The Veil
by Nancy Brown (nancy@tooloud.northco.net)
Copyright 1998, 2001
PG

As usual, Buena Vista owns the toys. Certain characters, who should be
obvious, are the creations and sole properties of The Gargoyles Saga,
used here without permission. This little mood piece was inspired
by the holiday, and by an interesting discussion in Astronomy class. A
merry Samhain to all, and to all a good night.


Light was already peeping at the horizon as she made her final
descent to the castle, then touched down roughly on the topmost tower.
An early rising sea-bird was startled from its perch on Goliath's
shoulder, and went squawking off the cliff towards the safety of the
waves. She ignored it, setting down her clumsy bundle and twisting her
arms to relieve the crick she'd developed from carrying it so far.

"Hello, my love," she whispered to his statue, placing a kiss
on the brow as she did each time she visited this place. She sat beside
him, brushed the ivy from his face.

"I've missed you.

"I know I haven't been to see you for some time, but you can't
imagine where I've been. Across the sea, there's a new land discovered
not long ago. I went on a ship in search of more of our kind. I found
humans, as fearful there as they are here, but only a single gargoyle
clan. I stayed with them for a while. You would have liked their
leader. He reminded me very much of you."

She continued to talk to him, telling him of the gargoyles in the
New World, how they had tried to live in peace with the humans, how
they had been slaughtered when some of the humans took ill and died, how
she had revenged their deaths with blood. She did not weep as she
spoke, having spent her tears on the voyage back to England, the journey
here. She had to tell him everything that had transpired since her last
visit, perhaps gain his understanding, at least in her own thoughts.

She was still speaking when the sun rose, and trapped her with its
blessed oblivion.

***

The itchy burn that preceded wakefulness skittered over her skin,
and she flexed, casting the stone shards off her body to land in the
courtyard below them. Six hundred years gone, and yet she turned to
him, expecting him to rise up, shatter the stone around him, and sweep
her into a long-delayed embrace. Instead, he kneeled as he had these
past few centuries, staring into nothing, and her heart ached anew.

She went to the bundle she had set aside the night before and
unwrapped the burlap, revealing a silver disc the size of her hand, a
bit of chalk she'd scavenged, a tiny silver bell, several dried stalks
of grass tied with twine, and a smaller cloth package, pure white. She
opened the smaller bundle, being careful not to spill any of the seeds
within it. The fine satin slipped over her fingers like water.

She inspected the chalk. There wasn't much. It would have to do.

Making certain the provisions were secure, she went into the
castle proper. Shadows leered at her as the moon flickered behind
clouds, poking in the gaunt windows. Chilled by the night air more than
the threat of unrestful spirits, she boldly made her way into the
interior, into the princess-bitch's precious dining hall. Her tail
brushed against something promising: a cup, cracked and abandoned on the
floor. She retrieved it and went back to the tower, refusing to
acknowledge the relief which accompanied her retreat.

The courtyard was a mess. What had not been looted lay strewn by
time and circumstance in an obscene jumble on the ground. Ignoring the
rotted weaponry, she carefully picked the poor, broken pieces of stone
that had once been her clan, and placed them in a loving pile at the
center of the courtyard. There was no way to get them all, but she made
a good pass, recognizing this wing, that face, even after all this time.
Not one was chipped further as she placed them.

The moon was high in the sky as she set the cup, filled with
seawater, about ten paces due West of the pile. The seeds were poured
onto the flagstones at the same distance due North. She rang the bell
at East. At South, she had some difficulty getting the stalks of grass
alight, but soon they crackled into quick, hot death. Sweet smoke
curled through the courtyard, sending fingers of scent around the stones
at the very center.

As she drew the chalk circle, starting and ending at West, she
recited the names and calling of the wards in her mind, inviting Those
who guarded the quarters to come in whatever form They chose to watch
over her work tonight.

Late insects, attracted by the burning grass, hovered in a soft,
whirring cloud near the South, but did not enter the chalk circle. If
she looked carefully, she could see the glow around the circle, could
even sense the absence of that glow at the Quarters, and knew the
Faceless Ones were at hand, cloaked in a mystery she would never know.

Before she started the next phase, she willed herself to relax.
This spell had no guarantees from this point onward. She had seen
something similar in the rites of the New World gargoyles, had heard
whispers of it even in her tutelage under the Archmage. The Grimorum
had not been seen in centuries, but other magic books she had held in
her fingers also had touched on this spell and its like. She had
drafted the form of it from her studies of these, and the knowledge
she'd gained from the witch-women in the hills in exchange for their
lives. The true test would come in the hours before daybreak.

