The Council, Part 2
Story Concept by The TGS Staff.
Written by Robby Bevard, with additions from Don A. Martinez.
"Who are you?" the yellow-skinned and web-winged Darius growled at his unexpected intruder. Behind him sat multiple crates full of growling creatures, and he would have much preferred it if no one had known about them. His arms were spread apart, stretching his wingspan far enough to hidea good portion of the room behind him.
The ever-young blue-skinned female smiled. "You may call me Demona. As for your little pets, don't bother hiding them and don't bother telling me about them. I don't care."
Darius glared suspiciously at the female. "And I should believe this why? I didn't see YOU at the Council." From the woman he heard a "Hmmph".
Demona sat down on one of the crates that was not making noise, bent her arms behind her back, leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. "You have no reason not to trust me then, either," she smiled deviously. "Although I am annoyed that this Council has already begun, I thought I would arrive in time for it. I suppose if I'd been invited or told where it was..."
The scrawny male glowered at her. "Get to your point, woman."
"I am a sorceress."
"So?" the black-haired web-winged gargoyle retorted with a snarl.
"You are too. You practically have magic falling off of you. Lucky for you that no one else at this little gathering has any magical attunement or you would have been spotted immediately."
Darius examined the female gargoyle. "You are quite arrogant, woman. You barge in on me, say you have not been invited to this Council at all, then sit back and relax and try to pressure me into something. You're so arrogant you've even relaxed yourself around a stranger."
Demona yawned. "And because of that fact, if you had wanted to you could have killed me without my ever seeing it coming and been done with it." The redhead opened her eyes and glared back. "Try to kill me and see what happens. If you fail you will make me angry. If you succeed, you will have annoyed me enough that I will return the favor. I suggest that, instead, you listen to what I have to tell you and do not argue the point any more."
The yellow gargoyle growled again, then sat down on another crate. "All right then, fine. Tell me what you have to say and then leave."
"I come originally from what is now the Manhattan clan. I had something of a falling out with them several years ago, and was left to fend on my own."
"Hence the reason you are uninvited. I imagine you must have done something pretty terrible to have Mr. Peace kick you out of the clan," Darius smirked, glad that he had already spotted one of the intruder's weak points.
Demona spoke in a slightly angered, but matter-of-fact tone. "What I did before is not important. What is important is that I once owned a company, Nightstone Unlimited, which was worth millions."
"And you lost it how?"
"After I slew the leader of the Unseelie Court, Madoc Morfryn, I grew careless. Another gargoyle named Thailog stole my company from me, and is using it for the ill of all gargoyles."
The yellow male was silent. He turned around and stopped paying attention. "And so now you expect me to use my magic to come to your aid and help you reclaim what was once yours, for the benefit of all gargoyles? Well, forget about it. I am not at this Council for everyone else. I'm here for my own reasons. Besides, could you not get your 'Goliath' and his clan to help you out?"
Demona smiled; greed was an emotion she could manipulate. "I would not leave you unrewarded for your efforts, of course. As for Goliath, well... Thailog has he and his clan blackmailed to a degree that they can not act against him, for fear of repercussions throughout the city."
Darius was suddenly interested again. "The squeaky clean leader of the Manhattan clan has something that can be used against him? Not surprising, we all have skeletons in our closet. Some more literally than others. But that's beside the point.
"You believe that the only way to get back your company is to get allies that this... Thailog does not know of, since if he faces a new enemy, he will not know that enemy's weaknesses and will lose the ability to exploit them. And you spent most of your remaining resources just getting to this Council, at which you are unwanted and uninvited. Because of this fact, you've sought out the one magic-wielding gargoyle here. It sounds to me as if you are pretty desperate and not that reliable a source to depend on."
The fire-haired female frowned at the web-wing's observational skills, but remained silent, not wanting to blow whatever advantage she might still have.
Darius glared at her. "However, despite all of that, this Council MUST succeed. It is the only way the gargoyle race has a chance of surviving. But Goliath might not be the leader we need to accomplish unity."
She agreed. "Yes, Goliath is something of a stubborn fool. He's even going through with his marriage to that accursed human..."
The male lost his composure. "Did you just say that Goliath is marrying a human?"
Demona's wings unfurled in unconscious anger. "Yes. The fool..."
Darius thought about that a moment. It could be an extremely important piece of information for later. "I suppose it does not really matter; that is his business. Still, it means he does not really have the interests of gargoyles at heart... He truly is not fit to lead this Council. We need a strong leader or leaders. Mei Hsing is so far the only one besides Goliath showcasing a strong will, but her attitudes don't seem adaptable to the way things are.
Darius looked at her craftily. "I know full well that I am not suitable for the leadership role on my own; I am old and haven't the needed skills. But you seem to want the part, Demona."
The female looked at him with interest, and listened intently. One of the crates made a noise, but for the most part, whatever creatures were contained within were being silent.
"Gargoyles as a race must unite. And you are a young and attractive female with strong will. If you were to play the Council a little more politely than you acted upon meeting me, I do believe we could make you the gargoyle queen."
Demona smiled. "I like that idea. What would I have to do to make that work?"
"Just be polite and present yourself as the perfect gargoyle. Hide your true opinions, whatever they may be, and instead say what the Council wants to hear. We don't need to go into any more detail than that for tonight. Let us just see how tomorrow goes."
"Very well," the blue skinned gargoyle caped her wings. "I shall meet you here tomorrrow night at about this time again."
"All right." Darius watched as his new ally left the room, and once he was sure she was out of earshot, he turned to his crates and spoke to them.
"My, she was easy enough to manipulate. It only took a bit of ego-stroking to get the desired effect. But she actually killed the Lord Arimanes! Madoc Morfryn, as she called him."
The crates chirped a noise at him.
"Yes. I think this Council might end up being worth the trouble after all..."
* * * * *
The sun rose and allowed the delegates to sleep in their stone state. The hours passed without incident, and when night finally arrived, the gargoyles awoke, refreshed and ready to return to to discussion after a few minutes to spend among their clanmates.
Goliath frowned and looked at the stars, and then sighed.
"Something wrong, lad?" Hudson clasped his hand on Goliath's shoulder, which startled the lavender gargoyle.
"Hmm. You surprised me,old friend. I must not be paying attention."
