Written by: JEB and Batya "The Toon" Levin
with contributions by: Kathy Pogge
Story concept by: Rahsaan Footman and Batya "The Toon" Levin
Illustrations by: Amber
Previously on Gargoyles…
"Hey, Dracon!" Elisa raised her voice sharply.
He looked up, and there was no bitterness or hate in his face, or in his voice when he spoke -- just a bone-deep tiredness. "What do you want, Maza?"
She came to a stop in front of him. "I know something you probably didn't want me to know."
"Yeah, what's that?"
"I know that you saw me getting loose of the ropes back there. And you didn't tell Castaway." Elisa held his gaze with a hard stare of her own. "You let me get away, Tony."
He shook his head, with a forced chuckle. "You're crazy, sugar. I don't know what you're talking about."
She raised an eyebrow. "Have it your way. But--" and she lowered her voice-- "I'm going to do what I can to see that you get a lighter sentence."
Dracon met her eyes again, his expression abruptly grim. "I don't want any favors from you, Maza," he said, low-voiced.
"Tough." She gave him a sudden, wicked grin. "Because I know the truth about you now. Face it, Tony-- at some level, you're a decent person."
~ Partnership ~
Goliath: "This is Elisa Maza. She is not guilty of any crime!"
Echidna: "All humans are guilty! Thousands of years ago, Olympians walked among humans. But because of the way we looked, we were shunned, hunted!"
Boreas: "Our ancestors fled the human world and created the kingdom of New Olympus, to be safe."
Taurus (to Elisa): "You are under arrest… again."
Goliath: "She did not start this!"
Taurus: "I don't care who started it. I know who caused it."
~ The New Olympians ~
* * * * *
* * * * *
April 22, 1998
"Good to see you, Boss," said Pal Joey as Tony Dracon slid into the back seat of the limousine.
"Good to be back. I was getting tired of jail." Dracon closed the car door and rubbed at his lower arms. "Kinda cold for the end of April, ain't it?"
"Cold's the least of our problems, Boss," Glasses said. "This town's gettin' weirder every minute. Ugly weird."
"Since Halloween," Pal Joey put in. "Startin' to give me the creeps."
"Weirder than gargoyles?" Tony gave his cohorts an incredulous stare. "You're kidding."
Joey nodded grimly. "This stuff makes gargoyles look like pigeons. We're talkin' ghosts-an'-goblins weird, Boss. Things with teeth in the sewers, and they ain't alligators."
"And this symbol's been showin' up everywhere." Glasses held out a slip of paper with a complex seven-pointed star within a circle scrawled on it. "Nothin' to do with any of the city's known gangs. Chalked on the sidewalk, spray-painted on walls, right where the bizarre stuff keeps happenin'."
Dracon studied the symbol, frowning. "And we don't know who's doin' it."
"Boss, we don't even know if it is a who." Joey met Dracon's raised eyebrows with a bleak stare. "Could just as easily be a what, if you get me."
"Hmp." Dracon looked at the star for another moment, then folded it and tucked it into his pocket. "I don't know, boys. But I bet I know who does."
* * * * *
The Brocken, Germany
The twin toga-clad Unseelie immediately emerged from the throng of courtiers. "Yes, Lord Madoc?" they asked in unison.
"Come here. I have a mission for you."
The Grecian fay looked at one another, then walked up to Madoc's throne. As they did so, the Unseelie Lord pulled out a set of black-and-white photographs.
"Great, now it's 'what I did on my summer vacation' time," mumbled Phobos to his brother. They bowed as they approached the throne, and Madoc stood up, handing Deimos the pictures.
"These satellite photos of the Mediterranean Sea were taken by Maddox Technologies some months ago. On a cursory glance, our photographic specialists noted nothing out of the ordinary, save this tiny smear ... or so it appeared." He pointed to a small blurred spot on the photo. "The specialist who noticed this waited until the next pass over this zone and took another photo, hoping to make a copy without the error. However, the same blur appeared. Intrigued by this, we waited for the next pass, then positioned the satellite in a geosynchronous orbit over the location. We scanned the area, eventually discerning that the 'blur' was something large in the sea, hidden beneath some sort of magical-technology cloaking field. I did not bother to investigate it during my time as Nicholas Maddox, but perhaps what lies beyond that barrier can now have strategic importance in our war. I want you two to travel to these coordinates, penetrate the field, and investigate. I trust you can handle it?"
Phobos handed the photographs back. "You can count on us, Lord Madoc. We will not fail you."
"Excellent. You two, and... him." Madoc pointed to the thin air, which soon crackled into a portal. From out of it, stepped a large black cat with oddly humanesque features.
The Unseelie Lord nodded in greeting. "Welcome back, Grimalkin. How did your latest dealings with Lucius Adrians proceed?"
"Oh, excellently," replied the feline creature. "But annoying. While I like being fawned upon as much as the next cat, this Adrians is just too much! Why are all power-hungry humans so very predictable?"
"Enough," spoke Madoc, nipping Grimalkin's tirade in the bud. "You have a new assignment. You will accompany Phobos and Deimos on an investigation. They can fill you in on the details. Now go, all of you."
The three left the room in a triad of flashes.
* * * * *
23rd Precinct Station House
"...And boom, the building just collapsed," the Watch Commander was saying. "Like that. A dozen or so injured. You're gonna be checking out the site for signs of deliberate sabotage; the tenement was kinda run-down, but not that run-down."
"Mm-hm." Elisa riffled through the papers.
"And check this out," the other officer added, dropping a color photograph on the desk. "You know, these punks are really startin' to get on my nerves."
