- 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 6)
The shock almost cost them their lives.
Partially blinded by the intense flare of the hellkite’s flames and reeling from the realization that those same flames had cost someone their life, the heroes from Earth were in no position to react immediately to the continued threat of the monster.
Isp and Osp, however didn’t have much in the way of a concept of the sanctity of sapient life. They knew Warrick didn’t want anyone killed, so they pulled their punches. They knew Warrick cared about his friends, his family and his love—and even they had grown a fondness for many of them, and so they protected them.
For the tentacle twins, however, the fate of Idrankkar was outside their wheelhouse. He was an enemy, wanted to hurt Warrick and ultimately his death hadn’t come from Warrick or those close to him… so they didn’t care. At all.
What they cared about was the huge legless dragon trying to work up the oxygen to stoke another gout of killing blue flame—flame they knew wouldn’t be turned aside even by Warrick converting his armor to bismuth or a heat-resistant alloy thereof.
So while the shock was gripping everyone but Gabraed and Chilani and those two were still blinking the blinding light out of their eyes, the twins shot forward and wrapped the hellkite’s jaws, forcing the mighty beast’s mouth closed and preventing it from unleashing its breath again.
A hollow, deep whine escaped the creature’s nostrils and it reared back, raising the upper quarter of its body off the ground. Its stubby wing-fingers pawed the earth ineffectually as it tried to figure out what was going on.
Tink was the first to recover, firing three pellets of foam into the hellkite’s muzzle to help keep its mouth closed before switching ammo and peppering its wings and body with pink, slimy lubricant, robbing it of its ability to gain purchase enough to try and fly away or fight back with wings or tail.
“Okay…” Warrick said, nerves in his voice as he tried to push past what he’d just seen. “That was horrible. What the hell are we going to do with this thing?” The struggling hellkite was pulling him around by where the twins attached to his arms and he soon extended spikes from the back of his armored boots into the ground to try and anchor himself.
Lisa opened the Digi-book and consulted it. “It’s still just an animal. Even if Chilani can’t control it, I think I might have a spell for that. Hold it still.”
“Don’t have much of a choice!” Warrick replied as the monster threatened to uproot him.
Calling up a spell she hoped would work, Lisa turned to Chilani. “Is there anything you can do to help?”
The renegade daoine spread her arms in a gesture of helplessness. “I am merely a healer. The number of times I’ve been outside the protection of a village or city could be counted on two hands.”
“How about you?” Lisa turned her attention to Gabraed.
The graymalkin huffed at her, then casually strolled toward the battle, his tail held upright and nose firmly pointed skyward. “I’m not going to bother translating that,” Dana explained, “He’s being an asshole.”
Asshole or note, the Gabraed was absolutely fearless, striding right up to where the hellkite writhed and struggled. Giving the huge monster a look of utter disdain, he sat down and kneaded his paws into the ground. The thin, green tubes that passed for grass on Faerie started to move, waving in concerted, rippling motion as if blown by a wind no one else felt. Then, without any further warning, the ground erupted as this, dark green stems lifted out of the ground, revealing that the ‘grass’ was actually the leaves, fruit, or some other alien organelles of a number of far larger, coiled plants.
Still shaking off dirt, they rolled with a sort of lazy grace up and over the hellkite before burying themselves in the ground again, forming a dozen or more thick, greenery-covered ropes that pinned the beast in place.
Lisa had to swallow down a stab of fear. They’d been walking on those things the whole way thinking they were just swathes of alien grass. And they were everywhere. Still, they hadn’t attacked before Gabraed used whatever spell or ability he had, so they were really a secondary concern vs the hellkite. “Bring its head down! I need to be able to look it in the eye!” She instructed.
The twins redoubled their efforts as Warrick sent more spikes into the ground to anchor himself and by extension them. Then Tink wrapped them both around her forearms and added her own strength to theirs, slowly but surely winning the tug of war with the draconic monster.
Wasting no time, Lisa retrieved an etched wooden disc from her bag and snapped it in half. The spell inside sprang to life, painting the air with glowing blue sigils in the form of a magic circle with her at the center. The moment it was in place and active, she started reciting the spell from the Book.
“Thou common beast before me, bend to my will and accept my gift of guidance. By my mind and by your strength shall we both be fulfilled in a pact of service. So thou shall serve my needs, so shall I fulfill yours.”
