"Rhapsody"

Greg Bishansky

"Greatness is never appreciated in youth, called pride in midlife, dismissed in old age and reconsidered in death. Because we cannot tolerate greatness in our midst we do all that we can to destroy it."

- J. Michael Straczynski

Paris, 1920

The Hunter's human ally leapt off her back as she made a tumbling crash landing on to the Observation deck of the Eiffel Tower. She grunted in pain as she rolled to a stop, but lost her grip on the statuette which bounced several feet beyond her.

Demona reached desperately for the Praying Gargoyle, but the human got to it first, and casually dropped the thing off the Tower while waving "Bye-bye, now."

The statuette shattered on impact, leaving only the crystal. Moments later, once the Hunter and her allies were gone, Demona would reclaim it and hide it on holy ground within Notre Dame Cathedral. It would be sixty years before it would ever again be of any use to her.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

New York City, St. Damien's Cathedral

October 26th, 1996

In one hand, Demona held her laser pistol trained on an injured Brooklyn. With her free hand, she poured the D/I-7 into a vial of CV-1000. She tossed aside the empty test tube and picked up the vial. On the altar, the Medici Tablet and the Praying Gargoyle began to glow.

"You'll thank me for this later," she said.

"Don't hold your breath." Brooklyn said, his eyes burning white as he clutched his injured shoulder.

At that moment, the other gargoyles charged in. "Demona!" Goliath cried out, "what sorcery is this?"

"She's already cast a spell. My Latin's rusty, but it can't be good news," the beaked gargoyle answered.

Demona laughed. "Oh, but it is. All I have to do is shatter this vial and all humanity will be destroyed!" The rest of the gargoyles were stunned. "Only our kind will survive, thanks to the power of the Praying Gargoyle!"

Goliath leapt forward. Demona, thinking he was going for her, drew back. But the gargoyle leader grabbed the statuette instead. With little effort, he shattered it in his powerful hands.

"Now spread your evil, if you dare," he spoke without the slightest trace of fear. "We can all die together. You and I, the whole clan," - as he spoke, Angela crossed the chamber and stood at his side against her - "and our daughter."

Demona screamed with rage and then threw the vial into the air as she told Goliath to "catch!" As Goliath dove for it, Demona quickly made her escape. In her heart, she knew he would catch it, but should he fail… so be it.

Five nights later she returned for the crystal. Once again, it was useless to her. Useless for another sixty years.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

New York City, St. Patrick's Cathedral

October 22nd, 2056

It had been decades since she'd been here; while the rest of the city grew and developed, the cathedral was one of the few things that never changed. Human religion meant less to her than the humans themselves, as through the centuries she had seen it used as a weapon and an excuse for their crimes upon each other, and their crimes on her kind. From the Spanish Inquisition to the September 11th terrorist attacks, she never ceased to be amazed at the humans' capacity to use what they hold good and sacred to further their evil agendas. In the case of the latter, she remembered that was probably the last time she made the effort to reach out to him. To try to convince him that humanity was a barbarous species. A disease. But Goliath, being the fool that he was, still clung to his delusions.

Demona landed between the two spires, and scaled the front of the cathedral towards the crucifix. She opened a hidden panel, and reached for her quarry. The Praying Gargoyle was once again completely reformed. Twice now it had been destroyed, postponing her revenge. Not this time.

She laughed. Let humanity enjoy its final twenty-four hours. For she was going to unleash the Armageddon that so many of them both feared and prayed for.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castle Wyvern

Goliath stood on the highest parapet of the castle, gazing south over his protectorate. He had often stood here since he and his clan were awakened so long ago. Sixty-two years ago his world had changed. Sixty-two years ago he had been content only to survive, and adapt. He had sworn he would never trust humans again. A smile crossed his face as he remembered how that had changed.

"What's on your mind?" Goliath turned; he did not have to, but he was always eager to look into the eyes of the woman he loved. His mate. His constant companion. The one who gave him hope for the future. Elisa Maza. She was older now, much more frail. Eighty-eight years old in human terms, but still as strong willed as she had ever been. He spent as much time with her as he could. As much as he wished otherwise, he could not deny her mortality. He could not deny that she had, at best, only a few years left in her.

"I often think of the past as I look toward the future," he replied. "It has been sixty years since our existence was revealed to humankind."

"And only now is the United Nations finally talking about issuing equal protection," Elisa finished his train of thought, as she often did through the years. "No one ever said progress was quick and easy."

"I have been watching the news," he rumbled as he turned to face her. "The political pundits do not believe this 'Gargoyle Minority Protection Act' has much of a chance of passing."

Elisa chuckled. "Once upon a time, you would not have understood the concept of a political pundit. They were just as full of it then as they are now. Don't lose hope, I never have."

Goliath sighed. "Castaway has been speaking out against us at the United Nations for weeks now. They have yet to even allow me in the building."

"Again, no one ever said it would be easy, Goliath. Jack Castaway may seem to be getting the chance his father only dreamed of, but the playing field is a lot more level now. The U.N. may not be inviting you to speak, but Griff is there to counter him."

Goliath smiled. "I remember when New Camelot appointed him as its ambassador."

"The press had a field day with that one. Castaway nearly vomited in public." She walked up beside him and looked southwest. "Besides, Angela is down there right now, tearing them a new one."

"Yes," Goliath agreed. "As she was raised by humans, she may be able to appeal to them in ways that I cannot."

"We'll find out soon enough," she said. Suddenly her eyes lit up and she neatly pushed her way into Goliath's arms. "Take me gliding."

Goliath's eyes went wide. "Elisa, are you sure? The doctor warned you to be careful."

"Life's too short. I want to spend it living. Take me gliding." It was not a request. Goliath smiled, and lifted her into his arms before spreading his wings and taking flight.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Quarryman Brownstone

"Tell the Iranian Ambassador that I appreciate his opposition to the bill," Jack Castaway spoke into hands free phone as he entered his private office. "I understand England and Japan may both prove to be obstacles, but Guatemala hates these creatures just as much as I do."

Castaway strode over to his desk, reaching for a bottle of fine cognac. At least some quality standards never changed. "Yes, my Quarrymen will be outside the U.N. tomorrow night in full force." He laughed, "Well, the laws in this country are a lot more liberal about the right to assemble than in yours." He paused longer, listening. "Of course. Good night, Ambassador."

With one hand, he deactivated his phone and with the other, he began to sip his drink. The amber nectar was warming as it entered his body, calming his nerves, allowing him to focus on his peripheral senses. It was at that moment that he felt the presence of someone else in the room. He turned casually to face the shadows, a tall, Valkyriesque woman, older than he, emerged.

"Thirty-six," he said.

"Seventeen," she replied with a thick Scottish accent and only the slightest smile. "How are you, Jackson?"

"Confident, Aunt Fiona that this bill before the U.N. granting these monsters protection will not pass."

"My all-seeing associates agree," she acknowledged. "But that is not exactly why I am here."

"The Illuminati does not request my services?" he asked, eyebrow arched with curiosity. "Don't tell me this is just a social call."

"You remind me so much of him," she sighed. "My twin brother, your namesake. Your Uncle Jason looked like him too. He gave his life for the family cause, as any Canmore worth their blood would."

"My father abandoned that name," the younger Hunter replied flatly, almost shamefully.

"Because he had no choice. What's in a name anyway, in the end, it is our actions that make us what we are." A dark cloud seemed to spread across her face. "Your aunt Robyn is a disgrace and her brood are traitors to the bloodline. Whether your name is Castaway or Canmore, it makes no difference.

"No, Jackson. I am not here on behalf of the Illuminati. Tomorrow night is the Hunter's Moon. Sixty years have passed. Tomorrow night, the demon will once again attempt to use the Praying Gargoyle to destroy humankind. Every last man, woman and child."

"I've heard the stories. Can this statuette really do what you claim?"

"You forget, Jackson, I was there in Paris in 1920. I foiled her once," she briefly indicated the three small scars above her left eye. "The statuette was destroyed. Sixty years later, it reformed and she returned for it. That is where your grandfather, my great-nephew, perished. It fell to your father and his siblings to stop her. Thankfully, they succeeded. Do not think she won't try again. The demon is cunning and resourceful. She's been preparing again for years and only you can stop her."

"It is my life's mission, Aunt Fiona," Jack said, smacking his fist into his palm. "I won't let my ancestors down. I will destroy this statuette, and I will destroy her."

