Orphic Phantasia

7: A Shrine to the Fallen

Page 4/8

“You alone?” asked Alonie, her red eye wandering the grove. According to Kat, it was some kind of tinted lens or augmentation. It was no secret that Alonie, like most Hawks, wanted others to think her a Malkuthian. It made Dante cringe — such status was earned, not imitated.

“I lost the others,” he replied with a shrug.

“That’s what you get for hanging out with freaks,” she said, her scowl never twitching. Dante had never seen her smile. “Since you’re here, you want to lend us a hand? Could use someone who doesn’t think all this crap is some kind of magic trick.”

Alonie didn’t often acknowledge him — he spent too much time with people like Joel and Byron to earn her kudos — but she never spoke down to him. She even offered him her hand, helped him climb up onto the wing. If Emily saw this, he’d be in for a lecture; she loathed Alonie almost as much as she did the Sophists. Perhaps, he figured, because they were such opposites: the girl who sought to escape Malkuth and the one who wished to embrace it.

Alonie led him along the wing and into the ship. Nature had long since claimed the corridor that greeted him. Rainwater from last week’s thunderstorms had collected in a corner, beneath a cobweb of a sort Dante had never seen before, with crystalline threads like captured rainbows. Its occupant, a white-bodied spider as big as his hand, watched him pass with three sets of onyx eyes. His cellular identified it as a relatively new species unique to the post-Cataclysm world, though not synthetic, and warned him against disturbing it.

“Some idiots think it can talk,” said Alonie. “People will believe anything these days.”

Like talking squirrels.

Alonie carried on ahead and called for Shelley, who mumbled a reply from what appeared to be the ship’s bridge, barren save for a handful of broken consoles. No doubt the vultures had picked it clean years ago. Shelley herself was hiding in a corner, poking at one of the console units with a curious finger. Alonie looked over her shoulder. “You find anything?” she asked.

“Not much.” Her voice was barely a whisper, a nervous breath. Dante had known her since childhood, but had almost forgotten what she sounded like. “I think there was a fight here, too.”

“Figures,” said Alonie, “The Founding Father wouldn’t have let this thing go without one.”

Dante, who had just taken his cellular out to see if it recognised the design, looked around in surprise. “Founding Father?”

Alonie cocked an eyebrow. “What, you mean you didn’t recognise this thing?”

He looked out of the bridge and down at the long, ivory dagger that stretched to the other end of the clearing, and again pictured the ship in flight over the forest — at which point the similarities were obvious. It looked just like the clawed cross of the Sophist Aristocracy, the design of their ornamental swords.

“But I thought the Sophists didn’t use modern technology?” he said, thinking back to Director Guirlande and his peacekeepers in their horse-drawn carriage.

There’s something of a modern trend for naming subcultures after birds.