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Chapter 16 – Forgotten Oaths
Whistling gusts blew on the other side of boarded up windows. Sounds that would normally fill a lakeside could be heard in the streets below. Icy currents flowed through alleyways and half-way through first story buildings. Only a week before it topped off second-story-high street lamps, decreasing with the tide. Water levels still too high from inland depressions, Manhattan still uninhabitable but people still trapped in their apartments. The sound of wood cracking and splinters flying onto the floor, a deafening shriek from a child seeing a claw bust through the boarded window, and eyes that glowed in the dark.
"AAAHH!" A small growl came from the glowing eyes, "STOP Screaming! I'm here to help!" The girl scurried into the back room making Severa kick in the remaining wood to go after her. She was using a queen bed as an on-the-spot shield between her and the gargoyle, still shrieking, "Carajo! I don't have time for this! The building is on fire and your dad is…!"
The girl ran around the bed just as Severa leapt onto it but she snatched hold of the child and held her down on the bed. She struggled defiantly while screaming so Severa snarled sharply, "SHUT UP!" the girl trembled but she was silent, "The lower floor is on fire. Un helicóptero came for your pad-, your dad and they didn't stop to look for your SHRIEKING Ass! I came here to get you to him. Now silence your mouth or I will drop you from 50 feet to the chilly water below! GOT IT?!"
The girl never made another sound as Severa fought back a vein trying to rupture in her skull. She was still not a fan of humans and especially not ones trying to test if gargoyles got migraines but this was her way of trying. She snatched the girl up and went to the window before remembering what Maza said, *sigh* "Is there anyone else here?"
The girl was too scared to speak or even nod so Severa let her down and she went into another room coming back out with a cat. Severa remembered the last animal she helped evacuate, wiggling so much from being so high off the ground that it fell as fast as it's poop into the water below. She was not about to dive back into that water again so she grabbed a pillow case and stuffed the cat in. almost immediately, it's claws started digging through so she stuffed the sack in a box and gave it to the child taking her in one arm while she clung to both Severa and the box. Scaling the brick, the girl buried her face into Severa's long hair that she took to tying half-way. The cat made almost as much noise as the kid did in that box but she put up with it all the way to the top where she took the girl in one arm and the box in the other before taking off. Flight was getting easier having spent so much time in the air now but she still preferred the ground.
Not long after, she spotted a helicopter with a National Guard logo on it. Having already been shot at once that week, she brought a flash light to flash them down. As soon as she saw the chopper making defensive maneuvers, she shined the light on the child which made it stop moving and hover. She flew into the side to be met with a variety of firearms pointed at her when she opened the side door. It frightened the child into a short shrill which alerted the soldiers that a live civilian was in the shot. A man being guarded in the rear heard it and came forward as the soldiers barricaded him, "Shay?"
The girl just cried, too scared to speak one could imagine. The man shoved past his guards and snatched the child from Severa, about to show his lack of gratitude when she handed him the box, "La gato es en here to."
The man stood speechless, giving him the time to realize that this creature gave him what his country's soldiers wouldn't hear in their rush for evacuating that building. He took the cat-in-the-box thoughtfully hearing it meow then looked up at her, "Than-"
Severa slammed the door shut on him, "Save it! I don't need your half-assed, second-hand thanks."
Goliath put Severa on clean up duty repairing the dykes after she asked for something else to do. He was worried when she came back that morning with a deep scowl gracing her features but was alleviated upon Elisa telling him about a man and his daughter being saved by a gargoyle with long crimson hair.
The nights were dark with all the power outages and overcast skies. Some sections of the city had water only knee deep but every flooded area was nonetheless evacuated to more elevated topographic sites. So many sections were deserted giving the creatures of the night – all clans – free range of the city.
Brooklyn was also on the cleanup crew but he volunteered to a different sector. She thought him diligent in his work because she didn't see him until just before sunup often. She hardly cared and steered clear of sectors occupied by people. One night, Severa was moving trees off of power lines near St. Nicolas Park – a difficult task already but she needed to work her muscles to blow off steam – when a massive set of wings descended to help, "It looks as though you are struggling. Do you need a hand?"