"Nonsense," the older gargoyle smiled. "Yuir paying attention to everything. Thinking about the Council and what you'll say in a few minutes."
The Manhattan clan leader continued looking at the stars. "I still hope that our purpose of bringing the gargoyle clans together in peace and unity can be accomplished. But there are things that bother me."
"And those things would be?"
Goliath turned his head to look at his old mentor. "The Chinese gargoyles for one. They will need a lot, apparently, to cure them of their suspicion towards humans."
The one eyed gargoyle nodded. "Still, ye canna expect everyone tae agree with us. Personally, I'm surprised that they're the only clan so far whose opinions conflict with ours tae such a large degree."
"True," Goliath frowned. "The other thing that worries me... Delilah. I spoke harshly to her last night and she ran off."
Hudson was silent for a moment. "You treat her as if she were still a hatchling, Goliath, and rightly so. She is still quite young."
"Yes. She should not be here. She is only a few years old, and may jeopardize the entire Council. She hasn't enough experience to..."
The white-haired gargoyle cut him off. "Yet at the same time, she is also right. Despite how old she may actually be, she does have the full knowledge of an adult, even if she does lack experience in social interaction. She is representing her clan, and this will be a good way for her to learn."
The large lavender gargoyle attempted to say something else, but could think of nothing to say. An awkward moment passed before he noted the absence of a delegate. "Where is Lexington?"
Hudson chuckled. "He never came back tae us after dinner. And last I saw, that lass from the Caledonian clan, Kirstie, was chasing after him."
The clan leader arched a brow. "Do you think..."
Hudson smiled more. "Considering the lad's temperament in the last few months, and the girl's obvious overeagerness tae latch onto a male, I doubt it. But I imagine we'll find out what he was up to when we meet him at the Council room."
Goliath finally smiled. "Indeed... And perhaps on that note, we should head to the Council."
* * * * *
"Goliath, before you go in there, I want you to take deep breaths," Lexington pleaded to his leader. He had been waiting right in front of the door, ready to head off Goliath as soon as he arrived.
The lavender gargoyle looked at the smaller one, puzzled. "Why? What is in there?"
Lexington stared his leader right in the eye, which was difficult due to the height difference. "Take a deep breath first."
"Lexington., what is in the room?" Goliath grumbled, becoming a bit more agitated.
Lex looked to the ground and sighed. "Demona."
"WHAT?" Goliath shoved his clanmate aside and stared into the Council room, and discovered to his astonishment that Demona was already greeting the other clan members, and seeming quite at ease among them.
The web-wing had latched onto Goliath's arm and was doing his best to pull him back before a scene was made. "Like I said Goliath, deep breaths."
The large gargoyle growled. Despite whatever changes Demona had been through in the last few years, and what Thailog's takeover of Nightstone Unlimited might have done to affect her, she was not someone he wanted here.
Hudson clasped Goliath's shoulder. "The lad is right. She is here, and like Delilah, there is nothing we can do about that now. All we can do is try to be polite and hope for the best."
The Manhattan clan's leader flared his eyes bright white in anger for a moment and then did his best to calm down. "I suppose that you are right." After a moment of inward thought and outward silence, Goliath went through the door.
"Greetings, Goliath," Demona smiled politely once she noticed him.
"What are you doing here?" the Manhattan leader frowned.
"This Council concerns all gargoyles, does it not?" She stared at him, waiting for a challenge – and was not disappointed.
The lavender gargoyle sighed and looked away. "You are not wanted here, Demona. You will only cause trouble and try to twist the entire Council to your own goals, whatever they may be. I will not have you jeopardize everything for whatever flight of fancy you may be having at the moment."
The immortal gargoyle did not retort, but sat down in the seat that had belonged to Lexington the previous night. "A fine attitude for you to take after all the help I gave you against the Unseelie. I thought you were trying to reform me, Goliath. Make me a nice girl who fit right into your clan the same way it always used to be."
Goliath growled. "This is neither the time nor the place to be discussing this, Demona. You have always been welcome in the clan; however, your actions since Thailog took over Nightstone..."
The redhead glowered. "As you said, this is neither the time nor the place to be discussing this. The other delegates are coming into the room now. I suggest we at least try and be civil and provide something of a united front on our views."
"OUR views?" Goliath stumbled for a moment, and then remained silent as he waited for everyone to be seated. However, Demona's arrival unbalanced things -- the Council was now short one seat. Goliath glanced around the room, trying to figure out how to fix the matter.
"Do not worry about it, Goliath," came a voice from his left. The Manhattan leader turned to see Icarus. "I will stand for the duration of this meeting."
"Nonsense," Goliath shook his head. "I am confident we can find another seat outside somewhere. If we cannot, I shall stand."
The beaked Chiang Yun whispered to her leader. "Some leadership skills he has. He can't even find a chair."
Mei Hsing placed her hands in front of her face. "Silence, child. He said he would stand himself for the whole meeting if another chair could not be found. Deluded as he is, he is compassionate about his beliefs. Which troubles me all the more."
The snow-haired female was about to say something else, when she noticed she was being watched. It was the new female, the one who was causing all the trouble in the first place. She smiled like a demon, as if she had heard every word said, and agreed. Yet she was sitting right beside Goliath. Who was she?
At the opposite side of the table, the grey-colored Tamora sat in silence, and only briefly glanced to her side when the web-winged Darius sat down. She did not ask him where he had been or what he had been doing. She only watched Goliath and how he handled the situation until he left the room.
* * * * *
Goliath and Icarus had left the room to try and find a chair, in hopes there would be one nearby. They saw one outside the door, attached to a man in a black trenchcoat.
Xanatos frowned a bit. "Sorry I didn't have this in here sooner, Goliath. I was not aware Demona had shown up."
Goliath was a bit agitated. "Indeed. She could cause a great many problems. We shall have to hope she stays on her good behavior."
Icarus examined them both. "So I take it the redhead is bad news?"
Goliath glanced towards the Council door. "I hope she won't be."
The feather-winged gargoyle muttered a "Hmm," before looking at the man holding the chair. "So, you are the one in charge of all this?"
In his usual smooth tone, Xanatos replied, "Only on the financial end. This is Goliath's show."
The young gargoyle nodded. "I see... So, if you are the one providing financial backing, why are you doing the manual labor like hauling chairs around for?"
