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part eight, second half.


Declan gritted his teeth and leapt backwards, twisting his body as he did so and narrowly avoiding the jet of fire aimed at him from his own ex-lover. Serafina was all the more beautiful when she was dangerous, but he prided himself on his ability to control his mind and refused to allow her to distract him. She had chosen to side with the enemy, and now she would pay for her poor judgement. Declan spun his word expertly in his hand and hurled it at her like a harpoon, already drawing his long dagger as she burst into flame. He smiled lightly, oozing confidence, and positioned himself for the final strike. He’d already begun the downwards swing when it happened; his arms froze and the weapon vanished between his hands. Naturally assuming some kind of divine enchantment, Declan didn’t panic and instead tried to summon his magic. A faint flicker of fear fluttered in the pit of his stomach as he realised that not only could he not access his magic, but his legs were frozen too; only his head could move. At least everybody else seemed to be in the same predicament he was... everybody, that was, except five people striding purposefully through the crowds of immobile fairies and lamrions. They were close enough for him to hear what they were saying.

“...can certainly see why you wanted to bring this realm under the council’s jurisdiction,” a tall, black-skinned woman was proclaiming in a haughty sort of voice. “What utter chaos. These people clearly need a firm – ”

“May I remind you, Allianah, that the council is not an intergalactic government for all fairykind?” The man who seemed to be leading the group interrupted her. If he was the leader, Declan wasn’t impressed by his appearance; he was rather on the small side, of Asian background, and he was hardly an imposing figure. “The council was established to protect fairies from their own gods.”

“Perhaps,” a large, dark-skinned man rumbled before Allianah could reply, “if we are their protectors, we should allow them to be our judges. I don’t believe this is a matter for rigidly following the law without adhering to the guidance of our hearts and consciences, and the hearts and consciences of the people who will be affected.”

The group fell silent and moved past Declan so that he could no longer see them. His mind racing, he tilted his head to stare up at the sky, where moments before Gwythr and Aura in dragon and phoenix forms had been engaged in a ferocious battle. Whatever spell had befallen him was clearly affecting them too; they were frozen solidly in mid-air. Droplets of blood were suspended in the air from a wound the phoenix had just inflicted on the dragon with her beak, and the fireball he’d just hurled was hovering inches from her tail.

As he looked, Declan suddenly realised that he was able to move again. His weapon was still gone, but from the looks of things the fight was over; the other fairies, dazed, were ambling slowly towards a large, flat rock in the centre of the plain where the five council members were now standing. The Asian man was calling them over with a friendly, encouraging voice, requesting a few moments of their attention and reminding them politely but firmly that he had the power to freeze them again if anyone sought to resume the battle. Wordlessly, Declan slipped into the crowd and vanished amongst them.

“That’s right. Can everyone hear me?” Tsi was saying, waving his hands. A few people at the back of the crowd nervously waved back. “Great. My name is Tsi, I’m the Acting Chairman of the Council of Originals. This is Allianah, the Guardian – ” the black woman inclined her head half an inch, her expression frosty “ – Khasekhemwy, the Scribe – ” a slender man wearing a turban peeked out from behind the broad black man and coughed momentarily “ – Lorraine, the Inter-species Ambassador – ” a beautiful young lady with blonde curls gave a royal wave “ – and Zed, the Intergalactic Ambassador and Acting High Judge of the Star Chamber.” The large man smiled kindly at the crowd. “Events on Shaman have been brought to the council’s attention and can no longer be ignored. However, for us to follow the letter of the law would potentially be to leave the people of Shaman vulnerable and risks the chance of continued warfare. Therefore, the council is imposing state zero – a dismissal of the written laws in favour of a moral code better suited to the individual situation.”

How much of this the people understood, Tsi didn’t know. Silence greeted his words. There was some general movement in the crowd as some people slipped through gaps to get closer to their loved ones. Nimueh appeared nervously at Joel’s side, and he placed a protective arm around her; Juliette’s fingers closed around Scott’s; Lusitania edged closer to Mallos, who had wisely chosen to retreat with the crowd rather than enter the spotlight; Juniper lightly touched Lilith’s shoulder, who in turn glanced up to make brief eye contact with Arthur. The King flexed his fingers, missing the absence of his sword, but he felt strangely calm as he looked up at the five deities. He didn’t really trust the council, but if Tsi was their leader then he was hopeful; Tsi seemed fair.

Assuming he could decide what to do. The Acting Chairman was, quite clearly, hesitating. Arthur sympathised with his predicament. Aura already had a criminal record, but she seemed to have amassed the largest number of supporters, including Arthur himself, whom Tsi trusted; on the other hand, ruling against Gwythr would put Tsi in a tricky situation, since the minute they returned to Earth Gwythr would automatically reassume his role as Chairman. Gwythr would also have had the council under his thumb for the past thousand years and would doubtless have been feeding them false information. Simply removing both deities and taking them to Earth to be trialled would leave Shaman no better off. The other originals didn’t seem to be making the Acting Chairman’s life any easier – Allianah kept shooting him disapproving looks, and the others weren’t venturing to offer their opinions at all.

