Prophets and Angels
Story Concept by Patrick Toman.
Written by Patrick Toman, with contributions from Alison Wilgus.
Previously on Gargoyles...
Demona (to Angela): How can you
judge me? You've been hiding on a magical island while I have been out in the
* * *
AU Demona (to Angela): "Just be her daughter, Angela. She needs that more than anything. Spend time
with her and give her some pleasant memories. Be there for her. Let her know
she's not alone. And whatever happens, don't begrudge her for who she is, because
before all that, she is your mother."
Angela: "Do you really think that will help?"
AU Demona: "It helped me."
* * *
"What happened?" Angela asked. "I
know Father's side of the story and what the others have told me. But what about
you, Mother?" Her eyes softened. "I cannot imagine what your life must have
Dominique sighed bitterly. "My story
is a tale much too long for one telling. Suffice it to say, I've been hunted
and hated and feared for over a millennia and never in all that time, have I
"All things change, Mother," Angela
said. "Even that."
* * *
"Continue investigating the Destines.
Something about that woman is strange, and I want to know more about her. But
I think you should handle this personally - don't send any of our lackeys after
her. This matter is much too fragile; she's an intelligent woman. We shouldn't
be too quick to judge her, or to underestimate her."
Mavis nodded, then shook her head
as a small amount of disgust crept onto her face. "One thing is for certain.
That girl most certainly did not grow up in New Jersey."
Elisa slung her jacket over her
shoulder as she walked out onto the parapets, enjoying the balmy spring air
as it blew through her hair and against her arms. A small brown bird landed
near her feet, cocked its head up, and looked at her for a second with dark,
beady eyes. She stood still, so as not to frighten it, and a moment later it
hopped closer, bent down, and plucked a stray piece of string from the ground.
Then it turned and fluttered off. She followed its flight with her eyes as it
darted down into the courtyard and into the branches of a flowering dogwood,
disappearing from sight behind the large, fragrant, pink blossoms.
Elisa smiled. It seemed Castle Wyvern
had gained yet another winged resident. "The more, the merrier," she said to
herself as she listened to the chirps rising up from the courtyard and stared
at the dogwood. The mature tree filled its corner perfectly, looking like it
had always been there. "It must have cost Xanatos a fortune to get it up here,"
she said to herself, shaking her head. The sun was just dipping below the horizon,
casting a brilliant orange glow off the thin clouds that still lingered in the
sky, and Elisa turned and tilted her head back, gazing up at the eleven statues
perched on the tower parapets high above her.
"And you guys never did tell me
what happened to that apple tree," she added aloud with a small laugh, addressing
her words to the silent stone figures. The dark-haired woman draped her jacket
over her arm and sighed contentedly, the smile on her face growing broader and
broader as the last rays of sunlight disappeared.
Elisa stepped back as the clan awoke,
neatly avoiding the small shower of stone chips raining down from above as nine
gargoyles and two gargoyle beasts roared and stretched their greetings to a
Goliath flexed his wings and looked
down on the others below, then his gaze traveled a bit further and a smile came
immediately to his face.
"Elisa!" he exclaimed happily as
he dove from the top of the tower. A moment later, he alighted beside her and
caped his dark wings regally over his shoulders. "I did not expect to see you
"I got the night off," she said,
taking his outstretched hand with her own, "and I can't think of anyplace else
I'd rather spend it -- or anyone who I'd rather spend it with."
Goliath's smile broadened, and he
had just opened his mouth to speak when the other members of the clan began
swooping down and landing around them.
"Hey, Elisa," said Broadway as he
caped his wings. Angela was right beside him, and Hudson, with Bronx in his
arms, set down just behind them.
"Good evening, Elisa," said Angela
"Greetings, lass," said Hudson as
he set Bronx down. He eyed the big lavender gargoyle and the slender human woman
whose hand he held affectionately. "So where will you two be off to t'night?"
he asked Elisa.
"Actually," she replied as Bronx
snuffed at the ground at her feet where the bird had been a moment ago, "I was
kind of looking forward to just spending some time here."
Nudnik bounded over and joined Bronx
in sniffing the flagstones as Brooklyn and his family touched down and clustered
"Do you want to spar with us, Auntie
Elisa," Ariana asked, "like last week?" She twirled her bo staff experimentally
and glanced over at her brother. "It gets kinda boring kicking Graeme's tail
"Hey, back the tail-kicking train
up a minute, sis-twerp," Graeme began.
"Children," Sata said warningly,
quieting them both.
"Umm... maybe some other time,"
Elisa began as she allowed Goliath to pull her closer. Then her eyes brightened.
"Why don't you try asking Fox? She's the one who used to battle 'evil ninjas'
for a living," she suggested mischievously.
Brooklyn and Sata both raised a
brow ridge while their children traded a silent, enigmatic look. The twins turned
quickly to their father.
"Can we, Dad? Can we?" they both
asked together, hopping up and down.
Brooklyn looked over at Sata, who
had an ambivalent expression on her face. "We'll discuss it over breakfast,"
he said finally. The twins gave an excited cheer, and Sata and her mate began
herding them into the castle.
"Why didn't they ask me to
spar with them?" Lexington asked dejectedly, to no one in particular, as he
landed next to Broadway.
"'Cause you were still on your perch,"
Broadway said, turning to his olive-green rookery brother.
Lexington frowned and made to speak
but then bit his tongue; after all, he couldn't very well explain that the reason
he had lingered on his perch for a moment was because his new implants were
running a quick systems check. Elisa saw the frustration on his face, however.
"I'm sure if you go ask, Lex, they'll
be more than willing to let you join in their reindeer games," she said, chuckling.
"Huh?" Lexington, Broadway, Hudson,
and Angela all looked at her. Even Goliath had a puzzled expression on his face.
"You know," Elisa began to hum a
vaguely familiar tune, then stopped as the stares became only more puzzled.
"It was a joke," she said, laughing a little again. "Just forget it," she said,
"If... you are looking for something
to do tonight, Lexington," Goliath began, breaking the short moment of silence,
"you could join Broadway and Angela on patrol."
"Father, I'm not going on patrol
tonight," Angela stated. Goliath frowned, but she took a step forward, continuing
before he could interrupt her. "I'm going to visit my mother, remember?"
Goliath sighed deeply. How could
he forget? He looked down at Elisa, who was hiding a smile, remembering the
night not long after the Solstice Festival when she and his daughter somehow
had teamed up and convinced him to allow Angela one night per week to herself,
so she could spend time with Demona.
"Yes," he said finally, in a low,
rumbling voice. "Just... be sure to return here before sunrise," he added.
Angela smiled. "I will, Father."
She started to turn to go, but Broadway took her by the arm.
"Do you really have to be gone all
night, Angela?" he asked.
"Broadway," she said, her tone mildly
scolding, "I see you all the time. I only get to see my mother once a week."
"It's just... I miss you... and,"
he frowned, "I still don't trust her."
Angela gently but firmly removed
Broadway's hand from her arm. "I'm not asking you to trust her... I'm asking
you to trust me. Besides," she added hesitantly, "I think my visits are
having a good effect on her. I think she's really starting to change."
Broadway looked at the ground, knowing
this was one battle he would never win. "Okay, Angela" he muttered.
"I'll see you when I get back,"
Angela reassured him. "Until sunrise?"
Broadway looked back up and managed
a small smile. "Until sunrise," he said.
Angela smiled back at him as she
walked over to the parapet. Hudson had his head bowed contemplatively, while
Lexington had already wandered off into the castle, following Bronx and Nudnik.
Goliath now had his arm fully around Elisa, and the human woman was resting
her head against his chest.
"Good-bye, Angela," she said.
"Good-bye, Elisa. Good-bye, Father,"
Angela called back.
Hudson looked back up and took a
step towards the lavender female as she uncaped her wings. "Just be careful,
lass," he warned her as she placed a foot on the parapet wall, "with all this
time you be spending together, to take care that some of your mother doesn't
rub off onto you."
Angela frowned, a growl rising in
her throat which she covered with the sound of her wings unfurling as she leapt
clear of the wall and caught the first updraft she could find. She angled herself
towards her mother's home and didn't look back at Castle Wyvern.
* * * * *
Angela sighed as she looked to the
window to see the sky beginning to brighten. She knew the nights were growing
shorter and shorter every day as spring arrived in all its glory, but the ones
she spent with her mother seemed to pass much more quickly than the others.
It seemed like it had only been a few minutes ago that she had landed gracefully
on the second floor balcony and traded a frown for a smile as Demona welcomed
her into her home.
"It's almost sunrise, I know," Demona
said gently, noticing Angela looking toward the window. "You could always spend
the day here," she suggested.
Angela considered that for a moment
before responding. "Thank you, Mother... but I promised Father I'd be back before
dawn." She stood and helped Demona gather the few empty plates and cups still
sitting on the coffee table from their midnight meal together and followed her
into the kitchen. "I just wish we could have more time together," she said as
she deposited the plates carefully on the drain board.
"You're always welcome to visit
me, Angela," Demona said as they started up the back stairs, "on any night you
Angela sighed again. "If only it
were that easy... but with patrols, and Brooklyn's kids, and the whole clan's
feelings and all... it was hard enough to get Father to allow me this one night
per week. I wouldn't feel right asking for more this soon."
Demona frowned and thought for a
moment, then suddenly stopped walking. She turned to her daughter and stepped
back down to the same step she was on. "There is a way..." she said hesitantly,
taking Angela's hands in her own, "that we could spend the day together
Angela looked at her suspiciously,
wary of the strange gleam in her mother's eyes, but at the same time she was
"I have a talisman," Demona explained,
"that would allow you to avoid the stone sleep for one day."
Angela's eyes widened in surprise.
"Have you used it before?" she asked, curious excitement suddenly replacing
"I won't lie to you, Angela," Demona
answered, a slight tone of worry entering her voice. "Although I have had it
for some time, I have never personally used it. I discovered only after I acquired
it that the conditions of its use are very precise. There is a ritual... the
talisman must be given by another to its intended user... and as one lone gargoyle,
I could never find a way that would've allowed me to use on myself." She paused.
"And after I met Puck," she added, spitting the name out acidly, "you could
say that it became a moot point."
Angela frowned. "So how do you know
if it would even work?"
"I learned long ago never to do
anything involving magic without first studying the spells or talismans involved
thoroughly," Demona replied, the worry returning to her voice. "I have studied
this talisman enough over the years to believe that it will work as promised,
but I am also as equally aware of the cost the talisman exacts."
"What do you mean?" Angela asked,
concern now tingeing her own voice, as well.
"All magic has a cost, my daughter,"
Demona explained. "To use the talisman once and forgo the stone sleep for a
day, a gargoyle would sacrifice the following night. The aftereffect would not
be unlike the phenomenon that the humans call a 'hangover.'"
Angela frowned again, puzzled by
the somewhat unfamiliar word. She thought she had overheard Xanatos or Fox complaining
of something similar the night after their anniversary party. Then her thoughts
floated forward to the day she had spent with her mother after Alex had turned
her and the Trio into humans, and a smile returned to her face.
"I think I'd be willing to risk
it, mother," she said, looking Demona in the eye, "if it meant being able to
spend the entire day with you."
Demona smiled too. "Then I know
the perfect time for us to use it," she said as she patted Angela's hand. Angela
grinned excitedly as she allowed her mother to continue escorting her up the
* * * * *
One week later...
Three gargoyles glided gently on
the warm air currents rising from the streets far below, tired from their patrol.
The largest one, Broadway, sighed as the castle high atop the Eyrie Building
came into focus in the distance.
"The end of another hard day's night,"
the big blue gargoyle quipped.
"You've got that right," said the
smallest gargoyle. "My arms are killing me."
"My wings are killin' me,"
"My arms are my wings," Lexington
reminded him, "and my tail still hurts, too."
The dueling comparison of aches
and pains the two males were engaged in went mostly unnoticed by the female
of the group. Her mind was on other things, as the sky was already showing signs
of the approaching dawn. Angela glanced once more at the still distant castle
and then back at the eastern horizon, then turned her wings and dipped down
between the two rookery brothers.
"Uh, guys?" she said.
"Oh yeah? I took three punches
and I didn't even feel it."
"That's because you've got all that
stomach to protect you."
Broadway and Lexington finally looked
up. "Huh? Oh, Angela. What is it?" the blue gargoyle asked.
"I'm going to go see my mother,"
"You're going to visit Demona now?"
"Angela, it's almost sunrise!" Broadway
"I know," Angela replied simply
as she banked her wings and veered away. "If I don't make it back to the castle,"
she called back, "tell Father I'll be roosting at my mother's home today."
Lexington and Broadway looked at
"You can tell him, Lex." Broadway
"No way," Lexington replied, dipping
away. "She's your girlfriend."
Demona was waiting at the French
doors as Angela landed on the small balcony. The sky was already growing brighter
as she caped her wings and entered the house.
"You're just in time, daughter.
I was starting to worry that you wouldn't come." Demona said as she hastily
closed the doors and drew the curtains back into place.
"We had a busy patrol tonight,"
Angela explained as she followed her mother from the room and down the stairs.
"I didn't even get a chance to tell Father that I'd be spending the day with
you," she added guiltily.
Demona snorted. "You're not a hatchling
anymore, Angela. You shouldn't let your father treat you like one. You don't
need Goliath's permission to visit me."
"I just don't like to make him worry,"
Angela said, trailing off as Demona showed her into the library. The room looked
much different from the last time she had seen it. The heavy drapes were drawn,
and dozens of scented candles were burning, filling the air with a musty yet
strangely intoxicating fragrance. Several ancient-looking books were set out
on the table, along with a small velvet pouch and what looked like an old cigar
"We haven't much time," Demona said,
crossing to the box. She unlocked it with a small silver key, and as Angela
watched in fascination, she opened it and withdrew the object contained inside.
Angela stared in awe at the finely crafted piece of jewelry. An obsidian disk
was set in the center of a miniature golden sun, quartz crystals making up the
sun's rays. The pendant thus appeared to be a stylized impression of the sun
during a total eclipse. Attached to it was a thick braided gold chain.
