Story Concept by Brian Dumlao
Written by Laurean Broadbent and Christi Smith Hayden
Previously On TimeDancer....
Kai: (tapestries with Kai speaking in the background) Long ago gargoyle fought side by side with samurai ...... We made a vow to protect this village .......
Kai: (Goliath and Yama fighting) NO! Gargoyle must not fight gargoyle!
* * * * *
Feudal Japan, 16th century.
The sun had already sank behind the luxuriant green rolling hills and austere mountains surrounding the seaside valley. Monstrous black thunderclouds swarmed the empty night sky, saturating everything in their path in a silvery curtain of raindrops. As the water poured down the valley, collecting in carefully dug canals between the tiered rice fields, a familiar blaze of circular fire lit up the night and deposited a tired Brooklyn in the mud.
"Great." He muttered as he collected himself and brushed the wet earth off his body. "I hate it when it rains like this," he said, letting out an aggravated growl. He let the pouring rain wash away the rest of the mud before flipping his wings around him.
Scanning the valley, Brooklyn took in the conical rise of the extinct volcano capped by storm clouds and the scattered wooden temples leading up the mountain. Turning seaward, his eyes fixed upon the lights of the tiny village down by the harbor. A smug grin flashed across the gargoyle's face.
"Now that looks promising," Brooklyn commented and proceeded, on foot, to the village.
The town was strangely quiet and desolate. There was an eerie stillness that made the time-traveling gargoyle frown. "I don't like the looks of this..." Brooklyn muttered as he stepped cautiously inside the arched gateway.
Suddenly, the huge oaken doors swung shut revealing four gargoyles dressed in Japanese garb. As Brooklyn swung around to face them, he backed up right into a jade green female wearing a red silk kimono. Instinctively the female brought down her hands upon the back of his head, knocking the burgundy gargoyle out cold.
"Was that really necessary, Sata?" asked a female whose skin was the shade of pink coral. Sata looked up somewhat annoyed.
"Take him to Yoshi, and if he's a Tengu, then Jun-chan, you can ask me that again." The others nodded as they picked up the unconscious gargoyle and carried him off to their compound.
* * * * *
A low moaning preceded his consciousness. Slowly opening his eyes, Brooklyn looked around to see a room filled with tapestries, candles, and burning incense. He also discovered that his claws and feet were tightly bound to the chair, and.... the fact that he wasn't alone.
"Where am I? Or for that matter...who are you?!" He softly growled, struggling in the ropes.
"I will ask the questions." a calm yet stern male voice answered back. Brooklyn stopped trying to free himself but narrowed his gaze, trying to catch a glimpse of the voice's owner.
"What is your name?"
"Were you sent to spy on us?"
"Do you belong to the Tengu clan?"
"No," Brooklyn answered in a slightly aggravated growl.
A female voice now questioned him from the darkness, "Are you in any way involved with the Tengu?"
"No, I'm not. I don't even know what that word means." Brooklyn's head turned toward the direction of the voice. "Look, I meant no harm. I'm only a traveler, and the only reason I came into this village was to get out of the rain and perhaps stay for a night or two."
A calm silence hung over the room finally broken by the two voices whispering to each other.
"He was too easy to catch, one of Ganryu's spies would not be so foolish." whispered the female voice. Brooklyn raised an eyebrow ridge at the comment, grumbling slightly under his breath.
The male voice agreed, "His clothes are also very foreign. I do believe he speaks truth."
Before Brooklyn's eyes, two gargoyle figures stepped out from the shadows. One was a bronze-skinned male with dark hair and elegantly curved horns ending in sharp prongs, looking almost like a samurai's helmet. Tall but sleekly muscled, his inner wings were magenta and his tail tapered to a two-tined fork. He wore a white kimono with red embroidery and his feet were wrapped in white linen as well.
The other was a jade green female in a short dark red kimono with a golden flower design embroidered upon it, worn over an ivory tunic, the sleeves of which were bound at the wrist; presumably keep them out-of-way when she used the pair of sheathed swords tucked into her wide sash. Curved horns rose through hair as dark as a moonless night, which was caught severely back with a lacquered hair ornament. Her face was a smooth polished mask of breathtaking beauty but there was a smoldering fire in her dark almond-shaped eyes.
