- 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 4)
“So I think the way someone who knew what they were doing would put it is ‘conditions on the ground have changed’?” Warrick sat on he and Tink’s bed with a tablet linked up to Laurel back in her workshop.
The elder heroine pinched the bridge of her nose and let out a disappointed sigh. “I know you weren’t happy with my disagreement over this mission, but I really wish you hadn’t gone behind my back. Morganna is probably the most dangerous enemy we’ve come across.”
“To be fair, when I came up with the plan, it looked like Wayne Micheals was gonna be having a party at his place on his own—no Morganna, no Inexorable and no other half of the Love Knights or whatever they are. Without her, he’d have no powers and we’d’ve been free to sneak in.”
“That isn’t the case though,” she pointed out.
“Yeah, but now the case is Morganna wants to open a gate. Whether or not she makes contact to Maeve or not, I think we can agree we don’t want a back door into Faerie to be left wide open. Now we have to go in.”
For a moment, Laurel was silent and Warrick was pretty sure she was trying to think of a reason to say they didn’t have to and would not be going in. As it turned out, she couldn’t come up with a reason.
“You’re right. We can’t risk something coming through or Morganna actually succeeding in a making her alliance. Give us two hours and I can have the rest of the full team assembled and on the way.”
“That wouldn’t be such a great idea,” Warrick interrupted, looking nervous about contravening the genius leader of the team. She raised an eyebrow and motioned for him to go on. “It’s just that we’ve fought Inexorable by himself as a whole team and got our shit kicked in. When the Knights were around, we had the element of surprise or the Magi Club running interference—and that’s all without the fact that the house is going to be full of civilians.
“The way I see it… the new plan is the old plan: only now instead of information, we’re looking to take any more Hyrilius artifacts and destroy Morganna’s gate.”
Laurel frowned. “I’m not sure how far we can trust this idea that Lisa is the Heir of Hyrilius. It might be a trap to lure you in.” There was no point of using codenames, seeing as Manikin had been wearing Lisa’s face for years.
This made Warrick shrug. “Same goes for telling us she’s trying to open a gate. It kind of doesn’t matter since we have to take that chance.”
She nodded solemnly. “In fact, one might say it turns out it was a good thing you set out to do this seeing as you might have uncovered an incredibly dangerous plot. What can we do to help you if not send the whole team?”
Warrick thought for a long moment, turning this situation around in his head. If not for the fact that he was the one who wanted the mission in the first place, he wouldn’t have himself involved. Stealth and guile weren’t his areas of competence. Stand-up fights were where he and the twins would shine, but against the Knights and Inexorable, that would only end with his armor crushed around him like a beer can on the side of the road.
Not only that, but the old fort that was Wayne Micheal’s home appeared to be solidly constructed of stone, which his powers would have no effect on. Subbing himself out for people with better skill and power sets for the situation would be a good idea.
“Not the whole team, but a few of them would be a good idea: Kareem, Miss Keys and Callie.” You could never go wrong with a psychic and the combination of invisibility, speed and phasing were perfect for the plan. After a pause, he added, “And Melissa.” Having a healer along was never a bad idea. In fact, it was essential in every raid he’d ever conducted in a game.
Life wasn’t a game, but his was a lot closer than most people’s.
“Plus we need someone to keep an eye on Manikin that knows something about magic. I know you’re probably mad at me for going rogue, but…”
Laurel waved him off. “I’m not angry, Warrick. A little out of sorts that you felt the need to go behind our backs, but as it turns out, you were right to focus on Morganna. I was hoping she was still focusing on getting her body back or finding a ley line to draw power from.”
Manikin, tied and cuffed to the cheap office chair in the corner of the room looked up .”She already has. Forsworn House was constructed atop a leyline of uncommon strength, its design following the old ways of wizard towers to focus that power. It is only in such a place that a gate to even the nearer worlds can be created.”
“That answers that,” said Lisa, who hadn’t taken her eyes off Manikin the whole time. “What are we going to do about that? We blew up the last tower—we can’t do that with this one if it’s full of people.”
Tink was sitting with Cyn on the other bed, reading from her tablet. “Maybe we don’t destroy the gate but sabotage it? Make Morganna thing there’s something wrong with the location?”