Angela marveled at the shine and
intricacy of the gold setting. The pendant reminded her of some of the more
ornate pieces she had seen Fox wearing when she and Xanatos would be going out
for an evening on the town. "Wow," Angela commented, "where did you get that?"
"It's an antique," Demona explained,
"a sun amulet from the pre-Columbian period."
Angela gave a small look of disbelief
and looked at the pendant again. "But it looks brand new," she said.
"I assure you that it is quite ancient,"
Demona replied, "but more importantly, it is the talisman which will allow you
to remain awake during this day." Demona paused as she held the amulet up by
either end of its braided chain and examined it as the candlelight reflected
off the gold. "Daughter, I must caution you again. Once the sun has risen, you
must not allow the sun amulet to be removed until after sundown. And once it
is removed, there will be strong aftereffects. You are young and strong,
but the magical repercussions may still render you unable to function until
you have again slumbered as stone."
"I'm willing to accept the risks,
mother," Angela said resolutely, "to again be able to spend the day with you."
Demona smiled. "Very well, my daughter."
She gestured to a small velvet pillow, trimmed with golden fringe, that was
resting on the floor in the center of the room, surrounded by a circle of a
dozen fat, stumpy, glowing candles. "Please kneel there and I will begin."
Angela moved into the circle of
candles and hesitated a moment, but Demona gave her a reassuring look and she
carefully knelt down on the black velvet pillow and sat back on her haunches,
resting her hands in her lap.
Still holding the talisman, Demona
moved to stand behind her daughter and began to chant, her words low and in
a language that Angela did not understand. She held the pendant up, dangling
over Angela's head, the ends of its outstretched chain held in either hand,
as she finished the chant. Then, slowly, she lowered it. Angela watched intently
as it passed in front of her eyes and came to rest against her chest, gasping
in surprise as the crystals seemed to glow for a brief moment as the pendant
fell against her lavender skin. Demona spoke again, in Latin this time, as she
moved her hands under her daughter's hair and carefully fastened the clasp on
"Unum qui noctu habitat,
donum tibi dono,
per diem ambules."
Angela remained kneeling as Demona
turned back around to the table and picked up the spellbook and the velvet bag.
She heard her mother begin to chant again, only this time she recognized the
words, having heard them once before.
"Lude oculos, lude capita.
Non vide quod videas, sed ut velim id esse.
Oculo, visui, puerum meum humanum face."
As Demona spoke the words, she opened
the bag and drew out a handful of sparkling dust and threw it over Angela. Angela
closed her eyes as the dust settled to the floor, and the candles surrounding
her fluttered slightly.
"Stand up, my daughter. It is done."
Angela opened her eyes and gasped
in surprise as she looked into her lap to see a pair of delicate five-fingered
hands resting against a background of deep blue. Angela sprang to her feet and
hurried to the nearby mirror, her jaw dropping in amazement at the image which
stared back at her. She again wore the human form she had taken when Alex had
turned her and the others into humans for a day, but this time she was dressed
impeccably in a dark blue business suit. The skirt came to just above the knee
and the double-breasted jacket was buttoned over a fine high-collared white
blouse, while matching heels completed the outfit. Her ears were adorned with
small gold studs, and her hair was drawn back conservatively and held in a neat
but elegant ponytail by a simple gold clip.
"Very nice, indeed," Demona commented,
looking her daughter over approvingly from behind.
Angela noticed that the pendant
was hidden from sight, as well, though she could still feel the weight of its
chain about her neck. She twitched her tail behind her and felt the air against
it as it moved, but the image of the young woman in the mirror did not stir
at all. She held up her human hands and looked at them, curling and uncurling
the eight gargoyle fingers one by one but watching ten human ones move in response.
Angela's brow furrowed. The last time the spell had been cast on her, she was
kept too busy trying to answer Mavis O'Connor's endless stream of questions
to really notice what she looked like. Now that she had a chance to really inspect
her illusion self, it was all a bit disconcerting.
"How odd it is, mother," she commented
as she turned to the side and looked in vain for her tail, "to see myself as
a human when I still feel like a gargoyle."
Demona wrinkled her brow at that
comment, but a familiar tingling in her back made her quickly forget all about
it. Backing away, she set the spellbook back on the table just as the first
wave of pain coursed through her body. Angela turned in shock at hearing her
mother scream, freezing in her tracks with eyes wide as she watched Demona transform,
giving one final gasp as the last traces of Demona's wings vanished into her
back and a red-haired human slumped to her knees with an agonized moan.
When the shock finally ended a second
or two later, Angela quickly rushed to her mother's side.
* * * * *
Nicholas Maddox leaned forward in
his high-backed leather chair, the receiver of the telephone held against his
ear, and plucked a gold pen from its holder. "Cotuit? That's on Cape Cod, isn't
it?" he asked. He jotted something down on a small pad of paper resting on desk
in front of him and paused a moment to listen to the voice on the other end
of the line. "Splendid," he said, "Yes, a lunch appointment would be fine. Tell
Mr. Strijken I shall meet him at noon. Thank you. Good-bye." He made a few final
notes before hanging up the phone, then returned the pen to its holder.
"And what was that all about, then?"
Mavis O'Connor asked from across the spacious office, looking up from her morning's
paperwork, her gray eyes narrowing and taking on a faint bluish tinge.
"A possible new business associate,"
Maddox replied with a small smile on his face as he turned to face his business
partner. He paused for a moment, regarding her with his own sharp eyes. "And
what are your plans for the day," he inquired, "Anything interesting?"
She grinned devilishly as she pushed
her paperwork aside and stood up, smoothing the skirt of her dark brown suit
as she did. "Would ye have heard of 'Take Our Daughters to Work' Day?"
Maddox stared quizzically at her
as she approached the desk. "I believe I read something about it in this morning's
Mavis' smile broadened. "Seems our
friend Ms. Destine will be havin' a visitor this afternoon..."
* * * * *
Angela stepped out of the limousine
right behind her mother, squinting her eyes for a moment at the bright early
morning sunlight reflecting off the glass façade of the Nightstone Unlimited
Building. She nodded and said "Thank you" to the dapperly clad driver as he
held the door for her, and hurried after her mother. Dominique was already striding
purposefully toward the building's entrance, ignoring the scenery, but Angela
was captivated by the brilliant colors that surrounded her. A half-dozen budding
crabapple trees were scattered about the Nightstone Building's small, brick-paved
courtyard and surrounding each was a small circular raised bed filled with springtime
flowers in full bloom. The sunlit reds and yellows and blues and greens were
brighter than anything Angela had ever seen, and she glanced back over her shoulder
and marveled at them with wide eyes even as she followed her mother through
the revolving door.
Angela gave a short, surprised cry
as a sharp pinching sensation jarred her from her reverie. The rotating door
stopped abruptly, trapping her on the other side of a brass-framed pane of glass
from her mother, who had turned at hearing her daughter's small yelp of pain.
Dominique stared at Angela questioningly as the young woman blushed and continued
on through the door.
"Are you all right, Angela," Dominique
asked, her voice low, taking Angela's hand and leading her away from the doors
and toward the bubbling fountain in the center of the lobby as other people
continued to enter the building.
"I... pinched my tail," Angela whispered
sheepishly, blushing even deeper.
Dominique gave a small sigh of relief
but frowned. "You have to be careful, Angela. You may look human, but your physical
form is still gargoyle. Keep your wings around your shoulders and your tail
close to you at all times, and do not touch anyone or allow anyone to touch
Angela nodded her understanding
as she discreetly rubbed the aching tip of her invisible tail against her leg,
and Dominique gave her a small smile. "Now come on. I have a lot of things I
wish to share with you today."
* * * * *
Their first stop was Dominique's
office. Angela recognized the reception area as soon as she stepped off the
elevator with her mother, though she was certain the secretary at the desk was
not the same woman she had spoken to those months ago.
"Good morning, Ms. Destine." An
attractive, petite brunette, her hands full of computer printouts, nodded as
she hurried past Dominique toward the elevator before she and Angela were even
ten feet into the room.
"Mary, hold on a minute," Dominique
said pleasantly, turning around.
The woman stopped in her tracks
and backpedalled a few steps. "Yes, Ms. Destine?" she said eagerly.
"I'd like you to meet my daughter,"
Dominique said, gesturing as Angela turned around to look at the tiny woman.
She was dressed in a stylish beige sport jacket over a white blouse and matching
beige skirt, with her hair pulled back in a loose bun and a pair of glasses
pushed up on top of her head. At the moment, she was too laden down with jumbled
sheets of green-and-white paper to offer her hand in greeting, but she smiled
warmly at Angela all the same, her eyes brightening in sudden recognition.
"Miss Angela Destine," she exclaimed.
"Of course! I'd totally forgotten that you were coming in today. How nice to
finally meet you," she bubbled, nodding.
"It's... a pleasure to meet you,
too," Angela said graciously, trying unsuccessfully to hide her confusion.
"Ms. Nelson is my head of Network
Operations," Dominique explained. "She manages Nightstone's computer system
and handles all of our e-mail and Internet needs. In fact, she's become quite
invaluable to me since I brought her on board." The young woman blushed at Dominique's
praise. "As I recall," Dominique added archly, "the person she replaced couldn't
even manage to spell my name correctly on our homepage."
"We should get some publicity shots
of you and your daughter while she's visiting today," Mary suggested, seeming
to be thinking out loud. "We could use a digital camera and have them up on
our web site by the end of the day."
The smile faded from Dominique's
face. "No," she said sharply before Angela even had a chance to speak, "I'm
afraid that will be quite out of the question. I have a very busy day already
planned for the two of us, and I don't wish to subject Angela to any more...
'publicity' than we've already been forced to deal with."
Angela's brow knitted in confusion
at her mother's statement, but Mary didn't seem the least bit phased by her
boss's sudden change in mood. "Whatever you say, Ms. Destine," she said cheerfully.
"I should get back to work now. It was nice meeting you, Angela," she called
back as she scurried off toward the elevator.
Angela watched as the woman jammed
a foot between the closing doors and wedged herself in to the already crowded
elevator before turning back to see that Dominique had already started again
toward her office, barely acknowledging the "Good morning's" offered by her
other employees. Bewildered, she hurried after her.
Angela caught up with her mother
just as she reached her office door. "What was that all about?" she whispered
as Dominique withdrew her key card from her purse and slipped it into the slot
above the handle. "She acted like she knew me already," she added as Dominique
ushered her through the door.
"In a way, she does." Dominique
said, closing the door behind her. "At least, she knows who 'Angela Destine'
is." Angela only gave Dominique another confused look as she crossed to her
desk. "I probably should have told you sooner, my daughter" she said as she
sat and opened a drawer. Angela came over to her side to look at the newspaper
her mother had pulled out - a several-month-old copy of the Daily Tattler,
already yellowing with age - and read the headline: "Manhattan's Top Ten Most
Eligible People." She frowned, still not understanding, until Dominique opened
the paper to a page near the back. The small black-and-white photo was grainy,
but she recognized herself - or rather, her human form - right away. She was
seated at a table, wearing the clothes Dominique had bought her on the day they
had spent together. The picture had seemingly caught her in the act of laughing.
"If I ever find out who the photographer
was, I'm going to make him regret ever being born," Dominique said bitterly.
"It was bad enough having O'Connor constantly poking around and asking about
you. Now it seems that everybody is asking questions."
"Oh," Angela said softly. "So is
that why you wanted me to come here today?"
Dominique folded the paper back
up and sighed heavily. "Partially," she admitted. She looked up at her daughter,
seeing the somewhat hurt expression on her face, and added, "But I've been so
looking forward to having you here with me today, I didn't want to have to trouble
you with this. I hope you can forgive me for not telling you."
Angela looked into her mother's
eyes and, after a brief moment, decided she was sincere. "I think I can manage
to overlook it," she said, a bit teasingly, as she sat down on the edge of the
desk. "But," she added, grinning, "I think you'd better fill me in on
what you've been telling everyone around here about 'Miss Angela Destine'."
Dominique looked up at her and soon
a silly grin formed on her face as well. She slid the folded up paper back into
the drawer, tucking it under an open bag of foil-wrapped chocolate kisses, and
then swiveled her chair around to face her daughter. "Let's see," she said,
"now just where should I begin..."
* * * * *
Nicholas Maddox pushed the "off"
button on the television with the tip of his hawk-headed cane and sank back
into the leather seat as the limousine inched slowly through the midmorning
Manhattan traffic. Mavis looked up from the open briefcase in her lap at the
sudden absence of sound.
"Not much activity in the stock
market yet today," he commented. He looked out the tinted window to his left.
"Perhaps all the brokers are still stuck in this traffic."
Mavis gave a small chuckle. "Sure
it was never this hard to get around back in Europe. It's these Yanks' love
for their automobiles that's the trouble."
Maddox frowned. "All I care about
right now is getting to the airport on time. This Mr. Strijken sounds quite
promising as a new employee... I'd hate to make a bad first impression by arriving
late for our lunch meeting."
"Hmph," replied Mavis. "It doesn't
take that long to jet up to Cape Cod." She checked her watch. The hands
on the diamond-inlaid face read nearly quarter to ten. "That 'tour' Destine's
forcin' upon us 'll be startin' in less than twenty minutes. It's thinking I
am that I wouldn't mind bein' late for that."
Maddox smiled slightly and stroked
his hand over his moustache. "So that's why you sent the others on ahead and
insisted on riding with me."
Mavis looked at him wickedly for
a moment. "Sure it's quite fine I'd be without paradin' about the building and
listenin' to some junior exec prattlin' on and on like an old woman, and without
sufferin' through another luncheon either, thank you," she said sharply. She
paused. "The chance to be seein' Destine's daughter again, though...."
"Yes," Maddox said. He paused for
a moment before adding, "Though you talked to the girl for almost an hour the
last time and barely learned anything. I hope you won't be disappointed again."
"I'd best not be," Mavis said as
the car rolled to a gentle stop.
