05/12/01
Denigoddess2001@aol.com

The Dragon, The Warlock, And The Annulus Of Avalon
Saints In The Night II

WHAT HAS GONE ON BEFORE: The recently resurrected Wyvern clan has successfully transmigrated from the Wyvern ruins to a small island in the North Sea called Caledon Isle. Owned by Xanatos Enterprises, it is a homeland for a people exiled from their true era to reassert their sovereignty. Xanatos has brought in Multi-linguist, Wren Summers, to oversee the orientation and education of the clan. Assigned to her is one of Goliath's lieutenants as her personal attaché. She aided the Gargoyle Warrior in finding a suitable name. Demetrius, as he calls himself, requested Wren's presence at his Naming ceremony.

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN GARGOYLES, THEY BELONG TO DISNEY. CALEDON ISLE IS MY PRIME PIECE OF REAL ESTATE, I THOUGHT OF IT SO THEREFORE I OWN IT. WREN, DEMETRIUS AND ALL NON-GARGOYLE CANON CHARACTERS ARE MINE, MINE, MINE!!! :)

[BRACKETED WORDS INDICATE THOUGHT OR TELEPATHIC TRANSMISSION]


THE DRAGON, THE WARLOCK, AND THE ANNULUS OF AVALON
SAINTS IN THE NIGHT
PART II

BY:
DENIGODDESS2001


CHAPTER I

Wren adapted well to her nocturnal agenda. Her assiduous character allowed for efficient education and orientation of the clan. She awaited eagerly their awakening, secretly thrilled in the marvelous demonstration of strength and majesty as they shed their stone skins. Following dusk, she and the clan broke bread in Mahsma (first meal).

Wren learned to appreciate the simple diet embraced by the clan. Their victuals relied heavily upon mutton and beef. Delicious sides of cheese and fresh, crisp island greens accompanied the unique cuisine. Several within the clan gladly gathered indigenous roots and berries to add flavor to the meals. Wren thought of the communal meals as large family gatherings meeting for Sunday dinner.

Their introduction to the 21st century included classes laden with History, Science, and Language classes. The clan also learned about such modern conveniences as computers and digital entertainment. Their acclimation to 21st Century life included basic Penmanship, Reading, and Language tutoring.

Wren likewise learned about long-lost arts such as weapon-smithing and metalsmithing. She heard articulate, detailed orations of Scottish History not heard since the tenth century. Demetrius taught Wren Gaelic while she taught him Windows 2004. Veda shared with Wren the ways of midwifery and Herbalism. Veda learned to love Gray's Anatomy and Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. A Dame named Valkyrie excelled in elaborate hand-wrought beadwork and jewelry craft. Wren watched in fascination as Valkyrie used eight large talons to intricately craft small glass and gem beads into kaleidoscopic masterpieces. The human had ten small fingers and not one ounce of grace to guide her fumbling fingers.

She thought them a culture with no indigenous culture, technology, art, history or science. She thought them well-nigh childlike wards warranting Human guidance and tutelage. Wren erroneously presupposed Gargoyles to be bestial, cave-dwelling creatures that were akin to the trite abstract of 'Noble Savage.'

They were gifted, talented individuals rich in knowledge and abundant in knowledge. Amongst the clan there worked skillful artisans adept at weaving, weaponry, and metalsmithing. Some naturally gravitated toward music and the creative arts. Others shared their time-tested techniques for horticulture and agriculture. Goliath and Demetrius explained that while Gargoyles were predators by nature, Gargoyles oftentimes fended for themselves during famine. Rarely did superstitious humans wished sharing their coveted foodstuffs with 'filthy beasts.'

Her greatest asset seemed to become her foremost confidant. Demetrius proved himself of resourceful reason and contemplative character. Yet, he brought festivity prevalently wanting in Wren's tedious existence. Their conversations swiftly became a forum for an exchange of ideas and philosophies. Vivacious and energetic, their dialogues usually evolved into spirited debates. Demetrius brought Wren diversity. She imparted enlightenment.

One night following Mahsma, Wren excused herself from the fireside gathering to finish some paperwork for Xanatos Enterprises. She made her excuses to Veda and Valkyrie and found herself returning to her office in the castle.

While walking the dusty path that led to Cair Ex Cathedra, Wren heard a familiar rustle in the air above her. She glanced skyward to see Demetrius gliding deftly in the moonlight. He come to land in front of the linguist. His wings adorned him as a cloak of dark velvet.

"Ah, why are you heading towards the castle this fine evening?" He teased merrily. "The others are gathering after their lessons for a celebration."

"What kind?" Curiosity tugged at Wren's mind. "It seems that the clan always finds a reason for celebration. I thought that Gargoyles were supposed to be rather dour, somber creatures?"

"By whose authority was it so deemed?" He countered flippantly. "Surely, milady, you think not all of us taciturn sentinels possessing dour natures."

Wren covered her mouth to hide her snicker. Again, the Gargoyle foiled one of her more set notions regarding the mysterious Wyvern clan. His violet eyes widened in disbelief. "Wren, when are you going to learn not to judge a Gargoyle by it's clan leader?"

She nodded concession as Demetrius' comment rang true. Goliath, Veda, and Angus seemed the epitomes of Gargoyle disposition; morose, pensive, and somber. Yet, here was Demetrius smiling and laughing before her. Teasing her for her antiquated ideas about his kind, he brought to Wren a much-needed release from her monotonous reality.

"Gargoyles, one. Humans? Big fat Zero." She raised her hands in a sign of defeat. "Again, I'm proven wrong."

"You need not be so contrite. By the Dragon, Wren, when are you going to revel in life's gifts and blessings?" He asked.

"Who has time for fun?" She thought of the mounds of paperwork needing checked. She thought of the invoices for office and school supplies. She knew that she needed more computers with which to tutor the novice Internet surfers. Veda required more wool for spinning. Valkyrie wanted more beads and clasps. Angus wanted a cookbook. There were so many things to do and so much to remember.

