- The Descendants #104 – VIRAL Chp.2
- The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.6
- The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.3
- Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 6
- Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 5
- Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 4
- Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 3
- Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 1
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.7
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.6
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.5
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.4
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.3
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.2
- The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.3
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 6
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 5
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp.1
- Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.2
- Descendants 97 – Heir of Hyrilius Chp. 1
- The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 5
- The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 1
- The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 2
- The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 3
- The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 4
- The Descendants #96 – Kill Hope Chp. 6
- Descendants 97 – Heir of Hyrilius Chp. 2
- Descendants 97 – Heir of Hyrilius Chp. 3
- Descendants 97 – Heir of Hyrilius Chp. 4
- Descendants 97 – Heir of Hyrilius Chp. 5
- Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.1
- Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.3
- Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.4
- Descendants 98 – The Precocious Prodigy Chp.5
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp.2
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 3
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 4
- Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 7
- The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.1
- The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.2
- The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.4
- The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.5
- The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.6
- Descendants #101 – The Battle of Freeland House Chp.1
- Descendants Special #9 – Outted
- Descendants #102 – Tales of Consequence Chp. 2
- The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.1
- The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.2
- The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.4
- The Descendants #103 – Power and Responsibility Chp.5
- The Descendants #104 – VIRAL Chp.1
- The Descendants #104 – VIRAL Chp.3
- The Descendants #104 – VIRAL Chp.4
- The Descendants #104 – VIRAL Chp.5
- Descendants #105 – Foreign Relations Chp. 1
Sheets of blue flame washed over a hillside outside the city of Passion Gate, igniting the tangle of flowering vines spread out across it. The greenery writhed in its death throes, vine further from the burning area withdrawing to leave bare earth and stone as a firebreak.
More gouts of azure fire came down, annihilating the vines until there was a good fifty yard swath where a colossal serpentine form bearing a structure of steel and iron on its back was able to land unmolested. With a few sweeps of its flimsy-looking wings, the great beast settled its heavy, scaled body onto the scorched dirt, rumbling in relief at finally coming to rest.
The side of the makeshift metal howdah shifted and melted, reforming into a set of stairs with a railing, which led to the ground. Six figures disembarked with wary steps, casting occasional hopeful glances toward the city down below.
“That’s a long walk through a lot of green shit that’s going to try to digest us,” Dana complained as she reached the ground, Gabraed trotting alongside her.
Chilani’s face was impassive as, for what was likely the fifth or sixth time, she explained: “As I’ve said, despite the dangers presented by the plant life, they aren’t the only fears predators. Landing a hellkite in the midst of a city would cause a panic that would not only make it impossible for us to do what needs to be done, but draw the eye of Maeve to Passion Gate. And she will know what we are seeking.”
“Right,” said Warrick, the last of the group off the hellkite. “Occult, can you ask Asmodeus to wait for us?”
“He’s going to need to hunt,” Lisa pointed out, “but he’ll try to stay in the area where I’ll be able to make contact with him.”
Warrick nodded. “Okay. So we should be able to bring in a dragon airstrike if things go bad. In the meantime; Dana, would you feel better if you had your armor back?”
The girl had to do a double take to be sure he said what she thought he had. “You can fix it?”
He shrugged and made an expansive gesture. “I’ve been working on making higher quality items faster with my powers. Works pretty well especially with stuff I took time working on—and your armor took a hell of a lot of time. I mean, I get that you designed it so you could armor yourself with your magnetism, but before I knew that, I just thought you were just super-obsessed with detail. But yeah, I’m pretty sure I can re-create it quickly. Just hold still and lift your feet when I say so.”
A wide grin expanded across the girl’s face. “Awesome, let’s do it!”
Obligingly, Warrick lifted a hand toward the howdah on Asmodeus’s back, melting it into a slurry of steel, iron and aluminum which slithered off the beast’s back and separated into three lumps behind him. Then he reached out with his power and sent slithering over toward Dana.
“Alright, raise one foot, then the other.” When she did so, he slipped the steel mass under her feet. Once both feet where in place, Warrick closed his eyes and concentrated on his memories of constructing Dana’s armor; every plate, every groove, every rivet. Then he focused his power on the steel and directed it to take shape.
The steel rose up around Dana, forming a gleaming shell that then shrank in around her. Ridges and segments came into being starting with her boots, then greaves, cuirass, pauldrons, the vambraces, gauntlets, and finally, the helm formed, visor forcing itself open to reveal her face.
Warrick let out a long breath as if he’d forgotten to breath. “Test it out. No point of having armor you can’t move in.
After rotating her wrists and taking a few steps in a circle, Dana gave him a thumbs up.
Wasting not a moment longer, Warrick merely let a thought form and the remaining iron and aluminum around him exploded into a hurricane of flying metal that settled with impressive celerity onto his body in the form of a suit of plate armor etched with scroll-work and images of lions worthy of the cover of a fantasy novel. The helmet and visor even resembled a roaring beast bearing its teeth.
As his armor completed assembling itself on his body, Tink looked to Chilani. “Is there anything we need to know about Passion Gate before we go there?”
