Issue #22: The Breaking Storm

This entry is part 11 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 2: Magic and Machines

Part 3

A black spiral rotated over Mayfield, casting out feeder bands like the arms of an enormous squid. Arcs of green lightning vaulted through them, trailing iridescent sparks. There was no thunder, only a menacing silence that was like a stalking predator.

In the eye of this otherworldly storm floated an island of concrete and torturously bent rebar. Upon that island, a pool of calm amid the winds of the Faerie-born storm, stood two figures; Morganna, mad sorceress, and the Manikin, a golem charged with advising she who had become the Heir of the mage Hyrilius.

“The storm is almost fully formed, O Heir.” Manikin declared, watching Morganna stare blankly into the whirling vortex. “The chaos of the fey-storm will forge a connection into the heart of Sai’n’shree.” She reminded her charge mostly out of wondering if she was entirely with her senses. “When that happens, you will be able to work the enchantment you conceived on a global scale; using the power of the storm to power the spell and the inherent magic in the living demons to forge its shape.”

Morganna stared at the black clouds roiling outside her circle of protection. She saw images in them, things from her past; things from the future. Many futures. The winds of fey, her old teachers had said, propelled the sails of destiny.

“This…” Morganna said reflectively, “This hasn’t been done before.”

It wasn’t a question, but Manikin answered. “Once. When the Circle of Ten sealed away the natural paths between this world and the others. None had succeeded before, none since.”

“I will…” Morganna intoned, watching a possibility stemming from something like the life of a butterfly arise, then collapse into the infinite. “Succeed. I will. It has to be done. These… these… psionics, their power is a mockery to… to magic. Before it can return, they must… be wiped from the face of the Earth.”

She spoke a string of words in a long dead language and the emerald head of the Staff of Hyrilius flared, calling into being a flat plane not unlike a mirror into the space before her. The mirror image, however, quickly faded to reveal a view of the swiftly changing battle below.

“But they will try to stop me. Try to stop what is… right. Just.” Morganna ranted. “But… but they can’t.” She turned her gaze on Manikin, who felt as if those cold, brown eyes were focusing on a spot somewhere inside her skull. “You will defend me?”

“To my destruction.” Manikin inclined her head. “Hyrilius would not leave his Heir defenseless. I am your shield as well as your open book.”

Then something happened that even rattled Manikin’s mystically constructed mind. Morganna laughed.

***

Four razor sharp pinions sliced through the air, but this time, the targets were expecting them. The vortex of wind Chaos had been holding on to in anticipation of dealing with Edenkai and Aberak exploded outward with force akin to the eye wall of a tornado. The incredible winds caught up the projectiles and plunged them hard into the ground.

Chaos smirked. “So the man with the wings thinks it’s a good idea to piss of the guy the controls the air. Allow me to reacquaint you with gravity.” Setting his will against the air, he drastically reduced the density of the air in a column beneath Samael. With no air to provide lift, logically the mercenary should fall, he reasoned.

Logic blinked stupidly and twiddled its thumbs. Samael remained aloft in the midst of the massive downdraft.

“What the hell?” Chaos gaped.

Samael laughed. “You thought these wings work like a bird’s? Like an angel’s? No such luck, Chaos. I’m powered by something far beyond mere physics.” With that, he snapped the wings forward, sending a full dozen gleaming blades at the group.

The ground groaned and cracked as the beams supporting the roof of ConquesTech’s vast underground parking structure deformed at Alloy’s command, snapping vertical and bringing five feet of asphalt and concrete with them. The impromptu shield rocked at the impacts of the projectiles.

“How many of those things can this bastard fire?” Chaos fumed, listening to the barrage impacting.

“As many as he wants.” Vorpal said with a frown. “They’re magical constructs generated by his wing rig.

Chaos eyes her accusingly. “He’s magical too?”

“Know another way he could hover in that downdraft?”

“The real question is where did he get it?” Occult asked. Even with the hood obscuring her eyes, she gave Vorpal the impression that she was dissecting her with her gaze.

“Same place I got my goggles.” Vorpal said, “Our employer reverse engineered them from notes taken from the lady up top there: Tatiana Farnsworth.”

