42: The Seer and the Shadow
Ketos, she wished, clutching the Sidhe’s magic crystal, please, grant me this: these people shall not see me! They shall not know that we were ever here!
No sooner had the words left her heart, another shape crashed down behind her and Aliza spied a hand, reaching through the murky waters of Dozmary towards her.
It can’t end like this, she thought. It can’t. It can’t!
As the cloaks of both Ketos and Dante failed to hide her from the outside world, Aliza’s final line of defence began its slow creep across her shoulder.
And then, as the seconds seemed ready to freeze into a moment, the two giants rose from the waters and vanished.
Ophion! came Celia’s voice. Ophion saved us!
Before Aliza could ask who this Ophion was, she was breaking the lake’s surface and gasping for air. Ahead of her, standing in the shadows of the spiral structure’s great gateway, stood a young man, his eyes a piercing blue.
Then he turned and vanished into the shrine, and Aliza followed after him.
Aliza watched as a winged shape crossed the lake’s far shore, then rose over the crest of a nearby hill and vanished from sight. “Do you think they’ve figured it out yet?” she asked.
“No,” replied Ophion, betraying no emotion. Were it not for his eyes, gleaming with transcendent knowledge, she would have thought him a soulless machine. “And even were they able to ascertain your presence here, the shrine itself would deter their curiosity.”
Aliza wasn’t so sure. Knowing that even the most potent of spells could not fool an artificial eye, she remained hidden beneath Dante’s cloak, allowing herself only the slightest of openings so she could admire the shrine’s decor through her own eyes. No matter how advanced the technology, there would always be something it missed, a beauty only a natural eye could perceive — and the shrine of Dozmary had a beauty unlike anything Aliza had ever seen.
She reached out and ran a finger along the spiral design adorning the inner wall, feeling the warmth of silent words beneath her skin, ancient, powerful enchantments woven into the world like threads of a tapestry. What they said, she did not know, except that their patterns repeated themselves like the verses of a song, always regular but never repetitive.
“Is this place important to your people?” she asked Ophion.
“It has its purpose,” the Sidhe replied.
“You do not need to know.”
It hadn’t taken Aliza long to realise that, unlike Prince Freyr, Ophion was not one for conversation. Judging by his curled blue hair and tanned complexion, she figured him a member of the Áes Uisce, the same as Prince Dionysus, though he had none of the Prince’s considered wisdom about him. If the Sidhe knew such a thing as age, Aliza would have pegged him at seventeen, maybe eighteen.
“It feels like a palace of some kind,” she lied. “A palace for the Queen of the Áes Uisce, maybe? I mean, it’s in the middle of a lake and all! Your people do live around water, right?”
Ophion is classified as “fourth instar”.