What Might Have Been
by Christine Morgan

christine@sabledrake.com / http://www.christine-morgan.org






Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney and
are used here without their creators' knowledge or consent. Contains some
adult situations and violence (probably no more than a PG-13).

Author's Note Additional: This story had been kicking around in my head
for a long time, mostly because of Jericho and his constant bitter griping
about his father's choice. But after what Greg had to say at the Gathering
'98, it all fell into place.

#50 in an ongoing saga



"To be or not to be ... that is the question." Hamlet, William Shakespeare
"For every decision that's made, the alternate decision is played out in
another reality." -- Red Dwarf Season IV, Episode 5, 'Dimension Jump'


PART ONE -- GOLIATH

994 A.D.

"Och, Magus, what have ye done?" Princess Katherine touched
one of the statues unbelievingly.
"Princess ..." the white-haired young man breathed. "I
thought ..."
"Bring them back!" Goliath took a large threatening step toward
him, brandishing a large, threatening fist.
"I cannot! The page with the counterspell was burnt!" He backed
up rapidly, distraught, clutching the Grimorum Arcanorum to his narrow
chest.
Goliath turned from him to stare in agonized horror at the statues.
His mentor, three young warriors, and their watchdog, all frozen in stone
by night! And no way to undo it? He barely heard the Magus telling the
princess how the spell would last until the castle rose above the clouds -- a
fanciful way of saying never.
The castle in question towered above him, smoke still rising from
smoldering heaps of timbers. Piles of rubble on the ramparts marked the
places where his thriving clan had once perched. Weapons littered the
courtyard and battlements. Bows with cut strings, axes with weakened
handles, swords with blunted blades. How quick, how thorough the
betraying Captain had been!
No clan, no mate, not even his revenge. Just the hollow, empty
victory that had come when he'd snatched the princess back from the brink
of death while the Captain and Haakon plummeted past and into the rocky,
unforgiving sea.
Humans were gathered all around him. Wounded guards,
weeping women, terrified peasants, wailing children. Of them all, only
three would meet his tortured gaze. The princess, the Magus, and the boy
who had come to warn him that his friends needed help. The boy's mother
glanced up at Goliath for one fearful moment, then tried to pull her son
behind her skirts.
"We've done ye a great wrong, Goliath," the princess said,
putting her hand on his arm.
Bitterness welled up in him like bile. Now she would extend a
kind hand? Only a night ago, when he and his angel love had approached
her in her throne room, having driven off the Vikings in unqualified
triumph, her tone had been haughty, her words cruel. But put him desolate
and alone in the ruins of his clan ...
"The eggs in the rookery will soon hatch ..." Goliath said, more
thinking aloud than speaking to her.
The princess laid a hand over her breast. "We will look after
them as if they were our own."
He shrugged her off and went to the statues. One by one, refusing
all help, he carried them with the greatest of care up to the tower and
placed them in positions of honor.
Most of the humans went about their own business, dousing
flames, collecting what supplies they could from the ravaged castle. But
those three, the Magus and the princess and the boy, lingered near him.
The boy's mother hovered nervously nearby.
"I cannot undo this magic," the Magus said softly as Goliath
emerged onto the top of the tower with the final statue, that of his adored
mentor and the clan's former leader. "But I can cast my spell one last
time, and let you join them."
He set his mentor on the highest parapet, traditionally reserved
for the leader of the clan. "Rest here, old friend. I'm not worthy of that
perch any longer." Turning to the Magus, he said, "The oblivion of stone
sleep is a luxury I cannot afford. I must think first of the eggs, the hope
and renewal of my clan. They will need me to guide them."
"Ye canna do it alone!" Katherine protested.
"I will stay and help you," the boy volunteered.
"Tom!" his mother gasped. "Ye dinna know what ye're saying!"
"I do, Mother! The gargoyles were my friends!"
"Tom, ye're not staying here by yerself!"
"No, he's not," Katherine said decisively. "I will stay as well."
"Princess!" The Magus reached, drew back. "It is not safe for
you here!"
"I have been unjust to the gargoyles, Magus. The Captain may
have betrayed us, but his heart was kinder than mine. Had I not given
them insult, perhaps I would have kept his loyalty. This is my burden to
bear. I must atone for it."
"Then I, too, will remain," the Magus said.
"I dinna expect ye to share my fate, Magus."
"There is no fate I would rather share, princess." He downcast
his eyes, missing the look that came into hers. "And it seems I, too, have
much to atone for."
"No," Goliath said. "My clan has already failed you once,
princess. I cannot protect this castle and your people on my own."
"I've failed ye, too, Goliath. That makes us even. We've relied
on yer clan and taken ye too much for granted. Teach us. Teach my
guards, teach lads such as young Tom here. Be my new Captain of the
Guard. Together, we'll all protect this castle, humans and gargoyles
alike. And this will na happen again."
The humans nearest enough to hear murmured in consternation.
Stay? With the scattered survivors of Haakon's army still about, the castle
in flames, the croplands torn to pieces? To help a gargoyle? Their fears
warred visibly with their deep love for the princess, for Malcolm's young
and capable daughter who had ruled his land so well since his death.
She had the determination of her mother, the people said of
Katherine. Not that many remembered the Princess Elena, who had died
several years ago with the babe that would have been her second child.
But Elena was a figure of legend, a fearless woman who had
survived an attack by brigands. Her escort slain, herself injured, she had
nonetheless eluded her assailants and made her way to the castle. She and
Malcolm had been married that very night.
And they had not been the only pair to swear vows of love,
Goliath recalled. Although he and his angel had not had tokens to
exchange, they had made their pledges to each other. To be one, now and
forever.
Now she was gone. He would never soar with her again, never
do battle with her by his side, never caress her twilight-blue skin or feel
the velvety embrace of her wings.
Why hadn't he listened to her? If he had taken all of the gargoyles
with him in pursuit of the Vikings, instead of just his mentor ... the castle
would still have been breached, the humans slain or captured, but his clan
would be safe and alive.
He clenched his fists and roared his rage and grief to the sky,
cursing himself for the arrogance that had made him boast of how he
could scare off those cowards all by himself.
"Let us help ye, Goliath," Katherine implored.
"As you will, princess," he said wearily, the last of his strength
spent in that one soul-wrenching roar. "But I cannot accept your offer to
be Captain. My first responsibility is to the children of my clan."
He glided down to the courtyard, then descended the wide stone
steps to the subterranean chamber that housed the rookery. There, nestled
in piles of straw, were the eggs. He counted them -- thirty-six, most of
mottled pale lavender a shade lighter than his own skin. One was darker,
the mark of a watchdog. And one was small, pinkish, somehow lonely
even surrounded by its siblings.
"You will be great warriors," he promised the eggs. "You will
grow wise and strong. In time, you will make our clan great again."
He sat in the darkness, thinking of his rookery brothers and
sisters. In the terrible events of the past few nights, the loss only struck
him with a single great bludgeoning hand. Now, in the midst of unborn
children whose parents would never see them hatch, he thought of each
individual member of his clan, and those thoughts were like knives
piercing him.
His brother, his favorite brother. His brother's comely golden-
skinned mate. He even found it in himself to grieve for another of their
brothers who had always been trying to drive a wedge between them. The
elders, the young warriors whose first real battle had been their last ...
Just as he could not give in to the welcome silence of the Magus'
spell, nor could he give in to tears. He had to be strong for the sake of the
eggs, for the sake of their home.
A commotion from above drew him from his black mood. A
youthful voice, the boy, Tom, called for him. "Goliath! Ye must come!
Quick!"
He sprang up, dread wrapping cold tendrils around his heart.
Would this madness never end? The Vikings, it had to be the Vikings,
coming back for another assault.
And then a wavering feline screech made the very stones shiver
in their foundations, sent Goliath's heart slamming wildly against his ribs.
He took the stairs in two large bounds, bursting into the courtyard and
scattering startled humans like hens.
He nearly trampled Tom, who pointed to the tower. "There!"
Against the dull russet glow of the heavens, against the clouds
tinged red by the smoke and flames ... a winged shape.
Goliath could not breathe, hardly dared believe his eyes ...
"My ... angel?"
Joy flared through him. He knew that form, knew every inch,
every curve. She was whole, unharmed!
She landed atop the tower and seize the princess by the front of
her gown.
"All because of you!" his angel shrieked, and hurled Katherine
over the battlement.
"Princess!" The Magus lunged, too late.
Goliath sprang to the top of a wagon and from there into the air,
gliding desperately. For the second time that night, he caught the princess
as she fell. He spiraled up around the tower, saw his love stalking toward
the Magus, saw the Magus raise one spectrally-shimmering arm
defensively.
"No!" Goliath shouted. "My angel, no!"
She whirled toward the sound of his voice. "Goliath? Oh,
Goliath!"
He thumped down, released the princess. Katherine stumbled into
the supportive circle of the Magus' embrace.
"You're alive!" Goliath started toward her, awestruck, his hands
still remembering the coarse roughness of the crumbled stone that had
been piled upon her favorite perch, his hands longing to erase that
memory with the touch of her warm flesh.
"No! Don't touch me!" She backed away from him, tears welling
in eyes that were no longer scarlet with fury but deep and dark with
anguish.
"But why? My love --"
"Why didn't you listen to me?" she wailed, echoing the question
he'd asked himself not all that long before. "Why didn't you take all the
gargoyles? It would have worked! But now look! Look what's happened!"
"What would have worked?"
She buried her face in her hands and sobbed. He took her by the
shoulders, held her close. She was shuddering like a leaf in a gale. He
could feel her trying to pull away, and would not allow it.
"Don't!" she cried.
"Tell me," he urged.
"Why did I even come back? Why couldn't I remember our last
farewell, remember you loving me? I should have gone away and never
returned to this place! Better you think me dead than to have you hate
me!"
"My love!" He cupped her chin, made her look at him. "I could
never hate you. Why do you say such a thing?"
She closed her eyes, tried to turn her head away. "It's my fault,
Goliath. I destroyed our clan!"
"You?"
"I made a bargain with the Captain. With the gargoyles away, the
Vikings could sack the castle. Then, when all of the humans were gone,
we could come back and reclaim it as our own! But you didn't listen! You
left us here!"
"You ... what?" he gasped strengthlessly.
"Because of her!" Through a storm of weeping, she still
managed a hateful glare at the princess. "We defend her castle, and she
thanks us by calling us beasts?"
"I am so verra sorry for that!" Katherine's eyes were near to
overflowing now too.
"You will be sorry!" she swore, her body tensing as she
readied to pounce.
Goliath nearly crushed her in his arms. "There will be no more
killing!"
"I will have blood for blood!"
"Was the insult she gave us worth the lives of our clan?" he
demanded. "Look where your anger has already brought us! No more!
Enough lives have been lost, human and gargoyle alike!"
"How can you still defend them after all they've done to us?"
"If I did not, everything I've done would be for nothing."
"Look around you, Goliath!" She pointed. "Our clan is in pieces!
Look at them -- trapped by sorcery! You and I are the last!"
"No. There are still our clan's children to think of. Our
children, my love."
"Then let us secure this castle for them! Let it be their home!"
He slowly shook his head. "We cannot do it alone. There are
three dozen eggs in the rookery. Can you and I hunt for, and protect, so
many? The humans have agreed to stay and help look after them."
"You mean they were going to leave, and you talked them into
staying?" She stared up at him, appalled.
"We chose to stay," Katherine said gently. "To make up for
what we've done. We did yer clan wrong, to be true. I regret my harsh
words, more than ever now that I see it caused ye to strike such a bargain.
We can bear this guilt together, all of us, and go on from here." She
moved away from the Magus. "Let her go, Goliath."
The Magus silently begged him not to. In that moment the two of
them shared a perfect understanding, that as soon as Goliath released his
mate, Katherine's life would be forfeit.
"Let her go," Katherine repeated.
He loosed his grip.
"If ye slay me," she said, standing defenseless with her arms at
her sides, "ye'll have yer revenge and yer satisfaction. My people will
leave. The Magus will lead them from here and never return. If that's yer
wish. But Goliath is right. Yer children may go hungry. Will ye soothe
their empty bellies with tales of yer vengeance? Will they starve proudly,
do ye think?"
"Gargoyles do not need humans!"
"But children, any children, need providers and protectors. We
can be both to each others'. Let yer anger rest. Goliath forgives me, and
ye. Let us not dishonor that by failing to forgive each other, and
ourselves."
"I don't seek your forgiveness!"
"Yet I seek yers. We have both been wrong."
"I ..." she began, and stepped forward.
Goliath tensed, meaning to intervene, and he was aware of the
Magus doing the same thing. But they froze, stunned and nonplussed, as
the two fell against each other and burst into tears.
Man and gargoyle shared another moment of perfect
understanding -- that neither of them comprehended females at all.

