10 - "The Stray, Part 1"
Originally Written: February 29th 2000

May 14th, 2000
"Uh uh, no way. Chapter four should conception, then chapter five is the nine months
spent in the womb."

"Then what the hell are chapters one, two and three about?"

"Chapter one can skim through a brief history of the gargoyle race, chapter two is a
summary of Goliath and Elisa's relationship and chapter three is...well...you know."

"What?"

"...Just before conception."

"Ah I see. A little wine, a little dance, then nine months later, a little half gargoyle child.
Interesting." Dr. Alan Pierce rubbed his chin as he pondered his associate's words.

"Do you think they'll let us videotape them?," Dr. Trishia Weathers continued, "it would
be great reference material..."

"No. I've already touched on that subject with Goliath, and I almost got my head shoved
up my ass. We'll have to struggle through chapter three assuming he mates like a regular
human."

"Oh well, I guess after the child is born, we'll go from there. Perhaps we'll fill in some
chapters as we go along, but for now..."

"'Interspecies mating: An in-depth look at human and gargoyle conception by doctors
Alan Pierce and Trishia Weathers' is still a work in progress. If we need to add chapters,
we'll do it in due time."

"Whoa there. Why is your name first?"

"Xanatos called me first. You're only here because I needed an...ahem, assistant."

Dr. Weathers drew back slowly, as a silent breath slipped in through her clenched teeth.
"Oh, that is going to cost you. You're no longer in my dedication."

The bickering continued between the two doctors, as their shrill voices echoed off the
spartan walls of the examination room. Within the top floor of the Eyrie building, set
apart from the lush paintings and potted plants lining the hallways, a wash of ivory
covered the painted walls and the clean, sparkling tile of this sterile environment. A
veritable contained hospital, prepared for any eventuality, even that of a child born of a
human and a gargoyle.

Dr. Alan Pierce, a seasoned doctor and surgeon from Manhattan General, the first called
upon to witness a medical miracle. Barely forty years of age, his long slightly gray hair,
fell over a trusting facade, as he wrapped himself in a white labcoat, stained with several
spills of various chemicals. Almost to the point of ecstasy, he instantly accepted
Xanatos' offer. For the chance to behold the first half human, half gargoyle child would
be for those in the medical and science fields, the beginning of a completely new area of
study. Within hours, he was called to the Eyrie and upon nightfall, bore witness to
fourteen statues exploding to the call of night. He was introduced to Goliath and Elisa,
and he confirmed her pregnancy. Immediately, plans for a book crossed his mind, fame,
fortune and notoriety for a doctor lost in the crowd of skilled professionals.

But research and lab work can be time consuming for one doctor with already over one
million patients floating through the doors of his hospital. He called on Dr. Trishia
Weathers; tall, brunette, leggy, and one of the most respected specialists on her field. For
three months now, the two doctors have studied the gargoyle race and their distinctions
and similarities to humankind. But still mystified, was how two different species were
able to produce a child.

"Okay, okay. My name's first on the cover, but your dedication is first in the book." Dr.
Pierce consented.

"All right, fine. Now, where were we?"

"I believe," an angered voice answered from behind them, "you were going to allow me
to view my child." The two doctors turned to gaze upon a massive lavender shape
standing above them. "This book you are planning cannot be released anyway, or you
will jeopardize our safety. Now, if you two are finished your quarrel, may we get on with
this?"

"Oh Goliath, yes, yes." Dr. Pierce jumped from his seat and a massive computer on a
rolling table. He moved it towards a large examination bed, where a slender ebon haired
woman lay reclined on the plush cushioning.

Elisa had been waiting patiently for her regular check-up, with a promise on this night to
be able to finally see her unborn child. Three months along, with a slightly protruding
stomach, and an impatient demeanor. She now watched with great anticipation as Dr.
Pierce moved the scanning tool towards her and Dr. Weathers readied the sonogram
monitor. He slowly revealed Elisa's stomach by pulling her shirt away and spread a
viscous gel over the skin. Suddenly, her hand tightened, but not by her consent. She
looked to where delicate lavender fingers squeezed her palm with all their might.

Angela sat beside her, almost even more excited than her step-mother. Goliath still
remained standing above them, skeptical of this machine now powering up. Dr. Pierce
guided a small metal tool over her stomach and Elisa gasped as the cold steel touched to
her tender skin. All eyes directed to the monitor, though an unsteady gray haze projected
nothing yet perceivable to the expectant onlookers.

Goliath huffed, convinced once more this machine was not performing to it's owners
expectations. "This is futile. I still do not believe how...waves of sound can allow me to
see my...unborn...child..." From the corner of his gaze, a flicker of movement caught his
eye. A clear picture appeared on the screen, a picture of Elisa's womb, and a small
distinct shape in the folds of the uterus.

