[The Thorn]: Chapter Four
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.
His sister sits on the steps to his throne casually, displaying no concern over her situation. If their past conflicts had not taught him how canny she has truly become, he would think her a fool. Meeting with the Guardians and then waltzing back in here as if nothing has changed…
"I didn't tell them anything, you know," Elyon says, looking out to the gardens he keeps in his throne room. Some consider averted eyes to be the first sign of a liar. "I mean, what was I going to tell them? The truth?" She chuckles, the sound forced.
"Perhaps," he replies, for now passing over the aspects of the truth which his sister definitely would not want to reveal. "The Guardians would surely be glad to know that they have an advantage over me now."
Elyon snorts. "Please. With all your forces, you managed to fight them equally back when you didn't have my power on your side- you can do it again."
Something of a backhanded compliment, coming from his sister.
"Still so presumptuous, sister dear," he says, gesturing at her easy position so close to his throne. "But at least you have some understanding of your place in the scheme of things."
Elyon's gaze had come back to him, but now she averts her head again, cheeks flaming in shame.
Phobos smirks in satisfaction. He had thought her still a child, but this is a woman's shame, and well-earned shame it is.
"You left her with Phobos?"
Miriadel can only recall having been this angry two times before in her life. The first was the night that Cedric stole Elyon away, and the second was the day of the coronation which stole her daughter from her permanently. And now to find out that she is alive, but still in her brother's clutches… Tonight will make a third.
Her skills had grown rusty while taking refuge on earth, but she has been fighting with the rebellion for the past four years- her fingers itch for a sword.
"I'm sorry, Mrs… Miriadel," Cornelia says, biting her lip. It's been a while since she last slipped up and referred to her as 'Mrs. Brown' as she did as a child. Miriadel refuses to soften at the reminder of Cornelia's youth, though. "But Elyon insisted on staying- she says she has a plan to beat Phobos, and she needs to stay there to make it work. I know it's a long shot, but…I believe her."
"And it didn't occur to you that she's being hoodwinked by Phobos again?" Alborn asks, and Miriadel is relieved to see that memories aren't going to soften him, either.
"Of course it did!" Cornelia replies heatedly, clearly also forgetting the past for a moment. "But I know Elyon, and she was serious. She managed to get some of her power back from Phobos, and she says that he needs her for something. Maybe this really will work, if she's already gotten one over him once."
Miriadel shakes her head, but the part of her that still sees Elyon as the Light of Meridian more than as her daughter is rising. Alborn touches her hand, understanding in his eyes. She clutches it, taking comfort in his presence. They had never been close before they fled to earth- unwittingly, Elyon had brought them together.
Perhaps she will give trusting in her daughter a chance, as well.
"You're going to teach me to scry? Really? But I thought…" Elyon feels ridiculously excited, like she's a kid being taught magic for the first time again. But for Phobos to offer to teach her something she's wanted to know how to do for years…
"I am capable of protecting myself from your sight, sister," Phobos chides, smirking.
"You're raining on my parade here. I'm finally learning cool magic again, yay!" Elyon is getting really good at not letting Phobos' presence ruin her mood- she's practically got it down to an art form. And besides, it's not so bad when he plays along and just prods lightly, rather than cutting her down with horrid comments.
It occurs to her that it is Phobos, but…maybe you can get used to anyone after enough time stuck around them?
"So, uh, where do we start?"
"With the appropriate materials. Tell me, sister, what surfaces are best for scrying?"
"Um, clear ones, right?" Just like her brother to give her a quiz right away.
"Naturally. But beyond that?"
Elyon thinks back. "Um, I'm not sure… I don't know what the stuff you use to scry is. Wouldn't water or a mirror do okay?"
"Yes, but they will not aid you in watching those protected by magic. That is why I always create my own surfaces for scrying, using the powder of stones containing magical properties."
"Gemstones?" the girly part of Elyon has to ask. "So magic is expensive?"
