Orphic Phantasia

31: Irrefutable Evidence

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A familiar voice called his name before he could make his decision. Dante looked up to see Lysander Goodfellow sauntering out of the cottage, Angelo Foley at his side.

“You boys been behaving yourselves, I hope,” said Emily.

“We always behave ourselves,” replied Lysander with a knowing grin. “That’s why Himeros left us in charge!”

Emily raised her eyebrow at Jasmine, who shrugged and said, “Wind elementals.”

Lysander met Dante with a wide smile. For someone who gorged himself on sweets and junk food, he had surprisingly good teeth. Perfect, even. When Joel was his age, he had broken one tooth and chipped several others. “You here to escape that hellhole too?” he asked.

Emily took Dante by the arm. “He’s my guest,” she said. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”

“Aah, talk.” Lysander nodded, a glint of mischief in his eye. “You gonna need anything while you’re busy talking? Something to eat, maybe? A bottle of wine? Ice cubes? Handcuf—”

Emily silenced him with a smile that promised pain if he ever thought to continue that line of suggestion.

The cottage itself was as archaic on the inside as it was on the outside. Emily led Dante through a narrow hallway, its ceiling low enough that someone like Doyle Kennedy or Theseus Armstrong would have to duck to avoid the jutting wooden supports, and into a kitchen crammed with stoves and cupboards. It reminded Dante of the burrow he once lived in with his mother, back when they took shelter with the Donara. Lysander and Angelo, who were following them, paused to check on the content of a sweltering oven.

“I’m surprised the two of you haven’t burned this place down,” said Emily.

“You mean it’s flammable?” asked Lysander.

In truth, Dante wasn’t even sure if it was real.

Emily continued out of the kitchen and into a lounge, where Oscar Whittlesey, of all people, slouched on an old sofa, a plate of biscuits perched on his lap. A woman, who couldn’t have been older than Dante himself, sat at his side. Oscar was so involved in telling her of the time he faced down a lion the size of an oak tree that he failed to notice his fellow initiates pass by — at least until Lysander asked, loud enough for the whole cottage to hear, if that was the same time Oscar “cacked his pants”. As Oscar spluttered his defence, Emily guided Dante out of the room.

“Oscar’s been here since we arrived,” she said, as she opened a door and gestured Dante down a spiralling stairway. “I think Himeros has a bit of a crush on him.”

The stairs were steep and narrow, forcing Dante to clasp the railing to keep his balance. Either side of him, a strip of light provided illumination, the first sign of modern technology he had seen since entering the glade.

“He’s got quite the establishment going on here, truth be told,” Emily continued. “I was a little suspicious at first, but the more I’ve learned about Avalon, the more I’m thankful a place like this even exists.”

I should note that Oscar has never once faced down a lion, let alone one the size of an oak tree.