- 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)
Into The Woods (Part 3)
Other humans had found their way into Faerie. It seemed so obvious now that they’d deduced it, but still unbelievable. They’d known it worked the other way around, considering how eerily accurate some old tales and stories of things like cryptids turned out to be compared to what the Books said. In that way, Faerie had shaped parts of modern life. Now they were seeing hos Earth had shaped Faerie life and they were forced to reevaluate the information and technologies the people of the world and by extension, Maeve had at hand.
They were still trying to come to terms with it when the procession of hunters stopped before a house at the edge of a large plaza.
It was obviously a well-off house; the plaster was fresh and smoothly applied with frescoes of sunrises over rugged mountaintops painted along its gently curved front wall. A fence of expertly cut and fitted stones separated it from the street, leaving room for a front yard made up of rounded river stones and heavy slabs of shale arranged in tasteful steps. The gate in the fence and the front door to the home were both made of polished wood, painted bright red. There was a crest painted over the door: a teardrop with a crescent, open side facing up, beneath it beneath an arc of five seven-pointed stars.
At long last, the Huntmaster dismounted and passed through the gates. When he reached the door, he looked back and motioned to another mounted hunter who was likely his second in command. She said something tot he procession and they started to trot off again, all but the two men holding Warrick’s litter, two women wielding bows, and one older man whose sole weapon seemed to be a cudgel of smooth, stained wood.
Only once the rest of his party was well away did the Huntmaster rap his thick knuckles against the door. After a few minutes, the door was answered by a black-eyed, lithe-framed female with black hair pulled back in a braid so tight it pulled her eyebrow permanently up.
As she exchanged words with the Huntmaster, Dana provided translation courtesy of Gabraed. “Her name is Chilani and she’s the local healer. The Huntmaster is negotiating a price for her services. It sounds like he’s trying to convince her not to study us.”
“Does that mean ‘wake up strapped to a table with someone snapping on a latex glove’ kind of study?” Tink asked warily.
“Gabby doesn’t know what that means, but I’m thinking ‘yes’. He says the Huntmaster says it would violate hospitality.”
Lisa hugged herself. “We’re going to have to be extra careful around here: I bet she isn’t the only one that want to know how ‘Mankinds’ work.”
Dana nodded, the paling of her face concealed by her armor’s helm. At the door, the two daoine seemed to have reached an accord. “They’ve made a deal. The Huntmaster will bring someone to cast a translation spell so she can question us, but she can’t harm us.”
A slight wave from the Huntmaster had the litter-bearers carrying Warrick forward, leaving the others little choice but to follow. The healer watched them come with shining, black eyes and a wide smile that showed a mouth full of needle-teeth. She clapped her hands together, keeping them in a praying position for a brief time before tilting them toward the humans, then she stepped aside to allow them entrance.
“She’s offering us the hospitality of her house.” Dana supplied.
“Is that a good thing?” Warrick asked.
“As long as she values the rules of society. So… fifty-fifty?” said Lisa.
Warrick of all of them had no choice as the litter-bearers brought him inside. The main room was more like an extra-wide hallway with an arched ceiling supported by plaster-coated buttresses and a hardwood floor covered by a long, thick carpet of royal blue. More doors led off from the main chamber and at the far end, a spiral stair descended into the ground.
At Chilani’s direction, Warrick was carried and the rest were lead down that stair, into a second, almost identical hall below and then into a room off to one side where a cot was set up. Tink took charge in moving Warrick to the cot, then took up a place beside him.
The place didn’t look anything like a hospital room: walls carved out of the stone and smoothed until they shone, a trough of wood pitoned to the wall and overflowing with what might have been a luminescent fungus, and a little else. There weren’t even chairs for visitors, just a single stool positioned under the bed, right next to what the Earthbound humans were hoping and praying was not a chamber pot.
Once Warrick was off-loaded from the litter, the daoine who had been carrying him took their leave. It was only then that they noticed the healer was missing, meaning that the humans and graymalkin were alone in the room.
“I guess this means the doctor will be with us shortly?” Dana backed herself into the far corner and slid down the wall into a sitting position, fidgeting constantly was her armor wasn’t meant to be comfortable in that position.
Lisa moved over to the trough on the wall, getting up on her tip-toes to peer at the glowing stuff that was lighting the room. Whatever it was, it definitely looked organic and was growing from a wad of what might have been wool laid down at the bottom of the trough. “Maybe she doesn’t want to tend to us without that translation spell?”
