THE WEDDING, PART 2: DESTINED HEARTS
Outline by: Anna Hansen and Jonathan Cotleur
Written by: Jonathan Cotleur and Shauntell Holm
Original Artwork by Shauntell Holm and Noel Leas
Screenshots and all characters from Gargoyles belong to Disney and Buena Vista Television. They are used here without permission for a non-profit labor of love.
* * * * *
Castle Wyvern, 975 AD
Prince Malcolm regarded the odd stranger curiously as he stood up from his overperformed bow. Then he reached into his pocket and retrieved some coins. As he handed the gold currency to Xanatos, he declared, "These tokens are but the first of your reward." The elder Xanatos looked on, amazed, as the coins fell into his sonís open hand.
"Tonight you'll have fine food," Malcolm continued, "fine lodging... and fine clothes." Xanatos and Fox shared a concealed smirk at the Princeís last remark.
Malcolmís face set into serious consideration. "We were to have been married tomorrow, but this attack on Princess Elena makes me anxious..." With zeal, he proclaimed, "We shall be wed this very night. Prepare the Great Hall!"
As he walked off to coordinate the flustered wedding attendants, the Norman ambassador leaned over to Elena and whispered secretively, "Is your father's wedding gift safe?"
Elena drew the shiny gold and blue embroidered amulet from her cloak to answer the Normanís question. "I shall present the Phoenix Gate to my husband after the ceremony." She held it up to reflect in the moonlight.
* * * * *
"So you see, Huds--, uh, I mean, my mentor... I am not a creature of sorcery. I am a visitor... from the future."
Hudson snorted in disbelief as he removed Goliath's hand from his mouth, his anger towards the nightís events not helping to rebuild confidence in the lad before him. "And I suppose ye glided back in time on the wind?" he asked skeptically.
"No," Goliath said, stepping away. "Sometime in the future, I attended - or will attend - the wedding of an enemy. And I was - or will be - tricked into sending us all back here by magic!" He spat out the last words with tired anger, as he walked towards Hudson's perch and peered down at the couple below him. His heart sank at what he saw, wishing that there was some way he could get that love back. "I don't know my enemy's purpose in this time, but I particularly fear for my younger self, and his ĎAngel Loveí."
He turned to Hudson, a pleading look in his eyes. "I need your help to protect them from their future."
Hudson took in everything this Goliath had told him. Of particular interest to him was how he referred to Demona as an ĎAngel Loveí, with such familiarity and nostalgiaÖ almost a longing. Was this really the gargoyle the Goliath he knew would eventually evolve into? He saw something in his eyes: a wisdom, experience, and something more... a dark knowing.
"Itís quite a story," he voiced doubtfully, looking over the edge of the tower to the Goliath he knew, with what this future incarnation called his ĎAngel Loveí. It appeared as though the two youths had been able to make up. He had been on his way to give the lad some words of advice and encouragement, but now he saw that such hadnít been necessary. The younger gargoyle had solved his problems on his own. Such an example of steadiness and maturity seemed to be wholly manifested in this older Goliath.
"Will you help me?" Goliath asked firmly.
Hudson sighed, the strange sound of Goliathís voice echoing in his mind. "Very well, lad. Iím with ye."
* * * * *
On the battlement, Goliath parted in his embrace with Demona. Just moments ago, Demona had put his fears to rest with kind words of truth and love, all of which had been sealed with a kiss. He knew for sure now that Demona loved him for who he was and that she would remain by his side forever, no matter what status he held within the clan. It was an elevating feeling, on which he felt intoxicated. It was a feeling he knew only how to identify as true love.
"I should probably go to Leader," Demona decided, holding Goliathís hands. "I havenít been assigned a post as everyone else has."
"Will we... go to Prince Malcolmís wedding together later?"
Demona didnít expect that. She smiled warmly. "Iíd like very much to go."
Goliath nodded, smiling. "Farewell, my love." She smiled sweetly as she stepped away, then opened her wings and turned to take flight. "My...Angel Love..." Goliath added in a wistful breath as he watched her elegant form depart.
He drew in a deep breath and turned to take up his position on the edge of the battlement, bracing the stone with his hands as if to balance himself in his dizzying euphoria. He just hoped his actions with Marcus hadnít soured relations between he and the Prince to an irreparable degree. His face darkened somewhat.