* *

They called her Angel.
The castle priest wasn't overly pleased about it, and it took
Goliath a long time to get used to his pet name for his love on the lips of
others. But he came to understand, and so did she, that humans felt more
comfortable and familiar with things if they could name them.
"And, after all," she admitted to him one starswept evening as
they stood hand-in-hand atop the tower with the winter wind rippling their
wings, "it's not as if a human named me. They're only calling me what
you always have. How can I find fault with that?"
The castle below them was abuzz with activity. Word had come
several weeks back that the king was dead, murdered by a treacherous
knight named Constantine. The king's son was in hiding, presumably
gathering forces of his own to retake what was rightfully his.
Wyvern, being so isolated and generally regarded as strange --
what other castles had gargoyle defenders in this day and age? -- was not
caught up in the turmoil. It was regarded as a holding of little
consequence, ruled as it was by a mere woman.
The most recent arrivals brought news that Constantine planned
to tour his newly conquered land, expecting his lords to swear their fealty
to him. This had been the source of much debate recently between
Katherine and her advisors.
"I will swear my loyalty to the crown," Katherine had told them.
"To the crown, but na to the man who has usurped it. And someday, God
willing, that crown will be where it belongs, on the head of my cousin
Maol Chalvim. But I will take no action against Constantine while he is
here. We have too much to lose."
The castle had been repaired of the damages caused by the Viking
attack, and now was busy readying for Constantine's visit. His flag, the
golden gryphon claw on a field of crimson, hung above the doors.
"My love, look," Angel said, pointing out across the fields.
A lone rider was approaching the castle. Even from here, they
could see that he was so weary he nearly fell from the saddle.
"A messenger," Goliath said. "And not good news, if he's ridden
so hard. His horse can barely keep its pace." They watched as the rider
came near, hailed the guards, was admitted into the castle. "Whatever this
news is, we should hear it."
By the time they reached Katherine's audience chamber, though,
the news had already been given. The princess was pale but her eyes were
bright with anger. The Magus was the very picture of misery.
Tom, who served as the court page, was livid. "You're not going
to marry that devil, are you?"
"Hush, Tom," his mother Mary said.
"Who sent ye?" Katherine demanded of the messenger.
"The Lady Finella, once ward and bride-to-be of your uncle King
Kenneth." He glimpsed the gargoyles, jerked with alarm, then returned his
attention to the princess.
"Is something the matter, your highness?" Goliath asked.
She couldn't bring herself to say it, she was so infuriated.
"Constantine means to take the princess as his wife," the Magus
said, sounding as if a blade had gone through him. "By marrying her, he
plans to legitimize his claim to the throne."
"I've heard talk of this Lady Finella," Mary said. "She's said to
be foolish over Constantine. If he takes another wife, that leaves her out."
"No longer," the messenger said. "My lady has come to despise
the king with all of the passion she once felt for him."
"Must you do this?" Angel braced her fists on her hips defiantly.
"Tell him to --"
"I have several verra good reasons to obey him," Katherine said
quietly. "We canna afford a war with the king."
"He's not the king!" Tom stomped his foot. "He's a murderer!"
"There's nothing I can do, Tom. I must marry him, or all of my
people will suffer his wrath." She looked over at Goliath and Angel. "And
he has no love for gargoyles. Yer eggs will na be spared this time."
Angel's lip curled. "Let him try!"
"There must be another way," Goliath said. "I know little of your
customs of marriage, but aren't you given a choice?"
"Aye," she sighed. "My father should have married me off years
ago, but wanted to respect my wishes. Had I heeded him, I'd be wed now,
and Constantine would have to look elsewhere."
"Then marry someone else!" Tom said. "Quick, before he gets
here!"
"Tom, Tom," she laughed bitterly, shaking her head. "I've no
suitors, especially none that would risk defying the king."
"You have one." The Magus came forth and took Katherine's
hands in his.
"Och, Magus! I canna ask ye to do this!"
"No, princess. I'm asking you. Will you marry me?"
"Magus ... the king ... ye'd put yerself in too much danger ..."
It was, Goliath thought, as if the rest of them had faded from the
room like ghosts.
"I love you, Katherine, to the ends of the earth and beyond.
Marry me, and we'll face Constantine together."
She looked deeply into his eyes, her own shining like jewels. "I'd
be honored to have ye for my husband."
They leaned toward each other, meaning to kiss, but young Tom
picked a bad moment to give a loud cheer.
Katherine blushed and smoothed her gown, then glanced at her
audience with their identical wide grins. "Just as my father did, we'll be
wed this verra night!"
Goliath, amused, noted that the Magus wore an expression that
he'd only seen once before.
It had been the night he, his Angel, and their mentor had returned
from the Archmage's cavern. That gruelling battle had been one of the
most challenging of his life, with their foe laughing as he blinked around
them in a ball of fire that grew from the blue-and-gold phoenix he wore on
his chest.
Although their mentor had been left scarred, in the end, the
gargoyles had triumphed. The Archmage had plunged into a chasm, his
final words a desperate shouting:
"Desflagrate muri tempi --"
... followed by a jarring thud.
With the Grimorum in their possession, they had returned to the
castle where the prince lay poisoned and ill. When they'd delivered the
thick tome into the hands of the young Magus, his face had looked much
as it did now -- awe, wonder, delight, the realization of a long-held
yearning.
Only now, as Katherine smiled up at him and gave the order for
the wedding preparations to be begun, that expression was multiplied a
thousandfold.

* *

The to-do that followed Katherine's announcement made the
previous buzz of activity seem like a sleepy drone. One and all were
wholeheartedly enthusiastic, although surprised at the suddenness of it.
Which led, of course, to speculations for the reason for such hurry. But
even the prospect of a too-soon-after-marriage birthing, which humans
generally regarded as most delicious scandal, was greeted with delight.
There had been too much death, so new life was more cherished than
ever.
Angel shook her head indulgently. "They make such a fuss over
the simplest things!"
"It is their way." Goliath shrugged, although he, too, was
smiling. He knew tonight's business would mean trouble with the king, but
it was impossible not to be affected by the humans' happiness.
Mary and some of the other women whisked Katherine away to
see if her mother's wedding gown could be made to fit her in a matter of
hours. Tom rallied the other children and took them, under the watchful
eyes of his Angel, out to gather what flowers and fragrant herbs could be
found.
"Goliath?"
He turned to see the Magus, and inclined his head. "Yes?"
"It would mean much to me ... to both of us ... if you and Angel
would stand with us tonight."
Goliath raised a brow ridge. "In the ceremony? We know little of
such things. What would we need to do?"
"By custom, the duty of the best man is to assure that those who
oppose the wedding cannot burst in and carry off the bride. Katherine and
I are agreed that there would be none better suited to the task than you."
"I would be pleased," Goliath said. He noticed that the Magus'
joy had given way, in a very short time, to nervousness. "Is anything the
matter? You don't think that the king --"
"No, no." He forced a laugh. "I never thought this would come to
be. That I would take a wife, any wife, least of all the princess. It's taking
some getting used to."
Goliath nodded sympathetically, remembering how jumpy he and
his brothers had been the night the elders had led them into the rookery
that their mates might declare a breeding season. "Yet you love her."
"With all my heart," he said fervently.
"That," Goliath said, putting a hand on the man's shoulder, "is all
you need."
"There is one thing more I need, in truth, and that is ... advice."
That brow ridge went up again, higher this time. "Advice,
Magus? About what?"
"About ... marriage."
Strange to see him so hesitant, when he was usually so composed
and well-spoken. "As I said, we gargoyles know little of such things.
Prince Malcolm's wedding was the only one I've personally witnessed --
most humans seem to prefer having such ceremonies by day. Perhaps the
chaplain would be better suited to giving such advice."
"Oh, it's not about the ceremony." He looked out over the land,
took a deep breath, paused. "It's ... what comes after. The ... wedding
night."
"I see?" Goliath said, making it a question, not seeing at all.
"For our marriage to be binding, it must be ... consummated.
Otherwise, Constantine would have grounds to order an annulment. He
may well try anyhow, but we must not give him any weapons to use
against us."
"Mm-hmm," Goliath prompted, still quite puzzled. "And why is
this a problem? So you shall ... consummate."
The Magus swallowed. "Yes."
They looked at each other. Finally, Goliath spoke. "If I am to
advise you, I should know what we're talking about."
"I've never been with a woman before," the Magus confessed
with much difficulty.
"Oh!" Goliath nodded. They were talking about mating!
He should have known. Humans were fixated on it, burdening it
with stigmas and meanings instead of enjoying it as a natural outpouring of
affection and desire.
Now that he thought of it, he could recall several instances where
he'd overheard guards talking amongst themselves, always carefully out of
earshot of the Magus, speculating as to his apparent lack of interest. They
wondered if he had lost that elemental drive, if his tastes ran to something
other than females, if he were some sort of gelding.
Seeing how discomfited the Magus was, Goliath did his best to
keep a straight face. Then his eyes flew wide as he realized what the man
was asking.
"And you want ... advice? On this matter? From me?"
"I have nowhere else to turn." He glanced at the guards in a way
that told Goliath that not all of their remarks had in fact been as out of
earshot as they'd hoped.
"Ah." He drew his talons in a thoughtful line down the side of his
face. "Well. Hmm."
"One cannot pursue magic and chambermaids at the same time,"
the Magus said defensively.
"I did not mean to imply ..." Goliath coughed, cleared his throat.
"Magus, I am not familiar with the ... habits of humans. Whenever we
observed such encounters, we always thought it best to give those
concerned their privacy. I know humans place importance on that. So
there are bound to be ... differences."
"I'm aware of that. But from what I've seen --" and here it was
his turn to try and keep a straight face, though Goliath knew instantly that
he had in mind a certain clan leader's reunion flight with his beloved
Angel, a flight that had obviously not gone unnoticed, "-- the general idea
would seem to be much the same."
Except for whatever it was that you did with your tail, his
expression added silently; the whole castle was wondering about _that_
one.
Goliath coughed again. "Ah. Yes."
"If, perhaps, you would tell me whatever you would tell a young
gargoyle?"
"We have no such formal discussions ... generally, the young
ones learn by observing, and eventually imitating, their elders. But I can
tell you what my own experience has taught me about females, and you
might ... modify it to suit your purpose."
The Magus sighed in mingled embarrassment and relief. "Thank
you, Goliath."

* *

Always her friend, for as long as she could remember.
Always her friend, and now her husband.
Katherine had suspected the Magus had long held feelings for
her, but as he'd never spoken, never acted, she had let her girlhood
daydreams wither. But now, here they were, man and wife.
Of course, she told herself, he did it only to save her from the
fate of Constantine. His words of love, sweet as they'd been, had been
meant to let them both believe that they were doing what their hearts
wished instead of scurrying into marriage as a cowardly escape.
But these were hardly thoughts she should be having at her
wedding feast! And for a feast thrown together on such short notice, she
couldn't help but be proud of how her people had outdone themselves.
Her mother's gown had fit nearly perfectly. Young Tom had led
her to the altar, where the Magus waited. Angel and Goliath stood with
them, producing the rings when called for, and for the first time, everyone
seemed to accept them as fully belonging to the castle. A new beginning,
for all of them.
She had suffered one pang of sorrow that her father hadn't lived
to see this day, but then took comfort in the knowledge that surely he and
her mother watched over her from above.
Now she was wed. The Magus sat beside her, and when she
touched his hand, he smiled in a way that made her doubt her earlier
thoughts. A sweet anticipation ran through her though she tried to quell it.
If this was truly a marriage for form's sake only ...
But she didn't want it to be for form's sake only. She wanted
more. Love, children, him. To explore and enjoy all the secrets she
heard her ladies gossiping and giggling over.
Did he want the same things? She knew there had been women
before who had taken it into their heads to try and seduce the Magus, to
wear him as a prize or trophy. But none had succeeded. None had even
come close. They cattily tore him to pieces later, telling themselves and
each other that he was a cold fish, as sexless as a stump, soothing their
wounded pride with that bitter balm.
The feast was done, down to the last few crumbs and bones on
the platters, and the minstrels had played until their fingers grew weary.
Now a bevy of women, led by the beaming Mary, surrounded Katherine.
"It's time to get ye abed, highness!" Lady Alys tittered madly.
Ribald cheers from her soldiers greeted this proclamation. But
even in the midst of her blushing acquiescence, Katherine did not miss
how they looked at her new husband, how some of them leaned
conspiratorially close to each other to make scornful comments.
Prove them wrong, Magus, she thought as they led her from the
room. Prove them all wrong!
A warm fire blazed in the bridal chamber. The linens on the large
bed had been strewn with petals and herbs, the posts hung with charms for
fertility. Katherine was quickly helped out of her wedding dress and into a
nightgown of palest mauve with satiny ribbons at the bodice and sleeves.
Mary brushed her hair until it shone like polished wood, and used
that moment to whisper so that the others could not hear. "Will ye be
flying the sheet tomorrow?"
Katherine blinked at her, then remembered the custom and
grimaced. "Is that necessary?"
"I've a bladder of chicken's blood if ye --"
"Mary!" she gasped.
"Nae, nae, 'tis a trick many a so-called virgin has used. Just
struggle a bit, and crush it, and he'll be none the wiser." She winked.
"Unless he's already ..."
"Mary!" She drew herself up regally. "There has been no one! I
go to this bed a virgin!" And I pray, she added to herself, that I don't rise
from it the same way!
Mary bowed her head, chastened, and put the brush away. "I
meant no harm, princess, nor insult to ye."
"Here they come!" Lady Alys reported gleefully.
"In ye go, then." Mary pulled the covers to Katherine's chin. "No
sense giving every man in the castle a peek, now, is there?"
Usually, Katherine knew, the lords and knights would use the
time while the bride was upstairs to ply the groom with a few more mugs
of courage, then tear half his clothes from him and escort him to the bed
chamber while singing lewd songs. Not so this time! Thankfully!
Lady Alys held the door open a crack with her eye pressed to it,
then opened it as the men approached. They all looked awkward and off-
balance, knowing what they should be doing (drinking and singing) but
also knowing how fundamentally wrong it would be to do so this time.
The Magus came in and halted just inside the room while Mary
shooed the rest of the ladies out and followed them. Then the door was
closed, the footsteps receded (now with some muffled singing), and the
two of them were alone.
He wore his robes, his finest ones. The ring she'd placed on his
finger glinted in the firelight. His white hair gleamed soft and silken. She
had always longed to feel its texture, and knew that this night might be her
chance. Hoped that it would be.
He drank in the sight of her, not that there was much to see as
Mary had all but buried her in blankets.
"Princess ..."
"Husband." She smiled. "What is yer real name? If ever I
knew it, I've forgotten it after all these years."
"My name? Why?"
"Well, I canna call ye Magus in bed." She sat up, letting the
covers fall to her waist.
"Princess ... Katherine ... I ..." he averted his gaze as if from the
Gorgon's serpentine countenance rather than his welcoming bride.
"If ye dinna wish to come to bed, I understand," she said gently.
"But I hope ye dinna think that I've only done this to escape Constantine."
"The thought did cross my mind," he admitted. "And thus, I'd
not want to presume ..."
"Do ye love me, as ye said? If ye do, then come to me,
husband." She held out her arms.
"Michael." He moved to the edge of the bed, now letting himself
look at her with such adoration and longing that she thought she might
melt from that alone. "That is my given name."
"Michael." Somehow she'd been expecting something different,
something otherworldly and strange, but she decided that she liked it.
Slowly, his motions still flavored with dreamlike unbelief, he
touched the chestnut fall of her hair, the smoothness of her cheek. She
closed her eyes and sighed.
"I never dared hope ..." he said, tracing one finger lightly over
her face. "You are so fair, so lovely."
"Why did ye not speak sooner?"
"Your father the prince did his best to discourage me, as kindly
as possible. You were meant to marry a lord. Not a wizard. Not the pupil
of the Archmage, his enemy. Any suit of mine, I thought doomed before it
began."
"And now I am yer wife." She turned her head slightly, leaning
into his caress.
"But is this what you truly wish? I would not for all the world
cause you sadness."
"Ye never shall."
"Might I ... sit with you, Katherine?"
"I've been hoping ye would." Twinkling eyes glanced shyly up at
him. "And more besides. 'Tis our wedding night, after all."
"I'd not want to disappoint ..." he murmured, leaning closer.
Their lips brushed, and for a moment she thought he would pull
away. But his hesitation passed and the next thing she knew, his arms
were around her.
The dams and walls guarding their passion crumbled away,
loosing a wild torrent. She felt the fire within him that she'd thought
burned only for his magic, now burning for her.
The intensity of his need would have frightened her if her own
had not matched it. They fell back across the bed, somehow divesting each
other of robes and nightgown without ceasing their frantic kisses.
She had never expected this, imagining instead that she would
have to coax him, convince him. That they would curiously, even timidly,
find their way together. But the same storm swept them both up, dashing
apart the last of their reserve.
His hands seemed to leave trails of white-hot flame as they
moved. He rained kisses upon her, each one like a spark that glowed
against her flesh.
"Michael ..." Katherine moaned, sinking her fingers into the long
white hair that felt just as she had hoped it might. "Yes, husband, make
love to me!"

