A Warrior’s Dream
Chapter 21: The Scary Truth
With all Pax had, he struggled like a tied up canine as the bastard Outsiders dragged him through the sky and away from Level 1. Millo was there and could be in serious trouble if he didn’t get back soon, but as hard as he tried, tugging relentlessly at the chains wrapping his ankles, he couldn’t get free. If he pulled anymore, it was likely the razors would cut though his skin and leave me footless.
There were a total of two Outsiders surroundings him. If I had his precious blade he could cut through them without trying. For a time even, he wondered why his anger wasn’t taking over. The last time he recalled using the uncontrollable wrath that lived inside him, it was when Millo’s life was on the line, and as far as he knew it, it is, but why wasn’t he getting dangerously pissed?
Then the answer hit him.
The first time he witnessed his fury was when that Outsider attacked him at the Falls of Gaea, but he didn’t feel controlled by infuriation until he got to his blade at the edge of the lake’s shore. The moment he touched the handle of the blade he remembeed blacking out… same thing that happened with the Chimera.
He was defenseless and would be underestimated without the Sacred Blade. Heneeded it.
“At last,” an Outsider that called himself Marbell said, and Pax looked up from the ground littered with ash-like trees crawling with dodgy creatures. “We’ve arrived.”
Pax was faced with a mountain, but not just any mountain. This one was almost as tall as Mount Olympus, and though he'd never been there, it could always be seen just with the horizon once the fog in the distance faded. Mount Cronos. It is said throughout the Levels that this mountain held one of few doorways to the Underworld. Could that be where they were taking him.
To the Underworld?
“Cramer!” Marbell called to the other white haired Outsider. “You may go now, report to the Queen that the Vindex has been capture.”
“Not for long,” Pax said, “I’ll get out of this.”
Marbell glanced towards Pax and gave Cramer a nod that it was alright to leave. He released the chain attached to Pax's leg in Marbell’s hand and soared back East where the palace to his Queen laid.
pax gawked evocatively at Marbell. He wasn’t like the rest of the Outsiders, however. He seemed younger, younger than Pax in fact, almost looked as old as Millo, fifteen maybe sixteen years of age. His white hair was just below his ears, eyes a pale gray, two long swords at his side, and though his body seemed a bit smaller than the rest, it was still fitted in steel and looked unbreakable… all expect his head.
Marbell remained motionless for an amount of time, and for some reason Pax could depict a trace of dither with every time he peeked over his shoulder towards where Cramer had flown. Checking if he was as far as possible.
“Listen to me,” Marbell finally said meeting Pax's unpleasant eyes. “I’m going to need you to trust me.”
Pax almost erupted with laughter, “What makes you think I’d do that? I’m not as stupid as you Outsides may think.”
“You’d be stupid not to. I’m not working for the Queen. I’m working for Lord Zeus.”
There it was again. Lord Zeus. What could he have to do with this? That other Outsider (Nøkken) announced that Zeus had already done enough for Pax, but in his whole life he never remembered neither praying to him nor asking for any kind of assistance.What could Nøkken have meant by that?
“Now,” Marbell sounded wary. “I’m going to release you, but I need your word that you won’t fly off. I can’t have you defy me at a time like this. Millo’s life is on the line, and though Zeus is more concerned with you, Millo is the center of it all. If something happens to him, everything will fall back on you. But I assure you, at the moment Millo is safe.”
“Safe? I’ve been dragged away by you two Outsiders while he’s back at the kingdom with some fraud pretending to be me. I have to get back!”
“Pax, Aphrodite gave specific instructions that no harm would be done to Millo, but we must get you and this blade-,” he held up Pax's Sacred Blade that had been snapped in two by Nøkken, “-to Zeus before they transfer Millo to her.”
Pax's mind settled on one thing he said. Aphrodite. Could he be talking about who he thought Marbell was talking about? Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. Marbell glared at Pax and he’d just realized he released him from the chain around him ankle, but had yet to flee, wonder and confusion kept Pax still.
Marbell wasn’t lying, it was written all over his youthful face. “Pax, by the look on your face, I have a strange feeling you haven’t an idea what I’m talking about?”
“Aphrodite? Goddess of Love… are you kidding me? Last time I checked, she looked nothing like that Queen you’ve got beyond Level 10.”
“Gods can take the form of any one they want. She chose that disguise in order to remain hidden from the eyes of Zeus. Gods are never supposed to show their true appearance before a mortal. She feared if Zeus found her, she wouldn’t be able-.”
“What does a Goddess want with a human boy like Millo? He’s a prince, son of a King to the Levels.”
“I was getting to that. Millo is what you’d call a demigod.”
Pax laughed this time, and couldn’t remember another time when he laughed so hard. His stomach cramped and his cheeks were sore, but even after his eruption of humor Marbell held his same serious gaze. He wasn’t kidding. “Hold on, you’re saying Millo is a child to Aphrodite? She slept with King Heron Corvines…”
That would explain Millo’s unmatched beauty, but a demigod? never would Pax have guessed that’s where he got his good looks from.
Marbell said, “I need to get you to Zeus so he may repair your blade before the morrow. Nøkken will order your fake stand in to take Millo to her then, we’ll cut them off, but first you need your blade. Only you can unlock its true power, and with it you can take back Millo, take him far away from Aphrodite. Zeus would have you do so.”
“How long will this take? I have to get back!”
“Taking a short cut through the Underworld is the fastest route to the Temple of Zeus, there he will be waiting for us. He’ll fix the blade then, and we’ll be on our way. Besides, if anything does change about their plans… if Nøkken plans to have Millo taken to Aphrodite early for some reason, myself and another have made a tip that will hold them off, but surely Millo will be kept safe. Zeus has ordered us to, me and my partner Crest to make sure we do at least that for you. He has a message for you, but I feel it best he tells you himself.”
