Part Two: Unholy Alliances
by Christine Morgan
firstname.lastname@example.org / 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 permission.
Mature readers only, please, due to language, sexual content, and graphic violence. Finished January 2000; approximately 21,000 words.
Commercial: Don't miss Sabledrake Magazine for more work by this and other authors!
#64 in an ongoing saga.
(Jericho, voice-over) "Previously, on Gargoyles ..."
From Future Imperfect --
Aiden: "What happened to Angela's egg?"
Sebastian St. John: "It was of the same hatching, the same breeding season, as yours. There was what you might call
a custody dispute. Angela's mother Demona believed only she could properly care for it, since she was a true-raised
gargoyle while Angela had been brought up by humans. But the Quarrymen interfered, and while they could not kill
Demona, they did destroy the egg."
From Lyre, Lyre --
Orpheus Bluestone: "Angela's mother? But I thought ..."
Matt Bluestone: "Nobody's heard from her in years, not since that egg business."
From The Guardians: Alchemist --
Demona: "Why not? I've lost every one of my children. Why should the humans be allowed to go on breeding?"
Goliath: "Angela's still alive!"
Demona: "She may as well be dead! You know how she hates me! And don't tell me it's all my fault. I see it in your eyes
that you're about to, and I'm sick of hearing it, Goliath! Sick of hearing it, do you understand me?"
February 28, 2001
Far beneath the towering black glass-and-steel
of the Nightstone Building, purple-gold light stirred like a living thing
and threw shadows on the walls that moved in the writhing of the damned.
The room was one of three, all perfectly round and of the same size, joined by arched doorways to a much smaller
chamber in the center. From that, a ladder bolted to the wall led to the subterranean labs.
The walls were of dark stone perpetually damp, the floors sloped toward central drains. This deeper-than-dungeon
was well below sea-level, and the best construction couldn't fully hold back the seepage.
Not even Thailog had known of this addition to the blueprints, and in the best villainous tradition, Demona had personally
eliminated each and every of the craftsmen that had worked on it. To further cement -- so to speak -- the power of the
place, she had mixed their blood and powder from their crushed bones into mortar and used it to coat the keystones of
each arch more firmly in place.
Thanks to the proper application of magic, the spirits of the workmen were now bound into eternal enslavement. The
stones, which had formerly been fairly generic gargoylian faces, now bore twisted likenesses of the men.
One of the rooms was a library. The humidity was not good for the condition of the books, most of which were already
centuries old and in poor repair, but enchantment kept them from deteriorating fully, and in the meanwhile a hint of mildew
added to their ambiance. She believed that hers was the second-finest collection in existence.
Only her one-time correspondent Hubert Mosswell had possessed a finer library, and she kept meaning to look up his
descendants to see if any of the treasures had survived the decades.
But life kept interfering, especially in the past several years. From the time that her ex-clan finally awakened, she had been,
as the ruralites put it, busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.
But there were prizes enough in her library, and the crowning jewel of them all was the one she now carried with her. The
Grimorum Necronum, oft-rumored sister volume to the Grimorum Arcanorum.
Most ironic of all, if not for the Hunter, she never would have gotten her claws on the book. One of the current irritant's
predecessors had been a monk and a scholar, and decided to try a new tactic in his familial blood-quest. Straightforward
physical attacks having proven so spectacularly futile, he'd broken his vows in an attempt to find the spells of daemonology
that would banish or destroy her.
Poor fool. She smiled to herself and shook her head, remembering the look on his face as his incantations had failed.
That was the problem with labeling. Call someone something long enough, and you start to believe it ... to them, she had been
The Demon, and therefore came to be attributed with the powers and weaknesses of such ... if only in their misguided minds.
The spells had of course had no effect, and in the end, all she'd had to do was step over his body and take it for herself.
It was the only piece in her collection that gave her an apprehensive tingle as she opened the midnight cover. The only one with
spells that even she dared not try.
As it was, a lesser sorcerer would have been killed merely by reading some of the words inked there in mercury-silver. She
recalled once a simple mispronunciation that had rendered her helpless with wrenching pain all night.
The second of the secret rooms, so secret that only she and Jericho (and him only recently) knew of them, was her workroom.
She had all of the trappings -- cauldron, candles, braziers, ceremonial knives, jars and vials of components gathered from every
corner of the world. The centerpiece was a channeled and carved black slab that could serve as desk or altar, and had done both.
She set the book upon it and opened it to a page held by a bookmark made of a flattened plait of hair said to have come from
the head of the witch Baba Yaga herself. The silvery ink took on a strange glow in the flickering light, seeming to move on the
"Demona?" came a hushed whisper from the small ladder-chamber behind her.
"Come in, Jericho. You're not interrupting."
He entered with hesitant curiosity, wings tucked close and tail held carefully that he not disturb any of the valuable, breakable, or
dangerous items with which the room was cluttered.
Such a shame that neither of her children ever evidenced a flair for the thaumaturgical!
She would never say as much to Jericho, because dedicated as he was, he would be devastated at the merest thought that he might
disappoint her. It wasn't that she was disappointed, precisely, only that it would have been nice. But if either of them had shown
potential, it would have manifested before now, Surely on Avalon, the Magus -- a fool in many ways but adept enough when it
came to magic -- would have noticed and given them some proper training.
Perhaps things would be different with the hatchling. Her blood, passed on to Angela, flowed in those veins. So there was a chance,
even diluted as it was by Brooklyn's genes. He, and if she was correct in remembering Hudson's generation, his parents, were about
as magical as the average brick wall.
In the meantime, though, she had other problems.
"The deadline is tomorrow," Jericho needlessly reminded her.
"Is Stephanie still here?"
"Yes, shall I fetch her to you?"
"Not yet. I must prepare the cantrips."
She growled as she recalled the news that her secretary/assistant had brought her earlier in the week. Blackmailed by the Hunter! The
sheer gall, the unimaginable nerve of that man! Give herself and Jericho over into his hands or be exposed to all the world?
Her first instinct had been to find him and reduce him to pieces too small to chalk an outline around, but crazy as Canmore was, he
had hidden himself too well.
The next impulse was petty and sly, meet blackmail with blackmail and bring Godiva along to the meeting. Being face-to-face with
the indigo seductress would be sure to shatter his composure and reveal him to be a gargoyle-lover in one of the truest senses of
"Thank goodness for creeps," she said.
"What?" Jericho asked.
"Didn't I show that to you? One of those annoying e-mails that everyone passes around, but this one was actually most amusing. It
was an essay dividing everyone into creeps or assholes. You, my love, are undoubtedly an asshole."
His expression made her laugh. She patted him on the shoulder, letting her hand linger and slide down the taut cliff of his chest.
"Don't worry, I'm one too," she said. "Mostly. I have several creep tendencies, though. But the good doctor is the epitome of
creepdom. As proven by his devious-minded suggestion to settle this little matter with the Hunter."
"Mayhap I should read it," he said, still less than convinced.
"It will be nice to have this out of the way. We'll deal with the Hunter, and then be free to enjoy the hatching of our child in peace."
"I'm sorry the other survived," he grumbled.
"Believe me, so am I. But there will be other chances. That's the thing about these cursed Canmores. There's always other chances.
Now, look here. At these words only; do not let your gaze stray. This is the charm you must invoke tomorrow night if something
"What if it goes wrong during the day? You ... you can't mean to trust Sevarius with this, can you?"
"We have no choice. There's no one else I trust by day, except Stephanie, and she has another part to play in this. It'll have to
"What about Godiva? She moves about by day."
Demona shook her head. "I've studied, and I'm afraid Godiva falls under the category 'automaton' or 'homunculus.' She's not
precisely alive for all she has a living soul. The charm would be meaningless coming from her."
"That'd dismay her; she so prides herself on her many charms," Jericho said dryly.
She swept her tail playfully against his rump and pushed his nose toward the open book. "Mark and remember."
"How will I know if something's gone wrong?"
"Over here." She led him into the third room, which was normally a meditation chamber. Now, the Spartan trappings of bare-
mattressed cot and washbasin had been supplemented by a folding table upon which were a video display, radio transmitter/receiver,
and other electronic gear that looked out of place in that environment.
"Ah, I see. She'll be wired. Sevarius and I will monitor her from here."
"And by speaking the charm into the microphone, it won't matter how far away she is. The spell will still take effect. But only
use it if something seriously goes wrong. If they try to arrest her, we'll go along with it, but if for example the Hunter loses his
wits and kills her, I don't want to be there."
"What would happen to you if she dies?"
"I'd hate to lose her; good help is so hard to find even with Sevarius' drugs."
"No ... what would happen to you?"
She looked up into his loving and concerned eyes. "We don't want to find out, which is why I am relying on you. My life could
be in your hands, Jericho."
"And Sevarius' hands," he said with no small amount of anguish. "What if he --"
"Gustav is too smart a man for that. He'd know that if, by accident or design, he let something happen to me, you, my angel of
death would not rest until he'd paid the ultimate price."
"Even revenge wouldn't be worth the loss of you."
"Besides," she said, smiling, "Gustav knows that no one else has both the funding and the moral atmosphere to let him continue
his work along the paths he wishes to pursue. We're a good match, he and I. Even Xanatos, after all, has some regard for
He nodded. "All right. I dislike him, but I do respect him, and if it is your will, I won't object."
"Thank you. Now, it's time I gave the old lizard the tour of the basement here. While I'm doing that, bring Stephanie to the
sub-level just above this. You do know her key phrase?"
"Last night the moon had a golden ring."
"Good. And make sure the tapes are running. I want to be able to go back and see Canmore's face again and again."
February 28, 2001
Sometimes Goliath would intervene in sibling
squabbles. He'd had plenty of practice with the younger gargoyles of Castle
Wyvern, both before and after their thousand-year sleep. But this time, as Elisa and Talon squared off again, he closed
his mouth and let them have it out.
"It's not charity, Derrek! Xanatos owes you big-time! If you sued him for what he did to you and Maggie, you'd get a
hell of a lot more than room and board!"
"What about the people of the Labyrinth? They need us, Elisa! Who's going to look out for them if we keep hiding up
"The gargoyles don't hide up here. They patrol every night. They help as many people as they can, and look out for this
"But those are my people!"
"Don't you get it? They're in more danger because of you!"
He stiffened, his dark fur bristling. "That's a rotten thing to say."
"I know! It is rotten, it sucks, I hate having to say it ... but it's true! Yes, you keep those people safe from the victimization
of the streets, that's great, it really is, but it paints a big target on the Labyrinth for the rest of the psychos out there."
"I can't run out on them."
"Derrek ..." She touched his arm and sighed. "A lot of them want you to go."
"What?!" Tiny sparks frizzed around him, jolting Elisa with static electricity.
"I've talked to them. They're your friends, people down there love you and admire you and appreciate everything you've
done. But they don't want stuff like this to keep happening. And they don't want you, Maggie, the kids, to be hurt. Most of
them really do think it's for the best."
The sincerity in her voice convinced him, and Talon slumped in defeat. "Well what are we supposed to do, then?"
"Goliath told you before, and it's still true, you're family. You're welcome here. Amber would love having her cousins to
play with, and it'd be a relief to have someone up during the day to keep an eye on things."
Talon sighed and looked at his clan.
Maggie, crouched between the twins as they apparently thought that each had gotten the better part of the deal when she'd
divided a cookie between them, smiled encouragingly and with sad hopefulness at her mate. Delilah's face was imploring;
Samson's features weren't terribly expressive and his green-gold eyes were unreadable. Claw seemed happy enough to be
alive and among friends wherever they called home.
"And I bet you'd say that if we wanted to stay with Mom and Dad, we'd be a danger-magnet for them too," he said heavily.
"Looks like we don't have much choice."
"We'll need to commandeer some extra rooms," Elisa said, turning to Goliath. "That's one nice thing about this castle. No
shortage of space."
"I will speak to Xanatos myself," Goliath said.
February 28, 2001
"So," Gustav Sevarius said, "this is
where you keep the Amontillado."
For once, Jericho got it. "Edgar Allen Poe."
"We'll make a literary gargoyle of you yet."
"Are you sure you want that?" Demona asked. "Then he'll understand all those sly insults you dish out."