* *

The stone walls were not thick enough.
Goliath and his Angel didn't miss the startled and re-evaluating
expressions on the faces of many of the humans at the sounds of passion
that came from the bridal chamber.
"Are we the only ones who thought those two had blood in their
veins?" Angel wondered. "As opposed to ice water?"
"Apparently so," he rumbled, amused.
She tipped an ear toward the stairs, grinning. "And they said our
breeding season was noisy!"
"It was," he reminded her, extending his tail to coil around her
ankle.
"Oh, is that your game, my love?" she purred.
Their actions were hidden by the table, and to all appearances
they were merely sitting in the places of honor they'd enjoyed during the
feast, watching the revelry. Although the minstrel was exhausted, some of
the younger folk had collected bowls to serve as drums and made their
own tunes for dancing.
"Game?" He inched his tail higher, tickling briefly behind her
knee.
She raised her goblet nonchalantly, looking innocent while her
tail slid quickly up and under his loincloth. Goliath jumped, sending his
own goblet clattering to the floor. Her low, throaty laugh was at once
challenging and inviting.
"I think we've stayed long enough," he said.
"Not yet, we haven't."
"What are you doing?!"
"You started it. Now, quit squirming, you'll attract attention."
"Angel ..." He had to grit his teeth as she started doing the most
alarming and delicious things -- how come, in all this time, he'd never
learned that the females knew a few tail maneuvers of their own?
"Hush, Goliath. You don't want me to stop, do you?"
He managed a strangled groan that was meant to be, "No!"
"I didn't think so," she said smugly.
"If you continue," he warned when he could speak again, "there
will be consequences!"
"Hmm, what would happen if I did ... this?"
His talons dug trenches in the tabletop.
"Or, perhaps ... this?"
"NNNNRRRAAARGH!"
All eyes swung his way, but he was past caring. He nearly
overturned the table leaping to his feet. One arm caught Angel around the
waist, pulling her out of her chair. She kicked and struggled playfully as
he sprang onto the wide ledge and out the window, dragging her with him.

* *

995 A.D.

"You're what?" Constantine asked, as if he was certain he'd
misheard the first time.
"Married," Katherine said calmly.
"To ... him?" the usurper king demanded incredulously.
"Even so," the Magus replied, stepping forward to stand at his
wife's side.
"I won't allow it. I'll have it annulled."
"Ye canna do that, my lord. We're well and truly wed."
Katherine shrugged and spread her hands. "If ye'd made yerself known
sooner ... but there's nothing that can be done!"
In the king's entourage, a blond woman in a blue gown allowed
herself a small, triumphant smile. Katherine saw it, but luckily,
Constantine did not.
"Nothing?" He reached for the hilt of his sword. "If you were
untimely a widow ..."
Swoop-thump!
Constantine whirled, found himself face to face with Goliath and
Angel.
"That would be ... unwise," Goliath said.
"Ye canna think that I'd marry the man who killed my husband,"
Katherine chided. She and the Magus shared a warm glance, and then she
added, "What then of my babe?"
"Your ..." He looked to her waist, noted the thickening bulge. He
slammed the half-drawn sword back into the sheath in disgust. "Fine! My
best wishes to you! But someday you'll regret this, Katherine. You could
have done much better."
"I'll be the judge of that," she said, skirting the very edge of
contempt.
He scowled, but Goliath glowered, and that was the end of that.
Constantine departed Wyvern with undue haste the very next day.

* *

998 A.D.

"Goliath! Goliath! They're hatching!" Angel charged into the
courtyard where her mate was instructing several of the castle youths in
combat.
He left off at once, turning eagerly toward her. One of his
students had launched a blow and was unable to check his swing in time. It
glanced off Goliath's shoulder, and the lad who had landed it went grey
with horror. But Goliath barely noticed.
"Are you sure?"
"Come and see for yourself!" She tugged him toward the
rookery.
The people of Wyvern watched them pass, and news spread
eagerly from one set of ears to the next. Their castle had become a
sanctuary, a safe haven, an isle of serenity in the ongoing strife that had
characterized Constantine's short reign. Now there was a new king, a
nephew of murdered Kenneth, who permitted his cousin to rule her
isolated holding as she saw fit. Even with the eccentricity of gargoyles.
The stone tiers above the sunken floor had never looked so
empty. Now, if ever, was a time when the entire clan should have been
gathered to witness the arrival of the next generation. The females might
lay the eggs in private, but when hatching-time came, the whole clan was
supposed to be present.
"Our future," Angel said. "We're not the last. We're not alone."
Goliath put an arm around her and they watched as the eggs
rocked in their nests of straw.
"May we join ye?"
At the doorway was Katherine, her infant daughter Dierdre held
to her breast. The Magus stood behind her holding their son Bowdyn, and
thirteen-year-old Tom crowded in trying to see what was happening.
Goliath looked at Angel and she understood it was up to her. By
permitting the humans to stay, she was taking the final step in admitting
them into the clan. They had no right to be here ... if not for the humans,
the hatchlings would have more than two parents. But by that same token,
she and Goliath had no right to be here either. The blame was shared
among all. So, too, should the rest.
"Come," she said. "There should be more than just Goliath and I
to welcome them to the world."
Just then, one tiny taloned foot kicked a hole in the first egg. The
shell rolled, split apart, and dumped a wailing baby gargoyle into the
straw.
Angel bent and gathered up the little one, wiping the fluids away.
"There, now. It's all right."
The lavender-skinned hatchling stared up at her and gurgled
adorably.
"Look at her," Katherine exclaimed. "A wee angel in miniature!
Ye should call her Angela!"
Goliath reached over and touched the hatchling, who instantly
clamped onto his finger and tried to eat it. Her pointy fangs nearly drew
blood. She pulled herself up, grabbing onto a clump of Angel's hair and
earring.
"Ow!" she said good-naturedly, disentangling it. "Angela ... I
like the sound of that!"
"How are we to name them all?" Goliath pondered.
"We'll help!" Tom said as the second egg burst into pieces,
spilling out a grey-green male. "He could be Gabriel, like the Archangel!"
All that night and the next, they tended newly-hatched gargoyles.
The Magus, even with his education, was hard-pressed to come up with
names for them all. Biblical (Malachi, Jacob, Ruth), gemstones
(Tourmaline, Carnelian, Onyx), classical (Ophelia, Laertes, Thisbe), and
local (Corwin, Boudicca, Angus).
"Look at this one, my angel," Goliath said, lifting a feisty,
wiggling male. "He has your coloring. And your temper," he added as the
hatchling let out a surprisingly loud squall of irritation.
"Joshua," the Magus suggested.
Angel frowned. "No ... I don't care for it."
"Well, then ... Jericho," he threw out tiredly.
"Magus, that's a place, not a person," Katherine teased.
"Jericho." Goliath nodded. "Yes. That will do. Your name is
Jericho," he told the hatchling, who had by now caught hold of one of
Goliath's brow ridges and was trying to clamber up his face.
At last, there was only one egg left.
"D'ye think that one is all right?" Katherine asked. "It's not like
the others."
Goliath picked it up, cradling the small pale pinkish shell in his
hands. "Sometimes, they do not hatch," he said sadly. "It is warm, but I
feel no stirring."
"Can't ye break it open?" Tom urged.
"It would be a shame to lose even one of our children," Angel
said from where she sat in the straw, with hatchlings tumbling and
crawling all around her legs.
"Here," Tom said, producing a knife. "Crack it with this!"
Goliath accepted it, carefully braced the point against the egg,
and tapped on the hilt. The shell was far thinner than the others, giving
way easily. Moments later, a small, still form came into view.
"A girl," Katherine murmured, holding her own daughter close.
"The poor bairn!"
"She was not developed properly," Goliath said, shaking his head
as he examined the misshapen hands, the frail wings. "Perhaps it is better
this way."
The hatchling coughed and began to cry in a thin, reedy voice.
"She lives!" Katherine touched the light-brown silky hair, so like
that which crowned baby Dierdre's head.
Goliath and Angel looked heavily at each other, neither wanting
to be the first to say it. "You are the leader, my love," Angel finally said.
"Whatever you think must be done ..."
"What are ye talking about?" Tom demanded. "Ye don't mean to
... ye can't!"
"Even if she lived to maturity, she'd never be a proper warrior,"
Goliath said. "She would always be sickly, a burden to her clan."
"She's just the runt of the litter!" Tom protested. "Ye can't kill
her for that!"
"Kill her!" Katherine pressed a hand to her mouth in horror.
"Och, Goliath, ye mustn't!"
"We already have so many healthy ones to care for ..." Angel
said.
"Then we'll look after her!" Katherine scooped the ivory-hued
hatchling from Goliath's grasp.
"You are only making sorrow for yourself," Goliath said, but did
not attempt to take her back.
"She'll survive," Katherine declared. "I'll see to that. She'll grow
as a sister to my own children."
"As you will, princess."
"And if she lives," Tom said belligerently, "ye'll train her as
well. She's still a gargoyle, after all! She deserves the chance to be a
warrior, and a part of the clan."

* *
1010 A.D.

"Well, Goliath, we've proved ye wrong," Katherine said proudly.
"Elektra lives, and is stronger than ever. She is even growing faster than
any of her siblings."
"I admit it, princess. I misjudged her. Thank you for
intervening."
"It astounds me how like Dierdre she is," the princess confessed.
"They're like sisters of blood as well as raising. Look at them."
Goliath did, seeing the two females playing together in the little
garden that Tom's wife Moll had planted alongside the stable. The
hatchlings were twelve years old now, which made them equivalent in size
to Tom's six-year-old son Kieran. But Elektra towered over her siblings,
looking closer in age to eight or ten, though still frail by gargoyle
standards.
She did resemble Dierdre, Goliath saw. And Katherine, too.
They all had the same light brown hair, the same pale blue eyes, the same
fair skin. When Elektra sat with her wings caped and her tail hidden, it
was almost as if she wasn't a gargoyle at all. If she didn't turn to stone
with the dawn like the rest of them, Goliath might have been inclined to
wonder.
"You wanted to inspect the battlements," Goliath reminded the
princess. "I think you'll be pleased. The masons have --"
"Rargh!" A blue bundle of energy sprang from the shadows,
landing on Goliath's back. Talons scrabbled for a hold, bracing themselves
on his wings. Claws dug into his ears. "Got you!"
"Jericho!" Katherine scolded. "Have ye no manners?"
Goliath's laugh rolled deep and merry. "Attacking me, are you?
We'll see about that!" He plucked the lad from his shoulders and shook
him until red hair flew and Jericho's squeal of mirth echoed from the
walls.
"I'm going to be a great warrior!" Jericho announced. "Just like
Goliath!"
"That you will! Now, what are you doing up here? I thought
Angel was taking all of you hunting."
Jericho made a face. "I'm tired of chasing scared rabbits that
she's already snared and loosed in the field! I want to hunt real game,
fight real battles! Besides, they're done. Angela and the other _girls_
wanted to go collect flowers," he finished disdainfully.
"Well, we can't have you running loose and getting into trouble!"
He ruffled the boy's hair. "Go find your brothers, and I'll start teaching
you how to use a bow as soon as the princess and I finish what we're
doing."
"A bow? Really?" Jericho's eyes lit up. "Can I be first?"
"Of course," Goliath chuckled indulgently.
All but skipping in excitement, Jericho hurried off, yelling for
Gabriel.
"He's a scamp, that he is," Katherine said.
"Yes, but there's the making of a good leader within him."
"How could there not, given his lineage?" She smiled. "He and
Angela do take after their parents. Ye and Angel must be proud of yer
children."
"We are proud of all of them. Why should we make exceptions?
It is not the gargoyle way to favor one hatchling over another."
"Even for yer own son and daughter?"
"Daughters and sons belong to the entire clan. How would we
know whose children are whose?"
"Ye have eyes, don't ye?" She shook her head in amazement.
"Have ye not seen that those two are yer own flesh and blood? Look at
Jericho -- why, once he grows into those wings and great oversized feet of
his, he'll be as tall as ye, but with his mother's coloring. And Angela,
with yer hair and skin ..."
"It doesn't matter," he said. "They are all our children, and
we, my Angel and I, are their only parents."
She nodded, and her tone said that she would let him have his
way even if she thought he was being silly. "Verra well, Goliath."
But as she started up the stairs toward the battlements, he paused,
and let his gaze find Jericho where the lad was wrestling in mock battle
with some of his brothers.
From there, he looked to Tom and Kieran, teaching the watchdog
Boudicca to retrieve a cloth ball. The ball had sprung several seams and
was trailing its stuffing as the green-gold puppy raced in circles with
Kieran giggling at her heels.
And from there, to the balcony, where Bowdyn, tall for his
fifteen years and already showing the light blond fuzz of a beard on his
chin, stood in consult with his father the Magus.
A son, Goliath mused. My son.
But what was he thinking? He had nineteen sons, all of them fine
and strong. And many daughters as well. To show any preference was not
the gargoyle way.

