A Call to Arms
Written by: Kathy Pogge with contributions by Tas Vince Burrfoot
Story Concept by: Kathy Pogge, Patrick Toman, and JEB.
Illustrations by: Jessica Entis
Previously on Gargoyles…
"They will not even dare to bring the war to us," said Madoc. "Oberon lost many of his subjects the last time we fought. He will not want to face such casualties again, and neither will his followers. No, they will not attack us, here or anywhere else. All that we have to worry about is the younger races - and they are easily dealt with. Trust me, my nephew. We have nothing to fear."
~ The Rising Part 2 ~
* * * * *
Mavis O'Connor referring to Beth: "I was right about this one. There seems to be a certain...air about her."
~ Guardians ~
* * * * *
"Yes, I'll join you."
"Told you," said Griff.
Rory raised his hand. "But not yet. I'll need some time to explain all this to me father, and I'll have to make sure he'll be all right without me."
"Certainly," said Arthur. "Take as much time as you need."
"How will I find you?"
Arthur pulled out a business card. He looked at Griff, then said, "Have your people call our people."
~ The Tain ~
* * * * *
A Call to Arms
* * * * *
Coyote strolled wearily the through the great hall of Castle Avalon. He nodded a half-hearted greeting to Lapin as he morphed out of his costume of elaborate ceremonial robes and back into his more familiar coyote-headed form.
"You look tired, mon ami, and you are late. The others, they are gathered in Titania's chamber." Lapin looked dapper by contrast in a neatly turned out suit and waistcoat that didn't seem the least bit out of place with his long ears and whiskers.
Coyote shrugged and changed course toward the small, stone-inlaid chamber just off to the side of the main audience hall. "I know, but I've been busy. You'd think it would be easier to get people to accept us and our message these days with all that New Age stuff and that Year 2000 baloney going on. But no, they're still a tough sell," he grumbled.
"I know," Lapin commiserated. "Still we must do what we can. Come." He fell in step with Coyote. "Titania awaits."
* * * * *
Coyote and Lapin entered the small chamber and stared at the scene unfolding before them. Silently they took their seats at the large, finely crafted oak table and watched as a trio of gargoyles fought beings that at one time could have only been humans. The gargoyles were young and their inexperience was clearly working against them. They rolled and tumbled high above the Tower of London as they attempted to dodge blasts of energy. A few of the Seelie cheered as the trio, working together, fought one of their fanged and pointed eared foes to a standstill, forcing it to retreat and nurse its wounds. But sweet victory was brief. The damage to their compatriot served only to anger the vampire-like creatures. They turned savagely on the gargoyles forcing them to retreat. There was a gasp around the table as the deer-headed gargoyle took a hit and plummeted towards the river. His rookery mates dove after him, catching the unconscious gargoyle just as his hoofed feet broke the water.
There were murmurs round the table as the scene shifted. It was difficult to determine where the scene was unfolding, but the carnage was unmistakable. White-faced humans ran through the streets, destroying everything in sight. Perched on a light pole a large glossy-black crow watched in satisfaction before taking to wing.
The scene shifted again. More gargoyles in a different city were fighting, and losing, a battle against Unseelie forces. The gargoyles were bloodied, but they continued grimly on.
Eventually the action projected in Titania's mirror faded and the assembled fay began to murmur quietly.
"It would seem that our chosen champions are not doing as well as we'd hoped," a regal woman, that humans had come to know as the Lady in the Lake, stated quietly.
Anansi shifted his great bulk, as he tried to make himself more comfortable. "Indeed," he agreed. "Are you sure that we are wise to place our faith in a few gargoyles?"
Bastet groomed her whiskers thoughtfully and regarded the spider with great, green, feline eyes. "Do you lack faith in our King's judgement, cousin?"
The spider retracted a foreleg in shock. "Of course not," he protested, a hair too quickly. "It's just that Madoc doesn't seem to have any compunction about letting his own out into the world and-"
"You wait on Avalon eager to do your bit," Raven finished dryly.
Anansi shot the bird-man a dirty look, crossed both of his forelegs over his carapace, and fell silent.
"Do you show us events that have happened, my Lady Titania? Or is this a projection of what may be?" The question came from Prometheus. The great fire-haired Titan looked hopeful as Titania considered her response.
"What is and what may be are difficult to determine at this moment in time. It is a most frustrating development that can only be attributed to our enemies." Titania, queen of the fay and general of the Seelie forces, rose from her throne at the head of the table. A larger chair, twin to her own in all but size, sat empty to her right. "However, despite the lack of clarity, we must hold to our original strategy and allow our champions to fight this battle . We cannot allow a repeat of the first war. The devastation was too great, the cost, too high."
"Agreed, my lady," Prometheus bowed his head in sadness as he remembered the horrible destruction the First Unseelie War had brought to his beloved humans.
"Still it seems that we must do something to help," Odin chimed in. His blue eyes were steely with determination. "We must not let Madoc and his ilk gain an inch of ground."
"What can we do?" Hermes asked in frustration.
"We must have a contingency plan in case our champions fail!" Marduk demanded. "It is wise battle strategy, my lady."
"I agree," Titania said serenely. A fraction of a smile tugged at her lips. "And I have taken such a plan into consideration." She nodded at Grandmother.
Grandmother rose slowly to her feet. "Should they fail there are others that might take their place."
The fay gathered around the table began to murmur as they considered Grandmother's words.
Coyote rose and stood at Grandmother's side. "I know that you all have special favorites among the humans." The gathered fay shuffled uneasily and Coyote grinned. "Hey, it's hard not to. They have a certain... quirky charm to them." Titania shot him a bemused glance, but there was steel behind the smile so he continued rapidly. "What we are proposing is this: We don't want to bring any more of the younger races into this fight than we have to, agreed? No one wants a repeat of the last time." There were several adamant nods of agreement. "So here's the deal. We bring these 'special favorites' in as our reserve guard. They know of us, they trust us." He looked at Banshee who was sitting hunched, silent in a corner of the room, away from the rest of the conference participants. "Well," he corrected, "at least most of us."
Banshee shot him a venomous look and slunk lower in her chair.
"We don't have to bring them into the fight unless it's absolutely necessary," Coyote concluded.
"But if it is necessary?" asked Prometheus, worry lining his great brow.
"Then they go in. But- " Coyote raised his hand to stall the red-headed titan's protest. "not without a little help from their friends."
Prometheus's eyes widened. "Do you mean that..."
Titania smiled. "He does indeed, Prometheus. These select few will truly be our last line of reserve. If they fail, then the battle will fall to us and Armageddon will be inevitable. Our last line in the sand," the fairy queen concluded, "shall be composed of human mages."
There was a collective gasp from the conference participants.
"Oberon agrees with this strategy?" Anansi asked skeptically.
