8 - "A Simple Misunderstanding"
Originally Written: February 19th, 2000

February 9th, 2000
Upon thousands of structures around the world, stone guardians keep their vigil, ever
watchful through the most impassioned of weather. Though decaying from age, they
persevere for those they have been skillfully carved to protect. Some would call them
monsters, a granite prison for demons of the fiercest damnation. Others hail these simple
statues as saviors of the human race, and ancient protectors brought to life in the absence
of light.

On a far corner of Manhattan island, the very atmosphere exploded with a forewarning of
a guardian's awakening cry. Still within the remains of his daytime form, the dark figure
filled his lungs with the sweet sea air and expanded the rippled muscles contained within
an amethyst covering. The jagged scraps of skin-turned-stone fell to the floor with a
sound of shattering crystal. Dark wings opened to their utmost degree, and the stretched
leather membranes almost became transparent, a soft lavender shade from a pool of
black.

The coming Spring season had reclaimed the sky tonight, and a warm breeze had settled
in. Last night's near storm passed through, narrowly missing the city, the cool winds
within the charged clouds, a bane of frosted malevolence lashing out towards a
frightened populace. But half of a day allowed a restoration of warmth, as it flowed into
the open windows and circled around the room, seemingly alive, causing the tapestries
adorning the walls of this elder warehouse to move slightly.

The dark figure settled his wings and came upon a simple wooden shelving unit, plywood
planks holding an assortment of ancient leather books, jade and marble statues and vases
of brittle aged ceramic. His gaze fell to one vase in particular, tall, off-white, with hints
of golden yellow where the base and sides had cracked, indicating it's great age.
Delicate azure brushstrokes forming a Japanese script covered the side, and parts of it's
lid. The dark figure held the vase close to his chest, feeling the cold ceramic against his
rapidly beating heart and closed his eyes. A soft sigh hissed through ivory fangs, almost
trembling, "I will try my best to live up to your expectations, grandfather. I, the last of
our clan, will honor you." He cautiously replaced the vase on the shelf, unaware it sat
dangerously close to the edge.

The skylight opened to the night sky, and the stars called out to him, imploring him to
become one with it's vaporous clouded currents. He crouched low and readied muscle,
sinew and bone, hardened through intense training and a mastery of the bond between
body, mind and soul. A slight curl of the wind filled the vacuum as the massive figure
lept through the steel window frame with a whisper.

He stood tall on the roof of his adopted home, surveying the docks and shoreline below
him. Quiet, solitary, the buildings of this area were mostly derelict, used infrequently by
the smaller shipping companies. He spread his wings and severed the wind with their
vicious boned spikes, deep mahogany eyes scanning the sky before him.

A search would begin tonight, within Manhattan's steel framework, a maze inside a maze
of cast-iron and pressed brick. A lifetime gone by, half a century across the globe where
his quest began, and now, in this city he was drawn to, he had found another like him.
The lavender warrior, who the night before last, saved an innocent life from the savages
prowling the shadows of the city's deepest hollows. Wings, claws, tail and fangs, from a
child's nightmare he was birthed, but a protector he became. He needed to find him, this
Goliath. He needed to know who he was, and what purpose this life held for him.
Would he be destined to wander the globe apart from the inhabitants, those dominant
who erected grand cities and lived their lives without fear of solitude?

He continued on, through the lights of the city, desperately hoping to meet the ones
known as gargoyles, unaware they were closer than he imagined.

****************************************

"Just how many pretzels did you have?" Lexington's voice echoed among the buildings
as his small distinct form darted past the side of mirrored glass.

"I only had five, and this is my sixth." Broadway answered as he chomped down the last
bite.

"It's a wonder you didn't devour the entire cart."

"Watch it, web-head."

The smaller gargoyle, though half the size, welcomed the challenge of his much larger
rookery brother. A diminutive form made equal to Broadway's girth by a powerful spirit.
"Or you'll what? Eat me?"

