Descendants: LA #15 – Fiends and Falsehood Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 2
“What’s the big deal?” Lydia asked. Instead of waiting for an answer, she held out a hand to some of the still floating, smoldering papers, and pulled them toward her in cocoons of green light. Curious, she poured over the first few pages. “USE cataloging and containment? Foothold scenario? What is this? And is that the D3I logo?”
Ray held the closed file he’d picked up in both hands as if it might try to wriggle away. “We shouldn’t be reading this. Especially after it looks like the people who tried to steal it wanted us to see this.”
Not far from him, Josh had dropped into a cross-legged position to peruse a few folders of his own. “I feel like I’ve heard this term, ‘USE’ before; in relation to my sister and I.”
“It means Unknown Source Entity.” Ray nodded in confirmation. “The government’s been using it for months for everything that comes through from Faerie.”
“We’re the only USE’s D3I has ever come into direct contact with, then.” Josh shuffled papers in his hand. “Then these must pertain to us. In which case, there’s no harm in use seeing them.”
Lydia walked over to him with a paper in hand. “You actually wrote some of these. I recognize the Faerie alphabet you use.”
He took the page, looking puzzled. “Hmm. I don’t remember writing anything for them, and I’m sure they couldn’t have force Lady D to.” A quick glance at the page made him tense up immediately. “Boarder… this handwriting doesn’t belong to either of us. In fact, it wasn’t even written by a High Soder.”
“What?” Lydia and Ray said in stereo. The latter ran over to have a look for himself. What he saw didn’t help matters. “This is dated three weeks before you and your sister arrived.”
There was no response, Josh had lapsed into a state of disbelief and confused thought.
Lydia shrugged at Ray, then leaned close to Josh’s ear. “Loshuia!”
He started at this, then reddened a bit in embarrassment. “Forgive me, but things are coming back to me now that weren’t suspect before, but now are.” He reached up and massaged his chin with a thumb and forefinger. “Back home, language isn’t much of a barrier; we use translation spells and most races have a gift for tongues. It’s rare to encounter someone you can’t understand, or who can’t understand you.”
He looked from one of his friends to another. “Not long after we first arrived, my sister used a spell of translation and we learned, as always. But even before that, the D3I researchers observing us at the quarantine were trying to communicate in writing using the Soder language: Focail Nó Fiú.” Face lined with concern, he shook his head. “Everything was so new and confusing and ‘Ani was in such a state that I never questioned where they learned the language if we were the first.”
Lydia looked around them at all the files strewn around them and still in the vault. “So… what does this mean?”
The folder in Ray’s hand crumpled as he balled up a fist. “That D3I hasn’t been truthful with us, and I for one want to know how deep that goes.” He straightened his back. “Boarder, hide as many of these as you can carry in your board. Zephyrus, stuff your cape.” For his part, he unzipped the padded armor of his suit and started stowing files there.
After a frantic minute of pilfering files, Lydia spoke up. “I want to know the truth as much as anyone else, but this doesn’t seem like something heroes would do.”
“Heroes would make sure they aren’t working for the bad guys.” Ray said. “We’re one of the greatest publicity tools D3I has, and we clean up the Faerie creatures that come through pretty much on their go-ahead. I say we have the right to know what we’re supporting.”
It had been years since Felix felt the sensation he was starting to feel and it had never dulled in his mind. He hadn’t been unconscious for the procedure; that would have interfered with integrating his nevre endings with the new hardware. He’d just been doped out of his mind on morphine and a cocktail designed specifically for nerve graft patients.
The synesthesia was fading now; the light was no longer a fuzzy feeling rubbing up against his chest and face, the shapes no longer a mismatched symphony of sound. Swirling color returned to just being the ambient temperature and the bed beneath him, and the ozone scent reverted to the phantom pains left over from the incident and the operation.
Ramona must have done a good job, because there wasn’t any real pain left, only the marked absence of sensation from where his arm should have been.
Last time he’d experienced this, he got the news an hour later that his mother was dead. That had driven any angst he might have had over losing most of his limbs completely out of his mind. Now the memory did the same for the fact that he wouldn’t be able to reattach any of his prosthetics for a week, maybe more depending on how cleanly Ramona ad cut and attached his nerve endings.
If things were really bad, he’d need to have them severed and reattached again and the right way. He didn’t want to even entertain that.
Out of the chaos of his thoughts, he became aware that someone was close. Too close.
Unable to turn his head just yet, he managed to move his eyes. They met their counterparts in red.
