The Council -- Part Three

Outline by The TGS Staff

Written by Robby Bevard

 

Artwork by Lexy

* * * * *

THE COUNCIL -- PART THREE.

The armored ghost floated and shimmered in front of the pair who had summoned it. Demona glared at her partner, wondering what she had gotten into, joining forces with a necromancer. She had heard of necromancy, of course, but it was one art that she had never lowered herself to studying. The two dozen crates that filled the room shook in anticipation. Darius looked at the ghost and smiled.

As much as the two gargoyles examined the spirit of Balinos the Mad, he seemed to examine them just as much.

"Why have I been summoned?" the ghost asked in a hollow voice, with a tone that was not angry, but puzzled.

The web-winged Darius bore a look that showed he was all business. "There is currently a Council of gargoyles assembled here. For some time now, we have been discussing a way to try and join together and make things work so that our species can survive."

"And you need my help for this, why?" Balinos questioned.

"I am the one who intends to unite the gargoyle race. I could do so without help at this point, except for one small problem that I require your assistance with."

Darius paused and attempted to act sincere. "One of the gargoyle clans dwells on the magical island of Avalon, and they serve as Oberon's honor guard."

"Again," the ancient spirit asked, "You need my help, why?"

The creatures hidden inside the crates began moving around more, as Darius continued to speak. "Uniting with that particular clan might put us at odds with Oberon himself. We cannot possibly hope to stop him if he is angered. He is strong enough to resist an attack of iron. So we need help. Your help. You are the warrior who so long ago, in the Dragon War, slew Avallach, father of Oberon."

"I know who I am and what my deeds were." Balinos narrowed his eyes. "Necromancers are few and far between. And I somehow doubt the gargoyle race as a whole has sunken so low that they would be willing follow someone who studies such dark arts. You are lying. You have no opportunity to unite all gargoyles unless you use dark magic. You do not truly worry about Oberon, as you already know of the Fair Folkís weakness to iron. You do not need my help; you are merely a greedy fool who seeks my power to aid in your scheme. I will not help you in any way."

The yellowish gargoyle's eyes widened, and he tried making an impassioned plea. "I do not understand! I thought that you, of all people, would have been glad to help!"

Balinos looked at Demona, who had been silent the entire time, and feigned interest in what Darius was saying. "And why would you think something like that?" his hollow voice echoed and distorted upon itself.

"Because of your vendetta with the Third Race!" the necromancer nearly yelled. "The vendetta that drove you to side with Apep and the other dragons to slay the king of the Fay!"

Demona watched as the ghost turned to stare directly at the other gargoyle. "That was long, long ago. I have changed much since then, over the millennia of roaming the world as a ghost, unable to depart for the afterlife because of my great offence. I no longer hate the Fair Folk, and no longer wish to take part in any scheme directed against them. Vengeance begets only more vengeance, and it only leads to more sorrow without ever solving anything."

Darius was clearly not expecting this turn of events, as he frantically tried to bribe Balinos. "I can give you anything you want! Gold! Jewels! Renewed fame! The ability to feel again! With some effort, I might restore you to life! I might even be able to release you from your eternal torment!"

The spirit frowned, as he looked at the yellowish male with pity. His voice echoed upon itself. "Riches are of no use to me now, and I neither need nor desire whatever you can offer mr. Your empty promises, which you cannot keep, mean even less to me."

"Talk some sense to the ghost, Demona!" Darius pleaded with her. At that moment, one of the boxes began to shatter, a plank of wood flying off. "His presence is over-exciting them! Talk some sense into him, but do it outside!"

She looked at him, and suspected that this alliance was not a good one. But she nodded quietly and left the chamber, and the ghost followed.

* * *

Delilah watched the sky, and waited for something to happen. But nothing did.

"Looking at the stars, hmm? "

She turned to see Icarus. "Yes. I do not see them that much at home. Too many bright lights in the city."

"Ah. I prefer watching the moonlight on the waves myself. A fire can be pretty engrossing at times too."

She studied him for a moment. "When did you finish talking to..."

The feather-winged gargoyle shrugged. "That conversation was over before it started. Of all the clans here, the Chinese are definitely the ones most in disagreement with the rest. The Caledonian and Guatemalan clans are against humans too, and the Antarctic and Persian clans are neutral, but I think they'll all eventually come around to Goliath's way of thinking. The rest agree with him already. I think, all in all, this Council wasn't a waste a of time after all."

Delilah stared at him. "The Council is not over yet. There is still tomorrow night..."

"Nah. There isn't much that could happen between now and then that'll change the course this thing is on already, short of someone dying."

The clone sighed. "Well I hope that doesn't happen. But I suppose you are right. And I made no difference at all for it..."

"I wouldn't say that," Icarus smiled. "You represented an extra clan on Goliath's side, and that might be important. We both know Demona is really an outside part of the Manhattan clan, and not part of yours, even if the Council hasn't quite figured that out."

"How did you?"

Icarus turned his back and began walking, and beckoned for her to follow. "That is a secret," he smiled.

"What does that mean? You've said it at least..."

"If I told you the secret, then it wouldn't BE a secret, now would it?"

She growled softly. "Give me a straight answer."

Without missing a beat, Icarus replied, "It means I'm being silly and coy. I've just been very observant about this whole mess. In all honesty, I wish Goliath hadn't come to this Council."

"What? Why?" Delilah was shocked.

"Because," Icarus shrugged again, and then folded his wings around himself. "As I already pointed out, all the clans except the Chinese are eventually going to come around to his line of thinking. With some it will be reluctantly, and others already side with him. He has quite a presence and believes in himself and his cause."

The female smiled. "Yes, he has that way about him. But all the things the clans don't like about him. Him loving Elisa, and all that..."

Icarus kept walking and watching the distance instead of Delilah. "He hasn't realized it yet, but all the controversy surrounding him is only going to make the other clans talk about him and what he has to say all the more. It may be years before it becomes apparent, but Goliath has already made this Council succeed, and his flaws are part of that. There will be more Councils later, even if this one seems like a failure for now."

She was silent for a bit after that. "I hadn't thought of it that way."

"No one has yet. Certainly not Goliath. He's probably beating himself up over it right now in fact."

* * *

Goliath sighed. "I have let my emotions get in the way. Perhaps at the next Council, if there is another Council, I should let Brooklyn come in my stead. He is older, and has seen and experienced more things than I ever possibly can. He would not have accused Delilah of being incapable even when she has presented no problems. He has had experience with most of the clans during his dances. And he is not in love with a human..." The large lavender gargoyle growled, and his eyes flared white as he slammed the side of his fist into the nearby wall, causing it to crack. "Why is my loving Elisa a crime to them!?!"

Hudson watched him, and remained silent. Goliath waited for his mentor to say something to cheer him up.

"Aren't you going to say something?"

The one-eyed gargoyle shook his head. "There is no need, lad. You've pointed out yuir flaws perfectly well. You didn't accidentally grab the Phoenix Gate and suddenly get whisked away from the Manhattan clan for forty years and you love Elisa. Pity, that." The Manhattan clan leader stared at his old friend, shocked to hear those words.

Hudson continued. "If only it had been you who suffered for forty years away from yuir clan, and had been denied yuir happiness with Elisa, if you hated humans rather than loved them, and oh yes, if the Unseelie had destroyed our entire clan, myself included, well then, lad, the other clans would have nothing to accuse ye of."

"What..." Goliath began.

"Anything worth doing is never easy; it takes a lot of hard work to achieve something important. You have lived yuir life as you should have and as best ye could. There is no shame in that. I thought I had taught you that long ago.

" But if you believe that being yuirself is a problem, that anyone else could have done better, there is nothing I can do for ye."

"Hudson, I..." Goliath tried to think of something to say, but no words would come. He watched as Hudson walked away.

* * *

"Does this hurt?"

"No," Lexington grumbled.

"Does this hurt?" Aurora asked again, as she prodded the small gargoyle.

"No," Lexington sighed. "Could you stop that, I'm not..."

"Does this hurt?"

"OW! YES!" Lex yelped in surprise, and pulled away.

Aurora grinned at Kirstie. "I found out what hurts!" Then turning back to her patient, she wore a serious look. "Nothing serious. You'll be fine after a day's sleep. Probably before that even."

The Caledonian gargoyle beside them chuckled. "So tell me, Lexington of the Manhattan Clan, how exactly IS it that ye lost a fight when yuir clan did so well against the Unseelies?"

The small web-winged gargoyle glared at the curly-haired female. "I wasn't fighting seriously. I didn't really want to hurt anyone."

"Of course ye didn't," Kirstie grinned.

