Emily turned and found the Prince slouching in a chair with a wicked-looking smile on his face. “It’s not your doing?” she said. “So, someone else is … that’s why you’re in such a hurry, isn’t it? That’s why you’ve asked me to…” Her voice trailed off as the pieces fell into place, realisation dawned.
The Prince reached over to her desk and snatched up her eyeliner between slender brown fingers. “As I said before, time is not on our side.” He waved the pencil through the air, drawing sweeping lines that spun together like tendrils of wind gathering around a storm. “The threads of fate spin together, weave themselves into an inevitable pattern, a moment in time where all eyes fall upon a single decision, a word to change the world.”
He poked the eye of his illusionary storm. “Right now, that pattern is emerging. The moment is coming.”
Emily pictured all the threads of her life, all the various coincidences and contrivances, the way they wrapped around Dante’s life and his parents lives, linked everything together into a single, momentous tapestry, like the cataclysmic murals adorning the walls of the World’s End.
“You’ve been planning this for years, haven’t you?” she said.
The Prince replied with a lecturer’s nod, an encouragement to continue. Forgetting her near-nakedness, she stood up, began to pull at the threads around her, weave them together as only a Maiden — only a seer could.
“The Director said there were others besides me, so you must have been keeping an eye on Torsten for — no, the Theatre for years. Ever since the Sophists attacked the Donara. That’s when Rembrandt Payne started keeping initiates on for the full six terms, regardless of their ability. He did it so you would have more time to study us…”
All Prince Freyr could do was grin.
“You’re looking for something,” said Emily. “You’re looking for—”
“Prince Dionysus is investigating the Erebus.”
The imaginary pain in her shoulder flared up, the twisting black fire that no one else could see. The reason she had made a deal with the Sidhe in the first place. Her brand. The brand.
“It’s the Erebus,” she said. “You’re looking for the Erebus. That’s why you send people into the Scar. That’s why you’ve been watching me. To see…”
To see who she attracted. Like attracts like.
“You’re looking for Branded. That’s why Prince Dionysus is familiar with Director Guirlande, isn’t it? Because the Sophists hunt the Branded as well.” It must have been the Sidhe who set the Sophists up with a seer. “That slave I met this morning. He was Branded too. He must have been. That’s why he was afraid of me. The Sophists must have…”
Must have scried him. Just as they expected Emily to scry her friends. Maybe, had things played out a little differently, that seer could have been her…
She had to sit down. Her own role in everything was clear at last and the answers had been there all along, if only she’d had the courage to look for them.
“If only you had the courage to be yourself,” said the Prince. “That is why we chose you, after all. You are, without a doubt, a seer of the highest quality, able to perceive things that even we cannot. A shame, then, that you wish to bury such talents behind such a dull persona.”
“No,” she shook her head. “That’s not who I am. I’m not Aliza. I’m Emily. I won’t—I can’t do it. I’m not like that. I’m not—”
Like my mother.
Pulling the threads together.