The Guardians: Bittersweet
Christine Morgan
christine@sabledrake.com / http://www.christine-morgan.org

Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney and are used here without their creators' knowledge or
permission. All other characters property of the author. This story takes place directly following The Guardians: Alchemist.

#1 in a spinoff series



February 25th, 2018
Manhattan, Castle Wyvern

"Ye're yet ill," Old-Mother cautioned as her son swayed on his feet. "Heed yer mate and rest."
Goliath nodded weakly and sank back down on the bed he'd only recently vacated. Of the plague that had come so
close to ending his life, there was no lingering sign but for an ashen under-hue to his lavender skin, and a sunken weariness
about his eyes.
His mate Elisa, the dark and lovely human woman whose black hair was streaked with grey, smiled gratefully at Old-
Mother. "At least he listens to you! But are you sure you don't want to sit with him? I could --"
"Nay, lass ... 'tis yer place and yer right. I'll speak more with him later. For now, the two of ye need to be together."
"You ... you are not leaving?" Goliath asked, clasping her hand. "You mean to stay?"
"For a time, aye." She marveled that the hatchling she'd seen only -- by her reckoning -- a few hours before was now a
male full-grown. "Look at ye ... ye're much like yer father, ye know, though taller. But yer coloring ... that comes from me. Och,
but he'd be proud to see ye!"
"Come and meet the rest of the clan," Amber offered as she came back into the medical unit. "I need to give the Phoenix
Gate back to Alex before he connipts."
She had changed out of the medieval garb worn on her visit to the past, and looked more comfortable, though strange to
Old-Mother's eyes, in snug black trews and a skimpy copper-mesh top that left shoulders, arms, and back bare.
But then, the child needed her back bared that her wings might not be constricted; they caped behind her in a flow of soft
violet. She'd finally freed herself from the oversized shoes she'd worn, walking on petite arched and taloned feet. Her hair, a
darker shade of sable than her sire's, swung softly against her back.
"Connipts isn't a word," Elisa teased.
"You told me that party wasn't a verb when you were a kid," Amber countered.
"I don't mean to discourage you," Goliath said to Old-Mother, "but to see too much of the future --"
Old-Mother bumped her knuckles fondly on his brow ridge. "What has been will be, and there's naught that I could learn
that would harm me. E'en were there, to know that so many centuries later my clan will live on in this world of wonders is enough
to take any sting from it. All I wish to do is look on the faces of yer clan's children, for they be the hope of our kind."
"I think most of them are in the covered garden," Elisa said. "Waiting --"
"Waiting to hear whether I would live or die," Goliath finished for her. "Go to them, Amber, and take Brooklyn the news that
he's not leader yet."
"I think he'll be more relieved than we are." Elisa stroked Goliath's sable hair. "As for you, mind your mother and rest. Don't
make me sit on you to hold you down."
As Amber and Old-Mother headed for the door, she heard him rumble, "That might be just the thing," in a voice they probably
weren't meant to hear.
"How'd he come to contract the plague?" she asked, following Amber down a hallway at once familiar and strange to her. In
the time she'd left, parts of the castle were still under construction, but now she could feel the very age of the stones and know that
they had been ruins for hundreds of years before being rebuilt and strengthened.
"The Seven Vials. Ancient artifacts, each supposedly filled with a different virus. An enemy of the clan stole them. As usual, the
clan and Guardians swung into action to stop her. It worked, but her parting shot was to shatter the Vial full of the gargoyle-plague."
"Guardians? D'ye mean to tell me that in this time, 'tis the humans protecting the gargoyles and nae the other way around?" Old-
Mother chuckled ruefully.
"Well, things are different now," Amber said, illustrating the point by stopping at a doorway Old-Mother didn't recognize and
pressing a button. "When I was a kid, hardly any humans even believed in gargoyles, except as stone statues on cathedrals and
old buildings."
The door slid open to reveal a tiny room beyond. Its walls were mirrors of surpassing clarity. As they entered, Amber pressed
another button. Old-Mother gasped as the entire room jolted beneath her. She clutched at a handrail.
"Sorry," Amber said as the doors opened again on another level of the castle. "It's just an elevator."
"Elevator," Old-Mother rolled the unfamiliar word around in her mouth. "The humans accept gargoyles now, better than in my
time?"
"Most of them. There's always going to be the ones that hate anything different. But Uncle Xan convinced Daga that the best
way to get people over their fear and superstition was to let them see that in the ways that count, we're all the same. Human or
gargoyle, we think and feel and have the same needs, hopes, and dreams. Plus, having a couple of gargoyles in the public spotlight
helped a lot. Before I was born, there was a gargoyle rock star -- a musician, a minstrel -- named Ebon. And there's Godiva, she's
famous too. Though technically she's not really a gargoyle ... but hardly anyone outside the castle and her own clan know that."
"So yer clan is safe here, despite all?"
"Oh, sure ... there are the occasional kooks, but nothing like they tell me it used to be. The biggest problem now is the government.
Civil rights, taxes ... INS once tried to deport the clan back to Scotland, Daga and Zaza's marriage isn't even legally recognized,
things like that. Uncle Broadway jokes that he looks back fondly on the days when we had enemies that could be fought hand
to hand!"
From up ahead, Old-Mother heard youthful whoops, adult voices raised in encouragement. "Ye said we're nae in Scotland
anymore -- what, lass? Did I say something funny?"
Amber composed herself. "Context. Never mind. But yeah. This is America ... they wouldn't have discovered it yet in your time,
unless maybe the Vikings already had ... a land across the sea to the west."
"Another land and a thousand years later, yet ye still speak the same tongue? Or be there some magic involved? For it seems