"Oh...wow..." Angela whispered as she leaned in closer. "Father, it's..."

"My child." Goliath fell to his knees, eyes fixated on the screen, wherein a mist of
colorless tones, a small fuzzy figure took form before his teared gaze. A tiny fetus, with
almost an exact resemblance to a human.

"Well, the baby seems to be doing just fine, Elisa." Dr. Adam Pierce reassured the
expecting mother. "The sonogram shows no problems with the fetus, even with it's
remarkable heritage. It seems to be growing at a normal human rate." Yet his words fell
on deaf ears, as the Maza family remained glued to the screen.

Goliath cocked his head, as he strained to focus in on his child. "What...are those?" he
asked, as a taloned finger dragged across the screen.

"What?" Both doctors leaned in to get a better view. "Well, what do you know. Heh
heh heh, oh my." Dr. Pierce muffled his laughter.

"What? What are they?"

"Wings, Goliath. Wings."

"Wings??" Elisa perked up.

"And what looks like a tail. Aaaannnnnd..." Dr. Pierce motioned for Dr. Weathers to
move the tool slightly on Elisa's stomach, "beginnings of ridges on it's head and elbows.
It seems to be taking after it's father somewhat."

"Oh...wow." Elisa whispered, before releasing a breath through a small smile. "Our baby
has wings..."

"Would you two like to know the sex?"

"No!!" "Yes!!" Goliath and Elisa answered in unison, before looking at one another.
"Yes!!" "No!!"

"Okay, I need a definite answer here, people."

"...No. We would much rather be surprised at the moment of birth." Goliath sighed as he
relented to leaving the mystery for another six months.

"The only complication I might foresee is at the actual birth. If those bone spurs on it's
head and elbows get any sharper, it may snag on the uterus as it's being born." Dr.
Pierce's brow came down a bit, unnerving the parents, especially Goliath, who had
become even more protective of his wife, ever since her surprising revelation three
months ago. "But if there's any problem, we can do a cesarean section."

"A what?! Doctor Pierce, what is a...cesarean section?" Goliath asked the doctor
standing before him, a touch of worry intermixed with his deep voice.

"It's a completely safe procedure where we take the baby out through an incision made in
Elisa's stomach. It's perfectly normal and has been performed thousands of times." the
doctor calmed the large gargoyle. Goliath's knowledge of human pregnancy and birth
had become extensive, breezing through the library's section on human physiology
immediately after coming home from his patrols. But he hadn't come upon this
particular term just yet.

"I suggest you go read up on c-sections, Goliath," Dr. Weathers interrupted, "it will
probably calm your nerves a bit."

Goliath sighed and felt Elisa's hand grip his arm. He looked down to his wife and the
warm smile thrown his way.

"Don't worry, Big Guy. The doctor said I'll be fine."

"Yes, I said she'll be fine. Well, I'm all done here, you're free to go. I'll see you in a
couple weeks. And by the way, after you enter your sixth month, I want to see you every
week until the birth." He watched as Elisa hopped from the table and tried to protest, but
the doctor held up his hand. "Every week. I want to take every single precaution. If I
have to, I'll have Goliath and Angela drag you down here, kicking and screaming."

The large gargoyle smiled as he brought his arms around his still slender wife, and
Angela giggled at her step-mother's seeming misfortune.

"Fine. You're worse than Goliath." Elisa chuffed as she admitted defeat. Once a woman
who had all the freedom she could ever ask for, she now felt she had become trapped as
Goliath would rarely leave her side, even following her on her shifts. She would be
extremely annoyed if she didn't know how much Goliath loved her, and how much he
wanted to keep her and their child safe.

They left the office, and started towards the elevator at the end of the hall. This
particular floor of the Eyrie had been sectioned off from the employees in the recent
years, allowing the gargoyles free access. Elisa was the first to reach the shimmering
steel elevator doors, and pressed her hand to a recessed panel beside them. A thin white
shaft of light traveled the length of her flattened palm and shortly signaled the owner of
the handprint with a small beep, as the doors slid open and allowed the entourage access
to their ancient home.

Taking leave of their daughter, Goliath and Elisa followed the stone enclosure of the
great hallway, soon reaching the doors of their room. Upon entering, Elisa threw herself
onto the bed as Goliath sat beside her. "He's getting bad as everyone else around here."
she muttered. "You, the clan, my parents and family, Bluestone, Chavez, Jasper...god,
even Xanatos sometimes checks up on me."

"You know we're only trying to keep you safe from harm, Elisa." Goliath answered her
as he brought a hand to her stomach. "And our unborn child."

"I know. But...just don't treat me like a baby as well. I'm only three months along and
captain Chavez has already stated I'll be on desk work after the fifth month."

