The rhythmic pounding of the hammer echoed across the countryside; the forge's fire cast eerie shadows throughout the shop. The smith, his body twisted and warped, worked the dread metal until it took on the form most suited to his purpose. For hours upon days he worked, never ceasing, his concentration so intense that he didn't notice someone entered into his shop.
"Kalispera, my friend! How fare you?" The voice sounded as light and mercurial as the fires of the forge which surrounded them. It belonged to a tall, well-built man. A man which, by any human terms, would be considered handsome, but also glowed with a gentleness and kindness rarely found in humanity.
"Not now, Prometheus!" the smith yelled out, his deep and gravelly voice contrasting with his guests'. He was nervous, but his concentration was absolute. His gaze did not waver from the forge. He ignored the sweat running down his arms and beneath the silvery gloves he wore, and for the moment, his visitor.
Prometheus leaned back against the smith's shop wall. Amongst all the Titans and the Gods, only one -- Hephaestus -- dared work this deadly metal. Even with the gloves to protect him and the braces to help him stand -- forged by Hephaestus himself from that most precious of metals, adamant -- it still took a heavy toll. And yet, the care and love he spent could be seen in all of this work. From the beautiful artistry of the assistants he crafted -- metal statuary which moved of their own volition -- to the golden lightning bolts forged for Zeus himself. But even though Hephaestus' hands never slipped, never faltered, Prometheus always worried that the next time might be the last for his friend.
A rush of steam drew Prometheus' attention back to the forge.
Hephaestus was holding his tongs under the water. Slowly he pulled them out, revealing a small dark gray box, no larger than a man's fist, an intricate engraving of an olive branch visible across its surface.
Carefully, Hephaestus laid the box on a nearby cloth, which had the same silvery sheen as his gloves, and used the tongs to wrap it. "Done," he said. "And what fell purpose does our lord have for such an item?"
"Why does our 'lord' do any of what he does? His reasons are his own."
Fire glowed within the eyes of Prometheus, more than overpowering the ruddy glow of the forge-fires.
"Whooooaaa!" Brooklyn scrambled to pick himself up from where the Phoenix Gate had unceremoniously dumped him. It was well past sundown.
The full moon illuminated the countryside. He looked around. Trees, grass, hillside, river, men brandishing weapons, woman cowering.
"Wonderful," he said, bounding off in the direction of the hapless woman, the Phoenix Gate momentarily forgotten. "Out of the fire and into the frying pan." He shoved the Phoenix gate, absently into his belt pouch as he prepared for battle, and missed. It fell unnoticed to the ground.
"Where is it?!" The largest of the men yelled, his sword mere inches from the poor girl's face. She cowered and tried to retreat but was pinned against a large boulder. "Tell me!"
"I can't!" she wailed.
The bandit's hand lashed out, smacking the woman across the face and knocking her back against the rock. She moaned softly and then collapsed, unconscious.
"Now," a voice spoke from the darkness, "didn't your mother tell you that's no way to treat a lady?"
The brigands froze and scanned the quiet countryside, hoping to find some sign of the mysterious voice. They fanned out seeking the intruder.
"There!" A short, one-eyed man cried, his voice quivering in alarm.
The bandits turned as one towards the forest where their companion had sighted the mysterious intruder. They saw nothing. A sudden rush of wind and an unearthly scream cut the through the tranquil night. The one-eyed man was gone! "Glaucus," growled one of the company, "I knew we shouldn't have taken this job. I told you she'd be protected by the gods!"
The big man glowered at him. "If you say one more word, I'll gut you myself! Now find this trickster and kill him! I'll stay and guard the woman."
The three remaining brigands traded uneasy glances, then spread out into a search formation. The leader, Glaucus, spared a glance at the unconscious woman then returned his attention to his men. There was an ominous rustling sound to his right and then a series of muffled screams. A moment later a shout and a curse followed in its wake.
"Theolonis! Appalonis! Arestis! Call out!" Glaucus tightened his grip on his sword when he received no answer.
"You're the only one left," the voice taunted.
Glaucus walked over to the helpless woman, picked her up by the hair, and held his sword to her neck. "Come out!" he yelled. "Show yourself before I slit her throat!"
"Trust me," the voice said from the rocks above Glaucus. "You wouldn't want to do that."
