Sliding out the door Elseron skidded several feet across the charred, cratered floor to find the soldiers that had thrown the grenade dead. Shards of slick black metal sticking in their necks, others with bleeding noses and ears. Clearly killed by the pressure wave. Standing Pilot and Eden joined him, Eden looking slightly worse for wear after her incredible act of magic. 'Are you alright?' he asked her. Her eyes found him as she forced a smile.
'I'm fine Elseron.' Doubtful Elseron gave her one last searching glance before dropping his gaze to her face. She was so like her sister, those eyes just a slightly darker shade of polished copper. Atlas...my Little Princess. 'We'll get her back Els.' she said as if reading his thoughts. The use of the name only Atlas called him sounded strange on her tongue, it wasn't right. It was theirs. Not hers. Elseron said nothing, instead moving through the cadavers to retrieve his, unblemished, armour and weapons. Pauldrons in place, his axe at his hip he felt more the warrior again but looking down at his chest proved his worst fears. The lines of Grayscale were thicker, the middles cracking and breaking like sun burnt clay. Flaking away horribly as the Fungus grew at an alarming rate through his body, settling around his heart before it made the final push for the lungs. I've got hours left...the Encantos must have mutated it, it shouldn't be moving this fast. Wrapping the two long chains around his forearms took less time than before, Pilot stood at his side the entire time looking down at the Atlantean steel chains before looking Elseron dead in the eye.
'Kinky Sir Elseron.' he quipped.
'Unless you want them wrapped around your head I'd scout on ahead.' hissed Elseron.
'Do not worry. We're alone.' Elseron looked sideways at Pilot, eventually accepting the Vampire's unprecedented senses would alert them to any soldiers well before they actually saw them. Catching Pilot staring at the thick lines of black smeared across his muscled chest Elseron shook his head saying,
'Later.' Pilot's instincts proved true, making their way to the elevators they didn't find any soldiers or scientists left. Apparently Eden and Pilot were deadly on their own, together they were a force of nature. Death in flesh and blood and bloodied blades. Smacking the control pannel of the elevator with his crackling fist the eldritch lightning crawled over to the electronic device in tiny turqoise filaments, jumping and bending erratically before eventually the lift fired into life and the doors slid open with a ping. Passing the floor were Arisa and Melody were being kept Elseron's mind drifted to Dante, it was a big task for him to fight so many...He'll be fine. He's Dante...I just hope the girls are safe...Atlas...Atlas my darling stay strong! I'll be with you soon I promise. Finding his hand gripping the head of his axe Elseron softened his grip, caressing the gentle curves of its edges, the hard flat surface of its back, the huge crescent shaped blade. Sharpened to a monomolecular level, the runes across its faces carved with surgical precision, inlaid with the brightest and purest blue enamel. The axe he'd held for three hundred years. The axe that made him famous. The axe that would rent the skull of any man or woman who stood between him and his Princess.
Nearing the second floor Elseron heard the sounds of screams, gun fire. 'Get ready!' he ordered as the handle of his axe seamlessly extended in his hands. The doors slid open. It was a massacre. Blood covered every available surface. Great glossy pools of it on the floors and huge arcs of arterial spray on the walls and ceiling. Even as he watched, dumbstruck, Arisa had her massive fangs sunk deep into the neck of a writhing soldier, her eyes dancing with a shifting red sheen, her entire body smoking slightly as she feasted. Further down he heard Dante roar in victory, then another roar. Lycan! He thought jumping out the lift, but it wasn't. It was feline like creature, smaller than Dante but taller than a man, it's claws slicing huge swathes of flesh from the bodies of those who'd clearly kept it prisoner. A body shot outwards at Elseron. A scientist with a bald head and a scream upon his lips. The scalpel gleaming in his hand. With no time to react apart from the leap backwards Elseron just avoided the blade, he was about to raise his axe when a lithe figure appeared from nowhere. Melody broke the scientist in so many places with such speed Elseron had trouble keeping track. But soon he was on his knees.
One arm dead at his side and the other locked backwards the scalpel inches away from his ear. Melody then viciously kneed the man’s elbow sending the blade with piercing accuracy into the crying man's ear, all the way to the handle then further still until the surgical implement disappeared entirely. Blood spraying out. Covering Melody's lower half in a mixture of blood and sticky gray brain matter. Thrusting his body viciously to the floor Melody only then seemed to notice their presence, her beautiful face etched into a predatory snarl. She softened once she saw Elseron, her snarl dropping to a vacant face before turning almost instantly to a great pearly smile. 'Elseron!' she cried flying towards him and hugging him tightly, hanging on by his neck, her feet dangling half a foot from the ground. She was cold and felt noticeably thinner in his harms as he hugged her back. 'Thank God your safe.'
'Or curse your God that we are here in the first place.' Pilot said at the side as he and Eden moved off down the long corridor towards the killing field. Melody ignored him and dropped to the floor, her hands still holding on to his shoulders as if she were worried he was a mirage and would disappear at the slightest distraction.
