Orphic Phantasia

14: Shelley Eoghan and the Ruins of Dusk

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“Hold on,” said Alonie, “I think—oh, great.” She didn’t sound impressed. “Shell, didn’t you say that no one else knows about this place?”

“Well, no one we know.” Shuck was certain of it. He was the one who told her it was safe. Although it didn’t look much different to the other houses around the courtyard, there was something about it that let people inside without disturbing the Scar’s magic. Shelley was too frightened to explore its other rooms, though, even when Shuck told her it was safe to do so. She didn’t like the idea of poking around someone else’s personal space, even if that person wasn’t around anymore.

Alonie scowled. She shared Shelley’s feelings towards privacy and personal restraint. That was why she hid herself beneath a veil of hair and a long Malkuthian cloak. Underneath, she was a paragon of beauty a step beyond human attainment, like one of the Sidhe given flesh. Even when scowling she looked attractive, such were the blessings of the City and its people. Shelley, on the other hand, was a scrawny little thing from the Grampian Mountains, and if her mother was anything to go by — not that her mother wasn’t beautiful — she would never amount to anything on par with Alonie. Few people ever would.

“Well, guess what?” she said. “We’ve got visitors.”

Shelley’s breath caught in her throat. “S-Sophists?”

“Worse.” Alonie stepped back from the window, a thread of purple light catching her lip as she bit down on it. “It’s Vincent and Blake.”

And one of them was thumping the back door with enough force that the Sophists were bound to hear.

“Friends of yours?” asked Shuck. “As much as I hate visitors, I wouldnae leave them waiting around. Better them than those armoured fellas.”

Shelley didn’t have to say anything. Alonie could read her nerves as if she could read the aether itself. With a grunt of annoyance, she headed downstairs to get the boys inside before they could cause any trouble.

This had the added benefit of giving Shelley a few precious seconds to speak with Shuck.

“How would they even know about this place?” she asked him. “Are there any others out there who might’ve told them?”

“Not that I know. If I were a betting man, I’d say this is Seelie’s work. Strange things are afoot, that’s fer sure.”

Strange things, like Seelie sending its Second Class initiates into the Scar. Maybe, if they were the First Class on the brink of promotion to the Academy, Shelley could understand it, but the Second Class included people like Vincent Masters and Blake Osbourne, who had about as much chance of entering the Academy as some random drunkard from the undertown. Not that there was much difference between the two.

These are the Seelie officers of the future?” said Shuck, dark eyes aflame with disbelief. “The world is doomed.”

“Sheeell!” Blake Osbourne, an ashen-faced fellow so starved he could have masqueraded as a skeleton and nobody would have noticed, staggered into the room and raised his arms as if to hug her, then tripped over his own shoelaces and stumbled onto the bed beside her. Shelley pulled herself away as he tried to drag her down with him.

“This ain’t the place for that, mate,” said Vincent Masters, slumped against the doorframe as he struggled to keep his laughter in check. His hair wasn’t as long as Blake’s, but it was just as black. He might have even been attractive, if he wasn’t such a jerk — especially towards girls who shunned his advances. Especially towards Shelley.

“Besides,” he said with a grin, “everyone knows she’s frigid as a—”

He fell into the room as Alonie’s fist met his back. “Any more like that and I’ll throw the pair of you out to the Sophists,” she said. Vincent tried to laugh it off, but couldn’t keep his balance and collapsed into a nearby chair.

“Sorry, Shell,” said Alonie. “If I’d known they were pissed, I would’ve left them outside.”

Here are some jerks.