- Descendants: LA #25 – Merchandise Driven Part 1
- Descendants: LA #26 – Merchandise Driven Part 2
- Descendants: LA #27 – Merchandise Driven Part 3
- Descendants: LA #28 – Troubled Production Part 1
- Descendants: LA #29 – Troubled Production Part 2
- Descendants: LA #30 – Troubled Production Part 3
- Descendants: LA #31 – Troubled Production Part 4
- Descendants: LA #32 – Troubled Production Part 5
- Descendants: LA #33 – The Sixth Ranger Part 1
- Descendants: LA #34 – The Sixth Ranger Part 2
- Descendants: LA #35 – The Sixth Ranger Part 3
- Descendants: LA #37 – The Sixth Ranger Part 5
Icthiani’s hand immediately went for the obsidian knife concealed on her person. It was only the incredible speed Felix managed to coax out of even his civilian arm servos that allowed him to catch her wrist before she could pull it out and start casting.
Her eyes all but flashed as she glared at him. “What are you doing?” she hissed.
Felix leaned close and hissed a whisper of her own. “Because they aren’t monsters, Ani.”
She looked back across the street. There were at least a dozen overly-muscled, velvet-skinned, tusked green monsters standing there. The expression she gave him made Felix shrink a bit before rallying.
“I swear, they totally aren’t. They’re just humans—normal humans—in costumes. It’s orc-play.”
Unwilling to give up the option of letting lose some blood magic on the possible threat, Icthiani continued to try to surreptitiously break his hold on her wrist… though not as much as she could have. “What is an ‘orc’ and why would humans play one?”
Felix blinked at her. “Wait… you don’t even know what they are and you were gonna blast them?” Icthiani didn’t even need to say anything, just look at him. “…of course you were. That’s the Faerie way after all. But damn it, ‘Ani, we’re not in Faerie, okay? Not everything strange is going to try and kill you, I promise. And if something is going to, I’ll let you know, then punch it in the face, okay?”
With one more dubious look, Icthiani stopped struggling. “Fine.”
“Phew.” He let go of her arm, thanking his lucky stars that no one had noticed them and took him for being an abusive boyfriend or something. “Anyway, they go orccing because it’s fun. There’s probably some event or something going on here they’re all dressed up for—let’s check it out!”
He almost grabbed for her hand, but stopped himself just before doing so. That led to a moment of awkward looks before Icthiani folded her arms and inclined her head, signaling him to take the lead.
They trotted across the street with the light, and once they were close enough, they got a closer look at the orcs standing out front. Instead of just milling around as Felix first suspected, they were instead standing in a loose line going out the door, chatting sociably among-st themselves.
Casting one quick glance behind him to make sure Icthiani was behind him, Felix approached a trio standing just outside the door. “’Sup guys? What’s going on? Some kinda mini-convention?”
“Almost.” One of the orcs broke off his conversation to answer. Up close, it was clear that his ‘skin’ really was felt over pads representing muscles, and unlike some of the higher-end orc masks, his only had enough articulation to move up and down at the jaw when he spoke. “Damon Fiske and Molly Seryl are going to be here at three to launch the new Age of Orkkraft figure line. They’re gonna be signing figs and faction books!”
“Sweet!” said Felix, who had no idea what Age of Orkkraft was. “If people aren’t waiting in line for them, can they just go in, or is this like a grand opening type deal.”
The orc shrugged. “Be our guest; people’ve been going in and out all day.”
Felix gave him a thumbs up. “Thanks, dude. Good luck with the signing and stuff.”
He once again led the way into the building. Once inside and away from the remainder of the line of orcs, Icthiani leaned over to him. “They truly are costumes. They look like trolls.”
“You guys have real, live trolls over there? And they look like orcs?”
“Not entirely,” she admitted, “Trolls are more rangy and lean. Taller. But they do have skin in shades of green and have tusks. I know your people have tales of daoine, though they name us ‘elf’–this may be more of the same. Your people seem to have an ancestral memory of either previous incursions of Faerie into the Blue World, or the Blue World into Faerie.”
Felix looked around them. He’d never been to this store, and as such,he had no idea where to find the D:LA action figures. It didn’t help that Playful Platypus was one of those big, independent toy stores that went for a more whimsical, wonderland layout than the typical aisles of a chain store. There were huge display pieces and big, smiling statues of popular characters breaking line of sight everywhere.
So perplexed was he as to where to go that it took a moment for what Icthiani said to penetrate.
“Hold on: this whole ‘crossover’ things happened before? When? How do people not know this?”
