Moments of Silence, continued:
Back at the estate, the truck from the safe house had finally arrived, and Stephen asked Robert, the clan's best and fastest sketch artist, to work with Lexington and the other available Manhattan Clan members to create a quick portrait of Brentwood that could be displayed at the remembrance ceremony that would be held soon. With at least some sketches to look at, the New Orleans Clan could see as well as hear about the gargoyle that they had never known before tonight, and help the Manhattan Clan to mourn the loss of their kinsman.
Robert readily agreed, but before he could begin work, Stephen pulled him aside for a few words in private. "Adam isn't here right now; he and Hudson, their clan's elder, went to keep an eye on their leader Goliath in the bayou. But before all this happened, he told me about how he wanted to see you and personally apologize to you for what happened last week. Leaving you gliding solo in town was just wrong, and we both knew it, but at the time we had no idea of how tolerant this new clan would be…"
"And finding mates for all our breeding-age females is more important than my own needs," Robert finished for him. "I understand, Stephen, I really do. I won't say it didn't hurt, but I understood why even from the start."
Stephen smiled. "And so you were willing to put the clan's welfare ahead of your own… Adam's right, you're the finest gargoyle of your generation. Perhaps it's time to start grooming you to be the next second-in-command."
Robert's equine jaw dropped open, and he stared at Stephen for a few moments in stunned silence, while Stephen just smiled back at him. Then he slowly shook his head. "Last week, I would have done barrel rolls after hearing that… but that was before meeting Lexington and the others of the Manhattan Clan. A clan that openly accepts homosexual gargoyles; Brooklyn told me about how Goliath had two rookery brothers who were accepted as mates for each other. No one looked down on them, like Ignatius and Celeste and the others still look down on me for my 'failure to mate with a female', and… Stephen, I was going to tell Adam first, but you might as well know… I'm going to ask Goliath for permission to join his clan."
Stephen's smile had faded while Robert had been speaking, and now he stared at the younger gargoyle in open dismay and consternation. "You… you want to leave us? To leave your home, your clan, your protectorate?"
Robert bowed his head, his eyes beginning to glisten with unshed tears. "Not completely… and it's more than just the open acceptance. Stephen, everywhere I look, I keep seeing things Philip and I saw together and did together, and I keep missing his face and his voice and his touch and… I just can't stand still being here when he's not anymore…"
After a few moments of silence, Stephen nodded. "I understand. Just know that you'll always have a place on our perches, whenever you're ready to come back," as he gripped Robert's shoulder and gave a comforting squeeze.
"Thank you," Robert said softly. And after another moment, he lifted his head and said, "Guess it's time to get with Lex and the others and start sketching a portrait. The ceremony will be an hour before dawn, right?"
Lexington, Broadway and Angela all gathered with Rebecca in Robert's art studio, where a fresh canvas was set up with a full array of art supplies. Sitting at his easel with a sketchpad and pencils, Robert used Lexington as a basic model for Brentwood's form, while Broadway and Angela told Robert and occasionally argued with each other about what differences there had been between Lex and Brentwood besides the obvious difference in skin color. "His eyes were a little bigger, and his tusks were a good inch longer than Lex's," Angela insisted while Robert sketched. "No, bigger than that…"
"No, that's about the right size for the tusks," Broadway corrected her. "But yeah, the eyes were a little bigger…" After Robert made a few adjustments, Broadway nodded. "Yeah, that's about it. But now that I think about it, the spiked club at the end of his tail was more, um, oval-shaped than that…"
"Where's Brooklyn, anyway?" Angela asked, looking around. "He has a good eye for detail; maybe he could help us get it right."
At that moment, Brooklyn was perched on a stool in Isabel's studio, watching her work. Isabel had donned heavy leather gauntlets, oddly shaped boots, a leather apron and an oversized smock that covered most of her body, including her feathered wings, before picking up a welding torch and firing it up. As she had explained to Brooklyn, furred and feathered gargoyles were particularly vulnerable to fire, and after the time she'd accidentally set a few feathers on her left wingtip ablaze with a stray spark from the torch, she'd learned to don full protective gear before starting any welding project. With almost all her body covered and her head encased in a welder's mask, it was hard to tell that she was a gargoyle at all, as she began welding bits of metal together and bending them this way and that.
