Meet the Minions
Written by: Carolynn "Aerie" Marie and Mike Norrish
Story concept by: Kathy Pogge
Previously on Gargoyles...
EMRYS: We'll need to find a fresh haven for me.
KING ARTHUR: But where?
EMRYS: I'm not sure just yet. I think that we'd better go to London first, and work all that out.
~ Quest's End ~
MADOC: London shall have our special attention another time. I assume that Grimalkin's visits there with our contacts went well.
MAEVE: Indeed. All went according to plan.
~ The Rising, Part One ~
ARMINIUS FENN: I explain that to the fellows at Oxford, I'll be out on the street like that UFO nut, Adrians.
~ Dragons' Wrath ~
* * * * *
Meet the Minions
* * * * *
The light from the Septangle faded, leaving only a faintly burnt impression on the ground. In the dimness of the room a figure stood- tall, gaunt, a look of terrible vengeance in his eyes. Moving about the room he muttered to himself...
"Twenty years of work... twenty years of the best part of my life, and they dismiss me offhand. Hah! Nearsighted morons... if only they knew what was in store..." The figure picked up a pen and began to write.
On the walls were faded, yellow newspaper clippings- "Insane Professor Leaves Oxford", "Bizarre Theories Shock Faculty"
"They'll see soon enough... them and all their near-sighted ideals, their narrow visions- we'll show them all!"
Putting down his pen he strode over to the Septangle. Stooping, he picked up the small, silver object that lay there, fastening it around his neck by the slender chain that stemmed from the highest point. Turning, he strode towards the door- whilst behind him the seven pointed star pulsed once on the ground and was still...
* * * * *
She was christened Charlotte by her parents - good, upstanding citizens, regular church goers, who thought their daughter could never go wrong with 'Charlotte' - a nice, ordinary name. Her friends called her Char, because of the numerous cigarette burns that adorned her wrists, signs of just how ordinary she wished to be.
She leaned against the bar in the darkened smoke filled tavern, drunkenly surveying the scene around her. By her side Eddie grunted his approval of the situation, eyeing up the dart board with calculated menace, dreaming of the day when he would have the opportunity to practice the game with live targets, his scarred, bald head gleaming in the muddy light of the single filthy spotlight that illuminated the band podium.
A quartet of steaming pints crashed down on the bar beside them, followed by a pair of young men- Rodney, average looking, denim clad, with shoulder length hair of a mousy brown hue, and Riggs, obviously a brother, but younger, with darker hair, clad entirely in black leather. A droplet of dusky ale splashed on Eddie's sleeve, causing him to snarl, glaring at Rodney right up until the point where the steaming glass touched his lips.
"'Ere, steady on Ed!" the lower class accent rang out across the bar, as Rodney took a step back, " 's only a spot of beer, right?"
Eddie glanced at him once more, before returning to the careful contemplation of the bottom of his glass. Behind Rodney, Riggs tittered nervously, eyeing the huge punk with weary caution. Leaning against the bar, Char sighed in frustrated boredom.
"Wa'ss your problem then?" Rodney regarded her with impatient irritation.
"I'm bored, aren't I?" she flicked her hair back, examining her nails- black, razor sharp. "Nuffin' happenin' here. Just the same old routine- we eat, we sleep, we go to the Arms. No variation- same old routine."
Riggs leaned in close, brandishing a filthy scrap of newspaper, barely legible text visible amongst the grease stains from the takeaway food it had so recently wrapped. "Listen- this just may be our lucky night- I 'ear there's some bigwig coming by tonight- bloke from some special organization- reckons he needs some 'able bodied lads 'n lasses for a special project'- must be pretty desperate to come to this joint. Either that or he's needin' somebody with our 'special abilities' "
"Hah!" Rodney's single cynical laugh floated out on a wave of smoky breath. "Special needs, more like!" He stopped, as the door at the end of the bar flew open. The band ceased peddling their classic eighties metal, and departed the stage, as a pair of burly roadies replaced their band equipment with a podium.
A figure strode along the length of the bar, regarding the crowds with a satisfied, almost prideful look. Tall, middle aged, clad in a black robe, a silver, seven pointed star adorning his collar. White hair reached to his shoulders, a snowy, straggly goatee adorning his chin.
" limey!" Rodney regarded him with barely concealed admiration. Eddie straightened up, placing his empty glass on the table and watched intently as the figure mounted the stage.
Lucius surveyed the crowd, his penetrating eyes examining each and every one of them. Not exactly Oxford material- perfect. Just the blood he needed for his mission. All he needed was a hook- some way to relate to them. He glanced along the wall at the portraits of the various bands that had played here, until his eyes lighted on the perfect one. He thought back to his early days at the university, and pulled from those memories a single line of lyric.
"Woe to you, oh earth and sea, for the dark lord sends the beast with wrath- for he knows the time is short."
The patrons of the bar- Goths, Punks, Metallers alike, all straightened up, caught by the familiar phrase.
"My children, the Dark Lord has risen once again, and prepares to fight the final battle. And we- all of us," he gestured to the audience, "we are the beast, the dragon, his servants. There is not one among you who has not some grudge, some grievance against the light. Now is the chance to strike back, the chance to topple the light from its throne."
