Tales From the Skiff
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 consent. Other sources of inspiration, homage,
and outright theft occur herein, also without knowledge or permission
of the rightful creators.

Author's Note Additional: the events in this story take place before
Broadway, Brendan, and Elektra find their way home in "The Pure and
the Profane," a story that just wouldn't wait to be written.

Special Thanks to Denis, for making a joke that I decided to take
seriously! ; )


#42 in an ongoing saga.


OPENING:
(music by Danny Elfman)
Swooping camera pan toward the brass-and-glass double doors
of a skyscraper, zeroing in on the stylized gold-painted "X" just before
the door swings open. Quick skim over marble and mahogany foyer,
sweep up into elevator shaft.
Emerge into the spacious hall of a castle, skimming across
tapestries, antiques, displays of armor and weapons, stained-glass
windows. Onto the battlements, panning swiftly past fearsome figures in
menacing stone poses. Dart back inside, swerve down a hallway, into a
child's nursery.
Zoom in on a jack-in-the-box in jolly colors. The latch flips,
the lid pops open, and out springs a thin figure with floating white hair
and overlarge, pointed ears.
A maniacal laugh spirals into the upper registers, and then a
voice chortles, "Tales from the Skiff!"

* *

PART ONE -- INTRODUCTION:
Scene of a long dusty table littered with bits of pottery, thick
gold jewelry, archaeologist's tools. A sarcophagus stands in the
background, against the wall of a tent.
Puck, wearing a pith helmet and khaki, blows a cloud of grit
from a bejeweled brooch in the shape of a beetle, then grins into the
camera.
"Hello there, boys and girls. Hope I didn't scarab you!
Wouldn't want to send you running home to mummy! She's so wrapped
up in herself these days!"
He floats into the air, hovering over the table. "Our first tale
pushes the pyramid-ars of adventure. All's pharaoh in love and war, and
people always get what's Tutankhamen to them! So join me for a little
story that that I call ... Brendan Vandermere and the Temple of Doom!"

