The Gargoyle's New Clothes
By Kimberly T.
Author's Notes: This story was my contribution to the Gargoyles Anthology printed for the 2006 Gathering of the Gargoyles convention in Las Vegas; the 2006 anthology had as its theme the Arcanorum Grimorum.
This is a follow-up to events depicted in the two-part TGS (The Gargoyles Saga): Timedancer story, "Out of Joint", which may be found at http: // tgs. gargoyles-fans. org /td/ (take the spaces out)
Latin translations were provided by Alex Checnkov and Dien!
Standard disclaimers and acknowledgments apply.
Caesar Augustus leaned back in his throne and sighed heavily. The last few days and nights had been momentous and even traumatic for his court, but hopefully life would return to normal soon.
Three nights ago, a new Winged One—no, he'd learned that the correct term for the species was 'Gargoyle'—had suddenly appeared in his court, arriving in a ball of fire. Up until that night, their Primus had been considered the first and likely only one of his kind; a unique gift from the gods, found in the land of the Gauls and brought south to grace the Roman court back in the first decade of Augustus' reign. The revelation that many more of his kind existed, somewhere in the land of the Britons, had caused almost as much of a stir as Brooklyn's magical appearance. (Augustus reminded himself again to send a messenger to Cymbeline, King of the Britons, to be on the lookout for more gargoyles in his domain.)
Immediately after Brooklyn's arrival, a thoroughly delighted Primus had claimed the newcomer's time and company for himself for the rest of the night. Augustus had thought of at least ten questions for the newcomer within moments of his appearance, but had willingly indulged Primus' wishes; after all, it had been the first time their lonely Winged One had ever seen another one like himself.
After Primus had returned at dawn to his usual sleeping-post, with the stranger Brooklyn going to sleep beside him, Augustus' daughter Julia had been the one to suggest that they organize a welcoming banquet for the newcomer. A banquet with just a select few attendees, no more than a dozen, so Augustus would have fewer court distractions and plenty of time to speak with Brooklyn.
Augustus had been delighted with the idea, the moreso because Julia herself had taken care of all the arrangements. The woman who had time and again shown herself to be selfish, overly amorous and given to disastrous impulses was finally acting like a dutiful daughter and even gracious hostess, a credit to her family instead of a source of shame!
He really should have known better; shouldn't have let his hopes be raised.
Oh, the banquet had gone splendidly; Brooklyn had obviously been much impressed with court life, and had answered a few of Augustus' questions about his origins. The Magus, whom Primus had introduced to Brooklyn the night before, had explained a little about the magical device that had snatched Brooklyn away from his home in Briton. While speaking earnestly about his desire to return home, Brooklyn had admitted that he would enjoy spending more time in Rome, the greatest city in the world. Having heard that, Augustus decided to refrain from further querying that night; after all, there would be opportunities for learning more on other nights.
And once again, he'd been proven wrong. He'd been awoken soon after retiring to his bed, scarcely three hours after the banquet had ended, to find the palace in an uproar. Brooklyn had vanished without a trace; Julia was crying and claiming that before vanishing, Brooklyn had burst into her chambers and tried to force himself on her; Primus was white-eyed with anger and demanding to know what had happened to his new friend; and Agrippa was demanding that both Brooklyn and Primus be executed immediately!
It had taken over an hour to sort out what had happened, and might have taken longer if a member of the guard hadn't stepped forward to confess that Julia had ordered him to send Primus on an errand at the city gates, and deliver Brooklyn to her chambers. Then it was all too obvious; Julia, who had been quietly rebuffed by Primus years ago for her unnatural desires, had decided to seduce Brooklyn.
Brooklyn must have been so terrified (or appalled, like Augustus was) by Julia's attempt at seduction that he'd somehow reactivated that magical device, the Phoenus Ianua, and disappeared, presumably traveling back to his native land. The Magus had been brought in again, and confirmed through magic that Brooklyn was nowhere within the city of Rome.