Elisa looked down at the photo. A design was spray-painted in black, three feet high, on the splintered wooden fence: a seven-pointed star within a circle. Underneath, someone had written in a straggling, childish hand: The Host Is Riding.
"I think that's sort of the idea," she muttered. "I'll have my preliminary findings on Captain Chavez's desk by end of shift," Elisa added, already engrossed in the file.
Reading through the case description, Elisa barely noticed when the Watch Commander moved away from the desk. There were other photos of the damage: splintered wood, bricks in a heap with the mortar crumbling away from them, a shell of plaster surrounding the wreckage of someone's living room.
The loud buzz of the telephone ringing interrupted her. "Where's Matt when I need him?" she grumbled as she picked up the receiver and tucked it into the crook of her neck and shoulder. "Maza here."
"Hey, Maza." Elisa drew in a startled breath. That voice-- "It's Tony. Tony Dracon."
"Dracon? What are you calling me for?" She did not hide the irritation in her tone; the call had taken her by surprise, and Elisa did not like surprises.
His own voice was oddly serious. "I'd like to meet with you sometime soon. I think we need to talk."
Talk? Oh, no -- "Listen, Tony, if you mean what I think you mean, thanks but no thanks, okay? I've got a lot of work to do. If it's business, discuss it with your parole officer." The phone clicked back into place, and Elisa turned back to the report, half-annoyed and half-amused at the sheer nerve of the man.
* * * * *
New Olympus, Evening
The New Olympian security chief looked up from the electronic screen on his desk and turned to the larger screen on the wall where the image of a golden robot greeted him. "Yes, Talos? What is it?"
"Boreas wants you to take as many security officers as possible to the southernmost sandbank."
Taurus was puzzled. "For what reason?"
"We have incoming intruders, from outside New Olympus. They appear to be humans, and they are on a direct path through the cloaking shield."
The minotaur frowned as he studied his display. "It appears Boreas was right. Tell him I will summon as many officers as I can to meet them there immediately."
The golden automaton nodded. "I will comply."
Taurus nodded back in farewell, and the wallscreen blinked off. He pressed a button on his wristband. "To all on-duty security officers- convene at the southernmost beach on the double. I will fill you in when I arrive."
* * * * *
The small craft sailed through the shimmering field that was the cloak concealing New Olympus.
"Tell me again, brother Deimos, why we had to use such a mundane means of getting through this shield?"
Grimalkin, in the guise of a seemingly normal black cat, fielded that question. "Because, Phobos, your brother wisely opted for stealth. We have no idea what lies beyond this shield."
Phobos, who was at the wheel, looked past his companions as the glittering cloud passed. "Whatever it is, it is very... interesting. Look."
Deimos and Grimalkin turned to see what Phobos was referring to. The black cat spoke up. "Interesting, indeed."
They sat in silence, taking in the majestic sight of the city on the island, as they drew closer to the shore. Suddenly, they noticed a group on the beach.
"Don't look now, dear boys, but it seems there's a welcoming committee awaiting our arrival."
"I noticed, Grimalkin, thank you. Brother Phobos, I suggest we try to act as normal as possible."
"Agreed. You'd better stay out of sight, kitty."
Grimalkin hissed, but silently agreed.
The group landed at the beach, and regarded the other group greeting them. By the insignia they wore on their shoulders, and the weapons they held, they were obviously some sort of police force. They were an unusual group- a man with a head of flames, a centaur, a cyclops, a female with bird-like wings, talons, and legs, a very tall, powerful-looking humanoid with glowing eyes, holding a three-headed dog, and a forbidding woman armed with some particularly nasty-looking weapons. At the forefront of the group was a powerful and commanding individual with gray skin, cloven feet, and the head of a steer.
Deimos gaped for a minute, before whispering to his brother. "These look like long-lost relatives of ours!"
"Well, brother, perhaps we should introduce ourselves and find out."
Having decided that the one at the forefront was the leader, Deimos, with Phobos and Grimalkin behind, walked up to him.
"Greetings! My name is Deimos. This is my associate, Phobos. May I ask to whom I am speaking?"
Taurus frowned. "My name, human, is Taurus. What brings you to New Olympus? More importantly, how did you find us?"
Phobos piped up. "Human? Human?? We are most certainly not mere humans!" His eyes glowed as he conjured up a brief display of pyrotechnics, which lit up the night sky. The multicolored lights formed into a flight of birds, which swirled together into a starburst before fading. The assembled New Olympians gasped in shock.
Taurus mumbled to himself. "If they aren't human... what could they be?"
Phobos stepped forward, taking over the talks. "We are emissaries of the Unseelie Court, a group of individuals that would very much like-"
Deimos interrupted with a cough, and gave Phobos a look, as if to say "Shut your trap, this is my territory." Phobos reined himself in, and continued. "We discovered your isle using our resources, and decided to send a team to investigate. Deimos here will be our primary negotiator, but I am free to answer any questions you may have." He smiled charmingly, and gestured grandly, almost sarcastically, to his sibling.
Taurus blinked, then regained his stern composure. "I... apologize for my error. As I said, I am Taurus, security chief of New Olympus. These are my subordinate officers-" he indicated each of the unusual individuals one by one down the line- "Helios, Kiron, Polyphemus, Harpy, Atlas, holding Cerberus, a guard beast, and Nemesis. You'll have to forgive our apparent hostility- we don't often have visitors here."
Deimos spoke in as friendly a voice as possible. "Perfectly understandable, Mr. Taurus. Now... could we be taken to see your leader?"