"Oh, knock it off you two." Angela flew between them, effectively stopping the playful
argument from growing into a considerable battle. The three flew on ahead, riding the
fiery currents as they weaved around the skyscrapers' steel embellishments, being torn
into winding threads by the sharpened angles of architecture's finest. A pair of shadows
were left behind, as Brooklyn and Sata took to the rear, the mischievous laughter of a
younger generation, a reminder of the crimson gargoyle's earlier days with his clan.

A splash of jade crossed close, her delicate wings shivering slightly in the harsh sirocco
brought forth hundreds of feet above the ground. "You used to be like that too, my
mate." Sata softly minded her love as she flew up beside him, noticing a familiar roll of
the eyes.

"It's a miracle what forty years worth of time-traveling can do for the temper." relented
Brooklyn as they struggled to catch up to the others.

A warm night, a peaceful eve, more than the guardians could ask for. A lone flight
throughout the island, every gargoyle covering a different section, in contact with their
radio equipment. Each had found nothing but a quiet voice, the city had slept tonight.
Coasting over a forest contained within a steel cauldron, spreading it's vigorous foliage
as far as it could reach, the small group passed above Central Park on their way towards
the Eyrie. 5th Avenue, a scarlet and platinum swirl of the steel transports on concrete
passages as traffic jammed the streets. Coming low over a string of high-end businesses,
including a Sach's Jewelry store, where New York's opulent traded thousands of dollars
for golden trinkets and diamond riches, they flew just beyond the humans' eyes.

Instantly, the city's desperate plea cried out to it's protectors, as a side street, connecting
the twisting roads, became restless in the sullen depths below them. Coming to a rest on
the roof alongside, the five gargoyles peered down below and gasped at the sight in front
of them.

****************************************

The dark figure brought his wings in closer to his body as he descended slowly towards
the glowing city core. He glided gracefully over the crowded streets, his dark skin, a
perfect blending with the sky's pitched shade. Extravagant businesses, shops and curios,
hidden within a pallid exterior, had closed for the night, and with the glow of the
streetlights, he could see they remained empty. He flew lower, risking discovery but
performing to his instinct's heed, scanning the dark recesses of the doorways, alleys, and
back streets, watching for a sign of something wrong.

He had found it, as his gaze fell upon the side door of a large department store, and a
white van parked alongside, it's milky gleam catching his eye. He made out several
uniformed men unloading boxes from the store to their vehicle. An odd occurrence
maybe...at three in the morning near a closed store, most definitely.

A clever plan, words forced through the human's thoughts. A simple job as a security
guard to gain his employer's trust. A trust he would soon break, using his keys and
security codes to bypass the alarms. He had supplied the rest of his group with security
guard clothing, effectively disguising them from the casual onlooker. Those who don't
strain to look past the surface, to an amoral conscience within.

The dark figure abruptly angled his flightpath, turning a hard right. A direct course...

A larger man carrying several boxes, shuffled to the rear of the delivery vehicle, and
turned his back to the street to load them. A rustle of leather carried on his delicate
eardrums, before it went all black. Tempered glass of a blue tint erupted outwards, as a
limp body traveled the length of the van, shattered the windshield and rolled to a
screeching halt, at the feet of his accomplices. Four men watched the breath drain from
his unconscious body and shifted their collective gaze upwards, a hunched figure astride
the roof of the van, a frame devoid of light, save for two burning brilliant flashes.

"Jesus Christ!! SCATTER!!!"

As fast as their legs could take them, the group split into different paths. But the dark
figure was upon them, his large size masking his incredible speed. The straggler of the
herd, the fat human, the wink link and the first chosen. The gargoyle vaulted from the
van and landed with a thump, catching the ample flesh of the human's neck with two
large taloned hands and lifting him from the ground. Before a sound could escape, soft
fragile skin impacted with coarse brick, several teeth being dislodged in the blow.

A smaller human silently tread behind him, the sound of cheap rubber upon the dirty
ground a signal to wary ears. He was caught by a long spiked tail. A left fist to the gut
and a right fist across the jaw finished the struggle.

Keen eyes scanned for the other two, and found them scaling a wire mesh fence for their
very lives. A pair of taloned, ashen hands clawed from the darkness and ripped them
from their escape. The figure slammed them together and let them drop to the ground,
knocking one unconscious. From the sheer power of the blow, eyes fell closed on the
third human, leaving the thief who arranged the entire heist to stare at the figure standing
over him.

