Gargoyles: Pendragon

Eye of the Tiger Part 1

The Bengal tiger silently stalked her prey through the jungle. She was a rare breed. A wild white tiger, padding through the forest floor, stalking the lone buck. It was the dry season, and she was hungry. Food was scarce for all. If she didn't eat soon, then she would never eat again.

She padded quietly into a long abandoned set of ruins, four standing stones in the center of the ruins. The buck spotted her white and black fur coming, and then bounded over the wall. She was too far away to catch him. She could move fast when she wanted to, but tigers are ambush predators. She needed to be closer.

Then she heard a soft trumpeting sound nearby. The tiger turned her head in surprise. A baby elephant was also within the ruins, quietly trumpeting for the rest of its herd. She heard them trumpet in the distance.

They were too far away.

She licked her lips and started towards the elephant calf. It squeaked in terror and darted inside the temple. The tiger padded up the steps, quietly walking into the temple. Her prey cowered in the corner.

She coiled back, preparing to pounce.

There was a flash of light on the altar next to where the elephant calf cowered in fear. The tiger looked up. The light was coming from atop the altar next to her cowering prey. A statue of an elephant-headed human with six arms; the elephant's eyes and tusks were glowing green.

There was another flash of light, and the tiger's world was shattered.

Sir "Nick" Natsilane Koyah leaned up against the doorway.

"Leaving so soon?" Nick asked Rory Dugan, frowning. "If you didn't want me to be your roommate, you could have just said so."

"Okay, I don't want you to be my roommate," Rory said dryly. Then smirked back at the hurt look that Nick gave him.

"I'm kidding," he said reassuringly. "You're great. But I promised my da that I'd still be helping him around the house. Plus there's scattered Fomorii all over Ireland left over from Mab's attempted takeover of Avalon. Not to mention that Maeve is still out there somewhere too, licking her wounds. Crazy psycho Mab-worshipper."

Nick nodded knowingly.

"I'm supposed to be the bloody hero of Ulster," Rory continued. "So it's my responsibility to track 'em down and round 'em up for Bres."

"What about your responsibilities here?" Nick asked curiously.

"I told Arthur when he knighted me, that my responsibility to Ireland would always have to come first," Rory said. "'I wouldn't want you on the Round Table if they weren't' he told me. S'what actually made me want to be one of his Knights."

"England and Ireland have a long history of hating each other," Rory continued. "But I think if Cu had met Arthur back in th' day. He'd have been going on and on about 'th' one good Briton.'"

"Don't worry," Rory said chuckling. "I'll be back in three weeks, occupying the other bunk and getting into your hair in no time."

"Why do we have to share rooms?" Rabbi Loew said, wandering out of the room that he shared with Fara Maku across the hall. "This castle is huge. Why do we have roommates and not private quarters?"

"You might, eventually," Macbeth said, entering the hall. "But you have to remember that this castle was an Illuminati stronghold for over 1,500 years. Who knows who might have lived within these walls in that time? Dark sorcerers like Duval? Or worse. King Arthur wants Merlin to vet every single room in the castle before allowing us to move in, metaphorically and literally. Thus far the wizard has properly examined only four bedrooms. So, we share. Speaking of the wizard, he wishes to see us in the courtyard."

"Arthur gets to sleep alone," Fara muttered. "And in the biggest bedchamber."

"Arthur is the King, whom we swore fealty to," Tea said joining them from the other hallway, which from the room which she was now sharing with Fleur, the former queen of the very castle they were occupying.

"And besides," Macbeth said. "He's not alone. He's sharing the chamber with both Merlin and myself."

"You're leaving today, though," Fara countered.

"Merlin slept for centuries inside his Crystal Cave," Macbeth countered. "Which has given him the worst case of insomnia in any human being alive. Trust me, the Rabbi's snoring is a gift compared to the wizard's constant pacing."

"Hey!" Rabbi Loew said, vaguely offended as the entourage of Arthur's 21rst Century Knights came down the stairs and entered the castle courtyard.

Above the castle was a massive dome, with what appeared to be a bright blue sky filled with wispy clouds. At least if you didn't look too closely. A closer examination would show that the 'sky' had a strange lattice of hexagonal panels, with the blue coloring, and wispy clouds projecting onto them from nano-projectors within.

The dome itself was ten miles in diameter, and actually rested in the middle of an Antarctic wasteland. But you couldn't tell from the inside, which was a balmy 78 degrees, and littered with tropical plants imported from Guatemala, and a small spring that wound its way through the artificial jungle and emptied into the castle moat.

