Issue #22: The Breaking Storm

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

Part 5

The coruscating red beam of Colos’s magitech plasma lance raked out at one of the dragons, which executed an impressive aerial maneuver to dodge it before diving to attack the demon lord.

Rehenimaru leapt swiftly to her master’s aide, making a series of intricate hand gestures. A red circle appeared in the air before the dragon, which was immediately filled with scores of red lines crisscrossing in all directions; a blood magic spell known as Ghan Rik Fri or ‘The Million String Trap’.

There was a noise like a thousand strands of piano wire being pulled violently taunt as the dragon hit it, deforming the lines of the circle. Caught, the beast, snapped and roared, trying to break through as its wings tried to keep it aloft.

Aberak looked to Colos for orders and Colos gave his brother a subtle nod. The reptilian demon bared hiss teeth in what could have been a mocking grin or utter satisfaction. His right arm lowered to his side, fist clenched. Sparks and red and gold played over the appendage as it swelled and became as hard as stone.

“Consider yourself fortunate, spawn of magic.” He declared, taking three running steps before jumping toward his ensnared foe. “For you will be vanquished by the Hand of Golden Devastation!”

The red, wire-like lines only worked in one direction and impeded the strike not at all. An explosion of dust and tinkling glass followed as the dragon’s head ruptured and its body fell apart.

***

Alloy glanced over at the demons’ handiwork and then back to the one winged beast in front of him. “That was pretty good.” He said on his com to Facsimile.

“They’re still evil soul mongers.” Facsimile said, in a bored tone. “So I’m not too impressed.” She raked the dragon from above with diamond hard claws to little effect. “Though I wish I could at least hurt these damn things!”

An idea floated though Alloy’s head. “You wanna be impressed?” He asked.

“Don’t get your self killed again on my account.”

“Just watch.” With that, Alloy charged the dragon head on.

It wasn’t a particularly good charge, even as people trying to flat out run while wearing full plate and carrying a sword decidedly too big for them go. In fact, it was really a charge in spirit only as the synthetic dragon, seeing it, decided to stalk forward and strike because it was fairly clear that the alternative would take too long. One claw, formed entirely out of shifting stones, swung in sideways to bat the armored prelate away.

That was when Isp and Osp made themselves and Alloy’s intentions known.

Isp whipped around into the claw’s path and speared into the ground. The air rang with the sound if impact as the dragon’s appendage rebounded off the orihalcite obstruction. Alloy charged on, directly into the maw of the beast, which yawned open to accept him.

Up came the zweihänder. Away flew the zweihänder, turning end over end until it wedged upright between the monster’s upper and lower jaw. Down came Osp, forming into a spiked mace to smash the lower jaw down to meet the lower. The psionically enhanced blade skewered upward through what would be the soft pallet and brain of a living monster.

The wholly inorganic dragon simply lurched forward, slamming Alloy with its snout and sending him down on his back.

Gold flashed before its white, glowing eyes. Facsimile couldn’t lift Alloy in all of his armor, so she simply dragged him away, throwing sparks along the ground. “Suicide is not impressive!” she screamed. “No heroic stands, no ‘even if I die in the process’ and if that’s what coppertop thinks is manly, well—well she can get stuffed!”

Alloy let the slight against his girlfriend slide, seeing as how Facsimile was clearly stressed. “That wasn’t part of the plan.” He said when she finally let him slide to a stop. The dragon reared up and advanced, its jaws still stapled together with the giant sword.

“Clearly.” Facsimile fumed. “Then what, pray tell was it?!”

“I can’t control metal that’s part of it.” Alloy said, sitting up with some effort.

“And?” a frazzled Facsimile asked.

“My sword isn’t part of it.” This time, Facsimile clearly saw the eerie silver glow behind his faceplate as he reached out a hand to the aforementioned weapon. She also heard him muttering something: elements from the periodic table. He stopped at ‘lithium’.

