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part two.

The Silver Cove

Therait was beyond the imagination of intelligent design.

Arthur had seen plenty of dragons in his lifetime – traditional dragons from fairy-tales, dragons made of rocks, water-dragons, dragons which breathed ice – but the leviathan-dragon was something else entirely. The fact that they couldn’t even see it in its entirety was probably the thing which made it most terrifying. As the wall of water crashed back into the ocean with a deafening sound, the thing which he had taken to be the creature’s hide was actually revealed to be an eye. An eye… which was probably the size of the castle. It was lidless, in true reptilian form, with a vertical black pupil like a cat and a maze of red veins crossing over a faintly lilac background. A line of crests, each one the size of a cannon, framed the top of the eye, which was almost perfectly spherical. Protection? This thing didn’t look like it needed any more protection. The sheer size of him was enough to send even the most vicious of monsters running.

As the eye lifted higher, blocking out the light of the sun and sending cascades of water falling to earth like the tears of a giant, more of the monster started to become visible. The head was flat and long and primarily composed of the jaw, like a crocodile’s, and was framed by an enormous frill which created miniature hurricanes when it flapped. Just in front of the frill was a hole – presumably an earhole – and beside it were a set of gills which were easily large enough to march an army through. Sprouting from the creature’s nose was a pair of long, slender white whiskers, which made it look like a Chinese dragon – or an alligator with a moustache. It was impossible to tell quite how long they were, since no matter how high Therait lifted his head, they trailed in the water. His body was entirely covered in armoured, silvery-blue scales, and a line of serrated-edged spines ran from the centre of his forehead to… well, presumably down to his tail, all along his spine. It was difficult to tell, since most of the rest of his body was not visible. If the rest of his body was in proportion to the size of his head, then he was probably the length of a country. His neck snaked into the ocean, obscuring most of the rest of him, except for a few bumps where his immediate body jutted out over the ocean behind him, like the Loch Ness monster.

With only its physical size and strength, it would have been a near impossible foe… but the scaled skin crackled with power, as though its very essence was charged with magic. Therait snorted, sending twin streams of water towards the land to their left, where the coast curved around. The trees which had stood on that cliff line for as long as anyone could remember were flattened instantly. The noise left a ringing sound in the men’s ears.

Mallos recovered first. He clapped Tsi on the back and smiled, which felt exceptionally inappropriate, even for him.

“While you’re alone facing the most terrifying and dangerous non-ancient creature which has ever threatened Earth, there’s something I want you to know,” he said in a sincere and reassuring tone. “Just because he’s eaten you every other time you’ve tried to talk to him, it doesn’t mean he will today.”

A little bit of colour returned to Tsi’s cheeks – just enough that he didn’t look like he’d fainted and forgotten to fall over. “You’re such a comfort, Mal.”

“How has he got this close to the shore?” Zed enquired with a little frown. “Surely he’d be too big to fit in anything other than deep ocean.”

“Well, he sort of…” Tsi swallowed. “…He creates trenches.”

Nobody asked.

As if to ram the point home, Therait opened his jaws – which could probably have bitten off half of Shaman in one go – and bellowed so loudly that the ground shook beneath their feet. A few of the men fell over, and everyone else clapped their hands over their ears. To their left, the cliffs with the flattened trees started tumbling into the ocean where the noise had caused a tremendous rock-fall.

Looking like he was going to be sick, Tsi stamped the ground with his right foot and took off into the air, shooting over the waves towards his familiar. None of the other deities made a move to help him, and Arthur couldn’t really blame them. Killing a deity was difficult, but killing Therait looked impossible – assuming that it was acceptable even to kill Therait. He was Tsi’s familiar, after all… although from the way that Mallos had said Therait had eaten Tsi on previous occasions, it was doubtful they were very close. As the Chairman soared over the sea, Mace shook his head in disbelief.

“How is this possible…?” He muttered, mirroring Arthur’s feelings. Therait just radiated the incredible.

“The original fairies are not meant to have familiars,” Zed explained, keeping his eyes trained on the monster. “Our souls aren’t naturally split like yours, and must literally be ripped in two. Typically for a deity, an entire emotion or section of our personality is removed – or at least limited – from ourselves and forms the foundation of the familiar’s personality. Our own personalities are never the same again. Anneliese was Aura’s temper, Sperantia is Mallos’ balance and encouragement, and Therait…” he gave a small, sad little smile. “Therait is Tsi’s own personal monster.”

For a few seconds, it seemed like it was going to work out. Tsi had stopped well outside of Therait’s range and was staring him down – presumably using telepathic communication, since his mouth wasn’t moving. His hands were, though: they performed a variety of gestures as though he were speaking out loud, to emphasise his points. Several times he pointed out to the open ocean. Therait snorted again and flapped his frill, causing Tsi to fight for his place in the air – and then he made his move. Faster than anyone imagined a creature of that speed could move, he snapped his neck forward, closed his mouth around the deity and swallowed. Just like that. Gone.

Allianah and Rhaegar both stepped forwards but Lorraine, who was standing in front of them, thrust her hand out to stop them. She turned back and met their gazes with a fierce challenge in her eyes.

