Gros Bon Ange
Written by: Kathy Pogge
Story concepts by Brian Dumlao, Batya Levin and Kathy Pogge
Artwork by CrzyDemona & Alison Wilgus
Previously on TimeDancer...
The Weird Sisters took pity on Brooklyn at last. "We are all but humble players in the grand scheme of things."
"You must fulfill your role, as must we all."
-- The Devil's Deal
Sata: "...Our journeys have taken us to many places and I have learned many things." She smiled. "Wonderful things."
-- The Promise
"Sata, do you think..." Brooklyn interrupted. "Do you think our travels have been fated?"
The jade gargoyle was silent for a moment, unsure of what to say, for she had never really had reason to consider such a question before. "What do you mean, Brooklyn-san? I do not understand your question."
He tried to clarify. "Why are we here? Is it just luck that I picked up the Phoenix Gate and fell into the trap of the Weird Sisters? Or when I was hatched did somebody out there say, 'Oh look, there's Brooklyn, at least he will be in a thousand or so years. I've been looking forward to torturing him for the longest time.'"
"I still cannot comprehend why you must make foolish jokes about something that so clearly distresses you," Sata told him. "But I believe that I understand your question now. You are asking if the course of your life is predetermined?"
He nodded. "What do you think?"
Sata still sounded puzzled -- not at the question, but at why he needed to ask it. "Of course it is, Brooklyn-san. All the world is governed by fate. How could your life be otherwise?"
"It's not like I asked for any of this to happen to me," he continued on, trying to explain the thoughts that had been plaguing him. "But the Sisters told me if I didn't play along, the consequences would affect everyone, not just me. So I guess in a way I am chosen. Even if it's not my choice. I guess I should just be like those sails and let the wind take me where it may."
* * * * *
Gros Bon Ange
The library was old and staid and imposing. It rose many floors and each contained a wealth of information. The building was quiet. Patrons and staff had gone home for the evening, leaving the books and the newspapers and the computers behind. There was no one left to witness the flare of the Phoenix Flame except for the janitor and he was in the basement, tinkering with the ancient boiler.
"Did you see the engine on that baby? Oh Sata, hon, that bike was sweet!" Brooklyn sighed as he remembered the Harley-Davidson Soft Tail. "It's too bad we danced before I could give it a test ride."
"Brooklyn-san," his mate admonished, "I believe that you were more interested in that machine than you are in me." She sounded hurt.
The motorcycle Brooklyn was mourning had shown up at a particularly inopportune moment from Sata's perspective.
Brooklyn turned to his mate and lifted her off the ground. "Not a chance." He smiled at her suggestively. "Now, where were we when whatever it was distracted….me." He trailed off as he finally realized were they had landed. "Sata," he said as he abruptly set his mate on her feet. "This is a library!"
"Yes," she agreed, "it is. Why is this important now, Brooklyn-san?" She was growing perplexed and more than a little annoyed with her mate's capricious shifts of mood.
"Don't you see?" he replied as he rushed to the stacks of books. "Now I can find out what happened!"
Sata followed, still perplexed. "Happened to whom?"
Brooklyn realized that they were in the fiction section. He whirled about in frustration, then spied a directory at the librarians' desk.
"Hurry!" He cried as he ran down a flight of stairs. "We're on the wrong level! The encyclopedias are two flights down."
An exasperated Sata followed her mate. When she caught up with him he was staring at a bookshelf laden with heavy volumes.
"Oh good. There you are." He handed Sata a volume. "Hold this."
He turned his attention back to the shelf, muttering under his breath.
"B through Be. Bader would be in this one. And..." he handed Sata's another book. "D through Di, Davis...And where would I find Amleth? And...Jackson, I don't even know if that was his first or last name...And the rest of your clan! I don't know if they'll be in the books, but we've got to look.... And Margaret and her baby...."
Sata set the leather bound books gently on the floor. She laid on hand on Brooklyn's shoulder and gently pulled him away from the shelf "Brooklyn-san, what are you doing?"
"I've got to find out what happened to them!" He stared at her, eyes a little wild. "All of them. I have to know!"
"I've got to! Help me!" He picked up the B encyclopedia and began to flip through it. "Bader. Doug Bader...."
...and the whirling flames surround them, depositing them on a dark hillside above a medieval-looking village.
Brooklyn looked at his hands. Empty. Wildly he looked around for the encyclopedia he had held only a moment ago. The book was gone.
"No!" He screamed.
He pulled the Gate out of his pouch and cast it to the earth.
"Stop this madness! I can't take it anymore!"
Brooklyn collapsed, his head in his hands. "I can't take it anymore." He cried again, more softly this time.
"Shhhh. Brooklyn, my mate, it will be all right." Sata knelt quickly at Brooklyn's side and pulled him unresistingly into her arms. She cradled the brawny gargoyle like a tiny hatchling and rocked him.
"I can't take this much longer," he whispered. "All of them... I meet them and I never find out what happens to them after I'm gone.... I just want to get home."
Tears streaked Sata's cheeks as she wept for her mate. He was a brave warrior but the stress of their journey was becoming more than he could bear. And there was nothing she could do to ease his pain. She stroked his long white mane and murmured soothing nothings as Brooklyn repeated in a much quieter voice, "I just want to go home...."
* * * * *
The flame of the Phoenix Gate flared briefly and died casting its travelers out into the quiet of a dying night. Fortune smiled on the pair, dumping them out onto a rooftop instead of among the last of the revelers on the street. Below, bartenders sent the last of the good time Charlies home for a brief rest so that they could restock and mop up. As they shambled up the street towards home, a few stopped to drop a nickel in the instrument case of a shadowy figure, wailing a plaintive melody on a clarinet.
"Just perfect." Brooklyn grumbled.
"What Brooklyn-san? What is 'just perfect?'"
"That music. Suits my mood to a T."
"If the music brings you pleasure then we should move closer so that we may observe the musician," Sata noted.
Gently she took Brooklyn's hand and led him to the wrought iron balcony.
Down on the street, illuminated by the dying moonlight and a flickering street lamp, stood a man in a casual suit and a tall, old fashion black top hat. As the clarinet wailed a plaintive melody, he swayed rhythmically in time to the music. Finally the last note died away, and realizing that his audience had abandoned him, he scooped his meager take out of the instrument case and packed his licorice stick away.
"Guess the show's over." Brooklyn turned toward the east. "It feels like the sun's gonna rise soon anyhow. We should find a spot for the day."
