Breathing in snatches of breath as he removed the bandages that had been wrapped around his chest and arms for the better part of thirty six hours Elseron winced several times during the task. Atlas had healed the cuts and the bones, but his mind couldn't process the fact that he was healed, so even though he was physically fine the pain still lingered. 'Els are you all right?' Atlas asked worriedly through the bathroom door as he yelped slightly as he accidentally brushed a knuckle over his ribs.
'Fine Princess...' he told her. 'Just fine.' he added more quietly. Looking into the mirror as he worked Elseron had to admit that the torture had taken more out of him than he would have liked to admit. The loss of such great volumes of blood made him look pale and sickly, it made the simplest of tasks exhausting and if he over exerted himself too much the risk of collapsing was a very real one. As the minutes passed in agony filled bursts the bandages came off one by one until, finally, he was left bare-chested. Revelling in the experience of finally being able to fill his lungs properly he examined Atlas's handiwork. His tattoos flashed brightly, as if to tell him that they were still there and still working, but something was off. Where each cut had been a small, razor thin, black line now sat. Moving closer to the mirror he looked at one on his shoulder in more detail. As he scanned the strange almost fungal like line of cells his heart sank. You bastards. You absolute bastards. He raged within his head. Only one thing in the world made lines like this...Grayscale.
'Els?' asked Atlas as the door handle began to shake and turn. Snapping himself from his fate Elseron quickly threw on a tunic, ignoring the searing pain, he just had time to make sure that all the black scars were covered before the door swung inward. 'Els are you alright?'
'Princess,' he said turning to face her. Her face looked softer than usual, as if she sensed something was wrong. Of course she knows something's wrong she's in your head! 'My apologies, my mind is still not as it was. Some...visions still plague me.' he lied. A flash of an emotion he couldn't place shot across her face but disappeared within a second, replaced by a look of such loving worry it made Elseron feel sick to his stomach that he lied to her.
'After what you went through Els...the scars won't just be physical. You don't have to apologise.' standing on her toes she leaned up and kissed him lightly on his cheek. 'I'm just happy you're better.'
'Me too.' he smiled down to her. Together they walked into their bedroom where Phaedos stood like a Grecian statue by the door. When he saw Elseron he nodded a head.
'Phaedos,' he said with a pained breath as Atlas helped to lower him down onto the bed. 'Status report.'
'I hacked the booking systems. This entire floors booked off giving us free rein. The recording systems have been looped and any additional on sight security like locked doors or elevators hacked so it responds to my codes. The hotels ours.' he said quickly. Elseron laughed. Not because any of that was funny. But because if he was given a year to do what Phaedos had done in ten minutes with those blasted human computers Elseron would fail miserably and probably end up smacking the damned machines with his axe. Which would probably give the same result but was a lot less subtle.
'Very good.' nodded Elseron.
'I'll be right back,' Atlas said to him with a smile, grabbing his hand gentle before turning and leaving the two warriors alone together for the first time since...he couldn't even remember. The young and old man looked to each other briefly before Elseron spoke up.
'I'm sorry your brother couldn't join us. He would have been a valuable ally,' Phaedos's face lost any emotion it had to begin with before he looked from Elseron to the window.
'That he would.' those were three simple words. But they dripped with such contempt and rage Elseron wondered if the Demi-God brothers had ever loved each other. Looking into the young mans face Elseron was drawn back to the lines of the Grayscale fungus that were growing beneath his flesh, slowing choking off the nerve endings of his body.
'Do you love her Phaedos?' he asked staring into those deep blue eyes. Phaedos's brow furrowed slightly as he looked to him.
'Do you love her?' he repeated slower, over emphasising every word. The Demi-Gods face hardened in thought, before he inhaled a deep breath through his nose and raised his chin slightly. Making him stand just that little bit taller.
'And you'd do anything to protect her? Anything to keep her safe?' asked Elseron carefully.
'Yes.' he parroted. Good.
'I'm not going to pretend that I fully approved of your relationship at first Phaedos, because I didn't. Nor was I particularly fond of you either when I first met you.' swallowing his pride Elseron stood and walked over to the tanned half-breed. 'But, you've saved Atlas's life more than once. You've proven to be a man of near unbreakable character and fortitude, and...I would like to ask your forgiveness for how I have treated you. You're an invaluable member of this team and...' swallowing his pride again Elseron held out a hand. 'It would be my honour, on return to Atlantis, that you join the Royal Knights of Atlantis...as my new squire.' if Phaedos's chiselled Adonis like face could ever look stunned, it did now. His blue eyes were slightly wider than normal and his lips parted ever so slightly. He made to talk but the words died on his tongue, instead, Phaedos just took his hand strongly by the forearm. Shaking it saying,
'Apology accepted Sir Elseron. And the honour, would be mine.' Relief running through him Elseron smiled, he wouldn't have long to train him. There was much he needed to learn, but he had to be next, Atlas wouldn't have anyone else.
'What are you two doing?' Atlas asked as she stood in the doorway, eyes flicking back and forth from young to old. A small smile spreading across her face.