to me that I hear myself speaking as ye do."
"That's part of the Phoenix Gate's power. Alex calls it a 'language acquisition' spell, which also let me speak and understand
your language when I went to the past."
The hallway ended in a gallery that ringed an open space, once part of the courtyard but now covered with beams of metal
and panes of glass. Beyond the windows, the lights of an impossible city spread like a bed of stars, sparkling in white, gold, and
red. Inside, trees and shrubs grew in such symmetrical and deliberately tended order that it hardly seemed real at all. In the center
was a pond of perfect rectangular shape and unearthly bright turquoise water.
Gargoyles occupied the chamber, by a large block of stone with ledges and platforms set all at different levels. The adults stood
around the base, calling instruction to the four hatchlings that climbed and launched themselves in clumsy gliding efforts toward the
waiting arms below.
"So few," she murmured.
"Daga started with a clan of six, all males. He thinks, all things considered, we didn't do too badly!"
Amber hopped up onto the railing and spread her wings. Old-Mother watched her descend in a wide spiral to the side of the
pond. For all the child was half-human, Old-Mother concluded, she handled herself as well as any full-blooded gargoyle in flight.
"Hroooo!" a dark blue watch-beast called, making the rest look up.
"Amber!" a portly blue-green male hailed. "How's Goliath? Any better?"
"Much better!" Amber announced, settling into their midst. "In fact, all better."
"But Dr. Masters said it was incurable!" The speaker, scarlet and beaked, sounded as though he hardly dared hope.
"Don't worry, Uncle Brooklyn. You're off the hook. I went -- where's Hudson?"
"He betook Delilah and the brood down to the armory," a slim, pale female replied. "Aramis needed a new sword."
"And Porthos a new buckler," added a web-winged olive-green male. "And they both almost needed a trip to the infirmary."
"Lex, shh!" hissed another female. Old-Mother's heart skipped at an image very nearly an echo of herself, less a dozen or so
decades. "Let her tell us about Father!"
"He's well," Amber said. "Tired, resting, but he'll be fine. I just got back from bringing someone who could help him."
"But we just saw you an hour ago," the portly male said, puzzled.
"That was a few weeks ago, my time. Because look who I found." Amber beckoned to Old-Mother.
They all stared up at her in astonishment, eyes widening and mouths gaping one and all.
Old-Mother, mindful of the creakiness of her wing-joints, glided sedately down. She smoothed her silver-grey plait. "Well met,
younglings."
"Who's she?" the red male demanded.
"Look at her ... can't you tell who she must be?" The lavender female smoothed her own thick plait in an unconscious motion. She
took a tentative step toward Old-Mother. "You ... you're from the clan ... the old clan ... aren't you?"
"Amber, what did you do?" a crested, web-winged female whispered.
"Whoa ... this is freaky!"
"Hush, Broadway my love!"
"Well, it is!"
"Alex made a new Phoenix Gate," Amber said. "Aunt Elektra, do you remember what Hudson said? About the alchemist?"
The pale female nodded. "You sought her aid, and brought her hither."
"Goliath's mother. My grandmother!" the lavender female said shakily, reaching out.
Old-Mother clasped her hand and squeezed it. "Aye, lass. And ye others are the children o' my clan, that canna be denied. I see
them in ye, in so many o' ye. I'm known to them as Old-Mother, and would be the same to ye."
"Seeing the future --" the smallest female began worriedly.
"It's all right, Aunt Aiden," Amber assured her.
"Come an' let me look on ye," Old-Mother invited. "Tell me yer names, since ye have them."
"I am Angela, Old-Mother. Brooklyn is my mate. Kathe is our daughter." Angela drew a hatchling forward.
Kathe smiled demurely. Like the others, she looked to be perhaps eight or nine years old. She was already showing the promise
of great beauty, with deep red-purple skin, fine features, and tousled white hair held at bay by a pair of thin backswept horns.
"I'm Broadway," the portly male said. "Um ... she's Elektra, and that's our son Malcolm."
The indicated hatchling, of light aquamarine, had a cap of soft brown hair through which short fleshy nubs protruded. His were
the sort of chubby cheeks that made females past a certain age and of any race yearn to pinch them. He waved shyly and retreated
to hide behind his sire.
The web-winged male and his mate approached, hands linked with their offspring. "My name's Lex, this is Aiden, and our two are
Kenneth and Finella."
The tiny female was greenish-grey, with ringlets of hair of sunny blond. She pirouetted prettily and dropped a curtsey before giving
in to a fit of the giggles. Her brother had a crest like his mother, a bald little head, and an infectious, gap-fanged grin.
"Are you a thousand years old?" Kenneth asked, goggling.
"Nae quite that old, lad. Och, I am so verra pleased to meet all of ye," Old-Mother said, her voice thick with emotion. She
moved among the clan, touching a horn here, a brow ridge there, wing talons, elbow spurs. "Yer rookery mothers and fathers would
be so proud."
"Does she know?" Lex mouthed at Amber, who shook her head and gave him a sideways nod meaning she'd tell them later.
The gargoyle beast jumped up and planted his forefeet on her stomach. She took one of his large finlike ears in each hand and
waggled them. "And who be this fellow?"
"His name's Bronx," Broadway said.
"Old-Mother," Elektra said, "please tell us, 'tis true you healed Goliath? He will be well?"
"'Tis true, child." She sat on a low stone wall which ringed a bed of flowering bushes the likes of which she'd never seen, their
fragrance sweet and light. Bronx rested his head in her lap, eyes soulfully begging for more attention. "Yer Amber here came to me
in a ball o' flame ..."
They gathered about her, crouching on the grass to listen. She told them the entire story, how she and Prince Corwin had been
surprised by the dramatic arrival, Amber's heartfelt appeal on behalf of the leader of her clan, the suspicious and avarice of the Magus --
"Not your Magus," Amber whispered to Elektra. "I think this one grew up to be the Archmage."
