Greg Bishansky

Gramercy Park, November 5th, 1998.

In the early morning hours, the city that never sleeps truly came to life. People were on their way to work or school, some stopping for breakfast along the way. But atop the Eyrie Building and the Nightstone Unlimited building, as well as deep beneath the streets within the Labyrinth, the gargoyles now slumbered. And within an upscale Gramercy Park townhouse, a gargoyle-turned-human also slumbered.

Dominique Destine was sprawled out in the middle of a gothic, king-sized, four-poster bed. She was covered only by a white satin sheet and a scarlet comforter, her face buried in matching scarlet pillows. But not even sleep brought her peace, as she tossed and turned, unable to find comfort.

The high-pitched sound of an alarm jolted her awake. Somebody was on her property. Dominique sat up and practically leaped out of bed, stopping only to cover her nude body with a green silk bathrobe, which she had barely belted on. She reached into her closet and pulled out a particle beam rifle, before running down three flights of stairs to the ground floor.

The alarm was drowned out by the sounds of someone knocking loudly on her front door. She entered her control room and checked the monitors. She scowled at the sight of the human on her doorstep: an Asian human, short in stature but built like a truck. Two scars ran diagonally down his face. He wore a long, forest-green coat with crimson trimming, and on his right hand, an iron ring bearing the Seal of Solomon. She turned off the alarm and opened the front door.

"What do you want, Temujin?" Dominique asked, pointing her rifle right at him.

"I go by Tenzin these days," he replied as he stepped into the foyer. His voice was deep, like gravel. He spoke slowly, deliberately. "I like the irony."

"You would," Dominique said through her gritted teeth. "Now leave."

"Aren't you going to offer me a cup of tea?" he asked. He looked around her first floor and saw only boxes, sculptures, and other pieces of décor, but no usable furniture. Dominique kept her weapon trained on him.

"I must say that as a human, you look almost as lovely as you do in your true form," Tenzin said as he studied her up and down. Her robe was loose, and while her breasts were mostly covered, the robe didn't completely close until it reached past her navel.

Dominique closed her robe even further and tightened the belt. Normally she was comfortable nude, more so than she was in human clothing. But she did not like this human gawking at her.

"You are not here to flatter me," she said. "What do you want?"

"To offer you a gift," he replied. "I had hoped you would steal the egg from Goliath's rookery, but, alas, you chose to leave it."

"I had my reasons," she replied.

"Still, it breaks my heart to see a powerful warrior like you living here all alone," he said. "I merely intended to provide you with some company."

"Get out!" Dominique shouted.

"As you wish," he replied. He quickly reached into his coat pocket and drew out a note pad. "But here's my gift, anyway." He placed the pad on top of a wooden trunk and made his way towards the door.

"It was such a pleasure to see you again, my dear," he said as he stepped outside. "And remember, my offer remains..." But she slammed the door in his face before he could finish.

Dominique stepped back into the control room and checked the monitors, wanting to make sure her uninvited visitor had left. But there was no sign of him. She checked every camera three or four times, but he had vanished. After a few moments, she made her way back into the foyer and picked up the pad. Two numbers were written on it.

"Map coordinates," she said to herself. She quickly headed up the stairs to her fifth floor study.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Central Park

Bronx howled at the moon as Fu-Dog bounded through the empty baseball field. After a moment, the beast from Wyvern pursued the beast from Xanadu, both barking and growling at each other.

"That was quite a story," Goliath said as he stood by a pair of bleachers, watching the two beasts.

"Yeah," Brooklyn said, as he sat back on a bench, also observing the beasts. "It was painful, but I had to grow up."

"Nobody ever said finding the right mate was easy," Goliath mused. "After Demona, I..."

"I wouldn't compare what Tamora and I briefly had to what you had with Demona," Brooklyn said. "Tamora was the last time I confused infatuation with the real thing. As Hudson would say, 'the curse of youth'. You and Demona genuinely loved each other."

"We did," Goliath rumbled. "Sometimes I wonder what would have been, but I have no regrets about the road I have taken with Elisa."

"I think we both lucked out," Brooklyn replied. "You and Elisa couldn't be happier. And Katana and I love each other more with each passing night."

"Even when she berates you?" Goliath asked, before grinning.

"Especially when she berates me," Brooklyn said, then laughed. "But don't tell her I said that."

"Your secret is safe with..." but before Goliath could finish the sentence, the sound of metal crashing against pavement echoed through the air. Goliath and Brooklyn looked up and saw that Bronx and Fu-Dog had knocked over a dumpster, and were clawing around through the garbage that had spilled out.

Fu-Dog snapped up a half-eaten hot dog, but Bronx also bit into it. They growled at each other, eyes glowing white. Then Bronx swiped his paw at the other beast's face. Goliath and Brooklyn rushed over.

"I do not know what has gotten into him," Goliath said as he pulled Bronx away.

"It's been over a year and they still haven't warmed up to each other," Brooklyn said as he calmed Fu-Dog down. "I had thought they'd be buddies by now."

"I suppose each believes the other is violating his territory," said Goliath. He then started to gather the trash that was spread out on the ground and carefully placed it back to the dumpster. "Come, let us clean up here before we return to the castle."

"Sounds like a plan," Brooklyn said, as he, too, began picking up garbage.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building, November 6th, 1998.

The sun had just risen, and while the gargoyles now slept in stone, David Xanatos was just beginning his day. He sat in the courtyard's patio, enjoying his eggs, over easy; as well as sausage links, a slice of cantalope, and a mug of coffee while he read the Wall Street Journal. Fox and Alexander had joined him for breakfast, but were now off. He had his schooling, and she had business to attend at Packmedia Studios.

