Issue #38: The Miracles of St Drausinus

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

Part 4

A fiercely glowing bullet exited the barrel and was immediately met with a nearly solid wall of air, hastily thrown up by Chaos. Ordinary bullets would have lost momentum and dropped to the ground, but the infused ammunition only flared brighter and bored through the obstruction. The barrier only bought Chaos a few seconds in which to dodge. Even so, the blessed bullet opened a cut along his temple through the ballistic cloth.

Ignoring the stinging pain, he surged forward to knock Richter’s gun hand upward. He seized the hand and twisted, hoping to force the former Sineater to drop his weapon. “So now I’m an enemy of God.” He made no effort to keep his disgust for Richter out of his voice.”

“You’ve done nothing but hinder my ordained work since I’ve met you.” Richter lashed out with his free hand and was easily blocked. “You even subverted my old team.”

Chaos continued putting pressure on the other man’s arm. “Because they saw that they made a mistake. Whatever those creatures are, the host is an innocent victim, not a collaborator—“He was cut off when Harbonah angled his sword, with which he was deflecting Darkness’s black heat, and sent the blast in Chaos’s direction.

The beam threw him sideways, but in the process, he managed to pull the gun from Richter’s hands. It clattered across the floor, coming to a rest at the sitting room door.

For her part, Darkness immediately ceased her attack when she saw Harbonah’s redirection. The swordsman smirked at her and angled his blade to catch the light. “The Sword defends as well as it smites.” He said. “You’ve seen one, now see the other.” Angelic runes appeared along the blade, looking like liquid fire being drizzled on the steel. At the same time, the hue of the metal shifted, going from the silvery sheen of steel to gold.

Darkness didn’t say a word. Instead, she fired another blast of black heat, this time into the floor at Harbonah’s feet. The stone tiles cracked and buckled under the assault, causing the Adriel’s swordsman to plant his blade to steady himself.

“Now…” Darkness gathered a massive surge of black heat into her hands. There was a grunt and a snarl beneath her.

From his back, Bezek reached up and grabbed her leg. “Stay outta our way.” His voice came over the armor’s speakers, sounding hollow and booming. In the same motion he used to sit up, he swung the heroine overhead and flung her out onto the roof, where she splashed down into the pool.

With some difficulty, Bezek forced his powered armor to stand. “Don’t worry ‘bout the flier, Harbonah,” Symbols began to appear on the arms and chest of the armor as he raised them. Arcs of electricity began to crackle in the air around him. “I’ve got her.”

A bolt of black heat the thickness of a tree trunk slammed into his chest, causing him to rock on his feet and lose his charge. Darkness rose from the water in a shroud of steam as the water boiled off from the black heat engulfing her. “You’ve got nothing.” She punctuated this with another massive bolt that was caught and redirected by the blade of Harbonah who sent it into the sky instead.

“You may have been able to handle the rogue psionics and spark jockeys that plague this town.” The Adriel’s swordsman intoned, “But our power comes from a higher source. You have no hope to defeat us.”

In agreement with his comrade, Bezek raised his arms again, allowing lightning to gather from the symbols before unleashing it as a massive arc in Darkness’s direction.

The black swathed heroine nimbly dodged around the arc and retaliated with a swarm of hundreds of nettle sized particles of black heat, the kind that didn’t so much harm as cause stinging pain wherever they landed.

Bezek, ensconced within his armor, ignored them, but Harbonah was forced to swing his sword to his defense, whirling it with such speed that it seemed to become a disc of gold that scattered the motes of black heat before they neared him.

Undeterred, Darkness twirled out of the way of another of Bezek’s lightening bolts and blasted one of the gargoyles that graced the overhang above the former door, knocking it from its perch to fall toward Harbonah.

He didn’t miss a beat. His sword jerked sideways on a downswing and when he bought it up again, the blade slammed into the statue. With a reverberating keen, it tore through the falling object like cloth, a concussive force that followed shattering it to nothing.

Shielding his face from the dust with his free arm, he presented his sword to Darkness and brought himself on guard again.