Stephanie did not speak. She stood with her arms hanging slack at her sides, her eyes unfocused, her lips slightly agape. She
might have been a waxwork, if not for her shallow breathing and the way she moved when ordered.
Sevarius finished his quick inspection of the rooms, glanced over the incantation and waved it away as if his formidable (and
artificially enhanced) eidetic memory had already graven it in stone, and clucked his tongue at Demona.
"That remains to be seen."
"Which is why it's good to have you on hand. You can observe the process personally. Now, both of you stand back. I am
ready to begin."
Demona led Stephanie and urged her to sit in a chair positioned in the center of a pentagram etched on the floor in multi-colored
chalk. A second and larger pentagram took up most of the rest of the available floor space.
Jericho prudently made sure his toe-talons and tail were nowhere near the borders. His heart was drumming with excitement.
Demona was never more beautiful than when she was in control, even now, underlit by eerie purple radiance that turned her
lovely face into a ghoulish mask.
Gustav Sevarius limped to stand by a wall. Despite the scientist's scoffing, Jericho noted that he, too, was well clear of the
With the Grimorum Necronum cradled in the crook of one arm, Demona began her spell. The words were not the Latin that
Jericho had expected but something that sounded even older, a language that might have been rich and complex and powerful
when Latin was only forming.
She smudged a red line of powder on Stephanie's forehead. The young woman did not even blink, did not shift her eyes to
watch. Then Demona swept her arm, casting a shower of the same red powder into the larger pentagram. The candles at each
point sprang simultaneously to life, eliciting a huff of surprise from Sevarius.
Demona's chant intensified. The candle flames grew steady and strong until they were painfully bright to look upon, while the rest
of the room grew dim and clouded.
It didn't look that difficult, but Demona's jaw was tight and perspiration sheened her face. One slip, one wrong syllable, Jericho
was sure, and they would all be in real trouble.
"Nuragath T'chambleau!" she finished triumphantly, and flung a handful of small objects into the pentagram. In the blinding light,
Jericho couldn't make out what they all were, but one seemed to be a small skull like that of a bird or rodent, and another looked
like the stone finger or wing talon of a fractured gargoyle.
A haze formed and began to swirl within the confines of the chalk lines. Bands of greenish smoke stretched out from it, flattening
as they reached the invisible borders, creeping over them like vines, testing, looking for flaws.
Sevarius murmured something that sounded like, "Incredible," and Jericho shushed him, instinctively understanding that any
distractions could prove fatal.
The haze abruptly solidified. Jericho's breath was driven from him in a startled grunt.
"Who has summoned me?"
Even a scowl could not mar the beauty of her face, and a glint of displeasure detracted nothing from her astonishing cat-slit green
eyes. Her skin was like marble, milk-white with smooth veins of grey and black. Her figure was nude perfection, slender as a
dancer's with long sleek legs and high, uptilted breasts.
She was gargoylian in many ways, from the marbled batlike wings folded against her sides to the high clasping arches of her feet,
but she had five fingers and only two toes, and those toes were deeply split and almost cloven, though much more flexible than
And her hair ... by the Dragon, her hair ...!
Green-black coils, rounded at the ends, not tentacles but akin to pseudopodia, masses of them, thick as a graceful woman's
wrists, moving and alive, shifting and alive, tangling over one another like a nest of serpents. They reached to her hips at first but
some extended themselves, again like pseudopodia, questing down her body and across the floor. They glistened, not with slimy
but moist and succulent as the juicy interior of a ripe piece of fruit or a willing female's innermost parts. A cluster of narrower coils,
these no thicker than a pinkie finger, swayed like undersea grass at the juncture of her thighs.
Jericho thought of another reason why Demona hadn't wanted Godiva to be a part of this; one look at the demoness, and Godiva
would have gone into a jealous rage.
"I am Demona. I have summoned you."
"Demona," the demoness said, sounding amused. "I've heard of you."
"And you are T'chambleau?"
"That is one of my names. Not my true name, which will be forever undiscovered by the likes of you, but binding enough to bring
me here. What would you have of me?"
"Two boons." Demona outlined them, careful to state them clearly and with as little room for infernally treacherous loopholes as
T'chambleau's catlike eyes narrowed and then she laughed, the coiling masses of her hair slithering down her back. "Because we
are kin, however distant, I will grant these boons freely and ask nothing of you in return but my release."
"Kin?" Jericho blurted.
Her attention fell on him, caressed him, and he shivered to imagine what those tendrils of snaky hair would feel like entwining his
body ... they would be warm, he knew, and each touch of them would be sensuality itself.
"So very, very long ago," she said, and yes, her hair was wavering toward him, flattening as it contacted the boundaries of the
pentagram as if pressed against a glass wall, "your race and mine shared the same mother-being. Her first lover, a human,
spurned her for bearing children such as myself. She was exiled to a barren island, where she took the stones and made a new
mate, one more to her liking. From their union was sprung the first of the gargoyles."
Demona perked up; this was apparently news to her as well. "I would like to know more of this island, and our first ancestors."
"That would be another boon." T'chambleau's smile revealed sharklike teeth, multiple rows of them. "And you would not like
the price I'd ask."
Jericho had no desire whatsoever to learn what it might be. Fortunately, neither did Demona; after a moment's consideration,
"Very good," T'chambleau said. "We begin. Open the corridor."
Demona picked up a blue stick of chalk and quickly drew two parallel lines linking the larger pentagram to the smaller. Stephanie
did not stir as the demoness moved between the lines to stand before her.
"Aspect seen by day's sun bright, stay unchanged through dark of night," T'chambleau intoned, resting her fingertips on Stephanie's
forehead as if she was about to type a message on a keyboard none of them could see.
At first, the shadow of her arms interfered with Jericho's view, but then it was undeniable. Stephanie's features were changing. Her
hair became a rich wild fall of red, her cheekbones rose to cruel prominence, her body altered itself, and she became an image that
Jericho had only seen in pictures.
Demona drew in a pleased, amazed breath. "Perfect! Now the other."
"Will and spirit recede inside, that another soul may ride." Her hands slid down over Stephanie's face, closing her blank now-green
eyes. She glanced languorously at Demona. "You know the spell of control?"
"And of return?"
"Yes, and of interruption."
"You are ready, then. Now, release me."
"Back to that pentagram first."
"Well, we have to try." T'chambleau grinned maliciously but did as she was bid.
Demona erased the blue chalk corridor and began another chant in that same ancient language. The candles blazed, flared, and then
snuffed out into trailing curls of smoke. The demoness was gone.
February 28, 2001
The book rested on the black table.
The room was dark and quiet. The low murmur of voices and a thin thread of light came under the door, issuing from one of
the other round chambers. In their eagerness to put their plan into motion, Demona and the others had taken Stephanie into the
meditation room and gotten ready to implement the final phase.
And neglected to close the Grimorum Necronum.
It sat there. Open. Mercury-silver ink with a dull-sullen shine in the dimness.
Time ticked over into another day, another month.
Then the silence was disturbed, but only slightly. Only by a faint dry rustle, as of something fibrous being drawn across something
The bookmark slid from the crease between the pages and crumpled on the table.
A page shivered.
Rose a fraction of an inch.
Sank back down.
Rose again, higher and higher, until it trembled on the balancing point standing straight upright.
Fell with a sound like a scratchy sigh.
Then another page turned itself.
Moving swifter now, more surely.
Turning and turning, silvery ink and images of atrocities that would rip the human mind free of its moorings with hurricane force
whipping past, the fan of air from the pages stirring the spill of reddish powder on the floor.
Slowing now ... one final page lifting itself up and over. More than three-fourths of the way through the book, and here the writing
was in a language pre-dating the Druids.
The first letter of the first word shimmered and began to glow.
The second ... the third.
First word now ghoulishly alight in a color that bent the sanity.
Faster and faster, letter after letter and word after word, the incantation on the page came weirdly alive.
A breath of dark mist rose from the open book, churned for a moment above the parchment as if unsure, and then drew itself
together into a wispy but cohesive cloud.
It drifted to the floor and toward the door, flattening and spreading out to pass underneath, an eddy of graveyard fog. It floated
upward, the rungs of the ladder rolling past.
Up and up.
Along a hallway quite unlike the dungeonesque chambers below. Staying low to the floor when called for, rising high to skim the
ceiling when necessary.
People walked by without noticing anything more than a momentary chill, as if they'd gone through a pocket of colder air.
It came to a vent and filtered itself through the grating. Finally reaching its destination, it seeped through a crack and hovered as
Then it spread itself out, so thin that it seemed completely dispersed, and settled over the entire room and its contents.
March 1st, 2001
"Don't bother taking your coat off!" Matt Bluestone
called as he burst through the front doors of the 23rd Precinct and took
the steps like he was trying to fall and break his neck.
Elisa, who had no intention of taking her coat off until she was inside where it was warm, watched her partner's reckless
plunge down the ice-slick stairs with a mental wince of anticipation. A box of donuts in one hand and cardboard cupholder
of lattes in the other wouldn't have let her do anything to help except throw breakfast in his direction.
"What is it?"
"You are not going to believe this!"
She groaned; whenever Matt said that, he was usually right. "What happened?"
"It's your old boyfriend Jason. He's holed himself up in the Channel 11 Action News studio. Hostage situation. Says he's got
a bomb. Says if he doesn't get what he wants, he'll blow the whole place to bits and the news crew with it."
He reached her side and grabbed the box of donuts before she could drop it. The coffee didn't fare so well; Morgan's double-tall
skinny with a shot of caramel took a dive and sprayed Elisa's ankles.
She saved the rest, but there would be no chance to deliver because Matt was pulling her around toward her car. That was too
bad; the swing and night shift cops needed and liked their coffee even more than their 8:00 A.M. counterparts.
"What does he want?"
"Not saying yet. This is one major mess we've got going here, and Chavez wants us to see if we can get through to him."
"I don't think that'll help. He's gone around the bend, Matt. Remember what Robyn told us? Remember those paintings? He's
been getting obsessed with Demona all over again and something finally gave. He's hating all gargoyles now, so he's sure not going
to listen to me!"
"You know what the captain would say."
"Yeah. Tough noogies, Maza, you're elected."
"I told you to quit watching Nick at Nite."
"Hold the coffee. I'll drive!"
As she did, Matt briefed her on the situation. There wasn't much more to it than they already knew; Jason Canmore, aka The
Hunter, had shown up at Channel 11 a half-hour ago, armed to the teeth and crazy as hell.
"Apparently, he's making like Ishmael," Matt said. "Got a story to tell, and people are going to listen if he has to strap them
down and shout it in their faces."
"Oh, no!" Elisa moaned.
"Yeah, he might be planning to out you."
"If he is, why are we rushing over there? So he can accuse me to my face on live national television? What am I supposed
"Deny it? Admit it? Denounce him as a nutcase? How should I know?"
"I don't think this is a good idea."
"Too late, we're here."
The usual media throng had some extra flair to it this time because the drama involved their own. Channel 11 staff strutted
around importantly, lording it over correspondents from other stations, not seeming to realize or care that their co-workers
still inside were in dire risk of life and limb.
As she got out of the car, Elisa spotted Officer Rick Alvarez arguing with a blond woman.
"Elisa, thank God!" Robyn hurried over. "Ye have t' do something! Ye have t' help Jason!"
"That's what we're here to do. What does he want? Have you talked to him?"
"He'll na talk t'me," Robyn said, nearly frantic. "All he'd say was that he was doin' what had t' be done, for Jon an' for all
"And we just found out he's demanding to see someone," Rick added.
"Yeah?" Elisa asked with dread.
"Dominique Destine." Rick was in the know about a lot of the truth, but Demona's daytime identity wasn't one of them.
Elisa wasn't sure whether to be more relieved or alarmed. "Has anyone been in touch with her?"
"Yeah, and it went out on the news just ten minutes ago. Apparently she's on her way over."
Robyn, Matt, and Elisa all automatically looked at the sky. It was a sleet-white dome over the city, but the frosty bright ball
that marked the sun was low in the west, and the daylight was already leaching away.
"This ... this could be bad," Elisa said. "He's going to try and kill her."
"Dominique Destine?" Rick was incredulous. "Why?"
"Long story. But Rick, you gotta believe me, you cannot let her go in there. Jason's --" she glanced at Robyn and out of
consideration didn't say the first word that sprang to mind. "Disturbed right now."
