A Mid-Winter's Tale

Written by Marie Treblast, with contributions by Patrick Toman

Outline by Todd Jensen


Previously, on Gargoyles:

"Now isn't she a lovely young lady. Your niece, is it?"
"My daughter, Angela Destine. She's visiting me today."
"So, where is it you've been living, Angela?"
"Avalon ... ?"
"Avalon, New Jersey," Dominique added, recovering smoothly.

- "Equality"


Diane Maza to Beth: "I know it's traditional, Honey, but I think we're going to be sharing a lot of new traditions from now on."

- "Guardians"


Hudson to the clan: "I've always been skeptical of human traditions, but I think this one is beginnin' ta grow on me. Maybe I could invite Jeffrey sometime."

Brooklyn to Hudson: "It's not long till the holidays, Hudson. Maybe he could come to the Winter Solstice Festival."

- "Sacrifices - part one"



A Mid-Winter's Tale


Five fingers, nails painted and filed to perfection, tapped rhythmically on the arm of the chair as the figure currently occupying the space stared out the window, thoughtful and smug, if not, perhaps, slightly annoyed. The chair swiveled and she reached down with one hand to pick up the newspapers sitting on the top of the desk. Though she could rarely, if ever, be bothered to spend good money to read the gossip and nonsense in the local tabloids, the headline on today's Daily Tattler had managed to grab her attention, and rightly so.

She skimmed the article that had claimed the front page that morning, along with a headline that read "New York Businesswoman Turns Into Bat-winged Monster at Night". Following was information on one "Dominique Destine," who apparently doubled as an "urban myth come true."

Needless to say, Ms. Destine was not impressed. In fact, when she'd first read the article, she'd been down right steaming. Though most of the "facts" outlined in the paper were nothing but fictitious nonsense to back up the rest of it, the main idea was entirely true, and she knew it.

How could they possibly have found out about her true form? It was impossible - no one knew except her enemies, and they wouldn't have given that information to anyone, for it would have meant telling too many stories and too many truths. But then again... with some of her adversaries, like Xanatos, one could never tell just what kind of plot they were cooking.

Still, now she was composed, collected, and perfectly calm. After several minutes of fuming, in which she might have actually broken her cherry wood desk if she'd been in her true form at the time, she'd called her lawyer and demanded to take the editors of the tabloid to court. The man had reminding her, feebly, about "freedom of the press", then she'd barked for several more minutes, carrying on about how the headlines were all lies, and how she'd make sure his reputation was ruined if he didn't let her take those fools to court. Finally, he'd promised to look into it and call her back later that day to let her know if he could make a case out of it.

Dominique read the headline once more and disgustedly pushed the paper off her desk as she flung herself out of her chair and began to pace. "On the one hand," she mused. "I'd loved to wring every last penny out of their miserable hides. On the other hand," she continued to herself as she pressed her palm against a concealed panel. "The direct approach can be so satisfying." She gazed at her mini-arsenal lovingly. "But which to use? The mace? Or perhaps..." She pulled a laser cannon from its bracket and sighted experimentally on the tabloid she had earlier flung to the floor.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sudden sound of the telephone, and she waited expectantly for her secretary to pick it up before remembering that the woman was on her late afternoon coffee break. She sighed, annoyed, and debated between letting the machine pick it up or getting it herself. Regrettably, she decided to answer - it might be her lawyer, already, with an answer for her.

She replaced the laser cannon and, slipping back into her professional demeanor, picked up the phone and caressed it thoughtfully. "Nightstone Unlimited, Dominique Destine speaking." She spoke crisply, slipping easily into a professional tone.

"Ah, Ms. Destine, how are you?" All professionalism slipped for a moment, and an all too gargoyle sneer slipped over her face. She wasn't in the best of moods, and most certainly not in the mood to converse with Mavis O'Connor. The woman was too confident, too cool, and much too good at keeping her secrets exactly that- secrets. If the truth be told, though she would never have admitted it to anyone, Mavis made her down right uncomfortable at the best of times.

In no mood for small talk, especially that from O'Connor, she added a sharp edge to her voice. "What is it you want, O'Connor?" Dominique even made an extra effort to sound more than just a bit annoyed, hoping to end the conversation soon. "I'm expecting a call shortly."

Mavis, though, seemed to be quite... chipper, even after receiving a sour answer to a perfectly innocent, and rather kind, question. "Actually, I'm after wondering if you've read the headline on today's Daily Tattler?" She sounded much too cocky for Dominique's liking. "I wonder who it is they're talkin' about..." she trailed off, and Dominique growled quietly in the back of her throat. Maybe it was Mavis, and not the tabloid editors, that needed to have a face to face chat with a laser canon.

Still, not wishing to let Mavis have the pleasure of knowing she'd gotten to her, Dominique matched her tone. "I haven't the faintest clue, and quite frankly, I wouldn't know anything about it. I've never been gullible enough to believe a single story in those silly things, and I never will be."

"Well, there's a drop of truth in every lie, me mother used to say." Mavis was amused, and Dominique was getting angrier by the second. Also, nervous. She detected a small hint of knowing in O'Connor's voice, and it gave her a nasty feeling that maybe Mavis knew more than she was letting on. But how?

As much as Dominique hated her, she couldn't see Mavis as one to fall for just anything the paper, especially the tabloids, had to say. She was many things, but most definitely not gullible. Of course, that wasn't to say that Mavis wasn't suspicious. Many people were, what with her disappearance every time the sun set. Fortunately, rumors, up until now, had been kept to a minimum, and she'd only had to deal with a few curious people asking questions.

But now… Dominique had thought O'Connor suspicious about her for quite some time, ever since the lunch she'd had with Angela and her daughter's mentioning of Avalon. Usually, this shouldn't have caused much trouble, since most humans knew little to nothing about Avalon. But Mavis' ears had perked up substantially when the place was mentioned, and Dominique had a sneaking suspicion that the woman knew more than the average person.

And now, with the article… it was impossible to say just how much O'Connor might believe it, not to mention everyone else in the city. She needed a way to dismiss the rumors, prove herself to the people, and, more specifically, to Mavis O'Connor. But how… ?

