|Under the Windings of the Sea
Author: Nancy Brown PM
The hero, having made his peace with the dead, must now do the same with the living.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Delilah & David X. - Words: 7,406 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 01-06-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1165508
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The scent of lilacs hung in the air like a presence, almost
a being of its own whispering nonsense tales to the child within
his soul. He'd never pictured the owners of this place in a
scene of lilacs. Roses, perhaps, heady with ancient passion, or
even lilies nodding their heads in remembrance of times best left
dead. Yet sure enough, as he walked down the road towards the
farm, nearly enclosed in a tunnel of oaks and maples, he espied
well-tended lilac bushes in neat order interspersed among the
Some things had changed.
His pace slackened as he approached the main house. It had
been almost a century since last he'd seen either of them. They
had parted on good terms, but again, things did change. Now that
he was rather inclined to live, being struck by an arrow tipped
with iron would be the height of, well, irony.
There was movement just out of his range of vision. A
child, or at least what he presumed was a child, zipped past him
and into the house before he could draw breath. His shout formed
instead into a smile, as another head poked out of the door, eyes
darting towards him in razor-sharp appraisal, before registering
him as a known.
"Hello, Stranger," he said, opening his arms to indicate his
total lack of weaponry. Of course, when one could build a bomb
less than a millimeter in diameter, even a thorough examination
wouldn't reveal it; fortunately for them both, he had no such
bomb, and no such intentions. This time.
"Indeed. What brings you here?" The other man's accent
hadn't faded in the years since they'd first met. He found it
"Believe it or not, I've dropped by to say hello."
"I don't believe it." The man's familiar face was drawn
closed in a frown as he stepped outside and closed the door behind
him. In a window on the second floor, two round faces peeped out
from the curtains.
He affected not to notice that the other man's arms were
covered to his elbows in what was possibly flour, but it was
more difficult to ignore the smudges of the same on his cheeks.
It appeared he'd been cooking. Nonetheless, his eyes were
bright, his shoulders broad, his entire body radiating health and
good cheer. Not bad for a man pushing fourteen centuries.
"It's good to see you, Macbeth."
He snorted. "You used to lie better than that, Xanatos."
Still his gaze gave away nothing.
"I'm not lying. I've changed. I want to explore what I can
do with this immortality of mine. That includes talking to the
only other immortals I know."
Macbeth watched him closely, distrust still gathered closely
around him. "Perhaps." Then his face broke into a grin, and he
took his hand. "It emis/em good to see you, too. We'd thought
maybe you'd finally dropped off the face of the earth."
"I did. Went all the way to Mars. But this is home."
"Aye." They spent a silent moment, then, "Come around back.
I'll make some tea. We can catch up on the past ninety years."
David looked around as he stirred sugar into his tea. "What
brought you two to France? The last I'd heard, you were back in
Scotland living it up."
"We were. We must have spent sixty years in that village.
Then the town decided to move, lock, stock and barrel, to another
planet, somewhere in the Caldos system. We thought about joining
them, but as you said, this is home. We'd spent time in Paris
before, and one day, we went for a long ride and quite by
accident, found this place for sale. It's small, it's quiet, and
no one bothers with us much. We started taking in the children
about ten years ago. It's so much brighter around the place with
young ones about."
"I was going to ask ... "
He laughed, a touch of sadness in the sound. "No, no
halflings in this bunch. I've met a few hybrids, and I suppose
we could go that route if we chose, but I think we're both done
with having our own children." He paused. "In fact ... "
"In fact," said a familiar voice behind him, "we've just
received word from one of them."
He turned. Dominique, if she was still using that name by
day, stood at rest behind him, her muscles twitching just
so beneath the cotton blouse she wore in the early Spring
warmth. She wouldn't attack first, but he would regret it if she
had to fight back. Understandable.
Again he held out his hands. After a moment, she took them,
pulling him up and into an awkward embrace. "We thought you were
"Funny thing about immortality," he said, giving her a
gentle squeeze, "it eliminates that death problem. As you should
"So it does." They parted. She poured herself a cup, and
spooned three heaping mounds of sugar into it. The expression on
her face as she sipped was pure bliss, and he hid his smile at
"So," she said after making a healthy dent in her tea, "Why
have you come?"