“You’ve got that wrong or at least your source does.” Occult said quickly. “She’s not in control. She’s under the control of an ancient witch called Morganna. This isn’t her fault.”

Vorpal made an amused sound. “Oh, too bad. My boss has a pretty big price on her head.”

“You aren’t going to collect it.” Darkness informed Vorpal more than asked her.

“I planned too. After making sure Samael didn’t take this as an excuse to do some collateral damage. But no, not now. Still, Morganna needs to be stopped.” She gave them all a level look. “By any means necessary. One woman’s life isn’t worth the lives and livelihoods of all psionics.

Another volley from Samael cracked Alloy’s wall, causing gaps to open. It wouldn’t survive another.

“That isn’t an option either.” Alloy said. “Lisa Ortega’s up there too and I’m not going to let your ends justify her into the hospital; on top of the fact that no prelate worth their salt would kill to get the job done.”

“Get real, kid. I’m not a prelate.” Vorpal said darkly.

Isp and Osp uncoiled from Alloy’s arms and menaced her. “But we are.” He said, matching her tone, “And the prelate playbook has plenty of chapters on knocking someone the hell out.”

“Down!” Darkness, who had been watching Samael through a gap in the wall shouted.

One last barrage of razor pinions was too much for the more brittle parts of the wall, which crumbled and collapsed, leaving a skeleton of i-beam and rebar. The prelates and their temporary ally scattered as chunks of debris filled the air once more. Darkness called up her black heat and launched herself skyward like a shot from a cannon.

Reaching Samael’s level, she hurled a lance of black heat at him as big around as her palm. The rogue mercenary raised a bracer covered arm and a translucent blue kite shield formed in front of him, scattering the attack into a harmless haze. He grinned and pulled back a wing to fire more deadly projectiles.

Something moved in the corner of his eye. He barely had time to raise the other arm and corresponding shield before a piece of reinforced concrete the size of a bowling ball smashed into it. Even with his magic shields, he was pushed back several yards in the air. Before he could orient himself, Isp and Osp lifted another missile to hurl.

“I could get a shield up if we all got close together again.” Occult said to Chaos.

He shook his head. “No, he’d just batter it down again. Best that they keep him on the defensive and distracted.”

“Then what do we do?” Occult asked.

Chaos nodded toward the top of the building, toward the crux of the cloud vortex that had by that time expanded over then entire city and a healthy chunk of the Piedmont region of the state. “There’s still a nutball in a stolen body trying to cripple psionic-kind.” He said. “And she’s got a good kid as a hostage; dominated, blackmailed, whatever – if you know Lisa Ortega like you say you do, you know that kid doesn’t deserve to get caught up in Morganna’s games a second time.”

Well aware of the irony, Occult nodded. “Let’s fly then.”

***

High above the fray, in the island of tranquility within the fey-storm, Manikin watched it all unfold in the scrying mirror. She looked up to see Morganna finishing the work of drawing an intricate web of faint blue lines in the air. It was a guide for drawing ritual circles; denoting the direction of leylines, geographic north and south and the directions of the rising and setting sun and moon.

She was troubled by the Heir’s plan. Hyrilius had spent half his considerably long life seeking wisdom and the other half seeking balance. To annihilate the demons of Sai’n’shree and seal the powers of Earth’s psionics would have been unthinkable to him.

But the network of spells that constituted her mind was hardwired toward her purpose of serving and advising his duly chosen heir. None of her advice had swayed Morganna from her scheme. She had no choice.

“They are coming, O Heir; the male warrior and the whelpling witch.” She spoke without emotion.

Morganna nodded, sitting down cross-legged beneath the guide with the staff across her knees. She looked up briefly and for a moment, the mad flames in her eyes dwindled to dying embers. “Bring the girl here.” She said evenly. “I want her safe here in the eye of the storm.” As quickly as it came, the moment of clarity passed. “As for the man… destroy him.”

“You must release a spell to me, O heir.” Manikin replied. “I’ve no magic aside from that which you allow me.”

With a deliberate motion, Morganna nodded. The spell Hyrilius used to imbue spells into his manikin was entirely mental. Within moments, it was written on what amounted to Manikin’s soul. “Take… this…” Morganna muttered. “And kill… kill all the psionics there.”

