The Yorkshire Adventure
Written by: Rahsaan Footman
Story concept by: Rahsaan Footman, Todd Jensen and Kathy Pogge
Illustrations by: Jessica Entis
Previously on Gargoyles...
Molly: You don't want to be out too late, anyway. You might meet the Great Beast in the dark! Whoooooo!
Mr. Dugan: The Great Beast. The Hound of Ulster. Hearing its howl warns of danger. Seeing it.... Ach! It's - it's just a story these days.
Rory: So you're the terrible hound.
~ The Hound of Ulster ~
* * *
Alfred: "They're nothing so trivial as that, Mr. Montrose." (looks at Montrose sharply) "The Illuminati are very interested in obtaining living gargoyles, at whatever the cost.
~ The Watching Eye ~
* * * * *
The Yorkshire Adventure
* * * * *
Yorkshire Countryside, Dec. 22, 1997
Across the moors of northern Yorkshire, few things change. The broad expanses of moorland, the rolling hills inland, and especially the towns withstand decades if not centuries, forever constant. It is a staid existence in need of a little excitement.
A number of trailers and trucks arrived in the town of Peckering in the predawn hours. Tubes and struts were unloaded. Tents were raised and corrals were set up. The locals, waking to the morning, spied this activity from a distance. 'What could it be?' was on everyone's lips. It became obvious when cameras, tripods and lamps were placed in positions. Actors came out of their trailers in garish period costumes confirming the rumors: a movie shoot. Word spread quickly through town. By breakfast, the entire population, some eight hundred residents, clustered around the hip-high barricades. More rumors flew than birds in the sky. Teens, home for the holidays, craned their necks to get a better look at the actors' trailers. The most popular rumors said that everyone's favorite teen heartthrob was the leading man, and he was in the big striped trailer.
* * * * *
On the other side of the shoot, the crew moved with trained economy. They were under a tight schedule. No time to worry about the locals, they had a shoot to set up. For the villagers, this threatened to overshadow Christmas in excitement. For the veteran crew, this was another hard day's work.
"Dulcinea?" the director's assistant called out.
A young Spanish woman stepped out of a horse trailer and brushed her hands on her jeans. "Over here!" she raised her hand so he could spot her over the carpenters carrying long beams of lumber.
"Corrals are set up over there. Get a move on!" the short man ordered gruffly. He moved onto the next order of business.
"Come on, Rosie," Dulcinea spoke plainly to the horse. The horse willingly obeyed, stepping out of the trailer. Dulcinea pointed to the pen and the horse continued with no further direction.
Dulcinea talked to the other horses. They, too, trotted toward the corrals. Everyone slowed in his or her work, watching the animals amble into the pen without any lead. There were murmurs of amazement. When the horses were in the corral and out of the way, Dulcinea sought out the assistant and found him with the director.
"We're lucky the weather is so good. But a winter storm is breathing down our neck. If we don't finish these scenes before it breaks, we'll have to sit on our backsides 'til spring," the director said as he conferred with his gruff assistant.
"It will be a tight squeeze," the assistant replied. "If we do the equestrian scenes first, then the group battles, then the sword fights..." He trailed off for a moment. "Worse comes to worst, we can do those last two back at the studio. Should have everyone back by Christmas Eve."
"Good." The director nodded. "Ah, Senorita el Taboso. I'm so glad we were able to get you on short notice."
"Glad to be here." The dark haired woman shook his hand. "The horses are corralled, but I'd like to ask if we can stable them in a barn. If this clear weather breaks, I don't want my friends caught out in the cold."
The director nodded again. "Sensible enough. Bear, see to it."
"Bear?" She sounded a little surprised. "That's your name?"
"Dulcinea is yours?" the gruff assistant shot back.
"Touché," Dulcinea conceded and returned to her horses.
"Dulcinea? That's a stage name, right?" Bear asked the director.
"As far as I know, Dulcinea is her real name. Her mum must be a Cervantes fan. Now, on to business." The pair continued down their list of production headaches.
* * * * *
Dulcinea was heading back to the horses when she heard a distinctive whistle that made her look around. Suddenly, a falcon swept low, inches from her head. Dulcinea saw the bird land on an outstretched arm clad in a hawker's glove.
"When they said they got the best, I didn't think they meant you," said a warm voice thick with a European accent.
"Gusto!" Dulcinea smiled a heart-melting smile. "Where's Sunny?"
"Right behind you." A suntanned woman wearing a brown duster tapped her on the shoulder. They shared a big hug. "Hey, Dulci."
Gustav (Gusto to his friends) and Sunny were a husband-wife, animal training team. They were as unlikely a couple as Dulcinea ever met. Gustav was a walking mountain at six foot six. Sunny was barely five feet. Gustav with his black hair, pale skin and brooding Eastern European air contrasted sharply to Sunny's white blonde hair, deep brown skin and a sweet Georgia peach demeanor. Together, they trained everything from eagles to tigers.
"What are you two doing here? I thought you had a cushy serial job in New Zealand," Dulcinea asked.
"Season's wrapped up in post-production and we saw a chance for some work," Sunny said.
"Plus, it's hotter than Hades down there. Better to face a cold winter up here, than that irrepressible summer," Gustav added as he returned the bird to its cage.
Dulcinea saw the horses getting antsy. The whine of the carpenter's buzzsaw was making them anxious. "I have to see to the fellas. Let's meet up later."
"Sure thing. Dinner?" Sunny received a nod from the Spanish woman before Dulcinea jogged to the corral.
* * * * *
Dulcinea and her stable hand, Ron, rode two of the mounts through the countryside. The horses needed to be acclimated to their location otherwise they wouldn't perform at their peak. They traveled across the moors and now climbed one of the ridges.
"This is a pretty place," Ron commented. Dulcinea nodded, then brought her steed to a halt as they came over the hills.
"Look at that!" Ron whispered as he joined her in a view of the ruins below.
"Let's check it out." Dulcinea urged her horse forward without waiting for a reply from Ron.
The ruins of an abbey stood on a small rise in the back of the valley. The walls remained intact along with the rose window and one of the towers, but the roof was gone. As they approached past a field of rocks and flagstones, the horses abruptly stopped.
"Come on you stubborn..." Ron urged his horse.
Dulcinea looked at him sharply. Her cardinal rule was no bad-mouthing the animals. 'People don't like being called names. The same holds with horses.' She drilled that into her staff. Ron swallowed his harsh words.
"If the horses don't want to go any further, there's probably a reason." Dulcinea dismounted. She looked the horse in the eye, reassuring him. Ron dismounted too, but he went on toward the abbey.
"Ron, where are you going?"
"To find out what's so scary about a crumbling church."
"That boy has less sense than hairs on his smooth chin," Dulcinea grumbled. "You two stay here."