"You are breaking the law." A voice of broken glass, dragged over sheet metal; quiet,
deep, menacing.

Perhaps his last moment alive, the human cringed with a perpetual terror. He prepared
himself for the coming blow, closing his eyes to the sight before him. But his senses
filled with cries overflowing the midnight ether, surrounding him with their howling.

Brooklyn led the charge, tackling the dark figure and slamming him backwards. The
others landed beside him, their gaze fixed on the strange gargoyle. "I don't know who
you are or where you came from, ninja, but the innocent humans of this city are under
our protection." Brooklyn yelled over the sound of the dark figure's talons digging into
the pavement, bringing the pair to a standstill.

"These humans are not innocent," the figure answered firm, "they are stealing from this
store."

"All I see is five human employees being attacked by a large gargoyle." Brooklyn
corrected him, from his point of view.

"They are thieves, not employees. Obviously this is an inside job...friend." the dark
figure tried to explain, unintentionally reaching for the holster on his left arm.

Lightning quick reflexes erupted through a lean muscled body, past sentient thought into
pure emotion. "He has weapons!" Sata shouted as she rushed forward, recognizing the
weapons concealed in the leather pouches.

Forced to defend himself, the dark warrior snatched Sata's outstretched arm, and used
her forward momentum to throw her away from him. She didn't land as softly as he
hoped, crashing against the side of the van, the white sheet metal distorting into a twisted
farrago and the emerald female rebounding to the hard concrete below.

Sata's eyes drooped closed, with Brooklyn watching from afar. Beyond the point for
apologies, the dark figure turned to face the others as Brooklyn tried to connect with a
right. With a simple snap of the neck, he dodged the carmine thrust and countered with a
clenched fist, impacting Brooklyn's chest plate. An alloy from the future, strengthened
through a smelting process unlike anything known in this time, crumpled under the
forceful strike, leaving an impression of a three knuckled fist. Brooklyn went down, only
to be replaced in line by Broadway.

The burly gargoyle charged head on like a locomotive, lifting him off his feet, into the
side of the van. An entanglement of over twelve hundred pounds carried the delivery van
across the side street, impacting with another wall, and collapsing into a heap. The smell
of burning rubber inflamed the air, as the van's shredded tires lay strewn about the
ground, leaving telltale black streaks to mark it's path. But the figure recovered quickly.
Too quick for Broadway to react as he tore the folded metal from his body and
double-kicked the burly beast in the midsection, sending him flying away.

Angela and Lexington, using the darkness to conceal their presence, captured the
shadowed form, one going high, the other going low, wrapping their arms around him as
he rose shakily to his feet. The warrior gritted his teeth, as his muscles grew taut and he
broke the hold. He forcefully wrenched Angela's arms from his body and flipped her
over his spiked shoulder, the young gargess landing on the unforgiving ground. He
jumped into the air and curled his legs underneath, where Lexington had grabbed him,
and came crashing to the cement. The web-winged gargoyle felt the figure's entire
weight come upon his ribs, effectively knocking the breath from his body.

The Wyvern gargoyles had been defeated, an assemblage of the finest warriors, feared
throughout the world, by a lone samurai. He shook his head to clear his marred vision
and slowly climbed the wall to the roof, escaping into the night. 'Their attack left me
little choice,' the figure thought to himself, 'perhaps they will be calmed by the warm
breeze and I can reason with them then. I still believe they are honorable creatures. I
still believe there is a chance for peace.'

****************************************

"Careful there, Sata..." Brooklyn helped his mate to her feet, her hand pressed forth to
her forehead, a daze cast on her siren features. He surveyed the rest of clan, rising from
the ground in the aftermath of the brief skirmish. A defense no stronger than newborn
hatchlings mounted against a powerful foe. The others stumbled towards him as he
looked back to Sata. "You okay?"

She managed through the dizziness, a gentle smile, knowing her mate took comfort in her
strength of being, and the vitality of her soul. "I am alive. But I do not think he meant to
cause me as much harm as I received." she stated quietly, as she rubbed her backside.