Demetrius' empathic senses effortlessly recognized her emotions of helplessness and fatigue. Those scrutinizing lavender orbs slashed through Wren's professionalism to the worries simmering beneath her prim facade. "Milady, might I incur your consent to join me in a midnight flight?"

"I can't." She refused instantly. "I have so much to do and so little time to get it accomplished."

"Come now, Lass." He beckoned her with one finger. "A nightfall glide just might be what will clear your mind of all the burdens upon you."

"No, thanks, Demetrius." She pulled away from his hold. "I have paperwork up to my eyeballs. I need to order supplies for several members of the clan. I also have to contact Dr. McCoy and Dr. Reyez and for Greer's three month examination."

"You create ample solicitude over that which can be done by daystar." He leaned forward and flashed her a superlative smile. She thought that the Dames must love his rather roguish air.

"I worry too much?" She translated automatically.

"Is that not what I said?" He grabbed her in his arms. "Come Wren, glide with me but for a while. Learn to love the gifts blessed us by the Powers-That-Be."

"Demetrius, another time." She said firmly placing his arms at his sides. "I can't."

"How long will this drudgery detain you?" He inquired.

"Paperwork? A few telephone calls... perhaps an hour or two if I hurry."

"Then at the stroke of midnight, I shall be at your chamber door requiring your presence for an evening of merriment." He bowed gallantly before the prim professional in front of him. "I shall not receive nay as an answer from your lips this night, Wren."

She knew he meant it. [Why is it that one of the things he and I have in common is that we're both stubborn!? I'll never get any work done if I don't give him an answer.]

"Fine, Demetrius." Exasperation laced Wren's voice. "Give me two hours to complete my workload and I'll unwind."

"Unwind?" He asked puzzled at the strange word. "Perchance, Fair lady you will tell me the import of this word."

"Unwind...it means mellow out, relax, get rid of one's tensions."

"Make merry and be of good cheer." He surmised. "Therewith, we shall
un-wind with one another."

"Sounds like a plan."

"A good one, I think."

With that, she escaped his persistent interrogation and fled to her office. Wren berated herself by being sensitive to Demetrius' dashing persuasion. She refused to waste valuable time partying when work required completion.

[The last thing I need to think about are lavender eyes and a perfect smile.] She sighed as she entered her office, sat at her desk, and grabbed the first stack of papers on her right.

*******

The summertime moon brilliantly illuminated the mid-July evening. A warm breeze rustled the grasses around him. Tonight was the first of four harvest moons, and it was a cause for jubilation. How he wished his friend, Wren, would partake of the festivities rather than documenting them.

He found her to be efficient, discreetly clever, and of subtle merriment. Yet, his human tutor rarely laughed or smiled. She never spoke of her clan or those close to her. In all his life, he knew that Humanity would not have changed so much in one millennium. To understand this new world, one needed to understand the world beyond the shores of Caledon. To better know this foreign realm, he needed to understand humans like Wren Summers.

He lightly rapped on her door of her office. No answer came from the other side of the door. He knocked again more loudly this time. Still, all remained quiet.

"Wren?" Demetrius tried the door. The knob failed to turn. [Locked again to prevent distraction.]

With a deft turn and crunch of his massive hand, the knob fell to the ground. He knew Wren wouldn't be pleased, but, it was unlike her not to answer when someone knocked. He entered the dimly lit office and found only a desk lamp lighting the room. There, slumped over her finished stack of papers lay Wren Summers in deep slumber.

[Humans have strong spirit but weak constitution.] He brushed away the straight strands of brown. He noticed as the light cast a golden halo about Wren. Instead of the drab brown he thought her color, he noticed delicate chestnut streams dancing in the light.

"Wren?" He spoke quietly to her.

"Mmm...." She mumbled groggily. "Five more minutes, Mom."

"Wren." Demetrius carefully shook her shoulder. His tone became more insistent. "You must wake up. You can not sleep here."

"Leave me alone." She growled and placed her head down upon the desk.

"Headstrong female, if you keep laboring away, you'll be little more than a shriveled spinster." His eyes came alive with lavender fire.

"What?" She lifted her head again. "What time is it?"

"It is but a few moments after midnight." He told her.

She bolted upright and glanced at her watch. "Demetrius, how long have I been asleep?"

"I know not. Yet, it seems you are in dire need of it." He offered his hand to her. "While I had hoped for you to revel in the merriment of the first harvest moon, it is paramount that you rest. We shall enjoy ourselves another time."

"No, I promised." She protested as she put on her glasses. "I promised you a night of fun... let's just do it."

"You need sleep, not festivity."

"Says who?" She challenged the Warrior standing beside her. "Who died and made you God?"

"Excuse me?" Bewildered by her strange word that bordered on lunacy.

"Since when are you able to make my decisions for me?" She asked pointedly.

"Since the moment that Goliath entrusted me with your protection and well-being." He reminded her. He cloaked his wings about him in a gabardine of black velvet. "You see to our needs yet you do not heed your own."

"Don't get territorial on me, Demetrius." She hated that singular mindset that Demetrius had when he thought it needed. "I decide what's good for me and I think that you're right; I need a night out."

She shuffled her papers and put them neatly in her briefcase. "All the work is done. It just needs to be sent back to the states. Let's go party."

"Party?"

"Make merry." She translated in exasperation. "I am going to have to catch you up on current lingo. Otherwise, we're going to have a very hard time just talking."

"As you wish."

The two made their way to the bonfire where the Gargoyles sat imbibing mead and enjoying freshly roasted drumsticks of fowl. There was dancing around the bonfire. Warriors of both genders tested their skills in mock combat. Hatchlings ran about playing with toys carved for them by one called Atalanta. Not only was the Dame a talented carpenter, she was likewise an adept blacksmith.

