Written by: Kathy Pogge
With additional material by Todd Jensen
Story concept by: Greg "Xanatos" Bishansky and Todd Jensen
Illustrations by: Damocles
Previously on Gargoyles...
Macbeth: "Canmore, I will spare your life, but you are henceforth banished to England. Perhaps your relatives there will welcome you."
~ City of Stone Part Three ~
* * * * *
They sat side by side in the waiting room. Macbeth turned over several conversations in his mind, before finally saying, "I wish you wouldn't do that play."
"Don't you start talking about the curse." Joanna flipped to the next page in the magazine she was ostensibly reading.
"It's not that. It's ... It's a lousy play for one thing."
She folded the magazine. "It's literature. This is theatre at its finest!"
"But it's wrong!"
~ The Scottish Play ~
* * * * *
Joanna smiled and started to laugh, but her expression turned to concern instead as her companion suddenly paled a shade and fell forward slightly, grabbing the edges of the table to steady himself.
"Len? Are you all right?" she asked quickly.
Macbeth sat back up, the bizarre spasm ending as quickly as it had begun. "Yes," he replied, feeling the familiar twinge fading. "Yes, I'm fine." He picked up his wineglass again. "Another toast," he said heartily. Joanna picked her own glass back up again and regarded him curiously. "To... Dominique Destine," he said at last. Joanna balked, staring at him like he was crazy, but he just gave an odd smile. "May she never come between us again."
Joanna's expression turned to a grin as she clinked her glass against his once again. "I'll drink to that," she chuckled.
~ The Longest Day ~
* * * * *
* * * * *
Lexington squinted at the newest set of schematics for the Eyrie Building's defenses and frowned. "This is better," he said as he studied the print, "but something's still missing..."
He barely paid attention as Broadway entered the room ...singing. "If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake-"
"Broadway!" Lex called, making a shushing motion at his rookery brother.
"Baked a cake/ baked a cake."
"Keep it down!" Lexington's voice rose in irritation.
"If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a -"
"Broadway!" Lex cried out over the din. "Do you mind? Some of us are working here!"
"Sor - ry, Lex," he apologized insincerely. "Hey, does cake suddenly sound good or what?"
Lexington groaned at his rookery brother and lobbed a pencil at him. Broadway growled as it struck him in the back of the head. "Hey! What was that for?"
Lexington's temper, frayed by his frustration over the blueprints, snapped at last. "I asked you three times to pipe down. I'm trying to work on these defense plans and your bellowing is giving me a headache!"
"I wasn't bellowing, I was singing," Broadway replied indignantly. "And if you spent less time in front of your computer and got out for some real entertainment occasionally, you'd know that!"
"I do stuff," Lexington replied, a defensive tone creeping into his voice. "Just last week Liz and I went to an animé film festival."
Broadway eyed his rookery brother suspiciously. "Does Goliath know you're dating a human, Lex?"
Lexington looked up at the big, turquoise gargoyle sharply. "Liz and I are not dating. We're friends. And so what if we were?" he asked, his voice angry. "A human is good enough for Goliath!"
"And what exactly did you mean by that, Lexington?" Goliath stood in the entryway, his arms crossed over his chest. At his side stood Elisa.
Lexington stared grimly at Broadway, his eyes flaring angrily, before he turned his gaze onto his clanleader. "No offense, Goliath. You either, Elisa," he apologized to the couple. "It's just that someday, I'd like to have a mate of my own. A real mate."
Goliath and Elisa shared a troubled glance and Goliath put his arm around his beloved, instinctively protecting her from the implied slight. Elisa shook her head to let him know she wasn't offended.
The little olive-green gargoyle looked down at himself and unconsciously touched the spot behind his ear where his data link was implanted. "Oh, who am I kidding? There'll never be anybody for me!" In a flurry of blueprints and data disks, Lexington darted out of the common room and fled into the castle proper.
Broadway looked on numbly as Angela, attracted by the commotion, entered from the rec. room. "What did I say?"
The slim, lavender female put her arm around her intended's shoulder in response to his distress.
"Maybe it's not what you said," Elisa offered, "but how you said it." She gave Goliath a reassuring pat on the bicep and disentangled herself from his embrace. "Face it, Broadway," she said gently to the burly gargoyle. "You've been pretty pleased with yourself since you and Angela got engaged. That has to be kind of hard on Lex, he's the last unattached male in the castle."
"Yeah, but, there's other gargoyles out there," Broadway protested. "Angela has rookery sisters on Avalon and you said yourself there were single females in Ishimura."
"Neither of those options are very practical right now, are they, Broadway?" Angela chided. "I have rookery brothers as well as sisters," she reminded her intended. "It's true that not all of them may chose to pair with one another, but we don't know that. And the way to Avalon is not an easy one."
"As for Ishimura," Goliath continued, "it would require establishing a formal alliance between their clan and ours. There are ramifications to such alliances that bear careful consideration."
"So you see, Broadway," Elisa concluded gently, "it's not that simple."
Broadway sighed and looked past the others to Lexington's workstation. "No, I guess not," he conceded. "But how am I gonna explain that I understand to Lex?"
* * * * *
The office in the back of the Pachinko parlor was insulated from the merry clatter of bells dinging and balls skittering their way around the garishly colored machines and the shouts of gamers wagering their earnings. An ancient bonsai juniper tree, gnarled with artful purpose, stood on an ornate, black lacquer table, the only ornament in the otherwise stark room. Behind a matching desk, Hikuru Inoue sat conversing on the telephone.
"I apologize again, most humbly, for not bringing you my request in person, Inoue-sama," his caller said. "However, my physical infirmities prevent me from travel and I did not wish to dishonor your presence with a mere intermediary."
Inoue nodded, though the caller could not see him. His eyes rested on the bonsai, contemplating the twists and turns of its branches before he responded. "Hai, your efforts shall not go unrewarded, Kagemusha-san," the elderly man replied. "How may I assist you?"
"There is a certain business, Inoue-sama. If we could gain access to the contents of its files I believe we would both find them of great interest." The caller paused, weighing his words carefully as if he sensed the other man's natural hesitation at the odd request. "I would, of course, compensate you, most adequately, Inoue-sama for your assistance in liberating these files."
Inoue frowned. "Perhaps you have made a small mistake, Kagemusha-san. I am a humble provider of entertainment, not a burglar."
The caller laughed. "Oh, I think you'll find the contents of these files very entertaining, Inoue-sama. Let me tell you about them."
* * * * *
Lennox Macduff studied the address written on the piece of memo paper carefully, and decided that he'd arrived at his destination. He straightened his topcoat while contemplating the building's façade. It didn't look promising. The motif was "Irish Pub", but it looked like it had been designed for a movie set. A faux window beckoned shoppers to inspect its selection of woolens and china. A second was filled chock full of books: titles imported straight from the Emerald Isle. He sighed and entered. Inside, the décor was equally as contrived. The room, he noted, was divided into sections, each with a separate theme. Under his feet, cobblestones gave way to a dark wood floor, interspersed at random intervals with tile. But the crowd seemed convivial, and in one corner, near the back, a quartet of musicians was engaged in a lively session of traditional music. He spotted Joanna waving from a table near the session-players.
"Len, over here!"
He put on his best "isn't this jolly" smile and waved back.
"I hope you don't mind. I ordered for you," Joanna said as she kissed him on the cheek in greeting. A perfectly poured pint of stout stood waiting his inspection.
Macduff looked at the glass and his evaluation of the establishment went up a notch. He took a sip, and it climbed two more. The beer was perfect, he noted; not too warm, and blessed be, not too chill. He sighed contentedly "This is different," he remarked. "Quite a change from our usual haunts," he added after another sip.
"This section is rather cozy, don't you think?"
He slid out of his topcoat and hung it on a brass hook behind the table. "Rather like an old fashioned parlor, isn't it?" Macduff grudgingly admitted as he eyed the china cabinet stuffed with knickknacks and the fire blazing in the hearth. "Is that peat they're burning?" he asked surprised as he bent forward to take a closer look.
"I'm glad you approve," Joanna said warmly, her brown eyes twinkling merrily. "I'll admit I had my doubts about inviting you here, but Scottish pubs haven't caught on quite the way the Irish ones have, and it's as close as I could come for setting the stage for my surprise. Although, I suppose I could have tried to make you a haggis dinner," she added thoughtfully.
"Surprise?" Macduff said carefully, reaching for his glass again.
"I know this is sudden," Joanna replied, toying nervously with the ends of her pale strawberry blonde hair, "but I saw the ad and jumped on it."
"Jumped on what?" There was genuine concern in Macduff's voice.
"This." Joanna pulled an airline travel folder out of her handbag and handed it to her companion. He took it gingerly and examined the contents.
"These are plane tickets, for this Friday, to Scotland!" He set the envelope on the table and looked at the woman before him. "Joanna, I don't understand. Are you going away?"
Joanna blushed and took a sip of her own, paler beverage. "Not quite," she began and then stalled. She took another sip and tried again. "Remember when we did Macbeth, and you gave us a hard time because the play was, to paraphrase, 'historically inaccurate'?"
Macduff blushed in the dim light. He had called the play many things, most of them much worse than 'historically inaccurate'. "Yes, I remember. What has that to do with these?" he said, pointing at the tickets.
Joanna plunged gamely onward. "I was doing some 'net surfing the other night in preparation for our next production and I found this site that dealt with the 'historical' Macbeth. It got me to thinking. I'd meant to look more into it last spring after the play wrapped up, but I got sidetracked. Somehow the present seemed much more important than the past." She looked meaningfully into Macduff's eyes and he smiled back.
"There are times when history is best left in the past," he admitted.
Bolstered by Macduff's response, Joanna continued. "True, here is where coincidence comes into play. I finished looking at the website, bookmarked it, because there were some links I wanted to check out later, and logged off. The next morning, as I was reading over the morning paper, I decided to skim the travel section, which is something I almost never do. And there it was. Supersaver airfares to Scotland. But, you had to travel within the next seven days." She shrugged apologetically. "I agree it was completely impulsive, but five minutes later I was on the phone booking the trip." She looked at Lennox over her glass. "I was hoping you'd be my guide."
"Joanna, I'd love to go, but we have classes," Macduff protested.
"No, we don't, that's the beauty of it," she corrected. Then admonished, "You haven't checked your mailbox this week, have you? Half the campus, including the buildings we both teach in, are having the heating units replaced. Classes have been cancelled until next Tuesday."
"It does seem that fate is smiling on this excursion, doesn't it?" Macduff conceded, with gentle gruffness. "Very well, Joanna. I would be pleased to join you in exploring the 'historical Macbeth.'"
"Great!" his companion said, smiling. "Shall we celebrate with the 'Galway Oysters'? I hear they're very good."
"My dear Professor Walker," Lennox Macduff said, his voice warm with amusement at his audacious companion. "I am entirely in your hands. Order away."
* * * * *
Takeo Kimura bowed his head respectfully as he entered the private office of his Yakuza parent. Inoue-sama sat behind his black lacquered desk, his hands steepled, fingertips pressing together. "Come, sit, Takeo-chan, I wish to speak to you."
"Domo arigato, Oyabun." The younger man sat and waited for his elder to reveal his intentions. He had greatly displeased his parent of late. The fiasco with the Pier 24 warehouse had cost him both prestige and the little finger of his right hand. He wasn't sure which annoyed him more, the loss of his pinky or losing his position as daigashi. Still, he had worked hard currying favor and it looked as if his efforts were about to earn him another chance.