Severa stopped only to look at Goliath before straining her muscles to topple the tree with a snarl. As it lay on the ground, she huffed for air just standing there looking at it, "Timber."
"You seem upset." Goliath put a hand to her shoulder. She just kept trying to catch her breath "What gave you…that impression?"
"Walk with me." Severa noted that he didn't offer to glide with him, pissing her off more, "I see Brooklyn likes to talk about things he shouldn't."
"Actually, I heard it from Broadway." He said as he began to walk. She hesitated then walked, "Surprisingly, that doesn't make me feel better."
"What's troubling you?"
"You have to ask?"
"Hm, point taken." Goliath paused to think but kept walking. The silence was only irritating her further then after a few minutes of it, he spoke, "Tell me about your home. I'd like to learn more about it. Where exactly do you live?"
"Not much to tell. Mt. Chirripó isn't home. No place is." He raised an eyebrow, "Yet you think of it so fondly."
"I think only of my family."
"Then tell me of your family."
"Can I get back to tossing trees?"
"You may but I'm still quite curious." Severa sighed deep, "I have two brothers; one older, one younger."
She stopped there leaving Goliath disappointed but her memories took over her mood, "…the younger es Jerico." She giggled a little, "He's the one that always found a way to get into things. We often say it would get him killed one day."
Goliath kept looking forward while listening. It was a light stroll. She continued, "Mi hermano es Alonso. He's the one who keeps his head most of the time. He's always there when you need him."
Goliath grinned. Severa looked up for feeling so remote, a habit to find answers in a glittering sky she'd not yet learned to control in this overcast city. Yet for a moment, the moving clouds thinned enough in one sector of the sky to show a glimpse of a singular star before thicker clouds covered it. "I shouldn't bore you with all this."
"On the contrary, it was a pleasure." Goliath nodded to her before taking off, leaving her to her thoughts. The west side of Mt. Chirripó on a clear twilit night was the only view of the Pacific she could get before everything went black. It was the most breath-taking thing to date she'd laid eyes on. "Wish she could have seen it."
An hour later, she was struggling to move the last of trees, trying to get farther by dragging them over her head. A newspaper blew in and under her foot. Without warning, she slipped on the pages. The tree over her was ready to crush her when she heard a whoosh and felt something snatch her waist. Another moment, she was tumbling to the ground and heard a loud crash the next. "You would be too stubborn to ask for help."
Severa was still quite winded and wasn't sure of her faculties. "Hey, you okay?"
She heard the voice but was barely able to decipher who it belonged to. Now two hands were cupping her cheeks, "Severa?"
Finally able to open her eyes and see more that the swirling circles behind her eye lids, she saw a red beak, "Did anyone get the number of that car?"
Brooklyn chuckled a little, then helped her up. She got up to fast and lost balance, falling backwards. Brooklyn caught her wrist, pulled it to grip her waist to help her down slowly. "Maybe you should sit for a moment."
"I'm fine, just a touch dizzy." She got back up slower than before and began walking normal. "See?"
"Yeah. I think you could use a break. I'll take care of the rest." She wasn't angry enough to fuel her energy in getting the last four trees and she was tired so she fought back her 'I-don't-need-help' attitude and just sat down while he took care of it. The trees were no easier for him to move but he certainly wasn't struggling as much as she was. When he finished, he came back dusting his hands, "Wanna get out of here?"
"What did you have in mind?" He took her hand and wrapped it around his neck before swooping under her to glide away, "I can glide myself."
"It's a surprise. So I actually want you to close your eyes." Severa raised an eyebrow but something about it was making her smirk so she closed her eyes. "Don't open them, no matter what. Promise?"
