Everything was calm around Elseron. A still ocean on a warm day. His body felt strange, his mind slow and sluggish, and his skin felt like it was covered in a thousand itchy hairs. Time passed. He didn't know how long. A minute, a year. They all felt the same in this place. Opening his eyes Elseron discovered he had eyes and after taking in a shudderingly deep breath he discovered he had a mouth and lungs. Batting his eyelids a few times to clear his vision the shapes of the architecture around him suddenly jumped into focus. 'This is Atlantis.’ He said, discovering he also had a voice to accompany the mouth. This place certainly looked like Atlantis, the pillars were tall and perfectly carved, the runes on the walls couldn't have been any other languages and the light that flooded through the stained glass windows had the clear distortion of rippling water. Yet, this wasn't Atlantis. It didn't feel right. Discovering he had hands he ran them across the floor beneath him, it was smooth. But neither warm nor cold. Sitting upright he found himself in his armour, but with the movement a few strands of his hair fell over his eyes. It wasn't silver. It was the lustrous blonde it had been when he was a child, the colour of Atlas's hair.
'You look well my love,' A long forgotten voice said through the hall. Turning on his unwrinkled hands Elseron locked eyes with the shining figure sitting in one of the two golden thrones. She was as beautiful as he remembered. All of Atlas's delicate beauty in a form that was both savage and yet...mesmerising.
'Ariel...' She smiled. Elseron stood, looking around suspiciously at his slightly luminous surroundings. 'This is a dream...it has to be.' Then it struck him. 'Am I dead?'
Ariel smiled again. 'I don't know Elseron, only you can answer that one I think. Your friends tried to cheat death...death doesn't like being made a fool of. And I don't know of anyone else surviving an infestation of Greyscale.' her beautiful face fractured slightly as a tear rolled down her cheek. 'However none of those people were the Stalwart Shield of Atlantis.' Sitting back into the throne as Elseron cautiously approached her Ariel studied him with those molten gold eyes. He wanted so badly to run over to her and take her into his arms, hug her and kiss her and never let her go again. But something held him back...a single thread left of his mortal life. 'She knows.'
'She knows...I had to tell her Ariel. She had to find out eventually.' Elseron said as if trying to justify his actions.
'She's always known my love...I think she just never wanted to admit it to herself. But I think she's always known...deep down.' Stepping onto the first step of the five tired dais Elseron caught his reflection in the polished marble. Young and fresh faced and minus a great many of his scars. 'You kept your promise.'
'I swore to you I'd protect our daughter. I'd die for her.'
'Perhaps you already have.' Ariel said softly.
'I said the choice was yours.' Ariel lent forward, reaching down to him with an elegant hand. Her skin glowing white and her arms seeming to shift and shimmer. 'Elseron my darling, you've protected her for one hundred years. Saved her from more dangers than I thought possible...maybe it's time you let her go. You cannot protect her forever. And I have so missed you my love.' Brushing her palm against his smooth face Elseron felt a shock of electricity bolt through his body. He'd so forgotten how good her skin felt against his. How it felt to kiss her lips or hold her in his arms. 'Aren't you tired Elseron? Come with me, you can lay down your axe and rest for the remainder of eternity with me...' She leant down. Her lips inches from his. Her eyes closed and the heat from her skin prickling against his cheek. He was about to lean in to kiss her when that single fibre of his mortal being tugged in his chest. Pulling against his sternum and knocking his heart out of rhythm. Atlas.
'No...' He whispered to Ariel's spirit. 'You're gone Ariel. I love you with all of my heart...but you're gone. I can never get you back, but Atlas needs me. Our daughter needs me.' With tears rolling down his face Elseron pushed Ariel's spirit away, 'I swore to protect her until the day I die. And that day is not today.'
A tiny laugh broke from Ariel's lips. 'Oh Elseron...my Shining Knight.' she wept. 'I do so love you...and when your day does come. When death finally delivers you to me, I'll be here...waiting. As always.' Smiling at him Ariel cupped his face and kissed his forehead. 'Tell my daughters their mother loves them, and no matter where they are. I am watching. Now go my Shining Knight...go!'
'Did it work?' A tiny voice asked on the edges of his perception. Someone was panting. The air was humid and prickling hot. Someone was weeping, weeping on Elseron's chest. Great sobs racking the person’s body as desperate hands clung to the plates of his armour and tears seeped into his bare torso.
'Elseron...Father! Daddy...please...come back to me Daddy...please. Come back!' the woman wept pounding his chest with angry fists.
'Atlas we need to go.' A strong voice said. 'He's gone Atlas.'
'No I won't leave him! I won't!' she cried gripping onto his prostrate body.
'Atlas,' a softer female voice said that crouched down beside Atlas and Elseron. 'Atlas that won't have stopped them all. They'll have regrouped and will be coming back. We need to go Atlas...'
'I can't leave him Eden...not here...not all alone. I won't...'
'Arisa can burn his body, the fires a kings burial. They can't hurt him anymore Atlas. He's at peace now.' Eden hushed, the clinking of armour and the ruffling of clothes running over one another filling the Guardian's ears as Eden cradled her younger sister.
'They're coming!' a panicked little voice shouted.
