11 - "The Stray: Part 2"
Originally Written: February 29th, 2000

Todd closed his eyes and waited for the sounds of gunfire. A trigger being pulled, a
tumultuous bang, the air being torn into a spiraled tempest as the bullet was blown from
the chamber.

But instead, a low growl birthed from deep within his companion's chest exploded into a
howl of fury as Annika rose to her feet. She launched into the air despite her wounded
form with the swiftness of an eagle, and tore into the two mercenaries closest to her.
Human reaction dulled in comparison to her flying fists, knocking the two men to the
ground, their heads hitting cold, hard floor, each beneath a taloned hand. The third man,
with a dumbfounded look on his face, could barely turn to face the others as Annika
jumped over the desk and ripped the gun from his hands. Within mere seconds, his limp
body collapsed by her feet, unconscious. She turned to face her father, as he stood
motionless, arms behind his back.

Through black eyes he had watched what could only be called a failure by his hired
force. "I've trained you well. Too well it seems."

Annika's eyes flashed crimson as she gripped the gun tighter. She had never used a
weapon on anyone before, apparent by her trembling hands as she raised the silver rifle
towards her father, barely able to keep the weapon aimed straight.

"You can't do it, can you?" the silver haired man smiled. "You can't take a life. I'll
have to fix that." He noticed her eyes, forcefully trained on his own with never a waver,
beginning to glaze over. Her head wound had taken it's toll and her knees began to
buckle as she fought against the darkness of unconsciousness. Her hands involuntarily
released her weapon and it fell to the floor. Annika followed suit, her body hitting the
linoleum with a sickening thud. The older man stepped closer to his daughter, craftily
observing her struggle to stay awake. "That is a nasty wound, my dear. But it'll help
calm that temper of yours. We don't need you running away again when I take you back

"She isn't going anywhere."

His gloating interrupted, the elder man turned quickly only to be met with the barrel of
one of his own rifles, held firmly in Todd's hands. He simply closed his lips and
callously stared.

Around the desk Todd slowly came, edging closer to Annika and placing his body
between her and her father. The older man merely raised his arms and stepped back.
Todd gently grabbed Annika's arm and helped the wounded gargoyle to her feet. She
leaned on him for support, clutching to his chest as he guided her through the exit and
watching all the way the older man standing firm, his smile growing ever bigger. The
couple hobbled to the door where they had entered, intent on escaping from the building.
As soon as he reached the dirty concrete of the city's domain, he felt the gargoyle push
away from him.

"I can take care of myself." She walked to the ruined Jeep and rested against the hood.

"Oh yeah, you can barely stay awake, let alone walk or fly." Todd called out to her as he
came up behind the young gargess. He placed his hand on a battered wing, causing her to
react with a jump.

She tore herself away and started to stagger towards the dazzle of the city's lights,
unaware of her destination yet willing to brave the unknown to get as far away from
those chasing her as possible.

"Wait!!" he cried out. "There's no way you can get away in your shape. Your 'father' is
probably regrouping the three stooges back inside. I can help you get away, if you'll just
trust me..."

"The only person I trust is dead!!" she shot back at him, causing the young man to stop in
his tracks. Her angered voice trembled on the cool ether, her eyes filled with the pain of
a torment he could surely never hope to understand.

Todd was forced to watch as she limped away from him, using the wall to steady herself,
her taloned hand tracing the coarse mortar of the building's exterior. He held himself
back, running her incensed words through his mind. He wanted so desperately to help
her, yet it seemed she never needed, or desired his aid.

But before he could do anything, the door behind him swung open and the older man
stepped out, followed by his goons. In an instant, Todd bolted towards Annika and swept
the young girl off her feet. She had no time to protest as the human emerged into the
city's busy streets. His black shoes pounded the pavement in a frenzied pace, and he did
his best to ignore the stares from bystanders as they caught sight of the woman in his
arms. His legs and arms throbbed relentlessly as he strived to keep Annika in his arms,
who surprisingly bore no resistance to his touch, searching for another hiding spot,
passing darkened store after darkened store, all the while aware of the familiar sound
coming from the skies above.

