Issue #21: Come the Black Clouds

This entry is part 10 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 2

3 minutes earlier, the upstairs commons of Freeland House

“Okay;” Juniper tapped the screen of her American History textbook and bought up the questions for Chapter 31. “This one’s for you, Cyn.” She said, “what were the codenames of both the plane and the bomb involved in the razing of the city of Juiz de Flora during the Brazilian-American War.”

Cyn gave Juniper another odd look. It was a hot night, so hot that she was down to a tank top and light shorts but Juniper was still in a sweater. It made her uncomfortable just looking at her. Forcing her attention away from the overdressed girl, she bent her mind to the question at hand; this history cram session was for her benefit, after all. “Groundwire… was the pla—no, the bomb. Groundwire was the bomb and the plane was… Jabber… jaws?”

“You got the bomb right.” Juniper beamed. “But the plane was the Jabberwocky, not Jabberjaws.”

“Why did I think Jabberjaws?”

“I think you’re tired.” Warrick said as Isp topped off his coffee cup from the nearly empty pot. “It’s almost two and we were up early for sparring practice. Maybe we should turn in.”

“Just a couple more.” Juniper insisted, scrolling down to another question. “I want to help Cyn pass so we can all be seniors together.”

Cyn winced. “Jun, history’s the only subject I’m tanking in. That’s not going to keep me from going to the next grade.”

“But what if they change things again?” Juniper asked. “During my freshman year at the Academy, the state made it so you couldn’t advance unless you passed Calculus. What if they do that with American History too?”

“Geez, I’m glad I got frozen before that.” Warrick shook his head.

“Come on, this is an easy one, okay?” Juniper pleaded to Cyn. “State four effects the bombing of Juiz de Flora has had on modern society.”

Cyn cackled. “Wow that is easy. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting five at least. Let’s see, there’s—“

A scream came from down the hall, so loud and raw that it rebounded off the walls like a bee caught un a mason jar. The air itself vibrated and virtually cracked with energy.

Clutching their ears, the three young psionics got to their feet and hurried into the hall where all their sleeping quarters were located, where the scream had originated.

Melissa was already there in her nightgown, hands slapped over her ears to block out the din. “It’s Kareem!” She tried to shout over the noise. “Something’s wrong!”

“No shit!” Cyn shouted back as the trio plus one headed for their ethereal friend’s room. A pink glow poured from under the door and through the keyhole.

The next instant, Alexis arrived, girded in her black heat and flying as fast as she could, given the need to navigate the house. “What’s going on!?” She asked, “What’s happened with Kareem?”

“We don’t know!” Cyn shouted, finally abandoning the notion of having ears altogether. In a situation like the one she found herself in, she could guess what people were saying. Reaching past Melissa, she threw open the door and was immediately floored by the wave of force that poured out like water from a spent dam.

The others were likewise thrown to the ground as the rose colored wave surged down the hallway. An immense pressure held them down without doing them any harm. Then it was over. The light faded, taking the pressure with it and by the time the Descendants had regained their senses, the last echoes of the scream were gone as well.

More resilient than her fellows, Cyn was up first and half crawled; half dragged herself to the door. Kareem’s body lay in his bed as it always had, but Cyn noticed some immediate differences. Several of the monitors arrayed around him, usually showing flat or at least muted lines were now tracing erratic patterns across their screens and scrolling numbers feverishly. What was more concerning, however, were the screens that let Kareem project his image or other images form the astral. They were blank.

“Oh my god.” Laurel rushed in with Ian on her heels. She reached Alexis first and helped her friend stand. “Is everyone okay?”

“That was an attack. No two ways about it.” Ian said, calling up a pulse of wind to gird his hand. “those military reactive defenses aren’t worth shit.”

“No.” Melissa said as she and Juniper used one another as support to get up. “It was Kareem. Something happened to him. He was…” tears came to her eyes, “he was screaming and…”

“Yeah.” Warrick said, letting the tentacles help him up. “We heard him. I mean ‘heard him’ heard him. Not in our heads.”

“Or the speakers.” Juniper said. “But how could that be?”

“I heard him too.” Alexis said, “That’s why I came straight here.”

“Something came after Kareem?” Ian asked.

“I don’t think so.” Laurel said, making her way toward the door where Cyn had disappeared. She looked in to find Cyn looking at the various monitors. Since Thanksgiving, Cyn had helped out with her daily recordkeeping and had become quite good with them. Quietly, the psionic genius put her arm around the stunned girl. “You know what these readings mean, don’t you?”

Cyn looked at her for a second, confused, then reopened her ears. Laurel repeated the question. The white haired girl nodded. “They mean that he’s back in his body.” She said and felt a warm feeling when Laurel nodded that she was correct. “But…” she pondered aloud, “why’s he still unconscious then?”

***

Wind licked at the close fitting clothes Darleen Summers wore to work everyday, causing a ticklish sensation to assault Rehenimaru. Her feet touched ground again and she paused to look back up the forty stories she’d just leapt from. It was fortunate that she’d managed to keep her concentration on her blood magic leaping spell between the overwhelming urge to fidget and the constant war she was fighting with the mind of her body’s previous mistress.

But the war with Darleen was making her magic stronger than it ever had been on Faerie, so she had no qualms there. Still, the blue jumpsuit covered with pockets was becoming a nuisance. Clothing, as Rehenimaru saw it should flow gracefully or act as a second skin. This would have to be corrected sooner rather than later, preferably even before she was able to resume her natural form.

She frowned, looking at the barren expanse of concrete and asphalt between herself and the gates of the tiny kingdom called ConquesTech. Hopefully, the city would have something to rectify that. Then she could tend to the assignment given her.