"Many have tried," she sighed. "I'm beginning to think she herself can't be destroyed. But the Praying Gargoyle can. There is a crystal at its core; I've been told it's from Atlantis itself. Destroy it."

"I will," he said. "And don't worry about the demon. Even if she cannot physically be killed, I'll personally make sure she is locked in a steel crate filled with cement and then dumped into the middle of the Atlantic."

"The demon will most likely use the Fulfillment Spell again; it can only be cast on holy ground. Make the Canmores proud." She reached into her coat, pulled a large piece of folded black cloth from her pocket and held it out toward him. "Wear this tomorrow night, think of it as a gift."

Castaway took her gift, and unfolded it. It was a hood very much like the standard hood the Quarrymen wore, with one major difference: three red scars dyed across the face of it.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The United Nations

October 23rd, 2056

Angela waited patiently for the doors to the General Assembly to open. Unfortunately, she was not permitted to enter. No gargoyle was, save Griff, and only because he represented New Camelot. Like any adult, human or gargoyle, it was necessary to temper the fires of impatience, that nerve racking stillness that was so quiet it amplified the tiniest squeak, making even the dull, neutral colors of the hall she was in loud and bothersome. Would anyone really notice if she just turned the painting around, it was just an abstract and not even a well designed one. The sound of locks turning mercifully brought her back to reality after what seemed like several hours, the ambassador finally emerged.

"How did it go?" Angela asked.

"We're going to vote on this tomorrow night," Griff replied. "As for its chances of passing, I'm afraid I couldn't tell you. There were some who wanted to hold the vote during the day. No doubt to ensure that New Camelot would be forced to sit it out." He paused. "I'm sorry they wouldn't let you in."

"They will let me speak! Before the vote tomorrow night," Angela said. "I don't care if I have to tear the doors off their hinges. I will plead our case."

"You've certainly changed since we first met sixty years ago," Griff said approvingly.

"We all change," Angela replied her thoughts now elsewhere. "I hope."

Griff glanced at the clock "The sun will be rising in about an hour. Best you return to the castle. I'm sure Goliath will want to hear the news. Is he coming tomorrow?"

"He wouldn't miss it." Angela gave a slight bow. "Good night, Sir Griff."

Griff returned the courtly bow. "Good night."

Angela climbed the staircase to the roof, and took flight on the first wind current she could catch. She sighed at the sight of armed police officers surrounding the building, not sure if they were there to protect the gargoyles from the humans or the humans from the gargoyles.

The flight home wouldn't take long, and as the Eyrie Building drew closer, she heard the familiar sound of another gargoyle soaring up alongside her. Angela turned and nearly lost her thermal at the sight of Demona.

"We need to talk," said the red head, motioning towards the nearby Empire State Building, before veering off. Angela hesitated for a moment and then followed.

Landing gracefully on the observation deck, Angela faced Demona. "I don't know if I should say 'it's been too long', or 'it hasn't been long enough.'"

"I'm not going to apologize for my efforts to protect you," Demona snapped before calming. "I simply want to talk, my daughter. How have you been?"

"Well," Angela said. "Gwenyvere is growing into a fine warrior."

"I'm glad to hear it," Demona nodded, and then changed the subject. "I've heard that Goliath will step down, and when he does you will lead the clan. I could not think of a finer choice to replace him."

"Goliath has talked about it." This was not a subject Angela was comfortable with, especially with her mother. "But neither he nor I are in any hurry to make such a radical change. He is fit and in good health, just as capable as he ever was.

"Demona, mother," Angela began to all but plead. "It's not too late. In fact, come to the U.N. with me tomorrow. Things are going to change, and I want you there to see it. Please."

Demona's eyes burned red. "A little old to believe in fairy tales, aren't you my daughter?" She quickly calmed her demeanor. "The humans will do what they always do, demonstrate either hate or apathy. They will never change, but I am going to ensure that we survive."

"What do you mean?" Angela asked. "What are you going to do?"

"You said Gwenyvere is growing into a fine warrior," Demona replied. "You want to create a better world for her, as do I."

"Mother," Angela said firmly, as her eyes narrowed. "Most of the others scoffed at me for refusing to give up on you. Please don't make me regret that."

Demona turned away from her daughter. "You do what you have to do, Angela. I can do no less."

Before Angela could open her mouth to speak again, Demona threw herself off the building and soared away.

Angela ran to the ledge and for a brief moment considered calling out to her. Thinking better of it, she sighed and leaping off the building, caught her own wind current back to the Eyrie Building.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castle Wyvern

Goliath laid Elisa down on her bed. She had enjoyed the glide, but, at her age, she tired out faster than she would want to. Their time was limited; he knew that. But his responsibilities as clan leader came first. He slowly stroked her hair before leaving her. The rest of the clan was due to gather in the Great Hall.

Goliath stepped out onto the parapets. The rest of the gargoyles were already landing in the courtyard, and entering the Great Hall. He smiled, pleased at the sight of them. His clan had grown considerably since they were awakened, decades ago, by David Xanatos. Angela, who had grown into a fine leader, and would eventually succeed him; Lexington, a fine entrepreneur, even if his business partner, Alexander Xanatos was the public face; and then there was Lexington's mate, Staghart, a fine warrior and a welcome addition to the clan; Broadway, his daughter's other half and perhaps the most attentive rookery father he had ever seen; Nashville, who if Goliath were to guess, would be the eventual leader of the clan once Angela stepped down; Tachi, young and reckless but a fine warrior; Coldstone and Coldfire, whose situation deeply saddened him. As happy as Goliath had always been to have them in the clan, he would not wish their fate on anyone. Artus, whom Goliath could not help but imagine as a younger version of his late mentor, Hudson; little Gwenyvere; it warmed Goliath's heart to see hatchlings in the clan again; Bronx and Fu-Dog, his clan could never ask for more perfect watchdogs; Katana, one of the clan elders but still the finest warrior to ever join his clan.

"Tonight's a big night, isn't it?" Goliath turned towards his former second in command, and now elder, Brooklyn.

"Indeed, old friend," Goliath said. "I was just thinking about how proud I am of them. Of all of us. How far we have all come since we arrived in this new world."

"Every day is a new world," Brooklyn came up alongside him and placing a hand on his leader's shoulder. "Trust me on that one."

"Tonight, the world changes for our kind." Goliath was optimistic. More optimistic than he had any right to be.

"And if the GMPA doesn't pass?" Brooklyn asked.

"Then we try again," Goliath replied.

"This is far different than battling Thailog's Shock Troops or taking on the Ultra-Pack," Brooklyn said with an ironic chuckle. "But hey, we've survived Queen Mab, we will survive this."

"I received several calls," Goliath said. "Several leaders of foreign clans are coming. Constance is coming from London; Sora from Ishimura; and Zafiro from Guatemala."

"Oh, the Guatemalan ambassador is going to be thrilled about that," Brooklyn smirked with a glimmer in his eye. "But, what's he going to do about it?"

Goliath chuckled. "Even Delilah intends to make an appearance. The New Olympian ambassador, Sphinx, is bringing the leader of their gargoyle clan. I look forward to meeting him. The leaders of Pukhan, Loch Ness and Xanadu seem to be less enthusiastic. We won't be seeing them."

"I'd say their loss, but if this passes, they win. We all win." Brooklyn nodded. "Well, we win a first step in a long, uphill battle. If only it were as easy as saving a train full of people, and then one, two, three, bam, instant parade."

"Come, my friend," Goliath motioned towards the Great Hall.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The gargoyles gathered in the Great Hall as Owen Burnett walked the room passing out glasses and pouring a bottle of Dom Pérignon, on behalf of their host. Goliath stared at his glass, somewhat bemused, before asking "You don't find this premature?"

"Consider it a pre-celebration," Alexander Fox Xanatos sipped from his glass. "Just being at this point is cause enough to celebrate."

Goliath nodded before sipping his drink. Alexander was so much like his parents that had he not known the charismatic billionaire since he was born, he would fear him. "I do not want us to get complacent," Goliath said. "Even if the Protection Act passes, there will still be much work to do."

"Don't you worry, Goliath." Alex smiled. "I'm not standing in front of a 'Mission Accomplished' banner here, far from it. But once this thing passes, the Lexington-Xanatos Corporation will kick things off and make sure that everyone in the world knows that you are not so different after all. I only wish my father could appreciate it."

"How is he?" Broadway asked. David Xanatos no longer resided at the castle; he was kept in isolation upstate at his retreat. None of the gargoyles had seen him in years.