He began to eye the neighboring rooftops looking for potential roosting spots.
"Actually as places to crash go, this one's not that bad. I've used it myself from time to time."
The gargoyles looked up in shock. Standing casually against a chimney was the street musician.
"How did you..." Brooklyn trailed off as he tried to assess this new threat.
"Get up here you mean?" The stranger had a faint accent that was, and wasn't, French. "Shucks mis amis. I jes hop on up and here I be." He gestured toward the street. "So how you like ma music?"
"You play well, if strangely." Sata moved into the forefront examining the stranger. "My mate enjoyed your performance, as did I."
The stranger took Sata's hand and held it to his lips. Brooklyn was peeved to note she didn't seem to mind.
"Name's Lapin." He said as he released Sata's hand. "And you, brother gargoyle, I ain't seen you in a long while." He looked past the gargoyles at the sleeping city beyond. "Much nicer setting this time 'round."
Brooklyn stepped in front of Sata, shielding her with his body. He tried to back them both away from the mad musician.
"We've never met." He stated, flatly.
Lapin examined Brooklyn carefully. "Now I is sure dat was you wid tha' sweet young thing and her petite bebe running like wil' fire from dat pack o' dogs."
"Margaret?" Brooklyn hazarded a guess.
"That's the one! An' you ain't changed a bit!" He eyed Brooklyn again noting the gargoyles broad chest. "Well I take dat back. You grow'd some. Look fine, you does. Where you been keeping yourself, mon ami?"
"It's more when than where." Brooklyn muttered.
"Oh." Lapin stroked his chin. "I had a feelin' maybe that might be the way of it. So den you're de Timedancer." He looked faintly regretful. "Too bad, mon ami, too bad."
"Why is this 'too bad' Lapin-san?" Sata broke her silence and sized up the strange man who seemed to know her mate so well.
"Well let's jus' say dat of all de jobs that's gotta be done, his is one I wouldn't wan' ta do. Tha's all. But Lapin ain't the responsible type. Comprende-vous, mis amis?"
"No," Brooklyn replied. "But we really can't discuss this anymore tonight."
He gently took Sata's hand and led her toward a protected spot on the roof top. The faint gray of dawn began to creep into the night sky.
"Come see me tomorrow night, Timedancer, at Maurice's," Lapin invited as he pointed out a building on the other side of the street.
Brooklyn reluctantly noted the streamer festooned marquee.
"There's someone there you should meet. Not too early." He picked up his clarinet case. "The joint don't start to jump until around witching hour." Out of nowhere he produced a handful of cheap bead necklaces and several large coins. He tossed them at the gargoyles. "Enjoy the party while you can, mis amis."
Brooklyn reflexively caught the doubloons and was trying to remove a gaudy string of beads from his snout when he was frozen in stone.
Sata froze mid-gape as Lapin disappeared off the side of the building.
"Oh when the saints come marching in,
Oh when the saints come marching in,
I want to be in that number,
When the saints come marching in."
The syncopated rhythms of a brass band covered the roar of the traveling gargoyles. The band was accompanied by an impromptu chorus of Marti Gras revelers. Brooklyn and Sata gave each other a brief glance, then ran to the balcony to see what all the commotion was about.
The streets, which had been relatively deserted the night before, were packed with humans dressed in odd costumes. The band finished their last chorus, then marched into the nearest bar as they segued into "Hold That Tiger". The revelers seemed to care not as all as they continued to dance to music of their own. Suddenly a band of mock Indian warriors paraded down the street. Their war whoops and chants drowned out the final strains of the band. The street cleared after a fashion and from the opposite direction another band of "Indians" emerged. Their two leading "chiefs" met in the middle of the street while the crowd cheered.
The pair stared at each other willing the other to blink first. Nothing.
Simultaneously the pair cast their spears to the ground. The iron rods clanged hollowly against the paving.
"Umba?" A large fellow clad in white with an elaborate headdress of matching feathers roared.
"Me no umba!" His opponent returned, with equal fervor.
The challenge was again given and denied. The second party of Indians would not give way.
"What sort of odd ritual is this?" Sata wondered as the two bands of masked men began to dance and chant beating out a four-fourths rhythm with hands and feet. One of the Chiefs began to sing.
I'm the Big Chief!
Of the strong Golden Blades.
The crown of snow white feathers that adorned his ebony features dipped and trembled as he broke into the dance of challenge. His "warriors" followed suit facing off with the opposing fellows.
"I have no idea." Brooklyn admitted. He leaned over the edge of the railing to watch.
The second chief responded with a song and dance of his own, but would not give way. A few seconds later a melee erupted as the "Indians" dissolved into a free-for-all. The spectators roared their approval. A few moments later, it was over as suddenly as it began and the former combatants helped each other to their respective feet and disappeared into another of the many saloons that lined the street.
"Ya know?" Brooklyn said as he put his arm around his mate. "This looks like a fun town. Let's go down and check out the action."
"Brooklyn-san," Sata replied as she watched the party with a doubtful expression marring her features. "Do you believe this to be wise?"
"Sata, hon, I don't know if it's wise," he admitted, "but it sure does look like fun." He crossed the building to the alley side and climbed down. After a moment Sata joined him.
They spent the next several hours participating in the street fair. Impromptu parades formed and disappeared down Bourbon Street, as people clad in masks and impossible costumes reveled. Sata despite her natural sense of decorum found herself getting swept away in the madcap atmosphere, accepting one beaded necklace after another.
"I haven't had this much fun since..." Brooklyn trailed off and thought. "I've never had this much fun!" He declared.
He bowed as a stranger complimented him on his "costume" and he returned the compliment as a man on stilts and long striped red and white trousers ambled by.
"Brooklyn-san." Sata put her hands on her mate's shoulders, drawing him close so that she could talk to him over a chorus of trombones.
Brooklyn grabbed her around the waist and started to whirl her around. "Dance with me, Sata." he commanded.
Her color darkened as she blushed hotly at being handled in such an unseemly manner by her mate in public. "Brooklyn-san! Doozo!"
"Come on, Sata," he pleaded, gazing at the crowd. "Everyone is doing it."
She disentangled herself gently. "Later, Brooklyn-san, now we must go meet Lapin."
"You're right." He acknowledged reluctantly. "I knew the party couldn't last forever," he said somberly. "Let's go."
He guided his mate through the dense crowd until they were standing in front of Maurice's. It was a small club and there was a long line of partygoers eager to get in. Brooklyn looked at the door doubtfully.
