17 - "North: Part 2"
Originally Written: March 15th, 2000

'YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER!!!' An angry cry of a child's pain, scornful words that
could instantly shatter a caretaker's faith in themselves and their abilities. Aurora
kneeled upon the floor of the rookery, her vision stained with the salty warmth of an
anguish made flesh. A pool of moisture gathered beneath her, her own tears creating an
endless flow down her cheeks, and falling far to the stone below. And as she sobbed, her
body shook violently. Never had she wailed like this before, ever since finding the
slaughtered remains of her clan in their former home twenty five years ago. Her
emotional guard had at last broken down.

Elisa had slowly come down the steps, in an attempt to console her newfound friend.
Her own slender form took hold of Aurora's, and she held tight, endeavoring to stop the
convulsions rippling throughout her tensed gargoyle body. "It's all right," she whispered,
trying to convince her friend of what she blamed upon herself, "she didn't mean it, she
was just angry."

"No. She's right, I'm not her mother." Aurora answered between sobs. "Her biological
parents were killed a long time ago. I have no business trying to tell her what to do."

"You raised her for more than twenty years and you're the closest thing to a mother she's
got. I know she didn't mean to hurt you like that."

"I love her so much. I was only worried about her being with humans, especially after
what happened to our clan."

"You can't keep her away from humankind the rest of her life. She wants to experience
all the world has to offer, including the humans who live here." Anxious eyes directed
Elisa's way, and the calm azure drifts of the ocean met the soft earth tint of chocolate.
"Yes, I know, gargoyles trusting humans is risky, but life without risk is an empty
challenge, no spark, no fire, no fun. She wants...she needs, friends her own age, to hang
out with, talk to, confide in..."

"But..."

"Trust me on this one. I know better than anybody the depths humanity can sink to. I've
watched as my husband and his family have been lied to, chased, attacked, and almost
killed many times by those who fear them. But I have also watched as many of my
family and friends come to trust your kind, and sometimes even call them love."

"I just worry about her. This world can be so savage. Whenever I sleep, whenever I
close my eyes, I see the dead bodies of my brothers and sisters, surrounding my very soul,
calling, screaming, tearing at my spirit. I will not allow that happen to Rain or Thrash.
They are the only children left in the clan. If anything happened to either one of them, I
wouldn't know how to go on."

"Life is risk, remember? You have to trust them to do the right thing." Elisa argued her
point, as Aurora's trembling body relented to her soothing touch.

Her head had been placed near Elisa's enlarged stomach, and with her great hearing,
could detect two distinct heartbeats within. A new life just beyond her fingertips, so
much like her own child, still awaiting to be born. She drew deep breaths to control
herself and raised slowly to her feet, all the while, grasping Elisa's hand in her own,
unwilling to let go just yet. "I suppose you are ultimate proof of the compassion and
decency in humans. Maybe...maybe we have been down here too long."

"Maybe..." Elisa agreed, catching sight of her husband's shadowed figure in the archway
above. Within the periphery of darkness, his smile broke through, settling upon her
desires and dreams, and she knew his attention must be turned somewhere else just now.

Goliath set his sights on Ares, the golden leader so much like him, but now forced to
watch as his clan was being forcefully ripped apart by a painful memory, reluctant to
release it's heavy hold on their hearts. He was pacing around the room, with Magellan
watching from the couch. A strange look creased his saffron brow, a look of worry and
anger. "I can't believe he said that..." he uttered quietly, and partly hoping it was to
himself.

It wasn't. "Perhaps what he said was partly true." Magellan sneered.

"How can you say that?!" Ares stopped short and glared at the elder. "He just spit on our
entire race and our sole purpose in life. And he refused to help find his sister!"

"What he said about protecting the innocent may have been out of line, but his words
about you and our clan had a bit of truth behind it." Magellan rose slowly from the
couch, and limped towards Ares. "You have shied away from your responsibilities as
leader."

