24: The Day That Never Came
Dante sipped the coffee. He still wasn’t used to the sweetness, or the ugly aftertaste of the stimulants he mixed in. Convincing Byron d’Arcadie to slip him the drugs behind Katrina’s back had been a chore, and the price high — he had to provide ‘constructive criticism’ on the minstrel’s awful poetry — but it was a small sacrifice for escaping sleep. And, when he couldn’t keep sleep at bay any longer, he had the sedatives for dissuading dreams.
Dreams — and the anxiety that clawed at his stomach whenever he thought about his failed application to Seelie’s initiate program.
“Try again next year,” Azhara’d al-Hakim had told him. Despite all his effort and all his training, Seelie didn’t consider Dante Orpheus good enough for their Initiate Program. In their eyes, he was still just a child.
He wondered what his mother would think of him. When she was his age, his mother already had her wings. She watched him now from a framed photograph, which Mrs Ritches had given him when he moved into his apartment. At least she recognised his claims to adulthood, even if Seelie did not. Still, the next round of applications was only three months away. If he worked hard enough in the meantime, he could be at the Academy by this time next year.
There was a knock at his door — six-one-six, Byron’s code. Dante swallowed the last of his coffee, slipped the Tablet into his cloak pocket, and prepared himself for another round of excruciating rhymes.
It would all work out in the end, he assured himself, even if it took him a little longer than he’d hoped. His mother would understand. His mother would be proud of him.
And, one day, he would bring her home.
Ophelia completed the Initiate Program when she was ten. She was a Seelie Officer by the time she was twelve.
Wartime is fun, huh?