amadhay: (Default)
 In Which Amadhay Keeps Promises

 

 

Amadhay was headed for the transport hub, moving as fast as she could without using her Gift.

Ribbon and Atlas always seemed to know when she was using it, and she didn’t want them to have any sort of warning. She was nearly to the door leading to the oversized barn used to store all of the Palnoki’s transportation vehicles. All she had to do was pass Atlas’ room, take two rights, and leave through the back door.

As she was making quick strides in that direction, however, she slowed at the familiar hallway. Seeing Atlas’ room, she paused for a few clicks. She knew she was tempting fate by not just leaving, but she wanted to leave one last message for him. With that thought, she sneaked as silently as possible without using her Gift, into his room. The door was open, which she knew to be an open invitation for her, but he was in bed and fast asleep.

Despite everything she had learned and all the lies he had told her, despite what a horrible person Atlas really was underneath it all, she still smiled at his sleeping form. He snored gently into his pillow, his mouth just slightly ajar. His polar hair was even more mussed than normal and his limbs were all askew, a stark difference from when he slept with her. When she was with him, he always slept with her in his arms, pressed tightly to his chest.

His glasses were set on the bed beside him, on top of a book titled Helping Loved Ones Through Grief. She shook her head to force the softer emotions away. Whether he was trying to help her through her grief or not, he had killed Indigo, she reminded herself, and had plans to kill Monkey and Benjy. He had plans to use Amaya, which wasn’t something she was going to allow him to do, not after he had already manipulated her. Steeling herself, she removed the extra red ribbon from her hair and set it beside his glasses.

She started to leave, but paused at the foot of his bed, before returning up to him. Leaning over the bed, she put her lips to his ear. “I told you that you wouldn’t be smiling,” she whispered, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek before leaving his room.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas is truthful

 

 

If nothing else, it was waking up alone in Ribbon’s bed that made the decision for her.

The spot where Ribbon had lain was still warm, telling her that the woman hadn’t been gone for long, but the fact that she was gone was what gave Amadhay a moment to let the silent part of her mind speak. She had come here because she had seen something in the Palnoki that she hadn’t seen in the Phoegani. But the longer she stayed, the deeper into it she became, the easier she was seeing more aspects of the Phoegani in the Palnoki than she liked. There were still secrets, there were still innocents being hurt, there was still an ingrained hierarchy and a goal that she didn’t know furthered by pain she didn't understand.

The family aspect that she had once seen was starting to lose its finishing. Atlas was still very much in charge and he had no problem using his power to make the others do what he wanted. The faces were different, but the problems were still the same. She had traded in one evil for a newer one and while she wasn’t going to lie and say that she wasn’t part of the problem, she could honestly say that at least in the Phoegani, she knew where she stood. Here everyone kept changing their stories, everyone kept adding new dimensions to something she had thought to be a linear. The only thing she knew for certain was that Atlas hadn’t lied to her when he had explained why she was here.

“You are here because I want you to be.”

That was the only reason she was there. As much as she wanted to, as hard as she had tried, she didn’t fit into their tight knit community. No matter how much Atlas wanted her to be there, she couldn’t stay. As long as she was there, she would always wonder what they weren’t telling her. She would always wonder if Ribbon was only her friend, her lover, because Atlas wanted her to be. She would always wonder if they would target other people she cared about. She would always fear that one day she would open a door and find Monkey or Benjy or even one of her sisters being held captive, tortured, killed.

She wasn’t going to let that happen. Never again. She was determined that Indigo was going to be the last person she cared about to die right in front of her eyes without her doing anything. The thing was, she knew that going back to the Phoegani wouldn’t make it any better. Atlas had been right. There, she was simply another asset, another well-trained killer. She didn't know their goals, and doubted she would stand by them given a chance. She was just another piece of the puzzle, or worse, just a replaceable tool to be discarded when she was no longer of use. 

The true problem was that she feared that here, with the Palnoki, she was no better. Despite what Atlas and Ribbon, or even Tenshu and Kimiko told her or tried to make her believe, she couldn't help but to believe that there was more going on than she was seeing. And that was why she needed to go back. Not just for Christein and Benjy. Not just for her sisters and family. But because she needed to see more than she was. She needed to figure out what was going on, who was truly in charge, what everyone was trying to do. At least with the Phoegani, she could work her own agenda. She couldn’t be the Amadhay Atlas wanted, not while they were still killing people all around her and she didn’t know why.

Finally made up about what to do, Amadhay sat up. She set her feet on the floor and it felt strange. It wasn’t the plush carpet from the Ice Castle or the smooth wood from the Sand Castle. It was cobblestone and for some reason she couldn’t explain, that caught her attention. Cobblestone is so hard to wash blood out of.

Shaking her head to push away the strange thought, Amadhay got off of Ribbon’s bed. She paused at the wardrobe, momentarily thinking about changing, but decided not to. There was no point in drowning herself in Ribbon’s clothing when she was leaving her behind. It would only confuse her and make it easier for Atlas to convince her to stay. It was already going to be difficult in the clothes Atlas had dressed her in, but it would nearly be impossible if she were wearing Ribbon's. She would feel protected if she were wearing Ribbon's clothes and she didn't need protection; the weak needed protection. She had to be strong.

Purposely avoiding the mirror, Amadhay smoothed her hands over her hair, knowing that it was a curling mess and not wanting to see herself looking wild and untamed, especially since that was how she was feeling on the inside. For a moment, she almost laughed, thinking I bet I look just like Amaya. But then she pushed that thought back as well, leaving her hair in its natural form. Instead, she focused on what she could fix, straightening her purple dress so that the ribbons at the waist fell in neat bows at perfect points on either side. She ran her fingers over the lace collar to make sure it was all laying flat. The kitten pin that Ribbon had put on the dead center of her chest, she took off, setting it on the bed.

She nervously fixed the pinstripe stockings so that the lines were straight and the pattern was mirrored perfectly on both legs. Taking a deep breath to set herself, she left Ribbon’s room, closing the door softly behind her. For a moment, she paused, looking down both sides of the hallway to try to reacquaint herself with the set up of the building. It was different from both other Palnoki buildings she’d been in. She had mildly wondered if all the Palnoki buildings were different. Now she’d never know.

There were only three places she knew in this building, not including Ribbon’s room: Atlas’ room, the mudroom that led to the gardens, and the meeting room. She doubted that Atlas would be in the mudroom or the gardens, so she decided to try his room first. She wasn’t ready just yet to go to the meeting room, where Indigo had died.

Of course, however, she had to pass the meeting room before getting to Atlas’ room since Ribbon’s room was on the opposite side of the building, closer to the gardens than his was. It was purely by luck that she happened to hear voices coming from the meeting room as she passed it. In fact, she still would have passed it if she hadn’t heard Atlas’ voice, sounding angry.

“You are honestly telling me that you can’t get anything off of that chip?”

She paused, considering making her presence known, but Kimiko’s response changed her mind.

“I’m assuming that they had Base fix it.”

“And you aren’t skilled enough to break his coding?” Atlas demanded. “Maybe I should replace you. You haven’t been much of a help lately.”

“She almost had it,” Tairyn defended. “But then Ghost Sparrow and Red Baron got in the way. Again.”

“What were they doing there?” Atlas demanded. Amadhay moved closer to the door, listening more closely now that she had heard Benjy and Christein’s code names.

“I’m going to assume they were looking for Red Bird,” Ribbon stated sardonically. “Since they keep showing up. Everywhere.”

“They’ve shown up more than once?” Atlas was sounding even less pleased.

“I’ve run into them three times,” Ribbon admitted.

“They tried to corner me and Tenshu a few months back,” Cowboy added. She could hear a savage grin in his voice. “They won’t be trying that again.”

“Why is this the first I’m hearing about their interferences?” Atlas asked. Amadhay had to strain to hear him because his voice had gone low and quiet.

There was silence for a moment.

“They haven’t really been an interference until now,” Kimiko said slowly. “Just minor annoyances.”

“Annoyances large enough that they stopped you from being able to use Base Inventions mainframe,” Atlas reminded them in the same, even tone.

“If we could just kill them it would be easier,” Tairyn said, making Amadhay clench her fists in anger. He had been their friend. How could he even suggest that?

“Then why haven’t you?” Atlas asked, almost conversationally.

There was another silence. This time Johannes broke it.

“You told us that they were off limits.”

“Did I?”

“Because of Amadhay?” Cowboy reminded him.

“Amadhay would never have to know,” Atlas said, his voice sounding tense. “She hasn’t heard from them since coming here, has she?” he paused for a click, but no one answered him. “She hasn’t. For all she knows, they aren’t even looking for her. Kill them. If she finds out, we’ll comfort her later. But right now, I need you to get them out of the way so that we can get the information we need.”

Ribbon was hesitant when she spoke. “Is that an order?”

“Yes,” Atlas said, “Kill the phantom and the Hakinato. They’re not in my plans.”

“I’ll do it,” Cowboy volunteered when Ribbon didn’t say anything more.

“No. Ribbon will do it,” Atlas stated. “It’s her job. I have another job for you anyway.”

“With Tenshu?” Cowboy asked, “Because it’s getting more difficult to bring him out. The Heralds are getting fond of him, enough so that they ask too many questions when he leaves.”

“Just you and Stefan. Don’t worry. I need him right where he is. He’s vital in bringing the Heralds to us.” There was a pause in which Amadhay imagined Cowboy nodded his head. “You need to bring me Darach. He’s been playing with the Hakinato’s far too long. He’s forgotten who he really belongs to.”

Someone laughed, and since Stefan’s voice was still amused when he spoke, Amadhay assumed it was him. “I was wondering how long you were going to let him hide out there.”

“Darach Devalier is one of us?” Tairyn asked in a shocked voice.

“The game with Darach goes much farther than this one with the Phoegani,” Stefan answered, giving another laugh. “Though I doubt he’d call himself one of us.”

“I don’t understand,” Kimiko said.

“You don’t have to,” Atlas snapped, causing silence to fall again. “You just need to get to decrypting that personnel chip. I need to know who else to bring from the Phoegani before we destroy them.”

“I really don’t think there’s anyone else worth your time,” Tairyn spoke, sounding sure of himself.

The ice in Atlas’s voice mirrored Amadhay’s own feelings toward Tairyn at the moment. “I’m sure I didn’t ask you.”

There was a loud thump against the door and an accompanying grunt, making Amadhay jump back, but the door didn’t open. Instead, she was able to hear Atlas perfectly, telling her that he was at the door.

“In fact, I’m trying to decide if you are even worth keeping around anymore. Your information is outdated. I have Amadhay. Really, the only reason I can see to keep you around is to keep Kimiko happy, since you being here makes Amadhay decidedly unhappy.” She could hear the sound of a series of flat slaps, which she imagined was Atlas patting Tairyn’s cheek.“So if I were you, I would be silent and hope that Kimiko is able to decrypt the files soon, because if not, I might not be so easily persuaded to keep you around.”

“Atlas…” Kimiko started.

Atlas gave a low chuckle. “Just playing, Sweet. I won’t hurt your banshee. He makes you too happy. Just know that I won’t be happy until you’ve decrypted that chip.”

“I get it,” Kimiko said in a tense tone.

“I hope you do,” Atlas said. Someone, probably Atlas, clapped their hands. “Everyone knows what they’re going to be doing?”

There was an assortment of different confirmations. Someone started to pull the door open. “Oh wait, wait.” Atlas stopped them from leaving. The door was closed again.

“Has there been any success with the Heralds?” he asked.

“Other than Tenshu becoming close to Amaya and Blu? Not really,” Cowboy answered. “If anything, they’re more closed off since the Feral wolf incident.”

“Closed off in what way?” Atlas asked.

“It’s going to be difficult to bring them here. More difficult than expected. They’ve settled in Ratigattan and the Pirate King has decided to become their protector. Any move to change that will be met with with extreme resistance. I doubt we can keep them and fight him and the Phoegani all at once.”

“We can wait,” Atlas decided. “If push comes to shove, we can have Amadhay infiltrate. They didn’t notice the last time, right?”

Cowboy seemed hesitant. “She wasn’t under much scrutiny then. One wrong move and—”

“You can train her on how to be more like Amaya,” Atlas dismissed. “But as I said, it’s our last case scenario. I’d prefer not to have to put her into this.”

“She’s always talking about wanting to help,” Ribbon mentioned. “I think she’ll be thrilled to know she’s part of the plans.”

There was a certain sarcasm to the words. Or maybe Amadhay just imagined it there because no one said anything about it. Amadhay backed from the door, feeling betrayed on too many levels to count. Atlas had played her. She had been the game. She had been the game and he had played her so expertly that she had fallen for it, for him.

No more, she decided.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas washes hair

 

 

Atlas didn’t know how long Amadhay had been sitting there with a dead body in her lap.

He didn’t know how much she had seen or heard. He couldn’t even figure out how she had found Indigo. What he did know was that as soon as he had left Stefan to do his job, he had been bombarded by Ribbon and Kimiko, who were simultaneously yelling at each other and feeling guilty for not having foreseen a chance meeting between Amadhay and Tairyn. He probably hadn’t been as gentle with them as he should have been, granted he hadn’t expected it either. He should have. They all should have.

They had all spent the majority of a zoot running around, trying to find the teenager. Just when they were about to think about the possibility that she might have left the base, Atlas had a sudden thought: Everything else seemed to have gone wrong, why not expect the absolute worst to have happened?

Even as he hoped against all hope, he knew that she was in there. When he opened the door, he could smell the magic before he saw it. It hung around her like a cloud, still glittering even as it smelled stale and broken. What hit him next was the smell of death. She was covered in it, sitting there on the floor with the body cradled in her arms. Not only was she covered in the stench, but the girl was covered in blood. He had a brief moment where he wondered where her raincoat was before he knelt in front of her.

Her eyes didn’t focus on him, even though he was right in front of her. Instead of looking at him, she continued to stare at nothing. “Amadhay,” he said softly, gently, staring her in the eyes. She shook her head, but her eyes still didn’t focus.

“Amadhay,” he tried again, reaching for her hand. While she didn’t flinch back from him, she did tighten her grip on the catboy. “You have to let him go,” he told her gently, placing his hand atop hers. “He’s gone.”

“I know,” she said softly, still staring at nothing. “Just let me hold him a little longer.”

“No,” Atlas said, using no more force to his tone than before, but still he saw her eyes begin to focus on him. “You can’t keep holding him. He’s gone.”

