Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis

This entry is part 3 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 5: How the World Changes

To understand what now comes to pass, one must know the whole of it. So we will start at the beginning.

In the dawn of the age of civilization, there was Ur and it was mighty. But even the most mighty can be threatened.

Rumors came from the desert of a foe rising there, gathering power. It was said that no force or band of heroes could stand against it, that it was not of this world and that it’s mere presence was corruption. If it sought to, the rumors insisted, this Adversarial Force could march on and take even Ur.

The rulers of Ur laughed and mocked those that spread these rumors. But they were no fools. They dispatched warriors to exterminate this possible threat. When those warriors did not return, they sent another, larger force. And again and again. Each group was later found, having fallen to their brothers in arms; killed not by the enemy, but by friends and loyal comrades.

Unable to defeat this enemy by themselves, the people of Ur beseeched the woman Amorocca, herself said to be something other than human. Moved by their plight and the baneful threat of the Adversarial Force, Amorocca sought out a couple whose love was strong and pure, whose devotion to each other was as solid as iron.

With that bond, she forged into their very souls spells of great potency to grant them gifts beyond man’s reach. And she armed them well against their enemy, giving to them the Sword That Defends and The Shield That Overcomes.

The lovers met the Adversarial Force and its hateful influence could not touch them. Together, they drove it from the Earth.

For their deed, Amorocca bound them together in chains of fate and pinned them to the wheel of resurrection that they may be together for all eternity. They would be born into each generation and the chains of fate would always draw them together. A loving kiss would awaken the memories of lifetimes and the powers still hidden in their souls.

And so the cycle went for nearly five thousand years, until the strength of magic in the world began to fail and the chains of fate began to slip…

***

Las Vega, Nevada – three weeks ago

“God damn do I love this city.” Wayne Micheal “The Blockade” Jones related to his best buds, Dwayne Eckles and Griff Grissom as he took in the thumping base, the strobing lights and the dozens of beautiful women.

A head taller than his two friends and half again as wide at the shoulder, his features said ‘American Samoa’, but his attitude and four thousand dollar, cream jacket and five hundred dollar shades said LA. The ‘tude and the clothes were right.

Women were trying to get next to him non-stop. Even the ones that weren’t into professional wrestling and therefore didn’t recognize him as The Blockade. They’d be recognizing him soon enough; at least that’s what his agent said about the upcoming feature. That’s why they were hitting Vegas like the city had insulted their mothers; to celebrate his rise from boxing to wrestling to big time action star.

He was on top of the world tonight and nothing was going to kill the feeling…

Except, perhaps the almost electrical chill of a frozen banana daiquiri landing with almost sublime accuracy in his lap. Icy booze soaked through his tailor made pants in an instant and his boxers not long after that. In a span thereafter that can only be measured based on nerve conduction velocities, his mind went completely blank except for an all consuming message coming in from the crotch region: ‘You Can Panic Now’.

To the credit of years of discipline and being beaten up (in real and imaginary ways) for a living, Wayne controlled it, only letting go with one agonized intake of air before reaching down to wipe away the slush before more seeped through.

His hand was intercepted by a smaller one holding a cloth handkerchief. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I tripped and…”

Wayne looked up to see the owner of the hand he was now holding.

Dana Vargas was about five-eight if not for the suicide platform heels she wore to go clubbing. Her curly brown hair came just past her ears and set off her cinnamon tan quite well. She’d come to Vegas for a bachelorette party for a friend of hers and hadn’t intended to waste a minute of it.

Life at the law office didn’t hold any excitement for her, or challenge for that matter. She was just too damn good at what she did. Only one in every thirty of her clients every had to pay a cent or spend a minute in jail. She wasn’t above bragging either. Hence that night’s shark motif: fin shaped earrings, shark tooth necklace, silver sharks entwined as a band around her upper right arm, and a shirt designed to look as if something with more teeth than a pride of lions had tried to take a chunk out of her and found that it could only take her shirt.

“You?” Wayne’s tone was tired and exasperated. He dreaded what he knew was coming.

“You.” Dana said at the same time, acid tinging the Dominican accent she tended to exaggerate in social situations because she thought it attracted more attention. The next second, she took a savage swipe at the slush she’d dropped on him. This incidentally brushed her knocks none too lightly against him.

He reacted instantly, pushing back on his bar stool to keep her from putting too much pressure there, and standing up. “What, are you insane?! You did that on purpose.”

Scoffing, she looked back and found that most of her friends hadn’t even noticed the altercation yet. Not that it mattered. They would have her back anyway. “Yeah. Right. Ask anyone, it was a complete accident. Thought it would be some nice revenge for stepping on my foot.”

That incident wasn’t an hour old yet. Still, most people would have shrugged it off by now and would have forgotten by the end of the night.

“Now that was an accident.” said Wayne. “And you already slapped me for that. He did his best to loom over her, which wasn’t helped by the fact that he now knew that she had no qualms with shots to the crotch. Not to mention the fact that air cooling was now taking place.