And then it hit her. A small smile passed over her face, and she leaned back in her chair, looking out across the Manhattan skyline again. "Ms. O'Connor, how would you like to discuss some business matters tonight at my home? There's a few things about our company relations I'd like to talk about, and perhaps we could get better acquainted."

There was a pause on the end of the line before Mavis spoke. "Sure that sounds lovely, Ms. Destine." She sounded a bit surprised, even a little shaken at her request, and Dominique's lips curved in satisfaction.

"In fact," she added. "Why don't you bring your partner, Mr. Maddox, over as well? I'd like to meet him, too."

Another pause. "I'm thinking we can be working it into our schedule tonight," she answered slowly.

"Wonderful, I'll see you at about eight o'clock." She then gave Mavis the address and ended the conversation after a bit more small talk. She swiveled back around in her chair so she was once again facing the window, silently forming plans and working out details - skills she had perfected over the millennia.

The Daily Tattler editorial staff would have to wait for another night. This was far more important than any grudge against a tabloid. She might even get more pleasure from seeing the paper's rather good reputation tarnished by proving their lead story wrong than she would by wringing their necks. And if not, there was always tomorrow night...

Then there were her esteemed guests, Mavis O'Connor and Nicholas Maddox, whom she had the "good fortune" of entertaining tonight. Usually, spending a night with O'Connor would have been the last thing she wanted to do, but this might be the perfect opportunity to learn a bit more about those two, and maybe get them to give away a few of their well guarded secrets.

"Like two birds with one stone..." she mused quietly before collecting her papers and tidying her desk as the sun slowly inched its way down below the horizon.



"Bronx! Ye big beast! Get over here!"

"Grab him, Lex!"

"He's heading your way!"


Oblivious to the calls and demands, Nudnik only yipped louder as he pursued Bronx who, usually obedient, was too wrapped up in the excitement to do anything but keep up the seemingly endless game of tag.

"Come on! There's four of you and only two of them!" chided Brooklyn. He leisurely stepped aside as the two crazed gargoyle beasts barreled past.

Ariana stopped and looked over her shoulder at Brooklyn with a small scowl on her face. "We're trying! But it's not as easy as all that!"

Brooklyn grinned and leaned against the wall. "I don't see what can be so hard about catching tw-," but that was as far as he got before his feet were whisked out from underneath him as Bronx, obviously unwilling to waste the time to go around objects in his way, ran right on through with Nudnik at his heels.

The twins burst into fits of giggles and Lexington spontaneously joined in. Even crusty old Hudson chuckled at seeing Brooklyn sprawled on the floor.

"See? Told ya!" exclaimed Ariana with a hint of smugness that was all too familiar.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen!" echoed Graeme. It was becoming all too evident to the clan that both of the young gargoyles had inherited their father's unique sense of humor.

Brooklyn looked too shocked to be embarrassed as he stood up, brushed himself off, and critically eyed the two rambunctious gargoyle beasts. Still careening around, they barely missed Broadway as he brought in yet another tray of food to set on the already heavily laden table that sat, miraculously untouched, in the corner of the Great Hall.

"Whoa! Hey, watch it!" he cried as he stumbled, but managed to catch himself before he fell. He made his way over to the table and set the tray down carefully, then had to practically jump to avoid being hit as the two gargoyle beasts came perilously close to hitting the table.

"What's going on in here?" Broadway exclaimed, now standing behind the table.

Ignoring his question, Brooklyn yelled out quick commands as Bronx led Nudnik into the center of the room.

"Surround them! Don't let them get out of the circle!" And, slowly, Hudson, Lex, Brooklyn, Ariana, and Graeme began to slowly walk towards the center, giving the pets less and less room to maneuver.

"Don't let them near the table!" cried Broadway, unsure whether to join in the capturing of Bronx and Nudnik or hang back to protect the huge pile of food.

Bronx, noticing that his running room was swiftly becoming less and less, tried to cut out between Graeme and Lexington. Realizing that the two gargoyles weren't about to let him out that way, he skidded to a halt and turned on a dime, heading for the gap between Ariana and Brooklyn. Brooklyn stepped easily to the side and blocked his way, but Bronx spun on his heel and headed straight for Ariana, figuring he could just push the younger one out of his way.

But Ariana, stubborn as her parents, stood her ground and wouldn't let Bronx through. Bronx turned and ran off, heading for Hudson who was only a few meters away, having come almost close enough to touch Lex and Ariana who were on either side of him.

Brooklyn motioned for them to stop while the two pets ran around in circles, then, with a nod and a wink, shouted "NOW!" In a whirl of wings and tails, everyone pounced in towards the two beasts, trying madly to grab either Bronx or Nudnik with much screaming and shouting.

When the dust finally settled and everyone calmed down, the five of them sat in a heap in the center of the room, empty handed. Bronx slowed, stopped, and sat down, staring at them with his head cocked to one side as if to say "And I'm supposed to be the dumb one..." while Nudnik was collected by Sata, who had just walked in from the courtyard.

Her slight smile and twinkling eyes revealed her amusement as she surveyed the chaotic pile of gargoyles that included her mate and both her children. Broadway still hovered protectively over the food-laden table as the rest of the clan struggled to untangle themselves. Bronx, having lost interest in the situation at hand, was sitting quietly in the corner drinking from his water dish.

Brooklyn slowly stood up, brushed himself off, and grinned at Sata. "You look beautiful this evening, beloved," he said.

She shook her head with a smile. "I don't think I want to know," she said as she went to put Nudnik down.

"NO!" cried Lexington and the twins in unison. Graeme leapt up and took Nudnik from his mother's arms, holding the pup tightly as he eyed Bronx suspiciously.

"I think I'll take Nudnik for a walk around the castle until he settles down a little bit."

"I'll come too!" cried Ariana as she hurried to catch up with her brother as he carried Nudnik out of the courtyard.

"Don't be too long. Our guests will be arriving any time now, and we should all be here to greet them," reminded Sata as the twins disappeared around a corner. They shouted back their acknowledgements as Brooklyn approached his wife. He gave her a hug and kissed her forehead gently as Sata shook her head again, then kissed him back.

