16 - "North: Part 1"
Originally Written: March 15th, 2000

September 26th, 2000
It was almost eight months now and Elisa Maza was tired, beyond what most could call
exhausted. Every day, her mirrored image looked back at her and she would often
ponder just how much weight she had gained since becoming pregnant. A simple strike
across the calendar page with her pen marked off the days approaching upon her
expected due date of mid-October. But still, similar to the lingering for a favorite
holiday, did her yearning to release this child from her body ever remain in the back of
her mind. Her hands caressed her large stomach, and it seemed her touch would arouse
her tiny passenger, garnering a kick in response.

She smiled and giggled quietly, as her most superficial complaints washed away with the
subtle movement of her child. Almost every day now, the baby would make it's presence
known, sometimes waking her in the middle of the day to be fed. She could feel the
child resettle itself slightly, as if her womb was too small an asylum from the world it
was about to join. She gazed one last time into the full length mirror on her door, and
turned away, a renewed spirit to carry on this pregnancy with a full heart.

And yet, another affliction was forced into her view, as she looked back to the desk she
had recently added to her giant bedroom, and the pile of folders and paper stacked on the
dark wooden surface.

After the fifth month of her pregnancy, captain Chavez had ordered her off her regular
detective work and on to the most boring task she could possibly imagine...desk duty.
She now spent most of her shifts filling out forms and doing mindless paperwork. A
further incentive for the birth. Sighing, she slumped into the chair and continued with
her 'important' work.

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

Though a night had passed, Elisa would barely be able to tell. She again deposited
herself in front of another desk at the precinct, in the same position of one hand doing it's
best to support her head, barely keeping the forces of slumber at bay. As if time stood
still, she remained silent through the rousing commotion of the city's busiest station,
frozen in place. She purposely ignored her fellow officers, knowing they were having
much better days than she could ever hope for. Especially Bluestone.

Her partner had been given a temporary replacement and would often come in on his
break and regale her about his various adventures, running down thieves, breaking up
drug rings, tracking down murderers, etc, etc, etc. She was becoming rather jealous. She
would give everything to be back on the streets again, but had one very important reason
why not to risk her life, as she looked down to her bulging stomach.

As she returned to her work, she noticed Chavez talking to another cop outside her office,
and within earshot. Elisa shuffled her chair closer.

"...we need that evidence to put this guy away. But it's up in the central RCMP office in
Ottawa. The court date is in a week and the defense rests on these files and hardcopies.
We need a registered officer with at least level 6 clearance to release it from their
custody. Can you spare anybody from your unit?" Chavez questioned a young female
detective wearing a black leather jacket.

"No, all of them are either on stakeout with the Dracon/Finelli sting or busy elsewhere."
The red-headed cop replied. "Can't we send a rookie up there?"

"No, this is classified information, sanctioned by the FBI. No rookies have the proper
clearance. Damn, we need it fast, or our prime suspect could walk." Chavez huffed, her
graceful features forming a frown.

"I'll go!" A voice called out from the other side of the hallway. Chavez and the detective
whirled around to see Elisa walking towards them.

The captain immediately started shaking her head. "No way, Maza. You're on desk duty
until that baby is born." Chavez admonished the raven haired detective.

"Oh come on, it's a simple assignment to pick up evidence in a city that's less than half a
day's drive away. Besides, you need me. I have level 7 clearance, remember?"

"I don't know, Maza. It's against department procedure, and my personal policy, to send
pregnant women out on prolonged assignments, besides..."

"Uh, begging your pardon, captain, but this is Elisa Maza we're talking about." The red
haired detective broke through, cutting her captain off before she could continue. "She's
one of the city's best and we have no one else available at the moment. We're stretched
to the limit as it is, and Maza's probably ahead on her paperwork anyway."

Elisa cocked an eyebrow at the captain. "And furthermore, I don't think my husband will
let me go without him."

Chavez reluctantly broke down as she was double teamed by two young detectives. "All
right, but your husband will accompany you. That is an order." She walked back into
her office and left the two women alone.

"Thanks Starr, I owe you."

"Damn straight. You can pay me back by taking me out to dinner with that phantom
husband of yours." Detective Iliana Starr left Elisa in the hallway and headed for the
squadroom.

Elisa couldn't hide her smile as it beamed across her face. Now the only hurdle left was
to convince Goliath.

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

"No."

"What? How can you say that?" Elisa looked at her husband from across the bedroom.
"I'll be driving to a city less than seven hours away and staying in a pretty posh hotel for
a couple of days." Elisa's eyes suddenly reduced to a fraction of their lustrous brilliance,
becoming thin slits of an animosity her husband quite feared. "And since when do I need
your permission to go anywhere?!!"

Goliath was taken aback by the outburst from his wife, but still remained firm on his
argument. "You are eight months pregnant, my Elisa, and you should not be driving or
visiting a strange city for extended periods."

