26: Y Ddraig Goch
“Out?” Kaori knew how to thread a note of viciousness into her question without breaking her forced smile. “Out where?”
Joel’s face lost what little colour it had. His eyes flicked to Byron in hope of salvation, but the poet replied by pulling his hat down over his face. “We, eh, we had like, a get together, didn’t we Doyle? Like, at my place, remember? A get together.”
Doyle scrunched his face up in confusion, then forced a laugh when the subtext behind Joel’s words sunk in. “Oh, eh, yeah! We had a get together at Gibbo’s. We had a jamming session, yeah. Right, Ron?”
Byron didn’t answer.
“A jamming session?” said Kaori, stroking the back of Joel’s hand with her gloved fingers. “I’m sure that really cheered Orpheus up.”
“Nah, man,” Doyle was leaning on the table now, a half-grin of confidence in his fabrication, “he were too busy with Arachne du Sade. They were, like…”
Poor Doyle, his mouth was too fast for his thoughts.
“So I heard,” said Kaori. “I also heard that Arachne du Sade violently assaulted my boyfriend in a very sensitive area. Do you know why that might be, Doyle? Joel says the memory is so traumatic that he forgot what happened. Of course, if I were to learn he invited some wanton harlot like her to his place, a knee to the groin would be the least of his worries…”
Joel’s face broke under the pressure, splitting with a nicotine-stained grin of nervous laughter. “I—it weren’t anything like that,” he said. “It’s just, like, you know, what you said about trying to cheer Dant up, yeah? I figured he needed, you know, like, something to take his mind off things. So I, eh, I introduced him to Arachne…” his smiled faltered and his words faded to a mumbled whisper of “attheworldsend”.
Kaori continued to stroke his hand. “What was that, darling? It almost sounded like you said you took Orpheus to the World’s End, but that would be a really very silly idea, now, wouldn’t it?”
Joel was lucky that the Theatre staff arrived when he did. As Azhara’d al-Hakim and his younger brother passed by, Kaori even flashed them a cheerful smile. The last thing the daughter of a Seelie empath wanted to do was lose her temper in public.
After a reassuring speech from Ms Thorbjorn—designed, no doubt, to calm any concerns of approaching war—and an unsurprising interruption from the perennially late Ceres Mendoza and Korrie Wedekind, the ship’s captain made her appearance.
Emily had suspected, the moment she stepped through the cloaking field, that the cruiser was more than it appeared. The souls of machines, even those with rudimentary awareness, did not radiate the fire that defined others, yet the moment that beast’s eye had settled on Emily she sensed its acknowledgement, the blazing warmth of its sapient soul.
She appeared now in a show of aethereal fireworks that most would excuse as a holographic light-show, but Emily knew better. This woman, this Winnifred Ddraig Goch Eurwen, was the ship itself, taking human form to address its passengers.
Emily had lived underground long enough to hear the stories of manifest entities and ensoulled monstrosities, of ghosts and spirits and spectres who, through ritual and sacrifice, religion and science, took for themselves physical forms, bodies to anchor them and nourish them, to give them power and influence over matter and over people, power to reshape the world and the aether in turn. Such power, however, did not come without a price and, from Emily’s experience, that price was rarely a pleasant one.
Magic’s all fun and games until science start to analyse it.