24: The Day That Never Came
Dante slipped Arided’s tablet into his pocket and rubbed away his tears. He couldn’t let his father see him in such a childish state. He had to be brave.
Cyrus Aides was a tall, slender man with thick black hair and rich copper skin. He was wearing a second skin of Seelie armour beneath tattered layers of enchanted Donaran garments. There was a gash along his side and a shimmer of blood tracing the lines of his face. He took one look at Dante, then turned his back on him. It was as if the mere sight of his son disgusted him. There was no ‘How are you, Dante?’, no ‘Are you hurt, Dante?’, just silence. Dante stuffed his hands into his pockets and shuffled past him without a word.
His father followed him outside, mumbling something about the fog and how it was dangerous to go alone, but Dante only paid him the slightest attention. If his father really cared, he would have been there sooner. If he really cared, Ophelia Orpheus would never have had to leave her son behind. Had he not pointed out that the Scar’s main gate was open, Dante would have left him behind and made for the secret passage that his mother used to get inside, and had Dante not felt on the verge of collapse, he might well have ignored him and made for the passage regardless.
The journey that followed was an awkward one, filled with long periods of silence. When Cyrus Aides asked his son a question, Dante replied with as few words as he could. He never once asked about his wife, though. Nor did he ask about the Donara, his own people, despite the plumes of smoke still rising from the forest. It was as if he didn’t really care about any of them. He proved as much when they reached the Ritches Estate to find a growing crowd of refugees pleading for shelter as their homes burned. Instead of offering to help Ms Ritches, Cyrus Aides loitered around the shadows, trying his best to go unseen.
A moment later, as a distraught Katy Ritches flung herself at Dante and enveloped him in a tearful hug, he vanished into the night.
Soon after, Ms Ritches instructed her daughter to take Dante inside and find him a place to stay. Katy found him a room two doors away from her own and left him inside while she hurried to fetch clean blankets and clothes. While she was gone, Dante stowed Arided’s tablet in the bedside cabinet.
“If you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask,” said Katy, before enveloping him in another hug. She later returned with a tray of hot food and tea, then scooped up his discarded clothes for washing, but by that point he had already cocooned himself inside the bed sheets. She presumed him asleep.
He wiped away the tears and tried again to focus on the words in front of him.
‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Therefore, a sufficiently advanced society should no longer believe in magic.’
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Loitering around and not saying much, ey? Can’t imagine who that reminds me of!