"Nightstone Unlimited, Ms. O'Connor,"
said the driver's crisp voice through the intercom. Mavis looked out her window
to see that, indeed, they were parked by the curb in front of the Nightstone
Unlimited building. Hurriedly, she slipped her papers back into her briefcase,
latching it closed just as the driver came around and opened the door.
"Call me if anything comes up,"
Maddox said as his business partner stepped out of the car. Mavis acknowledged
him with a nod and then turned and began walking toward the Nightstone building's
Maddox turned to the driver, who
was still outside the car. "On to JFK," he ordered, "and try to be quick about
"Yes, sir." The driver nodded and
closed the door.
As the car pulled away, Nicholas
Maddox took one more look back over his shoulder, watching Mavis O'Connor disappear
into the Nightstone Unlimited building.
* * * * *
"So what do you think so far, my
Angela turned her eyes from the
descending numbers on the elevator's console back to her mother. So far, she
had seen the Accounting, Sales, Marketing, and Research and Development departments,
and they had just left Computer Services. There, they had run into Mary again,
and Angela had forced herself to listen politely as the woman showed her around
and went on and on about "mainframes," "scalable servers," "ISDN lines," and
dozens of other things that Angela didn't quite understand.
"Ms. Nelson reminds me of Lexington,"
Angela said finally, trying not to betray her dwindling enthusiasm for the tour
Dominique was giving her.
Dominique chuckled slightly. "It
hasn't been what you'd expected, has it?" Angela blushed, realizing that she
wasn't as good at hiding her boredom as she thought. "Well, don't worry," Dominique
said. "I've saved the best for last."
A moment later, the elevator stopped,
and the doors opened onto a small, plain room in which was parked a small, odd-looking
four-wheeled vehicle. Angela looked at it incredulously; while she had become
familiar with automobiles since leaving Avalon, she had never seen one this
small. It almost looked more like an oversized child's toy, and she gave her
mother a questioning glance.
"Trust me," Dominique said as she
sat down behind the wheel of the cart. "This is much faster than walking." She
patted the empty padded seat beside her and Angela gingerly sat down, making
sure - since the car had no doors - to tuck her tail in near her feet as she
followed her mother's lead and fastened the seatbelt across her lap. Then, just
to be safe, she took hold of one of the four slender metal poles that supported
the flat roof of the small open car and held it tightly.
Dominique touched a button on the
keypad of a small console that had been mounted to the dashboard and a display
panel above it lit up. "Area alpha-one," Dominique said, her words transformed
as she spoke into jagged waveforms dancing across the small screen. A half-second
later, the vehicle noiselessly lurched into motion, taking off toward the darkened
hallway which lay ahead.
Angela held on for dear life as
the speeding cart rounded yet another sharp corner, then she gasped as her stomach
moved up into her throat as they started down a steep incline, the rapid changes
in motion made all the more disconcerting by the fact it was pitch black. She
gulped again as their descent seemed to level off, tightening the grip of her
one hand on the pole and nearly digging the claws of her other into the edge
of the padded seat.
"Lights!" shouted Dominique, causing
Angela to jump, and suddenly, the lights came on and the whole hallway was lit
up. Angela squinted for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the sudden brilliance,
until at last she could see that they were rolling along at an incredible pace
down the center of a corridor only a little more than twice as wide as the vehicle
itself. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all smooth and white, while row after
row of fluorescent lights streamed by overhead. Angela looked ahead down the
impossibly long hallway and spied a shadow on the wall, which she discovered
was a door as it seemed to rush up to meet them. She didn't even have time to
read what was written on it as it sped past her, and no sooner was it out of
sight when another door appeared coming up on the opposite side of the hallway.
Angela glanced to her mother, who
was sitting calmly with her hands folded in her lap as the little car steered
itself, and looked back up to suddenly see the wall marking the end of the tunnel
coming up rapidly. "Mother..." she began, her worried voice barely louder than
the humming of the tires against the floor.
"We're almost there, Angela," Dominique
stated coolly, and, as if in response to her words, the cart suddenly slowed.
Angela gave a relieved sigh as they rolled to a gentle stop a mere ten feet
from the end of the hallway, which, upon closer examination, she realized was
not a wall at all, but one massive door.
Angela fumbled with the release
on the seatbelt for a moment - it was obviously designed for human fingers,
not gargoyle ones - and then joined her mother at the right side of the huge
door. "This is the most important room in the entire building," Dominique explained
as she tapped an alphanumeric code into the keypad mounted on the wall. "All
of my most secret new projects are kept in here." As she entered the last number,
a small beep sounded, and the massive door slid away to the left with a small
hiss to reveal an identical door just a few feet beyond it.
Dominique continued as she casually
stepped to the next access panel and laid her palm flat upon its dark glass
surface. "Xanatos would give his front teeth to be allowed inside for just three
minutes. So would Maddox and O'Connor and all of my other rivals." Angela was
listening, but her eyes were following a red beam of light as it moved down
the dark panel of glass and scanned Dominique's palm. With an identical beep
and hiss, the second door slid away to the right, revealing still another door beyond it.
"I want you to be extremely careful
when you go in," Dominique continued as she stepped up to a third access panel.
"Up to now, no one else has ever been allowed in here. And I want you
to promise me that you will tell no one about anything you see inside."
"No one?" Angela questioned as Dominique
entered a short code and pressed a green button on the panel. "Not even the
clan?" she added hesitantly. Dominique turned back to her as the panel on the
door slid away and a second one underneath it folded out.
"No one," Dominique repeated, giving
her a look that was both hard and reassuring all at the same time. "Promise
me," she said, her green eyes sparkling, "that everything I show you will be
just between us - as mother and daughter."
Angela bit her lip and thought it
over for just the briefest moment. "I promise," she said.
Dominique relaxed a bit. "Thank
you, my daughter," she said. She turned back to the newly revealed panel and
leaned in toward it, allowing the red laser beams of the retinal scanner to
do their work. A second later, she backed away as a warning tone sounded and
the magnetic locks on the final door clacked open. The fiery-haired woman placed
her hand on her daughter's shoulder, a broad smile forming on her face as the
last door slowly split into three trapezoidal pieces - one disappearing into
the ceiling, the other two sliding to either side - and revealed the room which
lay beyond them. "This," Dominique said proudly, gesturing with her other hand,
"is the Special Projects Division."
Angela stepped into the immense
room slowly, so overwhelmed by the shear scale of it that she didn't even pay
attention to the doors as they closed behind her, the clacking of the magnetic
seals re-engaging echoing in the cavernous space. She gazed in awe with wide,
saucer-like eyes at the complex laid out before her. The room was circular,
and although it was cluttered with partitions and machinery, it easily had the
area of a football field. It soared about six stories high before the walls
arched together into a domed ceiling. Five levels of balconies ran around the
room, and beyond them were the windows of countless offices and laboratories,
effectively making the main room seem to be the central courtyard of a large
office building. Rising in the center of the room was a narrow glass tower housing
four elevators, with walkways radiating outward in four directions at each level,
connecting with the balconies. And bustling about everywhere, each one dressed
in a spotlessly clean white lab coat, were dozens and dozens of people.
"Ah, Ms. Destine, right on time
as always," said a cheery, cultured male voice. Angela looked over to see a
small man with a short, scruffy beard hurrying towards them, his unbuttoned
lab coat trailing behind him.
"Dr. Bateson," replied Dominique,
nodding as the man came to a stop a respectful distance away. "This is my daughter,
Angela. She's visiting me today," Dominique stated crisply.
"Miss Destine," the man said politely.
Angela returned his nod, noticing with a small raise of her eyebrows that he
was wearing jeans and a worn pair of sneakers - a definite departure from the
finely tailored suits and patent leather shoes she had seen nearly all of her
mother's top-level employees wearing so far.
"How have things been going since
my last visit, Doctor?" Dominique asked as she began walking into the room.
"Everything is still on schedule, I assume?"
"Several tasks are running ahead
of schedule, actually," the man replied. He began to go into specifics, pointing
and gesturing with his hands, but Angela wasn't paying much attention. As she
strode along slowly beside her mother, her attention darted about the arena-like
room. She looked through the window of a clean room to see several white-suited
technicians polishing a huge circular mirror. Further on, she observed another
team of technicians preparing a small jet engine for a test firing. Across the
room from them, still another team was shooting short pulses from a ruby laser
at sample of some type of shiny, silvery metal, while another technician diligently
recorded the results on film. Everything almost seemed to have fallen right
out of the spy movie Broadway had taken her to see not long ago, and as she
turned the corner, she half expected to see a suave, dark-haired man in a tuxedo
come strolling by.
"I estimate that the prototype will
be ready for final testing by the end of the month," Dr. Bateson concluded.
"Splendid," replied Dominique. "Let's
"Right this way," he stated, gesturing
in the direction they had just turned.
Angela had stopped walking for a
moment and was peering through another window, watching the bright sparks fly
as a pair of men wearing heavy gloves and dark-colored face shields welded pieces
onto the chassis of what looked like a small submarine. A moment later, she
felt Dominique's hand fall on her shoulder.
"Come along, Angela," Dominique
said, gently pulling her daughter away. She smiled slightly, pleased to see
Angela so seemingly enchanted by all the activity going on around her, but kept
her hand on the girl's shoulder as they followed Dr. Bateson. "My favorite project
of all is right this way."
Angela gave a small gasp as they
rounded a final corner and entered the large area of the main room that had
been partitioned off and set aside for Dominique's "favorite project." Computers
and other machinery lined the walls, and in the center of the space was a circular
platform about ten feet in diameter, empty at the moment, with various tubes
and cables dangling above it which ran back to the machinery along the walls.
Strangely, despite the amount of equipment seemingly in need of monitoring,
there was only one person waiting for them when they entered, a plain, bespectacled,
dark-haired woman in a crisp white lab coat.
"Greetings, Ms. Destine," the woman
said, her voice sharp and precise, as she put down what she was doing and approached.
Like her colleague had earlier, she stopped when she was a respectful eight
feet or so away.
"Dr. Lanel," Dominique replied,
nodding. Angela frowned. She was beginning to wonder why not one person she
had met so far today had attempted to shake hands.
"And this must be your lovely daughter,
Angela," the woman continued flatly, nodding to her, as well. "It is a great
pleasure to meet you."
Angela returned the nod. "It's nice
to meet you, too," she replied, trying very hard to stifle a giggle. Dr. Lanel's
wooden mannerisms and flat tones reminded her of Owen.
"New faces are always a welcome
sight here," Dr. Bateson said cheerfully, stepping over beside his colleague.
The two were quite a contrast to each other. Aside from being a good half-foot
shorter than him, Dr. Lanel's serious appearance - hair back in a neat bun,
lab coat fitting perfectly and every button buttoned, shoes polished to a mirror
shine - made Dr. Bateson look like he had just rolled out of bed.
"As you can imagine, we don't get
out much," added Dr. Lanel, her tone still completely serious. Confusion crossed
Angela's face again, but Dominique spoke first.
"Enough chit-chat. Let's see the
Angela stood quietly next to her
mother for several minutes, both of them staying out of the way of the two scientists
as they scurried about the room and brought various systems on line. It didn't
take Dominique long to notice the troubled look on her daughter's face.
"Is something wrong, Angela?" she
asked in a low voice.
"Do these people... live down
here?" Angela asked finally, in a low whisper.
Dominique sighed. "For security
reasons, I've found that it's best to maintain a... closed environment," she
Angela frowned. "But don't they
miss their families?"
"They're just humans," Dominique
"We're ready, Ms. Destine," announced
Dominique silently thanked the man
for interrupting her. "We can discuss it later," she said to Angela in a low
voice, punctuating her words with a sigh that said she really didn't want to
discuss it at all. "Proceed," she said aloud as she stepped up to join Dr. Bateson
near the platform at the center of the room.
Dr. Lanel entered a final series
of commands into one of the computers, and a moment later, the circular platform
began to rise from the floor. Angela stepped closer, too, the words she had
just shared with her mother momentarily forgotten as the low "platform" was
revealed to actually be the top of a large, open-sided cylinder, inside of which
was a tall, oddly-shaped object covered by a loosely draped white sheet. There
was a hiss of hydraulics as the cylinder finally stopped, and the female scientist
stepped away from her console. As Dominique and Angela both looked on anxiously,
her partner stepped up onto the new platform that had been revealed and took
hold of one edge of the sheet.
He drew out the moment for all it
was worth, announcing with his most dramatic voice, "Presented for your approval,
the Valkyrie Mark 1."
Angela's gasp was neatly covered
by the rustling of the cloth as it fell to the ground. Before her stood a slender,
shiny, winged robot, vaguely resembling a female gargoyle in size and shape.
The body was done in contrasting shades of polished silver and steel blue, while
the wings were silver only, polished to a mirror-like shine. Twin jet engines
were visible on its back, along with razor-sharp claws on its hands and matching
talons on its feet.
"It's a Steel Clan robot!" Angela
said after only a moment, her tone almost accusing as she turned to her mother.
Dominique was sneering almost wickedly,
and for a brief moment, she laughed in a way that Angela had not heard her laugh
since the night of the Hunter's Moon. "My dear daughter," she purred, "the Valkyrie
is nothing like a Steel Clan robot. This is generations beyond anything Xanatos has ever built." She turned to Angela, who was once
more staring in fascination at the machine on the platform, and allowed her
scientists to continue for her.
Dr. Lanel came to stand on the other
side of Angela and picked up for Dominique. "The Valkyrie is lighter, it is
faster, and it is smarter than the Steel Clan," she explained. "Its sensors
are three generations beyond 'state of the art' and its 'brain' contains a high-speed,
multi-tasking microprocessor capable of performing over two hundred billion
calculations per second."
"In layman's terms," added Dr. Bateman
wryly, "You won't see a Valkyrie flying into walls or crashing headfirst into
"What about weapons systems?" Dominique
asked quickly. "Has everything I specified in my original conceptual plans been
"We're still ironing out some problems
with the variable-frequency capacitance module..."
