“That’s ‘cause, unlike some people, I know to stay the feck away from that bloody place. I’d sooner trust d’Arcadie to make me a cuppa. Speaking of which…” She dragged herself up from the sofa. “Ye want one? Yer looking a little rough.”
“Serves ye right for going in there, don’t it?” she said as she ambled over to the girls’ kitchen. Like Emily, the golden-haired Fiannan—the last of her kind, she claimed—had experienced the true horrors of the world. If there was something troubling her, or she had a bad feeling about a situation, it was for good reason.
“You really think there’ll be another war?” Emily asked.
“When ain’t there a feckin’ war?” Leira replied, slamming one cupboard door after another. “Seems all anyone wants to be doing these days is killing. If not each other then themselves. Bloody eejits.”
Experience did not always breed empathy.
“So, eh, what did ye make of all that crap, anyway?” she asked while waiting for the kettle to boil. “Ye know, the forest and the underground and that feckin’ dream machine shite?”
“Nothing I didn’t know already,” Emily replied.
“Figured. They were after something, weren’t they? The Sophists, that is. Something or someone.”
Leira ran her black nails down her arm, leaving visible red scratches on her pallid skin. “Were it, ye know…?”
“No,” said Emily. “But there had to be a connection, right?”
The kettle came to a boil. “That’s what I were thinking,” said Leira, pouring the water into her mugs. “Thought that crashed ship might have had something to do with it. Them, that is. You-know-who.”
“No, that was definitely the Founding Father’s ship. I—” She glanced towards Hermia’s door, Denny’s, but figured neither of them would listen in. Even so, she lowered her voice. “I saw one like it when my uncle tried to assassinate him.”
She shuddered at the memory and pushed the images from her mind. She was a world away from that time—that man—now.
“Shame it didn’t work out.” Leira handed Emily her tea, then slumped into the sofa next to her. “Ye ever think maybe that bastard were involved with all the shite that night?”
Emily sipped at her tea. Leira was as fond of sugar as Dante and it took the bitter edge away from the herbs. “I don’t know,” she said. She remembered the photograph she found of her parents with Dante’s, her uncle standing alongside them. The very thought troubled her more than she cared to admit. “He was with my father the whole time. Fighting you-know-who.” Pleiades. “I don’t think he got involved with the Sophists until after.”
“Maybe he were the one who sold ye all out?”
It was plausible. Maybe too plausible. Someone had manipulated the Sophists, after all—but her uncle? Verraden Sepulturero? That bumbling, bug-eyed creep with a Maiden obsession?
“I think it was you-know-who,” she said—Leira wouldn’t hear the name uttered aloud lest it summon some immaterial fiend from the depths of the aether. “They used the Sophists to keep Seelie distracted so they couldn’t, well…”
Save her parents. They had tried, of course—Cyrus was there, Dante’s father—but, in the end, Pleiades was too much for them. And, until her father appeared to break the bad news, Emily hadn’t had the slightest idea there was anything wrong. Even now, all she had were pieces, scattered facts that only formed a basic outline of events. She wished she had been more observant, that Aliza Adel could have spent as much time paying attention to the real world as she did the worlds in her head.
The worlds her mother had put there to protect her.
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The bit where Emily’s uncle tried to assassinate the Founding Father was pretty dramatic.