Descendants L.A. #3 – Debut pt.3

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 1

This wasn’t exactly unfolding as Josh had planned.

Following Felix’s exit and Icthiani’s query, an awkward silence had fallen over the room. Caught red handed speaking poorly of his sister behind her back, he, Ray and Lydia were all trying very hard not to meet the gaze of her green-on-red eyes. The worst part by far, from their perspective, was the fact that Icthiani seemed to be enjoying it.

When no one answered her, she started the conversation on her own. “So it seems everyone n the household has… I’m searching to the word… vendetta? Grievance? Loshuia, you know the tongue better than I do. Please tell me the right one.”

Josh locked gazes with her finally. “Grievances works. But most people would say they ‘have issues’ or ‘a bone to pick’.”

She made a face at the last one, but put that aside for the moment. “Yes. Everyone has issues with me…. except the one I’m said to abuse the worst. Please explain.”

With the initial shock over, Lydia was the first to react. “I guess I’ll just come right out and say it, Ani: You’re mean. As far as I know, we’ve never been anything but nice to you, but you only talk to use when you absolutely have to, you blow us off when we ask you to do something with us that isn’t training, and even in training, or out there today, you never do more for or with us than you need to. I mean, that thing grabbed Felix and you didn’t even care! I didn’t see you move an inch to help him.”

“I was opening the portal. That was my job.” Icthiani shot back. “If I lost concentration, it could have collapsed. Maybe catastrophically.”

“But if the gate opened while that thing still had Felix trapped…” Lydia continued.

“The gate couldn’t have opened without his grenade.” was the instantaneous reply. “And if he was stupid enough to do that, he deserved to be pulled into Faerie.” She folded her arms and pouted like a child. “Besides, you’re wrong. I didn’t do ‘nothing’ to help. I told him to irritate its trunk to escape. Which also risked my concentration, I’ll add.”

Ray nodded. “She has you there, Lyds. On both counts, because I did see her say something to him right before he got free.” Putting aside his homework, he eyed the daoine girl carefully. “But what about the other stuff she mentioned?”

“What about it?” She asked hotly. “There is only so much I can do when I’m expected to open portals. That sort of magic takes time and none of my magic is utilitarian like telekinesis or Flying Raven wind techniques. You’ve already explained to me your intention for non-lethal combat.”

“Well that’s the thing;” said Ray. “You don’t talk to us, so we don’t know what you can do. If you did, we could work together to figure out how best to use your powers to help the team.”

A bitter little laugh escaped her. “You think you can teach me how to use my sangerlogos? Pardon me if I didn’t see your scars.”

Ray didn’t let it phase him at all. “I don’t need to know how your powers work to know how to put them to good use. Lyds and I talk about this stuff all the time. We’re even working on improving the telepathy component of her powers.”

“Yeah,” Lydia backed him up. “And Ray helps Felix come up with new ideas for his tech all the time.”

“Your powers both come from the same place.” Icthiani said dismissively. “Being born with abilities is a world away from coming into them through long study. And as for the machine, I suspect all humans have some sort of knack for their technology; like gremlins.”

“That’s… so wrong.” Lydia said. “Being able to work a computer or drive a car isn’t the same thing as building stuff from scratch.” She frowned, realizing that she was explaining entirely alien concepts to Icthiani. “Okay, how about this: are there magic swords where you come from?”

“None forged by the kind of magic I use.” Icthiani said.

“Yeah, but someone’s, right? And I’m guessing Josh could use that sword, right?”

“I understood your point already.” Icthiani rolled her eyes. “Operation and manufacture are separate skills. That still doesn’t mean that any of you understand my powers enough to tell me how to use them.”

Ray gave her an odd look. “And you knew enough about technology to come up with the idea to set off explosives in an astral portal?”

She faltered at this. It was a good point. She still didn’t know how a grenade worked, only that a large enough shock to the event horizon of the portal could shift its nether end into Faerie. And even then, she hadn’t predicted the vortex it created

So she changed the subject. “And as for talking to you…” she trailed off. That was almost as bad staying on the first subject, why did she bring that back up?

Once it became clear, she wasn’t going to finish that sentence, Lydia once more stepped into the gap. “Yeah, I’d really like to know why you don’t. If we did something wrong, we didn’t mean to. And we’ll make it up to you if you just tell us what it was.”

