Drawing deep on his pipe, Byron fell back into his chair. Outside, the skies of Avalon had dimmed to the rich vermillion velvet of encroaching eve. It had been almost six hours since Seelie located Emily’s cellular in that hidden temple within the island walls, six hours since she abandoned Avalon and all its deceptions for the outside world, and yet still there had been no word, no sign nor suggestion of her location nor indication of her plans. All anyone had to work with was the message she recorded and the files she stole—themselves but vague stories locked behind indecipherable jargon, much like the tales within the Goetia Cornubia. And, much like so many ancient grimoires, so too did they speak of harnessing the twisted cycle of life, death and rebirth for personal gain.
Byron poured himself a shot of whiskey and watched the candlelight dance within its dark embrace. “Matriarch,” he said, rolling the title around his tongue. It recalled the title of the Saptamatrikas, rulers of the Seven Cities and supposed progenitors to the oracular Maidens. Now he had the clarity of hindsight, he realised Emily was herself of that maledicted brood, a descendant of Torsten’s former Oracle, Aliyah Adel and, perhaps, the beneficiary to her amassed experience—not that Byron considered such a heavy burden in any way a pleasant inheritance.
Realisation stuck him with such force he almost spilled whiskey over his newfound tome. The burden of the Oracles! It was the same story in every town, the same system in every temple: the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter, always fated to bear the burden of her foremothers, the spirit of her bloodline, to accept within herself the amalgamation of their souls from mother and grandmother down to their earliest ancestor.
Adding another shot to his glass, he let his thoughts carry him back to the previous day, and his brief dalliance with divinity.
Byron counted down the remaining seconds in his head, then made for the cafe, cellular in hand, recording activated.
He could not have timed his arrival better. Not two minutes after excusing himself from Emily’s company, the man in the purple suit had taken his place. Careful not to draw attention to himself, Byron perched himself at an unoccupied table in clear view of proceedings and began his observations.
“Our target is a man of unknown years, skin beige and hair a sculpted black. I would wager that, based upon his similarities to Emily’s original beleaguerer, this fellow is an employee of the Fortunate Isles.”
It’s a flashback to Chapter 31!