5: The Eyes of the Forest
“It’s what?” He looked down at his map. The path ran uninterrupted for at least another hundred-thirty metres.
“Something you can’t see,” she replied, pulling him down a slope to their right, “because you’re too busy looking through that thing.” She stopped, turned around, and tapped his nose. His visor retreated into its shell. “This is what Ms Espinosa means when she says to ‘keep three eyes open’.”
“I only have two.” Some of the more eccentric Seelie officers seemed to think of the imagination as a ‘third eye’ — as did his mother, back when the madness had its claws in her. The Tablet mentioned it as one of the ‘warning signs’.
He looked into Emily’s eyes. Belief in fairies, now belief in supernatural powers — if he didn’t put a stop to this soon, the madness would come to her, too. He started back up the slope.
“You’re impossible,” said Emily.
“You believe the impossible.”
“You’ll end up walking in circles, you know?”
“I’ll end up walking straight to our destination, while you’re wandering around looking for fairies to show you the way.”
He turned before Emily could make the warding gesture. He’d had enough. When he reached the path, he made straight for the area she told him was ‘hexed’. He would prove her wrong. Reaching into his pocket, he found the Tablet, grasped it for comfort.
There was no such thing as hexes. There was no such thing as fairies. There was no such thing as the Erebus. Theia would not fall, the world would not end, and he would see his mother again, relieved of her delusions, of her madness, of her scar.
A part of him thought otherwise. A part of him, a childish voice buried deep inside, nestled in shadow, wanted to return to Emily, to hold her hand and let her guide him through the forest — but he ignored it. If he gave it even the slightest chance, the smallest crack, it would seep into his thoughts and he would start to believe that, yes, there really was a fine field of shimmering magic across his path, a web of words that read ‘this is the wrong way’.
He continued onward. It was just his imagination.
Dante turned his back on her before she could mutter the ward in his name. Now it had no power, no way to protect him from the forest’s wrath. Emily pursed her lips. If this was his game, she would play it, even if that meant surrendering herself to the forest, to the magic woven between its branches — it was, after all, a bad habit. She only wished she could do more.
It was when she reached the top of the slope and noticed Dante vanished — and the very path he followed twisted beyond all recognition — that she realised the moment she had been dreading, the moment she had pushed out of her thoughts with her determination to prove Dante wrong, had arrived.
“You wish you could do more for him?” The words slipped into her mind, a melody of song carried on a gentle breeze. “For that abominable fellow? Is he really worth the effort? Is he really worth you?”
“M-My Lord!” Fear seized her throat. She hadn’t seen him in two years. “Prince Freyr?”
Chapter 5 End