"Resting, being well taken care of," Alex explained, swirling his wine a bit as he gathered the right words to say. "He still recognizes my mother and I. Owen too. But I'm sure he'd be proud of us all right now."

"Indeed," Goliath felt for his former enemy; the man had long feared growing old, and now not even all the science in the world could rescue him from his own mortality and everything that came with it. Still, the last time he had seen him, it was hard to see what this once sharp, cunning man had become.

"So, what's the game plan?" Nashville asked, more to change the subject than anything else.

"Tonight, we are going to the United Nations," said Goliath. "All of us. We will come before the delegates and the world as we are. Show them that we mean them no harm, and desire only to share this world with them."

"I heard on the news that the Quarrymen will be there," Tachi all but spit their name on the floor.

"We could always just beat them up," Gwenyvere's suggestion got a few laughs and chuckles as most of them could see the appeal of that solution.

"No," Angela smiled at their youngest member before stroking her hair. "If I know Castaway, he'll be instructing his Quarrymen to leave the hammers at home. He wants them there to provoke us and to make us act out as savages. Under no circumstances are any of us to take the bait. I don't care what they shout at us, I don't care what they throw. And, if the Protection Act is defeated, we leave in peace and ignore their jubilation."

"Angela is right," Goliath said. "If we act like animals now, the humans will come to fear us even more. They have to know that we are not a threat to them."

"Which brings up another situation," Angela paused. "I saw Demona on the way back."

Goliath sighed; this was what he was afraid of. "What happened?"

"She just wanted to talk," Angela replied. "But she wouldn't say much. Just that she would do whatever she had to do in order for us to survive. She's up to something."

"Then I want us all on high alert," Goliath ordered. "But we are not changing our plan."

"If you want," Alex suggested, "I can deploy a squad of Steel Clan robots to the area, to keep an eye out for her if nothing else."

"Do it," said Goliath. "But I don't want them to engage her. Coldstone. Coldfire."

"Yes, my brother," Coldstone stepped forward, his mate at his side.

"Accompany the robots," Goliath ordered. "If Demona does appear, restrain her at least until this is over. But be careful."

"We will do what we can," Coldfire had always been saddened and disturbed by what her rookery sister had become. Who had suffered the worse fate? That was debatable, but at another time.

"I often think we should have clipped her wings years ago," Katana stroked the tsuka of her sword. "We've had more than enough chances."

"Yes, but what would it have solved?" Although Brooklyn had long ago given up his grudge against Demona, even fought alongside her in various periods, he knew that right now she was dangerous.

"Just so this is clear," Goliath said. "Should Demona get past Coldstone and Coldfire, do not let her in the building. But, above all, I want the Quarrymen protected from her." The rest of the gargoyles remained silent upon hearing that. "I realize this order is not to your liking, but it must be done."

"I think it's brilliant," Alexander smirked. "It can only win hearts and minds. My father couldn't have made a better move."

"This isn't about making any clever moves," said Angela. "If Demona strikes, it is likely that Castaway will be able to spin this against us no matter what we do. We are doing this because it is right. If we wind up making Castaway's job harder, then so much the better. But I don't want any one of us to lose sight of the real goal. The world is watching us. If not this time, then next time. But, we need to make sure there is a next time."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Demona's Townhouse

Demona paced the carpeted floor of her great room reviewing a stack of notes left by Anton Sevarius. While the good doctor had long since left this world, his research had proven invaluable, and thankfully was the property of Nightstone Unlimited.

"No doubt Angela has told the rest of them that I am up to something," Demona often talked to herself; she was her only constant companion. "Goliath stopped me last time. But this time, things will be different.

"Perhaps I should send the delegates at the United Nations some playmates. Make them all spend their last moments in abject fear and terror."

She clutched the Praying Gargoyle in her hands and began to chant. "Denuone Latine loquebar… Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur." Tendrils of mist-like energy began to radiate from the statuette, flowing out the windows, slithering out across the city.

Demona grinned with a feeling of anticipatory triumph. The tendrils were touching statues all over Manhattan. Stone gargoyles, rainspouts, iron casts, old grotesques, chimeras, cherubs, even plastic sculptures. All were now at her command.

"Tonight, the night of the Hunter's Moon, we'll strike. This entire city will be transformed into a blood-spilling baptism ushering in a new era of gargoyle rule. Of my rule."

Demona set the statuette down, and the tendrils receded into it. She gazed out the window as the sun began to rise. "One night, my daughter, you'll thank me for this."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castle Wyvern

As the last rays of the sun disappeared beyond the western horizon, the eleven gargoyle statues crackled moments before the eleven flesh and blood gargoyles exploded from their stone sleep. Goliath leapt from his parapet and soared towards Elisa's room in the east wing.

"Your father and I were hoping you'd be there," Elisa spoke into the phone. "Okay, I guess we'll see you tomorrow night then. Love you."

"Was that," Goliath began as he stepped into the chamber.

"Our wayward son," Elisa stood up, dressed in a professional pant-suit. "His flight was delayed. He and the kids are stuck in Scotland another night."

"That is disappointing; I had hoped they would be here."

"I told him to wait on a trip to Scotland," Elisa sighed as she adjusted an earring. "He gets this from your side of the family, you know? Not mine."

Goliath laughed. "We adopted him, Elisa."

"I'm just yanking your chain, Goliath," Elisa smiled. "So, are we ready?"

"The rest of the clan is waiting for us in the courtyard." He held out his hand. "Shall we?"

"When haven't we?"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Downtown Manhattan

A large black van came to a stop in an underground parking lot. The rear doors opened and a man in dark overcoat stepped out carrying a large briefcase, followed by another in full tactical gear.

"Now don't look nervous, Blum," ordered the man in the coat. "I've dealt with this particular client before. She may be a little unusual, but trust me, the money is good."

"Yes, sir," he said. "Unusual, how?"

"Mr. Rachins." The two men turned towards the corner, as a cloaked and hooded woman stepped out from the shadows. "I trust this place is secure?"

Rachins cautiously approached the woman. "Don't worry, the guard is on the take. We won't be bothered." Satisfied, the woman produced a briefcase from under her cloak.

Blum watched, and could not help but notice the woman's blue, clawed hand, and what looked like a concealed medium-sized laser cannon. But he made no motion to betray his uneasiness.

Rachins gestured towards the van, and out poured six mercenaries in full tactical gear, armed with military grade weapons. "For your inspection," he said.

She stood in place for a moment, before speaking. "They will do."

"Good to know," Rachins had dealt with her before, but she never ceased to give him the creeps. "So, what's the plan, boss?"

"I had hoped to find an abandoned cathedral, but the one I selected is occupied," she handed him the briefcase. "Here's your down payment. You will receive the rest of what you have coming to you before sunrise. In the meantime, make sure no one enters or leaves. Seal it off and sever all lines of communication. But don't discourage the parishioners from praying for a better world."

"And that's all?" he asked.

"That is all. Now go, I will meet you there shortly," she vanished into the shadows.

As the mercenaries piled back into the van, Blum approached Rachins. "What's with her hand?"

"Back in the van, Blum."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The United Nations

The Manhattan Clan landed on the steps of the building. Hundreds of armed police officers surrounded them in a perimeter, holding back the thousands assembled. Civilians and Quarrymen alike gathered. Some civilians shouted cheers of support; others condemned them as demons and monsters along with the Quarrymen.

Awaiting them were Constance of the London Clan, Sora of Clan Ishimura, and her mate Yama, Zafiro of the Mayan Clan, Delilah of the Labyrinth Clan, and Agamemnon of the New Olympian Clan.

Staghart and Constance immediately embraced; Katana bowed her head towards Sora and Yama; everyone else exchanged brief greetings and pleasantries.

The doors opened, and Jack Castaway emerged, flanked by four hooded but unarmed Quarrymen. As he passed them, he glared at Goliath with an arrogant and hateful smirk. Goliath resisted the urge to snarl at the human. Moments later, Griff emerged alongside Ambassador Sphinx of New Olympus and her life partner, Terry Chung.

"This is going to be a close one," Griff said. "I'd heard that Castaway spent six straight hours making his case."

"I won't need six hours to make mine," Angela said as she approached Griff.

"Unfortunately, they'll only allow one representative of each clan in," Griff shook his head. "I tried, Goliath, I really did. But we were lucky to get this much."

"I believe you," said Goliath. "Angela, go right ahead. If it is all right, Elisa will accompany you."

