Atlas held Iris' hand almost the entire way to the palace. She noticed that his was much bigger than hers, as was his frame. His hair was clearly tied back into a long ponytail, and his skin tone was a lot tanner than she'd seen in this world so far.
She couldn't tell what his face looked like, but Iris could tell that he was quite muscular. His shoulders were broad, and his tail was much thicker than hers all around. The strap holding his trident on his back pushed into his skin as he swam.
The Merman hadn't given her a name yet, only his occupation. Curious, she stopped him to ask. That was when Atlas had finally noticed that they were still holding hands.
Releasing his grip, the Merman replied; "I am a simple guard who was never meant to be seen. If I give you my name, I may get in trouble later.."
Catching his meaning, Iris stated; "You want me to act like this never happened."
"I would greatly appreciate it," he added with a lighter tone.
"Then what do I call you?" Iris asked with slight irritation.
After a moment, the Merman smirked and said; "Savior works just fine for me."
She couldn't see his smirk, but Iris had heard the amusement in his voice. 'I did call him that, didn't I? No, I don't care.. I'm Not calling him that as a name!'
"I'm not calling you that. How about... Trident? Since you carry one and all."
Atlas actually let a small chuckle slide right as he replied; "A little unimaginative, isn't it?"
Iris smacked the side of his arm lightly; "Hey! I could've gone with flipper! Do you have any better ideas?"
Even though Iris couldn't see his expression, Atlas looked like she'd slapped him again. He blinked at her a few times with a blank stare at the reference. 'Where did she pick that up from?!'
After a solid minute of awkward silence, Atlas asked; "What's a 'Flipper'? Is it a kind of fish?"
'Ah.. Of course that reference would've gone over his head..'
Fumbling her words, Iris managed to get out; "It's what the Undines call dolphins, or so I've been told."
"By who?!" The sudden emotion in his voice was a mix between excitement and hope.
Taken aback by his mood swing, Iris blurted out; "I don't know, it was just something I read somewhere, I guess."
Atlas wanted to press her for more information, but Iris seemed to shrink back at his sharp reaction. 'I've done it again.. Now she's scared of me again.'
Clearing his throat, Atlas apologized; "Sorry for the sudden reaction. When something interests me, I tend to become very intense.. I've never heard that term before. I guess since dolphins are the Undine's main means of transportation, it would make sense that you have multiple terms for them."
"What do Merfolk use?" Iris asked, not thinking.
Her hero's eyes went hard as he asked; "You just met with my king almost two months ago.. You saw him on his hippocampus as he approached your palace."
'Crap.. That was Before my time!'
The only thing Iris could think of was phrasing it as close to the truth as she could. If the Merfolk king had sent one spy, there was probably at least one more within the palace as well. Not to mention that the other Aquarian Kingdoms most likely had spies too..
"Can you swear Not to tell your king?"
Atlas wanted to chuckle at Queen Iris, but reframed as he replied; "I swear that I will not say a single word.."
Technically he wasn't lying.. HE wasn't going to say anything, just listen to her. 'The fact that I am the king is a different lie, so technically I've only lied once.'
Licking her lips, Iris explained; "Until recently, I've been extremely sick. I had a high fever while unconscious for three days, and am having a few memory issues due to it. That's why I didn't remember where the territory line was, or what your king rode in on."
Atlas nodded as he listened to her explanation. He knew she'd been gravely ill based on his reports from the soldiers that usually did his spying for him. The only reason he was out personally tonight was because he couldn't stay at his palace any longer.
The former Merfolk Queen was driving him insane with her complaints. Everything from the way Atlas ran his kingdom, to how he was 'wasting good money on the bottom-feeders of their society'.
With his patience gone, Atlas figured he'd better leave before he threw her in prison with the former king. Seeing the shift change about to happen, Atlas secretly relieved the soldier meant to be stationed outside the Undine Queen's quarters, and took his place.
The soldier was more than a bit shocked that the King himself wanted to go, but didn't argue. Since the he didn't want anyone knowing, it wasn't like the soldier could get in trouble. And the king himself said he'd still get paid for the night's work. He just had to keep quiet about it.
The reports about a giant serpent appearing right outside of the queen's rooms had already peaked his interest. Seeing the layout firsthand as defined within the report would give him a better understanding of the creature's true size. That, combined with his mother's rantings made any possible chiding from his council seem insignificant.
It wasn't that Atlas couldn't leave his palace. He was just supposed to take an escort of guards with him wherever he went, which he hated doing. He'd fought in a few battles on his own, and knew how defend himself easily.. However, he hadn't of been expecting to use his skills.
Saving the Undine Queen instead of kidnapping her was an odd turn of events, but it worked to his advantage. 'I can't imagine how she would've felt or reacted later about having to marry her attempted kidnapper. Marrying her savior has a Much higher probability of working in my favor..'
Realizing that he'd gotten lost in his thoughts and that Iris was now staring at him strangely, Atlas replied; "That makes sense.."
Seeing an opportunity to gain information, Atlas continued; "There were reports of that, but.. I was stationed here about a month ago when a large creature appeared in the sky.. What was it?"
Iris didn't like that he was being so obvious in his pumping her for information, but he was keeping her secret, as far as she knew.. 'What if he Does tell the king everything I've said?! He has no reason to worry about his identity being revealed if he goes back and tells him everything!'
As Iris panicked, she realized that the truth would be his best deterrent; "Oh! That? Well, that was just my good friend Levi coming to check up on me. He's staying with me until I fully recover, to keep me safe. He was napping when I slipped out."
"That monster is your friend?!" Atlas tried to act like he'd really seen the thing instead of just having read a report describing it.
"He's not a monster, jerk! He's a God! The great God Leviathan! I just call him Levi as a nickname."
Atlas was beyond shocked at the news. 'WHY is the God of Wrath friends with the Undine Queen?! I thought the Gorgons worshipped him?! Why is he buddying it up with the Undine's Queen instead of them?!'
Feeling his head begin to hurt, Atlas shook it side to side before he replied; "That's Insane, but I believe you."
Iris smiled broadly at him in response. 'Haha! There! Even if he Does tell his king, he won't do anything rash. Not unless he wants to deal with Levi! ...Guess I have to tell him everything now.'
Before Iris could delve too deeply into her thoughts, 'Trident' told her that they should keep going. They swam together a few feet before Iris started bumping into things. Sighing deeply, Atlas grabbed her hand again, and guided her until they had reached his spot near the palace walls.
Once there, Atlas told her to swim straight ahead, and someone would see her and help her get into the palace. As he went to leave, she grabbed his wrist with a pleading expression.
"Wait! Can you please help me get over the walls? I'll get in trouble if a guard has to let me in."
Atlas quirked an eyebrow at her; "Who would yell at you for walking around your own palace?"
Iris put her hands on her hips as she replied; "You wouldn't understand.. I don't get to do anything alone. I have to argue just to bathe alone! It's beyond frustrating sometimes.."
Atlas so Badly wanted to tell her that he could relate, but he couldn't without blowing his cover. His heart clenched at the sight of her sadness, which confused the sense out of him..
Instead, Atlas settled for a slightly abrasive pep-talk; "I can't relate, but I can tell you that you don't have to take it if you don't want to. What's the point of being a Queen if you have to make all the hard decisions, but never any of your personal ones?"
After Iris had digested his advice, a bright smile lit her face as she said; "Since you're giving me friendly advice, does that make you my friend?"