While watching her, Brooklyn found himself talking aloud about the clones; about the raw deal they'd gotten in life, how his clan had reacted to them, and how much better their lives could have been—and how Brentwood might still be alive now—if only Brooklyn himself had just been more mature about his own clone, instead of being a bigoted, immature gargoyle who deserved to be kicked back into the rookery until he learned tolerance for others.
He went on and on, letting it all spew out until Isabel suddenly turned off her torch, flipped up her welding mask and turned to give him a piercing look. "All right, that's enough of biting your own tail. 'If onlies' have never done anyone even a scrap of good. You need to stop focusing on what you should have done or not done, and start thinking about what you're going to do next. Brentwood's gone, and you can't bring him back or undo the past. So what will you do now? What can you do? For starters, what can you do to contribute to the remembrance ceremony for him?"
Brooklyn scratched his mane in thought. "I guess… I could try to tell people what he was like…"
"Good idea. While you were off by yourself I head Stephen say that he's going to have Robert make up a portrait of Brentwood, and I imagine Lexington is helping with that. Why don't you come up with some words that will tell us what he liked and what he did, not just how he looked?"
"What, like a speech?"
"You're a second-in-command, next in line to be a leader; you'd better get used to making speeches," Isabel pointed out. "I've got paper and pencils over on that table over there; feel free to make use of them if you need 'em."
Brooklyn slowly nodded, and hopped off the stool to go over to the table in the corner that she had pointed to. But before picking up the paper and pencil, he mumbled, "But the problem is, Hudson saw him a lot more than I did; I really don't know that much about him…"
"Hudson isn't here right now; you are. You knew at least a little bit about him, and Hudson and the others can always add to anything you have to say. But I think Brentwood deserves more than you just standing there and blurting out, 'I'm sorry, so sorry, someone please punish me for not being perfect!' "
Brooklyn growled and gave her a dirty look. "Anyone ever tell you that you're a pain in the tail?"
"Every time I kick them there," Isabel retorted. "Now quit stalling and start writing!"
Hours later, deep in the bayou, Goliath's rampage had finally slowed to a halt. He was sitting slumped over on a moss-covered log, unmoving and silent, as Adam and Hudson cautiously approached him.
After a few long moments of uncomfortable silence, Hudson said quietly, "Goliath, ye know in your heart that Elisa… is not, and will never become, another Demona. Demona never cared much for humans even when Prince Malcolm was alive and allied with us, while Elisa tries her best to do right by both her species and ours... and favors ours over hers, more often than not. Ye know that, aye?"
Goliath's left wing-talon twitched slightly, but other than that he gave no response.
Adam tried, with a sympathetic, "If my Elizabeth had done what your mate has done, abused her position and my trust in her, I would be angry too… but I would not forget that she acted to save the clan from dire peril. That, too, must be weighed and balanced in the scales."
Another twitch of the wing-talon, this time accompanied by a sound that was somewhere between a snort, a growl and a heavy sigh.
Adam sighed too. "Look, forget about Elisa for a moment. My clan is helping your clan put together a remembrance ceremony for Brentwood. As leader of your clan, you should be present for the ceremony. Come on back to the estate…" He paused to take a considering look at Goliath, who was covered from wing-talons to toe-talons with so much swamp muck and dried blood that scarcely a patch of lavender hide was visible. "And we'll see what we can do to make you more presentable. I foresee a long session with the garden hose and some scrub brushes…" That earned him more of a response than anything else he had said, namely a sideways glare and sullen growl, but Adam just waved that off and gestured for Goliath to follow him and Hudson back to the estate.
Back at the estate, Adam took upon himself the task of getting Goliath presentable, while Hudson went with Stephen to see the art that Robert was working onand discuss the upcoming ceremony for Brentwood.
Some time later, just over an hour before dawn, all the members of both clans assembled on the lawn behind the mansion. Several human and gargoyle members of the New Orleans Clan carried musical instruments with them. Robert and Stephen carried between them a pair of portrait easels, draped with a black satin cloth.
Angela and Broadway stood together as they waited, heads bowed, holding hands. Lexington and Rebecca stood a few feet away, also holding hands, as were Hudson and Ursula. But Goliath stood alone at their forefront; Elisa huddled forlornly into her jacket on the other side of Brooklyn, several feet away.
Adam, holding a torch, lifted it high in the air and swung it in a tight circle. On cue, the assembled band began playing; a slow, mournful rendition of "Amazing Grace." Together, they all made a procession that slowly marched to the graveyard on the edge of the estate.
