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part two.
IP: 82.14.67.140

Part two
The Core, Shaman

While he trudged through almost ten inches of snow, the bitter wind biting at exposed flesh, the god of Spain wondered if he would ever acclimatise to this world. Granada, his primary residence in the inland of southern Spain, regularly exceeded forty degrees centigrade in the summer.

It had been almost twenty years since Tsi had sentenced him to temporary exile as a punishment for his participation in the war and for the existence of his thirty children. In his capacity as Ambassador of Shaman he had maintained some contact with the council, but with the exception of a distressing visit from Lorraine he’d seen none of them in that time. Although his affection for Shaman had begun to grow, particularly in the last few years, his restless spirit was beginning to look back on his previous life on Earth with more than a little longing. Tramping around in the wilderness and the cold did not suit Mallos. He belonged in the thick of intrigue, in a world where subtle changes of expression, layered hints and minute deviations from social custom were the primary methods of meaningful communication. Anyone who called the aristocracy a bore obviously had no understanding of them; Mallos, for one, had yet to meet a working class man with the skill to tip favour with the simple choice of a synonym.

Sperantia was obviously thinking along similar lines to him, although with much less sentiment. His half-Siamese black cat familiar had technically never travelled to Earth and so had never formed any attachment to it, but she knew and felt and saw it through her fairy’s memories. ‘It’s been almost twenty years,’ she mused, her thoughts breaking into Mallos’ with characteristic lack of courtesy. Sperantia was subtle and polite with everyone except her own fairy. ‘Or has it? Perhaps it is time already. You know that time does not pass in the same way for deities, my darling; and deities they are still, even if they lack memory of it.’

The events which followed would have prevented Mallos from replying even if he’d cared to: two fairies and a small bird of prey burst through undergrowth, diverting both the cat and the deity’s attention instantly. Neither of the men, who were dressed as members of the royal guard, seemed particularly surprised to see him; presumably the merlin, Pendragon, had warned them who it was. The younger of the guards smiled – a little evilly, Mallos thought – but the other’s face remained professionally blank. After a brief exchange and to his great annoyance, the two guards accompanied him through the remainder of the woods and across the green until they reached a gazebo with a small gathering. The older guard tipped his helmet and they both departed, leaving Mallos with four more royal guards and a fifth man.

Su majestad,” he slipped his hands into his pockets. The mildly insolent gesture, coupled with the use of Spanish, were the only indications of his ire. “You requested my presence?”

King Arthur smiled slightly. Mallos noticed that there was a glimmer of similarity between his enjoyment and that of the younger guard’s. “Mallos, you look cold. May I offer you a coat?”

“He wouldn’t accept,” Sperantia’s voice was alight with amusement. Mallos was perceptive enough to not need to wonder what the joke was: apparently, the thought of the god of Spain shivering was entertaining to some simple-minded people. “Sire, what has happened?” The cat pressed on in a more serious tone, “has it begun?”

The King sobered. “Follow me, please.”

He led them down the steps of the gazebo and towards the back-entrance of the castle. They were only a few yards from the imposing stone wall when the great oak door burst open, revealing a man who could not look more out of place. Slight and wiry, he was taller than Arthur but shorter than Mallos, with caramel-brown skin, nervously darting eyes framed with long eyelashes and thin, bony hands. He was dressed in a long, loose robe which didn’t entirely hide his slimness, and a tightly wound turban which rendered his hair colour indeterminate. The four royal guards started forward, but stopped at the name which came from Mallos’ lips.

“Khasekhemwy,” he stopped him his tracks and looked the other man up and down, as if sizing him up. “So it has started, then.”

Khasekhemwy, the god of Palestine, drew himself up and behaved as if his fellow deity was not there. “May I present myself: Khasekhemwy, the Official Scribe of the Council of Originals, here to speak with King Arthur and deliver the following message to the people of Shaman. In accordance with the agreement drawn up between Tsi, Acting Chairman of the Council of Originals, and His Majesty – ”

The rest was lost. Mallos walked past the Palestinian with an uncharacteristic pretence of non-existence and entered the castle. Arthur raised his eyebrows apologetically at Khasekhemwy and indicated that they both follow.