As the female untied Brooklyn, the male presented himself with a certain air of formality. "I am Yoshi-sama, the leader of this clan. And the female before you is Sata, my second-in-command." he said bowing respectively.
Brooklyn bowed respectfully back, sensing that it was the proper response to his hosts. "I'm honored to meet you, but why did you tie me up in the first place?"
"It's only for security purposes. Ishimura has been attacked many times by the Tengu, so we have had to take precautions."
"Ishimura? Then I'm in Japan?" Brooklyn asked, both asking his question and answering it. "The Tengu? Who exactly are these guys anyway?"
Sata and Yoshi gave each other a questioning glance, and then with a silent nod of agreement they began to tell their visitor the story of the Tengu.
"Over the ages, our clan has kept its sacred vow to the people of this village by protecting them and instructing them in the art of bushido," Yoshi began as Brooklyn listened intently. "In return, the humans keep us safe by day and see to our needs."
"This vow was kept by the entire clan, until the day our rookery brother Ganryu betrayed us," Sata interrupted, her polite tones tinged with anger.
"Not so, Sata-san," the bronze-skinned leader said as he shook his head. "My brother, Ganryu, felt that our former leader chose unwisely and that I was not worthy enough to guide our clan. As is our custom, he challenged me to fight for leadership of the clan."
"Of course Ganryu was no match for Yoshi and was defeated."
The Ishimura clan leader gave Sata a sharp look of disapproval. "Sadly," he continued diplomatically, "our brother felt that the fight had not been honorable."
Sata lowered her eyes and bowed her head demurely, but her tone of voice did not change. "So he and those loyal to him left our clan and formed their own....taking the name Tengu after the ancient mountain legends." She flicked her eyes at Brooklyn and back at Yoshi, the corners of her mouth twitching, threatening to smile. Yoshi actually chuckled.
That little glimpse of humor made his Japanese hosts seem a little less stiff. "What?" Brooklyn asked, grinning slightly. "What's so funny?"
Yoshi smiled and bowed from the neck. "We mean no disrespect to you, Brooklyn-san. According to tradition, there are two types of Tengu. One is a yamabushi that appears as an ancient mountain priest who reveals the secrets of bushido to young heroes. The other is karasu or crow; a man-like creature with the wings, claws, and beak of a bird." He chuckled again. "Most beaked gargoyles in Japan identify with the Tengu legend and who is to say that the original story might have based on some unknown gargoyle long ago?"
"Oh, I get it," Brooklyn said, his grin growing wider. "You saw my beak and thought I was one of them."
"Ganryu knew of this," Sata continued, "and used it to draw many beaked gargoyles to his camp. Their numbers grew stronger and their raids bolder. In recent months, Ishimura has become the targets of hit-and-run attacks. The humans think it is simply the work of bandits but we know that it is Ganryu's vow of revenge against Yoshi that is behind it all."
As interesting as the story was, it wasn't nearly as interesting as the unspoken body language between Yoshi and Sata. There was clearly more to the conflict than they were letting on, and that the two Ishimura gargoyles were divided on what to do about it. Shrewdly, Brooklyn asked, "So has there been any resolution to this feud?"
Sata crossed her arms and shook her head. "None. Ganryu only sees one resolution, the leadership of this clan and the disposal of all within his path."
"However, none of Ganryu's forces have been successful in their attacks." Yoshi stepped to a section of wall, and slid it aside, revealing another chamber with a glowing brazier and a low table surrounded by cushion. "We have been discourteous enough for one night. Please, come warm yourself and have something to eat."
Suddenly, a dark-brown gargoyle, web-winged like Lexington and wearing a blue loincloth, ran into the room. "A thousand pardons, Yoshi-sama," he spoke with haste, but not without bowing honorably to the leader and second, "The Tengu have returned to attack us!"
Sata turned towards Yoshi, whose face became stern and serious. "What did I say?" she demanded. "The petty vandalism at the shipyards was only a diversion!"
