Orphic Phantasia

7: A Shrine to the Fallen

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Dante noticed a number of scrawled notes on the screen, alongside some equations and sensor readings. Judging by Phoenix’s notes, she placed the date of impact as—unsurprisingly—August 27th 106, which she backed up with references to soil displacement, plant growth and material decomposition. For all her conspiracy theories and desperate desires to expose supernatural secrets, Phoenix Rogan was not the sort to base her opinions on circumstantial evidence.

“It couldn’t have been moving very fast,” he offered, “because it would have caused more damage.” In fact, the evidence suggested the ship had fallen from only a short distance above the treetops. “It must have been hovering.”

“Eeexactly!” Phoenix pulled her cellular back to her chest, closing the door on her findings. “The question now is what it was doing here. We all know that the Sophist Aristocracy deplores the use of modern technology, which, as far as we are aware, includes vessels such as this, so whose was it?”

Dante ran a finger along the ivory hull. It reminded him of something, but, like Phoenix, he refused to embrace circumstantial evidence—or gut instinct.

“I thought it might be a Seelie vessel,” said Annie, “but I’ve never seen this design before.”

Phoenix nodded, as if she were Captain Espinosa approving of her student’s analysis. “I thought the same thing. Seelie would surely have come to the Donara’s aid in their hour of need, yes? But then I had another thought. You see—”

Before she could continue, Kat cut her off. “Maybe Dante should do some investigation of his own?” she offered, giving him a knowing look. If anyone could recognise his growing anxiety, it was Katrina.

With reddening cheeks, Phoenix returned her attention to her cellular. “Of course. My apologies, Mr Orpheus,” she said. “I would recommend you study the graves located”—she pointed her baton to the west—”over there. They are marked with Donaran script. You are familiar with it, yes?”

Kat winced in silent apology for her tactless friend.

“I’ll do that,” he replied.

As he made his retreat, following the length of the ship towards its bulbous stern, he started to piece together the fragments of its body in his head, forming an image of the ship as it would have looked that night, six years ago. He pictured firelight dancing along its blade, mixing with the iridescent glow of the levitators, the sparks and smoke of weapons firing—

He slapped himself across the face, cursing his wandering imagination. He was better than this. He had to be.

“You okay, Orpheus?”

Alonie Kent looked down from the ship’s crimson wing. She hid half of her paper-white face behind a wave of voluminous hair—an almost luminescent red, the colour of a rose beneath the midday sun—and patterned the other half with subtle, intricate weaves of line and colour. As someone who had once fancied himself as an artist, Dante couldn’t help but admire her skill. And, in the eighteen or so months that he’d known her, she had yet to repeat a single design. Such was the philosophy of hawks, who, unlike ravens, looked always to the future, never the past.

Behind her, in the shadows of the ship, Shelley Eoghan peeked outside, her face a blot of moonlight in a cloud of feathers. For all of a moment, Dante caught her gaze, the aquatic sheen of her eyes, too big for her delicate face, then she looked away, a waning moon slipping into shadow before vanishing from sight.

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Generally, when people are talking about ‘ships’, they mean the flying kind. You really wouldn’t want to risk travelling by sea…