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30 March 2013 @ 07:35 am
FIC: Meeting in Shadows, 1/1  
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Story Title: Meeting in Shadows
Part: 1/1
Rating: PG
Configuration: /
Warnings: /
Word Count: 2.000
Setting: 'Phoenix Empire' verse, see Phoenix Empire Timeline & Index
Characters: Milo, Leesha
Summary: A beautiful summer night in Imperial City tempts Leesha to sneak out for a little fun. But as it turns out, he is not the only one seeking to get out of the palace unseen...
Feedback: Yes, please! Constructive criticism welcome!

It was a summer night in Imperial City, as beautiful as they come.

The rain had stopped earlier this afternoon, and since nightfall, a soft breeze brought clear, warm air in from the sea. The city was bursting with life tonight, people walking the streets and sitting in parks, hover cars zipping here and there like excited fireflies. Music drifted up from every quarter of town, and all over, a soft cloud of barbecue smoke seemed to be hanging.

Even the palace’s garden hexant was unusually busy for this time, with small groups strolling here and there, a clique of young nobles having an impromptu party in the pavilion down by the Phoenix Knight Lake.

Completely untouched by the merry chaos below, the top of the gate spoke, the long wing of the palace that connected the Gate Tower with the main spire, lay abandoned in the night. Covered with terraces, roof gardens and walkways, it overlooked both the garden hexant cityside and the palace’s landing strip seaside. Here and there, small lights offered patches of orientation, but mostly, the maze of shrubbery and wooden decks lay in deep shadows.

Which probably was the reason that Emperor Elisander I choose the roof gardens of the gate spoke as his secret way out of the palace.

Cautiously avoiding the better lit patches, Leesha moved swiftly and silently. A dark cloak concealed his outfit of commoner clothing, blue and white commoner clothing, of all things. Appearing deeply concentrated, he covered most of the half-mile distance to the gate tower in only a few minutes, but then he stopped at a young illeiya tree that was growing in one of the planters. Giving the plant a puzzled look, he took a step forward and back again, then looked around the tree as if searching for something hidden behind the barely arm-thick stem.

“Okay, come out,” he finally said, clearly talking to someone else. “I have no idea how you manage to hide behind a tree not wider than my hand, but trees don’t have auras.”

For a moment, nothing happened.

“Especially, trees don’t feel fear or embarrassment. Will you come out now or do I have to call the guards?”

Finally, the tree gave a defeated sigh. As if doing nothing out of the ordinary, a young man walked out from behind the tree, wringing his hands, his eyes firmly on the ground with crushing mortification.

“Please, Majesty, please don’t consider this a fault of my mother. I sneaked out without her knowing, and I will take any punishment you see fit for my transgression.”

“Why should I take this to your...” Leesha started, but then stopped himself. He was talking to a boy of fifteen, maybe sixteen years, and by the look of this tight suede pants and billowing white ruffled shirt, a son of a Cournicova family. A Cournicova son who was not allowed out in public without female guards until he was at least twenty-one, and even then it would be frowned upon. “Oh I see.”

“Please, your Majesty, I am enough of an embarrassment to my mother already,” the boy pleaded, his eyes firmly on the ground. “Do not take this up with her, will you?”

“You’re the son of Duchess Asa of Swansgard, aren’t you?” Leesha asked as he finally remembered where he had seen that mop of blond hair before. “Milo, isn’t it? She didn’t seem embarrassed when she presented you in court, the other day.”

“She knows well how to hide my shame, milord.”

“Seems you’re quite good at hiding yourself,” Leesha quipped, pointing at the tree they were still standing next to. “How’d you do it?”

“I...” Milo started, hesitating at first, then squaring up. “I am a psion.”

That, at least, explained why the boy was so embarrassed. After all, a man with psionic talents was hardly marriage material in Cournicova eyes, and would demand a frighteningly high dowry to get a decent match. No wonder his mother tried to keep his special talents secret for as long as possible.

“That’s quite something, but not really what I was asking,” Leesha said, thinking. “I know a bit or two about psions, and you are like nothing I have ever seen. I hardly even noticed your aura, and yet you are definitely not an empath trying to make me ignore you. So let me rephrase my question - what are you?”

This time, the boy visibly squirmed, his aura flaring with worry and emotional pain. He was obviously afraid to hurt someone, but it took Leesha a long moment to realize what was striking him as odd about the kid the whole time.

“Look at me.” he ordered firmly when he realized that the boy took great effort to avoid direct eye contact with Leesha. “Now.”

