The idea for this story was generously provided by Drifting One. Thanks again; this idea was gold! And yes, this was also inspired by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Chapter One: A Dark and Dreary Night
Under the cover of thick storm clouds, a lone figure stalked the streets. The thick rain seemed to beat at her back, but it wasn't enough to deter the woman from her purpose. The rain easily soaked through her shoes and clothes, making her cold beyond belief. She clutched her little bundle closer, covering it with her own cloak to ensure it would stay dry. The cargo began to move around and squirm, grunting slightly in protest to the cold.
"Hush, little one," she implored; praying that she wouldn't be stopped. But then again, who would be out and about, on a night like tonight?
The lightning flashed overhead, and earsplitting thunder pounded in her ears. She hastened her pace, praying that she would reach her destination in time.
"Hey, you!" someone behind her shouted. She turned around in horror.
A soldier! She bolted, but could clearly hear the young man pursuing her.
"Stop!" he called after her; his voice commanding and angry. But she couldn't afford to stop. Her heart pounded in fear, knowing that the man would want to see what she was holding if he caught her. She held the child closer to her bosom.
'I had hoped to leave the city, and live with you alone in seclusion. But I have no choice now.' There! Her last option!
She ran to the old cathedral, and banged on the door. No, even if they opened, the soldier would get her before the priests could help her. Showing an extraordinary amount of bravery, she climbed onto the large stone angel close to the door, one arm firmly around her baby. The soldier came to the base, panting heavily.
"Listen, lady! I know you have something to hide!" he shouted up to her. "Come down, and I'll go easy on you!"
'Yes, but what of my child?' She had been lucky that it was an easy birth, and that it had happened too fast for help to arrive. But, her son's appearance…
She eased herself onto a balcony, knowing that only one last thing was needed to ensure her and her baby's safety. The woman looked down at the soldier, and shouted one word, loud enough to be heard above the thunder.
"Sanctuary!" she screamed, holding her child close to her. The soldier glowered at her, but firmly stood his ground. Sighing, the woman turned away, and headed for the shelter inside the stone church, knowing that he wouldn't move until she came out again. She wasn't brave enough to open the wooden door and risk coming in contact with a priest, but the stone roof overhead was good enough for her.
She collapsed against a stone pillar, still cradling her child close. She laughed breathlessly.
"Are you hungry, son?"
She laughed warmly, and carefully unwrapped the blanket covering her baby's face. He smiled and cooed at her, making her heart melt again. She reached for the neck of her dress, but then a voice stopped her.
"Whoa! Where did you get that baby?!"
The woman gasped, and covered her son's face again. She stood on her feet again, although they were still shaking from the exertion she had already put them through. The woman fearfully held her child to her heart, looking around for the speaker.
"Please! Don't tell anyone what you saw!"
"Hmm. I talk to so few people."
Catching where the voice was coming from, she looked up the pillar she had been leaning against in the middle of the enclosure, and stared in amazement.
"I am tired. Gargoyles don't talk."
The stone crow laughed, slowly shifting into a form of flesh and bone. He stretched his wings out, and moved his position slightly.
"How would you know? Perhaps we just don't like to talk. So tell me; how did you get your hands on such an unusual baby?"
The woman looked down, and held her baby closer.
"He's my son. I gave birth to him five hours ago."
The crow cocked his head in amazement.
"He doesn't look like a human baby."
"I know," she sobbed, rocking the child. "But he's still mine, and I can't let anything happen to him!"
The crow sighed, and sailed off his perch to the nearby balcony.
"May I see the child again? I promise to do no mischief."
Sighing, the woman did as requested. She slowly pulled the blanket back, and held him at an angle so that the living gargoyle could see him. The crow studied the baby carefully.
At first glance, he appeared to be an ordinary cat. But his slanted green eyes didn't want to stay open, and the blanket wasn't the only thing keeping him warm. He was covered with orange and cream fur. But what seemed strangest about him were his tiny hands, which were lost between the boundary of hands and paws. He squirmed, and started crying. The woman blushed, and covered the baby and herself with her cloak.
"If you would?" she asked politely, making the crow jerk and firmly turn his back towards her, out of respect.
"So, how were you planning on raising him? He doesn't exactly seem like the type to blend in."
The woman sighed as her son had his supper.
"I know. I was hoping to go into the woods, and raise him alone."
"What about your husband?"
The woman flushed, and looked down.
"He… he's no longer important."
"He accused me of coupling with a demon behind his back, despite the fact that my baby has his golden hair. He tried to kill our son, and me. I barely managed to stop him, and made a run for it."
"So, you have no idea on why your son's a cat?"
"None whatsoever." But oh, how she would love to. The crow sighed again.
"Do you have any idea on how to survive in the wilderness?"
"Not really, but I could learn."
He shook his head.
"Not without guidance, you couldn't. But that baby will prove to be a hefty secret to keep." Suddenly, his obsidian eyes sparkled magically. "Wait right there." He extended his wings, and flew into the stormy night.
The woman watched him leave, wondering if she should trust him. He wasn't an ordinary gargoyle; that much was certain. But was he good?
"What do you think, son?" she asked her kitten. "Should we wait for the birdie?"
He burped once, and then fell asleep. She laughed.
"All right; we'll wait." She leaned against the pillar, and joined her son in slumber, pausing just long enough to button her dress up again underneath the cloak.
A gentle hand nudged her shoulder.
"Wake, my child. Assistance has arrived."
The woman groggily woke up, slowly realizing that her son wasn't in her arms. An old priest was kneeling in front of her, the babe in his arms. She cried out in fear, making the salt and pepper-haired man chuckle softly.
"Oh, you have nothing to fear from me, dear girl. Toto explained your story."
"Toto?" she asked, accepting her child back from the man, who pointed at the familiar crow on his shoulder. The priest grinned again.
"Not everyone knows that he's alive, and I must say you're lucky that I'm the one who does." The priest bowed politely. "Father Hashio at your service."