Chapter 28

An Illusion of Paradise

Dante sat at the back of the shuttle carriage, watching the trail of lights map out their journey on a nearby wallscreen. Contrary to initial assumptions, their ship had not arrived in Avalon, but at a Seelie outpost on the island of Dartmoor. Avalon was located some thirty-seven kilometres further west, on the isle of Bodmin. Their shuttle, speeding through the underground, would see them there in ten minutes.

Although similar in design, with clusters of seats around cellular tables, the shuttle lacked the dragon-ship’s luxuries. There were no menus, no offers of nourishment or entertainment, no windows looking out upon a fabricated landscape of calm oceans and blue skies—just simple maps, weather updates, and a news report regarding a conflict between Seelie officers and a rogue synthetic on the island of Exmoor to the north. Sitting at the table next to Dante, Theseus Armstrong, no stranger to the sight of unnatural beasts causing chaos, punctuated the footage with observations of his own.

“That’s a chimaera-class,” he said, gesturing at what appeared to be a bear fused with a scorpion. “Don’t see many of those ‘round Torsten.”

His commentary stumbled, however, when the report cut to a second beast, which looked like a bipedal lion with a steroid problem, answering questions from an off-camera reporter. According to the caption, its name was ‘the Impenetrable Stone’ Keith Rockshard, and it—he?—spoke with a drawl of an accent, its coarse gruffness bringing to Dante’s mind memories of a moustachio’d man with offers of silvery liquor.

Dante pushed the thoughts aside and glanced at a nearby map. They were almost halfway to Avalon. The sooner he could escape the shuttle’s cramped confines and breathe fresh air again, the better.

The next report started up, and this time it was Byron d’Arcadie’s turn to show off. As a spokesman for Seelie’s Antarctic Surveillance Troupe addressed concerns about the snow-laden continent’s perpetual night, the poet jabbed an accusatory finger at the nearest screen.

This sort of thing,” he lifted his voice to fill the carriage, “is why I find myself questioning the priorities of our benevolent overseers. How often must we hear of these people, be they of Seelie or Cities, with technology to work miracles unparalleled, yet no care to bestow their gifts upon those that need it most?”

It was one of those rants Byron had trialled out on Dante numerous times during poetry critique sessions. Unwilling to upset his one source of sedatives and stimulants, Dante would nod his head and mumble agreement. If their hushed whispers were indication, the other initiates had learned a similar lesson.

Except, that was, for Chris Shaw. Clearing his throat and raising a hand, the Malkuthian drew Byron’s attention his way. “I think you should look into the Prometheus Clause,” he said.

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Apologies for the delay: I’ve come down with a virus, so I had lots of fun polishing this up.

(2018 Dary: ah, that’s why this chapter needed so much tidying up!)