"I never wanted to be leader..."

"It doesn't matter what you want!! It matters what is best for the clan. And they need
you, more than you can possibly imagine. They need to get out of here, out of this
damned cave, with you to lead the way. I am happy to spend my life here, but they are
just children. They have many years ahead of them, and need to live life to it's fullest."
Magellan's features softened slightly as he placed his scarred hand on Ares' spiked
shoulder. "You've done a fine job until now; created our new home, rebuilt our
destroyed machines from the hills, turned a cave of moss into a healthy garden which
feeds us, supplied power and running water to the Grotto and rookery...but now, you have
a more important task to attend to. Your little hatchlings have grown up, and they need
something different. Thrash spends most of the Winter months on the ski hill, and Rain
always takes extra time to patrol when she is really spending time with her human
friends."

"I...never knew how much they loved being out in the world. I guess I've unintentionally
imprisoned them here in an attempt to protect them..."

"Yes, I would say that's true. I've watched the last couple of years as this family has
grown apart. I didn't risk my big blue behind to save your lives only to have this clan
destroyed from within. Now getting back to the matter at hand, why don't you act like
the leader you are and let's go find your children."

"But Aurora..."

"...is being taken care of Elisa. You know, the human." Magellan answered in the most
sarcastic voice he could muster.

Ares sighed and looked down. "You are right as always, my old friend." He straightened
to his full height, his sharpened spurs almost seeming to burst even further from his skin
and glow despite his dulled complexion. "We must find them." He looked over his
shoulder to Goliath, who during the conversation had pried away from what he thought
was a private family affair. "I don't wish to impose on our guests, Goliath, but, we could
use your help to find my children. This city is rather large."

A sense of duty and protection gained strength upon his friend's plea for help and Goliath
swiftly nodded his head. "Of course."

"Thank you. Well, let's get going. The three of us have a lot of ground to cover."

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

The search had continued for hours, spreading abroad beyond even Ottawa's seizure of
the land with claws come alive of steel and iron, yet Goliath persevered in his quest. He
had split from the group to cover more area, and headed over the East side, filling his
palate on the feast of breathtaking scenery tendered by this grand city. Over a busy
street, with hundreds of people littering the sidewalks, he glided on, noticing a rhythmic
cadence pound upon the strands of air which carried his form.

He looked below, where a crowd had gathered outside a building, surrounded by a
spectrum of spotlights reaching into the furthest extent of the heavens. The sound grew
even louder and he could finally make out, in his mind, a twisted distortion of throbbing,
head-ache inducing, noise.

A low thumping of techno music, drowning out the sounds of the city. A dance club. He
had heard the trio talk about them often. The rooftop above the bar concealed within it's
darkened corners a lone occupant, with shimmering skin of emerald green. He smiled
and dove down, and with a flap of his massive wingspan, slowed his speed sufficiently to
barely mark the surface with his passing. It was Rain, leaning on the edge, watching
human after human enter beneath. He slowly crept up and within a couple of feet of her
smaller form, she cocked her head slightly and sighed.

"I wondered how long it would take one of you to find me." she said through hushed lips.

Goliath came up beside her, his towering stature and immense bulk dwarfing the tiny
female by his stead, and placed eyes of charcoal upon the street, attempting to discover
what had so absorbed her interest. "I've never understood what the younger generation
sees in those places." he remarked, his voice tinged with playful witticism.

"I guess being an adult, and being from the tenth century, you wouldn't understand." she
whispered quietly, as she placed her head on her hands.

Goliath nodded, realizing her desire to be included in her own age group's diverse
entertainment. He stayed silent for a long time, until placing forth his best effort to begin
a conversation with the tight-lipped female, "I hear you have friends outside of your
clan."

"Yeah," she replied, feeling the need to pronounce her pain to someone other than an
empty rooftop, "there's three of them. Bobby, Terri and Anna. I met them more than a
year ago and they've never treated me any different. I can't believe Aurora wouldn't
even let me be with them."