* *

1018 A.D.

Elektra watched alone from the window as the gargoyles, her
rookery brothers and sisters, assembled for their warrior training.
No longer one of them. She could not deny it any further. The
differences in her were becoming too great to allow the comfort of self-
delusion.
They had hatched twenty years ago, all of them. But here she
was, already with the outward appearances of physical maturity, with the
figure of an adult female while her sisters were only beginning to show
signs of adolescence.
It might not have been so bad, had she not lagged so far behind
Dierdre. Her crib-sister, as Tom called them, was a woman now, with a
husband and children of her own. Inseparable friends as children, they had
grown apart.
And so here is Elektra, she thought. Distant from her clan, now
distant from her family as well.
Family. So she had always felt them to be. Katherine, who had
been as a mother to her. The Magus, father and teacher in much the same
way Goliath was father and teacher to the rest of the clan. Tom was like a
much-loved uncle, his children her cousins.
Prince Bowdyn had always been aloof and somewhat resentful of
her, for he'd been forced to share his parents' affections not only with his
baby sister but with a gargoyle foundling-child. His resentment had grown
when it became clear that she alone understood the Magus' art. Bowdyn
himself knew he could not have his magic and still inherit Wyvern, but
that had not stopped him from taking a bitter view of Elektra.
Even so, even with all of that, she had let herself be lulled. Even
fancied herself human, ridiculous notion!
No longer. It had finally come clear to her. Dierdre's husband
was high in the favor of the current king, and while he bore no great
enmity toward gargoyles, neither held he love of them. When he had
invited the family to spend the winter holidays at his hall, it had been
made most clear that Elektra would not be warmly welcomed.
She had pretended other reasons to stay, much to Dierdre's relief.
With her family gone, she'd tried to renew her friendships with the clan,
but found that she had grown apart from them, too. They thought she put
on airs, tried to be human, and she could not deny that charge.
Hadn't she even been mistaken for human on occasion? Hadn't
there been that courtier, so flattering in his attention until Bowdyn pointed
out that she was a gargoyle? He'd drawn away from her at once, and ever
thereafter glowered at her, as if the deception had been her fault.
Goliath and Angel were unfailingly kind to her, but she knew
they wondered what it was that made her so different. Wondered what
kind of future she could have.
They weren't alone in so wondering. More and more, that
question consumed her mind. She knew of the difficulty of her hatching,
of the tenuous balance in which her life had been suspended. What had
happened to her egg to make it unlike its fellows? What had happened to
her?
Despairing, knowing that she would never find answers, she
turned away from the window and set about tiding the princess' chamber.
They'd packed for their trip in something of a rush, and those winter
garments discovered to be in need of mending were hastily tossed aside.
Well, she told herself, trying to brighten her mood, if there was
one thing these long-fingered hands were skilled at, it was sewing.
She fetched needle and thread and went to work. As she was
putting everything away in the large trunk that had belonged to the
princess' father, her hand brushed something. A large squarish lump in the
lining. Tracing its shape, she decided it was some sort of book, and found
the hole where it had slipped through and become trapped.
A book would help pass the time, she thought, and began to read.

* *

1030 A.D.

"If they breach the walls, we'll all be done for! If we only
frighten them off, they'll return by day and the humans won't be able to
hold the castle." Jericho's voice dropped harshly. "You know what
happens then."
"What would you have us do?" said quiet Thisbe breathlessly.
"Not take the battle to them?"
"That very thing!" Jericho turned in a slow circle, catching and
holding each of his siblings' gazes. "Who's with me?"
Some of them looked away, but none disagreed aloud when
Gabriel stepped forward with Angela by his side. "We all are, brother.
It's time we put our training to good use."
"Good." Jericho nodded sharply. "Ophelia, Hippolyta, Corwin,
you're the best archers among us. Find the Viking commanders and shoot
them down. Jacob is the quickest and has the keenest eyes; he'll scout
them out for you."
"That's hardly fair fighting ..." Corwin began.
Hippolyta whirled on him. "Would you rather be fair, pretty-boy,
or alive? They showed no such courtesy to our leader!"
"Well said." He flashed her a strained grimace that was a shadow
of his usual winning grin.
For a moment all of them fell silent, trying not to think of the
image that would forever be imprinted in their minds -- of Goliath gliding
to catch his beloved Angel as she tumbled boneless from the catapult strike
that had rendered her unconscious. Of a Norse-accented voice bellowing
from the flame and thunder of the army, "Arrows away!" and a volley
of hissing, whistling shafts blotting out the moon. Of Goliath twisting in
flight, shielding Angel with his body so that the arrows plunged and
bristled into his back. Of his fall, only barely checked by Jericho, Gabriel,
and Angela, who had borne the two adults to earth while the rest of their
siblings looked on in horror.
Now Goliath lay nearby, watching and listening but not speaking,
while the Magus and Ruth did their best to stanch the apparently endless
flow of blood. Angel was crumpled beside him, and even in his extremity
of pain, Goliath cradled her head gently to keep it from having to rest on
cold ground.
Jericho went on. "Malachi, Angus, Deborah, you're the
strongest. The battering rams are yours, tear them to kindling. Speaking of
kindling, Carnelian, Laertes, get behind their lines and light fire to their
supply wagons."
"I will stay and tend to Goliath and Angel," Ruth said as if
expecting him to argue.
"Good. Miriam, help her." He paused, then added, "We'll need
someone to stay here and guard them, in case any Viking slip past the
defenses."
"I will stay," Icarus replied at once, his tone thanking Jericho for
finding a way to leave him behind that didn't make him feel like a cripple,
and useless.
"Tourmaline --" he faltered when he saw how her eyes were
alight with shining admiration, "you take Thisbe, Zachariah, and Elswyth.
Spook the horses."
"What of the rest of us?" Ezekiel asked eagerly.
"Arm yourselves," Jericho said. "You're with me."
As they scattered to do just that, Jericho heard Goliath speak his
name and went to him, kneeling, on earth grown dark with blood. He tried
not to look at it, tried not to see the arrows that pierced so deep that the
fletching was only barely visible, the arrows that the Magus could only
remove by cutting away skin and flesh. To look would shatter his last
belief in Goliath's invulnerability.
Instead he fixed his gaze on that lined, careworn face. For the
first time, he noticed the grey that was beginning to appear in Goliath's
sable mane. That, too, unnerved him. Goliath and Angel were not
supposed to grow old. They were supposed to be forever young. A love
such as theirs had to be eternal.
He cast those thoughts away, and met Goliath's dark eyes.
"You're a born leader," Goliath said.
"I'm a made leader," Jericho corrected, gripping Goliath's
shoulder as if he could send his own life force into that wounded body. "I
won't disappoint you ... Father."
Goliath began to cough, the spasms wracking his frame, causing
the barbs to shift and move in his back and inflict new injuries. He bore it
stoically, but Jericho uttered a low cry of pain as if he himself felt the hot
bite of steel. How could he leave? How could he leave, when he might
return to find Goliath gone?
"Go," Goliath managed to say, as if reading his thoughts.
"Protect ..." more coughing, and his hand clamped down on Jericho's
with agonizing force, "protect the castle. Lead your clan."
He understood then that Goliath was saying goodbye. But he
would not weep, would show only strength. Not trusting himself to speak,
he could only nod.
"You'll do well," Goliath said. "Now ... go."
Jericho resolutely turned from that scene and found Prince
Bowdyn atop the wall, attempting to rally his men. Wyvern had never
been a populous castle, and less so since the massacre thirty-six years ago,
but what soldiers they had carried the benefit of good training. Between
Goliath's skill, Angel's cunning, and the good-natured but firm guidance
of Tom, now Captain of the Guard, those few men were each worth three
Vikings.
The Vikings still had them greatly outnumbered. They were led
by one Olgar Helgasson, son of none other than the dreaded Haakon. He
had been little more than a babe in arms when his father died, raised all
his life burning with the desire to avenge.
"We canna hold them back!" Bowdyn pounded his fist on the
wall. Although he greatly resembled his father the Magus, he had
inherited his mother's noble bearing and, so Jericho heard, his grandsire
Malcolm's strong jaw.
"My gargoyles are ready, highness," Jericho said.
Bowdyn gave him a scathing once-over, and Jericho was all too
aware that while he was nearly Goliath's match in height, he had yet to fill
out. Still, that left him more than a match for a human, a fact he would be
happy to demonstrate if they had the time.
"Yer gargoyles?" Princess Katherine cut in, before her
occasionally quick-tongued son could make a remark he might quickly
regret. The woman, her brown hair now liberally streaked with silver,
stood as tall and proud as ever, despite an uncontrollable trembling in her
aged hands. In recent years, she had yielded almost all of the duties of
rule to Bowdyn, but was still the princess, still beloved of her people.
"Goliath ... he's na ... he canna be ..."
"The Magus and my sister Ruth are caring for him," Jericho said,
meaning it to be reassuring but hearing the thickness in his voice that told
of unshed tears, of certain fate. "Angel has also been struck down, and has
yet to regain consciousness. In the meanwhile, Goliath has entrusted me
with leadership of the clan. And we are going into battle."
"Jericho, nae!" Katherine cried in dismay. "We canna lose ye,
too!"
He just looked at her, not needing to say what he'd already said
to his clan. She remembered. She understood.
At last she bowed her head. "Aye, then, ye must."
"Are yer warriors capable?" Bowdyn asked.
Jericho forced a smile. "You forget, highness, that we are not as
much younger than you as we appear to be. Your kind age while you
sleep; our kind does not. Our waking hours have been filled with training.
We may lack experience, but --" he broke off, looked to the courtyard,
then back to Bowdyn, "we have reason to fight."
"So be it," Bowdyn said after a stern glower from his mother.
"Captain!"
Tom left off advising the sentries. There was a momentary lull in
the battle, the Vikings having fallen back to regroup. Although they'd
brought down both Goliath and Angel, it hadn't been without terrible cost
to their troops.
"The gargoyles prepare to attack," Bowdyn told him. "Instruct
our men to do what they can to aid them."
"From within the walls, or without?" Tom asked cannily.
Bowdyn snorted. "Have we men willing to leave the walls for
an assault?"
"Kieran's riders are willing, highness," Tom said, with great
evident pride in his son.
"I dinna like opening the gates, even for a moment." Bowdyn
drummed his fingers.
"Have them ready at the gate," Jericho suggested. "Then, if our
attack disorganizes the Vikings, as we hope, send them out to strike."
"Aye, that'll do," Tom said without waiting for Bowdyn's
approval, and went to give the orders while the prince glared.
"He yet thinks of me as a boy," Bowdyn muttered.
Jericho forced another smile. "He yet calls us eggs, so you're
some better off!"
Moments later, he rejoined his clan. They were wary but excited,
most eager for their first taste of real warfare. Those that weren't masked
it well.
"Let's show them," Jericho said, "how we protect our home."
Thirty young warriors followed him from the battlements, full-
throated battle cries ringing.
It wasn't clean. That was Jericho's first thought as he got a close-
up look at the carnage below. Not clean. The men didn't go easily into
death, but kicking and thrashing and fighting for life. Blood and bodies
were everywhere. Men slipped in the entrails of their comrades, their
horses, their foes. The horror of it, horror that all Goliath's teaching
couldn't properly instill, smote him like a blow.
He heard outbursts from his siblings, but none of them wavered.
Each went as they had been assigned, to the supply wagons or the
catapults or to seek out the commanders with as deadly a hail of arrows as
had greeted Goliath.
Later, he would remember little. Just a grim determination to
survive and to kill.
He would later hear from captives that the Vikings had been told
by their spies that only two adult gargoyles guarded Wyvern and that the
rest were children. Thus, they had felt they could risk an attack at dusk,
when the castle's human defenders would be at their weakest. They had
not counted on the fate that now befell them.
His clan descended on the Vikings like divine judgement. The
night became a turbulent hell.
Spears and missiles arced up toward the gargoyles, were easily
avoided, fell back amid the churning troops. Men were plucked screaming
from their saddles, thrown onto the upraised swords and axes of their
fellows.
Kieran's riders charged into the fray. Olgar Helgasson bellowed
orders, until Ophelia's arrow transfixed his temples.
Jericho lost himself in the fire and fury. Lost himself, until a
banshee howl shattered the heavens and made everyone on the field, man
and gargoyle alike, stop as one.
The banshee howl was Angel's, and Jericho knew of only one
thing that could make her voice such a cry. A terrible fist of grief crushed
his heart.
Moments later, she appeared on the wall, one wing hanging
awkwardly and one leg bent from the catapult shot that had nearly taken
her life. Her eyes blazed with such scarlet light that they seemed to cast
their glow over the entire land, tinting all with the hue of blood.
"No," Jericho whispered, knowing what she meant to do.
Ruth appeared beside her, gesturing, imploring, but Angel shook
her off and leaped, gliding clumsily but purposefully into the thick of the
fight. Her claws began scything, a harvest of Vikings falling like wheat.
"Stop her!" Corwin and Onyx were nearby; Jericho pulled them
with him as he sped in that direction. "She means to get herself killed!"
Viking with a spear, looming unseen behind Angel as she gutted a
horseman. Jericho's warning swallowed by the din.
But then Angela was there, her tail whipping around the spear
and yanking it from the man's grasp. And Gabriel, seizing the man's neck
in the crook of his arm and snapping it sideways with a hard jerk.
Angel ignored all of this and went after the next human,
trampling and gouging the fallen wounded beneath her talons. Her leg
buckled, spilled her amid the dying. One of them had presence enough of
mind to grab up a knife and stab at her, grazing her chest and ripping
through the membrane of her good wing, pinning her to the ground.
The man she'd been about to kill now came at her with a deadly
crescent-shaped hand axe.
"Corwin!" Jericho pointed.
Corwin hurled a spear into the man's back. But as he fell, the axe
swept forward on a course that would bury it in Angel's skull.
Gabriel kicked the weapon, slicing his foot to the bone but
deflecting it enough so that it missed Angel and finished off a Viking who
was just beginning to rise.
Angela reached Angel, pulled the knife loose before Angel could
shred her wing with her struggles.
"Let go of me!" Angel snarled.
"Don't do this!" Angela wrapped her arms around the older
female despite her struggles. "We need you! Angel, we need you!"
Jericho landed. "Get her back to the castle!"
"No!" Angel lashed out at him and he darted his head back just in
time to spare himself some vicious slashes. "I have to finish this!"
"We'll finish it!" he shouted.
"Goliath is --"
"I know!" He bit his lip until it bled. "I know. We can't lose you,
too."
"Don't leave us," Angela said, almost begged. "Please, Mother!"
She fell apart in Angela's arms like a broken doll, and gave no
more resistance. Gabriel and Angela lifted her between them, carried her
toward the castle.
Now Jericho saw others of his siblings, wounded, fleeing back to
the shelter of the stone walls. But the Vikings were retreating, panicked,
only pockets of fighting left.
He saw Ezekiel wielding his staff, a large ring of men with
broken limbs or cracked skulls piled around him, but behind Ezekiel,
Thisbe was pale with dread as she tried to bandage Jacob's leg, the small
tan gargoyle gone faded yellow from loss of blood.
The others, all around Jericho, had wounds ranging from
scratches to severe. He saw their faces, so scared and hurt, but they had
come too far. They had to finish it, as he had promised.
Horses pounded up to him. He recognized Kieran and his men;
was surprised to see Hippolyta also on horseback. The surprise vanished
the moment he glimpsed her wings, peppered with holes. She must have
flown through a hailstorm of arrows.
"Get back to the castle!"
"This isn't done yet!" she shot back. "I cannot glide, but I can
ride! And while I can ride, I can fight!"
Pointless to argue with her, he knew that. Glancing around, he
saw that Corwin was still nearby, and Zachariah, Laertes, and Onyx. All
appeared in fairly good health, minor injuries only, and the light of battle
still blazed in their eyes.
"We can take them!" Kieran said. "We've got them on the run
already! Let's drive them into the sea from whence they came, what say
ye?"
"Follow me," Jericho said, and led the way.
It was ridiculously easy, that last effort. A few Vikings, a
handful, no more, fled into the deep woods with Kieran's riders in pursuit.
The rest died trying to defend themselves from the diminished, but even
fiercer, host of demons that dove shrieking from the sky to rend and slay.
Some reached their ships, but Laertes and Corwin hastily improvised
burning arrows to set the wooden crafts aflame.
"Victory is ours!" Onyx cried, waving the sword she'd seized.
"Celebrate later," Jericho told her. "Back to the castle!"
They were greeted with cheers as they approached. The Vikings
had been thoroughly routed. Tom's soldiers moved in businesslike ranks
across the field, taking prisoners, mercifully dispatching the dying. The
battle was won, the castle safe.
Jericho found that it meant far less to him than he'd always
thought it would. Where was the honor in this? He finally understood what
Goliath had been trying to teach them. They needed to be warriors to
survive, to protect their clan and their home. But they were not warriors
for the glory of it. Only a fool would find pride in this madness and death.
He saw similar realizations on the faces of his siblings as they
glided over the devastated land and into the courtyard. Their first battle
had been something they'd all anticipated. Now they yearned for their
shattered innocence. This was no hatchling game.
The other gargoyles were gathered solemnly around Angel, who
knelt in private, untouchable anguish. None of the others spoke, or moved
except Ruth, who went quietly among them and gave or coaxed or forced
healing attentions.
Angela stood closest to Angel, but was overcome by her own
sorrow and weeping against Gabriel's chest.
At their feet was a heap of gravel and dust that made an outline
on the crimson-stained earth.
Jericho took a deep breath, and let it out in a quaking sigh. He
went to Angel, kneeling at her side. He took her hand in both of his. She
did not look up, but he sensed that she welcomed what scant comfort the
touch offered.
Another figure knelt on Angel's other side, took her other hand.
Princess Katherine, with the Magus standing behind her. Others joined the
circle -- Tom, Kieran. Elektra should be with them, Jericho thought, and
it startled him into realizing how long it had been since he or any of them
had spoken of their runaway sister.
"He was the greatest warrior I've ever known," Katherine said
softly. "And I know he'd be proud of all of ye."
"Deborah?" Jericho asked without turning his head.
His sister, she of the prominently unattractive nose horn and the
celestially beautiful voice, came forward. "Yes, brother?"
"You and Laertes are the musicians, the singers. Make a song, so
that we and our descendants will never forget Goliath's bravery and
devotion to his clan. A song of how he chose to stay, and give us life and
a future, when all else seemed lost."
"We will," she promised.
Angela wiped her eyes. "Our children's children must learn it and
pass it down. If it takes a hundred years or a thousand until this castle
rises above the clouds, there will be gargoyles who remember Goliath,
gargoyles there to greet his friends."