Grimalkin watched as Taurus escorted Phobos and Deimos to the Senate Hall. So, they will meet with the New Olympian leader. And not a single one of the ever-so-vigilant guards here seems to even notice me. Perfect. He grinned in a way normal cats cannot, as he strayed from the group to explore on his own.
* * * * *
"We, the Unseelie, have long been persecuted by the ruling classes of our race. We revealed ourselves to the human race, hoping to be welcomed. Instead, we were attacked. The humans have made war with us."
Boreas raised an intrigued eyebrow. After a dramatic pause, Deimos resumed.
"The humans are so much more numerous than ourselves. We may have the greater power, but they make up for that deficiency with sheer tenacity and hatred. Further, some of the ruling classes of our race- the Seelie- have rendered assistance to these humans in their war against us. We cannot fight these forces alone. We need allies. We need New Olympus."
* * * * *
The black cat crept away from Boreas's estate, examining the wonders of the isle with an appropriate amount of awe.
"Flying chariots? Hmph. And that golden automaton? What is this? Yellow ribbon night at the science fair?" Grimalkin yawned. "I'm starting to get bored." The improbable grin appeared on his face. "Maybe I need to start something interesting to liven things up." He licked his whiskers thoughtfully. "Besides, I'd like to see the exact abilities of these 'New Olympians.'" His eyes glowed emerald, as did those of a centaur on the street.
The centaur blinked, and shook his head. Suddenly, the gorgon near him on the street was attacking! He had to defend himself!
Grimalkin smiled as the centaur shoved the unsuspecting gorgon, and as a manticore began to yell and argue passionately with a shocked dryad, who began to respond in earnest. The wave of fear and aggression spread throughout the crowd of New Olympians, until the entire street was in chaos. The cat laughed a hissing, gleeful laugh at the riot he'd created.
Soon, however, Taurus, and his deputies Kiron, Polyphemus, and Nemesis, arrived in their sky chariots.
"Stop this madness at once!" Taurus spoke, in a commanding voice. He pushed apart a few of the more insistent rioters when they ignored him, and gestured to his fellow officers, who waded into the crowd to assist.
The manticore leaped at Nemesis, who ducked, causing him to crash into a gryphon. The manticore made to leap at her again. She hit him in the jaw with a roundhouse kick, knocking him out. "Idiot," she spat, as she put manacles on him.
The gryphon started to move menacingly toward her, but Kiron swung his spear and knocked him to the ground.
Polyphemus slammed an antler-headed New Olympian into a satyr, and soon all the rioters were cowed into submission or restrained. The cyclops wiped his brow.
"Good work," congratulated Taurus. He addressed the crowd. "The rest of you, go back to your homes, now."
The crowd obeyed, and began to disperse.
Taurus turned back to his officers. "Take these citizens to the detention center to cool off. I will report this to Talos."
The three deputies nodded and returned to their chariots. Grimalkin snuck unnoticed into Kiron's chariot before it lifted into the air. Each vehicle levitated a few prisoners into the air with a beam of blue light and flew off towards the detention center.
* * * * *
Grimalkin observed impassively, unnoticed, as the guards shoved the more rowdy rioters into detention cells, then left the room, never once noting the black cat's presence.
"Hello there, little cat. What brings you here?"
Surprised, Grimalkin whirled around to look at the whispering speaker. It was a prisoner in a force-field-surrounded cage.
"Oh, do come on now," the voice wheedled. "I know you're not just an alley cat scrounging around for a meal. Firstly, why go all this way? Secondly, you move with too much stealth for even an ordinary cat. Thirdly, I saw the way you watched the guards and prisoners, and the spark of interest I see igniting in your feline eyes at this very moment is hardly the emotion of a mere animal. Thus, I must conclude you are more than you seem. Am I right?"
The Unseelie paused, and then spoke. "You are, at that. Most impressive. Would you care to give me your name?"
The figure grinned. "Proteus. Simply, Proteus. Now, my intriguing new friend, perhaps you would be so kind as to... enlighten... me as to your purpose on the fair isle of New Olympus?"
The black cat paused again, and smirked. "What makes you so interested?"
Proteus smirked back. "I sense a kinship with you, shall we say." At that, he briefly shifted into the splitting image of Grimalkin's cat form, then shifted back to his normal form, surprising the Unseelie again. "You could call it shop talk. You tell me a bit about yourself, and I'll reciprocate."
"All right. My name is Grimalkin. My esteemed colleagues and I-"
"There are more of you here? Splendid. Oh, I beg your pardon for interrupting. Do go on."
He harumphed, and did so. "As I was saying... my colleagues and I came here to investigate an anomaly, and found your island. We decided to try to join with your people... barring that, we'll wipe them away in a few weeks' time."
"Well. I rather like your style. Who, may I ask, do you represent?"
"The Unseelie Court. Our goal is to subjugate humanity, and destroy the gargoyles. If New Olympus stands with us, it will prosper. Against us, its doom is sealed."
"Fine, fine," the shapeshifter replied, delighted. "I care not for my fellow New Olympians... they don't appreciate my unique outlook on life, so they keep me here." Proteus eyed the cat with interest. "But you... you seem to have a subtle appreciation for mayhem and destruction. New Olympus will doubtless oppose you, being as they are. And would it not help to have someone on your side who knows practically everything there is to know about their security procedures, defensive capability, et cetera, et cetera?"
Grimalkin studied the prisoner as he groomed his whiskers thoughtfully. "It well would. Are you offering yourself?"
"Who better?" Proteus shrugged. "I've faced them myself so many times it's almost boring. I only want one thing in return."