The horses obeyed, remaining where they stood. Dulcinea caught up with Ron as he entered the church. The two went down the center aisle toward the back. There was nothing to the back of the church, just an open view to the end of the valley. The entire rear wall was a pile of rubble, fallen over years ago. More than one column had collapsed laying across the stone brackets for the pews. Ron peered out the openings that once held stained glass pictorials. Dulcinea went around the pulpit. In the slightly sunken part of what was once the ambulatory, Dulcinea found statues. Gothic grotesques, a few large ones and a number of small ones, filled the passage. They looked like devil hounds, demon dogs that belonged on the cornices, not hidden down here. Someone must have taken them down to start a statuary garden of some sort.
"Well, I don't see anything that would spook the horses." Ron called out to her. "Find anything?"
"Nope," Dulcinea returned. "Maybe they sensed a spirit. Animals are adept at seeing ghosts."
"You're not one of those paranormal chicks, are you?" Ron joined her in the mildly clutter free aisle. "Had a girlfriend like that, into ghosts and aliens and stuff."
"Well you don't have to worry. I don't want to be your girlfriend," Dulcinea joked. Before Ron could come up with a reply Dulcinea remarked, "We should get back. It's almost dinner time."
At mention of food, Ron gave up the ghost chase and hurried back to the horses. They mounted up and headed back to the set, their excursion fading from their minds.
* * * * *
Dulcinea and Ron fed, watered and groomed all the horses. Afterwards, she lavished some attention on herself. A hot shower and a change of clothes later, she was ready for dinner. The actors took their meals in their trailers, but the crew could head into the village for a pint or two. She found Gustav and Sunny tending their own animals. When they finished, they walked into town.
Sunny had a passion for sunsets and today's was mildly spectacular. They stopped at the edge of a meadow, watching the sun dip below the western horizon. The bright orange and reds began to fade when they heard a long plaintive howl.
"Someone's sheep dog must be lonely," Gustav joked. The girls merely nodded. It wasn't funny enough to receive a laugh. Gusto's sense of humor was always a bit wry. At the far end of the meadow, they saw a couple of loping figures. In the growing darkness, the trio assumed it was that lonely sheep dog and its friend.
* * * * *
The local pub in Peckering, and the only one for that matter, was the Plucked Duck. Business was brisk with crew stopping for a lager or ale and the townsfolk staying to meet the newcomers. Dulcinea spotted some of the crew regaling the locals with tales of fabulous stars and exotic locales from the far-off land of cinema.
One cameraman had the young women gathered around him as he told the deep dark secrets of the stars. "It's true! No lie! Mr. Big-Bad-Action-Hero sleeps with a nightlight shaped like a teddy bear."
The girls giggled and begged him to tell them more.
A make-up artist had a similar harem of young men, though they seemed more interested in how well she filled out her top than her cosmetic acumen. Gustav got them drinks and a booth. One young man came up to them.
"What do you guys do?" he asked.
"Handle the animals," Sunny said plainly. The boy harumphed and moved on to the next newcomer.
"I guess we aren't worth his attention," Dulcinea commented.
None of them took offense. They wanted quiet, something the others couldn't get if they tried. The men around the make-up artist plied her with questions, but the cameraman lost most of his fans when the actors' weight trainer walked through the door. At the next table, an argument bubbled over.
"They think we're all just bumpkins here. Well, we have our own stories," an older man hollered. He pounded the table, rattling a phalanx of beer glasses. "Do ya have barghests in London, New York or Hollywood? No!"
"Only here," he pounded the table again for emphasis, "can you find a barghest!"
The rest of the locals nodded in general agreement. The film crew gave bewildering looks.
The cameramen asked, "What are barghests?"
"Oh ho, so the world travelers don't know everything," another loudmouth teased, slipping into the low hushed tones of a storyteller. "The barghests are ghost hounds that roam the moors. On nights when the mist is up and moon glows like a large baleful eye, the barghests are out on the prowl. They wait for unsuspecting travelers like you. Travelling the road, coming back from this pub perhaps. You'll hear them howl. (Someone at the bar howled) A sound that can freeze your blood. You trying running, but they already have your scent. You look around to see them, but the fog is too thick. And just when you're within sight of safety, then..."
A man snuck up behind the cameraman and began barking viciously. The cameraman jumped out of his chair and the whole tavern burst out in laughter. At first, the cameraman looked like he was going to start throwing punches, but after a moment his anger dissolved and joined in the laughter himself.
"Monster stories." Gustav looked to his wife.
"Every town has a local legend," Sunny replied.
"Aye, like New York and their gargoyles."
"I don't know. Most myths have a grain of truth," Dulcinea added. "And the news coverage on the gargoyles is authentic."
"I'd imagine you'd believe it," Gustav teased. "Chased any windmills lately?"
"Careful, Gusto," Sunny warned. "Don't make fun of one who can lay you out flat on your back."
"That was a fluke," Gustav argued. "How was I suppose to know that she knew Brazilian dance fighting?"
"You know now," Dulcinea hid a smile by taking a sip from her glass, remembering the bout.
The evening progressed and the bar got louder the later it got. A loudmouth boisterously challenged anyone and everyone to a game of darts. None took him up on it, caring nothing for the loudmouth. To his thinking, everyone was afraid to take on the regional dart champion. With no takers, he went back to drinking and grew louder with each glass.
"How about you little bird?" the loudmouth said as he set his sights on Dulcinea. "Your companions are too scared to step to the line."
"No thanks," Dulcinea declined.
"Aww, come on." The loudmouth reached into his pocket, pulled out a note from his wallet. "Here! Fifty pounds if you win. I'll even spot you ten points."
"Easy money, Dulci." Gustav winked broadly at the drunk.
"It's almost like stealing from him," Sunny argued. "Let him keep his money."
Dulcinea agreed with Sunny and turned him down again.
"That's all right. That's all right, little bird. I'm sure we can find other ways to have fun. How about you come here and give me a big wet kiss?"
Her friends shook their heads, like they were mourning a condemned man. Dulcinea went to his table and slapped down a fifty pound note of her own.
"And I'll spot you twenty points." Dulcinea took up the darts and threw them in rapid-fire succession, each hitting the bull's eye.
The loudmouth was dumbstruck. For the first time all that evening, he was quiet. He went to the dartboard scratching his head in wonderment.
Dulcinea gathered up the notes and went to the bartender. "Make sure he gets coffee from now on and see that he gets home safely." Dulcinea handed the bartender the man's fifty pounds.
"Sometimes, you're too good for your own good, Dulci." Gustav commented.
"Someone has to be," Dulcinea replied.
The door was flung open. The diminutive figure of Bear stormed in. All the crew either hopped to their feet or choked on their drinks. The scowl on his face announced that he wasn't happy.
"We shoot early," was all he said. The crew got up and hastily left. Dulci, Gustav and Sunny were last to leave. Bear stopped them. "A small problem. Something broke into the set. Ron said it was a monster. Pffft." Bear expressed how unlikely that was. "Whatever it was, it broke into the feed bins and spooked the horses."
"That'd be the barghests paying you a little visit," the old man said with a laugh.
The same man who scared the cameraman gave a little howl as the crew left.
