Tell el Amarna -- 1891
The old, scruffy man took a moment to stop his digging and look out onto
the horizon. The sun had long since set; the last light from it was
just now disappearing to the west, and above that the stars had come out
already, forming a brilliant pattern in the night sky. The now-risen
moon completed the picture, as it cast its soft light on the earth below.
After a moment, the man lowered his head slightly to look out towards the horizon. Not more than five hundred meters away, the light of a campfire formed a lone patch of light in the darkening area. The digger knew that it was from a group of archeologists who had arrived here not more than a few months before. Quickly, he turned his attention back to digging, and soon dirt was again flying up over his rather haggard form.
After a few more minutes, his shovel hit something harder than the surrounding dirt. At that, he stopped digging and laid his shovel aside. Then, he began digging away the dirt with his bare hands, careful so as not to damage anything he might have found.
And what bauble has luck brought me this night? he asked himself. A necklace? Or perhaps a figurine of some sort?
As he cleared away the dirt and sand from the bottom of the pit, he uncovered what at first was a small patch of wood, and then became a small wooden box. It was plain, with no markings of any kind, and the centuries had left the wood dry and brittle; the only ornamentation was a small bronze clasp that had long-since been corroded. He frowned for a moment at the seemingly worthless item he had found, then he tried to undo the clasp. Unfortunately, it was rusted solid, though the wood was strangely not rotted enough for him to simply break the box by hand. He instead picked his shovel, and used it to break off the clasp, making sure to be quiet enough for the nearby archeologists not to hear.
Opening the lid, the grave-digger could see that it was packed with linen, now practically dried and crumbled into dust by the ravages of time. He began to search through the ancient remnants of cloth with his hands, and was rewarded when his hands came across something smooth and solid. Quickly, he removed the object from the cloth.
The mans eyes widened and he gasped as his hand pulled out a large, plate-sized disk made of solid carnelian almost a half an inch thick. It was deep orange on the rim going to a yellow orange in the center and polished smooth; no scratches or pits of any kind marred the almost glass-like surface. The only imperfections in the surface were a series of hieroglyphics around the outer edge of the disk. Strangely, like the sun it seemed to represent, it felt warm in his hands; the center of the disk almost seemed to glow.
His hands shaking slightly from excitement, he set the disk aside and pawed through what was left of the box to see if anything else was there. But there was nothing else except maybe a few shreds of crumbling linen.
He frowned for a moment, but it went away as he looked back at the disk. Quickly, he put the remains of the box back in the hole, and started shoveling dirt back into it. As he did so, he kept looking at the disk periodically, the look in his eyes showing that he knew his fortune had been made.
Some distance away, a small flame appeared in mid-air, levitating several feet above the ground. Within a few seconds it quickly expanded into a ball several feet in radius. Then, from inside out, the flame dissipated, and a red gargoyle fell to the ground, landing on his face.
Brooklyn quickly got upright, and shook the sand off his head as he stood up. Looking around, he wondered where the Phoenix Gate had dropped him this time. It was a fairly level plain of dirt, from what he could see, with the occasional palm tree. In the distance, he could hear a slight sound of running water, as though from a river, and he could see light from some sort of camp a few hundred yards away. Other than that, and a few sounds from nocturnal birds and insects, he seemed to be the only living thing nearby.
Well, he said to himself with a little relief, at least there arent any grizzly bears. He shook his head slightly. I really should have eaten that chocolate bar before going into that forest...
A loud rumble from his stomach interrupted him. He sighed and shook his head ruefully. And what I wouldnt give for that chocolate bar right now, or a big, fat hot dog, or... He sniffed the air curiously. Soup? He sniffed again, longer this time, then turned towards the source of the smell.
It seemed to be coming from the lighted area in the distance. Well, he said as his stomach rumbled again, lets see if theyve got anything for breakfast. With that, he headed towards the camp.
A few minutes later, hed followed the smell to a large fire in the center of a group of tents. Food was cooking over the blaze, and Brooklyn could see a group of humans by it, speaking in Arabic and English.
Then he saw what he was looking for: some open cans of food were sitting out on a small table set away a little from the campfire. Brooklyn looked at the table for a few moments, as though wondering whether it was worth the risk. Another rumble from his stomach decided the matter, and Brooklyn began to head for the table.
He kept as quiet as he could, avoiding tent entrances, and looking back and forth, to try and make sure he wasnt in danger of being spotted. Wouldnt do to have anyone spot me, Brooklyn said to himself.
After a while of sneaking, Brooklyn finally reached the table he was after. He quickly looked around to make sure that there was still no one watching, and quietly took three of the cans. Then, he quietly and carefully made his way out of the camp. Thankfully, no one noticed him, and when he reached the edge of the camp, he silently headed out back the way hed come in from.
As he did, he looked down on the cans and smiled. Not bad, he said, a note of pride in his voice. Now I just need a private spot to eat at. With that in mind, he began looking for a place to sit and place the cans.
In the meantime, the grave-digger had finished filling the hole hed dug. Still holding onto the shovel, he picked up the disk and started to leave. The disk still felt slightly warm to the touch as he grasped it and began to make off into the night.
As he started leaving, the man began to hear strange night noises. Not the normal animal noises of the night, though. These were some sort of ghostly sounds, at the border of his hearing; they seemed to mingle with the sounds of the wind. After a few minutes of these continuous sounds, his pulse began to race, and he began moving faster and faster until he was practically running.
He periodically glanced behind him to make sure no one was following him. Unfortunately, as the man entered a particular patch of ground, he was in the middle of one of these backwards glances, so he never saw the red beast coming in another direction.
When he looked forward again, he had just enough time to scream in fright before running into it. The two were knocked into the ground by the impact, and the force of it caused the grave-digger to lose his grip on the disk. It went flying through the air for a moment, until it hit a rock a few feet away and then rested on the ground.
For a moment, there was a confused struggle as both a very frightened human, and a seemingly equally frightened beast started half-fighting each other, half trying to get up. Eventually, the grave-digger managed to get up first, and he immediately ran to where the disk lay. Picking it up as quickly as he could, he ran away as fast as he could before the beast could pick himself up and give chase.
Sunday driver, Brooklyn said as he got up and dusted himself off. He looked over, and found that hed spilled the food from the cans over to one side. Great, he muttered to himself. So much for breakfast.
He was still fuming over the accident, when he noticed something glinting slightly in the dirt nearby. Curious, he walked over to it, and took a closer look. It seemed to be a piece of the strange disk the man had been carrying earlier; it had probably broken off when the disk had hit the ground.
Wanting to examine it further, Brooklyn bent down and picked up the fragment. It was made out of some sort of red-orange gemstone that he couldnt identify. A few pieces of what looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics were etched into the surface, along the broken edge. Strangely, even though it was beginning to grow cold out here, the fragment felt slightly warm in his hands. Other than that, it seemed to not be anything special.
I wonder what he was in such a hurry about? Brooklyn asked himself, looking for a second in the direction the thief had gone.
He looked back at the fragment, studying it for a little bit when he heard a slight humming at his side. Looking over, he could see that itwas the Phoenix Gate. Wondering if it was going to activate, he took the Gate and looked at brought it up to look at it. As he did, he noticed that the fragment began to glow slightly in the presence of the Gate. The Gate itself, though, simply continued to hum slightly, with no evidence of it activating.
After a moment, it became obvious to Brooklyn that the two objects were affecting each other, but exactly how was anyones guess. Since nothing more seemed to happen to them, Brooklyn simply pocketed the fragment and the Gate, hoping maybe to later find out what was going on.
Brooklyn stood there for a minute or two more, wondering what to do next, when he heard someone call out, Stop, Thief! Quickly, he turned and saw two figures running towards his position from the camp.
Uh, oh, he said, looks like Ive worn out my welcome. He immediately ran off into the desert.
A moment later, two men arrived at the spot. Stop, Thief! one of them repeated. Oh, give it up Nigel, well never catch up with him now, his companion said.
Nigel took a moment to catch his breath, and then noticed the cans lying about. Well, at least he didn't get away with the goods he'd stolen, Edward. Actually, it's not very important, now that I look at it. Just a few cans of food.
Well, it was Mr. Petries dinner, Nigel conceded as the two of them turned back towards camp. I doubt hell be pleased about this.
Edward looked at his comrade with a rather pained expression, You mean that was his dinner?
Nigel just nodded.
That poor man doesn't know how lucky he is then," and the two men laughed as they headed back to the camp.
Alexandria, Egypt -- two weeks later
A young man waited impatiently in a coffeehouse, looking around the room he was in. After a few moments, he saw who he was looking for coming in his direction.
Well, he asked as an older, shifty-eyed man sat down across from him, what happened, Sayyid? Was he interested?
Sayyid had an excited gleam in his eye as he spoke. Was he ever! His agent told me that hed pay us five hundred pieces of gold for the artifact. Five hundred! Well be well off for quite some time on that, Kassim.
Ill say, Kassim replied. And how much did we pay that grave-digger?
A pittance; a few British pounds, Sayyid said. And he was glad to take it, too.
The two men laughed for a moment, and then Sayyid said, Ive already made the arrangements. You will take the artifact to Mr. Haravashs house in a few hours time. He wants to handle the transaction personally, and I said that you would be there on time.
Me?! Kassim exclaimed. But I had to deal with him last time! Why cant you do it this time?
He likes you, Sayyid answered. Besides, I have another deal to work out with one of our British customers. I know you can handle this, though.
All right, Kassim said, an unsure look on his face.
Several hours later, after walking through more streets and making more twists and turns than he cared to remember, Kassim came upon the address hed been looking for. His features went into a frown of disappointment; the front of the house was large, but it was also as plain as any of the tenements on the street. It was about two stories tall, with an outside covered in aged and yellowing plaster. There were no windows of any kind in front, no ornamentation of any kind. Only a single, plain wooden door broke what was otherwise a solid, featureless exterior.
He walked up to the door, an unsure look on his face, and knocked on it a couple of times, then waited for a response. After a moment, a small window slid open in the door and a pair of eyes looked out at him with a questioning expression. What do you want? a low-toned voice said from the other side of the door.
Kassim said, I am Kassim. My associate came here yesterday about a possible acquisition for your master. Ive come here to deliver the item that they talked about.
The eyes in the window looked skeptical, so Kassim quickly brought out the bundle he carried and held it before him. He unwrapped part of the bundle, just enough so that the person on the other side of the door could have a peek at what was in the bundle. At that point, the person nodded, and the door window slid closed. Kassim quickly wrapped the bundle back up, and then proceeded to wait there, wondering what was going to happen.
After several minutes, Kassim heard someone unlocking the door. It swung inward to reveal a rather large, burly servant dressed in a simple outfit. Kassim stared at him; the man looked as though he could take on an entire regiment of the British.
The master will see you now, he said, and opened the door a little wider to allow Kassim in. Quickly, still eyeing the servant a little, Kassim walked in. He nearly jumped when he heard the servant shut the door, the sound it made was like someone placing a lid on a tomb.
The door had opened up into a small and surprisingly lavish garden in a small courtyard. In the center was a small fountain, where water was bubbling playfully from the center and into a small pond at the base. Kassim was only there a moment before the servant led him through the courtyard and into the main part of the house.
They went through several different rooms and hallways, all richly furnished with fine European-style chairs and tables. He could also see the occasional Egyptian statue or other artifact in the room, all kept in very good condition.
Eventually, Kassim was led into a small room near the center of the mansion. It was cool and dry, and even though the front half of the room was lit, it was only dimly with a couple of candle holders in the walls by the door. Kassim entered the room and looked around, while the servant came in and stood behind him, in between Kassim and the door.
Kassim was almost sure hed entered some sort of storage room. All around the front of the room were pieces of Egyptian art: statues, papyrus paintings, jewelry, stone tablets, and some few wooden objects. Gold, silver, enamel and gems seemed to glint from everywhere Kassim could see. The objects were placed on the floor or on shelves, seemingly without any order at all, giving the room a slightly crowded look.
The back of the room, however, was almost devoid of light. Kassim could definitely see what could have been bookcases filled with various old-looking books, scrolls, and stone and clay tablets. Oddly, it also seemed as though some of the shadows in among the bookcases were moving.
After a moment, Kassims eyes settled on the man hed come to meet.