"Even Oberon had no choice," Titania replied, her voice steel under velvet as she gazed upon the trickster spider. "I want all of you to leave our fair island quietly. Draw no attention to yourselves while you are out in the mortal world. We do not wish to tip our hand to Madoc or Maeve, or any of their kind. Choose your champions carefully. They truly are our last, best, hope for peace." Titania gazed at those gathered around the table. "Go now."
The fay all stood as one with a scraping of wood on the stone floor. They walked quietly toward Titania's Mirror, each slowly slipping into, then disappearing through, the wavering portal. Titania watched until the last of them had drifted through the mirror. She then turned her attention to the Banshee who was still sulking at the end of the table with her arms crossed.
"You were included in this meeting for a reason, Banshee," Titania began.
Banshee regarded the queen of the fay with quiet disdain and waited for her to get to her point.
"You are going to chose a champion from among the humans. And not just any champion. You shall seek out your most ancient of enemies for this task."
Banshee looked up at Titania in shock and amusement. She pointed an ivory hand at her chest then mimed a gesture that could best be described as 'Uh huh, right.'
"I am deadly serious," Titania replied. "You must obey this...request." The fairy queen gave the Banshee a look that was a mixture of compassion and curiosity. "I know that you did not wish to return to our fair isle. That you wished to stay among the mortals, although I do not truly know why. You have no great love for them."
Banshee crossed her arms more firmly against her chest, indicating that her reasons were none of Titania's business.
Titania sighed. "Whether you believe it or not, I do understand. And I want to help you. But you must help me, in return."
Banshee sat forward slightly and gestured for Titania to continue.
"Do you wish to wear Oberon's gag for eternity?" Titania asked quietly.
Banshee's eyes filled with fire and she shook her head "No".
Titania nodded. "I thought not. Then know this, Banshee. If you fulfill your task you will have your voice returned to you."
Banshee raised her hand to cup her ear.
Titania smiled. Banshee was listening.
* * * * *
Arthur Pendragon, (or Pennington, as he was known in this modern age), sat in his rather dull office at Pendragon Investigations, Inc. reading through The London Times with a feigned expression of interest. The actual object of his attention was his former mentor Merlin, who now affected the guise of Emrys Hawkins.
Emrys sat at his own desk, muttering quietly in Welsh. Arthur strained to listen and was not surprised to hear a string of indignant remarks about the blatant inaccuracies that filled Emrys' current history textbook. With a loud grunt of disgust, Emrys flung the book across the room, narrowly missing Arthur's head.
"Gently, Emrys!" Arthur proclaimed. "You nearly had me that time."
Emrys looked up at Arthur, a flush of scarlet coloring his pale cheeks. "Sorry, Arthur," he apologized. "I just can't believe the tripe that's being passed along to impressionable young minds! And I can't correct a single one of these travesties. It's bad enough having to sit in a classroom day after day and listen to that dunderhead school master. He doesn't have the intelligence of an aubergenie! But to see these so called facts printed in a book!"
Emrys was beginning to look like he might break a blood vessel, so Arthur stepped in. "Perhaps you might put your history studies aside for a bit and we might take a look at one of our own, more pressing problems."
Emrys looked blank. "We found the Duchess of Pembroke's cat, and I thought we'd narrowed down the location of the Ramsey boy; what else is there?"
Arthur drew a deep breath. "Your father, perhaps?"
Emrys looked guilty he settled down from his history tirade. "I guess there are a few more important things in the world beyond my petty troubles," he admitted.
"Quite," Arthur agreed dryly.
"Perhaps I could try to scry again. I did have a bit of luck the other night with Una when we tried together."
"It would seem a good beginning."
"I'll just get my things." Emrys quit the room.
Arthur heard quick steps on the staircase as Emrys went upstairs to their flat to retrieve the necessities.
Moments later, Emrys was back. He held a silver bowl, a bottle of spring water and a smaller bottle of some sort of oil.
He cleared his desk of his school books with ill-contained disdain to make room for the silver bowl. Once it was in place and centered to his satisfaction, he closed his eyes and began to mumble in Welsh. His eyes were distant as he filled the bowl with clear spring water and added the drop of oil. Emrys stared intently into the dish.
Arthur sat quietly, waiting. It was difficult not to ask a thousand questions of his former mentor. Arthur saw nothing more than a dish of water with a small, yellow drop of oil floating quietly on its surface. It was obvious that Emrys saw much, much more. Minutes ticked slowly by and the boy's face became more and more intent as he stared, eyes unfocused, into the water. The tension in the room was becoming unbearable. A small trickle of cold sweat ran down Arthur's neck as Emrys features began to contort with an odd combination of anger ... and fear.
More minutes ticked by.
The silence was broken only by Emrys occasional murmur, sometimes in archaic Welsh, other times in equally archaic Latin. Once or twice the boy used a language beyond Arthur's understanding.
Arthur resisted the urge to grab Emrys by the shoulders and shake him out of his trance. So intent was he that he jumped when Emrys abruptly slapped the desk causing water to splash over the sides of the dish.
"Nid da," Emrys muttered grimly.
"What did you say?" Arthur asked. "I didn't hear you."
Emrys eyes slid slowly back into focus. He looked at Arthur slowly as if seeing him for the first time. "Sorry, I said nid da, not good," he translated unnecessarily.
Arthur pushed Emrys down into the desk-side chair and left him long enough to fetch a small glass tumbler from his desk. He poured the remainder of the spring water into the glass, then pressed it into Emrys' hand. "Drink this," he commanded.
Emrys swallowed the water in a gulp. "Thank you. That's better."
"Now begin slowly and tell me what you saw."
Emrys stared across the room and tried to put his vision to words. "It's a difficult thing to look into the future," he began slowly. "One sees many things. Some that will be. Some that might be. One can't really tell them apart. A ripple on the water, a single decision can alter everything."
Arthur's impatience renewed itself.
"I don't know exactly what will happen," Emrys said at last. "But everything that I did see has led me to one conclusion. My father is quite sincere about his new rebellion."
"You're quite sure of that?" Arthur said quietly.
Emrys looked up at his former pupil. "All the signs point to it. I saw..." he trailed off. "It's not important what I saw, as I said before, so much can ride on a single decision. We must do what we can to prepare for the worst."
Arthur took a deep breath. "I see." He paused to consider his next question. "Your father has gathered his army to him. Is it possible that he has human followers as well?"
"You mean these 'minion' hooligans that we've been encountering?"
"I suppose that it's possible. Some humans have the capacity to see beyond their own lives. A few may have realized that there's more going on then the latest scandal at Buckingham Palace. Those few may have realized that there was a war brewing and decided that this time the forces of good weren't going to prevail."
"So they threw their lot in with Madoc," Arthur concluded.
Emrys looked pained at the mention of the Unseelie leader's name. "Quite so."
Arthur gave Emrys an appraising look. "A war. And I am to be one of its generals?"
"Then I believe that we need a few more troops of our own. Trusted knights to stand at our side."
"Right. Shall I place an inquiry in The Times?" Emrys said, looking doubtful.
