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part seven
IP: 82.14.67.140

PART SEVEN
Apeliotes Island

WHAM!

Aura blinked, trying desperately to clear the blots of twinkling light which had suddenly appeared before her eyes. Her head felt like someone had cleaved it open with an axe. Mallos’ hand was wrenched from her grasp. A sharp whistling noise sounded past her ear and, though disoriented, she had the sense enough to duck as another missile shot over her head. She barely caught a glimpse of her opponent – a short, squat lamrion bearing an evil grin – before instinct took over and she pointed her index finger at it, sending a jet of ice-cold water across the short distance between them. The water jet was concentrated enough to have the equivalent impact of a hurled rock and the lamrion was out cold in an instant. A second lamrion was tearing across the grass towards her, waving a harpoon threateningly; she disposed of him with a swift burst of telekinesis which dragged the weapon from his grip and thrust it through his own heart. Spinning around, Aura caught sight of Mallos bounding around on top of some low scaffolding, duelling extravagantly with three more of the monsters.

“Hey!” She yelled at him. “You’ve had your fun, come on!”

Obligingly, he dispatched all three of them with a single, carefully aimed blow and leapt lightly down onto the ground.

“Gwythr will know we’re here,” he replied with more calm than Aura felt. “I presume you have somewhere we can go?”

Without a word, she grabbed his hand again and sprinted across the grass. The village was less than a quarter of a mile to their left and the air was rent with cries as the alarm was sounded. Blood was beating in her ears and she felt a painful pressure in her forehead which she recognised as magical interference; another divine being attempting to ascertain precisely where she was. How could she be so stupid as to leave the island without either of its mages for even a few hours? Blue, Poppy and Penguin, even with their combined powers, would be no match for Gwythr. The island’s army was strong but even their best fighters couldn’t hold up long against divinity – it would only take one spell to immobilise the lot of them. Her own protective enchantments over Apeliotes Island had broken down almost completely and, from the feel of it, been replaced by other spells designed to control the residents. Oddly enough, that was a good thing. What Mallos and Aura needed now was a safe house – some fortification with no other people where they would be able to defend themselves long enough to come up with a new plan – and if everyone was forcibly confined to their homes, then that meant there was one building on the island which wouldn’t be in use: the prison.

Providing they got there before Gwythr got to them. As long as neither of them used magic and they weren’t obstructed by any of Per-aa Nakht’s guards, they just might make it. Aura didn’t have to remind Mallos not to use divinity for fear of Gwythr being able to pinpoint their exact position; he matched her pace easily and didn’t look back or question their direction. The pair of them sped furiously past an ill-placed copse of trees and Aura felt her spirits lift as the unused jail loomed into sight. Two hundred yards to go... the sound of the lamrions’ drumming feet filled her ears... a hundred yards... was it just her imagination, or was that movement through the window of the prison? Ten yards... Aura’s grip on Mallos’ hand tightened as they hurled themselves through the doorway, almost causing the door to fall off its hinges when they both tried to slam it shut telekinetically behind them.

Aura leapt up and immediately began muttering under her breath, shrouding the small building with magical enchantments. There were was only one room, divided into two cells and a thick corridor with a table at the far end. She barely had time to glimpse this before a lamrion jumped out from under the table, hissing and waving a long dagger. Mallos nudged her casually aside, blocked its attack easily with a sword he hadn’t had a second ago and, in his typical fashion, began to fence playfully with it. Her mind racing, Aura turned and started down the corridor to the far cell... where there was a guard, there had to be something worth guarding.

The cells were small; it only took a couple of steps. Arthur stared up at her with an unreadable expression – Aura thought she could see a mix of exasperation and relief in his stone grey eyes – and waited patiently while she retrieved the keys from the opposing wall and fumbled with the door lock. The manacles chaining him to the wall didn’t appear to have a lock and it took Aura three attempts to open them with various spells. As the chains slid off the King’s wrists, she touched him apologetically on the shoulder but didn’t attempt to help him up, knowing that he wouldn’t accept the assistance. He didn’t speak, but the gratifying nod was thanks enough. The deity managed a half-smile for him before she remembered the lamrion and charged back out of the cell.

Her attention had been so focused on Arthur, she hadn’t noticed what was happening in the corridor. The fighting had stopped and Mallos appeared to be having a very casual (and very one-sided) conversation with the lamrion in Spanish which was too quick for Aura to follow. Arthur, who had followed her out of the cell, cocked an eyebrow but said nothing, apparently too used to the Spaniard’s eccentricities to question this turn of events. Even to Aura it seemed a little off.