She stood proudly eyeing her newest creation. As Demetrius and Wren approached her workshop, she looked up and waved to them. However, when the Gargoyle's blue eyes noticed the human, their welcoming warmth swiftly dimmed.

"Atalanta, wellmet!" He and she grasped their wrists in greeting. "How comes your work this night?"
"Well." Atalanta said nothing as she quickly glanced at the human and then just as quickly ignored her. "Brother, what brings you by this way? You finally chose to participate in the festivities?"

"I was detained for a short time." He replied warily.

Atalanta again looked disdainfully at the human female beside him. "I can only guess why."

Wren heard the sneer in her words. The golden gargoyle was one of the few that shunned the overtures made by Xanatos and the others. She felt great anger at most humans for the atrocities committed by them against her kind. She thought of them as nothing more than hairless apes good only for destroying one another. Demetrius stood as a fortress behind her. She felt his warm hands come to rest easily on her shoulders.

Wren sought desperately for anything to alleviated the tension among the three of them. Her hazel eyes darted around the room to a circlet roughly the size of her head hanging neatly on the back wall of the shop.

"Did you craft that?" Wren asked to cut through the contempt simmering from the Dame. She pointed to the hoop behind the golden gargoyle. "I've never seen anything like it."

"Aye, I crafted it for the Magus in the 980. It's some of my finest work." The pride and satisfaction in Atalanta's voice were welcome changes from the venom that came from her aversion to humans.

"The wizard that turned Goliath and the Manhattan clan to stone?" Wren questioned. The realization hit her. [This might be a chance to learn some of the clan lore and see a true relic of another time.]

"One and the same." Atalanta confirmed. "It's called the Annulus of Avalon, better known as the Raven's Ring."

"Why is it called that?" Wren tried to see through the darkness to the ring behind Atalanta. The Dame noticed that the human wanted a better look. With a sigh of annoyance, she retrieved it from the hook and handed it to the human.

"It's called the Annulus of Avalon because Oberon himself wanted it made. More commonly, it's called the Raven's Ring because that isn't such a mouthful." Atalanta watched the human examine her prize work.

"What is the metal used to make this?" Wren turned over the ring in her hands. The circlet was the width of her forearm. The metal was a dark gray metal that sparkled brightly in the moonlight. One side was engraved with intricate Celtic flourishes and adorned with small luminescent blue gems. "I've never seen an alloy like this."

"It is from the very heart of Avalon. It is the metal of Oberon. It was thought to be the same metal that makes the blade of Excaliber." She said proudly. "Goliath's second-in-command procured it from the Magus for the amulet."

"So what do you call this metal?"

"I just said; The Metal of Oberon." The Gargoyle abruptly answered Wren.

"Oberonite."

"You must name everything, you humans." Atalanta sneered. "It matters not it's name, but, it's properties. It cuts through all armor. It frightens the undead and creatures of darkness.

[Funny, you're still here.] Wren's thoughts were neither pleasant nor kind toward the witch standing here.

"Ow!" She brought her sliced finger to her mouth to soothe the sting. Wren looked down and saw her own blood mark the metal of the Annulus.

"Careful, Human." Atalanta said smugly. "This is a weapon, not a toy."

"Those gems are rare sapphires brought back by monks on trek to the land of Yeshua. It is said that those stones are the fallen tears of Tacitus Septimus. One of his descendants brought them to Scotland and helped to found our clan in 381 upon the cliffs of Wyvern."

"Wow." Wren whispered as she ran her fingers over the small gems and the ornate Celtic designs adorning the annulus. She trailed her fingertip along the edge. A sharp pain flared in her finger.

"Now, I see how it's a weapon." Wren applied pressure to stop the bleeding.

"Nay, I think not, Lassie. It is enchanted with the Magus' Magick. When it is thrown, it unfailingly returns to it's caster's hand. If the proper Magicks are invoked, it can send you to realms beyond that of dreams and Avalon.

"Another relic like the Phoenix gate." Demetrius growled in a low, ominous tone. "I have little use for the trappings of sorcery. So, it sends those beyond the realms of time?"

"Nay, brother, nay." Atalanta protested. "It sends it's caster beyond the realms of this world. It is said that the Magus made it to be a ingress to the realms of Heaven and Hell. It is said to be a gateway to the Reflective Realms."

"Reflective Realms?" Wren was lost. "What are those?"

"Not what, Human, where!" Atalanta rebuked her. "The Phoenix Gate takes you through time. The Raven's Ring take you to worlds on the other side of the looking glass. Alikened like ours while others, yet, are nothing as what we have seen. Some are paradise and others are duplicitous in nature. Those who my live here may never have been born in the Reflective Realms. Those long since died may well still live there. It is said that there are as many reflections of this Earth as there are stars in the sky."

"Do you mean other dimensions?" Wren guessed.

"Aye, I've heard them called as such." Atalanta grudgingly admitted. "Demetrius said you were bright as you are plain. I find that to be true. Your mind is quick for a human."

"Plain?" She asked. "Plain?!"

Wren turned with bubbling fury toward the ebony gargoyle. "Plain?"

"Forgive my early summations." He held up his arm to shield himself from her anger. "They were inspired by the stupor of a thousand year sleep."

"Caused by humans! They destroyed our clan. They killed our young. They murdered us as they slept." Atalanta reminded him.

"Remember that it was a human that brought us new life." He said in a low, articulated tone of warning.

"For their own purposes... naïve and misguided." She scoffed.

She looked at the other side of the Annulus. She saw that in flowing script some words engraved into the metal. "You're very good at what you do. The detailed workmanship is exquisite."

She looked again at the Latin Engravings upon the circlet. "What's this?"

She loosely translated the words in from Latin to English.

"Advent of a shadow realm
cast by my hand this weapon made
unloose this Magick unbolt this gate
to a reflective realm do lead the way."

A mist of mint and saffron rose from the ashes beneath the forge and swirled around Wren. The Annulus radiated brilliance akin to the glow of a Gargoyle's stare.