The castle, formerly Castle Carbonek, before the enchantments that kept it mobile had been removed, rested in the exact center of the dome. Metal catwalks extended outwards from all of the castle entrances, forming a spider-web like path over and through the jungle surrounding the castle.

In the castle courtyard, King Arthur was talking to Fleur—The estranged wife of Peredur Fab Ragnal, the Fisher King. Next to them was Merlin, the mirthful mage dressed in light red leather, and leaning on his staff, listening in on Arthur and Fleur's conversation.

Behind them, by the portcullis, Macbeth's harrier jet sat, the back open. Macbeth had been ferrying the knights, and supplies to this location.

Next to the harrier jet were two stone statues, one, apparently that of a griffin dressed in leather, and the other, vaguely resembling a large mastiff or bulldog with webbed ears, and spurs down its back.

The 'sun' or at least the artificial construct that was acting as the sun was lazily drifting down behind the castle. The sky blue was fading into deeper purple, and artificial stars were starting to be projected onto the dome's interior.

Macbeth quietly joined his fellow royals as the knights fell into step with one another and made there way over toward the harrier jet.

The sun finished setting, and a web of cracks began to form on the two stone figures. There was a frightening roar as the gargoyle and beast awakened, shedding their stone skin, and becoming flesh and blood once more.

"Evening knights," Griff said, flashing his cohorts his rakish, beaky grin.

"S'up, Sir Griff?" Nick said casually. The knights all liked Griff. For a number of reasons; firstly, he was Arthur's 'First Knight' and thus most trusted knight. It also meant that Griff was the go-between for Arthur and any one of them. Not that they usually needed a go-between. While Arthur was quite formal in his mannerisms, he treated every man, woman, and gargoyle as an equal, and anyone who spoke to him noticed it immediately. It was one of the many reasons he won respect and admiration from each of them without even really trying.

However, when chatting with Macbeth and Fleur, he could sometimes get caught up in talking to them. Immortal kings and queens have much in common, and may not notice the time slipping by. So when that happened, Griff was happy to interject on behalf of the Knights. Griff's jovial nature, and swash-buckling attitude was the other reason he was so well liked by the other knights.

He acted like a flying ace from the 1940s, ready to take on the Nazis. Probably because he was a flying ace from the 1940s, who battled Nazis.

The beast, upon awakening, had immediately bounded over to Rory, and nuzzled up against him. She was jet black, with the same glowing red eyes as all female gargoyle beasts. Her body looked remarkably similar to Bronx, the beast of the Manhattan clan, though she was somewhat larger.

She had hatched from an egg five years prior, and Rory had raised her himself. She was as fiercely loyal to him as any beast from Xanadu might have been towards their gargoyle partners.

Rory called her 'Berghest' because he hadn't been feeling especially creative when he'd named her. The name had stuck, however, and she wouldn't react to any attempts to rename her that he had made.

"Hey girl," he said, scratching her behind her fan-like ears. "How you doing sweetheart?"

"Are you ready, Sir Dugan?" Arthur asked, breaking away from the other two royals.

"Aye sire," he said. "All packed and ready to go."

"Before you go," Merlin said, with a twinkle in his eye. "I have something to show you all."

"Yes," Arthur mused. "So you keep telling us, Merlin. As long as I don't end up spending the afternoon as a penguin."

"Please, Arthur," Merlin said, leading them toward a pair of doors on the far end of the courtyard. "If anything, I would transform you into leopard seal. Far more interesting beasties."

"What's this?" Griff wondered.

"Long ago," Merlin said. "I suspect that it lead down to a gargoyle rookery."

"Maybe it will again, some day," Rory said, gently nudging Griff.

"Now it leads below the dome," Merlin said, as the temperature sharply dropped.

"You could have warned us," Tea said, suddenly cuddled up to Fara. "Some of us are not dressed for this cold."

"Apologies," Merlin said. "I'm having the Master Matrix fabricate heaters for us, but, well…It doesn't possess an unlimited supply of nanites like her brother-program. So the fabrication has been slow. But the reason I brought you down here is not."

"The Antarctic Dance?" Griff asked, as they entered a massive chamber. There was ice and crystal covering the walls, but in the center was a massive stone structure, covered with indecipherable runes.

Ever the scholar, Rabbi Loew walked over to the stones and began looking them over.

"Arthur and I saw this artifact before the Castle came to rest here. Back during the initial search for the Holy Grail. There's a similar monument in Wyvern, Scotland, where Goliath's clan originated. Which we discovered back when we were searching for you."