“Not hard enough.” She said, actually feeling surprised at how angry he made her. Plenty of guys had stepped on her foot in clubs before, but this was different. She knew that time was on purpose and she wasn’t going to let him get away with it.

Wayne ground his teeth. “Look, that was one time . It’s not gonna happen again and we are never gonna have to see each other again. So just get out of my face.”

Suddenly, those shades on his face and the shape of that square head grated on her memory. Her eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute… I know you now. You cut me off last year– ran me off the road!”

“What?”But he vaguely remembered those eyes in the rearview of a car that once stubbornly matched speed with him until he took drastic measures. Of course he wasn’t sorry. As he recalled, she was the terrible driver there. So instead, he snorted derisively at her and turned back to the bar, if only to end the conversation.

Dana growled deep in her throat. He wasn’t going to get away with it that easily.

Griff stepped into her path. “Sorry about my friend, Miss.” He said smoothly. “Looks like the two of you got off on the wrong foot. How about I buy you a new drink to replace the one you dropped.”

Still seething, she accepted. After all, free drink.

Being a responsible club-goer (the near brawl she’d come close to starting just then not withstanding), she kept her eye on her drink the entire time. Neither she, nor Wayne knew that on that night, in that club, that precaution meant nothing.

Magic could be insidious like that.

***

The lights were turned down low in the upstairs commons and the TV was on with the volume up.

Juniper lay bonelessly on the couch, eyes wide and near tears. Her expression said she didn’t want to keep watching, but she couldn’t look away.

Warrick was on the floor with his back against the couch, which put his head about level with Jun’s midsection. His legs were stretched out and his hands at his sides. Isp and Osp hovered around him like concerned nurses, trying to figure out what was wrong.

That’s the scene Cyn walked into when she came up the stairs from the downstairs common. Sweat plastered her white hair to her face in thick strands and she looked run down, yet joyful. The condition of her friends didn’t strike her at first, just who was present.

“Hey, I saw coppertop’s car in the parking lot… and yet you’re not with her, War?”

“She’s at the boathouse.” His eyes never left the TV.

“With my parents.” Added Juniper, sounding even more far away then usual. “Doing something to my bike.”

Cyn raised an eyebrow, but at that moment, a the ‘to be continued’ card came up and the credits rolled.

“Holy shit!” Warrick exploded. “I cannot believe they would do that to Winter!”

Juniper nodded, her bright eyes still glistening. “They can’t kill Derrick, they just can’t! It’ll crush her!”

Rolling her eyes, Cyn came to perch on the end of the couch. “Malady Place?”

“Mephistopheles just got Derrick with a puppet-chain spell.” Juniper explained as if the even had just happened in reality. “And there’s no way to break one of those cast by an archduke of hell. Even killing them doesn’t stop it! That’s how Azrael made Renee kill Goodwin: it’s the only way to free their soul!”

“They… they could still force Mephistopheles to let him go.” Warrick ventured, still staring at the TV. “He does still owe Cordial Davies a favor.”

“Do you really think they’re going to bring that up three seasons later?” Juniper asked.

“Melody Patterson is still a writer for the show.” Warrick pointed out. “And she waited for five novels in the Hybrid Swamp series to come back to Middion’s amulet’s inscription.”

“You mean to tell me that the world basically ended for us not three days ago and already you two are freaking out over a TV show?”

Juniper frowned a little and pulled herself into a cross-legged position. She patted the cushion beside her and Cyn obliged in sliding off the arm and onto it.

“It’s just that the world’s basically ended… or changed… a lot lately.” She said quietly and thoughtfully. “First with Greenview Ridge… which I guess was kind of a while ago. But still, suddenly, you guys know a lot more about me… how I…”

Warrick saved her from going into a guilt spiral. “Then Inexorable happened.”

Juniper smiled at him and nodded. “Right. And we still don’t know what that was all about. And even without him, we learned about Lisa and Kay… how they’re mixed up in this whole thing too. And then the other day with Mr. Che and all this stuff about the future.” She sighed. “I think I’m just out of shock.”

Cyn resisted the urge to hug her house/teammate for a few seconds, but ended up wrapping her in a big one anyway.

They hugged for a long moment, then Juniper sniffed and made a face at the soaked white hair in her face. “Cyn? Why are you so sweaty?”

“Oh, I just went one on one with Ollie.”

The pause was profound as Juniper goggled and Warrick held in a guffaw.

“In the park.” She added quickly, but that didn’t help at all. Juniper broke through embarrassment and hit full on shock. “Playing basketball, ya pervs!” Cyn huffed. “You know, he usually holds back so he thinks it’s a fair game… you know, because he doesn’t know I use my powers to cheat? But tonight, it was no holds barred, totally intense.” Her eyes glinted and she suddenly felt just as embarrassed as Jun had a moment before.

Better change the topic. She looked to Warrick. “So Jun’s was a really Juniper reason. But what’s with you?”