"Can't a man visit his two oldest friends without a reason?"
"No," he said, as she said simultaneously, "Not you."
"Fair enough," he said. "I did come primarily to see the
two of you, though."
"And the other reason?" She would grant him no quarter. He
knew her that well.
"I want to wake up the clones."
Only as the words came out did the plan crystallize. The
thought had been in the back of his mind for years, always to be
batted away again. How could he justify putting those poor
creatures through the misery of life when he could only barely
persuade himself to wake up each day?
Life had melted, shifted, become less of a burden. Now he
wanted to see what it had to offer, maybe make up for lost time.
The gargoyle clones, poor confused shadows of their originals,
were his responsibility for a thousand reasons. Bringing them
back would be a way of making things up to spirits long at rest,
as he had so recently set Fox and Alexander to rest inside
This was assuming the pair before him went along with it.
"No," she said simply. She stood up, taking her teacup with
her, and went into the house. Macbeth looked after her, then
turned back to him.
"Are you sure that's wise?"
"It's something I have to do," he replied. From within the
house, he heard a scream of rage. "Um ... Has she learned how
to control her temper, or should I start running now?"
"Stay. She'll shout and tramp around, and then she'll feel
better. The children know to stay out of her way when she's in
one of her moods, and she knows better than to take it out on
"I heard that!" came a shout. The door flew open, and she
stomped back out, her eyes blazing. "How can you even
contemplate waking them, waking emhim/em? Nothing's changed. You
still want to die, don't you?"
He held up a hand. "You created them as much as Sevarius
and Thailog did."
"And now they're dead. Let them sleep! If you tell me
where you're keeping them, I'll happily send them to hell for
"My love," said Macbeth, taking her by the shoulders. "Let
"He tried to kill you, too," she spat. "Doesn't the thought
of revenge hold the least interest for you?"
"If it did, I wouldna be sleeping beside you every morning."
She sighed, watching her husband's face. Finally, she
rested her head against his broad chest. "I'm a little on edge.
"It's all right," he said in a soothing voice.
David had quietly observed the couple; something Demona had
said earlier worried at the edges of his mind. "You said you'd
heard from one of your children?"
"Angela. She was in Wales went she sent the message. She's
looking for the descendents of the clan, and wanted to know if
we'd seen them recently."
He sat back in his chair, holding his cup in his hands like
a child might hold a bird, too tightly. "She was on Avalon when
the gates closed." He knew it, but had to state it, see
Macbeth's confirming nod, for the rest of the knowledge to sink
The gates had been opened. Oberon would again allow his
Children and the gargoyles trapped on the island out into the
World. He may even have sent them out as he had that first time
so long ago. Angela was back. His mother-in-law would again be
able to play her games with the mortals inhabiting this and a
myriad of other worlds. And if Oberon hadn't ended his miserable
life, even His Majesty's most favored servant would be free to
roam the World again.
"So you see," she said, "you have your choice of magical
beings from whom to chose. Ask one of them."
"I have nothing to do with any of Oberon's kind." And never
"Then you have a problem." She started putting the tea
things away. The afternoon was growing late; it would not be
long before her transformation. "It is however not my problem.
Drop us a letter if you find a way around it."
"Love," said Macbeth, placing a hand on her wrist, "don't be
She removed his hand. "If I never see Thailog again it will
be a century too soon."
"Perhaps we could come to some kind of arrangement?"
"Name your price." Now that he knew what he wanted to do,
he would not let anything stand in his way. Already he felt much
like his old self. They would see who dealt whom.
Macbeth named the cost for their assistance.
The hulking statue shimmered and faded from view. It hadn't
been moved far, merely to a shuttlecraft parked on the wide lawn
above them. The rest of the gargoyles remained in the same
unknowing poses they'd had since their "deaths" nearly four
hundred years before. Five lives in exchange for Thailog's
statue; it was a hard bargain. He's tried talking them from it,
knew Thailog was his responsibility even more so than the rest.
He'd been the second clone brought forth by the hardworking men
and women of Gen-U-Tech, and easily the most damaged of all the
creatures made in Sevarius' lab. Sotanax had had problems,
certainly, but that clone's short life had not come close in tragedy
to that of his second child.
