Descendants: LA #16 – Fiends and Falsehood Part 4

This entry is part 4 of 13 in the series Descendants: LA Volume 2
The paper files they’d taken from the vault had started out in neat stacks on the coffee table, but as they picked over them, scanning briefly for relevant bits, then either tossing them back, or setting them aside for later consideration, the stacks had transformed into a singular, untidy drift that covered the table and sloughed off the sides to collect on the floor.
“Why are they all paper?” asked Josh from his place, sitting on the back of the couch with his bare feet on the cushions. “Paper seems so rarely used in your society, and yet the vault was full of it.”
Ray was sitting on the other half of the couch with his feet up, flipping through a ream of the papers. “MY guess would be that they kept everything strictly paper so there wouldn’t be any evidence on company hard drives and mainframes. They probably have digital files to use locally, but archiving was all done on paper.”
“Listen to this one:” Lydia was sitting on the floor in front of the television with her legs crossed. “Containment procedures: Subject OWA-0011 cannot be allowed within fifty meters of any moving images or three-dimensional representations of living or possibly living entities. The Subject is capable of causing these objects to take on a tangible semblance of life according to their perceived abilities. It has also been reported to cause static images to animate. Is that some kind of Faerie creature too?”
Josh nodded. “It sounds like a gremlin. They’re peaceful cowards and tinkerers mostly, but they can be incredibly dangerous without meaning too, so most peoples shun them for it.”
“Art begets life,” Lydia mused. “That’s a pretty cool power, actually. No one in Faerie ever thought of carving whatever you need, then bringing in a gremlin?”
“Believe me, we High Soder have tried to weaponize everything we’ve ever come in contact with; our races are alike that way, actually. But gremlin-created creatures and objects are actually very flimsy. You could defeat anything they might bring into being with a sling bullet.”
Ray shuffled some more papers before discarding some off the side of the couch. “I’d wager that D3I has that gremlin locked up somewhere until they figure out how to work around that.” He frowned at a page. “Hey, have either of you run across what ‘OWA’ means?”
“I’m guessing it means Off-World Arrival.” said Josh. “That term has come up a few times in my reading over here.”
“Same here.” Lydia chimed in.
“Alright,” said Ray, “How about SGA. I’m seeing that show up in parentheses next to that one. Any idea what the means?”
“I haven’t seen that said Josh. “What is it in reference too?”
Ray shook his head and looked over the paper he’d been talking about. “This one is a memo—the too and from are redacted, of course, but it says that OWA-0023 (SGA-04) ’caused extensive structural damage to the Hollywood facility’ and that they needed a six week hiatus for repairs.”
“You know,” said Lydia, who wasn’t as invested in the current avenue of investigation as she sifted through papers. “We found that one file about what you and ‘Ani can do, but nothing about where and how they found you yet. Maybe it’d help us get to the bottom of this if you told us about how you ended up here.”
Something clicked with Ray and he frowned, lowering the papers in his hand to his chest. “That’s not a bad idea, Josh. Actually, now that I think about it, you’ve told me two versions of that story and they didn’t really match up to what D3I told us.”
Josh paused n his ow reading to look at his friend in confusion and discomfort. “They didn’t? I don’t recall that?”
Ray studied his friend’s dark eyes a moment. “No, they didn’t. How about you tell use again. Start from right before you crossed over and go from there.”
Blinking rapidly, Josh nodded. “Of course. Before crossing over, I had recently returned home to answer a summons from our father. But before I even made the keep, Icthiani intercepted me and told me of a very dangerous change that happened recently in the politics of the court. ‘Ani’s life would have been in great danger if she stayed, and I thought I could help her…”
He avoided looking to the side or licking his lips, or any of the other tells he knew people and daoine to have when they were lying. Technically, he wasn’t lying; just omitting that the ‘change’ was Icthiani’s failure in her sangrelogos trials, which carried with them a death sentence lest the demon gain a foothold in her mind and through her, powerful sorcery.
“I am… was… well connected and well liked throughout the region,” He continued, “So I thought I could help her to disappear. And besides, regardless of how formidable my sister’s powers are, or how peaceful the lands of our father, one simply does not walk alone in Faerie after dark. Most lords won’t even move soldiers at night, so it probably saved our lives that we found ourselves here.”
Lydia leaned closer, like a child listening to an engrossing story. “Elves afraid to go out at night? That doesn’t jibe with the ‘at one with nature’ reputation the kind of elves that show up in books and movies have.”
A small, amused smile came to Josh’s face. “We’re a far cry from the stories, and so is Faerie. We don’t walk in tune with nature; we practice what I suppose you would call extreme agriculture. In a world where most plants are carnivorous and capable of attack, we’ve found ways with magic, tinctures and technique to break nature, tame it and bend it to our needs. And even then, every region holds magic and wild places we still can’t conquer.”
“Between the what you just said and the Faerie creatures we’ve gone up against, you make your home world seem like… well, a Death World.” Ray sat up straighter on the couch.
