Prophets and Angels

Written by Patrick Toman
with contributions by Alison Wilgus

Idea by Patrick Toman


Previously on Gargoyles...

Demona (to Angela): How can you judge me? You've been hiding on a magical island while I have been out in the real world.

-- The Reckoning

* * *

"I... never wanted to hurt her," Demona said. Her voice calmed some as she continued, "I love my daughter."


"Just be her daughter, Angela. She needs that more than anything. Spend time with her and give her some pleasant memories. Be there for her. Let her know she's not alone. And whatever happens, don't begrudge her for who she is, because before all that, she is your mother."

"Do you really think that will help?"

"It helped me."

-- Two

* * *

"I thought maybe, since we're both human, maybe we could spend some time together, not as gargoyles," she looked into Dominique's eyes, "just as mother and daughter?"


"So where is it you've been living, Angela?"

She blurted it out without thinking. "Avalon."

Mavis blinked. "Avalon...?"

"Avalon, New Jersey," Dominique added, recovering smoothly.


"What happened?" Angela asked. "I know Father's side of the story and what the others have told me. But what about you, Mother?" Her eyes softened. "I cannot imagine what your life must have been like."

Dominique sighed bitterly. "My story is a tale much too long for one telling. Suffice it to say, I've been hunted and hated and feared for over a millennia and never in all that time, have I known love."

"All things change, Mother," Angela said. "Even that."


"I'll let you know," Angela promised. She took a step forward and brushed her knuckles across where her mother's brow ridges would have been in a traditional show of gargoyle affection. "Thank you, Mother. I will never forget today."

Dominique blinked very hard several times and returned the gesture. "Neither will I, my child, neither will I." She sat down in the taxi and began to shut the door. "Perhaps, we could do this again?"

"I'd like that, Mother." Angela smiled as she stepped away from the curb. "Good bye."


"Actually, we didn't talk about the clan that much at all," she answered. "Today, we were just a mother and a daughter spending time together." She smiled. "I could use a few more days like today."

-- Equality

* * *

She smiled happily, taking Angela's hands in her own. "Besides, there have been a few questions asked about Angela Destine of the late, and this is as good a time as any to settle them."


"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."


"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."

-- A Mid-Winter's Tale

* * * * *

Prophets and Angels

* * * * *

Elisa slung her jacket over her shoulder as she walked out onto the parapets, enjoying the balmy spring air as it blew through her hair and against her arms. A small brown bird landed near her feet, cocked its head up, and looked at her for a second with dark, beady eyes. She stood still, so as not to frighten it, and a moment later it hopped closer, bent down, and plucked a stray piece of string from the ground. Then it turned and fluttered off. She followed its flight with her eyes as it darted down into the courtyard and into the branches of a flowering dogwood, disappearing from sight behind the large, fragrant, pink blossoms.

Elisa smiled. It seemed Castle Wyvern had gained yet another winged resident. "The more, the merrier," she said to herself as she listened to the chirps rising up from the courtyard and stared at the dogwood. The mature tree filled its corner perfectly, looking like it had always been there. "It must have cost Xanatos a fortune to get it up here," she said to herself, shaking her head. The sun was just dipping below the horizon, casting a brilliant orange glow off the thin clouds that still lingered in the sky, and Elisa turned and tilted her head back, gazing up at the eleven statues perched on the tower parapets high above her.

"And you guys never did tell me what happened to that apple tree," she added aloud with a small laugh, addressing her words to the silent stone figures. The dark-haired woman draped her jacket over her arm and sighed contentedly, the smile on her face growing broader and broader as the last rays of sunlight disappeared.

Elisa stepped back as the clan awoke, neatly avoiding the small shower of stone chips raining down from above as nine gargoyles and two gargoyle beasts roared and stretched their greetings to a new night.

Goliath flexed his wings and looked down on the others below, then his gaze traveled a bit further and a smile came immediately to his face.

"Elisa!" he exclaimed happily as he dove from the top of the tower. A moment later, he alighted beside her and caped his dark wings regally over his shoulders. "I did not expect to see you here tonight."

"I got the night off," she said, taking his outstretched hand with her own, "and I can't think of anyplace else I'd rather spend it -- or anyone who I'd rather spend it with."

Goliath's smile broadened, and he had just opened his mouth to speak when the other members of the clan began swooping down and landing around them.

"Hey, Elisa," said Broadway as he caped his wings. Angela was right beside him, and Hudson, with Bronx in his arms, set down just behind them.

"Good evening, Elisa," said Angela pleasantly.

"Greetings, lass," said Hudson as he set Bronx down. He eyed the big lavender gargoyle and the slender human woman whose hand he held affectionately. "So where will you two be off to t'night?" he asked Elisa.

"Actually," she replied as Bronx snuffed at the ground at her feet where the bird had been a moment ago, "I was kind of looking forward to just spending some time here."

Nudnik bounded over and joined Bronx in sniffing the flagstones as Brooklyn and his family touched down and clustered around.

"Do you want to spar with us, Auntie Elisa," Ariana asked, "like last week?" She twirled her bo staff experimentally and glanced over at her brother. "It gets kinda boring kicking Graeme's tail every night."

"Hey, back the tail-kicking train up a minute, sis-twerp," Graeme began.

"Children," Sata said warningly, quieting them both.

"Umm... maybe some other time," Elisa began as she allowed Goliath to pull her closer. Then her eyes brightened. "Why don't you try asking Fox? She's the one who used to battle 'evil ninjas' for a living," she suggested mischievously.

Brooklyn and Sata both raised a brow ridge while their children traded a silent, enigmatic look. The twins turned quickly to their father.

"Can we, Dad? Can we?" they both asked together, hopping up and down.

Brooklyn looked over at Sata, who had an ambivalent expression on her face. "We'll discuss it over breakfast," he said finally. The twins gave an excited cheer, and Sata and her mate began herding them into the castle.

"Why didn't they ask me to spar with them?" Lexington asked dejectedly, to no one in particular, as he landed next to Broadway.

"'Cause you were still on your perch," Broadway said, turning to his olive-green rookery brother.

Lexington frowned and made to speak but then bit his tongue; after all, he couldn't very well explain that the reason he had lingered on his perch for a moment was because his new implants were running a quick systems check. Elisa saw the frustration on his face, however.

"I'm sure if you go ask, Lex, they'll be more than willing to let you join in their reindeer games," she said, chuckling.

"Huh?" Lexington, Broadway, Hudson, and Angela all looked at her. Even Goliath had a puzzled expression on his face.

"You know," Elisa began to hum a vaguely familiar tune, then stopped as the stares became only more puzzled. "It was a joke," she said, laughing a little again. "Just forget it," she said, giving up.

"If... you are looking for something to do tonight, Lexington," Goliath began, breaking the short moment of silence, "you could join Broadway and Angela on patrol."

"Father, I'm not going on patrol tonight," Angela stated. Goliath frowned, but she took a step forward, continuing before he could interrupt her. "I'm going to visit my mother, remember?"

Goliath sighed deeply. How could he forget? He looked down at Elisa, who was hiding a smile, remembering the night not long after the Solstice Festival when she and his daughter somehow had teamed up and convinced him to allow Angela one night per week to herself, so she could spend time with Demona.

"Yes," he said finally, in a low, rumbling voice. "Just... be sure to return here before sunrise," he added.

Angela smiled. "I will, Father." She started to turn to go, but Broadway took her by the arm.

"Do you really have to be gone all night, Angela?" he asked.

"Broadway," she said, her tone mildly scolding, "I see you all the time. I only get to see my mother once a week."

"It's just... I miss you... and," he frowned, "I still don't trust her."

Angela gently but firmly removed Broadway's hand from her arm. "I'm not asking you to trust her... I'm asking you to trust me. Besides," she added hesitantly, "I think my visits are having a good effect on her. I think she's really starting to change."

Broadway looked at the ground, knowing this was one battle he would never win. "Okay, Angela" he muttered.

"I'll see you when I get back," Angela reassured him. "Until sunrise?"

Broadway looked back up and managed a small smile. "Until sunrise," he said.

Angela smiled back at him as she walked over to the parapet. Hudson had his head bowed contemplatively, while Lexington had already wandered off into the castle, following Bronx and Nudnik. Goliath now had his arm fully around Elisa, and the human woman was resting her head against his chest.

"Good-bye, Angela," she said.

"Good-bye, Elisa. Good-bye, Father," Angela called back.

Hudson looked back up and took a step towards the lavender female as she uncaped her wings. "Just be careful, lass," he warned her as she placed a foot on the parapet wall, "with all this time you be spending together, to take care that some of your mother doesn't rub off onto you."

Angela frowned, a growl rising in her throat which she covered with the sound of her wings unfurling as she leapt clear of the wall and caught the first updraft she could find. She angled herself towards her mother's home and didn't look back at Castle Wyvern.


* * * * *

Angela sighed as she looked to the window to see the sky beginning to brighten. She knew the nights were growing shorter and shorter every day as spring arrived in all its glory, but the ones she spent with her mother seemed to pass much more quickly than the others. It seemed like it had only been a few minutes ago that she had landed gracefully on the second floor balcony and traded a frown for a smile as Demona welcomed her into her home.

"It's almost sunrise, I know," Demona said gently, noticing Angela looking toward the window. "You could always spend the day here," she suggested.

Angela considered that for a moment before responding. "Thank you, Mother... but I promised Father I'd be back before dawn." She stood and helped Demona gather the few empty plates and cups still sitting on the coffee table from their midnight meal together and followed her into the kitchen. "I just wish we could have more time together," she said as she deposited the plates carefully on the drain board.

"You're always welcome to visit me, Angela," Demona said as they started up the back stairs, "on any night you wish."

Angela sighed again. "If only it were that easy... but with patrols, and Brooklyn's kids, and the whole clan's feelings and all... it was hard enough to get Father to allow me this one night per week. I wouldn't feel right asking for more this soon."

Demona frowned and thought for a moment, then suddenly stopped walking. She turned to her daughter and stepped back down to the same step she was on. "There is a way..." she said hesitantly, taking Angela's hands in her own, "that we could spend the day together again."

Angela looked at her suspiciously, wary of the strange gleam in her mother's eyes, but at the same time she was also intrigued.

"I have a talisman," Demona explained, "that would allow you to avoid the stone sleep for one day."

Angela's eyes widened in surprise. "Have you used it before?" she asked, curious excitement suddenly replacing wary suspicion.

"I won't lie to you, Angela," Demona answered, a slight tone of worry entering her voice. "Although I have had it for some time, I have never personally used it. I discovered only after I acquired it that the conditions of its use are very precise. There is a ritual... the talisman must be given by another to its intended user... and as one lone gargoyle, I could never find a way that would've allowed me to use on myself." She paused. "And after I met Puck," she added, spitting the name out acidly, "you could say that it became a moot point."

Angela frowned. "So how do you know if it would even work?"

"I learned long ago never to do anything involving magic without first studying the spells or talismans involved thoroughly," Demona replied, the worry returning to her voice. "I have studied this talisman enough over the years to believe that it will work as promised, but I am also as equally aware of the cost the talisman exacts."

"What do you mean?" Angela asked, concern now tingeing her own voice, as well.

"All magic has a cost, my daughter," Demona explained. "To use the talisman once and forgo the stone sleep for a day, a gargoyle would sacrifice the following night. The aftereffect would not be unlike the phenomenon that the humans call a 'hangover.'"

Angela frowned again, puzzled by the somewhat unfamiliar word. She thought she had overheard Xanatos or Fox complaining of something similar the night after their anniversary party. Then her thoughts floated forward to the day she had spent with her mother after Alex had turned her and the Trio into humans, and a smile returned to her face.

"I think I'd be willing to risk it, mother," she said, looking Demona in the eye, "if it meant being able to spend the entire day with you."

Demona smiled too. "Then I know the perfect time for us to use it," she said as she patted Angela's hand. Angela grinned excitedly as she allowed her mother to continue escorting her up the stairs.


* * * * *

One week later...

Three gargoyles glided gently on the warm air currents rising from the streets far below, tired from their patrol. The largest one, Broadway, sighed as the castle high atop the Eyrie Building came into focus in the distance.

"The end of another hard day's night," the big blue gargoyle quipped.

"You've got that right," said the smallest gargoyle. "My arms are killing me."

"My wings are killin' me," retorted Broadway.

"My arms are my wings," Lexington reminded him, "and my tail still hurts, too."

The dueling comparison of aches and pains the two males were engaged in went mostly unnoticed by the female of the group. Her mind was on other things, as the sky was already showing signs of the approaching dawn. Angela glanced once more at the still distant castle and then back at the eastern horizon, then turned her wings and dipped down between the two rookery brothers.

"Uh, guys?" she said.

"Oh yeah? I took three punches and I didn't even feel it."


"That's because you've got all that stomach to protect you."



Broadway and Lexington finally looked up. "Huh? Oh, Angela. What is it?" the blue gargoyle asked.

"I'm going to go see my mother," she declared.

"You're going to visit Demona now?" Lexington exclaimed.

"Angela, it's almost sunrise!" Broadway added.

"I know," Angela replied simply as she banked her wings and veered away. "If I don't make it back to the castle," she called back, "tell Father I'll be roosting at my mother's home today."

Lexington and Broadway looked at each other.

"You can tell him, Lex." Broadway suggested.

"No way," Lexington replied, dipping away. "She's your girlfriend."


Demona was waiting at the French doors as Angela landed on the small balcony. The sky was already growing brighter as she caped her wings and entered the house.

"You're just in time, daughter. I was starting to worry that you wouldn't come." Demona said as she hastily closed the doors and drew the curtains back into place.

"We had a busy patrol tonight," Angela explained as she followed her mother from the room and down the stairs. "I didn't even get a chance to tell Father that I'd be spending the day with you," she added guiltily.

