- Into The Abyss -

- Into The Abyss -

The Demon's Husband, Part III

by Earl T. Allison II

eallison@tiac.net

June, 1997

Summary: The Hunter returns to Manhattan, but his Prey is now the Quarrymen,

especially John Castaway. But how can that be if Castaway and Canmore are one

and the same? Goliath and the other gargoyles must stop this new Hunter before

he succeeds, and dooms them all to a firestorm of renewed gargoyle hatred.

Disclaimer: The Gargoyles and their supporting cast are the copyrighted properties

of Disney, Buena Vista Entertainment, and Nelvana 1997. Any characters seen

here that are not a part of the Gargoyles universe are the sole property and

creation of the author. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely

coincidental. If you would like to use any of my characters, please ask and

let me know what you want to do, I'll probably say OK.

Thanks to Goddess for the editing chores on this one, as well as to Wraith,

Gabriel, and everyone else in chat, for their encouragement! Thanks, guys!

"The more things change, the more they stay the same."

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

This should be rated PG-13 for violence and language that you won't see on the

TV show. Forewarned is forearmed, so read on!

For a frame of reference, this occurs sometime after the episode, "The Journey",

and obviously after my previous fanfics, "Separation Anxiety" and "Broken Hearts"

*****

The seven Quarrymen stealthily made their way through Central Park. It

was nearly dusk, and they had to move quickly if they were to be successful. Their

leader, John Castaway, had received an anonymous tip that a female gargoyle was

in Central Park, concealed among the shrubbery. If they could reach the

abomination before sunset, they could destroy it.

Gunnery Sergeant Thomas White squinted hard in the dim light, trying

to locate their quarry, The tip had been vague. The caller knew she was near

one of the pathways, but had been unable to be more specific, hanging up before

further details could be revealed. He remembered John's words to him when he

was dispatched on this mission, only scant hours ago.

"Thomas," he began. "I want you to lead some of our newer recruits

on this mission. It should be fairly straightforward and simple. I need you to

make sure they understand that they are making this city safe for humanity!"

John had been most specific, destroy the monster.

Thomas had accepted. Life after the military was quiet and uneventful.

After his early retirement at fifty, he had kept active and in shape, but something

seemed missing in his life. It had been purpose, a need to serve. Unlike many of

the other Quarrymen, who were raw recruits, he understood the motivations of the

group. Gargoyles were an evil monstrosity, an abomination that needed to be

purged.

When the offer to join had been extended, he accepted almost instantly.

He was able to submerge himself in familiar surroundings and put his talents to

use. Castaway had seen his talent immediately and put him to work preparing

the Quarrymen for their work.

Unlike Thomas and John, most recruits had little experience with weapons,

or with fighting of any kind. While a few were mercenaries or military men like

himself. most were yuppies or concerned citizens, with no real, practical skills.

Within a few weeks, Thomas had set up programs to ensure that all Quarrymen

that went into the field had some rudimentary combat ability. They would at least

be able to shoot straight, handle their weapons with some responsibility, and

possess some basic fighting skill. This would be the first real test of his program,

as all of the men and women with him were about to face their first gargoyle. He

hoped that ...

"Sir, over here! I've found her!" a male voice shouted.

Thomas snapped back to the present, looking for the source of the voice.

One of the men had found the gargoyle. He was pulling some brush away to reveal

the creature, a female gargoyle clad in a weathered halter and loin cloth. She was

adorned with jewelry as well, a tiara, earrings, an anklet, a coil of metal around one

bicep, and bracelets. She was frozen in a crouching position, as if hiding from the

very sun itself. Checking his watch quickly, he prepared himself.

"All right, people! Listen up, there's little time left until sunset. Donna,

would you like the honor of the kill?" he asked.

"Yes, sir!" a female voice answered. Donna Mitchell, housewife, hefted

her hammer and activated it, waiting for the head to charge fully. As she waited,

Sergeant White smiled to himself. Donna was one of his best trainees. She had

joined the Quarrymen to protect her three children from the monstrous gargoyle

threat. After two weeks, she had shown tremendous promise, diligently working

to make herself a useful member of the group. As the hammer's whine reached a

fever pitch, indicating a full charge, Donna readied herself.

In one fluid motion, Donna brought the fully charged hammer down hard

on the stone gargoyle. At the same instant, Thomas thought he noticed an almost

imperceptible seam along the side of the gargoyle, as if it was a casting of some

kind. Before he could stop her, the hammer shattered the stone form, sending

shards everywhere.

As the last rays of sunlight faded over the horizon and the sky darkened,

nothing happened. The Quarrymen looked around, waiting for a potential response

from other gargoyles, but none came.

As Thomas inspected the debris, he could find nothing to indicate that this

had been a fake. Maybe he had imagined it, his old eyes playing tricks in the light.

Donna's hammer was still humming with power as she stepped forward, holding

the head of her prey high.

"I did it! I got ..."

Her celebration was cut short as a pencil-thin beam of red light flashed

towards her, slicing through the hammer. With a loud clanging, the severed head

clattered to the ground, with Donna still holding the handle.

Before anyone could react, three more beams streaked out from the

darkness, shattering the lights around the cluster of Quarrymen and leaving

them in darkness. Some of them panicked, drawing weapons and firing blindly

into the night, while others charged their hammers or looked to Sergeant White

for guidance.

"Hold your fire!" he ordered. "Everyone activate your night vision

lenses, and just calm down." Even as he spoke, he was scanning the tree line

for the attacker. In a few moments, the others were joining him, thanks to the

special lenses built into their helmets. Given the fact that gargoyles were only

active at night, it seemed a wise addition to their arsenal.

Forming a protective circle, weapons facing out, he called out into the

night. "Show yourself! Only a coward strikes from hiding!" He was hoping to

get some idea of where his opponent, or opponents, were hiding.

A shadowy figure, still partially concealed by branches and shadow, came

into view. It spoke, and the voice was deep, obviously male, and possessed of a

heavy Scottish accent. "Aye, lads. Coward, am I? Yuir the ones that ha' attacked

a helpless foe, not I!"

As Thomas turned to get a better look at his attacker, two of his men

opened fire, blasting away at the shadowy figure. The attacker seemed to simply

disappear, fading back into shadow as the pair advanced, still firing.

"Damn it, hold your fire!" Thomas ordered. As the two lowered their

weapons and turned back towards the group, the figure returned. With a single

motion he appeared behind the pair, knocking their heads together, rendering

both unconscious with a single blow.

As they fell, another of the men advanced, charging his hammer and

swinging it threateningly. As he attacked, the figure simply ducked under the

deadly arc of the hammer, ramming his fist into the man's solar plexus. As the

air whooshed out of the Quarryman, and the hammer fell from senseless fingers,

another blow, this one to the jaw, sent him to join his two friends.

The figure then looked to the remaining four Quarrymen. Details were

visible now, the man was about six feet tall, had an athletic build, and was clad

in some kind of body armor. The armor was red and black, with thick shoulder

guards and a lot of padding. The man's face was obscured by a mask of some

sort, all black, with eyeholes, and three red streaks running diagonally across

the face. Aside from several small pouches, he had a gun of some sort on his

belt and a mace hanging from a loop beneath it. He was also wearing a curious

medallion or amulet of some sort, perhaps a ruby, but too small to discern from

where he was.

He spoke again, this time in a mocking, condescending tone. "Well,

I'm no helpless gargoyle. Come on, then."

As the group prepared to attack, he rushed them, leaping into their

midst. Using his bare hands, the man began to wreak havoc. Thomas watched

with nearly professional admiration as the man dispatched his squad. He couldn't

risk shooting, and with the throng of bodies involved in the melee, nor could be

use his hammer effectively. It seemed that his men knew that too, and they were

at a serious disadvantage. None of them were good hand-to-hand combatants,

and this man seemed to be extremely proficient in several forms of unarmed

combat.

One of the women fell to the ground, unconscious. The figure apparently

had a good working knowledge of pressure points, and was putting it to good use.

Another Quarryman attempted to take him from behind, but the man whirled on

him.

An expertly delivered savate kick from the masked man dispatched the

Quarryman as the remainder, now only two and their leader, tried to surround

him. Reaching into a pouch, the man withdrew a small item and tossed it to

one of the Quarrymen, who caught it out of reflex.

The item, a small flash bomb, detonated almost instantly, turning

night into brightest day for a split-second. Blinking desperately to regain his

vision, Thomas could hear the sounds of fighting continue, and then, silence.

As his vision began to clear, he could see the man standing before him, and

strewn about his feet was the entire squad, unmoving except to breathe.

"So much for yuir Quarrymen." he taunted.

Thomas, his vision now clear, spoke. "Why did you spare me?"

"I want you to take a message to John Castaway."

"All right," he started, tightening his grip on his hammer. "What

message shall I ..." he then charged the hammer and attacked, hoping to catch

the man off-guard. Swinging low, he attempted to sweep his legs out from under

him.

The figure merely sidestepped the attack, and grabbed the hammer just

under the head. The two men struggled a moment before the Quarryman had the

weapon torn from his grasp. The man merely tossed the weapon aside, laughing.

He then grabbed the Quarryman leader, lifting him off the ground with

childish ease. "I trust I have yuir attention, laddie?"

A silent nod was Thomas' only response.

"Tell yuir leader that I am the Hunter. I will na tolerate him or his

murderous vendettas against the gargoyles. Tell him that I will be coming for

him."

With that final, ominous threat, the Hunter dropped Thomas and faded

into the darkness. Before the man could even think of giving chase, a light shined

on him. It was the police.

*****

At Castle Wyvern, Hudson and some of the others were watching the

evening news on television. The elder gargoyle was settled into his chair, with

Bronx curled up at his feet. The trio was with him, watching "Nightwatch".

"Good evening. I'm Travis Marshall, and this is 'Nightwatch'. Police

report an unusual attack in Central Park this evening ..."

"Gee, a mugging in Central Park? Who'd have thought?" Brooklyn

said sarcastically, a wide grin on his beak.

"Shhh!" Lexington hissed. "I want to hear this."

"...report that the victims were Quarrymen, seven in all. Although

no serious injuries were reported, the fragments of a shattered gargoyle were

also at the scene. Police refused to speculate on the possible identity of the

attacker or attackers, and John Castaway, suspected leader of the Quarrymen,

was also unavailable for comment."

Hudson shut the television off, looking concerned. "I think Goliath

should know about this. Brooklyn, why don't you go fetch him?"

"Right," he responded. "You think something's up?"

"I think that we're likely to get blamed for this. The Quarrymen already

have most humans thinking the worst of us, and this attack will only make it

worse. Where's Angela?"

Broadway answered quickly. "She went to see Mark again. Said he

had more stuff to tell her about Demona." Broadway wasn't too thrilled.

None of the others cared much for Demona, but she was Angela's mother

and Mark's wife, so no one pressed the issue. Mark was the only one who

was comfortable telling Angela about her.

Brooklyn made his way through the hallways to the library to see

Goliath.

*****

Goliath always marveled at the literature that humans conceived.

It allowed him to experience things he would otherwise have never dreamed

of. It was a shame that most humans couldn't show the same creativity and

openness with gargoyles, but that would change, someday. He heard a sound

behind him, and turned around to see Elisa.

"Elisa, it is good to see you!" he said, setting the book he was reading

down on a table.