"Och, ye needn't gild it. My brother's lost his mind." Robyn looked anxiously at Elisa. "An' it's worse than I told ye before ...
it's na just the paintings and the dreams. He ... one night, I heard sounds from his room ... like he was wi' someone ... only
terrible, terrible, sounds ..."
"What are you saying?" Elisa asked, pale.
"I got so worried that I kicked the door in," Robyn confessed. "An' ... saw a gargoyle leavin'. I didna get a close look at
her, but ..."
"Oh, man." Matt slapped his own cheek and curled his hand down to cup his chin. "You don't think ... Demona?"
"I dinna know what t' think!"
A flurry of motion and activity made them all turn. A limo had arrived on the scene, and Elisa couldn't miss the telltale
battleflag-red of Dominique's hair as she got out into a surrounding crowd of police and negotiators.
"She's here! She's actually here!" Elisa just flat-out could not believe it. Was she hoping a sniper was going to pick Jason
off and everything would be wrapped up before sunset? No way; even if things ended fast here, Dominique would still be facing
hours of interviews.
People surged backward from the main doors as they opened and Jason Canmore emerged. Robyn uttered a soft, miserable
cry as she saw her brother. In the week since the attack on the Labyrinth, Jason looked to have lost twenty pounds and paid
no attention to hygiene.
Unshowered, unshaved, his clothes hanging on him, a fever-brightness in his eyes, he pushed Travis Marshall in front of him
like a human shield. The barrel of a gun was pushed tight against the base of the newsman's skull.
"I see ye, Demon!" Jason yelled. "Ye didna give me what I wanted!"
Elisa moved closer to Dominique as she engaged in hushed, hurried conversation with one of the negotiators. She seemed to be
confused and afraid, a convincing act that fooled everyone but Elisa.
"Jason," the negotiator called. "Ms. Destine is here. You wanted to talk to her."
"Aye, that's her. Ye dinna know what yer dealin' with! She's one o' them! A gargoyle!" Even Jason, on the edge as he was,
didn't miss the universal exchange of dubious glances. "I know she doesna look like one!" he said furiously. "Na by day! But
just ye wait! Wait an' watch! When the sun sets, she'll change! Ye'll see for yerselves! Sorcery makes her human by day!"
Another conversation; Elisa got close enough to hear Dominique, the very picture of concern, say, "-- if you think it'll help; that
poor man, my God, how tortured he must be, but are you sure it's safe?"
"It'll break the delusion," the negotiator told her. "And then we shouldn't have any more problems. So you'll stay?"
"Yes, of course. I don't know why he's fixated on me ..."
Elisa could not believe her ears. She pushed right up to Dominique, and the other woman's eyes flicked at her with hidden
"Jason! Ms. Destine is going to wait right here with me. It'll be sunset in just a few more minutes. Once you see that there's
some sort of a mix-up here, will you let the hostages go?"
"Ye're the one that's goin' t' see! See her for what she is! What game are ye playin', Demon?"
"That's what I'd like to know," Elisa said in an undertone meant for Dominique's ears only.
"It'll all be over!" Jason ranted on. "Yer tricks willna save ye! They'll see ye for what ye are! Ye'll be on television coast-to-
coast! Yer secret will be out and ye'll ne'er be able t' hide again! Then it willna be just me, but hunters all over the world!
They'll come for ye! They'll quit callin' my brother, my family lunatics and know that we were the only sane ones!"
Through it all, Dominique was artfully making herself appear on the verge of tears at this hostile, insane, and unwarranted tirade
by a stranger, but Elisa wasn't fooled for a second.
"An' when they've finished with ye, they'll find him an' shoot him down in the street like a cur! Did ye think ye'd get away wi'
it? He near killed my brother!"
Something flickered in Dominique's eyes, a sudden flash of hate that no one else noticed.
Elisa didn't know Matt had come up behind her until she heard him suck in a gasp, the exact same thing having just come to him
in an explosion of realization.
They looked at each other, mentally kicking themselves for not having seen it before. So caught up in their certainty that the
Quarrymen were just covering up for a scheme-gone-wrong, neither of them had even considered the possibility that the attack
had been the real thing, never even asked for a description of this alleged gargoyle.
"Oh, we dropped the ball on that one, partner," Matt muttered.
Jason fell silent as the sun sank lower and lower. Tension spread through the crowd like ripples in a pond; no one really believed
that the stunning CEO of one of the city's leading businesses was about to sprout wings, but Jason's anticipation and apprehension
Cameras were humming, trained on the ragged Hunter and the nervous woman.
Elisa didn't like this, not at all. Dominique had to be up to something. She nudged Matt and gestured discreetly skyward. He
understood at once and started taking casual little peeks to make sure Jericho wasn't waiting on a ledge somewhere for dusk to
set him free so he could swoop down to the rescue.
The lowest edge of the frosty white ball disappeared. Some of the clouds were thinner there, letting pale gold beams shine through.
Then those vanished and the shadows grew even longer.
Elisa, watching Dominique intently, noted a momentary tightening of her limbs, a grimace. But that was all.
Elektra had taught the rest of the clan a bit about detecting illusions; Elisa tried to put the lessons to the test and came up empty.
She surreptitiously prodded her foot behind Dominique; illusion didn't fool the sense of touch; but encountered no tail.
"Something wrong, Detective?" Dominique's voice was low.
"I don't know how you're doing this," Elisa replied in an equally low tone, "but --"
Undeniably past sunset now.
Jason shrieked. He shoved Travis Marshall away from him, the reporter landing in a sprawl.
Robyn screamed, "Jason, no!" as he started to swivel the gun he'd had to Marshall's neck at Dominique.
Elisa tackled her, partly to get her out of the line of fire and partly to see if she could feel wings when she grappled. No wings.
Then scores of people were moving and crying out at once, and by the time Matt helped her up, Jason had been taken down,
sobbing incoherently as his whole world and purpose went smashing into pieces.
"It seems he was mistaken," Dominique said, and with no one there to hear her but Elisa and Matt, she said it smugly.
"If I find out you and Jericho are behind this --"
"You'll what? Even if we are, what's it done but get two madmen off the streets? Keeping your clan safe? If anything, you
should be thanking us."
She angrily shrugged off Matt's offer of help and put on a shaken, traumatized face for the benefit of the reporters that finally
burst through and began bombarding her with questions.
March 1st, 2001
"Snow t'night, by the scent of the air," Hudson
said, rubbing the top of Bronx's head. "Will this winter never end?"
The younger members of the clan didn't stop to answer him, jostling each other as they headed for the stairs. The cold might not
bother them much, but a day spent immobile as it soaked into their stone skin made them all eager for the toasty-warm common
room waiting below.
Goliath stood back to let them pass. "Summer will come, old friend. Until then, if you chose to roost within --"
"Pah!" Hudson spat. "I'm not that old yet!"
Delilah turned her head slightly, her white hair tumbling fetchingly over one shoulder, and smiled at Hudson as if they shared an
amusing secret before following the others downstairs. Hudson watched her go, wearing an odd little smile of his own that
disappeared in a gruff cough when he caught Goliath's eye.
"What are ye looking at?"
"Hrooo," Bronx waggled his big head side to side and grinned in that doggoyle way.
"Nothing," Goliath said in all innocence. "Nothing at all."
Hudson snorted and slapped at his upper arms to get the blood flowing.
"Yo! Goliath!" Brooklyn popped his head up. "Come see this! You're not going to believe it!"
As he and Hudson entered the common room, which was so well-heated that almost-unpleasant tingles raced over their skin,
Amber came bounding over to him. She went from floor to Elektra's lap to Broadway's shoulder to the back of the couch, then
leaped with her wings spread. Goliath caught her and spun her around, ending up holding her above his head. Her hair dangled
into his face.
"Zaza teevee!" she exclaimed delightedly.
The rest of the clan, the newly-expanded clan that also included Samson and the mutates, were crowded around the big-screen
"This is weird," Broadway said, so absorbed that an orange was clutched in his hand with the peel unbroken.
"We're back, live outside Channel 11, with Dominique Destine," a pretty Asian-American woman said.
"What?!" Goliath and Hudson blurted in unison as the camera swung to the right and there was Dominique.
"Impossible!" Hudson added.
"Illusion?" Goliath asked Aiden.
"I don't think so," Aiden replied, so close to the screen that her petite nose was almost brushing it. "Most illusions don't show up
on film. But she's a lot better sorceress than me."
"What's this all about?" Goliath demanded the room at large.
Talon quickly filled him in. "And, damn it, we've all seen her transform before. It's painful and it's noisy. This time, she did flinch,
but only a little."
"Zaza teevee," Amber said again. She had scrambled down Goliath and was sitting with the twins. Chortling in glee, she rocked
back on her training-pants-clad rump and gripped her large feet.
"Elisa's there, she and Matt," Maggie said. "I'm not sure who had the bigger look of surprise when Dominique didn't change,
Elisa or Jason Canmore."
A pan of the crowd showed Elisa; Amber squealed. She was standing apart from Matt, who was trying to keep reporters from
mobbing Robyn Canmore. Her expression was one that Goliath had seen many times before, that grimly determined I'm-going-to-get-to-the-bottom-of-this-if-it-kills-me frown.
"This is going to foul up the Quarrymen for sure," Lex said. "One ringleader in the hospital -- wonder if Castaway gets TV
privileges in Intensive Care? -- and another publicly exposed as a nut."
"Jason thought Jericho was involved," Angela mused. "But ... that doesn't seem like something he'd do."
"Gut a guy in front of a few hundred people? Sure it does," Brooklyn said, rubbing his neck in remembrance of the time Jericho
had tried to throttle him and come too close to succeeding. "He's about as subtle as a train wreck."
"No, Angela's right," Goliath said. "If Demona were behind that attack, there would have been more to it. She wouldn't have
sent Jericho in alone. It must be a mistake."
"Could Demona have found a spell to allow her to change form at will?" Elektra wondered.
Aiden chewed her thumb. "Maybe ... she'd have to get around Puck's spell somehow and that wouldn't be easy, but there
might be a way."
"So what so we do about it?" Broadway asked.
"Is there anything we need to do?" Maggie countered. "Didn't this put an end to the problem?"
"I don't like it," Goliath said. "There's more to this than what we've seen. We're missing something important."
"We should talk to Demona and Jericho," Gabriel suggested.
"It won't help," Angela said, and Elektra seconded her.
"He's changed from when you knew him, brother. Demona's hold on him is complete. Do not think that because he was once
your second-in-command, he would listen to you or help you now."
"You've seen for yourself what Demona's capable of," Brooklyn said. "Remember Ventura? Demona made her what she was,
and she's had a lot more time to work on Jericho."
"Like it or not," Goliath said, "we must wait and see what happens next before we decide what, if anything, we need to do."
"That's one of the things I miss about being the bad guy," Xanatos said as he walked in. "Ah, I take it you've seen the news."
"What do you mean?" Lex asked. "What do you miss?"
Xanatos leaned against the wall and hooked one ankle over the other in a pose of casual relaxation. "Think about it. Villainy is an
active role. Heroism is a reactive one."
"That's not ..." Brooklyn trailed off. "Well, okay, maybe, but ..."
"Yeah," Broadway said. "We go out on patrol, but if there's no bad guys doing stuff, we don't have anything to do."
"What do ye think of all this, then?" Hudson asked Xanatos.
"Not sure what to think. Both Demona and the Quarrymen have been quiet for so long, it wouldn't be that surprising if there was a
big blowout looming, but this doesn't seem like what we would have expected. Too anticlimactic by half. I agree with Goliath. We're
missing an important piece of the puzzle."
"We must be on our guard," Goliath said. "I don't want anyone patrolling alone tonight. We should stay in groups of two or three." He
looked from one face to the next, aware of the need to tread cautiously.
"Um ..." Aiden shyly raised her hand.
"About patrols ... Lex and I really have to work on the new Xantasia program pretty soon," she said apologetically, as if expecting a
"Very well. Talon, you and Maggie will probably wish to patrol near the Labyrinth?"
Talon nodded, his eyes fixed on Goliath.
"I shall take Midtown," Gabriel declared. "Elektra, Broadway, are you with me?"
Brooklyn's beak crinkled in annoyance and he hastily spoke up. "Angela and I will patrol dockside."