'Everyone through the vent! Now!' a voice that sounded oddly like Pilot's shouted through the darkness. Footsteps echoed all around him. Eden was one of the last to move. Atlas leaned over Elseron, her breath hot against his face as she kissed his forehead in the exact spot her mother just had. Her hands cupping his face. My Daughter.
'You were an amazing Father Elseron...I love you. Always and forever.' her tears dripped onto his cheeks. His eyes fluttered with their icy touches. She paused. Her hands running down his neck. Resting on his pulse. 'By the Spirits...he's alive...HE'S ALIVE!'
'What?' a symphony of echoed voices shouted.
'ATLAS!' came a thunderous shout. A roar split the room in two. Atlas spun. The Lycan's teeth and claws bared as it soared through the air. Lightning firing through his body Elseron sprang upright, one huge arm covering Atlas and the other reaching out. Quicker than a striking snake. Wrapping his thick fingers around the wolf's hairy throat Elseron felt life flow back into him as he squeezed the life from the burned Lycan. It's jaws snapping together and hands swiping at the chains around his wrists to try and break his hold. Its silvery saliva dripped from its jowls as Elseron squeezed its larynx shut. After about another thirty seconds the beast fell limp. And Elseron finally let it go. Panting as life surged through his veins Elseron felt Atlas's warm touch against his arm. Looking at her her eyes filled with tears and she immediately launched herself around his neck. Hugging him like never before, as if she were trying to put a thousand unsaid words into that one physical moment.
'You came back.' she whispered, weeping into his shoulder.
'Always My Little Princess, you brought me back.'
'Well aren't you just full of surprises old man.' Pilot's smug voice rung through the charred husk of a room they were left in. Laughing as Pilot hauled him up Elseron clapped the vampire on the arm.
'Like you wouldn't believe.' Elseron muttered looking quickly to the others, they all looked battered and bruised, but they still had that glint of fighting behind their eyes. A roar ripped through the facility.
'That's Fenrir,' Arisa said softly, her usually powerful voice shaking with fear.
He didn't know how she knew that, he didn't particularly care. His plan was ruined...but it could still be salvaged if they acted quickly. 'Move! Everyone out right now! GO! GO! GO!'
'That's an order Knight! Now move!' The Lord Commander of the Atlantean Knights and High Commander of the Royal Knights shouted at the top of his lungs to whoever it was that tried to disobey him. Now was the time for action. Nothing more. Pushing them up the vent they crawled up one by one. Climbing towards that tiny dot a velvet blue that was their target. The skittering of claws and the snapping of teeth was getting louder and louder behind him when Elseron started to climb. When he was only halfway up the wolves roared at the bottom. Climb you old fool! Climb! He shouted to himself following Atlas up the seamlessly endless shaft. Voices echoed from above now. When fresh air touched his face the wolves were snapping at his heels but a soft hand grabbed his. Pulling him up whilst throwing something down into the shaft. The blinking red light atop the spherical device strobed in the darkness until it touched a wolf. Then it exploded in a ball of molten fire and shards of gleaming metal. Soil and grass and fresh air filling his nostrils as Elseron pulled himself onto the earth. But there was something else too. Perfume.
'Ser Elseron, what a delight to see you once again. I was most gracious to receive your letter, and more than a little honoured to be parley to your plans. Your trust is a valuable asset to me I assure you.' Smiling despite the pain in his arms and the burning in his lungs Elseron looked up to see the Aqua smiling down at him. His clothes still as ostentatious as before he wore a delicate rapier at his hip and an enamelled blue breast plate over his chest.
'Finneous...what in the Spirits name was that thing you threw down there?' Elseron asked staggering to his feet.
'Oh that? A lovely human invention. They call it, a grenade. Named after some kind of fruit would you believe it or not? It was originally used as...'
'Elseron! What is this?' Atlas gasped as her knights kneeled around her.
'After Encantos I thought we might need some extra...support. So I had Finneous contact the Gatekeeper and send for Jory and a few knights.' Elseron smiled.
'Eye my Queen, when the Gatekeeper informed us of your capture I saw fit as acting Lord Commander to increase the number Ser Elseron suggested.' said Jory, lowering his hood and kneeling briefly before Atlas.
'So how many are you Ser?' Atlas asked.
'Well my lady...I brought the entire contingent of Atlantean Knights. We are five hundred strong with an extra thousand foot soldiers waiting in the wings to attack.' Elseron smiled. I've trained this young man well.
'Hey back off!' Dante roared as a knight attempted to grab Melody.
'Contain that mongrel!' a Senior knight ordered as they encircled everyone.
'Lower your weapons! All of you!' Elseron boomed. 'These are ordained knights of Atlantis, blessed by my axe and trained personally by myself! These are your brothers and sisters!' Steadily the knights slowly lowered their pole-axes and allowed Arisa and Melody and the others to get near the queen. Looking at his band of five hundred strong knights Elseron wondered if he had ever been so glad as to see his men. A roar ruptured the night. Turning Elseron saw the facility in the distance, hundreds of Lycan's still left crawling over its walls like hairy ants. But the one that roared dwarfed all around him, sitting up on his hind legs as he howled at the crescent moon. Elseron smiled and grabbed his axe. 'KNIGHTS OF ATLANTIS! Form up! Protect your Queen and march to slaughter our enemies! For Atlantis! For Atlas! For Victory!' Charging through the fields towards his final enemy with his knights and friends at his side, Elseron was glad he had come back. It was time to end this!