- 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 7)
“Hold on before we get moving.” Renaissance reached into one of the many pockets of her utility kilt and took out a device shaped like a flattened egg about as long as her thumb. It took her a moment to switch it on and then unfold a tungsten spike from its casing. Once that was done, she reached up and stabbed the spike directly into the stone wall near the top of the corridor, her augmented strength allowing her to drive the spike all the way in.
Noticing Occult giving a questioning look, she explained: “Signal booster slash relay router. We’re just about out of range of both our comms and local wireless networks. I’d really rather not poke around down here out of communications with the others.”
“Good thinking.” Alloy was smiling behind his visor. The twins coiled themselves closely around him, keeping what passed for their eyes on Gabraed, waiting for the graymalkin to try something again. For the faerie cat’s part, he ignored the entire party and stalked forward, seeking out the leyline.
Dana, however, was still curious and starstruck, hanging back to walk with the heroes. “So…” She tapped the tips of her armored fingers together awkwardly. “Since you guys are on a mission and you all have codenames… maybe I should have a codename too?”
“You didn’t come up with one when you were at the Academy?” Alloy asked before realizing he was the only one who actually went to the Academy present aside from Dana and what was more, he wasn’t even using the Damascus codename he’d used then.
“Feh. They called me Monopole. That sounds like a science themed porno actor—a male porno actor. I get that most decent magnetism-themed names are taken, but is there really a rule that we have to advertise our powers with our names? I mean no offense, Alloy… Mr. Alloy, but most of your guys don’t. ‘Renaissance’ tells you nothing about your powers. And ‘Occult’? Well obviously there’s no such… oh. Oh holy crap, you were magic the whole time, weren’t you?”
Occult splayed out her hands in a helpless gesture. “Magic’s only been around in a serious way in the modern age about two years now. Your principle still stands: people just assumed I had an amazingly esoteric descendant power.”
Dana nodded. “True. Kind of makes you think what else we think is fake but it’s real, huh? Anyway, I still need a codename, right? You can’t very well call me by my real name, right? I’m in WitSec after all.”
“Monopole really isn’t that bad a name,” Renaissance reasoned, lowering her voice to encourage everyone else to do so as well. The tunnels echoed with every word Dana spoke. “It’s one of those unobtainum materials physicists dream about. Something that displays uni-directional magnetism would revolutionize material science, propulsion, you name it, really.”
The girl’s shoulders slumped. “I guess that’s why Tome was after me, huh? Thanks for getting me out of that, by the way.”
“Any time,” said Alloy. “And as for a name… well the guy you’re allegedly working for… with… whatever… is leader of the Wild Hunt like Occult said, right? How about something to do with that? You know for a codename?”
“If Facsimile were here she’d demand we consider seriously calling her Faerie Jesus,” Occult put in.
Dana snorted. “Yeah, I’m gonna say ‘no’ on sacrilege. But the Faerie angle sounds good.” She balled her hands into fists and looked down at them. “How about a warning to the bad—more bad—faeries and fey that they don’t want to screw with me? Like Cold Iron. Oh, wait! The Cold Iron Knight! Sir… no, I can’t be a sir. What do you call a female knight?”
“A Dame.” Alloy supplied.
“Dame Cold Iron. God damn, that sounds awesome. You guys can call me Cold Iron for short, of course, but I’m gonna go with that.”
Up ahead, Gabraed stopped and turned to face them, hissing in annoyance.
The newly named Cold Iron smirked. “Kitty Kommander says to shut our flat-toothed maws before he stitches them shut. Apparently you don’t ‘prattle’ while stalking prey.”
“Prey.” Occult said flatly.
Alloy moved ahead of the group, closer to Gabraed. He spoke softly, but was pretty sure the faerie cat could hear him clearly. “Yeah, bout the whole ‘prey’ thing. Whoever we find down here, I want to make one thing clear: killing them is off limits, Fuzzy. I mean sure, if it’s Inexorable, you are encourage to do your level best in the hopes it tickles the guy, but normal people? No killing. I will seal you in a ball of aluminum if I think you’re going to try and murder someone. Don’t try me.”
The graymalkin growled and spat.
“He’s pissed that you guys agree with me and also said something about your mom.” Cold Iron translated.
“Yeah, well your mom smokes catnip.”
Gabraed made an odd yowling noise, rolled one shoulder, then trotted off back down the tunnel.
“That didn’t need a translation.” Renaissance came up to Alloy and laid a hand on his shoulder. “And I kind of have to agree: that was kind of weak.”
“Did Alloy just lose a ‘yo momma’ contest to a cat? And evil magic cat?” Facsimile—or rather Stone Crush’s voice came over the comms. “I should make my way down to you guys to lend my support.”
