Issue #38: The Miracles of St Drausinus

This entry is part 3 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 4: Confluence

James Richter was praying. It was more natural to him than breathing: relating his thoughts and feelings and desires to Almighty God; he’d done it since before he could remember and if he had anything to say about it, he would continue to do so until the day he went to stand in His judgment.

This night, as he had on many nights before since he had found himself imprisoned for carrying out the Lord’s work, he was praying mostly about the people and circumstances that surrounded his incarceration.

Lying there, atop his uncomfortably firm prison issue mattress with its coarse covering, he prayed that his former compatriots, the Sineaters, would come to their senses and as forgiveness for betraying not only himself, but their God given mission. He prayed that the prelates that interfered in that mission, especially the one called Chaos, would see the error of their ways in allowing the demon to escape.

He prayed that the sparse news he’d gleaned in his allotted access to the internet about strange creatures appearing and otherworldly powers manifesting sporadically across the globe didn’t herald an incursion into the world by the legions of Hell.

But mostly, he prayed that those wicked ones who had stood against him when he could have destroyed the demon and its collaborator would be punished if they refused to repent for what they did. And that he would be allowed to once more serve God in battle against the occult wrongness seeping into the world.

Lost in prayer and dark thoughts, he barely detected the noise. It was like the roar of a distant wind, sweeping toward him from a distance.

The sound of a pen hitting the floor forced him out of his haze. He glanced over to see where it had fallen from only to see the pencil that had come packaged with the pen jitter to the end of the desk, then go to join its fellow on the floor.

The roar of the wind ceased, plunging the room into sudden silence. Richter sat up. Maybe it was an earthquake? Pennsylvania, the state hosting the federal penitentiary he’d been sent to, wasn’t known for its earthquakes, but it wasn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility.

It came again and this time Richter felt the bed vibrate with the noise. Wind didn’t do that and he was fairly certain that earthquakes didn’t come in series. Briefly, he pondered calling a guard, but dismissed it, as he had no love lost with them.

Once more, the noise sounded and this time, it bought with it a gentle cascade of dust from the wall. Thought it was windowless, Richter knew it was the outside wall from simple deduction based on passing a reinforced window nearby on the way to the exercise yard. This time, the noise didn’t die, instead dropping steeply in pitch. It now sounded like a human voice holding an impossibly long down note.

The wall shuddered and cracks began to form. Richter leapt from his bed and retreated to the steel door leading into his cell. More dust fell as concrete shook itself apart and began to tumble down.

Fresh air filtered in through the dust and with it, brilliant light. Between him and the source of that brilliance were three silhouettes; two, man sized figures to either side of a twelve foot hulk of barely humanoid shape.

Momentarily, Richter thought of angels and their visitations unto man, but his own humility refused to believe himself yet worthy of such a gift from God. Shading his eyes, he confirmed that he was not, but some would say that his guess wasn’t far off.

The hulking figure was a machine, or, more specifically, wearing one: powered armor. It was a twenty year old design, bulky and completely lacking in aerodynamics or aesthetics. Gnostic symbols were scratched into its chest, across its blocky head and down its arms and legs. They shed a faint, blue glow in the dust and gave off a barely audible hum.

Next to it was another man, swathed in a white cloak with a cowl that covered all but his mouth. It wasn’t readily apparent how he could even see with the fabric over his eyes. Beneath the cloak, he wore body armor and tactical webbing. His expression was dour and tight lipped.

The last man was dressed in an all black body suit with minimalist body armor that bore a simple cross in white over the heart. A simple, black bandanna covered his hair and eyes with holes cut so that he could see. There was a sword sheathed at his side, unadorned, but for a small cross painted on the scabbard. Unlike his compatriot, his black mustachioed face smiled broadly at the sight of Richter.

“Brother James.” He said with apparent reverence. “The time of your unjust imprisonment after being betrayed by those you loved is at an end. The good Lord and, the good Doctor, have seen fit you bring you back into the fold and allow you to continue your most holy work.”