* *

The river was a wide ribbon of dull brown-green rippling
between banks thick with rich mud. Canals reached from the river, long
narrow fingers combing through the lush fields. The moon hung low
and full and huge, painting the landscape cool silver.
Statues lined the sides of the river, towering ancient stone
figures on square pedestals. The moment Brendan saw them, he knew.
"Egypt!" he said.
He quickly identified the gods -- hawk-headed Horus, whose
single eye was represented on the back of the dollar bill; Anubis, judge
of the dead; sleek Bast, bare-breasted with the head of a cat; many
more.
"Who's that?" Elektra breathed, pointing to the statue of a
woman with feathery wings extending from the undersides of her
outstretched arms. "She seems almost a gargoyle!"
"Isis," Brendan said, briefly describing the goddess' journey
through the underworld and her efforts to restore her husband after he'd
been torn to pieces.
"When Goliath was sent here, he fought the Pack," Broadway
muttered. "We better look out."
"Mm-hmm," Brendan replied, barely listening as he read the
heiroglyphs on the pedestals as the skiff glided smoothly by. "Where's
the camera?"
Elektra found it and he began taking pictures, grateful for the
bright moon.
"Hey, what's that?" Broadway put a hand to his fanlike ear,
which as far as Brendan was concerned, was like holding a pair of
binoculars up in front of the Hubble telescope.
pop-pop-pop-pop!
Next came a tatta-tatta-tatta, and a revving diesel engine, and
the scream of a motorcycle throttle. Then more pops and tattas.
Broadway brought the skiff to a halt in the shadow of a
weathered pillar, exerting no small effort to keep it in place against the
strengthening current.
Brendan's eyes skimmed over the heiroglyphs, saw that they
warned of a cataract ahead, and thought nothing of it as he realized the
pops and tattas were gunfire.
Now they could see the source of the commotion. A canvas-
sided truck was in hot pursuit of a solitary motorcyclist, with two dun-
colored jeeps bringing up the rear. A man with a machine gun leaned
out the passenger-side window of the truck, bullets stitching haphazard
seams all around the cycle as it swerved. Another man, distinctive with
a short blond crewcut and a black turtleneck, was standing in the back
of the lead jeep with a pistol.
"What do we do?" Elektra asked, poised for action.
"We don't know who the good guys are," Broadway said,
frustrated. "And they've got us outgunned! I guess we wait and see."
The motorcycle zipped up an incline that was almost too steep,
and raced along the top of a crumbling sandstone outcrop. The truck
picked up speed, the driver surely seeing that the outcrop first narrowed
and then petered out to nothing. The bike was rapidly running out of
room.
The rider must have known it too, because the bike slowed.
Then, as the truck pulled ahead, the rider gunned the engine and went
up on the back wheel, then jumped the bike into the back of the truck,
tearing through canvas.
Moments later, after a man in dark clothes had been forcibly
ejected from the back of the truck, the rider appeared through a rip in
the canvas, and began clambering toward the driver's compartment.
Beside Brendan, Broadway was humming softly.
The truck braked, flinging the cyclist onto the hood. A hail of
machine-gun fire blasted out the windshield, showering broken glass
but missing the precariously-clinging cyclist, who pistoned both legs
through the opening and kicked the machine-gunner out the passenger
door. The cyclist then dove inside, and the truck went crazy as a
wrestling match took place for possession of the steering wheel.
Two of the truck's wheels bounced up on the sandstone, and
the whole thing nearly tipped. Then it came down with a crash and a tire
exploded -- BANG-flappa-flappa-flappa.
Now they could see the driver, slumped unconscious across the
dashboard while the cyclist fought for control of the careening vechicle.
The truck came around in a big loop, and headed straight toward the
jeeps.
The lead jeep veered out of the way, but the second jeep wasn't
so lucky, and met the truck head-on. As they slammed together and
burst into flames, a motorcycle erupted from the back of the truck,
complete with rider.
Broadway was louder now, really getting into it: "Bum-ba-
dum-dum, bum-ba-dah, bum-ba-dum-dum, bum-ba-dah-dah-dah!"
The motorcycle landed hard but stayed balanced, and shot
toward the river with the remaining jeep close on its tailpipe. The blond
man in the black turtleneck fired but missed as his car bounced and
jolted over ruts in the earth.
Now they got a good look at the cyclist, and gasped as one to
see that it was a woman, grim-faced beneath the brim of her fedora.
Just before she reached the bank, the blond man's second shot
struck her cycle. Its rear end jerked to the side, slewed in the mud. The
woman leaped free and rolled, all leather jacket and brown corduroys,
with a whip coiled at her hip. She came up crouched next to the pillar,
clutching a battered satchel to her chest, her hat still miraculously on
her head.
The jeep was going too fast to avoid the tumbling motorcycle
and collided with it, turning it into a bent pretzel of metal that sailed up,
came down, and smashed through the jeep's windshield. The driver
spun the wheel hard to the right. Tires slid in the mud and the jeep
toppled onto its side, spilling all the occupants.
The woman saw the boat and jumped in, landing beside
Brendan. "Cast this thing off!"
"Okay," Broadway said, nonplussed, and poled them into the
swiftening current.
She looked at him and Elektra, did the grandaddy of all
double-takes, and then whipped her attention back to dry land as a
bullet tugged the collar of her jacket.
The blond man was standing beside the wreckage of his jeep, a
scratch leaking blood down his arrogant Nordic cheekbone, both hands
wrapped around a gun.
The current seized the skiff and drew it along, and now
Brendan remembered what he'd read on the pillar. Cataract. Rapids.
Whitewater.
Another bullet gouged a splintery wound in the skiff's
figurehead, turning the carved Viking head's solemn mouth into an O of
surprise. Broadway swore and poled more vigorously.
The blond man tried to fire again, but judging by the look on
his face and the disgusted way he flung his pistol in the mud, he was out
of ammo.
The woman stepped up on one of the benches, bracing herself
with one hand on Brendan's shoulders. She doffed her hat, letting a riot
of chestnut hair take to the wind, and waved it at the blond man in
mocking salute.
Even the growing rush and tumble noise of the approaching
cataract could not drown out his final infuriated cry as he shook his fists
in the air. "Jooooooonnnnnes!"
Broadway choked and almost lost hold of the pole. "No
way!!!"
There was no chance for further conversation just then,
because the skiff dipped into the rapids, and the woman lost her footing
on the bench. She fell into Brendan's arms, winked at him, then
disentangled herself and dropped low to grab the sides of the boat.
Brendan and the gargoyles followed suit, and they all held on
for dear life as the skiff picked up speed. Water and muddy foam
splattered over them.
Finally the river smoothed out, and they could all sit up again.
"Whew," the woman said, wringing out her hair and replacing
her hat. A small scar on her chin only accentuated her striking good
looks. "Thanks for the ride."
"Are you one of the good guys?" Broadway demanded.
"Are you?" she came back.
"Well, yeah! So if you stole something from those other
people, and they were just trying to get their property back --"
"It's not their property!" she said fiercely. "The Orb of Isis
belongs in a museum!"
"Can I cut in for a moment?" Brendan asked, as polite as if this
were an evening cocktail party. "Some introductions might be in order.
Brendan Vandermere, of the Boston Vandermeres." He extended a
hand.
The woman regarded him for a moment, making him very
aware of his unshaven and all-around disheveled state. Howard
Mosswell's tweed jacket wasn't in the best shape either, and Brendan
realized he must look quite a bit like a homeless college professor.
"Dakota Jones," she replied, seizing his hand in a grip that
made him struggle not to wince.
"I'm Broadway, and this is Elektra," Broadway said. "But
we're still trying to figure out who's side you're on."
"Likewise." She turned her dark, frank eyes on the two of them
and waited for an explanation. When Broadway, to his evident surprise,
provided one, she nodded as if it made all the sense in the world.
"Gargoyles, okay. Excuse me for saying so, but shouldn't you be
perching on Gothic cathedrals?"
"We are on a quest," Elektra said softly. "A magical quest that
sends us where we need to be, where we might render aid to those in
need."
"Ooo-kay," Dakota said. "You did provide a handy getaway
boat, at that. But you can just drop me off ahead at the river bend, and
get back to your quest."
"What about you?" Brendan asked.
"Places to go, Mr. Vandermere. I have to get to the Orb to the
Office of Egyptian Antiquities, for their Isis Exhibit."
"But who were those other guys?" Broadway demanded. "Why
do they want this orb thingie?"
"As an energy source. They mean to use it to power a weapon.
And I mean to keep them from doing it. If Runolf gets his hands on the
Orb --"
"Runolf?" Broadway cut in, with a puzzled look. "That name
sounds familiar ..."
"Hans Runolf." Dakota fingered the hole in the collar of her
jacket. "Our blond friend. Leader of an outfit that calls itself the Reich
2000, or the Nazis of the New Milennium."
"Sounds like a video game," Brendan said.
"Or a rock band," Broadway agreed.
"Laugh if you want," Dakota said, "but they're dead serious.
They want to use the Orb to activate the Anubis Device. If that happens
..." she shuddered and shook her head.
"The ... who what?" Broadway's puzzled look had reluctantly
given way to one of a hope-I'm-wrong sort of understanding, and
Elektra glanced worriedly at him before touching his arm.
"There was an incident a few years ago. Nobody's clear on the
details, but someone broke into a hidden chamber and found something
that killed thousands of people in a split second. Aged them to dry
bones. Now the Reich 2000 have it, but lucky for us all, they haven't
been able to make it work. Yet."
A few silent moments passed as they all contemplated this.
Broadway still looked uncomfortable, but whatever he knew, he wasn't
saying.
"Where is the Anubis Device?" Brendan finally asked.
"They moved it to the Temple of Kal-tet," Dakota replied,
pointing to a distant flat-topped pyramid that rose from the dunes like a
mirage. "It's remote, virtually unknown, the perfect place to test it."
Brendan frowned. "I thought I knew my mythology, but I've
never heard of Kal-tet."
"I'm not surprised. She's not one of the major goddesses. Or
even one of the minor ones, for that matter. More of a cult figure in the
3rd dynasty. The sacrifices were considered gruesome even by the
standards of the time. The priests put starving crocodile hatchlings in
brass urns, then strapped the urns so that the openings were flush
against the bellies of their victims."
Another silent moment passed while they all contemplated
that.
Once again, Brendan broke the silence. "Is there a chance they
can still make the Device work, even without the Orb?"
"They're bound to try," Dakota said grimly. "Which is why I'm
going to the temple. Someone's got to stop them."
"So," Brendan said. "Now we know why Avalon sent us here."