“You don’t know who they really are,” Tsi muttered softly, “and neither do we, anymore.” He seemed to come to a decision. Stepping forward, he cleared his throat. “People of Shaman, you have warred for long enough. Under your acceptance, the council gives you twenty relative years of peace from the deities. The empires are disbanded, enmities dissolved, and all land is to become the property of King Arthur, to distribute fairly and without bias.” Tsi’s eyes locked momentarily on Arthur’s, and the King could have sworn that the deity had given him a half-smile. “You have the right to know who and what you have been fighting for,” he continued. “You have the right to choose your own god. Take twenty years to rebuild your world, further your learning, form relationships and advance your civilisation. When the twenty years are up, you will be asked to choose which deity you wish to remain on Shaman as its god. Whosoever receives the highest number of votes will stay, and the other will be returned to Earth. If a decision is not made in the allotted time, the war will resume.

“You will have the twenty years to get to know your deities and decide whom you prefer.” He pointed his finger up at the sky. The dragon and the phoenix both shrank violently until they vanished almost from sight; all that remained of each was a speck of glowing white light, approximately the size of a baby’s fingernail. They floated down to Tsi and hovered ominously over his outstretched palm. “Gwythr and Aura will have their memories wiped and will be reduced to mere zygotes,” he continued. “They will be reborn here and they will be raised here, by you, the people of Shaman. Bring them up with the morals you wish to instil and watch them carefully as they grow, never knowing who they really are. You will see their true characters, for there is nothing so honest as a child, and this will help you choose between them. When they reach the age of twenty, their memories will be returned to them and they will freeze for a period of five days. You will have five days to make your decision.” He paused for a few moments to let this sink in, ignoring the expressions of his fellow deities (which ranged from approving, to shocked, to absolutely outraged) before he added sharply, “Mallos.”

Mallos grimaced, touched Lusitania’s shoulder briefly and stepped forward. He made no attempt to defend himself or proclaim his innocence, but simply crossed his arms and stared unblinkingly up at the other council members, awaiting their judgement.

“You’re involved in this, whether or not you’re guilty of anything,” Tsi informed him sternly. “You will remain on Shaman for the twenty year period, and in that time you will surrender your magic.” Mallos’ jaw dropped. It was clear that whatever punishment he had expected, this was way below the belt. Tsi continued in a louder voice to prevent interruption. “I have returned Aura’s original magic to her and removed her necklace. You will surrender your magic to Gwythr so that they may have equal footing, and you will remain on Shaman to ensure that the balance is kept. At the end of the twenty year period your magic will be returned to you and you will be able to go back to Earth. The deity who is chosen to remain here will keep their magic, and the other will relinquish their divinity and leave Shaman.”

Mallos did not look particularly consoled by the news that his divinity would return in two decades, but it was clear he wasn’t about to argue with the Acting Chairman. He hesitated for a moment, before reluctantly raising one arm. A brilliant blue-white light flowed from his pointing finger directly to Tsi, who caught it calmly with his free hand; once the transfer was complete, it disappeared. The two specks of light in his other hand glowed a little brighter for a brief moment.

Tsi took a breath. “This leaves only one loose end. Poppy.” His brown eyes raked the crowd, settling firmly on a guilty face which peeked out from behind a tree. Tsi’s lips twitched for a minute, as if he was trying not to smile. “You are hereby sentenced to exile from planet Earth. A sentence which shall henceforth be carried out here, on Shaman.” Poppy looked baffled by this statement, but most other people seemed to understand. Juniper smiled slightly and Adonis gave a half-hearted groan under his breath. Seeing their mixed reactions, it was an effort for Tsi to keep his face solemn. He couldn’t help but give the ghost of a grin as he wiggled his fingers and the two specks of light twisted and grew in his hands, morphing into one green and one red apple. “I will leave these here. Each apple contains one zygote; whoever eats one will become impregnated. The green one is Gwythr, the red Aura. Be warned, ladies, that whoever eats an apple is choosing to rear one of these deities as if they were their own child, denying them the knowledge of their true identity for twenty years. One bite will be enough.

“It is time that we left you.” Tsi turned and, for the second time that day, looked directly into Arthur’s eyes. “If you need me, Mallos will know how to contact me.”

And with that, he and the other four deities vanished, leaving behind a silence so complete it seemed as if it would never end. Not one of the original fairies noticed a dark shadow steal away from the crowd and vanish between the trees.

    • epilogue -

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