"Greetings, Goliath."

With that, the form of Elisa Maza blurred momentarily and divided into

three identical images of the detective, one with hair of deepest ebony, one with

tresses of the brightest blonde, and the third with hair of the palest white.

"The Weird Sisters!" Goliath exclaimed. "What do you want here, and

why are you posing as Elisa?"

"Peace, Goliath. We come only to give you a warning. We felt this

form most appropriate for you. Goliath, the balance has shifted. The Guardian

has abandoned his post."

"I do not understand. What Guardian? What balance? Wait ..."

They spoke again, as cryptic as ever. "The cycle begins again, Goliath.

You must end the loop before it brings great tragedy to all."

Their message delivered, the three sisters changed back into their true

selves, women of incredible beauty clad in long, flowing white garments. One

gestured slightly, and the three disappeared in a flash of light.

*****

As Brooklyn entered the library, he could see Goliath talking to the

Weird Sisters. As he came closer, he saw them disappear.

"Goliath! Something's happened in Central Park!"

The lavender gargoyle turned to face his second. "What? Brooklyn,

what has happened? Is Elisa all right?"

"Elisa? I dunno, she wasn't mentioned. Look, Goliath, some

Quarrymen were attacked in Central Park. They also said pieces of a gargoyle

were found there, but who could it be? We were all here until sunset, and Demona

doesn't turn to stone anymore. What did the Sisters want?"

Goliath sighed before answering. "I do not know what they wanted. All

they told me was 'the balance has shifted', and that 'the Guardian has abandoned

his post.' I do not know what they meant. Who was behind the attack in Central

Park?"

"They didn't say." Brooklyn replied. "Hudson wanted me to get you.

He says this is gonna make us look really bad."

Goliath nodded quietly. "Yes, Brooklyn. It will. The Quarrymen will

no doubt blame us for what happened, and relay that belief to the people. Come,

we must speak to the others."

*****

Elisa had just finished getting the information from Matt. Detective

Bluestone had been one of the officers that had interrogated the lead Quarryman,

and although the man's story was vague, the costume he described sent an icy

shudder up Elisa'a spine. It could be only one man, the Hunter. One thing was

bothering her, though. Why would Canmore attack his own men? It could be a

plot to publicly discredit the gargoyles even further, but it was a long way to go

for a public opinion boost.

Even worse, it seemed that Castaway, the identity that Canmore had

been using, was involved with another pre-taped television interview at the time

of the alleged attack. That gave him an airtight alibi. But if it wasn't him, then

who could it be? She wanted to talk to Goliath about this, and to a few others as

well.

She had a short list of suspects, all of them with ample motive to attack

the Quarrymen. Demona's hatred of the group was a big motivation, but since the

attack lasted until *after* sunset, and the attacker had been described as a human

male, Demona couldn't have been personally involved. She could have hired

someone, perhaps, but the attacker wasn't her. MacBeth and Mark Flyer were

the only other suspects she had. Both men had fought the Hunters before. MacBeth

had even used the identity recently, when Demona cast her spell of Stone on

Manhattan. Mark also despised the Canmores. She remembered how close he

had come to killing the three siblings at St. Damien's Cathedral, and the hatred

in his eyes even after she had convinced him to let them live. Her instincts told

her that at least one of the three had either committed the attack personally, or

knew who did.

*****

Angela returned to the castle, alighting gracefully in the courtyard.

She could see the others talking in the Main Hall, looking very serious. Goliath

looked up at her approach.

"Angela! Come here, there is something we need to discuss."

The young gargoyle nodded and walked towards them. "What's wrong,

Father? You look upset."

The lavender gargoyle's expression didn't lighten at his daughter's

approach. "Angela, some Quarrymen were attacked tonight, in Central Park.

The news reports say that a female gargoyle fitting Demona's description was

destroyed there as well."

A look of shock and horror crossed Angela's face. "No! She can't be

dead! Mother's immortal!"

Hudson stepped forward to speak. "She's right, lad. It's simple enough

to check. I can check with MacBeth himself. If one shares the other's pain ..."

"MacBeth's fine. I checked with Matt." said a female voice from behind

them.

Everyone turned to see Elisa stepping out of the elevator. "I radioed Matt

and asked him to check up on MacBeth, just in case. Whatever that was in the

park, it wasn't Demona." she finished.

"Elisa, how serious was the attack?" Goliath asked after embracing her.

"Not bad, I mean, no one was really hurt. No broken bones, no one

was shot. The scary thing is that this guy did it with his bare hands. He took

on seven Quarrymen, and won. From the description, this guy used about

eight different kinds of martial arts. Not your everyday mugger-type, that's

for sure. Worse, he even had a Scottish accent."

"Only his bare hands?" Brooklyn asked, clearly impressed.

"Actually, we picked up the remnants of some kind of flash bomb,

and the guy allegedly used some kind of beam weapon to knock out some lights,

but he didn't use any weapons on the Quarrymen. I also checked on Mark. The

hotel says he went out for a few hours in the morning, came back, and hasn't left

his suite since."

"Is there anything we can do?" Goliath asked.

"Not right now. In fact, considering who was attacked, you guys might

want to lay low for a while. Besides, you haven't heard the worst of it yet."

"What do you mean, Elisa?"

"Goliath, I didn't want to have to tell you this, not after all you've been

through, but the attacker was described as ... the Hunter."

All of the gargoyles looked stunned at the revelation.

"But how ... ?" Goliath started.

Elisa shook her head. "We don't know anything yet, Goliath. We're

going to do everything we can to stop this guy, before the city goes up like a

bonfire. People are tense, scared. This isn't going to help things along."

"We could step up patrols," Brooklyn suggested. "Maybe we'll get

lucky and catch the guy."

"No, Brooklyn. Elisa is right. We must stay out of sight for a while."

Elisa turned to leave. She shouted to them as she left. "I'll see you

tomorrow night! Please be careful!"

As the detective walked down the hallway to the elevator, a small

camera followed her until she moved out of its' range.

*****

Seated in a lavish office was David Xanatos, industrialist. Standing

beside him was his personal assistant, Owen Burnett. Both had watched the

entire exchange intently. Xanatos has taken the gargoyles in recently, but

that hadn't meant accepting things blindly. He was always one to keep

apprised of situations, and this one promised to be interesting.

"Well, Owen, what do you make of that?" he asked, gesturing

to the screen on the far wall.

"Most concerning, actually." Owen said. Although his words

spoke caution, his expression was unreadable. Nothing, no matter how

unexpected or shocking, ever got any visible reaction.

"Explain." Xanatos said calmly, steepling his hands.

"The detective is quite correct in her assumptions. From certain

.... feelings I have had recently, the attacker can be only one of three individuals;

Demona, Mark Flyer, or MacBeth."

Xanatos looked stunned. "Feelings, Owen?"

Owen sighed quietly. "Yes, Mister Xanatos, feelings. Specifically, a

sensation I have not felt for nearly five-hundred years. Have you heard of

Morgan LeFay?"

"The evil sorceress that wanted to destroy Camelot?"

"The same, sir. She was, and still is, one of the Third Race. Specifically,

she is one of the more adept of us with magical artifacts. Her creation rivaled the

Phoenix Gate and Eye of Odin for sheer power and potential for misuse."

"I'm sure this is a fascinating story, Owen, but is there a point?"

Xanatos asked, looking impatient.

"Of course, Mister Xanatos. The item in question was the Heart

of Morgan, a magical amulet of great power. It granted the wearer total

immunity to all Faerie magic, regardless of the source. While powerful,

it was of limited use to most. None of the Third Race could use it,

because the item also prevented them from using their own powers.

Humans and gargoyles could use it, but since the item only granted immunity

to Faerie magic, they still found themselves vulnerable to more mundane effects.

But the Three are another story entirely. With their immortality, this item could

make them incredibly powerful."

"I don't see how, Owen. Wouldn't the amulet cancel out the spell of

immortality?"

"No, sir. It has no effect on preexisting spells, only on anything directed

at the wearer while he or she has the item. You, of course, see my point, I

presume?"

"Yes, Owen, I do. Kill Mark, Demona, or MacBeth, and they simply

rise again, ready to continue fighting. The Weird Sisters were the only ones

who stopped Demona months ago, when she cast her spell of stone on Manhattan.

With that amulet, nothing could stop her, or any of them. Do you know who has

it now?"

"Regrettably, no. The last time I sensed it was, as I said, some five-

hundred years ago, in England. Since then, nothing, nothing until last night.

Since all Three are in the general area, it could be any one of them, sir."

"I see. Well, I guess we'll just have to wait."

*****

It was about nine-thirty, and Mark was settling down to catch up on

the day's news. A knock at his door stirred him from his routine.

"Who is it?" he called.

"It's me, Elisa. We need to talk, Mark."

"Come in, door's open" he replied, getting up.

The door opened, and Elisa came in, a serious expression on her face.

"I assume you heard the news?"

"About the Quarrymen, yes." He smiled before continuing. "In my

opinion, they got exactly what they deserved."

"I'm glad you find this amusing, because it's only going to make things

worse for Goliath and the others. The front desk says that you were here all night,

is that correct?"

Mark looked surprised. "Elisa, if I didn't know better, I'd say you thought

I was a suspect!"

She sighed slightly. "Mark, you are a suspect. I know how much you

hate the Quarrymen. There aren't too many people around who know enough

about the gargoyles to take a grudge with the Quarrymen that far."

"Elisa, if I wanted the Quarrymen stopped, then I would kill them, plain

and simple."

"You can't be serious! How can you set yourself up as judge, jury, and

executioner like that? In all the time I've known you ..."

"But you don't know me, Elisa, not really. How could I do such a thing?

Very easily. There was a time when all justice was that simple. Don't get too fond

of law and order, after all, it was the same law and order that put many to death in

old Salem Village. Who could forget the incarceration of Japanese-Americans

during World War II? That was legal, too. Don't preach to me about human

laws and justice, Elisa. They don't work."

She looked shocked. "Mark, what are you saying?"

"I'm saying that you humans will find any excuse to kill each other.

Land, skin color, religion, money, power, anything is enough to turn you against

each other. Do you really think that humanity will ever accept gargoyles? You

can't possibly be that stupid!"

Elisa was momentarily stunned. "You, you can't mean that."

Mark's expression, which had become angry and cold, softened. "I'm

sorry, Elisa. I didn't mean to blow up at you like that. This whole thing makes

me angry. I can see the same cycles repeating over and over throughout the

centuries. It's as if humanity never learns a damn thing."

Elisa came over to him, taking his hand gently. "This must all remind

you of your son."

"Yes, it was the same kind of narrow-minded hatred that killed him."

Mark shook his head. "I can't let it happen again, Elisa. No matter the cost,

no matter what it takes, I won't let another gargoyle die needlessly."

"It's not your fight, Mark. Let the law handle it."

"All right, Elisa. I'll do it your way, for now." Mark looked tired,

not the sort of tired that required sleep, but exhaustion of the soul. It seemed

that he had just experienced too much for one man to take.

Elisa smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and headed out. She hoped

Mark would really listen to her, and that he wasn't just humoring her. Still,

she couldn't help thinking that there was something he wasn't telling her.

Anger like that was usually a long time in coming.

*****

"But Goliath, we can't just stay locked away up here forever!" Brooklyn

protested.

