8: Emily and Truth
She was not alone. Sometimes she would glance to her side, as if acknowledging another whom only she could see, and other times she would speak of ‘we’ and ‘us’. Then there were the delays, the slightest of moments where Emily was certain the Princess’s invisible companion was whispering in her ear. For someone who hated secrets, she seemed happy to keep her own. Typical Sidhe.
Phoenix, for all her paranoia, either failed to notice the clues or thought the Sidhe’s trickery unimportant. “Eeexcellent,” she said, after the Princess delivered her observations. “We ascertained as much from our own analysis, but your deep and uncompromising insight lends weight to our conclusions. I always suspected the Sophists of hypocrisy. I promise you, Your Highness, that their deception shall not remain a secret for long!”
The Princess cheered like a child promised chocolate ice cream, and her good mood remained until the Veritas girls took their leave — and Emily opted to stay behind.
“You are not friends with Phoenix Rogan,” she said.
It didn’t take magical powers to notice that much. “We don’t see eye-to-eye, no,” said Emily, as she illuminated a gutted console with her cellular. Someone had stripped the ship of its valuable technology, leaving little clue to the Sophists’ true technological standing. “She doesn’t trust me.”
And not without good reason. Phoenix Rogan was good at her job. Too good, in fact. Had Emily not a Sidhe Prince on her side, she feared what Veritas might have found out about her. Scratching her shoulder, she followed the ship’s passageways until they opened to the outside world. The rest of the ship lay scattered at the edge of the clearing, beyond a group of Donaran graves. Emily jumped to the ground.
“That is because you pretend to be somebody you are not,” said the Princess, appearing at her side without even attempting to look like she jumped — subtlety was not her style. “You must not keep secrets from one another!”
Emily turned to face the young Sidhe. Though she was as tall as Emily, her face had a wide-eyed innocence that reminded her of a younger Shelley — and of herself, before the world taught her truth and pain and suffering.
Before she needed the Sidhe to hide it all away.
“Aliza Adel,” said the Princess. “That is your true name.”
“No, it’s not. I’m Emily Fomalhaut. Aliza’s gone.” She was too weak, too trusting, too willing to do as others told her. Just like the Princess. Just like Phantasia.
“I resent those implications,” said the Princess.
“Are you reading my mind?” Emotion must have dulled her defences. “Because, if you are, stop.”
The Princess drew herself up to her full height, like a Sophist ready to strike, and Emily braced herself for the inevitable. “I—I—How dare you tell me what to do! I am a Princess under Queen Thetis Mysticeti herself!”
Emily couldn’t help it. The urge was in her blood, racing through her veins. Before she could stop them, the words slipped from her tongue, self-assured, sharp, direct. A bad habit; a maiden’s habit.
“Whoever said I was talking to you?”
Phantasia will remember that.