"Indeed," Merlin said, smiling. "Did it ever make you wonder why such monuments existed?"

"Somewhat," Griff confessed. "Goliath said that the stones turned the humans who betrayed his clan into vengeful ghosts. Then they tried to turn him into a ghost while they became flesh again."

Merlin blinked.

"Well…Yes…I suppose that it COULD do that. But that's not what it is meant to do," the wizard said.

"The stones act as massive magical capacitors, and form a massive network between every other Dance around the world. Might I direct your attention to the globe."

Merlin gestured towards a large antique globe near the entrance, resting in the center of several crystals.

"That thing is like…Five centuries out of date," Nick said, somewhat dismissively.

Merlin reached over and placed a hand on the globe. Suddenly, a blue holographic globe appeared above the wooden antique. The holographic globe was more accurate than the antique. There were several green and red dots scattered over the face of the planet.

"Happy, now, Nick?" Merlin asked.

"A little," he replied. "What's going on here?"

"I've combined Science and Sorcery to create this Globe," he said. "The glowing dots represent other Dances all over the actual earth."

"There's Wyvern Hill," Griff said, peering closer to the holo-image. "Why is it red?"

"Means that the Dance there is damaged," Merlin said. "I'll have to repair it before we can use it."

"Use it for what?" Nick asked.

"For the network, of course," Merlin said grinning.

"Network of WHAT?" Nick demanded.

"Network of Stone Dances," Merlin said.

"I think that this one is Stonehenge," Griff said, still peering closely at the holographic globe. He reached up and touched the glowing green dot.

Instantly the Antarctic Dance in front of them lit up. The runes glowing soft blue. Arcs of magical electricity began flowing between the stones. Rabbi Loew, suddenly looked up in surprise.

"You'll be fine," Merlin called out to him. "Don't cross the lines of power."

"What is happening?!" Loew demanded. Suddenly the Rabbi shifted…Becoming transparent.

"Merlin!" he said looking down at his hands, and then up at the wizard again. Then in a heartbeat, he vanished.

"MERLIN!" Griff said, suddenly. "Where did the rabbi go?"

"Stonehenge, I'd wager," Merlin said, grinning like a madman.

"What?" Several of the knights demanded at once.

"Well that IS the Dance that Sir Griff touched," Merlin said. "So unless the repair spells that I set into place were off somehow, which they weren't because I'm me. Then our little lost Rabbi is in Stonehenge."

"You mean to tell us," Rory said, frowning. "That you used magic rocks, in order to build a transporter from Star Trek?"

"I don't know what any of those words mean," Merlin said. "But yes, the Dances are now a massive transportation network. Should save time from having to wait for Macbeth's little flying toy to get to wherever you need to be."

"How do we get him back?" Griff inquired.

"Oh I don't know how to do that yet." Merlin said. "The Antarctic Dance is the keystone for the network. But there's no way to cause the exo-dances to return the person or object sent through the network to return here. At least not yet."

Griff gripped his temples in exasperation.

"So you just used one of my Knights as a guinea pig?"

"No," Merlin said. "I used guinea pigs as guinea pigs. Of course I TESTED the network before bringing you down here. I know it works. It just doesn't bring things back."

"Yet," He added hastily.

"I hate you, so much," Griff said.

"You're sure he's fine?" Fleur asked frowning.

"It's not that we don't trust you, Teacher," Arthur started to say.

"No, no, your majesty," Griff said. "It's okay. We don't trust you. Between the random animal transformations, experimental spells, and vaporizing my knights…I've begun to suspect that your reputation is GREATLY exaggerated."

"Sir Griff," Arthur said sternly.

"Your knight is not wrong," Merlin said quietly. "I have not conducted myself with…With the decorum that I did back during the days of old Camelot. I have been…Strained. What Nimue did to me…It broke my mind. He is just saying what all have been thinking. Even myself. I've gone mad."

Fleur's cell phone suddenly rang. She picked it up, and held up her index finger.

"Ze Master Matrix has just relayed a call to my phone," she said. "It's Rabbi Loew. He is okay. He is in England. At Stonehenge."

"Mad or not," Rory pointed out. "It does do what he said it would."

Merlin appeared to brighten slightly at this.

"As simply, and without as much magical jargon as you can," Nick said. "How does this thing work?"

Merlin had to think about it for a second.

"The stones convert you into spirit. Transports your spirit along ley lines to a receiving Dance, and then converts your spirit back into flesh."