The billionaire smirked. "Because I help my friends any way I can. But enough talk for now; I think you're needed back in the Council room, so you can talk some more."
* * * * *
Lexington growled over Cole and to the other Antarctic clan delegate, Aurora. "Look, I said I'm sorry!
She kept her hands firmly in her lap, and turned her head to glare at the small web-wing. "Sorry does not change what you did."
"It was an accident, okay? It wasn't even my fault! And stone sleep took care of it, didn't it? "
The female turned her head and stared across the table at Kirstie. The brown female from the Caledonian Forest tried to hide herself from the gaze.
The red-toned Cole looked back and forth between the three of them, then arched a brow and smiled good-naturedly. "I assume I'm missing out on something."
Aurora growled and her eyes flashed red briefly. "Your friend managed to 'accidentally' spill his drink on me when his love mate over there played around with him," she glared and pointed at Kirstie.
"Wha?" Lex balked. "It was an accident and she's not my..."
"Then, before he apologized, he saw that redhead with the blue skin and chased after her. I'll forgive him because he's obviously a youth who has never seen a female gargoyle before."
"Demona over there is..." Lex growled back, starting to grow angry.
"That's enough, you two," Cole frowned. "You can discuss this later. For now, Goliath is back with an extra chair, so I would assume the meeting is about to start."
Lexington turned to see that his leader had returned and then sighed, glad the topic was passed for the moment, but upset that things were probably about to get worse.
"Welcome back, everyone," Goliath calmed the room with his voice. "I assume we are all in a better mood now than last night, and so I also assume we can get back to the topic at hand. Perhaps the most important thing to cover in this Council is humans. For good or ill, they affect everything we do."
"Excuse me," Mei Hsing interrupted, "but we have not been properly introduced to our latecomer."
The immortal gargoyle put on her best sincere smile. "I am Demona, of the Manhattan clan. I arrived late because I had other matters to attend to that were of great importance, but I made every effort to get here in time to participate."
Chiang Yun spoke up at that. "What could possibly be more important than your precious Council here? And why does the Manhattan clan now have five delegates, seven if you count the Avalon clan, when all the other clans were instructed to bring only two members, three at most?"
Delilah answered. "You are wrong."
The beaked gargoyle prepared to respond, when a glance from her leader shut her up.
Delilah continued. "There are two clans in Manhattan. Goliath's, and the Labyrinth. Neither Demona nor myself belong to Goliath's clan, though we are all friends and allies."
Lexington smiled at that and whispered to himself. "Good save. Now they probably won't ask about Demona living on her own..."
The Avalon part of the table added on when Gabriel spoke. "As well, while the Avalon clan is related to the Manhattan clan by blood, we are separate clans as well. We live in different areas, and have different views. Goliath's ideals are not necessarily ours."
Goliath frowned at that; it sounded almost as if the Avalon clan had cut their ties entirely.
The large pink female of the Chinese clan nodded. "Thank you, that answers our question quite adequately."
After a few moments of silence, Goliath began his speech again. "As I was saying, I believe the main issue we have to deal with is humans. Some are friends, but others are enemies. I would prefer it if we could make most of them friends.
"When my clan first found itself in Manhattan, we were at a loss as to what to do. If not for a man named Xanatos, my clan would not be here now."
"And then we'd all be better off," Chiang Yun grumbled to herself.
Goliath continued. "Xanatos provided us a home and shelter, protection from the masses, aided us in times of danger, and is responsible for funding this Council."
Deliberately leaving out the bad experiances with Xanatos, the Manhattan leader continued. "If Xanatos had been the only human to aid us, I might be inclined to agree with your views, Chiang Yun. However, that was not the case.
"Very early in our stay, we met a woman named Elisa Maza. She has been a loyal friend who has stood by the clan through all extremities, risking her life to protect us and our secret more times than I can count. She has been a friend and ally to the extent that she has even become a member of the clan herself."
"Fascinating," came the voice of Darius. "I understand that the Ishimuran clan has worked with humans for centuries, and the London and Avalon clans have nothing but experience with humans that they would call friends. But your clan, Goliath..."
The lavender garg did not like the tone of Darius' voice. "What about my clan?"
The thin web-wing continued. "It seems to me that your clan is fairly selective about who it associates with. The stories you have let us in on indicate very little actual and intentional human contact until after Jon Canmore revealed your secret. Yet this woman you have allowed to be part of your clan. I imagine it would take a great deal to merit such a rank among your group. Tell us more about this human woman, please. She might be the whole turning point of this Council."
Goliath inwardly sighed a breath of relief; this question was not hostile. "As I already said, Elisa has been an ally of my clan since we met her. Time and again she has risked her life, and has nearly died for us more than once."
Darius nodded curtly, and pretended he had not talked to Demona earlier. "As you already noted. In what sort of manner has she risked her life?"
Lexington glared at Demona and whispered to her. "Goliath has to leave out all the incidents involving Xanatos, Thailog, and YOU so that it doesn't look like he has a bias against gargoyles or association with an evil human. You'd better not say anything that would..."
Demona smiled, and without looking at the small web-wing, whispered back, "I wouldn't dream of it. Goliath is in charge here. Whatever he says is his to say alone."
The Manhattan leader paused, as if unsure how to continue. His clan mates knew he was trying to figure out what to omit; the rest of the Council assumed it was a personal subject. "In the course of aiding us, Elisa has fallen off of a building, nearly been caught in explosions, been shot, nearly killed in a car wreck, questioned by her co-workers. She has gone days and nights without sleep to protect us.
" She gave us a safe haven to live at when Xanatos was temporarily unable to provide. She has fed us when we dropped by unnanounced, visited us just because she wanted to.
"Without any notice, she agreed to go with me into danger to try and save Avalon, and as a result traveled with my daughter and myself for months into dangers from the fay, despite having multiple opportunities to go home.
"She has introduced us to friends and allies that are all very trusted. When the Hunters, and later the Quarrymen, came looking for us, she stood by our side the entire time, and was nearly killed multiple times as a result."
Mei Hsing questioned that through her folded hands. "What exactly was your clan DOING to put the woman through that?"