Even though it was understood that they would, Goliath turned to Samson and Claw. "Will you remain here with Bronx, and
protect our home?"
"Yes," Samson said.
Claw looked less than thrilled, but he still wasn't up to top fighting condition and didn't protest.
"What about the rest of us, lad?" Hudson asked, and to Goliath it seemed like he was deliberately not looking at Delilah.
"I am going to contact Elisa," Goliath said.
"Alone?" Gabriel cut in.
"Hudson, the park is yours." He suppressed a smile. "Delilah hasn't had much occasion to patrol, so why not take her with you?"
"Goliath can handle it," Brooklyn told Gabriel.
"He said none of us should go alone."
"He'll be with Elisa."
"That isn't the same."
"He knows what he's doing."
"Uh, one of us could come with you instead of going to Midtown," Broadway said to Goliath. "If you want."
"There is no need for that," Goliath said. "But all of you be careful. And mind the weather. Hudson expects snow tonight, and he's
"Aye, when ye've as many battle-aches as I've earned, ye get the knack," Hudson muttered.
Delilah giggled and looked at him shiningly.
"Then let's get going," Angela said. "I wouldn't want to get caught out in a blizzard by day, and we should turn the eggs when we
The various groups split off to their various tasks, and soon Goliath's only company was Xanatos.
"Interesting," Xanatos said.
Goliath exhaled rumblingly. "Difficult."
"Too many cooks?"
"Talon and Gabriel are both accustomed to being leaders in their own right. Blending us all into one clan is going to be more of a
challenge than I thought."
"Some conflict brewing between Gabriel and Brooklyn, if I'm not mistaken."
Goliath rumbled again. "I fear Brooklyn feels his status is threatened, both as second-in-command and with Angela. But I shall not
interfere in the personal lives of my clan."
"Oh? Then that wasn't a little matchmaking that I saw?"
Goliath eyed him coldly, which only made Xanatos smirk.
March 1st, 2001
Deep beneath the Nightstone Building, Jericho
tucked a blanket more snugly around Demona. She lay limp and unresponsive,
breathing slow and even. Her eyes were open and fixed, and every so often she would go into a flurry of blinking before resuming
her blank stare.
He barely noticed when Gustav Sevarius, after relaying all of the information that had happened during the day, limped from the
room to make his slow and unsteady trip up the ladder to the sub-level above.
The tiny microcamera and transmitter concealed in Stephanie's collar were still sending their images. It seemed the worst had
passed. The Hunter, his beliefs stripped rudely away, had been taken away in restraints. He was a broken husk of a man, reduced
to semi-coherent tearful babbling as they carted him off.
Jericho wasn't privy to Demona's thoughts, but he knew her well enough to be certain of the smug amusement she was taking, not
only from the Hunter's reaction but from the steaming and impotent suspicious wrath of Elisa Maza.
How she would laugh when she got home to him! Laugh until she cried.
In the meantime, it clearly tickled her to stay there among the humans by night, answering their questions, expressing dismay that this
terrible thing had had to happen, wondering aloud what she had done to become the object of that man's obsessive delusions. Letting
the humans comfort her and assure her, thank her for her kindness and willingness to help, congratulating her on her bravery.
All the while, she would be capering with perverse joy on the inside.
He doubted he would need to use the emergency incantation at all, the one that would return her full awareness to her own body.
Soon, she pleaded exhaustion and returned to the limousine. Carl, her dutiful and patient chauffeur, opened the door for her and
they began the trip back to Nightstone.
Jericho waited impatiently, marking her progress through the building, until at last he heard her descending the ladder.
He met her at the base of it, and such pleased triumph beamed from her that it was all he could do to keep from sweeping her up
in his arms and raining proud kisses on her lips. Only the awareness that she was not wearing her own body stopped him. He had
no desire to kiss Stephanie Greene, even if she was wearing Dominique's visage.
"The look on his face ..."
"Beyond compare! I've viewed the tape, and it is as if you can pinpoint the exact moment his very soul is torn in two!"
"And did you see her?"
"Mad enough to chew brambles and spit flax!"
"Sunset was a problem, though," she said, crossing the room to look down at herself. "When I shifted, I did feel it. Not as bad as
usual, but I may have shown some reaction."
"They will never believe him now."
"And it will drive that Maza woman crazy trying to figure out how I did it." A huge yawn made her reel on her feet. "But I am so
tired ... all I want now is my own body back, a sandwich, and a nap."
"That's all?" he said in mock disappointment.
"A short nap," she amended. "Followed by a swim? You and I, upstairs? It's beginning to snow and we can watch through the
He couldn't turn down such an offer, and stood back as she began the spells of reversal.
Her body on the bed moved and stretched, as Stephanie's disguised form slumped into a mindless daze. Demona rose from the
cot, accepted his welcoming kiss and responded with one of her own that made the tip of his tail curl, then surveyed Stephanie.
"I'm not unattractive as a human," she said after some contemplation.
"But even lovelier like this," he said, embracing her from behind and dipping his head to nibble all along her wing struts.
She squirmed lasciviously, pushing the base of her tail against his loincloth. "Later, my love, later ... I should release poor Stephanie.
She's served me well, though she'll never know it."
"She's waited this long ..."
"And this is hardly the place --"
"It's got a kinky torture-chamber atmosphere going for it."
"Mmm, you're incorrigible, and I like it, but later, darling!"
"Oh, very well." He let her go.
The second spell was a simple thing to undo, and Stephanie's features melted back to her usual, less spectacular prettiness. At
Demona's direction, the woman's eyes became slightly more focused, and she departed without a word.
Demona groaned in relief. "Done. Come along, my love. I want to look in on our egg."
He followed her, especially enjoying the view as she climbed the ladder. They ascended to the sub-level, where by the sounds
of it Godiva was engaging in her nightly romp with the clones. The few humans that worked down here, operating on the same
terms as submariners, were programmed not to pay any attention.
"It won't be much longer," Demona said. "I set the growth tube so that one day roughly equals a year. The hatching should happen
by the end of the week."
"So soon," he marveled.
"Wonderful, isn't it? I know that it shouldn't bother me of all people to wait, but oh, Jericho, I've waited so long for something like
this! You are a perfect son, but I sometimes regret that I never knew you as a child. Though, if I had, if history had happened
differently, I'd have you as a son but not a mate, and that would be a shame."
"An unthinkable shame!"
"But it doesn't matter, because I have you now, and we will have our own family soon."
He hugged her. "Our own, yes, all ours!"
They neared the door, and Demona paused, looking troubled. "Something's not right ..."
"Look!" She pointed down.
Black smoke swirled along the tile, its slow movement making Jericho think of ink dripped into water.
"A fire?" Even as he said it, he knew it couldn't be right; smoke was hot, smoke was supposed to rise, and as it eddied around his
toe-talons, it was cool.
"It's coming from ..." Demona couldn't finish, staring aghast at the door to the lab where the growth tube was kept. The smoke was
issuing from under it, even oozing through the cracks along the sides and top and then rolling down to join the rest on the floor.
"The egg!" Jericho cried. He sprang past Demona, kicking up lazy black clouds.
The door was accessed by a keypad, but in his urgency he tapped all the wrong numbers. It beeped reproachfully at him and flashed
a red light.
"Let me!" Demona punched in all the right numbers, and got exactly the same beep-and-flash. "Someone's changed the code!"
"Then let me!" Heedless of hurting himself, he slammed his claws into the sheet metal and dug in for a grip. Bracing his feet firmly,
teeth and jaw clenched, he pulled with all of his strength.
Just when he thought all of his innards were going to rupture from the strain, the door tore loose with a horrendous squealing crash.
A wall of dark mist, woven with threads of yellow and white, fell out on him. Even as he braced for a crushing impact, it parted
around him like water and coursed harmlessly past. It had no scent, no taste.
Then something solid struck his leg. He lashed out, hit whatever it was, and a human body tumbled head over heels out of the mist.
It was one of the scientists, a former student of the great Anton Sevarius himself, who had been assigned to monitor the egg's
progress. But now the man was dead, rigid and chalk-pale, his expression that of one who had died in the grip of icy terror.
"It could be gas!" Demona warned. "I'll go first."
"It settles," Jericho said, seeing that as the mist flowed into the hall, the churning darkness inside the room sank to waist-height.
Feeling no adverse effects, he nonetheless held his breath as she preceded him inside.
The first thing they found, they found by stepping on it. Another human was crumpled on the floor, a woman, arm outstretched. The
scientists had been by the door, trying to get it open, when death came for them.
The room was utterly without light, which just should not be; the circuits were linked and had many fail-safes. The computers were
off, the medical equipment --
"The egg!" Demona ran to the growth tube and pressed her face to the tinted glass.
Jericho plunged after her, his heart in his throat. If everything else in here had lost power ... that would mean ... that would mean ...
Demona shrieked in surprise and began trying to open the tube. But the electronic seal held fast.
Jericho saw something down at the bottom of the tube. Thick, curved shell, cracked into many pieces. And something else at the top.
"Break it!" she commanded.
He scooped up a metal-framed chair and swung. The glass smashed with ridiculous ease, dousing him in a flood of nutritive fluid.
Demona shoved past him and crawled halfway inside, breaking off more shards as she pushed through them, not caring as they
His eardrums rang with an outraged screech that wasn't Demona's.
She backed out of the broken tube holding something struggling against her chest. Jericho didn't get a good look at first, only that it
was red and livid.
"He's alive! Jericho, it's a boy, he's our son, he's alive!"
March 1st, 2001
Back in the locked unit, didn't it just figure?
Harry the Hammer was a quick healer, so aside from a cast on his left arm -- compound fracture of the radius and ulna -- and
some fading bruises, he was feeling great.
Mentally, they told him he was "decompensated." And to make it better, they shot him full of Haldol.
But it didn't stop him thinking. Didn't stop him from knowing the truth. He just kept quiet about it, because they'd only think he
needed a med increase.
The really funny part was that they believed it when he claimed to have no memory of anything that had gone on that night.
As if he hadn't been given shock treatments enough times when he was younger to build up a tolerance. True, the jolt from the
hammer hadn't been as refined as what he'd been used to, a lot more of a raw burst, but it didn't matter.
He remembered everything.
Well, not counting the parts when he'd been unconscious. He had no idea, for instance, how he'd ended up in the hospital.
But the rest? Total recall.
Whether he wished he did or not.
That was his cross to bear. Sometimes he thought it would be easier if he really was insane. If he really did have partial amnesia
of the events of the other night.
J.C. couldn't pull strings to get him out this time. J.C. was in this very hospital, several floors away and even if he was able to see
visitors, Harry knew they weren't going to let a patient from the psych ward go up and say hi.
So here he was.
Private room, not strapped down but with minimal furnishings to prevent him harming himself or anyone else. The window before
which he now stood was wired-glass with bars on the outside, cutting the view into slivers and diamonds.
He'd been standing there without moving for three hours now, just because it bugged the attendants. Standing and looking up in
the sky. Standing and thinking.
His room had a small television behind a thick plexiglass window, and he'd watched the news while eating his bland and tasteless
supper of so-called chicken-fried steak and boiled red potatoes.
Mr. Splitfoot was up to no good, as usual. Maybe J.C.'s brother had been fooled, maybe everyone else had been fooled, but
Harry knew the truth.
Now it all made sense. Now he knew why J.C. hated the Destine woman. She really wasn't the Devil's Handmaid, she was a
Minion in her own right! A Minion Queen! Oh, evil's face is sweet to see ... but Harry could also see the vile stinking corruption
nestled inside of her, hiding. He had no doubt that the moment she was away from the cameras, she let her human guise slip away
to reveal the devil beneath.
He thought back to his encounter with her. He'd been deceived then, mistaking the work of Lucifer for the work of the Lord
when she had miraculously risen after being shot dead. His own close calls -- she had fired at him and only missed by the grace
of God -- made him shudder.
"Lord," he murmured now, his breath fogging the glass, "Lord, I'm trying to do Your will, but they're so strong, Lord, so strong,
and it's just me. Not complaining or anything, mind You, just making a mention."
Snow fell in great soft flakes, but here and there the clouds were rent to show the pitiless black sky beyond.
"Wish I knew what You wanted from me."