Demona snorted. "You're not a hatchling anymore, Angela. You shouldn't let your father treat you like one. You don't need Goliath's permission to visit me."

"I just don't like to make him worry," Angela said, trailing off as Demona showed her into the library. The room looked much different from the last time she had seen it. The heavy drapes were drawn, and dozens of scented candles were burning, filling the air with a musty yet strangely intoxicating fragrance. Several ancient-looking books were set out on the table, along with a small velvet pouch and what looked like an old cigar box.

"We haven't much time," Demona said, crossing to the box. She unlocked it with a small silver key, and as Angela watched in fascination, she opened it and withdrew the object contained inside. Angela stared in awe at the finely crafted piece of jewelry. An obsidian disk was set in the center of a miniature golden sun, quartz crystals making up the sun's rays. The pendant thus appeared to be a stylized impression of the sun during a total eclipse. Attached to it was a thick braided gold chain.

Angela marveled at the shine and intricacy of the gold setting. The pendant reminded her of some of the more ornate pieces she had seen Fox wearing when she and Xanatos would be going out for an evening on the town. "Wow," Angela commented, "where did you get that?"

"It's an antique," Demona explained, "a sun amulet from the pre-Columbian period."

Angela gave a small look of disbelief and looked at the pendant again. "But it looks brand new," she said.

"I assure you that it is quite ancient," Demona replied, "but more importantly, it is the talisman which will allow you to remain awake during this day." Demona paused as she held the amulet up by either end of its braided chain and examined it as the candlelight reflected off the gold. "Daughter, I must caution you again. Once the sun has risen, you must not allow the sun amulet to be removed until after sundown. And once it is removed, there will be strong aftereffects. You are young and strong, but the magical repercussions may still render you unable to function until you have again slumbered as stone."

"I'm willing to accept the risks, mother," Angela said resolutely, "to again be able to spend the day with you."

Demona smiled. "Very well, my daughter." She gestured to a small velvet pillow, trimmed with golden fringe, that was resting on the floor in the center of the room, surrounded by a circle of a dozen fat, stumpy, glowing candles. "Please kneel there and I will begin."

Angela moved into the circle of candles and hesitated a moment, but Demona gave her a reassuring look and she carefully knelt down on the black velvet pillow and sat back on her haunches, resting her hands in her lap.

Still holding the talisman, Demona moved to stand behind her daughter and began to chant, her words low and in a language that Angela did not understand. She held the pendant up, dangling over Angela's head, the ends of its outstretched chain held in either hand, as she finished the chant. Then, slowly, she lowered it. Angela watched intently as it passed in front of her eyes and came to rest against her chest, gasping in surprise as the crystals seemed to glow for a brief moment as the pendant fell against her lavender skin. Demona spoke again, in Latin this time, as she moved her hands under her daughter's hair and carefully fastened the clasp on the chain.

"Unum qui noctu habitat,
donum tibi dono,
per diem ambules."

Angela remained kneeling as Demona turned back around to the table and picked up the spellbook and the velvet bag. She heard her mother begin to chant again, only this time she recognized the words, having heard them once before.

"Lude oculos, lude capita.
Non vide quod videas, sed ut velim id esse.
Oculo, visui, puerum meum humanum face."

As Demona spoke the words, she opened the bag and drew out a handful of sparkling dust and threw it over Angela. Angela closed her eyes as the dust settled to the floor, and the candles surrounding her fluttered slightly.

"Stand up, my daughter. It is done."

Angela opened her eyes and gasped in surprise as she looked into her lap to see a pair of delicate five-fingered hands resting against a background of deep blue. Angela sprang to her feet and hurried to the nearby mirror, her jaw dropping in amazement at the image which stared back at her. She again wore the human form she had taken when Alex had turned her and the others into humans for a day, but this time she was dressed impeccably in a dark blue business suit. The skirt came to just above the knee and the double-breasted jacket was buttoned over a fine high-collared white blouse, while matching heels completed the outfit. Her ears were adorned with small gold studs, and her hair was drawn back conservatively and held in a neat but elegant ponytail by a simple gold clip.

"Very nice, indeed," Demona commented, looking her daughter over approvingly from behind.

Angela noticed that the pendant was hidden from sight, as well, though she could still feel the weight of its chain about her neck. She twitched her tail behind her and felt the air against it as it moved, but the image of the young woman in the mirror did not stir at all. She held up her human hands and looked at them, curling and uncurling the eight gargoyle fingers one by one but watching ten human ones move in response. Angela's brow furrowed. The last time the spell had been cast on her, she was kept too busy trying to answer Mavis O'Connor's endless stream of questions to really notice what she looked like. Now that she had a chance to really inspect her illusion self, it was all a bit disconcerting.

"How odd it is, mother," she commented as she turned to the side and looked in vain for her tail, "to see myself as a human when I still feel like a gargoyle."

Demona wrinkled her brow at that comment, but a familiar tingling in her back made her quickly forget all about it. Backing away, she set the spellbook back on the table just as the first wave of pain coursed through her body. Angela turned in shock at hearing her mother scream, freezing in her tracks with eyes wide as she watched Demona transform, giving one final gasp as the last traces of Demona's wings vanished into her back and a red-haired human slumped to her knees with an agonized moan.

When the shock finally ended a second or two later, Angela quickly rushed to her mother's side.


* * * * *

Nicholas Maddox leaned forward in his high-backed leather chair, the receiver of the telephone held against his ear, and plucked a gold pen from its holder. "Cotuit? That's on Cape Cod, isn't it?" he asked. He jotted something down on a small pad of paper resting on desk in front of him and paused a moment to listen to the voice on the other end of the line. "Splendid," he said, "Yes, a lunch appointment would be fine. Tell Mr. Strijken I shall meet him at noon. Thank you. Good-bye." He made a few final notes before hanging up the phone, then returned the pen to its holder.

"And what was that all about, then?" Mavis O'Connor asked from across the spacious office, looking up from her morning's paperwork, her gray eyes narrowing and taking on a faint bluish tinge.

"A possible new business associate," Maddox replied with a small smile on his face as he turned to face his business partner. He paused for a moment, regarding her with his own sharp eyes. "And what are your plans for the day," he inquired, "Anything interesting?"

She grinned devilishly as she pushed her paperwork aside and stood up, smoothing the skirt of her dark brown suit as she did. "Would ye have heard of 'Take Our Daughters to Work' Day?"

Maddox stared quizzically at her as she approached the desk. "I believe I read something about it in this morning's paper. Why?"

Mavis' smile broadened. "Seems our friend Ms. Destine will be havin' a visitor this afternoon..."


* * * * *

Angela stepped out of the limousine right behind her mother, squinting her eyes for a moment at the bright early morning sunlight reflecting off the glass façade of the Nightstone Unlimited Building. She nodded and said "Thank you" to the dapperly clad driver as he held the door for her, and hurried after her mother. Dominique was already striding purposefully toward the building's entrance, ignoring the scenery, but Angela was captivated by the brilliant colors that surrounded her. A half-dozen budding crabapple trees were scattered about the Nightstone Building's small, brick-paved courtyard and surrounding each was a small circular raised bed filled with springtime flowers in full bloom. The sunlit reds and yellows and blues and greens were brighter than anything Angela had ever seen, and she glanced back over her shoulder and marveled at them with wide eyes even as she followed her mother through the revolving door.

Angela gave a short, surprised cry as a sharp pinching sensation jarred her from her reverie. The rotating door stopped abruptly, trapping her on the other side of a brass-framed pane of glass from her mother, who had turned at hearing her daughter's small yelp of pain. Dominique stared at Angela questioningly as the young woman blushed and continued on through the door.

"Are you all right, Angela," Dominique asked, her voice low, taking Angela's hand and leading her away from the doors and toward the bubbling fountain in the center of the lobby as other people continued to enter the building.

"I... pinched my tail," Angela whispered sheepishly, blushing even deeper.

Dominique gave a small sigh of relief but frowned. "You have to be careful, Angela. You may look human, but your physical form is still gargoyle. Keep your wings around your shoulders and your tail close to you at all times, and do not touch anyone or allow anyone to touch you."

Angela nodded her understanding as she discreetly rubbed the aching tip of her invisible tail against her leg, and Dominique gave her a small smile. "Now come on. I have a lot of things I wish to share with you today."


* * * * *

Their first stop was Dominique's office. Angela recognized the reception area as soon as she stepped off the elevator with her mother, though she was certain the secretary at the desk was not the same woman she had spoken to those months ago.

"Good morning, Ms. Destine." An attractive, petite brunette, her hands full of computer printouts, nodded as she hurried past Dominique toward the elevator before she and Angela were even ten feet into the room.

"Mary, hold on a minute," Dominique said pleasantly, turning around.

The woman stopped in her tracks and backpeddled a few steps. "Yes, Ms. Destine?" she said eagerly.

"I'd like you to meet my daughter," Dominique said, gesturing as Angela turned around to look at the tiny woman. She was dressed in a stylish beige sport jacket over a white blouse and matching beige skirt, with her hair pulled back in a loose bun and a pair of glasses pushed up on top of her head. At the moment, she was too laden down with jumbled sheets of green-and-white paper to offer her hand in greeting, but she smiled warmly at Angela all the same, her eyes brightening in sudden recognition.

"Miss Angela Destine," she exclaimed. "Of course! I'd totally forgotten that you were coming in today. How nice to finally meet you," she bubbled, nodding.

"It's... a pleasure to meet you, too," Angela said graciously, trying unsuccessfully to hide her confusion.

"Ms. Nelson is my head of Network Operations," Dominique explained. "She manages Nightstone's computer system and handles all of our e-mail and Internet needs. In fact, she's become quite invaluable to me since I brought her on board." The young woman blushed at Dominique's praise. "As I recall," Dominique added archly, "the person she replaced couldn't even manage to spell my name correctly on our homepage."

"We should get some publicity shots of you and your daughter while she's visiting today," Mary suggested, seeming to be thinking out loud. "We could use a digital camera and have them up on our web site by the end of the day."

The smile faded from Dominique's face. "No," she said sharply before Angela even had a chance to speak, "I'm afraid that will be quite out of the question. I have a very busy day already planned for the two of us, and I don't wish to subject Angela to any more... 'publicity' than we've already been forced to deal with."

Angela's brow knitted in confusion at her mother's statement, but Mary didn't seem the least bit phased by her boss's sudden change in mood. "Whatever you say, Ms. Destine," she said cheerfully. "I should get back to work now. It was nice meeting you, Angela," she called back as she scurried off toward the elevator.

Angela watched as the woman jammed a foot between the closing doors and wedged herself in to the already crowded elevator before turning back to see that Dominique had already started again toward her office, barely acknowledging the "Good morning's" offered by her other employees. Bewildered, she hurried after her.


Angela caught up with her mother just as she reached her office door. "What was that all about?" she whispered as Dominique withdrew her key card from her purse and slipped it into the slot above the handle. "She acted like she knew me already," she added as Dominique ushered her through the door.

"In a way, she does." Dominique said, closing the door behind her. "At least, she knows who 'Angela Destine' is." Angela only gave Dominique another confused look as she crossed to her desk. "I probably should have told you sooner, my daughter" she said as she sat and opened a drawer. Angela came over to her side to look at the newspaper her mother had pulled out - a several-month-old copy of the Daily Tattler, already yellowing with age - and read the headline: "Manhattan's Top Ten Most Eligible People." She frowned, still not understanding, until Dominique opened the paper to a page near the back. The small black-and-white photo was grainy, but she recognized herself - or rather, her human form - right away. She was seated at a table, wearing the clothes Dominique had bought her on the day they had spent together. The picture had seemingly caught her in the act of laughing.

"If I ever find out who the photographer was, I'm going to make him regret ever being born," Dominique said bitterly. "It was bad enough having O'Connor constantly poking around and asking about you. Now it seems that everybody is asking questions."

"Oh," Angela said softly. "So is that why you wanted me to come here today?"

Dominique folded the paper back up and sighed heavily. "Partially," she admitted. She looked up at her daughter, seeing the somewhat hurt expression on her face, and added, "But I've been so looking forward to having you here with me today, I didn't want to have to trouble you with this. I hope you can forgive me for not telling you."

Angela looked into her mother's eyes and, after a brief moment, decided she was sincere. "I think I can manage to overlook it," she said, a bit teasingly, as she sat down on the edge of the desk. "But," she added, grinning, "I think you'd better fill me in on what you've been telling everyone around here about 'Miss Angela Destine'."

Dominique looked up at her and soon a silly grin formed on her face as well. She slid the folded up paper back into the drawer, tucking it under an open bag of foil-wrapped chocolate kisses, and then swiveled her chair around to face her daughter. "Let's see," she said, "now just where should I begin..."


* * * * *

Nicholas Maddox pushed the "off" button on the television with the tip of his hawk-headed cane and sank back into the leather seat as the limousine inched slowly through the midmorning Manhattan traffic. Mavis looked up from the open briefcase in her lap at the sudden absence of sound.

"Not much activity in the stock market yet today," he commented. He looked out the tinted window to his left. "Perhaps all the brokers are still stuck in this traffic."

Mavis gave a small chuckle. "Sure it was never this hard to get around back in Europe. It's these Yanks' love for their automobiles that's the trouble."

Maddox frowned. "All I care about right now is getting to the airport on time. This Mr. Strijken sounds quite promising as a new employee... I'd hate to make a bad first impression by arriving late for our lunch meeting."

"Hmph," replied Mavis. "It doesn't take that long to jet up to Cape Cod." She checked her watch. The hands on the diamond-inlaid face read nearly quarter to ten. "That 'tour' Destine's forcin' upon us 'll be startin' in less than twenty minutes. It's thinking I am that I wouldn't mind bein' late for that."