"Sakamaki-san says that you have been most diligent in your new role as kaizoe. He believes that you show great promise."
Tommy smiled and tried to look humble. "The Waka-gashira is most generous, Oyabun. I am merely trying to do my duty as well as I may so that I might re-earn your most worthy respect and be a credit to the ikka."
"A most commendable attitude, Takeo-chan. You have learned from your experiences." Tommy tried to look humble before his patron, but he was secretly pleased at the praise. "I have a task that may be of interest to you. Listen closely, while I instruct you in your new duties."
Takeo's eyes widened momentarily, the only expression of his surprise. "Forgive my unworthiness, Oyabun," he said, chafing under the required humility, "but am I the correct person for such an important role?"
Inoue frowned at Takeo's question. "If I say you are, Takeo-chan, then you are the correct person. You would not question my judgement, would you?" he inquired, mildly.
"No, Oyabun," Takeo protested. "I apologize again. I meant no disrespect. I was surprised to learn that you were going to instruct such a lowly person as myself, rather than leave it to the Waka-gashira."
"As well you might be," Inoue conceded. "However this is a most delicate assignment and is not meant for many ears. Sakamaki-san does not know of this endeavor."
Takeo bobbed his head, and listened intently, more confident than ever that his star was in ascendance.
* * * * *
"Are you ready to try again, Angela?" Demona asked quietly, unwilling to break her daughter's concentration.
The younger gargoyle nodded absently, lost deep inside herself. She sat on the floor of Demona's workroom, cross-legged, her arms held loosely at her sides. The only illumination came from sweet smelling beeswax candles burning at the perimeter of the circle that enclosed the pair within.
"Good. Can you feel the energy swirling around you, bathing you in its warmth?" Demona continued in the same quiet monotone.
Another absent nod.
"Gather it to you. Welcome it and it will strengthen you in return."
A subtle change overcame Angela's features, and the energy level in the room leapt dramatically. Demona's skin shivered in response. "Enough!" she cried abruptly, as the gathered magic threatened to erupt from the confines of the protective wards. It was enough to disrupt her daughter's concentration. The energy level dropped and Demona exhaled in relief. "Never call to you more energy than you need, lest it become uncontrollable," the elder gargoyle warned the younger ominously as Angela revived from her trance.
Angela nodded, then she opened her eyes and blinked several times, unsure of her surroundings. She rubbed her hands against her arms and exclaimed, "Such warmth! Such life!"
"It's a heady thing, child," Demona agreed. "To some it can be addictive."
"I can understand why," the girl agreed as she stretched, surprised at the stiffness of her joints. "How long have I been sitting here?"
"Nearly four hours."
Angela looked surprised but Demona nodded, satisfied at her daughter's progress. "Not bad for a first attempt. You won't always have time to prepare, but if the opportunity arises, deep meditation can be very useful in gathering magical energy to you. If you ever find yourself in the position of having to cast a delicate or complicated spell, I'd strongly advise a period of enforced isolation and meditation first."
"A residual effect. Don't worry, by the time we're done with tonight's lesson, you'll be tired enough," Demona said as she rose to her own feet and began to move around the room gathering supplies.
"Why, mother, what are we going to do tonight?"
"Tonight, I'm going to teach you a very useful bit of defensive magic," she said as she moved a small occasional table out of its accustomed location next to a high-backed chair. "You've told me about your encounters with the Unseelie Halflings. And about how some of them are able to cast bolts of energy."
"Are you going to teach me to do that?" Angela said warily.
"As much as I'd like to, no," Demona replied. "For a mortal magic user that is a skill of great difficulty. But I can teach you how to repel magic back at its originator."
"You mean like a force-field?" Angela said as she stretched her arms above her head then reversed the stretch towards her feet.
"Not exactly," Demona replied patiently. "A force field would protect you, true, but it would not harm your attacker. This, on the other hand, could allow you to cause a great deal of damage to one that might harm you."
"I see," Angela replied doubtfully.
"No, you don't," Demona admonished as she extinguished the candles and put them out of harm's way. "But you will. Move the desk and the other furniture up against the walls, we're going to need the room."
The phone rang.
"Drat," Demona growled. "I should let the machine pick it up but I'm expecting an important call. Just a moment."
"Hello?" Demona listened for a moment and her face lightened from a scowl to a smile. "Andrea! This is a surprise. How are you?"
Angela couldn't help herself. She set down the desk and eavesdropped as her mother chatted on the phone.
"This is wonderful news. No, I completely understand why you couldn't wait until breakfast to tell me... Now, Andrea, all I did was tell him who painted my portrait. Your talent did the real work."
Angela smiled, proud at her mother's pride in her human friend. It was a step, she knew, the first of many. But it made her heart swell. She bent forward to listen again.
"The Halloween party? A week from Saturday? Of course I'm going, Andrea, I put all that work into my... costume. I - Oh, wait a minute. No, I just was reviewing my latest schedule revisions... The busy life of an executive. I have to go overseas for a few days. A plant opening... inspection... No I'm leaving Friday... I should be back in plenty of time. Where? Scotland. A ribbon cutting in Edinburgh... Trust me, Andrea, I'd much rather go to the costume party than an endless round of inspection tours and meetings. I'll call you when I get back, all right? Goodbye, Andrea." Demona hung up the telephone and returned her attention to Angela.
"You didn't say anything about going out of town," Angela said, crossing her arms over her chest.
"No, I didn't. Honestly, Angela, it slipped my mind," Demona admitted. "It's hardly a trip I'm looking forward to. If I could send someone else, be assured that I would."
"Why are you going, then?"
"Pure company politics, my dear. Over the last year, Nightstone has acquired several small businesses in the United Kingdom. Some of them we've retained as divisions. Others we've consolidated- stripping their technology or useful employees and closing the individual plants. As a concession for the latter, we've integrated several of these operations into a new facility just outside of Edinburgh. They're having a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate its opening." A look of utter dread filled Demona's features. "I get to cut the ribbon."
"With a giant pair of scissors?" Angela said, giggling.
Demona shuddered. "Regrettably, yes. With a giant pair of scissors." A thoughtful look overtook her features. "You know, there is a way that this trip might become slightly less odious."
"Really?" Angela said carefully, hoping that Demona wasn't considering christening the facility with her laser cannon.
"Really," Demona confirmed. "Why don't you come with me? It will only be for a few days. I could conduct my business during the day while you're asleep and at night I could show you the Scottish countryside. It would be a chance to spend some real time together."
Angela looked up at her mother, excited, a small smile beginning to play at her lips. "What a wonderful idea," she said. "We could..." The smile was quickly replaced by a worried frown. "But what will Goliath say?" the younger gargoyle asked. "He won't like the idea of me traveling away from the clan."
Wrong question. Demona's eyes began to glow hotly. "Are you not my daughter too?"
"It wouldn't hurt to ask," Angela said quickly. "I'll do it, mother. As soon as I get home."
"Good." Demona smiled. "It's all settled then. Return here tomorrow night. I'll make all the appropriate arrangements." She moved a floor lamp against the wall and surveyed the re-arranged furniture. "Now, let's get back to your lesson, shall we?"
Though the matter was far from settled, Angela nodded and tried to concentrate as her mother explained the dynamics of energy manipulation.
* * * * *
Goliath sat perched on the uppermost rungs of the library ladder attempting to lose himself in the biography of one of the more infamous Scottish Queens. He found himself only partially successful. Though the exploits of Mary were fascinating, his attention kept wandering back to the snippet of conversation he'd overheard between Broadway and Lexington. He wasn't sure which had bothered him more, the unconscious bigotry of his own clanmates, or the realization that he should be doing more to find suitable mates for the unattached males of his clan. He growled and returned his attention to the book.
There was a soft knock at the door.
"Yes, what is it?" he said without looking up.
"I can come back," a gentle voice replied.
Goliath looked up, startled. "Elisa! I had not expected to see you again this evening. Please, come in." He leapt lightly down from his perch. "Will you join me before the fire?"
Elisa advanced, shedding her jacket and holster. She hung them on the edge of the couch before stepping forward to meet Goliath. "Matt and I decided to call it a night early. You seemed kind of troubled when I left," she said as she curled before the welcoming flames, "so I decided to swing back by... to see if there were anything I could do to help."
Goliath pulled the dark haired woman into his embrace. "Your presence is always welcome, my Elisa."
"So tell me, big guy," she replied as she touched his face softly. "What's got you down?"
For a long moment, Goliath did not reply. He stared moodily into the flames watching the play of lights and shadow.
Elisa waited patiently, snuggling closer as the minutes ticked by. The mantle clock struck the hour and Goliath stirred.
"There are times, my Elisa, when I feel I have failed my clan."
"Failed! Goliath! How can you say such a thing?" Elisa exclaimed, startled by Goliath's admission.
"If I had led more skillfully, the massacre at Wyvern would have never occurred."
Elisa opened her mouth to protest, but Goliath silenced her.
"If I'd been thinking more clearly in the aftermath, then the Magus would not have cursed the survivors. We would not have come to this time and this place. We would have lived and died in our own time... as we were meant to."
Sparks began to flash in Elisa's eyes. "I can't believe I'm hearing this. You were brought forward in time for a reason, Goliath. With all of this Unseelie nightmare going on, I would have thought you'd figured that out by now. People in this time need you!" She pulled Goliath's face close to hers. "I need you! You changed my life forever the night I fell off this castle!"
"But what of Lexington?" Goliath asked quietly, shifting the conversation away from his own relationship. "He has undergone so many trials since coming to this time."
"And more than a few triumphs," Elisa added. "Tell me, Goliath. What would life have been like for Lex back in the old days? How would one of your clan be treated if they'd shown such an interest in human technology?"
Goliath turned inward. He thought of Asrial and his heart ached anew for his long dead, favorite sibling. "I had a rookery sister who was much like Lexington," he began slowly. "She would have loved this era. Nothing made her happier than being confronted with a new machine, unless it was finding the solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem with a device of her own making."
"Really?" Elisa said, her interest building. It was rare for Goliath to speak of his youth. "Tell me about her. What was she like?"
"She was beautiful, from within and from without. The elders proclaimed her too delicate to be a warrior, yet she passed her Rites with distinction. But despite her efforts, she was tormented for her cleverness. Her inventions made life easier, but they were looked on with suspicion by both members of our clan and the humans that lived among us. I could not protect her from their ridicule even after I became leader."
"You cared for her a great deal," Elisa surmised. She cuddled closer as Goliath's voice dropped to a whisper.
"I loved Demona for her beauty and her strength," he said quietly, the admission difficult for him still. "She was once a worthy mate and Second. But, my clever sister was my dearest and best loved friend. The slights she suffered, she braved them with great dignity, but I could not help but to feel them for her." His head dipped as he remembered Asrial's genuine happiness for him the night of his mating and her own philosophical acceptance that she would likely spend her years alone. Guilt he thought long buried resurfaced and washed over him. "No one ever took her as their mate." He turned to Elisa and sighed. "Perhaps you are right. Lexington may face difficulties in these modern times, but they are no greater than those he would have contended with then."