"He's dangerous," an incensed reply through a frowned, crimson beak, "he attacked these
humans without provocation and wiped us out within a couple minutes. We have to
follow him. I saw the direction he flew off in. Let's go!"

"My love, wait!! I don't think he..." Sata's words were lost to the wind as Brooklyn
followed the trail of claw marks aside the building and quickly scrambled up the side.
He launched himself into the air, becoming an extension of it's spirited grasp. The others
followed suit, disconcerted, irate, angry at being defeated so easily. Sata trailed the
group, but hung back, a feeling growing in her heart. 'Something is not what it seems
here.'

****************************************

The air grew colder, the ocean currents combining with the warm city atmosphere. A
strange amalgamation of the sea's salted vigor and polluting toxins, where the crisp
currents become wild and unpredictable. The clan kept close to the dark figure as they
were led towards the oceanside, almost a straight line from the store. The group flew on,
oblivious to anything else around them but their prey, even as a massive lavender shape
veered sharply towards them.

Elisa, having finished her shift for the night, submerged herself in the secure embrace of
her husband's arms, heading towards the castle, and her home. The clock tower adorning
the 23rd precinct now served a new purpose, where Goliath would wait patiently for his
mate to ascend the stone steps and throw herself into his arms. They had caught sight of
the clan lifting off after their fight, and after several city blocks, had flown close enough
to catch their attention. "Brooklyn, where are all of you flying off to so quickly?" he
asked his second as the couple grew close.

"Goliath?!" Brooklyn was startled at the leader's deep voice. "We just got our collective
butts kicked by some new gargoyle. He attacked five innocent humans and then plowed
through us. He's big, dark and fights better than Bruce Lee. We could use your help."

"Another gargoyle?" Elisa chimed in. "Is that him in front of us?"

"Yeah. That speck is the guy who kicked our asses. But he may be hurt more than we
thought. He could be retreating towards his home."

****************************************

Through the skylight, with a slight echo as the figure landed on the aluminum flooring of
the warehouse, a clack of talons signaling his arrival. He rubbed his head, trying to clear
the effects of Broadway's tackle from his body and flipped on a lightswitch. His small
living area was cast in the pale fluorescent light of three old fixtures, hanging
precariously from frayed wires. He made his way towards a small firepit, built of brick
and raven metal and with a simple flick of a lit match, a fountain of flames erupted high
and danced in their shimmering confinement. "A most spectacular failure. Perhaps
another night." he whispered as he sank to his knees and his eyes fluttered closed, losing
himself in meditation.

A beacon to the nothingness of night, the skylight flowed with the bleached luster of light
made by man's hands, inviting six winged beings to bask in it's splendor. The clan
slowly crept to the skylight and peered inside. Expecting an empty warehouse, their eyes
were met with rich tapestries and colorful scrolls lining the tattered walls. Japanese
lanterns hung from the rafters and weapons of every size and shape lay scattered around
the room. Centered in their gaze, the dark warrior, sitting in front of a small smoking
fire, seemingly unaware of their presence.

A flash of white sparked from blistering charcoal, as Brooklyn lept to his feet. "There he
is!" Before anyone could react, the crimson gargoyle dove through the skylight, and
placed himself on the floor with a resounding thump, opposite his target.

The dark warrior whirled around only to have two red hands grasp his shoulders. With
all the strength of his smaller body, he heaved the dark gargoyle across the room. As the
far wall steadily approached, he curled into a ball, and flipped in mid-air, planting his
taloned feet on the plywood covering and pushing himself away, back towards the
surprised guardian. They met, hand against hand, a dangerous dance encircling the room.
A sapphire radiance and an ivory glow, a stare of granite, until Brooklyn pushed him
back, the dark figure stumbling into a hard something.

But not something, someone. The figure instinctively turned and struck the stranger with
the back of his hand. A massive lavender form went flying back into an old couch,
overturning the elder piece of furniture, and narrowly missing Elisa as she dove out of the
way.