Maddox smiled slightly and stroked his hand over his moustache. "So that's why you sent the others on ahead and insisted on riding with me."

Mavis looked at him wickedly for a moment. "Sure it's quite fine I'd be without paradin' about the building and listenin' to some junior exec prattlin' on and on like an old woman, and without sufferin' through another luncheon either, thank you," she said sharply. She paused. "The chance to be seein' Destine's daughter again, though...."

"Yes," Maddox said. He paused for a moment before adding, "Though you talked to the girl for almost an hour the last time and barely learned anything. I hope you won't be disappointed again."

"I'd best not be," Mavis said as the car rolled to a gentle stop.

"Nightstone Unlimited, Ms. O'Connor," said the driver's crisp voice through the intercom. Mavis looked out her window to see that, indeed, they were parked by the curb in front of the Nightstone Unlimited building. Hurriedly, she slipped her papers back into her briefcase, latching it closed just as the driver came around and opened the door.

"Call me if anything comes up," Maddox said as his business partner stepped out of the car. Mavis acknowledged him with a nod and then turned and began walking toward the Nightstone building's glassed entrance.

Maddox turned to the driver, who was still outside the car. "On to JFK," he ordered, "and try to be quick about it."

"Yes, sir." The driver nodded and closed the door.

As the car pulled away, Nicholas Maddox took one more look back over his shoulder, watching Mavis O'Connor disappear into the Nightstone Unlimited building.


* * * * *

"So what do you think so far, my daughter?"

Angela turned her eyes from the descending numbers on the elevator's console back to her mother. So far, she had seen the Accounting, Sales, Marketing, and Research and Development departments, and they had just left Computer Services. There, they had run into Mary again, and Angela had forced herself to listen politely as the woman showed her around and went on and on about "mainframes," "scalable servers," "ISDN lines," and dozens of other things that Angela didn't quite understand.

"Ms. Nelson reminds me of Lexington," Angela said finally, trying not to betray her dwindling enthusiasm for the tour Dominique was giving her.

Dominique chuckled slightly. "It hasn't been what you'd expected, has it?" Angela blushed, realizing that she wasn't as good at hiding her boredom as she thought. "Well, don't worry," Dominique said. "I've saved the best for last."

A moment later, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened onto a small, plain room in which was parked a small, odd-looking four-wheeled vehicle. Angela looked at it incredulously; while she had become familiar with automobiles since leaving Avalon, she had never seen one this small. It almost looked more like an oversized child's toy, and she gave her mother a questioning glance.

"Trust me," Dominique said as she sat down behind the wheel of the cart. "This is much faster than walking." She patted the empty padded seat beside her and Angela gingerly sat down, making sure - since the car had no doors - to tuck her tail in near her feet as she followed her mother's lead and fastened the seatbelt across her lap. Then, just to be safe, she took hold of one of the four slender metal poles that supported the flat roof of the small open car and held it tightly.

Dominique touched a button on the keypad of a small console that had been mounted to the dashboard and a display panel above it lit up. "Area alpha-one," Dominique said, her words transformed as she spoke into jagged waveforms dancing across the small screen. A half-second later, the vehicle noiselessly lurched into motion, taking off toward the darkened hallway which lay ahead.


Angela held on for dear life as the speeding cart rounded yet another sharp corner, then she gasped as her stomach moved up into her throat as they started down a steep incline, the rapid changes in motion made all the more disconcerting by the fact it was pitch black. She gulped again as their descent seemed to level off, tightening the grip of her one hand on the pole and nearly digging the claws of her other into the edge of the padded seat.

"Lights!" shouted Dominique, causing Angela to jump, and suddenly, the lights came on and the whole hallway was lit up. Angela squinted for a moment as her eyes adjusted to the sudden brilliance, until at last she could see that they were rolling along at an incredible pace down the center of a corridor only a little more than twice as wide as the vehicle itself. The walls, ceiling, and floor were all smooth and white, while row after row of fluorescent lights streamed by overhead. Angela looked ahead down the impossibly long hallway and spied a shadow on the wall, which she discovered was a door as it seemed to rush up to meet them. She didn't even have time to read what was written on it as it sped past her, and no sooner was it out of sight when another door appeared coming up on the opposite side of the hallway.

Angela glanced to her mother, who was sitting calmly with her hands folded in her lap as the little car steered itself, and looked back up to suddenly see the wall marking the end of the tunnel coming up rapidly. "Mother..." she began, her worried voice barely louder than the humming of the tires against the floor.

"We're almost there, Angela," Dominique stated coolly, and, as if in response to her words, the cart suddenly slowed. Angela gave a relieved sigh as they rolled to a gentle stop a mere ten feet from the end of the hallway, which, upon closer examination, she realized was not a wall at all, but one massive door.

Angela fumbled with the release on the seatbelt for a moment - it was obviously designed for human fingers, not gargoyle ones - and then joined her mother at the right side of the huge door. "This is the most important room in the entire building," Dominique explained as she tapped an alphanumeric code into the keypad mounted on the wall. "All of my most secret new projects are kept in here." As she entered the last number, a small beep sounded, and the massive door slid away to the left with a small hiss to reveal an identical door just a few feet beyond it.

Dominique continued as she casually stepped to the next access panel and laid her palm flat upon its dark glass surface. "Xanatos would give his front teeth to be allowed inside for just three minutes. So would Maddox and O'Connor and all of my other rivals." Angela was listening, but her eyes were following a red beam of light as it moved down the dark panel of glass and scanned Dominique's palm. With an identical beep and hiss, the second door slid away to the right, revealing still another door beyond it.

"I want you to be extremely careful when you go in," Dominique continued as she stepped up to a third access panel. "Up to now, no one else has ever been allowed in here. And I want you to promise me that you will tell no one about anything you see inside."

"No one?" Angela questioned as Dominique entered a short code and pressed a green button on the panel. "Not even the clan?" she added hesitantly. Dominique turned back to her as the panel on the door slid away and a second one underneath it folded out.

"No one," Dominique repeated, giving her a look that was both hard and reassuring all at the same time. "Promise me," she said, her green eyes sparkling, "that everything I show you will be just between us - as mother and daughter."

Angela bit her lip and thought it over for just the briefest moment. "I promise," she said.

Dominique relaxed a bit. "Thank you, my daughter," she said. She turned back to the newly revealed panel and leaned in toward it, allowing the red laser beams of the retinal scanner to do their work. A second later, she backed away as a warning tone sounded and the magnetic locks on the final door clacked open. The fiery-haired woman placed her hand on her daughter's shoulder, a broad smile forming on her face as the last door slowly split into three trapezoidal pieces - one disappearing into the ceiling, the other two sliding to either side - and revealed the room which lay beyond them. "This," Dominique said proudly, gesturing with her other hand, "is the Special Projects Division."


Angela stepped into the immense room slowly, so overwhelmed by the shear scale of it that she didn't even pay attention to the doors as they closed behind her, the clacking of the magnetic seals re-engaging echoing in the cavernous space. She gazed in awe with wide, saucer-like eyes at the complex laid out before her. The room was circular, and although it was cluttered with partitions and machinery, it easily had the area of a football field. It soared about six stories high before the walls arched together into a domed ceiling. Five levels of balconies ran around the room, and beyond them were the windows of countless offices and laboratories, effectively making the main room seem to be the central courtyard of a large office building. Rising in the center of the room was a narrow glass tower housing four elevators, with walkways radiating outward in four directions at each level, connecting with the balconies. And bustling about everywhere, each one dressed in a spotlessly clean white lab coat, were dozens and dozens of people.

"Ah, Ms. Destine, right on time as always," said a cheery, cultured male voice. Angela looked over to see a small man with a short, scruffy beard hurrying towards them, his unbuttoned lab coat trailing behind him.

"Dr. Bateson," replied Dominique, nodding as the man came to a stop a respectful distance away. "This is my daughter, Angela. She's visiting me today," Dominique stated crisply.

"Miss Destine," the man said politely. Angela returned his nod, noticing with a small raise of her eyebrows that he was wearing jeans and a worn pair of sneakers - a definite departure from the finely tailored suits and patent leather shoes she had seen nearly all of her mother's top-level employees wearing so far.

"How have things been going since my last visit, Doctor?" Dominique asked as she began walking into the room. "Everything is still on schedule, I assume?"

"Several tasks are running ahead of schedule, actually," the man replied. He began to go into specifics, pointing and gesturing with his hands, but Angela wasn't paying much attention. As she strode along slowly beside her mother, her attention darted about the arena-like room. She looked through the window of a clean room to see several white-suited technicians polishing a huge circular mirror. Further on, she observed another team of technicians preparing a small jet engine for a test firing. Across the room from them, still another team was shooting short pulses from a ruby laser at sample of some type of shiny, silvery metal, while another technician diligently recorded the results on film. Everything almost seemed to have fallen right out of the spy movie Broadway had taken her to see not long ago, and as she turned the corner, she half expected to see a suave, dark-haired man in a tuxedo come strolling by.

"I estimate that the prototype will be ready for final testing by the end of the month," Dr. Bateson concluded.

"Splendid," replied Dominique. "Let's see it."

"Right this way," he stated, gesturing in the direction they had just turned.

Angela had stopped walking for a moment and was peering through another window, watching the bright sparks fly as a pair of men wearing heavy gloves and dark-colored face shields welded pieces onto the chassis of what looked like a small submarine. A moment later, she felt Dominique's hand fall on her shoulder.

"Come along, Angela," Dominique said, gently pulling her daughter away. She smiled slightly, pleased to see Angela so seemingly enchanted by all the activity going on around her, but kept her hand on the girl's shoulder as they followed Dr. Bateson. "My favorite project of all is right this way."


Angela gave a small gasp as they rounded a final corner and entered the large area of the main room that had been partitioned off and set aside for Dominique's "favorite project." Computers and other machinery lined the walls, and in the center of the space was a circular platform about ten feet in diameter, empty at the moment, with various tubes and cables dangling above it which ran back to the machinery along the walls. Strangely, despite the amount of equipment seemingly in need of monitoring, there was only one person waiting for them when they entered, a plain, bespectacled, dark-haired woman in a crisp white lab coat.

"Greetings, Ms. Destine," the woman said, her voice sharp and precise, as she put down what she was doing and approached. Like her colleague had earlier, she stopped when she was a respectful eight feet or so away.

"Dr. Lanel," Dominique replied, nodding. Angela frowned. She was beginning to wonder why not one person she had met so far today had attempted to shake hands.

"And this must be your lovely daughter, Angela," the woman continued flatly, nodding to her, as well. "It is a great pleasure to meet you."

Angela returned the nod. "It's nice to meet you, too," she replied, trying very hard to stifle a giggle. Dr. Lanel's wooden mannerisms and flat tones reminded her of Owen.

"New faces are always a welcome sight here," Dr. Bateson said cheerfully, stepping over beside his colleague. The two were quite a contrast to each other. Aside from being a good half-foot shorter than him, Dr. Lanel's serious appearance - hair back in a neat bun, lab coat fitting perfectly and every button buttoned, shoes polished to a mirror shine - made Dr. Bateson look like he had just rolled out of bed.

"As you can imagine, we don't get out much," added Dr. Lanel, her tone still completely serious. Confusion crossed Angela's face again, but Dominique spoke first.

"Enough chit-chat. Let's see the prototype."


Angela stood quietly next to her mother for several minutes, both of them staying out of the way of the two scientists as they scurried about the room and brought various systems on line. It didn't take Dominique long to notice the troubled look on her daughter's face.

"Is something wrong, Angela?" she asked in a low voice.

"Do these people... live down here?" Angela asked finally, in a low whisper.

Dominique sighed. "For security reasons, I've found that it's best to maintain a... closed environment," she whispered back.

Angela frowned. "But don't they miss their families?"

"They're just humans," Dominique began.

"We're ready, Ms. Destine," announced Dr. Bateson.

Dominique silently thanked the man for interrupting her. "We can discuss it later," she said to Angela in a low voice, punctuating her words with a sigh that said she really didn't want to discuss it at all. "Proceed," she said aloud as she stepped up to join Dr. Bateson near the platform at the center of the room.

Dr. Lanel entered a final series of commands into one of the computers, and a moment later, the circular platform began to rise from the floor. Angela stepped closer, too, the words she had just shared with her mother momentarily forgotten as the low "platform" was revealed to actually be the top of a large, open-sided cylinder, inside of which was a tall, oddly-shaped object covered by a loosely draped white sheet. There was a hiss of hydraulics as the cylinder finally stopped, and the female scientist stepped away from her console. As Dominique and Angela both looked on anxiously, her partner stepped up onto the new platform that had been revealed and took hold of one edge of the sheet.

He drew out the moment for all it was worth, announcing with his most dramatic voice, "Presented for your approval, the Valkyrie Mark 1."

Angela's gasp was neatly covered by the rustling of the cloth as it fell to the ground. Before her stood a slender, shiny, winged robot, vaguely resembling a female gargoyle in size and shape. The body was done in contrasting shades of polished silver and steel blue, while the wings were silver only, polished to a mirror-like shine. Twin jet engines were visible on its back, along with razor-sharp claws on its hands and matching talons on its feet.

"It's a Steel Clan robot!" Angela said after only a moment, her tone almost accusing as she turned to her mother.

Dominique was sneering almost wickedly, and for a brief moment, she laughed in a way that Angela had not heard her laugh since the night of the Hunter's Moon. "My dear daughter," she purred, "the Valkyrie is nothing like a Steel Clan robot. This is generations beyond anything Xanatos has ever built." She turned to Angela, who was once more staring in fascination at the machine on the platform, and allowed her scientists to continue for her.