* * * * *
Word of the barghests spread. Soon, despite their teasing of the film crew, the entire town had crowded into the courtyard of the Plucked Duck. The local constable was called in. The first thing that he did was dispel the barghest 'rumor'.
"It's probably some dog gone wild," he reassured the townspeople, "Enough of this nonsense about ghost hounds."
"It was a ghost hound," Ron, the stable hand argued. Most of the film folk had returned to town when they saw the crowd gathering. "I saw it! It had a coat like yellow fire and eyes glowing like two white coals! And I got a picture of it!"
"How did you get a picture of it?" Dulcinea asked before the constable.
"Well, I was with Ashley and we were... ah... securing the camera equipment when we heard the horses. We came out just in time to see the beast scamper for the moors."
"Securing the cameras?" Bear wore a grim scowl. "You two were making it out. That's why you weren't in the stable where you were supposed to be."
"You have this picture?" another man asked. He wasn't the constable, but an older man.
"Ashley's developing it right now," Ron answered.
The constable and the older man, a Village Council member whose name was Higginsbottom, continued to question Ron. Dulcinea left them to check on the horses.
* * * * *
She did a quick scan of the barn and each stall. Dulcinea came to Rosie's stall. She patted Rosinante's flanks. Her horse was unflappable, thanks to much training and working in both the movies and the circus.
"The others have calmed down," Gustav said as he checked each stall again.
"Looks like it was after the feed in the bin," Sunny said as she joined them. "I cleaned up the mess and put another lock on it."
"What happened to the first one?" Dulcinea knew she kept the bins secure.
"Look." Sunny handed Dulci the two pieces of the lock, the U shaped latch and the bolt. "It looks like a claw took a swipe at it."
They exchanged baffled looks. No animal, not even a bear, could rip apart steel.
"Figure it out tomorrow. We could all use some rest," Gustav counseled sensibly.
Sunny and Gustav started to leave. "Coming, Dulci?"
"I'll sleep with the horses. It might settle them a bit to have a friendly face here."
"Okay, see ya in the morning," Sunny replied as she joined her husband.
Dulcinea gathered a blanket and picked a spot in the hay to lay down. It took a while for the sounds of the night to soothe her to sleep. Soon, her breathing fell into the steady rhythm of slumber and then the dreams came.
* * * * *
Dulcinea was on the broad moor. The sky was dark and the winds howled with an approaching storm. Suddenly, the marshes were crowded with combatants and she was in the middle of it. The clang of swords on shields filled her ears. Bodies pushed and shoved around her. Dulcinea saw glimpses of the fighters. They were inhuman.
Small, squat, boy-sized creatures with red caps and hellish grins. People glowing a ghastly green aura threw lances of light. White hounds with red ears bayed frightfully before disappearing in the melee. The sight of them terrified her. Fighting against this army were animal people. Eagle men and unicorn women, and dozens of other animals like badgers and lions, took up the fight. They took to wing, flying into the fierce battle raging all around her.
In the middle of the battle, Dulcinea realized she was no longer alone. Rosinante appeared at her side, a rider astride her broad back. Rosie was biddable to her, but allowed no one else to mount her. Who was this stranger? It was a man in full armor, with a gold dragon crest on his red breastplate. He had brown hair, graying at the temples, and a hard look in his eyes as he faced the onslaught.
He saw her and offered his hand. Dulcinea looked at the battle rampaging around her, then at the hand. She was about to take it when the dreamscape changed. In an instant the battle was gone and she was in the ruins of a church, the church she had seen that afternoon. Columns stretched up to a roof that was no longer there. The floor was broken and the pulpit was in shambles. She heard a growl come from behind the rubble of the pulpit. Dulcinea drew near the sound, peering over the pulpit. She saw six rocks in the ambulatory. Each one growled at her until she put her hand on it, then started panting happily.
Battle consumed the dreamscape again. Half men and evil fairies started to notice her. Dulcinea began to back away, but the battle had her hemmed in. Suddenly Rosie and her rider appeared again. The man offered his hand again and whispered to her. Despite the cacophony of the fighting, she could hear his voice clearly. "Help me."
Dulcinea woke up with a start. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. Even though she couldn't see anything in the dark, she looked around anyway. She heard all the horses sleeping well. It was just a dream.
"What do they put in the beer around here?" she said, flopping back down to stare at the ceiling hidden in the darkness.
* * * * *
Arthur woke up with a start. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. He looked around the dark bedroom, but no one was there. It was such a vivid dream. He tried going back to sleep, but couldn't. Living with gargoyles meant odd sleeping patterns. He wondered if other humans who knew gargoyles went through this. If Lady Katharine, Sir Tom or Dame Elisa had these bouts of insomnia, trading days for nights.
Arthur went to the next room and turned on the computer. He thought about Captain Marter as he flipped the power switch, just as he did every time he used the magic box. It was the captain who had taught him to use this modern marvel.
"This is the twentieth century, and you might as well learn to use its devices. And this isn't a magic box, it's a computer. See! Even Lucy uses it. Surely the King of the Britons can handle something a child can," Captain Marter goaded, cajoled and finally out and out shamed Arthur to learn to use the machine.
Arthur clicked on the browser and went to the news site. Learning of events happening half a world away still amazed him, even long after the novelty of cars and electric lights had faded.
Arthur read the day's news, hours before the paper hit the stands. He clicked through the site coming to the The Weird and the Wonderful page. Leo called it the electronic 'agony column' similar to those in the Sherlock Holmes stories. Past activities of the Minions found their way to this page. Arthur hoped there would be some mention of their latest doings. Leads in the Montrose investigation were exhausted and now the Minions themselves were becoming difficult to find.
Arthur muttered to himself as he read the glowing screen. "Giant sea monster reported off the coast of France. More sightings of Nessie at Loch Ness. Ghost hounds in Yorkshire."
Griff and Leo came up the stairs to the common room, speaking in low tones.
"I tried explaining to Lucy why she didn't get a pet for Solstice. An animal needs attention she can't give during the day. And there aren't any gargoyle hounds to have as her own private pet."
"What did she say?" Griff asked.
"'It's not fair.' I do hate saying 'no' to her, but this is one thing I can't change," Leo replied.
"Well, I wish... Oh, good evening, your majesty," Griff greeted the king. "Have a good sleep?"
"Something like that." Arthur tried remembering his dream, but it was already a faded memory, "Anything to report?"
"No," Griff sat down next to the king, "The city's quiet. I guess even scum and villainy take a holiday. Hey, what's this about barghests? Leo, come take a look."
"Just a story about sighting them. Does it mean anything to you?" Arthur asked.
"Well, Brock would know the whole story, but I remember a tale in our clan's history. Do you, Leo? In the tenth century, our clan fled northward to escape persecution. They had to move long and hard. And unfortunately, they left the beasts behind. When I was a hatchling, I always thought that was unfair. When the clan returned to England, they found some of the beasts. But when they heard stories of ghost hounds on the moors, they figured there were survivors. Times being what they were, they couldn't venture far to collect them."
