The Rising - Part Two
Written by: Todd Jensen and Kathy Pogge
Story Concept by: Todd Jensen and Kathy Pogge
Illustrations by: Siryn
Previously on Gargoyles...
Broadway 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.
Owen: "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.
"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.
~ The Rising - Part 1 ~
* * * * *
The Rising - Part 2
* * * * *
Elisa Maza stood on the steps of the rebuilt 23rd Precinct and watched the traffic go by. "I hate working on Halloween," she grumped to herself as she pulled her favorite red bomber jacket close against the October chill. "I'd much rather be out there having fun."
"Wouldn't we all," a mellow baritone agreed.
Elisa turned and nearly bumped into Morgan, who was heading down the stairs out on his own patrol.
"I know, Morgan. It's just Halloween is the one day of the year when..."
"You'd rather be a kid again?" He finished her thought as a group of revelers, on their way to the street fair, passed by.
"Yeah. The one day of the year when it's okay to dress up and play make-believe." There was just the faintest hint of wistfulness in Elisa's normally cool tone. "Oh well. Have a good shift, Morgan."
Morgan gave Elisa an appraising look before continuing on his way. "You too, detective."
A moment later, Elisa stood alone again, staring out at the moon. A chill wind blew and she hugged her arms tightly around her, trying to figure out what was making her "cop sense" thrum in the pit of her stomach. She took one more look around, saw nothing but happy Halloween partiers, and headed back into the precinct to wait for Matt.
* * * * *
Down beneath the city in the safe haven that had become known as the Sanctuary, Hudson knelt and admired the Halloween costume of a small, but very proud, little girl.
"And did you make that rabbit suit all by yerself?" he asked gently.
Her mother, a recent arrival named Claressa, smiled over the girl's head and nodded, but her daughter answered in her high piping voice. "Mama cut the pattern, but I glued my ears all by myself!"
"A fine job you did, too." Hudson patted the child's dark curls between her construction paper and coat hanger ears and handed her a brightly colored sack. "Have yourself a fine time at the party."
The little girl scampered off, her mother in tow, only to be replaced by a small boy in a bed sheet.
Hudson clutched his heart dramatically. "Och, a ghost! Who'll protect an old soul such as myself?"
The "ghost" giggled. A corner of the sheet raised and bright blue eyes peered out. "It's me Hudson!"
Hudson continued his pretense of shock. "Why is that Bobby McSwain?" he asked in mock surprise. "I was sure it was a ghost out to get me."
Bobby sounded genuinely contrite. "I'm sorry, Hudson. It's my costume for trick 'r treat." Then to himself, "Gee, I didn't know I was so scary." He sounded just a little bit impressed.
"You didn't scare me, lad. I was just pretendin'. That's part of this 'trick or treat' too," Hudson said, bemused.
The boy smiled in relief and gave the old gargoyle an impulsive hug. "I wouldn't want to scare you, Hudson; on account of you're old and it's not nice to scare old people." Bobby smiled, then ran off to join Maggie and Talon and several other anxious children.
Brooklyn, a few paces away, placed his hand over his beak to smother his smile. "From the mouths of babes..." he let the thought trail off.
"That's enough out of you, lad," Hudson grumped. "Are you ready to take the wee ones out for their fun?"
Brooklyn nodded over to Sata, who was in grave conversation with a small child in a paper ladybug costume. "We're ready. Once around the street fair then back here for apple cider and ghost stories. I hope you've got some good ones picked out."
"I've a few. Now get on with ye." Hudson nudged Brooklyn on the shoulder and sent him gently towards the excited youngsters.
* * * * *
"I really don't know about this, Mrs. Xanatos," the mayor temporized, as Fox handed over a pair of ice skates. "It's been years since I even put a pair of these things on."
Fox gave the Mayor a bemused smile. "Please, Mayor, call me Fox."
"Uh, Fox," he began again. "I don't..."
"But Your Honor," she stepped away and twirled gracefully on the rink before skating back to the nervous politician's side. "It's just like manipulating the vote. Once you learn, you never truly lose the touch."
The mayor smiled at Fox's audacity and allowed her to help him into his skates and onto his feet. "Now why am I doing this again?"
"It's simple. The more laps around the ice rink you make, the more money all those nice people over there will give to the Foundation. The more they give, the more homeless people we'll be able to assist with medical care and warm clothes. And that does make you look so compassionate to the voters. Doesn't it?" she purred.
"Well," the mayor puffed gamely as he took a few wobbly strides. "We all must do our part."
"That's the spirit," Fox praised. She patted the mayor's wallet and he skated shakily away towards the starting post.
"You are magnificent, my dear." David skated effortlessly to his wife's side and spun her into his embrace.
"Why thank you, David. I was just doing what little I could," Fox replied modestly as she waltzed her husband out onto the ice.
"This benefit is going to be the hit of the season. That is of course," he amended, "until your next gala. You are truly a hostess supreme."
Fox surveyed the ebb and flow of guests as they sampled the various entertainments she had provided. "It was one of the lasting lessons mother taught me. 'Always keep the buffet stocked and the wine flowing and no one will notice anything that you may have missed.'"
"Your mother said that?" David stopped Fox in mid twirl, incredulous.
"Mother," Fox said dryly, "was always full of surprises." She dipped David to make her point and there was a smattering of applause from the crowd.
* * * * *
"This is awesome," Lex breathed in sharply as he herded the twins into the community center. The room was filling rapidly as partygoers of all shapes and sizes dropped their donation into a jack-o-lantern and proceeded inside. Lexington fumbled the right number of bills out of his waist-pouch and struggled to catch up with Graeme and Ariana.
He spotted Broadway and Angela near the punch bowl and smiled. "They do make a pretty good couple," he admitted to himself as he went to join the pair. "Wow! You two look, great!"
Angela twirled and smiled when she saw Lexington. Broadway handed him a glass of punch.
"This is a great party," Broadway rumbled. "Look at all the 'gargoyles'."
Lex did a quick sweep of the room and smiled. At least one third of the room was wearing some sort of gargoyle-influenced mask. Some were pretty amateurish, but others... "Some of these people went to a lot of trouble to put their costumes together!" He looked down at his rescued baseball jersey and sighed.
"Don't worry, Lex. On you, it's a great costume. You look just like one of those humans over there." Broadway pointed a pretzel stick towards a medium-sized boy, who did indeed bear a striking resemblance to Lexington in costume.
Lexington smiled again, some of the tightness in his chest loosening at last. "Wow! Do you suppose that kid has seen me before?"
Broadway took a bite out of the pretzel. "I don't know, why don't you go ask him?" he inquired practically.
"I just might do that," Lexington nodded. "I just might at that."
* * * * *
Faded autumn leaves blew about the robes of the wild-eyed, bearded man who strode down the street, a placard clutched in his right hand. Halloween revealers, recognizing a genuine crazy, carefully sidestepped to give him space. Periodically he would catch a pedestrian's eye and wave his boldly lettered sign, making the "The End is Near" tremble menacingly as he raised his voice, trying to be heard over the noise of the crowd.
"The final days are at hand!" he cried. "Repent! Even now, the legions of darkness are gathering, preparing to make their move! They will drown this world in a flood of nightmares and terrors! The mightiest earthly weapons that mankind has devised are as naught to them! Hear me, O citizens of New York! For even now, the Horsemen of Doom approach!"