"She is only trying to keep you safe."

"Yeah, by taking my entire life away." Rain huffed and closed her eyes.

"I believe she is only trying to prevent what happened to her twenty five years ago from
occurring again." Goliath pressed on. "She witnessed her clan's destruction and now she
is trying to protect the last survivors."

"I WAS THERE!!!" Rain shrieked, turning to face Goliath, her once innocent features
rife with hostility. "I also witnessed my clan's destruction!! I was forced to watch as my
parents were slaughtered in front of me!! And now Aurora's killing me...by keeping me
from my friends...from the world..." She clenched her fists and choked back her sobbing,
forcing her body to mind her wishes of containing the coming tears in front of Goliath.

"She has been through more than you could realize. In one night, she lost the family she
grew up with. In her eyes, the future of the clan and perhaps, her entire race. She took it
upon herself to raise you almost all your life, and did nothing I suspect, but care and love
you all those years." He noticed the young gargess' eyes welling up as she stood in front
of her, appearing smaller than ever before. "The last time I saw her, she was wailing into
Elisa's shoulder on the floor of the rookery."

This statement stunned the small female, her brow raising in astonishment. "Aurora
cried? The ice queen actually cried? I've never seen Aurora cry, not since we went back
to the mountains after the massacre."

"I suspect she didn't want her young children to see any weaknesses. She needed to be
strong for your sake, and tried to put the destruction of your clan behind her for two very
important reasons, and now...three very important reasons."

"The egg."

"Yes. It will hatch very soon, and the child will need the guidance of an older sister."

"Oh god." The young female crossed her arms, covering most of her body with her
wings. "I yelled at her. The things I said..."

"Can be apologized for. She loves you very much, and desperately needs your presence
in her life. In the last twenty years, you became her daughter. Even though you are not
of her flesh and blood, you are her daughter in all the ways that count. All gargoyles care
for their children." Goliath instinctively stepped forward, but paused, his guarded
emotional reserve stopping him cold. Yet she would reach out towards his warmth, and
placed her diminutive form against his chest, barely coming to above his sculpted
abdomen. A small smile leaked through his lips, as his wings released from his shoulders
and wrapped around them both. He caressed her cinnamon locks with a massive taloned
hand, holding the small gargoyle tightly in his arms. "We should get back to the Grotto,
I'm sure Aurora is very worried."

"She's always worried." Rain joked, wiping away the last of her tears. "Thanks,
Goliath."

"To help a family who's lives have mirrored my own painful past, is my duty, my
honor...and my pleasure."

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

Ares flew on, his onyx eyes scanning, searching for any of his children, yet found no
trace of them in the deep catacombs and hollows of this city's suffocating architecture.
The words of his clan resounded within his mind and he wondered if they were right. For
twenty five years he had tried to do his best to lead his clan, but they were still where
they left off. Hidden away from humankind, afraid to trust anyone, scared to give
humans yet one more chance to redeem themselves. But he knew not all humans were
like those who destroyed his family, Elisa being the best example he could think of. A
human and a gargoyle. He still had trouble with that concept, though in his own
impending fatherhood, he wished them the best life could offer.

He eventually reached the river that flowed on the city's end, the water reflecting the
stars in a stream of a celestial masquerade. Near the docks where his gaze fell, he found
a strange sight on a pier that bustled with activity, despite the hours past the province of
the waking world. A ship had docked and a veritable legion of humans were unloading
crates using the massive crane on the stern. And above, where used wooden boxes were
left to rot on higher section of a warehouse, lay a splash of orange surrounded by the dull
gray of bare metal walls.

Thrash had made himself comfortable in the embrace of a cargo net, strung between the
smokestacks, laying face up and watching the ever drifting constellations pass by his dark
eyes. He was engrossed by the stars, oblivious to Ares' form setting down several yards
away. "I've been looking for you." he called from afar, and watched as the youth
scrambled to get a proper footing in the net, raising himself up to discover the source of
the voice.