Taking a few running steps, she leapt into the air and let her spell take over. Though the rippling clothing still tickled, the horizontal leap was easier to maintain than the vertical fall. She landed some fifty yards from Building Seven. She took a few more steps and leaped again. What had seemed a league of empty space was quickly left behind courtesy of her blood magic infused bounds.

***

“Disgusting.” Gary Richards’s body pouted, leaning against the open elevator doors, looking down the now open shaft. The actual elevator was now a crumpled wreck a few yards away thanks to Colos’s orders and Aberak’s blood magic boosted strength. Edenkai, master tactician and consort of Colos turned a baleful glare on the mortal coil of Wesley McQueen, currently inhabited by Aberak, Colos’s brother and bodyguard.

Aberak was on his back doing sit-ups with furious tenacity. “Colos knows more about this than you, Fellspawn.” He said in a distracted tone. “So trust that he can see us through without one of your precious strategies.”

“I’ve nothing but faith in Colos.” Edenkai said flatly. She gestured to her body, “It’s this body. Of two females, I should be the one to take the female. I am consort of the Lord of Sai’n’shree! I swear under the Vault and Thorn that she did so just to irk me.”

“What that one can do is pretty though.” Aberak said, turning over to do push-ups.

Edenkai lifted her hand and caused an orb of pale light to expand from her palm. “Completely useless! Especially when you consider that we can see in total darkness.”

“Not yet we can’t.” Aberak pointed out. “And why’s that bother you so? It isn’t as if you won’t soon be able to change that shape and it’s not as if you’ve never bonded with a male daemon before.”

“Daemons don’t have any sex any farther than what they identify as.” The tactician replied, “These humans are different…”

“Those differences won’t matter anyway.” Aberak countered, “We’re here for a reason. So there won’t be any ‘consorting’ in Mankind’s world anyway, even if you took a female host.”

“It’s a matter of pride.” Edenkai snapped. She looked out into the city. “I can go and find one before Colos finishes here. The Heir is still resting after all.” She spoke a harsh syllable and her eyes briefly flashed with a color not visible to the human eye or comprehensible to the human mind.

He was right. She said into Aberak’s mind. The heir is not the only magic user. Oh, what a perfect host!

“No!” Aberak said firmly and out loud. “We have orders!”

And I outrank you. Edenkai noted. So I order you to not call Colos when I leave. I’ll be back very soon and with this Mankind’s magic turned to our cause. She spoke another syllable out loud and vanished.

Aberak muttered a curse at her under his breath and continued his exercises. What could he do? Orders were orders.

***

“He was right.” Manikin whispered into Morganna’s ear as she concentrated on the psychic wavelength the demons communicated over. “The heir is not the only magic user. Oh, what a perfect host.” She paused as Aberak shouted, “And I outrank you. So I order you to not call Colos when I leave. I’ll be back soon and with this Mankind’s magic turned to out cause.”

Morganna smiled, still pretending to breathe laboriously. “I knew what… I-I felt…” she intoned. “Naife… Renst, Habsi… do you feel it too?”

“We feels it.” Naife confirmed in his harp-voice. “It is being another Mankind?”

“Another Mankind with magics, yes?” Renst chimed in.

“Yes, yes.” Morganna nodded. “I want… to bring them here. Can you do that?”

“Motes are be doing whatever Mankind say.” Naife confirmed. “Motes move faster than demon is teleporting.”

“Then do it…” Morganna ordered. “And let her know… let her know… that the demon is coming.”

The motes bobbed as a way of saluting and, being entities that were essentially made of light, moved off at the speed of such.

“This is how it begins.” Manikin observed. “With motes of all creatures. Shall we begin? Aberak is the only one left and he can’t transform yet.” The golem reached for the satchel that held the Book of Tranquility, but Morganna grabbed the offending appendage.

“No… not yet. I sense something coming… on the wind. It comes for us. It… comes to kill everyone here. It will be a perfect distraction.”

***

Now her clothes flowed around her in elegant billows. Rehenimaru was amazed at how convenient searching for clothing in the lands of Mankind was. In Faerie, it was more or less necessary to either make clothes or rob the clothes off someone’s back. In this world, Mankind simply left perfectly good clothes arranged on dolls behind easily shattered planes of glass!

Now properly attired in a white shirt with wide, flowing sleeves and snug, black leggings, she had no trouble maintaining leaps of just under one hundred yards in a single bound. The nearly empty city streets flashed beneath her, offering up the bizarre sights to Rehenimaru’s eyes.

Still, she had no idea where to find animals into which to plant the Devil Seeds. There were animals; wretched and solitary beings that skulked in the alleys, but they wouldn’t do. Her keen senses told her larger game dwelt deep beneath the city, but she had no idea what rituals accessed this world’s nether world.

So she was forced to take the more direct approach. After several dozen more city blocks, she found what she was looking for; a Mankind walking alone down the street, unarmed. Kicking off a building, she redirected herself to land before him.

The man wasn’t like the other humans she’d observed as she had traversed the alleyways and back streets. They had been harried, often delirious and clearly malnourished. This one was well fed and carried himself like a man who belonged exactly where he stood.

Before he had time to react in typical, startled fashion, she grabbed him by the arms and slammed him against the wall. His hat came off, revealing grey hair. His dark face looked more unhappy than surprised or frightened and the taste of his emotions bore that out.

“Where do you keep your animals?” Rehenimaru demanded, plucking the man’s language from his mind and instantly recognizing it as the one the Heir of Hyrilius used.

The man exuded confidence, both figuratively and, in the case of the emotions Rehenimaru consumed, literally. “Why that would be the zoo, of course, young lady.” He said in a friendly tone. “I hear the baboons are fascinating creatures. I think you’ll like them.”

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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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