The daoine thought a moment. “It is a larger city than Madgate, being situated on the coast. There will be a greater diversity of thinking peoples beyond daoine. However, like Madgate, most of them will have heard tales of Mankinds even if they might not be able to recognize you. We are here to see one of the yeh-ti, born of another family charged with carrying on the memory of Hyrilius in preparation for the end of Maeve.”
“Do you know where he lives?” Tink asked.
Chilani shook her head. “I only know his family name of Wohrinekki and the place his family called home at Passion Gate in the distant past. Hopefully, it will be enough.”
“So… are there people that could have led us here in all the cities around the Vault?” Lisa asked, returning from relaying instructions to Asmodeus. “It seems Hyrilius planned this out fairly well.”
The daoine nodded. “In the gate towns and in any of the greater cities across Faerie. The great mage of Mankind could not be sure of how long it would be until the time would be right or what bloodlines would survive, so he created multiple instances of each familial legacy.”
Warrick formed a pair of swords and summoned the twins, now ready once more to face Faerie and whatever horrors or dangers it might throw at the group. “May be it’s too late to ask this, but do you know anything about what’s inside the Vault? The thing’s as big as a state or a small country.”
“I cannot tell you what is there now,” Chilani began to explain, “But long ago, those lands were created by His power to create a home and refuge for the tribes and nations that followed him as well as his troves of artifacts and writings. But time has passed. Things may have changed.”
“For one, someone managed to bring one of those troves to Earth,” said Lisa.
Chilani’s expression softened, “As it should be, as you are the Heir.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t have any of them with me, so the priority is getting us home. If there was a plan on Hyrilius’s part, we’ll need to put together all the pieces we can if we want even the smallest chance of success.”
“Then let’s get going,” said Warrick, “It looks like we’ve got a few hours of walking through more murder plants.”
In the gate town turned city called Passion Gate, there were many grand buildings whose history reached back through centuries. One of the lesser among them was a five-story tower of dark gray, moss stone known as arn’Chalatt-Hurth, or ‘The House of Mountainous Snow’.
The people of the city knew it was a place of calm and meditation where all would be welcome at any hour to spend time in quiet contemplation with a warm cup of brewed herbs in a tranquil garden. Peace was the prevalent mood in the tower and in its Master, Cohl Wohrinekki.
At the top of the tower, gigantic stones rose in complex steps and arches from a white sand floor amid an ever-present mist. Atop one of those stones sat a tall, powerfully muscled figure covered in fine, white hair uniformly a foot long all over its body. Streaks of black great from the backs of his forearms and down his back from the top of his head.
His legs were folded beneath him, his arms crossed in front of him with the fists resting on his shoulders and his eyes closed. Slow, deep breaths filled a barrel chest as he cast his mind down into the crystalline networks that formed arn’Challat-Hurth and through them, out into the city around him.
The buzz of thousands of sapient minds surrounded him with a warm familiarity. He couldn’t reach farther out and make contact with them, but he knew them now in their subtleties: every daoine, troll, ogre, pixie, fairy and other people. At Passion Gate, there were even a few demons and freed daemons, but no others like him.
In recent years, his people had returned to their ancestral mountains to prepare for the Turning of the Dawn, a prophetic event many believed would require them to at long last cease their lives of peace and go to war. As far as Cohl knew, he was the only one left because it was the honor and burden of his bloodline to maintain the duty they had to Hyrilius.
More than most others in Faerie, he was aware that the world was changing. Tales of green mists that swallowed enemies and loved ones alike not told for generations were turning up in legion, as were whispers of strange creatures that might have been from the legendary Blue World. And he alone could feel the shift in the Vault.
And now Maeve had returned to her Bastion.
Deep in his bones, Cohl knew that this cycle of rule by the Queen of the Air and Darkness would not be like any in living memory. It might even be the one that Hyrilius had prepared for: when the Blue World would be opened once again.
The winds changed around him and so did the feel of the city. New minds appeared at the edges of his consciousness. Four of them were like nothing he’d ever felt before.
Pale white eyes opened and he raised his head. He would never call his meager gift great, but it was as if he was feeling the pull of destiny in his chest. Over two hundred and fifty-three years, he felt he’d sensed the mind of at least one example of every thinking people in the Green World.
These were like nothing he’d sensed before. How they thought, how their sensed worked. How there was no sense of magic at all in three of the four. He almost didn’t recognize them as thinking minds. Only one possibility came to mind to explain that: These were creatures neither from Faerie nor the Air and Darkness.
Which meant they might be Hyrilius’s people: Mankinds
And if Mankinds had arrived in Faerie and in all the world, they’d chosen to come to Passion Gate… there was a very strong probability that these were the Mankinds his family had been waiting for.
With a slight grunt of effort, Cohl unfolded himself to his full eight feet of height, his great, flat toes curling around the narrow top of the rock spire he’d been perched upon. His fists lowered to the sides as he turned toward the city’s main gate beyond which the possible Mankinds had appeared in his senses.
The time of waiting was over. Now it was time for the Wohrinekki family to engage its destiny.