Renaissance chuckled, keeping her voice so low she was depending on the bone induction mic to transmit her voice. “I think we’ll be fine on that front. How’s the signal strength between here and the surface?”
“I’ve got four bars. Alloy, what’s the play? Ephemeral and Vamanos are still outside standing by.”
Alloy too dropped his voice, deciding it was past time to get serious about this. They were in the heart of enemy territory after all. “You still have eyes on Wayne?”
“Do you see the other Knight? Or Inexorable?”
“Nada. But this place is so damn crowded, I could be standing on them.”
Alloy frowned, looking ahead into the twisting tunnel they were following. Occasionally they would hit a branch and Gabraed would inevitably choose the one leading further down. There were chambers off the main drag, some open, some with old, rotting doors placed across their entrances. None of them seemed to be in use or inhabited. “Or they could be down here guarding the gate. Okay, have Vamanos bring Ephemeral in right inside the staircase we went down.”
“Got it,” Vamanos’s voice broke in. “Are you sure that’ll be close enough? The map being put together from your cameras shows you pretty deep down. Like eighty feet now. Even as fast as I can go… there’s a lot of twists and turns.”
“We need you able to support either us or Facsimile and Darkness. Don’t forget Morganna’s goons might be up there instead of down here.”
He bit back a curse as he almost tripped over Gabraed, who had stopped as the tunnel passed a branch that led off into a T intersection. The graymalkin wheeled on him, teeth bare and claws out for the accidental contact. Isp and Osp dropped to his level and became razor-edged, convincing him that physical punishment wouldn’t be in his best interest.
Alloy looked back to Cold Iron. “What’s going on?”
“Sentry,” the teen translated, “A mote.”
“A faerie creature,” Occult said, using the bone induction mic, “called the least of faeries because they’re little more than a sapient speck of light with little magical power or strength. They often allow themselves to be kept as servants or pets of other creatures, being living light bulbs or talking carrier pigeons. They aren’t usually used as guards because they’re incredibly weak. The only thing they have going for them is being very, very fast.”
Which made them idea to be the ones to go and warn, say… Inexorable of intruders. Forget living light bulbs, they were living tripwires.
“How do we get past them then?”
The graymalkin looked back at Cold Iron.
“Gabraed says ‘eat them’.”
“And this is why we don’t take advice from him,” said Renaissance. “Are they solid? Can I hit them with a polyurethane shot?”
Occult shook her head. “They can pass right through it. I can probably catch it in the force bubble though.” She crept forward, extracting a glass marble from her reagent pouch. Reaching the mouth of the adjoining tunnel, she spied the tiny speck of orange light bobbing near the ceiling and aimed her spell. “Globo de le fureza.”
The mote sensed the spell, but too late. When it tried to zip away, it found itself rebounding off the inner wall of a globe of transparent force.
Job done, Occult motioned everyone forward. “That should hold for a good ten minutes seeing as he can’t really batter it down. Be careful though: Morganna isn’t insane enough to just leave a single…”
She trialed off because they had turned a corner and found the tunnel widening until it formed a large cavern, the floor of which was dominated by a ring of driftwood soldered together this mud and peat with mushrooms growing from it. Faint green mist hovered at the center of said ring and the room was markedly colder than the rest of the tunnels.
“Is that a faerie ring? As in a ‘you step in it and come out Rip Van Winkle’ fairy ring?” Alloy asked. “Is everyone getting this video?”
“Why isn’t it better guarded?” Renaissance turned a slow circle, expecting to spot the trap soon enough.
Codex’s voice came over the comm. “The Manikin says that’s the gate.”
Staring at the ring, Alloy reached down and removed the chain belt from his armor, transforming it into a sword. “So… do we believe her?”
Not being privy to the comm chatter, Cold Iron was left to consult with Gabraed. “Gabby says this is a Circle of the Crossroads: a shortcut between this world and Faerie. The only thing is, it’s not built right.”
“What does he mean ‘not built right’?” Alloy asked.
After listening some more to words no one else in the room could hear, Cold Iron explained, “He says a Mankind wouldn’t be able to tell because we don’t think in terms of all the lines of power. The ring Is one a crossroads, but it isn’t aligned properly. So instead of channeling that energy, it’s like a dam: blocking up all that power.”
“So… it doesn’t work? It won’t work?” Alloy asked hopefully.
“Not unless it was realigned, no.” Cold Iron translated.
Renaissance slipped a high explosive clip into her gauntlet and turned to face the entrance to the chamber, still concerned about the lack of guards. “How difficult would it be to realign it?”
“He says not very once the builder figured out the problem.”