"I don't think that will be necessary quite yet," Arthur replied, not sure if Emrys was being serious or indulging in ill-timed adolescent humor. "I was thinking of that young Irishman, Rory. He promised to join us if the need arose. I believe that time has come."
Emrys looked thoughtful. His eyes turned inward as he chased a fragment of his vision. "I do believe that you're correct," he said at last. "The world is going to need a few more heroes before this thing is said and done."
"Agreed," Arthur said as he began to search through his desk. He didn't find what he was looking for and moved quickly to an antique oak file cabinet that had seen better days. "Blast!" he exclaimed after several fruitless minutes of searching.
"What's the matter?" Emrys inquired.
"I just realized," Arthur replied. "I do not know how to contact him. I lack a-" He pointed at the instrument on the desk, "telephone number and I can not recall precisely where he lives. I had his credentials, but they seem to have gotten misplaced in all the moving about."
"A small set back only, Arthur. After all," Emrys reasoned, "we are detectives."
"We shall leave for Ireland on the morrow," Arthur decided. "Make the arrangements. By ferry, if you please. I need a little time to think about this." Arthur crossed the room and donned his hat and overcoat."
"Going out?" Emrys inquired perplexed at Arthur's movements.
"Just to the corner newsstand. I have a sudden desire to see what exactly is going on in the world. I'll be back shortly." The bell above the door clanged as Arthur departed.
Emrys stared after Arthur for a moment then looked back to the desk and the discarded scrying bowl. His gaze drifted to his book bag lying forgotten on the floor near his feet. He made a sudden, happy connection. "Yes! No history class tomorrow!"
* * * * *
Queen Florence Island
He walked quietly through the woods. From time to time he would stop, squat down on his haunches and examine a plant with careful consideration. If the greenery passed inspection he would murmur a few words of his mother tongue under his breath and add the plant to the rapidly growing collection in the deer skin satchel that hung at his shoulder.
A long length of brown hair strayed in front of his face and he shoved in back over his shoulder. The wind was blowing very loudly and it seemed to cut right through the heavy clothes he wore on the blustery winter day.
His name was Natsilane. His people had been guardians and protectors of Queen Florence Island for generations, until the secret knowledge had faded. The island had suffered because of it, nearly dying of a strange ecological wasting disease that had stymied "experts" such as himself not so long ago.
He surveyed the lush green of the forest and shook his head. Grandmother had taught him. Grandmother, with her infinite patience, had finally revealed her true nature to him. It was a last resort effort on her part to get him to finally understand what his place was in the world. Natsilane hoped she understood how much he appreciated her labor on his behalf, and that of all the people.
Natsilane shivered despite his heavy buckskin jacket. A storm was moving in. He raised his eyes and examined the clouds building gray and heavy in the late afternoon sky. He raised a hand and felt the wind. He had an hour, maybe two to finish gathering the herbs he required.
He bent to his knees and began to survey the ground cover at the base of a pine tree. A few more sprigs went into the satchel. He rose to his feet only to nearly return to his knees as a bright blue bolt of light struck a few yards away.
"What the..." Natsilane exclaimed and then trailed off. "Grandmother!" He blinked his eyes several times trying to determine if he were suffering from sort of optical illusion.
"Do you doubt your eyes, Natsilane? Have you not truly learned the lessons you claim to have embraced?" Disapproval filled Grandmother's normally calm voice.
"I am sorry, Grandmother," Natsilane apologized rapidly, he dropped his eyes to his deerskin boots. "I did not think I would see you again in this lifetime."
"I told you that I would return someday, my boy."
"That was a dream!" he protested. "The night you died you..." he stopped abruptly. "How can this be?" he exclaimed. "I performed the rituals over your body, myself!"
"I needed to leave this place for a time. To the rest of our people I was an old woman, long past her normal span of years. I 'died' so that they could say goodbye in the ways that they knew best."
Understanding began to blossom on Natsilane's features.
"I have returned because I have news for you."
"Me?" the young man echoed, dumbfounded. "I don't understand, Grandmother."
She smiled enigmatically and began to examine Natsilane closely. "You've changed."
Natsilane looked down self-consciously. He was clad in a buckskin jacket that he had constructed himself. The beadwork on the shoulder was crude, but he was proud of it none the less, for it was done with his own hands. His hair was longer then it had been when he had returned from college. He had bound it in a thong at the back of his neck, but it wasn't quite long enough to stay secured. Strands whipped his face in the freshening wind.
Grandmother stepped closer and touched his satchel. "May I see this?"
Natsilane nodded and removed the bag from his shoulder. He handed it to Grandmother.
She turned the bag over in her hands admiring the craftsmanship. "You've done well, my son." Her eyebrow rose as she opened the bag and began to examine its contents. "What is this for?" she held a sprig of winterberry leaves under Natsilane's nose.
"Aches and pain, Grandmother," he replied automatically.
"How do you use it?" she demanded.
"Either as tea or in a poultice wrapped around a sore joint."
"Very good. And this?" Grandmother continued her examination.
The distinctive odor of bergamot filled the air. "It's for bronchitis." Natsilane glanced at the darkening sky. "Grandmother, there is a storm coming. Perhaps we could continue this back at my camp. We would be out of the coming rain."
The ersatz old woman looked up approvingly. "You have been taking your lessons to heart." She smiled. "Yes, Natsilane. Let us return to your camp. I have a tale to tell you of a great adventure."
"An adventure?" There was something about the tone in Grandmother's voice that suggested there was more then a quiet night around the campfire involved.
The pair began to hurry through the forest.
* * * * *
It was mid-morning, but it could have been anytime from dawn to dusk. The fog was dense and shrouded the sun that struggled to shine on the verdant green meadow. It was a very lonely country road. There were no cars, no pedestrians, only a few cows and sheep grazing resolutely, despite the gloom. They ignored the odd blue flash of light that illuminated the roadside briefly, and the strange woman who stepped from its midst.
She slowly eyed the fog-crusted countryside with a certain amount of dubiousness. Then she shrugged. A slim white hand went to her mouth and her eyes hardened as she felt Oberon's gag still firmly in place. She gazed sharply backwards toward the tor from which she had emerged and briefly considered returning to Avalon, her task unfulfilled. "Hated Avalon." Banshee's eyes burned with barely suppressed rage. She was free at last. She should make her escape now, while she had the chance. What concern was it of hers who was king of the Third Race? Oberon or Madoc, there was precious little difference between the two as far as she was concerned. Why should she do anything that was going to involve herself in their petty bickering. "Because Titania had spoken." Banshee reminded herself and she swallowed, hard. Titania had promised her freedom from Oberon's punishment. If she obeyed she would at least be freed of the loathsome gag, free to speak, to sing, once more. If she did not - the consequences weren't worth considering. Oberon's punishments were humiliating. Titania, should she truly become angry, was a force to be reckoned with. No, obedience before the king and queen was a small price to pay for her voice.
