- 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
- Descendants #105 – Foreign Relations Chp. 2
- Descendants #105 – Foreign Relations Chp. 3
- Descendants #105 – Foreign Relations Chp. 4
- Descendants #105 – Foreign Relations Chp. 5
- Descendants #107 – Loki’s Game Chp. 1
- Descendants #107 – Loki’s Game Chp. 2
It was both a blessing and a curse for Occult that her conjured platform wasn’t very large. A blessing because there wasn’t enough space between herself and Tydir for the ogre to get a proper swing at her with his i-beam even one-handed. A curse because Tydir recognized his fact too just after drawing the weapon—so he simply reached out with one massive hand and grabbed her by the neck lifting her into the air.
Protective charms weaved into her cloak once again saved Occult’s life by keeping her throat from being crushed in his grip, but they did the bare minimum to reduce the strain of her own weight on her spine. Planting her staff on the platform and leaning on it with its head in her armpit helped there, but it wouldn’t for long.
“Tydir,” she rasped, “you know us. We’re the ones who saved you from Tome in the first place, remember? And the ROCIC’s been helping you and the others get used to this world, haven’t they?”
The mad look in the ogre’s eyes flickered briefly to one of conflict before snapping back again. “And what are you Mankinds doing about the reason we’re here? About what drove many of us here in the first place?”
Coming from Tydir, it was a strange question. He was part of the original wave of crossovers if his previous capture by Project Tome was any indication. Everything they knew about the first crossovers pointed to them being accidental: faeries who were caught in a phenomena ROCIC-performed interviews described as a green mist and found themselves on Earth with no means of returning.
He wouldn’t have even known about Maeve’s return until the later crossovers—the intentional refugees—arrived with tales about it. Yet he was speaking as if he was on Earth fleeing Maeve and yet basically ignorant about her. Like he was being told to ask those questions by someone who didn’t know. Someone who would think of fielding gremlins alongside projector screens and holograms.
Someone from Earth.
Which meant someone was controlling him.
Mustering herself, she made eye contact with Tydir. “I am doing something about Maeve’s return. In fact, I just returned from learning more about my role in it. With her free hand, she grasped the arm holding her up and focused all her strength into gripping it. “Tydir Woodhewn, I am the Heir of Hyrilius. If you harm me, you end thousands of years of preparation to end Maeve’s rule once and for all.”
Tydir’s jaw worked wordlessly as the new declaration warred with everything that had been inserted into his mind. That struggle manifested in his grip loosening enough for Occult to wrench herself free, landing awkwardly back on the platform as it continued its slow trip to the quarry floor.
Resisting the urge to rub her sore neck, she took full advantage of her temporary respite. Her time at the Orrery of Worlds had been short, but Rangi Nzuri had had centuries to prepare for her arrival there and had anticipated that she might not have days, weeks, months or years to absorb everything she needed. Spells had been prepared to manipulate the astral and write the basic spells Hyrilius believed she would need immediately directly to her mind. All they’d needed were for her own personal touches to make them own.
“Tydir Woodhewn,” she intoned with her voice deeper than it had ever been before, hefting her staff, “Te presto mi poder como escudo contra todos nuestros enemigos. Deja que mi poder te proteja.” And upon saying that, she thrust the head of the staff firmly against his chest. White static crackled outward from the spot she touched, spreading across Tydir’s chest until it encompassed his body in a shell of white energy before dissipating in a flash.
The mighty ogre blinked and put his free hand to the side of his head. “Sidhe’s glare—what was that? It was as if Saepheus himself were riding my skin.”
Occult made a quick mental note to ask who or what Saepheus was before replying, “Someone tried to control your mind, but I’m hiding you from them.” She turned to see how far they were from the ground and caught sight of the castle in the sky. “And that doesn’t seem to be the only huge problem we’ve got…”
“So. Lesson for the day: Spriggans don’t have a metal allergy,” Alloy said as Isp peeled the last of his and Renaissance’s attackers off him and skimmed the unfortunate faerie into the large, pink puddle of slick goo Renaissance had splattered in a divot in the quarry floor. The spriggans unraveled their arms to try to pull themselves out, but the lubricant made it impossible to gain purchase.
“According to the ROCIC files I was reading on the way to Montauk, natives to Faerie don’t have that allergy, only the ones descended from the people of Maeve’s world. So spriggans and ogres no, daoine and pixies yes.” She slotted a new cartridge into her left gauntlet and froze as she watched the castle take shape n the sky. “A-Alloy? Turn around.”
He did and had to stop in his tracks as well.
“It’s not just me right? You see it too?”
“Fortress Allegiant from Strike King Saga.” Alloy’s reply was almost a whisper. “How is—shit. The gremlins.”
“How bad do you think it is?”