Glaucus swung his head upwards to see his foe. Above him was something out of his nightmares -- a winged demon the color of drying blood, white hair streaming from its head, a large beak where its mouth should have been, its eyes aglow in the bright moonlight. Glaucus paled and staggered, his courage failing him utterly as he realize the fate of his men. He backed slowly away from the woman, his knees trembling. Eyes wide and his mouth agape, he whispered, "Fury!" The last of the brigands fainted dead away.
Brooklyn jumped down beside the woman. "I'm really going to have to talk to my agent about this." He kneeled beside her and laid his hand against her throat. "She's still alive," he said. "At least that's something." Walking over to the river, he cupped his hands, scooped up some of the water, and splashed it in her face. She woke up, sputtering. At the site of Brooklyn, her eyes went wide.
"No! You won't take me back! I won't let you!"
"Whoa, lady!" Brooklyn said, trying to look as inoffensive as possible. "What are you talking about?"
She stopped and looked hard at Brooklyn. "Did not your master send you to retrieve me and the Box?"
"I don't know who you are, where I am, or what you're talking about," Brooklyn said, with a sarcastic look on his face, "so I guess the answer would be 'no'."
She visibly relaxed, setting herself on the ground. "Then thank you for rescuing me. My master named me Pandora."
"Pandora?" Brooklyn asked. "Like that Greek gal in the myths?"
She looked at him quizzically and asked, "I know not what you mean."
"Pandora's Box, ya' know? She was given this box and told not to open it, but her curiosity got the better of her and she released the evils of mankind upon the world. I thought everybody knew that..." Brooklyn let the sentence trail off as he saw stark terror in her face. "Did I say something wrong?"
"I never knew. Oh, my gods, is that why she wants it?"
"Let's back the train up there. Why who wants what?"
Pandora reached beneath the folds of her cloak. Held in her hand was a small iron box with an intricate branch-and-leaf design on its lid, sealed with a tiny clasp. "Medusa, the most evil of the sisters Gorgon. She must want this to free the evil within."
"And you're trying to keep it from her. Well, I think I can help you with that."
Pandora shook her head solemnly. "No. Much to my everlasting shame, I stole the box to give to her in exchange for my family."
"Well, then," Brooklyn said, helping her to her feet, "we'll just have to see if we can't rescue them! After all," he paused momentarily and looked wistfully at the stars, "family is the most important thing there is." He looked down at the last of Pandora's assailants. "Come on. I think we should put some distance between us and 'Mr. Congeniality' here."
Pandora gave him a look of non-comprehension. "Pardon? I do not understand."
"We need to find shelter. And you," he said eyeing the rising bruises on the young woman's face, "need to get some first aid and rest. It looks like you've had a hard night."
Pandora nodded hesitantly, and choosing a direction at random, they began to follow the river downstream.
They walked for an hour or so until Pandora began to stumble with fatigue. Brooklyn surveyed their surroundings, then carefully placed his hand upon her shoulder, both stopping the girl from going further and keeping her from collapsing to her knees.
"I think we've put enough distance between us and those men." He pulled Pandora toward the forest and found to his surprise a small cave only a few feet from the river. "Perfect." He pronounced as he inspected it for hidden dangers.
"Are you certain it's safe to stop?" Pandora said doubtfully.
"Trust me. You don't look like you could take another step. And in a very short while," he said eyeing the fading night, "I won't be able to either."
He guided her toward the cave. "It's not much, but it's warm and dry. Some leaves should make a comfortable bed, too." He said as he gathered a large armful of debris off the forest floor.
"Perhaps you are right." Pandora joined Brooklyn in preparing the cave. "Do you not require a bed as well?" She questioned hesitantly, as Brooklyn piled the leaves into one, not two, heaps.
"I sort of sleep standing up," he admitted, putting her obvious fears to rest. "It's an old habit." He picked through the bedding until he found a large patch of moss. "Here," he said handing it to Pandora, "hold this against that bruise. We should have done this a while ago, but distance seemed more important. It'll help with the swelling."
"Thank you," Pandora replied as she took the cool greenery and pressed it to her cheek.
"Pandora?" Brooklyn said quietly. "Don't be afraid of what's going to happen, trust me. We'll talk tomorrow night."
"I do not understand. What is..." Pandora trailed off. She was addressing a statue. She drew a deep breath then hesitantly ran a hand over the stony visage of her rescuer. "The gods must be at work," she marveled. Realizing that her fate must be in the hands of this strange visitor she lay down among the leaves and was soon fast asleep.