The gargoyle from the Antarctic clan watched them and smiled some. "He IS the one that attacked me. I had to defend myself."

"I did NOT attack you!" Lex protested.

Aurora gestured dramatically. "Yes, you did. You tensed up, your eyes flared, and you jumped right in front of my face yelling out 'Take that back'!"

The Manhattan gargoyle fumed. "Only after you insulted me! And that wasn't attacking! That was just, uhm... getting in your face to show you I meant it!"

Kirstie laughed. The other two turned and glared at the brown-skinned female. She tried to control her laughter. "At which point she grabbed ye and threw ye intae the wall. And ye just gave up then!"

Aurora found herself laughing as well.

Lexington grumbled.

* * *

"Why will you not help us?" Demona exclaimed at the ghost.

"Why are you helping a madman?"

"His plans might not be exactly what I expected, but I do not think he is a madman," Demona grumbled.

The armored ghost looked at the gargoyle. "Very few have ever gone to the trouble and effort to study the dark arts at such lengths. Even fewer in this age. Your ally might possibly be the last, in fact. In my experience, the only ones who ally themselves so fully with darkness are those seeking power. Those that seek power through these means are either foolish or mad, and the foolish never complete the training required. You know this, I can tell."

The gargoyle paused for a moment. As soon as Darius'... ability had been unveiled to her, she had begun doubting if he could be trusted. "That may be," she faked, believing in her current cause, "but still, why do you not aid us? After all, you..."

"Your ally already tried to make the argument citing my past," Balinos' voice echoed. "Yet he did not stop to understand why I refuse to help. You also seem to lack the patience to be silent long enough to understand."

Demona clenched her fists and ground her teeth, but remained silent.

"Better," the ghost seemed to smile, then sighed. "The history that your ally is relying on for my help is a painful one. I blamed the suffering in my life upon the Third Race, to the point I declared war on it, actually struck down Avallach and slew him, singling him out as the Fair Folk's leader. Now I know that I was wrong to do so, though for a long time, I did not understand this.

"Because of my actions, Oberon and Madoc fought each other over the succession to Avallach's throne, the First Unseelie War took place, and my own homeland of Atlantis was destroyed. All the woe that the Unseelie Court and its wars wrought was ultimately my responsibility."

The ghost grimaced, angry at his past. "That responsibility has weighed down so much upon me that after my death, I was not even able to move on from this world, but remained bound to it for millennia as a wandering ghost. The worst part of it all is that there is no way now that I can atone for all the suffering and misery that I am ultimately responsible for."

Demona listened in silence. His words were striking closer to home than she cared to admit. The ghost looked at her quizzically for a moment. "I trust my words have not fallen on deaf ears."

She tried to think of something to say, a response that would get him to say something else to alleviate the worries that were starting to well up. But before anything else could be said, the ghost vanished, leaving her behind to think.

* * *

Delilah looked at him for a moment. "What did you mean when you said you wished Goliath hadn't come to the Council? You said it was going to work in the long run because of him."

Icarus looked at her for a moment, and saw something in her eyes. "Want to go for a glide?"

"Don't change the subject!"

He answered in a flat tone, "I'm not. I'll answer your question along the way."

She blushed a little then for yelling, nodding and saying simply, "Oh."

Wind blew the New Olympian gargoyle's hair all over as he looked around for a moment, and then examined the side of the Gargoyle World complex. "Itís as good a spot as any, I suppose..."

"As good a spot for what?" Delilah questioned. Without warning, he sank his right claw into the building's side, then his left, and began climbing. After he was up a respectable distance, Delilah decided to follow suit.

Within a few moments, Icarus reached the top. Delilah came a moment after, to find him smiling and offering his hand to lift her up. She took it, and he pulled her the rest of the way.

"So, now what?" the snow-haired female asked. In response, the male took a few steps back, unfurled his wings, then ran forward and jumped off the building. She watched as he began to glide, then repeated what he had done, the wind taking them both off into the night.

* * *

"Xanatos," the large lavender gargoyle sighed, "I need your help."

The billionaire smiled. "Why ,Goliath, I thought you'd never ask. This Council meeting has gotten a bit past your experience level, hasn't it?"

"Yes. I had assumed that the entire affair would be simple, and that all the clans attending would agree with me."

David shook his head. "First rule, Goliath, assume the people attending a meeting are taking the exact opposite view as you, and be prepared to defend your ideas to the point of convincing them." The rich man paused. "Take a seat, this could take a while. That chair over there doesn't have a back, so your tail won't be awkward."

The Manhattan leader nodded and sat down. "I realize that now. And I did my best to make my case. It is just... some of the rest of them are equally sure in their convictions. So I came to you for advice on what to do about the Council based on your experience as a..." he stumbled a moment, still unsure of some modern terminology even after several years in modern times. " ...CEO. The long-term prospects do not seem good at present."

Xanatos leaned back against the wall, crossing his hands over his chest. "I think the main thing is, you won't make all your views pass this time around, Goliath. You need to change your goal some. Rather than try and persuade them all and convince them that you are right, you need to just make sure there is some success, so that there IS another Council. Your ideals mean nothing if no one comes back to hear them." Xanatos paused for a moment, his eyes flicking upward. "Are you coming in?"

"What?" Goliath puzzled, then turned to the door to see Hudson walk in. "What.." he repeated, "are you doing here?"

The one-eyed gargoyle smiled. "You would nae listen to what I said. You had to come to the proper conclusions, accept that yuir right in what yuir doing and seek help on yuir own. You did. Now I can help."

Goliath smiled in understanding, suddenly filled with some hope again.

* * *

Lexington looked at the brown-skinned girl from the Caledonian clan, and realized with a start, that he STILL did not know her name. "But she knows mine," he whispered to himself. "Now, how to ask without embarassing myself... Hmm..."

The web-wing deliberated for a moment to himself, and could not think of any way to approach the subject, so came up with a new topic entirely. "SOO, do you two want to do anything other than just sit around?" the Manhattan gargoyle smiled innocently.

Kirstie looked at him. The brown-haired gargoyle seemed to be studying him, and then smiled seductively and moved closer to him. "What did ye have in mind?"

"I dunno. A walk or something, maybe? This place is too big and surrounded by too much nice scenery to just sit around talking the whole night."

A smile crossed Aurora's lips. "You are right. I could throw you against the wall some more."

"HEY!" Lex protested.

Kirstie laughed again. "I think then it might be a good idea tae go outside, where there are nae any walls tae be thrown against!"

The snow-haired Aurora stifled a laugh when she heard the smaller gargoyle growl. "I think a walk outside might be a good thing. I am honestly not used to being indoors. It is a pity there is no snow outside, however."

"Wait a minute..." Lex puzzled. "You just got away from snow for the first time in your life and you're unhappy about being in a place that DOESN'T have snow?"

The white-haired female looked at him oddly. "As you said, I have lived in snow and ice all my life. It is all I know, all that I am used to. Being in an area with dry dirt and a great many trees is... different. I would not mind spending some time in a forest, it would just being easier on me if there was snow. Just trees and dirt, though... "

Kirstie perked up at that. "I've lived around nae a thing BUT trees and dirt all my life. Tae be in a place with just snow for a while, or in a large city... It is honestly a wee bit scary. But I like the idea of being somewhere else, and somewhere different for a small while. It would give me time to think about some things away from my clan. ĎTis the main reason I came to this Council."

The Manhattan gargoyle smiled. "Well then, maybe you should move in with the Antarctic clan and Aurora should move to the Caledonian Forest for a year. Then you'd both get to spend some time away from where you're used to."

The Caledonian girl moved in closer to Lexington and smiled. "Or perhaps I could just move to yuir Manhattan and spend time with the two clans there? That might be fun..."

Lex suddenly found himself a bit flustered and tried not to blush. "Now you're just being silly. So, are we going outside for a walk or what?"

* * *

Demona pushed the door open into the room and walked back into Darius' hideaway. The thin gargoyle watched her. "Well, Demona? What of the spirit?"

The blue-skinned female crossed her arms and looked away from him. "He said he was uninterested and left."

"WHAT?" the web-winged gargoyle shouted loudly. "After all the trouble I went through to get him here?" he smacked the wall with his fist and left a mild crack in it. "What did you say to try and convince him to stay?!?"

"I did what I could?" Demona yelled back, suddenly very annoyed and uneasy with her partner. "What did you expect me to do? Lock him up?" she asked archly.

"You obviously did not try hard enough!"

"He didn't listen to you either!" Demona growled.

The necromancer turned and paced the room angrily. "This is not good. He was important to my plans. And it is YOUR fault he left!"