-- and the confrontation that had left them with only one escape route: the Phoenix Gate. "Whereupon, we gave the medicine to
Goliath, and cured him o' the sickness."
"Wow, Amber ... you saw the old clan," Broadway said, amazed. "What was it like?"
"Daga was only a little older than the hatchlings! Fourteen, right, Old-Mother?"
"Aye, he and his siblings."
"Uncle Coldstone, Aunt Coldfire ... the white gargoyle they say was your mother, Aunt Elektra ... even ... uh ... never mind." She
cast anxious don't-say-it looks at the rest. "Oh! And Hudson! You would not have believed Hudson!" A dusky rose darkened her
cheeks.
"Speaking of which," Lex said, cocking his head. "Here they come."
"This always cracks me up," Brooklyn said, already starting to snicker. "It's just like something from a cartoon."
Old-Mother turned expectantly toward the approaching footsteps and voices. She recognized him at once, despite the changes
that had been wrought in the gargoyle who'd been second-in-command.
His skin was faded from the vibrant bronze, and his stocky shape was contained within a leather corselet instead of being well-
displayed as had been his wont. His yellow hair had gone grey and receded, and as if to make up for it, a lush beard bristled from
his chin.
Aye, she could see why Amber had been so startled upon realizing his identity ...
A respectful pace behind the male was a striking golden-tan female with a cascade of white hair, her expression both attentive
and adoring. Behind her marched three little males in a row, each of them a spitting image of Hudson as he'd been at that age. Bringing
up the rear came a female who was nothing if not a younger version of her mother.
"I still can't believe we didn't figure it out until Hatching Night," Lex said.
"Yeah. Who'da thunk it? Hudson and Delilah?" Broadway agreed.
"'Tis called 'discretion,' love," Elektra murmured.
"'Tis called weird," Lex said. "I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head."
"Now, then, lads," Hudson was saying, "Remember that when ye're fighting --"
He saw Old-Mother, and the rest of his words became a jumbled exclamation. He stopped short, so that Delilah almost walked
into him and the four hatchlings promptly fell all over each other like baby chicks.
"So ye're Hudson, now, is it?" she asked gently.
"Old-Mother? What --"
"Sorcery is this?" half of the rest of them chorused merrily, but he ignored them.
"Aye, sorcery indeed, the Phoenix Gate that brought me through time to visit yer clan. 'Tis glad I am to see ye." She held out her
hands.
"Old-Mother ... it canna be!" He grasped them as if he expected her to dissolve into mist and moonlight, jumped a bit as she did
not. "Ye're real!"
"As real as ye are." She recounted a quick version of what had happened. "So ye've a mate, at last?"
He coughed, cleared his throat self-consciously. "We're ... na exactly mates ..."
"Samson remains my sworn mate, wherever he might be," Delilah said, her voice so eerily like that of Goliath's Elisa that Old-
Mother took a moment to get past that and attend what she was saying. "But Hudson is the sire of my young and helps me to teach
them what gargoyles must know."
"Who're you?" one of the males demanded stridently, much to the stammering Hudson's evident relief.
"I am Old-Mother, little one. How are ye called?"
"Athos! This is Porthos, and Aramis, my brothers. And our sister D'Artagna. She's bossy."
"I am not!"
"Oh, yes you are," Porthos said.
"She is," Finella confided in a stage-whisper to Old-Mother, and nods rippled around the rest of the hatchlings.
"Athos is the bossy one," D'Artagna declared huffily.
Brooklyn nudged Amber in the ribs. "They get it from you, you know."
Hudson suddenly blanched as if he'd been struck in the face. "Amber ... lass? Ye're ... ye're Eolande? Old-Mother's apprentice?
That was ye, Amber?"
"Uh, yeah." Her eyes twinkled. "You were a real hottie, I must say!"
"Hudson was?" Aiden blurted, then hastily apologized. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way, honest! I'm sure ... Delilah says
... uh ..."
"Just drop it before you put your whole foot in," Lex advised her.
Hudson paid them no mind, his brow ridges knit in troubled concern. "But ... ye've come home! How?"
"The Phoenix Gate --"
"Which you promised to return the moment you got back, Amburger" a suave voice interrupted.
Old-Mother beheld a young human man approaching. His fire-gold hair was long and drawn back, his beard neatly trimmed, and
he carried himself in the manner of a prince. The woman at his side was queenly and aloof, her ice-blond beauty that of a distant and
forbidding snow-capped peak.
"I was on my way, Alex, I swear."
"A successful trip, I take it." He bowed to Old-Mother. "Alexander Xanatos, at your service, my lady. May I present my betrothed,
Patricia St. John?"
"Welcome to our era," the woman said, managing to convey politeness while at the same time flicking her cool cerulean gaze
disapprovingly toward Amber. "Though I confess, I am surprised that there was this slight breach of chrononautical ethics."
"Oh, now Trish," Alex chided. "A guest from another time is an honor to be cherished! After all, this castle was her home long before
it became ours. Please, Old-Mother, feel free to stay for as long as you'd like."
"Thank ye, highness."
"Ooh, I do like the sound of that." He caught up her hand and kissed it in the most debonair of fashions. "But call me Alex. We're
all clan here."
"Alex, as ye will. I'll stay a few nights by yer leave, but I know that I must soon be returning to my own time." She inclined her
head toward Patricia. "And I am aware o' the cost o' my journey. I assure ye, I'll not attempt to change the past no matter what I may
learn o' the fate o' my clan. 'Tis enough for me to see that these descendants be happy and well."
"Fair enough," Alex said. He looked expectantly at Amber until she produced the blue and gold swirl of the Phoenix Gate from
her pocket and dropped it into his outstretched palm.
"But I'll be needing to borrow it again when Old-Mother's ready to go back. I promised I'd see her safely home."
"Lass, maybe ye should ..." Hudson trailed off.
"What's the matter, Hudson?" Brooklyn asked.
"Nothing, leave it be." He scowled at the grass.
Alexander smiled winningly at Old-Mother. "You must let me give you the grand tour. I hope you'll like what we've done with
the place."