* *

That was how, several eventful hours later, he found himself
struggling in the grip of two of the High Priest Mar-Alom's personal
thugs while they carried him to the carved stone altar.
"I would rather have the woman," Mar-Alom complained, the
leaping firelight dancing over his cruel, nearly reptilian features.
Hans Runolf shook his head. "Miss Jones has been a thorn in
my side for quite some time. I mean to deal with her personally."
"Let the man go," Dakota said, tugging at the ropes that held
her. "He's no part of this."
"Tell me where the monsters are, and I might agree," Runolf
offered with a cold little smile, balancing the Orb of Isis on his palm.
"Don't tell him!" Brendan shouted, then groaned as one of the
thugs cuffed him on the side of the head.
All he could think of was the shallow sandstone cave where
the gargoyles waited for dusk with no way of knowing that the
expedition to the temple had gone drastically wrong. If the Reich found
them ...
"Let him go, and I'll think about it."
"You are in no position to argue!" Runolf snapped, losing his
patience. He turned to his men. "Bring her."
They dragged her protesting, bound form from the room. Hans
Runolf glanced down at Brendan, his ice-blue eyes glittering. "Perhaps
you will change your mind, Herr Vandermere. When you feel the
crocodiles start to writhe and bite and gnaw ... yes, perhaps you will
reconsider."
With that, he spun on his heel and followed his men into the
depths of the Temple of Kal-Tet.
Brendan pulled on the cords that held his wrists. They were
secure. But the movement caused his arm to scrape along something,
and he realized that the edge of the altar was chipped, jagged.
Mar-Alom thrust a pair of tongs into a water-filled tank and
came up with a flailing, gnashing baby crocodile. He dropped it into a
brass urn, chuckling to himself.
One of the thugs tore Brendan's shirt open, and the other
dunked a brush into a jar and began smearing his stomach with a thick,
smelly paste.
"Fish oil," Mar-Alom explained. He put a lid on the urn, shook
it. A ferocious storm of hissing and snapping echoed within. "Its
favorite food."
He began chanting in a harsh dialect of Egyptian. Brendan
could barely understand one word in ten, but he didn't need a pocket
translator to know that this was a prayer to Kal-Tet, offering up a
sacrifice. Him, to be specific.
The thugs murmured along with Mar-Alom, and Brendan took
advantage of their distraction to rub the restraint faster against the
broken stone. He marveled inwardly at how well he was taking all of
this. The Brendan Vandermere of a year ago, who had a nervous
breakdown over the loss of a car, was long-gone.
Mar-Alom pressed the flat lid of the urn against Brendan's
stomach, strapping it in place. With a final reverent sigh to Kal-Tet, he
reached to slide the lid out from between the crocodile and Brendan's
unprotected, fish-paste-smeared skin.
The cord snapped. Brendan swung his arm, batting away Mar-
Alom's hand just as the fingers closed on the edge of the lid. Then,
though the angle was awkward, he delievered a neat boxing punch that
caught the High Priest in the sternum and sent him reeling back gasping
for air.
Before the thugs could shake off their trance, Brendan had
freed his other arm. Then he felt the cold, rubbery-pebbly nudge of a
snout, and saw that his twisting and exertions had caused the lid to shift.
He cried out in horror and fumbled at the straps.
"Get him!" Mar-Alom ordered furiously.
Brendan got the urn unstrapped just as the lid slid free and
clattered on the stone floor. He shoved/hurled it from him in more
revulsion than anything else, and certainly did not plan for it to smack
straight into the thug who had anointed him with fish-oil. The thug
reflexively caught the urn, and the crocodile launched itself madly out,
sinking its teeth into the thug's oily fingers.
That man began to scream and leap about. His first instinctive
reaction was to slam his hand on the edge of the altar, succeeding only
in shattering his fingerbones while the croc skittered up his arm.
The other thug stared at this spectacle just long enough for
Brendan to seize up one of the tall brass torchlamps and brain him with
it. But then Mar-Alom's arm snaked around his neck and squeezed.
Brendan uttered one strangled choke before his windpipe was
closed off. He threw himself backward, and by blind luck stomped hard
on Mar-Alom's foot. The two of them lunged and crashed around the
altar, stepping over and on one unconscious thug while the other
screeched and flailed at the determined, nearly demonic baby croc that
had by now torn red flaps from both arms and his cheeks.
Mar-Alom released Brendan and grabbed a ceremonial dagger.
His first slash snagged Brendan's sleeve, shredding what was left of his
shirt and leaving a shallow cut.
The thug, desperate to escape the vicious teeth of the
crocodile, blundered into the row of tanks and knocked them over.
Gallons of water and dozens more crocs sluiced across the floor,
instantly driven into a frenzy. They went at each other, at the thugs, at
Mar-Alom's sandaled feet and bare legs beneath his robes.
Brendan's shoes -- glossy black the night he'd put them on for
his sister's party aboard his yacht, a night that seemed a hundred years
ago now -- proved too much for their small teeth. He scrambled through
the puddles, slipping once and catching himself with one hand against
the floor. A croc darted in and took a piece out of his forearm before he
could get up again.
He fled, leaving Mar-Alom in a frantic dance of trying to
shake loose his tiny, ravenous minions. To Brendan's left, the stairs to
the upper chambers beckoned. Daylight, freedom, an end to the
catacombs. To his right, the passage Hans Runolf had taken.
He went right.
Voices ahead alerted him and he ducked into a dark alcove as
Dietmann, the shifty-eyed archaeologist, went by with Runolf's men.
They were speaking to each other in hushed German, throwing wary
glances in the direction of the altar room. The screams had dwindled,
and doubtless the men believed them to have come from Brendan's
throat.
They went on, taking the stairs up. Brendan waited until they
were out of sight and then hurried the way they had come.
"... cliche even for you, Runolf," he heard Dakota say, and a
huge sense of relief swept through him. "I mean, really, dangling me
over a pit of fire ... aren't you at least going to test the Anubis Device on
me?"
"And let you get close to it? I think not," Runolf said. "I know
you, Jones. I won't let you destroy my plans."
Brendan eased into the room, finding plenty of flickering
shadows to conceal him. The only light came from the pit, a glowing
gaping orange mouth. Heat shimmers rippled the air.
Dakota was suspended over the pit by her wrists from a length
of thick rope. Though her eyes didn't so much as waver when Brendan
came in, he knew she saw him.
"So what now?" she asked. "You've got the Orb -- Dietmann is
probably taking it to the Device even as we speak. You know I won't
betray the others."
"If the sounds of your friend's hideous death did not convince
you, torturing you won't either. In which case, I might as well ..."
"Tell me where the Device is, gloat about your plan, and then
leave me to die?" she prompted helpfully.
"You've seen too many movies, Jones, and listened to too
many of your grandfather's stories." He drew a gun and pointed it at her.
"I'm going to shoot you, that's all."
Brendan tackled him just as the gun went off, the impact
jarring Runolf's arm so that the bullet grazed the rope instead of
blowing Dakota's head off. The two of them crashed to the floor. The
gun sailed from Runolf's grip, and skidded to the edge of the pit. It
teetered there, caught in the uncertain dilemma of gravity.
Strands of rope popped and unraveled. Dakota rotated her
wrists frantically, trying to work a hand free. Her body twisted slowly
as the rope began unwinding.
Brendan and Runolf both went for the gun. Their searching
fingers found it in the same instant, and pushed it over. It plunged into
the fiery pit, where the bullets began exploding from the heat.
Now it was Brendan teetering on the edge, Runolf trying to
shove him in while he in turn tried to hold on. His face felt like it was
baking, his eyes squinted and watered. He threw Runolf off,
unfortunately not into the pit.
Dakota abruptly dropped two inches as more rope gave way.
Brendan, exhausted and going on pure adrenaline, tackled
Runolf again. They rolled into a table full of pottery, which fell and
detonated all around them. Brendan grabbed up a wide-mouthed jar and
brought it down on Runolf's head. The jar, thick Nile clay with several
coats of glazing, cracked apart like eggshell. Runolf grunted in surprise
and went limp.
The rope snapped.
"No!" Brendan yelled.
Dakota lunged upward with her one free hand, catching hold
just above the frayed end. Her hat fell off and she kicked, catching it on
the toe of her shoe. And there she dangled, by one hand with one leg
bent awkwardly to keep her hat from a firey doom.
She looked around at Brendan and smiled, a weary half-insane
little grin that perfectly mirrored the way he felt inside. "Our day's work
isn't done yet, handsome. Dietmann's got the Orb."
"They headed for the upper chambers." He found the lever that
closed the pit. "Ladies first, or age before beauty?"
"How nice to know that chivalry's not dead," she said, and
together they raced for the stairs.