"What is that?" Grimalkin's green eyes narrowed with suspicion.
"Allow me to join your little band. Free me from this wretched cage, and I'll be your best friend."
Madoc could use his information... and New Olympian help could be useful... Grimalkin made up his mind. "I will talk to my fellows and get back to you."
"Thank you for your time, Grimalkin. Be seeing you!" Proteus waved with malicious joviality as the feline squeezed through and leapt out the barred window.
* * * * *
The limousine pulled to a halt in front of an office building. Owen Burnett emerged from the driver's seat and carefully picked his way through the icy slush to open the passenger door.
David Xanatos stepped out of the car, glanced up, and barked "Owen, look out!" Over his voice came a sharp ripping noise as an awning above the sidewalk, weighted down with melted and refrozen snow, gave way.
Ice smashed itself to bits on the sidewalk where Owen had been standing seconds before. Tiny fragments of ice scattered several feet around them, and lay glittering in the diffuse sunlight.
A few feet away, Owen pulled himself back to his feet, brushing ineffectually at the patches of wet snow that clung to his trench coat, and somehow managing to maintain his calm. "Thank you, sir."
David looked at Owen, then back at the ice-locked sidewalk. "Aren't we about due for a thaw?"
* * * * *
Elisa's voice became audible as Goliath slipped through the French doors, and he pricked up his ears at the angry distress in her tone. "I'm not interested in talking to you, Tony. Leave me alone."
She slammed down the telephone receiver and pushed her hair out of her face with an impatient sweep of one hand, then took a deep breath and smiled with an effort. "Hi, Goliath."
"What was that about?" Goliath gestured at the telephone.
"Nothing," she said tiredly. She hugged him briefly, then retreated.
Goliath raised an eye ridge. "Nothing?"
Elisa sighed, and slumped down on the sofa. "It's Dracon. Nothing threatening," she added quickly as Goliath's eyes widened. "He just keeps calling me. I don't know how he got my home phone number, it's unlisted. Says he wants to talk." She looked up at Goliath in frustration. "I just wish he'd stop harassing me."
"Perhaps I should...harass him." Goliath's eyes glowed briefly white.
"Goliath," Elisa said sternly, "I can handle this."
He frowned. "If Dracon is causing you any trouble --"
Elisa held up a hand, and he stopped. "Look, the very moment it looks like he's a threat, I'll let you know. Okay? Until then, I'm not much of a cop if I can't deal with annoying phone calls by myself."
Goliath gave a rumbling sigh. "You're right, of course. Very well." He raised his head. "But I will keep an eye on the matter."
"Fine," she said, sounding resigned. "Keep both eyes on it, even. But don't get involved."
"Elisa!" Goliath protested.
"Don't start on me, Goliath. I'm not in the mood."
Unable to let the matter drop, yet unwilling to cause a fight with his beloved, Goliath retreated.
Elisa, lost in her own thoughts, barely noticed.
* * * * *
A meeting room
Phobos and Deimos had just finished their presentation, and Boreas was mulling over their words.
He was just about to speak, when Talos suddenly appeared at the door. "My apologies, Boreas, Deimos, Phobos, but I must interrupt with urgent news. Taurus informs me there was a riot in the city today."
"A riot?" Boreas looked disturbed. "What caused it?"
"Taurus is attempting to find that out, but the people whom he has interrogated have no clear idea what prompted the violence. I have further grave news," Talos added after a slight pause.
"What is it?" Boreas growled.
"The environmental controls experienced a temporary failure. I have managed to restore their function but we must increase the size of the support generators if we wish to avoid permanent destabilization of the weather controls."
Deimos and Phobos, sensing opportunity, put on faces of grim distress. "Our enemies' work, no doubt," Deimos asserted. "They have ever loved to sow discord and trouble among innocents. Your pardon, Boreas, but if our presence here endangers your people, we should leave at once."
"No, that should not be necessary. You may stay in my home for the night, while I consider what you have told me. We will investigate this matter tomorrow."
The two fay put their heads together and consulted one another, then turned back to Boreas. Phobos nodded respectively. "We accept your offer. Perhaps we should retire now, then. Good evening, Boreas."
"Good evening." He turned to speak with Talos as the Unseelie left the room.
* * * * *
The twins sat on their respective beds. "So, brother Phobos, I think it went rather well, how about you?"
Phobos nodded. "I think so, too. But I do not feel Boreas is fully convinced. I'm not sure how he'll decide. The riot was certainly fortuitous, though, don't you agree?"
"'Fortuitous?' Try 'dead-on deliberate,'" a voice purred from the doorway.
Deimos turned around to look at Grimalkin as the cat walked into the suite.
"So, you caused the riot?" he said, shifting over slightly as the cat leapt lightly up on the bed. "What happened, were you getting bored?"
"Well, yes," Grimalkin admitted, a 'so what?' tone in his voice. "But it was also an excellent way to test the New Olympians." He paused. "I've discovered much."
Phobos spoke next. "Such as?"
Grimalkin looked at him as he talked. "The New Olympians are definitely powerful, but they're nowhere near the level of a typical Unseelie. However, they have the advantage of numbers- I judged there to be a rather large population. Further, they have very advanced technology, a good hundred or two hundred years ahead of the humans' science. These both make them a force to be reckoned with. We must not ignore the threat New Olympus poses to our Lord Madoc's plans."
"But, in other news, I believe I've made us a potential ally..."
* * * * *
Elisa trudged down the steps of the 23rd Precinct station house, her hands in her pockets. The sidewalk had been shoveled, and the rock salt scattered over it crunched under her boots. A puddle of half-frozen slush covered most of the street near the corner, and she paused for a moment to find a way across that didn't involve wading through it.