“The Manikin concurs,” Codex supplied.
At that moment, Gabraed’s head snapped around to the entrance tunnel, teeth bared. No one else heard her until she appeared; bare feet on unworked stone being nearly silent.
Wrapped in Hyrilius’s cloak and wearing the body of Tatiana Farnsworth, Morganna stopped upon seeing the intruders in her secret place. Then a savage shriek tore from her throat and she raised both hands, calling upon powers beyond any of their kin.
Occult threw up a wall of translucent, red, overlapping plates just as a bolt of vivid blue lightning struck into the room, dancing and crackling against the barrier.
Seeing that their only way out was now blocked by what may well have been the most powerful sorceress on Earth, Alloy cursed and shouted into the comm. “Morganna is here! We need to get ourselves out of here right now! Renaissance, use your explosives on the gate, then we’ll try and fight our way out.”
A fusillade of glowing comets of white energy slammed against Occult’s wall, causing the plates to rattle into one another and creak on the verge of destruction. Seeing this, Renaissance didn’t waste time in turning her weaponized gauntlet on the fairy ring.
Even in her madness, Morganna caught what their plan was and, still screaming wordlessly at them, changed tactics, striking at the conjured barrier’s mystical underpinnings. The wall collapsed into boiling nothingness, leaving the five in the room helpless against whatever she chose to do next.
“No!” She finally made sense in her babbling. “Y-you… you must not! The power it… it will…”
Whatever it was saying, it didn’t stay Renaissance’s hand as she fired three high explosive shots into the driftwood foundation of the ring. What convinced her first that she’d just made a mistake was the fact that Morganna turned and fled back up the tunnel when the charges went off.
Plumes of dark gray smoke, accented buy bits of mushroom and wood ejected from the three impact sites and the entire ring seemed to shutter and twist. The green mist collapsed down to the floor, becoming a thick, roiling pool.
Then the shrieking started.
It wasn’t any sound a living thing would make. It sounded like metal being ripped apart by colossal shears. Only on a grand scale. The pool of mist flared to life with brilliant lights that seared out into the chamber, carving patterns in the ceiling and walls.
Alloy shook himself from the initial shock of the display to call out, “Run!” to the others. Acting more on his desire than his order, Isp whipped out and grabbed Renaissance by the waist, pulling her away from the rapidly disintegrating ring.
Of to his right, he saw Occult throw and arm around Cold Iron’s shoulder and start to pull the girl toward the exit while Gabraed was fixated on the lights, his posture low and ears flattened in alarm.
That was all he could make out before The pool and the lights exploded outward, washing over all five and turning the world green.
Returning to consciousness was a feeling that Renaissance found to be a distressingly common sensation ever sense joining the Descendants. Unlike in movies and such, those blackouts were often short term and felt more like the record of the world had skipped rather than coming to hours later.
This time was different especially in how different everything around her seemed to be from where she last remembered. The chamber had been dank and quiet and close with the wet, cold smell of ‘cave’ all about it. Now the air was fresh—more fresh than she ever remembered, smelling of green things and sweet nectar. There was light from somewhere and things chittered and sang not too far away.
She was in a forest. Maybe she’d been blown so far clear of Forsworn House that she’d landed in the nearby woods? Unlikely, seeing as they’d been eighty feet deep in solid rock. If she’d been blown clear, it would have been in pieces too small to be confetti.
Slowly, she opened her eyes, finding herself staring at ash. The ground all around her had burned very recently—possibly upon her arrival. Her eyes caught sight of a glimmer of something like gold at her midsection: Isp. She followed the tentacle’s sinuous form across the scorched landscape to where an armored figure lay.
A lump started forming in her chest until she noticed tiny motions there to suggest he was alive, just still more or less out cold.
With some effort and soreness, she sat up and got a better look around. The burned area was a rough circle extending about twelve feet from them. There was evidence of burnt tree trunks and exposed boulders around them—this hadn’t been a clearing when the blast of flame or possibly plasma hit the area.
That wasn’t the part that worried her.
No, what worried her was the fact that as she looked around, the local flora and fauna was losing its fear of whatever had decimated the area and were returning to their normal behaviors. A small, furry creature with six splayed limbs scrambled to the edge of the burned area and sniffed around. It let out an alarmed squeak and turned too late to see a glossy green leaf at the end of a flexible stalk swat down on top of it. The leaf enveloped the creature, conforming to its body shape before the stalked rose up again, a struggling form wriggling inside the leaf.
All around her, odd creatures scuttled and the plants moved. Some of them even seemed to be lining themselves up in her and Alloy’s direction.
After seeing all that, Christina Carlyle had no doubts where they were: Faerie.
End Issue #94.