“Your Majesty,” Khasekhemwy tried again with increased agitation as they walked through the doors. “The Acting Chairman Tsi has sent me – ”

“We know, Khase,” Mallos interrupted dismissively over his shoulder. Arthur noticed that he pronounced the other deity’s name slightly wrong. “Spare us the formalities, if you please. Carry on with stage two.”

Khasekhemwy looked aghast. “I require His Majesty King Arthur’s approval – ”

They rounded the corner and the Palestinian’s words died in his throat. The corridor led into the Great Hall where Arthur generally received petitions and such from the public, but there were no members of the public here today. Several guards were stationed around the room, but the two originals barely noticed them in the light of the pair of figures standing in the centre of the room. They looked to be the about the same age, and even seemed similar in appearance: both had blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin. Closer inspection realised differences even with these aspects, however; the woman’s hair and skin were several shades lighter and almost glowed in a ghostly sort of way, and her eyes were distinctly brighter than the watery tone of the man’s.

Aura, the goddess of England, looked little different to how she had at the end of the war – a little younger, perhaps, with a smoother, worry-free face. She was standing with her legs apart and one arm in the act of resting against something vertical – a tree, perhaps – her body twisted as she turned to look over her shoulder. Even with the fine layer of frost covering her from head to toe, her expression was clearly visible: one eyebrow slightly quirked, her lips hovering on the edge of a smile, as if she’d just out-played someone at their own game. By contrast Gwythr, the god of Italy, looked nothing akin to the perpetrator of the civil war. Much younger, his hair shining with vigorous youth and golden colour, he was standing rigidly – as if to attention – with one hand shielding the sun from his eyes as he peered at something far in the distance. He, too, was coated in a layer of frost. Apparently when Tsi had said that he would ‘freeze’ them both at the age of twenty, he had been speaking literally.

“Aura was found in the Shady Labyrinth, Gwythr by Midnight Shores,” Arthur explained. “I presume their memories are shortly to be returned to them?”

Your Majesty,” Khasekhemwy exclaimed anxiously, taking advantage of Mallos’ silence. “In accordance with the agreement between yourself and Tsi, they have indeed been frozen for the duration of the voting period. With your approval and permission, I will send a message to the People of Shaman, inviting them to vote by secret ballot for the deity they wish to become the patron god of Shaman. At the end of the voting period, the winning deity will remain here, the other stripped of his or her power and sent back to Earth, and – ” he glanced nervously at Mallos “ – and the ambassador will have his divinity restored to him.”

Mallos’ face was as blank as a sheet of parchment. Arthur studied it for a moment before answering. “If you could send out the message, I would be most grateful.”

Khasekhemwy released the gentle sigh of a man who would soon be relieved of his unpleasant duty. It took only a few minutes for him to connect telepathically with every fairy on Shaman, identify himself and his mission, and invite them all to come to the Castle to vote for their preferred god. Once the deed was done, he turned back to Arthur with visible relief.

“I am to return to Earth immediately,” he informed the King. “But Tsi has asked me to pass on a final message to you. In his capacity as god of Spain, International Ambassador of the Council of Originals, the Head of International Operations in the Council Ministry of Foreign Affairs – ” Mallos made an impatient noise, causing Khasekhemwy to start. “Er – under no circumstances is Mallos permitted to vote or to express bias, given – given the – ”

He started again, glanced apprehensively at the Spaniard and muttered his apology. With a burst of turquoise light, the pitiable deity wrung his hands for the final time and vanished.

---

The voting break has begun, and will last until Wednesday 12th at midnight BST.

All fairies are permitted one vote each. Familiars do not have a vote. You may only vote for Gwythr or Aura. There is a thread in the Castle designed for this purpose; please respond following the instructions in the post there. At the end of the voting break when the winner has been announced, the plots will resume with part three.


Replies:
    • part three. -
    • part four. -
    • part five. -
    • part six. -
    • part seven. -
    • part eight. -
    • part nine. -
    • part ten. -
    • epilogue -


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