* *

"Now!" Klaus Dietmann cried, holding aloft the Orb of Isis in
both hands. "Now we shall unlock the secrets and the power!"
The Temple of Kal-Tet was a flat-topped pyramid, with a large
brass brazier in the center flanked by huge gongs in wooden stands. A
wide set of steps descended the side, lined with tall posts in the shape of
serpentine alligators with blazing glass spheres gripped in their jaws.
The steps ended at a wooden bridge that spanned a moat of oily-looking
water.
The men around Dietmann rolled their eyes at each other and
muttered as his rapturous speech went on, but none of them moved from
their posts. They stood along the sides of a gold-covered tube resting
atop an obsidian carving of a jackal. The tube was inlaid with designs
showing embalmers at work, and Anubis weighing the souls of the
deceased against the Feather of Truth to see if they had earned their
eternal reward of serving the pharaohs, or if they were to be devoured
by the Beast.
"Three guesses," Brendan whispered to Dakota.
She tapped a finger against her lips playfully. "If it's not an
espresso maker, or the telephoto lens of the ancients, it must be the
Anubis Device. Ready to rumble?"
He sighed. "Not really, considering they've got us
outnumbered and outgunned. But what the hell." He glanced hopefully
at the reddening sky, but the sun was still too far above the horizon for
them to count on a timely rescue.
Dakota unclipped her whip and shook it out.
Dietmann moved to the end of the device, where two copper
prongs waited to hold the Orb. The device itself was pointed toward a
small village in the shadow of the pyramid, where the Reich had
recruited their laborers and now evidently meant to repay them with
ageing and death.
"Shall we wait for Runolf?" one of the men asked.
The man's question went unanswered. The final six inches of
the whip coiled around Dietmann's wrist.
Dakota yanked. The Orb fell, bounced off the barrel of the
Anubis Device -- here Dakota and Dietmann both winced in horror --
spanged sideways, rebounded off a gong, smote one man in the
forehead, and rolled to a stop at Brendan's feet.
He scooped it up, noticing with dismay that the silver surface
was marred by several cracks. But there wasn't time to inspect the
damage, because Dietmann, shaking with rage, shouted, "Get them!"
Dakota elbowed one of them, wrested his gun away, and shot
another in the shoulder just as he was about to ventilate Brendan.
Hans Runolf, bruised and furious, erupted onto the scene with
a machine gun. Below, a large truck skidded to a halt at the foot of the
stairs and more soldiers of the Reich spilled out.
"And you thought we were outgunned before!" Dakota yelled
at Brendan, and squeezed off another shot. This one didn't even come
close to striking any of the men, but severed a chain holding one of the
gongs upright. It swayed, the remaining chain snapped, and the gong
banged noisily down.
She looked at him. A bullet whined between them, not
dimming the go-to-hell wild light in her eyes. "Into the garbage chute,
handsome!"
"You've got to be kidding!" Brendan hollered, but jumped into
the concave suface of the gong anyway, just as Runolf's machine gun
made gravel out of the stones he'd been standing on.
Dakota returned fire, then, as her ammo ran out, hurled the gun
-- breaking Dietmann's nose, lucky shot! -- and leaped into the gong.
Her weight and momentum pushed it over the edge, and the next thing
Brendan knew, they were sliding down the side of the pyramid like kids
in a snow disk, the brass against stone making the most ungodly
screeching and showering sparks all around.
"We'll never clear the moat!"
"Probably not," she replied, adding, "especially now!" as some
of the men from the truck realized what was going on and one clever
fellow threw a lit match onto the thick oily coating. Flames shot up
eagerly, racing around the bottom of the pyramid. "We've got our frying
pan; there's the fire!"
"Ha, ha!" he retorted, scanning for an escape route, but there
was none. Even if they bailed out, nothing was going to stop them from
rolling into the burning moat under their own power.
Defying all laws of physics, Dakota stood up and kept her
balance in the careening, skidding, jolting gong. "Grab on!"
"To what?" he demanded incredulously.
She looped her arm around his waist, readied her whip.
"You are nuts, woman," he opined, but held tight to both her
and the orb.
"Kiss for luck?" she teased, but there wasn't time. The wall of
fire was fast approaching. She drew back her arm, let it fly, the whip
snaked out in a blur, and wrapped snugly around a tall statue of Kal-Tet
at the edge of the moat.
The whip pulled taut and yanked them out of the gong.
Relieved of their weight, it hit the edge of the moat and took to the air,
flying through the flames like a giant Frisbee and plowing into the
waiting soldiers. Brendan and Dakota, her face a rictus of strain and his
a gape of shock, swung around in a tight tetherball circle and slammed
into Kal-Tet's unforgiving, reptilian graven image.
A grating, shifting noise came from the base of the statue and
it swiveled, revealing a square dark pit.
"There's the garbage chute," Brendan gasped, clinging to the
merciless goddess while Dakota shook her whip free.
"What are you waiting for? In we go!" She dropped past him
feet-first, and after a split-second's reflection that he had to be as crazy
as she was, Brendan followed.
The statue rotated back, sealing them in darkness.

* *

"Damn, am I going to pay for this tomorrow," Dakota panted,
flicking on a pocket flashlight and rubbing her arms. "This has been a
busy day even by my standards!"
"At least it didn't drop us in a crocodile pit," Brendan said,
looking around. "It's a passage, and if memory serves, it leads away
from the pyramid. Under the moat!"
"Then let's get moving before they come after us."
With only her light to guide them, they started to run as fast as
they were able with their various aches and pains.
"No point creeping along looking for tripwires," Dakota said.
"Not with the Reich on our heels! If there is a trap, and we're lucky, it'll
kill us straightaway."
"That's one way to look at it."
They ran for what felt like a mile, and then the passage ended
in a sand-gritted staircase leading up. The top was blocked by a flat
door, but it gave way easily enough when Brendan threw his shoulder
against it.
They burst up into the middle of a corrugated-tin hangar,
whose open doors showed trucks, jeeps, and stacks of crates all marked
with the same symbol.
"Oh, no!" Dakota groaned. "The Reich's motor pool! This is
where I started!"
"Can you fly a -- why am I even bothering to ask?" Brendan
laughed and pulled her toward a sporty red and white Cessna.
"Actually, I can't," she said with a shamefaced smile. "I hate
flying."
"Lucky for you, I can!" He didn't tell her, as they scrambled
into the plane, that his lessons had been twelve years ago and his license
long-since expired.

