They lay together yet apart, hands reaching across the gulf between them. Emily’s was cold to the touch, fragile, but her grip did not waiver, even as her voice did.
“It got a little rough after that,” she said. “I was young and naïve. I didn’t realise the lengths some people would go to for the sake of seer.” She turned to Dante and smiled. “But then I met Lira.”
Dante pictured his housemate, the short Fiannan girl with unruly golden hair and a permanent scowl. “Did she make people think twice about coming after you?” he asked.
“Believe me, if she was here now, we’d have at least two corpses on our hands. It’s almost a shame she isn’t…” Her voice drifted off into a sad thought. “That’s probably why she isn’t.”
“I thought she was just being lazy?”
“No,” said Emily. “Lira knew I’d get into trouble without her around. I always do.”
“Then why did she change her mind?”
Emily turned away, tightened her grip on Dante’s hand. “She didn’t. Somebody—how should we put this?—suggested otherwise, and she didn’t have a choice in the matter.”
“Sounds like those men who are after you.” Dante had burned the image of the man from the cafe into his mind’s eye, just in case he tried to use his power a second time.
Emily chuckled to herself. “Yeah, I guess there isn’t much of a difference, is there?” Turning back to face him, she said, “It’s magic, Dante. Sidhe magic.”
Dante held her gaze. There was a time when he would have pulled on his cloak and skulked off at the mere mention of the Sidhe, but not now, not after all Emily had told him, all she had shown him. Even before he had ever met her, fate had bound their lives together. It seemed only natural that everything was leading up to this one moment of revelation—of realisation.
Hours had passed since they first started talking. In the beginning, after Emily had revealed the Brand of the Erebus that scarred her shoulder, they spoke of their mothers, of Ophelia Orpheus and Aliana Adel, friends who shared in the curse of the Erebus and the curse of the Maidens both, and both of whom vanished that night, six years ago. They spoke too of the man in the suit, who Dante had spied as his mother fled the forest shrine and Emily referred to as ‘Pleiades’, a master of fanged shadows who hunted her mother through the catacombs. Combined with Dante’s own experience, they figured him some kind of machine masquerading as human—perhaps an avatar of aethex, or even alchemium—with an interest in the Branded.
Talk of the Erebus and its invisible mark inevitably led to talk of its symptoms. Emily wondered if Dante himself carried the Brand, but he knew otherwise. Were he Branded, like his mother, then Arided would have taken him to Malkuth with her, but instead she had left him in Torsten. No, he was just the average son of an average man. He wasn’t special, like his mother. Like Emily.
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When I was a kid, I pronounced Pleiades as “Pled-a-lees”. Then again, I also thought Guile from Street Fighter 2 was called “Gully”.