Todd frantically looked around him until without any warning, he lurched into traffic.
Cars came screeching to a halt as he ran in front of them. He reached the other side and
disappeared under a large awning he had spotted from across the street. He watched
from the shadows as the goons flew overhead. He had lost them, but only for a short

An asylum from the chase disguised as a simple dumpster beckoned to him, as Todd
carried the young girl into another alley. "Man, it's a good thing Manhattan has so many
friggin' alleys..." He slumped to the ground to catch his breath, allowing Annika to roll
onto the ground beside him. He delicately traced her makeshift bandage, ensuring it was
performing it's intended task. It had stopped the bleeding, but she had still lost enough
blood to weaken her beyond the ability to run. Her breaths were short and she wheezed
with every painful gulp of air, distinctive symptoms of internal injuries. "You're hurt
worse than I thought." Todd's observation went unanswered. Upon reaching for her
hand, she recoiled once again.

"I said...I can take care of myself!!" Annika spat at him as she tried to get back on her

Todd was left on the alley floor with an expression of anger, watching her struggle with
every anguished move. "Hey!!" He grabbed her arm, making sure she wouldn't pull
away from him yet at the same time fearing her great gargoyle strength would rip it from
it's socket. "I risked my life to save you!" he yelled, "Christ, I even scoured the entire
fucking city looking for you since the night you crashed through my window, which, by
the way is going to be expensive to replace."

Annika looked at him, her scowl softening a bit as his eyes conveyed a comforting

"Ever since I saw you, I couldn't get you out of my head. I was worried sick those
assholes would find you before me."

"You...I-I guess I owe you my thanks." She glanced away to the ground. "I didn't think
anyone would risk so much to save a freak like me."

"You are not a freak."

"Yes I am. Look at me. Wings, a tail, four fingers...three toes...I don't even sleep like a
human..." She clenched her fists as Todd brought her closer to him.

"But...you're not human."

She instantly stepped back, tears forming in her eyes. Her bottom lip quivered as she
choked on a saddened assertation, "You're just like my father. He told me I was
abnormal, that no one would ever care for me because I was deformed." Her tears
flowed, so much so, they almost blocked her sight of the young man. "I thought you
were different."

"I am, please believe me. I only meant that...you're not human in the literal sense, you're
something so much more. You're a gargoyle."

"A what? You're telling me I'm a piece of rock that sits on the edge of some building?!"
she screamed back, becoming agitated at this conversation's new turn.

"No, no, you're an entirely different species. Gargoyles. I've met others like you. In
fact, I went to them to ask for their help in trying to find you."

Annika stared at Todd for the longest time. She cleared her cheeks of the tears and
hobbled to the other end of the alley, pondering what he had said. She knew she was
different from her parents. Her father had always told her so. She was a freak, a
deformed human, an accident of nature. So he kept her hidden, away from those who he
claimed would stare at her, berate her, mock her, hurt her. "You've...seen these
gargoyles?" she broke the silence with a voice so quiet, it was almost drowned out by the
city's chatter.

"Yes, yes, jeez, I almost crapped my pants." Todd shook his head as he recalled the
previous week. "There's Goliath, their leader. He's purple, almost eight feet tall and
looks like he could rip a tank in two. There's Brooklyn, a red one with a beak and a
pretty hot wife named Sata. And Hudson, the guy who can talk endlessly for hours,
Lexington, a computer genius and Angela and Broadway, and Othello and Desdemona
and Shadow...now that guy's weird..." he stopped himself as he caught sight of Annika's
shocked expression.

She was staring at him with a cocked blond eyebrow. "You're insane...and I'm leaving."
She started to walk away, intent on finding her way out of there. Todd released a pent-up
breath and ran his hands through his hair. He moved to catch her, but the alley before
him dissolved into an eruption of blazing ivory, his senses sieged with the sound of
engines descending from above.

The mercenaries had found them, and as Todd's eyes finally adjusted to the intensity of
their spotlights, he had to protect himself from debris of discarded papers and layers of
dust surrounding his form, stirred up by the powerful motors. They touched down in
precise places, effectively separating him from Annika. He was trapped, and unable to
get to the injured gargoyle. His mind raced, searching for a way out. The two larger
mercs were advancing on Annika and she was backed into a corner, her panic paralyzing
her from mounting an attack. She looked to him through fear-filled eyes, silently
pleading for his help.

