Issue #27: Beyond Good And Medieval

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 3

“This is definitely not what I expected to be doing when I woke up today.” Charity said, fussing with the dress Hope was wearing. It was much to large for her and with her friends arriving any minute, there was really no time to properly adjust it, so she’d improvised with pins and ties. It didn’t help that the veil Hope had insisted on wearing to protect her identity didn’t go with the rest of the outfit at all.

“Are you kidding?” Joy asked from her perch on Charity’s bed. “It makes it ten times cooler.” Her tone and the look in her eyes were things of unbridled excitement and awe. “It’s like being prelates ourselves or something.”

Charity paused, giving the young innocent a long, nervous look. “Yeah… or something.”

Facsimile chuckled as she finished with Zero. Aside from her own disguise, Zero’s was the easiest. Simply turning her cloak inside out made a green, velvet cloak into a white, silky one. White cake makeup did the rest, obviating the need to wear her mask. “I had a feeling this would be more difficult than just showing up and hanging out on the beach. It always is.” She smiled devilishly. “But check it out:” She raised her hands and casually shifted her waist a thin as possible within her simulated corset.

Every female in the room cringed in sympathy pain save Joy, who looked on in amazement.

Facsimile laughed at the others’ discomfort.

“That’s… really…” Zero shivered involuntarily. “Please don’t do that anymore.”

Facsimile pouted at her. “Fine.” She turned to Joy and Charity. “Anyway, remember: if we’re going to be any good at protecting you, we need to blend in. You can’t let your friends know who we are until this is over.”

Zero nodded. “If they ask who we are, we’re your cousins who dropped in for Joy’s birthday.”

“That’s right.” Facsimile continued, pointing to Zero, Hope and herself in turn, “Constance, Hope and Patience.” She could almost feel the eye roll she got from Hope form that. “What? I saw a pattern and you fit the pattern.”

“You can’t be Patience, actually” Charity said, “That’s our older sister’s name. She’s eighteen.”

Facsimile’s eyebrow twitched. “How many of you are there?”

“Seven.” Joy said helpfully. “Me – I’m the youngest – Charity, Prudence, Faith, Serenity and Chastity; they’re twins; and Glory.”

“Dad thinks names have power.” Charity explained, shaking her head.

“Suddenly, I understand why Glory is the way she is.” Facsimile rubbed a temple. “And feel really sorry for Chastity.” She furrowed her brow and thought for a second. “Okay, how about this: Zero is Constance, Hope (because she has no sense of humor) is Charisma, and I’ll be… huh, no way will I be Prudence or Temperance – how about Grace? We’re not stepping on any aunts with those, are we?”

Charity laughed. “No, that works out.”

***

“I’ve got a bad feeling about splitting up.” Alloy said as he and Chaos made their way across the expansive parking area to the fairgrounds. He had refashioned his armor to resemble a more stereotypical example of knightly armor and instructed Isp and Osp to keep themselves hidden beneath his pauldrons. “You never split up. The second you do, the killer picks you off one by one.”

Chaos had traded his visor for a Zorro style mask and hat as well as a simple sparring saber made by Alloy from the Duvall’s recycling. “You need to watch more than bad horror and action movies.” He laughed at the younger man. “Ever see a heist movie or a con artist flick? They split up all the time and it’s for the best. War movies; fanning out saves lives and wins battles. Otherwise the grenade would be the best weapon ever.”

“I watch other things.” Alloy protested half heartedly.

“Expand your horizons.” Chaos said, illustrating with an expansive gesture. “And have a little faith in me, okay? I’m not Laurel or Alexis—“

“Codex or Darkness.” Alloy corrected, observing their general rule of never using real names while in costume despite being nowhere near where they could be overheard.

“Right. I know I’m not them, but I’m not stupid either. We couldn’t alert Charity’s friends to what was going on, and we all certainly couldn’t have tagged along in the car with them. But the road’s the best place for Tome to act; the Faire will be crawling with witnesses. This way, we’ve got Facsimile, Zero and Hope right there if they try something on the road.”

Alloy shrugged. “It still feels wrong to drive out here ahead while they could be in danger.”

