Orphic Phantasia

48: The Oracle and the Oligarch

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“I see. Interesting.” Byron bit down on the end of his pipe. He had his answer, but it only raised more questions. “I wonder then, what is so special about my dear Aliza that beings of such power and prestige would war to obtain her? What secrets does she hold that would drive one as clandestine as yourself to risk exposing your entire operation, just to claim her as your own?”

“Strange that one so chained to her heart cannot see that which is obvious,” replied the Matriarch. “Although, given the nature of that power, perhaps it is understandable.”

She gestured a silver hand towards the scar at the centre of her temple, the flickering, distorted blaze of unreality that threatened to drag everything it touched into an unending abyss. “Can you sense it, Byron d’Arcadie?” she asked. “Can you sense this hole in the world?”

“The Erebus, I presume?”

“And your beloved’s doing! Have you heard what they say about those who can control the Erebus without so much as a scratch of its curse upon themselves, Byron d’Arcadie? Do you know what they say about those who can stare into its abyss without so much as a flicker of madness? Who can walk its corridors without losing all that they were and all that they are and all that they ever could be? They say that they alone can bridge the gulf of ignorance between Aether and Erebus, and that they alone can change the fate of this dying, desolate world. Under my supervision, Aliza Adel shall learn to harness that power. She will become my link to that other side, to that place where so many have fallen and so many are lost. Through her, they shall return to us. Through her, they shall find their salvation.”

Byron stared into the eternal, unrelenting black fire and shivered. It always had to come back to that same, desperate desire in the end, didn’t it? That cry for saint or saviour to spare the world from stagnation and death. “Forgive me for my presumptions, Lady Matriarch,” he said, “but that sounds far from the life to which my dear Aliza aspires.”

“Whatever our desires, we must all learn to accept our place in the world,” replied the Matriarch. “Aliza Adel shall accept hers, and so too shall you accept yours.”

“My place is at Aliza’s side.”

“Perhaps, but not as you are now. Your will is strong, Byron d’Arcadie, but I have yet to find a soul I could not tame. Surrender yourself to me, give me all that you are, and everything you desire shall be yours. Even Aliza Adel.”

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I actually spent a good while going back and forth on which name Byron would be using: Emily or Aliza? I shall leave the implications of my final choice up to your personal interpretation.