And help would indeed come, from the parting clouds of Manhattan's darkened
firmament, where the guardians of the night had finally found their lost gargoyle.

The night air of the flowered month sustained within it's calm winds encircling the isle
of iron, the wail of the gargoyles. The buildings acted as a tuning fork, rebounding the
shattering cries in a swirl of a disheartening chord. Goliath led the charge, with
Desdemona and Shadow behind him. On wings of leather, they swooped in and each
caught a merc in their taloned hands, carrying them out past the gaping couple and into
the street beyond. On Goliath's signal, they released their quarry at the defined moment,
sending them tumbling to the pavement below.

Annika was left near the edge of the alley, locked in a stare as she gazed at the new
arrivals. Wing, tail, claw and talon, they were different than anything she had ever seen
before, apart from her own reflection in the mirror.

The mercs had found themselves now at the mercy of the clan. Perhaps outmuscled and
outclassed, yet the lure of their paycheque, and their reputation in the criminal
underworld demanded efficient results. It came down to human vs. gargoyle as the
mercenaries went toe to toe with the guardians. Their advanced weaponry and armor
afforded the goons a slight advantage against the gargoyles, and a blur of wing and
weapon flashed as the street fight of the century almost tore the pavement from below.
Traffic came to a standstill, with the onlookers watching with a horrific fascination, the
mythic creatures of their city come to life.

"Oh man, this is better than a Tyson fight!" Todd said, as a hand came down on Annika's
shoulder. She didn't turn, her concentration rooted on the battle before her eyes, yet the
soft embrace of her warm hand glided across his. He smiled.

Mesmerized by the clash, the young couple would never notice movement behind them
until it was too late. Annika was forcefully pulled back, and before Todd could reach for
her, a massive leather-coated arm constricted upon her throat. "Hello, my dear."

Her father had returned to claim his property, and Todd was forced to contend with the
image of Annika gasping through damaged lungs as the barrel of a gun pressed to her
temple. Without any light to illuminate their path, the darkness concealed the couple's
dilemma to the clan.

A face hardened through age and misery creased as the tough leather of the elder man's
expression twisted into a derisive grin. "Now my young friend, turn around and walk
away and you won't get hurt." he threatened through gritted teeth.

"You've put a lot of effort in finding her and trying to bring her home," Todd challenged
the older man, with the futile hope he was bluffing, "you won't do anything to her, she's
too valuable to you."

"Don't be too sure." The older man cocked the gun and pressed it tighter against
Annika's head. "I went to a lot of trouble to train my daughter to be the perfect hired
mercenary. Her great strength and ability to fly would have made her one of the best
killers in the world. For forty years I raised her, ever since she hatched from that egg,
and I'll be damned if I let anyone else have her."

"Egg?" Annika whispered through her constricted throat.

"Yes, my dear. You weren't born from your mother. We found your egg long ago and
raised you as our daughter."

"...but...you said..."

"I only told you those things to keep you under my protective umbrella, as it were. The
last thing I needed was my daughter trying to explore her heritage and getting out where I
couldn't...control her." He smiled a vindictive smile as he felt the young gargess shake in
his arms.

Annika closed her eyes, and wept through closed lips, as what had existed of her
tormented life came shattering down.

"You son of a bitch!!" Todd exploded. "You lied to her and treated her like shit her
entire life." His anger at this man's bottomless depravity reached the boiling point, he
would have jumped the man and torn his head from his neck if he wasn't holding Annika
hostage. "You told her she was a deformed human! You told her she was a freak, and
she wouldn't be accepted in normal society!! You fucking basta..." Before he could
finish, the gun which first threatened Annika was now pointed at him.

"Ah ah ah, I wouldn't try anything if I were you, my young friend." He thinned his eyes,
yet the coal black of death never faded. "You have caused me a lot of trouble the last
couple of nights. You and your damn 'friends' almost cost me my prize. I can't allow
you to take her away from me again." The older man pulled the trigger back as he
prepared to fire. "Say hello to my wife for me, and tell her that I'll take care of our little

