Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 4

This entry is part 5 of 55 in the series Current

“I know what you’re going to ask me.”

Lisa Ortega looked up from where she’d been absently stirring her coffee and ignoring the blackberry cobbler in front of her, startled. “I’m sorry, what? …I mean what makes you say I was going to ask anyway. We’re just having the same monthly lunch together we’ve been having for a while now.”

Across from her was Tatiana Farnsworth, he dear Aunt Tay—still in the body of Elise of Halfren. Even after months, it was still odd to Lisa to be talking to the rangy blonde knowing she’d once been her athletic, adventurous aunt.

“Are we?” Tatiana asked, forced to keep her voice low because, as usual, they were having their lunch in a quiet corner of a diner not far from the apartment The Descendants had set her up in following her liberation from the real Elise of Halfren—also known as Morganna.

Correction: formerly quiet. This being their first lunch since the revelation to the world that Lisa Ortega was Occult, they were now well aware that they were the covert center of attention. Every one in the diner seemed to be trying to watch them out of the corner of their eye, overhear a snippet of their conversation, or take a picture without being caught.

“Our lunches usually have you telling me everything that’s been happening in your life since the last time we met. But today… you’re quite, you’re lost in thought. Nothing like the Lisa I know. So that tells me there’s something you have to say that you don’t want to.”

She ignored her niece’s shamefaced look and continued her analysis. “So I thought to myself, what could it be? There’s one big thing I know is on your mind—and on everyone else’s in the diner.” She said the last part louder, causing more than a few of their fellow patrons to quickly find something to be doing that wasn’t eavesdropping on them.

Smirking with satisfaction, she continued, “But that doesn’t have to do with me personally. Unless it does. I mean since your brother and parents know who you are now, I suppose you’ve got it in your head that maybe you should go completely clean slate with them. No more secrets. Like letting them know where I am… and who I am now.”

A sad smile twisted Lisa’s expression. “You were always the one in the family that knew me best. Even my twin.” She nodded and took a sip of her coffee. “Yeah, that’s what I was going to ask. It’s just that… I don’t want to have monthly lunches anymore. I want the whole family together again. I’ve got you back, but Mom needs her sister and Zack needs his aunt.”

Tatiana gingerly stabbed her own cobbler a few times with her fork as she mulled that over. At length, she asked, “Have you told them about magic yet? The magical world. Yeah, I know everyone saw the dragon and knows there’s another world out there now, but do they know all the things we know? About Morganna and the demons?” She said that last part so quietly it was a hiss.

Lisa had to look away. “No. They don’t.”

“Because it’s too weird for them,” Tatiana affirmed.

“Y-yes…” Lisa had to admit.

Leaning in, Tatiana went in for the kill, whispering, “Just like how this is too weird. That this friend of yours, Elise, is actually me. And that I’m in the body of some woman that’s been dead almost a thousand years while that same woman is in my body doing all sorts of evil.” She sat back, folding her arms. “Tell you what, mi linda, it you can look me in the eye and tell me this isn’t going to send Toni into fits, I’ll agree right here and right now.”

Lisa thought about her mother, Antonia. Hearing all that certainly would not leave her in good sorts. Her mother still reacted in disbelief to descendant powers. The whole superhero thing had set her off into a hysterical rant that lasted a full day and required Laurel to take time out of her already hectic schedule to calm her down.

It would not be a good idea to drop another bombshell on her now.

Not able to meet her aunt’s gaze, she muttered, “You know, Aunt Tay, it wasn’t so long ago that you were wondering if you’d ever get to be with the family again.”

Tatiana sighed. “That was half a year ago, and Thanksgiving to boot. I still have… well I had hope that I could get back to being… well… me again.”

“No, no, no,” Lisa shook her head vigorously. “I’m still working on that. I’ll find a way to get you back into your body, Aunt Tay—I promise!”

Again, Tatiana forced herself to whisper. “You have more important things to work on than me. Like Maeve. Focus on the world, not me. I’ll figure things out on my own.” At normal volume, she added, “I’ve already been looking. At first I thought that drug that’s been on the street—Gold—might help. But there’s side effects if you’re a descendant.”

Looking down at her hands, she frowned. “Though I guess I’m not a descendant anymore either.”

Lisa frowned at her aunt’s mood becoming more grim, but an idea struck her and she brightened up. “I’m such an idiot. I’ve been worrying so much about fixing the main problem of your mind being in the wrong body, I forgot there’s a problem I can solve.”

