Orphic Phantasia

10: Projection

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And who could have thought it would be this easy? After all these years, Rembrandt Payne had offered his guilt on a platter, soaked in the juices of the day’s questionable activities. Now all Oscar had to do was serve the incriminating meal to his father with a side helping of I-told-you-so sauce. Delicious.

“But make haste, Oscar,” he told himself, “or the lovely Ms Guirlande might beat you to it—and there’s nothing more unappetising than second-hand scraps.”

He was jogging through the Theatre gates when a voice called his name.

His real name. The one no one outside of his household knew.

“Ah, I’m so pleased to make your acquaintance,” said the stranger. With his almond skin and vivid mane of green hair, he looked Donaran, and he had the same emerald eyes of their royal bloodline.

“Hello, friend,” Oscar replied, raising a hand in greeting, “and how might I help you on this most glorious of days?” Every bone in his body wanted to loathe this newcomer: he was too attractive, his chest too toned, his voice too mesmerising. It was as if someone had sculpted the perfect form to lead his lusts astray.

“I was hoping I could help you, actually,” the stranger replied, his smile a devious crescent, his pearlescent fangs hungry for flesh. “You see, I understand you are on your way to reveal our schemes to your masters, and we would very much prefer it if you would reconsider.”

“Well, I—” the words ceased the moment his brain registered what, exactly, the stranger had just said. “I—how do you know?” He took a step away—not that it made any difference—and glanced around for Seelie spies. His father warned him that the war-mongering organisation could be a tricksy bunch, able to read a person’s intentions from subtle clues, before claiming it some sort of magic skill. Oscar always thought it some paranoid superstition, the mad ramblings of a man who spent too much of his time surrounded by religious zealots. Now he wondered otherwise.

The stranger clasped his hands together. “You’ve been awfully vocal about it, I must say. As me beloved might say, the world only knows what you want it to know, and you, my dear friend, are quite eager for the world to acknowledge your cunning greatness.”

Oscar tried to deny himself a smile, but the stranger’s words cut deep and pierced his heart with a pleasurable thrust. “Why, yes, of course. I thought it quite—I mean, I…”

If his delighted grin was anything to go by, the stranger found Oscar’s blundering most amusing, maybe even attractive. Oscar felt his cheeks burning with embarrassment as those emerald eyes swept over him, relishing every morsel of his mortal flesh. Oscar could only return the favour. O brave new world, that has such people in’t!

“And once you have told your masters all about our schemes,” said the stranger, “they will descend upon the Scar like a pack of ravenous beasts, yes?”

“Absolutely! Seelie must pay for its crimes.” Oscar blinked. Why was he even saying these things?

The smile grew ever larger, its teeth ever sharper. Oscar would have offered his body to an orgy of evisceration, if only the stranger would ask for it. “It would cause us no end of trouble. Chaos, you might say.”

Oscar nodded. “It would bring down the fires of chaos like stars from the sky. Rembrandt Payne will fall to his knees and beg for mercy. Ceres Mendoza will fall to her knees and—” He cleared his throat; where was this coming from?

“Chaos and passion in equal measure!” said the stranger, clapping his hands with a cry of delight. “Ah, Oscar York, you are truly a man after my own heart!”

“Why, eh, thank you, good sir!”

Oscar looked around him. He was standing just outside the Theatre gates, with no idea as to why he stopped—especially when he carried such conclusive evidence of Seelie’s corruption! With chin held high and a spring in his step, he started for home.

Chapter 10 End

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Does anybody use their real name around here? It’s worse than the internet!

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