Faerieland: Part 43

I wondered how she intended to distract him. I had ideas, but I couldn’t know for sure till she tried something. We’d have to watch outside for a chance to escape–preferably without looking Artaxus in the eye. Amy had agreed that that was a bad idea back in the hallway behind the store–and we were already under her protection spell then.

Standing next to the hatch that was normally on the mech’s roof, and currently on its side, Haley rested the particle accelerator rifle on her shoulder. “What did Rachel say?”

“That she’s going to try something, and we should run if we get the chance. Do you think you’ll be able to tell without–“

“Looking him in the eye?” Haley finished. “I don’t know. I can tell how close he is, but not where he’s looking.”

I thought about it. “Maybe I can watch him with the sonics. The picture’s blurry enough that it might not count.”

“That sounds good to me,” Haley said, frowning, “but I don’t know much about dragons except what I saw in The Hobbit.”

“That’s about where I am except I read the book, and it might not be right. Um… I’m going to open the hatch a little.”

I pushed the button next the hatch, and it began to slide open. I let go before it had even moved an inch, placing my arm and one of the speakers next to the opening. That would be enough.

It was unexpected though. Was the mech already fully repaired? I glanced over at the dashboard as one of the screens turned on. From the series of red alerts, it was obvious that the gravitics panels were still partially destroyed. It wasn’t the power connection this time.

We were staying on the ground for a while. It looked like the main laser might work though–once the targeting system was fixed.

Well, crap.

I turned on the sonar, focusing on the left speaker. The picture resolved the nearest object instantly. The dragon stood generally on the hatch’s side of the mech, but a little to the right, probably because it could watch the front of the mech from there.

Background objects took longer to resolve. Wispy gray shapes turned into slightly more focused gray shapes. Behind the dragon stood a three story house, a garden full of bushes, and a number of evergreen trees. It wasn’t completely clear from the sonar, but I knew more houses stood in a line behind it.

He’d blocked our best route to escape, or at least Haley’s.  I could still fly, but I’d have to do it alone.

And that wasn’t going to happen. Well, not unless I charged him, distracting him so Haley could run. Judging from what he’d done to the mech though, he’d probably cook me in my armor.

Rachel’s voice came over the comm and this time it was over the League’s general frequency. “Now!”

Nothing happened, and then she said, “Ow!”

At that moment, the dragon’s head whipped around in a grayish blurry mess, snapping at something in the air behind it.

Then something weird happened. Explosions of white appeared all over the dragon’s head, including its eyes. It thrashed around, and maybe we could have escaped then, but it was spraying flame from its mouth. I could see the flame because of the roar of white noise that went along with it and it covered half the sky above us.

It stumbled backward, tail thrashing, backing away from the mech. Crashing noises came from the direction of the house.

However much it hurt, there was a method to its madness. If Rachel weren’t out of phase, Artaxus’ flames would have burnt her badly, who knows what would have happened to Haley and I?

Over the comm, Amy said, “Get back here! You’re never going to hurt a greater dragon by phasing a bullet through it. They exist in too many dimensions.”

Rachel’s breath came over the connection as she spoke. “It was worth a try. Did the Mystic wake anybody up yet? I’m going to need a doctor.”

Samita’s voice rose. “He didn’t bite or scratch you, did he? Dragon venom’s terrifying.”

The wind almost drowned out Rachel’s reply. “He smashed into me with his neck after I shot him. I don’t think he knew I was there. If he’d bitten me, I’d be missing a leg.”

Not giving anyone else a chance to speak, she added, “Sorry, Rocket. Sorry, Night Cat. We’ll think of something.”

“I’m going down there,” Amy said, her voice getting louder. “It should have been me from the beginning.”

Samita said, “No, you’re already too tired–”

Travis broke in. “We should get Storm King and Captain Commando back out here and use them for cover. Then Bloodmaiden, Accelerondo, and I should–”

A new name appeared on my HUD’s contact list. It said, “Immortal.”

“Stand down, Night Wolf,” Lee said. “I’m practically there, and I’m going to take care of this. Get back into the complex. There are still goblins to fight.”

“But–” Travis and Amy both said at once.

“No. Get back there immediately.”

Amy, Samita, Rachel, and Travis’ connections winked out on my HUD–most likely as they disappeared into the rock.

As they’d talked, Artaxus had pulled himself back together. When Rachel shot him, he’d backed away from the mech, but he’d come back as they talked, stepping more lightly than many creatures that large.

“Give me a second,” Lee said. “I’m almost there.”