"Goliath," Elisa started as she tugged on her hair, her enraged voice unintentionally
raising a few octaves above normal, "if I don't get something to do besides fill out forms,
I'm going to go insane!!" Elisa walked up to her husband and poked a small finger
directly into his chest. "And guess who I'm going to take it out on..."

Goliath's eyes widened at this fact. He was well aware of how fed up Elisa was getting
in the advancing months of her pregnancy. She was getting cabin fever something fierce
and needed a break. He sighed, "All right, Elisa, but I am coming with you."

"Great!!" Elisa hugged her giant love and kissed him on the cheek. "Besides, Chavez
wouldn't have let me go without you."

The lavender giant slapped his hand to his face, realizing he had been tricked.

"We leave tomorrow night. I hope you like riding in the Fairlane."

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

A narrow pathway, formed by two lanes of beaten asphalt, carved their way into the
darkness, separated only by a thin golden line. The dense forests beyond the fairlane's
lights bore what only could be imagined as a gathering place for the creatures of the
untamed wilds, watching a flame red Ford Fairlane race past them and on into oblivion.

Elisa was at the wheel of her beloved antique, listening to a soft jazz on the CD player,
and occasionally stealing glances to Goliath in her rearview mirror.

Her husband, much too massive for the front, was forced to fold the passenger seat down
and rest his legs on top as most of his bulk was confined to the rear bench. He lost
himself in the pages of an old book, with the pale interior light casting on the browned
pages. He would frequently take a moment to check on Elisa for any sign of fatigue, but
found no such sensation. Perhaps it was the excitement of actually being out of the
precinct and out of her desk, that kept her spirits high.

"Goliath?" Elisa's soft reverence tore him from the swirl of written passages. "We're
almost at the border." She slowed the car and came to a stop on the side of the road.
Goliath climbed out, with his best efforts preventing any damage to the steel structure
and scaled a nearby tree. His form lost to the wind, Elisa continued on to the border
crossing, and as the patrol officer asked her the usual questions, a massive shadow
passing overhead raised a curl in her lips.

"Are you carrying any flora and fauna, detective?" The patrol officer's wearied tone
carried on his rough voice. He had obviously been working too long.

"Uh, no. Nothing like that..." she answered, wondering if Goliath actually fit under the
fauna category. The officer allowed her access and she sped off, eventually meeting up
with Goliath a kilometer up the road.

They continued on, and as the forests drained away, the revealing trademark of human
culture spread forth over the refined landscape. Simple houses and farms swelled into a
plethora of glistening steel, as if grown from the soft Earth itself. Victorian styling edged
with emblems of neon tubing, the grand city of Ottawa, Canada, came alive under the
stars.

Goliath huddled in his seat, trying to obscure himself from scrutinizing human eyes, yet
at the same time marveling at the sight of this new city. So much like Manhattan yet still
so different.

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

Sliding back the massive terrace doors, Elisa stepped onto the balcony of her suite,
located on the fortieth floor of the Carlton-Ritz. Her eyes scanned the heavens for her
husband, and soon she would gaze upon his unique silhouette against the celestial
amethyst. His wingspan captured the night air within the sheath of leather, and with a
rush of wind, he touched down beside her. His wings settled and released the scent of
ozone and the subtle nuances of Goliath's sweetened musk. She skipped into his
embrace and led him into their room. "What did I tell you," she whispered as she gently
laid her self down onto the bed, and turned to her side, "it's nice to get away sometimes."
She felt the bed sink considerably as Goliath curled up alongside, wrapping his arm and
wing around her.

"I am forced to admit, I am glad we came."

"Oh, so once again, your human wife was right?"

"I believe Brooklyn's expression is...shut up." he snapped back, a faint trace of an
underlying humor in his edged brogue. "But I would like to see more of this city, before
we leave."

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

On the advent of the ensuing evening, a stream of long raven locks floated upon an
overused bomber jacket, glowing an anemic scarlet pallor in the lights of the East district
RCMP headquarters. Elisa carried the last load of evidence, her arms full of packages
with serial numbers on the sides and front and headed to her car, parked on the street half
a block away. She reached the red classic and opened the passenger door. With a
strained heft, she threw the envelopes and boxes on the seat, and wiped the sweat from
her brow. Her strength had been sapped in the late months of pregnancy, and though she
hated to admit it, she needed to heed Goliath's wish of taking it a little easier.

Her gaze immediately directed skywards, her thoughts once again on her husband, and
unsure if he was somewhere near. He had taken a scenic aerial tour of the city at Elisa's
request, for she desperately wanted him to do something besides worry about her.

Closing the car door, she noticed the streets were bare of any life. This particular station
was lucky enough to be in a peaceful neighborhood. Unaware to Elisa though, that peace
would be broken very soon.

She didn't hear the footsteps behind her until it was too late. A pair of arms wrapped
around her, with a broad hand destroying any hope of sending even a muffled cry for
help. An unbelievable strength forced Elisa to a massive frame, held in place as she tried
to struggle against a power seemingly impossible for any normal human.