Leesha had to physically take Milo’s chin and turn his head up before the boy followed his orders. He had a handsome face with high cheekbones, and in the first instance, there was nothing wrong with his wide, brown-and-green flecked eyes.
But as soon as Leesha looked deeper, trying to see the person behind the eyes, he understood what the boy had tried to hide. As if his pupils suddenly turned into wells of darkness, he felt pulled into Milo’s gaze, enveloped by darkness so profound that it seemed more than the absence of light, but like a physical thing. In Milo’s eyes, Leesha found a void so deep and plain empty that it took him a conscious effort to remember that he was not helpless, and another one to break eye contact again.

“You’re a shadow roamer,” Leesha stated, more surprised than anything else.

“You’re not afraid,” Milo stated, just as surprised. “Whoa. That’s pretty rare.”

Leesha had to smile. “I am the Emperor. I stare into the abyss every morning when I look at the news. I am not easily scared.”

“What would you know about the Abyss?” Milo asked, his voice an adorable mix of wonder, hope and disbelief.

“As I said, I know a thing or two about psions.” Laughing out loud at Milo’s skeptical expression, Leesha added: “Growing up as the son of Lady Lilith did have some advantages, you know? The IIS has access to information like no one else.”

“They’d better,” Milo remarked, still not entirely believing his luck. “It’s what they get paid for, isn’t it?”

“It is indeed.” Looking at the boy at his side, Leesha added: “I think we two need to talk.”

“About what?” Defiant, Milo seemed almost ready to bolt and run.

“About why you are not like other shadow roamers.”

“I am not evil!” it burst out of Milo, his voice almost tilting with pain.

“No.” Leesha smiled as kindly as he could. “Exactly.”

That seemed to calm the boy at least a little bit, and when Leesha gestured him to follow, Milo fell into step silently. For a while, they walked through the carefully manicured forest of the gate spoke’s roof in silence, and it was Milo who spoke first.

“Is it true, then? That all shadow roamers are evil?” he asked, not looking up from his feet.

“It is true that all known shadow roamers were evil, yes.” Seeing Milo’s shoulders sink, Leesha added: “Though evil is maybe the wrong word. They were sociopaths, unable to function within the rules of our society. Some were truly evil, others were convinced they had to do evil things to prevent worse.”

“Will I become a socio-something, too, then?”

Inwardly, Leesha groaned. Did that woman even realized what ordeal she had been putting her son through all his life by keeping his talents secret? He didn’t even want to imagine what it would have to feel like for a smart teenager to wonder if maybe he was on an irreversible path to becoming a monster, every day of his life, with no one to talk to?

“I don’t think so.” Leesha replied honestly. “Just as it is the job of the IIS to know about everything, it is my job to be a good judge of character.” Turning around to face Milo, he stopped the boy and waited until he had his full attention. “And I would trust you with my life.”

“Oh.” This time, Milo didn’t hesitate to look at his Emperor’s eyes. “Wow. So you say, I am still a freak, but a good one?”

Again, Leesha had to laugh out loud. “Yes, you are a good freak.” Scrutinizing the boy again, he added: “And the more I think of it, the less I think it’ll ever change. And you know why?”

“No idea.”

“When a pyrokinetic awakens, his mind fills with the concept of fire. He understands fire like no one else, but just as he shapes the fire, the fire shapes his character.”

“When you stare into the Abyss, it stares right back into you.” Milo quoted with a deep sigh.

“Exactly. Shadow roamers fill with the concept of nothing, they shape nothing, but still have to be.” Giving an encouraging smile at Milo, he continued. “So the nothing within you peels away everything it can, all civilization, all upbringing, every kind of veneer until there is nothing left but a shadow roamers’ true self.”

“That sounds as if you’re making it up right now,” Milo remarked, thinking. “But it does make sense.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Grinning, Leesha added: “And you were right, I was making it up. But it would also explain why you looked through my disguise as if it weren’t there.”

Startled, Milo stared at Leesha, only to blush again violently. “Ah, shit. You were incognito.”

“Indeed. Let me guess, you are not good with social clues?”

“I suck. Big time. Mum’s growing gray hair trying to get me married.”

“I can vividly imagine that.” Still smiling, he looked at Milo. “There are other options than marriage, you know?”

“You mean, like, running away?” Milo seemed genuinely scandalized. “I would never do that to her or my sisters! They love me!”

“Of course she does.” Sighing inwardly, Leesha promised himself to have this discussion another day. Not today, though. “Rats. Thanks to your little distraction, I have missed the changing of the guard, and with it my only chance of getting out of the palace unnoticed.”