"rrrrrrrrrrraaaaaaAAAAUUUUUUUGGGGHHH!!!!!" A raged shriek grew in intensity as
Annika screeched with all the power of her impaired lungs could bring forth. The alley
lit up in a wash of blood, her eyes rupturing with a gargoyle's wrath. She grabbed her
father's arm and twisted around, turning to face him. Her hand tightened on his forearm,
and through the thick leather, fragile bones fractured under the intense pressure and his
grip on the gun loosened. Using the last reserves of her strength, she drove her clenched
fist into his gut and grabbed what flesh lay upon his neck, holding him close enough to
feel her fervent breath. "NEVER, EVER SPEAK OF MY MOTHER AGAIN!!!" she
MY...FRIENDS AGAIN," she brought the human's face right to her own, and stared into
the soulless depths of his dark eyes, "I WILL KILL YOU!!!" She threw him against his
machine and watched as he grappled to mount his craft, favoring his right arm.

"It seems the night is lost, my dear." he grimaced, as he turned to catch sight of his hired
goons forming a pile of human trash in the street, surrounded by the winged creatures
who had turned the tide of the fight. He would have to cancel the cheques, for the
mercenaries were not worth the money they had asked for. "I'll have to leave now...but I
will be back." His machine lifted from the ground, launching him into the cool airways
of the night. Todd came to Annika's side only to hear his dying words lost to the ferocity
of his engine's wake. "Therias Ebon Crowe doesn't give up so easily!! You hear me, I'll
be back for you when you least expect it!!" A declaration of his remorseless soul, echoed
in Annika's ears, as she kept her focus on her father as he became just another flicker in
the expanse of space.

Todd released the breath he had been holding and looked to Annika. She flashed him a
sight of her gorgeous blue eyes before she collapsed into his arms and sank to her knees,
bringing Todd with her. Her breathing became erratic and her relentless coughing
brought up a spray of blood.

"Annika!!" Todd screamed her name as he held the young gargess in his arms, with the
clan closing around them. He looked to Goliath with wide eyes. "She fell from the sky
onto my car! She's hurt, she may have internal injuries! You have to do something!!"

"The dawn is not far off. She will heal with the sun." Goliath's deep baritone assured the
human as he gently took her from Todd's embrace and scooped her into his lavender
arms. "We'll take her to the castle." With one hand, he effortlessly scaled the fire
escape and reached the roof. His grip tightened to his fragile passenger as he took to
wing, heading for the Eyrie.

Todd held tight to Shadow's back, his fear of the towering heights instantly vanishing, as
he kept his gaze on the limp body cradled in Goliath's arms. Shadow embraced the wind
with a grace of a ballet dancer, weaving within it's sinuous clasp. Yet even a turbulent
jostle would not disturb the young man on his back, hoping for his life, the woman who
so captured his fascination, and perhaps his heart, would survive the night.


Goliath gently placed Annika on the stone surface of his tower, high above Castle
Wyvern. He straightened up and backed off to allow Todd access to her crumpled form.

Leaning over, he found his hands gliding down her forehead spurs, and eventually
running the length of her face. He outlined her features with a subtle contact, tracing
what had been sealed in his memories, what had drawn him to risk his life for someone
who he had never known.

She opened her eyes, using what strength remained to form a quiet whisper,
"I'm...sorry...for not believing you..."

"Shhh...it's okay. You'll be okay. I'm here with you, I won't leave you." he answered
back, brushing her knuckles to his lips, her scent smoothing itself upon his senses.

Annika managed a slight smile before she fell unconscious, and turned her head away
from Todd's hands.

"Dawn is approaching," Goliath spoke furtively to the clan, who had gathered around the
fallen girl, "get to your perches." They promptly responded to their leader's wish to
grant the couple their privacy. Quietly, they slipped from the main tower and fell into
place on their respective steads, preparing for the end of night's sovereignty. Goliath
took to his own perch, and a shadow loomed over the tower in the wash of the morning
sun creeping over the horizon. Yet this day, he would not face the city as he had for so
many centuries. His massive wings spread to their utmost, he held himself over the
couple in a protective vigil, noticing his wife kneeling beside Todd.

Elisa placed her hand on the young man's shoulder, a signal to him that he must let her
go. The sun was rising. He gently released Annika onto the cold cobblestone, just as her
rose skin turned to a dusty gray in the overflow of the sun's brilliance. He sighed and
foundered against the crook of the battlement, aspiring towards a day without adversity.

