- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
Those Not Forgotten (Part 1)
Facsimile snarled as she slashed into the armored figure before her. Watching from above, Darkness almost admonished her for her reckless actions before she saw the sparks flying.
Robots. They were fighting robots.
That took a load off of her mind. Or it would have if there weren’t hundreds of the things pouring out of the busted factory doors. She couldn’t even raise half the team any more and all she could do was pray they were just incommunicado and not seriously hurt… or worse.
More sounds reached her, shouts and grunts and the clank of something hard hitting metal. She followed the sound to find Chaos on the ground, backed against a wall, throwing wild punches at the robotic horde closing in on him.
“Ian!” She screamed, “Why aren’t you flying?”
But he didn’t answer her. Didn’t even seem to hear her, as he pounded machine after machine with his gauntleted fists. Even from up high, she could tell he was getting tired. Here and there, a robot would get a hit in, not with a metal fists, but with taloned fingers. The ballistic cloth costumes could stop a clumsy knife thrust, but not precision cutting instruments like the machines were armed with. There was blood. And suddenly, there was a lot of it.
Screaming his name again, she dove, but it was like moving through mud instead of air. Everything but the killer robots moved far too slowly. Chaos slowly but surely ran out of steam. The robots closed in.
“No…” She could only speak in a whisper, but then a surge of strength bubbled up in her. “NO.” It wasn’t a sentence. It wasn’t a hope. It was a proclamation. An order given to reality itself. “Dark Phenomenon.”
The black whip of what she now understood to be dark matter coursed out, larger and more powerful than she remembered.
“Wait, no!” Someone shouted from below and now when she looked, there were no robots. There was Ian, unharmed but out of costume and terrified. There were the kids, and Laurel. It was Laurel who was shouting. Ian flew up on a column of air. They others…the other simply disappeared in the wave. Only screams gave evidence to the fact they were even there.
Before she could fully comprehend what happened, In was there, directly in front of her. He grabbed her shoulders. “Alexis. Oh God, what did you do? What did you just do?”
She reached up a hand swathed in terrible black fire. That was her only reply. Staring him in the eyes, she grabbed his face, palming his chin. The sizzle of burning flesh filled her ears. The stench of it crawled into her nose. But all she could see were his eyes. Shocked. Afraid. Dying.
She didn’t know exactly when she woke up, only that she did so almost strangled from being tangled in the covers so badly and with Ian trying to work her free.
“It’s okay, Alex.” He said, trying to hold her still while extricating her from the worst of the snarl. “It’s okay. I’m here. I’m here. Everyone’s fine. We’re safe.”
After a few weeks of the nightmares, he didn’t even have to ask what was going on anymore. And he knew exactly what she needed to hear upon waking. Her breathing started to slow and she stopped thrashing. “Ian…” SLowly, she started to help pull the covers away until her head and shoulders were free and she could breath the cool air of the bedroom.
“It’s okay.” he repeated, putting his arm around her and drawing her close.
She let him, leaning in close. “When is this going to end?”
Ian scooted them back up against the headboard and rubbed her back. “I don’t know. What did Masters say?”
“She said it takes time.” Alexis sighed. “And that I really should have sessions more than once every two weeks.”
“I can’t say I disagree.” said Ian. “I know you have a lot on your schedule, but you need to make time to for this. What you went through isn’t something you can’t just shrug off. In fact, I feel like we should all be getting some sessions in with her, seeing as we deal with traumatic stuff all the damn time and she’s pretty much the only authority on our kind of problems.”
Alexis pinched the bridge of her nose and groaned. “The thing is, I think it is helping… but every session seems to bring up other issues. Issues I think I need to resolve first before I can tackle something… something like this.” She didn’t need to say what ‘this’ was.
Shifting so she could rest her head on his shoulder, Ian asked, “Issues like what?”