The patrons looked slightly nervous, a few among them absorbing his words with eager malice, but most slightly uncertain, whether it be upbringing or personal conviction still leaning against his words. At their spot at the end of the bar the four friends showed mixed reactions, Eddie eager, Char apprehensive, her conservative background fighting back against his words. Eddie and Riggs both stood with a look of cynical glee upon their faces, unbelieving of his intent, but supportive of his manner.
Lucius surveyed the bar once more, observing the mixed reactions.
"Do you hear me?" he thundered suddenly, making the audience start in surprise. "Is there not a one among you who has not at some point rebelled, struck out, or has suffered at the hands of the light? We are outcasts, each and every one of us- refugees from a dying cause, rejected by a society that fears us or laughs at us. They call us losers, they call us evil, they insult our intelligence and our views, dismissing us out of hand because of our appearance or reputations!"
He strode from the stage, singling out a huge biker. "You! When was the last time you had work?" The burly man stammered, unable to present an answer.
"Exactly....and you..." He approached Char, seizing her by the wrist, seeing the burns. "You are one that is driven- driven to be different. No doubt raised from birth to fit in- why this act of rebellion? Why? I'll tell you: Because deep inside you is the seed- the seed that drives you to become one of us, to strike against the system, to become your own creature." He strode back to the stage, eyeing each member of the gathered crowd in turn.
"Now, my children, now is the time to strike, and take this world for our own. The Lord of Darkness walks among us- and he has spoken to me. He has asked me to gather an army to his side- an army of his own people, OUR own people- people just like you and me. With his help we shall create a new world- one that will revere us instead of condemning us, one that shall serve us even as they have shunned us, one that shall bow at our feet in fear and respect!"
He paused, watching the faces in front of him- faces that began to fill with hunger, and the prospect of power and vengeance. Drawing on his experience as a lecturer, he began to recite a speech from their own history, warped to fit his own meaning...
"It is time to fight, my children- we shall fight them in the alleys, we shall fight them in the streets. We shall fight in every cul-de-sac, every darkened winter's night. We shall seize this island- we shall never surrender!" He paused again, before delivering his final coup de gras.
"It is time, my Minions of Darkness- time to rise from our station, and wreak havoc upon our oppressors," his voice rose to a steady crescendo, captivating the rising crowd, "it is time to fight, time to rule- IT IS TIME TO WREAK A REIGN OF TERROR, THE LIKES OF WHICH LONDON HAS NEVER SEEN BEFORE!!"
The crowd stood, in rapturous applause, each fighting to reach the stage. From the podium Lucius produced a scroll, unwinding it to show a contract in Gothic script, with space at the bottom for signatures, and a sharpened quill. He presented the quill to the closest minion, laying the parchment on a nearby table.
"Sign aboard my children- the Lord needs your names, your blood- with this quill I bid you to pierce your veins, and with your life's blood pledge your allegiance." Rising the quill he pierced his own finger, and with his blood scrawled his own signature on the parchment, before passing it to the next in line.
Rodney stood there, quill in hand, a wicked glint in his eyes as he pricked his finger and prepared to sign.
"Sounds like fun." He grinned, as the red fluid flowed from his finger, staining the parchment.
* * * * *
" 'Ay, there. You two lost or sumfin'?" A lanky man in grimy denim and long brown hair slowly stalked back and forth over the pavement. His companion tittered a high-pitched shriek and trotted alongside his more robust friend as if he were a pet lap-dog.
"Right. You two lost?" he giggled, his unnaturally white face lustrous in the bright glow from neighboring street lamps.
"N-no, thank you." The middle-aged man's shoes slowly worked themselves backwards over the cold pavement. He kept a close hold on his wife. Her face was drawn and pinched. "We can find our own way."
The Giggler leapt onto an over-turned garbage can and proceeded to keep his balance and parade around the pair at the same time. "'We can find our own way', eh? Ya sure ya don't need a bit of our 'elp? What Rodney said. Right, Rodney?"
He looked ready to start laughing again. The leader of the band knocked his scrawny form off the can in an impatient swing. The small fellow quickly righted himself and hid behind another member of the gang. He peeped out a few seconds later, his pale face contorted with a hurt look at his older brother. The youths all looked like a prowling pack of vampires with their powdered cheeks and black robes. Except for that young giggling chap, who seemed to have a distinct yen for black leather.
The couple kept a close eye on the circling youths, hugging each other for comfort. Minnie dug her carefully manicured nails into her husband's coat as she peered over his shoulder.
"Henry ...," she whispered softly, her voice dry and hoarse. "Henry. Please, Henry, just ... give them your wallet." Her wide eyes stared at the figures that threatened them, pleading. "Please, leave us alone."
"Leave us alone, I 'ear?" The leader looked at his companions, a mock look of pain on his face. They started snickering amongst themselves. "Aw, we don't want to be 'urtin' nobody now, miss. We just goin' about havin' a good time."
He kicked a garbage can through a store window, seeming satisfied at the shriek of shattering glass and the scream of an alarm. "Ain't that pretty music, eh?" he yelled over the sound of the alarm. The others batted several metal cans through neighboring windows. Within seconds alarms running up and down the entire block were screaming shrilly.
