Atlas [ Chapter 10 ]
“Well, that night was quite something, but I think I will have to cut the story short for now,” said Plâton with squinting eyes. It was as if he was trying to see something just outside his field of vision. “I must say I am surprised there would be so many.”
“So many what?” Atlas asked curiously.
Plâton stood up. “People seeking us. First this John guy and now another rat is sneaking up on us. Though this one isn’t like him. He’s hiding his presence, but it most certainly is there. I’m far too old to miss these things. I’ve been snuck up on by the best and their grandmas.” His voice had gradually grown louder, as if he wanted whoever there was to hear him.
“Another? Aren’t there already ten strong people after Atlas?” asked Ayveron worriedly.
Plâton nodded. “Indeed, we seem to be attracting much attention, though I couldn’t say how. Maybe one of us has a strong musk.”
Someone seemed to know though, and that someone answered with a voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere, that seemed to be many and one: “It is not so much what you do as it is what you are. Careful now…” And then the dancing shadows around their fire seemed to strangely thicken and assume a human shape that grew out of them as if someone had dived in there; as if these shadows were a liquid. As they dripped from that figure, its features became more distinct and revealed a young woman with soft, black clothing, wrapped tightly using dark-green cord, and raven-black hair streamed down her shoulders and back like ink. Her eyes, too, were dark, but her face was fair. “We sure have fallen low for our information to be so spotty: one side tells me you died back at the tower; another claims you were far away, visiting the moving city; and now you are on your way towards Arkatrash by the looks of it. You sure have some nerve, running away just before we plunge into a war that knows no borders!” Indeed she seemed to be talking directly to Atlas.
He inclined his head to the side, unsure how to react, and the sight of her filled him with a very strange feeling. “Your voice… sounds familiar.” He stood up and walked over to her while Ayveron was still stunned by her manner of entry and Plâton seemed somewhat unsure about the circumstances of the situation.
Her eyes widened as Atlas walked towards her. “Familiar? Do you want me to break your legs?!”
Atlas ignored the threat and reached out his hand. She flinched slightly, but didn’t retaliate when she realized that he was just reaching for her face, touching her cheek with his fingers. “Your face is familiar too…” he said slowly.
Her eyes were wide open now, staring into his and slowly they started to water. It looked most curious. “Why… Why would you say something like that? Don’t you know me? Don’t you know your sister?” Her voice was quiet and brittle, breaking up again and again as she spoke, leaving Atlas with a strange tightness around his chest as he looked upon her.
“Ísa…” Atlas mumbled, “why do I know your name?”
She slapped him - twice. Then she shook him by the shoulders, but it took a moment until he realized the pain and became aware of his surroundings again. “What in Helgard happened to you?!” she screamed at him as she cried. “Why are you running away? Why don’t you remember me?!”
Atlas reached for his forehead where he began to feel a strange, throbbing pain. “Because both are true… I think.”
She stopped shaking him and looked at him, not understanding what he just said. “Both what are true?”
He slowly wrung free of her grasp, staring back at her. “That information you spoke about… I did die at that tower and I was at the moving city. I can barely remember you, because while I could feel your presence warmly in the word of Atlas, his were not my eyes and ears. Though now that you are here, I do recall many days of the life that was. I am not the Atlas you know… Ísa… I am sorry, but he did die at the hand of Sameth Gildorn.”
She took a step back, clenching her jaw as her eyes grew darker. “You are not making any sense…” she said hoarsely. Then there suddenly was a sheen of hatred in those eyes as her glimpse wandered from Atlas to the perplexed Ayveron and then Plâton at whom it stuck. “You…” she said slowly. “What have you done to my brother!?”
Plâton slowly lifted his palms, apparently trying to look non-threatening. “You misunderstand the situation, young lady,” he said calmly.
“Misunderstand?! Look at him! He doesn’t remember me! He is running away from the Middle Lands when they need him the most! You have done something to his mind!” She vanished in an instant and just as quickly reappeared behind Plâton.
It took Atlas a moment to realize that she had tried to stab him with some kind of short sword or dagger, but Plâton had caught the blade behind his back with the middle and index finger and thumb of his right hand just as quickly as she had attacked. His defense seemed unreal and yet he had pulled it off as casually as someone else might catch a slow ball thrown at them.
“Please… Ísa, don’t try to hurt them, they did not do this to me…” Atlas finally managed to say. “Do you have time to… talk?”
She pulled and twisted at the sword’s hilt but it did not budge an inch in the tight grip if Plâton’s three fingers. Finally she gave up: “Fine…” she grunted. “Fine.”
Plâton let go of the sword and Ísa put it away. For a moment they all just stood there; then Plâton sighed and sat down by the fire. Atlas followed suit and Ayveron hadn’t even stood up. Grudgingly, Ísa sat down as well.
“Where… should I start?” Atlas asked uncertainly.
She crossed her arms defiantly, looking him in the eye. “How about you start with the part where you died.”
He sighed, this would not be easy. Atlas tried his best to describe the events that led up to his fight with Sam, but before his death his connection with the real world had been indirect and hazy at the best of times. “I cannot tell you what he did, or what I did. I was where I always was: on that icy mountaintop where the snow would fall endlessly, the world that lay inside of Atlas and now lies inside of me,” he explained. “Sometimes the skies would grow so clear that I could catch glimpses of what he was doing. I still remember seeing you, Ísa. It was his duty to live his life and mine to be his power. But the world around him began to change; I could feel it. His trusted friends vanished one by one, and as they did, the scape of my world shrunk down from a grand mountain range to the one summit I dwelled on as he grew ever more guarded.
And Sam… I know little of the world I now walk, but I know the bonds that Atlas had; they were mine as well and Sam betrayed him so terribly that my heart bleeds still. When Atlas came to me in the end, he was beaten and I expected to die with him, but he decided to leave me behind instead. He tore his own being apart, left his body to the scraps and plunged himself into the horror that was beginning to eat at our world.
I am but his soul: that which gives power to man and that which transcends life, caught in a stream of endless reincarnation. But with him gone, I am but half a person stuck in a body that was never meant to be mine.”
The drying tears on her face revealed a sad emptiness that had taken over the place of despair. “What is this…? You’re not dead, you’re not alive; how can I grieve for you when you are like this?”
Atlas looked at her in silence.
“Perhaps I should put you out of your misery then!” she screamed, tears welling up anew, and thrusted a dagger into his chest.
It was a swift and unexpected strike. As Atlas saw the sheen of the blade, he dared to hope, for a moment only, that he was indeed about to be free from this burden, but just as it was with the old man and with Plâton, he could not die and the dagger seemed to hit a wall where it should have plunged into flesh. A small trickle of blood formed a tiny stain on his shirt and where the blade had hit, he felt incredibly cold, as if the blood in his skin had briefly frozen.
“If it was up to me…” he said with a quiet voice, “if it was up to me, I would welcome death. But it is not. When Atlas left this world, he left behind his desire for me to live and carry out his destiny. As a soul I am ever easily bent towards desire, and more importantly: he left his desire with this one.” Slowly he pulled the sword on his back from its sheath, just a few inches, and immediately there was heavy rain all around them; and now they could clearly see it too: a thin sheet of ice that had broken the thrust of the dagger, right around the area of his chest where she had aimed. Atlas sheathed the blade again and as it had the last time, the rain disappeared; and so did the sheet of ice. “He knew that I could not want this life, so he tasked the sword to imprison me in this mortal coil. He left his will with the sword, and so I cannot die.”