**
February 25th, 2018

Old-Mother backed away from the edge, slightly dizzied and for the first time in her life overwhelmed by vertigo. "And to think,
when Prince Corwin built these walls they were thought high then!"
"Second highest building in the world," Alex said. "It was the highest until three years ago, when Brock's Tower in Chicago topped
us by four feet."
In the east, the clouds were fluffed silver under the light of a waning moon. Towering structures, the likes of which even the prince's
architects would never have dared to imagine, rose in majestic silhouettes.
"How strange it must have been for ye to awaken and find this before ye," she said.
"Aye, we knew we'd slept long," Hudson replied, resting his elbow on the parapet in a posture she knew well from his younger
self. "But who could have known what a difference it would make in the world?"
"'Tis hard to believe that I'm seeing the same world before me."
Alex, leaning against a curve of wall in a pose of slouched insolence, beamed. "I take it you're impressed?"
"I dinna have the words to say how much, Alex. Yer castle overlooks a vast empire. I've never seen the like."
"My father didn't name me after Alexander the Great for nothing ... but really, I don't own the whole island. We do things a little
differently now."
"A good thing, too," Patricia said, "else your brother might give you a challenge for lord of the realm."
"Never happen," Alex said confidently. "T.J. may be a genius in his field, but he's no businessman. I'm much more versatile and
have far better people-skills."
"You're not concerned, then, that Cyberbiotics stock value just passed that of Xanatos Enterprises?" A second young man, whose
approach Old-Mother hadn't noticed until he spoke up, showed Alex a handheld device of some black shiny substance with a glowing
square set into it.
"What?" Alex snatched it, peered into the square. "Oh-ho, big brother, is that how you want to play? I detect the fine hand of Preston
Vogel at work here ... pardon me, everyone. Business calls. I'll see you at dinner. Coming, Sebastian?"
A shadow passed over them in a rushing swoop, and Goliath landed with Elisa in his arms. His clan surrounded him in joyful relief.
"You have no idea how happy this makes me!" Brooklyn said fervently. "I'm still in no hurry to be leader. As far as I'm concerned,
you keep right on doing it until we're both too old, and then we can just hand the whole shebang over to Amber, or Athos, or one of
the other hatchlings."
"Me? Are you crazy?" Amber protested.
Goliath pushed through the crowd and stopped face to face with Old-Mother. "I ... I cannot say ..."
"My son," she said warmly, reaching -- and it was indeed a reach! -- to lay her palms alongside his face. "There be no need for thanks.
Ye are my own, and I'm rewarded a hundred times over just to see ye happy with yer mate and clan."
Elisa, with unsubtle pokes and nudges, urged the others away. Moments later, only the two of them stood on the battlements. Old-
Mother studied him searchingly. Every trace of the illness was gone, and his skin had taken on the particular healthy sheen that explained
his delay in emerging from his room.
The wind drew his hair in a dark streaming banner around his solemn face. "When I was young, I never realized the truth that you seem
to have known. It was not the gargoyle way. But after I discovered Angela was my daughter, after Amber was born, I thought back and
I wondered."
"Ye have become a great leader, as was yer father. I know ye've been through much, through far more than any gargoyle should ever
dread to experience, but ye have come from it strong and brave and honorable."
"I am glad to have this chance to meet with you again, but ..." his fists curled on themselves in anguish. "I worry for what you might learn."
"Nay ... dinna worry for that. I canna change what is fated to be, nor will I rage agin' it." She put her arms around him. "Look at this ...
my head dinna e'en come to yer shoulder ..."
"Did they tell you much of our clan?"
"I've heard how the castle came to be moved here, and many o' the adventures ye had on first awakening. Angela -- och, Goliath,
she's so verra beautiful --"
"She looks just like you."
"Mayhap that be what I like best about her," she chuckled. "She and Elektra told me some of their life on Avalon. But I'm feeling
that there's much been left out. Whether 'tis that they felt the tales too troubling for me to hear or too dark and painful for themselves
to relate, I dinna know."
"Some of both, perhaps," Goliath said somberly. "Angela in particular has been badly hurt in the past, and none of us were well-
suited to help her get through those times. It wasn't until the hatching that she began to break from the stone skin of her grief."
"And ye, my son? How d'ye fare? Have ye found happiness here?"
"Yes. My clan thrives, we have helped make it possible for other gargoyles to no longer live in hiding, and Elisa ... with Elisa, I have
found a truer happiness than anything I have ever dreamed."
"That be all any mother could hope to hear."
"And now ... seeing you again ... to have the chance to say all that I never knew to say as a child ... to thank you for all that you
taught me ... it is more than I could have wished. From you, I learned that wisdom is greatest of strengths."
"Ye have learned to use it well. I am so verra proud of ye, Goliath. Remember that, always."
He bowed his head. "Although I know what must be, I cannot help but wish that you could stay, and be a part of our clan."
"Keep me here, Goliath --" she tapped his chest, and his brow. "And here ... and ye'll ne'er be without me. No matter the distance,
worldly or timely, between us."
"I shall ... Mother."
The moment was broken by the sudden bounding arrival of Bronx, with Athos astride his neck and D'Artagna scrabbling to hold on
to the slope of his lower back. Goliath and Old-Mother drew apart, bemused. The rest of the hatchlings scrambled up the steps and
flocked around their legs, many little claws tugging at Old-Mother's skirt.
"Come play with us!" Athos and D'Artagna demanded.
"Tell me a story?" Finella pleaded prettily.
"Wanna see our 3DVD-player?" Kenneth chimed in.
"Eggs, eggs, please!" Elektra laughed as she and Broadway emerged from the stairwell behind them. "Patience, do!"
"I will gladly do each of those things," Old-Mother said, patting their heads. "But not all at once! Come, let us go inside."
Goliath offered her his arm to escort her within, down to the suite of rooms that had once been their clan's main dwelling and still
served as an informal gathering-place though each of the mated pairs now had private chambers elsewhere in the castle.
"Who's hungry?" Broadway slapped his belly like a kettle drum, to the great amusement of the hatchlings. "We'll make a special
dinner tonight, how about?"
"Yay!" Porthos tackled Broadway's tail and clung to it, so that he was dragged along the floor. "Macaroni and cheese!"
"Fish sticks are the only good food," Finella proclaimed.
"I told you to eat something else whilst you were gravid," Elektra chided Aiden.
"At least she lets me cook them instead of taking them frozen," Aiden said.
"Ham and scalloped potatoes, peas with pearl onions, crescent rolls, and banana cream pie for dessert," Broadway said.
"Macaroni and cheese!" Porthos insisted. "Don' like scallopatoes!"
"They have cheese in them," Malcolm said, quietly but sensibly, tucking his small hand into Broadway's large one.
Kathe raised her arms to Old-Mother to be lifted. "I like banana cream pie, do you?"
"I'm sure as I will, lass." She rested the child in the crook of her elbow.
"Old-Mother? Why are you crying?" Angela asked worriedly.
"Och ... 'tis but that I never thought to see a night such as this." She kissed Kathe between her horns, and looked at Angela with a
smile. "Here I spent so many years of my life sure that I'd never have a child of my own ... and to see my grandchildren, great-
grandchildren ... it be more than I could have hoped!"
"Old-Mother knew Daga was her son," Amber said. "The rest of the clan didn't approve of her giving him extra attention."
Angela mock-glowered at her. "I know what that's like! Maybe there's something to be said for the old ways after all ..."
Amber stuck out her tongue.
"Oh, that's attractive," Brooklyn teased. "Dignified future leader of the clan, right there!"
"As opposed to taking apart biker bars, like Aunt Birdie says you used to do, dignified second-in-command?"
"Ye had yer reasons for doing as ye did," Hudson said to Old-Mother, absently prying Athos and D'Artagna apart as their tussling
match started to get too rough. "I understand them better now."
"We all do," Lex said, hefting Finella up to ride astride his shoulders. "But you should have heard Hudson grousing when the females
all decided to keep track of whose was whose!"
"As if we wouldn't have known by the sight of them." Aiden began stalking Kenneth with the intent of tickling. "Gonna getcha, baby
boy, here I come to getcha!"
He squealed and backed up, but instead of going into a tight protective crouch, he spread his arms over his head and made his wings
stand out.
Old-Mother drew back in surprise as fine silvery tendrils shot from Aiden's fingertips, arrowing toward Kenneth's exposed ribs. At
the last moment before they struck, a flare of energy shot from his outstretched wings and enveloped, then eradicated, the tendrils.
"Ooh, good one, Ken!" Lex called.

