- 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)
The Knight, The Witch, and the Gadgeteer (Part 2)
That evening, Lisa met Warrick and Tink at the train station with three tickets to Boston. They would have to rent a car from there and stay overnight in a hotel to reach Wayne Micheal’s home in time for the party.
“So we’re really doing this?” Tink shifted her tablet bag from one shoulder to another as Lisa handed her her ticket, “Just heading off without telling the rest of the team? It doesn’t really feel right.” More accurately, it felt treacherous and risky. Laurel in particular had done a great deal for her from helping her cope with her nanite infection to being a mentor to the budding gadgeteer.
Risky came from the simple fact that there would be no back-up standing by if things went south. And with Morganna involved, going south seemed to be a generous probability.
“Don’t worry,” said Lisa, “this is a pure reconnaissance mission and we can easily call for help if something happens.”
Warrick put his hand on her shoulder. “And once we come back with useful information, the others will understand why we had to do this. I mean, I get why Miss Brant didn’t agree, but it isn’t like we’re making a run at Morganna herself, just one of her Knights.”
Giving a nod, Tink shrugged. “You guys don’t have to convince me: I already said I was going. I… just thought I should voice my misgivings just in case.”
“Misgivings like how Cyn has been left out of like everything lately and it would have been nice if someone call and at least invited her on their little black op?” A middle-aged white woman with stringy blonde hair and a long, narrow nose had walked up on them while they talked and was pinning Warrick in particular with a fierce glare.
The heroic blacksmith cringed. “Cyn?”
“Could this literally be anyone else?”
“We know other shapeshifters and illusionists,” Tink deadpanned.
Cyn stuck her tongue out at her. “Yeah, I’m so sure that Japanese guy… or girl—wait, did we ever figure which they were? You know, the one that was working for Tome?”
The other three shrugged, giving Warrick time to recover from the glare. “Cyn, why’re you here? Actually: how did you know we would be here?”
The shapeshifter folded her arms and sniffed. “Because I went by your dorm and it was cleared out. But Tammy’s still in school until the start of June and you already told me you weren’t going back to New York without her. So you should have been moving into Freeland House today, but you were gone.
“So I called mom to see if maybe you asked her to book a hotel or something so you and copper-top could spend some ‘time’,” at that point she made finger quotes, “together before you went home and she said she hadn’t heard anything… since she told you she wasn’t going to approve your mission.”
Tink had been following along so far, but at this point raised her hand. “I get how you figured out we left for the mission, but how’d you guess the train station?”
“Well my first guess was the distinct lack of a missing jet. And there’s no way you were going to road trip this. So duh.”
“Question withdrawn,” said Tink, “Good detective work.”
Cyn drew herself up with a prideful expression. “I do try.” Then she shook her head and scowled at the redhead. “Hey! Don’t distract me. I missed out on a reality-warper giving everyone upgrades, so I’ll be damned if I get left out this time. I want in, or I tell Mom what you did.”
After an awkward moment in which everyone involved suddenly felt as if they were ten years younger, Warrick made an expansive gesture while half chuckling. “Do you really think you need to blackmail us to get invited to go with us?”
“It couldn’t hurt.” Cyn’s forehead creased unhappily. “But you still didn’t call me. What the hell’s up with that?”
Warrick’s shoulders slumped. “I’m real sorry Cyn. If it makes you feel better, originally it was just going to be me and Tink. Lisa found out today and kinda pointed out that we were going in without any magic against one of Morganna’s flunkies.”
“And going on a stealth mission without a shapeshifter. I’ve been taking acting classes, I’ll have you know.”
“Aren’t they mostly completely unnecessary yoga classes?” asked Tink.
“To my eternal confusion… yes.” Cyn folded her arms. “But I’ve also been watching videos about real acting classes online and I’m way better these days. Am I in or not.”
“You’re in,” said Warrick, “But your acting classes start now: we only have three tickets.”
“Not a problem.” Cyn rubbed her hands together dramatically. “Watch and learn…”
An hour later, the train bound for Boston pulled out of the station, and in the luggage car, a suitcase upholstered with gold-colored fabric wiggled itself out of a stack of other suitcases and slowly expanded into the shape of a dark-skinned woman of apparently Indian origin wearing a long, yellow sun dress. After checking to make sure no one was watching the door to the baggage compartment, she slipped out, coughed up a slip of paper with a car and private compartment number, and made her way there.
