Lyre, Lyre
by Christine Morgan
christine@sabledrake.com / http://www.christine-morgan.org

Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney
and used here without their creator's knowledge or consent. The
Rockaway belongs to Christi Hayden, and I promise, no serious lasting
damage was done to it (I'll pay for any broken furniture.) This story has
some violent content; reader discretion advised.

#40 in an ongoing saga.



(Matt Bluestone, voice over) "Previously, on Gargoyles ..."

From "The Eurydice Project" --
He went to a small table, which held two ancient crumbling
scrolls, a bound copy of all the spells from his own Grimorum
Arcanorum (and wouldn't Goliath be pissed if he knew about _that_),
and a golden musical instrument. "The lyre from the Hall of Antiquities
Arcanum. The lyre of Orpheus."

From "Romances, Part Three: First Date" --
Robyn shifted her gaze to her, slowly taking her in. Fresh,
innocent, hopeful features bespoke a small-town girl with big-city
dreams. The diamond earrings and fur coat marked her as a wealthy
man's mistress or plaything. And the swell of her belly ...
At that, Robyn's gaze came accusingly to rest on her younger
brother. Jon smiled coldly. Together, they mouthed the litany that their
father had ingrained into them from the time they were old enough to
speak.

From "Baby Makes Three" --
The last Hunter and prophet of the Quarrymen turned slowly.
"Bluestone. So you've caught up with me at last. Come to kill me, the
way my father killed yours?"
"No. I've learned the lesson your family never did. Generations
of revenge have brought you nothing but death. I won't fall into that
trap."
"So what are you going to do?" Canmore sneered.
He opened his coat, withdrew something of metal that was not
a gun, and set his fingers to the strings. "I've had a busy day, but I've
saved my best for you."
Then, with all the power that was his, Orpheus Bluestone
began to sing.



APRIL 3, 1999.
23RD PRECINCT.

"God, I hate paperwork," Elisa Maza sighed. "Especially
filling out all these endless forms."
"Then you shouldn't fire at suspects," Rick Alvarez said,
reasonably enough. "Even if they _are_ Quarrymen."
"They shot first." She rubbed her bandaged shoulder, wincing
as she did so, already wondering how she was going to explain it to
Goliath without sending him into a homicidal rage.
"And if they hadn't, you'd be in even deeper salsa with the
captain than you already are. Come on, finish them up and I'll take them
down to processing."
"Thanks, Rick." She finished her account of events, then
scrawled her name. Just her luck she'd gotten tagged on the right
shoulder; she was trying to write with her left hand and it made her
report come out sloppy.
As she was handing the paper over to the acknowledged
hunkiest officer on the force, she heard a commotion by the door to the
squad room. Through the middle of it came her partner, looking like he
hadn't slept all night. But he was beaming proudly, handing things out,
and getting clapped on the back by the rest of the badges.
"Aren't you off today?" she called over the noise.
Matt walked right up to her and popped a cigar in her mouth.
"Guess what?"
She plucked it out and saw the plastic band with blue letters,
procaliming gaily, "It's a Boy!"
"Edie had the baby? Matt, that's great! When?"
"Ten forty-six this morning." He dealt out a hand of Polaroids,
of an exhausted woman and a wrinkled bald red infant.
"Oh, Matt, he's ... uh ... precious!"
"What's the matter with his head?" Rick asked, leaning over
Elisa's desk to look.
"The doc says it'll be regular-shaped in no time." Matt
laughed. "Yeah, I know, he's not exactly cute, but he's got lungs on him
like you wouldn't believe! Here, Rick, have a cigar."
"Did you finally decide on a name?" Elisa asked.
"Orpheus."
"You've got to be kidding!" Rick protested. "You can't saddle
a kid with a name like that!"
Matt shrugged. "It's what Edie wanted."
"He is going to get picked on at school, just watch," Rick said.
"Bluestone!" Captain Maria Chavez appeared, smiling. "I
heard the news! Congratulations! But what are you doing here?"
"Had to come and show off." He thrust the pictures at her.
"Don't worry, his head will flatten out," she said. "Carmen was
just like that when she was born."
"Oh, Captain, I'm on for tomorrow, and I was wondering if ..."
"Say no more, Matt. Thanks to the new policy, you get twelve
weeks family leave, with pay."
He blinked. "Wow, how ... progressive of us!"
"Twelve weeks with pay?" Rick echoed. "I've got to have a
kid!"
"You've got to have a wife first, studly," Elisa teased.
"Watch it, Maza, that could be construed as sexual
harrassment," he came back with a wink.
"The policy does only extend to married couples," Captain
Chavez said.
Elisa grinned. "That so?"
"Something you need to tell me, Maza?"
"No, Captain," she said hurriedly. "No chance. What I meant
was: what's the department's policy on marriages not recognized by the
state of New York? Just in case."
"We'll worry about that if and when the time comes. Are you
done with your report?"
"Yeah, I just gave it to Rick."
Matt noticed the bandage for the first time. "Hey, did I miss
something?"
"Quarrymen." Elisa made a face. "Vandalizing a nightclub.
Lucky for them, they did it before the place opened. I've heard some
weird things about the folks who run the Rockaway, and there might not
have been anything for us to do but pick up the pieces if those hammer-
toting jerks had gone there after happy hour."
"Why'd they bust up a bar?" Matt asked.
"Gargoyle sympathizers," Rick said. "Apparently, they play a
lot of Scarlet Angel music, and there've even been some gargoyle
sightings in the vicinity."
"It must just bug the hell out of those guys that they can't get
close to the clan." Matt shook his head. "Well, hey, since I've got all
this leave time, I'm going to get back over to the hospital."
"I'll tag along," Elisa said, standing up. "I'm done for the day,
and it'd be nice to see Edie again."
"Not so fast, Maza," Captain chavez cut in. "Have you seen
Michelby yet?"
Elisa sighed and rolled her eyes. "I'm okay, Captain. I don't
need to visit the department headpeeper." But, seeing Chavez's eyes
darken ominously, she sighed again. "All right, all right. But tomorrow,
okay? I promise. First thing tomorrow."
"And you're on desk duty until the investigation is complete,"
Chavez pressed on. In a lower, gentler voice, she added, "I know how
you feel about the Quarrymen, Elisa, but if you're going to react like
this in every situation, I'm going to have to pull you off the GTF."
"You can't!" she burst out, then took a deep breath.
For a few moments there in the firefight, she'd been more like
Demona than herself, wanting the kind of revenge that ends up driving a
hearse. She'd been almost _glad_ when the Quarryman shot her so she'd
have an excuse to return the favor. And that was the kind of behavior
that wouldn't just put her life and her job in danger, but would bring the
disapproval of the whole clan.
"Sorry. You're right. Desk duty's fine."
Maria Chavez nodded, satisfied. "Tomorrow. I'll tell Dr.
Michelby to be expecting you."

