More Than Half
by Nancy Brown (nancy@tooloud.northco.net)
copyright 1996, 2001
PG-13


Disney and Buena Vista have claim to Oberon and his kin. I claim
only the tale itself. This small digression takes place directly
in the middle of "The Gathering." My thanks go to Batya, to whom
I was talking when the inspiration struck, and to LJC, who put it
there in the first place with "All's Well."

Forgive me if the dialogue is slightly off. My tape of the episode
has vanished into another dimension.




He drummed his fingers idly on the small desk top, and
wondered if he would go mad from the noises or the silences first.

True to his word, Oberon had come for the child after an
hour's time. The force-fields surrounding the building had
provided them with some measure of defense, but he already knew it
would not be enough. He didn't need his monitor to tell him that
the gargoyles were faring badly against the mightiest being on the
planet; common sense told him that long ago. He *had* turned on
the screen to watch as Fortress 2 went down, his heart in his
throat. He'd risked using his powers to see if Reynard and Vogel
had survived the wreck, but his senses had skittered off the field,
trapped within these walls he had created himself.

He stood and began to pace. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.
Six. Turn. One. Two. It was a nervous habit he'd picked up a
century before, one which annoyed him when he noticed it. For the
time being, though, it served to calm his racing thoughts, forcing
him to count each step, and measure the steps he needed to take if
he were to emerge from this situation with his hide intact, if it wasn't
already far too late.

He should have gone, that was simply all there was to it.

He'd heard the summons, no, *felt* the summons all the way to
the core of his true being, had reverberated with the call and the
pull to return to the Island. He could have gone when he'd first
known the time had come, could have said his good-byes in a few
minutes, packed his memories in his pocket, and been home by
daybreak. He could have taken his turn in line, knelt before
Oberon, and even now he could have been frolicking in the sweet-
smelling long grasses of the meadows stretching behind the Palace,
his dearest companions once more in his presence.

He would have been bored to tears within a week.

In the brief time, by his reckoning, that he'd known David and
Fox, he'd had more delightful intrigues and tricks to play than he
had in the past two hundred years combined. Not even Raven could
have conceived the games that made daily life in the Eyrie Building
so wonderfully fascinating. Hostile corporate takeovers. Rogue
geneticists. Foes and allies both played with the skill of a
master cellist. These were the bright things that filled his existence
each day. He hadn't been joking when he'd told Demona that humans
had imagination, and his master was the king of all imagineers.

He smirked. That last part was doubly true now; Xanatos
Enterprises had just bought controlling shares in the Walt Disney
Company. He estimated that they would have the company completely
bought out by September. If they lived through this night.

The worst part was that he *knew* Oberon had come to claim
him, and had only chanced upon his queen by accident. If he had
simply answered the call, he would be free, the boy would be safe,
and everyone would have been happy. When he'd heard Oberon's
words, that he would return in an hour, he had even briefly
considered offering a trade: his own willing Gathering in exchange
for Alexander's. Yet, even as he contemplated it, he knew Titania
would never allow such a bargain to be made. He wasn't sure what
she was plotting this time, and he didn't need to know. He knew
her wiles to be superior to her mate's, and her powers, when she
chose to use them, equally so. She was planning something and she
would not be denied.

So what *were* her plans for him? His rebellion could still
be forgiven, but if he dared to actually stand against his lord,
his life would be forfeit. And perhaps that was what she wished.

He stopped his pacing and stared into the uncertain future
that lay before him. Would paradise have been such a terrible
punishment?

He walked over to his bookshelf, and scanned through the
sparse selection. The library housed an enormous collection of
books, but these few he kept in his room were special favourites,
chosen for their varying degrees of amusement and usefulness. He
disregarded Paul Radin and Joseph Campbell off the bat. The last
thing he wanted to read right now was mythology.

His hand found an old collection of Robinson's work, and
closed around it. Perhaps a brief visit to Tilbury town would
settle his thoughts into some coherent pattern. He let the book
fall open to a random page, and found himself faced with the grim
spectre of Luke Havergall. Appropriate, he thought, considering that
what he was currently contemplating was the equivalent of suicide.

No, better to remain here among the old books in his own
little room, and let Oberon do as he would. He wasn't strong
enough to stand up to his Lord's wrath. He never had been. All he
could hope for now was mercy when his time came.

He extended a fragile tendril of power to see how the battle
fared. He brushed against the force-field again, taking comfort in
that it still stood. Except ...

