Issue #92 – Homage

This entry is part 9 of 12 in the series The Descendants Vol 8: The Weaver's Web

Homage (Part 1)

In most other cities, with the possibility of New York or Mayfield being exceptions, the sight of him would have drawn a lot of stares. Just under seven feet tall, he was chalk white and bald with black tattoos on his face that seemed to outline his skull, there was a lot to stare at as he lounged on a street corner, smoking a cigarette, thumbing at his palmtop.

In LA, people just scoffed and made snide remarks about him blowing smoke in their air or standing slightly in their way.

He didn’t pay them any attention. While he pretended to look at picture on his palmtop, his real focus was elsewhere: first on a storefront down the street from him, then on a couple who appeared to have similar interests.

The woman of the pair was blonde with her hair in a long, thick braid and a robust build that suggested Northern European or Russian descent. She wore a cherry-red blouse with a flowing black skirt that reached to her calves and black ballet flats. Her male companion was tall, tanned and buff with dark brown hair cut square and blocky. He worse a faded green muscle shirt, black jeans, and sunglasses.

They were talking to one another, but the woman’s eyes strayed to the storefront on a regular basis.

As he watched them, another couple—another man and a woman—came up the street. Even without actually seeing them looking toward the storefront, it was clear there was something odd about them.

The guy wasn’t especially tall, but he had a bulky build that he was covering with baggy jeans that came down to cover even his shoes, and a huge, gray UCLA hoodie. He had dark skin, but his features were obscured by the hood, sunglasses and about an inch worth of beard.

His companion was a tall, lithe woman in light blue sweat pants, a SB and the Fountain of Soul t-shirt and a leather jacket. Her black hair hung straight down under a canvas bucket hat that she wore with red-tinted sunglasses. It was her that caught his attention because she moved with such prefect, feline grace that there was no way she was a normal human.

Or human at all.

The new pair met up with the one he’d been watching. The big guy went into the cafe they’d been standing out front of and bought coffee and scones, which they had while sitting on the seats outside. Both women seemed to be the only ones keeping watch on the suspect storefront.

Which was interesting.

He dropped his cigarette and stomped it with a huge, heavy biker boot, grinding it out. With his now-free hand, he reached into a pocket, rifling through several plastic sandwich bags until he found one containing a square swatch of rabbit fur.

Rubbing a circle in it with his thumb, he squinted at the quartet. The image of the original couple blurred in his vision; the guy replaced by a skinny, college-aged white boy and a Hispanic woman of the same age with dark hair.

He recognized the later. “Oh damn, that’s the bassist for Snackrifice.” he muttered. Context and from there a very good guess as to who the other two were made a few connections come together they made him purse his lips. He’d just blow someone’s secret identity.

“Damn, this is gonna get awkward.” A glance toward the storefront reminded him why he and presumably they were there in the first place. So he pocketed his palmtop, went to the cafe, and bought a ham and cheese croissant along with a gourmet lemonade.

Thus armed, he came out and made hi way over to the table the others were sitting at, allowing his shadow to fall over them as a warning. Predictably, their discussion stopped and all eyes turned his way.

He flashed them a big grin. “Sorry to interrupt, folks, but I can’t help but think I can be of assistance.” Before they could try and argue, he nodded subtly in the direction of the shop they were all fixated on. “With that.”

The blonde held up a hand to the others and took the lead in questioning him. “What do you mean by ‘that’?”

Not bothering to ask permission, the pale stranger grabbed a chair from another table and dragged it over to sit in. “The pawnshop between 235 West Monroe and 237 West Monroe? The one that isn’t on any mapping program? The one that I’m guessing these guys,” he pointed at the two men at the table, “can’t even tell you is there unless you specifically point it out.”

“Okay,” said the guy in the muscle shirt, “Who the hell is this guy?” He looked at the second pair, “Is he in your rogue’s gallery? Some kind of faerie… guy?”

“What is a ‘rogue’s gallery’?” The black-haired woman asked. Up close, it was evident that she’d used way too much foundation and… no other make-up at all.

With a laugh, the pale man ran a hand over his bald pate. “Yeah, well none of us have met officially, but Codex, Facsimile and Zero met me a while ago in Chi-town. The thing with the griffin?”

“You don’t look like one of the Outliers,” Muscle shirt guy was giving him a suspicious look. “And I kind of doubt The Shade would come out to LA to hang out.”

The pale man rolled his eyes. “It’s Umbrage now. And you’re missing one.”

“You’re a little giant, male and albino for Shade’s apprentice.”

“And you’re not tanned and ripped, nerd boy.”

The blonde studied him more closely. “A glamor. I’ve never done an opposite sex one before. Yours is really well done too.”