* * * * *
"You mustnít let her see us," Goliath declared with urgency to Hudson as they overheard the lassís decision. As she outstretched her wings and took to the air, the pair knelt behind the parapet.
Demona passed the tower top, casting a quick glance to see if Leader was at his perch. When she didnít spot him, she went on. She frowned. Hudson didnít seem to be in sight anywhere outside. Then she remembered the Archmage.
She winced. "I was supposed to meet him tonight..." she reminded herself. She considered Goliath. Sheíd just made amends with her love. Should she risk repeating the same mistakes she made with Diomedes now? Her face set into determination.
"My problems have been caused by running away from them," she resolved. "I can allocate my time between the Archmage, my duties, and my love... I know I can. Giving up isnít the answer." With renewed confidence -- confidence not entirely unbolstered by her kiss with Goliath -- she headed for the Archmageís tower.
* * * * *
A skull shattered against the stone wall of the room as the Archmage exerted his anger. The skull, which had been made to serve as a candleholder by the Archmage, sprinkled bone chips and blots of wax on the large, red book that sat on a pedestal in the center of the room.
"Curse those strangers!" the wizard exclaimed. "Because of them, my bandits failed to steal the Phoenix Gate! I must have it!" He walked up to the Grimorum and wiped the flakes of bone and wax from its embroidered, timeworn cover. "With the Gate and the Grimorum, I'll need only the Eye of Odin to secure the ultimate magical power."
Demona stood to the side, immersed in shadows, as her teacher vented his frustrations. Sheíd come upon him in this state of fury, and knew to stay uninvolved until his temper past. These fits were nothing new to her, nor to Marcus, she had to suspect.
Now he had calmed down some. He turned from the Grimorum, his eyes in search of her. He found her outline amidst the blackness and pointed to her. "You, my apprentice, will steal it from the Princess and bring it here, to me."
Demona ignored the impertinence of the demand, as she had been so accustomed to doing before. She stepped into the light of the surviving candles and responded with obedience, "As you wish, Archmage."
* * * * *
David handed the envelope to the Norman ambassador. The older man took it, and discreetly placed it within his robe before riding off. As he passed through the front gates of the castle, David heard his fatherís suspicious voice from behind him. "What are you hatching now?"
David Xanatos smiled, reveling in the opportunity to explain the envelopeís fate to his father. O ye of little faith, he thought, allow me to educate you. He turned to face his father, seeing that Fox was there as well. Both of them looked pleasing in their medieval garb, courtesy of Prince Malcolmís and Princess Elenaís personal wardrobes. Petros looked quite distinguished, just as the younger Xanatos envisioned himself to be. And Fox. Fox was quite alluring.
"That envelope contains my personal instructions for the Illuminati Society, plus two smaller, sealed envelopes," the predestined billionaire began smoothly, a self-satisfied grin on his face. "The Society is to wait one thousand years, and then deliver the first envelope to a young David Xanatos of Bar Harbor, Maine."
David watched his fatherís face for his reaction, and was not disappointed when the old manís eyes widened in astonishment. He could see it dawning on him; the individual pieces beginning to fall into place. Both shared the memory of that fateful, salty-aired morning. The mists had still hung over the dock-side waters, as the soaked boards creaked under the footsteps of an approaching neatly-trimmed messenger, bearing a single, sealed envelope in his hand. "That envelope contains one of the coins Prince Malcolm gave me earlier. It's practically worthless now in 975 AD, but by 1975, it will be worth... about twenty grand."
Fox smiled impishly, as Petrosí eyes came back into focus, and his son continued his narration. "The second envelope is to be delivered twenty years after the first. It contains a detailed account of how the coin was obtained." He thought back to his office that day. Just as before, it was early in the morning. Heíd done an all-nighter, and Owen had entered in his usual unobtrusive manner, neatly kept as ever, and bearing a single, sealed envelope. And despite his four hours of sleep in the last thirty, he knew. He could practically smell the salt water in the air. The day became booked from that moment on. "That's how I knew how to set this all up. I received instructions, from myself, last week."
"So you see, pop," he concluded, "I am indeed a self-made man."
Fox approached her husband lovingly, grabbing his arm with unveiled affection. "Iím so proud of you."
