The Prince of Thieves Ch. 13byUseli©
'Awaken, child of mine,' calls a voice. It beckons him back from beyond the veil...from beyond the darkness and peace of the grave. His eyes slowly open, unfocused and unprepared for the pale glow of the crystal that surrounds him.
He feels...warmth. Warmth returning to every part of him as the cold hands of death release. 'Awaken, once more, Terin...'
"Unh...guuuhh," grunts Atlas, before drawing a breath. Atlas rolls onto his stomach, pain searing through every fiber of his being. His body protests every single movement, his chest aches with every breath he takes.
But his amber eyes find the tree in the distance. He must reach it...he must stand. With a loud cry he pushes himself to his knees and struggles to his feet.
The pain is nearly unbearable...but it serves to bring him back to reality. To clear and focus his mind. The thief stumbles towards the tree slowly, body demanding his immediate stop to end the pain. But he cannot.
He must push forward, must find the Dei Oculo...for Illia, for Nero and for everyone else. Seconds of this pain feel like centuries to his battered body...and yet he reaches the tree, only to collapse to his knees before it.
Atlas numbly places a hand upon the surface of the diamond. "I need...the Dei Oculo," Atlas mumbles softly. He slumps forward against the surface, forehead touching the cool surface. "I need it..." The thief looks down at the base, finding a small hole in the diamond. He reaches down, fumbling blindly for something, anything. "Ah?" He withdraws his hand and stares at the chunk of diamond. "Heh...I got it. I...got it...Illia..."
He slumps to his right and then strikes the cold ground, staring at the Dei Oculo he's tightly clutching in his right hand. Beyond it, he can see the approach of one of the creatures.
It's black eyes are focusing squarely on Atlas. A weak smirk appears on his young, bruised face. "Heh...I still...win..." His vision begins to darken and he simply can't keep his eyes open any longer.
'Death will not have you, child of mine. Not this day. This...I promise...'
- - -
"...as...las...Atlas...!" calls a voice, somewhere in the distance. It calls to him, beckons him out of the darkness once again. It's not the same as before.
It does not demand action from the thief. Warmth surrounds him, the warmth of life. Death...pain...it all feels so far away and he feels so tired. So very tired.
But he cannot let himself rest as the voice continues to call. His eyes slowly open to nothing more then slits.
A woman, the vision of an angel stares down at him. He manages a very weak smile for the woman. "Hey...Illia," mutters Atlas. "I got...the Dei Oculo." And with those words he once again loses consciousness again...
- - -
Gentle, soft humming is what brings him around from the world of dreams. Amber eyes open and scan the inside of the small room lit only by a few candles before coming to a stop on the woman sitting at his bed-side.
"Is this paradise?" asks Atlas, attracting her attention. Illia looks up sharply from her book and then smiles softly.
"You're awake, I see," replies Illia.
"I am." With a bit of a grunt he pushes himself up and looks around again. "Where are we?"
"Aer." Confusion washes over his features.
"I slept for a fortnight?"
"You don't remember?" Atlas responds with a shake of his head. "You woke several times during the trip and always in severe pain. The Seer told me to give you some kind of strange medicine whenever you woke. She said it would ease your pain and let you rest. Are you sure you don't remember?" Again he responds with a shake of his head. "Strange. Well, you don't seem to have trouble remembering anything else...you CAN remember everything else, right?"
"I can, Illia." He throws his feet over the edge of the bed and then rolls his shoulders slowly, enjoying the feeling of them slowly untightening as he does so. Illia glances down and then smiles. "Hm?" Atlas looks down, finding himself completely naked and smiling as well. "Enjoying the view?"
"Very much so, Atlas. Nizel, Nero and Kale went to get some supplies and they shouldn't be back for a while..."
"Mm, then, I guess I won't need to--" The door to the room is thrown open and Atlas pulls the blanket across his lap while Illia sighs heavily in irritation. "Well, speak of the devil. Welcome home, everyone."
"Atlas!" Nero drops what he's carrying and rushes over, nearly tackling him with a hug.
"Omph! Heh! Good to see you again, Nero. But..." He gently disengages from the boy. "...I don't suppose you'd all give me a moment to put my clothes on, would you? I can't exactly greet you naked, can I?" Illia ushers them all out of the room and then stops in the doorway.
