Atlas watched the other Selkie swimming away like his life depended upon it, which it did. If he'd stuck around, he would've met the same fate as his friend. As he wondered why a Selkie would even attack an Undine, Iris spoke, making him automatically stiffen.
"Umm.. Thank you for saving me. I didn't know I was in Selkie territory.. I thought they were further west than thi-"
Iris froze as she her thoughts ran wild a moment; "Are you a Selkie?! Did you save me just to keep me all to yourself?!"
Atlas scoffed; "Do I look like a fur-covered blob to you?"
Iris was quite a moment, prompting Atlas to turn around and look at her. That was when he finally noticed the glow. 'Oh shit', was his first thought. Atlas' second was that it was impossible. 'Why didn't it glow the first time I met her?! WHY NOW?!'
As Atlas panicked over the possibility that the Undine Queen was going to be his bride, he finally looked at Her. The Queen's eyes were red and bloodshot as she squinted at him. Looking at her now, he realized she probably couldn't tell what he was or wasn't. But the glow was undeniable.
'Can she really not tell who I am?'
Atlas' thought was confirmed when the Undine Queen said; "Kinda.. I can see that your tail is green, so that's a relief. Are you an Undine? I'm Iris, by the way. Were you exploring too? This is my first time out of the pa-house, so I was looking at everything I could before I had to head back."
Atlas was surprised that the Queen of the Undines was such a nervous chatter box. She hadn't been this way before. 'Is it because she thinks I'm one of her people? She didn't introduce herself as the Queen, either.. What is with this woman?!'
Clearing his throat, Atlas replied; "I was exploring the reef when I heard you yell. You shouldn't be out here, it's not safe."
Iris chuckled; "I suppose you're right.. Umm, hehe. Could I ask my savior for one last favor? Could you guide me back to the palace? I can't really see and don't feel like getting eaten on my way back. I can find my way home from there..Please?"
'So she's hiding the fact that she's the queen, hm? Why would she if she thinks I'm an Undine? Maybe she snuck out? Ah! This has gotten so complicated!'
Atlas sighed deeply. This was not what he had planned at all. He was supposed to kidnap her, not save her and escort his now future bride home.. 'Wait.. Maybe this can work in my favor! If I marry the Undine Queen, I'll have complete access to her and her powers! I could force her to save my people!'
As the happy thought occurred, so did a pessimistic realization: she wasn't mentioning the blue glow. It was clearly coming from around his neck, and only the royal families had anything like the Fate's Spindles necklaces. The glow could only Be from one thing, and only a Very select group of people had them.. 'Why is she not saying anything about it?'
His curiosity was killing him, but Atlas didn't want to bring it up. As far as she knew, he was an Undine who happened upon her and saved her. They were scheduled to meet in about two weeks to discuss his idea for an Endangered Species Law.
When he appears before her then, their necklaces with glow, and their inevitable wedding will begin to be planned. Atlas didn't like the idea of having to marry her because of some idiotic tradition, but at least he could save his people with her power...
'Her Power! Why didn't she use her powers to fight off the Selkies?! She didn't know that anyone else was around when they attacked. She could've easily killed them and gone about her business, so Why didn't she?!'
"Well? Are you gonna help me, or do I need to find something to poke around with?"
Atlas cleared his throat as he replied; "No, I'll help you.. As long as you answer one question."
Iris' face lit up with her smile, which did odd things to his stomach. The correlation didn't register with Atlas as they slowly swam back towards the Undine territory. He was too busy trying to figure out how to word himself.
After several minutes, Atlas finally spoke; "When you were being attacked, why didn't you defend yourself?"
"How was I supposed to-"
"With your powers," Atlas stopped in front of her; "Why didn't you use your powers on them?"
Iris sucked in a sharp breath, then sighed as if in defeat as she replied; "You knew I was the queen this whole time?"
"The Undine Queen is the only Undine with your shade of blue. At least that I'm aware of," Atlas lied through his teeth.
Iris quirked an eyebrow; "My color? Really? ...Ok, I guess that makes sense.."
While Atlas sighed in relief, Iris panicked inwardly. 'How the hell would I know how many blue Undines there are or what they look like?! Oh crap; is that something the Undine Queen Would know?!'
As Iris inwardly fretted, Atlas watched her facial expressions constantly change. It was amusing to watch, and brought a smile to his face. Her attitude reminded him of a child still in the process of learning, which was also a bit concerning to him.
'If she's this ditzy when her guard is down, how the hell does she run the Kingdom?!'
Atlas had final say in every decision made in his kingdom. He was the king; it was not only his job, but his responsibility. The fact that she could be so easily duped was a sign that the Queen had no realauthority within her own kingdom. As least that's how it seemed to him.
Annoyed by her lack of sense of responsibility, Atlas stopped Iris and asked; "Do you govern the Undines at all, or is that something others handle for you?"
The tone he'd used instantly irritated Iris, but she kept her cool; "I've been ill lately, so the responsibility has mostly fallen to my High Acolyte."
Atlas scoffed; "So you're just a pretty head piece after all.. That's a bit disappointing-"
"Selena is my dearest friend, and I trust her with my life. And who are You to question me? I'm doing my best, here!"
A familiar look of indignation flashed across Iris' face before she took off towards the palace. Atlas considered letting her go off on her own, but couldn't. She reminded him of someone he used to care for, so his heart badgered him into chasing after her.
When he caught up, Atlas grabbed Iris' hand and yanked her to a stop. She whirled around and instantly slapped him across his face for grabbing her. He stood stoically still as he slowly turned his head back to face her.
Iris still couldn't make his features out clearly, but she was close enough to see that his hair was a white color instead of the same green as his tail. The tail and hair on Undines matched. As the realization hit her, Iris couldn't help but ask in a fearful voice; "You're a mermaid, aren't you?"
Atlas' voice was stern as he replied; "Merman.. The term is merman."
Seeing the fear cover her features sent a pang through his chest. Atlas knew that they were going to married once everyone else saw their necklaces light up. Having his future wife fear him wasn't exactly his idea of a good start.
On the other hand; Atlas couldn't flat-out tell her that he was the King of the Merfolk, either. She would react badly no matter what he said because he'd already lied, but she still didn't know who he actually was..
Releasing her hand, Atlas turned to Iris and spoke as evenly as he could; "I'm a guard for the Merfolk King, and I was sent here to keep an eye on you. I'm not here to hurt you, only observe. When I saw you in trouble, I felt it was my duty to help you.."
"Even though I Know that you are more than capable of defending yourself," Atlas added with a scrutinizing stare.
Iris felt relief and unease at the same time. She knew the likelihood of him lying again was high, but she couldn't fully tell which parts. The only parts that seemed genuine were the bit about not wanting to hurt her, and his last line about knowing she was capable of self-defense.
Wanting a better look at him, Iris started to rub her eyes. Atlas immediately, but gently, grabbed her hands as lowered them as he said; "You should wait until they can be properly cleaned. You don't want to scratch your iris."
The Undine Queen snickered as she tilted her head down. Confused, Atlas asked if something was wrong. When she shook her head in the negative while still giggling, he tilted his head quizzically, and asked; "What exactly is so funny?"
Calming herself, she replied; "My name is Iris, so-umm, nevermind..it's a dumb thing to laugh at."
As her cheeks began to flush from embarrassment, the Merman released one of her hands as he smiled. She still couldn't make out his features, but heard the mirth in his voice as he said; "Let's get you home before you're missed.."