"We'll never get in there."
A doorman in full livery was inspecting the crowd. Periodically he would select certain persons and admit them to the club.
He nearly passed Brooklyn and Sata by, but then he stopped, and stared, and gave a slight bow. "This way please. You've been expected."
He led them into a small, dimly-lit establishment. Sata began to cough as the smoky air enveloped them. He gave some muttered instructions to the maitre d' and they were led to a table near the stage. Without a word, glasses and a bottle of champagne and a dozen oysters, nestled in ice, were placed on the table.
Brooklyn nudged one with a talon. "Hey! These are raw!" He exclaimed.
Sata merely scooped a bivalve out of its shell and swallowed delicately.
"These are delicious, Brooklyn-san. Do you not enjoy them?"
"I don't eat food that's slimy." He gestured at a passing waiter. "Could you bring me something cooked?"
The waiter nodded and disappeared. A few moments later he set a steaming bowl of red beans and rice in front of the hungry gargoyle.
"For luck." He said as he withdrew.
Brooklyn left the oysters to Sata and dug in. The beans were flavored with bits of onions and celery and a spicy sausage. The rice served to cool his burning tongue. He took a drink of champagne and found his good mood was restored.
The band wrapped up a swinging rendition of The Maple Leaf Rag and took a short break. When they retook the stage, a new member had joined them. Brooklyn nudged Sata as Lapin walked on stage, ebony clarinet gleaming. He smiled at his fellow band mates, mocha face accenting pearly teeth. His top hat was gone, replaced by a natty charcoal gray felt number that matched his suit. He winked at the gargoyles as he adjusted the reed in his mouth piece. He blew a few experimental notes, nodded to his band-mates, and the stage went dark. The crowd gasped, then cheered, as a baby spot revealed the final member of the group. Brooklyn swallowed...hard. He wasn't alone. Every male in the establishment unconsciously sat up straighter in his chair and riveted his eyes on stage. She began to sing.
"Won't you come home Bill Bailey?"
"Won't you come home?"
"I cried the whole night through."
Brooklyn decided Bill Bailey, whoever he was, was an idiot. But then again, he'd heard this song before, earlier tonight, and the tune hadn't struck him quite the same. Perhaps it was the chanteuse. She didn't just belt the words out like the other singer had, she let the words pour out of her slowly, and with such... feeling. He shifted in his chair and resisted the urge to tell Bill to take a hike.
"I'll do the cookin' baby,"
"I'll pay the rent"
"I know you don't have a cent."
He felt Sata's eyes boring into his skull and offered her an apologetic squeeze of the hand. But still he couldn't quite tear his eyes off the woman before him. She was tall, with a regal bearing, her eyes and hair were dark and her nose, aquiline. There was a sensuous fullness to her lips. Brooklyn swallowed hard, again.
The woman finished the song and the room thundered with applause. Brooklyn found himself on his feet cheering with the rest. Sata clapped politely, though she remained in her chair.
The mysterious woman smiled graciously and launched into her next number. She played the crowd like a violin, whipping them into a frenzy of emotion then backing off and soothing them when they threatened to surge onto the stage. Brooklyn caught Lapin's eye as he completed a clarinet solo and the man just flashed a "wait and see" smile at him before launching into another powerful wail.
Too soon, and not soon enough, it was over, and the musicians retired from the stage. A waiter returned to Brooklyn and Sata's table with a note on a small, silver tray. He stood at a respectful distance as Brooklyn flipped the card over and read the message. He nodded to the waiter and rose to his feet.
"Are we leaving, Brooklyn-san?" Sata inquired as she rose.
"Yeah. Lapin says it's time to talk."
They followed the waiter out a side exit onto the street. A horse drawn carriage was waiting at the curbside. The placid horses knickered at the approach of the gargoyles, but as soon as they realized they were just two more passengers, they quieted waiting for their instructions from the driver.
They clip-clopped down a series of side streets, leaving the revelry behind. Soon they were in a residential district, bustling beer halls replaced by ornate homes decorated with wrought iron and tall, white columns. The driver reined his horses in next to a particularly imposing edifice, jumped down from his perch, and held out his hand to aid Sata in dismounting. She took the assistance graciously thanking the driver as she made way for Brooklyn to join her on the side walk. The driver opened a tall iron gate and indicated that they should follow the torch lit pathway to the house beyond.
Brooklyn handed the driver a handful of doubloons for his trouble and was rewarded with a tip of the cabby's tall hat and a smile before the pair was left alone to meet their host.
"Shall we?" He held the gate for Sata and they walked side by side up the wide garden path.
They climbed a final flight of stairs and Brooklyn had just curled his talons to knock on the gilt edged door when it opened soundlessly.
A maid smiled and indicated that they should enter. She led them to a small drawing room off the foyer. The furniture was rather delicate, so Brooklyn and Sata stood, awaiting their mysterious host.
A few moments later the sound of the door opening repeated and a light, musical laughter wafted through the house. It was echoed by a deeper chuckle and some low conversation. The drawing room door opened.
"Ah, mis amis." The lanky form of Lapin unfolded into the room. "Did you enjoy the show?"
"Yeah, great. Thanks for the invite." Brooklyn replied with just a touch of irritation in his voice.
"You are quite welcome, I'm sure." A lightly accented voice purred from the doorway.
Brooklyn gaped. It was the singer from the club. She had changed clothes. No longer did she wear a slinky black dress. Now she was clad in a robe of rich velvet and mink. It suited her. She glided into the room and finally settled into an overstuffed chair. She regarded Brooklyn with a frank expression and the brawny gargoyle felt himself blush under her intimate gaze.
"I am Marie," she began, "and you are the Timedancer." Her gaze intensified and Sata's eyes began to glow as she stroked her katana reflexively.
"Not what we expected. Eh, mon cher?" She broke her inspection of Brooklyn just long enough to cast a doubtful glance at Lapin.
"Well you know, darlin', we have to deal with the cards we is dealt." He made a slight hand motion and a deck appeared out of the air. He began to shuffle them, bridging and cutting, until at last he flung them into the air. The cards disappeared without a trace.
"I suppose you're right." Her gaze turned clinical. "Still, do you suppose he has the mettle? This is no light task that we must ask of him."
"True," Lapin acknowledged. "But I done seen this garcon at work." He ran a hand over his face, he'd sprouted whiskers in the course of the evening and he rubbed them thoughtfully. "Twice actually. He's got heart. Can be a little shy on brains though."
