Issue #6: Myths and Heroes

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series The Descendants Vol 1: Welcome to Freeland House

Part 3

“I know what she plans to do. Its like I remember planning it myself.” Lisa said, watching downtown Mayfield speed past the passenger window. All the lights between Alexis’s car and the Garfield Zoo were green thanks to Laurel commandeering the local transit grid. “But it sounds crazy…”

“Lisa, a lot of things sound crazy right now.” Alexis said gently. “If I’m following what you’ve told me so far; you just discovered some of your friends have psionic powers they’ve had to keep secret, you were possessed by an insane person who thinks she’s a cast member from the Arthurian Legend, and you just witnessed your aunt lain low by platypus poison. I’m willing to put all my bets on crazy right now.”

Lisa glanced at Alexis in the darkened car. She certainly looked genuine in her belief. “I said before that she want to force everyone to accept magic again.” She began, “But as to how…” she sighed, “She thinks all psionics are part of some huge conspiracy against magic and she wants to take the fight to them first – as well as learn how to take their powers for herself.”

“Can she steal their powers?” Alexis’s eyes were intent on the road.

“No.” Lisa shook her head. “She can take magic powers – she remembers doing it at least, but psionics give her trouble. She can’t take their powers and her mind affecting spells don’t work on them.”

“That’s a comfort.” The older woman said.

“Not much of one. She’s got a lot more tricks than mind control. That’s why we need to help Mr. Smythe. She’ll have finished making her new knight by now and from what she’s been thinking… it’s going to be really powerful.”

“What do you mean ‘making her new knight’?” Alexis said, chancing a glance at Lisa. “This Morganna’s not the only thing we have to worry about? What’s this knight supposed to do?”

Lisa shook her head. “She knows this spell… the rites of some eye? I don’t remember that very clearly, but it’s like serious forbidden magic that can turn people into some kind of super-buff, super-smart version of themselves. She’s planning to use it on a monkey or something at the zoo, and then give him a magic weapon and set him loose.”

Alexis found it very hard to concentrate on the road now. “Wait, what?”

“I’m serious.” Lisa said sternly. “This thing she’s making… it’s going to be as smart and self aware as a human, but about thirty times as strong, able to heal wounds in a fraction of the time and with the other spells she plans to put on it, totally obedient to her.”

“That sounds like a tall order to pull out in the two hours it took between when this started and now.” Alexis said.

“It wouldn’t be that hard now.” Lisa said in a small voice. “with no other spellcasters to stop her, she can afford to cut corners.”

After that, they rode in silence before the zoo gates finally came into view. “Lisa, I want you to stay here, out of danger okay?” Alexis finally said, parking directly next to the wall.”

“But I’m the only one she doesn’t want to kill!” Lisa said. “Maybe I can help. I mean I do remember a few things.”

“Absolutely not.” Alexis cut her off. “I’ve already had my fill of hospitals for the month and Ian may already be hurt.” She pulled up her cowl and got out of the car, looking up at the wall. With a slight thought, she encased herself in black heat and cut her bond with the ground.

Lisa was left watching her disappear into the night, mouth gaping with amazement.

***

Ian’s eyes met those of Lucian as he gripped the mesh aviary dome with all his might. Lucian stared right back at him. His eyes were intelligent, but bore no malice as he lowered his lance. “Be still, and you will feel no pain.” The ape-man’s deep voice rumbled.

Gritting his teeth, Ian threw himself backward even as a pulse of invisible force shredded the wire he’d been holding on to. Concentrating, he compressed air into a cylinder below him. With no small effort, he backstroked in the liquid air until he found himself on the roof of the reptile house.

“Well met.” Lucian regarded Ian with what could only be respect. “But you cannot win. Strike!” He thrust the lance and another bolt of power raced toward Ian. It hit the roof at his feet, sending up a cloud of tar and gravel. Using the momentary distraction, Lucian ran down the side of the aviary and leapt the distance to the reptile house.

Ian saw him coming and directed his power into water that had accumulated on the roof, condensing it into a thin, slick sheet in Lucian’s landing path, causing him to sprawl and roll along the roof instead of landing softly.

Using his lance to help himself up, Lucian glared at Ian. “My Lady was correct. Psionics fight without honor.”