“Well it’s a good thing the injury isn’t life threatening.” Tink didn’t bother hiding the irritation and disgust in her voice.
“’Life-threatening’ means something different when you have spells that can heal,” Lisa pointed out.
Tink knelt down next to the cot and entwined here fingers with Warrick’s. “That doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave someone to suffer.”
“Ah, such wonderful care for your mate. Mankinds really are much like us, are you not?” All eyes in the room turned to the open doorway where Chilani nod stood, a tray covered in shallow bowls, leather pouches and small bottles in her hands. When she got no response, she stepped into the room, moving carefully to the other side of the cot from Tink, placing the tray on the low table next to it.
“Forgive the extra time suffering,” she paused and then corrected, “spent suffering. I had to ensure the Huntmaster and his people were gone. They cannot know that I speak the tongues of the Vault; the tongues of Mankinds.”
That said, she started working with the objects on the tray, tossing in pinches of dry things from the bowls and bags and adding drops and drizzles from the bottles.
Lisa was the first to recover from her revelation. “Wait: you aren’t being translated? You know English?”
Chilani continued mixing things, occasionally breathing odd words in a flowing, sweet-sounding language over it, pausing to nod. “English, Frances, Espanol, Deutsch, ‘arabi, Hanyu, Nihongo, Walpiri, Nederlands, and several dialects of each. My family was one of those charged with keeping the tongues of those who fell through after the Vault was sealed. I have a question to ask of you: have you come because of the Queen of Air and Darkness?”
Everyone in the room immediately went on edge. There could be many reasons Chilani knew human languages and even more ways ‘because of Maeve’ could be taken.
Taking up the bowl she’d been mixing things into, Chilani nodded to Tink. “Please, lift his shirt so I may apply the salve.” She waited until the redhead was following her instructions, gingerly removing Warrick’s top so as not to aggravate his injury, before addressing the proverbial elephant in the room.
“I understand your fear, but please know that my entire line are friends to the Mankinds in hopes they will one day fulfill the promise of the greatest of their number.” She held out her hands, thumbs pressed together, middle and ring fingers folded so they were almost touching in front of her. “We await His Heir.”
If her earlier question caused silence to fall over the room, this new proclamation removed even the idea of sound as meaningful glances bounced around the room. Tink even lost her grip on the bottom of Warrick’s shirt.
Finally Lisa waved the others (minus Dana, who didn’t know what they were talking about) to calm. “We aren’t here on purpose: there was an accident and we… appeared her. In a pair of huge fireballs, actually.”
Chilani’s face fell and she turned her attention to the red and swelling flesh along Warrick’s side that Tink had exposed. With long, narrow fingers, she started scooping the spinach-colored salve onto him, drawing neat, precise sigils over his ribs.
“Oh. This does happen at time. The last was in my mother’s time: a man and a woman, strangely dressed, but not in the same manner as you. They spoke a dialect of Espanol, and knew some English.”
Warrick was doing his best not to flinch at the ticklish feeling of Chilani’s work, and so focused on asking, “How did they get back to Earth? The Blue World, I mean?”
Chilani frowned. “They did not. They spent fourteen years in hiding with the help of my mother and others. They had a child… I do not know what happened to him, but none who arrive here return to the Blue World, and none who travel the Blue World return here.”
“Wait, that’s not true.” Warrick groaned. “T-there were these demons who attacked us. They went back after we beat them! So did whatever the Mauler was. And Descendants LA send stuff back all the time! There has to be a way back. Hell, the fact people end up in the other world at all means it’s a two-way street.”
“Demons?” Chilani’s fingers stopped, hovering over Warrick’s skin. “You fought demons?”
Lisa nodded, coming to stand next to Tink. “Yes, they were from a place… I don’t know the exact pronunciation, but it sounded like Sigh and Shriek?”
“Sai’n’shree?” the daoine asked, looking disproportionately hopeful. When Lisa affirmed this, she actually smiled and resumed her work. “That is one of the nations within Hyrilius’s Vault. You’ve had contact with his Legacy. Please, are you certain there is no higher reason for your being here? Maeve has returned and soon he shadow will be cast over all Faerie. We had hoped that this would be the time His promise finally is fulfilled.”
Dana finally roused herself, getting up from the floor. “I don’t know about the Heir or whatever, but these guys? They’re heroes back home. Not only that, but I was handpicked by the Errolking to help fight Maeve.”
