Orphic Phantasia

33: Three Eyes Open

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“You ready to get under the skin of this place?” she asked Dante after explaining the nature of the illusion. Unlike the aethex wall that had fooled him the previous week, this one wouldn’t put up a fight, she assured him.

“It’s just an alleyway,” he said, almost to himself, as he closed his eyes and tried to picture the world as Emily had done.

“A whole lot of them,” said Emily, recalling the time she ran into the man from the Fortunate Isles. This time, however, she had Katrina to guide her, and her trail of subconscious acknowledgement brought them to a door Emily might never have noticed otherwise, flat and inconspicuous as it was, almost like a drawing on the wall.

But it was obvious the door was there because of the man guarding it. Tall and broad of shoulders, with slicked back hair and a dark visor over his eyes, he wore an unfamiliar uniform of earthly colours. On his breast, the butterfly brooch of Seelie glistened in the gloom, its base a polished bronze, its design that of a lieutenant.

“Ms Fomalhaut,” he said, his voice low and unthreatening, “Mr Orpheus. I am afraid I cannot let you pass.”

“And why’s that?” asked Emily.

“I have my orders,” said the man. “You are not to leave Avalon.”

Emily looked to Dante. It was no coincidence that Katrina could escape the island, but she could not. “Are those orders from Rembrandt Payne?” she asked. She didn’t recognise the man, but there were surely officers at the Theatre who didn’t involve themselves with the initiates.

The man raised an eyebrow. “My orders are from Chief Truro,” he said. “Chief Payne does not have the authority to command officers outside of his own troupe.”

Emily winced; Seelie command structures were not her area of expertise. “Look, I need to get out of here,” she said, putting an element of panic into her voice and biting down on her lip for added effect. “There are people in Avalon who are trying to kidnap me. Something about a ‘G-Man’?”

“So I have heard,” said the lieutenant. “Our employer has expressed his concern over your treatment. If you wish, I could escort you to him. He may be able to arrange for your sanctuary.”

And by ‘employer’ he no doubt meant the Fortunate Isles. Emily’s fingers inched to the knife hidden beneath her skirt. She didn’t fancy her chances against a Seelie officer, but she wasn’t about to fall victim to another kidnapping attempt.

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You didn’t think Seelie could just set up operations somewhere and start telling everyone what to do, did you?