It was a short chant, a simple spell, but when she locked eyes with the creature, she realized that it was more than just something to control animals. She knew things now about hellkites that the Book never offered up. Suddenly she understood what it needed to eat, what made it sick, where it nested, how long it lived and every organ and scale of its anatomy down to healed fractures and old scars.
In a staggering moment, she became an expert on the care and rearing of hellkites, especially this one. Her new ‘friend’ was a scarred beast, both body and soul. Idrankkar was a cruel master who used his enhanced power to dominate it completely. His demise was not entirely as accident in as much as a beaten dog biting its master could be called one as well.
And now she could feel its panic and discomfort. Isp and Osp, desperate to keep it from breathing flame, were straining the bones of its jaw. The foam Tink used was obstructing its breathing. As powerful and dangerous as it was, they had rendered it afraid and suffering.
All that passed into her mind in the space between one breath and the next and when she returned to herself, she was still staring into the hellkite’s eyes, only now she understood it and in as much as an animal can understand a person, it reciprocated.
“You can let him go now.”
“Not that I don’t trust your magic, but are you absolutely sure about that?” Warrick spared her a backward glance.
By then, Lisa had put the Book away and was holding her arms out to the side to show the hellkite she had no intention of hurting it. “Yes, I’m sure. But you’re hurting it right now and that’s not going to help me convince it you’re a friend.”
“The boys aren’t too sure, but… okay.” Warrick relaxed the tension in his own arms and after a pause for him to communicate with the tentacles, they too relaxed, coming free of the hellkite’s muzzle. They didn’t however, withdraw completely, staying on guard in case the monster tried to attack.
Giving a long, mournful low through its partially blocked nostrils, the hellkite turned toward Lisa and lowered it head to try and rubble the hardened foam off itself.
“Do you have some kind of solvent to get that off him?” Lisa asked Tink.
Her fellow heroine checked her stocks and came up with a small spray bottle with a green band along its bottom edge. “I’ve actually got a few different solvents, but this is the one for the foam. Can you get your new friend to calm down enough for me to use it?”
Instead of answering, Lisa slowly walked up to the hellkite, muttering soothing nonsense like she would to a stray cat. The great beast let out another sound that would have been piteous if it weren’t the size of a city bus and turned lowered its head so it brushed the ground. Steeling her nerves, Lisa reached up and stroked its brow ridge, right where the first of its horns sprouted form its skull. The spell had given her a special awareness of a particular nerve cluster there that responded positively to touch.
A long, soft breath, hot as a furnace, blasted from the creature’s nostrils as it started to relax. Only then did Lisa gesture for Tink to approach and apply the solvent. Within minutes of application, the foam started to turn brittle and flake apart. Using her free hand, Lisa pulled chunks of it away until her new ally was breathing comfortably.
“Gabraed wants to know why we’re not killing this thing.” Dana said after a while. “He says hellkites are unpredictable and dangerous even by his standards—so I’m guessing it’s like a blender with teeth and fire.”
“I agree with the graymalkin,” Chilani put in. “If your spell breaks, this creature will make short work of us.”
Warrick, who by then had shifted his armor back into shape and gotten the twins calmed down gave the monster and appraising look. “We’ve already beaten it once. Both me and Renaissance can shut down its breath weapon before it can fire, and the cat can hogtie it with—okay, I have to ask, at those vine things all over this plain?”
“The sarikul vines come here to mate.” Chilani explained, “Sometimes for years at a time. Unlike most other flora, they can’t move a great deal, so they mate and store energy until the it time comes and they uproot, rolling on to more fertile land to spread their fertilized seeds. They were only able to move now because the graymalkin infused them with enough energy for the task.”
“So… this whole place is like some kind of plant orgy?”
Tink put a hand on his armored shoulder, having done her part for the hellkite. “What do you think all those high pollen days back home are?”
“I need to stop asking questions I don’t want the answer to.” As quickly as he could, he turned his attention back to the hellkite. “Back to our new friend here: if Occult is sure she can keep us in his good graces… well we are looking at weeks on foot getting to Passion Gate with more of Maeve’s soldiers on our ass. But now we have a big ass dragon who can fly.”
From where she was standing, helping removes the last of the foam, Lisa ducked her head in agreement. “That’s exactly what I was thinking. The only problem is, he’s not exactly a horse: riding bareback would be like doing the splits…” She then pointed to the thin spines running down the hellkite’s back, “…on razorblades.”
“What about the weird sex vines?” Dana suggested.
“The green leaves of the sarikul actually release a mild paralytic toxin. It is too weak to affect something at large as a mankind or daoine, but making contact with your skin to one will numb it.”