Hudson got to his feet with some help from Broadway, and marched over to Bronx, scowling. "Now ye behave, ye big beast." he harumphed and crossed his arms. "And don't ye be lookin' so innocent, either."

The service elevator opened on the other side of the Great Hall, and out was pushed a freight dolly bearing a huge log, covered with evergreen bows and springs of holly. It had to be at least two feet wide and six feet long. It barely made it through the door, but what was even more surprising was that Owen and Xanatos himself were the ones pushing it. Fox walked behind them carrying Alex. The youngster gurgled happily as Lexington approached, and his mother handed him down to his wiry gargoyle "uncle." Hudson shook his head with the smallest glimmer of a smile on his face as the two men fought with the overloaded dolly to get it turned around so they could continue to roll it.

"So, ye've brought us a Yule Log to help celebrate, have ye? Bin doin' some reading on the Winter Solstice, I see," he said as he came over and helped them to push it towards the large fireplace at the far end of the room.

Xanatos grinned. "I thought perhaps it might complete the celebrations up here tonight, seeing that it was the only thing you couldn't find." They managed, after some grunting and groaning, to get the log off the dolly and positioned so that one end was partially into the hearth. As Xanatos wiped his brow with a handkerchief, Hudson stood back and admired the log with a satisfied nod.

"Ah, now that's a log fit for Midwinter's Night. Pity, though, that this is all we've got... but I suppose that this'll have to do-"

"Not to fear, old friend," came a voice from behind him, and he turned as the clones and the mutates, led by Goliath and Angela, entered the Hall from the courtyard, each carrying a bundle of wood and kindling. Goliath set his pile down in the fireplace, the pieces easily filling the little space still remaining. Angela deposited her burden near the wall a few feet a way and motioned for the others to do so as well. She supervised the stacking, and within a few moments an orderly woodpile was formed.

Hudson came over and clasped Goliath's hand with a gleam of gratitude in his eyes. "Ach, we'll have a grand blaze, thanks to you all. And with Xanatos' Yule Log to finish the night..." he trailed off as Goliath sent a surprised look in Xanatos' direction.

"Xanatos brought the Yule Log?" he asked curiously, and Hudson nodded, pointing at it, now looking even grander amidst the pile of smaller wood.

"And a mighty fine one at that, too, lad!"

So I see..." Goliath muttered thoughtfully. He moved off to speak with Xanatos as Hudson brought out a small tinderbox. "'Tis a shame that Robbins and Gilly couldn't be here tonight. T'will be a fine night for tales of the old days," Hudson murmured with regret.

"Well, what are we waiting for?" he said as he pulled out the flint and steel. "Let's get things going then." He set about starting the blaze, one keen eye on the clan leader as he thanked Xanatos. It appeared that Goliath had another question poised on his lips when the elevator chimed and Elisa and her family, Matt, and Claw tumbled out to join the already assembled mutates and clones in a noisy bustle. Hudson was a bit disappointed to note that Dr. Goldblum was not among those who had just arrived.

The gargoyles and mutates all came forward for a noisy mass mingling. Elisa took the arm Goliath offered her as Hudson and Peter Maza shook hands and Broadway and Brooklyn showed Claw, his left wing splinted, his chest bandaged, and his left arm in a sling, to a place to sit down. The tiger-striped mutate's broad grin made it clear he was glad to be up and able to come; even though his recent injuries left him unable to glide, the Mazas had been more than happy to give him a ride. Meanwhile, across the room, Sharon shyly hung back, staying with the clones. She seemed uncertain whether she should have come at all, but Angela and Sata took special efforts to welcome her and draw her forward. For a moment Beth stood staring at her, seeing her for the first time as a mutate. But she had been forewarned by Elisa, and she now joined Sharon and the female gargoyles in conversation. They even coaxed Delilah into their little side group.

Diane and Peter headed straight for Talon and Maggie, brushing off the greeting attempted by the Xanatoses. Fox sighed and glanced at her husband, whispering, "We both know that half the people here would be only too happy to push us off the nearest turret." Xanatos nodded as Owen joined them, and they stood hesitantly at the doorway, watching as Lexington played with Alex on the floor, unsure of whether to go in or just stay where they were.

"Father?" Goliath turned to face Angela as she came up to him. "You've spoken so highly of this Solstice celebration, that it is a time for friends, family, and clan to get together."

"Yes, Angela. Solstice Night has always been the most important celebration for our clan. We use this night to be thankful for the good fortune we have had over the year. Finding the eggs on Avalon, unharmed and hatched." He looked fondly at his daughter. "Finding other gargoyle clans elsewhere in the world, the return to our ancestral home, and the new additions to our clan. We have much to be thankful for this year. Solstice Night is a celebration with clan, friends, and family - no one should be alone on this night."

Angela smiled and nodded. "But if it is such a celebration, then shouldn't we invite Demona to join us?"

Her suggestion was met with immediate silence as everyone near enough to hear suddenly stopped talking and turned around.

"No, Angela." Goliath growled out the answer. "Demona is not clan; she does not even know the meaning of the word."

"But Father-" Angela began to protest, but she was cut off.

"No! And that is final." Goliath interrupted sharply, turning and walking away to end the matter.

"But you said-" she began to follow, but was held back by a strong hand on her shoulder. She turned her head and shot a nasty look at Brooklyn, who was the one holding her back.

"Angela, I don't think we want to spend Winter Solstice dodging laser fire. It just doesn't work with the general theme we have going here." She shrugged his hand off her shoulder and stalked off with a growl to a corner to cool off at her father's stubbornness for a while. Broadway went over to her a few minutes later and they spoke in hushed voices for a few minutes before embracing, then rejoining the party with smiles again.

"There, now we've got a blaze worthy of such a celebration!" Everyone circled the fire, complimenting Hudson on his fine work. The old warrior merely nodded modestly.

He looked down as Graeme pulled on his tunic. "Uncle Hudson?" he asked. "Why does that big log have tree branches and holly and stuff on it? And why is it so big? Won't the rest of the wood make a big enough fire without it?"