"Yes, a most wise decision. She is a human with the sense to follow police procedure."
Goliath winced as he felt two small fingers pinch his lavender skin. "Ouch!!"

"I'm sorry, did that hurt?" she cooed.

"Yes." he returned, as he leaned over to place Elisa in his massive shadow. Carefully,
gently, he brushed his lips against hers, and she savored every breath.

But suddenly, she stopped and pushed him away. "We shouldn't do this right now..."

"Why not?" he asked out of concern.

"Because I'm going...to throw up..." Elisa raced to the bathroom as Goliath sank into the
bedspread.

"This 'morning sickness' is becoming a nuisance."

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

Winter had receded wholly from Manhattan's imperial spires as Spring bloomed forth
with the ebullience of a puppy, eager to wrap the city in it's temperate glow. Miles of
sparkling sand lining the shores of the island were a popular refuge for those chained to a
daily grind of the working world. As the sun dropped below the skyline, the nights no
longer became a presage to hide away inside, cowering from nature's wrath. Between
walks in Central park or along the crowded street markets, the nights of New York came
alive under the curtain of the stars.

But on this night, the lasting peace would be shattered with an unnatural sound above the
rooftops. As if a low flying plane descended into the city core, the discord of jet engines
roared over a quiet neighborhood of older apartment buildings. Three distinct shapes
could be seen against the night sky, weaving through an entanglement of transitional
Gothic and neoteric simplicity, chasing a small indiscriminate shadow.

A lone figure in front, looping and dodging building after building, showing signs of an
impending weariness. It's three hunters, behind the figure by a second's pace, riding
small machines that coasted the currents with an aggressive charge, neared their tiring
prey. But through a maneuver brought forth by an incredible agility, they lost their target
when it dipped into a narrow alley and the three were forced to fly over. The figure flew
as fast as wings of a leather weave could heed the wind, eventually spotting a small
window near the top of one of the buildings, lit up among the dark walls of sienna brick.

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

"I...am...an American bad-ass...nah nah nah nah...I...am...an American bad-ass..."
Through mumbled lyrics, came a barely recognizable song, as Todd Hawkins ran his
razor over his cheek. An artist for hire, who created masterpieces with a simple stroke of
the brush and also helped to brighten certain houses in the simple world of suburbia,
working out of his spacious studio apartment on the top floor of an older complex. A
young artisan living the hours of the twilight breed, he was preparing to sleep well into
the late afternoon the next day, trying to shake the effects of a full night out. The
apartment was quiet, as most of his neighbors had gone to sleep. He was staring intently
at the mirror, being careful not to cut himself. The slightest noise could cause him to
slip...

CRAAAAAAAASH!!!!

The small pane of glass gracing his bath erupted towards him as razor sharp fragments
filled the room. "Holy shit!!" A split second reaction caused him to turn towards the
source of the crash as a shadowed figure jumped through, pushing him to the floor near
his toilet. Both fell to the checkered tile in a rain of shattering glass. "Ah man, what the
hell?..." Todd shook his head and tried to clear his vision. He sat up and looked towards
what had disturbed his peaceful night.

Sitting across from him was a young girl, roughly the same age. She was cradling her
face in her hands, wiping away debris. He looked closer, as on closer inspection, he
noticed something was wrong. A flushed hue of dark pink cerise exposed where her
clothes didn't cover and on her shoulders rested two large wings, hanging limply. Todd
used the wall to balance himself and got to his feet, all the while staring at the intruder.
A soiled dress consisted of her only garments with long blond hair spilling over her
shoulders. Beside her legs rested a slender tail in a matching rose color that twitched
slightly, indicating it was attached to her. Growing from her brow, four narrow spurs
with the inside spikes raising higher than the others. Pointed ears and elbows, and large
three-toed high arched feet.

Todd moved closer, his eyes open wide, gazing at the sight before him. But the figure
noticed his subtle movement and lifted her head. A swirl of an ocean blue met Todd's
gasp, as her piercing, electric eyes connected with the very essence of his being.
Beautiful eyes, yet doorways to a soul that held fear beyond imagining. "Who...are you?"
he asked quietly.

The young woman suddenly lept to her feet and ran into the apartment. "Leave me
alone!!" A gentle voice marked with a ragged rasp from breathing heavily. He ran after
her, intent on finding out just who...and what she was. She ripped open the balcony
doors and hopped onto the railing, and without ever looking back, launched her slender
frame into the night sky.

Todd could do only nothing but watch helplessly as she melted into the aura of the spring
winds, fading from the unnatural light leaking through his glass doors. A silent pause
followed as he tried to digest the image of an ethereal creature that he thought only
existed in a random penciled drawing by his own hand. But suddenly, breaking through
his daze, rumbled powerful engines, tearing the air around him. He snapped his gaze
upwards to three machines skimming the delicate cornice structure adorning his
apartment roof and heading in the girl's direction. He could only wheeze a weak
response, "Wow...she was beautiful..."