"I do not intend for us to." Goliath replied. "You, Lexington, and Broadway

will stay together on patrol tomorrow night. Hudson, Angela and I shall do likewise.

We will keep Bronx here to guard the castle."

"But I was going to see Mark tomorrow night." Angela said, looking a

little downcast.

"You can see him after our patrol." the lavender gargoyle said. He then

smiled. "Mark has gotten along without you for centuries. I'm sure he will survive

a few hours."

Angela smiled back. "I'm sorry, Father. You're right, of course."

"Aye, lass," Hudson said. "Now that we're all in agreement, it's nearly

dawn."

The seven gargoyles took up positions just inside the castle, turning to

stone as the first rays of sunlight peeked out over the horizon.

*****

John Castaway paced his office angrily. Someone had dared to attack

his Quarrymen, setting them up last night in Central Park. That someone would

pay dearly, he swore. Unfortunately, he still didn't know who it was. He had a

short list of suspects, but most had been otherwise occupied at the time of the

attack.

The Demon wouldn't have bothered with such subtlety, he was sure.

His brother, Jason, was still in the hospital because of the injuries those

abominations caused, and would likely never walk again, so he was also

an unlikely assailant. Robyn was still serving a brief prison sentence, so she

too was innocent. That only left MacBeth and Mark Flyer as the most probable

suspects.

This suspicion was further reinforced by the statue used to set the trap.

It had been a visage of the Demon herself. Only a few people had ever seen her,

fewer still were still alive to remember her. The false Hunter obviously knew

who Castaway was.

He himself never knew who MacBeth was, until a pair of new recruits

offered some very ... interesting information. Mark was married to the monster,

a traitor to his entire race. It had to be one of the two.

Unfortunately, he couldn't simply attack private citizens. Gargoyles were

one thing, as long a they were thought of as monsters, the police tended to turn a

blind eye, but people would be another matter entirely. As much as he hated to,

he would have to wait for a better opportunity.

*****

"Any luck, partner?" Matt called out cheerfully as Elisa waited for him

to get into the Fairlane.

"Nothing. Mark's alibi stood up so far. You?"

"We couldn't get anything more out of the Quarrymen we picked up.

Thomas White, the leader, wasn't telling us anything. What did the gargoyles

have to say?"

Elisa shrugged. "What else? They're concerned, and with good reason.

Whether this Hunter is trying to help or not, he's just going to make things worse.

I'll talk to Demona and MacBeth today. Maybe they can shed some light on this."

"Demona?" Matt asked. "Are you sure that's a good idea? As I recall,

you and she don't work and play well together."

"Maybe not, but I don't think she's going to risk anything by attacking

me. We may not have been able to implicate her or Nightstone in the virus

incident, but she certainly doesn't need more scrutiny from the police or the

media. As long as I make it clear that I only want information on the Hunter,

and I only see her in the daytime, I should be fine."

Detective Bluestone shrugged. "Okay partner, your choice. What do

you want me to do?"

"You're in the Illuminati now, and I trust you a lot more than Xanatos,

do you think they might have something?"

"They might. I mean, I doubt that much goes on without their knowing

about it, but I'm pretty low on the totem pole ..."

"Can you try?"

Matt laughed. "Sure. Can do, partner." He shook his head.

"Remember when you told me that you didn't believe in secret societies?

Now you're asking me to shake them down for information!"

Elisa flashed a sly smile. "I also said I didn't believe in flying

saucers or the Loch Ness monster. Remind me to tell you about my trip

to Avalon sometime."

"Avalon? This, I gotta hear."

*****

Elisa's red Ford Fairlane pulled up just outside the Nightstone

Unlimited building. It was an imposing structure, almost a modern-day

castle of glass and steel. Checking her watch, she noted that it was almost

noon. With some luck, she would catch Demona still in her office. Mentally

preparing herself for the worst, she walked in, heading to the receptionist's

desk.

The woman looked up at her approach. She was an older blonde,

just starting to gray. She was wearing a pair of glasses and a smart blue business

suit. "Can I help you?"

"Yes, I'd like to speak to Ms. Destine, please." Elisa reasoned that there

was no need to flash her badge, not yet.

"Do you have an appointment?" she asked pleasantly.

"No, but we're ... old friends. Just tell her that Elisa Maza is here."

"Very well, one moment, please." She then turned and picked up her

phone. "Yes, Rhonda? There's a Miss Elisa Maza here for Ms. Destine. She

says she's an old friend." She waited a moment, and continued. "Send her up?

Very well. Good-bye." She then hung up the phone.

Pointing, she started to give Elisa directions. "Just take that elevator

to the top. When you get out, take the long corridor to the left. Rhonda will

show you in."

Elisa nodded. "Thanks." Privately, she was surprised. She expected

Demona to let her in eventually, but she had expected more of a fight. Maybe

Demona was learning to interact with humans after all. Stepping into the

elevator, she couldn't shake the uneasy feeling that she was walking into

the lion's den.

As the elevator ascended rapidly, slowing to a halt, she prepared

herself mentally. Talking to Demona wasn't going to be easy, but it had to

be done. The doors opened silently, and Elisa exited the elevator, walking

to her left. Sure enough, there was another receptionist, presumably Rhonda.

Rhonda was a fiery redhead, dressed as neatly as the woman in the

lobby. As Elisa approached, she looked up from her paperwork. "You must

be Miss Maza. Please go right in, she's expecting you."

Taking a deep breath, Elisa steeled herself and opened the door.

Demona's office was quite simply breathtaking! Done in marble, and with

antique furniture, it must have cost a small fortune. It was also set up in

a specific manner.

Demona's desk was set in front of a row of wall-length windows,

on a raised marble dais. The way it was set up, people addressing her not

only had to look up, but the sun was shining right behind the desk, making

it difficult to see her. Clearly, the entire office had been designed to

intimidate. Somehow it suited her, Demona always fought to win, presumably

in business as well as war.

Dominique Destine descended from her modern-day throne, walking

across the room towards Elisa. Smiling evilly, she noted Elisa's reaction to

her office.

"Do you like it, detective? The architects who designed this were quite

good. It would seem that you humans have your uses, after all."

Elisa frowned. Demona was deliberately trying to bait her. "I just

want to talk."

"I assumed as much. What could be so important that you would

come to me?" she purred, looking for all the world like a cat with a cornered

mouse.

"You heard about the Quarrymen?" Elisa asked.

Demona grinned again. "Oh, yes. How ... unfortunate, for them."

"Did you have anything to do with it?"

Demona laughed. "My, aren't we forward. No beating around

the bush? Oh, I am surprised."

"Just answer the question, yes or no." Elisa growled. She was getting

annoyed with this game.

"Very well," she sighed. "No. I wish I had thought of it, but I didn't.

Why do you care? No one was seriously hurt."

"Don't you see? This will only hurt the gargoyles, including Angela!

Everyone will blame them, and it will put the Quarrymen one step closer to

becoming completely accepted."

Demona's green eyes narrowed slightly. "I see your point, but why

come here? You know I wasn't the attacker."

"No, but you might have hired someone. You might also have a fair

idea of who *was* responsible."

She shook her head. "No, human, I don't. Despite what you and the

others may think, I want the best for Angela. Goliath and I merely disagree

on how to best ensure her safety. The Quarrymen are a nuisance, nothing

more."

Elisa scrutinized the ensorcelled gargoyle carefully. Demona was

the type to speak soothingly and convincingly while she stabbed you. Something

in her words made Elisa believe her, though. Demona wasn't full of the venom

and hatred she usually demonstrated. Aside from the minor verbal shots she'd

made, Demona seemed sincere.

"All right. That's enough, for now." Elisa said. "I'll show myself

out."

"Very well. Elisa?"

"Yes?" She was astonished, Demona had actually called her by name!

"Tell Angela ... tell her that I love her very much."

Elisa looked back, and for a moment, she thought she saw a glimmer

of hope in the woman's eyes. "Sure," Elisa said. "I'll tell her."

As the detective left, Demona sat down, swiveling her chair to look

out over the city. She had managed to lie to the detective. Oh, yes, she had

a *very* good idea who was behind the attack. She only prayed that she was

wrong, for Angela's sake.

*****

An hour later, she found herself sitting comfortably with MacBeth,

sipping tea. The man had been a total gentleman, showing her every courtesy.

Elisa hadn't been so quick to accuse MacBeth. After all, the man had publicly

spoken on the behalf of gargoyles. He had come a long way from the man who

attacked the clan at the castle some two years ago.

"Now, Detective, surely you didn't drive out here so I could bend your

ear with tales of yore. It's the attack, isn't it?" he said pleasantly.

Elisa nodded quietly. "I know for a fact that you used the Hunter

identity before, and the Quarrymen who were attacked say their assailant had

a Scottish accent."

"True enough, lass, but my days of revenge are behind me, thanks to

you and Goliath." He shook his head solemnly before continuing. "I meant

what I said to the Sisters, I *am* tired of it all. I have no wish to walk that

road again."

"Do you think Demona was involved?" Elisa asked.

MacBeth scrutinized her. "Come now, lass. Demona has ne'er

shown such mercy to her foe. D'you really believe she is involved?"

Elisa looked down at the cup in her hands, watching her reflection

in the tea. "No," she said quietly. "But if it isn't you or Demona ..."

"Aye, Detective, we both know who it must be, don't we?"

*****

Hacker waited impatiently outside the police station. Nothing ever

changed, he thought to himself. Matt was never on time, not when they

were with the Bureau, and not now that he was a detective. Even before

Matt had been inducted into the Illuminati, he had been assigned to watch

him, to keep him chasing red herrings.

All that had changed when Matt discovered the Hotel Cabal. Although

a minor piece of the puzzle, Matt's discovery of it and its' curator, Mace Malone,

had been enough to impress the higher echelon. Matt had been inducted, and was

now part of a global secret society so vast that none outside perhaps a dozen men

knew the full scope.

He had anticipated Matt's request for information on the mysterious

attacker that had fought the Quarrymen, and so had his superiors. Within four

hours they had sent him a large dossier, with explicit instructions to give it to

Matt Bluestone. It was nearly dark before the large redheaded man approached

him.

"It's about time, Matt. What kept you?" Hacker asked.

"Some of us have jobs to do, you know. We can't all play mind games

with people." he retorted, smiling. "Is that the stuff?" he asked, gesturing towards

the thick folder.

Hacker nodded. "Yup, for your eyes only. Read it, and destroy it."

"My eyes? Don't you know what it says?"

"I'm not on the 'need to know' list, Matt. Oh, one more thing."

"What is it?" he asked, eagerly reaching for the folder.

"This person *has* to be stopped. It's vital to the organization, as well

as to your gargoyle friends."

"So why don't you guys take care of him? Can't you just kill him?" Matt

asked again. He didn't want the man dead, but the whole thing seemed odd. The

Illuminati had always removed obstacles from their path before, why did they need

him?

"I don't know. When I asked, it was made clear that everything you need

to know is in the report. Somehow, the Illuminati can't touch this guy." Hacker

then handed the folder over to Matt. "Remember, your eyes only."

"Yeah, yeah, I got it." he said absently, leafing through the folder.

Privately, he was worried. What kind of man could be beyond the reach of

the Illuminati? His eyes widened when he looked at the first page of the report.

"No! It can't be!"

