In the Gloaming
A Gargoyles Story
by Nancy Brown (nancy@tooloud.northco.net)
copyright 1995, 2001

Disney owns everything, including my computer.



During the lazy afternoon, she dreamed.

She was young again in her dream, younger than she had been in
a thousand years. A woman stood over her, protectively, her wide
wings encircling the whole universe. She knew it to be her mother,
although whenever she tried to consciously pull the memory from her
mind, she would grasp only shadows. Her mother was beautiful, more
so than any other, her pale blue skin translucent in the brightness
of the full moon and her hair the color of human blood.

She heard the voice in her dream, as she had but a dozen times
during her long loneliness, whispering that all would be well, that
she would be back to the castle by daybreak, that their human
friends needed her just this once. The voice was soft but
powerful, with the strength of mountains and the soul of the ocean.
She had loved that voice.

The voice had ended abruptly, caught up in the rush of wings
that would never glide back to the safe darkness of the rookery to
comfort a tiny girl. The old one had told her that, holding on his
bent knee and gently stroking her hair. He had promised her that
she would never be alone, that their kind always protected one
another, that they were her family. She had run from him then,
striking impotently against his gentle arms until he had let her
run free into the night. She had not wanted his touch. She wanted
her mother.

She remembered running, and in her dream she could feel the
wind against her face as she ran up the stairs to where the guards
keep watch. Humans, most of them had been, and they pulled away,
startled at the sight of an impossible child. She jumped onto the
ledge and spread her wings. The old one was lying. She'd go find
her mother.

She fell.

Madly, she bade her wings catch the air as she'd seen the
adults do with such ease. Her mother had taken her out to fly
before, clutched against her back, and she tried the same way she'd
been taught: head high, arms out for balance, wings lifted and just
across the wind. She continued to plummet.

The ground came at her like a vindictive god, offering to
merge her spirit with those of the stones below, who were her
kinsmen too. She closed her eyes.

Fingers, thick and very strong, grasped her arms and pulled
her up into the sky. She opened her eyes, but could see nothing
but the soaring landscape. They turned back towards the top, and
she saw the looks on the faces of the guards, who had watched a
child jump to certain death and had not thought to stop her.

Carefully, they touched down upon the castle wall. The hands
still held her firmly, but with love.

"Lass," said the old one, "that be no way for ye to learn to
fly. Ye need to be bigger in the wing," he brushed her small
wings, "and calmer in the heart." He placed a finger against the
fluttering in her chest. "The gargoyle who flies when she's hurt
can never soar with the moon."

The old one kneeled down and placed his arms around her.
"You're hurting now, lass, more than ye ever thought possible. But
it will pass. I promise ye." He seemed so big then, and when she
finally wrapped her tiny arms around his neck, she was not able to
reach quite around. He lifted her, and she held on tighter, afraid
to let go, afraid to fall away again.

Past the still faces of the guards, he carried her down to the
rookery, whispering as he went: "There, now. You're a strong girl.
Ye'll be just fine. It will just take a bit of time."

She had been fine, too, although she had not thought it
possible. She grew in the wing and the heart until it was time to
leave the rookery and join her brothers and sisters in the castle
proper. She was still small, but large enough to learn to fly.
And learn she did. When the old one took the others in her clutch
to the castle wall, she went with them. Some were hesitant at the
edge, frightened of the stones beneath them. One actually got to
the edge, then was too frightened to jump. Eventually, he had to
go back down the stairs. She, on the other hand, marched haughtily
to the ledge and had jumped off with scarcely a preparatory wing
spread.

She fell again.

As she tried to get her wings to open, all she could think of
were the faces of the guards the last time she'd tried to fly,
blank and unhelpful. The old one was there, but there was no way
he could reach her if she couldn't ...

The wind caught her wings and she drifted upwards. Suddenly,
she was in control of the sky. With barely a turn, she swooped low
and back towards the stars. She let out a laugh, the magic of her
flight filling her entire being with joy. The moon was in its
crescent, and she flew towards it, trying to capture it within her
wingspread.