"I'm glad that you're alright, Atlas," speaks Illia. "I thought...I might have lost you." A mischievous smile appears on his young face as a result.
"You won't be rid of me that easily, Illia. You have my word." With a chuckle she closes the door and Atlas stands, finding his clothes folded neatly across the room. He dresses quickly, enjoying the feeling of being able to move freely once again.
It takes him only a few minutes to finish and when he has he steps out of the room. Atlas descends the stone stairs before him and steps into a large room, the mark of the Guild is emblazoned proudly on the wall. "Well, I'll be..."
"Everyone, I give you...the Prince of Thieves!" announces the familiar voice of Fox from behind. Atlas turns to find the man standing at the head of the room, with several hooded individuals and Illia, Kale, Nizel, Nero and even Maua standing inbetween the two men. "Our Guild Master has come all this way to pay us a visit."
"A Guild safe-house...never thought I'd step foot inside one again, Fox."
"I'm glad you're finally up and about, Prince."
"Me, too." Atlas approaches Fox and greets him with a handshake. "I had no idea that you'd founded a chapter of the Guild here in Aer." Fox offers a shrug in response.
"It must have slipped my mind."
"Well...I'm glad. Means all of our hard work didn't go to waste."
"Even a thief needs somewhere to kick his boots up and hang his hat...or hood in this case." Fox pauses for a moment. "On that note, Nero has been awfully persistent in wanting to become a member of the Guild." Atlas glances across the room at the young man and then smiles. "I thought so. We can hold the lad's initiation tomorrow if you'd like to be present for it."
"I wouldn't miss it."
"Glad to hear it. Now...do you want to tell the lad or should I?" Atlas glances back at him again and then shakes his head.
"You tell him, Fox. I've been lying down for a while now so I'm going to stretch my legs..."
- - -
The young man moves fast across the roof-tops, as fast as his legs can carry him in fact. He leaps the gap between two buildings and then dashes up the wall to the next building.
He's moving without a direction in mind, as fast as he can for no other reason then he can. The freedom of being able to run and climb once again and the excitement of a new place to do so drives him forward.
Atlas comes to a slow stop at the edge of a building and gazes down at the crowded streets. The sun-drenched city of Aer...he had heard stories about it and so far they seemed to be true.
Stalls and shops of all kinds lined the streets, selling all manner of things and the people dressed in fine clothes dyed beautiful colors. Atlas has no doubt that it would be easy to make a living here, perhaps even restore the Guild to it's glory.
Regardless he turns away from the edge and then comes to a stop as he finds a man standing across from him. "Greetings, Atlas!" exclaims the man cheerfully.
"Doran," replies Atlas. "Just the elf I was looking for."
"Why, I'm flattered. Does this mean you've considered my proposal?"
"I have...take me to my father, Doran." The elf smiles broadly and then raises a single hand.
"As you wish..." He only snaps his fingers, though it echos loudly to Atlas' ears. A rush of wind assaults his ears, and it's accompanied by the feeling of weightlessness as though he's falling from a far height.
The light of the world disappears and the thief widens his stance in response, trying to keep his well-honed balance which seems to have deserted him in these moments. When the world comes back, it finds Atlas kneeling on rough stone.
He slowly scans his surroundings, finding himself in a rather large hall. Atlsa slowly stands and upon hearing someone approaching looks back at Doran. The elf holds a hand out towards the path in front of him, rather then the large doors behind. "After you, Doran."
"As you wish." He walks forward and Atlas follows. The room opens up into a larger hall, flooded with sunlight...and men with swords. "Pay them no mind, Atlas. Those men are acquainted with your father and mean you no harm." No sooner has Doran spoken then their path is blocked my a single soldier. "Ah! Good afternoon, William."
"No harm, hm?" echoes Atlas.
"What do you think you're doing, Doran?" asks William. "This man is obviously a member of the Thieves Guild. He has no business here." Doran spares a glance back at Atlas and then looks back to the young man.
"I don't believe that's for you to decide," replies Doran. "Please, wait here while I go fetch Jean. Play nicely while I'm gone, children." The elf walks past William and towards the other side of the room, eventually disappearing through a large set of doors.