“I know,” she whispered, staring at something on his shirt. Atlas didn’t dare look down, worried that if he did she might go back to where she had been. “I just can’t let go.”

“You have to,” he told her, giving her hand a light squeeze. She still didn’t loosen her hold. “Holding his body won’t keep him here any longer.”

Her eyes slowly travelled from the low point, up to his face. “Why?” she asked.

He knew what she was asking, but didn’t answer her. “Let go, Amadhay.”

She shook her head slowly, looking away from him and down to the body in her lap. “My Indy,” she whispered. “He’s gone,” she looked back up to Atlas, sounding incredibly childish even though her eyes didn’t shift. “Isn’t he?”

Atlas nodded slowly. “He’s gone, so you have to let go,” he told her gently pulling her hands up. She let him, lifting her hands up so long as he held them. When he tried to let go so that he could move the body, her hands went right back, clutching tightly to whatever her hands fell upon, be it hair, arm, face, or torso.

“I’m just going to move him off of you,” Atlas promised, lifting her hands once more. “I won’t hurt him.”

She let out a shock of laughter, sounding decidedly hysterical as she kept her hands up in the air. “You can’t hurt him anymore. Don’t you know? He’s gone away from us.”

Atlas nodded. “That’s right. He’s gone on from this plane,” he agreed, taking care to be much gentler than he wanted in moving the body.

He wanted to toss it off of her and pick her up, but there was a glint in her eye, just enough of a glint to tell him that he had to do everything slow and gently or she would explode. So far, she was much calmer than he expected of her, allowing him not only to touch her but to touch and move the body. So long as he stayed within whatever guidelines she set, they were fine. The problem was, he didn’t know what the guidelines were, so he was playing another guessing game with her. He was always playing guessing games with her.

Once he set the body away from her, having been careful to lay it out of her easy reach, he turned his attention back to her. She hadn’t moved. Her hands were still up in the air and she still had a questionable smile on her lips. Only once he was in front of her did her eyes leave the body and fall on him.

“Why Indy?” she asked softly.

Again, he ignored her. “I’m going to help you up now. Can you stand?”

She shook her head slowly. Her hands were still in the air. She tilted her head back and stared up into the cloud of purple. “All the magic and it did nothing. I did nothing.”

He could see her composure starting to crack and he moved before he thought. He scooped her up into his arms and just stood up. He expected her to scream at him or try to claw away, but she didn’t. Instead, she immediately clung to him just as tightly as she had the body, so Atlas didn’t say anything, just carried her from the room, kicking the door closed behind him. He didn’t as much as glance at Ribbon, Stefan, Kimiko, or Tairyn as he passed them by, instead focusing on his goal. He had to get her clean.

With that as his only thought, Atlas moved quickly to his suite, heading immediately to his bathroom. Once there, he had a moment of uncertainty, but pushed it away as he knelt on the tile before his bathtub. Instead of making it easier on himself and putting her down, he allowed her to settle on his lap and reached over her to the faucet. She whimpered, holding tightly to him when the water started and he rocked her slightly.

“It’s alright, Amadhay,” he told her softly, murmuring into her hair. Even her hair reeked of death and magic. He couldn’t imagine that she had somehow found a way to get blood in it as well, but planned to wash it thoroughly all the same. Once the water was warm enough and he had tossed the plug into the tub to keep the water in, he stood up again, cradling Amadhay in his arms, pausing only to kick his shoes off.

After that, he just stepped into the tub. It was already starting to fill with water that was turning red just from his legs. He slowly knelt again, keeping Amadhay in his arms and trying to settle her onto his lap. Like Mayday when it was time for a bath, the girl moved further up his body, trying to avoid the water as much as she could. He wasn’t sure if Amadhay was doing it consciously, or if the cat of her aelfe took over in her traumatized state. Either way, he didn’t let her get out of the water. She fought him weakly for a moment, but after she got nowhere, she seemed to give in to the idea of getting wet, calmly moving down to his lap, which was now covered by water.

Atlas stretched out his legs but Amadhay didn’t move anywhere, continuing to sit still on his lap. He could tell that she had lost focus again, but didn’t push her this time, knowing she would come back on her own. Instead, he focused on the washcloth, wetting it before he washed over her face. It came away red and he dipped it into the water, wringing it out and then going back to her face until the washcloth came back clean. She still didn’t speak, didn’t do anything but sit there with her eyes closed and mouth partly open.

Her black dress was soaked and Atlas couldn’t tell if it was from the water or the blood, but he didn’t remove it either. He continued with the same movements, wetting the washcloth, pressing it against her skin where it was bloody, wiping until the cloth was red, rinsing it, and continuing in the pattern until all of her exposed skin was the correct sandy color and the water of the tub was a deep red.

She still hadn’t moved when he reached around her to the plug for the tub, letting the water out. Worried, he prompted her for a reaction. “Amadhay, your hair is still dirty,” he said. When after a few clicks, she didn’t respond, he continued, “I’m going to wash it. Is that alright with you?” He made no move for three clacks, hoping to let her know that he needed her response. At three clacks, almost exactly, she nodded. He slowly unbraided the pigtails, setting the ribbon keeping them tied on the edge of the tub.

“I don’t have any of your shampoo here,” he told her, trying to keep her engaged, “So I’m going to use my own. You’ll smell like me for a little,” he half-joked, also meaning it as a warning because he wasn’t sure what smells would do to her in this state. It was another three clacks before she nodded again and he lifted her from his lap,  setting her down, and shifting so that he was sitting on the lip of the tub.

Atlas nodded to himself, hoping that he was doing the right thing for her. He knew that once she got over the trauma, that she would be angry with him for any number of things he’d done this night and the days before, but he just wanted her to get to that point. Once she was there, he would worry about what he’d done and how she felt about it. Right now, however, he was only worried about when she would be alright.

Just as with everything else he had done, he was gentle but thorough with her hair, possibly more so. He knew how much care she put into it, knew that she was incredibly vain about her full head of raven curls. She had every right to be. Every springy curl slipped through his fingers like silk.

Stepping up for a quick moment, he grabbed the showerhead from its position on the wall and turned it to the lowest setting for a gentle spray before sitting back down. He was careful to let the water fall on her head, waiting to see if she would jerk at the new sensation, but when she didn’t, he gave a soft exhalation. He glanced at his shampoo but then decided to first rinse out the dead magic. Once there was no more purple coming from her hair, he set the nozzle aside, turned off the water, and poured shampoo into his hand.

He washed her hair not once, twice, or thrice, but four times to be sure that it was clean, knowing that she needed it to be clean for her to be able to sleep, not that he really expected her to have much trouble sleeping. If nothing else, he was sure that she was going to pass out from the leftover shock coursing through her body. Even if nightmares did come, he was sure that she would sleep, given the exhausted state she had to be in, having used up all of her natural magic.

“Why Indy?” she asked for the third time since he had started taking care of her.

He was going to ignore her again, choosing instead to towel dry her hair, but she turned her head to him, staring at him with a certain focus. “Why my Indy? All the golem makers in the world and you chose my Indy. Why?”

She wasn’t angry yet, in fact, rather than angry, she simply sounded resigned, as if she should have expected what happened. Atlas wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not, but he decided to answer her either way. “He was the easiest to get to, easiest to manipulate, and by far the most powerful,” he said.

She shook her head. “I don’t understand. How? How was he the easiest? You couldn’t have found him without finding his brother and Sebastian would never have let you just take him.”

Atlas gave her a probing look. “Do you honestly think a single dragon would stop me from getting what I want?” he asked.

Amadhay shook her head in horror. “No. Not Sebastian too. Don’t tell me you killed them both,” she started to sound hysterical, getting louder with every word, but when Atlas started braiding her hair into one, thick, plait she calmed as if it were an off switch for her.

“No. We had no need to kill the elder DuPreve. We only needed to mention your name and the golem-maker came of his own free will.”

“He had a name,” she said softly. “You killed him. You at least owe it to him to remember his name.”

Atlas nodded even though she couldn’t see him because he was behind her, taking his time with her hair. “We were able to convince Indigo that you wanted him to build a golem army for us,” he explained to her.

She nodded softly. “Until he realized that I had no part of it. And so you killed him.”

“There is a bit more to it, but yes, that is the crux of the situation. We could not control him, so we had to get rid of him.”

“And you didn’t ask me because you want me innocent,” she whispered accusingly, but with no real fire to her words.

Atlas neither nodded nor shook his head, choosing not to respond to her statement. “He was a threat to all of us,” he told her instead.

“Indigo was never a threat to anyone but himself,” she retorted in a soft tone, a tone too soft to be an argument.

Atlas again chose not to respond to her statement, finishing with her hair. Picking up one of the ribbons he had taken from her hair earlier, he tied it tightly to keep the braid together.

“Why do you do it, Atlas?” she asked softly.

Atlas wasn’t sure what she meant, so he stayed silent, pressing the towel to her hair to soak some of the water from her braid without ruining his work.

“No, how do you do it?” she asked instead.

He still didn’t know what she meant and once again decided not to answer, so he instead stepped away from the tub, pulling a large towel from the pile by the sink. She stood up on her own but allowed him to lift her dress over her head and then bundle her up in the towel over her underwear.

Once she was wrapped in the towel, however, she met his eyes. “How do you hurt people who don’t deserve it?” she asked.

He gave her a small, sad smile. “I think you can answer that question as easily as I can.”

She nodded and he turned away, taking off his shirt, though he left his pants on after a moment of hesitation. Picking up a towel for himself, he looked to her in the mirror as he began to dry his arms, watching as she seemed to mull words over.

“No, what I meant is how do you stop caring that you’re hurting people who don’t deserve it?”

He paused in his motions of attempting to dry himself and turned back to her, “You don’t,” he said, holding her gaze. “You just find more reasons why they deserve it.”

She blinked twice before she nodded at him. “And how did Indy deserve it?” she asked.

For some reason, he knew that she meant it as her final question of the night. He wasn’t sure why, given that she asked it with no more finality than her previous questions. She didn’t do anything other than keep eye contact, which she had tried to do for the past few clacks of questions.

But whatever the reason, he knew that everything depended on his answer to that question. He kept her eye contact as he answered completely honestly. “He would have hurt anyone in his way. I didn’t see his life as more valuable than Stefan’s or Ribbon’s or Kimiko’s or even Tairyn’s.”

She winced at Tairyn’s name.

He watched as she dropped the towel that he had wrapped her in, even though he could tell she was cold by her shivers. He didn’t move as she moved to him, needing her to bridge the gap between them. He watched as she looked into his eyes as if looking for a truth they both knew she wouldn’t find there. He hated that he was the reason she finally realized that. He smiled at her when she gave him a weak smile, trying to lend her some of his strength. He kissed her back when she kissed him, feeling victory on his skin.

“Make it all go away,” she pleaded and he did as she wished.

He always did.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which Palnoki is Phoegani

 

 

She was still in her hiding place when Atlas and Stefan came into the room.

When she heard Atlas’ voice, she started to come out, but there was a whimpering that caught her attention. It caught her because maybe she was just being paranoid because Tairyn was a big shock to her system, but it sounded like a whimper she knew far too well.

So she didn’t move. Instead, she tried to remember the amateur spell Ribbon had taught her earlier that week, the one for shifting her vision through solids. Ribbon had, of course only taught her as a joke so that she could see into rooms to see if anyone was busy before she barged in, but she was thinking this was a good use for it, a better use for it, actually. If only she could remember the hand gestures. She could remember the words, Sha mi re.

As she thought it over, she listened.

“I’m telling you, she is here. She can control him if you just give her a chance. Getting rid of him is an incredible waste, Atlas.” Stefan was arguing against something, but Amadhay hadn’t listened enough to the conversation to know what they are talking about.

“I’m not taking the chance,” Atlas said, sounding tightly wound but in control. “I don’t think she is in the place where we can ask her to do something like this for us, not yet. Maybe not ever.”

“What use is she if we don’t—” Atlas cut Stefan off before he could go any further.

“She isn’t something to use,” he hissed.

That was when Amadhay remembered the hand gestures. Pressing her forefinger and thumbs together to form a long teardrop shape and pressing the rest of her fingers together at the knuckles, she put her hands to her face so that her forefingers were at her hairline and her thumbs were at her chin. “Sha,” she whispered before slowly spreading her fingers until they are all forming an oval around her eyes, with her thumbs pressed together on her nose. “Mi,” she whispered before flicking her hands outwards at the seat, which was obstructing her view, and whispering, “Re.”

It worked instantly and Amadhay froze when she could see Atlas with his hand around Stefan’s throat. He was squeezing, making the other man choke. “And you don’t make the decisions about her. I do.”

He let go of Stefan and the man coughed, trying to get air back into his lungs as he turned away from Atlas, bracing his hands on his knees.

“Do you understand?” Atlas asked, bending over so that his face was inches from Stefan’s. They stared at each other for a few clicks before Stefan nodded.

“I understand,” he hissed, his voice sounding rough.

“Good,” Atlas said, turning from Stefan and, coincidentally, Amadhay, to face the whimpering mess on the floor near the door.

It was Indigo.

Atlas knelt down to be on Indigo’s level, pulling the cat-boy’s head up to look at him. “Indigo, I’m only going to give you one last chance. If you would only agree to help us, none of this would be necessary. We wouldn’t have to keep you here, locked up. You could be free to wander as you please.”

“Indy only makes mud men for Mistress Kitty,” Indigo spat in a hoarse whisper. Amadhay could see marks on his throat, a dark red against his pale skin. From her distance and possibly because of the spell, she couldn’t tell what they were from, but she would guess that hands probably left them.

“We have your Mistress Kitty, Indigo,” Stefan claimed, making Amadhay angry. Why wouldn’t they have just asked her to talk to Indigo? She would have. She hated the thought of him being chained and hurt.

“Mistress Kitty would never work with bad men,” Indigo claimed, once again freezing Amadhay in her spot. “Mistress Kitty is good.”

Atlas sighed. “We are good, Indigo. I’m sorry that we’ve hurt you, but we need you to make golems for us. If you will help us, I’ll take you to Amadhay. I’m sure she’d like to see you.”

“Indy only makes mud men for Mistress Kitty,” Indigo said again, before adding, “Indy would die before letting bad men close to Mistress Kitty. Bad men want to make Mistress Kitty bad too!”

“No one wants to change Amadhay,” Atlas crooned, reaching out to pet Indigo’s head. The cat-kin tensed, as if waiting for pain. When Atlas didn’t hurt him, only stroked his head, the catboy hissed and bit Atlas, who didn’t so much as flinch, before pulling his hand back. “That was unnecessary.”

