- Issue #73 – Give Thanks
- Issue #74 – Bit Part Bad Guys
- Issue #75 – Kaiju for Christmas
- Issue #76 – Silicon Soul, Adamantine Will
- Issue #77 – Date Night
- Issue #78 – Delved Too Deep (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 1)
- Issue #79 – Tome of Secrets (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 2)
- Descendants Special #7 – The Curtain Rises
- Issue #80 – Bitter Work
- Issue #81 – Kin, Speed and Ducks
- Issue #82 – What To Do With Your Downtime
- Issue #83 – Avalon Rises
- Issue #84 – Darkness Falling
- Descendants Annual #7 – First Frost
The bottom edge of the sun was just kissing the sea as Alloy, Ephemeral, and a detachment of Royal Marines loaded the captured Adriel foot-soldiers and their powered compatriots into troop transports that would bring them to the mainland.
Grand Dodger was watching the whole operation alongside two other agents tat had arrived with the marines, both in suits and ties rather than costumes.
“So what’s the damage from the tidal waves?”
One of the other agents, a short, slightly pear-shaped woman in her early thirties with brown hair worn in a neat ponytail shook her head. “Minimal, but that’s not zero. You can evacuate every village and town, but there’s nothing you can do for every little cottage someone’s set up along the coast. And even the villages can’t be one hundred percent.”
The other man, dark skinned with close-cropped hair and a short beard grunted and looked out over the island. “And what about here? Did the ‘superheroes’ give you any trouble?”
Grand Dodger shrugged. “I’ll admit, I expected them to. Hard-headed Americans to a man and woman, and more like… well a family than an organization—in fact, I’m fairly certain a few of them are family—but they make it work, even when everything goes to hell.”
The other man raised an eyebrow. “So everything went to hell.”
“Did you expect it not to? Magic and all that? It made have served up the only casualties of the whole mission. And from what I’ve heard listening in, it’s going to get a damn lot worse before it gets better.”
“How so?” asked the woman.
“Because all this? The EM storm, the earthquakes, this… Avalon? That’s on about some weapon some ancient wizards thought future generations might need against something worse. Something called Maeve. I’m not the only one that rings a bell for, right?”
The woman glanced over to make sure no one else was in hearing range. “You mean, the legends… or the intel we’ve picked up out of Russia, Norway and Switzerland?”
“Yes to both.” said Grand Dodger. “And I think Silence suspected as much. He thinks we’re going to have to change with the times on this; less covert work, more… well more of exactly what we had to do today, me and you. Superhero work.”
“Sounds like the old man’s losing it a bit in his retirement.” said the other man.
Grand Dodger nodded slowly, “Might be. But on the other hand, if Maeve plays the same games as those who want to kill her… we might not have a choice.”
Down in the burial mound, Occult was trying to use spells to glean all the knowledge she could about the chamber, using a lead crystal to ‘record’ her observations and analysis before the Brits finished with the Adriel and kicked them out of what was sure to be a national treasure.
Facsimile and Renaissance were standing guard just in case the chamber had any other surprises with strict orders to knock out anyone who started acting out of character.
“So… super-powered girlfriends, huh?” Facsimile asked, poking Renaissance in the ribs playfully. “And you like those dorky role-games he does—if you knew how to make manicotti like his mom, I’d say you were an obvious villainous plot to distract him and then stab him in the back once you ingratiated yourself into the group.”
Renaissance laughed. “Yeah, I leave the cooking to him.”
“I notice you had nothing to say about the possibility of you going all Judas on us because you’re under contract from some villain.” Facsimile ‘innocently’ put er arms behind her head and leaned back against the chamber wall. “Come to think if it, we still don’t know who sold out the beach house last summer.”
“Don’t look at me.” said Renaissance. “I got attack too, you know. Besides, my money’s on Lily.”
Facsimile snorted. “Seriously? You think Lily figured out our secrets? She can’t even figure out how to eat a hoagie and punch a dude in the face at the same time.”
“…Most people either can’t or won’t do that.”
“Because they’re slackers. Plus mom is pretty sure someone tried to frame Lily on Halloween.” She pushed off the wall and stood up straight, folding her arms. “Ugh. You know it’s going to be something we couldn’t have guarded against if we wanted to. Like one of us is a sleeper agent and doesn’t know it, or Kay’s roommate is actually a size-shifter who sneaks into the house at night and snoops around.”
“That might explain why her and Juniper hang out so much. Last I hear, Jun was trying to find her a date so she and Malcolm could double.”