"Who?!" Thrash looked to Ares' direction. "Oh, Ares. It's only you. Don't you have a
city to protect or something?"

"I've been searching Ottawa for hours for you and Rain. We were worried."

"What the hell for? We're old enough to take of ourselves and don't need your help."
Thrash looked back to the sky, his scowl growing ever steadily on his lips.

"That's not what I came here for. I wanted to know if you were safe, and...to apologize."

Thrash peeked over his shoulder to Ares' sheepish expression, his attention now centered
on his adoptive father. "Apologize? Now this I gotta hear."

"You're right, I kept you and Rain hidden away in a feeble endeavor to safeguard your
lives. You both have every right to live your lives any way you want, even if it means
leaving the safety of the Grotto and taking your place in human society."

"Uh...thanks, I guess."

"Since we're on the subject of humans, do you have any friends outside of our race?"

Thrash hopped from his makeshift hammock and faced the golden gargoyle. "Yeah, a
few. I met them at the hill. A couple of skiers and snowboarders who enjoy the slopes
late at night."

"I see..." Ares looked to the ground. "Do you trust them?"

Thrash looked away, letting his silence instead speak for him.

"Did you truly mean what you said before? That you do not care for any humans at all?"

"Nah, I was just mad. I guess I'm getting sick of protecting those who'd rather kill us,
night after night. All we get in return is a scream of terror."

"We do not protect because of what we might be rewarded with, we protect because of
what we are. Gargoyles keep the innocent safe. It's been that way for decades, centuries,
millennium. Entire lifetimes have been spent in devotion to our obligation, protecting
those who cannot protect themselves."

"Maybe to you..." Thrash crept closer, thinning his eyes. "The humans can take care of
themselves. They have built their own world without our presence. They have those to
save them from muggers and thieves and those to put out their fires. I don't need to risk
my life for some ungrateful bastard who would rather see me destroyed while I sleep!"

"That is precisely why we need to show them that they have nothing to fear from us, that
we have dedicated our lives to protecting."

"Tried that once remember?! We thought we lived in peace with them twenty five years
ago, until they killed our family!"

"That group did not represent the rest of humankind. Take Elisa for example. And the
others that have befriended the Manhattan clan. We can't give up, and I have realized I
have been wrong to hide away from humans. We must step up our patrols. We must
prove that we are not here to hurt them..."

"And what if they never accept us?!"

"Your friends have, or were you just lying to me?" Ares grew a smug grin, knowing he
had outthought his quick-mouthed charge.

Thrash huffed and scowled at the golden leader. "Yeah, whatever..."

"I promise that I will not hover over you any more. You are free to live as you want..."
A smile flashed on Thrash's face, but Ares continued before the young gargoyle received
from this conversation, the wrong idea. "But, as long as you are under my roof, you will
patrol with our clan. We must prove ourselves to the humans, no matter what the cost, or
we will forever be treated like we don't have the right to exist."

"But..." Thrash tried to protest, yet stopped himself when he noticed Ares step forward
and draw to his full height.

"I gave you an order, Thrash, as leader of our clan." The night sky lit up with a
gargoyle's fury, a platinum wrath tearing from his eyes and a chiseled frame convulsing
every muscle beneath the stretched skin. "And you will listen to every single word I say.
Got it?"

"Oh yeah."

"Now let's go home. We can check in with Aurora before going out to find your sister."
Ares hopped to the side of the roof and extended his wings.

"Uhm, Ares..." Thrash came up beside him, his expression that of one searching for the
correct words to unwillingly expose his gratitude. "Thanks for coming after me. And I
really didn't mean those things I said back at the Grotto. Archimedes made the right
choice when he chose you to replace him."