He'd hoped to make it better for Thailog this way; the thought
of his being subject to whatever whims this pair had for him (for
some reason, he had nightmarish pictures of their using him as a
hat rack for truly hideous floral sun bonnets) made him uneasy.
Once Demona had heard the deal, she could not be shaken from the
notion of having her former lover in the house to do with as she pleased.
She stood before him now, poring over scribbled notes on a
piece of real paper. According to her, datapads simply didn't
work as well as the written word. Macbeth was inspecting the
statues for signs of any decay. As their predecessors had been,
they were remarkably free from erosion, even after such a long,
"All right," she said, simply, folding her wings around her.
They'd waited for moonrise; the time had come.
He lit the five candles surrounding the gargoyles, as
Macbeth stepped nimbly from the circle. He moved in a counter-
clockwise pattern, repeating the mantra she'd taught him earlier
in the afternoon: life from within, stone into skin. It was
stupid, even she admitted, but it would get him into a proper
state of mind.
When the candles were lit, he took the bronze bowl from
their work table. The scent of dried flowers caught him as the
fresh ones had when he'd gone to the farm two weeks before.
Macbeth took a handful of the stuff, and made a clockwise circuit
on the outside perimeter of the candles, sprinkling the flower-
dust and murmuring his own chant as he went.
Demona picked up the silver bowl next, and spoke in
bastardized Latin as she held her hand over it. The contents,
liquids whose identities he really didn't want to know, gurgled
and bubbled. She stepped within the circle, then brushed the
liquids onto the foreheads of the four males.
"All of them," he said.
She scowled, then placed a few grudging drops on the
forehead of the female, Delilah.
She raised her arms to the sky. Already, he could see the
moon just beginning to peer through the one window in the tower.
Despite the candlelight, the touch of it upon her wings seemed to
fill her with ten times the brightness as before.
She shouted something he could not understand, and became
too bright to be seen. He shielded his eyes, and when he dared
look again, could see the glow surrounding the clones. It was
"Now!" she yelled. "The golden bowl."
He picked it up. It appeared empty, but looks could be
deceiving. She'd called it a matter of faith. He'd called it a
matter of some gases being invisible. He stepped into the
circle, holding the bowl before him.
his mind stopped
the clones were light
stone and flesh
he wanted to scream
he wanted to laugh
so this was what
being within life
feel the life
he sucked it down
not air not gas
he was the moonlight
so was she
this must be like
what heaven is
now breathe out
she commanded begged
breathe upon them
give them the life
over each one
lifeforce from him
stone crumbled inside
take my hand
said the one outside
step out with me
no come inside
it's so beautiful
go you idiot she said
he was tugged through
... and fell out onto the cold hard ground, still aching to
go back inside that magical place. "Please," he whispered.
Demona stepped out from the circle, shaking moondust from
her wings. She snapped at him, "You could have ruined the spell,
you fool. You could have killed us all, immortality be damned!"
"I'm sorry," he muttered, his memory of the circle dulling
with every moment. "It was so beautiful."
"So is hemlock," said Macbeth, and he helped him up.
Demona took the final object from the table, a thin iron
dagger, and touched it to the edge of the circle. The glow
flared and collapsed.
Five rather confused-looking gargoyles stood in the middle
of a ring of burnt-out candles and flower petals.
"What - what happened?" asked Brooklyn's clone. Oh yes,
"You turned to stone when the decay completed," he answered.
"We woke you up."
"We're not sick anymore?" asked Broadway's clone.
He looked to Demona, who responded, "Probably not." She
grabbed her bowls and stacked them, then turned to her husband.
"We're finished here."
He nodded. "Xanatos, good luck with your children."
"Aren't you going to stay?"
"We have children of our own to raise," he said, and bowed in
a genteel fashion to Delilah. "Welcome back to the world."
And they left.
"Hello," said Hudson's clone.
"Where are Maggie and Talon?" asked Delilah.
"Are we in the castle?" asked Lexington's clone.
"I'm hungry," said Malibu, and Broadway's double nodded
Welcome to the world, indeed, he thought, and went to work.
