Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 7

This entry is part 37 of 55 in the series Current

Gideon tensed under the unnatural gaze of the two snarling gargouilles. Then his eyes narrowed, blazing with hateful intensity. “How dare you turn on your king. Lishuura, educate these traitors in the way of pain.”

The flowbeast making up his costume let out a sound between a mew and a liquidous warble before extruding a pair of pseudopods that slapped down onto the two creatures’ heads, driving them hard into the floor. With them stunned, the pseudopods narrowed into tendrils that wrapped around the gargouilles’ torsos and threw one against the far wall and the other through the window of the office where he’d been holed up in.

While Lishuura retracted into the form of his costume once more, Gideon got to his feet and called out: “Goulemanda. Come. We’re moving to the fortress. Burn everything else. I might have a use of my former business partners, so we can’t have anything pointing back to them.” As he strode toward the window, Lishuura acted on her own initiative, forming a huge pair of wings sprouting from Gideon’s back.

Emerging from her hiding place in one of Gideon’s pocket’s Goulemanda wasted no time conjuring up her war doll. The faerie construct energized its green beam and began to sweep the room with it, burning away scattered furniture and papers, paying particular attention to the palmtops and tablets Gideon confiscated from his ‘partners’ once he’d given them their marching orders and sent them away.

Gideon stood and watched to make sure those were taken care of before directing Lishuura to fly them both out the window toward his newly-created fortress.

***

Outside, the tide was turning. The Nightmare King’s lapse combined with Tydir announcing the arrival of the Heir of Hyrilius had allowed most of his faerie thralls to shake off his control and rally around him as her so-called herald against the security forces on the ground and the aerial combatants from the fortress.

A group of armed men found their tight formation broken by the tangling vine-like limbs of spriggans in one area while near the airship, the minotaurs who weren’t still incapacitated by Renaissance’s lubricant had ripped down lighting stands or torn off parts of the gantry to use as polearms to strike flying monsters out of the sky.

It looked like whatever his goal had been, the so-called Nightmare King had lost with only his gremlin-generated monsters left to him. All that remained was the capture of the man himself.

“Got him.” Monkia spoke through the comms. “Southwest wall, the administrative structure just like Vamanos said. He’s… flying. He has giant bat wings and he’s flying.”

Common as dirt in this line of work,” quipped Codex, “Any of our fliers have eyes on him?”

General Barrett cut in immediately. “More importantly, do you have a shot on him, Overwatch?”

There was a long pause. “Sorry, sir, there’s too many secondary targets in my line of sight. No clear shot.”

Same here.” Darkness’s reply was accompanied by the sight of a drill made of black heat tearing through a swath of unagu, ripping the creatures asunder into a cloud of embers. “They’re coming out of the fortress fast and thick!”

A ball of blue light—Zero ensconced in a sphere of psychokinetic energy—lurched through the sky, slamming unagu out of the way as it went. “I can’t see him either!”

No one could see from the press of monstrous flying bodies, but a golden dragon the size of a pony was wheeling through the monster-choked sky as well, biting and clawing her way through the press. “Someone who can see him point me at him! I’ll take him down!”

General,” Tydir’s voice joined the channel. “We have eyes on the target, but Tahnda needs to return to her host before we damage ourselves. Shall we paint the target first.” After a pause, he then seemed to contradict himself, “Of course we must. We cannot allow him access to travel between worlds. Imagine what would happen if Maeve captured him and thus gained the ability to control our people directly?”

Negative,” declared General Barrett, “I will not order you to harm yourselves no matter what the objectives. Return to your host, Tahnda. Someone else get eyes on him and tag him before he reaches the fortress.”

Now Chaos entered the channel. “Something with flapping wings in a cloud of flapping wings? We’re never going to find him.”

We damn well better,” General Barrett snapped. “Tahnda’s analysis of the situation is right: if that floating castle can jump worlds, we have to do everything we can to keep this Nightmare King joker on this world. Not only would we have Maeve to worry about, but who knows what other dangers exist out there? Things that could follow his trail back here.”

