you've got persuasion; arthur.

warning: contains swearing.


Chen had the hardest time convincing anyone that something was wrong. Even Tsi’s best friend, Zed, was blasé about the entire situation.

“I’m sure I only saw him yesterday, Mr Li.” The Brazilian said nonchalantly, checking his watch.

Senhor,” Chen answered a little nervously, pushing his glasses back up his nose, “with all due respect, he has not come home in a week.”

Zed should have listened: mortals had a much better sense of time than deities. Instead, he made some reassuring but meaningless comment and hopped off to his meeting. He didn’t start listening until Rana said the same thing as Chen.

“Ain’t like him to not turn up to dinner.” She mused as she washed up one night. “You better go check on him.”

“You’re as bad as his PA.” Zed grumbled, rustling his newspaper. “He’s fine, woman.”

Rana removed her hands from the suds and placed them on her hips. She didn’t need to say anything else, since Zed got immediately to his feet. Under her watchful eye, he made a show of sighing and reaching up to untuck his pendant from its position under his shirt. Zed liked his pendant. Most of the other deities had physical things – leaves, wolves, trees, fish – but his was more abstract. Turquoise blue in colour, to match the hue of his magic, it featured two interlocking links and four small dots. The meaning was open to interpretation, but he liked to imagine the links as himself and Rana, connected together for all time.

The pendants had multiple uses, one of the most frequent of which was as locators. An original fairy could sense the presence of magic – other divinity – but not identify who it was; the pendants, therefore, acted as identity markers. Sort of like a magical passport. When he touched his pendant, Zed could sense where all the other divine pendants were in the cosmos. Apart from him, three others were on Shaman: Rhaegar was the closest, out to sea, probably on his ship; Mallos was in the castle; and… yes, that was Tsi. West of here, not too far. With a nod to Rana, Zed teleported off his ship, directly to the place where Tsi’s pendant should be.

He reappeared on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. In the far distance, his own ship, the Santiago bobbed cheerfully on the horizon. From this vantage point, he had a good view not only of the ocean but also over the woodland below. Birds chirped, squirrels scampered over the trees – but there were no people in sight.

“Tsi?” Zed rumbled, glancing around in a quick 360. Definitely no people.

He took a step forward, wondering if perhaps his locator magic was off a bit and Tsi was in the forest below, when his boot struck something hard. He removed his foot and bent down, examining the shiny object on the floor. His heart sank into the earth.

There, gleaming through the mud, was a circular divine pendant bearing the shape of a tree. The mark of Tsi.

Zed didn’t have the legal power to organise the other deities or lead a formal search mission, so he had to make do with accosting them individually. Nobody was too fussed that Tsi hadn’t been seen in a fortnight (two weeks, in the grand scheme of things, really wasn’t that long to an immortal) but his separation from his pendant sent alarm bells ringing across the board. The pendants had a powerful magic of their own and, in the wrong hands, could cause serious damage. Gwythr’s imitation of Mallos for a thousand years using the pendant was a fresh and raw example of what could happen when deities didn’t guard their pendants properly – which they always, always did.

Independently, and in the absence of their leader, the original fairies acted. Zed wrote to Arthur to inform him of the situation. Allianah came to Shaman to use old-fashioned hunter training to search the area. Everyone turned a blind eye to Mallos making a few illegal lines of enquiry amongst contacts he probably wasn’t supposed to have.

Others helped too. Chen returned to Shaman to undertake a mortal missing persons search, putting up posters and knocking on doors. Once he was made aware of the situation, Arthur sent some of his guards to help comb the peaks.

Time ticked on without a single lead.

A month after Tsi’s disappearance, Zed sat in the navigation cabin of the Santiago with his desk strewn with maps of Shaman and his head in his hands. Rana was below deck watching the kids while he and Lorraine pored over the maps, searching for any unturned stone. Rhaegar was out there already, searching to see if any ‘interesting animals’ had eaten their missing leader. Zed had tried to look grateful when Rhaegar volunteered for that job.

Lorraine’s hand hovered over his shoulder. That was the Lorraine equivalent of a reassuring pat.

“Have you considered,” she asked gently, “that maybe we’ve done as much as we can do?”

“I’m not giving up.” Zed answered firmly.