Dr. Lanel came to stand on the other side of Angela and picked up for Dominique. "The Valkyrie is lighter, it is faster, and it is smarter than the Steel Clan," she explained. "Its sensors are three generations beyond 'state of the art' and its 'brain' contains a high-speed, multi-tasking microprocessor capable of performing over two hundred billion calculations per second."

"In layman's terms," added Dr. Bateman wryly, "You won't see a Valkyrie flying into walls or crashing headfirst into its buddies."

"What about weapons systems?" Dominique asked quickly. "Has everything I specified in my original conceptual plans been included?"

"We're still ironing out some problems with the variable-frequency capacitance module..."

The voices of her mother and the Nightstone scientists faded into the background again as Angela stared at the prototype "Valkyrie Mark 1", her mind wandering worriedly. She still felt good about the fact that her mother trusted her enough to show her all these things, but she was troubled just the same. Questions that she dared not ask but that she could not answer for herself danced through her mind. Had Dominique truly taken her at her word earlier when she had promised to keep everything she saw a secret? Surely her mother wouldn't be showing her all of this if she eventually planned to use it against Father or Elisa or the clan. Would she?


* * * * *

Angela was still sorting through her worries long after the "Special Projects Division" had been left behind. In fact, she had barely said anything during the whole trip back, even though Dominique, knowing that something had to be wrong, had tried to get her talking again several times. Only the rumbling of her stomach in response to the smell of food jarred Angela back to reality long enough to realize that Dominique was showing her into the lavishly furnished cafeteria that occupied a good part of the Nightstone Building's third and fourth floors.

Angela followed her mother up to a quiet area on the cafeteria's second level, where tall windows looked out over the city, and the two women sat down across from one another at Dominique's private table. A server - a young woman in a crisp white and black uniform - was there a moment later, silently setting out silverware and glasses of water, but Dominique ordered for both of them before she could offer the menus.

"I rarely come down here," she said after the woman had left, attempting small talk. "If I'm not out, I usually take my lunch in my office."

Angela said nothing, preferring to stare down into her lap at her five-fingered human hands rather than look up at her mother.

Dominique sighed. "Angela, please tell me what is wrong." Her eyes took on a sudden look of alarmed concern. "The talisman isn't starting to affect you, is it?"

Angela's moved her hand and felt for the pendant in question, finding it still resting against her skin. Like her other jewelry, she had long since stopped noticing that she was even wearing it. "No, it's... it's not that," she answered quickly, looking up. She caught a glimpse of the intense worry flashing in Dominique's green eyes, and as she watched it fade, for some strange reason she felt suddenly reassured by it.

"Then what?" asked Dominique, her expression softening. "Was it something I said?"

Angela looked at her a moment longer. "It's just... back in that lab..." She tried to find a diplomatic way to say it, but what she heard herself say sounded almost silly. "You talked about your scientists as if they were hamsters or something." Dominique's eyebrows went up at that, a quirky smirk crossing her face. "I mean," Angela continued, her voice low, "'maintain a closed environment' - I know how you feel about humans... but... don't you have any concern for them?"

Dominique frowned. This was the first time that she could ever recall feeling obliged to give an answer to someone who was questioning the way she ran her company. "I'm trying to operate a successful business... of course I want my workers to be productive," she answered, choosing her words carefully, "but security sometimes must take precedence over comfort. Nightstone's practices are no different in that regard than Xanatos' or the government's."

"Oh." Angela was at a loss to continue the discussion, as she was unable to find fault with anything in the answer Dominique had just given her. Luckily, the return of the server with the food spared her from having to deal with an awkward moment of silence. Angela thanked the young waitress as a steaming bowl of vegetable soup and was set in front of her, then waited politely while her mother was served before picking up her spoon and digging in.


Mother and daughter had started talking again about more mundane things by the time the second course arrived. Angela thanked the woman again and pushed her half-empty soup bowl to one side to receive the immense sandwich that was set before her. She wiped her mouth daintily with her napkin and deposited the white cloth carefully back in her lap as the waitress departed again.

"This looks bigger than the ones Broadway makes," she commented to her mother as she attempted to get her hands around one of the halves of the sandwich, piled high with corned beef and topped with melted Swiss cheese.

"Excuse me," a male voice interrupted. Dominique and Angela both turned to stare at a casually dressed young man peering out from behind an enormous bouquet of flowers. "Would one of you happen to be a..." the flowers shook slightly as he fumbled with his clipboard "...Miss Angela Destine?"

Dominique gave a barely audible sigh as Angela glanced across the table at her and then back at the man. She answered hesitantly, "I'm Angela Destine."

"Delivery for you, miss," the man said. He took a step closer to the table and Angela took the huge bouquet from him awkwardly, nearly upsetting her soup bowl as she placed it in her lap so that he could then hand her the large red heart-shaped box he was also holding. "One more," he said as he slipped a duffel bag from over his shoulder and opened it. Dominique rolled her eyes while Angela's lit up in delight as he handed her the last item, a furry brown teddy bear with a red satin bow around its neck. "Have a nice day," the deliveryman said. He smiled and tipped the brim of his blue baseball cap before heading back towards the stairs.

"Who would send me all this?" Angela wondered aloud, not noticing Dominique shaking her head slightly and massaging her temples with her fingers. Angela searched among the brightly colored tulips and daffodils until she came up with a small card, her expression changing to one of puzzlement as she read it. "Who's 'Darien'?" she asked, confused.

Dominique sighed again and tried to compose herself a little before responding. "Someone who mistakenly believes that he is getting on my good side by attempting to court my 'eligible' daughter," she said.

Angela's brow furrowed and she frowned, recalling the article Dominique had shared with her that morning. "You mean..."

"Yes," Dominique answered, her expression looking as though she just had swallowed something sour. "Something arrives here from some human male almost every day. This 'Darien' has simply been one of the more persistent and..." She eyed the teddy bear and the enormous box of candy, "...extravagant of your would-be 'suitors.'"

Angela looked at the gifts again and suddenly the fuzzy little teddy bear didn't seem quite as cute anymore. Carefully, she pushed it and the candy and the flowers aside as Dominique took a long sip from her wineglass.

"What's most surprising to me, though," Dominique said as she set her glass back down, "is that nothing has come for you from that one human..." She drew out the word as if it were an insult, adding, "What was his name again?" Angela immediately shot her a nasty glance across the table. In fact, her eyes flashed red, but the glow was cloaked by the illusion spell.

"You know full well what his name is, Mother," Angela snapped, her voice rising. "And you also know full well that Richard and I are just friends." Dominique cringed at her daughter's harsh gaze, and Angela paused for a few seconds to compose herself, waiting until she felt the hot glow fade from her eyes before continuing. She lowered her voice again to normal levels. "Honestly, Mother, it's been almost four months. Richard is just a friend. Broadway's the one I love. We've had this discussion dozens of times... must we have it again today?"

Dominique looked at her for a moment, letting the anger pass before she spoke again, as well. "No," she said finally, "you're right, my daughter." She lowered her eyes. "I'm... I'm sorry."

Angela smiled and reached across the small table. Dominique looked back up at feeling a four-fingered gargoyle hand fall gently on her five-fingered human one.

"You're forgiven," Angela said softly. Dominique smiled, and a moment later, they went back to eating.


* * * * *

The polite little smile on Mavis O'Connor's lips was kept there through sheer force of will. She had spent nearly an hour mingling with the meeting's other attendees, making dreary small talk with countless aspiring Bill Gates's. But, to her endless annoyance, the one person she had actually wanted to find was nowhere in sight.  After checking her gold wristwatch for what seemed like the hundredth time, O'Connor excused herself from Ms. Nelson and walked briskly out of the waiting area. Now that she had an excuse, she wanted to put as much distance between herself and that chamber of horrors as possible.

Her heels clicking on the marble floor, she made her way past the elevators and into a hall labeled "restrooms". The space outside of the two doors was lined with small phone booths, and O'Connor slipped gratefully into one, closing the frosted glass door behind her. After a moment of digging through her purse, she pulled out a cellular phone and flipped it open. A deep scowl had taken the place of her carefully maintained smile, and she stabbed furiously at the tiny buttons.

There were several tinny rings, then, "Hello?"

"She's not here," O'Connor growled. "I've spoken with nearly everyone attending, and no one's seen hide nor hair of either of them."

"What? I thought you told me they've been together all afternoon?"

"I did and they have -- didn't my sources all confirm it?" The woman sighed, leaning back against the booth's wall. "It's somewhere in the building she has to be, waiting for Destine to get out of the meeting...the question's where. Gotten here earlier, I should have done..."

"It wouldn't have mattered, anyway," the man chuckled. "I doubt our friend Dominique would have let you in. She doesn't much like you, you know." When he realized O'Connor wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of a response, he added, "Are you certain this is worth the trouble? After all, she's only a girl."

"A girl who's after admitting she lived on Avalon. You don't for a moment believe that coggin' about New Jersey?" she added quickly, anticipating the man's response. "It's something about her makes me think she could be of a great deal of use."

"Now, if you'll be excusing me," she said, striding back out into the hall. "I have a conference to be attending."


* * * * *

"Mother...remind me again why I'm going to this with you?" Angela asked, shifting the stack of papers she carried. The two women walked at a quick pace, Dominique looking efficient and in-control as she made her way down the corridor, occasionally nodding to one of the underlings as she breezed by.

"Well for one thing, I needed a pack animal," she said with a sly grin, winning a mock-scowl from her daughter. "And you are the heir to this company - you might as well see how it's run."

Angela rolled her eyes - after all, what did an immortal need with an heir? - but didn't reply. She actually was curious about what went on during the "important meetings" Dominique was always attending, and this might be her only chance to find out.

Still, when they reached the door to the conference room, Angela hesitated, cautiously peering into the room beyond. "I don't know..." she said quietly, turning to her mother with a worried look. "So many people, in so small a space... what if something happens? It'd be so easy to bump into someone here...."

Dominique's lips curled into one of her one of her rare, warm smiles.  "As long as you are cautious, everything will be fine. And if anyone does suspect..." The smile turned a tad wicked. "...just make them look like a fool."

Angela tried to give her a reproachful look, failed miserably, and finally gave up. "All right, you win!" she chuckled. With a sigh, she rearranged the papers once again and followed Dominique through the door.


Dominique moved away, gathering her employees around her for a final few private words before the meeting began. Angela shifted her grip on the stack of papers once more, then cautiously began making her way across the room. Her destination was the head of the conference table, which Dominique had pointed out to her, and she put on her best smile as she began inching her way there, past the chairs, potted plants, and people who were still milling about. She was a bit relieved to find that most of them were already stepping aside at seeing the large stack of papers she was attempting to balance, and the few that did not see her right away moved aside at hearing her say "Excuse me," despite how timidly she spoke.

Finally, her arduous trek came to an end, her only close encounter having been with a rather leafy ficus tree. Sighing relievedly, she set the stack of papers down in front of her mother's chair, right behind a brass nameplate reading "Dominique Destine, President and CEO." Then she noticed an identical nameplate in front of the seat to the right of her mother's - her seat. Curious, she turned it so she could read it, too. "Angela Brigitte Destine" proclaimed the crisp Roman lettering. Angela's brow furrowed slightly. A moment later, Dominique was at her side again, and she looked up at her mother curiously.

Dominique had already noticed that Angela was looking at the nameplate. "I had to come up with something," she whispered. Then she gave a small shrug. "Somehow, it just seemed... appropriate."

Angela read the name to herself one more time and smiled approvingly. Dominique returned the smile with another of her own, and Angela slid the nameplate back into its original position and then took her seat.

Dominique brought the meeting to order by ringing a small bell resting on the table to her left, striking it several times with a short metal rod seemingly designed solely for that purpose. Most of the Nightstone employees had already taken their seats, but the few that hadn't quickly did so upon hearing the chime of the small bell. The low murmur that had filled the room since Angela had entered faded away, replaced by the quiet sound of feet on carpet and the occasional hushed squeaking of chair springs or briefcase hinges.

Angela recognized most of the Nightstone people, for she had met them at one point or another earlier in the day. She tried to recall the names and departments to herself as she glanced around the table. There was Ms. Nelson, of course, and next to her Ms. Wilgus from Research and Development. Across the table from them were three men, in suits so well pressed they would rival Owen Burnett's best. They were Mr. Collins, Mr. Banks, and Mr. Rutherford, from Accounting, Marketing, and Sales, respectively. An empty seat between Angela and Ms. Nelson was filled momentarily by a woman Angela had not met yet, completing the Nightstone half of the table.

The remaining half of the table was filled by an equal number of people from Maddox Technologies. Angela didn't recognize any of the faces, but she assumed that each of them held a position in the rival company comparable to those of the six people present from Nightstone. Within less than a minute, everyone in the room had taken a seat save for Dominique. She remained standing, glaring impatiently at the door.

Mavis O'Connor made her entrance a mere second later. She crossed the short distance from the door to her seat at the far end of the table with graceful strides, seeming to be very much enjoying the fact that all eyes were on her. One of her male employees got up and pulled out her chair for her as she neared it.

"Ms. Destine," Mavis said politely as she seated herself, settling back comfortably in the chair.

"Ms. O'Connor," returned Dominique, equally as polite, with an equally as forced smile. She waited until the man retook his seat before finally taking hers. "Now that we're all here," Dominique said with controlled sarcasm, "let's begin."


Angela was lost within half a minute after her mother started talking. While she was impressed with Dominique's professionalism and the way she instantly seemed to take command of the room, it was only enough to hold her attention for so long. Numbers and dates flew over her head at an incredible pace as profit margins and deadlines were discussed. Still, she tried to maintain the appearance of an attentive young businesswoman-in-training, watching the various people as they spoke, even as the words dissolved into meaningless noise while her mind wandered. Once the lights were dimmed and the slideshow began, though, she gave up on even that. Pie charts and bar graphs couldn't capture her interest as well as the gnarled bonsai tree near the window, and she found herself reliving her visit to Japan with Goliath and Elisa even as Mr. Banks and his Maddox Technologies counterpart debated the demographics of the Midwest.