“And from experience, I’d say that Earth is a promised land compared to home. Quiet, well behaved plant life, very few poisonous animals, and your geography tends to stay in one place, even in small, secluded areas.” Josh said, looking self conscious. Silence reigned for a few moments.
“So.” Ray prompted, “You and ‘Ani were leaving home at a dangerous time… and then what?”
Josh closed his eyes with the rising of the memory. “Mist. Green and hard to see through; more like smoke than fog. But if you waved your hand or cloak through it, it scattered. We tried to press through, but then ‘Ani said…” His eyelids fluttered, then closed tightly as he tried to focus. “… something, I can’t recall. And there were shapes around us. They were like…”
After showing great effort, he slumped where he sat. “I… this is strange. I can see them quite clearly in my mind at first, but it’s like the mist—the more I reach for a good description, the more it evades me. I’m afraid what happened just after is like that to.”
“What’s the next thing you do remember?” asked Ray.
“Arguing.” He said. “People arguing in… I suppose it was English before I could understand it. I was just waking up, I think.” He tilted his head to the side. “Strange. I don’t think I ever remembered things that way before. I mean, I clearly recall now both emerging from the mist on an empty street and wandering the city before being found, and emerging inside a studio lot. But neither of those is quite right now.”
“Sounds like things only got more complicated while I was gone.” said Ramona from the hallway back to the rooms. She was dressed in a thick, light blue robe, and her hair hung down wet around her head as she toweled at it furiously. Overseeing Felix’s surgery had left her with a dire need for a long, hot shower.
Lydia was staring at Josh’s troubled face. “Way more than we expected. Someone’s messed with Josh’s memory of how he got here.”
“And there’s an almost one hundred percent chance they did the same to Icthiani.” added Ray.
“How?” Ramona asked, coming over to sit on the edge of the couch Josh occupied.
Ray shook his head and shrugged. “D3I is a massive multinational; one of those companies that does everything without really doing anything. It could be drugs and post hypnotic suggestion, it could be a machine of some kind;” He flourished the papers in front of him. “They might even have some captive Faerie creature being forced to do it for them.”
“Entirely possible.” said Josh. “There are a number of predators with mind altering abilities, and the House of White Island have a hereditary power of the mesmer that they claim is a blood gift from the sidhe.”
“Or they might be using a descendant.” Lydia said, then gave Ramona a meaningful look. “We know that they’re interested in descendants even when they aren’t prelates on the payroll.”
This made Ramona shift uncomfortably. “Do you think they had plans for me?”
Sitting up, Ray looked her in the eye. “Just in case, I’m going to have Felix do some in-depth analysis of those pills they give you once he’s okay to work.”
“Those are the only things keeping me half-way normal.” She blurted out then looked away.
Ray reached over and patted her knee .”We’ll figure something out. There’s a lot to think on here.”
“And even more to look through.” added Lydia. “These files go back at least eighteen months and we didn’t pick them up in order. It’s going to be a bitch making sense of anything.” She sighed dramatically and tossed her current sheaf of papers aside. “The only thing we know for sure is that it turns out that the whole time we thought we were doing the right thing and helping people? We were working for the bad guys.”
Everyone in the room looked in a different direction; one that didn’t happen to have any of the others in line of sight.
Finally, Ray broke the silence. “You know, that brings up a good question: They seem intent on cataloging and containing Faerie creatures. But if that’s the case, why call us when one’s out and running around? They know Felix and ‘Ani can send Faeries back where they came from as long as they’ve only been on Earth a few days. Doesn’t that deprive them of subjects?”
“Perhaps they’re building a menagerie.” said Josh; “Sending back any creatures they already have a breeding pair of.”
“No…” Ray said slowly. And then suddenly, he flew into a flurry of activity, digging through the papers at his side. As he collected papers, he checked something, face growing increasingly certain. “That’s it. I think I’ve got it.”
“Got what?” Asked Ramona.
Ray held out the papers. “These are all files describing things I remember us sending back over the past few months. Not all of them, but enough. None of them are marked ‘SGA’. I think that SGA is something they’re looking for. There are SGA’s with the same basic description dated later that we never got called on. So just plain Off World Arrivals don’t matter—they send us to throw them back like a fisherman catching a little fish.”
“Yeah, but what do we do about it?” Lydia moaned, flopping backward to lie on the floor. “We can’t just let ourselves be their garbage men, but we can’t just let Faeries run roughshod over the city either. They’ve got us in a perfect catch-22.”
Josh looked up in a flash of inspiration and slid down to sit properly on the couch. “Not perfect. Not really. They only think they do.”
“I’m not sure I’m following you here.” said Ray.
“Well,” Josh leaned forward with his hands on his knees. “We may be doing minor errands for the enemy, but they, at this point, do not know that we recognize them as the enemy. Many of the papers in the vault burned, easily covering out theft, And Ray has already taken his father and our ‘illustrious’ sponsors to task over our independence. They have no reason to believe that we are anything more at this point than the slightly rebellious pawns we’ve always been.”