"Was that all that was bothering you? I was worried that maybe Broadway had-"
"Broadway speaks before he thinks at times, and even now he occasionally lapses into the old mindset. Gargoyle and Human relationships were not tolerated in my time, Elisa. A pairing such as ours would not have been condoned."
"I see," Elisa said flatly.
She nodded her head. "Same song, different verse, Goliath. My parents dealt with the same thing." She looked down at Goliath's discarded book. "It happened there too, only the problem then was religion. People are always trying to put each other into separate boxes. I guess it makes it easier for them to deal with the world. Problem is, they're so busy labeling, they miss out on the relationships they could have been building instead. But, we're learning, slowly."
"Thank you, my love."
Elisa smiled gently. "Anytime, but for what?"
"You've put an old doubt to rest. One I had thought long discarded."
"Goliath! You don't mean-"
There was a knock at the door and Angela peered shyly inward.
"Am I disturbing you, Father? Good evening, Elisa," she added, acknowledging the detective.
"No, Angela, please join us."
Elisa struggled to shift gears as Goliath invited his daughter in to join them. She had acknowledged to herself long ago that she had reservations about their physical differences; somehow it didn't occur to her that Goliath had shared them.
Angela was still standing in the doorway, nervously bouncing from foot to foot.
"It's okay, Angela, what's on your mind?" Elisa added to Goliath's invitation.
"I just got back from mother's," Angela began superfluously.
"Did you have a good time?" Elisa inquired, saving Goliath from a subject he preferred not to deal with.
"Yes, but that's not what I wanted to discuss with you."
Goliath relaxed fractionally.
Angela plunged ahead, her tail twitching nervously. "Mother's going out of the country on Friday... to Scotland." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "She wants me to go with her," Angela concluded. Goliath's daughter opened her eyes, her expression shifting between hope of obtaining easy permission and dread that the suggestion would ignite Goliath's fierce temper.
"I see," Goliath replied ominously.
Angela gave Elisa a beseeching look. Elisa shook her head indicating she didn't want to put herself in the middle. "This is kind of sudden, isn't it?" Elisa asked, hoping Angela had a decent response.
"It came up at the last minute," Angela explained quickly. "Demona has to open a plant in Edinburgh and she's not looking forward to the trip." Angela realized that Goliath wasn't softening. He continued to sit very still waiting for her to say something of merit. In desperation, the younger female played her sympathy card. "She said if I came along, it might be 'less odious'."
Elisa smirked just a little. "Poor Demona. It must be rough being a corporate mover and shaker. Makes me glad I'm just a cop." Angela's shoulders began to droop, disappointed by Elisa's lack of support. The detective caught the gesture and caved in. "Still, Goliath," she added thoughtfully, "it would be quite an opportunity for Angela to see a little of your homeland, without the obligation of a quest to fulfill."
Goliath frowned. He rose from the couch and began to pace before it. "I do not like the idea of Angela being separated from the clan; she is too greatly coveted by Madoc and his minions."
"Who will know that I am gone, Father?" Angela protested. "It will only be for a few nights. Mother has to be back in town by the 31st. I'll be home by next Friday at the very latest."
"Demona would make a very good bodyguard," Elisa admitted.
Goliath's resistance began to crumble. "It is against my better judgement, but you may go." He raised a talon and pointed it at his daughter. "Provided," Angela and Elisa both drew a deep breath, "that you keep me apprised of your whereabouts each night. If there are any changes in your itinerary, I want to be notified at once."
Elisa rose and stood beside Goliath. "That seems fair, doesn't it, Angela?"
Angela rushed forward and flung her arms around Goliath and Elisa. "Thank you, father. Thank you, Elisa," she whispered in the detective's ear, so that Goliath could not hear. She broke off the embrace and glanced at the clock. "It's nearly dawn, I've got to hurry if I'm going to call mother!" She raced from the room leaving Elisa and Goliath to say their own farewells.
* * * * *
"Angela," Broadway sulked as they patrolled above Central Park. "I can't believe you're going to leave me!"
The lavender gargoyle smiled tolerantly. She glided a bit closer to Broadway and took his hand, then signaled to Coldfire they were going to break out of formation. The cybernetic gargoyle acknowledged. Angela indicated a remote clearing in the park to her beloved and began to bank downward.
They landed among a copse of trees, sheltered from the eyes of others. "I'm not leaving you, Broadway. I'm going to visit Scotland with my mother...for a week. Just a week. It's not so long. Besides," Angela asked coyly, "doesn't absence make the heart grow fonder?" She leaned forward and kissed him.
A bird rustled the branches of a nearby tree and the pair separated, startled by the sudden noise in the still park.
"I don't want to find out!" Broadway pouted. "I like you here, by my side. I can't do this," he leaned forward and kissed her again, "when you're in Scotland."
Angela giggled as she disentangled herself from Broadway. "I hear the city of Edinburgh is very pretty. Very different from New York."
"I wouldn't know," Broadway grumped. "I've never been there. What's so interesting about a bunch of old castles anyway?"
"I'm going to pretend you didn't say that, Broadway," Angela replied archly. "I want to learn more about my clan's homeland and I want to spend some time with Demona. It's just for a few days." She kissed him again. "Promise me you won't sulk the entire time I'm gone."
"If I can't sulk," Broadway replied petulantly, "what can I do?"
"I noticed you and Lex weren't speaking at supper," Angela replied. Broadway began to study an interesting patch of lichen on the tree. "Why don't you spend some time trying to patch up your differences?"
Broadway slowly lifted his chin. "If I make up with Lex will you bring me a present?"
"Whatever your heart desires," Angela promised.
"My heart desires you," Broadway whispered huskily as they embraced once more.
Neither gargoyle noticed the wisp wing its way silently out of the copse.
* * * * *
"But my liege," Loki protested in an unheralded display of court manners, "Why can't we ride again on All Hallow's Eve? It was such a grand time last year. Very appreciated by the younger members of the court," he wheedled.
Madoc turned a studied eye upon the Norse trickster. "I am not immune to the thrill of our revels, Laufeyson. But we must always remember the larger goal." His voice affected a pedantic tone. "If we ride, then our enemies will be waiting with bated breaths to defend their precious homes. On the other hand, if we do not ride, then they will still wait, nerves stretched thin, for our strike. It is a most ingenious strategy my Lady Maeve has devised." He inclined his head at his general and smiled. She dipped her head in return, acknowledging the compliment. He turned his attention to Umbriel who sat to the side of the dais taking notes of the court's proceedings. "Do you not agree, my nephew?"
Umbriel looked thoughtful. "Indeed, it seems to be a very effective way of wearing down one's opponent. To keep them off balance," he added after a moment.
"Very good, Umbriel." Madoc smiled benevolently on his nephew. "You shall master the art of warfare yet!"
"Fah," Loki muttered with disgust. "Sometimes it's just no bloody fun around here." He sketched a bow and retreated from the audience chamber, muttering softly under his breath.
Banshee entered on his heels. She approached the dais and bowed to her king and queen, her gown billowing softly around her. "Our cousin, the Morrigan, returns with most urgent news, my lord and lady."
Maeve raised an eyebrow. "The Morrigan always brings the most interesting tidbits. Don't keep her waitin' cousin, bring her in!"
The Banshee bowed again and disappeared. She was replaced almost immediately by the Morrigan.
"Tell us, coz, what news do you bring?" Maeve greeted warmly.
Lady Morrigan smiled a death's head grin and Umbriel turned his head carefully away from the hideous wraith.
"It would be seemin' that our Lord Madoc's favorite gargoyle is goin' on a bit of an adventure," she replied slyly.
Madoc leaned forward beckoning the creature closer. "Don't play games, harridan. What is your news?"
Maeve held up her hand. "Peace, Lord Madoc. My cousin shall get to her point soon enough." She gave the death-harbinger a pointed look, indicating that this was not a subject to dally with.
The Morrigan nodded in response to the silent communication, her black eyes shiny. "One of the wisp handlers brought me an interestin' morsel this evenin'. The child travels to Scotland, alone and separated from her clan. She shall be easy prey... if you be interested in such an opportunity."
"Indeed," Madoc replied. "Our thanks for this news, Lady Morrigan. You have done well."
The Morrigan inclined her head regally before accepting a chair at Maeve's side. She curled her legs underneath the tatters of her long, black dress and began to file her claw-like fingernails.
"Shall I organize a party, my Lord?" Maeve asked.
Umbriel busied himself again with his book, trying to ignore the bloodlust in Maeve's eager tone.
Madoc looked thoughtful. He noticed Umbriel's reticence and frowned. "No, I believe that I shall lead the hunt. Garlon-" The pale man stepped forward revealing his presence. "You and Umbriel shall accompany me. Ask Lord Herne for the use of his Yell hounds."
Garm raised his head and whined softly.
"No, my friend, I have not forgotten you." He patted the great wolfhound on the head, stroking the rough fur. "You shall come as well."
The big dog stood, proud and ready to do his master's bidding.
* * * * *
At Club Lotus, Takeo Kimura sat alone in a booth trying to ignore the noise and bustle of the patrons around him. He was seated near the kitchen entrance scowling at a palmtop computer, while a group of his former subordinates, seated at his once exclusively reserved table, laugh uproariously. He glanced towards the stage. The dancers were bumping and grinding along, albeit, somewhat clumsily. Once of the girls, very pretty but inexperienced, stumbled and confidence broken, fled, running past him into the kitchen.
"Shouldn't try and play in the big leagues, honey," one of Tommy's former lieutenants, a hatchet faced man named Fuyu, called after her. "You'll only embarrass yourself." He caught Tommy's eye and waggled his fingers at him.
The thugs laughed louder and Tommy, refusing to take the bait, returned his attention to the computer.
He barely noticed when Ryu slid into the booth next to him.
"You shouldn't let them ride you like that, Tommy-san. You should hear some of the things they're saying about you," he chided as he flagged down a waitress.
Kimura turned his attention away from his work long enough to eye the revelers. "When I have regained my rightful place I will deal with their disrespectfulness, Ryu-san. Right now they are nothing more than flies. Irritating but ultimately eliminated." He slapped his palm against the table loud enough to momentarily quiet the room.
Ryu studied his longtime associate. "Fate must be smiling upon you again, Tommy-san, for you to be so generous."
Tommy smiled, a reckless grin, full of confidence. "Indeed it has, Ryu, indeed it has. Oyabun has given me an assignment personally. He told me I can pick my own team." He leveled his gaze at Ryu. "Do you want in?"
The waitress delivered Ryu's usual libation and moved quickly away from the table as other patrons flagged for service.
Ryu studied his missing pinky, a twin to Tommy's own. "Tell me what we must do, Takeo-sama," he said, subjugating himself to Kimura as he reached for the glass.
His companion picked up his own untouched drink and touched it to Ryu's. The glasses clinked together. "I knew I could count on you, Ryu!"
The pair tossed back their drinks and Tommy pulled his wallet from the breast pocket of his neatly tailored black suit. He dropped a few bills down on the table as he rose.
"Are we leaving?" Ryu asked as he slid out of the booth.
Tommy nodded. "We have work to do," he said as he headed for the hat check girl. "But first, a small celebration is in order and I want to celebrate someplace else." He paused thoughtfully. "Dinner at Dragon Kato's place first. Then, let's go to Osaka's. I want a new tattoo." He looked thoughtful for a moment as he waited impatiently for the girl to hand him his top coat. "I know just the thing too - a phoenix. Yeah, a phoenix to celebrate our new start."