There was a flash of blinding blue fire and the dragon convulsed. The detritus that made up its form melted and in some cases, flash boiled around the seething spike of violently oxidizing alkali metal. Within seconds, the dragon’s heat was reduced to slag and smoke. The remaining body collapsed into its component rubble.

“Holy shit.” Facsimile murmured. “You did it! You took down a ten ton dragon with a sword you can barely handle!”

“You didn’t have to add that last part.”

“I know, but I’m pretty sure that makes it even more badass. Like, if you made it look easy, it wouldn’t have been nearly as cool.” She helped him get to standing. “I seriously don’t tell you that you’re awesome enough.”

She couldn’t tell, but under his armor, that last comment made Alloy blush.

***

“Alloy and Facsimile got the other one.” Zero reported dutifully through her com as she and Occult stood in the moonlight shadow of the building. “Would you like me to try and free the last one?”

“No,” Darkness replied over the com. She hurled another column of black heat into the last dragon, buying Chaos time to swoop in to deliver a stunning blow to one of its wings. “I can out fly one if it’s alone. Is Occult ready?”

Zero looked over at Occult who was pouring obsessively over the counterspell to Morganna’s Circle. “Darkness wants to know if you’re ready.” She asked in an overly cautious tone.

“I kind of have to be.” Occult said, nodding to the other girl. “Look at the storm.”

They both looked. Green lightning from Faerie, which have be lancing out of and through the clouds at random was now only moving in one direction: toward the center of the storm, and with visibly increasing regularity.

“Darkness, we have to do it now anyway.” Zero said into the com. “Hurry… please.”

She didn’t have to ask twice. A streak of black broke off from combating the last dragon and Darkness was almost instantly beside them, wrapping an arm around Occult’s waist. “Hold on tight.” She instructed needlessly as Occult had very recently had plenty of experience with being toted around by fliers.

They shot upward like a cork from the depths, flashing past the few unshattered windows in a dizzying blur. Twenty stories up, their path was suddenly blocked. Manikin, in the guise of Lisa Ortega flew dead into their path.

“Go through her!” Occult urged as Darkness slowed her ascent.

“No!” Darkness protested, “She’s just under Morganna’s control, she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”

“That isn’t her.” Occult insisted.

“You don’t know that.” Darkness insisted.

Below, the final dragon fought past Chaos as well as Alloy and Facsimile who tried to join in corralling it. Glass wings catching the green flashes of the lightning, it hurled itself upward to intercept Darkness.

“Destroy only the psionic.” Manikin ordered again. “The Heir wants the girl inside the circle of protection before the spell completes.”

“Why does everyone want you?” Darkness muttered to Occult. “And for that matter, Lisa?”

After an entire night of attempted kidnappings, the majority of which were orchestrated by the witch that possessed her aunt and the remainder being from a demoness seeking to possess her, something clicked for Occult.

“Aunt Tay.” She murmured.

“What?” Darkness asked.

“I said, ‘let’s find out’. They want me in the circle, let them take me in.” With that, she pushed off from Darkness and into open air. “After all,” she shouted, “It was where I was headed anyway!”

“Occult!” Darkness shouted, reaching out to grab the girl. But before she could fully react, Manikin had shot downward and seized Occult about the shoulders, yanking her violently upward, toward the crux of the storm. This left Darkness only seconds to avoid the dragon’s snapping jaws.

***

“There is no time!” Aberak snarled, watching the fight from the ground. “I feel the storm drawing on the Astral, pulling it back like a great wave. When it converges, the gate will open and Sai’n’shree will be no more.” He put a fist against his shoulder to honor those who would fall.

“Only if the Mankind fails.” Colos said staunchly. “And I have learned this night not to underestimate their ilk. They aren’t the rabble the Re’sha once knew.” He nodded to Aberak and Edenkai. “Come; if our kingdom will die, then we will stand atop it and roar in the face of Oblivion.” He gestured to the pair and their host bodies reverted, expelling their green, betentacled true forms. The hosts dropped senseless to the ground.

