Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series The Descendants Vol 8: The Weaver's Web

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.”

“The institute?”

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.”

Series Navigation<< Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad LassIssue #87 – Descendants… In Space >>

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30 Comments

  1. “This day, upon his throne of granite, in his great hell, The Errolking slept.”
    Hall? Not entirely sure though due to the previous paragraph.

    The text isn’t really clear on whether Dana is in witness protection and her parents merely relocated or if witness protection has been downgraded to simply moving to another city. In any case the program apparently isn’t worth much anymore since Alex, who isn’t even an official government employee, can contact someone in the program just to satisfy her own need of closure.

    • ROCIC connections let her find out where they were sent and under what names.

      • That’s a problem in itself. People who think nothing of abusing their access should not be given access to sensitive data.

        I must say my opinion of Alex has been sliding downhill lately. It seems like power and privilege have gone to her head and she feels entitled to ignore other people’s rights whenever she doesn’t agree with what they’re doing. As seen here and during the dragon incident evacuation.

        • She’s always had the ‘I will do this for your own good’ thing going on, all the way back to Vol 1.

          It’s just that she has focus now.

          But have patience. I’m not unaware of this. That and her growing genre awareness. 😉

  2. Okay, the Errolking is cool. Reminds me a little of The Great Owl from The Secret of NIMH, one of the coolest characters of all time.

    I kinda want to see more of him, but I do worry that overexposure could ruin him, like w/ Hannibal Lector, Darth Vader, or way too many DC and Marvel characters.

  3. Typo time

    SLowly, she started
    Slowly,

    she could breath
    breathe

    or escaped later
    or who escaped later (granted, that’s ordinary speech and it might ignore the correct phrasing)

    rode n the hunt
    rode in

    it brough the
    brought

    held up is free
    his free

    The only openings
    The only other openings (you’d just noted that the visor did, in fact, have slits in the previous sentence.)

  4. Typos, nothing but typos.

    ROCIC loner.
    loaner.

    keep my common hand.”
    comm on hand.” (or maybe in hand, to hand, or something similar)

    had been clocked off,
    blocked

    the loud grew thicker
    cloud

    the lake’s edged
    edge

    several ears of her life
    years

    Tome fearie containment
    faerie

    but flying using her
    remove ‘but’

  5. & on the non-typo front, I liked the first part where we saw Alexis interacting with people better than the last part where we were told about her thoughts.

    • This was the one I wrote while I was sick. It’s even significantly shorter than my usual stuff. I might rewrite it entirely for the book.

  6. Well, that cloud summoning certainly got the Monkey theme tune stuck in my head.
    Also, sorry to nitpick, but is ‘Miss Sarah’ a Discworld reference, like Laurel’s other nicknames? Was it maybe intended to be ‘Miss Susan’?
    It is fun seeing Laurel playing Q (and getting a sense of all the stuff she’s working on), anyway, and I’m interested to see where this goes.

    • Miss Sarah is the operator from the Andy Griffith show. I forgot that ALL of the others were Discworld. Should change that to Miss Dearheart, since she’s the one that runs the clacks.

  7. So I’m guessing this would be one of them Japanese-style fox spirits then.

    I wish you ‘murricans would drop those silly Fahrenheits already. They’re confusing. First we have 30 degrees, okay that’s way too hot… No wait it’s fahrenheit. But then it makes no sense that her reaction is so mild, that’s below freezing.

    • Hmmh no wait actually makes sense completely, because she’s delirious due to hypothermia. Nevermind.

  8. Sigh. So Japanese is a fairy language, then.

    • Wait. What?

      If you’re talking about the fact that the name is the same, no. The Book gives the names humans have given the faeries and translations do the same because they’re mostly human created even if we see faeries using them (Hyrilius created the translation spells and might be the inspiration for the Tower of Babel story)

      • Well the creature’s name is ‘fox’ in Japanese, and uses magic words also in Japanese, it leads to thinking that’s their native language. Right?

        • It’s all translation convention, dude. I hate it when stories try to rename an existing folkloric creature and kind of want people to be able to look up these critters and learn more about the stories behind them. The activation phrase is for Alexis’s benefit. It doesn’t make Japanese any more a Faerie language then Maeve’s castle being French, Argmigal communicating in cuneiform, and Amarocca naming her Knights in Latin…in Mesopotamia.

          • I guess that sort of makes sense. Except for the part about folkloric creatures since it’s not a separate creatures at all, the Japanese just have weird beliefs about foxes. Which kind of makes everything weird once you start thinking what you’d call this special fairytale creature if you translated the story into Japanese? Clearly not ‘kitsune’ since it’s not a fox, right?
            So yeah okay I’m being unreasonably neurotic here, but the whole concept of using a foreign word for a thing means you’re talking about a special magic version of the thing just bothers me. It doesn’t help that people here are doing it with foodstuffs to make them sound fancier, such as calling a verkkomeloni a ‘cantaloupe’ or a kesäkurpitsa a ‘zucchini’.

            Nevermind. I’m just being a difficult person who can’t deal with linguistic reappropriation.

          • I did do my due diligence and while there does seem to be a difference between regular foxes and the magic ones (same with tanuki), there’s no special word. Even weirder is that there’s even a set of super-special kitsune who serve Inari that are… still just kitsune. I almost used the name for the Korean version of the foxwife but they don’t get illusion magic. I’m just going to say they’re all based on the same critter in the DU.

            Also a mindscrew: Inari coudl very well be one of the returned gods and she would probably generate her own set of kitsune because all the returned gods are running on belief and can just do that.

  9. Typos (better late than never)

    try and fancy
    any fancy

    Even with as lethargic she felt,
    the lethargy

    strong, but flawed.”
    Lose the closing quote, she’s still talking in the next sentence.

    the think Alexis
    thing

    was holding several
    were holding

    rocks and dirty
    dirt

    frost and ice spread
    ice which spread

    The could alter
    They

    instant messanging:
    messaging:

  10. So Dana becomes a magical girl, standard animal guide included. Will there also be a naked transformation scene? We will have to wait and see… Well no actually we won’t see since it’s a text medium. But you know what I mean.

    “…they only saw and heard what he wanted him to see.”
    What he wanted THEM to see.

  11. I’m trying to remember Dana and failing. Which arc did she come up in?

    Whoever she is, a guide who’s fine with scavenging rubbish bags for scraps should make for an interesting journey.

    Typos

    in WitSec fr
    in WitSec for (I’m assuming that WitSec is an intentional contraction)

    test and detraction?”
    test and distraction?” (I think)

    not gonna clena
    not gonna clean

    It’s eyes,
    Its eyes, (not a contraction of “It is” so no apostrophe)

    • Dana was in the Descendants Prime teaser and at the end of the arc with Armigal.

      • Actually she isn’t mentioned in the Descendants Prime post, I just checked. Or at least she’s not mentioned by name.

        • A bit of googling found a single mention of Dana Rice-Kelly in ‘Special #7 and nowhere else until #86 chapter 2. The other mentions of Dana are all of another person, Dana Vargas. So she’s a new character & I’m not getting Alzheimers’ just yet.

  12. I was a bit confused starting this chapter until I realized the link took me straight from 2 to 4, skipping chapter 3. At least there’s a very light bit of recapping so I’m not totally confused 🙂

  13. The series navigation link directly after the post. Also, the table of content in the upper right corner as well as the archives (http://www.descendantsserial.paradoxomni.net/series/current/) skip chapter 3.

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