“Bad man hurt Indy before,” the small man whispered, curling up, and facing the wall. “Bad men hurt Indy and bad man will hurt Mistress Kitty. Indy will die before Indy lets bad man hurt her.”

“I would never hurt her,” Atlas said, starting to sound irritated that the situation wasn’t changing.

“Bad man will. Bad men always do.”

Atlas finally scoffed, standing up at his full height as he shook his head in disgust. “It isn’t working,” he said, more to himself than to either of the known occupants of the room. He turned and stared thoughtfully directly at Amadhay, as if he could see her, even though she knew that he couldn’t. After a moment of silence, he glanced back at Indigo. “If we told you that Amadhay—”

“Nothing bad men say will change Indy’s head. Indy only makes mud men for Mistress Kitty. Mistress Kitty is good. Bad man isn’t.”

“This is pointless.” Atlas spat as he shook his head. He knelt down to Indigo and forced the catboy to look him in the eyes. Amadhay couldn’t see what he was doing, but she knew that he was saying something softly to her former servant. After a few clicks of that, Atlas stood back up, ignoring Indigo. “Kill him however you want,” he waved at Stefan before stepping over Indigo and leaving the room.

Stefan shook his head, looking away from the door, to Indigo, where he was curled into a ball. “Waste. Such a terrible waste,” he muttered. “And all we had to do was bring my Little Warrior here.” He shook his head again, but this time, a grin started to take over his face, a look Amadhay wasn’t used to seeing on him. His lipless mouth widened and curved at the corner, showing a hint of his sharpened teeth.

He took his time moving around the room as though he were setting the scene, rolling his crisp white sleeves up to his elbows and pulling his cloak open and behind his hips to reveal a gleaming silver gun in its holster at his hip. The closer he got to Indigo, the more Amadhay wanted to reveal herself and save her friend.

But she couldn’t.

It was as if she were five again, hiding in the trunk, watching as her parents were murdered. She couldn’t move, even though she knew that she could save him. All the same terror and powerlessness came back to her. It was happening all over again, and all because she was too much of a coward to move.

She had almost pulled herself out of her paralysis when he knelt in front of Indigo and the voice he used sounded gentle, like the one he used to comfort her. “Want to hear something funny?”

Indigo shook his head, his ears folding down as he whimpered. Stefan’s grin turned into a full, open-mouthed smile, showing off his teeth, which were becoming even sharper, much like a vampire’s did with increased bloodlust. Amadhay didn’t even breathe, the fear coming back at seeing the change in someone she had stupidly trusted.

“Your Mistress Kitty is much worse than any of the rest of us combined. We’re trying to make her good. If you saw her now, you probably wouldn’t even recognize her.” He gave a sharp laugh, “Now that I think about it, having her here probably would have just killed you faster.” He slapped Indigo none-too-gently. “Be happy. You get to keep your ideal Mistress Kitty with you.”

He shot Indigo three times. It happened so quickly that, had Amadhay blinked, she would have missed him drawing the silver pistol, aiming with haphazard looking precision, pulling the trigger three times, and then tucking the gun back into its holster. Then the man was stepping away from the cat-kin.

“Bleed out quietly, will you?” Stefan asked, a serious expression on his face as he rolled his sleeves back down and straightened them. He looked down at Indigo, who made no sound, his violet eyes closed as he silently cried. “I don’t want the girls to hear you. Their bleeding hearts would make them try to save you and then I’d have to kill you all over again.”

He smiled at Indigo before he, too, stepped right over him and closed the door behind himself.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which there are pegasi

 

 

Ribbon sat in Atlas’ favorite lounging loveseat with both his kitten and Amadhay partially sprawled over her lap as she petted both of them.

The kitten and feline aelfe both purred in time, kneading their claws—or in Amadhay’s case, her nails—into the red velveteen upholstery. Atlas sat in a less comfortable, wooden seat, pretending to read a book on the inner workings of owning a food establishment while actually watching the three with a strange sort of jealous contentment. While he would have preferred to be in Ribbon’s seat, he was conversely happy to see three of his favorites happy together. It had been a while since anyone had been happy with one another in the Sand Castle, so he wouldn’t ruin their good moment with his pettiness. While he and Amadhay were still on less than perfect terms, she and Ribbon seemed to have patched up their own problems nearly a month ago.

“I’m tired of this place,” Amadhay said out of nowhere.

Atlas set his book down, abandoning all pretenses. “Are you wanting a new locale?” he asked, glad to have something that she wanted. He had missed being able to fulfill her wishes.

She nodded, slowly sitting up as though she didn’t want to let Ribbon stop petting her, but needing to so that she could engage him in conversation. “Don’t you have any other castles? I’ve done the Ice Castle, and this is the Sand Castle. Where else is there?”

Atlas almost laughed. “Of course we have other castles. Just about anything you can name, we have.”

Amadhay narrowed her eyes in challenge. “Wood Castle.”

“That one’s easy. Of course we have a Wood Castle,” Ribbon responded before he could.

“Cloud Castle,” Amadhay tried, sitting forward and curling her legs under herself.

“Up in the sky, yes,” Atlas answered with a grin. “I doubt you’d like that one.”

“If it is really up in the clouds, I can assure you that I won’t be visiting it anytime soon,” Amadhay said, tilting her head back and leaning against Ribbon as she thought more. “Fire Castle,” she suggested, grinning wickedly.

Ribbon snorted but Atlas was the one to answer her. “Snuggled right between a couple volcanoes.”

“I’m good,” Amadhay replied instantly. “Water Castle.”

“It’s undersea,” Ribbon said, giving a shudder. “The magic down there gives me the willies.”

“So that one’s out,” Amadhay said, giving Ribbon a friendly nudge. “Mountain Castle?”

“Of course,” Atlas and Ribbon said at the same time.

Amadhay giggled. “Okay, I give. What castle don’t you have?”

While Ribbon only shrugged, Atlas actually gave the question a deep thought. “Well, I suppose we don’t have a—” his DS rang an urgent tone, immediately taking his attention from the conversation. Grabbing up the device, he swiped the screen to answer Stefan’s call.

“What is it?” he demanded before the man could get a word out.

“You need to get here. Now. This is beyond me.”

Atlas narrowed his eyes before letting out a huff of irritated air and nodded. “I’ll be there within the zoot.” With that, he ended the conversation, setting his DS back onto the table and running both hands through his hair in frustration. It was only after he pushed his glasses up on his nose and looked up that he remembered the girls in the room with him.

Ribbon had a questioning look while Amadhay’s could only be described as curious. “What’s going on there?” the younger asked, her red eyes wide.

“Nothing for you to worry about,” he said, making eye contact with Ribbon, who seemed to get the gist.

She stood up and tried to grab Amadhay’s hand to lead her away, but the aelfe was already hooked and didn’t move. “Alright, well what am I not needing to worry about?”

“It’s just some unrest among the workers. Stefan needs my help calming them down,” he lied, giving her a reassuring smile. She nodded.

“Where’s that?”

“Mud Castle,” he responded warily, “But now is probably not the best time for you to go there.”

Amadhay narrowed her eyes. “Why? If it’s just a little unrest, what’s the problem with me going there?”

“It would be boring for you,” Ribbon jumped in. “Trust me. It’s usually some little thing that gets the workers all huffy and it takes Atlas’ presence to get them working again.”

Amadhay shrugged. “I don’t have to worry about that, then. I could just check it out. I was just saying that I was bored here. What better distraction from my boredom than a new location?”

Atlas shook his head. “Then how about you and Ribbon go to the Flower Castle?” he suggested. “I could drop you off there on my way.”

Amadhay crossed her arms over her chest, looking from Atlas to Ribbon and then back. “Is there a particular reason you two don’t want me to go to the Mud Castle?” she asked.

“No! Of course not, I just don’t want you to go hoping that it’ll be interesting when it won’t,” Ribbon attempted.

Amadhay only had eyes for Atlas though. “Because I thought we were all on the same side, so it makes no sense for you to be keeping things secret from me, right?”

“I just think you would enjoy the Flower Castle more,” he attempted lamely before giving in to her. “But since now you’ve become suspicious I suppose there’s no way to keep you from the Mud Castle, is there?” Amadhay shook her head. He sighed. “Then I suppose I might as well just bring you along. I warn you though, Ribbon is right. This will be boring. The Mud Castle is really just where we set up all of our business affairs. Nothing too interesting there.”

Amadhay gave a beautiful smile before hopping up. “Awesome. Is it hot there or should I change?” she asked.

“It’s always raining there,” Ribbon stated, “So you should probably change. I know I’m going to.”

Amadhay nodded. “Do I have rain clothes?”

“Sure. Somewhere. Go look for them. If you can’t find them, then you can borrow mine,” Ribbon suggested. As if she couldn’t tell that she was being gotten rid of, the teenager rushed off to do just that, followed by Mayday. Once they were both sure that she was gone, Ribbon turned back to Atlas. “What are we going to do?” she asked, absolutely fretting over the unforeseen difficult spot they were in.

Atlas waved it off, though he was equally worried. “Just keep her busy and away from the Containment Room. If I can’t get him under control, which it doesn’t sound like I will, we’ll just get rid of him. Once that’s done, there won’t be any more problem. So long as you stick to her like glue and keep her oblivious, everything will be fine.”

Ribbon gave a bit of a delayed nod. “What if she—”

“Found it!” Amadhay exclaimed, walking into the room with an adorable raincoat covering her torso and down to her knees. It was red with pockets on either side in the form of black cats. She was even wearing matching rain boots. “I feel about ten, but as long as it keeps me dry, right?” she suggested, shrugging before she focused on Ribbon, who was still dressed as she had left her. “I thought you were going to change too.”

Ribbon sighed dramatically. “Not everyone moves at your speed, Quick Bird,” she joked, tugging on the teenager’s braided pigtail as she passed by her, leaving Amadhay and Atlas in the room alone.

Amadhay turned her attention to Atlas, who wasn’t sure that he was ready for the full brunt of her curiosity. Luckily, she seemed not to be in her most inquisitive state. “Did you and Stefan just buy a bunch of things you would’ve liked to see little Amadhay in?” she joked.

“Pretty much,” Atlas admitted. “We actually have everything we got little you somewhere around if you ever want to try them on for us,” he teased, making her roll her eyes.

“Alright, I grant that I haven’t gained much in height, but I’m pretty sure these,” she gestured first to her chest, then to her hips and butt, “Have grown quite a bit since I was four.”

Atlas laughed. “That they have. A shame. I would have loved to see you in the dresses Scarlet and Medica got for you again. Pictures just don’t do you justice.”

Amadhay flushed. “You have pictures?” she demanded. “Why haven’t I seen them yet?”

“Other than the fact that I don’t trust you not to destroy them?” he asked sarcastically, “Nothing at all.”

“So I have to promise not to destroy pictures of me so that I can see them?” she asked incredulously.

“Looks like,” he said with a shrug. “Stefan would be heartbroken if you destroyed them.”

Amadhay scoffed. “If any of them involve him being dressed up as a dragon, I doubt it.”

“Those are his favorite,” Atlas told her earnestly. “The ones where you’re wearing his red cape, riding on his back with your sword high up in the air.”

Amadhay flushed again. “I have no memory of that, therefore these pictures have been doctored,” she claimed, looking away from him.

Atlas chuckled, watching her nostalgically for a moment when her eyes flashed sky blue. She raised her eyebrows when she saw the way he was looking at her. “What?” she asked, “Do I have something on my face?”

He smiled as her eyes slowly shifted back to red, “No, nothing. Just remembering when we had to bathe you and your sister after the two of you decided to play pirates in the mud,” he said, purposely trying to embarrass her enough to see the blue again. It might have worked if Ribbon hadn’t chosen that moment to return.

Amadhay clutched to the blood witch. “Ribbon, save me. Atlas is being a creepy old man,” she accused, making Ribbon laugh as she hid Amadhay behind her.

“Don’t worry, I’ll save you from the lecher,” she joked.

Atlas rolled his eyes, trying not to be bothered by their joking because he knew that was what it all was, just joking. “Yeah, well this old man will leave you two behind if you don’t get a move on it,” he said, standing up.

“Sir, yes sir,” both girls teased, following him as he led them to the front door.

As always since gaining her own access code, Amadhay was the first to speak to the door. “Green sleeves!” she exclaimed, making the door open. Atlas and Ribbon exchanged amused glances at her expense, but she didn’t seem to notice because she was instead focused on the horses waiting for them.

“Um. Aren’t we going to take the car?” she asked, gesturing toward the automobile that she had become rather fond of since staying with them. He had enjoyed introducing her to the joys of an individual automobile, since she was so used to the trains and the other, more archaic, modes of transportation that the Ha’s region was fond of.

“It’s faster by pegasus,” Ribbon answered her, petting the head of one of the horses. Amadhay only seemed less excited the closer she got to the three horses, something Atlas knew he could use to convince her to stay.

He didn’t though. “Mara, you go back,” he ordered the smallest of the horses, the one he had intended for Amadhay.

Immediately, Amadhay protested, though it was a weak one. “Hey, I didn’t say I wasn’t going,” she said, still eyeing the pegasi as if they were fire-breathing dragons rather than gentle, winged horses. In fact, she looked as if she would prefer fire-breathing dragons to the horses.

“You don’t ride, do you?” Atlas asked, making Ribbon look up from her steed, Grits.

“Really?” the woman asked Amadhay, who shifted.

“Not if I can help it,” she muttered.

Atlas was suddenly reminded of an Amadhay story from Tairyn. When the girl had been trained as a lady, in hand with her secret assassin training, horse riding had been an important skill that Amadhay had never mastered, no matter how hard Arne Riff was on her. The horses were always skittish around Amadhay, who was in turn always too wary around them. The lessons had ended when an otherwise gentle mare had bucked Amadhay off and left the girl, then only ten, with a broken arm.

With that in mind, he realized that he was going to be asking a lot of her to even get her on the pegasus. It was literally two of her least favorite things combined: a flying creature and a horse. Either way, he was determined to try.

“Ride with me then,” he offered, leading his steed, Ludo to her. She backed up when the pegasus shoved his face into hers.

“No, I think I’ll pass, actually. Maybe I’ll, um, not go to the Mud Castle.”

