With their midsummer exams behind them, the initiates embark on a week-long vacation to the island of Avalon, which promises to grant their every desire. But Paradise has a price, and while Dante comes face-to-face with the truth behind his mother’s disappearance, Emily finds herself the centre of some unwanted attention…
Chapter 25: The Morning After
A hung-over Dante sits in on a lecture from Phoenix Rogan regarding their upcoming holiday. She has obtained footage that portrays their destination, Avalon, as some kind of hedonistic paradise — but muses that there must be a price for such luxuries. She believes this price has something to do with Avalon’s status as a secret training ground for Seelie cadets, prompting Byron to suggest he and Emily stay at home. Emily, however, is determined to go — because, thanks to Prince Freyr, she doesn’t have much of a choice.
While Dante packs him bags with Katrina’s enthusiastic help, she heads downstairs to speak with Leira. Leira, however, has no plans on going to Avalon, despite what she told Emily the previous night, leaving Emily to presume Freyr has ‘persuaded’ her to say. Having packed her things, she joins Dante, Katrina and Byron as they head for the Theatre grounds and the ship that will fly them south.
Chapter 26: Y Ddraig Goch
The ship in question turns out to be a Seelie vessel that takes the form of a giant dragon capable of concealing its presence from the outside world. Not only that, but it contains technology unlike anything the initiates have seen in Torsten — as well as its own, immaterial soul. Dante balks at the idea, of course, but it leaves a bad taste in Emily’s mouth. After Commander Thorbjorn reassures the initiates that the holiday is in no way part of some Seelie plot to make them officers, the ship begins its journey to Avalon.
Chapter 27: Nothing but Blue Skies
While Emily struggles with the Lord Freyr’s request that she scry her peers, Dante escapes to a cabin, where he starts to question the world around him. Escaping to the ship’s deck beneath the protection of his cloak, he finds Katrina taking photographs of the view. Speaking with Emily, she points out how it’s all an illusion, pointing out the lack of Theia in the sky as proof. As the ship approaches the gigantic Seventh Wall, which protects the lands of Malkuth from the raging oceans, Sohrabarak al-Hakim tells a story of how, as a young man, he saw Theia shift in the sky — the moment that convinced the world it was going to fall.
Chapter 28: An Illusion of Paradise
The initiates reach Avalon, but first they have to step through a barrier to authenticate their arrival. Afterwards, Dante takes up residence with Joel, John Smith, and Chris Shaw, who is happy to explain the advantages — and drawbacks — of modern technology. Realising the island is draped in much the same illusion that surrounded them on their journey there, Dante starts to question the validity of this ‘Paradise’ — and, indeed, the things Arided told him, all those years ago.
Emily, meanwhile, is still reluctant to scry her friends, even thought their current environment would give her the perfect excuse to do so. Then Ceres Mendoza, a survivor of the Donara, questions her connections with Prince Freyr — and asks if Emily can help her track down a local spirit.
Chapter 29: The Prophecy
Ceres, and her girlfriend Korrie, are searching for Himeros, whom Emily suspects a Sidhe with connections to Prince Freyr. Their search takes an unexpected turn, however, when they hear of a ‘prophecy’ that suggest Emily will ‘destroy paradise’. Under threat from the local populace, Emily escapes into a hitherto unseen passageway that leads into Avalon’s backstreets, where she meets a man called Rorric. Rorric states that he works for the Fortunate Isles, the organisation that owns Avalon, and suggests that Emily come with him to escape the angry mob.
Rorric, however, is using magic to manipulate her, as revealed when Ceres and Korrie come to her aid. Leaving him in Seelie custody, they continue their search for Himeros, who turns out to be a faerie — an elemental spirit who has yet to earn the acknowledgement of the Sidhe Court — that lives in a secluded cottage alongside others who have escaped Avalon’s illusions. Contrary to Emily’s beliefs, he has no connection to Freyr — but he does know that the Sidhe Court has assembled to accuse Prince Dionysus of treachery, and the result could shatter the very foundations of both the Courts and Seelie itself.
Chapter 30: The House of the Soulless
Joel drags Dante out of their holiday home on a quest for cigarettes, which the Avalonian vendors refuse to supply. This brings them to a Seelie arcade, where cadets and officers can indulge in a variety of games, both simulated and fully-immersive. With the local Seelie troupe believing the initiates cadets themselves, the two friends enter a game that should appeal to both Joel’s lust for action, and Dante’s interest in puzzles.
Dante, however, having never entered a simulated reality, has trouble telling the illusion apart from the real world, while Joel throws himself into the fray without a care. After the raven gets himself in a spot of bother, a panicked Dante rushes about the gameworld and ends up shutting himself in a darkened room. He is not alone however: Shelley Eoghan and Alonie Kent are playing the same game, and Shelley has shut herself away out of boredom. Awkwardness ensues as Dante fears Joel dead and Shelley questions his inability to separate fantasy from reality. The difference is obvious, she says: reality has a soul.
Outside of the game, Dante realises that he must finally choose between the beliefs he grew up with, and those he learned from Arided and the Saptamatrikas.
Chapter 31: Irrefutable Evidence
Dante spends several days investigating Avalon in the hopes he can find the undeniable evidence he requires to make his choice. Avalon, however, does not give up its illusions lightly, and every effort he makes to prove it all a lie backfires. After a picnic with Katrina, where she alludes to Avalon being more than what it seems, he spies Emily and Byron spending time together — but then, whilst Byron has his back turned, a strange man approaches Emily and causes a scene. Dante, spurred on by Sohrabarak al-Hakim, himself keeping an eye on Emily in case a situation like this occurs, learns that this stranger can remove himself from people’s memories. Fearing for Emily’s safety, he follows her to Himeros’s sanctuary.
Here, Emily reveals that a number of men with similar powers have harassed her of late, and she decides it time to tell Dante why. Taking him to a sealed room beneath the cottage, where no secrets can escape, she reveals that she carries the Brand of the Erebus.
Chapter 32: Acceptance
Free of their fears and anxieties, Emily and Dante discuss their lives and how the Erebus has affected them. They conclude that Pleiades, the force that attacked Emily’s family, has links to Arided and may indeed be the Erebus made manifest. Using her powers, Emily allows Dante to see the day she learned she carried the Brand, when her uncle, having failed to assassinate a Founding Father of the Sophist Aristocracy, chased her into the underground and, delusional, tried to strangle her. Realising that Emily’s uncle, whose obsession with saving his sister-in-law led him to embrace the words of the Saptamatrikas, represents what he could have become, Dante finally accepts that Arided lied to him and agrees to help Emily confront the forces behind everything that has happened thus far.
The next morning, they take their leave of the sanctuary, only to cross paths with Himeros, recently returned from his own world. He informs them that, while they were sealed away, another strange figure came looking for Emily. Only this one had no hint of magic about him…
While working undercover as a bodyguard, Azhara’d al-Hakim learns of the local sultan’s plans to capture Emily and that a ‘gestalt’ has infiltrated the island.