Orphic Phantasia

7: A Shrine to the Fallen

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Dante wondered if this was the real reason Alonie wanted his help. “A bit,” he said, thankful Phoenix Rogan wasn’t around to point out his lies. “I guess they’re people who died during the incident.”

More than just people—Dante recognised some of the names, including a smattering of powerful chieftains. The Donara must have thrown everything they had at the Sophists and their cloaked ship, not least their own lives.

And all to protect his mother.

“One of these days,” said Alonie, “those Sophist pigs might get what’s coming to them.”

He hoped she was right.

After paying his respects at the graves, Dante delivered his report to Captain Espinosa. Though he knew more about that night than most, however, he kept things concise. After all, he had a promise of his own to keep.

“This was the Sophists’ command ship,” he explained, “which the leaders of the Donara gave their lives to eliminate. The survivors enshrined this place in their memory, and to their victory.”

Captain Espinosa managed a rare smile. “That they did,” she said. “So long as we remember them, their souls, wherever they might be, are not lost.”

Words the Donara lived by. Words Dante once swore to uphold. “So long as you remember her name, that darkness you fear shall never claim her.”

Superstitious nonsense, of course. Not that Dante would ever forget…

“You see, Shell, this is what happens to people who cling to the past,” Alonie said to her friend as Dante followed them out of the shrine. “The Sophists, the Donara, ravens, they’re all the same in the end. You’ve got to keep looking forward, to the horizon. To the fu—”

She stopped dead in her tracks and Dante, fixated on his crystal and the three extra shards he had just earned, walked straight into her.

She ignored him. “Speaking of people stuck in the past…”

It was Emily, one arm wrapped around her waist, the other reaching up to scratch her neck. She looked downcast, her usual smile inverted, her pale-winter eyes barely open. They flicked up the moment she realised she had company and, with a gasp, her despair turned at once to panic. She looked to her side, mouth opening, closing, starting words that would not come.

With a grunt, Alonie continued past her. Emily winced.

“Shell,” she said, then turned her attention to Dante, bit down on her lip, “Dante, I—I’d like you to meet a friend of mine.” She glanced to her side again. Voice shaking with nerves, she said, “This is a Lord of the Easgee”—it sounded like one of those obscure words that dated back to the Old World—“His Royal Highness Prince Frayer Venris, of the Court of Queen Anya Eckreedeh.” She forced a weak smile. “I guess you could say I have friends in high places?”

There was silence. Emily’s eyes twitched again to her side, then back to her friends, as if she expected them to acknowledge the things only she could see. The very thought that it had come to this sent a chill down Dante’s spine, as if he had just stepped out into the Antarctic wilderness. Of all the things she could have said. Of all the names…

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That’s Queen Áine Echraide to you, Dante!