Pax understood perfectly, but, “How do I know I can trust you?”
Marbell dove down the face of Mount Cronos as Pax followed willingly. He just wanted to be sure of his motives before he found himself effectively working alongside him. Marbell lightly snickered to himself, settling on the ground before the mouth of Cronos. “Truly, Pax, I feel sympathy for my fellow Anaktó̱n, but they don’t think like I and Crest do.” He looked over and up at Pax, worries in his stare. “Would you go against Lord Zeus?”
Pax find it foolish that anyone would…
* * *
Millo wasn’t sure what it was, but there was something about Pax that told him he wasn’t feeling too well. Pax hadn’t kissed him all day, and was always out doing whatever with one of the villagers. The Pax he knew wasn’t a very talkative person at all, especially to the villagers. Before the day he took Millo from the kingdom he hadn’t shared a word with a villager no matter who they were, but all of a sudden he was willing to speak, especially with a certain log man? Either he was happy to be back or sick.
Millo was leaning more towards sick.
Tennie ran into his bedroom, pleasantry on her pretty girly face. He wasn’t really in the mood to play anymore with the thoughts of how different Pax was becoming in his mind, but he didn’t want to dishearten his friend cousin.
He was dressed in his night gown, ready to head off to sleep when he climbed in his bed.Millo was facing the end of the bed, a pillow scrunched under his head. Tennie hopped up to lie next to him and let out a heavy sigh. “What’s the matter, cousin?” she said thoughtfully.
Millo sighed as well, his eyes locked on the balcony doors. He could see through them, the light of the village far off could still be seen, and he found it odd at that moment when it was clear they were all still awake. By this time, after the sun went down, they’d usually be inside by now. “I don’t know, Tennie. I just don’t feel like everything’s how it’s supposed to be.” Millo stole his eyes from the balcony. “Can I tell you a secret? But you have to promise never to tell anyone, no matter who it is. I love and trust you because you’re my cousin. Can I trust you?”
She giggled, moving closer to Millo with wholesome interest. “I promise, cousin.”
“Okay. The whole time I was gone I was with Pax, the Vindex that watches over the Levels. You know the one that brought your goat back to life.”
She sounded sure, “Yeah, I know who you’re talking about.”
“Well, we’re in love.”
Tennie giggled like the little girl she is. “Oh, that’s so cute. He’s really cute, too.”
Millo smiled, “I know. It’s not official… official, but we’re kind of married.”
“But… ever since this afternoon, he’s hadn’t been acting a little strange. When we were gone, I was pretty sure he loved having me around, to know I’m okay, and always wanted to keep me in sight. I know I’ve been with you the whole time I’ve been back here, but it just doesn’t seem like him to want to tell me to go play with you. He’s spent every second in the village. Personally…I’m starting to think he’s getting tired of me. Do you think that could be it, he’s getting tired?”
Tennie merely stared at Millo like he was crazy, but when she took forever to hand him an answer he found it was one he didn’t want to hear. “Maybe so, Millie. I mean, you are a lot to handle. You’re too affectionate. Maybe… you should let him go before he lets you go. Moreover, I think you’re way too good for him. I mean, come on, he’s a Vindex, all he does it kill. Pax, nor does any of the other Vindex out there, have a heart. He’s probably just using you.”
Millo sat up abruptly, the pillow he was clinging to tumbled off the side of the vast bed. He couldn't believe she’d say something like that. “Lies. Pax does love me. He told me himself I was his reason. You don’t say that to people you don’t love. He does love me, Tennie, don’t say things like that!”
Thebedroom door opened again as a tear ran down Millo's face. Pax was standing there with a stoic look on his face. Millo looked back at Tennie. Was something wrong with her as well? The one he grew up with would never place doubt upon him in such a reckless manner. She’d changed, too.
Millo rose from the bed in tears, rounded the bed with hast to get to Pax. He wrapped his arms around Pax's bare torso, trying to consol himself, but it wasn’t working. I needed his touch. “Pax…” Millo looked up at him, and struggled to push Tennie’s words to the back of his mind. “You love me still, right? You’ve said so. Nothing’s changed?”
Pax's arms had yet to wrap around him and he placed his hands on Millo's shoulders, making hi, take a step back. “Listen, Millo…” Pax's smiled, and this smile scared Millo more than anything, “I’m not Pax.”
A Silver light crossed his eyes, but in that gilt Millo could see something different about his appearance. On the outside he looked just like Pax, the one he loved, the one that would never hurt him, but on the inside, underneath this fake skin, Millo saw the image of an Outsider, the ones Pax had been trying to keep him from. “No,” Millo let out taking additional step back. “Pax. What did you with, Pax!?”
“You needn’t worry about that, now,” the voice of a man came from behind Millo, but Tennie was nowhere to be found, only a well structured Outsider. She wasn’t real. It was him the whole time! Where was his real cousin, then? “Come along, Millo. The Queen waits.”
“No!” he backed away, nearing the balcony doors but found there would be nowhere for him to go but down. “If you touch me, I would have Hades release his Hell.”
“I wouldn’t count on that kind of support seeing as we are his creations. If I were you, I’d just keep hoping your imaginary husband Pax breaks free from his chains in the Underworld.”
“What did you do to him!?”
“We don’t have time for that. When I promised my Queen I’d have you to her as soon as possible, I meant it.”
Millo built my anger, and his harshened. “Fuck your Queen!”
The silver haired man glared ruthlessly at Millo, as if wanting to drive his fist in Millo's face but he knew he wouldn’t.
The one who called himself Tennie approached as Millo backed away, taking his arm and slinging his small body over his broad shoulder without trouble. “You shouldn’t say such things about your own mother.”
What did he just say?