The Devil's Deal
By Kathy Pogge
Outline by DumlaoX
PREVIOUSLY ON Timedancer...
"Prophesy has chosen you, Timedancer."
It was a glorious night. A million stars twinkled so close it seemed you could reach up and grab them. The air was warm and fragrant with the aroma of sweet grass and exotic night blooming flowers. It was alive with sound. Locusts hummed their siren songs, calling across the savannah to prospective mates. The burr of the insects were counter-pointed by the cry of hungry birds who flitted in the moonlight seeking a midnight snack. In the distance, an elephant trumpeted an angry warning at a lioness who stalked an antelope too close for the old cow's comfort.
Brooklyn sighed contentedly. He gazed upward into the jeweled sky and studied the heavens. He had no idea where he was or why he was there. He only knew that for the first time in a long while, he was enjoying himself. He sighed again and tried to use the sudden respite to gather his thoughts. As he glided over a sleeping herd of wildebeests, he chided himself for the thousandth time over his stupidity in picking up the Phoenix Gate. If he hadn't picked it up, he wouldn't be in this mess, alone and separated from his clan, dislodged from the time stream, tossing back and forth like a piece of flotsam in a river.
He crossed a pool of shimmering water and drew a deep breath. Gathered along its shores was a collection of animals that put the Central Park Zoo to shame. He landed in a tree a short distance away and paused to watch as a rhinoceros delicately bent its stubby neck to drink at the riverbank.
He caped his wings and quietly watched the interplay among the different species. He found it fascinating that prey and predator could co-exist so peacefully, at least for a little while. A scream in the distance shattered the calm. The hunter's cry of triumph echoed against the death scream of his prey. Brooklyn's thoughts turned dark as he found himself drifting back towards his own dilemma. He was the prey in the trap of the Weird Sisters. They had commanded him to be their servant. How could he escape their grasp? Just what did they want a gargoyle like him to do for them? After all, they were beings of magic. Couldn't they manage for themselves?
As if to answer his unspoken questions, he was engulfed in Phoenix Flame.
At the water hole, the animals joined in a hellish chorus.
The Void- All Time
"Oh boy!" Brooklyn whistled low as he was freed from the paralyzing effects of the Gate. Reality had taken a vacation. The tranquil African plain was gone, replaced by a sea of orange. Tendrils of fire licked at him but he felt nothing. It was as if the Phoenix Gate had exploded, multiplying its effect a million times. After a moment, Brooklyn looked down and noticed that he was drifting on a current of fire. "Great, just great!" he moaned, "I'm caught up in some computer geek's concept of a bad science fiction movie." Lacking a better idea, he quit struggling against the current and let it carry him along.
He had just started to nod off when he was pulled abruptly to his feet. "Hey, what the...?" Brooklyn struggled briefly as he realized he was cocooned in a web of orange flame once more. "Let me go!" he roared at the nothingness.
"We shall release you, Timedancer." A voice taunted melodiously. It came from nowhere and everywhere.
"When you agree to do our bidding." A second voice chimed in.
"It is a simple task." A third voice finished.
"Great, I was wondering when you three would show up." Brooklyn grumbled. "Are you actually going to appear or are you just going to hassle me long distance?"
Three women, one with hair of white, one blonde, and the third a raven-haired beauty, suddenly appeared, floating in the air a few feet above the 'ground'. They looked down on Brooklyn with a slightly amused expression, ignoring his hate filled glare.
"It is time." Luna, the silver haired sister, began again.
"You must do our bidding." Selene, the raven haired one, interjected.
"Your fate hangs in the balance." Phoebe, the blonde haired one, completed.
Brooklyn tried to cross his arms across his chest and found they were frozen at his sides. "Do you mind?" He gestured with his eyes toward the field that encased him. The trio raised their right hands and waved. Brooklyn had to catch himself to keep from slumping forward.
"Thanks a heap." He crossed his arms across his chest and glared, satisfying himself with the small gesture of contempt. "And the answer is still no." Phoebe's last comment slowly filtered through Brooklyn's anger. "What do you mean my fate hangs in the balance?" He gave the sisters another look of contempt. "What did I ever do to you anyway?"
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."
"If you do not, then you and those you hold dear will perish before their proper time. Things are as they must be."
Brooklyn stared off into the ocean of Phoenix fire, weighing his options. He could lie, telling them that he'd cooperate and try to work his way out of things later, or he could give in now and maybe get home. He wondered what Goliath would do and dismissed the thought. Goliath never seemed to have much luck dealing with the Sisters. Time to try his own approach.
"Do you three always speak in riddles?" He held his hand up to stall their answer. "Never mind. Just cut to the chase. What do you want me to do?"
"It is a simple task."
"You must arrange a meeting."
"Okay, a meeting." Brooklyn cut in. "Have your people call my people?" The Sisters stared blankly at Brooklyn not understanding the sarcasm. He gestured at them to continue. "Seriously. Who do you want me to get to meet?"
"She who is exiled from your clan, must join forces with your former foe, so that the castle will find its place among the clouds."
Brooklyn looked at the Sisters in total incomprehension. "You want ME to set up a meeting between Demona and Xanatos? No way! If those two had never met..."
The Sisters cut him off. "If those two had never met, you would still be slumbering in stone. What was must be. They must meet in the year 1993 or all shall be undone."
Brooklyn began to chuckle. Caught in a spasm of laughter, he failed to notice the sisters disapproving glare. "This is a sick joke right?" He finally looked up, wiping tears out of still streaming eyes. He ran his talons through his long white mane as he attempted to compose himself further. "You're not kidding." The merriment died away abruptly as the seriousness of the situation re-asserted itself. They weren't laughing. The three of them floated in front of him as if they had absolutely nothing better to do. "Alright," he yielded at last. "When and where do I set this meeting up?"
"You will find an intermediary who will speak for you."
"Do not reveal yourself to those who you seek to influence for that would damage time itself."
"The when and where will become clear when it is proper."
"Fair thee well, Timedancer." The three sisters disappeared with out another word.
"But! Hey, wait a minute!" Brooklyn entreated the empty
air. "That's it? No secret decoder ring? Just figure out who
to use and get them to set things up? A little more help would be nice!"
In response, he was surrounded by the electric orange of the Phoenix flames
and thrown back into the time stream.