“Right.” Ray agreed. “And if this is about the Lady Demon name, I didn’t realize at the time. You’ve got the right to change it to anything you want.”

Icthiani went to take another drink from her water bottle and found it empty. She crumpled it in her hand. “Loshuia spoke to me about that. I know that you’re all trying to… accommodate me.”

“We’re just trying to be your friends.” Lydia said plainly. “I mean, like Felix said, we don’t have to be friends, I guess, but it’d be nice if you’d try.”

They didn’t seem to notice, but inwardly, Icthiani flinched at this. She covered by tossing the bottle in the recycling and cleared her throat. “This isn’t about anything you did. I’m just not used to this.”

“Neither am I, but I try–” Josh started.

“No, Loshuia, that is not what I mean.” She said firmly, not turning away from the recycling bin. “This is easy for you. Learning how to learn and adapt and work with people is all part of the Flying Raven’s philosophy. It has no place in the Sanguine Halls.”

She turned to stare the others down. “I promise to… make an attempt. But that is all I can promise. Please understand. And drop this topic.”

“Huh. That’s exactly what Felix said.” Ray mused. “I guess we have to respect your feelings about this though, Ani. We won’t pressure you. Just… understand where we’re coming from.”

But she wasn’t really paying attention past his first comment. “He said to drop it as well?”

“Felix?” Ray asked and she nodded. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, really. But Felix is a lot more complex than he gets credit for. I’m sure he has his reasons.”

Despite Ray having just said they weren’t going to pressure Icthiani over her behavior, Josh couldn’t help but send another barb in her direction. “Perhaps he’s given up on you.”

“Perhaps.” Icthiani agreed mildly. “If there’s nothing else, I think I’ll use the training facility.” She didn’t give anyone time to object, surrounding herself in her lightening-like aura and disappearing from view.

The others were quiet and uncomfortable for a good minute, half expecting her to reappear for a last minute reprimand. She didn’t.

“So…” Lydia hated silence, but had nothing really to fill it with.

“So there we are.” Ray picked his tablet back up. “If she says she’s going to try, we owe it to her to give her that chance. That’s how friends treat each other, and if she’s… not used to it?” He shot a questioning look at Josh, “Then we need to lead by example.”

“What was all that about the Saggy Halls?” Lydia turned to Josh as well. The young warrior was frowning himself.

“The Sanguine Halls is a name for where the apprentices for her school of magic are taught.” He explained. “Just like I spent my time before adulthood at the Flying Raven School, Ani spent hers studying to become a Blood Magus.”

He left it at that. They knew the overview—how a sorcerer in the school of magic his sister used was properly titled ‘Blood Magus’ and how that it was an ancient and honored tradition that most certainly did not involve using the blood of others. Anything more, he felt, was up to her to divulge.

“So I take it that they don’t go out for drinks or gather around the crystal ball to watch movies in Blood Wizard school.” Lydia deduced.

“I couldn’t tell you.” Josh shrugged, still wearing a thoughtful frown. “There are rumors, but Icthiani refused to confirm or deny the things common folk think go on there. It’s safe to say that you never heard of Blood Magi being the best of friends with each other… or anyone else for that matter.”

“All in all, I think I feel good about what happened here.” Ray was tapping through menus on the tablet, looking for his next class assignment. “At the very least, we all understand each other better.”

“Except Felix.” Lydia unpaused the game, tossing the missing Felix’s controller to a surprised Josh. “I don’t get it, he tries more than anyone I know to make friends with everyone. I doubt he’d give up like that.”

“That does feel very un-Felix.” Agreed Ray. “Once I’m done with my homework, I go down and have a talk with him. The reason’s probably a lot smarter than we’re thinking, or much, much goofier.”

***

The secret level to the Fayth parking garage only accounted for a quarter of its floor space with the actual garage where not only were Waltzing Matilda and his sister bikes stored, but where Ray, Lydia and Felix parked their normal vehicles. The rest was dived by cinderblock walls into a small, but well equipped gym, a lab space for Felix, and the training room; which was actually a room with an indoor pool which Felix had fitted to convert (with a few hours notice) into an automated obstacle course where they could safely test out new strategy before using it in the field.

Felix was in the lab, which, at Ray’s urging, also held a hospital bed and monitoring equipment should the unthinkable happen. Privately, Felix had commented that they would still need a hospital, as the only one among them with more than first aid certifications had learned his combat medic skills in a pre-industrial world with healing magic.