"You stupid fool!" Atalanta exclaimed as she saw the Magick working within her shop. "What in the name of Tacitus are you doing!?"


"Nothing!" Wren cried as the mist rose to her waist. "Here!" She thrust the ring at Atalanta. "Take the damn thing."

Atalanta's golden talons reached for the Raven's Ring. However, azure sparks flew and she drew back her hand and yelped. "Damnation! You're bloodbound to the accursed thing. When you spilled your blood and then you cast the spell, you made the Annulus yours. You've opened a gateway and you're going to be gone very soon."

"Stop it!" Wren cried trying to divest her hand of the round magical jinx.

"I can't. Only the Magus can do that." Then, Atalanta chuckled. "Perhaps, human, you'll learn to keep your mouth shut. Ye shouldn't mess with things not meant for ye, Human."

Just then, Demetrius slinked his powerful tail tightly around Wren's slender waist. He tightly embraced her to his powerful frame. He tucked her head into his chest. He enveloped his jet and silver wings around the young human.

"What in Blazes are you doing, Brother?" Atalanta looked at Demetrius as if he were quite daft. "Where the ring goes, she goes. With her gone, that's one less human left to endanger and taint our clan."

"Where she goes, I go." He growled and his eyes burned with their preternatural lavender fire.

"Damn you, Demetrius! Let me go." Wren struggled to free herself as the mint and saffron mist now rose to their shoulders. "You still have time to let go."

"Where you go, I go." He whispered into her hair. "Always."

"You're mad!" She screamed as the smell of Ginger filled her nostrils.

"No, I am a Gargoyle and I protect you." Demetrius said with great solemnity as a column of light descended from the heavens and engulfed them both.

Atalanta watched stupefied as the brilliant column of gold light brightened so much that she turned from it so not to be blinded. There was a loud clap of something as thunder and Demetrius and Wren vanished.

[Veda, Angus, and Hudson were not going to like this at all.]

Perhaps, this human's impulsive act was enough to send the vermin packing.

*****


Chapter II

He thundered and she screamed as they tumbled arm and wing through a pool of blinding light. The air rushed about them. Demetrius angled them so that he would be the one to take the brunt of the fall. They landed with a solid thud and rolled for several feet. Bruised and hurting, they lay silent upon the ground for several moments.

"Are you injured?" Demetrius' light Scottish lilt seemed a bit thicker than usual. His voice ladened with concern, he remained still. There was only silence in the air between them. "Wren, answer me!"

"I'm fine." She said longing for the breath that had long since been pushed from her lungs when she tried to scream. "Are you all right?"

Demetrius noticed a sharp pain in his right wing. He slowly released Wren and looked at it. He grimly realized that it hung limply at his side. Upon closer scrutiny, Demetrius discovered that it he suffered a broken wing in their rough-and-tumble fall.

"Nothing that one day of stone sleep will not remedy." He said gravely. "How was it that a Latin incantation activated when said in English."

"I don't think it matters what language is used. If said, the meaning is the same. It'll work." Wren ran her fingers through her disheveled brown hair. "I'm sorry, Demetrius."

"Worry not, Wren." He gave her a tight squeeze. He winced as his broken wing spasmed. "If it can bring us her, then the Raven's Ring will return us home."

"Just exactly where is 'here?'" Wren asked.

They saw a great forest surrounding them. Thick, lush foliage indicated late Spring or Early summer. Large trees surrounded them. The branches entwined with one another so that they formed strong canopy above them. The leaves glistened with midnight dew so that the moonlight reflected across the grove. As Demetrius looked at the cones lying on the ground, branches and other vegetation, Wren chose to gaze upward to the heavens. The sight that met her eyes was one of magnificent splendor and beauty. It robbed of her breath and quieted her frightened spirit.

Instead of a sky of midnight black, the sky above them was a wash of dark scarlet and indigo streams. The were celestial vapors dancing around each other. They blended into a sea of dark violet. Wren was taken aback by the exotic skies above her.

"Demetrius, we're not in Scotland anymore." She said in a small voice as she grabbed his arm and linked it in hers. She motioned above them. "Look upwards."

What met their astounded eyes was a glorious sight. Not only was there one moon. There were seven. Three were adorned in rings circling about them. Demetrius protective embraced Wren in his strong dark wings as he surveyed the constellations. The stars seemed larger and brighter than the ones he knew. T

"Whereupon whatever realm we walk, surely this is not Caledon." He refused to reveal his fear to the diminutive female. [I know not when the sun rises here. I can not protect her when I am in stone sleep.]

He listened to the sounds of the night. Demetrius noticed there were no crickets chirping or frogs singing to their mates as when they had first landed. The singing of birds he thought odd so early in the night. He looked around for protection and shelter.

He cupped his hands together and knelt before Wren. "Lass, you'll be safest in the trees until whilst I sleep. Come now."

"No way, Demetrius. Friends don't leave friends behind." With her hands on her hips and her feet in a determined stance she almost looked like a clan warrior. Demetrius immediately discharged the thought. It was merely a trick of the light. "Where you go, I go."

"Damnation, woman! Use not my words against me." He bellowed. "How you vex me thus!"

"I irritate the hell out of you." She smirked at how archaic his speech became when he was angry ...or worried. She knew that this Gargoyle had too much pride for his own good. He was a knowledgeable, experienced warrior. Yet, sometimes he wasn't comfortable in his own skin. Wren promptly conceded that they were out of their element.

"Is that not what I just said?" He nodded in the direction of his cupped hands. "Wren, for the love of your God...please. I beseech thee, Milady, do as I bid thee?"

"Being stuck in a tree isn't going to do you any good." She said as she stepped into makeshift stirrup. He hoisted her upwards until she was on a sturdy branch roughly ten feet from the ground.

