Do you know her? The Oracle’s voice echoed through Byron’s head, as if a choir of angels were standing judgement over him. It took all of his strength to resist surrendering to their allure.
“I am afraid not,” he replied. It wasn’t a lie; he had never met anyone who introduced herself as ‘Aliza Adel’, after all. “I do fear, however, that certain individuals have confused her with my friend.”
Still avoiding the Oracle’s eyes, he glanced over his shoulder towards the man from the Fortunate Isles, an ice-cold statue beneath the temple’s starlight veil, his unblinking eyes overflowing with the fear of one who faced fatal consequences.
“Yes,” said the Oracle. “Aldwin Keller thought to use this magic to steal her away from this place. You shall release him into my custody.”
Without so much as a question, Doyle obliged her request and the alchemium restraints clattered to the floor.
Aldwin Keller, caught in the Oracle’s gaze, did not move, even as two of the Oracle’s eunuchs appeared at his side.
“Escort Mr Keller from my presence,” she said.
It was only as the eunuchs cast him outside that he found his voice, a frail, pleading whimper of a cry that seemed a world away from the cool freshness of the crystal lake.
“It was for you! I did it all for you!”
“That Keller dude?” Doyle accepted a pre-rolled cigarette from Byron’s pouch—a rarity for one who preferred his herbs baked—and sat back with a wistful look about his tanned face. “Man, how could I forget? I thought the Oracle was gonna set a bunch of bears on him or something.”
“As did I,” said Byron, flicking a match to life and offering its flame to his companion. “Previously, I had assumed his antagonism towards the Oracle a result of local politics, given her pleasant demeanour and that”—he gave a polite nod towards the third figure in the room, the seer Jacyntha Järvi, whom the Oracle had sent to assist them—”of her daughters, but now I believe otherwise. You recall his last words, yes?”
“You mean when they dragged him off and he was all, like, ‘it was all for you’?” With a hearty chuckle at the memory, Doyle took a drag on his cigarette.
Byron sat back and studied the shot of whiskey sloshing about his glass. “Now I have had chance to reflect upon our little adventure in hindsight of the knowledge Emily has bestowed upon us, I have reason to believe there may well be more to those words than we assumed.”
If it was still around at the time the story is set, Byron would be drinking Jack Daniels.