* *


PART TWO -- MACBETH

994 A.D.
Somewhere in Scotland ...

"I'll not be tellin' ye again to get that milk!" his father growled.
"I'm going, I'm going!"
Grumbling to himself, he picked up the bucket and headed
outside. High overhead, clouds scudded across the moon. Bare branches
like bones scratched at the sky.
He pulled the heavy door open. Even if he'd been struck blind, he
would know he was in a barn by the smells -- manure, horsehide, sheep,
straw, dust, apples, turnips.
The plowhorse neighed skittishly and tossed its head. The cow
lowed and shifted in her stall. Far in the back of the barn, something
rustled in the shadows.
The boy stopped just inside, his nerves suddenly jumping and
tingling. "Is somebody there?"
More rustling, furtive somehow.
He set down the bucket and picked up the pitchfork that leaned
against the wall, moving slowly and carefully so as not to alert an intruder
to the fact that he had a weapon.
It could well be an intruder, too, he thought. A brigand, a beggar
... or something even worse. Lately, there had been sightings of rogue
gargoyles about. One of them might have come sneaking in, looking for
food.
"I know ye're there," he said, trying to sound manly and tough
and older than his years. "Come out where I can see ye."
Silence. More unnerving than the rustling had been. It was a
waiting silence.
He moved closer. Now he could see an overturned bin, spilled
cores and rinds on the floor.
"I'm not going to --"
A dark shape launched itself from the shadows, hurtling right for
him. Claws slashed across his face. He screamed and dropped the
pitchfork, clapping his hands over his stinging, bleeding skin.
The shape bolted past him, hissing in fury. It scaled a beam and
crouched in the rafters, glaring down at him with hate-filled glowing eyes.
The boy lowered his hands and looked at the thin streaks of
blood. He peered into the dully reflective side of the milk bucket at the
scratches on his nose.
"A pox on ye and all yer kind!" he swore, shaking his fist at the
cat in the rafters. It bared its fangs and hissed again by way of reply.
Muttering curses, he dabbed the blood away and set about
milking the cow. When the pail was full -- and nary a drop was he going
to leave for that vicious monster, that much was certain! -- Gillecomgain
left the barn and pulled the door shut behind him.

* *

1020 A.D.
Castle Moray

MacBeth stared hopelessly into the darkness that stretched
seemingly forever down to the hard earth. Moments ago, his father had
been alive and vital, fending off a masked attacker with only a serving
tray. Then he had fallen, spinning into the shadows, and MacBeth knew he
was gone forever.
He heard Gruoch calling for him. He turned in time to see his
father's killer about to strike.
Then came a fleeting shadow, a rush of wings, and the man in the
mask was snatched away from MacBeth. Flesh thudded on stone as the
man slammed into the wall with a pained groan.
It was a gargoyle. A young female, with skin like ivory and long
flowing brown hair that floated around her in the rising wind. Her eyes
glowed the orange-red of coals, and the moon shone through the thin
membranes of her wings.
Not choosy about his allies in this, a matter of revenge, MacBeth
seized up his sword and raced to join the fray. Above, he heard Bodie
shouting for his daughter, telling her that it was too dangerous, and he
realized that lovely, clever Gruoch was coming to his aid.
It was a night for being defended by maidens, it seemed. For the
gargoyle, although she fought with cunning and skill, had the look about
her of a lass not more than sixteen.
He wasn't concerned about blemishes to his pride. All that
mattered was the killer.
With that thought in mind, he charged. The man disarmed him,
threw him. MacBeth struck the battlement and went over. Too terrified to
scream, he flailed for and caught hold even as his sword spun along the
path his father had taken. Down, gone.
Clinging, feeling his fingers go first white-hot with tension and
then so numb they might have become stone themselves, he could only see
torch-thrown shadows on the walls above him. And then hands reaching,
clasping. Gruoch.
Just then, his grip slipped, and his sole lifeline was the small girl
who struggled to pull him to safety. He realized with horror that he was
about to take her with him, and that seemed the greatest of injustices in
this night's long list. He, perhaps, deserved his fate, for presuming to
attack an armed killer many years his senior, but did poor Gruoch, who
had only tried to save him?
He saw the terror in her bright green eyes, felt her weight shift.
Now she was belly-down across the thick block of stone, her slippered feet
waving as she fought for purchase and found none.
Then, incredibly, she stopped. Another face appeared beside
hers, the face of a gargoyle closer than either of them had ever seen. Her
soft brown hair mingled with Gruoch's glorious red. Her hand, as dainty
and feminine as Gruoch's, found MacBeth's forearm.
A pull, a clawing scramble on his part, and he was up. He sank
down, every sense vividly thankful for the feel of solidity beneath him as
he put his back to the battlement. Gruoch, now sobbing in relief, threw
herself against him.
The gargoyle stood over them. Of the killer, there was no sign.
He had vanished like an eddy of smoke. MacBeth heard Gruoch's father
anxiously calling his daughter's name. Heard the guardsmen, alerted by
the fight. But those sounds seemed very far away, as he and the girl in his
arms looked up at their rescuer.
"Thank you," Gruoch said softly.
MacBeth had never seen such a mingling of sorrow and
wistfulness on any being. For a moment he thought the gargoyle might
weep, and never had he heard of such a thing. She seemed about to speak,
but only the lost sound of a lonely soul emerged before she spun away, as
if ashamed to show her pain.

* *

Elektra's tears turned the night a stormy blur of black and grey.
She had not wept once in the two years since she had left her
clan. Since that shocking fateful night when she'd found her father's book.
Her father. Prince Malcolm.
The words had burned from the page to sear her eyes. She had
wished for understanding, and found it a thousand times worse than
ignorance had been. Now she knew why she fit in with neither her clan
nor her family. She was not Katherine's daughter but her half-sister, not a
true gargoyle but the fluke product of a dalliance that should never have
been.
That knowledge had marked a brand upon her soul, made her
unable to face any of them. They would but have to take one look at her
face and would know that she harbored some terrible secret. And then the
truth would be known, the truth that would destroy them all.
And so she had left, in secret and unnoticed, without a farewell.
Better that way.
Malcolm's book she carried with her. If it had been found once,
it might be found again, and she could not have that happen. Instead, she'd
left a letter, begging them not to worry and not to search, saying that she
had gone to find her place in the world and might someday return. It had
been a lie, that last, but one not meant to harm.
Even then, she had not wept. Not even earlier this night, when
she had sat upon a hillside overlooking Castle Moray, taking bittersweet
solace in the memories of another castle.
She had been roused from her piteous state by the combat that
had suddenly spilled onto the balcony. Roused, and spurred to investigate
by a protective urge she had thought long withered.
For that short time, she had been relieved of her worries and of
troublesome thought. She had a purpose, a task. To protect the castle,
even if it was not her own.
But after, it had been the kindness in the young humans' eyes that
had brought her to tears and compelled her to flee. Weapons, she could
fight. Kindness, she could not. If she yielded to it, she might befriend the
lad and his love. And then, when they learned the truth, she would be
bereft anew.
"No more weeping," she now told herself sternly.
And it worked.
For a time.

* *

Meanwhile, at Edinburgh Castle ...

A gold seal on a gold chain rang on the wooden table where it
was cast.
"Findleach, High Steward of Moray, is dead."
Prince Duncan grinned coldly in satisfaction. "And my cousin,
MacBeth?"
"He lives." The killer stripped off his plain black mask. Beneath
was a handsome face that would have been regal save for the cruel sneer
to his mouth. His hair was dark and shaggy, his eyes bright blue.
"Why?"
"Because, oh prince, he was aided by a gargoyle."
Duncan regarded his ally with evaluating hesitation. Reaghan's
father Constantine had only held his stolen throne for two years, barely
long enough to get a son upon his queen, Finella. Reaghan knew that he
would never rule Scotland and seemed, therefore, content to serve the one
who would. But he would bear watching. His blood and bearing made him
a proud man, one who did not bow well to others. Yet Reaghan and
Duncan both knew that his striking back would only earn him a quick
death. Better to glean what favor he could.
And, gargoyles or no, MacBeth alive or no, Reaghan had served
him well this night.
"For this, I grant you the stewardship of Moray," Duncan
declared.

* *

1032 A.D.
Castle Moray

A gargoyle sat on a dark hillside, balanced between two worlds.
Behind her was the rugged and rocky terrain where she knew
other gargoyles to lair. Mostly outcasts, clanless wanderers like herself,
who eked out a life on what they could gather and scrounge. She met with
them from time to time, shared what she could. Gradually, they were
coming to trust her, to listen to her when she told them where they might
find food.
Before her was order and plenty. Safety and warmth. A castle.
Elektra sighed, resting her elbows on her drawn-up knees and
gazing at the lit windows. Her travels had taken her many places in the
past dozen years, but she always felt drawn to return here, like a moth to
a flame.
How good it had felt to be in a castle again! Even for only a
moment! In the company of good people -- for she believed that they were
good; it would not do to think otherwise. She had preferred to believe that
she had saved two lives, two young lovers who might one day find true
happiness together.
Now she had returned to find it was not so. Rather than MacBeth,
the youth who had so valiantly tried to avenge his father that long-ago
night, a man named Reaghan had been awarded stewardship of Moray.
And he had even gained the Lady Gruoch for his wife.
Elektra found herself deeply saddened by this news. She paid
attention to the goings-on of humans, eavesdropping whenever she could.
It had been in a tree outside of an alehouse where she had first
heard the hauntingly lovely song of Goliath, recognizing her siblings
Laertes and Deborah in the music even though it was played and voiced by
a human. And it had been in that selfsame tree that she'd learned of the
promise of Gruoch's hand.
Her upbringing gave her an understanding of the ways human
society, human nobility, functioned. So, while saddened, she was not
terribly surprised. Love often took second place to politics when it came to
noble marriages.
She wondered what had become of young MacBeth. He was said
to still live within the walls of Moray, still well-loved by his people. Yet
he had not fought for what was his, not run away with his beloved.
Perhaps he realized, as Elektra did, that to do so would only invite their
doom. She knew what it was to be without a home, and would not wish
that upon anyone.
Even as she thought of him, she saw him, and sat straighter on
the hill. Although their meeting had been brief, although he had grown to
manhood, she knew him at once. But what was he doing, skulking about
the high parapets with a drawn sword?
Her gaze shifted, and she noticed the form of a woman in a blue
gown. The Lady Gruoch, so it must be, for that length of red hair was like
a beacon in the night. Then a man appeared, and Elektra gasped. Just as
she recognized MacBeth, so too did she recognize this man.
Oh, could it be? Could the world be so deviously cruel? The
selfsame murderer who had slain MacBeth's father, now taking his place
in both his castle and his marriage bed? Why had MacBeth allowed it?
Could it be that he did not know?
If he did not know before, he knew now. That much, she
determined from his stealthy presence here. He came with the purpose of
revenge.
Once again, Elektra stood and spread her wings. If MacBeth had
unfinished business this night, so too did she.
What an eerie repetition! she thought as she joined the battle.
They had all aged -- before, she had appeared a few years older than
MacBeth and Gruoch, while now the reverse was true -- but the players
were all the same.
But there were some differences. This time it was a freestanding
torch-brazier that plunged to the dark earth below. This time, MacBeth
fought with righteous wrath instead of grief-torn fury. And Gruoch, rather
than checking MacBeth's fall, was the one to teeter precariously until he
pulled her back.
Elektra saw right away that her skills had not kept pace with her
growth. Her training seemed so very long ago, in another life. When she'd
first faced this masked foe, she had been only two years removed from her
clan, still with all Goliath's teachings fresh in her mind. Now, a dozen
years and very few battles later, she had forgotten much. While her
opponent had devoted himself to the art of combat.
So it was that when he lunged at her, she misstepped, and they
both went over the wall. She clawed at the stone, shrieking as her
fingernails bent and tore. She'd never been able to punch them into the
stone the way her siblings did, not without suffering.
A ridge, no more than a lip where the stone had been improperly
placed, stopped her fall. Her raw and abraded fingers clutched, nearly
slipped free as her foe's arms cinched around her legs. His weight
slammed them both against the wall.
Her tortured fingers let go.
MacBeth's hand seized her wrist.
Now they were suspended like a scale of fate, Elektra and
Reaghan below, MacBeth and Gruoch above.
She whipped her tail, striking Reaghan a bleeding line across the
face. He cried out and lost his grip, and his cry turned into a receding wail
of horror as he dropped.
MacBeth and Gruoch brought Elektra to the balcony. She leaned
against a battlement, cradling her wounded hand. Then looked at them,
and with the first smile that had touched her lips in a long time, gave back
the words that Gruoch had once given her.
"Thank you."
"I owed you," MacBeth replied.
Once again, the kindness. And once again, her fear rising like a
clamoring beast, telling her that she must not give in, must not trust and
care and have it all taken away from her.
"Then we're even," she said, and took her leave before either of
them could call her back.
Over the next several nights, she secretly but frequently paid
visits to the villages surrounding Moray, and kept a close watch on the
castle itself. The news she heard pleased her greatly. MacBeth was now
High Steward, and wasted no time making Gruoch his wife.
The happy ending. A bit delayed, but at last, all was well.
* *