Petros remained stationary, unwilling to give his son the pleasure. "All right, mister big shot time traveler, you sent off your little letter before answering one important question. How do we get back home?"
David smiled. "Oh, all in good time, pop," he replied carelessly, "all in good time. For now," he added cockily, "weíre in medieval Scotland. This is an event that isnít likely to happen again in your life. Why donít you take in some sights?"
Petrosí eyes narrowed on his son.
* * * * *
The gold amulet sparkled in Demonaís eye. It was within handís reach, just within the Princessí window. She looked up, seeing the Princess with a comb to her hair, oblivious to anyone elseís presenceÖespecially from the window. For who could come in from there, but one of the gargoyles? Demona hesitated, wincing as she regarded Elena and remembered the night of the Equinox. How at ease and accepting she had been around and of her kind. The amulet was sitting in plain reach by her window, because she felt assured that no gargoyle-- to whom the allure of shiny, bright objects had no hold-- would take it...
She could hear Elena humming, her back innocently turned. It was a soft and elegant tune. Demona was momentarily lost in it. But she regained herself, thinking back to the Archmage. If she did not perform this first task, this token of their new covenant, and hers with herself, then the resolution she had reached earlier in the night was to be over before it began.
Without a second thought, lest it result in another moment of hesitance, Demona snatched the Phoenix Gate from the dresser top and glided away. Almost as soon as she felt safely away, a strange tingling filled the air. She gasped as a sphere of fire erupted from a momentary twinkle in the sky mere yards in front of her. When it receded, her eyes widened with disbelief.
"Who are--? You look like-- But this cannot be."
The older apparition intensified her gaze. "Oh, I am quite real."
Demona couldnít look away. She saw herself, but aged. She was older, more mature; a different person. But still... her. "But how?" was all she could ask.
She was stunned when her older self looked from her, searching the skies for something. She didnít seem to pay any regard to the question. Then, "Soon." The abruptness startled her. "But first we must go somewhere private. I know from experience that my arrival through the flames will attract one other."
Demona was about to question further as to her nature, but was not allowed a chance, as her older self began to chant something she recognized as Latin. "Deflagrate..." Her mind, like reality, was quickly losing cohesiveness. But through it, she noticed for the first time the object her alter-self held. It was the same amulet she herself possessed. "...Muri tempi et intervallia!"
The words seemed to permeate her mind. What did they mean? Deflagrate...
A strange sensation gripped her. She was going to gasp, but there was no longer any air to breathe in. She felt weightless-- momentarily suspended in something. She was engulfed in fire. But she knew not to panic, somehow. It was magic. She could identify that much. The flames felt hot, but not on a physical level. It was as if the power exerted from this powerful artifact, the duplicate of which she held in her own hands, produced a magical heat; scorching, yet not painful. It lasted only a second, and she had not the time to analyze it further.
* * * * *
"Demona!" Goliath exclaimed.
Hudson turned curiously. "Who?" He saw the ball of bright, red flame hang suspended in the air for another second, and then dissipate.
Below them, the young Goliath observed the disturbance from his post. "He must not investigate!" the older Goliath ordered.
Hudson nodded grimly. "Aye, Iíll waylay him." He spread his wings and jumped off the tower towards his young former Second.
"Lad!" The young lavender gargoyle looked up at his leader with surprise, as the bearded soldier alighted beside him and grabbed his arm. Goliath didnít budge, even as another blossom of fire erupted in the night sky where the previous had appeared. He was about to point in the direction of the fireball, but Hudson spoke first. "Dunnae worry about it, lad. Tis nothiní of importance."
Goliath blinked, stunned, as the fireball dissipated like its predecessor, swallowed by the wind, and Hudson glanced back up to the tower to see it vacated. He let go of Goliathís arm, and Goliath stood straight, somewhat indignant even in light of his recent demotion.
Hudson sighed. "The reason I came over to ye is because I needed ta talk with ye," he explained. The change in topic had the desired effect, and Goliath quickly forgot about the fireball, his thoughts settling on the previous events of the night.
Hudson spread his wings and offered his hand in the direction of the Great Hall. "Let us go to see Prince Malcolm. What I wish to say will be plainly evident enough before him."
