[The Rose]: Chapter Two
Title: The Rose
Summary: As he captured her within a rose, so she captures him.
Nearly four years have passed since Elyon's imprisonment, and nowadays Phobos sees her true form more often than not. A part of him is bothered at Elyon's growing ease in escaping the imprisonment of the rose, but too much of him prefers to be unconcerned.
"You couldn't hold it still for another minute, could you?"
"I have more important things to do, sister, than cater to your whims."
Elyon has taken up painting, a pastime he has encouraged, as it prevents her from chattering at him at all hours when he has work to be done. But there are also times like this, when she lights upon a vision in his scrying and decides that it would make the perfect subject.
"I said just a minute. Please?"
Phobos' response is to dispel the scrying mirror.
"You know, you're kind of a jerk." Another unfortunate product of the years is that his sister's tongue has loosened- when angered she speaks even more dreadfully than before. "The only things I have to do are annoy you, draw, do my hair, and sleep. It gets really boring."
"I could order Miranda to befriend you again," he offers.
Elyon makes a face. "No thanks. She's really creepy. Plus, rose girls and giant spider girls don't mix."
"Pity. Since the rebels recognize her human form, her uses outside of battle are sharply limited."
A muffled giggle comes from Elyon. "Is that your way of saying she's annoying?"
"Based on that, I would expect the two of you to get along better."
"Everyone annoys you," Elyon points out. "It's a good thing we don't all get along, or you'd have more enemies than you could count."
"I already do."
Elyon waves her hand dismissively. "You know what I mean." Turning back to her sketchbook, she frowns. "I can only paint the throne room so many times, no matter how pretty all the plants are. Or creepy. You used to just go for creepy ones…"
"I choose plants based on their merits as well as their appearance."
Pointing to a batch of white flowers, Elyon asks, "So, what do those do?"
"They release a scent which makes people predisposed to tell the truth. Care to step closer to them?"
"You really work at making unpleasant conversation, don't you?"
Phobos would argue that he has their mother to thank for that, but doesn't say as much. "I don't see the need to change sixty years of habit when it's served me so well."
Apparently his attempts were in vain, for Elyon surmises: "I guess I'm not the only one who has issues with this family."
"Mother's main interest in me was in discouraging my magical studies and other ambitions," Phobos offers in return. His easy seat on the throne is a defiance of that, one he still revels in. Would that his regard of his sister be as easy to dismiss. "She feared what I could become."
Rather than commenting on the wisdom of their mother's fears, his sister appears thoughtful. "I didn't remember it for a long time, but when I was little there were…incidents. I drew pictures of Meridian sometimes, and had weird dreams, and sometimes when I was really upset, things would just…break. Mom and Dad always looked so scared. Anything which linked back to Meridian scared them- I think they wanted to just spend my whole life pretending I was a normal girl and my fate was on earth."
And their fear spawned resentment; resentment which led Elyon right into his arms. "I'm reminded of why I should never have an heir; children always defy the expectations of their parents."
"You shouldn't have an heir because you'd be a terrible father. And you'd definitely have a kid who'd want your power. It's karma."
"What goes around comes around? Something like that."
His sister appears guileless, offering no clue as to whether that is intended as a threat or not. A foolish shred of him, decades old and still not entirely stamped out, hopes that it is not.
Voices catch his ear, and the Whisperers call for him, directing him to the throne room. Someone is speaking with Elyon. Rage fills him, and he is shocked to find that he is surprised, as if a betrayal from her wasn't due at some point or another.
Pushed by his power, the doors slam open, and Raythor jumps up from his seat in front of Elyon.
"What is the meaning of this, Raythor?" Phobos asks, ice forming at his words.
"My lord?" Raythor asks, having the gall to sound confused, as if he has done nothing wrong. "I had come to report on some suspects among my men, and ran into the princess…"
"Of course." Phobos contemplates which punishment would be most fitting.
Suddenly Elyon rises. "Stop it! You idiot, Raythor found me by accident. He was just telling me about our family, because I asked, because God knows trying to get personal information out of you is like pulling teeth at the best of times!"
"You expect me to believe you, sister?" All of the hatred he still feels is concentrated in his gaze, but the foolish girl seems undeterred. She approaches him, coming so far from the bushes that her vines are stretched to their limit, and she takes his hand. "Release me, now."
"No," Elyon replies, mulishly stubborn. "It's not a crime for two people who care to talk about you, is it?"
"I should make it one." Phobos' eyes narrow. Care? She must be lying; and yet, her expression now reminds him very much of when she was a child, only capable of the weakest lies, easily sniffed out.
Elyon squeezes his hand, looking suddenly, childishly nervous. "Yeah, it's stupid of me, but…"
She can read him too well.
"Your Whisperers can listen in all the time, fine. But can I just talk to Raythor? You have no idea how lonely it is, being imprisoned like this."
"You'd be surprised." With that, Phobos pulls his hand from hers and takes his leave, not willing to give her a true concession, but allowing their defiance for the moment.
"What was that about?" He hears Elyon ask in a whisper, and a muffled reply from Raythor, the only word of which he can pick up being 'oubliette'…
Rage flares in him again. "Raythor!"
Footsteps clatter across the stone floor. "Yes, my lord?"
"I will forgive your transgression this once, but if I see you speaking to my sister again, I will not be so forgiving."
Phobos curses that Raythor is one of the few people who does understand.
When he next sees her, his sister looks up at him with damnable pity in her eyes, and he wants to kill her for it. His rage is still burning bright, not yet brought down to a simmer. She should know better than to confront him before then.
But it seems there is still some fool left in his sister. "Brother," she starts hesitantly, and it is odd, to hear the familial appellation which normally only he uses, "Did…did our mother really hate you that much?"
Phobos' fists clench, and he turns away from her. "No. In order to hate me, she would have to have cared one way or the other in the first place."
Sense catches up with Elyon, and she obeys.
"I wish I knew how to scry," Elyon bemoans again, apparently expecting no response.
It has been a week, and when Elyon speaks at all, it is of inanities such as this. Phobos typically ignores her, which she seems to take as invitation to continue. Since informing her otherwise would require speaking to her, he tolerates it.
Finally, though, Phobos grows weary of it. "Tell me, dear sister, why you continue with your inane prattling?"
Elyon jumps, startled, and her pencil breaks against the paper. "You're talking to me again?" she asks, nervous.
"That sounds more like a no than a yes," she says with a sigh. "Well, I guess… I guess that if I pretend things are normal, hopefully they will be normal again at some point. You're not good company, but you're all I've got, you know." The last said with a teasing lilt. When had his sister become comfortable with speaking to him in such a manner?
Strange as it is, that does seem to settle matters.