"That it will, laddie, but this isn't just any old log! No, this is a Yule Log, and a fine one at that," Hudson proclaimed, watching it fondly as the flames began to curl around it.

"What's a Yule Log?" questioned Ariana from her mother's side curiously.

"A Yule Log symbolizes all the good in the passing year, and we burn it so that the good may continue and spread to the coming one. The fire is made and it burns all night until it burns itself out, and each one of us will get a small bag of the ashes from the pit."

"The bag is supposed to bring us luck all year long," chimed in Lexington. "Next year, when we celebrate the Solstice again, we pour the old ashes into the fire and take new ones, so that everything good that has happened will be mixed in with all the good luck other people have had."

Ariana and Graeme grinned and looked at their parents expectantly. "Can we have little bags of ashes too? Can we please?" they begged, and Sata glanced at Brooklyn.

"Of course you can. There'll be more than enough for everyone, considering how much wood was thrown into that thing. Besides, it's tradition." Brooklyn smiled as his son and daughter cheered.

"I've never even heard of this tradition," commented Sata. "True, we did celebrate the Winter Solstice, but our traditions and customs were very different, and we usually had large festivals and parades to mark the longest night of the year."

"Princess Katharine and the Magus often spoke of the Solstice, but we never celebrated it on Avalon since winter never came," spoke Angela, as interested as the younger gargoyles were, if not more.

"Looks like a lot of us are in the same boat." Elisa shrugged. "I'd never even really heard of this Winter Solstice until you mentioned it. I always thought the Yule log was part of a medieval Christmas celebration."

"Solstice Night resembles the human tradition of New Year's Eve more closely than it does Christmas. It marks the end of the old year and beginning of the new," Goliath explained. "On this night, everyone was considered equal. Servants, peasants, and nobles alike sat together at a huge feasting table to celebrate. Gargoyles were welcomed during this celebration, too, and everyone was given the freedom to do and say as they wished."

He looked to Hudson who had taken the liberty of pulling a chair up to the fire and sitting down as he listened, grinning as memories began to surface.

"I remember drinking mead around the bonfire as the humans began their humorous ritual of appointing a Mock King." Hudson chuckled as he recalled those nights. "Each man who wished to be included would dress themselves in brightly colored tunics and capes and hats. Some would have had their wives spend days sewing their costumes, and some simply threw on anything and everything they could find. Most of the outfits were ridiculous, and the man wearing the most outrageous one was usually the fellow who became king for a night."

Ariana and Graeme had sat themselves down at Hudson's feet, listing intently as he told of the festival, and Angela had her head cocked to one side, listening intently, her arm linked in Broadway's. Sata was seated on the ground next to Ariana, and Beth sat beside her. Talon and Brooklyn moved comfortable seats nearer for Claw and Peter and Diane. Sharon and Maggie settled behind Sata and Beth, and Lexington scooted in with Alex in his lap. Most of the clones, though struggling to understand some of the words, were grasping the basic concepts and seemed quite interested as Hudson rambled on. Goliath, too, listened, though he knew and remembered most of what the old warrior was telling. Xanatos and Fox, though still standing in the doorway and more or less not part of the party, were listening to Hudson's tales as well, and though he didn't show it, Owen was even beginning to find the customs interesting.

Looking up for a moment and noticing them, Goliath frowned slightly, a small bit of guilt creeping over him. Leaving the Xanatoses out of a party in their own home, and after they had brought the Yule Log and all… it just didn't seem right somehow. It was true they hadn't always been so kind, but they seemed to be trying to repay and restore some faith.

At last, after mulling it over for a few moments, and knowing there were going to be some people, like the Mazas, who wouldn't be too impressed, he beckoned the Xanatoses over to join them. "Xanatos, Fox, come and join us."

Xanatos looked genuinely surprised at the offer, and he and Fox slowly entered the room and approached the group. The gargoyles said nothing, though they were all a little startled at Goliath's invitation. The Mazas, however, looked quite put out, except for Elisa. They said nothing, but Diane shot Xanatos a look that said plainly "I have nothing to say to you, you monster," and Peter simply nonchalantly moved a little farther away with Beth not far behind him. Owen hesitated in the doorway for a moment more, then walked into the room and to a corner where he could stand, unnoticed, and observe the festivities.

Angela, however, was not pleased with this latest development. She frowned at her father as she let go of Broadway's arm and stepped up towards him. "But they are not clan, and they are not friends," she whispered, anger evident in her tone. "Why do you invite them and not Demona? What have they done to deserve our welcome that Demona hasn't?"

"Given us a place to live, and stopped trying to blow us off the face of the Earth for the past few months, for starters," Broadway answered. He had followed Angela and hadn't been able to help overhearing her. He was about to say more, but stopped when he got a growl from Angela.

"You are hypocrites, both of you!" she cried in disgust, her voice beginning to rise. "These humans were never part of our clan and are invited, while Demona, who used to be a trusted member of your clan, must spend the most important night of the year alone!"

"Angela, this is much different-" objected Goliath, his voice raising, but he broke off when Angela turned on her heel and began to walk away. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to see my mother. No gargoyle should be alone on Winter Solstice," she replied and stalked away angrily. Broadway started to head out after her, shouting protests, but was stopped by Elisa before he could catch up to her.

"Let me go, Elisa! She's going to walk herself into an early grave!"

"I doubt it Broadway. Angela is the only one who can go and see Demona and come back alive and well."

"But..." he glanced over his shoulder as Angela leapt off the tower and glided away.

Elisa shook her head. "She'll be okay. Besides, she's inherited her mother's determination and her father's stubbornness. There's no way you'd have been able to stop her." She smiled and herded him back to the group, which was now sitting down at the table to start dinner. "Besides, we're about to start on this feast, and I know you'd never want to miss out on that."

"Neither should Angela..." he mumbled as he sat down after giving one last look in the direction Angela had gone.

Everyone moved to sit down at the table, and though Goliath's plan had originally been to for people to "mingle" and sit amongst others, it ended up being quite the opposite.