“Er, Mallos,” she started hesitantly, “what are you doing?”

“Trying to see if she remembers,” he replied in heavily accented English. “She doesn’t. Evidently, my spells are too good.” He placed one hand on the lamrion’s head before elaborating, his accent slowly dropping out. Apparently this was a side-effect of rapidly switching languages. “Estefania. I gave her another power beyond immortality and eternal youth – a kind of shapeshifting. When she comes too close to an original fairy, her body and mind reform themselves into a safe disguise. She forgets who she is, adopts the body, language and mannerisms of the majority culture and assumes a safe position in society. In this case, she became a prison guard so that she wouldn’t be on the front line and would, in theory, be out of direct danger. It’s the ultimate defence mechanism and the main reason she’s remained undiscovered all these years.”

Aura didn’t bother pointing out the illegality of this spell. In all honesty it probably wasn’t illegal – Mallos rarely disobeyed a direct law, though he wasn’t above bending a few rules to suit himself – but that knowledge didn’t ease the sudden irritation she felt. The lamrion was standing quite still and silent and Arthur was watching them without comment, apparently trying to take everything in. She knew she ought to explain to him, but what happened next was so interesting it stole the words from her throat. The lamrion’s body melted beneath Mallos’ hand, shooting upwards and changing in form and colour before their very eyes. Within minutes, where the lamrion had stood was a rather attractive young woman of about average height. Her skin was of the same darkness as Mallos’ but with a slightly browner tone, her cola-coloured eyes flashed in the half-light and her long, straight hair, black, was tied back in a tight ponytail. She did look a bit like her adopted brother, Aura thought; similar bone structure and the swarthy complexion gave the impression that she was a native Spaniard. She had probably been beautiful when she was younger, but she had the body of a long-distance runner and very well developed muscles which detracted from her femininity. Her clothes weren’t very feminine either; her cropped sports top was close-cut but not revealing, and the plain black shorts she had on were clearly designed for comfort and practicality over looks. Everything about her, from her pragmatic choice of clothes to her zero percent body fat to the hard, determined expression on her face, made her look like an Olympic athlete.

Estefania Leandra Covas looked up at her older brother and released a string of colourful Spanish. Even to someone who didn’t know the language, the meaning was clear.

“I didn’t teach her that,” Mallos muttered defensively.

He jumped back just in time to dodge a sharp jab from the dagger, which was still in her hand, and parried a second blow with his sword. Within minutes, the pair of them were leaping around the room, swiping at one another with their weapons and arguing loudly in their native tongue. Since the flashing sword movements were flamboyant rather than skilful (and they both looked like they knew how to use them when they wanted to), Aura quickly determined that neither of them were actually trying to hurt one another and turned back to Arthur. He’d drawn his own sword and was standing at the window of the prison, watching as enemy lamrions and fairies began to amass outside. He didn’t turn around as she approached.

“Our soldiers are locked in their homes,” he said evenly. “Now would probably be a good time to release them.”

There was a brief pause in which Aura silently appreciated the King. Few people could have processed their absurd situation and selected the best course of action with such calm. Nodding once, she spun around and whistled to the two Spaniards to get their attention.

“Mallos, I need your help to lift the spell on the islanders. Estefania – can she understand English?” She asked Mallos desperately.

“She did learn long ago,” he replied dismissively, “but she was never good at it.” Apparently Estefania knew enough to understand that, because she promptly spat at his feet.

“Estefania,” Aura continued in Spanish, igniting her divinity. “There isn’t time to explain. Stick with Arthur and keep your nose clean. First chance you get, go and hide in one of the houses.”

The Seba child did not look impressed by this command, but following a quelling look from her brother she didn’t disagree aloud. She stalked over to join Arthur, who was now waiting with his hand on the doorknob, and ran her hand carefully up the length of her long dagger. Aura ignored her and closed her eyes, concentrating on unravelling Gwythr’s enchantments. She could still feel the pressure in her head as he simultaneously worked against her, but with Mallos’ help it didn’t hurt quite as much as before. Between the two of them, it took six minutes to reverse all the spells. Six minutes. They must be getting old.

Shouts and the sound of running feet filled the air as the islanders realised that they were mobile once more. The forces which had amassed outside the prison had to double back as their rear flank was attacked, which lent the two Englishpersons and the two Spaniards the perfect opportunity. Without waiting for approval, Arthur wrenched open the door and the four of them charged forward towards the enemy just as dawn began to break.


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