"If you choose not to or are unable to use the proper magical materials, your own power is required in order to break through the natural protections of those with magic such as the Guardians. Inadvisable for sorcerers who have nothing but their own life force to draw on."
Is that a warning? Elyon has been having trouble adjusting to being able to use magic again, but not the vast power she had due to the Heart of Meridian; but why is Phobos bothering to warn her? He's so confusing sometimes.
Phobos looks a little disgusted by her good mood, but Elyon doesn't care. As difficult as everything is, she's still feeling her weird mix of excitement and panic after having met with Cornelia and the girls. And Caleb… It's both amazing and scary, to realize just how much the people of Meridian are depending on her. So she has to learn…
Scrying isn't as easy as it looks, though, she soon finds. She's distracted, and so the images keep changing, too fast for her to see anything useful. But after a while she sees something which captures her attention, and that seems to help. The image slows down, showing Cornelia and the girls, and…
"Ugh, they're on vacation! And here I am, stuck in magic lessons with my evil brother." Elyon doesn't bother to try to hide the bitterness.
"You weren't complaining earlier," Phobos comments, his eyes glued to the scrying surface.
"Well, now that a better option presents itself…"
Phobos ignores her.
"You're not going to see anything interesting, you know."
"Hush. It's been quite some time since I've been able to scry upon them. I'm willing to wait."
Elyon tries to dispel the image, but Phobos takes control of it easily. She huffs. "Clearly you've never been on a vacation with a teenage girl before. Shopping, gossip, tanning on the beach, swimming… There are all sorts of things to do. None of them include giving you an opening to work with."
"Four years in your company have given me some idea of what to expect."
At that Elyon snorts. "Ha! You wouldn't know the word 'vacation' if it bit you."
"Tyranny affords one little spare time."
"I guess it's a good thing you aren't aging, then. Imagine trying to do everything you do if you were like a normal man your age." Elyon shudders. Ugh, bad thought, bad thought. Remembering that she's slept with not just her brother but her seventy year old brother? Not helping things at all.
Trying to distract herself, Elyon looks back down at the image. "Doesn't this thing come with sound? Right now I feel like I'm watching T.V. on mute." T.V… Elyon sighs wistfully. It's been ages since she's watched T.V. There are some pieces of technology no amount of magic can replace.
Phobos ignores that last point, sounding impatient. "Scrying allows one to view distant occurrences- it cannot capture and transfer sound."
"At least if I don't know what they're talking about, you don't either." Though you don't exactly need to be a genius at watching body language to know that they're arguing. "Well, so much for vacation."
"Indeed. There is an imposter in their midst."
Phobos makes an impatient sound. "The blonde one- watch her shadow."
"Her shadow? What would…oh!" Heart racing, Elyon examines it. She can't see Cornelia's shadow that well in the evening light shown through the scrying mirror, but it does look off. "Is that… The old hag who stole the heart! I've got to warn them!"
Phobos's hand falls on her shoulder, gripping tightly, before she can take a step. "If you face her, she will kill you."
"She can try," Elyon snaps, pulling out from her brother's grip.
"And most likely succeed. Or do you believe yourself capable of facing her in battle as you are?"
Apparently happy to agree with this unlikely voice of reason, her mind conjures up memories of their fight with the old woman. Elyon had barely been able to keep up, and that was just with shield duty. The magic Phobos and that hag had used… Phobos had never taught her anything like it before the coronation. She's trained with him now in mock battles, and she knows he's going easy on her.
A nasty thought comes, and Elyon twists around to look up at Phobos. "But what if she's after the Heart of Kandrakar, too? We barely fought her off before, and if she gets hold of another heart…"
"Rest easy, sister. It appears that our enemy miscalculated."
Turning back, Elyon sees what he means. The long shadows of the night make her mismatched shadow very clear, and the girls figure it out. The old woman turns back from that bald man she'd been disguised as and begins to fight the girls. They seem to have her well in hand, though, and Elyon can breathe a sigh of relief. "Who was that man she turned into, anyway? Someone involved in the rebellion?"
Without answering, Phobos dispels the scrying mirror.