Issue #35: Demonology

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 3: A Bright, Bright Summer

Part 4

As Aenix held himself ready to fight, Ecksion took the opportunity to pound on the baboons until they were unconscious. “Happy?” Aenix asked.

“Extremely.” Ecksion replied. “Now bring us the witches.”

“I sensed teleportation nearby.” Aenix said, “It has to be them. They’re scrying us and they’ll be here soon.”

The ultrasonic screech of the screamer preceded Codex into the alley. Aenix cringed and clapped his hands over his ears. “Indeed we will.” She was presenting the screamer before her like a holy symbol and held a silver cylinder in her off hand. Occult, with a very wary Augustus fell in behind her.

“Codex.” Occult gasped, seeing Darleen Summers’ body slumped against the wall, transfixed by the wellspring wrought blade. “That’s the woman the demon possessed when Morganna came back…”

“I see her. This faerie must have smelled the demon or the baboons on her even after all this time.” Codex said softly. “She’s still breathing. Do you know any healing spells?”

“Nothing that can fix a sword through the gut.” Occult worried.

Aenix tore a piece of his shirt off with his teeth and stuffed it into his ear. “Damned witches, you knew she was here. We should have tortured her location out of you.”

Codex ignored him. “Get to her and stabilize her then. I’ll call an ambulance. Augustus, go with her and do exactly as she says. We have to be rid of this faerie and his flowbeast friend before the paramedics arrive.”

“How do you know that word, witch?” Ecksion demanded, chaffing at the fact that Aenix was in no condition to move so the group was in range of his attacks.

“We did our homework.” Codex said, “Looked up ‘acid spitting’, ‘symbiotic’ and ‘shapeshifter’ in the Book of Reason. Seems flowbeasts often pair themselves up with daoine and have a special love of battle, especially against spellcasters.” She glanced at Occult and Augustus. “Go now!”

Ecksion had had enough. He extruded a pseudopod and dragged Aenix forward. In the same motion, he lashed out with a fleshy tendril and knocked the screamer out of Codex’s hand. The device clattered against the wall, its shrill noise dying.

Almost immediately, Aenix recovered, pulling his makeshift earplug out and tossing it aside in disgust. “Now you’re going to pay for your spell making my ears bleed, witch.” He noticed Occult and Codex trying to rush past him toward Darleen. “But first, Ecksion’s going to shred your friends.”

The flowbeast obliged by sending a pair of spears streaking for the pair’s hearts. But Occult raised a shield to block.

“That’s not going to happen.” Codex said, leveling the silver cylinder. It was an aerosol spray bottle. “Do you know what else I learned about flowbeasts? Their skin is incredibly sensitive and they have dozens of hidden eyes.” She pressed down on the spray cap, sending a stream of liquid spattering over Ecksion and Aenix.

While Aenix roared in pain and shielded his eyes, Ecksion’s reaction was nothing short of spectacular. With a high pitched shriek, the flowbeast reared up and fell away from Aenix, revealing it’s true form; a grayish black, vaguely star shaped sheet of orange eyes.

Codex emptied the can on the exposed eyes, causing Ecksion to pitch over, writhing into hundreds of shapes, trying desperately to find one that didn’t rub more chemical into its burning eyes.

Aenix looked at the flailing form of his ally in shock. “What conjuring is this?”

“This?” She asked, discarding the used can of mace. “This isn’t conjuring. This is science.”

If it was even possible, Aenix’s fury grew. “I will show you what I think of your science.” He launched himself at Codex, fists and legs already tracing trajectories for strikes.

Meanwhile, Occult and Augustus reached Darleen.

“Oh my god, the blade is stuck right into the wall.” Augustus breathed. “How is she still alive?”

“A magic sword, I’d bet.” Occult tried to keep her own stomach from churning at the sight. “Help me pull it out.”

“Won’t it pull her insides out too?” Augustus asked.

Occult shivered at this. She hoped not. If it did, she knew she simply wouldn’t be able to handle it. Fighting down nausea, she pushed those thoughts aside. “I can’t do anything for her with the sword still in her. Help me pull it out.”

“She’s leaning on it…” Augustus fretted, “We could saw her in half or something.”

“Stop it!” Occult snapped. “It’s going to be okay. Hold her up by her shoulders. Keep her steady and I’ll pull it out.”