Goliath nodded with firmness, but Hudson could detect the trepidation in his brave, young warrior. He smiled, thinking of the future gargoyle heíd met ever so briefly. Omens were something sorcerers like the Archmage believed in. Hudson never took them seriously. But in spite of his wisdom, he did not know all things.
* * * * *
Prince Malcolm sighed with concern as he carefully listened to Marcus' account of what had happened just a short while ago. It was obvious that the boy had been frightened and that there had clearly been a misunderstanding. Marcus' empty threat to destroy the tinkererís devices had not gone unnoticed or unacknowledged. Many of the gargoyles, particularly Goliath, had continued to remain suspicious of the boy even after the encounter between Asrial and Marcus. It was a problem that Marcus hadn't intended to start, but it had resulted from the threat nonetheless.
Two large doors opened, and Malcolm and Marcus both turned. Hudson and Goliath entered the main hall. Hudson seemed calmer than before, but Goliath looked less sure.
Malcolm welcomed them both in from his seat, then turned back to Marcus. "Go ahead and finish, Marcus," he told the boy gently. "Let the others hear what you have to say."
Marcus nodded unenthusiastically, obviously disappointed in his hope that he could be excused now. He hesitated only slightly at the sight of Goliath, who immediately looked down when he felt the boyís eyes on him. Malcolm's presence gave Marcus a sense of protection, with which he related the rest of his tale. The last details of the encounter were given, and he seemed very relieved and anxious to be let go. But Malcolm held up his hand to stop his pupilís attempt at a quick retreat.
"Not just yet, Marcus," he said. "The leader of the gargoyles has come to pay respect to this case. And with him, is he the one who attacked you?"
There was a few seconds of silence before Marcus nodded faintly, uttering a barely-audible, "Yes, sire."
Hudson was about to speak, when a deep sigh escaped Goliath. Everyone turned to him in surprise, and Marcus stiffened slightly as the giant came towards him.
"Marcus," Goliath said gently. "I owe you an apology. We had just assumed that you had ruined my sisterís invention out of spite. None of us, especially myself, had any real proof to support that claim. But you were the only suspect, and as a result, we made a scapegoat of you. I... made a scapegoat of you. Not only for the deed done against my sister, but... for my own inner frustrations as well. The weight of leadership was taking a toll on me for the first time. I could take charge when on equal footing with my brothers and sisters. But I was no longer afforded the luxury of choosing to step forward. The decision, and the responsibility for it, was put all on my shoulders. And that responsibility still holds for what I did to you. It was my decision. Mine alone. And I shall bear the weight of it."
Marcus only nodded, unsure of how to respond. The words were candid, but they seemed surreal coming from the great behemoth before him.
Malcolm smiled at Goliath as he leaned in his chair. "Good show, lad," he commended. "It takes a strong man to admit when he was in the wrong. An even stronger gargoyle, considering the stubbornness you creatures can demonstrate at times." He shared a friendly grin with Hudson, who nodded guiltily. "And I extol your ability to do so."
"I have tae agree," Hudson joined, causing Goliath to turn to him in apprehension. "I fear, lad, that I was a bit hasty and, I, a bit rash, when I removed ye from the position of Second. Ye made a mistake, lad, but at least ye know when to admit when ye made one. That is a good trait in a leader..." He stroked his beard thoughtfully. He reflected on the Goliath he saw before him, and the Goliath of time not yet past. He remembered what the future Goliath had called him... ĎMentorí.
"And there... is another mistake that I must admit to," he declared finally. "Itís my responsibility to train ye, as Second. But that is somethiní I havnía really done. I think I am making a good decision in reinstatiní ye to yuir position as Second. Yeíre the right choice, lad. There be no doubt about it."
Goliath's face brightened into a smile. His heart soared as he reached forward to take Hudsonís hand, and shook it vigorously. "Thank you, Leader," he exclaimed excitedly. "I promise you, I shall never again fall into the pit that I did. Not under your tutelage. I will train harder than I ever have."
"Well, now that that's settled," Malcolm announced briskly, standing up from his chair, "I've still a wedding to prepare for." He turned with a wave of his hand, dismissing them all save Marcus. "Come along, Marcus. We have some work to do. Since the wedding has been moved to tonight we've not much time to spare."
