Orphic Phantasia

32: Acceptance

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Shaking her head, Lonie sat down on a nearby rock and watched her sister wade into the lake until its waters reached up to her waist. With a look of boredom on her face, she picked up a nearby stone and flung it into the darkness. A second followed, then a third. Each throw was flawless.

Her sister continued to call out into the darkness.

Then another light flashed across the cavern. Lonie turned to its source. A figure was stumbling out of the caves, a man with an electric torch in his hand.

“Father!” Lonie cried, drawing her sister’s attention to the figure. With a look of horror on her face, Aliza turned her back on the lake and started sloshing her way to shore. Her cries of warning fell on death ears.

I was afraid—afraid of what he might do to us.

Verraden Sepulturero did not look a healthy man. His clothes were tattered and caked in dirt, while a gash on his forehead oozed a trail of crimson blood down his panting, sweat-soaked face.

“Alonie?” he said, his voice hoarse with effort. “W—what are you doing down here?”

Then his eyes rolled towards Aliza, splashing through the lake towards him.

“A—Aliana?” he said, staggering forward, pushing aside the niece who called him ‘Father’. “Aliana, is—is that you?”

He was delusional. If I’d know, I might have… But I—

Aliza reached the edge of the lake. “Fomalhaut,” she whispered under her breath. “Please, Fomalhaut.”

Her uncle continued towards her, battered face breaking into a smile. “Aliana! After all this time, I found you again. Aliana!”

Aliza tensed as he fell forwards, arms reaching out to embrace her. “I did it all for you,” he said, tracing his lips across her cheek. “Everything, just for you.”

I didn’t know what else to do, so I did the only thing I could…

They were standing in a garden beneath a starlit sky. Verraden Sepulturero, no longer clasping his niece, staggered back in confusion. “T—this is..” His eyes, bulging from their sockets swept across his surroundings. “The Gardens in the sky. Paradise!”

“This is your heart,” said Aliza, her voice cold, disconnected.

His eyes fell on her, standing alone, a shadow in the sunlight, and his jaw dropped open with sudden, horrific realisation. “Aliza?” he said. “What’s going on? Why are we here? Where’s your mother? Where’s Aliana?”

“My mother is dead.”

Verraden shook his head. “No. No! That can’t be true! She promised me! Arided promised!” Face contorting with terror, he grasped the sides of his head and fell to his knees in despair. “I was going to save her! They—they…”

Then, out of a cloud of sweat and blood and tears, a roar of piercing hatred wrapped itself around Aliza’s throat.

“This is all your fault,” Verraden spat. “You. If only you’d done as you were told, none of this would have happened. But no, you just had to steal the spotlight, didn’t you? Had to show the world how clever you are.” His grip tightened, fingernails digging into Aliza’s flesh. “If she’s dead, it’s because of you! You!”

Aliza rolled her eyes skyward. The Great Eye loomed over them, behind it a scar as black as night with twelve reaching wings.

Verraden’s voice screamed through the dark. “You took everything I had! You—you little—”

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One of those “had to rewrite countless times because tone and implications and other serious things” scenes.