"Hey, Maza," came a voice, and she looked up.
The black car at the curb had darkened windows which reflected the streetlights. As she looked, one of the windows was sliding downward to reveal the smiling, dark-skinned, familiar face of the man called Glasses. "Need a lift?"
The back door was already opening, and two other dark-coated men were stepping out, their boots splashing in the gutter. "Our boss wants to talk to you, Maza," one of them said in soothing tones, "that's all."
Elisa hesitated for a bare moment, her options running through her head. All things considered, she didn't have many.
On the rooftops high overhead, a shadowy figure against the sky watched the scene below. The men in dark coats moved around the patch of red and black that was Elisa, and the three moved one by one into the back of the car, which closed up and drove off.
There was a heavy whoosh of wings against wind, and the shadow was gone.
* * * * *
The Gardens were one of the most peaceful and pastoral places in New Olympus. Thus, they were Boreas's favorite meeting place.
"So, Taurus, you still have no idea who or what caused this fighting?"
"No, sir. Half the participants say the other half attacked or insulted them, and that they were defending themselves. Naturally, the other half says the latter half attacked first, without provocation."
"Boreas!" The New Olympians both turned to Phobos, who was briskly walking up to them. Taurus's eyes narrowed suspiciously, but Phobos seemed not to notice.
"I beg your pardon, but my brother and I would like to address the Senate on the possibility of an alliance between the Unseelie Court and New Olympus."
Boreas put his hand to his chin in thought.
Taurus protested. "Boreas, you cannot be seriously considering an alliance with these... people! We know next to nothing of them, and whether they are being completely truthful." He shot another glare at Phobos for good measure.
"No, Taurus, I believe Phobos and Deimos should be given a chance to petition the Senate. The people have a say. I merely lead." He turned to Phobos. "You and your brother may present your case to the Senate as you both did to me."
"Our thanks, Boreas. We shall be ready in one hour." Phobos turned and left.
* * * * *
Phobos and Deimos watched as the last few New Olympians filed into the Senate Chamber.
"Are they all here?" whispered Deimos to his brother.
"I believe so."
"Good." Grimalkin, the time is now, Deimos telepathically projected.
* * * * *
I hear and obey, o illustrious leader, Grimalkin, who was outside the prison building, responded.
The black cat squeezed through the bars into the cell block.
"Ah! So, you have returned," Proteus greeted. "Splendid!"
Grimalkin didn't answer, but his eyes glowed as he projected his energies at the force field's locking mechanism, which clicked as Proteus's cage was opened.
Elatedly, Proteus leapt out of his cage, but Grimalkin morphed into a giant version of his feline self and clapped a restraining paw over his mouth.
"Get a grip, Proteus. Let's leave quietly."
"Oh, come on, can't I just play with one or two of the guards? This is no challenge at all."
"No. We go now. Don't worry, you'll have ample opportunities to cause chaos... after we leave the island."
Proteus sighed dramatically. "Fine." He changed into a snake, and slithered up the wall and out the window. Grimalkin reverted to his cat form, and left through the same window.
* * * * *
Phobos stood before the assembled Senate, Deimos at his side. The humming of the crowd gradually silenced and Phobos spoke.
"I thank you, lords and ladies, for coming here to hear our most urgent plea."
Get on with it, brother!
Phobos shot an annoyed look at Deimos and continued. "Please give your attention to my brother, Deimos, as he explains the danger that faces us all!" Phobos stepped back and yielded the floor to his twin.
Deimos began to address the crowd. He began quietly, as Phobos had, thanking them for their attention. Gradually he began to weave a tale of human atrocity so terrible, that even the sentries at the doors to the Senate chamber began to blanch in shock.
Some of the people, mostly older New Olympians such as the reptilian Echidna, and an arrogant, dark-haired, bearded man with yellow eyes, nodded in agreement and sympathy. Others, primarily younger senators, like the yellow-skinned, winged woman, shook their heads in denial and disbelief. Taurus looked suspicious.
The two Unseelie took in every detail of the assembled throng. Most notable, were the presence of gargoyles among the crowd and Deimos smoothly amended his speech, adding a litany of gargoyle casualties among the humans' myriad cruelties.
Soon, they were finished. "We realize," concluded Deimos, "all this requires much thought. We do not require an answer yet. Just consider our offer. Thank you, honored senators, for your time." The twins stepped down from the podium, and left the Senate talking amongst themselves uncertainly.
* * * * *
Riverside Drive, near Grant's Tomb
Tony Dracon turned around and leaned back against the low stone wall as the car pulled up. Three doors opened and his men emerged, with Elisa Maza among them. She ignored them, striding towards him with her hands closed into fists and a most dangerous look in her eyes.
Tony braced himself, mentally. This was not going to be easy.
"Does the term parole violation mean anything to you, Dracon?" Elisa demanded, coming to a halt barely a foot away from him. "This is what, three times? Do you honestly think you can get away with kidnapping me again?"
"Kidnapping?" Dracon glanced at his men. "You'll have to forgive my boys, Maza. I told them to make it clear that this was just an invitation."
She glared. "You know, Tony, some people send cards instead of three big musclemen in trench coats. Your social skills haven't improved."
He started to answer, stopped, and started again, his voice tired. "Listen, can we skip the snap-and-snarl this time? This isn't what you're thinking."
Elisa folded her arms. "Okay. What is it?"
"I'll level with you, Maza. No tricks. I need to know something and I figure you might be the one to tell me. What do you know about this?"