Ms. O'Connor wasn't paying much attention, either, as her Head of Marketing rattled off statistics comparing the percentages of the population over age fifty-five in Cleveland as compared to Pittsburgh. She was watching Ms. Destine's daughter, Angela, her gray eyes focussed on the dark-haired young woman in the striking navy blue suit. Mavis twiddled the gold pendant she wore against her white silk blouse absently in her fingers as she stared intently at the girl. Her eyes flicked briefly to Dominique. Ms. Destine was watching the slide show as intently as her daughter seemed to be examining the scrawny little evergreen that was trying to survive on the insufficient sunlight filtering through the mini-blinds. Her eyes went back to Angela, and her ears tuned in to the speech once again as she stopped twirling the pendant but continued to hold it with her hand.

She pushed the small button on the back of the piece of jewelry just as Head of Marketing pushed the button on the small cordless remote that controlled the slide projector. The louder "clack" of the slide changing neatly covered the soft click that came from the pendant, and Mavis smiled as she let her hand fall back into her lap and returned her full attention back to the meeting.


* * * * *

Angela walked out onto the arching wooden bridge and leaned over the railing, gazing down into the clear water. A huge goldfish with a red spot on its head darted about just below the surface. Somewhere in the distance, a chorus of crickets sang, their steady melody punctuated at regular intervals by the croak of a frog. The moonlight glinted off the water, and her own reflection stared back at her, surrounded by the reflections of the maples and wisterias that filled the small garden. She almost didn't recognize herself, dressed as she was in the elaborate pink kimono, with her long dark hair done up in a traditional style.


"Meeting adjourned."

Angela snapped out of her daydream as the woman next to her slammed her briefcase shut.

"Leave the Burns file with my secretary, Ms. Allen," Dominique said to the tall ash blonde as they both stood up. The woman nodded. Angela looked around to see that everyone else was getting up, as well, and some of the Maddox Technologies people were already out the door.

Angela rose from her chair and began to help her mother gather the papers that had been in an orderly stack a few hours before but which now lay scattered on the table. Her tail had fallen asleep - it felt all prickly - and she wanted desperately to lash it about to wake it back up. With the wall so close behind her, though, all she could do was twitch it nervously from side to side.

Dominique recognized the funny look on her daughter's face. "Wait until we get back to my office," she cautioned in a low voice as she set the re-stacked pile of papers in her daughter's arms.

"Sure it was lovely seein' you again, Ms. Destine," said Mavis as she approached. Angela and Dominique both looked up. Everyone else had filed out, but Mavis had evidently lingered behind. "And you, Miss Angela," she added.

"Likewise," Dominique replied, tapping her last reserves of polite civility and somewhat reluctantly shaking the hand that was extended to her. Dominique picked up the remaining files from the table and began walking Mavis toward the door, Angela following behind. "I hope the success of today's meeting was a positive sign of things to come between our two companies," she said as they reached the hallway.

Mavis's eyes glinted and she smiled. "Well now, we'll just have to be seein' what develops," she said.

"Yes," Dominique said, smiling uneasily. Mavis nodded her good-byes to both women, and Dominique and Angela both watched as she got into the elevator at the end of the hall and left. Both mother and daughter gave a relieved sigh.


* * * * *

As soon as they were back in Dominique's office, Angela finally allowed herself to do what she had been having the urge to do ever since she got up from her seat at the conference table. She threw back her wings, raised her arms toward the ceiling, arched her back, and stretched. Dominique watched her, an amused look in her eyes, as she gave a yawn quite normal for a gargoyle, but which looked and sounded positively ridiculous coming from a human businesswoman's daughter.

"I was beginning to think that meeting would never end," Angela said absently as she twitched her tail a few more times and settled her wings back around her shoulders. "No offense, mother," she added, noticing Dominique staring at her.

"None taken, my daughter," Dominique said. "To tell the truth, I frequently find those meetings to be quite a bore, myself." She sighed, her expression darkening somewhat. "Yet another of the many frustrations a life in this form has to offer. That filing cabinet, for instance," she said, gesturing to the offending piece of furniture. "Maintenance was supposed to properly install it weeks ago. But here it is, still sitting in the middle of my office! If it weren't for this blasted human body being so weak, I would move it myself, but..."

"Mother!" Angela chided, crouching next to the cabinet. "Don't start with this again..."

"Don't start with what again? I'm only pointing out the facts." She scowled down at her pale, delicate, five-fingered hands. "Even you have to admit that feeble, pathetic little human bodies cannot compare to ours."

As she lifted the cabinet, Angela sighed heavily, though more from frustration than her exertions. "Where do you want this?"

"Over there by the windows," Dominique mumbled, gesturing vaguely in that direction. "Why, it would have taken two human males to move that wretched thing - two! And you're not even fully grown yet!" Somehow, her expression darkened even more. "What Goliath sees in that... harlot is beyond me..."

Peering around the edge of the wooden chest, Angela glared at her disapprovingly. "Mother!" This time, her tone was more than just scolding.

Dominique winced; perhaps she'd gone too far with that one. "I am sorry, my daughter... I should have been more discreet. What I meant is that it is hard to believe any male would choose a human over one of their sisters..." She smiled. "Especially when some of them are as beautiful as you."

Angela knew perfectly well that her mother was not at all sorry about her harsh words, but she couldn't bring herself to hold it against her. Dominique had at least tried to make up for it, after all. She chuckled softly and shook her head, shifting her grip a little. "Honestly, Mother... you should know that flattery won't get you anywhere..."

Now, her daughter's voice was teasing, and the fiery-haired woman relaxed back against her desk. "Now," Angela asked, "do you think it should go in the corner, or beside the couch?"


Dominique's personal secretary arrived at the open office door and raised her hand to rap on the doorframe, but she stopped in mid-knock as she saw her boss's teenage daughter standing there, casually holding a three-drawer oak filing cabinet a good two feet off the floor.

"Is this good, mother?" the girl asked. Ms. Destine nodded as the secretary blinked and shook her head, wondering if she really should've had that last cup of coffee. When she opened her eyes again and looked back up, all the furniture was in its place and Ms. Destine and her daughter were simply standing there.

Dominique turned to see the woman standing in the doorway and glowered at her. "I trust there is a reason why you are standing there gawking at me, Candice," she snapped. "I'm with my daughter and I thought I'd told you we were not to be disturbed."

Candice gulped and her eyes dropped momentarily down to the small clipboard she held before she looked back up and dared to speak.

"I apologize, Ms. Destine," she said timidly, "but... Mr. Falken just called again, while you were in your meeting. He wanted to ask if you had reconsidered his offer."

"Call him back and tell him, for the last time, that I said 'No,'" Dominique said sharply, a cold edge to her tone. "I don't like him or his people, and I will never accept that 'offer' of his. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Ms. Destine."

"And once you have done that," Dominique continued, "get back to your duties. My dry cleaning needs to be picked up, there's an entire ream of paperwork from last week's R&D meeting that still has not been logged and filed, and I want the report on the Dithers account on my desk in triplicate before I leave today."

"Yes, Ms. Destine," Candice said submissively, hurriedly jotting everything down on her notepad. "Is there anything else?"

"No," Dominique said sharply, "You are dismissed. And close the door before you leave."

"Yes, Ms. Destine," the woman said again. Dominique whirled around on her heel and sighed exasperatedly as the office door was quietly closed. Angela simply stared at her mother in dumbfounded shock.

"It is so hard to find good help these days," Dominique said dryly as she slid into her desk chair. "Sometimes I almost regret having lost Robyn." Angela started to open her mouth but a blur of motion seen out of the corner of her eye made her turn. She gave a small gasp as she watched a section of the far wall slide noiselessly away, revealing a secret room.

Dominique got back up and walked briskly towards the newly revealed doorway, motioning for her daughter to follow.

"Perhaps if you treated your employees better..." Angela finally said as she followed her mother into the room.

Dominique stopped in her tracks and turned to her daughter, but Angela met her hard expression without even flinching and continued. "I've never seen Xanatos or Fox behave the way you just did, mother. Or even the Magus or Princess Katharine back on Avalon..."

Dominique barked a small laugh and crossed her arms. "Obviously you don't know your dear 'Princess Katharine' as well as you think you do. Humans have given our kind nothing but hate and contempt for centuries. She was only notable in that she permitted us our lives so that we could serve her. To her we were but 'beasts,' pets allowed to roam the castle at her whim." Dominique paused, a veil of darkness seeming to fall over her as she continued, her eyes growing narrow and cold. "To the rest of humanity we are 'monsters' and 'demons,' 'unnatural' creatures that should be hunted down and killed on sight without thought or remorse. You read the accounts in the journal I sent you, did you not?"

"Yes, but..."

Dominique cut her off with an angry wave of her hand. "Then you are as naïve as your father to still believe they will ever allow us to live among them! Humans kill what they fear, and they fear what they don't understand. They cannot even make peace amongst themselves. They wage war on anything that is foreign to their narrow, pitiful minds, setting upon each other over petty differences such as the color of their skin or the deities they choose to worship." She stepped closer to Angela, her tone growing even colder than it already was. "I have seen the horrors they commit against their own kind as well as our own. I could tell you of things so terrible that they would chill you to the very depths of your soul. Humans will never accept gargoyles," she hissed, "and the sooner you accept that, the better off you will be."

Angela frowned, and she took her chance to speak as soon as it was offered. "Not all humans are like that, Mother, and even the ones that are can change. I've heard the stories Hudson and Father have told... I know that Princess Katharine was not always as I knew her... but she changed, and she raised us and loved us as if we were her own children. And what about Elisa?" Demona flinched at the mention of the detective's name but Angela didn't miss a beat. "She has always been a friend to the clan, and she's risked her life to protect us more times than I can count. And there are so many others... good humans who neither hate nor fear us, but accept us as equals. My friend Richard is only one example... there's also Sharon, Dr. Goldblum, Officer Morgan, King Arthur, Rory Dugan, Natsilani, Fera Maku..."

Angela continued on, counting off the names on her fingers as she went. Dominique stared at her in utter confusion, not having the faintest idea who many of them were.

"... and the people of Ishimura... they have lived side by side with an entire clan of gargoyles for centuries." Dominique started at this, visibly shocked.

"What did you say? An entire clan?" she asked. "Impossible!"

"Yes," Angela insisted, "there's a clan in Japan. Brooklyn's mate comes from there. Don't you remember? I told you all about Sata and the hatchlings that first night I visited after the Solstice."

"Yes, but you never mentioned anything about there being a whole clan..." Dominique said, still appearing a bit shaken.

"I've met them myself," Angela explained impatiently, "and the humans they live among, as well. For hundreds of years, they have lived openly and in peace with each other." Demona stood there in numb shock as Angela tried to get back to her original point. "Mother, I know there are plenty of bad humans, but there are so many more good ones... and if we judge all humans to be evil just because some of them are, we become no better than the Hunters or the Quarrymen."

Dominique cast her eyes to the floor, and Angela's voice grew soft and sad as she stepped closer to her. "I've only been out in this world for about a year, and already I have met dozens of good humans. You've been here a thousand times longer, Mother. Surely there must have been at least one human whom you've met who treated you well."

Dominique turned away, frowning at her daughter's stubbornness, trying to block Angela's words from her mind as her eyes fell upon a low shelf, empty save for an old journal. She stared at it for a moment, and then, slowly, as if she was afraid doing so would burn her, she lifted her hand and touched it.

"... one human..."


* * * * *

Southern France -- 1527


She awoke with a howl of agony, eyes briefly glowing red as she broke free of the thin layer of stone skin, then collapsed to her knees, shaking and coughing uncontrollably. Her claws dug into the ground as she tried to steady herself, crunching on the remnants of the past two nights worth of stone skin scattered on the soft earth around her. Her stomach rumbled; she didn't have the strength to hunt, and she hadn't eaten in days. She had discovered days ago that the stone sleep offered no relief from the disease which now racked her body, and now the pain was the last thing she felt at sunrise and the first thing she felt at sundown. Every nerve was in agony, every last muscle ached with exhaustion, and her wings felt like they were on fire, covered as they were by the same terrible black sores that slowly had spread over the smooth blue skin on her arms, legs, and tail.

"Yuir lookin' a mite more 'ideous than usual, demon," hissed a cold voice from above and behind her. A growl of pure rage rose in her throat as she turned toward the sound and tried to force herself to her feet, but a split-second later, a heavy pair of boots struck her in the back and drove her face-first back to the muddy ground. "And ta think I sat up in that tree, waitin' all day in the rain for this," the Hunter complained aloud as he stood on top of her and casually pulled on his mask. "What a disappointment."

Demona heard the distinct sound of a sword being withdrawn from its sheath and felt the man's weight on her back shift slightly as he drew the weapon back, and she knew then she had to make her move. Summoning what was left of her strength, she rose up and twisted to the side, bucking the man off of her. He had the good sense to throw his sword to the side as he fell into the mud, so as not to land on it, which bought Demona all the time she needed. Forcing all the pain she was in to the back of her mind, she got to all fours and did something she had vowed to herself long ago that no Hunter would ever make her do: she ran.

The cliff was only a few hundred yards away, but to Demona's aching limbs, it seemed like miles. She didn't even look back to see the Hunter chasing after her, waving his sword and cursing. She knew he wouldn't get to her in time. She summoned one last burst of energy and vaulted into the air, throwing her wings open to catch the wind. She had no idea what a bad decision that would turn out to be.