There was a loud rumbling sound and the street beneath his feet began to vibrate. The rumbling became a clattering, like hoof beats, lots and lots of hoof beats. Astonished, he paused and turned slowly towards the sound. His jaw dropped and in his last moments he realized sadly that he had been proven correct. He turned and ran, dropping the carefully lettered sign. "I would have rather been wrong about all this," he muttered, as the horsemen overtook him and consciousness faded abruptly.
* * * * *
"Forward!" cried Madoc, raising his sword aloft. "Ride throughout this city, my warriors! This is our night!"
Cheers answered him, cheers from the assembled Unseelies. Madoc nodded in satisfaction. "This is only the beginning!" he roared over the cheers.
Umbriel stared back at the motionless body of the sign-carrying prophet. "Was that really necessary?" he whispered to Garlon.
"Was what necessary?" Garlon asked, confused. He followed Umbriel's gaze to the crumbled man and his crushed sign. "Oh, you mean the human." He shrugged. "What about him?"
Umbriel gaped at the faded man. "What do mean, 'what about him'? He just died!"
Garlon gave Umbriel a look of non-comprehension. "They all die, boy." He opened his mouth to continue the lecture, but Madoc, who was watching his nephew closely, rode back to face the two horsemen.
"That will do, Garlon," he said sternly. "Leave my nephew in peace."
He turned to Umbriel. "You'll have to forgive Garlon," he said to the young man. "He's a good soldier, but you must give him his head at times, just like any brute. Some of the others are the same way. But, like your mount there, they'll all settle into their traces. It's all a part of the process, as any military commander knows, and you shall learn."
Umbriel nodded, and said nothing more.
Maeve rode to their side, Morrigan in her crow form riding regally on her shoulder. "We should split up, don't you think? Give the lads and the ladies a bit of breathin' room. I've a mind to go visit some of the older neighborhoods, see if they're keepin' the traditions."
"A good suggestion," said Madoc, nodding thoughtfully. He turned back to the Unseelie Host. "Disperse," he said. "Each of you ride as you please for now. We leave this city at the stroke of midnight."
The cavalcade of faerie horsemen broke up into a number of smaller groups. Umbriel remained with Madoc and Garm, looking about him with increasingly widening eyes at the chaos unfolding around him.
* * * * *
With an ear-splitting cry, the horde descended on the concrete isle, each to his or her own amusement. Grim Herne nodded at Gwyn, his second, and the pair, followed by a pack of yell hounds, took to the air, their majestic black mounts galloping effortlessly. A lone pedestrian, hurrying home after a long day's work, stopped at a newsstand to pick up the evening paper. He ignored the growl of the first dog, oblivious in the way only a city dweller can be to the constant barrage of noise. A second hound bayed, as he picked up the human scent, and with a grim nod from Herne the dogs lowered their heads, bared their teeth, and ran towards their hapless victim. Too late did he raise his head and acknowledge the threat. The nearer of the two hounds snapped his jaw close on the man's heels as he turned and ran as if his life depended on it. Gwyn watched the sport with interest, holding the other hounds at bay, ignoring their keening pleas to join the chase. Instead he chose another target, a carriage driver and his glossy chestnut draft horse. The horse's eyes went wide with fear and before the driver could reign his normally staid mount in, he bolted down the avenue, a second pair of hounds leaping and snapping at his legs.
Overhead, a pack of small winged beings glistened in the moonlight. They flitted this way and that, their wings iridescent in the pale light. A group of Halloween partygoers elected their interest and the malevolent pixies dove.
"Hey! What was that?" A teenaged boy in a Dracula costume swatted at his neck. The wisp skitted away and dove again.
"Owwch!" his companion yelped. "Isn't it kind of late for mosquitoes?" He drew his hand away from his neck and squinted in the yellowish glow of the street lamp. He dabbed his fingers together curiously. "Is that blood?"
The wisps attacked in earnest and the boys ran, candy sacks forgotten.
* * * * *
"May I have this dance?" Broadway offered his hand to Angela and together they strolled out onto the dance floor.
Lex found himself alone, so he began to wander the room, examining the various party favors and decorations. The intricate paint job on one of the jack-o-lanterns caught his eye and he bent to examine it in more detail.
"Do you like it?" A female voice asked from over his shoulder.
"Yeah, it's really good. I wish I could paint like that," Lex admitted.
"I have been known to take a student from time to time. Hi, my name is Andrea Calhoun."
Lexington turned and looked up at the woman with whom he was making party chat. She was dressed in gargoyle garb, her wings an elaborate creation of wire and fabric. She had completed the outfit with elaborate face paint and Lex gulped as he bowed over the hand she offered him. "The makeup's kind of touchy," he said to explain his reluctance to take her hand.
Andrea nodded. "I understand." She gestured toward her own body-painted self. " It looks really good though."
"Uh... thanks," Lex replied. There was a tap on his shoulder and Lexington jumped.
"Lex?" the voice was familiar. "Lex Thomas, is that you?"
Lex spun away from Andrea and gulped as he recognized his former gaming nemesis, Liz "the Eliminator," even if she was done up in pirate garb. A lump rose in his throat and he swallowed hard. "Hi, Liz."
Andrea watched the exchange between the young people with a knowing eye. "It looks like you two have some catching up to do. Think about those art lessons, Lex." Andrea excused herself and left the pair alone.
Lexington waved, then turned back to Liz. "Hi," he repeated weakly.
Liz slapped his shoulder playfully, "You said that already. Where have you been? I haven't seen you in any of the usual spots in ages."
"Uh, I had a small family crisis." He shrugged his shoulders dismissively. "You know how it is. It kinda restricted my access to the 'net."
"Yeah, I know how that can be." She grinned at him again, her dimples dancing. "That is a great costume! And that mask!"
"Thanks," he said numbly, as he realized the escalating potential for an embarrassing scene. He scanned the crowd for Ariana and Graeme and found them playing 'pin the tail on the donkey' with the newspaper reporter that wrote the really good articles in The Sentinel. At least he thought that's who it was; he was dressed like a candy kiss and all the aluminum foil was interfering with the sensors in his eyes. "I guess they're okay," he muttered. He looked back at Liz and saw her perplexed expression. "I'm babysitting for my brother tonight," he gestured across the room and Liz nodded.
"You guys really went all out on those costumes," Liz remarked again. "I like!"
"Thanks. So... I guess we have a lot to catch up on. How have you been?"
"Me? Fine. I'm still the hottest gamer on the 'net. I'm thinking about writing my own, just because, you know, the stuff out there is getting tame. I want something with a real challenge. "
"You program too? I didn't know that!"
Liz nodded. "I started dabbling a while back, I'm pretty good too. Even my dad is impressed."
They began to converse in earnest about the relative merits of different languages. After a few minutes of friendly debate, Lex looked up at Liz and came to a decision. "It's kind of warm in here. Do you want to go talk out on the porch, where it's not so noisy?"
Liz peered at him closely for a moment and decided that his intentions were pure. She nodded, "Sure."
They left the noise of the party behind and sat in the crisp autumn air on the steps of the community center.
Once they were settled, Lex took a deep breath and muttered, "I hope I don't regret this." He took a deep breath then looked at Liz intently. "Liz, I told you early that I had some family problems, right?"
She nodded, not sure of where the conversation was going.
"Actually," Lex admitted, "I was the cause of some family problems. My brother took off for a while, and when he came back he'd changed, married and he brought his new family with him."
Liz gave him a curious look and Lexington held up a hand to stall her questions.