Even though that was what Atlas wanted, he couldn’t bring himself to take the victory. He had a bigger one in mind. “Come on,” he coaxed. “You know I won’t let anything happen to you.” Ribbon was looking at him with confusion, but he couldn’t be bothered to care. He almost had her; he could see it in her eyes. “You know you’re safe with me,” he promised the raven-haired girl.

With a wary look at him, she reached out to pet the pegasus, closing her eyes as her hand came close to contact. She winced and held her hand an inch away from the horse’s flank, afraid to touch it, so Atlas helped her. He put his hand over hers and pressed her smaller hand against Ludo’s flank, rubbing in a gentle circle.

“You see? Ludo won’t do anything to hurt you. Even if he wanted to, I wouldn’t let him. I won’t let any harm come to you,” he swore.

Amadhay looked up at him, fear still in her eyes, but she nodded. She smiled at him, allowing him to help her onto the pegasus’ back. She was on a pegasus because she trusted him. The feeling was heady. She trusted him. She was scared out of her mind, but she trusted him to keep her safe.

He seated himself behind her, pressing her forward, into Ludo’s mane so that she could feel the strength of him behind her and the pegasus below her. “I won’t let you fall,” he whispered into her ear as the pegasus began to lift off of the ground.

The disapproving look on Ribbon’s face didn’t affect him because he was the one in charge. If he wanted to take Amadhay to the Mud Castle, then he would. It was all worth it for the trust he saw in those sky blue eyes when they were flying through the clouds and she was able to let go of Ludo just for a moment because she knew he wouldn’t let her fall.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas is playing

 

 

“If you can’t keep him under control, then kill him,” Atlas ordered, closing his DS to avoid having to speak anymore to Stefan.

He had sent him to the Mud Castle to take care of the golem-maker, Indigo, so that the reptilian-man would be far enough away that he didn’t have to listen to his dissenting voice for a while. Unfortunately, there were quite a few unforeseen problems going on down there that the administration teams stationed there hadn’t thought necessary for him to know. Apparently, the catkin had come enough to his senses to realize that he was being held captive and was now refusing to make golems. Stefan had been saying for the past two weeks or so that if they would bring Amadhay in on it, she could easily calm Indigo.

Atlas knew that was true. He just doubted that she would actually do it. She was angry and hurt, though she had no right to be, and he was positive that anything he suggested, she would refuse just to spite him. Besides, he doubted seeing her old servant being held prisoner by them would make her any happier. No, he was going to keep her in the dark as long as he could.

When the door to his personal room was thrown open, he was a bit surprised to see the girl standing there in his doorway, breathing hard as if she had been running for a while. They, for the most part, hadn’t talked to each other unless absolutely necessary since he had made the mistake of yelling at her. She had actually been doing a good job of avoiding him, choosing to stay around Sha’adahk and her own room instead of communal places, as she had been apt to do before. But there she was, narrowing her eyes in thought as she took a step inside his room.

For a moment, he wondered where Scarlet was that she had allowed Amadhay in, but then remembered that he had sent her away as well, to the Candy Castle to oversee the labs. At least that was going as planned. He could always depend on Scarlet to get the job done. Unlike Stefan and Ribbon, who couldn’t seem to get their jobs done without involving Amadhay. He hadn’t saved her from the Phoegani to use her the same way in the Palnoki. She was better than that.

“What do you want?” he asked her, still not ready to be the bigger person.

She pursed her lips and moved further into his room. “For you to stop being an ass?”

He scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Amazing. I thought you might be here to admit you were wrong. Obviously, I was expecting too much maturity from you. You know where the door is.” He picked up his DS and turned his attention from her, leaning back in his seat.

She made an adorably irritated sound in the back of her throat, but didn’t leave. He chose to ignore her as well as he could, focusing on the blank screen of his DS as if he were reading something. He didn’t feel like reading and he didn’t feel like talking. He wasn’t, actually, sure what he felt like, other than irritated.

“I’m not leaving until we work this out,” Amadhay said, sounding closer than before.

Atlas put a lot of effort in not looking at her. He kept his eyes focused on the blank screen. “What is there to work out?”

“Are you kidding me?” she asked exasperatedly. “You won’t even look at me.”

His eyes flickered away from his DS, to her, and then back. She was looking pretty as always, if a bit ruffled. If he had to guess, he would say that her hair had sand in it because she had been out racing with Sha’adahk. She did that a lot. Her loose top was sticking to her chest, telling him that she was sweaty, backing up his idea that she had been running. The running shoes and tight leggings were just unneeded additions to cement the idea. He wondered if she was getting any faster under Sha’adahk’s tutelage.

“I’ve looked at you more than enough,” he said with a shrug, forcing his eyes to go back to the screen, instead of focusing on the sheen of sweat on her olive skin, the stray hairs making her asymmetrical, the lack of make-up on her young face.

“Have you? Because I’m not sure you’re seeing me.”

Atlas rolled his eyes. “I can assure you that I see you just fine. The real question is whether you see yourself.”

“Meaning?”

Atlas finally gave up the pretense of reading and set his DS on his lap. “When you look into the mirror, who do you see, Amadhay? Do you see Amadhay Hakinato, an aelfen lady of the Roadesian court? Do you see Red Robin, an asset to be used by someone powerful? Do you see Red Bird, a girl who is Palnokian in all but birth? Or do you see Amadhay? Because I see Amadhay, a girl who is fiercely loyal to those she deems worthy of her, who is immensely powerful but doesn’t know how to use her gifts to their highest level, a girl who is beautiful and strong and curious and brilliant and stubborn. I see more than an asset or noble blood or confused loyalties.

“But you don’t, do you? You still see yourself as an asset. You haven’t seen yourself as Lady Amadhay Hakinato in a long time, but you definitely don’t see yourself as Amadhay either. You’re trying to juxtapose Red Bird on top of Red Robin, but guess what Amadhay? It won’t work. I won’t let you. You mean too much to me to become just a part of yourself.”

Amadhay stared at him for a few clicks. “You don’t get it,” she finally said, shaking her head slowly. “You think you get it but you don’t. Just because you knew little me for two months, just because someone has fed you information on me, just because we’ve been close for five months, you think that you know me better than I know myself. But you don’t, Atlas. You just don’t.”

“Don’t I?” he countered, leaning forward in his chair and bracing his elbows on his knees.

“No, you don’t. You think you understand my reasons for everything. You don’t. You don’t understand why I want to be of use.”

“No, that’s the problem. I do. You want to be of use to us. You want to hurt and kill people because that’s all you know. You need to feel useful and the only way you think you can be useful is if you’re killing someone. You want to replace the Phoegani and Lord Phoeganis with us, with me. I don’t want that. I’m sorry, Amadhay, but I don’t want to replace your uncle. I don’t want to be anything similar to your uncle at all. He tried to ruin you. He made your choices for you. I don’t want to be that person.”

“I don’t want you to be that person,” Amadhay argued, now standing directly in front of him. “But that’s what you’re starting to become on your own. I say I want to help, you say no. I want to fight, you say no. I want to learn more magic, you say fine, but I can’t use it. Is that the choice you’re giving me? The choice to follow your decisions? Because that sounds a lot like you’re making my choices for me, only leading me to a different position.

“I don’t want to be some lady sitting around with a whole bunch of knowledge, but no way to use it. I don’t want to be useless. I’m not calling myself an asset when I say I want to do something that will be of worth. I believe in you, in the Palnoki and in the others. I want to work with you because I want to make sure that all of you stay safe.”

You have no idea what we’re doing here. So tell me, how is that any different from working for the Phoegani? You didn’t know what their end goal was, just followed their directives blindly. You were only there to keep your cousin and the phantom safe.” Atlas leaned back in his seat, looking away from her.

“It is completely different,” Amadhay asserted, crossing her arms over her chest. She rocked back and forth on her heels for a moment. “I was there because I didn’t have a choice. It was either be part of the Phoegani, or be part of the Phoegani against my will. I’m here because I chose here over going back to the Phoegani. I wasn’t there to keep Benjy and Monkey safe. I was there to keep myself from being Controlled by Alphonse. So unless you’re going to try to use your Gift to force me to do what you want, I can honestly say that the situations are completely different.”

Atlas scoffed. “You don’t even hear yourself.”

“I hear myself plainly. Maybe you don’t hear yourself.”

Atlas shook his head. “We’re done here,” he said before picking his DS up again. “I have work to do.”

“I’m not leaving,” Amadhay said stubbornly. “You can’t make me.”

“I assure you that I can,” Atlas retorted, standing up. He leaned forward to say the next words directly into her face. “But the difference is, I’m not going to.” With that, he walked out of his own room, going right past her without another glance. He felt her watching him walk away for a three clicks before she followed.

“I’m not going to let you just walk away from me,” she called after him, hurrying to catch up. She grabbed his hand and attempted to pull him to a stop. He kept walking. “Atlas!” she exclaimed, moving in front of him and walking backwards. “Listen to me.”

“I did,” Atlas stated, still not looking at her. His eyes went right over her head.

“No, you didn’t. You stopped listening when you didn’t hear what you wanted to.” She pushed against his chest, making him pause for a moment. “Just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean we don’t listen.”

He laughed. “Do you really think you’re the person to say that? If it isn’t the sun calling the fire hot.”

She blinked quickly. “Are you calling me a hypocrite?”

“That is exactly what I’m calling you,” Atlas said, giving her a long look before he began walking again. Amadhay didn’t let him sidestep her, instead continuing to walk backwards to keep up with him.

I’m not the hypocrite here,” she exclaimed, glaring at his hair.

“No, because you’re obviously the victim. You keep making all these claims that you don’t need to be saved, but then in the same breath, make yourself a victim. If you don’t want to be treated like a child, stop acting like one. Stop claiming I’m taking your choices from you and just make them.”

“Every time I try to, you get angry!” Amadhay yelled, pushing at his chest again to make him stop. He did, just so that he could glare down at her.

“Have you ever thought that maybe I’m angry because you aren’t making decisions? You keep letting everyone and everything else make them for you!”

“Like what? Give me one example,” she demanded, clenching her fists.

“You were too scared to talk to anyone about becoming an asset again, but when danger came, you jumped right into that role. No, I don’t want you to be a damned asset, but I want you to let the choice be made for you even less.”

“Oh, shut up!” she yelled, “You wanted to make that choice for me from the beginning. Every time I brought up maybe working for the Palnoki, you say the same dumb things, Atlas. You claim I’m just a little girl, that I’m worth so much more than that. Well, I say otherwise! You can’t say I was too scared, because if anyone is scared, it’s you. You’re scared that if I work for you, that you’ll become Lord Phoeganis. You’re scared, not me.” She was breathing hard now, her chest heaving as she clenched her fists, visibly trying to calm herself.

Atlas froze, staring at her, taking every movement in. Her hair was a mess and she didn’t seem to care. Her eyes were blue again, the same sky blue that always caught him off-guard, the same blue he wanted to protect. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said in a much softer tone than the rest of their argument had been.

“Don’t I?” Amadhay asked, focusing on his face. He wondered what she saw there “You’re scared. You’re scared that if I become your assassin that you’ll see me as an asset. You’re scared that I’ll become just another pawn, that I’ll stop being Amadhay or Red Bird, and will only become Red Robin. You’re scared that you’d be using me just as much as Arne Riff did, that you’ll be taking all of my choices from me. And most of all, you’re scared that if that happens, if you change me, that if I have the choice again, that I’ll go back to the Phoegani. You’re scared of making the Phoegani the lesser of two evils to me.”

Atlas didn’t say anything, only stared at her because he honestly didn’t have anything to say. He wouldn’t admit that she was right, because she wasn’t. Was she? He hated that he wasn’t in control of the situation. He hated that she was such a mystery to him, that even though he knew thousands of little things about her, her mind was still a mystery to him. She was still a mystery, an unknown card in his hand. He didn't know how to use her, didn’t know where to place her. He didn’t even know if he could use her, if she truly wanted to be used or if it was all more of whatever game she was playing with him.

He hated that they were playing a game where she had all the pieces and he was running out of strategy for how to best her.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which Stefan hugs Amadhay

 

 

“C’mere Little Warrior,” Stefan called from her doorway.

Playing with a single curl, Amadhay eyed him for a moment before deciding that she had nothing better to do. Dropping the book she had been reading on her bed, she launched herself through the curtains. Stefan whistled at her to hurry her along, so she took a moment to stretch out and smooth her hair back over her shoulders. Bouncing on the balls of her bare feet, she continued to fidget with her hair as she stood before the scaly skinned man.

“Yes?” she asked.

He turned in her doorway, looking back at her as he nodded toward the hallway. “I want to show you something,” he told her.

She narrowed her eyes, always suspicious, especially given the way everyone had been acting lately, but nodded, following close behind him. “Something like what?” she asked, moving to his side.

He grinned down at her. “You’ll see,” he told her, scratching the top of her head to purposely muss up her hair. She fixed it back over her shoulders and gave him a look, but his teasing made her feel slightly better about his presence.

“Gimme a hint,” Amadhay pleaded, batting her eyelashes innocently.

“I know that look, little one. You gutted me the last time I fell for it.”

Amadhay giggled. “But this time I want something from you, so I’m just being sweet so that I can get it,” she teased him.

He tugged at her hair, making her sigh. He seemed to have a strange fixation on her hair because he was always touching it, always tugging at it. “You’ll see when we get there,” he told her, tossing his arm over her shoulders.

She didn’t pull from him like she normally would have because it comforted her to know that someone still liked her. Even if it was Stefan, it was nice to have someone willing to touch her. She leaned her head into his side as they continued walking to the front door. He paused once there, not saying anything, and after a click Amadhay realized that he was waiting for her to call out her pass code, which made her smile.

“Green sleeves,” she said, standing up straight.

Stefan ruffled her hair as he moved his arm from her shoulders. “This way,” he gestured to the beach, which was empty of all people, as it had been since the trouble with the twins. If she had to guess, she’d say that Atlas was feeling unwelcoming to everyone outside, knowing that any one of them could be another spy. As she looked over the empty beach, one thing caught her eye. Sitting in the middle of the beach, far enough back that the water wouldn’t take it out, was an intricate sand castle. It was even better than the ones she had seen before, which was saying something because the more she had gone to the beach, the more she had seen intricate sand castles (that Ribbon or Kimiko invariably ran right through).

This one, though, took away her breath. It was almost life size for her, standing taller than she was, with functional archways and carefully sculpted windows. She forgot Stefan as she moved closer to the castle, staring at it in enraptured intrigue. It reminded her of a much more well formed version of the castle she, Amaya, and Hlala had painstakingly drawn when their father had asked them what kind of secret hideout they wanted. He had never gotten around to making it for them, because right when he had been gathering the materials, the Ridden War had started and then when he had come back, it had only been a few months before he had been killed.