"Thank you, Takashi," he said, hand on the hilt of his sword. "Sata, go with him. See to our defenses." The guard nodded and ran back out into the pouring rain with the jade green second-in-command right behind her.
Yoshi turned towards Brooklyn. "It might be best for you to stay here, Brooklyn."
"We are gargoyles," the red gargoyle said, shaking his head. "We do not abandon each other."
A grateful smile spread across the bronze male's face and he granted Brooklyn a brief bow. "Very well, Brooklyn. Come with me."
The three gargoyles ran out into the pouring rain and joined the others already in battle. The Tengu forces swept down from above, showering the Ishimura clan with arrows and spears. Clad in dark colors, the attackers were almost impossible to see until it was too late. The injured were quickly carried inside to safely by fellow clan members and the few humans that were brave enough to venture outside.
Yoshi, seeing the situation, dug his claws into the thick walls of the temple compound and quickly climbed until he obtained a suitable height for gliding. "Ishimura! Take the fight to them!" Spreading his wings, he caught the air current and collided head on with a Tengu rebel. The sooty black gargoyle lost his balance and fell several feet before recovering. More and more of the clan now took to the air including Brooklyn. A Tengu rebel lunged at him with his katana sword, but Brooklyn ducked out of the way, grinning impudently.
"Try aiming next time," he said, a little full of himself. "You ginzu chef wanna-be." Brooklyn didn't see the other Tengu rebel coming straight at him from behind.
"Brooklyn! Look out!" Sata cried, distracted momentarily from her fight. Her opponent saw her chance and took a swipe at Sata's right arm with her claws. Sata's eyes glowed blood red as she knocked the female traitor unconscious against a nearby tree.
Meanwhile, upon hearing Sata's warning, Brooklyn banked straight up into the sky and quickly averted his attacker. He then looped back and drove the Tengu into the ground.
Brooklyn held the attacker down into the mud as his foe helplessly struggled. "Stay put," he growled while his eyes glowed an eerie white. "I'm sure Yoshi or Sata want to have a word with you."
Suddenly, a loud horn sounded off in the distance. "What the--" Brooklyn looked up in the direction of the sound. The Tengu saw his chance and gave Brooklyn a right hook to the beak, knocking the gargoyle off of him. He bounded off towards the direction of the sound, the other Tengus following as well, and within moments, all had disappeared into the night.
Brooklyn rubbed his sore beak as the Ishimura clan began to regroup. There had been no casualties, but arrows or swords had wounded several clan members.
"Are you all right, Brooklyn? Yoshi asked.
"Yeah, sure...nothing a good day's rest won't cure." The time-traveling gargoyle shifted his lower jaw carefully. "Just another bad guy using me as a punching bag."
"Still, you fought well and honorably. I thank you, Brooklyn-san." Yoshi smiled and nodded. "The village is now safe once again."
"At least, for now," Sata spoke behind them, softly clutching her right arm with her eyes still glowing a soft crimson red. "They'll be back."
"Yes, Brooklyn, I know. Next time watch your back more carefully and," as her eyes dimmed back to normal and she glanced at Yoshi, "don't be so eager to celebrate minor victories."
Ignoring her gaze, Yoshi looked at Sata's arm. "We had better bandage this."
"I am perfectly-"
Yoshi's eyes fixed on her, "Do not to be so stubborn. All samurai need help once in a while, Sata. It would be wise for you to realize that. Now come along, let's get that wound looked at."
Jun, the coral-colored female, trotted up with a stout bo staff in her hand. "Mako managed to follow the Tengu to the western rim of the valley before he lost their trail. There is a fog bank rolling in from the harbor. Soon it will be too thick to fly in."
"Then call in the others," Yoshi said decisively. "The battle is over for tonight."
* * * * *
One by one, the Tengu warriors returned to their concealed headquarters, high on the steep slope of Mt. Zao, the sleeping volcano overlooking the valley. Hot springs deep in the cave brought welcome warmth after their wild flight in the rain. A sooty black crow-like gargoyle pushed his way past the others and stalked into a side cave, no bigger than an alcove, lit by dozens of glowing candles.