Angela hadn't yet sent him a letter regarding the young
gargoyles; it remained to be seen whether she would correspond
with her mother again, and if Demona would tell her about them.
In the meantime, all the duties of parenting had fallen to him.
He'd slowly introduced the clones to the knowledge they were no
longer in the time they'd known, but centuries later. They'd
been only a few months old when they had been forced into stone
hibernation for so long; as children did, they adjusted with
greater ease than the first clan had.
He could not help but compare them to their predecessors,
although he knew it was wrong to do so. Each time he worked with
Brentwood, he would again try to introduce him to the newest feat
of technological magic, always to be met by Brent's near-blank
stare. Hollywood was just as much unlike his own genetic
precursor: where Broadway had been a gourmand, Hollywood was just
as happy with peanut butter and jelly. On anything.
The others were the same, and he felt a strong sting of regret
at that. He'd somehow hoped that bringing the clones to life would
ease the hurt of the loss of the other gargoyles, that Malibu might
remind him of Brooklyn, or Burbank of Hudson. Instead, he found
them to be pale mockeries of the others. If he compared them.
If he pushed the other images from his mind, a different picture
took shape. No, Delilah had neither Demona's strength nor Elisa's
courage, but she had a calm down-to-earth sense that both her
predecessors had lacked. Brentwood couldn't touch a computer without
sparks flying, but he drew extraordinary pictures of midnight
landscapes with crayons. Hollywood could sing like an angel when he
wasn't too shy. Malibu was one of the best listeners he'd ever known.
Burbank's green thumb set every plant in the castle to blossom in the
days and weeks following their rebirth. No, they weren't the living
incarnations of the others, but when he stopped trying to see them as
such, they were five wonderful little people.
April rolled into May, with still no word from any of the rest
of the gargoyles save Demona, whose letters were always brief and to
the point. Without bother from the outside world, their lives settled
into patterns, and he observed those patterns from a careful distance,
relearning small steps towards joy with every new discovery.
He could almost convince himself he was at peace within
He'd been sitting by the fire, poring over a datapad filled
with figures. He had other people to run his business through a
dozen different channels; only a few knew his real name, and none
knew the true significance of it. All they knew, and all they
had to know, was that he was paying them far more than their
worth not to be nosy. But he still liked to look over things
once in a while. It kept his people on their toes.
She minced over to his chair, and sat gracefully on the
floor before him. He smiled at her; she was the most advanced of
the five, and had fallen into the position of leader. When they
went anywhere, even to the towers to sleep, she was the one to
tell the others. When they wanted or needed something, she was
the one to ask. This required her to alternate between being
Very Serious as a leader, and her more normal state of playful
wonder. He had the feeling whatever had come up required the
Very Serious attitude.
"We need to talk." Very Serious indeed.
"Of course. What would you like to talk about?"
"Why did you awaken us?" He heard Demona in her voice,
demanding, always demanding.
He composed his answer mentally before speaking. "I wanted
to make up for the past. I created Thailog. He created you.
That makes you my responsibility."
"Is that all?"
"No." He had made a promise to himself to be honest with
them, except on one point alone, that being the location of their
former leader. Even that he would tell them when they were
ready. "I was lonely. I thought having the group of you around
the castle might be a way of lessening that."
He smiled. "Very much so."
She returned the smile. "Good." She rested her head
against his leg, a strangely affectionate gesture from one so
young. Then she surprised him again, raising her hand to rest
beside her head, and tracing small circles with her talon on his
knee. She moved her hand to the back of his knee, and started
He stopped her hand. "Delilah, what are you doing?"
She raised her head, met his eyes with her own smoke-filled
gaze. "Didn't you like it? I can do other things instead." Her
other hand settled higher up on his thigh.
He was getting a very bad feeling about this. "Delilah,
don't do this."
She was confused. "But you woke us up. I must repay you
for giving us life."
"Is that what Thailog told you?"
"He did not have to tell me."
Of course not. She'd been programmed with the information
from the vat. Damn Anton. No, he was the one who programmed
Thailog. He damned himself.
"You don't have to repay me. I told you, I did it because I
chose to do it."
"To ease your loneliness."
