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part three.

The Silver Cove

Charlton sat up with a groan.

“And that, folks, is why they call him the sun-god,” he muttered, pushing his knees to the ground in preparation to get up. He glanced around. “Is everyone alright?”

Mace was already on his feet, checking the men were unharmed. Arthur pushed himself up onto his knees a little more slowly, frowning at the spot where Sperantia had vanished. He wasn’t the only one, either – Allianah, who was closest to him and who had obviously witnessed the event too, was blinking in rapid succession at the spot and looking stunned. It was the first time Arthur had seen her exhibit any emotion other than anger, irritation or arrogance.

“Everyone should be fine,” Zed confirmed, lifting one the slower-moving men onto his feet with his back-plate. “I asked Khasekhemwy to set up a forcefield to protect Shaman in case the spell went awry, which it clearly did. There shouldn’t have been any physical damage provided nobody was looking at the flare.”

He glanced around, but apparently all that running around and screaming ‘don’t look back!’ had worked: nobody was staggering about and clutching their eyes. The light and noise had faded, along with most of the heat, but the temperature was still a good ten degrees Celsius higher than it had been before the blast. The air was hot and dry, the grass had gone limp underfoot and the trees seemed to be sagging. It didn’t take a genius to work out what would have happened if it weren’t for Khasekhemwy’s protection: half of the mainland would have been incinerated. There was certainly no chance of Therait having survived that.

Conscious of that fact, Arthur again glanced at the patch of grass where Sperantia had vanished.

“Zed,” Allianah mumbled in a voice which didn’t sound quite like her own. “Zed, Sperantia – ”

“Where is Sperantia?” The Brazilian frowned. “I thought I saw her running with us, but – ”

“Zed,” Allianah interrupted, her voice slightly higher than normal. “Sperantia disintegrated.”

A deathly quiet fell over the meadow. Nobody was left without a shadow of a doubt about the implication of that terrible statement. Familiars could be killed in a number of ways, but they only disintegrated spontaneously if their fairies were killed. Familiars couldn’t exist beyond the deaths of the fairy they were linked to. Most of the soldiers, who hadn’t really known Mallos and were not well enough acquainted with the deities to understand how difficult they were to kill, simply turned their eyes downward and looked humbled. Amongst the others, shock and a solemn hollowness seemed to fill most faces – except for Rhaegar, who looked thoroughly elated. The only sound which could be heard was Khasekhemwy stumbling out of the woods towards them, wheezing and coughing.

“Hey now,” Charlton started uneasily in a tone which was clearly meant to be reassuring, but didn’t quite manage it. “Originals can’t be killed by a solar flare, we all know that.” Presumably he was speaking to the other deities, since Arthur didn’t know that. Allianah rounded on him.

“And familiars don’t just disintegrate!” She shouted. “Maybe it went wrong!”

Khasekhemwy coughed. “Um – ”

“Clearly it went wrong,” Zed continued gravely, apparently without even noticing the Palestinian’s arrival. “If Therait defended himself…”

“Um – ” Khasekhemwy tried to interject again, but Allianah overrode him.

“Or if some of the ancient creature’s magic got through the crack,” she suggested, sounding furious – although at what or whom, no one was quite sure. “He shouldn’t have tried the flare. He was stupid.”

They continued arguing for a moment, with Charlton occasionally putting forward a half-hearted, uncertain-sounding hopeful comment, while Khasekhemwy glanced at Arthur in despair. The king nodded to him encouragingly. He wrung his hands, looking like he wished he was anywhere but here, took a step forward and yelled so loudly that the others shut up. They turned to stare at him in shock, which indicated that he’d probably never actually interrupted them before. He took a shuddering breath.

“Solar flares are an extremely powerful, complex divine attack which takes centuries to master,” he explained quickly, looking directly at Arthur. “Even mastery doesn’t guarantee total control, but Mallos was pretty good at them… millennia ago. He’s spent the last thousand years without divinity, unable to practice even the simplest of magics. His control slipped.” He glanced nervously at Zed, apparently unable to bring himself to even look at Allianah. “He disintegrated himself by accident, and through the link with Sperantia – which was probably wide open, since it’s likely she was sending him support – he disintegrated her too. They’re fine. They’ll both re-form in a few weeks, along with Tsi and Lorraine. Solar flares can’t kill originals.”

Charlton slapped his knee as though to say, that’s what I said!, but he looked thoroughly relieved. Arthur felt a weight lift off his shoulders and Zed and Allianah’s faces both relaxed. Only Gar looked as though Christmas had been cancelled. Khasekhemwy took half a step back, clearly keen to be out of the spotlight again.

Before anyone else had a chance to comment, the sky overhead rumbled. Everyone looked up just in time to see a fresh crack appearing in the giant lilac dome, completing the spiderweb effect on that particular patch. For the first time since the dome had been erected, Arthur thought he saw a sliver of movement beyond the dome – like shadows warping. The ancient creature was getting close.

“They may not have a few weeks,” Zed spoke in a quiet voice. “If the ancient creature can knock out divinity like it did in the centre of the Earth… divinity is what causes deities to re-form after disintegration. Without divinity, they’ll all be dead.” He closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands for a moment, thinking. Without Tsi, the other originals turned to Zed as a kind of stand-in leader; if there was going to be a decision, it would come from him. He nodded once, apparently psyching himself up to do whatever he had to do, removed his hands, opened his eyes and fixed Arthur with a resigned look. “I’m sorry, I really am – but I have to take care of my own. You and your army are going to have to face the creature with minimal divine help.

“Charlton, you bring back Lorraine. I’ll go after Tsi. Khase – whatever you can salvage of Mallos,” he cast his friend a sympathetic look. “Even if it’s just a soul. Act quickly – we probably don’t have more than a few hours. As for the rest of you…” He turned his eyes to Allianah, Rhaegar and Xephyr. “Gar is in charge. Give that thing hell.”

Surprisingly, considering how much of a stickler she was for the rules, Allianah accepted this without question or comment; she simply nodded. Xephyr seemed to accept it too (or at least didn't protest), so Charlon and Khasehemwy followed Zed back towards the beach, leaving Rhaegar looking slightly stunned. He recovered quickly and turned with the remaining two deities, the king and the soldiers back towards the castle.

For months, the people of Shaman had been preparing for the time when they would face the mysterious darkness which lurked beyond their protective bubble. That time was now.

The final battle was coming.

Written by Georgia

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

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