Goliath sat at the head of the table, Elisa to his right. Next to her sat Hudson, then her parents and Beth. Opposite them sat Claw, Sharon, Maggie, and Talon. Broadway sat next to Talon, an empty chair next to him where Angela would have sat. The clones took their seats next to the mutates, and across from them sat Brooklyn and his family. Lexington sat between Graeme and Alexander, busy helping Fox strap Alex into his high chair. Finally, at the end of the table, and about as far away from the Mazas as they could get, sat the Xanatos family. Owen stood, wine bottle in hand, preferring to serve. They were just about to begin when Hudson noticed that something was missing.

"Lads," he looked at Lex and Broadway. "I thought ye were gonna bring us a centerpiece?" All the heads turned in their direction, and the two gargoyles gulped sheepishly.

"Well, uh... yeah... but we kind of forgot..." Lex trailed off, staring at his napkin.

"You forgot?" asked Goliath, more than somewhat disappointed.

"It's Lex's fault!" said Broadway indignantly, and Lex whirled around in his seat to look his rookery brother in the eye.

"It was not! You said you'd take care of it! 'Don't worry, Lex' and 'I'll make something Lex'! Your very words!" he accused. Broadway crossed his arms, turning away.

"Well, you knew last night I hadn't made anything yet, and you could have taken an hour and gotten off that stupid computer to make something while I was out on patrol!"

Lex was about to retort, but the quarrel was stopped by Hudson. "The two of ye, stop it right now. Both of you, go and find something we can use, and quickly now."

"Can't we just go ahead without it?" asked Lex quietly.

"What's so important about a centerpiece?" asked Elisa.

"It is an important part of the Solstice celebration. Something round is used as a symbol of the year's cycle," Goliath explained. "It symbolizes how the year is a circle that always comes back to the beginning, the winter yields to the coming spring."

"So the both of ye better hurry and get something so we don't have to hold dinner off too long, or I'll have both yer hides," added Hudson, and Broadway and Lex, with sighs, left on a search for something round.


A leather bound book lay open on a table next to a small velvet pouch, the table next to a full length mirror. Demona sat, wings cloaked around her, studying the spell carefully- she'd never cast it before, and wanted to make sure she did it perfectly. Magic was tricky, especially that which was used to fool people. One wrong word or movement could result in a flaw, and then the night would be a complete failure... or worse. Admittedly, the spell was simple, but one could never study enough, and Demona preferred to be precise.

There was a tap at the window, and she whirled around, her warrior instincts clicking in immediately, prepared for anything... except for what she saw. On the other side of the glass, perched on the ledge, stood Angela, her daughter. Not even taking a moment to check and see if she was alone, she threw open the window and welcomed her daughter in with a small hug and a delighted smile.

"Daughter! You have come to visit me!"

"Of course I have, Mother, I couldn't let you spend Winter Solstice alone, could I?"

"The Solstice..." Demona had forgotten it in all her planning and scheming that afternoon. She hadn't celebrated it in years - she'd had no clan and no friends to celebrate with. On those nights, she'd felt the most alone, and had almost regretted the things she'd done over the millennia... almost.

She was about to say something when she heard a car pull up in the driveway, and remembered her company.

"Curses," she whispered quietly. Now that Angela was here, a night spent with her sounded much better than a night with Mavis, no matter how much information she might get.

Angela noticed the look on Demona's face and also heard the vehicle. Her face fell. "Oh, I had no idea you were having company. Perhaps I should go-"

"No, of course not!" Demona cried, leading Angela over to the table where the spell book lay open. "We'll receive them together. I'm not about to let anyone, not even Mavis O'Connor, keep me from spending an evening with my daughter this night of the year." She smiled happily, taking Angela's hands in her own. "Besides, there have been a few questions asked about Angela Destine of late, and this is as good a time as any to settle them."

"But... how?" inquired Angela, and Demona's grin grew wider as she picked up the small velvet bag.

"Lude oculos, lude capita.
Non vide quod videas, sed ut volum id esse.
Oculo visui nos humanos face."

As she spoke the words, she opened the bag and drew out a handful of sparkling dust and threw it over both herself and Angela. As the dust fell to the floor, Angela closed her eyes and, when she opened them again, found a red-haired human standing where Demona had not moments before.

Angela covered her mouth with her hand, then drew it back in surprise when she saw five slim fingers. She looked in the mirror and found herself in human form, identical to that which she had taken when Alexander Xanatos had turned her and the trio into humans for a day. This time, she wore a white blouse made of fine silk and a deep green skirt with a hemline just above her knees. Her dark hair was pinned back in a French twist, her ears decorated with small pearls.

Demona, standing now as Dominique Destine in her usual red suit, gave her daughter the once over, then nodded in approval.

"Very nice, very nice indeed." she mumbled, glancing at her own self in the mirror.

"Mother, what has happened?" Angela cried. "I look human, but I can still feel my wings!"

"This is just an illusion spell, Angela, used only to trick the eye. And it should work quite well, so long as neither of us touches my guests." As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Demona motioned for Angela, who was still in a bit of shock, to follow her to the door. Before opening it, she turned to Angela.

"Please, do not mention Avalon during the course of their stay. I don't know what their ties are to it, nor even if they know of it, but do not mention it." Angela nodded, and smiled as her mother opened the door.

On the step stood Mavis, dressed in a very attractive green skirt suit and cream blouse with her hair back in a tight bun. Next to her stood a dark-haired man with a neatly trimmed moustache, wearing a very smart, and undoubtedly expensive, black suit. He carried a cane of polished wood with a head shaped like that of a hawk.

"Ms. Destine, it's lovely to see you." Mavis greeted her with a smile. "This is Nicholas Maddox, me business partner. Nicholas, this is Dominique Destine of Nightstone Unlimited and-"

"Angela Destine, my daughter." Demona supplied. "You met her last November, if you recall Ms. O'Connor. She's visiting me from college."

"Charmed to meet you both," said Maddox as he started to offer his hand to the red-haired woman.

Mavis smiled and gently nudged him with her elbow. "Remember what I told you," she whispered out of the corner of her mouth. Maddox recovered with suave smoothness, aborting the handshake and turning the motion instead into a dramatic doffing of his hat.