The figure stood, frozen in place as he looked to his victim, the warrior from last night.
"You..." Perhaps a single answer to a myriad of questions, lay across from him in a heap.
Stunned, barely able to mount a defense as he was caught once more by an aquamarine
hand, and fell to the ground. The dark figure rubbed his jaw, in the midst of a fusion of
winged shadows cast over him.

The depths of his soul became heated, torrid. He felt his rage growing.

He spun around and kicked Broadway's legs from under him and the big gargoyle went
down. He grabbed Brooklyn and gave him a knee to the midsection, a bony spur ripping
across his stomach. The crimson gargoyle fell back as Angela joined in, the lavender
gargess landing quick jabs upon the upper torso, until the dark warrior grabbed her hands
and slammed her head with his own, knocking her out. The dark warrior was giving into
his rage, something he had fought against for so long.

An ancient implement of war unsheathed from it's leather holster, a distinct sound as the
figure turned towards Sata, a wave of cold steel glinting in the light. She dashed
forwards, lost in her own anger, a witness to the clan she had called family for two years
and their brutal downfall, and brought the sword towards his head. It stopped inches
from his face as the dark figure caught it between his hands. Sata struggled to release her
weapon from his grip, but it held steady. A slight twitch of the bicep twisted the sword to
his right, bringing the jade gargoyle with it. She was pulled face first into his elbow and
fell to the floor. The sword escaped from her hands and sliced through an electrical box
on the far wall, setting free a small spark.

A slight breeze skimmed his neck, his long braid of hair quivering like a fly in a spider's
web, as Lexington flew towards him, launched into the air by his larger brother. He
brought his hands up and slammed his open palms on either side of the dark warrior's
head, taking away one of his powerful weapons, his sense of balance, and thus, his great
speed. The warrior could barely swat the smaller gargoyle away as he held a hand to his
head. Through the pounding of an unrelenting pain, a outcry of rage grew in a passion
that had been burned into his memory.

Goliath was back on his feet, and leaving Elisa behind, encroached upon him, stalking
forwards through the scattered remnants of his clan. He piled upon him the sum of his
rage, releasing a powerful haymaker and knocking him back towards the wall. The same
wall that held his collection of vases and figurines. The force shook through the shelves,
causing some of the valuables to move towards the edge, including the white vase.
Goliath slipped behind the recovering stranger and wrapped his arms around his chest,
catching him in a full nelson.

The dark figure endeavored bravely but Goliath was just too strong. "I thought you were
an honorable creature!"

"I am," Goliath defended himself, "I protect the innocent."

"As do I."

"Not from what I have heard from my clan."

"Then you heard wrong."

An intensity of a warrior's clash, perhaps to the death, between soldiers from different
lands, different worlds, as each struggled to gain the upper hand. The power to crush
steel escaped into the small suffocating room, creating an aura which surrounded them,
an omen to the others to keep a safe distance. A burning calenture arose in both,
determined to win the battle at any cost.

Broadway, after checking on Angela, came to Goliath's aid. His help was rewarded with
a wild kick, sending him back into the wall, tremors rippling up the soft walls and
reverberating through the rickety shelves.

The dark stranger's gaze fell on the vase as it pitched forward and he watched in horror
as it plummeted to the floor. "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Expecting an explosion of a
thousand white shards, the dark figure clamped shut his chestnut eyes, unwilling to
witness the loss of his most cherished treasure.

But, from the corner of the room where she had watched the chaos ensue, Elisa ran
forward and caught the vase in her hands as she slid across the floor. She cradled the
precious cargo in her arms as she stood up. "All right!! KNOCK...IT...OFF!!!"

Every gargoyle within earshot stood completely still, and looked to the human in the
center of the room. Sata helped Brooklyn up, as Lexington struggled to get Angela on
her feet.

Elisa, still holding the vase, turned her attention to her husband. "Let him go, Goliath."
The lavender giant obeyed without question and released his sparring partner. "I think
we might have made a little mistake. Now, who are you and what's so important about
this fancy vase?"

The figure stalled for a moment before finally answering, "My name is Minamoto
Shadow, last of the Minamoto clan. And that vase contains the ashes of my grandfather,
Hiro."