She closed her pupil-less eyes and thought briefly on how to accomplish her task. There was only one form that her ancient enemy might accept as non- threatening. Banshee sighed and a moment later she transformed herself.
It was cold, she realized as she opened her eyes. Her leather jacket and jeans, the hard-soled boots, did little to keep out the Irish damp. Banshee sighed again and thought once again of escape.
She had no chance. The muffled sound of boots clicking rapidly on the cobblestones caught her by surprise. Banshee looked up. "In for a penny, in for a pound," she thought grimly. The young man approached, his green eyes turning hard as he saw her walking towards him.
"Molly!" Rory Dugan exclaimed. "Or better I should call you, Banshee?" He stopped ten feet from her and his body took an aggressive stance. "Why have you returned? Never mind, I don't want a thing to do with you." Rory put his eyes on the road and started walking rapidly past, pretending he was alone on the road.
Banshee in the human guise of Molly, watched flummoxed as he brushed past her. She held out her hand and tried to stop the young man, touching his shoulder, but he shrugged her hand away roughly. He was five yards away now and moving rapidly. She ran to catch up with him and opened her mouth to explain. There was no sound. Molly caught up with Rory and placed her hands firmly on his bicep this time. He spun and faced her. There was fire in his eyes.
"I said, there's nothing I want from you. Leave me be," he snarled. Some of the desperation she felt must have filtered through to her face. Rory's eyes softened briefly. "I'll give you thirty seconds."
Molly opened her mouth and tried again. Sudden understanding flooded her being. It wasn't disuse that kept her vocal cords silent. Though the gag had been removed from her human form, Titania had not bestowed the gift of speech. She was going to have to accomplish her task as a mute.
* * * * *
Cocconino Apartment Complex
Beth hit the rewind button on the tape recorder. She backed the cassette up several minutes until she found the spot that she was looking for. A Hopi correspondent began to describe the days when she was a young woman. The interview was difficult listening. The woman's voice was faint and frequently she drifted off into Hopi. Though Beth's language skills were improving, she was far from fluent. But the interview made good background noise for her current project. She fiddled with the volume control a moment longer then turned her attention back to the bowl of blue cornmeal dough in front of her.
She picked up a small quantity of the soft dough and rolled it into a ball as the woman had described earlier on the tape. Beth examined the dough-ball eyeing the quantity critically before patting it out between her hands; carefully at first, then with more authority. The dough flattened into a tortilla-like cake. When she judged it was thin enough, she placed it between layers of damp paper towel and started patting out another ball.
Beth repeated the process until the piki dough was exhausted. "Now for the fun part," she murmured. A few steps took her to the opposite side of the patio and the small fire she had started in the old Weber barbecue kettle. The coals glowed a pleasing orange. She placed a hand over the coals and counted, "1, 1000, 2,1000, 3,1000. Perfect," Beth judged. She slipped a flat stone onto the grill, then replaced the barbecue's cover to let it heat. Hesitating long enough to hit the "pause" button on the recorder, she withdrew into the apartment to check on the lamb riblets she was soaking in a spicy marinade.
After a few moments, Beth returned to the barbecue, restarted the tape and listened closely as the old woman described her method for cooking the piki. Beth look at her improvised set up once again and decided it was as close as an approximation as she could hope for without raising the ire of her landlord. She began to cook the piki on the now hot stone, placing the lamb riblets around the edges, directly on the grill, to cook.
The corn dough began to dry and after a minute or so curled. Beth took this as the sign the piki was ready to flip and carefully did so. After a few more moments the smell of grilling corn began rise from the stone. Beth turned her back from the grill to pick up a small, cloth-covered basket. She froze as she realized that she wasn't alone.
A young man with old eyes was examining her piki critically. He held it up to the light for a moment to check the uniformity of the shape. After a moment he folded it in quarters and popped a piece in his mouth. He chewed, savoring the flavor. After a moment he rendered his verdict. "You've got good technique. I'm impressed."
"Coyote!" Beth exclaimed, finding her voice at last. "What are you doing here?"
Coyote busied himself with the barbecue, flipping the lamb expertly. He tossed another piki onto the stone and watched it cook. The night was quiet, the old woman's narrative having given way to the sounds of night birds and crickets and the occasional car in the apartment complex's parking lot.
He turned to Beth after a moment. He looked faintly hurt. "'Coyote, what are you doing here?' Is that all the greeting I get? 'No, Coyote! Good to see you.' Or 'Coyote, what a pleasant surprise!'"
Beth looked at Coyote closely, wondering at his odd demeanor. "I'm sorry, you startled me. One minute I'm by myself, the next minute, you're helping yourself to my dinner." She flipped the piki Coyote had started. "Is everything all right? Dad and Elisa, are they...?"
Coyote dropped the piki into the basket and tossed another one on the grill. "Your family is fine," he said quickly. "Don't worry about them right now. It's your future we need to discuss."
"My future?" Beth said, puzzled.
Coyote disappeared into the kitchen and began rummaging in the cabinets for cleans plate and silverware. When he returned he pulled the lamb off the grill and set the table in silence.
Beth's curiosity built until she couldn't stand it. "Coyote," she asked at last. "What is going on?"
"Stories are best left until after dinner, Beth." Coyote answered as he began serving. "Let's leave it until then." He sat down at the small picnic table and Beth joined him. Coyote began to eat with enthusiasm, like a man long denied. After a moment, Beth began to pick at her own meal wondering just what Coyote had in store for her.
* * * * *
Maeve, co-leader of the Unseelie fay, sat in the darkened war room of the Bavarian stronghold and sipped a glass of dark red wine. She savored the fine vintage only a bit less then the pictures that flashed through the air in front of her, a montage of destruction and calamity caused by lesser Unseelie as they flexed their collective muscle.
Maeve's lips curled into a smile as the image changed. A London street filled with humans in white face. They splashed paint onto cars and shop windows. A few of the more talented ones used spray paint and adorned the sides of buildings with slogans that to honest citizens would seem puzzling and perhaps just a little terrifying. "'The goblins will get you if you don't watch out'," she laughed. "Indeed they shall. But not that pack of vandals," Maeve purred. "Aye, it's the real goblins, you'd best be lookin' out for."
The tattoo of boot heels on the stone floor were the only warning that Maeve's private contemplation was about to be interrupted. She waited until Madoc had settled in the twin of her own chair before she acknowledged his arrival.
"'Tis a glorious thing to see our presence felt again in the mortal world."
"Indeed," Madoc agreed calmly. "It's been too long. Much too long."
"Even the humans are answering our call this time." Maeve pointed at the screen where the Minions continued to spread terror.
"I suppose, however, these new followers of ours are being written off as some new cult?" Madoc inquired.
"Aye, 'tis true," Maeve acknowledged. "But it's buyin' us time. Time for the lads and lasses to regain what was lost to us after millennia of oppression and disuse."
"Will we need much more time before we are ready to move in earnest?"