1040 A.D.
Near Castle Moray

The sun was getting quite low, and Duncan wished he had been
able to hurry this along. No matter. Enough daylight remained to get the
job done. He would be rid of the gargoyles, and MacBeth would be none
the wiser.
The gall of him, presuming to order his king! Oh, he had phrased
it as a request, polite enough, "I beg you, spare them," along with some
rubbish about how humans and gargoyles had once fought side by side.
But polite as it had been, it had still been defiance.
MacBeth puzzled Duncan. All this day, he'd been mulling over
the events that had taken place on this barren, rocky path. If MacBeth
truly was a traitor, why save Duncan from a fall that would surely have
killed him? But if MacBeth was in truth loyal, why had that old bedlam,
the crazed crone they'd come upon in the fog-swept moors, made those
prophecies of kings and fathers of kings?
"He fancies the crown for himself," Duncan told himself as he
led his men toward the shallow cave. "I'll be rid of him, just as I was rid
of his father. But first, these monsters!" MacBeth would not have their aid
in the coming battle!
Although the day was fast dying by the time they reached the
cave, he ordered his men to take up their weapons and destroy the
gargoyles. He himself struck the first blow, cracking a horned head from
broad shoulders.
His men joined in, some hesitantly, others whooping jovially. But
then the sun slipped beneath the horizon, and the few remaining gargoyles
came awake in a shower of stone.
The female's eyes flared bright, and she gasped as she saw
Duncan's mace about to descend. She ducked under it and swept her tail
like a whip. It stung his ankles even through his thick boots, rendering him
enough off-balance so that when she pushed past him, he landed not only
on his backside but in a pile of festering refuse.
"Demon!" he shouted, shaking his fists at her as she fled. "I'll
see your kind destroyed for this!"
The few survivors followed the female, spreading their wings as
they leapt from the path.
Duncan ran to the edge, still shouting furiously, but none of them
looked back. All he heard by way of reply was one male's aggrieved
complaint, "The hunting was good there!" and the female's stricken
response: "And we were the prey!"

* *

MacBeth rode through the mist, knowing he was riding to his
death.
Duncan, his cousin and king, marching on him with armies! What
cause had he ever given Duncan to fear him? It had to be a mistake, a
misunderstanding.
It was his father-in-law Bodie's hope that, by MacBeth's
surrender, Duncan might be moved to spare Gruoch and young Luach.
And so MacBeth set out on his lonely journey, hoping for that promise at
the very least, even if he was unable to convince his cousin of his loyalty.
But as the miles unrolled behind him, he was surprised to find
himself giving in to anger. What right had Duncan to make this
unwarranted attack? Was not MacBeth's lifelong service worth at least an
explanation?
If Duncan was so incensed as to do this at all, he would surely
accept MacBeth's surrender and execute him. He would go to his grave
never knowing why. That was intolerable. He could not leave Gruoch a
widow, Luach fatherless, for no reason!
Perhaps he should turn back, rally his men, make Duncan earn
the right to his head.
But even as he thought it, his hopes sank. Bodie was right. His
men were brave and true, but no match for the king's own army. If only
there was some other way ...
Movement caught his eye and he turned sharply, seeing a pale
shadow in the fog. "You!"
It was the female gargoyle of the ivory skin, the one he'd come to
think of as his guardian angel. Had she been human, he would have
guessed her age at thirty, when she had seemed a maid of fifteen at their
first meeting twenty years before. And still, apart from Gruoch, the
loveliest creature he'd ever beheld.
Her eyes widened at being seen, and in the furtive flush of her
cheeks he realized she had been following him. Still looking after him. But
she hastily made to flee.
"Wait!" MacBeth cried, running to catch up with her before the
fog closed her from his sight. If this was not a sign from the heavens, he
didn't know what would be. "You are the answer!"
She turned and regarded him warily. "And what might the
question be?"
"Duncan, my king and kinsman, attacks me. He thinks me a
traitor! Me! When I have never been anything but loyal to him! I need
your help to defend my land."
"I cannot help you," she said, looking down at her hands as they
twined in the folds of her tunic.
"Bring your gargoyles! Join my forces!"
"They are not my gargoyles, MacBeth of Moray. I am not fit to
lead a clan. They are outcasts like myself, and only listen to me because I
can tell them where best to find food."
He stepped closer, took her by the upper arms. "Then tell them I
have food, theirs for the eating if they'll just help us against Duncan's
army! My people will die if you do not!"
She voiced a sigh that was very nearly a sob. "Would that I could
tell you the lives of humans meant nothing to me. Would that I could tell
you I care nothing for protecting a castle."
"I'd know better. Please. I cannot do this alone."
"The other gargoyles may be convinced to join your cause. They
may do so for revenge; your enemy is theirs as well, for Duncan and his
men came to our hideaway while we slept, and now we are fewer."
"He would have done so sooner, had I not stopped him."
MacBeth told her what had happened that day. "I have finally repaid my
debt to you. Now I would bargain. Help me. There must be something
you want."
"I am weary of this fugitive life," she said heavily. "I am weary
of wandering, of never feeling safe. I should like just once to greet the
dawn knowing that I will awaken to greet the night."
"There could have been a place for you at my castle years ago.
You are welcome in our home, for so long as it is ours."
He held out his hand. She hesitated, then clasped it. "Thank you,
MacBeth."
"No, thank you ... have you a name?"
"Elektra."

* *

1057 A.D.

"He plans to betray us!" announced the grey-skinned gargoyle
who was vain about his horns.
The other wingleader males -- the small wiry russet-hued one, the
barrel-chested dark blue one, the tall quiet brown one -- turned toward
him as he landed.
Elektra looked up from her map, where she'd been marking the
locations of Canmore's troops.
Hard to believe the boy had come back. She still remembered the
final battle, or so she had thought it to be then. Duncan's fiery death when
MacBeth, sword broken, warded off the murderous king with a torch.
Canmore, captured but defiant to the last. He'd even drawn a knife, the
foolish child. She had stopped him, advised him not to throw away his life
that MacBeth had so graciously spared.
Now Canmore was back, full-grown and leading an army,
meaning to retake what he felt was his by birthright.
And she, Elektra, headed a clan more than a hundred strong.
Only two had survived to stand with her at MacBeth's victory
celebration, when he had been crowned High King and declared the
beginning of a golden age for all their clans, human and gargoyle alike.
But other outcasts had learned of this, and a couple of small clans
threatened by war, and gradually over the years they had built up until
they were many and prosperous.
These four males were her best warriors, perhaps not the
brightest things on wings, but each commanded his own battalion. She still
considered herself nothing but an advisor, MacBeth's and theirs, but
somehow she had come to be regarded as something like a queen.
News of the golden age had even traveled to Castle Wyvern, and
although none of the gargoyles here at Moray were of that clan, tentative
messages of goodwill had passed between Elektra and her rookery brother,
Jericho. Someday, when the war was done, she would return to the place
of her childhood and make her confessions, make her peace.
But with just those five words, they grey-skinned one put all of
that in jeopardy.
She stood, wiping ink from her hands. "What mean you? Who
will betray us?"
"MacBeth!" he spat. "I heard him myself! The old man told him
that Canmore's allies fight because he has filled their heads with tales of
monsters! If MacBeth were rid of us, the English would have no cause to
fight, and might withdraw! And so, to save himself and the humans, he
will betray us!"
"He would never do such a thing," Elektra said surely.
"You know how gargoyles have been treated in England," the
blue-skinned one reminded her.
She nodded automatically. Many of their clan had come from that
country, fleeing violent persecution against the "demons."
"This is how he thanks us for all these years of loyalty?" the
russet one snarled.
"No!" Elektra strode into their midst. "He would not! The
English have come this far already. They would not turn back from
MacBeth's doorstep even if he did rid himself of us. So he would not,
even were he tempted. He is our friend! I will go and speak to him."
"You do that," the grey one sneered. "Don't think we don't know
how you feel for him."
She gasped. "What said you?"
"Wasn't I loud enough? Should I roar it from the high tower?
You're blinded with love for MacBeth, and you'll lead us to doom for it!"
"We've known it for twenty years at least," the brown one said in
his low, quiet voice.
"It is not like that!" Elektra whispered, but it was.
"We'll not give him the chance to betray us," the blue-skinned
one growled. He had petitioned vigorously for Elektra as his mate, and
been denied. If they did think it was because of MacBeth ...
"Let the English come or not, then," the russet one said
indifferently. "Without us, Canmore's troops will trample him into the
earth. And I say good riddance!"
"You cannot leave!" Elektra cried. "You're needed! What of the
castle? What of the humans?"
"What of them? A castle is just a pile of stone, which is what
we'd be if we stayed. As for the humans --" the grey one snapped his
talons in her face. "That for the humans."
She stared in denial and disbelief as they collected their
belongings. "Do not do this! We're to protect ..."
The brown one paused as the others headed out. He regarded her
sadly. "You forget, Elektra. We were outcasts from our clans. We had no
reason to care." He shook his head and followed the others.
"MacBeth needs us!"
They did not reply, and she knew she could not stop them. And
the others would follow them, not her, because she had been so careful to
distance herself from direct command lest they realize she was not truly
one of them.
"No ..." she sank to the stones and covered her face. Her
prudence, her fear, would be their undoing.
Then she rose, resolute. She would not yield. She had to at least
try. Wasn't she just thinking that they saw her as something akin to a
queen? Very well! She would see, then, if they would listen!

* *

"What news of Elektra?" MacBeth demanded as the injured
sentry staggered onto the balcony.
"The gargoyles ... have ... deserted," the man gasped.
"What?!" He whirled, dumbfounded, and stared over the
battlefield as if he could make the absent winged forces appear just by
being sure they would be there.
It could not be! Only last night, Elektra had come to him with
news of how her gargoyles had very nearly routed Canmore's army. They
had rejoiced together that soon, soon the fighting would be done. In his
exuberance, he'd lifted her, swung her in a circle until her white-streaked
hair flared like a banner. They had laughed together, and he had nearly
told her then how much she had come to mean to him.
And now they were gone? Deserted?
Luach's reinforcements would not arrive in time to save the
castle. Already, the catapults and siege towers were rumbling toward him.
Already, the sky was filling with flaming balls of pitch. His soldiers were
falling in droves. Many, nay, most died searching the heavens for the
reprieve, the deliverance they had come to rely on.
His castle was burning, his army in shambles.
Gruoch!
He ran for her chambers, finding his way nearly blocked by
burning beams. Above the crackle and roar, he could hear her desperate
pleas, calling for him.
The door gave way on the second kick, and he found her huddled
in a corner. Together, coughing against the choking thick smoke, they fled
to the secret escape route that brought them up in the creek. Now they
were drenched, Gruoch shivering uncontrollably, her long grey hair
spilling over her like a stole.
"Our home ..." she said through chattering teeth.
"Has fallen," MacBeth finished.
"What of Luach?"
"He'll be well."
They climbed into the hills beyond the castle, leaving behind the
screams of men and horses. Gruoch could barely keep up, until MacBeth
was nearly carrying her.
"The gargoyles?" she asked as they stopped in the shelter of a
large rocky outcrop to catch their breath.
"Gone," he replied, unable to say more, choked by the futile
frustration that rose in his throat.
"All gone," Elektra confirmed, stepping out from behind a
boulder. "All gone, all dead."
"Elektra!" He spun to look up at her, and her expression struck
him like a slap. He had never seen such a haunted and tormented visage,
not even when viewing his own in the mirror following his father's
murder, or Gruoch's first marriage. "Why?! We've been friends for
thirty-seven years! Why did you leave?"
"I tried to stop them." She sobbed once, then pushed back her
hair and met his eyes. "They said you planned to betray us, the better to
hurt Canmore by undermining the support of the English. And so they left.
I went after them, pleaded with them. And some did begin to hear me, to
believe. But dawn was near, and I saw ... I saw men approaching in
hiding. Canmore's men, the very English allies who so despised us from
the first. They had followed the gargoyles. And dawn ... dawn came."
"No," MacBeth breathed. "The clan?"
"Destroyed." She bowed her head, and her shoulders shook.
"Battered to bits as they slept in stone, just as my birth clan's parents
were. I saw it happen, MacBeth, I saw it all. I knew that if I turned to
stone as well, I too would be shattered. None would be left to come to
you. To tell you what had happened and why. So, when day came, I
resisted. And oh! the sun was so warm, so beautiful!"
"Why did the others not do the same?" asked Gruoch.
"They had not my secret." Elektra seemed to curl in on herself,
fearful of the admission even as she made it. "They were none of them
half-human. When all else seemed lost, I so bitterly wished ... and
somehow, found this last gift from Malcolm my father." She looked
beseechingly at them. "I would never desert you!"
"And I would never betray you," MacBeth said. Malcolm?
Malcolm of Wyvern, it must be. His own distant kinsman.
Just then, Gruoch nudged him, and in her face she saw
understanding and acceptance. Go to her, she silently urged. She had
known, possibly even before MacBeth admitted it to himself. Women had
ways of knowing such things.
He went to Elektra and touched her hair, stroked the white blaze
that ran back from her temple. They had all grown old, the three of them.
"Because of me, your kingdom is in flames," she said in a low
voice.
"Because of you, I had a kingdom at all. We built this together."
"And you will die together," Canmore said as if he'd been
waiting all this while for the perfect moment at which to make his
appearance.
Before MacBeth could turn, before Gruoch could do more than
begin to utter a stifled scream, the black-haired son of Duncan lunged and
drove his sword at MacBeth's back.
Elektra swept him aside with such force that MacBeth fell to one
knee. The blade missed him, and slid between her ribs.
"No!" MacBeth, horror-stricken, rose and drew and struck all in
one fluid motion. He disarmed Canmore, sending his sword flying, and
hammered his elbow into the younger man's temple. Canmore's grin had
only barely begun to surface before his face went slack and he toppled.
Elektra swayed slightly, both hands pressed to her chest. "Ohhh,"
she said softly, like a woman who just realized she had committed some
grave social misstep. She turned her palms up and stared
uncomprehendingly at the blood upon them. Her knees buckled and she
began a slow, swooning fall.
MacBeth caught her. Never had he thought she could be so
heavy! Never had he thought her skin would be so coarse! Pallor gave her
a greyish tinge.
No, not pallor. That was not what made her skin turn grey, her
limbs grow heavy, her skin grow coarse. He had seen enough gargoyles
fall over the past twenty years to know approaching death when he saw it.
She rested in his arms, taking air in shallow sips, but already a
stiff lethargy was seeping into her body.
"Elektra ..."
"You know," she whispered, "how I feel."
"How we both feel," he said, his heart nearly breaking.
She nodded, smiled. He leaned down and brushed his lips across
her brow. Then a fine tremble went through her, and he held a statue that
was already beginning to erode into dust.
"So it's not true!" Canmore mumbled thickly, incredulous.
Rubbing his head, he hitched himself up on one elbow. "'Twas said you
were linked by sorcery, so that when one died, both die!"
"I'm afraid you'll find it's not that easy," MacBeth growled,
picking up his sword. "On your feet, Canmore. I'll not stab you in the
back like a coward, but I will cut you down where you lay if you fail to
rise!"
"MacBeth, no!" the weeping Gruoch implored.
"It ends tonight," Canmore said, getting up and retrieving his
own sword. "One way or the other." Now the grin he'd lost came back, as
several of his men appeared through the trees. "But I have a fair idea
which way it will go!"
"Luach's reinforcements are almost upon us," one of the men told
Canmore.
"Let them come. My cousin won't arrive in time to find
anything but his father's body."
"We'll see about that!" MacBeth attacked, and his last battle
was on.