Augustus had been bitterly disappointed, though not as much as Primus, who had been alternately raging and moping over the loss of his newfound companion ever since. And to add to Augustus' agitation, the guard that had stepped forward to confess had been found dead this afternoon, apparently a victim of poisoning. Augustus just knew in his bones that Julia was responsible, taking her revenge on the guard who had exposed her perversion and perfidy, but he hadn't been able to find any proof.
And now, just to top it all off, the servants who had been charged with seeing to Primus' needs when he awoke at sunset were not waiting at their post. Augustus glanced at Primus where he was crouched next to the throne; a winged stone statue, dressed in a linen loincloth instead of the tunic that all other Romans wore for an undergarment. At least the loincloth was supplemented by a proper woolen toga (though a much shorter one than most people wore), that was draped from over his left shoulder to under his wings and around his right hip, to be tucked into the loincloth's rope belt in the front. It was a decent enough outfit, but it was going to be destroyed shortly, at sunset; where were those servants?! If Julia had done something to them too…
Augustus finally turned and glared to one of the Praetorian Guard, an unusually clever one who realized the most urgent task that needed doing. The guard hurried to slide a screen made of thick leather between the statue and the throne; the screen that shielded Augustus from the stone shards that were shortly going to be flung about the room. And a few moments later, Augustus heard the telltale sounds of stone cracking; sunset had arrived, and Primus was waking up.
**cr-r-rackooom!** And Primus gave his usual roar upon awakening… that turned into a muttered curse. The guard holding the leather screen in place discreetly peeked around it, then shrugged and drew the screen away. Augustus resignedly turned in his direction, already knowing what he would see: Primus standing in the midst of scattered stone shards and scraps of cloth, with his wings wrapped around his torso for modesty's sake.
Primus met his eyes with a wry grimace. "Ave, Caesar! Pardon me for not giving the proper salute…"
"Those servants will be whipped soundly once they're found," Augustus growled. Then a thought struck him. "Your friend Brooklyn… The morning after his arrival, I noticed that his clothing had turned to stone when he did. And that evening I had servants bring new clothing for him as well, but apparently he hadn't needed them. Did he tell you how he'd managed to keep his clothing with him in stone form?"
Primus nodded. "He told me an old tale of his people; that long ago, a human magician had cast a spell that let their clothing turn to stone and back as they did, so the human ruler they were friends with—presumably some village chieftain in Briton—wouldn't be embarrassed by the sight of them every evening."
"Then they don't live in Pict territory, that's certain," the emperor muttered under his breath as he recalled the tales of savages who went into battle wearing little more than blue paint. Then he said aloud, "Any spell that a barbarian can concoct, a Roman can do even better." He turned to a nearby guard and ordered, "Send for the Magus."
"A spell to turn clothing to stone and back?" the Magus repeated, rubbing his chin. "Well… I suppose it's possible…"
"Highly possible, considering it's already been done," Caesar Augustus informed him with a raised eyebrow. It was a look that the Magus had learned to dread in the years of his association with the emperor; the one that said plainly, 'Why haven't you thought of and done this already?'
"I'll begin immediately," he said hastily. "Though I will need to have Primus come and stay with me at my tower while I work on the spell, for testing purposes."
The emperor nodded, and formally assigned Primus to the Magus' tower for the next full month, with four members of the Praetorian Guard sent along to guard his sleep during the day. "Though I trust we'll have results before then," he said firmly.
"So do I," Magus said in all earnestness. With not just Primus but four more full-grown men cluttering up his home, eating everything in the pantry, getting in the way of his experiments and probably breaking his furniture too, with their rowdy ways…! He vowed to create that spell in a week or less, just so he could have peace and quiet in his household that much sooner.
The next few days and nights were spent gathering all the material the Magus thought might be needed for the experiments:
Stone skin that had been shed at sunset, and ground into a fine powder.
Quantities of wool freshly sheared from the sheep, new-spun woolen yarn and several lengths of wool cloth.
A basket of raw flax stalks, flax fibers in various stages of processing and several lengths of fine linen.
Four turtle shells.
Several bundles of moley and other magical herbs.
An amphora of aqua regia.