Maeve shook her head. "No, Madoc. Not as we reckon it. The signs are nearly all in place. A bit more waitin' is all we're in for. In the meantime the mortal world becomes more chaotic and confused with each passin' day. They're so busy dealin' with their own petty problems they'll not realize that they've real trouble on their hands."
Madoc contemplated the skyline of Manhattan. A stocky red gargoyle cut silently through the night sky vigilant for signs of disturbance below. The Unseelie lord rose from his chair and looked thoughtfully at the scene that played out before him as the gargoyle spotted something and dove toward the street below.
"You may be right, Maeve." Madoc said thoughtfully as he contemplated the gargoyle and the mugger. "However a little insurance is never a bad thing." He lifted his right hand and the scene cut away from Manhattan. The air shimmered and was replaced by a globe spinning quietly in space. Madoc's eyes glowed. Twin beams of light sprang forth, enveloping the miniature earth in a greenish glow. After several long moments the light faded and Madoc closed his eyes and staggered slightly. Maeve rose automatically and placed a supportive hand close to Madoc's arm.
"Have care, Madoc." Maeve cautioned. "You still need a bit of time to regain your own strength."
"Nonsense," the Unseelie lord replied. He shrugged away from Maeve's side, then conceded the effort as he sank into his throne. "It may have been a bit of an effort, but it shall make the mortals' lives infinitely more difficult." A brandy snifter appeared in his hand. Madoc inhaled the cognac's bouquet appreciatively as he rolled the ornate crystal snifter in his palms. "Indeed, it should keep them all quite busy."
"As you say, my lord." Maeve replied, archly.
* * * * *
"Your cave is dry and well provisioned," Grandmother pronounced.
Natsilane nodded. He returned his attention to the fire. Carefully he puffed at the tiny ember. The flame flickered, but the tinder above it caught and the fire grew, consuming fuel and taking on a life of its own. Natsilane rocked back on his heels and watched, with just a touch of pride. "Would you care for tea, Grandmother?" he asked politely.
She nodded. Her own features were placid, but secretly she was pleased at Natsilane's progress. "You have done well, my son," she said after several long, silent moments.
Natsilane hid his blushing cheeks by fussing. He located a battered tea kettle, a concession to the western way of life, from his small stockpile of cooking utensils. He filled it with water from a cistern and when he judged the fire was stable and unlikely to go out, he placed the kettle on to boil, then rose once again to retrieve herbs for tea.
"My appearance has unsettled you," Grandmother observed.
Natsilane stopped fussing and looked at her. She had not changed. She still dressed as she always had in the traditional long buckskin robes of their people. Her features were still sweet and infinitely patient, though Natsilane knew from experience that under it all she was a hard taskmaster when she felt it necessary. It seemed that now was one of those times. He realized that as strange as things seemed, this was still Grandmother, eldest of his tribe and his mentor. She deserved his honesty. "Yes, Grandmother. I never thought I'd see you again outside of my dreams." He dumped a handful of herbs into the kettle, then waited in silence for the tea to steep. Natsilane poured two cups of tea. He handed one to Grandmother.
She accepted the cup with a nod. "Rose hips."
"You've done well since I've left you, Natsilane. I am proud of you," Grandmother began. "Even if I did not have such a grave mission I think I would have come back from time to time to check on your progress."
"You were a good teacher, Grandmother. I was a poor student," Natsilane admitted. "I have tried to make up for my errors. But you speak of a mission. Why have you returned to me, Grandmother?"
"I have a story to tell you, Natsilane," Grandmother began as she set her cup down. "Make yourself comfortable for it is a long and complicated tale."
Natsilane sat down, took a sip of his tea and listened as Grandmother began to spin her story.
* * * * *
"So you see, Beth, it's like this: if the first team doesn't come through..."
"It's up to people like me," she finished, astounded at the story that Coyote was telling.
"Exactly. It's up to people like you," Coyote confirmed.
"I don't believe this," Beth shook her head and stood up from the table and began to pace on the tiny patio. "This can't be real! Evil fairies fighting for rulership of the mystic island of Avalon- trying to take over the world? It sounds like the plot for some after-school cartoon show!"
"If you don't mind, we prefer the term 'Fair Folk'" Coyote bristled. He rose and placed his hands on Beth's shoulders. She stopped and looked up at him startled.
"I assure you, Beth, it's all very real. I wouldn't kid you about something like this. If our champions fail and the Seelie fall, Madoc and his kind will drive this world into darkness. Your worst nightmares will look good compared to the world these people have in store for you."
"Okay. I'll help," Beth agreed, still not sure of what she was getting into. "So what do you want me to do?"
"Good girl, Beth. I knew I could count on you."
Beth blushed and Coyote smiled. He looked at the remains of their dinner and the artifacts that adorned her apartment. He entered the living room and removed the ceremonial flute from above the fireplace. "You've done well on your own, Beth. You've learned so much since I saw you last, but now it's time to take things to a whole new level." He gestured to the couch. "Get comfortable. I'll fill you in on what has to happen next."
* * * * *
Rory stared, his lip curling in disdain as Banshee opened her mouth, then clapped her hands over her lips. He sneered as she grabbed her throat panic growing in her eyes.
"Come on, girl. You don't believe I'd fall for such a charade, do you?" He turned on his heel, disgust radiated off him in waves. Banshee took an involuntary step backwards, then ran to catch up. She tugged at the sleeve of his jacket and he shrugged her hands off rudely as if she didn't exist.
Tears began to roll down her pale cheeks. Banshee grabbed Rory's arm again. He whirled on her that time. Loathing mingled with hurt as he stared her down. "I said, I've no time for your games. You had your chance to say your piece." He began to gain steam and the words poured forth. "If you thought to beguile me with your charms so that you can ensnare me in some trap, it won't work. I'm on to you and your kind. You're a harridan! A monster!"
Banshee hung her head, the tears coming more freely with each of Rory's barbs. She looked up after several long moments. Rory stood, his feet planted on the cobblestones, staring at her with his arms crossed firmly across his chest.
She held her arms out beseeching him the only way she knew how for another chance. His expression soften slightly, then hardened into a mask of resolve.
Banshee knew she had failed before she had even started. "Curse Titania," she swore to herself. Banshee turned on her heel and began to walk away leaving a befuddled Rory standing alone in the roadway.
He watched her go, confused. "I don't understand," he muttered softly. "She didn't attack, didn't even try her wiles on me." Rory watched her retreating back. "She seemed so... sad." Memories of happier days crowded his mind. "She was never real, lad. It was always an act, to keep you from remembering who you once were. Wasn't it?" She was nearly out of sight, girl-form being swallowed by the mist. Rory ran toward her, cursing himself as a fool. "Molly! Wait up!"
She stopped, stock still, as if she did believe her ears. His boots kicked up the gravel and his breathing was coming in short pants. Slowly Banshee turned around. In her frustration she had covered a considerable distance and Rory had run to catch up with her. She took a deep breath and held it, exhaling slowly. "Could he have had a change of heart?" she thought, hope springing to life once more.