“Well the boss is a master of illusion.” Shade’s Apprentice shrugged and took a sip of lemonade. There was mint in it. He—actually she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

The big guy, who hadn’t spoken yet, asked. “Dude, you’re really Shade’s Apprentice? That’s awesome. But… why’re you… y’know… here. Chicago’s a long way off.”

“Vacation,” said Shade’s Apprentice, “I’m in town for the Music Festival, but then I got a bad case of the willies centered on this place.”

The black-haired woman looked to the big guy. As if this was something they’d worked down to a routine, he immediately explained, “’Willies’ is like a skin-crawl-y kinda feeling. Um…” He realized that wasn’t helping her. “Like the feeling you’d get right as some big, horrible thing is getting ready to jump out and eat you.”

That got her to nod. “Yes, that is the sensation I felt too. Something is wrong here.”

“Well yeah, it’s a Little Shop The Wasn’t There Yesterday; nothing good comes of those.” that came from muscle shirt guy through a mouthful of scone.

“That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes they give the hero what they need,” said the big guy.

Shade’s Apprentice shook her head. “No he… hold on, can I get an introduction? I’m thinking of you as ‘big dude’, ‘black hair’, ‘blonde’ and ‘muscle shirt’ right now.”

“Oh.” said the blonde, looking around to make sure no one was listening in. “I’m Occult—which you probably guessed. These are Teen Machine and Lady D of Descendants: LA, and… an observer.”

The Observer.” said muscle shirt guy, waving his hands as if that was going to make it look more dramatic.

Occult tried to look annoyed, but was still clearly amused, “Seriously?”

“I like it.” Teen Machine gave him the double thumbs up.

“The Observer’s fine with me,” said Shade’s Apprentice, “The Observer is right: eldritch locations like these, they are almost always bad news. The really bad part? They’ve been showing up regularly throughout all of human history unlike the crossovers that stopped sometime in the 1200s and only recently started again.

“Sometimes they distribute dangerous magical devices, sometimes they drop off creatures—and not always from Faerie, and sometimes they stick around to form cults. Worse case though is when they’re here to eat.”

Teen Machine almost choked on his coffee. “Excuse me? Did you just say eat?”

“Believe me, I wish I didn’t. But there are records. One even got documented by a blog about seventy years ago. You might want to check it out before we stick our noses in this one: dionaea-house.com.”

The Observer looked across the street, tried searching for the place and failed. “So that place… could eat us if we go in?

“Not necessarily, but I wanted to make sure you guys knew the dangers. ‘creepy house’ and ‘mystery store’ are template favored by some of the scarier magical beasties.”

Teen Machine made a face that wasn’t helped by the fake beard. “That still means we should deal with it sooner than later. Lady D’s been sensing the thing since Thursday, but I convinced her to wait for backup given we have company on the way.”

Shade’s Apprentice took a bite of her croissant and chewed thoughtfully before speaking. “You’re right. We can’t wait around: who knows what the thing is doing here—maybe getting stronger of of the energy of passersby or something. I’d put your full teams on high alert in case we disappear—or come back wrong.”

“Already done,” said Teen Machine. “We don’t check in every ten minutes and the Calvary comes running.”

Occult nodded, “And Alloy’s insisted for years that we all have passwords in the event of alternate reality duplicates, evil clones or doppelgangers. After we discovered an actual alternate universe, we followed through on it.”

“Then there’s no reason to delay. Let’s shut this thing down.”

They all stood up and started throwing the garbage of their meal away. Occult stopped and gave The Observer a look.

“What?”

“Are… you really planning on coming wit us?” she asked, “You did hear what she said about places like this.”

He hesitated, but then nodded, patting a place on his belt that the glamor rendered invisible. “Hey, I said I wanted to come along, and… well I’m not helpless. Alloy set me up with some of his James Bond toys that Renaissance made him. Plus I’ve got an air gun that shoots that slippery cow birth gunk. I’m good.”

“Just stay close to me.” Occult took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “And if you have to: run.”

He gave her a smile and nodded. “Hey, I know better than to try and wear the hero pants here.”

With that dealt with, they didn’t try to hide it anymore: the five of them trooped across the street with the light and headed right for the store in question.

It took the form of a pawn shop. Not any special pawn shop either. It just had the words ‘Pawn Shop’ on the sign and assorted junk in the window. Shade’s Apprentice took note of a space there, next to some speakers. It might have been sloppy window dressing. Or it might have been that something had been sold. The idea of that made her shiver.

Teen Machine tried to take point, but Lady D had to lead him to the door because he kept losing sight of it. As it turned out, they both pushed the door open and stepped inside.

The place looked like a typical pawn shop too: lots of barely-organized glass cases, musical instruments—mostly guitars and basses—hanging on the walls, power tools, dirt bikes and an ATV lending a strong scent of oil to the air. At the back, a caged bird with black feathers started screaming.