“What’s that?”

“The wrong body! I wouldn’t have thought of it if you hadn’t mentioned trying Gold. For mom dad and Zach, all they really need is to see you as yourself. They don’t need DNA tests or to see you use your powers. They just need to see ‘you’.”

When Tatiana just stared at her, she elaborated. “I’ve been making glamors since I first got my powers. I can make you look like your old self easily.”

Tatiana, expression turned hopeful. “Really? I didn’t think of it either and we were just talking about your spells last time we had lunch.”

Lisa nodded enthusiastically. “In fact, I can make you a glamor artifact right now—today.”

She only hesitated a little at having so many people around before taking out her key-chain and taking a charm off it. “Crecer,” she murmured to it. Immediately the tiny ornamented stick of a charm grew and expanded into a staff of white wood covered in carved runes and topped by flanges of wood forming a claw shape clutching a green spherical gem.

“New staff,” Tatiana observed, ignoring how many people were now overtly taking pictures.

“After all I learned from Rangi Nzuri at the Orrery of Worlds, I had so many improvements that it made sense to make a totally new one.” her giddiness at hitting upon something that could help her aunt was apparent in her tone. “Come on, let’s get to my magic lab in the HQ.”

Tatiana couldn’t help but smile at her niece’s happiness. “Hold on, mi linda,” she gestured to her cobbler with her fork. “This is too good to abandon. Let’s at least get it boxed up.”

Ten minutes later, a waitress and just over a dozen diner patrons were treated to their first live glimpse of astral travel.

***

When they arrived at the LSI HQ magic lab, they found Kay already there, a loaded shopping bag in hand as she went about restocking those mystic reagents that could be replaced by a simple trip to the store. When she saw them enter, she was all smiles. “Hey Lis, just getting some—oh wow, is that your aunt?”

Setting the bag down, she hurried over to give Tatiana a hug. “Oh my god, I haven’t seen you since, we got you back at Mary Wash! And I didn’t even really get to talk to you then.”

Tatiana returned the hug gladly. “Missed you too, Kay.” When they separated, she rubbed the younger woman’s head. “Saw you on the big announcement though. I couldn’t help but notice you called yourself a sidekick. I thought the dream was being a rock star—also thought you were a rock star now.”

Grinning, Kay ducked her head. “Hey, we totally are! Maybe we haven’t gone platinum… or gold… yet, but we’ve made good money. It’s just that with Lisa getting sucked into another world and learning she’s Faerie Jesus, then this whole secret identity mess? We haven’t exactly had a chance to get booth time for the follow-up album.

“But… I’ll point out that sidekicking is a very important profession. Heroes are nothing without us. Just ask Umbrage where he’d be without Shade’s Apprentice!”

“I’m not ashamed to admit it,” said Lisa, “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without Kay’s help.” She turned to her best friend. “Hey Kay, we came here to make a glamor artifact for Aunt Tay—up to help?”

Before Kay could answer, another voice spoke up, making the two newcomers suddenly aware that Kay hadn’t been alone in the lab. The Manakin stood at one of the counters lining the walls where she’d been tending to a palm-sized silver ball she’d been inscribing with almost microscopic sigils. She’d been so quiet they hadn’t noticed her.

“If it pleases, O Heir, I can also be of service. One of my most used functions in the Master’s service was preparing mundane materials to be enchanted.”

Tatiana gasped when she saw the simulacrum wearing the face of a sixteen year-old Lisa. “Oh my god. Is that…?”

“Yeah,: replied Lisa. “Aunt Tay, this is the Manakin. Manakin, this is—”

“There is no need to introduce Lady Nightshade—or Tatiana Farnsworth. She was Morganna’s captive—and her restraint. Many times I have seen you, Lady Nightshade, behind the eyes of Morganna. You have stayed her hand, curbed her eccentricities, and otherwise kept her from fully indulging in her madness. I believe the Blue World owes you a debt of gratitude.”

Blinking a few times as buried thoughts and feelings verged on bringing themselves to light, Tatiana shook her head. “I barely remember any of that. Just a few odd times when she fell asleep and I woke up. Everything else is just… haze and blurriness. I don’t even remember you.”

After a pregnant pause, she asked, “Why do you look like Lisa still?”

“The Heir has not asked that I alter my appearance despite this one being disturbing to others among her allies and herself.”