"It is not my fault!" she cried out. "But if you feel that way, it is quite apparent you don't think I'm going to be any use to you. As such, I no longer see a point in our alliance. I am leaving, and you can commit your dark acts on your own! I'll not be allied with a necromancer!" She practically hissed the last word as she turned to leave.

"You DARE betray me?" Darius seethed as the female headed towards the door. "VERY WELL! Come out, my pets!"

Demona heard a cracking splintering sound. Then another. Then several at once. "The crates..." she whispered with sudden dread, having no idea what they had contained. She turned to examine what had been released, and saw nearly two dozen black shaggy beasts, half wolf, half boar. "I recognize those things from my studies!" her eyes widened in horror. "They're Druj!"

Darius chuckles at that. "Indeed they are. The Druj... Savage and chimeraic monsters bred by the Unseelies for their activities in the Middle East. They are quite nasty beasts, each of them easily capable of taking out a gargoyle. And since I have put several enchantments upon them, they will obey me. You don't stand a chance of living."

She glared at him. "Kill me and you will regret it. I will then have to track you down, no matter how long it takes, and gain revenge on you."

The necromancer seemed amused. "Immortal, are you? Well then, I suppose I need to make sure that this hurts, and that you get torn to shreds."

Panicked, Demona took in the situation. She was outnumbered, and even if she did have an idea of how strong each creature actually was, she could not defeat them all. Her eyes widened in worry as the first of the large beasts jumped at her.

Demona dodged, grabbed it by the ruff of its mane, twirled, and tossed it away into another. She snarled at the heft that it took to toss the Druj. It was easily as large as a well-grown gargoyle beast, and the others looked be off a size with it.

Another Druj jumped at her then, and she dodged, and ran for the door. Yet another creature charged her from behind. With no time to calmly grab the door handle and pull it towards her into the room, she charged and jumped full force into the door and knocked it to the ground. She clasped her wings tightly around her and went into a roll, then turned her exit into a full-out run as quickly as she could. The beasts howled an unnatural sound as they dashed through the door behind her.

The immortal gargoyle waited a moment to glance behind her, and saw the beasts were quickly catching up. "I won't be able to stay ahead of them for long," she growled. "I need another way out!" Filled with fear, she saw at the end of the hall a large window. Picking up her pace as much as she could, she charged and then jumped through the glass, shattering it and cutting herself. She then began running again.

The Druj were too large to fit through the small window. Darius growled as he reached the escape point. "What are you waiting for? AFTER HER!" The beastsí eyes blared an unnatural green, and one charged the window with enough force to make the hall shake. It rammed the pane again, and the wall began to crack. Again and again it charged, with an unnatural frenzy, until it broke through the wall into the cool night.

Darius came out right behind the creature and looked for his prey. "She is gone! Half of you split up and find her!" he yelled. "The rest, with me!" The creatures obeyed his commands, and began spreading through the area.

From the rooftop, Demona breathed heavy. "That was close." Taking a moment to catch her breath, she looked towards the area where the other gargoyles were. "I should warn them." A loud unnatural growl came from behind her.

She turned quickly and saw one of the Druj. "These things can climb?"

It stalked towards her, step by step, eyes burning a brilliant green. The gargoyle turned, and began running again. Her wings unfurled and she jumped off the building with enough momentum to get a decent distance away before the wind caught her. "Well," she muttered to herself, "I can't help them now. They are on their own."

On some level, she wondered if there was anything she could do to help. And part of her conscience said yes. She ignored her conscience and glided away, unsure of what she would do next.

* * *

"You don't do this very often, do you?" Icarus noted during the slow glide.

Delilah blushed. "Is it that obvious I don't glide much?" Almost as if to emphasize the point, she wobbled when the air currents shifted. Her face reddened more, and the male gliding beside her grinned.

"Yes." At that, he casually glided a bit closer to her. "Part of the problem is you aren't quite keeping your wings straight. Haven't quite developed the muscles for it, right?"

The snow-haired gargoyle looked away, and felt a flush of embarrassment. "Um, yeah. There isn't much opportunity to glide in the Labyrinth. How did you know?"

The feathered male shrugged. "I used to have the same problem myself. Spent a few years afraid of flying and had trouble re-learning the process."

"Oh?" she questioned.

"Yeah. I'll tell you about it on the ground. This looks to be as good a spot as any, and you seem a bit tired."

With that, the New Olympian gargoyle took a dive downwards and gained speed. Delilah followed suit, and they landed on a spot next to a small lake. She watched as he examined the ground briefly, and then sat down in the dirt. His wings caped around his shoulders, and he sat with his legs crossed, hands in his lap. The clone took up a similar position beside him, and looked in the direction his gaze went.

"Like I said," he noted, "I like watching the moonlight on the water. I can just stare at it for hours." The gargoyle idly picked up a small rock and tossed it into the lake, and watched as the ripples spread and played with the moonlight.

"So why were you afraid of flying?" Delilah asked.

Still watching the water, he answered. "When I was a hatchling, I wanted to go exploring all the time. One night, I tried to go out to a small islet off New Olympus, but while I was coming back the sun came up and I plunged into the water. I was low enough to the surface that I wasn't hurt. I nearly drowned when I woke up, though." He paused for a moment and just continued to watch the moonlight on the waves. The female waited for him to finish for several minutes.

"As a result, for at least a year I didn't want to glide out of fear the same thing would happen again. Like I said, I was a hatchling. I contented myself with exploring places that could be reached on foot. So naturally when I tried taking up flying again, I was a year behind the rest of my rookery, and I hadn't developed the skills for it. Kind of like you."

She looked away, slightly ashamed and even more embarrassed.

"It's also how I got my name. Everyone said my story was like that of the mythical Icarus, even though it wasn't really. Icarus tried to fly into the sun, I tried to fly away from it. In any event, the name stuck, and that's what I've called myself ever since."

"I wish my name had a story behind it like that," Delilah sighed. "As it is, I honestly don't know where my name came from."

Icarus kept looking at the water. "I don't think it really matters. What's in a name, really? Names were mostly a human thing to start with anyway; gargoyles used to get by just calling each other friend." He paused when he heard the girl beside him chuckle. "What?"

"Sorry," the gargoyle tried to stifle a giggle. "Hudson apparently said pretty much the same thing when he chose his name. 'Does the sky need a name? Does the river?' Then it was pointed out to him that the river was the Hudson. I just always found that kind of funny, and what you're talking about reminded me of it."

"I understand..." the male nodded, clearly not actually understanding. "In any event, as I was saying... A name or where it comes from doesn't really matter, itís what's inside that counts. You are who you are, and you are a gargoyle. Quite a nice one at that, I might add."

Delilah looked at him for a moment, and smiled. Icarus then turned his gaze to the water again, and was surprised when he was suddenly hugged.

* * *

Lexington found he could not pay attention to the outdoor scenery or whatever conversation he was involved in; he was too caught up in staring at the Caledonian girl once again, angry at himself. "What is her name? Geez, I know I have to have heard it at least once during the stupid Council..."

Walking to his right, Aurora could not help but notice where most of his concentration seemed to be going. "You seem to be paying an awful lot of attention to her, Lexington." she grinned slyly.

It took the web-wing a moment to register that he'd been spoken to. "Huh? Oh, I guess I am."

"Any particular reason?" She paused, then smiled. "You ARE interested in her, aren't you?" the Antarctic gargoyle whispered.

"No, itís not that, itís just..."

Kirstie interrupted. "Do you hear that?"

"Hear what?" the other two responded at the same time. The group went silent, and sounds were definitely audible.

"Growling?" Lex questioned.

Aurora frowned. "I don't recognize that sound..."

The small gargoyle nodded. "Not surprising. You've been in the Antarctic all your life."

"And what is that supposed to mean?" her eyes flared briefly, as she tried to keep her voice down.

:"Nothing. But how many animals could you have possibly heard there?" he explained.

"More than you seem to think..." the sky-blue gargoyle glared.

The growls came closer and louder. Kirstie tried to puzzle out the sound. "Tis nae like anything I've heard before either..."

"Itís kind of like a wolf, but different..." Lexington observed. "And itís coming closer, whatever it is. I think we might want to get out of the way, just in case..."

"What," Aurora sneered. "Afraid it might be something that you, with all your vast experience, won't be able to handle?"

"No, because there's more than one of it!" his voice became louder. "If you'd been paying attention you might have noticed there's more than one growl. And I can't think of a batch of anything native that would be that large, or have gotten into this area."

"Who's there?" a voice came from behind the bushes. "Demona?"

"Uhm, no?" Lex offered, as Darius came into plain sight.

"Have you seen her?" the necromancer asked, clearly impatient and in a hurry.