"Mr. Xanatos," Owen Burnett said, as he approached the nook. "You have a visitor."

"I'm not expecting anyone," Xanatos replied as he looked up from his newspaper in time to watch a short, but powerful looking man step into the courtyard, gazing up at the statues on the tower with admiration.

"I will be taking my leave, sir," Owen said as he headed back into the castle.

Xanatos continued to observe the man, who stood before him with both hands clasped behind his back. He didn't need to see a pin or a ring, he just knew.

"Thirty-six," Xanatos said, with a smirk on his face.

"Three," the stranger replied, before extending his hand. Xanatos stood up and shook it. "Mr. Xanatos, my name is Tenzin Chung. I am the head of the Illuminati's strong arm."

"I must be a popular guy in the Society these days," Xanatos said with a grin. "What can I do for you, Mr. Chung?"

"Before we get down to business, I must say that I love your home," Tenzin said. "This tower of glass and steel is grander than any palace I have ever set foot in. And I have set foot in many."

"Thank you, Mr. Chung," Xanatos said. "I couldn't help but notice that you were admiring my tenants."

"I have long held the gargoyle race in high regard," Tenzin replied. "Humanity has yet to breed a stronger warrior. Or to build a stronger warrior, as you well know."

"They have their uses," Xanatos said, his lips curving into a smirk. "I assume the Society wants another favor from me?"

"Indeed." Tenzin reached into his coat and pulled out a manila envelope, and set it down on the table. "If you succeed, you will be rewarded however you wish."

"Really?" Xanatos said. "I would like a sample of the upper echelon's rejuvenation drugs. That is how you do it, am I right?"

"Indeed," Tenzin said, as he smiled like a lion watching an elk. "And you will get what you want, as long as we get what we want."

"Of course," Xanatos said. "We're all on the same team."

"I am glad that you are enlightened enough to understand that." Tenzin's smile curled into a sinister, savage grin.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

John F. Kennedy International Airport

The black Lincoln towncar pulled into Nightstone Unlimited's private hanger, and came to a stop. The driver exited the vehicle and opened the back door. Dominique Destine stepped out, wearing her red business suit, carrying a small suit case in one hand, and speaking into her cell phone with the other . The door to the private jet opened. She rushed up the stairs and into the plane's private cabin, locking the door behind her.

"Personally, I think this entire trip is a waste of time," Coldsteel said, on the other end of the line, as he flew west, already halfway to the Pacific Ocean. "Or a trap."

"If it is, I will make sure that Temujin pays for it," Dominique said as she kicked off her high-heeled shoes, then shed her jacket.

"Who is this human anyway?" Coldsteel asked.

"Someone with too deep of an interest in me," Dominique replied as she undid a few buttons on her blouse, then sat back on the leather couch. "But if his information is correct, we might have new allies."

"And why would he give us allies, sister?" Coldsteel asked.

"Temujin is a social Darwinist," she replied. "He believes that any humans that I kill are holding back his species. If he wishes to hand me the rope to hang him with, I am all too happy to oblige."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building

Brooklyn made his way to the TV room, Fu-Dog at his side. He took a seat in the recliner and clicked on the television with the remote control.

"This is Beatrix Carradine reporting live at the Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, New York, probably best known as the home of the largest statue of Buddha in the western hemisphere," the news correspondent said, standing in front of the aforementioned statue. "We are joined by Master Dawa, who is visiting from Tibet where he's brought a priceless relic that will be on display for the next six months."

"Thank you, Ms. Carradine," Master Dawa said, as the reporter held a microphone to him. "The Feng Lantern has been in our monastery for generations. But, of late, we felt that perhaps it should be shared with others who seek knowledge."

"I understand you donated some other antiques to Boscebel over in Cold Spring?" Beatrix asked.

"Yes," Master Dawa replied. "Just a few symbols of friendship. What could be more valuable than that?"

"I never thought I'd see that again," Brooklyn said, then sighed and switched off the TV. "Well, looks like we need to head upstate."

"Why?" Goliath asked as he entered.

"A visting monk brought the Feng Lantern stateside," Brooklyn replied. "I'm sure any one of our many enemies would love to get ahold of it."

"What is this Feng Lantern?" Goliath asked.

"The Feng Lantern was lit by the Phoenix itself when it took Fu-Dog and I away from Xanadu," Brooklyn replied. "Since then, the flame has never extinguished. It was looked after by the clan for many years. At least until Genghis Khan and his Mongol horde invaded. The Lantern was smuggled out before it came into the possession of an order of monks that dwelled in the Himalayas. And now it's on display in Carmel, just upstate."

"Then you and I will journey to Carmel and protect this Lantern at once!" Goliath declared.

Neither of them noticed the listening device implanted inside the television.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Scarab Corporation

"And the gargoyles are already planning to stand vigil at the monastery," Owen said to Xanatos over the phone.

"I was counting on that," Xanatos said. He ended the call and slipped the phone into his jacket pocket.

"Admit it," Fox said, as she walked down the hall of the Scarab Corporation at her husband's side. "You would have been disappointed if the gargoyles didn't bother."

"They come in handy, my dear," Xanatos replied. "And, as always, I've anticipated them."

They entered the warehouse area of the building where a technician pulled sheets off of two Steel Clan robots. Xanatos paced past them, inspecting them, and nodded his satisfaction.

"You do know the robots won't give them any kind of challenge at this point?" Fox asked.