"What do you mean shy on brains?" Brooklyn bristled.
"I suppose you think that storming a slave ship by yourself without a plan or a trained crew was a good idea?"
"How did you know about that? And Margaret, too?" Brooklyn's eyes glowed and he shifted subtlety until he was poised for attack.
"Don't you know who I am yet, mon ami?" Lapin looked offended and slightly hurt.
"No. But I suspect that you're one of Oberon's children."
"Very good." He doffed his hat and bowed. A pair of large ears flopped out of the chapeau. "Here in the bayou country I am Lapin and that name serves me well. A fellow in Georgia did write a book about me under another nom. Wherever I 'ave traveled I 'ave been given a name, and they all mean Rabbit."
Brooklyn stared. "Are you telling me that you are the rabbit from The Freedom, the one that Jai and Timmy kept as a pet after all the other animals were washed away after the storm? And that you were the rabbit that showed up just in the nick of time to divert the dogs away from Margaret and me? No way!"
"What are you talking about, Brooklyn-san? Is he an enemy or a friend?" Sata questioned. She had stood so quietly during the encounter that her mate had all but forgotten her presence.
Brooklyn crossed the room and stared assessing their host. His nose had changed and his mouth had morphed into something more animal.
"I'm not sure. He helped me before. Saved my life the last time, as a matter of fact."
"Perhaps I can assist, non?" The glamorous Marie spoke.
"Lapin is a friend. He protects those who cannot protect themselves. Though sometimes 'e chooses strange ways." She smiled at the flop-eared man. "Eh, uncle?"
"Oui, petite." A six foot tall rabbit had replaced the dapper man who had entered the room. Feeling he had made his point, he snapped his fingers and the human form returned. He took a seat on the couch opposite Marie and drew a breath.
"I've been keep'ng an eye on you, Timedancer, when I could. Tried and keep you out of the worst of the trouble, I'm not the only one either." He looked glum. "Not all of da children is happy about your task. So a few of us, we got together and drew lots." He plucked a short straw out of the air. "I lost."
He cast a look at Marie and she gave him an encouraging gesture.
"I got news, and I got bad news, Timedancer. But we need to know that you can take it."
"Look, Rabbit, or Lapin or what ever your name is. I've been stuck on a pirate ship, suckered in Egypt, bounced from one end of time to the other. Sure, some good has come out of it," He paused and took Sata's hand. "But I want, we want," he corrected, "to go home. And if you've got information, then I want to hear it," he finished emphatically.
Marie rose from her chair. "If that is what you desire, Timedancer, than I must cast 'The Spell of Revelation'. Will you gather the ingredients?"
Brooklyn studied Marie. Sata did as well, but for an entirely different reason. Finally, he spoke. "I don't understand. If he's one of Oberon's children than why doesn't he just tell us?"
"Oberon has put his children on a short leash," Marie replied. "They may only act indirectly. Those such as myself, who are only fay touched, may intercede, because we are human born. But it is difficult. Time grows short. This can wait until later. You must go quickly, if you are to go at all."
"All right," Brooklyn conceded. "What do we need?"
"An alligator's tooth, an offering gift from my two graves, Spanish moss from the heart of the swamp, chicory root..." She trailed off thinking a moment. "And beignet. I must have all of these things by midnight tomorrow. If the spell is to be cast. Quickly. Go now!"
Lapin replaced his hat on his head and without another word Brooklyn and Sata found themselves on the street.
"We've got a couple of hours until dawn. I guess we should get started." Brooklyn turned away from the residential quarter and headed back toward town.
"Brooklyn-san. Wait." Sata put her hand on Brooklyn's arm, restraining his motion. "Where are we going?"
Brooklyn opened his beak to reply and realized that he didn't know. He sat down on the curb.
"Perhaps if we went over the list of ingredients again," Sata suggested.
"Right, hon, good idea." He focused on the cobblestones and thought out loud. "An alligator's tooth, that seems straightforward enough. First we find an alligator and..." He groaned at the likely outcome. "I don't suppose they've invented veterinary dentistry yet?"
Sata looked puzzled.
"Forget it. Spanish moss from the heart of the swamp. At least we can get that and the tooth at the same time. Let's go."
They walked in silence until they came upon a tree that looked high enough to give them the lift they needed to glide. The pair vaulted from its leafy crown into the night. They glided silently over the lively city until it disappeared behind them. Soon oak trees and quiet water became the predominate landscape. Sata banked close enough so that Brooklyn could hear her without her raising her voice.
"This swamp goes on for miles. Where do you suppose is it's heart?"
"I didn't realize it before, but the entire town is a swamp. Look!" He pointed at the terrain below. "Sata, the city is at the heart of the swamp!"
"I see what you mean. But would an alligator live in the heart of a city?"
"There's only one way to find out." They banked and headed back for New Orleans, then spent the next half hour approximating where the city center was. Only then did they land on Canal Street.
Sata growled under her breath. "I think this is a neighborhood for cut-purses and low born," she muttered haughtily.
Brooklyn surveyed the landscape. Ships waited patiently to be serviced while dockside booms stood ready to heft. It reminded him of New York's own riverfront.
"Some things just don't change," he murmured.
The other side of the street was more interesting. Ragtime music blared out of taverns and pool halls. He jerked his head towards a promising cluster of buildings.
"I've got an idea. Come with me."
A drunken sailor staggered past Sata. He turned and stared, then dropped like a sack of potatoes. Sata looked offended. Brooklyn took her arm.
"Come on. He probably just couldn't hold his liquor." A bellow sounded a few doors down. Brooklyn, his hand still on Sata's forearm, tightened his grasp. "This sounds like the place."
They hurried down the street. Emblazoned in bright gold paint, now chipped and faded, above one particularly seamy looking establishment was Clancy's Heart of the Swamp. Brooklyn gave Sata a pained expression and pointed a talon at the portal. Painted in smaller, but no less gaudy lettering, a sign was tacked to the door. "Gator Wrassling (cash prize paid)".
"This is definitely the place."
"They wrestle these animals for sport?" Sata inquired incredulous. A man burst through the double doors, a large bandage covering the upper third of his body.
"Not if they're smart." Brooklyn replied. "Or sober." He added as an afterthought, the aroma of bourbon wafting after the ex-wrestler.
"Come on." He held the door for Sata, then followed her in.
