Orphic Phantasia

29: The Prophecy

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Across the cafe, Korrie stuck her face into another conversation, this time between a man and two women. As she sat down, the man put his hand on hers, a simple, but clear gesture that even Korrie understood. Swiping her hand away, she gestured across the cafe to Ceres.

The man’s attention fell on the girls’ table, first on Ceres and then on Emily. A moment later, he was excusing himself and ushering his companions to leave.

Korrie returned with an exaggerated frown.

“Any luck?” asked Ceres.

“If I wasn’t sure he was real, I’d think Himeros didn’t exist!”

Emily watched as the man Korrie had just accosted greeted a figure by the cafe entrance and exchanged whispers even a Maiden could not hear for the chattering crowd. Judging from her sudden frown, Ceres had noticed it too.

“Korrie, love,” she took her lover’s hand, “you any idea what they’re talking about over there?”

“Oh, just some prophecy the Oracle made,” she replied with a shrug. “Something about a Maiden, bronze and blue, who will bring down the sky and—” Her eyes widened in realisation. “Oh! Emily! They’re talking about you!”

One by one, the conversations around them faded to silence. Slipping one hand into the folds of her skirt, Emily found the hilt of her knife. Then, trying not to draw any more attention their way, she started to rise.

Ceres clasped her arm. “Wait,” she said, her voice seeming to drop an octave, as if all the friendliness and joy had been sucked out of her. “See that passage over by the bathroom? It’s about three feet wide. One of those crazy City tricks. Can’t see it until you know it’s there kind thing.”

Emily closed her eyes and searched the aether. The ideas around her were so shallow, so devoid of soul, that it was hard to see anything beyond a blur. Forcing her mind deeper into trance, her sight further into the world beyond, she peeled back the layers, scried for something—anything—out of place.

And there it was, a shadow in the blur, a slice of certainty in an uncertain world. It had Ceres’s fingerprints all over it, a momentary acknowledgement that would fade as soon as another pair of eyes obscured the passage with their own, false perceptions of a blank wall.

Returning to the waking world, she said, “Let’s hope it doesn’t just lead to the waste disposal.”

As she stood up, a man’s voice called across the cafe. “You! Witch! We won’t let you take this place away from us!” With that, he cracked his knuckles and advanced through the maze of tables. A small crowd followed in his wake.

Ceres and Korrie moved between Emily and the mob. “Leave them to us,” said the Donaran. “We’ll have a friendly word with them, sort this all out, yeah?”

“Can you—” before Emily could finish her question, Ceres replied with a yes-we-can-and-don’t-ask-questions look. Stumbling a little from the table, she started towards the secret passage.

Now she knew it was there, it was hard to believe she had never noticed it before.


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Aethex is weird like that.