After a brief forever, she returned to the castle, cramps
already starting in muscles never before used but destined to grow
strong. The old one said nothing to her as she landed, but he
graced her with his smile, and she same joy that had touched her
soul in her flight returned and warmed her heart.

She found after a time that the smiles of others of her kind,
and of the humans, could make her feel the same exhilaration. She
also found that as she grew, the smiles came more frequently, no
matter what she was doing.

One cool evening in Autumn, the young men of the castle had
gathered in the courtyard. There had been some sort of contest
earlier in the day, one of the humans' petty games of war to tide
them between real battles. Shortly after sunset, she'd gone down
to the ground to see what all the noise was about. The winner of
the game, a young human man she had rather liked in a way, was
sitting at a large table the youths had dragged out into the night
air, a goblet in hand and friends all around him.

She'd stood in the shadows, listening, wondering, as he
bragged about his victory. In the space of an hour, his feats had
doubled in number, as had the cups of wine he'd imbibed.

He was quite intoxicated, she noticed, and when he leaned over
to kiss one of the young women near him, she could see the angry
marks he left in the woman's arm. She laughed it off, but the
watcher in the shadows wondered what kind of man wounded the woman
he supposedly loved like that.

"Five gargoyles, I tell you!" His voice reached her ears,
followed by the shouts of approval from his fellows. She strained
to hear what he was saying. "And they bled just like mortal men.
The last one begged for mercy, but I cut off his head before he
could say anything else." Another round of laughter followed.

She stood still, shocked. Surely he had not killed one of her
kind! Then she recalled something similar among the young males of
her own kind, telling obviously false stories to impress one's
friends. She hadn't any more patience for it among humans than she
did among gargoyles.

"Hey, lookee here," said one of the youths. Before she could
move, he'd bounded into the shadows with her and grasped her arm.
"Look who's come to play."

"What's your name, girl?" asked one of them, then laughed
uproariously at his own joke. She pulled her arm away.

"Gargs don't have names like real people. They're like ...
like ... " The intellectual giant scratched his head. "Dogs!"

"Dogs have names, you idiot. Gargs don't believe in names.
It steals their spirit, or something like that," said one of the
women.

Quietly, she stepped back, hoping to let the humans continue
their stimulating discussion alone.

"Wait a minute, pretty one. You can't leave yet. The party's
just started!" Her previous captor grabbed her arm again. She
tried to pull away, and found his grip to be like granite.

"Let me go," she said in a quiet voice.

"So the stoney speaks, does she?"

"Let me go, or you will permanently lose the use of your
hand."

One of the others laughed. "There goes your love life."

She tugged again, and her arm came free.

"Now you just wait here," said the human, no longer smiling.
"I didn't say you could leave."

There was a rustle of wings, and suddenly, another gargoyle
stood in the center of the courtyard, a younger male she had known
from her days in the rookery.

"Is there a problem here?"

The humans stepped away from her, save for the one who had
caught her arm.

"No problem here. We were just inviting the lady here to the
party." He leered at her.

"An invitation I must regretfully decline." She tried to
move, found his arm blocking her path.

"But I insist." She considered breaking the offending arm,
but she had no need. The other gargoyle walked, very slowly and
steadily, towards the youth. He said nothing, merely kept his eyes
at those of the human, who shrank as he grew closer and closer.

The arm dropped.

"Thank you," said the gargoyle. He nodded at her, then walked
back towards the castle. She glanced at the humans, then followed
him.

She caught up to him at the doorway.

"Thank you. For back there." She fumbled for the words. "I
could have handled them."

"I know."

"Then why did you cut in?"

"Just in case you couldn't."

He did not pause his stride, and she found herself trying to
keep up with his long steps. She wanted to say something else, but
she couldn't think of anything.

Instead, she followed him to his final destination: the
library. He turned around, and seemed startled to see her still
there.