He tossed something to her, something small and silver that tumbled in a glittering arc towards her. She snatched it out of the air and gave Dracon a few more moments of suspicious glare before turning to study the item.
It was a silver loop, an earring. A circle, hanging from an ear wire, with a simple star design inside it...not simple, not at all, and Elisa stifled a convulsive urge to hurl the thing away as she recognized the seven-pointed star glinting up at her.
Dracon was still speaking, quietly. "My boys have been finding this star all over the place. Took this one off a body in the street. At least they thought it was a body, until it got up and ran away." His voice went faintly strained. "Got up and ran away with a gunshot wound in its throat."
Elisa looked up. "This is why you've been hounding me?"
He gave her a mock-hurt look. "Hounding? I had to talk to you. And you kept hanging up on me." His tone went serious. "You recognize it, right?"
"Yeah." The word came out huskily, and she cleared her throat. "Yeah, I do."
Dracon waited for a moment. When it became apparent that she was not going to elaborate, he sighed. "Look, Maza -- you know how last time we met, I said I didn't want any favors from you?"
"I gave up trying to get you a lighter sentence after the third time your lawyers said you weren't interested."
"Well, I don't want any favors this time either. I'm not asking for a freebie here. My boys have picked up a lot of stuff around town, stuff the cops probably don't know. You tell me what you know about the weirdness, and I'm prepared to trade information with you."
Elisa looked down at the earring in her hand, studied the way the streetlights glinted off the silver star.
Dracon took a step toward her. "Whaddaya say, Maza?"
Maybe this time. Maybe.... "What kind of information?" she started to ask.
And the air above them gusted down suddenly. Goliath landed heavily in a battle-ready crouch between the two of them, his wings flared out and his eyes glowing white, clearly prepared to fight the lot of them.
"Goliath, wait!" Elisa shouted.
Tony Dracon hadn't moved. "Been wondering when you'd show up, Goliath. Guess I shoulda invited you too -- I figure you must know something about all this." He pointed toward the earring still clutched in Elisa's hand. "I don't know if you're interested in what I have to trade, but my offer's good to you and your friends too."
Goliath's eyes narrowed, but the glow faded from them. "I am not interested in your offer, Dracon."
"Yeah, well maybe I am," Elisa said. She took a step toward Dracon; Goliath put a warning hand on her shoulder, and she shrugged it off angrily, not looking at him. "Why should I be the only one who has to deal with this craziness?"
"Elisa, you're not --" Goliath started.
She whirled and pointed one finger at him. "I told you before to stay out of it."
Goliath looked startled -- and angry. "I cannot approve of sharing our secrets with this criminal--"
"I don't recall asking for your approval, Goliath," Elisa retorted. "And we're not talking about your secrets."
Dracon interrupted, holding up his hands. "Listen..." They both turned to look at him. "I can tell you two have a lot to talk about. Me, I'm gone." He glanced around at his men, and they began heading for the car. "I'd offer you a ride home, Maza, but it looks like you've got one already." He indicated Goliath. "You don't have to answer me now. Think about it. You know where to find me." He said the last over the car's revving motor as he sat down in the car's passenger seat. The doors closed and the car drove off.
There was a brief, awkward silence. Goliath broke it first, almost hesitantly. "I should be back at the castle soon. I can bring you home first...."
She turned away, and her voice was cool. "I'll walk, thanks."
A moment later, Goliath was alone in the clearing.
* * * * *
The door to Phobos and Deimos's quarters opened, and the two Unseelie walked in. They were greeted by Boreas, Taurus, Harpy, and Helios. The latter two were searching through the room, while the former two turned to the new arrivals.
"May I ask, what is the meaning of this?" Phobos demanded.
Boreas nodded to him. "My apologies, but this is for a very good reason, I assure you. I believe you know our security chief, Taurus? He has a few questions for you."
Taurus moved from where he stood next to Boreas, and regarded the pair for an instant before speaking.
"Earlier this evening, there was an escape from the detention center."
Both feigned shock and concern. "Who was this criminal?" asked Deimos. "How did he escape?"
"His name," responded Taurus through gritted teeth, "is Proteus, and he is extremely dangerous. As for your second question... I think perhaps you could tell me that."
"Excuse me?" Phobos queried.
"Do not play games with me!" Taurus demanded. "Where are you hiding him?"
"You think we freed this 'Proteus?' Why would we do that?" Phobos asked, feigning outrage.
"I do not know why," Taurus growled. "But I do know that you did it."
"Wait," Deimos interceded. "Taurus, when did Proteus escape?"
"Four hours ago."
"Four hours ago, eh? Hm. Four hours ago, Taurus, we were addressing the Senate."
Phobos nodded in agreement, and wryly smirked at the minotaur. "I don't know about you, but we couldn't be in two places at once."
Taurus's frown deepened into a determined scowl. "We shall see."
Helios and Harpy searched a few moments more, then conferred with one another, before walking up to Taurus.
"There is no trace of Proteus's presence in their room, sir," answered Harpy in her slightly raspy voice.
Taurus growled, and turned his attention to the fay once more. "I may not have proof, but I know you had something to do with his escape. My best people are tracking him down as we speak. Mark my words, he will be found."
Deimos and Phobos turned solemn. "We are glad to hear you will find this criminal," commented Phobos. "It is terribly disappointing, though, that you consider us guilty even in the absence of any proof."
The security chief snorted, and gestured to Harpy and Helios, who followed him as he left the room.
Phobos and Deimos looked shamefacedly at Boreas.