Icthiani was sitting, presumably in a chair next to his bed, and leaning in as closely as she possibly could. Now that he was aware of her, he felt her too-hot breath on his cheek and the sickly sweet scent that tinged the breath of all daoine.
Her eyes, he thought, were strange. Maybe it was the drugs or the nerve damage, but he didn’t remember being able to see individual symbols in the writing the made up the red pigmentation that stained her whole body without looking much closer than he was now. But it seemed like he could see them in her eyes, forming words that slowly changed over time.
He tried to speak, to say hello, make a little joke—anything to take the edge off the tension and strangeness that was filling the room. But his voice wasn’t working yet and neither was his mouth.
“It is only us here.” She said as if he asked. “The others at occupied with something else. It bothers them. It bothers Loshuia.”
Felix blinked and wondered what it could be that would have his friends so worked up. It must have been something big and important if Ray and Lydia weren’t down there waiting for him to recover. They’d held longer vigils over lesser injuries before.
But Icthiani was running on her own script and didn’t bother to elaborate. Her hand came up and ghosted over the bed, across his chest, to rest on his bandaged and metal capped stump. “You suffered greatly. So much pain.”
That made him feel uncomfortable. ‘Ani may have been strange and anti-social, but the way she was talking about pain was how people talked about sex, and he’d never known her to actually be sadistic, just apathetic toward her fellows.
She turned those familiar, yet changed eyes on him, making him squirm. “You feel many things, don’t you? There is a great sadness. This happened before.” The chair creaked under her and she stood to lean over him. Her red-on-black hair spilled down around the crown of his head and chin like curtains. In the new darkness there, her eyes glowed.
“When you lost your hands and feet. Your mother. Great sadness.”
Felix’s stomach churned. Something was wrong. He’d told her all this, it was true, but even she knew that is wasn’t information to be bandied about carefully. It was a story offered in friendship; a sign of peace, because it was a dagger that could be twisted painfully if used wrong.
And she was doing it.
“A-a-a.” That was the best he could so, trying to say her name. He still couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. He was at her mercy. Considering her powers, he was always at her mercy, but he’d never felt it. There were lines she wouldn’t cross, things he knew she wouldn’t do.
And now he wasn’t sure if that held true anymore.
“Even more sad.” She observed, inhaling deeply as if savoring a freshly baked pie. Her eyes rolled orgasmicly. “This bothers you. Hurts you.” Leaning even farther, her hot cheek pressed against his as she brought her lips to his ear. “You don’t like being so close?”
His skin crawled. This wasn’t right. Maybe he was still on the drugs, maybe he was having a bad reaction, but this… that wasn’t even her voice anymore. It lacked her strange cadence and the cool detachment. This one was passionate, excited and ever so slightly unhinged.
A smile spread across her face, her daoine’s sharp teeth showing red thanks to the cursed words, her sangrelogos branded across her body. Those terrible eyes observed her handiwork and she inhaled again, but not from him. “Mmm.” The sound as unsettlingly sensual. “You are. No closeness. Maybe it is the teeth?” She flashed her fanged, then gave a self satisfied smile. “… or the red? Green is your favorite. Not red.”
Felix’s train of thought shuddered to a stop. What was she asking?
“Always just a pain in your ass. Never anything more.” She said and Felix’s eyes widened. What was that supposed to mean? What was going on?
She gave him an appraising look, then leaned in again to surround him in her hair. “Or… not?” There was cruelty in those eyes, but not for him. Somehow he knew that, though he couldn’t comprehend it.
For the first time since the strange encounter began, she hesitated, the symbols in her eyes whirring. Then they stabilized and she plunged forward.
Felix braced. He didn’t know what he was expecting; a bite, a kiss, some sort of bizarre Faerie magic; whatever it was, he felt he ought to brace for it.
But none of those happened. She stopped, her lips so close to his that he imagined that molecules in the air had to squeeze to get past. And she smiled, something he sensed more than felt. “No.” She said quietly. “Not now. Not for you.”
Confusion ruled Felix’s mind and didn’t improve when she stuck out a red stained tongue and licked his lips. The appendage was rough like a cat’s and made his mouth tingle as she dragged it along his lips, then down along the line of his jaw.
Finally, he found the wherewithal to try his voice again. “Ah-ahn…”
Drawing back, she looked at him again, making an expression as if rolling the taste around in her mouth. Then she leaned in again, aiming lower and dragging her tongue along his collarbone.