Angela couldn't help but smile, though she wondered exactly what that little exchange had been about. Demona, however, acted as if she had not even noticed any of it.

"Please, come in, come in," she said, and Angela stepped aside as the guests entered.


"Lex, it is sooooo your fault." Broadway accused as they glided through Manhattan. Unable to find anything in the castle that would work for the centerpiece, they'd set out into the city to find something.

"It is not! If you had let me do it in the first place instead of insisting on doing it yourself, we'd be eating right now instead of gliding around out in the cold."

"Well sorry for wanting it to look-" Broadway's retort was interrupted by Lex as he spotted something down below.

"Is that a Mercedes?" he asked, and they swooped a little lower, trying to get a better look.

"Yeah, it is, but why does it matter? You're ogling over cars while we're missing dinner and I'm cold."

"Notice the hood ornament, big shot?"

"Yeah, so- oh... I get it!" Broadway nodded and Lex shook his head.

"Took you long enough..." he mumbled as they headed for the car as it turned into a quiet street.


Nicholas Maddox and Mavis O'Connor made themselves comfortable as Demona poured them steaming cups of tea from the service that had been set out on the coffee table. Angela shifted nervously in her seat beside her mother, trying to maneuver her tail into a comfortable position without making her motions look suspicious.

"So it's beginning college you are now, Miss Angela," said Mavis as she picked up her cup and turned to the dark-haired young woman sitting on the couch across from her. Angela looked up, a bit startled. "Have you decided on a major yet?" Mavis asked.

"Well…" Angela began. Mavis looked at her expectantly with piercing gray eyes, and Angela gulped silently. She wasn't sure what to answer. Finally, after an awkward moment, her mother piped up for her.

"Angela hasn't really decided on a major," Demona said, turning to Angela and offering her a small, encouraging smile, "but she's leaning toward Classic Literature. Isn't that right, Angela?"

"Yes," Angela replied quietly, thinking. "Yes," she said again, more forcefully this time. She turned back to Mavis as she added, "I worked on a paper about Chaucer not long ago, and lately we've been discussing Dickens."

"It's rather an unusual combination that is," replied Mavis. "The same course, is it? Or two different ones?"

Angela's momentary feeling of relief faded as she quickly racked her brain for another answer. Her eyes darted for a moment to her mother, but Demona had already turned to engage Mr. Maddox in conversation.


"So, Mr. Maddox," Demona began, crossing her legs and setting her teacup down on the saucer resting on the end table. "How are you finding Manhattan so far?"

"It is pleasant enough, I suppose," he answered. "It wasn't nearly as hard to get established here as we originally thought it'd be, but it's been quite an interesting experience just the same."

Demona nodded. "I still like to get back to Paris when I can. And I hear that the European market has been doing quite well lately."

"Yes, yes. Quite," Maddox replied. Demona waited, but he didn't offer more. Inwardly, she sighed. Drawing him out was going to be harder than she thought.


"I never much cared for Shakespeare," Mavis commented. "It's a business major I was, you see, and never had much time for the literature." Angela nodded diligently, trying to maintain her smile. O'Connor was chatting easily and calmly about things that any college student should know, but Angela was having a difficult time answering her questions. Having spent only the past year in the modern world, and having no knowledge of college what so ever, she was trying to fool a woman with knowledge she didn't have.

"Sure there's more to college than just lectures and research, though," she continued. "How's the dormitory life been treatin' you? Bein' away from home for the first time, it's hard that must be."

Finally, a question she could answer without hesitating. "It was hard at first," she said, recalling her mother's admonition not to mention Avalon again even as she thought of her brothers and sisters that were still there. "But I've made a lot of new friends. It's really been quite an interesting… adventure," she offered.

Mavis smiled an odd smile. "I imagine it's popular with the young gentlemen you must be; sure it's a pretty thing you are, the way any man would fall at your feet with poems an' promises."

"Yes," Angela said uncomfortably, "but actually, I've been… seeing someone for quite a while now," she added, choosing her words carefully. Her eyes flicked quickly to Demona, and she breathed a small sigh of relief that, for the moment, her mother was too engaged in her own conversation with Mr. Maddox to have overheard her and Mavis.

Mavis's eyes showed momentary surprise. "Ah, and a special young man he must be," she said, taking a sip from her teacup.

"We're very happy together," Angela said, smiling slightly. She enjoyed the short moment of silence that followed and the momentary reprieve it offered from Ms. O'Connor's seemingly endless curiosity.

Mavis only nodded as she set her cup back down and then fired off another question. "And are you after makin' any new girlfriends, then? Lookin' into joinin' any of the sororities...?" "


"Margot, please, I know where I'm going. We are not lost." Brendan steered into another back alley as he glanced at the time flashing on the dashboard.

"Oh please, Brendan, you couldn't find your way around on a one way street." Margot replied coolly. Brendan ignored her. "So much for the Christmas party, we'll be lucky to get there by New Year's."

Brendan opened his mouth to say something, but the car suddenly puttered, then stopped all together. "Oh wonderful. Now we're lost and stranded in the middle of Manhattan." Margot crossed her arms and turned away.

Brendan, again, ignored her and opened the door to get out of the car, but before he could take a step out, something landed right in front of him. Something big, something green, something with wings...

Margot screamed, and Brendan's eyes grew wide as he stared into the eyes of a gargoyle... who seemed to be almost grinning? Margot stopped screaming, and they just stared in shock at the gargoyle - no, there were two of them, but the other one was smaller, much smaller.

"Um, excuse me, but we need your help," stammered out the big one. "See, we were supposed to make a-" he was interrupted as the little one elbowed him.

"I don't think they want the whole long, drawn out story. Just ask if we can borrow the ornament!" he said impatiently.

"I'm getting to that!" The big one turned back to Brendan and Margot. "Can we borrow your hood ornament?"


"It's just for tonight, and we'll return it when we're done with it," the little one chimed in.