Minnie's first reaction to the unfamiliar hand that clapped onto the back of her throat was to shriek and claw her way to freedom. But she had barely enough time to react before she felt herself being lifted bodily and forced face-first into something leathery and crackled from water damage. She felt Henry's weight drop next to her and his stressed moan, followed by the shout of 'Back! All of ya! Back, I say!' from what seemed far off in the distance.
Then followed two loud slams and the guttural growl of an engine, and finally a screech as tires caught tread on road and tore off. Flipping over, she caught sight of a musty, tan car interior that reeked of rainwater. Henry was leaning against the opposite door, his hand to his forehead and obviously exhausted. It took her a moment to get her bearings before she realized they were in a cab.
"Pardon," she started to the driver, who at the moment seemed more interested in putting the pedal to the floor. Peering out the back, they caught sight of several of the youths who had started to give chase. She waited a few more minutes before trying again. "Pardon me, sir. Thank you for helping us back there."
The cabby looked around at them, then smiled. It was difficult to tell his age, but there were youthful laughing lines around his mouth. He looked nice enough, with his nice grin and carefully shaven face and well-formed jaw. "Aw, glad to be of service, ma'am," he answered courteously. "No problem a'tall. Just driving around the neighborhood and saw you two had a bit of a hard time with those blokes back there. Are you two alright now?"
"Nothing some aspirin couldn't fix," Henry commented as he massaged his scalp. "Could you take us to 15 North Kensington, if you please?"
"Much obliged," the cabby responded, turning the wheel. "Me name's Kevin, but you can call me Kev. Either's fine, Y'know. I'm not too good with names meself. Pleased to meet you."
"I'm Henry, and this is my wife, Minnie." He put a comforting arm around his spouse and flipped open a cellular phone, punching in some numbers. "Hello? Police? I'd like to report an attempted mugging..."
"Well, I'd love to shake your hand, but now's hardly the time to do it." Kevin peered out his window, relieved as the ghouls let up and ran off into the darkness. "The little kipper's have run off. You sure you don't want me to run the little blokes over?"
Minnie didn't seem to take the joke very lightly. "I'd prefer you not, sir."
"This it?" Kevin pulled the car to a stop in front of a modest looking little flat.
"This is it ... Kevin." Henry escorted his wife out of the car. "And thank you again. The police should be arriving shortly."
"You sure you don't want me to wait until they get here?"
Minnie only smiled at the sight of a police vehicle slowly turned the corner, navigating through the late-night fog. "I'm sure we can manage." A bit of color had slowly returned to her pale cheeks. The police car gingerly opened as its two occupants exited. One of them, a burly chap with a thick moustache, lifted his cap in greeting to the trio.
"Sir? Ma'am? We received a call of a mugging, right?" He flipped open his notepad. "Would you like to give a statement of what happened?"
"Oh, yes, thank you," Minnie started gratefully. "It was over in the Soho section, and this nice gentleman ..." She stopped. "Henry, where did he go?"
During the interrogation, Kevin had quietly gotten back into his cab and driven off back to work, glad to be of service once again. He started to whistle a merry tune as he slowly drove down the boulevard, turning out of sight around the corner.
* * * * *
Terror stalked the streets. Outside "Into the Mystic" Gothic warriors wreaked their havoc, spreading destruction throughout the tiny back street. Rodney had never had so much fun in his life. Hefting a crowbar he proceeded to strip the upholstery from a hapless Ford Escort, before Eddie and Riggs gripped the aged car by one side and flipped it roughly onto its back. Shrieking a high-pitched war cry, Char hefted a half-brick at the window of the small bookstore, shattering a front window.
Almost immediately, a pair of nightmarish shapes emerged- heraldic beasts that almost- but not quite- managed to strike a chord in the four British hooligans- for in all appearances they were the same winged Lion and Unicorn that formed the crest of their own crown.
Rodney stared across the street at the enraged form of Leo advancing towards them. "What the bleedin’ ‘eck are you then- some sort of angel?"
"It depends on your point of view"
"Well, in that case, my point of view says that you on me crowbar would get on like a house on fire." Rodney swung his crowbar at Leo's head, only to have it gripped in an iron claw.
"No- I don't think so." Leo picked up the mohawked figure, and threw him back against the car
Eddie charged towards him, arms out stretched, his lips peeled back in a savage snarl, while Riggs moved around behind him, hefting his own crowbar.
"You just made a big mistake, whatever you are, mister." Rodney picked himself up off the ground, rubbing his back. Other minions encircled the Lion, moving around him in a slow ring, brandishing their weapons...
Donald Meeks had had better days. On the way home from work he had barely escaped being hit by oncoming traffic, preoccupied by a newspaper article, giving incredibly interesting details on a number of holes found in Blackburn, Lancaster- enough to fill the Albert Hall, apparently. Whilst dusting himself off, a young lad on a skateboard had narrowly missed hitting him as well, but not before running over his leather briefcase, full of a hundred memos from his employer, complaining about the state of morale in the office- far too high, not nearly enough work being done as a result. Life was hard in the civil service.
Now, finally at home, he had watched as a group of white faced youths brutally destroyed his precious Ford Escort, while the pair of monsters from next door rushed out making more noise than the second coming...
Well, he'd had enough. Picking up the phone he began to dial. "Hello? Police? Donald Meeks here- oh, you've never heard of me? Well, alright, I suppose cardboard isn't really one of your specialist subjects..." He listened to the patient voice on the other end. "What? Oh, yes. I'd like to report a riot...at least a hundred men, aided by all the servants of darkness. And they've destroyed my car."