Scotland- 1093 A.D.
Cold orange flame reflected eerily in a blanket of fog. Brooklyn automatically unfurled his wings, caught an updraft and glided silently, looking for some sort of landmark. Where in blazes had he ended up this time?
Somewhere in the distance the crash of waves against beach beckoned. He was gliding above a coastline somewhere. He coasted toward the faint outline of craggy rocks and caught a whiff of heather. A break in the fog confirmed his growing suspicion. He was in Scotland, near Castle Wyvern. He followed familiar landmarks until he was rewarded with the sight of the castle turrets spiraling into the night sky.
It was so quiet. His neck began to itch as the fine hairs rose along his spine. Taking a deep breath he began a circuitous descent toward the castle.
It was abandoned. Moss was over taking the ruined edifice. He
found himself getting lost in old memories. For a brief moment, he
closed his eyes and saw Brother Edmund teaching young warriors the fine art
of sword play in the castle courtyard.
The gargoyles snickered with merriment as one of their more long-winded
and lazy brethren began to explain, "I would love to help you with your
demonstration but I have to..." The excuse was abruptly cut off as a
devastatingly pretty young female with a kit bag whipped her tail, nudging
her rookery brother toward the center of the ring until he had no choice
but to accept Edmund's practice blade.
Brooklyn shook himself back to reality and began to explore the castle. He looked up toward their old roosting spots and his breath became caught in his throat. Frozen in stone with a look of infinite sadness etched in his craggy features was Goliath. Perched below him were more gargoyles frozen in stone sleep. Lexington, Broadway, Hudson, and Bronx all waited for the night when they would awaken once again. He tore his gaze from his clan until it rested on his own stone form. The pull was irresistible. Mesmerised, he climbed the wall until he faced himself.
"Jeez, is my nose really that big?" Brooklyn ran a tentative hand over his frozen self. "This is too weird! I wonder if..." He removed his hand from his stone faced twin and pinched his forearm. "Ouch! Nope, definitely real! So why am I here?" He paced the parapet, growling in frustration at the impossible task the Weird Sisters had stuck him with. "If I'm supposed to get Demona together with Xanatos, then why am I in Scotland?"
Above his head, his answer glided in the night sky. The whoosh of gargoyle wings caused Brooklyn to duck into the shadows. A few moments later, he heard a quiet voice murmuring near the sleeping Goliath. Cautiously, he crept towards the voice, wondering if this was the moment the Sisters had warned him to prepare for. He began to break from the cover of the shadows when a familiar voice began to speak. He hesitated, eavesdropping on the conversation instead.
"Hello, my love. I know it has been a while since I've had the chance to see you, to touch you again." Brooklyn peered out of the safety of his hiding place to see Demona kneeling at Goliath's side.
"The last few years haven't been easy for me. I'm alone again." Demona's voice thickened with unshed tears. "I had allied myself with a human." She paused as if hearing Goliath's incredulous response. "It wasn't a bargain of my choosing but for a time it was... necessary for the survival of my clan." She paused again listening to Goliath's unspoken question. "Yes, finally did become clan leader. It was what I wanted all those years ago when I was your second. I thought I could rule through you, when I really wanted to do it on my own."
Demona paused and turned her back on Goliath, pacing the parapets as she unburdened herself. "I made a bargain with..." She cut herself off and gestured futilely. "It doesn't matter really. They gave me immortality. But it came at a price. I had to ally myself and my clan with Macbeth. He is a fierce warrior. He was a good man until he sought to betray our kind. Why must the humans always betray us, my love? What did we do to them?"
She stood quietly for a time as if she were marshaling her strength. "I've come to say good-bye for a time, my love. I don't know when I'll be able to look upon you again." She approached Goliath's frozen form and ran a loving hand over his face. "I have new enemies. They call themselves 'Hunters'. They have sworn to destroy me. I know that they cannot but they endanger those with whom I live with. For the safety of my clan, I must leave Scotland. Perhaps it will only be for a little while, but I think not. I may never return to you my love. I think that this time it shall have to be good-bye forever."
Brooklyn opened his mouth and realized he had no idea what to say. Demona was grief-stricken and she really didn't sound too stable. What if his sudden appearance was what sent her the rest of the way around the bend? The sisters told him not to act directly. But if he wasn't supposed to contact Demona, then why had they sent him here? A line from an old Sherlock Holmes story drifted idly through his head.
"You see but you do not observe, Watson." Great, now he was providing
his own cryptic clues, as if the ones from the sisters weren't enough. But
as he pondered the quote, things started to fall into place. Suddenly it
made sense. If he paid enough attention to Demona's rants, then he'd
know how to approach her later. He prayed he was right as Demona kissed Goliath
one last time and glided silently into the night. He didn't have much of
a chance to reflect on the situation as he was trapped in the Phoenix flames
once more and hurled back into the time stream.
"Michel! Michel! Wait for me!" A young woman called out to the young man hurrying down the cobblestone streets. His arms were filled with parchment scrolls and he seemed in danger of dropping the lot at any moment.
"Rene! Petite!" he cried gladly. "I am so glad to see you!" He kissed the pretty blonde maiden on both cheeks, juggling the scrolls as he struggled to keep from dropping them. "Where have you been keeping yourself?"
"I should ask you the same, Michel!" She wagged her finger at him disapprovingly. "Father said that we could have you to dinner over a week ago. I haven't been able to find you since." She finally liberated several of the more determined parchments from the young man. "Where have you been?"
"I locked myself away to study." He glanced at the armful of paper ruefully. "It was all so fascinating I've barely had a chance to eat or sleep." He yawned forcefully at his body's sudden reminder of its deprivation. "Next week perhaps, Cherie?" he entreated.
She dimpled prettily as she smiled. "Next week then. Papa will have Cook roast a mutton joint." She carefully handed back the scrolls. "Don't forget!" She smiled at him once again as she hurried home.
Michel de Nostradame smiled at the departing Rene and readjusted his scrolls once more. The sun was diminishing rapidly. He had to hurry. Tonight he was expecting company and he didn't want to disappoint his guest by being late! He had meant to return home hours ago, but his reading in his grandfather's archive had yielded the most fascinating theory about the nature of pain and how perhaps it was possible to conquer it through the power of the mind. He had read hungrily, devouring every word, and had borrowed the scrolls, along with several others on ancient medical techniques, to read and study further.