Brown-haired Kirstie responded. "Nae, we have not. Do ye know what was causing those sounds a moment ago?"

At that moment, one of the Druj came clomping forward, the black wolf-boar's eyes burning a neon green. Darius smiled as the other three gargoyles stepped back. "Why, it's just one of my pets... I have quite a few of them."

Almost on cue, another three creatures came from behind the bush, and a moment later, more followed.

Aurora glanced at Lexington. "You were right, I have never seen anything like that where I come from..."

"I apologize too," Lex took a step away from the beasts. "I've never seen anything like these before either."

Darius grinned. "Frightened?" A full dozen creatures were now behind him. "Good, you should be." He turned and smiled at the Druj. "Attack."

The Manhattan gargoyle yelled to the two females at his side. "Run, and split up! Get to Goliath and let him know about this!"

Kirstie momentarily looked as if she would argue, then nodded and took off after Aurora. One creature charged at Lex and let out a cat-like growl. The small web-wing jumped over and came around behind it. The beast kept running for a moment, and skidded to turn around. From the corner of his eye, Lexington noticed another one was coming at him from the side. He quickly turned around and ran.

The girls were slightly ahead of him, and he watched as the Caledionian said something to Aurora and they both went different directions. He went straight, and noted with a bit of unease that the beasts were faster than he was.

* * *

"We should abandon the remainder of these proceedings," the beaked Chiang Yun noted to her leader.

Mei Hsing nodded. "Gargoyles like Goliath will lead us to our doom. And most of the clans here side with him despite that fact. They do not care for our opinion. The only ones that even slightly share our views are the Guatemala and Caledonian clans. The Guatemala clan is so small it does not matter, and the Caledonians are allied with the London clan, who DO think Goliath is right. There is no point in staying."

"Well," Chiang Yun thought. "Icarus from the New Olympian clan agrees with us a little. He understands that some humans can be good, but most aren't to be trusted."

"And how do you know that?" the large and pink female asked.

The white gargoyle looked at the wall. "He... talked to me earlier. I'm not sure what he was trying to achieve. He said he hated humans but that we should give them a chance. He contradicted himself."

Mei Hsing frowned. "Regardless, he is just one gargoyle, who is here unofficially and who does not represent his clan. It is not worth our time to try and convince one gargoyle if Goliath is going to lead all the rest to suicide."

"Maybe, but..."

A voice came from the door. "Am I interrupting anything?"

The Chinese gargoyles both turned to see who was visiting them, and took in the sight of the elderly Kylie. Her physician Tiberius was beside her.

"Elder," Mei Hsing's eyes widened some in surprise and she spoke with utmost respect. "Please, come in, and sit down."

Kylie smiled and did that. "Perhaps ye are wondering what I am doing here?"

"The thought had not crossed my mind, Elder. Since you brought the matter up, I assume you do indeed have a reason other than just being friendly?"

Kylie nodded slowly and smiled. Beside her, Tiberius remained silent, but he watched Chiang Yun, who also refrained from speaking while the older gargoyles discussed matters.

The old gargoyle began her explanation. "I can understand how ye are feeling about Goliath and the humans. I share yuir views."

Mei Hsing nodded. "We were just discussing that matter, in fact."

"Talking about me when I'm not around. Interesting." the ancient gargoyle smiled thinly and examined the two Chinese gargoyles. Mei Hsing was relaxed, confident and sure of herself. Her aide stood behind her, tense, nervous and unsure.

"It occurs to me," Kylie began again, "that ye two must be feeling a wee bit frustrated at this Council meeting. To the point ye are considering leaving and closing yuirselves off to the world once again. 'Tis a pity and a shame if ye are."

"You are quite observant," the Chinese clan leader smiled.

"Aye. At the age I have reached, I have observed a great many things, and I have learned to anticipate the way some people might act. I saw how ye were acting in the Council. Independent, confident and sure yuir ideals were right. Yuir confidence rose when you were facing off against Goliath and your opinions were so clearly different from his, and some of the delegates agreed with ye."

"Except that none of the delegates agree with my actual views, Elder. They only agreed when I observed that something was wrong with Goliath."

"Aye. Mating with a human, 'tis a queer thing indeed." Kylie closed her eyes and relaxed a moment, contemplating. "Regardless, I have to ask that ye reconsider leaving, simply for the sake of keeping yuir old views. What once worked in the past cannot work for much longer, not in this modern world. Eventually the humans WILL find you, and if they came as a hostile force..."

"Then we would fight them off!" Chiang Yun exclaimed. Her leader narrowed her brows and glared at her briefly, before turning her attention back to the elder. Chiang Yun went silent again.

"My clan took much the same views as ye do, not all that long ago. We thought we could handle anythin' on our own, in isolation from the world. But when the Unseelie attacked my clan..." she paused for a moment. " If we had nae any help from the London clan's additions and supplies, I would not be sitting here, speaking to you just now."

Mei Hsing seemed uncomfortable with the thought. "But the Unseelie were far more powerful than any humans..."

"Nae so. Human technology is as strong as any magic the Unseelie had on their side. And the Unseelie were also fools Ė at least as far as their strategy went. If they had any sense at all, they would have waited 'til daylight to attack us. The only reason they attacked at night is that they made the decision tae strike the entire world at once. Most humans would nae have such a problem."

"All the more reason not to trust them," the Chinese gargoyle frowned.

Kylie sighed. "Ye miss my point entirely. To hate all humans is a bad idea. To not accept help from other gargoyles with greater resources than yuir own is also nae a good idea. And just isolating yuirself from the entire world only to be surprised when the world finds you again is even an even worse thing ta do. And yet, ye insist on doing all three things. Ye are like a stubborn hatchling, set in her ways and refusing to accept help from those who just might know better."

Mei Hsing frowned. "I respect you, Elder, truly I do. You have a great many years more experience than I do. However, I just do not believe that..." A snarling sound interupted her. "What the..?"

With a loud thump, the door began to crack. There was another thump, and the cracks spread further. One last charge splintered the door into tiny pieces, and a large black creature with green glowing eyes entered the room. Another followed behind it.

Chiang Yun moved in front of Kylie to protect her, and her leader took a defensive position as well. Tiberius stood beside them, not ready to take any chances on what these creatures might be.

* * *

Goliath sighed. "Thank you for the advice, Xanatos, but I do not believe that I can... negotiate... the way you do."

The billionaire smiled. "Probably not. Still, I gave you what advice I could give. I hope it will be at least a bit useful in the one night of Council you have left."

Hudson nodded. "Indeed. You have been most generous in this task, Xanatos. Funding it, spending days of your personal time..."

David shook his head. "No need to thank me. You gargoyles are..." The billionaire was interrupted by a beeping sound. "Security call? I wonder what could be the problem..."

The man walked to the nearby wall, which had a built-in monitor. He touched a button, and the visual flared to life. "Sir!" a security guard exclaimed. "There is a problem!"

"And what would that problem be?" said Xanatos, frowning slightly.

The security guard was almost pushed out of the way by Kirstie. "Darius! He has a whole bunch of critters I have nae ever seen before! Part boar, part wolf, all black and with green glowing eyes! Lexington and Aurora are both trying to keep him distracted, but he has a lot of the nasties!"

The Manhattan clan leader quickly made a plan. "All right. You find some place to hide where it is safe..."

"Nae, I will not hide when others are in danger!" Kirstie growled.

Goliath almost smiled at this display of gargoyle nature and attitude. "All right then. Do what you think you need to." His voice dropped to a low growl. "I will go find Tamora and ask her about this. She is the other representative from the Persian clan and she may be part of this, or may not know anything about it. Hudson, you try to find the other delegates and warn them, help however you can. I'll join you as soon as possible."

Xanatos nodded and finished outlining the plan. "And I'll get my security team to the scene as fast as possible. Good luck, both of you."

* * *

Icarus' eyes widened, and he barely returned the gesture, then pulled away.

"What was that for?" he questioned

"Nothing... Itís just that..." she paused, considering if she should tell him she was half-human. "I just realized, you never answered my other question."

"And that's worth a hug?" the New Olympian puzzled.

"Um, no..." she blushed again. "That was, ah... personal."

"I see..." Icarus smiled.

"Anyway..." Delilah stumbled. " You said when we got here, you would answer my question. So answer it."

"What question?"

She glared at him. "What did you mean when you said you wished Goliath hadn't come to the Council? You said because of him it was going to work."

"Exactly. If Goliath had not come, and it had instead been, say, Brooklyn, this Council would fail and there would be no more Councils in the future. With Goliath, this Council will fail but there will be more, due simply to the strength of his convictions. Not everyone will agree with him upon leaving, but they will all agree he has merit as a leader and the fact that he might be right or some such."