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

A day had passed, and the moon's pale light had found Todd still within his apartment,
lost in contemplation, unable to free his thoughts from last night's encounter. His sleep
had been restless, he had spent the few hours of slumber tossing and turning, and
eventually gave up hope. Stuck in his head was the young girl, and the complete and
total terror he saw in her large, gorgeous eyes. He grabbed his coat and headed for the
door.

Hours passed before his tread slowed on the threadbare pavement of Manhattan's
winding ways, his gaze directed upwards as he gazed searchingly into the night sky,
looking for her who haunted his thoughts. Though tired, he pressed on, scanning the
recesses of his city's buried hollows for any sign, for anything that could lead him to the
girl. Alleys, rooftops, inside old buildings and warehouses, wherever the fallen could
find sanctuary. He spoke to person after person if they knew anything about the events
from last night and received nothing but urban legends of winged creatures roaming the
skies.

There was no trace of her. She had disappeared into the night from whence she had
come. He returned home and flopped on the couch, totally spent. He couldn't shake the
image from his mind, her eyes, her large, deep eyes.

He seated himself in front of his large drafting table and released the flood of memories
induced in one night through a medium of charcoal and lead. He went through an entire
pencil and several pieces of charcoal, his wrist wracked with pain, until the entire area
around him was covered with portraits of the girl. He stopped to rest his hand and
thought back to some of the comments he heard on the street. About these so-called
beasts and their domain of the heavens, and how they were seen mostly around the tallest
skyscraper in town, the Eyrie building, and the veiled secret above the enshrouded mists
of New York's ashen clouds. 'Could the rumors be true?,' he thought, 'could gargoyles
live in the castle?' He shook his head and mentally slapped himself. He tried to bring
himself back to reality and settled on the couch once again. 'Of course, I have no where
else to look. It couldn't hurt to check out ol' billionaire Xanatos' pad. If I don't find
her, I might be able to hook up with one of his rich woman friends.' He smiled to himself
and soon was fast asleep, his face buried in the cushion.

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

A sleek black Jeep Cherokee exploded from the parking garage and onto the crowded
streets of the morning crawl, as Todd guided his sport-ute towards the Eyrie building
some blocks away. Traffic was heavy, as he had waken only at mid-day, fighting with
those who arose at morning light as they made their mad rush for a light repast prepared
at their favorite restaurant. The posted speed limit became nothing more than painted
numbers on an indirect sign as he carved through traffic, and soon the glimmer of a
polished steel alloy wrapped around a sky-reaching spire came into view. He parked to
the side and entered through the massive glass doors, bounded with a lustrous gold trim.
Within the massive foyer, a small desk fell into place before his eyes, and the very large
security guard nestled behind. Two quick taps on the small bell caused the guard to look
up and see Todd smiling down on him. "Hey there," he said in his most pleasant voice,
"I want to talk to Mr. Xanatos please."

"You have an appointment?" The guard's husky voice echoed through the large waiting
area.

"No, but I need to see him and it's urgent. So please give him a call and tell him I need
his help." Todd kept his smile wide, hoping his charm would guide him through.

"Hold on." The guard picked up his phone and rung the private office of Xanatos as
Todd looked on. He turned and filled his eyes with the splendor of the main entry foyer.
A ceiling almost as high as his apartment building with a lavish embellishment of golden
surfaces and silver facets and massive crystal chandeliers suspended in the still air,
providing a soft glow even brighter than the sun.

"What's your name, pal?" The guard's voice brought his attention back to the desk.

"Oh, ah, Todd Hawkins."

"And what is your business with Mr. Xanatos?"

"I need him to help me find a gargoyle." Todd stated simply, trying not to sound, or look,
completely nuts.

The guard repeated his words into the phone and listened for the response. He silently
clicked the phone down on the hanger and stood up. "Mr. Xanatos is very busy right
now. Come back tomorrow."

Todd's brow went down as he placed his hands on the desk. "Or in other words, go away
crazy person." he raised his voice at the guard.

"That's about it." The guard came around the desk, intent on showing the young man
out.

"Hey come on!" Todd struggled furiously as the guard grabbed his arm and started to
lead him towards the doors. He fought back but couldn't free himself against two
mammoth hairy hands, enduring themselves on his arms. His head cocked up to catch a
small security camera in an indistinct corner, following his every move. "Hey, I know
you're watching, Xanatos!" he screamed. "Come on man, I need your help. She's out
there alone and I think she's in trouble. She was being chased by three goons on flying
skidoos!! I don't know if you know anything about gargoyles but I need your help!!" He
continued ranting as the camera zoomed closer.