Six high-quality opals, and a dozen amber gemstones.
Several lengths of gold wire, and small bags of gold and silver dust.
And an iron bell that had been forged at midnight on a new moon.
(In truth, he didn't think he'd need all those ingredients for this one task, but his supplies had been running low lately and since the emperor was paying for it all…)
On the fourth night, he was ready to begin. He had Primus dress in a new loincloth and toga that had been treated beforehand with stone dust and incantations, and stand in the middle of the casting circle. The guards, understandably curious and having sworn that they wouldn't touch anything, were watching from the far side of the room.
Magus slowly and carefully summoned the magical forces, molded them into the proper shape in his mind, and recited the spell he had concocted that day: "Hae vestes in saxum vertantur et in ipsae convertantur, gestum tamdiu quam vivit!" Let these clothes turn to stone and back, for as long as the wearer lives!
Faint twinkles of light appeared around Primus' torso, and faded a moment later. And as soon as the lights faded, the toga and loincloth turned to stone.
While it was still night outside, so Primus himself was still flesh. And when he moved, jolted by astonishment, the layers of stone proved to be considerably less flexible now than when they were cloth; they cracked and broke and fell off him in a cascade of stone shards.
Which turned back into wool and linen moments later, scattered scraps lying at Primus' three-toed feet.
Two of the guards snickered. One of them gave a long, low whistle. Primus wrapped himself in his wings and glared at them, then gave Magus an irritated look as he kicked at a scrap of wool, just as it turned to stone again. "Do the words 'sunrise' and 'sunset' mean anything to you?"
The next night, they were ready to try again. Primus stood in the casting circle in another set of clothes, while Magus summoned the magic again and chanted, "Hae vestes in saxum solis ortu verantur, et in textile solis occasu converantur, tamdiu quam geruntur!" Let these clothes turn to stone at sunrise, and cloth again at sunset, for as long as they are worn!
The faint lights indicating magic had been cast flickered into existence and faded away a moment later. After waiting warily a few moments more for something untoward to happen, Primus relaxed and began to step out of the circle. Just as one of the guards spoke up, sounding both confused and impatient: "Well, did it work?"
Magus gave the guard an irritated look as he replied, "We'll find out at sunrise."
And a few hours later… success! When Primus turned to stone at sunrise, the toga and loincloth turned to stone with him. The guards cheered, and Magus allowed them to uncork an amphora and toast him with wine for a job well done.
By sunset Magus was feeling remarkably self-satisfied as he waited, somewhat impatiently, for Primus to wake up. As soon as Primus emerged from his stone sleep fully clothed, proving that the spell was a success, Magus would shoo him and the guards out of his tower and back to the main area of the palace to spread the good news. Then he would carefully transcribe the spell in the Grimorum Arcanorum he was compiling, so future generations of magic-users could benefit from it and clothe any gargoyle allies they might have.
He glanced out the window to confirm that the sun was going down, then turned as he heard the first faint, familiar crackling sound; Primus was beginning to awaken.
And behold! The stone material of his toga and loincloth were turning back to cloth!
And still lying over Primus' stone skin. Skin that was still in the process of cracking and breaking apart… Magus closed his eyes and sighed, "…eheu."
Moments later, Primus wrapped his wings around his once-again-naked self, glanced at the scraps of wool and linen mixed with the stone shards on the floor, and asked politely for a new loincloth and toga.
A full night and day later, after consulting all the books and scrolls in his precious library and everything he'd previously written down in the Grimorum Arcanorum, and asking Primus to repeat every last word that he could recall from Brooklyn's tale, Magus thought he'd figured out the solution to the problem. When Primus awoke the next evening, he explained: "Casting spells on the clothing isn't going to work, Primus; I'll need to cast a spell on you."
Primus drew back and flared his wings slightly. "Cast a spell on me? Me, personally, as in my body? Magus, you know I hold you in high regard, but… there has to be another way! What about just…making the clothes invulnerable? That would keep them from being shredded every sunset."