* *

MANHATTAN GENERAL HOSPITAL.

"Would you like to hold him?" Edie offered.
"Sure!" Elisa cradled the tiny boy in her left arm, carefully,
mentally comparing him with the lively sturdy toddlers her niece and
nephew had become. It was hard to remember just how small and
fragile the twins had been -- and, come to think of it, she'd been
wounded the first time she held them, too. Not a good thing to make a
habit!
Orpheus looked up at her with dark, solemn eyes from beneath
the brim of a knitted cap. He didn't resemble Matt much at all, except
around the chin.
"He's darling," Elisa said. "Your mom must be thrilled!"
"She's on her way down from Vermont even as we speak,"
Matt said. "I think she's planning to stay for a month, at least!"
Most women might have quailed at the prospect, but Edie only
smiled serenely. "At least then you'll have decent meals! I didn't take
very good care of you these last few weeks, and all I wanted to eat was
feta cheese!"
Matt shuddered extravagantly. "I was living on take-out," he
told Elisa. "But Mom'll cook, clean, fuss, and bustle to her heart's
content."
The baby yawned, then made a soft crooning sound. "I think
he wants to go back to his mother." Elisa handed him back to Edie, who
smiled adoringly down at him. Matt, standing beside the hospital bed,
slipped an arm around her shoulders, and the three of them looked so
happy and familial that Elisa's throat tightened with half-acknowledged
envy.
"I'd better get going," she said with an automatic glance at the
windows -- she used the hue of the sky more than her watch to tell time
these days. "Enjoy your time off, partner! Call me if you need
anything."
They said their farewells, and Elisa strode down the hall of the
maternity wing, breathing in the scents of powder and formula and all
those baby smells, hearing lullabies and indignant crying.
She paused by the elevator and sighed. Her shoulder hurt, and
she was having those thoughts again. Those decidedly un-Elisa-like
thoughts. She closed her hand around the smooth pendant Elektra had
given her, the teardrop of amber supposedly imbued with Avalon's
magic.
Aiden had confirmed that it did have an aura of power to it,
and as far as Goliath was concerned, that would be enough. Enough to
let them defy genetics and conceive a child of their own. She had
agreed to it, but secretly doubted that Elektra's gift would do the trick.
But ... oh ... sometimes, like now, she wished that it would.
She heard wailing ascending beneath her -- someone in the
elevator. As it dinged to a stop at this floor, she stepped back.
"It's going to be fine," she heard a man say, and icy fingers
played xylophone on her spine as she recognized the voice. She slid
around the corner just as the elevator doors opened.
A wheelchair rolled out, containing a very pregnant young
woman with a fluffy halo of auburn hair. She was gasping and clutching
the handrests, sweat beading her face, green eyes dark with pain.
The man pushing the chair was blond and arrogantly
handsome, his eyes cruel blue. Jon Canmore.
A flock of nurses closed around them, efficiently taking over
and steering them into one of the delivery rooms. Against her better
judgement, Elisa edged closer. But her red jacket and blue jeans stood
out against the white uniforms and pale salmon of the scrubs, and
Canmore saw her.
They stared at each other for a short but weighty moment, then
Elisa's eyes shifted to the woman. No, to the girl. She couldn't be more
than seventeen.
"Yes, detective," Canmore said in that haughty affected accent
of his. "There always will."
"I ought to run you in for statutory rape," she snarled.
One of the nurses glanced over worriedly, but Canmore only
smiled. "My wife is nineteen, and I fail to see how that is any interest of
yours."
"Jo-o-on!" the girl howled. "It hu-u-urts!"
"She's already crowning!" a physician's assistant reported.
"Who's her doctor?" the worried nurse asked.
"She doesn't have one. We were planning to have the baby at
home, but when the pain got to be too bad ..." he shrugged. "And the
midwife never showed."
The nurse clucked a little, disapprovingly, and turned her
attention to her patient as they wheeled her into a delivery room. Elisa
and Jon Canmore were momentarily alone in the hall, and now he let his
mask drop. His hatred struck her like a splash of acid.
"I heard about the dust-up this afternoon. Which of my men
branded you, gargoyle-lover? I'll want to reward him most generously."
"Buy him a big book of crossword puzzles, then," she replied
coldly. "It'll pass the time in the hospital."
"Police brutality."
"Self-defense."
"Betraying your own kind."
"Terrorist hate crimes."
His lip curled. "Those monsters of yours, their luck won't hold
forever!"
"There will always be a Guardian." She didn't know what
made her say it, but Canmore's reaction was gratifyingly shocked. He
was just winding up to deliver a scathing remark, when the squall of a
newborn filled the air.
"The baby!" Canmore turned on his heel, leaving Elisa fuming.
She clenched her fists, and the hot spear that jabbed at her injured
shoulder pierced her anger.
She hurried back to Edie's room. Matt was holding his son as if
he feared little Orpheus might shatter on contact.
"Forget something?" he asked.
"You'll never guess who's got the same birthday as your son,"
she reported disgustedly. "Jon Canmore's child."
"Another Hunter." Matt scowled.
Elisa ran her left hand through her hair. "Everyone's having
kids. First Xanatos, then Talon and Maggie, then Owen of all people ...
and the clan's planning a breeding season for this fall! It's like
'Gargoyles: The Next Generation' around here! Now even the villains
are getting in on it!"
"Which means you're next," Matt grinned. "And don't tell me
you haven't thought about it. I heard what you were saying to the
Captain."
"The point is, what are we going to do about Canmore?"
"What _can_ we do? You know we've got nothing concrete on
him. Those Quarrymen are practically cultists. They won't say he told
them what to do, even if they're facing ten years in prison."
"Well, there is one thing I can do." Elisa picked up the bedside
phone and dialled. "Jason? Hi, it's Elisa! You'll never guess who I just
ran into at Manhattan General ..."