They lapsed into silence after that with Renaissance growing increasingly fidgety. “Do you think Darkness might have actually ki—”
“I was talking about other stuff so that question wouldn’t come up.” Facsimile said quickly.
“Oh. Sorry.” Renaissance was quiet for a few moments more before saying, “So no one’s picked up the Adriel’s Gustav on radar since the fight? Seriously?”
Facsimile threw her hands up. “I know, right? And those fire things the Sineater guy had aren’t accounted for either! I was really hoping we’d seen the last of Reverend Con Artist. Maybe punch some information out of him seeing as he’s been to Faerie.”
Sighing, Renaissance leaned against the wall. “We’ll see him again. We’ve got his super-bads now, plus Richter’s gun, the mentalist woman’s magic veil, Harbonah’s sword, and Caladbolg. He’d going to have to come to use to get any of that back.”
“What do you mean I can’t keep it? Dude, I’ve checked every one of your marine guys: none of them can make this thing work even a little.”
The dark skinned agent, who had made a point of not introducing himself gave Alloy a stern look. “Be that as it may, this island is in United Kingdom waters and so the sword is property of the Crown.
“Technically, the last guy who got a magic sword from here got to be the Crown.” Alloy didn’t sound serious, but he wasn’t handing the sword over either.
“Unfortunately for you, times have changed. The weapon needs to be studied and contained.”
Alloy sighed. “Actually, that’s the point. No offense guys, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier to find where you guys would store this than where we would. These Adriel guys already lifted their magic stuff from secure locations, and I’m not sure what you’ve heard, but I was full of crap when I said we didn’t need this thing—we have no idea what Maeve is and if we can even hold her off without this.”
“You command metal. I’m one hundred percent sure you have nothing to fear from most fey and a good number of native faeries.” the agent pointed out.
“… excuse me?”
The agent rocked back a bit on his heals. “You didn’t know?”
“I could guess about the metal thing. I mean ‘hello, cold iron’, but what’s this about ‘native faeries’ and fey. There’s difference?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t elaborate. However, if you don’t turn over the sword, my government and your government will have a chat about the Special Relationship and then we will make you turn over the sword. I wasn’t privy to everything that happened here, but I do know that when you made the sword ‘work’ it caused an unstable vortex of energy that gouged a half-meter, fifteen meter long gash in the ground and sheered a number of trees in half. And now you expect me to trust you with it.”
Alloy looked down at the weapon in his hand. He still had no idea why it was producing that tiny flame, or how he’d made the ‘vortex’ happen. “I guess you make a good point.”
“I do.” said the agent, holding out his hand for Alloy to put Caladbolg into it. “And in the event it is needed, we’ll be in touch.”
The cliff on the western side of the island was an ideal place to view the sunset. And indeed, a couple had found themselves sitting there. However, neither of them was watching the daily spectacle of the Earth’s principle star disappearing below the horizon. Instead, one was staring blankly at the rocks below while the other was watching her, his arm wrapped protectively around her.
Silence had settled over them, following a half hour of small talk that tried and failed to get her mind off what just happened.
The Royal Marines weren’t exploring the island yet and had no reason to visit the far west of the island, so for now they were Ian and Alexis instead of Chaos and Darkness.
Their repose didn’t last long, as the sound of footfalls and rustling shrubbery announced the arrival of a third.
“We’re back.” Laurel said, keeping her voice even, nearly monotone. The lack of joy or passion in it didn’t get past Alexis and Ian could feel her shiver against him. “Ian… can I talk to Alex for a second? Alone?”
Any other time, Ian might have argued that anything Alexis needed to hear, he could as well. In this case, he deferred to the hypercog. Giving Alexis one last side hug, he disengaged from her and slowly got to his feet. “If you need me… I think I’m going to go flying for a bit.”
Laurel nodded and gave him a thankful smile as he moved far enough away so as not to catch them in the wind of his takeoff. She waited until he was well and truly gone from the cliff before going to sit in his place next to Alexis. Her best friend didn’t react to the new presence beside her.
“There’s no point in beating around the bush here, or trying to ease you into it. I know you Alex: and you would do it this way for me and I would appreciate it…” At that point, she realized that she was beating around the bush. “…so here it is: no one’s dead.” Alexis started to relax and Laurel decided not to give her any false hope. “But. Two of the men from the tank were burned so badly and suffered so much damage from the heat that they had to be put in medical comas.”
“Oh god…” Alexis murmured.