"Then perhaps we should bring two of the dogs," Xanatos said, before smirking. Fox returned his mischevous smile with one of her own.

"I'll prepare their escape from the pound," Fox said. She and her husband briefly kissed before she took her leave.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Beijing Capital International Airport. November 7th, 1998.

The sun rose as the jet came to a smooth landing on the tarmac. Within her private cabin, Demona stifled her cries of pain and anguish as she transformed into a human. She quickly removed her jewelry, halter-top, belt, and loincloth. Then she donned a headband, to keep her wild red hair tamed, a pair of drab khaki pants, a white tank-top, a khaki jacket, and a pair of sunglasses.

She unlocked her cabin door and found the plane's exit open. She made her way down the stairs and approached a waiting Range Rover. Two men were there to greet her.

"Dominique Destine?" the tall one asked.

"Yes, I am Ms. Destine," she replied. "Do you know where we're going?"

"We do," the shorter one replied. "It's a three day drive. But the road ends fifty miles from the mountains."

"Then when the road ends, I will proceed on foot," she snapped. "Now, just do what I tell you to do, don't speak to me, and you'll be well compensated."

The two men silently ushered her into the back seat of their vehicle. Dominique sat back with a magazine she pretended to read, but from behind her shades, she watched the humans like a hawk.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Forest Hills, New York

Elisa stood in her parents' driveway, checking her watch. It wasn't long now until sunrise. After several minutes, Goliath and Brooklyn landed in front of the Maza house, carrying Bronx and Fu-Dog.

"About time, guys," Elisa said, then gestured towards a white van. "This was... is Derek's. But since he's unlikely to be using it again any time soon, he agreed to let us borrow it."

"I will thank him once we return," Goliath said. Elisa opened the doors on the back of the van, and Goliath stepped inside, followed by Bronx.

"Don't worry, Elisa," Brooklyn said as he and Fu-Dog climbed in. "The beasts will behave."

"That's because they'll be asleep," Elisa said, chuckling a little bit.

The sun then began rising in the eastern horizon, and the gargoyles petrified. Elisa double-checked to make sure they were secure, then closed the doors of the van before getting into the driver's seat and turning on the ignition.

For the next thirty minutes, Elisa drove against the rush hour traffic, over the Whitestone Bridge, then north up the Hutchinson River Parkway, before exiting onto the Sprain Brook Parkway. She drove north up that for another half hour before it turned into the Taconic State Parkway.

As she drove farther out of the city, she couldn't help but admire the changing leaves of autumn, the now fading into brown splashes of color all over the sides of the road. An hour later, she took the exit to Interstate 84 East, and continued on for another twenty minutes before arriving in the town of Carmel. She pulled into the parking lot of a small shopping center, and stopped at the Eveready Diner.

"A girl's got to eat," she said as she stepped out of the vehicle and headed inside.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Carmel, NY

Elisa parked the van on a dirt road, atop a hill, overlooking the monastary. She got out of the vehicle and opened the doors in the back as the sun set and the four gargoyles burst out of their stone skin. Bronx and Fu-Dog growled at each other, forcing their masters to separate them once more.

"Come on, boy," Brooklyn said as he pulled his beast out of the van. "Bronx is a friend. There's plenty of room for both of you."

"Is the Feng Lantern safe?" Goliath asked.

"I took a quick tour of the monastery about thirty minutes ago," Elisa said. "The Lantern is still there, and still burning."

"And it will keep burning," Brooklyn said. "I don't think even the vacuum of space could put it out."

"If it truly was lit by the Phoenix, then it must be a vessel of great power," Goliath said, as he spread his wings.

"I'm not sure what it can or cannot do," said Brooklyn. "But I'd rather not put it to the test."

"Well, we have five days before they move it to San Francisco," Elisa said. "Master Dawa said as much this afternoon."

"Then we shall stand vigil for the next four nights if we must," Goliath said.

"It's a good thing I've built up some sick days," Elisa said, then sat down in the back of the van.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

China. November 10th, 1998.

It had been three days on the road. They would stop just before sunset and she would disappear into the forest, not to return until just after sunrise. The two guides followed her orders and didn't even attempt to speak with her. It was almost sunset as the dirt road came to an end and finally, Dominique spoke. "Stay here," she said. "I will walk the rest of the way."

"It's dangerous on foot, Madame," the taller man said.

"We should go with you," the shorter man added.

"I am quite self-sufficient," Dominique replied, giving them a glare as she stepped out of the car, carrying only her duffle bag.

She walked several miles, then looked towards the west as the sun began to set. She cried out in pain as her pale skin darkened into an azure color. Purple wings and a tail exploded from her back, while her feet extended into haunches and her fingers morphed into talons. Her body hair receded, and she flexed her wings and roared, before ripping the remains of her khaki outfit from her body, reaching into the duffle and donning her halter-top, belt, loincloth, and jewelry.

Demona then proceeded to climb a tree. When she gained enough height to catch a current of wind, she soared northwards. She soon approached a range of mountains. A scent both familiar and different was in the air.

As she glided among the rocky spires, she laid eyes on a massive temple. "It seems I've found what I was looking for," she said. For indeed she did; gargoyles among gargoyles populated the area. But these gargoyles were long and lithe in appearance, resembling the Chinese dragons legend. As Demona thought about it, she realized that most of the ancient Chinese buildings had dragons perched upon them, just like the heraldic beasts of Great Britain.

Demona came to a landing before the temple, and the gargoyles gasped. Some backed away cautiously, while others approached her, curiosity shining in their eyes. She extended a hand in greeting and spoke to them in Mongolian-Chinese, which she had picked up long ago.