"That shouldn't be a problem, Goliath," Griff motioned for the representatives to join him.

Sora, Constance, Delilah, Agamemnon and Zafiro entered the building behind Griff. Before Angela entered, she embraced her father.

"I am so proud of you, my daughter," he said as he embraced. He then let her go before embracing Elisa. "I will see you soon."

"Count on it," Elisa winked.

"Angela, Elisa," Griff called. "Come on. It's show time."

The doors closed behind them, and Goliath turned towards the rest of the gargoyles. Now came the waiting.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Jack Castaway entered the trailer of the Quarryman convoy parked a block away from the United Nations. "Keep an eye on any police communications, Jordan," he said as he undid his tie and removed his jacket. "I heard from a reliable source that the most demonic of all gargoyles will strike tonight. If anything, and I mean anything, suspicious is mentioned in or around any church, tell me at once."

"Yes sir," Jordan saluted his boss.

"I want to make sure we are ready to finally deal with her, and the rest of them," Castaway said as he opened up a travel crate revealing his armored Quarryman uniform. "The hunt ends tonight!"

"Tonight," he brandished a Quarryman hammer, the hammer that had once belonged to his father, John Castaway, "I swear this hammer will destroy one of these foul creatures."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Church of St. Agnes

"All right, open your bags, one at time," Rachins mentally counted twenty-three hostages, including the priest, gathered in the nave. "Take off your jackets, hand over any mobile phones." His associates surrounded them, weapons drawn. "Behave yourselves; pray to God, and this will all be over soon. I so much as see someone texting, and you're all dead. And don't even think about voice activation either!

"Pat them down." On his order, Blum stepped towards an older gentleman and patted him down for a weapon. Nothing; he was clean. So was the next hostage, and the next. He then came upon an old woman, patted her down and reached into her coat, pulling out an old beretta 9mm.

"I guess the old saying is true," Blum looked the woman in the eye. "Don't judge a book by its cover."

"I didn't serve two tours in Iraq to be held at gun point in my own church," she spat.

"Tough," Blum replied as he moved on to the next one.

Finally, the doors swung open and Demona entered, wings cloaked around her shoulders and easily amused at the several gasps she heard from the hostages as the sight of her. She smirked as the priest crossed himself and began to pray.

"At ease, men," Rachins ordered before his troops could train their weapons on her. "Let the lady pass."

"But, sir," Blum protested. "That's a…"

"That is the lady who is paying for you to take that pretty fiancé of yours to the Bahamas. Show some respect."

As much as it amused her, Demona had no time to bask in their fear. She passed the nave and continued on towards the flight of stairs to the upper chambers.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The United Nations

"And as such, it is my highest privilege to introduce one of the most noble gargoyles I have ever known and one I have had the honor to call my friend, Angela of the Manhattan Clan." Applause filled the room, some genuine, some merely polite. Nevertheless, Griff shook Angela's hand with a warrior's grip, before she took the podium. All eyes were on her now; the world was watching.

"Thank you, Ambassador Griff," Angela began. "And thank you to the Secretary General, and other esteemed members of this assembly. I would like to begin by telling you all about my parents, particularly the three who raised me since I hatched, and took care of me since long before I hatched. Unlike my other parents, these three were unique in that they were human.

"Katharine, Tom and the Magus raised my rookery kin and I as if we were their own children. And although they were humans and we were gargoyles, for our entire lives there has never been a difference."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Church of St. Agnes

Demona set her tools down upon the altar. The men she hired had secured the first floor; this left her with all the privacy she needed in the tower of the cathedral. She gazed out the north large window and beyond that the United Nations. She would have a perfect view of tonight's festivities.

The immortal sorceress unzipped her duffel bag, and removed its contents. The Medici Tablet, the D/I-994 disinfectant, the CV-1057 Carrier Virus, her particle beam cannon, and finally, the Praying Gargoyle.

"Destroy the United Nations," she commanded. "Destroy every human on this island!"

The Praying Gargoyle glowed as it carried out her order. All over the city, the gargoyles and other statues Demona had brought to life before dawn now began to animate and take to the air.

Satisfied with her work, Demona turned her attention towards the Medici Tablet. At long last, she stood on the precipice of the new world she would shape in her image.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The United Nations

"Before coming to Manhattan," Angela continued. "I had the pleasure of visiting many of your countries. Scotland, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, England, Egypt, Ireland, Australia, Nigeria, Norway, New Olympus, Guatemala, Easter Island, Japan, and Tibet. While I have since traveled further, to this young and naïve gargoyle, it was all a new world. I learned much from it. I met people from all walks of life. While there are countless differences between humans and gargoyles, in the end all they want is to create a better, more peaceful world."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Outside the United Nations building, the gargoyles waited patiently, watching Angela's speech on the monitors. The crowds behind them both cheered and booed as she continued to speak.

"I only wish Hudson were here to see this," Goliath continued to watch. "I am so proud of her."

"Me too, Goliath," said Broadway. "You couldn't have made a finer choice picking the next leader of the clan."

"Ahem," Brooklyn walked up alongside them.

"Hey," Broadway protested. "You're the one who chose to age forty years."

"Just kidding," Brooklyn chuckled. "You know that."

"Of course he does," Lexington jumped in. "Nothing like good, old fashioned ripping from rookery brothers."

"And it's not like I chose to take a forty year trip," Brooklyn mused. "All those plagues, wars, and savages. Who needs that?"

"I see some things never change," Goliath smiled.

"Really, love," Katana placed a hand on her mate's shoulder. "Plagues, wars, and savages, who needs that?"

"Well, clearly I did," he replied. "I met you, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me."

"Nice save, Brooklyn," Artus nudged the elder from behind.

Suddenly, Bronx and Fu-Dog raised their heads and started barking in the direction of the street.

"They're barking at the Quarrymen, Goliath," Gwenyvere dropped to her knees next to the beasts to shush them. "We're supposed to be ignoring them."

"No," Goliath turned in the direction the beasts were barking. "It is not the Quarrymen. Something else is going on."

Out of nowhere, a car came hurtling towards the building, coming to an explosive impact with the wall. The sound of gunfire could be heard as police officers opened fire into the air.

Stone statues, dozens of them, came flying towards the United Nations on an attack trajectory. Some assaulted the building itself; many landed on the street and tore their way through the crowds.

"Take to the air, now," Goliath ordered. "Protect the humans!"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The United Nations

"Though gargoyles may be another species; while our ways may differ from your ways; while we may never even lay our eyes on the sun; in the end, we aren't all that different. Gargoyles protect. It is our very nature. Those within our protectorates have nothing to fear from us. We want nothing more than to live in peace with our human neighbors, our human friends." Angela looked directly at Elisa and smiled. "Our human brothers and sisters.

"We mean you no harm," she continued. "Not now and not ever…" Suddenly, sections of the ceiling began to cave in as animated statues tore their way in from the roof. Ambassadors and delegates rose from their seats and ran for cover.

Angela jumped up over the podium and dove towards Elisa, lifting the elderly woman into her arms and running for cover as pieces of debris continued to fall to the floor. Alarms sounded and sprinklers started going off, as the enchanted statues came to a landing inside the General Assembly, and wasted no time tearing the chambers apart.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Church of St. Agnes

Demona watched through the window as her army of statues attacked the United Nations. While she loathed putting her daughter and the younger gargoyles in harm's way, she knew it was for the greater good. "Angela will be fine," she told herself.

The full moon was coming into view, moonlight shining into the chamber. It was almost time.

"Hostages are secure." Demona violently turned towards the voice. It was Rachins.

"I told you that I was not to be disturbed," she snarled.

"I thought you'd like to know," he slowly took a step backward.

"You have your orders," she yelled. "Now leave me. Make sure no one comes up here."

Rachins nodded, and headed back downstairs. "Last time I rent my services out to an inhuman freak." The blue-skinned gargoyle snarled at that remark before getting back to work.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The United Nations

Brooklyn and Katana were poised for battle, back-to-back on the steps of the building. The red-skinned male fired his hand blaster at an approaching stone statue, which promptly exploded. Behind him, his mate sparred with an iron gargoyle, her katana clashing against its spear.

"Gwenyvere, stay nearby!" Katana ordered.

"I'm not afraid of them," the young gargoyle cried.

"Do what we say," Brooklyn ordered. "You're not ready for this."