"Molly!" Rory panted as he approached.
She noticed he stopped out of arms reach. Rory was curious, but he still didn't trust her. Banshee waited, let him come to her.
"I'm not sure why I'm doin' this. You'll probably be the death of me yet."
Banshee didn't know how to respond to that. There was a part of her that hoped for such an outcome. She pushed it down firmly and stared at the ground.
Rory moved closer. A step, and then another. She felt his hand on her chin and he tipped her face up so he could look her in the eyes. "You don't mean me ill, this time," he decided. "Somethin's wrong with you, lass." He hesitated a moment longer, then took her hand, hesitantly. A grove of trees stood by the roadside and Molly's eyes moistened with fresh tears. He was leading her towards one of their special places. A quiet hollow in the woods, when once as a simple pair of Irish youths they would plan and scheme and dream about a future off the dole and away from the endless cycle of poverty and broken dreams that seemed to be their lot in life. Banshee went meekly.
They walked in silence for a time until, as Banshee knew they would, they arrived at the hollow. "It brings back memories, doesn't it?" Rory said, the irony thick in his voice.
Rory looked at her, long and appraising. "You've not said a word since I've seen you, Molly. What troubles you? Can't you tell me?"
Banshee shook her head. She pointed to her throat. She mimed speaking, then placed a hand over her mouth.
Finally Rory nodded. "You won't speak because you can't speak, is that it?"
Banshee nodded. "Yes."
"But you have somethin' to tell me, don't you?" Rory continued. "Somethin' important."
"I knew it!" Rory exclaimed. "Something's afoot. The dreams..." he cut himself off before he revealed more.
Banshee's eyes lit up at the mention of dreams.
"We've a bit of a problem, then. How am I to learn what you've to tell me if you can't speak?" He rummaged through his pockets and came up empty. "Not so much as a pencil stub." He looked at Molly. "You're a creature of magic, are you not? Can't you conjure somethin'?"
Banshee looked sad and shrugged her shoulders. "I have nothing," she mouthed.
Rory felt his gut wrench. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely. The spontaneous admission startled him and he grew quiet.
Banshee's emotions warred within her. He was her enemy and he pitied her! But the look in his eyes was not the one reserved for an ancient foe. She remembered another life when he knew her by no other name but Molly and held her close. From the look on his face, Rory remembered too.
Rory grew nervous. He shifted his weight from side to side stirring up the thick layer of fallen leaves. His booted foot made contact with something solid and he kicked the leaves away. A forgotten box of child's crayons spilled on to the ground, crushed under his foot. Others had used this hideaway it seemed. He seized a dark blue crayon as if it were a life-line and looked around. Now all he needed was something to write on.
Banshee tugged at his arm. Rory didn't move, not understanding. Frustrated, she stamped her foot, retrieved a bright pink crayon from the forest floor, and began to write on the pale grey of the rocky shelf that protected them.
"I can't speak," she began. "He struck me mute."
"Why?" Rory asked. "Tell me, Molly. Who would do such a thing?"
"My Lord and King," she replied. "I angered him."
Rory opened his mouth, then closed it before the question left his lips. It seemed his Molly had a gift for trouble, no matter her form. Rory shook his head. "Where had that thought come from?" he wondered to himself. "I see," he replied quietly. "Then why did he send you to me?"
Banshee's shrug was eloquent. She didn't question the whimsy of her superiors, she obeyed whether she liked it or not. Rory wondered how she felt about her assignment. He wondered about a lot of things. But he crushed his personal feelings down ruthlessly and tried to concentrate on the topic at hand. "Why are you here, Molly?"
She bit down on her lip, ignoring her own conflicted feelings and began to write. "Time to embrace your destiny. You must go to London."
"London?" Rory exclaimed. "Why?"
Banshee wrote in a firm hand, the letters a faintly archaic script. "Arthur needs you."
"Arthur needs me?" Rory gave the girl a hard look. "What do you know of Arthur?"
Banshee started to write something on the rock, she scratched it out before Rory could read it, then started again. Finally she wrote, "I know," and stepped away from the rock.
Rory turned his back to Banshee and thought furiously. "Maeve sent you, didn't she? She's using you to bait me."
Banshee took a step back, stunned. She pulled at Rory's sleeve forcing him to face the rock. "NO!" The crayon snapped in two and Banshee hurriedly scooped a second off the ground to complete the sentence. "Not Maeve! A great darkness is coming!"
"Now you sound like one of those white faced hooligans from London. I saw the pictures in the newspaper. Writin' warnings on walls about 'goblins' and such."
"It's true!"Banshee wrote. "There are others - like me. They've started a war. Humans are involved."
Rory paled a bit, and doubt mingled with something else. Was it fear Banshee saw on Rory's face?
Banshee drew a question mark on the rock.
Rory turned his back to the rock and closed his eyes. "I've had dreams. Blackened faces run in the night. Someone callin' out 'Bring my bow, fill my head with flame!'"
Banshee was listening intently.
Rory watched her expression change. "The voice changed, became that of three women speaking as one. 'We must let them know that the torch is lit again'." He passed a hand over his eyes. "It didn't make much sense. None of it did."
Banshee motioned for him to continue.
"I saw things, terrible things. There were buildings crumbling down, silhouettes in the fiery rain. In the middle of it all was me, as I was all those lifetimes ago. I was pleadin' with anyone who would hear me. Tryin' to rally them to pick up a weapon and fight. The imagery was so disjointed, it didn't make much sense. There was such a terrible sense of..." he trailed off, searching for a word. "I don't know, Molly. Danger and the need to do somethin' all rolled together. It's all so daft."
Banshee nodded and wrote on the rock "Sometimes dreams are real."
Rory looked at her bleakly. "I know."
Banshee tugged on his arm indicating that they had to get going.
"Wait a minute, Molly." Rory dug his heels into the soft earth. "I've a question or two yet."
"No time." Banshee mouthed back.
"But I don't understand. What is my place in all of this?"
The frustration on Banshee's face spoke volumes. "Hero" she wrote on the rock. "Just like the old days." She smiled bitterly at the irony.
Her smile wasn't lost on Rory. "And what is your role this time, Banshee?"
Banshee's face clouded. "Guardian. Escort." She hesitated, started to write one last word. She scratched it out before she'd finished.
Rory frowned, confused. Had that last word been 'friend'? He opened his mouth to ask, but Banshee was already moving out of the glen and towards the road home.
* * * * *
The fire had died to a glowing bed of coals and the tea in the tin cup had grown long cold as Natsilane listened to Grandmother's incredible tale of war and vengeance and the coming battle that lay ahead of them all. "I don't believe it," he said at last, shaking his head to demonstrate his doubt. He closed his eyes for a moment and opened them again.