**
February 27th, 2018

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Elisa said ruefully, sitting down beside Old-Mother and drawing a heavy book onto her lap. "My
mother used to do it to me whenever we had company, and I swore I would never do the same to my kids."
"Zaza, it's only a photo album!" Amber giggled.
"You say that now, but what would happen when I show your boyfriends these pictures?" She stopped at a page featuring a
winged toddler running naked away from a bathtub, leaving a trail of soapy water.
"Well ... okay ..."
"Ye've captured the very moments of life here in a book ... better than a painting!" Old-Mother flipped pages back to the beginning.
"Och, would ye look at this! Ye were fair fit to burst, Elisa!"
"I thought I'd wind up carrying her the whole ten years it took the eggs to hatch," Elisa said, wincing in remembrance.
"What be this green bar?"
"Broadway's finger," Amber said.
"It took him forever to get the hang of that camera. Here's the night she was born. I look like homemade hell, so just ignore me. These
are my mom and dad ... my brother Derrek. And these are the twins, Amber's cousins. Dee, here, is up at the Sterling Academy now,
but Tom dropped out and lives in Nigeria with some friends of my mother's."
Amber turned the page. "This is me and Orpheus Bluestone, when we were little. Orph's at the Academy like Dee. So's Neesha,
Grandma and Grandpa's adopted daughter. I'll be going there one day myself."
"'Tis a school, I take it?" Old-Mother asked.
"A school for oddballs --"
"Special talents," Elisa corrected, smiling.
"Same thing. They even teach magic. Patricia is majoring in sorcery there. Oh, and this is Ebon --"
"He looks so like Goliath!"
Elisa coughed. "Long story ..."
"Ebon's the one I told you about, the rock star. We have all the Scarlet Angel albums on microsphere. It's the most beautiful music,
Old-Mother! We should listen to some later."
They paged past scene after scene, and even Old-Mother's unpracticed eye could tell that the quality of the pictures gradually improved.
In most of the earlier ones, everyone appeared happy -- or startled and awkward-looking, leading her to believe that Broadway had caught
them by surprise. But then a subtle change crept in, a hint of sadness, particularly centering about Angela.
"This was when they finally signed the Harmond Bill into effect," Elisa said, pausing at one of a man who looked very like an older, worldly-
wise and sardonic version of Alexander pouring foamy wine. "It acknowledged gargoyles as a separate sentient species, and put a stop to
all the wackos who wanted to lock them away in zoos and labs."
"Wasn't that also the year Godiva opened Coventry?" Amber asked.
"I think so." Seeing Old-Mother's confusion, Elisa elaborated. "The Coventry Hotel in Las Vegas. You heard about Coldstone and
Coldfire?"
"Aye, Goliath told me o' his brother and sister."
"They're living at Coventry now, with their sons Gabriel and Angus, and a few gargoyles from other clans."
Amber turned another page. "Look, it's Aunt Birdie going to the Emmys!"
"The original bad example," Elisa added dryly.
"I've heard this one mentioned by both Aiden and Brooklyn," Old-Mother said, leaning close to study the picture of a lush-figured brunette
standing with a sassy grin, one arm around the waist of a silver-bearded older man. "She dinna look like such a hellion."
"MacBeth got her to settle down a little," Elisa admitted. "But then he tried to get her to settle down too much and she bolted." She closed
the book, and a loose square fell from it to flutter onto the carpet.
Old-Mother picked it up. "And who be this?"
"Oh, God. Maggie," Elisa said. "I thought we gave all the ones of her to Derrek. We must have missed one."
"That was that night, wasn't it?" Amber said softly. "That she died?"
Elisa sighed. "Yeah ... that night."

**
March 5th, 2018

Old-Mother unbound her hair and let the wind comb cool fingers through it, eyes closed in silent contemplation.
Her head was filled with marvels that she knew she could never describe. The things they could do! The things they did, as a matter of
course! Alexander had done his best to explain everything she was seeing, and while she'd tried to keep up, after a while it had all run
together in a dazzle.
New elements that provided clean and ample power for all the machines that this era couldn't survive without ... harnessing the power
of the sun ... using seawater to bring crops to arid lands ... devices made to do the work of humans ... devices made to improve the humans
themselves ... cities in the sky ... weapons that could strike from a distance a thousand times bowshot or more ... methods of entertaining
themselves that would put the best storyteller of the tenth century to utter shame ...
They remade the world to suit themselves, remade themselves to suit themselves ...
She sensed she was no longer alone, and broke off her train of thought.
"I remember, ye used to sit like that every night," Hudson said.
"I still do. And though the sea air be nae so sweet here, 'tis still refreshing."
"Are ye enjoying yer stay?"
She looked over her shoulder at him. "Och, Hudson, more than anything! 'Twill be so hard to go. This past week be one of the most
delightful I've e'er known. The hatchlings, yer clan, this glorious city ... I feel I could live e'en my long lifetime again here and still na see all
there be to see."
"And I've still na had ye watch Celebrity Hockey wi' me," he grinned.
"But I did have to sit through the videotapes of every episode of that silly pyramid show."
"All's Pharaoh. Aye, sorry about that ... Bruce Campbell's na for everyone, but Birdie's always been a good friend of the clan." He
sat beside her on the wall. "Her 'big break,' as they call it."
"I was thinking of all that Alexander showed to me tonight. It seems verra strange to me ... they work so hard making things to make
their lives easier, but all it seems to do is give them more work to do."
"Aye, sometimes I think the serfs in our time had it softer."
"D'ye miss yer old life much?"
"Now and then. I miss the rest of the clan, my rookery brothers and sisters, the former leader. Seeing ye has brought it all back to me. In
yer mind, I'm still young. But here I am, nearly of an age wi' ye."
"Ye've still a few decades to go before ye catch up wi' me," she said, smiling. "And by the look of pretty Delilah, ye're none too old yet!"
A ruddy tide climbed from his beard over his cheeks. "Ah, well ... that was a surprise to me too. I'd thought such things were far behind me."
"Ye ne'er took another mate in all that while? After yer first one died?"
"My duties, my work, became my mate. I didna give it much more thought, until twenty or so years ago when the breeding season came
around."
"Aye, that's usually when it happens. But four eggs, Hudson ... that be unheard of!"
His expression mixed smugness and embarrassment. "Quite a shock to us all."
"But they all be fine and strong. Yer clan has done well. I'm proud of them, and have come to love them all no less dearly than the ones
from so long ago."
"Ye're well loved here, too, Old-Mother. Never forget that. Yer influence has been good for Amber; we've all remarked on it. And
Angela ... Angela's needed to meet someone like ye for a long time now."
"What happened, Hudson? What happened to cause so much pain?" Reading his face, she went on without waiting for an answer. "'Twas
her mother?"
"Aye," he said heavily. "Angela tried to mend things with her, tried to bring her back into the clan long after the rest of us had given up. In
the end, the cost was too high."
"There be something else I need to ask ye. About Amber."
His face settled into an expressionless mask. "Aye?"
"Ye've been odd about her all this week. She means to take me home night after tomorrow, but ye know something, d'ye not?"
"Old-Mother ..."
"Something happens when we go back? That ye remember, but we canna for it's nae passed yet in our recollection."
"Ye canna change the past. What mistakes were made have to be made."
She touched his shoulder. "Did ye make love wi' her?"
He jerked in shock and almost plunged from the wall. "Old-Mother!"
"For if ye had, 'twould be understandable that ye'd be worried on her reaction when she comes back to this time."
"I didna make love wi' her! What d'ye take me for? She's as a granddaughter to me!"
"Aye, now she is, but yer younger self didna know --"
Hudson shook his head. "I swear to ye, it wasna that." He cleared his throat and swallowed uncomfortably, then admitted in a painful
rush, "Though the only reason it didna progress was because I thought her to be human ..."
"Then, if it na be that, what? She ... och, Hudson, does she die? I canna allow her to go back if --"
"I dinna know!" he nearly roared in anguish. "And even if she did, ye couldna prevent it. She must go back, because she did go back."
"Tell me."
"I knew I'd seen the Phoenix Gate even before that whole business with Prince Malcolm's wedding," he said, speaking to his hands
that were knotted together in pale-knuckled fists. "I saw it ... during a battle, I saw it fall from Amber's hand ... into the sea, and be lost."
Old-Mother took in a slow, fearful breath. "Trapped ... she's to be trapped in the past wi' no way home?"
"All more I know is that after, she and ye left the castle together. When ye came back, ye were alone, and wouldna tell me what had
become of her."
The weight of more than a millennium pressed down crushingly on her. "Och, nay ..."
"And we canna change a thing about it."
She seized both of his hands forcefully in hers, unmindful of the dull pain that flared in her joints. "Dinna breathe a word of this to the
others, Hudson."
"Ye'd have me lie to Goliath?"
"This heavy secret be something we must bear ourselves. I swear to ye, I'll do all I can to protect her. There may but be some other
reason why I was bound to keep the truth from ye back then."
"But what will ye do?" he demanded.
"Whatever I did, dear friend. Whatever I did."