Goliath paused at that. "Because of us, Elisa had to suffer through losing her brother. Because of my clan, she was caught up in the Second Unseelie War, and very nearly died again. I very nearly lost her then. I regret that she was put into such danger because of us, time and time again. Some of the incidents have been my fault, I will admit. Many have been the result of anti-gargoyle groups like the Pack, the Hunters, or the Unseelie Court.
"Despite all of this, Elisa has stood by my clan. She has been a companion in the good times and the bad, no matter the risk. I have always enjoyed her company, even on her bad days, which are few. I do not know what I, or my clan, would do without her."
The yellow-colored Darius smiled warmly. "You seem to care a great deal about this woman."
Goliath nodded and smiled back. "Yes, we love each other a great deal." He froze as he suddenly realized what had he just said, as did the rest of the room.
Absolute consternation among the bulk of the gargoyles present ensued. Demona managed to stay silent.
Voices came from all around the table, even from some that fully accepted humans.
"That's unheard of! A gargoyle and a human in love?" came the voice of Kylie's physician, Tiberius.
The Manhattan clan glanced at Goliath and then around the table, not sure how to handle this new wrinkle.
"Well, this explains a lot!" Chiang Yun hissed.
"I have several human friends, but I do think that's pushing it a bit," Michael from the London clan objected calmly.
Icarus smiled at Goliath's words and understood them for what they meant.
The Persian clan was quiet. Tamora watched Goliath, and began to form new opinions about him. This development added a whole new element to his character that she found highly intriguing.
Darius smiled for a different reason. "This is exactly the outcome I had hoped for."
"There's nothing wrong with that!" came a shout from the Avalon clan.
"It's preposterous, unnatural, and downright unsettling," Mei Hsing growled quietly from behind her folded hands, her full facial expression blocked from view.
Kirstie stared at Lexington wide-eyed and began to think perhaps she should stop flirting with him.
"Excuse me!" came the voice of Cole, loud enough to silence the room.
Lexington glanced at the gargoyle sitting next to him. The Antarctic leader continued. "I cannot claim to have any particular feelings towards humans. Until recently, my clan did not have much awareness of them. Indeed, most of us thought them a myth.
"So unlike your clan, Goliath, mine can not be optimistic about the matter of getting along with them." The red gargoyle turned his head to face the Chinese delegates. "And unlike you, Mei Hsing, I can not be pessimistic either. However..."
Cole looked around the room for a moment, then back to Goliath. "I do believe that mating with a member not of your own species is a bit much."
"I didn't... That is..." Goliath stumbled.
Mei Hsing lowered her hands to the table and was clearly having difficulty keeping herself calm as she adressed the entire Council. "I wish to express my horror at this relationship issue in no uncertain terms. For one thing, I now begin to wonder if this could be a major reason for Goliath's foolish optimism concerning humans. It seems to me that perhaps he has allowed his feelings about this Elisa to corrupt his judgement.
"Furthermore, this attitude of Goliath's is positively irresponsible. After all, it's clear enough that such a union will produce no children; and, at a time when there are so few gargoyles left -- not to mention our naturally low birth rate -- it is almost a betrayal of the interests of his species for a gargoyle leader to commit himself to a "barren marriage."
"It might not be so bad if Goliath was past his prime, but he is still young and has the possibility of siring more children as yet." The dark-pink female turned to the male in question. "I urge you to break off your relationship with the human woman. If for no other reason than for the good of your species; the clan must continue and it has small hope of doing so when its leader has decided to mate with a human."
Goliath's eyes narrowed, and took deep breaths as the Chinese leader continued. It was clear from the tone in here voice that she viewed the situation with disgust and repugnance.
"Oh, come on, folks," Icarus smiled warmly. "He said he was in love with her, and he meant it. I think that's sweet."
The feather-winged gargoyle's expression became hard as he continued. "If you had been paying attention, you might have noticed he mentioned that he already has a daughter. And I suppose none of you paid attention last night when Hudson told us about their clan in great detail, including the fact that Goliath's daughter is already mated and will surely have children. As well, his clan already has another mated pair with two children. There is no danger of his clan dying out just yet.
"Besides, his ex is sitting right beside him, so obviously the blood between them isn't that bad."
Demona's eyes narrowed and she glowered at the gargoyle sitting by Delilah. "How did you..."
"I was paying attention. Anyway, as I was saying... New Olympus for years beyond count took the view that humans were bad. Period. That kind of bigotry nearly got everyone on the island killed. The woman Goliath is in love with, Elisa, saved the lives of everyone who lives on New Olympus.
She's a good person, and Goliath clearly cares about her.
"If Goliath has found love with a human, and if that love does not interfere with his duties as the clan's leader, or the business of the other clans, then what difference does it make? I think it only proves his point that gargoyles and humans can get along well. Not to mention, it is his life and he has a right to lead it as he wishes."
Goliath was glad to hear someone was on his side. Then he froze when Icarus finished his speech. "Of course, considering how small the Manhattan clan is, it can't matter that much."
* * * * *
Peter Maza, coffee in hand, sat silently watching the window for a long period of time. When a familiar face walked past, his face lit up, eagerly motioning her inside and getting up to walk over to the door. He wove his way through the crowded coffee shop until he finally reached his destination.
"Diane." Peter gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
"I came as soon as you called. Is she here yet?"
He shook his head, leading his wife back to his table. "Not that I've seen. And don't bother asking if I know what's going on, I'm as much in the dark as you are."
Diane Maza sat down in the chair offered by Peter, facing her own cup of coffee. "I see you gave me a head start," she quipped, reaching for a sugar packet.
"Figured you'd need it. I'm just wondering why she wanted to meet us here, instead of at her apartment or ours."
Diane shrugged, sipping her drink. "Maybe she's on her way home from work? Maybe she needs coffee as much as we do?"
A voice behind Diane responded, "Not really, I just wanted us to be together in a nice, warm place." A smiling Elisa Maza kissed her mother and father quickly before taking a chair on the third side of the table from her parents, putting herself between them.
"Well, I think this qualifies as a warm place, Elisa. Now," Peter motioned, leaning closer to the table, "would you care to fill us in? You told me on the phone there was some sort of wonderful news you had for us."
Elisa's grin grew wider. Diane raised an eyebrow. "That's the smile of someone with a secret lover. Why do I suddenly have the urge to find you a white dress?"
Elisa sighed happily. "I guess you really can't hide something like this. Mom, Dad ..."