Cowed, Augustus did as he was told. He didn’t want to see what she’d do if he continued to argue.

With Darleen held firmly in place, Occult took hold of the sword with both hands. Even through her gloves, it felt warm to the touch as if it had only recently come from the forge. Taking a deep breath, she stepped back and pulled as hard as she could.

It came out bloodlessly and so easily that she stumbled back a few steps with it. Through the torn fabric of Darleen’s shirt, she saw caked blood, but a scar where a wound should have been.

“Why isn’t there any blood?” Augustus put words to what Occult was thinking.

“It’s a magic sword.” Occult sad, tossing the sword aside and helping Augustus lower Darleen gently to the ground. She looked up into Augustus’s frightened eyes. “I’m going to check for internal injuries.” She explained, unbuckling her component pouch from her belt. “Take what you need from this and start the spell.”

“Why do I—” Augustus started.

“Because you’ve come this far.” Occult cut him off. “Because I need to tend to this woman and we can’t let the paramedics and animal control arrive here to get attacked by this guy. Please, Auggie. Everyone is counting on you.”

Hands shaking, Augustus took up the component pouch.

Codex took a blow from Aenix on her right shoulder, turning and bending with the force of the strike so that it slid past rather than doing any real damage. She answered with a pair of quick chest level strikes that Aenix simply absorbed.

“You’re not a witch at all, are you?” Aenix asked, lashing out with a kick and a straight punch, both of which Codex blocked. “I don’t smell the power in you like the other two. You’re something else; something like the Mankind they called Morganna told the Sai’n’shree about. It’s strong enough to let you nearly match both Ecksion and myself. What is it?”

Dodging another punch, Laurel caught Aenix’s arm and sent him sprawling with a hip throw. “I’m very smart.” She went to stomp on him, but finding only pavement.

The daoine rolled on his shoulders, spinning around to hook her legs with his own and send her tumbling. “Yes, I’m sure you think you are.” He said, leaping to his feet to take advantage of her prone state. He was dealt a pair of boots to his center that made him stagger and almost trip on his discarded sword. Deftly, he flipped it into his hand as he had against Rehenimaru. “Last chance to tell me what your power is.”

“You misunderstand.” Codex produced a foot long tube of steel from a sheath at her hip. With a quick manipulation, it expanded into a quarterstaff. “Being very smart is my power.” With that, she launched into a flUury of lunging strikes, forcing Aenix to go on the defensive with his sword rather than closing with the blade.

Refusing to give up ground, Aenix blocked the staff with forceful sweeps of his sword until finally, he knocked it far enough off his center that he found time to effect his own thrust. Codex leapt away and he followed, blade flashing. “Then your brain will leave an unusually large smear.”

Through the entire fight and the one before, Codex had been watching him and committing his fighting style to memory on an almost unconscious level. He fought like no human could or would; relying on speed and faerie creature resiliency to force openings. His lack of concern for his own defense left many openings, but his speed denied many chances to exploit it. At least at his center. His arms were almost always over extended in his rush.

Codex stepped back out of one such strike, letting it come within inches of her ribs before bringing her staff down across Aenix’s arms. The force caused him to drag the blade against the ground, giving her time to bring the staff up to crack into his jaw.

It got him to retreat and go back on his guard, but Codex realized it wouldn’t work on him a second time. She glanced over to Augustus and Occult.

“I don’t even know what I’m doing.” Augustus whispered to Occult. He had drawn a chalk circle filled with geometric shapes and esoteric symbols on the alley wall, copying from the Book of Passions. “I can’t even draw.” He added, noting the lopsided nature of the circle.

“It doesn’t really matter.” Occult said. He eyes were closed and one hand was on Darleen’s sternum and the other was on her head. “Magic is mostly in the mind if you’ve got the power in you. People like Codex; people without magic powers, they need specific items and precise diagrams to make a ritual happen. We just need something we think is close enough.”

“That doesn’t make any sense.” Augustus complained. He took a bag of salt and a handful of nails from the bag. “But okay. It’s drawn. You can cast the spell now.”

Occult shook her head, eyes still closed. “I can’t. I’m still trying to help this woman.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Augustus gave the unconscious woman a sympathetic look.

“That’s the thing; I don’t know.” Occult said. “Her lung and spine were hit by the sword, but something about it made them heal. There’s nothing wrong with her anymore and no reason she’s not waking up.”

