Orphic Phantasia

12: The Fogs of Agnoia

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“It’s taken too long, if you ask me. The longer those people have even the slightest sway over this town, the worse it suffers. It’s about time we got the restoration back on track. We can start with getting rid of that”—he gestured towards the Scar with his pipe—”hideous thing.”

“All in good time. We cannot vanquish fear overnight.”

“You say that, Basil, yet hope died faster.”

“Their hope, not ours. We can rebuild the world, even with death staring us in the face. Isn’t that right, Oscar?”

Oscar agreed, as was expected of him. Then the Lords’ talk turned to completion of the planned cathedral, which a Lord Rouen had abandoned six months previous. Oscar’s father felt it would serve as a valuable symbol to the community once the Aristocracy had rid the town of Seelie.

“And I suppose you’ll be putting in an offer for that fortress of theirs?” said Lord Durham with a hearty laugh. “You do realise they’ll try to take it with them? Probably fits inside a suitcase, knowing those people.”

“Then we shall give them no choice but to leave it behind. And besides, I think a palace like that will make an excellent gift for our Father, don’t you?”

“In exchange for his right hand, I bet.”

“Every man has his price.”

Just the thought of it made Oscar’s knees tremble with anticipation. He had never realised just how much power his father had, and now all he could think about was what he, his one remaining son, would inherit. Astrid Guirlande would be on her knees, Ceres too. He would become a prince, and the prince would become a sultan.

A clap on his back snapped him out of his daydreams; Lord Durham had left, leaving Oscar alone with his father. “I hope this has taught you a valuable lesson, boy,” he said. “If you want to dominate a man—or a woman, of course—you must ensure that all their choices are to your benefit.” He guided him towards their waiting carriage, where Erlea opened the door for them.  “And do you know what the best part about all this is?”

As the carriage began its journey back to the York estate, Oscar watched the countryside roll by. Theia’s shadow was beginning its sweep of the land. As it did, the Scar itself seemed to grow even darker, as if the corrupted carapace were a gash in reality, draining the light from the sky.

“That place isn’t even cursed,” his father continued, white teeth shining like peacekeeper armour. “At least, not by evil spirits. It’s all about that thing,” he pointed towards the City’s distant silhouette on the southern horizon. “Malkuth, Oscar. ‘Agnoia’? The ‘manifest force of evil spirits’? Don’t make me laugh! It’s just some technological wizardry. People will believe anything these days.”

The carriage turned north, replacing the view of the town and its overshadowing wound with that of the eastern forest. Oscar glimpsed the Theatre’s towers, as much a blemish on the horizon as any cracked dome or mountain city. Maybe one day, they would be his towers.

“Did you stop to wonder why the Director’s men had to wear all that armour?” his father asked. “It’s because that place is filled with radiation. Oh, certainly, the clergy would have you believe it because of some soul-corrupting miasma, but you and I know better than that, don’t we?”

Oscar nodded.

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You weren’t there, fifteen years ago, the night that all hope died. If you were, you would understand.