"You always were the optimist, Tommy," Ryu said as he slid into his own overcoat.
The two men strolled jauntily out of the night club.
* * * * *
"Mother, I'm here!" Angela called as she slipped in through the French doors of Destine Manor.
"Just a moment," Demona replied. Two minutes later she appeared, a small black suitcase in hand. "Angela! You're late. I told you we had to leave by midnight, or I'll be late for my meetings in the morning."
"I'm sorry, mother," Angela apologized. "I was patrolling with Broadway. We got distracted."
"No matter," Demona dismissed as she bustled around the room. "You made it and that's what is important." She paused long enough to stuff her Daytimer into an oversized handbag before launching into the travel arrangements. "I've had a concealed compartment built into my private jet." Demona ignored Angela's raised eyebrow and continued. "It's not the most comfortable means of travel, but you only need hide while the crew is boarding. I'll give strict instructions that I'm not to be disturbed once we're in the air. You'll be asleep for at least half the journey anyway, and it's much simpler than trying to explain why I'm carrying a statue about or where Miss Destine is during the day." The younger girl nodded in agreement at her mother's logic. "Once we arrive, you'll be confined to the plane until I can meet you. Then, we'll move you to my private suite and we can really begin our vacation." She glanced up at Angela. "Are you ready?"
"Good," Demona looked around the room one final time then dropped the handbag next to her suitcase. "I'm going to use the disguise spell so that Dominique Destine can make her proper appearance." She gave Angela a sympathetic look. "I'm afraid that you'll have to be more circumspect." Angela nodded that she understood. "Now, Gregory is going to be here any minute. I'll distract him long enough for you to climb into the back seat of the car and -"
The doorbell rang.
"There he is." She motioned to the front vestibule. "Quickly, hide in the entryway closet. When he comes in, you go out." Demona frowned. "I wish we'd had more time to prepare," she fretted as Angela concealed herself. Muttering the words to the disguise spell, Dominique answered the door.
* * * * *
"Oh, Len, what a beautiful city," Joanna marveled as she took in the sights through the taxi cab window. "What a sense of history! Just looking at the buildings, I feel like I've been transported back through time!"
"You've never been outside of America, have you, Joanna," Lennox said, amused at his companion's enthusiastic opinion of the aging city.
She nodded. "No, I've had a passport for years, but I never was able to break away long enough to take advantage of it. Sure," she continued, "there've been short trips over the boarder to Canada, and I got down to Ensenada once, but I've never seen anything like this before."
Macbeth looked out the window before replying. They were driving slowly along Prince Street. Edinburgh Castle, high on its rocky crag, came into view. "The city does have a certain bustling charm," he admitted. "But it's nothing like the quiet of my family's ancestral home."
"Ancestral home? You don't mean your family has a castle of its own. Do you?" Joanna turned to her companion, shocked. "Have you been holding out on me, Lennox Macduff? Are you really a Laird or a Baron masquerading as a history teacher?"
A brief sadness washed over Macbeth's features. He obscured it by studying the view outside the taxi. "No, Joanna. My family did have a castle once, but it crumbled to dust long ago. I am the last of my line and I carry no title."
"I'm sorry, Len. I didn't mean to -"
He took her hand in his and squeezed it gently. "It's old history, Jo. And while I may make my meat and bread from teaching it, I try not to live in the past. Dinna fash yersel', lassie," he consoled.
Macbeth grinned wryly as Joanna struggled with the strange expression. "It means 'don't worry about it'." The taxi cab came to a halt. "We've arrived at our hotel. Let's go in, freshen up a bit and I'll give you a tour of Auld Reekie."
"You're on," she agreed, all smiles again. "You can start with an explanation of that outlandish name."
Macbeth slid out of the cab and held out his hand to Joanna. After settling with the taxi driver and making sure their bags were safely in the hands of the Bell Captain, he began to regale his companion with tales of Edinburgh.
* * * * *
"Touch down in thirty minutes, Ms. Destine," the pilot informed his sole passenger over the public address system.
Demona yawned and stretched, surprised at the amount of time that she had spent reviewing the agenda and other pertinent documents for her round of morning meetings. She did not reply to the pilot's implied warning that she would soon need to have her seatbelt fastened and tray table in its upright and locked position. Instead, she rose, removed a hanging bag from the small closet aft of her workspace, and changed into the smart, soft gray wool suit that she had glamoured her human servants into believing they'd already seen. Once dressed and satisfied that every hair was meticulously in place, she palmed a series of seemingly randomly placed fasteners on the bulkhead. Silently a panel slid back. Inside, Angela knelt, her wings caped around her. She was frozen in stone sleep. "I must get that child a passport," Demona noted to herself. "It's not right my daughter must travel like some kind of stowaway."
Satisfied that Angela was safe, she re-concealed the compartment and prepared for landing just as the pilot's voice came over the P.A. again. "Please take your seat, Ms Destine. We'll be on the ground shortly."
"Very good, Earhart." Dominique returned to her seat and, closing her eyes, she began to gather the strength for her busy day.
* * * * *
Lennox and Joanna shivered as they exited from the warmth of the National Gallery into the biting cold, late October air. The sun shone feebly, yet did little to raise the temperature.
"Oh, it's just as cold here as it is back home!" Joanna exclaimed as she pulled on a pair of beige lambskin gloves. "Your gift is much appreciated, sir." She kissed her companion on the cheek and he smiled.
"I'll be warm for the rest of the day, my lady, just knowing you are pleased," he replied gallantly.
"Seriously, Len," Joanna said as she admired the workmanship of the hand knitted pullover she had donned over her navy blue turtleneck sweater. "It's beautiful, such a lovely shade of green," she enthused. Her eyes narrowed as she studied Lennox. "But what I want to know is how you managed to work the entire transaction right under my nose? You didn't get within ten feet of that shop clerk the whole time we were in the store. I'm sure of it!"
Macduff looked smug. "Except for the ten minutes you spent looking at all those china gee gaws," he reminded her. "I didnae know you collected those things."
Joanna noted with amusement that his accent was thickening under the influence of his countrymen.
"I don't. I have a cat, remember? They wouldn't last ten minutes around Clancy," she replied without regret. "No, these are for my mother. Christmas will be here before we know it."
"Yes, I suppose it shall," he replied thoughtfully. They passed by a small café that was beginning to fill with lunchtime patrons. Joanna looked in the window, studying the diners. "Are you getting hungry?" Lennox inquired, noticing her interest in the café occupants. "There's a very good restaurant on the next block." He looked at his watch. "We'll have to hurry, but wait a moment, I want you to see something."
"What is it?" Joanna asked curious at the twinkle in his eye.
"You'll see," he replied mysteriously. "Watch that group of tourists over there. Five, four, three, two-"
An explosion echoed through the cobbled streets and a busload of tourists, unwarned by their guide, started violently. Macduff wrapped his arm around his companion to keep her from doing the same.
Joanna started violently despite his embrace. "Was that a cannon shot?" she asked as she regained her composure.
"Right on time," Macduff smiled, amused at his little joke. "They've been firing the Castle cannon at one o'clock every day since 1861. They used to do it to help the residents keep their clocks set properly, now it's tradition."
The local lunch crowd began to fill the street around them, bustling their way to shops and cafés.
"Come along, or we'll lose our reservation," Macduff said as he began to clear a path through the traffic. "They have a most excellent venison chop with a glace of red wine and wild mushrooms."
"'Sounds wonderful," Joanna replied, amazed once again at the many facets of her intriguing companion. "Lead on, Macduff!" She barely concealed her smile as Lennox groaned at the old joke.
* * * * *
"Does the table suit, Ms. Destine?"
Dominique inclined her head graciously, though she had her doubts. The brass placard placed prominently outside the restaurant pronounced it had been established in 1799. The dark beams and plaster looked as if they had been maintained, if not replaced outright, many times since then. She accepted a menu from the waiter without enthusiasm as the plant manager, a small, bald-headed man named Fergus, continued his endless litany of details for the afternoon's ribbon cutting ceremony. Dominique tuned him out as she studied the menu. While the décor was dated, the fare showed the influence of a chef with some very modern ideas about cuisine. The venison chop with a glace of red wine and wild mushrooms caught her eye, but she pursed her mouth in deliberation when she noticed the equally luscious sounding breast of partridge with a citrus stuffing. "I'm sorry, you were saying, Mr. Fergus?" she questioned as something the plant manager said finally caught her attention.
"I said, Ms. Destine, are you sure that you can't attend a small supper this evening after the ribbon cutting ceremony?"
Dominique affected a pose of deep regret. "I'm afraid that's completely impossible, Mr. Fergus. I have a conference call this evening that's scheduled to last several hours." She sighed artfully. "Very tiresome, but unavoidable, as I'm sure you understand. And of course, I have to review in detail, the department summaries that I received this morning," she added. "I'm not entirely pleased with the projections I received this morning, Fergus." The plant manager toyed with his blue and yellow striped necktie as Dominique's voice assumed a steely tone. "I expect to see at least a five percent improvement over your projected figures in the next ninety days. Be assured I'll be monitoring your progress."
"Yes, Ms. Destine, of course. Business before pleasure and all that," Fergus said as he wiped his brow and wondered how he could achieve such a miracle.
The waiter approached bearing a bottle of champagne.
"Always, Mr. Fergus. Remember that," Dominique replied. She held her glass out for the waiter to fill. The champagne sloshed as her arm spasmed. Dominique looked up sharply. "Incompetent fool!" she hissed.
"Beg your pardon, madam," he apologized rapidly and began to blot spilled wine from the tablecloth.
Fergus likewise attempted to mop up the wine from Dominique's suit jacket and earned an irritated look instead as she snatched the napkin from his hand. "I can manage, thank you." She stood up, intent on finding the ladies room so she could effect her own repairs. As she scanned the room she noticed a man standing in the doorway accepting the apologies of an exiting patron.
"Oh, not you!" Dominique moaned as she sunk back into her chair.
"Is something the matter, Ms. Destine?" Fergus asked.
"You have no idea," Dominique replied as she studied her ex-husband and his female companion from behind her menu. The tension in her shoulders relaxed a fraction as the couple were led into the next dining area.
The waiter cleared his throat discreetly indicating he was still awaiting her pleasure. Knowing that she couldn't hide behind the leather-bound menu forever, Dominique ordered at random and dismissed him with a curt nod.
* * * * *
Lord Madoc Morfryn and his entourage stood on a rooftop five stories above Prince Street and watched the passersby.
"How the city has changed, has it not, Garlon?" he remarked to his aide.
"Indeed, my lord," the pale man agreed. "I recognize the location of places we once frequented, but the buildings themselves are very different."
"A different city, for a different time, Garlon." Madoc turned to his nephew who stood quietly looking off over the city. "Remember, nephew, nothing stays the same forever."
"No, uncle," Umbriel replied softly, lost in his own memories of a long ago happier time when he'd walked the streets below them without a care in the world, an auburn-haired young woman at his side.
"My Lord," Garlon said, his voice thick with surprise. "Look! There below us!"
The Yell hounds growled as they caught the scent. Garm chuffed at the hounds, reprimanding them, and they quieted.
Madoc smiled coldly. "Could it be a coincidence?" he said rhetorically. "I think not. A Scottish king who should be centuries dead, walks among us still. Most interesting indeed. Garlon, follow him."
