31: Irrefutable Evidence
The stairway stopped about ten metres underground, if Dante’s calculations were correct, and opened out onto a large hall. It was as far away from the cottage’s quaint design as the cottage was from Avalon’s transmatter replications. Velvet drapes hung from rich mahogany walls, while, at the far end of the chamber, a crystal-clear waterfall crashed into a bubbling pool.
“Just think of it as a sanctuary,” said Emily, guiding Dante away from the hall and down a corridor lined with doors. “Even the people who run Avalon don’t know about it. Himeros used their own technology against them — that and a little magic, of course. Not that I expect you to believe me,” she added with a wink.
They stopped by a door at the far end of the corridor. Emily twisted the handle and pushed it open. “And this,” she said, “is a sanctuary within a sanctuary. If there’s one place in all of Avalon where you can keep a secret, it’s here.”
Dante peered inside. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to find, but it certainly wasn’t silk sheets and soft cushions and ornate furniture, or the half-finished game of chess sat beneath a bay window looking out across spring gardens. A pile of clothes, including several of Emily’s shirts, lay scattered over a long sofa. A door in the corner of the room led into what looked like a bathroom.
“Himeros has all his rooms enchanted with some kind of privacy field,” explained Emily, as she started to unbutton her shirt. “Anything that happens here, anything we say, anything we do, will never leave these walls. And, before you say it, I know you don’t believe in magic, so let me prove it to you.”
She pulled off her shirt to reveal a sleeveless skin of black leather, covering her from next to waist. Around her shoulders, her bronze skin had turned blotchy as streaks of sweat revealed hints of a snow-white undertone.
Emily bit down on her lip, a grimace of shame. “Dante,” she said, “there’s something I have to tell you. You see, I—” She turned away, hid her face beneath a sweep of sky-blue hair, tinged with strands of platinum. “I’m not from Malkuth. I’m not even the daughter of Malkuthians. I was born in the catacombs. My—my name isn’t even Emily Fomalhaut. It’s…”
She reached up and grasped her right shoulder and, for a moment, Dante thought that was it, that she wasn’t going to say any more. But then, with a sad, but resolute sigh, she continued. “My name is Aliza Adel. I am the second and last daughter of the oracle, Aliana Adel, and this”—she removed her hand from her shoulder—“is my curse.”
Dante didn’t need to question it. He realised what it was the moment she spoke her real name. It blazed around her shoulder like tendrils of black fire, invisible to the eyes but somehow there.
The Brand of the Erebus.
Chapter 31 End
I guess it’s time to sort these two out at last.