Magus looked at him sourly. "Oh, just make the clothes invulnerable. Why didn't I think of that? I've only been asked to make utterly invulnerable armor and other clothing at least a dozen times before…"
Primus looked disconcerted. "You have?"
"By Caesar Augustus, by Agrippa, and by every other general in the entire army. And do you know what I tell them every time? I tell them, of course I can make completely invulnerable clothing for you! I have a spell that can do it easily, with the right ingredients! So bring me some of those ingredients, such as the four dragon scales, the phoenix feathers, the basilisk venom and the unicorn's horn, and then we'll talk."
"…Oh." Primus' wings drooped.
"Besides, if the clothes were made invulnerable you'd end up with gravel and stone dust trapped between them and your skin," Magus added, and had to repress a smirk when Primus started to instinctively scratch at himself at the very thought.
It took a few more hours of persuasion, but at last Primus consented to have a spell cast directly on him, rather than on the clothing. Magus could understand his reluctance, after the results of the last two spells, but he pointed out that the spells had actually worked precisely as they had been spoken; so long as he constructed and phrased the new spell carefully enough, Primus should suffer no ill effects at all.
"Should suffer no ill effects," Primus said with a sigh as he stepped into the casting circle again.
"Should," Magus said firmly, as he summoned the power again. He would not give false reassurances to his winged friend; magic was a dangerous business, and there was always an element of risk. But he'd been working hard on the proper construction of the spell all day; now he summoned the power, shaped it, channeled it and cried out, "Omnes quos habes hos esse tuos, ut immutas tecum immutent, sine calamitate, longinquitatem quam vives!" Let all that you consider yours, change to stone and back as you change, without harm, for as long as you live!
To his credit, Primus didn't even flinch as the spell was cast on him; as faint twinkles of light flickered into existence around him and danced in the air for a moment before fading away. And once the light had faded, there was no visible effect on him…
Though Magus staggered back a little as he felt the power course through and out of him, to leave him feeling drained. Spells cast on living beings were often more taxing than spells cast on inanimate objects, unless the soul being enchanted was completely willing to submit to and embrace the enchantment. Primus' reluctance had been understandable, but it hadn't made Magus' task any easier.
"Magus!" Primus leaped out of the casting circle and caught him before he fell over, and helped him over to a nearby chair. "Are you all right? I'm sorry, I tried to embrace the enchantment, but…!"
"I'll be fine in a few moments," Magus said with a weary sigh as he sank into the chair. "Just a few moments…" But Primus insisted that he go to bed and rest fully, and the Magus had to admit that was the best thing for him; he'd been up all day preparing the spell and half the night persuading Primus to let him cast it, and he wasn't a young man anymore.
"See you at sunset," he yawned as he staggered off to his sleeping chamber. "And hopefully in the same clothes as you're wearing now…"
After sunset, Primus, Magus and the four guards all proudly trooped down to Caesar's court, to report complete success. Primus' clothes had transformed to stone with him at dawn, and turned back into wool and linen material at sunset, without taking any damage (or trapping any stone grit and dust next to his skin, Primus had noted privately but with great relief.)
"Very well done!" Caesar Augustus said approvingly. "How many centuries will the spell last, and how far and wide did you cast it? It would be good if any gargoyles found and brought to Rome in the future could be properly clothed long before entering the city itself."
Primus and Magus lost their broad smiles as they looked at each other, then turned back to the emperor. Magus said slowly, "Great Caesar, the spell will last as long as Primus lives… but I cast it only on Primus himself."
"Only on Primus?" Caesar frowned. "Primus, did you not say that the magician who had cast the spell on Brooklyn's tribe, had done so long before Brooklyn himself had been born?"
Primus sent a look of silent apology to Magus as he admitted to the emperor, "Brooklyn did say it had happened very long ago; so long ago that the details of the story had been lost over the generations."
And Caesar Augustus gave Magus that dreaded raised eyebrow again. "Anything that a barbarian can do…"
A Roman can do better—or else, Magus finished in his thoughts. And he said hastily, "Great Caesar, this spell was cast only on Primus at first, for testing purposes! After all, when creating a new recipe, the wise chef will make at first enough for just one meal, to ensure the new dish's edibility, before making enough for an entire banquet."