"At once, my lord." The mousy man disappeared as if he had never been.
Umbriel looked confused. "I don't understand, uncle. Who do you mean?" He searched the throng below them looking for the target of his uncle's ire.
"Do you see that stately gray-haired man? The one with such regal bearing walking arm in arm with his lovely blond-haired companion?" Umbriel nodded and Madoc continued. "Once he was king of this country. He ruled with a gargoyle at his side. A blue skinned monster with eyes of fire and a sharp tongue." Venom crept into the Unseelie lord's voice. "It was an alliance that I could not let stand."
"What did you do, uncle?" Umbriel asked obediently.
"You could have learned much from watching me then, Umbriel. It was a masterpiece of pretty words that preyed upon the fears of a fearful people. Let me show you." He waved his hand before him and a ball of light coalesced out of the gloom. A council chamber appeared in its midst and Umbriel leaned forward to watch the drama unfold.
* * *
Westminster, England - 1054
"Have we any more matters to discuss at this council?" King Edward of England asked those assembled before him.
"I do, my liege," said Earl Siward of Northumbria, arising from his seat.
"Speak then, Siward," said the king. "Tell us what weighs upon your thoughts."
"Your Highness," said Siward, "I wish to plead the case of my nephew, Prince Canmore of Scotland. Fourteen years ago, his father, King Duncan, was foully overthrown and murdered by Macbeth, the High Steward of Moray, who then usurped the throne. Canmore was forced to flee to my castle for refuge, and has lived there since in exile, deprived of his lawful birthright. He requests justice, and the restoration of his patrimony."
"I see," said King Edward, nodding. "But how does that involve us?"
"Prince Canmore will need an army to face Macbeth and recover his kingdom," said Siward. "By your leave, my king, I would supply him with that army. As his kinsman, I am honor-bound to aid him. Grant me leave, sire, to lead my forces against the tyrant in our north and overthrow him."
"To make war upon our neighbor of Scotland is a serious matter," said King Edward. He turned to the other nobles seated at the council table. "What say you, members of the Witan?"
"By your leave, my king," said his brother-in-law, Earl Harold of Wessex, springing to his feet at once, "I would argue against such a course. I have met Canmore, and my heart misgives me greatly about him. He does not seem to me a man of much honor or truthfulness. And I have heard dark stories of his father, King Duncan, to boot. I do not deem any offspring of his fit to wear a kingly crown."
"You misjudge my nephew, Harold," said Siward calmly. "I can fully vouch for his true worth. And I plead his case because I wish to see the youth regain his heritage, as is his lawful right."
"Aye," said Harold, turning upon him at once, "and because you and your thanes know that a war with Scotland could bring you much wealth. Do not convince me otherwise. Only a blind man would not know that your earldom of Northumbria borders upon Scotland, and that an overthrow of Macbeth could lead to your gaining much of Scotland for yourself. You've made little secret, Siward, of your desire to regain Lothian, and undo King Edgar's surrender of it to the Scots eighty years ago."
"What I want is of no import to this question, my lord Harold," said Siward, still calm and cool. "There is a matter of justice here. Macbeth stole the Scottish crown from Duncan. Canmore is the rightful heir, and should regain it."
"Macbeth did not steal the throne," said Harold. "Duncan made war upon him, and Macbeth overthrew him in self-defense, not from ambition. And Canmore was no more than eight years old at that time. Who would have ruled Scotland better: a mere boy, or a man in his prime, with much knowledge and experience to his name? And, in truth, for the past fourteen years, Macbeth has governed Scotland with far more justice than King Duncan ever displayed!"
"Justice?" asked Siward. "I beg to differ with you, Harold. Macbeth achieved his victory, in case you have forgotten, through an alliance with those accursed monstrosities that men call gargoyles. He tolerates them openly at his court, and permits them to roost upon his castle. Is that truly just and worthy behavior?"
"Earl Siward speaks the truth, my liege," said Earl Leofric of Mercia, speaking up just then. "Macbeth may have been a better king than Duncan in many ways, but he imperils his soul, and those of his own subjects, by his friendship with those demons."
"That is the truth," said King Edward, nodding uncomfortably. "And we do not like it. Such abominations have no place in the world."
"I hardly see it as any worse than your surrounding yourself with so many Norman caterpillars," replied Harold, turning towards the king at once. "You nourish them at court, preferring them over true-born Englishmen such as us, and they wax fat at England's expense. What of Count Eustace of Boulogne, who ravaged Dover most cruelly, and demanded that all its folk be put to the sword merely for defending themselves against him? Or your own most trusted counselor, Sir Nicolas de Maduc? Is Macbeth's favoring of gargoyles any worse than your favoring of these outsiders? At least they are native to his kingdom."
Edward looked both shocked and angry, but before he could reply, the doors to the council chamber opened, and a servant stood in the entrance. "Sir Nicolas de Maduc, Lord of Anchester, requests that he may attend the council," he said.
"We grant his request," said the king at once. "Pray you, admit him."
"Speak of the devil and he'll appear," commented Harold grimly to his brother Gyrth, even as the Norman lord entered the room. As usual, de Maduc carried himself with a grave dignity, seeming far more regal, in fact, than the pale and chubby King Edward. He gave the king a bow as formal as any that could have been presented to the Norman duke William in his court on the other side of the Channel, and nodded in acknowledgement of the presence of the lords of the Witan. Behind him stood his regular servant, a quiet and unremarkable-looking man with mousy-brown hair whose name none of the English nobles had ever been able to learn.
"Sir Nicolas de Maduc," said King Edward, nodding approvingly. "We welcome you to our council. Now tell us, what business brings you here?"
"Your Highness," said Sir Nicolas, "I have heard that you and your lords are addressing Prince Canmore's desire to recover his throne from the usurper Macbeth, and his request for English aid in so doing. Am I correct?"
"You are indeed so," the king replied.
"Then I would add my voice to those that urge you to grant such a boon to Canmore," said de Maduc. "It is time that justice was done, and the rightful King of Scotland finally crowned upon the Stone of Destiny, rather than that false upstart Macbeth."
"In which case," broke in Harold sharply, "I trust that you will prove consistent with your own words, and return the lordship of Anchester that the King bestowed upon you to young Wulfneot, who should have succeeded to it upon his father's death?"
"I'll not even dignify that accusation of yours with a response, my lord Harold," said de Maduc calmly, nodding briefly in the Earl of Wessex's direction. He turned back to the king. "Yes, give Canmore your aid, Your Highness. Consider your own past. Less than twenty years ago, you yourself were an exile, dwelling in Normandy while Canute of Denmark held the throne that should have been yours. Would you not then have welcomed aid from any man who would have helped you regain your kingdom? Then do you likewise give aid to Canmore, whose misfortune you should know within your own heart."
"And I still hold," said Harold, "that it is not justice that Canmore demands, but revenge. Revenge, and ambition. He may speak from now until the Crack of Doom with his talk of being the true king, and wishing to purge Scotland of the 'gargoyle plague', but I am not deceived by him. No, not once!"
"But there is indeed a gargoyle plague in Scotland," Sir Nicolas said, in a grave tone of voice. He walked over to King Edward's throne. "In England and Normandy, these winged horrors of the night have been exterminated, and both lands are the better for it. But the Scots still foolishly place their trust in evil monsters, even though gargoyles have proven false time after time. Macbeth attained his stolen throne by their aid, which is enough to place a taint upon it. And one of them even serves as his primary advisor. I've witnessed it myself! Your Highness, it is a sorry day for all Christendom, when a king in this fair isle seeks counsel so constantly from a demon."
"That is indeed the truth," said Edward, nodding.
"And you know where your duty lies, Your Highness," said de Maduc, placing one hand gently upon the king's shoulder. "You must do all that you can to rid this land of the last relics of the ancient darkness. This island must be cleansed of their evil influence. Macbeth has strayed from the light in making his unholy pact with them, and for that he must be punished."
Edward nodded, and turned to Earl Siward. "Siward, Earl of Northumbria," he said, "you have our full leave and permission to assist Prince Canmore in any means within your power to win back his throne. Go you, and overthrow the tyrant."
"Of course, my liege," said Siward, bowing low, a smile upon his face. Harold scowled, but sat down in silence. Sir Nicolas looked briefly in his direction, and frowned.
* * *
"It went well, my lord," said Garlon, nodding approvingly as he followed his master from the council chamber.
"I thought as much," said Sir Nicolas de Maduc - or rather, Madoc Morfryn - nodding. "The King is a fool and a weakling, which makes him easy enough for us to control. And Macbeth helped us as well, in his own way. His alliance with those gargoyles has been enough to convince our royal pawn that he is a stain upon Britain, and must be removed. Ah, would that all kings among men viewed gargoyles thus! Then we would be rid of the entire accursed race within a generation!"
"Canmore will overthrow Macbeth and his gargoyle allies, now that he has his army," Garlon continued. "But what of Earl Harold? He does not trust either of us, and he will doubtless succeed his brother-in-law to the throne."
"Not if I can help it," said Madoc. "A few words to Edward, at the right time, and he will see to it that some other man becomes his heir. Perhaps his cousin, Duke William of Normandy. Yes, that would be easy enough to achieve."
"And can we control him?" asked Garlon. "His will is much stronger than that of King Edward's."
"We do not have to control him," said Madoc. "We simply have to ensure that England will be ruled by a man who has little time for such foolish questions of honor and integrity as Earl Harold. Duke William is more like us; he puts strength and power first. And he will never grant quarter to any gargoyles that remain. No, we do not need kings who serve us, for now. Only kings who think like us. Until the time comes when we are ready to regain what we ourselves have lost." He smiled, his eyes taking on a chilly glint.
* * *
The scene dissolved and Umbriel blinked, surprised at the ease of his uncle's duplicity.
"So you see, nephew, a word in the proper ear at the proper time and I controlled the course of human history for years to come. A trifling challenge really," he dismissed, "but one not without its interesting moments."
"Yes, uncle," Umbriel said quietly. "I see what you mean." He turned and faced the opposite view of the city so that Madoc could not see his shock.
* * * * *
"Another night, another patrol," Broadway grumbled as the clan dispersed away from the Eyrie Building. "Hey Lex, did you notice that Coldstone and Coldfire are fighting again?"
"Yeah, they don't agree on what their duty to the clan is," Lexington explained as they cruised over the financial district. "I can see both of their points, I guess."
"Yeah," Broadway agreed struggling to keep the conversation going. Silence stretched as they passed over the city. The night air was crisp and clear and Broadway, still trying to find an avenue, commented, "Boy, how about this weather!"
Lexington gave his rookery brother a sidelong glance. "How about it?"
Before Broadway could respond a trio of winged figures glided past in the distance. The burly gargoyle squinted but could not recognize the silhouettes. "Lex, can you see who that is?"
The bogies were just out of comfortable visual range. Lex switched to his long-range view. His vision flickered then cleared. "Relax," he said after a moment. "It's Talon and Maggie. Sharon's bringing up the rear. It looks like they're putting in extra patrol time too."
"Halloween's in a few days. I guess Talon's as worried about it as Goliath is," Broadway surmised.
"Can you blame them after last year?" Lex asked sarcastically. "Madoc and all of his buddies ruined Halloween for the entire island. Why should this year be any different?"