"Perchance you may be true in your assessment." Demetrius admitted. "I will be unable to protect you during the day. However, I will not put you in harm's way while I am still flesh. Climb to the next branch and I will scout the area."

Demetrius felt a spiked thrust of unadulterated agony shoot through his broken wing. He was unable to glide or cloak. They were in need of knowledge. He marked the tree at the base with three deep talon marks so as to not lose his way. He prowled the forest with a hunter's stillness.

He noticed that the trees seemed not to have merely green foliage. Leaves seemed to appear blue in this strange light of the alien orbs in the skies above him. He noticed the quiet of the night still loomed over them. Demetrius attempted to climb for a better vantage point, but his broken wing caused him torture.

Snap.

The Ebony Gargoyle's head turned immediately to his right. He heard a soft rustle approximately twenty yards away through the trees. Using an old hunter's trick taught to him by Hudson, Demetrius still himself behind the trunk of a large seeming Maple tree. He draped his wings about him and climbed into the tree

"Halt. They are near." A voice bellowed. "The Prelate said the stars marked this hill as the place. Time is short. Find them now."

Moments passed and Demetrius' tried to arrest the searing sensation in his wing with focus upon these strangers in the forest. He knew from their footsteps that there were at three. One from the sound of each step was tall and massive, not unlike himself. The other two seemed odd. They walked with the delicacy of children, yet with a ranger's gait.

"Put me down, you overgrown bovine." Wren's voice came in heavy protest from nearby. At that point, Demetrius no longer chose to hide behind his wings. He simply needed to pick his proper moment.

Stifling the urge to growl, he slowly opened his wings. He saw two short creatures wearing earth-hued clothing standing in front of a most unbelievable creature. From his feet to his chest, he donned the finest leather armor that Demetrius had seen in centuries. The bracers upon his arms were leather, not metal, so he knew this individual to be a scout and not exclusively a warrior. Even Demetrius could not stifle the gasp when he looked into the Scout's eyes.

They were brown. They were not the eyes of a man. The were the eyes of a bull's head upon a man's body.

"Dragon's Fire! It's an Nightkind." The voice bellowed.

"Release the girl." Demetrius tone was one of a warrior ready for combat. His tail lashed violently and his dark wings unfurled.

The Scout never took his gaze from Demetrius. "Release her. We have found whom we're looking for this night."

The two minotaurs carefully placed Wren on her feet and loosened her bonds. She shot them a scathing state that spoke volumes. Wren scurried over to Demetrius' side. "What's going on? What are you talking about? Where are we?"

"You don't know?" The Scout seemed genuine amazed at their naiveté.

"Tell us." Demetrius demanded. "Who are you?"

"I'm Kirn, A High Priest of the Temple of Skylaris." Kirn motioned to his two companions behind him, "Marg and Beloche, two clerics dispense by the Prelate for the Sojourner and her Champion."

"Finding us? Why?" The Ebony Warrior's tail protectively encircled Wren's waist.

"Answer my questions now." Kirn told them. "Kind lady are you a Child of Gaea?"

"Child of Gaea?" She looked at Kirn and thought him somewhat crazed. "I don't understand the reference."

"Are you not a child of Gaea, one who her warmth in the arms a solitary daystar?"

"Gaea? As in Mother Nature?" She shook her head from him. "I'm from Earth."

"Is that Gaea?"

"It has been called as such. She is Human." Demetrius explained.

"That construes much." Kirn nodded. "Gaeans are but creatures of daytales, legend and myth. To have creatures withstand such light as that of a daystar is impossible."

"Daystar? What are you talking about?"

"Legend has it that Gaea is a realm engulfed in a blinding light from a solitary daystar."

"The daystar of which you speak exists. Her kind call it 'the sun.'" Demetrius studied this creature before him. "Is there not daylight here?"

"Daylight is a bane for most of us." Kirn replied. "But truly, your kind are able to see through such fire."

"Of course, Humans aren't nocturnal by nature, but, we can be by choice. Sunlight doesn't hurt us."

"Outstanding!" Kirn motioned to Marg and Beloche. "Return to the temple at once and relay to the Prelate what you have heard. Have the servants prepared the finest food and pour the finest wine for our guests."

"At once, my Liege." The two minotaurs made a hasty exit from the way they came.

"Now, where are we and why do you think that we're the ones you're looking for?" Wren probed.

"It was deemed by augurs millennia ago that an everlasting darkness would fall upon Ainran when LuKasha and his minions descended upon this once bright land." Kirn hung his head. "As long as that warlock sits upon the throne of Ainran, no daylight will conquer darkness."

"This has nothing to do with us." Demetrius said. "We are but lost travelers in a world not our own."

"Ah, but, you don't understand, my good Nightkind." Kirn pointed to the stars above them. "The constellation of the Gargoyle is visible for the first time in ten years. All seven moons are aligned brightly across the heavens. The ground upon which we stand was soaked in the Dragon's own blood and baptized in her fire. The Prelate Antares said that if we were to find her two emminsaries, it would be upon this holy spot. Here, two of her children would come to free the Princess."

"Us? Free a princess?? Yeah, right. You have the wrong people." Wren looked at Kirn and she held up the annulus. "We're here because I was unfortunate enough to read an incantation that I shouldn't have. Tall, Dark, and Handsome here just hopped along for the ride. He has an overprotective streak."

"It is said that the Deliver of the true Heiress carries a weapon that will turn away LuKasha's minions."

"Dream on. I'm a linguist, not a hero." Wren retorted. "Talk to the Gargoyle, he the protector."

"You are both needed, Sojourner." Kirn bowed politely. "For no mere mortal can approach the Altar Of Skylaris that has never seen the brightness of daylight."

"I am just that; a mere mortal."

"LuKasha has made light the bane of this world. Only darkness keeps us safe and it is also our prison." Kirn hung his head. "My kind have not seen the sun in ten generations."

"Surely, there's been some mistake." Wren protested. "You need warriors; an army. I know enough about Magick to know that if someone can blot out the light of an entire world, then, he's more than what we can handle."