He burst into his lodgings, dumping his scrolls unceremoniously on his work table, and rushed to the banked coals in the fireplace to coax the dying embers back to life. He blew and fussed and, moments later, a flicker of flame rewarded his efforts. Soon he had a cozy fire burning in the grate. He robbed a bit of the flame to light several fat beeswax candles and the small room was bathed in their warm glow.
He glanced out the window. The last rays of a dying sun drifted through the dirty pane. Time to see to supper. He consulted with the larder and was rewarded with an unexpected bounty. Several apples were still firm and unblemished, the coarse bread was unmoldy, and there was a wheel of cheese he had forgotten about entirely. He arranged his feast on a tray and fumbled through the cupboard for a bottle of wine and a pair of glasses to round things out.
The candlelight began to dominate the room as the sun ended another
day. Michel paced a moment then finally sat in his chair to wait. He closed
his eyes, the day's exertions in the archive finally taking their toll.
He drifted to sleep.
"Michel, Michel wake up!" A slender blue hand gently shook his shoulder and he brushed it away fitfully. "Michel! Are you going to sleep the entire night away? I've traveled a very long way to see you."
"Demona!" Michel roused himself from his dreams at last. "I was just resting my eyes. How have you been my friend?"
"Well enough. But my search was futile. The rumors of more of my kind in the hills to the north proved to be just that," she said looking sad.
"I tried to warn you, did I not?" He took her hand and led her to a chair next to the fire. "But you must continue to seek out your kind. They are there, somewhere." His eyes lost their focus and he staggered against her as his knees folded. "1993," he muttered.
"Michel? Are you all right?" Demona caught her companion as he fell, depositing him in the chair that he had intended for his guest. She pushed his head down between his knees to stimulate the flow of blood to his head. "Just breathe for a moment." Demona murmured as she knelt to his side. "Better?"
"Yes, thank you." He slowly righted himself. "I had a small glimpse of the future. When I took your hand, the year 1993 popped into my mind. It was so clear, but then it slipped away again before I could grasp what I was seeing." He closed his eyes again, searching for the bits of the escaping vision. "I saw... clouds and a island of glass and metal." He struggled a moment longer and then gave up. "I do not understand. I'm sorry, ma cherie. I had the feeling that it was very important."
Demona looked at her friend with concern. "Michel, you've been neglecting yourself again." She spied the bottle of wine on the table and poured some into a cup. "Drink this." She handed him the cup, steadying it until she was sure that he could hold it unassisted. "Better?"
He took several sips of the revivifying liquid before replying, "Oui, merci."
"Good. I'm starving. Let's continue our conversation over dinner, shall we?" Demona offered her hand to the human and together they walked the short distance to partake of the simple repast.
At the window, Brooklyn stared, not quite sure he believed any of what
he had just seen. Demona aiding a human? Showing concern? It
was all too much. He watched from the safety of the shadows as she
ministered to the strange looking young man with the unkempt hair and piercing
eyes. He shook his head and looked again just to make sure that he
wasn't the one having delusions. Demona was handing the man a hunk
of bread and slicing an apple. His stomach growled in response. He
thought briefly of strolling through the open window and inviting himself
to dinner. He supposed that fell under the category of direct action
and rejected the notion. He'd have
to feed himself later. Right now he had to figure out a way to talk to Demona's weird friend.
He leaned closer to the window and caught another fragment of their conversation. They spoke with an easy air of familiarity. Evidently, they had known each other for quite some time. He nearly exposed himself when he fell against the window shocked. Demona was laughing at something the human said. She was genuinely amused! Brooklyn realized he'd never heard her sound so happy. Even back in Wyvern, all those years ago, there was a solemn edge to the Clan Second, as if she knew in advance all the horror that was to befall her clan. For a time it looked as if the pair were going to talk all night. Brooklyn resigned himself to trying the next evening when the Michel began to yawn once more. Demona smiled at him as she urged him to his cot, then withdrew to a short corridor that evidently led to the cellar.
As soon as Demona was safely away, Michel rose from his bed and took several quick strides towards the window. He cast open the shutter and peered down at Brooklyn. "You can come out now." He looked at the red gargoyle impatiently. "I take it you are hiding among my flowers for a reason?"
Brooklyn saw no choice. He vaulted over the window sill into the chamber of his host. The man appraised him coolly, fixing his gaze with his piercing black eyes. Brooklyn stared back, waiting for the guy to make his move. The silence was broken when his stomach rumbled. "Sorry, it's been a while. Do you mind?" He indicated the remnants of the earlier meal.
Michel gestured curtly. "S'il vous plait. And then perhaps you might answer a question or two?"
Brooklyn wasted no time assembling a cheese sandwich and stuffing it into his mouth. Between bites he began to question his host. "So, you know Demona long?"
"Long enough." He replied evading a direct response. "And you?"
Brooklyn popped the last of his sandwich in his mouth and eyed an apple. "Oh, we go way back."
"If this is true, then why did you hide from her? She is desperate to find others of your kind." His face became sad for his friend. "She is so alone."
"Yeah, well, Demona's funny that way." Brooklyn tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice and failed. Michel looked up at him sharply. "Look, I didn't come to discuss Demona's personal life. At least not directly. I'm a time traveler. I'm from Demona's future." He ignored Michel's incredulous look. "I can't let her see me, but it's important that I make sure that she is at a certain place, at a certain time, and that she meets a man." Brooklyn got up from the table and began to pace. "I was told that another had to deliver this message to her and I believe that person is you." Michel looked bemused.
"Je comprends, futur homme. You want me to set up la belle Demona with yourself, perhaps?"
Brooklyn shook his head in disgust. "No, you've got it all wrong. I am not interested in Demona. It's important to the survival of her clan that she meet a man named David Xanatos. In a place called New York City."
Michel cut him off. "There is no such place as New York City." He strode back to the window to show Brooklyn out.
