Orphic Phantasia

8: Emily and Truth

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“It was here that the one named Hierodula took leave of this vessel to confront his enemy,” she proclaimed, looking up at a circular hole in the deck’s ceiling. No mention of what he might have felt, however, no revelations about the hopes or fears that drove him to take action, or of the convictions that spurred him to scar a forest with burning flame—just an emotionless list of actions, of straight, cold logic.

Phoenix, for all her paranoia, either failed to notice the clues or thought the Sidhe’s trickery unimportant. “Eeexcellent,” she said, after the Princess finished her report. “We ascertained as much from our own analysis, but your deep and uncompromising insight lends weight to our conclusions. I always suspected the upper echelons of the Aristocracy feigned their loathing of technology. I promise you, Your Highness, that their deception shall not remain a secret for long!”

The Princess cheered like a child promised chocolate ice cream, and her good mood remained until the Veritas girls took their leave and left Emily to study the wreckage alone.

“You have not spoken since we met with Phoenix Rogan,” she said. “You do not think well of her.”

It didn’t take magical powers to notice that much. “We don’t see eye-to-eye, no,” said Emily, as she illuminated a gutted console with her cellular. Someone had stripped the ship of its valuable technology, leaving little clue to the Sophists’ true technological standing. “She doesn’t trust me.”

Phoenix Rogan was good at her job. Too good, in fact. Had Emily not a Sidhe Prince on her side, she feared what Veritas might have found out about her. Scratching her shoulder, she followed the ship’s passageways until they opened to the outside world. The rest of the ship lay scattered at the edge of the clearing, beyond a group of Donaran graves. Emily jumped to the ground.

“That is because you pretend to be somebody you are not,” said the Princess, appearing at her side. “You must not keep secrets from one another!”

Emily turned to face the young Sidhe. Though she was as tall as Emily, her face had a wide-eyed innocence that reminded her of a younger Shelley—and of herself, before the world taught her truth and pain and suffering.

Before she needed the Sidhe to hide it all away.

“Aliza Adel,” said the Princess. “That is your true name.”

“No, not any more. I’m Emily Fomalhaut. Aliza’s gone.” She was too weak, too trusting, too willing to do as others told her. Just like the Princess. Just like Phantasia.

“I resent those implications,” said the Princess.

“Are you reading my mind?” Emotion must have dulled her defences. “Because, if you are, stop.”

The Princess drew herself up to her full height, like a Sophist ready to strike, and Emily braced herself for the inevitable. “I—I—How dare you tell me what to do! I am a Princess under Queen Thetis Mysticeti herself!”

Emily couldn’t help it. The urge was in her blood, racing through her veins. Before she could stop them, the words slipped from her tongue, self-assured, sharp, direct. A bad habit; a Maiden’s habit.

“Whoever said I was talking to you?”

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Phantasia will remember that.