Issue #38: The Miracles of St Drausinus

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

Part 3

The fire was mostly out by the time emergency response arrived thanks to judicious use of Chaos’s powers to deprive it of oxygen. While he occupied himself with smothering the last embers, Darkness helped the victim, bookkeeper Tim Mathers out to meet the paramedics.

“Looks like bruised ribs.” One of the EMTs was saying to Mathers as he sat in the back of the ambulance. He was using a hand scanner to give the man a once over. “We still need to take you in for smoke inhalation treatment, but you’ll be fine.” He ducked his head to Darkness who was nearby, but well out of the way of the paramedics, “Probably thanks to the Descendants.”

Mathers nodded enthusiastically until the pain in his ribs warned him to stop. “Yes, I would have choked to death if Chaos hadn’t saved me. I don’t even know why those men had to do that to me; I gave them what they wanted.” He looked like a guilty schoolboy saying that. Likely, his employer would be more concerned about the fire damage and ransacking than whatever Mathers had provided.

Darkness gave him a sympathetic smile. “I’m sorry this had to happen to you, Mr. Mathers.”

“Please, call me Tim.” Mathers said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster in his condition.

“Of course.” She said. “Can you tell me what they wanted, Tim? It might help us catch them.”

“I wasn’t supposed to…” Mathers frowned, looking shame faced again. “The invoices are private to everyone once the government clears things to come into the country—especially priority deliveries like this one. M-mister Staunton is very particular about that…” He was fretting more now than he had when the bookcase was crushing him.

Darkness nodded. “I know Tim, but we’ll personally vouch for you that with dangerous men like these, resisting them would have had a much worse outcome. I’m sure Mr. Staunton would understand. But right now, we need to know what they were looking for.”

Mathers took a moment to collect himself. “It was an invoice; from France, to a big name client… a collector here in Mayfield…”

The sounded like Vincent Liedecker. Only just, Darkness kept the her face from showing what she was thinking; that it figured that she’d be missing going to the charity ball hosted by Liedecker only to crash it as Darkness. Just to make sure, she asked for a name. And Mathers replied that the name was…

***

“Dexter Deeds.” Mary Northbrooke greeted the man himself as he entered his sitting room. She’d been waiting there, in her elegant red cocktail dress for the better part of an hour. “At first, I thought that inviting me to the Fireman’s ball was a way to guarantee good press.” Her voice was chiding, but with no accusation in her tone. “But I’m starting to have second thoughts if you’re going to show up late.”

Deeds was a tall man, and skinny with a strong chin and roman nose. His dark, brown hair was slicked back, leaving a slight, but highly visible widow’s peak. He wore, as he always did, a half smile that made Mary feel as if he was in on a joke no one else was. “Actually, I save all the special treatment for the business reporters.” He took her hand and kissed it as she stood. “I’m sorry about that, but it seems Imaginative Illusions would fall apart if it wasn’t for me.”

“That isn’t hard to believe.” Mary said. “After all, you built double-I up from nothing: all their imaging technology is, or is based on your patents.”

“I see you’ve done your homework on me.” He observed.

“Part of the job.” Mary replied. “Regardless of why you invited me tonight, you’re news, Mr. Deeds, huge news for Mayfield. The double-I fabrication plant will mean jobs, and the studio could mean the start of a film industry.”

“That’s a lot of homework.” Deeds said. “I suppose you’re right, but really, you don’t have to suspect my intentions of inviting you, Ms. Northbrooke, it’s pretty simple; I grew up close to this city. I read the home town paper. And your column fascinates me.”

When she blushed at this flattery, he flashed an enigmatic smile. “I’ve done my homework too. Is it true what your bio on the Scribe’s website says? That you’re interested in medieval legends and lore?”

Her blush depended. “Oh, well it isn’t like I’ve done any serious studying. It’s more of a hobby; one I hardly ever have a chance to pursue lately.”

“I have something in the library that might interest you then.” Deeds said. “If you don’t mind being a bit later for the ball, I’d love to show it to you.”

Mary raised an eyebrow. “You’ve piqued my interest now, Mr. Deeds, how can I refuse?”

“It won’t take long.” Deeds assured, “The library is just across the hall. “And please, call me Dexter.”

