Chapter 47

The Impossible Artist

Dante Orpheus was impossible. He was defeatist, irrational, evasive, and in complete denial of anything and everything that might question his presumptions. Shelley had barely spent an hour with him and she was just about ready to sling her grimoire at his head and oust him from her room. Shuck could ask all he liked but, so long as the son of Ophelia Orpheus had the attitude he did, there was little chance of the two crossing paths. Rude! Arrogant! Condescending! The stream of words that summed him never seemed to end. It had six long years of momentum behind it.

He stared at the figurine that sat between them, dark eyes locked on the carved sculpture of Sidhe royalty. A gift from Emily, and so coated with her aethereal fingerprints, it was the perfect medium for some basic training—or, at least, it should have been.

“I—I just can’t,” he said, for what must have been the twentieth time.

With a frustrated sigh, Shelley slammed her grimoire shut (on second thought, his head would probably damage it). Her notes were useless. They assumed the dual nature of reality common knowledge. To believe otherwise was a level of ignorance worthy of the Sophists.

“What about last night?” she asked. “Phoenix is convinced you eavesdropped on one of her meetings while you were still in hospital.”

“It wasn’t out of choice,” he replied. “It was more like a dream.”

Subconscious projection: Dante must have wanted to be there (of all places!) without realising it. Shelley slipped a fingernail into the appropriate section of her grimoire.

“The drugs helped,” he continued. “If I had some sedatives, I might—”

“No drugs!” The words shot from her mouth, bullets propelled by memories of Joel’s hallucinogenic blunders. “They’re too dangerous. The aether is too dangerous. Ye need tae be in control at all times or else ye’ll end up stumbling intae some pocket o’hell full of lingering beasties or—”

The incredulous look in his eyes alerted Shelley to her slip-up, and she shied away from his gaze, lips pursed tight with embarrassment. She had let her imagination twist the truth into some silly little story. “It’s just bad,” she muttered. “W—we need tae—to find another way.”

In the silence that followed, she wondered what he might be thinking. Was he considering her words or laughing at them? Calculating possibilities or conceiving plans? Like her, he had always been a thinker, but while Shelley lost herself in an endless stream of possibilities, Dante would focus his attention on one and one alone. He was the order to her chaos, the Earth to her Water.

And, like the spirits of Earth, he did not speak his mind unless called for.

“You said you snap back the moment you realise where you are, right?” she said, hoping to goad something out of him.

Dante nodded. “It’s too surreal,” he said. “How do I know I’m not just imagining things?”

I’m sure Shelley isn’t the only one who wants to throw something at Dante’s head…