To Donald, exaggeration was a mere collection of syllables.
The group of ten or so Minions surrounded Leo, all brandishing cudgels of varying shapes and sizes.
"So, you think you're tough do you?" Rodney sneered at him, still nursing his hurt back. "Well, I don't know what sort of Halloween freak you're supposed to be, but I don't think you'll do much without a ribcage... Get 'im, Ed!"
The giant Skinhead lurched forward, gripping Leo in a giant bear-hug.
"Unhand me you hooligan!" Leo shook the thug off with ease. Eddie fell to the ground with an audible thud. He stood up with a growl, and the other minions started to advance towards him with their cudgels raised...
Char dodged out of the way as Una flew at her, the shock at seeing the winged Unicorn still not sufficient to break her concentration. The Unicorn faltered for a second, allowing Char to run behind her, pushing her to the ground with a self-satisfied expression on her face. In return Una leapt at her again, this
time knocking her over.
"In my day we respected our elders, young lady."
Charlotte picked herself up off the ground. "Well, this isn't your day... and in my day we don't worry about respect." She aimed a swing at Una, narrowly missing. "What are you?"
"I might ask you the same question. What on earth do you think you're doing with all that ridiculous make-up? You look like a circus-clown."
"This make-up is going to be the last thing your kind ever sees. You're like those Gargoyle things from Manhattan, aren't you?" The two stood a short distance from each other, malicious intent in Char's eyes, puzzlement and distress in Una's.
"We may have met them once or twice."
Char grinned. "Thought so... well, soon you'll all be rubble- and this world will belong to us, and all the others that've been oppressed by 'Your Day.'"
Suddenly the sound of sirens broke the air. Char looked up with a hiss, and bolted in the opposite direction, leaving Una in her dust.
"Cripes! The Pigs!" Riggs looked up, startled by the sound of the sirens.
"Leg it!" Rodney was limping speedily towards the other end of the street before he'd even spoken, followed by the other Minions.
Leo growled, and moved to catch them, leaping along the ground.
He never saw the half-brick that caught him in the side of the head, nor felt the crowbar that smashed into the base of his spine, dropping him to the ground. The Minions escaped, leaving the wounded gargoyle in their wake.
Una gasped, running to Leo's side.
"Oh, my poor Leo!"
"I'm fine... just a bruise or two- nothing the sun won't fix."
She supported him, as they moved back inside "Into the Mystic"
The first of the Police cars came to a screeching halt, and the officers emerged to survey the scene. "Somebody report a riot?"
Colin approached the officers. "Not a riot, exactly... just some local hooligans making trouble. They left when they heard the sirens."
The bobby nodded glumly. "Right you are, sir. These hooligans- would they have been of the white faced gothic persuasion?"
"I believe so- it was rather dark."
The officer nodded again. "Third complaint tonight we've had about this lot." He regarded a large sign spray painted across a nearby car- 'The Darkness is Coming'- and sighed. "Don't know what this world is coming to, I'm afraid sir.
"Now, would you be so kind as to tell me where I might find fleet admiral Donald Meeks?"
* * * * *
"Is he quite all right?" Colin shut and locked the door to the shop as he entered, then tiptoed to the couch. Una was holding a compress to Leo's forehead. "The bobby left. No need for alarm." He made a face. "Not from the police, anyhow."
Una looked miserable, and her white face seemed an unnatural paleness. "I believe he's alright. Would you look after him for a moment?" She quickly took a boiling pot of tea from the old gas stove in the back room and returned, then poured Leo a cup. "Come, now, Leo. Drink this. It'll bring some warmth into you." Leo coughed groggily, then laughed at her worried expression.
"I've made of sterner stuff than that, old girl."
Una frowned as he tried to stand up. "No, you're hurt. You really should rest. It'll be sunrise soon."
"I'm fine," Leo insisted, but he reeled slightly as he stood and ended up nearly falling backwards onto the pillow. He grunted softly. "Just give me a minute. I'll be on my feet in no time."
"Glad to see you still have your feet," Colin commented. "And the rest of you. Quite some run-in, I'd say." He gently pulled aside a curtain and peered outside. The street was deathly quiet, a few tall street lamps providing the only source of light in the gloom. He pulled back the curtains and lugged another box of merchandise to the front.
"Oh, you shouldn't trouble yourself. We'll help."
Colin shook his head as he shelved the books. "Leo, you lay right there and get well. If you so much as move, I'll knock you out myself."
Leo chuckled softly to himself, then tensed as his head exploded in another flurry of fireworks. Una looked up from her fussing. "It makes me wonder if we should do something about these vandals running around," she said softly, re-applying an ice pack to Leo's skull. She frowned as she remembered that human youngling mouthing back to her. "Perhaps teach them some manners while we're at it."
"There's always been a few hooligans running around in London, Una. That's hardly ground-breaking news," Leo pointed out, trying to keep the ice pack from slipping. "We have our own corner to worry about, let alone the whole bloomin' city."
Una sighed. "I just wish Griff and Arthur were back." Her voice was suddenly ver quiet and thoughtful. "Somehow, right now it seems that there would be safety in numbers."