"Well this story says a ghost hound attacked a movie set in Peckering," Arthur said as he skimmed the page.
"Looks like they have a picture too." Griff moved the mouse and clicked on the icon. The picture that loaded was a bit fuzzy, but unmistakable. The hue of the creature was a bright yellowish-red. Its size and shape were definitely not those of a wolf or boar. It was a gargoyle beast.
"Feel up to a little hunt?" Arthur said as he stared at the picture. "Something tells me we should go there."
* * * * *
Darien Montrose read the newspaper while eating breakfast. After perusing the business section, he thumbed through the rest of the paper. He stopped near the back. There was a story about a barghest paying an early Christmas visit to Peckering. What caught his eye was the picture. Darien went to his study and found the reports Bruce and Stephen had made about Arthur and his companions. He found a picture of the beast that traveled with Arthur and the gargoyle, Griff. Aside from the bright yellow-red color, there was little difference between the barghest and Arthur's pet, Cavall. It made him think about the Illuminati. How much would they pay for a gargoyle beast? Darien picked up the phone and started dialing. "Hello, Montrose here," he said curtly into the receiver. " I have a job for you."
* * * * *
Kevin, the cabby drove Arthur and Emrys in a rental moving van up to Yorkshire. They'd been on the road since before sun up. Emrys slept against the window. Arthur stayed awake by talking to Kevin. The cab driver was a delight. He seemed to know something about everything.
"It's a cabby's prerogative." Kevin squinted a little as they turned into the sun. "You get all kinds in a taxi. Like once I got this Aussie interested in all the infamous spots in London. If I didn't know me history and the city, I would have lost a fare. You got to know sports, weather, politics, culture, everything."
"What do you know about barghests?"
"Ghost stories really. Yorkshire is famous for them. Hound of the Baskervilles made them famous, but that was set over by Devon. The barghests aren't the only ghosts that roam the moors. I've heard tell of ghost riders, specters who died in wars fought near there and phantom wanderers forever searching for their way home. Well here we are!"
The town of Peckering came into view. It was a quaint village at the head of a small valley just before the moors. They parked just outside the town. The parking lot was half full with minivans and RVs, a concession to the tourists. Arthur woke Emrys and the three piled out of the truck.
"It's going to be a warm Christmas," Kevin said as he peered at the sun. Emrys nodded in agreement.
"My apologies for taking you away on such short notice. I know you must have plans to spend this time with your family," Arthur said to the cabby.
"S'all right. My brother lives in the States, and spends it with his family. I haven't got any particular place to be," Kevin explained. "I just think of this as a paid holiday."
"We're staying at the Bodell Inn, over by the Plucked Duck," Arthur explained.
"Then I'll be checking in. I'm a bit tired. What about you?" Kevin said as he stifled a yawn.
"We're going to check out the town. See what the shops have."
They parted company. Kevin headed toward the hotel, Arthur and Emrys strolled into the village.
"Why are we here again?" Emrys asked.
"I told you already." Arthur looked at him faintly surprised.
"At four in the morning. All that got through to my brain was we were going somewhere," Emrys retorted.
"Well, Griff and Leo suspect that there are gargoyle hounds up here. We wanted to check it out."
"Okay, so where do we start?"
Arthur looked at the pages he printed out before leaving. "The story was reported by a Martin Higginsbottom. That seems as good a start as any."
* * * * *
Arthur and Emrys stepped out of the local newspaper office. Mr. Higginsbottom was the editor-in-chief of the paper as well as the reporter of the article. His secretary told them that they could find Mr. Higginsbottom at the far side of town, covering the movie shoot. Emrys and the king headed over there, taking in the village as they went.
"You know that's one thing I missed," Emrys said abruptly.
"What's that?" Arthur asked.
"A simple Christmas." Emrys pointed to the garlands that hung from the second story windows and the wreaths on each door. "Christmas in London is so commercial."
Arthur heartily agreed. He hardly recognized the holiday, with Christmas trees, presents, and jolly men clad in red. The children certainly loved it. He thought of Lucy plying her father for a puppy. Even Caspian hadn't outgrown the spirit of getting. But overall, he preferred Peckering's simplistic approach to the holidays. They left the town, striking out on the road heading across the moors.
* * * * *
"Hey, Rosie," Dulcinea rubbed the horse's nose, "ready for a little exercise?"
Rosinante nodded her head up and down. Dulcinea looked around, everything was set. Filming had been delayed to fix a camera. Dulcinea thought a little entertainment might settle down the locals serving as extras. The townsfolk gathered around one end of the corral. Three targets were placed in a half-circle at the other end.
"Hit it, Gusto!"
Gustav pressed the play button on the boom-box. The quick paced The Man of La Mancha rang out. First, the trumpets blared starting the introduction. Dulcinea mounted a trotting Rosie, swinging effortlessly into the saddle. They galloped the circumference of the corral, establishing a rhythm.
Don Quixote began his first stanza. Dulcinea let the reins slip in her hands, steering by pressure from her knees. She reached for the sash studded with throwing knives as Don Quixote reached the chorus. She threw each knife in time with the beat. "I am I, Don Quixote" thunk "The Lord of La Mancha" thunk "And my destiny calls" thunk "and I go. / And the wild winds of fortune" thunk "will carry me onward," thunk "Oh whithersoever they blow." thunk. Each throw landed dead center, impressing the audience to applause.
Now, Sancho joined in with his stanza. Rosie did her turn with back kicks and leaps on the beat. Toward the end of Sancho's part, they swung around to Sunny. She handed Dulci a riding bow and a quiver of arrows.
Don Quixote sang his second verse. Dulci stood up in her saddle. She fired at the same targets at which she had thrown the knives. Instead of aiming for the center, she deliberately aimed for the outer rim. On the first pass she aimed for the very top, the second pass a third of the way down on the rim; the last pass, the remaining third.
Don Quixote and Sancho sang two-part the final chorus. Dulci hung her bow on the saddle horn and slipped out of the stirrups. She did a series of jumpers. She swung her leg over the side and slid down. She hit the ground and sprung up and over the saddle to do it again on the other side. It was a favorite at the circus. She jumped over once, twice, three times. She rode toward the outside so the crowd could get a good look of her. She also got a good look at the crowd.
Dulcinea saw the man from her dream. Immediately, the dream replayed in her mind; the battle, the combatants, the growling rocks, everything. In that instant, she saw that he recognized her. She lost concentration, over-jumped and landed badly. Rosie continued running along the corral, but Dulcinea was eating dirt, just as the song concluded, "Onward to glory we go!"
Gusto and Sunny hopped the fence and ran to her. "Dulci, are you alright?"
Dulci spat out a little dirt. "Yeah, fine. Just bruised my pride a bit." She brushed the seat of her pants.
Gusto looked around at her seat. "Doesn't seem bruised to me."
That remark earned him a punch in the arm by his mate and an angry glare from both females. He quickly apologized. Dulcinea scanned the crowd for the face she saw, but he was gone. A dream from last night, walking around today. It means something, but what?