Her skin crawled as a hand moved to her stomach and clenched on the tightened skin, an
intense, paralyzing fear of any harm coming to her child effectively ending her efforts to
free herself. Her legs were pulled from the ground, a mistake the stranger made
unintentionally, unaware that Elisa Maza had one of the best spin kicks in New York
city. She raised her knee up and using all the force her smaller body could summon,
cracked her boot against his shin.

The stranger released her and snarling with pain, he staggered backwards, favoring his
right leg.

Elisa turned and faced him as the pale light from the street cast on his rugged features.

A big man, slightly overweight, wearing a black jacket and blue jeans, was hopping on
the dirty, concrete floor. A quick recovery brought on a burning fever, as he looked back
down at his victim. Without saying a word, he grabbed the smaller detective by the
throat and lifted her to meet his face.

Elisa stared into his eyes. She had seen this look before, being a cop. It was the look of
anger and hatred, which cost a lot of innocent people their lives. She knew what was
coming next. That kick to his leg had made him angry. Whatever she had originally
grabbed her for didn't matter. He was going to kill her.

"Pardon me," through a whispered flow of twilight's hush, the wind carried a scholored
resonance of finesse and gentility, "I don't believe that is the proper way to treat a lady."
Around Elisa's attacker, came a shadowed fist, catching his arm with a swift motion.

Perhaps it was the anguish of his trapped forearm that twisted the man's face into a
nightmare of distorted muscle contraction, yet hidden to Elisa's knowledge was the
actual fact that he recognized this arm, this hand, this thing. "Oh fuck..."

A darkened blur flashed past Elisa's eyes as her assailant released his hold and she fell to
the ground on her backside. She immediately covered her stomach and without abandon,
crawled away to the side of her car. She propped herself against the crimson steel and
turned her gaze to a feral howl and a tormented scream, erupting forth from an
assemblage of contorted figures. In the blink of an eye, she perchance missed the final
blow. The man who dared in an attempt on her life, now slid towards her headfirst and
tumbled into a heap beside her slightly trembling body. She looked up at the figure now
directly above her, his features obscured by the absence of light. "Goliath?..."

The large form gazed down upon her, and with a single step, was engulfed in the stream
of lamplight, causing Elisa to gasp. It was a gargoyle, but it definitely wasn't Goliath. A
large male, almost as tall as her husband, with golden yellow skin. His wings perched
high above his shoulders, the thin membranes quivering with even the most subtle gusts
of wind. He was hairless and had two rows of large spiked spurs starting from his brow,
running down his back and continuing along his tail. Large spurs erupted from his
forearms, shoulders and elbows. Three distinct spikes jutted from the sides of his calves
and his knees. He had only two toes and two fingers set against his thumb and Elisa
could make out smaller spikes on various parts of his body. A dark leather loincloth, belt
and vest, held together with black stitching, stretched over a muscled frame. Almost as
big as Goliath, almost. Yet he looked of grace and dignity and held himself high with a
well-bred affectation. "No, human," he at last voiced his intentions to the stunned
female below him with a soothing tone, "I am known as Ares. You...do not fear me?"

"No, no I don't." Elisa answered the yellow gargoyle. "Thank you for saving me."

"You are most welcome." Ares brought his right hand up and clenched his fist to his
chest, as if some kind of salute. "We know this man well. He has done this many times
before, and we have stopped him on more than one occasion." He leaned down and
offered his hand to Elisa.

"So he did recognize you." she replied as she allowed him to help her up. "And here I
thought Canadians were friendly."

"Please don't judge my country by that one man."

"Don't worry, if I judged my city by all the scumbags I've put away..." As she got to her
feet, her jacket fell open and revealed her dark gray shirt covering her enlarged stomach.

Ares' eyes grew wide as he stared at Elisa's midsection. "You are with child! You
should not be out alone at this time of night."

"With child? I'm pregnant, yes, but not helpless. Besides," Elisa reached into her jacket
and flashed her badge, "I'm detective Elisa Maza from Manhattan's twenty-third
precinct. I believe I'm capable of holding my own. Well, most of the time."

This brought a smile to the golden gargoyle's features.

"It is still a wise precaution to travel with another." A new voice rang from above. Elisa
looked up to see a female gargoyle land beside Ares. She was considerably taller than
the human detective and her white frosted skin glowed underneath a wild ebon tress
falling over her shoulders, with a braid on the left side. Her brow grew into two large
L-shaped horns, raising almost nine inches from her head. Eyes of ocean ice and large
frosted lips, a tight blue tunic covered her shapely body like a second skin, and split all
the way down, with a darker navy piece in the middle. Light blue stockings covered her
arms from wrist to mid-bicep, and on her legs, from her ankles to mid-thigh. Her long
slender tail lashed behind her and her pale blue wings came to rest with a whispered
swish. "If we had not been patrolling nearby, who knows what could have happened to
you and your unborn child."

