Issue #84 – Darkness Falling

This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series The Descendants Vol 7: The New World

Ten Minutes Earlier.

Since meeting and befriending Warrick, Facsimile had become arguably a bigger fantasy buff than he was. Playing Deathgate at all hours of the day and night, and listening in (she never did get the hang of playing) on tabletop roleplaying sessions had been like a gateway drug for her. Where before she hated reading, now her Quintessence cloud drive was packed full of Fantasy books right alongside movies and TV shows.

Almost three years of mainlining the genre and all of its permutations were about all that prepared her to turn a corner in a worked-stone passage under a mythical king’s burial mound and find a room full of monitors.

Not really monitors, she amended in her head, just the mystic equivalent.

The room was also less of a room and more of a furnished cave. The ceiling and walls were uneven, craggy stone while the floor appeared to have been ground smooth. Huge chunks of quartz erupted from the walls and ceiling, some of them unnaturally dark while others flickered with images. Cyn’s eye picked out a stone disc with strange writing around the edge in one, and in another, a snowy forest with a tiny, ancient shack that looked close to falling down.

At the center of the room was a giant anvil, its flat top larger than her bed at Freeland House. There was a rectangle of silk cloth atop it, its smooth surface disturbed by something about a big as her hand beneath it. Too low and flat to be any Holy Grail she’d ever heard of, too short to be a legendary sword.

“What would a tomb need superconductors for?” she heard Grand Dodger asking somewhere behind her.

It certainly would explain the live magical video feeds, she mused. “Maybe this?” She asked, because it was hard keeping things that popped into her head not immediately come flying out of her mouth.

Both her mother and the Dodger came around the corner and stopped in the archway just like she had. “Oh my.” said Grand Dodger.

“Hmm.” said Codex. “This certainly isn’t a tomb, now is it? Looks like some sort of observation room, but there’s no furniture for whoever might be monitoring those crystals.”

“Unless they sit on the anvil.” Facsimile suggested helpfully.

Codex looked over to Occult as the young woman entered behind them. “Any expert opinions?”

The hooded woman shrugged. “The crystals are basic scrying spells, but they might be watching things on the island, or things on the other end of the Earth for all we know. Beyond that… well it’s not really something I know, but I’ve got a weird feeling from this place. Like we’re being watched. By something magical and powerful.”

Grand Dodger drew out his kali sticks. “Assuming this place does run on the logic of myths and legends, then perhaps the door was a test of the mind, while we’re to meet a test of the body here?”

Extending her own expanding staff, Codex nodded. “That’s a possibility. A very good one.”

Facsimile shook her head. “If there was a boss monster down here, it wouldn’t just sit and wait, it would slam the door behind us and come for a fight right off. This is probably another stupid puzzle. Like we have to guess what all the things in the crystals are before we can uncover the thing on he anvil, or we have to push the anvil over some hidden switch.”

“It’s not likely to be exactly like a game, Fax.” Occult tried to laugh, but the presence she was feeling made he too tense to make it sound convincing. “But there is probably some secret to it.”

Codex nodded. “Right. We just have to reason this out. This is, according to legend, King Arthur’s tomb. In fact, it’s built to look like a burial mound and we gained access by declaring that England needs a king. All of this seems predicated on the idea that this is connected to the Arthurian legend, whether actually part of it, or inspired by. But at the same time, Armigal knew about this place and implied that it was older than she was—that suggests that Avalon predates the timeframe of the traditional King Arthur stories. That makes sense, as the Arthurian legend is a blend of dozens of stories and legends with very little historical backing.”

“How does any of that help us?” asked Grand Dodger.

“I’m not sure.” Codex admitted. “Maybe the original legend was created to keep their equivalent of passwords straight. Maybe whoever the real Arthur was, they were someone who used this place. The problem is that Armigal didn’t explain any of this to us. She just assumed we’d figure out Avalon before whoever Maeve is got here. Our only saving grace is that if we can’t figure it out, the Adriel might not either.”

The air around them vibrated. It was a low hum that became a buzz and from somewhere within it, they each discerned a voice; calm, genderless and melodious: “For what reason do you wish to deny others the bounty of Avalon?”