The voices of her mother and the
Nightstone scientists faded into the background again as Angela stared at the
prototype "Valkyrie Mark 1", her mind wandering worriedly. She still felt good
about the fact that her mother trusted her enough to show her all these things,
but she was troubled just the same. Questions that she dared not ask but that
she could not answer for herself danced through her mind. Had Dominique truly
taken her at her word earlier when she had promised to keep everything she saw
a secret? Surely her mother wouldn't be showing her all of this if she eventually
planned to use it against Father or Elisa or the clan. Would she?
* * * * *
Angela was still sorting through
her worries long after the "Special Projects Division" had been left behind.
In fact, she had barely said anything during the whole trip back, even though
Dominique, knowing that something had to be wrong, had tried to get her
talking again several times. Only the rumbling of her stomach in response to
the smell of food jarred Angela back to reality long enough to realize that
Dominique was showing her into the lavishly furnished cafeteria that occupied
a good part of the Nightstone Building's third and fourth floors.
Angela followed her mother up to
a quiet area on the cafeteria's second level, where tall windows looked out
over the city, and the two women sat down across from one another at Dominique's
private table. A server - a young woman in a crisp white and black uniform -
was there a moment later, silently setting out silverware and glasses of water,
but Dominique ordered for both of them before she could offer the menus.
"I rarely come down here," she said
after the woman had left, attempting small talk. "If I'm not out, I usually
take my lunch in my office."
Angela said nothing, preferring
to stare down into her lap at her five-fingered human hands rather than look
up at her mother.
Dominique sighed. "Angela, please
tell me what is wrong." Her eyes took on a sudden look of alarmed concern. "The
talisman isn't starting to affect you, is it?"
Angela's moved her hand and felt
for the pendant in question, finding it still resting against her skin. Like
her other jewelry, she had long since stopped noticing that she was even wearing
it. "No, it's... it's not that," she answered quickly, looking up. She caught
a glimpse of the intense worry flashing in Dominique's green eyes, and as she
watched it fade, for some strange reason she felt suddenly reassured by it.
"Then what?" asked Dominique, her
expression softening. "Was it something I said?"
Angela looked at her a moment longer.
"It's just... back in that lab..." She tried to find a diplomatic way to say
it, but what she heard herself say sounded almost silly. "You talked about your
scientists as if they were hamsters or something." Dominique's eyebrows went
up at that, a quirky smirk crossing her face. "I mean," Angela continued, her
voice low, "'maintain a closed environment' - I know how you feel about humans...
but... don't you have any concern for them?"
Dominique frowned. This was the
first time that she could ever recall feeling obliged to give an answer to someone
who was questioning the way she ran her company. "I'm trying to operate a successful
business... of course I want my workers to be productive," she answered, choosing
her words carefully, "but security sometimes must take precedence over comfort.
Nightstone's practices are no different in that regard than Xanatos' or the
"Oh." Angela was at a loss to continue
the discussion, as she was unable to find fault with anything in the answer
Dominique had just given her. Luckily, the return of the server with the food
spared her from having to deal with an awkward moment of silence. Angela thanked
the young waitress as a steaming bowl of vegetable soup and was set in front
of her, then waited politely while her mother was served before picking up her
spoon and digging in.
Mother and daughter had started
talking again about more mundane things by the time the second course arrived.
Angela thanked the woman again and pushed her half-empty soup bowl to one side
to receive the immense sandwich that was set before her. She wiped her mouth
daintily with her napkin and deposited the white cloth carefully back in her
lap as the waitress departed again.
"This looks bigger than the ones
Broadway makes," she commented to her mother as she attempted to get her hands
around one of the halves of the sandwich, piled high with corned beef and topped
with melted Swiss cheese.
"Excuse me," a male voice interrupted.
Dominique and Angela both turned to stare at a casually dressed young man peering
out from behind an enormous bouquet of flowers. "Would one of you happen to
be a..." the flowers shook slightly as he fumbled with his clipboard "...Miss
Dominique gave a barely audible
sigh as Angela glanced across the table at her and then back at the man. She
answered hesitantly, "I'm Angela Destine."
"Delivery for you, miss," the man
said. He took a step closer to the table and Angela took the huge bouquet from
him awkwardly, nearly upsetting her soup bowl as she placed it in her lap so
that he could then hand her the large red heart-shaped box he was also holding.
"One more," he said as he slipped a duffel bag from over his shoulder and opened
it. Dominique rolled her eyes while Angela's lit up in delight as he handed
her the last item, a furry brown teddy bear with a red satin bow around its
neck. "Have a nice day," the deliveryman said. He smiled and tipped the brim
of his blue baseball cap before heading back towards the stairs.
"Who would send me all this?" Angela
wondered aloud, not noticing Dominique shaking her head slightly and massaging
her temples with her fingers. Angela searched among the brightly colored tulips
and daffodils until she came up with a small card, her expression changing to
one of puzzlement as she read it. "Who's 'Darien'?" she asked, confused.
Dominique sighed again and tried
to compose herself a little before responding. "Someone who mistakenly believes
that he is getting on my good side by attempting to court my 'eligible' daughter,"
Angela's brow furrowed and she frowned,
recalling the article Dominique had shared with her that morning. "You mean..."
"Yes," Dominique answered, her expression
looking as though she just had swallowed something sour. "Something arrives
here from some human male almost every day. This 'Darien' has simply been one
of the more persistent and..." She eyed the teddy bear and the enormous box
of candy, "...extravagant of your would-be 'suitors.'"
Angela looked at the gifts again
and suddenly the fuzzy little teddy bear didn't seem quite as cute anymore.
Carefully, she pushed it and the candy and the flowers aside as Dominique took
a long sip from her wineglass.
"What's most surprising to me, though,"
Dominique said as she set her glass back down, "is that nothing has come for
you from that one human..." She drew out the word as if it were an insult, adding,
"What was his name again?" Angela immediately shot her a nasty glance across
the table. In fact, her eyes flashed red, but the glow was cloaked by the illusion
"You know full well what his name
is, Mother," Angela snapped, her voice rising. "And you also know full well
that Richard and I are just friends." Dominique cringed at her daughter's harsh
gaze, and Angela paused for a few seconds to compose herself, waiting until
she felt the hot glow fade from her eyes before continuing. She lowered her
voice again to normal levels. "Honestly, Mother, it's been almost four months.
Richard is just a friend. Broadway's the one I love. We've had this discussion
dozens of times... must we have it again today?"
Dominique looked at her for a moment,
letting the anger pass before she spoke again, as well. "No," she said finally,
"you're right, my daughter." She lowered her eyes. "I'm... I'm sorry."
Angela smiled and reached across
the small table. Dominique looked back up at feeling a four-fingered gargoyle
hand fall gently on her five-fingered human one.
"You're forgiven," Angela said softly.
Dominique smiled, and a moment later, they went back to eating.
* * * * *
The polite little smile on Mavis
O'Connor's lips was kept there through sheer force of will. She had spent nearly
an hour mingling with the meeting's other attendees, making dreary small talk
with countless aspiring Bill Gateses. But, to her endless annoyance, the one
person she had actually wanted to find was nowhere in sight. After
checking her gold wristwatch for what seemed like the hundredth time, O'Connor
excused herself from Ms. Nelson and walked briskly out of the waiting area.
Now that she had an excuse, she wanted to put as much distance between herself
and that chamber of horrors as possible.
Her heels clicking on the marble
floor, she made her way past the elevators and into a hall labeled "restrooms".
The space outside of the two doors was lined with small phone booths, and O'Connor
slipped gratefully into one, closing the frosted glass door behind her. After
a moment of digging through her purse, she pulled out a cellular phone and flipped
it open. A deep scowl had taken the place of her carefully maintained smile,
and she stabbed furiously at the tiny buttons.
There were several tinny rings,
"She's not here," O'Connor growled.
"I've spoken with nearly everyone attending, and no one's seen hide nor hair
of either of them."
"What? I thought you told me they've
been together all afternoon?"
"I did and they have -- didn't my
sources all confirm it?" The woman sighed, leaning back against the booth's
wall. "It's somewhere in the building she has to be, waiting for Destine to
get out of the meeting...the question's where. Gotten here earlier, I
should have done..."
"It wouldn't have mattered, anyway,"
the man chuckled. "I doubt our friend Dominique would have let you in. She doesn't
much like you, you know." When he realized O'Connor wasn't going to give him
the satisfaction of a response, he added, "Are you certain this is worth the
trouble? After all, she's only a girl."
"A girl who's after admitting she
lived on Avalon. You don't for a moment believe that coggin' about New Jersey?"
she added quickly, anticipating the man's response. "It's something about her
makes me think she could be of a great deal of use."
"Now, if you'll be excusing me,"
she said, striding back out into the hall. "I have a conference to be attending."
* * * * *
"Mother...remind me again why I'm
going to this with you?" Angela asked, shifting the stack of papers she carried.
The two women walked at a quick pace, Dominique looking efficient and in-control
as she made her way down the corridor, occasionally nodding to one of the underlings
as she breezed by.
"Well for one thing, I needed a
pack animal," she said with a sly grin, winning a mock-scowl from her daughter.
"And you are the heir to this company - you might as well see how it's
Angela rolled her eyes - after all,
what did an immortal need with an heir? - but didn't reply. She actually was
curious about what went on during the "important meetings" Dominique was always
attending, and this might be her only chance to find out.
Still, when they reached the door
to the conference room, Angela hesitated, cautiously peering into the room beyond.
"I don't know..." she said quietly, turning to her mother with a worried look.
"So many people, in so small a space... what if something happens? It'd be so
easy to bump into someone here...."
Dominique's lips curled into one
of her one of her rare, warm smiles. "As long as you are cautious, everything
will be fine. And if anyone does suspect..." The smile turned a tad wicked.
"...just make them look like a fool."
Angela tried to give her a reproachful
look, failed miserably, and finally gave up. "All right, you win!" she chuckled.
With a sigh, she rearranged the papers once again and followed Dominique through
Dominique moved away, gathering
her employees around her for a final few private words before the meeting began.
Angela shifted her grip on the stack of papers once more, then cautiously began
making her way across the room. Her destination was the head of the conference
table, which Dominique had pointed out to her, and she put on her best smile
as she began inching her way there, past the chairs, potted plants, and people
who were still milling about. She was a bit relieved to find that most of them
were already stepping aside at seeing the large stack of papers she was attempting
to balance, and the few that did not see her right away moved aside at hearing
her say "Excuse me," despite how timidly she spoke.
Finally, her arduous trek came to
an end, her only close encounter having been with a rather leafy ficus tree.
Sighing relievedly, she set the stack of papers down in front of her mother's
chair, right behind a brass nameplate reading "Dominique Destine, President
and CEO." Then she noticed an identical nameplate in front of the seat to the
right of her mother's - her seat. Curious, she turned it so she could read it,
too. "Angela Brigitte Destine" proclaimed the crisp Roman lettering. Angela's
brow furrowed slightly. A moment later, Dominique was at her side again, and
she looked up at her mother curiously.
Dominique had already noticed that
Angela was looking at the nameplate. "I had to come up with something," she
whispered. Then she gave a small shrug. "Somehow, it just seemed... appropriate."
Angela read the name to herself
one more time and smiled approvingly. Dominique returned the smile with another
of her own, and Angela slid the nameplate back into its original position and
then took her seat.
Dominique brought the meeting to
order by ringing a small bell resting on the table to her left, striking it
several times with a short metal rod seemingly designed solely for that purpose.
Most of the Nightstone employees had already taken their seats, but the few
that hadn't quickly did so upon hearing the chime of the small bell. The low
murmur that had filled the room since Angela had entered faded away, replaced
by the quiet sound of feet on carpet and the occasional hushed squeaking of
chair springs or briefcase hinges.
Angela recognized most of the Nightstone
people, for she had met them at one point or another earlier in the day. She
tried to recall the names and departments to herself as she glanced around the
table. There was Ms. Nelson, of course, and next to her Ms. Wilgus from Research
and Development. Across the table from them were three men, in suits so well
pressed they would rival Owen Burnett's best. They were Mr. Collins, Mr. Banks,
and Mr. Rutherford, from Accounting, Marketing, and Sales, respectively. An
empty seat between Angela and Ms. Nelson was filled momentarily by a woman Angela
had not met yet, completing the Nightstone half of the table.
The remaining half of the table
was filled by an equal number of people from Maddox Technologies. Angela didn't
recognize any of the faces, but she assumed that each of them held a position
in the rival company comparable to those of the six people present from Nightstone.
Within less than a minute, everyone in the room had taken a seat save for Dominique.
She remained standing, glaring impatiently at the door.
Mavis O'Connor made her entrance
a mere second later. She crossed the short distance from the door to her seat
at the far end of the table with graceful strides, seeming to be very much enjoying
the fact that all eyes were on her. One of her male employees got up and pulled
out her chair for her as she neared it.
"Ms. Destine," Mavis said politely
as she seated herself, settling back comfortably in the chair.
"Ms. O'Connor," returned Dominique,
equally as polite, with an equally as forced smile. She waited until the man
retook his seat before finally taking hers. "Now that we're all here," Dominique
said with controlled sarcasm, "let's begin."
Angela was lost within half a minute
after her mother started talking. While she was impressed with Dominique's professionalism
and the way she instantly seemed to take command of the room, it was only enough
to hold her attention for so long. Numbers and dates flew over her head at an
incredible pace as profit margins and deadlines were discussed. Still, she tried
to maintain the appearance of an attentive young businesswoman-in-training,
watching the various people as they spoke, even as the words dissolved into
meaningless noise while her mind wandered. Once the lights were dimmed and the
slideshow began, though, she gave up on even that. Pie charts and bar graphs
couldn't capture her interest as well as the gnarled bonsai tree near the window,
and she found herself reliving her visit to Japan with Goliath and Elisa even
as Mr. Banks and his Maddox Technologies counterpart debated the demographics
of the Midwest.
