To Every Season
By Durid the Druid, Robby Bevard and Rahsaan Footman
Outline by Stephen R. Sobotka, Jr. and Anna Hansen
Art by Robby Bevard
* * * * *
New York, 1999
Jeffrey Robbins sat in his armchair reading some notes from his agent.His hands ran over the Braille with practiced ease. Jeffrey came to the end of the page and let out a sigh. Gilly's ears pricked up and he gave an inquiring whine to his master.
"I really painted myself into a corner this time." Gilly gave a questioning whuff. "What is it, boy?"
Gilly barked happily as he stood up. Robbins didn't bother to grab Gilly's harness to move through his own home, but Gilly headed to the back door instead of the front. "Oh. So that's who's stopped by." Jeffery smiled. There was a tap on the sliding glass door to the beach side terrace. Jeffery slid the door open.
"Hello, my friends."
"Hello, Mr. Robbins," Graeme piped up.
"Well, hello, Graeme, please come in. What brings you here? … And you have a friend." Jeffery heard a second set of footfalls and wings rustle as they folded up.
"Nah, just my sister." Graeme entered the house. Ariana was close on his tail.
"Good evening, Mr. Robbins," Ariana said quickly. "Please ignore my idiot brother, I'm afraid one of the crooks we bagged tonight hit him on the head," she finished with a mischievous smile.
"Hudson is letting you two do that by yourselves?" Jeffrey asked curiously.
"Not quite yet." the deeper voice of Brooklyn answered with a chuckle underneath. "Give them a few more years."
"Years? I'll be catching crooks by the talonful before you know it!" Graeme boasted.
"How? By letting Nudnik lick them into submission, Graeme-kun?"
Graeme grinned as much as his beak would allow, "He got your stick, didn't he?"
"It's a Bo! And you better not dare use my next one for-"
"A-hem," an older female voice interrupted from the terrace. "I'm sure we instilled better manners in you than to argue in someone else's home."
"Sorry, mother," both hatchlings mumbled.
"It is not I who you should apologize to," Sata remarked and raised an eyeridge to Jeffrey.
"Sorry, Mr. Robbins," they repeated in the same apologetic tone.
"Quite all right. Please come in, all of you," said Jeffrey as he stepped aside to let them through the door.
"We do not want to disturb you," Sata said.
"Nonsense," Robbins smiled, "A visit from friends is never a disturbance." Sata and Brooklyn nodded to him as they came inside, "Seems like you're busy," saidBrooklyn, observing the reams of paper and scores of neatly stacked books in the den and living room.
"I was hoping to be, but the Muses have abandoned me," replied Jeffery as he shook his head sadly.
"Who are the Muses?" Graeme looked around. "You didn't say you had company."
Robbins chuckled. "The Muses are spirits of inspiration, compelling us creative types to write, paint, sculpt and perform. It's a figure of speech."
"Of course, I knew that," Ariana boasted.
"Did not!" Graeme shot back at his sister.
"Children?" Brooklyn said in a warning tone, taking a seat next to his mate.
"Maybe a snack might calm you down," Robbins offered.
"Do you have those crispy cookies?" Graeme asked hopefully.
"Of course. Help yourself." The children bolted across the room.
"Remember you are a guest," Sata said in a parental tone. The children slowed to a fast paced walk as they entered the kitchen.
"I must apolo-" started Sata.
"No, you may not. Kids will be kids. You don't need to apologize for that fact," Robbins said in a slightly stern tone.
Brooklyn changed the subject. "So, what 'weren't' we interrupting when we came In?"
Robbins let out an exasperated sigh as he sat back down into his armchair. "A while back Hudson told me some stories from a 'historical' record. If you follow my meaning."
Brooklyn's eyeridges creased for a moment in confusion, then he nodded as he remembered. "I heard about that. How could you tell it wasn't a record?"
"Many of the things Hudson talked about seemed very personal, like the leader's loss of his mate. That's not something you can get from a luminated script."
"Man, we can't get anything by you." Brooklyn grinned at Robin's perceptiveness.
"Anyway, Hudson's ‘records’ inspired me to write some vignettes of Brother Edmund's stay at Castle Wyvern. It's become quiet a popular series in the magazines my agent sold them to. Seems you gargoyles came at just the right time to ride the wave of science fiction/fantasy popularity."
"Really?" Ariana asked returning from the kitchen with Graeme.
"Absolutely. You'd be surprised how many sci-fi fans love gargoyles."
"So what's the problem?" Graeme asked munching on a cookie.