"Brooklyn-san, you are not planning to participate in this..." Sata trailed off her words failing her. The room was packed with men and (she used the term loosely) ladies, who were all gathered around a center pit. They were roaring and cheering as yet another hearty fellow faced a monstrous alligator. For all his size, the creature moved with a deliberate slowness until he both charged then whipped his tail around, knocking the man to his feet. The cry of the mob grew louder and cash was traded from hand to hand. They roared again as the burly wrestler whipped his legs away from the beast saving his knees from permanent harm. He staggered back to his feet and the 'gator watched him with a steady gaze. The wrestler tried a new tactic. He launched himself at the alligator and... missed.
Two referees helped him away from the pit as the crowd alternately booed and clapped for the participants.
"You heard Marie. Spanish moss," He recited as he grabbed a handful off of one of the reconstructed trees and tucked it into the satchel at his waist. "And an alligator's tooth from the heart of the swamp. The name of this joint is 'Heart of the Swamp', and that," he pointed, "is an alligator."
"True," his mate admitted. She looked around. Several of the patrons had given them blurry looks of confusion but gone back to their libations. No one seemed to care that they were gargoyles.
"Brooklyn-san, don't you think it is odd that no one has commented on our appearance? Gargoyles can hardly be a common occurrence and yet we walk the streets freely."
"Sata," He pointed in what he hoped was a discreet fashion at the bar patrons. "compared to some of the costumes these people are wearing, we're pretty vanilla." He pushed his way further into the crowd. "Let's get this over with."
Sata nodded and covered his back, as he made his way forward.
The announcer started his spiel trying to coax another victim from the crowd. Ladies nudged their fellas and stage whispered taunts from a pair of stevedores in the back of the room added to the general excitement. Brooklyn elbowed his way to center stage.
"I'll go next."
The crowd gasped. A dark woman dressed as a child's baby doll complete with blond curls, cried out "Gros bon ange!" The cry was picked up by the crowd and turned into a chant.
The announcer whipped the crowd into a frenzy, before he allowed Brooklyn into the ring.
"What is this 'gros bon ange?'" Sata asked a sailor as she settled a few feet away from the wrestling ring.
"Why, 'cher, it's like this. To the folk that believe in the voodoo, a gros bon ange is a big ol' angel. I don't know what she's talkin bout tho. He looks like a nice enough fella, but you don' fin too many angels round this part o' town. Plenty o' ghosts, though," he added as an afterthought.
Sata's eyes narrowed. She had a feeling that all was not as it seemed.
"Do you like my dress?" she asked the sailor. She felt his eyes lingering over her body and it made her skin crawl. She resisted the urge to go for her blade.
"Sho nuff, cher, that shade of purple velvet is real pretty. Matches your eyes." He wiggled a little closer.
Sata closed her eyes for a moment to gather inner strength. "Thank you...sir."
She choked on the word. It was difficult not to call this low born lump something scathing, but he had done her a courtesy, by confirming her suspicions. Lapin, or perhaps Marie, had cast a spell already. The humans hadn't reacted to the gargoyles, because they hadn't seen any gargoyles. The exception had been the dark woman who some how had seen through to Brooklyn's true form.
"Very odd," she muttered.
Brooklyn flexed his muscles for the crowd a few times, getting into the mood. He appraised his opponent carefully. The brute was huge, at least twelve feet, and fat. Undoubtedly the management felt that if they kept it fed, it would reduce the number of casualties among the wrestlers, evening the odds.
"At least I hope so." He muttered.
At a sign from the ringmaster, Brooklyn moved in. He dove straight over the alligator and curving his talons inward pinning its head to the mat. The crowd roared. The alligator didn't take the indignity lightly. He whipped his tail around hard enough to smack Brooklyn across the shoulders. The gargoyle flinched but kept his seat. He looked up at the referee.
"Now what?" He shouted over the noise of the crowd.
The referee looked befuddled. The sport was new for festival and no one had gotten this far before. He improvised. "Flip 'im over and tickle 'im!"
Brooklyn gave the guy a dirty look but complied. The gator was helpless on his back.
"Goochy Goochy." Brooklyn tickled.
This was well and good but how was he going to get the tooth? He pondered. He looked at the shining ivory within the alligator's mouth. Without killing the creature there was no way he was going to get one of those babies out. He shot a look at Sata hoping for an answer. She was edging away from a sailor. The expression on her face was polite but her facial muscles were tensed.
The referee, having no other choice, bellowed. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!"
Brooklyn leapt off the alligator's back, his attention now on Sata. He never saw the alligator take his revenge. He only felt the snap of the beast's great jaws, then heard it recoil rapidly away.
"Oowwwww!" He bellowed.
The gator didn't look too happy either. He slunk back towards a corner of the ring where a handler was offering a snack of raw chicken. Brooklyn whipped his tail into his hands to find a tooth embedded midway up.
The woman who had called him gros bon ange earlier had her hand clasped across her mouth in shock. "That gator done bit an angel! That's bad gris-gris, sure nuff. I wouldn't wan' to be that ol' gator thas fo' sure."
Her friends, convinced at last that she had overindulged for the evening, led her out of the bar.
Brooklyn leapt over the ropes, accepted ten dollars from the referee, and met up with Sata, just as she prepared to deck her admirer.
"He's not worth it," he admonished, gritting his teeth in pain. "Let's get out of here."
Sata was displeased. The sailor's information had been useful, but he had been quite forward in suggesting how she repay his kindness. She turned to take her leave of her admirer. He leered back. She bumped him hard with an elbow spur and frowned sympathetically as he doubled over.
Brooklyn grinned, then winced as someone trod on his throbbing tail.
"Come on Sata. We need to go now." He said through a clenched jaw.
Finally seeing his evident pain, she cleared a path out of the bar.
They ducked into an alley and climbed onto the roof of the building. Only then did Brooklyn show Sata his injured tail.
"I got the tooth."
An alligator's canine glistened in the dying moonlight.
Sata winced in sympathy. The tooth was deeply imbedded in one of the more sensitive portions of the gargoyle's anatomy. The flesh around it was swelling in irritation.
"We must remove it quickly. Let me assist you."
She gently gathered the injured member into her left hand and with the right she used a small dagger to extract the tooth. Brooklyn gritted his teeth, but remained silent as the act was completed.
Sata deposited the tooth into the hands of her mate, then bound the wound in a scrap of cloth. When she was finished she joined Brooklyn in examining the tooth.
"I wonder if that is truly what we were sent to get?"
