Orphic Phantasia

38: A Game of Chance

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No, not Emily: the Macha. Emily would never do such a thing.

“Looks like Katrina is sitting this one out,” said Chris as Annie took her place at the table, Amanda hovering over her shoulder. Opposite them, Giovanna Veres welcomed his own, nameless partner, her starlight dress so tight around her waist Emily wondered if she could even breathe. Naturally—and to much delight from the men in front—the camera paid particular attention to her breasts, cramped together to form an uncomfortable-looking crevice of rose-tinted flesh.

“I can’t blame her,” said Emily, scanning the arena stalls for signs of her housemate. Jonas Meeray’s magic might have neutered her aethereal senses, but it did nothing to diminish her Maiden’s eyesight.

At the table below, Veres and Andromeda shuffled each other’s deck of cards. “How they got this far, I’ll never know,” said Chris. “Annie’s deck isn’t even professional standard. I had to teach her the official rules and everything.”

Emily had a feeling they didn’t get this far through skill and cunning. “I still can’t believe they’ve made a spectator’s sport out of this,” she said. “It’s just a card game.”

Then Giovanni Veres placed his first card on the table and the arena behind him came to life with a monstrous projection of light—possibly aethex—depicting a humanoid vulture with a crooked beak and oversized mane of feathers. Given the roar of noise around her, Emily figured this a good move. Andromeda replied with a monster of her own, small and kitten-like, the sort of thing Katrina would collect in plush toy form. No doubt Seelie already had them on sale in theatres across the world. Well, those theatres that weren’t under Sophist sanctions, at any rate.

“This isn’t a good match-up,” said Chris, leaning forward in his seat, brow furrowed with concentration. “They’ll need a lot of luck if they want to avoid a bloodbath.”

Emily rolled her eyes. She had better things to do than analyse a children’s game. Then, just as she was about to shuffle her way out of the stalls, she noticed her housemate not ten metres away, dressed in a smart suit and bowtie, wandering down a nearby aisle with a confused look on her face. Calling her name, Emily pushed and clambered her way around an unappreciative audience to reach her.

Without so much as a word, Jonas Meeray followed in her shadow.

“Emily!” cried Katrina. “Ms T said you were—” Her eyes fell on Dante’s cloak and her tawny face paled. “W—where’s Dante?”

“Outside with Lance,” said Emily. “We couldn’t get him past security.”

Kat breathed a long sigh of relief. She had heavy bags under her eyes and her hair was more tangled than usual. “They finally caught on to the fake IDs, huh?” she said, furrowing her brow in Chris’s direction. The Malkuthian, wincing at whatever was happening in the arena, didn’t notice her disapproval.

“We didn’t use fake IDs,” Emily explained. “We, eh, had some help…”

She turned to Meeray, who gave a polite nod as Kat turned her disapproval his way. “We need to talk,” she said to Emily.

Around them, the crowd cheered.

“Somewhere quiet,” Emily replied.

Kat grinned. “Already on it.”

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Sadly, it isn’t time to d-d-d-d-d-duel.