"Wait! Please! Earlier you had a vision. I saw! You told Demona that the number 1993 popped into your head and you had a vision of an island of metal and glass. Maybe my presence is already influencing you. Or maybe this is." He reached into his pouch and removed the Phoenix Gate. He held it before his host's eyes. "It's how I travel through time. But it's broken. I can't control it." He shoved it back in its carrier and resumed his plea. "I need Demona to go to New York in the year 1993. There she has to meet with a man. His name is David Xanatos. He's the key to reviving the clan. He's rich. He's got power. He owns the tallest building in the modern world." A hard look crept into Brooklyn's eyes. "Tell her that she must ally herself with Xanatos. That it's the right thing to do. Tell her that, through him, she'll be reunited with her true love."
"Let me see that talisman again," Michel said as he held his hand out expectantly.
Brooklyn removed it from his pouch and held it in front of the man whom quite possibly he owed his own future to.
"Don't touch it," he warned. He drew the gate back, noting with alarm that it began to glow orange in Michel's presence.
"Stay right there." Michel crossed quickly to a cupboard and removed a very old looking book. Rapidly he flipped through several pages, stopping to read a line or two before moving on. Finally he stopped, read carefully, and stared at the pulsing gold shield in Brooklyn's hands. "Mon Dieu! You hold the Phoenix Gate!"
"Yeah," Brooklyn agreed sourly. "Lucky me." He returned the gate to its pouch once more. "Will you help me help her? Please?"
"Give me your hand," Michel demanded.
Brooklyn extended his hand palm up. Michel grasped it in both of his hands, closing his eyes as he did so. Once again he seemed to go into some sort of trance. His face paled and he began to shake. Brooklyn tried to break free but the strange seizure caused Michel's hands to lock around his own. A moment later, his grasp loosened and he started to slide to the ground. Brooklyn caught him and carried him back to the fireplace chair.
"Does this happen often?" He made sure that Michel wouldn't slide out of the chair before going for a pitcher of water and glass sitting on the sideboard.
Michel drank deeply of the proffered glass before responding. "The veil between times lifts for me. It is becoming a more frequent event. I had intended to devote my life and my studies to medicine but I have begun to feel that perhaps my path lies in another direction. My studies of late have included ancient texts that reveal how to control the mind, to allow one to choose one's state of consciousness so that the transition is not quite so... abrupt." He took another deep draught of water. "Touching you just now," he struggled as he tried to put his vision in to words. "I saw that you have a long journey." He hastened to add, "Difficult but ultimately rewarding. You will find your way home." He waved a hand over tired eyes. "I saw that I too will be known in your time. My work shall not be in vain, though it will be the source of much controversy." He looked into Brooklyn's eyes. "For the vision that you have given me, I shall assist you. I shall make sure that she continues on her path." He glanced out the window. The black of night was beginning to fade to the gray of the new day. "S'il vous plait. Go now."
"Thank you," Brooklyn replied softly. He climbed on the
window sill and was about to leap out into the garden when the orange flame
of the Phoenix Gate captured him in its icy glare and threw him back into
the ocean of time.
The next morning, Michel awoke, acutely aware from the stiffness in his limbs that he had fallen asleep once again in his chair. The room was cold and gray and there was but a faint glow from the embers of the previous night's fire. He rose and stretched stiffly, poked among the ashes until he had roused a small flame, then splashed a bit of water over his face before he went downstairs to check on his guest.
He found her in the shadows of the cellar, a sad expression marring her lovely features. How must it be, he wondered, to always be alone? Michel found himself in that state often by choice, but he had only to say "Bon Jour" to the lovely Rene, or even the butcher or baker, and he was immersed in village life once more. Demona had no such luxury. To his knowledge, he was her only friend. The red gargoyle who visited him last night seemed to be surprised that she had even this poor relationship. He reached out his hand and caressed her cheek but received nothing but the feeling of rough stone for his efforts. He had promised the stranger that he would guide her. He would keep his promise. He withdrew from the cellar, gathering a few sticks of firewood from the wood box as he went. He found himself in a melancholy mood and decided that he needed a stroll in the village before he started his long days work on the scrolls of his grandfather.
Noon found him treating the baker for a headache in exchange for a fresh loaf of bread. He showed the harried man how to breathe deeply, releasing the tension that he held in his shoulders and neck. After instructing him to close his eyes he placed his hands on the man's temples and pressed gently for a moment.
"The pain!" he cried excitedly. "It is gone. Merci, Sir! Merci! Here, have a loaf," He said reaching into his basket for a round of dark bread. He reached back in and added a second. "No, two loaves of bread." He patted Michel on the shoulder. "I thought my head would split. You have done a wondrous thing, young man. I shall tell everyone about your miraculous healing touch!"
Michel merely smiled, glad that he had earned his bread for the day.
He didn't have many patients and his current studies took up much of his
time. His ribs would be as thin as his purse if it wasn't for the goodness
of the baker and the other merchants who paid for his services in barter.
"I am always pleased to serve Monsieur Boulanger. Now I must go." He
sketched a humble bow and went to see if the sausage maker's back was acting
Later that evening, he heard a muffled scream from the cellar. Demona had risen from her day's slumber. He rose from his desk and put away his scrolls. After returning from the village he had been beset by a wave of visions. He started to note them down as he always did, but this time the number four began to repeat over and over in his head. Not quite knowing what to make of this revelation, he attempted to dismiss it and concentrate on a misty vision of a great flock of metal birds attacking a tropical island. They dropped their eggs into the sea below and the harbor began to boil with fire and death. He covered his ears to blot out the screams that echoed in his head. After a moment he dipped his quill into an inkwell and began to write.
Sous un la paix par tout sera clemence
Mais non long temps, pille & rebellion
Par refus, ville terre & mer entammee,
Morts & captifs, le tiers d'un million.
(Under one shall be peace, and everywhere clemency,
But not for a long while, then shall be plundering and rebellion,
By a denial shall town, land and sea be assaulted,
Dead and taken prisoner shall be the third part of a million.)
He shook his head as the vision faded and stared at the four line verse with sudden comprehension. He tore his eyes away from the page as Demona entered the chamber.
"Ah, petite. Did you sleep well?" he inquired solicitously.
"A gargoyle has no choice in the matter." she replied archly. The strain on her features betrayed her words. Demona had evidently not slept well at all.
"My day was quite prosperous. We shall eat well tonight." He indicated the sideboard. Michel had displayed the fruits of his day's efforts in all of their splendor. Fat sausages shared a plate with a mutton pie. The bread was sliced and ready to serve with a much nicer looking cheese than the one they had shared the night before. A fruit tart was the piece de resistance.