**
March 6th, 2018

The chamber was deep in the castle dungeon, but by some quirk of construction it had one tiny window, high and in the corner. That
aperture let a thin shaft of moonlight fall into the cluttered workspace below. A strange whirring sound came from the darkened depths
of the room.
Old-Mother paused in the open door. "Angela? Be ye here, lass?"
Angela emerged from the shadows, wiping her hands on a cloth, as the whirring slowed to a stop. "Back here, Old-Mother."
"Brooklyn said I might find ye in yer studio."
"I know it doesn't look like much, but it's right for me. I don't need a lot of light, and I trust my fingers more than my eyes for this."
"What d'ye do here? Paint?"
"Sculpture and pottery." Angela picked up a squat, wide-mouthed vase and held it into the shaft of moonlight so the glazing sparkled. "I'm
not very good at pottery, though."
"Why, 'tis a fine piece of work."
"I like sculpting better. In fact ... I made something for you, and I'd like your opinion."
"I warn ye, I dinna know much about such things ..."
"It's back here." Angela led her around a corner, of which the angular and oddly-shaped room had many. They had to squeeze past a
potter's wheel with a half-formed bowl on it, sidestep a damp-walled bin of clay, and finally came to a space where they had more freedom
of movement.
The longest straight wall was lined with shelves, filled with Angela's pottery. Her style was solid but not without grace, relying on a simplicity
of form and subtle use of texture and color to achieve the desired effect.
Among the bowls, mugs, and vases were other figures, sculptures of gargoyles captured in clay. Old-Mother exclaimed delightedly as she
recognized members of the clan.
"This is the one I wanted to show you. My newest." Angela pointed.
"Why ... ye've made an image of me, Angela! 'Tis wonderful!"
"Do you really think it's all right?"
Old-Mother laughed. "I'd think I looked some older than this, but ye'll na hear me complaining of that! Och, granddaughter ... 'tis perfect!"
"It's for you."
"I couldna take this, when ye've worked so hard --"
"Please. So you'll remember us."
"As if I'd forget any of ye ... but if ye insist."
"I do." Angela took down the sculpture and wrapped it carefully in a quilted cloth. "It's just meant so much to me, to all of us, being able
to meet you. When I was growing up on Avalon, I never felt much of a connection with my past. The stories the princess and the Magus felt
like only that -- stories. Until I met Goliath. But he was disconnected from his past too. Now that I've met you, I feel like something's
complete, like a circle."
"I feel the same."
The moonlight caught a single tear trickling down Angela's face. "I wish you didn't have to leave us. Not tomorrow. Not ever. It's going
to be so hard to lose you."
Old-Mother set the treasured sculpture aside and embraced Angela. "Ye'll ne'er lose me, child!"
"I've lost so much, though! Don't go!" She leaned her head against Old-Mother's shoulder.
"I'd like nothing better than to stay, but I canna change what was. My place, my fate, be waiting for me in my time."
She silenced the troublesome mental frettings that had dwelt within her ever since her previous nights' discussion with Hudson on the
battlements, by vowing once more to herself that she would do all within her power to assure that Amber's future-past would not be as
bleak as they feared.
"Now, see here, my Angela," she went on, stroking the young female's hair. "As I told yer father a few nights agone, ye'll ne'er be rid
of me. Ye most of all ... for all ye e'er need do is look in a mirror, and ye'll see some of me in yer reflection."
Angela mustered a tremulous smile, which Old-Mother returned. "I'm glad."
"Aye, as am I. Come, let's wipe those pretty eyes." She cast about for something to use, saw a stack of quilted cloths similar to the
one Angela had used to wrap the sculpture.
"Oh!" Angela gasped as Old-Mother leaned far into the shadows to reach for one.
It was tone of the gasp more than what she saw that made Old-Mother hesitate and peer more closely at the other sculptures tucked
into the darkest and most recessed corner of the shelf.
"What have ye here, child?"
"Please don't tell. The others would never understand."
"Who be these three? I dinna recognize them ..." A snowstorm of chills flurried down the back of her neck, between her wings, and
clear to the base of her tail. "Nay ... I do ... this one ... and this one looks, in the stature and chest at least ..."
Angela's lip quivered. "Like Goliath, yes, a little."
Since Angela did not offer resistance, Old-Mother brought the sculptures into the spill of moonlight. "I know this female, or did when
she was young. This be yer mother, then?"
"Demona."
"And this male ... yer brother."
"I tried, Old-Mother, I really tried to love them and forgive them, but they would never let me! They tore away every bridge between
us but the ties of blood, and it wasn't even that they hated me ... it was that they cared for nothing and no one else but themselves. And
still, I tried ... dopey Angela, turning cheek after cheek until a sane person would have long since been slapped silly."
"Ye have a good and caring soul, Angela, I see that in ye clear as a frosty night. 'Tis no crime."
"They repaid my caring with the most evil of betrayals ..." Her voice shattered into sobs, but her hands stayed gingerly steady as she
lifted the last of the sculptures. "They robbed me of something so precious to me ... they stole my hope, destroyed my faith ..."
Old-Mother touched the long elbow-blades, the backswept horns of the male figure. Understanding danced tantalizingly within her
grasp and then eluded her. "I dinna follow ye, I fear."
"They ... violated the rookery ... took my other egg ... my son!" It was hard going to pick the words from the weeping. "Science ... hell-
magic ... grew him ... to adulthood but turned him demonic ... something got into him ... something possessed him ... made him a heartless
unholy monster ... Damien! My poor Damien!"
She broke down completely, and Old-Mother could only hold her until the torrent passed. "Shh, there, lass ... 'tis well ... 'tis well ... I'm
here wi' ye."
"And we didn't know," Angela went on, a trifle more composed. "He cast all of Manhattan into a chamber of Hell, loosed devils on the
city, and we didn't even know who he was! We joined forces with Demona and Jericho to try and stop him, and they knew all the while
and didn't let on ... not until the very end. And even then, the only reason Jericho said it was to buy a little time! He only wanted to distract
Damien, didn't care that Brooklyn and I were right there to take that revelation square in the face! It was like being ripped apart, Old-
Mother! I'd been losing my mind since the egg went missing, and then to find out like that, as our own son was trying to kill us, the clan,
everyone ... a monster, he was pure evil, but still our son ... and then he was gone! He was gone, and Jericho, Demona ... my son,
brother, mother ... all forever and brutally taken from me even before they fell into the pit of Hell! Gone, and I never had a chance to
settle anything with them."
"But why, lass? Why did they do such a terrible thing?"
"That's what I wanted to know. How they could do it. To anyone ... to me ... to an innocent hatchling! But there was never a chance
to ask." She descended to a shaking whisper. "Never a chance to ask. And then, after ... everything was in shambles. We had a whole
city to put back together and I couldn't do a thing to help the clan. I hardly budged from the rookery, out of my head with fear that it would