Wet wings dripping on the floor, the Tengu warrior bowed deeply to the gray gargoyle sitting there, studying a scroll with meticulous attention. "Ganryu-sama," the Tengu said, his voice low but not quite a growl, "may this unworthy one be permitted to ask why we were ordered to retreat from battle? A few minutes more and the Ishimura clan would have been defeated."
"Patience, Takakage. We lull Yoshi into a false sense of security by these quick strikes." Black eyes glittered from narrow slits. "Tonight was highly successful."
"How so?" Takakage noted the paper in his leader's hand and raised a brow ridge. "Ah. You found something in the headman's house?"
"This is the itinerary for the Emperor's tax collector. His caravan will go through Ishimura tomorrow on its way back to Edo and we will waylay them on the far side of the pass."
"Tomorrow we take the Emperor's gold," Ganryu said slowly, "and I will take Yoshi's honor."
* * * * *
The air was thick with the scent of aromatic herbs and the contents of the hoko pot, a heady aroma of succulent seafood and vegetables simmering in clear broth. Yoshi sat nearby, showing Brooklyn how to use chopsticks to snare snippets of food before slurping up the soup. As the clan's healer concentrated on bandaging Sata's right arm, the jade warrior sipped tea from a delicate porcelain cup while her mind wandered. How could Yoshi be so stubborn as to not realize the truth? They had to take the initiative. The clan was becoming worn down with night after night of inconsequential raids and opponents that vanquished like smoke. Sata sighed bitterly.
Overhearing her discontented sigh, Yoshi shook his head. "I know what you are thinking, Sata......you know it is not an alternative."
The jade female rose with a start, startling the healer, as Sata almost snarled at her leader, "Sitting here will accomplish nothing...it HAS accomplished nothing! We cannot keep waiting and hoping that these attacks will stop."
"You can't run in there without a plan, Sata," said Brooklyn, eerily repeating the words Goliath once told him.
Sata gave him an angry glance "I HAVE a plan, Brooklyn," she snapped and turned to face Yoshi. "We have to make a direct attack on the Tengu camp. Stop these raids once and for--"
"No," Yoshi interrupted, speaking in a calm yet stern voice.
Sata's facial expression went to what seemed to be her habitual look of mild annoyance.
Brooklyn stepped in again, "Why not?"
Sata's face softened slightly and cast a quick glance at Brooklyn. Finally, someone with enough common sense to agree with her. Perhaps there was more to the strange newcomer than she first thought.
"Gargoyles do not fight other gargoyles," Yoshi's eyes narrowed upon Sata. "nor should they. Ganryu is still my brother and clan. Violence can not be answered with violence."
"He has broken all ties with our clan! He has given us no choice. This is no longer a matter of wanting, but a matter of duty!" Sata clenched her teeth holding in her temper, "It is our duty to protect Ishimura and its people from attack. If this is the only way to do so, then so be it! Even if it means attacking the enemy first."
"She does have a point," Brooklyn faced the bronze leader. "It's pretty obvious that stopping these attacks is not what Ganryu has in mind. Although I'm not in total agreement with Sata's method, it is better than sitting on our tails waiting for these Tengu guys to show up again."
Yoshi gave a cold stare to the red gargoyle. "These matters are of no concern to you, Brooklyn-san. Please do not involve yourself, " he requested with polite bluntness. He then turned to Sata," I do not wish to hear anymore about this....from you or anyone else. Attacking is NOT an option." Growling low under his breath, Yoshi stormed out of the room.
"He's endangering this entire clan AND village! How could anyone be so stubborn and blind!" Sata said, snarling angrily.
"Sata, leadership isn't an easy burden. He's trying to do what he thinks is right-"
"And why would YOU care?!" she interrupted him her eyes glowing angrily, "You are only a traveler passing through! This is OUR home and I will not see it destroyed, not while I have breath in my body!" With that, Sata unsheathed her katana blade and in one single stroke, cut the door in two and walked out of the room.