"And that would be a bad thing?" the clone puzzled.

"As far as I'm concerned. New Olympus as well. Officially, I'm not supposed to be here, remember."

"And unofficially?" she frowned.

"That is, of course, a secret." Delilah glared, and Icarus looked away. "But personally, I don't think Goliath's cause has any merit. The humans aren't to be trusted, and allying with them is not the thing to do. They'll only betray us in the end. We're vulnerable for the entire day, and at a passing fancy they can kill us. Not good for a long-term peace."

"But... but... but..." Delilah stumbled. "What about?"

"The Ishimuran clan, which has worked together for centuries, Elisa who has helped your clan so much, so and so forth. That's been covered plenty in the last two nights. As Mei Hsing has pointed out, and correctly, I might add, they are but isolated incidents. Hardly covering the majority.

"If it weren't for the fact human technology is fast catching up to New Olympus, I wouldn't be here at all. I want nothing to do with humans. I don't care about Goliath being in love with one; that's not important. Love is love, and it isn't like humans are animals as some Council members seem to be indicating. But still... the idea is wrong, and I myself couldn't stand being around a group of them for very long."

Delilah stared. "But in the Council and to Chiang Yun you defended..."

"Despising ALL humans is the wrong thing to do, I know that, so I don't. I'll grant the exceptions and defend them. But basically what it comes down to is, I don't want Goliath to succeed at his insane quest of trying to unite ALL humans and gargoyles. But he will, simply because he IS who he is, and I doubt there are many others that could make the whole thing work."

The female stared, shocked at the new human-hating side of Icarus. "If you think like that, why don't you side with Mei Hsing then?"

Icarus shrugged. "The only reason I don't argue the point in the Council is because I want Mei Hsing to carry the power and authority of the side with that opinion. If I were to openly agree with her, that might sway one or two other clans to agree with us.

" And while I see the merit of having humans as allies, will admit openly that they aren't ALL bad, and that New Olympus owes Elisa Maza a bit of gratitude, that does not mean I have to like the idea. If Goliath weren't here to place his influence and ideals, my opinion, the one shared by several of the other clans, would have a chance of going through and winning.

"Unfortunately, since Mei Hsing does not even believe the gargoyle clans should be united, and I do, our interests do not intersect as much as they should. So I can't give her my support. And as I already noted, even if I did, with Goliath around, it wouldn't matter. So now, rather than siding with one of the two major powers at this Council, I just have to sit back and watch what happens."

Delilah growled and her eyes flashed red for a moment. "And manipulate things as best you can to your advantage, by telling others what you think they should think. Like your conversation with Chiang Yun."

He shrugged. "Something like that. Itís politics. In any event, I imagine we should be getting back to the Council grounds now. We might be missed if we're gone too much longer."

"Yes, I suppose so." Delilah grimaced a little, glad now she had not told Icarus she was partly human.

* * *

"Tamora!" Goliath yelled once he finally found the young female.

"Goliath!" she smiled, her expression brightening when she saw him. "What brings you here?"

"Your clanmate, Darius. He is apparently using magical beasts to cause havoc. I came looking for you to see what you knew about it." the large gargoyle frowned and stared at her.

Tamora stared wide-eyed at him. "What? What are you talking about?"

Goliath impatiently explained the situation again, to the best of his knowledge. He watched as her eyes widened in fear. "Oh no... that sounds like the Druj... the things that the Spawn of Arimanes used to attack our clan!" A panicked expression crossed her face. "We have to get out of here! The Druj are magical beasts! They're too vicious and powerful to overcome, and..."

"But..." the lavender gargoyle interrupted, puzzledly. "Your clan survived their attack before. And Darius apparently has control over them..."

"We did not stop them, though! Many of my clan, including the one who would have been my mate, DIED trying to fight them! We only survived because the Druj stopped on their own. We did not understand why at the time, but I would guess they only stopped because Lord Arimanes died. If that insane idiot Darius has somehow brought them back to..."

"So you aren't part of his scheme?" Goliath asked.

"I wasn't even aware of it!" Tamora insisted. "I did not quite trust Darius, but... We'll have to work together, all of us, to even have a chance of surviving this!"

"I see..." the male gargoyle frowned. "Hudson has already gone to warn others, and Lexington was apparently already facing them. Is there ANYTHING we can do that you know of that will stop them?"

"Other than them going to sleep on their own? Not that I know of."

"Then we shall just have to figure something out when we get there," Goliath commented as he began to run.

* * *

"This is definitely NOT good..." Lexington fretted as he backed into a wall, surrounded by three of the beasts.

"Hey, beasts!" a female voice called out, as a small rock smashed right into the belly of one of the Druj. The creature turned and began stalking towards its attacker. The other two surrounding Lex were hit by rocks a moment later, but they just growled louder, and concentrated more on the closer prey.

Lex risked a glance towards who was distracting one of them, and saw the light blue Aurora, already climbing the building she was next to to escape the creature now heading towards her. Lexington could not escape in quite the same way since his back was to the wall and the animals were much closer to him.

The one that Aurora had angered began running full trot when it saw she was escaping. The Manhattan gargoyle took the now open spot to his left and ran. The two Druj trailing him were close behind, snarling. With the momentum provided by his run, he took a leap against a wall, dug his claws into it, and began climbing. Within moments, he had reached the top, his heart pounding and out of breath.

He glanced across the way to Aurora and yelled out. "Thanks for the help!" Then he blinked and became worried, as he spotted the Druj climbing the wall. "Ooooh, geez... it can..." with a sudden realization, he glanced down and saw the two remaining were climbing after him as well. He took that as his cue to keep running, and crossed to the other side of the building, and hopped to the next one. He noted Aurora was heading the same way.

"Head towards the camps!" she called out. "If we can find some of the others, we might do a bit better than we are at the moment!"

"Right!" Lexington agreed. "I hope that Caledonian girl is doing better than we are..."

* * *

Chiang Yun screamed as she dug her claws into the furred creature's hide. "Take THAT you..." Her eyes widened when the beast turned its head and tried to bite her. "What? This thing should be dead already!"

Tiberius growled. "These clearly are not natural!"

"No doubt!" Mei Hsing noticed, as green energy began pouring out from the creature's wounds. She had assumed since there were only two of the beasts that three gargoyles could handle them, but now... "Its wounds! They are healing faster than they can be hurt!"

"Oh reaaaaaally..." Chiang Yun grinned evily. "You three get out of here, I'll hold them off for a moment and then get out!"

"No, you will leave first!" Mei Hsing hissed

Tiberius dove onto the back of one of the creatures, and dug in his claws to hang on as the beast tried to throw him off. It succeeded a moment later, part of its fur going with him. Magic energy flew from its wounds again, and it began healing.

"We must all leave NOW!" Kylie decided. "We cannot face these things in here!"

With a bit of an effort, and Chiang Yun doing her best to hold the animals off, the quartet made it to the shattered door and escaped into the hall, only to see something that surprised them.

"WHAT is THAT?" Chiang Yun wondered.

"Just consider me the cavalry," came Xanatos' voice from his red exo-frame. Hudson stood behind him, and did not seem all that impressed with the suit of armor, which helped calm the other gargoyles somewhat.

Xanatos looked towards the door when he saw the beasts charging out. He raised his left arm, and closed his fist, triggering the weapon within.

The sonic disruptor affected the gargoyles behind him, and all four of them covered their ears. The magical creatures suffering the brunt of the effect suffered more. They howled out in pain, and then collapsed.

Underneath his helmet, Xanatos smiled. "Why did I ever stop using this weapon?" He turned the disruptor off, its job effectively done for the moment. "Now, I suggest we get outside and aid the others. There's quite a few more of these things running around on the grounds..."

Kylie glared at him a bit suspiciously. "Only, if yeíll be promising tae put a bit more distance between us and ye before yuir making more of that bloody infernal racketÖ"

One of the Druj that had sunk to the floor suddenly growled loudly and in a final burst of energy flared its eyes, and jumped at the billionaire. Its mouth came down firmly onto his arm. With mechanically enhanced power, Xanatos flung the creature off and into the wall, where it collapsed. He stared at his arm, and the now ruined weapon.

"The only thing effective against these things so far and itís useless now... This could be trouble..." He noted with some relief that the two that had been downed were not getting up. The gargoyles stared in puzzlement. Why were the Druj not healing from that?

"The noise hurt them everywhere all at once," Tiberius observed, "and even they could not heal from that."

Hudson looked at the creatures. "If they are powered by magic, even an attack such as that might not keep them down long. It might be a good idea to bind them yet, in case they get up again and cause more trouble."