If Brooklyn were flesh, instead of stone, he would have tossed in his sleep. Instead his mind spun in turmoil as he wrestled with his latest predicament. For the dozenth time since his journey began, a tiny voice echoed in his head as he fought to make sense of his new surroundings. "Why am I here? Why can't I go home?" he asked himself over and over again. The tiny voice held no answers, but out of the darkness, a flicker of light sprang to life and gradually grew, it's warmth and radiance dispelled the dark.
From out of the center of the light stepped a man; tall, with long hair as red as flame. "Greetings, Brooklyn," he said, as he placed his hand on the gargoyle's shoulder. The voice was strong, yet compassionate.
"Who are you?" Brooklyn asked, wariness tingeing his voice.
The stranger gestured, causing two rapid bursts of flame to appear out of the ground. The flames just as suddenly disappeared, leaving two simple wooden chairs in their place. "My name," he said as he sat in one of the chairs and gestured for Brooklyn to take the other, "is Prometheus."
"Prometheus!" Brooklyn exclaimed, crouching to strike. "I can't let you take Pandora back!"
Prometheus smiled a soft smile as he held his hand. "You mistake me, my friend," he said. "I'm not here to take Pandora or the box."
Brooklyn drew back, confusion and surprise in his eyes. "Why not?"
Prometheus gestured again for Brooklyn to sit. This time, Brooklyn did sit, but still managed to keep himself at guard. "I know of the path that Pandora has taken and the reasons for it. I am sorry that she felt that she had to do this herself rather than ask for my assistance, but the choice was hers. I will not fault her for trusting in her heart. But it is not her I am here for. Rather, it is you."
"You have begun a long journey, my friend, one that will sorely try your body, will and spirit. Even when all seems lost, remember that you will return home."
"Great. I could have gotten that from any fortune cookie."
Prometheus threw his head back and laughed. After a moment, his infectious laughter had Brooklyn laughing hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. Brooklyn wiped away his tears, and through the laughter, said, "It wasn't that funny..."
Prometheus' laughter gradually died down. "True, my friend," he said, "but laughter can nourish both the mind and the spirit as much as food does the body." He looked hard at the crimson gargoyle. "Do you not feel better now?"
Brooklyn stopped laughing, his brow furrowed in thought. "Actually," he said, "I do."
Prometheus stood up and grasped Brooklyn's arm in a gesture of camaraderie. "Good. When you awaken, you will find some of your other needs will have been met as well."
The light, and the dream as well, started to fade. But as it faded, Brooklyn heard the Titan's voice once more, faintly, as though it came from a great distance. "Be warned, though. Wounds to the heart can be come from more than one source. But not all are fatal."
Pandora awoke. She cringed reflexively, then relaxed as she realized that she was indeed safe. She was stiff and sore from the beating she had endured the night before, but already the bruises were fading.
The strange red creature who had saved her was still frozen in stone. Timidly, she reached forward and ran her hand along his once snowy mane.
"It wasn't a dream!" she marveled.
Hesitantly, she peeked outside the cave. The forest was quiet, no hunters had pursued them during the day. But someone had visited while they slept. A table laden with roast meat and fresh fruit and other succulent victuals beckoned. Pandora poured a goblet of cool spring water from the carafe, then started to set it down as she realized the food might be bait for some sort of trap. A scream echoed within the cavern and Pandora dropped her cup in fright.
"Brooklyn!" Pandora cried. She rushed the mouth of the cave and bumped into the yawning gargoyle.
"What!?" He became suddenly alert, looked around then realized that he was the cause of her panic.
"Do you always cry out in such a fearsome manner?" She asked as she realized that they weren't under attack.
"Oh, sorry. Habit."
She eyed him carefully. "Do you have other such habits?"
Brooklyn opened his beak and then closed it carefully. Some questions weren't made to be answered.
"We had visitors during the day." Pandora said at last, covering the awkward silence that had suddenly grown between them. She pointed to the table.
"Well," he said, eyeing the feast, "at least we don't have to worry about hunting."
"Do you think it is safe? Might someone try poison to capture us?"
Brooklyn shook his head. "No, those thugs last night didn't follow us. And if they had, think about it; you were asleep and I was stone. They could have jumped you before you had a chance react." He reached for a chunk of roasted lamb and some bread and starting assembling a sandwich. "Besides, I had the strangest dream last night."
"The gods will oftimes use dreams to communicate with mortals," she said. "Please, what was it about?"
Brooklyn looked slightly embarrassed. "I was talking to some guy. Tall and muscular with red hair. Looks like Fabio aspires to be. I seemed to get the impression that he kept us safe."