“I’m the Interspecies Ambassador,” she told them forcefully, daring any one of them to defy her will. “So let me do my job.”

Nobody protested, so she took off as Tsi had done, hovered in the air as close as she could and started speaking to the leviathan-dragon. She was too far away for anyone to hear what she was saying, but her body language was open and reassuring, and the hand gestures she made were much friendlier. She lasted maybe thirty seconds longer than Tsi had done before Therait snapped her up too. Khasekhemwy whimpered.

Two gods down in as many minutes.

“That’s it,” Allianah growled as she bent her knees, preparing to take off. “No more talking.”

“What are you going to do,” Mallos challenged her with his eyebrows raised. “Hit him with a stick?”

“Have you got a better plan, nedjui?” She demanded to know.

“Now that you mention it…” Without a word of explanation, the Spaniard took off and flew towards the monster. Zed’s eyes narrowed.

Rather than aim for Therait’s head, as Lorraine and Tsi had done, Mallos swerved around the back of his neck and aimed a short blast of energy at the monster’s exposed back. It didn’t seem to hurt him at all, but it did get his attention; he turned and snapped his jaws, but Mallos hadn’t slowed down as he’d sped past and was already well out of range. Therait flapped his frill in irritation and decided – as most people did – that Mallos was a fly who was simply too annoying to pass up on the opportunity of swatting. He turned, sending a tidal wave over the beach to their far left, and started to follow the deity out to the open ocean with surprising speed. He’d catch up in minutes. There was a loud bang typical of divinity, and – strangely – the sun suddenly flashed once. Nobody was affected, least of all Therait, but the deities had all been struck with identical looks of realisation.

“Alright,” Allianah admitted grudgingly, “that is a better plan.”

“RUN!” Zed bellowed, making everybody jump. “Everybody run – get behind that tree line! Khase – ” he half-turned to his friend “ – protection – can you…?”

Khase looked terrified out of his wits, but he nodded. He took a step forward, closed his eyes and began muttering under his breath in the ancient language with his arms spread. Some of them men turned and fled as Zed yelled at them, and two who didn’t regretted it instantly when he picked them both up - armour and all – and started charging up the beach with one under each arm. He must have been using super-speed, because he shot past the others like a bullet. Clearly, none of the other men were moving fast enough for the other deities’ tastes, either, since they found their own ways of ‘helping’ them. Charlton flicked his arm and caused five men to start flying at top speed towards the trees, while Allianah yelled a word in the ancient language which sounded infused with magic. The sand erupted around them, forming solid-looking horses with rocks and shells for hooves, which then started picking the rest of the men up. A stocky sand-horse thrust its neck between Mace’s legs, giving him no choice but to slide onto its back, while Arthur mounted another one. The magical equines didn’t wait to be given instruction, but whinnied and started racing towards the trees the minute their charges were on board. There were no saddles or reins – they had to cling on to the horse’s body, which was harder than it sounded since the sand broke away in their grips.

They caught up with Zed quickly, since he was slowed by the thick trees. The horses wound their way around them efficiently, not taking much care for themselves – whenever one bashed into a tree, its limb or head crumbled away and reformed again almost instantly. Zed continued to shout at them as they pressed through the woodland, away from the beach and the sea.

“Keep going and don’t look back!” He boomed. “Whatever you do, don’t look back!”

They were almost out of the trees – Arthur could see the grass beyond the final few layers. He risked a glance back over his shoulder, but couldn’t see the beach through the woods.

“Don’t look back!” Allianah yelled from her own sand-horse to his right. “Do. Not. Look. Back!

The sand-horses dissolved as they broke the line of trees, scattering the earth with their silvery-white flesh and tumbling riders. Arthur managed to roll and get back onto his feet again, but not everyone else had been as lucky. Allianah stumbled off her own steed, looking drained, and Zed dropped his two passengers in order to grab her arm. The other deities, except Khasekhemwy and Mallos, were already there. Last but not least, Sperantia leapt from the woods and shot forwards so that she was standing in front of Arthur, her sides heaving.

Zed started to shout at them to keep running and not look back, but the men had been thrown into disarray. Some of them started forwards again, and luckily no one was facing in the wrong direction when it happened. A powerful blast knocked everybody present off their feet and face-first onto the sandy grass.

It was as if a nuclear bomb had gone off behind them. A blinding white light from behind them filled their vision, assuring all of them that if any of them had been looking at it then their eyeballs would have melted in their sockets, and the heat was intense. For Allianah and Rhaegar, it felt like being back in the centre of the Earth; for everyone else, there was no comparison. The noise, like a planet exploding only a few miles away, blocked out everything else. The force of the air pressure kept everyone pinned to the ground – not that they’d have wanted to get up and spectate anyway. It was like being burned, frozen, deafened and blinded all at once.

A movement passed in front of Arthur’s eyes, and he lifted them just enough to see Sperantia staggering before him. How she managed to move when it was taking all of his energy just to lift his head half an inch, he had no idea. The cat’s mouth formed a blood-curdling scream which he couldn’t hear, and she spontaneously burst into flame.

When the light, the heat and the noise finally faded away, there was nothing left of Mallos’ familiar. Not even a pile of ashes.

Written by Georgia.

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

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