Rehenimaru looked to the demon lord as he reached out and tore a portal in the air. Returning to Faerie was nothing to a one of its natives, no matter what dimension they were in. He looked back and she had an epiphany.

***

While barely a breeze at ground level, the wind of the fey-storm was truly terrible just beneath the boiling clouds. Lightning fell like hail, pulverizing the already truncated summit of the building, sending fountains of molten metal and broken cement into the air.

It also broke and ran like water over the circle of protection that surrounded Morganna’s sanctum. The bubble of calm rippled gently as it admitted Manikin and her oddly sedate prisoner.

The runes were done; thirty nine unique symbols arranged in a large circle around a central rune, which still glowed a dull orange from the intense heat used to etch it into the ground. Raw magical force formed a clinging, multihued fog that itself formed lines connecting the runes to one another.

Occult stood, restrained by Manikin’s arms around her own and let her magical senses tell the tale. The lightning was trying to get in; to ground itself in the thirteen times three runes that would then activate the central rune, opening the gate to Faerie and allowing Morganna to siphon mana from the other side and enact her spell. The Astral positively boiled above the central point.

Morganna regarded her coldly. “You’re here.” She said.

“You didn’t want me here.” Occult observed.

“No.” Morganna shook her head. She looked to Manikin. “Why… why did you bring her?”

“You wanted the witch, O Heir” Manikin said, confused. “She is the only other controller of magics in this city. Surely, she must be the—“

“No.” Morganna said again, more sharply. “The one… the one whose image you have taken. That is the one I… that Nightshade wants. This is not… could not be her.”

“Then what shall I do with her, O Heir?”

“Dispose… of her.”

Another of the concepts Hyrilius had believed strongly in was that all magical potential was valuable and should not be wasted. Once more, in killing the young witch, Manikin would be forced to go against what amounted to her core beliefs. But once again, her duty to the Heir was absolute. She started to drag Occult backward through the circle.

But Occult resisted. “No. I am who she wants.” She stated. Seconds later, her own staff snapped into its full length, slamming Manikin in the jaw. The golem lost her grip on Occult’s hands and stumbled backward, out of the circle.

Occult’s glammer was pulled away from her and into the haft of her staff, leaving Lisa Ortega, the real one, standing before Morganna. The elder woman’s eyes flickered with recognition.

“You… you’ve been against me all this time!” Morganna exclaimed. “You… and Nightshade!” She raised the staff of Hyrilius threateningly. “I’ll… I will end you both! Along with the psionics.”

Lisa shook her head. “You can’t hurt Aunt Tay, you’re inside her. If you kill her, you kill yourself.”

Predator’s intelligence was something Morganna had in spades. It came into play now like a queen on a chessboard. “And neither… can you.” She observed. “Then you can’t stop me.” Her hand raised and the circle of protection came apart, letting the tearing winds into the bubble of tranquility.

The lightning seemed to see its chance and began striking down among the runes, which began to light, one by one, with the eldritch green energy of the fey storm. The fate of thousands on both worlds stood in balance with the fate of her favorite and only aunt. Lisa clenched her teeth against tears that formed both from emotion and the ravages of the wind. She made a choice.

“This is what you would have wanted.” She said, too quietly to be heard over the roar of the wind. Younger and faster, she made it to Morganna before the older woman could come on guard, swinging her staff to clout the mad sorceress across the forehead.

Reeling, Morganna swung the glowing brand that was the head of the staff of Hyrilius, missing Lisa’s head by inches and singing hair. Lighting crashed down on either side of her with near blinding luminescence.

Lisa dropped the head of her own weapon, pinning Morganna’s staff against the ground. Her free hand balled into a fist… and froze. Her aunt was looking at her, not Morganna. Even if her aunt had turned out to have been a contracted thief instead of a globetrotting adventurer, she had always loved Lisa; had sacrificed herself to save Lisa from the fate she even now endured.