“Like all our unfinished business. Well, not all of it, but have you noticed how much we honestly have undone? All the enemies we have who are either still at large or escaped later? All the kids that are still missing thanks to the Academy?
“After what happened with Cyn and Laurel when they tried to reach Tamara Daye, I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I finally broke down and became Darkness thinking we could rescue all those kids and shut down Tome. And I’m not saying that starting the Institute and keeping more kids from being kidnapped isn’t important work, but with Tamara, and Dana earlier, I can’t ignore this any longer.”
Ian held back a groan. The impossibility of tying up all the loose ends wasn’t lost on him. “Alex…” he murmured.
“I know we can’t do it all. And I know it’s going to take time to ferret out all of Tome’s bases. But we have to do something. I have to do something. To get some kind of resolution on something.”
“So…” Ian started cautiously. There was a knot in his stomach as his mind went over all the dangerous courses of action Alexis might have taken back when they were teens. “…what is it you want to do? I’ll be behind you a hundred percent, no matter what it is.”
She looked at him with a faint smile. “I’m not going of to try and get myself killed if that’s what you’re thinking. I’ve been thinking about it a lot thought: this all started with Dana. She’s the one I saw in stasis back at the Academy. After she turned out not to be in the medical center where we found the kids, I always wondered if there was something I could have done to save her the day I saw her. I was so afraid of what was going on, I didn’t even try—didn’t even think about it. Considering how little security they had when we saved the other kids…”
“You mean Prometheus, who almost killed me?”
Alexis patted his arm. “I know. But Prometheus was only there because I ran in the first place.”
Ian nodded. “I’m guessing you’be been keeping tabs on Dana and her family. Is she out of the hospital yet?”
“Yes. And into witness protection. Her parents were terrified after hearing the circumstances of her being found, and the ROCIC had no idea what to do with them, so they just uprooted her parents and dumped them in a new city. I was thinking that I could visit them and offer another option.”
She nodded against his arm. “That, and tell her I’m sorry for not saving her sooner.”
“You saved her when you were able.”
Her grip tightened on his arm. “No, I didn’t. I really didn’t.”
There was no fighting her on this, so Ian simply kissed her on the top of her head. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“Not this time.” she said quietly. “But don’t worry—I can handle this on my own. In fact, I think I need to.”
A distance away from Ian and Alexis that the untrained human mind can’t even fathom, there lay the world of Faerie. And on one of its continents, beneath an ancient and sprawling forest, lay a great hall hewn from living stone and supported by the great, iron-hard roots of millennia-old trees. There, some of the greatest champions of the faerie races feasted.
Ogres, goblins, pixies, redcaps, dwarves, fairies and dozens of others all shared tables of wood and stone. Through some mighty sorcery, they were all made equal at those tables; the ogres didn’t need to bend to reach their frothing mugs and the pixies could reach across the table for the platters of meat if they wanted.
Absent among them were the fey races; those descended from or created by the sidhe. Most of them feared their masters too much to grace this feast hall, and those who didn’t knew to disguise themselves from the wrath of those who suffered at the fear of said masters.
Here, the wine an beer and mead flowed endlessly and the platters of good meat, cheese and thick slabs of bread never ran empty. Song and boasting echoed eternally off the eaves. Champions came and went; seeking revel and camaraderie as well as new challenges and information. All stopped to revere the Lord of the hall, who was forever in attendance.
The rear of the hall was his. At his right and left were seats reserved for his generals, at his feet lay a pair of massive hounds with coats like pitch and eyes like embers. His was a throne of granite, and even when he rode n the Hunt, he occupied it, slouching in a way that reminded all who saw him of a predator at rest—for that was exactly what he was. All predators across the whole of the Orrery of Worlds revered him even if they were completely unaware of him. They felt the pull of his will and example every time they hunted and killed.
Many were the names he was called: Lord of the Autumn, Leader of the Hunt, King of Wyldfae, Stalking Beast, but there was one that was chief among his titles when the champions of the hall addressed him: The Errolking.
