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part eight, first half.
IP: 82.14.67.140

PART EIGHT
Apeliotes Island


“What is the meaning of this?” Lorraine squealed furiously, clapping the back of her hand dramatically to her brow. “You order me to return to Murmansk to deal with the infestation of Helagian dragons there, but before I can begin I am called back here! The real Chairman would never be so incompetent!”

“Of course, you could do so much better,” Allianah snorted her interruption. “If you had your way item one of the next agenda would be to paint the meeting room in baby pink.”

Lorraine flushed and replied in heated Russian before Tsi had a chance to intervene. The Nubian barely let her finish before shouting back, converting her own tongue to flawlessly match the other woman’s language. Tsi didn’t waste emotion in hoping that Allianah was defending him because she believed in his skills as a politician; he well knew that she had been dying to have a go at Lorraine for decades and had finally seen her chance. The secret reception room buried deep in the cliffs was a scene of pandemonium: the two women were virtually screaming at one another, with Lorraine’s dove flapping agitatedly overhead; Khasekhemwy was sat in the corner, rocking and wringing his hands; only Zed was calm. He had his arms folded and was surveying Tsi with a politely blank expression, as if waiting for him to explain why he had brought them all back here to unexpectedly.

Ordinarily, the originals didn’t use magic against one another. It wasn’t a law, but more of an unwritten rule. Using divinity against another divine was largely pointless anyway unless you were able to take them by surprise, since their powers equalled yours. But Tsi was weary and a little wired by what he’d seen on Shaman, so he didn’t hesitate before creating an intensely high-pitched whine which caused everyone in the vicinity to clap their hands over their ears and cry out. He waited until he had their attention before he stopped the noise, took a breath and stepped forward.

“I’m declaring state seventeen,” he said as calmly as he could. “Earth is in lockdown. No unauthorised entry or exit by any party. I’m also declaring state nineteen for world two-oh-seven-six-fifty-nine, locally called Shaman. One hostile guaranteed, potentially three. Every council member is being called to duty.”

The other occupants of the room froze, staring at the Acting Chairman as though he’d just declared his intention of slicing off his own head for fun. Allianah’s mouth fell open and Khasekhemwy caught himself in mid-rock. Hostiles?

“Ladies, gentlemen,” Tsi continued, pulling himself up to his full (and admittedly, not very impressive) height, “we’re going to Versailles.”

---


Having successfully toppled a charging lamrion with a blow to the head from his favourite Toledo sword, Mallos swore expressively in his native language. They just kept coming.

It was true that the Set-Merut fighters were in a better position than they had been in the Battle of Apeliotes Island, since they had managed to flank Per-aa Nakht on two opposing sides. The bad news was that they weren’t making much headway with Arthur’s plan to join up and close a semi-circle around the enemy. Per-aa Nakht were simply too numerous. Fairies, lamrions and various other monsters with sharp teeth and unyielding hides all seemed to pop up from nowhere, often with three or more appearing wherever one was toppled. Beyond himself, Aura, Arthur and Estefania (who had silently refused to go into hiding and was expertly duelling a man with blue hair), Mallos had no idea what was going on with the rest of the battle. The combination of Arthur and Estefania’s fighting skills and Mallos and Aura’s magic was enough to make the four of them a force to be reckoned with, but so far the enemy had resisted their attempts to push forward. It was every general’s nightmare situation: stalemate. Every now and then Mallos caught a glimpse of the rest of the islanders fighting it out on the opposing flank, but he couldn’t tell if they were winning or losing.

“Can you not immobilise them?” Arthur shouted from somewhere to his right. Mallos shook his head mutely, too busy parrying blows from an unknown three-headed creature to reply. He’d already tried it, and doubtless Aura had too; Gwythr must have put some kind of protective enchantment over his forces, and neither of the other deities had a chance of unravelling them while preoccupied with the fight. “Clear a passage,” the King ordered after a few minutes, “We’ll run for it.”