“You have failed to do anything more than further destroy this domicile.” He observed. “Now, I will show you the error of your ways.” The golden gleam from his sword seemed to flow down into his body and form there, it ensconced him as surely as the black heat did Darkness. The semblance of a humanoid form with seven wings of light appeared in a ghostly afterimage behind him.

Even Bezek stepped back when the light-wings raked out and Harbonah lifted into the air.

***

Richter ignored the goings on outside to focus on the mission at hand. He stared down Deeds where he still sat on the floor beside Mary. “Don’t make this harder on yourself than it has to be, Mr. Deeds.” He said, voice cold, “Tell me where the blessed armor is and this ends.”

A violent blast of wind caught Richter’s coat and slammed him into the opposite wall.

“Keep your property, Mr. Deeds.” Chaos kept the wind focused on Richter, trying to keep him pinned to the wall. His side still had a pins and needles feel from being sideswiped by Darkness’s power, but he was by no means done. “I’ve seen what happens when they get what they want.”

He glanced at the exit, which was still being blocked by Bezek’s back. “Is there another way out of here?”

“The elevator.” Deeds replied. “on the other side of the apartment.”

“Use it.” Chaos ordered. “Get the hell out of here. We’ll deal with these guys.”

Deeds didn’t need to be told twice. “Come, Mary. This isn’t a place for you.”

For her part, Mary stood with his help, but she was torn. The Descendants and prelates in general were her favorite topic when it came to her column. And for the first time since the disaster of Brother Wright’s gather a year ago, she had a chance to see them in action.

“Wait.” She said, “This is… is news, I should—“

“Both of you. Go.” Chaos said firmly.

“No.” Richter focused on his fallen weapon on the other side of the room. The symbols etched along it gleamed in a light not of this world and a sudden force launched it through the air and into the former Sineater’s hand. “Both of you stay.” He fired a double tap in Chaos’s direction, causing the prelate to dodge and lose his concentration on keeping up his wall of air.

In the ensuing confusion, he lunged for Mary and caught her arm, pulling her against him. The barrel of his firearm ended pointing directly at her throat. He maneuvered her so that she was facing Chaos. “No more powers, prelate.” He ordered. “If you try to suffocate me like Gospel, I’ll have plenty of time to shoot her. And I’ll feel whatever else you try.”

He glanced over to Deeds who seemed to be experiencing a mixture of shock and rage. “Now, Mr. Deeds, if you’ll just tell me where the armor is…”

“I won’t let you kill them.” Chaos said. His eyes found what he needed not far away: a vase of flowers with fresh water inside. He started working his power on it, folding a bubble of air inside and compressing the water. “Especially not in the name of God. You may think I’m a heretic, but I’m not. And you may think I subverted your friends, but I only showed them the truth; it’s your own fault that you couldn’t accept it.” The bubble firmly formed, he started pulsing it, agitating the molecules.

“I did what was right and necessary then.” He looked at Deeds, “And in Christ’s name, I would do it again. Give me the armor.”

Deeds lowered his head in acceptance of the situation. “I don’t want my guest to die. You win; just let me get the key.” He pointed to a desk in the hall leading further into his home. Richter nodded.

“You know your real problem, Richter?” Chaos was stalling, but at the same time, finding his method of doing so therapeutic. “It’s all about you being right, not about the reality of the situation or what the moral choice is. Or maybe it’s about Alvus Tang telling you what to do.” He sneered at the surprise that registered on Richter’s face. “Surprised I know him? We’ve got a whole file about him—and he definitely seems the false messiah type.”

Wordless rage came from Richter’s mouth and he turned his gun on the prelate, ripping off three shots in quick succession.

Chaos was already in motion to dodge the shots as they tore into the wall behind him. As he passed it, he grabbed the vase and flipped it into position to throw it. “time to introduce you to the Chaos Nov—“

There was a high, reverberating sound and Richter was hit from behind by a bolt of green energy.

***

Surrounded by the illusory visage of an angel, Harbonah rose to meet Darkness in the air, golden sword held ready for a powerful charge. Bezek stopped his electrical barrage in order to give his ally room to work with.

“I imagine you never dreamed that this is how it would end.” The swordsman said, his voice never varying from his clam, malignant purr. “Not by the hand of a greater evil, but by the blade of the supreme good.”