"Fabio?" she questioned. "I know no one by that name. But Prometheus, my master is a Titan with hair of fire." She bowed her head calmly expecting the inevitable. "He is angry with me. Is this feast meant to be my last meal?"
Brooklyn swallowed hard to clear the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. She's so brave. She's sure she's going to die and she's accepted her punishment as both right and inevitable.
"Pandora." He crossed to her side his eyes full of compassion. "He said he understands."
Pandora sat hard on the ground, then began to weep as the impact of those four simple words hit her. Brooklyn sat down next to her, protectively wrapping his wing around her.
The two of them sat together for several minutes until Brooklyn reached over and tweaked Pandora's nose. "Y'know," he said, standing, his hand outstretched, "I wish Broadway could see all of this food." When Pandora looked at him, the question on her lips when he mimed the rotund belly of his rookery brother faded away. The small laughter it brought forth brightened her face. Helping her up, Brooklyn then bowed in an exaggerated manner, gesturing towards the table. "Come, my lady," he said, "the feast awaits."
Brooklyn deliberately kept the conversation light, using small, deliberate doses of what Elisa called his "bad boy" charm to keep Pandora smiling. Finally, sated and content, they began to move tentatively toward more serious matters.
"Pandora," Brooklyn finally nerved himself up to ask, "what are you going to do now?"
She paused from packing the sturdier foodstuffs into a bindle created from the linen tablecloth and looked up at Brooklyn a trifle sadly.
"I must go on. The Gorgon still holds my family hostage and awaits my ransom."
"Well I'm not doing anything, it seems. How would you like some company?"
Brooklyn's words were casual, but his eyes held much more. Pandora dropped her gaze for a moment then nodded her consent.
"I would be very pleased to have you as a companion."
"Great. I guess it's settled, then." He moved to the table to help her pack the remaining foodstuffs. As he tied a bundle to his belt he frowned and looked at his pouch. He hadn't noticed before but it seemed... wrong. He opened it and glanced inside.
He stared in shock. "It's gone!" Brooklyn yelled. He began to search the cave and table frantically.
"Brooklyn!" Pandora rushed after him all thoughts of their journey temporarily abandoned. "What is gone? What has upset you so?"
He stopped, realizing that they had probably covered several miles the previous evening in their flight from the thugs.
"Nothing, everything. I was carrying a talisman, The Phoenix Gate. With it, I travel through time. Without it I can't go home. I had it last night. I'm sure I put it in my pouch before I came to help you!" He stared at the ground. "Maybe it went away on it's own, maybe I dropped it. I don't know."
"We could go back..." Pandora offered without hesitation.
"No." Brooklyn cut her off with an angry wave of his hand. His tail thumped involuntarily. "Your family comes first. First we deal with the Gorgon, then I'll worry about me."
Pandora opened her mouth to protest but the icy white flame in Brooklyn's eyes silenced the girl. "We should finish our preparations then," she conceded in a quiet voice. "The journey is a hazardous one."
"Right." Brooklyn nodded. He finished packing their meager belongings, all the while wondering if losing the Gate was a bad thing after all.
"Pandora, tell me about your family." They had walked for several nights, gradually establishing a bond. When Brooklyn had first poised his request, Pandora had merely dropped her eyes and refused to speak, her grief and shame overwhelming her. But this time she spoke, hesitantly at first.
"We were very happy in the service of our master Prometheus, my sisters and I. We cooked his meals and waited upon his table.
When he returned weary from his labors, we danced and sang to ease his burdens." She looked up at Brooklyn. "His work, is very dangerous, though I know not what he does." She stepped carefully down a steep slope before continuing. "And though I am very plain, my sisters are most pleasing to the eye."
"Trust me Pandora, you are not plain."
"You speak kindly, Brooklyn, but compared to my sisters, I am nothing. But their beauty was their downfall. Word spread to Medusa, how fair they were, and she is bitter and hates beauty in any form. She stole my sisters away and holds them ransom. At least I thought that is what had occurred. She appeared to me in a dream and told me that she would release my sisters if I took the little box and gave it to her." She stopped and spun to face Brooklyn.
"It was but a trinket, or so I thought! I knew my master would be displeased by my actions, but I did not know that it carried such evil contents." She drew a deep breath and continued more quietly. "I gave my oath to Medusa, and to my sisters. I have no choice but to deliver the box."