I would have replied, but Artaxus wasn’t giving me a second.  He leaned down, taking the mech in its foreclaws, but not picking it up. The ceramic hull made cracking noises, but didn’t break.

“Come out,” he said, voice taking on an unnatural, almost hypnotic, tone, “or I will rip open your machine and then you.

“You remember about the Bloodmaiden’s protection? I’ll be able to break it soon now. She’s not close anymore, and she’s all that’s keeping me out of your head. You’re only moments away from going after each other–”

In one movement, Haley pointed the particle accelerator rifle out the crack in the hatch and fired. Better, she must have hit something sensitive because he yowled. As he screamed, I fired off a killbot. I’d been holding off because I only had three on me, and I couldn’t aim them accurately when I couldn’t look at the target with anything but sonar.

In that moment, I decided to take a chance, aiming at what I thought might be the head.

I followed the bot on sonar as it went inside something, and then exploded. It wasn’t the head. It was a bend in the neck that somehow l mistook for the head. From the scream that erupted, it had hurt the dragon though.

So naturally it flamed the mech again. From the temperature readings of the flame that my suit gave me, the fire wasn’t as hot as it had been at the beginning. That was small comfort though, because this time we had the hatch open, however small the opening.

Flame came through, melting the rifle barrel, and burning the seat in its path. Haley jumped backward, avoiding the fire.

It caught my left hand as I pulled my arm back, hurting like nothing I’d ever felt.

28 thoughts on “Faerieland: Part 43”

  1. Aaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnd caught up to everything and down to suffer with the others waiting between updates.

    This story is great I love it, the way the characters are handled is very good (albeit more Jaclyn would be great, especially if she gets a PoV like Cassie).

    I love the way you are Juggling the different superhero tropes and how you are integrating magic and alien tech and all, now you’re just missing the mystical Martial art stuff à la Iron Fist.

    Now about this particular arc proper:

    – Atraxus’ human disguise and the way Lee creates his body seem rather similar to me, I wonder if there is a relationship there especially given the reptilian like nature of the dragons and what we glimpsed from Lee’s true form, one wonders if Lee or another of his kind did not spawn the first great wyrms through some dalliance or as a weapon of some kind.

    – I love the Bloodmaiden and wonder what the limits of her power are, especially given that Amy seems like a good person and thus restrains herself, one wonders what her power in the hands of someone a bit less nice could do. On that note I cannot help to see great forshadowing in all the talk we got about Amy’s world, eh wonder if Sis and the Empire won’t come knocking down the line. Just as I wonder what the big difference is between a Bloodlord of old and a Bloodmaiden aside from gender.

    – On Bloodmagic: is Amelia’s reality’s Blood Magic the same as the league’s or is it different somehow ?

    – The faerie: I wonder about their relationship between them and the different realities: Amy mentions that she is not familiar with Nick’s universe’s fairfolk, yet she knows Atraxus and the guy(well Lizard,or great Worm)fought beside and against her family in the past, so does each reality have it’s own fey and their courts/Realms or is there one for every reality or is just more simply that only Atraxus and his Ilk are one of a kind in all realities and the fairfolk proper are exclusive to their universes ?

    – On Lee: I noticed in Rachel’s PoV in Infinity city(which I hope we will see more of because I love multiverse stuff)that there was another Gunther helping the”immortal League” so was that another body of the same entity or a conterpart of it ? As it seems that Lee’s people are multiversal in scale.

    -Eh, another more general question: What would happen if someone with innate magic power had a kid with a”regular” Super ?

    Er…Sorry about all the questions I tend to get like this on the stories I enjoy, anyway great work cannot wait for the next update.

    1. Welcome Paradigm. I’m not the author but I’ll try to answer the best my memory/knowledge allows. Jim is a huge meany and does a great job keeping undisclosed information close to the vest.

      -I’ve suspected from Amy’s and Samita’s first bumping of heads that Amy’s bloodmagic is not quite the same as what Samita’s familiar with. Kind of arrogant of her to assume things work exactly the same in all universes.

      -Amy declared in this chapter that dragons exist in multiple dimensions so it doesn’t surprise me that she knows about him.

      -There’s no way to predict how Jim would handle the genetic mix of magic user and super. They may not be able to co-exist so such a child would be one or the other. However, if he decides they’re both sides of the same coin then such a character would probably be self-balancing, the more powerful the magic, the weaker the super part or vice-versa. On the frightening side, he may decide they can co-exist without any limits placed on one by the other. While at lower levels this could be interesting the idea of Dr. Strange with the strength and durability of Wonder Man would be so unbalancing as to require a Deus Ex Machina to ever defeat him.

