Issue #5 Legends of Chaos and Darkness

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 3

“It’s a… it’s a… menagerie.” Morganna mumbled to herself as she wandered goggle-eyed along the brick pathways of the G.M. Logan Zoological Park, located on Mayfield’s south end. She had dredged up memories of this place and the unusual creatures contained within, but seeing it on her own was an entirely different experience. She had still been expecting a small gathering of useful animals before she had stepped through the gates and received her first glimpse of the lank, yellow and brown monstrosities she identified as ‘giraffes’.

Things hadn’t become any better in the hour since. Grey skinned behemoths with serpentine appendages; bears in a great variety – albino, black and white, and a colossal variant called a ‘Kodiak’; huge, bipedal rats that moved in a bounding gait and stored their young in gashes in their bellies… it was too much to take in. Trying to recall her body’s memories on these matters only made things worse. The flood of new terms and concepts would need hours to assimilate.

But while the menagerie’s monsters were confounding, the people were the ones that posed a problem. There were hundreds there; men, women and children, milling about, observing the curiosities. They even took meals here! That many watchers would surely stop her from gathering the necessary regents.

Though she had killed to add to her own power, Morganna didn’t fancy herself cold blooded. She wouldn’t slaughter hapless dolts who were wholly ignorant of magic – it wasn’t sporting and it served no real purpose. She would simply have to wait until this place was less crowded to gather the things she needed. Memory told her it closed to the public at night.

There was a high, tinny warbling sound that made her jump. The sound came again and she realized it was coming from her waist. Glancing down, she noticed a machine her body had clipped to her belt out of habit. Right now habit demanded she open it and place it to her ear – which she did.

“Uh… Lisa?” a male voice came from the device. Morganna blinked, Lisa was the name her body was called by, and it reacted to it. How had the device known her name? A few memories laughed at her and she slowly became aware that the device itself didn’t speak; it allowed communication over distance. “Hello?” The voice came again as she was absorbing this new data.

“Yes…” she began tentatively. She remembered the voice. Her new memory brought with it emotions attached to it; attraction, frustration, and a fond, warm happiness. Perhaps this voice belonged to her betrothed?

“Oh good, I thought I’d been cut off.” The voice on the other end used some vernacular it took her a moment to understand. “Anyway, Warrick, Kay and Cyn are here, asking about you. If you’re feeling alright, they wanted you to meet the new girl at Freeland House.”

“I’m… I’m fine.” Morganna was struck by the need to assure him of her health. “In fact, I feel… better than I’ve ever felt.”

“Great!” He sounded genuinely relieved. “How about we head over to your place. Want me to bring anything?”

Morganna blinked. What luck; her betrothed would have more experience navigating the shops in this area than she could without taking some serious time sifting through memories. “Oh sure…” she searched for an appropriate sobriquet. “…honey.” something in the back of her head was mortified that she had called him that. “Could you bring me something sweet… sugar… something like that? Oh! And… and meat! Something exotic… something… do you think you can get me some frog’s legs, sweetheart?” That thing in the back of her mind curled up and whimpered.

“O-okay…” the voice said. Morganna could almost see him blinking his confusion. “We’ll be at your place in about an hour then. See you in a bit. Bye.”

Morganna closed the device – phone; she corrected herself sharply. If she was going to function in this time period, she would have to learn. Time… she thought… her betrothed said he and those other people would be back at her body’s family’s home in an hour. That was troublesome. She had abandoned the motorcycle machine in the Astral plane when she arrived rather than expend the energy to drag it out again.

Looking around, she found a woman with silver hoop earrings. At least she hoped they were silver; her memory told her that false precious metals and gems were fairly common. But she had to take that chance.

With no hesitation, she walked over to the woman and grabbed the earring in her left lobe. “Need this.” She stated as she ripped it out. The woman shrieked and the man that had been walking with her exclaimed in anger.

Morganna didn’t notice or really care. The woman had the silver circle she needed for her spell – it was common sense that she take it as needed. It wasn’t as if that woman could do magic. Walking away from the stunned couple, oblivious of the zoo security officers advancing on her, she began chanting her spell.

One of the security officers almost reached her when a pool of rosy light flared into being at her feet. Watching the shocked sexurity guards with open curiosity, she sank into the pool of light and was gone..