* *

MAY 19, 2022
THE STERLING ACADEMY.

"... are the future of America, and the future of the world."
Papers rustled all through the auditorium as people set down
their programs, impressed into service as makeshift fans on this
unseasonably warm day, to applaud.
"Thank you, Senator Chavez," the school dean, Cordelia St.
John, said.
She was one of only two among the assembled crowd who
looked as cool as if she was having iced tea on a shaded porch. Her
lilac gown was crisp and fresh, the lace at her throat and wrists was
snowy, and if there was silver in her platinum hair, it didn't show.
The other, predictably, was her daughter Patricia. Orpheus
could see Trish from here, whispering something to Alex that made him
grin.
He knew what was next. He straightened his tie, winked at his
dad, and prepared to rise as Ms. St. John announced him.
"And now our class valedictorian will say a few words. Ladies
and gentlemen, Orpheus Bluestone."
Trish's brother Sebastian, sitting behind him, bounced a balled-
up program off his back as he rose. Orph threw him a quick warning
look, thinking once again that he just couldn't figure Sebastian. Most of
the time, he was as humorless and reserved as his father, Owen Burnett,
but every so often, like a volcano building up pressure, he had to let off
a little wacky energy.
More applause, loudest from the row of his guests. Grandma,
Percy (his sister couldn't _stand_ to be called by her real name), Mom,
Dad, Uncle Rick (not really related; the title was an honorific), Alex,
Trish, Detective Sarah Henderson (the senator's daughter), and Captain
Morgan.
Guardians, most of them. Back when Orph was small, the
outfit had been called the Gargoyle Task Force, but Guardians had a
much nobler ring to it. Too bad none of the gargoyles could attend. But
Cordelia St. John, even though she knew about them and owed them a
great debt, wasn't going to rearrange Sterling Academy tradition for
anything short of Judgement Day.
There was one other face in that row, a face that managed to
look proud and sorrowful all in one. Amber had come, even after he
dumped her. He wasn't sure how he felt about that, and he didn't have
time for introspection
He approached the podium, pausing to shake hands with
Senator Chavez as he did, and the secret smile in her eyes let him know
that she still hadn't forgotten the time he'd gotten sick in her office just
before a meeting with the mayoral committee. She'd never let him spin
around in her chair again.
As he turned toward the audience, he noticed a black-suited
man standing at the back of the auditorium, as if he'd come in too late to
get a seat without disturbing the ceremonies. The man was watching
him with an intensity that Orph found a little unsettling. And there was
something familiar about him too, as if Orph had seen him more than
once but never met him.
His years on the debate team, in which he'd led Sterling to
national championships three times, left him calm as he faced the
attentive crowd.
He delivered his speech flawlessly, stirringly. There was
scarecely a dry eye in the house when he was done, and as always he
was left with the odd sensation of mingled satisfaction and discontent,
as if there was still something more, something missing.