She reached out and touched the sand, finding it well packed enough that it didn’t crumble under her touch. She blinked rapidly a few times, feeling a silly burning coming to her eyes that she tried to ward off by smiling.

“Do you like it?” Stefan asked, making her look from the castle and to him.

He had made this, for her. She wasn’t sure how he had found the schematics or how he even knew about the castle at all, considering the only other people who knew about it were Hlala and Indigo. The two of them still had copies of the drawing, which meant that either somehow he had stolen the picture from one of them or that Atlas had gone through her personal belongings and taken it, for some reason, from her room. She was betting it was the second option. No matter how Stefan had found out about it, the fact remained that he had made this for her. And only her.

“I love it,” she told him honestly, running her fingers over the sand lightly.

“I was thinking that we could make you your own castle, call it the Red Castle.”

“As long as you don’t paint it red,” Amadhay laughed, still staring at the sand castle.

“You can go inside of it,” he urged her, but she couldn’t. It was enough for her to just stare at the outside. To look inside of it would have completely floored her. It was a system overload, much like her first full day with the Palnoki had been, when she had realized her dreams of Stefan and the room hadn’t been dreams. She knew that if she were to go inside and it looked as she had always imagined it, that she wouldn’t want to leave. It didn’t matter that it was sand. It was hers.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Don’t just thank me,” he stated, making her look back at him. “Someone who really cares about you gave me the picture when I told him you were sad. He said that making this might cheer you up.”

She nodded, assuming that to be confirmation that Atlas had given the picture to him. Even when they weren’t talking, the man still wanted her happy. It almost made her want to forgive him for being such a complete jerk, but she couldn’t. In fact, it only made her more irritated. He had stolen it from her room on base with the Phoegani. He had taken something incredibly valuable and personal to her, one of her few belongings that truly held sentimental value. And then, to top it off, he hadn’t had the decency to do something himself, instead delegating making her feel better to someone else.

Stefan pulled her in for a hug before she had a chance to say any of that. Only for a few breaths did she fight the hug, trying to pull back from him, trying to stay angry and distant. After that, however, she relaxed into it, pressing her head into his shoulder. She missed this, this physical contact. With Ribbon avoiding her and her avoiding Atlas, Kimiko being gone on some mission, and Tenshu busy with other things, she found that she was missing her Monkey and Benjy more and more. Or rather, she missed their hugs. They had never stopped touching her just because they were irritated with her for not listening to them.

“I know sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, but everyone here cares about you. We’re all just incredibly protective of each other, and you are now one of us. So with that comes dealing with having others be upset with you when you do something stupid.” He paused for a moment and Amadhay frowned, upset that even Stefan thought she was in the wrong. Even though he couldn’t see it, he seemed to know she was frowning because he stroked her hair gently to calm her.

“I’m not going to defend Atlas,” he quickly continued when she started to argue, “Because he’s wrong. You were right to fight and it was within your rights to deal with the bones. But you have to understand that he thinks he’s doing the right thing for you,” Stefan spoke gently before placing a kiss to the crown of her head, making her sigh.

“How? First he yells at me for not letting Diable hurt me, then he tells me to sit on my hands and do nothing, he makes Ribbon avoid me, and he won’t talk to me, but sends you to make me happy.”

“Atlas didn’t send me,” Stefan stated, “I did this on my own.”

“Fine, Atlas gave you the picture.”

Atlas didn’t give me the picture.”

Amadhay frowned, pulling back so that she could look Stefan in the face. He let her, and she studied his serious expression. If Atlas hadn’t given it to him, then who had?

“And you don’t have to do nothing, Little Warrior. I know of so many things you could do if Atlas would only stop seeing you as a child he has to protect. You’ve been a warrior since birth.”

“Can you make him?” Amadhay asked hopefully, gripping his forearms.

Stefan laughed. “No one can force Atlas to do what he doesn’t want to do.”

She deflated. “Then can you at least tell me what I could be doing so that I can go around him?” she suggested, doubting that he would even consider it.

He did, though. He regarded her for a moment before looking around, to see who else was there. Seeing no one, he leaned in to her. “Atlas can never know that I told you,” he stressed, making her nod seriously.

“Atlas can never know what?” Atlas’ voice came from within the sand castle, making Stefan and Amadhay jump apart from each other and look guiltily inside. Well, Stefan looked guilty. Amadhay merely looked annoyed that he interrupted them. Atlas stepped out from inside of the sand castle, standing up tall and straight once he no longer had to lean down to avoid knocking the castle down or making a hole.

“Nothing,” Stefan quickly stated, crossing his arms over his chest. Amadhay slanted a glance first at the snake-man and then at Atlas.

“Stefan was just showing me the castle he made for me,” she said, glaring at the sand wall beside him. “But apparently you found it first. Hope you didn’t ruin it,” she snapped, making him glare down at her.

“I can assure you that I didn’t ruin your present,” he replied before turning his angry glare to Stefan. “Come with me. I have a mission for you.”


Next Page

amadhay: (Default)
 in which atlas is pissed

 

 

“I told you that you didn’t have to kill anyone anymore!” Atlas all but yelled into Amadhay’s face.

She rocked back on her heels, staring up at him in shock. “What?” she asked softly, sure that she had missed some kind of joke. She looked at Ribbon for back up, but the woman was looking at Atlas with as much surprise as she had.

“There was absolutely no reason to drag her into that, Ribbon,” he said, turning his anger to a new target. Ribbon raised her eyebrows. “That was Palnoki business. Amadhay should not have had to kill anyone for you.”

“I offered,” Amadhay argued.

Atlas ignored her, continuing to dress down Ribbon. “Really, I expected more from you, but considering the twins were plants in your friend group, I suppose I should already know I can’t trust you to make good decisions on your own.”

“Whoa, hold up,” Amadhay tried to interrupt when Ribbon looked stricken.

“If checking if your friends are going to attempt to kill us all is too hard for you, maybe you shouldn’t leave home,” Atlas stated, making Ribbon nod.

“You’re the one who kept inviting them in to be your models!” Amadhay exclaimed, still not gaining Atlas’ attention, but she did get Ribbon’s.

The woman shook her head. “No, he’s right Red Bird. It’s my fault. I should have been more careful. I thought they were trustworthy and obviously, they weren’t. Atlas only followed my judgment of them.”

Amadhay shook her head, staring at her friend with worry. She sounded like she was close to tears, which wasn’t something Amadhay had seen before. Ribbon had always been so determined and excitable, never sad or at least never upset enough to cry. “No, screw you, Atlas!” she yelled, moving forward to Ribbon. “Ribbon didn’t do anything wrong. Everyone has a mistaken friendship. Everyone,” she made eye contact with Atlas pointedly when she put emphasis on the word. “So don’t you dare try to make her think she did something wrong.”

Atlas and Amadhay stared each other down for a few clicks, neither backing down until Ribbon cleared her throat.

“Whether I made a mistake or not,” she started, gaining Amadhay’s attention. “I shouldn’t have brought you in on it. I’m sorry,” she apologized to Amadhay, “That was Palnoki business and even though you’re part of the family, you are not a part of the war. I wouldn’t have asked you to help me with a Phoegani member.”

“That’s different and you know it,” Amadhay argued. “I have no qualms against using my skills to help you out or keep you safe—”

“That’s the thing,” Ribbon cut her off. “I didn’t need help. You defended yourself and that was fine, but I didn’t need your help sending a Palnokian message to the Skouras’s.”

“But I wanted to,” Amadhay emphasized, glancing at Atlas, who had a blank expression. “I wanted to help, to make sure they knew not to mess with us ever again. I want to help keep us all safe. If I don’t, what am I doing? Why am I here? Should I just sit around and take up new hobbies? I liked my job for the Phoegani. If I could, I would do the same for you guys because I want us to be safe and happy.”

“We don’t need your help,” Atlas snapped before Ribbon could say anything. With that, he turned and left the room, leaving Amadhay and Ribbon to stare after him.

When Ribbon put her hand on Amadhay’s shoulder for comfort, the younger girl shrugged it off and stormed after Atlas. “What is your problem?” she demanded, running to catch up with his fast, angry strides. Each one of his steps was equal to three of her own.

“What is my problem?” he turned so abruptly that she ran right into him. He grabbed her shoulders and placed her steady on her feet in front of him. “I bring you here, away from the Phoegani so that you can have a life where you don’t have to kill, where you can make your own decisions on what to do with your life and all you can think to do is keep killing? What is the point of saving you from them if you’re just going to play the same part here?”

“I keep telling you that I didn’t ask to be saved!” she yelled in his face, “You didn’t save me. I didn’t need saving. And if I did, I could do my own saving, thank you very much.”

“I’m starting to think you need saving from yourself,” he snapped before turning on his heel and leaving her again.

“Excuse me?” she yelled after him before jogging to catch up with him again. “I don’t need saving! Get that through your thick skull! I’m not some scared princess hiding out in a room, needing some strong hero to come and save me. I’m better than that. I don’t need you telling me that my decisions are wrong. I’m not going to sit around and let others save me when I can do it myself!”

“I didn’t ask you to!” Atlas yelled, stopping again to say it to her face.

“No, you’re telling me to right now!” She yelled right back at him. She grabbed the collar of his shirt when he tried to turn away and pulled him down to her height, forcing him to lean down. “I am not going to let you make me into a damsel in distress just because you have a hero complex. If you want someone who will sit around and wait for you to save me, you abducted the wrong sister.”

“I’m just trying to give you a choice,” Atlas said through clenched teeth.

“No, you’re trying to make it for me,” Amadhay corrected him. “You don’t want me in the Palnoki, that’s fine, but don’t you dare try to hold me back if I want to use my skills. If I have to go outside of us to find work, I will, but I didn’t want to. I really thought this would work. I really thought I could help you out.”

“You’re not killing for us,” Atlas told her, taking her hands from his shirt. He forced her hands back down to her sides. “Never again.”

This time, she didn’t follow him when he stormed off.


Next Chapter

amadhay: (Default)
 in which there is sparring

 

 

Amadhay went skidding back on her butt.

Before Ribbon could drop kick her, she spun, kicking Ribbon’s legs out from under her and rolling so that she was on top of the woman. Ribbon grinned fiercely at her and flipped them so that she was on top.

“I like you better below me,” Ribbon joked, holding Amadhay down by the girls wrists and sitting firmly on her waist. “Do you give?”

“Not hardly,” Amadhay muttered before crying out “Irem no Va!” Ribbon jolted up from her before the teenager could finish the spell by touching her skin.

“Nice try, but you’ll never get anywhere if I know what your spell is before you use it,” Ribbon told her before a silver ball of magic swirled into existence on her hand. She threw it to Amadhay, who used her Gift to get out of the way. The magic continued to follow her, expanding as it flew.

“See? You had no idea how to avoid that,” Ribbon stated once the ball hit Amadhay in the back, flipping her through the air several times before the girl landed flat on her back with a loud, painful thud.

“That’s enough,” Atlas said from his corner of the room. He had been pretending to read for the past zoot of their sparring session. Amadhay knew he was pretending because he had forgotten to turn a single page of the book. He hadn’t even glanced at it, instead, keeping his eyes focused on them. Amadhay was embarrassed that he was there to see her have her butt kicked by Ribbon. The woman hadn’t even had to cut and use blood magic to take her down repeatedly. It made Amadhay feel incredibly lacking.

The entire point of these sessions was to strengthen her combat magic. All she seemed to be doing was rolling on the floor to avoid Ribbon’s. With a quick glance to Atlas, Ribbon stood above Amadhay, holding her hand out to help the smaller girl up.

“Don’t worry,” Ribbon said reassuringly. She smiled at Amadhay as she pulled the aelfe to her feet. Neither of them let go of the other’s hand. “You’re getting better. Last time I took you out with a fraction of my power. This time I had to focus the ball.”

“What’s the point of this?” Atlas asked, moving between the two women now that Amadhay was standing. Ribbon let go of Amadhay first, moving back from Atlas, who was giving Amadhay an imploring look. “There’s no reason for you to be learning this. There’s no reason for you to be using this. We’ll keep you safe. You could be learning something else.”

“Like what?” Amadhay snapped, “Embroidery?” She rolled her eyes. “I’m learning magic because I like magic, not because I’m scared I’ll be attacked. Besides, sparring with Ribbon cements that. If she can take me out, she definitely isn’t going to be taken out by someone I could fight.”

Ribbon choked back a laugh, turning her back on the two. “I’ll go get some water,” she called over her shoulder as she left the room.

Atlas took Amadhay’s hands in between his own. “Please, just think on it, Amadhay. You could do something else, something more befitting a lady.”

“I’m not a lady,” she immediately retorted, pulling her hands back. “And I don’t want to do something more befitting of one. I want to learn magic that could come in handy one day.”

“But it won’t,” Atlas assured her. “You will never have need to fight while you are here. We will keep you safe.”

“I’m not going to sit around and hide behind you all,” she told him, frowning. “If someone comes at me, I’m going to fight and if you try to stop me, I will leave. You gave me the choice, Atlas. I choose to be ready and able to fight.” Not to mention, she thought, That I won’t be here with you forever.

Atlas muttered something under his breath that she didn’t hear. “I’m not going to let anything get to you,” he swore.

She sighed. “Sooner or later, something gets through even the best defense.”

“Not here.”

Amadhay rolled her eyes and turned away from him, heading to the doorway.

“Where are you going?” he demanded.

“To get some water,” she snapped, moving faster once she heard his footsteps following her.

He didn’t try to catch up with her, but he also didn’t leave her alone. She made it to the kitchen in time to see Ribbon make a face at Kimiko, who was grinning at her with a knowing look.

“I don’t care,” Ribbon claimed as Amadhay stepped into the room. The brown-skinned woman glanced to Amadhay, past her, and then looked away. Amadhay didn’t have to look back to know that Atlas was behind her, even if she didn’t feel him. He was always following her, watching her, touching her, too close to her. She wished he would give her a breather.

She moved past the two to the sink, filling Ribbon’s favorite cup with water. She put it to her lips to take a drink, but it was lifted right out of her hands and poured down the sink.

“Filtered water is in the fridge,” Atlas stated, handing her a new cup. She gave him a bland look.

Kimiko groaned. “Atlas. Go away. Please.”

