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part four.

The Castle

“You will forgive me, Your Grace,” Zed rumbled, ignoring the goblet. Instead he held Arthur’s grey eyes with his own, “but I believe you know more about the pantheon than I do.” The King frowned, but did not look away.

“There is no longer a pantheon,” he explained at last, “it exploded. There were no civilian casualties, and everyone is accounted for, except for three Alliance guards...and Tsi.” It was Zed’s turn to frown. “Tsi’s assistant seems to believe that Tsi himself was the point of ignition,” Arthur pressed on gravely, “beyond that, everything is unclear...” Zed picked up the goblet from the table top and stared into the dark red liquid within it. Arthur waited, trying to detect the smallest tell on the deity’s face . It never came. Zed placed the goblet back down on the table, the wine untouched and looked the king in the eye again.

“That would indicate...” the Brazilian said slowly, his tone heavy, “that the creature found him... which actually explains a lot. Tsi and Lorraine were both in trances fighting the monster together, but from different planets. It is stronger than any one of us individually, and if anyone were to attempt to take it on alone they would quickly be overwhelmed. Thus, we always coordinate our attacks so that more than one person is fighting at any given time.” He rubbed his temples and sighed. “I was with Lorraine when she collapsed, and I assumed that something had gone wrong… my intention was to leave her here so that I could check on Tsi, but evidently that will be impossible. He’ll be fine, by the way,” he added reassuringly in his deep, gravelly voice. “It takes a lot more than disintegration to kill an original. His body will re-form after a few weeks and he’ll be as good as new… as to exactly what happened, we can only guess. My hunch would be that the creature managed to get inside of Tsi, and he self-detonated to eradicate any trace of it from Shaman.”

That the creature had finally found them was not a surprising revelation, Arthur reflected in the silence that followed, but the confirmation of his suspicions was far from welcome.

“What does that mean for Shaman?” He enquired after a moment.

“The magic that keeps Shaman safe is weakening,” Zed explained, “that would imply that the creature has found it and is intent on crossing over.” He sighed deeply, “all in all, it does not bode well. Aura was the best fairy magician Earth has ever known, but now that she has passed on her spells will weaken naturally, and it will be no match for such a potent creature. I fear it will be impossible to resist it in the manner we have previously, if we can at all.” Arthur’s mouth formed a tight line, his lips losing some of their colour as his fingers began to drum against the table top.

“The options?” he asked carefully with another searching look.

Zed opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the creaking of hinges as Tristan edged back into the room. Arthur turned to look at the boy for a moment. Green eyes met with grey for a few moments, before the King turned back towards Zed, his back to the Prince. The message, he hoped, was clear. The boy could stay so long as he did not interfere. Arthur gave Zed the nod to continue.

“There are only two that I can think of, and I cannot see you liking either of them.” The king frowned but did not speak, trusting that Zed would take his silence as permission to continue. “The first is a planet-wide evacuation. We can move the entire population somewhere else so that when the creature does get through, all it will find is an empty world.”

“And the other?” Arthur prompted.

“The other,” Zed replied, “would be to bring all of the originals to Shaman in order to re-establish and strengthen the barriers and hope that they hold. There are no guarantees, but collectively we are far stronger than any individual.”

It was not a pleasant choice. It boiled down to, the King realised, asking the population to uproot, leave their homes and run away, or to risk it all and admit the originals to Shaman to try something that might not even work.

“I thought,” Arthur countered, “that the creature was after you. If it is coming to Shaman then surely you should all be heading in opposite directions.”

Zed smiled. “Honestly, Your Grace,” he said “I don’t see that we have an awful lot of choice. The creature is coming to Shaman whether the originals are on it or not.”

Grunting his understanding, Arthur turned and moved away from the table and began to pace. The floorboards creaked beneath his boots as he moved. Neither option was perfect, and there was inherent danger in each. People would not like being asked to leave. They had already fought for their homes, for their lives and their safety, how could he, as their king, ask them to give up what they had won and run? But then, what kind of king would he be if he took a gamble with their lives? He sighed, turning around to walk in the opposite direction.

In the end it was the soldier in him that won out. There were stories scattered throughout time of situations where all had seemed hopeless and king and general had asked their men to turn, hold their ground and fight. Arthur was not prepared to give up on such bravery yet. He had faith in his people, he just hoped, that when everything was over, they would still have faith in him.

“We’re not going anywhere,” he told Zed at last, coming to a halt, his shoulders drawn back and his neck tall, “let us hope that fortune really does favour the bold.”

Written by Georgia and Merlin

    • part five. -
    • part six. -
    • part seven. -

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