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part nine.

Part nine
The Core, Shaman

“The Manekhtites and the Immortal Ones are stirring up most of the trouble,” Mallos continued with rare professionalism, pointing on the map towards the British Isles. “London is at the heart of the problem. Some members of the Alliance have already had to move there and wipe a few human memories. There have been fires, demonstrations in the street, looting of shops… thankfully most of the humans just think it’s an uprising against the government. Most of the Immortal Ones are in London, but the Manekhtites have spread out to fairy hot spots across the globe.” As he spoke, his finger traced connections between several major world cities: Washington D.C., Beijing, Moscow, Rome and Jerusalem being a few. “Across the world, the Aurans greatly outnumber the local cults. The Christians stand by them, and even the polytheists are up in arms, because most of them name Aura as the creator deity. The biggest threat is from the religious organisations… Britain is a small country and not as powerful as it used to be. The British alone would be a minor, contained problem, but religion has helped spread it across the globe. Now every enemy of the council is encouraging it. They viewed your leaving as running away and saw it as a huge success for their cause.

“Most of the rioting has been settled, thanks largely to the Alliance.” He nodded at Allianah, who accepted the acknowledgement with a wave of her hand. “But there’s still a lot of restlessness and bad feelings. We have good reason to believe that the Manekhtite leaders have been in communication with senior members of the United Church of Fairykind and some of the Immortal Ones.”

Most of the originals were wearing concerned expressions, but the other fairies were bemused. Perceptively noticing this, Zed endeavoured to explain while Mallos was extracting another map out of the air. “The Manekhtites are the followers of Manekht’s teachings,” he rumbled. “Their core belief is that the god of Chaos and Destruction will bring about the end of the world and lift all believers into the glorious afterlife, letting everyone else be consumed by fire. They believe that Poppy is Chaos and Destruction and have been demanding her return to Earth ever since she was exiled to Shaman. Unfortunately, their numbers grow daily and they are becoming a force to be reckoned with. The Immortal Ones are a small group of ordinary fairies who are almost as old as the originals. They are immortal, as their name suggests, and their distinguishing feature is their lack of wings. The Immortal Ones believe that they should be allowed to become deities and they resent the Council of Originals for refusing to let them join it. The United Church of Fairykind is an extreme Christian organisation based in America who views us as blasphemous. If the leaders of these three organisations can set aside their differences and are working together, then…” he glanced at Mallos, who nodded, “then that is very, very bad news.”

Lorraine cleared her throat. “Right before we left, I received a report from one of my senior men informing me that a few of the cyclops clans in northern Russia were beginning to cause problems. It may not just be fairies who are uniting against us.”

Tsi sat back in his chair, rubbed his eyes and sighed. As if religious fanatics and really jealous old people weren’t enough, now they had to deal with angry cyclopes too. There was little chance to respond before a knock on the door hailed the return of the captain of the royal guard, followed closely by a small, slight boy with slim shoulders and a mop of sandy hair. He locked eyes with Tristan for a moment before scanning the room carefully. The atmosphere in the room tightened a little when it became painfully obvious that he was doing a head-count. Tsi shouldered the responsibility, stood up and took a few steps forward.

“Hello there,” he began gently. “My name is – ”

“I know what your name is,” the boy interrupted. “Which is more than can be said for you, clearly. ‘Hello there’ is the standard greeting for an anonymous acquaintance.” Tsi looked taken aback. After a brief pause, the boy put him out of his misery by adding, “it’s Thoth.”

“Thoth,” Tsi repeated slowly. Obviously he was not used to speaking with children, let alone children like this one. “Let’s step outside for a moment – ”

“No,” Thoth replied flatly. “Where is my mother?”

“Couldn’t we – ”

“No. Where is my mother?”

