- 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 6)
A shot glass being thrust into his hands interrupted Warrick’s pondering on the many reasons a suit of armor he’d created might be in a castle Morganna was holed up in. None of them were very good.
“I got a question for ya, Macho,” Wayne was saying as he grabbed up two shots for himself from the bar. “Why the shit did you bring Stone Crush?”
Warrick wished JC was there. Wrestling was one of the things his friend was a big fan of that he wasn’t and probably knew all the fiddly extra-personal situations going on behind the scenes. As it was, Warrick was armed only with what he could pull off Infotopia.know. “Uh… what’s the problem… bro?”
“Bastard’s the one that snaked my part in Mass Destruction 3 out from under me. I’d been in talks for months on that, managed to get myself out of the shit that’s been my life for a while to do it… then he takes the role for less money and I get squat. I oughta go kick his ass right now.”
The idea of Cyn getting into a fight with Wayne Micheals was an amusing one, especially when even drunk, Micheals was trying to keep his status as the flunkie for a supervillain a secret. But Warrick as more concerned about the armor and used the excuse of pretending to look for ‘Stone Crush’ as a cover.
“Damn bro, if I’d known, I woulda kicked his ass for ya,” he said, trying to find whoever had the armor in the crowd. The problem with metal sense was that it was closer to the sense of taste than anything else. He could tell a lot of information about a given piece of metal from it, but not exact shapes, so he could only guess that the armor was disassembled, meaning they would have to be carrying it in something…
There. Two thirds of the way across the dance floor, threading her way through the crowds was a young woman with black, pin-straight hair lugging a ruffle bag bulging with odd shapes. Now that he knew where to focus, he could pick up the telltale signatures of his work easily: no welds, no cutting, everything formed perfectly without the touch of any tool.
“Look, I can go tell him to leave.” Warrick moved away from the bar, only to be snagged by another hugely muscled man who pulled him back. He recognized the deeply tanned, crew-cut continuance from his internet search: Chris Belzor, aka Commander Crisis.
“Ah, he’s just drunk macho. You know how those two bitch at each other. No reason for us to waste our time. Right Hawk?” Another mountain of muscle, this one whom Warrick didn’t know, grunted his agreement and downed a shot.
Wayne had already emptied his and was staring at Warrick oddly. “Wassamatter, Macho? You too good to drink with me on m’birthday?”
“What?” Warrick blinked, then remembered the shot in his hand. Oh uh… well you know.. bros… the manager’s been on my back about all the DUIs. He put one of those interlock things on my car. You know how it goes: if I drink the damn thing won’t let me drive.”
This provoked an unhappy rumble from all the men involved. “What’s the point of comin’ to a party in the first place?” asked the Commander.
“You know what I think?” The man identified as Hawk asked, “I think if you want ta drink and drive, you should be able to. It’s like a casino: you pay yer money, you take your chances.”
‘With other people’s lives’, Warrick did not say because he wasn’t sure if he could survive a drunken fight with them sans armor. Instead he said. “Look, give me a second here. Let me find the chick I came with, let her know she’s drivin’ home tonight, then I can drink as much as I want!”
A strange smirk, the kind that only the truly drunk could manage—filled with smugness and understanding that were in no way earned—spread over Wayne’s face. “Yeah. You do that. Ain’t any fun til you’ve got at least fo… te… this many—“ He held up both hands, dropping his shot glasses in a crash of broken glass, “shot in ya.”
Warrick edged away, mindful of any more meaty paws that might reel him back in. “Yeah. Will do. See ya in a bit, bro.”
He did his best to melt into the crowd while struggling to get eyes on the girl with the armor again. “On the bright side,” he muttered, making sure the bone induction mic picked it up, “One of the Knights is so very incapacitated. It’s probably too much to ask that Inexorable is too, but yeah. Got something new and freaky though: remember that armor I sold?”
“The special order?” Tink asked over the commlink.
“Yeah. It’s here. Some girl Is carrying it across the dance floor, headed for the back.” He pulled out his palmtop and pointed It through the crowd. “Sending a pic so everyone knows who to look for.”
A moment later, there was a gasp over the comm. “I know that girl…” came Darkness’s voice, “It’s Dana Rice-Kelly!”
“The girl from the stasis cell we found in that Tome lab?” asked Cyn. “Holy crap, it is her!”
“Who now?” Tink cut in.
Darkness took the lead in explaining. “Well she’s Dana Parrish now that she’s in WitSec, but before all that,s he was one of my students. In fact, she’s the one whose kidnapping by Project Tome I witness—the person who put all this in motion. She’s also the one they had in the lab Armigal’s child was held at. What she’s doing here… I don’t know.”
“I’m going to find out.” Warrick was jostling his way through hordes of dancing bodies. “Renaissance, back me up please? Just in case. Everyone else, keep to the plan and find a place where Vamanos can bring Ephemeral in without being noticed.”
