Chapter 2

Of Sophists and Seelie

Leira Byrne met Emily’s worries with an intrigued eyebrow and a cup of simmering herbal tea. “So ye really think he be wanting to emigrate to that bloody mountain?” she asked.

“That’s what it sounded like,” said Emily, taking a sip of the bitter, yet calming drink Leira brewed with leaves from her garden.

“Eejit,” said Leira. “And that goes fer you, too. Keep that frown up, and people’ll wonder where Emily Fomalhaut got to.”

“It’s one of those days.” Emily reached across the table and stole a biscuit from the selection on the plate. She knew something was amiss. It wasn’t every day that the Sidhe made themselves known to the outside world, and it was rarer still that one did so with such abandon—especially royalty.

“It’s eight in the feckin’ morning,” said Leira, “the day’s hardly started.” She grabbed a chocolate-chip cookie and shovelled it into her mouth. “Ye know,” she said, still chewing, “Denny’s a bloody good cook.”

Emily nibbled on her own biscuit. Denny was a good cook, but then Denny was good at everything. “It’s a shame Dante doesn’t care for food, or we could remind him that the City feeds everyone with synthetic crap.”

“Fer feck’s sake, let the lad do what he wants with his life.” Leira wiped her mouth on the sleeve of her pyjamas and helped herself to another biscuit. “And if he goes bringing the People down on his head fer using the f-word, it’ll serve him right. Might even teach him a thing or two, ye know? Get that stick outta his arse.”

Emily didn’t want to contemplate the tricks a particularly vengeful Sidhe might pull on Dante if he dared to disrespect them. “I’m surprised they haven’t cursed you yet,” she said.

Leira waved a dismissive hand. “I ain’t an eejit like Orpheus,” she said through a mouthful of food, which she washed back with a swig of tea. “Besides, I know how to deal with the People if they feck with me.”

Emily didn’t doubt that; though Leira was small and, at first sight, rather frail, she had a permanent anger in her narrow eyes, a constant suspicion about the world around her. It had served her well in the undertown, but now she lived a (relatively) peaceful life on the surface, her rage had nowhere to go but on bitter rants and knife-sharp put-downs. Emily feared the day all that energy found itself a proper release.

“And that goes fer Seelie, too,” she added, crunching down on her latest treat. Where she put it all was one of life’s biggest mysteries. “Bet those bastards have a hand in all this. Ye can’t be trusting any of ‘em.”

Emily sipped at her tea. It wasn’t public knowledge, but Emily had her sources, and she knew of the connection between the Sidhe and Seelie. On the surface, Seelie was one of the few international powers in the world, a philanthropic organisation that dedicated itself to rejuvenating both the environment and human civilisation. Behind that benevolent facade, however, lay a structured fighting force that answered only to the Sidhe Court and its four ruling queens.

“I doubt a young princess popping by to tell everyone she wants to save them from evil and corruption is part of some dastardly scheme,” she offered. Judging by her scowl, Leira didn’t buy it.

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“Hold on,” I hear you say, “did you just change a character’s name from one chapter to the next?”

No :p Emily knows how to spell Leira’s name, Dante does not. She doesn’t like people to know the actual spelling, see. Plus, she knows people would just get the pronunciation wrong if she did use it…