"You'd think people would catch a clue and stay in," Broadway grumped. "But they won't. You remember the news reports last year- 'mass hallucination'. People will still be having parties and going trick 'r treating. Except for us, of course. We'll get to patrol," he concluded morosely.
"It's just as well," Lexington said. "The PIT party this year is going to be a Black Tie Masquerade. They're trying to increase their number of patron supporters, so that's out. But Liz did want me to go with her to the party they're having for the staff volunteers, but it's the same night so I guess that's off too."
"Yeah, Hudson said the Labyrinth kids in his reading group were disappointed about not going trick 'r treating, so Angela and me are going to help out with a party they're having on Friday night instead. Maybe Liz would like to go to that," Broadway said. Pressing further, he added, "She seems real nice, Lex. And you seem to like her a lot. I'm sorry I came down on you about her the other night."
The patrol had been uneventful. The bad guys driven inside by the chill wind and threatening skies. Lexington pointed towards an office building. "Let's set down for a couple of minutes. There's some things I want to get straight with you, before you mate me off."
The pair spiraled downward and soon they were sitting side by side overlooking the city. As they descended, they did not see the two Asian men in neat black business suits strolling toward the office building.
* * * * *
"Tommy-san, are you sure about this?" Ryu asked as he straightened his tie.
They paused before the offices of Falcon Electronics, pretending to examine the neat, gold sign that proclaimed it to be a subsidiary of Nightstone Unlimited, and pulled matching black silk hoods over their faces.
"Just do what I told you and everything will go like clockwork," Kimura reassured as he dealt with his own last-minute jitters. "Now move!" The pair bolted into the outer lobby, surprising the night watchman. Tommy vaulted over the startled man's desk and knocked him unconscious with a sap.
Ryu moved in, brandishing a roll of heavy silver packing tape, and bound the unconscious man. Shoving him under his desk, Ryu gave the room a quick check for triggered alarms, then joined Tommy at the main entrance.
Without a word, Kimura attached a small ball of plastic explosive to the heavy mahogany door and stepped back as the lock was blown from its mounting. A moment later they were inside surveying the neat rows of desks and the side walls lined with cubicles.
"There's a computer," Tommy said, motioning towards one of the desks. He pulled a pair of floppy disks from his breast pocket. "You start tearing the place apart. Really spread things around. Leave blueprints spread out on the desk, like you were taking pictures, if you find any schematics."
"Right. You're sure those access codes will work?" Ryu said as he began to trash the office.
"You better hope so, or Oyabun will be very displeased. Now let me concentrate, I have to find the right directories to leave these files in." Ignoring his partner, Takeo Kimura began to upload files into the computer.
* * * * *
"What was that supposed to mean?" Broadway asked as soon as they'd established their vantage point on the office building's roof.
Lexington stared at the street, his frustration palpable. "What gives, Broadway?" he began quietly. "First you give me a hard time because you think I'm dating Liz and now you're giving me your blessing?" He looked up at his rookery brother. "Who put you up to this? Was it Goliath? Because if he thinks that he can-"
Broadway stared at his web-winged companion confounded by his sudden ire. "Goliath didn't put me up to anything, Lex. I just thought things through and realized that if you want to have a human mate, then who am I to judge? You're my rookery brother and I want you to be happy." He tried to put a consoling hand on Lexington's shoulder but the smaller gargoyle drew away.
"How many times do I have to say this?" Lexington said as he threw his hands up in the air with frustration. "There's nothing romantic about my relationship with Liz! She's my friend. She's the only person besides Xanatos who I can have a technical conversation with without it going over her head or boring her silly. We have common interests. That's it. I like her, but that's as far as it goes. She'd probably laugh herself silly if I did anything even remotely romantic."
"Have you tried?" Broadway asked.
Lexington shook his head. "I don't think of Liz like that. And I don't think she sees me that way either." He looked down at himself and said softly, "I doubt anyone, human or gargoyle, would."
"Lex," Broadway protested. "That's not true. You're smart, you're a good warrior, everyone likes you-"
"And let's not forget I'm a freak of nature," Lexington concluded. "Look Broadway, I'd like to think that there's someone out there for me, that someday, I'll have a mate and kids of my own. But I know that's not likely to happen. The numbers alone don't support it. Unless we find another clan, with a female that's willing to leave, there won't be a mate for me this generation. But that's okay, I can live with that. As long as I have my clan, and friends like Liz."
"I'm sorry, Lex, I guess I just didn't realize how complicated it all was. I just assumed that you'd hit it off with one of the females on Avalon, or one of those Ishimura gargoyles that Goliath has told us about."
"Angela has rookery brothers too," Lexington reminded. "And I've been on-line with some of the clan of Ishimura. They're nearly all paired. No, Broadway. I've accepted the idea of being alone and I'm okay with it."
"Okay, Lex. If you say so," Broadway conceded. "Just remember that if you want to talk-"
"I know, you're there for me," Lexington finished for his rookery brother. "Hey!" he said suddenly his attention caught by sudden movement down on the street. "Did you see that?"
Broadway peered over the building's edge down onto the street below. "What?"
"Across the street. The restaurant. Two guys with a crowbar loitering next to that sedan."
"I see 'em," Broadway said, analyzing the set up. "It's probably a smash and grab."
The first punk looked casually up and down the street and, seeing no one, brought the crowbar down hard against the sedan's windshield. The glass smashed and an alarm began to wail.
Oblivious to the noise, the pair began to strip the car of valuables carelessly left in easy view. Seconds later, they were moving quickly away from the scene and out of view.
"Let's move!" Broadway growled, his eyes glowing hotly.
"Right behind you. Let's force them into that alley, " Lexington said as he pointed to a side street about ten yards ahead of the burglars.
The gargoyles leapt off the office building and went to work.
* * * * *
Tommy finished his upload and began to power down the computer. He surveyed the room. Ryu had done a thorough job. Papers were strewn everywhere. Computer diskettes littered the floor. "It will take them days to clean this up," he murmured satisfied.
An alarm began to wail someplace out on the street.
"Ryu, let's get out of here. Our work is finished," Kimura said as he led their retreat out of the office. Ryu nodded and followed.
They stopped in the lobby long enough to check that the guard was still unconscious. Tommy toed him with the point of his patent leather shoe. The guard stirred. Kimura sapped him again and the guard fell silent.
"Tommy!" Ryu hissed from his spot by the front door. "Look!"
Gargoyles swept downward from directly above them and disappeared from view. Takeo swore silently under his breath, frozen for several seconds by indecision. He removed his mask. "Come on. They've disappeared down that alley."
Ryu checked their get away route and groaned. "Oh no, our car!" he moaned as he pointed across the street.
The sedate black sedan they'd stolen only an hour before was the source of the wail. The window was smashed and glass littered the street.
"Did you leave anything in it?" Kimura demanded. Ryu shook his head. "Forget it then," Takeo said, dismissing the vandalism. "We'll walk a couple of blocks then hail a cab."
Stuffing their hoods into their pockets, Takeo and Ryu straightened their suit jackets and strolled out onto the street, away from the wailing siren.
* * * * *
Madoc, in human guise, reclined upon his bed, in his well appointed suite, and waited for his servants to report. He flicked a hand at the television set. It obediently sprang to life, and began to scroll through the channels.
The Unseelie Lord halted his channel surfing at a station carrying a local newscast. It had evidently been a slow day and the broadcast was heavy with human-interest filler. He leaned forward to shut the television off, but instead, paused and stared as the anchor cut over to footage shot earlier in the day of a ribbon cutting ceremony for Nightstone Unlimited's latest U.K. endeavor. Dominique Destine, looking stiff and uncomfortable, was using a large gold pair of scissors to sever a ridiculous red bow.
"Ms. Destine is in town, how fascinating," he muttered as the newscaster moved on to other, more mundane, business news.
Garlon cleared his throat from the doorway, announcing his presence.
"Have you news for me, Garlon?"
"Indeed, my lord," he replied with a slight bow. "I spent the afternoon following the Scotsman and his lady. His purpose seems to be no more than innocent sightseeing. The woman has never been here and Macbeth is her host and guide."
"I see. Have you word of Umbriel?"
"He walks the city, supervising the wisps himself," Garlon began. "The Hounds have been loosed searching for Miss Destine's scent. They will find her, my lord."
"I have no doubt of that, Garlon," Madoc said benignly. "Most likely in the presence of Ms. Dominique Destine. Oh yes, she is in the city as well," Madoc said in response to Garlon's brief expression of surprise. "I just saw her on the news." He looked thoughtful for a moment before continuing. "Something strikes me odd about the relationship between the Destines, Garlon. Why would a human woman protect and cosset a gargoyle? Why would she, from time to time, go as far as passing the creature off as her own daughter?"
Garlon's eyes narrowed as he considered the problem. "The creature often stinks of mortal magic. Perhaps she is a sorceress and Ms. Destine humors her to keep her good will."
"A possibility I had not considered, Garlon," Madoc conceded. "It would explain much about the meteoric rise of Nightstone Unlimited against the competition of far older and wealthier concerns."
There was a second knock at the door close on Garlon's pronouncement. Umbriel entered, bowing to his uncle.
"I have news, sir," he said as he removed his hat and coat. A light drizzle had started and the outer garments were damp.
"Do not tarry, lad," Madoc said impatiently. "Tell me what you know."
"A pair of female gargoyles have been spotted heading north away from the city," Umbriel replied, resolutely swallowing any distaste he felt for his uncle's mania.
"Indeed," Madoc said with a satisfied nod. "Are they under watch still?"
"Yes, uncle. The wisps tell me they are headed for a castle ruin outside the city gates."
"Then we must meet them there and extend our welcome," Madoc said with a smile. "Recall the hounds. We leave at once."
* * * * *
"I'm sorry your day was so trying, mother," Angela said sympathetically as they glided high over the Scottish countryside.
"And I apologize for keeping you cooped up inside that plane for so long, Angela," Demona apologized in return. "I barely made it away from that dreadful plant manager in time to keep from transforming in front of him." She smiled thinly. "Though it would have served him right, obsequious toad."
"I thought you told me he was very efficient," Angela replied, trying to show an interest in her mother's business and its employees.
Demona grimaced. "His manners have very little to do with his work ethic, Angela. A fact you'd be wise to remember." Demona banked and rolled, stretching her wings as she shed her memories of the day. "Now, no more shop-talk. I brought you here to help me relax and relax I shall."
Angela smiled in relief. She hadn't looked forward to another lecture on profit projections or the effect of cost margins. "It is beautiful here." The hilly countryside below them was a lush green, broken only by the occasional stone ruin or neat farmhouse. "Quite a change from the noise of the city."
"Indeed," Demona said, her voice filling with sadness. "But you should have seen it centuries ago. It was quite a sight when these skies were filled with gargoyles dancing in the moonlight." A ruined stone castle, magnificent even in its decay, came into view before them. The elder gargoyle banked downward, staring at the ancient building. "Now there is a place I'd not thought I'd see again."
"Where?" Angela said as she peered downward. "Was that a castle? It's hard to tell, it's so overgrown."
"Not just any castle, child," Demona admonished. "It was once a great seat of power."
"There's a story in this, mother, isn't there?" Angela hinted, eager for her mother to share it with her.
Demona began to glide towards the ruins. "Indeed, child. Once upon a time, a gargoyle held a place of honor as the most trusted advisor of a Scottish king."