happen again. No matter what they did with the castle security, no matter how many of the others offered to stay and keep watch, I just
knew that the moment I relaxed my vigilance, somehow I'd lose my other egg and be left with nothing."
Old-Mother nodded sympathetically. "I know some o' what ye must have been feeling, though na for the same reasons. I'd tried and
tried, failed and failed, to breed. My mate died o' the strain on his heart in that final breeding season, and I was ne'er so diligent as I was
when watching over my one, only egg. Had anything happened to it ... aye, Angela, I do know."
"After the hatching, when I saw for myself that Kathe was alive and fine and a perfectly normal hatchling like she was supposed to be,
I finally let myself hope that all would be well. The clan stood by me the whole time and helped me come back."
"That be what a clan is for."
"But I haven't forgotten. I'll never forget."
"Nay ... ye couldna do that."
"Damien was still my son. He didn't choose to be what he became."
"Ye're full allowed to love him still," Old-Mother said, making Angela look her in the eye as she did. "Ye're even allowed to have that
small sad love down so verra deep for yer mother and brother. There be no shame, no wrong, in that."
Angela's tears welled up afresh and tracked diamond-moonlight paths. "I don't want to. Part of me says that Jericho wasn't to blame,
that Demona used every trick to manipulate him and make him insane ... but another part tells me that he was a willing accomplice in his own
ruination. And Demona ... she wanted my love as a prize she could wrest from Goliath. She never knew me, only thought of me as her
daughter therefore her property."
"Forgive me, lass, but there yet be something I dinna follow ... ye say that Demona fell into the pit of Hell ... but was she nae the one to
unleash the plague on Goliath?"
She stared down at the cloth in her hands, twisting it and twisting it into a tight rope, and spoke so low that Old-Mother had to lean
close to hear.
"First Ventura fell in, and then Damien and Jericho, and then at the very end, moments before it closed, her old foe the Hunter dragged
her into the pit with him. There wasn't anything but a sunken place in the earth where the Nightstone Building had once been ... untold
humans pulled down with it and probably the clones as well because we never did hear from them again. The only survivors were Gustav
Sevarius and Godiva, who hadn't been in the building at all."
Angela fetched a sigh and continued. "We thought Demona was gone for good. What difference does immortality make in Hell? The
years went by, those first crazy years, and still nothing. Xanatos was able to convince everyone that the entire incident had been Night-
stone's fault, some sort of project of dimensional research that went bad. He got Gustav Sevarius to back him up, and between them they
put all of what was left of the company's resources toward repairing the damage and compensating the people who'd suffered on Devil's
Night."
"The humans didna point fingers at the clan?" Old-Mother asked.
"No, no one blamed us. Instead, they hailed us as heroes. A lot of people had seen us fighting Damien, and because of all the undead
and ghosts and other monsters in the city that night, they assumed he was a demon prince, not a gargoyle. Some, like Reverend Harry,
even called us angels, or descendants of angels, sent to protect humanity from the forces of evil."
"From what I've seen, humans are more likely to mistake us for demons."
"Reverend Harry explains all that," Angela said, the corner of her mouth tucking and curling wryly. "We are 'of strong and fearsome
form' the better to face our enemies in battle, and to remind the world that 'made in the image of the Lord' means in our capacity for reason
and compassion. The soul, not the body."
"Who be this Reverend?"
"Elisa calls him a flexible lunatic. He started off our enemy, certain we were Satan's own imps, and then totally reversed his thinking.
Now we're the saviors of mankind. He even started his own church. Harry wound up buying a plot of land across the lake from Xanadu,
Xanatos' old private upstate retreat. Now it's the home of the Followers of the Sacred Wing, a sort of cult."
"A cult? Ye mean ... ye canna mean ... for gargoyles!"
"I think we were all a lot more comfortable being feared or debunked as urban legends than we are with being worshipped. Goliath's
been up there a few times to try and talk some sense into Reverend Harry, but the chanting and groveling always scare him off before he
makes much progress."
"I canna believe that humans would be so peculiar."
"Anyway, about two years ago, odd sightings started on the West Coast." Her voice lost the bemused chagrin with which she'd been
discussing the cult. "They call themselves Nightstone Assassins. Alex can't decide whether they are trolls, earth elementals, or something
even stranger. He thinks they have a hive-mind, all sharing the same thoughts and obeying the same commands ... and Demona's their
queen."
"Ye saw her fall into this Pit, ye are sure it led to the place the humans call Hell?"
"I don't know what I'm sure of anymore. I don't know how or when she escaped the pit, what happened to her there, whether any of
the others survived, nothing! Only that she's back, and her tune hasn't changed. After everything that's happened, her tune hasn't changed.
She still wants to destroy the humans, more than ever. She used these Assassins to steal the Seven Vials, killing most of Brendan and Dakota's
team in the process."
"There must be some way to stop her madness," Old-Mother said.
"She can't be killed, no jail can hold her for long, she's canny and capable enough to ward against magic ... not even banishment to Hell
itself could slow her down. Somehow I think that if we locked her in an iron box, sealed the box in a cubic mile of concrete, and sank it in the
Marianas Trench, she would eventually find a way out."
"Have ye tried talking to her?"
"I gave up on that a long time ago."
"So ye've nae spoken since her return?"
"What is there to say? I never wanted to see her again! Yes, part of me missed her, a weak and stupid part of me even still tried to love
her, but most of my soul breathed a huge sigh of relief when she was gone! Good riddance! Let her be where she deserved! She did her
best to make this world hell-on-earth for the rest of us, so let her have a taste of her own medicine!"
"I'll take that as a nay, then."
"It's useless."
"D'ye think that if I --"
"No! Old-Mother, you can't! You couldn't! I know exactly what she'd do. If you're with Goliath, you have to be against her; there's no
room in her philosophy for anything else. Ally or enemy, that's the only way she can see. It'd take a miracle to change her view."
"I was rookery mother to her as well ... she may heed me when she heeds none other."
"But you're not her elder anymore. She's lived every grueling moment of a thousand years of guilt and rage, and is many times older than
you now. She wouldn't listen."
Old-Mother sank her head wearily against the heel of her hand. "I suppose ye're right, Angela ... yet I canna help but wish it different."
"So do I, but believe me, I've tried."
"What is there to do, then? She canna be allowed to persist in this."
Angela shrugged miserably. "That night on the mountain, after Goliath was infected, all any of us cared about was trying to help him, and
getting the remaining Vials someplace where they'd no longer be a risk. In the confusion, she got away. She always gets away. She's out
there now, somewhere, with her Assassins, even more furious because we ruined her plans yet again. All we can do now is wait for the next
plan and hope we're in time and lucky enough to put a stop to it."