"Don't worry, Pandora, somehow we'll figure a way out of this mess and save your family." They walked onward through the still night.
"Brooklyn!" Pandora stole a glance behind her where the gargoyle stood frozen in stone sleep. "Now would be a fortuitous time for you to awaken." She hissed, as she watched the Satyr prance forward a few steps sniffing the air.
"Come out, My Dear," he invited. "You might as well surrender to the inevitable and enjoy it." He leered and moved close enough to their hiding place that Pandora cringed involuntarily. "I know I will." He curled his lip in anticipation.
Pandora snuck behind Brooklyn's still form then froze, molding her body against stone. She was hurled backward as Brooklyn finally awoke.
The satyr, who had chosen that moment to make his grand entrance into the tiny cave, was pummeled with tiny fragments of stone skin. He bawled loudly in shock.
"Pandora?" Brooklyn called quietly, after he had shaken the last remnants of stone skin off his wings.
She moaned in response.
"Pandora!" He raced to her side. "Are you all right?"
"The Satyr? Is he still out there?" She gestured towards the mouth of the cave.
Brooklyn left the girl to investigate. The Satyr had left for greener pastures. He returned to Pandora's side.
"There's no one there," he reported as he helped Pandora to her feet. He realized belatedly that she was covered in skin fragments. "What happened?"
"Nothing." Pandora answered with relief. She turned toward the bewildered gargoyle. "I am glad you chose to accompany me Brooklyn." She laid her hand on his shoulder. "We live in dangerous times."
Brooklyn stole a glance over his shoulder for the dozenth time, searching the dense woods.
"I don't like this place," he muttered. "It gives me the creeps."
"There does seem to be a strange air to this place, as though eyes are upon us." Pandora agreed.
"Exactly, but I can't see…" Brooklyn trailed off. "There! Behind those trees, someone is following us." He sprinted to their left, hoping to catch their watcher unawares. He was rewarded with nothing but more dense foliage and trees with oddly shaped branches. He returned to Pandora's side. "Nothing." He muttered with disgust. "Have you noticed how some of these trees seem to have faces?" He pointed at a young Ash tree as an example. "Eyes, nose… Pandora what's the matter?"
"These are no normal trees, Brooklyn." She said as she quickened her pace. "These are Dryads, wood nymphs, as for whether they would treat us fair or foul, I do not know. I hope we have not offended them." She stopped in front of the Ash tree that Brooklyn had pointed to a moment before and bowed very respectfully before it. "My lady of the forest, we are but humble travelers who wish passage through your lands. We shall gather no wood, nor burn no fire. May we pass in safety?" Pandora stood humbly before the tree as if she expected an answer.
To Brooklyn's utter amazement the tree bent its branches slowly inward as if it granted its blessing.
"Did I just see that?" He marveled.
"Yes," acknowledged Pandora, "but we should go quickly. Dryads can be capricious about their favors."
In response, the tree bent its branches, shooing them out of its sight.
"Who am I to argue with a forest?" Brooklyn acknowledged as they set to their path again.
"Brooklyn, how far do you think we have traveled this night?" Pandora sank to the ground and gazed at the mountain where their final destination lay.
Brooklyn collapsed next to her. It seemed like they'd been walking for months, but then again, they had. Medusa's cave was on the other side of the island from where he and Pandora had first met, and at the top of a craggy mountain to boot. Over the last weeks, they had set into a regular routine: hunting and traveling by night, hiding for protection by day.
It was a good life, Brooklyn realized suddenly. He was happy. The revelation stunned him. Pandora was an able traveling companion. She seldom complained of privation, she had a knack for finding game that he envied, and she always knew exactly what to say. He watched as she rubbed at a kink in her neck. She couldn't quite get the spot that was troubling her.
"Here, let me do that." He sat up and began to knead her neck and shoulders.
She sagged forward in relief under Brooklyn's gentle ministrations.
"Thank you. That feels much better."
Brooklyn stopped rubbing and Pandora leaned back against his chest.
They sat that way for a long time and Brooklyn began to play absently with a stray lock of her long dark hair. Look at how it shines in the moonlight. Only half realizing what he was doing he gently stroked her cheek. Pandora leaned into the caress.
Brooklyn suddenly realized what he was doing. "Pandora, it's getting late. We should find shelter." Brooklyn stood abruptly, supporting the girl so that she would not fall in his haste.
"Of course." She took a breath, collecting her suddenly scattered thoughts and pointed to a small grove of trees. "Perhaps over there?" She moved off without waiting for Brooklyn.
