33: Three Eyes Open
Sohrabarak al-Hakim was waiting for them as they left the dock. He had become something of a familiar sight for Emily these past few days, always lurking in the corner of her vision whenever she left the safety of Himeros’s sanctuary, three eyes open to the world around them. Knowing that Seelie had her back made her decision to take direct action that much easier.
“Enjoy the view?” he asked.
“I never realised how much thought they put into the design of this place,” Emily replied. In truth, it rather disturbed her. It was probably just the inevitable result of letting machines construct an island, but she couldn’t shake that whisper of intuition that suggested it something more, something familiar.
Mr al-Hakim smiled a white flash of lightning. “It is always wise to look at things from multiple perspectives,” he said. “I had thought to maybe see things from the summit of that tower,” he indicated the reflective spike jutting out of the island’s centre. “I hear there is a temple there from centuries past. A shrine to the monsters that once prowled this world, no doubt. Ah, but I digress! What plans have you for this fine young day?”
“Sightseeing,” Emily replied. He would surely know otherwise. “We were just looking for Katrina. Have you seen her?”
“Ms Ritches?” Mr al-Hakim stroked his clean-shaven chin. “I have seen little of her since we arrived. Ms Rogan has been keeping her busy, no doubt.”
Wishing them luck in their search, he wandered off towards a nearby group of gossiping young women, who fell silent as he approached. He had charms to rival a Maiden. From the expression on Dante’s face, however, they did not work on him.
“They told us they had work to do,” he said, watching the Seelie Commander with narrowed eyes, “but whenever I see them, they’re lazing around.”
“Whenever you see them,” said Emily. Taking his arm in hers, she guided him away from the docking platforms. “Keep three eyes open, remember?”
She translated his grunt as an “I’ll try”. Six years of Malkuthian indoctrination did not just disappear overnight. Emily was just thankful that she managed to get through to him before it was too late, and the promises of the Saptamatrikas turned him into another Verraden Sepulturero, another hapless puppet longing for a paradise that did not exist.
Walking the streets of Avalon, Emily wondered how many others had fallen for those lies, and what they had sacrificed to be here. Her own uncle had tried to assassinate one of the Sophist Aristocracy’s Founding Fathers, using her and Alonie, who considered him like a father, as bait. If Leira were to be believed, he had gone even further than that. At the very least, he had crossed paths with Pleiades — if not Arided herself — at some point, if only to obtain his own copy of the Saptamatrikas’ credo, his own obsession with Malkuthian ‘salvation’.
Cut for pacing: extra details on Emily’s uncle and his relationship with one Aureole Kent. Sorry!