- 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 3)
The original (revised) plan had called for three people, two of whom were a couple, so their reservations at the Trinity Motel five miles outside Newton’s Cove were for a single room with two beds.
Such was the source of awkwardness when the quartet of covert heroes entered their room that night having spent an hour piled into a hired self-driving car.
“We can have a cot brought up.” Lisa said quickly.
“Oh come on,” Cyn said, affronted, “We’re friends, right? It’ll be like a sleepover!”
Lisa raised a brow. “What kind of sleepovers have you had? At all of mine, everyone had their own sleeping bag.”
This gave Cyn pause and she tapped a finger against her lips. “You know, I never had a real sleepover before. Sacking out in the hotel in LA last week was the first kinda-sleepover I ever had unless you count those first few nights at Freeland House when me and War slept together.”
“On the couch!” Warrick blurted out a little too loudly, glancing over to Tink.
His girlfriend, of course, was holding in a laugh. If she’d ever had any doubts about the nature of his and Cyn’s relationship, that time was long past. It was still funny to see Warrick fret over such things. In fact, he was still going.
“–And its a big couch. I was sitting up and she kinda put her legs across mine…”
Tink chose to take mercy on him and reached up to place a finger over his lips. “She’s teasing you. Don’t worry about it.” He relaxed, his comedic panic ebbing away at her gentle yet amused smile.
“So…” Cyn started.
“I’m sending the order to the front desk for a cot now,” Lisa informed her, taking out her palmtop.
“That’s like an extra thirty dollars though. Don’t waste the cash on that,” Cyn whined. “It’s not like I’m gonna grope you in your sleep or something. I’ve got Ollie after all.” She served up a suggestive grin and added, “So JC doesn’t have to get jealous.”
Warrick snorted. “I don’t think ‘jealous’ would be the feeling JC’d get thinking of his girlfriend sharing a bed with a shapeshifter.”
Whirling on him, Cyn shot him a glare. “You know, it’s always the dirty-minded stuff when people talk about shapeshifters. That or the whole ‘kill and replace’ shtick. We need to form an anti-defamation league. Y’know, me and the one evil shapeshifter we know about… But hey, as far as we know, that guy never did the kill and replace thing either.”
Warrick held up his hand defensively as Tink left his side to got put away her things. “Hey, it wasn’t me talking. I’m just saying what JC would think.”
Cyn very maturely stuck her tongue out at him. “Whatever. Lisa, seriously: I don’t like the idea of anyone wasting money on my account. If you’re really not comfortable with bunking with me, I can sleep on the floor and be perfectly comfortable. Oh! Or the bathtub! Did I tell you guys I figured out gills?”
Despite her better judgment, Lisa let out a soft sigh as the two scientific-minded members of their little crew started bombarding the white-haired girl with questions. There was no way she was going to let her friend sleep in a bathtub or even the floor. Besides, even Cyn couldn’t be that much trouble while asleep, right?
Lisa decided, as she lay there at somewhere past midnight, two pale arms and two pale legs wrapped around her like a baby koala holding on to its mother, that she should have seen this coming. Cyn came from a family that hadn’t really showed her much love. Hugs and kisses and basic human contact had been at a premium and mental and physical abuse was abundant. It showed in how Cyn was wary with new people, in how protective and attached she was with her friends, in her defensive temperament.
And it manifested in the fact that a sleeping Cyn found the closest source of body heat and latch on to it with every limb.
It was made worse by another revelation Lisa was now stumbling upon: the yoga pants and tank top that served as Cyn’s pajamas must have been something she formed with her shapeshifting. Again, Lisa should have seen it coming since Cyn had gone with them carrying zero luggage. In any event, the shifted clothing had been reintegrated into Cyn’s body, leaving the young woman completely naked. And hugging her like a teddy bear.
All Lisa needed now was for Warrick and Tink to start fooling around in the adjacent bed and the perfect awkward moment would be complete.
Seeing as the universe was on a roll already, she opened one eye and looked over in that direction, half-expecting to see exactly that. Blessedly, only a soft snoring came from the pair and they had the covers fully concealing their bodies.
It was only then that Lisa realized what woke her up, because there came a second round of knocking on the motel door.
Lisa’s mind was weary, but she had enough wherewithal to know where that particular scene went in the movies. Someone knocks on a motel door at freaking midnight and some idiot character would just go and open the door, not even using the little chain lock. Then the monster or mobsters or whatever would bust in and kill them. Sometimes they would have to bust that little chain.