“So not that then,” said Tink. “Hey, Occult? Are these guys allergic to metal?”
By the time Faerie’s sun was starting to dip below the horizon, the hellkite, whom Warrick and Tink had dubbed Asmodeus after the raid boss in the Hell level of DeathGate, had been outfitted with his new howdah. It was little more than a bowl-shaped metal cage that had to be held on by Isp and Osp because even using both Warrick and Dana’s armor, there was only so much metal, but they were sure it would carry all of them.
“It might look like a steampunk butter dish—if you wanted to torture your butter, but It’ll work, at least long enough to get us to the next town.” Warrick pronounced.
“And, I’m pretty sure this will intimidate anyone thinking of selling us out to Maeve when we get there to think twice,” added Tink.
Off to the side, Dana was sitting on a bare patch of ground with Gabraed in her lap. “Yeah, but now I’m completely defenseless! And out lord knows how much money that armor cost.”
“Do you want to be stuck here for weeks?” Warrick asked, trying to keep his tone light. He really didn’t know her situation, so he chose not to point out that they had friends and family waiting for them.
The girl scowled at him. “Of course not! My parents are waiting to hear a call from ‘camp’ sometime soon, and if they freak out, my cover story with WitSec is going to go to hell and then we’re really going to have a problem because I left that part of up to him,” she looked down at Gabraed, “and after the past day, I’m worried they’re going to find like a shallow grave full of US Marshals near my house or something.”
“When we get back, we’re going to have a long talk with your cat, Dana.” Warrick vowed, then sighed. “Man… I wonder what everyone back home is doing. By now, they know we’re gone, but do they even know we’re not dead?” He rubbed his masked face with the heel of one hand. “And jeez, what will they do if some bad guy attacks while down three?”
He looked to Tink to hear what she had to say, but she wasn’t paying attention.
As the sun sank, the two pale spheres of Faerie’s moons were becoming more starkly visible, but so were the stars. Three particular stars had caught her eye and after some quiet observation, she’d picked out the rest of the constellation. It was… thinner looking? As If viewed from a different angle, but it was definitely Orion. She followed the stars of his belt to find a highly skewed Big Dipper. Others were missing entirely, but if she concentrated, she could just make out the white ribbon of light that was the local spiral arm they were currently inhabiting: the Milky Way.
Elsewhere in the Milky Way, on the planet Earth, in a state called Virginia, at a facility known as Coffeewood Correctional Center, someone was unaware that the Descendants had just suffered a great loss, but he was already planning to compound it.
Scott Otis Long. That was the name he’d given and that appeared on the ID the authorities eventually found in his hotel room. His fingerprints and DNA, however popped up on CODIS and other databases more often then pimples in a class photo. Dozens of criminals, some even confirmed dead, were linked to those, evidence of heavy digital tampering.
By design, no one knew who he really was. And they never would if he had anything to say about it.
The authorities, the media, the world at large and his many loyal fans knew him though. They called him Joy Killer. That was the flag he wrapped himself in, the identity he held in more esteem than what he’d been born with or what he’d been before he finally found the pure calling of putting a lie to the fallacies of idealism, altruism and good will.
Not everyone was enlightened enough to accept it, but he was the savior of humanity. Some of his commenters went as far as to say he was the new Jesus. He couldn’t argue. As soon as people opened their eyes and saw what an ugly, wretched species they were by design, they would stop trying to pretend and finally become what they were meant to be.
And they would thank him for it.
Until then, however, there would always be obstacles. For example, he’d been dealt a defeat by the ‘superheroes’ of Mayfield. Two defeats, actually, each infuriating beyond imagine. But he accepted them. Even a genius can make mistakes, and he had allowed himself to lose sight of his goals in a fit of pride.
That wouldn’t happen this time. He’d dismissed the heroes as fools, but even the dumbest among them had a certain amount of animal cunning. Now he understood that the superheroes were the ultimate opposition to his truth. As long as they existed, people would still hold on to their hope and feel safe, and maybe even be inspired to do better—slowing progress to a crawl.
Now, he understood what had to happen: he had to tear down these ‘heroes’, break and debase them. Show them for the better creatures all humans were. Not just the ones in Mayfield, but all over the world.
But it would start in Mayfield.
He knew exactly how it had to begin: the inciting event that would end this worrisome trend forever.
He would kill their Hope.
To Be Continued in Descendants #96. Faerie Quest Continues in Descendants #97