Demona smiled. "Those villagers don't know how lucky they are to have you. They should pay you in coin, not sausages."
"Ah yes, that would be nice," Michel agreed, "but I can't eat coins and being paid in goods saves me time that I would have to spend away from studies. Someday, things will be different, but for right now, they are as they should be."
He led Demona to her chair. "Now sit. Enjoy. Later, we can talk. I've had another vision and it concerns you."
"Michel, tell me!" Demona rose from her chair.
He held up his hand and gestured her back to her chair. "No, it is much too important and I want you to listen carefully to me. Now sit down and enjoy the fruits of our neighbors' labor."
They talked quietly of other things during the meal and when finally they pushed away the remnants of the fruit laden pastry, Demona breached the subject of Michel's vision again. "Please, Michel, tell me. What did you see?"
"Remember, last night, I told you the year 1993 was going to be very important to you?"
Demona nodded her head. "Yes, of course."
"The island is of metal and glass. It is a place that has yet to be built. It will be in the New World, a great city of many people. Its name is New York. You must go there and you must arrange to meet a human. His name is David Xanatos. He is rich, very rich. Among his possessions is the tallest building in this city of tall buildings. He holds the keys for awakening the sleeping clan."
"You want me to trust my clan to a human? Impossible!" Demona vaulted from her chair and began to warm to her favorite subject. "Humans are always betrayers. They have betrayed my clan. They have betrayed me! Every time I place my trust in a human I am undone!" She whirled and faced Michel. "I cannot... I will not ever ask a human for help again! How could you even suggest such a thing?"
Michel gave Demona a bemused look. He met the rage of her glowing red eyes with a gaze of calm irony. He then held up his hands and turned them over as he examined them thoughtfully.
"No, I don't seem to have transmogrified into a gargoyle. I am still a man. Demona, ma cherie, I am a human, and you trust me. I have protected you, nursed you, and kept you safe. I would never tell you anything that I believed would cause you harm. I know that someday you will find happiness. I believe that this man, this David Xanatos, is a key. Through him, you shall re-acquire the Grimorum Arcanorum and you shall awaken the sleeping clan; you shall be reunited with your lost love. I must council you to be patient, to bide your time, and learn what you can during the time you must wait. Can you do that?"
"Michel," Demona gave him a look of infinite sadness. "I've had a very
long time to learn the art of patience."
Santa Monica- 1984
"Can you believe the nerve of that man, Brendan?" A young blonde woman in tennis whites unlocked the third dead bolt on her apartment door and scowled at her companion. "Here I spend all that time at that rally to save the Santa Monica Bay, right in the middle of finals, no less, and he still has the nerve to come down on me for driving in the Diamond Lane!"
"He was a cop, Margot. It's his job. You have to have at least two passengers to use that lane, remember?" Her companion dropped his racket next to the door and made a beeline for the refrigerator. "Do you have any Evian?" He rummaged for a moment while Margot continued to scowl. "Drat, nothing but Perrier." He twisted the cap off the bottle and took a long drink. He crossed the tiny kitchen and started to take a seat at the bar. "How's the internship coming? Have they let you work on any real cases yet?" He tried to change the subject to something less stressful.
"No," Margot tossed her blonde mane as she found a new topic to grouse about. "They've got me working out of a closet in Venice Beach! I'm telling you, Brendan, I did not get into law so that I could deal with freaks and weirdoes. Did you know that some guy came in wanting me to sue his tattoo artist because he misspelled his girlfriend's name?" She collapsed on the couch in a huff of indignation.
"I don't know, it sounds kind of interesting," Brendan temporized. "Are they going to take the case?"
"I don't know and I don't care! I..." Margot's tirade was cut off mid-sentence as a flash of cold orange light enveloped the apartment.
Brooklyn tumbled to the ground, wings tangled from the unexpected fall. "Ouch!" He stared at the couple for a moment, confused. "Don't I know you two?" The flame engulfed him again and he was gone.
Margot threw up her hands in disgust. "That is absolutely it. I have
had it with California; earthquakes, smog, and Diamond Lanes, not to mention
freaks and weirdoes. We're moving to New York!"
New York City- 1993
Mr. Owen Burnett handed his credentials over to the clerk and waited with infinite patience as the young woman, with long raven hair, ran his name through her computer terminal. A moment later, a printer whirred to her left and an authorization number spewed forth. She tore the form from the printer with practiced efficiency, removed the backing, and attached it to a small wooden paddle. She handed over the paddle and a catalog. "Your number is forty-two. Please enjoy your day."
Burnett accepted the paddle and book and moved into the main hall. Displayed on a series of tables was an assortment of books, parchments, and maps. Their value, even from his vantage point at the back of the auction house, was obvious to his trained eye. He noticed several famous antiquarians inspecting the wares kept at a safe distance by security personnel in dark suits. He noted the one who was likely to cause him difficulty during the bidding. He waited for the man to claim his seat then took a chair three rows behind and to the left so that he could observe his movements.
A tuxedoed man waved the crowd to attention. "Ladies and gentlemen, the auction is about to begin." He paused as several latecomers took their seats. "Thank you. We begin today's bidding with this fourteenth century Russian manuscript. Note the fine condition of the vellum. There has been practically no degradation of the ink. Written in Latin, the contents is aseries of experiments and the observed results performed by the noted alchemist Tarakofsky." He paused and drew a breath. "Who will start the bidding?"
The bidding was rapid and the manuscript quickly went for an exorbitant fee. Burnett noted the price in his catalog and waited for the next lot. A tenth century book of Welsh spells appeared before the crowd. Though it wasn't his target, he bid it away from a new age antiquarian just in case it contained something useful. He acknowledged his opponent's chagrin with a nod and signed the chit the runner handed him before settling in to wait for his real prize.
Finally, more than an hour later, the true object of his desire appeared. "Ladies and gentlemen," the auctioneer announced. "The final lot of the day. This book of ancient Latin spells and stories." He began to warm to his speech. "Note the fact that it is in remarkable condition despite its age," he gestured at the cover, "which, by the way, our authenticators date back to the ancient Romans. Alleged to belong to the seer to the Roman Emperor Augustus, it has found its way to New York City and now, ladies and gentlemen, to you. Who shall start the bidding?"