"But that is what I want to do. You are still lonely. You
made us happy by giving us another chance. I will make you happy
now." She exchanged her perplexed look for a more coy one. As
if a furnace had switched on somewhere, the room grew warmer.
Over the centuries, he had occasionally been struck by her
statue's resemblance to Elisa. Oh yes, he could see traces of both
her mothers in her face and form. Thailog had created what in his
twisted mind must be the perfect mate. By his genes, he was
Goliath, but by his programming, he was far more David's own son,
and Anton's. That implied Delilah would have a healthy dose of Fox
in her, perhaps not genetically, but emotionally. He looked for
those hints now, still holding her hands still.
"Don't you want me?" she asked in a breathy voice.
"That's not the point," he said firmly.
She pulled away from him, hurt clearly written on her pretty
face. He thought she might run, but instead she curled into a
ball. "I - I'm sorry," she said. "You said, and you were ...
Thailog was right."
He wasn't sure he wanted to know, but he asked anyway,
"He said no one would love a hybrid except him, that I was
lucky he wanted me. And I was. He loved me, and now he's gone,
and even our new master doesn't want to love me."
He sucked in a deep breath. "He said that?"
She nodded. In a minute, she was going to start crying.
David expelled his breath, no longer regretting his deal with
Demona. Hell, at the moment, he was ready to shatter the bastard
himself, reckoning or no reckoning.
"Delilah, that's not love. If we were to ... "
"Have sex?" she asked.
"Umm ... yes. It wouldn't be love. At best, it would be
misguided gratitude, and at worst, another form of slavery. It
would be terribly wrong, on levels I can't even begin to explain
to you. Just by waking you up, I have a kind of power over you,
never mind that I'm partly responsible for creating you in the
first place. That kind of power should emnever/em be mistaken for
love. Love is for two people who are equals." He thought again
of Fox, felt a stab he'd thought he'd lost.
She sniffed; this wasn't working. "Pygmalion fell in love
with Galatea." Of course Thailog would program her with that myth.
"Pygmalion was in love with the goddess he fashioned her to
resemble. He loved the dream of her, not the reality. Trust me,
you don't want to be loved for what someone thinks they can make
you. You want ... you deserve to be loved by someone who knows
who you are, everything, and who wants you for that."
"You know who I am." She returned her hand to its former
place, forcing him to again remove it.
"Yes. And I do love you for who you are." Her face lit up.
"You're like my daughter, in a way."
"Granddaughter." She tried the word, didn't appear to like it.
"Yes," he said, and placed his hand on her head, moved it to
touch her face tenderly. "You are like my granddaughter, and I am
therefore obliged to kill any dirty old man who even thinks about
you funny." He grinned, and hoped she would catch his joke.
"But you had a bath today."
Hello brick wall. "That's not what I meant. I need to
protect you from things you don't understand yet, including me."
"So I can find an equal?"
Her face grew long. "I have no equal. In all the world, I
am the only one like me."
He had no answer for her. She would have to find her own
path, but he would be there with her on the journey. "The sun
will rise soon. You'll need to sleep. We can talk about this
"All right," she said, and got to her feet. She ambled to
the doorway, all child until she turned around. "But I was
right. You are still lonely," she said in a woman's voice, and
walked up the stairs.
He returned to his datapad, stopped when he noticed he
wasn't seeing the numbers.
Hadn't the thought of her been a part of the reason he'd
woken them? She was beautiful, and she was kind, and if she
wasn't Fox, she was in part both Elisa and Demona, both of whom
he'd admired in more than one fashion. During the years, he had
often spent hours simply watching her, wondering what it might be
like to free her from her stone. He had even run that myth
through his mind, late at night, felt the solid rock come to warm
life beneath his touch.
The chance had come and he'd turned her down.
Because love took years to grow. Because taking her to his
bed would be like taking a child. Even if she had been mentally
an adult, it would be wrong. He agreed with the reasons he'd
given her, that he had too much control over her, that she might
even come to resent him later because of it. The more he grew to
knew her, the more he knew he could never hurt her that way. He
did love her, as he loved all five of them; the kindest thing he
could do for her now was to turn her down, let her discover what
love was with someone who wasn't her master, or her savior.