In one of the black patches of sky, a star exploded.
Harry's jaw unhinged.
It boiled in silent slow motion, white-edged seething red and purple and flame-orange.
"It's a sign!" Harry cried, throwing himself to his knees. But that position made neighboring buildings blot out the star, so he jumped
back up. "A sign, praise God, a sign! A light in the sky! A star in the ... uh ... south! A star in the south! What does it mean, Lord?"
The lock thunked and Harry turned to see two burly attendants in the doorway. They looked pissed and out of sorts; the compassion
of anyone entering the psychiatric field usually got burned off after about two years, Harry opined.
"What is it now, Harry?" one of them asked, not really caring what the answer might be, just wanting an excuse to lower the boom
of some punitive punishment.
"Nothing," he said, lowering the arms with which he had been ecstatically reaching Heavenward.
"Then keep it down," the other one snarled, "or we'll strap you down."
March 1st, 2001
"Rayana Fredericson is one of the hottest models
in the world," Elliot DiMauro said defensively. "We need to be accommodating."
"Accommodating!" Maya Gallo sniffed. "Catering to her, you mean!"
"Whatever." He fiddled with the backdrop, checked his lighting.
"And that apparently means doing a photo shoot whenever it's convenient for her, never mind the rest of us."
"Apparently so. You didn't have to stick around."
She uttered a laughlike mirthless sound. "You'd like that, wouldn't you? Just you and the supermodel and the lingerie."
"You say that like it's never happened before."
"Very funny, Elliot."
"I know what this is about. You don't like Rayana."
"Hah! Huh! Me? I don't like her? I beg to differ! She's the one that has something against me. Says I have an annoying voice,
how stupid is that? What's wrong with my voice?"
"It never shuts up?" he suggested.
"Well, if you weren't so busy drooling over her --"
"I see beautiful women in their underwear every day. Besides, if she doesn't like you, you really shouldn't be sticking around.
Jack wants us to make Rayana happy. You heard him. Whatever it takes."
"Yeah, I bet!"
Maya was about to say more when Rayana Fredericson entered the studio with a robe clasped loosely around her million-dollar
bod. Their eyes met and clashed like fencing epees.
Elliot moved in between them on purpose, and started fawning over Rayana. He got her under the lights and in front of the camera,
all the time flattering her, making her preen.
Maya thought she was going to toss her cookies.
The robe came off, and now the million-dollar bod was showcased in a little peach-colored nothing of a teddy. The only item of
jewelry she wore was a fine gold chain supporting a pendant of a scrimshawed ivory marble wrapped in gold wire.
"Rayana, honey," Elliot said, "how about taking off the necklace?"
"I can't do that."
"It doesn't really --"
"I said I can't do that!" she snapped.
Elliot raised his hands placatingly. "Okay, okay, let's try a few shots with the necklace first, then."
Maya, disgusted, went out into the main office. It was deserted, dark, snow ticking against the windows.
Admiring the scene, she was looking in just the right direction to see the burst of distant color. Because she was well-educated
and had diverse interests, she knew what she was seeing. Far away and long ago, a star had gone supernova, and the light had
only just now reached Earth.
"Elliot!" she called, wanting him to come take a picture.
He answered with a startled, gibbering yell that was almost a scream.
Close on the heels of that came an agonized cry that turned into a bloodthirsty howl.
Maya ran toward the studio as things started crashing over. Before she got there, Elliot came flying out the door like someone had
jabbed him in the butt with a hot poker, arms and legs pinwheeling wildly, mouth yawed in a horrified yelp.
She ducked but not fast enough, and they tumbled across the room, only stopping when they slammed into the wall beside Jack's
"Ow, ow," Maya said, fighting to get out from under Elliot. She froze as she saw what stepped out of the studio.
It was still recognizably Rayana Fredericson, but only if you knew what you were looking for.
The haughty supermodel face that had graced the covers of nearly every fashion mag in the U.S. was now tinted a rusty burnt-orange,
the eyes glittering red from beneath a plated forehead better suited to a Klingon. Blunt black devil-horns poked through Rayana's hair.
Her body had undergone the most serious change. Once the angular-bony-willowy-leggy type, Rayana had thickened and become
solidly muscular, like a female weightlifter. Vestigial bat-wings had sprouted from her shoulderblades.
Shreds of peach-colored silk fluttered from spiked black armor, as if the outfit had appeared under the teddy and tore it apart. Her
metal-shod boots were made to fit feet shaped like oversized cloven hooves.
She held a short-handled axe in one hand, and hefted it with deadly intent as she advanced on Maya and Elliot.
March 2nd, 2001
Jericho brought in a tray, heavy with food,
and smiled at the sight greeting his eyes.
Demona was on her side in the center of the bed, curled around Damien with one wing draped over him like a blanket. She looked up.
"Oh, Jericho, he's adorable!"
He set the tray on the nightstand and lowered himself onto the bed. As Demona hungrily sat up to reach for a thick sandwich stuffed
with slices of rare roast beef, he got his first really good look at their son.
"Damien," he said.
He was much bigger than Jericho had expected; with no experience with hatchlings, he'd been prepared for something tiny and
helpless as a human infant. But Damien was already larger than little Amber, and seemed very well-developed.
On first appearance, he took after his biological father. His skin was a deep maroon, a shade darker than Brooklyn's, and the twin
horns that swept back from his brow ridges were also Brooklyn's. His face pushed forward prominently, though not into a beak. His
wings, almost black on the outsides, had three small talons.
His hair was Angela's, dark sable and already quite long. His tail was tipped with a point like an arrowhead. He was awake but quiet,
watching Jericho with unsettling directness.
The most unusual things about him were his limbs. At elbow and knee, he was double-jointed in the literal sense, with two joints
stacked right atop each other. And instead of elbow and knee spurs that went up like most gargoyles, his were incredibly long, flattish
and downward-curved, tapering. They rested along his shins and the outsides of his forearms like greaves and vambraces. They were
covered with a fine coating of what looked like a stag's antler-velvet.
Jericho fingered one of the spurs and Damien twitched away. "What is this?"
Demona swallowed a big bite. "I think those come from his paternal grandsire. I remember a crimson female, whose mate was called
'Dirk' by the humans, because he had knee-and elbow-blades like this. Look. When he bends these joints, the others are locked, and
the blades stay flat against his limbs. But when he bends these ones ... the blades lock out stiffly. I once saw 'Dirk' knee-drop onto an
armored man's chest, and the tips of the blades came out through his kidneys."
"What happened down there? He wasn't supposed to hatch --"
"It doesn't matter," she interrupted, dangling a sliver of beef over Damien's mouth until the hatchling gnashed at it. "An error in
programming the tube, that's all. We were in time. It could have been worse, terrible, tragic, but it wasn't and now everything is
going to be fine."
"The mist --"
"Jericho," she said warningly.
He subsided, though he didn't like it. "But he's all right?"
"Big and strong and healthy."
"What about the lab?"
"I sent a mop-up team." She fished out another piece of meat. "Don't worry about it."
Damien caught her wrist and chomped at the offering, and when it was gone tried for her finger, drawing blood. Demona laughed
and tickled his tummy, and he bit at her again.
"Fierce little fellow," she crooned.
He growled at her, his eyes glowing.
"Awww!" she gushed.
March 2nd, 2001
"It had to be a hallucination."
"Shared hallucination?" Maya shook her head. "No way. No way, Elliot. What we saw was real."
"Oh, come on! Rayana Fredericson is not some sort of werewolf!"
The transformation, whatever it was, had only lasted a few seconds. Plenty long enough for the demonic figure to close in with the
axe, raising it like she was ready to split their skulls.
Then, as Maya tried to get her petrified muscles to obey her and move, everything had changed. The figure was Rayana in lingerie
again, Rayana doing a slow dizzy swoon to the carpet.
Maya had kept a close eye on her as she got up, made sure Elliot was all right (semi-conscious and groaning unintelligible sleep-talk),
and rushed for the phone on Finch's desk. The cops and EMTs had come and gone, tentative diagnosis of Rayana being dehydration
and low blood sugar (model's malady, one of them had called it), and by the time they were done with her, Elliot was on his feet and
making sense again.
Neither of them mentioned what they'd seen ... or thought they'd seen ... until they were alone again, hours later after all the activity
had come to an end.
Then Maya had started right in, but Elliot seemed determined to deny it. Finally, his effort to settle the matter had taken them into the
darkroom despite their exhaustion and punchiness from nerves and lack of sleep.
Now he pulled the photos from the trays and hung them on a line in the dim reddish light.
The first several pictures on the roll were his usual artful work, making good use of lighting and technique to make Rayana appear
even more gorgeous than usual. Then came one of her looking as if she'd just bitten into something rancid, and the rest of the
pictures were ...
"When I fell, it must have damaged the camera," Elliot said, but that sounded like grasping at straws to Maya. Even while sailing
headlong across the outer Blush office, he'd had the presence of mind to tuck the camera close to his body and roll to protect it.
"How do you explain this, then?" She indicated a wobbly orange-red smudge in one of the last pictures. The background, obviously
Elliot's studio, was in perfect focus. The smudge completely covered where Rayana should have been.
"Like I said. Damaged the camera."
"You couldn't take her picture. Once she started to change. They don't photograph."
"The hell it is!" She paused. "And I mean that literally. She turned into something, Elliot. Something inhuman."
"She's a supermodel!"
"She threw you twenty yards like you were a football! The woman is possessed!"
He wouldn't discuss it with her anymore, tearing down the photos and running the defective ones through the shredder. Grudgingly,
Maya let it go.
The next morning, she would open the paper to find an article about a fire and riot that had taken place at the Model Cafe, the same
place from which she and Finch had once stolen Nina's fur bikini from its place of unappreciated dishonor.
According to witnesses, though their stories were dismissed as the result of alcohol and smoke inhalation, three of the five models
present to donate belongings to the cafe's collection suddenly "turned into monsters" just long enough to cause a panic.
On another page was a brief blurb about the live-in lover of yet another model, who had taken a high dive from a fortieth-story
apartment ... at almost exactly the same time the riot was starting ... at almost exactly the same time she and Elliot had been about
to be reduced to coleslaw.
And only bare seconds after the nova had blossomed in the night sky ...
March 2nd, 2001
Castle Wyvern, and indeed the entire Aerie
Building, shook from the force of the scream.
Goliath and Brooklyn, both recognizing Angela's voice even contorted as it was by horror, reached the rookery first. She came
out the door as if shot from a cannon, hair streaming, eyes wild and red, claws hooked for battle.
Neither of them could get anything sensible out of her. It took both of them to hold her while Delilah, Aiden, and Elektra stumbled
all over each other trying to explain what had happened.
When the meaning sank in, Goliath rattled the building again with an outraged roar. Brooklyn was too aghast to do anything but
stare at the other females.
By now, the entire castle was roused and gathering in the hall, where once not so long ago they'd all waited eagerly to hear each
announcement of successfully-delivered eggs. But the news that one was missing, gone without a trace, was not met with celebration.
Aiden's first attempt at divination failed because she was crying so hard she couldn't cast a spell. Alex, upset because everyone
else was upset, fared little better. Broadway tried his earnest best to look for clues, but turned up nothing.
Elisa tried ordering everyone out of the rookery until she could get somebody over with a forensics kit, but rampaging maternal
instincts made even Elektra snarl at her, so she relented. It was nearly dawn anyway, and the detectives could work around statues
in the rookery if need be.
"I know who it was," Angela said just before sunrise. It was the first clear thing she'd said since discovering only one egg where she
was sure she'd left two. "That bitch! That bitch Ventura!"
March 5th, 2001
"Nothing," Elisa said, dropping a fan of forensics
reports on the desk.
Xanatos balled a fist as if he'd dearly like to hit something, then by strength of will made himself relax it. "My people haven't
come up with anything either."
He shook his head. "He, Aiden, and Owen have done nothing else for the past three nights. This mystery defeats even their
abilities. I hate this! My security's been breached and I can't figure out how!"
"I'd hope you would be more concerned about Angela and Brooklyn," Elisa said hotly. "Not to mention the rest of the eggs,
and the safety of everyone else in the castle."
"I am. We've stepped up security." He curled his fist again and banged it on the edge of his desk. "Damn! If I'd only put
cameras in the rookery, but who would have thought ...?"
