The Rising - Part One
Written by: Todd Jensen and Kathy Pogge
Story Concept by: Todd Jensen and Kathy Pogge
Illustrations by: Flynt
Previously on Gargoyles...
Xanatos turned off the television. "So, Owen, what you're telling me is that these two are getting ready to take on Oberon?"
"Indeed, sir. I doubt they're concerning themselves with human law. As Madoc Morfryn and Queen Maeve, the only force that will concern them is Oberon himself."
"But they tried and failed ten thousand years ago?"
Owen nodded. "Give or take a millennium, yes. Presumably, they feel confident about a re-match."
"And what do you think, Owen?"
~ Reprisals - Part 3 ~
* * * * *
THE BROCKEN, GERMANY
The night sky was ablaze. From every direction of the compass, flashes of eerie, multi-colored light darted across the heavens, crackling with strange energies, all converging upon the Brocken. It was the tallest peak of the Harz Mountains in Saxony, a place long held in ill-repute in German legend and folklore. If anyone had been abroad in that late hour to observe the sight, they would have understood why.
On the slopes of the mountain, an assembly of strange looking beings was emerging from the unearthly looking lights. Some were roughly human-like in appearance, although a closer look at their features, their pointed ears, their glowing eyes, and other odd marks about them, would have been enough to let anyone know that they were not humans. Others looked more like animals. There was a great wild boar among them, almost as big as a horse, that pawed the ground and snorted. In another part of the convocation, a pack of hounds, white with red ears, howled and bayed around a silent figure on horseback, his masked head crowned with a pair of stag's antlers. A large black cat seated itself upon a rock, licking itself, unconcerned, as it watched the new arrivals. Here and there through out the crowd flitted small radiant beings with delicate gossamer wings.
Two figures stood on a crag closer to the mountain's summit, looking down at the forming crowd and nodding approvingly. One was a grim-faced man with white hair and blue skin, clad in red armor with a black cloak shaped like a bat's wings, a sword hanging at his side. The other was an attractive woman with dark streaks of emerald highlighting her ebony locks. Her features were elfin, but there was a hardness to them that belied their innocence.
"Madoc and Maeve"
"A most satisfactory beginning," said Madoc Morfryn, Lord of the Unseelie Court, turning to the woman. "Would you not agree?"
"Indeed I do," said Queen Maeve, his second-in-command. "'Tis a pity, though, that there's not more of them."
"Unavoidable," said Madoc. "We lost many in the first war. We will just have to make do without Balor for what lies ahead, and Ymir and his offspring. The Aesir have much to answer for in costing us the frost giants."
"A shame we haven't more of the Fomorians about," Maeve added. "Whatever became of the Morolt, anyway? I know that he wasn't one of the casualties at Moytura."
"Slain by the human hero, Tristram, as I recall," Madoc answered. "One of the knights in the Pendragon's service." His eyes briefly glowed and his voice filled with bitterness. "Not that it matters. It would seem that we still have enough to help us achieve the victory that we seek."
A large red wolfhound trotted forward to Madoc's side, and whined at its master. Madoc smiled, and patted it on the head. "You need not worry, Garm," he said to the dog. "In the battles ahead, you will have more than your share of havoc to wreak. Especially upon those thrice-accursed gargoyles."
He looked over the milling crowd some more. "Garlon should have returned by now," he said to Maeve. "I wonder what's been delaying him."
A young man climbed up to stand beside the two Unseelie lords. "Uncle?" he asked Madoc, an uncertain look on his face.
Madoc turned towards him. "What is it, Umbriel?" he asked.
"Are - these the people that we'll be working with?" Umbriel inquired. He gazed at the figures below. His eyes rested on a large clump of squat, dwarf-like figures with vicious, stupid smiles on their faces. Each wore a dull red cap and carried a sturdy club.
Madoc nodded, smiled benevolently at him and attempted to dissuade the youth's fears. "I grant you they will take a bit of getting used to," he said. "But you must remember that they've had little outlet for their desires for over ten thousand years. Once they've released a bit of their pent-up energies, they should settle down considerably. You needn't worry about them, nephew."
"I hope so," said Umbriel. "So this is the ... Unseelie Court?"
"Quite so," said Madoc. "All our former vassals and retainers - those who still live, that is. They will aid us in the war that is to come. And now, if Garlon would only arrive from Manhattan, I would say that we were ready to begin the meeting."
"Here, my lord," said a voice from the shadows behind them. Out of the darkness stepped a quiet-looking man with mousy-brown hair, a very ordinary-looking man, who offered both Madoc and Maeve a low, formal bow.
"Well, Garlon?" asked Madoc. "How are Mr. Harrison and the others faring? Did they return to New York safely?"
"Yes, my lord," said Garlon.
"And Dr. Sevarius?" the Unseelie Lord inquired. "His work goes well?"
"There was a small problem with funds," Garlon admitted. "I've had to re-route our assets through... other channels. Mr. Montrose was most helpful in dealing with Dr. Sevarius."
"Excellent," said Madoc, smiling approvingly. He swept his gaze across the crowd below. "Well, it seems as though everyone is here. I would say that we are ready to begin."
He stepped forward, and held up his hand, gesturing to the throng of faerie-folk. All talk immediately ceased, and every last Unseelie present turned his or her head to look up at him. After a few moments of silence, Madoc spoke.
"My loyal followers," he said, in a clear voice. "It is good to see that you have assembled here, recalling your old vows of allegiance to me. The centuries for you have been hard, that I know. He who reigns as monarch in Avalon scattered you to the ends of the earth, imposing suffering and misery upon you all. But a day of reckoning is at hand for Lord Oberon and all who hold with him; that I can promise you. After more than a hundred centuries, we will regain our rightful place, repossess our native seat. The tyrant who banished us will be overthrown, and Avalon shall be ours once more! And the younger races shall bow to us, and acknowledge us their masters!"
The Unseelies cheered and applauded. The oddly-colored dogs lifted their heads and barked eagerly, and the red-capped fay brandished their clubs high in the air.
"In two nights, when the moon dies, we will ride forth into the greatest of the mortals' cities, to revel in our restored might and remind those who dwell there of our ancient power. Our night, the night that the humans call Samhain and All Hallows Eve! We will make them recall why it was so long held to be a night of spirits and witches! And then, we shall begin our war in earnest, and shall not stay our hands until not only Oberon and his Children, but also the mortals that they have so timidly chosen to fight their battles for them have been overcome!"
The Unseelies cheered even louder.
"And now, for the first action of the Unseelie Court," said Madoc, turning and gazing up at the summit of the Brocken. "I believe that there are a few changes that need to be made here." He held up one hand, and gestured at the sky.
For a minute, there was silence. A fierce chill wind began to blow, shrieking and wailing like a multitude of lost souls in eternal torment. Dark clouds gathered about the mountaintop, blotting out the stars. They began to alter shape, until they looked like great demonic faces, grinning horridly upon the mountains below.
At another gesture from Madoc, lightning darted from the clouds, jetting from the eyes and mouths of the faces that had formed in them. The bolts struck the rounded summit of the Brocken with amazing force, again and again. A rumbling sound growled from deep within the mountain. And then, forcing its way upwards, there arose a great castle with jagged battlements and towers, to crown the mountain's top. The newly made castle stood at the top of the Brocken, casting its shadow over the land.
The Unseelies below were silent, watching in awe and amazement. All of them, that is, except for a white-haired man dressed in biker garb, the words "Hel's Angels" emblazoned upon the back of his jacket. He leaned against a tree and gazed upwards, bored at the tumult above. He tossed a ball of fire up and down in one hand and stifled a yawn with the other.
Umbriel stared at the turbulence, his eyes widening. Briefly, he turned to gaze at his uncle. Rapture engulfed the aristocratic features. After a few moments, Madoc raised his hand again and the clouds dispersed. The wind died down, and the lightning ceased. A castle stood at the top of the very mountain that Madoc had carved it from.
"Our new home," the Unseelie Lord said, turning to Umbriel with a smile. "What do you think, nephew? Very impressive?"
"Well, yes," said Umbriel, after a moment's silence. "I suppose so." His voice was subdued by shock.
"You must admit that it puts your old home in Cotuit to shame," Madoc said, smiling and patting the young man on the shoulder. "Now come, let us enter. We have much to do tonight. Yes," he admitted, "there will be much work. But I can assure you, it will all be worth it."
Madoc made a gesture of welcome and began to walk up the slopes of the Brocken towards the open gate of the castle. Maeve, Garm, and Garlon followed close behind him, and the rest of the Unseelie Court fell in after them. Umbriel looked up at the sky that had only been so lately filled with the fury of the elements, and then at his uncle again. Finally, he sighed and walked after Madoc as well.
* * * * *
The last of the great city's commuters straggled home. Taxi cab horns honked in irritation, waiting impatiently for their turn to traverse the narrow city streets. Their voices were lost to the gargoyles who woke and stretched and observed the bustling metropolis that had become their home.
Graeme and Ariana raced from their perches, Nudnik in tow, to the edge of the parapets.
"Are we patrolling tonight, Dad?" they asked eagerly, nearly in one voice.
Brooklyn looked to Goliath, who merely smiled and nodded at the hatchlings' enthusiasm.
Brooklyn put on a stern face to hide his own fatherly pride. "If you finish your lessons with your mother, and," he looked to Nudnik who was chewing on something that looked vaguely like a dress pump, "you pick-up after your puppy, you can go out with me later. I'll show you a couple of tricks I learned when I first started busting crime in this city."
Broadway rolled his eyes at his rookery brother's posturing as he passed by on his way to greet Angela. She stood at the far end of the courtyard, the stiff wind ruffling her long dark hair. "Angela," he called softly as he joined her. "You look lovely in the moonlight."
Angela continued to stare off into space, lost in her own world.
Broadway tried again. "Angela?" he called gently. Nothing. He placed his hand on her shoulder.
Angela flinched under his touch and jumped. Her body went automatically into a defensive posture. Her wings flared outward and her eyes glowed crimson as she whirled out of his embrace.
"Broadway!" she said after a moment, drawing a series of rapid breaths. She stepped further away from him. "You startled me!"
