Issue #6: Myths and Heroes

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

Part 4

Several heavy blows landed solidly against the door leading onto the roof of the Garfield zoo’s artic animal hall to no avail. After a few, short moments of this treatment, there was a pause, after which the door separated into four, even pieces and collapsed into the stairwell.

Morganna stepped into the breech, her finger still extended and her acquired psionic power at the ready. Lucian stood behind her, his lance at the ready. Syrupy thick water squelched and flowed over the pieces of the door at their feet.

“Such strange powers.” Morganna noted, surveying the rooftop. It was empty except for the double rows of powerful air conditioners that occupied it. “I have… never… never seen magic do such a thing to water.”

Lucian scanned the roof as well. “Have they left this place, milady?”

Morganna shook her head. “No… no, they’re still here somewhere. I feel them… their power…” She took a tentative step out into the rain. The thickened water collapsed into normal density under her feet. “Can you smell them?”

“The rain washes most scents away, milady.” Lucian admitted, lowering his head in shame. Through his bushy brows, he redoubled his efforts to see through the curtain of water before him. At the same time, he breathed deeply, hoping to get some sensory information from the poor environment.

The pair ventured cautiously out onto the roof, watching their surroundings carefully.

“They have to be here.” Morganna muttered petulantly. “I… I want them. They’re mine.” Her head snapped around as the crunch of gravel caught her attention. Lucian whirled around as well. The sound had come from behind them.

The air rippled like the shimmer of heat on a summer day. Then it waxed into blackness that then retreated to reveal Ian and Alexis standing side by side. Alexis’s eyes were the last thing to come back into view, as if the retreating blackness was flowing into them. For a second, they were voids in her head that disturbed even Morganna’s already fractured mind.

“No, Morganna.” Ian said. With some obvious exertion, he was holding a glass sphere the size of his fist with both hands. “We’re not yours and neither are Lucian and Tatiana Farnsworth. That’s why we’re setting them free.”

“Even if it means having to knock them out first.” Alexis added, a new wave of black heat rising to encircle her arms.

Before their enemies could respond, Ian threw the sphere underhanded between them. Only then did Morganna note the similarities between the congealed water that sealed the door shut and the ‘glass’ globe. In the space of an instant, ten gallons of rainwater underwent a density shift that took it from the size of a fist to a gaseous cloud six feet in diameter. The corresponding force slammed into Morganna and Lucian.

Roaring in surprise, the Ape Knight planted his lance in the rooftop, spearing it through gravel and tar into cement. He held on as tightly as his enhanced strength allowed and weathered the explosion like the warrior Morganna had made him into.

Morganna on the other hand only had time to utter a spell of vulgar magic as she was pounded into one of the air conditioners, leaving a deep dent. The machine made a terrible squeal of metal being tortured and fell silent, a plume of acrid smoke testament to its demise.

Despite what should have been a knockout blow, Morganna was the first to retaliate. Emitting a long, wordless scream, she rose to her feet, murder in her eyes. With deft strokes of her hand, she sent lash after lash of Lady Nightshade’s psionic power at the pair that dared to deny her what she desired.

Ian dove behind an air conditioner while Alexis took to the air, steam and black billowing after her.

Blinded by rage, Morganna continued to send invisible cuts into the air. Mortar began to erupt from the stairwell access and sparks flew from the air conditioners and other rooftop paraphernalia.

The barrage of attacks went on for several seconds before the toll of summoning them up began to fatigue her. She had never imagined that psionic powers were taxing to the individual. She took her frustration out on Lucian. “Useless thing!” She bellowed. “Kill them… break their bones!”

Hesitating for a fraction of a second, Lucian bought the lance up. “Strike!” He rumbled. His aim went wide as Alexis evaded. When she had righted herself, she paused in air and bought her arms in tight around her chest.

Motes of black heat began spinning off from her, shooting off in random arcs that began to drive down on the rooftop as heavy as any rain. They were too small and too weak to do any lasting damage, but they were painful and they fell in an inky sleet down upon Morganna and Lucian.

His aim now thrown off by the myriad, tiny stings of Alexis’s attack, Lucian took a knee to steady his shot. “Strike!” He hissed, feeling one of the burning motes of black heat land on his tongue.

