Senate of Stone
Rome, 10 A.D.
"Beast!" Senator Maximus yelled. "Be gone, away with you! Return to your fellow creatures."
"I cannot," the gargoyle protested. "It is nearly dawn. There is no time to return to the rookery before the sun comes."
She was a pretty little thing, of a golden yellow color, like the sun, with twin spiraling swept-back horns and three wing fingers. She wore a simple Greek style of dress and had purple flowers in her long brown hair. Indeed, she had the look of a heart breaker. All the young males of her kind knew it.
Her youthful beauty, however, did not impress Maximus. He hefted a rock with his right hand and flung it at her. She defended herself with her wing, knocking the rock aside.
"Please," she pleaded. "What have I done to you?"
"You belong in the coliseum with the other beasts!" Maximus said, snatching up another rock. "Why Caesar insists on calling you Roman citizens is beyond me. You have done nothing for the glory of Rome. You are unnatural creatures who do not deserve to live."
Tears were streaming down the young gargoyle's face as the sun peeked over the horizon and froze her in stone. The soft breeze ruffled her tunic.
The Senate House, The Following Evening.
"We demand justice!" Proclurus, the leader of the Roman clan, snarled at the senators.
He was trying to stay calm, but his eyes kept flaring white and revealing his anger. He cloaked his large bat-like wings. His dark blue skin made an odd contrast to his light-colored senatorial toga. At fifty-two, he was young to be a leader, despite a thick white beard, which made him look older than his years.
"We know that one of the senators did it!" Proclurus continued. "We simply do not know which one."
"And how do you know that?" A senator named Gaucus had risen from his seat.
"The child said that her attacker wore the garb of a Roman Senator," Proclurus said. The anger had not left his face. He began pacing back and forth on the senate floor, and then turned to the Emperor of Rome. "Caesar, I implore you. A terrible crime has been committed. A young gargoyle will never fly again. Her left wing was shattered in her stone sleep. Her attacker must face justice!"
"I sympathize," Caesar Augustus said, looking at the gargoyle, "But unless you can tell me which senator did this, there is nothing I can do."
"If I may?" The Magus stepped forward from his place in the shadows.
The senators gasped. The Magus did not usually attend these meetings. He was young, no older than twenty-one. His long silver hair—made silver by the magic he was constantly in contact with—went down to his belt. He wore simple white robes and rested upon a long wooden staff, used as a conduit for magic. Around his neck dangled a blue-colored jewel entwined with small vines of gold. On his belt was a small gold and blue shield with the emblem of a bird.
"The child could not identify the attacker because she knows him by sight, not by name. Gargoyles do not think in names, they do not use them. You know this Caesar. You names Proclurus yourself. Perhaps we could bring the child here and she could identify her attacker."
"No," Proclurus said, shaking his head. "The child was traumatized. It is a wise suggestion, Magus, but she is not fit to go anywhere for a long time."
"Then it seems that the only solution is to have the senators themselves give up the criminal." The Magus looked into the crowd and frowned.
None of the senators looked like they were ready to give anyone up.
"Know this!" Caesar said, looking at the senators with disgust in his eyes. "If I find out who did this…" He paused, and what looked like a thousand punishments flashed through his mind. Then he smiled wickedly. "I shall give him to the gargoyles and let them enact the justice they demand."
The senators said not, but the Magus noticed Senator Maximus flinch.
"The Senate house is dismissed," Caesar said. "But Magus, Proclurus, if I may have a word with you?"
"This is just the latest in a long series of aggressions," the Magus said as the three of them walked down a long dark hallway towards his quarters in the palace.
"The senators have never hidden their disgust for the gargoyles," Augustus said frankly. "And there was strong opposition to my choice of making Citizens of the gargoyles of Rome," He stopped and looked at Proclurus. "But I know your true nature, and I feel safer at night knowing that you are guarding the city and her people."
"Your words are kind, Caesar," Proclurus said. "I only wish that we commanded the same respect from the senators as we do from you."
"Magus," Caesar said turning towards his magician. The trio stopped, not standing directly in frond of the sorcerer's chambers. "Is there not some sort of spell that you can cast that will make the senators see the truth?"
The Magus looked surprised. "No, my Caesar, there is no spell that can change the hearts and minds of men. Not even the gods can do that. You cannot compel someone to act against his nature, and those who have tried have met with ill consequence." He smiled slightly. "Furthermore, they are politicians, and thus they find it impossible to act towards anyone's gain but their own."
Caesar brushed off the Magus's joke. His face showed disappointment.
The Magus looked thoughtful. "Perhaps, though, I can teach them a lesson in humility."
"You have my permission to do what you must," Caesar Augustus said, "As long as you do not harm the senators physically."
The Magus nodded and Caesar turned slowly and left. The Magus entered his chambers and beckoned Proclurus to follow.
Proclurus had never been in the Magus's chambers before. He was not quite certain what to expect, but it wasn't what he saw. The entire room was covered with scrolls. In shelves on the wall, on the desk, and even on the small bed, there were scrolls scattered everywhere.