He gestured for Richter to follow him. Not one to turn down such an opportunity, Richter clamored over the wall and beheld the damage the trio had wrought. The guard towers were aflame, their metal and glass frames twisted beyond recognition. The exercise yard was a war zone with great divots torn out of the stone. Other guards were on the ground, some moving, some not. Amid the carnage, a small VTOL craft had landed, its passenger door and ramp extended.

The yard was deathly silent except for the sounds of the fires and the moans of the fallen. No one had been able to sound the alarm before these newcomers had laid waste to them.

“Are you another group of Sineaters?” Richter asked. The man with the cross over his heart shook his head. He hadn’t thought so; the Sineaters were tasked with sparing life wherever possible.

“We are beyond even the knowledge of the Sineaters and their handlers.” The man explained. “The good Doctor, who you’ve had acquaintance with, is among our number. We are called the Adriel, the flock of God. I am called by Harbonah and these are my compatriots, Gospel,” He indicated the man in the cloak, “And Bezek.” He gestured to the man in the powered armor. “Doctor Tang suggests that you might have the strength of faith to be our fourth. First of course, we will need to replace your weapon. Our enemies are even more dangerous than the demons you’ve faced so far.”

***

“Well, L, how do we look?” Ian asked.

Laurel turned from her last minute remote patrol of Mayfield via the public security camera network. The city was as subdued as a major city could manage to be on Halloween, which was a sharp departure from the costumes of her friends.

Ian was dressed in a long, brown duster with a wide brimmed hat pulled lover over his head. He hadn’t shaven that morning and the five o’clock shadow effect was helped along with a generous application of borrowed mascara. In his right hand, he wielded a wooden walking sick just a foot shorter than he was and in his left, he held a wooden rod of polished wood with faux arcane runes drawn on it with gold pen. A bracelet of miniature shields hung from that same wrist.

Alexis had done him one better. The first thing Laurel noticed was the hair. There was a great deal of it; feathered and teased and extended and forced into a force to be reckoned with in its own right as it rose a good foot above her head before cascading down over her shoulders. Even the wig that was its base had a hard time living up to the original.

Beyond that, there was the unusually heavy application of makeup. Alexis usually wore very little, but now it looked to have been applied via roller, especially the dark shadow around her eyes and pancake all the way down her neck to her chest.

And the chest… There was rather a lot of that too; aided by padding and tape and clever posture, the modest busted Alexis looked to be near to bursting out of her floor length, black dress. Where the dress was lacking in material, it made up for it in gaudy flare; stylistically tattered sleeves and skirt with a slit up the thigh exposing a stocking clad leg.

Laurel let herself snicker. “You both look…” Her face definitely said ‘ridiculous’ but she went with, “great.” Instead. “In fact, if I was going with you, I’d vote for you as best costume.”

“Mr. Liedecker invited you to the Fireman’s charity ball too.” Alexis said. “Nothing’s stopping you.”

“Oh, there’s plenty stopping me.” Laurel said good naturedly. “For example, Freeland House’s second annual Halloween party. Especially this year when half the guests are eighteen and drinking age and the other half isn’t. I trust the kids, but I don’t trust the rest of the high school.” She smiled, “Plus, someone has to give out the candy. Got my Joan of Arc costume all ready, thanks to Warrick.”

“Okay.” Alexis said slowly. “But some night this week, I think we need a girl’s night out. All work and no play make Laurel a creepy basement dweller.”

“Her lab’s on the second floor.” Ian pointed out with a wry grin that earned him an elbow in the side.

“I do have a question though;” Laurel said, turning her attention on Ian. “For someone who hates the Magical World… urban wizard?”

Ian shrugged. “It’s fantasy. It’s like asking you why you still play videogames with superheroes, all things considered.”

“But I don’t hate superheroes.”

“And I don’t hate wizards.” Ian pointed out. “I hate witches. Witches who are bitches… and put me in bad sitches.” He smirked and did a little dance. “And make me need stitches, oh how they itch…es…” He grinned sheepishly at the goggled stares her earned from that. “Yeah. Okay, I don’t hate the magical world; I just don’t trust it. I trust wizards in books because they’re not real.”