Tink slid the door open at her knock and was greeted with a toothy grin. “Told you I could get aboard with no problem.”
The redhead smirked playfully at her. “Playing the part of luggage is not acting.”
“Results are more important!” Cyn argued, slipping into the compartment past Tink. Plopping down next to Lisa, she let out a disgruntled groan. “How was I supposed to know they don’t have train marshals like they have sky marshals?”
Warrick gave her a sympathetic look. “Well… research is part of acting, Cyn. I mean yeah, for all the part I’ve ever taken, they’re famous plays and the research is just looking up other good performances, but if you’re going to fake things like cops, you need to know everything there is to know about cops—or at least what people expect.”
Cyn slumped in her seat with an annoyed grunt. In the same moment, she shifted back to her normal white-haired form and pulled a nutrition bar out of her forearm. “I like the part where I turn into a tiger or movie monster better. Between trying to learn how to do all the weird crap animals do and researching for acting, my powers suddenly feel like they come with a lot of homework.”
“Try learning the properties of almost two-hundred elemental metals and all their alloys and oxides.” Warrick shot her a grin, then nodded to Tink, “or designing, testing and building hundreds of engineering designs,” then he inclined his head in Lisa’s direction, “or… um… magic.”
Turning toward Lisa, Cyn’s expression became perturbed. “That is the least fair thing of all. Magic of all things ought to be easy. Like… like, well magic! Commercials have lied to us for decades!”
Lisa just shrugged. “Well to be fair, it’s a lot easier with the Books than it would be learning on my own. Sometimes they just give you the spells. The problem there is, you end up following instructions without knowing why you’re doing things. It’s kind of like cooking that way: you can just follow recipes forever and be fine, but you’ll never be really good without learning to do things yourself.”
“Mmm.” Cyn mulled this over as she took in the view out the window. “Make sense. I guess I should put in some work to use my powers better since all of you are.” Then her mood shifted and she whirled to face the rest of the group, clapping her hands together as if to get their attention. “So: what’s the plan?”
They spent the next half hour hammering out the details to include Cyn’s skills.
As the train rocketed past the city of Gainesville, riding a wave of magnetic levitation, a lone figure trudging through the sparse woods on the city limits turned to watch it go by. Or rather, it turned to watch the shard of amethyst it had dangling off one finger on a string shift so that it was hanging at an angle that followed the train on its trip past her.
Brown eyes widened as the Manikin realized that her quarry had just come within a few hundred feet of her—and was swiftly opening a new gap between them at almost two hundred miles an hour.
If she had the need to breath, she might have pulled a hard-done-by sigh. As it was, she dug into the designer men’s carryall she’d stolen on her way out of Morganna’s service and pulled out a feather, a vial of mercury and a long, narrow scrap of paper with Cyrillic script inked on both sides.
With inhuman deftness, she wound the paper around both feather and vial so they were bound together and set all three alight with a word. A crackling, yellow flame awoke and consumed the spell reagents, failing to burn her hand even as it sat between two fingers.
Manikin waved the flame in a circle over her head, causing it to snap and spark. The sparks drifted down around her, surrounding her like and aura. When the flame finally gave out, she struck off after the train, running on the track itself.
She was able to catch up and keep pace within minutes.
The home of Wayne Micheal had originally been built by a man named Colin Alesworth, an associate of Benjamin Franklin. Like Franklin, Alesworth had been a visionary, but where Franklin’s focus was science, Alesworth’s was the occult.
He’d stumbled across the Newton Cove leyline shortly after immigrating from England and used much of his wealth from rum running to construct a fortress like stone manor above and around it called Forsworn House. There, he’d performed mystical experiments on New World oddities he’d collected both from commissioned exploratory teams and from the native population. He had been one of the first white men to learn how the European colonization had barely missed arriving in the midst a massive, advanced civilization dying of plague.
And the only one to uncover the fringe society that yet survived from that time who kept to ancient beliefs and magics.
