Descendant 109 – Old Devil – Chapter 03

This entry is part 39 of 39 in the series Current

Over the three years the Descendants had protected Mayfield, a hard lesson had been shared among the career criminals and occasional supervillain that tried to operate in Mayfield: metal was a no-go.

If your plans involved a gun, knife, automobile, city street with manhole covers or street lamps or even a zipper with metal in its construction, you were taking a supreme risk. If you had implants or a prosthetic, be they a whole robotic arm or just some screws in your knee, most gangs wouldn’t bother with you any longer.

When your weapon could simply melt or wrap around your legs, or the bank vault you were robbing could simply seal up without a seam, it wasn’t worth it unless you were packing the powers or the (non-metal based tech) to deal with such situations.

Evidently, the monsters the two Descendants teams were facing weren’t tapped into the Mayfield Underworld. In his metal sense, Alloy could tell that the plates covering them were steel with a moderate to poor carbon ratio; an older, per-industrial alloy.

Considering he could command modern carbon steel with a modicum of effort, what he was finding on the monsters was less than nothing. He didn’t even raise a hand as one of the centaurs charged him again. The metal plates all over its body swelled and warped, locking its joins in place. Its momentum sent it tumbling into the sand with an inhuman scream.

A stream of energetic black dots exploded past him, striking the other centaur in the chest and causing it to rear onto its hind legs. Its hooves flailed in the air for a moment, trying to get its balance before finally succombing to gravity.

Before the sand of its fall settled, Alloy threw his sword, willing it to become a ribbon of iron that bound its legs, taking it out of the fight.

I don’t get it,” Alloy said into the comms.

Me neither,” said Occult. “I get what you were trying to do, but why didn’t it work?”

That’s pretty easy,” Alloy turned his attention to the jungle where the sounds of fire and fighting had started, “They’re not actual conquistadors. Should have guessed that from them being weird shadow creatures in armor. None of this make sense though… they’re wearing something close to but not quite conquistador armor, speaking close to but not quite Spanish… Are they pretending? Taking a form they think we’ll understand?”

Faeries don’t know enough about humans to even get that far though. Earth’s been cut off from the orrery of worlds so long none of the other worlds should,” Occult said, following him.

Alloy grunted as he climbed over a root. “Maybe the others have something more that can help. Hey Fax, what’s the thing in the water like? It should a ship but…”

It is not a ship,” Facsimile came back. She was in the air, winging above the hulk sitting on the water off the beach.

From a distance, without branches and leave blocking the view, it did look ship shaped, but up close…

What might have the appearance of a wooden hull was actually a mass of coiling bodies, their flesh a rough, irregular texture. They knotted around one another chaotically, occasionally arching into the air, bearing aloft the white, feathered wings along their humped back.

Emerging from the side of the pile of bodies were the heads; elongated things that shaded to a dully metallic black along their long, rounded snouts, which gaped open to reveal toothless maws –the ‘cannons’ of the ‘ship’.

The team had been using suit cams for a few months, and though Facsimile’s ‘suit’ as actually her body, she still kept a cam on her for just such a situation, relaying her view back to Alloy and any other that might be watching.

It’s some kind of hydra,” she mused, “Right out of Deathgate!”

At this exclamation, one of the heads swung upward, glaring up at her. And the knot of serpentine bodies began to uncoil.

***

Winceslao’s smile slipped.

He’d expected the young hero he’d come to know as Ephemeral to attack him. While not a battle mage, one didn’t last long by Hyrilius’s side without knowing how to defend yourself after all. Instead, Ephemeral simply looked him dead in the eye… and collapsed into the arms of the Descendants’ healer, Hope.

A startled sound left Green Boarder, who tried to help catch him, but despite himself, Winceslao found himself fighting down a yelp of his own as he leapt to his feet. In truth, he knew about as much as the average person in the country did about the Descendants: whatever he heard on the news or in passing internet articles. He hadn’t even looked any of them besides Occult up on the PrelateWatch website. And nothing like that had ever happened to his knowledge.

Hey! Is he okay?” He asked.

The look he got from Hope, the only one that didn’t seem horrified by what just happened made him draw back. It was one he’d come to know and dread a long time ago; a smirk of malicious knowledge that the wearer had, but the target didn’t.

He blinked.