"Well, we're bundling up all my short stories into one book, but Brother Edmund leaving Wyvern suggests a sequel. The publisher wants an outline for the sequel, but I don't know where to go from there. I'm in need of some inspiration."
"What about you, dad? You were around then… OWW! Don't step on my tail."
"Shhh…remember our secret," Ariana loudly whispered to her brother.
"You were around then?" Jeffery asked, surprised.
"It's kind of complicated." Brooklyn looked uncomfortable.
"When is it not, but anything could be of help," implored Jeffrey as he leaned forward in his chair.
"I don't know," Brooklyn sounded doubtful. "I was only a hatchling at the time, a bit younger than these two. To be honest, the only thing I remember after Brother Edmund leaving was…" and he trailed off in sudden thought.
"What? What?" Graeme asked.
"No." Brooklyn shook his head.
"What? Please tell us, father?" Ariana pleaded. Sata cut a sideways glance at her mate.
"Naw, you wouldn't be interested in it."
"Yes, we would. Yes, we would. Pleeeeasee," they begged in unison.
"Well," Brooklyn said, stroking his beak, "okay."
Both youngsters gave a cheer and sat down on the floor, taking only a moment to wrestle over the closest spot to their father. Robbins reached over to his cassette recorder on the coffee table and flipped it to record. Sata shifted her position to watch her mate as he spun his tale.
"This isn't exactly me at my best, but it's the strongest memory I have after Brother Edmund left." Brooklyn takes a deep breath and settle himself more comfortably into the chair. "The night was clear and the warriors had gone fishing…"
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 973 AD
It was late afternoon and Prince Malcolm had just finished reviewing his troops. The drudges took out the refuse and brought in foodstuffs to the kitchen. From his tower, the Archmage worked in his laboratory, shutters closed to exclude the world. Life in Castle Wyvern continued as it always had, even in the absence of Brother Edmund.
The sun's departure from the sky heralded the gargoyles awakening. The walls of Castle Wyvern resounded with the roars of many gargoyles breaking free of their stone slumber. Above the rookery, perched in a fearsome grimace, the gargoyle known to the clan as the Eldest awoke. She watched the others of her clan shake off stone flakes, yawn and stretch and go about their duties. The Eldest hopped off her perch and glided down past the ornate doorway that led to the rookery. Even with wings to slow her descent, when the Eldest touched down she winced as her joints popped.
"Evening, Eldest," a warm voice greeted her from behind. She turned to take in the young guard Robbie.
"Evening yerself," the eldest said dourly.
"Is something the matter, good mother?" Robbie asked.
"Does something have to be the matter?" she retorted. Robbie was silent a moment, before beginning cautiously again.
"My apologies, my lady. I meant no disrespect." Robbie replied in his most courtly fashion The Eldest harrumphed and moved on. She got a few steps and turned back to apologize, but the young guardsman was gone.
"He was only saying good evening," the Eldest said to herself. She let out a sigh and moved on to join the rest of the clan.
* * *
The young warriors of the clan gathered the nets and spears. It was a clear night with a full moon, perfect for fishing. The Eldest watched as the brawny lavender male hefted three nets on his shoulders and lifted a spear. She spied the young warrior with the twisted horn slip into the shadows to avoid work only to be intercepted by the acting second himself. Over by the row of sheds, one of the human females was standing close to one of the late night guardsmen- the two of them talking quietly to eachother.
"How I remember when that was me." The Eldest reminisced as she watched the two just enjoy each others company.
"Elder." The leader of the clan landed before her. "The young warriors are going to fish for our morning meal. Could you watch the hatchlings while we get th’ breakfast prepared?"
"You know I will," the Eldest replied, moving towards the group of hatchlings.
"Will you be needing any help this evening?" a red-brown male asked.
"Why would I be needing help with a story?" the Eldest said in a warning tone. The red-brown gargoyle stammered a bit, looked to the Leader, and then back to the Eldest. "I mean no disrespect, but the other night you missed a few parts in your telling. Perhaps now you should think of taking on someone to share your responsibility."
The Eldest made a disgusted sound and shot back, "The night that I can nae tell a tale, is the night that I can nae fly from the walls!" as she glared at him.
"Sister, by that time you may not be able to speak and teach another all your stories before...." The Eldest just continues glaring at him, daring him to say it. The ruddy male looked to Hudson. He shook his head slightly and patted the old male on the arm, understandingly.
The hatchlings ran and screamed excitedly as they watched the young warriors hop over the parapets to glide down to the strand of beach underneath the castle. Older clan members kept the hatchlings corralled. It was times like these that the Eldest missed Brother Edmund. She didn't hold with him teach human values to the clan, but he did help keep the hatchlings and young ones occupied. That help was welcome in whatever form it came in.
