42: The Seer and the Shadow
“A vague conclusion based on insubstantial evidence,” replied the Sidhe. “As it stands, your accusation is little more than slander.”
“Then I’ll prove it.” Turning back to Caelia, she brushed dried tears from her cheek and said, “Ketos wants to make an example of me. She wants me to admit who I really am and use that to discredit Prince Dionysus. Well, two can play at that game, right?”
And if she could discredit Ketos, she could save Dionysus.
She could save herself.
Caelia needed a vessel. As Ophion explained it, once Aliza had satisfied him with her reasoning, “She is the shadow of a greater being. That is why she can only view the world through the eyes of her other side.” Until she had something to anchor her, something to define her and give her form beyond Ketos, she would remain a forgotten fragment, drifting through the aether. Phantasia had begun the process by giving her a name—now it was Aliza’s turn to give her a body.
And Dozmary, where the Sidhe had forged a path between their realm and the outside world, and where Caelia’s voice was at its strongest, was the perfect place to draw her out of the shadows and into the light.
It was, perhaps, a little too convenient, but then, as Prince Freyr once warned her, Dionysus accounted for all possibilities.
On Ophion’s advice—vague and condescending as it was—Aliza had followed the shrine’s lonely corridor down to its furthest depths. It was here, deep beneath the lake’s surface, that she found another set of doors, tall as the corridor itself and emblazoned with a trio of winged sigils and words in a language Aliza could not read, but still somehow understood.
“Nereids,” she said, running her fingers along the alien letters. “Amphitrite, Galatea, Calypso.”
“Amphitrite! Galatea!” Caelia’s voice reached out from the crystal, “My sisters!”
“I—I abandoned them…” Caelia’s voice quietened with shame. “Calypso betrayed us, and I abandoned them.”
Though she didn’t expect an answer, Aliza turned to Ophion and asked, “Do you recognise their names? Are they important?”
Ophion crossed his arms. The look on his face was enough to tell Aliza that he wouldn’t fall for her feigned ignorance. If she wanted answers, she would have to find them herself.
She touched the design associated with the name Amphitrite and traced a finger along its swirls. As she did so, she began to pick out shapes—a shell here, a fin there—that merged to form an aquatic chimaera of a beast, a totem of power and prestige with the sharp, fearsome silhouette of a shark.
“They’re water elementals,” she said. “And important ones at that.”
Ophion must have realised this was the extent of her scrying, as he added, tone flat and bored, as if reciting common knowledge to a child, “They are retainers to Queen Thetis, and her closest companions.”
“So, this really is a palace.” Wondering what secrets these Nereids held, Aliza pressed her hands against the doors and stood back as creaking mechanisms stirred from their slumber to bid her entry.
Expect to see more of the Sidhe and their politics now that I’ve established human society. I didn’t want to overload people with too much new stuff at once!