The doors swung open and Angela bounded out, still carrying Elisa. "By the dragon," she said in shock at the chaos on the streets of Manhattan. Everywhere she looked, humans were running for cover.

"You two aren't going to last," said Angela. "Get out of here and get Elisa and Gwenyvere to safety!"

"What about you, Angela?" Gwenyvere asked as she leapt out of the way of a kamikaze cherub that smashed head first onto the steps.

"I'm not dead," Brooklyn protested. "I can still fight."

"That's an order," Angela yelled.

Brooklyn grumbled before tossing her his hand blaster. "Here!"

Angela caught the gun and stared at it for a moment. "You know how I feel about guns."

"And you know how I feel about being prepared," he yelled as he tapped the left side of his face. "We'll get them to safety, I promise. But take care of yourself!"

Angela nodded. "Go!"

"Lead the way," Elisa instinctively reached for her old service pistol, only to remember she had left it at home. Not that she'd have been allowed to allowed to bring it into the United Nations anyway. "Crap."

"We have to go," Katana insisted as yet another statue came flying their way. "Now!"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castaway finished donning his armor as Jordan rushed to his side. "Any word on the demon?" he asked.

"Mr. Castaway," Jordan was on the verge of panicking, "we're being slaughtered out there! Most of us are unarmed."

"We'll put a stop to this once we find the demon," Castaway replied. "Trust me on this, we'll only succeed if we cut off the head."

"Mr. Castaway," another Quarryman called out, hunched over a communications network. "There's some noise over the police's signals. St. Agnes Cathedral on 43rd street; weird lights. Naturally they've got their hands full here, but…"

"That's it," Castaway yelled. "That's where the demon is!

"Sir," Jordan sounded confused. "Have you looked outside?"

"I know all about it," Castaway placed a reassuring hand on Jordan's shoulder. "Give me the benefit of the doubt on this one, please."

"You know I trust you, sir," Jordan saluted him.

"Well then let's put an end to this. Gather as many Quarrymen as you can," he pulled on his hood. "And Jordan; tonight, call me the Hunter."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Move!" the police sergeant shouted. "Don't let them get past you!" But his orders were drowned out amidst the screaming as the crowd fled in all directions.

Police opened fire on as many statues as they could target, but to no avail. Their bullets barely did any damage as the monsters continued to slaughter them.

"Where's my SWAT team?" the sergeant yelled.

"I don't know," another cop emptied his clip into a flying stone statue. "This is happening all over the city."

"Damn bureaucrats," the sergeant cursed under his breath. "Next time they vote on our budget, we'd better get particle beams as standard issue."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Lexington soared overhead as a stone gargoyle followed in hot pursuit. Ahead of him, Broadway was being chased by another one. The two gargoyles eyed each other and nodded.

They dove head first towards each other, magical statues still giving chase, and at the last possible moment, caught an updraft and soared up, mere inches apart.

"I can't believe this keeps on working," Lex joked.

"Uh-oh," Broadway gazed down. Not only had the statues failed to collide, but were now pursuing them upward. "Spoke too soon!"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Goliath landed on the back of one large statue. He dug his taloned toes into the body of the beast, and with his powerful arms, tore the wings off. He leapt off as the remains of the statue crashed into the wall of the United Nations, shattering on impact.

Not too far away, Angela was facing off against a bronze chimera. The creature pounced on her, but was no match for her powerful talons as she tore the hollow beast in half.

"Angela," Goliath cried. "Where is Elisa?"

"Brooklyn and Katana are getting her to safety," she crushed an animated rainspout in her hands. "Gwenyvere is with them."

Before Goliath could answer, he spotted the Quarrymen's convoy beginning to drive off. As much as he loathed the man, it was not like Castaway to just abandon his Quarrymen. "I am going after Castaway!"

"What?" Angela called back, but it was too late. He was out of earshot. "Goliath, wait!" But before she could follow, she was pinned down by another stone gargoyle. She struggled with it for several moments until, loathe as she was to use it, she drew Brooklyn's blaster from her belt and fired. The statue exploded on impact. She stood up, and paused to catch her breath.

The second in command scaled the closest wall and took to the air, only to wish she had not. The appalling carnage below brought a sour taste to her mouth. "This is your doing, isn't it, mother?"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Take them!" Coldstone and Coldfire flew in, leading a squadron of Steel Clan robots. His arm-cannon extended and fired on a stone cherub, the particle beam destroying it with one blast.

Coldfire veered off as a spear-wielding iron gargoyle collided with her, impaling her robotic body on its weapon. Still in flight, she raised her hands and fired a highly concentrated flame of plasma on to her assailant. Eyeing her options scroll, she raised the temperature of the flame to the max and did not let up until the statue melted. But the damage had been done, and Coldfire crashed down onto the street below.

Coldstone immediately landed beside her. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, my love. My internal repair system will handle it."

Cries emanated from the gathered Quarrymen, as stone statues continued to menace them. Some had managed to flee, but most of them were boxed in and being picked off by the statues.

"Don't worry about me," Coldfire pointed at the crowd. "Help them."

Coldstone growled at the very thought of helping their enemies. He targeted the Quarrymen on his internal options scroll. "All robots, converge on their position."

The Steel Clan robots complied and veered off towards the statues attacking the hooded humans.

"That is all the help I will give them," the cyborg spat.

"Always bitter and vengeful, aren't you, my love," Coldfire would have let out a sigh if she still had lungs.

"Open fire!" Coldstone ignored her question. The Steel Clan complied and fired their arm-mounted particle beams into the stone gargoyles. The Quarrymen scattered as chunks of stone rained down upon them.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Goliath swooped between buildings, being chased by a pair of grotesques just above street level. He came to a landing on top of Castaway's moving convoy. His eyes glowed white as he growled, flaring his talons, taunting the statues to attack him. The glow faded as he spotted Angela pursuing him, and the grotesques, instead of continuing their chase, turned and careened towards her.

"Angela!" he cried out. Castaway all but forgotten, he was about to spring off of the trailer until a long spear of iron pierced his wing and his hide. He screamed in pain and turned towards his attacker.

A large iron gargoyle, larger than he, continued to stab a spear in deeper, and ascended back into the air, Goliath still impaled on its weapon. Castaway's truck continued on below them.

Ignoring the pain, Goliath forcibly snapped the end of the spear off at the tip, and pounced at the iron gargoyle. He knew he could no longer glide on his injured wing, but with every ounce of will power he ignored the metal blade still embedded in his lower back and climbed onto the beast.

Digging his talons into the behemoth's iron shoulders, he forced it to change course, riding it south, in pursuit of Castaway.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The Church of St. Agnes

The convoy came screeching to an abrupt stop, as the trailer doors opened. The Hunter leapt out, followed by Jordan and eight other Quarrymen. All of them were armed with their electrified sledge-hammers.

"St. Agnes Cathedral," the Hunter read the sign out loud. "Holy ground. This is it!" He turned towards his troops. "We haven't a moment to spare. Move in, now!"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Sir!" called one of the mercenaries. "I.R. sensors have detected moment within the perimeter."

"How many?" Rachins asked.

"Count puts them at just under a dozen. Definitely not cops."

Rachins raised his weapon. "Time to earn the pay, men," he flicked off the safety and cocked his gun.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

The hooded men rushed the front doors. Locked. Jordan cocked his hammer and smashed the door in. One by one they entered. Upon entering the nave, Rachins and his men opened fire.

"Take cover!" the Hunter ordered. The Quarrymen ducked behind the benches, pinned down. "Did you bring the tear gas?" he asked.

"Of course," Jordan pulled a grenade from his belt. "Always come prepared."

"The demon is here. I can feel it," the Hunter barely managing to conceal his hate. "Cover me, I am going after her."

"Sir, what about the hostages?"

"Make sure they are unharmed. Protect them at any cost. Isn't that why we do what we do?"

"Good luck, sir," Jordan threw two grenades into the heart of the nave, which promptly exploded, each releasing a cloud of tear gas.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

With a mighty roar, Goliath tore the wings from the cast iron gargoyle, and leapt onto the wall, sinking his talons into the stone to slow his descent. The hulk of the statue crashed onto the steps of the building below him, unmoving.

The gargoyle leader snarled; the Quarrymen had entered moments ago, and even now he could hear the sounds of gunfire emanating from within. But, before he could leap down to the ground, he heard an all too familiar voice chanting above him.