All four closed ranks. Despite having never worked with the Descendants before, Grand Dodger naturally moved to form one point of a triangle around occult who would be the only one present who didn’t seem capable of melee combat.

“You wouldn’t happen to be something magical and powerful would you?” Facsimile asked automatically.

“A question was posed. An answer is required.” There was no annoyance in the voice, only a dispassionate statement of fact.

Codex addressed the room as a whole. “The Adriel are a misguided and misinformed group who would use what they find here to murder and oppress. We are only here to stop them.”

There was a pause before the voice inquired, “And take what you find here for your own?”

“Test of spirit.” Facsimile whispered to Occult. “This is totally like a video game.”

For her part, Codex leaned on her staff and shook her head. “We were told about this place by the dragon Armigal. She said that Avalon—and presumably whatever is here—would be needed when Maeve comes. As far as we know, she hasn’t. We would only ask for whatever it is if we needed it.”

The hum, which had been ever-present even when the voice was silent increase din volume. “Then you quest has been for naught, noble seeker.” Several of the dim quartz crystals in the room flared briefly and the light seemed to reflect and refract off of angles in the air that hadn’t been visible before: like noticing a piece of glass only when it catches the light.

Colors began to fill those spaces, granting depth, texture and form. A giant loomed into being above the anvil. It was androgynous, and bald; its face covered by a featureless silver mask, its upper torso enclosed in a shining breastplate, and an ankle-length loincloth draped around the lower. Were it human, its impossible thinness would have been skeletal, but it had no bone or muscle to be seen, merely smooth hairless limbs of a dusky hue. Behind it, two great feathered wings, as black as night, sprouted from its spine to hang at odd angles as if they were broken.

“Avalon is already well-protected. I am First of Twelve, the Fallen Angel, Guardian of the Forge and the Forged. As put forth by the cunning folk of ages long gone by to ensure that the Forged do not fall into the hands of the wicked. Should one who is unworthy seek to take what they cannot have, their own strength shall be turned against them.”

“Guys, did you know you were out of contact?” None of them had even heard Renaissance as she ran down the corridor alongside Vamanos. Her arrival jostled them out of the shock of the angel’s appearance. “Look, whatever’s going on down here is going to have to…whoa.”

Vamanos almost ran into Facsimile as she spotted the gigantic creature in the center of the room. “Whoa is right? I-is that an angel? Like a real angel?”

The eyeless masked face tracked in on her. “I am a construct of pure mystic force, my appearance designed to strike a balance between awe and reverence to the common person—to mitigate the need for more damaging actions.”

A security system.” Codex deduced. “Assuming ‘cunning folk’ means ancient magic users, it makes perfect sense. We know that magi have access to knowledge of other worlds via the 4 Books. It stands to reason this isn’t the first time that incursions have spiked—Armigal said as much—and formulated a means to arm the future against such things. This guardian is how they make sure whatever was left behind only got used when absolutely necessary.”

“Your assessment is correct. Therefore, your quest is folly. Avalon was already well-protected.”

“Maybe not against what the Adriel have.” Renaissance cut in, trying not to even look at the magical creature. “Codex, that’s why we came down: the Adriel are here and it’s not just the group Chaos and Darkness fought before. I counted at least thirty parachuting in—plus two tanks.”

“Tanks?” Facsimile scoff. “Seriously?”

Renaissance nodded. “Very serious. I guess they expected someone to try and stop them, so they’re not even pretending to go easy on us.”

“The greater the threat, the greater the damage that will be turned pon them.” stated the angel.

“I’m not willing to bet everything on that.” said Codex. “But I think we need to learn everything we can here. Occult and I will stay down here to consult the… er… Fallen Angel… Everyone else, topside. Vamanos, since we apparently can’t communicate, you’re going to have to play go between. Have Alloy seal the entrance; you can still phase through if it’s aluminum and not the ensorcerelled silicon carbide.”

“Are you sure you don’t need some muscle down here?” Facsimile asked, casting a wary eye toward the angel.

Codex waved her off. “As long as we make it clear we’re not trying to take anything, we should be fine. Go; the others need you out there.”

Facsimile ducked her head, then turned to the others. “Let’s go kick these guys’ asses real quick then.”