"Oh." Elisa suddenly gripped tighter to the vase as she realized just how valuable the
contents were. "But that still doesn't explain why you attacked those humans."

"They were stealing from the store. As I told the red one beside you, one of the thieves
was probably a wage earner, who had decided to rob his own place of employment."
Shadow took the vase from Elisa and bowed to thank her.

"I had a feeling." A soft sigh from across the room, near the damaged electrical box as
Sata carefully pulled her sword from the wall. "We cannot apologize more for our
mistake. We believed you were attacking those humans, for you were most severe. A
small crime, no?"

"There is no such thing as a small crime. But you are right. I overreacted. In the heat of
battle, I can become...forceful."

"I'll say, those guys will be cleaning their shorts for a week." Brooklyn attempted to
lighten the mood and escape Goliath's accusing glare.

"I was warned my temperament may lead me to adversity."

"Ah, they're fine, humans are tougher than you think." Brooklyn offered his hand to
Shadow as he managed a sheepish smile. "And I'm sorry too. I guess I still have my
temper after all." He wrapped his other arm around Sata, as the dark warrior took his
hand.

"On behalf of the rest of my clan, we are truly sorry for our actions. We are protectors of
this city, and should not have charged in headfirst without allowing you to explain."
Goliath stepped forward. "This is Brooklyn, Sata, Lexington, Angela, Elisa, and I am
known as G..."

"Goliath." Shadow finished for him. "I watched as you saved the young girl last night. I
also heard you use the word gargoyle to describe yourself. Is this what you truly are? Is
this what I am?"

"Yes. We are of an ancient race who pledge to protect those we care for. You...have no
idea of your heritage or origins? But your clan..."

"...is of human descent. My grandfather is...was a human. He would tell me stories of
mighty winged guardians who would protect his ancient home of Japan. But a rumor
from an old man's past sometimes cannot be trusted."

"Then where did you come from?"

"My egg was abandoned in a forest near Nagano, Japan. He stumbled upon it by accident
on a cold winter's night. He searched the entire countryside for any others like me
yet...found nothing. He cared for me until I hatched and raised me as his son, and
eventually his grandson, when he aged much faster than I. He taught me the fighting
skills handed down to him from his father. But the ravages of time caught up to him, and
after more than fifty years in my life, he passed on. I have been without his guidance for
three years now. I came to New York because of the rumors of creatures roaming the
night sky and to honor my grandfather's dying wish that I find those of my kind."

"You do look Japanese. You said you were from the clan Minamoto. I've heard the
name before, from long ago." It was Sata's turn to explore his past.

"Yes, a most honorable clan, who can trace their roots back for two thousand years. But,
sadly, I am the last. The Minamoto family dies with me." Shadow looked down, his
eyes glazing over. "I am gaijin, an outsider. Alone."

"I am sorry, ninja." Sata placed her hand on his shoulder. "I am from Japan as well. I
have no idea if any of my family still thrive among the native gargoyle clans. I was
separated from them by...unusual circumstances. Your family's name was mentioned in
my childhood, they were considered honorable humans."

Shadow looked into her eyes, scanning for any trace of deception. "You speak the truth,
my friend."

"You needn't be alone any longer. This clan has embraced me as part of their family,
and they will embrace you. They can help you explore your past, and you will come to
learn the rich history of our race."

"You honor me Sata-san, your help would be most appreciated."

"You are...welcome...what?" Sata's eloquence faded as her eyes caught the flicker of the
lights above.

A small disruption in the power, caused by the severed wiring. Suddenly, the panel
exploded in a shower of sparks, with a spire of flames ascending the brittle wooden
walls. It spread itself along the seams of the pressed planks, feeding on the abundant
oxygen and dried wood. Through wide eyes, the occupants of the building could only
watch as their surroundings were engulfed by inferno's light, a flaming abyss climbing
the roof and spreading along the ceiling.

"Quickly, we must get out of here!" Goliath yelled to his clan. They gathered beneath
the skylight and prepared for flight when Goliath looked back at Shadow, frantically
trying to save his possessions. "You must leave them, Shadow!" he called to the warrior.
"This building will go up in a matter of minutes! They are only objects, they are not
worth your life!!"

