Orphic Phantasia

38: A Game of Chance

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“So it would seem,” said Ms Thorbjorn, unsurprised at Emily’s knowledge. “Unfortunately, the Sidhe haven’t been very forthcoming of late, so we have little idea of what their plans are — besides what you have already figured out for yourself, of course.” She managed a slight smile of amusement, congratulations for Emily on a job well done. “Let this be a lesson that the affairs of higher beings are best avoided.”

A lot of good that lesson did her now, but at least it confirmed what she suspected. That didn’t explain the involvement of Pleiades, however, and their so-called ‘G-Man’, unless they, too, were victims of Sidhe scheming.

No, there were still too many questions, too many unknowns. If she was going to stop this from ever happening again, Emily needed to know the truth — the absolute, unbiased, complete and utter truth. And Seelie, for all their good intentions, could only tell her so much.

As the veil of timelessness lifted and Emily felt the breath return to her lungs, warming her chilled nerves, Katrina stumbled out into the corridor.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “Where’s Dante?”

Ms Thorbjorn had vanished, but Doyle and the seer, Jacyntha, were there to provide a rush of answers. As they did, Emily started back towards the casino. Now she knew what was waiting for her, she could act accordingly. “Play along”, as Ms Thorbjorn had put it.

She arrived just as a group of men in khaki uniforms and brown shawls hurled Jonas Meeray to the feet of a middle-aged man, his silken robes so flamboyant they would make Angelo Foley blush. Before he could notice her arrival, Emily scanned her surroundings, surveyed her options and read all she could, then cast her mind into a moment of contemplation. There were four guards, one of whom, she was slightly surprised to realise, was Azhara’d al-Hakim. No wonder Ms Thorbjorn thought she would be safest in the Sultan’s clutches. Ms Thorbjorn herself was mingling with the watching crowd, Sohrabarak al-Hakim at her side. If it came down to a fight, Seelie would win, but it would cost them their cover — Master al-Hakim’s in particular — and turn the casino — perhaps even all of Bolventor — into a warzone. No — so much as the Macha longed for it, violence was not an option. But, if Emily wanted answers, neither was surrender.

She returned from her brief sojourn into her secret world in time for the Sultan to catch her eye. Before he could speak, she cried Jonas’s name, filled it with all the despair and the panic she could muster.

“Ah,” said the Sultan, “you must be Aliza Adel. I am pleased to finally make your acquaintance.”

Emily shook her head, feigned a look distraught confusion; if she didn’t, if she gave even the slightest hint that she acknowledged her real identity, Freyr’s magic would shatter and all the world was see her as she really was. “I—I’m Emily,” she said. “Emily Fomalhaut.”

The Sultan furrowed his brow. So long as he was within Meeray’s magic field, his aura was as unreadable as Dante’s was. “Is that so?” he asked, then looked down at Meeray with a mocking smile. “I expected better from you, of all people, Jonas.”

Time to put all that acting experience to good use.