Looking at him, Kassim cringed slightly. Against the dark background,
all he could see was a silhouette of the man, tall and powerful; almost as
powerful as his servant. His black cape and mantle, as well as the
black turban around his head, were almost the same color as the shadows behind
him. Only the gold trim on the mans mantle and cape clearly showed
where he was. There was also some sort of presence about
the man; not overtly evil, but still dark and disturbing.
At the moment, the man was examining a large stone statue of a...something...that seemed to look out of place with the other artifacts. It was about as tall as the man, and looked as though it wasnt of Egyptian make, unlike the other items in the room. One thing that was clear, though: it looked like it had been standing in a wild sandstorm for a few decades. Parts of it were pitted and cracked, while other parts had been worn down to practically nothing. Compared with the other pieces in the room, the statue seemed nothing more than a curious piece of junk.
After another moment, the black-robed man seemed to noticed that someone else was in the room, and he turned towards Kassim.
You must excuse me, the man apologized after a momentary pause. A new acquisition, he continued, nodding at the statue.
What is it? Kassim asked.
What it seems, the man said, a piece of glorified rubble. But I purchased it because it has some sentimental value to one of my customers.
Kassim nodded quickly at the explanation. He then quickly took a breath and seemed to summon up what little courage he had. I-I we talked about earlier, he said.
So your compatriot told my agent, the man flat, in a cold, flat voice that unnerved Kassim even more. Let me see it.
Kassim nodded, and then took the bundle he had and unwrapped it. The disk felt warm, and it practically glowed, even in the dim light and cold of the room as Kassim hands touched its surface.
The mans eyes arched slightly in surprise, then a rather pleased glint appeared in them and he reached out and took the disk from Kassim. He looked at the artifact with a certain sort of satisfaction, as though he himself had been the one to acquire it. He slowly flipped it over and over in his hands, examining it, moving his hands lovingly over its surface. As he looked at its polished surface, the man muttered something to himself in a language Kassim couldnt understand.
Kassim paused nervously for another moment before clearing his throat slightly to catch the mans attention. S-so, you like it? Kassim said, trying to put some confidence back in his voice.
The man slowly drew his attention away from the object, and then looked at Kassim with a slight smile that made him even more unnerved, as though the man would soon order Kassims execution.
Instead the man said, a note of pleasure in his still tired-sounding voice, Yes, I very much like it. Youve done an excellent job here,...
Yes, yes, the man continued, you've done an excellent job, Kassim.
Then, youll pay the promised sum for it? Kassim timidly asked.
The man continued to smile slightly and nodded, Of course. You will get the payment due you. I have been looking for this artifact for a very long time, and you will be well-rewarded for bringing it to me. The mans pleasure seemed to be genuine, though subdued, to Kassims ears, and he began to relax a little.
The man continued to focus on the disk for a little while, still examining it. Then he stopped, and the smile disappeared as he looked at one spot on the rim of the disk. Kassims eyes began to widen as he realized where on the disk the man was looking at. He began to grow more fearful as the man looked at it more closely for a moment. Then the man calmly turned to look at Kassim with an utterly emotionless expression. There is a fragment missing. he said in an equally emotionless voice.
Kassim went pale. I-I am sorry, master, he said quietly, looking like he knew his last day on Earth had come.
The man kept gazing impassively at him for a little longer, then looked back at the broken part of the disk and asked, Tell me...Kassim...is this the condition you found the artifact in? the slight tone in the mans voice said that he already knew the answer.
Kassim paused for a moment, a looked of fear on his face. Yes, but the person I purchased this item from swore it was whole when he found it, he said, trying to keep a hold of his voice. The man to gaze at him, and quickly Kassim added, I swear, it wasnt my fault! I would never try to sell cheap or broken merchandise to a man such as you.
I know you wouldnt, the man said unemotionally. Or at least, that you arent now. If I thought otherwise, Id have you killed. His still impassive eyes made the threat even more frightening.
As Kassim began to relax, the man continued. I know you wouldnt break the disk yourself, he said calmly, it isnt worth as much to you if its broken. So the question is: how was it broken? I presume you know.
Well, yes, Kassim answered somewhat reluctantly.
The man waited impassively for Kassim to continue.
It was a monster, Kassim said meekly. The mans expression didnt change one iota, apparently indicating he didnt believe Kassim. Quickly he said, No, it really was a monster, honest.
All right, the man said calmly, what happened?
Kassim told the man about the events hed heard from the grave-robber as to the finding of the disk; about running into the monster and how it must have somehow gotten hold of the remaining fragment of the disk. As he went through the story, the mans eyes narrowed in thought. In a few places he nodded slightly, before telling Kassim to go on.
When Kassim was finished, the man asked, What did this monster look like?
Well, Kassim said, racking his mind to try and remember, the man I purchased this item from said it was about his size, with red skin and a long mane of white hair, and it was wearing a loincloth with some sort of belt. He had a beak for a mouth, and horns going back from the top of his head. And he had wings and a tail. He was a most frightening beast, O great one; most assuredly a demon of some sort, if the mans story be true.
As Kassim finished his description, the man stood there for a moment, apparently thinking over what had been said. Then he nodded and said, Thank you. Your story is most...helpful.
You do not question it? Kassim asked, rather startled.
No, the man said matter-of-factly, and I understand now what had to be done to get me this merchandise. You have done me a great service, Kassim, and for that you will receive your promised gold.
As he spoke, he placed a slight emphasis on the word gold while holding one hand above the table. As he said the word, a small light appeared on the tables surface underneath his hand, and a large bag of money materialized within the light. Kassim looked about ready to jump out of his skin at this, but he picked up the bag of money anyway, and hurriedly thanked the robed man. Then he practically ran out the door and into the hallway, with the servant behind him. He quickly made for the front door, and after the servant had opened it up, Kassim ran out into the street and as far away from the manor house as his legs could take him.
When his servant and the dealer of antiquities had gone, the
robed man picked up the disk and held it in his hands. At
last, he said to himself, a note of quiet satisfaction in his voice.
He twirled the disk slightly in his hands, admiring the way the hieroglyphics etched in the rim seemed to appear and disappear as light hit the grooves, almost in a magical way. So much power, in such a small artifact, he said quietly to himself. No wonder he worshipped this thing as a god...
If you tell me, I think it was more because that idiot had spent one too many days in the sun, a disdainful voice interrupted.
The man looked back over his shoulder, an equally disdainful and slightly weary look in his eyes. It doesnt matter in any case. Hes long dead, and we have the disk now. That is all thats important.
From out of the blackness of the rear part of the room, the man could see a pair of sapphire-colored eyes appear in one of the shadows. They showed a cold intelligence in them, shining as though from their own light. The shadow around the eyes solidified into the form of a young woman, but she might as well as stayed in the shadows. A blood-red robe covered her entire body, and a shawl masked her face, so that like the man, her eyes were the only thing visible of her.
She looked at the disk for a moment with only the slightest concern, then looked at the man. Why did you give that toadstool our money, anyway? the woman said in disgust. He had the disk with him, he even gave the thing to you; you could have simply taken it from him and thrown his dead carcass out on the street.
The man sighed and gave her a slightly disappointed look. I gave him the promised sum because, unlike you, I am a man of my word, he said calmly and patiently, as though explaining his actions to a child. And I always pay my debts. A slightly patronizing look began to play on her face.
Actually, he continued in a nonchalant way, youd be surprised how often it works. It can even endear you to the locals.
As if you cared about these people, she said sarcastically. I certainly do not.
Ill admit I dont have any respect for these peasants, he replied. But by doing things this way, I actually get these people to deal with me. Your way gets people very angry at you. Or do you forget the time when you got involved with trying to murder Ramses?
Which one? she asked.
The third one, he replied.
Oh, him, she said, a flash of recognition appearing in her eyes. Then she gave an indignant sniff. I handled myself well enough!
You were: the man dead-panned, counting off items with his fingers as he spoke, defeated by the two dozen or so warriors who immediately came after you; captured by them and then incarcerated; and then about an inch away from being executed. I had to take important time off to personally rescue you.
His eyes betrayed a slight smirk when he saw the woman bristle at that recollection. I still think youre too soft on these people, she sneered, though it was only half-hearted.
He waited a moment, and then went on in a slightly more comforting tone of voice. If you are that bent on bloodshed, he said, then consider this: how long do you expect a man with a bag of gold to last in the backstreets of this city. Hell be lucky if he lives to see tomorrow morning. I dont really care about what happens to him. I simply care that the word is spread.
The woman chuckled for a moment, a cold, harsh sound devoid of any warmth. Then she regained her composure, and her eyes suddenly lit up as she seemed to recall something. The excitement in her eyes was duplicated in her voice as she said, Did you hear what that street rat had to say about the monster? It sounded like.....
Brooklyn, the man finished for her, the calm weariness returning to his voice.
What, the woman teased. Youre not looking forward to meeting him again?
The man looked daggers at her. Not with you in tow, he said, his voice growing cold.
The womans eyes flashed satisfaction for a moment, then turned to a more pleasurable expression. Her voice danced with expectant pleasure as she said, It will be good to see him again. We can catch up on.....old times. As she spoke, she slowly raised her gloved right hand and stared at it. The look in her eyes showed that she wanted the conversation to be terminal. And at last, we can get on with this plan of yours.
Its necessary that we get the fragment he has from him, the man said.
Oh, I have no problem with getting the fragment, she said. I simply am going to have a big problem letting him survive the encounter.
What do you have against merely asking for the fragment? he asked tiredly.
You really dont understand, do you? the woman said, giving the man a patronizing look. Do you honestly expect him to give me the fragment if I simply walk up to him and ask politely?
You never know, the man said. It might work.
No thank you, she said. Its not my style. Besides, asking for it wouldnt be any fun at all!
The man sighed. You didnt inherit much of your fathers character, did you? he asked.
Only the best parts, she returned. But in any case, Im overseeing Brooklyns capture personally. You wanted me to do this...
Only because youre the only one I deem competent enough for this mission, the man pointed out.
The womans eyes showed her pleasure at the reluctant compliment. ...and I need to make sure that these buffoons youve given me do their job correctly.
Try to restrain your bloodlust, the man warned. We want our quarry brought back alive this time. He paused, and then added, And relatively undamaged.
I know my business, she answered confidently. Ill bring him in one piece.
See that you do, the man replied. Im sure Brooklyn has the fragment, and I cant afford for you to kill him for enjoyment before I can get the fragment from him. If you do kill him, then Ill make sure my servants roast you on a spit.
Well, the woman retorted, you, for your part, had
better not go soft on him again. Otherwise, Ill find
some way to put you on that spit.
She chuckled again at that, more menacingly this time. Then she calmed down again and said, Do you know where Brooklyn is right now?
Now, how would I know that? the man said with a slight sarcasm.
Because youre a sorcerer, you dolt, she answered, as if that explained everything. And besides, you know him better than I do.
The sorcerer sighed. This is Kemet, Isfet, he explained calmly. He will either head north or south from where he started; any other direction would be foolish, to say the least. We are on the northern end of Kemet, so travel south and you should find him sooner or later.
The woman nodded in satisfaction. Then Ill be on my way.
Well be on our way, the man corrected. You will get Brooklyn. I will prepare for his interrogation. And do not forget to bring Brooklyn back alive and in one piece. Remember, youre here at my behest.
Very well, the woman said in an irritated tone of voice. But just remember that Im only working with you at my behest. Then she narrowed her eyes at him. Give me a good excuse, and Ill try my hand at seeing how immortal you are.
Then man stood up and faced her. There was no emotion in his eyes, not even anger or irritation at the just-received threat. Just get ready for the trip down to Misr, he said, his voice still low and utterly calm. Ill have a ship ready for us by evening, so you have a few hours to prepare. And dont threaten me again.
They stayed deadlocked for a moment or to, staring each other down. Then, Isfet smiled and said in a sweet tone of voice, As you wish, wizard. Then she turned and made her way for the door. As she exited the room and turned down the hall, the man could clearly hear her muttering excitedly to herself, Now I can have some fun. She continued down the hallway, chuckling to herself as she went, and soon the man was left to himself.
Taking a deep breath, he sat down and looked over to where the woman had exited, and his eyes subtly glowed bluish-white in a look of irritation. After a moment, they faded again and he shook his head. Then he looked down at the disk, still in his hands, and sighed. Brooklyn, he said to himself, I hope you can kill that witch this time.