Someone had set a high backed leather office chair up in the middle of the floor.

As weird as that was, none of that seemed all that important for one very big reason: Instead of the blonde and the buff dude in the muscle shirt, Occult and a scrawny guy Shade’s Apprentice recognized as Snackrifice’s drummer stood beside her.

Then she looked down and instead of a pale albino, she found.. herself: a twenty-five year old woman with light (but not white skin), and long, black hair, wearing a tight, black blouse with red metal buttons shaped like dragonflies, a black pleated skirt that came to her knees and knee-high black boots. She was the quintessential Goth if you discounted the black fanny pack with the Super Magical Soldier Girl Armui logo on it.

“Craaaap.” She couldn’t stop herself from saying it as what had happened sank in. Wherever they were, illusion didn’t work. Which mean other magic might not work.

“Crap indeed.” the voice that came from the other side of the chair was as grating as it was full of itself. As they spoke, the chair turned slowly and dramatically without any indication of being pushed by the occupant.

“You see my dear heroes I—” He managed to turn all the way around before getting sidetracked. Lanky and probably tall if he had been standing, the speaker was blonde and middle-aged with his hair styled in such a way that it looked like his head had wings. Some people might have called his toucan’s beak of a nose ‘Roman’, but no one was going to call his neck—which looked like something that would be drawn on a cartoon vulture ‘swan-like’.

“–honestly, what is this?” He demanded, gesturing to Teen Machine and Lady D. “You came to a magical event wearing what? Make-up and a fake beard? I’m ashamed. I am ashamed for you. It’s slip-shod is what it is!”

Teen Machine took the opportunity to convert his arm into a weapon and aimed the barrel at the strange man. “I also bought a grenade launcher, so if you’d get to the point, I’d totally appreciate it.”

The man glared at him. “Oh please. Whatever. I’m more than happy to explain: I am Hermes. Yes, the Hermes. Messenger of the gods, the original speedster, and of course one of the better tricksters among gods who like that sort of thing.

“I am here to have some fun. Oh sure, originally I was just attracted to the music. That’s technically Apollo’s thing, but he’d be nothing without me. The bastard Pete Best’d me.” He seemed to notice he was getting off track and cut himself off, “But anyway, then I noticed there were superheroes everywhere. Two full teams and a sidekick.”

“Partner.” Shade’s Apprentice insisted.

“Apprentice is right in your name, don’t even pretend.” scoff Hermes.

“As I was saying: I noticed so many of you were here and nothing was being done with you. Okay, an assassination plot, but that was barely a cameo for Descendants LA. Plus, let’s face it, nothing—absolutely nothing happened for the nine-year anniversary!”

The Observer—or rather JC, drummer for Snackrifice– leaned over to Occult. “Nine year anniversary? Did something happen in 2066 I didn’t hear about?”

“Not your…. arg! Stupid three-dimensional thought processes. You wouldn’t understand!” Hermes raged. “So I’m going to show you. You and all your friends!”

The world exploded into light and color…

…And crackling dots of energy.

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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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20 Comments

  1. Hermes is a villain who’s going to show them, show them all?

    Typos

    his skull, there
    his skull. There (not absolutely necessary but I think there should be a sentence break there.)

    He worse a faded
    He wore a faded

    such prefect, feline
    such perfect, feline

    He’d just blow
    He’d just blown

    made hi way
    made his way

    given we have company on the way.”
    given we had company on the way.” (I think the company referred to is the Descendants, who are in town? Hence past tense.)

    Little Shop The Wasn’t
    Little Shop That Wasn’t

    Worse case though
    Worst case though

    Calvary comes running.”
    cavalry comes running.”

    coming wit us?”
    coming with us?”

    “I also bought
    “I also brought

    scoff Hermes.
    scoffed Hermes.

  2. I am in full and complete support of Hermes’ blatent disregard for the 4th wall.

    Can it be next monday already? 😛

  3. JC said “bigger, brighter, better. ”
    Hermes is a God – bigger than other opponents
    He made it glow – brighter
    This adventure will be – better

    JC is a prophet!

  4. “We don’t check in every ten minutes and the Calvary comes running.”
    Cavalry. Calvary a.k.a. Golgotha is the biblical hill outside Jerusalem where they crucified some people.

    • …d’oh! I honestly did check AVR’s comment and thought they’d missed that one. I’m just blind.

  5. “…and were as this around as the thigh.”
    Thick.

    “…their normal looked were so alien or heavily made up in the first place.”
    Looks.

    “She was only wearing the underlying bodysuit on her bottom half and as it turned out,t he body suit was a leotard.”
    Does not compute. By definition a leotard comes up to the shoulders.

    “Rings planets…”
    Ringed.

    “…quarts,..”
    Quartz.

    “…fractile…”
    This isn’t a word, not sure what was intended though.