Laurel plunged on ahead, knowing that if she stopped, she wouldn’t want to start again. “The prognosis isn’t good. One might be able to come out of it in a month. The other… the doctors aren’t willing to suggest he’ll… ever come out of it; not without numerous transplants and other surgeries. Luckily England is number four in the world for cybernetics, but even then, they’re worried about brain damage.”
Now she did stop, because she saw Alexis’s shoulders shaking in silent sobs. Gently, she reached over and took her friend’s hand. “I want you to know this wasn’t your fault. We should have studied the Angel and the chamber more thoroughly; kept everyone back at the mound instead of trying to fight the Adriel in the field…”
She cut herself off as she remembered that the second one was Alexis’s tactical choice. A solid one based on what they knew. At the moment,s he wasn’t even sure how Richter and Delilah discovered the mound so quickly in the first place.
“You were possessed. We’ve seen that before, remember? Lisa, her aunt? The demons of Faerie do this all the time and it’s never the victims’ faults. Even Grand Dodger knows that, so there won’t even be an investigation.”
Alexis hung her head, breathing deeply. “I know all that, L. But that doesn’t change that I saw the whole thing; felt the whole thing. I close my eyes and I remember taking aim and letting loose with my powers, aiming to kill… and depending on how the next few months go, nearly succeeding.” Her hand tightened around Laurel’s. “I remember watching myself try and kill all of you—to kill everyone here with heat”
She held up her free hand and stared at it. “And do you know the worst part? The part that’s terrifying?”
Laurel remained silent, letting her talk it out. “You said they were spells, right? Spells that manipulated my black heat… or dark matter?”
“Yes. The Books showed them to use after the fact, actually.”
“Yeah, well I don’t think I need a book. I think I remember how to cast all of those. The Black Drill. The Dark Phenomenon. The… the one that almost sterilized this island… Laurel, what the hell am I supposed to do with that in my head?”
Laurel let go of her friend’s hand and put her arms around her. “Actually, I was thinking about that too. And if you want, Patricia Masters already knows about us through the ROCIC. She’s been doing sessions with some of the kids at the institute for their own… difficulties… with their powers. Maybe she can help you as well.”
After some hesitation, as ifs he was making sure she wasn’t accidentally leaking black heat, Alexis put her arms around Laurel to return the hug. “That’s actually a really good idea.” She pulled back and offered a forced smile. “It’s like you’re some kind of genius or something, L.”
In the realm of Faerie, the Teeth of the Sidhe were a wonder to behold above the many magical and mundane miracles that abounded in the land. With the highest peak, Stahtow Protheo, rising ten and one half miles above sea level, they made the Himalayas look like foothills.
In this far southern reach, winter was eternal. The trees and plants evolved to live and grow in and under the snow and ice, drilling into bare rock to gain footholds. The beasts were covered in thick fur or heated like to the point of melting the ice around them from their cores.
There were no cities, not towns, and no villages.
But there was the Brumal Bastion, a mighty castle of stone mortared with ice that spread up the side of Mount Jahlim Protheo like a fungal growth. No fires burned within, only the cold light of magic from the Air and Darkness. No creatures lived there but the twisted servants of Maeve; once daoine, now beings that could live for over half a dozen centuries in utter cold—the tir sioc, literally meaning frost folk.
In a deep chamber, hewn into the mountain itself, there stood a deep well of water that remained liquid even as the breath of the tir sioc turned to glittering crystals of ice in the air. Around it, at all times, stood four servants in full lacquered wooden armor, armed with swords of mystic wellspring steel.
There they waited and watched, ready to receive word from their mistress.
Their patience; seven and seven years in the making, was rewarded when the water in the well began to glow a deep blue and rise up in a pillar. As they watched,t he pillar of water began to freeze, the uneven process forcing it into a feminine shape with hair like overlapping scales of frost and sharp icicles jutting out from her joints, collarbone and shoulders. The flawed ice scattered the light in the room and focused the internal glow of the water to the clear and flawless spheres that served as the creature’s eyes.
She had neither mouth, nor nose, but she spoke clearly enough to be heard by those in attendance without any problems.
“I am Mab-Her-Voice. The word of the Queen of Air and Darkness flows through me and is to you your Laws. Servants. Seven and Seven years have come and gone. The Curse of Hyrillius ebbs and the Ways between the Faerie Forest and the Air and Darkness clear. Go forth now and become heralds, for the day draws near. Make ready her Castle and her armies. Make ready all of Faerie to bend knee before its rightful Queen.
“And may the bones of those who would oppose her freeze and shatter.”
End Descendants Annual #7.