“The Errolking?” Fear clearly played on Chilani’s features and her eyes quickly traveled to rest on Gabraed. “I-I… forgiveness, please. I did not know that the Lord of the Wyld had chosen to be involved.”
Lisa sighed. “You don’t have to be afraid. She’s with us and she’s… a friend.” Everyone who wasn’t Chilani or Gabraed did their best not to hear the light, fannish squee coming from behind the visor. “And… well we weren’t sure where you stood before, but I suppose I should tell you this now: I was told before we ended up here that I’m the Heir of Hyrilius. Is that who you’re waiting for?”
Chilani’s expression melted into one of reverence. “You… truly are the Heir? You’ve come to free the Green World of Maeve’s grasp once and for all?”
“Um… well that’s the end goal; that and keeping her from reaching Earth. But I wasn’t telling a lie earlier: we really ended up here by mistake. Back home, we have more allies, more tools necessary for the fight—even things Hyrilius left behind for us to use. We’re of almost no use to the fight as were are now.”
After a small yowl from Gabraed, Dana offered, “And we’re too far away for one of the Errolking’s agents to bring us home before Maeve realizes we’re here.”
With a force of will, Chilani resumed her work on Warrick’s ribs. “If you truly are the Heir, then there may be a means for you to return to the Blue World: Hyrilius’s Path. It is something he left behind for his Heir. The only thing that may complicate things is… it is inside the Vault.”
“Please say you know how to get us in there,” said Tink.
Chilani shook her head. “I do not. However, I know one who was given that secret as my family was given the task of recalling the tongues of the Vault: we must get you to Passion Gate.” She gave a pensive look as she finished drawing sigils in the salve and held her hand over Warrick’s side, suffusing his aching ribs with warmth.
“That may be more difficult than it sounds, however.”
“Why’s that?” Dana blurted out.
The healer gave her a sad look. “You must understand that Huntmaster Halvinian is a good man. He cares for all the people of Madgate. But…”
Halvinian stared into the dark liquid placed before him, refusing to look at the other two members of the village council seated around the table with him in their private chambers in the back of the Madgate Tavern. “It was a terrible mistake, bringing them here. I would have put them to the sword if not for the malk. Drawing the ire of the Errolking is almost as bad is getting The Queen’s attention.”
“I would rather you have brought him upon us than let the entire town see the Mankinds.” said Syliik, an elderly woman with eyes like purple marbles. “Too many of them believe in Hyrilius and other tall tales, Halvinian. They will starts to gossip, maybe even act out. If they do so while Maeve’s outriders are here, that could be the end of Madgate.”
The other council member, Tyruo, younger than Syliik but of the same race of daoine as her, raised a hand to stop her continuing. “We will never lose all of Madgate. Maeve believes in those superstitions too and it has been said that if one of the Cardinal Towns falls, the Vault will open and spill out the Sequestered Kingdoms and the strange magics within.”
“Do you really want to take the chance that she isn’t willing to take that chance?” Syliik demanded.
Tyruo huffed, folding his arms. “Would you have us violate hospitality then? Are we no better than goblins or filthy dwarves? Over simple fear? I thought your generation knew priorities and bravery.”
Syliik narrowed rheumy eyes. “My generation has known many times under Maeve’s power; dead allies who thought Maeve gave a care about niceties of hospitality or the rule of exchange, villages and towns flattened and burning, inexorable cold seeping into every crack of the world. This is not a war, Tyruo. If you had been around more than one return of the Queen, you would know this is mere survival.”
The younger daoine clenched his fist around his own cup and turned away from his elder. “What say you Halvinian? You’ve grown quiet.”
A low groan came from the Huntmaster. “I say that we must do everything to protect the town, and I must do whatever I must to correct my mistake.” He took a deep breath and chased it with a gulp of his drink. “But we must take care: if the malk reports back to the Errolking, we will face another doom just as surely.”
Looking at the Huntmaster with a burning sense of disgust mixed with sorrow, Tyruo shook his head. “Then what is it you mean to do?”
Halvinian scrubbed his long fingers through his hair. “We saw the outrider’s camp while on the hunt. I know where to send a familiar to deliver a message. At the same time, I told the Mankinds they must leave before the sun sets. I will direct the outriders after them. With luck, the forest will kill both and leave us be.”