25: The Morning After
She wondered how many others they had influenced, how many others had changed their mind because of a whisper, a voice that was not there. Even if Veritas had uncovered irrefutable evidence that this was all some Seelie scheme to drag the initiates into war, they would still board that ship, still surrender their lives without a second thought, all because they knew no better, because higher powers had other plans.
But this wasn’t about war, at least not the way Phoenix Rogan assumed. This was about the Erebus. This was about Emily.
With a whisper of apology to her friend, she returned to her room. Her old backpack was bursting at the seams with the amount of clothes she had stuffed inside, but it was preferable to using some machine to churn out hideous, homogenised fashions. After checking her dyes in the mirror and brushing a few wayward strands of silver where no one would notice them, she pulled on a jacket and hoisted the bag onto her shoulders.
She was about to leave her room when she noticed her knife sitting on her bed, a dash of morning sun along its onyx hilt. It had served the Macha well, but Emily Fomalhaut didn’t have need for such a thing.
She slipped it beneath her skirt, just in case.
Byron and Dante were standing outside the apartment, waiting for her. Byron had managed to fit his things into a satchel, but she was surprised to see Dante with a bag that rivalled her own. The poet was admonishing him about it.
“It seems folly to carry so much when vendors bow to near every whim,” he said.
“I thought you hated vendors?” said Emily, drawing the boys’ attention her way.
“I hate that they reduce art to soulless replication,” he replied. “I do not, however, have such sentimental attachment to my underwear. Books, on the other hand…” he patted his satchel. “No technology can replicate the soul burned into the pages of well-worn text.”
Emily stepped out the apartment’s shadow and surveyed the morning sky. Theia’s waxing crescent had already emerged above the treetops to the east. She wondered how the people of Avalon led such seemingly joyous lives when the harbinger of the world’s destruction rose above their heads on a daily basis. The sight of a peaceful ocean had given her some ideas, and she wondered how Dante might react if they turned out to be true. If she could find the words to say to him, she might have asked what he thought of Phoenix’s video, but all she could see when she looked at him was the trembling, wounded soul in the dim lights of the World’s End. She had seen him at his worst and then used that as an excuse to invade his privacy. That wasn’t the Emily he knew. That wasn’t the Emily she wanted to be.
“I see you have followed Orpheus’s example,” said Byron, bringing her back from that dark, damp place where time had no meaning. “And what might you possess that holds such sentimental value? I never thought you a fashionista.”
“My secrets are off the market,” she replied, thankful for the distraction.
“Perhaps if I offered something of equal value?”
“Your entire life’s work wouldn’t buy you a peek.” She cast a smile in Dante’s direction. “Dante, on the other hand, might get something if he paints me a picture.”
He stood there, hands in pockets, lost in a world of his own. Emily wondered what his looked like and if, one day, he might be willing to share it with her. If Prince Freyr had his way, he wouldn’t have a choice.
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You’ve all been there, countless times, in your dreams, in your fantasies, in those moments when all the world is against you and you have nowhere else left to turn, nowhere else left to cry…