* *


EPILOGUE -- REPERCUSSIONS

1944 A.D.
London, England

"Oh, Griff!" Una wept, burying her face in her hands to shut out
the sight of his broken, bullet-riddled body. "Why did you have to be so
brave?"

* *

1975 A.D.
Bar Harbor, Maine

"Mail's here, Dave!"
David Xanatos straightened up, groaning as his back unkinked. It
had been a good day's catch, but by the time he got the boat squared
away, he would be more than ready for a hot shower and then bed.
A year ago, he'd thought his life was finally changing for the
better. A strange encounter on an island out in the Atlantic had given him
a taste of adventure, not to mention introduced him to the most amazing
girl he'd ever met.
But here he was, still stuck in his father's world of ships and nets
and where the good schools were hiding in the cold northern waters. He'd
been working his butt off all year to try and pay for the Nereid, the ship
that had been lost during that same series of events.
"Ayuh?" he asked the mailman. "Anything good?"
"Here you go."
David took the stack of envelopes. Dad, Dad, Occupant, Dad ...
aha! One for him!
"Wonder what this is." He tore it open with his work-callused
fingers and unfolded the thick sheet of paper. There was a coin taped to
the bottom, bronze in color and stamped with an unfamiliar design.
"Grand Opening," he read. "Bar Harbor Arcade and Video Game
Palace. Bring this token for one free game! The latest and hottest in 3-D
arcade action!"
Shaking his head, he tossed the advertisement into a nearby trash
barrel and returned to the ship, the nets, his life.
* *

1976 A.D.
Scotland

Eibhlin Driscoll climbed to the highest tower, stopping to
examine each of the grotesque stone figures and wondering again what her
son could have found about them that was so fascinating. Frightening,
more like. But then, that was the point, wasn't it? To frighten away evil
spirits by making images that looked even more evil?
From here, the sea, the hated sea that had stolen her husband and
then returned him as a blue and bloated thing, stretched endlessly on in
dull grey ripples. She could see the pebbled beach that huddled in a
crescent cove far below.
Was that a boat? Some sort of wooden boat pulled up on the
beach?
With nothing better to do, she found the path and made her way
down, not being overly careful. If the sea wanted her, it would take her.
Soon she was close enough to see the object.
Not a boat after all. Just a large twist of driftwood that from a
distance resembled a boat. And surely, to her Galen, that's what his
imagination would have made of it. She could almost hear him laughing as
he played, fighting mock sea-battles and searching for sunken treasures.
The wind, hooting in the water-worn hollows. Like the laughter
of her dear, dead son. Like the whistling of her lost husband.
She looked out at the cold, cold sea.
If it wanted her, it would take her.
But she could meet it halfway.
She unwound her shawl and folded it neatly, draping it over the
driftwood that was not a boat. And then, without a glance back, Eibhlin
Driscoll waded into the sea.

* *

1985 A.D.
Irvine, California

One of the most beautiful campuses in the country, Kenneth
Ferguson thought as he glanced out the window and away from the pile of
papers he was supposed to be grading. If I ever had kids, I'd want them to
go someplace like this. Or maybe someplace back East.
He grinned at his own foolishness. Kids? Him? There were
certain prerequisites to having kids, not least of which was having a wife.
Well, not necessarily, he supposed in this modern age. But he prided
himself on being an old-fashioned man, and was looking for a suitably old-
fashioned girl.
Unfortunately, when one happened to be a professor of medieval
history, one's idea of what passed for an old-fashioned girl was rather
different from that of other people. For them, June Cleaver was about as
far as they'd go. For him, Eleanor of Acquitaine was more the thing.
He chuckled. So all he needed to do was find a way to go back in
time. Perhaps to the Scottish castle he'd visited almost ten years ago. Yes,
back in time, find himself a nice noble-born lady. Raise up a few fine
strong lads or a lass to spoil. A daughter he could name Aiden, after his
grandmother.
Shaking his head, laughing at himself, Kenneth Ferguson went
back to work.

* *

1989 A.D.
Seattle, Washington.

"So the old man's dead." Graeme Wulfstan, known as the Grey
Wolf in pro wrestling circles, didn't sound all that broken up about it.
"What'd he leave me?"
"Some furniture, two cats, a bank account that should just about
cover the cost of the burial, and this." The lawyer slid a box across the
table.
Wulfstan opened the box, pinched a corner of the floral-patterned
silk scarf like he was peeling up something yucky stuck to his shoe. "This
belong to my great-aunt?" When the lawyer didn't reply, he lifted it and
unwrapped it.
The office lights ran in dazzling circles around the milky blue
jewel nestled in a swirl of thick gold. Wulfstan's bushy brows went almost
to his shaggy hairline.
"What is it?"
"It's called the Eye of Odin. The Nordic Heritage Museum here
in Ballard has offered it a place of honor in their exhibit hall."
"Screw that!" Wulfstan closed his massive fist around the gem.
"Donate it to a museum? Do you think I'm nuts? This thing is worth a
fortune!"

* *

Clippings:

From The Seattle Times, 1989:
No Further Wolf Attacks
Marysville, WA -- a series of brutal livestock deaths and
mutilations seems to have come to an end, much to the relief of farmers in
this normally quiet town. Evidence found at the scenes led authorities to
believe the animals were the victims of a wolf pack, although lab results
are pending. The last known attack was two weeks ago. It is likely that the
pack was driven off by increased vigilance. Several farmers claim to have
shot at "something," but no wolf bodies have been found.

From VIP Magazine, 1990:
The Magic Is Over
Together, they wove illusions to baffle even the greatest
magicians of all time. David Copperfield admitted in a 1988 interview that
even he was unable to figure out how the spectacular team of Lyonnes and
Fox worked their stunning magic. He, and the rest of us, will never have
another chance to try. The team, partners since 1985, have announced that
they are going their separate ways ...

* *

1990 A.D.
Castle Wyvern, Scotland.

"Chronos, look!" Aodh exclaimed. "It's a man!"
"I know it's a man," the older, portly gargoyle said in an
aggravated tone.
"No, don't you see?" his golden-skinned companion said
excitedly. "He's the one! The one to break the spell!"
They fell silent, trusting to the shadows of their high perch to
conceal them, as the man passed by. Then they turned away from the
castle, and headed for their cave.
The cave had housed the descendants of Clan Wyvern ever since
humans stopped believing in gargoyles and forced them to go into hiding
or be hunted down. It was comfortable, close enough to let them keep
watch on the castle and their ancestors who still slept in stone. Most
importantly, it was safe.
The plump female called Kettle was washing up the dishes from
the clan's supper when her son scampered into the cave.
"Mama, Mama, there's a man in the castle!"
"No more stories, Chip --" his father had proudly told anyone and
everyone that he was a chip off the old block, and it had stuck -- "into the
tub with you." She picked him up and plopped him into the warm, soapy
water.
"Isn't it exciting?!" Feather fluttered into the kitchen showing off
her black and grey wings. "I saw a man in the castle!"
Chip popped up, bubbles on his head, and squirted a stream of
water out of his mouth. "See, Mama, I told you!"

* *

1990 A.D.
Castle Wyvern, Scotland.

"... and we've been having trouble finding workers. The castle is
reputed to be haunted," the stiff, humorless assistant finished.
"Pay a man enough, Mr. Vogel, and he'll walk barefoot into
Hell," Halcyon Renard said, adjusting the controls of his motorized
wheelchair to steer his withered body closer to the vine-laden stones of
Castle Wyvern.
Preston Vogel inclined his head in acceptance of the older man's
wisdom, and made a few phone calls. Within a matter of hours, the crews
were fully staffed, the large machinery was chugging and snarling, and the
project was underway.

* *

1994 A.D.
Manhattan

"Enemy invasion, yeah, right," Elisa Maza muttered to herself as
the elevator doors began to close.
Halcyon Renard's arrogance aside, no enemy invasion or robotic
malfunction could account for the chunk of claw-marked stone she'd found
in the street below.
Cop instinct told her that the old man and bland-faced assistant
were lying through their teeth. She had made all the right replies, let them
think they were conning her. Vogel had showed her to the elevator and she
thanked him for his cooperation.
She hit the button, and the doors slid back open. Vogel was gone.
She was alone in the castle's dark and gloomy halls.
Why would anyone want to live like this? Everything else Renard
produced was ultra-modern and state-of-the-art. Lasers, cybernetics, the
stuff of the future. So why this sudden, unexplained fondness for ancient
castles?
"Maybe he's the original owner," she said to herself.
She jumped at the sound of her own voice and realized she was
working up a good case of the creeps. A hundred monster movie scenes
shutter-clicked through her mind. Whenever she watched those, she would
always scoff at the stupid heroine who would go, all by her lonesome, into
the attic or down the cellar or off through the spooky forest. But here she
was, doing just that.
To top it all off, she was pretty sure she'd taken a wrong turn.
Now she was in the section that Renard hadn't gotten around to fixing up
yet. No lights. Dust, leftover from the move and the reconstruction. Her
mind supplied cobwebs even though there weren't any to be seen.
Something grunted and moved, just outside the beam of her
flashlight. She swung it in that direction. Nothing. But a low, somehow
slobbery breathing.
A low-slung shadow. A growl.
Gun in one hand, flashlight in the other.
A beam of light splashing over a blue beast the size of a tank,
coming right at her.
Elisa sucked in a quick breath and pointed her gun at it.
Another shadow loomed beside her. A large hand -- a three-
fingered claw -- snatched the weapon from her grasp.
She whirled, and there, not a foot away, was a creature right out
of a bad dream. Batlike wings, luminescent white eyes. A bulky, muscular
body with a long tail.
It was between her and the hall. There was a staircase behind her
and she started backing up it, feeling her way on the stone wall, never
daring to look away as the creature relentlessly followed.
The staircase let her out onto the roof. Open sky stretched above
her. Wind pulled her hair like dark ribbons in front of her face. She
continued sidling back as the creature emerged. Her breath whistled as if
her throat had narrowed to a pinhole.
Sudden space at her back. Startled, she leaned, and too late
realized her mistake. The backs of her knees struck the lower edge of the
crenelated wall, and she toppled over.
Now her throat seemed wide as a train tunnel, and the scream
that burst out of her was as loud as a siren.
She closed her eyes to blot out the sight of the towers stretching
away from her with terrifying speed. But in that internal darkness, her
fear spiked to new levels.
When she opened them again, she saw the creature coming after
her. Closing the distance. Its claws reached for her. She was suddenly
sure that it wasn't content to have her fall, that it had to first rend her to
bits. Her flesh cringed in anticipation.
Then she got a look at the creature's face, the horror and worry,
and understood that it was trying to save her.
Strong arms looped around her, and then she was being carried
instead of falling. Still plunging toward the street, but with those wings
now spread. Her stomach lurched sickeningly as they swooped low over
the cars and crowds before beginning a climb.
"Okay, okay, just stay calm," she told herself as the creature
landed on a ledge and released her.
"Lass, ye gave me a right proper scare," the creature said.
The shock of hearing it speak nearly made her step off the edge.
"You can talk! Who are you? What's your name?"
It -- no, he -- laughed and shook his greying, bearded head. "A
thing's not real to ye humans until ye can name it, give it limits." He
pointed. "Does the sky need a name? Does the river?"
"Actually, the river's the Hudson."
He sighed. "Aye, verra well, then I shall be the Hudson too."
"Hudson it is." She grinned and held out her hand. "I'm Elisa
Maza. Thanks for saving my life."
* *

The craft sped away from the castle, the disgruntled occupants
rubbing their various aches and pains through the tough fabric of their
dark grey Kevlar bodysuits. Helmets with red-tinted visors were removed
and laid aside.
Inge Runolf looked at Judge Halverson as if to say, "Well?" He
resignedly got up approached the front of the craft where their boss was at
the controls.
"What the hell were those things?" he demanded.
"Does it matter?" she replied, sparing him only a brief glance.
"You blew it."
"You didn't tell us we'd be fighting monsters."
"I told you to be ready for resistance." In the weird glow of the
instrument panel, the painted foxhead around her eye resembled a pirate's
patch.
"Sure, from humans or robots!"
"We'll just have to find another way to deal with Renard." Her
silence made it clear that the conversation was at an end.
Halverson weighed the options of continued debate, gave up, and
returned to sit beside Runolf.
"This is nuts," Glasses remarked from the other side of the
compartment. "There are easier ways to get at the old man's money than
attacking him in his castle."
Fox heard him, and whipped around like a harridan with her
firegold hair flying. "The data on those disks would have been worth more
than all the hot cars, stolen weapons, and dimestore protection rackets
your people pull off in a year! You and Dracon work for me now, and
don't you forget it!"
The craft flew on, toward the endlessly cruising bulk of Fortress
One.
After they'd landed in the main hangar in the belly of the flying
ship, Fox left her team and headed for the bridge. She pulled the
rubberband from her hair and shook it loose.
"Evenin', Ms. F," the guard at the door said.
"Hi, Vinnie. Owen around?"
"No, ma'am, haven't seen him."
"If you do, tell him that I'm --"
"Looking for him?" Owen Burnett finished, coming around a
corner.