Slightly smarter characters would look through the peephole, ask who it was, then get shot through the door.
Even on just over an hour’s sleep, Lisa wasn’t half that stupid. Unexpected visitors in the night were to be ignored until they went away assuming no one was there. And in case they decided to break in…
She struggled free of Cyn’s grip enough so she could reach for the key chain sitting on her nightstand. It was in the form of a ornately carved piece of wood about three inches long. At a word, it could become six feet of white ash with a half-dozen spell circles permanently carved into it and filled with silver courtesy of Warrick. A fine sorceress’s staff.
But she didn’t use that word just yet, just closed her palm around its shrunken form and waited. She would have roused the others, but that would have made noise and alerted whoever was on the other side of the door that they had the right room.
A few minutes later, she wished she’d taken the chance, as a soft, rose-colored light flashed through the peep hole and behind the thick curtains. She’d used that spell enough times to know that whoever it was had accessed the Astral Plane, her favorite mode of rapid transportation.
“Wake up!” She called out, heaving herself bodily out of Cyn’s hold, almost falling off the bed in her haste to get out of it and upright. “Someone’s here! Wake up!” She activated her staff, expanding it to full size. In the back of her mind, she felt ridiculous, standing in the middle of a motel room, gripping a bonafide wizard staff wearing a green and white checkered flannel nightgown.
As the pool of rose light common to astral teleportation spread into view on the floor just inside the door, the others were roused.
“Whazzat?” Cyn kicked the covers off and seemingly without her notice, her pajamas seemed the take shape and gain texture as they reformed from her skin. “How can we possibly be under attack? No one knows we’re here but Kay and JC.”
“It’s Morganna,” Warrick groaned, rolling out of bed, “She probably has a crystal ball or a magic mirror.”
Of all of them, Tink was the one who seemed to wake up in decent spirits. While Cyn and Warrick were still getting their bearings, she grabbed her D-icon off her and Warrick’s nightstand and activated it, instantly donning her Renaissance outfit, complete with her weaponized gauntlets. “Maybe she accidentally found us looking for the fairest of them all.”
“In that case, sorry I made it easier for her to find you guys.” Cyn didn’t get out of the bed, just crouched atop it, eyes fixed on the astral pool.
Someone began to rise from it, dark hair appearing first. All four of the heroes tensed and then three of them hesitated because the person they saw emerging from the circle of rose light was Lisa Ortega.
Lisa on the other hand let out a curse, leveled her staff, and unleashed her newest spell. A beam of crackling motes of energy stretched out from the tip of the staff and struck the other Lisa in the chest before she’d even emerged fully out of the astral.
The other Lisa was thrown bodily out of her portal and slammed into the door behind her hard enough t make the wall and adjacent wall rattle. The pool winked out just before she fell to the ground it once covered. “Wait!” She remained lying on her chest, holding up both hands in a plea.
“Is that…” Warrick asked.
“The Manikin.” Lisa kept her staff leveled. “She’s one of Morganna’s servants. Some kind of magical construct she got from Faerie. Aunt Tay told me all about that trip.”
Cyn’s every muscle tensed as she made ready to shift and attack. “Did she ever explain why she looks like you?”
The Manikin spoke up. “I am meant to take the seeming of a familiar person as humans find my natural form disturbing and non-conducive to work. I apologize for taking your seeming and for all other harm I have done. I have come to you because I am no longer in the service of Morganna.”
Aiming one gauntlet loaded with polyurethane foam at the prone woman who still looked like her friend. Actually, it looked like Lisa did three years ago, which was all the more disconcerting. “You know there’s absolutely no reason for us to believe you.”
“This is true,” agreed Manikin, “But please allow me to explain.”
“Do it quickly.” Lisa took the lead, seeing as this was a magical matter and also her doppelganger.
Manikin nodded as best she could from her place on the floor. “I am a creation of the great magus Hyrilius Lyirum; he of the Seven Points. He was my creator, my teacher, my master and my friend. He knew that he could not last the long span of years and entrusted me to be steward to his legacy when he returned to Earth—the Blue World to sire his progeny. His intention was for me to wait for his Heir to return and guide them to re-achieve his greatness. To ensure this, he prepared spells to alert me and his Vault to the presence of his blood.
“Morganna came to the lands Hyrilius protected from Maeve and discovered the Vault. I know now that it was because she was wearing the body of one of my master’s female descendants that she was allowed to pass the tests and gain entry to the Vault. It was enough to convince me that she was the Heir, the one I was meant to guide and serve.”