Paddles began to flash from various locations in the room. Burnett watched as a professor from a French university led the pack. He waited patiently, as did his rival, as the early competition dropped away, then he entered the bidding war.
He flashed his paddle and several hand signals. The auctioneer looked startled but covered it quickly. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new bidder. His bid is $350,000. Do I have $375,000?" There was a momentary hush and then the paddles began to flash again.
"400. Thank you. 425. Thank you. You sir? 450. Very good. The bid is now 450." He looked to Owen who tipped his paddle and held up five fingers. "500."
His rivals began to look nervous. "Do we have 525?" The man Owen anticipated giving him the most difficulty sprang to life. He raised his paddle and flashed 550. The auctioneer acknowledged the bid and looked to Owen. He raised his paddle and six fingers. Two of his rivals got up and left the room. The man in black raised the bid to 700.
Time to pull out the stops. Owen tipped his paddle and made a series of gestures. The auctioneer stared but recovered nicely. "Ladies and gentlemen, the bid is now one million dollars. Do I hear any others? Any others at all?" He gestured toward the man in black who was on a hand held telephone. He raised his hand for a moment's stay, listened to the caller, then shook his head. He dropped his paddle in defeat.
"Lot number twenty goes to bidder forty-two for one million dollars. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen." The auctioneer retired from the podium allowing the runners and cashiers to begin their collection of the afternoons take.
A young blonde woman, dressed in a sedate black suit that nearly mirrored his own, arrived at Owen's elbow within moments of the auctioneer's withdrawal. "Would you please re-verify your bid, sir?" she asked politely. "And your wire transfer information."
Owen took the forms with a nod, reviewed them quickly, and signed his name to the bottom of each form.
"Please wait in the reception area while the transfers are completed, Mr. Burnett. It shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes." She indicated a curtained area off to the left.
"Very well." He stood towering over the petite young woman. "And I will be able to collect my merchandise when?"
"It will be delivered by private courier this afternoon, sir."
"Most satisfactory." He dismissed the woman and pulled his cellular phone from his pocket as he headed toward the lounge.
He waited until he found a secluded corner then quickly dialed. A moment later the connection was established. "Mr. Xanatos." He paused a moment. "Yes, sir. Quite successful. There were no problems. We shall have possession this afternoon."
David Xanatos looked out his office window onto a panoramic view of
the Manhattan skyline. "You paid how much?" He smiled. "Excellent.
Half a million less then we projected. You know, Owen, I hope that
this is a profitable venture... for Ms. D.'s sake. Otherwise, I suppose
we can always donate the book as a tax write off. See you in an hour."
He severed the connection and leaned back in his chair as a new plan began
to take shape in his fertile imagination. He removed a letter from
a file marked 'CONFIDENTIAL', read it again and smiled.
Owen reviewed the transcript in front of him, made some notes on a yellow legal pad, and consulted his Latin dictionary. He scratched away at the pad for several minutes alternating his attention between the dictionary and the transcript. Suddenly, he began to write faster. David Xanatos observed the scene, trying to maintain his cool, but the tension was starting to get to him and he edged closer to his aide de camp as he waited eagerly for results.
"Have you found something?" Excitement crept into his voice.
Owen removed his glasses and rubbed his fatigued eyes. He allowed himself to lean back in his chair a moment, easing the tension in his neck before he responded. "Yes, Mr. Xanatos, I have found it. The spell is here. However," he cautioned, "the conditions necessary are quite precise."
"Are they attainable?" Xanatos demanded.
Owen paused, pulled up another computer program, and inputed the data. "Yes, sir. But the cost..." he began.
Xanatos cut him off. "Is no object. We can free the sleeping gargoyles. Score two points for our mystery lady." Xanatos ran his hand over his chin thoughtfully. "Have you heard from our Scottish agents?"
"This morning, sir. Conditions have not changed."
"Very good. So we should have no problem acquiring the Wyvern ruins?"
"No, sir. Their financial situation leaves much to be desired. If we offered to pay the back taxes on the property, that alone might be enough to acquire the ruins."
"Now, Owen, let's not be stingy. Offer them the taxes plus five
percent as a goodwill gesture. That, and the jobs we bring in dismantling
the castle, should be enough to get us in good with the locals." Xanatos
turned to leave then spun on his heel. "One last thing. Set up a meeting
with this Ms. D. I think it's about time we learned just what's in it for
A gritty orange haze blanketed the late afternoon Manhattan skyline.
David Xanatos took in the view from the top of the Eyrie building with a
look of immense satisfaction. He practically owned this island.
In another year or so, give or take a few more acquisitions and mergers,
he'd own more real
estate than Donald Trump. Not bad considering he was barely on the high of thirty. He checked his wristwatch just as the whirling of chopper blades closed behind him. "Right on time," he smiled in satisfaction.
Owen crossed from the opposite side of the chopper pad where he had been conducting some last minute business. He made it to the helicopter's door in time to relieve Xanatos of his briefcase and assist him in boarding before taking his own seat in the rear of the craft. Xanatos gave the pilot a thumbs up and the chopper lifted gracefully into the dwindling afternoon sunshine.
"Are you quite sure that everything is in order, Owen?"
"Quite sure, sir. I re-verified the contact instructions last night as I was instructed. Our mysterious Ms. D. certainly is the paranoid one," Owen sniffed his disdain. "She seemed quite determined that we follow her cloak and dagger charade to the letter before she would consider meeting with us."
"Well," Xanatos said as he leaned back into the rich leather seat, "perhaps she enjoys the game as much as I do. Repeat her instructions again, please?"
"Very well, sir." Owen removed a sheet of paper from his pocket and adjusted his glasses. "We are to take the helicopter to a private landing pad on a building two blocks from the The Cloisters. From there, we will be met by a limousine whose driver will take us to the museum itself. When we arrive we are to proceed immediately to the herb garden. In the center of the garden will be a statue of a stone gargoyle. We are instructed to wait there. Our arrival time is to be no earlier than ten minutes before sundown."
Xanatos glanced at his watch. "Maybe she has a thing about sunsets." He glanced out the window and watched the chopper descend onto the strange helipad. "Check off step one. We're here."