* * * * *
The day went quickly for Arthur and Emrys. They caught up with Martin Higginsbottom who retold the story. He provided the name of the eyewitness, a stable hand with the movie crew. They found him in town, enjoying some newfound wealth. Apparently, other people had been asking about the barghests and paying him to retell the story. Arthur parted with a few pounds to get information from him. The stable hand embellished a lot, but Arthur managed to pull together the salient points. The barghest broke into the feed bins in the movie horses' barn. That made sense to Arthur. It was probably hungry. They'd have to wait for nightfall, for Cavall to awaken and get the scent.
Later that afternoon, Arthur and Emrys had tea, discussing their plan of attack.
"I hope we find them first." Emrys looked out of the restaurant window at the activity going on in the street. Young men gassed up their ATV's. The youths weren't alone. Older men and women made similar preparations for the hunt.
"These folks look likely to stuff and mount the hounds," Emrys observed as he sipped his tea.
"Might be a good idea to join them," Arthur said absently. "We can make sure they don't kill the barghests."
"I doubt they will let me come along," Emrys replied, "After all, I am just a kid. But it seems like a good idea. So while you're accompanying the fearless hunters, the gargoyles and I will do our own hunt. How does that sound?"
"Good," Arthur said in the same distracted tone.
"Arthur?" Emrys said, noting the king's pensive attitude. "You care to share what's troubling you?"
"The girl riding the horse this morning. I think I know her."
"Really? From where?" Emrys set down his cup.
"I had a dream about her last night. I think she's why I came up here."
"What do you mean? You think she knows about the barghests?"
"No. She's with the film crew, not from around here. I can't put my finger on it. She seems special."
"We're all special," Emrys said plainly. "Special, how?"
"I wish I knew." Arthur looked out the window. "Looks like they're getting ready to move out."
Arthur paid for the tea and crumpets and got up.
"I don't need to tell you to be careful," Emrys said as he followed Arthur out onto the street.
"No, but I appreciate the sentiment anyway." Arthur took off at a jog, joining the band of hunters.
* * * * *
Ron, the stable hand, counted his bills near the trailers. Bear would have his head if he wasn't at the stable, but for the price people paid to hear the story, he was willing to risk a little heat.
"You are the one who saw the barghest?" a deep voice spoke from around the corner.
"Maybe? Make it worth my while and I'll tell you."
"How much?" the voice asked.
"I'll pay you two."
"Two pounds," Ron sneered.
"No, I'll only break two of your fingers," the voice promised.
"Right?" Ron said a little nervously and backed away from the voice.
He turned his back, returning to work, when swift hands grabbed him, lifted him bodily off the ground and hauled him back into the shadows. The man slammed Ron against a trailer. His ice-blue eyes stared hard into Ron's.
"I've come to hunt. If I can't hunt the barghest, I'll hunt you. Which will it be?"
* * * * *
Sunset came and with it, from the parking lot, three muffled roars. The moving van rocked slightly before Emrys opened the door. Griff, Leo and Cavall hopped out.
"Welcome to the town of Peckering," Emrys said smartly.
"Where's the king?" Griff asked, caping his wings.
"Looking for the barghests." Emrys nodded toward the village. "We've got an 'angry villagers' syndrome here. They're hunting the barghests with an eye on killing them."
"Then we'll have to get to them first," Leo put in.
"Get to what first?" Kevin rounded the truck. He saw Emrys, but the two gargoyles startled him.
"Hello, do you remember us? We're from Into the Mystic," Griff said quickly.
Kevin calmed down a spate. "Yeah, the shopkeepers that wear masks. I didn't think you blokes wore them everywhere."
Emrys looked hopeful. Maybe Griff could bluff their way out of this. He let out a sigh as Cavall bounded out of the van. Their cover was blown.
Kevin jumped back. Griff grabbed the hound. Kevin saw his four-fingered hands and green skin and knew they weren't people. He began stammering and backing away when he stumbled into Leo.
"I know what you are thinking, but we aren't monsters," Leo tried explaining. Kevin was not listening. He dropped to the ground and just sat, staring at the gargoyles. It appeared as if he had fainted, but his eyes were still open as though he had simply shut down from the shock.
* * * * *
"Cut! That's a wrap for tonight!" the director shouted. He looked at his watch. "4:43, I hate short days."
"Look on the bright side, they only get longer from here," a camerawoman said as she tried to cheer him up. She was rewarded with a smile.
"Bear, schedule the market scene for early tomorrow and the duels for the afternoon. Listen up people! You all did a good job. Get some sleep and come ready to work tomorrow."
The crew returned his words of encouragement with smiles, nods, and the occasional weary groan. Gusto, Sunny and Dulcinea turned and headed for the trailers.
"I'm never playing an elf again," Sunny vowed to her friends as they went to their trailers.
"I think you made a lovely elf." Gustav's voice had a tinge of mirth. "Especially when the children asked where Santa Claus was."
He got a dirty look from Sunny. Dulcinea tried to cheer up her friend.
"All the camera caught was your arm and the eagle. I don't think anyone will recognize you."
"Maybe," Sunny said doubtfully. "But if I ever wear a green leather outfit again, somebody shoot me."
Gustav changed the subject. "Want to go into town for a beer?"
"Love to, but I've got to settle the horses," Dulcinea declined.
"Let Ron handle it," Sunny said as she looked around for the hand. "Where is he anyway?"
"He tore out of here right after the last animal scene, spouting some banana oil about being ill."
"I'll bet," Gustav grumbled. "Probably selling his story to the tabloids as we speak."
"Either way the sword cuts, I'll have to do the grooming. Try and have fun without me."
"We'll try," Sunny teased.
* * * * *
Dulcinea carefully groomed and brushed each horse. She was putting up the tack and bridles when the roars of motors set her steeds on edge. Dulcinea stepped out of the barn to see what the commotion was. About a dozen people on ATV's and dirt bikes came roaring up to the barn. Another six were handling hunting dogs.
"What's this all about?" Dulcinea demanded.
"Are you the one who saw the moor hound?" the self-designated leader stepped forward.
"No, he left town," she said, her accent growing thick with irritation. "What do you want?"
"It was here. The dogs need a scent to go hunting. Let us in."
"And have you upset my horses? Keep dreaming!"
The hunters shared a chuckle. Dulcinea wasn't an intimidating figure. Five foot five and a lean, athletic body made her the least threatening thing in their eyes. The leader gestured for two of their number to hold her while they went inside. They grabbed her arms and started to haul her off to the side. She stomped on one bully's instep, then swung that leg into the midsection of the other man. Both let go in pain and she quickly landed a couple more blows before shoving them back to their fellows. The dogs bayed at all the excitement, causing the horses inside to wicker louder.
"And you boys," Dulcinea stared at the dogs. "Hush!"
The dogs immediately quieted with a few whimpers. The hunters were stunned. Dulcinea looked fiercely at the hunters. The hunters stared back. It looked like something would break when someone from the back shouted. "There it is!"