Nick mulled this over in his head. While he had become accustomed to the existence of Magic, and the Spiritual, he had also realized that just because they existed, didn't mean that they didn't have rules of their own. So he frequently found himself applying the Scientific Method to the study of magic.

It had lead to several victories during Mab's assault on Avalon.

"You combined Science and Sorcery to set this up?" Nick said, frowning. He quickly pulled his laptop out of his backpack and opened it up. "Really all you need then, is some kind of remote beacon. Something that can tap the Master Matrix, and send a signal to activate this globe-console, and activate it again; pulling any travelers inside the exo-dance back to New Camelot."

Merlin, who had looked rather upset moments before, was now interested in whatever Nick was bringing up on his laptop.

"Master Matrix," Nick said. "I'm sending you a rough design. Can you fabricate it?"

There was a pinging noise in the air.

"I can fabricate one prototype device," the Master Matrix's feminine voice declared. "With the nanites that I have in stock. In order to fabricate more, I will require several more hours to manufacture more nanites."

"That's fine," Nick said. "One will do."

"I'm going to run to the fabrication room," Nick said. "I'll be right back."

Nick bolted up the stairs. Merlin paused, but then bolted after him.

"Lad," Macbeth said, turning towards Rory. "We have to get going. We want to be in Ireland before your beastie turns back to stone."

"Wait," Rory said. "Merlin's thing DOES work. And it looks like there's a transporter pad—Irish Dance—In Ireland, IN Ulster."

"It is one of the only green ones," Fara said. "There's one in Nigeria too, but it's red."

"Looks like only," Griff paused counting up the green lights. "Sixteen Dances are still functional."

"Before Merlin repairs them," Arthur commented. "And he will repair them."

"You think," Griff muttered.

"Why don't Berghest and I just use the Dance to get home?" Rory asked. "It will save you a stop, and it will be a proper test of the network."

Griff looked somewhat exasperated.

"All right mate, you won't hear any objection from me, if you want to take the chance," Griff said.

Macbeth shrugged.

Rory whistled, and Berghest bounded over to his side, before stepping into the Dance.

Griff walked over and touched the green dot in Ireland.

The Dance lit up again.

"What the hell?!" Nick yelled, having returned from upstairs.

"Th' Irish dance is green," Rory called out, even as he turned transparent.

"SO!?" Nick yelped, running over to his laptop. "You don't know where the Irish Dance actually IS! It could be in a cave that's been sealed up so long the air isn't breathable! Or at the bottom of a lake!"

Rory had just enough time to look panicked before he and Berghest vanished.

"Maybe we should have run more tests on the system before allowing people to step inside the Dance?" Merlin suggested.

Griff and Nick shot him a dirty look.

"We already know that Loew is fine," Griff said. "Fleur called Una and told her where he was. Let's focus on getting to Rory. And then, let's try transporting some cameras to and from each Dance before we go jumping on the platform all willy-nilly."

"Best plan I've heard all day," Nick said, as the rest of the knights slowly began backing out of the room.


Tea leaned back in her chair, staring blankly at the wall of computer screens. Each one displayed various images from around the globe. Most were rather mundane.

New Camelot had been established with a global defense in mind. If someone, anyone, anywhere needed help against forces that they couldn't deal with under ordinary circumstances, then that's when the Knights were meant to mobilize.

While there were all sorts of things happening all over the world that would catch the Master Matrix's search perimeters, most were not worth responding to, although Arthur also allowed any knight on monitor duty to actively join any quest that they wanted. If Tea wanted to hunt down a Nigerian pickpocket, she was free to do so.

She didn't want to, though. Mostly she was bored. It was quiet, bordering on dull. Very little was happening anywhere in the world. Nothing more than the usual petty crimes and standard tyranny (and as Arthur put it, they were not in the business of toppling governments, no matter how corrupt, at least at the moment. They simply didn't have the resources.)

Then an image caught her eye.

India, from 30 minutes prior. A young girl was running from a gang of thugs. A strange green glow…And then a tiger was chasing the thugs.

"Master Matrix," she snapped suddenly. "What was that? Did…Did that girl turn INTO a tiger?"

"Unknown," the computer said. "The quality of the security video is too poor for a proper analysis."

"If Anansi or some other creature of the Third Race has cursed that girl…" she said. "She will need help learning to cope with her new form…and…"

Punishing the spider—fairy—whatever you call it—responsible for the change, she thought.

"Submitting a Quest Request," Tea said.