Leo looked disturbed by his companion's admission of uneasiness. "We've managed to do all right up until now. But if it will make you feel better maybe we can ask Michael to have a few of the youngsters down to mind the shop. It'd be good for their training anyway."
Una stared at the window curtains that shielded the shop's interior from prying eyes. There was silence for a few moments as she drifted off in daydreaming with a cup of tea in her claws. She seemed shaken out of her reverie suddenly, then shook her head. "No, I'm just over-reacting. A touch of nerves from seeing you get hit with that brick. I guess I'm getting silly in my dotage." She poured a steaming stream of amber fluid into another cup. "Let's have a nice cup of tea. Dawn will be here soon and tomorrow will seem much brighter."
* * * * *
"Ca-over here, no, please, cabby! Someone? Please? Cab-sir? Cabby? Over here?" Emrys ran back and forth along the sidewalk outside the train station, waving his arms wildly. "Please? Someone?" Dozens of taxis passed by him at top speed, all honking madly. The young lad put both of his hands to his hips, his brow furrowing with the impatient look of an old man. "Hey! Extra tip to whoever aids us!" Several taxis nearby screeched to a halt, nearly rear-ending each other in the process. Arthur glanced at his companion, raising an eyebrow in admiration at his mentor-in-disguise.
Emrys grinned back, then looked disgusted at the effects of his little ruse. Several cabs were playing cat-and-mouse to see who could reach the pair first.
"Well, that didn't quite work like I hoped."
"You two need a lift?" Both twisted their heads in the sound of the friendly voice. A dark haired young man with a cleanly shaven face smiled back at them, leaning against the hood of a taxi. "You'll ne'er get out a' here at this rate."
"Thank you for coming to our aid, good man," Arthur said, smiling back. "Oh ...hmm, could you accommodate our ... pet?" He glanced at an extra-large pet carrier at his side. There was a faint grunting sound from inside. The cabby flicked at his cap, a little startled by the size of the crate.
"Rather big 'un, ain't he?" He nodded. "Sho', I can fit him in the back."
Emrys watched in amazement as the driver attempted to pick up the carrier. He dropped the load two inches to the pavement, looking a little surprised.
"Could you give me a hand, sir?" Arthur rubbed his palms together and easily lifted the crate. The cabby looked even more shocked as he started to fit the carrier through the back door of the cab. Emrys and the cabby quickly started to shove the whole lot inside. The boy ran around to the street side of the car and climbed inside the back, proceeding to tug on the weight with what strength he had. It was times like these he wished he was up to par on his magic.
Griff watched from a building opposite, rubbing his chin in amusement. "Too bad Cavall doesn't have wings. It would save a lot of trouble," he chuckled softly to himself.
The carrier was soon inside the car, and Arthur and Emrys bundled themselves into the back alongside the crate. The driver attempted to peer inside the small barred window into the box, but all he could see was a faint shadow and the smell of a hot, stinking breath. "What time o' dog that? St. Bernard?" He looked too curious.
Emrys saw the danger signal and did his best to look innocent. "Well, he's a mix, I guess you'd call him." He gave a mock cry as the driver patted the crate.
"I wouldn't do that. It was a pity, last man who tried to pet him." He held up his gray sweater's sleeve to show a missing hand, secretly delighted at the way the other man nearly hit his head on the roof. "He gets cranky real easily." As if he understood the joke and wanted to add to the little performance, Cavall suddenly gave an intimidating snarl from inside his carrier.
"Of course." The cabby quickly turned around and started the ignition. Emrys nudged Arthur, winking. The other man gave him a somewhat blank look, but the way his shoulders started shaking told the boy he was trying hard not to laugh. The driver was so busy navigating he didn't see as Emrys popped his hand out from beneath his sleeve.
"Could you take us to a Soho shop, sir? It goes by the name of "Into the Mystic"," the eldest of the pair asked the cabby.
The driver tipped his hat again. They could tell it was to be a trademark of his. "Right you are, sir. I'll have you and the lad there in no time."
Emrys wiggled out of his safety belt and peered out the back window. The dark form of Griff suddenly left his perch on the building as he secretly started to tail the taxi. Emrys waved upwards, then stopped when he realized several pedestrians on the street were starting to glance at him oddly.
"You two here to visit family?" the cabby started in an effort to make polite conversation.
Arthur thought for a moment, then smiled, letting his hands fold together on his lap. "Hmm, you could say that. How do you come to that conclusion?"
"Well, I'm told I have a good sense of the world around me, I suppose," the cabby said thoughtfully. He shrugged. "A little talent, really. Me name's Kevin."
"You've worked as a driver a long time?"
Kevin looked surprised. "I see you have the same little talent, sir." He grinned, tapping his brown cap again. "Been working this little section for a few years, I'd say. Nice little place." His nose suddenly turned upwards. "Hard to say so lately, though."
Arthur sensed the sudden change of atmosphere. "Oh? How so?"
Kevin suddenly looked slightly downhearted. "Oh, you know how times change." He jerked his head out the passenger door side at the side of an abandoned building, its soot-covered bricks eaten away by time and the elements. Across the front in a bright white were the words "The goblins will get you if you don't watch out". Arthur raised an eyebrow at the ominous tone in the little message. Kevin must have seen the look on his face.