He sat upon his throne in full armor of cold iron plate. Those nearby could hear the sizzle of it against his sidhe flesh and see the fumes rising from the joints as a fine haze. For lesser fey, to be sealed naked into a cold iron coffin was the highest punishment. If the Errolking felt even mild discomfort, he never showed it—and few could tell even then with his visor obscuring his eyes until they were merely a green glow behind the slits. The only openings in his armor were holes cut in the helm to allow his antlers to sweep out in their branching majesty.
This day, upon his throne of granite, in his great hell, The Errolking slept. It wasn’t unusual for him to be asleep on his throne; sometimes for days, sometimes for weeks. Even his latest stint, three months, wasn’t unheard of. But when he stirred, it brough the entire hall down to silence.
Green light flared to life behind the cold iron visor. Metal pates creaked as the ancient sidhe shifted and stretched. When he finally spoke, it was in a voice that had seen ages come and go, with depth that made seas seem shallow.
“Smoke.” he ordered, reaching out a cupped hand that could have easily palmed an ogre’s head. A cloaked attendant, her species obfuscated by layers of bright cloth and an enamel mask painted to look like a grinning fox, stepped forward holding an earthenware censer the size and shape of a pumpkin with a pipe stem of polished wood emerging from its side. With a slight bow, she placed it in the waiting hand and stepped away.
With his free hand, The Errolking conjured a green flame and snet it spiraling into the dozens of holes drilled into the censer before putting the pipe stem beneath his visor.
“A chill in the wind has crept its way over the land as I slept.” said the Errolking even as he pulled on the pipe with great vigor. “The long autumn wanes and Maeve draws nearer again to the land of Faerie. I have seen it in the Dreamtime that this will be the last time she comes—either she comes to an end… or she takes total control of the Black and the Green and the Blue.”
The room rumbled with the muttering of a hundred voices, all swearing to be the one to make the former prediction true.
Smoke poured from every slit and joint in The Errolking’s visor and he held up is free hand, silencing them in an instant. “Faerie cannot win this war. Every seven and seven years, she comes and the greatest victories that have ever been achieved were those of survival until Maeve was forced to retreat into the Air and Darkness by her Curse. She knows every faerie magic, every bloodline and every spell. Even my power is known to her, for it was her hand that shaped it from the Air and Darkness.”
None of the assembled spoke, but the tension in the hall was like a bow pulled to full draw. Even if their Lord told them they couldn’t win, they were willing to fight. He puffed the pipe again, more smoke venting from his helm.
“But I have been dreaming. Dreaming of Blue. By our blood have the Mankinds of the Blue World been hidden from her. By our blood have they grown and improved themselves in relative peace. Their science rivals magic in almost every way… and it has birthed a new magic. A magic of blood and flesh and waves that they have incubated for generations.
“They call themselves ‘descendants’. Maeve knows nothing of them and among there number are those who would rival Hyrilius. I have dreamed of one of their leaders, the one who named them, a female who wields Kanduir’s Black Fire not with her words but with her blood.”
More smoke poured out of his visor, but instead of dissipating, it swirled and became a greyscale likeness of a woman. “Her name is Alexis Keyes. She has been to mighty Avalon. She has felt the touch of a Guardian. A dragon of earth has spoken to her. With one hand, she raises up her kind, teaching them the ways of their power. With the other, she strikes down the wicked and makes safe the Blue World.”
The smoke-Alexis faded as more smoke obliterated the image. “She could be the one we must set against Maeve. Her and her kind. But we must be sure. She must be tested. As I awakened, she was setting herself a quest. The Dreamtime showed me that vision because it was the perfect time to set our test before her.
“I will send one of you to the Blue World and you will find if she is capable and worthy to ally with the Wyld and The Errolking. If she succeeds, she will be rewarded. If she fails… she will be destroyed.”