"Request noted," the Master Matrix informed her. "However King Arthur and Queen Blanchefleur are occupied in Ireland at the moment. Arthur will not be able to approve your request until he returns."

Tea growled at the computer, some of her panther slipping out.

"What about Griff?" she asked. "He's got the authority to approve a quest in Arthur's absence, right?"

"Affirmative," the Master Matrix responded. "Sir Griff is in the Antarctic Dance chamber."

Tea jumped to her feet and ran back to the room she'd been sharing with Fleur. After quickly gathering up both of her bowie knives, she then grabbed her rifle. Though obviously as a were-panther, her standard arsenal was her teeth and claws, Tea tried to resist the change most of the time. She didn't embrace the panther-form like Fara Maku did.

Fara spent as much time as a panther as he did a human. Tea preferred to remain human if at all possible. And she was a crack shot with her Ruger and using the weapons of humans in combat helped her mentally retain her humanity. Something she prized.

She strapped her rifle onto her back and ran down to the courtyard, and then through the doors to the Antarctic Dance Chamber.

Griff was at the bottom of the stairs, along with Merlin. Griff was fidgeting with what appeared to be a black wristwatch., with no actual watch face on it. It had a cover with Arthur's dragon-crest inscribed upon it, which, when opened, revealed a large red button.

"Can you repeat that, your majesties?" Griff asked into his radio, examining the odd looking watch. "I can't quite hear you….Yes, the Master Matrix was able to fabricate another one of Nick's recall devices, but I've no idea if it will work or not…Hang on."

"Yes Tea?" Griff asked, turning towards Tea.

"What is happening?" Tea asked.

"Irish dance is underground," Griff said. "Fairly deep. And sealed up, like we feared. Nick's recall device isn't producing a strong enough signal to return them. MM fabricated another one, but I don't know if it's going to work either. And if it doesn't…"

"Then you'll be just as trapped as the others when you go through," Tea said. "Maybe you can test it by going to a different Dance?"

"Not a bad thought," Griff said. "And I take it from your hunting gear that you have a Quest Request for me?"

"A security camera from India," Tea acknowledged. "May have caught sight of a girl transform into a tiger."

"And you think she might be a kindred spirit, like yourself?" Griff said.

"I think that she may require my help," Tea answered diplomatically.

"There IS an active Dance in India," Merlin pointed out.

Tea bristled.

"Relax," Griff said. "Merlin and Nick have done enough tests to know that the transportation process is actually completely safe for the travelers. It's getting back that's the bugger."

"I'm willing to take on this challenge, on my own," Tea said.

"Two to a quest, minimum," Griff said frowning. "That's the rule. Arthur doesn't want anyone going anywhere without backup. Where's your boyfriend?"

"With all due respect," Tea argued. "I do not want Fara backing me up on this quest. It's too personal. Too much bad…Too many memories."

"Macbeth already left," Griff said. "Arthur, Rory, Nick, and Fleur are all in Ireland. Loew's still in England. There's no one else to go with you."

"There's you," Merlin pointed out.

Griff turned and looked at the wizard.

"And leave you here to transform them into dormice while I'm gone?"

"I won't turn them into dormice…Again," Merlin said. "We have to trust one another eventually, Griff. After all, we both trust Arthur, right? Then we need to trust his judgment is correct. He chose you as his first Knight, so I trust that choice. Will you not give me the same benefit of the doubt?"

"Please Griff," Tea asked. "I must do this. For myself as well as the ti-girl."

"Fine," Griff said. "I know where I'm outvoted, and we do need to test Nick's recall device."

The gargoyle trotted up to the Antarctic Dance and stood between the four pillars. Tea took a deep breath, and then quietly joined him.

Merlin touched India's glowing green dot on the holo-globe.

Arcs of magical energy flowed between the pillars, and the room seemed to drain of all feeling. Tea looked down at her body. It was transparent. She could see right through herself.

Then the Stone Chamber became intangible, before shifting to black, which then gave way to shades of grey...and then color was added…And then Tea found herself standing in the middle of a ruin of standing stones that had been swallowed up almost completely by the jungle. She couldn't see a path past the brightly lit jungle that they had emerged into.

"Oh bugger, didn't think this through," Griff said suddenly, before promptly turning to stone.

Tea sighed quietly. Now she was stuck here guarding Griff's stone form while he slept. A task easier said than done, she realized, as she was just now noticing four orange and black striped tigers emerging from the jungle, and converging upon their position.

Tea took aim at the nearest one with her Ruger. And fired…

To be Continued…