* *

"Congratulations, Orph!" Trish hugged him without seeming
to touch him, in that airy way she had. "Now if Sebastian could just get
through school ..."
"He's a year ahead of me, need I remind you?" Sebastian said,
unconcerned.
"So, what's next for you?" Alex asked. "I'm still in the market
for a lawyer, especially one with your talents!"
"I didn't go to all the trouble of getting my degree in
criminology just to go to work bailing you out of trouble and getting
you the permits to build that mile-high castle," Orph said with a grin.
"Though I admit, the minor in criminal psychology might help me
understand you!"
Alex laughed and clapped him heartily on the back. Only
around him and Trish and Sebastian did Orph feel fully at ease. He
didn't have to be constantly watchful, constantly held back, when he
was with them.
"Sorry, son, he's coming to work for me," Captain Morgan
said. "Going to be a detective, best we've ever seen, just like his dad!"
"Hey, you said I was the best you'd ever seen," Sarah
Henderson protested.
"That was when I was the police commissioner, still his boss,"
Senator Maria Chavez pointed out. "He was being polite. It still amazes
me, Sarah, how someone who could lose her glasses six times a day
ever passed the exams."
"I was just trying to get you to buy me contacts ..."
Orph laughed along with everyone else, then found himself
looking for Amber.
"She left right after," his dad told him, with a knowing look
that managed not to be disapproving. The whole family had been crazy
about her, and his mom had cried harder than Amber herself after the
breakup.
Alex insisted on taking everyone to dinner at the Golden
Apple, a posh place that was rumored to be booked up clear until 2028.
But Alex walked in like he owned the place, and once he and Orph's
dad had passed a few quiet words with the maitre'd, they were all shown
to a table as if they were royalty. Just one of the many perks of being
Illuminated, Orph knew.
The evening wrapped up early because most of them had far to
go before they slept. Percy had successfully lobbied to spend the week
with Grandma, so it wound up being just Mom, Dad, and Orph driving
back to Manhattan. Alex offered them a ride in his mini-jet, but Dad
was eager to show off his new aircar.
"We are so very proud of you," Mom said.
"Proud enough to buy me my own car?" he teased, carefully,
carefully, making sure it was a joke and not a suggestion.
His dad pretended to choke. "After all we had to shell out to
put you through school, you have the nerve to ask for a car?"
"Hey, Dad? Did you see the man standing at the back of the
auditorium? The man in black?"
The aircar swerved and Matt corrected quickly. "Man in
black?"
"He seemed familiar, and he left as soon as I got my diploma. I
was just wondering ..."
Matt sighed. "Can you keep a secret?"
"Can I keep a secret?" Orph repeated, laughing. "Mom's the
mythic Eurydice, you're one of the Illuminati, some of our best friends
are gargoyles, Alex is the heir to Avalon, and you wonder if I can keep
a secret?"
"Okay, okay. Good point. Orph, that man in black was your
grandfather. My dad."
"I thought he died years ago!"
"Everyone thinks that but the three of us. He's got a top-secret
job, and he risked a lot coming to see you graduate."
At Orph's gentle urging -- gentle because he wanted to know
but didn't want to force his father to tell him and deepen that discomfort
with which everyone viewed him -- Matt began unwinding the long tale
of John Bluestone and his encounter in the Vermont woods so many
years ago.
Orph was about to press for more details, when a Silencer
mini-jet streaked overhead, much too low, searing the treetops. The
Silencer's engines were no louder than a motorcycle, and the car shook
from its passage.
The aircar swerved again. "What the hell?!" Matt braked by
the side of the road. "Was that Alex's jet? Showoff little --"
"It wasn't Alex's," Orph said, craning his neck to follow the jet.
"His is red and gold. That one was blue. Look, it's coming back."
"Matt!" Edie grabbed her husband's hand and pointed.
"There!"
"I see it!" he said grimly, and started the car again.
"A gargoyle!" Now Orph, too, saw the dark shadow just ahead
of the jet, in a desperate losing race. A series of tiny bright flashes
etched lines in the sky, then punched holes in the tarmac as it crossed
the road. "They're firing! Don't they see us?"
"They see us," Matt said, still grim. He sped up, drawing his
gun. "They just don't care."
"Quarrymen, you mean." Now Orph heard that grimness in his
own voice.
He had been fully educated in the lore of the enemy, even
though there had been hardly any appreciable Quarryman activity for
better than ten years. These days, it seemed like they contented
themselves writing hateful letters to the paper and appearing on talk
shows rather than blowing up buildings. But it looked like that was
about to change.
A stark pulse of blue-white erupted from the jet's forward
pulse cannon. It struck the fleeing gargoyle square in the back and
briefly turned the figure into a winged X-ray, all outlined bones.
The gargoyle was flung forcibly forward. Edie screamed and
Matt stood on the brakes. The gargoyle hit the road just in front of
them, bounced up hard enough to make the aircar's compresssion unit
crumple when it hit the underside, and then Orph saw it rolling in a
boneless tumble behind them.
He was out of the car even before it shuddered to a stop and
sank wheezing to the ground.
"Orpheus, come back!" his mother cried.
It was a female, one he didn't recognize. The unabraded parts
of her skin were blue, her hair was a deep red that seemed to glimmer
with an inner flame, and gold glinted at her brow.
"Damn," his father said, coming up beside him. "I was afraid
of that! Demona!"
Orph stared. "Angela's mother? But I thought ..."
"Nobody's heard from her in years, not since that egg
business."
"And now she's dead." He dropped his head in mourning and
respect, even though he knew she hadn't been much of a friend to the
clan.
"Sorry to disappoint you," the gargoyle groaned as she stirred
and pushed herself up from the pavement.
"It's a long story," Matt said, seeing the look on Orph's face.
"The main thing is, we've got trouble. We should get out of here before
the Quarrymen show up."
"What about her? Aren't we Guardians? Sworn to --"
"Oh, spare me," Demona said sourly, wincing as she sat up.
Incredibly, her skin was already healing, and her limbs, which had
looked snapped and mangled, were straight. Orph remembered
something he'd heard once, about her being immortal. He hadn't
believed it at the time, but ... "I don't need your help, Bluestone!"
"Want it or not, you've got it. As my son said, we're Guardians.
Of all gargoyles. Even you."
"I'm not an endangered species!" she snapped.
"But you are, demon. You truly are." It was punctuated by the
sound of a hammer whistling through the air, a comet with a crackling
white head, that slammed into a tree and left an explosive crater.
"The Hunter," Matt and Demona said together.
"Drop it!" Matt added, adopting a shooter's stance.
Orph, looking at the Hunter's reflective visor, thought to
himself that all his schooling still hadn't prepared him for this.
"You've led me a merry chase, demon," the Hunter said. "Now
it ends."
"Hold it right there, Canmore," Matt said.