The pain was insanely intense; it felt as though her wings were being torn from their sockets by teams of horses. She may have even blacked out for a moment - she wasn't sure. The next thing she knew, she was bouncing along the rough ground, mud and grass flying everywhere, till at last she came to a stop near the edge of a narrow gravel roadway, the wet stones and a few small puddles glistening in the moonlight behind the receding clouds. She rested less than a minute, knowing she couldn't stay out in the open. I won't give that worthless human the satisfaction, she thought to herself as she pushed herself up to her hands and knees and started toward the high grass just beyond the edge of the road.

She only managed to crawl a few yards before her aching muscles refused to support her any longer. She collapsed in a small thicket of tall, wet grass as another spasm of coughing and retching overtook her. Her last ounce of strength she used to roll herself onto her back, lessening the pain searing in her sides and chest as she continued to cough, so violently that for several moments she couldn't even breath. When at last the fit ended, her lungs ached so badly that she could only manage small, shallow breaths, and even then, she could barely force the air down. She felt as though she were drowning, and her head began to spin.

She lay there, still, staring blankly into the night sky with glassy eyes, the pain which pulsated through every nerve in her body blurring her other senses. Her eyes began to lose their focus, the full moon high overhead changing from a sharp white disk to a fuzzy bright spot in a sea of darkness. Feebly, she blinked, and the focus returned for a brief moment. A winged silhouette passed across the face of the moon. A gargoyle. And then a voice.

"My... Angel of the Night."

Goliath? Her eyes darted around but found only darkness, save for the white spot of the moon burning overhead. She coughed again and closed her eyes against the pain. Now she was hallucinating. The end could not be far off.

When her eyes fluttered open for the last time, three ancient gargoyle crones, haggard, pitiful looking creatures with tattered wings and wrinkled, muddy brown skin, stood over her, staring at her, their sunken, hollow eyes peering into her own. Demona couldn't even manage a gasp.

"We know the pain is great now, child," hissed the first gargoyle, her ratty hair as black as the night, "but do not be afraid."

"One comes who will save you, once now, and once later," continued the second, her hair equally as tangled but white as pure snow.

"And who will also save your daughter," finished the third, her hair the color and consistency of dry straw.

And then... darkness.


She awoke slowly, still feeling quite weak but also somewhat numb, a welcome change from the agony she had been in before. Her first realization was that she was laying on something unexpectedly soft. As she forced her eyes to open, she saw not the stars twinkling high above her, but the warm glow of several candles dancing across the beamed ceiling of a small room.

"Ah, petite, finally you awaken," said a soft voice. Demona's eyes instantly turned to take in the young man sitting on the stool beside her bed, a human, clad in simple gray robes, with piercing dark eyes and an uncombed head of dark brown hair. Instinctively, she would have jumped back, but she was too weak to do more than move her head slightly, her arms, legs, and wings like lead weights. Her mind went into a whirl; she was at the mercy of this human. The alarm showed clearly in her eyes, and for just the briefest moment they glowed red.

"Do not be afraid, petite," the young man said soothingly. He leaned over and reached toward her, but she hadn't even the strength to cry out let alone defend herself from whatever he was about to do. She closed her eyes and braced herself for the worst, plans for later revenge already forming, when she felt something damp and cool gently touch her face.

She opened her eyes again to see the man backing away, and watched as he turned and wrung out the white piece of cloth in one of two buckets sitting on the floor beside the bed. Then he dipped it into the other one, drawing up fresh water, before turning again toward her.

"The worst is past now that your fever has broken," he said as he carefully folded the cloth upon itself several times, "but le charbon has stolen much of your strength." She followed his hands with her eyes as he lay the cool wet cloth on her forehead, then looked at his face, confusion replacing the shock and anger in her gaze. He was smiling at her, and talking to her as if she were a human. "You must rest now, petite," he said, as if in answer to the hundreds of unspoken questions visible in her eyes. She didn't even try to resist as the man gently lifted her head and placed a second pillow under her. It was all too much for her. She closed her eyes and sleep came within seconds.


When she awoke again, it was with a roar, eyes glowing and fragments of stone skin flying. She was still in the bed, and she sat up as she awoke, the blanket gathered around her, stretching her arms and wings and craning her neck back, enjoying the sensation of simply being able to move again, though she still felt much weaker than normal. She reclined warily back against the pillows as she noticed the strange human watching her in rapt fascination from his stool near the table at the other side of the room.

"You're feeling better tonight, I see," he said after a brief pause.

Demona flexed her wings experimentally. "Yes," she answered suspiciously, waiting for the man's expression to turn to shock at discovering she could speak.

Instead, it was she who was surprised when the young man merely smiled and said, "I'm glad to hear it. For a while, you had me quite worried." Demona recovered from her momentary shock and regarded him levelly as he picked a small bundle up from the table and rose from his stool. "I knew that your kind is very resilient," he stated as he approached her bedside, "but never before have I seen any creature in my care make a recovery from such an advanced stage of the disease."

Demona simply stared at him as he crouched down beside her. "You know of my kind?" she asked, confused.

"You are a gargoyle, are you not?" he asked.

Demona nodded.

"Yes. I have... read accounts of gargoyles." He paused, noting the disbelieving look on Demona's face. "Though I never had seen one until I found you a fortnight ago."

Shock returned to Demona's face again. Two weeks? Has it been that long? she thought to herself.

The man's dark eyes twinkled, and he continued as if she had spoken aloud. "You don't remember, do you, petite?" he asked. Demona shook her head. "Don't worry," he said reassuringly. "You were so delirious by the time I brought you back here, it's no surprise that you can not remember." He looked at her a moment longer and added, "You are lucky to be alive. It was only by chance that I found you before someone else did."

Demona gulped. This strange man was more correct than he knew. She dreaded to think what might have happened had the Hunter found her first.

"Here," said the man, holding the small bundle out to her. She looked at it and then at him for a moment before hesitantly taking it. "I'll fetch something for you to eat while you dress," he said as he stood back up. Then he turned and left the small room, closing the door carefully behind him.


A few moments later, Demona stood before a small, hazy mirror hanging on the wall near the door, checking her reflection critically as she repositioned the gold crownlet on her head. Her initial fury at discovering that the human had obviously undressed her had subsided somewhat when she realized that her clothing had been thoroughly cleaned and the rips and tears suffered during her last encounter with the Hunter had even been mended. She supposed it had been necessary, too, for him to remove her clothes in order to treat the painful dark sores that had covered her skin. She checked herself from several more angles in the mirror again, pleased to note that not even the smallest scar was left as a reminder of their passing.

The first thing Demona did after she finished preening was to test the latch on the door. To her mild surprise, she found it unlocked. She opened it a few inches and peered out into the dim hallway for a moment before carefully closing it again. She turned her attention instead to table the man had been sitting at. The many bottles and jars of powders, crushed leaves, and colored liquids reminded her uncomfortably of the Archmage's lair. Could this man be a sorcerer, too? She picked a jar up and examined its contents carefully: a dozen or so handmade pills, each about the size of a coin. Curious, she unstopped the jar and sniffed. The pungent aroma hit her in the face. It smelled like... sawdust... and cloves... and roses? She wrinkled her nose, frowned, and jammed the cork back in. Nothing the Archmage had ever concocted smelled like flowers. She set the jar back in its place and crossed to the far end of the room. Like the door, the window was not locked, either. As she opened the shutters, the cool night air fell over her and into the room. She took a deep breath into her lungs and gazed out the rear of the small house over the quiet city, lit only by the lamplight from the windows of the many similar small houses. In the distance, the moon was rising, though it had waned to a crescent since she had last seen it.

"So he spoke the truth," she said to herself, settling her wings comfortably around her shoulders.

"I have no reason to lie to you, petite."

Demona turned, startled. She hadn't heard the door open, but now the young man stood there, just inside the room, holding a wooden tray bearing bread, cheese, some fruit, and a pitcher of water.

"You aren't thinking of leaving already?" he asked, looking at her and the open window, "Before you've had something to eat?"

Demona looked back at the open window, too, and for a moment, she almost felt embarrassed. She knew her wings were still too weak to glide on, but she'd been thinking of trying just the same. Then she felt her stomach rumble. "I was just... getting some fresh air," she said timidly. She moved to close the shutters again, but the man stopped her.

"No, petite. That is a good idea. Leave them open." He set the tray down on the edge of the table and quickly cleared a spot for her, beckoning to her as he pulled the stool he had been sitting on earlier over in front of the food.

She approached hesitantly, but before she knew it, she had sat down and begun eating, digging in hungrily to the bread and cheese. When that was gone, she moved on to the fruit, and finished everything off with a long, refreshing drink of water. Throughout it all, the man simply watched her, the same look of rapt fascination on his face as he had worn before.

Demona set the last half-eaten apple back on the tray as she noticed the young man watching her again and turned and looked at him, equally as fascinated. "You are a... curious human," she said at last.

"I have never had a patient regain her appetite as fast as that," he commented, "but then again, I've never treated a gargoyle before."

"Yes," she muttered, glancing at the now nearly barren tray he had brought her. "Though I suppose most of your patients take their meals from a trough."

"Actually, most of my patients are human," he replied simply, ignoring her attempt at sarcasm.

Demona looked down, that feeling of embarrassment rushing over her again. This time, she felt her face glowing warm.

"And generally," he added, "They seek me out or are brought to me." She looked back up at him, and saw his eyes were distant. "I don't normally go out walking late at night," he said, almost talking to himself. "It must have been Fate that placed you in my hands."

"If so, that would be a first," Demona said cynically. The man's eyes refocused and he looked at her, confused. "Fate has visited me many times," she explained, sadness creeping into her voice, "but never have I known it to be kind."

The man ran his hand through his unruly hair and considered her words for a moment. "Perhaps, cherie," he said, smiling slightly, "things are about to change."

Demona picked the last apple back up off the tray and looked at him. "Perhaps," she said.


They talked the whole night. It was the first time in ages that Demona had spent an entire night in conversation with anyone, let alone a human. Beyond the open window, the moon traveled a low arc through the star-spangled sky as the hours passed by unnoticed. The silvery crescent had long since disappeared below the curve of the horizon and the eastern sky had begun to glow orange with the approaching dawn before it even occurred to Demona that she did not know the man's name.

"Michel," he answered. "And what may I call you, petite?"

"Demona," she said simply. She looked at Michel, puzzled, as sadness flickered across his eyes.

"The name does not suit you," he stated. "You are more like an angel... an angel of the night."

Sunrise came a moment later and found Demona with a look of startled shock upon her face, a look which she wore for the rest of the day.


She awoke at dusk with a fierce scream, sending the stool she had been sitting on when she turned to stone flying against the wall and shattering to pieces as she unfurled her wings and whipped her tail. She had never felt more refreshed; her strength had returned in full and the feeling was exhilarating.

"Demona!" She turned in the direction of the now familiar voice, dozens of questions on her mind, and saw Michel running up to her. "You must leave. Quickly!" he said, taking her by the shoulders and starting her towards the window.

"What? Why? I don't under..."

"A man arrived in town earlier today, a foreigner in a dark mask marked by three red slashes," Michel explained quickly. "He is searching for a 'demon.' He spoke to the local clergy and several members of the town militia have already joined him. They will be here any minute. I am sorry... for your own safety, you must go now!"

Demona listened to him in shock as she realized what he was talking about. "The Hunter!" she growled under her breath as Michel flung the shutters open. He helped her up onto the narrow sill just as pounding and muffled shouting rose from somewhere below. Michel shot a glance over his shoulder toward the noise at his front door, but turned back to Demona when he felt her hand fall upon his shoulder.

She waited until his eyes met hers before speaking. "You have saved my life twice, human. I will not forget it."

Michel smiled and patted her hand with his own. "You're welcome. Now go!"

Demona wasted no more time. She launched herself from the window and caught the wind in her wings.


She should've kept gliding, riding the warm currents until the town, the plague, and the Hunter were all far, far behind her. At least, that's what her brain kept telling her as she hid in the shadows behind the tall chimney of the rooming house across the block, watching nervously through the candlelit windows as the shadowy figures moved systematically through the young physician's house. Several times, in fact, she moved to leave, but a muffled shout or the sound of breaking glass would press her back into the shadows and send her sharp eyes peering anxiously across the street again.

Cursed Hunter! What's taking so long? The stupid fool. If he had half a brain, he wouldn't have waited till sunset...

Demona stopped herself in mid-thought as she remembered her last encounter with this Hunter, and then Michel's words to her just before she left: "...a man in a dark mask marked by three red slashes."

But how could he have known... the Hunter only wears the mask when...

"It does not suit you." Michel's voice echoed in her head again. "You are more like an angel... an angel of the night."

Demona's stomach suddenly tightened. The next few minutes seemed like hours as she pressed herself silently against the chimney's rough brick and waited.


She watched breathlessly as the Hunter and his men exited the house and moved down the street to the next, then she dove from the rooftop and circled around, heading back to the window she had left through. She found it still open, so she simply drew her wings about her as she neared it and sailed through, opening them again quickly to slow herself as her taloned feet hit the floor. Her eyes flicked about the room rapidly. The wooden stool still lay crumpled against the wall, but now the straw-padded bed had been overturned and torn apart, and several glass jars lay shattered on the floor. The door was ajar, and Demona heard footsteps in the hall. She yanked the door open just as Michel reached it, and the man jumped back a foot in shock.

"Demona!" he gasped. Before he could recover, he suddenly found his feet no longer touching the floor. The blue skinned, red-haired gargoyle grabbed him by the forearms and lifted him effortlessly about two feet off the ground.

"Michel! You must tell me the truth!" she said excitedly, spinning around with him still in her grasp and pushing the door closed again with a flip of her tail. "All of it. How you knew about the Hunter. How you know about my kind. How you know that..."

He stared at her, unafraid, and watched as the excited gleam in her eye suddenly became one of both hope and terrible sadness.

"Have you seen Goliath?!" she asked, "Is he here, alive?!"