The helicopter descended gracefully on to a painted white bullseye. A lithe woman with striking platinum hair twisted in an elaborate french braid met them as they deplaned. She nodded silently toward a service elevator and together the trio descended to ground level. A long black limousine was parked at the curb as they exited a non-descript hotel lobby. The woman held the door and indicated that they should enter before climbing into the drivers seat. Moments later they were fighting the late afternoon traffic to the famed Cloisters.
A verdant green lawn surrounded the ancient looking building. "Fascinating," Xanatos breathed as he took in the sight. "Owen, have you ever been here before?"
"Of course, sir. Since you developed your interest in antiquities, I have found the place to be a valuable reference. I was going to suggest that you inspect the exhibits here personally, but between the recent round of mergers and that unfortunate incident in Tibet, I thought perhaps it was best if you waited a bit."
"Ah yes, Tibet." David tugged at his ponytail. "I'd nearly forgotten about that. Oh well, spilt milk. Clear an afternoon on my schedule next week Owen. I have a feeling that this place could be very instructive."
The driver pulled to the curb and silently opened the door. She indicated a gravel pathway that led behind the building, climbed back into the limousine, and drove away without uttering a single word.
Xanatos glanced around as he was hit by a sudden wave of unease. "Owen, put the chopper on standby. Something about this is starting to not feel right."
"Yes, sir. Immediately." He scanned the grounds but could see nothing to account for the sudden feeling of alarm that had worried his master. "Perhaps we should proceed?" He pulled out his phone and after a pause,spoke quickly for several seconds before snapping the phone shut and dropping it back in his pocket.
"All right," Xanatos agreed and they followed the gravel path behind the building into the herb garden.
"Very pretty," Owen commented and then he sneezed violently. "Oh dear." He pulled a snowy white handkerchief from his breast pocket and sneezed again. His face began to turn red.
"Are you all right?" Xanatos inquired with mild alarm. He'd never seen Owen sneeze before and now he'd done it twice in as many minutes.
"I'm fine, sir. Just allergic, I think. Would you mind if I stood over there?" He indicated a spot at the entrance way to the garden.
"Sure, go ahead," Xanatos nodded absently as he checked his watch again. "I'm going to go meet our hostess." Xanatos strolled down the garden path, past rosemary and antique roses, thyme, sage, and dozens of others. He barely noticed any of it, so intent was he on the sight before him. An angel was frozen in stone. And not just any angel; this one was an angel of destruction. Wings unfurled, tail whipped back, she had claws extended to take on an invisible attacker. And even though her face was contorted in a battle cry it was obvious that she was still a beauty. "Magnificent," Xanatos breathed. "Owen! Get over here, I want you to see this!"
Though his pace was as clipped as ever, Owen looked liked he'd had enough of this garden to last a lifetime. His eyes had puffed and his nose was running. He sneezed loudly as he approached. Xanatos didn't notice. "Take a note, Owen. See what it will take to get the museum to sell me this gargoyle statue. I want her for my office. Get on it now."
"Yes, Mr. Xanatos." Owen flipped out his cell phone once more. A few minutes later, he was on the phone with the head curator for the Metropolitan Museum. Neither man noticed the sun slip away for its night's rest.
"Yes, thank you for taking my call. My employer noticed a stone gargoyle in the garden at the Cloisters." Owen paused as he listened to the man on the other end of the line. "You have no stone gargoyle in the garden? I... Thank you, sir. He must have meant some place else. Good bye." Owen snapped the phone shut and stared transfixed as the skin on the statue began to crumble. Instinctively, he pulled Xanatos away from the sculpture just as it shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. An unearthly scream echoed into the twilight.
Xanatos brushed off Owen's protective embrace and stared in awed silence for a moment. "Ah, the plot thickens and the mystery clears. Ms. D., I presume?"
She stretched, freeing herself from the last of the stone skin. A goddess with blue skin and red hair, she exuded a primal energy that Xanatos found exhilarating. She moved with a warriors training, lightly despite her solidly curvaceous build. She caped her wings, settling them like a cloak around her shoulders and regarded him levelly. "You are David Xanatos? Owner of the tallest building in the world, and the current owner the Grimorum Arcanorum?"
"I am. And you are?" he replied, meeting her gaze.
"You may call me... Demona."
Xanatos gave a half bow and extended his hand. "It suits you." Owen sneezed again. "Owen, go wait at the entrance. I'll be along," he paused, "later." A grateful Owen withdrew to the safety of the parking lot to wait until he was called again. "So tell me, my dear, just what can I do for you?"
Demona took his arm and indicated a path that led into a patch of Apothecary roses. "It is more like what we can do for each other." She looked up, tilted her head, and regarded Xanatos with a level gaze. "Because of me you now have the keys to awaken the sleeping gargoyles of Wyvern. They have been waiting a millennium for just the right moment and the time grows near. If you awaken them, I will pledge you their fealty. It seems in these days of hostile takeovers and strong armed tactics some real muscle might come in handy."
"True," David agreed, "but what is in it for you, my dear Demona?"
She strolled quietly at his side for a moment. Michel had told her to trust this man. Over the centuries most of the the things that Michel had warned her of had come to pass. She hoped he was right this time. "My mate is among those that sleep at Castle Wyvern. It is time for him to awake. For us to be reunited. I am tired of being alone."
Demona, caught up in her thoughts and old memories, failed to notice that Xanatos had stopped and was staring at her thoughtfully. "How is this possible? How can you still live if you were born at the same time as the others. Are gargoyles immortal creatures?"
"No one is immortal," Demona sighed. "I have been cursed with an exceptional life span and I have learned a few ...techniques along the way for maintaining my youth." She saw the hunger in David's eyes even in the dim light. "Perhaps as a bonus, if you do this for me, I shall share them with you."
"I believe that we shall make that a condition of our contract," Xanatos nodded his head. "What else do you wish?"
"Assistance in converting some less than liquid assets into usable tender. A place to sleep in safety during the day. In these times of constant verification I am finding it difficult to conduct business as I once did. I suspect in a few more years, when computers are a bit more sophisticated, this won't be as big of an issue, but right now I could use some assistance."
"Funds and a place to hide. My dear, these things are hardly a challenge. I shall arrange everything."
"Good. See that you do." She exhaled as though a little of the burden had left her at last. "Have you secured the rights to Wyvern Castle?"