"Do you need something?"

"No."

"You already thanked me. You don't need to follow me."

"I know." He smiled, and she felt the same familiar warmth,
but this was somehow different, special. "What are you doing
here?"

"Research. I'm studying some of the human myths about our
people."

"Really? How?" She perched on the back of a chair. He
sighed, as if realizing that she wasn't going to leave until she
got an answer. Which she wasn't.

"I started with a few books that I've already read, and looked
to see which books they were based on. I found those books, read
them, and wrote down everything new I could find out. Then I
looked for the books *they* referenced."

"It sounds complicated."

"It is." He picked up something from one of the tables and
began to stare at it. After a while, he turned one of the thin
bits and stared at it longer. When he had done the same process
for the better part of an hour, she yawned.

"When are you going to start this looking business?"

"That's what I'm doing now."

She poked her head over his shoulder. There were tiny
pictures in rows on the thing, but she couldn't tell what they were
pictures *of*. They were just markings. "But it's not *doing*
anything."

"It's telling me about the gargoyles of the island."

She wasn't a fool. It wasn't telling him any such thing.
"You're making fun of me, just like those humans." Something
burned inside her then, something hard. She had almost expected it
of humans, but here was another of her own kind.

"No, I'm not. I'm reading."

"Reading?" The word was familiar, but she wasn't sure where
she'd heard it before.

"Don't you know how to read?"

Immediately, the wall inside of her sprang up. "Of course
not! Only gargoyles who don't know how to fight read."

She hopped off her chair and started towards the door. She
hated being made fun of, especially by males.

"It's too bad," he said as she was almost to the door.

"What's too bad?"

"That you're afraid to learn."

"I'm not afraid of anything."

"Are you sure? It sounds to me like you're afraid to learn to
read."

She turned and glared at him. He watched her calmly,
infuriatingly. With a measured step, she walked back to the table,
opened one of the damned books, and pointed to a word.

"Show me. We'll see who's afraid of what."

That had begun what became one of the most grand adventures of
her life. It had been more hard-fought than any battle she'd ever
undertaken, and was more frustrating than any other task in her
life. It was also one of the most rewarding. Every night, after
their duties were finished, she met her quiet friend in the
library, and he would teach her the rudiments of written
communication. Once she had grasped the idea of an alphabet, a few
markings that could express a whole multitude of ideas, she had
progressed rapidly, stumbling only occasionally along the way.

After two years of nightly work, her final exam was to read
Aristotle's "Poetics," specifically the second part, on the nature
of comedy.

When she finished the last word, she looked up to see her
audience, her tutor and his half-gargoyle, half-canine companion.
Her friend's face remained stony for a moment, then broke into
another smile such as he had that first night. He applauded, the
single pair of hands filling the library with echoes of approval.

"Well done. Well done indeed."

"I had a good teacher."

"I have nothing left to teach you." The lessons were done,
and for the first time in two years, she had no excuse to be near
him anymore, no reason to laugh at him or tease him, or creep up
behind him, place her hands against his shoulders, and ask him to
read aloud to her. Awkwardness slipped in between them. She
wouldn't allow it to stay.

She set down the book, careful not to damage the delicate
spine. Then she moved towards him, slowly, giving him time to move
away if he so chose. He did not so choose. She placed her palms
against his chest.

"Then I suppose we'll have to discover new things to learn."
She leaned up and pressed her lips against his. He did not react,
and she pulled away, feeling like a fool. Obviously, she'd misread
him.

Then his hands took her wind-covered shoulders. "I suppose we
will." He bent down to her, and their mouths touched again, shyly.
His lips were like granite covered in velvet, and a phrase she'd
read weeks before kept running through her mind: gentle strength,
soft fury.

The kiss in the library had broken at the whining of his pet,
and had turned to mutual laughter. The awkwardness was of a
different kind, now, the kind of innocent stumbling experienced by
two souls feeling something impossible and perfect for the first
time.

