Issue #51 – Amore Detestabilis

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

Part 6

Kay Greycloud leapt out of her car and dashed up the garden path, her yellow tipped hair whipping around her head. She jumped the two wide steps before the kitchen door and beat a frantic tattoo on the wood paneled steel.

It was only a few minutes before Cyn answered; long enough to feel like forever, but not long enough for her to catch her breath. “Came… as soon as I could.” And that was the truth. Every minute she’d been out of her car since the call, she’d been running. She held up a sleek, silver palmtop inscribed with a simple magic circle. “Brought the Book with me.”

Cyn blinked at seeing Kay there alone. “Where’s…”

Ignoring propriety, Kay nudged her way past the taller girl and leaned on the island counter. After a minute to get her breath back, she replied. “You guys weren’t the only ones to get messed up by this thing. Lisa’s over at JC’s, trying to undo break-up number six.”

Realization came to Cyn’s eyes. Lisa and JC had been pretty stable in the time she’d known them, but she’d heard all the stories about how that hadn’t always been the case. Before being forced to center herself for magic, Lisa had a temper and fights ending in breakups and other fights ending in reconciliation had been a normal thing. “Oh. Oh man. Is there anything we can do?”

Unable to keep from frowning, Kay looked at the floor. “I’m not sure. Lisa’s thinks that now that everyone’s emotions are going back to normal, she can get him to come around. So there’s hope.”

Cyn nodded. “We’ve already seen that here. Ian came back for all of five minute, then her and Alex lit out without a word. They don’t even know what happened yet.” She gave her friend a hopeful look. “Do we know what it is yet?”

“Maybe. It doesn’t make much sense, but… where are the others?”

“Common room. All three and a half of them.” Kay gave her a confused look. “’lissa’s got some kind of psychic hangover. She was practicing with the emotion control thing last night when it all started, so she felt everything today.”

“That doesn’t sound fun.” Kay said, making a face. “I’m just glad my parents weren’t around to see me today.”

“Oh?”

“I was at the dungeon playing Mercenary Requiem II when it all started. The guys I was grouping with were jerkbags, so I was Angry Kay all day.”

Cyn chuckled, leading the way toward the downstairs commons. “Too bad I missed that.”

“Trust me. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Said Kay, shaking her head.

They entered the common room to find the others exactly how they had left them:

Warrick and Tink were sharing the big, comfy recliner, her legs across his lap and his head on her shoulder. They were watching something on her tablet. Melissa was sprawled across one couch, a hand over her eyes as if the light pained her. Finally, Kareem was sitting cross-legged on the other couch, back straight. He was focusing on Melissa, trying to use his powers to ease the suffering brought on by the psychic overload she’d suffered.

“Answers have arrived!” Cyn said dramatically. Her voice made Melissa cringe.

Kay brandished the palmtop. “I’ve got the Book of Reason right here and… why are you guys looking at me like that?”

“I just didn’t think that thing let anyone but Lisa and Ms. Brant read it.” Warrick admitted what everyone else was thinking.

“Are you kidding?” Kay asked. “That’s the deal with these things; they want to be read. It’s more of a matter of being good at magic. Anyone can build a baking soda volcano, same as anyone can do a light spell if they know how.” More looks of surprise. “Hey! I’ll have you know that as Occult’s official sidekick, I’m like the third biggest expert on this dealie on the planet.”

“So do you do magic?” Cyn asked from her side.

“Of course not!” Kay said, indignant, but that melted swiftly. “Maybe a few times. But they were really minor.”

Cyn grinned, amused. “What spells.”

“That’s not the issue here! So what if I wanted to know what it was like to be tall?” Her eyes widened at her own betrayal. “Gah! Don’t tell Lisa, okay? She’s all like ‘magic is not a toy’, but there’s a chapter in this thing all about using magic to—and I quote—’divert and amuse’.”

Tink laughed at this. “Okay, we promise we won’t tell.”

“She promises she won’t tell.” Cyn says. “I promise you’ll have a chance to pay blackmail.”

“Erm…” Kareem said, reluctant to ruin everyone’s fun, but still anxious and on edge since seeing the things he did on the astral plane. “You mentioned answers, Kay?”