Near Cairo, Egypt -- several days later
As the sun set behind the Pyramids on the horizon, a loud cracking of stone could be heard near the river. A moment later, an explosion of fragments followed by a roar marked Brooklyns awakening. The red gargoyle took a minute to stretch, and then headed off towards a nearby cottage. Being careful of the structures instability, he carefully climbed to the roof, and then leapt off into the night air.
As he glided towards the city, he shook his head slightly at the sight before
him. Never thought Id wind up here, he said to himself.
He looked out across the river valley to the Giza Pyramids in the
distance. Hmm.... I wonder if I should go there, and write
something like Brooklyn was here over there. Bet Goliath,
Elisa, and Angela would get a kick out of that when they come around here
in a century or so...
Brooklyns thoughts were interrupted by a growling in his stomach. All right, all right, Ill look for something to eat. He looked down at the city now below him. I wonder where would be a good place to get some breakfast...
As he pondered, a strange whistling noise started to come from below, growing louder by the moment. As Brooklyn looked down to see what it was, a rope hit him with a jarring motion along his chest, as though he had hit a clothesline. The whirling sound continued for a few moments, while the rope wrapped itself around him and pinned his arms to his sides. Then, the weights at the ends of the rope hit him in the chest, stunning him and knocking the wind out of his lungs for a moment. His equilibrium disrupted by the bola, he began to fall towards the ground.
Quickly, he tried to break free of the bola, and after a moment of exertion he broke out of the binding rope. But he was still falling, and he saw it was too late to try and regain his balance. He looked frantically for a place to crash-land, and saw a small wagon full of blankets parked in an alleyway below. He shifted his wings as much as he could, steering himself towards the wagon as he continued to fall, and a moment later he crashed into the vehicles cargo. The blankets softened the force of the crash, but it was still enough to daze Brooklyn for a few moments.
As he slowly climbed out of the wagon and began to get his bearings, four men appeared from the alleyway around him. Brooklyn could see the large club each man carried, and the look of murder in each pair of eyes.
Should have figured something like this was going to happen, Brooklyn said to himself as the humans surrounded him and prepared to attack.
The first man came at Brooklyn with a battle-cry, his club raised and ready to strike. Brooklyn dodged the mans downward swing, and then knocked the man several feet back with a punch in the face, to land unconscious on the ground.
As the second man ran up to take from behind, Brooklyn turned and punched the man in the gut. The human thug dropped his club and groaned in pain, to be silenced when the gargoyle brought his hands down on the mans head in a double fist.
For a moment, the other two waited, eyeing Brooklyn warily from both sides. Then they rushed at him from both sides at once. Brooklyn waited as the two thugs rushed towards him, then stepped back at the last second. He grabbed both men by the fronts of their tunics as they came next to him, and he pulled them together. From their momentum and Brooklyns help, the tow men crashed into each other and stood entangled together for a moment before each fell backwards to the ground.
Brooklyn took a moment to catch his breath, and then looked around. Okay, he said to no one in particular, whos next?
As if on cue, dozen more men appeared out of the shadows, all armed with more clubs. Brooklyn stopped for a moment and stared at the reinforcements.
As soon as the words had left his mouth, the thugs attacked Brooklyn. One
of them ran up behind the gargoyle, planning to hit Brooklyn with his
club. The gargoyle immediately turned around, grabbed the man by the
front of his shirt, and then threw him into another man coming at him from
the front. The two men collided into each other, sending them both
to the ground in a heap.
As Brooklyn grabbed a third man, he suddenly felt a heavy blow on his back. A second blow there caused him to cry out and let go of the human he was holding, and a third sent him to his knees. He felt hands grabbing his arms and holding him still as he was beaten by the clubs a few more times.
Once hed been forced to the ground, the beating stopped. Hold him still while I search him, the man behind Brooklyn said. Then Brooklyn began to feel the human hands reaching for his beltpouch.
Suddenly, a shrill sound echoed in the night; the war-cry of a gargoyle, Brooklyn recognized. The men turned their attention skywards as a yellow shape descended, what looked like a small white mace in her hand. Using the momentum of her approached, she swiped at one thugs head with the mace, knocking him unconscious with a blow to the head.
She landed neatly in the middle of the thugs, and then immediately began to attack the humans with her mace. Two more thugs quickly fell as they tried to attack her: one with a blow to the side of the head, another with a mace blow to the gut, and then one in the face. She ducked as a third man came from behind her and swiped at her head with a sword, and then whirled around, using the momentum of her turning to deliver a mace blow that sent the man flying backwards several feet, to land against a bunch of stacked baskets.
By now, the thugs holding Brooklyn were so amazed at the sight of this new threat that theyd loosened their grip on the gargoyles arms. Taking advantage of this, Brooklyn quickly elbowed the man holding his right arm in the gut, then swung his fist up into the mans face, causing him to let go and fall back to the ground. The other two men began to react to the fact that their prisoner was trying to escape, and the one not holding on to Brooklyn tried to hit the gargoyle with his club.
Before he could do so, however, Brooklyn turned and swung the man holding his other arm into him, and they both let go of the respective things they were holding as they collided with each other. Quickly, the gargoyle went up and, before they could get up, punched both men in the face, sending them back to the ground unconscious.
He turned to where the other gargoyle was fighting one of the last men; she seemed to be having a few problems fending the mans club off with her mace. Brooklyn quickly looked back to the three men hed just taken out, and grabbed one of their clubs. Aiming carefully, he threw the weapon towards the fighting pair. The gargoyle ducked just in time to avoid being hit, causing the club to sail over her head and knock into the humans. The man fell to the street, and the female got back up and smiled.
Then suddenly her eyes widened in alarm. Before Brooklyn could even figure out what was going on, she turned, picked up one of the other clubs and threw it at him. He ducked, and turned his head to see the flying weapon hit a man whod come up behind him. Like the person who had been attacking the female, the force of the blow knocked the man out, and he fell to the ground in a heap. As Brooklyn got back up, he gave the female a sheepish smile of thanks.
Brooklyn took a moment to scan the area, swearing when he saw that one of the thugs had gotten away. When he was sure no more of the armed humans were going to be suddenly appearing, turned his attention towards him mysterious rescuer. Who are- Brooklyn began, but he was interrupted by shouts coming down from the side streets.
Brooklyn stood there for a moment, wondering what to do, when the other gargoyle motioned him to follow her and then ran down a side street. He hesitated for a moment, but another round of shouting, closer this time, made him take off after his rescuer.
He followed the female through several backstreets, making a few turns here and there. Eventually, they came upon a dilapidated building, its windows boarded up and the paint cracking and peeling off. In one spot, Brooklyn was sure he could see part of the roof missing. The female went into the empty doorway of the structure, and motioned for him to follow as she saw Brooklyn hesitate. Another round of shout, this time closer, convinced Brooklyn, and he ran through the doorway and into the house.
He followed the female into one of the back rooms of the building, and then hunkered down in the shadows along with her. A few moments later, the sounds of passing soldiers echoes from the street outside. The two gargoyles waited until the British soldiers had obviously gone by, and then proceeded to get up.
Thanks, Brooklyn said as he began to relax. I owe you one.
It is not a problem, she said, turning back to face Brooklyn. Im always willing to help a fellow gargoyle.
Brooklyns eyes widened slightly as he got his first good look at the female. He hadnt had a chance to take much notice of his rescuers features during the fight and after, but now that he did he found himself looking at a very beautiful young female. She looked about forty years old, with the same young innocence in her features that he remembered from Angela. In fact, now that he thought of Goliaths daughter, he noticed that the gargoyle in front of him even looked a bit like her, though slightly more exotic.
But this female was the color of gold, rather then lavender, with copper-colored wings. Curly, bronze-colored hair, shot through with copper and silver strands, flowed freely onto her shoulders. Large, pale blue eyes looked at him pleasantly, with a sort of youthful sparkle in them that belied her otherwise ragged appearance. Her browridge was like some upturned crescent, forming a pair of horns above her head, with what looked like an artificial groove cut along the length of the inside curve.
She wore a simple shift that looked like it had been once made of fine linen, but was now dirty and frayed. The one thing it did well now, it seemed, was to give modesty to her rather well-proportioned frame. Her hair was snarled in places, and there were some scrapes and smudges on her face. But still, Brooklyn could somehow tell that he was looking at nobility, if gargoyles could have been thought to have such a distinction.
The females eyes and face were in an expression of the kind and old friend might have given him after a long separation. Hello, Brooklyn, she said warmly. Its good to see you again.
Brooklyns eyes widened slightly more at hearing his name. Um, hi, he said uneasily.
The female looked at him curiously for a moment, then seemed to understand what was going on. You dont know me, do you? she asked.
No, Brooklyn said slowly as he shook his head. Im sorry, but I cant say I do.
The female looked at him appraisingly for a moment, and then nodded. My name is Meryt-Isis, she said, introducing herself. After a moment, she added, It means beloved of Isis.
Thanks, he said. I think...
Meryt paused, and then made her way over to the entrance of the house. She looked outside for a moment, then came back to him. The British will be out in that alleyway for some time, she said. We need to leave before they start searching for whoever was responsible.
Us, Brooklyn stated.
Meryt nodded. I know of a way out of here. Follow me. She took off through one of the windows and, after a moments hesitation, Brooklyn followed after her.
They went through several streets, always making sure to stay in the shadows and avoid the humans, especially the English and Scottish soldiers that seemed to be everywhere. As they continued, Brooklyn couldnt help but marvel at the athleticism of the small female. She was fast and nimble, even for a gargoyle, and she seemed to never tire; Brooklyn, in fact, found himself pushing himself just to keep up with her.
As they kept moving through the back-alleys of Cairo, Brooklyn began to think about the attack hed been in earlier. I wonder what those guys were after? he asked himself. Good thing they didnt get the Gate, or Id be in big trouble.
His expression became one of surprise as Meryt stopped and turned her head to him. They werent after the Phoenix Gate, Brooklyn. They were after something else.
Brooklyn looked at her in shock. Howd you know about the Gate?
Meryt smiled slyly. We came to know each other quite well, Brooklyn. And we shared many secrets with each other.
And the Gate was one of those? Brooklyn asked.
Meryt nodded, and then her expression became distant for a moment. Along
with...other things. Before Brooklyn could ask, the female shook
herself out of her reflections and motioned to Brooklyn. Come
on. I know of a place where well be relatively safe.
A moment later, she was off again, and Brooklyn had to race to keep up.
After a few more minutes, they arrived at a large building near the riverfront. Meryt scaled the walls, with Brooklyn behind her, and soon the two of them were sitting on the roof, looking out over the Nile and across to the Giza Pyramids. We should be safe here for a while, she said. The roof is also strong enough to support something like a stone gargoyle.
Brooklyn nodded at that. Maybe you can contact your clan or something, he offered. Im sure theyd want to know about something like this.
Meryts face suddenly looked pained, and closed her eyes and lowered her head. My clan is long-dead, Brooklyn, she said quietly.
Oh, sorry, Brooklyn apologized. How...did they die?
They werent smashed by the locals or anything, the female replied. The clan just...faded away over time.
Hey, Im sorry, he said, I know what its like to have to lose your clan. He moved to put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but she quickly moved away from him.
Whats wrong? he asked, a puzzled expression on his face.
Nothing, she said quickly. I just...would like it if you would take care not to touch me, thats all.
All right, Brooklyn said slowly, and backed away from her a little.
They sat there in silence for several more minutes, before Brooklyn cleared his throat.
Yes? Meryt asked, looking at him with arched eyebrows.
Um,...I was wondering...just how well did we...um...
...know each other? Meryt completed.
Meryt smiled. Let me see... I know you dont like pizza.
He looked at her, slightly startled. Howd you...! All right, anything else?
I know you have an enemies from your time who you call The Pack.
Now Brooklyns eyes were wide. Thats right, too. Do you know anything that I like?
I know you like motorcycles.
You have motorcycles here? he asked incredulously.
No, but Ive seen bicycles, and Ive heard about the Europeans trying to make horseless carriages, so its not too hard for me to imagine. And besides, you yourself told me what they are. I also know you like musical concerts; rock and roll, if I remember correctly?
Brooklyn was shaking his head by now. Youre batting a thousand so far. Okay, what about my favorite things? What are they?
Wellllll, Meryt said slowly, bringing her face a little closer to Brooklyns, I know what one of those is.
What? Brooklyn asked warily.