"Long story. I don't really want to get into it right now. My other brother, he started getting real close to..." he stalled as he realized he didn't know how to explain Angela and clan familial arrangements in human terms. "Well anyway, he's got a steady now too. The three of us used to be really close and I felt pretty left out. So, I went looking for a few friends of my own."
"Lex, you had lots of friends on the 'net," Liz offered.
Lexington shook his head. "I know that. But I wanted a real life friend too. They're not that easy to come by."
Liz gave Lexington a perplexed look. "I thought I knew you, but you don't make sense."
"Liz," he began carefully, "would you like to try and take off my mask?"
Liz gave him an odd look. "This isn't some sort of come-on, is it? 'Cuz if it is, Lex Thomas, I'm gonna thwap you upside of your pointy green ears with the flat side of my sword." She brandished the pirate cutlass as if she meant it.
Lex shook his head and Liz began to trail her fingers over his face and neck, looking for a good purchase on the latex. Her fingerstroke hesitated as she caressed the unfamiliar surface of Lexington's skin. Her confusion communicated itself as her mounting curiosity affected the amount of pressure she used as she ran her fingertips along the delicate membranes of his ears then ran them, without hesitation, along his browcrests. Lex unconsciously arched into her touch and Liz sat back startled, then peered at him closely. She withdrew her hand, then stroked his face again. There was a very odd look on her face and Lexington cringed as he expected her to bolt and run screaming back into the safety of the community center.
"Wow!" Liz exclaimed quietly. "You're really real. A real gargoyle, I mean." She looked him square in the eye, her mouth sagged open in astonishment, her eyes danced with a million questions. "Darn it, Lex!" She punched him in the arm, playfully. "All this time! You could have said SOMETHING!" Her delight at her discovery faded as she remembered the circumstances of their first real life meeting. "But you were "human" at the arcade. How is this possible?"
Lex buried his face in his hands as he realized the source of Liz's confusion. "Uh... Fairy godmother," he deadpanned quickly. He looked up at Liz and realized there was no way that he could ever come entirely clean about everything. He reached out and she took his hand in hers. "Liz. I'd like to explain, but I can't. It's way too complicated. Can you trust me on this one, and just accept what you see right now?"
Liz returned his steady gaze. "Is this the real you?"
"And your niece and your nephew and that big guy- your brother, and the girl in the '40's get up?"
Lexington hesitated a fraction of a second and nodded again.
Liz laughed. "You know, they're giving a prize for the best 'gargoyle' costume don't you? What's gonna happen if one of you guys win? You've got this contest rigged!"
Lex started to reply but he stopped as Liz shivered against a sudden, chill wind that began to blow in a steady gust. There was the sound of hoof beats against concrete and Liz shrank back in automatic alarm as the riders came into view.
"Ride my children, ride!" A commanding voice roared over the rest. Leading the cadre was a tall, imperious, blue skinned man.
Lex rose to his feet, the voice burning in his brain. He started to bolt forward. "Maddox!"
Liz looked up and tried to focus, but her eyes seemed to slide right past the strange men and into the inky blackness of their steeds. She felt Lex rise next to her and start forward. Acting on instinct, she grabbed him around the waist and pulled him backwards out of the sight of the riders.
Lexington trembled with a rage Liz didn't understand. He stared at the riders, then shook his head numbly.
"Who were they?" Liz asked, not really expecting an answer.
Lex was grim. The early lightness he had felt had evaporated. He strode into the community center to gather up his clan mates. "Bad news," he replied. "Old, bad news."
* * * * *
"This is the last house, children," Maggie herded her charges to the door of a modest brownstone with a cheerfully carved jack-o-lantern glowing warmly through the lace-curtained window.
"TRICK OR TREAT!" The children cried in unison, as an elderly lady in a clean, white apron, answered.
"My goodness. What fine costumes," she said, as she surveyed the would-be bunny and bug and ghost and businessman. She looked Maggie over closely. "You took extra special attention with your costume, didn't you, dearie?"
Maggie looked at the woman's thick spectacles and smiled nervously. "I have a friend who does make up for the theater district."
The old woman smiled. "I remember the days when..." she trailed off. "Well, never mind. You wouldn't be interested in the stories of an old Broadway chorus girl. But those were the days!" She quickly began to hand round candy bars to the children. "Embrace your dreams, little ones." She closed the door before the children could finish thanking her.
Maggie stared after the woman before turning to Claressa, the bunny's mother. "It's getting late. Let's take the children back for stories and cider."
Claressa nodded, and the two women and their charges turned towards home, talking quietly over the excited murmuring of the children.
"This was the perfect neighborhood to take them," Maggie commented. "The old folks here are so nice to the children."
Claressa nodded. "These people remember a better time. A time when neighbors helped each other out, not turned their faces away." A cloud came over her gentle features and Maggie knew she was remembering her own difficulties.
"We will always be there for you, Claressa, and Jenny too, as long as you need us to be."
"Thank you, Maggie." She smiled, slightly ashamed. "I couldn't believe that I was accepting anybody's help, let alone that of you and Talon and the rest. You were..." she stopped, unable to finish the admission.
"Freaks?" Maggie supplied. "I know." She looked down at a furred hand and shrugged. "I'm coming to believe that everything happens for a reason. Even this. I have a purpose in my life now. I couldn't say that before. I..." She broke off and whirled around staring into the darkened streets with cat sensitive eyes. "Did you hear that?"
Claressa stopped, hushing the children as she listened hard. "Hear what?"
Maggie shrugged, "I thought I heard ... hoof beats and laughter." She peered into the darkness again, then resumed walking a bit faster.
A large black crow dove at them from overhead.
Three glossy black horses with glowing red eyes blocked the path. The lead rider was female, slender and athletic with a pride that radiated from her very being. Her hair was as gloss black as her mount, but streaked with emerald green; she was wearing form fitting armor and she had a lethal looking bronze sword raised high above her head.
Her companions lacked form, as if they were not truly part of this dimension. Black capes on black horses.
Maggie blinked hard, realized that whatever she was seeing was somehow real, gathered a pair of the children into her arms and yelled. "CLARESSA! RUN!"
The frightened woman scooped the remaining two children into her arms and pell mell they hurtled down the street until they came to the nearest manhole cover. Maggie disentangled herself from the children, ripped the cover from the dirty pavement, and pushed the others down into the relative safety of the sewers as the supernatural riders grew closer. She dove after them, jumping to the bottom of the tunnel rather than sliding down the iron ladder. They ran all the way back to the Labyrinth, the echo of hoof beats and high, keening laughter echoing in their ears.
* * * * *
"...then, the little squirrel jumped out of the window and ... " There was crash in the hallway outside the Sanctuary. Hudson interrupted his story about Baldrich and the Demon Cat as Maggie, Claressa and the four children ran into the Sanctuary. Talon leapt from the sofa, sending his glass of cider flying as he ran to Maggie's side. The assembled Labyrinth Dwellers, children and adults alike, stared, curious as to what was interrupting their otherwise pleasant evening. On the perimeter, the clones bristled nervously, afraid that something had taken advantage of their slacking off sentry duty.
Brooklyn shot Sata a significant look and he rose as casually as he could to join Talon.
"It's nothing folks," Talon improvised. "The kids saw a couple of partiers in really convincing costumes and got spooked," he looked at the children and Claressa who nodded, not exactly sure if that wasn't exactly what happened. "Sharon, why don't you get Claressa some cider and help get the kids settled for more 'storytime'? I'm going to make some more popcorn." He caught Brooklyn's eye and the big red gargoyle nodded and rose to his feet.