"Hatchlings!" The Eldest said in a loud enough voice to get their attention. Most of the young gargoyle children quieted immediately. The few who didn't, found the Eldest's unsettling gaze on them. This time it was a trio of hatchlings who were forever causing mischief. They quickly joined the others around the Eldest as she sat down.
"While we wait for breakfast, what story would you like to hear?"
"How about how we got here?" a young female with peach purple skin asked.
"No, how about the tale of the great deeds done by the clan?" a male hatchling with smoke-black skin and a short wide beak asked.
"How about why everything we touch turns to stone?" a young ruddy male asked.
"Who told ya we turn things to stone?" the Eldest asked in a stern tone.
"One of the Prince's guards. Isn't it true? Our clothes turn ta stone? Won't my sword?" The young Brooklyn sported a small wooden sword jammed into his belt.
"I suppose I should tell this tale again, if you've forgotten so soon. The fact is we don't turn things to stone. Once long ago, in a land far away a gargoyle served a prince…"
"Like Prince Malcolm?" the web-winged Lexington asked.
"Sort of," the Eldest replied.
A honey-tan female turned around and gestured for her brother to keep quiet.
"This was before our clothes turned to stone and this caused the king much distress."
"King?" Lexington whispered, but his aquamarine brother and tan sister hushed him again.
"Humans are very particular, especially with clothes. It distressed the lord every evening that this gargoyle shed his clothes along with his skin. The emperor tried many things from having an extra layer of clothes to cover the one that was shed, to having servants quickly robe him…"
The Eldest paused. At first it seemed like a dramatic pause, but as the silence stretched on the hatchlings grew restless. The two inseparable female hatchlings started giggling. Those elders tending began whispering among themselves. The peach-purple young lass dared to move up and touch the Eldest's knee.
"Eldest?" she asked. The oldest gargoyle snapped out of her reverie.
"Where was I? Oh yes, in order to value our differences and learn not to fight among ourselves we look different, both in the obvious ways and also in hidden ones. It's very important to understand that we are stronger for our differences, not weaker."
The hatchlings looked at each other, confusion on their faces. The young female who woke the Eldest spoke up.
"Pardon, Eldest, but you were telling us why our clothes turn to stone, not why we all look different."
"I was?" The Eldest looked confused.
The leader landed behind the group of hatchlings. They all looked up as he gruffly told them that their food was ready. The hatchlings got up and hurried to the courtyard. The trio was last to leave. The young red gargoyle wore a sulking expression.
"We still don't know why our clothes turn to stone," Brooklyn grumbled.
"You should remember what she says next time," the young peach female joined them. "The lord finally ordered his magician to make a spell. Once cast, anything the gargoyle thought as of belonging to him would turn to stone and the spell stayed with him and his descendants, us."
"If you're so smart, then why does my sword stay wooden, while other warriors’ weapons turn to stone?"
"That's easy. The warriors’ weapons belong to them. You took yours off the training ground. It belongs to the humans, not you."
"She's got a point," young Broadway replied sullenly. "Come on, we don't want to miss eating."
* * *
"You seemed a bit distracted tonight," the Leader spoke once the hatchlings were out of sight.
"I'm fine," the Eldest groused.
"I don't doubt it. Still, maybe you should have a bit of help in your duty."
"I wasn't aware telling stories was such an arduous chore."
"You know what I mean," Hudson said frankly. "An apprentice. It's time to think of taking one."
"I'll decide when it is time." The Eldest growled at the leader's temerity and left in a huff. He offered to help her join the others, but the Eldest brushed off his arm.
"I'm perfectly capable of getting there on my own." The Leader held up his hands, showing he meant no disrespect. He walked on ahead, believing it best to leave her alone.
"The gall," the Eldest grumbled as she stomped toward the courtyard.
These lapses were harder and harder to dismiss. Her storytelling tonight was hard to recall even now.
"Perhaps," she said with uncertainty as she joined the others for their meal.
* * * * *
The young red hatchling crept through the rookery, on light footsteps. He moved around the eggs and the phosphorescent moss. He heard a pebble trickle somewhere. Brooklyn's eyes started to glow, when suddenly a green web-winged hatchling tackled him.
"Ha, ha. I got you," Lexington laughed.
Brooklyn pushed him off. "Why didn't you seek out our brother?"
"He always hides in the kitchen. No challenge in finding him." Lexington looked around. "Why did you come down here?"
