Orphic Phantasia

18: Reflection

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“You should be thankful we asked you,” said the Prince. “All you stand to do is break some hearts, ruin a few friendships, imprint an unquenchable desire into a handful of souls, but nothing serious, nothing we can’t — how should we put this? — rearrange. Our Princess, however? I think secrets are the last thing you should worry about. My darling Dionysus calls Phantasia an avatar of the Goddess Herself, Light Incarnate — and it is the fear of that very Light which turns the world.”

He gestured towards the wide window that overlooked the town — only now it looked over a forest, its trees so tall they might have swamped Malkuth itself, and among them a tree of such size it might have reached the stars. A pulsating, iridescent sun rose behind them, tethered to a whirlwind axis. Emily trembled at the sight.

“We do not normally show such scenes to humans,” said Freyr, adding with a smile, “though we might argue whether or not you classify as one. This is my world — or, at least, a vision of it, tempered so that your eyes might understand. Are you frightened?”

It was like something from a dream, and yet something far beyond a dream, as if the Lord Prince had stripped away all the layers of illusion between Heaven and Earth. Emily fell back onto her bed and pulled the sheets around her. “Y—yes,” she said.

“Not nearly frightened enough.”

The forest seemed to fade as the star flared up, growing in size and splendour as if it were falling towards them. Emily pulled the sheets over her eyes but the image had already burned itself into her memory and, as it grew closer, brighter, she thought she might lose herself to that blazing, welcoming Light — the Light that stripped everything away, every layer, every wall, every secret, until all was One and One was All. She cried out; she didn’t want to go there—

Darkness. The vision faded into memory, and then into nothing, except for a lingering fear and a stinging migraine, as if she had just stared unblinking into the Sun.

“That was merely an illusion,” said the Prince. “But the Light — the true Light — reveals all, and beneath it no one can lie and no one can deceive. Not even me, the Master of Illusions. If that is what it takes to find what we are looking for, then my darling Dionysus shall do so without regret. For him, truth is everything, and he would not hesitate to sacrifice others if it would save this world from the Erebus.” Freyr sighed, like a love-struck teenager reminiscing about his crush. “You see where Princess Phantasia gets her ideals from, yes?”

To think that cheerful young girl with her big smile and innocent eyes could have such a terrifying power — but, then again, Emily was no different. Who would have thought her capable of entering another’s soul? Who would have thought her capable of stealing their secrets?

Who would have thought her capable of murder?

She rubbed her shoulder. Even if it had only been an illusion, the image of that blinding rainbow sun had made her want to hide in darkness, to retreat to a place where no one would ever find her. Somewhere she could find some peace. A place where she could escape all these impossible choices — at least, what choices she had.

“Dionysus has planned for every possible outcome,” said the Prince. “So whether you refuse our request or not makes no difference to him — but it will make a difference to your friends.”

Freyr and Dionysus once had a date night where they watched Lord of the Rings and chilled.