Broadway raised his hands slowly in front of him. "I'm sorry!" he apologized rapidly. He stepped backwards, putting more distance between them to emphasize his intentions were harmless. Angela continued to breathe heavily so he waited, struggling with his instinct to take her into his arms and protect her from whatever was troubling his love. He took a tentative step forward as her eyes lost their reddish glow. "I didn't mean to! I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are tonight. I thought maybe later we could..."
Angela cut him off before he could complete the thought. "I'm sorry, Broadway, not tonight. I promised my mother I'd come and see her."
"How about later?" he tried hopefully.
"No, not later either," Angela countered. "I might stay the day." She moved away again and hopped quickly up onto the wall that surrounded the courtyard. "I'm late," she said as she made her escape. "Tell Father. I don't want him to worry."
With a rustle of wings she was gone.
"Sure," Broadway muttered, as he turned back towards his clan mates. "You don't want Goliath to worry, but what about me?"
The crestfallen gargoyle made his way inside to begin preparing the evening meal.
The gargoyles' private wing was spacious and comfortable. A compact, but efficient galley-like kitchen had become Broadway's private domain. He stared at the well-appointed larder and automatically pulled a few items from its shelves, then moved to the refrigerator. He began mechanically chopping vegetables and was half way through his third onion before he realized that he was paying no attention at all to what he was doing. He gave himself a mental shake, quickly revised the casserole he was making into a rich onion soup and buried his hurt at Angela's rejection underneath a veneer of culinary bustle. He had almost succeeded when Hudson poked his head into the kitchen.
"Smells good, lad. What's that yuir making?"
Bronx, ever at his companion's side, whined, hopeful that he would get some of the good smelling food too.
Broadway shook his ladle at the gargoyle beast. "None for you," he scolded the gargoyle beast, before replying to Hudson. "French onion soup and those wheat rolls that you like." He gave the pot another stir.
Bronx whined his disappointment, then perked up as Broadway pulled a large chunk of roast beef out of the refrigerator and placed it in a metal tray. He pulled a second smaller piece out for Nudnik. "Here. This is your supper." He handed the tray of beef to Hudson. "Tell the kids to come get this for Nudnik, will you?" He paused to put a tray of whole wheat muffins into the oven. "I've kind of got my hands full."
"Will it be long, lad? I promised myself I'd look in on Robbins tonight."
"Twenty minutes," Broadway replied. "Just enough time to peel Lexington from his computer." He looked out the doorway into the main great room where Lex had his computer workstation set up. His rookery brother was intently studying something on the screen, then shifting his attention periodically to a circuit board. "That is," he amended after a moment's reflection, "if you start now."
Hudson shifted the pan of meat away from a slavering Bronx and followed Broadway's gaze out the doorway. "He's suffered a great hurt, that one has. It's going to take him time to heal. A lot of time." He looked up at the big aqua gargoyle. "Some attention from his rookery brothers wouldn't be a bad thing either," Hudson hinted gently.
"I guess not."
The soup began to bubble over onto the stove. Broadway wrenched his gaze away from Lexington and back onto his cooking. His thoughts returned to Angela. "I'll try," he agreed at last. "Later."
Bronx whined impatiently at Hudson's feet, oblivious to all but his hunger. Hudson smiled at the faithful beast. "All right you great lug, I've teased you long enough."
Bronx whined in agreement.
"Come on then, let's take this outside where you won't make a mess of it."
Bronx barked happily and trotted out ahead of his master. The sound of perturbed puppy followed a few moments later as Nudnik, deprived of his latest prize, realized that Bronx wasn't going to share his meal.
Ariana tumbled through the great room executing a neat series of twists and flips in the process. The last brought her perilously close to Lexington's workstation.
"Hey!" he exclaimed in alarm, clutching his precious circuitry "Watch it!" He realized the source of the indoor tornado and gentled his tone. "Be careful, Ariana, this stuff is fragile."
"Sorry, Uncle Lex. I came in to get Nudnik's food and...," she trailed off and shrugged as if to say "why not?"
Lexington set the circuit board down as Broadway came out of the kitchen bearing the plate of meat. "Next time keep it outdoors or in the gymnasium."
"All right," she replied, chagrined. She turned and accepted Nudnik's dinner and smiled at Broadway. "Domo arigato, Broadway Ojisan."
He struggled for a moment trying to remember the correct response and finally said, "You're welcome." Then he continued. "Dinner's nearly ready. Go tell your brother to wash up and call the others."
"Okay, Uncle Broadway," Ariana replied brightly as she departed, much more sedately then she entered, to discharge her errands.
The clan assembled around the dinner table a few moments later. They were just sitting down when Elisa knocked gently on the entryway door. "Anybody home?"
Goliath was on his feet in a moment and standing at the dark-maned detective's side.
"Good evening, Elisa." He gestured to the table. "Won't you join us?"
"I'd like that, big guy, but..." She took a sniff of the air rich with herbs and fresh baked bread and smiled. "Matt can hold down the fort a few minutes without me. I really just came by to show you this." Elisa handed a brightly colored flyer to Goliath as she took her place at the table and allowed Broadway to play host.
Goliath's expression was uncomprehending for a few moments while he read the announcement. "This is an invitation for a fundraiser," he said, his expression full of wonder. "A fundraiser in our name. Can you explain this, Elisa?"
Elisa smiled gently at Goliath. "Not all humans are afraid of you guys. This is a Halloween Party for the People for Interspecies Tolerance. They want to raise awareness about the good things that you do. I thought you'd want to see this. It's a costume party," she told Goliath. "It might be fun to go. I'd be willing to bet that the room will be full of gargoyles."
Goliath absorbed the implication and smiled, "It would be nice to be able to go dancing in public again."
Elisa grimaced as she remembered how that date had ended, but the frown gave way to a smile at the memory of those few happy minutes dancing in Goliath's embrace. "It was fun while it lasted," she said. Then regret filled her voice as she continued. "I'd like to take you up on that offer, but Matt and I have to work. But that's no reason why..."
"Can I see that for a minute, Goliath?" Broadway cut in.
Goliath handed Broadway the flyer.
"Thanks. You know Angela has been awfully down since," he made hand gestures trying to spare Lexington any more pain by reminding him of the events of two nights past. It didn't work.
"Yeah, Angela's got good reason to be upset. She was taken captive and watched as you guys were nearly killed and it was all my fault." Lex got abruptly to his feet and bolted out the door.
"Lexington!" Goliath rose to his feet started after the olive-colored gargoyle.
Elisa rose to follow, and was held back by Hudson. "Let him handle it, lass. You..." he looked over at Broadway and Elisa followed his gaze and understood. Broadway was hurting too.
"Were you thinking that Angela might like to go to the party, Broadway?" Elisa asked gently.
"I'd like to make her smile, Elisa. A whole room full of people that want to help us might just do the trick."
"It might at that."
"I want to surprise her though. Will you help me?"
The others took that as their cue to depart. Hudson rose from his chair. "Well, I think I'll be getting along to Robbins. Have a good evening, lass."
Brooklyn and Sata rose as well. Sata addressed both her children, but her words were for Ariana. "Come, young warriors. I understand that it is time to renew our lessons on proper etiquette and conduct."
Graeme rolled his eyes and hissed at his twin. "Nice going, Ari-chan!"
Brooklyn clapped his hand around his son's shoulder. "I'm sure your mother will cover other topics tonight as well, and don't forget, there's patrol later."
Graeme brightened at that. "If I can only hold on long enough," he agreed dramatically.
The twins continued to trade jibes until they were out of earshot.
Elisa turned her attention back on Broadway. "You'll need costumes."
"Right, something with a theme."
Elisa looked at her watch. "I've really got to get going. Tell you what, I'll make a few arrangements and you work on it. We'll get together tomorrow night and see where we're at." She rose from the table and put her hand on Broadway's shoulder, then kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks for dinner, Broadway. And don't worry about Angela. It's gonna be rough for a few nights, but she'll be okay."
Broadway darkened at the kiss, and looked up at Elisa; the worry was back in his eyes. "I hope so, Elisa."
Goliath re-entered the room alone. Elisa gave Broadway one more pat on the shoulder and went to join the gargoyle leader. She slipped her arm around his broad waist and together they walked to the adjoining library.
"How's he doing?" Elisa asked at last.
Goliath looked down into her dark eyes, the worry in them mirrored his own. "The betrayal of this Nicholas Maddox cut him deeply. I fear that Lexington will require a great deal of time before he can accept that he was a pawn in a much bigger game."
"No one likes to realize that they've been used, Goliath. And Maddox didn't just use Lex, he changed him." She shuddered as she thought about the biomechanical implants that Lexington now had to call his own. "It's horrible. Someday Maddox is going to pay for what he did. He's gonna pay big time."
Goliath nodded his agreement. Elisa whirled abruptly and hugged him fiercely. There were no words for the relief that she felt knowing Goliath had escaped the ordeal unharmed.
Goliath returned the hug and gently ran his talons through her mane of dark hair. It was with reluctance that he stepped away from her embrace.
"Are you quite sure that you cannot attend that party with me, Elisa?" There was gentle anticipation in his gaze at the prospect of a night out in the open with Elisa at his side.
Elisa read his hopes in his face and caressed his cheek. "I really would like to, Goliath, but by the time I get off work, the party will be over. We'll just have to have our own party, later." She kissed his taloned fingers to seal the promise, then straightened her jacket. "But right now," she said with regret, "duty calls. Walk me out?"
Goliath smiled as he escorted her to the secure elevator that led to the private parking garage.
* * * * *
On the other side of town, Angela and Demona were sitting down to their own supper.
"Do try that Chicken Florentine. The executive chef at our Paris headquarters makes it. I had him freeze some, then had it flown in by Concorde with the weekly reports. Delicious, isn't it?"
Angela took an obligatory forkful of the rich chicken and spinach creation. "It's wonderful," she said without enthusiasm.
Demona looked up abruptly at Angela's toneless response. "Perhaps you'd like the Wood Chip Soufflé, better." She handed Angela a plate of Mixed Wild Greens Salad. Angela stuck her fork into it, picked among the lettuce leaves and popped a mushroom into her mouth. She chewed absently for a moment. "It's wonderful, Mother. Really."