He allowed himself a small sigh of relief that his explanation seemed to work. “Anyway, we’ve got to go. We shall miss your wonderful company, Laurel and if something comes up—“A tone sounded from the bank of computers and the central monitor displayed ‘Incoming call from L. A. Pratt.’

“I need to learn to shut up.” Ian groused.

“Yes.” Alexis sighed and gave him a reassuring pat on the shoulder, “You do.”

Laurel turned her chair around and ran the authentication protocols on the communication before routing the call to the speakers. “Good evening, General.” She said, “To what do I owe the honor?”

“Is the line secure?” came the response, definitely the General’s voice.

Ian edged the door closed with his heel. “Yeah, go.”

“Mr. Smythe, Ms. Brant.” Pratt said respectfully.

“And Ms. Keyes, General.” Alexis chimed in.

“Ms. Keyes.” Pratt amended. “Sorry to interrupt whatever you had planned tonight, but the ROCIC has a developing situation that I feel you might want to be kept abreast of.”

“You’ve got our attention.” Ian said with due respect, “So what are we talking about? More magic creepy crawlies? TOME on the move again?”

“Neither.” Pratt said, “Which would be a relief in other circumstances. I’m sending you multimedia now.” The central screen of Laurel’s rig displayed a war zone that was formerly a prison yard. Smoke was still rising in grey ghosts across the blasted landscape.

“Sixteen hours ago, there was an assisted breakout from Castleton Federal Penitentiary. Nineteen guards dead, thirty-five guards and inmates wounded. The authorities think the perpetrators were psionics.”

“It sounds like you don’t agree, General.” Laurel noticed.

“Not once I found out who the man they freed was; James Richter.” Richter’s mug shot appeared on screen.

“The Sineater.” Ian’s voice was steely and angry. He’d watched the man on the screen kill a man even after his reasons for doing so had been proven demonstrably wrong.

A Sineater.” The General corrected. “The leader of a cell who have been giving us good intel about the organization. As far as we can tell, there’s something on the order of three dozen Sineaters around the world, organized into four person cells utilizing some sort of mysticism training they claim allows them to tap into their faith.”

“And look what they do with it; killing the people they ought to be saving.” Ian said darkly. “People can turn all sorts of beautiful things ugly.”

Before Pratt could pick up on that, Laurel interrupted. “So you think that it’s another Sineater cell then, General?”

“That I would, except we had all three of the other Sineaters serving their jail time take a look at the images from the prison break,” These too flashed on the screen, showing the strange trio collecting Richter and escorting them to their jump jet. “And they don’t know them.”

“If they work in a classic cell structure, they wouldn’t.” Laurel pointed out.

“They would.” Pratt contradicted. “The cells are for coverage, not for secrecy. All the Sineaters report to a central authority somewhere in the EU. They refuse to give up the location.”

“Then this guy’s probably halfway across the pond by now. All the way if they hopped a space shot. Why pull us in on this?” Ian asked. His fists were clenched at the thought of Richter walking free.

“Possibly, but we do have one lead, and we’d like the Descendants to follow up on it for us.” Pratt said. The central screen now displayed a phone transcript. “Twenty-four hours before the break, the man one of the Sineaters identified as the leader of the entire group, one Dr. Alvus Tang, began making calls, a great many calls to archeological societies, museums, some of the richest men in Europe… and one that doesn’t match the pattern; Staunton Importers, Mayfield, Virginia.”

“We’re happy to do it, General, but I’m not seeing why this requires the Descendants.” Alexis folded her arms and gave the screen a quizzical look.

“I was getting to that, Ms. Keyes.” The General said. “The Sineater that identified Tang also recognized the pattern of calls, excluding the importer: it’s how Tang acquires the holy relics the Sineaters use to focus their powers.”

Ian’s eyes narrowed. “And if I know Richter, that means they’re going to go for it guns blazing; just like they did at the prison.” Grimacing, he took off his hat and turned toward the door. “L, if you can play mission control for us while still playing chaperone, I’d appreciate it.”

“We’re not bringing the kids?” Alexis asked.

“No, let them have their Halloween. But for us; it’s time to get into costume.”

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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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