Darkness slipped the scarf from her shoulders and straightened it into a bō. “It isn’t over yet.” She told him. Light and dark met with a clashing of metal on carbon, each striking, parrying and retreating only to charge against one another once more.

As they came together again, Darkness aimed a flare of black heat at Harbonah’s face, forcing him to raise his sword to block. The opening allowed her to slam her staff into his ribs. The angelic effigy around him dimmed as he howled in pain.

Realization settled on her as she threw herself back to avoid the retaliatory sword swipe. “It’s ritual magic.” She exclaimed.

“What are you talking about?” Harbonah dove for her, only to be forced to shy away from another eruption of black heat.

“Your powers. The Sineaters’ powers. We’ve been trying to figure out what it was since the first time they came to Mayfield.” She caught his overhead strike with her bō and used the momentum imparted to send both of them into a spin. “But now I get it: you have to concentrate and use that sword as a focus–-it’s ritual magic.”

“You blaspheme!” Harbonah said, only slightly more forcefully than he’d spoken before. “The ability to command relics is a holy rite, preserved since the enlightenment in the Far East.” He was clearly quoting. He pushed away from her and dropped down to get himself out of the spin.

“Think what you want.” She stopped the spin herself. “But I know at least three other people who aren’t part of your group that do it too.” A gout of black heat roared from her open palm like the flaming belch of a dragon.

Reflexively, Harbonah whirled his blade to deflect the attack around him. The scattered burst fell into the pool below, flash boiling the water it touched. A jet of steam erupted from below, taking the Adriel’s swordsman completely by surprise.

Even with the pain of sudden, near scalding heat, he didn’t cry out. But he did lose his concentration. The effigy around him winked out and without it, he and his sword plummeted into the water below.

Someone else, however, did make noise. “Harbonah!” Bezek bellowed. “Hold on brother, I’ve got ya!” The arcs generated by his symbols intensified. His eye fell on Darkness. “You.” He roared. “I’m going to—“A massive explosion took him in the back, crushing the servos in his back and shoulders and pitching him face first into the ground.

***

Moments earlier, the green bolt sunk into Richter’s back, causing him to scream in agony as it surged through his nervous system. He dropped to the ground, gasping.

Chaos stopped in the middle of hurling his explosive vase. His plan had been to shape the explosion with his power so that it caught Richter and not Mary. At least that was the plan before he got interrupted.

Both he and Mary looked to find Dexter Deeds at the source of the bolt, holding a thick barreled pistol with a dimly glowing, red coil of wire exposed in the clear, plastic housing that encompassed the barrel.

Deeds gave them both a weak smile for their shocked looks. “The Magneto-Accelerated Electron Synchronization Regulator.” He explained. “Improperly referred to on the street as a ‘maser gun’. It’s totally non-lethal if you don’t have implanted electronics, but it’s incredibly painful.” His smile turned nervous when they kept staring at them. “Self-defense Los Angeles style.”

“I’m so glad to be back on the East Coast.” Chaos noted.

The discussion was interrupted by Bezek’s screaming over Harbonah’s defeat. “You!” The armored titan roared. “I’m going to—“

“No you won’t.” Chaos was speaking mostly to himself as he launched the still volatile vase at the armor’s back. He knew from his previous vocation, designing powered armor for Brant Industries, that even if the power source wasn’t stored there, much of the locomotive machinery would still be there by necessity. “Chaos Nova!”

The detonation tore up the suit’s back, crushing motive systems and ripping apart power conduits as it did. Unable to move the armor’s arms to catch himself, Bezek toppled over like a toy soldier, trailing smoke from his back.

Chaos watched him fall with grim satisfaction. “That’ll do it for this chapter of the Sineaters.” He observed. “Now to find Tang and bring the whole thing down.”

“No!” Richter fought through the crippling agony inflicted on him by the maser. Teeth on edge, he regained his gun and shouldered Mary out of the way, catching Chaos in a full on tackle before the hero could react.

Richter landed on top, bringing the barrel of his gun hard against the other man’s temple in the same place his earlier bullet had grazed him. “I won’t let you do this again! Thy will be done!” At point blank range, he pulled the trigger.

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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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