2: Of Sophists and Seelie
“An understandable conclusion,” he said. “We considered it ourselves, of course, since the Malkuthians have a”—another of his condescending pauses—“history of deception. Unfortunately, this is not a part of it, and I would advise you to reconsider your conclusions. You are a gifted young man, after all, and I would hate to see you lost to the City’s indoctrination.”
Emily saw it, the flash in Dante’s eyes, the pent-up rage mirroring her own. This time she found her voice before it was too late.
“I’m withholding judgement until I’ve met her myself,” she said, for the first time in her life addressing the Director as if he were anything but a monster. “Isn’t that what you people preach? To make your own judgements?”
Very thin ice, and she knew it—it was a bad habit.
The Director met her question with genuine surprise. “So it seems they teach you something at that place after all. I shall have to compliment Rembrandt before I admonish him for letting his aethereal friend promote panic through our town.”
Emily bit her tongue. The last thing anyone needed was Sophist acknowledgement.
“As for why the Princess has given us the honour of her visit,” he turned to Katrina. “I would think such a mystery perfect for Ms Rogan and her intrepid team.”
Without a hint of sarcasm or bitterness, Kat replied, “We’re working on it as we speak, Sir.”
A tease of a smile in that perpetual frown. “Excellent. I look forward to hearing your conclusions. Now, if you would excuse me, I have my own investigation to continue.”
With a curt nod to each of the initiates, he strode over to his carriage and climbed inside. Then the slave, without need for instruction, clambered behind the two mares and eased them away. Emily turned back to her friends, unwilling to give the Sophists any more attention. Dante remained fixed on the spot, hands thrust inside his pockets, dark eyes hidden in shadow. It was one of those days for him, too. Emily sent him a reassuring smile—they’d pull through this—and turned to Katrina. The photographer was making notes on her cellular.
“How can you be so … nice to them?” asked Emily.
She shrugged. “Phoenie is way scarier than they are.”
Torsten Theatre, its four towers glistening in the morning sun, had many faces. Some thought Seelie’s local headquarters an ornate manor, grown from the finest of seeds, its long halls carpeted in velvet and decked with painted remembrance of heroes past; others saw a mystical shrine, a ziggurat four storeys high, capped by a tropical garden that paid worship to immaterial deities. The Sophists said it was a technological fortress, its towers and turrets home to secretive experiments and hidden weapons of war. To Emily, it was the closest she had come to living a normal life.
“Oh!” Kat perked up as they passed through the front gate. “It’s Annie!”
Andromeda Blumstein, Second Class initiate and anchor for the Veritas news bulletin, looked out across the Theatre’s sixteen hectares of land from several large video screens. “And so the intentions of this Princess Fantasia Kaileestis, as she calls herself, remain a mystery,” she said, her voice a monotone drone of disinterest echoing across empty fields. “Keep an eye on your cells for further updates as and when we have them.”
According to the news ticker, the princess’s name was spelt ‘Phantasia Caelestis’, and she was ‘of the Court of Queen Thetis Mysticeti’. For Emily, that was proof enough of her otherworldly origins, but Dante didn’t look convinced.
When the viewpoint character doesn’t know how to spell somebody’s name, they’ll just spell it how it sounds. This is important *nods*