"Hmm, things like that and more, if you know what I mean," he started. "I don't know what the world's comin' to." Emrys could see the opening to a rambling rant many talkative people went into, and he gave Arthur a "shoot me" look.
"Why, jes' yesterday I helped this nice lookin' couple who were bein' surrounded by this pasty lookin' group of blokes. I sez to meself, 'Kev, these two are in a scrap a' trouble', so I haul them into me hack and speed off. A couple of 'em gave chase." He shook his head. "I dunno what people are really thinkin' these days. 'Course, the couple were right glad I showed up when I did. If I hadn't, goodness knows what would've happened to 'em. Glad to be of service, I was, but I tell you, that poor miss looked so frightened I'd swear if she didn't just drop dead right on the pavement o' fright, don'cha know. A terrible shame, really. A low-down shame. What is the world comin' to these days?"
Arthur nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Ah, yes. A pity. Then again, the world hasn't changed that much. Violence has always been a part of our culture, of course."
Kevin didn't look very convinced. "I dunno about that, sir. I'm sure even centuries ago people were more benevolent, don'cha know." Emrys and Arthur shot each other a knowing look. "But then, I didn't live back then, so what can I say? I'm sure they had their moments. Anyway, well, this whole area's been terrorized by a whole gang a' white-faced hoodlums lately, vandalizing stuff n' such."
Emrys, who had started to nod his head in drowsiness, immediately looked up.
"Dressed all in black and white faces. Thought they looked like a bunch a' eerie lookin' vampires or somethin'. I tell you, made me blood run cold in me veins just watchin' 'em, the blokes. Had to keep meself from runnin' 'em over, y'know. Things like that so eerie lookin', well, you just don't want to look at 'em. I jes' got a bad feelin'. You just know when somethin's bad, y'know what I mean? Jes' a bad, uncomfortable feelin' that they wasn't your run-a'-the-mill maniacs out for some late-night fun."
Arthur looked at his companion, expecting a witty comment. He was surprised by the contemplative silence Emrys had fallen into as they pulled up in front of Into the Mystic.
Kevin trotted out the door to his passenger's side, opening up the door for them. He looked at Cavall's crate warily. "Would you like me to tackle this, sir?" he asked, nodding in the carrier's direction.
Arthur only smiled and silently shook his head no. "I'm sure I can manage, thank you very much." Kevin smiled and touched his hat again as he dragged some of their luggage off the roof, but he looked reluctant as Emrys took the bags from him. After all, he couldn't exactly carry their suitcases into the shop.
Not many people took a first meeting with Una or Leo very lightly.
Arthur peeled some bills from his pocket to pay Kevin. The cabby's face lit up at the very large tip his customer pushed into his open palm.
"Why, thank you, sir!"
"Oh, hardly a trouble, Kevin," Arthur answered, cocking his head. "I'll look for you should I ever need a cabby again." As Kevin fumbled in his wallet for his card, Arthur could only help but think that this man reminded him of one of his former knights. Such a warm, garrulous chap!
Kevin tipped his hat a final time as he climbed into his car and drove off into the night. Arthur peered at the cabby's card he had given him. He flipped it over and over again in his strong fingers, inspecting the frayed stiff paper before sticking it into his jacket pocket.
There was a whistle as something descended rapidly through the air and landed with a thump next to the pair and the crated Cavall. Emrys turned, startled, by the sudden appearance of Griff.
"Hope I didn't scare you too much," the griffin apologized, hiking Cavall's crate over one shoulder and teetering for Into the Mystic's front door.
Emrys smiled warily. "I suppose I was just in deep thought. You surprised me."
"With all that's happened, who can blame you for daydreaming?" Griff hopped up next to the shop's front door, nudging it with his tail. "Well, at this time of night, perhaps you wouldn't call it daydreaming, but something like it."
He suddenly snapped out of his reverie. The gargoyle gave a sour look when the door refused to budge, so he started butting against it with his head. Arthur quickly ran to his aid, tapping lightly and pushing on the handle.
"Una?" Griff called, straining with Cavall's crate as he carried it through the doorway. Una's slender head rose from beneath a large pile of new books at the sound of the bell overhanging the door tinkling. Her eyes widened at the sight of her visitors, and Griff soon found Una helping him with his load. But when she was done, she enveloped him in a warm hug.
"Griff, whatever are you doing here? We were wondering whenever you were going to-" She cut herself off suddenly at the sight of Arthur Pendragon. She deftly bent forward in a little curtsy. "Oh, where are my manners? Come, come! I was just about to put the tea on." She waved a clawed hand towards the back of the shop. "And I happen to have some Chamomile and perhaps I could rustle up some sandwiches." She twisted her head around towards Arthur. "Would you like anything in particular, Sir Arthur?" she asked.
The man shook his head politely, smiling at her fussing. "No, madam. Tea is fine for me, thank you." He cleared his throat for a moment, catching both gargoyles' attentions. "If you don't mind, we brought along another guest. I hope it is not too much of an inconvenience."
Arthur stepped to the side, letting Emrys into full view. The boy looked at Una and smiled politely. The first thing that caught her off guard was his straight posture that almost gave him the hint of a grown man. It seemed unlike the normal slouch of a young one.
"I would like to introduce ... ah, Emrys."
Una cocked her head at the statement. "Why does that name sound so familiar?"
The boy smiled. "Emrys was the alias for Merlin in many documents," he commented.