Tsi glanced back at the table for support. Mallos was frowning at the map as if oblivious to the conversation, but his shoulders had gone tense and his eyes weren’t moving. Tristan was staring uncomfortably at the table and Arthur had fixed Thoth with a bracing, steely look. Most of the originals were watching with shameless expressions of curiosity, although Rhaegar just looked bored, while the ordinary fairies respectfully looked away. Khasekhemwy had pulled out a quill as if he were going to start taking notes, but Zed placed his hand over the Palestinian’s and gently forced him to lower it. Outside, rainclouds were beginning to form at an unnaturally fast rate and there was a distant crack of thunder.

Tsi lowered himself slightly to get closer to Thoth’s level. It didn’t feel right to deliver the news in a room full of people, especially when most of those people were following the scene with such interest, but he had little choice. Thoth was watching him with a stubborn expression uncannily similar to one Aura often wore, and it was clear he wasn’t going to budge an inch.

“Your mother went on a reconnaissance mission for the council,” he explained. “A lot of people were in danger – ”

“I know. She told me,” the boy interrupted again. He glanced over at Tristan again briefly, a light frown creasing across his young face. “Where is she now?”

“She’s dead,” Tsi answered gently. “She gave her life to protect the Earth.”

“No,” Thoth repeated automatically, as if his mouth was hard-wired to rejecting everything the deity said. He looked over at Tristan for the third time but, upon failing to meet the other boy’s eyes, found Arthur’s instead. There he found the hard truth and, as it began to set in, the realisation spread openly across his face. “No,” he said again, with the air of a toddler who could undo an unwanted action by pronouncing the negative.

“I’m sorry,” Tsi looked genuinely pained. “Let’s go outside for a minute and – ”

As before, the sentence went unfinished. Thoth’s hands twitched, and without warning Tsi was launched into the air. He flew across the room, crashing into Allianah and Charlton and bringing both them and the table down with him. While everyone else got to their feet, Thoth vanished through the door and Tristan, who made to go after his friend, was only held in place by a terse command from his father. Mallos was half-way across the room when Tsi found his voice and ordered him to stay, but if the Spaniard heard then he paid no heed. Zed placed an enormous, calming hand on Mallos’ shoulder which, although it employed no force, was more effective than any words. While the latter frowned with absence of expression at the door, Zed placed the table back on its feet with his other hand and Arthur and Flynn helped Charlton and Tsi to their feet. Allianah staunchly refused Phoenix’s hand. Outside, there was another rumble of thunder before the heavens opened up and a torrential downpour obscured the vision from the windows. Tsi frowned at them, absent-mindedly rubbing his head where it had hit the floor.

“Weather manipulator,” he muttered. “And – telekinetic?”

He looked warily at Mallos, who seemed to take an age to reply. “No. Water-bender.”

“Water-bender,” Tsi repeated, sounding stunned. “Never seen a water-bender who could… no! Mallos, stay where you – Mallos!” The Spaniard had extracted himself from the Brazilian’s grip, had crossed the room and flung open the door; he paused at the sound of his name. “I need you to stay here,” Tsi continued as calmly as he could. “Just for another hour. Just give me an hour and then you can go.”

There was a long, quiet moment in which Mallos frowned at the open corridor, before slowly swinging the door shut and turning back to the table. He avoided making eye contact with Rhaegar, who was smirking, and moved back around to take up his former position by the map. Tsi looked visibly relieved as he sank back into his own chair and sent both Arthur and Zed a silent indication of gratitude. After a few minutes, Mallos continued where he’d left off as if nothing had happened, although his tone of voice was decidedly flatter.

Reports from various senior members of the Alliance and the diplomatic triad were presented. The original fairies, it swiftly transpired, would not accept an opinion if it differed from their own unless they were overwhelmed by it: a rather large number of documents had to be produced before certain members were appeased. Interruptions and thinly-veiled insults were frequent, and most of the discussions ended up in circular arguments. Allianah and Lorraine were the worst offenders, and neither missed an opportunity to snipe at the other. Not a single decision could be made without being opposed by somebody and, although Tsi interjected often to help speed things up, the process of distributing and analysing information was painfully slow. The captain of the guard’s eyes had glazed over, and Arthur was cynically wondering how the originals ever managed to get anything done. Finally, when Tsi announced that the originals would spread themselves across different worlds in order to battle the creature from afar (using a ‘thyliakan method’, whatever that was) but Mallos was to remain on Earth to try and help settle the situation there, Gwythr leant forward. The Italian ex-dictator of Shaman had remained unusually quiet throughout proceedings, but now his pale eyes gleamed and he smiled in an assured way.