"These are the last surviving remnants of the Minamoto clan! Some of them are more
than two thousand years old! Each one represents an entire life of a member of my
family! If even one is destroyed, a part of my history will be destroyed as well!!"
Shadow replied, quickly stuffing item after item into blankets and burlap sacks.

"We must help him, Goliath," Sata caught Goliath's arm, "we all know how important
family history can be! Besides, this is our fault!!!" Through the blistering haze, the jade
gargoyle made her way through the flames and started ripping tapestries and scrolls from
the walls, as the paint bubbled and peeled from the surface. A mere moment of
hesitation passed before the clan joined in. Using blankets and bags provided by
Shadow, the clan grabbed weapon after weapon, book after book, vase after vase, and
sculpture after sculpture, between the clutches of an empyreal revenant brought to life in
the midst of the blaze. Each of them sporting full loads of antiques, they escaped through
the skylight and took to the air.

Landing on a roof nearby, Shadow turned to watch as his home was swallowed in flames.
The supports gave way and within seconds, the venerable warehouse collapsed under it's
own weight. Left to his own by the clan, he lingered there, until the last beam fell to the
ground.

Goliath came to his side, and placed a lavender hand on his shoulder. "We are truly
sorry, my friend. We caused...this."

"No, it was me. I gave in to my anger and continued the fight. I should have been the
one who stopped it before it went this far." Shadow responded, his gaze never leaving the
flaming pile of rubble. "I should have stopped..."

"Your home has been destroyed. Where will you go now?" Angela's small voice rang
behind, as she held fast to Broadway's arm.

"My home is in those sacks you hold in your hand. They are my very life. That building
was just a shelter where I could train and rest safely for the day. I will find a new place
soon."

"Then I insist you stay with us."

Shadow turned to face Goliath, dark features laden with an astonished facial cast. "You
would allow me to live with you, after I attacked your clan?"

A simple nod spoke volumes in the stillness of night. The dark warrior's attention
wavered with a glare of crimson from the corner of his eye, as emergency fire units
responded quickly to the fire. The flames were smothered with a spray of inflammable
foam, a white froth completely covering the smoldering embers. Small puffs of smoke
drifted from the cinder, and parted into the air, as Shadow took one last look at his ruined
home. "It seems I have no choice. I would be honored, Goliath-sama."

****************************************

The castle's ancient stones, crafted from Scottish artisans who died more a millennium
ago, gave rise to a yearning for home for the displaced warrior. Shadow touched
gracefully on the cold surface, his wings growing limp and falling behind him like a
wraith. A rival for the castles adorning the countryside where he grew into adulthood,
but none kept to a degree of this preservation. Memories from long past flooded his
thoughts, of the broken shelters of adamantine coloring in the hills of Japan, covered in
thin layers of moss growing between the cracks of stone, and a small gargoyle hatchling
spending the midnight hours seeking hidden secrets in a intricacy of passages. And now
he would call this place home. It seemed too surreal, like the events earlier tonight.

He watched the others carefully place his belongings on the ground, and make
themselves comfortable on park benches near the battlements. They were shaking off the
effects of the fight, and the injuries Shadow had inflicted through his impetuous actions.
He would almost be proud that he held his own against six gargoyles, but the teachings of
his grandfather ever present in his mind, prevented him in taking any pleasure from
defeating his newfound friends. Honed senses detected new scents in the air, and
movement beyond the shadows, as several figures emerged from the darkness of the
castle.

"Shadow, I would like you to meet the remains of our clan." Goliath lifted a hand to the
air, pointing them out, one by one. "Hudson, Othello, Desdemona, Graeme, Arianna,
Bronx, Nudnik, and," he noticed another winged being with them, "...Delilah."

Delilah stepped from the shadows and stared headlong at a quartet of tattooed brands,
carved into a massive muscular chest. She slowly craned her neck upwards; a wide neck
and long hair braid, a small strip of coarse white hair from his bottom lip to his chin, thin
chestnut eyes, dark brow spikes growing into a V formation, her eyes filled wide with the
sight of the dark warrior, as he looked down upon her. Deep mahogany connecting with
a soft chocolate. She immediately blushed and looked away, her wings lifting and
slightly covering her reddening face, gaining a smile from Elisa.

