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part five.

Part five
The English Channel, off the coast of England
Original fairies do not need wings. Aura could fly without them if she wanted to, and probably would have done if the situation had not required a mode of transportation somewhat more urgent. She had been unable to place the sense of uneasiness in Drake’s bed-chamber, despite his assurances that he would not be going to sea again so soon, and it was only as she listened to his exchange with Sir William Cecil that she’d realised the cause of it. Teleporting out of the castle was no trouble, but finding somewhere to teleport to was. The ability to disappear and instantly reappear somewhere else was restricted to the places the teleporter knew of – Aura had never seen a Spanish ship and had no idea where the Armada was, so it would be impossible for her to go straight from Drake’s castle to there. First, she had to find it.

She reappeared somewhere over the southern coast of Devon. The entire coast was alight with beacons after a fisherman had spotted the Armada and raised the alarm. Conscious that a woman hovering in mid-air was not a common sight in 16th century England, Aura faded out of the visible spectrum and soared upwards. The day was overcast, so she couldn’t climb too high for fear of getting lost in the clouds (quite apart from being completely blind up there, the middle of a grey raincloud is not a pleasant place to be under any circumstances) but she needed to be able to see the fleet. As high as she dared, Aura shielded the sun from her eyes with one hand and peered desperately at the horizon.

There. That blur. Sails?

Encouraged, she shot off in that direction. It turned out to be a hastily retreating fishing boat, but from there the cause of its retreat was plain – the unmistakeable shape of war boats dominated the horizon. Aura zoomed over the fishermen and headed directly for the Spanish fleet. She was surprised at how long it took to get there; the boats were so big that it had seemed that they were quite near, but as she covered more ground she realised their colossal size. The largest and most cumbersome boats were at the centre of a crescent formation, with the smaller and more agile boats at the tips. Even from the air, they were a formidable sight – to face them from ground level would be terrifying, even for experienced English naval soldiers. Aura’s heart went out to brave Francis, who had had the courage to defeat so many of these Spanish monsters… but at the same time, a drop of worry eased through her body; Drake had never fought this number of boats before. He was out of his depth. How could the English hope to succeed?

Why, with a little fairy magic, of course. Unfortunately, if Aura’s instinct was correct, she wasn’t the only fairy in the vicinity.

Whether an English spy or a supporter of the Spaniards, there’s only one place where another fairy would be – right at the centre of it all, on the lead boat where the commodore (the captain of captains and leader of operations) was. Silent as a mouse, Aura landed on the boat in question (it wasn’t difficult to locate, as it sat in the centre and was marked by a Spanish flag) and tiptoed across the deck, skipping around various workmen doing various workmen’s jobs. To say original fairies could detect one another’s presence would be inaccurate; in actuality, divinity has the ability to detect the presence of other divine beings. Magic is like a magnet – whenever Aura is close enough to another fairy with divinity (which is to say, another original fairy – all the originals were divine and only one non-original wasn’t, and the non-original in question was currently under house arrest on the isle of Sicily) she can feel a force pushing against her like the repelling poles of a magnet. At a distant level, this is what she’d felt in Drake’s castle – one of the other originals on the move. The question was, which? After several tragic deaths, there were only nineteen of them left. Nineteen. There had only been twenty-three originals to begin with, so any loss was deeply felt, particularly was they were all immortal. It took a lot to kill an original fairy, but it wasn’t impossible.

If she could feel the other fairy’s presence, he or she would certainly be able to feel hers. Aura felt the force pushing against her again – a sign that he or she was on the move. Closer. Closer, now. She edged forward and rested her hand on the doorknob of the portal in front of her, which led to the cabins below deck - was that her imagination, or could she feel the distinct thrum of magic? Before she could do anything, the door was wrenched from her grasp (it opened inwards) and a man appeared in the doorway. A high level fairy’s eyesight is infinitely better than a human’s, and Aura didn’t need to wait for her eyes to adjust in order to be able to see him clearly. She smiled and shimmered back into visibility.

“Ah, Mallos. It has been a while, hasn’t it?”

He stepped aside to allow her to enter. It wouldn’t do for the men to see a woman on deck; they might consider her a stowaway or a witch and throw her overboard. “It certainly has. Gracias,” he added as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her. “The men are not so tolerant as I to a woman aboard ship. Humans have a lot to learn, no?”


“So what brings you here, my dear Aura? I take it that it is Aura under all those ruffles and skirts; I know for a fact Allianah is in Africa this decade and Lorraine would never lower herself travel by boat. Admittedly you three are not the only female originals, but I tire of remembering the names, habits and whereabouts of all you sillyhearts and airheads.”

“As ever, Mallos, your chauvinism is delightfully refreshing in a male-dominated world.” She bent over to inspect the chair he offered before accepting it. It was clean enough. Mallos couldn’t employ too much magic without raising the suspicions of his crew, so he must have cleaned it himself or hired one of the crew to do it. “If I believed your remarks on my sex were serious I might worry that you wouldn’t condescend to betray your country to a mere woman, but since I do not, kindly lay out the Armada’s master plan for me.”

She sat back and stretched luxuriously, a mischievous gleam in her hazel eyes. A quiet sense of adventure, a streak of feminism two centuries too early and an intelligence to rival his own were all things which made her all the more attractive. Dealing with her was an intellectual challenge which Mallos savoured, and he did not intend to let her get away so lightly.

“You must be pampered in Elizabeth’s court if you believe a gentleman’s duty to a lady is more compelling than his loyalty to his country.” He settled in the seat opposite her and pulled out a cigar, which he promptly lit before she could protest. “However, since my tolerance for dear old Philip is beginning to wane and I find your sarcastic wit so charming, I propose a little game. A question for a question, and you have to stop asking when you stop answering. However far you dare to delve is however far you dare to reveal.” He let out a puff of smoke and smiled handsomely, taking her amiable silence as approval. “Ladies first.”

Aura cut straight to the chase. “Where is the Armada sailing to?”

“The Netherlands. It is Catholic and more or less owned by Spain, so we will take sanctuary there. We’ll pick up some more men at port and take a brief rest before pressing the attack. My turn.” He puffed infuriatingly for a few seconds before proceeding with his first question. “Is it true that you’re still a virgin?”

“Yes. What is the Armada’s greatest strength?”

“The crescent formation. It’s unbreakable, and as one within it we are a formidable force which the small English ships cannot hope to conquer. You’re infatuated by that man Drake, aren’t you?”

“Any woman would be attracted to a man of his qualities. I see where your questions are probing and no, I have not made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ to Drake, and nor do I intend to in the near future. Supposing the English could break the Spanish formation, would they stand a chance of defeating them?”

“Easily. The Spanish galleons are large and slow, and only of any use in numbers – alone they’re easy to pick off. Would you make the ultimate sacrifice to me?”

His eyes glittered cheekily. Nice to know he took war between two countries so seriously. “I don’t care to answer that question.”

“Then you’ve lost your right to ask any more.” He stubbed out his cigar, rose to his feet and bowed to her. “I do hope you don’t intend to get drawn into any of the fighting, sweetheart. It would hurt me deeply to think of a helpless woman trying to lift a sword, and I wouldn’t want anything to mar that pretty face.”

    • part six. -
    • part seven. -
    • part eight. -
    • part nine. -
    • part ten. -
    • epilogue -

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