Sadly, Alesworth died without children and without note. His home changed hands many times with owners more interested in its antiques and classic architecture than the true power hidden within.
Until it was sought out by Morganna and purchased by her Knight, Wayne Micheal.
Speaking of, the man himself was in a foul mood the night before his party—which put him in an even worse mood. If there was anything Wayne loved, it was partying: throwing them, going to them, crashing them… occasionally ruining them with drunken fist fights and or urination. IF he had anything approaching a religion, it had partying as a central tenet.
But just how the hell was he supposed to enjoy a party with them here?
Oh, he liked Jay Willis, Morganna’s Knight Inexorable. The guy was brash and haughty; the kind of guy Wayne could drink with. If he’d known Willis outside of Morganna’s company, he’d have been invited to the party anyway.
And Manikin was freaky, but not offensive. She kept to herself, did what Morganna said, and stayed out of the way save for conveying orders from Morganna or making a polite suggestion. Then again, she was a big part of the current problem: Manikin was missing and Morganna was losing her shit.
Down deep in the parts of the house that looked more like they were mined rather than built, she’d spent the last three days raging around like… well she was a crazy person at the best of times, but now she was a worse crazy person.
Wayne didn’t even know how to describe what the problem was thanks to her lack of coherence. It was like someone who had a dog and the dog ran away. Only they hadn’t liked the dog anyway and were mostly angry that they didn’t have the dog to yell at for the dog being gone. Whatever reason Morganna even cared Manikin was gone, she hadn’t shut up about it since she discovered she… or it—Wayne honestly didn’t know—went missing.
Morganna, however was easily ignored by staying above ground. Forsworn House was huge even without the cellars, dungeons and secret passageways underneath; more like a castle keep than a house, especially after the additions the previous owner put in to bring the place up to date.
No, he could handle Morganna and her crazy because he had to if he ever wanted to be rid of the real reason for his sour disposition: her.
‘Her’ was Dana Vargas, a lawyer he once thought he’d met in Vegas. As it turned out, they’d met several hundred lifetimes ago as lovers whose devotion was so legendary that some other magical woman who wasn’t Morganna used it to grant them powers against some shadowy evil.
From what Wayne knew, they’d fought that evil and kicked its ass. As a reward, they’d been blessed with the ability to reincarnate and find one another again, a loving kiss granting them their memories and powers anew.
That worked great until something happened to Earth’s magic and the power that let them find each other started to weaken. Then one of them had killed the other in an accident, turning love to hate.
Not just any hate, but a pathological, supernatural hate that he felt just from her proximity. And that goddamn loon Morganna had ordered Vargas to come to Forsworn House following Manikin’s disappearance. That meant she was there, in his house, killing any buzz he might get just by being there.
Morganna had promised to uncouple the two of them from what had, a long time ago, been their blessed reward if they served her, but at the moment, Wayne was weighing just how much worse things might get if he just killed both of them and chucked them off the cliff out back into Newton Cove.
To make things worse, everything else? It was shaping up to be perfect. All his friends from the boxing circuit and wrestling franchise were coming; there were going to be the finest women the Northeast had to offer, and even some contacts of his from Hollywood who intimated they might have some proposals to jump-start his acting career after a poor choice taking a role in some pretentious passion project for a falling star director made him a laughingstock.
At least if things were going to go shitty, he would get to punch something.
So he stood on one of Forsworn House’s many balconies, looking out over the town of Newton Cove in the distance and hoped that someone—anyone tried to crash or start trouble. Kicking ass would make him feel so much better.
Not far away, in the town of Seahaven, a bus was parked at a rest stop, allowing its passengers and drivers to rest.
Unnoticed by everyone but a single teen-aged girl, a big, gray cat sat curled up in a seat waiting for his charge to either need him or return. He didn’t know exactly what they were heading toward: he’d scried for the closest surviving possession of Hyrilius and discovered that the great wizard’s staff was surprisingly—almost suspiciously close by.
Whatever they were headed, he hoped the staff was guarded. The Errolking’s Champion was untested and untrained—and worst of all unwilling to kill. She would need something to murder so she could get a taste for it. Hopefully, whoever held the staff or protected it would be a satisfying kill.