Hudson turned to Malcolm in surprise. "The weddiní has been moved tae tonight?"
"Thatís right, old friend," Malcolm answered jubilantly. "The result of an unexpected twist of events, disconcerting at first light but not wholly unrewarding." He smiled broadly.
"Prince Malcolm," Goliath called uncertainly. Malcolm faced him. "Uh... your majesty... am I to humbly thank you for pardoning me?"
Malcolm grinned amiably. "You may." He nodded curtly. "You are pardoned. The experiences of youth are not to be hindered, they make you into what you become. In ten... or, would it be twenty years... from now, then weíll see differently."
With that, Malcolm was gone. Hudson nodded at what Malcolm said. Goliath turned and followed Hudson from the main hall. Both remained quiet until after theyíd passed by a few humans on their way outside.
"It turns out, lad," Hudson began, "that Marcus truly wasn't the one who ruined yuir sister's device, regardless of any appearances. It was that mischievous trio of hatchlings. They came to one of the elders shortly after I had judged ye and confessed to their misdeeds. They had been playin' in yuir sister's tower, and had ended up breaking the device by accident."
"When did you learn of this?" asked Goliath in unhidden surprise.
"Just before I brought ye here," Hudson replied with a grin. "Now come, we've some things to do."
Nodding, Goliath followed Hudson out into the courtyard.
* * * * *
David, Fox and Petros toured the inside of the castle.
"It looks different," Fox observed. "Not just in age. The walls... and this whole area, seems... different. They must do some renovating between now and 994."
"Itís nothing compared to what youíll do to it in a thousand years," Petros grumbled.
"Oh, come now, Petros," Fox replied. "You must appreciate at least some of what David was able to do with the place."
Petros squirmed uncomfortably at Fox calling him by his first name. "Not at all," he insisted. "I happen to like it better without all the sliding doors."
David shrugged. "Personally, I donít think itís much to look at." He brushed a hand over a stone wall as they passed, as if to take in the texture.
"You improved the decor so much," Fox agreed.
Petros snorted. "What you did to this castle, or - will do," his voice shook with his agitation at the uncooperative tenses, "is nothing short of sacrilege."
"Nonsense, Pop," David replied lightly as they entered a new hallway. "I simply upgraded it to the standards of the century. Running water and a working heating system - at that height - is something I couldnít be without. I retained all of the original antiquity of the place. I just... amplified it." Petros snorted again, his arms crossed. "Besides," his son added, "there were building codes to consider."
"I doubt all that fancy lighting and Ďstate-of-the-artí this-and-that was necessary," he argued.
David returned his fatherís criticism with a curious look. "Could you be more specific, Pop?"
Petros only waved a hand at him. There were some moments of silence as they went on. The dripping of stale water through stone cracks and muffled chirping of rodents echoed faintly around them.
"Whatís that?" Petros suddenly asked, turning in a circle.
David smirked. "You wonít find those back in 1995. I donít think the strains of viruses they carry are even in existence a thousand years from now. Better be careful you donít get bitten."
Petros stepped closer into the center of the aisle as they continued.
"So, where are we heading?" Fox inquired archly.
David replied with levelness. "Iím not entirely sure, but I think this is the aisle that leads to the south section of the castle."
They finally reached the end of the hall, and stepped through an arch where, in 1995, an automatic door would stand. They came upon a familiar hall now. Satisfied, David opened the wooden door on their right. It creaked open lazily, allowing the torchlight to filter in.
David stared listlessly. "Well," he said after a momentís pause, "my interior decorators are definitely more accomplished than I gave them credit for." His eyes penetrated to the back wall, where a full-sized glass window would eventually replace it. "Not much of a view either."
"Youíll change all that..." Petros harrumphed.
"Who knew youíd chosen the broom closet to be your office," Fox chided. "The imperial center of the mighty Xanatos Enterprises."
David stared at a mop leaning against the left wall. "Iíd assumed it was the Princeís chamber."
* * * * *
The flames receded. Cold air swept over her. But there was something wrong about it. It was different. It was dead air... the air that whistled through long-deserted keeps at twilight hours, and brushed over the graves of an ancient cemetery, or carried the scent of decay over countryside from the field of a recent battle. Only this was somehow...fresher.