Then his thoughts turned to her parting words. And stopped.
He was dying. He felt the warm light inside of him, the
part of him he knew to be David Xanatos, slipping like sand into
a quiet darkness. Nothing could be done. Not a pill, not a
spell, not a new body. In a short time, perhaps a day, perhaps
a few hours, he would cease to exist. Utterly. Completely. He
had met gods in his day, but he honestly didn't expect any of them
to be waiting to catch his spirit like some etherial butterfly.
He would gasp his last, and then there would be nothing.
"Fox ... " He reached out, trying to take her hand, unable
to see it anymore.
"I'm here." The pressure of her touch against his own
brought back memories. The first touch. The first kiss. The
first night in her arms. The first time he'd held Alex.
He struggled for words, to express what he needed to say to
her before the illness defeated him. "You are everything," he
Her other hand joined the first, wrapping around his
There was noise, muttered conversation beyond his hearing.
Her voice returned, less certain. "Owen wants to talk to
"Hurry back," he mouthed. He didn't know if she could hear
him. With another touch, this time of lips to his cheek, she was
gone as if she'd never existed.
There was silence. Had Owen gone after all, leaving him
alone to perish?
"Are you there?"
"Yes." The voice, beloved as the rest, sounded sad even to
his own ears, an echo of the past.
"I'm glad you came back." The words took more effort than
he'd thought. He rested several moments, waiting for a response,
any response. Even with his senses turning off one by one, his
mind remained clear. Owen had needed to speak with him. "Tell
me. I don't have time to wait."
There was another long empty time. "I can give you time."
"Time ... "
"Immortality, my friend. I can grant it to you."
He could have it? The dream? Live to see Alexander's
marriage, hold his grandchildren? Need he even ask?
A future memory touched him, with visions of himself no
older than now, kneeling beside two graves; he was older than
time and so alone, and hadn't the Puck lost his powers? How dare
this self-righteous Child offer him that kind of hell?
Strength flooded back into his arms, his vision to his eyes.
He reached out, wrapped his hands around Owen's neck, and
squeezed until he held tendons crack and give way ...
He sat up in bed, panting, shaking, clutching the blankets
like a little boy.
The nightmare had come back, just when he'd thought he'd
banished it from himself for good. Over and over, he lay dying;
over and over, he was offered the gift. Each time, his mind
cried out to turn it away, refuse the offer, die a man.
But he hadn't, had he?
Given the chance, he'd clung to life like fraying twine in
his fingers. He'd accepted the gift, had felt the blood flowing
in his veins strong and free just minutes later. He'd sat up,
called for Fox, held her for the longest time. His recovery had
been hailed as a miracle. At Alexander's wedding, just a month
later, he'd stood proudly at the front with Samantha's parents
and Fox. Owen had been there, too, as had the clan, and the
hatchlings, and their friends. Alex had wanted all the beings he
loved nearby, and Alex had loved many beings. It had been a
glorious moment, the proudest in his life, as he watched his son
pledge eternal love to the young woman before him.
Eternity had lasted all of two years.
The battle had been swift, brutal. Oberon had seen
Alexander as a threat to his authority, being of the Queen's
line, and had taken it into his head to fight him. Alex still had
his powers, but something fundamental had changed; no longer immortal,
his frail human body could not withstand the blows.
David had watched, entrapped in the first moments of the fight
by his three sisters-in-law, unable to help, unable to move, forced
to observe as his son was struck down, and the others who'd gone to
his defense killed with him by the King and his mad daughters.
His mind's eye had replayed the scene to him nightly for
centuries: Fox, her body twitching with the residuals of energy
she'd absorbed when she'd touched their son; Goliath and Elisa,
caught by stray shards of magic from the Sisters as they defended
their father, vanishing from sight forever. Lexington, burned and
mutilated; Broadway, dead by morning; the others ...
Worst of all, worse than the sights, worse than the screams,
above all the rest, his mind replayed one moment over and over like
a record caught in a scratch. Oberon had appeared on the scene, his
eyes filled with murder, already poised to attack. Owen had changed
into his alter-ego, had flown between Oberon and Alexander, had said,
"This was not our agreement!"