No one remarked when it became more than obvious that the pair
were closer than the friends they had been. She could see the
recognition in the eyes of the old one, a wistful look shared by
more than one of the others in their clan. She found herself
wondering if he had ever found someone to love this way. She also
found herself remembering the look on his face when he'd told her
that her mother would never come home, how lost he'd looked.

Still, his face was not foremost in her mind as the other's
was. Quieter than most of her friends, he always carried with him
a peace that she found difficult to attain, a calmness that belied
the growing strength in his arms and shoulders and wings.
Likewise, his nightly retreats to the library, now almost always
accompanied by her, demonstrated a brooding need for solitude that
she found strange when his caress spoke of his need for her.

As if the thousand years had been a dream, she could recall
every detail of the night they had finally become lovers. The moon
had grown big-belied, and they were soaring hand-in-hand trying to
touch her, moths driven to an impossible flame. She'd tired of the
game first, and pulled away from his arm slightly too soon. The
wind shifted, and for the third time in her long life, she was
falling. It only took a moment for him to realize that she was not
joking, and another for him to reach her, grasp her arms, and hold
her till the wind buoyed her up again, when they set down gently.

He'd remained holding her until her first trembling stopped,
and a new one had started. The swift, stolen kisses they had
indulged in before had been little more than innocent brushes of
lips against each other. Now she kissed him with a secret
knowledge that she had not believed herself capable of possessing.
His lips had responded before his mind, and with a few careful
touches, she'd kept all other thoughts at bay save those she most
longed for him to have. They sank to the ground together.

It was almost morning when they came back to themselves.
Quickly, certain that any moment would bring daylight and sleep,
they hurried back to the castle. They reached their perches just
as the sun peered its head over the horizon. Two of the statues
guarding the castle held hands all that day.

She remembered little specific about the following weeks and
months, only the duties that seemed to take so very long before
they could meet and spend the rest of the night in discovery. For
months, his research lay abandoned, for which she felt only a
passing guilt. They were beautiful, they were immortal compared to
the humans around them, but they only had the rest of their lives.

There were forbidden trips to the forest, to hunt for
fireflies, and long nights in the secret catacombs beneath the
castle. She recalled, too, the unspeakable joy of lovemaking in
the air, wings catching the night's breath in a rhythm older than
time itself, and mutual cries that echoed through the stars.

Time had passed for them, and eventually cooled the initial
ardor. He returned to his books, and she often with him, but also
often without. Sometimes, she feared the distance between them,
then forgot her fear with the warm touch of his hand and the smile
that filled her with light. He had a name now, Goliath, and she
wondered why the humans had chosen such a name. The one they had
named him for had been a giant, a bully, someone proud who'd been
brought down by a boy. Her Goliath was also string, but he was
kind, and she loved him more than she had believed possible.

The dream shifted. She smelled smoke, and her eyes burned.
The castle. The castle was on fire. No, the fire was gone,
replaced with nothing but stinging smoke and piles of rubble who
had once been those she had loved.

She stood in the library, where the barbarians had done their
worst. None of the books had been spared. The invaders, unable to
read, had destroyed them in puerile retribution. Numbly, she
kicked a pile of ash, dislodging a charred leather cover:
"Poetics". Unnerved, she reached down. Not all of the book had
burned; merely the last half. It seemed that Aristotle would have
nothing more to say on comedy, although tragedy had survived just
fine.

She set the book down. Let the humans find it. She had no
more need of them. She walked to the nearest window, blown out
from the scorching heat, and took a perch on the edge. She pushed
out, and let herself fall until the hellish winds bore her up again
into the evening sky.

In New York City, the afternoon ended slowly, regretfully.
The last ray of sunlight brushed against an unusual statue atop a
lonely building, and was gone. Just before it faded from sight, it
caught a glimmer on the statue and reflected as if from a woman's
tear. But of course, that would be impossible.

The End