There was fire all around her. Not of the artifact, but real, tangible fire. It seemed to prick her in the cold, night air. Shields and swords lay strewn about, sticking up from bodies of slain humans. And something more... She nearly gasped as she considered the pieces of stone that littered the parapets. Could it be?
There was a grunt. Her older self barreled past her, knocking into someone with staggering force, and she saw her love hit the stone of the ground. Her eyes widened, frozen open in shock upon the sight of her beloved with them, apparently unconscious. No... not her beloved. Like the female gargoyle she saw before her, this was an older Goliath.
"Yes, I am you, your future self." The words caused young Demona to jump, and she looked towards the other gargoyle cautiously. "You know I speak the truth."
The older doppelganger neared Demona anxiously. "I've come back to bring you a warning. This is your future." She gestured towards the wind-swept fires and scattered bodies. "See the destruction!"
Demona looked at it obediently, her eyes falling on the stone fragments again. "The death of our kind surrounds us!" The words caused a disturbing tingle to run through her body, leaving her feeling sick. As if they confirmed what she saw-- resigned it to how it was and would be.
"Your one true love is frozen in stone at night." She saw her other self rap on the stone figure of her love, encased at night as she claimed. She glanced back to the lavender gargoyle lying on the ground a few feet away. Were these both future incarnations she was seeing? She felt dizzy.
"The humans did this, and you can stop it! You hold the power in your hand." Demona gazed at the glittering artifact she held, grateful for something real she could focus on, something that preceded this whole contortion of reality. "To use the Phoenix Gate, you have but to think of a place in time. Speak the incantation and you will be transported there. With it you can accomplish anything. Do not give it to the Archmage." Again, young Demonaís eyes reflected shock. "Do not share it with-- Do not share it! Use it! Destroy all the humans! Rule the gargoyles! Rule the world! It's all within your grasp!"
Before everything could sink in, she heard a groan from behind her, and looked to see Goliath rousing himself.
"Believe me," she heard her other self say, "I know exactly how you feel. But you cannot trust him. He's weak. He cares more for the humans than for our clan. The greatest favor you can do him would be to put him out of our misery forever. You must know I'm right. Can't you see? I am what you will become."
Demona felt something inside of her snap. This apparition was not her. It couldnít be. She whirled on herself, eyes glowing red. "I will never be like you!"
Her other self beamed with an unnerving glint to her eyes. "I do not wish to hurt you."
Demona would not let herself be intimidated, nor persuaded any further by this imposterís lies. "And I do not wish to be you!"
"If I must beat this lesson into you, so be it. It's for your own good." The young Demona cringed as her elder raised a hand to strike a demonstrative blow. But another hand intercepted hers.
Goliath stood beside them. The older Demona snarled, and attempted to knock him away. But young Demona beat her to the punch. With summoned fury, she managed to throw her other self against a stone wall, knocking her unconscious. In the struggle, both Gates clattered and rolled to the ground. Goliath picked one up, as she picked up the other.
Before anything more could be said, Demona looked back at the frozen statue of her love. She went to it, leaning on it as her tears flowed down her cheeks.
"Are you injured?" she heard the deep, but gentle voice ask. She closed her eyes, further tears streaming out.
"You-- the others. All gone. What am I to do?"
The sound of the crackling fires and nighttime wind filled the momentary silence.
"Nothing?" Demona glanced back in surprise, drying her tears. A hopeful look overtook the sorrow in her eyes.
"Do not worry," the older Goliath assured. "Do not wait or look for this catastrophe. Live in the moment. Attend the petty jealousies and angers that prey upon your heart. Fortify yourself with love and trust, and you need not fear this future. But most of all, fulfill the vows of love you make, for they can surely save you."
Demona sniffed, regathering herself. "I shall. You have my oath."
She saw his eyes grow vacant, as he glanced in the direction of her other self. "I had hers once, too." He bent to pick her up, then gazed at the Gate he held with a desperate expression. "I am not sure I remember the incantation."
"I do," Demona replied softly. Recalling the words that felt engrained in her mind, she began to speak the Latin. "Deflagrate muri tempi et intervallia." The flames bloomed around them, and they were gone.