Warrick looked from between Lisa and Laurel. “Is that a thing? Can we do that?”
“I… don’t know,” admitted Lisa.
A contemplative hum came from Tink. “As weird and esoteric as it seems, magic still follows the rules of science: action A plus action B equals result C. If you change the actions, introduce unforeseen elements, you’ll get a different result. All we have to do is figure out what changes to make, right?”
Realizing that she knew nothing at all about magic but what she’d just said, Tink gave Lisa a sheepish look. “And by we, I just I mean you and Laurel since you’re the resident magic users.”
Lisa bobbed her head. “We should bring in Kay on this too then. She can help watch Manikin and figure out how to sabotage the gate.”
“If you would give me even a modicum of trust, I could help as well. I assisted in the creation of the gate ceremony.”
“That isn’t going to happen.” Lisa snapped, then turned back to Warrick. “There is one other problem: I crafted the disguise glamors for you, Tink and myself. They won’t look right on anyone else and there’s no time to make more. Whatever your plan is, it’s going to have to work with that.”
Warrick nodded his understanding. “I thought about that. Luckily, we’re the only ones anyone is going to see if this goes as planned.” He sat up straight against the headboard. “Here’s what I have in mind. Feel free to toss in your own suggestions as we go along.”
Dana awoke to kitty paws batting at her face.
We’re here. Gabraed informed her, leaping out of the way of a reflexive swat.
Bleary-eyed, Dana looked out the window of the self-driving taxi to find the town of Newton’s Cove in front of her. What looked like the entire town of Newton’s Cove. They were parked at the farthest end of an OmniMart parking lot, which was at the top of a high bank, separated from the rest of the town by a four-lane highway.
Across that highway was a strip mall anchored by a karate school and a pizza parlor on either end. There was a shopping center further down the road, and various motels and fast food restaurants up and down the strip, but that was it as far of businesses went. Beyond their bright lights, there was a tiny constellation of smaller lights that represented rows of track housing and a few layered lines of light that suggested squat apartment towers that barely earned the name ‘tower’.
The place looked even more boring than the town WitSec had dropped her and her family into.
She climbed out of the car and made her way around to the trunk, which opened automatically for her. Gabraed padded along at her side as she started pulling her things out and tossing them to the asphalt. “Are you sure this is where we’re going to find amazing magical doodads?”
It’s not in my best interests to lead you astray, Gabraed said in a huff. From here, we have a long walk; ten miles out of town.
“Walk?” Dana barked a laugh and closed the trunk. As soon as the car’s sensors registered that the ride was paid for and no bags or passengers remained in cabin or trunk, started the engine and drove off. She took a moment to make sure no one could see before opening up her dufflebag full of armor.
With a Cheshire grin, she stepped back from the open bag and raised both hands to chest level, palms up. The pieces began to rise, one by one, arranging themselves in the air to take on he semblance of a possessed armor from a video game. Then she snapped her hands forward, fingers pointed toward the armor and spaced carefully apart.
The gauntlets flew toward her slipping up her forearms and covering her hands. The bolts, a special feature she’d sent into the website she had make it, turned, tightening them into place. Other sections of armor followed, slotting into place and bolting themselves onto her.
Dana had to hand it to the person from the website: the armor was amazing. It fit her perfectly, followed the instructions Gabraed had her send in with exacting precision except for places where they’d improved upon it. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought they’d shaped the metal directly rather than casting or forging.
She wondered what they’d thought of the extra reinforcement under the sole of her boots, up the backs of the greaves, or the same that ran under her arms. To anyone else, it would seem like pointlessly adding weight—and it seemed that the talented smith had the same idea: substituting steel for titanium while honeycombing the metal to reduce heft while retaining strength.
With all the other armor in place, she stepped into her boots and bolted them in place with her power.
Both stylized and functional, the armor was impressive in shining steel finished by some process that left it with a sheen of bluish whorls that caught even the poor lighting of the parking lot. It was the armor of a Champion, that she had no doubt, even if she had her reservations about the Errolking and his minions.
She laughed beneath the helm, the sound hollow and rich at once. “Who said anything about walking?” She knelt, the armor moving around her as easily as her clothing. “Come on, Kitty. Time to fly.”
