Chapter 18


Leira glanced up from across the lounge. The Fiannan orphan was slouched across the sofa, a carton of chips on her lap. The smell of pizza lingered through the apartment. Emily swiped at the environmental controls before Hermia could emerge from her room and start ranting about her housemate’s unhealthy fixation with junk food.

“Have fun?” Leira asked, arching a knowing eyebrow.

“No end,” said Emily, perching on the edge of the sofa opposite her friend. “You?”

“I were chasing some hedgehogs when this goose came out of nowhere to harass me about pineapple smuggling.” She ploughed a sauce-coated chip into her mouth. “I were gonna be selling him some coconuts, but then that feckin’ message woke me up.”

Payne’s message. His third that day and just as troubled—and troubling—as its predecessors. “An all-expenses paid holiday, huh?”

“Holiday?” Leira scoffed. “If yer thinking it’s a holiday, yer even more bloody naïve than I thought.” She poked at her food, her lips curling into a half-hearted snarl. “And a feckin’ ship? Where do they think they’ll be taking us? Feckin’ Paris?”

“Whatever they’ve got planned, I’m sure it will be an adventure!” Emily tried her best to hide her anxiety behind a laugh, but the cracks in her masquerade were so obvious that even Lance Algar would notice them.

“Adventure?” Leira squawked with laughter. “It ain’t gonna be no feckin’ adventure, and you bloody well know it.”

Of course it wasn’t; this was all a part of their plan, another one of their ‘alternatives’. Maybe they had agents in this ‘Avalon’ who could scry the initiates in Emily’s place, Maidens itching for the opportunity to impose themselves on others. Or maybe it was something far worse.

No, it wouldn’t be an adventure, and Emily dared not think how much further the Sidhe would go for the sake of their ‘investigation’.

“It can’t be that bad,” she lied. “I mean, it’s a Seelie place, right? That’s what Payne said.” A Seelie training facility, according to Katrina and her friends, but Payne hadn’t mentioned that. “It’s just a chance for us to have a break after our exams.”

Leira tossed her empty carton onto the table. “It were bad enough when they told us to go snooping around that bloody mausoleum,” she said. “I’ve a right mind to be thinking they’re gearing up for another feckin’ war. That’s what they used to do, ye know? Back in the day. That’s what they’re all about. All that environmentalist crap’s a load of shite.”

Emily rubbed her shoulder. Katrina had suggested much the same thing, so maybe Leira was right and this really was the prelude to another war. That would explain why the Sidhe were studying the Erebus. What it didn’t explain was why Prince Freyr had asked her to scry her fellow initiates. The sooner Princess Phantasia returned with answers the better.

“You think that’s why they sent us into the Scar?” she asked. “To see how we might fare against … against the darkness?”

Leira snorted. “Gods, ‘the darkness’? This ain’t one of Shell’s stories, Lee.”

“You weren’t there.”

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Just like old times.