“Thank you!” Kay said. She took the offered lifeline and plopped down on the couch beside him. “Thing is, I’m not sure what to make of these answers.” Opening the palmtop that contained the Book of Reason, she tabbed open the search function and swiftly called up the section she’d been reading. “The Book seems to think that your bad guys are good guys.”

“Bullshit. I got stabbed with an anti-soul… or anti-feelings… anti-something important sword.” Cyn protested.

Kay shrugged. “Take it up with the Book. According to this, that thing you described over the phone was ‘The Sword the Protects’; it’s made to drive out demons and other emotional parasites. And it belonged to one half of pair called The Lovers. Literally, they’re The Lovers, two people whose love was so pure that some sort of magical being called Amorocca was able to use it to fuel powers they then used not only to take down some big ugly at the dawn of civilization, but a ton of mystic creepy crawlies through history.”

She passed the screen around to the others while she recalled the rest from memory. “They were so special and their love so powerful that this Amorocca character apparently made it so they reincarnate into every generation as a reward for getting rid of that first creepy, the Adversarial Force. Pretty much, they’re immortal superheroes… prelates.”

“No, it’s okay. You can say that here.” Warrick assured her.

Tink studied the article closely before passing it to Cyn. “I don’t understand though; if they’re supposed to be part of this eternal, perfect romance, then what was with all the arguing? I even heard it over the coms, they sounded like they couldn’t stand one another.”

“Plus, I know for sure that was the Blockade.” said Cyn. “And I’m pretty sure he’s not thousands of years old.”

Kareem shook his head. “I find neither quite so farfetched. Assuming that reincarnation is possible, there is no reason to believe this Blockade person is not one of the Lovers. It is possible that he has been other famous people throughout history. As for the second; as I said, their astral forms have been altered, leaving their subconscious minds in agony. There is really no telling what effect that might have on them.”

“Altered…” Tink said, considering the word. “Could they have been tampered with?”

“Yeah, like how you took out that inugami, or the Mauler?” Cyn nodded.

“That’s a possibility.” He agreed. “But I hope this isn’t the case. What does done to them was monstrous beyond even what happened to the inugami. Imagine being in torment not just for a lifetime, but possibly for the entirety of human life on earth if the Book is correct.”

“And,” Warrick added somberly. “It would mean that there’s someone out there bad enough to do that to what are probably the original superheroes.” He frowned. “On top of that, it means they’re as much victims as everyone else in the city.”

“We know where to start at least.” Cyn noted. “Wayne Jones: the Blockade.”

“That… might be a problem too.” Kay frowned. “You guys say the Dornez says they checked in last night, right?”

“That what their records say.” Tink confirmed.

“Only problem is, I saw him on TV this morning. The news was talking about him being spotted last night in LA dating Jessica Truetti.”

Cyn groaned. “Clone, doppelganger or evil twin? One thing’s for sure, the Descendants need to talk to him about this.”

***

Somewhere in Chicago, a strange woman was keeping strange company.

Perched atop a makeshift platform, Morganna stared down into a boiling slurry of translucent, brown sludge contained in the severed scoop of a bulldozer. Her mote retainers; Naife, Renst and Habsi orbited her, speaking in musical voices without saying much of anything important.

She ignored them, as always, to watch over the thing taking form in the impromptu cauldron.

Before, vestigial limbs had been forming and dissolving in the macabre slurry; a finger, a foot, a displaced femur. Now, a skeleton had grown there, fully formed and floating in the bilious stuff, curled into a fetal position with arms crossed over knees. Gossamer strands of muscle fiber drifted like spiderwebs between them, as yet unable to find where they were meant to connect.

Something in her, the alien mind of another, was revolted by the thing. But Morganna exalted in it, fawning over its beauty. It was her. The real her, not the shell she occupied. Nothing was more beautiful to a lost soul than home.

She was interrupted by a flare of rose light from floor level behind her. Without looking, or even thinking, she knew who it was: the Manikin.

“It is fortunate that the Knight Inexorable has such close knowledge of the male half of the Knights Amore Detestabilis.” Manikin announced. “Otherwise, the ruse to protect his identity would not have worked.”

Morganna cared not at all for preserving the identities of her pawns, only in her own plans. “Did you get your… your results of this test you wanted to run?” She added venom to the word ‘test’. She felt the Manikin was wasting her time with them.