"I think I'll join you. I'd like to learn that trick you have for getting all the kernels to pop on the first try." He rolled his eyes as he realized how stupid the improvisation sounded, and followed Talon and Maggie into the kitchen.
Maggie was already seated at the table, a mug of cider in front of her. Talon was trying to get her to talk.
"Okay, honey, take a deep breath and tell me what happened."
Maggie shook her head, memory at war with logic. "I'm not sure. There were horses, and a black bird, a crow," she said in a slightly stronger voice. "And these creatures in capes that were, but weren't, there. They tried to ride us down."
"Creatures on horseback?" Talon repeated slowly.
Maggie looked up drawing her eyes from the cup of cider that she was using to focus her thoughts. "There was a woman too. She had green hair and this really big sword."
"Green hair." Brooklyn repeated. "And a sword. Uh huh. Was there anything unusual about her? Any distinguishing characteristics? Are you sure it wasn't someone, a bunch of someones in costume, who maybe were having too good a time?"
Maggie spun around and looked at Brooklyn, her fur bristling. "I don't know what I saw," she admitted. "But what ever they were, they weren't humans!"
Brooklyn raised his hands, signaling his concession. "Okay, I just had to ask." He turned to Talon. "Do you suppose everyone will be all right down here while we go check this out?"
Talon nodded grimly. "They'd better be. Come on, get Sata and Claw and let's go." He turned to Maggie, rapidly coming to a decision. "You stay here and keep an eye on things."
She nodded as they rejoined the others in the living room, expressions neutral.
Brooklyn looked to Hudson, choosing his words carefully. "Say, uh, Hudson, wasn't there an old Scottish story about a ..." he faltered as he nodded at Sata and Claw. Sata picked up on the message and gently set down the small boy who she had been calming. She placed him in Sharon's arms and gradually the foursome left the room quietly, leaving Hudson and Sharon and the others to take care of the humans.
Hudson leaned back in his chair thinking quickly. "Does everybody have plenty of hot cider?" he asked. "And popcorn?"
There was a general nod from humans and clones and mutates alike.
"That's fine. 'Cause I was thinkin' back on a time when I was but a lad, in Scotland. Back then on a fine spring day, when the scent of heather was in the air..."
The soothing burr of Hudson's story was lost on the foursome as they hurried their way back up the tunnels and into the night.
* * * * *
The caterer was French and slightly effete with a nervous habit of wringing his hands, but Fox liked his flair with even the most mundane of party foods, so she tolerated his idiosyncrasies. "Evan," she said, stressing the "an" sound in the manner he preferred. "Everything is going perfectly. What are you worrying about now?"
The caterer fluttered his hands. "That oaf the pastry chef!" He glared towards the prep area where the last touches were being placed on trays full of rich confections. "I told him explicitly! White chocolate and mango, dark chocolate and loganberry. Such a simple thing! But what did he do? White chocolate and loganberry! It is a travesty!"
"Evan," Fox purred mildly. "The guests don't seem to mind." She pointed toward the a cluster of party guests scooping the confections off of the tray with enthusiasm, "I don't think it's a problem." She paused and cocked an ear towards the sound system. Something had suddenly interfered with P.A. and it was squealing. She raised a hand to her ears as the noise grew steadily worse.
The guests started to cry out in pain and at first no one noticed the cadre of riders on horses that inexplicably thundered not down the bridle path, but over the ice rink and among the gaily-colored tents.
New York's elite began to scream in panic as the Unseelie riders rode forth.
Fox stared, unable to believe her eyes. "This is not happening," she declared. "DAVID!" she yelled trying to locate her husband from across the green.
Their eyes locked and David nodded once in complete understanding. He fanned left as Fox started moving right, directing the guests that weren't stunned away from the open area and the strange horsemen into the relative safety of the locker room area behind the skating rink.
"It's just someone's idea of a joke," David said jovially as he shoved a cluster of society matrons toward safety. He issued another set of directions into a security feed built into the lapel of his suit coat.
The security teams bustled forth from the unobtrusive posts they had held during the evening. Waiters began to move purposefully through the crowd and even a few of the "guests" drew weapons and tried to draw a fix on the intruders. But the crack teams were no match for the welling panic of the crowd who began to stampede as cheetah-like creatures, lead by a regal woman with the head of a lioness rode forth, trampling tents and leaving a trail of destruction in their path.
Fox's eyes narrowed in rage as the skating party deteriorated into pandemonium, then she dove into the crowd to try and prevent it from becoming a massacre.
* * * * *
"Wonderful, Brendan!" said Margot Yale, glowering at her husband. "Simply brilliant! Once again, you've managed to get us lost! You and your sense of direction!"
"We are not lost, Margot," protested Brendan, his voice rising into a whine. "If we just take the next right, we should arrive at the ice rink in just a few more minutes." He looked at his watch. "We won't be that late."
"That's what you were saying ten minutes ago," Margot retorted. "We're never going to make it to the benefit, and it's all your fault! The Mayor is supposed to be there tonight. You know how much I wanted a chance to talk to him!"
There was a sudden crash as something large rammed into the side of their car, sending it hurtling into the curb. Brendan and Margot stared speechless at their assailant, an enormous wild boar, with a thick bristly hide, almost the size of a rhinoceros. It squealed loudly at them, and thrust its massive tusks into the door on Brendan's side, cutting clear through the metal.
"Brendan, do something about that thing!" Margot shrieked.
Brendan inched closer to the passenger side, banging his knees painfully on the stick shift. "I am not the National Guard! You've got the cell phone. Call the police," he eyed the giant swine, "Or Animal Control!"
Margot yanked the phone out of her purse and began to dial. She listened for a moment and punched the "disconnect" button, then dialed again. "Why are you busy now?" she moaned. She punched another sequence of button, "No don't put me on ..." she looked at the boar which had freed it's tusk from the driver side door and was coming around for another pass. "hold!" she finished weakly then dropped the phone as she and Brendan braced for another impact.
* * * * *
Elisa stared at her watch and feigned interest in an arrest report as she waited for Matt to make his appearance. She noted yet another pair of detectives rise from their desks and her ears perked up as the officers passed close to her desk.
"I don't get this," Detective-Sargent Winters grumbled. "Why is it that we get all the loony calls?" He read from the dispatch report. "Go see the man. Attempted car-jack. Suspect's distinguishing features: No head. Was wearing a jack-o-lantern, but he used it to menace the vic." He rolled his eyes. "Can it possibly get any weirder?"
Elisa muffled a chuckle and appraised her partner as he entered the squad room at last.
"And what's your excuse?" she inquired mildly at Matt's tardiness. "Stopped to interrogate the Boogieman? Or maybe Bigfoot?"
"Don't make jokes, Elisa. There's something weird going on out there."
"This is New York," she scoffed. "Something is always 'weird going on out there'."
Matt shook his head. "Yeah, but this time it's really weird. Grab your jacket. You'll see."
The two detectives quit sparring as Elisa's pager beeped. She dialed dispatch, took down some notes a frown creasing her features. Her face was thoughtful as she hung up the phone. "You may be right this time."
The two detectives hit the street.
* * * * *
Talon stuck his head out through a manhole cover, stared for a moment, then quickly lowered his head and slammed the heavy iron cover down, narrowly avoiding being trampled by a stampede of frightened humans.
He backed down the ladder and led his small band towards a slightly safer means of gaining the surface. "Come on," he motioned, "this way."
