Orphic Phantasia

37: Chasing Emily

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Byron stopped pacing. “They said I was too young to enter,” he mumbled, unable to meet Lance’s eye.

“You sure, duder? They told Dant the bar was sixteen.”

Byron looked up from the shadows of his contemplation, brow creased with suspicion. “They told me it was eighteen!”

“Guess you should’ve got in earlier!”

But Dante knew it was more than that: he and Byron had something in common, something that would cause the judges to turn them away with little more than a flimsy excuse about age restrictions.

Something like Emily.

Six years ago, Pleiades had forced his mother’s surrender by targeting her friends. Today, they could force Emily’s surrender by targeting hers. It was an obvious trap—but who would believe him after all these years of lies? Not Byron, that was for sure.

The poet scratched his goatee. Surely someone of his experience had figured it out already? “Did they say or do anything suspicious when they let Emily through?” he asked. “And what of Shaw? I find it strange they would deny me entry while letting him remain at her side.”

“As if they used the front door!” said Lance. “I told you already, it was a secret mish. They went in through the back.”

“There’s a back door? Show me!”

Eighteen months of compulsory exercise and cross-country running meant that even Byron, who cared little for sports and spent much of his free time slouched over a desk writing bad poetry, could race across Bolventor with nary a stitch or ragged breath. Lance, the first to arrive at their destination, prised apart the foliage and indicated the hidden elevator. “There’s some kind of authorisation panel on the wall,” he said. “Christof waggled his death ray at it and it let him in.”

Byron found the panel and gestured his way through its rudimentary menus. “There must be some kind of emergency override,” he said, jabbing at the screen. “Maybe…”

He removed his cellular from his waistcoat pocket and started searching through his files. “Here,” he said, and held the cellular up to the panel. “If I can just break the—”

With an ear-splitting screech, the panel exploded in a shower of bloody light. Dante reached for his ears, but the sound slipped through the cracks and continued to pound away, a high-pitched wail like the cry of the Bain Sidhe, the spirits of Donaran stories who sang the dead to the underworld. Without thinking, he staggered towards the end of the tunnel and the cavern outside. Lance was a step behind him.

Ahead of them, the curtain of vines swept aside to reveal a man in a khaki uniform. He levelled his blade at Dante’s face. Behind him, two more men drew their own weapons.

“Trespassers,” said the first, his voice cold, “on the order of Khurshid Sultan, ruler of Bolventor, you are under arrest.”

Chapter 37 End

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So much for the chase. I’m now off to do another pass of chapter 38. Since I’ll be away at the weekend, I’ll be posting it on Friday. Expect card games.