"You have no idea what you're talking about. Or what you're eating." Demona rose from her chair and escorted Angela away from the table. "Something is troubling you, child. What's the matter?"
Angela looked up abruptly. "Nothing!" she said in alarm.
Demona's expression indicated her disbelief. "I'm your mother, Angela. Whatever it is, you can tell me. Is it Broadway? Did that big..."
Angela cut her off. "No, Broadway is wonderful. He wouldn't ever hurt me." She looked at her hands, clasping and unclasping them rapidly. "There was some trouble the other night..."
"What kind of trouble?" Demona fought to keep her voice neutral.
"Lexington made friends with a human, only he wasn't a human, he was a fay in disguise." The words began to tumble out. "He tricked Lexington into allowing him to install cybernetic implants into his body. He was using the implants to track Lex and the rest of us so that he could send the Ultra Pack to attack us."
"The Ultra Pack! Who was this rogue?"
"Nicholas Maddox and his partner, Mavis O'Connor." Angela looked up. "You were right not to trust them, Mother. They knew I was from Avalon. They took me and tied me up and tried to make me reveal the secret to getting home. They had taken the others hostage and were going to kill them one by one until I talked."
"Angela, no!" Demona was aghast at the terror her gentle daughter must have felt. "What happened then?"
"What happened?" Angela parroted numbly. "Elisa and the Labyrinth Clan and Xanatos rescued us. We fought them to a standstill, then they escaped. I was so angry! But we were too late to free the gnomes that Maddox had locked away in a secret workshop."
"Gnomes? Why did he have gnomes?" Demona asked carefully.
The tears were rolling freely down Angela's cheeks. "All the time that he was befriending Lexington, Nicholas Maddox was supplying the Quarrymen with their hammers. He was inciting the humans in the city against us."
Demona began to work her way back towards the most troubling aspect of her daughter's story. She handed Angela a box of tissues and rose to pour her a glass of water. She passed the heavy crystal goblet to the girl and allowed her to take several sips before poising her next question. "Angela, if this Maddox and his companion O'Connor were fay, why did they need you to get to Avalon? Is that not their home?"
"It was their home, once. But they belong to the faction that Owen called the Unseelie Court. Maddox, or Madoc as he's really called, is its leader. They were banned from Avalon a long time ago and the way to the island was sealed against them." Angela took several more swallows of water then looked up at her mother. "They want to go home, they want to wage war on Oberon and his followers. The rest of us," she paused and drew a deep, ragged breath before continuing, " if they win, we will become their slaves."
Demona felt like she'd been sucker punched. She recovered quickly and took Angela's hands in her own. "My daughter, you have suffered a terrible ordeal, but you handled yourself well. Whatever you did, it needed to be done. Be proud of yourself as a warrior and be proud of your clan. They fought well." Angela looked up. Surprise flickered across her face at her mother's assessment of the clan's conduct.
Demona had no doubt that whatever had occurred she would have done things differently if she were in charge, but now was not the time for critical battle assessment. "Really. You all made it out safely, and the rogue fay were bested. That is no small accomplishment. They can be quite deadly when cornered."
"Thank you, mother."
"Angela and Demona"
Demona reached forward and embraced her child. She stroked the girl's long dark hair and allowed her to pour out the pent up grief and rage and fear that was trapped inside. After a time the sobs gave way to snuffles and hiccups and Demona handed Angela another tissue.
"May I have some more water?" Angela asked timidly, ashamed of her outburst.
"Of course." Demona rose to refill the glass. "Daughter, do not let my fierce reputation frighten you. I became who I am through necessity, but I only wish to be fearsome to my foes, not you, child. Know that you can come to me, no matter what happens, and I will be there for you."
"I know that, mother. I've always known. You hold me in a special place in your heart. I just wish..." She let the words trickle off and Demona knew that this time she did not want to press her to finish the uncomfortable thought.
"It's getting late." Demona hesitated as she carefully framed the rest of her thought. Angela looked up her, expression still troubled. "You could spend the day here, and we could continue our talk tomorrow night. I could call Goliath and let him know. It would be no trouble at all."
Angela rose to her feet and hugged Demona once more. "No, thank you. I need to take care of a few things before dawn. You've helped me more than you know."
Demona gulped back a few tears of her own. "Hurry now, I don't want you to get caught out in the open." She opened the door onto a patio and escorted Angela to a specially designed platform. The girl climbed upward, unfurled her wings and disappeared into the night.
Demona watched her glide away with a heavy heart. "I will always be here for you, my child. Always."
When Angela disappeared from view, Demona left the crisp autumn air for the secured atmosphere of her study to spend the remaining night's hours with her archaic books.
* * * * *
Broadway paced the castle courtyard impatiently. "She's got to come home, she's got to come home."
Brooklyn looked on bemused. "Why don't you just call Demona's and see if she's coming back tonight?"
Broadway looked up embarrassed. "I don't want her to think I'm checking up on her. But she was awfully upset when she left tonight. I hope she isn't mad at me," he said, as he stared out over the city.
Brooklyn pointed skyward. "Well, there's your chance to find out."
Angela's silhouette grew larger in the waning night sky.
"Good luck, Bro." Brooklyn left a nervous Broadway to tend to his own family.
Broadway tried not to let his nervousness show as he took his first tentative steps towards Angela.
"Hi Angela." And after a moment, "Did you have a good time at Demona's?"
Angela looked up and smiled. "I needed to talk to her, Broadway. She helped me understand some things," she said evasively.
"Okay, things are good," Broadway nodded, not understanding what Angela meant. He tried to get things back on more familiar ground. "Elisa stopped by. She brought this." He handed Angela the carefully folded Halloween Party flyer. He paused, allowing her to read it before continuing. "Would you like to go with me?"
"A party, by humans who like gargoyles." There was wonder in her voice. "Yes, Broadway. I'd like to go very much." She hugged him, then took his hand as they headed toward their favored perches. "It's time to put the sadness behind us now."
Broadway squeezed her hand then pulled her close for another hug. "I'm glad you feel that way."
There was a smile on Broadway's face as the sun rose.
* * * * *
THE BROCKEN, GERMANY
"So many centuries," said Madoc thoughtfully, as he seated himself upon his throne.
Madoc and Maeve's thrones stood atop the dais at the far end of the great hall of their newly rebuilt castle - rebuilt in the perfectly duplicated style of their old stronghold that had once stood atop the Brocken over ten thousand years ago, before Oberon had destroyed it. The chamber was a vast, almost empty one, adorned with only a few banners that hung from the rafters, proudly displaying the heraldic insignia of the chief lords of the Unseelie Court. Chief of these was the banner that hung over Madoc's throne, depicting a seven-pointed star. Torches hung in their brackets behind the thrones, burning with an eerie orange radiance.
Two sidhe knights stood by the double doors, holding halberds and standing stiffly at attention. Garm lounged by Madoc's throne, half-asleep.
Maeve nodded, sitting down in her own throne. "Too many centuries, if you be askin' me," she said. "'Tis a pity that it took so long for your brother's spell upon us to finally be broken. We were deprived of our powers for far too long."
"Who would have thought that Loki escaping from his prison, would be the key to undoing the geas that bound us?" said Madoc. "How many times had he escaped, I wonder before he was bound in the Phoenix Gate? And what force brought about its destruction?" he added, after a moment's thought. "It was forged by Hephaestus himself. What could weaken the work of the Master Smith?"
"You'll be needin' to ask him about that one," said Maeve. "For my own part, I'm simply glad that the Gate was unmade. A pity, in a way; it could have been useful to us. But Loki, he'll be of use, in his own way."
"He does become rather trying at times," said Madoc. "Every now and then, I understand how he could have offended Oberon to the point that mere banishment was not punishment enough."
The doors opened just then, and Garlon entered. Umbriel followed him, gazing up at the banners in wonderment as he followed his uncle's retainer into the hall.
"The troops seem to be settling in nicely, m'lord," said Garlon, shifting in to formal court speech as he bowed low before Madoc.
"What about that bit of a set to I came upon earlier?" Maeve inquired mildly
The pale man paled further and cleared his throat. "There are still a few minor disagreements being settled. Some of the yell-hounds had a run in with Lady Sekhmet's cheetahs, and one or two of them even tried chasing Grimalkin. I've got a private suspicion that the Morrigan and Loki might be behind that. Those two never could resist causing trouble for a few laughs," he said, slipping back into common speech.
Madoc gave him a sharp look. "I trust that you have informed the others that all internal feuds and quarrels will be set aside for the duration of this war. I cannot permit such distractions to interfere with our plans."
"You needn't worry about that, my liege," said Garlon. "Things will quiet down, I assure you. I'm doing my best to get things better organized."
"See that they are," said Madoc.
Garlon nodded and walked out. Umbriel stayed behind, looking silently at his uncle, a perturbed expression on his face.
"Yes, nephew?" Madoc asked, turning to the young man. "Is there anything that you wished to see me about?"
"Yes, uncle," said Umbriel, speaking slowly and uncomfortably. "Yes, there is."
"And what might that be?" asked Madoc, motioning gently to him to come forward. "You can tell me about it."
"It's just that - well, why are we doing this, uncle?" asked Umbriel.
"Doing what?" Madoc asked.
"The things that we were doing back in New York," said Umbriel. "And what you said we were going to do next. Capturing gargoyles, plotting an invasion of Avalon, everything." He began to pace anxiously as he confronted his uncle with his misgivings.
"We've been over this before," said Madoc calmly. "A very long time ago, Lord Oberon usurped the throne of Avalon, the throne that was mine by right. When I asserted my right as the Fair Folk's true ruler, he banished me and all those who held with me to the outside world. And ever since then, that pretender has been misruling my people and my kingdom, to their detriment. I am going to recover what is mine by right."
"But what do the other people have to do with this?" asked Umbriel.
"Other people?" Madoc asked. "I am afraid that I do not quite follow you, nephew."
"The gargoyles and the humans," said Umbriel. "They aren't Children of Oberon, but what you were going to do to them in New York - " He halted, apparently at a loss for words.
"Unavoidable necessities of war," said Madoc. "This is something else that I've explained to you before. We needed the young female; she is the only person we know of who has recently been to Avalon and can tell us about its preparations for the war. And as for the others - remember, they were trespassing. They brought the battle to us. Would you rather we made no effort to defend ourselves against their invasion?"