She was almost to the western edge of the village before her black mood began to lift. It was so frustrating! Yoshi was only following the wisdom of the leaders before him, passed on from generation to generation in the clan scrolls. She slashed her katana through the air savagely, slicing the air with a barely audible whoosh. A discolored patch on her blade caught her eye and Sata frowned.
"Aiiee, a fine foolish hatchling I've been," she muttered to herself. "I should have never let my katana get so tarnished."
Sata pulled a small bundle from her obi and took a seat under the spreading branches of zelkova tree, droplets of moisture sparkling on its small, oval leaves from the passing rain. As she went through the ritual of cleaning her sword, Sata let her mind wander. She had tried every argument she could think of to convince Yoshi that they had to take the initiative against the Tengu but he was letting custom and tradition cloud his judgment. The stranger, Brooklyn, seemed to understand but she dismissed him. He could not feel as she did about Ishimura, about her clan or know bitterly she resented Yoshi's inaction.
Turning her blade first one way and then the other, Sata determined the katana was satisfactorily clean and returned it to her sheath. She stalked out to the village road and noted the faint pink undertones on the eastern horizon. The sight only served to remind her that Ganryu and his rebels had fled in the opposite direction, to the west. She turned away from the rising sun and stepped off the road into the taller grass, since it was unlikely she could make it back to the compound in time.
A small brown snake slithered across Sata's foot and she stared at it thoughtfully. "If one wishes to kill a snake," she mused, "one must chop off its head." She smiled slowly and grimly. "Sleep well, Ganryu," she said, looking towards the western slope of the valley, "for tomorrow, I cut off your head."
* * * * *
Brooklyn followed Sata outside a few minutes later and saw her storming down the street, pushing Jun out of the way. The coral-colored female went up to Brooklyn, puzzled.
"So, what did YOU do to upset her?"
"Me?" Brooklyn looked at Jun, hurt and shocked. "I didn't do anything, She and Yoshi were arguing about the Tengu attack."
"Ah, a thousand pardons, Brooklyn-san." Jun shook her head and sighed. "That topic has been a sore spot between those two for some time now. It is usually best to leave Sata alone to cool off. By tomorrow night she'll be herself once more." Jun smiled slightly. "Although it is uncertain if that is an improvement."
Brooklyn smiled back. "Do you know where Yoshi is? I would like to talk to him."
She pointed to the temple compound. "He should be near the right wall."
"Thanks." Brooklyn walked away quickly.
Jun shouted after him. "Hurry, Brooklyn-san! The sun will soon be up!"
Brooklyn found Yoshi on the low wall surrounding the compound just as the sun was coming up. Most of the clan was there as well, facing inward towards the temple.
"Yoshi, I need to--" The Ishimura leader looked over at Brooklyn just as the first rays of the sun swept over the pair, encasing them in stone.
* * * * *
As the last rays of daylight disappeared behind the hilltops, the gargoyles awakened from their stone sleep once more. Brooklyn awoke in mid-sentence.
"-talk to you about Sata."
"Yes, Brooklyn-san? What is it?" Yoshi asked, brushing off his stone skin. "I must apologize for her rudeness last evening. Normally, Sata's manners are exquisite."
The red gargoyle shook his head. "No, it's not that. I respect your wanting to hold with tradition and I agree that gargoyle should not fight gargoyle." His eyes took on a dim glow as he recalled an unpleasant memory from his hatchling days at Castle Wyvern. "I've seen first-hand the consequences from that kind of conflict but there comes a time when you have to break from tradition for the good of the clan."
"I hear your words, Brooklyn-san," Yoshi said slowly, "and I shall consider them carefully, as I have Sata's in the past." He frowned as he looked at a blank place on the wall. "She has spent the night away again."
"Should we go look for her?"
Yoshi shook his head. "She will be along shortly. It is Sata's way to seek seclusion when she's been in a bad temper."
Brooklyn glanced towards the west where he had last seen the jade gargoyle and frowned. "Aren't you worried that Sata might take things into her own hands? What if she's gone after Ganryu and the Tengu herself?"
"I do not think that she would be that foolish," Yoshi replied, but a deep frown creased his face. "The only thing that would appease Ganryu's quest of vengeance would be to fight me again and never in all the encounters with the Tengu these past months, has my brother dared to show himself. I will not fight a shadow."