Except Oberon was no longer outside of it.

He closed the book with a snap and put it back in place. He
sent out a small plea to the great mind that had entered the bowels
of the building, and felt his thoughts being brushed aside with
less regard than a moth. So Oberon was no longer concerned with
him, having set his sights firmly on Alexander. He felt a quick
relief wash through him. He might be safe after all! The feeling
was short-lived, and replaced by strong guilt. He shouldn't be
glad. Oberon had come to steal away a little boy from his mother's
arms.

Again.

Without looking, without even thinking, his fingers brushed
carefully against an ancient copy of the "Iliad." It was the only
non-magical possession he treasured. He'd bought it four hundred
years before, and had cared for it like a child ever since. A few
spells had kept the pages from becoming brittle through the years,
so that as he caressed the cover now, the leather binding was
supple as on the day it had been crafted.

He could not help but wonder if the seeds of today had not
been planted back then, when he'd first seen the book.

No, he thought, he could pinpoint the exact moment when his
loyalties had wavered for the first time. He knew the day and the
hour and the moment and the face of the last boy Oberon had stolen
away.



He was in his special place, the secret still pool where none
came but he. He'd found it when he'd been very young, and alone of
the places on the Island, it never ceased to bring him joy. Today
he'd brought his flute to practice a new song running through his
head. He'd heard snatches of the tune during his last trip to
Constantinople, and he'd added tones originally created for a
dulcimer. He was rather proud of the final composition, and was
playing it gleefully, trying to think of lyrics good enough for it.
None came to mind, so he delighted in the melody alone, his spirit
flying with the music.

Avalon trembled.

He stopped playing and used his other senses to see what had
happened, although he could already feel it inside. After a three
weeks' absence, Oberon had returned. He supposed he should
probably go back to the palace to pay his respects.

He looked longingly at the flute, shrugged, and decided it
could wait until he'd finished. When the last clear note had
finished echoing through the enclosed place, he bowed to his
invisible audience and winked out of existence.

He reappeared in the main hall, in the midst of barely
contained chaos. The rulers of Avalon were facing each other
across what might as well have been a chasm, both looking ready to
annihilate the other, and possibly the rest of them at the same
time. He slipped through the rest of the Children to get a better
view. When he'd gotten close enough, he levitated. He noticed
Phoebe standing behind the combatants holding something, her
sisters to either side of her.

The something squirmed. The Three frowned at it, as Phoebe
shifted it to her shoulder. It began to cry in a distinct manner
that left no doubt in his mind as to what it was.

Since the births of Luna, Selene, and Phoebe, now nine
thousand years past, Oberon had been wheedling, cajoling, and doing
everything short of directly ordering his Lady to bear him a son.
Titania had calmly, politely, but firmly refused. Once upon a
time, well before he had come into existence, Titania's mother had
been the ruler of Avalon. She'd been called by a thousand names:
Rhiannon, Kali Ma, Danu, Gaia. When Oberon had come to power, he'd
sought to make the others forget her completely, and forget too
that the throne by rights belonged to their Queen. With the Three
as their heirs, he was ever faced with the chance that the Children
who had been created by Her magic would remember, and would prefer
the rule of the tripartite female to his own. Long before, he'd
been forced into a bargain with his lady wife that their successor
would be of her blood, but to be utterly secure, he needed that
successor to be male.

If the babe now making noises in Phoebe's clutches was
Oberon's by a human woman, he had to know that there was no way he
dared make the boy his heir. Considering that he would have had to
actively want the child for him to have been conceived, he could
not pass this one off as an accident, either. He'd fathered it simply to
flaunt the fact in front of his wife and the Children that she
would not bear him the child he wanted.

This was not a bright idea.

He floated closer, although he could have heard them a mile
off by this point. Titania was currently listing the attributes,
or lack thereof, of whatever poor girl Oberon had seduced, and he
was growing more incensed with every word. He began rattling off
the names of mortals his wife had taken into her embrace during
their marriage. Puck knew of most of them, but listened with half
an ear anyway to see if there were any he hadn't. There were.

When he thought about things later, during the thousand years
of exile, he often thought back to that moment. Oberon was doing
this solely to hurt Titania. He paid no attention whatsoever to the
baby, while the Sisters, who knew what the child represented,
looked ready to blast it into non-existence anyway. Titania, rage
written upon her face, also knew why he'd brought the babe back
with him, no doubt having taken it as the new mother slept to waken
alone. The child himself kept crying, in hunger or fear or one of
a hundred baby-reasons to cry. It was a frightening tableau, and
the rest of the Children cowered away as he floated closer yet,
drawn moth-like to what could easily have been the destruction of
them all.