***

JC slowly lowered his cell phone from his ear, a puzzled look on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Juniper asked; empathetic as always.

“Well, apparently Lisa and I are dating again.” JC blinked. “She called me ‘sweetheart’.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Kay asked with a shrug. “I mean you’re not the one who keeps breaking it off.” She rolled her eyes “Then again, this is what – your fifth time back up to bat?”

“Third.” JC said. He wasn’t really bothered by the ebb and flow of his relationship with Lisa. “But that’s not the thing that’s got me squicked. She was talking really weird – kind of like that old movie; Rain Man or something.” He screwed up his nose. “And she asked me to bring her some frog’s legs.”

“Ew.” Warrick and Juniper echoed.

“Philistines!” Cyn made a face at them. “They’re good – like escargot.”

“I’m not up on taking dining tips from the girl with the iron stomach.” Kay pointed out. “I mean I’ve seen you drink soy sauce when the food is taking too long. Besides;” she said thoughtfully. “Lisa’s a really picky eater, I’m pretty sure she’d have been part of the ‘ew’ chorus on this one.”

“People change.” Cyn shrugged. “Anyway, we’ll ask her about it when we get there – come on, I know this cool Creole place that does frog legs.”

The quintet of teens set off to complete their absent friend’s strange errand.

***

Zack Ortega lay on the couch in his family’s living room, watching television when an explosion of sound and air came from behind him, tossing his hair into his face and unsettling the knickknacks arrayed on the nearby mantle. Sitting bolt upright, he found his sister emerging from a pool of pinkish light in the epicenter of the now settling gale.

At least the person resembled his sister. She had the same six foot, lithe frame, the same light brown hair that fell to her waist, the same tan complexion. However, the siblings were also twins, so some variance was instantly recognizable in his eyes. Where Lisa stood tall and proud, this person hunched, reducing the overall effect of her height. The hair that was normally gathered into a thick braid down her back was loose and blowing in the remnants of the phantom wind. And her face… her eyes were off focus, half scrutinizing everything in sight, half ignoring it all.

“Lisa?” He asked, his voice still not rising above his normal, shy whisper. “Are you okay?”

Morganna didn’t notice him at first. She was staring at the earring in her hand. It was glowing as if with some intense heat, but it didn’t harm the hand that held it. “It wasn’t… wasn’t pure.” She muttered, “Barely got me back here.” She dropped the thing on the floor where it scorched the carpet. Only then did she notice Zack.

“What are you talking about, Lisa?” Zack blinked, leaning over the sofa to watch the earring smolder on the floor. “What’s that?”

She tilted her head slightly in a sudden, jerky motion, almost like a nervous tic. “Nothing of your concern, dear brother.” She gave his mind a little push. He was a naturally compliant person, used to obeying his sister in the first place and having little in the way of willpower in any event. It took no effort for Morganna to touch his mind and shut it down.

Zack slumped, asleep for at least the next three hours without intervention. With such favorable circumstances, she could have done anything she wanted – but right now all she wanted was not to have to explain herself. She needed some peace and quiet to sit and sift through her memories. Shoving Zack off the sofa and onto the floor, she took his place.

***

“Sugar cookies and frog’s legs.” Warrick pondered. “Could Lisa have asked for any weirder combination?”

“She didn’t ask for the cookies specifically, only something sweet.” JC shrugged. The whole group was walking up the hall from the elevator toward Lisa’s family’s apartment.

“I just hope she appreciates it.” Kay said. “Jeez, twenty-eight dollars for the legs? How much does a whole frog cost?”

“I once bought one at the pet shop for three dollars.” Juniper offered. “Granted, it wasn’t fried and smothered in savory Cajun spices…” She blinked as a new thought hit her. “What exactly do they do with the rest of the frog?”

Cyn snorted. “Gumbo.”

“You can’t be serious.” Juniper asked.

“You don’t know, do you?” Cyn said with a wink. “Maybe they make it into sausage, or hot dogs, or some other unrecognizable meat.”

“Potted meat.” Warrick said, “You ever read those cans? They have to print ‘Food Product’ on the side just to reassure you.” That drew a chorus of laughter from the others. By that time, they had reached the Ortegas’ door and JC held up a fist to knock.