“I am sorry?” Milo asked, not entirely credible.

“Ah, never mind.” With a shrug, Leesha added: “There will be other nights I can watch cagefights in the undercity and get a blob-on-a-stick in the old harbor.”

“If you’re trying to rope me into something, just tell me.”

“What about you help me get out of the palace and I won’t say a word about this to your mother?” Leesha suggested.

For a moment, Milo looked at him skeptically, then he replied with a grin: “What about I get you out of the palace, you get me to those cage fights, show me your city, buy me a blob-on-a-stick and I don’t tell the Ruby Guard you go sneaking about town at night?”

Leesha gave a startled laugh at this rapid change from mortified to cocky. “You are driving quite a hard bargain, you know that?”

Milo only grinned and shrugged, already knowing they had a deal. “If we have enough time, can we have a look at the Amadeus Fair? It’s supposed to be so beautiful.”

“It’s going to be packed on a night like this...” Leesha said, already planning route to show the town to his new friend. “But I think you are right, it’s also going to be great fun. Seems we have a lot to do.”

“Alright. Are you ready, then?” Milo asked, offering his hand to Leesha. “But keep your eyes closed. It is quite disorienting the first times.”

“I think I can manage, thank you,” Leesha replied, taking Milo’s hand with a big grin of his own.

“Yeah, right,” Milo replied with a matching expression. “Whatever. Just puke away from me when we come out.”

And with that, the boy and the Emperor vanished into shadows.

Meridaemeridae on March 30th, 2013 08:32 am (UTC)

(Why yes, I do have my priorities right).

Be interesting to see how Leesha arranges for Milo to be properly 'placed' as it were i.e. somewhere his talents will be useful and not destroy him, and both he and his mother will be happy.

Also, naughty Leesha, sneaking around behind the backs of the Ruby Guard AND his beloved pets who will no doubt worry about him terribly.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on March 30th, 2013 09:45 am (UTC)
I am sure Leesha has found a way to make his pet either so occupied or so tired they won't notice him missing. Or he just told them that he needed a night on his own out in town, and that he'd be fine.

The Ruby Guard, on the other hand...
Charischarisstoma on March 30th, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)
*reverently* Milo.

Another Phoenix Knight or something more? Going out to buy carmel popcorn for this one I think.
Wait! 1/1???!!! NOoooooo.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on March 30th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
I am afraid the caramel popcorn will have to wait until 'Sir Milo and the Haunted Mansion'. But yes, at least another Phoenix Knight. Maybe here http://phoenicipedia.wikia.com/wiki/Milo_Cournicova you can find a little more about Milo until then. :D
Charischarisstoma on March 30th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
ETA for Sir Milo and the Haunted Mansion ? I can be patient, really I can.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on March 30th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
err... after 'Serin's Secret Garden', which is proving a real bitch currently. And then, there's also Liviana's next installment, and a bit of space marine porn (literally), and 'The Lost Daughter', and of course the whole story between Bobby and Vian... And just don't remind me of 'Pleasure Cruise - what really happened'. *sigh*

I think once I finish 'SSG', I'll start with the haunted mansion. So, in other words, I am afraid it'll be a while since then.
Beryll: bouncerynthjan on March 30th, 2013 05:19 pm (UTC)
SPACE MARINE PORN!!!! *bounces up and down on hubby's belly* WANTWANTWANT!!!!

Edited at 2013-03-30 05:20 pm (UTC)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on March 30th, 2013 05:21 pm (UTC)
idolme922idolme922 on March 30th, 2013 11:58 pm (UTC)
If I promise not to jump on your belly can I have space marine pron??? I have cookies and ... and whatever you want!

I love Milo!! :D
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on March 31st, 2013 01:53 pm (UTC)
Okay, I promise you WILL get space marine porn. I just really can't tell you when. See my answer to Charistoma above for my 'to write' list... ^^
BerthaBlueberthablue on March 31st, 2013 03:55 am (UTC)
Aww, how cute! Leesha taking someone else under his wing... or, rather, his arm and weapons and status :) Pff, who needs wings?

Makes sense that Leesha couldn't turn down another troublemaker like himself - sneaking past mothers and guards and all - I'd say he's a bad influence, although I'm sure that he will end up being an awesome influence instead :)
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on March 31st, 2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
Well, being under the protection of the Emperor is called 'being under the wing of the Dragon', so your image is more apt than you give yourself credit for.

And I really hope I get to writing more Milo stories soon, cause he's really fun and, as you rightly said, quite the troublemaker.