“I’ll admit, I was hoping for a bit of action.” Grand Dodger turned to Renaissance, “Thirty you say? Armed?”

The green-clad heroine shook her head. “I couldn’t tell, but given the tanks, it stands to reason.”

He cracked a smile. “Excellent. Codex, keep us posted, please.”

Once he headed up, the others followed until Codex and Occult were left alone in the chamber with the Fallen Angel. Codex made sure no one else needed last minute instructions before returning her attention to the creature. “Now that we have time and we’ve established we’re not after what’s kept here… can you tells us exactly what it is you’re protecting?”

The hum that filled the air surged as the angel reached down and waved its hand toward the silk cloth at its feet. A gust of wind blew the cloth away, revealing what lay beneath.

“This Forge has passed on blades to defend this world many times. They are as powerful as they need to be. What was given to the bear-man—who would be called Arthur—was the Steel-Cutting Sword, Caledfwlch. Countless who have hunted beasts from beyond have been given the Foe-Cutting Sword, Claíomh Solais. What you see here is the template for both, the ultimate weapon, the Ur Sword: All-Cutting Sword Caldabolg. It is never to leave this place until the day Maeve enters this world and brings it to its darkest hour.”

Occult looked to Codex and immediately guessed what the genius was going to ask next, so she went ahead and did so herself. “Well in that case: who or what is Maeve?”

***

Partway up one of Avalon’s numerous hills, concealed by the trees, James Richter watched through a set of binoculars as the so-called heroes charged out of the mound.

“They’re leaving.” he reported to Delilah, who was following the main Adriel forces’ progress in forming up a battle line on the island interior. “Looks like they left the metal controller behind to close up the mound.”

“Alone?”

Richter shook his head. “I’ve seen Chaos and Darkness overhead a few times, keeping an eye out.”

“One or two will not be a problem.” Delilah said, sounding almost bored. “The Doctor’s plan was flawless.”

The plan had been simple. The Gustav dropped a small boat with her and Richter just off the coast of the island twenty minutes before the Descendants arrived while it picked up Dr. Tang’s troops and a pair of heavily-modified tanks from the English mainland.

Concealed and with the self-styled ‘heroes’ thinking they were racing against the clock, it was simply a matter of following them to the burial mount. Now, with the main force of the Adriel attacking, the ‘heroes’ left the tomb of Arthur almost unguarded to engage them.

“Ready?” Richter asked, stowing the binoculars away in a hip pouch before drawing his symbol-etched revolver.

Delilah fingered the veil she wore. It was down at the moment, but could be raised over her mouth at any moment. Aside from that, she was wearing tactical webbing with a knife and pistol on it. “Ready.”

They followed a game trail down to the stream that flowed around the burial mound and from there, followed the contour of the mound around to the entrance where Alloy stood ready before a shining, uninterrupted wall of aluminum.

At the last corner, Delilah pulled the veil over her face and leaned out to get a good look at her quarry. She came back with a look of consternation on her face. “I’m not sure I can get all three.”

“Three?” Richter asked in hushed tones. “Who came back?”

“No one. But there are three there.”

Richter didn’t bother arguing, only cocked his revolver and said, “Do your best. I’ll take out whoever’s left standing.” Delilah nodded and stepped out of cover and into Alloy’s line of sight.

The armored hero pivoted to face her, At the same time, the metal tentacles sprouting from his upper arms sifted into foreboding blades. Delilah didn’t flinch.

In The Name Of God: Bind This Man.”

Alloy cocked his head. “What now?” That’s as far as he got before the tentacles lashed around him, the left pinning his arms to his sides while the right forced his legs together, causing him to topple over.

“W-what the hell?” Alloy asked, not just because of the sudden apparent betrayal, but because he could feel Isp and Osp’s confusion in his head.

As he lay there, he watched as Richter stepped out to stand alongside the woman. “Thanks for leading us right where we needed to go.” the older man said gruffly, then looked to the veiled woman. “Delilah, have him get the door.”

“Of course.” she replied, then looked in Alloy’s direction again. “In the Name Of God, Tear Down This Wall.”