"Thank you, my son. I'm think I'm beginning to figure that out myself..." he replied,
with a quick glance behind him. But before the chance to launch themselves into the
night air arose, a loud snap and a thundering crash ripped past them in the wind's sudden
rush. They both looked down towards the cargo ship, and an entanglement of torn
netting hanging from the crane met their helpless gaze. The crates had been too heavy
for the overused ropes, and finally gave way under the intense pressure. Barely a thread
grasped to the last of the boxes that had not fallen to the ground.

Thrash snapped his stare down, to a human, trapped under several smaller crates, now
nothing but shattered remains of jagged splinters. "Shit, if the rest of those boxes fall,
that guy will be crushed."

"No he won't..." Ares threw himself into the realm of frigid northern ether, and with the
swiftness of an eagle, centered his suicidal flight on his prey.

Left on the building's edge, Thrash could only watch as the last fibers clinging together
broke their hold, setting free their heavy content. "ARES!!!" he screamed out, as instinct
took over, and he recklessly followed the flightpath of the spiked gargoyle.

The others had gathered to the side, unable to reach their co-worker fast enough, faces
cast with horror and dread. The trapped man looked up only as the boxes came closer,
burying his form in their frightening shadow. Time around him slowed virtually to a
stop, a slow motion blur, as the crates beared down upon the wounded human, his eyes
squeezing shut, to hide from the hand of fate and it's sickening sense of humor.

Suddenly, there was a loud thump on the cement. His eyes fluttered open, perhaps once
too scared to look, but now too afraid to die without seeing firsthand, the face of death.
His blurred vision captured nothing but a flash of golden hide. As his eyes cleared, he
turned his gaze to see a large figure, standing over him, holding the wooden crates up
with his bare hands. He was obviously straining at the immense weight.

Ares bit his lip and gritted fanged teeth together, as his arms almost separated from their
sockets. "Thrash!!"

From nowhere, the orange gargoyle flew in, skidded to a halt, and grabbed the man,
gently pulling him from the wreckage. As soon as the two were out of the way, Ares
released his load and the boxes slammed to the ground. Thrash helped the man to the
others, who had come rushing to meet them, and handed over the human's limp form to
his friends' awaiting arms. All eyes were directed on the two creatures before them,
hushed whispers racing through the crowd. Thrash turned to leave but was stopped by a
small hand on his shoulder.

"Thank you," the wounded man cried to him with gasped breaths, "if it wasn't for you, I
would've been splattered all over the pier."

"No problem." Thrash gave him a quick smile. "Gargoyles protect. Tell your friends."
With that, he retreated from their view and scaled the building from where they had lept
from. He climbed to the top, only to see Ares rubbing his shoulders and wincing in pain.
"You okay?" he asked.

"I'm...fine. I'll be better after a good day's sleep." Ares smiled at his younger charge.
"Felt pretty good, didn't it?"

"Yeah. I guess this whole protect and serve thing crap isn't as bad as I thought." he
replied, joining his father on the ledge alongside, and soon fading into the night, heading
for their home.

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

Within the confines of a simple white border, a happier moment from the past had been
captured with the flash of a camera. Slender white talons held steady to a photograph of
Rain and Thrash taken several years ago. Aurora stared into the picture frame for the
longest time, barely moving from her position on the couch, and barely even noticing a
hand of bronzed shade rubbing her left shoulder.

Elisa placed herself at Aurora's side, holding a cup of coffee. She had offered one to the
white gargoyle, but now the bittersweet liquid, resting on the end table, had turned cold
in it's chalice. "They'll find them. Don't worry, from what I've heard, they know this
city pretty well." she tried to comfort her, but knew her words were being lost to fear and
paranoia running rampant through her mind.

Her life now had been for her children, the last remnants of a proud clan, murdered by
masked men, lacking enough courage to even show their faces to their victims. Without
her young hatchlings, her life would perhaps languish in agony and regret.

The aching silence withered to the sound of an aged stride of taloned feet on the rocky
surface. Aurora whirled around to see Magellan entering the room from the Grotto
entrance. "Any luck?" she asked hopefully.