Alexis was nimble enough to dodge, but she wasn’t ready for Morganna’s renewed frenzy. Her ballistic cloth shredded across her stomach, absorbing the brunt of the damage, but what was left over was a painful gash akin to a ten inch long paper cut. The sudden pain broke her concentration, causing her black heat to fail and she fell.

The wind kicked up, whipped to hurricane forces that made the rain sting the eyes as Ian called a column of air into being below Alexis. It broke her fall just barely. She still landed hard enough on the previously destroyed air conditioner to leave a sizable dent.

“You hear what she called you?” he shouted at Lucian over the wind. “A useless thing. You really think she gives half a damn about whether you live or die as long as you serve her purpose? You’re nothing but a tool to her, Lucian!”

The Ape Knight narrowed his eyes. Being used was demeaning; he knew that much from the vast amount of unsorted information Morganna had instilled in him from Tatiana Farnsworth’s mind. Being used was something that shouldn’t happen to anyone. At least to any human. His own memories from before his transformation made him realize that humans were perfectly fine using animals for entertainment. Of course, Lucian was no longer an animal. He didn’t know what he was anymore, but an animal he was not.

The fetish around his neck grew heavy and hot. He set his jaw. “It does not matter what she wishes of me. I am a knight and I must carry out my duty.” He said, stalking toward Ian.

Meanwhile, Morganna had leapt atop the air conditioner where Alexis had landed. She crouched over the fallen woman, her expression that of a child on Christmas Day. “Yes… now, you are mine.” She muttered. She reached down and touched one of the beads of blood that had welled up on the thin cut she had inflicted. “You are… very strong… very resilient.” She rubbed the blood between her fingertips. “Impressive.”

Alexis looked up at her through heavy lidded eyes. Very slowly, she lifted an arm.

“Please don’t… don’t fight.” Morganna chided. “You are so much more valuable to me alive.”

“Not fighting.” Alexis breathed, placing her hand on her left shoulder.

“Good… good…” Morganna mumbled, still fascinated with the blood. She cocked her head to the side when she heard a quiet beep.

Exactly as Laurel had described, the scarf straightened into a bō staff. Specifically, it straightened into one in the space between the air conditioner and Morganna’s jaw. The blow made her teeth clack together and her mind spin. Before her sense (or what passed as her sense) returned to her, Alexis planted a foot in her abdomen. Ignoring the pain from her wound, Alexis extended her leg and pressed her shoulders against the air conditioner.

Morganna yelped as she overbalanced and tumbled backward, hitting her head hard on the neighboring air conditioner on her way down. She lay still thereafter.

***

A thin cloud of mortar dust still hung in the stairwell as Lisa made her way to the roof. The top landing looked like a war zone with pieces of broken door and chunks of cement strewn everywhere. Still, Lisa pressed forward onto the roof.

The wind lashed at her, causing her clothes to billow out around her and reminding her that she was certainly not dressed to be on a roof in the rain. Then again, she was sure she also wasn’t dressed or prepared to fight sorceresses and transmutated orangutans.

Light from the walkway below reflected off the length of Lucian’s lance and she froze. It was pointed at her.

“Are you another psionic come to assault my lady?” the towering creature demanded with he deep, rumbling voice.

Shivering, Lisa put up her hands defensively. Whatever words she might have said in the situation caught in her throat. Silently, part of her screamed for an explanation as to why she hadn’t stayed in the car.

“Leave her alone, Lucian. She’s just a kid.” Ian stepped out from behind the air conditioner he’d been using as cover. “Leave her alone.”

“Explain why she is here then.” Lucian said, his weapon still trained on her. “You have fought without honor before.” Something in the back of his mind questioned if he was really willing to strike at the girl. The psionic was right after all, she was just a child.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I have no idea.” Ian said, slowly inching toward her. “But I’m sure it’s just a mistake. She’s probably here to sneak a late night peek at the penguins or something. He reached her side. “Isn’t that right, Lisa?”

Lisa looked up at Ian, only recognizing him by his voice with the visor down. In the last few days, everyone she knew seemed to be turning out to be a psionic. Not only were they psionics, but Warrick, Cyn, Alexis and Ian had all acquitted themselves to be selfless and heroic with their powers – like the prelates she’d heard about on the news. Tentatively, she nodded.

“See?” Ian said. “Now go see those silly, silly penguins, Lisa. See them far away from the range of the big monkey with a magic lance-thing.”