On the overhanging ridge, a pair of glowing eyes stared at them, then took off. The hunters revved their bikes and tore up the ridge after it. The dogs remained silent until they reached the top of the valley, then resumed their baying. In a couple of minutes, only swinging floodlights and howling dogs marked the hunting party's passing.
Dulcinea shook her head, muttering something in Spanish, before returning to the barn. "Sorry to keep you up, Rosie, but it looks like we'll be doing a little night riding."
* * * * *
Arthur breathed a sigh of relief as the hunting party left Dulcinea. When the woman confronted them, he hoped she would be sensible and let them by. He didn't want to see her hurt. When things went bad and the men grabbed her, Arthur had started pushing through the crowd, with the intent of helping her. But by the time he got to the fore, she had already dispatched her assailants and silenced the dogs. He broke off as the locals on bikes tore on ahead. Those with dogs were close behind. The rest followed as best they could. Arthur wanted to talk to Dulcinea, but he had to keep up with the others.
"We've got it on the run!" one of the locals shouted.
The others let out a whoop as they gave chase. Suddenly a loud shot rang out.
"Who fired?" several in the group demanded. No one knew. Arthur got clear of the group to see where the hound was.
"The beast is down. Over there!" another woman shouted.
Arthur looked up the ridge and saw a man stand over something. The group charged up the slope. The big man kneeled over the quarry, but at sight of the locals he took off, disappearing into the dark. When the rest of the party got up there, they let out a moan. Arthur pushed some of them aside. It wasn't a gargoyle hound. Under a tight metal net was a gray mastiff doused with phosphorescent powder.
"A bleeding hound of the Baskervilles," someone growled.
"Just a prank," a hunter growled into his cell phone to the bikers at the bottom of the ridge.
The crowd quickly dispersed, save for Arthur. None seemed particularly interested in setting the poor animal free. He pulled on the stakes, but they were buried deep. At last, he pulled the net loose. The mastiff panted happily and licked his face before bounding off into the moors, hopefully going home.
Arthur looked at the net and the spikes. This was fired from a gun. That would explain the shot heard. He recalled a similar weapon in Macbeth's armory long ago. But none of the locals carried a gun like that.
"Someone else is hunting the barghests," Arthur reasoned. "Someone with resources and their own plans for the hounds."
Arthur looked around. Everyone was at the bottom of the ridge now. The dogs searched for a scent other than the mastiff's. Arthur joined the others, but kept his eyes open. The locals weren't the only danger to the barghests.
* * * * *
"Maybe we should get some smelling salts for him," Leo said as he waved his hand in front of Kevin.
"I'm fine," Kevin rumbled, getting his feet under him, "I just needed some time to let all this sink in. You're the gargoyles I've heard tell about, roaming London and New York?"
"Yes," Griff answered.
"You and that other one like a unicorn," Kevin looked at Leo. "Those aren't masks."
"That's correct. Sometimes the best hiding place is in plain sight."
"So why are you here?"
"Actually, you brought us here." Griff grinned, "What do you think you were hauling?"
Kevin mumbled. "Well that explains why the mileage was off."
Emrys tapped Griff's shoulder. "We should get moving. We don't want to attract any more attention."
"Would you care to join us?" Leo offered his hand. Kevin was hesitant, but shrugged and accepted Leo's help up.
"Good show!" Griff smiled. "Now let's get on to business."
"And what exactly is our 'business'?" the cabby asked.
"Hunting myths," Emrys said with an impish smile.
* * * * *
Riding through the forest at night wasn't one of Dulcinea's smartest ideas, but she always played a hunch. The picture of the barghest kept tugging on her mind. There was something familiar about the shape. When she heard the hunting dogs, it started to click. In her dream, the stones in the abbey growled like dogs or hounds. The abbey was the same church she and Ron found yesterday. It was just a hunch, but if the barghests were anywhere, those ruins might be it.
The waxing moon just rose, giving her enough light to see her way. There was the church. In the moon's half-light, it looked eerie, even a bit menacing. But Dulcinea steeled herself and urged Rosie onward.
"The worst I can be is wrong," she said to her horse. Rosie stopped abruptly.
It perplexed Dulcinea for a second, but then she remembered that the horses didn't approach the first time. Some cue told Rosinante to keep her distance. Another clue that the barghests might be here.
Dulcinea dismounted and entered the church with a flashlight. She moved down the center of the aisle, sweeping her light back and forth. She caught some movement out of the corner of her eye. She whipped her flashlight over to it, but it was gone. She heard some more movement. Rather than doing the sensible thing and running out of there, she went further inside.
Now, she heard something. It wasn't the vicious growl of an angry hound. It was playful yipping, almost like...
"Puppies?" Dulcinea looked over the rubble of the pulpit to see a litter of six...things. These were the same grotesques she found earlier, but now they were animated, moving around and playing.
"You're the fearsome barghests all the locals are worked up about?" Dulcinea came around to see the pups playing tug of war with a piece of wood. Another bounded up to Dulcinea in the awkward gait of a puppy whose feet were yet too big.
Dulcinea let the puppy slobber on her, as it sniffed her scent. The other pups turned around and saw their newcomer not as a danger, but as a new playmate. They all charged her to get her scent and see if she'd play with them. Dulcinea couldn't help but laugh. Their tongues licked and tickled her ankles. She didn't know what they were, but they certainly weren't monsters.
"Okay, settle down." She gently pushed them off her legs. "Now, where is your mother? Don't tell me you're here all by yourself."
"If their mother isn't here, then she will be shortly," a deep gravelly voice spoke from behind the pulpit.
Dulcinea bolted to her feet. "Who are you?"
The stranger was a big man, clad completely in black, hiding any distinguishing features. "Someone who likes to hunt. And right now, I'm hunting moor hounds."
One of the puppies ambled over to him and sniffed at his boots. The hunter callously kicked the puppy, causing it to scurry back with a yelp. Dulcinea gathered up the puppy and cooed some soothing words to it.
"If you're a hunter, then you know better than to mess with babies. Parents are never far away and they'll be howling mad if they think their children are in danger."
"Yes, I know, and that's exactly what I want. These whelps aren't sport. But an enraged beast!"
"Oh, you don't need some ghost hound to test your skill." Dulcinea came around the rocks, gesturing at the pups to stay where they were. "I can wail on your behind right now."
"Don't get in my way, little girl," the huntsman said with a hint of mirth and warning.
"If you're threatening these creatures, then yeah, I'm in your way." Dulcinea put her hands on her hips.
The huntsman let out a soft chuckle. "Another time." He faded into shadows, leaving the church. When she saw he vacated, she let out a little sigh.
"Too easy." Dulcinea shook her head. She turned to the puppies. "Not that I'm complaining," she said to them. "Let's find your mother."
She began looking around the aisles for any tracks or sign of the older barghests. Something metal clattered on the rocks. Dulcinea swung her light, illuminating a small canister. Before she could think, the canister spewed a gas. In heartbeats, the whole pulpit area was in a fog of sleeping gas.