Xanatos nodded, and activated the microphone in his helmet. "Security, get here NOW with some iron muzzles and chains..." He turned towards the gargoyles. "You and you," he pointed at Chiang Yun and Tiberius, "stay behind to protect her," he pointed to Kylie. "You, come with me," he ordered Mei Hsing, without making it sound like an order.

She followed him outside to see that nearly a dozen humans were fighting several of the Druj with only minimal armor, and not the sonic weapon he had possessed.

"Hey, that thing tried to bite me, would you believe it?" one of them yelled.

"Ignore them," Xanatos's voice came through the speakers as he spoke to Mei Hsing. "We are needed elsewhere right now."

* * *

"He was somewhere over there last time I saw him!" Kirstie explained after she managed to run into Goliath and Tamora.

"Then that is where we shall go," Goliath frowned. "But where are all the Druj?"

"I dinnae know," Kirstie frowned. "At least five were after Lex and Aurora, when last I saw them, and a few were staying very close to Darius. And there may have been more that are elsewhere now..."

A growl sounded behind them. "Looking for me?" Darius asked in a sour voice. The trio turned to see the necromancer, surrounded by a half dozen Druj.

"What are you trying to accomplish by attacking us like this?" Goliath yelled.

"That is my business alone, O noble Council leader," the necromancer replied smugly. "I will admit I am impressed. Somehow, two of my pets have been taken out of commission. I felt their energy fade away and come back to me."

Tamora's eyes widened and she whispered to herself. "So they CAN be defeated..."

"Do not get your hopes up," the web-wing grinned. "I still have six of my pets with me, and the rest are coming. The three of you stand no chance of defeating them through sheer force."

"So perhaps FIVE gargoyles along with a good number of security guards can handle the job long enough for every other gargoyle on the complex to get here, since they've all started coming this way now?" came a voice from the opposite direction.

Darius turned to see Icarus and Delilah. The feather-winged gargoyle waved and smiled at Goliath. "I guess we arrived just in time, huh?"

The necromancer laughed. "It does not matter. There are less than twenty gargoyles here, and I have more than two dozen pets to deal with you! Each of my pets can kill three gargoyles in a minute."

Icarus smiled playfully. "Thatís a fairly idle threat. Your pets are just Druj." Goliath and his group looked at the New Olympian gargoyle, wondering how he knew that.

He continued. "They're nothing more than wolves magically fused with boars. The fact that magic is coursing through them makes them a bit tougher to deal with, but they still have weaknesses. And we know those weaknesses."

"NO! My pets are unstoppable! They would have destroyed my entire clan if..."

Icarus laughed loudly then. "You are SUCH a bad liar! You already admitted yourself we've taken out two of them. We know how to do it. Do you know how we did it?"

"You LIE!" the necromancer yelled. "If you knew how, you would already have done so to take out these!"

Goliath smiled. "He is not lying. Right now everyone else is exploiting their weakness while WE keep you busy. Have you not noticed that none of your 'pets' have come to help you yet?"

Darius looked around and began to panic.

Goliath's smile widened. "Beyond their main weakness, they have another. They need YOU to control them. Without your help, they will eventually just collapse to the ground. There is no point in fighting them, when you are the only one we need to defeat."

Kirstie grinned in realization. "Aye. A good couple of knocks to yuir head will take care of the entire problem."

The web-winged gargoyle was looking panicked. The Druj around him had stopped moving around, and were only standing in place. Darius heard a sound from the rooftops and with a glance noticed that Lex and Aurora had arrived to help, but the rest of his pets were still missing.

"Hey, Goliath, we came to help! We would have been here sooner, but those beast things gave us some trouble. They stopped being a problem a couple minutes ago, though. Xanatos is right behind us with most of the other gargoyles!"

As he spoke, Xanatos arrived with Mei Hsing. Chiang Yun had remained behind with Tiberus to protect Kylie just in case.

They did not have time to make up a story as a group if they all came from opposite sides... Darius realized. "It seems you are all telling the truth. And as I am now outnumbered, I think I shall retreat for the moment."

"You are not going ANYWHERE, traitor," Tamora growled.

"I disagree," the web-wing smiled, as suddenly he was enveloped in a cloud of black smoke. All six Druj that had been around him collapsed to the ground, and their eyes stopped glowing.

Icarus observed the situation. "Cool, dude, we won!"

Mei Hsing was puzzled. "Dude?"

* * *

"We've searched the grounds for him, but there is no trace of Darius to be found anywhere," Goliath frowned.

"Or Demona from your clan, for that matter," Cole added.

"On the upside," Tamora smiled, "all the Druj have been stopped, and we did not have to fight them much."

"Or Darius," Icarus commented.

The New Olympian gargoyle speaking up reminded Goliath of something that had bothered him. "Where did you run across the Druj before that you knew their weakness?"

The feather-winged gargoyle smiled innocently and held his arms behind his head. "Well, that is..."

Delilah glared at him. He sighed. "No big secret at all. I haven't seen them before. We just happened upon you guys right when the confrontation started. I heard Goliath use the word ĎDrují, and I heard Tamora sounding relieved when she found out that they COULD be stopped. And since Darius was bragging about them being unstoppable, I put two and two together. The animal things were Druj, and someone had stopped them, and Darius thought that was impossible, so he had a lot, if not all, of his confidence in the Druj being unstoppable. Plus, I've already observed that Goliath doesn't enter any situation where he doesn't think he can win."

Goliath tried to pretend he had not noticed the compliment, as Icarus continued. "So I just bluffed, and hoped someone else would catch on. Goliath did. Darius got scared, and ran. So to speak. Luckily, when he did, the weird animals just stopped going."

The Manhattan leader nodded. "That much I expected, since Tamora said they had only been stopped before when Madoc died."

Tamora grinned. "So you knew that they had to be getting power from Darius, and all we had to do was stop him. Wow, you handled that situation well, Goliath." Her grin turned into a sincere smile, and she directed it towards Goliath.

Lexington thought about that for a moment. "I guess thatís why the ones that were after us," he easily pointed at Aurora, "stopped chasing us after a while. Darius got nervous because you guys were scaring him, and his control over the Druj waned some. Which allowed us to get to you in time to scare him further, which made him retreat."

"So, all the trouble and fuss is over?" Delilah asked.

"No," Mei Hsing frowned. "We still have one more night of this Council."

* * *

The following night

Lexington prepared to take his seat at the Council when he realized he no longer knew where exactly he was supposed to sit. "Demona left, as near as we can tell, so her seat is empty. And Darius is gone too. But now Xanatos is sitting by Goliath. And he's still wearing his armor too, just without the helmet. Weird.

"And Delilah has switched sides completely," he noted, wondering briefly why she had moved away from Icarus.

Looking a little further to the side of the table, he noted another human in the group. A young brown-haired man who now had a broken arm when he did not the day before. "Looks like Vinnie has apparently invited himself into the Council meeting..." Lex suddenly smiled. "And he's sitting by Mei Hsing. Of all the gargoyles he could have sat by..."

"Hmm, guess I get to sit by Icarus then..." He frowned as he watched Zafiro slither to that seat. "What gives, are we short a seat again?" Glancing around, he noted that several of the clans had moved around a bit. "The Avalon and London clans had switched spots. I guess thatís so the Avalon clan can be closer to the Chinese to try and persuade them or something. And the Caledonian clan has switched places to stay by the London clan, which puts them right beside the Antarctic clan and mine right beside that. Or maybe I'm reading too much into this and some of them have just become friends and are trying to mingle more.

"In any event, it still leaves me without a seat..."

He saw the lone available spot was by Mei Hsing and the human security guard. He shuddered suddenly at the prospect of spending the next several hours by either of them.

"Lex!" came a saving call. He glanced over and saw Cole waving, and made his way towards his friend.

Once the web-wing finally made his way around the round table, the Antarctic clan leader smiled. "Did you hide from me last night or what?"

"Uh, sorry about that. I meant to spend some time with you, but things got a bit out of control, what with Darius..."

"And you briefly trying to kill a member of my clan."

"What?" Lex stared, starting to bristle.

The red gargoyle with the wounded arm smiled. "Aurora filled me in on everything that went on last night," he said, patting the female beside him on the shoulder. She glared at him and he pulled away. "In any event, to prove to you we're still friends, I'll let you take my seat since you seem to be having trouble finding one, and I will bear the burden of sitting by the frightening Mei Hsing. Sound good?"

"What?" Lexington repeated. Before he understood what was going on, Cole had gotten up and forced him down into the seat.

"Pity, though, it is kind of fun seeing her squirm right next to the human. Well, she's not actually squirming, she's doing a remarkable job of restraining herself for the moment..."