"Take it!" stammered Margot, now crushed up against the window, as far away from the two as she could get, while Brendan still just watched in shock, one foot out of the car, one foot in, his hand still stuck to the door handle.

"Gee, thanks!" the big one said and proceeded to walk around to the front of the car and pull off the ornament, very carefully Brendan realized later when he examined the spot.

"We'll bring it back later tonight, or maybe tomor-"

"No! Keep it! Think of it as an early Christmas gift!" Margot cried, locking her door and scrambling over the seats to Brendan's side as the two gargoyles walked over to the wall of the building on their right, after shouting a thank you. They then scaled the wall quickly, spread their wings, and took off into the night.

For a moment, there was only silence in the car. Then Brendan slowly turned to Margot. "Have you any idea how we are going to replace that hood ornament?" he asked quietly as Margot looked him straight in the eye.

"Better to go to all that trouble or live without it than to have to meet those two again..."


"Hmm… I wouldn't know, really," Nicholas Maddox commented as he sipped down the last of his tea. "I so rarely concern myself with such details."

Demona gave barely audible sigh, her brow furrowing. She was faring little better with Maddox than Angela was with O'Connor as she went over business matters with him. She had tried several times to draw him into some kind of conversation, or to get him to give her more information about his company, but her attempts were in vain. She would ask a question and, unlike most humans, he would answer only and not elaborate on his answer unless he saw fit to do so or unless she asked. By this time, she should have found some kind of weakness, some kind of vulnerability, anything that she could use to give her some kind of advantage over him, but she still had nothing.

At long last, Maddox began to collect his papers and announced to Mavis that they should be on their way, much to the relief of both Dominique and Angela as they saw their guests to the door.

"We had a lovely time, Ms. Destine, Angela. We shall have to do this again sometime." Mavis nodded to each of them in turn, with Maddox following her lead.

"Indeed." Maddox added. "Perhaps we shall. Nice to have met you both." They turned to leave as their limousine pulled up.


"Well, what do you think?" asked Maddox after the door to the car was closed and the driver had pulled away from the house.

"Hmp. Can't say as I'm sure," Mavis mused. "Hard to say what's goin' on exactly. But I'm not about to dismiss the rumors that say she's a shape-shifting gargoyle. It's watch her we'll have to do, that's all, and see what happens." She sat back and glanced out the window. "And such a shrew as Destine with such a sweet innocent thing for a daughter. Who'd have thought it could happen twice?"

Maddox shrugged, then answered. "Oh, it happens every now and then," he said, almost bitterly. "Believe me, I know." There was silence for a moment, then he continued.

"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."

Maddox lifted an eyebrow. "How so?"

Mavis looked at him. "Didn't you talk to her?"

Maddox shook his head. "I'm afraid Ms. Destine never gave me the chance."

Mavis only frowned. "No one who's lived around here for very long could possibly be as sickeningly cloying as Miss Angela Destine," she muttered.

Maddox chuckled quietly.


"Well, they're gone. And not a moment too soon, it would seem." Angela nodded as she found herself seeing her mother as a gargoyle again. She smiled in relief as she looked at her hands and saw four taloned fingers instead of five slim human ones.

Demona walked over to the couch and sat down. "I'd really like to have spent the evening elsewhere and with someone other than O'Connor. Especially on the night of Solstice...." As Demona's voice trailed off, Angela sensed her mother's loneliness and felt a wave of sympathy for her.

Suddenly, an idea popped into her head, and she smiled and sat next to her mother. "Would you really?" she asked, and Demona nodded. "Well, perhaps you can..."


"I've got to hand it to you two. That Mercedes hood ornament really did the trick. I didn't figure the two of you were so clever," Brooklyn said. The ornament had made the perfect centerpiece after Broadway had effectively decorated it with some holly and branches, attaching it to a tall wineglass, covered with tissue paper and glitter. It sat proudly in the center of the table, the feast had continued on, and now the party was in full swing. Hudson had explained the symbolic meaning of every kind of food on the table while they had eaten, and everyone had a story to tell or a Christmastime memory to share.

Now, most of them were finished eating, and were content to sip wine and there were all kinds of scattered conversations drifting about the table. Graeme, Ariana, and Lex had excused themselves from the table, taking Alex with them, and were trying to teach Nudnik some tricks with table scraps as rewards. Nudnik was more interested in getting the food as fast as he could than he was with learning the tricks, and they spent a lot of time just trying to stop him from actually getting he food than they did teaching him how to sit.

All of the sudden, the door to the courtyard was flung open, and everyone at the table was silent. There stood Angela, smiling happily, and Demona. It was hard to place an emotion to her face, but it was sort of a wistful regret thrown in with her usual conceit and smugness.

Everyone stiffened, and Brooklyn kept a close eye on his children, now quiet with Lex standing in front of them, as well as watching every slight move Demona was making. It was true he no longer hated her with the fierce intensity he had before he was lost in time with the Gate, but he was still wary of the Demona of this time frame, knowing that she still harbored a grudge against them. One could never be too careful.

Goliath rose from his chair, frowning, and made to speak, but Angela beat him to it.

"I've spent the evening with my mother, and she was simply escorting me home, Father." Goliath nodded, but didn't sit back down. Demona looked at the gathered group for several moments, then turned to Angela.

"Perhaps this was not such a good idea, my daughter. I will go now that I have seen you safely home." She made to leave, but Angela grabbed her arm.

"No, please stay, Mother. Solstice Night is a celebration with clan, friends, and family - no one should be alone on this night." Angela quoted from what Goliath had said earlier, and as she did she gave her father a meaningful look, and, against his better judgment, he gestured to the empty chair.

"You may stay, Demona. You may stay."

Angela grinned and led her mother to the table. Demona ended up sitting next to Xanatos, who, if he minded at all, didn't show it. On her right, Angela took her place next to Broadway, who looked her in the eye and squeezed her hand under the table.

It was apparent that everyone, save Angela, was uncomfortable with Demona there, but no one openly raised objection. Always a gracious hostess, Sata offered them plates of food and Owen poured wine for them both.