"Yes," Grandmother replied, "you do. Did you not listen to the stories I told you when you were a boy? The stories of the great and angry gods who rebelled and were cast away to live among the human world?"
Natsilane nodded his head. "I thought they were campfire stories you told to scare disobedient children." He blushed at the memory. "I learned things were different when Raven and those gargoyles appeared and you revealed your true self to me. I've been looking at things in a different light since then."
"Discovering the truth behind the stories of our culture was just one way to open your eyes to the greater world."
"The world beyond your mortal existence. The world of what humans call magic."
I think I understand what you mean," Natsilane said, slowly. "Since I've embraced our old ways, things have seemed different to me."
"Different how?" Grandmother asked.
"I see the energy that pulses around me in all the living things, even the rocks and the water in the stream. When someone comes to me and tells me that they are not feeling well, that their joints ache or they have a pain in their belly, when I look at them, really look at them, I can see the change in their energy shape where the pain is. If I lay my hands on them I can move the energy until the flow is right again. Coupled with the herbs that you taught me about- I can heal."
Grandmother looked impressed. "You have done very well, Natsilane."
Natsilane warmed from Grandmother's praise, but finally the questions that had been eating at the back of his mind would not be quieted any longer. "You did not return to the mortal world just to praise my progress in the old ways, Grandmother. You want something from me." He looked at her face, quiet and calm and was reminded of long ago days when he was a boy and she had singled him out time and time again for special instruction despite his lackluster performances.
"No, you need something from me," he corrected. "Tell me what you want me to do, Grandmother."
The ancient fay nodded. "I have come to teach you, Natsilane. The future is always uncertain, but we must be prepared for whatever may come. The king and queen have chosen our champions and they fight bravely and true."
"Elisa and her gargoyle friends," Natsilane realized. "Grandmother, how can one woman and a handful of gargoyles hope to win a fight against others like you?"
"They are not entirely alone. There are others," Grandmother replied. "We dare not involve any more mortals in this fight than is absolutely necessary. But if we must-"
Natsilane looked at Grandmother. His dark brown eyes shone with purpose. "I will answer the call, Grandmother. I will stand at your side until the dark forces are defeated."
It was Grandmother's turn to smile. "I knew I chose well." She grew serious. You have much yet to learn Natsilane and I haven't much time to teach you. Are you ready to begin?"
"I am ready, Grandmother." Natsilane through a log on the fire, poured fresh tea then settled himself comfortably. He listened intently as Grandmother began her tutorial.
* * * * *
"...like that. Close your eyes. No peeking! Now say the words and concentrate on the squash seeds."
Beth did as she was instructed. She knelt on her living room rug, eyes closed and mind wide open listening as Coyote began to chant. Hesitantly at first, then with more conviction, she joined in. So lost in concentration was she, Beth failed to notice that after a few phrases Coyote ceased chanting. She continued the prayer alone. In her mind's eye she visualized the handful of squash seeds lying in a small earthenware dish. At first nothing happened. The seeds sat quietly in their dish. Beth focused intently, imagined the seeds sprouting. She visualized tiny white rootlets emerging hesitantly from the seeds. Moments later lusty green shoots popped their heads out and pale green leaves unfolded. A moment later more leaves appeared and the vines began to creep out and over the lip of the dish and out onto the rug.
"Open your eyes, Beth," Coyote commanded gently.
Beth opened her eyes as instructed and stretched as if coming out of a deep sleep. She gasped. The room was covered with leafy green foliage. Yellow flowers blossomed here and there.
Coyote looked pleased. "If I'd let you go for another five minutes, the entire apartment complex would have been up to its ears in squash."
"I did this?" Beth was having trouble breathing.
Coyote crossed to her side and took her hand. Beth barely noticed as he led her through the squash vines and sat her down on the couch. "You had a tiny bit of help," he admitted. "But not much. You're a natural, Beth."
"A natural what?" Beth turned to Coyote. "I guess I'm suddenly very confused. What is it that you're preparing me for, Coyote?"
Coyote did his best to look reassuring. "Once I told you yours was a family of Qaletaqa - Guardians of the People, remember?"
"Good. When I told you that, I wasn't just referring to the Hopi. I meant all humans. Each member of your family has chosen a Guardian role. Derek is a guardian of people. A protector. Elisa is a guardian of justice. You are a guardian of knowledge. But there's more to it than that. I've explained about the battle that lies ahead."
"Yes," Beth replied slowly.
"I've told you about Elisa's part in it." Coyote's face grew so serious that Beth trembled under his gaze. "If they fail, it will be up to you, and others like you to take their place. "I wouldn't ask this of you if I didn't have to, Beth, but we've got ourselves some rough times ahead."
Beth closed her eyes. She took several deep, calming breaths. A small smile tugged at her lips and then she opened her eyes. "Hey, I'm a Maza, we all do what we have to do. So what do we do next?"
Coyote returned her smile. "Tonight? Nothing. You're exhausted. But I'll be back soon. When I return I want you to be ready. Do you know how to make knukquivi?"
"Lamb and hominy stew?" Beth asked puzzled. "Sure. Grandma used to make it when we'd visit sometimes."
"She made great knukquivi," Coyote recalled.
"You knew my grandmother?" Beth sat bolt upright, her exhaustion temporarily forgotten.
"Oops. I shouldn't have said that." Coyote admitted. "Let's just say I've had a close association with your family for a very long time."
"Will you tell me about it?"
"Another time," Coyote hedged. "Right now I want you to get some rest. Tomorrow I want you to start reading these." A pile of scrolls and books appeared on the end table at Beth's elbow.
Beth's eyes went wide. "What is all that?"
"Ammunition," Coyote replied. "Have you ever heard the saying 'knowledge is power'?"
"Sure. It's one of my mother's favorite expressions."
"Smart lady, your mom." Coyote picked up one of the scrolls that was threatening to fall from the table and placed it in a more secure spot. "In this case it's the literal truth. Start reading, Beth. When I return we'll start the real work. Will you be ready?"
"Good girl," Coyote gave Beth a quick peck on the cheek. "I knew I could count on you." Coyote dematerialized. In the distance, out on the mesa, a coyote howled.
Beth blinked slowly as if coming out of a deep sleep. She touched her cheek with her left hand. On the end table the scrolls and books still threatened to tumble and the living room was filled with flowering squash vines. "Oh my gosh," she murmured as she hurried to the kitchen and started dialing the phone. "It really happened."
* * * * *
Elisa secured the front door and grabbed her jacket from the closet. She slid easily into a dark blue twin of her much loved red bomber jacket which was currently undergoing repairs after a close encounter with a knife wielding thug. She tugged at the zipper and frowned as she zipped it to her chin. "I'm all ready to go, Goliath. So, what's the plan for the evening?"
"I thought we might take a short glide over the river before-"
The telephone rang.
Elisa looked annoyed. "Hold that thought. It's probably Matt with a new conspiracy theory."
The phone rang a second time then Elisa answered in a cool, slightly annoyed voice. "Maza."