"You're not calling the shots here, Bluestone," the Hunter said.
"I've come for the demon. Don't make me drag you into this as well."
"Come on, then!" Demona invited, flexing her claws. "Or
aren't you brave enough without your mini-jet and laser cannons?"
The Hunter sprang lightly down the slope, heedless of Matt's
gun swiveling to follow him. "Oh, I think I'm brave enough. It's time to
put an end to you."
"You can't kill her, you dope!" Matt cried in exasperation.
"When are you going to get that through your head?"
"Spare me your preachings on tolerance. I can, and I will."
"I didn't mean it that way! I meant you can't! It's impossible!"
"My predecessors may have failed, but they didn't have the
resources that I did." He slung the hammer over his shoulder and
produced a matte-black gun with a long thin barrel.
"Damn it, Canmore, I _will_ shoot you!"
"He's mine!" Demona began to advance.
A tight smile flitted across the Hunter's face and he squeezed
the trigger. A pencil-beam of dark energy shot from the end of the gun.
Demona leaped to the side. The beam struck the tree behind
her. There was a hissing sound -- *sssssnip* -- and a large smooth-
edged crescent was eaten out of the trunk. All three of them: Matt,
Orph, and Demona, gaped at this with varying degrees of concern and
dismay.
"It's a disintigrator ray," the Hunter said smugly. "How very
sci-fi, wouldn't you agree? Now, demon, immortal you may be, but
what happens if I blast you into your component atoms?"
"Let's not find out," Demona replied, and went at him in a low
run. She jumped high at the last moment, over the next beam that made
an oblong crater in the earth, and came down with both hind talons
splayed to rake the Hunter's chest.
He fell on his back and she pinned the wrist with the gun. His
bodysuit might have been made of impenetrable fabric, but his gloves
were not, and her next move was to rip her claws into that wrist and
maul it like a pitbull. The Hunter shrieked but did not yeild.
His other hand brought the hammer around. Uncharged, it still
packed a punch as it impacted with the side of her head. Demona
flopped sideways into a bed of ferns, and lay there unmoving.
The Hunter rose triumphant, still gripping the disintigrator
despite the condition of his wrist.
He pulled the trigger a half a second too late, because Matt's
bullet tore through his mangled hand and left it a shapeless, dripping
ruin. The Hunter reeled back, clutching his forearm, his face a rictus of
agony.
"You're under arrest," Matt said as evenly as he could under
the circumstances.
"On what charge?" the Hunter replied through gritted teeth.
"You don't need to impress me with your tough-guy routine.
There's still time to get you to a hospital."
"Not while my work is unfinished!"
"Fanatics," Matt muttered. "Canmore, give up! You've lost!"
The Hunter moved fast, much too fast for someone who should
have been in unendurable pain. An old-fashioned 9mm handgun was
drawn and fired before Matt could react. But the Hunter didn't fire at
his prey, lying motionless only a few yards from him.
He fired at Matt.
The bullet took him square in the chest and pitched him
backward like he'd been kicked by a giant, blood already drenching his
shirtfront.
"Dad!" The only thing that could have worsened his horror
was what he then heard, the sound of his mother screaming for her
husband from inside the aircar. She'd seen!
"I'll decide when I've lost!" the Hunter declared.
"No, I will," Demona said.
She paused just long enough to let him whirl and meet her
heartless mocking gaze, and then she shot him with the disintigrator
he'd dropped during their fight.
That pencil-beam hit the Hunter between the eyes, and his
head vanished in a red and grey mist. His body fell in a series of
crumplings like a slow-motion stack of child's blocks, and he lay dead
at Demona's feet.
"There," she said, packing a wealth of satisfaction into that one
word. "At last!"
"It's not over, demon!" a new voice, wracked with anguish,
cried out. "You may have killed my father, but I will finish his work
another night! You have my word on that! The word of Bryce
Canmore!"
Demona slapped herself in the forehead. "Not another one!"
She started to go after the receding running footsteps, but stopped when
the mini-jet's engines began to race.
Orph threw himself to his knees beside his father. Out of the
corner of his eye, he could see his mother rushing toward them,
weeping so hard that it was a miracle she didn't run into anything.
"Dad, it's okay, hold on," Orph said. "You're going to be fine!"
He put every ounce of emphasis he could into it, but the power of
suggestion wasn't going to stop the inevitable.
"Orph ..."
"Just hold on, Dad." He applied direct pressure, even though
he knew it was no use.
The mini-jet rose through the trees, giving them a brief
glimpse of a red-haired man about Orph's age at the controls. He was
wearing a dark blue bodysuit that shimmered faintly as if it was woven
with filaments of metal. By the corner of one eye, he had a small tattoo
of blue slashes like claw marks.
Demona ducked into the shadows, snarling at the sight of the
enemy escaping
"Oh, Matt!" Edie sobbed.
"Edie ... I ..."
"I know." She smiled through her tears and kissed his hand. "I
love you too. You've earned your place in the Elysian Fields, my
husband."
Matt's breath rattled. "Orph ... you're a Guardian, son. Go see
the Grandmaster. End this craziness. _Your_ way."
"Yes, Dad. I will."
"Take care of ... Percy ... and your grandma." He smiled one
last time at his wife and son, and then life fled from his eyes and his
hand went slack in Edie's grasp.
"I will," Orph whispered. "And you, too, Mom ... Mom?
What's happening?"
"I followed him up from the Land of the Dead," she said, and
her voice had taken on a hollow, ghostly quality that chilled Orph's
soul. "He didn't look back, not once. And now I'll follow him down
again."
She seemed to be fading, turning transparent. He could see
through her, see Demona's incredulous expression.
"You ..." he couldn't finish.
"We'll be together," his mother said. "Always together ..."
"Mom, no!" He reached out, and his hands passed through
nothing more than a cool puff of air. She was gone.
He knelt for a long time with his head bowed. Not crying,
because to cry would be to shed his grief and lose part of his parents,
part of himself.
A clawed hand settled softly onto his shoulder. "I know what
you're feeling," Demona said, and coming from her, they were not
empty words of comfort. "Everyone I've ever loved has turned from me
or been taken from me. But you still have your revenge."
He raised his head. "No. I still have my love. That didn't die
when my parents did."
"And out of love for them, you must avenge them! Your father
died protecting me --" She sounded like she still had a hard time
accepting that. "Come with me, and we'll find that last Hunter, find him
and finish him!"
"Find him, yes. And finish him, yes. Finish him as a Hunter.
But not kill him, and not out of revenge." He stood and looked evenly
at her. "Don't you see, Demona? It's a cannibal, eating away your soul."
"No ... it's ... all that I have," she said, uncertain.
"But is it all that you want? Think about it."
"I will," she promised, looking surprised at herself as she did
so. "What are you going to do now?"
"What my father told me. I'm going to see the Grandmaster."