Once corner of the desk displayer a haphazard assortment of small vials, cordials, and bottles of various liquids. Some of them smelled sweet to Proclurus's sensitive nose, and some of them smelled vile.
In the center of the desk lay a large leather-bound book, festooned with gold. On the cover was the gold icon of two snake intertwined. Proclurus felt more power emanating from that book than from anything else in the room, with the possible exception of the jewel and the device that the Magus himself wore. The book even smelled like magic.
The Magus sat down in front of the desk and opened the book halfway. To Proclurus's surprise, the pages were blank.
"You're probably wondering about this," the Magus said. "This is called the Grimorum Arcanorum, and it is my own. When it is finished it will be the most complete book of spells ever created. In its pages I have collected magic from Greece, Babylon, Crete, Asia, and even some of the rare surviving spells from Egypt. Its design makes it far more efficient than a scroll."
He flipped the blank pages backwards until he came to page with words inscribed on it. The spell was meaningless to Proclurus, who could not read, but he had always held reading in very high regard and thus looked at the words with piqued interest.
"I have also placed a few spells of my own in this book," the Magus said. "This, for example, is a spell to summon the changeling Puck through the Mirror of Titania. This book is powerful. When I write a new spell, or transfer an older spell to its pages, I do not have to write it down. I merely speak the words and the book inscribes them into its pages. Remember this, Proclurus my friend. Words have power."
As the Magus was talking, Proclurus notice a small vial of a bluish-colored liquid. The smell emanating from the open vial reminded Proclurus of a female gargoyle. He picked it up and sniffed it.
Just then the Magus looked up and saw Proclurus sniffing at the vial. A look of panic leapt onto the sorcerer's face. "No!" he yelped.
This surprised Proclurus so much that he dropped the vial onto the desk where it shattered. The blue elixir seeped into the wood and all over an Egyptian papyrus scroll. With a flash of green and a faint crackling, part of the desk, and nearly the entire scroll were turned to stone.
The gargoyle hung his head in shame, "I'm sorry, Magus, I didn't know," he said. "What was in that vial?"
"That was Gorgon's venom!" the Magus said. "Quite rare and quite dangerous. That desk was and antique…it belonged to the philosopher Plato. You should be more careful when in a magician's…" he trailed off. The mage paused and picked up the stone scroll. He looked at it carefully.
Proclurus stared at him, dumbfounded. He wondered if the Magus's thoughts were so easily diverted. The sorcerer had looked like he was about to chastise him, and now…
He was truly sorry. He had not meant to turn the Magus's Egyptian scroll to stone. He knew how valuable Egyptian scrolls were. They had been the first sorcerers.
"Magus, I am s—," Proclurus started to say again.
"Never mind that," the Magus said, suddenly putting the stone scroll on his desk. He rushed over to the wall shelves and began taking scrolls off one by one and looking at them. One by one he tossed them over his shoulder, muttering under his breath. Muttering things like, Only at night, and It's never been done before. Lastly he said, "It'll need a back door like the sleep spell…"
At this last comment, he looked around the room and his eyes finally rested on the flickering candle. "Perfect," he said. "Proclurus, do you know the next time that the senators will be gathered together in once place?"
Proclurus thought a moment. "There's a senate meeting in two days."
"No, I already thought of that," he responded. "I need a time when Caesar will not be there."
"I overheard someone say that Senator Maximus is hosting a party tomorrow night," Proclurus said slowly. "Most of the senators will be there, and Caesar never attends that sort of thing. You know how he feels about family values."
"Yes," the Magus said. "That will be ideal."
He picked up the Grimorum. In his hands, it looked complete. It complimented the jewel and the shield engraved with the bird perfectly.
The Roman clan lived at the heart of the city, not far from Caesar's palace. Their home had at one time been a temple to Minerva, and later to Mars. Both sets of worshipers had abandoned it when nicer temples had been built elsewhere. The gargoyles like it just fine. There was plenty of room on top for them to roost, a chamber in the back for the rookery, and it was tall enough that the gargoyles did not have to climb Roman monuments so that they could glide.
Since Minerva and Mars had both been war gods, there was a large grassy area on the temple grounds for the gargoyles to train. In fact, Minerva, or Athena as the Greeks called her, was the gargoyle's patron god.
The Magus arrived at the clan's home shortly after sunset, to meet Proclurus on the training grounds as they had arranged. He soon spotted the young female who had been attacked. Half of her left wing was gone, leaving a mere stump with jagged edges. Her head was buried in her remaining wing, and she looked like she had been crying.
The Magus approached her. He noticed a young male gargoyle watching her protectively. The male was bald, with red skin and a beak. His eyes flared as the Magus advanced. The Magus smiled to himself.
"Hello, young one," he said to her. She looked up and smiled. "Magus! Friend to the clan!" She ran over and wrapped her arms around his neck
The Magus noticed the young male gargoyle drew closer. The male growled, but did nothing else.
"Have you come to restore my wing?" she asked.
The smile faded from the Magus's face. "I am sorry, child," he said. "I can do many things, but that is not one of them. I am not skilled in the healing arts of magic."