Mallos swiped off two of the monster’s three heads and began to summon his divinity, just as something flew at him and knocked him off his feet. To his horror, he realised it was his sister; Estefania wasn’t unconscious, but judging from the amount of blood she’d received a fairly deep gash across her stomach. Her face was white. The blue-haired man was advancing, smirking triumphantly. Furious, Mallos knocked him back a powerful gust of wind, pulled his baby sister back onto her feet and was about to try again when something zoomed past him. Spinning around, he caught his breath. A tall, beautiful woman with dark hair and gleaming violet eyes was backing up as a phoenix swooped towards her, its beak gaping in preparation for the fireball it was clearly about to hurl. Mallos barely had time to wonder who the unfortunate woman was before the phoenix fired its deadly missile. The flames engulfed the woman, but vanished almost as quickly as they had appeared, and she looked no worse for wear. Indeed, she was laughing; the sound seemed so alien amidst the deafening noise of clashing swords and shields. The phoenix screeched and soared into the air, followed immediately by a large, bat-winged reptile Mallos recognised as a Cothron dragon. It looked like Gwythr had entered the battle.

Tearing his eyes from the scene, Mallos heaved Estefania over one shoulder in a fireman’s lift and finally summoned his magic. A ball of crackling amber light shot through the crowd, knocking over a straight line of enemy forces in a clear passage. He and Arthur sprinted down it together, paying no heed to the dazed but otherwise unharmed fairies and lamrions to either side of them. Overhead, the phoenix and the dragon had added their roars and shrieks to the general commotion. A hundred yards from their destination the enemy got their wits back and flew at them with renewed determination, but by this point the Set-Merut soldiers had realised what was happening and rushed to defend their King. Precisely how it happened was a blur, but within minutes Mallos found himself surrounded by people he knew, most of them sporting injuries of some kind. Dumping Estefania into the arms of some young woman who in Mallos’ opinion shouldn’t be in the fight at all, he drew his Toledo and whipped round to face the oncoming force.

Here we go again.

---


Getting five people through the trace mirror in the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles Palace wasn’t as easy as getting one person through – or wouldn’t be, if the five people in question weren’t magical fairies. It was a simple matter for Allianah to activate the fire alarm, causing a widespread evacuation of the building. Completely invisible, the deities of the Sudan, Palestine, China, Brazil and Russia – the last deities left on Earth – silently made their way through the building. Tsi led his troupe through the trace mirror with no small feeling of apprehension, knowing that what would happen in the next few hours would go down in history – and it would be under his time as Chairman.

If he’d known that the silence of the Hall of Mirrors would be his last moments of peace before the world turned itself upside down, he might have lingered to savour them. Shaman was in chaos. They were standing on the same, tree-covered hill where Tsi had stood before – but it wasn’t the same scene which greeted him now. An inter-species battle had broken out. Fairies and various other magical creatures were exchanging blows with an assortment of weapons, all deadly-looking. A huge Cothron dragon and a phoenix seemed to be engaged in their own private battle above the other fighters, and their jets of fire were occasionally misplaced onto the people below them. Screams rent the air. Loud explosions and bursts of magic added to the confusion. Tsi understood his comrades’ utter silence; fairy-on-fairy war on this scale had not been seen since World War II and, bizarrely, it was happening in a world which had set itself up as a peaceful sanctuary.

Lorraine caught hold of his arm. “Look,” she breathed, quite forgetting to honey her voice as she usually did; “it’s Mallos.”

Tsi followed her pointing finger and, after a moment’s searching, spotted the black-clad figure wielding a long, slim sword. Mallos was recognisable even from this distance. Near him were two other, easily identifiable characters: Arthur, the reborn mythical King who Tsi had assisted only weeks before, and Poppy, the elusive half-and-half who now sat at the top of the council’s most wanted list. Precisely how Poppy managed to be so elusive when she was about as subtle as a battering ram was anybody’s guess. Tsi suddenly realised that the situation was far more complex than he had originally thought, and was silently glad for his company.

“Right,” he uttered softly, glancing up at the two airborne beasts. This was it. The moment he’d had nightmares about ever since he accepted the role of Acting Chairman. Tsi would be a liar if he said he wasn’t terrified, but he managed to keep his cool in front of the other deities. “Freeze them. All of them.”

to be continued.



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