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

Bathed in nothing but the luminescence of his large viewscreen, David Xanatos watched
calmly as his guard attempted to escort the young man towards the doors. He knew this
particular watchman, and almost smiled with the trouble this angry young man was
causing him. To the side, his office doors opened and Elisa came through.

She had obviously been awakened from a deep sleep, her hair tussled slightly on one side
and eyes squinting through the screen's light. Xanatos caught the annoyance on her
features in the reflection of his irregular shaped desk, and waited for the usual impatient
demeanor she always used when addressing him. "What's so damn important you have
Owen come and wake me up, Xanatos?"

The billionaire said nothing and pointed towards the screen.

Elisa whirled around to the commotion on the screen. "Who is that?"

"I was hoping you would know. He claims to have seen a gargoyle and needs our help to
find her."

Elisa watched as the young man struggled uselessly against the much larger guard, all the
while yelling about gargoyles. "Tell your man to let him go."

"All right," said the billionaire as he reached for the intercom, "may I ask why?"

"If he wants to see gargoyles, we'll show him gargoyles."

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

An expectation of nothing but crumbling rock was instantly overturned once the elevator
doors opened to the castle's main hall. Todd stepped out and was met by a smaller
woman, concealing a jogging suit beneath a lavender robe. As he neared her, he noticed
a slight bulge to her midsection. She immediately cinched the belt tighter, as Todd
straightened up. "Are you Elisa?" he asked carefully as not to upset her even more than
she already looked.

"Yes. You must be Todd Hawkins. I was the one who allowed you to come up here."

"Yeah, thanks. Another couple of seconds and Kong down there would have thrown me
into traffic." He dusted off his jacket and remembered his reason for coming. "So, there
are gargoyles up here...aren't there?"

"In a manner of speaking, follow me." Elisa briskly headed for a hallway and startled
Todd enough to pause before following behind. They stepped outside on to the
battlements, crossing the courtyard and reaching the massive stairway leading to just
below Goliath's turret. Todd climbed the steps as Elisa stopped just in front of Angela,
and turned to face the young man. "Well, here are your gargoyles."

Todd slowly walked forward and scanned the statue of Broadway. He ran his hands over
the statue's rough surface, skilled hands tracing a howl frozen upon the sun's ascension.
As if he was punched in the stomach, a sickening realization swept upon him as what he
feared the most. By way of tattered tales, he was mislead to this place, what could be an
effective cessation of his quest to find the girl. "Statues, they're just statues." he sighed,
and brought his hands to his pockets. "God, I'm an idiot...I guess I'll never find her.
Damn." He turned away and looked above him, to the winged shadow cast from
Goliath's stone form. "Sorry for bothering you, Mrs. Maza."

Elisa watched as he quickly receded from the cornices, particularly noticing his pained
expression as he realized the Wyvern gargoyles were nothing but statues. She truly felt
sorry for him. 'He sounded serious...yet I can't chance anyone I don't know finding out
about the clan.' she thought. 'But he sure seemed upset about not finding this mystery
woman. Maybe...I'll speak with Goliath tonight.' Elisa headed back to her bedroom and
the warmth of her bed.

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

If any of those crowding the streets could hear as night fell, the awakening cry of the
gargoyles, perhaps they wouldn't sleep as soundly tonight. A plethora of celestial
shimmer met the fragments of flying stone skin, as the rightful residents of Wyvern took
their place among the living. Goliath turned upon his perch to see Elisa standing behind
him. Quickly but gently, he swept her beneath the folds of his wings, bringing her
slender body to his chest. "Did you sleep well, Elisa?" he rumbled.

"Well, not really. We had a visitor this afternoon."

"A visitor, who?" Goliath's smile was replaced by a look of disquiet.

"His name was Todd Hawkins. He claimed to have seen a gargoyle the night before last.
He came here because of those damn rumors floating around. I showed him your statues
and he was pretty much convinced you were just elaborate pieces of sculpture." Elisa
answered her husband to calm him.

"Good. We can't let too many people know that gargoyles live here." Goliath noticed
his wife look away towards the city and placed his finger under her chin. "You seemed
troubled, my Elisa, what is wrong?"

"He seemed genuinely concerned about this gargoyle. What if he was telling the truth?
What if there's a gargoyle out there who's in trouble?"

"You wish to help him, don't you?" Goliath met Elisa's gaze.

"Yeah, I do. I want to talk to him further and find out about this mystery girl he's ranting
about."

"And just how will we find him?" Goliath asked, raising his brow.

Elisa reached into her coat pocket. "I used a phone book to get his address." she
remarked as she pulled out a piece of paper with the address and hopped into Goliath's
arms. "Come on, let's fly." The couple flew down towards the rest of the clan, and
approached Othello and Desdemona.