Ms. O'Connor wasn't paying much
attention, either, as her Head of Marketing rattled off statistics comparing
the percentages of the population over age fifty-five in Cleveland as compared
to Pittsburgh. She was watching Ms. Destine's daughter, Angela, her gray eyes
focussed on the dark-haired young woman in the striking navy blue suit. Mavis
twiddled the gold pendant she wore against her white silk blouse absently in
her fingers as she stared intently at the girl. Her eyes flicked briefly to
Dominique. Ms. Destine was watching the slide show as intently as her daughter
seemed to be examining the scrawny little evergreen that was trying to survive
on the insufficient sunlight filtering through the mini-blinds. Her eyes went
back to Angela, and her ears tuned in to the speech once again as she stopped
twirling the pendant but continued to hold it with her hand.
She pushed the small button on the
back of the piece of jewelry just as Head of Marketing pushed the button on
the small cordless remote that controlled the slide projector. The louder "clack"
of the slide changing neatly covered the soft click that came from the pendant,
and Mavis smiled as she let her hand fall back into her lap and returned her
full attention back to the meeting.
* * * * *
Angela walked out onto the arching
wooden bridge and leaned over the railing, gazing down into the clear water.
A huge goldfish with a red spot on its head darted about just below the surface.
Somewhere in the distance, a chorus of crickets sang, their steady melody punctuated
at regular intervals by the croak of a frog. The moonlight glinted off the water,
and her own reflection stared back at her, surrounded by the reflections of
the maples and wisterias that filled the small garden. She almost didn't recognize
herself, dressed as she was in the elaborate pink kimono, with her long dark
hair done up in a traditional style.
Angela snapped out of her daydream
as the woman next to her slammed her briefcase shut.
"Leave the Burns file with my secretary,
Ms. Allen," Dominique said to the tall ash blonde as they both stood up. The
woman nodded. Angela looked around to see that everyone else was getting up,
as well, and some of the Maddox Technologies people were already out the door.
Angela rose from her chair and began
to help her mother gather the papers that had been in an orderly stack a few
hours before but which now lay scattered on the table. Her tail had fallen asleep
- it felt all prickly - and she wanted desperately to lash it about to wake
it back up. With the wall so close behind her, though, all she could do was
twitch it nervously from side to side.
Dominique recognized the funny look
on her daughter's face. "Wait until we get back to my office," she cautioned
in a low voice as she set the re-stacked pile of papers in her daughter's arms.
"Sure it was lovely seein' you again,
Ms. Destine," said Mavis as she approached. Angela and Dominique both looked
up. Everyone else had filed out, but Mavis had evidently lingered behind. "And
you, Miss Angela," she added.
"Likewise," Dominique replied, tapping
her last reserves of polite civility and somewhat reluctantly shaking the hand
that was extended to her. Dominique picked up the remaining files from the table
and began walking Mavis toward the door, Angela following behind. "I hope the
success of today's meeting was a positive sign of things to come between our
two companies," she said as they reached the hallway.
Mavis's eyes glinted and she smiled.
"Well now, we'll just have to be seein' what develops," she said.
"Yes," Dominique said, smiling uneasily.
Mavis nodded her good-byes to both women, and Dominique and Angela both watched
as she got into the elevator at the end of the hall and left. Both mother and
daughter gave a relieved sigh.
* * * * *
As soon as they were back in Dominique's
office, Angela finally allowed herself to do what she had been having the urge
to do ever since she got up from her seat at the conference table. She threw
back her wings, raised her arms toward the ceiling, arched her back, and stretched.
Dominique watched her, an amused look in her eyes, as she gave a yawn quite
normal for a gargoyle, but which looked and sounded positively ridiculous coming
from a human businesswoman's daughter.
"I was beginning to think that meeting
would never end," Angela said absently as she twitched her tail a few more times
and settled her wings back around her shoulders. "No offense, mother," she added,
noticing Dominique staring at her.
"None taken, my daughter," Dominique
said. "To tell the truth, I frequently find those meetings to be quite a bore,
myself." She sighed, her expression darkening somewhat. "Yet another of the
many frustrations a life in this form has to offer. That filing cabinet, for
instance," she said, gesturing to the offending piece of furniture. "Maintenance
was supposed to properly install it weeks ago. But here it is, still sitting
in the middle of my office! If it weren't for this blasted human body being
so weak, I would move it myself, but..."
"Mother!" Angela chided, crouching
next to the cabinet. "Don't start with this again..."
"Don't start with what again?
I'm only pointing out the facts." She scowled down at her pale, delicate, five-fingered
hands. "Even you have to admit that feeble, pathetic little human bodies cannot
compare to ours."
As she lifted the cabinet, Angela
sighed heavily, though more from frustration than her exertions. "Where do you
"Over there by the windows," Dominique
mumbled, gesturing vaguely in that direction. "Why, it would have taken two
human males to move that wretched thing - two! And you're not even fully
grown yet!" Somehow, her expression darkened even more. "What Goliath sees in
that... harlot is beyond me..."
Peering around the edge of the wooden
chest, Angela glared at her disapprovingly. "Mother!" This time, her tone was
more than just scolding.
Dominique winced; perhaps she'd
gone too far with that one. "I am sorry, my daughter... I should have been more
discreet. What I meant is that it is hard to believe any male would choose a
human over one of their sisters..." She smiled. "Especially when some of them
are as beautiful as you."
Angela knew perfectly well that
her mother was not at all sorry about her harsh words, but she couldn't bring
herself to hold it against her. Dominique had at least tried to make
up for it, after all. She chuckled softly and shook her head, shifting her grip
a little. "Honestly, Mother... you should know that flattery won't get you anywhere..."
Now, her daughter's voice was teasing,
and the fiery-haired woman relaxed back against her desk. "Now," Angela asked,
"do you think it should go in the corner, or beside the couch?"
Dominique's personal secretary arrived
at the open office door and raised her hand to rap on the doorframe, but she
stopped in mid-knock as she saw her boss's teenage daughter standing there,
casually holding a three-drawer oak filing cabinet a good two feet off the floor.
"Is this good, mother?" the girl
asked. Ms. Destine nodded as the secretary blinked and shook her head, wondering
if she really should've had that last cup of coffee. When she opened her eyes
again and looked back up, all the furniture was in its place and Ms. Destine
and her daughter were simply standing there.
Dominique turned to see the woman
standing in the doorway and glowered at her. "I trust there is a reason why
you are standing there gawking at me, Candice," she snapped. "I'm with my daughter
and I thought I'd told you we were not to be disturbed."
Candice gulped and her eyes dropped
momentarily down to the small clipboard she held before she looked back up and
dared to speak.
"I apologize, Ms. Destine," she
said timidly, "but... Mr. Falken just called again, while you were in your meeting.
He wanted to ask if you had reconsidered his offer."
"Call him back and tell him, for
the last time, that I said 'No,'" Dominique said sharply, a cold edge to her
tone. "I don't like him or his people, and I will never accept that 'offer'
of his. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Ms. Destine."
"And once you have done that," Dominique
continued, "get back to your duties. My dry cleaning needs to be picked up,
there's an entire ream of paperwork from last week's R&D meeting that still
has not been logged and filed, and I want the report on the Dithers account
on my desk in triplicate before I leave today."
"Yes, Ms. Destine," Candice said
submissively, hurriedly jotting everything down on her notepad. "Is there anything
"No," Dominique said sharply, "You
are dismissed. And close the door before you leave."
"Yes, Ms. Destine," the woman said
again. Dominique whirled around on her heel and sighed exasperatedly as the
office door was quietly closed. Angela simply stared at her mother in dumbfounded
"It is so hard to find good help
these days," Dominique said dryly as she slid into her desk chair. "Sometimes
I almost regret having lost Robyn." Angela started to open her mouth but a blur
of motion seen out of the corner of her eye made her turn. She gave a small
gasp as she watched a section of the far wall slide noiselessly away, revealing
a secret room.
Dominique got back up and walked
briskly towards the newly revealed doorway, motioning for her daughter to follow.
"Perhaps if you treated your employees
better..." Angela finally said as she followed her mother into the room.
Dominique stopped in her tracks
and turned to her daughter, but Angela met her hard expression without even
flinching and continued. "I've never seen Xanatos or Fox behave the way you
just did, mother. Or even the Magus or Princess Katharine back on Avalon..."
Dominique barked a small laugh and
crossed her arms. "Obviously you don't know your dear 'Princess Katharine' as
well as you think you do. Humans have given our kind nothing but hate and contempt
for centuries. She was only notable in that she permitted us our lives so that
we could serve her. To her we were but 'beasts,' pets allowed to roam the castle
at her whim." Dominique paused, a veil of darkness seeming to fall over her
as she continued, her eyes growing narrow and cold. "To the rest of humanity
we are 'monsters' and 'demons,' 'unnatural' creatures that should be hunted
down and killed on sight without thought or remorse. You read the accounts in
the journal I sent you, did you not?"
Dominique cut her off with an angry
wave of her hand. "Then you are as naïve as your father to still believe
they will ever allow us to live among them! Humans kill what they fear, and
they fear what they don't understand. They cannot even make peace amongst themselves.
They wage war on anything that is foreign to their narrow, pitiful minds, setting
upon each other over petty differences such as the color of their skin or the
deities they choose to worship." She stepped closer to Angela, her tone growing
even colder than it already was. "I have seen the horrors they commit against
their own kind as well as our own. I could tell you of things so terrible that
they would chill you to the very depths of your soul. Humans will never accept gargoyles," she hissed, "and the sooner you accept that, the better off
you will be."
Angela frowned, and she took her
chance to speak as soon as it was offered. "Not all humans are like that, Mother,
and even the ones that are can change. I've heard the stories Hudson and Father
have told... I know that Princess Katharine was not always as I knew her...
but she changed, and she raised us and loved us as if we were her own children.
And what about Elisa?" Demona flinched at the mention of the detective's name
but Angela didn't miss a beat. "She has always been a friend to the clan, and
she's risked her life to protect us more times than I can count. And there are
so many others... good humans who neither hate nor fear us, but accept
us as equals. My friend Richard is only one example... there's also Sharon,
Dr. Goldblum, Officer Morgan, King Arthur, Rory Dugan, Natsilane, Fera Maku..."
Angela continued on, counting off
the names on her fingers as she went. Dominique stared at her in utter confusion,
not having the faintest idea who many of them were.
"... and the people of Ishimura...
they have lived side by side with an entire clan of gargoyles for centuries."
Dominique started at this, visibly shocked.
"What did you say? An entire clan?"
she asked. "Impossible!"
"Yes," Angela insisted, "there's
a clan in Japan. Brooklyn's mate comes from there. Don't you remember? I told
you all about Sata and the hatchlings that first night I visited after the Solstice."
"Yes, but you never mentioned anything
about there being a whole clan..." Dominique said, still appearing a
"I've met them myself," Angela explained
impatiently, "and the humans they live among, as well. For hundreds of years,
they have lived openly and in peace with each other." Demona stood there in
numb shock as Angela tried to get back to her original point. "Mother, I know
there are plenty of bad humans, but there are so many more good ones... and
if we judge all humans to be evil just because some of them are, we become
no better than the Hunters or the Quarrymen."
Dominique cast her eyes to the floor,
and Angela's voice grew soft and sad as she stepped closer to her. "I've only
been out in this world for about a year, and already I have met dozens of good
humans. You've been here a thousand times longer, Mother. Surely there must
have been at least one human whom you've met who treated you well."
Dominique turned away, frowning
at her daughter's stubbornness, trying to block Angela's words from her mind
as her eyes fell upon a low shelf, empty save for an old journal. She stared
at it for a moment, and then, slowly, as if she was afraid doing so would burn
her, she lifted her hand and touched it.
"... one human..."
* * * * *
Southern France, 1527
She awoke with a howl of agony,
eyes briefly glowing red as she broke free of the thin layer of stone skin,
then collapsed to her knees, shaking and coughing uncontrollably. Her claws
dug into the ground as she tried to steady herself, crunching on the remnants
of the past two nights worth of stone skin scattered on the soft earth around
her. Her stomach rumbled; she didn't have the strength to hunt, and she hadn't
eaten in days. She had discovered days ago that the stone sleep offered no relief
from the disease which now racked her body, and now the pain was the last thing
she felt at sunrise and the first thing she felt at sundown. Every nerve was
in agony, every last muscle ached with exhaustion, and her wings felt like they
were on fire, covered as they were by the same terrible black sores that slowly
had spread over the smooth blue skin on her arms, legs, and tail.
"Yuir lookin' a mite more 'ideous
than usual, demon," hissed a cold voice from above and behind her. A growl of
pure rage rose in her throat as she turned toward the sound and tried to force
herself to her feet, but a split-second later, a heavy pair of boots struck
her in the back and drove her face-first back to the muddy ground. "And ta think
I sat up in that tree, waitin' all day in the rain for this," the Hunter
complained aloud as he stood on top of her and casually pulled on his mask.
"What a disappointment."
Demona heard the distinct sound
of a sword being withdrawn from its sheath and felt the man's weight on her
back shift slightly as he drew the weapon back, and she knew then she had to
make her move. Summoning what was left of her strength, she rose up and twisted
to the side, bucking the man off of her. He had the good sense to throw his
sword to the side as he fell into the mud, so as not to land on it, which bought
Demona all the time she needed. Forcing all the pain she was in to the back
of her mind, she got to all fours and did something she had vowed to herself
long ago that no Hunter would ever make her do: she ran.
The cliff was only a few hundred
yards away, but to Demona's aching limbs, it seemed like miles. She didn't even
look back to see the Hunter chasing after her, waving his sword and cursing.
She knew he wouldn't get to her in time. She summoned one last burst of energy
and vaulted into the air, throwing her wings open to catch the wind. She had
no idea what a bad decision that would turn out to be.
The pain was insanely intense; it
felt as though her wings were being torn from their sockets by teams of horses.
She may have even blacked out for a moment - she wasn't sure. The next thing
she knew, she was bouncing along the rough ground, mud and grass flying everywhere,
till at last she came to a stop near the edge of a narrow gravel roadway, the
wet stones and a few small puddles glistening in the moonlight behind the receding
clouds. She rested less than a minute, knowing she couldn't stay out in the
open. I won't give that worthless human the satisfaction, she thought
to herself as she pushed herself up to her hands and knees and started toward
the high grass just beyond the edge of the road.
