- 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 5)
She’d switched to her street clothes before totally breaking down. Laurel had to give Alexis that much credit. The rest of the scene just made her want to cry.
There was her best friend, sitting hunched under the shade of a willow tree, staring listlessly out over the drainage pond.
“Oh, Lexy…” she murmured as she approached. It had been a miracle that no one had noticed some of the battle. The kitsune had been using nothing but illusions, but Alexis had cut the tops out of at least a dozen trees. Some state workers would be deeply confused the next time they sent a drone out to overfly the pond.
Alexis glanced up and the slightest hint of a smile touched her lips. “I knew you’d come.” she said quietly.
“Headed right for the jet the second you didn’t answer. Kicked it up to full speed when you started acting as if you couldn’t hear me.” Laurel sat down beside her, painfully aware of how she’d just gone through this moment in England. “I heard the whole thing too. Everything she said to you.”
“You care about me too much to admit how much of that tough love you agree with?” Alexis guessed.
She started to deny it, but then Laurel decided her friend needed to hear it. “I was going to let you stay on this path of atonement thing a few more months because I thought it would help you if you took an active role in things then realized on your own that you don’t need it.”
Her friend looked at her with a shocked expression. “Don’t need it? Laurel, I let this happen… keep happening at least. I taught at the Academy, I gave them detailed reports from the results of my classes. I was too scared to save Dana… and too much of a self-centered bitch to even look into things when Melissa disappeared.”
Leaning back against the tree, Laurel looked up at the sky. It was overcast with small patches of blue sky breaking through. “I chose not to look to deeply into Melissa ‘leaving’ too. And I’m the one who couldn’t find any other Tome facilities once we knew what was going on. Do you think I need to beat myself up over it too? Or over Tamara Daye giving both us and Tome the slip the other week?
“Or for how I can’t find Morganna or Warpstar, or even Simon Talbot? I’m supposed to be the genius, right? I’m the one that has thirty million dollars in computing equipment and data-sifting tech that makes the NSA jealous and I’ve been missing far more often than I’ve been hitting, right? You’re not the sole leader of the team, yes? I’m part of it in there somewhere, right?”
Alexis scrubbed a hand through her hair. “I know I shouldn’t react like this. And looking back, I know how stupid I was being—the fox told me as much. Dana’s in WitSec fr god’s sake! And there’s no reason I couldn’t have just asked Masters or General Pratt to make the pitch for the Institute for me. I just… I just…”
“Care.” Laurel said quietly. “You care about these kids. You care especially about Dana because she was special for a number of reasons. I was personal for you, and because it was personal for you, it was personal for me, and that’s why I didn’t even think to stop you.”
That answered the next question alexis would have asked, so they lapsed into silence for a long while until Alexis came up with another. “L, you’re the most compassionate person I know. Way more than I am. How do you keep from screwing up the way I keep doing? Is… it a hypercog thing?”
Laurel shook her head and failed to hide a little smile. “It’s not something you have to be a genius to get. You just have to… happen across it. Alex, your problem is, you hate to lose. You take it personally, and really, that just means you’re so wrapped up in what you didn’t do, you miss all the wins.”
A raised eyebrow told Laurel she was right and would have to provide examples.
“Okay, so it’s a loss that we haven’t caught Morganna. But at the same time, she has never succeeded in any of her plans. We foiled her attempts to depower all descendants, we beat Inexorable, sent the Knights packing, and you personally destroyed her tower and kept her from claiming her old body. She might be free, but any one of those could have cost countless lives.”
She shifted so she was sitting up. “And as for Dana, if you had tried to save her on your own that day, you might have saved her then, but Tome would have realized you were planning on freeing all the kids and put a higher priority on evacuating the stasis cells instead of keeping tabs on where you went. If that ws the case, we might not have gotten the kids out. But because we did, we ended up doing far more good in this world than we would have otherwise.”
Her smile grew as she bumped Alexis with her shoulder. “Cynicism will just leave you mired in the what ifs and supposed failures instead of the things that are, the good and the bad.”
Alexis heaved a sigh. “I guess you’re right, but how am I supposed to change that?”
“I’ll help you.” Laurel said. “For now, let me handle recruitment for the Institute. You have more important things to think about… a certain wedding coming up in a few months perhaps? You’ve got a lot of planning you’ve been putting off, you know.”
“Masters thinks I’m putting it off because I’m afraid of commitment.” Alexis said, a bit of her old spirit returning to her voice. “I’m really putting it off because I really don’t look forward to the minutia of picking napkin rings and bridesmaids dresses and all the other things I’m supposed to become obsessive about.”
Laurel laughed lightly. “It doesn’t have to be that way—as much as the kids get too much information from pop culture, you’re pretty bad yourself sometimes.”
They both shared a laugh, then grew quiet. With the immediate crisis averted (or at least delayed), there was an elephant in the room they both knew needed to be addressed but didn’t know how to broach.