Goliath announced clearly to the others, "May I present Minamoto Shadow, he will be
joining our clan."

He bowed to them as they circled around, introducing themselves at their own discretion
and relaying a thousand years of history, as he himself told a life lived so far away.
Delilah's gaze remained transfixed, and she practically hung on his every word and
movement.

Goliath and Elisa stood to the side, watching the new clan member as he struggled to
answer all the questions directed at him. In the folds of leather membrane sails, she took
refuge in his powerful arms, her own hands caressing the subtle bulges of muscle. She
looked up, to the nobility of a leader born, and felt smooth lips press to her forehead. He
kissed her gently, and whispered in a resonance known only to her ears, "Another
gargoyle, another of my kind. Shadow's very existence proves there are still many out
there. Lost souls, who may need our help. Hopefully...we can find them, guide them,
bring them home."

"I hope so too." she responded, suddenly looking away and turning a little pale.

"Are you all right, Elisa? You do not look well." he asked as he cupped her face, feeling
her flushed skin, radiating a warmth through his skin.

"I'm fine. I'm just feeling queasy. It's been coming and going ever since we got back
from our honeymoon. I think I may have...over did it." She smirked back at the large
gargoyle, causing him to laugh quietly under his breath. "Don't worry, Big Guy. If it
continues, I'll see the doctor." The couple watched silently from the side as Shadow was
led around the castle, listening to a tale associated with every corner and every simple
stone. One section in particular, a small tower at the back of the castle, where his gaze
fell in a concentrated stare.

"You can have a pick of any of the empty bedrooms in the castle to store your things, my
friend." Goliath called to him.

"What about that tower?" asked Shadow as he pointed to the turret.

"Are you sure? It's small, and quite isolated from the rest of the castle."

"Yes, I know," Shadow grinned, "I value my privacy."

"Then the tower is yours." Goliath watched as the dark warrior hefted a couple sacks and
headed for the tower. Sata, Brooklyn and Delilah grabbed the rest and followed him.

"I think my 'daughter' is quite smitten with the new arrival." Elisa chuffed, as Goliath
tensed around her.

"Yes, he must take heed not to maltreat her, she is my daughter as well."

"Calm down, Big Guy," Elisa quelled him, "he just got here. Besides, he's a very good
fighter. He'd probably even give you a run for your money." Elisa felt Goliath's sigh
rumble through his chest, smiling at a protective nature taken to the very limits. She
watched Shadow head towards the tower, with Delilah wandering along behind, intent on
keeping him in her field of view.

****************************************

A new statue graced the stones of the main turret of Wyvern, facing the New York
skyline, engulfed in a layer of the morning shimmer. Shadow had taken his place, on a
lone bedrock pedestal near Hudson, the dark warrior encased in a skin of warmed stone.
On the farthest perch from the main tower, he would have stood alone, if not for a
smaller figure beside him. Delilah, with an indiscreet hop, had prevailed over the sun's
rays and frozen in place alongside, a mawkish smile leading to her eye's delight.

Elisa returned to her room, and the comfort of her bed. Close to the drifting tides of
slumber, until the silence was broken by the ringing of her phone.

It was Beth, checking in on her big sister, and wanting to hear more details of her moving
into the castle. Throughout the conversation, Beth began to realize that her sister wasn't
up to her usual self. "God, Elisa, what's wrong? You sound like death warmed over."

"It's nothing, I'm just not feeling well." Elisa answered as she delicately poised herself
on the side of the mattress.

"Headache, fever, cramps...c'mon sis, tell all." Beth forced the issue.

"I'm just feeling a little nauseous, especially when I wake up."

"Ha ha, hey, maybe it's morning sickness."

"Yeah right, that would mean I'm pregn...OH MY GOD!!!" The phone fell to the floor
as Elisa turned white, and held her hands to her stomach. "Oh, Goliath..."