Orphic Phantasia

17: Fear of the Light

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It was the Princess, returning from her brief sojourn into the house below. “I have spoken with Shelley Eoghan and Alonie Kent, and Chris Shaw and Lance Algar,” she said. “They are all relieved that I saved them from the Erebus.”

The Director crossed an arm over his chest and traced his jawline with a steel finger. “They are fortunate you happened to stop by,” he said. He shared a look with Emily that told her he knew, as well as she did, that the Princess was not alone, and that none of this was mere coincidence.

“The Princess could not help herself.” Emily recognised the calm voice of the Sidhe prince, Dionysus, without even thinking about it—and there he was, stood with them on the rooftop, bare-chested and as beautiful as any man or woman Emily had known, bar Prince Freyr himself. His waves of hair drifted in an unfelt breeze. “She acted on instinct to drive away the Erebus, just as the Erebus acted on instinct to escape her. It would seem they are diametrically opposed.”

“Ah, Dionysus. I wondered when you might appear.” The Director—brave or foolish—cast him a vicious glare. “As valuable as your research may be, I did not agree to this turn of events.”

“The situation left us with no other choice.” The Prince looked to Emily, as if to blame her for all of this. “I would have rather conducted this experiment without alerting you, but Lord Freyr believed the presence of the Sophist Aristocracy would amplify the results.”

Amplify?” The Director did not sound impressed. “We are fortunate these children have escaped unharmed. There are some among the Aristocracy who would see their heads roll had they half a chance.” He shook his head and turned to Emily. “This is why I hope you chose your words well when you made your wish.”

No wonder he always filled her current name with such snide derision whenever he spoke it: he had known her secret all this time. Emily clasped her shoulder. It seemed even the magic of the Sidhe had its cracks.

“We have asked nothing of Aliza Adel beyond her capabilities,” said the Prince. “She is an invaluable asset to our investigation.”

“As were the others,” said Guirlande, “and what did they accomplish?”

“This time is different,” said the Prince. “You know that as well as I do. The coincidences are too great. We are not the only ones who have noticed them.”

Other words passed between them, but their awareness had moved to another place, to a realm beyond the remnants of the rooftop garden that even the eyes of a seer could not glimpse. Emily chewed on her lip; every moment she spent in this place, every question she had answered, every suspicion confirmed, was another step away from the life she so desired, from the normality that was ‘Emily Fomalhaut’.

A fool’s debt for a fool’s dream. Her shoulder burned.

Then something brushed against her elbow, a light touch, like that of a small insect taking rest. It was the Princess, her face fixed with a determined expression. “You are troubled,” she said.

“Aren’t you?” Emily replied. “I thought you hated secrets.”

Phantasia blinked. She didn’t get it. Once again, the girl with the all-seeing eyes failed to spot what was right in front of her.

“Over there,” Emily nodded towards the Director and the Prince, locked in a moment of time beyond all senses but their own. “They’re scheming.”

“Scheming?” It was as if she had never heard the word before.

Emily took a deep breath. As nice and good and honest as she tried to be, Emily Fomalhaut was not one for dealing with children. “You know, keeping secrets? Using them to control other people?” People like me. “Your Prince Dionysus is after something, and he’s using us to get it.”

It was a dangerous game, but she couldn’t help herself. It was a bad habit.

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Poor Phantasia just assumes everyone is being honest with her…