Even at such a sad and solemn occasion, Angela's curiosity stirred, and she whispered to Broadway, "Did they play music for these ceremonies back in Scotland, too?"
Broadway only shook his head, so Brooklyn, walking nearby, whispered a response. "This is strictly a New Orleans tradition. Stephen told me that most of the gargoyles down here know how to play a musical instrument of some sort, and every gargoyle who dies is given a 'jazz funeral'. Guess that means they play hymns with jazz instruments..."
Angela would have asked more, but thesolemn looks on Brooklyn and Broadway's faces dissuaded her, so she fell silent as the procession continued on to the enclosed graveyard. Just beyond the gates lay a grassy knoll, on which someone had placed a small pile of wood and tinder, flanked on either side by large flower-filled vases on waist-high stands.
The clans spread out and around the knoll in a semicircle while Robert and Stephen set up the easels between the flower arrangements, and solemnly uncovered them. The left easel held a full portrait of Brentwood, rendered in acrylics airbrush as accurately as the members of the Manhattan Clan could recall; for such a quick job, Robert had worked wonders, and it was truly an excellent likeness. In the portrait, Brentwood stood hunched over slightly, with a hesitant smile on his face; the look of someone who knows all too well that life isn't fair, but is still hoping for the best.
The canvas on the right-side easel had a trio of sketches done in colored pencils, done after Hudson had returned to the estate and talked with Robert about what Brentwood had been like. The top sketch had Brentwood grinning with a fistful of crayons in one hand, and a Winnie-the-Pooh coloring book in the other; Brentwood had loved to color. The middle sketch had him in the middle of a jump-rope game with two human children; the twins Jody and Judy Jackson had always welcomed Brentwood and the other clones into their games. The third sketch was of Brentwood peering intently at an ABC's book, with a faint sketch of Hudson at his shoulder. Before his death Brentwood had succeeded in memorizing the alphabet, and had just begun to connect sounds with the symbols…
Adam stepped into the semicircle, to place the blazing torch in a tall holder a few feet to the right of the memorial arrangement. Then he stepped to a spot between and in front of the portraits, turned to face the assembly, and said solemnly, "We come here tonight to honor and remember a gargoyle; one that most of us have never met, one who was neither hatched nor born, but who was kin to us nonetheless. His name was Brentwood, of the Labyrinth Clan." And with that, he stepped aside and gestured for Brooklyn to come forward.
Brooklyn told everyone what he knew about the first few days of Brentwood's life; his being grown in a cloning vat and given simple programming by Thailog, a clone of Goliath; his first encounter with the Manhattan Clan, whom he and his brothers had been ordered to attack; his being taken by Talon into the Labyrinth after the second battle had been won and Thailog had disappeared, presumed deceased. Brooklyn finished, "After that, I'm ashamed to say I didn't see very much of any of the clones; most of us were just fine with them becoming part of another clan instead of ours. The only one of our clan who had regular contact with them was our elder, Hudson, who helped to teach them how to read and taught them what it meant to be a gargoyle," as he nodded to Hudson.
Hudson nodded, and stepped into the clearing as Brooklyn returned to his place. Many gargoyles and humans in the audience sniffed back tears as Hudson spoke of Brentwood's life in the Labyrinth; the friends he had made there in his tragically brief life, and the moments of innocent joy he'd had, being essentially a hatchling in an adult's body. "The last time I saw him," Hudson finished with a wistful smile and a stray tear trickling down his cheek, "was at Goliath and Elisa's mating ceremony. 'Twas part human wedding as well, including a wedding cake, and Brentwood had a sweet tooth as big as his whole body. The lad had wheedled two pieces of wedding cake for himself, and was trying to eat both pieces at once. He had frosting smeared all over his face, but he looked so silly—and so happy—that no one had the heart to scold him for it…"
Then it was Elisa's turn to speak; to somberly give what few details she had about Brentwood's death, and the way he had died. Fighting against Quarrymen who had ambushed his group, and scoring at least a few blows against them, before being struck down by a blow from behind while trying to carry his sister Delilah to safety… As she spoke, from those listening came the sound of soft sobs, low menacing growls, and mutterings from more than a few gargoyles and humans that maybe it was time to go up North for a hunting trip.