A sigh of annoyance escaped Elisa's lips as she crossed her arms. "Do I look like I'm
made of glass?!"

"Most definitely not, Mrs. Maza, but I know the importance of keeping my children safe.
Are their lives worth it for some stubborn sense of pride?" the white gargoyle argued her
point.

"I guess not. You win." Elisa bowed to mock her new friends. "God, if the Big Guy
were to know about this..."

"Your mate?" Ares asked the small human.

"Yeah. He's been pretty protective of me since I became pregnant."

"I'm sure he only wants to keep you safe. He sounds like a most caring human."

"Well, actually..." Elisa tried to correct the white gargoyle, but she was interrupted by the
cry of a siren, as a patrol car briskly pulled up to the building. The two gargoyles
instantly bolted past her, immersing themselves in the darkness, the brilliance of their
skin vanquished to the night. "Wait!!" But her cries were too late, her plea falling on an
empty street. Elisa sighed and unconsciously cupped her stomach. "God, how many
stray gargoyles are we going to find? First Shadow, then Annika, now these two...I sure
hope they have their own home. That castle's getting crowded." she joked to herself as
she walked around the corner and called to the cops who had pulled up to the precinct
only minutes before. She watched as they hauled the unconscious man away, filed a
quick report and was soon on her way back to the hotel, and back to Goliath.

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

"You were attacked?!!"

"Yes, Goliath. But I was saved by..." Elisa wouldn't have the chance to finish as the
lavender giant caught her in a fierce embrace and let loose a sigh.

"I should have been with you," he held tighter to her body, mindful of her stomach, "I
should have been there to protect you."

"It was a random attack. If it didn't happen to me, it would've happened to someone
else." She pulled away from him and placed her hands upon the handsome visage she
had known so well. "But there's something else I need to tell you. I was saved by two
gargoyles."

Goliath's brow rose. "More gargoyles...in Canada?!"

"Yeah. There's this big yellow one who's covered in spikes. He calls himself Ares. And
there's a female. She has white skin, blue eyes and the body of Wonder Woman. They
swooped in and saved the day. But they were scared off by a police siren before I could
find out where they came from. The female used the word 'we' like there were more
than two, so..."

"There could be an entire clan here in Ottawa." Goliath finished for her, his mood
lightening a little. "I...we must find them, to thank them. To see if they need assistance."

"Well, I'm going to finish up my assignment tomorrow and then we can go for a
midnight glide around town, to see if they're around." Her husband attempted to voice
his concerns but was immediately silenced by Elisa's hand. "I said,
I'm...coming...with...you."

Goliath just nodded his head.

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

A labyrinth of darkened hues, spotted with small points of man's light; red, green,
yellow, orange, blending into a kaleidoscope of a brilliant tapestry, a blinding backdrop
for two forms gliding over the city's center. Architectural masterpieces they flew past, a
marvel of modern simplicity, before being replaced by man's technical evolution and his
creation of the next big thing.

Elisa pillowed herself in the breadth of Goliath's chest and neck as he scanned the night
sky, holding his fragile passenger tight against a chiseled torso. The couple spent the
evening hours flying the city's airways, searching, but there was no sign of the gargoyles
who had saved Elisa the previous night.

"They seemed pretty spooked when the cop car showed up," Elisa solicitously
commented to Goliath over the howling of the wind. "It's possible they have a damned
good place to hide when they want to."

Goliath sighed and nodded. "This city is bigger than Manhattan, my Elisa. I doubt we
shall find them tonight." he rumbled. He angled towards the direction of the hotel, and
caught a warmer draft, increasing his speed a little.

Elisa found what caused her heart a most distressing pain, as her husband's profound
disappointment lay evident on his prominence. She wistfully crossed his cheek with a
touch of her nails. "We'll try tomorrow night, Big Guy." Her ever present confidence
brought a smile forth and he kissed her on the cheek. She responded by pulling his face
closer and teasing her tongue against smooth lips tightened by an animal desire, letting
out a suppressed laugh as she explored his mouth.

Feeling his wife's warmth upon his face, Goliath lost sight of where he was gliding,
enthralled in the moment of tenderness offered to him above this foreign city. He didn't
notice another form flying towards them until a flicker of movement flashed from the
corner of his eye. His arms encased Elisa in a protective cowl and he leaned hard to the
right, narrowly missing the shadowy form. The large gargoyle went into a barrel roll,
struggling to maintain his balance and hold on to Elisa at the same time. He spotted a
rooftop nearby and headed towards it, landing hard on the tarred surface.

"Whoa," Elisa whispered as poked her head from her husband's wings, "now that was
close..."

"I'll say." An enormous shape landed beside them.

Elisa recognized the large figure. "Ares!"

"Hello again, detective Maza." The golden giant stepped closer and gasped at the sight
of Elisa's mode of transportation. Goliath and Ares locked eyes, as the lavender warrior
placed his wife on the ground.