"Yoshi-sama!" Jun called up to them. "Will you and Brooklyn-san come break our fast with us? Tai-tai has prepared a lovely meal."
"If you don't mind," Brooklyn said, "I think I'd like to make sure that Sata's all right. We'll join you for breakfast later."
"Ah, as you wish, Brooklyn-san," Yoshi said gratefully. "I am sure everything will be fine but it is good for you to think so highly of my second-in-command's well-being. With that, the bronze gargoyle jumped down from his perch and proceeded to go in with his clan, stopping for a moment to have a word with Jun just outside the doorway. Whatever it was Yoshi said, the coral-colored female gave a startled look to Brooklyn and then hurried away.
Finding his sense of direction, Brooklyn glided off towards the west and hoped he wasn't too late.
* * * * *
After awakening from her stone sleep, Sata set her sights on the rim of the valley on the western horizon. She gave a slight smile at two of the village children playing outside a nearby house. The children looked up at her, smiled back, and waved before going back to their game. Taking one last look at the village from the top of a rolling hill, she spread her wings and glided away from the village. Catching a fortuitous updraft, Sata found herself sailing over the mountains in matter of minutes. She located the pass on the western rim and spiraled down for a landing.
"The Tengu clan must be somewhere around here," Sata muttered as she cast around for signs of their passing. "Mako said that this is where he saw them last." Suddenly, she heard a twig snap. Sata's hand slowly grasped the hilt of her sword, and in one swift motion between one breath and another, she turned around and tackled her follower, holding her sword to his neck.
"Whoa! If this is how you treat me, I'd hate to be Ganryu." Brooklyn said jokingly with a slight smirk. Sata let him up and put her sword back in her scabbard.
"Be lucky I didn't follow through," she said blandly. "Now, what are you doing here?"
"You didn't roost with the others and you were so upset last night, so it seemed obvious that you had decided to go after Ganryu and the rest of the Tengu."
"How very perceptive of you," Sata said, and proceeded to examine some fibers on a bush. "Hmmm, this way, I think."
Brooklyn quickly walked right up beside her, getting just a little annoyed with her attitude. "Hey, I only thought you could use some help. Besides, do you really think you can take on all the Tengu by yourself? Even Ganryu? Especially if they are everything you say they are."
Sata stopped in her tracks and turned to him. She rolled her eyes and sighed, "I appreciate the concern but I am completely capable of handling--," cynical gaze stopped her short. "Very well, Brooklyn-san. You may accompany me but Ganryu is mine."
"Hey, no problem." The red gargoyle threw up his hands. "It's your turf."
The jade warrior raised a brow ridge at his strange comment but said nothing. The two walked along in silence for some time until Brooklyn spoke up again.
"Sata, can I ask you something?"
"Yes. What is it?" Sata's eyes weren't looking at him but at the path ahead.
"Why did you go against Yoshi?"
"What do you mean?"
"Why did you run off to fight the Tengu after Yoshi told you not to?"
"Because Yoshi is too stubborn for his own good."
Sata sighed, "Yoshi is a good leader, a great leader in fact, but he can be very stubborn at times. He wants to lead the clan as others have before him, honoring our traditions and according to the code of bushido. Ganryu has left the true way of the warrior and it is wrong to think that he will return to the truth of bushido. Yoshi is making a terrible mistake with Ganryu and I'm just making sure he doesn't make another one."
"All by yourself?"
"Sometimes the one must be sacrificed for the good of the many," she said. "I would give my life for my clan."
"My thoughts exactly," a deep resounding voice echoed from the shadows. Ganryu stepped out with several other Tengu rebels behind him. Brooklyn noticed that they were all well armed, probably on their way to stage another raid on the village. Ganryu was very large and barrel-chested with dark gray skin, wearing a yellow-and-black kimono with yellow linen wrapped around his talons and feet. His head was crowned with two rounded stubby horns, and his slitted eyes looked more reptile than gargoyle. A long sword with a two-handed grip was threaded through his belt. Ganryu simply grinned as Sata drew her sword.