Sinking into a crouch, he spied a lower rooftop nearby. Generations of yeh-ti living in the most inaccessible, dangerous and rocky mountains in the world made his muscles twitch in anticipation before he flung himself into space.
He tumbled gracefully through the air before catching the corner of the next roof with his broad, flat fingers and pushed off it as his lower half swung, throwing himself bodily almost twenty yards to another roof, which he landed on in a roll. Cohl came out of said roll at a run on all fours and took a sprinting leap off the edge.
There was a reason Maeve never exterminated the yeh-ti even though the entire people were nominally against her: her soldiers and agents couldn’t catch them or reach their homes.
Tink pulled a still-twitching tendril from her shoulder where it was still trying to cut its way through her ballistic cloth uniform. “When we get home, I’m working on quick-acting herbicide rounds and maybe a compact flamethrower.”
“Herbi…cide?” Chilani asked, expression ranging slowly from confused to something like delight. “If my understanding of that word is correct, it kills plants? You have a weapon that expressly kills plants?”
“Not yet,” Tink admitted, “But I’m going to either buy or build one, that’s for sure.”
Chilani actually stopped walking the stone path leading up to the gates of Passion Gate. “If you can create such a thing, you would be seen as a savior to all the people of Faerie regardless of Maeve. Perhaps they are not such a menace in the Blue World, but here they have prevented out cities from growing, limit our ability to hunt and gather food, and hamper trade and communication. Such a weapon would change… everything.”
It was as if she had stars in her eyes thinking of such a thing.
That line of discussion was interrupted by a loud snarl and yowl from Gabraed. Dana turned in the direction he was looking. “Guys, something’s coming.”
Indeed, a shape had just vaulted from the top of the walls,struck the defoliated grounds around them, and was now ambling toward them at speed on all fours; feet and knuckles.
Warrick stepped to the fore of the group, swords at the ready. “Is this some kind of guard from the city? Looks kind of like one of those ape-men that attacks us when we arrived!”
“Wait!” Chilani called out, “That is not an enemy, that is one of the yeh-ti!” Without any hesitation, she trotted forward, holding up both hands and calling out in a hooting, undulating tongue none of them understood. It was a strange sight to see as the giant creature pull up short to raise a hand to the woman who was slight even for a daoine.
After a brief exchange, Chilani turned to the group with a small, polite smile on her face, lightly clapping her hands in front of herself and holding them in a praying position. The huge creature came to stand behind her with a reverent expression on its hairy face. “May I present to you Cohl Wohrinekki. He sensed our arrival and is pleased to learn that the Heir of Hyrilius has arrived.”
Cohl waited patiently for her to finish, then inclined his head, speaking a few words in the direction if the group.
“He says that the hospitality of his home, arn’Chalatt-Hurth is open to the Heir and all who travel with her.”
By unspoken agreement, Lisa—being the Heir—took the lead at that point. “Please tell him how grateful we are for that hospitality, Chilani, but also please tell him how important it is for us to get home as soon as possible.”
There was another exchange between daoine and yeh-ti, which this time featured some back and forth between the two and, most notably, several plaintive gestures on Cohl’s part. Finally, Chilani put an end to the conversation and once more faced the humans and graymalkin.
“He says that you will need to take advantage of the hospitality of his home. According to him, while he knows how to open the way into the Vault, there is a lock placed upon it by the great mage of Mankinds himself that can only be opened by His Heir. It will take several days to teach you the ritual to do so, unfortunately, and another full day to reach the true gate into the vault so that you may open it.”
The gathered humans all groaned at least a little at hearing that. Chilani gave them an apologetic look. “I am sorry. He says that as far as he knows, this extra time is unavoidable, but he will do his best to ensure you all are comfortable while the Heir is prepared.”
“I suppose if we have no choice, we might as well make the best of it,” Tink reasoned. “Maybe we can learn more about Faerie or Maeve while we have downtime.” She spared a glance to the sky. Here, even as evening approached, the sky was tinged green by the presence of the Vault. It was unlikely that she’d be able to see the night sky beyond the night sky, but still… “And maybe learn more about past crossover events.”
“Agreed,” said Lisa. “No point in arguing about this when we can make the best of it. I guess the rest of you have homework assignments from here on out. Chilani, would you be willing to help with that?”
The daoine gave a small bow. “I would be overjoyed to have a part in this great undertaking. Whatever help I can provide I will do so happily.”
Gabraed made a cattish sound that couldn’t really be placed and Dana rolled her eyes. “Gabby’s just complaining again. He’d much rather get to the action. Frankly, with all your guys are talking about, I’m not on his side this time. Sounds like we’d die just charging in. Better to know what the hell’s going on here and hey, seeing as there’s people this Really High guy set up to help us, maybe we build an army.”
“Let’s not get into armies right now, I hope it won’t come to that.”
Once Chilani finished providing her running commentary, however, Cohl let out a grunt and tossed his head, rattling off something to her in a grave tone. Chilani nodded with the same expression. “Cohl says—and I agree—the only way Maeve and her forces will fall is through the actions of many. War must come to every corner of Faerie to free it.”
To Be Continued…