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the second curse has struck.
IP: 95.149.90.114

The little boy with the grass-green eyes wraps his arms around his knees and rocks slowly.

“C-coming,” he mutters incoherently; “i-it’s c-c-c-c-c-c-om-oming.”

Aura kneels down in front of him and gently touches his shoulder, to no reaction. Osiris (she had only managed to extract his name with Lauma’s telepathic assistance) had spontaneously decided to move in only a few days before, and the rather bemused deity and the reluctant lioness had let him. It had been easy for Lauma to tap into his powers, and at first a sense of hope had been instilled in Aura because of his clairvoyance, but her optimism had quickly diminished when she realised the child’s state of mind. Osiris’ ability to know, without ever having been taught or told, is virtually useless if he doesn’t have the capacity to communicate his knowledge. This is the first time he’s actually spoken since he’s come here.

What should she do? There are no antipsychotic drugs in Shaman and she hasn’t a drop of magic left; there’s nothing she can use, bar sympathy and wisdom, to help him tell her what’s wrong.

“What’s coming, Osiris?” She presses, firmly but softly, “tell me what’s coming.”

He doesn’t speak; he simply points. Aura swivels around to follow his finger, instantly spying the offensive item: a pair of golden eyes gleaming through the darkness.

---

“Nalani?” Ciara can’t keep the edge out of her voice; she’s been calling for the last twenty minutes. Apart from the distant sound of a dog barking there’s no other noise, so no reason for her familiar not to hear her. “Nalani, it’s your turn to watch Ithuriel!”

She turns back to the crib, cross, but the sight of her child instantly brings a sense of calm and peace back to the young girl. He is handsome. Ciara wouldn’t leave him in the hands of anyone else; Nalani is a part of her own soul, and the only other person who can be trusted with her precious son. As much as she adores him, twenty-four hour watch has worn even her down, and she needs a break. She needs to get out and smell the fresh air, perhaps take a walk around the lagoon and watch the dolphins break the surface of the cool water with their beautiful backs. Frowning, she reaches over to grab her coat from the sofa, resigning to take Ithuriel with her – and squeals as a small monochromatic animal shoots out from underneath.

“Nalani!”

The lemur makes a curious hissing sound and darts across the room, almost knocking the crib over. Ciara manages to catch it just in time, and presses the crying baby to her chest in confusion. What’s come over her familiar? Keeping tight hold of Ithuriel, she advances cautiously to the edge of the room where Nalani has backed up. The lemur looks crazed; her fur has puffed out like a cornered cat, her eyes are wide and her sharp little teeth bared. When Ciara tries to reach out with her mind towards her, she finds nothing. No extension of her soul. It’s almost as if the connection between them doesn’t exist.

The door bursts open suddenly and Damon appears. He looks a mess: his hair is loose and flying around his face, he’s covered in mud and there are four deep gashes across his cheek as if he’s just been clawed there. As he slams the door shut behind him, another object hits it from the other side (from the torrent of loud barking, Ciara can guess what), almost making his knees buckle and creating a thin gap through which a snarling muzzle pokes. In the confusion, Nalani leaps across the room, jumps out of the window and disappears out of sight. Without hesitating, Ciara runs across the room and presses her back to the door next to Damon. With their combined weight they manage to force the door closed, and Damon hurriedly slides the bolt across. They back away guardedly, wary of the scrabbling and vicious barking on the other side.

“Kale,” Damon’s voice almost cracks, “He just turned on me. No reason, no explanation. I can’t feel him with my mind at all.”

Despite the desperation of the situation, Ciara is secretly glad not to be alone.

---

Levi can’t remember the last time he ran so fast.

This. Is. Insane. Running from his own familiar! The only reason Xerxes hasn’t caught up with him already is because they’re moving through a forest, dodging trees and boulders, so he can’t use his full speed. The minute they break out into the open he’ll be onto him – a fairy is no match for a snow leopard. Unless...