Three Tengu warriors immediately lunged toward Sata and Brooklyn. Whipping out his tail, Brooklyn tripped one of the attackers. A beaked female leapt at Brooklyn with her sword, but Brooklyn neatly side-stepped her and swiped the sword from her claws. The third Tengu caught the time-traveling gargoyle in the chest with a flying kick but Brooklyn grabbed his foot and the two went down in a messy pile.
Meanwhile Sata's katana clashed with the blades belonging to two other attackers. She drove them both back up against a rock, tripping them into a small pond. Sata then turned her sights upon Ganryu.
The Tengu leader flashed a smirking grin, his sword already drawn. He motioned for her. "Let us see how well you've faired since last we met. My skills have improved immensely."
Sata raised an eyebrow ridge provocatively. "Oh really? Then come and prove it, coward." Growling, Ganryu lunged at Sata, who easily blocked his attack and came back with one of her own.
Brooklyn looked around at the other Tengu warriors who had now joined the raiding party. "This doesn't look good."
Suddenly one of the Tengu was dive-bombed by a dark brown blur that Brooklyn recognized as Takashi. The web-winged gargoyle struck like a living, breathing arrow, pinning his opponent to the ground.
"Takashi?! What are you doing here?"
Takashi knocked his opponent unconscious, "Fighting the Tengu, what else?" He jumped up and vaulted into the fight. Soon more of the Ishimura clan began to appear. Yoshi landed right beside Brooklyn.
"I thought you didn't like fights!" Brooklyn shouted over the battle noise.
"I was forced to follow when you and Sata did not return to the compound," Yoshi replied, drawing his own katana. "Also the village headman asked that we check on a party of humans that passed through Ishimura today with the Imperial taxes. When he said they were taking the western pass, Ganryu's interest in this area became all too clear."
"You mean all the hit-and-run raids were just a cover to rob some bureaucrats?" Brooklyn asked incredulously. He looked at the Tengu and muttered under his breath, "Robin Hood and his merry men? Yeah, right!"
Yoshi spared the red gargoyle one puzzled look. "It wasn't hard to guess where you might be," he said, reflecting a blow and delivering a debilitating slash in one fluid motion. "I have no intentions of losing my second-in-command, Brooklyn. Sata will follow any idea she truly believes in, no matter what I or anyone else say against it." Brooklyn nodded in agreement and the two went off to fight off other Tengu.
Several of the Tengu began to flee back into the mountains with fear and defeat in their eyes.
Brooklyn wiped the sweat off his brow after chasing yet another Tengu rebel off. He focused upon the duel between Ganryu and Sata. His eyes widened as a nod from the large gray gargoyle set one of Ganryu's bodyguards in motion. The sooty Tengu drew a long dagger and prepared to stab Sata from behind.
"NO!" Brooklyn snatched up a short sword and jumped right in front of the guard, putting himself as a living shield between the Tengu and Sata. A sudden tingle began to crawl up the back of his neck as he began to feel the gate's magic. "This isn't the time for this!" He growled under his breath as he forced Ganryu's bodyguard back with slashing sword strokes.
Sata's and Ganryu's swords were locked together. Since Brooklyn had thwarted his earlier plan, Ganryu unsheathed a hidden sword and raised it above his head. Sata looked up in horror as the blade came sailing down upon her and put a foot on Ganryu's midsection, kicking them apart. She crashed into Brooklyn, just as the flaming sphere of the Phoenix Gate appeared and engulfed them both.
Ganryu blinked in disbelief, not sure of exactly what he had just seen. Realizing that very few others had witnessed the phenomena, he grinned and laughed boldly. "You may have won this battle, Yoshi! But I have your second's life as a prize!"
"Sata? SATA!!!" Yoshi's eyes burned a cold white upon hearing Ganryu's bragging and realizing that his second-in-command was indeed gone. Enraged, the leader charged at Ganryu knocking the gargoyle off his feet. Ganryu got up and lunged at Yoshi with a fearsome roar. Yoshi skillfully knocked the sword from Ganryu's hands and held his sword to the traitor's throat.
"Kill me! It is what you want!" Ganryu said hissing.