It had to be right. Tonight was the night, the old New Year
celebrated by Oberon and his kind that had once been celebrated by the
humans as well, the traditional night when the walls between their world
and the next grew thin --- thin enough to cross, if one knew the way.
Demona had been raised to believe that the darkest night of the year
marked its closing, whatever the thoughts of the Second and Third Race
on the matter, but she had also been taught by the Archmage that belief
was magic, too. She could believe that the veil grew thin at this time
of year, especially in this place of death. Had she not spent nights
here during her long loneliness, hearing voices on the wind? And if she
had one chance at capturing those voices, even for one night, did she
not have to seize that chance?

The shield hummed with life. The insects had been drawn to the
glow of the chalk line, batted ineffectually against the barrier between
outside the circle and within.

She took the mirror, set it face-up atop the pile of stones. It
reflected the moon's bright face back into the sky, but was stopped at
the edge of the hemisphere that was the top of the shield.

Demona picked up the cloth which had held the seeds, raised it
above her head. She formed in her mind an image, a shimmery veil before
her of vermillion and gold and ivory. Across its dancing depths, she
saw the beloved faces of those whose bodies lay crumbled in the
courtyard. They all watched her silently.

Demona ripped the satin in two. The veil in her mind ripped
apart.

She opened her eyes.

Two dozen ghostly apparitions crowded within the ring: old
friends, rookery parents, even the poor slain hatchlings, all taking
substance from the diffused and reflected moonlight streaming from the
mirror. As if a moment had been stolen from their lives, they stood
frozen in the acts of speaking, walking, loving.

"Live," she breathed.

The moment shivered, and the figures took life. Very dimly, she
heard voices, as one of her rookery fathers, a kindly old blusterer,
started regaling two hatchlings with a story. Two of her rookery
brothers stood to one side, one a handsome fellow with little
imagination, the other with a twisted horn and a sharp mind. Two
hatchlings played at keep-away from a third.

When one gargoyle went to bump into another, the two moved
through each other. All avoided the barrier, although not blatantly.
Their walks, or games, merely shifted position so as to stay away from
it naturally. Demona sat at West, her knees huddled against her, and
watched.

"In my day ... "

"I really don't see the point of all these patrols."

"The Prince would like tae speak wi' ya."

"Your turn in the middle!"

" ... and the Dragon said, 'Fee Fi Fo Fum!'"

The scene flickered. The same gargoyles were in the circle, but
in different places. Her rookery brothers were hatchlings, oblivious to
the other hatchlings. Her rookery parents seemed no older than gawky
adolescents. The conversations shifted, blended into one another.

"Aye, she's a bonny thing."

"Would the Second mind if we joined th' party?"

"I don't know what she sees in him."

Another flicker, and her rookery brothers were as old as she had
been on that terrible night. The hatchlings played a different game,
with ghostly wooden swords and shields.

And so it went, for minutes, perhaps hours, even nights. Demona
could not guess at the time in the circle. The captured echoes of
the spirits changed in time to an unknown heartbeat, while the moon
seemed to stay overhead for an eternity. She searched each new face,
finding only reflections of the old. His shattered form was not among
the stones, and his face was not worn by the ghosts. The disappointment
tasted familiar on her tongue. Instead, she watched her rookery
siblings, and felt the old pain.

"What did the Prince say?"

"You've always been a good friend to me, but he is the one I
love."

"I wish ... "

When the moon slipped from its throne in the heavens, the light
diffused more, became less distinct. The figures faded into mere wisps
of being, their voices growing more distant as she strained to hear
them:

"That's a good lad."

"Here, you can help."

"My love!" This last was directed at the male with the twisted
horn. He looked up from his conversation to see one of her rookery
sisters walking across the circle to him, her golden wings practically
transparent. As the pair touched wings, they vanished into the night.
She heard a peal as a hatchling laughed, and then all was still.

Slowly, she got to her feet. Automatically, she released the
wards, sent the Watchers off with mumbled thanks, was too numb to sense
their passing. The shield relaxed into nothing. The insects hummed
into the circle, but finding no light there, dispersed.

She left the circle, left the stones, left the offerings and the
wasted satin veil. The next rainfall would wash away most traces from
the eyes of the curious, and the snow would move the stones. Taking
only the silver disc, she climbed the topmost tower one last time.

Still he had not moved.

"Happy Halloween," she said to him, knowing he could not hear her
in his long sleep, nor feel the tender brush of claw to forehead. She
went to the edge of the tower. The sea grumbled in the thin moonlight.

She drew her arm back and cast the silver disc towards its hungry
waves. The disc flashed with light, a bright speck in the chilly
darkness, then disappeared forever into the night.


The End