The quartet backtracked a few hundred feet and climbed an iron ladder that led to a manhole access in a deserted alleyway. Brooklyn and Claw clambered quickly up to join Talon; Sata followed closely behind. All stood gaping at the chaos.
People of all shapes and sizes, some costumed, some not, were running in blind panic as they were tormented and toyed with by strange-looking men and women, some on foot, others on large glossy black horses. A few of the horses seemed to be winged.
A pack of large, shaggy white dogs with broad muzzles and reddish markings had gathered around a lamppost, staring upwards at a hapless looking jogger who clung tightly to the upper third of the post. They barked and bayed, leaping up at him and snapping at him with their toothy jaws.
"Nice doggies!" the jogger yelled at the pack of slavering beasts. "Nice doggies."
Talon roared and bounded toward the beasts and the others followed him into the fray attempting to draw some order to the chaos.
* * * * *
Art and Lois cowered behind a table in the corner of their restaurant as they stared at the ugly little red-capped men ransacking the place.
Art tried 911 again and still the circuit was busy.
"Keep dialing!" Lois urged, as she watched the strange little men stuff their faces with the food abandoned by the diners who had been able to evacuate the restaurant. She cringed as they began to toss plates to the floor, smashing them with abandon. A few had taken their stubby spiked clubs to the furniture, destroying whatever was with in reach.
"What are those creatures, Art?" Lois hissed low, trying not to invite the attention of the redcaps.
"I don't know," he replied, as he dialed the phone again, only to be met with a rapid beeping. "I don't want to find out!"
Lois wrapped her arms around her husband and hid her eyes as the redcaps rampaged on.
* * * * *
Not far down the block a shopkeeper was confronting a pair of Greeks who were not bearing gifts. "You Halloween pranksters are taking things way too far," the shopkeeper said to them sharply. "Take those horses outside, right now!"
"So you do not understand what we are, human?" asked one of them, with a nasty chuckle. He turned to his friend. "Deimos, I think that we will need to teach this merchant his place in the grand scheme of things."
"I quite agree with you, Phobos," said Deimos, nodding.
Both concentrated their gaze on the shopkeeper. The hapless man rose off the floor and dangled upside down in mid-air. "Whoa, wha, what - what are you?" he stammered.
"Good question," said Phobos, proceeding to knock over a pyramid of soup cans with a swing from his spear.
"Yes, indeed," said Deimos, laughing as he tipped over a rack of individually wrapped cream-filled pastries. "Very good question. Too bad we don't feel like answering it right now." They laughed as they hurtled the contents of the grocery's shelves onto the floor, released their invisible grip, dumping the grocer on top of his merchandise and departed with a snap of their fingers.
* * * * *
The couple looked upward as overhead another halogen street lamp popped. There was a scream in the distance and they gathered nearer to their children
"Nita," the man instructed, "hold Billy's hand. I'll hang on to Susie's."
"But mom, dad," Susie whined. "We weren't done trick or treating yet!"
Nita looked nervously over her shoulder into the dim moonlight and watched people running in panic. "It's not safe for you to be out here any more," she replied firmly. "There seems to be some sort of loud party going on," she improvised hurriedly. "It seems to be getting out of hand." She quickened her pace as the screaming grew louder and put on her game face. "Let's hurry, shall we? I'm sure there's a nice Halloween special on the television you can watch instead."
"Good idea," said a nonchalant voice from above. The family looked up to see a white-haired man dressed in biker's clothes, mounted on a black horse floating several feet off the ground. "If you stay outside, you might run into some trouble. Like me, for instance."
The family stared at him, Billy and Susan shrinking back against their parents in fright. "My, my," said the white-haired man, smiling wickedly, "you're as timid as sheep." He eyed the cowering family. "If the wool fits." He snapped his fingers, and instantly, Nita, her husband, Billy and Susan were transformed. Four sheep stood in their place, eyes wide with terror.
Loki chuckled to himself. "You know, I'd love to play big bad wolf," he said as he checked his wristwatch. "But, rats, I've got other things to do. Later, wool-gatherers!" He turned his horse around, and it galloped off into the night. The sheep, bleating in fear, ran the opposite direction.
* * * * *
"Oh my gosh," Elisa exclaimed as she surveyed the chaos. "What is going on out here?"
"See, it was something weird," Matt replied, unable to keep the "I told you so" tone out of his voice. "Whatever it is, people need our help." He pointed toward a diner where a pack of large, ugly-looking dogs were tearing apart the moon- shaped sign and the owner stood trapped on top of a countertop.
"Right, and we need reinforcements." She yanked her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed Goliath.
Matt drew his service revolver and charged toward the diner as Elisa close on his heels, followed.
Matt caught bits of the conversation as he closed on the dogs. He blinked his eyes, hard. They were big, they were ugly, their eyes were glowing red. They had turned their attention to Matt.
"Elisa!" he yelled. "Put that phone down, 'cause I could use a little help here!"
"Hurry, Goliath!" Elisa slammed the phone closed and stuffed it into her pocket as she drew her own gun. She fired a round in front of the lead dog. It sniffed the air, growled menacingly at them both, but ran. The others, hesitated, but Matt fired another round and the dogs took the hint. The dogs disappeared, leaving the two detectives and a very confused restaurateur, wondering what had just happened.
Goliath showed up moments later. Leaving Matt to "take a report," Elisa disappeared into the alleyway to fill the gargoyle leader in.
"Elisa, what is going on, the city has dissolved into chaos. As I passed overhead I saw people running, fires burning everywhere, it is madness!"
Elisa wrapped an arm around him and gave him a brief embrace. "I don't know. I could have sworn that those dogs Matt and I fired on disappeared. They just vanished from sight. I hope everyone else is all right," she finished at last.
"They are all worthy warriors." Goliath rumbled. He sounded as if he was trying to convince himself.
Matt finished with the victim and joined the couple still trying to decide on a strategy.
No one paid attention to the bell that tolled midnight in the distance, except for the large black crow sitting on the lamppost. She ruffled her feathers.
Elisa handed Matt her car keys, then allowed Goliath to sweep her up into his arms. "We'll meet back at the castle," she said to Matt. Taking several bounding leaps, Goliath unfurled his wings and the gargoyle was soon aloft.
The crow studied the action carefully, before taking to wing herself.
* * * * *
Loki's horse alit on the sidewalk, and he looked about him amused at the scattering citizens, fleeing in terror from the horrors that pursued them. "Boy, what a night!" he said to himself, laughing. "I wonder if I should take a few snaps for my photo album."
"All right, that's enough," growled a voice from one of the ledges overlooking the Unseelie trickster. "Who are you, and just what do you think you're doing?"
Loki glanced up to see Brooklyn and Sata perched above, both staring down at him grimly. Sata already had her katana drawn, and the tenseness of her grip on the handle was the only sign of her anger.
"Well, hello there," said Loki, an evil grin lighting up his face. "I should have known that you'd make it to the party. You're a little late, though; nearly everybody's already left." He indicated the last of the New Yorkers, who had already vanished, still chased by the various members of the Unseelie Court. "And they've probably eaten all the chips and dip, at that. Well, there does seem to be one dip left."
Brooklyn took a closer look at Loki's features, and his eyes glowed. "You!" he cried. "I saw your face in Marie Laveau's crystal ball! You're the one who was trapped inside the Phoenix Gate!"
"Brilliant observation, Sherlock!" Loki cried. "Give the garg a coconut!"