"I didn't think you'd come down here," Brooklyn answered, looking at the eggs.
"They'll hatch soon. You know what that means?"
"Yeah, we won't be the youngest. We'll get all the chores and none of the attention," Lexington answered.
"Look on the bright side." Brooklyn walked up to the spotted eggs. "They'll look up to us. And we can teach them much."
"Hmm. Yeah, I could teach them how to glide and the best hiding spots." Brooklyn chuckled, thinking of Thersites. "I think our older brother could do that."
"When you hatch and join us, I'll teach you how to be a great warrior and how to use a sword." The red hatchling pulled out the wooden sword and began swinging it around.
Lexington whispered to the egg, "And he'll teach you how to fall gracelessly."
"What was that?" Brooklyn turned to Lexington. "Take that back or I shall smite thee."
"Never!" The web-winged hatchling dodged a blow from Brooklyn and bolted for the far end of the rookery away from the eggs. Brooklyn chased after him. When he had his rookery brother cornered, he flipped the wooden sword in his hands.
"I've got you now." The cocky red hatchling laughed.
Lexington grinned and spun around, knocking the sword away with his tail. "Now how much of a warrior are you without a weapon?" Suddenly they heard a smack followed by a rolling sound. Both hatchlings turned around and saw one of the eggs lying on its side out of the nesting place.
The two young gargoyles looked up with wide eyes. They scrambled to the egg. The red hatchling ran his hands over the egg, fearing to feel a crack.
"Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!" Lex hopped from foot to foot.
"I think… I think it’s all right," Brooklyn said hopefully.
"You had to come down here."
"Me? If you hadn't knocked it away… Let's get out of here, before something else happens." Lexington nodded and followed his red brother up the steps to the doorway.
* * *
In the kitchen the blue hatchling was watching one of the cooks. Broadway got her to explain how she was preparing the fish. "…give their bellies a slice. Then we rub some salt in, cause it makes it taste nice," the cook, Hetti, sang her recipe. The blue hatchling had his tongue lolling out like a gargoyle beast.
"What are you doing here?" the other cook, Robert, shouted. "I thought I told you beasts to stay out of my kitchen."
"It's all right," the first cook interjected. "He's helping me prepare the fish the gargoyles are bringing."
"Bah." Robert grumbled.
"We get all the fresh fish we could want. How can that be bad?" the cook argued. "I wouldna put something in my mouth those filthy creatures touched."
The aquamarine hatchling looked distressed.
"Better get those loaves out of the oven." The cook pointed to the oven behind Robert. He harrumphed and went to the task. The cook turned and knelt to eye level with the rotund hatchling. "Now, you pay him no mind." The cook reached for a pastry and offered it to Broadway. The young gargoyle took it and munched on it happily.
"Robert is just a grump. We don't pay him any mind and you shouldn't either."
"There's a lad. Why don't you join your friends over there." The cook pointed to the doorway where his two companions stood.
Broadway walked over to them, past the ovens and the sweating Robert. "We still playing hide and seek?" he asked.
"Nah…" The red hatchling waved it off.
"Not after he nearly broke an egg," the web-winged hatchling added.
"It didn't break." Brooklyn replied defensively.
"What?" the blue hatchling shouted, then lowered his voice to a whisper.
"There you three are." The Agamemnon appeared at the end of the hall. "The cooks told you not to bother them."
"We weren't bothering them," Broadway replied. Agamemnon harrumphed. "Don't you have chores to do?"
The trio groaned. Agamemnon herded them away from the kitchen, their early excitement and the egg soon forgotten. By the cooling table, Robert cracked a couple of eggs into a bowl as he watched the departing gargoyles. A twisted grin spread across his face.
* * * * *
The Following Night
When the Eldest awoke, she didn't hurry to join the others. Instead she stayed on her perch and watched the clan with a careful eye. "If I'm to have an apprentice I must choose well," the Eldest said to herself. She saw all the hatchlings playing in the courtyard.
"Maybe one from the youngest rookery. Whoever follows me will be storyteller for a long time." The Eldest mused for a moment, then shook her head. "At this age they seem more interested in playing and getting into mischief." The Eldest eyed the trio at the fringe of the group. "If they were a bit older, more mature, many would make fine picks, but not right now."
