Ashes

Greg Bishansky

The Eyrie Pyramid, 2126

How long had she been locked in these dungeons? She told herself she had stopped counting long ago, but she couldn't lie. She could view media, she received the news. It had been just a couple months shy of the seventieth anniversary of Goliath's death at her hands. Seventy years since she had been locked in this dungeon. Seventy years since Angela had bid her farewell and the vault door to the dungeons sealed shut behind her.

The only living being she had seen since was Owen Burnett, who still brought her three meals a day at 12pm, 6pm, and 12am, always punctual. If he was accompanying Alexander Xanatos on business - one of the gargoyles, the current second in command, she assumed - would step in, bringing her three meals every night. She had also seen her biological granddaughter, Gwenyvere, after Angela stepped down as leader of the Manhattan Clan and she was appointed to succeed her, but not often. Even rarer was once a month when knockout gas would be pumped into her cell, Owen would place a black bag over her human head to prevent maintenance from getting a look at her, and her cell would be cleaned. But Angela herself had never set foot through that vault door ever again.

The world at large believed her to be dead. That was what Angela told the world, to avoid turning her over to the human authorities. For several years after she became dead to the world, she had seen what the media had said about her. They had even made a movie and cast a human actress in the part, wearing some very expensive prosthetics and making use of state-of-the-art special effects. The actress had won an Academy Award. The human media called her many things, some more colorful than others, but over time they had discussed her less and less. Now she was merely a footnote in history. She did not mind. Let the humans forget her. Eventually she would escape, and the world at large would be taken by surprise at her second coming, when she finally took her vengeance upon humanity.

But before she made another escape attempt, she at least wanted to see Angela again. Even though she stood in opposition to her, her daughter still meant a great deal to her. Now she had to be getting on in years. Perhaps if it gave Angela peace of mind, she could wait until after her daughter had passed before destroying the humans. But really, more than anything, she just wanted to speak to her. She had passed messages to Angela through Owen, and while Owen had promised her that each message would be delivered, she had never received a response. Honestly, it was killing her.

Suddenly, Demona was pulled out of her thoughts as the vault door opened and a tall figure stepped in. It was not Owen. Neither was it Gwenyvere, or the new second. Demona's eyes went wide as her visitor pulled back a hood and revealed a face she had hoped to never see again.

"Macbeth."

"Yes," he answered as he drew a weapon. But he did not point it at her.

"I assume you spent many years lobbying for this chance," She rolled her eyes.

"I am only taking precautions," he said, as he reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. "Gwenyvere agreed to allow me to give you the news." He grew solemn. "Your daughter has passed."

Demona was silent for several moments. She fought to keep her emotions in check. She opened her mouth to ask the obvious question but Macbeth cut her off.

"She passed peacefully, surrounded by… the clan she loved." He sighed. "They had been expecting it for a while, it seems."

Many emotions passed through Demona. She chose to stick with the one she found most comfortable: defiance "So why are you here, why are you the one telling me this?!"

"You will not be permitted to speak at the Wind Ceremony, Demona." Before she could protest, Macbeth continued. "I disagreed. I do not like this charade, nor do I approve of it. But even in death, your daughter wishes to protect you. And to protect what Goliath died to create."

"You have your weapon," she growled. "You've sought this for a long time. End me. End us." Her eyes blazed red. "Grant me mercy."

"No," Macbeth pocketed his lightning gun. "I very well could. But I won't. I'm retiring from the world, Demona. On my terms. And I will not dishonor Angela by killing her mother on this night of all nights."

He reached for a slit in the transparent aluminum barrier and slid the envelope through before turning and beginning to leave. "Angela was someone who doesn't come along in every lifetime, Demona. But I doubt I had to tell you that." And with that, Macbeth was gone and the vault door closed behind him.

Demona hesitated and then opened the envelope, withdrawing a letter, hand-written in ink, possibly with a quill.

"Mother... after all these decades, I can call you that again.

You will not be released to speak at my Wind Ceremony. I know that this will pain you, but this is what must be. Gwenyvere and I have discussed it and to protect you, the fact that you still live will be kept a secret to all but the clan leader, the clan second, Xanatos, Owen, and Macbeth. I will not lie; this is also to protect our kind as a whole. I know it was wrong of me to lie to the world. Perhaps the humans did deserve to be the ones to put you on trial. But what's done is done, and I do not regret it. I know what you would say anyway, and I am touched by your love and affection for me. But I would rather use my death to speak to you. Maybe this time I will finally get through to you.

I apologize for never coming to see you. I wish I could have, I wish I did. But for reasons that are known to you, I could not.

I'm happy, Mother. I have been for longer than anyone has a right to expect to be. The world has gotten better and while we've still not entered the golden age that Goliath knew awaited us, the work we have done gives me hope that future generations of humans and gargoyles will live in that golden age. I won't live to see it... but you will. Macbeth has promised me that.

Owen delivered every message you've sent. I will not lie, many have angered me, some made me want to break down and cry. I could not let you continue to be a source of negativity in my life. That is another reason why I never came to see you. I think Goliath would have wanted me to forgive you... but at this time I can't. I can't forgive you and no one else can forgive you. Not until you forgive yourself. And I know that, try as you might, you are not cold. You do have a passionate heart. But your passion has long ago been contaminated with hate and anger. I think you are capable of better. Maybe I am still naive, but I do.

I do not expect you to be held in these dungeons forever. Ever is a long time. But when that golden age comes, when you have found inner peace, I hope that Gwenyvere or whatever clan leaders who follow her will recognize that and allow you to complete your healing.

Yes, even after all this time, part of me still believes in you. You have the potential for great things... great evil and great good. If the latter is your destiny, I wish I could be around to see it. If the former remains your destiny... well, I have always left room to be disappointed.

I don't hate you. I never have. Even after everything you've done. I wish things were different just as you do. So, before I become one with the wind I implore you: please stop being your own worst enemy. And don't do it for me, do it for yourself.

Angela

Demona paused and read the letter again, and again. Angela had been corrupted by Goliath even until her dying breath. Her eyes glowed red and she was tempted to tear it up. But she could not bring herself to. She folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope and left it on the dresser, knowing she would read it again many more times.

She sat back on the bed, and, for the first time in so many years - she could no longer remember the number - tears started flowing. She buried her face in her pillow... she would not allow the cameras she knew were present to see her like this.

"I love you too," she whispered into the pillow. "Ashes to ashes or dust to dust…"

The End.