'Building bridges my Princess.' Elseron said simply as he released Phaedos's arm.
'I see...' she said slowly.
'Is all well?' Elseron asked, smiling.
'We're running low on medical supplies I'm going to get some...' she paused, eyes hanging over Phaedos. 'What just happened between you two?'
'Phaedos will tell you, Phaedos accompany the Queen, and take Melody with you.'
'Suns going down...' Atlas said gentle. Her golden amber eyes piercing Phaedos as if they were trying to dig the answers out of him. 'And you're too weak to come with us! Besides the medical supply store is only a few streets down. We won't be long. You stay here and get some rest!'
'By your command,' Elseron said bowing his head. As the two left Elseron heard Atlas quickly start to badger Phaedos with questions. If the decision had come to him in any better circumstances he would have joined in with her happy mood, it was the right decision. In his heart of hearts he knew it was. His only worry was if he could teach Phaedos enough before it was too late...I'll tell her when we get back to Atlantis. He ordered himself. I will tell her. She has a right to know...
Darkness was the only thing that greeted him as a sharp snap from the hallway woke him. Listening intently dozens upon dozens of creaks and groans filled the darkness as heavy booted feet strode down the corridor. Springing upright as silently as possible Elseron lifted his axe from his belt, dropping off the floor before silently slithering towards the door. Which was thankfully open. Peering around the jam the darkness that filled the long corridor gave almost nothing away, every light was out, then he realised. Even the street lights in the street were dead. The buildings, everything, the whole block was dead. Then as he spotted his enemy a tiny body crashed into him, followed by the hushed powerful steps of Dante. In such darkness Elseron could only make out silhouettes. But there was no doubting Dante's massive bulk and Arisa's head of flowing curls. 'What's happening?' he whispered.
'Military.' came Dante's suppressed answer. 'High spec ops, they're sweeping every floor.'
'Looking for us?' he asked.
'No for f*cking Santa Claus.' Dante hissed.
'Who?' Groaning Dante moved to the door and looked out. Elseron followed, being careful where to place his feet. The soldiers wore matt black body armour, their heads covered with a similar dark fabric that Atlas had insisted Elseron wore, with ugly black guns in their hands and strange glowing goggles on their heads. Elseron counted five. As they kicked open every door they flicked open a filter on their torches, scanning the room before flicking the filters back down, turning the light from a bright white to a muted blue. 'Where are the others?'
'Melody's on the roof with Eden. No idea about the dead guy.'
'And Atlas?' Dante's blacked out form turned to him.
'She's not with you?' Oh no. 'Alright don't panic we'll find her but we need to get out first.' Elseron nodded quickly focussing his terrified thoughts. Atlas...my Princess...please, spirits beyond I beg you, be safe!
'What are those things over their eyes?' he asked keeping his voice low.
'Night vision goggles. They see body heat meaning they'll punch us full of holes before we could even get close enough to swing an axe.'
'Anything we can do to disable them long enough to get close?'
'Not unless you got an EMP or a flash bang hiding in here.'
'Flash bang?' Arisa whispered.
'Bright lights flood their vision, blinds them for a few seconds.' whispered Dante as he ducked away from the sight of one of them. They were only six doors away now.
'Bright lights like me?' whispered Arisa. Dante and Elseron turned to her shadowy little figure.
'They'll see you.' Elseron said quickly.
'Elseron...I'm a vampire. I'm technically dead. My temperature's only determined by the surrounding environment.' for the first time Arisa actually sounded her age to Elseron, so calm, quiet, and controlled. 'I'll be able to blind them all and maybe incinerate two but...'
'Just blind them Arisa. We'll do the rest.' Dante whispered. Five doors away now. Quieter than Elseron had ever head any living thing move before Arisa tip toed out into the corridor, he adjusted the hold of his axe. A bright blaze of light erupted from the darkness as Arisa lit her fire with a loud 'BOO!' Dante was first out, storming down the corridor as the blinded soldiers swore and cursed. Blindly firing out strange dart like bullets. Ignoring the pain, ignoring the worry in his heart Elseron followed his friend. As Arisa cooked one, Dante tackled two others to the ground, crushing them with his vast weight. Just before the darkness took them again Elseron swung out, cutting the throat of one before sidestepping the others gun as a quick burst of darts flew from the barrel. Elbowing the soldier across the face his jaw shattered to dust before he dropped to the floor heavily. Dante finished him off by stamping on his head with a sickening series of crunches and squelches. Picking up one of the torches Arisa wove her hand over the blue light.
'What's this?' flicking open the filter she did the same with the white light. Her scream cut the darkness like a knife as her skin burned and the heavy rifle clattered to the floor, Arisa dancing out of the way of the beam.
'Are you alright?' Elseron asked quietly, the tiny vampire nodded as Dante reached down and examined the gun.
'Ultraviolet filter. This is for dealing with vampires,'
'They know about Melody and Arisa.' all Elseron remembered next. Was the distinct smashing of glass at the end of the hall, a sharp pain jolting up his neck, and Dante's roar as he changed. Then nothing.