"Nǐ hǎo, stranger," a female gargoyle said, stepping forward. "Welcome to Xanadu, and welcome to the Golden Dragon Temple."

"I bring greetings," Demona said. "I assume you are the leader."

The gargoyle nodded and looked Demona over as a red and gold beast approached her. "You must be weary from your travels. May we offer you tea and a warm meal?"

"I would be delighted," Demona said, as she took the Xanadu leader's arm in a warrior's handshake.

The two of them entered the temple and sat down at a table, both sipping hot tea. "So, you are not of Ishimura or Pukhan," she said. "Where did you come from?"

"I come from farther than that," Demona said. She did note what the Xanadu leader said about the existence of gargoyle clans in Ishimura and Pukhan and planned to investigate that at a later date. "My clan was destroyed by the humans. There are only a handful of us left."

"We share your grief," the Xanadu leader said. "May I show you something?"

The leader led Demona out of the sitting room and down a hallway towards a wall of murals. They passed by an image of a gargoyle that was all too familiar to her, wielding a Scottish broadsword. Demona's lips curled in anger, but she quickly recovered herself before it could be noticed.

"The Ishimuran Clan believe it is possible to befriend humans," said the leader, but she gave Demona a pointed look as she said it.

"I have had many years of experience dealing with the humans," Demona said. "There is no greater evil that walks the Earth."

"All things start out good. But evil is a corrupting, growing influence. Even a newborn human babe is as innocent as a hatchling. But if that babe should happen to be born female, in this country..." the Xanadu leader trailed off in disgust.

"I am well versed on the Chinese government's policies towards their females and children." Demona said. "It is... barbaric."

"As it is with humanity itself. Evil has corrupted it." They reached the end of the hall, and a mural depicting a series of images of gargoyles battling with and against hordes of human warriors. "Genghis Khan... one of history's most evil men attempted to slaughter this clan about eight-hundred years ago. He turned gargoyle against gargoyle. Most of Asia is now descended from that Mongol monster, and his evil taints them. I am not inclined to befriend humans."

""Your instincts serve you well. Over the centuries, the humans have committed unspeakable atrocities on our kind, as well as their own," Demona said, her eyes burning like red embers.

"I suppose," the leader said. "But some good has come from them. Khan's grandson was... 'better', I think. He built our temples once he moved his capital to Cathay. He treated us with respect."

"Perhaps he simply was too distracted by his other enemies to destroy your clan," Demona sneered.

The Xanadu leader paused for a moment, and then responded. "Maybe. Some see our old alliance with him as an exception. But perhaps it was merely a necessity. Many of us remember the Maoist Revolution and the evils it spread."

"In my experience, humans will always betray and murder us." Demona's eyes burned red. "Always."

"Let us speak of more pleasant things," the Xanadu leader said, trying to perk up. "Every clan must have a protectorate. Have you guessed what ours is?"

"These temples?" Demona guessed. "The mountains?"

"I know other clans protect places," she said, shaking her head and grinning. "Our ancestors have been informed of such practices. I find this idea to be quite... exotic and exciting. No, we protect the Fu-Dogs. The great and noble companions of gargoyle kind. They stand on the verge of extinction. We will not allow them to die out."

"In out struggle to survive, the beasts do seem to be... neglected," Demona said. "But I agree that they must be protected."

"We don't just protect the beasts, we LIVE them," the dragon-like gargoyle declared. "Our lives are centered around breeding them and specializing those breeds for certain tasks. Rookery Guards, Hunters, Trackers, and the like."

"Interesting," Demona mused. "My clan trained our beasts to act as watchdogs and watchdogs alone. I must say your practices truly fascinate me."

"Over two thousand years ago, the last pack of wild Fu-Dogs roamed the Mongolian steppes," the leader said. "They were a larger pack, and there were few humans in the area at the time, so they remained unmolested for quite some time."

"And your ancestors found and domesticated them?" Demona asked.

"No," the leader replied. "As fate would have it, a Mongolian clan at the edge of the Fu-Dogs' territory was destroyed during the day, by an earthquake, shattering all of the adult members of the clan in a rock slide. The eggs however, remained safely ensconced within the rookery, and were unharmed.

"The Fu-Dogs stumbled upon said rookery the following night, and paternal instinct took over. They absconded with the orphaned eggs, adding them to their own rookery in the heart of their territory. The eggs hatched, and the beasts raised the gargoyle hatchlings as their own, creating a new and unique relationship between this clan and its beasts that would last for centuries."

Demona was speechless for a moment. "Tell me about this temple."

"Temples," the leader said. "Five temples. The Black Tortoise in the North breeds rookery guards, specializing in the protection of eggs and hatchlings. The White Tiger in the West specializes in hunters and trackers. The Azure Dragon of the East specializes in War Beasts, ferocious battle-driven beasts twice the size of a normal beast and ferocious in battle."

"And what of this temple?" Demona asked.

"Here in the Golden Dragon, we breed personal companions of fierce loyalty. They are supposed to be bonded to a gargoyle warrior as pups, to be lifelong companions. However... the Fu-Dogs here outnumber the warriors."

"I would very much like to see them," Demona said.

The Xanadu leader brightened. "Would you like one?"

"I am overwhelmed. It would have been an honor just to see one, but to be offered one..." Demona said, then smiled. "Yes, yes, I would."

The Xanadu leader took Demona out into the courtyard at the center of the temple where over a dozen Fu-Dogs were playing around, gnawing on golden balls, tackling each other and just having a grand time. Demona watched them, an unreadable expression on her face.