*****

As the sun sank over the horizon, seven stone forms stirred, coming to

life. Shaking the stone shards free and greeting the night with their customary

roars, the gargoyles descended from the walls of Castle Wyvern. Goliath looked

around eagerly, hoping that Elisa would be here waiting.

"Okay guys, let's get ready to go!" Brooklyn said, addressing Lexington

and Broadway. Both nodded in agreement, following their rookery brother to the

wall.

"Wait, Brooklyn." Goliath rumbled. "Remember what we discussed.

No unnecessary risks and no foolish heroics. Agreed?"

A smile crossed Brooklyn's beak. "No problem, Goliath. Once around

the city, and home. Hey, you and the others be careful too."

With that, the trio took off into the night sky, soaring on currents of air.

"I hope Broadway will be careful." Angela said, watching him fade into

the night.

Hudson placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, lass.

Those three will be fine. Well then, shall we be off?"

"Yes, old friend, let us go as well." Goliath replied. He then took Angela's

arm, escorting her to the edge of the castle. Looking back, he addressed Bronx, who

was whining, clearly unhappy with the notion of staying behind. "Stay and guard

the castle, Bronx!"

The massive guard dog gargoyle looked pleadingly at the others for a

moment, then plodded dutifully back inside. Goliath and the others took wing,

gliding towards Central Park.

*****

John Castaway was in his office, on the phone with one of his field leaders.

"I don't care *how* long it takes. I want this 'Hunter' found and eliminated! Is that

understood?"

After a few seconds, he hung the phone up. Sitting at his desk, he went

over his reports again. With Quarrymen contacts throughout the entire city,

including the police force, it had been easy to "acquire" a copy of the police

report. Thumbing through it, he still had no answers. The report was at best,

sketchy. All he knew was that the man knew several forms of unarmed combat,

had access to high-tech weapons, and had an ax to grind with his Quarrymen.

What the report didn't say was that the man knew a great deal more

than anyone should. It was possible that the Hunter costume was coincidence,

but that was highly unlikely. Clearly this man, or his employer, knew who John

Castaway *really* was.

He was so engrossed in his report that he didn't notice the small red dot

climbing up his shoulder.

*****

As Brooklyn and the others quietly soared overhead, a flicker of light

from a nearby rooftop attracted their attention.

"What's that?" Broadway asked, angling back for another look.

"Dunno, too far away to make anything out." Brooklyn replied. "Lex,

can you see anything?"

The littlest gargoyle was already squinting towards the direction of the

flicker. "I think someone is on the roof!" he exclaimed. "Do we check it out?"

Brooklyn nodded. "Goliath would, so should we. Follow me, guys."

The three gargoyles swooped low over the rooftops, closing in on their

unsuspecting quarry.

*****

The Hunter had set himself up across from John Castaway's office,

waiting for the right moment to strike. Laying flat on the roof, he watched

his target through a sniper scope attached to an M-16. An underslung laser

sight would ensure that he only needed one shot. Gently thumbing the safety off

and setting the rifle to single shot mode, he lined up his target, bringing the red

dot of the laser sight to rest on Castaway's temple. His finger tensed. One shot,

and it would finally be over. Without Castaway, the Quarrymen would fall apart,

and the gargoyles would be safe. He could finally rest. Just as he was about to

squeeze the trigger, a huge shape loomed up in his sights.

As he looked up to see what could be blocking his view, a lanky red

gargoyle snatched the gun from his hands. With almost childish ease, the

gargoyle snapped the gun in half, and casually shoved the Hunter back into

the arms of another of the creatures.

"He's all yours, Broadway!" the gargoyle said. Before the Hunter

could get his bearings, two powerful, dark green arms wrapped tightly around

his torso, pinning his arms to his sides. "No problem, Brooklyn," the gargoyle,

presumably Broadway, said. "He isn't going anywhere!"

The red gargoyle, Brooklyn, spoke again. "Okay, jerk! Who are you,

and what are you doing here?"

"Fools! This does nae concern you!" the Hunter spat angrily, struggling.

"Uh, yeah, right." Brooklyn replied. Looking away, he addressed a

third gargoyle, who was peering into the night. "What's up, Lex?"

"I think that's what he was aiming at." the small gargoyle said,

pointing. "It's Castaway, in his office."

While the gargoyles were distracted, the Hunter spoke again.

"You gargoyles never learn, do you? Strength is nothing without leverage!"

He then planted his feet firmly, twisted, and slipped free of Broadway's grasp.

Turning, he grabbed one of the gargoyle's arms and sent him sprawling with

a judo throw.

As the stocky gargoyle fell hard, crashing into the roof, the other

two whirled on him, eyes glowing angrily. Brooklyn roared a challenge

and rushed the man. Calmly standing his ground, the Hunter grabbed the

young gargoyle's horns and sent him flying, using his own momentum

against him. The final gargoyle, Lexington, watched carefully, looking

for an opening. Without warning, he sprung, tackling the Hunter around

the midsection and holding tight.

"Impressive, Lexington," the Hunter said. "If you ha' the strength

of the others, you would ha' stopped me." He then dislodged the small

gargoyle with a mild jolt from a lightning gun holstered at his waist.

Momentarily stunned, Lexington tried to stand.

At the same moment, Brooklyn rushed the Hunter from behind,

knocking the gun from his hand. Before the young gargoyle could strike

again, he was tossed into Lexington, and the two fell in a heap. Before

they could rise, the man fired another gun. In moments the three gargoyles

were trapped under an electrified net similar to the ones MacBeth used the

first time they met.

"I've reduced the charge significantly. I dinnae want to hurt you,

but I canna have you interferin'. The current will cut off in two minutes,

which should be enough time for me to get away!" As he finished speaking,

he snatched up his gun and leapt over the side of the roof. By the time the

trio could safely remove the net, there was no sign of him.

"Oh, great. Goliath's gonna love this." Brooklyn said. "I don't get

it, why would he dress up like the Hunter, but leave us alone?"

"Because he isn't really the Hunter, and he wasn't after us." Lex

said, examining the net. "He was going to shoot Castaway, and he knew

who we were. Did you guys see his gun?"

"Yeah," Broadway answered. "Just like MacBeth's."

"Or Mark's." Brooklyn finished. "I just hope the others are having

better luck than us. Let's get back to the castle."

The three winged shapes jumped off the rooftop, and headed back

to the castle.

*****

As the trio returned to the castle, they could see that Goliath and

Hudson were waiting for them. Landing, Brooklyn walked over to Goliath,

head bowed slightly.

"Brooklyn? What happened?" Goliath asked, looking concerned.

"We ah, well, we lost him." Brooklyn admitted. Both Lexington

and Broadway looked downcast at that. "We tried, but he just had us outclassed.

I don't know who he was, but it's like he fought gargoyles before."

The lavender gargoyle looked down at his second. "It's not your fault,

Brooklyn."

"Where's Angie?" Broadway asked, looking around.

"Where do ya think, lad? She's visitin' her stepfather." Hudson

answered.

*****

Angela landed softly on the terrace. Since the lights were on, she

assumed he was home. After all, that was the signal they had worked out.

Hearing a sound inside, she walked in. It was coming from the bathroom.

Since the door was wide open, she peered in cautiously, to see Mark pulling

a shirt on. Such behavior was normal, of course, but the large bruises on his

ribs were not. She then watched as he put a small amulet with a red jewel

into a small metal box and closed it. He then turned around and noticed

her.

"Angela! It's good to see you!" he said, embracing her and kissing

her cheek gently.

She hugged him back, more gently than usual, considering his ribs.

Mark noticed immediately.

"What's wrong, kiddo? Don't you love your stepfather anymore?"

he teased.

"No, it's just ... well I saw ..." she said, trying to be tactful.

"The bruises? Don't worry about them. They'll be healed in an

hour or so. I got them convincing some less-than-honorable youths that I

wanted to keep my money."

"You were mugged?" she asked.

"Not really. As the saying goes, you should see the other guys. I

sent them packing." He smiled at her. "You sound worried."

Angela smiled back, flushing a little. "Of course I do! You and

Father and the others look out for me, so it seems only fair to be concerned

about you."

"Thank you, but you know I'd be all right, no matter what happened."

"What's in the box?" she asked, gesturing towards the small metal

container she saw earlier.

"That? Oh, just some old junk." he answered.

"Can I see it?"

Mark looked at her a moment, saw her hopeful expression, and

relented. Opening the box, he pulled out the amulet and handed it to her.

Turning it over in her hand, she scrutinized it carefully. The long

metal chain seemed to be made of iron, but the stone itself was magnificent!

It was blood red in color, mounted on a golden disc. The border of the disc

was inscribed with bizarre sigils of a type she barely recognized. They were

Fae!

"What is this?" she asked again. "These characters look like things

we saw on Avalon!"

"I don't really know, Angela. It was a gift from a woman many

centuries ago."

"Mother?" she asked, hope swelling in her.

"No, someone else. Someone who I haven't seen in a long, long time."

Mark put the item back into the box and shut it.

Angela noticed his expression. "You don't want to talk about it, do you?"

"Not really, Angela."

She nodded quietly. "All right. Mark?"

"Yes?"

"Has Elisa told you about the attack last night?"

"You mean the Hunter?"

Angela nodded quietly.

"Yes, Elisa told me. Don't worry, Angela. I won't let anything happen

to you."

"I'm not worried about myself, but what if he should attack Mother, or

you?"

Mark gently kissed her on the forehead. "I'll survive, like I always have.

Don't worry about Demona, either. From what Elisa said, this man is after the

Quarrymen, and I wish him the best of luck."

"Mark, please don't say that. I know you don't mean it." she said.

"Angela, you just don't understand. You're young, sheltered, and you

just don't see what's going on. Not all people are as altruistic as Elisa, most

humans hate anything different. The Quarrymen are the worst examples of

humanity. They would destroy you simply because you exist."

"But they don't understand what we are. They aren't evil, just ignorant."

she protested.

"Enough of them do know. Angela, humans fight and prey on each other

constantly. That has never changed, even after gargoyles faded into obscurity.

Even if they were educated, do you really think they would accept you? Some

might, yes, but most wouldn't."

"Mark, I think I should go." Angela said, turning to leave, tears in her

eyes. "I'll come back when you aren't so angry ..."

"Angela, wait." Mark said, putting a hand on her shoulder hesitantly.

The young gargoyle stopped, turning back to look at him, visibly upset.

"Angela, I want you to remember something. No matter what happens,

I will *always* love you, understand?"

She nodded, hugging him tightly. He held her close for a moment

before letting her go. Standing on the terrace, he watched her glide back to her

home atop the Eyrie Building.

*****

Angela landed softly in the stone courtyard of the castle. She wished

Mark had told her what was bothering him. Something had certainly gotten him

angry, but what? Seeing Brooklyn and Broadway talking with Goliath, she decided

to join them.

As she approached, Goliath looked up and saw her. "Angela, the trio

encountered the Hunter tonight. It seems that his quarrel may be with Castaway

himself."

"How do you know that?" she asked.

"Because he nearly gave the guy a terminal case of lead poisoning."

Brooklyn quipped.

Quickly, Angela was filled in on the trio's encounter. Her eyes widened

as she heard about the fight. It felt as if her blood had become like ice in her

veins. Surely the Hunter couldn't be Mark! Looking up at her father, she spoke.

"Goliath, we need to talk ..."