***

Chaos threw as much wind as he dared into his cape, skimming the side of the building at speeds he found to be frankly uncomfortable, though not a fraction of the speeds Darkness could achieve. Clinging to his side, beneath the flapping mantle, was Occult, hood battering into her face thanks to the wind.

“He’s not firing on us.” Occult said, trying to make conversation above the wind.

“I’d be the first to know.” said Chaos, “What with the searing agony as my insides get perforated.” He felt her stiffen against him. “Heh, don’t worry, he’s got a handful with Darkness and Alloy down there. It look’s like clear—Lisa!”

“Huh?” Occult said on reflex. But she followed his gaze and saw… herself. And ‘she’ was freefalling toward them feet first with her arms folded. Seeing herself was traumatic enough, but seeing herself falling to her death was enough to make her want to go somewhere and lie down.

Just as she was seriously contemplating such, ‘Lisa’ spotted them and slowed her descent. Chaos likewise slowed to a hover to face her.

“Give over the girl.” Manikin ordered.

“What is with everyone going after her?” Chaos wondered aloud. “Look, Lisa, whatever spells or voodoo Morganna has on you; it’s going to be okay. I’m going to put her on her back, find a way to separate her from your aunt and make everything happy families, okay? Just get out of the way.”

Manikin blinked. “I don’t think I am who you think I am, Psionic. I am a Manikin, servant of Hyrilius and his heirs. Morganna is the Heir of Hyrilius and as such, her whim is my will. Give over the young witch.”

The motes chose that particular moment to make themselves known. Naife emerged, apparently from Occult’s shoulder. “See?” it seemed to beam. “Motes are doing good, yes? Brought magic Mankind all the way here.”

“We are for to be getting reward, yes?” Habsi added, emerging from behind Occult’s ear with Renst not far behind.

“Where did you come from?” Manikin asked, genuinely puzzled.

“Bad sky-thing attack.” Naife said apologetically.

“Motes no want to be hurt by sky-thing.” Renst added.

“You hid inside me?” Occult exclaimed.

“Inside, outside, what is it mattering?” Renst inquired, passing through Habsi to drive the point home.

“Morbid little light critters aside,” Chaos said, trying not to look at the motes. “I’m leaving this up to the magic lady. What do you think, Occult? False memory, mind control… body switching?”

“This isn’t Lisa Ortega.” Occult said simply.

“How can you be sure?”

“Trust the magic lady on this one.”

“Yes.” Manikin nodded, placing her left palm against the side of the building. “Do so.” There was a sound like a far a low, shrill whistle that seemed to come from the glass and concrete of the building itself. Seconds later, a three story section imploded in on itself. The composite materials didn’t crumble or explode outward, however. Instead, they slid over each other, forming shapes that moved in ways that should have been impossible.

But they weren’t. A dragon the size of a horse vaulted out from the side of the building, followed by another and another until five of the beasts caught the air with wings of glass. White, glowing eyes regarded their prey moments before they dove as a group at Chaos and Occult.

“Leave the girl.” Manikin ordered as Chaos let himself and his charge drop like a pair of stones back toward the deck.

***

Samael caught another piece of thrown rubble on his shield and swept upward to avoid a blast of black heat. “Fighters are always more fun anyway.” He sent a single blade to harass Darkness into flying further from him. “Most people just beg for their lives, offer to outbid my contract—that sort of thing. It’s pretty rare someone puts up a fight and a lot rarer when they last very long.” He punctuated this by flicking a pair of projectiles at Alloy who let the tentacles snatch them out of the air.

There was a great crash above, followed by one near the main gate of the business campus.

Samael almost didn’t dodge another attack from Darkness, so busy was he with trying to make sense of what he saw approaching from the gate. “Is that a rhinoceros?” he puzzled.

“I know that rhino.” A fist enclosed in a metallic gauntlet slammed into him from behind as Chaos flashed by, carrying Occult. “The rhino means good things… I think.” Chaos shouted. “But the glass dragons, though; you should watch out for those!”

Samael snarled at Chaos and Occult, but couldn’t help but look behind. He immediately wished his didn’t as a world of pain with teeth made of equal part broken glass and sheered metal fell upon him.

Series Navigation<< Issue #21: Come the Black CloudsA MagiTech Crisis: Epilogue >>

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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