Meryt leaned over to Brooklyns ear, taking care not to touch it, and then began to whisper into it. At first, Brooklyn continued to smile, but as the female continued, Brooklyns eyes widened considerably. After a minute or two, Meryt leaned back away from the red gargoyle, who turned and stared at her with a puzzled expression on his face.
I do? he asked.
Meryt beamed, and nodded deeply. You most certainly do, Meryt confirmed.
Brooklyns expression continued to remain to be one of puzzlement, and after a moment Meryts face twisted to match his. Didnt you know?
Well, Brooklyn said hesitantly.
Then a look of realization came over Meryts face. You mean youre...
Brooklyns face began to turn a deeper shade of crimson. Well, I...lets change the subject, shall we?
Meryt beamed and then nodded. As you wish.
Good. Brooklyn thought for a moment. What exactly do you like. You havent told me that.
Meryt looked up thoughtfully. Well, theres... She leaned over to him and whispered in his ear again. After a few minutes, Brooklyn looked back at her with a shocked expression while she merely smiled.
Brooklyns face became even redder, almost purplish in color for a moment, then he cleared his throat and said, Um...maybe we should talk about stuff thats...well...not so private?
All right, the female said. She seemed to think for a moment.
Perhaps, since you seem to be new to this land, I could tell you a
few things about it; in the manner of a good hostess.
Brooklyn made a relieved smile. Yeah, thatd be okay.
So for the next several hours, the two of them talked on the roof, cautious of any further attacks. Meryt talked of Egypt, the land of her birth, and of some of the history. She also talked of her clan, though in sad, reminiscing tones. Brooklyn, for his part, talked some about his timedancing adventures, though he sometimes had to pause and make sure she hadnt heard a particular story before.
As they talked, he found himself becoming more intrigued with this strange female. Though she was modest about it, the golden female was physically beautiful: several times, Brooklyn caught himself focusing on the fine, aristocratic features of her face, the delicate structure of her wings, or the gentle curves of her body and limbs. He would stop and look embarrassed, but Meryt never seemed to mind the attention.
But what attracted Brooklyn was her character. She was intelligent and witty in her conversation, though sometimes the bluntness that came from this courtly-looking gargoyle shocked him. She, on the other hand, never seemed to be shocked by anything ~he~ said, something which disconcerted him at times. Overall, though, Brooklyn began to find himself thinking of this female much as he had of Angela or Pandora.
But there was something strange about the young female, something that made him uncomfortable on another level. When lunchtime came, Brooklyn managed to scrounge something up, but Meryt declined to eat; the same with supper later on. Another thing that bothered him was the fact that he couldnt smell her; she didnt seem to have a scent at all. He put it out of his mind as they talked, but he still couldnt shake completely the feeling that Meryt was hiding something about herself.
Eventually, the night passed and soon the sky was beginning to show the first faint signs of dawn approaching. Meryt looked out over the city and sighed. It will be day soon, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn joined her gaze on the eastern horizon. Yeah, he said, it looks that way. He turned to his companion. This place looks as good as any to sleep on.
Meryt looked over at the red gargoyle. Im sorry, Brooklyn, but I cant stay with you during the day. I have my own place that I need to go to, and Ive already probably spent too much time here as it is.
Well, then Ill go with you, Brooklyn offered.
Meryt sadly shook her head. I thank you, but you cannot follow me on the journey I need to take. Brooklyns face became downcast, but then Meryt smiled at him.
Do not worry, she said. I will meet you tomorrow. How about there, she pointed towards a large fortress on a hill in the city. I will meet you there an hour after the sun sets.
Brooklyns expression changed to a smile again. Ill be waiting.
Meryt nodded, and then began to climb down towards the streets below. Arent you going to glide? Brooklyn asked after her.
Meryt looked up at him and answered, After what happened to you tonight? Id feel safer walking, thank you. Then she reached the bottom, and disappeared into the shadows of the streets below.
Brooklyn spent the rest of that night pondering over his meeting with the strange female, and when sunrise came, his face was frozen in a thoughtful gesture.
You fool! a heavyset man yelled, looking down at the thug whod managed to escape the gargoyles. I send you to capture one animal, and he defeats you all! I have never seen such incompetence! If the honored mistress finds out...
Find out about what? a womans voice asked. The heavyset man turned sharply at the sound, and his look became one of nervousness as he saw young woman in a blood-red outfit and cloak seemed to materialize from the shadows. The hood on her cloak was pulled down over her shoulders, revealing a rather stunning face, dark blue eyes set in a frame of tanned skin and dark brown hair.
Mistress Isfet, the man said, a note of fear in his voice, my men tried their best to accomplish the task you set for us, but...
You werent able to capture him? she asked, arching an eyebrow. And even after I helped you?
Another demon, a yellow one, attacked us, the thug offered fearfully. Everything was fine until she showed up and started attacking us with a mace.
Isfet merely rolled her eyes heavenward. Not again, she muttered to herself, then she turned her cold blue eyes back to the men. Did you at least get the fragment? she asked, though the expression on her face clearly showed what she thought the answer would be.
The heavyset man looked at his underling, then back at the woman. Well, no, he said, causing the irritated expression on the womans face to intensify somewhat. Please, Mistress. A million pardons for this failure; we will try to catch him again for you if you like?
No, she said, waving the offer off with her hand as she visibly calmed down. It is quite all right. You did your best, and that is all anyone can expect of you. She produced a small stick from under her cloak, and smiled cruelly. In fact, I still plan to repay you for your effort.
She slowly twirled the stick in her hand, and as she did so, the two ends glowed and extended until the object became a full-sized quarterstaff. Both ends were tipped with a strange, dark green metal, and as Isfet kept twirling it, the bright gleam on the metal seemed to match the one in the womans eyes.
As she began to move forward, a voice came from nearby. Hold!
The two men were utterly confounded as Isfet suddenly froze in place, then their eyes widened as they saw a man in a black outfit, standing inside what looked like a bright blue disk suspended above the ground. At hearing the strange man say Go!, the two thugs ran for their lives down the street.
When they were out of sight, the sorcerer looked at Isfet and said, Release.
Isfet started forward as she found herself capable of movement again. Once shed regained her balance, she turned on the sorcerer and gave him a withering glare. Why did you do that? she spat.
I was going to ask the same of you, the sorcerer said. I assume youve found Brooklyn?
Yes, she admitted.
Then go find him and earn your pay. And dont think about causing problems with the locals. At least, not before youve earned your pay.
There was a time, you know, when ~you~ were the one following ~my~ orders!
I know, the sorcerer said, smiling slightly. Consider your life for the past few millenia as payback. Now go, and do not return without the Timedancer. And with that, the portal dilated shut, leaving Isfet alone.
She gritted her teeth and growled in anger for a moment, and it took her a couple of minutes to calm down. Once she had, she caused her quarterstaff to shirnk again, and put it away. Then she flipped the of her cloak back over her head and stomped off down the city streets.
Brooklyn sat on the wall of the Citadel, looking out over the night horizon at the Pyramids. He sighed, and then looked down on the city below him, scanning as though to find the female hed met the night before from his perch.
After a moment, he stopped and shook his head in defeat. What were you thinking, Brooklyn, he said to himself. That shed come running into your arms or something? Heck, you dont even know her. He looked around one more time. Well, might as well get in some more sight-seeing while Im here, and hope I dont run into those jerks that jumped me last night.
He spread his wings and was about to leap off into the night sky, when he felt a sort of strange warmth coming from his belt pouch. Hed ignored it before, but by now it was strong enough so that he could tell it wasnt from just his own body heat. He lowered his wings and then started searching in his belt pouch for the object. It didnt take long, and soon Brooklyn pulled out the disk fragment hed had for the last two weeks or so.
It had always been a red-orange color before, but now it seemed to be glowing slightly with a yellow light in the interior, and it felt warm in his hand. The hieroglyphs on the edge seemed to glow even brighter, and he could clearly see them now as a set of golden symbols on the stone of the fragment.
What the heck? he said to himself as he looked at the fragment. He turned towards the east, to get a better look at it from the city lights below, and as he did so, the fragments glow began to fade. As soon as he turned back towards the part of the city below him, the glow returned.
Well, thats interesting. Maybe I should check this out.
And with that, Brooklyn opened his wings again, and leapt off towards the city.
After a few moments, he glided over one of the old suburbs, and found the fragment glowing strong than even. Looking down, he picked a likely looking landing spot near a mosque, and soon he set down next to the structure.
It was made out the same white limestone that most of the buildings in this area were made of, and was located on one part of a large square. Looking over to one side, Brooklyn could see that another mosque was being built nearby, made out of the same limestone, and seemingly built so as to match with the older one.
Brooklyn looked down at the fragment in his hands; it was glowing a little more brightly now, especially when he pointed it at the older mosque. Carefully, he approached the limestone building, and as the fragment was brought nearer to the wall, it continued to glow brighter.
As he brought it to within a foot of the building, the fragment suddenly flashed. A bolt of blue lightning seemed to form out of the wall itself and arced over to the fragment. The small boom caused by the bolt, as well as the massive shock received from it, caused Brooklyn to yelp and jump back several feet. He waited a moment to see what would happen next, but then clamed down when nothing else seemed to happen. He looked back down at the fragment in his hands, and saw that it had returned to just simply glowing slightly.
Thats a powerful object you have in your hands Brooklyn, and these stones have power of their own. If you arent careful, youll wind up a crispy critter.
Brooklyn turned around and saw Meryt standing behind him, smiling. Howd you do that? he asked.
I have my ways, she commented. But come, I have someplace to show you. Then she was off on all fours, heading through the backalleys again. Brooklyn quickly shoved the disk fragment back into his belt pouch, and then quickly followed her on all fours as well.
An hour later, they arrived at a small stand of palm trees and bushes by the river, some ways from the city. Brooklyn was panting slightly by the time he stopped, while Meryt merely stood next to one of the trees, seemingly unfazed by the long journey.
He stared at her, marveling at her stamina, and at the way the light from the moon played on her features. As he looked at her, he noticed noticed her absently fingering a large, curved tooth, suspended from a small leather thong around her neck. It seemed to be quite sharp, and from the size, it looked as though it had come from a ~very~ big animal.
Whats that? he asked, pointing at the tooth.
Its a souvenir, she said, of the first time I brought you down here. You gave it to me afterwards, and Ive treasured it since.
I bought it for you? he asked.
Lets just say you acquired it for me.
How? Brooklyn said, looking troubled.
A sly look crossed Meryts features. Ill let you find that out for yourself. Lets just say that our first date was...very memorable.
Well, speaking of trinkets, Brooklyn asked, whats the deal with this fragment? He held up the item in question.
Meryt paused before speaking. Do you know where it comes from?
Yes, he said. Its a piece of this one weird disk. So?
I need to ask a favor of you regarding it.
I want you to hand the fragment to me for safe-keeping.
Brooklyn, she said, ...you must give me that fragment. You have already seen how powerful that one fragment is, and you know it is part of a larger device. My...a wizard I know, he has the rest of the disk with him, and he wants the fragment. Those men we faced last night were only some ruffians he hired; hell be sending someone else now, someone...
...you dont think I can handle? Brooklyn finished.
Meryt nodded silently. It would only be for a little while, though. Then Id show you where it was. You must believe that I intend to use it for no harmful purpose.
Why should I trust you? Brooklyn asked. I mean, I know youre nice and all, but I know enough about magic to know I cant just give something like this fragment to just anybody.
Meryt sighed. I know, Brooklyn. I know. She looked out over the panorama before them, the Nile River, the fields beyond it, and the desert on the horizon. There was a time when I did not trust you either. You were a foreigner to this land, and my clan didnt care for foreigners.
She bowed her head. They didnt care for me, either. Then she looked back at Brooklyn, a sad look in her eyes. That is why I am here now, alone.
Meryt, I... Brooklyn moved towards her, and tried to reach out to touch her, but she merely moved back. Look, I wont hurt you.
I know, Brooklyn, she said, but I dont want you to touch me. For personal reasons.
Look, you cant just keep shying away from me, he said, and grabbed her arm before she could pull away. You cant...
Brooklyns eyes widened slightly as he felt not warm skin under his fingers, but cold, hard metal. He met her eyes, and then realization filled him.
Youre some sort of golem, arent you? he asked. Some sort of...artificial construct.
Meryt hesitated for a few moments before speaking. The body is, yes, she said quietly. Then she looked up at him sadly. But inside is the ka, the soul, of a woman who loves you very much.
