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part thirteen.

Part Thirteen
It’s all an act, and deep down Aura knows it.

There isn’t even the remotest chance of defeating Mallos. The rebellion only existed last time because he’d allowed it to exist - probably partially because he found it amusing – but now that joke has been played his tolerance will wane quickly. He could forcibly turn the entirety of Shaman against her in the time it takes to blink – but he wouldn’t need to, because his power over her is just as complete. How easy would it be for him to possess her, assume control of her body or – more likely, for him – slip her a love potion? He can control minds and fancies as readily as anything else. There will be no war. Shaman has already fallen. The only question is how long it will take for him to assert his authority officially before he comes after her again.

Sat with her back against a tree in a little copse some distance from the Shady Labyrinth, cradling her head in her hands, Aura knows her life is over. Her plan to create a sanctuary for fairykind has failed. The Council will be easily swayed by Mallos, especially if he forces her support for the ‘cause’, and in perhaps a few short months not only Shaman but Earth will also be overrun. Who knows where it will go from there? Mallos won’t stop at Earth – he’ll want to expand. Perhaps he’ll even reopen the old rip and take revenge on the horses of Hoof Prince for daring to shut him up in the Crystal Hall. With an army of divines at his fingertips, he’ll overrun the Council and seek control not just of this world, but of all worlds. There’s no stopping him. Even if she had an ounce of fight left in her, what could she possibly do? She’s four foot high and hasn’t a drop of magic left in her blood, nor a conscious divine associate to compensate.

It’s over. Finished. Mallos has won.

There’s a rustling sound, accompanied by the brush of movement over dirt. Aura is fully aware that this newcomer has the ability to creep about in utter silence, and the only reason to do otherwise would be if the latter did not feel it necessary. Quite right too.

“I wondered when you’d reappear,” Aura mutters, resigning to lift her head and study the beast before her.

Lauma looks much the same as she always did. At least two hundred and fifty pounds in weight, the enormous lioness is easily the size of the male of her species and is a rich golden-cream in colour. Her gleaming yellow eyes and shining coat are symptoms of her good health, and she’s filled out a little more since Aura saw her last. Lauma had disappeared during the third curse and had not been seen or heard from since, but it looks like the months have been kind to her. She regards Aura with an unreadable expression, and the former doesn’t suppose for a moment that she can hope to persuade her not to take her to Mallos. As she said herself, Lauma was a pack animal, and would snap back to her old master the instant he re-established himself as the top dog, which he would no doubt have done by now. Sending the lioness she had slowly befriended to collect her is just another example of his cruelty.

Mallos’ familiar doesn’t budge an inch, other than to flick her tail inexplicably. Rather than to pointlessly plead her case, Aura remains silent until she can take it no longer.

“Come on then,” she mutters, “let’s get this over with.” She stands up, dusting off her trousers, and when she glances back at Lauma she notices with a faint flickering of anger that the lioness still hasn’t moved. What right has she to prolong this? Mallos had sent her to get her, and Aura accepts that – so why won’t Lauma just get on and do it? “Do something!”

Lauma tilts her head. “What would you have me do, White Fur?”

Aura notices the obliteration of the old name the great cat had used for her – ‘Alpha’ – with regret but without surprise. Mallos is well and truly back. Odd, though, that a creature as proud as a lioness would adopt the rats’ name for her.

“Mallos is labouring under the misapprehension that animals do not have consciences,” Lauma says quietly, displaying both a vocabulary and an intelligence Aura hadn’t believed possible of her. “He also fails to understand that hierarchies do not always work like ladders, and that where there is no clear leader members of the pack will not automatically snap to the one with the most physical power.”

Aura stares at her. Is it possible... is it possible that she’s saying what she thinks she’s saying?

“Shaman is not lost as long as you and I are still here. There is always hope.” The lioness concludes firmly. In a single step she crosses the distance between them, placing her huge, furry head onto Aura’s shoulder; the latter wraps her arms around her. “For too long you’ve been hiding in the dark, little one. We’ve been waiting for you.”

    • day two -
      • part five -
      • part six. -
      • part seven. -
      • part eight. -
    • day one -
      • part one. -
      • part two. -
      • part three. -
      • part four. -

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