Elisa inspected Annika's sleeping statue, able to get a closer look for what this young
man had combed the urban hollows looking for. His drawings and half-finished sketches
were so alike, they had captured her beauty in amazing detail. "She'll be okay," she
whispered. "I've seen worse injuries healed by their stone state." She turned back to the
young man in time to capture his yawn. "You should get some sleep. There's plenty of
bedrooms in the castle to choose from."

"I'm not leaving her." Todd responded defiantly, staring at the statue laying before him.

Elisa had known that tone particularly well, especially escaping from her own lips more
than once in the past. "All right." she whispered, and quietly slipped from the turret,
intent on getting some sleep of her own.

Todd was left alone, sitting beside the stone form of the gargoyle who had shattered the
peaceful, normal life he once led. 'Is she worth it?' he thought to himself. 'Hell yeah.'
Todd closed his eyes and soon fell asleep on Goliath's turret.


The vestiges of the dying light of dusk receded across the stones of Wyvern, bringing
forth from it's passing, an inception of cryptic shadows created from the castle's
foreboding columns. Elisa climbed the narrow passageway perhaps traveled a thousand
times, where the carved steps of granite led her to the home of her heart, to the one
person she loved more than anyone or anything, the giant lavender gargoyle known
simply as Goliath.

Upon reaching the top, she emerged into where day met night in a fusion of muted colors
splashed across the sky, and was surprised to find Todd still asleep, slumped over on the
stone and snoring loudly. She crept slowly towards her husband, yet cautious to keep her
distance, ever mindful of the shards of stone torn from their bodies, revealing the forms
within. They roared to the sky, as the last remnants of their sleep drifted away.

Todd rolled over and barely stirred, even their tremendous cries didn't awaken the young
man and he slept on, oblivious to a slender form encroaching upon his position. It wasn't
until he felt a familiar hand stroking his face that he opened his eyes and found himself
staring into an ocean of blue.

Annika's eyes were directed at his as she leaned over him, smiling. "Good evening."

"Jesus, you're awake." Todd scrambled to his feet, a drowsy haze once draped over him
effectively disappearing. "Are you okay? Did your wounds heal?! Are you okay?!!"

"It seems so." she answered, guiding a hand across her forehead where just last night, a
massive gash marked her wondrous beauty. "I feel great, and I owe it all to you." She
grabbed his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Yeah, well..." Todd felt himself blush, and an awkward silence fell over the usually
boisterous young man. They stood motionless, feeling the wind flow around them as
they studied each other's eyes, before being startled by the others crashing the romantic

The clan had gathered to check in on the mystery girl they had searched for, and finally
brought to them last night. Annika was surrounded as they inquired about her health, and
where she had come from. Todd stood beside her, hearing the barrage of questions and
watching the pink gargoyle try to answer as many as she could.

But the clan was interrupted by a loud clearing of the throat coming from Goliath's
direction. "Come, let's leave our new friends to themselves. They most likely...have a
lot to talk about." Goliath motioned his family to the stairs and slowly the gargoyles
disappeared from sight.

Until the last of the clan cleared from the tower, did Annika finally turn her gaze back to
the young man, forming a bewildered half-smile. "I guess you were right, they're just
like me."

"You don't have to be alone anymore. They'll take care of you. I'll take care of you."
Todd's expression hardened a little, wondering if he shouldn't have added that last line.

"I've only trusted one person in my entire life..."

"Your mother." Todd finished for her.

"She was always there for me. She never treated me like I was different. She was the
most beautiful woman I had ever seen, loving, honest, caring..." Annika's eyes welled
with tears. She felt Todd's finger catch a lone tear as it skimmed down her cheek.

"Your mother died, didn't she?"

"Six months ago. That was when I first escaped. Without my mother there, my father
became even more abusive to me."

"I'm so sorry. But...why did your mother stay with that guy? He's a complete asshole."

"She stayed to protect me, even through the beatings. My mother purposely placed
herself in his path to prevent me from getting hurt even more. She took the verbal abuse
and the slaps and the punches and everything else he threw at her, never letting him crush
what was left of her spirit. When my father kept me locked inside, she was there to give
me a proper education. She hoped one day I would escape, so she prepared me, she
wanted me to have an advantage if I ever got out." Annika's eyes darted down to Todd's

He noticed her shiver and desperately fought the urge to wrap his arms around her. "But
you did get out." A handsome face distorted into a mock frown, as Todd crossed his
arms and cocked his head to the side. "Right through my window." he chuffed,
attempting to lighten Annika's mood.