"I'm sorry, child, but I couldn't find either of them anywhere. I explored all their usual
haunts and saw neither hide or hair of them. I'll go back out later." He sat down beside
her, and placed his arms around her shoulders.

Elisa noticed their eyes again, so alike. Even their features looked somewhat similar.

"Where could they be?" Aurora buried her face as she brought her knees up to her chin.
"My baby girl, where could she have gone to? I didn't mean to raise my voice at her. If
only I could apologize..."

"You don't have to." A new voice whispered from the side of the room. The three on
the couch looked up to see Rain enter the Grotto followed by Goliath.

"RAIN!!!" Aurora lept up and ran to the green gargess, wrapping her arms around her
body as soon as she reached her. "Where have you been? I was worried sick! I'm so
sorry for not trusting you. I'm..."

"Whoa, Aurora. It's okay, I'm all right." The younger gargoyle pulled from her embrace
and looked up into Aurora's grief stricken gaze. "I'm the one who should be sorry. I
never meant to yell at you or hurt your feelings."

"I never should have told you what to do. I know I'm not your mother and..."

"But you are, you've always been there for me. You always took care of me, you were
always there when I needed you, always treated me like I was the most special person in
the world. I love you just as much as my real mother." The green female rested her head
on Aurora's chest.

"I love you too, my baby girl," Aurora whispered gently, pulling her daughter's smaller
body tightly to her own, "I will always be there to protect you."

Rain closed her eyes, held in the warm arms of Aurora, safe from what her deepest fears
could ever cast upon her. For one perfect moment, all the pain, all the anger, simply
washed away in the frosted embrace of her guardian.

Elisa deepened her stance into Goliath's massive stead, their eyes meeting. She knew her
mate had something to do with Rain's return and patted his chest to thank him.

Unnoticed by the crowd, Magellan ascended slowly from the couch and padded to the
archway that led to the rookery, his sensitive ears catching an unusual sound, but
somehow familiar. He slowly crept down the stairs to investigate, leaving the others to
their melodrama, too involved to heed a pair of shadows entering their underground
domain.

"Rain, thank eternity we have found you." Ares rushed up to his mate and daughter and
wrapped his wings around them both.

Thrash came up behind and leaned on Aurora's shoulder. She turned to quickly and
gingerly, run a slender talon down the length of his beak, a similar caress from his youth.
In recent times he would have pulled away, annoyed at what he thought to be a childish
gesture, but now, he reveled at his maternal protector's delicate touch.

Ares stepped back and stared at his family, studying each member with new eyes before
addressing them in a commanding tone quite unlike his usual manner, "It is time we
made ourselves known to the humans. I know it is a risk, but we cannot live our entire
lives down here. We are gargoyles, and we shall not let those who fear us stop us from
protecting our city."

Rain looked at her father with wide eyes. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, my daughter," Aurora answered, "I was recently...convinced that life should be
lived to the utmost. Why don't we invite these friends of yours to meet the rest of our
family."

"I would like that. But if my friends are coming, than Thrash's have to come too." All
eyes were directed on the orange gargoyle as he shrugged.

"Your friends?!" Aurora gasped, and chided her charge with nothing but an accusing
glower.

Rain just laughed and waved to her brother, gaining a scowl in response. The adults
rolled their eyes, knowing their children were back to their regular selves.

"Thanks a lot, squirt."

"No problem...Theodore."

"Shut up, turd, you know I hate that name!"

"Ahem!!" An exuberant argument was broken by a loud clearing of the throat. The
gargoyles and human gathered there turned to see Magellan standing by the rookery
archway. "As much as I hate to break up this Kodak moment," he announced satirically,
"but I think you should come with me downstairs...your egg is hatching."