The hall was actually the yawning entry hall of Deeds’s home; built to resemble the main hall of a mansion when in reality; it was the penthouse of one of the most exclusive apartment towers in Mayfield, overlooking the West Truman Bridge. The glass doors leading outside led, in reality, to a rooftop garden where Deeds had a pool and parked his cutting edge American Motor Cars Daedalus flying car.

The library was behind twin doors of polished oak, set into a mechanism that caused them to open with a whisper at Deeds’s touch. The room itself was large and circular, with bookcases taking up every available space along the wall, split between two levels.

Evidently, the top level of the library was taller than the rest of the building, as circular glass windows gave views of the night sky on all sides.

Mary made a small, impressed noise. “Have you read all of these books?” she asked before she could think better of it.

“Actually yes.” Deeds replied. “Not these exact books, I have a digi-book reader on my palm-top like everyone else, but I’ve found that even a terabyte of data just doesn’t fill up the shelves in quite an impressive manner.” They shared a laugh at this.

“But what I wanted to show you is over here.” He directed her attention to a dull, iron breastplate mounted on a stand between two reading chairs. A cross had been crudely hammered across the breast, but it was otherwise unremarkable.

“I’m not sure…” Mary started, trying to find a polite way to say that a battered piece of armor wasn’t the same as an interesting piece of medieval lore.

“It doesn’t look like much.” Deeds said. “It didn’t cost much either, once you subtract the cost of finding it, but the value here is the story, you see. Have you heard of St Drausinus?”

“The church?” she asked. “Yes, it’s one of Mayfield’s landmarks.”

Deeds smiled. “Actually, I meant the saint. Drausinus, patron saint of champions, protectors and invincible people. When you think about it that means that Mayfield’s relationship with heroes, especially prelates, predates our native heroes by decades.” He gave Mary a questioning look, “Something to bring up in your next column, maybe?”

“It does have a certain poetic twist to it.” Mary agreed. “So this armor belonged to the saint?”

“Not exactly.” Deeds urged her to give the piece a closer examination. “In fact, Drausinus wasn’t known as a warrior. He was a builder. As bishop of Soissons, he founded the monastery of Notre Dame de Soissons and of the Abbey of Rethondes. I’m actually not clear on how he came to be the patron of those he’s the patron of, but the legend goes that if an army camped at his shrine before a battle, they would become invincible. Even another saint, Thomas Becket, spent a night there before his martyrdom.

“This armor belongs to one particular man who camped at the shrine on seven separate occasions according to legend; Paul Nesmith. It’s said that he survived a dozen battles, including one in which every other soul that fought beside him died.”

Spurred by this information, Mary looked closer. The armor, though worn and dull, showed no signs of rust. Though sporting hundreds of dings and scratches, it bore not a single true dent or puncture. She gave Deeds and inquisitive look.

“As far as I can tell, this is the genuine article.” He assured her. “Mr. Nesmith still may have just been supremely lucky though. And if he was, it must be hereditary. By the time he died at ninety, both his son and a grandson had joined and returned unharmed from the Crusades—both allegedly wearing that selfsame armor.”

Mary stood back from it. “If a family had a literal armor of invincibility, they wouldn’t let it out of the family.” She reasoned. “How did you end up with it?”

“Assuming it worked at all, it only works if you wear it.” Deeds said dryly. “The Nesmiths remained a powerful family well into the twentieth century, but the armor had become just a family legend attached to a decoration in the manor house in France. No one thought to try the holy invincibility trick when the Nazis took over and looted the place.”

He shrugged. “After the war, it’s bounced around from collector to collector, some whom actually tried to make it work, even. Until I picked it up as a conversation piece.” He let his natural half smile become a genuine one, which Mary returned.

“Was it worth the money?” Mary asked.

“Every dime.” He replied. “Now, I believe there’s a ball badly in need of its most handsome couple, don’t you think, Ms. Northbrooke?”

“Please, Mary.” She playfully offered her hand and they left the library.

Before they could reach the glass doors to the roof, however, a roar came from outside.

“What’s that?” Mary asked.

“That doesn’t sound like the wind.” Deeds said. He felt the vibration and noticed the glass dancing in its setting. The realization hit him like a freight train. “Down!” He grabbed Mary and threw her to the floor, covering her body with his own.