Demona remained uncommonly quiet and guarded, conversing almost exclusively with Angela. When Angela got back up to refill her plate, though, Demona found herself awkwardly silent. Her eyes flicked around the room. Many of the people present she recognized, and she consciously avoided allowing her eyes to linger too long on any of them - especially Elisa and Brooklyn. However, Peter, Diane, Beth, and Sharon were all strangers to her - as were Sata and the twins, and she couldn't help but stare for a moment at the unfamiliar gargoyles. She wondered what had happened to Claw but did not ask. Nor did she speak to any of her former clan - especially Goliath - and none of them spoke to her.

A familiar voice from beside her startled her. "Tough room. But I think they're warming up to me. Elisa's mother left her mace at home."

Demona turned to Xanatos and simply stared at him as he smiled his trademark smile and swirled the last bit of wine around in his glass before sipping it down.

Before she realized it, they were talking of trivial matters, carefully avoiding their business dealings. David felt a profound sense of relief. Though everyone had been scrupulously polite during the meal, the tension had been thick enough to cut with a knife. When he'd attempted to strike up a chat with Peter and Diane the air about them seemed to drop several degrees.

As the desert dishes were cleared away, he had distinctly heard Elisa's mother commenting to her husband something along the lines of "Well, you know a leopard never loses his spots, and a skunk never loses his stripe." Though, to his credit, Peter had suggested carefully to his wife that "the man seems to be trying." David had taken it all with relatively good humor, but he knew he still had a long way to go if he was ever going to prove himself a changed man to the Mazas.

After a while, Demona stood and announced that she had to take her leave, and everyone seemed to relax when she bid Angela a fond goodbye, gave the rest of them a wave, then glided off.

"Well..." trailed off Elisa, and she smiled. "Who'd have ever thought I'd ever sit in the same room as Demona without one of us being unconscious," she whispered to Goliath as they rose from the table and walked over to the fireplace, talking in hushed tones.

"She was most gracious tonight, but I wouldn't expect that from her on a nightly basis. She could have just as easily attacked us all."

"I don't know, Goliath." Elisa took his arm. "She seemed almost happy tonight while she was sitting there with Angela. Maybe she's really learned to love and is beginning to change." Elisa watched Angela and Broadway walk off into the courtyard, hand in hand, speaking quietly. "Angela had a pretty big effect on you. Maybe she's helping Demona."

"I once doubted Demona would ever change," Goliath spoke as he shook his head, then softened a bit. "But it is strange... sometimes magical things happen during the Winter Solstice, and Demona surprised us all tonight."

"So then you're saying we just witnessed a Christmas miracle?" Elisa asked, looking up at him, and Goliath sighed.

"I don't know, Elisa, I really don't know."


Owen lay a sleepy Alexander in his crib after having been asked to put the child to bed by Mrs. Xanatos. He hadn't minded in the least - in fact, he'd been waiting for a good excuse to leave the party. It wasn't that he was uncomfortable with those there, or that he disliked the festivities… it was just that he couldn't enjoy them.

It would have been just the occasion Puck would have loved to be at. Feasting, storytelling... soon Hudson would begin another tale of his old Scottish days, or perhaps Angela would lead them all in some carols appropriate for the season. If ever there were a singer born, it was Puck!

But the poor fay was bound by Oberon's law and couldn't even show himself. Owen, instead, had to dull the festivities with his stone-fisted straightness. Perhaps he shouldn't even go back to the Great Hall...

Alex gurgled something, staring up at him with sad eyes, as if he was reading his mentor's grief. Owen dropped the stiffness for a few moments and sighed, removing his glasses as he stared back down at the child.

"Alex, if ever you do anything, never be as stubborn as your Uncle Puck, for look at the anguish it has cost him. There is a party going on not a floor away, and the Puck can't even enjoy it because he's stuck playing his role as a straight man for all eternity." Alex mumbled something as he drifted off to sleep, and Owen put his glasses back on. "Foolish, foolish fairy. What has this mortal world to offer you now, trickster? A lifetime and more of boredom and loneliness because of a birthright stripped from you." He turned and resumed his role once more, after whispering once more, "Foolish, foolish fairy..."


"Quite a night, eh, Goliath?" Elisa asked as she stood with him in the doorway and waved goodbye to her brother and the rest of the Labyrinth clan as they glided off towards home. The party was breaking up and most everyone had left already. Claw had left a short while ago, taking Matt up on his offer to drop him off back at one of the entrances to the Labyrinth. The Xanatoses had gone to bed. Lex had taken the twins off to play video games. Angela and Broadway had wandered off, as had Brooklyn and Sata, and Hudson was sitting contently in front of the fire.

"Indeed." There was a long silence before Elisa looked up at him.

"What are you thinking about?"

"The year past, and the new one coming," he answered. "So many things have happened, both good and bad. Our quest... finding the eggs on Avalon... the Hunters... the Quarrymen... returning to the castle... Angela... there are so many." He ran a hand through her hair. "There were so many times I though my world would end, so many times I had thought about giving up, but I kept on fighting and look at what it has brought me. More happiness that I could have imagined, even love." He looked at Elisa fondly. "I await the coming year with a light heart, and though I know we'll meet up with many problems along the way, we will find a way to be happy."

Elisa grinned and looked up at the mistletoe hanging above them, placed there by Xanatos earlier that evening. Goliath followed her gaze, and looked at her inquisitively.

"You're right Goliath, we will be happy," and she kissed him quickly, much to Goliath's surprise.

"What, haven't you ever heard of kissing under the mistletoe?" she asked in amazement, and Goliath shook his head. "Come on, it's tradition!" Elisa exclaimed, and Goliath's face slowly broke into a grin.

"A human tradition I think I will grow to like," he replied, and they kissed again, longer this time as he wrapped Elisa up with his wings.

From the other side of the room, Peter and Diane Maza watched their daughter and Goliath embrace, and Diane sighed.

"Our life got complicated awfully quickly, didn't it Peter?"

He nodded, putting a hand on his wife's shoulder. "Between a cat with wings for a son and a daughter with a gargoyle as a boyfriend, I guess that's true." He echoed Diane's sigh. "I can't wait to see what happens to our little Beth..."