"Well, no," said Umbriel. "But you also said something about ruling the younger races."
"For their own good," said Madoc. "They are still children in many ways, undecided, directionless. Left to themselves, humans have waged countless wars upon each other, engaged in more persecutions of one another over the pettiest difficulties than I could describe. They've yet to achieve maturity. They need a ruler, somebody who can keep them from destroying themselves."
"Well, maybe," said Umbriel, doubt still showing in his eyes.
"I realize that many of the things that I have done so far could be categorized as - morally dubious," Madoc continued. "But it is in a good cause, I assure you. We have a mission, my nephew, to rid the world of the tyranny of Lord Oberon, and reinstall the true and rightful ruler of Avalon to the throne. And if that mission requires the deaths of a few gargoyles and humans - well, that is unfortunate, but it is something that must be done. You understand that, do you not?"
Umbriel was silent for a few minutes. "I'm going to need some time to think this over, uncle," he said at last.
"Take all the time that you need, nephew," said Madoc, smiling. "But remember this. You are one of the Unseelie Court now. Remain with us, and I promise you, you will never feel alone again."
Umbriel walked slowly out of the hall. The faerie knights closed the doors behind him, and resumed their stiff, silent poses.
"That young nephew of yours is goin' to be difficult," said Maeve, frowning. "I'm just wonderin' how much longer we'll be able to keep his trust. I know that we're needin' him, but can we be certain that he'll stay true to you?"
"Oh, he will stay with us," said Madoc. "He might choose to leave us, yes, but where would he go? He has no family apart from us. I know enough about my nephew to know how lonely he's been over the centuries, dwelling on his own in that little village near Cape Cod. Yes, he will remain. We're all that he has and soon I shall have all that is mine." His eyes grew cold and hard as he spoke. "Oberon received everything that I ever wanted, all that I strove for, all that should have been mine. Even from the beginning....."
* * * * *
AVALON - ELEVEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO
"My lord?" Garlon appeared at his master's side "If I may..."
Prince Madoc of Avalon raised a hand, silencing his chief squire, and turned his gaze back to watch his brother Oberon and the Lady Titania as they walked through the palace gardens, talking. He could not hear their words; he had no great desire to do so.
"It's clear enough whom she has chosen," he said to Garlon at last, his voice even but his eyes almost beginning to glow with bitter hatred and jealousy. "She was careful enough to say nothing, all throughout, but I could tell that it was my brother that she had decided upon."
"Her heart and mind may change, my lord," offered Garlon.
"Not naturally," Madoc replied grimly. "No, her will has become set in stone, if ever I knew the Lady Titania. Indeed, it will not be long, I would think, before they declare their decision before the court, and their betrothal is formally acknowledged."
"Quite regrettable, my lord," said Garlon.
"I might have had her, were it not for my brother," said Madoc, glowering at Oberon again. "He stole her away from me. How, I do not know. But I will be avenged upon him yet for this. So help me, Garlon, I will!"
There was a sudden flash of light in the garden, close to where Madoc and Garlon stood, and a white-haired but young-looking faerie stood, dressed in the rather foppish attire of scarlet doublet, black cloak, and purple hose. "Ah, Madoc, Garlon," he said, with a wicked smile. "How goes it?"
"Greetings, Loki," said Garlon, turning to the newcomer. "Were I you, I'd not remain here for long. My lord and master is in a foul mood... again."
"Titania finally made up her mind?" Loki asked.
Garlon nodded and pointed across the garden toward the couple walking arm in arm.
"What a shame, what a shame," said Loki casually, leaning against a nearby apple tree and not seeming the least bit sorry.
"The queen heard about your latest prank. She was not amused," Garlon said, directing matters to other, more pressing topics.
"Prank?" Loki, repeated the picture of innocence. "What prank?"
"The village in Hellas," Garlon prompted. Loki continued to stare blankly. "An entire village of muskrats?"
Loki cocked his head to the side as he tried to make sense of Garlon. "Muskrats? Muskrats? Oh!" He grinned at last. "I do wish people would get their facts straight. They weren't muskrats, they were armadillos, and it was Sumeria, not Hellas!"
"Muskrats or armadillos, it matters not. The queen was most displeased." The pale man looked directly at Loki. "She may impose sanctions."
"Sanctions?" Loki repeated, not understanding. Then it hit him. "Wait a minute. So Her High and Mightiness wants to meddle in our fun because she can't take a joke? That is completely unfair! What's the point of having mortals around if we're not allowed to play with them?" He glanced at Madoc and swallowed. "My apologies," he said hurriedly. "I'd forgotten that our queen is also your mother."
"My parents have grown weak and soft," said Madoc. "It is our right to rule over mortals, as their greaters and elders. Humans and gargoyles are as nothing compared to our might. Only the dragons can approach us in power, and they will soon be dust, if the war is indeed going well."
"They do worship us, at least," offered Garlon. "They call us gods, and offer sacrifices to us in their temples."
"That is not enough," Madoc replied. "Monarchs absolute. That is how we should rule over the younger races. They should kneel before us, as our slaves, not just our worshippers."
"Sounds nice," said Loki. A smile curled his lips as he turned over the possibilities. "If you ever become king, maybe you can do something about it."
"The word in question, Laufeyson," said Madoc sharply, staring at the trickster with baleful eyes, "is when. When I become king."
"If you say so," said Loki. "But Oberon already took Titania. He might take the throne next. After all, he is your brother, your twin brother."
"He is also a fool," said Madoc. "He trusts blindly in his magical strength, but has not the wits to use it properly. If ever he comes up against an adversary with skill and craft enough to know how to counteract his might, I doubt that he would succeed in defeating him. Whereas, I have the intelligence to lead the fay to their rightful destiny. Surely the Council can see that."
Garlon shrugged. "When a king is immortal, all matters relating to the succession become purely academic."
Before either Madoc or Loki could reply, there was the sound of footsteps approaching. Loki hurriedly vanished in another flash of light, just as a man with the head of an ibis rounded the corner of one of the hedges.
"Your Highness," said the faerie noble, delivering a formal bow to Madoc.
"Yes, Lord Thoth?" Madoc asked. "What business have you with me?"
"My lord, Queen Danu desires your presence in the great hall at once," said Thoth. "And that of your brother Lord Oberon."
"For what purpose, Thoth?" Madoc asked. "Do you know?"
"Yes, my lord," said Thoth. "The Morrigan is to be placed on trial, and she wants the court present to attend."
"The Morrigan?" asked Madoc, sounding astonished. "What for?"
"Something that displeased the Queen," Thoth replied. "I know no more than that. But come quickly, I beg you. Those were her orders."
Madoc glanced in the direction of Oberon and Titania, at the other end of the garden, to see them being similarly accosted by Ea, another nobleman of the faerie court, doubtless delivering a similar message. "Very well," he said. "I will come."
"What could the Morrigan have done to earn the wrath of Queen Danu?" Garlon wondered, as he and Madoc followed Thoth to the great hall of the castle.
"I do not know," said Madoc. "But I imagine that we will soon learn."
* * * * *
A small crowd had already gathered in the Great Hall of the royal palace by the time that Madoc and Garlon entered. A crowd composed mostly of minor faeries - leprechauns, goblins, and wisps - but with a few of the lords present as well, those of the nobility who had not accompanied Avallach to battle against the dragons. Madoc recognized the tall and fiery-haired form of Prometheus standing close to the dais where Queen Danu sat enthroned, and not far away, the smith Hephaestus, still grimy from the forge, as though he had come in haste. And Grandmother, one of the few members of the Great Council not away with the King at war, stood to the left of Danu's throne.
Madoc carefully made his way to the dais, glancing sharply at any lesser fay who dared to get in his path. He mounted the platform only to notice that Oberon had already preceded him there, and was standing to one side of his father's vacant throne. Madoc scowled at this, but said nothing. He took his own place on the dais, carefully standing where he could be easily seen by the crowd, but well away from his brother.
In the center of the hall stood three sidhe knights from Danu's personal entourage: Sir Guyon, their chief, and behind him, Sir Artegal and Sir Calidore. Between Artegal and Calidore stood the Morrigan, a very sour look upon her face.
"I wonder what she's so angry about," said Garlon, in a low voice to Madoc.
Madoc would have replied, but Thoth had taken his place at the foot of the dais, and struck the floor three times with the staff that he bore. All talk immediately ceased, and Queen Danu spoke.
"Morrigan," she said, in a clear, stern voice, "we have learned that you have stirred up strife and discord among the humans that dwell in the kingdom of Hyperborea. And, from your acts, there has come about a civil war in which a multitude of these mortals have been slain. What have you to say for yourself?"
"I was bored!" the Morrigan retorted, in her shrill, bitter voice that half-reminded Madoc of a crow. "There's little enough to do here on Avalon! Playin' with the Hyperboreans gave me a bit of a laugh."
"And because of your boredom," Danu replied coldly, "hundreds, nay, thousands of the humans have lost their lives. Are these worthy fruits of your labors, child? Is this a fitting price for your amusement?"
The Morrigan gave her queen a defiant stare. "You've brought me here before the court over a few human lives?"
"Every life matters," Danu said firmly. "No matter how trivial. Even the mortals."
She would have said more, but there was a disturbance at the entrance to the hall. A dark-haired female sidhe with a proud face, dressed in armor, came striding up the hall angrily, a drawn sword in her hand. The lesser fay murmured in confusion and shock at the sight, and even the nobles seemed perturbed. Madoc himself lifted one eyebrow in astonishment.
Garlon stepped close to Madoc "The Lady Maeve is angry," he whispered, understating the situation. "Has anyone ever entered the court chamber with a drawn sword?"
"Someone has now," Madoc replied, looking on thoughtfully.
"Lady Maeve, what means this entrance?" asked Danu, looking at the new arrival disapprovingly. "You transgress the laws of our court by appearing in our presence with your sword in your hand, rather than in its sheath. And by entering unannounced, while we are in the midst of delivering judgement."
"Release the Morrigan!" Maeve growled as she gained the attention of the entire court.