Everything was wrong about what was happening. Felix knew that much. Icthiani would never act like that, and she would never talk like that, and never in all the time that could pass in her world or in his, would she touch him like that. It wasn’t the drugs, he decided. What was wrong wasn’t with him, it was with her. And that scared him more than whatever she might have in store for him.
She might enjoy pulling his metaphorical pigtails, but she wasn’t as much of a pain in the ass as she prided herself in being. And he didn’t want to see her hurt in any way. He had to figure out what was happening and stop it.
And just as he strung those thoughts together, a sharp pan came from his shoulder. She’d bitten him. And with a triumphant look on her face, she moved to face him again, flashing teeth now red with more than just her sangrelogos.
“’Ani!” He managed to for out. “Stop!”
The moment stretched out too long. She looked at him and he at her, and her eyes… changed. The symbols contracted and broke apart into ever smaller ones until the red eyes he was used to stared back at him. For a long time, their eyes locked. Then her red tongue slipped up to probe her bloody teeth and her entire body shivered.
Spitting a bloody gob onto his chest, she scrambled away as if she had been burned, slamming her hip into the counter out of his vision in the process. A metal canister of cotton balls fell off it and hit the floor with a crash that filled the room.
Silence followed.
“’Ani?” he asked into it, not sure if he wanted an answer.
Somewhere behind him, a tap turned on, then off again, and suddenly, a wet towel was pressed to the small puncture wounds on his shoulder. Icthiani stood so that he couldn’t see her without turning his head, which he couldn’t.
After long minutes, she finally spoke. “I need you to understand,” This was the voice Felix knew, though shaken and hollow, like a person at the end of a long, weary day. “That wasn’t me. I wouldn’t have done this to you. You know this.”
“Wh-what…” He struggled to speak, to ask, but couldn’t.
She dabbed at his wounds, then moved away. By the sound of it, she was searching the drawers for a bandage. After a few minutes, she returned with one and stood over him reading the instructions. “You told me your secrets. I never told anyone else.” She fumbled with opening the paper packaging. “Would you do the same for me?”
Felix thought about it. She had bought up the personal information he told her, but it wasn’t that deep a secret. And he wasn’t sure if he knew her at all anymore. On the other hand, he felt he needed to understand. “Yes.” he said airily.
She was silent for a moment, carefully and mechanically applying the bandage, then she sat on the seat at his side again, this time sitting as far back and away from him as she could. “Sangrelogos means ‘blood words’; the magic I use. It is a demon bound into my body whose power I tap for my spells. She should be bound to my will. She is not; I failed in the attempt and she marked my body as proof.”
The chair creaked as she changed positions. “I was going to be put to death because I failed and because she is not broken. Loshuia saved me, and as we fled, we found ourselves here.” She inhaled deeply but she no longer sounded like she enjoyed it. “The anger I feel so often is her, testing her bonds. She puts an edge on my rage, my cruelty, everything that is negative, and dulls my compassion, my empathy, and all that is positive. I could live with that. I was never overly compassionate, and I was ever quick to anger.
“But then she noticed you. It started the night we left and went to that ball. She wants to hurt me for binding her. I have resisted—I’ve never let her break free. But today she felt your pain. Demon feed on emotions and you were in so much pain that just for a moment,t he balance was in her favor.”
Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Everything she did was to draw out emotions. Mine and yours. I saw everything.” She tipped her head forward, hiding her eyes. “I am sorry, Felix.”
Now he was starting to wonder if he was still under the effects of the drugs. Was he hearing what he thought he was? What did it mean?
She knew nothing about his thoughts and so continued. “The others can’t know. Loshuia can’t know. They already do not trust or like me. Even my own brother. If they find out, I will have to leave, and I do not understand this world. I won’t survive.”
There was fear there. Something Felix hadn’t been sure she could even feel, but there it was in living color. He wanted to say something, to comfort her and tell her he would keep her secret. But he could barely get one word out at a time. With effort, he did manage to turn his head and catch her eye.
Once again, time span out into dimensions where a second was an hour, and they spent days communicating what both needed to know before they snapped back to reality.
Icthiani nodded silently and stood. She put a surprisingly gentle hand on top of his bandage and looked at him for a long time, debating with herself, weighing pros and cons, and the dangers. Then, suddenly, she looked like herself again; aloof and alien and calm.
Without another word, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his forehead.
He had no time to react before she was surrounded in a ring of crimson lighting and was gone in a whuff of air.
To Be Continued…
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About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter. You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore
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