Something cold and insidious wormed its way into Alloy’s ear. He could feel it echoing around, seeking out pathways. When it connected, he felt his mind reach out with his powers. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop it as it slammed into the wall he’d just erected and ripped a hole in it.

Cursing under his breath, he watched the two Adriel members walk out of his sight and into the burial mound.

“Damnit.” he hissed. The twins were still under Delilah’s orders. “Sorry boys.” With that (and a sense that for once, they completely understood), he unsummned them, retracting their orihalcite bodies into snake charms around his biceps and freeing himself.

Even as he struggled to his feet, he was on the comm.

“It was a trick! Richter and one of his pals hit me with some kind of mind control! They’ve gone inside!”

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Issue #83 – Avalon RisesDescendants Annual #7 – First Frost >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

You can also purchase his books from all major platforms from the bookstore

Bookmark the permalink.

30 Comments

  1. I find it interesting that the ‘ultimate weapon’ prepared against Maeve is Caladbolg, which in the Irish mythology was wielded by Fergus mac Róich, who was a lover of Maeve.

    • Much like Arthur, Fergus’s legend was co-opted into clues by the Cunning Folk, then corrupted by years of oral tradition.

      • Ooh, that invites speculation about what the different elements of Cattle raid of Cooley refer to in the Descendants mythology. One could maybe surmise that Conchobar mac Nessa, Maeve’s first husband with whom she ended up warring with, could be the same character as Erolking. And of course the ‘fords’ where Cú Chulainn held Maeve’s army at bay start looking like portals between worlds when considered in this kind of light.

  2. Typos & oddities

    thing on he anvil,
    the

    made he too tense
    her

    around occult who
    around Occult, who

    “Then you quest
    your

    4 Books
    four Books

    ensorcerelled
    ensorcelled

    arrived while it
    arrived, then it

    Aside from that, she was wearing tactical webbing
    She’s wearing a face veil, tactical webbing and nothing else? Really?

    paragraph starting Something cold and insidious
    Technically correct but too many its for clarity.

    he unsummned them
    unsummoned

  3. Typos

    Chaos go his
    got

    toy you boy have
    boys

    panic and fleet
    flee

    deflect to rounds
    two

    “Indeed that are.”
    Could be they are , we are or that they are.

    on Adriel member
    one

    The raises up your
    He

    resource that make war over
    that they make

    At the bequest
    request

    Caldabolg
    Caladbolg

    was dull and plain
    it was dull and plain

    The construct seems to change voice from formal to colloquial in this chapter. I’m not sure if that was intended. Also the Dodger still sounds more archaic than the construct; again, not sure if that was intended.

  4. Actually, it’s just the one comment by the construct – “Did he now?” – that made me think that it sounded colloquial. The rest is still formal as it was before.

    • The construct is supposed to sound more weird than archaic because it’s learning (modern) English out of their heads.

      No excuses for Dodger. New character, trying to pin down voice and I guess the more formal Silence’s voice is bleeding into his.

  5. Typos and a few comments

    Ephemeral too, there’s apparently a mentalist here too.”
    One too many too’s IMO, I’d drop the second.

    The Dodger’s sounding like a Brit from this century, that’s good.

    pressing chaos against
    Chaos

    tightly compacted burst
    Um. Focused? Compressed or concentrated?

    lower half g his
    of his

    out to covered the wound
    cover

    through grit teeth.
    gritted

    to say nothing for the defense of this world
    Maybe save instead of ‘say’, or of instead of ‘for’, or not instead of ‘to say nothing’. It doesn’t quite make sense as written.

    A glaive is to quote wikipedia “a European polearm weapon, consisting of a single-edged blade on the end of a pole”. A double-edged blade is probably some variety of spear.

    Richter tried to wriggled free
    wriggle

    One more the glaive
    Once

    • Maybe I’m thinking ranseur. I need to look it up. The original character of Darkness had a ‘lance’ that was really a spear, so… I’m bad at this.

  6. “…came back,s he was…”
    Misplaced space.

    “She his heart.”
    Missing the predicate.

    “…bran, ground beef live, kale, sardines, blueberries, garlic seaweed potatoes and a fistful of vitamin supplements…”
    Missing some commas and the r from liver.