“You live a shorter time than most races of Faerie.” Icthiani gravitated to a bin shaped like a sailboat, which was filled with plush sea life. “Between the last incursion between our worlds, your people have had dozens, perhaps hundreds of generations. Mine have had maybe ten or twenty, all recorded in a written history tended by beings who have gone through fewer than can be counted on my hand. For us, it is history. For you, history has become legend and myth; all distorted and rationalized, occasionally supplemented by sightings of things that stayed behind or rare individual crossovers.”
Picking up a halibut, she turned it over in her hands and sniffed it. As if she hadn’t just been describing humans as mayflies, she held it up for his consideration, “This is one of your children’s toys? Why do you teach them to play with food.”
Felix chuckled and took the toy fish from her hands. “It’s more to teach them to appreciate the wildlife. See, ours doesn’t fight back half as good as yours and, we, well almost killed off a lot of them. Especially the fish.”
To this, Icthiani actually laughed, loud, clear and musical. “Humans? Have managed to subdue their environment when we’ve barely managed to beat ours back? And you sound ashamed of this?”
Despite being delighted to actually coax that reaction from her by any means, Felix was forced to glare by his wounded pride. “Hey. Like I said, ours generally doesn’t deserve it. Plus think about this: if you kill ’em all, you can’t eat them.”
By now, Icthiani was back to rummaging in the bin. “I suppose that would be a problem. But I trust you were smart enough to destroy all of these.” She came up holding a pink and orange stuffed manta ray.
“…” was all Felix could say to start. Eventually, he did get his voice back. “A ray? What’d they ever do to you guys? It’s just a fish.”
She stared down at the thing, instantly suspicious of the sewn-on smile. “This is a fish?” With deftness, she plucked up a mackerel. “I thought this was a fish; the same as ours.”
“They’re both fish,” said Felix.
“Not an adult, ocean-going flow beast?”
“I have no idea what those are, but I’m gonna go with no.”
“How can this possibly be a fish?”
Felix sighed. Computer Science? That was a piece of cake to him. Robotics? Put some frosting on that cake. Mechanical Engineering? Well that was birthday cake. Now, he wasn’t a ‘D’ student of biology, but it had been a long time since he needed to remember the exact taxonomic description for ‘fish’.
“We probably classify them different,” He finally said, and reached into the bin himself. From it, he extracted a smiling dolphin wearing a little sailor hat. “For example, this isn’t a fish.”
“Of course it isn’t.” The look Icthiani was giving him suggested she felts she was being talked down to and that continuing down the line of thinking would end badly.
Felix blinked. “I just thought… I mean most humans make that mistake so…”
“It is obviously intelligent and therefore not a fish. Look at the hat! Do mere animals in the Blue World produce clothing?”
“No, but we don’t have other intelligent species. Not that kind of intelligent anyway.”
Icthiani nodded slowly, accepting the explanation and allowing it to mollify her. At length, she tossed the mackerel back in the bin and held up the manta ray. “But this does not represent a threat to body and mind?”
“Not really, no,” said Felix, who was now worried for his mind.
“Excellent, then I will purchase this. A fish that isn’t a fish interests me.”
Felix grinned. “Cool. At least you’re getting into the spirit of this. Wanna look around more, or you wanna go find the Descendants: LA stuff now?”
Humming thoughtfully, Icthiani tucked the manta ray into the crook of her arm, then took the dolphin from him, adding it to the ray. “I think these will suffice for now. Lead on to what you wanted to show me.”
It took a good ten minutes of wandering, during which time Icthiani discovered, but declined to buy board and collectible card games, doll houses, and model kits. She did, however, pick up a remote controlled car despite Felix pointing out that she needed to learn how to use a palmtop or tablet computer to operate it.
“The variety of playthings your people afford their children is astounding.” she said as they finally happened upon the action figure section. “Is this the key to the Mankind’s legendary adaptability?”
“We’re legendary over there for something?” Felix asked, splitting his focus between talking to her and browsing the scores of figures. He knew he was on the right track when he started seeing Infinity and Stunner merchandise.
She nodded. “Mankinds are known for their ability to swiftly assimilate tactics and magics directed against them and turn them to their own purposes. What would take a fey sorcerer decades to craft would take a Mankind wizard months or even mere weeks to make a serviceable copy or even improve upon it. Only overwhelming numbers or overwhelming force ever seemed to work—according to legend.”
Felix grinned broadly and flexed his prosthetic muscles. “So now that you’ve seen the real thing in person, how do we stack up to the stories?”
His grin flickered away in the face of the dull, unimpressed stare she shot him. “Unimpressive,” she said flippantly, then tilted her head, “However, that has been the final, mortally incorrect assessment handed down by many who came before me. I believe the term you would use is ‘hidden depths’.”
“I’ll accept that,” said Felix. His eyes fell on a familiar silhouette below his eye-line and his train of thought jumped to a new trap entirely. “Dude!” Giggling like a little kid, he dropped to his knees and picked up the box, holding it up to Icthiani to see with a glint of triumph in his eyes. “Check it out! They did a toy of Matilda!”
