Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 6

This entry is part 15 of 55 in the series Current

Pieces of the armor plated around Alloy’s hips melted off him and formed into a pair of heavy metal darts in his hands. He in turn passed them to Isp and Osp. That done, he risked a look at the minotaurs. One of the pair on his left, a female with a distinctly chipped horn that make it look like it had two prongs, was seconds from reaching the catwalk. Her counterpart to his right wasn’t far behind.

He looked to Renaissance who met his gaze even if she couldn’t see his eyes and asked, “Ready?”

White light flared behind his visor as he tapped into the most powerful aspect of his power: altering metal on the elemental level. “Lighting ’em up on your word.”

Renaissance nodded sharply. “Go.”

Alloy, Isp and Osp had been working as essentially a single unit for years, so it was as basic as breathing for them to act in perfect sync. Sparks began to emit from the darts and black flakes began to crumble off them at the same moment the twins let fly. The projectiles transformed into blue comets thanks to lithium ignited by oxygen as they flew through the air in smooth arcs toward the places where the minotaurs would reach the catwalks.

But the darts weren’t made of pure lithium—otherwise, they’d just be fireballs. Instead, they were lithium shells surrounding cores of magnesium. When the outer lithium shells burned down, they exposed the underlying magnesium to oxygen and the incredible heat necessary to ignite it.

Alloy used his power to close the slits in his visor.

Renaissance manually turned the opacity of her goggles to maximum.

An instant later, the two darts were consumed by white light as bright as the midday sun. Workers and mercenaries nearby on the ground cursed and flailed. The minotaurs bellowed with bestial fury was the brilliance tore at their retinas like a rabid wolverine.

Blinded, feeling vulnerable and tricked, the raging beast within each of them roared and redoubled their strength. In literal blind furies, they flung themselves from the chains keeping the airship moored, aiming themselves like hairy, horned missiles at the last location of the source of their torment.

But Alloy and Renaissance weren’t done yet. The former wrapped one arm around the latter and the twins stretched up above them, wrapping around the support structure of the instrumentation platform and pulled. The two heroes were lifted clear as all four minotaurs came crashing down on the catwalk, their collective moorings screech with the strain.

It was then that Renaissance put the finishing touch on her plan, aiming and firing her jury-rigged ammunition into their midst. The explosive at the center had been altered to half yield—enough to rupture the lubricant shells it was attached to with craft wire, but not enough to be lethal to the minotaurs. Those touched off, erupting into a wave of pink goo that thoroughly covered the monstrously strong faeries.

Utterly blind and robbed of any traction or grip, the quartet began to futilely wrestle, trying to grab, strike or kick the others, thinking they were Alloy or Renaissance.

In reality, they had evacuated to the instrumentation platform, where they were met by Chaos and Zero. The former was propped up against a pylon, still getting himself together while Zero was hovering above him. When she saw the pair being pulled over the side of the platform, she waved cheerfully, “Oh hi guys. Just in time. Chaos got kinda messed up. I was watching him to make sure nothing attack him while he was vulnerable, but Occult needs me for something. Can you watch out for him?”

Sure Z,” Alloy replied without hesitation. “We heard Occult’s got a plan, but… what is it?”

Zero told them.

They, plus Chaos, saw her off with no small amount of awed anticipation.

***

Tahnda stood before Tydir, looking up at him with an intensity that even made the huge ogre shuffle uncomfortably even though the demon barely came up to his chest. “You must understand,” she said making no secret that she was making a mental appraisal of his body, “what we are about to do is rare. Neither its temporary nature, nor the… equity… we are about to share is recorded among my people. There may be… damage… to one or both of us.”

There is a first time for everything,” Tydir intoned proudly. “And we have both weighed the risks and agree that this purpose is a worthy one. Let us fulfill out duty to the Heir.”

Yes,” The demon said, slowly and primly seating herself on the hard ground, “Let’s.” With that, he eyes slowly closed and she let out a long, steady breath, longer than would be possible for a human. Light began to emerge from her nostrils and mouth, growing brighter until it coalesced into something with a physical form, which resembled the main body of a long, multi-tiered jellyfish. The rest, a tailing mass of tentacles followed after until the partially astral body of the real Tahnda vacated her daemon host.

Letting out a long, whining groan, the daemon slumped forward. So flexible was her body that she almost folded completely in half.

But Tahnda paid her host no head, instead floating up to Tydir, who fought every instinct he’d inherited from his faerie ancestors to open it mouth and flare his nostrils.

Occult, leaning on her staff not far away, looked away. She knew what was coming and none of it appealed to her. The sound wasn’t any better than the sight. First the air filled with a discordant musical sound like a huge cat had flopped down on the keys of a pipe organ. Beneath that came the worst of it: a series of wet pops and stretching flesh.