"Whoever it was must have passed some cameras!"
"I have reviewed every inch of tape and come up with nada. None of the defenses showed any sort of intrusion, and Aiden
swears that her wards have been undisturbed."
"Angela's still convinced it's Ventura. All that stuff about wanting her life back, wanting her mate, it'd make sense for her to try
and make off with an egg and could explain why only Angela's was taken. And Ventura has those freaky mental powers they
gave her at the Institute."
"But Aiden says that Ventura registered on the wards."
"But this time she wasn't coming to kill."
"Eggnapping would still fall under my definition of hostile intent."
"Whatever ... could she have done it?"
Xanatos rubbed his beard fitfully. "It's possible ... we know so damn little about what she can do! Someone like T.J., for
instance, might be able to get through the electronic security but he operates by shorting things out. He's not invisible to
detection, and that's what we seem to be dealing with here."
"Ventura was designed to be the ultimate assassin, so she may well be able to."
"Assuming it was her, what do we do? After her admittedly spectacular debut last fall, we haven't heard a thing. Until all this
cropped up, I was ready to believe she'd either gotten herself killed, burned herself out somehow, or been recaptured and taken
back to Virginia."
"Me too. But we've got to find out. You and I have both been through what Angela and Brooklyn are going through. When Tony
Dracon had Amber ..." She shook her head. "We have to help."
"We're doing all we can." He sighed. "We might just have to face up to the fact that sometimes, 'all we can' isn't going to be good
March 6th, 2001
Jericho paused at the door, feeling as if he
was betraying Demona just by being here even though he knew he wasn't.
It wasn't as
if he was doing anything wrong. He just had a few questions, that was all.
He tapped, and Gustav Sevarius called for him to enter.
The doctor was on a break, sipping from a cup of coffee and perusing an editorial that, by the header, was arguing whether Jason
Canmore (whose competency hearing was scheduled for tomorrow, the customary 72-hour hold extended by two days to allow
for the weekend) was legitimately insane or another victim of the "gargoyle hysteria" that had been cropping up around Manhattan.
"Absurd," Sevarius said, neatly folding the paper. "Far more likely that his well-publicized breakdown was a factor in creating this
very hysteria that they're going on about."
"You mean the way in which people have claimed to see women changing into gargoyle-like warriors?" Jericho asked.
He loathed this room. Every surface was so reproachfully white or sparklingly chromed that he was afraid to touch anything lest he
leave a mark. An air-freshener Plug-In failed to mask the more pervasive scents of disinfectant and ammonia.
"Although beauty is admired and valued, it is often times also a source of deep-seated distrust," Sevarius said. "Men desire beautiful
women but also fear them, fear their rejection and scorn, belittling their own senses of self-worth. And if a woman is not only beautiful
but powerful --"
"-- the effect is intensified. Canmore's assertions that our sweet lamb was secretly a vicious monster spoke to that undercurrent of
distrust. Even though he was proved wrong."
"You mean that people remember what he said and project it onto others. These models, for instance."
"Is there a one among us who hasn't, if only for a moment, been suspect of a face that could launch a thousand Swimsuit Issues?"
Sevarius chuckled dryly. "I'm rather coming to like you, young Jericho. Rough edges and all."
"Then perhaps I could ask you something, in confidence."
"In confidence?" he repeated, vivid green eyes narrowing shrewdly. "Even from Demona?"
"Yes," Jericho said uncomfortably.
"What is troubling you?"
"It's Damien," he admitted. "Does he seem ... strange to you?"
"Strange ... how so?"
"He's not at all what I thought a hatchling would be like. Not at all how the Magus used to describe the infancy of my rookery
"Well, Damien was hatched under far different circumstances, and into a far different world."
"But that shouldn't matter, should it?"
"Furthermore, his gestation was tremendously accelerated. My brother Anton may have done extensive work on the physiological
development of gargoyles, including that of their brains, but the development of intellect and psyche cannot be sped up so easily
without the use of subliminal programming. Damien received none of that. It stands to reason that his mental functions might lag
"No, no," Jericho said. "He's not retarded. It's the opposite. He's ... I think he's much smarter than he should be, smart enough
to try and hide it. And ... there's something about him ... something ... evil."
Sevarius folded his hands and smiled. "Ah, I see what this is."
"Believe me, it is quite common."
"The arrival of a first baby often has this effect. You are seeing another side of Demona now. Time she formerly devoted to you she
now spends with Damien. He takes up much of her attention. Many a man -- and presumably gargoyle as well -- begins to feel that
the child is coming between him and his--"
"No! That's not it at all!"
"Replacing him," Sevarius continued relentlessly. "He starts seeing himself as an outsider, and the child as an intruder. Resentment
and a sense of being threatened --"
"No!" Jericho insisted. "It is not a matter of petty jealousy! Damien is ... wrong somehow! He never cries, he never smiles , he
does not behave as a child should! He eats, yes, like a starved and feral thing, growling and snarling. He bites and claws at us, he
cannot seem to abide being touched! When he looks at us there is a studied blankness there, but when he thinks he is unobserved,
I see the flat shine of hatred in his eyes. He's bigger, already he is bigger than he was, growing almost visibly night by night, and he
moves like a cat, with no babyish clumsiness at all."
"And I think I know why. I think something got into him, Sevarius. I've read the files on the two dead humans, simultaneous stoppage
of all cardiovascular activity with no apparent cause, but there was the mist, the black mist, which snuffed all of the power in the room
and then was gone with no residue, no trace of chemicals, we'll never know what it was ... but it was that very same night, Sevarius,
right after Demona's exercise in necromancy. Suppose she summoned something else that night, something that couldn't be contained
by the pentagrams, and now it's in Damien? What does that sound like to you?"
"If you were a woman, I'd say post-partum psychosis. Rather than face up to your own fears about inadequacy and being replaced,
you've contrived this theory, which, when you look at it, is patently ludicrous. Instead of dealing with an internal feeling, you are more
comfortable facing an external threat."
Jericho braced his hands on the desk and leaned forward, looming over Sevarius. "I am not as much a madman as you think me. I've
read of your Freud and the complexes he set forth. But think of this, doctor: according to Freud, it is the guilt of the unresolved
Oedipal conflict that leads men to madness. They loathe themselves for wishing to mate their mothers and kill their fathers, they try to
deny these urges and bury them, and from there springs these gardens of insanity. I have no conflict, no guilt. I deny none of my urges.
I revel in them."
"There is enough material in you," Sevarius said, not unadmiringly, "for an entire book."
"Will you listen to me? I didn't come here to talk about maladjusted Victorian psychoanalysts! I came to talk about Damien. He's
not right, and I seem to be the only one that can see it!"
"Because it is all in your head."
"Even Demona must sense a wrongness, but she will not let herself acknowledge it, will tolerate no mention of it. She maintains that
he is perfect, and that I am simply unused to hatchlings. That I'll get used to it."
"She is probably right. This has been a highly stressful, difficult time for both of you. One of the most major changes possible has
taken place in your lives. It's understandable that there would be a necessary period of adjustment."
He lowered his head into his hands and clawed futilely at his brow ridges. "I am telling you, it is not that!"
"You asked my advice, and my advice, young Jericho, is to give it some time. I wouldn't be much help to you if I told you what you
wanted to hear, and played into your delusions."
"Oh, old man, I am not deluded," Jericho said, raising his head enough to meet Sevarius' eyes. "I only hope you learn that before it's
too late. For all of us."
March 8th, 2001
"Angela ... you're getting soaked."
She felt Brooklyn's hand on her back, gentle but firm. He moved beside her, raising his wing to serve as an umbrella.
Winter had given up after that last cold bite, and now a March rain nearly warm as bathwater poured down on the city. It melted
and sluiced away two-month-old rock-hard drifts of dirty ice and filled the streets and gutters to overflowing.
"Let her be," Gabriel said from a sheltered corner. "She's grieving."
"I know that," Brooklyn snapped over his shoulder. "Don't you think I know that?"
"I'm keeping watch on her, let her be."
"She's my mate!"
"And my rookery sister."
"I've got it covered, Gabriel."
"I'm only looking out for her."
"You don't need to do that."
"Someone does; she's been out here for an hour."
Brooklyn bristled. "Oh, so you're saying I can't take care of my own mate?"
"I'm saying she needs time to think and not be bothered. She's suffered a terrible loss."
"So have I, in case you've forgotten! She's not the only one ripped up inside by this!"
"Almost a whole week now," Angela said, letting their increasingly irritated exchange wash over her like the rain, just as ignored. "Just
since we noticed, who knows how long since it happened?"
Brooklyn tried embraced her but it was like hugging a post. Much as she might have wanted to soften into his arms, she held herself
"Come on, Angela ... let's go in. We can't do anything out here."
"Listen to him, sister," Gabriel urged.
"I already told you I don't need your help."
"She needs more help than you can give."
"Yeah, well, if you hadn't woken up Ventura --"
Angela roared and whirled on them. "Just shut up, both of you, shut up!"
They did, and she turned around to resume her slouched perch on the wall.
"It's hopeless, isn't it?" she asked dully.
Brooklyn choked back a sob. "No, don't say that, don't ever say that, it's not hopeless."
"Our egg is gone. Our son is gone."
"We'll get him back."
"What if she killed him?"
"Angela ... it if was her --"
"Who else would it have been? She wants my life ... everything that's mine ... of course it was her!"
"If it was, she wouldn't hurt the egg," Gabriel sensibly pointed out.
"Not on purpose, but she's crazy! She can't take care of an egg, might even ... might even break it! All it would take would be for
her to lose her temper once ..."
"It won't be like that!" Brooklyn desperately shook her a little. "Angela ..."
"We have to do something!"
"You know I would if there was anything we could do! If Aiden and Alex could only find her, we'd do whatever it took!"
"Maybe Aiden and Alex can't," she said, drawing herself up and turning to him in one fluid gesture, "but I can."
His eyes went wary, and Gabriel stirred in alarm.
"She found me. I can find her," Angela said firmly.
"You told us you didn't sense anything like that anymore. You told us you thought she was dead."
"Obviously she isn't! She made a link between us. All I have to do is open my mind, and it'll lead me right to her." She hopped up
onto the wall.
"Wait! What are you doing?" Brooklyn caught her wrist and she angrily shook it off.
"It's the only chance I have!"
"Wait! It's not worth the risk, Angela!"
"Not worth the risk?!?"
"We still have each other, and our other egg. There will be more breeding sea--"
She slapped his face stingingly hard. "If you want to give up, fine! But don't count on any breeding seasons with me if you don't
care enough to help me now!"
With that, she leapt into the driving rain, glad for it because it concealed the hot tears streaming down her face.
He sounded so wretched that it wrung her heart, but she didn't turn back.
"Come on, curse you!" she heard Gabriel growl. "After her!"
March 8th, 2001
Rayana Fredericson gave up after two hours
of tossing and turning, and got out of bed.
She poked her toes into her slippers and shuffled to the mirror over her dressing table, leaning close to survey her eyes. They
were bloodshot and hollow, lacking any sort of zest or sparkle.
"I don't need this," she groaned.
At seven the next morning, she was supposed to be at the zoo for a photo shoot for a series of fur ads -- "All Nature's Most
Beautiful Creatures Wear Fur." If she showed up fatigued and looking like this, her animal co-stars would end up outshining her.
The zoo's panther, red panda, and polar bear were probably snug in their dens right now, fast asleep.
But here she was, wakeful and on edge, a strange thundery pressure building in her. It had been getting worse all week, ever since
her fainting spell at the offices of Blush. Restlessness, insomnia, a ... a busy feeling. The best the doctors could do was blame it on
that universal scapegoat, Stress.
She blinked and realized she wasn't in her bedroom anymore, but in the small tidy kitchen instead, standing by one of the drawers.
Was she hungry?
Over the past several days her appetite had dwindled to next to nothing. In a way, it was nice because it meant she didn't have to
be consciously watching what she ate. Instead of being tempted but sticking to her healthy diet, she was finding that she had to remind
herself, even force herself, to eat anything at all.
Nothing in the fridge or cupboards seemed like what she wanted, but there was an urge for something there, wasn't there? An urge
very much like hunger.
