Orphic Phantasia

45: The Hardest Word

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He set the vendor to recycle and watched, ashen-faced, as it refused to disassemble Joel’s mess. Alchemium only, it stated. Reconstruction of matter was limited to underground refineries. Even Avalon’s technology had its limits.

After throwing the empty boxes across the kitchen floor, Dante paced into the lounge and collapsed into the sofa.

Shelley Eoghan. There had been a time when she would come to Dante for help, bringing him outlandish stories to illustrate, but that time was long past. These days, Shelley avoided him whenever possible. He had rejected her stories for the words of the Saptamatrikas and she had never forgiven him for it. Asking for her help now would be like asking Astrid Guirlande for dance lessons—a foolish endeavour that would end in a silent sneer of dismissal.

Dante was contemplating asking Joel if he had any drugs that might help—sedatives seemed to have a knack for suspending his disbelief—when the apartment’s artificial intelligence announced that he had an incoming call.

From Rembrandt Payne.

“Hello there!” The Chief of Seelie’s Torsten troupe greeted him from the comfort of his office with a cheery wave. “I thought I’d see how you were. Everything healed?”

“Yeah,” Dante replied, clutching his arms around his chest. His injuries, and his time in the hospital, felt like they happened in some other lifetime, not a day previous. He wasn’t even bruised.

“Excellent,” said the Chief. “And how better to celebrate than with a nice cup of tea!”

A chime rang through the apartment and a screen by the front door announced that, of all people, Dante’s housemate Denny Odette was waiting outside with a tray of tea and biscuits.

“Chief Payne sent me,” she said, handing it over.

“Thanks,” said Dante.

Without another word, Denny turned on her heels and strode off. Dante returned to the lounge and, with a rattle of china, placed the tray down on the table.

“It’s all natural, of course,” said the Chief, raising his own cup in toast. “Help yourself!”

The teapot was warm to the touch. Tentatively, Dante poured himself a cup and added a trio of sugar cubes from the supplied bowl. He wasn’t much of a tea drinker, but Lira Burn had forced a few mugs down him since they started living together.

He lifted the cup to his lips but stopped before taking his first sip. Here he was, drinking natural tea from a china cup, which his housemate had delivered with impeccable timing, all while Rembrandt Payne watched over him, a giant painted across the wall—it was like something out of a dream…

There’s also an old draft of this scene, but it involves Byron. I should dig these things out and archive them, or something.