The Eldest turned her gaze to the next generation. Their long-winded elder was calling most to training. As the gargoyles gathered around Agamemnon he looked carefully for any missing faces. The Eldest spied the twisted horned young male slip out of sight behind a wagon. She looked up to see their red haired rookery daughter glide towards her own pursuits. The young male, who was sweet on her, the one with the breastplate, was looking around for her. Another rookery daughter was seeking escape from the training session. She was light orange with twin spiral horns and known for her erratically behaving devices. The Eldest considered her for a moment. The responsibility of being the clan storyteller might settle her a bit. The Eldest watched her move from wall to the tower where her less dangerous devices lay.
"No," The Eldest shook her head. "She's too flighty. Her mind is in too many places at once. I need an apprentice who can stay focused."
Shapes passed over her as the group of young warriors left to train in the forest. The Eldest took a deep breath and glided down from her perch to the ground.
* * *
The trio was playing in one of the castle's many halls when a loud boom scared them. The crack of thunder came from above and slightly to the left. Looking out the high windows, they didn't see a cloud in the sky.
"Who do you think it was?" Lexington asked. "Our rookery sister or the Archmage?"
"My guess is the Archmage," Broadway deduced. "His tower is in that direction." He pointed in the direction of the sound.
Robert, the cook, came around the corner on his way to the kitchen. "That blasted magician! He'll shake the castle down about our ears yet." A quirky smile passed his lips as he walked away from the hatchlings. "I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't shake the eggs loose in the rookery."
Lexington and Brooklyn looked at each other. Their shocked expression mirrored by the other. Both scampered on all fours to the rookery. Broadway brought up the rear. Around the corner, the cook watched them run and gave a soft chuckle. The trio arrived at the entrance to the rookery. Brooklyn opened it with an effort. They started to go in when Brooklyn turned to his larger brother. "Watch out for us. If anyone comes warn us."
Broadway nodded and positioned himself by the doorway as Lexington and Brooklyn went. Brooklyn and Lex scampered deeper into the rookery and skidded to a halt. All the eggs were where they should be expect for one: just beyond the clutch of eggs fragments of shell and yellow yolk littered the ground.
"OH NO!" Lex screamed. Brooklyn quickly quieted him, clamping his hands over Lex's mouth.
"Shhh! We need to fix this."
Lexington struggled out of Brooklyn's hold. "How? The egg is broken! We broke it!"
"No we didn't." Brooklyn shook his head. "If anything the Archmage did, shaking things up."
"Look at the other eggs. They weren't affected. We knocked this one out. Somehow we made it loose. We're going to be banished."
"No we aren't," Brooklyn argued. "Just give me a chance to think." Brooklyn paused for a moment, then hit upon something. "Wait here. I'm going to get something." Before the green hatchling could protest, his red companion was halfway to the doorway.
The young hatchling looked at the yellow yolk and many fragments, tears welling up in his eyes.
* * * * *
The Eldest walked along the parapets, still undecided on whom to choose. The more she thought about it, the more an apprentice made sense. She passed a few guards, then looked down. There, in a large wine barrel, huddled their lazy rookery child. Curiously enough, she considered him as an apprentice. He was quick with excuses. That creativity could be of better use telling history than making up tales to avoid work.
"No," the Eldest shook her head. "I need someone to tell the tales accurately. He would embellish them, make them as fanciful as the tales the bards and minstrels sing to the Prince."
Some movement towards the barrel caught her eye. Two people were coming, carrying a heavy bucket between them. The Eldest crouched down to watch as the humans poured the water into the wine barrel. Thersites came up sputtering and screaming, alarming both barrel cleaners. The Eldest chuckled as the soaked, twisted horned gargoyle scuttled away as the cleaners went from alarm to shouting at him.
"It's not my fault your barrel was an ideal hiding place," Thersites grumbled. "You might have a little respect for those hiding there," he muttered under his breath.
"I'm sure you've heard the tale of the foolish hatchling." The Eldest appeared on the wall above the soaking Thersites. "So intent on avoiding his duties, he spent more effort on that than just doing what was expected of him. You might think of that and this event the next time you decide to shirk your duties… and choose a little more wisely."
Thersites wiped some more water off his face and mumbled a "Yes, Eldest."
"Good." The Eldest stood up and continued walking, returning to her thoughts- though this time with a smile on her face.
* * *
"Now, this goes here." Asrial placed a carved wooden piece on a peg. "And we tie this off here." She pulled a long pole down and tied it down with some rope.
"Now, let’s see if this works."
"Ah sister?" Brooklyn interrupted in a quiet voice.
"It should work, at least I think it should."
"Sister?" Lexington nearly shouted. Brooklyn winced at the volume.
"Hmm?" Asrial turned to the two. She noted they looked very upset. Her green rookery brother looked like he'd been crying.