* *

"You call that a landing?" Broadway asked, staring at the
smoking remains of the Cessna.
"Any one you can walk away from ..." Brendan groaned.
"Can you walk?" Elektra said pointedly.
"Sure." He shook off Broadway's supporting arm, took three
steps, and fell in the dust.
Dakota staggered away from Elektra and collapsed beside him.
"For what it's worth, you did great! Would have done even better if they
hadn't tagged us with that rocket."
He reached into the remains of his shirt and withdrew the Orb
of Isis. As he handed it to Dakota, it slipped from his fingers and
thunked weakly to the sand. The cracks he had previously noticed now
widened and the Orb unfolded.
All four of them stared at it as two golden winged figures and a
cylinder covered with tiny bumps rose from the heart of the Orb. The
cylinder began to turn, the wings of the figures hugging its sides. A thin,
lovely melody drifted up.
"A music box?" Dakota gasped. "All that ... for a music box?"

* *

Her warm smile that made Boston and Margot seem more that
half a world away. "It's been fun, handsome. Thanks for everything!"
"Anytime," he said.
"It may be just a music box, but the Orb will still be great for
the Isis Exhibit. And the important thing is we kept the Reich from
getting it."
"As long as you're going to the Antiquities Board in Cairo,"
Brendan said, digging in a duffel bag, "how about seeing if they'd like
to add this to the tour?"
Her eyes widened as she took the artifact. It was a glazed clay
pyramid topped with a disk of beaten gold in the shape of a sun. "This
is ... where did you get it?"
"What, that old thing?" Brendan grinned. "Just something we
had hanging around. I was going to keep it as a souvenir, but I'd rather
see it in a museum where it belongs."
"I can't take this!" She tried to hand it back, but he folded her
hands around it.
"I insist."
"If you insist." She tucked it into her satchel alongside the Orb
of Isis. "But that leaves you without a souvenir. Here." She shrugged
out of her leather jacket. "This was my grandfather's."
"Dakota, I can't take this!" The well-worn leather was butter-
soft, scuffed and creased with the grit of a hundred ancient and
mysterious sites.
"I insist," she mimicked.
"Well ... if you insist." He slipped it on, and it fit as if he'd
owned it for years. "I did need a jacket; the Kal-Tet people ruined
mine."
A backfire made them all jump, but it was only the plane, a
plane that looked nearly as old as the Sphinx. Its propellor started,
stopped, and then grudgingly spun into a choppy blur.
"My flight," Dakota said.
Brendan nodded. "I'd better say goodbye, then, before I feel
compelled to start quoting Bogart at you."
She tipped her hat to Broadway and Elektra, shouldered her
satchel. "Thanks again!"
"Good journey," Elektra replied.
"Say hi to your grandpa for me," Broadway added, grinning
hugely."I never would have guessed those movies were based on a real
guy!"
She winked, then headed for the plane.
Brendan watched her go, then called, "Dakota, wait!" and
hurried after her as she turned around.
"Forget something?"
"Yes." He plucked off her hat, tipped her face up. "You're the
most exotic and exciting woman I've ever met in my life, and I'd be
crazy not to at least try this once." With that, he kissed her.
Her first reaction was surprise, then a response that left him
breathless. When they parted, her eyes were twinkling. "See you
around, handsome!"
Then she was up the rickety stairs and into the plane. One final
wave, the door closed, and she was gone.
"Wow," Broadway said. He looked at Brendan, impressed.
"Wish I had the nerve to do something like that!"
Elektra, oblivious of how his gaze shifted yearningly to her,
sighed dreamily. "So romantic!"
"Yeah," Brendan said, waving as the plane began lumbering
down what passed for the runway. "Too bad I'm married." He stuffed
his hands in the pockets of the jacket and watched as the plane
dwindled into the sky

* *

EPILOGUE:
Close-up of Puck, still in khaki and pith helmet. Something
silvery is blurring over his head. Camera pulls back to show him tossing
a silver ball from hand to hand.
"Looks like Runolf and Mar-Alom found out their plan wasn't
all it was croc-ed up to be!" he chortles. "But Brendan urned his keep
and didn't leave Dakota hanging!"
Puck breaks into song. "There's Anubisness like show
business, like Anubisness I know ..." breaks off, tilts head as if he heard
voices raised in protest. "What, tomb much of a good thing? All right,
kiddies! Orb be seeing you next time, for more Tales from the Skiff!"

* * * * * * *


PART TWO -- INTRODUCTION:
Slow pan across gold coins, strings of pearls, other treasure
spilling from a wooden chest. Brittle bony fingers clutch the side; the
camera glides up a skeletal arm to a leering skull in an eyepatch and a
black bandanna.
A pair of fingers slips stealthily up behind the skull, making a
V and waggling like antennae. This is followed by an impish face, as
Puck peers over the skeleton's shoulder.
"Ahoy, mateys!" he cries merrily. "Don't worry about my
friend here ... his barque is worse than his bite!"
He floats up, revealing himself to be clad in ragged-cuffed
black trousers, a white-and-red-striped shirt, matching socks, and black
shoes with big buckles. "Like it?" he asks, gesturing to his clothes. "I
was going to get a gold hoop too, but the place I went charged a
buccaneer!"
A dusty green parrot squawks indignantly, and Puck grins. "So
avast ye and prepare to be boarded, for a tale that I call ... Crossbones."