"Goliath, I'd like to introduce you to my rescuer from last night. This is Ares."

Goliath extended his hand to the gargoyle near him and smiled as Ares grabbed his
forearm. "It is an honor to meet you. I have you to thank for saving my wife."

"Your...wife?!" Ares stepped back and looked at the couple with rather a new
perspective. "I...had no idea human-gargoyle relations had progressed this far."

"Actually, they haven't." Elisa gently minded him. "We're the only interspecies couple
we know of. Well, the second..." Elisa thought of Todd and Annika and how their
relationship had blossomed in the past four months.

"This leads me to another query...ahem..." His golden saffron blended with a crimson
blush, obviously embarrassed by the question about to be asked. "Since you are married,
are you...carrying his child?"

"Yup, this little tike's half gargoyle." Elisa joked, while patting her stomach. "And it's
bloody metabolism is making me eat like a pig." She thought back to last night's room
service and how she devoured most of the cart, in front of Goliath's astonished gaze.

"That is quite amazing. I never knew any humans could learn to trust our kind."

"There are more than you know." Goliath finally got his chance to speak. "We have met
a lot of trustworthy humans whom we are privileged to call friend in our time in this
world, and we hope to have more soon."

"My clan has no human friends. We live isolated from the city." Ares turned towards
the city, his noble face etched with sadness.

"So there is a clan here." Elisa exclaimed.

"Yes...barely." he cursed, filling two limpid pools of charcoal fury with the lights of his
protectorate. His voice flowed with sorrow, regretful, as if his own words caused him
pain. "You met my mate last night, and the others are back at the Grotto."

"May we meet them too?" Elisa asked politely, a crafty smile forming on her lips, hoping
the golden gargoyle would accept.

He stared at them for a while before managing a slight grin himself. "We would be
honored to have you visit our home. Please follow me, the Grotto is about twenty
minutes flight from here, and I want to get there quickly. I've already been away too
long. Aurora must be worried sick."

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

Beyond the city, and far from the lair of iron monuments and creatures of steel and
gasoline, lay the outskirts, where a few residential homes were scattered between large
fields of grass and trees. Ares dipped lower and fell from the sky, in the direction of a
small cliff, jutting from a hill away from the reach of the houses. Coming to a soft
landing, he motioned to the couple behind, towards a crack in the rock face, barely
visible against the jagged edges of earth's crust. It was just large enough to grant Goliath
access and the couple followed Ares into the swallow of shadows, Elisa allowing her
husband to guide her with his excellent night vision.

The rocky surface beneath them sloped gradually, and soon the path grew lighter, a soft
glow brought forth from electric lights attached to the walls. The path eventually opened
into a massive room, with several doorways leading into darkened chambers. Lush
greenery, with such exotic plants of wintergreen and snowberry, lined the granite
barriers, situated in massive planters and smaller pots dangling from the ceiling. A
collection of furniture beckoned to weary travelers from the center of the room, inviting
those to rest their feet and a splash of color between the emerald blossoms as paintings
filled the void of barren rock.

"Welcome to the Grotto." Ares raised his hands to guide Elisa to a large couch, noticing
her fatigue. She took the cue and made herself as comfortable as she could, with Goliath
looking at the paintings before him.

"This place is amazing. How did you create all of this?" Elisa asked the golden gargoyle.

"These caves are natural, they've been here for thousands of years, most likely carved by
natural springs that have since been tapped or have dried up. We removed some rock to
make living areas and bedrooms and added the electricity and furnishings." Ares looked
quite proud of himself. "It has been our home for almost twenty years now."

Goliath looked to Elisa and he displayed his fondness for the environment around him
with a simple nod.

"Ares?" a husky female voice called through the caves, distorting her diction as if a prism
fracturing shafts of light. "Is that you?" The three turned to an archway as a white
gargoyle came through. "Ah, you have returned, and with our human friend." Her gaze
on Elisa, she passed by Goliath, opposite her position and beyond her line of sight. "It's
good to see you again, Mrs. Maza. I'm glad to see you are all right. Welcome to our
home."

"Thank you."

The white gargoyle jumped at a deep rumble behind her and whirled around. Goliath had
approached her, and she slowly raised her eyes and gasped, bringing her hand to her
chest. "Who are you?" she whispered.

"My name is Goliath." The lavender warrior bowed to kiss her hand. "You have a
beautiful home here."

"Another gargoyle," her words flowed on a quiver of air, as her eyes of ice welled up,
"we thought we may be the last of our race." She placed her white hand on his shoulder,
almost trembling, before her brow came down. "Wait, what are you doing with..." She
turned to face Elisa, who smirked and patted her stomach. "...oh, my."

"Elisa is my wife." Goliath answered the question most likely running through her mind.

"Oh my...I...well, this is a shock." She turned even whiter. "And the child you are
carrying is half gargoyle?"

Elisa just nodded. The detective always loved the expression on the faces of those who
found out about her and Goliath's little secret.