An enormous coconut plummeted out of the sky, aimed straight for the two gargoyles. Brooklyn and Sata jumped out of the way just as it landed with a crash upon the roof, breaking open and spilling coconut milk down the walls.
The two gargoyles landed in front of Loki, and slowly advanced towards him. "You are going to wish that you'd stayed in the Gate," said Brooklyn.
"Oh, really?" asked Loki. "Let me tell you something, Beak Freak. I was stuck in that thing for- you can't even begin to imagine how many centuries. Do you have any idea what that was like, being crammed up in that little talisman? I tell you, that place was so small - " He paused, then glanced around him impatiently after a couple of seconds. Brooklyn advanced, ignoring Loki's cue. The trickster sighed, and snapped his fingers.
A disembodied chorus of voices cried overhead, "How small was it?"
"That's better," said Loki. "As I was saying, it was so small, it made a can of sardines look roomy!" A large fish appeared out of nowhere, and Loki pointed it straight at Brooklyn. A jet of water spat out from the fish's mouth and sent Brooklyn flying backwards into the nearest lamppost, with a crash. Sata lunged at the trickster next, her eyes glowing crimson. Loki produced another fish and sent it flying towards Sata.
"Yep, being toted around in that stupid Gate was not my idea of a good time," Loki continued. "You know, TimeDancer, I've got half a mind to stuff you in something small and let you get carried around for forty years or so. I don't suppose you have a door knocker in that pouch of yours."
Brooklyn and Sata pulled themselves up to their feet. Brooklyn gave Sata a silent nod and she inclined her head in understanding.
Loki shook his head. "Uh-uh-uh, I wouldn't do that," he warned.
"Why not?" Brooklyn growled.
"Because, you've got company," said Loki. "Look behind you!"
"Do you really think that we're stupid enough to fall for that old - " Brooklyn began. There was a low, menacing snarl behind him.
The gargoyles whirled. Behind them a pair of large creatures hopped towards them. The monsters each had only one arm, one leg, and one eye, and were both covered in a plumage of sickly gray feathers.
"Brooklyn, Sata, meet the Fachans," said Loki, in a conversational tone. "Fachans, meet Brooklyn and Sata. Now, I'm sure that you four have a lot of things that you want to say to each other, so I'll just leave you alone to get acquainted. Ta-ta!"
As the two Fachans bore down on Brooklyn and Sata, Loki and his horse disappeared in a poof of smoke. They reappeared on a roof overlooking the fighting below. A bag of popcorn appeared in Loki's hands, and he began to happily munch on the contents as he watched the battle unfold.
He roared with laughter, ignoring the tolling bell in the distance as Brooklyn was flattened under the embrace of the deceptively quick Fachan.
"Now this is definitely a photo-op," Loki commented, his mouth full of popcorn. A camera appeared in the air next to him, rapidly snapping pictures of the battle. "This is one night that I'll never forget."
* * * * *
Madoc halted his horse near a large electronics store. The window was filled with television sets, each one tuned to the local news broadcast. A blonde woman was on camera talking to a family of four, each one attempting to describe the odd events that had occurred over the last few hours. He did not need his sensitive fay hearing to hear the witnesses; their faces betrayed their confusion and their terror as they tried to explain to the reporter that they were positive for a short time, they had been transformed into something other than human. Madoc smiled, then noted Umbriel's drawn features and he turned to his nephew, carefully couching his words in a great show of concern.
"You don't seem to be enjoying yourself that much tonight, nephew," said Madoc, turning to him. "Is anything the matter?" He laid a gentle, almost fatherly, hand on his shoulder.
"It's nothing, Uncle," said Umbriel. "Nothing at all. I suppose that I'll get used to this."
"Of course you will!" Madoc agreed, heartily. "Rest assured of that." He suddenly pricked up his ears. "Listen!" he said. In the distance, a bell was tolling. "Midnight," said Madoc calmly.
He turned his horse about, even as Maeve rode up to them. "Did all go well tonight?" he asked his Chief of Staff.
"Aye, a grand evening it was," Maeve replied, smiling. The Morrigan, in crow form, no longer sat on her shoulder, but she hardly seemed to notice its absence. "The lads needed to stretch their wings a bit, before they settle in to their duties."
"Excellent," said Madoc. "Let us depart, then. Signal the others. We ride homeward now."
Maeve held one hand upwards, and a burst of green light shot up from it, flashing high above the city and bathing it for an instant in an eerie emerald radiance. Then, she nodded, and with that, she, Madoc, Umbriel, their horses, and Garm all vanished.
Elsewhere in the city, the other members of the Unseelie Court saw the sign, and disappeared likewise. Within a few minutes, New York was emptied of them, and left to its human and gargoyle inhabitants.
* * * * *
Elisa stood on the parapets of Castle Wyvern, watching her city recover slowly from the madness that had engulfed in. The familiar whoop of wings caught her attention and she looked upward to watch first Brooklyn and Sata, then Lexington and the others close on the castle. Her eyebrow raised as she realized that her brother, Talon was among the arrivals.
Fox and David, Owen at his heels, joined the gathering. As the clan convened, they began to talk all at once.
"Did you see..." Lexington began only to be cut off by Brooklyn.
"Loki, from the Phoenix Gate was...."
"These giant dogs were attacking this guy..." Elisa chimed in.
"It was the weirdest thing. I could have sworn that the people that broke up the Fundraiser were Mutates," Fox began. "Cheetah-people and a woman with a lion head, but I..." she shook her head, "It didn't really happen that way... did it?"
"I could have sworn I saw a man with no head attack a guy with a pumpkin," Matt finished as he joined the others.
Goliath turned to Owen, who was becoming more gray and drawn with each revelation. But the major-domo didn't get a chance to speak.
Lexington cut him off. "It was Nicholas. I mean Maddox or Madoc, or whatever he's calling himself these days. I saw him. But he didn't look like himself anymore. He was blue and he looked like Oberon."
Angela paled and Broadway wrapped a wing around her, automatically.
David raised a hand, quieting the gargoyles and humans. "What's going on, Owen?"
A tic jumped in the normally unflappable Owen's left cheek. He cleared his throat and straightened his tie before speaking. "It would appear, sir, that Madoc has decided to accelerate his campaign against Oberon. Tonight was a warning."
"A warning?" Elisa interjected.
"A first salvo, if you like," Owen replied. "I believe that Madoc has decided to resume the war that he lost the first time around."
"How can we stop him," asked David, as he mentally reviewed his arsenal. "Can't Oberon..."
Owen cut him off with a shake of his head. "We cannot duplicate the past, sir. If that is what you are implying. The results would be..." he cut himself off.
"Lad," Hudson began quietly. "It seems you have a story to tell us. Why don't we go inside, away from prying ears, and you can explain what this is really about."
Owen agreed and silently the residents of Castle Wyvern filed into the gargoyle's common room. After a few moments of settling in, Owen began.
"It was 11,000 years ago and I was a young page in the court of the newly crowned Oberon," he began. "Oberon sat upon his throne and listened, his anger growing as yet another report came in. Madoc's forces were still undefeated after ten years of open rebellion."
David put his arm around Fox and Elisa found herself drawing close to Goliath as Owen began to spin his tale...
* * * * *
The Court of Lord Oberon, King of the Fay
"If it pleases you, Your Majesty," the sidhe warrior began as he began his report from the battlefield. "The Unseelie Court has been held in check. Balor of the Evil Eye has been slain at the Battle of Moytura, and most of the Fomorians fell with him. The remainder are now in hiding. They will give us no further trouble."