The quartet around her was glancing among each other uncomfortably. They had all worked the same thing out and had no idea how to react to it even as Manikin built to her conclusion.
“But I was wrong. Now I know the truth. Elise of Halfren—Morganna is not the Heir of Hyrilius. Nor was Tatiana Farnsworth. The true Heir, I now understand, is the one I was instructed to oppose before: you, Lisa Ortega, are the one meant to inherit what Hyrilius left behind.”
A profound silence fell over the room. Manikin kept her eyes on Lisa, Lisa kept hers on Manikin, and the other three alternated looking between the two.
After a few moments, Warrick spoke up. “No. No, this is too easy. We come here looking for information on this Hyrilius guy and Morganna’s gal Friday just happens to show up and hand it to us? I know what that spells:T-R-A-P. Trap. Trap. Trap. I say we take her prisoner and maybe Kar…Ephemeral can read her mind.”
“If that is what the Heir chooses, I will neither resist nor protest.” Manikin lowered her head and brought her hands around before her to be tied or cuffed.
Being only one to have donned her costume, Tink drew out a set of zip-cuffs from a pouch on her utility kilt and slowly approached the magical construct, waiting for any surprises. None came. Manikin meekly allowed herself to be restrained by the zip-cuffs and then a set of heavier manacles that weren’t of any recognizable manufacture.
“Cold iron.” Tink explained as she stepped back from her work. “I bought some iron ore and had Warrick shape it for me. I don’t know how faeries and fey work, so just in case.”
“I am no creature of faerie,” said Manikin, “I was created on Earth. Incidentally, while all fey—creatures of the Air and Darkness or creations of Maeve’s—have allergies of varying severity to ferrous metals, such allergies in faeries—creatures native to the Green World—are rare.”
“That’s… useful.” Tink murmured.
“Being of use is my purpose,” replied Manikin, “Hyrilius required an assistant who could not be tempted, possessed or controlled by Maeve or her agents—or by his human enemies. Should I ever earn your trust, it is my wish to become useful to you as well.”
Lisa huffed out a laugh. “That’ll be a while.”
The Manikin nodded. “I understand this. However, if you will search the bag I left outside, you will find that I brought an offering to help my case. Unfortunately, I was unable to bring you all of the legacy left to you, but I have liberated the Staff of Hyrilius and the Book of Tranquility on your behalf.”
Another round of aside glances went between the four heroes and after a bit, Cyn got off the bed and went to the door. She had no fear of anything but electricity, so she just threw open the door and grabbed the canvas bag sitting outside.
It looked like an old fashioned explorer’s bag; covered in loops and pouches with one such loop securing a five-foot length of polished ebony covered in swirling, carved patterns. It was topped by a stuffed lion’s paw lashed to it with dark leather. Embedded in the center of the paw was a half-dome-shaped emerald the size of a ping-pong ball.
“Okay,” she said, turning back to face the others in the room, “this thing is seriously badass. If you don’t want it, Lis, I’ll take up magic just so I can walk around with this.
She passed the pack and staff over to Lisa, who gave the staff a measured look before opening the pack. Inside, carefully packed into zip-top bags, plastic jars and corked test tubes were a variety of spell reagents, some she recognized, many she didn’t.
And the Book.
Leather bound and lacking a title or other distinguishing mark, somehow there was still no doubt that it was the Book of Tranquility.
Both a Book of Tranquility and the Book of Tranquility at the same time.
Lisa lifted it out of the pack reverently, the understanding dawning on her that she now had three of the Four in hand now—and no idea what happened when they all found each other.
And the last was Madness.
She looked past the cover of the ancient text of magic to Manikin. Brown eyes narrowed. “Why did you risk giving this to me? If we take this, turn around and go home, we’d come out of this empowered and enriched. This doesn’t make any sense.”
“Of course, Morganna doesn’t make any sense, so…” said Warrick.
Manikin nodded. “It makes no sense if I am here merely to lure you into a trap. In truth, I would advise you not to approach Morganna’s current lair.”
“Why?” Cyn wasn’t someone who took being told not to go somewhere likely.
“Because Morganna also knows about Maeve’s return. She is constructing a gateway—she wants to forge an alliance with the Queen of Air and Darkness.”
The quartet fell into another silence before it was broken by Warrick. “Welp: trap or no, mission’s back on. That is not gonna happen.”