Alloy’s eyes roamed over the structure. The solid granite foundation that hung from beneath the castle itself was pockmarked by niches, openings and visible hatches of rusted iron. As he watched, he spotted something moving in one of them.
“Really bad. I think whoever this is isn’t just aware of the show and the big castle, but they’re a fan. The hologram they used might be the Morris model.”
“The what?” Renaissance was adjusting the digital zoom of her goggles to take an even closer look. With the aid of modern technology, she saw more than just movement in the craggy openings, but slick eel-like bodies and triangular heads with gleaming yellow eyes. “Wait are those unagu steeds? How are those there? Are they real? Some kind of faerie?”
Alloy shook his head in worry and switched to comms. “Better to tell everyone all at once. Attention: the object in the sky is the Fortress Allegiant, a setting from the show Strike King Saga. You know that wizard’s tower thing Morganna was trying to set up in Fredricksburg? Imagine if it had a badass biker older sister from Texas. This thing is… it’s a fantasy version of an aircraft carrier and a destroyer: loaded up with soldiers, flying monsters called unagu, and magical heavy artillery. JC downloaded what I think is the same model our bad guy used as gremlin fodder to make this—and if that’s true, then it gets worse because Morrisbreakdancer, the guy who made it designed it as something you could run a roleplaying game in—and he included all the major magic set pieces like the Font of Genesis where monsters are created, Parvengar’s throne room where whoever sits on the throne is immortal, and the dimension focus… which lets the thing hop dimensions.”
“But the gremlins made it real right?” Chaos asked over the comm. Doesn’t that mean it’s not as ‘real’ as real stuff?”
Renaissance answered for Alloy. “We can’t be so sure. When the gremlin made the virtual reality real last year, it was completely real for us. I think gremlin ‘reality’ is based on how realistic the source is. So a picture just moves around and has little substance, but VR is nearly perfect reality.”
“Which begs the question of how close to reality a life-sized hologram is,” said Alloy. “I think finding and shutting that projector down is priority one.”
“Agreed,” said Codex. Alloy, Renaissance, search and destroy. Anyone in position to cover them do so.”
“You heard the lady,” Alloy said, looking to Renaissance. “Ready?”
His girlfriend and battle partner held up her gauntleted hands. One was loaded with a cartridge with a green band around it indicating its ammunition was expanding polyurethane foam. “Faeries,” she declared, raising that hand a bit higher, followed by raising the other, which had the red band to denote explosive shot, “Hologram monsters.”
Beneath his helm, Alloy grinned. Then he flexed his arms and used his power, extending a number of grips and niches in the back of his armor. Over their stint in Faerie, they’d developed a few new ways to fight together, but only now were getting a chance to test them. Renaissance nimbly hopped up on his back when he presented it, slipping her boots into the niches alongside his thighs and resting her abdomen against his back. Another use of Alloy’s power molded rib-like protrusions around her torso, holding her in place so she was ‘standing’ head and shoulders over him, able to aim her gauntlets past his head while benefiting from his armored form as cover.
“So are we still set on not naming this maneuver the ‘piggy back’?” Alloy directed Isp and Osp, who struck out and pitoned themselves into the ground, using the leverage to lift the pair a good five feet. Then, alternating their movements, they began to ‘walk’ them forward like a demented-looking mecha.
“If we do, we are never ever telling the press,” she assured him. Elsewhere around around the quarry, they heard gunshots and saw muzzle flashes illuminating the darker corners. Most of the fire was aimed at the fliers while the first defender to find the two of them turned out to be an ogre.
Unlike Tydir, this ogre was hugely fat and hairless, though the former didn’t seem to hinder him in charging them with a large spanner grasped in his fist.
“On the right!” Renaissance warned. Alloy turned his attention to the ogre and the spanner turned to putty in his hand, running down his arm before hardening along its length, locking it in place at the shoulder. Renaissance then fired a pair of foam pellets at his feet, the green foam quickly encasing the ogres feet and fusing him to the ground.
Unfortunately, the ogre’s attack was only a distraction. With both heroes and the twins focused on the obvious threat, they we caught completely off guard by a brutal impact from the side that slammed Alloy and Renaissance to the ground.
Isp and Osp reacted quickly, keeping Alloy from rolling over on top of Renaissance. With their help, Alloy came out of the roll in a crouch.
Standing before them was a humanoid bull with a pair of broad horns. Her hair was shaggy and matted with sweat while lather was forming around her nostrils and the corners of her mouth. A jerkin made of leather and bark covered her chest and while coarse linens wrapped her lower half.
Flexing her fists, she barked out a string of syllables in a guttural tongue and tensed for another charge, only to be struck in the chest and legs by more foam shots from Renaissance. Even with her knee joints locked in place, she powered forward still, the language she’d previously been bellowing in devolving into raps, snorts and growls as lather started to build up around the corners of her mouth and nostrils.