"What of our champion, Nuada of the Silver Hand?" Oberon inquired.
"Dead, Your Majesty." The warrior's eyes fell to the tapestry at his feet.
"Odin and the Aesir are still driving the frost giants back in Ultima Thule," offered another messenger. "Many of the Jotnar have already fallen to Thor's hammer, although Ymir himself still lives."
"It is not enough!" growled Oberon. "Now listen to me, all of you!" The nobles present in the great hall became absolutely still, almost as if spellbound. "The traitor and his followers still have not been defeated. This endless skirmishing is buying us nothing!"
"The generals in the field have done whatever they can - " a third messenger began.
"And that has not proven sufficient," said Oberon, rising from his throne. "We have stayed our hand long enough. It is time to end it all."
Danu broke the silence that followed her son's words. "Oberon," she said, unable to keep the concern from her voice. "You will not do what I fear you intend to do?"
"Do not counsel me otherwise, mother," Oberon replied sharply. "I am going to do now what I should have done at the beginning of this war."
"And what of the younger races?" she asked. "What will become of them when you put forth all your strength upon the Earth? Already the face of the mortal world has been changed by this fighting. Hyperborea was fragmented into islands. Atlantis itself was destroyed. How much more destruction will you unleash upon the world?"
"Whatever it takes to vanquish my traitor brother," said Oberon. "And I will hear no more spoken against this."
* * * * *
"Oberon rose from his throne and stalked out of the great hall, and no one could have predicted what happened next." Owen removed his glasses, polished them against a snowy handkerchief, then took a sip of water from the glass that Fox pressed into his hand. After a moment he continued.
"The days and nights that followed were the most dreadful this world had ever experienced. Everywhere on the planet, the effects of Oberon and Madoc's might were felt. Oberon did not hold back. The sky was darkened with storms, and titanic bolts of lightning struck the ground, creating raging fires and reducing the few cities that remained to mankind to smoldering ruins. The seas rose up and flooded the land; rivers overflowed their banks, sweeping houses and those who dwelt in them away. Howling winds laid low entire forests, and swept multitudes of people and animals away.
"The few early civilizations that humans had established during that time, and which had survived the downfall of Atlantis, were destroyed during the final battle of the war. The survivors were reduced to wandering tribes of hunters and gatherers, hiding in whatever obscure places that they could find until the conflagration ended."
Owen took another sip of water then continued grimly on. "It was hardest on the gargoyle clans. They were decimated, especially when the fury of the war reached them in the daytime, while they were in their stone sleep and unable to defend themselves. The survivors were forced to find safer resting places, and establish more secure rookeries for their eggs. It was in those times that rookeries moved underground.
"But the war was at last brought to an end. Madoc and Maeve were overwhelmed by Oberon's full might, and taken prisoner. Many of their followers, such as Garlon and Loki, were made captive as well; others, such as the Morrigan, fled and hid themselves. And a few, such as Ymir, fell during this stage of the great conflict. The Unseelie Court's strength was finally shattered."
Brooklyn drew a deep breath, as he absorbed the totality of the destruction. "But there's more to this story, isn't there?"
Owen nodded, "In a way, that was only the beginning. Madoc and his chief lieutenant, Maeve, were brought before Oberon for judgement. I stood on the great dais with the others and watched as the leaders of the Unseelie Court, bound in adamantine chains, forged by Hephaestus himself, had their sentences pronounced upon them...
* * * * *
"You have caused me trouble enough, by your treason," said Oberon, anger and pride filling voice. "You tried to overthrow me, to steal my crown, to rule over my Children."
"Your Children," said Madoc in disgust. "So you call the Fair Folk that, now, do you?"
"No more words from you," said Oberon, his eyes blazing. "All who stood with you in the revolt have been punished suitably for their treachery. You saw the fates that I imposed upon Garlon and Loki. And as for the traitors who have fled our wrath, they stand condemned as well. When I find them, I will inflict similar penalties upon them. But one punishment they all share, great or small: they have been banished from Avalon for all time. Never again are they welcome to the shores of our realm."
A low murmur suffused the hall as the audience absorbed this pronouncement.
Oberon continued, grimly. "And now for you. You shall wield no more power than the weakest of my Children. Further, I condemn you to roam the world as little more than mortals. Such is your punishment! So speaks Lord Oberon!"
He raised his hand, and a flash of green light shot from it to envelope Madoc and Maeve. The two Unseelie Lords staggered back, the faerie aura that had surrounded them dispersed.
The assembled sidhe gasped as the former Lord Madoc and Lady Maeve regained their feet. They stood before the court stripped of any sign of their proud, fay heritage. No longer did Maeve's locks glisten with emerald highlights. No longer did Madoc's pale blue visage gaze proudly down on his fellow lords and ladies. They had become utterly human.
Oberon nodded with a cold look of satisfaction upon his face.
"Remove them from my sight," he told the Weird Sisters. "Take them to the mortal world at midnight as the humans reckon time, and leave them there."
"As you wish, Lord Oberon," said black-haired Selene. And she and her sisters took Madoc and Maeve by the chains that still bound them, and pulled them from the Great Hall.
* * * * *
"Madoc turned his head to look back at Oberon in silence for one moment, before he departed. Shock and horror lined his features. His eyes..." Owen paused at the memory. "His eyes burned with utter, cold hatred. Then he was gone. Oberon was relieved to finally have the war at an end. That was until Queen Danu had her say."
* * * * *
"And now we have rid ourselves of our foes at last," said Oberon, ignoring the venomous glare that Madoc had given him. "The war is truly over."
"Is it?" asked Danu sharply. She had remained silent as she stood behind the thrones of Oberon and Titania, hearing Oberon pronounce judgement upon the Unseelies' leaders. "Is it truly over?"
"Are you suggesting that it is not, mother?" asked Oberon. "You saw for yourself that the leaders of the conspiracy against us were reduced in magical might. They are no longer a threat to us."
"And do you truly believe that this will be enough of an obstacle to them?" Danu retorted. "If you think so, Oberon, then you are wrong. They need no magic to endanger you or others. They still have their wits about them, craft and subtlety. And those can be more dangerous weapons than all the magical might in the world."
"They cannot return to Avalon," said Oberon calmly. "Thus, they can no longer threaten our rule."
"But what of the mortal world?" asked Danu.
Oberon raised a hand. "I will hear no more of this, mother," said Oberon, imperiously. "This conversation is at an end."
"Indeed it is," said Danu coldly. "Farewell, my son. I will not exchange words with you again." And she stepped down from the dais into the great hall, and walked out towards the double doors.
"Wait!" cried Oberon, his face seeming suddenly alarmed and vulnerable. "Where are you going, mother?"
"Away from Avalon," she replied, not turning back to face him. "I can no longer bear to dwell here; not after seeing how both of my sons betrayed the wisdom of their father. If Avallach could only see how his children have acted, he would be as grieved as I am now. Be thankful that he does not know. And do not come looking for me, Oberon. For you will not find me, unless I desire to be found."
* * * * *
"Before Oberon could say another word, she was gone," Owen concluded.
"Why is this happening now?" Fox wondered aloud. "Does this have something to do with Oberon's gathering of the other fay back to Avalon?"
Owen shook his head. "That was a co-incidence, if there truly is such a thing. Though I wonder if the Sisters didn't have a hand in prodding Oberon to call the Children home."
"Why?" David asked, bluntly.