      That last brings up an interesting question. I can’t remember if it’s been mentioned but can magic be taught to anyone or does it require latent talent? Imagine Nick with a full understanding of magic combined with his tech genius and imagination.

      1. Thank you Andrul, both for the welcome and for the answers.

        – About the Dragons: true it was mentioned that they exist on multiple dimensions however alternate realities and other dimensions are completly different things hence my question, now a being existing on so many levels is undoubtedly a signifiant thing and might well be a one of a kind in the multiverse mind you.

        – About magic I think it was mentioned, when Isaac Lim was doing the Stapleton sales pitch to Nick(do not remember in which update this happened sorry), he mentioned that they had a program to teach people stuff about magic(recognize the various entities or the sigs of magic activity and various effects)but that only people with the gift could actually perform spells or enchantments.

        As for why I asked about the mix of Magic and regular supers, well the Cabal and by extension other people bearing latent potential have been around for quite some time, so odds are those met mystical beings durng that time, such as demons or Fey who have been shown to mingle with humans.

    2. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it. As for your questions, I’ll answer a few. Basically I’ll answer the ones where I’m not planning to build any tension around the fact that people don’t know the answer.

      As for Lee’s people creating dragons: It’s not impossible.

      With regards to limits to Amy’s power: the major one is that if she copies the powers of a being whose nature is too powerful, her own personality might be subsumed by it, temporarily or even permanently.

      With regards to the Bloodlords: they’re the leaders of Amy’s family and the families that came from it–essentially the nobility of her world. The Bloodmaiden is an individual with unique powers that comes from that family–except when there are twins. They appear once a generation, more or less.

      Faerie: Faerie touches on all universes, but certain parts of it are closer to some universes than others.

      Lee as a pan-multiversal entity: I probably shouldn’t answer that.

      Super and sorceror: I’m not against mixed character origins in theory. In pratice it might make the character overpowered, and thus hard to write. Figure it’s possible, but probably won’t happen.

      Earth blood magic vs. Amy’s Earth’s: Similar, but not exactly the same. From Samita’s reaction, Earth’s likely took a darker turn.

      For the record, the next interlude between regular books will be a short story or possibly a novella with Amy. Her home will figure prominently in it.

      1. Ah, well thank you very much for the answers Jim!!

        – Well Lee’s people creating the first Dragons would seem rather coherent to me, now wether they did it on purpose or not is up in the air. Speaking of Lee’s people I have long wondered what their relationship to magic is given that Lee can be bound by it just as mystical beings can be.

        – Amy being overhelmed by the essence she absorbs is something I gathered from the story, but I wondered if she could take on more than one, like during the Alien invasion when she killed a bunch of them could she splice the essences or did she have to chose ?

        – On the Boodlords: Well I kinda got that for the current ones, but I thought the ancient ones who modified the family’s magic and created Amy’s line were different, well that’s what I got from the part in Remote Control(I think it’s right arc, don’t remember which part exactly though).

        – On Lee’d people being Multiversal I fully understand you cannot answer that, eh for some reason I think of Lee as a Smart Scionlike(the entity from worm)being in how his body avatar works with him holding bunch of powers in reserve. Plus I got the idea of them being multiversal because Abominator take seems to work on that level a bit(well that’s what I got from the abominator modification chamber when Cassie mentioned it had working alternates, meaning the things are interconnected) and since Abominator tech comes from Lee’s people’s”goodies”…

        – I like that take on the Faerie,well thought out and with lots of potential.

        – On supers and Sorcerors, well I do not know the mechanics under which your magic operates, but I could see ways of balancing such a character out, for instance the magic heritage weakening the “regular”super one and vise versa, the two balancing each other out in some weird mid level power.

        – Interesting I wonder if Leagueverse’s Blood magic being of a darker nature might come from it’s user having lost a struggle or another and thus having had to delve deeper in the dark…Eh wonder if the various Aliens have defences against magic.

        Ah, nice to see that we will get a story about Amy as well as see her world, because I truly like her for some reason and I hope she’ll get to stay around like Izzy does(speaking of her, DO her power have roots in Abominator tech or are they something else given her Grandfather’s extrauniversal origins)

        …And I did it again with the question, sorry.

        Oh and for the league’s hypothetical children, well there is and easy solution for having them appear without writing for years: Time travel with them coming to the current period for whatever reason.

    1. Its oddly comforting that Lee isnt even a little worried. Also scary as hell theres a whole race of him out there.

  2. Enjoying the story as always, but the comments are on the website design. I love it, but I find myself wanting PREVIOUS, NEXT and START OF ARC buttons on both the top and bottom of each page for ease of navigation. Apologies if this has been mentioned already.