Eventually, Alexis spoke. “So. You heard everything, right?” Laurel nodded. “The kitsune said she was serving a lord. From the sound of it, someone who doesn’t like Maeve any more than Armigal or the Fallen Angel did. And like both of them, they’re perfectly fine with collateral damage in their war with her.”
She reached up and massaged her shoulder with one hand. “She put… something in my eye. She said it was a ‘reward’, but then… Faerie. I don’t know much about European—or Japanese I guess—folklore, but I do know that’s not usually a good thing.”
“I’ll check out the Books.” Laurel promised, “But in the meantime, I wouldn’t use that command phrase if I were you. Who knows what their idea of a prize is, or even if something that would be beneficial for a Faerie would be good for a human.”
Alexis nodded. She’d already come to that conclusion, but it was good to have Laurel backing her up on it. “It would be stupid of me, after all this, to say this was another piece of unfinished business, wouldn’t it?”
“Pretty much. But it is another mystery. Maybe even another win should we need another ally against Maeve.”
“Kindeer.” The Errolking said as the kitsune entered the hall. None of the others there looked up: they only saw and heard what he wanted him to see. Mortal enemies sat side-by-side drinking together and never noticed if the Errolking wished for peace in his hall.
The kitsune, Kindeer, once more cloaked and wearing the grinning fox mask, went to stand to her lord’s left hand. “Was it satisfactory, my lord?”
Green haze misted out of the vents in the Errolking’s face plate. “You allowed her to pass.” There was no accusation there, no recrimination. He merely said what was.
“She is not alone. By herself, she is flawed, insecure. That makes her weak. But what is inside her and those who stand around her: those make her mighty. If she can outsmart me, however temporarily, Maeve will never be able to adjust. She and those around her are exactly what we need.”
There was silence that stretched on long past the point that Kindeer could take any comfort in it, before the Errolking nodded, the plates of his armor scraping together. “There is a reason why these duties fall to you, Good Kindeer. You do not think merely in terms of what I ask, but what I want.”
Once more, the plates scraped and Kindeer found herself staring into the eye slits of her lord’s visor. She averted her eyes before they made contact with his. More powerful faeries than her had gone mad doing that.
“However. A center is still required. There must be one who leads the battle when the time comes and the veil between the worlds falls.”
Still not looking back at him, Kindeer asked, “But you have already taken care of that, have you not, my lord? Was I not both test and detraction?”
“Deterrent.” said the Errolking and spared her the temptation to meet his gaze by facing forward once more. Green haze billowed from his face plate. “And yes. If no one close to the Chosen of Reason comes in contact with the one I sent, the Book will find no reason to give any clues to his existence. Grooming the new general will fall to him now.”
Dana ‘Parrish’ (as was her WitSec name) idly scratched at the place where her right shoulder met her neck. Like all the places Tome installed implants to make her into a controllable power source, they itched like crazy. She had a surgery scheduled in a few weeks to remove another round of implants, but that wasn’t making her feel better in the interim as she sat on the back porch and tried to play Sandwich Blasters on her tablet.
She could feel the wig of pin-straight black hair slipping, but she didn’t care enough to straighten it. Her hair wasn’t growing back and no one could tell her why. If it wasn’t for the still-visible ports and their FBI (at least she thought he was FBI) liaison insisting she wans’t allowed to draw attention to herself, she woud have just gone around bald.
Yeah, she was getting pretty tired of the whole thing: the doctor’s visits, the lying about who she was, the prohibition on using her powers, and the constant phantom pains. Not to mention being almost three years out of date on everything.
A loud crash from out by the garage distracted her from her third round of making plans to run away.
Sincerely hoping it was burglars so the day might be interesting, Dana jumped to her feet and ran around the side of the house to investigate.
As it turned out, the culprit was a gigantic gray tomcat who was, at the moment, tearing open a bag from the garbage cans he’d knocked over with his claws.
“Oh no you don’t kitty.” The trash cans tipped back upward violently, sending the tom leaping back to avoid them and cringing as the lids slammed shut. “I’m not gonna clena it up, so you’re going to have to find food elsewhere, okay?”
The tom regarded her carefully, his muscles tensed as if prepared for a fight. And Dana guessed that he could put up a good one—he was the biggest cat she’d ever seen.
But after some lengthy deliberation, the cat relaxed and sat up in a regal pose of an animal who had just been scrounging for scraps. It’s eyes, like a pair of carved emeralds, met her own.
Hello, Hero. A voice, deep, smooth and resonant echoed inside Dana’s head and she almost jumped back. Instead, she threw out her hands and the lids flew off the trash cans and interposed themselves between herself and the feline.
“W-what the hell?”
There’s nothing to be afraid of, Hero. You have been Chosen. And I, Gabraed of Greymalkins, am your humble guide upon your journey. You power is great, but with my instruction, you will be a force of nature strong enough to cleave through the longest Winter.
End Issue #86