Orphic Phantasia

28: An Illusion of Paradise

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Emily paced the soulless lounge. Kaori, after a flustered argument with Joel over his inability to pack contraceptives, had stormed out of their apartment to “survey the local fashions”, as she put it. More likely, she wanted to escape Ceres Mendoza and Korrie Wedekind, upstairs indulging themselves in one other. They were young, after all, all of them victims to the hormones racing through their bodies. No doubt Doyle was already flexing his muscles at the local populace, hoping one of the bronze-skinned, big-busted young ladies would fall for his blue-eyed charms.

Emily didn’t have that excuse. Maidens didn’t have hormones. They didn’t need them. Only Oracles could breed, and they did so when and with whom they desired. Oh, it wasn’t as if seers lacked the necessary organs — they just lacked the knowledge of how to switch them on, knowledge that passed from Oracle to Oracle through the ancestral spirit. For seers, the womb was just a dormant machine, a vestigial reminder of who they could have been had things been different, had the world been different.

For Maidens, there was no joy in the touch of another. For what pleasure they gave — and they gave much, so much that their victims would never want for another — they received in knowledge, information, secrets. A mind lost to the pleasures of the flesh was a mind open to the scrying of the soul. And here, in Avalon, in this illusionary visage of unscarred skies and gentle seas, where pleasure was the drug to numb the nerves to reality, scrying others would be simple, even — she trembled at the thought — understandable. No one would give it a second thought if she did as Prince Freyr asked. They would assume her as lost to the illusion as everybody else.

All too easy.

All too perfect.

“You knew this would happen, didn’t you, Freyr?” She spoke to the vista of blue seas and golden streets, but she knew he would be listening in. He always was. This was his game and she was his star player.

“Freyr?” It was Ceres, stood at the bottom of the stairs, head cocked in contemplation. “You mean Prince Freyr? Of the Court of Queen Áine?”

Emily fled into a moment, severing herself from the outside world. It was important not to panic, she told herself, as the cool waters lapped at her ankles. The Donara had worshipped the Sidhe as deities, so it was natural for Ceres to have heard of Prince Freyr. And it wasn’t as if Emily had kept their relationship secret all this while — just yesterday, she had tried to introduce him to Shelley, Dante and Alonie. Ceres would have found out the truth eventually. The truth always came to light. All she had to do was act natural, pretend like it was no big deal. After all, there was every chance a forest-dweller like Ceres had Sidhe friends of her own.

Back in the real world, she let the blood rush to her bronzed cheeks and put on one of those awkward, try-not-to-smiles, the sort people made when somebody confronted them over a secret crush. “We have a passing acquaintance,” she said. “Nothing serious.”

Kaori’s not homophobic, she’s just pissed because her boyfriend is an idiot.