Orphic Phantasia

43: Changing Perspective

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Dante paused the message and looked to Katrina for confirmation. A week ago, he would have thought such an idea ludicrous but, between the talking squirrel he met in Torhout Forest and the guffawing octopus who put him in hospital, he had seen enough to convince him that Emily wasn’t making this up.

“Well, it backs up everything we’ve uncovered,” said Kat. “Although I admit it’s all a bit over my head. I blame the Aristocracy.”

A fair accusation, but the Sophists weren’t the only ones doing their utmost to enforce ignorance of the aether. Dante glanced at the tablet, sitting in the open drawer. The Saptamatrikas would have cursed anyone who ever entertained the idea of souls to never set foot in their Cities — and yet here was Avalon, an emulation of their grand design, using their technology to ensnare souls and bind them to monsters.

But maybe that was the whole point. Maybe they spread ignorance so places like this could exist in the first place. Before Dante’s thoughts could drift to his mother, and to the lies Arided told him, he resumed Emily’s message.

“I know, some of you probably think I’m crazy,” she continued, “but there should be more than enough evidence on this cell to convince you otherwise.”

Katrina nodded. “Trust me, even Ms Thorbjorn couldn’t believe some of the stuff Emily dug up. Seelie’s got people looking over it as we speak. As have we, obviously.”

With a tap of the screen, Emily’s message continued. “From what I can gather, the ones who run this whole sorry operation have hidden themselves underground and answer to somebody they refer to as ‘Matriarch’. From what I’ve seen of her, I think she might be some kind of seer or oracle. Unlike those you might have met, however, this Matriarch isn’t a particularly nice person, and she won’t be pleased to know that I’ve revealed her existence to outsiders. But, hey, she had it coming to her, so go wild, yeah?”

Dante took a moment to collect his thoughts; the moment Emily had mentioned a ‘Matriarch’, he could picture only one person.

Arided.

“She left us a master access code and everything,” said Katrina, ignorant to the Malkuthian maiden’s existence. “Chris is playing around with it as we speak. He thinks it might unlock the whole island, if you can believe that. Like, even all those blocks they have on the vendors. Not that we were planning on abusing such a thing, what with Seelie advising us not to get involved and all…”

From the way her guilty eyes rolled around the room, Dante figured that Veritas had little intention of taking Seelie’s suggestion to heart. Phoenix Rogan was not one to leave a mystery unsolved, especially one so vast and inviting as Avalon.

And, given the implications of Emily’s revelations — maybe, if this Matriarch really was Arided, then his mother was closer than he ever could have hoped — it was a very inviting mystery indeed.

“Well,” Emily sighed, “I guess that’s about all I have time for. Jonny here ain’t gonna sleep forever, and I’ve got a spell to break.”

Dante stopped the message, a sudden sickly feeling in his stomach. Once again, his thoughts returned to that ever-so-brief vision of tangled bodies, souls entwined.

It’s almost like he’s secretly jealous!