Chaos laughed again; a good natured, encouraging laugh, and patted the younger man’s armored shoulder. “I know you’re the resident knight in shining armor—now more than ever—but ‘they’ are a basically immortal shapeshifter, a healer, and someone who can freeze air. They’re not your average damsels in distress.”

“I wasn’t thinking of it like that.” Alloy replied, feeling a bit guilty that Chaos had touched on part of the problem, however small a part it was, “But it seems a little… off… to let part of the team basically act as bait while we go get fruit ice and a mutton joint, isn’t it?”

“Fine.” Chaos scoffed, “Then I won’t buy them for you.”

Alloy held out a mailed hand. “Now wait, I didn’t say I wouldn’t take them if they were offered.”

***

“All around nice guys, those knights.” Avatar said to the ether. He was seated at one of the long tables set up in the center of the food vending area, daintily nibbling a piece of roast chicken. “I hope their fighting ability isn’t all just choreography though.”

A spit holding various peppers, potatoes and other garden vegetables vanished from his plate, and moments later there was a crunching sound. The spit reappeared minus a pepper. “With luck, we won’t need to find out.” White Shadow said.

“You were never an Enforcer.” Avatar frowned. “If you were, you’d have learned never to trust to luck what good planning can guarantee. The transfer station was compromised and that means someone knows about this. Best case, it’s the army and they send uniforms to scare us off. We’ll have to do this tomorrow at her house.”

“Worst case?”

“Prelates. Probably the Descendants.”

“I’ve heard all the other agents are just pissing themselves over these guys after the whole Redeemer’s fiasco.” White Shadow snickered. “What’s your take?”

“I’ve watched the videos same as everyone else. I like to chalk the mystique up to bad management though. You heard about that TV psychiatrist guy they bought in for that? The rumor is that he botched it on purpose.” Avatar smirked as the kabob disappeared again. “Not that I’d mind if they were a decent challenge. I’ve never fought a psionic that fancied themselves a hero and I need a feather in my cap after that Florida business with Impact.”

“Speaking of Gina, I was kind of hoping I’d be paired with her instead of Dervish for this job. She’s a pretty hot little number.”

“All that glitters is not gold, my friend.” Avatar offered. “The woman is an uncultured, low, shrew and we should both be pitying Dervish right about now.” He regarded the empty space beside him. “And you know that they’re never going to partner you with a woman again. Not after the whole—ahem, misunderstanding—with Shine. Honestly, Shadow, I can understand the temptations inherent to your powers, but Shine? She’s a protomorph and not the Sonja Remington kind either.”

“Simply curiosity.” White Shadow said with a tone that indicated he had probably shrugged while speaking. “You can’t tell me you never wondered about those white scales…” There was a pause and a click. “Lunch time’s over, Josiah. Dervish just saw our package come through the main entrance.”

***

“So, Grace, have you ever been to one of these?” Charity’s friend Kyle had driven with them to the Faire along with Maureen, her sister Tanya and their friend Cindy and had done everything in his power to maneuver himself closer to Charity’s ‘cousin’ Grace.

“Once.” Facsimile shrugged, torn between enjoying the attention and keeping Joy nearby. “But I was a kid and didn’t enjoy it. The horses scared the hell out of me.” That part was true as she couldn’t see any possible way that tidbit could be directly linked to Cynthia McAllister.

Kyle laughed harder than anyone normally would have and adjusted the strings that closed his shirt nervously. “So, are you still afraid of horses?”

“Why would anyone be afraid of horses?” asked Zero as she wandered into hearing range after making sure Hope was keeping close to Joy. “They’re so pretty and strong.” Her eyes got wide. “Hey, we could get a horse.”

“No we can’t.” Facsimile countered. She wasn’t still afraid of them per se, but she didn’t want to have one wandering the Freeland House estate either. She found pretty much all large land mammals unpleasant in person.

Clearly, that sentiment didn’t translate into her response, because Kyle laughed again. “I guess that’s a ‘yes’ on still being afraid of them.”

“No it isn’t.” Facsimile growled. “We just can’t afford one is all.”

“Really?” Kyle asked. “I thought all of Charity’s family was loaded.”