"The Morrigan was brought before me lawfully, Lady Maeve," said Danu, her voice even stiffer, colder, and more formal than before. "She has serious crimes to answer for."
"You have placed her on trial, not the king. What right have you?" cried Maeve. "I'll not stomach such insult!"
"While my lord and husband is away at war, I rule Avalon as his Regent," Danu said. "Do not forget that."
"And what would you be chargin' me cousin with anyway? The deaths of a few humans? They die all the time. It's hardly our concern."
"That does not give us the right to treat them as our playthings," spoke a new voice. It was Prometheus, who now stepped forward. "The younger races are not our toys, Lady Maeve. They are our responsibility. We are to guide and protect them, to nurture them until they reach their adulthood and can face their own destiny without requiring our assistance. If we meddle with them purely to entertain ourselves, giving no thought to the woe and suffering that we inflict upon them, then we are not fulfilling our function properly."
"Our function?" cried Maeve in disbelief. "Is that what we are to be? Mere nursemaids to a race of short-lived weaklings? You are a fool, Prometheus, if you believe that that is what our role in this world is. 'Tis foolishness you speak. We are mightier in body and mind than humans will ever be! I will not see our race humiliated," she scowled in disgust. "Stoopin' to help our natural inferiors!" She looked defiantly at the court. "I will not abdicate me dignity, by thus servin' those - those mayflies!"
Queen Danu stared in shock and disapproval at Maeve, as did half the court. She opened her mouth to reply but stopped when the doors opened again, and another sidhe entered the hall. This one was male, clad in furs like those of the Northmen, and bore a bow in his hand and a quiver of arrows slung across his back. He staggered as he came, and seemed near to exhaustion. Madoc recognized him almost at once. It was Lord Ull, one of the members of the Aesir tribe, who had accompanied Avallach in his war on the dragons.
"My lady," said Ull, kneeling before the startled Queen. "I bring you grave news."
"Lord Ull?" asked Danu, staring at him in amazement. "What tidings do you have?"
"The dragons are slain or scattered, My Queen. The victory is ours."
There was a great whoop of joy from the assembled court. It died off quickly as Ull sagged and they realized that he had more news to bear.
"It came at a great price. Your husband the King - "
"Tell me, Lord Ull." Danu demanded.
"He was grievously wounded in the last battle with the firedrakes. We are bringing him back here that his wounds may be tended with proper care by Lord Diancecht."
"We thank you for your message, Lord Ull," said Queen Danu. She spoke in as level tones as she could manage, but her eyes betrayed her worry - no, her fear. "And we shall prepare for the King's return, with all haste."
She now addressed the court. "Make haste, all of you, and prepare to receive our army and our king. And as for you both - " - she turned to face the Morrigan and Maeve - " - we have more things to say to you later, at our proper leisure. For now, you both are dismissed. But do not believe that we approve of your acts. Far from it. There will be a reckoning that you both must face."
She arose from the throne, and left the hall, escorted by Guyon, Artegal, and Calidore. Upon her departure, everyone began talking in hushed voices.
"Your father has been gravely wounded?" asked Garlon. "By what? What can injure one of our kind - and the King, at that?"
"I do not know," replied Madoc, frowning. "But we must find out. Unless I am greatly mistaken in my judgement, it could be a threat to us. A threat to us all."
He noticed Oberon and Titania leaving the hall together, and his eyes darkened again. "My brother already plays the King," he said to Garlon in a low voice. "And methinks that he has also chosen his Queen speedily enough. But I will never permit it. No, never."
* * * * *
It was only a few hours later that the royal army returned to the castle, a cheerless band of faerie warriors. Although the dragons had been routed, their Queen slain, and their King sealed away where he could no longer trouble the people of Avalon, the Third Race had their own losses, too. And Avallach stood to be chief among these.
Madoc had stared in disbelief and shock as his father was borne into the castle in a litter, aged and withered in a way that was unnatural to one of the Fair Folk. Odin and Nuada, his two chief war-leaders, directed the proceedings, as those of the fay who had remained on Avalon during the war watched, speechless.
"My husband!" cried Danu, kneeling beside the litter when it was brought into the great hall. "What has befallen you?"
Avallach looked up at her with weakened eyes, and struggled to speak, but could not. It was Odin who spoke, in a grave and subdued voice.
"The dragons had humans fighting beside them," Odin began slowly. "It was one of them that did this. He smote your husband in the leg with his spear, and this was the result. His wound will not heal, and he can barely speak."
"But what metal can do such a thing?" asked Thoth. "What gives it the power to inflict such injury upon our own king, the mightiest of us all?"
Odin shook his shaggy head. "I do not know," said Odin. "I have instructed our warriors to find the spear and the rock from which its head was made. Perhaps Hephaestus can answer your questions."
The crowd parted as Diancecht, the court physician, approached. "Bear the King to his chambers," he commanded. "He needs rest and solitude. Let him be, all of you."
The other faerie-folk moved away as the litter-bearers carried the stricken king away to the royal bedchamber. Danu turned to face Diancecht. "Can you heal his wound?" she asked him.
"I can try, my queen," the physician replied. "But until I know the nature of what has delivered this injury to him, I fear that I may promise you nothing."
* * * * *
Later still, the great hall was still filled with small clusters of fay, talking quietly among themselves. The worry was palpable. Odin and his chief sons, Thor and Tyr, were trying to calm apprehensive leprechauns, and Nuada was engaged in troubled discussion with Grandmother, Thoth, Ea, and Prometheus over the king's health as the latter explained he had never scene such a malady before. Madoc noticed, out of the corner of one eye, Maeve standing in the middle of another circle of fay, among whom he recognized Herne, the Morrigan, and Huitzilipochtli. He walked carefully close enough to the small gathering to be able to overhear what Maeve was saying.
"And it was a human who did this! A human fought for our ancient enemies the dragons, and felled our king! Be merciful, they said. Treat them gently, they said. A fine way they treat us. Did they show our king any mercy?"
"Very interesting," said Madoc to Garlon, thoughtfully. But before he could draw closer, he suddenly turned his head to see something else. Titania, heading alone towards him.
"She must know of my father's condition," he said to his squire, nodding with interest, "and comes to speak with me on it. Perchance to express her sympathy. If I can just get her alone, I may yet be able to turn her heart away from my brother."
He stepped towards her, only to see her turn aside, walking straight towards - Oberon. His brother had suddenly appeared in the hall, and it was on him that her eyes were fastened. Shock lined Oberon's proud face, but it softened into something of a smile when he saw Titania.
"My lord," she said, as she stepped up to him, "I have heard of your father's misfortune. And if there is anything that I can do for you, to aid you in your grief ... "
"Your presence here is comfort enough for me, my lady," said Oberon, some note of gladness making itself clear in his words. "I thank you for coming to me, fair Titania."
Madoc clenched his fists in silent anger, as he watched. He then turned around, and walked away from the pair, without saying a word.
"Is anyone with the King?" he heard Prometheus ask.
"None, save Queen Danu," said Diancecht, who had now joined the group surrounding Nuada. "King Avallach bade me send for her, saying that he wished to speak to her alone. And at his command, I left the room once she entered."
"And is his wound indeed that grave?" Grandmother asked.
"I fear so," said Diancecht. "Never have I seen anything like it."
It was then that Queen Danu entered the hall, alone. Her head was bowed in grief, and tears showed in her eyes. She mounted the dais and spoke to the assembled fay.
"My people," she said to them, in a grave voice, "I have sad news to impart unto you. Our king is dead."
Many of the lesser fay gasped in horror, and even the great lords looked shocked. "Dead?" asked Nuada at last, his voice quavering.
She nodded silently. "He has departed this life," she said. "Mourn you all for our king, as I mourn for my husband. His reign has ended forevermore."
Silence filled the hall. There was nothing that anyone could say. Absolutely nothing.
* * * * *
"So the Council chose Oberon over myself," said Madoc in bitter disgust as Garlon delivered his report, much later that evening.
"My apologies, my lord," said Garlon, standing before his master in Madoc's study, a sparsely furnished chamber in the North Tower of the palace. Madoc sat at his desk, several books and scrolls piled before him. His great dog Garm was half-sleeping beside his chair, though still listening to the conversation with a measure of alertness. "But that is what I heard."
"My brother will no doubt be crowned and enthroned within a few days' time," said Madoc, scowling. "And then, after that, formally betrothed to the Lady Titania."
He arose from his chair and paced back and forth in the room, tapping his sword hilt as he did so. Then he turned to Garlon.
"There are many among us of the Fair Folk who weary of these efforts to bar us from doing as we please to the younger races," he said to his squire. "The Lady Maeve is chief among them. I want you to bring word to them all, to assemble in the clearing by the Great Ash Tree, at midnight. There is a serious matter that I wish to address them on."
"As you wish, m'lord," said Garlon. He bowed low, and left the study.
* * * * *
That midnight, a crowd of fay was gathering about the Great Ash Tree, a single mighty tree that stood alone in one of the larger clearings of the forest. Madoc had taken up his vantage point on a large rock which stood before the Great Ash Tree, and looked down at the crowd. Garlon stood stiffly at attention on the ground to his left, and Garm sat on his haunches just behind his master. The prince permitted the murmuring of the faeries to continue for a while, before he finally raised his hand in an imperious gesture. All speech immediately ceased, and the crowd turned to look at him.
"I thank you all for coming here," said Madoc, nodding satisfied. "Now then, as you all know, grave times have come to Avalon. Our ancient enemies, the dragons, have finally been defeated, but at a grave cost. Our king was slain by them - no, not by them, but by a human who had allied himself with the Great Worms and fought willingly for them. One of the mortals, whom we are supposed, according to the sugary prattle of naive fools like Lord Prometheus, to nourish and guide, as if they were our children." Madoc's face was bitter. "Well, my lords and ladies of Avalon, you can see for yourselves the nature of mortals. False and treacherous, ready to cast in their lot with the monstrous firedrakes who would have turned this world into a charred wasteland had they their way, and lift their hands against us. These are the beings that those simpletons would have us expend our strength to care for and protect!