Then the mystic alarms he’d set to protect himself from astral attack went off in his head. “Axkan niuil kihta yihtik.” Twisting the middle and index finger of his right hand, he placed the joined tips in the center of his forehead.

Rose light burst from his eyes as his vision pierced the veil between the Material and the Astral. His view was not that of his own astral body, but rerouted through his honed defensive spell the Mind Fortress Quinametzin; manifested onto the astral as a golden armored giant made of magically condensed and reinforced astral matter.

He gained control of the Mind Fortress just in time to lurch backward from the slash of a spear passing just in front of his face.

Ephemeral was before him, his blue astral form clad in a close-fitting shirt, a sash floating gallantly behind him at his waist and baggy pants tied at the bottoms. He arrested the spear’s movement as it swung upward to redirect it into a thrust that made Winceslao stumble back.

Only then did he remember that he wasn’t in his astral body being threatened, but in his Mind Fortress. When the next strike came, he stepped into it. The spearhead, formed of astral matter alone, as nothing against Quinametzin’s golden armor and shattered against it.

Ha!” Winceslao laughed his most boastful laugh. Placing his fists on his hips, he puffed out his chest. “Astral attacks are some of the most common spells magi use against one another. Did you even think this through?”

A spear shattered in the hollow of his neck.

Ephemeral formed another and brought it on guard. “I will admit, I have never seen an astral form like yours before. However, that merely means that this is a learning opportunity.” With that, he lunged forward, shattering a spear in Winceslao’s stomach.

The disciple of Hyrilius laughed again. “What do you expect to learn from failing the same way over and over?”

Ah. You are mistaken, sir.” There was no change in Ephemeral’s serious expression. The man raised his hands and the astral swirled. From the rosey haze, there materialized dozens of spears, ringing the two combatants. “I did not mean that this would be a learning opportunity for me.”

***

Deathgate.

Warrick hadn’t thought of the game in months. The developers had put a lot into full immersion gaming only to learn the hard lesson of game developers decades before them: people simply did not mass-adopt expensive, bulky peripherals easily. It still existed, but with a skeleton crew, resulting in fewer updates and the game stagnating.

But it had been a good game and made an impact on more members of the team than just Facsimile and himself. Lots of games had. Including bad games.

Could that be it?” He asked despite himself.

Yeah, totally a hydra or something,” Facsimile said, before an explosion rang out over the comms, followed by her yelling in surprise. “One with cannon breath. Why was this never in the game.”

No, I mean a game. Could this be a game? Like a bad one? Piss-poor translations, turning a historical villain into actual monsters… and this isn’t the first time this king of thing happened to us.” He turned to Occult. “Could this be a gremlin or some other kind of… magical game?”

Occult pulled out her palmtop containing one of the Books that served as a magical primer. “If it’s a gremlin, there would have to be something for it to bring to life. If it’s a spell… I wish I could contact Kay or the Magi Club. I’ve been focusing on fighting Faerie magic, not human magic because we haven’t fought many human magi. Give me a minute to see if I can find a way to detect if this is a spell or not.”

Rebound’s voice came in over the comms. “How sure are we that they’re not real? Because that changes this fight entirely if we can go all-out.”

By then, Alloy and Occult had reached the fighting in the jungle. The formerly ordered ranks of the not-conquistadors had been broken up into clumps of isolated fighting as Glass struck from cover and literally melted into the underbrush while and shots that Rebound took became a crashing blow that knocked them back while the wind from Zephyrus’s sword blew them around, slamming them into trees.

Nonetheless, the creatures were tenacious and tough, getting up again and again after being knocked down.

While Occult consulting the Books, Alloy decided on another experiment. As one of the foot solder creatures leveled its weaponized arm, he took control of it with his power and surged it. Rather than lock it in place, he unraveled it, peeling the metal plates away from each other and making the arm unfurl like a blossoming flower.

There was nothing underneath. Not even smoke or shadow. Certainly no mechanism magical or mechanical that could have fired the shots the appendage produced.

Shrieking in octaves no human throat could produce, the creature tried to pull away from the unseen force raveling it, shouting angrily and trying to grab at the metal coming off of it. It was an act of frustration, likely confusing… but not pain.

Alloy increased his efforts, dismantling the arm completely and working up to the shoulder. The thing punched at the retreating metal, trying to put it back into place, but to no avail. The metal of its body was completely Alloy’s to manipulate.