"You do not choose a Fu-Dog," the leader said. "A Fu-Dog must choose you. Stand here," she handed Demona a golden-colored ball, "and wait for one to pick you, and bond with you. Remember, a Fu-Dog is a companion for life."

Demona hesitated, then held out the ball, still uncertain of this. An ash-colored male with a fiery red mane and a yellow underbelly approached Demona, sniffed the golden ball, and circled her three times, sniffing and examining her. The Xanadu Leader nodded encouragingly. Finally the beast batted the ball out of Demona's hand and held it under his claw, then sat down at her side. Behind her tiara, Demona raised her brow.

"Congratulations," the leader said. "The Fu-Dog has taken to you."

"So fast?" Demona said, genuinely surprised by what had just transpired.

"A Fu-Dog choses by personality. Something about your personality spoke to that particular beast." the lithe female said. "He has actually always been a tad aggressive. I am a bit surprised that it was that Fu-Dog who chose you, but that is the standard bonding speed."

"I see," Demona replied. "Very well, I will take him."

"I know that he will serve you well, as the War-Guards of Xanadu have served gargoyles for centuries."

"I thank you for this generous gift," Demona said, as her new pet began circling her and growling at the leader of the Xanadu Clan.

"Just remember," the Xanadu leader said. "Beasts must not fight beasts, and they're companions and partners. Not weapons. Treat him as you would treat your own rookery brother."

"I understand," Demona said, as she got down on one knee and petted the beast's red mane.

"Now, would you honor me by joining me for a celebratory dinner?" the leader asked.

"I promise you that the honor is mine," Demona replied, as she and her new pet followed the leader back inside the temple.

And they feasted, and watched the Fu-Dogs at play. But most of this was of little interest to Demona as she sat next to the Xanadu leader, mostly in silence as her own Fu-Dog ate what she fed it.

Finally, they all stepped out of the dining hall and into the courtyard. "Until tonight," the Xanadu leader said, as the sun rose and she and the rest of her clan turned to stone. Demona keeled over, and painfully transformed back into her human form. She then sat down on the stone floor, and leaned against her Fu-Dog. She unclipped a cellphone from her belt and dialed a number.

"Brother," she said. "I am sending you my location."

Ten hours later, Coldsteel descended into the courtyard and nodded at his now-human sister. "So, was this trip worth it, sister?"

"We'll find out soon enough," Dominique responded, then smiled and patted the stone Fu-Dog. "This beast will be accompanying us."

"Charming," the ensouled robot said. He then picked up Dominique between his hands, wrapped his tentacles around the stone beast, and flew away with them from the mountain.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Carmel, NY. November 12th, 1998.

For the third straight night, Goliath, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Fu-Dog stood vigil over the monastary. Elisa stood at their side, checking her watch every now and then.

"There's a reason I never wanted to live in the suburbs," she said, before yawning.

"You don't know boring until you've wandered alone in the Sahara for three weeks," Brooklyn said.

Goliath looked up as the sound of jet engines echoed through the air. "It would seem that we are about to have company."

Brooklyn pulled his sonic cannon off of his back, and checked its power cell. "I'm ready for anything."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"I tell you, brother," Hyena said, following Jackal as they flew through the sky over the woods of Carmel, "the suburbs are even more boring than the rainforest."

"Would you prefer to be back in prison?" Jackal said; he wasn't asking her a question. "An 'early parole' and half a million dollars each will make our little visit to Putnam County worth it."

"Whatever," Hyena muttered. "As soon as we're done, we're hopping a plane and going anywhere but here."

"I hear the Cayman Islands are nice this time of year," Jackal mused, as he and Hyena landed in front of the entrance to the monastery.

"So these monk guys are supposed to be pacifists, right?" Hyena asked.

"Yes, they're all zen-like," Jackal replied. "Not much fun at parties, either."

"Oh, goody. I love victims that don't fight back," Hyena said, before cackling like her namesake.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Jackal and Hyena!" Goliath said, as he watched the cybernetic twins land before the monastery.

"Swell," Elisa said. "So, who do we think hired them this time?"

"Probably our kindly landlord," Brooklyn said.

"Xanatos is always looking to add to his personal museum," Goliath said. "But not tonight!" He roared and leapt off the hill, soaring down towards the monastery. Brooklyn followed, and the two beasts ran after them.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Jackal's arm cannon popped up and he blasted the doors to the monastary. The doors exploded, chunks of splintered wood flying all over the place. But the familiar sound of Goliath's roar echoing in the sky drowned out even the explosion.

"Oh, crap," Jackal muttered as he turned around and spotted the two gargoyles gliding towards them. Bronx and Fu-Dog's barks also grew louder as the two beasts ran down the hill, towards the two cyborgs.

"And I thought this was going to be boring," Hyena said, before she grinned. "Two gargoyles and a couple of puppies. I like the odds."

"If we manage to pick off Goliath and the one with the beak, the rest should be easy next time," Jackal said, then unsheathed his claws.

"But what will poor Wolf say when we steal his kill?" Hyena asked, as a pair of buzzsaws popped out of her forearms. "He's been looking forward to mounting Goliath's head on his wall."

"We'll buy him his very own fire hydrant. That should make it up to him," Jackal said as he activated his thrusters and took off into the air, towards Goliath.

Bronx and Fu-Dog roared as they bounded towards Hyena. But the cyborg cackled as she waited for Bronx to pounce on her, so she could slice him open with her buzzsaws. "Here, Spot. Come on, Fido."

