12: The Fogs of Agnoia
“Father, what is this place? That fog? Was it—” she found the words difficult to say, but forced them out regardless, “—was it the Agnoia?”
“It has many names. Now, see that you are cleansed, in mind, body and spirit alike. I must attend to my duty.”
She glimpsed his eyes beneath the mask, cold and narrow. Troubled. “The Lords request I arrest any found trespassing. You are lucky to have received their pardon. Be thankful for it.” Pulling himself away from her, he marched towards the now-unsealed doorway amongst the Scar’s roots, where his troops awaited their orders.
Astrid felt a rough hand on her shoulder. It was the clergyman. He must have been one of the oldest men she had ever seen. “Do not let their politics worry you, child,” he said, sounding even closer to death than he looked. “Come. Tell me what you saw in that place so we might release the burden on your soul.”
“I saw darkness,” said Astrid, “and fog, and”—she looked down at her faded dress—”dust.”
“On the surface, yes, but what did you see beneath that? Your father has taught you the words of our beloved Sophia, has he not?”
“I know to question everything,” said Astrid, “so that I may uncover the truth.”
A smile awakened deep creases in the man’s face. “Good,” he said. “So, what did you see?”
“There are many conflicting tales of what lies within these walls,” said Byron, “and little genuine fact.”
They had just crossed over into the Fourth Circle, thanks to an access gateway in the wall that Katrina knew about. From here, it looked as if there was nothing but open fields and tuffs of overgrowing orchids between them and the mountain of Malkuth. In reality, however, there were two more walls and the Second Circle’s sprawling suburbia. Byron had as many stories of that as he did the Scar, though, as with many of his stories, Emily could never be sure where the poetic exaggerations began.
“I have heard stories of sealed beasts and demon hearts,” he continued, as they followed the wall west, towards the Scar, “of walking dead and souls lost, living fogs and divine light. There is truth in everything, no matter how small, and I am curious as to the seeds of these grandiose narratives. After all, one cannot find truth unless one studies it from all angles.”
“Trust me, it’s nothing special,” said Kat who, unlike the suburban minstrel, refused to elaborate on her adventures.
Emily looked to Dante. He hadn’t said a thing since they left their apartment. She wondered what he might be thinking, what possible panic had driven him to Byron’s sedating drugs—and whether it was all her fault. Of course, were she as amoral as the Sidhe, she could have easily reached out a hand and seduced her way into his thoughts, but she was still Emily Fomalhaut, and Emily Fomalhaut did not invade the privacy of others.
“Alas,” said Byron, “it seems that infuriating Malkuthian has beaten us here.”
Sitting amongst the Scar’s twisted roots was a blood red vehicle, a sleek fusion of Old World design and modern style, its wheels rimmed with the rainbow shimmer of levitators, its cockpit shrouded in a mirror sheen of night. Only Chris Shaw could pilot such a blazon beast, and only Chris Shaw could give it such a cringe-inducing name as the Lady Diablo.
“Serves you right for feeding people drugs,” said Kat, as she hauled herself up onto the nearest root and began the long climb up the Scar’s sloped surface.
Dante remained silent, lost in a world of his own. Or, perhaps, a memory.
Chapter 12 End
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I hoped you enjoyed this alternative perspective. Especially since there are more to come!