Orphic Phantasia

44: Akashvani

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Emily must have noticed her companion’s reappearance, as she lifted her voice above the din of the crowd to let her harasser know she wouldn’t accept his offer of sanctuary, and that, if he did not cease his stalking, she would take the matter up with Seelie. It was an irrelevant threat—Sohrabarak al-Hakim watched over proceedings from a nearby balcony—but she had to draw enough of the crowd’s attention for the fast-approaching finale.

“It seems he does not approve of Emily’s act,” Byron continued. “He is trying to reassure her—or, perhaps, his new audience—of his virtuous intentions.”

The man had barely begun his protests before the contents of Emily’s glass soaked his pristine features and she made her melodramatic departure from the cafe.

“He is reaching into his shirt,” said Byron. “The moment is—”

Confused as to her sudden outburst, Byron was about to start after Emily when he realised he had been recording a message into his cellular. Muse tingling, he played back the last ten seconds and the fog of deception lifted, revealing a man in a purple suit hurrying out of the cafe, its patrons oblivious to his presence.

With cellular in hand and still recording, Byron followed him. The stalker had become the stalked and, so supremely confident was he in his enchantment, he did not, for one moment, suspect it, disappearing as he did down an alleyway without so much as a glance over his shoulder.

Byron, having had plentiful opportunities to circumvent the isle’s many deceptions, had no problems discerning the passageway from its environs. Once secreted from the crowds, he quickened his pace and, soon enough, his prey turned to confront him with a belittling smile worthy of a Malkuthian ambassador.

“Byron, isn’t it? Byron dark-a-die?”

Byron replied with a false smile of his own. “d’Arcadie,” he said. “It means ‘of Paradise’.”

The man clasped his hands together in front of his chest. “Ah yes, your warm glow does indeed suggest Malkuthian blood. That would explain your close friendship with Ms Adel.”

“I would hope you are not too jealous of the fact.”

“On the contrary, it means we are on the same side. I am sure you understand, as I do, the dangers a woman of Ms Adel’s magnitude must face on a daily basis, and her need for a sanctuary to escape them. Perhaps that is why…”

His eyes fell upon Byron’s chest. His insinuations were clear and, realising the opportunity, Byron’s nodded. “Indeed, I too carry the blessing. I fear, however, that even though we are on the same side, we are not yet on the same page. You speak of granting our friend sanctuary, and yet I see no sanctuary greater than the one in which we stand. What, perchance, could pose such a threat that even Paradise itself is no longer a haven? Besides, that is, another with power such as ours?”

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I think there are at least four versions of this scene, including one where Byron muses about how the state of public toilets reflects a locale’s character, and another where a hideous mutant stalks him through some of Avalon’s forgotten catacombs…