She only looked up when those sounds stopped. What she found was both awesome and terrible to behold.

Tydir had gained two more feet in height. His skin had turned a dark angry-bruise purple, and his skeins of hair had turned black. Sky blue light leaked from his eyes, obscuring any further observations about them. His neck had elongated, bending under the weight of his head. The rest of his body had bulked up; his already rippling muscles becoming massive. The ROCIC-issued uniform strained to contain his new demonic form.

The transfigured ogre stared down at his hands, flexing them into fists and marveling at every sinew. “Such incredibly strength! Unrivaled! Equaled not but by the giants of old!” Then he cocked his head and added, “Strength with a focus. We must stay on task.” Another change of micro-expressions Occult could barely notice and he continued, “Yes. On to it then.”

Tydir—or rather the gestalt of Tydir and Tahnda—turned toward Occult and lowered his head. “We are ready.”

Still feeling the drain of her spell affecting her, Occult nodded and touched the comm in her ear. “Zero? We’re ready for you.” The moment she got confirmation from her teammate, she turned back to Tydir. “Remember what you’re supposed to say. We’re hoping that it might jar them out of the control over them or at least distract them long enough for the rest of the plan. Ready?”

Intensely.” Tydir turned toward the trailer where the gremlins were being held.

Zero?” Occult asked over the comm, “Do it.”

Done! Operation Chunky Updraft is a go!” A hazy aura of blue psychokinetic energy surrounded Tydir, slowly rotating around him until it started to generate a wind that kicked up stray debris and dust around them. Tydir looked around at the effect and grunted appreciatively.

Then, he crouched, took aim, and leapt. With demonically enhanced ogre strength and a boost from Zero, they cleared the distance to the trailer easily, striking the earth in front of the guardian minotaurs with a force that sundered the rock beneath his feet, sending shrapnel in all directions.

Before the minotaurs could react to the treat, Tydir straightened up and extended his arms out to the side in a grandiose gesture. The light of his aura provided by Zero spiked in intensity, making him appear to be the center of a new sun born on Earth.

Hear our words, children of the Green World!” A simple charm—really all Occult could muster while bolstering the two faeries—made his voice boom out into the quarry and echo off the solid walls. It had the appropriate effect: even some of the gunfire stopped at the sound. “This intruder who speaks to your mind, who makes empty promises and asks more of you than any but the Queen of Air and Darkness is not the true savior of our people. Nay, we come to you as a herald of a new dawn for our people!”

One of the minotaurs got over its shock and threw itself at him. With barely a glance, Tydir slapped him aside, his strength combined with the backing of Zero’s psychokinetic shield sending it flying. This gave the other minotaurs pause and boosted Tydir’s bravado.

Behold! We have come to the legendary world of the Mankinds and here, we have found the Heir of Hyrilius!” With timing that couldn’t have been more perfect, the other two minotaurs leapt at him. Two beefy hands caught them by their horns and whipped them away at incredible speed. “She has bestowed upon me great power to help you slip the bonds of the pretender called the Nightmare King just as she will help those we have all left behind find freedom from Maeve’s evil!”

Barely able to stand now, Occult touched her comm to one of the special channels built into the Descendants’ comms and said, “Ephemeral, Vamanos. Go now.”

***

Kareem Utt was not normally a wrathful or spiteful person. He took no pride in how many grown men he’d reduced to crying heaps with his powers in the name of protecting his fellow man, only in that worthy goal. That said, he was immensely grateful for the opportunity to interrupt the Nightmare King while he was trying to figure out a response to his taunt about knowing what was going on outside the astral.

Rose-colored astral matter swirled into being in his palm and when he closed it, expanded into the form of an ancient spear, his favored weapon on that plain of existence. “Tell me,” he aimed a short thrust at the Nightmare King’s chest, a feint that caused the other man to stumbled back and almost lose his footing. “Do you know what happens when your astral form is destroyed?”

Finding his feet, his opponent swallowed visibly, but offered no answer.

You die,” Kareem finished plainly. A deft twirl, and then he brought the spear to bear again. “Seeing as you were unaware others could even access this plane, I wonder how effective your defenses are on this side.” Another jab and the Nightmare King’s composure shattered. He hopped back a foot and then disappeared.

Satisfied, Kareem swiped the weapon through the air once, bringing it to rest against his bicep. Then he concentrated on the connection that linked him to the comm system. “The Nightmare King has left the astral.”

***

When Occult gave the ‘go’ signal, Vamanos went. The quarry floor had been too cluttered for her to get up to phasing speed before she was within range of the minotaurs, but with the distraction provided with a super-powered Tydir, she had just enough running room to bolt through the side of the trailer.

Her first pass was just for reconnaissance; zipping through to take stock of any guards inside without stopping and letting them get a hit in on her. The trailer was crowded with gremlins, all standing in a circle under the trailer’s central sunroof. A mirror had been positioned above the open roof, angled so as the gremlins had a clear view of the formerly holographic floating fortress.