And still, *still* everything might have worked out. They may
not have been banished. The Lord and Lady of Avalon might have
reconciled, and even raised the baby there. One small clan of
gargoyles might have survived in Scotland in the midst of the
destruction of their fellows. Without ever having encountered them
or the Phoenix Gate, his current master might be selling insurance
in Ohio, and certainly the child for whom they battled now would
never have been born. If only Oberon hadn't mentioned the donkey.



He was broken from his reverie by a gentle push from his other
senses. Brooklyn and that new gargoyle, Angela, had been pulled
into the Dark Place. He shivered in sympathetic cold. They were
doomed. Oberon was not known for leniency when it came to those
who stood against him. That was why he'd run; he had a good thirty
thousand years left in him, and he didn't intend to lose them over
a few mortals. Better a live coward than a dead hero, he'd always
said.

So why was he leaving his room and striding down the hall? It
couldn't be for the gargoyles. Oberon had sworn an oath with them,
and would probably let them live. David and Fox still had each
other, and could probably have more children. Alexander would no
doubt enjoy life on Avalon. He certainly wouldn't remember his
parents, and as a favourite of the Queen, would never want for
anything. If he stayed quiet again, just let Oberon have his way,
everything would be all right. Probably.

Why, then, was he stopping in front of the elevator, and using
his good hand to jab at the button? The force-field was down. Why
wasn't he fleeing this place at the speed of thought? The part of
his psyche devoted to self-preservation screamed at him.

The elevator door yawned before him, and he stepped into the
past.



The fight had lasted a week. He considered saying something,
anything, but he feared the wrath of his Lady as much as that of
his Lord, and so held his tongue. As the Sisters were obviously
disinclined to take care of the baby, he'd volunteered for the job,
and found it glorious fun. He discovered that his new song was an
amazingly effective lullaby. He also discovered that the baby,
despite crying a great deal and usually being messy at one end or
the other, was the most interesting thing that had happened to him
in ages.

He'd watched the boy sleeping, long lashes resting lightly
over the brightest eyes he'd ever seen, and his heart had swelled
with an unfamiliar, wonderful, *warm* feeling. In two thousand
years of life, he'd had friends, associates, and an extended family
to outmatch all others, but only gazing at this tiny miracle did he
begin to understand what it was to care for another more than
himself.

The entire island had breathed a sigh of relief when the
argument ended. Happy to see the end of it, he'd gathered his
little charge and they'd gone back to the main hall. Oberon and
Titania had stood before the assembled host of their Children. He
had taken the boy up to the front, where the Sisters were already
standing, looking especially pleased with themselves.

He was certain that he'd misunderstood when he was told what
would be done.

At least *he* had been the one to take the baby back. If it
had been the Three, he was certain the child wouldn't have made it
all the way across the water. He'd gathered him in a warm blanket
and used the mirror to take him back to the village from which he'd
come, all the while longing to say *something* to convince them to
let him stay a little longer.

The mother was dead. The Church had deemed it suicide,
brought on by the sudden disappearance of her son and his father,
and had consigned her soul to eternal damnation. The grave was
somewhere in the woods, and he hadn't been able to find it,
although he made a long search. After a while, the baby had
started crying again, and he hadn't been able to soothe him. He
felt trapped. He refused to leave him to die, and he didn't dare
take him back home. Oberon would probably kill the babe himself to
appease Titania. He could stay, he thought, and raise the child
here as his own. It would just be the two of them.

He laughed at the image. Him? Raise a baby? Two thousand
years old, and he freely admitted he was still practically a child
himself, small and afraid and certainly too irresponsible to take
care of a new life with such potential.

There were houses in the village. It was nearing dark, and he
saw children piling into many of them. He watched a young couple
retire for the evening. No children. The baby he held cried for
parents that would never want him. It had seemed so perfect, so
right.

He'd never seen the child again.



The elevator slowed to a stop at the top of the building. There
was a dreadful silence outside, the silence of a battle that had not
gone well. He felt no deaths among them, but all were sorely
wounded, and he felt grief in that he had not been there, and that it
would not have helped anyway if he had. He reached out to press
the "Door Open" button, then hesitated for one more moment,
gathering his strength, and trying to decide why he was about to lay
down his life in a futile struggle.