"Macbeth!" Angela blurted, surprised.
"Yes, Macbeth, curse him," Demona replied darkly. "But there was a time, before he betrayed me and mine, that he was a friend to all gargoyles," she admitted.
"I'd like to hear more," Angela prompted.
"Perhaps," Demona said, lost in her own memories. "But right now, I'd like to walk these crumbling battlements once more."
* * * * *
"So you're telling me that all the sites attributed to Macbeth according to Shakespeare are fictitious?" Joanna said to Lennox as they walked passed Edinburgh Castle on the way back towards their hotel.
"Aye," Lennox replied as he wrapped his arm around Joanna's waist, pulling her close, "including that great monstrosity, Cawdor Castle, up in the Highlands. It wasn't built until the mid 1400s, long after the fact."
"Don't take this the wrong way, Len," she replied gently. Joanna paused so that she could look up into his eyes. "But you seem to take the historical Macbeth rather seriously."
Lennox blushed. "It's something of a matter of family honor," he admitted under his companion's frank gaze.
The couple resumed walking leisurely despite the chill air and sporadic drizzle, pausing occasionally to peer into a shop window and comment on the merchandise. They were looking at a display that proclaimed they could research and reproduce "any family's authentic tartan" when Lennox said, "There is one place left around here that Macbeth did frequent. He used it as a home for his court when necessity dictated he visit these lands. I could show it to you if you like."
Joanna smiled at him warmly. "A castle tour by moonlight? I think I would like that very much indeed." She frowned when he looked away from her. There was something serious lurking underneath his romantic sounding offer. What was he thinking just then? Joanna wondered. "You're sure, Len? It won't besmirch your family name to take a stranger to this place?"
"Nae, it's fine," he protested. "Let's go back to the hotel. I'll arrange a car and we'll be off."
"All right," Joanna put on a game face and they resumed their walk back to the hotel.
* * * * *
"So you see, Angela," Demona explained as they walked through the castle ruins, "because of the size of the country and the lack of reliable communications, it was necessary to move the court periodically to both reassure the people and to keep those who would foment rumors about the state of the king's health or well being at bay."
"I see. That makes sense," Angela said as they examined what had once been Demona's suite of chambers. "These were all yours once?" Demona nodded. "How did your clan feel about moving with the court?" the younger gargoyle asked as she examined the ruined remains of a tapestry.
"The gargoyles under my command had become nomadic long before we allied ourselves with the humans. A few stayed behind to guard the rookery, but the rest moved as survival dictated we must. Everything we did was about survival, Angela. That much has not changed over the centuries," Demona said, her voice growing harsh. She looked away, caught in a sudden wash of memory and her tone lightened. "Now, let me show you the council chamber. I had secreted some scrolls away there long ago that I never had the opportunity to retrieve. It is possible that they still remain." Demona pointed out the direction. "Shall we find out?"
Angela nodded and the pair continued on with their tour.
* * * * *
"Oh, Len! It's magnificent!" Joanna said as she surveyed the ruined castle.
"Do you think so?" Macduff ran a hand over his close-cropped beard. "I always thought it to be rather plain. Functional, but plain."
"Oh no. Look at those archways and that spiral staircase. I'd always wished that just once I could have lived in a castle, though," Joanna amended hastily, "perhaps one in better repair."
"Even the best of them were drafty," Macduff agreed.
"You speak as though you have experience in these things," Joanna said, a mirthful lilt in her voice.
"Research for my books, dear Joanna," Macduff replied. "I don't advise the places in the wintertime. You never can keep the chill out."
"I'll remember that," Joanna said gravely. "Is it safe to go inside?"
"Safe enough." The ghost of something long forgotten passed across the Scotsman's face. He bowed to Joanna to hide his thoughts, but she caught the conflicted gestures and frowned once more. "After you, my lady," Macduff said gallantly as he cleared some ivy away from the doorway. They entered the ruin of the castle and began to explore.
* * * * *
"Let me see," Demona said as she began to pry a hearthstone from the great fireplace in the council chamber. "They should be right-"
Angela, standing by the window that looked out onto the courtyard, raised a hand. "Mother, I hear voices."
"Nonsense, child. I -" Demona paused and froze as a deep, male voice came echoing up the staircase.
"Let's start at the top and work our way down, shall we?"
"I know that voice," Angela said, moving towards the doorway. "It's -"
"Macbeth!" Demona finished as the immortal Scotsman entered the chamber, a blondish woman in tow.
"Demona!" Macbeth cried out startled. He tried to keep his companion from entering behind him, but he was much too late.
"Gargoyles!" Joanna said stunned, unable to believe her eyes.
"Oh, boy," sighed Angela in resignation. "Mother, please don't-"
Angela couldn't finish. Demona rounded on Macbeth. "Can't you leave me alone! You plague me in New York, and now you've managed to torment me here, a continent away!"
"I didn't even know you were here, Demona!" Macbeth protested.
"And that excuses you?" she shrieked, her eyes glowing hotly. "Your clumsiness at that restaurant managed to ruin a perfectly good suit and a bottle of decent champagne! I'm sending you the dry cleaning bill!"
Macbeth shook his head. "You were there? At The Heath? I can't believe I didn't see you...didn't feel your presence!"
Joanna and Angela watched the pair bicker in disbelief.
"Where else would I eat?" Demona asked sarcastically. "My manager tells me it's the only decent restaurant in this forsaken city." Her tone turned catty. "I suppose you were there because you like all that dreadful turn of the century hunting lodge décor." She looked over at her daughter as though relieved to have spared her the sight. "Honestly, Angela. It was the most frightful thing I've seen in quite a while, but it's probably a huge hit with the tourists," she added snidely as she glanced at Joanna.
Joanna reached her limit. She'd liked The Heath. "Enough!" she yelled. Both Demona and Macbeth stopped mid-bicker.
"Yes, I agree," a mild voice said from a shadowy corner of the chamber. "It's a most appalling display. Rather like a pair of fishwives, aren't they?" The owner of the voice stepped out of the shadows. He was tall with a regal bearing. His hair was white and did not hide his pointed ears or his blue skin. Behind him were two men: one so plain it was difficult to keep focused on him, the second handsome with kind features.
"Madoc!!" Angela hissed, her eyes flaring red involuntarily.
"Good evening, Miss Destine. I knew we were meant to meet again," he greeted, his voice cordial. "How very pleasant to see you." He turned his attention to Demona and Macbeth, "But you are a pair I'd never thought I'd see again. You both should have died long ago."
"I've never laid eyes on you, sirrah," Macbeth growled. "Declare yourself!"
Madoc looked at his true form and smiled. "No, perhaps you wouldn't recognize me thus, but this man-" He morphed into his guise of Nicolas de Maduc. "I believe you and your demon companion knew well enough."
"De Maduc," Demona growled. "I'd heard rumors you were a devil incarnate. How fitting it is to find out you're merely fay."
"I am no mere fay, demon. I am the king of my kind!" Madoc declared as he morphed to his true form.
"A pretender is more the way I hear it," Demona said, baiting him.
"What is going on here?" Macbeth growled as he fell into a battle stance.
Madoc looked at Macbeth and Demona thoughtfully. "Now that's a question that I'd like an answer to myself. The pair of you should have turned to dust long ago. And yet I find you in the company of this gargoyle." He turned toward Angela and sniffed delicately at the air. "One who is known to Avalon." He turned to Demona. "Could the secret of your perpetual youth be tied to my once and future home?"
"I was cursed by one of your kind, fairy!" Demona hissed. "A curse that has left me alone and wandering the earth. It is coincidence," she said as she shot a dark look at Macbeth, "that has brought us together after all these centuries!"
Madoc shook his head in disbelief. "And Miss Destine? You came here in her company. Was this coincidence too?"
"I thought I was the last of my kind," Demona lied. "I could not believe my eyes when I saw another soaring over the countryside. We came here to talk... to get acquainted."
"I see," Madoc said dryly. "How nice. And you, my lord Macbeth? What brought you to this place? A sudden bout of nostalgia?"
"I can't see that being any of your business, cur," Macbeth growled.
Madoc shook his head. "Oh no, sir, you are quite mistaken. I find your existence of great interest. Don't you, Garlon?"
"Indeed, my lord," the pale man said from the shadows. "A seemingly immortal gargoyle and her human ally bear investigation."
Angela took advantage of the by-play to search for a weapon. There was very little left in the council chamber. She stole a glance towards Macbeth's companion. The woman seemed riveted to the flagstones as she stared at the bizarre tableau unfolding before her. She closed her eyes for a moment, nerving herself up, then took a step towards Joanna.
"Not so fast," Garlon whispered as he locked his arms around her. "My lord, I've got our prize!"
"You were on the other side of the room!" Angela protested as she struggled in his grasp.
"Very good, Garlon," Madoc said distractedly as he continued to study Macbeth and Demona. He waved vaguely towards his nephew. "Umbriel, gather the hounds, we'll be leaving momentarily."
"Yes, uncle," Umbriel said as he dematerialized.
"Angela! NO!" Demona cried as she vaulted toward Madoc, unable to contain neither her fear nor her rage.
"Unhand the girl!" Macbeth commanded as he unsheathed a dagger from his boot. He leapt high in the air, the dagger aimed at Garlon.
Angela went passive in Garlon's arms. She fought to concentrate her nascent abilities as the others rallied to her aid.
Madoc raised a hand and Demona froze mid leap in the air. A second gesture froze Macbeth, the dagger inches from Garlon's throat. He continued his musing pretending he'd never been interrupted.
"It troubles me to see the three of you together. Two who were allied so long ago and you, child, with your ties to Avalon and her rebel king. I smell a plot. The details of which I'm afraid I shall have to pry from you later. These two, however, are much too dangerous to remain alive." He glanced at Demona and twin bolts of energy shot out of his eyes. The gargoyle shrieked in pain and dropped to the floor. Garlon stepped away from the floating Macbeth and Madoc retrained his glance. The former warrior king bellowed in agony and joined the gargoyle on the floor.
"Begging your pardon, my liege," Garlon said. "But you should have done that centuries ago."
Joanna stared at her fallen companion and shrieked. "Len! NO!" She stumbled to his body and collapsed at his side, bashing her knees against the loose slates as she fell. "How could you!" she screamed at Madoc. Driven past fear, she reacted in utter disregard for her own safety. She scooped up a loose flagstone and flung it at the Unseelie lord. The stone went high, sailing harmlessly over Madoc's shoulder. It struck the iron bar that Joanna dimly remembered was used to hold kettles above the fire.
A hollow gong rang over the room, echoing against the stone walls.
The Unseelie grabbed their ears and yelled in pain.
Angela came out of her stupor. Using the accumulated magical energy, she magnified the effect of the feeble gong, sending the fay to their knees. She ran for Joanna.
"Come on. We've got to get out of here!"
"But what about Len?" Joanna protested numbly. "And that-"
"There's no time!" Angela said as she forced the woman bodily from the room and down the stairs. "We have to get away now!"
A moment later, they were in the castle's courtyard. Angela relaxed a fraction as she looked for a place high enough to glide from. A tall pile of stones, remnants of a retaining wall, beckoned from a hundred feet away. "Come on!" Angela urged Joanna. "We've got to get to that wall!"
Joanna looked at Angela as though she were mad. "You want me to what?" she protested numbly. "I don't think so!" The grief stricken woman started to run back towards the castle. "I've got to help Len!"