“As I feared, O Heir; the psionics can detect them. Not only that, but the effects of the damage done to Amorocca’s spell was not enough to hamper them. The female half believes they would have been defeated if they hadn’t fled.”

Silence reigned, save for the bubbling of the slurry below Morganna. Then say asked her question slowly. “Recommendations… adviser?”

“Like the Knight Inexorable.” Manikin said plainly. “We acquire or create an artifact that will magnify their effect. The first usage of the Knight Inexorable has convinced me: these psionics cannot be defeated while they yet band together.”

“Then… then make it so, servant.” Morganna breathed, eyes fixed in her putrid creation. But the Manikin didn’t move to carry out her orders. Presently, she tore here gaze away from the slurry to look at the construct. “Something… else?”

“Yes, O Heir.” said the Manikin respectfully. “It has come to my attention only today, and I have yet to confirm it, but I believe that the Book of Madness has chosen a scion.”

The dark sorceress’s eyes widened. “What? Imm… impossible! I command the Book of Madness.”

“Apologies, O heir, but you do not.” said Manikin. “You inherited the Book of Tranquility, not the Book of Madness.”

That didn’t make any sense to Morganna. She had taken possession of it, just as she had the Book of Reason. She distinctly remembered… And then it hit her. She had lost the Book of Reason in battle. And as for the Book of Madness…

“No… NO!” She roared.

***

Dr. Drew, as he was called by both his staff and superiors (none of whom ever stopped to care if that was his first name or last name), scurried alongside his ultimate employer, Vincent Liedecker, consulting his tablet for information.

“Frankly, in the past two years, sir, we’ve made leaps and bounds with the other materials. We’ll soon be marketing the shields openly as independent standing field generators, and work continues on how to disguise the lack of power source in the project the boys on sublevel 4 are calling the witch engine.”

“But.” Liedecker cut him off. “With you, there’s always a ‘but’ when you start sounding positive, Drew. Let’s here it.” Nevertheless, he continued on his way to the elevator, forcing Drew to sprint to make the doors.

“The history with Item #23NS05 is… well creepy sir. It’s become an urban legend in the R&D department, considering what’s happened to every project head studying it.”

“Urban legend?” Liedecker gave a half chuckle, but he knew not to fully laugh at the sort of thing they were dealing with. After all, he had a sword in his office at the moment that was still stained with demonic blood. “We got time on the way, Drew: tell me a story.”

Drew took a deep, shuddering breath. “Yes sir. Um… Tom Kennedy, the first project head simply disappeared from the vault. No alarms, no camera contacts, just a heat spike and a lot of smoke with nothing else in the room even scorched.”

There wasn’t any proof that the item had incinerated Kennedy, but there was a distinct lack of Kennedy and a great deal of smoke.

“His successor, Richard Fries took over for a month, and is now in the Solomon Center… legitimately.” Drew knew about the other purpose of the center and felt the distinction was necessary. “The same goes for Mark Orville. And between those two, Jameson Price quit after two months to write children’s books. He’s a best seller now.”

“That does a bit to debunk you urban legend.” Liedecker pointed out.

“It would if it were an isolated event.” The elevator doors opened on sublevel five and both men stepped out, heading for the lab space dedicated to the item in question. “But after Dr. Orville’s successor, Lisa Harvey shot herself in the lab, Ingrid Bernhardt managed to last longer than all of her predecessors: four months… before quitting to paint. Last month, one of her paintings sold for fifty thousand dollars.”

Liedecker raised any eyebrow. “We talkin’ ’bout some sort of feast or famine magic here, Drew?”

“Until Dr. Mosley… yes, sir. Two more suicides, and another project head who left without any notice, and I would say that we all see a pattern forming.”

Liedecker pushed open the doors open to the lab, striding in unafraid. “And what’s so different about Mosley?”

A deep laugh answered him. At the end of the room, a man turned form his work.

He was of middling height and mahogany skinned, his hair cut close. Like the other scientists there, he wore a lab coat, but his was full length and emblazoned on the back and the cuffs with magic circles in metallic red thread. Underneath, he wore a black shirt and red tie with silver stripes. A pair of round, black glasses covered his eyes, one obscured by a red, glowing magical circle inscribed on the lens.

“I can answer that, Mr. Liedecker.” He said with a self satisfied smirk on his face. “The difference is, I’m the first to try to use it that truly understand it.”

End Issue #51

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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