She flicked her large eyes upwards and shrugged her shoulders. "Yeah, well, yours was
the only one with a light on." she replied, the simple joke failing to retain a smile. Her
gaze was directed back to the city. She slowly crept to the edge of the tower and leaned
against the battlement. Her long blond hair was swept over her shoulders in the subtle
movements of the current's broken splinters, forced apart by the cornice cleft. A
momentary glance to the skyscrapers below was broken when she heard movement
behind her.

Todd brought his head level with hers and imitated her own stance, gaining a fanged grin
in response. "We have a lot in common than you realize, you know." he spoke softly as
he centered his attention on a particular building near the Eyrie. "I lost my parents when
I was only about three years old. I lived in a children's home until I was old enough to
get a decent job. I too, know the pain of losing those close to you." He tended towards
her, and she welcomed his affectionate gaze. "But you had years with your mother. You
had the chance to learn from her, live with her, spend time with her...you are luckier than
most out there who never had the love of any parent."

"I guess so, but it still hurts."

"It will always hurt. I don't think that kind of pain ever goes away. It's meant to stay
with you. It rolls itself into a little ball and sticks in your gut, but we can use it to help
guide ourselves throughout our lives. It's what makes us, uhm... 'human'."

"Deep. By the way, you do notice the wings right?"

"I was talking in the figurative sense...anyway..." Todd instantly caught her hand and
practically pulled her from the ledge. "Enough of this whole pain and sorrow stuff, you
should be happy. You're free. Free to live your life the way you want to. I bet you've
never experienced the nightlife in New York."


"Yeah, dance clubs, bars, concerts, movies...I should take you to the Gold theater. They
have one of the biggest screens and digital stereo sound and...oh man, I went to see Star
Wars there...Awesome!! Of course, we'll have to hide those wings of yours, and that tail
shouldn't be hard to...disguise..." He stopped short, and noticed Annika staring at him
again. "What?! Anyway, you now have the freedom to do whatever you want. What do
you want to do first?"

"Well..." Annika looked down at her tattered apparel. "I think I need some new
clothes." She glanced back at Todd, who grew a peculiar smile as he stroked his goatee.

"Yeah, that's for sure. If you'll allow me, I think I'll draw up some designs for your new
threads. I could make an unbelievable set of togs for you that would accentuate
your...ahem," his hands mimicked the shape of an hourglass, "curves."

Annika just glared at him.

Moving towards the stairs, he called to Annika to join him and they both descended the
narrow steps. "By the way, just how old are you?"


Todd sputtered and almost tripped on the last step. "You're forty?!! But you look
younger than me!!"

"Forty...in gargoyle years. I turn to stone in daylight, remember? So I age at twice the
length of humans."

"So, you're actually twenty? Perfect, only a year younger than me." Todd smirked.

"Why is that perfect?" She grabbed his arm and allowed him to escort her into the
castle's interior.

"Oh...no reason."


A Staedler HB artist pencil traced upon an ivory drawing pad as Todd feverishly worked
throughout the night, allowing Annika the chance to learn the history of the clan. Beside
her he placed himself, and only when finished a design would he consent to her feedback.
Before the day's end, Annika had chosen her favorite. Fortunately, it was Todd's favorite
as well.

As the pink gargess took her place on the castle's edge, Fox called upon her personal
tailor to create from a simple sketch, Annika's new garb. Within hours, the finished
product was presented just as day came to an end.

Todd awaited impatiently while slumped in a massive chair, unaware of his foot tapping
upon the carpeting of a random castle bedroom as the others talked amongst themselves,
waiting to see what the human artist had come up with. Todd noticed the room grow
silent as he looked up only to witness the emergence of Annika from behind a dressing
screen, and with an apprehensive gait, she positioned herself in the middle of the room.
He was instantly on his feet, mouth dropped open and his gray eyes focused on the sight
before him. Even his highest expectations were all at once shattered, and the mere sight
of his design brought to life on the young gargoyle's frame caused the hairs on his neck
to stand on end.