They ranged in color from moss-green to a mottled green-brown with ears like bat wings and thin noses ranging from stubby to cartoonishly long. All were dressed in shabby stitched-together leathers and were unwavering in their dead-eyed stare at the mirror.

At the front of the trailer, a bulky, early era portable hologram projector sat on the dashboard, still shining its light though the hologram have become real.

Okay. So the gremlins are the cause of the ‘life to the lifeless’ effect. So if I break their concentration…” Stepping up behind one of the little green faeries, she clapped her hands loudly next to his ear. His ear flicked, but he didn’t even flinch.

Huh.” She pursed her lips in thought. Then: “HEY! GREMLINS! WAKE UP!”

Nothing.

Come on, we don’t have time for this!” It was taking all her power not to pace, her eyes darting about the room. Then she had an idea. “So let’s just deal with all the problems at once.” Moving quickly (as was her niche), she grabbed the projector, took a sort run-up to the group of gremlins, and then chucked the hefty device up through the sunroof into the mirror.

Glass and plastic rained down and finally the gremlins reacted. Regardless of the control worked on them by the Nightmare King, self-preservation won out and they scattered to avoid it, letting out yelps and curses in their native tongue.

Vamanos beamed at the chaos she’d created before reporting in. “This is Vamanos. The gremlins are scattered, the hologram is gone and the fortress should be…” By that time, she’d turned to look out the windshield, expecting to see the fortress and its retinue fading away or shattering, or some other dramatic even that indicated she’d put an end to it.

The Fortress Allegiant remained firmly in place, still looming over the quarry battlefield. “Still… there. Why’s it still there?”

Things stayed around even when the gremlins left before,” guessed a still groaning Chaos, “We might have to finish it off directly.”

I am not so certain.” It was Ephemeral, sounding groggy as he often did when coming back from an extended astral jaunt. “The person behind this, the King of Nightmares, claims to have used astral matter to grant it an astral form and thus permanence.”

Is that a thing?” Facsimile joined the discussion, her connection hissing and crackling thanks to her being inside the caves beneath the fortress. “Is that seriously a thing you can do from the astral side? Because I have so many holograms I want to show those gremlins.”

Ephemeral cut in quickly. “Our powers work differently: I may not be able to replicate the feat and can’t promise that is even what he did. I can’t begin to guess how he knows how to do it even if it does work.”

We can’t take chances,” Chaos said, starting to sound better. “We need to take that thing down as soon as possible. Vamanos, you saw where this ‘King’ guy was hiding, right?”

Right. Want me to go get him?”

Wait for backup,” Darkness said, finally rejoining the conversation. “You said he was being guarded by faeries, so we can’t risk you going alone. Haze, Maleficent, if you could go with her and scout the location? Facsimile, since we’re going to be attacking the fortress, evacuate now and come help Vamanos breech. We need to deal with this Nightmare King before he comes out of the astral and regroups.”

***

Gideon returned to his body suppressing a shudder. He’d never expected that someone could threaten him on the astral plane itself. Fleeting memories of that wicked spear aimed at his chest made bile rise in his throat. Unsettling was the word for it. It felt like his safe place, his last sanctum, had been violated.

Taking deep breaths, he settled his mind—then remembered why he couldn’t do so. There was a sound nearby, stone on stone—or at least something like it, then a pair of rumbling growls.

His eyes flew open.

Flanking him were a pair of beasts as large as lions with leonine bodies. That was where the lion comparison ended. Their tails were thick and stubby while their heads were more equine with racks of horns fanning out long their jawlines and up to the crest of their skulls. Large, flaring nostrils were set above mouthfuls of conical teeth.

The two gargouilles he’d left to guard his body were staring at him.

And they didn’t looks happy.

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.3Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 5 >>

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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2 Comments

  1. It takes a bit of heat to ignite magnesium but not incredible heat. I had a chemistry set as a kid and I did that myself.

    Typos

    fury was the brilliance
    fury as the brilliance

    nothing attack him while
    nothing attacked him while

    fulfill out duty
    fulfill our duty

    her host no head,
    her host no heed,

    open it mouth
    open his mouth

    “Such incredibly strength!
    “Such incredible strength!

    Occult could barely notice
    (‘Occult could barely see’ or ‘Occult had barely noticed’ IMO)

    left behind find
    left behind to find

    to stumbled back
    to stumble back

    the hologram have become real.
    the hologram that had become real (or something like that)

    a sort run-up
    a short run-up

    some other dramatic even that
    some other dramatic sign that (or something like that)

    Vamanos breech.
    Vamanos breach.

    out long their
    out along their

    didn’t looks happy.
    didn’t look happy.

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