* *

"Well, it's not Manhattan, and it's not Hawaii. Other than that,
I can't see much," Brendan said as the mist began to clear.
They were closer to the harbor now, which was mostly
enclosed by a curving breakwater of heaped, barnacle-encrusted stones.
A giant arch appeared to be the only way in, and as they neared it, they
saw the lettering.
"Cutlass Cove," Broadway read, rather dubiously.
The words were flanked by a skull-and-crossbones at one end
and a picture of a treasure chest at the other, and the C's in Cutlass and
Cove were formed from curved swords -- cutlasses.
A banner was suspended beneath the archway, flapping in the
mellow breeze. As it belled toward them, sail-like, they read what was
written there.
"Grand Opening Week," Elektra said, even more dubiously
than Broadway. "April 12-18. What's today?"
Brendan consulted his watch. "The 11th, I think."
They poled the skiff up to the dock, threading between a
variety of ships ... recreations of sailing vessels from long ago. Off to
one side, the harbor was partitioned off and ringed with bleachers, and
the half-dozen ships there seemed poised for battle.
Broadway thumped himself agreeably in the brow. "It's a
resort or something! Like they have at that hotel in Vegas!"
Now they were close enough to make out details of the
buildings that hugged the coast -- a Hollywood-style recreation of an
early 18th-century pirate town.
"Why don't you two go have a look around," Brendan
suggested as they found a place to tie the skiff. "I'll see if I can find a
phone. Or a map, to figure out where we are."
"Milady?" Broadway held out a hand.
"Gracious sir." She accepted it, and led him toward the
Corsair's Museum.
An unlatched skylight let them into the museum, which was
filled with watchful silence as well as exhibits of seafarers, explorers,
armadas, and, of course, pirates.
Broadway explored one room full of cinematic swashbuckler
memorabelia, then moved to the next. He first saw only woodcuts and
glass cases full of rusted tools and cracked leather-bound ship's logs,
and then his eye was caught by something so startling that the air was
driven out of him in a grunt.
Elektra made an inquisitive noise, and Broadway pointed.
"That portrait ... I know that guy!"
She leaned closer to read the informative card. "Captain
Findleagh Moray, known as the Scottish Rogue."
"It's MacBeth!"
She kept reading. "From the years 1697 to 1721, this believed-
to-be-nobleman harried and hunted pirates throughout the Carribean. In
1722, he was named governor of St. Gilbert, also known as Dead Man's
Cove, an island near Tortuga and Hispaniola."
"Wow," Broadway said. "We always did wonder what he did
with his time. A pirate hunter!" He grinned, studying the old image of
MacBeth in boots and breeches and a big hat, with a sword in hand. "If
I could get a postcard of that to send home ...!"
He wandered off in search of the gift shop, but none of the
postcards had what he was looking for. He selected one anyway, fishing
some change out of his pouch and leaving it on the counter. On his way
back, he heard Elektra's excited call.
"Broadway! Oh, do come and see!"
He found her in a large hall displaying parts of ships. She was
standing in front of a platform, seperated from the walkway by a velvet
rope, studying with fascination a set of five carved figureheads.
There was something about them ... Broadway pondered a
minute, then got it. All of them had wings. He grinned. "Cool!"
The most impressive of them was an image of Death. Great
sweeping black raven's wings, a body somehow skeletal yet strong, a
cadaverous face with hellish pits for eyes, a scythe gripped in bony
fingers.
Next to that one was a winged mermaid, her lower body a
sinuous scaled fishtail, with wings eerily similar to Broadway's own.
The next was a robed man with hooves for feet, wings of fire,
and a blazing sword. After that was a smaller figure with a hunched
back ridged with spines, fanlike wings half-extended. The last was a
mishmash of animal heads, a lion and a goat and a snake, all sharing the
same stubby-winged body.
"Broadway ..." Elektra whispered. "I sense magic here!"
"Hunh? What do you mean?"
She closed her eyes and spread her fingers, ivory beauty
caught in a moonbeam from the skylight. "Yes, magic! A spell on these
five ..." she gasped and her eyes flew open. "They are gargoyles!
Sleeping gargoyles!"
He goggled, first at her and then at each of the five figures in
turn. "But they're wood!"
"A seagoing race of our kind, protecting ships as others protect
castles!" She clapped her hands, excited, delighted. "It is true,
Broadway, I know it in my heart to be true! Behold, here!"
She tugged him to a table which held a model of a massive
galleon. The same scythe-bearing figure was at the prow, while dozens
of other winged statues were posed the length of the ship on either side,
flanking the gunports. They looked like ordinary wood, like carved
decorations, but ...
"I bet you're right!" he said, catching her excitement. "This
ship, this ..." He peered at the name on the hull, and started to laugh.
"It's the Wyvern!"
"Their castle of the waves!"
"And they're under a spell, like we were? Then we've got to
find the way to break it!"
"Ah!" Elektra tapped the glass of a nearby case. "A torn
parchment, inscribed with words in Latin!"
"What does it say?"
"It is woefully incomplete, but for the last lines." She
translated. "Locked in sleep as painted wood, until the seas boil."
Broadway nodded. "Yup. Always a condition. Castle above
the clouds, sky burning ... boiling seas fits right in." He rubbed his head
glumly. "But I don't know how we're going to manage it."

* *

"A phone, a phone, my kingdom for a phone," Brendan
muttered to himself. But, determined to keep the ersatz pirate
atmosphere as genuine as possible, whoever designed this place had
managed to hide all the modern conveniences well.
Footsteps on cobblestones caught his attention, and he ducked
into the doorway of the Pieces of Eight Tavern, trying to think of his
explanation should the security guards discover him.
"... sorry my plane got in so late," a man said, his voice deep
and rich and accented.
"We're just all so pleased you could come!" a woman gushed.
"Meeting you in person, after all those calls and letters ... I feel as if I
know you already! And having an actual descendant of the Scottish
Rogue here to launch the recreation of the Lady MacBeth is more than
the board could have hoped for!"
"I see you changed the name of the town," he replied,
bemused. "I imagine Dead Man's Cove wouldn't be the best draw for
the tourists."
They came around a corner into a pool of moonlight. The
woman was of the leggy model variety, with honey-colored curls and
warm blue eyes.
The man was tall and broad-shouldered. The oddest thing was,
Brendan could have sworn he recognized that face, that crop of silver
hair. A name danced tantalizingly close, tip-of-the-tongue, he was going
to kick himself when he finally got it.
He got it. He kicked himself. How could he not know that
man? Margot's talk-show nemesis, Birdie's favorite teacher.
The woman stopped and swept a hand in an expansive gesture
encompassing the harbor. "Tomorrow, at dusk, we'll hold the first
performance of the battle. It's all mechanized but the sailors. Actors.
The fight between the Scottish Rogue and the fleet of the pirate lord
Emil Santiago."
"The one that led to him being named governor of this island,"
Lennox MacDuff said, and now his bemused look faded, to be replaced
by one more somber. "Only one other battle was ever fought here
during his rule. My ... ancestor's ... wife was slain." He gazed out over
the water, lost in thought. Finally, he shook it off and forced a smile.
"Thank you for showing me around, Miss Carstairs."
"My pleasure, Mr. MacDuff." She leaned toward him in a
posture of invitation. "And please, call me Lynne!"
MacDuff regarded her for a long, speculative moment, then his
smile became more genuine. "Lynne it is."

* *

"So let me see if I've got this right," Brendan said, rubbing his
temples and wishing for an aspirin. "The man I saw isn't really the
descendant of this pirate hunter at all."
Broadway shook his head. "Nope. He is the pirate hunter."
"Why do I have the feeling tomorrow's going to be an
interesting night?"

* *

Dusk of the next day -- the island had changed a lot in a few
short hours. Flashbulbs popped, videocameras whirred. "Yer picture
with a wench," one sign proclaimed. Red and yellow wagons selling a
spicy sausage stew roamed the village. And the formerly empty
bleachers were overflowing with people in vacation clothes and period
garb.
Brendan now found it easy to mingle with the crowd. There
were too many other things to look at to pay any mind to one scruffy
ex-yuppie. Broadway and Elektra perched on a rooftop overlooking the
harbor.
The six ships moved smoothly on their tracks, cannons
belching smoke while splashes burst from the water. Sailors and pirates,
all in costume, clambered on the rigging, waving cutlasses and muskets.
They feigned their deaths with screams and occasional plunges into the
waves.
"There he is," Broadway said, pointing. "The one laughing his
head off."
The Lady MacBeth came about, preparing to launch a volley
of cannonballs. The man portraying the Rogue shouted orders to his
crew. His performance was cut short as the ship shuddered to a halt in a
cacophony of mechanical grinding and sproinging. Half its crew was
hurled overboard with clearly unrehearsed cries of surprise.
The other five ships, the pirate fleet, suffered the same sudden
fate. Men plunked into the harbor and came up, sputtering and annoyed.
Smoke and steam began billowing from the docks, where a
facade of sheds housed the machinery.
"The compressor's blown," a workman yelled, in a tone of
more disgust and resignation than alarm. "Going to turn the whole
goddam harbor into a Jacuzzi!"
Elektra's hand closed over Broadway's wrist. "Until the sea
boils!" she breathed.
They looked at each other, as bubbles rose in the harbor,
making the waves into a roiling froth.
"Come on!" Broadway pulled her to her feet, and they dove
from their perch.

