his feet, landing into a low crouch. Eyes scanning the darkness for signs of the Encantos. Dust covered everything in sight with great silvery cobwebs clinging to the corner stone’s of the wide arches over his head, hanging from the walls like crystalline mosses. As his breath swept from between his lips it condensed in the air, creating a small cloud that soon dissipated into the surrounding gasses. The darkness pressed on him like an oppressive blanket with only one source of light illuminating his surroundings that seemed to spread from above his head like a glowing halo. Four corridors stretched out into the darkness from where he stood each tiled with fine blocks of polished marble. 'Hello!' he cried into the darkness but the only response was his own echo, answering over and over again until the voice died away entirely. Reaching a hand down to his axe he found it missing. Unnerved he spun. Eyeing each corridor suspiciously. A blaze of light shot over his head, knocking him to the floor and splitting above his head. With a thunderous crack the energy split into four crackling bolts, each firing down a hallway.
As they struck the walls at the very end ancient, long lost Atlantean runes flashed on the walls in electric blue, pulsing like some massive mechanical heartbeat. Pulsing faster and faster the runes soon floated from the walls and began to circle around him, their energy flaring his own tattoos until they glowed like red hot pokers. With a resounding crack of lightning all runes were sucked into the floor and seven runes encircled him, runes that every school child in Atlantis knew, and feared. The seven devils. Before he even had time to feel any emotion the runes shot through the floor, landing several hundred feet away, now encircling a woman in a torn dress whose arms were being suspended above her head. 'Atlas? ATLAS!' roared the old warrior charging towards her. Ten feet, fifteen, twenty, she was being taken away from him.
A hard whisper cut through his cries and shouts of rage. 'Save her my Shining Knight...save her!'
'Elseron! Elseron lie still please!' wept a soft gentle voice through the clouds of his vision. No! I need to save her! Fighting ever harder a set of unnaturally powerful hands clamped him down by the shoulders as he fought, shouting curses and battle cries as he beat back enemies made of shadows and the Drowned Prince with his blood red hair. 'Elseron it's me! It's Atlas!'
'LIAR!' he boomed as an axe shot from above him, missing his head by inches.
'He's hallucinating! Knock him out!' cried a deep booming voice.
'No don't I can bring him back!' cried the voice.
'Atlas it isn't that simple.' said a strong almost emotionless voice. 'The drugs are corrupting his mind, he's lost far too much blood...maybe,'
'Don't you dare even think of that Phaedos! Don't you dare!' Still fighting he managed to break the hold of the massive arms around his shoulders; springing to his feet he heard several sets of footsteps retreat away from him.
'Atlas...where is she! Where’s my Princess!' he roared at the shadows that leered at him from the depths of his imagination, each one the spectral effigy of a man or women he'd killed in the battle field, thousands lunged at him. Laughing and crying and swinging weapons of bones.
'Elseron...my Guardian I'm here! It's me. Look at me.' said the voice of the crying woman, her steps drawing closer across the carpet.
'LIES! WERE SHE!'
'Atlas get back!'
'He won't hurt me!' she said strongly taking another step forward. Elseron retreated from the shadows, hitting the corner of the room, tattoos flashing bright, dark, bright, dark, bright, dark. Hand fumbling for a weapon that used to sit at his hip.
'Stay back daemons!' Elseron shouted as the shadows drew nearer. Fanged teeth flashing as they smiled. 'Atlas...Atlas my Princess where are you! My Atlas...Ariel...Ariel I'm so sorry.' tears flew as he sunk to the floor. Cowering from the darkness like a child hiding beneath his bed. A shining beacon cast the shadows into recession. Hissing and spitting as a set of gentle trembling hands cupped his face. A soft consciousness touched his own sending every spitting daemon and morbid effigy back into the dark corners of his mind where they had once rested.
Elseron, my Guardian, my shield, my sword, my rock, my backbone, my shadow. Said Atlas's gentle voice as she picked him up from the darkness, guiding him back from the madness. It's me. Come back to me, please. I need you. Opening his eyes Elseron found himself standing. Atlas pressing her forehead against his as she stood on her tiptoes. Hands placed on the sides of his face. Blinking several times Elseron looked around. They were in a hotel room, Dante, Phaedos, Melody, Eden, Pilot and a hysterical Arisa in the corner, weeping into Melody at the sight of Elseron gone mad. Atlas opened her eyes and those tear filled orbs of molten gold smiled up to him as she once again saw the spark of re-life in his eyes. 'Atlas...' he breathed before a fresh wave of exhaustion crashed over him. Atlas tried to catch him but his weight was too much for her and he crumpled to the floor.
A gentle silence filled the room when Elseron shot awake. Hand instinctively firing to his hip. 'Whoa! Easy Els easy!' warned a voice from his side. Atlas released his hand she had been clutching and sat at the side of him, pushing him gently back onto the bed.