Peter and Diane leaned in closer to her.
"... I'm getting married."
Diane's face suddenly became bright. "Oh, Elisa, I'm so happy for you!"
Peter's face, on the other hand, showed confusion. "So am I, but I'm just wondering ... who? You haven't mentioned any guys to me lately that you were interested in."
Elisa's smile never faded any. "That's another reason why I wanted to meet you guys here. Truth is, the lucky guy's someone both of you have met."
Diane and Peter exchanged nonplussed glances, but seemingly at the same time they both reached realization. "Let us guess," started Peter.
"I met him in Nigeria..." Diane started nervously.
" ... and I met him in Arizona, are we right?" Peter's brow furrowed.
Elisa chuckled. "You guys know me way too well."
"Well, we're only your parents, Elisa." Diane sighed. "But basically you're saying that the lucky guy is Goliath."
Elisa's eyes did not waver. "Yes." Her parents looked at each other again, then back at their daughter.
"That's a relief. We were afraid it was someone else that we didn't know about."
Peter's slight joke made Elisa chuckle again. "I'm sure."
"Seriously though ... are you really sure you want this?" Diane was now the picture of maternal concern. "There's a lot going into this decision even for a normal marriage, but you're planning to marry a gargoyle, so that makes things even more complicated."
Peter nodded. "You do realize you're probably never going to be able to bear him a child, right? Not to mention that just by existing he lives a really dangerous lifestyle."
"And how will your co-workers see this? Won't it look a little odd if you show up one day with a wedding band and no husband?"
Elisa sighed finally. "I know, I know. But there's a couple things that override all of that in my mind. One of those is that I know ... not just think, know ... that Goliath would rather die himself than ever see me hurt. Dangerous lifestyle or no, a protector is what he was born to be.
"And the other thing is, well, I love him deeply, he makes me happy and can't picture how my life would be without him in it. And I don't ever want to have that as a possibility."
Diane and Peter let out a collective sigh of their own. Peter was the first to speak. "When?"
"In a couple of weeks, after Goliath comes home from Japan. We're not making much of a secret of it; the ceremony is going to be held at the Castle."
Diane let herself smile slightly. "Well, you've managed to achieve every little girl's dream ... living happily ever after in a castle with the man... er, gargoyle... you love." She reached over the table and embraced her daughter. "I'm glad you're happy."
"Thank you, Mom," Elisa whispered. She let go of her mother only to be embraced now by her father.
"Let us know when the wedding is."
Elisa laughed. "I'd be crazy not to invite you both to my own wedding!" After her father let her go, she stood up. "I'm glad you guys are okay with this, I was so afraid you'd be angry." Smiling again, she made her way towards the back of the coffee shop.
Diane and Peter looked after her for a while, then finally turned back to each other.
"Do you think she'll be happy, Peter?"
Peter reached across and took Diane's hand. "I certainly hope so, for her sake. And Goliath had better make sure he keeps her happy ... for his sake."
Diane smiled at her husband.
* * * * *
Goliath sighed and looked at Hudson on the way to the feasting table. "I am starting to wonder if this Council was such a good idea, old friend."
The one-eyed gargoyle smiled. "Aye, it is a good idea, lad. The problem is that you just aren't used to being an equal, yuir used to being a leader. But yuir doing fine despite that. Already most of the Council understands ye and believes in what yuir saying."
The large lavender gargoyle looked away. "I suppose. But I seem to be part of the conflict. Even after the whole matter about Elisa and I died down, the Council went on for another three hours and nothing was accomplished. What is the point if no one will listen?" He clenched one fist, looking rather pensive. "How are we supposed to get anything resolved?"
"But they are listening, lad, that's the point. Part of the problem is that the clans all see things differently from each other and dinna think alike, so it becomes difficult tae agree on anything. But 'tis just part of the process. We'll get over that eventually."
Goliath sighed again. "We could be at this for years," he said, almost despairingly.
Hudson thoughtfully stroked his beard. "Remember that the castle didna get built in a day – or even a year. Some battles take more time than others."
Goliath frowned, then nodded thoughtfully. "You are right, old friend. It is times like this that make me glad to have your wisdom to call upon."
"If nothing else we are making some friends, Goliath, and you are catching up with old acquaintances from your world tour. Diplomacy is not easy. Dinna let it get to ye, lad." Hudson suddenly smiled more broadly. "Look, a few more are sitting at the feasting table tonight than last night."
The Manhattan leader glanced towards the eating area and smiled to notice that Hudson was right. All the clans he had met on his Avalon journey were present. Icarus had not been at the table the previous night, and neither had Delilah, but they were both there now, sitting quite close together.
The Chinese clan was actually there as well. Mei Hsing sat with her hands hiding her expression, waiting to eat until everyone else had sat down. Chiang Yun had her beak curled into a frown; she was clearly not pleased to be sitting there and was only doing so because of her leader's orders.
Cole from the Antarctic clan was also there, but Aurora was missing. Looking around some more, Goliath noted that the only ones from the Council not there now were Aurora, Lexington, and Kirstie.
"Hmm. Perhaps there is hope after all..." Goliath smiled for the first time in hours.
* * * * *
"Look, how many times do I have to say it, I'm sorry! I did NOT spill my drink on you on purpose last night!" Lex found himself growling at Aurora. She remained silent. "All right, fine. I've tried to apologize. My conscience is clear now about what WAS an accident. If you want to be an ice queen about the whole matter, then fine, that's none of my business."
The small web-wing began trotting off. "I'll find what's-her-name from the Caledonian clan. Now I have more than one reason to talk to her. Even if I don't know her stupid name..."
"Why are you here?"
Lexington froze and turned around. "Excuse me?"
Aurora spoke calmly. "Why are you here, Lexington of the Manhattan clan?"
"I'm trying to apologize for something that wasn't my fault, because I feel guilty about it and I don't need anyone angry at me."
The female chuckled slightly. "Then you are doing a horrible job."
Lexington rolled his eyes, then grinned awkwardly. "I suppose I am at that."
The light blue female turned to look at him. "But you still did not explain, what are you doing here? At this Council, I mean."