*****

"You're *sure* this information is genuine?" Elisa asked, looking the

Illuminati report over again. No matter how many times she read it, she

couldn't believe what she was seeing.

"Why would they lie?" Matt asked. "I've been over it a dozen times.

The Illuminati is convinced that Mark Flyer is the Hunter, and that he's some

kind of immortal!"

Elisa sighed, hoping she wouldn't regret what she was about to tell

him. "Matt, he, he is immortal. He told me so himself a few months ago."

Matt's eyes widened. "What? Just how many little secrets do you

have?" he asked in amazement.

Elisa smiled at him. "That's pretty much the end of them, except

for the Avalon trip. Still, have you read all this? Some of it is amazing!"

Matt handed her another thick batch of papers. "You haven't read

the best part. This might explain why he attacked the Quarrymen. It's a

damn shame I can't use any of this, we could bust the whole group right

now!"

Elisa took the new stack of reports and bean to read. She was

astounded by what she was seeing! Apparently the Illuminati had known

about him since 1073, the year he and Demona had built Unity Keep.

They had been content to merely keep tabs on the immortal for quite

some time, observing quietly and gathering information. She was relieved

to see that the Illuminati was aware only that Mark was possessed of

immortality, and knew nothing of the conditions of how he acquired

it.

Their first official contact with him came in Scotland in 1365.

Mark had wandered much of Europe, searching for Demona. It seemed

that he was not the only one who had lost track of her, as the Illuminati

themselves made no mention of her whereabouts. Mark had been offered

a high-ranking position within the secretive society, and had been one of

the few to reject the invitation.

The reports went on to say that another effort was made in 1780,

in Great Britain. Again, membership was offered and refused. By this

time, Mark had been deemed a serious threat to the organization. In the

four-hundred years since they had first spoken with him, the immortal had

been quietly gathering his own information on the Illuminati, enough to

know more about them than any non-member to date.

While the official recommendation was to leave matters as they

were, things took a turn for the worse in 1923, when a lower-echelon

member, eager to enhance him own reputation, attempted to kidnap Mark

to learn the secrets of his immortality. The act cost over fifty members their

lives when the immortal "refused" to remain at their facility. Elisa winced

Unlike most threats to the organization, Mark posed an entirely

new problem. He couldn't simply be killed to ensure silence, and he had

twice refused membership. They could attempt to reveal his immortality

to the world, since he would very likely end up in some laboratory somewhere

if such facts were made public, but this would have a severe price. It was

estimated that, by 1923, Mark had acquired intimate knowledge of the

membership and locations of at least 15% of the Illuminati, and could deal

them a severe blow in retribution.

It went on to say that the power of the Illuminati rested largely with

the organization's secrecy. While powerful men and women were what gave

them their strength, the fact that these people enjoyed total secrecy to assist

the organization added to it. If Mark revealed what he knew, the group

would be crippled, and it would take hundreds of years to rebuild

themselves.

A third offer of membership was offered in 1924, largely to

smooth over relations. While the offer was refused, a compromise was

reached, one that allowed both parties to continue their own agendas

without interruption. Since conflict would be costly to both sides, regardless

of who won, a truce was called. The Illuminati would leave Mark alone,

completely. They would not interfere with him, directly or indirectly,

which tended to protect anyone he associated with. In return, Mark would

keep whatever information he possessed of the Illuminati private.

Things went smoothly after that, even with Mark's arrival in

Manhattan back in 1996. Despite Xanatos' Illuminati membership, his

clash with the immortal was not deemed a violation of the truce. The

only potential problem the report noted made Elisa's eyes widen.

She read the passage over and over, not believing it.

'Illuminati funding for the Quarrymen project may have violated

the pact formed in 1924 with the man currently known as Mark Flyer.

There is no suggested course of action at present.' It seemed like the

Quarrymen were being bankrolled by the Illuminati!

This clinched things, considering the targets of the Hunter's

attacks, and this new information from the report, Mark *had* to be

the Hunter.

Elisa shut the report quickly, which attracted Matt's attention.

"Hard to believe, isn't it?" he said. "All this information, and

we can't use, or prove, any of it."

The detective nodded quietly. "All this talk about secret

societies, I just can't ..."

"Take it easy, partner. Maybe we can still reach him, before

it gets worse." Matt said, trying to reassure Elisa. Personally, he doubted

it. If Mark wanted to carry out his vendetta, it was going to be tough to

stop him without somehow getting the gargoyles involved. Even then,

there were no guarantees.

"Matt, I have to take this Goliath and the others, soon." Elisa

said.

"Yeah, I kinda figured that. Still, it'll be daylight soon, will

you have time?" Matt asked.

"Not tonight, no, but I have to be there tomorrow night, right

when they wake up." Elisa replied.

"Are you going to try and stop him?"

"No, not alone. This anger has been a long time coming.

Goliath told me how angry he was when everyone thought I was

dead. Whatever Mark's been holding back, it's eating away at him,

probably has been for centuries."

"How do you figure that?"

"It's all he talks about lately. When the Quarrymen first

appeared, he tried to live with it, to wait for it to die down, but it

never did. He told me how humanity is always fighting, how we

never change. Mark's seen so much of the worst in humanity over

the centuries, I think he's forgotten the good. Maybe I can get some

help ..."

*****

John Castaway paced the floor of his office angrily. His

agents had been unable to tell him anything about the Hunter. Even

more unsettling was the broken rifle found on a nearby rooftop. The

sniper sight on it seemed to imply that *someone* had tried to kill

him!

Just then his phone rang. Picking up the receiver, he snapped

at the caller. "Yes? Who is it?"

"Now, John, is that any way to talk to an old friend?" the voice

answered. It was male, and possessed of a Scottish accent!

"Who the hell are you?" John demanded. Quickly, he typed a

few commands on the computer nearby. If he could keep this person

on the phone long enough ...

"Don't bother tryin' to trace me, lad. I'm nae stupid, I've

relayed this through enough other lines to keep you searchin' for

months."

John frowned angrily. "What do you want?"

"I want to end this, once and for all. Meet me where you took

everything from me, at what's left of the old Cathedral. Come alone."

"All right, I'll be there. When?" John replied. He had no intention

of coming alone, but there was no reason to tell this man that.

"Tomorrow, just before sunset. I would nae want any gargoyles

interfering. You can understand that, can't ye, Jon Canmore?" The signal

went dead as the Hunter hung up the receiver.

John's eyes widened. Whoever it was, they knew everything about

him. Still, he now had a time and place. Soon, very soon, and he would

remove this nuisance. Then the Demon and all her abominable kind would

be destroyed.

*****

Mark hung the receiver up quietly. Two paths had laid before him

for centuries, the open hand and the sword. He had tried, truly tried to

embrace peace, to gently nudge humanity towards peaceful coexistence

with gargoyles. He had failed, and that failure had cost him his child, his

wife, virtually everything he touched. The grass-roots movement of the

Quarrymen had proven that humanity simply seemed incapable of tolerance.

The sword was the only option left. If humanity could not police itself, then

he would do it for them.

He could see the rays of the sun just starting to creep over the horizon,

and smiled slightly. If all went well, the next time the gargoyles awakened,

they would be safe. Without Castaway, Jon Canmore's new identity, the

Quarrymen would fall into disarray. If they persisted, they would join their

leader, and be destroyed.

Mark clenched his fists angrily at the thought. He would see to

it that no other gargoyle died because of them, no matter the cost!

Elisa had likely figured things out by now. He was surprised that

she hadn't brought the gargoyles here already. After all, he knew that Matt

had received a report from the Illuminati, and he had a pretty good idea what

that report said. It didn't really matter, since the Illuminati would be dealt

with soon anyway. Bankrolling the Quarrymen had been their last mistake.

Half-hearted attempts like using the Hotel Cabal to capture Goliath had been

easy enough to ignore, but nearly inciting a race war was not!

He changed and settled in to get some sleep. Soon his plans would

be set in motion, and he would have revenge on all who had hurt him.

*****

Elisa had ultimately decided to ignore her own advice, pulling up

to the Manhattan Arms hotel. It was nearly five in the afternoon, almost

one hour until sunset. Maybe, just maybe, she could reach Mark, stop him

from making a terrible mistake.

Racing through the lobby, she passed Peter, one of the regular

employees, and ducked into the private elevator. Pressing the single button

inside, she waited as the doors slid shut.

When they re-opened, she walked down the corridor to Mark's

private suite, and knocked at the door. There was no answer.

"Mark? Are you here?" she asked, straining to hear any sound

from within. There was no reply, no sound at all. That was odd, she

had called the hotel, and they said he had never left. It was just like

the attack two nights ago, Mark had allegedly never left his suite.

Frowning, she checked the door, and found it unlocked. Of

course it would be unlocked, most people never even got to see this

door. He had his own private elevator, and the only other people who ever

came in (besides the gargoyles) was the hotel staff. She remembered Mark

commenting that he rarely locked the door just for that reason.

As she opened the door, she looked around carefully. Nothing.

Almost everything was in the usual place, except for a large sheet of what

looked to be parchment on the table. Walking over to it, she picked the

parchment up and looked it over. Her eyes widened as she read what was

written on it.

Printed in neat black ink was a list. It read:

'JON CANMORE'

'QUARRYMEN'

'ANTON SEVARUIS'

'THAILOG'

'ILLUMINATI'

'WEIRD SISTERS'

Jon's name had a red mark through it, and there were smaller

notations in the margin that made mention of other reports. Presumably

it referred to other sources of information on these individuals.

She then noticed a small manila envelope, addressed to Mark,

but with no return address. It was already open. Her curiosity aroused,

she pulled the contents out.

There were several photos inside. Flipping through the pictures,

she noted that they were all of Dominique Destine, and apparently taken

without her knowledge. From the vantage points of them, they appeared

to be surveillance photographs! Someone had been tailing Demona in her

human form, apparently in and around the Nightstone Building! Each

photo had small crosshairs drawn over her head, probably to show just

how easy it would have been to kill her. The photos had likely come from

Castaway, but there was no way to prove that. This was probably just a

way to bait Mark, and it seemed to have worked far better than expected.

Looking around, her eyes narrowed as she saw his bookcase.

Pulling out the worn Shakespeare tome, she stood back as the secret

door slid away. Walking into his vault, Elisa looked the room over

carefully. When Mark had shown this to the gargoyles, she had paid

special attention to the placement of items. That action was rewarded

as she noted that certain objects were missing.

She noted that Mark's copy of the Grimorum Arcanorum was

missing, as was the steel broadsword he kept on one wall. This was bad,

it meant that Mark was probably planning to use them on the Quarrymen!

Just then, the phone rang. The sudden noise caused her to jump,

and her heart to race. She waited for the phone to stop, and the answering

machine to switch on. The voice she heard startled her almost as much as

the message it relayed.

"Detective Maza, I assume you are there now, searching for Mister

Flyer. If you are, please pick up the phone. I have some news that you

may find of interest."

It was Owen's voice! Somehow, he knew she would come here.

She quickly snatched up the receiver and answered.

"Owen? Hello? Are you still there?" She could feel her heart

pounding in her chest as she awaited a response.

Finally, Xanatos' assistant responded. "Detective, please come

to the castle immediately. It may not yet be too late to stop your friend."

Elisa slammed the phone down and ran to the door.

