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part three

"Tristan, for God's sake, get the dog off the table." The prince, who had be gazing out of the nearest window turned back into the hall with a sheepish smile. He wrapped his arms around the shepherd dog and heaved it off the table top. Depositing Caefall back on the floor he patted the dog on the head, straightened up and leaned back against the wall. The king shook his head and raised his eyes to heaven with a mutter of 'give me strength.' He sighed. "You're telling me," Arthur said glancing between his sister and the table top, "that this jar can defeat The Creature?" The ghostly blue gas danced innocently in its container looking like little more than a parlour trick. Morgana nodded.

"I saw it myself," she confirmed with certainty, "whatever it is in there," she gestured at the innocuous jar, "it's what we need. I saw it." Arthur considered her with a thoughtful expression. He had learnt over the years to trust his sister's judgement but it was a lot to accept on faith.

"You're sure your magic isn't coming back for some reason?" he ventured carefully, anticipating the glare she threw him, "it's not one of your visions?"

"Oh yes," Morgana shot back scathingly, "mymagic came back at the exact moment the lid flew off a creepy jar even though nobody's else's did, and promptly disappeared again and the precise moment some magic steam decided to stop using me as its new receptacle." Somewhere to her left Tristan snorted as he tried to smother laughter.

Resigned, and unwilling to press the matter any further Arthur dispatched one of the guards to fetch his father in law, and his son to fetch Thoth. He sat down in his chair and poured himself a large goblet of wine. Morgana refused the offer and elected to pace up and down in front of him instead. It was not very relaxing. Thoth arrived first; Tristan had obviously known where to find him. The boy was frowning but not in the usual 'what have I done this time' way he usually adopted when he and Arthur met. The king assumed his son had filled him in on what was going on.

"Please," Arthur smiled, gesturing at the jar to indicate that Thoth was free to inspect it. He watched the boy closely as he made his approach and reached out for the glass. The usual expression of suspicion the young demigod adopted around adults was almost immediately replaced by one of enquiry, as his intellectual curiosity was sparked. There was no obvious or immediate sense of recognition, which Arthur suspected there would be if he'd seen it before. Thoth remembered everything.

Mallos appeared not through the main doors like everyone else but through the king's personal entrance through the antechamber door behind the dais. His hair was tousled and his hands were pushed casually into his pockets. Arthur watched the Spaniard's dark eyes move from his face, to Morgana, to Thoth, Tristan and the jar. Thoth's suspicious expression returned. Clearly, Mallos was considered a dubious enough character to drown out the intriguing cry of the unknown.

"You found this?" he asked Morgana holding out his hand for Thoth to pass him the jar. She nodded.

"Morray had it," she explained, "he went a little crazy but judging by his other recent acquisitions and the reports I've been getting for the last few weeks he's been clearing out the Ruins. My guess is he found it there."

"I don't think Morgana's gone crazy," Arthur said, earning a punch to his arm, "so we're not sure exactly why Murray was affected and no one else has been." Mallos shrugged in that nonchalant way of his.

"He probably triggered something Gwythr put in place to...discourage thieves. ¡No se preocupe!"

"Oh no..." Arthur said sardonically, "I definitely won't be losing sleep over an insanity inducing jar foraged from the ruins of a megalomaniac's stronghold."

"Do you know what it is?" the king prompted after a long drawn-out pause. "Morgana says that when she opened the jar the substance in there gave her a vision..." He spared Thoth a concerned glance, "a vision of Aura." Morgana nodded.

"She was putting the smoke in the jar," she explained, "she looked right at me, smiled and then closed the lid. Whatever's in there...it knows what runestones we need, and it knows where they are."

Mallos turned the jar over in his hands. Arthur could almost see the cogs turning in his brain. He didn't say anything for a long while, leaving the rest of the room hanging in suspense - probably at least partly in melodrama.

"Your mother's genius continues to surprise me," he muttered at last to Thoth. It was the highest compliment any of them had ever heard Mallos pay another person. He didn't elaborate, and evidently had no intention of doing so, because he continued to study the jar silently until Morgana prodded him in the ribs.

"So, what is it?" She prompted.

"Er," Mallos paused. "Ruego. Ruego magia. Which is..."

"Prayer magic?" Tristan asked, with a furrowed brow. Mallos shook his head, still casting around for a better translation, but Thoth got there first.

"Wish magic," he supplied.

"Bottled wish magic," the deity agreed. "What Shaman works from. Wish magic transports people here and keeps Shaman safe. There has been lots of experiments with it, but it's still not really understood and is hard to control. I've never even heard of anyone bottling it."

"So it... grants you a wish?" Morgana asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Sort of." Mallos shrugged. "Wish magic also fulfils a need, not necessarily a desire. It can take you somewhere, or show you the way, or... give answers."

Arthur and Tristan nodded. Morgana gently eased the jar out of her father's grip, correctly sensing that the next stage of his curiosity would be itchy fingers. He let it go with no outward sign of reluctance, but did eye it as she tucked it firmly under her arm.

The king smiled at Thoth. "If this jar was Aura's," he said, "then it belongs to you now. You get to decide what happens next."

Thoth stared at the jar for a long, still moment, tugging a little on everyone's heart strings.

"Pretty sure if the ancient creature's taught us anything," he said quietly, "it's that magic belongs to everyone."

"Caefall, no!" The dog had found his way back onto the table top. His claws scrabbled against the wooden surface as he bounded enthusiastically towards the other faeries in the room. Tristan dived after him, but too late. Caefall's wagging tail smacked into the jar and sent it rolling across the table. Celidon, who had been napping on the floor nearby gave the younger dog a warning woof but the shepherd ignored him and gave chase. He dived forwards as the jar neared the edge of the table and tried to catch it between his front paws. There was a light click as his claws clipped the glass but he missed and sent the jar spinning instead. It clipped the edge of the table and flew off across the room at an angle. Morgana, who was closest to the table reached out and grabbed hold of Caefall's collar as Tristan dived after the jar.

The Prince's ribs collided with the hard wooden floor, but he managed to catch the glass container at the last possible moment. He was surprised when he heard the unmistakeable clatter of something hitting the floor a few feet away, and more surprised still when the strange blue substance began to seep out through the open top of the jar. The Prince swore, glancing between the open jar, Thoth, and Arthur. The King took a step towards his son, but that was the last Tristan saw of him. The world was blocked out by a bright light as a strong pressure pressed against his eyes.

Tristan found himself looking down at a red stone, it was perfectly smooth like the pebbles on the beach. Its surface was run-through with ripples of paler stone and it seemed to shimmer like the surface of a still lake. The scene shifted, and the prince suddenly felt like he was being dragged backwards. It got smaller and smaller until Tristan stopped moving again. The stone was lying on the flat of a fairy's hand and the prince was floating high above his head. He could see little of what lay under the figure's hood, but long blonde hair spilled out to cascade down across the stranger's chest. Brushing lightly against the mass of gold was a familiar star-shaped pendant with a blue gem set at its centre. Aurans.

Coming to was an unpleasant experience; it felt like being pulled out of deep water at high speed. When Tristan surfaced he inhaled sharply and his hand clasped tightly around his father's arm. He was sitting on the floor surrounded by concerned faces and his head had begun to throb unpleasantly. The prince massaged his temples and glanced at Thoth.
"Your mother can clock quite a punch," he said, wincing as he ran his fingers through his hair, "but I know where to find one of the stones we need. "

    • the mission -

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