Orphic Phantasia

18: Reflection

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“Always thinking of yourself when there is so much more at stake,” replied the Prince, making her feel small and pitiful even in the comfort of her own room. “Is your personal dignity all that much to ask when the future of the world is at stake?”

“You want me to get inside their heads!” Just as she had with Phantasia, she couldn’t help the words spilling out of her mouth. As frightened of the Prince as she was — and she had good reason to be — it was too much to hold in.

If Freyr took offense to her attitude, he did not show it. “A reasonable request of a seer, wouldn’t you say? That you might have to rely on some of your more — how should we put it? — sensual talents to encourage a few of them to open up is surely no great sacrifice? I am certain they would thank you for the experience!”

“And spend the rest of their lives obsessed with me.” And it would be the ones like Dante and Shelley, who kept to themselves and shared little of their hearts, she would have to seduce. The ones she valued the most. Her friends. The scarring would be irreparable. “What about Princess Phantasia? I’m sure she can see the Erebus better than I ever could.”

“Is that the attitude of my dear Emily Fomalhaut? The kindest girl who ever lived? Who would never think to pry into the hearts and minds of others? Would she be this eager to burden others with her responsibilities?”

Emily didn’t want to look at him, at his smug smile of victory, but she had no choice. Wherever she looked, there he was, irresistible, irrefutable.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “not only does Princess Phantasia lack your — how should we put this? — experience of the human psyche, but she has a certain anarchic charm that I myself find most delightful, but my beloved Dionysus does not.”

He traced more images into the air, this time caricatures of the white-haired Phantasia jumping in to defend slaves from their Sophist overseers.

“As you may have noticed, she cannot resist helping others. You could almost say it drives her very being! But she does not care for the consequences of her actions.” The cartoon Phantasia drew a crowd as she ranted at the Sophists and, much to Emily’s amusement, an uncanny depiction of Director Guirlande. “She will act without thinking, even if her actions would throw everything we have worked for into jeopardy.”

“Like when she chased the Erebus away?”

“Precisely,” said Freyr with a wide grin, as a breeze dissolved his images into dust. “You see, the Princess is not one for subtleties. At that time, she only saw that her friends were in danger, so she took action. That it prevented my darling Dionysus from gathering vital information did not bother her. Had she stayed her hand then I daresay we would not be having this conversation.”

“So you can’t control her.”

“Rather, she cannot control herself. That, my dear Emily, is the difference between the two of you. Of course, if you do decide you are too good and too moral and too pure to help us, then we will have no choice but to employ her talents. I am certain she will have no personal scruples to hold her back and, as you well know, she has little time for secrets.”

Emily thought of the Princess scrying the hearts of her friends, whether they wanted her to or not, then revealing their deepest secrets to anyone and everyone she met. At least Emily would have a conscience about it.

A conscience, after she already stole all their secrets? Her stomach lurched at the sickening irony of it all.

Freyr is enjoying this.