He looked at her oddly, a glimmer of recognition passing through his eyes for a brief moment, and then he sadly shook his head. "No, Demona... I have not seen him." He saw her features change, the hope in her eyes disappear, and felt the solid floor once again beneath his feet. He shrugged helplessly. "I just see... things."

Demona's arms dropped weakly back to her sides, and she turned away and hung her head. She looked back up at feeling Michel's hand gently touch her shoulder and saw only compassion and understanding in his dark eyes.

"I am sorry," he said.

A single tear swelled in her eye as she took an offered hand in her own and followed Michel downstairs.


A single tear swelled in Dominique's eye as she rested her hand on the old journal. The memories returned one after another, moments both happy and sad replaying in her mind.


"You want me to trust my clan to a human? Impossible!" Demona vaulted from her chair and clenched her hands into fists, her wings rising back off her shoulders. "Humans are always betrayers. They have betrayed my clan. They have betrayed me! Every time I place my trust in a human I am undone!" She whirled and faced Michel. "I cannot... I will not ever ask a human for help again! How could you even suggest such a thing?"

Michel gave Demona a bemused look. He met the rage of her glowing red eyes with a gaze of calm irony. He then held up his hands and turned them over as he examined them thoughtfully.

"No, I don't seem to have transmogrified into a gargoyle. I am still a man. Demona, ma cherie, I am a human, and you trust me. I have protected you, nursed you, and kept you safe. I would never tell you anything that I believed would cause you harm. I know that someday you will find happiness. I believe that this man, this David Xanatos, is a key. Through him, you shall re-acquire the Grimorum Arcanorum and you shall awaken the sleeping clan; you shall be reunited with your lost love. I must council you to be patient, to bide your time, and learn what you can during the time you must wait. Can you do that?"

The glow in her eyes faded and her wings drooped wearily. "Michel," she said, giving him a look of infinite sadness. "I've had a very long time to learn the art of patience."


"Demona, you must be freezing!"

She took Michel's hand, allowing him to help her through the small window. A fire roared in the hearth, the wood popping and crackling merrily, and the bearded man quickly shut the icy pane behind his friend to keep the precious warmth from escaping into the blizzard raging outside.

"Gargoyles don't feel the cold," she said dismissively, shaking a small flurry of white snowflakes from her flame red hair.

"Just seeing anyone out in weather like this makes me shiver," he stated. "What brings you here on such an unpleasant midwinter's night?"

Demona gave a mischievous smile. "I have the book, Michel," she said excitedly, withdrawing an ancient volume from underneath the protective embrace of her caped wings. "I had to travel all the way to London, but I found it." She grinned sheepishly as she added, "Just like you said."

"May I see it?" Michel asked. Demona held it out to him and he took it in both hands and carried it a short distance to a long table strewn with scrolls and similar books. "Magnificent," he said as he set it down and ran his hand over the scrollwork on the cover. "Simply magnificent."

Demona came next to him, and together they opened the book.


"You're just in time, ma cherie. Please, come sit with me."

She followed him eagerly to an adjoining room, a study, lit only by a few small candles, and helped him put on a long, dark robe. A book lay open on one of the tables. Carefully, he closed it and then handed it to her, silencing her questions with a reassuring glance. She accepted it, resting it in her lap as she took a place on the floor beside him in front of a low brass tripod upon which rested a bowl of water. She gazed curiously at the apparatus as he sat down, cross-legged, on a small pillow, and watched in rapt attention as he picked up a slender brass rod that lay next to the tripod. She watched as he touched the rod to the water, fascination sparkling in her eyes as he sprinkled the drops which clung to it onto the edge of his robe and his bare feet. Then he lay the rod back down and gestured Demona's attention back to the bowl of water.

She stared at the water, watching the ripples fade until it was again still, then turned back to Michel and opened her mouth to question him, but stopped at seeing the intense look of concentration on his face as he gazed at the bowl. She turned back to the water, unsure of what she was supposed to be looking for. Then she saw it. A spot of light - the reflection of one of the candles? No, it couldn't be... it was steady... and growing brighter. A moment later, Demona's eyes went wide as a light brighter than she had ever seen before burst forth from that small bowl of water.


Demona took the book from him gingerly, afraid she might inadvertently scratch the gold inlay on the brand new leather cover with her sharp claws. She could still smell the ink; the pages within could not be more than a week off the printing press. She smiled broadly as she read the title: Prophesies.

"That is the first copy, cherie. I want you to have it."

Demona lowered the book at stared at the man, more gray in his long beard than not, her eyes wide with shock. "Michel, I couldn't possibly... it's your first publication!"

She grew even more startled when he simply laughed. "Demona, mon amie, everything that is in there is already in here," he exclaimed, tapping the top of his own head. "I certainly don't need a printed version." His voice lowered and softened as he saw the confusion still in her eyes, and he took a step closer and took her by the arm. "This is your achievement too, cherie. Without your aid and encouragement, all those thoughts would still be locked up inside my head. Giving you this one gift is the least I can do. S'il vous plait, say that you'll accept it?"

Demona looked at Michel, then back at the book again, and a smile slowly grew on her face. "I will," she said finally. "Thank you." Michel smiled again, and patted her on the arm. "I just have one question," she said, grinning, turning the book so that he could see the cover, too. "Does this mean I have to call you 'Nostradamus' from now on?"

The man chuckled. "Ma cherie, you may always call me Michel."


She glided as fast as the wind under her wings would carry her, worry and fear covering her face. Already she could see the sky beginning to brighten in the east. She alighted on the balcony, and two quick steps brought her to the glassed doors. She flung them open and stepped into the darkened room, praying she wasn't too late.

"Michel?" she called nervously, fighting the urge to yell louder for fear of waking the others in the house.

"I'm right here, Demona." Even with her sharp ears, she barely heard the raspy voice coming from the darkness at the far end of the room. Still, she recognized it instantly.

"Michel!" she called again as she hurried to him, caping her wings as she crossed the room and came to kneel at his bedside. The old man with the long, silver-gray beard and hair lifted his head from the pillows slightly to look at her and tried to raise a shaky hand.

"I came as quickly as I could," she stammered, taking his hand in her own. "I didn't know..."

"It's all right, cherie," Michel whispered. Tears threatened to spill from Demona's eyes, and she fought desperately to maintain her composure.

"My books," he said, sitting up shakily, "you have done as I asked?"

Demona nodded. "Only I know where they are hidden now," she assured him. He managed a small, relieved smile at that, as though some great burden had just been lifted from his shoulders. Then a short fit of coughing overtook him, and Demona helped him lie back down on the bed. She was still trying to hold back the tears in her eyes as she moved the pillows to make him a bit more comfortable. Then she took his hand again and held it tightly.

"There is… one more thing… something I must tell you," the old man began, laboring for the breath to speak.

Demona could barely hear him. She leaned closer and stared into his dark eyes, her hands still clasped around his. "What is it, Michel? I'm listening," she said softly.

"When your child assumes two forms, a great evil draws near..."

"Child?" Demona whispered, "I have no child..."


* * * * *

"Mother? Are you all right?"

For a moment, Dominique couldn't place the gentle voice. Then she felt the hand touch her shoulder.


Dominique blinked and her hand fell away from the journal as she turned and saw the young sable-haired human woman staring at her, concern flashing in her eyes.

"When your child assumes two forms..."

Dominique spun back around and grabbed the journal, her face tightening as she pulled it off the shelf and flipped it open in one quick motion. She paged through it hurriedly until her sharp eyes spotted the correct page, and she scanned the old handwriting anxiously, muttering the words, a strange, chaotic mixture of Latin, Greek, and French, to herself as she read.

"Mother, what's wrong?" cried Angela, stepping up next to her mother, fear beginning to tinge her voice.

Another awkward, tense second ticked by before Dominique finally turned to Angela, closing the old book as she tried to hide the look of worry on her features. "Daughter, I'm sorry..." she stammered as she lay the journal back on the shelf. "I didn't mean to frighten you... it's... it's nothing," she said, and managed a small smile.

"Are you sure, mother?" asked Angela, hesitantly. "You're okay?"

Dominique took Angela's hand reassuringly. "I'm fine. Really." She smiled again, a little broader this time, and at last Angela smiled, too.

"Come," she said. She led Angela by the hand to the other side of the small secret room, then turned and picked up a small silver jewelry box off a waist-high marble pedestal. "I have something I wish to give to you, my daughter."

Angela's eyes lit up. "What is it?"

"It's a little something to remember this day by," Dominique replied as she opened the mirrored lid of the jewelry box and withdrew a smaller box from within. She turned back and handed the small, velvet-covered case to her daughter.

Angela accepted it, her eyes sparkling with curiosity, and looked to her mother again questioningly.

"Open it," Dominique urged, nodding.

Angela turned the small box around in her hands and then carefully folded it open. Her eyes went wide and she gave a small gasp of surprise as she caught a glimpse of gold. A delighted smile covered her face as a heart-shaped locket on a matching gold chain stared back at her.

"Oh, mother... you shouldn't have!" she exclaimed happily. She looked back up at Dominique, beaming.

Dominique gave a small smile of her own and gestured toward the locket. "Here, let me help you," she said.

Angela's smile grew even broader as she handed the box back to her mother and turned and lifted her long hair to one side with her hand so that Dominique could fasten the chain around her daughter's neck. She found herself near a long mirror on the wall, and again she was startled for a moment by the attractive young human woman she saw staring back at her. She felt the locket fall against her skin, the metal cold as ice for a split second, and she let her hair fall back into place and moved her hand to the gold heart, holding it up and examining it in the mirror. "It's beautiful," she whispered as her mother moved up beside her and joined her in looking. "Where did you get it?"

"I... made it for you," Dominique said. She hesitated a moment, then added, "A friend gave me the idea a long time ago."

"A human friend?" Angela asked suspiciously, arching her eyebrows.

Dominique turned her eyes to the floor sheepishly. "Well..."

The next thing she knew, Angela had wrapped her arms around her. "Thank you, Mother," she said, smiling. "I really enjoyed being with you today."

Dominique hesitated only a moment, then brought her arms up around her daughter and returned the hug. "I enjoyed being with you, too," she sad, a bit sadly, a tear quickly forming in her eye.

Angela moved her head back a little, and was surprised when Dominique did not let go. "What's wrong, Mother?"

Dominique turned her head away and closed her eyes, but the tear had already run down her cheek. "It's... just that..." She held her daughter tighter as a ghost of what might have been passed before her eyes. "I'm sorry that I wasn't there for you when you were growing up on Avalon... I'm sorry I wasn't there to see you grow to become what you are now."

Angela closed her eyes and tightened her embrace, adding her invisible wings to it, as well. "I'm sorry too," she whispered softly, "but we're together now, and that's what really matters."

Mother and daughter held each other silently for a long moment.

"I love you, Mother."

"I love you too, Angela."


They embraced for a few more seconds before either was ready to let go. Dominique stepped back and quickly wiped a hand across the damp streak on her cheek, then smoothed the front of her red suit jacket and skirt. Angela glanced in the mirror to see her human reflection standing silently even as she twitched the end of her tail and felt her wings settling gently back around her shoulders. She looked back up to see Dominique smiling a real smile for the first time that day - a smile she gladly returned.

Somewhere beyond the doorway, a grandfather clock chimed the hour, a succession of six muffled tones filtering in from Dominique's office. Dominique looked up at the sound, a bit startled, and then checked her watch.

"Mother?" Angela questioned.

Dominique looked back at her. "Oh, Angela... I just didn't realize it had gotten so late. I'm not sure how much longer the spell that cloaks you will last, and you've been wearing the pendant all day... I wanted to get you back to my home before sunset."

Angela's hand reached up and touched the sun amulet. It lay against her chest just above her new locket, but she had forgotten all about it since it, too, was rendered invisible by the same spell that made her appear human.

"I still feel okay," Angela said hesitantly, also recalling her mother's repeated warnings about the talisman's 'side effects,' "but if you think it's best." She took her mother's outstretched hand and followed her back through the hidden door and into the office.

Angela waited near picture window, staring out at the setting sun hanging low over the tops of the buildings, as Dominique went to her desk and pushed the button on the intercom.

A feminine voice responded instantly. "Yes, Ms. Destine?"

"Have my car waiting in front of the building in five minutes. My daughter and I are leaving early today."

"Yes, Ms. Destine."

Dominique took her polished finger off the button and turned back to her daughter. She stood next to her for a moment and looked out over the city, too, then placed a hand on Angela's shoulder. "Why don't you go on downstairs, Angela. I'll be along in a few minutes, as soon as I finish up a few things here."

Angela nodded. She took one last look out the window, then allowed her mother to show her to the door. Dominique watched from the doorway as Angela crossed the outer office and entered the elevator. As the elevator doors hissed shut, Dominique quickly closed her door again and slipped back into the secret room. She returned seconds later and went back to her desk with the old journal in hand, setting it down carefully. She pressed the button hidden under the desk and the wall slid seamlessly back into place as she sat and pulled her slim, stylish briefcase from its place on the floor, laying it on the desk. She opened it, pushed a few papers and notebooks to one side, and then carefully lay the journal in the middle before closing it again, the delicate 'clicks' as the small brass latches engaged signifying that all was secure.

A few moments later, briefcase in hand, Dominique Destine marched past her secretary and into the elevator to join her daughter for the short car trip home.


* * * * *

Angela looked down at her hands and wriggled her fingers, smiling at seeing eight lavender-skinned talons again. She moved to the mirror she had first examined her human self in that morning and gave a small sigh at seeing her true reflection staring back at her, tail, wings, and all. Her gaze fell at last on the sun-shaped pendant that still hung about her neck, and the smaller gold locket hanging on a slender chain just below it.

