Chapter 16

A Crack in the Mask

The Erebus. Emily clutched her arms—the mere sound of that name stealing away what little heat the Scar had left. Unlike the Sophists, she did not have the luxury of enchanted armour to keep out the cold.

Neither did Byron, but at least he had his wit to shield him. “It seems our definitions of music must differ,” he said.

The Director snorted in response. His mask distorted his voice, giving it an almost inhuman, mechanical quality. “Then you are fortunate, Mr d’Arcadie. And what of the rest of you?” He turned his eyes on Emily. “Ms Fomalhaut?”

Emily matched his icy glare with her own. His bodyguards were taking up position at the corners of the roof now, turning to face the swelling storm with palms outstretched, and Emily heard two more land on the roof behind her. With only a cursory glimpse into the aether she could picture their wills reaching out to reinforce the enchanted light that kept the fog at bay. First technology, now magic—the Sophists’ public face was as much a facade as Emily’s own.

She wondered if hers was as obvious. Slipping a hand beneath her skirt, she found the hilt of her knife, the Macha’s knife. All she had to do was find a chink in the Director’s armour and she could finish the task her uncle failed all those years ago. Sure, it wouldn’t fix her life—on the contrary, it would probably be the last thing she ever did—but at least she could go out fighting. It’s how they always figured they’d go, her and Leira, the ‘Daughters of Ernmas’.

“The only song I can hear,” she said, the Macha’s vitriol bubbling to the surface, magma oozing from the shell called ‘Emily Fomalhaut’, “is the one telling me to wipe that smug look off of your face.”

They all wore it, all Sophists, even behind their masks. She’d seen it enough in her life to know it was permanent. Even their so-called Founding Father couldn’t help but grin when Verraden Sepulturero tried to take his life—and that she felt any sympathy at all for her father’s repulsive brother spoke volumes of her hatred for the Sophists.

“Smug?” asked the Director, and reached up to remove his mask. “Is that how you see me?”

One day you will hear about the adventures of Macha and Badb.