Atlas takes in William's appearance. He wears a strange piece of chest armor. The chest and shoulders are encased in steel while stiff leather armor is left to cover his stomach, flanks and lower back. A pair of steel bracers cover his forearms and knee high leather greaves cover his legs.
"You're all mercenaries," observes Atlas. "I should have known. You don't dress like guards, after all."
"You have a problem with mercenaries, thief?" challenges William. This attracts the attention of several men in the room, who approach to hear them better. Atlas is silent for a moment as he stares at William. "What?"
"...Have we met before? You seem awfully familiar."
"I make a point to avoid members of the Thieves Guild."
"Do you also make a point to irritate every stranger you cross paths with?" asks Atlas irritably, finding himself in no mood to deal with the mercenary's insults. William growls a bit in response.
"Your mouth is going to get you in trouble, thief."
"I could say the same for you."
"Then why don't we settle this like men?"
"Enough, William," calls a voice from behind the young man. Atlas glances past him, finding a blond man in armor similar to William's approaching with Doran following a few steps behind him. "Attacking this man...don't you recognize your own blood?" William looks from Atlas to Jean and then back in complete confusion. "Come with me. Both of you."
The two young me follow him across the room and then through the same doors that he and Doran had come through.
Sunlight drenches the path before them and Atlas glances out across the city, finding the path leads to a stone platform outside of the city walls. "I'm sure you have a great many questions...and you as well, William."
"You never once told me that I had a brother," replies William.
"Half brother." Atlas approaches the stone railing and leans against it, peering out across the golden dunes of the desert. "I...tried to find you."
"Did you? I'd have been well aware of someone searching for me, Jean," replies Atlas coolly. "If you searched, it wasn't very thorough." Jean is silent for several moments before nodding.
"No. No, I could have done more. But I supposed I hoped that your mother would--"
"She's dead, old man. I don't even remember her."
"She was Terin...wasn't she?" Atlas turns to look at his father and the blond man slowly nods. "That helps to explain some things. But doesn't explain why she fled from you with me in tow as an infant."
"Your mother was being pursued. After your birth...I suppose she realized she could no longer live in peace. I came home to find both her and Doran missing. After all, he is...was her servant. When he returned I found that your mother had forbid him to speak about where she had hidden you...at least until you decided to speak with me..."
"Oh, I feel so sorry for you, old man," Atlas remarks sarcastically. "Doesn't look to me like you suffered all that long..." The thief flicks his head in the direction of William standing a few feet away silently. "...so don't act like her disappearance or mine was a huge blow. I'll wager you didn't wait more then a few days before rolling in the sheets with another--"
A swift punch stumbles the thief and causes him to land on his stomach.
"You have no idea what I've been through, boy! You're too young to know anything about--" Atlas pushes himself onto all fours and then launches a kick backwards.
It connects with Jean's chest and causes him to stumble backwards, air forced from his lungs under the strength from the blow. The thief is on his feet the next moment and rushes him, pinning him against one of the stone pillars supporting the dome over the roof.
"What YOU'VE been through?!" explodes Atlas, forearm pressed tightly against his throat while his free hand presses against his chest. "I've been on the streets my whole life, old man! You turned your back on me!"
"You're sorry?" Atlas releases him and steps away. "After twenty years...that's all you can say?"
"I wasn't there for you then, Atlas...but I can be now."
"I needed you when I was a boy...I don't need you now."
"Forget it. This...This was a mistake. Coming here to see you was a mistake. Doran!" The thief turns away from both Jean and William. "Doran!" The doors open and the elf walks out, approaching at a slow pace.
"What can I do for you, Atlas?" questions Doran.
"You brought me here so you can take me back to the city." The elf smiles and raises his hand again.
"Doran--" begins Jean, only for the words to fade out of existence by the same rush of wind. When things return to normal, Atlas and Doran are standing on top of a building in the city once again.
"You are dissatisfied with your father," asserts Doran.
"Immensely," replies Atlas curtly. "What kind of man...?" He sighs heavily. "How do you not search for your wife and child? And why did she leave?" The elf approaches and places a hand on Atlas' shoulder before offering a gentle smile.
"Your mother was a strong willed woman. And when you were born, she knew that she couldn't keep you safe. So, she hid you away from the men pursuing her...thinking that it would be the best for YOU. She left everyone and everything behind for you like any mother would." Doran sighs and releases Atlas' shoulder before approaching the edge of the building.