The Antarctic gargoyle almost immediately walked to the other side of the room. He sat beside Mei Hsing and smiled. "Hi, there." She glared at him.

"Hello," she growled unpleasantly.

Cole smiled and turned to the human beside him. "I'm glad I invited you to this Council after all."

Vinnie smiled widely. "Yeah well, thanks. I just couldn't believe it when you asked, you know?"

The Antarctic leader tried to hide his amusement.

Lexington, meanwhile discovered that, due to the new seating, he was now sitting right between Aurora and Kirstie. He suddenly found himself embarrassed, even though he had been completely casual with both girls only the previous night.

"Hi, Lex," Kirstie beamed.

"Hello again, Lexington. I take it the wounds I gave you last night have healed as I said they would?" Aurora asked.

"They weren't wounds! They were barely even bruises! And like I said before, I wasn't seriously trying to hurt you or anything!"

"Sure ye weren't," the Caledonian gargoyle gave him a playful look.

Before the web-wing could dwell on any of this, Goliath stood and cleared his throat.

"Now that we are all seated and rested from the... action of last night, I believe we can get back to the matter at hand, some of us with new views on the matter." He glanced at Mei Hsing to see how she reacted, but her hands were in front of her face again, hiding her expression and whatever she was feeling.

He continued. "The matters between gargoyles and humans are not so black and white as some of us had thought. Darius has shown that some gargoyles can become as corrupt as humans." He did not mention Demona, but looked towards Tamora and saw she did not appear to be overly upset about Darius; she seemed more busy concentrating on what he said.

"However, and more significantly, it has also been demonstrated that humans can be be a great asset as allies and even friends. David Xanatos," he gestured towards the billionaire who was just wearing the exo-armor sans helmet so that the attendees would recognize him as the one from the night before," was the only one who was able to stop the Druj. It was because of him that we were able to frighten Darius off."

Murmers of agreement came from around the table. Goliath then pointed to Vinnie. "And this human here," he could still not recall Vinnieís name, " broke his arm while aiding us, and risked his life. His wounds will not heal in a single night, and because he showed concern for us, I am afraid he will be in a bit of pain for the next several weeks."

"Hey, it was nothing really, y'know?" Vinnie Gregarino grinned.

Goliath proceeded with his speech.. "I do believe this proves that humans and gargoyles can work together, that the two races do not need to be divided. I do not know how to prove my point any better. Actions speak far louder than words."

Mei Hsing objected through her hands. It still surprised the Council how loud and clear her voice was despite that. "What happened last night proves nothing, Goliath. These humans who risked their lives are all under Xanatos' employ or live with the Ishimura clan, and those in Xanatos' employ no doubt all were chosen to be here due to their personal pro-gargoyle stances. Besides that," she pointed at the billionaire, "he quite obviously admits that we gargoyles are better, as he is wearing armor designed to look like us. You particularly, Goliath."

The lavender gargoyle frowned and sat down, but continued to listen. "Regardless, you have indeed proved your point, Goliath. There are SOME humans who are not out to kill us. But I still feel inclined to view such humans as rarities, even anomalies. I will raise no further objections at present, so that perhaps something productive can be achieved at this Council."

The pink gargoyle lowered her hands and studied the rest of the room, no longer speaking directly to the Manhattan clan. "However, we will be watching Goliath's actions carefully from now on. If he does not act properly as a gargoyle or shows his views at this Council to be false, then future Councils will proceed without him, or my clan will not attend."

Goliath smiled. "Very well. Now, let us start this Council properly."

* * *

Long before the Council ended, Lexington found he was enjoying himself stuck between Kirstie and Aurora. He noted that he agreed with many of the things both of them said, although the aversion to technology they both had bothered him some. He whispered to himself. "I'm going to have to talk to them both some more after this meeting and before they leave..." He was startled when Kirstie spoke up.

"I have an idea, Goliath, if ye wish for me to share it." The Manhattan clan leader nodded, and the brown female continued.

"Well, I was thinking, what about an exchange of clan members?"

"What?" Lexington blinked.

"Go on," Icarus smiled.

Kirstie smiled and beamed confidence; the brown-skinned gargoyle was sure of herself. "It seems tae me that our clans can nae really understand one another when we only meet for a few nights. No matter when we have another Council, the preperation time involved, the time between, and the actual time spent at the Council dinnaí amount tae much time to learn, share and discuss. We've been here three nights, some of us four, and we are only now starting to accmplish anythin'.

"I think we might be better if one or two of us would spend some time with another clan. I've spent my entire life seeing nae anything but trees and forest animals. 'Tis hard for me or anyone from my clan to really understand what life is like in the mountains or snow or yuir Manhattan city. I barely even understand what a city is."

Kylie smiled. "The idea has merit. One member per clan could spend a year with another clan. Learn what they can about different leading styles and life styles, judge the merit of a clan's character, and more. 'Tis a good idea."

Tamora nodded. "This sounds promising to me as well."

Icarus shrugged. "New Olympians won't go for it, I can tell you that right now. As for me personally, that's a different matter."

General murmurs of agreement went around the table. Kirstie smiled at Lex, and he smiled back. Then he glanced at Aurora and saw she was smiling too, for what reason he could not guess.

* * *

For the next few hours, the Council went smoothly. No major arguments broke out, and Mei Hsing largely remained silent. In the end, very little was actually accomplished, but Goliath was still happy about the overall outcome.

He decided to bring things to a close. "I believe we have accomplished a great deal this night. I regret now that we did not plan this Council to be longer. I would ask of all you to stay for a few more nights so that we might accomplish more, but many of you have pressing business back home, and I understand that.

" Still, we have accomplished much, and we have a few more hours to talk privately after this session ends. I do not believe any of us will be leaving until tomorrow night. Enjoy the time we have left, stop thinking of this as a business trip and try to relax. If there is any other business, please state it now. If not, the session will be adjourned."

The room was silent. Goliath smiled wider. Things had actually come to a satisfactory conclusion for everyone present, something he had thought impossible only hours before. "No objections? Very well then, the Council is dismissed. Thank you all for coming, I hope to speak with you all some more before you depart."

Chairs made the sounds of being pushed back as some got up, others stretched, and the session began to break up. Mei Hsing and Chiang Yun looked eager to escape from the human that was only seperated from them by Cole.

Lex glanced at Aurora and Kirstie and noted that they were not getting up yet. Were they waiting for him to get up first?

A voice broke his train of thought.

"Before ye all leave," came Kylie's voice. "I have a wee bit to say. It is nae part of the Council's business, so there is nae any need for you to stay and hear me, but I would appreciate it if some of ye would stay and listen for a few moments of yuir time."

Everyone was back in their seats immediately and silent.

"I am inclined to agree that this Council was not long enough to accomplish what it needed to. The next one should be at least a week, and two might just be a better number. However, I think that for the first world gathering of the gargoyles, it was exactly as long as it needed tae be.

"This gathering was nae what I had hoped it would be. It is well on the way it should be on now, but at the start it did not seem tae be. I am glad that ye were all able to put aside yuir differences before the end of this Council, and make some progress. Just the talks of having some clans send one or two of their members to the other clans makes it clear ye are all ready tae do this properly next time. And if ye had another batch of nights and a few of ye had said proper farewells to those at home before coming here, I believe some of you might just leave with other clans now."

See glanced sharply at Lexington and Kirstie. "And I am sure that if ye asked Goliath, everyone here would be more than willing tae stay a few more nights.

"Alas, as I said already, this particular Council was perhaps as long as it needed tae be. I must return home, and soon. I regret that I will not live to see the next Council, or all these wonderful plans come to fruition."

There were a few gasps, and several were clearly shaken by her words. The Caledonian and London clans seemed to have expected hear this.

"I will not live much longer. A few more months at best, another few weeks most likely." Kylie turned and smiled at her physician. "Tiberius insisted that I nae come to this Council, said I was in no condition for it. I said Ďnonsenseí, and that I needed tae be here. I am glad I came, and it was good tae see all of you together, and I want ye all tae know that I am happy.

"May ye all be more agreeable next time around, and may the next Council bear more success." The elderly gargoyle smiled then. "Thank ye all for listening to what an old gargoyle had to say." She then slowly rose and left the room, Tiberius right behind. No one else made a move to get up until well after she had left.

* * *

"So, why have you been avoiding me?" Icarus asked.

Delilah looked away. "Last night you said something that upset me."

The New Olympian gargoyle leaned against a nearby wall and closed his eyes. "The whole thing about humans, right?"

"Yes."