Kirstie was hidden behind a wall, out of sight from the other two gargoyles, listening intently. "I put an effort into trying to find out more about you last night, Manhattan gargoyle, and I intend tae find out right now if you are worth pursuing. If yuir like your sick leader, though, I'm nae going tae waste any more of my time." The brown gargoyle girl smiled as she heard where the conversation was going. "Don't disappoint me."
The small green male sighed. "In all honesty, I don't really know. The theory is that I'm here because I'm the member of my clan most comfortable with technology and can put forward a good showing on that front."
"Technology?" Aurora questioned. "Like the stupid metal bird that brought me here and then tripped me?"
"Wha..? Oh, the plane. Yeah, I guess. The thing is, I haven't had much to do here. This is pretty much Goliath and Hudson's show, and I'm not really contributing anything. I might have been better off if I'd spared myself the trip."
"I see." Aurora noted. "If you had stayed behind, you would not have splashed me with a drink while chasing after the female from the Caledonian clan last night."
"I WHAT?" Lex involuntarily growled. "Look, I wasn't chasing her, she just bumped into me. It was an accident, all right?"
Aurora's eyes narrowed. "You lie. You were chasing after the attractive young female who had shown interest in you."
"No I wasn't!" Lexington protested. "She's cute, yes, but I..."
Kirstie suddenly grinned to herself behind her hiding place.
Lex sighed. "Why am I explaining myself to you? You obviously aren't listening."
"You are curious as to why I came, aren't you?"
The web-winged gargoyle suddenly became confused again. "Boy, you just keep changing the topic. But sure."
The sky-blue gargoyle studied him for a moment, then looked to the horizon and sighed. "You probably will not believe me..."
* * * * *
"You know, Goliath," Tamora smiled, "you remind me of my mate-to be."
The Manhattan clan leader arched a brow at that. The dinner conversation had been going fairly well, at least in comparison to the Council itself. The Chinese delegation was mostly silent, but at least they were present. Goliath smiled and assumed Tamora's words were a compliment. "How so?"
"You are both persistent, and headstrong, certain that you are right. You both seem to think you can do anything, and run things, because it is something you earned. Both strong, and a bit stubborn. You even look a bit like my old mate-to-be. It's not a wonder that I've taken a liking to you."
The lavender gargoyle puzzled over her phrasing. "I'll take that as a compliment. But what do you mean by 'old mate-to-be'?"
"Ah." The grey gargoyle frowned at that. "He died. During the attack from the Spawn of Arimanes."
Goliath tried to apologize. " I'm sorry. I didn't know..."
"It is understood. He went down fighting. Because of him, less of our clan died than might have. I will always honor him as brave until the last. And I will miss him as well."
Zafiro frowned a little at that. "My clan suffered no losses in the Unseelie battle, but we came close. However, since there are only five of us and a group of new hatchlings, I am most grateful that is the case. Still, I understand how you feel, since most of my clan was taken in a single night. I remember them all fondly still."
The London clan leader, Michael, nodded in agreement. "Aper and Drake from my clan were slain in the Unseelie fighting as well." He paused a moment in silent reflection. "But they will not be forgotten."
Mei Hsing's hands were on the table, her expression intense. "Those who died in battle for my clan will not be forgotten. Still, I cannot forgive the fact that any died at all. It is to avoid this happening again that I came to this Council in the first place. But I share in the loss you all suffer."
Chiang Yun glared at Goliath, awaiting his turn to talk about his clan's losses, almost as if she had some hope that what he said would change her opinion about him.
All around the dinner table, the clans mentioned one by one their losses, and noted that they would be remembered.
Ophelia looked away, hiding the bright sheen of her glistening eyes. "The Unseelie took none of our clan, since the battle never reached Avalon."
"However, the Magus did die in the battle with the Archmage, and most of my clan was harmed. I still miss him dearly, and can sympathise with all of you," Gabriel added.
"And what of your clan, Goliath?" Kylie asked shrewdly, curious as to how the other Scottish clan had fared.
Hudson fielded the question. "I am glad to say none of our numbers were slain in that battle. We came close, however – too close."
Kai was astonished. "So your clan took no losses at all? I thought your clan suffered the brunt of the Unseelie attack."
"Yes," Icarus smiled for some reason. "When you told us your story earlier, you noted that New York was where the worst of the fighting took place. It bore the brunt of the chief hatred of the Unseelie Lord Madoc, and it was here that he personally led his troops, accompanied by the greatest of his chieftains, and was at last slain. You did not mention at the time your clan suffered no losses." Delilah stared at him, surprised by his extensive recall.
Mei Hsing folded her hands again, but left them placed on the table intead of in front of her face. "Icarus' memory serves him a great deal of credit. I had forgotten that fact myself. Tell us Goliath. Tell us how your clan survived the battle unharmed when they were at the forefront of the fighting."
"We were not unharmed," the lavender male tried to correct. "Several friends died in the course of the battle, and quite a few of my clan came very close. Not to mention a great damage was wrought. It was mostly luck that allowed us to survive the night."
"I think Goliath is just being modest," Tamora grinned. "I think it is just a mark of what great warriors Goliath and his clan are."
"Indeed," Darius feigned agreement. "Stone healing is a valuable gift sometimes for gargoyle warriors. And Goliath's clan had a bit more preparation time than the rest of us. It would be preposterous to assume that it had aligned itself with the Spawn of Arimanes."
The web-wing noted from the corner of his eye that Mei Hsing's expression had changed subtly. She had apparently been thinking the same thing. "Of course, since none of us were there, we'll just have to take their word for it," he continued.
"Are you implying that I lied?" Goliath growled, barely keeping himself in check.
"He is not," the beaked Chiang Yun yelled, "But I am!"
* * * * *
"Perhaps I should have told them that I was the one who killed Madoc. It might stopped the pointless squabbling," Demona said thoughtfully.
"No, I think not," Darius muttered, as he methodically trotted towards his private hiding spot. "That group is too different to agree on anything for very long. If they had not discovered the fact the Manhattan clan escaped the war without losses, they would have argued over the fact Goliath has a stupid haircut or more likely the fact that it seems the Manhattan clan was already friends with most of the clans prior to the Council and so has more weight than it should."
Demona narrowed her eyes in thought. "So is that why you just abruptly excused yourself in the middle of the talk?"