Then let’s get rid of the castle.”

The channel went silent for a moment once Chaos put that idea forward. Then the general spoke again. “No time to call in an airstrike or re-task a satellite for Rods From God. We cannot destroy that thing in time, we need to stop the man.”

No, we’ve got the perfect weapon right here: ten tons of airship and an age-old strategy called ‘ram it’.

Are you serious?”

You did call for help from superheroes, General,” Codex pointed out. “Let’s here your plan, Chaos?”

He laughed. “A very simple one: the ship’s moored with steel cables, we’ve got Alloy up here with line of sight on all of them. Just get everyone to cover before he cuts the string.”

That ship is a eight million dollar piece of military equipment,” The General spoke on a slow, measured tone before letting out a tired breath, “But that’s a small price to pay compared to the potential consequences. Overwatch, Maleficent evac orders: pull everyone you can off the quarry floor.”

Same goes for all our fliers. Priority is getting people clear be they faeries or fallen enemies.” Codex started going over information on the quarry from the ship’s scanners. “There’s a bore holes in the northwest wall that can shelter some who can’t be extracted. And if anyone has an opportunity to slow the Nightmare King down, please do so.”

A raucous laugh filled the comms. “Oh don’t worry about that!” Facsimile crowed, “Guess who just found the flappy thing that doesn’t belong!”

***

The very same cloud of unagu steeds that was keeping him from being located and sniped was proving to be a hindrance to Gideon as well. There were too many of the monsters to directly control and even if there weren’t, they weren’t faeries: they acted on orders pre-programmed into the fortress’s holographic simulation and those orders could only be issued or rescinded from the fortress’s throne. Worse, Lishuura was a novice and skittish flier at best, spooking and shying away from anything that crossed her path, leaving them hopelessly weaving through a sea of wings, only vaguely making headway to their destination.

He tried to calm her with his power, but there were just too many sources of stimulation for the young flowbeast and as soon as he quelled one freak out, another came along.

Hey you!”

Gideon looked up to see the chaos of unagu parting before a golden, wedge-shaped head of an approaching dragon. For a brief moment, he felt a spark of hope—even good luck. Could this have been the ancient and powerful creature he’d sensed in the airship?

A dragon. Even after seeing the impressive abilities of the minotaurs and gargoyles, avarice rose in his chest at having such a mighty (if surprisingly small) creature turned to his side. Almost without consideration, he turned the full force of his power against the beast diving toward him.

It washed over and past the golden dragon like water off a freshly waxed car. The ‘dragon’ was from Earth. And he knew in the moment before impact exactly who said ‘dragon’ was as well.

Facsimile opened her wings just before she slammed into him, creating enough drag at the right time to swing her hind claws into play. All four taloned appendages struck Gideon, raking the mail of his costume. His costume in turn sprouted a pair of stubby, poorly-defined limbs that hammered into her ribs.

Snarling in pain, she angled her neck so as to give Gideon a full and unambiguous look at her teeth, gnashing them right before his eyes. “You know what? I hate guys like you. Do you even get why the Faeries are crossing over?”

Lishuura, realizing the bludgeoning her friend’s foe was getting her nowhere, extended dozens of sharp quills. Facsimile yelped, the shock affecting her more than the pain but all the same leaving her open to a slam from a pseudopod that dislodged her from Gideon.

Excellent job, Lishuura.” Gideon laughed coldly as he guided the flowbeast to wing them around the reeling Facsimile. Clenching his hands into fists, he then spurred her to extend a pair of slim, black blades from the backs of his wrists. “Now let us finish her off.”

That made Facsimile laugh as she dove and looped around him. “Really? You think stabbing me is going to do, like, anything?” She shifted into her winged humanoid form, only with her muscles swelling to powerful proportions and her teeth transforming into sharp points. “Do you know who the hell I am?”

With that, she beat her wings hard once, hurling herself into Gideon’s blades. The weapons tore into her, but she ignored them to drive herself even closer until she was in range to punch him in the face. Gideon responded by slashing his weapons in opposite directions, a move that would have cut any other person in half, but only served to push Facsimile away with force.