"But you are a Child of Gaea, you are a Daywalker. You must help us." Kirn's desperation touched Wren's heart. She knew that she was no hero and certainly no warrior. That's why the world had the X-Men and the Gargoyles. She preferred administration and organization to heroics.

"In our world, you'd be considered a creature of power and myth." She looked at the stalwart minotaur.

"And here you are the light of the world." He rebuked her.

"I no crosses to bear." She turned to Demetrius. "If there is no sunlight, then you'll not be able to heal or turn to stone."

"Nightkind are rare and I have never known them to turn to stone. Yet, if the legends are true, the daystar brings about such slumber. LuKasha has had most clans destroyed because they stood against him in the Great War." Kirn nodded in the direction his companions had traveled. "Please, I ask you to accept our hospitality before you decide. We offer you food and shelter. No harm will come to you, I promise."

Wren was about to say no thank you when Demetrius intervened. "Kirn, you've told us much. I am sure that you understand my friend's trepidation. May we have a moment please?"

"Of course, you shall find me shortly up the path." With that, Kirn bowed and turned to go.

When they were finally alone, Demetrius turned to his friend. "I sense your wariness and I concur that caution is warranted. But, Milady, these people seemingly know the yoke of oppression for a thousand years. They have never felt the warmth of the sun upon their skin or known it's brilliant splendor. Mages such as this LuKasha are an abomination when they misuse their preternatural gifts for their own selfish ends."

"Look at the facts, Demetrius." She pointed to his wing. "You're injured. You can't glide, cloak your wings or function without pain. Look at me, I'm a mutant with no fighting skills. I'm no hero. I've already gotten us into one mess and I'm in hurry to enter another. I want to live and get back home."

"I sense no mistruth in his words." Demetrius folded his arms and stood with feet shoulder-width apart. Only the very tip of his tail twitched. [Great, he's going into stubborn over-the-top-I'm-Mr.-Protector mode.]

"Wren, when Adrienne resurrected our clan, she used her inner Magick to bring us back from the Beyond. She gave of herself to make us impervious to those who would make us but rubble and dust. She gave us the ability to see into the innermost spirit and mind of those around us. I have looked into Kirn's heart and see only honor and know only truth. I have seen many things you can not comprehend. She imbued the clan with Empathic gifts. One of those gifts is to sense truth or duplicity. I can also see his spirit. He is a Minotaur of integrity."

"We also only met him twenty minutes ago." She reminded him. "I know the story of your resurrection. That has nothing to do with the current situation. We have to find out how to use this annulus to get us back home."

"Wren, your heart and spirit have been timid all your days. You've longed for a hero's life and a chance to do something worthwhile with your gifts. Now, herein lies your blessing and you run like a frightened hatchling."

"Look, Dude, I'm not a Gargoyle. I don't have to protect anyone or anything. I'm a teacher not a warrior. I don't like it when you're preaching to me."

"Tacitus once said that Evil is worst and thriving greatest when righteous hearts stand by, but, do nothing." His tail poked her in the bosom in a challenge. "You were willing to risk the unknown for money to teach us Gargoyles about the new world. Yet, I ask you now to risk the unknown to see if righteousness can be brought about."

Those lavender eyes soulfully burned with the fires of justice and conscience. His voice spoke the words of rectitude and integrity. His looming presence represented honor and preservation of the greater good.

"Milady, if it were any of our clan yoked in such darkness? Would you not at least contemplate before a resolution?"

[Damn! How does he manage to wriggle past my good judgment and make me do impulsive things? He'll be the death of me yet.]

"Fine." Wren grumbled. "We can research it further and see if what Kirn is telling us is legitimate. If for one moment, ONE INSTANT, we find that he's lying to us, we leave."

"Agreed." Demetrius extended his hand to her. "Adrienne told me that when agreements are made with humans, they 'shake on it' to seal their pact."

"You don't trust me?" She asked warily.

"I trust you and I know you are a woman of your word. That is why I offer you my hand so that you know my words are true." Demetrius' taloned hand remained extended her hand.

"I never have to doubt you. I never have. You've always been a man- ur, Gargoyle of your word." She put her tiny hand in his. "I'm not so brave. I'll do my best to not let you down."

"You've yet to disappoint me."

"Liar."

"Not a lie, simply perspective." He reminded her. "I've learned that as humans go, you abhor commitments, but you do love a challenge. I've also learned that your trust isn't easily given. I also know that you've placed your trust in me much to your dismay. It is no error that you have done so. I know it is no misdeed that I have done similarly with you, Wren."

"Let's go talk with Kirn." She conceded. Damn Demetrius and that compelling charisma. She knew Gargoyles had that ability over most humans. "I'm looking forward to a warm bed and good food."

"As am I."

************

Chapter IV

They journeyed the short distance up the path through the thick woodland and found Kirn resting against the side of a rather large boulder. When he saw them approach, his expression burst into a broad grin. He walked forward and clasped Demetrius' forearm in greeting. He then turned to Wren and gallantly bowed.

"Kind Lady, I thank you for giving this more thought." Kirn's gratefulness was not lost on her. "I know that you will not regret this."

"I hope you're right." She replied. "I'm only doing this because Demetrius finds you to be a good person."

"I hope that I prove myself worthy of that judgment. Come, we must be getting back. LuKasha's spies are everywhere in this wood and you need a healer to see to your friend's wing."

The path was an arduous one with twists and turns. Eventually, the trio made their way to so rather steep rocky cliffs of a tall mountain fortress. The walls were 90 degrees and there was no visible entrance from the outside.
"Are you able to climb, Demetrius?"

"Aye, Kirn. I am." He replied with great resolve.

"I don't think you should do it with an injured wing." Wren warned him. "You're big on pride and bigger on injury. Kirn, is there another way in?"