"More or less. There is nothing that will be accomplished at this Council, or during the dinner break. Goliath is the voice of the pro-human clans, and Mei Hsing the voice of those against. Both sides are about evenly divided, and the clans that are neutral make it so no one will agree and there will likely not be a majority decision on anything relevant. So I see no point in wasting my time further."
"I see," the redhead noted quietly.
"Besides, telling them that you were the one who had slain the Lord Arimanes, or Madoc Morfryn, as you call him... that would not have made them recognize you as a hero, however much you think that might be the case." The web-winged gargoyle stopped walking for a moment and looked directly at Demona. "If you had said that, you would only have been accused of being part of Goliath's conspiracy, and we'd be no better off. It is better that you too left the table."
"I suppose you are right," the blue-skinned gargoyle frowned, then thought to herself, However, it is why you used the information I gave you to help start a disruptive fight in the middle of the Council that worries me.
* * * * *
"Well, that could have gone better," Icarus noted dryly, after everyone at the dinner table had dispersed. Delilah stared at him.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I wasn't trying to cause trouble at the dinner table. Honest. But I bring up something that was mentioned hours earlier and all chaos breaks loose. Dinner ended up being a repeat of the Council meeting earlier. The way this night is going, the Council might not make it through the planned third night."
The clone studied Icarus for a moment as they walked. "I know you didn't mess things up on purpose. And it wasn't your fault you remembered that."
"Thanks," Icarus feigned a smile.
"How DID you remember that anyway?"
"What?" the feather-winged gargoyle flinched a little.
"All those details. I mean, you figured out Goliath and Demona were once mates when no one else was able to. And you remembered everything Goliath and Hudson said about our clan history. You knew it so well it was like you had that information memorized and prepared for use."
"Oh." Icarus stared ahead down the path.
Delilah moved in front of the male, placed her hands behind her, and pressed the matter while walking backwards. "So was it good memory or what? How did you remember everything you heard?"
Icarus smiled widely at that and gestured dramatically. "That is a secret!"
"What?" the female's eyes widened. "What kind of answer is that?"
The New Olympus gargoyle grinned more. "Catch me and I'll tell you!" With that, he took off like a shot, leaving the unprepared Delilah behind.
"Why, you..." she frowned for a moment, then began to smile as she took off running to try and catch him.
The few seconds' headstart kept Icarus ahead of her for several minutes, as the two darted back and forth between the different hallways, the white colored gargoyle holding the advantage. Then suddenly, he stopped running.
"Got you!" Delilah declared in between breaths after she clasped her hand on his shoulder. "Now, tell me..."
"Ssshh, not now," he frowned.
The youth turned and looked her in the eye. "I'm going to try and make amends for the trouble I caused earlier. You stay here out of the way for a couple minutes and be quiet."
"Why? What are you..." the clone began, and then paused as she watched Icarus approach another white gargoyle. "Chiang Yun," she grumbled.
* * * * *
Aurora looked at the horizon with a wistful look, then glanced at Lexington again. "I want to be a healer."
"What?" Lexington puzzled. "Why would you want to be a doctor? Gargoyles naturally heal during stone sleep, there isn't much call for it."
Aurora turned and looked at him, almost amazed at the fact he was questioning her. "Then why did Kylie bring a personal physician with her?"
"Well, because..." Lex began.
"Because stone sleep doesn't heal everything! It is not always enough! A persistent enemy can kill a gargoyle! Old age can cripple! A stupid leader can accidentally betray you all! A doctor is needed to take care of all those things!"
The Manhattan gargoyle's eyes widened. "Did something happen to..."
The female growled, not neccesarily at him. "A great number of my clan mates were lost when the Unseelie attacked us. If I had known how to treat some of the injuries inflicted, some of them could have survived."
She clenched her hands tightly in anger. The olive-green male tried to think of something to say. "So you aren't so concerned with the healing itself, but with being able to allow a gargoyle to make it to sunrise."
Aurora sat down on the ground, and wrapped her tail around herself. "Something like that. I was just learning from our healer, when she was killed in the attack. So I agreed to come to this Council hoping I would be able to learn something. But it has become apparent that is not the case. There is no healing being done here, just fighting. "
"But... This is just the one council. It's meant to set up a way for us to help one another. To share what benefits one clan has with another..."
Her eyes flashed red in anger. "And what good would your precious technology do my clan? We live where none of it would last. Where it would get no power. And it would be difficult to get to us. The fact that your metal bird reached us almost last proves that. I need things that would be helpful for my clan where it is, that I can use now!"
Lexington did not know what to make of that. "Like I said, that's what this Council is for. We'll help in whatever way we can. Whatever your clan's situation is, we'll work to help. I mean, Cole and I are friends, right? I wouldn't mind being your friend either. We have resources that can make your lives better..."
"Oh, so our lives are inferior to yours?" the gargoyle growled.
"I didn't say that!" the web-wing yelled.
"But you seem to think your precious technology is exactly what we need!" the glider-wing yelled back.
"That's the reason you came to the Council, isn't it?"
"I thought it was! But it doesn't matter, since this stupid Council is doomed to fail anyway! Your leader has no idea how to handle a group, and it will not work because of him!"
"Take that back!" Lexington's eyes flashed white.
"No! It's the truth, you stupid runt!"
At that, the web-wing tensed and prepared to attack.
* * * * *
"Hi there!" Icarus waved. The beaked female turned to see him, and sighed.
"What do you want?" she growled to herself.
The New Olympian gargoyle shrugged. "To talk."
The beaked gargoyle sneered. "There has been plenty of talk already. Your talk in particular pointed something out that led to another fight between everyone."
"Yes, I know. I'm a bit upset about that. That wasn't what I had intended."
"It is what happened, however," she noted.
"True. Still, I can't help but think maybe your clan is being a bit harsh about the whole human thing."
"Humans did not destroy your clan," Chiang Yun scowled.
"Maybe not recently, no." The feather wing found a place to sit down and took it. "But way back, a long long time ago, humans did try to destroy the New Olympians. It forced us to run and hide in isolation for many, many years. Then when a human finally did show up, she was persecuted and as a result, the island of New Olympus was nearly destroyed."
"Heh," the female grinned. "So you understand. Humans are not to be trusted. They are dangerous."
