[The Thorn]: Chapter Two
Title: The Thorn
Summary: Sequel to 'The Rose'. Nearly stripped of their powers, Elyon and Phobos work as both allies and enemies to retrieve the Heart of Meridian from Nerissa.
To fly or not to fly…
The doors to the balcony stand there, a huge temptation. And really, if she leaves it's her brother's fault for not remembering to seal them, right? And to finally be out of the palace, to see something new, is such a huge temptation; Elyon doesn't think she can stand it.
The doors bang open, and Elyon is out, flying… A minute and she's already far from the palace, high up in the clouds and being soaked by them. They look fluffy from a distance, but really, they're just wet.
Elyon laughs, spinning circles in the air.
After a while she lowers a bit, coming back down from the cloud cover and looking at the land spread out before her. She's never been on a plane before, and she's sure that this view beats anything she might have seen from one. All around, she can see straight to the horizon, the sun rising there and it still dark over there… There's forest and villages, all ancient and untouched by the technology that chokes the earth. It's like being in a fairytale.
Sometimes fairytales come true…
Yeah, well, they all have their nasty parts. This isn't one of them.
The land is looking healthier, with crops growing in the farms and green showing in the trees again. Apparently Phobos hadn't felt the need to drain the land of strength once he had her powers to satisfy him.
Elyon pauses in the sky, thoughts of her brother stopping her. It's all so confusing, and there's actually a part of her that wants to go back to the palace, rather than just fly further, further until she can find a portal and escape to earth.
She has to land eventually, though, and she does so in the woods near a town, secluded but not too isolated. She isn't sure if it's a good idea to interact with people or not at the moment- who's on what side, what they'll expect of her…it's all a mystery.
But they're her people, and she's failed them so much… She has to keep that in mind.
There are dark creatures hiding in the woods, but there are also more normal animals…though their sizes vary a lot from what they would on earth.
All right, maybe this wasn't such a great idea, she has to admit when a giant marmot has her stuck up in a tree. Of all the things to be chased up a tree by, a cute little- well, not so little- marmot. Elyon has to be the most undignified princess ever.
"Nice marmot… You don't want to hurt me, do you? Now, let's just even things up a bit…" Elyon tries to summon her magic, but instead of the marmot shrinking down to normal size, she sways on the tree, and has to grab the trunk to keep from falling. "Oww. Note to self: fighting with brother and flying all over the place are too much magic for one day." She sighs. "I guess I'm also a pretty lame sorceress."
An arrow hits the tree, just missing the marmot. It startles, and then runs off.
"Are you all right?"
Looking down, Elyon sees a young man- probably her age. The part of her which still manages to be girlish notices that he's cute, with warm brown eyes, long blond hair tied back, and a kind face. "Um…yeah, I'm fine. It's just my ego that's bruised." Elyon jumps down, and she at least has enough power left to float and touch down on the ground gently. "I must be a pretty lame sorceress to get chased up a tree by a marmot, huh?"
He looks surprised, but smiles at her. "Well, that's more than most people can do. My grandmother practiced magic, but she could never do anything like that."
For a girl who's usually strong enough to give Phobos trouble, that's not much consolation, but it's a nice gesture. Elyon smiles back. "My ego thanks you." Her eyes light on his bow and arrow. "Um, should you be carrying weapons around like that? It's not your forest, right?"
He blushes and tries to hide them behind his back. "Um…no, I really shouldn't. If I ask nicely, will you not tell anyone?"
"Well, it's not like I have any friends to tell," her heart aches at how true that feels, "So…I guess you're safe." Elyon winks.
The boy nods, eyes dancing.
With a start, Elyon realizes that she's…flirting? It feels wrong, somehow. After all that she's done, she's light years away from the girl who'd sigh over cute boys like Matt and get excited over a date with some boy in her class. A woman who'd seduce her own brother for power has no place leading on a young man who looks so…so good. Innocent. She can already tell that he's too trusting for his own good, and Elyon feels sick at the idea of getting close to him.
She bites her lip, stepping backwards. "I…really need to be going now."
"How? Where are you from?" he asks, curious and only a little cautious, not cautious enough.
She shakes her head. "It doesn't matter."
"Are you sure you're all right?"
His concern is so tempting, and Elyon can imagine staying, maybe offering to help with the rebellion which he's probably a part of, but where would that lead? Her deal with Phobos hangs around her like shackles- shackles which she willingly placed on herself.
The boy follows, but she loses him in the forest, the dark foliage providing good cover. Years imprisoned in Phobos' garden haven't done much for her physique, though, and after a while she collapses at the base of a tree, hidden by fallen logs just in case. Too tired to resist, she tucks her head into her knees and cries.
His sister has fled.