Sparing a moment to glare at her, Gabraed leapt into her outstretched arms and allowed her to hold him close as she caught up her armor in her power, lifting herself into the air and toward Forsworn House.
The cool, dark caverns beneath Forsworn House had existed far longer than Colin Alesworth’s residence at Newton’s Cove, longer than the European occupation of the Americas. It was there that Alesworth performed his experiments, where the magically inclined men of at least four tribes worked their power.
And it was here where Elise of Halfren, who had taken for herself the name Morganna, was working her own power and schemes. In the largest cavern, some twenty feet in circumference, she’d gathered driftwood from the beach below Forsworn House, vines and moss and mud from the sparse forest nearby, lashing and cementing it together into a ring that sat on the floor. This, she’d carefully enspelled and kept it moist, providing a suitable environment for toadstools to take hold and sprout: an artificial fairy ring.
The power of the leyline seeped into it, causing pale mist to form in the exact center of that ring, hanging in the air over it, occasionally taking on a ghastly green shade.
Its creator sat on the cold stone floor and watched it, cursing almost continually under her breath.
The things wasn’t working an she didn’t understand why. She’d tapped into the power of the leyline without issue, she’d constructed the ring flawlessly, grown the toadstools with her own power. She had done everything right and yet her reward was not a gateway between the Blue and the Green, but a wisp of faerie fog without the power to allow a fly to cross between let alone herself or her invitation.
The Manikin would know what went wrong. It was the creature’s job to know such things. But the servitor was missing along with all her council. This drew more curses from Morganna as she surveyed her work, trying to find the flaw in her workings.
Above her head, the motes danced and burbled among each other. Useless creatures all, but loyal to a fault not like the Manikin wherever she’d gone to.
“Still not working boss lady?”
Morganna whirled around to find her Knight Inexorable—she’d forgotten his name if she’d ever known it—standing at the mouth of the tunnel that fed into her working chamber. He had a bowl in his hand, heaped high with tortilla chips with a finger bowl of salsa set into the center.
She shot him a cold glare. “The Manikin. Where is she?”
The Knight shrugged. “Last time I saw here was… what? A couple of days ago? Down here somewhere. Maybe she got lost. The damn caves are big and twisty enough for it.” That she hadn’t actually answered his question meant nothing to him seeing as that was how his employer usually operated.
“No… no. She isn’t here. If she was here… she’d have come when I called.” Morganna grunted and turned back to stare at the ring. “N…no. She’s been taken. Or turned on us. I want you to… to go out and find her.”
“Sure thing. First thing Sunday morning.”
“Now? But the party’s tomorrow. Wherever she’d got to, she’ll keep I’m sure. Not like the bitch can get hurt, right? She’s like… what’s that little puppet?The One that wanted to be a real boy?”
Morganna neither knew nor cared, turning again and screeching at the top of her lungs. “Go! Go! Gooooo! And do not come back until you find her!” She was breathing hard, eyes wilder even than usual. “If you do… if you do… I will rip that coin from your skull and leave you as you were!”
The Knight Inexorable took an involuntary step back. With a sane person, a normal person, he might have been secure in the fact that she needed him as muscle, or that he could take her down before she managed such a thing.
But this was Morganna, a woman as powerful as she was crazy. He couldn’t be sure she wouldn’t just rob herself of the nigh invincible protector for petty reasons or find some way to do him real and lasting harm at range and before he could realize it was coming.
He—Jay Willis; he knew she’d never remember—was no fool and merely nodded. “Alight. Calm down. I’ll head out tonight and… check the bus station?”It occurred to him he had no idea how to find the Manikin. She was just as magical if not more than Morganna herself. He didn’t even know if Newton’s Cove had a bus station. It didn’t have a train station and certainly not an airport, so that was the next thing to search—assuming one wasn’t looking for a magical construct that could probably fly and teleport.
Despite how useless a promise that was, Morganna nodded. “Good. Go now.”
He did, stomping up through the tunnels, into what could only be called the dungeons and into the main house where he pulled on his boots and took Wayne’s jeep down the dirt road to town.
If he’d bothered to look up, he might have seen a figure in gleaming armor floating gently over the outer walls of Forsworn House with a cat held in its arms.