She allowed herself a mere moment of recomposure before turning to her guests and
clenching her fist in front of her chest. "My name is Aurora. I am second-in-command
of this clan. Please allow me to introduce you to the others." With a stride that belied
her stature, she drifted as if a wraith to a small panel on the far wall, and with a simple
tap, it crackled to life. Aurora called three names too quiet to make out.

Elisa curled into Goliath's lap as he sat beside her, and they quickly turned their gaze to
the echoes of footsteps coming from another doorway. The Mazas were met with three
new arrivals, gracing the room with a medley of brightened hues, come to life on the
hides of three gargoyles.

The first was a young girl, who appeared to be sixteen years of age, with an emerald
green skin that flushed with a cerulean tint when caught in the precise angle of light. Her
webbed wings extended from her wrists to her knees, with extra struts to hold the light
colored membranes. Shoulder length brown hair with long blond bangs, and two large
horns rising from her locks, curling over to the back of her head. She had large violet
eyes and used matching lipstick. She was dressed in a one piece orange suit that clung to
her slender body and stood out from her skin.

"This is Rain. She's the youngest of our clan."

The young gargess came to a halt and stared at Goliath, almost choking on her tongue as
she scanned the lavender giant from head to toe.

The next in line looked to be a walking scowl with dulled orange skin, his beaked mouth
displaying an angst similar to all human teenagers. He stood more than six feet tall and
resting over his shoulders lay two dark wings, a grayish coloring fading into a deep black.
A pair of skiing goggles partially obscured his deep chestnut dreadlocks, tied back by a
strip of leather, and his four brow spurs, ending in sharpened points. He wore a simple
torn loincloth and padded gloves that came to his spiked elbows, with similar kneepads
and binded wrappings on his ankles and feet. Carved into each shoulder, two distinct
tattoos, one a thick, black outline of a maple leaf, the other a cryptic tribal design. His
quadruple spiked tail lashed violently between his legs as he almost bumped into Rain,
causing his sneer to grow even bigger.

"This is Thrash."

Bringing up the rear, with a slight limp in his aged gait, a larger gargoyle, wearing a
seasoned countenance of wisdom and experience. Dark azure skin, branded with both
small and massive battlescars, everywhere from his arms, legs, tail, and even his face.
His long brown hair, going gray at the temples and his goatee, fell behind in layered
strands with two mammoth horns erupting from his forehead, then rising at a ninety
degree angle. He wore a tan tunic, with black shoulder pads, ringed with gold. Tan
wrappings covered his arms and legs yet did nothing to hide his wounds. His weathered
wings were tattered and hung limply behind him. A massive gleaming double-sided ax,
in a holster on the left side of his sable leather belt, an instrument of battle and war, yet
seemingly out of place aside his kind smile and gentle mannerisms.

"And this is Magellan."

Elisa leaned forwards, as her scrutinizing examination caught the glaring similarity
between the elder's eyes and Aurora's. A frosted blue, gleaming with the light.

"My clan, this is Goliath and his...mate, Elisa Maza." Three mouths dropped open at
Aurora's statement.

"Another gargoyle?" Rain whispered to her older brother.

"Another gargoyle, with a human." Thrash's beaked mouth at last curved into somewhat
of a sardonic grin.

"And if I'm not mistaken, that human is pregnant." Magellan added, a hardened tone
marked with an acerbic scoff.

"God, how many times do I have to explain this?" Elisa half-joked as she shook her head.

"So...that's your kid in there?" Rain asked Goliath as she crept closer.

"Yes. It is our first child together and it's due in a month." Goliath answered as the
diminutive gargess approached the couple.

"Where do you come from?"

"Manhattan, New York."

"New York?! I've always wanted to see the Big Apple. Is it just as big as Ottawa? Have
you seen the statue of Liberty? Is it just as beautiful as I thought?" the young gargoyle
shot off her questions as she sat down beside them.

"Big deal," Thrash spit out with an air of malice, as he crossed his arms and leaned in the
archway, "just another city filled more humans."

"Thrash..." Ares admonished the scowling gargoyle.

"So," Elisa started, trying to change the subject, "is this all of your clan?"

The Canadian clan went instantly silent. Rain sunk into herself, her skin pallor becoming
as pale as her expression. Ares came up to Aurora and wrapped his arms around her, as
she buried her face in his shoulder.

"Well, one more point for my big mouth. I'm sorry."

"No. Don't be, Elisa." Ares spoke softly. "It's just old, painful memories coming to the
surface. The rest of our clan...were destroyed more than twenty five years ago. For
generations, over seventy gargoyles had lived in the mountains near this city, co-existing
peacefully with the humans. We lived a good life, until...the night of the massacre. A
large group of cloaked men attacked our home. We were caught off guard and they
overwhelmed us with powerful weapons. They killed gargoyle after gargoyle, including
our leader and second. Magellan saved the four of us, and got us to safety. But it was
too late to save any of the others. We returned the next night to search through the ruins,
but found no survivors..." Ares closed his eyes and gritted his fanged teeth. "We
dedicated our lives to protecting the innocent and were repaid with genocide. Since then,
we have lived here, away from those who would want to hurt us."