**
March 7th, 2018

"I wanted to say goodbye before everyone else," Alex said. He folded his hands around Old-Mother's and bent to brush a quick kiss
on her cheek. "This has been a delight for us all. I've never seen the clan happier, more content. We've needed a mother-figure around here."
"Ye honor me to say so."
"It's nothing but the truth. Closest we had before was Diane Maza, and she had her hands full enough with the twins and the Institute
kids. Elisa's a great woman, but she's never been exactly what you'd call 'matronly.' Neither was my mom, for that matter. Or Patricia's.
Your visit's had a lasting impact on everyone."
"Aye, myself included. I'll miss all of ye dreadfully."
"Sure I can't talk you into staying?"
"If any could, 'twould be ye, ye silver-tongued charmer. But as ye well know, I have to return. Goliath needs me back then."
"I understand. Had to ask, though." He glanced toward the door to the grand hall. "Sounds like the bon voyage party is arriving, but
before they do, there's something I need to tell you. Something you'll need to remember, so you can tell Amber when the moment is right."
Her eyes narrowed. "What d'ye know, Alex? Has Hudson spoken to ye?"
"No time to explain." He leaned close and whispered in her ear. "Got it?"
"Aye, but --"
"She'll know what it means, what it's for."
"How d'ye know these things?"
"Hey, it's my job." He grinned, but it bore an underlying hint of ruefulness. "All that hard work ... damn. Oh, well. I should have foreseen it.
Ironic, really. My father would laugh."
The double doors opened, admitting the rest of the clan. Amber was in their midst, once more wearing her tenth-century Eolande costume,
trying to explain to the hatchlings that no, they couldn't go with her, and yes, she would bring them each a treat this time.
Old-Mother moved among them, sharing farewells and embraces and gently soothing tearful pleas that she change her mind. Not all of the
sniffling was coming from the little ones; Angela wept unabashedly on her shoulder, and Broadway kept blinking and acting as if a speck had
lodged in his eye.
Elisa hugged her. "As far as mothers-in-law go, I think I really lucked out."
Hudson hung back, his jaw set as if locked against shouting a warning, shoulders slumped in the beginnings of despair. When she came
to him, she clasped forearms with him and squeezed firmly, silently reminding him of her promise. He nodded in grudging acceptance.
Lastly, Goliath stood before her. "Mother ..."
"Ye have done well, my son," she said, holding him tightly, and now it was her eyes that threatened to brim. "I'll be seeing ye soon."
His eloquent nod, although it was born of not trusting himself to speak lest he show weakness in front of his clan, said all that needed be said.
Old-Mother smiled on them all. "Fair winds and pleasant nights to ye, children." She picked up a basket that held the sculpture of herself
made by Angela and other remembrances carefully chosen so as not to be anachronistic and raise odd questions in the past.
Amber stepped away from her mother and looked at Alex. "A-hem?"
"You always wanted to play with my toys," he teased. Sweeping one arm through the air with a flourish, he made the Phoenix Gate appear.
"Be careful, lass," Hudson said, sounding choked. "Be careful."
"Don't worry," she replied jauntily. "I'll be back before you know it."
If he was going to say more, one raised brow from Alex changed his mind. He mumbled something instead, and half-turned away.
"As Hudson said, be careful," Goliath told Amber. "The past is a harsh and dangerous time. If you hadn't already gone, I'd never let you
do this alone."
"I know, Daga."
He looked her up and down and shook his head. "Eolande ... I recognize you now. I should have seen it before. Eolande played with my
rookery siblings at Prince Corwin's revel the same way you play with these hatchlings. Eolande helped show us that humans and gargoyles
could get along ... when all the while, it was you."
"I wish I could take a camera along, and bring back pictures of you as a kid to put in the photo album!" She stretched on tiptoe and
kissed his cheek. "I'll see you soon too."
Another round of good-byes chorused the room. The others backed away to give them plenty of space.
"Ready?" Amber asked, holding the Phoenix Gate.
"Aye, child ... time for me to go home."
"Desflagrate muri tempi et intervalia!" Amber cried.
Fire exploded from her hand and engulfed the world in its brilliance.

**

The End



2000 Christine Morgan