*****

The large figure stood atop Castle Wyvern, looking the stone

gargoyles over. Dressed in heavy red and black body armor, he made

an imposing figure. It was the Hunter!

Reaching up, the Hunter removed his mask, to reveal the face

of Mark Flyer. Tucking the mask into his belt, he reached out and brushed

Angela's stone cheek lovingly.

"Remember that I will always love you, Angela." he whispered

gently. "You and the others deserve the right to live in peace, and I'll see

to it that you get that chance, no matter the cost."

*****

"Owen! How long has he been there?" Xanatos demanded.

They were in David's office, watching the exchange over one of the video

monitors.

"Approximately fifteen minutes, sir." came the calm response.

Xanatos looked pensive for a moment before answering. "Why

didn't security detect him? And why didn't you stop him?" he finally

asked.

Owen looked back at his employer. "I suspect he has used some

sort of equipment to avoid our systems, sir. As to why I did not attempt

to restrain Mister Flyer, that answer is twofold. First, you see the amulet

he wears?"

"The Heart of Morgan." Xanatos said. It wasn't a question, but

a statement of fact. Everything began to make sense now.

"Exactly, I cannot affect him while he possesses it. Further,

Mister Flyer will likely not view young Alexander as a threat for another

ten years or more, if then. Since Oberon has decreed that I may only use

my powers to defend or instruct Alex, neither exception would seem to

apply." Owen continued.

"Ten years?"

"Yes, sir. Mark will likely need that time to shatter the Quarrymen

and the Illuminati. Both tasks will take considerable effort."

"But why?" Xanatos asked curiously.

"I have known Mister Flyer for some time, and the roots of his anger

stretch back through many centuries. It is an anger that will not easily be

quelled if he fully gives himself over to it."

"And what do you propose we do about it?"

"Nothing, sir. The solution does not involve us. However, I have

contacted Detective Maza, and she is on her way."

David Xanatos smiled. "As always, Owen, you have things well

in hand. I'm sorry I ever doubted you."

"Of course, sir. Thank you, Mister Xanatos."

*****

Elisa raced up the castle stairs, to reach the gargoyles. Owen

had told her that Mark was here, and briefly explained things to her.

The Heart of Morgan made it impossible for Owen to interfere, even if

he had wanted to.

Oberon's spell ensured that Owen could become Puck only to

safeguard or instruct Alex, and Mark's presence alone was insufficient

to fill either provision of the spell. He wasn't currently a threat to the

child, unless he managed to turn public opinion against gargoyles to

the point that the Xanatos family came under assault, nor was he attacking

the child directly.

As she exited the stairs, emerging outside the castle, she could

see Mark standing before the stone gargoyles. It looked like he was talking

to Angela!

She decided to make her presence known. "Mark, she won't forgive

you for this."

Mark barely moved. His body tensed slightly, but he didn't turn

around. "It doesn't matter, she'll be safe. They all will." he said, indicating

the rest of the clan.

Elisa walked over to him, putting a hand on his armored shoulder.

"Don't do this, please. You'll only make it worse, you know that. Killing

Castaway won't solve anything. Let the law handle it."

Mark laughed grimly. "Grow up, Eilsa. You know that isn't true."

"Meaning what?" Elisa said angrily. "Damn it, Mark! I'm sick

and tired of this! What the hell happened to you?" she demanded, whirling

him around.

Mark's eyes met hers, and they locked gazes. "I woke up, Elisa.

Why won't you? Take a good look around you, humanity, for all it's

vaunted society and laws, has learned nothing."

"That's not true ..." Elisa shot back.

"Isn't it? What do you *do* for a living, Elisa? You see what

goes on. You try to preserve order in a world that has supposedly

become civilized. Has it?" he asked.

Then, before she could respond, he continued. "No, nothing

has changed. Humans still fight one another over the slightest difference.

Each other! You humans can't even live together in peace, and you want

me to let humans sort out their problems with the gargoyles? I will not

let it happen again! For nine hundred years I played your game. I tried

to let humanity learn and grow, I let things be, and look at what it has

cost me! I've lost my wife, my child, my home, everything I touch! No

more! If humanity wants a war, then I'll show them how it's done!"

Elisa merely looked back, stunned. "Mark, you can't do this.

Think of Angela. She'll hate you for what you've done."

Mark's response was cold, but direct. "At least she'll be alive

to hate me."

"You're becoming just like Demona. Are you listening to

yourself?" Elisa replied.

Mark laughed again. "Like Demona? Hardly. For the first

time in centuries, my eyes are open! You think Demona hates humanity?

That she hates you? Her own clan? There's one person she hates more

than anyone, Elisa. Herself. She doesn't realize it on a conscious level,

but she blames herself for what happened to her clan. She lashed out at

the most convenient target, humanity, and has been fighting them ever

since."

"Mark, after all the times she's tried to kill me, or Goliath, you

can't believe that."

"She tried, but she never succeeded, did she? Don't you think

that after one thousand years, she would have had some success in

destroying humanity, however minor? Demona won't admit the truth, not

even to herself, she's not ready to accept that yet. She hamstrings her

own plots, holds herself back somehow."

"All right, then. Why are you doing this, then? If Demona is

just deluding herself, then why not help her, and leave Castaway and

his Quarrymen alone?" Elisa asked.

"Have you ever heard the saying; 'Just because you're paranoid

doesn't mean they're not out to get you'? Demona was right, Elisa. All

these years, and she was right! Until humanity can deal with it's own

problems, I sure as hell don't hold out any hope that they will be able to

accept gargoyles. I don't intend to wait until after they've destroyed a few

more clans of gargoyles before they learn, either."

Elisa glanced at her watch. If she could only keep him here a little

longer, the gargoyles would awaken. Maybe he would listen to them, if not

to her.

Mark pulled the mask over his face with determination. "There will

always be a Hunter, Elisa."

No! He was leaving! Moving in front of the doorway to the castle,

Elisa drew her revolver. "Please don't make me use this, Mark." she pleaded.

Mark simply turned and walked to the castle wall. The sound of a

hammer being cocked, presumably from Elisa's gun, rang out. "Go ahead

and shoot me, Elisa." he said. "Kill me if that's what you want, because

that's the only thing that will stop me."

As Elisa lowered her gun, Mark vaulted over the side. In seconds,

he soared off atop a small hovering platform reminiscent of the one Goliath

described being used by one of Xanatos' MacBeth robots. She couldn't

shoot him, not like this. Her heart sank as the figure faded in the distance.

He could be going anywhere in Manhattan.

*****

"All right! Everyone on board!" Castaway shouted.

At his command, a host of Quarrymen, some of the most experienced

on his roster, filed into the three helicopters waiting on the landing pads atop

his building.

Sleek and deadly, these vehicles were bristling with weapons and

heavy armor, fitting chariots for the Quarrymen cause.

John pulled his mask down, turned smartly on his heel, and hauled

himself into the lead ship. As soon as he was aboard, the rotors roared to

life, and the three airships lifted off, flying off in tight formation.

*****

"Damn!" Elisa cursed, waiting for the sun to set. Maybe the

gargoyles could be of some help. Maybe one of them could figure out

where he was going.

Owen's voice startled her. "Can I be of assistance, Detective?"

Elisa nearly jumped out of fright. Damn, but Owen was quiet

when he wanted to be! Determined to save face, she tried not to let her

shock show. "I don't know, Owen. I don't know what to do, where he's

gone, nothing."

"Perhaps this information may be of use. Three heavily armed

helicopters with Quarrymen markings are headed towards the remnants

of St. Damien's Cathedral."

"The Cathedral!" Elisa exclaimed. "Of course, where he lost

Demona!" She continued, in a quieter voice. "And where I stopped

him from killing Jon ..."

Xanatos walked out to speak to Elisa and Owen. "I can always

dispatch a few Steel Clan robots to follow Mark. He did, after all, use

one of my designs for his newest vehicle. It shouldn't be all that hard

to track."

Elisa shook her head. "No, this is something we have to do,

the clan and me. Thank you, Xanatos, but ..."

He merely held up his hand to silence her. "No need for an

apology, Detective. I understand completely. Mark would probably

be less than open-minded right now, and you're not really sure if you

can trust me. Don't worry, the gargoyles will be awake soon."

*****

Mark smiled under his mask. He had known that Castaway

couldn't be trusted to honor an agreement. Good, he thought to himself.

That only made things easier. If these paltry humans wanted a war, than

he would show them how a war was waged. Perhaps then he would see

if they possessed the strength of their convictions.

Flying low, he had avoided the triad of helicopters and arrived

at the Cathedral first. Carefully concealing his hovercraft, Mark gathered

up the items he needed and slipped into the structure. Casting one last glance

at the sky, he noted that there was little time until sunset, perhaps a half-hour at

best.

A few minutes later, all three helicopters touched down lightly just

outside the Cathedral. Approximately thirty Quarrymen exited the vehicles

before they ascended back into the sky and headed back to base.

Castaway stepped forward, brandishing his hammer. "You all know

your assignments, so let's get to it! Alpha Team is with me, Beta Team reports

to Thomas, and Charlie Team will report to Greg. Remember your orders, I

want this man brought to me, alive if possible. And remember, everyone

stays in radio contact, understood?"

A brief murmur of acknowledgment erupted from the crowd.

Mark watched from the shadows, chuckling silently. The fools!

They had no concept of how to fight like this. Their lesson would be brief,

but painful. He carefully opened a large satchel at his waist, sliding the

Grimorum out and opening it to the page he needed.

As one of the groups passed his hiding place, he stepped into view

behind them, holding the book open with one hand and raising his other hand

high.

"Fulmenos venite!"

With the spell completed, a green aura surrounded Mark's raised hand,

and he pointed to his foes.

The Quarrymen whirled as bolts of eldritch lightning raked their ranks.

Then the screaming started.

*****

Thomas heard the screams from his position deeper within the

Cathedral. Damn it! Somehow the Hunter had gotten behind them!

Charging his hammer, he turned towards the screaming, which abruptly

stopped.

"Come on! This way!" he yelled, charging down the corridor

with the rest of Beta Team in tow.

The sight that greeted them was nothing short of horrifying.

Every member of Charlie Team was lying on the ground, unmoving

except to breathe. Thomas crouched by one of the bodies, looking it

over. He was amazed to find small burn marks on the costume, as if

from some massive energy discharge.

His instincts screaming a warning, he stood up, looking for

his unseen foe. "All right, circular formation, weapons out!" he

barked.

Instantly, the Quarrymen complied, charging their hammers

and readying particle beam pistols. Forming a small circle around their

fallen brethren, the vigilantes scanned the room for their foe. Unseen by

all, a lone figure dropped into their midst and lashed out.

Hearing the noise, one of the Quarrymen turned and saw the

Hunter land within their circle. "Look out, he's here!" the man called

out, readying his weapon.

The Hunter struck with brutal precision, felling the Quarryman

with a single blow to the head. As one went down, the others surged in,

swinging their hammers angrily.

Another Quarryman fell, knocked backwards into a wall with a

vicious roundhouse kick that broke ribs. Still another was rendered

unconscious with a sharp blow to the neck. Screaming in rage, another

Quarrymen brought his hammer down with terrific force, trying to cave

the Hunter's skull in.

Expertly, Mark sidestepped the blow, grabbing the man's right

arm. He then wrenched the limb up and back, hard. The snapping of

bone was clearly audible through the fracas as the man screamed in

agony. Mercifully, he lapsed into unconsciousness almost immediately.