His face went blank for a second, then he shrugged. “I guess the way I see it, if all the stuff the ConFrees want passes, everyone’s going to have to hide their powers… and we’ve already got practice with that.” There was a hint of bitterness in his tone that surprised Cyn. He’d never complained about that before, only agonized about who to trust enough to tell.

“Besides,” He continued. “They’ve been going after the spark jockeys since I can remember and they’ve got nowhere fast. Whatever they’re going to do, it’s going to take time. I think we can stop it before it gets that far.”

Juniper nodded in agreement. “I’ve got faith in you guys… all of you that we’ll figure something out.” She managed a sweet smile. “Until then, we’ve really got to worry about prom… also finals.”

Cyn made a face. “Oh god, I do not want to think about finals. And prom… you eve notice that dances and us don’t mix? Valentine’s last year, we run into the Interfacers. Junior Prom? Instantly followed up by Morganna coming back from hell… or Faerie… somewhere. Homecoming this year? Fey monkeys.”

The sweet smile on Juniper’s face gave way to utter joy in the remembrance of something cute. “but they were happy monkeys!”

“They were jerks.” Cyn said bitterly. “And we missed the Valentine’s dance this year entirely thanks to Groundswell being a gob-knobber.”

“A what?” Warrick asked.

“It’s a word… I just made it up.”

“It’s kind of terrible.”

Cyn blew a raspberry. “You’re kind of terrible.”

Juniper ignored the direction the conversation had taken, lost in her own little world. “Well I think prom will be wonderful this year…”

“The reminds me.” Cyn said. “Are you and Malcolm riding with me, or are you making your own way?”

“Are… you going to Connie’s after party?” Juniper asked.

“I haven’t hear anything about any parties.” three pairs of eyes snapped toward the stairs to find Zero Point… or rather, Pete Chamberlain as he was out of uniform, dressed casually in a white T-shirt, open flannel over that, and jeans. He was wiping some sort of amber colored liquid from his hands with a rag.

Warrick’s back went straight and he folded his legs up under him, doing as much to stand at attention as was possible while sitting on the floor. Even the twins seemed to smooth themselves and look lively in his presence.

Juniper squeaked and shrunk back against the couch.

He laughed at the reaction, especially contrasted with Cyn’s lack of one. “I got kicked out of the garage for helping unhelpfully.” He stowed the rag in his pocket and strolled over to stand next to the sofa to see what was on TV. A commercial for detergent that strengthens clothing fibers while it whitened at the moment. “Anything good on?”

As if the last thirty seconds hadn’t happened, Juniper went into a frenzy of exposition. “Oh, I was only asking so I wouldn’t end up riding with Cyn if she was going to the party. Because I would never think of going to a big party like that, honest I wouldn’t!”

Pete laughed boisterously and tousled his little girl’s hair. “Will, calm down. What? You don’t think high school parties were invented when I was your age?”

“But you wouldn’t want me going.” Juniper laughed nervously, not even noticing that he was calling her by her real name. Years of switching from calling one another ‘ZP’ or Zero Point and ‘Maj’ or ‘Majestrix’ to Pete and Emily made switching between Juniper/Jun and Willow/Will less than an issue for them.

“Hey.” He said seriously. “We trust you, Willow. Just… be responsible. That means no getting drunk, no hard drugs and no…” He no-nonsense tone faltered, “Other… things.”

“Nookie.” Cyn said helpfully. This earned a glare from him and a horrified squeak from Juniper, but that just made her grin. “But since you said ‘hard drugs’ you’re like the cool dad, so maybe it’s unprotected knowledge.”

“Knowledge?” Warrick blinked.

“Didn’t you just get done watching Malady Place?” Cyn asked. “Renee uses the word knowledge for sex all the time.” Warrick stared blankly. “As in carnal knowledge?”

“Whoa. I totally didn’t get that until you just told me.”

“Because you’re a dork.”

“Oh look, Showdown Blade is on!” Juniper said in a loud, uneven tone.

“Yes, let’s watch this.” Pete said in the same tone. “I’ve never gotten these shows you like. Maybe you can explain this one to me. Loudly.”

Juniper launched into explaining how the hero of the anime, Derring Truce, needed to win the Sword Battle Showdown in order to win the Sword the Cuts The Earth so he could free his homeland from the evil Leisnner Empire. But the Empire was sending their Sword Knights and monsters to try and keep him from even reaching the Showdown in Scimitar City.

While she did, Cyn giggled to herself. Having the Chamberlains around periodically in the weeks left until graduation was going to be great fun. But it tickled the back of her brain how… off the others were acting. How off she was acting; she wasn’t a shrinking violet like Jun, but she’d skewed the subject toward sex an awful lot just now… and a few times while playing ball too.

Nerves. She decided.

Juniper was right, they had taken pounding after pounding lately from an emotional standpoint and it was just natural for them to be at little… off. Right?

Series Navigation<< Issue #50 – Operation: All InIssue #52 – Scenes From a Changing World >>

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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