An anguished scream from upstairs startled her, and she spun on her heel in the direction of the sound as it changed from a human cry of agony to the fearsome battle-scream of a gargoyle. Angela glanced to the window. It had still been light out when they returned, but now the sky was dark and the street lamps were flickering on.

Demona came down the stairs a moment later, dressed again in her normal attire and jewelry, looking perfectly composed despite the ordeal she had just been through. Still, Angela could not help betraying her concern in her expression as she hurried to meet her mother at the bottom of the steps.

Demona took her daughter's hand as she descended the last few steps and led her back into the library, where the spellbook she had used that morning still lay open on the podium next to the long-extinguished candles. "One thing to always remember, my daughter," she said as she turned Angela to face her, a deadly serious expression on her face, "all things in this world have a price - especially those things done using magic. I have learned to deal with the price I must pay for my ability to remain awake by day. Now you must prepare yourself to do the same."

Angela touched the sun amulet one last time, took a deep breath, and looked her mother straight in the eye. "I'm ready, Mother."

Slowly, Demona reached up, unfastened the clasp on the chain, and removed the talisman from around her daughter's neck.

Angela steadied herself and closed her eyes, waiting for the magical backlash and ready for whatever was going to happen, as Demona carefully returned the pendant to its place, closing and locking the plain wooden box before taking Angela's hand again. Angela opened her eyes cautiously and looked at Demona curiously.

"Mother, nothing's happened," she said, confused.

Demona frowned. "Trust me, daughter," she said, glancing towards the mirror on the wall, "it will soon enough. Let's just see if we can't get you safely home first."


Demona and Angela glided over the city side by side, Demona holding Angela's hand firmly in her own. Demona barely spoke, but Angela began talking up a storm within just a few minutes after they had departed the rooftop of Demona's home. In the fifteen minutes it took to reach the Eyrie building, Angela had reviewed their entire day together out loud, her thoughts seeming to flow so fast that her words could barely keep up. She didn't even notice the concerned glances Demona kept throwing her way or how far they had traveled until the two of them touched down on the helipad halfway up the back of the Eyrie Building.

"Are we here already? It seems like we only left your place a few minutes ago. I guess time sure flies when you're flying... though we're actually gliding, not flying... any gargoyle knows that... but it sounds neater to say it the other way."

"Angela," Demona said gently, taking her by the shoulders to get her attention. Angela stopped in mid monologue and looked at her, cocking her head to one side.

"Yes, Mother?"

"Go up to the castle and get some rest," Demona said, turning Angela toward the open elevator doors, which she hadn't even noticed yet. Gently, she moved her daughter into the elevator and tapped a code into the keypad before moving clear of the doors. "I'll see you next week when you visit again," she said as Angela just looked at her, seeming a bit confused. "Until then, my daughter."

"Goodbye!" was all Angela managed to get out once she realized the elevator doors were closing. She felt the floor move and a short burst of vertical acceleration, and she started humming a tune about an elevator that she had once heard on the radio to herself as she watched the red digital numbers climb on the display panel above the keypad.

65, 66, 67...

Angela stopped humming in mid-chorus and blinked her eyes, seeing spots for a moment.

77, 78, 79...

She rubbed her forehead. A dull ache had begun in her temples, and the elevator's quiet hum seemed to be growing louder.

89, 90, 91...

The elevator decelerated suddenly and a small chime went off as it stopped, but Angela's head was already ringing. Her stomach heaved and she clenched the chromed handrail in a death grip as she fought to keep the inertia of its contents from overcoming gravity.


* * * * *

Mavis O'Connor strode purposefully into her office, closed the door behind her, and set her briefcase neatly on the edge of the desk. She slid lithely into her plush chair, ignoring the majestic view of the Manhattan skyline and glowing stars in the window behind her in favor of the animated ones zooming past on the screen of her computer. She placed a manicured hand on the mouse and the computer screen came to life instantly. Mavis quickly found the icon she wanted amidst the two dozen or so lined up in neat rows along the left-hand side of the screen, slid the cursor over it, and double-clicked. As the program loaded, she removed the gold pendant from around her neck and placed it on the desk next to the keyboard. Then she retrieved a short wire from a drawer, plugging one end into a jack on the front of the CPU and the other into a similar jack concealed on the underside of the pendant. Polished fingernails flew across the keyboard, the CPU hummed, and a moment later, an image began form, line by line, upon the screen. As the digitized picture came into focus, a mysterious smile slowly crept onto Mavis' face.


* * * * *

Angela stood in the back of the elevator for several seconds after the doors had opened, a sour expression on her face as she tried to force her stomach back down out of her throat and ascertain for sure whether the floor had indeed stopped moving. She took her first step tentatively, holding the handrail for support, then another, and another, until finally she had managed to make her way out of the claustrophobic little box into the vast openness of the Great Hall.

Owen Burnett watched from the other side of the Great Hall, one eyebrow slightly raised, as Goliath's daughter made her way slowly out of the private - and supposedly secure - elevator. He made a mental note to have the security system at the helipad entrance upgraded and followed Angela with his eyes as she staggered dizzily towards the corridor leading to the wing of the castle that Xanatos had set aside for the gargoyles. Finally, he moved, trailing her at a discreet distance, eyes trained sharply on her and demeanor as calm and controlled as always despite the fact that he was ready to spring forward at any moment and catch her should she be about to fall. Surprisingly, however, she made it all the way to the entertainment room without losing her feet, and she only had to reach out and grab the wall for support once or twice.

With a small sigh of triumph, Angela slumped down into Hudson's recliner, leaned her head back, and closed her weary eyes.

"Excuse me, Miss Angela."

Owen's calm voice set her head pounding again. She opened her eyes again with a groan to find him standing over her.

"I thought perhaps you might need this," he stated, holding out an icepack.

Angela stared at him, bewildered for a moment by a new noise now audible over the ringing in her head, a rumbling vaguely like thunder.

"It is so!"

"Is not! It's my turn to pick!"

"Not if I get there first."


The twins bounded into the room, Nudnik close on their heels and yipping loudly. Angela groaned and sank deeper into the soft chair, taking the icepack from Owen and placing it to her aching forehead. The two hatchlings charged straight to the video cabinet and tussled with each other for several seconds over the right to open it, Nudnik dancing around them, yipping incessantly all the while, before any of them noticed that anyone else was even in the room.

Nudnik turned around first and looked at Owen appraisingly for a brief moment, but spying the "Don't even think about it" look on the stone-fisted human's face, he leapt instead into Angela's lap.

The force of the happy, drooling gargoyle beast's landing was too much for the mechanism of the chair. Angela's head bounced against the headrest as the chair reclined the rest of the way, the icepack slipping away to the floor. Dizzily, she tried to right herself, but something was weighing her down. She opened her eyes to find Nudnik staring back at her, stub tail wagging and tongue lolling. Before she could do anything to stop him, he gave one triumphant yip and licked her face happily.

"Nudnik! Stop that! Graeme, you're supposed to be watching him!" Ariana cried as she dropped the tapes she was holding and plodded over and lifted the pup off of Angela's stomach. She turned back and scowled as her brother finished stuffing a tape into the VCR. As the machine hummed to life, he picked up the remote from the top of the television and turned to his sister, a look of smug triumph on his face.

"Don't look at me, sis. It's your turn to... whoa. Aunt Angela, you don't look so good."

Angela had sat back up and struggled for a moment with the control on the side of the chair before the backrest obligingly popped back into place. For a second time, she took the icepack from Owen - who had recovered it from the floor - and lay back wearily with it against her forehead.

"Eww," commented Ariana as she turned back and finally took a good look at Angela, her skin seeming a shade paler than normal and her face contorted in pain. "Are you sick or something?"

Angela grimaced as Nudnik yipped again. "I'd be fine if... Ow!" She winced as her head throbbed from the effort of speaking. "If you three would just be quiet," she concluded softly.

"Children, what is going on in here?" The two hatchlings looked up at the sound of their mother's voice. Angela winced once again. Even Sata's pleasant but firm tones were too much for her pounding head.

Sata stepped into the room from the kitchen entrance and quickly appraised the open cabinet and the brightly colored plastic video boxes strewn on the floor. "Must you make so much noise and mess selecting a movie?" Brooklyn was a step behind her, holding a huge bowl of popcorn.

"Dad?" Ariana asked curiously. "What's the matter with Auntie Angela?"

Brooklyn set the popcorn down and he and Sata came around to where they could see the figure sitting in Hudson's recliner. Sata's face immediately took on a look of concern.

"Angela-chan, are you all right?" she asked. Angela didn't get a chance to answer.

Graeme eyed the lavender gargoyle slumped in the chair, nudged his sister and made drinking motions in front of his upturned beak, complete with 'glug-glugs' and finishing with a drawn-out burp. Both twins broke into giggles.

Sata exchanged a shocked look with her mate before firmly turning the twins around to leave the room. "We will go find Xanatos," she announced in a no-nonsense tone of voice. "And then I will give the children their bushido lesson."

Brooklyn nodded. "That would be a good idea. Better tell Goliath to come down here, too. And Graeme," he added as his son gave Angela another amused look, "you and I are going to have a little talk about your television viewing later." His tone of voice was casual but his eyes were hard as he held out a four-fingered hand for the remote control.

Graeme winced.

The movie forgotten, Sata herded her children from the room, though Nudnik couldn't resist peering over Ariana's shoulder as they departed and giving one final yip. Angela grimaced again and sank back into the cushions, pressing the icepack to her forehead and trying to ignore the funny glances Brooklyn began giving her as he paced the floor. Owen moved away and silently set about picking up the videos scattered on the rug.

"What?" Angela demanded finally, as Brooklyn gave her the same quirky grin for the third time in as many minutes.

"Just never pictured you as the type, Angie," he replied.

"The type to what?" Goliath rumbled as he entered the room, Sata right behind him. Angela squeezed her eyes shut and groaned again. The sound of more footsteps told her that Xanatos and Fox had entered the room as well. She opened her eyes timidly to find the two humans as well as Brooklyn, Sata, and her father standing around the chair staring down at her.

"Angela, are you ill?" Goliath questioned concernedly. "Why did you not even let me know that you had returned home?"

"Where were you today, anyway?" asked Fox. "I didn't see you on the battlements this morning when I was out jogging around the castle."

Goliath growled a small sigh. "She spent the day roosting at Demona's home," he said, answering for her.

Angela caught the slight raise of Xanatos' eyebrows and spoke up before he could. "Actually, Father... Mother took me to work with her today."

Brooklyn, Sata, and Goliath all did a double take.

"She what?" asked Goliath.

"What'd Demona do?" Brooklyn asked, "Roll you in on a handcart and stand you in the middle of the fountain in the lobby?"

"No, we used a spell..." Angela blurted without thinking.

"A spell?!" Goliath growled, wings flaring back and eyes starting to glow. Angela winced again. Her father's short but loud interrogatives were not helping her pounding head any.

"So I could stay awake and appear human," Angela explained weakly, "so Mother and I could spend the day together..."

Sata frowned. "That still does not explain your present condition, Angela-chan, or excuse the bad example you are setting for my children."

Angela shook her head and groaned again when the slight motion only made her feel queasy. "You don't understand..."

"You and your mother didn't do any baking today, by any chance," Xanatos commented slyly. "Brownies, perhaps?"

"David!" Fox elbowed him in the side.

"Hmm... so now it's stoned by day rather than stone by day," Brooklyn quipped.

Sata frowned again and elbowed him, as well, the spiky protrusion of her gargoyle elbow adding a bit more force to her expression of disapproval. He looked to Xanatos for sympathy but found none as the billionaire rubbed his own aching side.

Goliath looked about ready to explode as he turned back to his daughter, his voice rumbling on the low side of a roar. "So this is what happens when I allow you to spend time with Demona? You dabble in sorcery and come home like this?"

"No... that's not it at all," Angela said, her voice beginning to quiver.

"If I may interject," Owen said calmly as he moved back into the place he had occupied earlier behind the chair, "perhaps it would be better for everyone involved to wait until Miss Angela is better able to respond to your questions before continuing with her... interrogation." Everyone was silent for a moment, much to Angela's relief.

"That sounds like a good idea," said Fox, a slight edge to her voice as she took her husband by the arm.

"We should check on Alex, anyway," Xanatos added, taking the hint. "If you'll excuse us."

The cluster of gargoyles parted as the couple exited, but turned back to see Owen behind them, carefully but successfully moving them towards the door, as well. Goliath opened his mouth to speak but Owen cut him off. "Miss Angela requires some rest and some quiet in order to recuperate. I am quite sure she will be more than willing to explain everything in detail tomorrow night. Until then, you may all rest assured that I will attend to her needs and assure that she recovers promptly."

Owen shut the door as he finished the last sentence, leaving three baffled gargoyles standing in the hallway.


* * * * *

Nicholas Maddox looked up from the expense reports as his business partner entered the room, carrying a manila envelope in her hand and smiling eagerly.

"We've a rather interesting new development," she said, coming around to the back side of the desk and placing the envelope in front of him. She stood silently at his side as he opened the envelope and withdrew the contents, a single glossy color photograph. She waited patiently, the mysterious smile still on her face, as he slowly looked it over. The conference room at Nightstone Unlimited. Dominique Destine, hair the color of fire, sitting at the head of the long polished table. And beside her, a young female gargoyle with lavender skin, clad in a pale tunic, her long dark brown hair drawn back in a ponytail, and her dark purple wings caped around her shoulders.

Maddox frowned and ran a hand thoughtfully over his dark moustache and down his clean-shaven chin. His gray, hawk-like eyes never left the photograph as he said simply, "It seems that finding her will be much easier now after all."




The author wishes to extend special thanks to Christi Smith Hayden, Kathy Pogge, Batya Levin, Nicodemus, and Siryn for their contributions to this story.