Brooklyn drew his sonic blaster and blasted her with it. Hyena covered her ears with her hands, moaning in agony.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Goliath, it's been too long," Jackal cried as he slashed the big gargoyle across the chest with his claws. "And I see you didn't bring the whole clan. Bad move."

Goliath reared back, causing Jackal's claws to merely scratch his chest. As he quickly rose, he whipped his tail around the cyborg's neck and dragged him upwards, then dove down to the ground, slamming Jackal head first into the pavement.

Jackal slowly got to his feet, grabbing his throbbing head. Blood trickled down his lip. "Oh, I'll hurt you for that."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Hyena leapt on Brooklyn, extending her limbs into spider-like appendages, and pinned the beaked gargoyle to the ground.

"So, what happened to your eye?" Hyena asked, grinning like a maniac. "Oh wait, I don't care. But I hope you don't mind if I take the other one."

Fu-Dog pounced onto Hyena's back, knocking her off Brooklyn. Taking her midsection into his powerful jaws, he dragged her away from the temple. Brooklyn got to his feet and drew the hand blaster from his belt. He set it to stun and blasted Hyena. She cried out, then went limp... passing out.

"I hope that upgrade was under warranty," Brooklyn said.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Like a battering ram, Bronx slammed into Jackal from behind, knocking him towards Goliath. The leader of the Manhattan Clan growled, and punched the cyborg in the face, knocking him out cold.

"That was too easy," Brooklyn said as he ran over.

"Yes," Goliath said. "It is almost as if Xanatos is trying to..." His eyes glowed white, and stifled a growl. "This was a distraction!"

Elisa ran down the hill and over to Goliath. "Wasn't there another exhibit over in Cold Spring?"

"Yes," Brooklyn said. "Xanatos was never after the Feng Lantern."

"How far are we?" Goliath asked.

"Twenty minutes with traffic," Elisa said.

"Then we will arrive in ten minutes," Goliath said as he began scaling the temple. Brooklyn and the beasts followed. Then the two gargoyles picked up their respective pets and soared westward.

Elisa watched them go, looked down at the two cyborgs in disgust, then ran back up the hill towards the van. As she ran, she pulled her cellphone out of her jacket pocket and dialed 911. "Hello, Carmel police? There's a couple of creeps knocked out at the Buddhist monastery..."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Seconds after Elisa drove off in the van, a figure clothed head-to-toe in black soared in on a hang glider. Landing on the roof of the monastery, she leapt down to the ground, and ran inside towards the antechamber containing the giant Buddha. Finding the Feng Lantern unattended, she smiled under her mask.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Cold Spring, NY

Xanatos stood on the rooftop of Bosebel, wearing his crimson Steel Clan exo-frame, flanked by two Steel Clan robots, and holding a golden ball in his left hand. Beneath his helmet, he smiled as his optic scanner zoomed in on the gargoyles as they quickly approached. They soon landed on the rooftop, about thirty feet away from him.

"Ah, Goliath," Xanatos said. "I hope Jackal and Hyena didn't hurt you, because I'm looking forward to the workout." His arm-mounted particle beam cannon popped out of his right forearm, and he fired a blast at Goliath.

Goliath dodged the blast and growled. "I knew you were not to be trusted."

"My cannon is set to stun, Goliath," Xanatos said, smirking behind his mask. "I have no interest in burning bridges." Goliath pounced at Xanatos, but the billionare activated his rockets and flew up into the air, circling around the building. Goliath leapt into the air, catching an air current and pursued.

The Steel Clan robots rose into the air, and targeted the other three gargoyles, firing their particle beams at them.

Brooklyn leaped into the air, his eye glowing, and started firing at the nearest robot with his hand blaster. The robot outmaneuvered the blasts, and dove down, flexing its razor-sharp talons and narrowly managing to slice Brooklyn across the arm. The one-eyed gargoyle cried out in pain as he pulled away.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Bronx and Fu-Dog both pounced towards the second robot. Bronx dug his fangs into the robot's right arm, while Fu-Dog caught hold of its left thigh. But the robot accelerated, and began to fly in horizonal and verticle loops, in an attempt to shake the beasts off.

Fu-Dog continued to chew through the robot's thigh, finally severing the entire leg, and falling to the ground with it. Losing its stabilizer, the robot lost control as it tilted leftwards. Bronx growled while chewing through its arm, and pulled himself onto the robot's back, then bit into its head.

The robot lost control, and looped upwards, then down as it crashed directly into Fu-Dog, and exploded. Bronx leaped from the flames and started whimpering.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Out of the corner of his eye, Brooklyn spotted the carnage the beasts were swept up in. He drew his broadsword and ran it through the Steel Clan robot's neck, then twisted the sword and the robot's head off with it.

The one-eyed gargoyle growled and dived down, running on all fours towards his beast. "Come on, boy," he said. "Please be okay, this can't be what finally gets you."

Bronx dove back into the flaming wreckage and gently pulled Fu-Dog out, with his jaws. Brooklyn arrived just in time, and checked his pet's pulse.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Goliath and Xanatos continued to trade blows, as they flew through the air. Xanatos raised his arm-cannon and fired several shots, but the gargoyle managed to narrowly avoid each of them, as he collided with the armored billionaire, tackling him. But Xanatos activated his jetpack, and rocketed into the sky.

The leader of the Manhattan Clan held on for dear life, wrestling the billionaire until he maneuvered himself on top of him. He forced Xanatos to descend back towards the ground, both raining blows upon the other. But both of them stopped as soon as they noticed Brooklyn attending to Fu-Dog.

"Truce?" Xanatos asked.