"Yeah." Suddenly, Brooklyn's flight pattern got wilder but he held tighter to her. She gripped his neck tighter, burying her face into his neck. A minute later, the rush of wind is gone and he's lowering her onto the ground, "I didn't scare you did I?"
"You frightened the hell out of me!" she paused in a stoop against some nearby brick to catch her breath, "But what a rush!"
Coming back up, she saw lights, elevated passage ways in the open air, and a lake below. "Where…?"
"This is Belvedere Castle. It's one of the few places in Central Park that has power. Down there is Belvedere Lake. Thought you might like this place. I've been cleaning it up nonstop for the past two weeks." Severa looked on awestruck, "Why did you do this?"
"You don't need an answer for that." She walked down the walkway until she came to an open-roofed area to look over the water. Colorful lights were shining over the brick. It reminded her of the Basilica in Cartago. She couldn't wait an instant longer. Severa jumped onto the ledge and dove head first over the side. Brooklyn rushed to the brick in panic then heard a splash. He watched and watched but she wasn't coming up so he swooped down and clung to the brick just about water level. "Severa!"
She leapt out of the water and grabbed his waist to pull him in. "Take a breath." Brooklyn was promptly yanked into the water. The water was cold but refreshingly so. Suddenly, he felt a pull at his hand and water rushing past him. She was pulling him at top speed through the water making turns, going up, down, and all around to pay him back for the flight there. Brooklyn felt his lungs giving in and squeezed her hand. She immediately when up and out. Both of them sat on the surface trying to catch their breath. She was laughing which in turn made him laugh. This was a side, he rarely saw of her and he liked it instantly. She began swimming in circles around him, pulling him every once in a while. After a good long swim, he takes her up to the pinnacle of the castle. "Thank you, Brooklyn. I'm really enjoying myself."
"You sacred me when you pulled me in but it was a rush to my head." She giggled, "Well now we're even. I'm not sure if I was entirely ready for your roller coaster ride."
Now he chuckled then paused. "So why were you afraid? Of heights, I mean?" he knew it might ruin the mood and that she might now feel inclined to answer but a little bit of something was better than all of nothing. For a minute, he thought he was right because she didn't respond, "Before Eva hatched, and before I was old enough to learn to glide…"
Brooklyn shifted for the last time before he'd concentrate on listening. "I was so eager to learn so I could help Alonso protect the town. He wouldn't allow me to help and kept reminding me that I was still too little. He used to worry about me a lot. So I found my own spot to practice. There weren't many high spots that where vacant but the bell tower. I didn't know which hallway to take to get up there so I scaled the walls and the roof. At the top, I saw how high up I was and felt only a little nervous. I'd never been that high up before but I hardly thought anything of it. I was excited that I'd finally learn to glide and the view made me that much more excited because I could see the Atlantic and last light of day coloring it.
"I knew the bell rang for 7pm service but I didn't put two and two together. So I was just as surprised to see the bell ringer as he was of me. He screamed and I lost balance. I woke up in a bed in the basement the next night with Alonso sitting next to me and Monja Ivelisse running in after. Alonso was checking my head and unwrapping some bloodied bandages. When I asked what happened, he said I fell from the tower, nearly cracked my skull in. The bell ringer ran to tell the high priest he saw a demon. Alonso overheard and found me first, unconscious with a puddle of blood under my head. He didn't have time to clean up the blood but the high priest and some monks cleaned and purified the spot.
"I didn't remember any of it but Alonso wanted me to understand the seriousness of the situation and took me back there. Once I looked down from the bell tower, it all flooded back and any height above my head was too frightening to bare ever since."
Brooklyn shifted, feeling the end of a sad tale, "Not at all what I was expecting."
"What were you expecting?"
"Nothing really, but this was…unexpected" It was quiet for a while after. They just listened to the trickling of water below them when Brooklyn decided to muster some gumption, "Severa…I uh…I"
"You don't have to say it. I know. And I'm sorry, but I think I may be in love with someone."
"Oh…I...I hope the best for you two." The silence was awkward and he felt like he'd been broken in two. She continued, "Thing is, I hadn't told him until just now."