Her hopeful look dropped. "I wish you were. I am ugly now. No male will ever want me for a mate."
"I do not think that all of your rookery brothers agree with that statement," He gestured with his head towards the young male he'd seen guarding her from afar.
She blushed as Proclurus glided down to their location.
"Magus," the clan leader said.
"Are you ready?" the Magus asked the gargoyle. Proclurus nodded.
"Where are you going?" the younger of the two gargoyles asked.
"We are going to crash a party," the Magus said grinning.
He reached down and tapped the golden emblem of the bird. A ball of flame surrounded them. The female gargoyle stepped back as the flames enveloped the pair and they vanished.
Instantly, Proclurus and the Magus found themselves on the front lawn of Senator Maximus's villa.
"What happened?" Proclurus asked.
"Sorry, I should have warned you before I did that," the sorcerer replied. "I was just trying to save time."
The gargoyle nodded. "A warning next time, please Magus. I am not used to traveling by magic."
"Proclurus," the Magus said. "This is important. When I cast my next spell, no matter what I say or do, no matter what else you see or hear, you must not look at me until I tell you that all is well."
"Understood," Proclurus said, still confused.
The pair walked into the building. They passed three or four drunken senators unconscious in the hall. The Magus wrinkled his face in disgust as they stepped into the dining room.
It was a standard Roman party, an orgy. Servant girls, in various states of undress, were sporting with senators in plain view of the other guests. There were hounds and revelers all about the room, and even a horse in once corner.
Maximus was in the center of the room with a piece of meat in one hand and a wine goblet in the other. He sloshed wine playfully at a nearby servant girl.
"Magussss," Maximus said, his words slurring. "You are mossst wellllcome here, for we are in need of entertainment. The beast…must leave."
The Magus shook his head sadly. "Senators, I offer you one last chance for forgiveness and mercy."
"Mercy?" Maximus said. "Whatever for?"
"For the crime against the gargoyles of Rome," Proclurus said, his eyes glowing like a pair of miniature suns.
"Nobody asked you, creature!" Maximus snarled back. He rose up and reeled forward, as if to rush at the gargoyle.
"Then you bring this upon yourselves!" Magus said, opening the Grimorum.
He raised his index finger above his head and began to speak. As he did, words began to appear on the blank page, glowing blue at first, but the shifting to black ink as the glow faded. Proclurus kept his gaze strictly on his own feet.
"All who see this, all who hear this: Turn to stone throughout the night! Until the skies burn."
A blast of energy shot from the Magus's finger and struck Maximus. It hurled him across the room, but set him down gently upon the pillow where he'd originally been sitting.
There was a grinding sound as everyone in the room turned to stone. Every senator, every servant girl, even the hounds and the horse in the corner, were suddenly stone statues.
"What did you do?" Proclurus asked in amazement. "Even their clothes are stone! Would that the gargoyles had that gift!"
"I gave them a taste of what you and your kind must go through," he said, smiling mischievously. "With a touch of humility. Plus they get what they wanted; they will never have to deal with gargoyles again."
Proclurus still looked concerned. "You realize that if Caesar doesn't like this, it'll be your head?"
The Magus frowned. "That thought had occurred to me yes."
The Senate House, the Following Afternoon.
"We demand justice!" Senator Maximus roared. "Nearly the entire senate is subject to this spell the Magus has cast! For Jupiter's sake, we turn to stone when the sun set!"
Caesar seemed at a loss for words.
The Magus noticed this and spoke up. "Why are you angry, Maximus? I thought you would be pleased. After all, you don't have to deal with the gargoyles anymore."
"Those filthy beasts!" Maximus roared. "I should shatter them all during the day!"
"Careful," Caesar said. "Lest they shatter you during the night."
The thought had clearly not occurred to the senator. He paled. "Will you do nothing then, Emperor?" he asked looking to Caesar.
The emperor simply turned his head away.
This further enraged the senator, who began railing at the Magus again. "You will get yours, Magus!" he yelled. "Do you hear me? You'll get you—"
The senator was cut off by the last rays of the glorious sunset sinking beneath the horizon. He promptly turned to stone, along with most other occupants in the room. Only a handful of the senators, the Magus, the centurion at the door, and Caesar himself, did not petrify.
The centurion gasped, but was disciplined enough not to do anything more. Caesar stood up and walked over to the nearest statue. He placed his hand on the cool stone and ran it across the marble robes.
"Amazing," he said to the Magus.
"Yes, I know," the Magus said. "I thought he'd never shut up. She we return to the palace for a nice hot meal?"
Caesar nodded, but continued to look around the room. "Even their clothes are stone, I notice."
"Yes," the Magus nodded as they headed out, the centurion saluting Caesar as they passed. "It's a fairly all-encompassing spell."
"I've been meaning to talk to you about something like that," Caesar said. "Have you noticed when the gargoyles awaken in the evening that their clothes are destroyed? I was wonder in if there was something you might be able to do."
The Magus smiled thoughtfully. "There might be."