* *

They reached the room where the figureheads were kept, and
saw that all five stood unchanged. Broadway's shoulders slumped in
disappointment.
"I was really hoping we could tell Goliath we found a new
clan," he said. "Not counting the Squids."
Elektra sighed and put her arms around him consolingly. He
stroked her hair, which whispered like silk beneath his hands, and in
that moment he wouldn't have cared if they were the only two gargoyles
in the world. In fact, he might have preferred it. No Jericho. No
competition.
A splintery crack echoed through the quiet chamber.
They gasped and turned as thin fault lines grew over the
surface of the figureheads with a sound like kindling breaking.
Broadway held Elektra more tightly.
The figures moved, flexed, stretched. Chips, shavings, and
sawdust sifted down in a fine rain. Now flesh and blood, they looked
down at themselves, then incredulously at each other.
"We're awake!" the largest one cried in a resonant baritone.
"We're alive!" He swept the clan to him in a laughing embrace. Now it
was clear that he wasn't skeletal, but his skin had unusual patterns of
dark and light that made it seem as if the bones were revealed.
"Reaper! My love!" The bare-breasted female, her muscular
tail holding her upright, threw herself into his arms and folded her
wings forward to enclose him.
"Melusine! My angel of the deep!"
The smallest gargoyle, a hatchling of no more than ten years of
age, capered around them until the male called Reaper swung him into
the air.
"Patience, Imp! Let your parents greet each other!"
The strange watchdog stiffened, sniffed, and turned his many
pairs of eyes toward Broadway and Elektra with a menacing growl.
"Save your greetings," the robed one advised the rest.
"Chimera sees we are not alone." He took a step forward, the sword in
his hand a jet of fire.
"Brand, wait," Reaper commanded. "Hear what they have to
say first."
"We are friends," Elektra said. She spread her wings.
"Gargoyles, like you."
"Where are we?" Melusine asked in wonder, gazing about.
"How long have we slept?"
"Uh ... well, it's 1999," Broadway said.
"Nearly three hundred years?" Reaper strode forward while the
rest of his clan gaped in shock and disbelief. "You lie!"
"No, I don't," Broadway replied earnestly. "Hey, it's not so
bad. My clan was put to sleep for a thousand years!"
Brand, shedding light but not heat from his blazing wings,
clomped to the window on his split hooves. His face contorted with
fury. "Humans! Everywhere, a plague of humans! And ships, but
mockeries of ships! They've made a playacting of our world, a jest of
our suffering!"
"It's just a theme park --" Broadway said.
"Silence!" Reaper ordered. He turned to Brand, his voice
softening dangerously. "There are humans here?"
"Throngs of them."
"What quarrel have you with the humans?" Elektra asked
worriedly.
"What quarrel?!" Reaper whirled on her, making her take an
involuntary step back. "The captain we served betrayed us, let our
enemies destroy our clan!"
"Sounds familiar," Broadway said. "That's what happened
to --"
"Destroyed our clan!" Melusine echoed. "Reaper and Brand
had gone to chase our foes across the waves, and got caught by the
dawn too far to glide back! Imp and Chimera had played pranks on the
crew, and so I took them to the rookery hold for the day! While we
slept there, ships came and cut our clan to pieces!"
"How came you to be frozen in wood for three hundred years
by a magic spell?" Elektra asked.
"That's a long story," MacBeth said, entering the hall with a
grim expression.

* *

"You!" Reaper snarled. "This time, you will die!"
"I doubt it," MacBeth sighed, "but we can hope, can't we?"
"You put the spell on them?" Broadway blurted. "Sure, that
makes sense! You must've had it in for gargoyles ever since Demona,
but you're too noble to kill them --"
"Noble!" Brand's sword sliced through the air. "He hunted us
like animals!"
"You attacked my town! Killed my wife!" MacBeth shot back.
"Stole our lives from us!" Melusine screeched. "Not death, but
strange waking in a world not our own! Now we have no clan, no ship,
no future! And you, Rogue, will pay!"
"Wait! Stop!" Broadway shouted. "That's all in the past now!
Let it go! Yeah, okay, this isn't the world you remember. But you can
adjust. My clan did!"
"To the Devil with you and your clan!" Reaper hefted his
scythe, the blade glinting wickedly sharp. "Stand away from him, or
share his fate!"
"This isn't how it was supposed to be!" Broadway protested.
"You've lost so much already!" Elektra said. "Oughtn't you be
thankful for what you have, and make the best of it?"
Brand looked her over, his lip curling. "Pretty thing, aren't
you? Our clan will need more females. Are you mated?"
Elektra went pale, and Broadway stepped to her side. "Yes,"
he said, putting an arm around her. "She's mine."
"Leave them out of this," MacBeth said. "You're not going to
harm any humans, and you're not going to resume your pirates' ways. I
stopped you before, and I can do so again."
"Can you?" Reaper sneered. He smashed glass and picked up a
scrap of parchment. "Here's all that remains of your spell. Brand?"
Brand's flaming sword turned it to char in a heartbeat. "First
the spell, then the spellweaver, and then every louse-ridden human on
this island! We'll claim it for our own, and soon the seas shall be ours
again!" He lunged at MacBeth, and the fight was on.
"Sorry," Broadway hastily apologized to Elektra. "I didn't like
the way he was looking at you, and if he thought you didn't have a
mate ..."
She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, my dear
friend. Thank you."
"Anytime," he said, more seriously than he meant to. He
blushed, then said, "Uh, we better help MacBeth!"

* *

Just as Brendan reached the doors to the museum, they flew
outward and Broadway came tumbling down the steps like a big blue
bowling ball.
Several people screamed, and then did so again and louder
when a skeletal figure shrouded in black glided out with a scythe
sweeping in front of him. Brendan felt his spine try to jump completely
out of his body in fright, then realized it was one of the gargoyles
Broadway and Elektra had told him about.
Broadway sprang to his feet and seized a bench, hurling it at
the black-winged figure. It drove him into the wall of the museum,
stunning him.
"I take it things didn't go well?" Brendan inquired politely, as
the rest of the crowd surged the other way.
"You could say that," Broadway said, as his foe sheared the
bench in half with his scythe and stalked toward them.
"Reaper! Let me have him!" Another gargoyle, this one
making Brendan think of some Old Testament vengeful angel with his
blazing sword and wings of fire -- except that angels weren't usually
depicted with a mashed nose and a swelling black eye -- swooped out of
the museum. "I owe him for this!"
"That's only a sample of what you'll get if you ever touch
Elektra again!" Broadway bellowed, puffing to what seemed like twice
his normal size.