"Brother, sister, accompany us please. The rest of you, continue with your patrols. We
hope to be back soon." The four headed towards the battlements before being interrupted
by Broadway.

"Just where are you guys going?"

"Hopefully," Elisa responded, "to meet a new friend."

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

Calm winds ensured a peaceful flight, and soon the gargoyles approached the apartment
where Todd lived and landed softly on his balcony. Goliath released Elisa and she
moved to the door. Peering inside, she caught sight of a true bachelor's province, where
clothes lay across the furniture and several pizza boxes and Chinese take-out cartons
were left on his kitchen counter. She especially noticed the massive television, and
smirked at his choice of priorities. Beyond the drafting table, art supplies and stereo, she
found him reclining on the couch. She reached up and tapped on the glass.

Todd jumped up. "What the hell?!" He frantically searched around him, looking for the
source of the noise. Tap, tap, tap... He looked around again. TAP, TAP, TAP... His
gaze drifted towards the balcony doors and he saw a woman bathed in darkness just
beyond. It was the woman from the castle, Elisa. He ran over and opened the doors to
let her in. "Uh, what are you doing out on my balcony?" he asked as he watched the
woman sit down on his couch and make herself comfortable. "How'd you get up here? I
live on the tenth floor!"

"Are you telling the truth?" she asked calmly. "Did you really see a gargoyle?"

"YES!! Yes, I did. Hell, I can show you the window she crashed through in my
bathroom. I had to use one of my paintings to cover it. She had wings, a tail, and..."

Elisa stopped him before he could continue, "Then I'll show you how I arrived on your
balcony." A slight motion was made with her hand to the doors, and they opened with a
creak.

A sudden rush of warm air breezed across Todd's neck, as he watched an assemblage of
shadows emerge from the obscurity of an unlit balcony. He lifted his neck to look at the
largest figure before him, with the others coming up beside their brother. "Holy shit...but
they...were just statues!"

"That is how we sleep. My name is Goliath, Todd, and this is my rookery brother
Othello and his mate Desdemona." Goliath introduced himself and his clanmates, while
watching the human examine him from head to toe. "We have heard you are looking for
a gargoyle."

A slight cough seeped through his throat, before trying to answer the question. "Huh?
Oh...yeah, yeah! S-She's about my age, with blond hair and deep pink skin. Is she part
of your uh...family?"

"No, we have never seen this gargoyle before. But we will do our best to help you find
her." Goliath placed forth his assurance before turning to Elisa.

Desdemona scanned the apartment, walking towards the strange table near the television.
She noticed numerous sketches littered around the drawing table's base. She leaned over
and picked several up in her caramel hands, leafing through drawing after drawing of
what could only be the mystery gargoyle. "It seems, my friend, she had a profound effect
on you." Desdemona turned towards Todd as he blushed slightly and looked away.
Desdemona laughed under her breath and handed the pictures to Elisa, who took them
from her hand and looked through them herself.

Trying desperately to change the subject and wanting to know more about these
creatures, he turned to where Goliath had sat down beside Elisa and brought her closer to
his massive body, causing him to raise an eyebrow. "So, how many of there are you?"

"There are fourteen of us in my clan who reside at the castle. There are many clans
around the world, but the entire gargoyle population we know of number barely two
hundred."

"So your species is on the verge of extinction?"

"That is an accurate term. For thousands of years, humans have hunted my kind and
destroyed entire clans. Especially during the day."

"When you turn to stone...uh huh, okay." Todd had a hint of sarcasm in his voice, as he
sounded quite unconvinced.

"It is how our kind sleeps. As soon as the sun rises, we are frozen in stone. It allows our
bodies to heal completely from almost any injury." Othello explained. "It is one of our
greatest strengths...and our greatest weakness." He came near his mate, wrapping his
arm around her shoulder, reliving the massacre of Wyvern a millennia ago, and how they
both were destroyed in their sleep.

"Wow, so any sculpture on any building could actually be a real, live gargoyle, that
comes to life at night?"

"Pretty freaky, huh?" Elisa shot a response to him from the couch.

Todd looked to where she was, propped up in Goliath's lap. "I'll say. Uhm, can I ask
you guys a personal question? What's the deal with you two?"

"What's the deal? The deal is we're married." Elisa answered while grinning the famous
Maza grin and holding her hand up, showing him her wedding ring.

"Heh heh heh, god damn." Todd couldn't believe what she had said, but of course his
own life had become a turmoil of unnatural occurrences in the past two days. He just
shook his head. "In love with a gargoyle..."

"Speaking of which, from all these drawings, you are either an obsessed stalker, or you
have a crush on this woman." Elisa defended herself very skillfully, turning the attention
back on the other human in the room.