"We need your help, sister…," Brooklyn began, "but you've got to promise not to tell anyone."
"Promise, you say?" Asrial crossed her arms across her chest.
"Please!" Lexington squeaked. He was the most upset. Asrial nodded. "I promise."
"By the Dragon?" Brooklyn added.
"Yes, By the Dragon, I promise no one will hear your secret from me." Asrial knelt down to be eye level with the hatchlings. "Now, why don't you tell me what's wrong."
Lexington looked to Brooklyn. The red hatchling went to the entrance of the workshop and dragged in a pot with fragments and yolk.
"It's one of the eggs. Can you fix it?" Lexington asked with all the hope within him.
"What!" Asrial shouted. She went over to the pot and stared at the egg fragments. She picked up a shell fragment and examined the yolk. For a moment her expression was shock, then slowly changed to mild anger.
"This isn't really something to joke about." Asrial looked at the hatchlings.
"We're really sorry," Lexington replied, a sob in his voice.
"You should be. Pretending this is an egg isn't funny."
"What?" Brooklyn asked incredulously.
"This isn't a gargoyle egg. Unless our shells are made of pottery-- which I doubt." Asrial held up a fragment. The piece was white and purple on both sides, but the cross section was red-brown.
"Give me some time and I can probably put it back together. See? The pieces fit more like a jar or something." Asrial had a few pieces together in a gentle curve. It didn't look like a pot to the hatchlings. Especially where the pieces fit together to form one purple spot.
"Ah so there you all are." The deep voice of Agamemnon caused Asrial to turn around and the two hatchlings to nearly jump out of their skins. Brooklyn quickly opened his wings enough to hide the pot. The Elder carefully entered Asrial's workshop.
"We missed you in training last night." Agamemnon stared at Asrial.
"I'm sorry, elder, but I was close to finishing this project. I can demonstrate it."
"That won't be necessary," Agamemnon stated. "Meet the Leader by the seaside wall for your duties."
"Yes, elder," Asrial replied in a sad tone. She started to exit the workshop.
Now, Agamemnon turned his attention to the two hatchlings.
"Now, what are you two doing here?" he asked his voice rumbling with the question.
"Oh, they were just curious about things," Asrial quickly covered. She was nearly out the door and behind Agamemnon. She shared a quick wink with Brooklyn and Lexington to show their secret would be safe.
"Well, if your curiosity is satisfied, it'd be wise for you to join the others. Unless you feel up to some chores."
"Yes, elder. We'll be down," Brooklyn quickly replied. He and Lex left the pot in the workshop as they followed the two older gargoyles through the hallways.
As soon as Agamemnon and Asrial took a staircase to the outer wall, both hatchlings turned around and quickly ran back to the workshop.
"She said it was a fake." Little Lexington peered into the pot.
"She also said this would work." Brooklyn looked up at the device. "How likely is it that she's right on both counts?"
Lexington looked doubtful for a long moment. "Well, if she can't help, who can? "I wish I knew."
* * *
The Eldest sat atop the tallest tower, looking down at all her clan. She'd weighed the pros and cons of each member and still hadn't found her ideal successor. Her best candidate was the tall lavender male. He was one of Brother Edmund's quickest pupils, and he'd read enough human stories. Time he learned his own history in more depth. Why do humans go to so much trouble to write things down? Though admittedly, with me forgetting a few things it wouldn't be such a bad idea. Maybe I can do that later...
"Aye, but he's too perfect," the Eldest debated. "He's a strong spirit and a good heart. He'd be better as a leader than a storyteller. The way he can rally the others and inspire them to do their best. Those traits would be limited if he became my successor."
Her thoughts turned to the fiery haired one. She, too, was quick witted. The Eldest looked around for her, but saw no sign of that one. "Where is she all the time?" the Eldest mused. The old gargoyle got up and took the stairways down. Soon the morning meal would be laid out and afterwards she'd tell a story.
* * *
Brooklyn and Lexington found their third member playing charades with the other hatchlings. A honey tan female with wavy blond hair, purple wings, and a tuft of fur at the end of her tail, was leading everyone else in the game.
"You're a fat bird!" yelled one of the sisters. The female shook her head and started acting like she was lecturing non-stop.
Broadway perked up and yelled, "You're our Elder!"
"That's right!" and all of them tumbled over giggling. Broadway saw his two companions and hurried to them.
"Where were you?" Brooklyn asked his blue brother.
"The Elder saw me and gave me a chore to do. When I got back you two were gone. I've been here with the others ever since," Broadway defended. "So, was our rookery sister able to fix it?"