Annika placed her hands on her hips and looked expectantly at the young man staring at
her. The gargoyle turned and modeled her new clothes for him, giving him a better view
of his creation. A tight white short-sleeved shirt, composed of what seemed like a
spandex material, stretched over her ample torso and shoulders, and ended in the middle
of her stomach. She sported a black belt with gold clasps, holding a white square
loincloth which hung to about six inches above her knees. An identical piece draped in
back, split to accommodate her tail. The snow-white tunic almost seemed to bear forth a
glow against her rose colored skin. A sheer platinum gloss of gold bracelets adorned her
forearms and shins, and a gold band with the same cryptic design ornamented her neck.
Her long blond tress was tied back in twin tails, leaving only a section of her golden
locks hanging on either side of her face. She had used purple eyeliner and a deep red
lipstick on her large supple lips.

"Well, what do you think?" Annika asked the clan, but intentionally directing the
question towards Todd.

The human stood there, mouth still open. "Huh?! What? Oh, well the words...'GOD
DAMN!!!' come to mind." Todd neared her stance and studied her closer. "Man, I'm

"I take it I meet with your approval." Annika leaned into an enticing pose as Todd
happily nodded his consent.

"Very nice." Brooklyn added as he smiled towards the pink gargoyle, garnering a sigh of
resignation from Sata.

"Amazing..." Lexington sighed under his breath, his eyes caressing every curve of the
gargess' body. "She's perfect...absolutely perfect..."

"So Annika," Goliath's deep voice broke through, startling Todd from his admiration,
"what have you decided to do now? Our offer still stands, you may join our clan."

"I would like that, but..." she finished mid-sentence, and turned to catch what stars lay
beyond the window's frame. "My father is still after me. He will hurt anyone who tries
to stop him from getting to me. I'm a danger to you and your clan, Goliath. I can't place
your lives in jeopardy."

"There are so few of our kind. And you deserve the chance to live and grow as your own
person, as much as any of us. We would be honored if you would join us here, where we
can help you learn about the world which was kept from you so long."

"What if he finds out where I live?" Annika whirled around to face the giant leader.
"He'll come after me..."

"If he dares invade our home," Othello stepped forward and shook his fist to the air, "he
will find fifteen angry gargoyles waiting for him."

"My brother speaks the truth, Annika. We are a family, we do not abandon those
forsaken by a vile twist of fate. We will protect you, my friend, to our dying breath."
Goliath's firm tone carried on the still air of the spacious bedroom.

His finality encouraged the pink gargoyle as she looked at all gathered before her.
Humans and gargoyles alike, willing to risk their safety to help her, not unlike a caring
woman who raised a small gargoyle hatchling it's entire life. "Thank you, all of you."


The stroke of midnight long past, with the universe baring it's celestial soul upon the
highest towers of Wyvern. The moon had climbed to it's highest point in the sky, casting
what no manufactured light could attempt to match, and under the gleam of millions of
stars, the battlements radiated a ghostly sapphire, leading a solitary figure to Goliath's

Annika looked to the city through new eyes. Freedom. A word, a feeling, a very state of
being that had been denied to her for almost forty long years. She had found what
perchance she had been looking for ever since her mother passed away, as a new family
had welcomed her into their fold. New friends and a new home, and possibly, a new
relationship. A first for her. A voyage into unknown territory. Her trust was not readily
given to just anyone, and when wings of a darkened dawn-tint brushed past her shoulders,
she was constantly reminded of just what she was, and just how different they were from
each other.

"Man, even the bathrooms are big in this place!"

Annika jumped slightly as a sarcastic quip erupted behind her, cutting through what had
been a mostly peaceful night. She quickly turned to discover the source of the familiar
sound, and found exactly who she had expected.

"That toilet is freakin' huge!" Todd joked. "I guess everything's been enlarged for the

Annika rolled her eyes, becoming used to his wry sense of humor. "Well, Goliath is
almost eight tall." As she watched him come near, with the moonlight casting on his
handsome features, she was drawn deeper into his eyes, radiating the same tenderness she
took comfort in ever since he had saved her life two nights ago.

"Yeah. Jeez, he's big. I still wonder at the fact that he and Elisa..." Todd grinned, a
rather vivid mental picture forming in the depths of his powerful imagination. "Whoa."