“I’m not the one with the shotgun lance.” Ian retorted, pulsing the wind to smash open the roof access to the reptile house.

“My weapon was given to me by my Lady.” Lucian growled. “As was my steed, Embarr, who will crush your bones if you try to flee your fate by ground.”

“I’ve got a question,” Ian said, edging toward the roof access. “Have you been paying attention? Morganna’s a lot of things, but a Lady she’s not.”

Rage played on Lucian’s features. “You will hold your tongue, psionic. You have no grounds to question one of nobility such as my Lady.” He pointed the lance. “Strike!” Ian was ready this time and solidified the falling rain into a shield that ate the incoming force before it reached him.

“No, seriously. Lucian, right?” Ian asked, breathing a bit heavier from the workout his powers were getting. Morganna’s knight nodded at the sound of his name, but remained on guard. “Lucian, do you even know what ‘noble’ and ‘Lady’ mean aside from Morganna telling you that’s what she was?”

Lucian faltered, furrowing his brow. “I… do not.” His grip on the lance grew unsteady as he mulled over the question. Then the fetish around his neck grew warm and his zeal redoubled. “But it matters not. She is my liege and I will serve her by destroying psionics such as you.”

“Shit!” Ian dove for the cover of the stairs. The strike tore the top step apart as Ian rode a slide of congealed air down to the next landing. He rolled to his feet at the bottom and pushed on the door. Locked. He looked up to see Lucian’s shadow darkening the only other way out.

“Some of the psionics she wants to kill are kids, Lucian.” Ian said, trying to find the soft spot for logic the ape knight had shown previously. “Kids who only want to do good with the powers they’ve been born with. You want to kill them too?”

The fetish almost burned Lucian’s skin as his sensibilities warred with each other. “What I want is of no consequence.” He finally said. “My Lady decrees that you must all die. Strike!” The power roared down the confined space and there was nowhere for Ian to go. He caught the bulk of the burst in his stomach and was hurled through the door and out onto the tiled floor of the main exhibit room of the reptile house.

***

Gasping for breath, Ian was shocked to learn that he was still alive. His stomach and chest hurt and would certainly bruise, but Laurel’s miracle cloth has managed to save him from being decapitated by the explosive force of Lucian’s weapon.

Sitting up, Ian shivered. At any other time, the sight of so many snakes in one place would have been enough to send chills down his spine. But the addition of Lucian standing at the end of the row in the ruins of the doorframe Ian had been blown through was enough to turn his blood to ice.

Lucian also shivered. For him it was a purely hereditary aversion to serpents. “I see you do not like this battleground anymore than I do.” He said, displaying the purely human tendency to engage in inane chatter when frightened. “Let us finish this quickly then.”

A bit unsteady, Ian stood. “Ophidiophobia.” He said breathlessly. “That’s what they call fear of snakes in psych class.” His voice quavered as he committed himself to his next strategy.

“I am not afraid.” Lucian’s teeth ground with irritation and his grip redoubled on the haft of his lance.

“There’s no shame in it.” Ian continued, eyeing the weapon nervously. He wouldn’t get a second chance at this. “Hell, I’m afraid of them myself. They’re all slithery and… jeez, those tongues? They creep me out completely.”

“It is normal to have such fears?” Lucian cocked his head to the side inquisitively.

“Yeah.” Ian nodded. “The only real cure for it is to face your fears head on.”

“How would one accomplish that?” the ape knight cast a wary glance at a tank containing a boa constrictor.

“Well, let’s see if being covered in them helps.” Ian surged his power, blowing out the glass in all the tanks around Lucian in one violent gust of wind and sound. Dozens of snake specimens were violently forced out into the aisle and consequently onto Lucian.

Roaring in a mixture of surprise, confusion and primal fear, Lucian swung the lance wildly and stumbled away from the hail of reptiles. Ian took the opportunity to make a break for the exit.

Hurrying down the stairs, Ian took a second to let the rain wash away the disconcerting, slimy feeling he always felt when he was exposed to snakes of any sort. The cool flow did little to calm his nerves after the last week, which had culminated in this; the most bizarre ten minutes of his life. Talking primates wielding medieval hardware, psychotic sorceresses, and monster rhinos from hell— Crap. He thought and looked down the pathway leading back to the fountain. Embarr, the aforementioned rhinoceros stood at the top of the path with Morganna standing beside it.