"That is indeed wise," Caesar nodded, smiling again. "Wasting magic on a bad spell would be even more foolish than wasting flour or meat on an unworthy dish. But now that success has been demonstrated, how soon can you cast this spell again to cover all the Roman Empire? And how much more in the way of magical supplies will you need?"
Magus paled at the thought. He'd never cast a spell of that magnitude before… but he replied, "I-I will need at least a week to prepare; the best night for casting would be on the next full moon. And I will send you a list of additional supplies needed…"
Ten nights later, on the first night of the full moon, Primus stood within the casting circle again. This time he was surrounded by concentric rings containing hundreds of opals, amber and everything else that Magus could think of for amplifying the power of a spell.
For the last ten days the Magus had been stuffing himself with pheasant, bull's blood and everything else that the gladiator trainers had recommended for increasing his physical vitality. And for the last three days he'd been seasoning his food with all the revolting-tasting herbs that previous magic-users had recommended for increasing one's magical vitality. Now he donned amulets and rings of amber, opals and other magical gems, took a deep draught of herbal potion, and drew an even deeper breath before asking Primus, "Are you ready?"
"Ready," Primus said, looking worried. "Are you sure you can handle this? And are you really certain you need to cast this spell on… my entire species?!"
Magus nodded grimly. "If I tried to cast it on just a portion of the world, even just everything within the walls of Rome, then the very next magical battle in that area could damage the spell or completely drain it. And despite Caesar's assertion that anything a barbarian can do, a Roman can do better, I know too well how powerful some of those Goth sorcerers are, and how temperamental; they'd be apt to take offense at an area-effect spell cast by a Roman mage and cancel it just on general principles. The best way to ensure this spell lasts is to cast it on all your species, wherever they might be."
"But the strain for you… Magus, you know that ordinarily I'd never dream of subverting the emperor's will. But since I'm the only gargoyle here, and there's no way for anyone to know whether or not the spell works until another one of my kind is found… Why not just--"
But Magus waved a hand to cut him off as he said, "I'm not doing this just for the emperor. Primus, haven't you noticed how even in the last ten nights, certain members of court have been more accepting of you? The emperor himself has noticed, and commented on it to me two days ago. Primus, you can wear clothes as normally as anyone else now… and in the eyes of some people, that makes you more of a person. Not just a talking oddity, the emperor's pet… and I do apologize for saying that aloud, but you know as well as or better than I do that is how you've been viewed by many."
Primus' mouth was set in grim lines. "I do indeed know too well. And you're right, some court members have been a bit more cordial to me lately… I just hadn't realized why till now."
"This spell is for the benefit of your people… and for your own children someday, if Jupiter and Cupid ever heed my prayers for your sake. If they are all able to wear clothes as humans do, then they may be better accepted in our society. So… are you ready?"
Primus nodded solemnly. "Ready."
"Then…" Magus summoned the power, let it build, shaped it into the spell he'd constructed, and added layer upon layer of power to it, all he could handle… then added even more, just as he cried out, "Omnes quos habetis hos esse vos, ut immutatis vobiscum immutent, sine calamitate, longinquitatem quam forma vestra vivet!" Let all that you people consider yours, change to stone and back as you change, without harm, for as long as your kind lives!
And once again, flickers of light came into being around Primus. But this time, instead of faint twinkles they were blindingly brilliant sparks of magic, that swirled around him once before bursting out in all directions, out of the casting circle and through the windows and walls of the tower; miniscule comets shooting out into the night and vanishing over the far horizons.
And as the last spark of magic left the tower, the Magus clutched at his chest and collapsed where he stood.
"Magus!" Primus leaped out of the casting circle and reached for his oldest friend, shocked at the changes that had been wrought on him in just a few moments. Magus's hair was no longer black streaked with silver but purest white now, and dozens of wrinkles carved themselves into his features, deepening and multiplying even as Primus stared at them in horror. "Magus, don't die, please don't die; not for my sake! Please don't die…"
"…Not dead yet," Magus croaked, trying to smile… but not succeeding. "Not dead yet…"
One year later:
One year later:
Primus landed on a forested hilltop and looked around, while digging into his carrysack for something to eat. He somehow knew he was close to his goal, but he still hadn't seen any gargoyles in Caledonia.