The courtyard became suddenly alive with large, ugly dogs, their muzzles and ears the color of dried blood, their eyes a ghastly, glowing red. They converged on the escapees, filling the night with blood curdling howls as they advanced. Angela bolted toward Joanna, overtaking her easily and grabbing her by the shoulders. "Please," she hissed, mindful of the absent Umbriel. "Listen to me! They're dead, but I promise you, they're all right!" Angela assured, contradicting herself. "Please, hurry! Come with me!"
The sight of the Yell hounds hot on their heels spurred Joanna. "I don't know why I'm trusting you," she said as she allowed Angela to pull her back towards the wall. They clambered up the stones and after a brief hesitation, the woman climbed onto Angela's back.
The pair glided from the castle while the hounds barked impotently below and their keeper stared indecisively at the ground.
* * * * *
"Oh, my aching head," Demona growled as she slowly came to. Lying next to her was an equally miserable Macbeth.
"Joanna!" he yelled and sat up much too fast. His vision swam as he looked quickly around. The room was empty. There was no sign of anyone: human, gargoyle or fay. "Demona, get up, blast you!"
"Stop shouting!" she yelled, as her memory began to flood back. "Where's Angela! What has that cursed fay done with my daughter?"
"I don't know, but when I find him, I'm going to make him pay!" Macbeth promised grimly.
* * * * *
Angela glided high above the Scottish countryside, putting as much distance between herself and castle as she could muster. "Where would you go," she shouted to her passenger, "if you were going to mount an attack?"
"An attack on who?" Joanna yelled back. "Can't you put down someplace? We're miles from the castle and it's hardly practical to think and run."
The young gargoyle nodded her head, accepting the prudence of the statement. She began to spiral downward, finally landing near a large oak tree. "You're right." She put her hands to her head and leaned against the tree, exhausted by both the expenditure of magical energy and the sudden flight. After several long seconds she opened her eyes. "Hi, my name is Angela." Too weary to think, she fell back on common courtesy and held out her hand.
"Joanna Walker," the human woman replied, accepting the proffered hand gingerly. "Can you tell me what just happened back there, because I really do not understand."
Angela looked at her companion sympathetically; she was breathing rapidly and there was an odd flush to her cheeks. "I guess this has been something of a shock."
"Forget that for right now," Joanna pressed gamely forward. "What happened?"
Angela hesitated. "How well do you know Macbeth?" she asked at last.
Joanna raised her hand. "Let's start right there. Outside of the play and a few history books, I don't know any Macbeth. I know a man named Lennox Macduff who I thought was a history professor."
"I see. That makes things more difficult," Angela said.
"I don't understand." Joanna's fear was turning to frustration.
"Not all of this is my story to tell," Angela replied. "I don't want to betray a confidence."
Joanna began to pace, trying to think of a way through the impasse. "Angela, is it?" The gargoyle nodded. "Look Angela, just tell me enough to explain a couple of things, okay? First: how is it possible that Len can be all right and dead at the same time. And second: who was that blue guy, why was he after you, and how was it possible for him to know Len and your -" Joanna wasn't sure how to describe Demona and stumbled.
"That was my mother," Angela supplied.
"Which brings me to my last question, which I suppose is totally irrelevant right now: how do they know each other and what were they fighting about?"
Angela sighed. "There really isn't any easy way to explain this. But-" she said, forestalling Joanna's next outburst. "I'll try." She drew a breath. "Demona and Lennox, were allies a long time ago. They had a misunderstanding which led to their becoming estranged."
"I see," said Joanna. "And the blue guy?"
"His name is Madoc. He's one of the Third Race, and pretender to the throne of Avalon."
"The Third Race as in... fairies?"
"And Len and your mother are dead and all right because?"
Angela looked up at Joanna. "Just accept that they're under a magic spell. They only look dead. And that's the problem. We have to let them know that we're all right before they try to rescue us and put anybody else at risk."
"We have to go back to the castle," Joanna said flatly. "It's the only way."
"Madoc and his shock troops dropped like they'd been shot when that rock hit that iron rod. Can we use that?"
Angela looked abashed. "Of course we can!" she said excitedly. "They're vulnerable to iron and its sound."
Joanna looked around. Headstones were tumbled around them. She noticed for the first time they'd landed in an abandoned churchyard. "Come on. Let's see if we can't find a -" she paused and darted deeper into the cemetery. "I think this will do." In her hands was a small iron bell. "Let's get back to that castle!" Joanna called as she raced for the oak tree and began to climb.
* * * * *
"Can you move yet, human?" Demona growled at Macbeth as she extended her talons.
He grabbed the extended hand and raised himself to his knees. "Of all the deaths I've faced I think that was the most painful."
Demona looked at him thoughtfully as she rubbed feeling back into her aching limbs. "You've never been hung."
Macbeth slowly stood. "No, but I was burned as a witch once. I don't recommend it."
"I can imagine," Demona responded dryly. She began to pace slowly and stiffly about the room, her tail whipping with anxiety. "Blast these thrice cursed fay and their war! How can I find Angela when I don't know where to look!"
In the distance, a bell began to toll faintly.
"Think, Demona. You always used to advise me to put myself in my adversary's shoes," Macbeth advised. "Why do they want the girl?"
"Madoc believes her to be his key to Avalon. He'll take her to his stronghold and question her until she breaks." She whirled on Macbeth. "But I don't even know where to begin to -" She raised her hands to her ears as the clanging grew louder. "Curse that bell! Why won't it stop?"
Macbeth pulled himself to the narrow window. He began to smile. "Oh trust me, Demona, that's the last thing you'll be wantin'." He grabbed the gargoyle by the shoulders and shoved her until she shared his view of the night sky.
Eyes blazing, Angela shrieked a battle cry as she descended on the ruined castle. Joanna added her own whoops of bravado as, clinging to the gargoyle one handed, she began to ring the tiny church bell with everything she could muster.
Demona and Macbeth ran for the stairs.
* * * * *
Angela and Joanna touched down and, bell in hand, they ran into the castle.
Joanna pelted through the vestibule and froze in her tracks. Angela, close on her heels, collided into her.
"Lennox!" she whispered, then fainted dead away.
"I can see I'm going to have to do a bit of explainin'," the former Scottish king said as he gathered his lady into his arms.
Angela nodded. "She has a lot of questions. I guess under the circumstances it's understandable."
Demona pulled her daughter into a tight embrace. "Oh, Angela, I was so worried for you! When we awoke and you were gone I feared the worst."
"We were lucky," Angela explained. "If it hadn't been for Joanna striking the hob with a slate and causing it to ring-"
"Like a bell," Macbeth added.
Angela nodded. "Yes, like a bell. I gambled that Madoc, thinking you dead, would leave you where you lay. In their haste to retreat, that's exactly what happened."
"Well played, my child," Demona congratulated.
"Indeed," Macbeth concurred.
Joanna began to revive. "Len?"
Macbeth knelt and gathered her into his arms. "Yes, Jo? I'm here."
She grabbed him by the collar and pulled herself close. "You have a lot of explaining to do, buster."
"Aw, Jo," he kissed soundly and pulled her to her feet.
"It's getting late," Demona added. "I wish to get Angela to safety." She began to nudge her daughter toward the door.
"My car is just outside," Macbeth offered. "May I drop you someplace?"
Bruised and exhausted, and still fearing for her daughter's welfare, Demona surrendered her pride. "That would be... satisfactory. To the airport, Macbeth. I've no desire to stay here a moment longer."
Leaving the crumbled ruins in their wake, the quartet sped quietly away into the night.
* * * * *
Elisa looked at the cards in front of her. She picked up a poker chip and tossed it to the center of the table. "I'm in."
Next to her, Goliath, still uncertain, added his own ante to the pot. "As am I."
Brooklyn made his own contribution. "This was a great idea, Elisa. Seems like it's been forever since we've all had a quiet night in." He looked over at Sata's sizable pile of poker chips. "Though I seem to remember why we haven't played cards for a while. For somebody that's new to the game, Sata, you sure catch on fast."
Sata shrugged as she placed her own ante on the pile. "Never do, Brooklyn-san, when you can do well."
Elisa stifled a smile. "How many cards, Goliath?"
"Two," he rumbled as he cast off the unwanted pasteboards.
"I'll stick with what I've got," Brooklyn said before Elisa could ask.
"I will have two cards as well."
"Dealer takes three."
"That was so cool," a new voice rumbled from the doorway.
The card players looked up. Broadway and Lexington entered, looking pleased with themselves.
"Hi everybody," Lexington greeted. "Boy did we have a busy night!"
"I caught the squeal over the police band," Elisa said. "Nice job on those vandals. Congratulations, by the way. You helped recover A.D.A. Yale's stolen car."
Broadway looked surprised. "Stolen! Boy, some people have all the luck!"
"Yeah, and if you're Margot Yale, the luck runs all bad," Brooklyn added sympathetically. He looked down at his cards and grimaced. "Great, it's catching! I fold." He dropped his cards to the table.
The telephone rang.
"I'll get it!" Broadway said as he hurried to answer. "Be right back, Lex. I'll fix us a snack and then we can start on that movie marathon."
"Sounds good," Lexington said as Broadway bounded down the hallway.
* * * * *
"No, mother," Angela said, dismissing Demona's worries. She held the plane's cell phone to her ear and listened to it ring. "I'll be fine. Dawn's not too far off. I just want to check in with Broadway, then I'll tuck myself in."
Demona looked at her watch and nodded. "All right, Angela." She picked up a cell phone of her own and began to dial. "I'm just glad I managed to get as much done as I did today. I can meet with my London representatives tomorrow and then we can head home. I need to consult my books. Perhaps there's something I've missed that we can use to deal with this Madoc."
Angela nodded numbly. The evening had left her exhausted and worried. She breathed a sigh of relief when Broadway answered the telephone. "Oh Broadway, it's so good to hear your voice!"
"Angela!" he replied delighted. "I miss you!"
"I've missed you too, Broadway," she said reaching up for her silver and jet hair clip and touching it gently.
"Are you having a good time in Scotland?" he asked hesitantly.
Angela paused before answering. "We ran into Macbeth and I've seen some beautiful countryside..."
"But?" Broadway prompted.
Angela thought about it before replying. "No 'buts'. It's been very educational. However, there's been a change of plans."
"Are you coming home early?" Broadway asked hopefully.
"I'm not sure," Angela admitted. "Mother's business is taking her to England. I'll call you tomorrow night from London."
"London," Broadway said. "Be careful, Angela, you know that the Unseelie have been keeping the clan there busy."
Angela frowned. In her haste to escape the Unseelie leader she'd forgotten about his apparent dislike of the English capital. "Don't worry, my love, I'll be careful." Demona tapped her on the shoulder and Angela started. "I have to go, Broadway, I'll talk to you soon."
"Goodnight, Angela. I love you." Broadway hung up the phone and contemplated at the ancient stone wall as he replayed the conversation over in his head. "I guess tonight's been an eye-opener for everybody," he muttered. His stomach rumbled and Broadway remembered Lexington was waiting for him. Despite his reflexive worries over Angela, he whistled as he rejoined his clanmates.
* * * * *
"If I Knew You Were Coming, I'd Have Baked a Cake" © Bob Merrill, 1950. Used without permission