Orphic Phantasia

32: Acceptance

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And, just as powers unknown had been willing to manipulate the Sophists and burn down a forest just to get at his mother, so too were they willing to bring the Second Class initiates of Torsten Theatre out here to Avalon, all so they could capture Emily.

And, just as his father had spent that night fighting to protect his wife, while Dante stood by and allowed her to fall into Arided’s hands, so too had Byron d’Arcadie spent his days in Avalon helping Emily to combat her stalkers, while Dante lost himself to some pointless ‘investigation’ to prove what, deep down, he already knew was true. The realisation was damning.

Emily didn’t see it that way, of course, despite his mumbled attempts to apologise. Most of the Second Class had no idea what was going on, she said, but Dante knew that, had he listened to his own instinct from the start, had he cast aside the Tablet and Arided’s lies instead of clinging to some pitiful hope that they might be true, he could have been there for her.

“But you’re here now, aren’t you?” she had said. “And that’s what’s important, because no matter how much they try to help me, Byron and Ceres and Lysander and the others, they won’t ever understand the way you do.”

It was because of that understanding that she offered to share her past. It was important, she said, for both of them. “So you can see the day Aliza Adel died,” she said, “and the day I realised I was cursed.”

But it was more than that. By taking her hand and entering into that world, into that timeless moment, caught in a dream, Dante Orpheus finally shed the cloak of lies Arided bestowed upon him, and saw for himself the deluded man he might have one day become.

Verraden Sepulturero, devoted to earning his place in Malkuth, to a dream of a heavenly Paradise, to his saving a woman thought lost to the Dark. There was no doubt in Dante’s mind that Emily’s uncle had fallen for those same lies, those same promises that Dante himself had. The Tablet’s promises. Arided’s promises.

The woman who had stolen his mother and convinced him that the Erebus was just an illusion. That the Sidhe were just a lie. That magic was not real.

“The aethereal arts,” he said. “That’s what Seelie calls it, at least. They say people don’t take the term ‘magic’ seriously, because they associate it with sleights of hand and coin tricks. Manipulating the aether is more like painting or playing an instrument. It’s creative. That’s why Seelie promotes creativity classes in their training programs.”

He had never spoken so freely, so openly with anyone for years. It felt as if a dark shadow had been sitting on his chest all this time and had suddenly fled. He could breathe again.

Emily smiled. “I can’t say I grew up with Seelie like you did,” she said. “It was always magic to me. I bet Chris has his own term for it too, something pretentious. You know what scientists are like.”

He still found it hard to accept that someone like Chris Shaw could believe in such fantastical things, despite all the laws they threatened to — or, indeed, did — break. Then again, all Dante knew of modern science was what the Tablet had taught him.

“Do you really think they study it?” he asked.

Actually, they refer to it as the ‘aetheric sciences’, or ‘aetheology’. Creative!