Picking up the hammer, Mark charged it. As the head crackled

with power, he slammed it into the arm of another of his foes, shattering

every bone in the Quarryman's arm. As the man went down, Mark

discarded the weapon.

As men fell all around him, Thomas tried to contact Castaway.

"This is Beta Leader to Alpha Leader, over!" he reported. "Subject

located at ..."

*****

John Canmore shifted his hammer from hand to hand nervously.

Where the hell was he? This Hunter, no, he corrected himself, Flyer,

had wanted to meet him, but there was no sign of him. Could he have

seen the helicopters and retreated? Suddenly, he received part of

Thomas' message.

"Say again, Thomas," he replied, abandoning protocol. "Message

incomplete, say again." he repeated. Nothing, the line was dead, he was

only receiving static.

"The Hunter is here!" Castaway announced angrily. His men

perked up, charging their weapons and readying themselves.

*****

Mark was hardly even winded. The few injuries he had suffered,

largely stray shots from the Quarrymen while they were firing wildly, had

completely healed. Only the burns on his costume betrayed the fact that

he had even been hit.

Looking around, he admired his handiwork. Twenty Quarrymen

down. Sorcery made things so much easier, he mused. Much easier than

hand-to-hand fighting, faster certainly, but less satisfying. He was slowing

down in his old age, though. That last batch of ten had taken nearly fifteen

seconds to eliminate. In the old days ... he shook his head. There was time

for reminiscing later. Right now, he had a job to finish. Gathering up the

Grimorum, he tucked it back into his satchel, and headed deeper into the

Cathedral.

*****

Elisa waited with anticipation as the sun disappeared from view,

and the gargoyles awakened. With a roar and a scattering of stone skin,

each gargoyle greeted the night as he or she dismounted from their

position.

Goliath's smile upon seeing his human love faded when he

saw the concern etched in her face. "Elisa, what is wrong?" he asked,

his voice tinged with concern.

"Oh, Goliath! The Hunter, it's ..."

"Mark," he finished quietly, embracing her. "I know, Elisa.

Angela discovered that last night, but it was too close to dawn to be able

to tell you." The other gargoyles crowded around the pair, trying to offer

some kind of support.

"It's worse than that!" Elisa continued. "He's going after Castaway,

tonight! Owen said there were Quarrymen choppers headed towards the

Cathedral. He also said Mark had some kind of amulet to protect him from Faerie

magic. We have to stop him!"

"The amulet you described earlier?" Goliath asked, looking at Angela.

The young gargoyle merely nodded silently.

"Did I miss something?" Elisa asked.

"Angela has told us what happened last night when she visited Mark Flyer.

She mentioned an amulet with Fae writings on it. Mark has learned from Demona's

defeat, his amulet must protect him from the Weird Sisters."

"Which explains why they asked you to help them!" Brooklyn exclaimed.

"Yes, somehow, we must find a way to end the cycle of vengeance, tonight,

before Mark Flyer's actions destroy us all." Goliath said.

"How?" Elisa asked. "He told me that the only way to stop him was to

kill him. How can you stop him?"

Goliath shook his head sadly. "I don't know, Elisa. Mark's wounds

apparently ran deeper than any of us realized. It would seem that he never

got over the death of his child, that he merely buried that pain deep, and let

it fester. Losing Demona for a second time, reliving the anti-gargoyle hatreds

that lead to the loss of his son, it must have brought all that pain to the

surface."

"Goliath, we have to stop him." Brooklyn said. "If we don't, Mark's

intentions, good or not, are gonna get us all killed!"

"Take it easy, lad." Hudson said, putting a hand on Brooklyn's

shoulder. "Goliath's right. No matter how much we want to help, Mark

isn't going to listen to reason. Right, Goliath?"

The lavender gargoyle nodded. "Yes, when I wanted to kill the

Hunters, that was *all* that mattered." He put an arm around Angela

and smiled at her. "I was concerned for my daughter, and that was more

important than anything. I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors that

Mark has seen, or what he feels he is preventing now. Nonetheless, we

will go to him."

"What about Mother?" Angela asked. "He might listen to her."

Brooklyn frowned. "Yeah, right. Even if we knew where to

find her at night, how could we trust her?"

"That is enough, Brooklyn." Goliath said. He then looked back

at Angela. "We cannot enlist her help, Angela. Brooklyn is right, we

don't know where she is."

Elisa spoke up. "Asking Demona is a bad idea. She would

probably encourage him. Besides, it's largely his concern for her, and

for you, that prompted all of this. Seeing her again could make things

even worse, especially if Castaway sees her."

Angela looked away, hurt by Elisa's words. No matter what

Elisa said, she knew in her heart that her mother could reform, and

that she loved Mark still.

"Take it easy, Angela." Broadway said reassuringly. "We'll

get through to him, I promise."

Angela smiled weakly. She knew that her love was only trying

to comfort her, but she appreciated the effort. "Thanks, Broadway."

Owen walked into their midst, carrying a small device that

resembled an electronic compass, complete with LED display. "I believe

this may be of some use," he said, handing the device to Lexington.

"What's it tracking?" Lexington asked, scrutinizing the device.

"Mister Flyer's vehicle. Since it was a Xanatos design, and

currently the only one in service to our knowledge, it should lead you

to him. Mister Xanatos felt that it was the least he could do." Owen

replied.

"The very least." Brooklyn muttered.

"No, Brooklyn," Elisa said. "I asked him to keep out of

this. Don't blame Xanatos."

The young second hung his head slightly. "Sorry."

"Come, let us go to the Cathedral." Goliath said, gathering

Elisa in his arms. "Tell Xanatos that we appreciate his help." he said

to Owen.

"And I'll be stayin' to guard the castle, lad." Hudson said,

patting Bronx lovingly.

"Very well, old friend." Goliath answered.

The five gargoyles, accompanied by one human, swooped

off into the night.

As Hudson watched them glide away, he turned to Bronx.

"Stay and guard the castle, boy. I have someone I must see."

As Bronx whined and paced at the castle wall, Hudson leapt

off the tower and headed upstate. He hoped that this last option would

work. If it didn't, there would be dark days ahead for them all ...

*****

The doors to the inner chamber, where Demona had once nearly

destroyed humanity, fairly exploded off their hinges. The pair of Quarrymen

nearest to the doors were thrown across the room. Both hit the wall with

considerable force, and slumped to the ground.

The Hunter strode in, one hand held high. As the rest of the

Quarrymen moved to protectively shield their leader, he spoke.

"Fulmenos venite!"

The bursts of magical energy scattered the Quarrymen like

leaves in a whirlwind, tossing them around like rag dolls. In seconds,

it was over. All of Castaway's team lay unconscious around him. Oddly

enough, he himself was untouched.

Castaway braced himself for a magical attack. To his surprise,

the Hunter merely closed the arcane tome and placed it to one side. The

loud boom it made when it was shut was further enhanced by the echoing

quality of the empty halls.

The Hunter spoke, the Scottish accent from earlier now completely

gone. "You should feel honored, John. I haven't used sorcery in over three

hundred years."

"You're no sorcerer!" Castaway spat angrily. "And how dare you

sully that uniform!"

The Hunter laughed, echoes booming throughout the chamber.

"True enough, I'm no sorcerer, but destructive magics take so little practice

to master ... not like the spell that imprisoned the gargoyles. No, magic on

that scale is well beyond me. Destruction is easy, but creation ... that's

entirely different. Why, even *you* could handle that minor spell, if

you had a mind to." He then looked down at his uniform in mock surprise.

"This? Why, John, I thought you of all people would appreciate it!"

Now that the Hunter was standing in full light, Castaway could see

every little detail. The uniform was an exact replica of the one Jason had

once worn, albeit a little smaller, since Mark wasn't as large.

A large satchel was at his waist, presumably where that damned

magic book had been hidden. Slightly below that was the lightning gun

that he had before. He wore a strange amulet around his neck, with a large

red stone in the center. He also had a sheathed sword at his waist, on his

hip.

"Damn you!" Castaway hissed. "You aren't fit to wear that uniform!"

he roared, charging his hammer angrily. Powerful arcs of electricity began to

play across the head of the weapon.

"You should have stayed away, Canmore," Mark said menacingly.

"Did you really think that a name change and accent would fool me? Elisa

had convinced me to let you live, despite my personal misgivings. I was even

willing to overlook your little Quarrymen movement, even with your choice

of financial ... partners, but you had to persist, didn't you?" Mark drew his

sword, the steely rasp as the blade was pulled from the scabbard ringing

throughout the room.

As both men advanced slowly, Canmore ripped his hood off.

"That abomination? I wanted you to know just how easily I could get to

her, to know that I knew the truth!"

"The *truth*? The truth is that your damned family has tormented

her for centuries! Small wonder that she hates humanity! Your father

deserved what he got! All any of you had to do was to walk away, to

abandon the Hunt, but you didn't. You crippled your own brother over it!"

Mark retorted furiously.

"And you took up with an inhuman monster!" Canmore shot

back. "You turned your back on your own kind for a, a beast!" Jon had

lapsed back into his native Scottish brogue, even as Mark had abandoned

his.

With a roar, the two men hurled themselves at each other.

Sparks flew as steel sword met high-tech hammer in a battle not just

of men, but of will and ideology. Mark drove Canmore back with a

flurry of thrusts and feints, bringing his sword down hard, only to

have it parried by the haft of Canmore's hammer.

Jon responded swiftly, bringing his hammer down in a deadly

arc, only to have it parried by Mark's blade. Once again, the two warriors,

the two Hunters, threw themselves against each other in battle.

"I wonder," Jon taunted, "if yuir beloved Demon is nearly

as resilient by day? Perhaps I'll send some Quarrymen ta test tha'

theory out."

Mark roared in anger, slashing wildly with his sword. His

swipe missed the Hunter-turned-Quarryman, and scored the wall

beside him.

Gone were all the pretenses of noble combat. This was no

longer a simple skirmish that would end in defeat, but rather a terrible

brawl that would end in a fatality, unless someone or something

intervened.

Within minutes, the two found themselves on the roof of

the Cathedral, still locked in deadly combat.

Canmore brought his hammer down yet again, and Mark

parried, bringing his blade just under the charged head of the

weapon. With a shove, Mark forced him back, freeing their weapons

in a shower of sparks. Both men raised their weapons simultaneously,

bringing them together with terrific force!

The raw power of the blow staggered both men, but Mark's

ancient sword failed him. The impact shattered the steel blade, with

shards of the metal exploding outward.

For Mark, it was as if time itself had stopped. Looking at the

fragments of the blade as they fell, he saw images from his past, as if

unbidden memories had been recalled.

He saw Demona, that first night they had met, the firelight

playing off her beautiful blue skin. Yet another sliver suspended in

the air showed him a vision of his son, shattered and broken, lying

on the castle courtyard. Another fragment summoned an image of

Demona, stunningly beautiful in her stone sleep. Still another showed

a new visage of Demona, this one of her as the redheaded reporter at the

airport.

Then, the moment was lost, and reality reasserted itself. As

Mark hefted his now-useless weapon, barely a foot of blade left on the

hilt, Canmore brought his hammer down on an unprotected knee. It

felt as if every nerve in his leg screamed in agony as the weapon struck

and bone shattered. Mark fell to his good knee, struggling to regain his

footing, and biting back the pain.