'Atlas...are you alright? What happened? Where are we?' he asked fighting to sit back upright but she pushed him back down.
'I'm fine. Better now I know you're alright,' even though she said she was fine, Elseron thought she looked anything but. Her eyes were dry and bloodshot; the area around them red and puffy as if she had been crying for hours and her skin looked strangely pale. Even for her. 'Here.' she said pressing a small cup of water against his lips, holding his head up with her other hand. Even the act of drinking exhausted him, several times the liquid hit his stomach, cramping it instantly making him cough of choke on what was in his oesophagus. When the cup was drained Elseron fell back into the pillows. Breathing heavily already exhausted expanding such little energy.
'What happened? Is everyone safe?' he rasped.
'Everyone's fine Els. Cuts and bruises but nothing serious. I don't think we'll be having any more problems after what we did to them.' a half smile touched her soft lips as he looked to her.
'You shouldn't have come back for me. The others yes but,'
'Be quiet.' she shot, her tone hard and strong. 'Elseron I would have come for you if it meant pulling apart that city stone my miserable stone! You would do the same for me.'
'That is my duty,'
'And I have my own duty! A duty to those I love. And don't try to play the honourable knight card with me Els, your actions would be as much out of love as anything else and I'm in your head remember? So don't you dare lie to me.' at the end a smile set across her face again as she grabbed his hand. He squeezed it tight while closing his eyes in an attempt to order his thoughts.
'Tell me what happened. From the moment you left.' an so Atlas sat there by her Guardian's bedside and recited the entire story of how Pilot had found Gabriel, Melody's meeting with her twin (although there was something about that she wasn't telling him but he refrained from asking), to entering Encante at the Palace, Pilot and Eden killing Aenarion and Dante slaughtering half the Encantos's army to Arisa finally being able to access her fire on a regular basis. 'Arisa! How is she! Her arm,' shooting back upright too fast yellow and red lights flashed in front of his eyes before Atlas pushed him back down with a surprising amount of strength.
'She wanted to see you, but I said,'
'I want to see her.' he said stubbornly.
'Els you're in no state to...'
'Atlas please.' she saw and felt the feelings behind those words an after a long moment nodded and left before quickly returning to with a sheepish looking Arisa at her side. Her hands were behind her back and her red curls seemed somehow more powerful and brighter than usual. As if the mastery of her powers had enhanced its colour. 'Lady Kayne,' Elseron said forcing himself upright, discovering his chest was covered in stark white bandages this was no easy feat but he was soon able to sit upright with the help of his hands behind him, acting as supports.
'Hi Elseron,' she whispered with a smile.
'Lady Kayne I'm...' tears grew in his eyes but he forced himself to continue even if his voice did shake on several occasions. 'I'm sorry for what happened to you. I...I...' tears running down her beautiful angelic face Arisa shot from the bedside and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding her with one arm still behind him the two stayed like that for several minutes. It was strange to be bonded through pain. But they were. And they always would be from this day forth. Atlas stood by the door with watery eyes, chewing on her finger nail in an attempt to stop herself from crying. A technique she used to employ as a child. Only when Arisa dropped back to the floor did Elseron feel a cold patch on his back, and looking down he saw its source. His axe lay in Arisa's hand. Its handle and blade made to look a hundred times larger than normal against her tiny hands.
'I found this for you Elseron, someone was trying to take it but I stopped them. It's yours not theirs!' Elseron felt Atlas's feeling of adoration for the small girl push against his mind as he smiled and took his axe.
'Lady Kayne this...means more to me than you can imagine. Thank you.' Arisa smiled joyously flashing her perfect white teeth.
'You’re welcome. Bye bye Elseron. Sweet dreams.' she smiled with a small wave as she moved towards the door.
'Sweet dreams Lady Kayne.' he whispered looking down at his axe, the runes glowing through his bandages at the touch of the ancient weapon. When the door clicked shut Elseron felt Atlas sit back down onto the bed at his side as he collapsed back onto it, breathing deep with the effort, his axe still in hand.
'You had us worried there for a while back there Els.' she said looking to him, 'You had me worried. I can't imagine what you must have felt, all those cuts, I've never seen so much blood in my life. Phaedos was convinced you'd lost too much.' as she spoke her tone softened to a whisper, her voice shaking and cracking with emotion. 'But there was something in me that knew...just knew you wouldn't die. You couldn't die.' tears flew freely now as she sobbed into her hands. Covering her face. Shoulders jumping up and down with the weight of the great convulsions. 'I couldn't lose you Els. I couldn't it'd break me, I just couldn't.' she wept. Sitting up Elseron wrapped his arms around her, despite the pain it fired through his aching muscles.
'Shhhh, it’s alright my Little Princess. I'm here. I'm here.' wrapping her arms around him she held him tight and wept into his bandaged chest. 'I'm here.'