He wasn’t a moment too soon, as the glass and the wooden frame holding it exploded violently inward, hailing bits and shards into the hall. Without the frames on either side to support it, the door wavered and fell in as well.

The shards of glass hadn’t finished tinkling across the floor when James Richter, ensconced in the uniform provided for him as a member of the Adriel, stepped over the door and into the room. He was flanked immediately by Gospel and Harbonah. Huge Bezek bought up the rear, blocking the exit with his bulk.

“Dexter Raymond Deeds.” Richter drew his new weapon and held it in a neutral position at his side. “In the name of God, you will deliver to us the armor blessed by Saint Drausinus.”

“You mean the legend is real?” Mary asked from beneath Deeds. They’d landed face to face in the aftermath. “I thought you were just trying to flirt.”

“I don’t think what we believe really matters.” Deeds slowly rolled off her, hissing in pain as his forearm pressed down on a splintered chunk of wood. “He obviously thinks it’s true.” Shifting away from the splinters and partially sitting up, he saw the assembled Adriel standing in his foyer. “They. They believe it’s true.”

He cleared his throat. “There’s no need for weapons here.” He said smoothly. “Leave my guest and I alone, take whatever you want. I won’t even get the police involved.”

“All we want is the blessed armor.” Richter repeated. “Tell us where it is.”

Behind him, Bezek grunted and stumbled forward, drawing the attention of the other three Adriel. When the armored man turned to see what had hit him, an arm width lance of black heat caught him in the head, sending him sprawling backward. His fall obliterated the already much abused door and revealed Chaos and Darkness hovering on the terrace.

“For all the piety, it seems like we only see you when you’re threatening innocent people, James Richter.” Darkness said. Chaos remained silent, but raised his hand, calling on his power. Precise winds caught the lighter debris and hurled them violently in the direction of the Adriel.

Gospel stepped up and opened his mouth. The noise that came was distant thunder, like blood rushing through one’s ears. From memory, he scaled himself to the correct frequency, reducing the incoming glass to grains no larger than the sand it was made from.

With a defiant look at the prelates, he drew a long breath and let loose with a new, shriller noise.

Chaos gestured again and a huff of air exploded away from Gospel, seemingly cutting off the shriek as soon as it began. “Here’s some science for you.” He said levelly as Gospel silently gagged. “Sound is a compression wave. No air or other matter, no sound. In fact…” He made a pulling motion and Gospel’s eye’s bulged in fear as he grabbed his chest with both hands. “The same can be said for consciousness.”

Richter raised his gun at the same time Harbonah drew his sword. “Let him go!” Richter roared.

“Knocking someone out like that takes too long anyway.” Chaos commented, waving a hand. A powerful gust threw the reeling Gospel sidelong into Richter’s gun arm, causing Richter’s shot to go wild. A brilliant flare of white light streaked from the gun, into the wall beside the destroyed entryway.

“Feeling better now?” Darkness unleashed a wide beam of black heat at Harbonah. The swordsman held his weapon straight up, perpendicular to the floor, somehow using it the split the flood of black heat around him.

“Just getting started.” Chaos replied. His voice betrayed that he was, at least in a small way.

“Take care of Richter.” Darkness encouraged. “I’ll run interference.”

Chaos nodded and with a burst of wind, threw himself into the room, headed straight for Richter. Gathering air around his fist, he swung at the former Sineater’s jaw with all his might before he could disentangle himself from Gospel.

Instead of being hindered by Gospel’s dead weight, Richter used it, lifting the other man to block the punch with his free hand. The punch connected with Gospel’s forehead and sent a kaleidoscope of colors spinning through his head. Momentum pushed him away from Richter, freeing him.

Too close to get proper aim, Richter hammered Chaos in the side of the visor with his pistol grip, driving the other man back. “I was hoping you’d show up.” He said. “So I could show you that even you with all your powers couldn’t stop God’s plans.”

“This is God’s plan then?” Chaos swung for Richter’s center, but the other man shifted away. “I guess you think he’s just fine with breaking commandment eight, seeing as you obviously don’t put much stock in five.”

“It isn’t stealing when it’s God’s own property.” Richter countered, trying desperately to open up enough space between himself and the prelate to draw a bead. “And it isn’t murder when it’s an enemy of God.” He leapt back, finally finding the daylight he needed. “Like you.” He fired.

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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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