He wasn’t paying attention to that at the moment. Instead, he had his chair locked in front of a glove box, inside which was his damaged grapple arm. The glove box was meant to protect him and others from potentially dangerous substances or pathogens, but he was using it now because it had the best microscopic imaging equipment.

What he was seeing was remarkable; the cable hadn’t been torn, melted, fractured, sheared, or suffered any other sort of damage that would leave telltale evidence of stress. The ends of either end, down to each individual fiber and wire, were perfectly smooth, as if they had been parted on an atomic level. Which he wasn’t ruling out. Being rather serious about science, he wasn’t quick to discount that magic might run on principles and laws humanity had yet to discover.

Still, he wished it had been cut or torn; then there would be frayed ends to micro-weld together instead of perfect edges that would offer one another no friction. He was going to need to cut the cable again just to repair it. He tapped the chair’s controls and turned—only to come face to face with Icthiani, who had been observing over his shoulder utterly without his knowledge.

Ruefully, he wished the he hadn’t started at that quite so loudly. Or, barring that, maybe that the sound he made had been something more manly than the ‘eep’ that had come out. He frantically backed the chair away from her, which only gave him an inch before the back hit the counter with the glove-box, and tried to cover.

“Oh, hey, Ani. Didn’t see you there. Man, you’re quiet.”

“My teleportation is silent.” She informed him. “Though if you have been sitting over there,” She indicated the door, “You would have gotten a nasty shock from my arrival.” He laughed a little before he realized that she didn’t intend to make a pun there and fell silent.

The daoine cocked her head at this, but ignored it, stepping uncomfortably close to him to peer into the glove box. “Admiring my handiwork?”

He slipped past her and over to his tool chest. It was in utter chaos, but it was chaos of his own creation, so he knew right where to look to find the tiny diamond saw. “Just trying to patch it.” He said.

“You’re mad with me for breaking it.”

“It is kind of a pain in the ass to fix it. Especially the way you broke it.” He replied, stopping where he was, because Icthiani had turned to face him and in doing so, blocked his access to the glove box entirely.

“A pain in the ass…” She said, as if trying the words on for size. “A good phrase. I don’t even had to ask to understand what it means. For the rest of the team, I’ve become a pain in the ass.” The way she said it was a statement of fact with no shame or regret present.

“Possibly…” Felix scratched the back of his neck and hoped that he was being diplomatic enough. “So they got on your case, huh? Any survivors?” He laughed lightly in hopes that she’ll realize it was a joke.

Icthiani smirked, which to his knowledge was the closest approximation she could achieve in the area of smiling. “Not an ounce of pride left standing. On either side.” She straightened up and reached across with one arm to hold the upper part of the other, half-hugging herself. “They all feel very guilty for saying true things about me… or what they think are true.”

“They didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” Felix explained.

“And they’re more than a little afraid of me.” She added, the smirk growing a bit. “You as well.”

“A little.” He said truthfully. “But I don’t think for a second that you’d hurt any of us on purpose.”

Her eyebrow twitched. “And why is that?”

He shrugged. “You went out there with us today. And for all you know, you could have been hurt or even killed. Hell, you almost did get pulled back into Faerie…” Icthiani made looked uncomfortable at that, but let him continue. “What I’m getting at is that you didn’t have to do any of that; take any of those risks. That you did says something, at least to me.”

“That I’m not going to try and kill you.” She observed breezily, the earlier flash of discomfort a distant memory. “Pain in the ass is rarely a fatal kind of pain.”

“You’re really enjoying that, aren’t you?” A smile tugged at his lips.

She caught herself nodding and deflected attention from it. “Why are you missing your legs?”

No preamble, no segue. When it came to conversation, she had the skill and nuance of the forty pound hammer. Taking note of this somehow made Felix relax a bit and the smile formed fully. “Do you mean the ones I was born with, or my prosthetics?”

“The second means the machine legs, correct? Then yes, those. You have multiple pairs and yet here you are in that ‘wheelchair’ and not for the first time.”

A nervous laugh escaped him without permission. “I… kind of scavenged them for spare parts last night. I got inspired with a side project, didn’t want to wait for new parts to come in and well, here I am.”

Series Navigation<< Descendants L.A. #2 – Debut pt.2Descendants L.A. #4 – Above the Line 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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