She opened one of the drawers. A cleaver grinned up at her from a glittering bed of cutlery, seeming to catch the light and be outlined
in a nimbus.
Rayana reached into the drawer and touched the wooden handle.
Someone knocked at her door.
She was halfway to it before she realized she was carrying the cleaver, arm tensed.
The knock came again, followed by a voice. "Rayana? Ray, you up?"
She stuffed the cleaver behind the back sofa cushions and opened the door.
Trinka Veles was nineteen and Swedish-Brazillian, or so she claimed. She had a curtain of gorgeous black hair, better cheekbones
than Michelle Pfeiffer, and eyes like winter sun on the fjords.
But the hair was pulled back with a plain rubber band and stuffed under a Yankees cap, the cheekbones were sharp ridges in a
haggard face, and the eyes were as bloodshot as Rayana's own. Sunset on the fjords now.
Trinka was wearing baggy jeans and a man's plaid pajama top, and though her face was taped inside high school boys' lockers
from here to San Diego, she could have walked down the street in broad daylight without turning a single head.
"I knew it," Trinka breathed, focusing on Rayana's necklace.
A fierce jealous surge made her close her hand quickly around it.
"No, no ... look." The girl took something out of her pocket and held it in her palm so Rayana could see, though she held herself
in a way that suggested she was ready to snap her fist closed. A small ivory ball rested there.
Rayana looked at it, then raised her eyes to Trinka. "You too?"
She nodded. "I did a sports attire layout over at Blush today and saw one of your pictures. Did you find it at the show? The one
that was canceled?"
That thundery feeling grew stronger. Rayana remembered reading about the fire at the Model Cafe the night she'd had that fainting
spell. Reading that Trinka had been one of the models there, donating a pair of sunglasses she'd worn in a commercial.
"I went to Heather's boyfriend's funeral," Rayana said. "She had one too."
"What's happening to us? Half the time I can't sleep --"
"Can't eat --"
"Always fidgeting --"
"Can't get comfortable --"
"Getting mad over stupid things --"
"Just want to scream at people," Rayana agreed.
"Slice the flesh from their bones!"
"Make them scream!"
"Sear them with fire --"
Rayana saw that something weird was happening to Trinka. Her even tan was darkening toward burnt orange, her forehead was
wrinkling and folding, a pair of bumps were pushing up from her scalp. Yet these things didn't alarm her at all ... because they were
happening to her, too.
"Send them to Hell, straight to Hell --" she heard herself say.
Somehow, the cleaver had gotten back in her hand, and they both admired its promising lethal gleam, a gleam that would like nothing
better than to be dulled, preferably by being smeared and clotted with blood and brains.
March 8th, 2001
"And this is a map of the entire state," Demona
said, turning the page.
Damien's small hand stopped her and turned it back. He bent close to the atlas, tracing the outline of the island. His head was cocked
curiously to the side, his thick dark hair almost falling in his gravy-smeared plate.
"You like that one, do you?"
She smiled indulgently and rubbed her knuckles against his brow ridges, but he growled and scooted from his seat, dragging the book
with him. The corner of it hit the butter dish and only Jericho's quick catch kept it from going over the edge. Damien scampered into
the other room and hunkered down near the fireplace, still poring over the map.
Demona glanced up and met Jericho's eyes as if to say, kids!, but he returned an anxious and troubled look. She sighed inwardly.
"My love ..." Jericho began. "Isn't it time we faced the truth?"
"What are you talking about?" She rose and began gathering dishes, stacking them with sharp clinks, too hard, almost chipping several.
"What was that mist?"
"I told you, it doesn't matter. It's obviously harmless to gargoyles, since we both were exposed to it a week ago and haven't suffered
any ill effects."
"A week ago ... and in that week, look what's happened to Damien!"
"Damien is perfectly fine."
"He's the size of a ten-year-old human child. In only seven nights, Demona! He even seems to wake at night taller than when he goes
to sleep in the mornings!"
"He's a growing boy, that's all."
"It's abnormal." He hated arguing with her, she could see it in every taut and distressed line of his face.
She sighed again, this time audibly. "I admit, this isn't exactly what I'd hoped. There must have been a miscalculation in the growth tube.
It accelerated him too far. But really, when you think about it, young hatchlings are a lot of work. Damien can feed himself, keep himself
clean, amuse himself without constant attention --"
"He can't speak."
"I'm sure that will come in time. He's bright enough, he can even read already, so clearly his brain isn't underdeveloped."
Jericho took a plate from her and held tight to both of her hands. "Demona ... my love ... have you thought what'll happen if this
process doesn't stop? If he keeps growing at this rate? In a matter of months, he'll be aged, and dead!"
"That won't be the case. It's already slowing."
"Is it? He outgrows size after size of clothes in a single night!"
"We have our son. Isn't that what's important?"
"But for how long?"
"How can you be this way?" She looked beseechingly into his eyes. "We should be happy, both of us, all three of us. You're acting
as if you don't care for Damien at all!"
"I do! But I also worry! He ... he disturbs me. Something about him. It's ... frightening, almost. Don't you feel it?"
"Of course not."
"You look away from me when you say that."
"Are you calling me a liar, Jericho?"
She couldn't have hurt him more with a knife to the gut, but he didn't back down. "I think you're not seeing, because you don't want
to see. He's ours, as I meant him to be, and I will not deny that ... I love you and I would gladly love him if he gave me the chance.
Yet we must admit that he's not what he seems! We can't keep hiding from it, pretending that all is well. What was that mist? What
forces were unleashed that night you opened the Grimorum?"
"You think he's evil?" she asked, amazed. "That some necromantic power escaped the wards of the lower chambers, infiltrated the
sub-level lab, killed two of my staff, and possessed Damien?"
"I don't know what to think, what to believe."
"Then believe in me, my love!" she implored, taking his face between her palms. "That used to be enough for you."
He shut his eyes as if she'd struck him. "I do ... I always have!"
"It doesn't seem that way to me lately. You all but accused me of living in a world of denial. May I remind you, Jericho, this was
your idea. Your gift to me!"
"I know --"
"Maybe it didn't turn out quite as we planned, but he is still our son. He's been through a lot, and much of that is my fault for my
impatience, but all that will pass. He's not used to us yet. He needs a little more time. That's all."
Jericho bowed his head, and a tear ran over his lower lid to follow the curve of her palm and wrist. "I'm sorry. You're right. This has
all been so sudden. None of us are used to it yet. I'll try to do better."
She kissed his chin, his lips, the tip of his nose softly. "I know you will."
March 9th, 2001
Ever since their initial horrible meeting,
Angela had tried to learn to defend her thoughts. She'd envisioned an impenetrable
with high stone battlements that not even Ventura could defeat.
Now she imagined those walls tumbling apart like a house of cards, letting herself feel open and defenseless in her own mind.
Where are you, dark sister, she wondered, dark self?
An inquisitive, sharply black probe lanced at the tender meat of her mind. At once she chose to see it as an arrow, an arrow tied
to a string. Mentally seizing that string, she forgot all about the rain and the city beneath her.
It wasn't Ventura, whose voice was a silky-oily-malevolent copy of her own, but two male voices calling, clamoring.
Brooklyn and Gabriel sped after her as she let the compass needle in her head swing in search of the source of Ventura's presence.
Eventually, they gave up trying to talk to her when she wouldn't answer, and settled for following.
She was led out of the city, along the coast. Past Jeffrey Robbins' house (and not for the first time, Angela wondered why a blind man
kept nearly every light ablaze; was it for the benefit of Gilly?). Then north and east, leaving New York behind them.
The rain turned heavier, the sheets of droplets sometimes so dense that she could see and hear nothing else, as if she were alone in the
downpour. There was no wind to lash it into her face or play capricious tricks with her wings, but it was hard to stay aloft with her
sodden hair and tunic seeming to hold an extra forty pounds of water.
Her mate and her rookery-brother gamely kept up, occasionally shouting that they hoped she knew where she was going, or asking
her to reconsider going this solo. She didn't reply, needing all of her concentration to follow that invisible mental line.
Hours of gliding were really beginning to wear on her. So tired, but she couldn't stop to rest now because she sensed that her target
was closer than ever.
A sweep of light pierced the curtains of rain.
A lighthouse. Standing tall and isolated and somehow defiant on a rocky spur. Waves dashed against the beach and bluffs, spitting
froth into the air.
In better weather it might have been the inspiration for a Thomas Kincaide painting, all rosy-gold clouds and dancing waves. Now,
though, it was as threatening as a gabled and turreted haunted house. Whitewashed, it nonetheless seemed dark and ominous.
This was the place.
Angela circled the lighthouse just behind the revolving path of the beam. The walkway around the top was rain-slick and deserted.
The keeper's house below was neatly maintained, ivy climbing on three of the walls and letting runnels of water stream from one leaf
to the next in a trickling cascade.
Ventura was here. Angela could feel her, the seething hatred bubbling across the link between them.
A series of pitted and corroded boulders rose up from the sea, forming a semicircle around the base of the bluff, like asteroids stilled
in their belt around the lighthouse.
Angela dove toward the largest of these, and backwinged to land in front of the shadow-shape waiting there. They were only a
The rain lent Ventura's skin a sheen that made it seem as if she was carved from glossy volcanic glass. Her wings were caped in a
way that hid her arms (and presumably a pulse-cannon or laser rifle), and her snow-white braid hung to the base of her tail.
She still wore the black headpiece covered with gold circuitry that they had fitted her with at the Institute. And battle armor,
contoured titanium over Kevlar, hugging her shape.
A mirror darkly, Angela thought, looking Ventura face-to-face, and shivered.
Ventura's ruby eyes flicked briefly left and right as Brooklyn and Gabriel touched down at as respectful a distance as the boulder
No one wanted to be the first to speak, but finally Angela couldn't contain it any longer.
"What have you done with him, you monster?"
Honest surprise and confusion rang from Ventura's mind. Angela knew, undeniably knew and believed without a doubt, that
Ventura had no idea what she meant, was innocent of this crime at least, had not even been in Manhattan all winter. Part of her soul
sighed in relief, part plummeted in despair.
Ventura slowly shook her head. "Who?"
Now the folly of her actions came meaningfully home to Angela. Confronting Ventura with anything less than a tactical nuke? Not the
"A mistake," Angela said, suddenly all-too-conscious of how ironic it would be if the egg turned up safe and sound, but the parents didn't.
"A mistake," Ventura echoed.
A whirling vortex sprang open in Angela's mind, a psychic attack that sent her gasping to her knees even as Ventura was spinning to
bring her weapon into play. Only because Brooklyn had been totally expecting it was he able to leap out of the way.
Both males rushed her, wrestling for the gun. It took all of their combined strength to hold it pointed skyward, which meant they could
do nothing to defend themselves from the rest of her, and she didn't need her arms to unleash dire damage.
Ebony talons slashed at Gabriel as she kicked, striking sparks from his belt buckle even in the dampness, ripping his loincloth and
skidding across his thigh.
"I gave you my life!" Ventura screeched at Angela, slamming her elbow-spur into Brooklyn's chest and tripping him backwards with
They were on the ground, just like that, Gabriel clutching himself painfully and Brooklyn momentarily stunned. Ventura brought the gun
to bear on Angela.
"It should have been mine and I let you have it! But that's not enough for you! You have to hunt me down, invade my home -- my
home, a place that is mine and never yours, was never and will never --"
Brooklyn started to get up and she kneed him under the beak idly, absently, not even looking. He flopped back over, smacking
his head so hard that Angela could hear the impact even above the surf and Ventura's shouts.
"Accusing me! No, it wasn't enough for you to take what should have been mine and drive me out! An outcast's life wasn't punishment
Gabriel pistoned both feet at her, though it must have caused him terrible agony. He struck her on the swell of her hip and sent her flying
sideways, but she twisted in midair and landed upright.
Angela screamed, "No!"
Gabriel was blown off of the boulder by an eye-searing burst of crimson, and plunged into the sea.
A crushing black fist clamped down on Angela's thoughts. She felt Ventura ruthlessly prying, not needing to because Angela had
already dismantled her mental defenses but wrenching at her anyway just because she could. The entire story, from the discovery
of the missing egg to their arrival here, was torn out of her mind and held aloft in that black fist.
