Chapter 36

The Scrying Game

The two men turned their attentions onto Emily. “That man,” she said, pointing to their hapless captive, “is under my mother’s protection. I suggest you let him go.”

The denizens of the White Rabbit glared at the Sultan’s men, daring them to defy the Oracle’s wishes. She had power here, influence and prestige the Sultan did not. If his men wanted to press the issue, the odds were against them.

With a sneer of contempt, the larger of the two men shoved their captive into the nearest seat. “You’d best think yourself lucky, Muriel,” he said. “And you,” he looked to Emily, “best tell your mother that the Sultan won’t put up with her shit much longer.”

“I’ll pass on the message,” said Emily, throwing him a disarming smile. For all his anger and contempt, even he faltered before a Maiden. With a muttered “Let’s get out of this dump” to his colleague, he stomped out of the room.

Once they had left and the gamblers returned to their games, Emily pulled up a chair next to the man they came to intimidate. He was a pale, nervous figure with a smooth, ageless face and piercing blue eyes. The light from the chandelier above caught the long lines of his slicked-back hair. Judging by the state of his suit, he had spent the past few hours crawling through the underground.

“You have my gratitude,” he said with a bow of his head. “I don’t know what I would have done without you. Lost my tongue, I suppose.”

Emily smiled, but her third eye narrowed on his chest, searching for signs of Sidhe magic. She knew it was there. She could feel its aura reaching out to deflect suspicion from the moment he entered the room. And there was something else, too, a sense that somebody, somewhere, was watching her.

It pained her to do so and went against everything Emily Fomalhaut stood for, but she reached out and placed her hand on his, used the guise of concern to hide her attempts at reading his thoughts. Before she had chance to, however, he jerked away, almost as if on instinct, as if her touch was like a burning flame.

The old-fashioned way it was, then. Emily’s way.

“So, you upset the Sultan?” she asked.

“You could say that.” He glanced over her shoulder, then to the table next to them, where a group of gamblers tossed cards around with casual abandon. Leaning in as close as he could without making contact with her, his lowered his voice and said, “Perhaps we should talk somewhere more private?”

Like the inside of your head? Emily winced at the thought. It wasn’t her. It wasn’t Emily. Emily was better than that. And yet … and yet there was no denying that peeling back his defences and scrying his soul would give her all the answers she could desire with a minimum of fuss.

It’s all a question of identity.