Brooklyn watched her move away, reluctantly, he noted. "What was I thinking?" He muttered under his breath. "She's a human and I'm... me, stuck on this stupid crusade through time." He gathered up his pack and moved to join Pandora among the shelter of the trees. "But she is so beautiful..." he sighed as he schooled his features to careful neutrality.
"Come on. I think we can make the climb easier from over here." Brooklyn indicated a pathway to their left where the rocks looked marginally more stable. "It looks like a goat path but it beats picking our way over those boulders."
Pandora looked at him doubtfully, then followed his lead, gamely threading her way up the rocky pathway.
"It seems that we've been climbing for nights. I could almost believe that we were being punished like King Sisyphus. But with an unending climb rather than his boulder forever being rolled up the hill and falling back down," Pandora remarked sadly.
"Wait a minute." Brooklyn stopped climbing momentarily and turned. "You mean that really happened? I thought that was just a story."
"Oh no!" Pandora wiped a hand across her brow and pushed her raven hair out of her face. "Sisyphus's punishment is legend. People travel for miles to watch him toil each day." She looked ashamed. "Merchants have set up a market place at the bottom of the hill to provide the spectators with food and drink. Those who take pity on him and try to assist have been struck down by the Gods for interfering." Her eyes flashed angrily. "The spectators wager on what punishments will be exacted. It is a tragedy."
"I didn't know," Brooklyn admitted. "I'm sorry," he said. Though he wasn't exactly sure why.
"We must hurry," Pandora said, putting the plight of Sisyphus behind her. "The summit awaits us."
"Right. After you, my lady." Brooklyn bowed and allowed Pandora to proceed him. She trudged forward.
"Would you look at this place!" Brooklyn exclaimed and whistled low.
A full moon cast silvery light over a grassy meadow. Weeping willow trees gathered at the edge of a small pond.
"It's beautiful!" Pandora agreed. She took a step forward then stopped suddenly.
Brooklyn bumped into her, started to protest, then froze as he realized what had caught her attention. A pair of centaurs one male, one female, walked blissfully along the water's edge. The female wore a garland of flowers around her neck and little else. They stopped to enjoy the rainbows that danced around the pool, created by the cascade of water falling from a rocky precipice. The pair began to dance, swaying in time to music that only they could hear. Soon they had company as other revelers joined them. The flowers and mushrooms began to bend and sway gracefully and laughter tinkled lightly over the glade. Brooklyn caught his breath as tiny winged beings began to sing and play, real music now, instead of the imaginary melody that had drifted through his head. Oddly, the cherubs played the tune that Brooklyn had thought he had imagined.
He tore his gaze away from the surreal cotillion and stole a look at Pandora. She was transfixed by the sight and… utterly radiant. He leaned towards her and she responded automatically, caught up in the romantic scene before her. He bent forward, his beak puckered, and a large red bird flew directly over their heads chittering its disapproval.
The travelers pulled away from each other, startled.
"Uh, I, well… " Brooklyn said incoherently.
"Perhaps it is time we moved on." Pandora agreed, her voice filled with regret.
The pair journeyed onward.
"Pandora, I… no, no, no, That sounds stupid!" Brooklyn growled under his breath. "I think I've been abandoned by the Phoenix Gate, even though Prometheus said I'd go home someday…" He shook his head, then buried it in his hands. "Face it, Brook, old buddy. You're a loser. The minute you tell her how you feel, she'll laugh at you. She doesn't love you."
"What did you say, Brooklyn?" Pandora entered the clearing where Brooklyn sat, toweling her hair dry with a scrap of cloth saved from their grand banquet those many weeks ago. She looked radiant, flush from bathing in the cold mountain water, her long hair hanging loose around her shoulders.
Brooklyn inhaled involuntarily.
"Nothing! I was just wondering about something, that's all." Yeah sure Brooklyn, nothing important, just the caress, and the kiss that almost was. "Do you think that you are up to climbing that last summit tonight? We've been pushing pretty hard these last few nights and the weather feels like it's going to get nasty later. Maybe we should wait and hole up here."
Pandora studied the sky. Dark, moisture-laden clouds obscured the moon.
"The storm is moving quickly, and the road is arduous. Perhaps you are right. We should wait out the storm and continue on the morrow. We can shelter among the trees."