While Atlas looked to Kimiko, Amadhay picked up Ribbon’s cup and filled it up with water from the faucet once again.

“You’re stressing her out and when you stress her out, it annoys Ribbon and when they’re unhappy, I’m unhappy. If you want three pissed off girls, stay. Otherwise, go away.”

Atlas glanced to Amadhay, who pointedly drank from the cup, staring him in the eyes. He looked to Ribbon, who had her back turned to them, running a cloth over the seemingly clean table. Finally, he looked back to Kimiko, whose hands were clutching her chair, her face set in annoyance.

“Perhaps I should give the three of you time alone,” he suggested. None of them spoke, but there was an obvious ‘Ya think?’ response in the air. He nodded before turning on his heel and leaving the room. No one spoke until they could no longer hear his footsteps. By that point, Kimiko’s death grip on the chair had loosened, Ribbon’s shoulders had relaxed, and Amadhay had finished her water.

“Is it just me, or is he up your butt more than usual?” Kimiko asked, irritation still heavy on her husky voice.

“He’s so far up my ass that I’ve considered having him surgically removed,” Amadhay snapped, making Ribbon giggle.

“I know a great wart remover,” Kimiko joked, heading out of the kitchen. “I’ll keep him busy for today. Just know you owe me.”

“You have my undying love,” Amadhay called after her, moving to Ribbon’s side.

“I’d rather have your help with my hair tomorrow!”

“Got it!”

Ribbon was still cleaning an imaginary mess on the table when it was just her and Amadhay left in the kitchen.

“I’m pretty sure that whatever you were cleaning has moved to another state of existence by now,” Amadhay quipped, bumping Ribbon’s hip with her own.

Ribbon gave a soft laugh. “You’re probably right,” she said, dropping the cloth and looking at Amadhay. Neither spoke for a while, and then Ribbon spoke again. “He’s only hovering because he—”

“No. I don’t want to talk about Atlas. No Atlas for the next, like, ten zoots, okay?” Ribbon laughed, but Amadhay pressed it. “Okay?”

“Okay,” Ribbon agreed. “No Atlas for the next ten zoots.”

Amadhay nodded and relaxed, smiling up at her friend. She noted that the tiny silver ball in her left nostril had been replaced by a tiny snowflake. She realized then that the day was a holiday.

“It’s Atwea today, isn’t it?” she asked, merely mentioning it as a conversational topic.

Ribbon perked up at the mention. “Oh please, please, please let me take you to the Atwea festival. Please?” she pleaded.

Amadhay had every intention of going if it excited Ribbon that much. The best part, in her opinion, was that they would be somewhere warm, so the outdoors festival for the first day of winter wouldn’t be horrible. “I dunno,” she said instead, pretending to think about it. “Festivals aren’t really my thing.”

Ribbon deflated for all of a click. “Yes they are! You love festivals, you ass. C’mon. Please? Please? Please?”

Amadhay giggled. “Okay, okay. I love festivals. Are Ten and Kimmy coming?”

Ribbon shrugged. “Probably not. Crowds give Kimmy a stomach ache and I think Ten and Nico are out. So…just me and you.”

There was a shy look from Ribbon that turned coy after a click as Amadhay considered what the woman had said. She knew for a fact that Kimiko loved crowds because it was like a smorgasbord for her. Nico and Tenshu had only just come back for a few days from their “missions” with Wonder Girls and Co. But she wasn’t going to say anything. She liked just being with Ribbon. It was always nice when they were able to go out just the two of them.

“Is there a specific dress code?” Amadhay asked. She had never gone to an Atwea festival other than the one the Hakinato First Family threw back at Hartin, and she  had always been dressed by her servants in attire that her aunt, Arche Loralyn, had chosen and Arne Riff had approved beforehand.

When Ribbon got a calculating look, Amadhay knew that the answer was ‘No,’ but that her friend was planning on dressing her a specific way anyway. “Well,” Ribbon began.

“Alright, you just go and pick it out. I’ll wear what you want. But I get to choose what you wear,” Amadhay interrupted her before she could come up with some excuse.

Ribbon stared at her for a few breaths before grinning. “Just remember that these festivals are family friendly and I have an image to maintain.”

Amadhay snorted. “Really? As the unknown princess?” She wasn’t exaggerating. In the past few weeks, they had gone out onto the streets quite regularly. Tenshu, Nico, and Kimiko were all recognized and treated appropriately at least once per outing. Ribbon, on the other hand, had yet to be recognized by a single Palnokian. Amadhay was beginning to think that she was invisible.

“You never know,” Ribbon replied, heading out of the kitchen, towards their rooms. Amadhay followed her. “One of these days, I might get unlucky.”

“Yeah, you’re going to be recognized the same time I am,” Amadhay countered, though she was sure that it was more likely she would be recognized than Ribbon. That always made her a bit wary about going out for something as big as a festival. The more people gathered together, the more likely someone knew of her. Even though Ribbon had tried to convince her that Palnokians didn’t care much about Roadesian nobility, it was still a possibility that a Phoegani member or a wandering noble might be there and spot her.

However, that wasn’t a worry for Atwea. Everyone wore snowflake masks for the festivities. Five year ago, she and her sisters had gotten separated and despite the fact that not only was it before any of them had hit puberty and they were all nearly identical aside from the eyes and spoors, but they had been wearing identical teal dresses, and still they hadn’t been able to find each other for zoots, and only then because they’d all managed to have to go to the bathroom at the same time. That’s how hard it was to identify someone during Atwea festivities.

“Do you have a snowflake?” Ribbon asked as they turned the hallway to their rooms.

Amadhay gave her a droll look. “Why would I have gotten one?”

Ribbon rolled her eyes. “I dunno. Usually Stefan and Nico go ape shit and decorate the place in them and me and Kimmy grab up a few to make our masks.”

Amadhay smiled at the thought. “I never got to make my own. It was always made for me by the winner of the Autumn Lovers contest.”

Ribbon gave her  questioning look. “Autumn Lovers contest?”

Amadhay raised her eyebrows. “It’s a big deal in Ha’s Region, really in all of Roadesia. Artists come from all over with some sort of art of autumn and a panel of master artists judge them for the best.”

“Huh,” Ribbon said thoughtfully. “And the winner gets to make your masks?”

“And the winner makes masks for the First Family for a year until the next Atwea festival, when they’re released from the contract. It gets them a lot of novelty and whatever else artists want.”

“Does it pay?” Ribbon asked, pausing at Amadhay’s door.

“Of course. Plus they’re boarded at the Hakinato homestead, fed, and get everything they need for their work,” she said as she walked towards Ribbon’s room.

“Hey, maybe I’ll do that when you go back. That way I’d be able to see you on the regular,” Ribbon tossed back at her before entering Amadhay’s room.

Frowning after her friend, she lightly pushed on Ribbon’s door to be sure none of her nasty privacy spells were in place. They weren’t. “Go back?” Amadhay asked herself before entering her friend’s room. Did Ribbon think she had plans to go back to Hartin? Besides the fact that she had no interest going back to the Phoegani, she was presumed dead. Going back there was pretty much number one on her list of things not to do.

She shook her head to get the thought out of her mind. She’d talk to Ribbon about it later, but for the time being, she was going to focus on the festival and how much fun they would have. And the first matter of business was going through Ribbon’s closet

She scanned the room, more just by habit than for any real reason. The closet was slightly ajar, bathroom door wide open, and all of the windows were open. The faint ocean scented breeze made the gauzy curtains similar to the ones on Amadhay’s canopy flow inward. As much of the bathroom as she could see was empty, but Amadhay still moved far enough in that direction to be sure that no one was in there. The furniture in Ribbon’s room was close enough together to make it difficult for any average sized person—if Amadhay’s size counted as average—to hide behind, under, or between. Leaving the closet for last, she glanced to Ribbon’s bed.

The high bed had a redwood frame, with at least three feet below the bottom of three mattresses. Her bed was made, with silver sheets neatly covering all three mattresses, a pair of body pillows in the shape of Ribbon’s favorite actors on top of the sheets, and the intricately made, glittery comforter she never used but had for show folded neatly at the foot of the bed. No one under or in the bed, but there was a beautifully hand-carved mask.

Amadhay picked it up before she could stop herself, smiling slightly when she saw that the eyeholes were in the shape of gingerbread girls. Ribbon loved gingerbread cookies, so it was a pretty good guess that the mask had been made specifically with the blood witch in mind. The snowflake mask branched from the eyeholes, rather than the mouth-hole, which was irregular, and glittered as Amadhay turned it in her hands. It looked delicate, with only thin spindles of material tying into thin knots to cover most of the face and curved where Ribbon’s face would.

Smiling to herself, Amadhay moved to Ribbon’s closet, too distracted by the mask to finish her check of the room. She walked into the room-sized closet and looked around. Ribbon had a system to her clothes, separating them first into situations, and then into colors. The section with her jeans and sundresses was normally where the woman chose, but for this festival, Amadhay was looking at the less casual clothing. There were long gowns, pantsuits, and full body outfits that looked like costumes, but that, again, wasn’t what Amadhay was looking for.

For Atwea, only commoners and performers wore costumes. As the princess, Ribbon needed to be dressed formally, but not so much that she would stick out Ribbon seemed to pride herself on being able to blend in with the crowds. Amadhay could respect that, but the part of her brain that had been trained and had the proper etiquette drilled into her head told her that she couldn’t just go wandering around looking like a commoner.

She was looking through green dresses, short enough to not be formal, but dressy enough to not be casual, when she hit a dress that was entirely out of place. In the mass of green, which was unsurprising given that Ribbon’s favorite color was green, was a pale, silvery-lilac dress. Amadhay’s breath caught for the slightest click before she pulled the dress out.

No, it wasn’t the dress Ribbon had worn to the Emvia party four years ago, but it was strikingly similar. It was the same color, had only one strap, and would undoubtedly hang on her in the same way. Amadhay smiled to herself, touching it lightly. For a moment, she considered looking for the original dress, but stopped herself. It was another time, and they had been different people.

She quickly plucked its hanger from the rack, grabbed the shoebox on the shelf above it, and left the closet, pushing the door closed with her butt. With the mask in one hand, the dress in the other, and the shoebox under her arm, she left Ribbon’s room and entered her own.

The first thing she noticed was that there was a snowflake mask for her as well. Just as Ribbon’s had, her mask sat on her bed, its white a stark contrast to the black of her sheets.

The second thing she noticed was that her room was a wreck. Shoes, tops, pants were all over the floor, with dresses flung even further. Ribbon sat in her closet, looking from one gold dress to the other. One, that looked suspiciously similar to the one she had worn that Emvia party, was decidedly less covered than the second. It had no straps to hold it up, depending entirely on its tightness to her chest to do the job, and would cling to her like a second skin. It was as if someone had taken the old dress and cut it off at the thighs so that the redeeming part of it, the tulle skirt, was gone. The second dress was probably more appropriate for a family festival, especially if Ribbon expected Amadhay to run around with her. It had simple cap sleeves, a sweetheart neckline, and a loose skirt starting at the hips that made it to her knees.

Amadhay sat down next to Ribbon and dropped the shoebox on her lap before handing over the silver dress and snowflake mask. “Having some difficulties?” she joked.

Ribbon gave an exasperated huff. “Yes,” she said before looking at the dress Amadhay had chosen. She gave a small smile. “But I think you just made it easier.”

The older girl tossed the first dress into the closet and handed Amadhay the sleeved one. “Did you see your mask? It’s pretty epic.”

Amadhay looked around her room before looking back at Ribbon. “You’re cleaning this, right?”

Ribbon rolled her eyes before giving three distinct popping noises and snapping her fingers. The clothes jumped from the floor and flew back into the closet. Amadhay caught sight of them hanging themselves before the panel of the closet slid back into place, leaving Amadhay looking at the doe painted on the panel.

“Done,” Ribbon said smugly before standing up. “So, mask?”

Amadhay turned her back on Ribbon as the woman stripped out of her workout clothes. Listening as Ribbon said her normal cleaning spell, knowing that the woman only said it aloud for her benefit, Amadhay moved to her bed and picked up the mask, looking it over. The mouth-hole caught her eye immediately because it was in the shape of a key. The eyeholes were in the shape of cat eyes and, when she looked closely, she saw writing etched into the plaster. She couldn’t quite make it out, but it was the same writing on both sides. Other than those differences, the delicate knotting and branching was very similar to Ribbon’s, the only difference being how the mask stayed to her face. Ribbon’s knotted round her ears. Amadhay’s had a thin band that went around her head and could be slightly adjusted to keep it in place

“Where did these come from?” she asked, looking back at Ribbon, who was hopping on one foot, trying to get a heeled shoe onto the other.

“I think Nico. Stefan would’ve made them full head masks.”

Amadhay nodded, thinking it over. She had never really thought of Nico and Stefan as the artistic types. Nico was quiet and withdrawn around her, so she supposed she really didn’t have any reason to have made any assumptions about him either way. But Stefan, with his hands-on attitude and boisterous stories was a stark contrast to the studious, serious and dignified attitudes of every artist she’d ever met in Hartin.

She shrugged the thought away, pulling her tank top off.

“Need me to rebutton the bra?” Ribbon asked, suddenly right behind Amadhay.

For a moment, the younger girl considered moving away, not comfortable with anyone but her servants touching her back. But then, she nodded, knowing that it would be simpler for her friend to change the setting from workout to casual than for her to spend the next three clicks awkwardly moving the straps so that they were supporting her chest instead of inhibiting movement. With three smooth moves Ribbon did just that, unbuttoning all the straps, untwisting them, and then rebuttoning them.

“Good?” Ribbon asked, still standing behind Amadhay, her hands on her shoulders. With every breath, Amadhay felt her hair press against Ribbon’s chest. Instead of speaking, she nodded. “Good,” Ribbon said, moving back. “Then get dressed, ya hermit.”

“Your mother is a hermit,” Amadhay muttered jokingly, dropping out of the shorts she’d been wearing.

“Scarlet would be greatly insulted,” Ribbon quipped before repeating the spell she had used on herself.

“Got it the first time,” Amadhay assured her. “Irem rin,” she said, brushing down from her chin to her breast. She felt a tingle on her skin before turning to Ribbon. “Should I have felt a tingle?” she asked.

Ribbon nodded. “That’s how you know it worked,” she answered, looking into the mirror to put on her mask.

Amadhay nodded, finally pulling the dress onto herself. As she turned to Ribbon, her quick reflexes caught the shoes the taller girl had thrown to her before she even realized that the shoes were headed for her. The gold and black of the heels matched the dress, but Amadhay still paused.