The door flew open and there stood Lisa, looking disheveled and feverish. “You made… good time.” She murmured and waved them inside. She gave JC and odd look and added “Sweetheart.” The four others outside the door exchanged glances.

JC looked back at the others and started inside. The door led into a small hallway with the kitchen off to the left, and the living room straight ahead. Lisa led them to the kitchen. “Yeah…” JC started “about that… Are we back together again?”

“Back…together?” Lisa blinked, as she swept her gaze over the group. She also surveyed them in other, arcane senses. Something about a few of them was off. “Oh yes! I… broke up with you because…” she paused and looked of into the distance, forming the words. “I don’t have any control over my temper. I…I get angry at you too easily and… do things I regret soon after.” Morganna felt a part of her mind flush with embarrassment.

“Wait… did you just admit that?” Kay asked. “I mean we all knew that—but damn.”

“Yes, I suppose I am.” Lisa said quickly. “Did you bring the things I asked for? The… the… frog’s legs and sugar?” She seemed totally oblivious to the surprise registering on Kay and Cyn’s faces.

“Yeah.” JC said slowly. He was happy to be dating Lisa again, but increasingly apprehensive about her odd behavior. Forcing a warm smile, he handed her the bag containing the wrapped cookies and foam take out container with the frog’s legs.

Lisa took it greedily with a small squeal of excitement that triggered another round of nervous glances. Without further preamble, she tore into the cookies first and spent an uncomfortably long moment regarding them before cramming one entire cookie into her mouth. As she chewed, she muttered something no one there could understand.

Morganna’s senses sharpened. As the attunement spell that had required plant sugars took effect, she could hear the heartbeats of those assembled, smell the scent of their nervousness as well as JC’s tentative happiness. And she could feel the power locked inside the ones she had seen as strange earlier. “This… this is wrong. Very wrong.” She muttered, spitting crumbs as she did. “No one else has magic. This… doesn’t feel like magic. It feels like… Faerie?” She shook her head. It felt like the innate power of the fey race, but it was something else entirely – something new and alien to her.

“Fairies?” Cyn questioned. “What the hell are you talking about Lisa?”

She was ignored as Lisa tore open the container with the frog’s legs. The former amphibian appendages had been breaded and fried then covered in thick, brown gravy. Lisa whimpered, her jaw dropping. Then she rounded on her friends, eyes blazing.

“They’re cooked!” She shrieked, “Burned! You… you… you burned them with fire and mingled them with grains and herbs! Almost useless!” The last part was a wail as she tried desperately to wipe the batter and gravy off a leg joint.

“You wanted them raw?” Cyn asked, disapprovingly. “Even I wouldn’t eat them raw.”

“That’s how it works.” Lisa mumbled peeling a bit of burnt skin off and setting it carefully aside. “If you burn it… cook a thing, you change it, make it something else. You… you take its meaning and make it less powerful.” She was working faster now, amassing a small pile of frog skin. “You… your stupid world without magic. You don’t… don’t know anything. You don’t comprehend!”

“Lisa, calm down.” Kay put a hand on Lisa’s arm with concern in her eyes. “I think you may be sick or some—“

Lisa’s hand moved like a snake, jerking Kay’s arm aside and twisting it painfully. “You.” She declared. “You aren’t natural. A thing that changes the Rules without touching the power. What are you?”

Warrick stepped into the fray quickly seizing the arm that held Kay and trying to pull it free. “Whoa, Lisa. What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m not Lisa.” Morganna snarled, fixing her eyes on an old iron skillet hung over the range as a decoration. “I took her. Pressed her down. She’s still here, but she can’t do anything. I’m here now too. I’m… I’m in charge now.”

“And just who the hell are you then?” Cyn came over to help pry the two girls apart.

Morganna pushed herself away and grabbed the skillet off the wall and chanted something strange. Headless of the consequences of Lisa, Kay and JC learning his secret, Warrick reached out with his power to wrench the makeshift weapon away from her, but was shocked when his powers were repelled by it. The cooking utensil flared with a pale blue light and then transformed. The handle was the same, but the skillet itself elongated and flattened, becoming a thin, oddly elegant blade.

“I am magic. I have struck fear in the circles of wizards and faerie courts. I have made power mine with spell and blade and a cunning mind. I am Morganna le Fay.” Morganna intoned as she lunged at them with the enchanted blade.

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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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