Goliath scaled the wall and peered in through the foggy glass window. The chamber was dim, even bathed in cool moonlight, but there was no mistaking the single being within. There stood Demona, mixing a frighteningly familiar concoction. Now that he thought about it, the entire scenario felt frighteningly familiar.

Without any more hesitation, he smashed the glass and leapt into the tower, his pain momentarily forgotten. With honed reflexes, Demona quickly swung around, laser cannon trained on the clan leader. "Well, well," she smiled sadistically. "I was wondering when you would arrive."

Goliath's eyes darted across the altar as he took in Demona's tools. Chemicals; the Medici Tablet; and the Praying Gargoyle glowing upon the altar. "Again, Demona?"

"And why not," she smirked. "It would have worked sixty years ago, had you not interfered. Why throw away another opportunity?"

"I take it that is the source of the trouble," Goliath pointed towards the Praying Gargoyle. "How did you re-create it?"

"I didn't. It was a gift from the Atlanteans, created from a combination of gargoyle stone skin, an Atlantean crystal, and powerful magic. Left on holy ground, it will always regenerate itself."

"What was the purpose of this," Goliath practically spat the last word, "gift?"

"To protect the gorlois," she almost laughed. "That's what the Atlanteans called us."

"And this is how you pervert this gift!" Goliath yelled.

"I pervert nothing!" Her eyes burned red. "I am using it to save us…" Goliath didn't wait for her to finish the sentence. He leapt towards the altar, but before he could reach it, Demona took aim, and blasted him in the abdomen. Falling to the floor, Goliath cried out in pain.

"Not this time," she took a moment to look about, anticipating another attack. "And where are the others?" Goliath responded with just a growl. "Alone? Oh well, they'll all come to thank me for this."

Demona kicked Goliath in the face, rolling him onto his back. She stood over him, pointing her gun directly between his eyes. "And what shall I do with you?" she asked herself. "Killing you would be too easy. No, I think I want you to see what the world will look like tomorrow night, finally free of the human pestilence. I want you to watch as I embrace my… our… divine destiny."

Suddenly, Demona cried out in pain, as electricity coursed its way through her body. She fell to the floor, as the Hunter stood over them both, hammer in hand. "The only destiny awaiting you is the grave, demon," he kicked her gun to the other side of the chamber.

Goliath swung his tail, tripping the Hunter, but Demona was on her feet first. Taking the hammer, she casually flung it over her shoulder and out the already broken window to the streets below. She tore off the Hunter's hood, gazing at the red scars on its face in amusement. "Playing as the Hunter now, are we, Jack," she chuckled.

"It is my birthright! If I don't destroy your evil race, then my children will!"

Demona's eyes glowed red as she laughed. "Well, if the hood fits." She bared her teeth with a gleeful snarl, slashing him downward and across the face with her talons.

While Demona toyed with Castaway, Goliath slowly returned to his feet. His abdomen was charred and his back still tormented by the protruding spearhead, eyes starting to blur from the pain. Despite such damage, he leapt for the altar. He only had one chance.

"How fitting that your death is the first to usher in a glorious new age," Demona lifted Castaway up by the throat. But, before she could go for the kill, she heard Goliath's movement, and turned towards the altar, dropping Castaway to the floor.

Goliath had grabbed the Praying Gargoyle.

"NO!" she screamed as she lunged towards him. Goliath held on to the statuette for dear life. He was no longer a match for her, injured and no longer in his prime. It was all he could do to keep it out of her hands as she punched him. As she kicked him. As she slashed and clawed at him with her talons. "You have doomed us all for the last time!"

Mustering all his strength, he backhanded Demona, knocking her clear across the chamber. Goliath knew it would not stop her; he prepared to crush the small statuette once more. But he was not fast enough.

Using her superior agility, she leapt at her former mate, dropkicking him with the force of a small truck, driving him through the wall and damaged window.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Move!" Brooklyn and his companions rushed towards a subway entrance. He carried Elisa in his arms. "It'll be harder for them get to us below ground."

"Stop!" Elisa yelled.

"Angela's orders: get you and Gwenyvere to safety." Brooklyn said as Elisa pushed herself out of his grip.

"With all due respect to Angela," Elisa's eyes were as hard as diamond carbide. "I don't care if I'm eighty-eight; I don't care if I'm one-hundred and eight. You all took an oath to protect this city, and so did I."

"But, Elisa," Brooklyn protested.

"No buts," Elisa snapped. "Get Gwenyvere to safety. But what kind of cop would I be if I stand by and watch my city go down in flames?"

"I must agree, my love." Katana reached for her mate. "It is the warrior's way to fight and die rather than run from an enemy." She bowed her head in respect. "Elisa, you are a fine warrior. My old sensei would approve."

At that moment, a Steel Clan robot fell out of the sky, exploding on impact as it crashed into the subway entrance.

"Well, looks like our only cover has gone up like a Roman candle," Brooklyn sighed. "What next?"

"Look!" Gwenyvere pointed at the sky as dozens of stone and iron gargoyles careened towards them.

"Swell," said Elisa. "Who wants to live forever?"

"Look, there's three of them!" Elisa and the gargoyles turned towards the voice and spotted several Quarrymen and dozens of civilians rioting towards them.

"Out of the frying pan…" Brooklyn sighed again.

Katana drew her sword; Gwenyvere flared her talons; Elisa stood her ground unflinching.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

As Goliath came to, his head was spinning, his vision blurred. He could barely feel anything below his neck. There was a blue postal box that had been sheered off its bolts with a severe dent that was suspiciously shaped like his head. The Praying Gargoyle was still, amazingly intact, clutched in his one talon. Several dozen humans had gathered on the street, unsure if they should run away, or help. All they seemed to do was gawk from a distance at the events taking place.

Demona stood at the window for a moment before jumping out and coming to a landing on the other side of the street. "Look at you," the female gargoyle mocked, strutting casually towards her fallen adversary. "You can't even stand. Give me the Praying Gargoyle, allow me to destroy these vermin once and for all, and I will let you live."

Defiantly, Goliath raised his head, blood trickling down his face. Shaking, he held out the statuette, his muscles aching from the painful effort. "All I ever wanted, Demona, was a better world for our kind."

Demona slowly came closer. Could it be? Had he finally yielded to see her way? "Then let me create it," she said soothingly. "You'll see that I've always been right. Think of our daughter."

Goliath looked up at her, one eye half open from her clawing and swelling, the other narrow and defiant. There was no doubt in his injured and foggy mind what her twisted idea of a better world was, no doubt at all. He shifted as best as he could to a half-sit and lean position. It was not exactly comfortable, in fact it hurt worse than any number of battles he fought combined, but it did not matter. The only thing that mattered was that he had the leverage to move both his still well-defined arms. With every ounce of strength and adrenaline he had remaining, the leader of the Manhattan Clan crushed the ancient statuette between his hands. Bits and chunks of stone fell to the ground, a spark of purplish lightning sparkled like a burnt-out light bulb and his eyes widened in surprise as he discovered a glowing blue crystal.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Get ready," Brooklyn said as the statues circled ever closer like descending raptors. But suddenly, they just stopped. The life seemed to leave them as the once animated terrors now fell like stone and metal rain.

The Quarrymen and other civilians fled for cover as the statues crashed down upon them, many shattering to pieces.

"I don't understand," Gwenyvere said. "What happened?"

"Goliath happened," Elisa smiled.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Demona's eyes burned red. "You…" Her hatred was beginning to boil over, her words sputtering. "You arrogant fool! You are the death of us all!" She crouched to pounce, but a brick struck her in the head, momentarily knocking her off balance. She growled ferociously in the direction from which it had come. A police officer and a female civilian leapt out from the crowd and tackled her to the ground.

"No," Goliath cried weakly, coughing up blood. "Stay away from her!" But he was powerless to intervene, and his warning drowned out by cries of support for the humans and colorful profanities directed at Demona.

The red-head quickly regained her footing, and while her tail snaked around the woman's neck, she grabbed the officer by the throat. Goliath watched in horror as her talons tore the officer's throat open and her tail snapped the other human's neck. A third human attempted to intervene, brandishing a baseball bat, but Demona delivered a roundhouse kick, eviscerating him with her talons. Gasps of fear and revulsion emanated from the crowd.

Demona's eyes were a full glow of ruby red, lost in her blood-lusting insanity. She snapped up the Quarryman hammer at her feet, Castaway's hammer, which had minutes ago been tossed through the very same window Goliath had. With a Banshee's scream, the irate immortal leapt towards her former mate, cocking the hammer. The weapon sparked to life with the crackle of electric power. She towered above Goliath and there was no hesitation as she brought the cudgel down. Goliath attempted to block the blow with his hands, but cried out in pain as the bones of his right arm had shattered like twigs.