Gideon slashed his weapons through the air as if trying to flick away blood he hadn’t spilled and pointed one of them toward Facsimile. “You mistake not knowing who you are to not caring. I simply find you beneath me for how you’ve wasted the wonderful gift of changing shape by using it to enhance brute force.”

In reply, Facsimile grinned, showing him all her teeth, which had now become double rows. “If by ‘brute force’, you mean kicking your ass, I agree—part way. Because the other part is distraction.” She smirked as Gideon started to look around frantically. “Oh? Are you wondering what I’m being the distraction for? Well you’ll see in five, four, three…”

Before she got to two, an almighty cacophony erupted behind her; the twang of steel cables snapping and the deep, deep groan of the huge airship’s superstructure protesting as it suddenly began to rise into the air.

Oops. Looks like they go started early.”

Gideon watched as the airship, it’s instrumentation platform reshaped into and enormous steel ram, began a slow but inexorable ascent toward his fortress. “What? No! No!” He started to shake in fury as he pumps more power than he’d ever used before into a single mental cry of alarm. Goulemanda!

The response was instantaneous. A beam of brilliant green energy ripped through the air, annihilating dozens of unagu and parting their numbers as easily as one slices bread. A causeway between them opened temporarily as the creatures scattered from the killing light.

Still riding the desperate surge of power he’d summoned, he overrode all other thought in Lishuura’s mind and ordered her into the gap at full speed. They shot past Facsimile in a frenzy of wings, arrowing toward the fortress.

Hey!” Facsimile shouted after him, performing a wingover to pursue. “Get back here!” Before she got very far at all, one of the mounted riders astride an armored unagu struck her from the side with an agony lance, causing her to convulse in pain as the red crackling energy surrounded her.

Marshaling her inner reserves of grit, she extended one of the orihalcite claws she kept on her person from the side of her hand and karate chopped the offending weapon in half. Then she grabbed the broken half of the lance still in the rider’s hands and used it to pull him from the saddle.

By the time she was done with him, she had lost sight of Gideon.

Shit.” She opened her comm while at the same time karate chopping the head off a passing unagu steed in her fury. “He got past me, guys. He’s headed for the fortress.”

A shuddering boom rolled out from the underside of the fortress, the noise echoing through the quarry. Massive fissures raced out from the point of impact and split the flanks of the stone edifice, throwing debris and dust into the air. The castle above shuddered on its foundation, one of its towers cracking and falling asunder.

Flying rocks smashed unagu steeds out of the air while dust choked them and sent them gagging to the ground.

The whole of the Fortress Allegiant began to slowly rotate, sinking slowly even as the airship crushed itself against it and its fuel reserves exploded.

Or… it might not matter anymore,” Facsimile mused.

We aren’t going to take any of this for granted,” said General Barrett. “Overwatch, Maleficent: up top, find the primary target and stop him if he tries to get inside.”

Already on it,” reported Monkia from the Overwatch. “Sighting all visible ingresses and setting up for long range fire if anyone approaches any of them. We’ll get him, sir.”

***

Gideon was watching his plans literally crumble and collapse. The once-might Fortress Allegiant was shaking itself apart under the assault of enemies he’d sorely underestimated.

Still, he refused to to give up hope. He’d chosen his castle with care, analyzing every feature of it.

This included hidden entrances. If he couldn’t triumph with the faeries who came to Earth, then he’d need to find others instead—or make better monster of his own…

***

Tense minutes followed the impact between the ROCIC airship and Fortress Allegiant. The Overwatch, General Barrett’s transport and the Karasu no Yūrei all circled as the shattered remnants of the airship along with gargantuan slabs of stone fell back into the quarry.

Still no sign of him, sir. The creatures are still obscuring a lot of vantages.”

I’ve got almost everyone evacuated to the loading docks,” said Vamanos. “No one’s left in the crash zone.”

