Orphic Phantasia

18: Reflection

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Her friends. They were the real victims in all of this. “You said something about ‘rearranging’. Rearranging what, exactly? My memory? Because that won’t make it better. Not for them. Unless—” Unless he would rearrange their memories, too.

“I do not work with memories,” said the Prince, “that is the domain of the Áes Uisce. I am Áes Gáeth. Dreams are my domain. Dreams and … suggestions. You might say I have a certain — how should we put this? — persuasive power. I persuade them that you did not touch them, and perhaps I persuade you of that too. Much as I once persuaded certain people that Aliza Adel did not exist, or how I persuaded others to overlook that mark on your shoulder. Much as I once offered to persuade the world that you were somebody else…”

Emily wondered where her life might have gone had she accepted. Would she have still ended up at the Theatre, spying on her fellow initiates, subconsciously scrying for signs of the Erebus lodged in their hearts? Perhaps she would have done so openly, like that Sophist seer, her fears and scruples locked away behind a veil of illusion.

“You were foolish to refuse me,” said Freyr.

“I had—I have friends.”

“And now look at the trouble they are causing us!”

“Then—then why don’t you ‘persuade’ them to throw themselves at me and be done with this already?” She bit her tongue, painfully aware of the thin ice she was walking on.

Freyr cocked a green eyebrow. “Perhaps I should. Perhaps I already have.”

Perhaps that was all any of this was: an illusion. Perhaps her entire life was a play, orchestrated by higher powers. Perhaps this was all a dream, and ‘Emily Fomalhaut’ and ‘Aliza Adel’ deceptions both.

Perhaps.

“I—I just want to be normal.” As her eyes began to water, it was all she could think to say. “I just want to be Emily.”

Emily Fomalhaut, a cheerful girl with a life ahead of her. Emily Fomalhaut, just another Malkuthian immigrant, blue of hair and bronze of skin, her eyes but a pale imitation of a Maiden’s. Emily Fomalhaut, who would never seduce her way into the hearts and minds and dreams of others, who would never steal their secrets, never hurt her friends.

Emily Fomalhaut, an illusion and a lie, but better than the truth.

“I promised you a normal life,” said the Prince, “and we do not break our promises. If it is what you wish then, when all this is over, you will have your normal life, and they will remember nothing of ‘Aliza Adel’. My kind once wove illusions that covered this whole world; rearranging a few souls here and there should be no trouble at all.”

So, this was it, her only choice. Emily’s only choice. The only way to save her friends.

“If you could do that, it would … it would make it easier,” she said.

Freyr grinned, wolf and man both. “I would wish for nothing else.”

Somewhere deep inside, in the places even Freyr could not find, old memories stirred, old ambitions, old embers. In that dark place, on the shores of that lonely lake where one soul died and another was born, a black-and-blue flame began its dance, pale of skin but wicked of smile.

Emily’s choice, maybe, but there were always alternatives to ‘Emily’.

Just like old times.

Chapter 18 End

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Well, that was a happy chapter! Don’t worry; next week, Dante and Joel Ninja Gaiden and chill.

Meanwhile, if you ever lose track of the characters and want an up-to-date refresher, I’ve added a detailed cast index. I’ll also be adding a recap section in the near future. Speaking of adding things, I’ve also added a new page to the end of Episode One, which details some background information of the Seelie Initiate Program. I’ll be adding these pages alongside the interludes during the breaks between episodes (although the bonus page for Episode Two might be a couple of weeks in waiting). Exciting stuff!

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