Brooklyn was stunned enough by her admission that he couldnt talk. Meryt lowered her head, and then quietly said, Please hold me, Brooklyn. If only for a moment.
Brooklyn hesitated for a moment, then he slowly put his arms around her slender waist. Slowly, silently, she put her arms around him, the cold metal surface causing Brooklyn to shiver slightly. Then he felt her wings envelop him, cold and hard in form, but gentle in touch. He put his own wings around her, again shivering at the feel of cold metal on his skin. They stood there silently for a minute, Meryt resting her head on Brooklyns shoulder, Brooklyn stroking her fine metal wires of her hair.
Meryt, he said quietly into her ear, what happened?
That is a very long story, Brooklyn. One I dont have the time to tell you now. She paused for a moment, and then became very quiet. It feels so good to be in your arms again, my love, I cannot describe it to you.
Im sorry you cant feel me though, what with your body being a fake and all, Brooklyn said apologetically.
Meryt pulled her head back and shook it. My body may be metal now, but it can feel things. And my heart can still feel as well. She raised her head, and looked into Brooklyns eyes with a pained expression. That is more a curse now, than a blessing, for it makes me wish that I was flesh instead of a soul locked in a statue. That was why I was afraid for you to touch me, my love. I didnt want you to be scared of me, of what Id become.
By now, Meryts metal form had warmed slightly from Brooklyns body heat, and for just a moment Brooklyn felt like he wasnt holding a statue, but a young female in his arms, one who apparently had a great deal of love for him.
She rested her head against his shoulder again. We used to come here often, she said quietly, on nights much like this one. And wed hold each other like this, just being together in each others arms. I miss those night so much.
They stayed silent again for another minute; then Brooklyn closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. Okay, Meryt, he said quietly, Ill give you the fragment.
The female nodded her head and a moment later, they separated and moved away from each other.
Brooklyn rummaged around in his belt pouch until he found the fragment, and then placed it in the hand Meryt held out for it.
Brooklyn, she said, looking into his eyes, know that what I said here was from my heart. I told you those things, not because I wanted this item from you, but because I meant them.
I guess Ill see for myself later on, he said.
Meryt nodded. Thank you Brooklyn, I have to go now, but Ill try to meet you later. And with that, she ran off into the night.
Brooklyn stood there for a few minutes, looking after where Meryt had gone, then shook his head. This is getting weirder than that time I went to Benedicks funeral.
Are you done, Timedancer? Brooklyn heard a feminine voice say from behind him. Or are you planning on trying to follow through with that Egyptian tart?
Brooklyn turned around to see who was behind him, and barely had time to duck as a twirling set of bolas came at his head. They passed over him, harmlessly landing on the sand several yards away, and as Brooklyn rose again, he could hear the voice chuckling.
Who are you? he asked.
The chuckling died down, and then the form of a young woman in a blood-red cloak and costume materialized out of the shadows. She looked at him appraisingly for a moment with her sapphire eyes, while producing a long, metal-tipped staff from underneath her cloak. You mean, you dont remember me? she asked, her face showing an expression of interest.
Should I? Brooklyn asked in return.
The woman shook her head. It doesnt matter. If you did, Id kill you.
But since I dont? Brooklyn asked.
The woman smiled evily. I just get to hurt you.
Just try it, lady! Brooklyn yelled back, and then he charged the woman.
She deftly side-stepped out of his way, and as his momentum made him pass her, she rapped him on the back of his head. A loud crack resounded as metal connected with Brooklyns head, and the force of the impact drove him forward several feet, to land face first in the ground. He made a feeble attempt to get up again, but then collapsed and lay still.
As soon as she was sure Brooklyn was down, Isfet shook her head sadly. That was pathetic, Timedancer, she said to the gargoyles unconscious form. You werent even trying that time. Though gargoyles always were easy to defeat.
Still shaking her head, she clapped her hands together. Two men came up to Brooklyns still form, picked him up, and then carried him as they followed Isfet out of the area.
Brooklyn woke up with a painful groan. He tried to open his eyes, though when he finally succeeded, all he could see was more pitch blackness. He could feel that hed been spread-eagled on some sort of wall; his arms and legs felt like the were out stretched, and he could feel the metal manacles at his wrists and ankles. There was even one binding his tail. All he could do was wait and see who came for him.
As it turned out, he didnt have to wait very long. After a minute or two, a door opened on one side of the room, at some higher level than where Brooklyn was. The room was flooded with light as a figure, what looked like a human man to Brooklyns eyes, came into the room bearing a torch in one hand. It took a couple of seconds for Brooklyns eyes to adjust, but once they did, he could see that he was in some sort of windowless, two-story room; obviously a dungeon with a set of stairs going up one side of the room to the only exit the gargoyle could see.
As the human began to go down the stairs, Brooklyn took a slightly closer look at him He was tall and fairly massively built as well, though that was about all that could be seen of the man through his clothing. He could see the black leather gloves that covered the humans hands, and the gold-trimmed black robes and mantle hid him very well. The humans head was hidden in a turban of sort, one that even managed to hide the features of the mans face quite well. For some reason, a part of Brooklyns mind wondered if a large flying eel was going to be coming through the door after the human.
On the mans arms, Brooklyn could see a pair of golden armbands, etched with some kind of serpentine-looking design. Prominently worn on his chest was a familiar object. It was the disk carried by the grave-robber whod run into him the night hed arrived in Egypt. And right on one side of the disk, Brooklyn could see the jagged edge where the fragment had broken off of.
Soon, the man reached the bottom of the stairs, where he placed the torch into a torch holder set into the wall. Very calmly he walked over to Brooklyn and then, not saying a word, simply looked at him like he was some piece of art on display. Brooklyn tried to avoid the mans piercing ice-blue eyes, but after a minute the discomfort apparent on the gargoyles features.
After about a minute of examination, the human straightened and said, with little feeling, Hello, Brooklyn. Long time, no see. Brooklyn eyes widened a little at the mention of his name.
After a moment, he recovered from his shock slightly. Who are you? he demanded, his voice showing his increasing annoyance with all these people who knew his name.
Direct as ever, arent we, old friend? the man said, causing Brooklyns eyes to widen a bit more. Wanting to get right down to the point immediately. Unfortunately, you will have to wait for that. He paused for a moment. My associate tells me that youve met Meryt again. Is that true?
Whats it to you? Brooklyn asked.
The human paused for a moment in thought. Lets just say we have a history together, he said. A long history.
Well, Id have to be crazy to tell you, Brooklyn said. Or that bola queen you sicced on me.
Be glad I told her to bring you here alive, the human said.
Oh? the gargoyle asked sarcastically.
Yes, the human replied calmly. If Isfet had used one of her white death bolas on you, youd be a pile of charred cinders long before now.
The utterly deadpan way the human explained this sent chills up Brooklyns spine. There was something...dangerous about this human. Not overt evil, so much as something that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end whenever the human looked at him.
But lets change the subject, shall we? the human suddenly said, and then began to pace around the room. It ~has~ been many years since we last met, so I rather enjoy the times we do have a chance to talk.
How have you been, Brooklyn? he said disinterestedly.
What do you mean? Brooklyn asked.
The human shrugged. I was curious as to how your timedancing was going. Obviously youve managed to survive through it, otherwise we wouldnt be having this conversation. He stopped for a moment and looked Brooklyn over once more before pacing again. And I can see that you must actually be doing well in your travels; youre in fairly good condition, my partners hired help notwithstanding. We will have to talk about that...again.
Youd probably do the same thing anyway.
On the contrary, I use subtlety, a concept that woman is likely never to grasp. I probably would have simply put you to sleep or something, and then taken you here.
Why didnt you come yourself, then? Brooklyn asked.
The human sighed. Chasing down and acquiring people has never been my style, old friend, he said calmly. That is work more suited to someone like Isfet.
Well, if youre so subtle, Brooklyn asked, then why didnt you just steal the fragment off of me? Heck, why not steal the Phoenix Gate while youre at it? He instantly stopped short as he realized hed just told this wizard about another artifact he might want.
The human waved his hand disdainfully in Brooklyns direction. Im also not in the habit of stealing from people who I consider my friends, Brooklyn. Besides, he shrugged, the Gate is broken anyway. What would I want with a broken artifact, even if it was of Avalonian make?
Then what about that disk on your chest there? Brooklyn pointed out.
The human looked down at the disk. What of it? he asked.
Its broken, Brooklyn pointed out.
Yes, the human agreed, but Im planning on repairing it soon, provided youre helpful.
Fat chance, Brooklyn spit out.
We will see, the human returned.
You were wise to keep to the shadows, my friend, the human said,
changing the subject again. Most people here wouldnt take
kindly to a demon in their neighborhood.
Yeah, well, my kind always did have PR problems, Brooklyn said.
The sorcerer looked at him quizzically.
Public Relations, Brooklyn explained.
The human nodding his head in understanding. Gargoyles have always seemed to bear the brunt of human fear in the places they live. It is one reason why I like this country. In the old days, the people here were more enlightened, more accommodating of both gargoyles and wizards like myself.
Look, Brooklyn interrupted in an irritated tone of voice, could you stop going on like this and just get to the point?
The human looked at him calmly. If you insist on having me forego pleasantries, I will. Then turned and looked at Brooklyn squarely in the eyes. Where is the fragment of this disk I possess? He pointed towards the disk on his chest as he spoke.
Come, Brooklyn, the human said. For old times sake, Im asking you to tell me where Meryt is.
Brooklyn was silent.
The man sighed. So youre not going to tell me, are you?
No, Brooklyn said acidly, Im not going to tell you.
The human sighed. And after all weve been through together, he said, a slightly mocking tone in his voice.
Look, I dont know who you are, or why you think Im your friend, Brooklyn said firmly, but Im not going to betray Meryt to someone like you. As far as Im concerned, you can go find that fragment yourself.
The expression in the mans eyes became somewhat disappointed. I remember that about you; that bravado of yours. He sighed and then said, I would rather not have to do this to you, old friend, but my master is very particular about these things. He is the one who truly wants the disk, and he can be rather...angry...when he doesnt get what he wants.
The human looked at Brooklyn sternly as he went on. Trust me, you want to tell me what you know. My master is much less forgiving than I am, and he and you dont share the same past camaraderie that we do. I might be convinced to spare your life; he wont. So make this easy on yourself, Brooklyn. Tell me where the fragment is.
He looked straight at Brooklyn and waited a moment, possibly to see if Brooklyn would confess on his own. When it was apparent that the gargoyle wasnt going to say anything, he nodded slightly to himself, and looked at Brooklyn again. Brooklyn, the human said, perhaps explaining your current situation to you will make you more cooperative; not that that isnt already obvious.
You are trapped here, he began, in this place and time not of your own. You have no allies, no friends...
Except you? Brooklyn interrupted sarcastically.
That all depends on how much you cooperate with me, the man said. If I so wanted to, I could leave you here for archeologists to find 2,000 years hence. I know perfectly well where Castle Wyvern is. David Xanatos, your benefactor, wont be purchasing it and moving it to New York City for another century or so. As of this moment, I could very easily go there and smash you and your clan to dust with my own hands.
Brooklyns eyes widened in shock. W-what are you talking about? he said.
Please, Brooklyn, the man a hint of disgust coloring his still calm voice, dont try to insult my intelligence. Ive actually been to Castle Wyvern a few times before. It is a nice place; a little primitive, but then again you did live on what was the edge of the world at the time. It has seen better times though, but thats what happens when someplace is abandoned for a few centuries. It simply falls to dust.
Ive also seen you and the clan there, he continued. Actually, old friend, you have a rather striking pose. It suits you. And your friend Goliath, I wonder if thats where Auguste got his inspiration from.
The human stopped then, and turned to look up at Brooklyn. Dont worry about how I got in. Nobody goes near the place now, so it is a simple matter of traveling there and walking onto the grounds. And the tower you and your clanmates roost on is still accessible from the ground, so it is not hard to actually reach you.
Now, he said, in a cold, unemotional voice, if you dont tell me the location of the missing part of this disk, I might be forced to make good on my threat. I will go to Castle Wyvern with a very large hammer, and then proceed to smash Goliath, Hudson, Broadway, Lexington, Bronx, and...oh yes. You, of course. As he named off each gargoyle, the human ticked off numbers with his fingers. Brooklyns expression became one of horror as he heard the human coldly talking about slaying his own clan.