Tatiana raised an eyebrow. “You know it bothers them and you still don’t change?”

If the Manakin was human, she would have shrugged. Somehow, her silence communicated the same. “The Master created me with the directive to follow orders given to me by His Heir, but not with the capacity or the directive to tend to discomfort of others.”

After a moment of staring hard at the golem, Tatiana looked to her niece. “Can you… fix that?”

Lisa cringed a bit. “She offered me that… thing in her head that contains her—for lack of a better word—programming, but even with three out of four Books plus what I learned at the Orrery, I’m not up to tinkering with it. It feels too much like rewiring someone’s brain.”

“Yeah, but the guy that had your job last cut her one hell of a raw deal,” argued Tatiana. “If she can’t—literally can’t care about how looking like that affects people and choose to change on her own, who knows what else she’s not allowed to do.”

Surprisingly, it was Manakin herself that responded. “I am not allowed to deviate or abandon my mission to guide the Heir to defeating Maeve. I am not allowed to betray the Heir. I am not allowed to give anything less than my best in that pursuit. Hyrilius knew that restricting my choices were the best chance to secure the future against the evil of Maeve.”

“Yeah, but what about you as a person?”

“I am not a person. I am shaped like a person. There is a difference. I was brought into being for a single purpose unlike humans who are free to choose their own purpose.”

Tatiana folded her arms with a sigh. “I don’t like any of this, but I’m not going to get anywhere arguing philosophy with a magic robot am I?”

“Could be worse,” Kay said, “She could just agree with and do whatever you say like she does with Lisa.”

When her aunt looked to her for confirmation, Lisa just shook her head. “Something else I wish I could make her stop,” she admitted, “Except when I tell her not to do everything I say.”

“I am no good to you without absolute compliance without contradiction, O Heir,” Manakin said with a short bow.

“You know,” Kay said, “We just got through talking about how awesome I am at being a sidekick and I don’t do ‘compliance’, I do cooperation.”

Tatiana smiled as a thought occurred. “Actually, that’s not a bad idea. You should be more like Kay, Manakin. You have to have noticed that ‘absolute compliance’ isn’t helping you work all that well with the, uh, Heir.”

The Manakin only blinked, but Lisa caught her aunt’s drift. “That’s a great idea, actually. Manakin, learn how Kay and I work together and use that to figure out how to be more independent.”

“I will do as commanded, O Heir, but the Master did not—”

“The ‘Master’ isn’t here,” Tatiana cut her off. “The ‘Heir’ is. And the mission is to stop Maeve, right? Not to do what some guy who’s long dead wants you to do. Begin subservient may have worked back then, but it won’t now. So what’s more important to you?”

Manakin started to answer, but stopped. Slowly, her demeanor seemed to change, become more determined. “There is nothing: no single life, no agony, no loss that is more important than seeing to Maeve’s destruction. What she has taken, what pain she has inflicted, the lives that must be avenged upon her; they are countless. They will continue to mount until the day she annihilated. It is my sole reason for being that I may help guide the Heir’s hand in achieving this.”

If the other three women in the room didn’t know any better, they would have thought sadness entered the Manakin’s expression. “Even if it means forsaking the Master’s memory. Even if it means treading upon it and grinding it into the dust.”

After a long moment, Tatiana spoke up. “Jeez, I hate seeing that face on you—it reminded me of… well you know. What was Hyrilius to you anyway? You call him ‘Master’, but you care way more about him than just your boss.”

“I was created that way,” she snapped.

“If you’re just a talking doll programmed to do what he says, why did it make you sad when you decided to give up on what he wanted in favor of his big goal.”

The Manakin failed to meet her eye. “That is not important. The mission is. And I will do as you ask, O Heir, and learn from your servant.”

“Sidekick!” Kay corrected indignantly. “There’s a huge difference. And that’s where I think we’ll start your education.”

Lisa and Tatiana looked at each other and silently agreed that they would leave off pressing Manakin for information about Hyrilius until later.

To Be Continued…

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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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3 Comments

  1. Typos

    you’re quite, you’re lost
    you’re quiet, you’re lost

    Begin subservient
    Being subservient

    Hasn’t Manakin been spelled Manikin (as in the word) before this chapter?

    I’ll check again later, there’s usually more.

  2. it you can
    if you can

    For mom dad and Zach,
    For Mom, Dad and Zach,

    her giddiness
    Her giddiness

    since, we got you
    since we got you

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