    “…Caldabolg…”
    Caladbolg.

  7. there was magical entity
    was a magical

    Adriel foot soldiers This
    missing a full stop after soldiers

    Gospel ad just
    had

    Ears of practice
    Years

    extending fro the
    from

    bind the Adriel woman’s eyes.
    With zip cuffs?

  8. Certain things are looking familiar from the forums…

    Anyone else find it odd that someone who used mind control to get a powerset immediately has names for their attacks with those powers?

  9. The commas came back
    comms

    controlled by rogue guardian
    by a rogue

    issued out of every opening in seam of the vehicle,
    Maybe ‘the seams’ instead of ‘seam’? Or ‘and’ instead of ‘in’?

    weapon’s ax head
    An axe now? – a glaive is like a single edged knife or cleaver, on the end of a stick. Is it morphing? That seems sort of reasonable considering what it’s made of, but it might be worth mentioning it.

    raised the glaive on guard.
    to guard.

    & yes, it’s nice that someone has obviously been sending anime comic books or shows to King Arthur’s tomb.

    • I had forgotten it was a glaive (and yeah, I finally settled on glaive after looking at some pictures) and wrote ‘halberd’ in this chapters, which is where the ax head came from.

  10. Typos

    The one flew true
    Might be ‘This one’ or ‘The second one’ or something like that

    before its crashed
    it

    non-too
    none too

    grunt f exertion
    of

    Codex b the arm,
    by

    capture limb painfully
    captured

    did it one the
    on

    whether or not the possessed by of Darkness
    Lose the ‘by of’ I think.

    orange being peels,
    peeled,

    lift her n his
    in

    jeopardize her healthy.
    health.

  11. I’ve often wondered when reading superhero stories (web or comic), why the absolute, unrelenting opposition to killing? I know it’s not something you want to encourage, but cops shoot to kill, and so do soldiers, but as soon as you get super powers and fight people that can destroy entire cities, NOW it’s un-heroic? What will they do if they ever come up against a case where it is literally ‘Them-or-us’? Sacrifice their life or the lives of innocents so they don’t have to kill? Or will they never face a situation like that because it will never be written that way?

    • Soldiers and cops have public mandates, accountability, and TRAINING. Superheroes are private citizens with (largely) secret identities. You really don’t want random private citizens getting away with tons of murders without any of the discipline and training to tell when and where to apply it or how to handle it.

      Also, frankly, given the past two years, its time for the cops to dial back on the killing too and soldiers aren’t being properly cared for when it comes to dealing with it.

      Plus, given superpowers and the massive resources some of these people have, they have no excuse for not at least looking for alternatives. A cop or soldier isn’t bulletproof or the equivalent. And the likes of Batman or Ted Kord have more advanced armor than public funds will get and thus don’t have the self defense justification most of the time.

      Finally, I am not sympathetic at all the killer ‘heroes’ like Punisher of Cable. They’re villains who happen to kill people society is cool with murdering.

      • Nothing to add. I just think you’re right.

      • I think there’s one other reason to be opposed to superheroes killing, related to everything you said. Because they are essentially private citizens who put themselves in harm’s way of their own free will without oversight, the entire nature of “self-defense” is a murky concept with superheroes. If someone breaks into my house with a gun and I kill him to survive, I think that’s morally okay. If I get attacked while walking to the subway, it’s the same thing again. If I go out looking for trouble (no matter how well-intentioned I might be) then it changes the situation drastically, because life-threatening dangers are not being imposed on me against my will. The dynamic is different when you SEEK OUT dangerous situations actively, with intent and forethought.

        I totally agree with everything you said, though. I also think it’s worth noting that saying “superheroes shouldn’t kill” doesn’t necessarily mean “a single death causes me to judge a superhero to be a bad person.” If Batman knocks someone off of a roof to stop him from pressing the trigger that would set off a bomb, I wouldn’t be happy about the death, but I wouldn’t write him off as a bad guy, either. I think some people assume that anyone who wants superheroes not to kill is applying ridiculously judgmental standards, which is just…not true.

        note: Not directing that as a barb at you, Kobin. Just observing something I’ve seen when the question came up in the past.