Facsimile piped up, still sounding bitter. “I can survive the collapse; let me go in and hunt him down.”

No way,” said Codex. “You may be able to survive, but you could still be trapped.”

I can’t,” reported Haze. “General, permission to go in and surveil the the area?”

Any further discussion was cut off by a high keening sound. The unagu steeds still circling the area began to ignite, trailing flames as they burned out of existence in the same way they did when destroyed by other means. Seconds later, a flare of silver light emerged from every door and window of the structure, increasing in intensity before engulfing the entire fortress.

For an instant, everyone was blinded by what appeared as a new star hanging in the middle of the quarry. Then the sphere of light collapsed in upon itself, leaving naught but empty air and a rain of cinders from the destroyed unagu steeds.

…Whoa.” Zero was surprisingly the first one to break the silence.

It actually worked,” Alloy said in a hushed tone. “The gremlins actually made a fictional magic item real. That’s terrifying.”

General Barrett added, “Just as terrifying as that man escaping to another world. If he really went to Faerie, this could be a massive security breech.”

I’m pretty sure he didn’t go to Faerie, General.” This time it was Renaissance. “The Fortress Allegiant is able to shift dimensions, but we have evidence now that Faerie isn’t another dimension: it’s a planet in our known and visible universe.”

Facsimile cut in. “So… what? He’s in Device World?”

Device World?” asked General Barrett.

Possibly,” said Codex, purposefully not addressing the general, “but we never figured out what really happened with that; no data or clues to follow. The truth is, we have no idea where he ended up. We’ll just have to do our best to at least learn who this was, who they were working with, and what the plan was here.”

***

Elsewhere

In a flash of silvery light, the Fortress Allegiant appeared in an alien sky, the orange-red glow of a sunset tinting its now-crumbling walls and towers. Chunks of shorn rock sloughed off, crashing hundreds of feet onto a sandy coastline.

Gideon, still swathed in Lashurra, stumbled out onto the balcony of the central tower and stared out. The fortress’s arrival hadn’t gone unnoticed; some of the airships—not dirigibles, but actual flying galleons with sailcloth wings and towering smokestacks—that had been moving about above and around the bay a few miles away were changing course to approach the newly-arrived curiosity.

This… this cannot be Faerie. Where. Am. I?”

Somewhere else.” The voice made him jump. It echoed as if coming from that bottom of one of those smokestacks and rasped like a thousand nail files were being dumped down the same. Gideon whirled to find himself staring into a pair of eyes like furnaces set into a face literally made of brass.

The creature before him had the supper torso of a brass man with sculpted muscles and hair forged into the appearance of five curved spikes jutting from his crown. His bottom half was a swirling pyroclastic cloud that whirled like a tornado beneath him. When he spoke, cinders and flame puffed out from between his serrated teeth.

Somewhere beyond the Orrery of Worlds. Beyond the Queen of Air and Darkness and her sidhe, the Lords of the Furnace City, or even the masters of the Thule.” The creature smiled at Gideon’s shocked expression. “More importantly, this is a place where you can build your power if you are wise. The place where the rise of the Nightmare King can begin.”

Gideon for once couldn’t muster the ego to focus on his desire to rule. “Wh-what are you? Where did you come from?”

The creature smiled again, all sharp edges. “I hail from what you would call the Red World by way of the Green World. And I am what you sensed on the ship—the one who helped those refugees cross over. I find you very interesting, Nightmare King. I see potential in you.”

He extended a brass-clawed hand. “My name is Ata Aku and I wish to be your vizier, oh mighty King of the Dreams That Terrify.”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Descendants #99 – Huddled Masses Chp. 4The Descendants #100 – Paradigm Shift pt.1 >>

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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One Comment

  1. Typos

    a use of my
    a use for my

    “Let’s here your plan,
    “Let’s hear your plan,

    “There’s a bore holes
    “There’s a bore hole

    security breech.”
    security breach.”

    make better monster
    make better monsters

    they go started
    they got started

    as he pumps
    as he pumped

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