15: The Gathering Place
“Basic things, really. Balls, noise-makers, things that might have had a great deal more colour in brighter days.”
“So, the sort of things you’d give to a baby, or an infant?”
Byron shrugged. “One would presume so. I cannot say I’ve experience in such things…” He moved over to the desk and took an immediate interest in a book entitled ‘Neo Lemegeton’. “If so, one can only infer that those children would be little younger than ourselves. Assuming, of course, they survived.”
Emily thought of Dante, pacing about the hallway, knowing where this place was and that it was ‘safe’. She wondered if he came here often. She always assumed he grew up in the forest with his Donaran mother. Maybe that wasn’t the case. Maybe she had spent time in Seelie and fled back into the forest after whatever happened here fourteen years ago. Maybe there was even more to it than that. She almost didn’t want to know, because then she would start to question whether her own life was one big soup of coincidences, or a tapestry of schemes and manipulations.
“Do you think they’re still around?” asked Byron.
“Probably people we know,” she replied.
“No, these entities.” He indicated to the book he was browsing. “This tome is dated to thirty years ago, but even the spirits are vulnerable to our world’s harsh realities.”
“No idea,” she said with a shrug. She wasn’t particularly fond on the whole spirits-and-demons thing. Seers made excellent channellers and, more often than not, it wasn’t through choice. Just the thought of it made her stomach twist. “I’m going to check elsewhere before the Sophists get bored and break down the doors.”
She stole a glance at the poet as she left and noticed him stashing the book into his satchel. She wondered how many others he might steal. In truth, she envied him; she would have taken a few for her own collection, were it not for her pesky morals.
If the office had been an orderly workspace, the studio next door was its antithesis. In one corner sat a stringless guitar, a broken keyboard, and a violin with half its neck snapped off; in the other a pile of canvases, some with half-painted imaginations dulled by neglect. She prised them apart and found an unfinished painting of a young couple cradling a tiny baby in their arms. It wasn’t detailed enough to make any positive identifications, but Emily knew it wasn’t Dante because all three figures had pale skin.
She breathed a sigh of relief; not everything had to be a coincidence.
She was about to leave the room and check up on the Sophist situation when a door in the corner caught her eye. She was going to pass it off as a storage cupboard and get on with more important things, but gut instinct demanded she investigate; there was something about it, something that, as much as she loathed to, she could only see with her ‘third’ eye, a sense of importance that rivalled the glowing obelisks scattering the Scar’s interior.
Unlike the abandoned paintings, and much of the Scar itself, this place had a form, an identity, a soul. In fact, from the way the details of the room were etched into the aether, someone came here often.
And maybe, she thought, that someone was Dante.
She lifted her cellular for light and found her answer in scores of pictures and photographs, notes and journals, memorabilia piled together to form a shrine to times past. Emily stood there in silence, a thousand memories staring back at her from places she could have only imagined, from deserts and jungles to the top of the Seventh Wall and even the snowfields of Antarctica.
Byron doesn’t really have a clue when it comes to children. He didn’t exactly have much of a childhood himself.