Brooklyn looked at the meager cover. "We're gonna have to fortify them a bit, and we'll need a fire. See if you can gather some wood. I'll see what I can do for cover." They separated to their tasks. Brooklyn brooded as he collected foliage and piled it over a shell of fallen branches. It would be cozy, he reflected, as he watched Pandora strike a pair of stones together and nurse the tiny spark into a blaze. The first fat rain drops began to fall as he settled the last branch into place. The wind began to sing and the hair crawled on Brooklyn's neck.
Pandora joined him under the cover of the crude tent and they huddled together, shoulder to shoulder as the wind screamed and rain beat down. A few drops made their way through the dense cover, but Brooklyn had done his job and they remained snug, even after the fire had given up in defeat.
"Are you okay? You've been awfully quiet." Brooklyn nudged Pandora. She had been staring quietly into the remains of the dying fire, watching as the rain beat the life out of the dying embers.
"I have been thinking. About fate... About what the Gods have in store for me." She looked at Brooklyn and laid a slim hand on his arm. "Did you know that we are all playthings for the Gods? Favored toys to be done with as they will?" Brooklyn thought of the Phoenix Gate and the Sisters using Demona, MacBeth, and himself. "It is something that I have accepted. But what puzzles me is the why of it all. Why must Medusa steal my sisters, and why must I be the one to deliver, what you tell me is a box of evil spirits, to her, in exchange for their lives? For the amusement of some greater being? Surely they could have chosen some other way. Am I being punished? Or has my master, Prometheus, incurred the wrath of Zeus and I am but a pawn in his punishment?" She sighed quietly.
"Pandora, I don't know. I used to think that I was master of my own destiny until I had my run in with the Phoenix Gate and those three sisters. Now I'm supposed to be their errand boy, bouncing through time. I don't know why I end up in the places I do. I don't know how long I'll even be there, could be a day, could be an hour, I just know I try to make the most of the time I've got. Hopefully I'll be of some use to somebody."
"You've been a great comfort to me, Brooklyn. I could not have made this journey without you. I bless the Gods for sending you to me, my friend."
"You're shivering." Brooklyn gathered Pandora to him and wrapped a wing around her. She hesitated for just a moment then snuggled against him.
Moments later, she was asleep. Brooklyn looked down on the sleeping woman and sighed. "Yeah, Brooklyn. That's you. A friend indeed." The gargoyle sat listening to the rain. "I could really get to hate that word."
"I don't think it's much further," Brooklyn whispered quietly as he surveyed the broken statuary and other unidentifiable rubble. There was an unholy silence to the place. No nightbird sang, no creature stirred among the rocks and shards of marble. Pandora merely nodded and shifted her burden. She moved forward to take the lead.
"Pandora wait! Let me take the point. Let me make sure it's safe." He pleaded.
She gave him a gentle look that tore at Brooklyn's heart. "No, my friend," Pandora said. "This is something I must do alone."
"Whoa, Pandora," Brooklyn exclaimed. "If I remember my tales correctly, just looking at this woman can turn you to stone. If you think I'm going to let you do this by yourself, you're nuts!"
"Please, Brooklyn," she said. "I can't risk my family." Suddenly, she reached up and kissed him on the beak. "And I don't want anything to happen to you. I love you."
A goofy grin spread across Brooklyn's beak. "Oh- O.K.," he said, "but if anything happens, I'll be in there in no time."
Pandora smiled a sad smile, then walked through the vines into the cave.
The shadows cast by the torches lining the walls danced giving the cave an eerie life of its own. Pandora mustered her courage, ignoring the shadow wraiths, and picked her way across the stone and gold coins littering the floor.
A honeyed voice greeted her from the darkness. "Well, my dear," it said. "I was afraid you would not make it." The voice paused, a slight rustling stilling the air. "Or, I should say, your sisters were afraid you wouldn't make it."
"I did as you wanted," Pandora said, fear tingeing her voice. "I brought you the Box. Please, let my family go!"
The rustling grew louder as a beautiful woman, her head and face hidden by a gauzy material, stepped forward. "Don't worry, my dear," she said. "There will be time enough for that. The Box please?"
Pandora reached into her pack and drew out the small box, then handed it over to her. "Yes!" Medusa exclaimed. "My master will be pleased!"
"You have what you wished, Gorgon," Pandora said. "Now, please let my family go!"
With her free hand, Medusa grabbed one of the torches from the wall.