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

Led by Aurora, the clan tore down the rookery stairs after they had recovered from the
initial shock and surrounded the egg. It was indeed ready to hatch, moving slightly, and a
piece had already broken off the top. The Canadian clan moved in closer, with Goliath
and Elisa remaining a distance behind, allowing them the intimacy of the moment. Yet
they stayed near, straining their eyes to bear witness to the birth of a new life.

Aurora quickly removed the parts of the incubator, and as the machine fell away, the now
unfettered egg came into better view. She glided a simple stroke over the egg's smooth
surface, her eyes teared with astonishment. "Come on," she urged, "you can do it."

The egg swayed violently back and forth, large cracks rippling down the sides, and
several pieces flaking off, falling to the floor. A small white hand poked through where
the hole had been widened considerably, covered in a red viscous substance, invoking a
collective gasp from the onlooking crowd.

Rain immediately darted to a large near the side of the room, and filled a large, plastic
tub full of warm water and grabbed several towels.

The egg continued to break away, until all movement ceased. Aurora moved a trembling
hand closer, and suddenly the top half exploded, revealing the occupant, a small white
hatchling. Aurora took a towel from Rain and started to wipe off some of the crimson
uteral lining. She cleared the mouth and throat of the small child and suddenly the room
was filled with a loud cry. The child screamed at being released from it's home and
kicked the remaining shards of egg from it's body.

Elisa and Goliath slipped in closer, the slender human's eyes glued upon what she had
only heard about in stories weaved from Wyvern's past. Aurora carefully plucked the
crying whelp from the cold metal surface, the first touch of mother and child creating an
instant connection between them, and placed it into the awaiting warm bath water,
cleaning the rest of the sticky goo from it's skin. Once clean, the waiting folds of a soft
blue towel met the baby's weary form, as did many pairs of curious eyes.

It was a girl, with radiant white skin and innocent blue eyes comparable only to her
mother. She possessed the wings of her father and small spikes covered her body. Her
soft black hair fell in wisps around her head. With four fingers and three toes, and a trail
of tiny spurred bumps running from the back of her neck to the tip of her diminutive
lashing tail.

Aurora dragged her knuckles down the child's brow and she stopped crying, directing
newborn eyes up to a blur of family gathered around her. She blinked once, and
attempted to ascertain what those shapes hovering over her could be. She eventually
gave up and curled into the blanket held in the arms of her mother. "A girl." Aurora
breathed wistfully.

"A girl." Ares repeated her words, feeling faint.

"Oh man, she's beautiful. Her skin glows like crystal." Rain took a closer look, as
Thrash and Magellan crowded in behind her. Aurora turned to Goliath and Elisa,
allowing them to come closer. Aurora handed the baby to Elisa, and the human accepted,
taking the resting hatchling into her arms.

"God, she's covered in spikes. Am I ever glad you only have small brow ridges, Big Guy,
or giving birth to your kid would be murder." she joked as her husband reached around
her to run his talon down the child's face. The white hatchling grabbed his finger and
squeezed, causing him to laugh. "She's amazing, Aurora." Elisa murmured quietly as she
handed the baby back.

Aurora faced her golden mate. "What shall we name her?"

"Crystal..." Rain whispered once more.

"Crystal." Aurora echoed as Ares nodded his agreement. "My beautiful daughter Crystal.
Welcome to the world. Hopefully it treat you far better than it did us. But...if not, we
will always be there to protect you." She looked back at her family. "All of us."

Goliath and Elisa stepped back to give the expanded family their privacy. She felt his
massive arms wrap around her stomach and cross the womb which carried their own
baby. Hands of the strength to rip steel, yet hands of the tenderness of barely a passing
cloud. She smiled and placed her slender copper hands on his lavender talons, leaning
her head back on his chest as he brought his chin to rest on her lush, ebony hair. "You
know, I can't wait until our baby is born. To be surrounded by so much love..."

"Our child will be even more beautiful, my Elisa, it will be loved like no other child in
this world."