Brooklyn came out of nowhere, blood and rain mixing to soak his white hair into a dark rag. His eyes were a white furnace. He
lowered his head and rammed Ventura in the back, and his horns hooked through the wingholes of her armor to puncture right
into the sensitive place where membrane joined flesh.
Ventura's body arched like a longbow and a shriek exploded from her throat as if it was the first time in her life she'd ever
experienced pain; Angela was glad to hear it, delighted, absolutely ecstatic.
The fist loosened and Angela, despite the residual mental agony, grabbed the gun away so hard that Ventura's trigger finger, curled
through the guard, fractured with a deep crack!
Brooklyn pulled free. One of his horns was chipped and the other one was crumpled like a stubbed-out cigarette and both were wet
with Ventura's blood.
Angela reversed the gun and would have caved in her double's skull with it, but Ventura tackled her and they slammed together to
the rough stones, so near the edge that a splashing wave doused their faces with salt water.
The weapon skittered away, struck a rock, and fired, blistering both of their tails as they struggled and writhed.
A dripping grey-green hand shot up over the edge of the boulder and snared Ventura's cable of hair. Gabriel pulled hard, either
meaning to drag her over or pull himself back up depending on how diligently she resisted.
She rolled off of Angela, the other way, and now the braid was pinning her across the throat, a thick white garrote of hair and the
metal wire she used to tame it, choking her. Gabriel had to let go, and as Ventura jumped to her feet with the grace of a tigress,
Angela fought to haul her rookery brother to safety.
The night lit up red again. Ventura took the shot from her own gun right in the stomach; Brooklyn had fired from his knees and she
was thrown into the air by the blast. She spread her wings, howling in pain as she did so but finding an updraft anyway, a smoking
patch on the front of her armor.
Brooklyn aimed at her again, and a clap of thunder shattered their ears.
No, not thunder, a shotgun blast, a colossal roar, tore the gun into fragments and only missed taking off both Brooklyn's hands at
the wrists by blindest luck; the outer edge of the spread had destroyed the gun, the main bulk of it drilled countless pepper-holes
into the surface of the boulder.
A man, a human, was shooting at them from the top of the bluff. And above, Ventura cried out in triumph as she produced a laser
pistol from a thigh holster.
"Come on!" Brooklyn yelled, lurching fast as he could to Angela and Gabriel.
She'd gotten him to his feet, leaning heavily on her, and Brooklyn ducked under his arm from the other side. His momentum sent
all three of them back over the edge, but their wings caught them.
Angela felt Ventura's rage, but also understood that her dark double was unable to pursue.
They couldn't make it home by dawn, but got as far as Ebon and Gabriel's former sanctuary far out on the end of Long Island
called Rocky Point. They landed / collapsed on the beach and stumbled up to the porch of the silent house.
Without caring a fig whether Brooklyn might object, Angela stripped Gabriel of his loincloth. Ventura's kicking talons had missed
emasculating him by far less of a margin than she liked to think about.
None of them had much to say, in the wake of the battle and the failure to learn any more about the fate of the egg. At the moment,
they were just glad to be alive, and had never been happier to see the sky begin to lighten.
March 12th, 2001
"Son of a bee, you're right," the lighthouse
keeper said as Ventura fully extended her undamaged wings. "Well, I never
have believed it."
"The day heals us. But now I must leave."
"Why? We drove off those other ones." He patted the shotgun that leaned against the wall by his favorite chair. "Doubt they'll
be in a hurry to rush back."
"You helped me and for that I thank you, but the time has come for our association to end."
"Aren't you listening, Blackie? You don't need to be scared of --"
"I'm not. I have unfinished business with them. They apparently lost something that belongs to me, and now I have to get it back."
"An egg. My egg!"
"You mean like a baby?"
"Yes. She took that from me when she took my life, my mate, my clan, everything. And see how carefully she treats what she
takes? My egg, lost ... but when I find it, it will be mine again."
"And you'll come back? They say having a gargoyle around the place is good luck, and seems so to me because I haven't had
a speck of trouble since you've been here. I imagine having two of you would be even better." He laughed. "Might even start
buying myself some lottery tickets then!"
"Maybe," she said. "All I know is that the time has come for me to go back to Manhattan. It's ... almost as if I'm being called there."
March 14th, 2001
"Do you need anything before I go take a nap?"
Damien looked up from his book -- the fourth in the Harry Potter series -- and shook his head. She smiled down at him with an
uneasy blend of motherly affection and unspoken fear that she'd worn since he was one week out of the egg and half her height. If he
stood beside her now, just six days after that, the tips of his horns would come to her chin.
"If you do, Jericho's upstairs in his sanctuary."
He shook his head again, brusquely.
Demona reached out as if to touch his long, ponytailed hair, or maybe his face, and he drew away without leaving his chair. His wings
shifted rustlingly like those of a perturbed kestrel.
"I should be up long before dawn," she said. "I had a busy day."
He dipped his head once in a nod, and went back to reading.
"Well ... I'll see you later."
Damien didn't answer, and she finally left. Once the door closed and latched behind her, he pushed the book away and gave in to
the awful itching that had been consuming him since he'd cracked stone earlier that evening. His elbow- and knee-blades felt like
they were aswarm with fire ants, crawling-stinging-biting.
He scratched both elbow-blades with the claws of the opposite hand, hissing in pain and relief. Flecks of the dusty-black velvety
covering sifted down onto his lap. He raised his arm and saw that he had scraped away long strips of it.
The itching was still unbearable. He rubbed his shins against the table leg, his forearms against the edge of the table.
More of the coating was coming off, in bits and large peely fragments. Underneath, the long flattish blades were as dark a red as
his skin, but shinier somehow, harder. Polished, almost.
The relief began to outweigh the pain when he grabbed a wire-bristled brush from the rack of fireplace tools and went to work with
Not only were the blades strong and hard as bone, but with the blunting cushion of velvet scoured away, they came to wickedly
Damien's lips pulled back from his teeth. He locked his upper joints, bent the lower ones to tuck his hands in near his chest, and
slammed his elbows up against the underside of the table as hard as he could.
The angle was bad, but one of the ends split through the wood and skewered the back cover of the Harry Potter book.
Intrigued, Damien got up, looked for a likely target, settled on a fat triple-wicked candle thick as a man's neck, and lashed out at it.
The pointed tip of the blade scored a gouge most of the way through the candle, leaving a big wad of wax stuck to him and a couple
of wick ends poking out like tendons. He cleaned off the wax, dropping it indifferently in a lump on the floor.
Trying the same thing with his legs, he quickly figured out how to lean his weight back on one foot and the support of his arrowhead-
tipped tail while bringing the other knee up with the blade angling out to stop-thrust a charging opponent.
With practice, he was sure, he could strike with elbow and knee in the same blow, driving the two blades into a foe and then wrenching
both up and down, slitting the length of the torso.
When he was bored with mock lunges, he went to the wooden beam beside the fireplace and backed up, using his foreclaw to etch
a mark at the top of his head.
Two inches taller than last night. And the constant low ache in his bones told him he wasn't finished yet. He was only reaching
adolescence; there was still a ways to go before adulthood.
Though, if he kept on at his current rate of growth, he should be there sometime next week.
Damien bunched his muscles experimentally, but he already knew that he was not going to end up with a build like Jericho's. No,
he would be lean and quick. With such deadly slashing blades, he wouldn't need the pulverizing force of a roundhouse punch.
He looked in on Demona. In sleep, the worry and fear she tried and mostly succeeded in hiding stood out harshly. She seemed
older than her immortal-youth, not haggard but headed in that direction.
The curtains were open and he went to them like a moth to fire. Though the clouds and rain blocked his view, he didn't need to
see his star to know its pulsing, pestilent light still churned in the darkness.
Reluctantly, he closed the curtains, casting the room into deeper shadow. Demona didn't stir as he took her key card from the
top of the dresser and left, quietly closing the door behind him.
The elevator carried him into the depths of the building, and as each descending number blinked on and off on the display,
Damien's mood rose correspondingly.
He emerged on the sub-level where he'd been hatched. That room was closed off now, the bodies of those who had died
that night carted off for discreet disposal, all of the required cover-ups and glossing-overs already taken care of.
All was silent. There were no sounds from the room where the other (the 'lesser') gargoyles dwelled. Damien passed it by
without pausing, having no interest in the clones or their life-sized playdoll.
The hatch to the hidden dungeon was supposed to be hidden so well that it even took Demona a couple of tries to find it,
but as Damien approached, he saw that it was already slid open. Black mist and a ruby glow beckoned him.
He climbed down swiftly and well although he had to feel for hand and footholds on the ladder because the mist flowed around
him as eagerly as a pack of faithful hounds. Then the mists parted and he was moving through a sea of red light, which painted
the stones as if in blood and made the tormented faces on the keystones of the arches resemble death-masks of the newly
The light was brightest and the mist issued thickest from one of the rooms. Damien crossed that threshold with the solemnity
of a groom and the surety of a general.
Many books ... all of them putting forth their own beacons of temptation ... but one was a bonfire, a conflagration, an inferno,
blazing so bright that the others dimmed into mere candles by comparison.
Damien took it into his hands. Warm as the room was, the book's cover was cool as the waxy flesh of a corpse.
He spoke for the first time in his life, and his voice low without being deep, oddly textured like cloth that felt smooth when
stroked one way but roughly snagged the fingertips when stroked the other.
Mercury-silver oozed slowly up his arms, sluggish as honey on a cold day. As it passed over each successive inch of his flesh,
he lost all sensation there, as if his arms ended at the wrists, then at the elbows, then shoulders. He could no longer feel the
book, though he could see his talons clenched so tightly on it that they indented the midnight-black cover.
He tipped his head back as the not-feeling moved up his neck, along the underside of his chin, over the jutting lower half of his
face that was not quite a beak but not quite humanoid either. He could see its progress as it overtook his nose, and then it
flowed into his eyes and the world turned to silver.
March 15th, 2001
Harry the Hammer lurched in his bed with a
high, gabbling shriek. He was so disoriented that his foot hooked the railing
and he crashed down on his face and shoulders and upper chest, kicking and screaming at the deadly tentacle, the devil's
tongue, whatever it was that wrapped around him to drag him back --
It was the sheet, snugged around his legs.
He fought free and shut himself up, but it was too late. He could already hear the attendants rushing toward his room.
Not to comfort him, talk him down, anything like that. No, not here, not in this unit of the state hospital. These boys were
even less understanding and compassionate than their brethren in the city psych ward. Harry was upsetting the applecart
after lights-out, and they'd remind him of the rules by whacking him on the nape of the neck with a roll of quarters or something.
Keys clanked and clattered, and the door opened.
"All right, Hammerton --"
It was as far as the first attendant got.
Harry, with his paunch and receding hairline and reputation for being mild-mannered except when it came to gargoyles, not
to mention with a cast and sling on his left arm, wasn't considered as much of a threat as some of the other no-neck cavemen
on the ward.
So when, in a burst of adrenaline-boosted strength, he one-handed flipped his entire bed over and pinned the first guy, the
second guy lost his moment of opportunity to gaping. By the time he realized Harry was coming at him, it was too late; Harry
had already bowled him over and plunged into the hall.
The ruckus woke a few of the others; most of them got their heavy meds at bedtime and wouldn't stir for anything sort of a
blast from a fire hose. The ones that were awake saw Harry, in his shapeless grey-and-blue pajamas, galumphing down the
hall like a rhino on speed. They started hooting and yelling and banging on their doors.
"Help me out, God!" Harry shouted. "You sent me that dream, so You must want me to do something; whatever it is, I'm
game; Thy will be done, just let me know!"
The second attendant jumped Harry from behind. As they went down, the attendant lost his keys and they caromed in a
jangling streak to fetch up against one of the doors.
Flash of insight.
"Yes, God!" Harry bellowed.
He shrugged off the attendant, all two-twenty of him, as if the man had been a toddler, and kicked him in the head. Didn't
drop him all the way, but sent him reeling against the wall.
Harry scooped up the keys and jammed one into the slot of the door they'd stopped in front of. As luck (or the Lord) would
have it, it was the right one.
Jason Canmore sat up in astonishment.
"Come on!" Harry panted. "God's got work for us!"
Damien, Part Three: Devil's Night
Copyright 2000 by Christine Morgan / email@example.com / http://www.sabledrake.com