"But they nevertheless have voice enough on the Great Council to delude even my own royal kinsfolk. My father who is gone, accepted their advice, and it brought him nothing but grief; had he ruled over the mortals with strength and force, as he ought to have done, he would still be alive. And my mother Danu, although she beheld the tragedy that befell her husband through heeding such counsel, still persists in this mad course. And my brother Oberon who is to be our King," He sighed and shook his head sadly. "Who knows what course he will take. He believes my mother's well-meant but misguided council."
"Then we'll want none of him," said Maeve sharply. "I will never submit to a milksop!"
"Nor will I," said Loki Laufeyson. "The last thing that we want is some king spoiling all our fun. Oberon's got no right to stick his nose in our business!"
The others nodded and rumbled their agreement. Madoc noted their enthusiasm with a satisfied smile and tallied his co-conspirators. Herne the Huntsman, Master of the Wild Hunt, a dark and silent figure with a feathered mask covering his face, and the antlers of a stag sprouting from his head. The tall and icy figure of Ymir, ruler of the Jotnar of frost giants, with his grim pale blue face and icicle-like hair and beard. Balor of the Evil Eye, ruler of the Fomorians. Huitzilipochtli, the Lord of War. Redcaps, wisps, oni, wendigos, all chafing at the restrictions that Avallach and Danu had endeavored to place upon them, and which Oberon was now likely to enforce. After scanning the crowd, Madoc spoke again.
"I share your thoughts and feelings," he said. "Oberon may be my brother, but he is also a fool, who will listen, beyond a doubt, to the cowardly talk of the Council and lower us to mere - servants - " - he spat out the word in disgust - " - of those weakling younger races. And then we must bid farewell to all our might, unless we overthrow him."
"Overthrow Oberon?" asked Maeve thoughtfully, an odd gleam shining in her eyes.
"Aye, and good riddance!" said the Morrigan. "We've no need of him, we've no need of a king!"
"Oh, there will be a king," said Madoc, still smiling. "Me. I will be king. I promise you this, my lords and ladies. When I am installed as your sovereign liege, I will see to it that we take our rightful place as rulers of this world! The younger races will bow before us, will do our bidding, will wait upon us as our servants. Follow me, and we shall fulfill our true and proper destiny, as the superiors of humans and gargoyles! Who is with me?"
The crowd of fay cheered in assent. "Then follow me," cried Madoc. "We will depart from Avalon, and set up our own court in opposition to Oberon! A court that will topple him from his ill-gotten throne, and bring an end to all who would stand in our way! A court that will shape this planet in our image, according to our will! A court that will rule the Earth, forever!"
He motioned to Garlon, who brought him his horse. Madoc mounted his faerie steed, and raised his hand up high. And as he rode from the clearing, headed for the shores of Avalon, the other fay followed him. In but a few minutes, the woods were empty of them.
* * * * *
"It will be different, this time," Madoc muttered grimly. "Much, much, different. Garlon, fetch Umbriel. It's time to leave."
* * * * *
"Wow! Those pumpkins look great, Andrea!"
Andrea Calhoun dipped her brush into a pot of black acrylic paint, gave her latest subject one more blacked out tooth, then turned to smile at the skinny teenager at her side.
"Thanks, L'John, You really think so? Pumpkins aren't my usual medium."
"Andrea, whatever you paint it always looks awesome. P.I.T. is lucky to have an artist on staff like you."
"I'm just trying to do my part, L'John. Just as we all are. If I can influence public beliefs through my artwork, then I'm happy to do it. I'm really not any different from Jerry, over there," she pointed to a tall dark man who was fumbling with a string of Halloween decorations, to the amusement of another one of the teenaged volunteers. "I'm glad he decided to join us. Being a reporter and all, he has to be careful about keeping up an appearance of neutrality."
L'John shook his head. "Only when it affects his work. He's a crime beat reporter. This is a social issue."
"Except for the fact that gargoyles fight crime. I think he's courageous for taking a stand," Andrea argued.
L'John thought about it for a minute and realized that Andrea was right. "I guess so. Well one thing's for sure, if he and Liz don't stop tangling those streamers, they'll never get them up in time for the party. I guess I better go help."
Andrea smiled at the boy as he moved away to help with the decorations. She returned her attention to the army of pumpkins, some scary, some frivolous, and gave each a last critical look before nodding her approval. She washed out her paintbrush and began to arrange the pumpkins in various strategic locations around the room.
The was a loud crash and she looked up abruptly, nearly upsetting a bowl of pretzels that was stationed next to one of her decorations.
"I'm okay!" a voice protested loudly.
"Are you sure? What happened?" The voices of the volunteers mingled in their concern. Finally Andrea was able to locate the source of the commotion. CD's were scattered all over the floor and at the center was Marc, a tall, rugged looking volunteer in his twenties. Andrea sighed. It was hard to believe that anybody that athletic looking could be such a total klutz.
"I dropped a disc. Then when I went to pick it up, I tripped, I guess." Marc confessed, as he accepted a hand and was pulled to his feet. "Silly me."
There was a good-natured round of agreement as volunteers picked up the scattered CDs. When the last one was fished out from under the literature table and placed next to the player, Andrea looked around the room in satisfaction. The modest meeting hall had been transformed. Orange and black streamers cascaded from the ceiling, skeletons peeked out from under the refreshment table, and a dance floor had been set up in the center. She was pleased to note it was far enough away from the punch bowl that even Marc would be safe from mishaps. Here and there were her gaily-decorated pumpkins. She hoped they would raise a good price when they were auctioned off later in the evening. Andrea smiled in satisfaction; it was going to be a good party.
* * * * *
In another part of town, the guests were beginning to arrive at a considerably more posh affair. A large banner proclaimed the gala to be on behalf of the Xanatos - Renard Foundation to Aid the Homeless, and society's best were arriving in limousines ready to party their hardest on behalf of charity.
David chuckled as he watched Fox persuade Alderman Holmes into a pair of ice skates. "Watching that man fall on his wallet is going to be a highlight of the evening for me," he confided to Owen.
"Indeed, sir," Owen agreed, then he continued on to more pressing business. "The caterers are set up, all of the food and beverages have arrived, the musicians have finished their sound check, and the guests are arriving in a steady stream. If my services are no longer required, I should like to return to the castle. The gargoyles all had plans for this evening and Alexander is going to require my attention."
"Quite right, Owen. It was sweet of Angela to offer to look after Alex while you were helping me out, but I know that Broadway is looking forward to taking her to that party. You go along, and don't worry about a thing, Fox and I will take a cab home later."
"Are you certain, sir? I could send one of the security men around later with the limo."
"No, a cab will do, this once. You go on home and enjoy your evening with Alex."
"Thank you sir, " he watched the steady stream of arriving guests "ooh and ah" over the series of gaily colored tents that they had set up outside the skating rink, each containing its own attraction. "I believe that Mrs. Xanatos has another hit party on her hands."
"You know she wouldn't have it any other way. Good night, Owen." David moved off to mingle with his guests.
* * * * *
There was a flash of red light, and two figures on horseback materialized in the middle of a lush garden. Madoc dismounted and motioned to Umbriel to do the same.
"Yes," said the Unseelie Lord, examining his surroundings with an approving nod. "Yes. I believe that this will fulfill our needs nicely."
"Why do we need such a base here in New York, uncle?" Umbriel asked as he dismounted. "We already have your castle at the Brocken to serve as a home for us."
"True," said Madoc, nodding. "But I believe it prudent to have an advance post, from where we may direct operations in this city all the better. And we will particularly need it for tonight. Our forces will need a place to assemble, after all."
"Yes, I suppose they will," Umbriel agreed gamely. "And you want me to assist you in preparing this place?"
"Precisely," said Madoc. "Most of it I can do on my own, but I need you to deal with the iron that is here. The rest of us cannot affect it, but the human blood that flows in your veins, the legacy of your mortal mother, gives you a special gift. You need merely provide the protective field and the trellis. I will do the rest."
Umbriel nodded silently. He looked about the gardens, gazing at their lush beauty under the stars. Then he nodded again at Madoc to indicate that he was ready. He lifted his right hand, and extended his index finger towards the iron fence that surrounded the garden. At once, an eerie glow enveloped the fence completely, encasing it on all sides. Madoc walked over to the force field and touched it gingerly.
"Well done, my boy. That will guard against accidents," he said. "And now the trellis."
Umbriel raised his hand again, extending it this time towards the wrought-iron trellis. It was instantly transmuted into black glass, without so much as disturbing the wisteria vines that entwined it.
Madoc nodded in satisfaction.
"And now, the finishing touches," said the Unseelie Lord. He raised his left hand, and spoke aloud in a language that Umbriel had never heard before. Two thrones appeared at the high point of the trellis's arc, and several smaller chairs, some on one side of the thrones, some on the other side. The five-pointed star icons on the paving stones beneath the trellis reshaped themselves into seven-pointed stars, and the names of the thirteen original states that they symbolized, written beside them, disappeared. The plastic fences on the main lawn vanished as well.
"Amazing!" said Umbriel, looking about him awestruck. He shivered slightly, in spite of himself. The shadows that filled the garden seemed to grow longer and more numerous. He eyed the nearest flowerbed cautiously, half-fancying that he had seen something stirring amid the stems. He moved away from the bed cautiously.
"The others will soon be here," said Madoc. "And then we will be able to make our preparations."
"What of the humans who dwell in this city?" asked Umbriel suddenly. "Many of them must visit this garden regularly. Won't they see the changes that we have made here, and become suspicious?"
"Not likely," dismissed Madoc. "I have placed an additional enchantment upon this place. Those of the younger races who come this way, other than those who are subject to us, will feel a certain antipathy to this place that they cannot define. They will have no desire to enter it."
"But the gargoyles or their human allies might try to come here," offered Umbriel.
"My spells will prevent them from entering," said Madoc. "The force field that now surrounds these gardens can be passed freely only by us of the Unseelie. Unless the mortals have magic to aid them - and I have seen no evidence of that among the local clan and its allies - they may not enter."
"And our enemies on Avalon?"
"They will not even dare to bring the war to us," said Madoc. "Oberon lost many of his subjects the last time we fought. He will not want to face such casualties again, and neither will his followers. No, they will not attack us, here or anywhere else. All that we have to worry about is the younger races - and they are easily dealt with. Trust me, my nephew. We have nothing to fear."
