8: Emily and Truth
He hadn’t been alone, either. His trail led into the ship’s carcass alongside Alonie Kent’s. As Emily followed it, she spied subtle hints of Shelley Eoghan, too. It pained her to see her surrogate sister spending more and more time with her estranged, City-obsessed one, and now it looked as if Alonie was reaching out to Dante, too. Malkuth held a powerful sway over those in denial, and if Emily surrendered herself to Prince Freyr’s whims, their denials would be getting a whole lot worse. The thought made her stomach churn, the taste of bile rise up her throat.
“You are troubled,” said the Princess.
“You are lying.” It took the Princess a moment to respond — not even a fraction of a second, but enough of a pause to reaffirm Emily’s suspicions. She was about to call her out on it when a delighted — and thoroughly unwelcome — voice called through the wreckage.
“Ah, Your Highness!” Phoenix Rogan gave the slightest bow as they entered what Emily judged to be the remains of the ship’s flight deck. The overzealous journalist stood at the centre of the room as if she were its captain, cellular tablet clutched to her chest, eyes bulging with a maniacal glee. Beside her, Katrina Ritches waved her free hand in greeting, while using the other to take photographs of the wreckage. Andromeda Blumstein didn’t make herself known until Phoenix harassed her out of her hiding spot somewhere inside the chamber walls. She crawled out, gave a muttered greeting, then returned to her work.
With a grimace of apology, Phoenix scuttled over to the Princess — Emily could have been hiding beneath Dante’s invisibility cloak for all she cared — and bowed a second time. “How goes your assignment, Your Highness? You have met more of my fellow initiates, yes?”
The Princess was more than happy to elaborate on her various encounters, from the humble Shelley to the reverential Kaori. Emily wondered if she could read the obvious discomfort in Phoenix’s face, how embarrassed she was of such underperforming initiates representing Seelie in front of Sidhe royalty.
Then her recollection reached her meeting with Dante. “He concerns me,” she said. “He seals the truth behind a door in his heart. It must be opened, or he shall surely suffer.”
Emily knew what she meant, but hearing it from somebody else — and after what Prince Freyr had asked of her — made her uncomfortable. The Prince was right; she was a hypocrite.
Phoenix, oblivious to the schemes and secrets of the Sidhe, grimaced at mention of Dante’s ineffective blundering through countless Donaran hexes. “Dante Orpheus is an embarrassment,” she said. “He barely seemed to care about this place when we saw him, despite the wealth of information it has to offer. I wonder, Your Highness, might you have some observations of your own, please?”
The Princess was happy to oblige — anything to help! — and told Phoenix everything she could gleam from their surroundings. Emily stood back, still invisible and unimportant, and made some observations of her own — not of the ship, but of the Princess herself.
As annoying as she might seem, Phoenix is actually one of the Second Class’s best students.