* * * * *
"I wonder what would happen if I were to carve 'D. X.' into the stone parapet there," David said off-handedly. He and Fox leaned against the parapets awaiting their "ride", as David referred to it.
"Now you must outwit time as well?" Petros criticized, standing to face his son obliquely.
"Why don't you give it a shot," Fox invited, ignoring Petros.
Davidís eyes twinkled as he stared at the spot on the parapet where heíd staked out a smooth area. "I just may."
Before more could be said, the Phoenix flames blossomed before them.
David looked up expectantly. "I think we've found our ticket home."
Goliath growled. "If I didn't fear the damage you would do to the time stream, I'd gladly leave you here."
"But you won't," David retorted smugly, "because you didn't. Time travel's funny that way."
Goliath ignored Xanatosí comment, turning to face the young Demona who stood beside him unsurely. "Goodbye, young angel," he bid softly. "Remember your promise."
Demona smiled, as Goliath took hold of his Gate firmly. The three odd strangers gathered around the handsome lavender gargoyle, and he recited the incantation, his voice trailing off into a mystic echo as the flames consumed him and all his companions. When the magic quenched itself, all that remained was the breeze.
She breathed in exuberantly, holding the Phoenix Gate. Had it been real? The visitors, the death, the destruction to come? She closed her eyes and vanquished the images of the magic trip to the recesses of her mind. Right now, she had a love to fulfill, and a promise to attend to.
"I saw the Phoenix flame," the Archmageís voice echoed up the stairwell as he ascended the winding steps, out of breath. When he came upon Demona, he stopped. She hid the Gate behind her back. "You lost the Gate," he realized from her nervous expression. "Admit it, you stupid beast!"
"Fulmenos venite!" A sudden gust of electrical magic shot forth from the Archmageís hand, striking her on her shoulder. "I will tell Prince Malcolm that you stole the Gate," he seethed, his anger overtaking all other senses.
Demona felt the weight of tears behind her eyes as she attempted to climb back to her feet. He had actually attacked her over it. Never had he...
A pair of heavy footfalls caught the Archmageís attention, and Demona looked up to see Hudson standing between her and the old wizard. "Why would you suspect this child of stealing anything from the Prince?" he challenged. "And even if she did, precisely who would she have been stealing it for?"
Demona looked after her leader with her mouth gaped. Did Leader know? Did he suspect...? She said nothing as the Archmageís face hardened in repressed anger. "I will not forget this," were his final words, before retreating back into the stairwell.
Hudson didnít turn to face Demona, but said simply, "I donít think heíll be botheriní you much anymore, lass. Whatever nature yuir relationship with him was... I dunnae wish to know. Thatís yuir business."
Demona stood, dumbfounded. She thought back to that night two years ago on the battlement...
"Lass, what are ye doiní here?" he asked her curiously. "I thought ye went with yuir brother to find the others."
"I was. . . I got detained," she stammered.
Hudson eyed her doubtfully. "Detained? By whom?"
"The Archmage." It slipped from her lips before she realized it. She gasped at her own words and hurried to cover for them. "He needed help in. . . cleaning his laboratory, and I. . . he saw me, and asked¾ told me to assist him."
"The Archmage be telliní members of me own clan what ta do?" Demona did not answer, and he sighed. "Well, lass, I appreciate ye helping the old hermit out with his chores, but he has his and you have yours. Iíll have ta talk to Prince Malcolm about this. . ."
"No, no," Demona said abruptly. "Itís all right. . . it wonít happen again, I know it. He was just in very bad shape and I felt. . . sorry for him. I thought our brother could carry out our mission on his own."
She winced. Heíd known from then on... all this time, yet never made voice of his knowledge, nor taken action. She sighed thoughtfully. It wouldnít matter anymore. She would not return to the Archmage.
She looked at the Phoenix Gate as it glistened - and smiled - just as a figure from above reflected over it. She and Hudson looked up to see Goliath.
Hudson beamed. "Ah, it looks like our Second."
Demona regarded him with further surprise. "You mean-- has he been reinstated?"
Hudson replied warmly, "That he has, lass. No finer warrior could fill that position."
