Orphic Phantasia

29: The Prophecy

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Oracles did not make prophecies. That was the first and only thing on Emily’s mind as she made her way down the darkened alleyway. They gave advice, made predictions even, but they did not make prophecies. The future was not set. Nothing was certain. Even Emily’s life, contrary to how it felt of late, was not preordained. There was always a choice. There was always an alternative.

The alleyway itself was not ready to offer one up, however. Lost in some slice between skyscrapers, Emily found herself moving from one narrow passage to another, little to light the way ahead but a slither of sky high above her. She had fallen into the cracks between the towering spires of Paradise, and now she was trapped there.

Closing her eyes, she tried to find her way through the aether, but this place saw so few visitors, so little acknowledgement, that it barely seemed to exist beyond a spectral haze.

Then, when the way ahead of her took sudden form and substance, she realised she was no longer alone and brought her attention back to the physical world. A breathless figure was approaching her from the shadows ahead, too tall and broad of shoulders to be Ceres or Korrie-Anne. Emily’s eyes, honed through a childhood raised in the lost catacombs of Torsten, picked out a suit and slicked back hair. Without a thought, her hand felt to the hilt of her knife.

The figure stepped out of the gloom. Emily slipped into a defensive stance.

“A—ah!” The figure staggered back in fright as he eyes fell on the edge of the blade. “I—I’m here to help you! Please!”

Emily relaxed, letting the images of walls with eyes and shadows with teeth retreat back to the dark depths of memories where they belonged. This figure was no agent of Pleiades, but a young man in a crisp velvet suit with matching cravat. He looked like he had just run a marathon. Gasping for breath, he propped himself against the nearby wall. Emily’s fingers slid from her knife, but not from her side.

“You don’t make it easy on a man,” he said. He had a youthful voice heavy with the City’s accent. “This place is dangerous, you know? People can get lost down here for days trying to find their way out.”

“I’d say it was more dangerous staying where I was,” she replied.

“Ah, yes, that prophecy thing, right? Quite the surprise. Especially for you, I imagine.” Having regained his breath, he straightened himself up and tugged on his lapels. “Forgive me. I’m Rorric Yenta, I’m a liaison for the Fortunate Isles. It’s my job to keep an eye on things down here.”

He reached out a hand in welcome. Emily’s stayed by her side, by the weapon concealed beneath her skirt. “You have an Oracle?” she asked.

He dropped his hand with a twitch of disappointment. “Of a sort. We rarely see her up here, though you might run into one of her daughters from time to time. I can’t say she’s ever pulled something like this, however. It’s quite distressing.”

“Tell me about it. This was supposed to be a holiday.”

I’m sure this is a nice guy!