Orphic Phantasia

36: The Scrying Game

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As she escorted him to an empty booth, she threw Dante a reassuring smile. If she told him half of what was going on in her head, he would have disowned her. Don’t worry, she thought, wishing she had the telepathic abilities of Seelie and her parents, I know what I’m doing.

But that didn’t mean she had to like it.

“Is this any better?” she asked, pulling the booth curtains closed and taking a seat next to her target. “Eh, what was your name again? Muriel?”

“It’s Jonas,” he replied, with that same head-tip of respect. “Jonas Meeray. It’s an old French name. Those barbarians wouldn’t know the French language if it sauntered into the room naked and asked for a massage. And you, my lady? Might I be so bold as to ask your name?”

“Jasmine,” Emily grabbed for the first name that came to mind.

“Ah, yes,” Jonas clapped his hands together, “the third daughter of our lovely Lady Jadwiga. A pleasure to meet you.”

“So, about the Sultan.” Emily knew that every word out of her mouth was a gamble, but what else was new? It was, as it always had been, a bad habit. “Is he plotting something?”

“When isn’t he?” Jonas chuckled. His thin lips curled into an amused smile. “I learned of it only this morning, of course, or else I would have taken action sooner. I work in the coliseum, you see. It’s my job to — ah — train the Sultan’s pets.”

Emily thought of the creatures from the tunnels, of the battles that played across the White Rabbit’s wallscreens for entertainment. Synthetics smuggled from the Malebolge, according to Chris, monsters born of science. She wondered how many had souls. A part of her never wanted to find out.

“Risky job,” she said.

“I’m glad somebody understands.” His smile was unnerving her now. There was such a thing as too polite, too fawning. “Well, my position grants me privy to certain secrets, and today I learned that the Sultan is consolidating his forces in preparation for war.”

“War with the Oracle.” That much was obvious from the way the Sultan’s men spoke to her.

“Precisely. And that was something I just couldn’t stand for. I owe our Lady Jadwiga as much as anyone here in Bolventor, and the idea that the Sultan would turn my own hard work against her horrified me.”

It did nothing of the sort. Emily had seen better acting from the Theatre’s yearly pantomime. There was melodrama, and then there was Jonas Meeray — assuming, of course, that was even his real name.

A part of her wondered if her own act was just as obvious.

“So you tried to escape?” she asked. Act or not, Byron always said that there was an element of truth in every tale.

“As fast as I could! We should warn the Oracle as soon as possible.”

Angelo played the genie in the previous year’s panto, opposite Amanda in the role of Aladdin.