As Demona raised the hammer again, she spotted shards of the crystal slip from Goliath's wounded hand. The fragments fell to the earth. The magical blue light faded from them, never to return. There would be no next time for her; the Praying Gargoyle had truly been destroyed. It truly was an end to all things and nothing else mattered. She screamed to the night, a long guttural scream that could be heard blocks away by terrified onlookers. All rational thought was gone, no grace, no temperance, no hesitation. The world needed to die over and over again to understand, if only for a moment, the pain and sorrow she had known for a hundred lifetimes. Everyone needed to die. Demona brought the hammer down upon Goliath's skull as hard as she could. She raised the weapon once more, dripping with gore and brought it down again. And again. And again.

Finally, the cloud of rage left her, the red glow of her eyes faded and she looked down at Goliath. She looked down at what she had done. The hammer slipped from her hand and dropped to the ground, the electrical charge dissipating. Demona fell to her knees in stunned disbelief. She had done it; after all these years, she had done it.

Then everything went black.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Angela came to a landing and rushed over to her father, Brooklyn's blaster falling out of her trembling hand. "No," she cried out softly. But it was too late. Her father was gone. Her mother lay in a lifeless heap at his feet, but only one of them would be coming back to life.

Coldstone soon landed beside her. "Angela, what happened?" But he didn't need her to answer that, and instead placed a supportive hand on his rookery daughter's shoulder.

"She murdered him," Angela's eyes still on what remained of her father, her voice cracking. "I was too late to stop her." Quickly regaining her composure, she turned to Coldstone. "Demona will revive in a matter of minutes," she spoke so as not to be overheard. "I'm not handing her over to their authorities. Take her back to the castle now."

Coldstone nodded, picked Demona up by the waist, and activating his jets, rocketed off back towards the Eyrie Building.

Angela once again kneeled at her father's side, taking his left hand between hers. After what seemed like an eternity, she felt a hand on her back, between her wings. She looked up into the face of her mate, tears streaming down his face. He sank to his knees and the two embraced.

"Angela," Broadway held her. "I'm so sorry."

The rest of the clan soon appeared, all at a loss for words. Elisa kneeled behind Goliath, cradling his arm, and leaned down kissing his palm, still lukewarm to the touch. The warmth of life had already begun to leave him. "I never thought I'd outlive you," she made no attempt to hold back the tears.

Several police cars pulled up, and officers broke the crowds, setting up a perimeter. Journalists from every major network began appearing on the scene, calling out to anyone who had witnessed events.

"Take my father back to the castle," Angela ordered. "All of you, go."

"What about you?" Lexington asked.

What about her? What about them all? The media would draw on their own assumptions as to what transpired by the evidence witness and what could be skewed by the Quarrymen. The witch hunt of all gargoyles in the city, if not the world, would begin once again if she did not react quickly to help extinguish the flames that would soon spread.

Angela closed her eyes and released the breath she had not known she was holding. Now was not the time. The little moisture in her eyes was now gone. The new clan leader turned to the awaiting gauntlet of police and media. "I will mourn later. My responsibilities as leader come first."

Elisa returned to her feet. "I'll stay too," she wiped away the rivers of tears. "I want to tell the entire world about who they lost tonight. I will not let all that he fought so hard to protect and create die because of her."

As the gargoyles prepared to leave, the Quarrymen emerged from the cathedral, two of them carrying an injured but otherwise healthy Jack Castaway. Several police officers exited the church behind them, Rachins and his mercenaries in handcuffs. A few remained, taking statements from the hostages and providing comfort and support.

"Would you look at that," Jordan nudged his boss and gesturing in the direction of the grieving gargoyles. "Only good monster is a dead monster, eh?"

Castaway smiled approvingly. "I guess the evening was not a total wash after all."

"You just saved a church full of people, I bet the mayor will give you a medal of honor."

"Mr. Castaway?" An old woman, one of the hostages came up to him. "God bless you."

Angela's eyes glowed red as their voices carried over, but Elisa placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Just ignore them."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castle Wyvern, The Great Hall

October 25th, 2056

The evening was brisk. There was not a cloud in the sky. The calmness of it all was a stark contrast to the last two days of emotional turmoil.

The doors to the castle and the Eyrie Building itself were wide open. Anyone and everyone was invited to the Wind Ceremony. Dozens of people had showed up during the last hour alone.

"Looks like we're the hot party in town," said Alex as he came up beside Angela. "If this keeps up, we're going to have to lock up."

"Goliath saved the city, saved the world. Why wouldn't they want to honor him?"

"The Quarrymen deny it… of course," Lexington's eyes glowed as he answered his leader. "Castaway had a major public relations coup when he saved that church. Quarryman recruitment has skyrocketed."

"The mayor could give him the key to the city and it wouldn't matter," Elisa slammed her glass of water down. "They may not be aware of the full scope of Demona's scheme, but Goliath died saving the city in front of hundreds of eye-witnesses. There is no credible way for Castaway to spin that."

The elevator doors pinged as they opened, and out stepped a gray-haired but glamorously beautiful woman. She removed her sunglasses, revealing the blue fox-headed tattoo over her right eye. "Hello, Alex," she said.

"Hi, Mom," Alex embraced her. "Thanks for coming."

"I wouldn't miss it, I'm sure David wishes he could be here," she let go of her son, embraced Angela and finally Elisa. "We are both so sorry for your loss."

The second express elevator doors opened and out stepped an elderly, near completely bald, Italian-American man. He took a moment to brush non-existent dust from his impeccable suit, whispering something softly to one of his two bodyguards. He smiled politely to Elisa. "Hello, sug…" he caught himself, adjusting his glasses. "Hello, Elisa," he began again, handing her a tasteful bouquet of flowers.

Elisa's eyes narrowed as she cautiously accepted them. "How are you, Tony?"

"Long since retired," he replied with enthusiastic relief. "And amazed I was allowed in the building."

"According to gargoyle tradition, everyone who wishes to speak of the departed is permitted a voice," Elisa explained. "Even the departed's enemies."

"For you, Elisa," he said, "I promise to be a class act."

"Everyone is sitting down in the courtyard," Broadway said as he entered the Great Hall. "How about I show you to your seat?" Tony Dracon got the hint, and followed the big gargoyle.

Once again, the elevator doors opened and out stepped Anastasia Renard, escorted by a tall, sharp-dressed stone of a man with pearl white hair that glimmered slightly. "When word reached us of Goliath's passing, we knew it only appropriate to attend and honor such a noble individual. He will be grieved by many on Avalon." She then embraced her daughter and grandson.

Owen Burnett approached the group, flanked by Brooklyn and Katana. He bowed politely to the tall gentleman. "My lord," he said.

"You look well, Puck," the human Lord Oberon, gave his former servant only the barest of icy glances. A good moment passed before the Lord of Avalon continued. "I see you have done a fine job teaching and protecting young Alexander."

"Thank you, my lord," Owen replied. "I shall escort you and Anastasia to your seats momentarily. I am here to see Angela and Ms. Maza."

"As you will," Oberon nodded.

"What's up, Owen?" Elisa asked.

"I received a call from Ambassador Griff. The United Nations is reconvening to vote on the Gargoyle Minority Protection Act tonight. Unfortunately, neither he nor Ambassador Sphinx or Chung can make it. They all send their heartfelt regrets."

"I understand," Angela replied politely.

"I spoke to Griff as well," said Brooklyn. "He… he doesn't want us to get our hopes up. Demona's scheme has likely destroyed our chances. But then, that's our kind of luck. Save the city and they are probably trying to sue us for it."

"We'll worry about that tomorrow night," Angela turned and headed out towards the courtyard. "Tonight is about honoring my father."

"Come," Elisa looked at her watch. "It's time now."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castle Wyvern

Angela carried the golden urn up the staircase to the top of the tallest tower, where Goliath would always roost. Upon reaching the top, it hit her. This roost was her roost now, not that she wanted it. She approached the podium, and looked down at the crowd assembled in the courtyard. It was all impressive. Monitors had been set up as well as speakers so everyone could see and hear her as well as anyone else who chose to come up to speak.