"Tell me about her, please."
"Your mother...like all Terins had fair skin and golden eyes. Of course, other then their soldiers, Terins were known for their beauty as well as their intelligence...and your mother was no exception. She was a beautiful, kind, intelligent woman who at times had quite the mischievous streak in her." Atlas approaches the edge of the roof as well, and stands beside Doran.
"Who was chasing her?"
"The same men who are now aware of your presence." The thief looks over at him in response. "If I could find you so easily, then I have no doubt that they can as well."
"What do they want?"
"My blood? What use is something like that?"
"Only a Terin can enter the city." Atlas scoffs in response. "You don't believe me? That information was given to me by your mother herself."
"Regardless, I'm only half-blood and I've never been there before."
"I'm aware of that fact. In this world...I would wager that only one other knows the location of the entrance to the city. And you're in luck, Atlas." He arches a brow in question. "The person you seek is here in this very city."
"And this person will just...give me the information I seek?"
"Of course not. In fact, this woman would normally never reveal the location to someone of mixed blood like you."
"Well, then, how am I in luck?"
"Because you have THIS," remarks Doran, grasping his wrist and raising his hand. "With this ring as evidence of your status...she has no right to deny you the information you seek, Atlas. Mixed blood or no."
"To have that kind of information...this woman must be well over a century in age."
"It is quite possible. She was ancient when I was but a boy...and that was quite some time ago."
"How old are you, Doran?" questions Atlas, uncertain of just how long elves could live. Doran releases his wrist and turns on his heel to walk away. "Hey! How am I supposed to find this woman without a name?"
"You won't have to. She'll find you." The thief glances back towards the street and then back in the direction of Doran to find him gone. Releasing a bit of a sigh he turns away from the street below...
- - -
Illia walks through the crowds of people quickly, none of them daring to impede the progress of the obviously angry amazon woman. 'Going to stretch his legs,' Illia thinks to herself. 'He thinks he can fool me? I'll show him...'
She slowly comes to a stop in the middle of the crowded street and then turns, reaching out as she does so and capturing the wrist of the hooded thief in question.
A smirk appears on his young face as a result. "It appears I've been caught," remarks Atlas. "So..." With his free hand he produces her coin-purse and she snatches it away irritably. "...I guess I should give you that back."
"You went to see your father," asserts Illia angrily.
"I did. And I met my brother as well." A grin appears on his face. "Let me say, I must favor my mother's looks a lot more then my father, heh."
Her anger cools somewhat as she meets his eyes. Amber eyes that always sparkle brightly with life and promise mischief whenever he favors a smile...but are now clouded with sadness, as they had been in Caliga.
"And your mother?"
"Dead...or hiding somewhere. I don't know which."
"Are you alright?"
"Fine." He chuckles and then steps closer, peering slightly down at her with their faces only inches apart. "Were you worried about me, Miss Illia?"
"I didn't think you'd have to ask that question," counters Illia. "It seems every time I let you out of my sight...something bad happens." Atlas chuckles again and then takes a step back. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yes." He pauses for a moment. "Where are the others at?"
"Back at the safe-house probably being driven mad by Nero. Ever since Fox told him that he was going to be inducted into the Guild he's be asking Nizel and Kale all kinds of questions. Why?"
"I think I've found someone who can show us the location to the entrance of the Terin's city."
"How...How is that possible? This person must be at least a century in age."
"Even older then that according to Doran." Atlas again, considering whether or not to rely the whole of Doran's words including the warning. "Also...well, I'll tell everyone back at the safe-house." Illia nods in understanding and flicks her head back in the direction she had come from...
- - -
"You're being pursued?" questions Fox. "Well, that shouldn't be something you're not used to." Atlas shakes his head in response and approaches the table in the middle of the room.
"These people aren't after the reward," Atlas tells them all. Fox reclines in his seat and crosses his arms.
"Then what are they after?"
"Your blood," echoes Kale. "How do you know? What purpose would such a thing even serve?"
"Doran told me." Illia narrows her eyes in response.
"That elf told you?" asks Illia.
"Wait, I'm confused," remarks Nizel. "What elf are you two talking about?"