She only managed to crawl a few
yards before her aching muscles refused to support her any longer. She collapsed
in a small thicket of tall, wet grass as another spasm of coughing and retching
overtook her. Her last ounce of strength she used to roll herself onto her back,
lessening the pain searing in her sides and chest as she continued to cough,
so violently that for several moments she couldn't even breath. When at last
the fit ended, her lungs ached so badly that she could only manage small, shallow
breaths, and even then, she could barely force the air down. She felt as though
she were drowning, and her head began to spin.
She lay there, still, staring blankly
into the night sky with glassy eyes, the pain which pulsated through every nerve
in her body blurring her other senses. Her eyes began to lose their focus, the
full moon high overhead changing from a sharp white disk to a fuzzy bright spot
in a sea of darkness. Feebly, she blinked, and the focus returned for a brief
moment. A winged silhouette passed across the face of the moon. A gargoyle.
And then a voice.
"My... Angel of the Night."
Goliath? Her eyes darted around but found only darkness, save for the white
spot of the moon burning overhead. She coughed again and closed her eyes against
the pain. Now she was hallucinating. The end could not be far off.
When her eyes fluttered open for the last time, three ancient gargoyle crones,
haggard, pitiful looking creatures with tattered wings and wrinkled, muddy brown
skin, stood over her, staring at her, their sunken, hollow eyes peering into
her own. Demona couldn't even manage a gasp.
"We know the pain is great now, child," hissed the first gargoyle, her ratty
hair as black as the night, "but do not be afraid."
"One comes who will save you, once now, and once later," continued the second,
her hair equally as tangled but white as pure snow.
"And who will also save your daughter," finished the third, her hair the color
and consistency of dry straw.
And then... darkness.
* * * * *
She awoke slowly, still feeling
quite weak but also somewhat numb, a welcome change from the agony she had been
in before. Her first realization was that she was laying on something unexpectedly
soft. As she forced her eyes to open, she saw not the stars twinkling high above
her, but the warm glow of several candles dancing across the beamed ceiling
of a small room.
"Ah, petite, finally you awaken,"
said a soft voice. Demona's eyes instantly turned to take in the young man sitting
on the stool beside her bed, a human, clad in simple gray robes, with piercing
dark eyes and an uncombed head of dark brown hair. Instinctively, she would
have jumped back, but she was too weak to do more than move her head slightly,
her arms, legs, and wings like lead weights. Her mind went into a whirl; she
was at the mercy of this human. The alarm showed clearly in her eyes, and for
just the briefest moment they glowed red.
"Do not be afraid, petite," the
young man said soothingly. He leaned over and reached toward her, but she hadn't
even the strength to cry out let alone defend herself from whatever he was about
to do. She closed her eyes and braced herself for the worst, plans for later
revenge already forming, when she felt something damp and cool gently touch
She opened her eyes again to see
the man backing away, and watched as he turned and wrung out the white piece
of cloth in one of two buckets sitting on the floor beside the bed. Then he
dipped it into the other one, drawing up fresh water, before turning again toward
"The worst is past now that your
fever has broken," he said as he carefully folded the cloth upon itself several
times, "but le charbon has stolen much of your strength." She followed his hands
with her eyes as he lay the cool wet cloth on her forehead, then looked at his
face, confusion replacing the shock and anger in her gaze. He was smiling at
her, and talking to her as if she were a human. "You must rest now, petite,"
he said, as if in answer to the hundreds of unspoken questions visible in her
eyes. She didn't even try to resist as the man gently lifted her head and placed
a second pillow under her. It was all too much for her. She closed her eyes
and sleep came within seconds.
* * * * *
When she awoke again, it was with
a roar, eyes glowing and fragments of stone skin flying. She was still in the
bed, and she sat up as she awoke, the blanket gathered around her, stretching
her arms and wings and craning her neck back, enjoying the sensation of simply
being able to move again, though she still felt much weaker than normal. She
reclined warily back against the pillows as she noticed the strange human watching
her in rapt fascination from his stool near the table at the other side of the
"You're feeling better tonight,
I see," he said after a brief pause.
Demona flexed her wings experimentally.
"Yes," she answered suspiciously, waiting for the man's expression to turn to
shock at discovering she could speak.
Instead, it was she who was surprised
when the young man merely smiled and said, "I'm glad to hear it. For a while,
you had me quite worried." Demona recovered from her momentary shock and regarded
him levelly as he picked a small bundle up from the table and rose from his
stool. "I knew that your kind is very resilient," he stated as he approached
her bedside, "but never before have I seen any creature in my care make a recovery
from such an advanced stage of the disease."
Demona simply stared at him as he
crouched down beside her. "You know of my kind?" she asked, confused.
"You are a gargoyle, are you not?"
"Yes. I have... read accounts of
gargoyles." He paused, noting the disbelieving look on Demona's face. "Though
I never had seen one until I found you a fortnight ago."
Shock returned to Demona's face
again. Two weeks? Has it been that long? she thought to herself.
The man's dark eyes twinkled, and
he continued as if she had spoken aloud. "You don't remember, do you, petite?"
he asked. Demona shook her head. "Don't worry," he said reassuringly. "You were
so delirious by the time I brought you back here, it's no surprise that you
can not remember." He looked at her a moment longer and added, "You are lucky
to be alive. It was only by chance that I found you before someone else did."
Demona gulped. This strange man
was more correct than he knew. She dreaded to think what might have happened
had the Hunter found her first.
"Here," said the man, holding the
small bundle out to her. She looked at it and then at him for a moment before
hesitantly taking it. "I'll fetch something for you to eat while you dress,"
he said as he stood back up. Then he turned and left the small room, closing
the door carefully behind him.
A few moments later, Demona stood
before a small, hazy mirror hanging on the wall near the door, checking her
reflection critically as she repositioned the gold crownlet on her head. Her
initial fury at discovering that the human had obviously undressed her had subsided
somewhat when she realized that her clothing had been thoroughly cleaned and
the rips and tears suffered during her last encounter with the Hunter had even
been mended. She supposed it had been necessary, too, for him to remove her
clothes in order to treat the painful dark sores that had covered her skin.
She checked herself from several more angles in the mirror again, pleased to
note that not even the smallest scar was left as a reminder of their passing.
The first thing Demona did after
she finished preening was to test the latch on the door. To her mild surprise,
she found it unlocked. She opened it a few inches and peered out into the dim
hallway for a moment before carefully closing it again. She turned her attention
instead to table the man had been sitting at. The many bottles and jars of powders,
crushed leaves, and colored liquids reminded her uncomfortably of the Archmage's
lair. Could this man be a sorcerer, too? She picked a jar up and examined its
contents carefully: a dozen or so handmade pills, each about the size of a coin.
Curious, she unstopped the jar and sniffed. The pungent aroma hit her in the
face. It smelled like... sawdust... and cloves... and roses? She wrinkled her
nose, frowned, and jammed the cork back in. Nothing the Archmage had ever concocted
smelled like flowers. She set the jar back in its place and crossed to the far
end of the room. Like the door, the window was not locked, either. As she opened
the shutters, the cool night air fell over her and into the room. She took a
deep breath into her lungs and gazed out the rear of the small house over the
quiet city, lit only by the lamplight from the windows of the many similar small
houses. In the distance, the moon was rising, though it had waned to a crescent
since she had last seen it.
"So he spoke the truth," she said
to herself, settling her wings comfortably around her shoulders.
"I have no reason to lie to you,
Demona turned, startled. She hadn't
heard the door open, but now the young man stood there, just inside the room,
holding a wooden tray bearing bread, cheese, some fruit, and a pitcher of water.
"You aren't thinking of leaving
already?" he asked, looking at her and the open window, "Before you've had something
Demona looked back at the open window,
too, and for a moment, she almost felt embarrassed. She knew her wings were
still too weak to glide on, but she'd been thinking of trying just the same.
Then she felt her stomach rumble. "I was just... getting some fresh air," she
said timidly. She moved to close the shutters again, but the man stopped her.
"No, petite. That is a good idea.
Leave them open." He set the tray down on the edge of the table and quickly
cleared a spot for her, beckoning to her as he pulled the stool he had been
sitting on earlier over in front of the food.
She approached hesitantly, but before
she knew it, she had sat down and begun eating, digging in hungrily to the bread
and cheese. When that was gone, she moved on to the fruit, and finished everything
off with a long, refreshing drink of water. Throughout it all, the man simply
watched her, the same look of rapt fascination on his face as he had worn before.
Demona set the last half-eaten apple
back on the tray as she noticed the young man watching her again and turned
and looked at him, equally as fascinated. "You are a... curious human," she
said at last.
"I have never had a patient regain
her appetite as fast as that," he commented, "but then again, I've never treated
a gargoyle before."
"Yes," she muttered, glancing at
the now nearly barren tray he had brought her. "Though I suppose most of your
patients take their meals from a trough."
"Actually, most of my patients are
human," he replied simply, ignoring her attempt at sarcasm.
Demona looked down, that feeling
of embarrassment rushing over her again. This time, she felt her face glowing
"And generally," he added, "They
seek me out or are brought to me." She looked back up at him, and saw his eyes
were distant. "I don't normally go out walking late at night," he said, almost
talking to himself. "It must have been Fate that placed you in my hands."
"If so, that would be a first,"
Demona said cynically. The man's eyes refocused and he looked at her, confused.
"Fate has visited me many times," she explained, sadness creeping into her voice,
"but never have I known it to be kind."
The man ran his hand through his
unruly hair and considered her words for a moment. "Perhaps, cherie," he said,
smiling slightly, "things are about to change."
Demona picked the last apple back
up off the tray and looked at him. "Perhaps," she said.
They talked the whole night. It
was the first time in ages that Demona had spent an entire night in conversation
with anyone, let alone a human. Beyond the open window, the moon traveled a
low arc through the star-spangled sky as the hours passed by unnoticed. The
silvery crescent had long since disappeared below the curve of the horizon and
the eastern sky had begun to glow orange with the approaching dawn before it
even occurred to Demona that she did not know the man's name.
"Michel," he answered. "And what
may I call you, petite?"
"Demona," she said simply. She looked
at Michel, puzzled, as sadness flickered across his eyes.
"The name does not suit you," he
stated. "You are more like an angel... an angel of the night."
Sunrise came a moment later and
found Demona with a look of startled shock upon her face, a look which she wore
for the rest of the day.
* * * * *
She awoke at dusk with a fierce
scream, sending the stool she had been sitting on when she turned to stone flying
against the wall and shattering to pieces as she unfurled her wings and whipped
her tail. She had never felt more refreshed; her strength had returned in full
and the feeling was exhilarating.
"Demona!" She turned in the direction
of the now familiar voice, dozens of questions on her mind, and saw Michel running
up to her. "You must leave. Quickly!" he said, taking her by the shoulders and
starting her towards the window.
"What? Why? I don't under..."
"A man arrived in town earlier today,
a foreigner in a dark mask marked by three red slashes," Michel explained quickly.
"He is searching for a 'demon.' He spoke to the local clergy and several members
of the town militia have already joined him. They will be here any minute. I
am sorry... for your own safety, you must go now!"
Demona listened to him in shock
as she realized what he was talking about. "The Hunter!" she growled under her
breath as Michel flung the shutters open. He helped her up onto the narrow sill
just as pounding and muffled shouting rose from somewhere below. Michel shot
a glance over his shoulder toward the noise at his front door, but turned back
to Demona when he felt her hand fall upon his shoulder.
She waited until his eyes met hers
before speaking. "You have saved my life twice, human. I will not forget it."
Michel smiled and patted her hand
with his own. "You're welcome. Now go!"
Demona wasted no more time. She
launched herself from the window and caught the wind in her wings.
* * * * *
She should've kept gliding, riding
the warm currents until the town, the plague, and the Hunter were all far, far
behind her. At least, that's what her brain kept telling her as she hid in the
shadows behind the tall chimney of the rooming house across the block, watching
nervously through the candlelit windows as the shadowy figures moved systematically
through the young physician's house. Several times, in fact, she moved to leave,
but a muffled shout or the sound of breaking glass would press her back into
the shadows and send her sharp eyes peering anxiously across the street again.
Cursed Hunter! What's taking so
long? The stupid fool. If he had half a brain, he wouldn't have waited till
Demona stopped herself in mid-thought
as she remembered her last encounter with this Hunter, and then Michel's words
to her just before she left: "...a man in a dark mask marked by three red
But how could he have known... the
Hunter only wears the mask when...
"It does not suit you." Michel's voice echoed in her head again. "You
are more like an angel... an angel of the night."
Demona's stomach suddenly tightened. The next few minutes seemed like hours
as she pressed herself silently against the chimney's rough brick and waited.
She watched breathlessly as the
Hunter and his men exited the house and moved down the street to the next, then
she dove from the rooftop and circled around, heading back to the window she
had left through. She found it still open, so she simply drew her wings about
her as she neared it and sailed through, opening them again quickly to slow
herself as her taloned feet hit the floor. Her eyes flicked about the room rapidly.
The wooden stool still lay crumpled against the wall, but now the straw-padded
bed had been overturned and torn apart, and several glass jars lay shattered
on the floor. The door was ajar, and Demona heard footsteps in the hall. She
yanked the door open just as Michel reached it, and the man jumped back a foot
"Demona!" he gasped. Before he could
recover, he suddenly found his feet no longer touching the floor. The blue skinned,
red-haired gargoyle grabbed him by the forearms and lifted him effortlessly
about two feet off the ground.
"Michel! You must tell me the truth!"
she said excitedly, spinning around with him still in her grasp and pushing
the door closed again with a flip of her tail. "All of it. How you knew about
the Hunter. How you know about my kind. How you know that..."
He stared at her, unafraid, and
watched as the excited gleam in her eye suddenly became one of both hope and
"Have you seen Goliath?!" she asked,
"Is he here, alive?!"
He looked at her oddly, a glimmer
of recognition passing through his eyes for a brief moment, and then he sadly
shook his head. "No, Demona... I have not seen him." He saw her features change,
the hope in her eyes disappear, and felt the solid floor once again beneath
his feet. He shrugged helplessly. "I just see... things."