"Nay, Lady. The fortress was built four centuries ago while a battle raged on about us. Dragons and Pegasi deposited the last of Skylaris' priests within the fortress walls. Some have never been outside the walls. It is so steep that even LuKasha's minions cant desecrate this holy place."

"Then, I guess we climb."

An hour later, they stood in the great dining hall of the Fortress temple. A healer tended to Demetrius' injured wing while Wren treated herself to a hot bath and fresh clothes. Life in the great outdoors didn't suit the city girl.
As she sank into the tub, she tried to forget Atalanta's contempt and her own blunder. She hoped her friend fared better.

At last, they were reunited at a long table in the great dining hall. Wren was flabbergasted at the sight before her. Creatures of myth and lore were seated at the great table. She noticed satyrs and fauns, dwarves and elves, Halflings and Dryads all conversing with one another. Someone rang a booming brass gong and the sound resonated and echoed throughout the stone walls of the temple. They turned to see her on the arm of Beloche.

"Lady Wren of Caledon." The herald announced. Quiet music of lute, drum, and lyre filled the hall as Beloche led her to a seat at the right hand of the table. She already noticed that Demetrius had been seated across from her. She noticed his armbands were polished and he wore a loincloth of white and gold silk. His silver man had been brushed and pulled back with dark leather into a long que that reached to his waist. Wren felt her heart skip a beat.

She herself had traded her wrinkled tan business suit for pants that felt like the best suede. Dark green in color, they matched the ivory linen tunic the felt like silk against her skin. A maidservant had plaited her hair into an intricate braid that resembled the complex weave of a spider's web. Upon her feet were the finest boots she'd ever worn. They were soft like tanned doeskin and yet they had the firmness of finely shaped leather. When Demetrius' eyes met hers, continuance ceased and only that moment remained.

"His Holy Eminence, The Prelate of Skylaris, Antares Questrius." The herald cried. All stood as the doors at the end of the dining hall opened. A creature stepped forward that mesmerized Wren. All stood to greet Antares.

His upper torso was fine honed and sculpted as that of a great athlete. His long, curly black mane tumbled down his back. Like Demetrius, The top part was pulled back with leather into a que. His skin displayed swarthy coloring that added to his mystique. A tattoo of a crescent moon and five claw marks marked his left shoulder. His lower torso almost caused Wren to faint. It was black and resembled the body of a great war horse; perhaps a Clydesdale. It was black. It's flanks were muscular. On the back legs of the creature were white markings just above the hooves. The sharp clopping against the stone floor seemed only to add to the moment.

"It's a Centaur!" Wren whispered excitedly. "Have you ever seen such a marvelous creature?"

"Nay, Wren." Demetrius brought a talon to his lips. "We'll speak of this later."

"Please, friends and honored guest, be seated." The base voice quietly told them. They sat down and watched as the Centaur made his way to the end of the long dining table. "I bid you welcome Champion and Sojourner."

"A toast to your health, Sir." Demetrius raised his goblet.

"Yes, a toast to the Prelate." The others in the group chorused loudly. With the clinking of goblets and the murmur of agreement, Wren knew that Demetrius knew well what to do far more than she.

For awhile they dined and made small talk. At last Demetrius looked at Antares. "Prelate, we know something of your plight. This temple is of Skylaris. We have heard briefly of LuKasha and this Long Night brought upon you. Kirn told us of how you think we are to bring your Princess to the placed upon the Altar of Skylaris. Light will once more be restored and that it will no longer be poison to your people. Can you tell us more?"

"Please, Prelate," Wren added. "Who is Skylaris?"

"Goddess love you, Child of Gaea. That is a lucid question." Antares smiled at the young woman. She is the Goddess, the Queen of the Cosmos. She is Lady of this Realm. She is not always with us because her presence is always needed when good is lacking in this life. Not in my sire's time, nor his sire's has The Lady been seen. The augers and the Magi have pointed and seen the constellations of the Gargoyle and The Dragon once more in Ainrad skies. She walks upon the soil of Ainrad as we speak. She is the down fall of the Warlock that holds enslaves our land in darkness."

"Won't this Lady also fall prey to this darkness you keep talking about?" Wren asked.

"Goddess bless you! Nay? The Dragon find her ban in darkness?" Kirn's loud laughter filled the dining hall. "If Lukasha and his armies can find courage to be in her presence that is more that what I thought her capable of doing. She will make amends and set things right so that night will pass away and the light will return to us."

"This is true." Antares agree. "Kind Sojourner, there is an ancient verse that has given us hope for many centuries. It lets us know that the Dragon has not forsaken us.

"Transgressions shall be the Warlock's shame
When the Dragon scorches him with her Crimson Flame.
With roar let thunder clear away the dark.
His reign shall end with Dragon's marks.
She'll scratch the stone and spread her wings
and light shall rain down and all shall sing.
With talon and fire, the Warlock shall be alive no more
with him expired, righteousness shall be restored."

"It is all we have." Kirn said quietly. "And now, you are both here to aid in the restoration of the Princess to the throne."

"We are only two." Demetrius asked. "We are humbled with your words, Prelate, but we are no army."

"Nor should you be, Champion. That is why you have been brought before me. I know that you are the true Champion and your ladyfriend is the Sojourner. Kirn is to take you to the Altar to commune with Skylaris."

"She's actually a Goddess?" Wren asked. "She isn't just some large reptile that eats people for lunch!"

"Nay, Child of Gaea, she is no common beast." Antares stared at her sternly. "I tell you that she is Queen of this Realm and that which is beyond. Her father is noneother than Sovereign-Allfather-Beyond-The-Stars. She is the Matriarch of all Nightkind and all Demifolke; elves, centaurs, dwarves, Halflings, dryads and other Magickal creatures. Skylaris is a dragon, the Exalted One, The Dragon."

"Will we be unharmed?" Wren felt wary about meeting with a creature of such immense power.

