Orphic Phantasia

5: The Eyes of the Forest

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Of course, where there was Angelo Foley there had to be Lysander Goodfellow. They were as inseparable as Ceres Mendoza and Korrie Wedekind, or Chris Shaw and Lance Algar, of whom they took particular pleasure in mocking.

Emily tugged on Dante’s arm. “Well, if anyone is going to teach you just how much trouble Aethex can be, it’s going to be Lysander.”

Angelo led the way, dancing through the turquoise brush to a song only he could hear. Normally, such behaviour would worry Dante, but Angelo seemed to exist as a direct counterpoint and natural antithesis to the madness that consumed so many.

A tree twice the size of its brethren dominated the glade’s luminous heart. As a child, Dante would have thought himself standing in the world of the Sidhe, where reality and imagination fused as one, but today he saw only the miracles of technology, sufficiently advanced.

Standing before the tree, his cellular attached to its surface, was Lysander Goodfellow. He was a short boy with a shock of spiked auburn hair and a colourful bag strapped to his back. Like Angelo, he looked like he should still be in school, not struggling to earn Seelie’s acknowledgement. He turned as the others entered the glade, flashed a devious grin.

“Yo,” he said, his accent difficult to place. “You here for the show?”

“Something like that,” said Emily.

“Then you’re just in time! Merope, show these guys what’s going down, will ya?”

Dante noticed the subtle shift in the air, tracked the movement of Aethex through his visor as it congregated before them and formed a translucent screen about a metre across. It showed a scene of natural forest and two figures in Malkuthian garb prising their way through the brush. Lance Algar pushed aside a young branch, which thwacked back and caught Chris Shaw in the face. Lysander’s laughter filled the glade.

Emily leaned in to Dante, whispered, “What did I tell you? No sense of privacy.”

The Aethex could do more than see. “Wait up, Allie!” said Lance Algar’s voice as if he were standing in the glade himself. “Christof’s had a pokey tree experience!”

Allie?” Emily raised an eyebrow. “What’s she doing with those guys?”

Dante thought the same; Alonie Kent was notoriously selective about who she spent her time with, and Chris and Lance were not high on her list, much to their eternal disappointment.

“Weeell…” Lysander shared a mischievous look with his companion.

“It’s Alonie Kent in all but spirit,” said Angelo.

“Not that those idiots could tell the difference.”

Dante heard a light rumble in Emily’s throat, but she was all smiles for the boys. “And what does that mean?” she asked.

Lysander chuckled. “Merope, cut the feed and introduce these two to Allonix.”

There was that shift in the air again, as the millions of microscopic machines transformed the screen into a humanoid figure. At first, Dante thought it a mimicry of Emily herself, but then the skin took on a pale tone and the hair sprung to life, neon-red and obscuring half of Alonie Kent’s frowning face. Had Dante not seen the illusion form, he would have thought it Alonie herself. It even fooled his visor.

Emily reached out, brushed her bronze fingers against the other girl’s cheek, then jumped back with a gasp and clutched Dante’s arm. “It even feels like skin,” she said.

Lysander could teach anyone a lot about trouble…