"Escrow closes next week. Owen, my right hand man, will be overseeing the deconstruction personally. You realize that taking the castle apart, shipping it over here, and putting it back together again is going to take some time?"
Demona turned to Xanatos and put her talons on his shoulder. "You will complete construction and be prepared to break the spell in one year, no more than that. Do you understand? One year."
Xanatos leveled an appraising look at Demona. She would be very useful,
very, very useful. Chances are he would use her like a rag doll and discard
her when he was finished, but for the next year or so, he had a very interesting
playmate. "I think things are going to work out just fine, my dear. Just
Brooklyn perched in a spreading chestnut tree, his view obscured by the long leaves. He could hear all right, though. Demona and Xanatos were getting along thick as thieves. "It figures." he grumbled as he swatted away a particularly persistent ant. "I am not the 15th Street Bridge! Now blow!" He flicked the ant away and re-settled himself on his perch. He shifted slightly forward when he heard the determined stride of Owen Burnett hurrying along the pathway beneath him. Owen stopped and sneezed repeatedly.
He removed his glasses then peered up into the tree. Brooklyn froze. Hoping against hope that the allergic assistant would continue along the path, he closed his eyes and held his breath. When he opened them a moment later Owen was gone, but he was staring straight into the upside down face of Puck, who promptly sneezed in his face.
"Ah... Ah... CHOO!!" Puck sneezed hard enough to knock Brooklyn from his perch. He found himself suspended in air as Puck blew his nose loudly into a gaudy pink and purple handkerchief. "Do you mind if we go someplace else?" A moment later they were floating in a rubber raft on a lake.
"How the heck?" Brooklyn twisted around quickly, nearly upsetting the boat. It bobbed alarmingly for a moment before regaining its balance.
"Sorry, I just had to get out of that dratted garden. It was full of St. John's wort and I'm terribly allergic." He dabbed his nose one more time before putting the handkerchief away. "Say, aren't you a bit early anyway? Seems to me you're still supposed to be doing your Sleeping Beauty act. That is what all this rigmarole with buying the castle and the Grimorum Arcanorum is about, isn't it?" He floated out of the boat and hung upside down in front of Brooklyn, waiting for an answer.
"Yeah, well technically I am, but I'm not. I'm ..." He trailed off as he realized how stupid the whole thing sounded.
"Let me guess. You're a future version of yourself."
"That's it!" Brooklyn nodded excitedly. "The Weird Sisters sent me to make sure that Demona and Xanatos met and..." Brooklyn didn't get a chance to finish.
Puck righted himself and yawned. "Oh, those three meddling again. Well I suppose you must because you did, 'cause if you didn't, we wouldn't be here having this conversation." He waved off Brooklyn's growing confusion. "Don't sweat it. Time travel's funny that way."
"Thanks. That makes me feel so much better."
"Hey, don't mention it! Glad to help! Anytime!" He reached into his pocket and the raft bucked violently as the sudden weight of a grandfather clock shifted the load. "OOPS! Time to go. Bonnie and Clyde are going to be looking for me if we don't get back."
*POOF!* Brooklyn and Puck reappeared in the tree. "Tootles!" Puck faded from view until all that was left was a silly looking grin hanging in mid air. After a moment it shattered into a rain of silvery dust and disappeared entirely.
"Save me from the fay!" Brooklyn muttered. He froze again as a very
composed Owen Burnett re-appeared on the pathway and strode past without
so much as a glance in his direction. A moment later, as Burnett passed by
a final time in the company of David Xanatos, they were discussing the details
of Demona's demands. Brooklyn heaved a sigh of relief. His mission was evidently
accomplished. Orange flame engulfed the tree and Brooklyn was set adrift
in time again.
The Void - All Time
The endless river of orange flame surrounded Brooklyn once more. "Oh great! Back to land of secret messages and no decoder ring!" He looked around and saw that he was alone. He drew a deep breath and began to count. "One, two, three, four... come on you three witches, I haven't got all day!"
"Patience, Timedancer." Luna appeared out of nowhere.
"We shall reveal ourselves." Phoebe joined her sister.
"When it is the proper time." Selene completed the trio.
"Great! You're all here," Brooklyn enthused. "I feel so much better now."
The trio ignored his sarcasm. They continued in one voice.
"You have done well, Timedancer. All is now as it shall be, as it should be. Be proud, Timedancer. You have been chosen for a special task."
"Here it comes, the other shoe." Brooklyn held his breath.
"You have been chosen as Guardian of the Phoenix Gate. It is your duty to shepherd it, to care for it as it dies."
"Wait a minute," Brooklyn broke in. "Do you mean to tell me that the Gate is alive?"
The sisters nodded sadly. "It is a living prison housing an entity of great power. You must keep the gate safe, protect it and protect others who might inadvertently hasten its demise. Only when the gate has left this plane may you return to your own time."
The sisters faded from view leaving Brooklyn alone. Again. He stared upward at a swirl of cold orange flame. "ARRRRRRRRRHG!" He didn't feel any better when he was finished, just tired, alone, and lost. He crumpled to the ground and stared at nothing as he replayed the sisters final words in his head.
"Wait a minute." A numb shock began to run slowly through Brooklyn's veins. "What entity?"
No one replied as he was captured in the glow of the Phoenix fire and
tossed back into the timestream.
Viet Nam- 1970
The orange of the Phoenix flame was lost in the glare of blossoming signal flares. The tranquil evening was suddenly transformed into a blinding white nightmare as Brooklyn was dumped unceremoniously into a rice paddy. He surfaced, then ducked abruptly as the tattoo of machine gun fire whined dangerously close to his head.
"Get down!" Someone yelled. Then came the cry of a man who heeded the advice too late.
The men around him hunched forward and advanced, returning fire as they sought to escape what was evidently an ambush. A fallen soldier struggled in the muddy water near Brooklyn's waist. Not knowing what else to do, he grabbed the man's ammo belt and pulled him into the relative safety of a stand of rubber trees.
"Thank you, mate." He raised his hand to his wounded shoulder and touched it gently. "Looks like I'm in a bit of a fix."
Brooklyn removed the man's canteen from his belt, unscrewed the lid,
and held it to his lips. "I think we both are." He stared into the jungle
and wondered just what he was supposed to do next.