Umbriel said nothing. He merely looked at the altered gardens in silence.
* * * * *
"Angela!" Broadway called through the bathroom door. "Are you going to be much longer?"
"Just a minute," she replied as she fumbled with the unfamiliar rollers and curling iron. "I want to make sure that I have this exactly right." There was a pause and a muffled "Ouch!"
"Angela?" Broadway called again.
"It's nothing, I'm fine." She sucked on a curling iron burned talon tip. "Humans go through an awful lot to get ready for an evening out. I'm glad I don't have to do this every night."
Broadway realized his love must be going through some sort of considerable transformation. She had been fussing with her costume ever since she had awoken, comparing the dress Elisa had brought from the costume shop with several of his old movies, muttering under her breath and taking notes, and mimicking the action as Mary Astor, Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake had swung their hips across the screen.
He found himself suddenly nervous that his fedora and trench coat weren't going to be enough, and decided to make a quick trip down the block to where the humans left the clothes that were meant to be given to the poor. "Uh, Angela? Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back!"
He bolted down the hallway and out the door, leaving a bemused Brooklyn in his wake. "Hey that gives me an idea," he said as he rubbed a talon against his beak. "Where are those kids of mine?" He took an educated guess and a few moments later was rewarded by the sight of his children mock fighting in the gymnasium. "Hey kids. KIDS!" he repeated more loudly after a moment.
Ariana threw Graeme over her shoulder flat on his back and turned at her father's voice. "Yes, dad?" she replied sweetly.
"How would you like to go to a Halloween party?"
Graeme peeled himself off the gym mat. "Did you say party?"
"Yeah, but in order to go, it works like this..." he explained the set up to the children.
* * * * *
Lexington waited impatiently as yet another PDF formatted data book downloaded onto a disk. "I've got to learn how all this stuff inside my head works. I've just got to," he muttered. He barely noticed as Graeme and Ariana entered the room followed a moment later by Brooklyn.
"Come on, kids," Brooklyn implored. "It won't be bad, honest. I'll stay in the background, you'll hardly know I'm there."
"Dad, it's nothing personal, really." Ariana began.
"Yeah, dad," Graeme continued. "You're okay for well, dad stuff. But this is Halloween! It's for kids." He turned to his sister. "It's a rule or something. Isn't it Ari?"
She looked doubtful and rolled her eyes, but played along. "Yeah, definitely a rule." She sidled up to Lexington, who made a half-hearted attempt to ignore his rookery-niece. "Now if somebody cool wanted to take us trick'r treating. I guess that would be okay."
This was Brooklyn's big moment. He turned on his rookery brother with a look of parental desperation. "Lex, buddy, you gotta help me out here."
Lexington sighed and closed the file he'd been attempting to read. "What is it Brooklyn?"
Brooklyn gestured to the kitchen and Lexington reluctantly followed him away from the children.
"Look, man, it's the kids. They want to go out for Halloween, totally understandable, you know how it is. The one night of the year when we can walk among the humans freely. But they don't want to go out with Sata and me watching them. Some notion they picked up about 'Kid's Only'."
"What about Hudson's Labyrinth party?" Lexington suggested.
"Too, what was the word Graeme used?" Brooklyn said, wracking his memory for a conversation that never occurred. "Oh, I remember. Too 'fuddy duddy'. Whatever that means, but I can guess."
"Yeah, okay, I guess I can see his point. Lots of little kids gonna be there. So what do you want me to do about it?"
"Lex, it would be a huge favor to me and Sata if you'd take the kids out trick or treating, maybe to that PIT party at the community center. It would be good for them to see the positive side of humanity in this era. Most of what they've run into since we've been back has been pretty grim." He placed a talon on his rookery brother's shoulder. "You know what I'm saying?"
Lexington looked inward. "Yeah, I guess I do." He smiled at the two siblings in the room beyond, pacing with childish anticipation. "Okay, you've got yourself a chaperone."
"Great! I owe you buddy." Brooklyn smiled in genuine relief. "Sata and I have to get going. We promised Hudson we'd help with the festivities down below. So I'll leave everything in your capable hands."
"No problemo, you two have fun." Lexington smiled at his rookery brother and went to break the news to the children.
* * * * *
"Angela?" Goliath tapped on the bathroom door, a sleepy Alexander tucked against his massive bicep. "Angela, are you going to be much longer?"
"Just a minute, Father. Just one more..." she trailed off for a moment, then the door opened. "There! How do I look?"
Goliath stepped back in amazement. Gone was his demure daughter. In her place stood a gargoyle version of "every dame" out of Broadway's collection of detective movies. Her dark hair, normally tied neatly in a bundle that fell down her back, was loose and cascaded in waves. The front portion had been combed and sculpted so that it fell provocatively over her left eye. Though the suit that she wore was outwardly demure, a dark navy blue skirt that dropped below her knees and a matching suit jacket that was trimmed with vaguely military themed braids and buttons, there were several nips and tucks here and there that accentuated his daughter's curves. The wide brimmed hat and veil only served to add a heightened air of mystery to her appearance. He sniffed the air. "Are you wearing perfume?"
She nodded, clearly pleased with the effect. "It's night blooming jasmine. Pretty isn't it? It had quite an effect on Humphrey Bogart."
"I can understand why," Goliath said, still stunned.
Alexander began to fuss suddenly and Goliath remembered the reason for seeking out his daughter. "You were not planning on leaving before Owen returned to the castle, were you?"
Angela looked momentarily abashed as she remembered that she had told Goliath that he would only have to watch the baby for just a few minutes. "I'm sorry, Father. It took longer to do all this," she gestured to herself, "than I thought it would." She looked up at Goliath and the toddler. "It's Alex's bedtime anyway. Do you want me to put him to bed for you?"
Goliath looked at his daughter and realized again the effort she had put into preparing for the party. He smiled at her and the squirming toddler. "No, I'm sure that I can manage, just this once. Have a good time tonight, daughter."
Angela burst into a radiant smile. She impulsively reached up and kissed Goliath, leaving a smear of lipstick on his cheek. "Thank you, Father, I'm sure we will."
"Come along, Alexander, let's put you to bed." Goliath and the baby left the smiling Angela to finish with her primping.
* * * * *
"Come on you two!" Lex tried to keep the impatience out of his voice. "Don't you have any ideas about what you want to be?" The pile of clothing on the floor was becoming alarming.
"I want to wear my bo," Ariana grumbled. "But I can't figure out what works with it."
"Leave the stick at home, Ari-chan," Graeme advised solicitously. "You'll only look like one of those turtles on TV."
"Uncle Lex," Ari wailed with all the heartbreak only a small girl can put into a cry. "Make him stop insulting me!"
Lexington eyed his charges and the stack of accumulated clothing one more time and took a deep sigh. He picked up a gaily colored scarf and then another and got a sudden brainstorm. "Ari, grab your belt and as many of these scarves and such as you can. You're gonna be a ... gypsy...shepherdess," he said thinking quickly. "You can use your bo as a shepherd's staff.
Ariana smirked. "Does that mean Graeme gets to be my sheepdog?" She ducked as Graeme tried to pelt her with clothing.
"That's cute, Ari, but I think that maybe Graeme can be a..."
Graeme cut in. "I'm gonna go as a regular guy. A human." He rooted among the clothes until he came upon a sweat suit and jogging cap. "It sure was nice for the Xanatos's to leave us all these clothes."
Sata entered the room and surveyed the chaos. "They did not leave this clothing for you children. These are for those less fortunate ones in the labyrinth. Once you have finished choosing the items you wish to wear, I shall take the rest with me. You may take the other items yourself tomorrow night."
Graeme and Ariana lowered their eyes in shame. "We're sorry, Okaasan. We did not realize that these were gifts for others."
Lex looked abashed as well. "I'm sorry too, Sata. The kids and I needed costumes at the last minute and..."
"It is all right, Lexington. The act was well intentioned." She turned to the children. "If you've made your selections then go get into your costumes. You do not wish to keep Ojisan Lexington waiting."
"Yes, Okaasan." The twins gathered up the pieces of their respective costumes and dashed out of the room to get ready. Lexington bent to help Sata place the discarded clothing back into the shopping bags.
"What about you, Lexington? Do you also need a costume for this party?"
Lexington looked startled. "I guess I do. I got so busy refereeing the kids, I forgot." He pulled a pair of jeans and a baseball jersey from the top of the discards and eyed them critically. "I guess this will do."
Sata eyed him as well. "Do you not need one of these?" She pulled a hat with a matching team logo from another sack and placed it in Lexington's hands.
"Yeah, thanks, I guess I do at that." There was an awkward pause. "Well, I guess I better not keep the kids waiting. They're awfully excited about this party."
"Thank you for taking them, Otooto. They value your company highly, as do I."
Lexington was taken aback by this sudden compliment from his adopted rookery sister. "Thanks, Sata. They're great kids." Lex cleared his throat as he realized maybe his family appreciated him more than he suspected. "Thanks, Sata." he repeated. Lexington fled the room before his conflicted emotions could betray him.
* * * * *
Ariana twirled and her skirt of many scarves and neckties floated around her. She gave a self-satisfied nod. Brooklyn, Sata and Hudson, their arms full of bundles, joined Lexington and the twins out on the parapets. Sata eyed the children in their costumes. "Who are these strange hatchlings, my mate?"
Brooklyn shrugged, then winked at the children. "I don't know, Sata. Somebody must have swapped them for ours when we weren't looking."
Graeme groaned. "Mooooom! It's us!"
Sata peered more closely and gave her children a smile. "Very convincing." She went briefly into mother-mode. "Conduct yourselves well, children."
Ariana, realizing that things were orbiting closer towards normal, bowed respectfully. "Always, Okaasan. May we go now?"
"Come on Uncle Lex, let's move it!" The hatchlings dove over the side of the castle. Lexington shrugged and joined them. "I won't keep them out too late," he called over his shoulder.
"I think we should be off as well," Hudson murmured as he took a more gingerly approach to higher ground. He vaulted into the night sky and Sata and Brooklyn followed in his wake.
* * * * *
Broadway stood in front of the mirror and smiled. The suit he had pulled out of the clothes bin had a debonair cut to it. The shirt collar wasn't quite right, but when he tugged at the necktie, loosening it just so, and pulled the brim of his fedora over his eye...
