Orphic Phantasia

32: Acceptance

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She felt his eyes on her shoulder, the warmth of her Brand as it tingled from acknowledgement. She knew what he was thinking. “It was Freyr,” she said. “He offered to hide it in exchange for my”—she grimaced—“services. Not even Seelie can see it. The only way anyone can is if I admit my real name to them, and that’s not something I do very often. You should count yourself lucky!”

His aura, dense and unreadable as it was, did not flinch. If he was still in denial, he didn’t plan on showing it.

“Services?” he asked.

“They—” Emily glanced at the door. Despite all Himeros had told her about this room and its ability to contain secrets, she was still expecting to spy those piercing emerald eyes and that wicked, wolfish smile out of the corner of her eye. “They want me to help them investigate the Erebus,” she admitted. “I think they’re searching for Branded…”

She winced, expecting Dante to stand up and accuse her of leading him here just so she could delve into his past — but he remained there on the sofa, dark eyes staring off into some distant, unseen dream.

“So, that’s why they sent us into the Scar,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“They ignored my mother, you know? That night, she called to them, asked them for help, but they ignored her.”

He didn’t say it, but Emily could tell from his tone that he held them responsible for what had happened — and she could hardly blame him. She suspected their parents as involved in Dionysus’s investigation as she was, and his inaction that night suggested either callous disregard for their fates, or signs of some greater conspiracy. After all, something had forced him to turn to Emily and her talents, despite her reservations and protests.

Sidhe magic. Sidhe politics. No wonder their Court had been in session for so long. Emily wondered if Himeros had returned. Maybe he had news. Maybe he had a message.

“I try not to question their motives,” she lied. “They’re … not like us.”

As she gathered her hair into bunches, Dante shuffled into shower. He still had a lot to think about, but time was not on their side. By the time he re-emerged, she had finished touching up her dyes and applying her makeup. For the time being, Emily Fomalhaut still had a role to play.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” she asked, as she gathered her things together.

Dante grunted an affirmative. It was the most she would get out of him. For all he had told her and all he had admitted, he was still the same old Dante. At least now she was certain he was Maidenblood — there was no denying his skills in observational analysis and deduction, nor his body’s powerful immune system. Arided had made a mistake in ignoring him. Emily would make sure she came to regret it.

Smiling, she took his hand. The challenge ahead was greater than anything Seelie – even the Sidhe – might ask of them, but the alternative was delusion and denial – and it was time to stop running.

Seelie doesn’t accept Branded onto their Initiate Program. The ideas of the Erebus can be rather … infectious, so they send them for counselling instead.