* *

"Usually, in situations like these," MacBeth said, "the females
square off against each other for a catfight of ferocious nature. I,
however, have no such compunctions when it comes to dealing with
hellish she-gargs." With that, he kicked Melusine in the stomach and
then tackled her tail before she could pummel him with it a second time.
Elektra flung Chimera off and got unsteadily to her feet. The
beast's claws had shredded her dress, which had already been torn from
neckline to waist by Brand's rudeness, but modesty was the least of her
worries at the moment.
She dodged Chimera as he charged at her, all heads snapping
furiously, saliva dripping from his teeth. He ran straight into a section
of the mast of Sir Francis Drake's ship, and wandered in a dazed circle.
Imp jumped on her back, a small but wiry bundle of snarling
muscle. His tiny claws burrowed for her throat.
She caught hold of him and held him before her, and in her
sternest tone reprimanded him, "That was a very bad thing to do!"
Then she turned him over her knee and administered one sharp spank to
his haunches.
Imp froze, then looked up at her with huge reproachful eyes
welling with tears. They overflowed and he began to wail.
"Oh, little one --" she began, awash with remorse.
Melusine, enraged, flung MacBeth the length of the room. He
landed amid the smashed wreckage of the model of the Wyvern with a
groan.
"She hit me, Mama!" Imp sobbed.
Elektra saw Melusine coming straight at her, low to the floor,
using her arms to pull and her powerful tail to propel herself. Her eyes
glowed hot turquoise, and she slammed into Elektra with the force of a
torpedo.

* *

When someone swings a scythe at you, Brendan would later
reflect, the first impulse is to jump back.
Lucky for him, he was able to ignore that impulse and do just
the opposite. He went forward, so that the wooden haft instead of the
metal blade struck him hard enough to send him headlong down the
museum stairs, with a throbbing pain where his ribs should be.
He rolled, taking a moment to be grateful he hadn't been sliced
in two.
The Reaper moved in for the kill. Behind him, Broadway and
the other one had left a path of destruction through the gift shop and
snack bar.
"Cowering human! I'd tell you to think twice next time, before
attacking a gargoyle," Reaper said. "But you won't have a next time!"
The crowd had miraculously vanished, fleeing to all points of
the compass when they realized the events at the museum were not part
of the entertainment.
The scythe hovered for a moment, mirroring the sky-hung
crescent of the moon.
The cowering human decided it was time to play dirty, and
lashed out with both feet. No sooner did he feel them connect -- and
what a shot, since Reaper had been standing in a wide stance -- than he
rolled again, down the stairs, suppressing a howl as his ribs bumped and
banged.
He felt the whisper of a blade at his elbow, shaving off a
quarter-inch of leather from the jacket Dakota had given him in Egypt,
and then steel clanged on the steps. The jolt jarred the weapon from
Reaper's hands, or maybe he dropped it in his pain. Didn't matter to
Brendan. He grabbed it up quick, staggered because it was even heavier
than he'd expected, and pushed it into the cobbled street.
Reaper straightened up, and now his eyes were a cold corpse-
white.
Though he knew it ranked pretty high on the all-time list of
stupid things he'd ever done, Brendan grinned and said, "I'd tell you to
think twice next time, before gloating at a cowering human ..."
Reaper's bellow drowned out the rest of it, then was cut off
suddenly as the other gargoyle thumped into him and they both went
down. The other was unconscious, his wings now drab brown and
lightless, and Broadway brushed his hands together briskly.

* *

"Melusine!" MacBeth called out.
The female had Elektra's throat in a tight grip, and Elektra was
beginning to see large silent blossoms of blackness before her eyes. She
pried weakly at Melusine's fingers, to no avail.
Chimera roared/bleated/hissed warningly, and Melusine
looked toward MacBeth. He held something aloft, a scrap of
parchment.
"The other spell may have been destroyed, but this one will
not be so merciful as sleep!"
She tossed Elektra aside as if she was a large cloth doll and
screeched so piercingly that the remaining glass cases shattered.
MacBeth winced at the sound, but made ready to read.
The first words of Latin fell from his lips.
Imp wailed again, this time in terror, and scampered to his
mother. She curled one arm around him and lunged for the narrow
window. She dragged herself and her child through the opening and
onto the veranda that overlooked the sea. Chimera followed, flapping
his stubby wings to lift himself through.
Elektra raised herself enough to see them go over the railing
and plunge into the sea. She sagged limply down.
MacBeth was at her side, gallantly covering her with his coat.
"Are you all right?"
She tried to answer, coughed, and sank into the grey.

* *

Broadway raced and Brendan limped in, and when Broadway
saw Elektra so pale and still, he loosed an anguished roar the likes of
which he himself hadn't heard since that fateful night in the castle, a
thousand years ago.
MacBeth looked up, cradling her head. "She's going to be fine,
with the dawn."
Broadway fell to his knees. "But dawn's so far away!"
"We should get her out of here," Brendan said. "Before the
other gargoyles come back for a rematch."
"They'll not be coming back tonight," MacBeth said, rising. He
pointed to a ship moving slowly from the harbor. Even from here, they
could see Melusine at the helm, and the other winged shapes gliding
over the waves to meet it.
Elektra moaned and opened her eyes, and Broadway leaned
worriedly over her.
"And you were so eager to find a new clan," she whispered.
He mumbled something, shamefaced, but stopped when he felt
her light touch on his cheek, saw her smile, realized she was only
teasing.
She tried to sit up, but MacBeth's coat fell away and revealed
her gown in tatters. Broadway gasped and looked away as Elektra
modestly clutched the coat around herself, blushing a faint rose-pink.
"They're gone now," he said, clearing his throat. "They've got
a ship, and they're gone."
"For now," Brendan added, glancing at MacBeth. "A clan of
bloodthirsty pirate gargoyles, though ... that's going to play havoc with
the Carribean cruise lines."
"Would you have me explain to the authorities?" MacBeth
grinned wryly. "And where should I begin?"
A soft step alerted them, and they all turned to see a tall
woman with honey-colored hair and dark blue eyes.
"You can begin by explaining to me, Lennox," Lynne Carstairs
said, staring at Broadway and Elektra. "After what I've seen tonight, I'm
inclined to believe anything."

* *

EPILOGUE:
Extreme close-up of one giant eye, blurred and strange, in a
ring of brass. Camera pans back to show Puck, now wearing a plumed
hat and a garish captain's coat with gold embroidery all around the
sleeves, peering through a telescope.
He lowers it, winks. "I was going to end our tale with another
ghastly pun, but ... well ... Carribean there, Carridone that."

* * * * * * *

THE END