Before Ian could react, Morganna flicked her wrist toward him. The force felt like a shotgun blast, even through the ballistic cloth, some of which cracked and pealed away under the onslaught. It was strong enough to spin him a total 180 before he hit the ground, his arm throbbing.

In his shocked state, he saw the supposedly bulletproof and knife-proof cloth separate at the seams along a neat line about six inches down his arm. The skin beneath it was red and welted. Wincing in pain, he came up to a knee. He had no intention of just lying down and being trampled.

“That… was… was supposed to cut your arm off. Is that one of… your powers?” Morganna mused. “We’ll see.” She pointed at him and Embarr charged.

“Ian!” came a shout that cut in over the monster’s roars and the pouring rain. Alexis dropped out of the sky, her black heat causing the rain to billow out from her in a cloak of steam. She skimmed the ground and tackled him just under the arms, driving the air from his lungs, but also lifting him into the air.

When they were flying away at a safe height, cloaked from Morganna by rain and steam, She shifted her hold on him. “Sorry for the rough rescue, but it looked like there wasn’t a lot of time.” She landed them on the roof of another building, between two rows of air conditioners.

“I’m not complaining.” Ian groaned, leaning on one of the machines. “Though I am starting to think there may be something to Cyn and Laurel’s magic theory.”

Alexis nodded. “Me too. Believe it or not, I came here expecting a mystic monkey – but not a mutant rhino.”

Ian gave her an incredulous look. “Oh, the Ape Knight’s around here somewhere. He’s gotten about this close to killing me a couple times. I shit you not, that thing that was about to squash me is his horse.”

“I really wish I could be as shocked as I probably should.” The raven haired woman said, “But I can top that. The woman that’s leading them? She’s Lisa’s aunt Tatiana – or more accurately, its a thousand year old spell slinger possessing her body. She’s hell bent on killing off psionics so magic can be supreme.”

“Okay, I was having enough trouble with the lance wielding, honor bound orangutan.” Ian pulled his visor up and rubbed his eyes. “Where did you hear all this?”

“Lisa.” Alexis replied. “Her aunt struck a deal with this Morganna person to let Lisa go free.”

“Lisa? Where is she? She remembers everything? Even—“

“She’s in the car.” Alexis interrupted, “she insisted we come here to help you. And yes, she remembers all of it but right now, we have to deal with Morganna or that won’t even matter.”

“She was right to worry.” Ian nodded, “Lucian – the Ape Knight, he’s not just strong and fast, he’s got this pike that fires some kind of force bolt.” He replaced his visor and clenched his fists, “What’s more, I think he may be an innocent in all this.”

“Didn’t you just say he almost killed you?”

“Yeah, but… I don’t think he wants to – or even understands what’s going on here. Whatever Morganna did that turned him all smart and super-powered, she’s also got a strangle hold on his free will. More than once, I’ve seen him almost resist whatever she’s got on him.

“Do you think there’s a chance to undo it though?” Alexis asked, “Because if there isn’t he’s eventually going to kill us both.”

“The only thing I can think of it knocking Morganna out. Which, if what Lisa told you is correct, involves roughing her aunt up.” Ian sighed. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. By comparison, taking on Enforcers sounds refreshing right about now.”

***

Lisa shivered as she moved cautiously between the reptile house and a rest area equipped with picnic tables. Something like a taunt string in her mind drew her ever forward through the pouring rain. She knew Morganna was out there somewhere. She could almost taste the sorceress’s malevolent magic.

A dark shape loomed up before her and the transmutated rhino, Embarr ambled past, it’s attention so bent on whatever orders Morganna had given it that it didn’t even notice her. Still, Lisa shook with fear watching the thing rumble past. The danger of it spotting her and impaling her on its horn wasn’t the thing that bothered her most. She was terrified to realize that the creature matched the mental image of Morganna’s expectations for the thing almost exactly.

The creaking of hinges drew her attention and Lisa looked across the brick walk to see Morganna and her Ape Knight entering the arctic animal exhibition hall. Taking a deep breath, she summoned all of her frayed courage and stole quietly after them.

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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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