Dulcinea tried to get away from it, but the choking fumes overpowered her. The pups were already down. Soon, Dulcinea followed. The night wind cleared away the sleeping gas and the huntsman returned.
"Foolish girl," he sneered.
* * * * *
A rough, wet tongue lapped Dulcinea's face. Her eyes fluttered open upon another barghest. This one was definitely an adult. Dulcinea got to her feet, looking around. The pups were gone. The yellow-red barghest followed her.
"Where are your babies?" she asked the hound, expecting the animal to answer. "That huntsman!" She swore in Spanish. "When I find him, I'll thrash his tail end from here to Seville."
Another howl came from the forest. A red barghest came loping into the church. At first, Dulcinea thought it was part of the pack, but the yellow-red dam growled a bit of a warning. The two approached and circled each other, once then twice. It was some form of greeting, because the two hounds butted each other and acted as though they were close friends.
"See, I told you Cavall found the scent." A voice outside the church became more distinct as its owner approached.
"There's a horse. Someone's in there," spoke an older voice with London accent.
Dulcinea was uncertain as to what to do; hide or confront the newcomers. Soon the decision was taken out of her hands. She heard a swooping of air and turned to see a huge eagle-man land next to her.
"Who the devil are you?" he demanded.
"I might ask you the same thing," Dulcinea shot back.
"What's all this?" another one, a lion man this time, said as he floated down through the absent roof.
Soon they were joined by two men. One was an older man in a sweater and cap. The other was a teenage boy, keeping in fashion with old hand-me-downs.
"Are you the guardian of the barghests?" Leo asked. It wasn't impossible. Captain Marter had kept the London clan's secret for years.
"I don't think so." Emrys stepped forward. "I saw you at the movie shoot, doing that trick riding."
"It's not a trick if you know how to focus." Dulcinea took control of the Q&A session. "Where are the hounds?"
The animal men looked at each other, then at the hounds sniffing the ground intensely. "Isn't that the only one?" the lion man asked.
"No." Dulcinea shook her head. "There were six pups and then some gutterskunk weasel calling himself a hunter took them."
"Took them?" The eagle man was stunned. "We have to find them!"
"Now you're talking." Dulcinea moved past them to the hounds.
The red newcomer lifted his head and let out a howl. The yellow-red hound joined him. They both took off, leaving the church.
"They got his scent. The huntsman will be expecting them. We've got to help them out!"
"Leo and I can carry you all," Griff offered before realizing there were three people and only two gargoyles. The group exited the church.
"We should get Arthur," Emrys said when they were outside. "He can handle something like this."
Emrys leapt on Leo's back as he climbed the church's tower. Griff looked at Kevin. He looked at Griff and the tall height his fellow gargoyle was ascending. "I don't know if I'm up to another flight."
"Quiet all right," Griff held up his claw, "We'll fly later."
Griff joined Leo at the height of the tower and took wing. Dulcinea rode up to Kevin. Rosinante kept shaking her head, obviously uncomfortable about being this close to the church. Dulcinea offered her hand.
"Unless you want to walk back in the dark?" she suggested.
Kevin realized his situation and took her hand. She hauled him up to the saddle, turning Rosie to leave.
"Hang on!" was all Kevin heard as Dulcinea urged her steed and they took off into the woods.
* * * * *
The happy hunting party was exhausted and footsore. After half a night of chasing a made-up mastiff and a few false leads, the locals had nothing to show for it. Their grumbling could be heard across the moors. They pushed out-of-gas bikes along and pulled them out of ditches hidden in the fog. Arthur hung back a little. He didn't think laughing in their presence was appropriate. He was several yards behind the slowest members of the party.
"What a waste of a night," one man griped.
"Well, lugging your bike all over creation, isn't my idea of a good time," his friend replied.
"All this time and not one barghest."
Cavall and a yellow-red hound ran behind the two locals, in the space between Arthur and the two pushing the bike. Arthur looked at the hounds racing along, wondering where they were going.
The locals were too absorbed in their complaining to notice.
"If it weren't for your bike, we'd be in town enjoying a pint," one whined to his fellow.
A swoop of wings made him look up. It was Griff and Leo carrying Emrys. Emrys waved to him, pointing to the top of hill to meet them there.
"Don't know why we thought the barghests are real. Nothing exciting ever happens here."
A gallop of hooves turned Arthur's head. The locals swore as the bike fell into a small ditch. Looking down, they never saw the girl and the cabby race by in a blur. The woman from Arthur's dream had a determined look on her face. Kevin clung to her waist, terror painted on his face. Not wanting to be left behind, Arthur started climbing the slope to join Griff, Leo and Emrys.
* * * * *
Kevin wondered why he thought riding was safer than flying. Dulcinea rode her horse at a hard pace through the trees. She kept her head down and urged Kevin to do the same.
"Your companions. What are they?" she yelled as they ducked underneath a low tree branch.
"Gargoyles," he managed to get out through his rattling teeth.
They burst out of the foliage into the expansive sheep meadows near town. Dulcinea brought her horse to a halt to look around. They lost sight of the beasts in the forest. Both scanned the area, then Kevin tapped her shoulder. "There!" Kevin pointed to two moving forms heading for Peckering.
Dulcinea turned Rosinante around and squeezed her into a full gallop. It didn't surprise Dulcinea that they were heading back to town. The huntsman would need a van or a truck or something to carry the barghests back. The town also offered familiar and open ground. They wouldn't stand a chance.
"Hey, who ever you are. Open my saddlebag. I need something!" Dulcinea shouted to Kevin.
* * * * *
The huntsman stood resolutely on the moor, the night wind whipping around his full length black coat. The pups cried plaintively behind the bars of the cage. The twin howls of Cavall and the Yorkshire beast answered their cries. They charged at the huntsman. The huntsman fired one shot at the beasts. A thick small canister arced low over the ground. The canister exploded into a cloud of sleeping gas that descended on the two beasts. They passed through the cloud, continuing to charge, but when they got within a few yards, they dropped into a stupor.
"Such a disappointment." The huntsman shook his head. "If Montrose didn't want you alive, I'd hunt you proper-like and take your head. Oh well. Guess I'll have to take my satisfaction with just the money."
A horse's whine got his attention. It was that girl again and she brought a friend, a thin man in a sweater and cap.
"Payback time," Dulcinea said as she swung off Rosie. She stared in disgust at the sleeping beasts. "You call this sport?"
"No, I call it a living," He withdrew a gun from his coat, but Dulcinea was quicker. She flung a throwing knife. It sliced the back of his gun hand. He dropped the gun, and grabbed his injured hand. He glared up at the girl.
"Well, don't just stand there clutching your hand in agony," Dulcinea said as she smiled sweetly. "Open that cage."
The huntsman tried backhanding her. She ducked beneath the blow. Dulcinea spun around for a roundhouse kick, but the huntsmen caught her leg, holding it to his side.
"Pathetic," he sneered.
Dulcinea jumped and spun horizontally, kicking the huntsman with leg that she stood on. Both went down in a tumble, but Dulcinea got to her feet first.