* *

MAY 23, 2022
OFFICE OF THE GRANDMASTER.

"Come in, Orpheus. Tea? It's Earl Grey."
"Thank you, sir," he said, taking the indicated seat and
reaching for a cup. "A little early in the day for it, though?"
His father's joke fell flat and lay on the carpet like a dead bug.
The Grandmaster of the Fifth Circle sat across from him and
studied him at length. Orpheus did the same in return, though not quite
so openly.
He knew the Grandmaster had to be at least seventy years old,
but he looked fifteen years younger than that estimate. His eyes were as
piercing as ever, his carriage as confident. He still favored wine-red
smoking jackets over black trousers, still kept lionfish drifting in the
spherical tank bulging from the wall of his office.
"I cannot begin to tell you how sorry we are over the loss of
your parents," the Grandmaster finally said. "Your father was one of the
most dedicated men I ever knew."
Orpheus smiled. "As I was told, it was his life's dream to find
the Society."
"He was a little brash and abrasive those first few years," the
Grandmaster said in a tone that conveyed more admiration than
disapproval. "And after he joined the Fifth Circle, he and Davd Xanatos
used to have some of the worst arguments!"
"That wasn't just here," Orph replied. "But I think they liked
each other all the same."
"Yes, I'm sure they did. How did it go with the authorities?"
Orph shrugged. "I'm the only witness, and ... well, they're
inclined to believe me."
"I imagine they are. How did you explain your mother?"
"I had to bend the truth there," he admitted. "Once they tested
the Hunter's weapon, though, they accepted the story that Mom had
been shot with it and that's why they couldn't find a body."
"And your father sent you to me."
"Yes, sir. He wanted me to end all this. _My_ way, he said.
The only time he ever mentioned it directly, though he had to know.
Everyone knew."
"Yes, everyone knew. Your parents did what they could to
raise you to use it wisely, and the Society watched over them to see that
you didn't abuse your power."
"By which," Orph said dryly, "you mean using it in some way
the Society didn't approve."
"Your father taught you a little too well, I see."
"I just don't see how I'm to use it to stop the Hunter. I can't
change someone's mind, make them do something they're opposed to. I
can only ... nudge them toward something they want or are neutral
about. Influence them, not ... compel them."
"That is why your father sent you to me," the Grandmaster
said. "I've been saving this for you." He went behind his desk and set a
large cloth-wrapped bundle on it. "The power of suggestion is in your
voice, Orpheus. But the power of compulsion is here, in this."
The cloth fell away, and gold gleamed in the way that only
gold could.
"A lyre," Orph said.
"Not just any lyre. This is the Lyre of Orpheus, your
namesake. It was with this lyre that your father was able to brave the
Underworld and bring your mother to this one." The Grandmaster gave
it to him.
He took it into his hands as if it belonged there, and ran his
fingers lightly over the strings. A ripple of melody issued forth, and the
Grandmaster nodded approvingly.
"So ... you mean, with this, I can ...?"
"Yes. Provided that you learn to play it properly. Your father
never practiced, and it was only blind luck and his own bull-headedness
that got him through his journey."
"I do know how to play. Mom made me take lessons when I
was a kid. Do you know how hard it is to find someone to teach the lyre
in New York City?" He picked out the first few bars of a Beethoven
melody that had always held special meaning for the Guardians and the
clan (but which was impossible to write without an umlaut ...).
"Now it is yours," the Grandmaster said. "I know I can trust
you to use it wisely."
"Quite an instrument to be carrying around. It won't exactly fit
in my pocket."
"Yes, well, the Harmonica of Orpheus doesn't have the same
ring to it. More tea?"