"As a leader, there are always certain responsibilities you're reluctant to take on. Admitting that Goliath is gone is something I never wanted to do. You always think you have time to prepare for such a thing, that you will have a chance to say goodbye and all the things you forgot to mention. Most of all, I always thought I would have a chance to thank you all for all the love and patient understanding he gave to me and to the rest of our clan.

"I am reluctant to be this clan's leader. But honoring him is something I will wholeheartedly do. Goliath was many things to all of us; for me, he was a leader. He was a mentor. He was a hero. But, above all of that, he was a father."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"He was always a personal inspiration to me," Lexington spoke. "He supported me when no one else would. He was skeptical about me going into business, saying it was not the Gargoyle Way. But he never discouraged me."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"When I first came to Manhattan, I was a stranger in a strange land," Katana was quite serene. "My rookery kin were all gone. He welcomed me with open arms and was the finest leader I ever had the honor to serve."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"We had our problems," Coldstone rumbled. "Our disagreements. But I was always proud to call him my brother."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"A brother and a true friend," said Coldfire. "I have faced death before and would have gladly laid my life down for him once again. But he would never have allowed that if he could help it."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"When I made the biggest mistake of my life," Broadway sighed, he hated reliving this. "Goliath didn't condemn me for it. He was there when I was afraid to go home. Every night I am grateful that things turned out okay, but if they hadn't I know he would have forgiven me, even if I never forgave myself."

Down in the courtyard, Elisa smiled as a tear ran down her face.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"He was my hero," said Nashville. "Years before I met him, he was my hero. Brooklyn always talked about Goliath, and he more than lived up to the hype."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"He is everything I aspire to be," said Artus.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"I miss him very much," Gwenyvere sobbed.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"He was a worthy adversary, and an honorable ally," Macbeth sighed. He had been to too many funerals. "My single greatest regret is that I never called him 'friend.'"

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"He often had an annoying tendency to interfere in legitimate business dealings," Tony Dracon could barely fake it. "Frankly I never understood why he singled me out for persecution. But, you had to respect the big guy. He was good at what he did, even if he did turn my hair white."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

A dark-haired young woman, not at all dressed appropriately for the event, approached the podium. She pulled a small disc out of her pocket and inserted it into the player inside the podium.

The corporate logo of Nightstone Unlimited appeared on the screens for a brief moment before fading out to reveal the familiar image of Thailog, garbed in full armor, sitting on his throne and pouring himself a glass of wine.

"You all know the cliché. If you're seeing this, it means that I am dead. I guess daddy dearest outlived me after all." He laughed long and maniacally. "But even in death, you don't think I would let this event go on without lifting my glass as one dead gargoyle to another.

"I think my fondest memory of dear old dad was on Halloween. I always wondered what would happen if I just walked up and stabbed him in the gut…"

"From beyond the grave," Elisa seethed as she watched the spectacle unfold.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Prejudice ingrained since birth is a hard thing to overcome, but he opened my eyes," Robyn Monmouth spoke. "Through his example, my children and their children aren't raised to fear, hate and hunt the unknown as I was."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"David couldn't be here, but if he could, I know exactly what he would say," said Fox. "He liked Goliath, always did. Even more so, he respected him. When they were at each other's throats, David never took it personally. He loved the game."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"It was an honor to serve as his second-in-command," said Brooklyn. "And it was even more of an honor to hand that position over to Angela. I know she will lead us as well he did. He was proud of her; of all of us. And I have always been proud of him."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"We had our differences, believe me," Delilah spoke. "But, without him, I would have lived my life as the servant and concubine to a depraved maniac. Goliath, along with Talon, taught me I had the freedom to choose my own destiny."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

"Certain things can't be put into words," said Elisa. "The night I met Goliath, my life changed forever. He brought out the best in everyone around him. It was impossible not to love him. Believe me, I know. The world lost a great being. I lost my best friend and the love of my life. But through him I gained a family. My mom and dad; my sister, my brother, and my sister-in-law; this clan of gargoyles; our adopted son and his wife and children, I'm glad they finally made it here; and to everyone else who touched our lives.

"They say that many great men and women seldom live to see their dreams realized," Elisa continued. "So it is up to all of us to create a better tomorrow."

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Angela finally took the podium again and held up the urn. Opening it, she spread the ashes out into the wind.

"Ashes to ashes. All is one with the wind."

Then she lifted Elisa into her arms and she and the rest of the gargoyles soared off amid the wind-borne ashes knowing that Goliath would remain with them forever.

Only now did Angela allow herself to shed tears.

~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~ : ~

Castle Wyvern

October 26th, 2056.

"My father had these dungeons rebuilt before I was born," Alexander led Angela, Elisa and Brooklyn down into the sublevels of the castle. "Owen tells me they were designed in case he ever needed to contain you for a long period of time."

They came upon a massive, vault-like door and Alexander punched in a security code. "All the comforts of home, and impossible to escape from." The doors opened.

"I want her well taken care of," Angela said.

"Of course," Alex promised. "We'll make sure she is comfortable. She'll be treated better than she's ever been."

Brooklyn put a hand on Angela's shoulder. "It's the right move, Angela," he said. "Trust me, in the long run this will be the best thing for everyone involved."

"It's funny," Elisa took a breath before continuing. "After everything she did, everything she put us through. Everything she took from us." She paused, having trouble finishing the sentence. "I don't hate her either. Goliath wouldn't want me to. But I pity her."

"She spent over a thousand years running," Brooklyn said. "She can't run away from herself anymore."

"I want to talk to her alone," Angela ordered.

"Of course," Alex acquiesced. Brooklyn and Elisa nodded in silent agreement.

Angela entered the dungeons and slowly made her way down the hall to the last cell. All the comforts of home, indeed. The cell was large and probably rivaled some five star hotels in dimensions and comfort. There was no hiding the king-sized bed; a private lavatory; empty book shelf and privacy glass shower. There was even a small lounge sofa that she swore was ergonomically designed to comfort gargoyle anatomy.

"Hello, my daughter," Demona sat up on the bed. "You do know it is against gargoyle tradition to not allow someone… anyone, to speak at the Wind Ceremony?"

"You killed three civilians, took even more hostage, and they're still counting the dead and wounded at the hands of your spell," Angela said flatly. "I told the humans you were dead; it was the only way I could avoid handing you over to them."

"Why the sudden act of kindness?" Demona asked. "Surely you hate me now."

"You're dangerous," Angela replied. "They don't know you like we do. They don't know what you're capable of." She paused, the silence was deafening. "You murdered Goliath. Yes, gargoyles and humans are not so different, but our justice is not their justice."

Demona stood up and walked up to the transparent aluminum. Despite its clarity, Alexander had assured them it was impossible for even a gargoyle to claw or smash their way out of. "I won't apologize for my actions, Angela."

"I know you won't," Angela replied. "You would have to have a sense of responsibility to do that."

"Angela," Demona tried to explain. "All I ever wanted was to protect you. If you'd only seen what I've seen, experienced what I've been through. You would know that the humans are our worst enemies. If we don't destroy them, they will destroy us.

"What happened to Goliath was," Demona paused, searching for the right word. "Unfortunate. But, he allowed himself to be corrupted by the humans! His foolishness and naivety made his death a necessary evil. He would have led us all to extinction at their hands!"

Angela shook her head, and raised her arms in mock disbelief. "You didn't hear the news, did you?" It was not a question. "The Gargoyle Minority Protection Act passed." Demona's eyes widened in disbelief, as Angela continued. "Just barely, but they were all moved by father's sacrifice. That he gave his life to protect this city from one of his own impressed them. Hunting gargoyles is now a crime. We are all now recognized as an indigenous nation with full sentient rights. It's a new world."

Demona was speechless. The two gargoyles stared at each other before Angela broke the silence. "No, I don't hate you. Even after all this, I don't hate you." Her tone changed to one of pity. "The humans aren't your worst enemy, Demona. You are." Angela turned and walked away towards Elisa, Brooklyn, and Alex. Not once did she so much as glance back.

The immortal gargoyle watched her, stunned. Her expression of shock was soon replaced with a snarl of defiance. "This changes nothing, Angela!" She screamed at the top of her lungs, "They will not stop! Our survival will not be guaranteed until we stand upon the ashes of humanity!"

"Farewell," Angela whispered. Without glancing back, she embraced Elisa in a hug as the vault door shut behind them, drowning out Demona's screams.

The End

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank my editors for helping me make sure this story would not suck. Todd Jensen for spotting technical errors I didn't, and Will "Revel" Anson for story-editing this piece.