“Are we sure we want heels?” she asked warily. “What if we have to run?”

“You can’t run in heels?” Ribbon asked, distractedly as she played with her hair, pinning the curls down to make the hair fluff to one side of her head.

“I can but I’d prefer not to?” Amadhay suggested, playing with the mask. Ribbon looked at her for a moment before shrugging.

“The wear something else,” she suggested. “Because there will be running. Running with the crowds, running games, running for food. Running is what Atwea is about.”

“I thought it was about winter,” Amadhay joked, setting her heels down at the edge of her bed. She kicked off her workout sneakshoes and slid into a pair of black shoes that slipped onto her feet and stayed with no straps.

“Need help with your mask?” Ribbon asked, approaching Amadhay again.

She didn’t. “Yes,” Amadhay said, holding it up for Ribbon. The dark-skinned woman grinned and took it, pressing it gently to Amadhay’s face. Where the face contours had been on the mask fit perfectly to the shape of her face and, for a moment, Amadhay wondered how Nico had been able to get her face perfectly molded for the mask. Ribbon pulled Amadhay’s hair down from its ponytail and worked the backing through the curls, weaving hair into the sides of the mask.

“Just making sure that it won’t fall off,” Ribbon explained unnecessarily.

Once the mask was fitted perfectly, Ribbon stepped back and Amadhay smiled at her.

“You look like beautiful,” Ribbon told her.

Amadhay gave her a small smile. “So do you.”

As if flustered, Ribbon looked away, to the clock beside the doorway. “We should get going. It’s been going for a few zoots now. Any later and we’ll miss all the good stuff.”

Amadhay nodded, headed toward the door. Ribbon beat her to it and took her hand. Amadhay didn’t say anything about it, simply smiling to herself as Ribbon led them from her room and out of the building.

It wasn’t until they were walking along the beach that Amadhay thought to ask about the festival. Aside from a few major points—such as the snowflake masks for Atwea—different places celebrated the holidays differently and considering Palnoki was a separate entity from the rest of Roadesia, she wouldn’t have been surprised if they had completely different traditions.

“What type of festival is this?” she asked.

“A winter one,” Ribbon said with a grin.

Amadhay rolled her eyes. “Back in Hartin, we celebrate Atwea with a big, public gathering with artists and performers and lots of dancing, sampling of trades and a free full course meal for everyone there.”

Ribbon grinned. “You’ll see,” she sang.

Amadhay could see, not too far in the distance, large groups of people. Where the tan sand turned white seemed to be where the festivities began. People were swathed in colors ranging from pastel to eye-blisteringly bright, with the only commonality being white masks on all of their faces. Clothing ranged from casual swimwear and jeans to exquisite costumes and expensive formal wear. There were even a few people wandering around, looking suspicious, in sneakwear.

As they got closer to the festivities, the music hit hard. It went from quiet and calm to loud and energetic in a click, making Amadhay aware that there must have been a spell over the festival to keep the sounds from going too far. That made sense. Besides the castle being only a mile or two away, the Qwuill headquarters were even closer, and nothing was worse than interrupting a Qwuill with loud, repetitive sounds. And she had no doubt that at least one Qwuill had chosen to keep working instead of joining in here, because Quills tended to be rather single minded when they started on a task.

The drums and feet pounding got into Amadhay’s body, making her move to the beat. Ribbon grinned at her, swaying to the sound of the strings. When the vocals began to the song, the two of them were on the white sand and pressed in close to the crowds.

No moon, no sun. Tonight we’ll come undone.

Ribbon’s lips were to Amadhay’s ear. “Dance with me?” she suggested.

“Let’s look around first,” Amadhay yelled over the music, sizzling, chattering, waves crashing, and sounds of people enjoying themselves.

Ribbon nodded, pulling Amadhay into her right before a group of inebriated teenagers rushed through the crowd, shrieking and giggling into the night. They sounded drunk off of the mood, rather than alcohol, and Amadhay was positive that they were succubi.

“Stay close,” Ribbon suggested and Amadhay nodded, keeping hold to the woman’s hand. They shied to the sides of the crowd, away from the performers and the dancing crowds.

When we’re alone, oh when we’re alone. When we’re alone…

Once they were away from the stage, there was much more room to move and Amadhay was able to walk at Ribbon’s side, rather than pressed behind her. The aelfe looked around, at the booths and stalls of all sizes. There was food everywhere, interspersed with aura readings, future-scrying, costume rentals, different clothing tents, specialized healers, weapon tents, animal tents, and games everywhere. A smile broke onto Amadhay’s face when she recognized one of the tents as that of a painter Arne Riff had banned from Hartin after the shifter had painted a humorous image of her uncle riding a dragon and fighting a phoenix.

“C’mon.” She pulled Ribbon after her, headed for the tent.

The blood-aelfe took one look at the pair of them and grinned widely, showing off sharp canines. “Couple portrait?” ge asked, already pulling out ges brown, black, gold, and green paints.

Amadhay looked hopefully to Ribbon, who rolled her eyes playfully. “Sure, why not?” she agreed, walking into the tent behind Amadhay when the painter gestured them in.

“Free picture is what I want to draw you. Paid picture is nice picture that you want.”

“Free,” Amadhay said before Ribbon could reach for her purse. She wanted to know what he would make of them.

As if ge had been hoping she would say that, ge rubbed ges hands together eagerly. “Sit, sit.” Ge gestured to the small loveseat that just barely fit the two of them.

They were close together, but neither complained. Amadhay was watching the painter closely as ge easily moved ges brush over the blank canvas. Ge never dipped into the paint, but paint did disappear from the palate, and combined with the speed ge used, Amadhay was positive that ges Gift had to do with painting. Ge was a speed painter, working even faster than Atlas did, but it didn’t seem to translate to a less than beautiful painting.

Amadhay glanced to Ribbon, who was looking around the tent, at the paintings that were hanging. When the woman laughed, Amadhay followed her gaze to a painting of Stefan with a wide, crazy smile and holding an oversized stuffed animal on his back. Snorting, she looked around the tent as well to find an image with Cowboy and Scarlet, Scarlet with her normal scowl and holding onto a rope around Cowboy’s waist as the vampire rode a toy horse.

“How much for that one?” Ribbon asked, pointing to the one with Scarlet and Cowboy.

The painter didn’t even look up. “Free if I keep this one.”

Amadhay made a face.

“How much if we keep this one and take that one?” Ribbon asked, lightly bumping Amadhay with her shoulder to let her know she knew how much she wanted the painting.

The painter made a face, pausing to think up a price. “100 credits,” ge said, dabbing at the painting.

Ribbon rolled her eyes, but reached for her purse. Except it wasn’t there. Amadhay took a moment to try to remember if Ribbon had brought a purse, and came to the decision that no, she hadn’t. So they had no money.

“Sorry, Red Bird,” Ribbon muttered, looking disappointed. “I can run back and get credits.”

“No, it’s fine,” Amadhay assured her, even though she was disappointed.

The painter turned the picture to them. In the picture, Amadhay and Ribbon were holding hands, riding what looked like a carousel. Both were seated on a cartoonish wolf with green eyes, tongue hanging out in a humorous smile. Amadhay’s eyes were enormous, nearly taking up her entire face and sky blue, like they used to be. Ribbon was looking down at her with an adoring smile, her smile taking up most of her face. Their legs, while probably proportional, looked comical, with Ribbon’s nearly doubling Amadhay’s. They both wore white dresses and the scene around them was covered in snow, but they were untouched.

Somewhere between the need to laugh and admiring ges work, Amadhay felt an abrupt fear. Ge had painted them without masks. Ribbon obviously noticed it as well, because she tensed, staring at their faces.

Ge handed them the painting of Cowboy and Scarlet rolled into a tube and when both girls gave gem a hard look, ge put a finger to ges lips. “I understand secrets.”

“We’ll be back for that,” Ribbon warned gem, pointing at the picture of them.

Ge shrugged. “I doubt it.”

With that, Ribbon and Amadhay left the tent. They wandered about for a bit, but there was a slight tension between the two of them and everyone around, as if they were worried others might know who they were.

“Ignoring that weirdness, food?” Ribbon asked after nearly thirty clacks, obviously trying to get her mind off of the painter and the painting.

“Sure,” Amadhay replied, letting the music distract her. She wanted to have fun, not think about being outed. While she didn’t think the painter had any plans to tell anyone she was alive or where she was, she still wasn’t comfortable with him having been able to see right through their masks like that.

“Meat, plant, or unhealthy?” Ribbon asked.

“Unhealthy,” Amadhay decided.

Ribbon grinned. “Good. I was eyeing those deep fried chips for a bit now.”

Amadhay followed her gaze to the chip vendor. “Which ones?” she asked. There were chips of almost anything that could be cut. The fish chips looked especially appetizing to her.

“Pizza chip.”

Amadhay made a face. “I said unhealthy, not suicide.”

Ribbon stuck her tongue out. “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want it.”

They stood in line at for the deep fried chips behind a person, whose mask hid their gender, wearing a beautiful, translucent cloak. Amadhay wanted to reach out and touch it, but every time she did, she caught herself. After the sixth time of this, Ribbon tapped the person on their shoulder.

“Hey, hi. This might be strange, but she wants to touch your cloak. Can she? She’s going crazy here.”

Amadhay flushed when the person looked down at her, a knowing smirk on their face. “Of course,” they said with a voice like warm honey. “It’s spidersilk from the arachin weavers down there,” they pointed down the aisle that they had not explored yet.

They held their cloak out and Amadhay felt the fabric, rubbing it between her fingers. The pale blue translucent silk felt smoother than any fabric she’d ever touched before. She gave a quick sniff, and while it gave off a hint of magic, the only real scent coming from the fabric was frost.

“It’s beautiful,” Amadhay muttered, letting go of the cloak.

The person smiled and turned back to the vendor in time to order a pocket of deep fried tomato slices.

Once the person wasn’t paying attention to them, Amadhay looked to Ribbon. “We have to go back to the castle. I really want one of those cloaks.”

Ribbon grinned. “I can be really quick if you want to stick around here.”

Amadhay nodded to the person as they turned and smiled at them, giving a small wave before walking away. “I can go with you.”

Ribbon rolled her eyes. “We don’t both have to go,” he said before looking to the vendor. “One pocket of pizza, one of…?”

“Fish,” Amadhay supplied, making Ribbon roll her eyes.

“Just because your share is a cat, doesn’t mean you have to act like one all the time.”

Amadhay stuck her tongue out. “I like fish, you butt.”

The vendor turned back, shoving the sleeves of deep fried food at them. They almost had grease covered dresses, but pale hands caught the food before it could drop onto them.

“Watch what you’re doing!” Amadhay snapped.

“Hurry up,” the vendor stated, waving them off without another glance, already asking the people behind them what they’d like.

“Thanks,” Ribbon told the person who was holding their food. The man was dressed from head to toe in white, with a full wrap-around snowflake mask, a white suit, white shoes, white skin, even white hair. It was the red eyes that gave him away.

“Careful. It’s hot,” Atlas said, handing them their food.

Ribbon glanced at Amadhay, who rolled her eyes. “Thanks,” she said, taking her fried pizza.

Amadhay turned on her heel to walk away from Atlas, but when Ribbon didn’t move with her, she paused, looking back at her friend as she looked questioningly to Atlas, who was saying something too softly for her to hear, though Ribbon seemed to. Ribbon nodded and gestured with her free hand to her side, where her purse should have been.

Atlas shook his head, and though she couldn’t see his mouth because of his mask, she knew he was giving the brown-skinned woman an indulging smile. He glanced to Amadhay before looking back to Ribbon and handing her a pouch of what were probably credits. The man tilted Ribbon’s head down and the taller woman leaned forward so that he could press his mouth to her forehead in what would have been a kiss is his mouth hadn’t been covered and he had been able to press his mouth to the gap where the interlocking pronds of the snowflakes showed her skin.

“Have fun,” Atlas told both of them loudly enough for Amadhay to hear. He turned before either of them could say anything more, a tube strapped to his back similar to the one Ribbon carried.

Ribbon grabbed Amadhay’s hand. “C’mon,” she said, jingling the credit pouch. “Let’s buy the painting then get you a cloak, okay?”

“Absolutely,” Amadhay said excitedly, letting Ribbon lead her away. As they moved through the crowds, back to the painter, she couldn’t help but to look over her shoulder to see if Atlas was following them. 

Of course he was.


Next Chapter
 

amadhay: (Default)
 in which amadhay asks questions

 

 

“I have a few questions,” Amadhay alerted Atlas as she entered his personal room, dropping onto his bed.

She blatantly ignored the twins lounging there, both undressed.

Atlas, as always, found himself amused by Amadhay’s actions. “And I suppose you wish to ask them of me,” he replied, setting his paintbrush down and looking to her, rather than his models.

“Obviously,” Amadhay replied, making a kissing noise. Mayday hopped onto the bed, onto her chest.

“Well if you look behind you, you will see that I am actually a bit busy at this moment,” Atlas responded, smiling at her.

She glared past him. “I’m not getting undressed for you,” she warned, petting Mayday absentmindedly.

“I didn’t ask you to.”

“You were about to.”

“Was I?”

“You were about to say that you’re busy, but if I would join the models, then you would be willing to talk and work. I know you.”

He smiled. Indeed she did. “If you’re unwilling, then I’m afraid I’ll have to answer your questions later.”

Amadhay glared just past him. “Fine, you can paint me,” she agreed, but made no move to lose her clothing. The twins were looking to him questioningly, obviously a bit insulted that he would ignore them for the girl. Really, if they understood nearly as much as they believed they did about him and his, then they wouldn’t have been confused, much less insulted.

“This is where you say that I can paint you with your clothes on, yes?” Atlas teased.

Amadhay smirked. “Oh no,” she said, making him wonder at the revelation he and the others had come to the other day. As loathe as he was to agree to Kimiko’s unrefined explanation, he did. Amadhay simply didn’t act as if she had never had anyone be intimate with her. “I’m just waiting for you to eye threaten both of these gorgeous men. Don’t want them thinking they might get any more than a look.”

Atlas laughed. Amadhay smiled. He gestured to the twins. “You heard the lady, boys. You can look but don’t touch the glorious clear.”