'Are you alright?' he asked softly. She nodded quickly sending a shining ripple down the long loose curls of her hair.
'Fine. Battered and bruised but nothing that won't heal. Are you OK? Is Atlas safe? Where's Phaedos? What's...' she stopped her barrage of questions when she saw his chest and arms. 'Elseron what's that?' she whispered looking scared.
'I'll explain soon. Atlas and Phaedos are still captured; I'm going to get her.'
'Then we're coming with you.' she said before he'd even finished speaking. In truth it would have tasted a lie to say Elseron wasn't happy they were going with him, he'd need all the help he could get. Nodding he said,
'Is Arisa alright?' the pair turned to the small girl who was still drinking dry her last victim.
'She's in rough shape. They were hard on her. She'll heal but it's nothing she can't handle. The only problem is she hasn't eaten since before Encantos, that's her third in ten minutes. Dante and his new friend are helping her, collecting more food.' as if on cue Arisa detached from her feast. Blood covering her tiny mouth and chin, rolling down her neck and onto the rags of her dress. With a great gasp for air she dropped the soldier and stood, wiping her mouth and chin to try ever so lady like with the tips of her fingers and back of her hand.
'Sir Elseron...' she gasped sucking in deep lungfuls of air. 'I'm glad you're safe.'
'I'm also happy to see you well Lady Kayne.' he smiled at the small vampire.'
'Special delivery.' said Dante as he appeared at their sides carrying three struggling soldiers over each shoulder. Dropping them onto the floor they attempted to crawl away on broken legs and succeeded in sending unbearable agony up the useless limbs.
'Do excuse me.' said Arisa drowsily as the hunger took over and she sunk her jaws around the neck of one of her newest feeds.
'This way.' nodded Dante leading them to a large laboratory with a huge metal island in its centre that clearly doubled as a computer screen as he could clearly see their information displayed on its top. But Dante took him past that to the small metal lift in the corner. 'Enjoy.' he said ripping off its door and spilling Atlantean armour and weapons onto the floor. Elseron nodded, his head swimming, soon he found himself staring over a schematic of Hive whilst the others filed in one by one. When they were all in, including a now full Arisa, Dante shut the door so the Tiger couldn't hear them and the group gathered around the table. Elseron at its head. His hands pressed heavily against it, eyes and mind running through dozens upon dozens of strategies, ideas, plans and exit routes. When a small silence passed between them Elseron looked up at his soldiers.
'This is what we know. Hive is a nine levelled underground facility, bomb proof, earthquake proof and essentially designed from the ground up to be impenetrable,'
'Sounds like my Ex.' Dante smiled, Elseron continued.
'From the surface levels one through eight can be accessed. To get to level nine we have to go through a separate elevator here,' he said pointing to the map. 'In Zeus's personal office. Down in level nine there is a room they call the Vault. The schematics show there's one way in and one way out, a hundred foot by hundred foot box with walls five feet thick and lined with Atlantean steel. Lycan's are attacking the above ground facility with everything they have but as yet haven't broke through, I suggest we get down the level nine before they do. Our only problem then is when we surface back onto this level we'll have to fight them from the level above and the levels below. Whatever remains of this facilities forces are all collected down in that level, so I ask you all now,' he said staring at each of them in turn. 'Does anyone want to leave now? I cannot promise any of us will come out of that level alive...so...if you wish, you may go.' nobody moved. They all just looked back to him with hard expressions, expressions of determination, of focus, of purpose. 'Arisa?' Elseron asked looking to the blood caked girl.
'I can fight as well as any of you. I'm going.' she said harshly, her red hair seeming to grow bright with her anger. Elseron just nodded, and secretly thanked the spirits.
'Alright, how do we hit this thing?' for close to ten, agonising minutes they stressed over the impenetrable level, how to bypass the elevator shafts that were lined with explosives, how to get Atlas out of the Vault, how to deal with the Lycans. When eventually Eden, after staring intently at the map for close to a minute said,
'What's the power source for this place?' Silence. 'It must be something sizable...'
'There is a background radiation in this place that’s higher than normal.' said Pilot tweaking an eyebrow.
'You think it's a nuclear facility?' quaffed Dante. 'Nuclear power's been dead for twenty years,'
'Yet its stable enough to run a facility this size but volatile enough to blow it half to hell if things went bad.' retorted Eden, stumping the huge man.
'So you think Zeus installed a self destruct?' Elseron whispered.
'It's the only reason I can see for these power cables. They don't go anywhere but under the floors of every level...' the group stared at the map and suddenly a whole new plan shot in Elseron's head.
'There's an air duct leading from level eight to a room directly above the Vault,' said the old knight.
'Forget about it Old Man, too narrow for any adult and barred to boot.' said Dante.
'It's not an adult I'm thinking about,' he smiled looking down at Arisa, who looked up at him with wide amber eyes. 'And armed with Atlantean steel,' he said retrieving the two knives from behind the chains, passing the gold and bluish steel weapons to the small girl who took them with a wicked grin. 'Lady Kayne, are you...'
'Yes Elseron I'm sure.' she said decisively.