It seems that Phobos can be surprised by her no longer- she truly has become his sister. Certainly she had seemed earnest in her decision to ally with him, but earnestness means nothing in ones such as them. She is probably run to the rebels or the Guardians already, if a portal is willing.
Next time he sees her, he will cease to be so forgiving, and he will kill her. For all that he is not surprised, the burn of betrayal curls within him. He has never grown used to it, though he has learned to never offer loyalty in return for it.
He throws his powder on the floor rather than pouring it delicately, but the image forms all the same, showing him…
His sister. Alone.
She is in the middle of a forest, and further examination shows that there is nothing nearby. She dozes, her face showing the evidence of tears. The foolish girl has left herself vulnerable, and it occurs to Phobos that this is exactly what this is- foolishness.
She stands to be useful enough that he may give her a chance to explain herself. Just one.
Between work, he continues to watch, and eventually Elyon awakens. After looking about, apparently disoriented, she rises into the air, only to fall straight back to the earth after raising herself a few paltry inches. So she is drained.
Drained of magic, flown to the middle of nowhere after imprisonment… It is a familiar scenario.
You do not understand limits or rules, my son- now learn what happens to criminals who are not protected by royal blood…
His teeth grit. "Cedric!" he calls out, and waits for the snake to arrive. "My sister seems to have misplaced herself. Do retrieve her before some forest creature chooses to make a meal out of her."
The slain body of the beast that had attacked her lies between them, but by unspoken consensus they ignore it, staring at each other coolly. Considering.
"This was foolish of you, Elyon," Cedric says, sounding far too much like he had in the old days, when he'd pretended to care about her.
"Have you ever been a prisoner, Cedric?"
"No, I have so far managed to escape that fate." His tone is mildly mocking, but Elyon ignores it.
"Then shut up."
She walks past him, and can feel his eyes on her.
"It seems that you need a keeper, dear sister," Phobos says smugly.
Elyon can't help but scowl, feeling childish. "What do you mean by that?"
His smirk grows wider. "I mean that I plan to make good on my threat from a few years ago- you shall be spending the day with Miranda."
"What? That's not fair! I don't want to hang out with someone who you forced to pretend to be my friend!"
"And yet you shall."
Exhaustion makes her tongue loose, and Elyon lashes out. "I hate you!" With that, she stomps out of the throne room, way too tired to care that she sounds about three years old.
"For a moment this scene almost resembled that of an ordinary family," she hears Cedric comment.
"He can be annoying, can't he?" Miranda leans against the wall, all fake innocence in body, but her smirk gives her away.
"Why, the one who isn't a king with a short temper, of course," Miranda says, moving away from the wall and grinning wickedly.
All the smirking must be contagious, because Elyon grins back at her. "What good is being royalty if I can't insult my brother now and then and get away with it?"
"What good indeed?"
Never mind contagious smirks- Elyon must have stepped into an alternate dimension at some point, one where the real, snide Miranda is actually fun to be around. Or…maybe it just says something about her, that she's enjoying the company. She enjoy's Phobos' company, for God's sake. One's got to learn to work with what's available, right?
"So, what's a grounded princess to do for fun, anyway? Study? That's always what my parents told me…"
"A library full of dark magic is hardly a punishment."
Marveling at the surrealism of it, Elyon returns, "So, sitting in my room and thinking about what I've done?"
"Earth punishments sound very boring," Miranda says, sounding just as bored.
"Well, that's kind of the point…" Elyon shakes her head. "So, dark magic it is?"
"Lead the way."
Miranda might not do much magic besides shapeshifting herself, but she knows a decent amount about it. With her help it's easy to locate the best books- well, the best books which are actually available. Some of them are sealed, and, try as she might, Elyon can't lift them.
"Big brother doesn't approve, I take it?"
Elyon gives a token scowl, but it doesn't change that she's enjoying herself. Four years with Phobos have given her a taste for snide jokes and insults, she guesses.
For a while things are quiet, but, while Elyon is looking over an evisceration spell in sick fascination, Miranda breaks the silence. "You know…a little spider told me some interesting things about the king and his little sister."
Elyon freezes. "What did you say?"
"It seems there are two snakes in our midst," Miranda continues, inspecting her fingernails.
Panic rises in her. No, no, no one should know about this… Visions of doom form in her mind, and Elyon can't seem to snap herself out of it. Calm down, calm down…
What Elyon finds isn't calm, though, but cold rage. She holds the book up to Miranda, giving her a minute to see what the page details. "Tell anyone about this, and I'll be trying this spell out on you."
Slowly, Miranda nods.
Elyon puts the book down and forces a smile, knowing that it's shaky. "So. Friends?"
Her startle fading, Miranda smiles back. "Yes… Friends."