This time Lisa shook her head.

“Uh, Lisa? What are you doing?”

The fetish grew warm around Lucian’s neck again and he extended the lance more firmly.

“You need my help.” Lisa said quietly. But she wasn’t looking at Ian, she was looking at Lucian. Suddenly, she knew why she had been drawn to follow Morganna. Her Aunt Tay would have wanted her to use her knowledge to do good. “I know what she did to you.”

“M-my Lady has done nothing to me except give me purpose.” Lucian wavered slightly. The fetish burned with painful insistence now. The command word that could easily end the young woman’s life was on the tip of his tongue.

“Lucian!” Alexis shouted. “Morganna’s down. I knocked her out.”

A knight’s instinct overrode the alien desire to kill the girl. The Ape Knight whirled in defense of his master, lance at the ready. Ian began calling wind, hoping to strike Lucian from behind, but before he could build up enough force, Lisa broke from his side and ran toward Lucian with sudden determination.

She covered the distance faster than she ever remembered moving and leapt at the knight’s back. Her mind flashed with memories of Morganna’s plans to enslave the Ape Knight, bypassing key flaws in the Rites of the Open Eye; namely the confusion and morality of a freshly sapient mind. The fetish was the focus for her control; allowing her to influence Lucian with little or no concentration.

“Stri—“the word was cut off by a strangled yelp as the leather cord that held the fetish to Lucian’s neck went taunt. Dropping the lance, the Ape Knight grabbed the cord in one huge hand and reached behind him with the other. Struggling to breathe, he went to his knees and shook himself like a wet dog, throwing Lisa from his back.

Before she even came to rest, he was up again, howling with rage. His ham sized fists were raised high, ready to pulp her.

Shrinking before the bestial fury of Lucian, Lisa tried to roll away.

There was no need. Lucian stopped in his rage, eyes focusing on the fetish. He’d torn it off in his effort of desperation to escape strangulation. In his hand, it no longer glowed with faint, eldritch power, nor did it burn or even feel warm. It was inert. Dead.

Then the weight of what he had almost done came crashing down on him like a wave. He had almost murdered innocents on the orders of a madwoman who would have used him to murder countless more. Dropping the fetish, he let out a groaning roar and collapsed on his hands and knees, pounding the gravel under his fists into dust.

Alexis approached him cautiously, knocking the lance away from him with her bō staff.

“Your fears…” Lucian finally said with a shuttering sigh that sounded like the growl of a big cat, “Are unnecessary. I see the wrongs I have done now. And there is nothing I can do to undo them.”

Ian stepped closer to him. “We figured out that you were mind controlled. We just didn’t know how to stop it.” He crouched down next to the still slumped Ape Knight. “The way I see it, the sin in this is all Morganna’s.”

Lucian shook his head. “I have to take responsibility.” He looked over to Lisa. “I owe you a debt I do not think I can ever repay.” He rumbled as he stood, moving with ponderous steps toward the stairs.

“Whoa, hold on, Lucian.” Ian said, “You can’t just go running around the city as you are. No offense, but people will freak the hell out.”

“I know.” Lucian said, “But I no longer belong here either. I will find a place for myself and Embarr so I can think things through. I hope to eventually pay for my sins… and bring Morganna to justice.”

“But we already brought her to justice.” Alexis said, gesturing. Then she blinked. “Oh my god…”

Lucian nodded. “She was not unconscious from your attack. If she had been, I would have known. The amulet that controlled me also made me aware of her injuries.”

“You mean to tell me that we’re back to square one and every psionic in the city is still in mortal peril?” Ian looked up to the rain for answers.

Lucian moved for the stairs again. “Do not despair, psionic. She is badly injured and healing magic takes time. You have carried this day.”

Ian sighed and took off his visor, pressing his temples with one hand. “If you say so.” Lucian nodded to him and started down the stairs. “Hey, Lucian…” Ian said back. The Ape Knight turned and caught his lance as Ian tossed it to him. “You’re probably going to need that thing. No way Morganna’s going to give up on you any more than she’ll give up on us.”

Lucian gave the best equivalent of a smile his ape face could manage. “Thank you, psionic. I was mistaken in insulting your honor.”

“The name’s Ian.” Ian returned. “And the same goes for you.”

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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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