Then the human paused for a moment, putting his hand to his chin and making a show of thinking about it. After a minute, he lowered his hand and shook his head. Looking back towards Brooklyn, he sighed and said, Of course, that would disappoint Elisa, Maggie, and Angela. And Id hate to think of denying three such shapely women the pleasure of your company. Then the human rolled his eyes upward and sighed again. And then Id probably have to face the wrath of the immortal Demona for wiping out the last of her clan, he said in a slightly bored tone. Of course, shes only a thousand years old, and a coward at that...as is the rest of her lineage.
Brooklyn all of a sudden forgot his fear. He yelled, Dont you dare call Angela a coward, you- Before he finish the sentence, the human lifted his hand towards Brooklyn. The gargoyles eyes went wide, and he suddenly began to choke. He instinctively tried to put his hands around his throat, but all he accomplished was the rattling of his chains.
The human sighed. Brooklyn, he said evenly, even as Brooklyn continued to gasp for breath, one thing you seem to keep forgetting about me is that I hate people who yell and scream at each other. And I especially hate it when people yell at me. It upsets me. And if theres one thing I dont want, its to be upset.
He quickly lowered his arm, and Brooklyn took in a loud breath as the magical chokehold disappeared. After waiting for Brooklyn to catch his breath, the human went on. Now, he said calmly, what were you about to say? And this time, say it in a more civilized manner.
Brooklyn took another moment or two to finish catching his breath, then lifted his head and stared into the humans eyes. I said, dont you dare call Angela a coward! he said in a low, threatening voice. I know her better than you possibly could. She might be a lot of things, but shes not a coward!
The human smiled slightly and shook his head slowly. Old friend, he said, blood breeds true. Scum begets scum, as heroes beget heroes. Angelas mother is, at heart, a coward and always will be. And Angela has that blood within her...
Its a pity, really, the human went on. Such a fine figure she has. Looking at her from time to time on Avalon, I have sometimes tried to imagine what shed look like as a human being, as you told me she had one occasion of being. He smiled a little. Actually, the images Ive been able to form in my mind have been most...interesting...
In any case, the human continued, shrugging off his earlier speculation and Brooklyns look of rage, I could go to Avalon and bring Angela over here. I am sure that you two could get to know each other down here quite well. Maybe this time you could win her heart, instead of that aquamarine hippopotamus Broadway. Maybe you could do that...before I torture her to death in front of you. Brooklyns eyes widened in shock at the way the humans talked in his cold, merciless voice.
If you so much as touch a hair on her head..... Brooklyn growled, eyes glowing white.
The man simply ignored him, pausing a moment before shaking his head again. No, that wouldnt work either. Maybe on Broadway, but not you. Besides, shes too strong-spirited a woman for it to be worth the hassle. He paused. And theres Demona again, he said in a rather unimpressed tone of voice, She probably would be even less pleased at that.
He waited for a few moments, and then continued. So, Brooklyn, will I have to destroy you and your clan, or will you tell me what I want to know?
Brooklyn looked a little desperate for a minute or two. Then realization came over his face, and he said, No, I dont think you will.
You dont think I will what? the man asked.
I dont think youll try to destroy my clan like that.
Because if you really are my friend, Brooklyn said, then you wont be able to do it. If you have enough of a code of honor that you wont steal from me, I dont think youll have it in you to hurt any innocents, like my friends.
Unfortunately, Brooklyn, you are wrong about that. The human then raised one hand toward Brooklyn, and muttered something under his breath. Suddenly, Brooklyns nerves felt like they on fire, and he went rigid from the pain coursing through his body. He cried out, while the human merely stood there, unmoving.
As the gargoyle tried to make his lungs function through the pain, the human looked at him with a cold expression. Unlike you, I have very few compunctions about killing people, he said coldly. And as far as your clan, they mean little to me, save that they are related to you. Even though I still consider you a friend, I cant let that get in the way of my service to my master. So tell me again why I should let you and your sleeping comrades live?
Brooklyn took a moment, and then began to choke something incomprehensible out.
What was that, old friend?
It took a moment, but Brooklyn managed to choke out, C-Cant...kill me...Mess up...timestream...
You mean, the human asked, that if I kill you and your
friends now, the timedancing you wont be here?
Brooklyn managed to nod weakly.
Actually, the human said, that actually doesnt sound like too bad a thing to do. You yourself put me, or will put me, into a rather disagreeable situation; one from which I am still trying to extricate myself. My life would be significantly less complex if I were to destroy your past self, or kill you now, for that matter. He thought a moment longer. But I wont. The human dropped his hand, and suddenly Brooklyn went limp as the pain receded.
The human waited for a moment, while Brooklyn caught his breath. One last time, Brooklyn, the man asked in a solemn voice, are you going to tell me where Meryt was going to take the fragment?
Brooklyn paused, and then shook his head. No, he said firmly.
Then the man sighed sadly and said, Very well. If you arent going to tell me where the fragment is, then I suppose I have no choice but to see if my associate can get it out of you.
The man then turned and walked up the stairway. When he reached the top, he turned back in Brooklyns direction, and the gargoyle could see that the man was looking at him with an almost sad expression in his eyes. He sighed, as though he were going to try to offer some sort of apology, and said, Im sorry to leave you hanging there, Brooklyn. I wish I could talk with you more, but I have other business to attend to. Then the emotion faded from his face, and before Brooklyn could move, the man left, shutting the door behind him.
Brooklyn heard a womans chuckle coming from the opening in the wall. It was low, cold, very controlled; a sound that made Brooklyns hair stand on end.
Oh, no, Brooklyn groaned.
He turned towards the opening, and from the darkness beyond, Isfet emerged. She slowly walked up to Brooklyn, confidence in her every step as she moved towards him; like a cat that had already caught its prey. The smug smile on her face even seemed cat-like, and Brooklyn looked decidedly unnerved as the woman came closer. As soon as she got a couple of feet away from Brooklyn, she stopped and looked him over for a moment. My, my, she said, not so arrogant now, are we?
If I werent chained here, Id show you arrogant, Brooklyn spat back. I mean, if you want a piece of me, then how about you let me down?
Maybe I will, she said. She looked around for a moment. Are we alone? she asked.
Brooklyn looked at her quizzically, then looked around himself. Yeah, I think so.
Isfet smiled. Good. Since this is a matter, I think it fitting that I should change into something more comfortable.
As Brooklyn watched, the blue in Isfets eyes began to spread like an inkstain over the whites, and her pupils stretched vertically until they were mere slits. She smiled in a way that showed her teeth, which then extended and sharpened into a set of razor-sharp triangles.
The nails on the womans left hand began to extend and sink into her fingers, turning into claws. Her ears stretched outwards, flattening and forming ribbing, until they reminded the red gargoyle of Broadways ears. Her jaw and the lower part of her face stretched forward, the nose melding into the rest of the swelling mass, until a short muzzle had been formed.
Isfet swept the cape of her cloak back, and two more limbs sprouted from her back. Digits and membranes grew until a pair of wings was on the womans back.
Finally, her skin began to darken from cinnamon to a dark blue, almost black, color, and became shiny as scales quickly replaced skin on her body and wings. Soon, what stood before Brooklyn was something that looked like a cross between a human and a dragon.
You know who I am, Timdanssser, the creature now standing before Brooklyn said, in a voice that was now a hoarse, hissing sound.
Yeah, Brooklyn said hesitantly, still trying to recover from what had happened just in front of him. Youre one ~ugly~-
Before he could finish his sentence, the thing in front of him hit him on the side of the head with the end of her staff. It knocked Brooklyns head around as though Goliath himself had hit it instead. As soon as Brooklyns head stopped shaking, Isfet leaned closer towards Brooklyn.
Ill have you know, she said, that I consssider myssself quite attractive.
Well, Brooklyn said, somewhat dazed, I think you need another
opinion on that.
Isfet took another swipe at Brooklyns head with her staff, but this time Brooklyn was ready for her. He ducked his head as the metal end of the staff came near him; it missed him, but he could feel dust falling on his neck where the staff scrapped a trench through the stone of the wall.
As Brooklyn raised his head, he said, Missed me.
Isfet smiled slyly, then quickly jabbed the end of the staff into Brooklyns stomach. The gargoyle grunted in pain at the blow, and then slumped in his chains, the wind having been taken out of him. Then Isfet pulled off the red glove that covered her right hand, revealing a golden mechanical hand. Isfet swiped at the chains with it, the golden metal cutting through each chain like it was tinfoil. Soon, Brooklyn was freed from the chains, and he fell to the floor.
Still panting from the blow to his stomach, Brooklyn could only watch as Isfet grabbed him firmly by the beak and turned it up so that he was looking her in the eye.
You causssed me a great deal of pain, onssse, she hissed. Isfet held up the golden hand she had. You cossst me my hand, Timedanssser, and now I intend to return the favor. The she raised her golden hand up in preparation of a killing stroke. Ive heard two of your old friendsss mentioning old times. Well, for old times sake, Im going to make a trophy of your head!
Brooklyn simply looked up at her for a moment, and then smiled. Oh no you wont.
A slight expression of puzzlement crossed Isfets face for a moment, before the large urn smashed into the back of the dragon-womans head. Brooklyn looked slightly surprised as the urns thick walls shattered on impact, but it was enough to cause Isfets eyes to roll into her sockets, and for her to ten fall to the ground unconscious.
Meryt stood smiling Isfets unmoving form as she threw the remains of the urn to one side. She does have a hard head, Ill give her that.
Yeah, Brooklyn said, looking at the pottery fragments on the floor beside Isfet. Im not sure a gargoyles head is that hard, myself.
It isnt, Meryt confirmed, so calmly that Brooklyn looked a little unnerved for a moment.
Meryt then reached out a hand and gave Brooklyn a hand up. She waited a moment for Brooklyn to catch his breath and recover a little before speaking again.
I know the way out of here, she said.
Then lead on, Brooklyn replied, and together they made their way out of the room and into the adjoining hallway.
After a few minutes of following Meryt around in the honeycomb of passages, Brooklyn entered a room that turned out to be much larger than the others hed seen. Thick pillars supported the roof on either side, with hieroglyphics and paintings covering both the pillars and columns. At the far end of the room was some sort of diagram painted into the stone floor and an altar along the wall.
Wait a minute, Brooklyn said, I think Ive heard of this place.
Yes, Meryt answered, you told me once about this structure. And about how your friends visited it once.
I did? Brooklyn asked.
Meryt nodded. You even showed me the way out.
Brooklyn shook his head slightly in amazement.
Meryt motioned to him. Come on, this way!
Quickly heading out of the room, Brooklyn followed Meryt down the hallway until they came across a set of stairs leading downward. Following them took the two gargoyles to what looked like a wall at first, until they neared the bottom and the wall immediately started to rise up into the ceiling.
As soon as Brooklyn and Meryt got out, the door closed shut, sliding back into place and looking like a carved panel for all intents and purposes. He stayed there, panting for a moment, and trying to get the feeling of claustrophobia to leave him. After a minute or two, he looked up to see himself in front of the Great Sphinx.
I put the fragment up there, Meryt said, pointing towards the Great Pyramid in the distance. Its on the very top, where few will be able to get at it.
Brooklyn nodded in confirmation. Thanks Meryt, he said, turning back towards the yellow female. Thanks for everything. Then he turned to go off to climb one of the Sphinxs paws.
One more thing, Meryt said behind him.
What? Brooklyn asked, turning to see what she wanted.
Meryt looked into his eyes, her own becoming very sad, almost as if she were pitying him. Try not to be so hard on yourself next time, she said simply. It wasnt your fault, and Ive never blamed you for what happened in the chamber.
What wasnt my fault? Brooklyn asked. But then he suddenly found himself alone again; Meryt had disappeared without a trace, though he hadnt noticed how shed left. Weird, he said to himself, then climbed up on one of the front paws of the Sphinx, taking care not to damage it. As soon as hed reached the top, he leapt off and glided towards the Great Pyramid.
A few moments later, Brooklyn landed on top of the man-made mountain. He saw the fragment lying on the stone surface, glowing like a small lamp now. Sighing with relief, he bent down to pick up the fragment.
Ah, so thats where you hid it, a voice came from behind him.