He removed his hands from his knees and tented his fingers in front of him. “This puts us directly within the enemy camp, with access to their resources and in a very real position to gather information; even receive it freely if it wouldn’t be incriminating if we didn’t know what we do now.”
“’The enemy’?” Ramona asked, incredulous. “We’re talking about a corporation here, not an army. And you guys are prelates, not paladins.”
“Life and war: the principle remain the same.” Josh said.
Ray got up and went to retrieve his tablet from the kitchen counter. “I agree After all, Ramona, if he hadn’t ended up here on Earth, Josh would have been a general. He knows his tactics, and my thinking wasn’t that far off from his. Until we know more about what’s going on, it’s best not to tip our hand.”
Tablet in hand, he started tapping in an internet search. “Until then, we have to keep combing these pages for clues. And we need to do something about unlocking the biggest clue of all.”
From her back, Lydia craned her head up and took a guess, “Josh’s real memory of what happened when he and ‘Ani came to Earth.”
“Exactly.” said Ray as his search yielded fruit and he picked a choice that seemed far enough away to not be on 3DI’s radar, but close enough to drive to. “And luckily, no matter how they got those false memories into his head, there’s plenty of mentalists out there who can get them out.”
He held up his tablet, revealing the landing page of a web site. The entire right side was taken up by an older man in a sport coat. He was balding, with the top of his head completely devoid of hair and surrounded by by a ring of once-black hair that was now giving up the battle with gray. He had a short beard, also going gray.
His arms were spread in welcoming, also displaying a silver ring on each middle finger and cross-shaped cufflinks on his jacket.
Above him, stretching across the entire top of the page was a name: James H Sevrin, The Mind Whisperer. In a smaller, less fancy font below that, it said: Portland’s most celebrated confirmed telepath wants to help you. Ray pointed further down the page to a list of services on offer to prospective clients: Remember where you left lost objects, relive happy memories and repress the bad to move on with your life, improve your recall in ten affordable sessions…
“The second one looks like exactly what you’re looking for.” said Ramona.
“Are we sure he’s truly a mesmer?” Josh asked. “Not to mention the threat he might pose to our identities if he is.”
“Only one way to find out though.” Lydia said.
Ray nodded. “As soon as Felix is okay to travel, we’re going on a road trip.”
Icthiani hadn’t set out to decorate her room. She refused to recant or back down even a little from her original stance that she did not like living in the long-fabled Blue World, and so couldn’t bring herself to personalize the place.
But months of living there had done it for her. Lydia tricked her into picking out sheets in the color and style that she liked, Loshuia and sometimes the others often picked up little baubles or real, bound books they thought she might like to gift to her.
At first, that had been unthinkable. Gifts were not gifts in Faerie; they were contracts to favors owed down the road and the recipient was bound to honor them if they accepted. But Loshuia, over weeks of argument, impressed upon her that Mankind, the sole sapient race in the Blue World, didn’t hold to Faerie traditions and that gifts from them were about friendship and care.
And as she rarely if ever shopped for herself, the room had become a sort of shrine to their friendship and how much they cared about her even though she did her best to keep herself private and isolated.
In her hands, she held one of those tokens. It was an unadorned mug; slightly lopsided on one end and with a too-large handle. Felix had made it in a pottery class he and Lydia had taken on a lark a month or so ago. It was dark, blood red.
‘Like your hair’, the young man who as mostly machine had explained when presenting it to her, wrapped in packing paper. ‘But mostly, it’s so you’ve got a coffee cup of your own.
And that was nice, because of all the strange things she’d come upon on the Blue world, coffee was the one she wouldn’t want to do without. The bitter, but usually sweetened and mellowed drink did something to her that was the exact opposite of what her sangrelogos did; made her calm, serene even. And in combination, the two balanced her, making her like she was before she failed to break the spirit of her personal demon.
She’d never been a sweet and pleasant girl; she’d been sardonic and cynical long before that. But with the sangrelogos just under the surface, she became angry, reticent and violent. He hated that and she hated being red.
Her hand gripped the cup tightly. She hated the color red. Always had; her favorite color was the dark purple of the blossoming snake-eater vines on her family’s country estate. But now that she had Voth Saevanya under her skin and in her head, she despised it.
When she first encountered the demon, it had been young and malformed with hardly an ego at all. The Sanguine Halls bred them that way, bereft of emotions to feed on and personalities to assimilate, just for that reason. But Icthiani had failed to properly cow it into submission, and so over months, Saevanya was growing in her power, molding herself into a darker self of Icthiani.
They had the same emotions, only magnified, the same appetites, only with less restraint. And now the sangrelogos had made it clear that they had the same wants. And if that was what Saevanya wanted, it was for the sake of her sanity and the lives of those who called themselves her friends that she must see to it that neither could ever have it.
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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