An insane glint in his eyes, Jon Canmore raised his weapon high.

"Now nothing can stop me from completing the Hunt!" he cried. "The

Demon will be destroyed, and her damnable clan with her! Now it

ends!"

Mark's eyes, which had been squeezed shut in an effort to

fight back the pain, snapped open. He couldn't let Canmore win

tonight! If he did, what would become of Angela and her clan, or

of Demona? No, he couldn't fail, not again!

Ignoring the white-hot pain in his leg, Mark pulled his fist

back, and then rammed it into Jon's midsection with all of the strength

he could muster. He felt bone give under his blow, likely a broken rib

or two. As Canmore doubled over in pain, the hammer clattering to

the roof, Mark stood.

Although his knee and leg were already beginning to heal,

the pain was considerable. Rage and adrenaline coursed through the

immortal, and with a strength born of that anger, he grabbed Castaway

by the throat, holding him over the side.

"Yes! Now it ends!" Mark hissed angrily.

*****

Goliath and the others had nearly reached the Cathedral when

they saw the figures on the roof. Angling his wings for a rapid descent,

Goliath swooped in closer, hoping to intervene before Mark did something

he would forever regret.

"You three," he said, indicating the trio. "Go in through the main

entrance, in case there are more Quarrymen."

"Gotcha!" Brooklyn replied. The three gargoyles split off, leaving

Angela and Goliath, and landed at the front of the Cathedral.

Opening the doors carefully, they crept in, looking around for any

signs of reinforcements.

*****

Mark's grip tightened on Jon's throat. The Quarryman uniform

was too heavily armored to be able to throttle him, but enough to hold onto

tightly. As he prepared to drop the man off the roof, he heard the rush of

air against wings, and the sound of two bodies landing near him.

"Mark, do not do this," Goliath's voice said.

"Hello, Goliath." Mark replied. "I assume Elisa and Angela are

with you? Forgive me for not being more polite, but I have some business

to attend to."

"Mark, you can't do this!" Elisa said, coming forward.

Without even turning around, Mark answered her. "Give me one

good reason not to drop him!"

Elisa's blood ran cold in her veins. They were the same words

Goliath said years ago, when he had threatened to kill Xanatos! She had

managed to appeal to the gargoyle's better nature by showing him how

much like Demona he would become, but that wasn't going to work with

Mark, not now.

Goliath stepped forward, gently placing his hand on Elisa's

shoulder to reassure her. "You cannot do this, my friend. I understand

your anger, but killing him will only make things worse for my clan ..."

"Aye, fool, kill me!" Canmore spat angrily. "I will be a martyr

to the Quarrymen, and there will be nowhere for those abominations to

run!"

Mark looked back at Elisa and the gargoyles, and then at Canmore.

Without warning, he reversed the sword in his other hand, and slammed the

pommel into Canmore's jaw. The impact of the blow knocked the man out,

and Mark placed him on the roof roughly.

"There," he said. "Goliath, there *is* no other way. You know that."

"No!" Angela shouted. "This isn't like you, Mark. You can't just

kill him ..."

"Angela, you just don't understand, none of you do. How could

you?" Mark replied with tired resignation.

Just then the trio made their way up to the roof.

"Goliath, there are a lot of Quarrymen down there, all unconscious."

Brooklyn reported.

"Yeah, and some of 'em are really hurt, too." Broadway added.

"Is that how you intend to 'protect' us?" Goliath rumbled, looking at

the immortal. "By cutting a swathe of bloody vengeance through these

men?"

"Yes, Goliath! I have *tried* to let humans sort out their problems,

and they cannot! I won't watch more gargoyles be slaughtered, and if than

means destroying the Quarrymen, than so be it!"

"And when does it end?" Elisa asked. "The Quarrymen? The

Illuminati? Sevarius? My God, Mark, even the Weird Sisters? What has

happened to you?"

Mark ripped the Hunter mask off, his features twisted in rage.

"I will have vengeance for my pain, all of humanity will pay for what

they have taken from me!"

The gargoyles looked back in stunned silence. It was what Demona

had said before she had nearly killed Goliath. What could have changed him

so much?

"Mark, if you do kill him, if you kill every man who wears the

Quarryman insignia, do you *really* think you'll be doing the gargoyles a

favor? All of Manhattan will be crying for their blood, and you will be

to blame!" Elisa said.

"Then I will kill them as well, and those who would follow them!"

Mark said.

"And when does it end?" Elisa pleaded. "A hundred, a thousand?

When are the scales balanced for your son?"

"As many as it takes, Elisa." Mark replied. "When humanity can

leave gargoyles in peace, I will stop."

"No!!" Goliath roared. "Kill him if you wish, we will not interfere,

but do not use us as an excuse! You seek revenge, nothing more! You once

tried to stop me from doing the same, my friend, end the cycle, before it

begins."

The other gargoyles looked at Goliath in shock.

"What do you mean, 'we won't interfere'?" Elisa said.

Goliath took her hand. "We cannot force him to stop, he must

choose for himself."

Mark looked back at the gargoyles, and down at Jon Canmore.

He was at the crossroads, the sword, or the open hand.

Angela spoke again, tears in her eyes. "Mark, please stop this.

You're not a killer."

"Angela, I can't. It has to end, tonight. He won't stop until you,

your mother, and your clan have all been destroyed." The sword, he told

himself. Only the sword could protect the gargoyles now.

"But you're better than that! You always said that you regretted

what Mother did. How can you do this?" Angela asked.

"No! I'm sorry you can't understand that, Angela, but humanity

has to be stopped, before they destroy you!" Mark said.

Another gargoyle landed on the roof, behind Mark. A new voice

rang out, one with a thick Scottish accent.

"Aye, lad. And perhaps you truly believe that, and it will soothe

your conscience for a century or two, but what then?"

Mark turned, it was MacBeth! Apparently, Hudson had brought

the other immortal here.

"What do you want, MacBeth?" Mark asked angrily.

"I'm not here to fight, lad, but to make you see what you are doing.

Of the three of us, you managed to avoid the cycle of vengeance. Don't

throw it all away now ..."

"You can say that, after all you've seen! Humanity can't live with

itself, and you want me to let them learn to live with gargoyles?" Mark

was astounded. He had expected such a naive response from Elisa and the

gargoyles, but from MacBeth?

"Aye, because it's not our choice. You'll only bring death down

on these gargoyles if you kill him, you will be responsible for the very

thing you sought to avoid. What comfort will that bring you, when you

are truly alone, when you must face the truth?"

"No! The humans took everything from me! I won't let them take

any more, no matter the cost!" Mark screamed.

MacBeth looked him in the eye. "You know better than that, lad.

You stand at the edge of a great abyss. Kill him, and you cast yourself into

it, and it may take centuries to redeem yourself, just like Demona."

"No, Demona was forced; by you, by others, by humans! Always

the humans!"

"And you? Is that what humanity has done to you, turned you

against your own kind?" Elisa asked.

"I stopped being human the moment those Fae witches cast their

spell on me." Mark cursed.

"And that justifies what you've become?" Elisa replied. "If you

kill him, than you'll be no better than the men who killed your own son!

Is that what you want!" Elisa hoped this would work. If she pushed him

too hard, he could snap, and turn on them.

Goliath spoke softly, but with determination. "'He piled upon the

whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his

whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he

burst his hot heart's shell upon it.'"

Mark laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, *very* clever, Goliath. But this

Ahab has caught his whale, and without losing his leg."

"Not all wounds are of the body, my friend. Some score the soul more

deeply than one could imagine." the gargoyle rumbled. "He is there, Mark.

Kill him, end your torment, if you can. But who will you blame when you find

yourself alone, forever? MacBeth is right, *you* will be responsible for

our deaths, as surely as if you killed us yourself."

"NO!" Mark screamed angrily. "What have they done to ..." Finally he

realized the truth, that he was becoming the very thing he fought to prevent.

He was becoming that which had destroyed his beloved son. Mark's rage flushed

from him in an instant. He paled, and closed his eyes. "No," he said sadly.

"What have *I* done? What have I become?" Opening his eyes, he stared down at

his hands, the hands that had nearly brought death down on his beloved Angela,

on the entire clan. Mark sank to his knees, despair washing over him. "Dear

God, what have I become?"

Angela rushed to his side. "It's all right, Mark, it's all right.

You stopped yourself, it's over now." She hugged him tightly, to reassure

him.

Mark looked up, tears in his eyes. "I only wanted you to be

safe, Angela. I only wanted you to be safe ..."

She smiled down at him. His madness had passed, thankfully.

"I want you around for a long time. Who else can I trust to look after the

children I'll have someday?" she sniffled, hugging him.

As Mark and Angela embraced, Goliath walked over to Hudson.

"Excellent work, old friend, but whatever possessed you to seek

MacBeth's aid?"

Hudson chuckled. "Because of what Angela suggested about

Demona. MacBeth is much like Mark, and we know we can trust him.

That, and I knew where to find MacBeth."

"What about Sleeping Beauty?" Brooklyn asked, thumbing towards

Canmore.

Elisa smiled. "Let me take care of him and his friends. It's not

much, but a trespassing charge might stick, and I doubt Canmore will

want to press charges on Mark. He'd have to admit his relationship to

the Quarrymen."

*****

Back at Mark's suite, he and the gargoyles were making their

peace.

"I'm sorry for what nearly happened, Goliath." Mark said,

extending his hand. "If you want me to leave your clan alone, I'll

understand." Mark was still shaken. It had been so *easy*, seemed so

right for him to kill Canmore. He had nearly lost everything.

Goliath smiled. "No apologies are needed, my friend.

Your wounds ran deep, but you stopped, before you started. We

will always be here for you, all you need do is ask." The gargoyle

was still concerned. A thousand years of pain and agony had come to

a head, and the explosion had been averted, but the wounds were still

fresh. Mark needed time to heal, and Goliath swore that he would be

there to help his human friend, not to lose him to revenge and anger as

he had lost Demona.

The two shook hands as the clan, conspicuously minus

Angela, looked on.

*****

From a nearby rooftop, Demona watched in shadow.

Her suspicions had been correct. Mark had taken up the mantle

of the Hunter. Thankfully, he had been stopped before he brought

death down on the clan. As she turned to leave, a familiar figure

stood in her path.

"Angela?" she asked.

"Hello, Mother!" she said lovingly. "You still care for

him, don't you? That's why you came."

Demona embraced her daughter. "Perhaps another time. It's

been a long night, and ..."

"Go to him, Mother. He needs you. Elisa said that it was

because of his concern for you that he acted."

"I ... will consider it." she said. "He needs you too,

Angela, more than you know."

Demona swooped off into the night, as Angela took wing to

see her stepfather. Neither gargoyle saw the brief flash of light as three

beautiful women appeared, each clad in long white robes.

Selene, the raven-haired beauty, spoke first. "The balance has

been restored."

"And not a moment too soon." Luna, the platinum blonde, said.

"Yes, now our plans may go forth unimpeded." Phoebe, the

golden blonde, finished.

Their cryptic aside complete, the three disappeared in a flash

of light, as quickly as they appeared.

*****

End of Part III - to be continued.

Goliath's quote, for those who didn't recognize it, was from "Moby Dick",

by Herman Melville.