Demona's arms dropped weakly back
to her sides, and she turned away and hung her head. She looked back up at feeling
Michel's hand gently touch her shoulder and saw only compassion and understanding
in his dark eyes.
"I am sorry," he said.
A single tear swelled in her eye
as she took an offered hand in her own and followed Michel downstairs.
* * * * *
A tear swelled in Dominique's
eye as she rested her hand on the old journal. The memories returned one after
another, moments both happy and sad replaying in her mind.
* * * * *
"You want me to trust my clan to
a human? Impossible!" Demona vaulted from her chair and clenched her hands into
fists, her wings rising back off her shoulders. "Humans are always betrayers.
They have betrayed my clan. They have betrayed me! Every time I place my trust
in a human I am undone!" She whirled and faced Michel. "I cannot... I will not
ever ask a human for help again! How could you even suggest such a thing?"
Michel gave Demona a bemused look.
He met the rage of her glowing red eyes with a gaze of calm irony. He then held
up his hands and turned them over as he examined them thoughtfully.
"No, I don't seem to have transmogrified
into a gargoyle. I am still a man. Demona, ma cherie, I am a human, and you
trust me. I have protected you, nursed you, and kept you safe. I would never
tell you anything that I believed would cause you harm. I know that someday
you will find happiness. I believe that this man, this David Xanatos, is a key.
Through him, you shall re-acquire the Grimorum Arcanorum and you shall awaken
the sleeping clan; you shall be reunited with your lost love. I must council
you to be patient, to bide your time, and learn what you can during the time
you must wait. Can you do that?"
The glow in her eyes faded and her
wings drooped wearily. Giving him a look of infinite sadness, Demona nodded.
* * * * *
"Demona, you must be freezing!"
She took Michel's hand, allowing
him to help her through the small window. A fire roared in the hearth, the wood
popping and crackling merrily, and the bearded man quickly shut the icy pane
behind his friend to keep the precious warmth from escaping into the blizzard
"Gargoyles don't feel the cold,"
she said dismissively, shaking a small flurry of white snowflakes from her flame
"Just seeing anyone out in weather
like this makes me shiver," he stated. "What brings you here on such an unpleasant
Demona gave a mischievous smile.
"I have the book, Michel," she said excitedly, withdrawing an ancient volume
from underneath the protective embrace of her caped wings. "I had to travel
all the way to London, but I found it." She grinned sheepishly as she added,
"Just like you said."
"May I see it?" Michel asked. Demona
held it out to him and he took it in both hands and carried it a short distance
to a long table strewn with scrolls and similar books. "Magnificent," he said
as he set it down and ran his hand over the scrollwork on the cover. "Simply
Demona came next to him, and together
they opened the book.
* * * * *
"You're just in time, ma cherie.
Please, come sit with me."
She followed him eagerly to an adjoining
room, a study, lit only by a few small candles, and helped him put on a long,
dark robe. A book lay open on one of the tables. Carefully, he closed it and
then handed it to her, silencing her questions with a reassuring glance. She
accepted it, resting it in her lap as she took a place on the floor beside him
in front of a low brass tripod upon which rested a bowl of water. She gazed
curiously at the apparatus as he sat down, cross-legged, on a small pillow,
and watched in rapt attention as he picked up a slender brass rod that lay next
to the tripod. She watched as he touched the rod to the water, fascination sparkling
in her eyes as he sprinkled the drops which clung to it onto the edge of his
robe and his bare feet. Then he lay the rod back down and gestured Demona's
attention back to the bowl of water.
She stared at the water, watching
the ripples fade until it was again still, then turned back to Michel and opened
her mouth to question him, but stopped at seeing the intense look of concentration
on his face as he gazed at the bowl. She turned back to the water, unsure of
what she was supposed to be looking for. Then she saw it. A spot of light -
the reflection of one of the candles? No, it couldn't be... it was steady...
and growing brighter. A moment later, Demona's eyes went wide as a light brighter
than she had ever seen before burst forth from that small bowl of water.
* * * * *
Demona took the book from him gingerly,
afraid she might inadvertently scratch the gold inlay on the brand new leather
cover with her sharp claws. She could still smell the ink; the pages within
could not be more than a week off the printing press. She smiled broadly as
she read the title: Prophesies.
"That is the first copy, cherie.
I want you to have it."
Demona lowered the book at stared
at the man, more gray in his long beard than not, her eyes wide with shock.
"Michel, I couldn't possibly... it's your first publication!"
She grew even more startled when
he simply laughed. "Demona, mon amie, everything that is in there is
already in here," he exclaimed, tapping the top of his own head. "I certainly don't need a printed version." His voice lowered and softened as he
saw the confusion still in her eyes, and he took a step closer and took her
by the arm. "This is your achievement too, cherie. Without your aid and encouragement,
all those thoughts would still be locked up inside my head. Giving you this
one gift is the least I can do. S'il vous plait, say that you'll accept it?"
Demona looked at Michel, then back
at the book again, and a smile slowly grew on her face. "I will," she said finally.
"Thank you." Michel smiled again, and patted her on the arm. "I just have one
question," she said, grinning, turning the book so that he could see the cover,
too. "Does this mean I have to call you 'Nostradamus' from now on?"
The man chuckled. "Ma cherie, you
may always call me Michel."
* * * * *
She glided as fast as the wind under
her wings would carry her, worry and fear covering her face. Already she could
see the sky beginning to brighten in the east. She alighted on the balcony,
and two quick steps brought her to the glassed doors. She flung them open and
stepped into the darkened room, praying she wasn't too late.
"Michel?" she called nervously,
fighting the urge to yell louder for fear of waking the others in the house.
"I'm right here, Demona." Even with
her sharp ears, she barely heard the raspy voice coming from the darkness at
the far end of the room. Still, she recognized it instantly.
"Michel!" she called again as she
hurried to him, caping her wings as she crossed the room and came to kneel at
his bedside. The old man with the long, silver-gray beard and hair lifted his
head from the pillows slightly to look at her and tried to raise a shaky hand.
"I came as quickly as I could,"
she stammered, taking his hand in her own. "I didn't know..."
"It's all right, cherie," Michel
whispered. Tears threatened to spill from Demona's eyes, and she fought desperately
to maintain her composure.
"My books," he said, sitting up
shakily, "you have done as I asked?"
Demona nodded. "Only I know where
they are hidden now," she assured him. He managed a small, relieved smile at
that, as though some great burden had just been lifted from his shoulders. Then
a short fit of coughing overtook him, and Demona helped him lie back down on
the bed. She was still trying to hold back the tears in her eyes as she moved
the pillows to make him a bit more comfortable. Then she took his hand again
and held it tightly.
"There is… one more thing… something
I must tell you," the old man began, laboring for the breath to speak.
Demona could barely hear him. She
leaned closer and stared into his dark eyes, her hands still clasped around
his. "What is it, Michel? I'm listening," she said softly.
"When your child assumes two forms,
a great evil draws near..."
"Child?" Demona whispered, "I have
* * * * *
"Mother? Are you all right?"
For a moment, Dominique couldn't
place the gentle voice. Then she felt the hand touch her shoulder.
Dominique blinked and her hand fell
away from the journal as she turned and saw the young sable-haired human woman
staring at her, concern flashing in her eyes.
"When your child assumes two forms..."
Dominique spun back around and grabbed
the journal, her face tightening as she pulled it off the shelf and flipped
it open in one quick motion. She paged through it hurriedly until her sharp
eyes spotted the correct page, and she scanned the old handwriting anxiously,
muttering the words, a strange, chaotic mixture of Latin, Greek, and French,
to herself as she read.
"Mother, what's wrong?" cried Angela,
stepping up next to her mother, fear beginning to tinge her voice.
Another awkward, tense second ticked
by before Dominique finally turned to Angela, closing the old book as she tried
to hide the look of worry on her features. "Daughter, I'm sorry..." she stammered
as she lay the journal back on the shelf. "I didn't mean to frighten you...
it's... it's nothing," she said, and managed a small smile.
"Are you sure, mother?" asked Angela,
hesitantly. "You're okay?"
Dominique took Angela's hand reassuringly.
"I'm fine. Really." She smiled again, a little broader this time, and at last
Angela smiled, too.
"Come," she said. She led Angela
by the hand to the other side of the small secret room, then turned and picked
up a small silver jewelry box off a waist-high marble pedestal. "I have something
I wish to give to you, my daughter."
Angela's eyes lit up. "What is it?"
"It's a little something to remember
this day by," Dominique replied as she opened the mirrored lid of the jewelry
box and withdrew a smaller box from within. She turned back and handed the small,
velvet-covered case to her daughter.
Angela accepted it, her eyes sparkling
with curiosity, and looked to her mother again questioningly.
"Open it," Dominique urged, nodding.
Angela turned the small box around
in her hands and then carefully folded it open. Her eyes went wide and she gave
a small gasp of surprise as she caught a glimpse of gold. A delighted smile
covered her face as a heart-shaped locket on a matching gold chain stared back
"Oh, mother... you shouldn't have!"
she exclaimed happily. She looked back up at Dominique, beaming.
Dominique gave a small smile of
her own and gestured toward the locket. "Here, let me help you," she said.
Angela's smile grew even broader
as she handed the box back to her mother and turned and lifted her long hair
to one side with her hand so that Dominique could fasten the chain around her
daughter's neck. She found herself near a long mirror on the wall, and again
she was startled for a moment by the attractive young human woman she saw staring
back at her. She felt the locket fall against her skin, the metal cold as ice
for a split second, and she let her hair fall back into place and moved her
hand to the gold heart, holding it up and examining it in the mirror. "It's
beautiful," she whispered as her mother moved up beside her and joined her in
looking. "Where did you get it?"
"I... made it for you," Dominique
said. She hesitated a moment, then added, "A friend gave me the idea a long
"A human friend?" Angela
asked suspiciously, arching her eyebrows.
Dominique turned her eyes to the
floor sheepishly. "Well..."
The next thing she knew, Angela
had wrapped her arms around her. "Thank you, Mother," she said, smiling. "I
really enjoyed being with you today."
Dominique hesitated only a moment,
then brought her arms up around her daughter and returned the hug. "I enjoyed
being with you, too," she sad, a bit sadly, a tear quickly forming in her eye.
Angela moved her head back a little,
and was surprised when Dominique did not let go. "What's wrong, Mother?"
Dominique turned her head away and
closed her eyes, but the tear had already run down her cheek. "It's... just
that..." She held her daughter tighter as a ghost of what might have been passed
before her eyes. "I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you when you were growing
up on Avalon... I'm sorry I wasn't there to see you grow to become what you
Angela closed her eyes and tightened
her embrace, adding her invisible wings to it, as well. "I'm sorry too," she
whispered softly, "but we're together now, and that's what really matters."
Mother and daughter held each other
silently for a long moment.
"I love you, Mother."
"I love you too, Angela."
They embraced for a few more seconds
before either was ready to let go. Dominique stepped back and quickly wiped
a hand across the damp streak on her cheek, then smoothed the front of her red
suit jacket and skirt. Angela glanced in the mirror to see her human reflection
standing silently even as she twitched the end of her tail and felt her wings
settling gently back around her shoulders. She looked back up to see Dominique
smiling a real smile for the first time that day - a smile she gladly returned.
Somewhere beyond the doorway, a
grandfather clock chimed the hour, a succession of six muffled tones filtering
in from Dominique's office. Dominique looked up at the sound, a bit startled,
and then checked her watch.
"Mother?" Angela questioned.
Dominique looked back at her. "Oh,
Angela... I just didn't realize it had gotten so late. I'm not sure how much
longer the spell that cloaks you will last, and you've been wearing the pendant
all day... I wanted to get you back to my home before sunset."
Angela's hand reached up and touched
the sun amulet. It lay against her chest just above her new locket, but she
had forgotten all about it since it, too, was rendered invisible by the same
spell that made her appear human.
"I still feel okay," Angela said
hesitantly, also recalling her mother's repeated warnings about the talisman's
'side effects,' "but if you think it's best." She took her mother's outstretched
hand and followed her back through the hidden door and into the office.
Angela waited near picture window,
staring out at the setting sun hanging low over the tops of the buildings, as
Dominique went to her desk and pushed the button on the intercom.
A feminine voice responded instantly.
"Yes, Ms. Destine?"
"Have my car waiting in front of
the building in five minutes. My daughter and I are leaving early today."
"Yes, Ms. Destine."
Dominique took her polished finger
off the button and turned back to her daughter. She stood next to her for a
moment and looked out over the city, too, then placed a hand on Angela's shoulder.
"Why don't you go on downstairs, Angela. I'll be along in a few minutes, as
soon as I finish up a few things here."
Angela nodded. She took one last
look out the window, then allowed her mother to show her to the door. Dominique
watched from the doorway as Angela crossed the outer office and entered the
elevator. As the elevator doors hissed shut, Dominique quickly closed her door
again and slipped back into the secret room. She returned seconds later and
went back to her desk with the old journal in hand, setting it down carefully.
She pressed the button hidden under the desk and the wall slid seamlessly back
into place as she sat and pulled her slim, stylish briefcase from its place
on the floor, laying it on the desk. She opened it, pushed a few papers and
notebooks to one side, and then carefully lay the journal in the middle before
closing it again, the delicate 'clicks' as the small brass latches engaged signifying
that all was secure.
A few moments later, briefcase in
hand, Dominique Destine marched past her secretary and into the elevator to
join her daughter for the short car trip home.
* * * * *
Angela looked down at her hands
and wriggled her fingers, smiling at seeing eight lavender-skinned talons again.
She moved to the mirror she had first examined her human self in that morning
and gave a small sigh at seeing her true reflection staring back at her, tail,
wings, and all. Her gaze fell at last on the sun-shaped pendant that still hung
about her neck, and the smaller gold locket hanging on a slender chain just
An anguished scream from upstairs
startled her, and she spun on her heel in the direction of the sound as it changed
from a human cry of agony to the fearsome battle-scream of a gargoyle. Angela
glanced to the window. It had still been light out when they returned, but now
the sky was dark and the street lamps were flickering on.