Una started. She just gaped for a moment. Simply gaped with her large dark eyes before curtsying again.
"Perhaps I should put out the extra china," she said, not quite sure what to make of the situation. She still looked surprised as she escorted everyone into the back.
Colin Marter nearly fell down the stairs leading to the second floor with another box of merchandise. He tossed the crate down and muttered to himself as he straightened his askew shirt, but looked surprised as he saw their guests disappearing into the back. He waved the front door's keys as a signal to Una that he would lock up. She only smiled thankfully. She wanted to hear how her Griff and his king were and for once didn't feel like scurrying about with her errands.
"Where shall I put this handsome brute?" Griff asked teasingly, patting Cavall's crate. From somewhere deep within, the beast grunted. Griff chuckled loudly at Una's expression on her face. "Una, I give you the Highly Esteemed Cavall!" He bowed low, barking a laugh at the animal's excited howling from inside the crate.
"Is that his name now? I remember this little rascal." Una looked worried, "I do hope he doesn't eat anything," she commented as Griff unlatched Cavall's carrier. "Those books on the front shelf are new."
"Oh, I doubt he'll do such a thing, Una." Cavall fell onto his side as Griff started to rub behind his ears. "We fed him only a short while ago. But if not, I'm sure he'll love your books as much as you do." His beak twisted in an odd little smile.
"Not if they're in his stomach, I won't," Una commented as she disappeared behind some curtains into the pantry. Everyone settled down into the little alcove in the back room. Cavall turned around in several circles on the floor beneath Arthur before finally curling into a large red ball at his master's feet. The beast gave a grunt of obvious contentment before slowly drifting off to sleep.
"I just set the tea on," Una started as she came back into the room with Leo at her side, "and it should be ready in a few minutes. Anyone for something to eat? I do have some sandwich meat if anyone's pinched."
Leo managed to get away from Una for a moment, throwing an arm around Griff.
"We kept wondering about you bunch!" He bowed to Arthur, one arm behind his back. "We're terribly glad to see you again. You accomplished all you hoped to?"
"And how, Leo!" Griff put a warm hand on Emrys' shoulder. "We brought a friend. I'd like to introduce to you Emrys. Emrys, I give you Leo, a crazy yet distinguished chum of mine." Griff elbowed Leo playfully.
The other gargoyle seemed to take the joke lightly and instead only smirked. He shook Emrys' hand warmly. "And where did you find such a handsome lad?" he asked politely.
"In a most intriguing way, in a manner of speaking," Arthur started.
"I'm quite an intriguing fellow," Emrys commented, smiling innocently.
"Not to be on the rude side of things, but who is he?" Leo asked Arthur. He glanced up as Una carried over a tray of porcelain teacups and a sugar bowl.
Griff noticed for a second that the boy looked terribly annoyed at the way the adults seemed to dismiss his presence. "Merlin, as a matter of fact," the lad commented blandly, eyes narrowed.
Leo stared at the boy, eyes wide and unblinking. Emrys just sighed. "I know, I know. That whole 'bearded old man' disguise. Well, you know, 1400 years like that, you need a change of pace." The boy accepted a cup of tea from Una's hands. He saw the gaping coming from her and her companion, but when he looked at them full in the face they both averted his gaze.
"I'm dreadfully sorry. We shouldn't be staring," Una apologized.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped like that. These teenage hormones, you know. Haven't gone through it in some fourteen centuries or more." He saw Una's contorted face of regret. "Not such a big deal. I get that all the time. It's hard being like this, since kids usually don't get the once-over from most people." The calm, knowing mask on his face suddenly faltered for a moment. Arthur thought it was a look of sudden nervousness. "Sometimes, that's a good thing." A few drops of tea spilled down his sweater as his hands suddenly started involuntarily shaking his teacup.
"You would be surprised where we found Merlin," Arthur started, trying to divert the stares from his mentor. "Well, actually, he was in Farthingham as we had thought, but the situation itself was most interesting."
"Did you find Sylvester Hawkins?" Leo asked, accepting a sandwich from Una.
"Yes, but he was not Merlin, as you can see. Mr. Hawkins Senior was a ..." Arthur searched for the right words, "... well, quite an interesting character. He was dispatched by a few hooligans, two of which we recognized from a little adventure we had with some gargoyles in that city, Manhattan. Another went by the name of Garlon." His face contorted into a glower, and one brawny hand latched onto the table's side tensely. "We know each other a while back, in a way."
"Oh, dear, how dreadful." Una looked up from her fretful working as a proper hostess.
"Not as bad as you think," Emrys said. "Sylvester was only an artificial creation of mine. Though I do happen to miss him, he being my legal guardian and all. He was a lot nicer than some people I knew. He didn't complain about his life or the neighbors or cramps or stuffy landladies or something or other people are always trying to tell me. Goodness knows why. Not like I want to know about stuff like that. I'm not a psychologist."
"To make a long story short," Arthur continued, "we fended off those hooligans and met my half-sister Morgana along the way. And some American gentleman, a Nicholas Maddox."
"Daddy Dearest," Emrys said sadly. His teacup shook again for a brief moment. His face was a mixture of anxiety and a trace of carefully concealed anger.
Griff sighed as he leaned back into his seat, crossing one hind leg over the other. "There's one in every family. I remember a chap like that from the estate a few years ago ..."