"I am sorry, my friend." Goliath held tighter to Elisa as he conveyed his deepest
apologies to the golden gargoyle. "I know exactly how you feel. My clan..."

"HOW THE HELL COULD YOU UNDERSTAND?!!!" Thrash's angry cry echoed off
the walls. "You weren't forced to watch as your brothers and sisters and parents were
slaughtered in front of you!!"

Goliath rose from his seat, standing to his full seven and a half feet height, and glared at
the younger gargoyle, who cautiously stepped back from the wrath of seven hundred
pounds. "My clan was destroyed over a thousand years ago. There were only six
survivors out of over one hundred. I came home to their shattered forms laying in ruin
around the remains of the castle I called home. We were betrayed by those who had
protected us for years. So, Thrash, I do have some idea of what you went through."

The orange gargoyle just thinned his eyes and moved to the far side of the room,
grumbling a muted curse under his breath.

"I must apologize for him." Aurora sighed. "Both he and Rain were only hatchlings
when the massacre arose. I don't think that pain ever goes away."

"No it doesn't..." Rain agreed with an anguished whisper.

"You said your clan was destroyed over a thousand years ago." Magellan came forward,
curiosity on his tone. "How is it you survived for all these years?"

"By way of a magic spell, we were sealed within our stone forms for over ten centuries,
until David Xanatos broke the spell, releasing us six years ago..."

The story of a thousand years, told a thousand times, would again enchant those of his
race. He weaved his stories, like a spider and her web, catching the attention and
imaginations of the clan before him. He continued with the long tale of how he and the
survivors made their way through this new world as twilight faded into the advent of
dawn, with the Ottawa clan hanging on his every word.

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

Skin of snow flushed with a warmth upon her newfound friend's eloquent words. "You
found your children after a thousand years," Aurora whispered, a simple utterance of joy
and contentment, her eyes quickly darting to a doorway near her, "your eggs survived."

"Yes, by virtue of the humans who once thought of us as monsters." Goliath answered
her, an intrigue swept over him at the focus of Aurora's gaze. "They were raised in
safety on Avalon, away from the prejudice of humankind."

"I hope our egg will be raised safely."

"Your egg?" Goliath sat up, almost knocking Elisa from his embrace. "You have a
rookery?"

"Yes, though it only holds one egg," Ares answered, "Aurora's and my child."

Elisa rebalanced her stead, propping herself up on Goliath's lap. "May we see it?"

"Of course, my friend. Follow me." Aurora led the others to the doorway, and past the
granite arch, a narrow set of stairs descended into darkness. Goliath and Elisa followed
carefully the white gargoyle, as they entered into a small chamber, far beneath the rest of
the caves. It was hot, damp, as condensation clung to the walls, slowly trailing down the
unmined minerals buried beneath millions of years of ancient sediment. An
unremarkable room, apart from a glint of steel situated quite comfortably within the
exact central point, surrounded by stacks of crisp hay. An incubator, with heat lamps and
transparent plexiglass protecting it's precious contents.

An egg. A gargoyle egg. More than a foot in diameter and a dark ivory coloring, mottled
with lavender spots. Goliath moved closer, a flood of emotion from his dark past,
haunted by the image of his own eggs within Wyvern's rookery. Elisa reached out
through the opening in the surface, and gingerly, hesitantly, but with Ares' urging, her
soft fingers traced upon the smooth curved surface.

"It will hatch very soon." Aurora whispered.

"I've never seen a gargoyle egg before. You hatched from one of these?" Elisa asked her
giant husband, gaining a smile in return.

"It is healthy," Goliath placed forth his most trusted assurance, "you will have a strong
child."

"I have no doubt about that," replied Ares, "I'm just worried about the world we are
bringing it into." He quickly glanced at a clock on the wall and noticed most of the night
had drained away. "It is almost dawn. We would be pleased if you were to stay here for
the day."

The couple graciously accepted and Elisa was shown a room with a small bed near the
wall. Goliath lay the sheets over his wife and placed the softest embrace of his lips upon
her skin, while watching her eyes flutter closed, her world dissolving into the light repose
of dream's dominion. Dark eyes of cinder black gazed down upon Elisa's sleeping form,
her slender body encased in white cotton sheets, craving for all the rest it could gather,
feeding her unborn child. With one last sweep of a taloned hand through her glistening
ebony locks, Goliath left with the others as they took their place in the rookery, forming a
protective ring around the egg, and turned to stone with the rising sun.