        Anyway, to me the central question of any super-powered story/setting is: People get power. How do they use it? It’s one thing to kill in war or self-defense, but superheroes are operating on their individual (or small-group) ideologies. There’s a difference between a person or small group killing someone and a court system killing someone (when the courts work, at least).

        Narratively, I also believe that stories tend to work better when death isn’t cheap (unless death being cheap is part of the point). If a “superhero” kills too often or a story contains too many deaths, then it ceases to hold the same dramatic weight. So, there’s that.

    • If random people can get away with killing you end up with an horribly dysfunctional society. For example, see Stone Burners where the author took that idea and ran with it.

      There’s other options where heroes can get some sort of sanction for killing, but the stories either ignore the consequences or have some sort of oversight which you don’t normally associate with superheroes. Drew Hayes’ Super Powereds springs to mind.

    • It goes all the way back to golden age Superman and the very roots of the superhero genre as a twisted justification fantasy where the schoolyard bully beats up whoever they like and that makes them a hero. You see, they only beat up bad people (like those who think they’re so smart or like wrong things), and they don’t kill. Clearly heroic, right?

      When your heroes start killing when necessary, it shifts the whole genre. You no longer have heroes, you have benevolent tyrants whose judgment you can’t opt out of and who answer to nobody. Note how this is the only difference between, say, JLA and the Authority.

      • Actually, in the Golden age, they Looooooved killing. Batman killed a dude by punching him into acid in his very first comic. Flash let a bunch of villains get gassed, then ran the other off a cliff. Thou Shalt Not Kill only really came into effect during the Silver Age when superheroes got a retool into gee-whizz sci-fi stories with an undercurrent of the betterment of society (as a contrast to the Golden Age’s tendency to kill their way out of their problems.)

        Also, Superman was invented by two Jewish kids as an outlet to dream up someone who would protect them from the many, MANY people who bullied THEM. The people he beats up in Action Comics 1 are: a wifebeater and some dudes who kidnap Lois. Now if you want to get into the kidnappings he commits (binds and gags a murderer to take her to the governor in order to prevent an execution, picked up and carries the governor’s butler when he isn’t allowed to see the governor, picks up and carries away a lobbyist who is implied to be trying to legally trick the US into entering WWII on the Axis side)… I have no idea where he was taking that last guy. Massive, festering corruption isn’t illegal in congress.

        Sorry Mazzon, but your analysis is incorrect.

    • Also, it’s weird that this is the story that triggered this conversation because the Angel attacked those dudes out of spite. This was a villain killing other villains.

      Unless the issue is the Descendants working to save them. In which case, this isn’t any different from what police (are supposed to) do. If you shoot someone and they’re down but alive, you call an ambulance. You don’t for example, leave them in the middle of the street for four hours while you go make up some story about being attacked by the Incredible Hulk and warding him off with your standard issue Gamma bullets.

  12. >expanding mas of black heat

    No mas! No mas!

  13. Typos

    hard to breath
    breathe

    expanding mas of black
    mass

    Not a typo – but it’s amazing Alexis never experimented enough to find a basic limit like that. Well, I guess she isn’t a guy.

    From the constructs the Angel created though, assuming it wasn’t part of a spell, accounted for enough
    Either lose ‘From’ or change ‘accounted’ to ‘there was’ IMO. Or something like that, it doesn’t quite scan.

    just to get help thin
    Lose ‘get’ or ‘get help’

    Chaos ‘s
    Chaos’s

    To be continued when I’ve dealt with an overexcited puppy.

    • Choas noted that it
      Chaos

      place staed its hand.
      stayed

      Hucking this sword
      Chucking

      you cold find
      could

      I attack them almost ten minutes ago.
      attacked

      others got into gar,
      gear,

      An rested his chin
      Ian

  14. Just finished a full binge through your archive, and man, what a place to wind up. Excellent stor(y/ies), completely baffled how you keep them all straight. I’ll be adding The Descendants to my reading list, keep up the great work!

    Typos-
    “The one commands”–> should be “This”
    “E didn’t care”– > should be “He”

    Also, not in this chapter, but this is sorta a recurring one throughout the archive, “bought”- – > should be “brought”

Comments are closed

  • Descendants Serial is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.