Chapter 11

For a Father’s Approval

Oscar studied his reflection in the smooth frame of the Seelie cellular. He despised the hexagonal abomination almost as much as he despised the Theatre that provided it. He forced a smile to dispel the ugly scowl from his handsome young face. One could never tell what conclusions the Malkuthian mirror was making in secret, what information it was feeding to its Seelie masters. Oscar couldn’t wait to be rid of it.

“Your tea, Master York.”

His father’s ageing butler placed a tray of refreshments on the Pembroke table with a bow. Oscar smiled his thanks and poured himself a cup of Earl Grey from the china teapot. Unlike those ignorant peons clogging up the catacombs, with their bacon bushes and mutton mushrooms, the Aristocracy only dined on natural produce, imported, if required, from the farthest reaches of the world. Let the paupers have their synthetic mockeries! It was only a matter of time before some genetic defect in the production line poisoned the lot of them, and then they would wish they had embraced the Aristocracy’s altruistic offers of salvation when they had the chance.

Salvation. The priests thought it some kind of spiritual escape from an ever-spinning wheel of rebirth. Oscar thought it Earl Grey tea and ginger biscuits for dunking. He gobbled one down in a single bite, letting the crumbs cascade down his chin and settle on his rich velvet waistcoat. Playing along with the Church was a small price to pay for that luxury.

Maybe he could introduce Ceres Mendoza to such delights once she was a faithful servant of the York family. After spending her life on a diet of bugs and berries, she could do with a good steak or three, and Oscar would be happy to oblige. He was so enamoured with the thought that he failed to notice the doors to his father’s study open. He stood with a start, almost spilling tea over his crotch, and hastily brushed the crumbs from his clothes. By the time his father’s personal assistant, Erlea, raised her tourmaline eye to meet his, he was, once again, a dashing example of untainted manhood.

“Your father will see you now,” she said, her voice soft as a summer breeze and tinted with her tribe’s foreign accent. She was one of few Donaran survivors. Brushing a rogue strand of hyacinth-blue hair behind one of her mutilated ears, she smiled, hid her lingering gaze behind her delicate copper eyelids. Oscar wanted to reach out and stroke a finger against those blushing cheeks, to run it along her sweet lips and then down, down until her whimpers begged him to stop but her groans suggested otherwise — but Oscar knew his place. Resisting the urge, he plucked up his cellular and returned Erlea’s smile.

Yeah, they grow bacon on trees these days. You wouldn’t know the difference if you tasted it, either.