Demona came down the stairs a moment
later, dressed again in her normal attire and jewelry, looking perfectly composed
despite the ordeal she had just been through. Still, Angela could not help betraying
her concern in her expression as she hurried to meet her mother at the bottom
of the steps.
Demona took her daughter's hand
as she descended the last few steps and led her back into the library, where
the spellbook she had used that morning still lay open on the podium next to
the long-extinguished candles. "One thing to always remember, my daughter,"
she said as she turned Angela to face her, a deadly serious expression on her
face, "all things in this world have a price - especially those things done
using magic. I have learned to deal with the price I must pay for my ability
to remain awake by day. Now you must prepare yourself to do the same."
Angela touched the sun amulet one
last time, took a deep breath, and looked her mother straight in the eye. "I'm
Slowly, Demona reached up, unfastened
the clasp on the chain, and removed the talisman from around her daughter's
Angela steadied herself and closed
her eyes, waiting for the magical backlash and ready for whatever was going
to happen, as Demona carefully returned the pendant to its place, closing and
locking the plain wooden box before taking Angela's hand again. Angela opened
her eyes cautiously and looked at Demona curiously.
"Mother, nothing's happened," she
Demona frowned. "Trust me, daughter,"
she said, glancing towards the mirror on the wall, "it will soon enough. Let's
just see if we can't get you safely home first."
* * * * *
Demona and Angela glided over the
city side by side, Demona holding Angela's hand firmly in her own. Demona barely
spoke, but Angela began talking up a storm within just a few minutes after they
had departed the rooftop of Demona's home. In the fifteen minutes it took to
reach the Eyrie building, Angela had reviewed their entire day together out
loud, her thoughts seeming to flow so fast that her words could barely keep
up. She didn't even notice the concerned glances Demona kept throwing her way
or how far they had traveled until the two of them touched down on the helipad
halfway up the back of the Eyrie Building.
"Are we here already? It seems like
we only left your place a few minutes ago. I guess time sure flies when you're
flying... though we're actually gliding, not flying... any gargoyle knows that...
but it sounds neater to say it the other way."
"Angela," Demona said gently, taking
her by the shoulders to get her attention. Angela stopped in mid monologue and
looked at her, cocking her head to one side.
"Go up to the castle and get some
rest," Demona said, turning Angela toward the open elevator doors, which she
hadn't even noticed yet. Gently, she moved her daughter into the elevator and
tapped a code into the keypad before moving clear of the doors. "I'll see you
next week when you visit again," she said as Angela just looked at her, seeming
a bit confused. "Until then, my daughter."
"Goodbye!" was all Angela managed
to get out once she realized the elevator doors were closing. She felt the floor
move and a short burst of vertical acceleration, and she started humming a tune
about an elevator that she had once heard on the radio to herself as she watched
the red digital numbers climb on the display panel above the keypad.
65, 66, 67...
Angela stopped humming in mid-chorus
and blinked her eyes, seeing spots for a moment.
77, 78, 79...
She rubbed her forehead. A dull
ache had begun in her temples, and the elevator's quiet hum seemed to be growing
89, 90, 91...
The elevator decelerated suddenly
and a small chime went off as it stopped, but Angela's head was already ringing.
Her stomach heaved and she clenched the chromed handrail in a death grip as
she fought to keep the inertia of its contents from overcoming gravity.
* * * * *
Mavis O'Connor strode purposefully
into her office, closed the door behind her, and set her briefcase neatly on
the edge of the desk. She slid lithely into her plush chair, ignoring the majestic
view of the Manhattan skyline and glowing stars in the window behind her in
favor of the animated ones zooming past on the screen of her computer. She placed
a manicured hand on the mouse and the computer screen came to life instantly.
Mavis quickly found the icon she wanted amidst the two dozen or so lined up
in neat rows along the left-hand side of the screen, slid the cursor over it,
and double-clicked. As the program loaded, she removed the gold pendant from
around her neck and placed it on the desk next to the keyboard. Then she retrieved
a short wire from a drawer, plugging one end into a jack on the front of the
CPU and the other into a similar jack concealed on the underside of the pendant.
Polished fingernails flew across the keyboard, the CPU hummed, and a moment
later, an image began form, line by line, upon the screen. As the digitized
picture came into focus, a smile slowly crept onto Mavis' face.
* * * * *
Angela stood in the back of the
elevator for several seconds after the doors had opened, a sour expression on
her face as she tried to force her stomach back down out of her throat and ascertain
for sure whether the floor had indeed stopped moving. She took her first step
tentatively, holding the handrail for support, then another, and another, until
finally she had managed to make her way out of the claustrophobic little box
into the vast openness of the Great Hall.
Owen Burnett watched from the other
side of the Great Hall, one eyebrow slightly raised, as Goliath's daughter made
her way slowly out of the private - and supposedly secure - elevator. He made
a mental note to have the security system at the helipad entrance upgraded and
followed Angela with his eyes as she staggered dizzily towards the corridor
leading to the wing of the castle that Xanatos had set aside for the gargoyles.
Finally, he moved, trailing her at a discreet distance, eyes trained sharply
on her and demeanor as calm and controlled as always despite the fact that he
was ready to spring forward at any moment and catch her should she be about
to fall. Surprisingly, however, she made it all the way to the entertainment
room without losing her feet, and she only had to reach out and grab the wall
for support once or twice.
With a small sigh of triumph, Angela
slumped down into Hudson's recliner, leaned her head back, and closed her weary
"Excuse me, Miss Angela."
Owen's calm voice set her head pounding
again. She opened her eyes again with a groan to find him standing over her.
"I thought perhaps you might need
this," he stated, holding out an icepack.
Angela stared at him, bewildered
for a moment by a new noise now audible over the ringing in her head, a rumbling
vaguely like thunder.
"It is so!"
"Is not! It's my turn to pick!"
"Not if I get there first."
The twins bounded into the room,
Nudnik close on their heels and yipping loudly. Angela groaned and sank deeper
into the soft chair, taking the icepack from Owen and placing it to her aching
forehead. The two hatchlings charged straight to the video cabinet and tussled
with each other for several seconds over the right to open it, Nudnik dancing
around them, yipping incessantly all the while, before any of them noticed that
anyone else was even in the room.
Nudnik turned around first and looked
at Owen appraisingly for a brief moment, but spying the "Don't even think about
it" look on the stone-fisted human's face, he leapt instead into Angela's lap.
The force of the happy, drooling
gargoyle beast's landing was too much for the mechanism of the chair. Angela's
head bounced against the headrest as the chair reclined the rest of the way,
the icepack slipping away to the floor. Dizzily, she tried to right herself,
but something was weighing her down. She opened her eyes to find Nudnik staring
back at her, stub tail wagging and tongue lolling. Before she could do anything
to stop him, he gave one triumphant yip and licked her face happily.
"Nudnik! Stop that! Graeme, you're
supposed to be watching him!" Ariana cried as she dropped the tapes she was
holding and plodded over and lifted the pup off of Angela's stomach. She turned
back and scowled as her brother finished stuffing a tape into the VCR. As the
machine hummed to life, he picked up the remote from the top of the television
and turned to his sister, a look of smug triumph on his face.
"Don't look at me, sis. It's your
turn to... whoa. Aunt Angela, you don't look so good."
Angela had sat back up and struggled
for a moment with the control on the side of the chair before the backrest obligingly
popped back into place. For a second time, she took the icepack from Owen -
who had recovered it from the floor - and lay back wearily with it against her
"Eww," commented Ariana as she turned
back and finally took a good look at Angela, her skin seeming a shade paler
than normal and her face contorted in pain. "Are you sick or something?"
Angela grimaced as Nudnik yipped
again. "I'd be fine if... Ow!" She winced as her head throbbed from the effort
of speaking. "If you three would just be quiet," she concluded softly.
"Children, what is going on in here?"
The two hatchlings looked up at the sound of their mother's voice. Angela winced
once again. Even Sata's pleasant but firm tones were too much for her pounding
Sata stepped into the room from
the kitchen entrance and quickly appraised the open cabinet and the brightly
colored plastic video boxes strewn on the floor. "Must you make so much noise
and mess selecting a movie?" Brooklyn was a step behind her, holding a huge
bowl of popcorn.
"Dad?" Ariana asked curiously. "What's
the matter with Auntie Angela?"
Brooklyn set the popcorn down and
he and Sata came around to where they could see the figure sitting in Hudson's
recliner. Sata's face immediately took on a look of concern.
"Angela-chan, are you all right?"
she asked. Angela didn't get a chance to answer.
Graeme eyed the lavender gargoyle
slumped in the chair, nudged his sister and made drinking motions in front of
his upturned beak, complete with 'glug-glugs' and finishing with a drawn-out
burp. Both twins broke into giggles.
Sata exchanged a shocked look with
her mate before firmly turning the twins around to leave the room. "We will
go find Xanatos," she announced in a no-nonsense tone of voice. "And then I
will give the children their bushido lesson."
Brooklyn nodded. "That would be
a good idea. Better tell Goliath to come down here, too. And Graeme," he added
as his son gave Angela another amused look, "you and I are going to have a little
talk about your television viewing later." His tone of voice was casual but
his eyes were hard as he held out a four-fingered hand for the remote control.
The movie forgotten, Sata herded
her children from the room, though Nudnik couldn't resist peering over Ariana's
shoulder as they departed and giving one final yip. Angela grimaced again and
sank back into the cushions, pressing the icepack to her forehead and trying
to ignore the funny glances Brooklyn began giving her as he paced the floor.
Owen moved away and silently set about picking up the videos scattered on the
"What?" Angela demanded finally,
as Brooklyn gave her the same quirky grin for the third time in as many minutes.
"Just never pictured you as the
type, Angie," he replied.
"The type to what?" Goliath rumbled
as he entered the room, Sata right behind him. Angela squeezed her eyes shut
and groaned again. The sound of more footsteps told her that Xanatos and Fox
had entered the room as well. She opened her eyes timidly to find the two humans
as well as Brooklyn, Sata, and her father standing around the chair staring
down at her.
"Angela, are you ill?" Goliath questioned
concernedly. "Why did you not even let me know that you had returned home?"
"Where were you today, anyway?"
asked Fox. "I didn't see you on the battlements this morning when I was out
jogging around the castle."
Goliath growled a small sigh. "She
spent the day roosting at Demona's home," he said, answering for her.
Angela caught the slight raise of
Xanatos' eyebrows and spoke up before he could. "Actually, Father... Mother
took me to work with her today."
Brooklyn, Sata, and Goliath all
did a double take.
"She what?" asked Goliath.
"What'd Demona do?" Brooklyn asked,
"Roll you in on a handcart and stand you in the middle of the fountain in the
"No, we used a spell..." Angela
blurted without thinking.
"A spell?!" Goliath growled,
wings flaring back and eyes starting to glow. Angela winced again. Her father's
short but loud interrogatives were not helping her pounding head any.
"So I could stay awake and appear
human," Angela explained weakly, "so Mother and I could spend the day together..."
Sata frowned. "That still does not
explain your present condition, Angela-chan, or excuse the bad example you are
setting for my children."
Angela shook her head and groaned
again when the slight motion only made her feel queasy. "You don't understand..."
"You and your mother didn't do any
baking today, by any chance," Xanatos commented slyly. "Brownies, perhaps?"
"David!" Fox elbowed him in the
"Hmm... so now it's stoned by day
rather than stone by day," Brooklyn quipped.
Sata frowned again and elbowed him,
as well, the spiky protrusion of her gargoyle elbow adding a bit more force
to her expression of disapproval. He looked to Xanatos for sympathy but found
none as the billionaire rubbed his own aching side.
Goliath looked about ready to explode
as he turned back to his daughter, his voice rumbling on the low side of a roar.
"So this is what happens when I allow you to spend time with Demona? You dabble
in sorcery and come home like this?"
"No... that's not it at all," Angela
said, her voice beginning to quiver.
"If I may interject," Owen said
calmly as he moved back into the place he had occupied earlier behind the chair,
"perhaps it would be better for everyone involved to wait until Miss Angela
is better able to respond to your questions before continuing with her... interrogation."
Everyone was silent for a moment, much to Angela's relief.
"That sounds like a good idea,"
said Fox, a slight edge to her voice as she took her husband by the arm.
"We should check on Alex, anyway,"
Xanatos added, taking the hint. "If you'll excuse us."
The cluster of gargoyles parted
as the couple exited, but turned back to see Owen behind them, carefully but
successfully moving them towards the door, as well. Goliath opened his mouth
to speak but Owen cut him off. "Miss Angela requires some rest and some quiet
in order to recuperate. I am quite sure she will be more than willing to explain
everything in detail tomorrow night. Until then, you may all rest assured that
I will attend to her needs and assure that she recovers promptly."
Owen shut the door as he finished
the last sentence, leaving three baffled gargoyles standing in the hallway.
* * * * *
Nicholas Maddox looked up from the
expense reports as his business partner entered the room, carrying a manila
envelope in her hand and smiling eagerly.
"We've a rather interesting new
development," she said, coming around to the back side of the desk and placing
the envelope in front of him. She stood silently at his side as he opened the
envelope and withdrew the contents, a single glossy color photograph. She waited
patiently, the mysterious smile still on her face, as he slowly looked it over.
The conference room at Nightstone Unlimited. Dominique Destine, hair the color
of fire, sitting at the head of the long polished table. And beside her, a young
female gargoyle with lavender skin, clad in a pale tunic, her long dark brown
hair drawn back in a ponytail, and her dark purple wings caped around her shoulders.
Maddox frowned and ran a hand thoughtfully
over his dark moustache and down his clean-shaven chin. His gray, hawk-like
eyes never left the photograph as he said simply, "It seems that finding her
will be much easier now after all."
THE END .
The author wishes to extend special
thanks to Christi Smith Hayden, Kathy Pogge, Batya Levin, Nicodemus, and Siryn
for their contributions to this story.