    1. I think that’s a great idea too. I don’t want to modify this template too much (due to other demands on my time), but I’ve got some ideas/plans to construct some tools for serialization. That should be in there.

      1. It takes very little effort to put navigation links in the body of the text itself, Jim, if you haven’t already tried it. I do it that way because I do not like how far away the page increment buttons are from the story text in every premade page format I’ve seen. I stole the idea from Wildbow’s Worm. I also use it to put links to topwebfiction for people to vote, so I don’t have to remember to put it in comments.

        1. It would take very little effort to put those sort of links in manually, but that’s not the main issue. The main issue in my mind is how much work it would be to take them all out.

          You and Wildbow are non-programmers who are using WordPress.com (which locks down the system pretty hard). I’m using self-hosted WordPress, and I’m familiar with how to modify templates, write plugins, and generally customize things.

          The kind of links you and Unwise Owl are talking about are things that I know how to automate, and eventually plan to automate. If I did what you’re suggesting, I’d end up removing all of it later, possibly by hand, if I didn’t trust myself to write a script that edits each entry.

          Thus, it’s not a bad way to go for you, but for me, it would ultimately create more work than programming a solution.

          1. Still loving the story. Thank you so much for writing! I m dreading finally catching up…

            I read almost exclusively on my phone, and if you were going to add additional navigation buttons, I would vote for at the end of the comments. It is just an extra bit of fiddly scrolling to finish reading through the comments, and then find the section break to hit Next.
            Thank you again for sharing the fruit of all your labor with us… speaking of which, there is no obvious donation button on the mobile version of this page 🙁

  3. If haley and nick had a boy, be beast from xmen. Rather see a girl. Ooo imagine haley beast powers and ghosting from nicks grandma.

      1. Time travel, Jim. Nick and Haley break up and drift apart because of some problem or another, and their daughter comes back and fixes things.

        The only problem is keeping Nick from seeing the DeLorean and figuring out what’s happening until after the fix is in. Then she’ll need help getting home.

        “Uh, Dad, now that I’ve kept you and Mom together, can I borrow a few ounces of plutonium? Or a lightning bolt. Or whatever. I. uh. ran out of gas on the way here.”

        1. To be honest, there is a time travel arc that I’m contemplating. It’s very different from the one being discussed here. The current working title is “The Time War.”

          I don’t promise to write it. I’m still trying to figure out where it fits in the story’s overall arc.

          I’d say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything by accident.

          1. Well, there’s a fairly simple one-shot you can use, around Valentine’s day. Time traveler shows up, get’s Nick’s attention to draw him out of his lab, smacks him in the chest with a box of chocolates, a few roses, and a calendar, then stares at him until he realizes what he was about to miss, locked up in his lab.

          2. I imagine time travel would be tricky, given it would have it’s own rules and consistencies, which would then be layered on top of what is already multiple dimensions and rules for magic here. In particular, the cost element, because if time travel is too easy, you’d have the question of why aren’t people coming back in time more often and rewriting the story we’ve seen to date. It would be interesting though.

            Pardon the extra comment, time travel’s right in my wheelhouse. 😉

          3. The beauty of nested comments is that multiple comments are practically encouraged.

            With regards to the Time War, yes… There needs to be a reason it doesn’t happen much–if only because it gets really confusing.

  4. Regarding mixing magic with regular superhero – I know Jim didn’t really answer this, but it seems Nick and Rachel already kindof answer the question. Kids don’t inherit all the potential of their parents. Apparently the genes are recessive enough that it can even skip generations or only partially manifest. That said, it seems that Amy and Samita already mix a little regular superhero with their magic.

    1. What Noto Mention said here is an excellent point. The most likely result of a sorceror having a kid with someone whose powers come from genetic manipulation is neither ability at all.

  5. All those comments and no gasps of horror about Rachel?? (This’ll teach me to pop off for a couple weeks in the middle of a battle!) Seriously though, good description through here considering it’s from the perspective of someone who cannot directly see what’s going on. I’m wondering why people (or at least doctors) are unconscious – if they started that way, must have been hard to move them.

    Regarding the dragon, I’m vaguely reminded of Medusa, except I don’t think fighting in a mirror would work too well, particularly given the dragon’s voice aspect. Just as well that Lee showed up, though I wonder if we’ll be able to see that multi-dimensional battle… or if (perish the thought) it puts Lee out of action for a while (in a sort of mutual destruction kind of deal). Hm.

    PS: Accelerondo should be Accelerando.

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