He sighed, opened his eyes, and then looked at the sky. "Itís not like I hate all humans. I just don't trust a great many of them. I'm positive that with a little time around any given human, I could come to like them. I mean, Goliath managed to fall in love with one. Who knows, I might someday

do the same, if I were to meet the right one."

"Really?" Delilah smiled.

"Yeah, I suppose. In theory anyway." The feather-winged gargoyle straightened out and developed a serious look. "I know we haven't known each other long, Delilah, but I like you."

The gargoyle blushed, and Icarus continued. "I've come to a decision. After returning to New Olympus and telling my clan about the World Gathering, I'm going to go on my own world tour."

The clone became excited at that. "Do you think... That I might be able to go with you?"

He looked away again. "No." Her heart sank. " It's more something that I need to do for myself."

"Oh." the white-haired gargoyle sighed.

"However," he added, "I might just stop by Manhattan at some point."

"That's... nice," the girl commented, unenthused.

Icarus moved closer to her. "Whatís wrong? I thought you would be happy to know I plan to visit."

"It's not that. Itís just that... Well..." She paused. "I don't want to go back home. There I'm treated like a child. And to be honest, I am afraid of facing Talon back at the Labyrinth for slipping away like I did. I wasn't even supposed to be at this Council."

He smiled at that. "All the more reason to go back. You need to get that issue resolved as soon as possible. Waiting to do so isn't a good thing. I'll visit you on my world trip, honest."

"When?"

"That, of course..." he paused, searching for the right phrase, "is a secret. One that even I do not know the answer to. All I know is that I will visit."

Delilah sniffed and tried to keep from crying. Without warning, she turned to face Icarus and hugged him furiously again. He returned the gesture and smiled.

* * *

"Well, all in all, this was a pretty fun trip," Lexington smiled as he walked with the girls to their planes.

Aurora nodded. "Indeed. I am glad I met you, Lexington, and I am sorry I misjudged you at first."

Kirstie looked away awkwardly. The forest girl seemed different when embarrassed. "Well, that was sort of my fault too. I acted a wee bit foolishly..."

"Naaah." Lex grinned. "Don't worry about it. The soda dried out some time ago."

The Antarctic gargoyle growled playfully. "Thank you for reminding me..." Her eyes glowed red for a moment, then stopped as she found herself laughing. The other two joined in, and Lexington was amazed to find he was enjoying their company.

Aurora sighed as they approached the area that housed the small planes. "I'm starting to wish this Council was a few more nights after all. Who would have guessed?" She glanced at the two gargoyles beside her. She noticed how closely the two walked together and smiled. "Oh look, my metal bird is right up ahead."

The web-winged gargoyle's attention seemed to settle on her again. "Ah. geez... We were having such a good time too, once we were out of the meeting."

"Aye, we were," Kirstie agreed.

Lex frowned. "I'm sure we can all keep in contact somehow. Neither of you have e-mail though. You don't even have phone lines. Hmm, maybe I could get Xanatos to get your clans something satellite-based with a multi-year battery..."

Both females stared at him. "What?" they asked in unison.

"Uhm... Never mind. We'll keep in touch somehow." Lexington flushed. "Sorry, I forgot neither of you know much about computers."

"Perhaps I will learn," Aurora looked at the plane as they walked towards it. "If I am to be a healer, I need to deal with modern things. Even if my clan has never had use of such things..."

The Manhattan gargoyle nodded, and then waved to Cole as they approached. Kirstie was remaining silent, and thoughtful.

Aurora smiled at the friends she had made over the last few days. "I will see you both again some time. Perhaps at the next Council, if not sooner." They were at the plane now, and she hesitated to climb the stairway. Her leader glanced at her.

"Having fun?" the red-colored Cole smiled.

"Yes," she acknowledged. She then climbed the first two steps, and turned her head to smile at her friends again. "It will be no easier to say farewell if I wait any longer, so I'll leave you two alone now. Until we meet again!" She caped her wings and went through the door, and tried to pretend she was not unnerved when she saw the Coyote robot.

Cole looked at Lexington. "Sorry we didn't have much time to spend together, Lex. But I can see you were busy."

"Heh." The small gargoyle flushed again.

"You don't have any idea how unusual it is to see Aurora in a good mood. I'm glad you two got along well. We'll both visit Manhattan sometime."

"That'd be great," Lexington said.

"Yeah. In any event, like the lady said, it'll be no easier to say goodbye if I wait, so I'll see you again some other time, Lex." He then ran up the platform and closed the door behind him. Lex was a bit upset as he walked away from the plane. He did not have the heart to actually watch the plane leave, and instead spent what time he had left with Kirstie.

"My... 'airplane' leaves before too much longer, Lex," she sighed.

"I know. The Manhattan plane is going to be the last to leave. I'm going to have to watch everyone else leave. But I'll be honest, watching you go will be the hardest."

"Aye. I've come to like ye a great deal in the past few nights as well. I might even go with yuir clan and spend some time with ye, if not for Kylie."

He frowned at that. The thought of Kylie dying did not upset him too much, he hardly knew her, but it clearly upset Kirstie a great deal. Kirstie looked at the night sky and smiled. "The stars are always a wonder to look at. In the forest they are a bit difficult to see at times, the trees are so full overhead. But it is still a wonderous thing to look at."

"Yeah," Lexington agreed, not taking his eyes off her.

"I'll have to be honest with ye, Lex."

He puzzled at her words; what could she have been lying about?

The curly-haired gargoyle explained. "I like you. And I think that with a wee bit of time, it could come to be a good deal more than liking."

The web-wing froze. He'd been thinking along these lines. "But I have only known ye for three nights. Nae, not even that, I only saw ye for the first night and a half. That does not change the fact, yuir spirit is a good one and you are handsome. It also does not change the fact that Brianna and Griff fell in love and knew it after just one night."

"But you'd rather just be friends." Lexington finished for her. "Don't worry about it. Knowing you for just a couple nights isn't enough time for me to go off thinking... That is, love is something that..."

"Lexington, ye may know about the modern world, but ye do not understand a girl's heart. I meant it just now when I said I like ye. It is just that back home, there are others that I grew up with and know very well. Between Cervus, Pip, or Reg, I knew I would one day decide on one of them and fall in love. I was leaning towards one of them, in fact. Ye have complicated things somewhat."

"What?"

She smiled then, and looked around. She was sure no one else was around, but just to be safe and more private, leaned forward and whispered something in his ear. His eyes widened, and he looked at her. The brown-skinned gargoyle just nodded and smiled more.

When she boarded her plane a while later, Lexington found he was feeling quite content.

* * *

Tamora was making use of the fact that her clan actually had some technology, and was talking to her leader via satellite.

"And that, basically, sums it up, Balthazar," she reported.

Her leader nodded on the screen. "I see. Darius' treason does not surprise me all that much, honestly. I'd suspected for some time that Darius was scheming against me to take leadership of the clan. That's largely the reason I sent him off to Japan in my place."

"I don't quite understand," Tamora admitted.

Balthazar explained. " I sent him away to hinder his setting up a power base for himself and plotting his coup. I had not expected the results, though. If I had known Darius's ambition would get the better of him as it did, I never would have sent him and endangered the entire Council."

"Actually, his being here might have been the best thing. We did not agree on anything until he tried to..."

"I understood the first time you told me." A moment's pause. "I will decree the sorcerer banished from the clan for his treason. There is nothing more to be said about him. I am far more interested in hearing about this... Goliath, that you speak so highly of."

Tamora agreed. "He is a powerful leader, with many resources behind him. It would be a good thing if you personally met and conferred with him one of these days. It seems to me that he would make a good ally."

"Indeed..." Balthazar contemplated. "We will discuss this further when you return home. Spend the rest of your time there as you see fit. I have many things to think about..."

* * *

The Manhattan clan had been on the plane ride home for nearly an hour, and Lexington was deep in thought. The last three nights had gone by fairly quickly. Seeing Cole again was great, all though he did not spend nearly as much time with his friend as he had hoped to. The whole misunderstanding with Aurora, and the mess that had led up to Darius wasted most of his remaining free time. As he thought of the Antarctic gargoyle, he chuckled as he then recalled the entire incident with the Caledonian girl. "She was pretty nice," Lex smiled. "And cute too." He sighed happily.

"I wouldn't mind seeing her again. And soon. Maybe I could arrange to go on my own world trip. All I'd have to do was find some way to call in advance. Wait, the Caledonian clan doesn't have any phone lines. And I couldn't send any letters there the old-fashioned way either. I suppose I'd have to get a message to the London clan and tell them to relay a message to... to..."

Suddenly, Lexington froze.

"Ah geez, I never got her name!"

THE END.