"Actually, my dear," she said, "they've decided to stay." She threw the torch into a nearby alcove, revealing the broken statues that were once Pandora's family. "And they want you to join them." Medusa threw the covering off of her hair, revealing a hideous face, with snakes for hair. Pandora yelled out as twin beams lanced from Medusa's eyes, transforming the poor girl to stone.
"Pandora!" Brooklyn raced in as the last of Pandora's screams died away.
"PANDORA!!!" he yelled, seeing the statue that she had become. A rumble grew in Brooklyn's throat as his eyes grew bright enough to light the small cave. "You..." he said, staring at Medusa. "You did this to her." Brooklyn crouched, liberating a sword from the remnants of a marble hand and struck a battle stance.
"Yes, my young creature. And now you shall join her." Again, the twin green beams sprang from her eyes, striking Brooklyn square in the chest -- to no effect. Brooklyn opened his eyes, realized that he still breathed and sprang at Medusa. With one swing of the sword, Medusa was dead.
As her body fell, the iron box fell from her hand, the clasp breaking on the ground, releasing the wraiths imprisoned within back into the world.
But this meant nothing to Brooklyn. Numb, he dropped the sword and walked back to Pandora. Tears filled his eyes as he knelt down in front of her. "If only I had accompanied you. If only I had done something. It's my fault you're dead!"
"She's not dead," a warm voice said from the entrance of the cave. The cave grew brighter as Prometheus entered it. "Just sleeping. I'm sure, my friend, that you have some experience with that."
Brooklyn looked towards Prometheus, hope springing anew in his eyes.
"Is there something you can do?"
"No," Prometheus said, a smile on his face. "But there is something we can do. Please, give me your hand."
Without thinking, Brooklyn stretched his hand towards Prometheus.
Holding the open palm above Pandora, Prometheus drew a blade from his belt and in one swift motion, cut Brooklyn's palm, letting the blood flow over Pandora's stone form.
Brooklyn ignored the stinging pain as he watched the spilled blood spontaneously combust, fire spreading across the statue. Brighter and brighter it grew until Pandora was engulfed in flame. Brooklyn turned his head away. When the light died down and Brooklyn was able to see, there stood Pandora, wings outspread and staring in wonder at the gargoyle she had become.
"Pandora!" Brooklyn yelled as he embraced and kissed her. After a long moment, the two pulled apart. "Prometheus, how can I ever thank you?"
A melancholy showed in the Titan's eyes. "Please, don't thank me. In fact, for what I must do, I beg your forgiveness." Prometheus reached into a pouch at his waist, pulling something out. "Your journey has just begun," he said, as he tossed something to Brooklyn. Brooklyn looked at it, seeing the blue and gold of the Phoenix Gate. "What..." he started to say as a ball of flame emanated from it, whisking him away.
"Brooklyn!" Pandora yelled, then collapsed on the ground where Brooklyn stood, sobbing.
"I'm sorry, my child," Prometheus said. "He was warned that this had to be. He has his tasks to complete." He paused and looked at the changeling.
"And so do we," he said as he gestured and both vanished in a ball of flame.
The rhythmic pounding of the hammer echoed across the countryside; the forge's fire cast eerie shadows throughout the shop. The smith, his body twisted and warped, continued to work the dread metal until it took on a form more suitable for his purpose. For hours upon days he worked, never ceasing, his concentration so intense that he didn't notice someone entered into his shop.
"Kalispera, my friend! How fare you?" Prometheus laughed to himself, enjoying this ritual as much as his friend did.
"Not now, Prometheus!" the smith yelled out. His gaze never wavered from the forge, despite the fact that he could feel the sweat run down his arms and beneath the silvery gloves he wore.
The Titan leaned against a wall, his young charge caping her wings and following him in. They both watched as Hephaestus intertwined the blue-silver of the adamant with the fragile gold, weakening the first but strengthening the second.
Dunking the metal one last time into the water, Prometheus watched the steam rise. "Will it fit the task?"
"Aye," the smith said, "that it will. And it will be stronger than that cursed iron."
Hephaestus drew his work out of the water, and after checking it to make sure it could be handled, handed it to Prometheus. "I hope it meets your needs, old friend."
"Your work always does, Hephaestus," Prometheus said as he examined it. "But I have a feeling that this is your best work yet." Prometheus held up so that all could see, the blue and gold symbol of the Phoenix glinted in the forge light. "It is a shame that such a thing of beauty must be used for such an ill purpose."
"True," his friend agreed, his gaze falling on the transformed Pandora.
"But, who are we to judge what is good and what is ill? Only time may tell."