Taking a risk, Levi swerves to the right, a direction which he knows will lead to the edge of the woodland. Already he’s unfolding his wings and trying to see as far ahead as he can, calculating the distance left and the amount of time he’ll need to get into the air. Behind him, Xerxes sees this and roars loudly, crashing through large clumps of moss as he speeds up to stop his prize from escaping. The gap between Levi and the exit from the trees is closing, but Xerxes is so close that he can feel the snow leopard’s paws thudding on the ground behind him. He’s not going to make it. He can’t. In desperation, Levi reaches out with his mind again, but he cannot even locate the connection which bonds him to his familiar, which frightens him more than anything. If he didn’t know better, he’d have thought Xerxes was a wild animal. What is wrong with him?

At the same instant he breaks through the trees, the fairy spreads his wings, using his own momentum, shoots into the air. He feels a brush of air pass by his ankle as Xerxes reaches out for him but misses, and the hair on the back of his neck stands up. A narrow escape indeed.

---

“Arthur,” Nimueh reaches out and grasps her son’s arm, “Avalon – ”

“I know, mother. Pendragon too.”

He pulls his arm free and jumps onto his trusty steed, Santu. Despite the situation, the King takes a moment to reassure his mother, and advises her to stay locked up in the house. If the same thing that happened to Avalon and Pendragon is happening all over Shaman, then there are far more dangerous animals than hares and merlins on the loose – Itzal the wolf, for one. They’re lucky that their familiars are only prey animals, and Arthur has an uneasy feeling about the popularity of carnivorous and predatory familiars which are now probably rampaging around. The volcano had not caused any deaths, but if Arthur’s hunch is right, Mallos’ curses may have found their first fatality by the end of the day.

Together, he and Santu take the roundabout route to the Shrine, which is longer but much more open – better not to get caught on a potential ambush site. He never made it to his destination, however. No sooner do they reach the border of the Silver Cove than he spies the person he was looking for – Aura, with her hands on the shoulders of one of Lilith’s younger brothers and looking like she’s quizzing him for information. Arthur rides up and dismounts, remembering to introduce himself. Without divinity, Aura is no more telepathic than he is.

“You got away from Lauma, then,” he says slightly sheepishly.

Aura smiles weakly. “Did you come to rescue me? I’m touched.” She shakes her head. “Lauma didn’t attack us. She didn’t have a reason to; she’d fed yesterday. Osiris told me about the second curse and we vacated as quickly and quietly as possible – she left herself about five minutes after we did.”

“So it was one of the curses?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“I don’t understand,” Arthur leans back against a tree, watching the young boy. Aura had released Osiris, who had instantly slumped to the ground and started rocking; his slow, gentle motions are mesmerising. “Why didn’t Pendragon attack me?”

“Because he can’t eat you,” Aura replies mildly. “The second curse removed the link between fairies and their familiars, but it also apparently removed the intelligent consciousness of familiars. They’re just like wild animals now – and they’re hungry. It isn’t necessary for familiars to eat; they gain sustenance through our food, but now that the bond is gone they’ve woken up to empty stomachs. They’re starving. Although they should still retain the memories of their lives, they were forced to block that out and turn to the nearest food supply: for carnivorous familiars, that means their own fairies.”

“If a familiar kills their own fairy, don’t they both die?”

“Yes.”

---

This is the second curse.

Fairies no longer have telepathic communication with their familiars and familiars can no longer speak. Familiars of level 5 and above fairies who have their fairies’ powers are unable to use them. The connection has broken.

As Aura said, the minute the connection breaks all familiars will be overwhelmed by hunger – enough to make them turn on their own fairies. When they have appeased their appetites they may retain enough intelligence to remember who their fairies are. Tame, intelligent animals like dogs and horses may retain a knowledge of understanding fairy facial expressions and even some words.

This will continue indefinitely, until the curse is broken or fades away.


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