This didn’t go unnoticed by the others.

There’s nothing inside,” Rebound noted.

Zephyrus raised his sword on guard. “Then allow me to take the risk and put this to the test.” He stepped into the swing of one of the creatures. “Wind Raven Technique of Mortal Combat: Slay the Living.” A green glow overtook the blade of his sword as he sliced, the weapon gliding through the metal covering the false conquistador, through its core and out the other side.

If any damage had been done at all, there was no reaction.

Reversing his stroke, Zephyrus slammed the pommel into the creature’s helm, denting it deeply enough to fracture any skull underneath. It stumbled backward from the impact, giving Zephyrus the opportunity to leap bck and away.

The technique passes through any non-living material to cut the flesh and soul beneath. These are not living things.”

Glass did a double take, flowing away from a creature she’d been engaging. “You have spell that can just kill things?”

As you might recall, I wasn’t being trained to be a hero of your world. I was being trained to be a slayer of folk; a general who sent his soldiers to fight and die.” His expression softened at the discomfort clear on her transparent face. “There’s a reason I haven’t used it before—and wouldn’t have if Alloy hadn’t shown there was a good chance they weren’t living things. I’ve just confirmed this.”

He looked to Rebound. “Have you taken many hits this fight?”

Rebound nodded and clenched a fist. “Quite a few. Time to unleash.” He spoke into the group comm. “Lady D, TM, the enemy aren’t people. Fight at will.” As soon as he was done speaking, he charged forward, ducking a shot from one of the foot soldiers and responding with an uppercut to the chest that launched the thing into the trees, snapping branches and scattering leaves until it impacted against a trunk and was flattened.

Before the hit even connected, Zephyrus was off, slashing with steel and wind, his unrestrained attacks sundering armor and breaking creatures apart. In the distance, the hiss of Icthiani’s laser-like energy bolts and the report of Thumbelina’s guns sang out as well.

Taking a steadying breath, Ally reminded himself that they had confirmed that their enemies weren’t creatures of thought and empathy before completing his work on the one he’d been unraveling, using his power to render it into a pile of twisted iron scrap.

Glass also took a moment to steel herself before surging forward, forming one arm into a piercing awl. She couldn’t follow through, however, delivering the blow through a shoulder joint instead of center mass and throwing it to the ground.

It raised its weapon arm and she blocked, forcing it aside as a shot took a chunk out of a tree behind her. She looked down at it, contemplating what to do with it when a flash of blue light swept over her. For a moment, the world was tinged a rosy hue and looked… off in ways she couldn’t quite put to words.

Taking advantage of her moment of confusion, the creature forced her off it and rose, leveling its weapon.

Instinct took over and her other arm became a hammer. She swung it in from the side, caving in the side of its breastplate and sending it crumpling to the ground.

She looked down at her handiwork. Parts of the armor had split, letting in the light. There was nothing inside.

Glass had no way of knowing how long she’d been standing there, reassuring herself that there was no person inside that ruined armor, but by the time she looked up again, she found that it was all over around her. Without the restriction of preserving life and limb, her team plus Alloy had annihilated the metal monsters.

The sounds of distant gunshots and energy bolts continued, now joined by a roar like a Hollywood dinosaur.

We need to meet up with them,” Rebound declared. Alloy nodded, but Occult held up a hand.

I need to stay here.”

You got something?” Teen Machine asked over the comms.

Occult pursed her lips. “I know where we are. Or what we’re in.”

That doesn’t sound encouraging,” Icthiani growled.

It’s not. We’re in… the astral is folded up around us. It’s some sort of spell that’s using the stral to make a lot of space in a little amount of space. Bigger on the inside. Then there’s more spells. Spells within spells. I’m going to try and find a way to break it.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendant 109 – Old Devil – Chapter 02

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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2 Comments

  1. Typos

    per-industrial alloy.
    pre-industrial alloy.

    locking its joins
    locking its joints

    It was an act of frustration, likely confusing
    It was an act of frustration, likely confusion

    while and shots
    while any shots

    While Occult consulting
    While Occult was consulting

    leap bck
    leap back

  2. Not the place I expected a shout-out to unsuccessful video games requiring expensive peripherals, but I still loled.

    Thanks for the chapter!

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