"Wha-…" Brooklyn scarcely heard what she said then finally noticed how intensely she was staring into his eyes. "I didn't know how to tell him until now."
Brooklyn caught on then smirked a smidge, "Is this guy even interested?"
"As surely as that star is shining." Brooklyn looked up for stars in a New York sky and sure enough, he found two, then three, then more. The clouds were clearing up and with no city lights for miles and a thin crescent moon, almost all the heavens became visible. When he went back to face her, she planted a kiss on his beak. He was taken aback but after a moment, he returned it. When they broke, she moved in closer to rest under his arm. Brooklyn looked into the night sky. He'd not seen this many stars since Scotland all those years ago. He'd never really been all that interested in them until now. They reminded Severa of home, and a promise she made many moons ago, "Brooklyn, now that I know how to glide…"
He stayed quiet, knowing where this was going, "It's hard for me to say this, but…"
"You don't have to say a thing. You miss your brothers. They've gone long enough without knowing what happened to you."
"But…what about you…about…us?" Brooklyn took in a deep breath, "I'll be here when you get back."
She was so sure he'd beg her not to go so she could strengthen her resolve but now that he offered no fight against her, she felt she had to convince herself to stay, "But…I can't leave like this. And it's a long way back. And…"
She couldn't stop the tears, "I don't want to leave." Brooklyn watched her bury her face in the crook of his neck. It wasn't hard for him to understand that she'd been holding all this back and now it was gushing out like a shattered dam. He took her shoulders and wiped her eyes, "You'll have to come back to see me then. Bring you brothers too."
He observed her eyes slowly drying up as she wiped them. He took her face into his hands and pulled her in for one more kiss.
Lexington found a way for Severa to get back home safely with a little help from Xanatos on the arrangements. She'd ride in a cargo hold with enough provisions to Central America. It was a hard goodbye for the whole clan, worst for Brooklyn but you'd never be able to tell the way he stood so dignified. He got one final glance before he watched her disappear into the night.
A few weeks later, Xanatos got a letter in the mail and decided to bring it to the courtyard just before dawn when the Manhattan clan would be in one place, "Gather 'round, my friends, I thought you might like to hear this."
"What is it?" Goliath questioned. The others collected around the envelope in his hand, Brooklyn stayed at ears distance away from the crowd, still trying to get over some things. Xanatos continued, "I got a letter from Panama expressing their deepest apologies. Apparently, a priceless statue I donated to a museum in Panama has gone missing. All that was left was pieces of stone left lying on the floor of the exhibit. They believe that whoever stole it must have damaged it considerably."
They all grinned but none more serene than Brooklyn's. When the sun rose, that magnanimous expression was frozen in place. It was only a matter of time before she'd return to make his grin bigger.
(A/N) It's a curious thing: originally, I meant for the title to have a meaning synonymous with "earn my attention and applause" but it has taken new meanings – influence, frighten, excite, mesmerize, overwhelm, fascinate, overcome – all ending properly in "me". Look these up in any thesaurus and you'll find MANY meanings to the word "impress" (btw, thesaurus will become you best friend if you want your readers to take your stories seriously). Incidentally, all these words are precisely what your readers should experience when they read your work. It makes their world seem that much more understandable and little less impossible, and they'll LOVE you for it.
So if you haven't noticed, this story sounds finished but still reads as incomplete status. There's one more chapter; an epilogue. I know some can live without the closure but I assure you, mistaking the Empress of Cliff-Hangers as someone who will let an epilogue do its job and provide closure will put you behind everyone else in what I'm about to do. So don't forget to read it or you'll get 24 years of bad luck. Chapter 17 coming soon.
Go to my deviantArt page to see the updated Severa if you haven't already. I'm thinking about drawing out Kale and her family but that's still VERY negotiable. Well, the link is below, copy and paste, delete the space, and don't forget the dot-com. And as always, enjoy.