“I wasn’t suggesting it, darling, but I think it’s time the Council passed an order for an official search.” She moved around the table to stand opposite him and dipped her head a little so they could lock eyes. Lorraine’s eyes shifted between blue and green; today they sat in the middle, an indeterminate shade. “We need you to formally take the role of Acting Chairman.”

Zed stared at her grimly, his mouth set in a downturned line. Although the deputy position within the Council was traditionally kept secret, everyone assumed that Zed was Tsi’s deputy. Who else would it be? Zed was Tsi’s best friend, a proven leader, and the only original fairy next to Tsi who was capable of uniting the other deities. Stopping the search to have an official ceremony ‘crowning’ the Acting Chairman felt like an unnecessary formality, but Lorraine was right: legally, they’d gone as far as they could go. To launch a formal enquiry, they would have to do it as the Council of Originals, not a myriad band of individuals.

Zed nodded. Lorraine flicked her hand, generating a piece of parchment and a fountain pen out of nowhere, and he began to compose a letter.

The announcement of the Council deputy had only happened twice in history: once when Aura broke ancient laws and her deputy, Gwythr, had to be named to lead charges against her; and again when Gwythr had announced that he would be spending more time off-Earth, prompting the need for his deputy, Tsi, to be announced to lead matters there. It wasn’t a grand ceremony, but it was a ritualistic one. Each Chairman chose their deputy in secret, not even informing the deputy themselves. The identity of the deputy was sealed inside the Box of Truths by each Chairman. If the Council of Originals voted unanimously for no-confidence in the current Chairman, or if the current Chairman was incapacitated, missing or otherwise unable to fulfil his or her duties, the council could elect to open the box and announce the Acting Chairman.

The announcement could be made anywhere. The only requirements were that all members of the Council had to be present, along with a mortal witness. The idea behind having a mortal witness was to have some show of impartiality, although why that was needed when there was no decision-making involved, Zed had no clue. The announcement would trigger an immediate council meeting under the new Acting Chairman and was the only time when, legally, a mortal should be present. Given the circumstances, Zed wrote to Arthur explaining the situation and requesting that he act as the mortal witness to the opening of the Box of Truths. The meeting could subsequently be held in the castle.

Zed made sure to collect the box earlier in the day so that he could arrive first and settle any potential ‘disputes’ between any of the other deities as they appeared. He’d made sure to stagger the summons so that the most antagonising originals arrived last, thereby leaving little room for anyone to wind anyone else up too much.

The ceremony, if one could call it that, was to take place in a spacious meeting room in the castle’s west wing. Zed placed the wooden box carefully on the table, running his thumbs over the edge. Typical of Tsi, it was a simple, unassuming thing, marked only by its owner’s tree-symbol engraved delicately on the lid. Gwythr and Aura’s boxes had been much grander.

For once, there was no squabbling among the other deities; Tsi’s disappearance had created a somewhat subdued atmosphere among them over the past few weeks. The feeling within the room was largely one of impatience. All anybody present wanted to do was hear the announcement, listen to Zed’s plan for finding Tsi and then file back out to get on with the job. Most of them were glancing more curiously at the papers he’d placed on the table detailing the upcoming search mission than at the under-whelming Box of Truth.

Once they’d assembled, along with Arthur and his son, Zed got straight on with it. He held Tsi’s pendant above the box lid and spoke briefly in the ancient language, providing a translation for the mortal’s benefit.

“Box of Truth,” he said simply, “show us the new leader among gods.”

Tsi’s pendant glowed, not that anyone seemed to care much. Lorraine was inspecting her finger-nails and Charlton was gazing out of the window. Only Tristan watched with eager curiosity as the box opened, spilling a brilliant light up towards the ceiling. The light shifted and reshaped, taking the form of a symbol.

A yellow sun symbol.

The original fairies froze in unison. Tsi’s pendant slipped from Zed’s grasp and landed with a resounding thunk on the table. Allianah’s jaw dropped comically open. Mallos, for what was probably only the second or third time in his entire life, looked utterly thunderstruck.

Rhaegar recovered first and reacted by walking out of the room. Charlton started shaking his head like he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing, while Khasekhemwy blinked rapidly and Lorraine gave a nervous giggle.

“Well.” Zed muttered after a moment, trying not to sound too shocked. “Er – Mal? What now?”

Mallos, uncharacteristically, was the last to recover; he only appeared to come to his senses when all the others turned to look at him. There was a few seconds of silence.

“Fuck,” he said emphatically, before walking out after Rhaegar.

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