"Broadway! You look wonderful!" He whirled and found Angela surveying his reflection in the mirror.
He drew his breath in sharply. "Wow," he said as he attempted to shock his brain back in gear. "You look... Angela!" He remembered the corsage he had Elisa buy for him. "I got you something." He pulled the box from underneath his discarded overcoat and handed it to her.
"Orchids! Oh, Broadway! How pretty!"
"May I?" He took the clear plastic box back and fumbled with the clamshell lid. The orchids were tied into a wrist corsage and he slipped it over her right hand, then brought her knuckles to his lips. "Perfect," he pronounced. "Shall we go?"
A sudden look of distress marred Angela's lovely features. "Broadway, I just realized, I can't glide in this outfit!"
"Don't worry, my sweet, I arranged that too." He offered her his arm. "If you don't mind a short walk?"
Angela shook her head and they departed through Elisa's private entryway. A short while later, a pre-arranged taxi cab was whisking them toward the community center.
* * * * *
Demona set the perimeter security alarms and double checked to make sure the gate was locked before settling in with the sheaf of financial statements and other documents that she needed to review for the next mornings' round of board meetings. While the probability of being disturbed by trick or treaters was small in the extreme, she had no desire to take the slightest chance of anything interfering with her concentration. She stretched her wings, then resolutely caped them around her shoulders as she settled behind her desk and tried to concentrate on the unending stream of facts and figures and other data so necessary to a successful multi-national concern. Her concentration was repeatedly broken as thoughts of Angela rivaled with her business concerns. "My daughter will be fine," she muttered resolutely, as she tried to chase the specter of her only child chained and tormented by the pair of rogue fay. "Useless creatures!" she swore under her breath. "I knew there was something not quite right about that 'oh so proper' Nicholas Maddox and his ever so mild companion. I knew they were trouble from the moment I laid eyes on them!" Demona's eyes flared briefly and she scattered the papers across her desk with a frustrated sweep of her arm.
She rose and began to pace the room. After a few minutes, feeling herself calming down enough to continue her literature review, she picked up some of the scattered reports and began to read.
As she buried herself in a pair of rival counter proposals, the stresses of the day began to tug at her consciousness. Demona shook her head and tried to concentrate, but the numbers began to dance off the page and her head slumped forward against her chest.
Demona snapped her head up, abruptly shaking the sleep away. She began to rise from the couch and then froze. The room had changed. No longer was she in her own library. Gone were the heavy drapes and the sturdy yet elegantly understated furniture. Gone were her antiques and the collection of spell books that lined the wall.
Instead, she found herself in a much different room. A small, plain grey room. The floors and walls were lined with acoustic tile. There was a camera mounted in the corner and a large television monitor behind a plane of heavy Plexi-glass. The only furnishing was a chair, but not any chair. This was huge and had heavy restraints at strategic intervals. The chair was occupied. The chair held Angela.
Demona rushed to her side as the younger female struggled.
"Angela!" she cried as tried to pull at the heavy leather straps. Her hands went right through them. Angela continued to struggle. She stopped abruptly as the door to the chamber opened and Nicholas Maddox and Mavis O'Connor strolled through, looking at Angela as if she were some very interesting new species of insect.
Maddox smiled. "Ah, Miss Destine. How kind of you to honor us with your presence."
Angela twitched in shock, and Maddox and Mavis both laughed. Demona lunged and passed straight through the Unseelie.
"Oh, don't look so surprised," he went on. "We've known your true identity and ... shall we say, nature ... for quite some time."
Demona turned and tried to attack again. Again she failed as the seemingly solid pair of tormentors went insubstantial in her grasp. She turned again and watched numbly as the pair began to interrogate Angela.
"What is all this?" Angela cried. "We've done nothing to you!"
"Technically, you are trespassing," Maddox pointed out. "But that doesn't really matter. We've nothing personal against you or your clan. In fact, we expect you to be quite useful to us."
"What are you talking about?" Angela's eyes narrowed.
Maddox folded his hands behind his back and paced in front of her. "It's something you mentioned to my associate here, Mavis. At a restaurant, with your dear mother. You are from Avalon, correct?" Before she could answer, he whipped around and fixed her with his cold grey gaze. "To us, there is only one Avalon. That island from which Oberon banished us, more than ten thousand years ago!"
All she could do was gape at him, and Demona, frustrated, drew closer so that she could study her new enemy.
"Do you think I'm the sort of man to take lightly being banished from my home? Denied the throne that should have been mine? Oberon's time is at an end. He has warmed that throne for too long, and I mean to hurl him from it." He leaned close and caught Angela's chin in his hand. "And that is where you come in. You've been on Avalon much more recently than any of my folk. You will describe for me its defenses. In detail."
"I won't tell you a thing!"
"Why on earth not?" He sounded honestly surprised. "What possible loyalty could you owe to Oberon, that would come before the safety of your clan?"
"I won't help you take the war there! Avalon is peaceful, we have no weapons --" She stopped abruptly and pressed her lips together.
Maddox sighed exaggeratedly. "So untrusting. Oberon alone is my target. I no more desire a prolonged battle than do you."
"Why should I believe anything you say, after what you've done to Lexington?" She jutted her jaw at him defiantly.
He turned to Mavis with a look of great disappointment. "Gargoyles are such stubborn creatures." He waved a hand dismissively and Angela turned to stone. Maddox turned to Mavis with a look of boredom. "So tedious."
He studied Angela thoughtfully. "You know, I don't believe she deserves those wings, traipsing around in human form the way she does."
"Would you have me remove them?" Mavis said as she transformed. No longer was she the businesswoman in the severely tailored suit, but now a creature of legend. Her hair billowed out from around her head and arcs of green light sprang from her fingertips.
"If you would be so kind." Maddox stepped to the side allowing his associate room to work freely. Demona made another futile attempt to free Angela, pulling at straps that slid through her fingers.
Demona threw her body across Angela's frozen form and prayed. The green energy beams lanced through her body, harmlessly. She opened her eyes in relief and stared at Maddox and O'Connor, who wore twin smiles of satisfaction.
"Much better," Maddox stroked his chin and nodded thoughtfully. "Much, better indeed." Madoc pointed a finger at Angela's stone form and nodded his head in approval.
Demona watched in horror as Angela's stone shell fell away. The girl blinked several times, trying to clear her head. With another bored wave of his hand, Maddox set Angela free and the shackles fell away. Angela bolted to her feet and stumbled, then fell, the unfamiliar lightness of the missing wings upsetting her equilibrium. Tears began to run down Demona's face as Angela realized that something else had just gone horribly wrong.
She looked up, cowed, at the triumphant fay.
"Much better," Mavis agreed. "If you will not help us in the way we request, then you will serve us in the way we require." She pointed to a Quarryhammer propped discreetly against a wall. A line of statues materialized next to it. The entire remainder of Clan Wyvern stood frozen in the various poses of their capture. Demona gaped. The final gargoyle was female, not the stranger that Brooklyn had brought home from his journey, but ... herself.
"Destroy them," Maddox commanded. "Destroy them all." He looked at the statues then pointed at random. "Start with that one."
Angela nodded meekly, her spirit crushed. She walked mechanically toward the hammer and picked it up.
Demona screamed as Angela raised the hammer.
Her eyes flew open and she found herself alone. She burst up from the sofa and without a thought for the carefully documented proposals, she threw herself out through the French doors, up a short wall and into the cool, crisp, autumn air.
* * * * *
"'Tis a fine night for a moonlight ride," said Maeve, smiling as she looked over the crowd of mounted fay.
Umbriel waited beside his uncle, surveying the crowd. Most were mounted on shining black horses with flaming red eyes. The horses knickered impatiently as their riders waited for the signal. Here and there, the non-humanoid members of the court paced. The boar Troit pawed the ground with one hoof as he stood beside two of the minor Unseelies who were clad in Greek-like togas. Wisps flew about the gardens freely on their gossamer wings, some perching like hawks on the wrists of their sidhe riders.
Loki rode past Herne and his pack of hounds to join Madoc, Maeve, and Umbriel at the head of the gathering. "I wonder if there are any dog-catchers working overtime tonight," he said cheerfully. "Anybody want a piece of the action if they try and bust a yell hound for running without a leash?" Loki looked around at his fellow Unseelie and found himself ignored. "Ah come on," he offered. "I'll give even money that if it happens tomorrow morning the guy will be asking for a transfer..." he paused dramatically, knowing in comedy timing was everything, "to the bomb squad." Umbriel was studying his bridle, Madoc and Maeve were looking pointedly in the other direction. "The BOMB squad?!" Loki repeated, emphasizing the words slowly, then he shook his head, "Jeez, you guys are a tough room." He nudged his horse away looking for a more receptive audience.
The Morrigan strolled leisurely to her cousin's side and leaned against her mount. "Why are we ridin' through this bit of concrete?" she asked Madoc insolently, "I'd have rather taken to the streets of London, meself."
"New York suits my purpose," Madoc replied calmly, "for now. London shall have our special attention another time. I assume that Grimalkin's visits there with our contacts went well."
"Indeed," Maeve replied. "All went according to plan."
"Splendid, splendid," said Madoc, nodding approvingly. "That is precisely what I want to hear - success in all our enterprises."
The Morrigan yawned. "I didn't bother meself with a mount seein' as I don't really need one," She looked up at Maeve. "If it's all right with you, cousin?"
Maeve inclined her head and held out her arm, expectantly.
The Morrigan's form blurred and dwindled, and in her place stood a large black crow. The bird flew up to perch on Maeve's shoulder.
"It is time to begin," said Madoc. "Forward, my followers! It is time these humans learned that every legend has a grain of truth, and so does every nightmare!"
He raised his hand, and spurred his mount forward. The rest of the Unseelie Court fell in behind and soon the pounding of hooves was drowned out by the warrior cries of the fay.
Out of the trees came the Unseelie Ride. They galloped into Columbus Circle. They charged down Broadway, and headed towards Times Square. The hooves of the steeds struck fire upon the pavement, and the yell-hounds and Garm howled wildly as they ran.
"And so we begin anew," said Madoc aloud, smiling coldly.
To be continued...