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

The next evening, Elisa and Goliath were treated to a large breakfast. They consumed
the finest of organically grown fruits and vegetables, as the others went about an
engorgement of chosen duties, made so to maintain their fragile environment. Aurora
was in the rookery, turning the egg and checking for any premature cracking. Ares and
Magellan inspected the power generator and made sure all the equipment was running
smoothly. Rain had the task of watering all the plants that decorated their underground
home. Thrash busied himself by cleaning up.

After their meal, the couple received the rare chance to explore the Grotto. What was
thought to be just a hole in the ground, opened into miles of unfinished tunnels,
stretching into the farthest reaches of the Earth. Beyond sheer rock walls and cliffs
above endless pits, the home of the Canadian clan was a marvel of what wizardry nature
could conjure from a simple stream of water.

Lead by the soft hum of machinery, they came upon the room where the main generator
was located. A massive dynamo, harnessing the energy to provide power for the Grotto,
endlessly toiled into the night. They drew nearer to the edge of the doorway, and spotted
Ares and Magellan involved in an intense dialogue, with the expression on the golden
gargoyle's features incensed enough to keep them from entering. Raised voices crossed
between them, yet the couple couldn't tell if they were just trying to overcome the
powerful roar of the machines.

"...you were chosen for a reason, Ares." Magellan's rugged voice cut through the
unceasing noise.

"I was only picked because I was with him when he died." Ares argued back. "I have no
idea why he chose me to lead this clan."

"You're honest, strong, fair...you were, and still are, the best choice."

"You should have been the leader. You are older, wiser, and have way more
experience."

"I am a warrior, not a leader." Magellan sighed. "Besides, you have done an excellent
job so far. You've kept us safe for the last twenty years."

"By forcing my family to live underground and hiding them away from the rest of
society! I'm sick of living like an animal just because if what I am!" He stood up and
ran a hand down one side of his anguished face, fighting back a need to scream out his
swallowed pain. He heaved out a breathless response, "I don't know if I can do this
anymore." He hurriedly left the room, leaving Magellan to shake his head.

Goliath and Elisa shot each other worried looks, with a growing feeling that this clan's
outside friendly appearance may be a carefully guarded mask of something brewing
beneath. They continued on until they came to the rookery, and once again, voices
captured their attention. Female voices, with a growl of grievance carried on every word.

Rain had joined Aurora as she cared for the egg, and found her maternal protector
disagreeing with a newfound discovery. "How long were you going to wait until you told
me about these humans you are seeing?!"

"They're my friends. They're not like the others." Rain defended herself.

"I don't like you seeing them. Can they be trusted?"

"Yes. They've welcomed me and don't treat me any different."

"I still don't like you going out by yourself, without any protection." Aurora was trying
not to make herself any angrier than she was becoming.

"I don't need protection. Besides, there's someone else here who needs you more than
me..." Rain pointed towards the incubator.

"Please Rain, for you're own safety, don't go out with these humans. I won't allow you
to..."

"You can't tell me what to do!! YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER!!!" Rain screamed at the
top of her lungs and ran up the stairs, narrowly missing Goliath and Elisa and heading for
the Grotto exit, tears streaming from her young face.

Elisa turned to see Aurora stagger backwards, eventually losing her balance and falling to
her knees, with her hands to clasped to her face.

Goliath tried to go after Rain but was held back by an clawed hand of burnt amber.

Thrash appeared to the side, and started shaking his head. "She doesn't need anybody's
help right now, trust me."

Goliath looked helplessly at the youth but heeded his wish. As the young girl's sobbing
cries faded from earshot, Ares and Magellan spilled into the main room.

"What's all the commotion?" the golden leader asked.

"Rain has had an...altercation with your mate and ran off crying." Goliath explained in
lieu of Thrash's silence.

"Not again," Magellan groaned, "it must be about her human friends."

"Her what?!" Ares whirled to face the dark blue gargoyle. "You knew she had human
companions? No matter. We must find her."

"She's fine," Thrash chuffed, "she just needs to blow off steam."

"I do not want her out there alone, especially in her condition."

"She's old enough to take care of herself. And I'm not a fucking baby-sitter."

"I beg your pardon." Ares' eyes flashed white with fury. "You will accompany me to
help find your sister."

"I don't think so pal." Thrash moved towards the path that led to the outside. "She's
been out there on her own hundreds of times and doesn't need us crowding her."

"Thrash, wait..." Ares tried to stop his adopted charge.

"Stuff it, Ares. I don't need to hear your 'gargoyles protect all' bullshit. I don't give a
damn about most of the humans on this planet, let alone this stupid city. I'm sick of
being stuck in some cave while life passes us by, and I'm sick of you and Aurora being
too damned afraid to leave this hole." He started up the path and disappeared from sight.
"Some leader..."

Ares slowly turned, lost in the bitter words of an angered youth, realizing his greatest fear
of failing the last remaining survivors of his family. As if he had been violently struck,
his entire body physically shuddered, and he leaned against the wall for support.

Magellan sighed and flopped on the couch, leaving Goliath to wonder if this clan could
be saved before they ripped themselves apart...