Yoshi howled and raised his sword for the killing stroke. "Your life for Sata's life," he said grimly, eyes blazing cold white fire. "So be it!"
A bo staff suddenly came between the two adversaries. "No, Yoshi-sama!!" Jun cried out. "Ganryu lies! Sata lives! I saw her and the stranger disappear in a flash of light." She stepped forward as Yoshi hesitated. "Would Sata want you to break the law that is nearest to your heart? Yoshi-sama, no matter how angry you are, gargoyle must NEVER kill gargoyle."
"No. Sata would not want that." Yoshi's eyes narrowed upon his brother's. "You have a choice brother," Yoshi said sternly. "Leave this land, never to return, or by sundown tomorrow, you and your entire clan will face death." Yoshi pushed Ganryu's face into the ground and returned his sword to its scabbard.
Ganryu wiped the dirt from his face. "Banishment, it is then." The gargoyle motioned to what was left of his clan, and they flew off opposite of Ishimura.
The Ishimura clan cheered in triumph except for Yoshi who walked off to be alone.
"Sata-chan," he murmured sadly. "Come back to us." He closed his eyes and hung his head. "Come back to me."
* * * * *
The Philippine Islands, 1850.
Jungle birds were rudely torn from their sleep as a brilliant burst of white-orange fire lit up the damp Filipino night. Miraculously, not even a palmetto leaf was singed by its passing - the only sign that anything unusual had happened were the two stunned gargoyles lying on the forest floor.
Sata was the first to get up. Her eyes widened in bewilderment as she scanned the area. "Where is my clan? The Tengu? Where is Yoshi or Ganryu for that matter?" Sata exclaimed. "And what was that strange fire?"
Her attention soon fixed upon a low groan coming from Brooklyn. As he lifted his head, his eyes slowly opened and focused on Sata's form, standing over him with her katana held ready. Brooklyn grumbled in shock under his breath, "Oh boy."
"Where are we?" Sata demanded. There was a wild look in her eye that suggested that she was not as calm as she seemed.
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?!" She stepped closer, katana glinting in the moonlight, making Brooklyn feel very uneasy. "Did you not summon that fire?"
"Well, not exactly."
"Either you did or you did not," Sata said, her words precise and sharp, as sharp as the sword inches from his beak. "Which is it? I will NOT leave a battle so dishonorably. You will take us back there NOW, Brooklyn-san!"
"I'd love to, Sata, really, I would," Brooklyn said carefully, backing up slowly. "It's a little hard to explain....."
Brooklyn let out a heavy sigh and lowered his head. "I'm from the future. This fire....goes by the name of the Phoenix Gate. The leader of my clan tossed the gate into its own flames to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. So it's been traveling through time...'dancing' so to speak." The gargoyle let out a soft bitter chuckle. "I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I got trapped by the Gate one night....and I've been along for the ride ever since." Sata stood in silence taking in everything he had said.
"How long have you been traveling under this curse?"
"Years," Brooklyn said. He looked at her with a frank, honest expression. "I'd give anything to see my clan again."
"There is no way of getting back?" she asked solemnly. "No way at all?"
Brooklyn shook his head sadly. "The only way back is through the gate. If and when it decides to return."
The slashing of Sata's tail through the tall grass was the only indication of her agitated emotional state. She took a piece of cloth and carefully wiped the polished surface of her katana. Staring at the gleaming metal, Sata said a soft quaver in her voice, "I vow by my sword that if we ever return to the clan of my birth, that I will never leave it again." She stood very still, jaw working as she fought to control her emotions.
"I'm sorry that you had to get caught up in this, Sata," Brooklyn said earnestly. "If there's any justice in this universe, I'm sure we'll find our way back to Ishimura again."
Sata regarded him with dark eyes, deeply sad but with a resigned determination dawning in them. "Well then, Brooklyn-san," an arch smile came across the female's face as she sheathed her sword, "until that time arises, if and when it does arise, you and I will travel this strange path together."
"Better stay close, Sata." Brooklyn's familiar smug grin slowly spread across his face. "It's gonna be a bumpy ride."