Elisa finished with a grim retelling of what Delilah and Claw had done, killing nearly all of the Quarryman squad that had killed Brentwood. "I called Manhattan again a few hours ago, and so far there's been no official report of what happened, or any sign of the eighth one who ran away. Something must have happened to him… but whatever happened," she said slowly and deliberately, "Those who actually killed Brentwood are dead. Vengeance has been served."
Vengeance, Angela noted silently to herself. Elisa, a police officer sworn to uphold justice and the law, had said vengeance had been served, not justice. Why had she said it that way? Because she knew that Goliath and the others who had been hatched in medieval Scotland were still firm believers in vengeance when appropriate? Or because she didn't think that what had happened to those Quarrymen had been justice? …But those men had murdered Brentwood; shouldn't they have been made to pay with their lives? Didn't the Bible itself talk about "an eye for an eye"? Why would justice be different for a human than for a gargoyle? Angela had been raised by humans, but sometimes she still didn't understand them.
Elisa finished speaking and walked back to her place in the semicircle—still several feet away from Goliath, and neither of them even looking at each other, Angela noted worriedly—and for a moment the gathering was silent. Then, just as Goliath started to step forward, Lexington stumbled forward into the clearing; stumbled as if somebody, perhaps Rebecca, had given him a helpful push.
Out in the open, Lexington paused, then audibly gulped and made his way to the center spot. Once there, he turned to face everyone, but after a quick look he instead looked down at his feet. Several seconds of uncomfortable silence followed before Lexington admitted, "I just don't know what to say. He was my clone, but he wasn't me; I realize now how very different he was from me… and… I wish I'd gotten to know him as a person. As himself, Brentwood, not just as a 'not-me'. I… I wish he wasn't dead. Dragon, I wish he wasn't dead…" as the tears began to fall at last.
Rebecca ran out into the clearing, to lead a now openly sobbing Lexington back to his place in the semicircle. And after a few more moments of silence, Goliath stepped to the center of the clearing. He said only, his voice solemn and heavy, "Despite his strange origin, Brentwood was indeed a true gargoyle. He died protecting his clan and kin; there can be no more noble ending, for a member of any species. And he will be missed by all who knew him."
After another beat of silence, Adam came out to join Goliath at the center of the clearing. Together, they took the pictures of Brentwood off the easels and set them carefully on the stack of wood that topped the small knoll, and draped the black satin cloth over them. Then Adam retrieved the torch from its holder, and set it to the base of the woodpile.
With soft hissing, popping and crackling, the wood burned and the portraits with them, and smoke and sparks from that fire rose into the air. As they rose, Goliath said in a voice rough with emotion, "Good journey to the Star Clan, Brentwood; we know you will be welcomed there. May your star shine bright forever…"
For a few more seconds all stood in silence, watching the smoke rise up to the heavens. Then Stephen whispered to a human teen named Suzette Dubois, who was holding a clarinet, "Now."
Suzette wiped a tear away, lifted the clarinet to her lips and began playing a children's tune; one that was instantly recognizable. All around the cobbler's bench / the monkey chased the weasel / the monkey thought it was all in fun / POP! Goes the weasel!
Goliath looked startled as the sprightly music floated across the clearing, but Hudson only nodded andmurmured justloud enough for those standing close to him to hear, "Aye, he loved that song…"
After two verses of Pop Goes the Weasel, Stephen lifted his trumpet to his lips. That was the signal for all the other gargoyles and humans carrying instruments to do the same, and suddenly the air was filled with music; a joyous crescendo of sound. Amid the horns and woodwinds blowing and the rousing beat of the drums, a gargoyle named Joseph began singing in a rumbling baritone, "Oh when the saints go marching in/ Oh when the saints go marching in/ Lord, how I want to be in that number/ When the saints go marching in!"
The New Orleans Clan surrounded the bewildered members of the Manhattan Clan and led them back to the mansion, dancing or marching and playing raucously joyous tunes all the way. The others of her clan just stared about themselves in bewilderment, but Angela finally said in confusion and protest, "I don't understand… a gargoyle is dead! Why are you… celebrating?"
It was Elizabeth, walking by Elisa's side, who answered her. "Because Death is a part of Life, cherie… ultimately, it can't be escaped, only accepted. We're celebrating the fact that Brentwood has gone on to a better place now, and for the rest of us, life goes on. Life goes on, and it's meant to be lived, not spent in eternal mourning or dread of what's to come! Wouldn't your Brentwood have wanted it that way?"THE END