Issue #38: The Miracles of St Drausinus

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

Part 5

The Nimrod custom revolver was a both a beautiful and terrible thing to behold looking at it from the business end. The etched symbols caught and seemed to flicker in the light. Chaos couldn’t help but notice this as he tried to summon his power and pull air away from the chambers.

In the months he’d spent in prison, Richter had learned much about the Descendants, particularly Chaos, who he held in particular disdain. His command over air in particular and ability to cause misfires was well documented, ironically due in large part to Mary Northbrooke.

The important thing was not to delay, not to issue epitaphs or soliloquies before firing. Those were the follies of most of the foes the Descendants had fallen to. He suspected that it was just a fact of human nature that capability with dramatic exercises in power led to theatrical behavior in those who wielded it.

Not James Bartholomew Richter. He served a higher purpose than himself and that made theatrics an unnecessary indulgence. The moment the Nimrod pistol was pressed against Chaos’s temple, he took no chances with the prelate. A double tap to the head would put an end to the havoc the man has wreaked.

Two pulls of the trigger. Two revolutions of the cylinder. And nothing.

The hammer clicked twice to no effect.

Richter barely had time to register surprise on his face before a wind encircled fist cuffed him in the side of the head. The blow unbalanced him enough to let Chaos sit up. He couldn’t see through the visor, by the prelate was just as shocked at his survival as Richeter was. That didn’t stop him from ringing Richter’s bell with an uppercut.

A late flare of black heat was enough to shake off what little consciousness remained in the gunman’s head and he collapsed on the floor. Darkness flew quickly to her companion’s side. “Sorry I was late,” she said urgently, “I had to pull the swordsman out of the pool before he drowned. Thank god you can take care of that yourself. Score one for your powers.”

“Actually… no.” Chaos said, accepting her help up. “There’s no way I could have done it in time. He had me dead to rights.”

“He was out of ammo.” Ventured Deeds. He still held the maser, but had it turned off and down in a neutral position now. “Revolver’s only got six shots.”

Mary nodded in agreement. “And he fired all six. I counted.”

Chaos glanced down at the fallen man’s pistol. Eight chambers, two unspent bullets visible. He chose not to contradict them. Instead he nodded. “Sorry to interrupt you and your guest, Mr. Deeds. We’ll have these men on their way to jail shortly.”

“Thank you both.” Deeds said. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t arrived.” He smiled at Mary. “And it’s all done in time for us to still make the ball.”

Mary gave him a surprised look. “After all this, you still feel like socializing?”

“In fact, I feel like it even more.” He said. “We have an amazing story to tell now.”

***

Half an hour later, an ROCIC transport lifted off from Deed’s rooftop, carrying the battered and in most cases, unconscious Adriel in specialized restraints. A second transport, bearing Richter’s Nimrod, Harobnah’s sword, and the powered armor Bezek had to be cut out of toward a secure location where all captured villainous devices were stored and studied.

Chaos and Darkness were left alone on the lightning scarred terrace.

“I’m sorry they wouldn’t give up Tang.” Darkness said, taking Chaos’s hand. “I guess this whole thing wasn’t as cathartic as you’d hoped.”

Chaos squeezed her hand and gave her a smile. “Maybe not, but it helped. The Sineaters… or Adriel aren’t really as sure as I thought. You should have seen how easy it actually was to challenge Richter’s faith when it came down to it.” He shrugged. “A lot of that surety wasn’t surety at all; it was all Tang’s talent for inspiration.”

A smile crossed Darkness’s face. “So. Crisis of faith over?”

“Not really.” He admitted. “But I do feel better about having my doubts when even these hardcore fanatics can’t keep up totally faith all the time. Plus…”

“Plus?” Darkness coaxed.

“Like I said, I don’t want to talk in absolutes, but Northbrooke and Deeds were wrong; Richter’s gun had eight shots, not six.”

Darkness tried to keep her voice even. She was pretty incredulous of the possible implication there, but her skepticism was less important than Chaos’s feelings. “Two duds in a row?”

“Pretty rare.” Chaos nodded, “But not unheard of. But what I think isn’t really what I’ve got on my mind.” He put his arm around her. “Think about it: Richter thinks that gun was some sort of holy relic, powered by his faith and God’s will. But when it came time to shoot me, point blank, it failed. What I’m saying is; I don’t think my crisis is anything like his is going to be when he wakes up.”

They were silent for a moment before he added. “You know, Deeds was right; we do have time to make that ball if we hurry.”

***

Tang had abandoned the apartment the moment his spotters watching Deed’s home had reported the Adriel’s defeat. Instead of following his contingency plan of immediately heading the DC and from there, returning to Europe, he instead found himself walking the streets lost in thought.

Mayfield had once more proven to be more daunting than it seemed. From the moment he’d learned of the Astral rift in the South Anne River, the city had refused to give up its mysteries. Instead, each path of inquiry he’d followed led to more questions and no answers.

More so that even New York or Paris; Mayfield, Virginia had become a hotbed of extra-normal activity in the past two years; not just psionics and interfacers, but if his spotters could be believed (and he was confident they could be), more demons than the so called ‘Mauler’ had appeared as well.

Thirty years of his life had been dedicated to the study and cataloging of the strange; from his mission days when he had met a young psionic girl in Africa whose skin shed light whenever she prayed to his visitations to China where he’d discovered a sect whose beliefs were a blend of Buddhism and Christianity and who practiced prayer techniques that would eventually be the basis for most of the Sineaters’ abilities, to his work in California delving into the mysteries of the newly discovered Astral Plane.

