27: Nothing But Blue Skies
Doyle, sitting there sipping his pint, had no idea what was really going on. His years in the militia had taught him not to question his superiors. If Seelie told him this was a holiday, then that was what he would believe.
But even a simple man had his secrets. The trick was to know where to look for them, to spot the subconscious signs, the cracks in the confident persona he projected for the public eye. It was in the way he groomed, the meticulous curls of golden hair, the trimmed beard. It was in the clothes he wore, always a size too small to accentuate his muscles. It was in his fingernails, irregular—sometimes even bloody—stumps he tried to hide behind splatters of black varnish.
He caught Emily watching him and, blushing, tried to distract himself with the view outside. “Awh, man, I—I think I just saw a couple of minotaurs duking it out down there!”
How easy it would have been to throw out some excruciating line like “You wanna go duke it out with me?”, to reach out and clasp his hand and thread his fantasies into a single, irresistible spell. Ten minutes alone, and all his dreams would be hers.
She placed her fingertips on the back of his hand. This was the moment, this was when her world came crashing down. All she had to do was smile.
Several tables away, Vincent Masters glowered over a shot glass. Two tables to his right, Oscar Whittlesey sat with half a sausage hanging out of his mouth. Behind them, Hermia Adelheid and Horatio Stark had fallen silent.
Reality resumed with a crash of chairs as Doyle stood up and downed the last of his pint. “I’m, eh, I’m gonna be finding Ron. He should be awake by now, right? Yeah. Right.”
He left her there, sitting alone by the window. If ever she needed Prince Freyr to swoop in and cast his illusions, it was now.
Outside, the world passed by. Or, at least, the illusion of a world.
Dante stepped out into the sunlight. The ship’s deck stretched from its shoulder blades down to the small of its back, with little to protect it from the blue skies beyond besides a waist-high railing, which Korrie Wedekind had decided made for excellent seating, despite the numerous benches scattered about the small park.
The other initiates were not so eager to risk their lives. John Smith was hunched over a trio of linked cellulars and projected screens, streams of light buzzing across his turquoise visor while, next to him, Theseus Armstrong tinkered with his arachnid companion and Amanda Hartell wove daisies into a chain. Meanwhile, Lysander Goodfellow, still wearing Byron’s hat, was plucking small shapes from a pouch and hurling them in Malkuth’s general direction. Master al-Hakim, standing in the nearby shadows with his hand on the hilt of his wooden sword, did not care to stop him.
Keeping his distance, Dante made for the far end of the deck, where Katrina was busy adjusting the lens on her Old World camera.
A park, on the back of a dragon, that’s actually a living ship because why not? Imagine what the Vikings would say if you told them ships would come with swimming pools in the future!