“But she’ll be okay.” Augustus said, “The paramedics will fix it. Right?”

“I can’t be sure this isn’t a spell of some kind that I can’t detect.” Occult said. “I’m trying every counter I’ve learned so far to wake her up. I’m sorry, Augustus, but you have to do the spell on your own.”

“How? I can’t even read—” He looked back at the page. The Middle English script had been replaced in the Book with clear, modern words in a modern typeface. “I hate this book.”

Aenix bought the wellspring blade down hard in an overhead blow that Codex was forced to parry by holding her staff over her head. He took the opening by kicking her in the knee. She danced away from this and held the staff before her as if trying to fall into a new stance.

Instead, a pair of thick pegs telescoped out of the side of the staff as the staff itself shortened slightly. Codex caught the new handles and pulled the staff apart to form a pair of tonfa.

“I refuse to be impressed by your device.” Aenix said disdainfully and launched into another flUury of quick strikes.

But Codex had fallen into a much more aggressive combat style; deflecting the sword with one implement and attacking his torso and legs with the other. Slowly, but surely, the bounty hunter was losing ground and being backed up to the wall.

Aenix was not having it. With a strong one handed blow, he warded off one attack, while he took the painful blow from the other weapon on his bare forearm. Pain tore at his mind, but it left Codex open to a kick to her chest, followed up by a full roundhouse that knocked her away and caused her to trip on one of the unconscious baboons. She lost her grip on one of the tonfa, which span away down the alley.

“I’ve only been in the Blue World a day and already I hate Mankinds.” The daoine spat, leaping at her with an overhead, two handed grip on his sword.

Codex threw her legs over her head, avoiding impalement by inches and rolled on her shoulders into a crouch. Her disarmed hand drew another device from her belt. It was a narrow, black box with a grip handle on one end and a hollow end that held a three pronged grappling hook. From her crouched position, she fired the grapple into the faerie’s shoulder.

Aenix shouted in pain and grabbed the hook with his off hand to pull it out. “What did you think that was going to do?” He sneered, “Sure it hurts, but—”

Before he could finish, Codex manipulated the grip and the hook expanded in his shoulder. The pain was blinding and the numbness that spread down his stricken arm caused the sword to tumble from senseless fingers. He foe disarmed, Codex hit the retract button on her grappling gun and pulled Aenix to his knees.

“You’re mistaken about your ‘demon’.” Codex regained her feet. “That woman was possessed, but the demon left her months ago. There’s no reason for you to be here. Now is your last chance to go home on your own accord.”

“Or what?” Aenix rose defiantly to his feet, taking a step toward his sword. From his left came the tortured gurgle of Ecksion. Aenix looked to see the flowbeast covered in green, sparking spider webs of energy that contracted by the second and diminished Ecksion as they did.

“Or you’ll go forcibly.” Codex said as Augustus tagged the daoine bounty hunter in the back with a green, glowing hand.

***

It was mid afternoon when Laurel pulled into the parking lot next to Freeland House. She ached, but it was the kind of ache she felt good about. She and Occult had saved Darleen Summers’ life, returned a trio of dangerous faerie creatures (the mote Uur had begged to be sent back after Aenix and Ecksion had been banished) to their world, and three baboons to the zoo where they belonged.

Not that it was all wins. Darleen had awakened the moment the faeries were gone and had thrown a fit over the baboons that she had apparently taken to feeding. Presumably, her previous possession protected her from the aggressive animals.

And of course, Augustus had once more refused Occult and her own attempts to teach him how to control his emerging power. In fact, he’d demanded that she take the book with her. At least she managed to convince him to take a signal key chain like the one the Liedecker Institute students and faculty carried to directly alert the Descendants to danger. If he accidentally summoned something else dangerous, at least they would know immediately.

Stretching out cramped muscles, she got out of her SUV, taking her gym bag out of the passenger seat. It now contained her Codex costume, the Book of Passions and the daoine’s sword.

There would be hell to pay when she let the others know what she’d been through without letting them know. It would have been, after all, the smartest thing to do. They would just have to accept that sometimes the most intelligent option isn’t always the option one wants to take.

As she crossed through the kitchen, headed for her room and a long, soothing bath, she wondered; had the Book of Reason nudged her into going to teach Augustus for his sake, or for her own?

End Issue #35

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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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