And yet, walking in the city that had birthed the Descendants and the apparent ‘good’ witch Occult, as well as the eye of the most persistent astral storm ever recorded, he felt he had barely scratched the surface. Everything became more complicated when Mayfield became part of the equation.

Silently, he prayed for his Adriel. They would be under much heavier guard following their retrieval of Richter and freeing them once again, especially with numerous murder charges being leveled would prove most difficult.

In that intervening time, Tang vowed to learn more. About the emerging world of the extra-normal that he was seeing more evidence of every day. About the city of Mayfield. And in the place both held in God’s plan, which he was certain was unfolding with the events.

Once more, Alvus Tang, the man the Sineaters and the Adriel thought of as a teacher would become what he thought of himself first and foremost; a student. The only question was who he would learn from—and what lesson there was to be learned.

***

It was well past midnight when Deeds returned home. The ball had been as enjoyable as a charity event could manage for him, but soldiering through it had given him more time in the delightful presence of Mary Northbrooke.

What had originally been one of his usual fits of curiosity and an exercise in testing his clout in Mayfield by essentially summoning the reporter to act as his date had become something far more enjoyable.

True to her writing style, Mary was witty, playful and just a bit sardonic. Her knowledge did in fact extend well into the interesting bits of lore and she even had a working knowledge of his bread and butter, holography. Hours of pleasant conversation had passed all too quickly for Deeds. He resolved to extend an invitation to Ms. Northbrooke again when the next social event came up.

The prospect had him humming under his breath as he exited his car and started across his rooftop terrace. His contractor had shored up the damage in the time he’d been attending the ball; there were tarps and plastic coverings over the damage at least and a swiftly thrown up shelter of aluminum and plastic shielding the ruined doorway from the elements. It unlocked with his keyring dongle; not the most secure method of entry, but then again, it was only temporary.

Once inside, he took saw fit to reflect on the events of earlier. He must have told the story five times over the course of the night already, but standing in his once besieged entry hall, he finally had time to actually think about it.

In all seriousness, he could have been killed during everything that went down, or badly injured. Especially after his stunt with the maser. It shocked him how easily the man called Richter had shrugged off the effects, actually. Masers were graded for how long they were meant to incapacitate and the one he used was rated for five minutes or better. It had held Richter for less than a minute.

Clearly the weapon would have to be replaced. He was just lucky that Chaos and Darkness were there to save them. Mary was justified several times over for the faith she’d put in them and fostered in them among the general populace.

Growing up, Dexter had always been more of a science geek than the kind that cared at all about pop culture. Superheroes had been the furthest thing from his mind. But after only a few months in Mayfield, he was starting to become a true believer.

His inner businessman also saw the other aspects of heroism: fame beyond what owning a well known special effects firm could offer and the merchandising and endorsements that came with it. Not that he really had the stomach to put himself in harm’s way for others. What happened earlier with the maser was something else; his home had been violated, his date held hostage… it had been personal.

No, the only way he’d ever become a super—ahem—prelate would be if he could guarantee one hundred percent that he not only wouldn’t but couldn’t be harmed. And there was little chance of him suddenly being rendered…

Instantly, his glance flicked to the library door.

Drausinus. Patron saint of protectors. Patron saint against enemy plots. Patron saint of invincible people. Who legend had it had blessed the armor of Paul Nesmith.

It was a crazy lark, he decided. But strange things were happening in the world if the internet was to be believed, so it couldn’t hurt just to try the armor on, just for a moment. When it didn’t work, no one had to know.

Chuckling to himself, he walked to the library doors and pushed them wide open in as brazenly dramatic a fashion as possible.

As if deciding to play along with his dramatic mood, the light from the main hall seemed to slide along the floor as it entered the darkened library. When it reached the other end of the floor, it fell upon the case Deeds had not so long ago been showing to Mary. The case the Adriel had threatened to kill for in order to learn the location of.

It was empty.

***

She didn’t know how long she’d sat there. It was certainly days, days of no food or drink, only constant contact with the source of her power to sustain her body. There were mirrors surrounding her, but none of them showed her real face. They showed her the face of another woman.

Sometimes she talked to her. Telling her what to do as if she’d be heeded. Begging her not to do things that had to be done. Making demands that were impossible.

Sometimes she talked back. Calling for silence. Murmuring in agreement. Cursing the other woman’s shade. How could she possibly understand what was happening, what she was planning. She didn’t even know what true power was.

Always, the living points of light, the Motes tended to her, speaking softly in their musical voices. They didn’t understand either. But they did know that her word was their command, so they were welcome even when they expressed doubt that she was fully healed.

Of course she wasn’t fully healed. She was wearing another woman’s body. That was a wound too large for any but magic to heal. And it was an old and complicated magic at that. One that needed components. Components that had been hard to come by long ago and were now guarded rarities.

There was no way that she could retrieve them, she knew this. She needed a proxy. This bought to mind her first proxy. That one couldn’t be trusted. None of them could be trusted alone. She needed more. Not a Knight. A Knighthood.

Rose light welled up behind her. She didn’t look. She knew who it must be and the creak of ancient metal told her what she’d retrieved.

“It is done, O Heir. There were others who sought it, but they failed.” Manikin declared needlessly. Her master didn’t care about anything but her spells and rituals. “I will prepare the transference ritual. Once it is complete, you will have your Knight Inexorable.”

The other woman’s face smiled in the mirror. But the dark, joyous laughter belonged to Morganna alone.

End Descendants #38

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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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