15: The Gathering Place
Emily stared at the fog looming over their heads, like one of the giant waves Theia pulled across the world. It moved like a living thing, its curdling bulk consuming the Scar’s insides. She rubbed her shoulder; from somewhere inside that silent miasma she could hear a song, faint but noticeable, its twelve notes repeating…
“I don’t know when it happened,” said Katrina. “It just did!”
“It seems some foul beast is itching to escape its bounds,” said Byron. “As I predicted, these fogs of lamentation are indeed incapable of entering the light that surrounds this place. I would wager my previous hypothesis — that the Scar is itself a magic circle, with these shrines of light acting as nodes — is therefore correct.”
“Good for you,” snarked Andromeda Blumstein, “but don’t you think we should maybe stop gawping and start getting the hell out of here?”
Not that they had anywhere left to run. Byron’s plan hadn’t taken the wall of fog into account, and nobody wanted to end up like Lance Algar. It was a sure-fire way to end up Sophist slaves — or worse.
Emily looked towards the faint glimmer of light behind the fogs, where the Scar’s singular opening looked out upon an eclipse-darkened sky. If this was all Seelie’s doing, if this were Dionysus’s alternative, then surely someone would act. They wouldn’t let the initiates fall into Sophist hands, and they certainly wouldn’t let them fall into that endless void, with its distant song, calling out for an end to all things.
They wouldn’t, unless…
A sharp pain screamed through her shoulder. This was all her fault. She led them all here in the hopes of saving them, but instead she had brought them to their doom. Byron, Dante, Shelley, even her sister. Even Alonie.
Maybe, if she had paid a little more attention to the world around her, kept her eyes open as a seer should have, things might have been different. Aliza Adel would have known what to do, and the Macha would have been downstairs right now, running that traitor through with her own sword, but Emily? Emily Fomalhaut was supposed to be a nice, normal girl, and nice, normal girls did not get involved in scrying or killing.
They didn’t poke around in other people’s property, either.
Dante hadn’t once acknowledged her since he brought them to the house. Did he know? Had he realised what Emily had seen? She reached out for his hand. He was trembling beneath that oversized cloak of his — of his father’s. If only she could tell him what she knew, about the things they shared, then perhaps she could save him, but how could she ever admit to it? How could she ever admit to him that Emily Fomalhaut was a lie? A lie born in the underground, on the shores of a lake, its cold waters lapping at her feet. The one place she felt safe. The place where all time seemed to stop.
Once again, it was Byron’s panicked cry that brought her out of the depths. “Beware! Something moves within the fogs! Either salvation is at hand, or the fogs of lamentation have—”
A large shape ripped through the twisting dark to land with a metallic thud on the derelict rooftop. As two more figures joined it, the armoured figure rose to its full, intimidating height. A beaked mask looked down upon the initiates with a pair of familiar, ice-blue eyes.
“Fogs of Lamentation, Mr d’Arcadie?” said the Sophist Director, Rosencrantz Guirlande. “This is no fog. This is the Erebus. Do you not hear its song?”
Emily’s shoulder burned. Twelve notes for twelve wings.
Erebus, hear our call; and please, let Theia fall…
Chapter 15 End
I hate action-based writing. I had more trouble with the revisions on this chapter than any other thus far (by which I mean it took a whole weekend of work when I thought it was near enough the final draft…)