Amadhay glared at his paintbrush, and if he had to guess by the severity of the glare and the fact that she didn’t deny it, that the glare was more for the jab at her lack of experience than at his mocking words. If nothing else, that told him that their guess had been spot on and the teenager had never been properly intimate with another person, which while disheartening, was also a delight. It was more than he had expected. He wouldn’t say that he wasn’t glad that her love for those back with the Phoegani had never become true enough for her to make it physical. It would be all the easier for him to keep her, especially if she continued with her path. He doubted she would avoid falling for one of them much longer.

In fact, he was positive that she was already feeling love for him, Ribbon, Kimiko, and Tenshu. For such a young soul, she was showing quite a bit of resolve in not acting on that love, especially considering how deep she was into her blunderlust days. Then again, he had a feeling that her clear ways were less because she didn’t love or feel lust, but because she didn’t trust anyone enough to give in to those feelings. If nothing else, she was fairly controlled with her emotions, Kimiko could vouch for that.

But she trusted him. She trusted Ribbon. She even, to a lesser extent, trusted Tenshu, Kimiko, Stefan, and Sha’adahk. They just needed to strengthen that. If her first love, her first true lover was one of them, she would be theirs.

He gestured to her and she reluctantly set Mayday on the floor. The kitten meowed, but she didn’t pay him any more mind as she removed the dress she had undoubtedly borrowed from Ribbon, since it was much longer than her normal clothing choices yet also too tight. For a moment, he wondered if that meant that she was already getting involved with Ribbon, but then he let the thought pass. He would know.

When she was in only her underwear, a particularly eye-catching black lace set with silken red rose decorations down the center, Atlas stopped her. He didn’t know why he had ever doubted that she would actually get undressed. She seemed to live to surprise him.

With a sharp smile, he gestured for the twins to move up from Amadhay, who stared at him with her eyebrows raised and a smirk on her pouty lips, lips stained as red as the roses aligned between her breasts and below her belly button. He wondered who had bought her that set, because he certainly hadn’t. He hadn’t been aware that anyone was buying her underwear meant to be seen. Maybe she was involved with someone and he had simply yet to hear about it. He hoped it was Ribbon. His favorite of his adopted children would be broken if it wasn’t.

 “I find that I like what you are wearing too much to ask you to model without it,” he lied, making her roll her eyes.

“You could have just said that you didn’t actually want me naked,” she pointed out, dropping back down onto the bed, ignoring the still naked men behind her as if they were not worth her attention. Mayday crawled back onto the bed, to her, but she tugged on his tail lightly to make him go away. In an offended huff, the kitten hopped off of the bed and out of the room.

“I concede to your point,” he said, looking over his palette to decide if he needed any new colors now that she was being added. “But I can assure you that I mean no insult.”

The girl shrugged, turning her eyes to the ceiling. He glanced up to see what caught her attention, but saw nothing so fascinating up there and thus turned his eyes back to his painting.

“So, I keep finding myself thinking back to the day I was interrogating you,” Amadhay began speaking calmly, as if she modeled nearly naked on a regular basis. “And something Darach said keeps coming back to me.”

“And what is that?” Atlas asked, wetting his paintbrush to begin adding her to his canvas. A sandy olive color for her beautiful skin.

“That ‘Of course your curse would bring you here,’ or something like that. Are you cursed?”

A true black for all of her hair. He couldn’t help but to notice that even as she lay, her hair was perfectly set to either side of her, making her, as always, almost perfectly symmetrical. “Yes,” he answered her. He decided to add the paler skin of the twins behind her, rather than to go into her details just yet.

“And what is your curse?”

“I always want what I cannot have,” he answered her immediately. “Diable, stop looking so frightened. She doesn’t bite.”

“Oh, I do, but I think you’d like it,” Amadhay denied with a wink back to the twins. Atlas knew that she knew just how much she was getting to them. The light flush on her chest told him she enjoyed it. “How did you get that curse?”

“Why so interested?” Atlas asked instead, working on the second twin now.

“We didn’t say anything about you asking questions,” she countered.

“And I never said that I would answer all of your questions.”

“Now you’re being picky?” she asked, rolling her eyes. “Can you believe him?” she asked of the twins, tilting her head back to look at them. She wiggled a bit to the side, her eyes locked on something low on one of the twin’s anatomy. He could guess where she was staring without even following her gaze.

“Stop moving,” Atlas ordered. “I can’t paint correctly if you keep getting squeamish about penises.”

“Who says I’m squeamish?” Amadhay snapped, avoiding eye contact.

Atlas smirked, adding a red flush to her chest. The red also went to the twins. He loved to watch her squirm. Apparently, though she had no qualms about herself being naked for all to see, she did have trouble being naked with other people. He wondered if it was just men that made her squirm or if anyone being naked with her would have the same reaction from her.

“Why were you cursed?” she asked, and if only to help her get her mind off of the penises behind her so that she would stop squirming, he answered her.

“I took someone who didn’t belong to me. The person he did belong to was angry.”

“So you screwed someone’s knot and got a silly curse?” she joked.

“No,” Atlas responded shortly. He was painting the background because his hand was shaking. He didn’t want to paint on her body when his hands were shaking.

She frowned. “What happened then?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Atlas countered. “Just that it did.”

“What kind of things do you want?” she asked slowly.

He thinned his lips for a moment before catching eye contact with her. “World domination. The Heralds. Interplanetary exploration and then domination. You.” He turned his eyes back to the canvas, purposely ignoring the deep red flush all over her skin. He didn’t want that in the picture.

After a moment of silence, Amadhay seemed to get over his words because she was able to ask questions again. “So how does the Palnoki work?” she asked, immediately making him wary.

Seeing as he was mostly done, he set his paintbrush down, not answering her. He picked up his painting hand towel, wiping off the paint. Diable and Riacaro both sat up at his actions, having been his choice models often enough to know that he was finished. The brothers looked to Amadhay and then back to Atlas, who was pointedly not looking at the girl as he wiped his hands clean. They apparently got his message without him needing to tell them. Both left the bed, grabbing up their clothes and dressing quickly while Amadhay watched them questioningly.

“Thank you both,” he called after them as they were leaving. “You will see the painting soon, I promise.”

And then the two of them were alone. Amadhay raised her eyebrows at Atlas. “Have I asked another question you’re not going to answer?”

“No,” he told her with a smile. “I’ll answer you. I just want to know why the interest,” he answered, sitting at the end of the bed.

She shrugged. “It’s just weird how loyal everyone is to you, I guess. In the Phoegani, no one was loyal to Lord Phoeganis like Scarlet or Ribbon are to you. I mean they work for him because he’s the better of a handful of evils. Everyone here keeps making it obvious that they’re here because they love you. I’m not sure I understand.”

Atlas closed his eyes for a moment before laughing. “We’re a family here, Amadhay. You know that,” he said, handing her the dress she had taken off.

She narrowed her eyes and set the dress down on the bed, tucking her legs underneath her so that she could kneel beside him and be about the same height. “But why are you a family? I once asked Tenshu how he met you and he deflected. Of course, it was when I wasn’t talking to you and was still trying to kill everyone to escape, so I guess he might actually tell me himself now, but either way, I’m asking you. Why does everyone care so much about you? How did you bring them all together?”

“Ah. That’s what you’re asking,” he said, feeling better about her, especially whether or not he could trust her, now that her question was plainer. She wasn’t trying to hurt any of them. She was just curious. She was always curious. He lay back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, trying to determine where to begin.

“Yeah, that’s what I’m asking,” she said, lying down beside him. She had yet to put the dress back on and while he felt like he should insist that she did, he wasn’t going to. It was her choice. He was never going to take her choice from her.

“Alright. I saved most of them. When I first met Mitch, he had just been turned and wasn’t sure what to do with his life. I helped Vlad survive the first years of his second life. Scarlet was on the warpath, wanting vengeance against a clan that had hurt her and her family. Ace, Sha’adahk, and Medica were all slaves. I took them all in and gave them choices. They all chose to stay with me and help me.”

“What about Ribbon?” she immediately asked, then added, as if an afterthought, “And Kimmy and Tenshu.”

He nodded. “Scarlet found Ribbon after an incident and we nursed her back to health. Tenshu needed protection for himself and his brother and I took them in. Tenshu decided to stay when Kimiko latched onto him. I actually saved Kimiko from her people. She’s oddly colored for a succubus and they were going to kill her.”

Amadhay frowned, though he had a feeling it wasn’t about the situations her friends had been in. “What about Stefan and Nico?”

Atlas chuckled. “Those two found me, actually. Tenshu saved Nico from a Feral pack when he was travelling to the Lion Kingdom.”

“Where’s that?” Amadhay interrupted.

“Over the Water. It’s one of the largest kingdoms, ruled by the Lion Lord,” he explained.

She nodded. “What about Stefan?”

Atlas paused for a moment before turning onto his side to look at her. “Stefan is one of my people. He came across the Water to find a better life.”

Amadhay frowned. “Is that why you came too?”

Atlas shook his head, turning again onto his back. “Not exactly, no. I came here on a job and decided to stay.”

“What type of job? What were you before you became King Palnoki?”

Atlas smiled, closing his eyes. He didn’t say anything.

“Is that a question you’re not going to answer?”

He still didn’t say anything, keeping his eyes closed and his mouth shut, though he did keep his smile. She sighed and moved closer to his side, pressing her face against his shoulder. Neither one of them moved or said anything for a few clicks, until finally he moved his arm to go around her. He did it slowly so that she had every chance to move, but she didn’t, instead choosing to move in closer to him, laying her head on his chest now.

“What about your Gift?” she asked. “Will you tell me what your Gift is?”

“I thought you had already figured that out,” he teased her, fully well knowing that the full extent of his Gift would never have even crossed her mind.

“Mmm. I thought I had, but when I thought it over, I realized I was missing something. There is obviously more to your Gift than the ability to force people into sleep. And it’s not like Alphonse’s, which means despite feeling like you Controlled me back on base, you didn’t. The Goddess wouldn’t Gift someone with as much control as it seems you have, not without a limit. No, your Gift is Control. I just can’t figure out what you control.”

Atlas chuckled, genuinely intrigued that she had deduced enough to recognize that he had some form of Control. Though, of course he probably had Alphonse to thank for that. The man had never been very good at controlling himself, only others. “I do indeed have a Control. I control situations.”

Amadhay was silent for a moment, probably trying to understand what that meant. “So…you don’t control people, exactly, but the way things happen? Like you didn’t control Scarlet or Tenshu or Cowboy, or even me, but you did control how we met and what happened when we did?”

“As much as I could, yes,” he admitted, surprised that she understood. In fact, her example wasn’t one of his proudest moments. That situation had been difficult in many ways but mostly, honestly, because she had been difficult to account for, given she regularly got out of his control.

“But you can’t control me very well, can you?” she asked, sitting up with a sudden realization. “That’s why you were so surprised when I punched you! Everything had been going according to your plans until I punched you.”

He nodded, watching her closely as her mind went to places he couldn’t imagine. He hoped he wouldn’t regret letting her know that she was difficult for him to control.

“So why am I an exception?” she asked, sounding genuinely curious and not at all like she was plotting against him.

“I suspect it is your Gift,” he explained. “The temporal affects as well as the spatial hide you when you use either one and my Gift can’t control what isn’t there.”

She nodded slowly. “So every time I teleported or used my speed, I put a hiccup in your plan. But what about when you forced me to go after Cowboy? That definitely felt like you had controlled me to force me to go.”

“I made it a fixed point, a definite instead of a possibility that you would go after Mitch. You couldn’t fight it any more than anyone else.”

She gave a slow nod before laying back down, her head once again on top of his chest. “That makes sense. And when you forced me into sleep, it wasn’t on me. You made the environment force me to sleep. And when you made me calm, you made the surroundings calming despite what I should have been feeling.”

No, actually. Those had both been Ribbon’s spells on the room. He grinned at her, though she couldn’t see it. It wouldn’t hurt to let her think he had more power than he did. “Exactly.”

“Promise me you won’t use your Gift on me like that again? I don’t like the way it feels.”

“Whatever you want,” he promised before running his fingers through her hair. She purred.


Next Chapter

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 In which Johannes’ not Rea

 

 

Amadhay honestly couldn’t put into words how horrified she was that the cyborg had a sharp, pointy object to the back of her head.

Kimiko had rushed off to get Johannes and come back with almost everyone in tow. Ribbon and Atlas had immediately fussed over her while Stefan and Johannes had checked over the wound. The arachin, vampires, and reaper all stood in her doorway, looking in, and Amadhay felt like she was under observation.

“I don’t think everyone was needed to stitch up this scratch,” she muttered under her breath. The looks she received told her that they didn’t appreciate her comment.

“It’s a bit more than a scratch,” Atlas reminded her, holding hair out of Johannes’ way as the cyborg stitched the wound closed.

“And she was going to heal it herself,” Kimiko added, making Amadhay glare toward her when she received more disapproving looks.

“I didn’t know,” Amadhay whined, flinching when she felt the floss-like thread tugging at her skin.

Johannes had immediately numbed the area with a salve before doing anything else, something Amadhay was thankful for. The cyborg had even put gloves on and snarled at anyone who got too close to the wound without her permission. That was the only way this reminded her of Rea. The dragon was incredibly possessive of Amadhay’s wounds, had been since the first time Amadhay had needed medical attention, when she was four and Amaya had nearly drowned her accidentally. For some reason the dragon still refused to explain, Rea had claimed Amadhay as her patient for as long as the girl lived. No one but Rea had ever healed Amadhay, so this was a strange experience for her.

The dragon did things differently than the cyborg did. For one, Rea would have been talking to her, while Johannes had yet to say a single word. Rea had always knocked her out if she had to put in stitches or set a bone, claiming that Amadhay was too whiney and fidgety of a patient. Rea always made her go to the medical wing to be treated, whereas Johannes had brought everything to her.

“There,” Johannes finally spoke, dropping the bloody needle on Amadhay’s vanity table. Amadhay looked at her by way of her reflection in the mirror. She attempted a smile, but the cyborg had a deadly serious look on her face. “If I ever hear of you attempting self healing again, I will tear your brain out,” she threatened, making Amadhay stare at her in surprise.

“Got me?” the cyborg demanded when Amadhay didn’t say anything. Amadhay glanced to Ribbon and Kimiko, who both gave her looks that told her to answer the cyborg.

“Yes?” she tried, glancing to Atlas, who was struggling to keep himself from laughing.

“Good.” Scarlet dropped a piece of mint chocolate in Amadhay’s hand and left the room, taking the four in the hallway with her.

Yeah, Rea had never given her candy either.


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