"You will be safe. But, consider yourself of strong constitution if you can stand before Skylaris and remain on your feet." Kirn said as he drank from his goblet. He turned to Wren seated beside him. "She is wild and untamed, she is our Queen, but she is virtuous and of good heart."

"Is she the Dragon that is the source of Magick of the Tome Of Tacitus?" Demetrius could barely breathe as excitement filled his being. "Is she the Dragon that watches over my clan?"

"Tacitus Caeruleus?" Antares asked. "She is the one and the same."

"Then she is the one I have longed to see all my life." Demetrius trembled at the anticipation of meeting his Goddess.

"Is shall come to pass on the morrow, Champion of Skylaris. Beloche travels as we speak to the Altar to make it so. When four of the moons are in the sky, you and the Dragon shall meet."

"Where is the altar? Is it hear in the temple?" Wren asked.

"Nay, Lady." Antares shook his head. "It is but a short flight from here."

"If we're to put the princess on the throne? Shouldn't we free her instead?"

"The best way to awaken the princess from her slumber is to unite with Skylaris. All will come to pass when Her champion and her Sojourner are at her side."

"Agreed. I shall take them after they rest." Kirn told his Prelate. "There is another prophesy that has been passed down from parent to child in my family for many generations.

"When Child of Gaea and Son of Stone
At Altar Meet the Dragon on her ground.
Walls shall fall and gates crumble
and all shall tremble at her roaring sound."

"The stars and moons are properly aligned as the Sages and Magi predicted." Antares nodded in agreement. "So things must be allowed to reach their natural conclusion. She is afoot in Ainrad and your presence makes this truth known to us."

"If this Skylaris is so powerful, then why does she need us?" Wren remained skeptical. "Why does need a Gargoyle and a human to help her?"

"It would seem that you possess unique Magicks of your own." Antares dark eyes stared deeply into the hazel gaze of Wren. "It has been made known to us that you can speak the languages of the animals ...the creaturefolke. It has been revealed that you can alter fate and change Destiny. That is something unknown to us. Even the Dragon is restrain by her Father's plan. Only Children of Gaea have free agency. You, my dear, have also been blessed to enact the choice in your favor. You are blessed."

"No, I'm a mutant. And why Demetrius?"

"He also has been granted the gift of Heartmagick. He can see the truth within. LuKasha knows what is coming into being and will stop at nothing thwart the Dragon. He practices deception and illusion. The Champion of the Dragon has sight beyond sight granted to him during his revival."

"This is just too much!" Wren was stunned in disbelief. "Can you also tell me the name of my future husband and when I'm going to win the lottery again?"

Antares' dark complexion turned eighteen hues of rose in embarrassment. "Lady, it is not for me to say!"

"But has the Dragon made it known to you?" She continued to press the flustered centaur.

"I can only say let your Conscience be your guide." He replied cryptically. "However, I will say this. He will be utterly devoted to you. Your loneliness shall end when you accept what is in your heart."

[I can get the same thing from a reader at a psychic fair.] She mused.

"Wren Summers, you shall win much money at a place known as Reno."

"Hot Dog!" She knew that Antares must have Second Sight when he mentioned her favoring gambling hotspot.

"She is a creature of doubt, this one." Antares commented sadly to Demetrius. "Are coins the only things for which she has faith?"

"We are finding her heart one day at a time." At this point, Wren was thinking of new ways to win enough money to finance her stock portfolio.

"You are her conscience." Antares widened. "You are more than just her protector."

"She is my friend."

"How can you have a friend that thinks only of money?"

"She believes in only what she can touch and feel. Trust doe not know Wren Summers."

"Teach her, Demetrius." Antares clasped the Gargoyle's shoulder. "Teach her well."

Beloche, the minotaur sitting at the other side of Kirn rose hastily from the table. He turned his back to the others and walked toward the open window in the dining hall. He said nothing as he quickly made his way across the room.
The dining party stared at him and said nothing at his odd behavior.

"Brother Beloche, where do you go?" Kirn called out to his friend.

The Brown minotaur turned simply to gaze at Kirn with glazed eyes. They lost their dark brown luster and became pupiless and milky white. Without a word, he stepped upon the ledge of the window. Kirn rose to his feet to prevent his friend from anything dangerous. However, Beloche was quicker. He spread open his arms. He leaned with his back to the ground below him. He fell from the ledge as a diver would freefall from a spring board.

"Beloche!" Kirn bellowed as he watched his friend fall helplessly. "By the Dragon!"

"What's going on?" Asked Wren. "What do you see?"

"He spread his arms and became a gigantic eagle. He flew off to the South in the Direction of LuKasha's castle." Kirn snorted and pawed the ground with his foot. "Antares, allow me to retrieve my brother."

"It will do you little good now, Kirn." Antares shook his head sadly. "His soul left him because of LuKasha's Magick. Beloche is one of his minions now. One can tell when the eye loses color and can no longer see. He fights for the Warlock from this night on."

"I ask forgiveness for what we must do next." Antares pleaded. "You have no time to tarry. Our finest Pegasi will take you to the Altar. There you must meet with Skylaris. Beloche will alert LuKasha that you are here. We have little time. Otherwise, you'll be nothing more than distant memories in our minds."

"What about the Princess?" Demetrius asked. "Need not she be free?"

"You are the only two who can do that. If you are capture or killed, then she'll remain forever in slumber." Antares said urgently. "Kirn, secure them food, water, and bedrolls. Be ready to leave within fifteen minutes."

"What about you?" Wren asked. "Aren't you coming?"

"I am too heavy to leave this place. This is my home and I must remain." Antares explained. "Fear not, the clerics are safe as long as we remain within these walls."

"I hope so." She said with genuine concern.

"Now go!" He urged her and the Gargoyle. "You have little time."


***************


...UNTIL THE NEXT CHAPTER IS WRITTEN...ENJOY AND WONDER...THE REST OF THE STORY WILL BE FINISHED SOON.