Goliath growled in response, but nodded and let go of Xanatos. The two of them landed by the wreckage of the robot.

"Is he all right?" Goliath asked.

Fu-Dog lifted his head up and growled at Xanatos.

"Yeah," Brooklyn said. "Just a few cuts and some minor burns. Nothing stone sleep can't fix. Thanks to Bronx."

"Well, then it looks like I'm done here," Xanatos said. He still clutched the golden ball in his hand. "You two must join Fox and me for dinner tonight."

Xanatos powered up the thrusters on his armor, his wings spread, but before he could lift off, Goliath swung his tail at the billionaire's hand, knocking the golden ball from it. Xanatos then quickly rose into the air, and flew south down the Hudson River, back towards Manhattan.

"At least Fu-Dog is all right. And we defeated Xanatos," Goliath said as he picked up the golden ball from the ground. "I wonder why he wanted this?"

Brooklyn stood up, and looked at the ball, before quickly grabbing it out of Goliath's hand. "It can't be," he said. "Goliath, do you know what this is?"

But before Goliath could respond, the sun rose and the gargoyles turned to stone.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~


Coldsteel came to a landing in a clearing about fifty miles away from Xanadu, and set Dominique and the stone statue down on the ground. The sun set and the beast burst from his stone shell with a growl, while Dominique moaned in agony as she transformed into a gargoyle.

Demona kneeled down in front of her beast, and ran a hand through his red mane. "Are you hungry, my pet?"

"We really should be moving on," Coldsteel said. "I could get us back to Beijing by sunrise."

"You no longer need to eat, brother," Demona said. "But my pet does."

The Fu-Dog growled and began wandering off towards the road. Demona followed and soon noticed a familiar Range Roger. Her two guides were standing, not too far away from it, smoking cigarettes.

"I think she's dead," the short one said.

"Either way, she didn't pay us nearly enough," said the taller one. "If she comes back, I say we just rob her and leave her in a hole in the jungle. A rich American like that, you know she has money and jewelry on her."

"I thought she was French?" said the shorter one. "Or English."

"Doesn't matter," the tall one said. "She's rich, and easy."

"Typical humans," Demona said to herself, then smiled as a malicious thought entered her head. "Go, my pet," she said as she pointed to the humans. "Enjoy."

The beast roared and leapt out from the trees into the clearing. It immediately pounced on the tall man, sinking its fangs into his throat. The short one cried out in fear and tried to run, only for the Fu-Dog to bound after him. It knocked him to the ground, then proceeded to maul him.

Demona watched, the malicious grin never leaving her face. After a moment, Coldsteel strode over, and joined her in observing the beast enjoy his dinner.

"Your little pet there is quite the hellhound, sister," he said.

"Hellhound," Demona said, with a smirk. "I like the sound of that."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Eyrie Building

Xanatos came in for a landing in the courtyard, turned the dial on his chest, releasing his armor's air pressure, and removed his helmet. He raised an eyebrow when he spotted Tenzin stepping outside, escorted by Owen.

"Do you have it?" Tenzin asked.

"It should be here momentarily," Xanatos said with a grin.

Within a few minutes, his personal helicopter landed, and a woman, dressed head to toe in black, stepped out of it, carrying a box. Fox then removed her mask, and her long red hair flowed free in the wind.

"Piece of cake," she said. "David, next time please give me a challenge."

"Excellent," Xanatos said. He opened the box, and revealed the Feng Lantern.

"Well done," Tenzin said as he closed the box and picked it up.

"Naturally," Xanatos said. "I figured that after all this time, Goliath would learn to expect that the second target was my true goal."

"So you calculated that Goliath would be expecting the Lantern to be a distraction," Tenzin said. "Unaware that you were simply leading him away from the true prize."

"I'm sure he'll figure it out at sunset," Xanatos said. "And I doubt he'll be too happy with me. But it's par the course."

"Brilliant as always, David," Fox said, as she wrapped her arms around his armor.

"I'm impressed," Tenzin said. He then reached into his pocket and produced a capsule wrapped in a ziplock bag. "And your prize, as promised."

Owen took the bag from Tenzin, then marched back into the castle with it.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

An hour later, Xanatos had showered and changed into his business suit, then entered his tower laboratory, where Owen was sitting at a workbench analyzing the capsule.

"So, do we know what it is, yet?" Xanatos asked.

"Sample shows that it's just a water-based gel capsule," Owen replied. "No more, no less."

"There has to be more to it," Xanatos said. He then took the capsule and placed it in a cage in front of a white lab rat. Within a few minutes, the rat started nibbling at it, before finally eating it... then it glowed, and began to shrink, reverting into a newborn pup.

"Fascinating," Xanatos said. "The Society must have known that the analysis wouldn't give me much because of how quickly they agreed. They know that I will not be able to recreate their elixir."

"But Mr. Xanatos, the study shows that this elixer is drinking water," Owen said. "How is this possible?"

"I've been seeking immortality for years, Owen," Xanatos mused. "Think back to Goliath and Elisa's commitment ceremony. I may not have gotten that guest with the sword's name, but if he is who I suspect, then he was wielding Excalibur. And if Excalibur exists..."

"Then the Holy Grail must also exist," Owen said.

"And if the Illuminati does possess the Holy Grail, then they hold the secret to the immortality that I have always desired."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Hotel Cabal

"Don't tell me you tried to recruit Demona into the Society, again?" Tamora said, as she brushed off the flakes of stone skin, picked up an empty mug for Aaron to fill with hot tea, and sat down at her piano bench. She stared at the Feng Lantern on top of her grand piano, and smiled.