Morganna took the advantage, striking out with her own fist with enough force to knock Lisa on her back atop the central rune. The last runes along the circle lit. The air screamed. Hair whipping in the wind, Morganna screamed her incantation; words in a forgotten and horrible language. When the circle discharged into the central rune, all of her problems would be dealt with.

Reflex made Lisa’s hand close over a clear marble in her bag. “Globo de…”

Thirteen times three runes spat lighting at her, green, scintillating and terrible—and stopped inches from her, crackling around the globe of force. To say Lisa’s heart skipped a beat would be putting it mildly and serve only to convey that what she experienced wasn’t a full on cardiac episode.

The world outside was green and seething. Inside, the ground shook and vibrated. She looked down. The central rune was trapped inside with her, unable to accept the incredible energies the others were trying to deliver. So they continued to pile up… and up… until…

***

Chaos, Darkness and Zero poured their all into holding back the rampaging dragon while Alloy and Facsimile tried in vain to get into its reach to deal some damage. It seemed hopeless. Every second, it drew up more and more of its fallen brethren’s crumbled remains, growing larger and more powerful.

“We only have to hold it off until Occult stops Morganna!” Darkness shouted over the coms.

“And if stopping her doesn’t stop the dragon?” Facsimile asked.

“It will.” Alloy assured, “That how these things work; take out the caster and all their spells go ‘poof’.”

“I’m more worried about what happens if she doesn’t beat her.” Chaos said, sending another missile of compacted air at the beast.

“Just have faith guys.” Codex assured, “she won’t let us—oh my god.”

She didn’t have to explain. They all saw the flare of green leap into the sky, parting the clouds as it went. Then they saw the roiling sphere of energy expanding outward from the core of the blast.

“Is that good or bad?” Zero asked as the sphere washed over them.

***

It is almost impossible to describe the speed of light in layman’s terms. It is even more impossible to describe the speed of something magical in nature and thus not constrained to the puny four dimensions humanity can perceive.

The wave of raw magic broke the sound barrier by the time it had reached Mayfield city limits, boiling away the fey-storm as it went. It broke the speed of light before it had completely overtaken the state. The rapidity in which North America, the eastern hemisphere and the Earth was faster still.

From our limited perception, it actually encompassed the Milky Way and parts beyond before encompassing Earth. Most people were totally unaware of its passage beyond the ConquesTech lot. Except, those who were affected by it…

***

The next thing any of the Descendants knew, they were dodging an avalanche as the great stone dragon went from ‘powerful, terrifying golem’ to ‘aerial rock garden’ to ‘rock garden’ all in the space of a breath.

“Told ya.” Alloy said wryly over the com as he knocked dust off his armor. “So did we win, or was that the spell going off…?” he asked, worry betrayed in his voice. Isp and Osp snaked into his view and shrugged. “That’d be a win then.” He said, relieved.

“I’ll be the first to admit it;” Chaos said, using a gust of wind to dust himself and Darkness off. “We owe Occult for this one.”

Zero looked up at the building, which had lost a few more stories in the process. “She’s okay, right?” The Descendants looked at each other silently.

“She is fine.” Rubble crunched under Embarr’s feet as Lucian led his mount to stand with the team. “I can still sense her magic in this world… as well as Morganna’s.” He paused in thought for a moment. “And a great deal more.”

“More magic now?” Chaos groaned. “And Morganna’s still out there?”

“I am afraid so.” Lucian said, solemnly. “And that means I am needed elsewhere. I am sorry, but our time to talk will have to come some other time, my friend.” Chaos and the Ape Knight shook hands.

“Hey!” came a shout from on high.

Zero looked up and smiled. “It’s Lisa!” she said, happily. “She’s okay!”

“Hey!” the very bedraggled girl said, leaning heavily against a broken beam. She didn’t have it in her to cast even one more spell. “I’m kind of stranded up here!” She called. “Need a hero!”

Facsimile chuckled and swept out her wings. “I got this.” With that, she took to the air.

End Issue #22

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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