Orphic Phantasia

18: Reflection

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“Always thinking of yourself when there is so much more at stake,” replied the Prince, his condescending tone making her feel small and pitiful even in the comfort of her own room. “Is your personal dignity all that much to ask when the future of the world is at stake?”

“You want me to scry people’s souls against their will!” Just as it was with Phantasia, she couldn’t help the words spilling out of her mouth. As frightened of the Prince as she was—and she had good reason to be—it was too much to hold in.

The Prince shrugged. “A reasonable request of a seer, wouldn’t you say? That you might have to employ some of your more … sensual talents to open a few locked doors is surely no great sacrifice?”

Doors like those in Dante’s dreams. It would be people like him and Shelley, who feared opening up to others, who would suffer most. “What about Princess Phantasia?” she asked, more of the day’s events coming into focus—context. “That’s why you had her out making friends with everyone, isn’t it? Because she’s good at seeing into people’s hearts.”

“Is that the attitude of my dear Emily Fomalhaut? The kindest girl who ever lived? Who would never think to pry into the hearts and minds of others? Would she be this eager to burden others with her responsibilities?”

Emily didn’t want to look at him, at his smug smile of victory, but she had no choice. Wherever she looked, there he was, irresistible, irrefutable.

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “not only does Princess Phantasia lack your—how should we put this?—experience of the human psyche, but she has a certain anarchic charm that I myself find most delightful, but my beloved Dionysus does not.”

He traced more images into the air, this time caricatures of the white-haired Phantasia jumping to defend slaves from their Sophist overseers.

“As you may have noticed, she cannot resist helping others. You could almost say it drives her very being! But she does not care for the consequences of her actions.” The cartoon Phantasia drew a crowd as she ranted at the Sophists and a depiction of Director Guirlande that would have had Emily stifling a chuckle under any other circumstance. “She will act without thinking, even if her actions would throw everything we have worked for into jeopardy.”

“Like when she chased the Erebus away?”

“Precisely,” said Freyr with a wide grin, as a breeze dissolved his images into dust. “You see, the Princess is not one for subtleties. At that time, she saw only that her newfound friends were in danger, so she took action. That it prevented my darling Dionysus from gathering vital information did not bother her, even though, had she stayed her hand, I daresay we would not be having this conversation.”

“So you can’t control her.”

“Rather, she cannot control herself. That, my dear Emily, is the difference between the two of you. Of course, if you do decide you are too good and too moral and too pure to help us, then we will have no choice but to employ her talents, as you correctly surmised. And I am certain she will have no personal scruples to hold her back. As you well know, she has little time for secrets.”

Emily remembered Phantasia dancing around the forest, plucking observations out of the aether with the aid of her invisible companion and gleefully recounting them to any who would listen. At least Emily would have a conscience about who she shared things with.

A conscience, after she already stole all their secrets? Her stomach lurched at the irony of it all.

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Freyr is enjoying this.