Oberon had turned to him, regarded him as he might a
particularly annoying mayfly. "Really, Puck. You should know
better than to make an agreement with the King of the Tricksters."
And the attack had begun.
When it was over, when the wounded and the dead lay
intermixed, the Sisters let him go free. He'd run, trying to
overtake the fleeing souls before they departed his life for all
time, but when he reached Alex, when he reached Fox, they were
gone. He'd taken her limp form into his arms, held her against
his body willing life back into her, knowing it was impossible,
dying inside with the effort. His eyes had risen, had met those
of the man he'd trusted with everything he'd ever loved, had seen
regret and guilt reflect back at him.
Before he could act, Oberon had commanded the portal return,
had beckoned his daughters and grabbed his servant. The doorway
closed behind them, leaving him alone with the dead and dying.
He hadn't seen a member of the Third Race since then, save the
poor Bean Sidhe, mourning her own mortal lover. Angela for reasons
of her own had taken her son, Samson, with her back to Avalon.
Samantha had given birth a few weeks later to twin boys. She
told David in no uncertain terms they would be raised by her as humans,
that he wasn't welcome in their lives, that a magical heritage hadn't
saved their father. He couldn't bring himself to tell her the truth as
he now knew it: how Alexander had surrendered his immortality to grow
old with her, how he should be dead, and Alexander holding his own tiny
Funny how life worked out sometimes.
He lay back down on his bed, pulling the covers close.
Maybe he would be lucky and not dream this time. Maybe.
David stood at the top of the tower, where once Goliath roosted
by day, and looked out over what had become of his city.
There were yet clouds below his castle, but no longer were
they tinged with the smoky hint of pollution. Atmospheric
filters, and plain common sense, had finally eradicated the major
problems plaguing the air and the ground and the sea. The breath
he took in was clean, pure. It wasn't quite the same, he mused.
When there still had been such things as movies, he'd heard a line
that called back to him, although the actor who'd spoken it had gone
to dust hundreds of years ago: "I don't trust air I can't see."
Perhaps it hadn't been quite that bad.
He tried smiling, and failed. Tonight wasn't a smiling kind
of night. He touched his left hand absently. Not a smiling kind
of night at all. The anniversary had come; not his, for November
had already appeared and gone quietly. This was the other anniversary,
the one that had given him centuries of nightmares.
He'd sent the kids out. They were safe in this new world,
far safer than they had ever been in the old. Beings of a dozen
races walked or slithered the streets below. A set of wings was
no more unusual than pointed ears.
He suddenly pictured Oberon taking a stroll down the 5th
Avenue of today. No one would give him a second glance. Oh, but
that would annoy His Obnoxiousness beyond belief! Maybe that was
why he'd reopened the passage between the worlds. If he wanted to
teach his Children humility again, what better way than to introduce
them to people who would look at them, shrug, and keep walking?
Most of them, anyway.
His knuckles dug into the aged stone of the parapet, as he
shifted his grip on the dagger. Pure iron it was, deadly for any
of Oberon's Children who might feel it slide between their ribs,
or for one whose immortality had been stolen from one of them. He'd
had it made two days after Alexander's birth, for use in case of
unwanted visits from his in-laws. After his son's death, he'd kept
it with him, oft times taking it out, watching the dull shine, running
the blade idly against his wrist until the burning sensation from holding
the metal too long forced him to set it down again. Using that knife to
break the circle, now several months past, had been his way of finding
some good for it, then setting the dagger aside forever.
This evening he'd taken it out again.
Tonight was a ghost night. The wind, always stronger up here
than down in the streets, made every hinge and tree branch creak
with the whispers of magic. The warm breeze was dead silent in its task,
but loud with apprehension of what yet could come. Since the children had
left, several times he'd sworn he'd heard footsteps behind him, only to
discover the incongruous sight of scattered husks of leaves, fallen dry in
the height of a humid New York summer.
Fox's voice was long-stilled in his mind, but it wasn't the
only song of the past begging his attention. On this night, the
blade before him spoke just as clearly without making any more sound
than did the air itself.
He felt a presence at his back, did not turn to greet it.
"I knew you would come."