"So your clan says. The Caledonian, Persian, and Guatemalan clans all seem to agree with your views pretty closely in that respect. And I think all the clans, even the ones that like humans, will admit they are a threat. Personally, I'm inclined to agree. I'm completely vulnerable half the day,
and any idiot with a blunt object can do me in without my ever knowing."
Icarus shrugged. "But you didn't let me finish my story. When a human finally did show up on New Olympus, she was persecuted and as a result, the island of New Olympus was nearly destroyed. The reason the island was nearly destroyed is because the hysteria surrounding her arrival allowed a criminal named Proteus to escape, and that gave him a chance to destroy everything."
"So?" Chiang Yun looked at him. "It is still a human's fault your island was nearly destroyed."
"Nuh uh. Once again, you didn't let me finish." The carefree male smiled. "The only reason our island was NOT destroyed is because that human, the one we prosecuted and didn't treat fairly, realised what was going on in time and saved us all by taking on Proteus herself, despite being horribly overwhelmed. She could have escaped if she had wanted, but she didn't. She saved us instead."
"I see," she replied calmly, trying to imitate her leader's air of utter confidence and unconcern about things that did not matter to her. "Your point?"
"Don't you want to know what her name was?" Icarus beamed.
"I do not care about the name of..."
"Elisa Maza," he interrupted. "Does that name sound familiar?"
Chiang Yun froze. "That's the name of the human that Goliath kept going on about."
"One and the same," Icarus smiled. "I think the point has been proven, not all humans are bad. So your attitude that they ALL are is obviously the wrong one. Most, sure. But not all. You and Mei Hsing can't be so stubborn as to ignore the actual facts can you?"
The beaked female was silent.
"Now then, let me take a guess as to what your clan situation is. Humans didn't intentionally wipe out your clan, but it was really a side effect of the Maoists wiping everything out."
"I... suppose that is what happened..."
The feather-winged gargoyle continued. " And you can't move, not only because you're a proud and stubborn clan, but because you have no financial backing, and little or no desire or knowledge as to where to move. You'd have preferred isolation in the first place. Is that about right?"
She stared at him. "Yes, how did you know all that?"
The male smiled and repeated what he had said to Delilah as he gestured dramatically. "That is a secret!"
Chiang Yun's eyes widened. "What kind of answer is that?"
Icarus grinned almost madly. "That's not important. What is important, is the fact you gave the exact same response as the Manhattan clan did when I said that."
The Chinese gargoyle grabbed his shirt, pulled his face right to hers and growled. "What do you mean by that?"
"My, my, what a temper!" the New Olympian gargoyle beamed as he raised his arms to show he was defensless. "I meant no harm by it! It's just that I was talking to a member of their clan, and I said 'that is a secret', and the response was word for word the same as yours." She let him go.
"What is your point, bird-boy?"
"Eh? Oh, the wings, right. Michael is really the bird gargoyle..." he muttered. "In any event, the point is, your clans are not that different. I suggest you try getting help from Manhattan clan. They'd be willing to help, I'm sure! That being the whole point of this Council and all."
Chiang Yun turned and began to leave. "No. The Manhattan clan cheated somehow during the Unseelie War. My clan suffered many tragedies, and theirs did not for reasons they are keeping to themselves. I do not trust them, and I am appalled by the Goliath's relationship with a human. Mei Hsing feels the same way. We will not go to THEM for help."
"Oh." Icarus shrugged.
* * * * *
Demona stared at the crates in Darius' hideaway again, and wondered at the sounds coming from them. "I will ask him about those later, but for now..." she paused, then spoke plainly to her companion.
"Why did you stir up the commotion about Goliath and Elisa? There was no need for that."
Darius was calm as he went around the room lighting candles. "I already told you, they would have fought about something anyway. I'd prefer to be in charge of what they argue about. Goliath, at the moment, has assumed the leadership of the Council, whether he deliberately intended to do so or not, and a majority of the clans here will follow him if given time; many do already. He has to be forced out of his position. It is therefore important that he be discredited in the eyes of the other clans, so that he will be forced to step down."
The blue gargoyle nodded. "At which point I step in and take over. I see."
"WE take over," Darius corrected. "You will be the voice that everyone follows and listens to, but we will be joint leaders."
"I see," she noted again. "What are you going to do about the other clans?"
The thin gargoyle chuckled. "I assure you, Demona, that all I will do is see to it that they swear to obey me. Us. Their own leaders will still retain their old positions, although as satraps."
The fire-haired gargoyle remained silent as he continued explaining. " However, there is still the loose end regarding the Avalon clan. I know that they serve Oberon, who would not be particularly pleased with this shift in their loyalties. So I need to handle the ruler of the Third Race. Fortunately, you have some experience here, considering that you slew Oberon's own brother."
The web wing smiled at that, and Demona frowned at the tone in his voice. She did not mention the fact that she had defeated Madoc mostly through luck and surprise. "I can help to some degree in that matter, but I am not powerful enough to hold back even a single fay for long without help, let alone Oberon. I assume you have something planned to take care of that?"
"Indeed," he grinned. "I want an additional ally, should I be forced into a confrontation with Oberon. Fortunately, I know how to attract that one," he noted as whatever was in the crates started growling louder.
"What is being kept in those boxes?" Demona questioned, now officially worried about them.
The black haired gargoyle replied nonchalantly. "Oh, just some things that I found in the aftermath of the Unseelies' attack upon my clan. Creatures which can serve as a means for keeping the more stubborn clans in line. However, if all goes well, I will not have to use them."
He finally found what he had been looking for, a scroll. "The time is now approaching. Stand by me and assist with your own sorceress's skills."
Demona hesitantly stepped beside him and looked at the scroll. "I have never seen a spell quite like this before," she observed. "What kind of magic is this?"
"Necromancy," he replied casually. Demona tried to hide her surprise as he began chanting a spell in a language she did not recognize. The symbols on the scroll slowly lit with blue fire as he recited the spell.
A chill wind rushed through the room, and the candle flames turned blue.. The crates began to shake as the creatures within snarled with a mixture of excitement and alarm. Without warning, all the candles went out, and the room became pitch black.
A shrouded form slowly appeared in front of the gargoyles. It threw back its hood to reveal the ghostly features of a human warrior in ancient Greek-style armor.
Darius nodded with approval. "Balinos the Mad, slayer of Avallach, I welcome you."
TO BE CONCLUDED…