* *

The Sterling Academy had formerly been devoted mainly to
the arts, with a smattering of history and literature thrown in for good
measure. Over the past decade, it had grown and evolved, thanks to
generous donations by the Xanatos Foundation and the Lennox Trust,
and now offered a complete range of degrees.
The campus, however, hadn't changed all that much. There
were a few new buildings, in the same style as the other halls and made
to look as if they'd been here since early in the last century. The manor
housing the Illuminati was no longer apparently abandoned, but few of
the students noticed it was there or thought to go inside, courtesy of
some spellweaving by an alumnus from the Class of '99.
Orpheus walked down one of the brick paths, thinking to
himself how different the place looked to him already. Only a week ago,
he'd been a student here. Now, he was a graduate, and felt about ten
years older than any of the others who had taken advantage of the
gorgeous weather to relax in the grassy quad and bask in the sun. The
underclassmen still had two more weeks of school, unlike the seniors,
who were now free.
He easily picked out the pale blondness of Sebastian St. John-
Burnett, who was the sort of person who wouldn't tan even if he spent a
week strapped into one of those beds. Sebastian was standing to the
side, watching with a faintly condescending bemused smile as a handful
of drama students rehearsed their lines.
This year's play was "A Midsummer Night's Dream," despite
the ongoing efforts of Professor MacDuff to have the works of
Shakespeare banned, and it had gone so well that a rep from the Derry
Shakespearean Society had invited them to hold a four-week run at this
summer's festival.
"I hear they offered you a part," Orph said, coming up beside
Sebastian.
"Yes, but not the right one. They wanted me to play Oberon."
He snickered, then masked it before someone could see him. "They
thought I'd bring a 'stiff dignity' to the role."
"Does your father know you took an acting class?"
"Of course! It was his suggestion that I take at least one course
from every department, to be prepared for anything." He broke off as
the young woman playing Titania slithered by, and a fey gleam shone in
his ice-blue eyes.
"Don't," Orph cut in.
"Don't what?" Sebastian looked wounded. "I was only going to
say --"
"Something about bringing a 'stiff dignity' to her role, I bet."
"Caught me. Ah, well. Father says it's best if I get it out of my
system while I'm young, so that he can groom me into the perfect
assistant for Alex. Family tradition, don't you know."
"Speaking of which, have you ever seen this before?" Orph
showed him the lyre.
Sebastian nodded. "Great-Uncle's been holding on to it for a
long time. I'm glad he's finally given it to you."
"And it's ..." Orph wiggled his fingers a little.
"Bright as a bonfire," he agreed. His expression sobered.
"How are you doing, Orph, really?"
"Getting by," he sighed after a lengthy pause. "Better than
Percy. She and Mom had an argument the night before it happened, so
she feels like it's her fault."
"Is she going to stay with your grandmother? Alex told me to
tell you that you're both always welcome to stay with him and Trish."
"Tell him I appreciate it, but I haven't decided yet."
"Orpheus?" a female voice said from behind him.
Sebastian's gaze flicked over Orph's shoulder, then back to
him. "If you'll excuse me, I have some business to attend to."
Orph turned. "Hello, Amber."
He hadn't seen her this close up for a long time, and had
forgotten how the sun struck sapphires from the depths of her jet-black
hair and lent rich color to her skin.
And just the fact that he was thinking about her in such poetic
terms told him that despite his numerous attempts to convince himself
of the contrary, his feelings were still strong.
"I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am," she said, not quite
able to meet his eyes. "Your parents were always very nice to me, and I
know how much you'll miss them."
"Thank you. They were crazy about you."
"But you weren't."
He sighed. "It's not that --"
"I know, I know." She sounded more sad than angry, but there
was an undercurrent of temper if one knew to listen for it. "You can't go
through life without letting anyone get close to you, Orph! People need
each other! You spend all your time with Alex and Trish Xanatos; what
have they got that I don't?"
Magical mindshields, he thought but didn't say. How could he
explain to her that he didn't dare get too involved? Not just with her,
with anyone! He'd never know if her actions and emotions were genuine
or influenced by his talent.
Amber relented when he didn't answer. "Orph, I'm sorry! Not
even a week since ... I shouldn't be yelling at you. I just wish I
understood!"
"I do, too," he said. "I wish someone did."

* *

SEPTEMBER 5, 2032.
EASTERN MAINE MEDICAL CENTER.

He sang, and the power of his voice combined with the music
of the lyre to make something stronger than both.
Bryce Canmore stopped in his tracks, transfixed. The young
nurse with him tilted her head dreamily to the side, and the sun flashed
on her earrings. Silver, abstract, three slashes and a hammer-shape.
The mark of the Quarryman, Orpheus Bluestone thought. Just
like the tattoo on his cheekbone. That's how she knew him, why she
helped him escape. What thanks would she get, I wonder? Brood mare
to birth the next Hunter?
Not if I can help it.
He sang, and the world held its breath.
Below him, beneath this vast expanse of concrete that formed
the roof of the hospital, he knew everything was in turmoil. The
televised chase-crash-firefight that brought Canmore here, the
disturbance caused by Dominique MacLachlan's delivery, the sudden
and utterly inexplicable (to everyone else, that was) total eclipse ... and
to think, it had been such a quiet Sunday morning!
He sang of an end to hatred, compelling Bryce Canmore to
forego the quest that had been his father's and grandfather's and untold
ancestors' before him.
Canmore wept like a child, sensing even through the song of
compulsion that something worse than his life was being taken from
him. His life's purpose, the entire reason for his conception and birth
and upbringing, was stripped away.
Never again would he look on a gargoyle, any gargoyle, with
loathing.

* *

"We're in your debt," MacBeth said, offering his hand.
Orpheus clasped it. "My duty, sir, not your debt."
"What about the Hunter?" Dominique asked, cradling her
newborn son to her breast. "Is he dead?"
"There is no more Hunter. No more Quarrymen, eventually. I
had to find their leader to put an end to them. He eluded me for ten
years, a long time. Do you remember the night we met?"
Dominique nodded. "I never forgot it. That night changed me,
started me thinking about what you'd said. The futility of revenge." She
laughed softly and stroked Moray's tiny cheek, and he turned his mouth
toward her. "I'd heard the same thing time after time from others, but it
never sank in before."
"Thank you for this great gift," MacBeth said, and Orpheus
knew he didn't mean just the end of the Hunter.
He nodded. "Have you settled things with the hospital, or
would you like me to speak with them?"
"We were just on our way out," Dominique said, smiling up at
MacBeth. "They were most understanding after my husband promised
to kill them all if necessary."
"I'd be happy to give the three of you a ride," Orpheus said.
Then, because he couldn't resist, he added, "My work here is done."