Brooklyn and Lexington shook their heads.
"Fix what?" their honey tan sister asked.
"Nothing," Brooklyn answered quickly. "Right?"
His cohorts quickly nodded and mumbled affirmatives as well. The young female was suspicious, but shrugged it off.
"I hope the Eldest tells us the cracked egg story tonight," she said quietly, "But then maybe she'll tell us the one about-."
Brooklyn and Lex both looked up. "What story?" they interrupted.
The female gave a disgusted sigh. "The cracked egg story. You know how one evening the clan awoke and found one of the eggs had cracked."
"Really," Broadway looked up. "How does it go?"
The young female immediately became shy, but after a few encouraging words from the trio she began to tell the tale.
"Long before this castle was built, and we were living in the cliffs, there was an accident in the rookery. One of the elders slipped and dropped an egg as she was turning it.
"The entire clan was horrified at the large crack up the side of the egg. All the elder females fretted around it, trying to seal the crack. They tried healing herbs, they tried to seal it with mud, they tried everything they could think of, but the egg remained broken.
"Seeing all the distress that the clan was going through, the leader said, 'We have done all we can to repair the egg, but the sun is about to come up and we can do no more-- except hope, hope that the egg will still hatch when the time comes.'
"That day, the entire clan didn't sleep near the cave entrance, but within the rookery itself. Each and every clan member went to sleep that day with the hope that the egg would be all right.
"When they awoke the next evening, their hopes had been fulfilled. The egg no longer had any trace of a crack upon its shell. The hope of the clan had repaired it!"
"Do you think that could happen now?" Brooklyn asked guardedly.
"Of course, the Eldest always tells us the truth. She wouldn't lie to us." The young hatchling answered. The other hatchlings called to her and she hurried over to them.
Lexington looked to Brooklyn, hope in his eyes. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"
"Yeah, if we got the whole clan together and hope, the egg could be fixed," Brooklyn answered. "Let's tell the Leader."
"But won't he be upset at you?" Broadway asked.
Brooklyn’s face fell, "Yeah, but I'd rather him be mad at me than to lose one of our yet-to-be-hatched brothers or sisters. Come on!"
* * *
Demona softly closed the door to the Archmage's tower. She was turning the corner when three hatchlings barreled into her.
"Slow down, children. What's the hurry?"
"He loosened an egg and the Archmage's boom caused it to break and we need the clan together to hope it back together," Lexington babbled with blinding speed.
"Hold! Hold! What is this about an egg? One is broken?"
The trio looked ashamed but they all nodded.
The three hatchlings and Demona stood around the pot still in Asrial's workshop.
Demona examined the contents of the pot and gave a frown.
"Are you sure this is an egg?"
"You sound like our sister. She said it was some pottery," the red hatchling answered back.
She didn't need to be a sorcerer's apprentice to know this was fake. Their clever sister was right. The 'shell' was pottery and the yolks still had specks of brown shell in them. These eggs had come from hens and not gargoyles.
"We need to get the whole clan to hope the egg back together again," Lexington said urgently.
"This stuff belongs in the kitchen," Demona commented absently as she picked through the dried egg and broken pottery. She turned back to the hatchlings.
"Hope the egg back…? Oh, you mean the cracked egg story."
"Yes!" Brooklyn nodded his head emphatically. "Can you help?"
Demona smiled and knelt down to the hatchlings. "There's no need. Hope is as strong as the heart that wills it. If you truly want the egg restored, the hope from your own hearts will be enough."
"Shouldn't we tell the Leader at least?" the aquamarine hatchling asked.
"We have a couple more hours until dawn." Demona stood up, "A lot can happen in that time. If nothing happens we'll tell the Leader first thing when we wake up. But for now you should join the others. It's almost time for our morning meal."
"Food?" Broadway's face lit up and started for the courtyard. The red and green hatchlings turned to leave, when Brooklyn turned back.
"Thank you, sister."
Demona smiled in reply. When they were out of sight, she looked at the pot with its yolk and fragments and she frowned.
* * * * *
Robert was returning foodstuffs to the larder. He closed the cupboard door and stared right into the glowing eyes of Demona. Robert gave a small 'epp' sound and backed away.
"What do you want, beast? A snack?" He tried to sound annoyed, but his quavering voice betrayed him.
"What did you do with the egg?"
"W-What egg?" Robert stammered. Demona flared her wings and drew closer.
"The egg you took from the rookery and replaced with some messy pottery fragments. Did you think no one would figure it out?"
"I don't know what you are talking about. Go chase your tail or something." The cook tried to push past her to leave the kitchen. Demona stayed between him and the door.