"We are sorry," Deimos apologized, "that our presence here has attracted the attention of our enemies to you. Perhaps it would be for the best if we quit this island."
Phobos continued. "But before we go, we want you to have this." He handed Boreas a seven-pointed crystal star set in a round piece of obsidian. "Simply touch it and say the word 'Invoke' to activate the device."
"Should you decide," the other concluded, "that you wish to help us- or that you need our help, especially if the Seelie tyrants or the humans attack you- please do not hesitate to notify us."
"Thank you, Phobos, Deimos. I wish you the best of luck, and bid you farewell. Talos will escort you to your craft."
"Farewell, Boreas," the two replied in unison. They left the room.
Boreas looked at the Unseelie gift, and regarded it thoughtfully for a moment. He sat it down on one of their beds, and left the room as well.
* * * * *
The Unseelie ship set sail to leave New Olympus's cloaking field.
"Well, brother Unseelie? What did you think?" Grimalkin queried.
Phobos frowned disappointedly, and turned to him. "I don't think he'll go for it."
Deimos nodded in agreement. "Nor do I. It will be such a pity to destroy them all... don't you think?"
The three Unseelie grinned cruelly as their boat passed through the shield.
* * * * *
The Plaza Hotel
"...And the shrimp salad," Dracon was saying into the phone. "Yeah. Thanks." He hung up, leaned back on the sofa, and turned to Glasses, who was pacing around the room. "Supper's on its way."
"You really think Maza's gonna play ball?" Glasses looked doubtful. "Remember what happened last time we made a deal with her."
"This time's different," Tony said. "It's not business. She won't offer us anything we can use in our...usual line of work, count on that. And we don't give her anything the cops can use against us. Besides...this time she owes me a favor, and she knows it." He looked out the window for a moment. "That Castaway. What a psycho."
Glasses shook his head. "I'm not likin' it, boss. That dame's trouble."
Dracon looked at him for a moment, then glanced at the window again. "Trust me on this one, man. I know what I'm doing."
There was a whoosh outside, followed by a thud that made the windows rattle. "I was wondering when he'd show up," Dracon said calmly, and stood up as Goliath shouldered in. "C'mon in, Goliath. Can I get you anything? A drink? We've just ordered a late supper, it should be right up."
"No games, Dracon," Goliath growled. "If you threaten me or mine again--"
Glasses's hand moved furtively towards the inside of his jacket, but Dracon waved dismissively. "From what I've seen, you've got bigger things to worry about than me."
Goliath paused, his eyes going narrow again. "What do you know of my worries?"
"Aside from having to apologize to Maza? And I don't envy you that one." Goliath's face darkened further, and Dracon continued hastily. "Look, whatever's behind the weirdness, it doesn't like you guys any more than it likes the rest of us. So it looks like you and I have enemies in common." Dracon gestured at Goliath, then at himself. "Can you really afford to pick and choose your allies at a time like this?"
The gargoyle glared at him. "I don't make deals with criminals."
"And I don't make deals with cops, but I'll work with your Elisa if it'll get these whatever-they-are out of my city. We both want this town back the way it was before it became weirdness central. And so do you."
Goliath turned away and headed back towards the window. "You have my answer."
"Think about it, Goliath," Dracon said behind him. "Maza's decided to trust me. You could do worse than to trust her."
The curtains fluttered, and Goliath was gone.
* * * * *
Grimalkin, Phobos, and Deimos walked into Madoc's throne room. The chamber was nearly empty, only Umbriel, taking dictation from his uncle, occupied his usual spot on the dais.
"Welcome back," greeted the Unseelie Lord. He noted a fourth figure lurking behind his three servants. "I see you must have found something quite interesting after all."
Deimos smiled. "Quite. Lord Madoc, I would like to introduce Proteus." The three moved apart for him, and the New Olympian raised an intrigued eyebrow before bowing formally.
Madoc likewise raised an eyebrow. "Begin your report," he commanded the three.
"Yes, milord," began Phobos. "When we passed through the cloaking field, we found a most fascinating island..."
* * * * *
The Eyrie Building
"I'm sorry, Ms. Maza, it's a new security protocol," the guard at the front desk apologized. "It will just be a moment while I call for an escort."
Elisa looked at the guard impatiently then swallowed her acid response. "It's okay. You're just doing your job."
Fox appeared as the bell chimed and the elevator doors slid silently open. "Evening, Detective," she greeted, yawning. The red-haired woman was wearing black satin lounging pajamas. She glanced at her watch, then paused before the security officer's desk. "Murphy-"
"Detective Maza occasionally needs to come by at some very odd hours. I want you to note in the Security S.O.P. Manual that she is the only exception to the new escort rule."
Murphy touched the brim of his hat. "Very good, Mrs. Xanatos."
Elisa tilted her head toward the elevator. Fox took the hint, and the two stepped in. Neither spoke until they were off the ground floor. "Something important, I take it?" Fox asked.
"Look at this." Elisa pulled the earring out of her jacket pocket.
Fox took the trinket between two fingers and looked at it. "Unseelie," she said. It was not a question.
"That's what it looks like," Elisa answered. "My source says it was taken off a body in the street that turned out to not be as dead as it looked. I want to know if that thing's genuine and gimmicked, or just a fashion statement. And," she lifted her hands and let them fall again, "the forensics boys can't help me there."
"Hm." The red-haired woman considered. "What about your source?"
Elisa grimaced. "That's the other reason." She hesitated, then went on. "You and Xana-...David," she corrected herself, "might as well know. Tony Dracon knows something about the Unseelie Court, and he's offered to trade information about them with us. If you can believe it, he wants to help get rid of them."
