Orphic Phantasia

2: Of Sophists and Seelie

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The apartment door opened and Katrina Ritches lumbered out. A tall woman, two years Emily’s senior, she was Mrs Ritches’s only daughter, and heir to her estate. A flap of kitten-print pyjamas poked out of her leather jacket, while the caricature of a turquoise cat peeked over her shoulder with button eyes. She ruffled her irregular, self-cut mane of chestnut hair and grinned in her usual, goofy way.

“I found him drinking coffee,” she announced with a wave of greeting, “off in a world of his own.”

Dante emerged from her shadow, a dark pillar shrouded in stainless white. He grunted a greeting, but kept his hands buried in his cloak’s deep pockets.

“Study, huh?” Emily teased.

“Study,” he replied, his face a wooden mask of stoicism.

Byron d’Arcadie, it seemed, would not be joining them any time soon. They spied him napping on his second floor balcony, his wide-brimmed hat sheltering his face from the sun. Emily blamed the drugs. Leira, on the other hand, didn’t have such an excuse, but she couldn’t care less for punctuality. As for the rest of their housemates, Horatio, Hermia and Denny would already be at the Theatre, taking advantage of its facilities to further their training.

Not that training made much difference. Despite their skills, the Theatre still ranked them as Second Class initiates. It was almost as if Chief Payne wanted to keep his students on the training program for as long as possible. It was something Katrina and her friends had noticed a long time ago — and if there was something amiss, they would be the ones to know about it. Phoenix Rogan especially. She was the sort of woman who took great pride in knowing everything — or, at least, believing she did. She even had the audacity to name her little clique of amateur investigators ‘Veritas’ — ‘Truth’ in the ancient tongue — and plaster its name all over the news reports they produced for the Theatre’s network. In all fairness, however, they had come to earn that name, and the responsibilities Mr Payne placed on their shoulders.

“So, you guys have any news on what exams we’ll have to face to not get us promoted?” asked Emily, as they made their way across the Estate grounds. So far this week, aside from a slight misinterpretation on Wednesday — because Phoenix Rogan thought ‘Liberate Azhara’d al-Hakim action figure from Chief Payne’s office’ was the staff’s idea of a joke — the Veritas team had scored a perfect run with their predictions.

“The usual,” said Kat, raising a hand for silence as she slipped into a stalking pose. With barely a sound, the turquoise cat leapt from her shoulder and landed in front of her, its back opening up to reveal an ornate camera covered in dials and buttons. In a single, fluid motion, Kat prised it free and brought it to bear on a family of ducks as they waddled out of some nearby bushes. Almost as soon as it started, it was over, and Kat returned with her artificial pet once more clinging to her back. To the unawares, it was nothing but a child’s toy.

Kat grinned. “I thought it was Joshua,” she said, referring to one of her family’s many cats. Continuing on their way, she returned to the topic at hand; “According to the data John pulled last night, our assignment has something to do with the industrial ruins over in the west. His father was out there last night.” She shrugged. “It shouldn’t be that bad.”

“No dealing with monsters then?”

Kat laughed. “I don’t think the Sophists would be too happy with that.”

Look at all that name dropping! Some are more important than others.