Oberon and Titania had fought bitterly for months afterwards.
Accusations flew, and in the end, there was no way any of their
children could salve the hurt feelings. The Sisters had seen which
way the wind was blowing, and had thrown themselves in with their
father. That had saved them from the banishment he pronounced on
his Queen and the rest of the family. He had found himself kicked
out with the others, destined to wander until Titania "learned
humility" to the humans. What Oberon really wanted, he knew, was
for her to crawl back to him telling him that he'd been right all
along. He also knew that it would be a cold day in Hades before
that happened.

In the beginning, he'd drifted aimlessly. Soon, though, he'd
felt the first pangs of loneliness, and wondered what had become of
the baby he'd left. The child would be a man by this point, and
perhaps a welcome companion for the next aeon. He'd searched for
the village where he'd left him, and learned that the child who'd
shown up on a doorstep one night had been apprenticed out as a young
boy. He'd followed the trail from there to an abandoned castle, and
thence to the throne itself.

His quiet inquiries nearly lost him his head, but afforded him
with the knowledge that the one he sought had vanished two days
earlier, along with a serving woman, her son, and two ladies of the
court, one of whom was the intended bride of the king.

Over the years, he would hear and follow rumors, tales, and
story-fragments, one of which would lead him to the book of spells,
almost a thousand years later.

But of the lost boy and his companions, there was never
another sign. He could have been in another unmarked grave, like
his mother. He could have taken one of the ladies to wife
(something the servants in Constantine's castle seemed to think
highly likely) and fathered a dozen children. Sometimes he
wondered, during the long years of exile, wondered and thought and
feared and hoped and finally, tried to forget.

Then had come the day when he'd found the copy of the "Iliad."
He'd read it for the very first time that night, and had reread it
before morning.

He knew the stories from Zeus, who tended to overplay his own
part in the events, and Athena, who knew quite a bit about things
from the Achaean point of view. But the book was different,
telling him of the other side, of Hector and Andromache, of Priam
and Hecuba, of Helen ...

It was an open secret how Oberon had seen, wooed, and seduced
the fair Helen during the ten year siege of Ilium. Nor was it
hidden how he had gotten his first son upon her, and had sent the
Sisters to act as midwives, that they could make away with him
easily. Even the bargains struck for the boy's life were well-
known among the Children, how it had been then that Titania had
demanded the bloodline be hers, and that, to save face for them
all, the child would never be openly acknowledged as Oberon's son,
but only as his servant. These were all common knowledge. They simply
weren't spoken of in the earshot of the royal couple. He'd heard
enough, gleaned the proper details over time, and it had meant less
than nothing to him then.

Never before had he read of the most beautiful woman who'd
ever lived; never had he longed to have led a different, human
life; he had never wondered what his mother's scent had been, or
exactly what that face, the face that once set a thousand ships to
launch and ten thousand men to die, had looked like.

Had it mattered to Oberon that he'd taken her child? Had he
cared for her any more than he had for the young woman who'd borne
his second son? Or had he used Helen, as he used the other woman,
and as he used his children, and as he and Titania would surely use
Alexander against one another? Did it really matter anymore? They
were ghosts long dead, all but one, and who was he to open the door now
and face the demon on the other side? He was just a half-breed bastard
with a few good tricks.

He knew the consequences of this, knew it would mean his
death, or worse. That Church that had banished his brother's mother from
its heaven had been correct in one respect: he would certainly never set
his eyes on the Palace or the meadows or his secret, special place ever
again. But the ghosts would have their rest, and whatever hell he found
himself inhabiting afterwards, be it of Oberon's creation or his own, he
knew it had to be better than the prison of his own fears, and perhaps,
that in itself would be close enough to paradise for him.



The door slid open.

Oberon was gloating over the wounded bodies of the defenders
of the keep, and had not noticed him. It figured.

"That should be the end of the annoyances," said his father.

In the here and now, there was a little boy who had the chance
to grow up and grow old with his parents, a changeling boy who
didn't *have* to become a pawn in the eternal game of chess played
between Avalon's rulers. For the sake of that boy, and for the boy
he had been unable to save, and lastly, perhaps mostly, for the boy he'd
never been, he had to make the attempt.

"I'm afraid, my lord, that there is one annoyance left."

The End