"No, but she did help us recover the Hand of Valmont not too long ago, albeit unknowingly. I felt that I owed her a favor," Tenzin said, as he stared out the window, hands clasped behind his back. "Besides, Demona is powerful. With the right touch..."

"Demona is a lunatic," Tamora said, cutting him off. "I know that you outrank me, Tenzin. But I am in charge of all gargoyle matters, not you."

"And I wouldn't dream of contradicting you," Tenzin said, turning towards her with a friendly smile on his face. "But let's be honest, she would hardly be the first lunatic that we've recruited."

Suddenly the doors to the ballroom opened. Tamora immediately stood up, as a figure in a hooded green cloak entered. She and Tenzin both bowed their heads in a show of respect.

"Four," Tamora said.

"Three," Tenzin stated, keeping his head bowed.

"Two," the man said as his one flesh hand and his mechanical hand pulled back his hood revealing a bald head, a single bushy black eyebrow, and a cybernetic eye.

"Mr. Duval, we are honored by your visit," Tamora said as she gave him a courtly half bow. "Has Fleur been found, yet?"

"You are speaking out of turn," Tenzin said. "I know you two are friends, but..."

"Whether we are friends or not depends entirely on what she is doing right now," Tamora said, her eyes briefly flashing red. "Because if she is a traitor..."

"Fleur is not your concern at the moment. And neither is King Arthur," Duval snapped. "Status report."

"As we speak, the Quarrymen continue to increase, as do both branches of Khulan's organization. Citizens With Wings and the People United for Interspecies Rights," Tamora said, with a smile. "Tenzin, you must be very proud of her."

"I am," he replied.

"Thailog's army is growing," she added. "I'll forward Shari's reports to you if you wish."

"What of Xanatos?" Duval asked.

"His mission was a success," Tenzin reported. "I gave him what he wanted, and I'm sure the result will fascinate him. I see big things in his future."

"Good," Duval said. "Tenzin, you have your next assignment. And Tamora, I trust you are keeping your eye on the true prize?"

"With every move I make, my leader," she said.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Cold Spring

Goliath burst from his stone skin, and smiled at the sight of Elisa standing before them.

"Bad news, guys," Elisa said. "Whatever happened here was a distraction. The Feng Lantern disappeared from the monastery shortly after we left. Xanatos got what he wanted."

"He and I will have a long talk once we return to the castle," Goliath said, barely containing the anger in his voice.

But Brooklyn continued to stare at the Golden Ball in his hand. "I can't believe it," he said.

"What's that?" Elisa asked.

"It's the same ball I used in Xanadu, hundreds of years ago, when Fu-Dog and I became companions." Brooklyn pointed at the fang mark on it, then held it out. Fu-Dog reared up, and batted the ball from Brooklyn's hand, then held it under his claw. "See, even Fu-Dog recognizes it."

"Amazing," Elisa said."

"Perhaps these events were meant to be," Goliath said. He smiled as his mood brightened.

"I think I'll be keeping this as a souvenir," Brooklyn said as he took the ball back from Fu-Dog. "It has a lot of sentimental value."

"I get it, Brooklyn," Elisa said. "But it belongs to the monks."

They turned as they heard the sound of someone approaching. Goliath nodded with respect as he recognized Master Dawa. "Greetings," he said.

"I had heard of your visit, and I am glad to see you again," Master Dawa bowed his head. "I trust your brother and sister are well."

"Yes," Goliath said. "Coldstone and Coldfire have come home and rejoined their clan."

"And I trust that they will soon find inner peace," Dawa said with a smile.

Brooklyn sheepishly approached the monk. "Hey, look, about that ball, I was wondering..."

"It never belonged to us, my friend," the monk said. "It came to us along with other treasures of Xanadu centuries ago, but I see that it is meant to be with you and your Fu-Dog."

"You know about Xanadu?" Brooklyn asked. But Master Dawa responded only with a serene smile.

"Master Dawa," Elisa said. "I apologize about the loss of the Lantern. We'll do everything we can to get it back."

"Perhaps it's where it needs to be right now," Dawa said. "I know all of you understand."

"Indeed," Goliath said, as he bowed in respect to the monk. "On behalf of my clan, I thank you for your kindness."

As they spoke, Bronx and Fu-Dog ran through the Hudson Highlands, no longer challenging each other over territory, but barking and playing just as family. Just as clan.

"I'm glad they have found peace with each other," Goliath said.

"Me too," Elisa agreed. "To tell you the truth, I was afraid of them killing each other for a while."

"There is no truer companion than a beast," Brooklyn said. "And there are no finer beasts than ours."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Beijing, China. November 13th, 1998.

Dominique Destine affectionatly ran her hand across the large wooden crate containing Hellhound as her crew members loaded it on board Nightstone Unlimited's private jet. Once they were done, she boarded the plane herself, and locked the door to her private cabin behind her, looking forward to getting back to New York City.

Never the End

Featuring the voice talents of:

Dee Bradley Baker - Fu-Dog
Jeff Bennett – Brooklyn, Owen Burnett
Xander Berkeley - Coldsteel
Miguel Ferrer – Tenzin Chung/Temujin
Jonathan Frakes – David Xanatos
Matt Frewer – Jackal
James Garrett – Master Dawa
Kelly Hu – Xanadu Leader
Stana Katic – Tamora the Goth
Eddie Marsan – Duval
Salli Richardson – Elisa Maza
Laura San Giacomo - Fox
Marina Sirtis – Demona/Dominique Destine
Cree Summer – Hyena
Frank Welker – Bronx, Hellhound