"One of our eggs is missing from the rookery. Some of the hatchlings are going around with a broken kitchen pot thinking that it's the egg. Does that clear your memory?"
"I-I don't know anything about that. The head cook was wondering earlier what had happened to one of the pots," Robert replied after a moment of thought.
He wasn't breaking and Demona didn't know what to do, then a thought struck her.
"Very well, but spread the word among the humans that whoever stole our egg should make their peace now. When we find the thief, his screams are going to ring throughout the night."
Demona turned and started to walk away. Robert just stared for a moment then bumped over a small table, revealing a gargoyle egg hidden underneath it.
"I-I say, you gargoyle. Is this what you're looking for?" Robert asked. Demona turned around.
"So you did steal it?"
"I stole nothing. I just saw it just before you left. One of the cooks must have been the prankster."
Demona looked at him with hard eyes. "No doubt."
"In any case, you have the egg so all is right."
"For now." Demona gathered up the egg. She sensed how warm it was, but nothing serious. "You might warn any who would try a prank like this again, to think three times before doing so. A gargoyle's wrath is something you don't want to see."
She turned and left with the egg, basket and all. Robert waited for several moments, and then peeked around the corner making sure she was gone he let out a long held breath.
* * * * *
The clan finished their meal and now attentions shifted to the Eldest as she stood to tell a story. As the old gargoyle made her way to be seen by all, she thought to herself who would replace her. The entire night she had contemplated the problem and still no solution presented itself. She would just have to keep looking.
"Which story would you like to hear?" she asked the group. The hatchlings shouted with enthusiasm their favorites.
"How clothes turn to stone."
"What lies beyond the river."
"Why gargoyles protect."
When the shouting died down, a modest voice asked, "Can you tell us about the egg that cracked?"
The Eldest smiled. "Of course. In the times before the Castle was built when we still lived in the cliffs above the sea…."
The red-haired female moved her way through the members of her clan until she found the trio of hatchlings. She whispered in their ears and relieved expressions spread from Brooklyn to Lexington to Broadway. She patted each on the shoulder and departed to join her breast-plated beau with the other young adults.
"The clan tried many things to fix the egg, but nothing would do. Seeing all the distress that the clan was going through, the leader said, 'We have done all we can to repair the egg, but the sun is about to come up and we can do no more-- except hope, hope that the egg will still hatch when the time comes,'" the Eldest narrated, sweeping her gaze over the entire clan. Then the old gargoyle spotted her, a young female hatchling, honey-tan in color.
The Eldest didn't think about it right away until her gaze passed over the young one again and saw her imitating the hand gestures the Eldest was using. A smile spread across the old gargoyle's face as she finished up the story.
"What's to be learned from this tale is that hope is a powerful force. And hope from one's clan can do some incredible things."
The Eldest ended staring directly at the young female.
* * * * *
New York, 1999
"You nearly broke an egg?" Graeme said incredulously.
"No, no," Brooklyn said, waving him off, "but I was messing around in a place I shouldn't. Maybe that's a lesson you two can learn from."
Both children rolled their eyes. Ariana leaned over to her brother. "Dad was a real terror when he was growing up."
"You don't know the half of it," Brooklyn said with a wry smile.
"My love," Sata said sweetly, putting a hand on his arm. "Don't encourage them."
They all turned around when they heard the audible click of Robbins' recorder turn off.
"That was a most interesting story. Did the Eldest find an apprentice?"
"Oh yeah." Brooklyn smiled then grew sad. "I just wish she were with us now."
"What happened to the cook who tricked you?" Graeme demanded. "Did he get bounced or what?"
"Why don't we just leave that story for another night?" Sata remarked as she nodded to the window. The moon was low on the horizon. Dawn would arrive in a few hours.
"You have to go. I'm sorry for keeping you so long."
"We don't mind," Ariana piped up. The gargoyle family gathered themselves at the terrace. Robbins stood by the sliding door to say his good-byes.
"If you have any more stories you'd like to share, please feel free to drop by."
"We will." Brooklyn clasped the author on the arm in a warrior's grip before leading his family back to the city and home. Robbins closed the sliding door and started for his bedroom. He got to the door and stopped. He turned around and went to the living room and picked up his cassette recorder. With quick steps, Jeffery went to his writing nook. Gilly gave a light whuff.
"Sorry, boy, but I have too many images to go to sleep right now."
Gilly laid down, putting his head on his paws, as his master rewound and played the tape. Shortly after, Robbins’ fingers were flying across the keys.