He turned beet red as he tried to hide himself from four glares. "Hey, you married a
gargoyle!! Besides," he sighed as he looked to the ground, his face losing the smile and
his arms falling limply to his sides, "if you had seen her eyes. She was terrified of me,
scared to death. She looked at me like I was going to kill her. God, those eyes..."

"Don't worry, friend," Desdemona placed her hand on his shoulder, "if she is out there,
we will find her."

"Thanks, all of you. I just hope...we're not too late."

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

The group headed back to the castle, Todd choosing to drive rather than fly. As soon as
he stepped outside onto the cornices, he was met by the others in the Wyvern clan. The
statues once paralyzed by the sun's rays, were alive with passion and vivacity. One by
one they were introduced and he related his story. His search had been joined, by the
underdwellers of society's shadows, putting forth their best efforts to find the
pink-skinned gargoyle during their patrols. Most of the clan left immediately to look for
her, leaving Todd back at the castle.

He took the time to look around the ancient castle, and soon found himself a student to
Hudson's ultimate history lesson, similar to the one presented to Maria Chavez months
ago. Hours passed as Todd followed behind, a buildup of information imbedded into his
brain. Hudson finished his tale with Elisa's pregnancy, just in time to see the human
rubbing his temples to come to terms with the flood of information he received. He
would eventually end up on Goliath's tower, staring upon the city from a height he had
never experienced, and losing hope with each clan member that came home only to tell
him there was no trace of her.

Desdemona climbed the stairway to emerge into Todd's field of view. An optimistic
expression came crashing down with a slight turn of her head. "It's possible those men
you saw eventually caught up with her." she gently whispered.

"Or she found a hiding spot." Todd tried to convince himself, and looked to the stars. "I
hope."

Desdemona placed her hand on his shoulder, and directed her gaze skywards as well,
wondering which star he had chosen to wish upon. "We shall try again tomorrow night."

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

Lavender streams of clouds coursed across a darkening sky, bringing with them a sunset
breeze laden with the fresh smell of Spring. Among the ether, they flew once more. The
clan of Wyvern forced the wind to mind to their wishes as they spread among the island's
farthest reaching borders, searching the streets and skies.

An absolute silence compelled his deepest concern, as Todd stared at his phone, waiting
endlessly for their call. Even the city seemed restful, it's usual chatter barely a whisper
above his paced breaths. Yet the phone would not ring as he would hope. An undeniable
annoyance, especially when working on various art projects, and now, he wanted, needed
to hear that distinguishing shrill ring. But helpless, he would not be. He grabbed his coat
and car keys and quickly left his apartment.

He had driven the city roads for hours, looking through black tinted windows for any
sign. He couldn't stop thinking about her. His need to find her was growing with every
hour that went by. Without even thinking, he pulled onto a side street, his headlights the
only source of illumination on the lonely back road. Suddenly, over the hum of the
engine, he could make out a loud thundering just above him. Before he could even open
the window, his windshield imploded, a maelstrom of jagged glass erupting towards him,
as the entire Jeep shook with an incredible force. "Shit, not again!!" He ducked down as
far as he could go, and brought his arms up to cover his face, sensing the cracked pieces
cover his body. Whatever had hit the windshield had enough force behind it to destroy a
sheet of tempered glass, safety tested before it ever left the factory. He slowly looked up,
and saw a lifeless form on the dented hood. He exited the Jeep and gasped as he
recognized the fallen form. It was her. The girl.

She had been knocked from the sky, immediately passing out from the impact. Todd
cupped her face and scanned the body. She was still breathing, but covered from head to
toe in cuts and lacerations. Her wings were torn, her tail limp and blood oozed from a
large gash on her forehead. For a minute, he paused, fixed in place, staring at the girl
bleeding profusely on his vehicle's hood.

But the eerie silence was broken again by the howling of machines, inflaming the wind
into a frenzy, as Todd turned to see the three men looking for a place to land their
hovercraft. Instinct took over, forcing the fear from his body. He quickly gathered her
into his arms, becoming aware quite quickly she was heavier than she looked, and ran
towards a darkened corner, with a door concealed in the shadows. His footsteps on the
pavement alerted the goons that he was behind them, and they pulled themselves from
searching his ruined sport-ute. As he bolted past, they fired in his direction. A moving
target he became as he kept his head low, a feeble attempt to dodge the bullets shattering
the building's fragile surface material. Using his weight as momentum to force himself
through the door, it collapsed at the behest of his right shoulder, and he stumbled over the
splintered remains, and disappeared from the mercs' rather crude marksmanship.