Arthur took Griff's second of pondering to continue before his knight went on a rambling. "Anyway, we decided London was the most obvious course next."
"Nicholas Maddox is your father?" Leo asked, his heavy brow turning downwards. He had obviously heard the stories of Merlin's somewhat 'unique' parentage. "I believe I read something about him in a paper. Owner of a Maddox Technologies over in the States."
"Yep, my father's into all those sorts of disguises." Emrys raised a curious eyebrow. "Now, my charming and dysfunctional family aside, what's this about a bunch of crimes committed lately?"
Leo sighed, shaking his head. "Ah, you've heard of it, then. Una and I had a run-in with some of those toughs a few nights ago. Got injured a tad, nothing more, thank goodness. Una, of course, turned out all right. She's made of tough stuff, my girl. Dreadful business, it is."
"So I heard."
The gargoyle retreated to a shelf of old newspapers on the other side of the room for a moment, deftly searching throughout a large pile before finding the ones he wanted. He nodded satisfyingly as he flipped through one before handing it to Emrys. "Perhaps you can make more sense of it than I can," he said gruffly, returning to his seat. "It's just shot over my head and no mistake."
Emrys looked puzzled for a moment, then glanced down at the paper. "'New Crime Wave Blamed on Demon Obsessed Cult'," he started reading. He was about to take another sip of his tea, but he gently set the cup back onto the table, holding the paper with both hands as he continued.
"'If you happen to peer out your window right now, in all likelihood you will see spray-painted warnings of a 'Pixie Invasion' across neighboring buildings. Find this too farfetched? Just check with your local bobby on the corner. You're sure to hear unusual stories that our police have been encountering lately. London's finest have been in a state of confusion as a new cult has been plaguing Soho's streets and stores. Activities range from extensive vandalism and defacing of public and private property to harassment of local citizens. Eight counts of willful destruction have occurred this past week in the Soho district alone.
"'A cabby we happened to interview understands one such event. He rescued a couple from an unprovoked attack from these pale faced vandals only this week by offering them refuge in his cab. 'A dreadful business, it was,' the cabby, distinguishing himself only by the name of Kevin, told our paper. 'It makes you wonder just what the world is coming to these days.' Kevin declined more comment, saying only that rescuing the couple was 'the right thing to do', despite an offered reward for his part in the rescue. The couple he rescued also refused comment.
"'Witnesses claim these hoodlums usually dress in black and use extensive white face make-up, resulting in an eerie, almost vampire-like display. Police are investigating all leads, including the above mentioned odd messages being left on public property. Some of these warnings usually deal with threats of pixies and demons. All citizens are urged to stay in public areas, especially after dark, and to keep all small pets indoors. If you have any information leading to the arrest of these disrupters of the peace, please contact Police Constable Lowell at 188.8.131.52.'"
Emrys was white faced as he put the paper down. He pursed his lips and ran a nervous hand through his curly blond mop of hair.
"Not as odd as the goings-on in the States." Leo produced a foreign paper, printed in New York City. "Supposedly the humans claimed they saw flying black horses and demons and such strange talk."
Griff, Arthur, and Emrys exchanged startled looks. They hadn't been around to hear of such stories.
"You haven't heard?" Una asked incredulously. "It's rather hard not to hear these stories. Especially with all the attention of the media."
"Manhattan seems to be having somewhat intriguing problems at the same time we're having dilemmas with crazy ruffians running around."
Arthur frowned. "Manhattan was quite an unordinary place when Griff and I paid a visit. Perhaps it was just a mass hallucination?" From underneath the table, Cavall rested his head on his master's lap and started to whimper for attention. Arthur mechanically scratched his pet's ears, trying to listen to the conversation.
"Maybe so, but thousands of people claim they saw ... spirits and demons and such." Una poured more tea for him. "Unordinary, perhaps, but an entire city of people don't see the same bunch of sprites at once. Even in New York."
Leo made a face. "Well, the city officials have dismissed it as a probable sickness as the cause of it. There's even a long string of tests being done on the water supply to make sure it's not the reason for making all the humans go loopy." He dumped another huge stack of papers onto the table. "All these are from the past week on the occurrences in Manhattan alone. Most of it's wild speculation, but I'm beginning to have my doubts as to whether this is just another crazy stunt of the media's."
Arthur winced as Cavall edged his body onto his lap, all the time whining. He had to literally shove him off. The beast growled, annoyed at being so easily dismissed.
Una tapped a more lurid tabloid with one free claw. "This is one of my favorite's," she stated. "'Sprites and Pixies Lay Siege to Big Apple'," she read, "'People Claim Visions of Flying Monsters and Ghoulish Ghosts'. I find this highly entertaining. Ghoulish ghosts indeed. Those humans have no idea of what is going on."
"You mean we actually do?"
Cavall whined and started bumping his head against Arthur's leg impatiently.
"Odd that tales of pixies are occurring lately in both London and Manhattan," Griff interrupted thoughtfully, cupping his chin in one hand.
Arthur turned to his mentor to ask his opinion, but found that Emrys was staring ahead, paying no attention to him. "Merlin?" he asked in a worried tone, touching his shoulder. Emrys turned his head to stare up at him.
The boy's eyes widened. "I think my father's up to something. This can't be good."