* *

APRIL 3RD, 1999
MANHATTAN GENERAL HOSPITAL

Brianna was sleeping the sleep of the drugged, and Jon
Canmore was sitting by the window with his son in his arms when he
sensed he was no longer alone.
"Well, well. If it isn't my dear brother and sister."
"Jon, what have you done?" Jason wheeled his chair into the
room.
Robyn closed the door behind them, and spared a pained
glance at the young girl in the bed.
"What have I done? I take it you're not here to congratulate
me. The charming Miss Maza must have called you. For shame, Jason,
that you'd turn your back on our heritage, that you'd forgive our father's
murder, all for the sake of a pretty face. And she snubbed you! Snubbed
you in favor of one of those beasts!"
"Jon, you don't know what you're talking about."
"But I do, brother mine. I do. I actually find it quite deliciously
ironic, that the woman you had in mind to bear your children -- don't
give me that look, Jason, you know it's true as well as I do! -- is instead
sharing her bed with a gargoyle!"
"What's happened to you, Jon?" Jason asked sorrowfully.
"You used to be the kindest of us. You tried to convince me not to
attack Goliath's clan. It was the demon that was our enemy, and theirs
as well! We could have joined forces, you told me. But now you want
to exterminate their entire race!" Jason laboriously levered himself out
of the chair, standing erect but unsteady on trembling legs.
"Yes, bit of a turnaround, isn't it?"
"And another thing! Would you give up the phony accent?"
Robyn touched his arm, coaxed him back into the chair. "We
can't allow this to continue, Jon. All you're going to do is get yourself
killed, and condemn your son to follow in your footsteps."
"It was good enough for you!" he shot back. "Good enough for
ten centuries of our predecessors! Now you'd have me give it up?" The
baby, upset by Jon's raised voice and tightened grasp, woke and began
to cry.
"We're trying to help," Robyn said. "You still have time to do
what's right."
"And what might that be? Turn myself in? You'd have my son
grow up with a convict for a father? While those monsters are still on
the loose? I think not!"
"We'll turn you in," Jason said. "With both of us testifying
against you, there's no way you'd win."
Jon stared at him. "Et tu, Jason?"
"We don't want to do it, Jon!" Robyn said. "But if you turn
yourself in now, while public opinion is still undecided about the
gargoyles, you might get an easier sentence."
He sighed and looked down at his son's face.
"It has to be today, Jon," Jason said. "We've let this go on long
enough. I heard the news, about that bar? You've let this get too big.
When it was just our family, it was easier to manage. But you've got
fanatics all over the country, out of control."
"Fanatics who care about the future of humanity," Jon pointed
out.
"Some of them, maybe," Robyn said. "But most of them are
creeps and lowlifes who'll take any excuse to beat somebody up."
"All right, all right, I can't think with both of you badgering at
me! Just give me a moment, please, by myself."
They exchanged a glance, then agreed.
As soon as they were gone, Jon wedged a chair in front of the
door. He pulled a cellular phone from his pocket, dialed, spoke briefly
into it. Then he swaddled his son in many blankets and looked down at
the sleeping Brianna.
"Ta-ta, my pet," he said, and blew her a mocking kiss.
"Excellent work!"
He opened the window.

* *

"So he's thinking it over," Jason Canmore said.
Elisa sighed. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this, but I thought if
anyone could talk some sense into him, it'd be the two of you. That girl
... if she's eighteen, I'll eat my jacket ... I doubt she has any say in this as
far as your brother's concerned."
"She's just a child," Robyn said.
"Do you hear that?" Jason asked. "Sounds like -- a helicopter!"
He spun his chair toward the door and shoved on it. "He's barred it!"
Hospital staff came hurrying to see what the matter was, only
to get treated to the sight of Elisa and Robyn kicking in tandem.
Something heavy squeaked across the tile and the door opened enough
of a wedge for them to squeeze through.
Robyn went first, and her blond hair was swept around her
face in the rotor-whipped draft from the open window. "Jon, no!"
Her brother was standing on the ledge, one hand on the ladder
hanging from the bottom of the copter, the other wrapped firmly around
the baby. "Farewell, sister dear! I've thought it over, and to hell with
you both! There will always be a Hunter!"
"Canmore!" Elisa drew, realized that even if she didn't hit the
baby, he'd be sure to plunge four stories to the parking lot, and cursed
in frustration.
The helicopter lifted away from the window, Canmore
swinging below it.
"Is he nuts?" a nurse cried. "He's going to drop the baby!"
"No, he won't," Jason said. "That's the one thing he won't do."

* *

"How you holding up, partner?"
"Tore my wound open kicking that darn door," Elisa replied.
"Still, if it had to happen, I suppose a hospital is as good a place as
any."
"You should get over to the castle. Goliath's going to be
worried sick."
"I want to finish up here."
"There's nothing to finish up," Matt said, picking up her jacket
from a nearby chair and holding it out to her. "The cops have come and
gone, the media's come and gone -- well, I did think I saw Travis
Marshall still snooping around, if you want to talk to him some more --
and everything's over."
"Not for that girl. Brianna. He used her, took her baby,
abandoned her."
"Yeah, well, we knew he wasn't a nice guy. She'll be okay. I
got someone to cal her parents. They're flying in from Nebraska
tomorrow."
"Oh, God," Elisa said, seeing it all too well. Young girl drawn
to the big city. She was almost lucky she'd wound up with Canmore
instead of getting knifed in an alley or strung out on cocaine.
"Did she say anything about where they lived?"
Elisa nodded. "He was keeping her in an apartment on the
Upper West Side. She doesn't know anything about the Quarryman
hangouts."
"Are you sure she wasn't lying to protect him?"
"The man took her baby! She's devastated, Matt."
"I can imagine." He looked over at Edie and Orpheus, both of
them sound asleep. "Don't you think it's kind of ... weird? That they
should be born on the same day, just down the hall from each other?"
"I hope you're not seeing an Illuminati plot in this."
"Don't be silly."
"Me, be silly? You're the one talking like there's some strange
mystical connection formed between them, linking their fates and
destinies!"
Matt laughed. "Okay, I give up! For what it's worth, I hope we
never see Canmore or his kid again."
"I hope so too," Elisa said. "But I wouldn't bet on it."

* *

The End.