* *

"There's someone here I'd like you to meet." Halcyon Renard
pressed a button on the armrest-mounted control panel of his wheelchair.
Hudson and the others, who had chosen names of their own from
the city they'd eagerly explored after repelling the previous night's assault,
turned. All were wary, but curious.
So far, their benefactor and Hudson's new friend Elisa had shown
them wonders they never would have imagined. A city of millions, of
lights and machines. Television. Strange weapons that were worse than
Viking bows, worse than the magical blasts of the Archmage. What new
amazement could this be?
A door slid open, revealing a shadowed shape. It came forward
into the light.
"My love!" the female gargoyle cried, rushing into the room.
Before the males could collect their jaws from their chests, she had her
arms around Brooklyn and was kissing him soundly all over his beak.
"What the --?" Broadway blurted.
"Wow!" Lex chimed in.
Bronx chuffed in surprise.
"I ... swear ..." Brooklyn protested, his words stuttered because
the female kept planting kisses while he was trying to talk, "... Hudson ...
I've never ... seen her ... in my life!"
She left off for a moment, and Brooklyn got a breath. "But I've
seen you!" she said. "How I've waited for this! Aodh will be upset, but
I've been burned by him before." She made as if to recommence with the
kissing, but Hudson intervened.
"Here, now, lass, give him some air! Who are ye? Where have
ye come from?"
Reluctantly, the female backed off and smoothed her short cap of
jet-black hair behind a pair of cute horns. Her skin was maple, her caped
wings made a sumptuous cloak of black and grey feathers. Beneath, she
was clad in something of tight-fitting black satin that made Lex's eyes bug
so much that Hudson feared the lad might hurt himself.
"I'm called Feather," she said, and now Hudson heard the soft
Scottish burr in her voice. "Of your clan!"
"No way," Brooklyn said, shaking his head as he gave her a very
appreciative once-over. "I would have remembered."
"Me too," Broadway said. Lex could only gawk.
"What is the meaning of this, Renard?" Hudson demanded.
The old human rubbed his hands together with a dry, papery
sound. He looked quite smug and pleased with himself. "As you know, I
devoted my life to the pursuit of science, but as age and infirmity got their
hold on me and science was not keeping pace with my declining health, I
turned to other avenues of exploration."
"Ye got interested in magic," Hudson said, nodding. "So ye told
us."
Feather took advantage of their conversation to sidle close to
Brooklyn and sort of bump her shoulder and hip at him, all the while
giving him a look she might give a pastry she was about to devour. The
poor lad clearly did not know what to make of it, but was enjoying it all
the same. Enjoying it so much that he wasn't paying attention. Hudson
cleared his throat warningly.
"Over the years, I collected many unusual items. The one thing
that eluded me was a legendary book of spells, the Grimorum Arcanorum.
It was while researching it that I learned about gargoyles. It seemed to me
that if the story was true, I could once and for all prove to myself that
magic existed."
"So ye brought our castle here, to raise it above the clouds and
see if the spell would be broken and we would live again."
"Yes." Renard smiled at Feather. "I hadn't counted on an extra
gargoyle as a stowaway."
"Stowaway?" Brooklyn asked her. "But where'd you come
from?"
"My clan is descended from the eggs that were spared the attack
of the Vikings. We've waited a thousand years for you to awaken. But
none of us counted on the castle being moved! So I --" here she giggled
deliciously, and Lex looked like he was trying to swallow a doorknob, "--
hid in a crate, and was brought along."
"For a time, I started to think the castle was haunted," Renard
said. "All during the reconstruction, the night watchmen would claim they
had seen, or heard things."
"It was just little me," she giggled again, tickling Brooklyn's tail
with her own and making him jump. "Mr. Renard found me out, and after
I told him who I was, he agreed to let me stay."
"Why did you call Brooklyn 'my love'?" Broadway asked, not
without a fair measure of envy.
She blushed prettily. "I used to visit him every night, talk to him,
pretend he was my sweetheart. Then, well, seeing him awake ... I was
overcome."
"Uh ... really?" Now Brooklyn was blushing.
"Where's the rest of yer clan?" Hudson wanted to know.
"Back in Scotland. We decided that only one of us should come."
She explained the promise that had been handed down from one generation
to the next, that should the sleepers ever awaken, there would be someone
there to greet them.
The weight of the time hadn't really hit Hudson until now. A
thousand years. And all that while, his clan had kept them alive in their
hearts and minds, passing on a tradition and holding fast to it.
"What ever happened to Goliath?" Lex had finally recovered his
wits enough to speak.
"There's a song about him," she said brightly. "About him and
his Angel. I learned it when I was just a hatchling. It's the most beautiful
song!"
"He ... he's dead," Broadway said. "I knew he had to be, but ..."
Feather cocked her head, then her face twisted in dismay. "Oh,
I'm sorry! For you, it was only a long sleep ago!"
"Aye, but for ye, it was something that happened long before ye
were hatched. Dinna be ashamed, lass. We understand."
"Poor Goliath," Lex murmured.
"Sing us your song," Brooklyn urged. "I think we'd all like to
hear it."

* *

"Well, Sevarius?" Renard folded his hands and waited.
"I've isolated the gene that makes the gargoyles age at a slower
rate," Anton Sevarius said. "Convenient that the attempted hostile
takeover by FoxFire Enterprises wounded the gargoyles enough to allow
me to collect the necessary samples."
"Can it be used on humans?" Renard leaned forward as much as
his chair would permit.
"It would take some work. Even if successful, though, it would
only retard further aging."
Renard sank back and rubbed his brow. "That's not what I'm
paying you for. I have enough longevity formulas. I need something to
turn back the clock, not stop it."
"I'm doing the best I can." Sevarius' voice oozed contrition.
"Have you given any thought to reconsidering --"
"Clones and mind transference?" Renard's face twisted in disgust.
"No. I will not hear of it."
"I've made some progress on the mutagenic agent --"
"I thought I told you I wanted no further development along that
line! I understand the trials of frustrated genius, Doctor, but I won't
have you making monsters on company time."
He turned away, but not so quickly that he missed the sour
expression on Sevarius' face. He made a note to himself to be sure and
soothe the temperamental scientist's ruffled feathers later. It wouldn't do
to have Sevarius quit. His ... competitor would snap up Sevarius in a
flash, just as she had stolen Owen Burnett.
But that would have to wait. He had a meeting with the Emir to
finalize plans for the Egyptian project, had to make the arrangements for
Vogel's trip to South America, and there was the matter of his own
upcoming vacation in Prague to think of, this Cauldron of Life to
research ...

* *

"Is it on all the channels?" Lex groaned.
"Well, they're appearing live at Madison Square Garden,
tonight," Broadway said around a mouthful of bagel.
"Who'd want to go see that?" Brooklyn said snidely. "The Pack is
a pretty dumb show, even for kids."
"Shep!" a chorus of kids' voices chanted as the Pack's noble
leader appeared on the screen, followed by shots of his team in quick
succession. "Poodle! Bulldog! Peke! Dane-a!" Then the announcer came
on, extolling the virtues of the cartoon anthropomorphic canines as they
went up against the evil cat-warriors.
"Turn it off!" Brooklyn made to snatch the remote from Lex. "Or
find something else. Golf. Love Boat reruns. Anything but this!"

* *

"So, partner," Matt Bluestone ventured. "You seeing anybody?"
"No, why?" Elisa didn't take her eyes from the road.
"Just curious. Hey, you want to grab a cup of coffee? My treat."
She grinned. "Sounds like a plan ... partner!"
"And maybe dinner later?"
"Don't push it, Matt."
"Can't blame a guy for trying," he shrugged.
Elisa drove in silence for a while, then glanced at him. "How
about Friday? I know a great Thai place ... but you've got to promise to
be quiet about the Illuminati."
"It's a done deal!"

* *

1995 A.D.
Africa

"... the spider went hungry!" Diane Maza concluded, and the
children laughed and clapped.
As one of their elders herded them off to their supper, she
approached Fara Maku and flushed with pride as he congratulated her on
her skillful rendition of the tale of the Panther Queen. They walked
together toward the cage where the ceremonial panther was imprisoned.
He was telling her how the rite would go, when a warning shot
cracked. Rough men emerged from the jungle, led by a woman with
murder in her eyes.
"Te'a!" Fara cried.
He tried to reason with her as she aimed at the caged panther, but
she was beyond reason. Her first shot took the animal in the flank, driving
it berserk with fear and fury. It attacked the bars, which began to splinter.
Her second shot went wild as Fara grappled with her, but then the rough
men pulled him away and the third shot stilled the panther's heard.
Diane stood numbstruck and horrified, and despite the story she'd
just finished telling, completely unprepared for what happened next. Fara,
in the grip of his captors, suddenly writhed and tore free, dropping to all
fours as black fur sprouted on his skin.
The men reeled back, but Te'a went livid with rage. "It was
you!" She raised the rifle, aimed it at Fara.
Without a thought for her own safety, Diane slammed her
shoulder into the younger woman and bowled her over. She grabbed for
the gun.
Te'a twisted beneath her, screaming in denial as her body began
to contort. Diane found herself looking into the deadly golden gaze of a
panther.
She gasped and rolled off, and Te'a paused only long enough to
bare her fangs in a vicious snarl before leaping at Fara.
The other poachers had recovered enough to point their guns at
both panthers. Diane shouted at them to stop, but they fired. A bullet dug
into the earth beside Fara's paw, a second grazed Te'a. At the shots, both
panthers left off their struggle and bolted for the cover of the jungle.
"Come on!" one of the men said to his companion, and they
charged after.
"Fara Maku!" Diane called. "Come back!" Then she, too, dashed
into the jungle. It was crazy, chasing panthers at night, but someone had
to do something. After thirty years of being wife to a cop and mother to
two cops, the protective impulse must have rubbed off onto her.
She had no trouble following the trail of the poachers, who were
old hands at tracking wounded prey. Te'a, once their leader, now filled
that role.
To her intense shock, the trail led to the gates of a vine-covered,
abandoned city. A city she had never believed to be real. The Spider-
Gates!
At the heart of the city, after nearly falling into a pit trap that was
choked with webs and acrawl with spiders -- it would have to be spiders;
what else should she have expected? -- she found the poachers caught in
sticky, thick strands. They had blundered into a giant web and were
trapped, helpless.
Fara Maku, human now, stood at the foot of a web cable as big
around as a man's leg. Te'a crouched before him, only her vertically-split
pupils and golden irises still showing as proof of her transformation. Now
Diane noticed the mark on the woman's shoulder, and understood even
before Fara explained how he had wanted Te'a to stay with him.
"But who marked you?" she asked.
"I did, storyteller," chortled a voice right out of a nightmare, and
the spider lowered itself into view.
"Anansi!" she gasped. It was true, the old stories were all true!
The spider gloated over how fat he would grow with five humans
to hunt for him, and Diane realized with cold certainty that she would
never see her home again.

* *

Avalon

"Avalon welcomes its children," Oberon said, looking about in
satisfaction as he and Titania materialized in a golden-blue shimmer. "And
how has my isle fared?"
Three shapes faded into view, taking on female forms of identical
beauty, differing only in the hues of their hair.
"Undisturbed, my lord," Selene, the black-haired enchantress,
replied.
"Save for the Sleeping King," Phoebe added.
"Who yet rests in his hollow hill," Luna finished.
"Oh, yes, the Sleeping King." Oberon waved nonchalantly. "Let
him be. He'll not disturb our homecoming. It is a pleasure to have you at
my side again, sweet Titania."
"Yes, my lord," that lady said graciously.
"Would that you returned to this fair isle as my wife, as well as
my queen," he hinted, kissing her hand.
She gave him an arch look, beneath which was a playful twinkle.
"My lord has yet to earn that privilege. Should a suitable test present
itself, we shall see."
"How I indulge you," he chuckled.
Titania smiled. "That you do, my lord, that you do."
"But now," he said, taking her arm, "it is time for the
Gathering."

* *

The End.

Author's Note, final:
This story could have gone on forever! I realized as I began it just
how much that one decision changed everything. How tied together it all
was.
No Goliath meant no Xanatos going back in time to become a
"self-made man;" no Xanatos to intervene meant the Archmage would get
the gate; if the Archmage had the gate, Demona wouldn't have it to give
part to Goliath in the first place ... damn, that's tidy!
But it went on. If the Archmage had the gate, and died, he
couldn't later get the gate and use it to save himself. So no Weird Sisters,
no plan to bind MacBeth and Demona. No Demona, anyway, because she
stayed with Goliath.
Nobody ever trespassed on Avalon, so Arthur never awoke. No
world tour. No Alexander, for Oberon to come and fetch. And so on.
Everything was different. Not to mention what it did to all my
characters!
I knew I could never write it all, and didn't really want to. That's
why the ending collection of epilogues sort of peter out. There was too
much, and I'm sure others will be able to imagine what else would have
changed, thinking of things that I didn't.
If just one person, reading this, slaps his/her forehead and
exclaims, "Of course!" with the same chill of implication that I felt a
hundred times while writing it, I will have done what I set out to do.