Orphic Phantasia

49: The Other Side

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Dante?

He knew, at the sound of her voice, at the projection of his name across the aether, that their minds were linked, their hearts joined. With the thought of Shelley’s hands still cold in his own, he pictured the world around him, saw it as he would a memory — Emily’s memory. With splashes of colour and strokes of detail, he assembled the vision of the underground lake, lamplight dancing on its surface, as he would a painting.

Emily, standing ankle-deep in the waters, turned and smiled at their arrival. “I was wondering when you’d get here,” she said. “I figured it the only place we’d get any privacy. Ketos is getting pretty persistent of late.”

“Ketos?” First riots in the undertown and now this.

“Nice of everyone to keep you in the loop,” replied Emily with a roll of her eyes. “Ketos is the one who sent those creeps after me. She promised them some grand reward if they brought me to Avalon’s summit in time for the eclipse. What Phoenix and friends don’t know, however, is that Ketos is one of the Sidhe and is most probably the one who arranged this whole sorry excuse of a holiday in the first place. The Sultan, the Matriarch, Jonas Mireille and the rest? They’re just pawns to her. We all are. And, if she gets her way, she can use me to expose a secret investigation that could bring down Seelie, if not the entire Sidhe Court.”

With a sharp intake of breath, Shelley made her presence known. Emily cocked her head in mild surprise as her friend scuttled into Dante’s shadow.

“Are you okay, Shell?” she asked.

“I—is it okay for me ta—to be here?”

“Of course it’s okay! Why would you even—” A frown crept over Emily’s face. “Wait, this isn’t something to do with Kaori, is it?”

Shelley shook her head. “I di—don’t—I just…”

“Aah,” Emily smiled, as if in sudden realisation. “I guess I’m not setting a very good example, am I?”

She looked back at the lake for a long moment, then stepped up to the shore. As she did so, the bronze-skinned, blue-haired Emily whom Dante knew faded to a pale, leather-clad young woman with silver-blue hair — the same woman he had spied on a wanted poster in the World’s End.

“There,” said the Macha, “just like old times. Right, Anand?”

“Y—y—aye. Just like old times.”

Emily — because, despite her change in appearance, Dante couldn’t think of her as anybody else — smiled. “Now, you seemed like you knew something about Ketos?”

“Actually, it’s about that investigation,” she replied, slipping into her old, natural accent. “I heard your mam was in on it, and Dante’s too. That’s why people came after them. And Dante’s mam, she gave herself up tae save the others.”

He knew your parents! Dante felt another pang of guilt for attacking Shelley’s mysterious friend. Emily, her smile now a concerned frown, looked to him for permission to discuss what they had talked about in private. He nodded his acknowledgement. After all he’d done to Shelley, he could at least repay her with his trust.

“I thought it might be something like that,” said Emily. “They learned something about the Erebus that others wanted to know. On top of that, certain members of the Sidhe — like Ketos — wanted to expose their investigation. That’s why”—she fixed her eyes on Dante—“neither Seelie nor the Sidhe moved to help them. It would have destroyed everything they worked to achieve.”

It certainly fit with the things Chief Payne had told him. “The Sophists had the same idea,” he said, careful not to reveal too much, lest he betray the Chief’s trust.

“Someone set them up!” said Shelley. “And there was this woman called Arided who was in on everything, maybe even the one behind it all!”

Exposition! Exposition everywhere! But we need to get things straight and set them up…