    Bonus points for the Etrigan homage, even if it’s only the short form.

    • Re: the leotard: she’s got the leotard on her whole body, but the leotard is the ONLY thing she’s got on on the bottom half.

      re: Etrigan: I wanted to do the whole thing, but I spent way too much time trying to do a Brand X variant of it.

  6. Typos

    he top as completely
    her top was completely

    The scale male
    The scale mail

    out,t he
    out, the

    think tale
    thick tail

    A beam of indescribable energy,
    … and then you describe it. Maybe it’s just weird energy or something similar?

    midnight blue outlines
    midnight blue outlined

    fractile edge
    fractal edge (not totally certain here)

    & I’m pretty sure that that much stuff in the sky would produce enough scattered light to drown out the stars if this were any place real. If it’s just an illusory backdrop, no problem.

    • Oh yeah, and technically ‘scale mail’ is an oxymoron. Mail means specifically the stuff made out of rings of metal. D&D got it wrong. ‘Scale armor’ is less inaccurate.

    • Fractal is right.

      And yeah, it’s a reality-warped zone copying the sky from a Kirby comic.

  7. I find Hermes an annoying, yet amusing character. Well done.

  8. Hmm… A clamp and a taser seem rather tame for a weapon called a ‘mantis claw’, considering how the thing, well, the other thing mantises are known for is being little insect murder machines with huge sword-like claws for skewering prey.

    Well done with the tone. I couldn’t help having the early part play in my head in a stereotypical overdramatic radio drama voice.

  9. Being a massive Green Hornet fan, this is amazing. Excellent use of DU characters, too.

  10. Typos

    On the intro on the front page – This time the subject have
    either:
    This time the subject has
    or:
    This time the subjects have

    Jade Mantas,
    Jade Mantis,

    idly contemplating taking a late lunch.
    Possibly an early lunch?

    Christina had no been
    Christina had not been

    senior police reports,
    senior police reporter,

    hot on his heals.
    hot on his heels.

    moving smuggled good
    moving smuggled goods

    weirdly-style hair,
    weirdly-styled hair,

    armored personnel character
    armored personnel carrier

    Outside,t he
    Outside, the

    tot he ground
    to the ground

    into the frey.
    into the fray.

    ground zero of the flash-bang rocket.
    OK, this is a common misuse which may even be intentional. Ground zero doesn’t mean where the explosion occurs; it means the area where there is no chance of surviving the explosion without hard protection like a bunker. Zero = chance of survival, you see.

    marked to defeat
    marked the defeat

    magic.”A pulse
    magic.” A pulse

  11. I don’t know the genre. Is it normal that four of the team would use the Latin names for their power sources while the leader uses the colloquial name? A glance at wikipedia suggests Phorusracid or Phorusracos.

    Typos & the like.

    shoulder,s he
    shoulder, she

    hols a shinai,
    hold a shinai,

    get me into kendo.
    get me into kendo.”

    “You guys any your
    “You guys and your

    concealed button answer it.
    concealed button to answer it.

    Any may your superpowers
    And may your superpowers

    also known as coyote.
    also known as Coyote.

    shower of fish an ice
    shower of fish and ice

    armor made from DVD and CD cases.
    Armor??? That stuff makes eggshells seem solid.

    Surrounding it was humanoid creatures
    Surrounding it were humanoid creatures

    • Latin names: In the original show, they used the Stock Dinosaurs/Prehistoric Mammmals, so there wasn’t an issue; a Triceratops is a Triceratops, though Trini had the Sabretooth Tiger instead of the Smilodon. Come DinoThunder, they do use a mix and then mash it up with ‘zord’, so you have the Pachecephalozord et al. I really just used ‘Terror Bird’ because it sounds like Kimberly’s pteradactyl call from the original.

      CD armor: Power rangers monsters aren’t meant to make sense.

  12. Typos

    she was few fast
    Either just:
    she was fast
    Or:
    she was very fast

    stare at use
    stare at us

    not clearly robotic
    now clearly robotic

    That doesn’t seem like enough. I’ll take another look later to see what I’m missing.

    • to rolls to her
      to roll to her

      With his attacked
      With his attackers

      hat the evoked
      hat that evoked

      field release one
      field released one

      Its made a
      It made a

  13. Typos

    made slopped from
    made sloppy from

    cycle of hr
    cycle of her

    He looked around at the assembled and smiled.
    either:
    He looked around at the assembled heroes and smiled.
    or:
    He looked around at the assembly and smiled.

    a thrown carved
    a throne carved

    An inner glow filtered from the creature’s—known as Mab-Her-Voice—core,
    Not actually wrong, but awkwardly phrased.

    not possible with enough
    now possible with enough

    • A couple more:

      “I span new reality
      might be OK, might be:
      “I spun new reality

      her friends in allies
      her friends and allies

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