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

A day had passed on with the embrace of stone slumber, and the small child had
effectively stolen the attention of her family the following night. Aurora would never let
Crystal out of her sight, and her already doting father would always remain close. A
marvel of new life they had waited for so long, they had almost forgotten about the
Manhattan couple when they said their good-byes. They needed to get home to their own
lives and Elisa needed to deliver the essential evidence.

"Thank you, my friend." Ares grabbed Goliath's hand in a warrior's shake. "You have
given us more than you could ever realize."

"We appreciated your hospitality. Thank you for allowing us to witness this wonderful
event, I have not seen an egg hatch for more than a thousand years."

"We will be forever in your debt for helping us." Aurora added, with baby Crystal in her
arms.

"Hey, I've never seen a gargoyle born before, so I guess we're even." Elisa replied, while
giving the small child a kiss on the forehead. "If you ever need anything, please call us.
You know where we are." The couple took their leave of the mother and child, and the
rest of the family, before heading out into the warm summer night. But held back, when
a high pitched voice called out to them.

Rain slipped through the rock opening and quickly sauntered up to them. "I thought I
might escort you back to the hotel." She watched with a smile as Goliath scooped Elisa
from the ground and take to the air. She followed behind, until they reached the terrace
of their hotel room.

Upon landing, Elisa turned to the small gargess. "So, what's the real reason you came
with us?" She shifted into cop mode as she interrogated the female.

"I just wanted to ask you something..." She looked down slightly as if embarrassed. "I
was just wondering...if sometime, I could come to New York and visit the castle?"

"You would be most welcome." Goliath replied as she quickly grabbed his hand, a large
smile forming on her young face.

"Great!! Perhaps you can show me the sights, and I can meet the others in your clan. I
hear there are some available young guys." Rain teased as she hopped on the railing,
waved goodbye and disappeared from the couple's sight.

Elisa slid the glass door closed behind Goliath as they entered their room. "Well, I don't
know about you, Big Guy, but I feel pretty damn good. And to think, you didn't want me
to come." Elisa placed slumped onto the bed, glaring at her husband. "Still have any
doubts?"

Goliath remained silent, as he climbed onto the edge of the bed and slowly crawled
towards her.

She moved back as fast as her enlarged stomach would allow, as her mate beared down
upon her. Elisa eventually reached the headboard and was stopped in her tracks, trapped
within the glow of his eyes. She felt his lips upon her own, and reached behind his neck
into his thick sable hair.

"Remind me never to argue with a Maza again, my lady," he laughed to himself and
kissed down his wife's soft neck, "I always seem to lose."

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

His book had been abandoned, haphazardly tossed away onto the back seat and his
attention drawn elsewhere. Goliath centered his gaze beyond the tinted glass and into the
scenery roaring past. The Maza's journey back to Manhattan had been a silent one, with
nothing but the soft hiss of the radio.

The entire ride home, Elisa peeked over her shoulder every few minutes, only to catch
sight of a very peculiar smile cast upon his lips, and she knew why. A new clan had been
discovered. A new life had been brought into this world. A new beginning for the six
members of the Canadian clan. His race had grown bigger, stronger. Perhaps now, he
didn't feel quite as alone anymore.

Within her mind the child stayed, her thoughts ever drifting to the hatchling born before
her eyes. So small and so beautiful, she still could not fathom how those of her kind
could ever harm such an innocent baby. She shivered in her own fears and uncertainty,
as eight months of collective dread came to the surface. She gasped as a massive hand
pressed onto her stomach.

"Do not be afraid, my Elisa," Goliath hushed a softened breath past her ear as he moved
up behind her seat, "in one month, our baby will be born and it will be cherished, loved,
and will be safe."

Her hand immediately grabbed his and she squeezed with all her might, grazing his
fingers across her lips, and holding his palm against her chest. Her husband had once
again strengthened her heart with an absolute resolve, and through his vow and by his
side, would she forever be brave enough to fight for her family, past, present, and future.
"I have no doubt about that, Big Guy," she replied, "no doubt at all."