17: Fear of the Light
Phantasia gave Emily a pained look of forgiveness, but Emily nodded her understanding. She wondered if the Prince had heard everything they said, or if he had planned this from the very beginning. Perhaps, she feared, both. Either way, they had no choice in the matter.
As if they ever had any to begin with…
“Very well,” said the Princess. “I shall return with you—but I will not break my promise.”
“I would not expect you to.”
Phantasia touched Emily’s hand. Even here, in the real world, her touch was as soft as a butterfly’s. “When I have learned the truth, you shall be the first to know of it,” she said. “Let us put an end to this world of lies and deception, for there can be no good in a world filled with secrets.”
A world without them would be worse, thought Emily, but if the Sidhe heard her, they did not comment, and were gone as suddenly as they appeared.
“An interesting character, to be sure,” said Guirlande, “though I would not trust her. She would tell a person everything she knows, regardless of the consequences.” He motioned to his men, and Emily wondered how much they saw, if, indeed, they saw anything at all. “Speaking of which, we have secrets of our own to keep. The lords will not be pleased if they know we deprived them of a chance to strike out at Seelie. We shall have to engineer some convenient excuses.”
He pulled his beaked mask back into position and turned to Emily. “I apologise for the truths you learned today. I am as guilty as anyone for wishing to live behind a veil of ignorance, but now that veil has fallen. Watch over Orpheus, and watch over yourself. These schemes date back longer than you or I realise, and it may well be too late us mere mortals to make a difference to their outcome.”
With a swirl of his cape, the Sophist Director leapt to the street below, his peacekeepers a step behind him. Emily stood there a little longer, waiting for their footsteps to fade into silence, then made her way inside. There, she stopped for one last look at the photo of her parents with Dante’s own, and captured the image on her cellular so as not to disturb the shrine. Then, after paying her silent respects to the myriad names who had lost their lives—perhaps even their souls—to horrors unthought of, she made her way to the basement and down into the catacombs.
Back into the underground from where she came.
“Dude, remind me to stay away from kooky ruins,” said Lance.
“You’ll have to talk to Seelie about that,” said Chris, hoping Ms Shimomura would take the hint. The small Akaishian woman smiled. Chris had read all about empaths before his assignment to Torsten, but the Commander’s ability to sense and manipulate emotions without speaking a word still unnerved him—or it would have done, were it not for the soothing pastel colours and gentle wind chimes of her office massaging his mood.
“I think staying away from any kooky ruins would be a good idea,” she said. “I am sorry your exams had to end in such a troublesome way.” She touched Lance’s arm. “Are you certain you’re feeling all right now?”
“Just a little bit groggy, Miss,” he replied. He certainly looked a lot better than he did half an hour ago, and Chris’s scans suggested the detoxicant had done its job removing the ash from his lungs. “Nothing a little sleep and some sweet, sweet dreams won’t cure.”
Sweet, sweet dreams of Alonie Kent, no doubt. Lance hadn’t shut up about her since Chris pulled him out of the Scar. “She came to rescue me, dude. That’s totally true love,” he had said, and wouldn’t accept any arguments to the contrary.
“Sleep is good,” said Ms Shimomura. “Let me know if your dreams are not so sweet, though.” She turned to Chris, “And what about you, Mr Shaw?”
“I can hold my breath for longer than he can,” he replied.
“What about strange thoughts? Hallucinations, maybe?”
Like how Shelley’s family hails from the Grampian Mountains in Scotland, Ms Shimomura comes from the Akaishi Mountains in Japan.