"I was there when the Sisters took the traitors to the edge of our world and cast them out, as a witness." Owen's eyes assumed an inward gaze as he remembered the Sisters final pronouncement. "Their words, were as always, vague, but they made a pronouncement over Madoc before they freed him from his bonds. 'Fear not, when he who is imprisoned in time is freed, then your own time shall be at hand.' I see now that refers to Loki, who was bound in the Phoenix Gate."
"And I thought that the Gate falling apart was a good thing," Brooklyn moaned.
"What about Mother?" Fox interjected at last. "Can she do anything about this?"
"Not even Titania may act directly," Owen explained. "But she is canny, she may have put a few indirect plans into motion. It would explain her interest in awakening your own fay heritage, when before she had been content to allow you to remain merely mortal."
"Why?" Fox's chin had come up at the backhanded use of the word 'mortal'.
"I meant no insult," replied Owen automatically, understanding Fox's ire. "It's just that while the fay are bound by the geas of Oberon, halflings, such as yourself, are not. We shall have to find a way to use this to our advantage."
"Let me get this straight," Matt broke into the conversation at last, "because none of this makes any sense. If Madoc wants a piece of Oberon, why is he attacking New York?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Owen admitted. "But I believe it is because of your clan, Goliath."
"My clan? What have we to do with any of this?" The big lavender gargoyle's gaze traveled from his clanmates to the pale major-domo.
"There was an additional pronouncement by the Sisters, right before Madoc was cast into the mortal world. The traitors had been placed upon the barge and the mists were beginning to gather." Owen's gaze turned inward as he recalled that final glimpse of Madoc and Maeve.
* * * * *
The Weird Sisters, heralds to Lord Oberon, looked down coldly upon the transformed Madoc and Maeve, lord and lady no more. As one, they waved their right hands lazily, and the adamantine chains fell to the ground, then dematerialized.
"You are free," they proclaimed. Their voices echoed strangely in the now dense fog.
Maeve glowered at them and opened her mouth to speak, but Madoc, sensing that the sisters weren't quite finished with them, raised his hand, waiving his co-conspirator to silence.
"Your punishment will seem an eternity," Selene began.
"But the time will come," continued Phoebe.
"When even Oberon cannot deny your might," concluded Luna.
"I will be restored?" Madoc asked, his eyes beginning to gleam with thoughts of revenge.
Maeve looked at the sisters intently. "What are you three about?"
The sisters exchanged a glance, engaged in a silent debate.
"Oberon's edict of banishment still stands," said Selene breaking the silence after many long moments. "You both are unwelcome in Avalon, as are all who hold with you."
"Never seek to return," said golden-haired Phoebe. "Your exile is eternal."
For a few moments, the Weird Sisters were silent. Then, silver-haired Luna held up her hands, and a small glowing sphere formed in them. She passed it to Phoebe, who in turn, passed it to Selene. And as each one did so, the sphere began to grow larger, and strange images formed in its depths. Images that Madoc and Maeve had to crane their necks outward to see.
"But know this, Lord of the Unseelie Court," said Luna, in a clear, loud voice. "The time of your diminishment will not be forever. The hour will come when you regain your ancient might, and your followers will assemble once more."
"And in that hour," said Phoebe, "let all mortals tremble, for the return of the Unseelie Court will be dreadful indeed. The hour of its re-awakening will be a time of woe for many."
As she spoke, the images in the sphere depicted shadowy forms marching or riding throughout the world, driving smaller shapes before them, in cities filled with strange glass towers and carts that moved of themselves, without horses or oxen to pull them. And two figures, in particular, directed this dark army - the figures of Madoc and Maeve themselves.
"Once more will you challenge your brother for the supremacy over our kind," said Selene. "Once more will your shadow sweep across the lands."
"But beware, Lord Madoc," said Luna. "For there will come, in time, a union of the younger races." As she spoke, two silhouettes appeared in the radiant globe of light. Madoc could not make out their details, but one was the slight figure of a human, the other the winged and taloned form of a gargoyle. Lightning arced between the two shapes.
"And that union shall be your final undoing," said Phoebe. The shape of Madoc appeared between the figures of the human and gargoyle, which both turned to face him in the middle. They advanced upon him, poised for combat.
* * * * *
"The vision faded," Owen concluded. "Madoc and Maeve disappeared, cast out into the mortal world. The rest of us returned to the court of Oberon, to report that the deed had been done."
Elisa, ensconced in Goliath's massive arms, looked up into his eyes, startled. "Wait a minute," she demanded. "You're saying that..."
Owen shook his head before she could finish the thought. "I am only suggesting that Madoc brought his battle here, because he knew of the gargoyles in the city and was attempting to prevent an alliance between the two races. You must admit that the Quarrymen were originally quite successful in stirring up antipathy towards the clan. I reported the Sister's pronouncement to Lord Oberon, but he did not listen, Oberon rarely listened to anything that contradicted his own viewpoint. He believed his brother had been successfully dealt with. But his bride, Titania," he looked up at Fox. "Titania always watched and Titania always listened. Our Queen may not act directly, but it is possible that her fair hand may be at work still in the background."
The residents of Castle Wyvern struggled with Owen's final pronouncements as they drifted off to absorb the evening's events.
* * * * *
THE BROCKEN, GERMANY.
"Not a bad night, on the whole," said Madoc, seated on his throne in the great hall. "In fact, I rather enjoyed it."
"I've not had so much fun in eleven thousand years," agreed Maeve. "I'm wonderin' what the humans will make of it. It would be amusin' to see that over-stuffed Travis Marshal try to explain our doings on that Nightwatch of his. Probably maundering on about somethin' in the water or a mass hallucination." She chuckled warmly at the thought.
"We've had our fun, Maeve," Madoc agreed, "But now it's time to put our subjects to their tasks." He began to review his plans and options. "We must find out if any of our experiments from the last war survive. I doubt that there are any Nuckelavees left, of course. Pity."
"There might be a few Whowies left in the Australian outback," offered Garlon.
"Yes," said Madoc, nodding. "I suggest that you look into that at your first opportunity." He suddenly frowned. "The Morrigan is late returning from Manhattan. Do you know what could be behind this delay, Maeve? She is your cousin, after all."
Maeve shrugged. "Busied herself with some bit of fun or another, I'll wager, and forgot about the time. She's often been that way. About as unpredictable as ... "
Before she could finish the sentence, a large crow flew down through one of the windows, and alighted in the middle of the hall before the dais. Its form altered, and the Morrigan now stood there.
"You certainly took your time returning," Madoc said to her sharply.
"I did indeed," the Morrigan replied. "I saw something very interestin' in the city. I thought you'd be wantin' to see it as well."
She gestured, and an image formed in the air. An image of a great lavender gargoyle and a dark haired human woman, locked in an embrace.
Madoc stared at it, speechless, a sudden look of alarm upon his features. Not until it had faded did he speak. "Is this indeed the truth?" he asked the Morrigan. "If I find that you have been lying to me - ."
"I saw it with me own eyes," the Morrigan protested. "No mistake about it."
"Some women these days have the oddest tastes in men," Maeve commented dryly.
"A union of the younger races," said Madoc, troubled. "Never had I imagined, even in my darkest dreams, that this was what the Sisters had meant. And it emerges, even in the hour of our renewal."
"So what do we do now?" Loki asked.
"There is only one thing to do," said Madoc. "We must destroy them, before they destroy us. And only then can we be certain that we will survive. For us to live, they must die."