Chapter 25

The Morning After

Dante studied the ill-coloured mixture slopping around his mug. It looked less like a cure for early-morning nausea and more the result of it. Katrina had thrown the ingredients together while he was in the shower. It was a Theseus Armstrong special, she told him, something he’d picked up during his time in the militia.

Dante had yet to take a sip. He had embarrassed himself enough without needing to regurgitate some strange cocktail over the lounge table.

Opposite him, Byron d’Arcadie raised a mocking eyebrow. Slouched across the sofa, shirt unbuttoned and glossy hair cascading down his shoulder, the verbose poet was everything Dante, with his messy hair, dirty stubble and sleepless eyes, was not. It was hard to believe he had escaped that sweaty throng of anarchy with nary a scratch to show for it.

And then there was Emily. Emily, whose innocent, pale-winter eyes and cheerful crescent-moon smile did not belong in a place like the World’s End, with its depraved crowd of omnisexual polyamorists and wanton hedonists. She was too good, too kind, too pure for such a hovel, and yet there she was in his flashes of drunken memories, her eyes almost seeming to glow in the nightclub’s gloom, her voice like a soothing breeze in the middle of a raucous hurricane. Without her, he might never have escaped.

For the first time since he entered the lounge, she looked his way. Her eyes, so bright in memory, were bloodshot with sleeplessness and her lips, so often a smile, were clenched thin. Ashamed, Dante turned away.

With an obnoxious cough, Phoenix Rogan drew their attention to the end of the room.

“It is not my place to lecture you on tardiness,” she said, fixing each of them with a stern glare that suggested it really was, “but the three of you should know better.”

It was half five in the morning and their ship left in thirty minutes. Phoenix, her hair tied back and tucked into a coat too thick for the current season, was there to provide them with a ‘briefing’, according to Kat. With a silver baton clasped in one hand and an oversized cellular in the other, she looked about ready to deliver a ninety-minute talk on local politics.

With an accusatory frown, her manic eyes settled on Dante. “I would suggest you get that medicine down you, Mr Orpheus,” she said. “You cannot spend your life relying on Malkuthian miracles to make everything better. Speaking of which…”

She gestured her baton and a wave of blue letters traced themselves across the lounge wallscreen, spelling out ‘The Fortunate Isles’ to the sound gentle waves and the squawking of birds.

“This,” she said, “is Avalon.”

I spent so long writing and revising the first three episodes I never thought I’d see the day I started the fourth!