Brooklyn looked at her carefully. The pain in his tail started to throb with renewed vigor as his blood pressure increased.
"What do you mean?" He said quietly.
"Brooklyn-san, we are under a spell of disguise. That sailor thought I was human and clad in a dress of purple velvet."
Sata glowered as she recalled what else the sailor thought of her. "He was quite free with his information as he believed it would entice me to accompany him... elsewhere. He bought me a beverage, the house special, called an 'Alligator's Tooth.' It was quite disgusting, but it contained this." She held out an object and deposited it into Brooklyn's hand. A wooden alligator's tooth, twice the size of the real one, stared up at him mockingly.
"A bar called Heart of the Swamp that serves drinks called Alligators Teeth." He moaned. "I think I'm going to be sick."
Instead the couple turned to stone, taken unaware by the coming dawn.
* * * * *
The next evening the gargoyles roared to life. The waterfront was still a beehive of activity, the stevedores and porters having not yet called it a day. They watched for a while as bales of cotton were loaded onto a cargo ship in a seemingly endless procession.
"I guess we'd better get on with our scavenger hunt." Brooklyn grumped after a while." His stomach grumbled. "We probably ought to get something to eat too." He fumbled around in his pouch, finally removing the ten spot. "This will come in handy." He looked down at his self and then at Sata.
"I wonder if the disguise spell is still working?" He vaulted off the rooftop. "Only one way to find out."
They dropped to the street below and walked rapidly toward the less seamy side of town. After a few blocks they entered a small cafe that was still setting up for the dinner crowd. The waiter seated them with no more than the usual pleasantries.
"I guess so." Brooklyn commented. "I could get used to this." He added as he perused the menu. Sata gazed at him disapprovingly over her own.
Brooklyn felt her gaze and looked over the menu.
"Hey, I've been to places..." He trailed off not wanting to start a fight with his mate. "Let's drop it. We need to figure out where the next items on the list are."
Sata nodded her head. "Offering's from my two graves." She supplied. "What do you suppose Marie meant by that?"
Brooklyn started to reply when the waiter re-appeared. He quickly scanned the menu, his eyes narrowing when he came across unfamiliar words. Not recognizing anything on the menu but red beans and rice, he ordered that for two.
The waiter bowed and withdrew, leaving the gargoyles to their puzzle.
"Marie said that she was fay touched and that Lapin, or Rabbit was her uncle, but she was mortal. Well, she might be mortal, but I'll bet she's not normal. Maybe she's really old, but she doesn't age. If she wanted to live in the same place, she'd have to disappear and come back when it was safe. She'd have to fake her own death."
"So Marie must have many identities as well," Sata added, thinking of Lapin's comment about having many names.
"Right. So all we have to do is figure out who she is, or was," Brooklyn amended, "then find her graves." He stared thoughtfully into the air. "I'll bet that she always was kind of an attention hound. That should make it easier." The waiter was returning with their meals. He placed the food on the table and turned to go. Brooklyn stopped him. "Hey, waiter. Famous Marie's for $100.00."
The waiter looked at him oddly. Brooklyn tried again.
"Sorry, bad joke. We need to know. Was there a famous woman named Marie that lived in these parts? It probably wasn't recently."
The waiter hedged. "There have been many Maries, sir."
"Yeah, but this Marie would have been beautiful, a knockout. Probably had quite a reputation and more than a few rumors swirling about her."
"Oh...," The waiter conceded "you mean Marie Laveau."
"Could be." Brooklyn agreed. "Was she known by more than one name?"
"Ah, now there's a story." The waiter trailed off.
Brooklyn pointed to a chair and removed a dollar from his belt-pouch.
"Tell us about it."
The waiter looked over his shoulder, saw that no one was watching, and joined them.
"You see, sir and madam, there was a woman named Marie. No one is entirely sure if she was born here or in Haiti but her father was a Creole planter. Her mother, well, again it gets misty, but they say that her mother was not entirely of this world." He settled into the chair and began to enjoy his role as storyteller.
"Eventually, Marie was formally presented to society. She was stunning and after some time, she married. She was said to have had many children, but only one daughter, who was also called Marie. But no one ever saw this girl child. Marie died, and was buried, at St. Louis #1. Several years later Marie, the daughter, made her debut in New Orleans society. Folks who knew her mama were stunned. The girl was a ringer for the elder Marie."
Brooklyn and Sata exchanged glances.
"Go on," Brooklyn prompted.
"While the first Marie had been quietly influential, Marie the Second was flamboyant. It was openly rumored that she practiced the voodoo and acted as an advisor to the elite of New Orleans. She was thought to be quite powerful." His voice lowered a bit. "Like her mama, she did not age, but grew more beautiful as the years passed. Finally during one of the fever epidemics, she too died. She was laid to rest in St. Louis #2."
"You don't look convinced," Brooklyn prodded.
"Not all believe that Marie the First died. She was a practitioner of the voodoo. And a powerful one. Some believe that Marie faked her own death, an easy enough thing to do at a time when hundreds were dying during the Yellow Fever plagues, went away for a time, then re-emerged to enjoy the city she loved, without a husband she had grown to despise, passing herself off as a young woman, who was unrestricted by the codes of morality a married woman had to endure.
"Ah, so that's why she didn't just off her husband," Brooklyn surmised, filling in the gap.
Sata looked perplexed and then slightly offended. "Your attitude towards murder is quite lax, Brooklyn-san."
He looked uncomfortable. "I was just trying to figure out why if she was such a powerful sorceress she didn't use the magic against him. But if she didn't age, then she'd need to be able to disappear without strings. It makes sense."
The maitre d' rounded the corner and the waiter got hastily to his feet.
"If there is anything else?"
Brooklyn shook his head. "No thanks, pal, you've been a big help."
The waiter moved off quickly narrowly avoiding the maitre d'.
"It seems we have been fortunate, Brooklyn-san. The waiter was most helpful."
Sata put a tentative spoon into the rapidly cooling stew in front of her. She tasted it delicately.
"Yeah, fortune favors the foolish again." Brooklyn agreed. "I guess this means were going to take a moonlight walk in the cemetery. How romantic!" He looked across the table at his bride. She was staring at him oddly. "Hey, there are worse ways to spend a night than walking with you."
"I think you are being sarcastic, my mate. The cities of the dead are not to be feared."
"Who said anything about being afraid?" Brooklyn countered.
Sata gave him a wry smile. "Not you. Brooklyn-san, not you."