“No, that’s their father’s side. Our mother and their mother were sisters.”

“Ah.” He accepted that easily. “Which one?”

Facsimile blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Which of their moms is your aunt?”

Left to her own devices, Facsimile probably would have proceeded to invent an entire family tree to cover for that bit of missed information. Luckily, she didn’t have to as Charity abandoned telling Joy about the falconer demonstration to rush to come to her rescue.

“Kyle!” She said with an edge of annoyance. “You know we don’t like to talk about that!”

It was Kyle’s turn to be confused. The maternity of the Duvall sisters had never been taboo before. “What? When did…”

“Jesus, Kyle, what’s wrong with you?” Charity continued. “It’s Joy’s birthday and you have to go and drag that out? I never would have expected that of you!”

Heaped with blame and sinking fast, Kyle took the only way out he knew. “I’m sorry?” he guessed at the right response. “I guess I forgot and… I was just kind of curious, because I didn’t even know you had a cousin.“He started to run out of steam and Charity was still glaring at him. “Uh… I’m… I’m going to get something to drink. Do you want anything? It’s my treat.”

“That would be a good start.” Charity glowered at him. He was gone before the words had even left her mouth.

“That was beautiful.” Facsimile said, watching him slink away. “You have to teach me that.”

Charity grinned, but otherwise ignored the comment. “Just for reference,” she said only loud enough for Facsimile to hear, “Except for the twins, we’re all only half-sisters. Different mothers, see?”

“Oh.”

“Charity,” Joy interrupted, bounding between them, the schedule for the day’s events clutched in her fuzzy hand. “There’s a booth here where a computer does your portrait like they did for the kings and queens in the old days! Can we go?”

Charity smiled and tousled her sister’s hair. “You’re the birthday girl.”

Joy practically beamed. “Great! Let’s get one done together!”

“Sounds fun.” Charity said, “You want to find Glory so we can have kind of a family portrait?”

A quiver of disappointment ran over Joy’s face and she shifted her glance to the ground. “I kind of just wanted to do one of you and—“Her words we suddenly cut off in a mumbled gurgle and she vanished entirely from sight.

Before anyone could react, Joy faded abruptly back into view. So did a man; tall and thin with sun reddened skin, wearing a white jumpsuit with a light grey backpack over his shoulders. He had an arm around the girl’s waist and another over his mouth. At least, it had been over her mouth; it was currently in her mouth, being introduced to the pointed canines and redundant, razor sharp teeth she’d gained from being a protomorph.

A string of obscenities escaped the man in a thick, Russian accent as he fell backward, with Joy, trying to rescue his poor hand from the shredding maw of the panicky girl.

Facsimile was on him before he managed to pull his hand away from Joy’s gnashing teeth; coming down hard on him with her arm across his wind pipe. “Let her go.” She demanded, snarling into the man’s face.

The kick came from nowhere. At first, Facsimile didn’t even know it was a kick because even with her understanding of super powered individuals, kicks should not, as a general rule, lift one up and over the heads of the people around you.

She came down hard and had trouble getting to her feet thanks to her shifted clothing.

Gina Sheldon, known in the Enforcer Corps as Impact, stood over White Shadow and Joy. Her straw blonde hair was pinned up beneath a floppy, velvet hat and she was dressed in the manner of peasantry, but that didn’t make her look any less dangerous. She fixed Charity with a glare as she surged forward to claim her sister. “Unless you want the broken ribs I almost certainly just gave that chick, honey, I don’t think you want to come any closer. Your little sister’s coming with us.”

“Not if we have anything to say about it.” Zero said, stepping up beside Charity.

“And who are you to say anything?” Impact scoffed.

Ice formed into twin shields from thin air over Zero’s arms. “The Descendants.” She said, her voice taking a serious edge. She nodded to Facsimile as the other girl shifted into her more combat ready golden, winged form and then to Hope who had struck a half hearted martial arts pose. “So give up now, because you’re out numbered.”

Impact’s smile only became more predatory. “You would think so…” In the silence touched off by the crowd’s confusion as to whether or not this was a show, the sound of swords being drawn could be heard. “But you would be wrong.”

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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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