“Forgive me, Tsi,” he began quietly, instantly inciting quiet from the other originals; Arthur noted that he must still hold some sway over them. “But Mallos is facing trial for the same charges as I, and I have been suspended from my position for the duration of that trial. By law, you must either suspend him too or allow me to return to my post.”

Zed, the ultimate authority on council law, nodded once to confirm the accuracy of the statement. Mallos didn’t respond visibly, but Tsi tilted his head in acknowledgement. “You are correct, Gwythr. Mallos, you are henceforth suspended from your post as International Ambassador until the conclusion of the trial. Do you have a second?” Mallos gave him an odd look and shook his head. “As you have not appointed a second, I, the Acting Chairman, will select one,” Tsi continued, “as is my right. Charlton, you are the new Acting International Ambassador. Now, since an official emergency state has been declared for Earth, I am going to appoint Mallos to the temporary emergency post as evaluator and ambassador for Earth. This appointment shall be retained until the crisis is over.”

“Objection,” Gwythr’s eyes narrowed. “It is the International Ambassador’s right to make that appointment.”

“Ambassador Charlton?” Tsi enquired, raising his eyebrows.

“Well shucks, fellas, I don’t know the first thing about diplomacy,” Charlton couldn’t hold back his grin. “I defer to the Acting Chairman.”

“That’s settled then.” Tsi smiled benignly at Gwythr, who sat furiously back in his chair. “Mallos, you stay on Earth. Everyone else…” He outlined individually to Allianah, Lorraine, Khasekhemwy, Gwythr, Charlton and Zed where he wanted them to go using names of worlds which Arthur couldn’t pronounce, let alone remember. The originals seemed to recognise them, however, since they each nodded in turn. Finally, with the air of a tired man about to enter battle, Tsi turned to the remaining deities. “Rhaegar, Xephyr… if King Arthur permits it, you two will stay with me here. We need a base for the others to work from and, as well as being shrouded in protective enchantments, Shaman is so full of magic that it should mask our scent for a while.”

Rhaegar’s eyes snapped furiously to Tsi, and a growl escaped from between his clenched teeth. “We merit babysitting, do we?” The Dane managed to snarl at last, his hand forming a fist against the surface of the table top. He ignored Arthur almost completely, giving the king nothing more than a cursory glance before sneering at Tsi, “restricted to a backwater for bad behaviour? How very authoritarian,” Gar pressed mockingly as he folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, “don’t think for one moment this is going to be easy.”

As the Dane settled, attention turned heavily to Xephyr. The deity had been silent up until now, observing the proceedings without offering input or protest. Frankly, Arthur thought, the original looked too fatigued to do much of anything at this point. Xephyr watched Rhaegar's outburst impassively - then, with pointed deliberation, turned his eyes to Tsi. “And now there will be three sources of divinity in Shaman as well. I'm sure it will be fine.” His voice was tired, but precise, almost lilting. He tapped two fingers softly on the table. “If you want me in Shaman, Chairman, I can't very well say no, can I? But it is your decision. I trust you will remember that.”

Arthur looked from Tsi to the two deities the Acting Chairman had indicated. Neither one of them seemed thrilled by their assignment, and the King looked each over with a critical eye. He met the blonde man’s glance with a cool detachment, before looking back to Tsi, and giving a stiff nod of ascent.

“So be it,” the King said firmly, a warning tone to his voice that said, quite clearly, that this was all against his better judgement.

Written by Georgia, Merlin and Equilibrium.

    • part ten. -
    • epilogue -

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