He kept shadowing Dana as she reached the edge of the dance floor and from there, made her way over to a door. There, she paused, putting her back to the thick wood while she looked around to see if anyone was watching her. Warrick quickly pretended to be enthralled by the dancers on one of the freelev platforms
When the girl seemed sure no one was paying attention, she opened the door and slipped through.
“She just went through a door on the west side wall,” Warrick reported.
“I saw. I’ll meet you there,” replied Tink.
“I want you both to keep in mind the Morganna has manipulated and possessed people before. Try not to hurt Dana.” It wasn’t hard for any of them to hear the tightness in Darkness’s voice.
Soon enough, Warrick and Tink convened in front of the door and had to go through the same motions of making sure they were unobserved as Dana had. Only when Warrick turned the knob, he found it locked and had to use his powers to force the bolt. They slipped through to find themselves on the landing of a staircase.
Above, the stairs extended both upward and down, the former built from ancient wood while the later was stones blocks. Once the door closed behind them, however, they discovered that there was no light in the passage save for a sickly white-green glow coming from somewhere down below.
The stone also carried a voice up to them. While trying to whisper, Dana obviously didn’t understand the remarkable acoustic surrounding her. “…sure you know that’s where we need to go? I wouldn’t keep all my stuff in the boiler room of an apartment after all. ; why would they hide this magic-y stuff where this leyline thing is the strongest?”
Without any more prompting, Warrick and Tink began to descend after Dana, careful to stay quiet so as not to alert her or whoever she was talking to. The stairs drilled down past at least three more landings before terminating at the mouth of a tunnel reinforced with stout wooden braces and graying bricks.
Dana had stopped just inside the tunnel and had knelt down to pull open the duffle bag. “Okay, Kitty, keep a look out while I armor up.”
‘Kitty’, as Warrick and Tink finally saw, was a huge gray cat with medium-length, sleek fur and over-sized paws. It was so big that its shoulder almost came up to Dana’s knee and it wasn’t hard to make out cords of rippling muscle under its coat.
Keeping the light on his palmtop low, Warrick texted to Lisa. ‘any fairies that look like cats on steroids?’
While he waited for a reply, he felt Tink take his arm and pull him back. He looked up in time to meet the cat’s eyes. They narrowed and its tail swished that same way he remembered his family’s cat, Baxter doing just before he pounced on a catnip mouse.
He knew what was coming and also knew better than to underestimate anything from faerie: man, monster or kitty cat. Instantly, his hand dropped to his belt buckle, closing around his D-icon as he spat out the activation word.
It felt like a stiff breeze had hit him, but in reality, the magic Lisa forged int his D-icon had replaced the clothes he’d been wearing with what he liked to call his ‘default’ armor. It was a good thing too, as less than a second later, the faerie-cat cannoned into him, claws screaming against the power-hardened aluminum of his gorget.
The damn thing had leapt directly for his jugular.
He heard Tink transform as well, but before she could lend aid, he’d already summoned Isp and Osp. The tentacles wasted no time grabbing the snarling beast and hurling him back down the stairs. Their leading edges formed into a pair of swords as they maneuvered themselves into the path of a repeated assault.
By then, Dana had looked up from her bag to see what set her feline companion off. “Holy shit.” she said, falling over on her rump. “Alloy and Renaissance. Gabby, you just attacked superheroes.” Almost to herself she added, “And thus you complete your fall to actual, factual supervillain.”
“I thought his name was Kitty.” Warrick, now Alloy caught himself saying.
Dana’s head swiveled to where the faerie-cat had gotten to his feet, snarling and spitting. “What are you, stupid? We can’t fight them—we shouldn’t fight them.” She paused as if listening, then: “Because they’re the good guys! They fight the bad guys. So unless you don’t think Maeve is a bad guy, they’re on our side.”
She looked back to the heroes and slowly started getting to her feet with a nervous chuckle. “You’ll have to forgive Gabraed there… he’s not really a cat and I’m not really crazy—as much as it looks like it. I swear to god this is the truth: he’s a psychotically violent cat monster called a ‘graymalkin’ who comes from a Death World called Faerie, which is under siege by an even worse monster called Maeve. Gabby’s boss is another monster called the Errolking who thinks I’m like the Faerie Jesus or something because I’m a descendant—little ‘d’–with power over magnetism. Only Faerie Jesus is supposed to be way more murder-y than Earth Jesus and I was like ‘screw that’, so we’re here on a quest to find artifacts from the dude who kicked Maeve’s ass before. And when I say all that out loud, it really does sound like I’m crazy.”
Alloy stared at her a while, then at Gabraed. “Would you believe we knew most of that? You know except about you and the Errolking, whoever that is.” He turned to ask Tink—now Renaissance—to ask Lisa about that, but she was already tapping away at her wrist-mounted computer.