They finished their meal quickly and, when they were once again out on the street, asked a passerby for directions to St. Louis #1.
The fellow who was clad in a somber black suit and a garish party hat, looked at them strangely, but pointed the way.
They left the French Quarter behind again, walking quietly hand in hand. As they strolled, they admired the ornate wrought iron decorations on the fine houses until they too were eventually left behind. The walls of the cemetery came into view and the pair stopped and stared.
"This is different." Brooklyn crossed his arms across his chest and surveyed the cemetery.
"It is most elaborate. Truly a 'City of the Dead,'" Sata agreed as she took in the tiny houses that cluttered landscape. "What do you suppose those are?"
They walked slowly through the gates and stopped to inspect a thick wall littered with flowers and other small remembrances.
"People are entombed here in this wall," Sata remarked.
Brooklyn wandered further. He stopped in front of one of the tiny houses.
"Here too." He brushed an errant vine away from the crypt. "La Croix," he read, mangling the French.
"Mister, can you help me?" A small voice piped.
There was a tug at Brooklyn's belt pouch. He looked down and a small boy of four or five was looking up at him with pleading eyes.
"Hey! Where did you come from?" Brooklyn replied, startled. Seeing the child, he knelt so he wouldn't appear quite so intimidating. "Shouldn't you be at home?"
The child began to cry. "I'm lost! I can't find my mama, or my papa."
"Shhhh. Don't cry." Brooklyn looked about wildly for Sata, but she had wandered out of view. "We'll find them. Where did you see them last?"
"I'm not sure." The boy snuffled. "I think it was over there." He pointed beyond the trees.
"Right. What's your name, son?" Brooklyn said taking the boy's hand.
"Okay, Nicky. Let's find your folks." He looked around again. Sata was still nowhere in sight.
He growled low in his throat and allowed the child to lead him. As they picked their way carefully through the monuments and mausoleums, Brooklyn called Sata's name, frowning in irritation.
"Is that who you're looking for?" Nicky tugged at his hand just as they approached a small house adorned with a cherub.
"Yeah, that's her," Brooklyn said, a wash of relief flooding over him. "Sata, where have you been? I tried to find you earlier." Brooklyn realized he was babbling. He took another deep breath.
"Sata, this is Nicky. Nicky? Hey where'd he go?" Brooklyn looked around puzzled.
"Brooklyn-san, when I approached you were alone."
"I was not," he protested. "There was this little boy, Nicky. He was lost. His parents had come to visit the cemetery or something and he got left behind."
Sata examined her mate. He seemed quite adamant, but there had been no child. She peered closely at the crypt behind them. "Did you say the boy's name was Nicky?"
"Yeah, that's what he told me." Brooklyn's irritation was growing.
"Could that be a diminutive form of another name, like Nicholas?" Sata asked.
"I think so, sure." Brooklyn agreed after a moment.
"Do not be alarmed, my mate, but look at the carving behind you."
Brooklyn turned slowly and gulped as he read the inscription.
"To our darling boy Nicholas. May you always walk in sunlight."
Brooklyn blanched and staggered. Sata reached out a hand and steadied him.
"Are you all right, my mate?"
"Sure, I am. I've been walking through a cemetery keeping a ghost company. Let's get this over with."
Brooklyn shot an uneasy glance at the final resting place of young Nicholas and took Sata's hand. She gave him a reassuring squeeze and they foraged further into the cemetery.
"Brooklyn-san, I think this is it." She walked carefully towards a simple rectangular structure, with a slightly peaked roof. There was a small vase, filled with fresh red roses. Though the plaster that covered the bricks was white, it was marked with small, red crosses.
"Marie Laveau Glapion," Brooklyn read. "I'd say we found grave number one." He nodded to Sata. "So what shall we take? A flower? Or maybe one of these chunks of brick." He picked up a small piece of broken clay and hefted it experimentally.
"There certainly are many of them," agreed Sata. "But perhaps she would prefer this." She picked up a small doll, in a fancy dress.
Brooklyn nodded. "Why not?" He turned to leave. "Let's get out of here." He crossed his arms over his chest. "This place gives me the creeps."
They hurried out of the cemetery, past the tomb of young Nicholas. Brooklyn deliberately didn't look at the lad's grave. If he had he would have noticed that the boy was no longer alone. He had been joined by a man and woman in old-fashioned clothing, and the trio waved at the passing gargoyles before disappearing into the mist.
Too soon they found themselves several blocks away and at the gate of another cemetery.
"I don't care how interesting it is in there, Sata. This time we do not split up." Brooklyn told his mate adamantly.
"Brooklyn-san, if the spirits truly walk, that whether we are together or alone is not going to make a difference," she lectured gently.
"It does to me, babe." He pushed open the wrought-iron gate. "Let's get this over with."
An hour later they were still searching.
"Are you sure that this is the right cemetery, my mate?" Sata asked.
"The guy said St. Louis #2. The sign above the gate said that this is St Louis #2." Brooklyn replied irritated. "Therefore, we have to be in the right place." He stood quietly for a moment trying to get a feeling for his surroundings. "Let's try over there." He pointed towards the back corner. "There seems to be a well worn path and Marie's tomb is supposed to be a popular place."
They started down a well worn path that led towards the back of the cemetery. Spanish moss dripped from the trees. Brooklyn jumped, then laughed nervously as he realized he was being "stalked" by a particularly persistent tendril of the stuff. The ghosts were better behaved than in St. Louis #1 and kept to themselves.
"Look Brooklyn-san!" Sata exclaimed. "Over there, the markings on the tomb."
They hurried toward the small structure that seemed to stand alone among the other tombs. It was marked with small crosses, and ribbons and the remnants of burning candles.
"People must really think a lot of Marie." Brooklyn mused. "Two tombs and both of them are littered with gifts and offerings."
"She was believed to have been very powerful," Sata reminded him. "And from what we have seen since we have been in this place, the people here are very superstitious. It would behoove them to beg the favor of one such as she."
"Yeah, well, I think she ego trips off of it," Brooklyn grumbled "Otherwise she would have moved on instead of hanging around this swamp and tempting fate."
"Is it so wrong to love your home, Brooklyn-san?"
"No," he replied thinking of his own clan. "I suppose not."
He picked up a burning candle, snuffed the flame, and held it before Sata.
"This ought to do nicely."
She nodded as he tucked it into his belt pouch.
"We don't have much time left before midnight. What else was on our list?" Sata said looking at the moon.
"Chicory root and beignet." Brooklyn replied. "We'd better get moving."
