Orphic Phantasia

34: Beneath the Surface

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This was the last tunnel before Bolventor, of that Emily was certain. Any deeper and they would end up in the mines. The air was cooler than she expected, too, and she could feel a light breeze teasing its way down the passageway, soft and fresh, not like the dry, stale air of the tunnels above. It almost felt like, if she started in the opposite direction to Katrina’s trail, she would end up outside again, even if common sense dictated that they were hundreds of metres underground by now.

Dante jumped the last rungs of the ladder as if it were an obstacle on a training course. The scab of alchemium on his cheek glittered in the tunnel’s light, a constant reminder that strange men with magic spells were now the least of their worries. Emily hid her discomfort behind a smile and took his arm in hers. He knew the dangers as well as she did, she told herself; he had been there that night, six years ago.

She felt her insides twist and tighten, and wondered whether this was what Ophelia Orpheus had felt as she raced through the burning forest, knowing that others were suffering—dying—because of her. In the end, it had proven too much, and she had surrendered herself to Pleiades. Emily wouldn’t make the same choice. She would protect her friends and put an end to this once and for all. History would not repeat. The curse would end.

Ahead of them, the tunnel opened to a forest of scaffolding, a lone walkway running off into the unknown. As they approached it, Emily caught glimpses of a cavern beyond, of streets and houses cast in artificial sunlight. All this time she had expected Katrina’s trail to lead them to some requisitioned bunker, to a network of re-purposed vaults and storerooms, cramped and dirty and filled with the smog and the stench of lawless abandon, of rats crawling and clawing over one another to make the most of what little life fate had handed to them. She had not, for one moment, even considered that Bolventor might be something different, that, beneath the fabricated paradise of Avalon there would lay a town like any other.

“Quite the drop,” she said, as she glanced over the walkway at the streets below. It must have been a hundred metres, at least.

Dante did not respond. He was too busy looking at his cellular. He had an incoming call. It was John Smith. He swiped to accept it.

“Congratulations on escaping paradise,” said their fellow initiate, his face a dim shape in a dark void, as if he were hiding in a cupboard with his cellular the only source of light.

Emily checked her own cell, but the signal was as dead as it had been since they arrived. “How are you calling us?” she asked. How did he even know they were there?

“There are ways,” he replied, obtuse as always.

Emily dug her nails into the palms of her hands to stop herself from snapping at the poor boy. “Could you elaborate?” she asked, trying her best to force a friendly smile.

John scratched his cheek. “Difficult,” he replied. “Not a secure channel. Head for the White Rabbit. Captain Solo will explain the rest.”

“The what and the who?”

But John, true to form, cut the link without another word.

Chapter 34 End

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He’s probably too busy browsing Reddit to chat. But who could this ‘Captain Solo’ be? Am I about to reveal this was all some elaborate fanfic?? Find out next week! Or next chapter, if you’re reading this in the future.

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