* * * * *
Goliath felt the wind course over his body, as he breathed in the fresh, oceanside air. Word was slowly spreading that he was reinstated. The general feeling has been like that of a heavy fog lifting. He felt drunk on Leaderís seemingly unprecedented renewal of faith in him. But through the clouding euphoria, he could see clearly what his mistakes had been, and vowed never to repeat them. He had taken too keenly to the advice of his siblings, without regard for his own instinct, so concerned was he with making sure someone guilty was punished that he forgotten why he had been chosen to lead.
But all of this was not on the forefront of his thoughts now. Now, he had but one thing on his mind. Love. And the perfect way he had in mind for he and his sister to share in theirs.
Far below, he caught sight of Leader and his red-haired sister standing near the parapets of the castle. They both gazed up at him eagerly, and with a smile on his face he soared down to meet them, landing with a graceful thud of his feet.
Demona's face blossomed into a happy smile as she rushed into her love's arms. "My love!" she cried with something of relief. "You're here!"
Goliath smiled as they parted, but he didn't take his hands from her shoulders. His face echoed his surprise, as he uttered dumbly, "Uh, we must go immediately, or we'll miss the Princeís wedding."
They turned to Hudson, who smiled. "Go on, then," he said invitingly, and the two left with laughs and smiles.
On their way to the Great Hall, Demona asked, "My love? Leader told me of your reinstatement as Clan Second." She smiled lovingly. "I am very glad for you. Do the others know yet?"
Goliath smiled in return. "I think the word is spreading," he replied with a satisfied nod. "They are all as happy as the both of us, I think."
Demona kissed his cheek, before he glided ahead to land. He waited for her to join him on the windowsill. When she landed beside him, he took her hand, then peered inside the Great Hall, where the ceremony was already in progress. The hall was decorated with flowers and ribbons, a true sign of joy and love. They watched attentively as Elena and Malcolm each exchanged a ring, then spoke a phrase; "With this ring, I thee wed."
"Exchanging tokens to seal their pledge of love," Goliath remarked with an intrigued smile. "A strange custom -- but fitting."
Demona pondered that a moment as she took out the Phoenix Gate and examined it. It signified to her their future. It almost seemed fated that it would be what bound them. With a soft tug, she snapped the artifact into two even pieces. A low magical surge caught Goliathís attention and he glanced at the pieces she held with surprise.
"Take this half," Demona said as she handed it to Goliath. "Treasure your half always, as I will cherish mine. Upon it I pledge my heart to you, forever."
Goliath smiled as he looked at the token his love had given him. Then he turned back to her, his eyes only slightly glistening, as he pulled her into an embrace. "I accept your token my... angel of the night. And vow that you and I are one, now and forever."
Goliath and Demona embraced passionately, Goliath caping his wings around her. Within the Hall, Malcolm and Elena leaned into each other and kissed.
* * * * *
Later That Night
Malcolm and his new bride presided in the Great Hall, the wedding ceremony and subsequent celebration past. Before them stood the Archmage, uncharacteristic in the presence of the Prince and Princess.
"It was the three mysterious travelers who stole the Lady Elena's amulet," he explained. "I saw them myself." He bowed his head as if to vouch for his own story; his eyes never left Prince Malcolm.
"But why?" Malcolm demanded, flustered and subtly irate.
"I could not say, your highness," the Archmage replied with all the conciseness a frequenter of the court learned to exhibit before interrogation.
"I am sorry," Elena said, holding her husbandís arm lovingly.
"Do not be sorry," Malcolm insisted, turning to her anxiously. Upon her face, his agitation left him. "You can tell your father that your hand is all the wedding gift I could require."
Elena smiled in return, as the Archmage dismissed himself with unobtrusive retreating steps.
* * * * *
Dawn signaled itself from over the horizon.
The gargoyles climbed or glided towards their perches, readying themselves for another dayís sleep locked in stone. Demona was about to return to her own, when she heard Goliathís voice call to her, "My love, would you spend the day on my perch?"
Demona stalled at first, but melted into a smile and approached her beloved. They took up sides on each half of the rather spacious ledge.
Below, Asrial stepped up to her perch. Sheíd spent the night tinkering with her inventions, specifically trying to rebuild the one her three small brothers destroyed. She frowned, still lost in thoughts of her devices and didnít bother to glance up as the sunís first rays streamed over the horizon, bathing the castle in light, solidifying Goliath and Demona side-by-side in their poses.