"What is chicory, Brooklyn-san? Where shall we find it?"
"Back in town. And your not going to like where," he added. "Marie really is a piece of work."
They walked in silence. Brooklyn refused to answer Sata's questions and, after a mile or so, she gave up and accompanied her angry mate.
They walked back into the French Quarter and stopped at a busy all-night café.
"Order to go," Brooklyn told the clerk. "A dozen and a pound of ground chicory root." He paused for a moment. "Better give me a pound of coffee beans too." He turned to Sata. "She might be running low."
"Brooklyn-san, I do not understand. Why are we here?"
"Because, my love," he replied to his mate, "the last two items on Marie's list were donuts and the stuff they put in coffee."
Sata's eyes began to glow red.
"I told you she was a piece of work. Never trust the fay, or their children. They always play an angle." He paid the cashier and took the sacks the man handed him in return. "Let's get this over with."
It was a grim pair of gargoyles who returned to the mansion of the chanteuse, Marie.
Brooklyn rapped loudly at the front door, which was opened a moment later by Marie's severely starched and frilled housemaid.
"Here," Brooklyn said, thrusting the coffee and beignet at the startled woman. "You might as well serve these while they're still warm. Oh, and we'll have tea, not coffee."
She dropped a quick curtsey and scurried away leaving the gargoyles to find their own way in.
They entered the parlor and found Lapin and Marie engaged in quiet conversation.
Lapin looked up as they entered. "Ah, mis a mis!" he greeted. "You have returned and not a moment to soon!" He glanced at a large pocket watch that hung from his waist-coat. "Five minutes to twelve."
"Yeah, well, there was a line at the donut place." Brooklyn grumbled, his disgust still evident. "It took a while."
The maid entered bearing cups and a tray. She arranged a small table deftly and withdrew.
"Perhaps we should get on with it, eh?" Marie spoke at last. She rose from the settee where she reclined and held out her hands. "Where are the items that I requested?
Brooklyn started fishing through his bag. "You were really funny, Marie." He removed the alligator's teeth, both wooden and genuine. "Alligator's teeth and Spanish Moss from the 'Heart of the Swamp'." He tossed them at her. "Grave offerings from your two tombs." The doll and the candle followed. He pointed a finger at the tray of beignet and the coffee and tea pots sitting on the side board. "Was there anything on that list that is actually going to be used in a, what did you call it? Oh yeah, 'a spell of revelation'. Or is the revelation the fact that you two played me for a sucker?"
Brooklyn was really start to build up a head of steam, his eyes glowed white and he was growling as he spit his words out at the halfling sorceress.
"I told you 'e was a smart one, petite." Lapin smiled smugly.
"You did indeed, Uncle," she conceded. A shiny doubloon materialized out of the air and she tossed it to Lapin. "You won the bet."
"Bet!" Brooklyn yelled, losing what was left of his self control. "I got my tail bit by an alligator over a bet?"
"Don't get your loincloth in a twist, mon ami," Lapin soothed
"We weren't being cruel. We needed to see what kind of commitment you had. If you would follow through," Marie explained hastily. "I knew you must be somethin' special to be the Timedancer, but I had to be sure if you could deal with the truth. That you were really committed to the task."
Brooklyn stared at her. After a moment he transferred his gaze to Lapin. "You want to see how committed I am?" He dug into his pouch again and pulled out the Phoenix Gate. "Check this out."
He closed his eyes blanking his mind and reared back, preparing to pitch the Gate into the void of the time stream.
"NO!" The others cried in one voice.
Sata leapt to his side and grabbed the Gate followed a fraction of a second later by Lapin.
"Have you gone mad, Brooklyn?" she hissed in barely contained rage. "How will we get out of this forsaken city if you send the Gate away?"
Marie regained her voice. "Don't EVER do something like that again when objects of magic are around. You don't know what might happen!"
"So your saying that you own objects of magic. That you are capable of magic?" Brooklyn sneered.
"Yes, of course, and you've proven yourself worthy."
"Why did you put us through this test?" Sata asked quietly.
"It was necessary," Marie answered as she began to search the contents of an ornately carved cabinet. Her voice was somewhat muffled. "You know that the Gate is a prison. Right?"
Brooklyn nodded his head, unsure of where Marie was going.
She removed a heavy object wrapped in an ornately embroidered cloth and set it on a small, but sturdy round table.
"Well, inside is one very bad loa. A troublemaker. He is known to many people, by many names, Eshu, Argula and Kali, are but a few." She looked first at Brooklyn and then at Sata making sure that she had their undivided attention. "You have to make sure that when he is freed, and the time is coming, that he is someplace safe, where others can take over his…" she stopped searching for a word. "Parole, I guess is the word, non?"
Brooklyn and Sata stared, numb. Marie smiled gently at them.
"I'll tell you what. As a reward for passing the test I'll grant you a boon. I'll tell you the fate of one of those whom you helped in the past. Is that all right, Uncle?"
Lapin nodded and Marie pulled the cloth away from a crystal orb, cradled in an ebony tripod.
"I use this so seldomly," she noted quietly, "except for the occasional parlor trick."
She waved her hands over the ball and it began to glow with a strange inner light.
"Come here, Timedancer," she commanded. "Think of one whose fate you must know. Concentrate and that fate will be revealed."
The mist began to clear and a handsome dark skinned woman holding the hand of a small boy began to solidify in the crystal.
Brooklyn stared and moved forward. He set the Phoenix Gate, momentarily forgotten, onto the table next to the crystal ball as he leaned in to get a better view.
The Gate began to glow, and change color, the dark woman and child disappeared and the ball clouded over again.
Energy began to spiral between the time talisman and the crystal orb. It danced, arcing and building until those in the room were blinded by its radiance. They stood transfixed, fay, halfling and gargoyle alike, as a face appeared in the swirling maelstrom.
Slowly features took form and the being awoke. It was difficult to be certain, but it seemed to be male and very pale. Arctic blue eyes pierced the watchers.
"I'll gain my freedom, Timedancer. Someday, I will be free!"
The Phoenix Gate exploded in a violent burst of energy, taking the gargoyles with it.
Lapin and Marie were thrown to their feet as the crystal ball exploded. Shards of crystal rained down. Only the ward the quick thinking Marie threw up around them saved them from being cruelly cut. After a few moments it stopped.
"And so it begins, ma cherie," Lapin observed sadly.
"Oui, Uncle. As it must, so it begins again."