"Once I was allowed out, how could I not?" The human voice
rather than the fay spoke to him. David flared with anger at
himself; he'd pictured the confrontation to be with the fairy
side, knew he could gather his pain into one tight ball and hurl
it at that smug face. He was less certain he could do that to
the human side, although he knew the only difference was in the
form, not the spirit.
"I can think of reasons why you couldn't," he answered
As from long ago, there was a lingering pause before the
other replied, "Alexander didn't want to live forever. He saw
what it had done to Demona and Macbeth. He chose to become
mortal, so that he didn't have to outlive Samantha or his
"I knew that years ago. You knew it, too, and you used him.
You used me. You knew I was dying, that I would do anything to
live again. How many pieces of silver did Oberon promise you to do
He heard a sharp intake of air, knew he'd struck hard.
"You. Don't. Know." More emotion filled the three words
than he'd seen in a lifetime from the other's human form.
"You wanted immortality. You didn't know what it was like,
didn't know what it was to suddenly be bound to one existence,
one place, for all eternity. Unless you have changed yourself
into an eagle and dived down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
just to pull up at the last moment, unless you have called the
dance for the lives and energies of a city, unless you have
created your own world out of illusions and set it to life, you
have emno/em concept of what it is like to lose that."
"I know what it's like to lose."
"I gave you what you wanted."
"You took from me what I needed most."
A whisper: "It wasn't supposed to be that way. He promised
me he would allow Alexander to grow old in peace, and with you
immortal, he would offer the same to Fox to please his Lady
Another question, one that had been plaguing him since the
beginning of things, returned to mind. "Why didn't she step in?
Why didn't she stop it?"
"He didn't tell her he was going. By the time she found out
what he had done, it was too late."
He could accept that, but not the rest. "He killed her
daughter and her grandson, and she stayed married to him?"
"No. Why do you think he closed Avalon off? She divorced
him a second time, but he would not allow her to leave."
"But the barriers are down again. You're here."
"Not even Oberon can bind Titania forever."
That felt like the truth. His mother-in-law was the most
formidable being he'd ever encountered. They were not here,
however, to discuss his mother-in-law.
"I hated you. Every time I looked into the mirror, I cursed
at you. I don't care if Oberon doublecrossed you. You made a
deal that cost me my two reasons for living."
"There is nothing I can say or do to make up for that." He
heard the grief, for the first time wondered how many times his
former friend had also woken up screaming for the visions behind
"I wanted to die, tried to die, for longer than this
'Federation' as they call it has been in existence. And then I
took a clue from Macbeth and Demona, and found other reasons to
He nodded. "They're like my children."
"They're your grandchildren. We created Thailog. He
He let that pass through him, lost himself in thought. The
past and future spoke to him. He came to a decision. "They'll
be home soon. You should meet them."
"That would require your not killing me in the interim."
"I don't intend to kill you today." He turned from his
inspection of the skyline. Sure enough, Owen stood before him as
always, double-breasted navy suit hopelessly out of date but
present, left fist still caught in stone. He looked as if not a
day had passed since they'd last met, as if at any moment Fox
might step out of the elevator just below them, her face full of
mischief at the latest scheme the three of them had hatched.
Could he face the thought of the past being so near? First,
to have the clones as mirrors of the other gargoyles, now to have
his once closest friend, who stood, waiting for whatever was to
come next? Could he face the dark things inside of him,
threatening to bubble up with the slightest mention of what had
been and could not be changed? Did he even dare to dream,
knowing the checks and balances he was still due on a cosmic
scale, that there might finally be a return, if not to the way
things were, then to at least to some equilibrium between what
once was and all the potential of what was yet to be?
He heard the soft emchink/em as the dagger slipped from his
fingers, lay resting on the stone. The blade watched him accusingly,
reminding him that it alone had not abandoned him these past
centuries, that he needed to pick it up again, polish it smooth,
keep it next to his heart as he had for so very long, let it drink
blood for blood, for him.
Rust in peace, he thought, and without another word, David
turned from it, walked past Owen, went down the stairs. A few
moments later, he heard even footsteps behind him. He paused at
the bottom of the stairs, waiting the few seconds it took Owen to
They walked into the Great Hall together.