The full moon's pallid glow blanketed an old skylight, the unwashed glass causing shafts
of broken light to creep through and guide Todd as he prowled the large office building.
He found a small room, and decided to hide inside. Booting the door closed behind him,
he carried the unconscious girl behind a desk and laid her on the floor. He sat down
beside her and listened for any sound of his attackers. Too quiet. Either they didn't
follow him, or they were covering their tracks well.

He unconsciously moved into a jumbled mess of long satiny strands and turned to see
what had drifted over his hand. It was her hair. A platinum mane though covered in dirt,
still glimmered more lustrous than gold in the moonlight. Her face was ravishing,
shapely cheekbones highlighted her deep eyes and her large lips were open, allowing her
breath to escape and giving Todd a glimpse of her fangs. The large cut on her forehead
was still bleeding. He tore off a part of his shirt and placed it against her wound,
intending to stop the flow of blood. Yet as soon as he touched it to her skin, her eyes
flashed open and stared directly into his. "Huh?"

WHAM!!

Before he could react, she swung at his face with her right arm. He was struck in the
head with a dawn-tinted fist and was knocked back to the floor. The gargoyle sat up and
recklessly shuffled to the edge of the room, butting up against the wall. She placed a
trembling hand to her head, feeling the warmth of blood gushing from her wound. Her
gaze caught the man before her as he recovered from the blow.

"Fuck me gently..." he grumbled as he rubbed the side of his face. He focused himself
and looked to the girl. His eyes of dark lead with an azure tint crossed paths with her
own once more. "Don't be afraid. I won't hurt you." he assured the cowering girl before
him. "My name's Todd." He slowly crawled towards her and stopped when he noticed
her flinch. "It's all right, I won't hurt you. I promise. That gash on your head needs
something to stop the flow of blood."

The gargoyle brought her hand down and gazed at the thick, red liquid completely
covering her palm. She gasped and looked back at Todd.

He had seen that look before, an expression of fear that pained him so. He discovered an
old shirt on the counter, somehow left behind in an employee's rush to escape this
dungeon for the weekend. He grabbed it and walked slowly to the girl. His hands were
in the air, a cautious pace across the gringy linoleum floor. "Here, we can use this to stop
the bleeding. Please don't be afraid." His voice was low and soft, as he approached her.
She allowed him to kneel in front of her and he gently pressed the shirt against her head.
Their eyes met again, and he smiled. She kept staring at him, with a mixed expression of
fear and what looked like curiosity on her beautiful face. "So, you got a name?"

"N-Name?" she finally answered him in a barely audible voice.

"Yeah. A name. I'm Todd Hawkins, and you are?..."

"...my name's...Annika."

"Annika. Cool name. Pretty."

"Thank you..."

"So, Annika, who the hell are those guys chasing you?" he asked as he tore the long
sleeve from the blood soaked shirt and wrapped it around her head.

"They're mercenaries. They...they were hired to bring me home...to my father."

"Your father hired those goons? Is that their way of completing the job, blowing you out
of the sky?" Todd responded, shocked that any parent would hire men like that to find
their child.

"My father...he's..."

"Right here, my dear." A new voice fell upon her melodic parlance. From behind the
desk, where they directed their gaze, a merging of three shadows into one. The mercs
appeared behind the desk, and parted to allow a fourth figure through. Silver tresses with
a receding hairline and an evil snarl chiseled into weathered features, he loomed over
them at over six feet tall. His knee-length, black leather trench coat gleamed to the
blanched light, almost seeming to blend himself with his caliginous surroundings. A
human man, aged to what looked a little more than sixty, his thin lips crafted into a
hateful smile, he gasped for a deep breath before continuing, "You've led us on an
eventful chase, my dear. It took us days to finally catch up with you. Now, it's time to
go home." His black eyes were devoid of any feeling, and sent shivers down Todd's
spine.

"That's your dad?" Todd looked back to the gargoyle. She slowly nodded her head, her
face growing into a scowl, never tearing her gaze from her father.

"Now Annika dear, you gave me such a fright. I just hate it when you run away. You'll
worry your...mother." His guttural tone, a feeble attempt at humor, seemed as if he was
dead inside, and yet, his words had obviously hit home as an incandescence of the purest
blood red erupted from Annika's eyes. A sudden move to raise herself from the ground
was countered quickly by three high powered rifles, aimed directly at the couple on the
floor. "I wouldn't do that if I were you. My friends here have very itchy trigger fingers."
His gaze fell on Todd, as he instinctively moved in front of Annika. "I don't know you,
but I guess you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, my boy. I am truly sorry."

"Sorry for what, jerk?"

"I can't leave any witnesses. No one must know about my daughter. Well, at least not
yet."

Todd swallowed hard as he watched the older man back away and the glowing beams of
three targeting lasers rose to his chest and head. He closed his eyes and shuddered in a
last breath perhaps taken in this world, "Oh shit..."