A broad grin widened Fox's mouth. "I believe it," she said.
"You don't seem surprised," Elisa noted.
"Not in the slightest," Fox said cheerfully. "We're in a war now, and all the alliances are going to change. If anyone could figure that out, it's Tony Dracon."
"How far do you plan to trust him?" Elisa asked bluntly.
Fox's smile went fierce. "Not nearly as far as I could throw him," she replied. "But wanting the Unseelies out of his territory? That I'll believe. That we can trust." She studied the earring before tucking it into her own pocket. "I'll show this to Owen first thing in the morning." She turned and looked at Elisa with genuine regret. "I'm sorry it can't be sooner, but Lexington and Alex had a pretty raucous game of 'pony ride' going earlier. Alex is dead to the world."
Elisa shrugged, knowing it was the best she could hope for. "Thanks."
The elevator doors opened, and they were on the first floor inside the castle. "Coming in?" Fox asked her.
"I, uh, hadn't planned on it." Elisa studied the wall.
Fox eyed her. "You had a fight with him," she said succinctly.
"What?" She stared at the other woman, then began to laugh tiredly. "All right. Yes. Is it painted on my forehead or something?"
"Not yours," Fox said, with a small smile. "But it's hard not to notice a seven-foot gargoyle wandering around the library, looking like a lost puppy." She stepped away from the elevator and glanced at her watch. "I've got to go check on David. You probably don't want my advice, Elisa, but here's some anyway. Talking doesn't always help...but the silent treatment never helps."
She turned away and headed down the corridor. "I'll phone you tomorrow," Fox called over her shoulder.
A moment later, the elevator doors started to shut. Elisa stepped out, and headed in the opposite direction, towards the library.
* * * * *
Goliath picked up his book, read a few pages, then dropped it back down on the couch. He rose and paced impatiently before the fireplace, his tail twitching in agitation.
"Fox told me I'd find you here," Elisa said. She stood in the doorway watching Goliath with her arms folded across her chest.
Goliath looked up at her surprised. "Elisa!" His expression shifted quickly from relieved to anxious as he noted her stiff posture and angry features. "I had not expected to see you again this evening," he finished warily.
"Yeah," she replied, not moving from the doorway, "It wasn't in my plans either."
"You're angry because I followed you," Goliath said bluntly, his brow was furrowed. "Elisa, I don't understand."
Elisa's frustration, building for days over Dracon and the Unseelie, boiled over. She lashed out, venting her ire at Goliath. "You do this to me every time!" she said, as she pushed herself out of the doorway and towards Goliath. "I say I don't need help, and you follow me anyway!" Her voice was sharp with frustration. "I don't know how much clearer I can make this!"
Goliath stepped towards her hesitantly. "But if you were in danger --" he began reasonably.
Elisa put up her hands in a defensive pose, warding Goliath away. "I said I can handle it, Goliath! That means you don't hang over my shoulder while I'm working!" Elisa turned on her heel and stormed out of the room.
Goliath's mouth hung open for a moment, then shut with a snap.
* * * * *
Elisa stepped out onto the tower roof, inhaling deeply. The night air was even colder than it had been at street level and the chill helped clear her mind. Her anger wavered, and began to dissolve.
"Good evenin', Elisa," a mild voice, accented with a Scottish burr, said from the shadows. "Nice night isn't it?"
Elisa whirled in surprise as Hudson, with Bronx and Nudnik at his feet, stepped forward.
"Hudson, you startled me! Where are the others? I need to talk to them," she said, trying to regain her composure.
The elderly gargoyle followed the detective as she paced her way to the low wall overlooking the city. "Sorry, you can't," he replied mildly. "Brooklyn sent everyone out on double patrols after Goliath came back."
"Double patrols?" Elisa said, her anger starting to bubble again. "Why? Did Goliath tell him to-"
"No, lass," Hudson said, placing a hand on Elisa's shoulder. "Goliath came back here in as fine a temper as I've ever seen him." Elisa looked up swiftly at Hudson. "Angela tried to calm him down with nae more success than Brooklyn had," he explained. "So acting as Second, he decided to give Goliath a little room to work things through."
"I see," said Elisa flatly.
"Do you now?" Hudson replied gently. "You know, lass," the old warrior chided, "he does what he does because he cares about you."
"Fine." She turned to face Hudson, the anger reviving in a swift jab. "If he cares, it wouldn't hurt him to show some respect for my abilities. I was taking care of myself against creeps like Tony Dracon years before you guys showed up."
"Aye, that's a fact," Hudson said solemnly. "Yuir a capable warrior and you do well enough by yuirself...most of the time."
The gentle rebuke reminded Elisa of the times when she had needed help and he was there. She looked away from Hudson.
"So tell me," he continued gently, "how long will ye punish Goliath for putting yuir safety above yuir pride?"
The anger broke and crumbled to dust inside her, and she leaned heavily on the parapet, looking down at her own hands on the rail. "I know he means well...."
"Dinnae tell me, lass." The old gargoyle put his hand over her own, and she looked up into his sober face. "Tell him."
Elisa took another deep breath, and raised her chin, and went inside. Hudson stood on the balcony for a while, listening to her footsteps receding down the stone stairs, toward the library.
The beasts at his feet rose and stretched. Hudson looked at them a small grin tugging at his beard. "I think that will set things right. Don't you, lads?"
Bronx and Nudnik chuffed in agreement.
"Good. Let's go in now and start the kettle. The others will be returnin' soon enough." Whistling tunelessly, Hudson retreated satisfied to the warmth of the castle.
* * * * *