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Posted on August 15, 2016 at 10:23:11 PM by Aspelta
The urge to laugh at a fox who was afraid of rabbits had petered out long ago. Now it was just sad.
“Come on, Crooktail,” Thoth groaned, sitting back on his heels.
A pair of wide, green eyes stared back at him from within the burrow, framed by a slender, red and white face. Crooktail’s large, pointed ears dipped and he edged back a little further as the pair of rabbits scampering about behind Thoth paused to shake their cotton tails at him.
“But they’re so… fluffy,” he muttered with a shudder.
“So are you!” Thoth pointed out in exasperation.
The fox shuddered again. He started to inch further back into his burrow, but all of a sudden sat bolt upright as if he’d just been struck by lightning. The burrow wasn’t really that tall enough for that; he hit his head on the roof, dislodging earth all over his pretty russet back. Before Thoth could comment, he bolted, shooting past the rabbits so fast that one of them almost toppled over. They panicked and raced away into the undergrowth, ignoring Thoth’s reassuring calls. He stood, a slight frown creasing his forehead as he looked up towards the trees. The birds had already taken flight and the squirrels were dashing away over the branches, heading east towards Augury Vale.
He was about to follow them when something made him hesitate. The distinctive thud-thud, thud-thud of horse hooves accompanied by the cracking of twigs and rustling of vegetation grew swiftly louder, culminating in a single Dartmoor pony crashing through the undergrowth a moment later. The pony was chocolate brown all over and still relatively shaggy despite the fact that he must have long lost his winter coat. His wild eyes calmed a little when they came to rest on Thoth.
“Mate!” He whinnied, dancing on his hooves. “We need to go. Bad things!”
“Sneezewort!” Thoth took hold of his friend’s head to hold it still. “What bad things?”
“Bad things,” Sneezewort repeated, a little more calmly but just as vaguely.
Thoth had spent years trying to study and analyse the sixth sense which animals seemed to share (unfortunately, not inclusively with fairies) but he had never been able to lay his hands on any concrete scientific data. Nor, usually, was he privy to the nervous whims of his four-legged friends. Still holding Sneezewort’s head in his hands, he closed his eyes and focused, trying to imagine himself as one with nature. High-level fairies were supposed to be closely in touch with nature. If he could just focus…
It had never worked before, but there was a first time for everything. A distant but distinct sense of dread, independent to any rational internal feeling, touched his heart. He zoned in on it, trying to get a sense of where or what it might be, and felt a tug in the base of his stomach where he drew his water-bending skills from. The sea. Something was wrong with the sea.
He opened his eyes and released his friend’s head simultaneously. “C’mon. If we pick up my tide-measuring machine in the castle, we can go and check it out.”
Sneezewort snorted, eyeing him. “Do we have to walk at your pace?”
“Uhh,” Thoth raised an eyebrow. “Unless you want to give me a lift?”
Thirty seconds later, they were racing together through the forest with Thoth clinging on to Sneezewort’s thick fur for his life.
Thoth had given up trying to sneak wild ponies into the castle through the little side entrances that, supposedly, no one knew about. Ever since he had been ‘outed’ as the son of Aura, every corner he turned around seemed to bring a new stream of busybodies. The only places he was safe were the forests and oceans beyond the castle grounds - and even then, sometimes, the more determined and enterprising characters managed to find a way to follow him. Trying to sneak around in the shadows was a frustrating waste of time; now he just strolled in through the front door with whatever animals he fancied. The castle staff who had scolded and cajoled him for years before they learned about his demigod status had since turned a blind eye to the various badgers, wombats and wild dogs he brought indoors. Apparently, they drew the line at wild ponies.
Janette, one of the head housekeepers, loomed over him with her hands on her hips. She seemed to a little pleased with herself - probably because Thoth was about the only person small enough for her to loom over. She was only 5’3.
“Absolutely not,” she said firmly. Thoth felt the tell-tale stirrings of anger in the pit of his stomach and tried to swallow it down.
“We just need to grab something from my room and then we’ll be - ”
“Not a chance,” she cut him off. “You can go. He can wait outside.”
Thoth gritted his teeth. Sneezewort, unable to understand English, glanced at him with a baffled expression which seemed to say, what’s her problem, mate?
“I bet you don’t make anyone else’s friends wait outside,” Thoth snapped.
“No one else makes friends with horses!”
“He’s a pony!”
Thoth hadn’t noticed the decibels creeping up in his voice, and he only became aware of his tense posture in that moment when a far door opened and Arthur stepped through. Presumably, he had heard the raised voices from somewhere else in the castle. Either that or he had a supernatural nose for trouble, which Thoth was inclined to believe, because he was always there when something was going wrong. He took the situation in with a single glance.
“Thoth - ” He started, but Thoth overrode him.
“We’ll be five minutes,” he growled, starting forward. Sneezewort plodded cheerfully after him.
“Thoth,” Arthur repeated in a very mild tone, “I believe we have already agreed that your animal friends - ”
The door behind the king burst open again. Thoth started to make a noise which was somewhere between a sigh and a snarl, thinking that all he needed now was a gaggle of giggling onlookers, but the sound died in his throat. Two guards stepped through, one of them supporting one of only a handful of people in the castle who could divert attention away from Thoth. As if the stir he caused when he arrived during a ball through a swirling portal of doom wasn’t enough, Anapa had since earned a reputation as the guy who could accurately predict the deaths of nobles’ pets. The creepy cognitive power meshed well with his eerie appearance. Tall and bony, with dark, penetrating eyes and a nasty habit of creeping about unnoticed, most people found him unnerving and stayed out of his way. He didn’t seem to care.
Anapa didn’t seem quite as imposing while he was leaning on the female guard for support. With his free arm, he pressed his skeletal fingers to his temple, massaging gently and frowning as though he was trying to remember something. The other guard - a big guy Thoth recognised from the pantheon - followed in behind them.
“Uhh, sorry to bother,” the female guard’s tone was serious and her face grim. Something twisted in Thoth’s stomach. He knew the guard; she was well-known around the castle for her cheerful demeanour and permanent grin. “But, er - ”
She glanced at Anapa, who ignored everyone else in the room and stared straight at Arthur.
“Needed to warn,” he muttered, the words only just discernible around his thick accent. He must have recognised this, because when he spoke again, it was louder and clearer. “Many people will die today.”
Arthur focused on him. His expression didn’t change, but the atmosphere in the room shifted.
“Do you know how, or when?” He pressed. Anapa closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“They will number into the tens and will sink to a watery grave. I can give you nothing more.”
A chill set over the room. Even Sneezewort seemed aware of it; he pressed his nose into Thoth’s back, edging closer. Arthur’s expression seemed to flicker minutely for a fraction of a second. Nobody spoke for a full minute.
“Is there nothing else you can - ” The king started to say, but stopped when the male guard cleared his throat.
“Sorry, Your Grace,” he said gruffly. “But you might want to look at this.”
His eyes were fixed on something out of the window. Thoth hopped forward a split-second faster than Arthur and peered out, expecting to have to search for a minute to see what the guard was looking at. His eyes fell instantly on the problem and his heart skipped a beat.
A huge oceanic wave, visible from this distance far in the centre of the island because of its sheer, phenomenal size, was succeeding in its quest to blot out the sun.
Written by Aspelta.
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