'Eh hem...' coughed Pilot. 'Aren't we going to address the huge Grayscale elephant in the room?' staring holes into the smug dark dweller Elseron bit his tongue to stop him reaching for his axe.
'What's Grayscale?' asked Melody looking from Pilot to Elseron. Sighing Elseron looked to them.
'Its a fungal disease that effects humans and Atlanteans. The fungus grows in the body as a dormant creature for years at a time before the huge cists burst. Killing the host in a matter of days, it ravaged across Atlantis before the decent killing nearly two thirds of our population...we grew immunity after that. However it seems the Encantos were talented geneticists; they mutated the fungus to grow faster.'
'How long until they burst?' asked a horrified looking Melody. Elseron looked to her, she was beautiful. Dante was lucky.
'They already have...' the room fell silent.
'How long?' asked Dante. A worried look cast across his wide face.
'Two...three hours. Maybe less.' looking down Elseron for the first time felt weak, three hundred years he'd been a knight. And now he finally found his limit. Now! When if nothing else he needed to be limitless! A gentle hand grabbed his, Eden leaned close.
'Tell them Elseron...they have a right to know.' she said softly but loud enough for all to hear.
'Know what?' asked a puzzled looking Dante.
'Something about Atlas,' said Pilot crossing his arms across his chest, craning his neck Elseron looked to the dark dweller who just stared back with a shrug. 'It's not my secret to tell.'
'What about Atlas? Is she sick too?' Arisa asked worriedly. Elseron shook his head, dropping a hand to his axe.
'She's my daughter.'
Silence. Complete, stunned, buzzing silence. Elseron looked to them, each in turn, gauging their surprise. Eden and Pilot must have known, how could they not? When you live with one sister for your entire life you’re bound to notice the differences in the other. Melody and Dante however couldn't have looked more shocked, their eyes wide and Dante's mouth dropping open slowly. Where's Arisa just looked confused before the thought clicked into her head.
'So that means you must be king!' she said with a huge smile.
'No sweetheart.' he smiled.
'Then...Oh...' she said as the truth hit her. Looking to Eden Elseron thought he'd see loathing, hatred for the fact he'd made her mother cheat on her father. But she just smiled. Kindly. Softly. A smile that so often graced Ariel's lips.
'Your mother...Ariel...I was an orphan. Her family took me in, she was the daughter of a smith and a artist. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her, and she did with me. Your father was a great man! A good man, but Ariel never loved him...your father loved you Eden, more than I'd ever seen him love anything. It broke him when you were lost; it broke your mother too. When it was announced she was pregnant again I thought nothing of it, until the day Atlas was born...that hair. Silver as the moon...' as a tear rolled down his face he coughed to try and control his emotions. So many years of denying it! Hiding it from the world. She is MY Little Princess...'When before Ariel died she gave me his axe,' he whispered placing the gorgeous weapon onto the table. 'And told me to protect our child...so I did. I took the job as her Guardian. When she died Eden...I couldn't explain it...a piece is still missing from me, as obvious and destructive as if you took my arm...I loved her.' tears rolling down his face Elseron pictured her, in those last moments. Sweat covered, golden eyes soft...accepting of her fate where Elseron clung to her as if to pry her from deaths grip...Ariel. My darling...
Weeping fully now a tiny body pressed against his leg, pressing her head into his stomach as she hugged him. 'It's okay Elseron...we'll go get her. Promise!' Arisa said softly.
'Promise.' she whispered back between quivering lips.
'We'll get her.' Dante nodded. Noting his friends state Dante took over. 'Right, suite up and boot up. Atlantean weapons and armour is behind Elseron. Take whatever feels right.' the group moved off, apart from Eden who stayed a bit longer at his side. Tears ran down her face as she looked to him, those eyes smiling at him through the glistening of pearlescent tears.
'You...are a good man Elseron. Atlas couldn't have asked for a better father in you. I hope one day she realises just how lucky she is.' Placing a hand on the side of his face just as Ariel used to do Eden leaned in a placed her forehead against his before moving off and arming herself.
'Wait!' Elseron barked grabbing his axe off the table. What he was about to do ripped up the proverbial book, but it needed to happen. 'Kneel.' he said to them all.
'What?' laughed Dante.
'I said kneel!' he shouted. Dante looked shocked but did as he was told, kneeling down in front of Elseron, Melody at his side, then Arisa, then Pilot, then Eden. 'You wear Atlantean armour, carry Atlantean weapons. It's only right you carry the names of Knights of Atlantis.' raising his axe Elseron shut his eyes and spoke into the blade. 'I, Sir Elseron the Stalwart Shield of Atlantis, Lord Commander of the Royal Knights, High General of the Atlantean Guard, owner of the White Tower and personal Guardian of Atlas of Atlantis, Queen of the Ocean City the first of her name...hearby knight you, Sir Dante the Great Bear. A member of the Royal Knights, and defender of Atlantis.' Elseron rested the flat of the blade onto Dante's shoulders as he spoke, before moving onto Melody. 'I knight you, Lady Melody