Brooklyn quickly turned around to see the sorcerer behind him emerging from a glowing oval disk hovering in mid-air. As the sorcerer stepped out, the portal dilated closed, and he said, You always did leave things laying around.
Then the sorcerer paused for a moment, looking at Brooklyn curiously. I never would have thought youd survive Isfet back there. Shes very good at what she does.
I had help, Brooklyn replied, getting up and watching the human carefully.
Oh? the human asked, arching one of his eyebrows. Meryt helped you again, did she? Im going to have to talk to her about that...
But for now, back to the business at hand. He pointed at Brooklyn and said, Bind, and a black streamer issued from his hand and wrapped around Brooklyn. As soon as the streamer had entangled the gargoyle, it tightened, pinning his wings and arms to his body. He lost his balance and fell onto the stones of the pyramid with a thud.
As Brooklyn struggled with the black bonds, the sorcerer calmly walked over to where the fragment lay, and bent down and picked it up. Then he placed the fragment on the spot on the disk where it had been chipped off. As Brooklyn watched, a light shone in the crack as the fragment was placed on the disk, and then it faded, leaving the disk whole again.
At last, the sorcerer said contentedly. Then he looked towards Brooklyn, smiling.
So, what are you going to do, Brooklyn asked sarcastically, fry me with that thing?
The sorcerer looked down at Brooklyn with a thoughtful look on his face. Then he shook his head. No. Nothing so petty, he replied. He tapped lightly on the disk with a finger. I have something else in mind for this artifact. Namely, destroying the city of Misr.
When it was clear that Brooklyn had absolutely no idea what the sorcerer was talking about, he said, I keep forgetting that you are a foreigner, so great was our old bond. He then turned to face the city down on the Nile plain and swept his arm around where it appeared on the landscape. Misr is the city below us on the Nile River. You would call it Cairo, though that is simply the name of one of the suburbs.
And youre going to blow it up? Brooklyn asked.
The sorcerer nodded.
Can I ask why? Brooklyn said sarcastically as he worked on the magical ropes binding him. Or are you going to leave me in suspense?
No, the sorcerer said. I wouldnt do that to an old friend. The fact of the matter is that this is personal.
I would have never guessed, Brooklyn muttered.
The sorcerers expression went sad, and he sighed before speaking again. He seemed to have more emotion in him now. This land is beautiful, isnt it, old friend?
Yeah, Brooklyn said, I noticed that.
The sorcerer sighed. I was born here, raised here. I saw most of my friends and loved ones die here as well. He shook his head. Memories are all that I have left of that time. Then he waved his hand out over the view of Cairo. Now these...barbarians live here. There arent many of them, but theyve managed to corrupt the people, to drive them away from the better path.
And what path is that? Brooklyn asked. Rule by nutcases like you?
The sorcerer shook his head, though not from Brooklyns sarcasm. From the principle of Maat; the pre-ordained order of the universe. But what can you expect from a culture born of savages?
They arent savages, Brooklyn retorted. Theyre a civilized people, too.
I knew the civilized people in Arabia, Brooklyn, the sorcerer said, turning to the gargoyle. The ancestors of the people who conquered this land twelve centuries ago were not civilized. They were nomads, raiders; people who knew nothing~of civilization, except what they could take from others.
The sorcerer tuned away again. The people of this land used to believe at one time that the lands beyond the Nile valley were full of ills and murderous barbarians. Im not normally an intolerant person, but sometimes I begin to wonder if they were right.
The Hyksos and their Hebrew allies wreaked terrible harm upon the populace; though they were merely different, for the most part. The Assyrians and Persians each ruled this land with an iron fist when they were here. The Greeks treated the natives as second-class citizens; the Ptolomies were Greek pharaohs, not native. The Romans, when they came, ignored us - except Hadrian; he wasnt too bad.
And of course there were the Christians. The sorcerer paused for a moment. What to make of them, I do not know. Some of them were very destructive; Christians were responsible for the destruction of many of the ancient centers of worship that had come before them, and they killed many people who clung to the old ways. But there were others who were preservers: the Copts still hold some of the ancient language in their writings, and hold some of the ancient culture still intact. And I have seen as well the role that religion played in your own culture, in its enlightenment. So Im not sure what to think of them.
"Okay, Brooklyn said, still struggling to break free of the magical bonds, so this place has been put through a lot of pain. Why destroy these people?
The sorcerer smiled slightly. Actually, old friend, I dont want to destroy the people, so much as I want to destroy the city. He turned towards Brooklyn again. Have you been to an old suburb in the city; one where the buildings are made of a fine, white limestone?
Well, were standing on the source of that stone, the sorcerer said flatly. After seeing Brooklyns confusion, the human continued. That city down there was made out of the casing blocks that covered the outside of these pyramids. That alone should show what kind of barbarians these people are: to deface one of the greatest monuments of this land for building stone! And whats worse was that the original mine for the stone was on ~their~ side of the river, while Fatamids had to drag these stone here across the entire valley to get it to Cairo.
Alexandria at least was founded by a man of honor and courage. This...eyesore was built by a group of people who are the very essence of disorder and chaos. And theyve spread that philosophy to the people here; the ancients would have been horrified to see the Mamelukes who ruled here a few centuries ago.
So you want to make a political statement because the Arabs messed up a few buildings and corrupted the locals minds? Brooklyn asked. Thats still not worth it.
How would you feel if some foreigners came into your land, and destroyed your own culture, and all you could do watch simply watch. Maybe you could save a few bits and pieces of your culture, but for the most part, you suddenly find yourself alone, a relic of an ancient time, with no one to call a kindred spirit. Thats how Ive been feeling these past 2,000 years. Alone.
And for all these centuries Ive been fighting a losing battle against these people. Trying to hold on to some remnant of my old civilization as they indiscrimanently destroyed it.
The Arabs did it mostly for profit, or because they needed stone for their buildings. Digging up mummies and grinding up the bones for medicines to sell to gullible Europeans, or tearing them apart to get at what to them were some trinkets they could sell, and thus ensuring that those peoples souls would never again have rest. And taking apart great structures because they were too lazy to quarry new stone. And they still do it! Now they take apart holy shrines, simply so they can build factories for those...cane fields of theirs. Those peasants have absolutely no respect for the ancients.
The sorcerer shook his head in disgust. At least the Europeans coming here now are taking things to glorify their own civilization or to preserve them, not use these places as quarries for building stone.But these barbarians from the east come like a plague of locusts; I had to watch as they looked at the works of the great pharaohs with no comprehension or understanding, and then destroy them without a care.
His voice became reminiscent, Those were different times, when a real civilization ruled this land, rather than this, he waved his hand towards the city below as he searched for proper words, bunch of ruffians. It was a beautiful land; everyone lived in peace, and the land was prosperous. Of course there was hardship at times, but on the whole they were a lot more civilized than even most of the people they knew. These pyramids we stand on are just one of their many achievements.
Then the man sort of smiled. I was just thinking....I didnt build these pyramids, but I did know the person who oversaw their construction. Believe me, hed take the desecration of his works a lot worse than I could. I can assure you, the people down there in the valley would be far better off if I simply annihilated them now; the builder of these great works would show even less pity towards them than I do.
He paused for a moment. I had to watch as even these majestic devices were scarred by the hands of those ignorant savages. And then watch as they used the stone to build their fancy palaces and houses of worship. I still cant bring myself to enter the confines of the place, it so irritates me. And what irritates me more is that it ~thrives~. You have no idea how much trouble I went through to try to stop the construction of Cairo, Brooklyn. But nothing worked, not even that raven I used on the bells to signal the start of the building early. All that did was give the city a name.
So why didnt you just flatten the city by now? Brooklyn asked as he continued to struggle against his bonds. Surely someone of your magnificence could do that.
The sorcerer looked down at him and sighed again, Would that I could, old friend. Actually, most of what you see in my magic is the result of knowledge and skill, rather than raw power. Im not of the Third Race, nor am I a halfling, so I dont have the kind of natural talent with magic that someone like Oberon or Merlin might have.
No, he said slightly wistfully, I got where I am through my learning. Knowledge I have, but not power. Thats why I need this disk. Besides, he went on, its my master who really wants the disk, and this will be a good way to test it out and see if it works properly before I present it to him. Ill kill two birds with one stone by doing this: Ill have gotten rid of that eyesore of a city down below, and Ill be able to help appease my master.
All the time they had been talking, the sorcerer had been slowly passing his hand over the hieroglyphs on the disk in a slow, circular motion. As hed done so, first the hieroglyphs, and then the disk itself, had begun to glow with a yellowish light, almost as if the thing was being charged somehow. By now, Brooklyn could hear a slight, low humming coming from the disk, and he could see what looked like a small blue flame burning in its center.
So, Brooklyn said, trying to find some way to keep the sorcerer talking, while he continued to work unsuccessfully on his bonds, howare you going to do. Just point that thing at the city and fire away?
The sorcerer looked back at Brooklyn again with a slightly bemused expression. As a matter of fact, yes. You see, contrary to the beliefs of these....barbarians....as well as your vaunted archeologists, these pyramids we are standing on were not used as tombs for the great pharaohs. They were used for a much more important
Dont tell me, Brooklyn retorted, you used them as the worlds biggest paperweights.
Cute, Brooklyn, the man said, but no. These pyramids were used as recharging stations for artifacts and weapons like this disk. The man tapped the disk once for emphasis. They dont work all that well anymore because of what these foreigners below did to them, but in their heyday they siphoned energy from the surrounding area, magical energy which would then be funneled into whatever object was placed into the sarcophagus in the center of each pyramid.
Magic is one of the great forces of the universe, Brooklyn, the sorcerer continued. Judge me not by my appearance, old friend, for I have an ally in this force, and a powerful one it is...
Oh great, Brooklyn muttered to himself. Now hes going to start putting his verbs at the end of his sentences.
The man suddenly got a pained expression on his features. Please, Brooklyn, he said, Im much taller than he was, and I have much more hair besides.
The mans tone sounded so genuine, that Brooklyn gained a slightly shamed face and said, Sorry. Then he stopped himself as he realized what hed said.
The man simply smiled at Brooklyns disbelief and discomfort. Anyway, he went on, this area of the world is particularly rich in such energy, and these pyramids gathered it for millennia. Over that time the stones in them retained a magical charge, if you will, which can be accessed by way of something like this artifact. Did you happen to place the fragment you had near one of the old buildings in al-Quirah? He waited for a moment, until he saw that Brooklyn didnt understand. Cairo? he translated.
Yes, Brooklyn answered.
And what happened?
I felt like Id been hit with an electric cattle-prod. Brooklyn paused, and then said, I got shocked pretty badly
What you experienced, the man explained, was a small demonstration of what can happen should the energy in those stones be released suddenly. I simply plan to do it on a larger scale, as in the entire town of Cairo. With that much energy released all at once, the resultant explosion should nicely clear away the existing human habitation.
And what about all the people down there?! Brooklyn demanded.
They will die, the man replied in an unconcerned tone.
Just for the sake of a bunch of stone blocks?
The man became agitated and turned to face Brooklyn. These are not just stone blocks, Brooklyn, the man said forcefully. They are the greatest monuments of ancient Egypt; the greatest heritage of my culture. A culture far superior in every way to anything those, he pointed down at the city, trying to find a proper word, people could even imagine, much less create or appreciate.
Then the man stood there for a moment, then seemed to deflate. He closed his eyes and bowed his head a little, and when he next spoke, it was in a sad, quiet tone. I know you dont agree with my actions, Brooklyn. But these things are as much a part of me as your friends are to you. Theyre the only part of my world I have left. I cant just stand by and let that city there exist: a monument to how those barbarians are destroying the last remnants of a great culture. Any more than you could stand by and see me shatter your clanmates at Castle Wyvern.
But do these people have to pay for the misdeeds of their ancestors, Brooklyn asked.
No, Brooklyn, the man said solemnly. I very well understand that the people below had nothing to do with the defacement of these pyramids. I dont want to destroy them, just the buildings themselves in the area. The people will simply be innocent bystanders. As he turned back towards the city, he added, Of course, you know what happens to innocent bystanders, dont you?
Then the man began chanting in some sort of strange language that Brooklyn
couldnt understand, and the disk began to glow brighter and humming
stronger and louder. Brooklyn tried once again to struggle against
his bonds, but they hadnt loosened a bit since the start of his struggling,
and were still too tight and strong for him to break.