"I still can't believe they are going to have a baby. They are the ultimate proof that
humans and gargoyles can live peacefully together." she whispered, noticing his hand
brushing up against hers, a light frosted peach of human complexion opposing her own
cerise coloring, all the while never tearing his gaze from her large, blue eyes. An ocean
of passion and elegance, reflecting his image back to him.

"So, any thoughts on what to do with your newly found independence?" Todd asked,
trying to resist being absorbed by her magnificence.

"Actually, there is something I want to do. But I need your help, and maybe Mr.

"What's that?"


Beyond a boundary formed of rows of tall evergreen trees, the disquiet of the city faded
from this tranquil place. Rolling plains of dark emerald grass extended far from sight,
laying what seemed a living carpet over the ancient Earth. Hundred upon hundreds of
dark granite markers stood silently, each one a monument to a life taken from our
existence. Two shadowy figures crept quietly through the stones, as if not to disturb the
resting spirits. The moonlight carved a path towards their destination as Todd and
Annika walked softly on the concrete walkway, her arm around his. They scanned the
markers, looking for a particular name, until Todd felt his gargoyle companion lurch to a

"I've found her." Annika whispered. She withdrew her arm and walked to a solitary
marker a couple meters away. Todd watched from afar as she silently moved towards the
small gravestone. Annika kneeled in front, and crossed the simple carving on the face
with a stroke of her hand. "Jennifer Smith." Annika had found her mother.

An hour before, she had come to David Xanatos to ask for his help in locating the burial
place of her adoptive mother. With the assistance of Owen Burnett, she was given the
name of a cemetery that was surprisingly close to the Eyrie. She looked back at Todd as
he gently handed her a long box. Opening the slender, white package, she withdrew a
bouquet of flowers, hand-picked by Angela from the castle courtyard's massive garden,
and placed the bundle of roses and carnations on the soft meadow grass.

Grasping her hands to her chest, she closed her eyes, intent on keeping herself from
crying. A futile attempt as tears streamed down her face. Her lips trembled and her
breathing muffled the sobs held deep within her chest.

"Let it out." a voice whispered behind her as she felt a pair of arms wrap around her
shoulders. "Don't hold it in, Annika."

The pink gargoyle wailed her anguish to the night sky and wet the ground before her with
endless amounts of tears. "I miss her so much, I still can't believe she's gone." Annika
leaned back into Todd's chest as his head poked between her large wings, resting on her

"She's never gone. She's always with you, wherever you go, wherever you are. Never
forget that."

Annika turned in his embrace to face him and somehow managed a slight smile through
her tears. "How did you ever become so smart?"

"I watch a lot of T.V." He smiled back at her. He helped her up and she took one last
look at the stone, before tearing her gaze away. She held fast to his arm and the couple
headed for the iron gates at the entrance of the cemetery, back to the Xanatos limousine,
a gift of transportation from Fox, as Todd's Jeep was damaged beyond the ability to drive
until repaired. Owen, patiently waiting for them near the side, opened the back door for
the pair and they made themselves comfortable in the vast back seat.

Annika propped herself against the door, staring out the tinted window and watching the
buildings blaze past in a swirl of lights. A light rain had started to fall, streaking down
the glass in front of her and pooling upon the car's sleek metallic finish before washing

Todd was busy pouring himself a glass of Jolt cola he had brought with him. "You want
something to drink? This car has everything." he remarked as he took a sip from the
crystal glass.

"No thanks." she answered softly.

Todd frowned and moved closer to her. "C'mon, you can't feel like crap all your life.
I'll tell you what, anything you want, we'll do."

This caught Annika's attention as she turned to face him. An unusual smile spread on
her lips. "Anything?" Her hands cupped his face and she pulled him closer. She planted
her lips on his and closed her eyes. Todd dropped his drink and succumbed to her soft
kiss. Long, deep, and thoroughly enjoying, she reluctantly released the human and settled
back into the seat, straightening her tunic and loincloth.

Todd almost slipped from the velvet covering, and recovered just in time to catch
himself. He dragged himself back to a seating position and finally allowed himself to
breathe. "God damn..."

"I must confess, I've been wanting to do that for a long time." Annika crossed her legs
and turned her head slightly, looking at him from the corner of her eye. "So, you were
telling me about the nightlife in New York?"

Todd couldn't do anything but smile as the limo sped off into the night.