"Elisa? It's Beth. The most incredible thing just happened to meCoyotevisited andheshowedmehowtogrowsquash-"
"Beth?" Elisa looked at the receiver she held in her hand. Though it was a foot away from her ear she could still hear a torrent of words pouring forth. "Beth has news," she said over her shoulder to Goliath before returning to the call. "BETH!" she shouted into the receiver. "BETH! I can't understand a word you're saying. Slow down! All right. Now what did you just say? I could have sworn you said Coyote." Elisa listened and her expression grew grim. "You did say Coyote. He said that you're what?" Goliath crossed to Elisa's side and placed a hand on her shoulder. The detective sagged against the brawny gargoyle heavily. "Oh Beth, not you too!"
* * * * *
Back in Arizona Beth plucked a flower from one of the squash vines. She tucked it absently behind her ear and returned her attention to the telephone. "It's okay, Elisa. This feels really right."
* * * * *
Elisa sighed before replying. It seemed that neither her family nor her clan were to be spared involvement in the battle ahead. "Beth, listen to me." She paused to make sure that she had her little sister's attention. "Are you listening? Good. I know you're excited about this. It sounds like you have a very important role to play." Elisa listened for a moment. "No, I can't answer your questions. Beth listen to me! You can't talk to anyone about this. Don't tell Mom or Dad or Derek. Nobody! I understand why you called me. I do. But our enemies have ears." Elisa breathed a sigh of relief as her words hit home and Beth quieted. "I wish I didn't have to be the one to tell you this. Just do as you're instructed, Beth. And don't tell a soul." Elisa listened for a moment longer. "Be careful, little sister." Elisa hung up the telephone.
Goliath wrapped Elisa in a protective embrace. "What is it, Elisa? Tell me," he commanded gently.
"That was Beth," Elisa repeated numbly. "She had a visit from Coyote."
"Coyote seems to hold your family in great esteem." Goliath commented, guardedly.
"Tonight he was there as a messenger." Elisa broke out of Goliath's embrace. She looked up at him her dark eyes flashing. "We have to stop this fay war, Goliath. No one is going to be safe from them. Not even Beth."
"I don't understand, Elisa."
"Neither do I." Elisa admitted. "But Coyote visited my sister tonight to tell her to get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. I don't want my sister on the front line, Goliath. We have to stop this war before it spreads. Before too many innocents get involved."
"We shall, Elisa. On my honor we shall." Goliath took Elisa into his arms all thoughts of moonlight glides and walks in the garden forgotten.
* * * * *
The young couple rode through the London streets in silence. The Irish lad studied his A to Zed map with intense concentration comparing it against the address on a crumpled business card. The girl stared off into space ignoring the comments from a pair of leather clad street toughs.
"Come on, lass," a boy of twenty with an improbable red and yellow striped Mohawk entreated. "Why don't you come round to the pub with me and me mate? It'd be a perfectly grand time, I promise you it would. Especially after we found a nice quiet spot to be alone." He leered and waggled his eyebrows.
Rory looked up sharply, the lance in his back pack thrummed a steady warning vibration. He's not worth it.
"Don't worry, Molly." Rory squeezed her hand. "We've only got another stop to go."
Banshee looked up at Rory and tugged at his sleeve. She gestured to the street sign.
The punk continued to offer unsolicited suggestions for entertainment.
"You want to get off here? Why?" Rory whispered.
Banshee mimed walking.
"You wish to walk a bit before we look for Arthur?" Rory interpreted.
Banshee nodded and pulled the cord requesting the driver to stop the bus.
They got off quickly. The sun was fading fast and the streetlights had yet to flicker on. The pair hesitated on the corner for a moment while Rory oriented himself with the map. Banshee grew impatient. She tugged at Rory's sleeve. He shrugged and they lost themselves in the steady flow of pedestrian traffic.
Rory was thinking about home and his father. "He took my leavin' well. Almost as he expected it."
Banshee looked up confused at the spontaneous comment.
"My Da," Rory replied, realizing the source of Banshee's confusion.
"He told me he was proud of me. He gave me this." Rory held a fine gold pocket watch out for Banshee's inspection. "Look." He snapped the cover open and inside was a pair of portraits. A recent photo of Rory and his father on one side and an older, slightly faded picture of a lovely red-haired young woman.
"Your ma?" Banshee mouthed.
"She was a beauty wasn't she?" Rory said sadly. "I wished I'd known her better."
His eyes grew shiny. He stuffed the watch in his inside jacket pocket and wiped a hand across his eyes. "Da gave me the watch 'cause he said he didn't think I'd be home for me birthday. I couldn't tell him he was wrong, could I? Me not knowin' when I'll be home."
Rory lapsed into silence. So lost was he in his thoughts he didn't stop when Banshee tugged at his sleeve. She pointed at the street sign. They were nearly there. "I can go no further," she mouthed.
Banshee didn't answer, she just shook her head and began to walk in the opposite direction.
"Molly! Wait..." Rory hurried after her. "Can't you at least say goodbye?"
"Goodbye," she mouthed.
"I'm sorry, Molly, that was a rude thing to say." Rory said ashamed. "I don't understand your reason for comin' to me. I'm not sure that you do either, from the looks of you."
Banshee looked away. She had begun this assignment out of duty and finished it in a total state of confusion. Her emotions raged within.
Titania had sent her to her most bitter enemy. She had begged his compassion and he had granted it. She had begged his understanding and he had given that too. Titania had wished her to learn humility by aiding this human and the lesson had been successful. "Good luck, Rory," she mouthed and broke away from his grasp. A moment later she was gone, lost in the sea of humanity. Rory watched, confused, then turned away. He didn't see her watching him as he knocked on the door to Into the Mystic.
Banshee watched Rory embrace his destiny from a doorway across the narrow street. He knocked softly at the door then hesitated, and knocked again, this time with more authority.
A neatly turned-out man with posture that suggestion he had spent many years in the service of his queen's army answered and took the crumpled piece of pasteboard from Rory's hand. A moment later, he was joined by a second man of more regal bearing. "Arthur," Banshee mouthed. She turned away from the reunion as the three men crowded into the shop. Her mission was complete.
"I've brought the boy to his king," Banshee mouthed to no one in particular. "Titania will have to be content with that." Molly slipped quietly into the underground station and joined the queue to buy herself a ticket. "I'll not run anymore errands for Titania or her king." She spared a glance backwards in the direction of Into the Mystic and the mortals within. "You can fight this war if you chose. But not Banshee." With a deep breath, Banshee boarded the train caring not where it would take her next.
* * * * *
Behind The Scenes
Want to read more about the tricksters and what they did? Go to http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/loreindx.html to learn more about Coyote, Raven, Grandmother, and many more of the infamous tricksters of Native American myth!
You can also go to http://www.clubi.ie/lestat/godsmen.html to learn about nearly all the mythological aspects of Gargoyles.