"Still think so?" Dulcinea caught her breath. The hunter got up swinging.
An exchange of blows followed that Bear would have given his eyeteeth to put in the film. The huntsman gave Dulcinea a series of punches, chops and jabs. Dulcinea blocked a number of them, but a few connected. She dodged more than she fought, getting him to wear himself down. Dulcinea's light-footedness was her advantage. She shuffled her feet, dancing to some inner music.
The huntsman made a lunge for her. Dulcinea cartwheeled out of the way, landing a glancing kick as she went. She dropped to the ground, sweeping out her leg to knock the huntsman down. The huntsman jumped over her leg avoiding the sweep, but it left himself off balance. Dulcinea sprang from a crouch, her left connecting with the huntsman's jaw.
The huntsman let out an enraged growl. Dulcinea had him. She gave a few more hits that angered him further. A swat on the behind, a toe-stomp, and the huntsman was boiling over with rage.
He swung madly, just wanting to hit this upstart wisp of a woman. Dulcinea danced out of range of his swing. He overextended with one swing. Dulcinea grabbed the arm, moved under it, and flipped him like a pancake. Dulcinea jumped on him, grabbed his arm and pushed it up his back.
"You'll leave these beasts alone. Right?" She pushed up the arm a little further, increasing the pain. "Right!"
"Yes!" the huntsman yelped in pain. Dulcinea disarmed him and took his keys.
Kevin handed her some high tensile strength wire, meant for the barghests, from the huntsman's truck. She tossed Kevin the keys and started tying up the huntsman. The pups jumped on Kevin licking his face in gratitude. He couldn't help but laugh, their tongues tickled. Rosinante nudged the adult hounds to wakefulness. By the time Arthur, Griff and the others arrived, it was all over.
Arthur and Griff stared disbelieving at the sight. Dulcinea was talking to Kevin in the bed of the truck, while the barghest pups, Cavall and the Yorkshire dame got to know each other. A few pups were nipping at the trussed up huntsman.
Emrys joined the king. "I got to say I'm impressed," Emrys deadpanned.
"I think our little group just got bigger," Griff quipped in response.
* * * * *
"So these barghests are your version of a watchdog?" Dulcinea said as she tried to get everything straight in her mind. "And the red one, he's yours."
"Actually, he's the king's," Griff corrected. "But you're right for the most part."
"Is she the only one?" Leo asked about the yellow-red hound.
"What do you mean?" Arthur asked.
"Well, hounds only lay one egg. But these pups are all the same age. How is it she laid six?"
"She didn't," Dulcinea pointed to the ridges where several sets of glowing eyes stared at them through the rising fog.
Two sets of eyes came down the slope. Two gargoyle beasts, one a bulky male in shades of brown wood and a lithe female, deep green in color, emerged from the mist. They approached 'Goldie' and Cavall, exchanging greetings, first circling each other, then butting the others' flanks.
"I suppose they want their children back," Leo commented.
"No," Dulcinea peered at the gargoyle beasts. "They want to go with you."
They looked at Dulcinea. She shrugged. "I understand animals."
"The red one, Cavall, he's told the others about safety. The pack wants to keep their young safe. They're letting you take the pups and these three will go with them."
"We can accommodate them all," Leo invited.
The glowing eyes on the ridge began winking out as the barghests departed.
"I guess that's a 'no'," Emrys translated.
The four gargoyle hounds took to corralling the pups, the pups trying their best to escape their adult wardens. Arthur looked at them, then at Kevin and Dulcinea.
"All in all, it's been quite a night," he commented, dryly.
* * * * *
"Leaving? What? You've got another gig?" Sunny asked in surprise.
"Something like that. What about you two?"
"Probably stay for Christmas," Gustav said as he leaned against the barn, "It's nice up here. We'll be back on the set in New Zealand by New Year's though."
"Keep in touch, Dulci," Sunny gave Dulcinea a big hug. "I want to hear from you as soon as possible."
"I will. You do the same."
"Don't take any wooden drachmas," Gustav said in one of his bits of wry humor.
"I won't." Dulcinea gave him a hug too. "Take care of Sunny."
"I will." Gustav smiled a broad expansive smile. The three friends parted ways, Gustav and Sunny joining the movie crew, packing up their equipment and settling up tabs, Dulcinea heading to her truck and horse trailer.
* * * * *
Kevin pulled down the rolling door of the moving van, closing it on statues of Griff, Leo and the ten gargoyle beasts.
"All secure for the long trip home," Kevin said as he approached Arthur.
Emrys sat in the truck while Arthur stood outside, taking in the Yorkshire landscape one last time.
"Maybe we should find the other hounds. They're still in danger. We could help them."
"Arthur, give the barghests credit. They've escaped capture for centuries. They know where to hide and how to survive," Emrys explained. "Besides, a land needs its myths. It wouldn't be right, robbing Yorkshire of the barghests. It'd be like robbing Britain of King Arthur."
Arthur smiled ruefully. "Point made."
Kevin came up to them. "We're all set."
Dulcinea came driving up with her trailer. "Ready to go?"
"Yes." Arthur moved over to her passenger side. "It'll be a long trip back to London. Care for some company?"
"Actually, I was going to invite you. I had the strangest dream and I saw you in it."
"Indeed, I had a dream about you, too."
"Then maybe you can fill me in. What are these horrifying images of an army of darkness?"
Arthur and Dulcinea started moving. Kevin looked to Emrys. "An army of darkness?"
"It's a long story, but we've got time."
* * * * *
Darien Montrose soon received word that his hunter had resigned from the assignment. He didn't go into details, something about wounded pride. When he read Peckering's local paper, it mentioned a mastiff, some glowing paint and two mischievous boys. Darien pieced together that it was all a hoax and his employee thought it beneath him. It didn't matter. It was just one scheme of many and it was well past time he tended to others.
* * * * *
Lucy laughed as puppies covered her with doggy kisses.
"This is the bestest Christmas present ever!" Lucy squealed as a pup licked her ear.
The other children of the estate played with their newfound pets, while the adults and adolescents listened to Griff and Leo recount the tale. Michael came over to Dulcinea.
"Allow me to personally thank you for your efforts." The gargoyle extended a hand. Dulcinea shook it eagerly.
"They needed help and I could supply it," Dulcinea answered simply.
"That's the sort of attitude we need in our knights," Arthur commented.
"Kneel, Dulcinea," Arthur urged gently. All the others looked up, catching this impromptu ceremony. Dulcinea got down on one knee.
Arthur assumed a stately tone of voice. "You've proven yourself an excellent warrior and a valiant protector. By this sword and by my hand, I dub you Dame Dulcinea, knight of the Round Table."
"Hear! Hear!" Griff led the cheers. The gargoyles and the Marters cheered and clapped as Dulcinea was officially indoctrinated into their group.
"Welcome to the club." Emrys gave her a brief hug, then an impish smile. "Things only get stranger from here."
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Man of la Mancha," lyrics by Dale Wasserman and Mitch Leigh. Used without permission.