Right on schedule, his own palmtop vibrated. He read the screen. ‘sounds like graymalkin. strong, fast, natural magic users. keep away from it.’
He looked down at the claw marks on his armor. “I thought faeries were allergic to metal.”
Dana looked to Gabraed before translating, “Faeries, the natives to Faerie like graymalkins, usually aren’t. Fey are. They’re… okay, he’s saying a lot of stuff I don’t have time to ask him to explain easily enough to translate, so let’s just say we’ll fill you in after we get the artifacts.”
“That’s not actually our priority,” Renaissance said, not looking up from her computer. “I don’t know how much you know about this place, but it belongs to the henchman of an insanely powerful sorceress. As in she’s escaped our full team more than once.” Not while she was part of the team, but still… “She’s trying to open a gate to faerie as we speak and cut a deal with Maeve.”
The graymalkin made a coughing, growling noise that Dana frowned at. “Gabby says Maeve won’t deal with mortals. She’ll kill this lady, then use the gate for her invasion.”
“All the more reason to to stop it,” Alloy pointed out.
Dana looked to Gabraed. “That does sound like a bad thing, Kitty. What do you say we team up with them and do the pillaging thing after?” No matter how alien the graymalkin was, the imperious look he gave the two heroes was unmistakable. “He says only if he’s in charge.”
Before Alloy could reply, Renaissance held up a hand. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Occult just sent me info on your cat’s boss. Dana, how much do you know about either of them?”
“Enough that I don’t actually want to meet the Errolking in person. They’re not good people is what I’m saying. They’re just… less not good than Maeve. Apparently.”
“Then why are you helping them? If says here the Errolking is the master of lordless fey, the king of all things wild and leader of something called the Wild Hunt, which I remember from Junior year lit class as a drunken murder and kidnapping spree.” Renaissance was skimming over the list of the various creatures employed by the Errolking and it wasn’t looking good.
Dana looked away and shrugged. “Look, do you want to work together or not. I’m not standing here asking you why you do what you do, you know?”
Alloy folded her arms. “Dana, these are seriously dangerous dudes. This is like joining a gang and a terrorist group rolled into a murder burrito smothered in danger sauce.” He paused as he found both women staring at him. “This… felt like a PSA-type talk. Anyway, what I meant is, working with them might not be the best idea.”
“In fact,” Renaissance said, “Occult is saying we’re going to need her to chaperone if we’re going to work with the cat.” She looked to Alloy. “Graymalkins are apparently very good at negotiating when ripping someone to shreds isn’t an option.”
Dana glanced at Gabraed and rolled her eyes. “Completely proving your point, he says that isn’t off the table yet.”
“Which is exactly why she’s on the way now.”
Moments later, a flash of rose light heralded the opening of an astral portal. From its center, rose the robed form of Occult, wielding her staff in one hand and a ring of leaves twisted together in the other. The travel spell lifted her a fraction of an inch above the surface of the rose-colored astral pool before it flickered out of existence, depositing her on solid ground.
She cut an imposing figure in her Occult form, looking ever inch the dark wizard she wasn’t.
“Whoa.” Dana murmured, taking a step back. “Look, whatever Gabby says, we’re going to cooperate. I’m not an idiot: I know not to ignore help from people way stronger than me when its offered.”
“That isn’t the question at hand, unfortunately.” Occult’s voice had long been modified so as to not sound anything like Lisa. She’d modeled the new voice on one from the female human sorceress from Deathgate: deep and commanding with an ever-present undertone of aggression. She turned her shadowed eyes toward Gabraed. “The question is whether we can trust you, graymalkin.”
Again, Dana translated. “He says you don’t have much of a choice. He can detect the leyline and he doubts you can.”
“Actually, I can,” replied Lisa. “I only feel that it’s better to have you as an ally rather than an enemy or a rival.” She offered the circle of woven leaves. “So I am offering you a pact: neither of us will harm or through inaction allow to come to harm each other or our allies and will speak on each other’s behalf to our allies until such time as Maeve is defeated. Can we make such an accord?” She sounded like she was reciting the words—which Warrick and Tink were sure she was, but the voice let her pull it off nonetheless.
The graymalkin made an annoyed noise to which Dana once again rolled her eyes. “You’re just wasting time being a jerk, Kitty. They can help us, we can help them. It’s not exactly a hard choice.”
After some more snarling, Gabraed trotted forward and lifted his muzzle toward the proffered item in Occult’s hand. She lowered it until he could close his teeth around the end opposite where she was holding it. “With the breaking of this circle, we do bind our accord.”
Occult tugged on the ring of leaves and with a flurry of silver sparks, it came apart and burned away to nothing. Only then did she turn to her teammates. “Now we can team up.”