But then Brooklyn looked and saw that the sorcerer, during his little speech, had wandered in reach of his tail. He quickly swung tail in the direction of the sorcerer before the human could recognize what was going on. He was rewarded when his tail caught the mans legs and swept them out from under him. Caught off guard, the man was to regain his equilibrium, and he fell forward onto the pyramid stones.
As the man hit the stones, Brooklyn could hear the disk shatter, and then he was blinded from the light of an explosion. He suddenly felt as though his bonds were loosening.
It took a couple of minutes for Brooklyns sight to return, the first thing he noticed was that the black bonds hed been in had disappeared completely. Quickly, he got up and looked around, trying to judge the situation.
The explosion had hurled the sorcerer several yards away, to land in a heap on the stone steps. All around, spread out on the stone steps, Brooklyn could see the shattered pieces of the disk. Quickly, Brooklyn reached down and picked up a piece that he could see lay near his feet, not noticing as he did so that the Phoenix Gate was beginning to spark and sputter with life.
When he looked towards the man, Brooklyn saw him pull himself upward, slowly and somewhat painfully. He staggered, and held his head with one hand, trying to stabilize himself as he recovered from the blow. The front of his robe was in tatters, some of them still smoking, and Brooklyn could see that the man had a pretty nasty burn wound on his chest.
After a second, the sorcerer finally righted himself. He looked down at the wound on his chest for a moment, and then looked back at Brooklyn with an expression of pain and askance. Breathing heavily, he asked in a highly irritated voice, Why did you do that Brooklyn? I had no intention of hurting you.
Yeah, Brooklyn replied, just all those people in the city.
What did they matter to you? the sorcerer asked, they werent your friends. In fact, you didnt even know them. Why risk possible harm to save these people?
Well, for one thing, Im a gargoyle, and gargoyles protect. He paused a moment and shook his head, as though in disbelief of what he was saying. And for another, Im not going to stand aside and let someone vaporize a city just because they have a grudge with the peoples ancestors. You said yourself that you know Demona; you said yourself you dont like her. So, why are you acting just like her now?
Im not like that, the sorcerer said quickly, I dont want to destroy all the humans, just these ones over here in this valley. And for another, you at least still have at least some of your family left. Theres nothing for me except these buildings and artifacts from my peoples culture.
If thats the case, then youre more pathetic than Id thought, Brooklyn said disgustedly.
Then Brooklyns widened slightly in startlement when the sorcerer, rather than trying to refute Brooklyns argument, instead bent his head in shame. In a low voice, he said, I know. But its all I have left, pathetic as it may be to your eyes.
When the sorcerer raised his head again, he suddenly noticed the disk fragment Brooklyn held in his hand. Brooklyn saw the sorcerers stare, and then heard him say, Give that to me, Brooklyn.
No, Brooklyn replied, Im not letting you get your hands on this disk again.
Give it to me, the man said with more force.
The sorcerer got a determined look on his face. Very well, he said in a suddenly cold, even voice, I didnt want to hurt you Brooklyn, I really didnt. But now you leave me no choice. I must have that disk fragment for myself and my master. If you wont give it to me willingly, then Ill have to take it from you. At that, the sorcerer drew a curved sword of some type, like a strange scimitar, and went into a fighting stance.
Brooklyn took the initiative, and lunged at the sorcerer first. The sorcerer was quicker than Brooklyn had expected, though, and he was able to quickly knock the gargoyle aside with his arm. As he went sailing through the air from the force of the hit, he could also feel a sharp pain knifing through his shoulder. He impacted into the side of the next stair with bone-rattling force, and he fell to the floor in a slight heap.
He had only a moment to look at his shoulder, and find that the pain was coming from a slash across it from the sorcerers blade, when the sorcerer quickly came forwards and made an attempt to thrust the sword into Brooklyns heart. Brooklyn quickly rolled out of the way, and continued rolling as the man then brought his sword around in a slashing motion. Then he managed to quickly get into a standing position and turned to face the human.
The two of them stood there for a moment, watching each other, waiting for the next move to be made. The sorcerer made it by thrusting towards Brooklyns left side. As Brooklyn moved out of the way, the sorcerers move was revealed to simply be a feint, as he quickly made a slash towards Brooklyns neck. Brooklyn quickly ducked, so that the blade simply whistled through his hair. Then, while the sorcerer was over-extended, he spun around, whipping his tail towards the humans legs. This time the human was ready for the gargoyle, though, and as Brooklyns tail came around he simply jumped over it like it was a jumprope. As he came back down, Brooklyn completed his spin and then, before the human could recover, he punched the human in his stomach. The sorcerer doubled over in pain, dropping his sword to the ground and moaning as he clutched his stomach. Brooklyn quickly kicked the sword off the stone step with his foot, and smiled as he heard the sword falling down the side of the pyramid, out of reach of his opponent.
As the sorcerer began to recover from Brooklyns earlier blow, Brooklyn said, Now lets see what you can do ~without~ that fancy sword.
He found out as the human hit him full force with a right hook into his face. Brooklyn was thrown back a couple feet, landing on his back. As he started to pick himself up, he shook his head and groaned.
Before Brooklyn could recover, the sorcerer had leapt onto him, pinning him to the stones. His eyes widened in fear slightly as he saw the humans eyes: still totally calm, with no show of emotion. Brooklyn did his best to throw the human off, but somehow the sorcerer continued to hold him down to the stones; his grip was like iron around Brooklyns wrists as they struggled on the stones. But Brooklyn could notice that the man was being careful to keep away from the hand that still gripped the disk fragment.
As the two of them struggled, they began to roll back and forth, and eventually they rolled of the edge of the step, and began going down the steps of the pyramid like some sort bouncing ball. Falling down about a dozen steps, they finally stopped with Brooklyn on top of the sorcerer. He punched the sorcerer in the face, and then rolled him over so as to pin his arms behind him.
But then the sorcerer made a small gesture with his hands, and Brooklyn yelled out in surprise as a flash of light formed between them. Blinded, Brooklyn let go of the sorcerer and staggered back, trying to let his eyes clear. Brooklyn tried to get up, but before he could, the human hit him in the face again, though only hard enough to daze Brooklyn, not send him flying. As his eyesight returned, Brooklyn could see the sorcerer put his hands around his neck, and look into Brooklyns
eyes before speaking.
I used to like playing games with you at times Brooklyn, he said
calmly. Sometimes we even brawled together like this. Of
course, you never could defeat me. As the sorcerer talked, Brooklyn
tried to grab at the sorcerers hands with his arms, but the humans
grip was too strong. It looked as though his neck were in a steel vise,
and as he began to start choking.
Normally, I slowly destroy someone who causes as many problems for me as you have, the sorcerer continued. But, because you are a dear friend, I am going to show you mercy by taking your life quickly. And with that, he continued to tighten his grip around the gargoyles neck. Brooklyn looked desperately around for something that might help him. Then he saw the disk fragment he had dropped, laying right beside him.
A pained smile played across his face, and he looked at the sorcerer in the eyes. Im not beaten yet, old friend! Brooklyn managed to choke out. Then he quickly grabbed the fragment with his right hand, then raised the fragment into the air and brought it down in a slashing motion across the sorcerers face. As the edge of the fragment went across the mans face, it glowed brightly, and it seemed to more burn than cut him.
The sorcerer cried out in pain as the fragment burned his flesh, and he quickly dropped Brooklyn to the ground, so he could clutch at the wound with his hands. Quickly, while the sorcerer was distracted, Brooklyn got to his feet and started backing away.
Looking back, he could see the sorcerer still clutching at his face. After a minute, he lowered his hands, revealing a cauterized scar on his face and a look of...almost annoyance in his face. His eyes focused on Brooklyn, seeming to bore right through him, and for once the gargoyle felt scared. Before he could say anything, though, the sorcerer held his arms out towards him, palms outward. Then he quickly moved his hands in a circular motion, until his arms were crossed. From his palms, a long column of magical blue fire erupted towards Brooklyn.
Brooklyn quickly leapt away just as the fire column reached where hed been standing, and was blasted several feet away onto his face by the resultant explosion. He landed on the stones face down, the last of the wind knocked out of him. He struggled to hands and knees, and then slowly turned his head to see the sorcerer there, standing with that same cold, unemotional look.
Brooklyn fixed the human with a look of hatred as the he made the motions with his arms to call up a fire column. Some friend you are, he spat as the sorcerer completed his motions and another fire column formed and rushed towards Brooklyn.
The heat of the flame kept building as the column quickly approached and he closed his eyes as the flames enveloped him. But just as it seemed he would be incinerated, he noticed that the heat had gone away. He opened his eyes and saw that he was still surrounded by flames, but there was no heat. Phoenix Fire.
He breathed a sigh of relief, and relaxed a little. As he checked himself for injury, he noticed that he still held the fragment of the disk hed picked up from the pyramid steps. It wasnt the same piece hed had for several weeks, but it didnt matter. Brooklyn smiled and said to himself, At least I kept that nutcase from getting what he wanted.
The sorcerer looked at where the Phoenix Flame had just dissipated, and sighed. He closed his eyes and concentrated, and began to chant softly. As though the night had become a physical entity, it began to draw itself to the sorcerers wounds and the tears in his outfit, and slowly, flesh, skin, and cloth began to knit back together. A minute later, he opened his eyes and looked down; the damage made to him in the explosion of the Aten disk had been repaired. The he turned, and walked back up to where the disk fragments lay on the side of the pyramid.
An hour later, the sorcerer bent down and picked up the last shard of the disk, and placing it on the fractured edge of the disk. The crack glowed for a moment, and when the glow vanished, the disk was reformed. Except for the fragment that Brooklyn had taken with him.
Is it done now? Isfets impatient voice said from behind.
The sorcerer turned to face the serpent-woman, who was still rubbing her head slightly where it had earlier impacted on stone. Yes, he sighed, though more from answering Isfet than as a result of his just-completed work, its done. The Aten is whole...almost. And Brooklyn is gone.
Good, she said. Then she rubbed the back of her head, and flinched. Can we go back to your little temple, so I may be paid? Im sssick of being here; there are too many bad memoriesss for me.
She didnt notice the slight edge the humans features had gained at her comments. I know, he said simply. Still looking at her, he waved his hand and mumbled an incantation under his breath. A moment later, a large glowing blue disk opened in the air in front of them.
As they walked through the portal, Isfet turned her head to the sorcerer. Im curiousss. Did you use that ssspeech you were planning on giving to Brooklyn? Asss I remember, it was a rather long-winded affair.
Yes, I know, the sorcerer admitted. I thought Brooklyn would never get around to knocking me down like he did. I was getting tired of speaking myself.
The two figure exited the other side of the portal, into what looked like a colonnaded hallway. As they continued on down the hallway, the portal silently dilated closed.
By the way, Isfet asked slyly, do you really believe all those things you were saying to Brooklyn?
Of course not, the sorcerer dismissed.
But, sssurely you must feel sssome anger towardsss thossse who dessstroyed the lassst remnantsss of your culture? Isfet continued smoothly.
Yes, I do, the sorcerer replied, nodding. But I understand that it is the way of all things to come to and end. A hint of a smile crossed his face. You yourself should know that.
Of course, she said quickly, looking like shed been stung.
Besides, the sorcerer continued blandly, if I had destroyed Misr, it would have alerted Oberon and his court; not something I or my master want right now.
The two of them entered a small room at the end of the hallway, and walked over to a chest on one side. As the sorcerer bent down and started looking through its contents, Isfet looked almost sadly at him. Hesss dead, you know, she said solemnly.
What? the sorcerer asked absently.
I mean Father, Isfet continued. Hesss been dead for many yearsss now.
If you say so, the man said tiredly as he rose again with a small bag, which he then put in the hand Isfet held out to take it. Here is your payment for services rendered.
The snake-woman took a moment to look in the bags contents. After a moment, she nodded her head and put the bag in a pouch at her belt. Then she walked off without another word.
As soon as she was out of earshot, a low voice boomed in the room. Is everything going according to plan?
Yes, my lord and master, the sorcerer said. Everything went as it was supposed to. Brooklyn had the wrong piece of the disk with him, and through my manipulations, I managed to rectify that situation. He has been prepared for his place in the events of the timestream.
Excellent, the voice said. Now we can proceed apace. With the Timedancers help, I shall take my rightful place in the world, and so will the Three Races.
As you wish, my lord, the sorcerer intoned, and then walked out of the room.