Magus had lived exactly six weeks after casting the great spell. Long enough to inform Caesar Augustus that the task had been completed and all gargoyles could now be clothed, but the emperor would have to find a new court mage. Long enough for Caesar Augustus express his sincere regrets to his old friend, then carefully consider and choose a new court mage from among the suitable candidates. And long enough for Primus and the old Magus to observe the subtle but very unwelcome changes in the new Magus' personality, once he had been granted power and authority with his new position.
Magus' last act before dying had been to instruct Primus on how to safely destroy several of the scrolls that were in his tower; scrolls containing spells that weren't strictly benevolent, and might be used by the new Magus for evil. And he had given the Grimorum Arcanorum into Primus' safekeeping. Being his masterwork, he could not bring himself to order it destroyed… but containing a mix of both benevolent and offensive spells, it was far too powerful and potentially dangerous to be left for the new Magus to find.
Primus had secured the Grimorum in a safe place that only he or another winged being could reach, and there it had remained for some time… until, months after Magus' funeral, Primus came to realize how destiny had been fulfilled, and what his own destiny must be.
Brooklyn had privately told Primus and Magus that he'd come not only from Caledonia in the land of the Britons, but the future Caledonia. Primus was now certain that the magician who had cast the spell on Brooklyn's people, "a long time ago" in that "old clan tale" he'd spoken of, had actually been Magus. And for the story of Magus' spell to reach Caledonia and the gargoyles there, someone had to bring it to them… and who better to be believed than another gargoyle?
It had taken Primus some time to convince Caesar Augustus that he had to go to Caledonia, but finally the emperor had agreed, and arranged for him to travel with a legion of Roman soldiers going to fortify the garrisons in Briton. Guarding their camps by night and strapped onto a cart while he slept during the day, Primus had traveled with them for nearly two months, finally leaving their company four nights ago when they'd reached their destination. And during all that time, no one had discovered what he'd hidden in the bottom of the chest containing his few belongings: the Grimorum Arcanorum.
Brooklyn had recognized the Grimorum during his visit to Magus' chambers, so it had to come to Caledonia as well. Primus had decided that he would find a kindly barbarian magic-user somewhere in this land, and give over the Grimorum to him once he'd determined that the man had a good heart. Primus quite agreed with Magus's insistence that the Grimorum never be used for evil. (But hopefully it would never be used at all; surely there were very few people in this barbarian land who could read Latin!)
Primus had left the cumbersome chest at the garrison, and now the Grimorum was at the bottom of his carrysack, wrapped carefully in oiled skins to preserve it from the elements. And having finished his snack of dried beef, he stuffed the remainder back into the sack and prepared to take to the air again. But which way would he go, to find the gargoyles that surely must exist in this strange land?
"Ce th agus cit? Cò às a tha sibh‡/thu?"
Who'd said that? Primus looked around wildly, to discover the owner of the voice speaking that barbarian tongue… Coming from behind and above him!
Five more gargoyles came gliding down out of the sky and landed on the hilltop; five more people like Primus himself! …No, not all of them like himself, because two of the five were females! With not a stitch of clothing on any of them, there was absolutely no mistaking that two of them were females!
Such lovely, voluptuous females…
Whups! Primus hurriedly covered his nether region with his wings, then tried to recover his dignity by bowing low to the newcomers.
He hadn't understood a word of what this group's leader had said, but surely it had been something along the lines of "Who are you?" or "Where did you come from?" So he said formally, "I am Primus, of the Praetorian Guard. I bring you greetings from Caesar Augustus, the emperor of Rome and all the Empire. He is…" Oh, why was it suddenly so hard to speak?
He swallowed hard, then decided no one here would really mind the tears of sheer joy streaming down his face as he finished his formal speech with, "I am so very happy to meet you all…!"