Even more glee shined in his eyes as he spotted boxes with his other motorcycles on them as well! “Sally! Lizzy! Gertie! They’re all here! I had no idea they were going to do these. Isn’t it awesome.”
Not knowing the proper protocol for this sort of thing, Icthiani sat down on her knees across from him and picked up the box with Sally B on it. There was an artist’s rendition of the heavily armored bike racing down a highway of packed pavement, its weapons firing as one.
“Did you not tell me once that doing this would ‘cook’ the driver?” She asked, pointing out the weapons all blasting.
“Yeah, the heat sinks aren’t up for handling all that heat at once. It’s make the whole operator’s compartment spike to something around three hundred degrees. But don’t worry, it’s just a toy. It’s not like some kid is going to get in Sally and try to drive her.”
“I thought that toys were meant to teach children.”
“Well yeah,” Said Felix, wishing he’d bought a shopping cart. It was a foregone conclusion that he was buying all of these. “But just because they can play with a toy plane doesn’t mean it’ll teach them how to fly it. Sometimes it’s all about the imagination.”
Icthiani rolled her eyes. “Imagination is for the less regarded houses. A warrior or mage with tries to be creative is one who does not live long.” She started when Felix started laughing. “What?”
“No wonder you guys don’t get how we could reverse engineer your wizardy stuff. Seriously, tell me you don’t believe that, ‘Ani.”
“Is there a reason I shouldn’t?”
He poked his thumb to his chest. “You’re looking at one right here. You think my tech is based on ancient tradition? Hell no, it’s mostly me doing trial and error while making stuff up as I go along. Sure there’s engineering principles and the laws of physics, but you’ve be surprised how few people need a grenade launcher in their arm.”
An odd look came over her face and she tilted her head the other way, her lips twitching slightly. “And to think I was considering you unique.”
For a moment, Felix was transfixed by her lips. Not in the way male leads he’d seen in movies and TV or read about ended up preoccupied with the female lead’s lips, but rather, he was trying to will that twitch to tip over all the way to a smile.
Then he realized what he was doing and shook his head to clear it. “Um… not really. I know a lot of people who trick out their replacement arms and legs—not for the same reasons, but yeah… scientists too. There’re millions of people like me, really.”
Desperate to look anywhere buy her face, he scanned the display above them and found… her face. “Oh! Check it out, I found you! Your figure. Um… the toy of you.” He stood was quickly as he could without dropping his Waltzing Matilda box and took a blister-packed action figure off the wall.
The backboard had a boisterous logo with DESCENDANTS imposed over the letters LA amid lighting bolts with cracks running through the letters. Below that was a drawing of Icthiani in her Lady D costume, wreathed in red lightning with crimson lasers shooting out from her hands.
The toy had a plastic cloak with a hood that didn’t come off and a removable translucent plastic halo of lighting that lit up if you pushed a button on the back.
Unfortunately, there was a banner above the toy’s head that read ‘LADY DEMON’.
Felix made a tiny ‘eep’ sound and turned swiftly to calm his friend. “Crap, I can’t believe they did that. Ray and I totally made sure to tell them you’re Lady D now, not Demon. We wouldn’t have given you that name at all if we’d known in the first place. I’m so sorry.”
By then, Icthiani had stood, reached past him, and took another Lady Demon figure off the wall. “No one else knows the truth though, yes?”
“I swear. Not even Ray’s dad.”
“I hate that name,” she said softly. With the hood, there was no way of judging the accuracy of the likeness. She noted that the depicted body was slimmer and lankier than her own, but from what she’d read, human thought elves were a somewhat androgynous and universally malnourished people—usually distressingly at home with nature.
Transferring the box to the crook of her arm with the plushies, she looked over the display until she found the Teen Machine figure. It was the most expensive of all of them, as it came with far more accessories.
Her eyes narrowed. “That arms come off.”
“So do these.” Felix said with a shrug, nodding toward his own arms.
“That doesn’t bother you?”
Again, he shrugged. “No one knows who were really are. All they see is the heroes; the bright colors, the cool gadgets, the awesome magic. All the fun parts. The way I see it is… it’s partly our job to make sure they don’t have to see the not-fun parts.”
“Like when your arm was damaged.”
“Or when you santa-lokos is acting up. Sometimes, we have bad days. Sometimes, there’s a lot of pressure or stuff coming up we’ve gotta worry about. But then there’s days like today,” he held up his boxed bike toy, “This was a good day, right?”
Icthiani took a moment to think, then took the Teen Machine figure down and added it to her haul. “I will admit… this was a good day.”
End Merchandise Driven.