Renaissance fired more foam at the oncoming minotaur’s feet, finally halting her progress by sticking her to the ground.
“I’ll give it to them that they’re pretty persistent.” Renaissance opened a comm channel. “Everyone, we’ve run into the minotaurs from the passenger manifest. I–” Before she could say more, the warble from the private channel they’d set up for Kay and JC back on the Karasu no Yūrei got her attention. She quickly switched to that channel.
“Run. Run run run run run.” Kay said the second she could be heard.
Another minotaur leapt at them from atop a pile of crates, a lead pipe duct-taped to a cinder block raised overhead. Osp was quick to wrap his torso and slam him to the ground, leaving him in prime position for more expanding foam.
There was a cracking sound from the direction of the first minotaur at almost the same time.
“Ren…?” Alloy asked. He’d turned his attention back to the source of the sound to find the hardened foam trapping her starting to crack.
“Run then talk,” Kay insisted in Renaissances ear. “Seriously. Start running from the bull people.”
With no reason to mistrust what their resident Faerie expert was telling her, Renaissance patted Alloy on the shoulder. “We need to get out of her right now. I’ll explain once we’re–” She didn’t even have to finish explaining to Alloy because all the twins needed to hear was the implication that he was in danger and they immediately hopped to and slammed their ends into the ground, lifting and all but throwing them just as the female minotaur shattered her foam prison simply by flexing her muscles.
“Holy shit!” Alloy watched the foam, which had held far more impressive-looking foes stationary being so easily shrugged off.
Renaissance looked back to find the second one breaking free just as easily. “I see what you mean.
“Yeah, the minotaurs… or manahnautte—that’s what the Books are calling it, which explains why I only just found the entry—they’re the descendants…er… not like us… of a ‘kin’ (whatever that is) of sidhe that didn’t side with Maeve when she became the Queen of Air and Darkness. As punishment, she cursed them to ‘become like beasts’.”
Something struck the ground hard nearby. Alloy and Renaissance dodged as the first minotaur crashed to the ground beside them. Isp pulled the pair out of the way before a hammer-like blow cracked the ground where they’d previously been.
“Just the facts right now, please Kay.” Renaissance said, unloading another barrage of foam that this time shattered as soon as it hardened. To make matters worse, when she glanced above them, she saw the unagu steeds starting to swarm out of the Fortress.
“Oh. Right,” said Kay. “Long and short of it, she planned to turn them into monsters: ugly, berserk and all their sidhe strength unleashed so everyone else in Faerie would hunt down and kill them. The more their bestial side comes out—from being frustrated, angry, afraid, what have you, the stronger they get. And they start out strong. They’re basically the Hercules-es of the Faerie world.”
“Not the guy I was thinking, but both pretty incredibly strong,” said Renaissance. “Any weaknesses?”
“A lot of herbs and other things that can help them center their emotions—their society is based around them. But none of them are from Earth.”
Renaissance groaned, but then set her eyes on the airship that dominated the quarry floor. “I guess we’ll have to improvise. Alloy, we need to get on top of the airship. I have a plan.”
Kareem took a subtle fighting stance as he stared into the eyes of the self-proclaimed Nightmare King. “Then you are the one who kidnapped the Faerie refugees.”
“From your perspective,” replied the Nightmare King smoothly, “But from my perspective—and thus in reality, I am their savior; the one they’ve been searching for. The one they’ve come to this world to find.” He slowly cocked his head, “What is more interesting to me right now is you—your presence here.”
“I am here because I came to save the faeries. Are you even aware you’re manipulating their minds?”
That made the other man laugh. “Of course I do. As their monarch, I have to keep order don’t I? That, however, isn’t what fascinates me. I speak of your presence here on the astral plane. For the past ten years, this has been my playground and mine alone. I knew about it before science—if science can even claim to know anything about it. Only twenty-one researchers nationwide? That’s pathetic even for such a young science.”
Kareem pursed his lips. “Considering that there are only four facilities in the country that have the technology to view this plane, it’s hardly as ‘pathetic’ as you say. Of course, they would be far more capable with the help of an astral-capable mentalist like one of us.”
“Are you saying that you plan to stop ‘fighting evil’ to be a guinea pig?”
“I have obligations to fulfill, but in the future? Yes, I would be proud to advance the cause of knowledge.”
“Then you think too small—or perhaps… your powers are small. I on the other hand… Am. King. Of. Faeries. And. Dreams. That. Terrify. My obligation is to lead the people I was meant to command to take this world and those beyond. Eventually, we will take back their home as well.”
Kareem set his jaw. “Do you even know what it is they flee from?”
“It doesn’t matter. We are mighty and will become more so as time moves on.”
“Oh, it does matter,” replied Kareem, gathering astral matter to him. “Allow me to show him.”
To Be Continued…