Written by Todd Jensen
Story idea by Todd Jensen
Previously on Gargoyles...
"Having read the Black Book of Nantes, I can indeed confirm that its reputation as one of the greatest collections of spells and incantations in the world is truly justified. And this is all the more so, for it contains within its pages one of the most powerful enchantments ever formulated by human mages: the Bane of the Fair Folk.
"Almost-forgotten legends have it that this spell was originally created by the wizards of Atlantis, in the dark days before recorded history when the Third Race was engaged in a great civil war. Though it was meant to be used as a defense against the fay, whose wanton use of magic had devastated the World of the First and Second races, the spell was never cast; Atlantis itself was destroyed before its mages could complete their preparations. Like the city that created it, the spell was believed lost for many centuries, its fate unknown. Its very existence has only been hinted at in the writings of other sorcerers; not even the Grimorum Arcanorum has given the text of the spell. But the Black Book of Nantes does, and that may quite possibly be the only copy that presently survives in written form.
"If the remainder of the legends are true, I can only pray that this fearsome weapon is never put to use, for the results of that act would be terrible beyond belief indeed. Even the visions I have recorded of the weapons of science to be constructed by Man in years to come pale in comparison to the reputed power of this spell. Casting it requires the summoning and collecting of an incredible amount of magical energy, and when that power is finally unleashed at the climax of the casting, it will sweep across the Earth and nullify the natural patterns of magic that encircle it, perhaps even extinguishing them utterly.
"Such an event would destroy the faerie-folk outright and without mercy; magic is their life-blood, their very essence, and to disrupt it is to kill them. But they will not be the only ones who will suffer from its effects. It shall also slay any of mortal birth who have been touched by magic or attuned in any way to Arts, from the mightiest wizard to the lowliest apprentice, regardless of their skill or awareness of magic. Were this spell to be cast, the only users of magic to survive its utterance would be gargoyles, for only at noon on the longest day of the year may it be cast, and the stone sleep of the gargoyles would protect them from it."
Excerpt from the journal of Michel de Nostradame
~ The Longest Day Part One ~
DISCLAIMER: All characters from Gargoyles are the property of Walt Disney and of Buena Vista Television, and are used here without their knowledge or permission. Atlantis is the property of Plato, and also used here without his knowledge or permission - not that it matters, since he's been dead since 347 BC and his copyright on it must have expired long ago. This story is not being written for profit.
* * * * *
* * * * *
The old man stood on the platform at the very top of the tower, gazing in silence at the night sky. A fiery brazier burned to his left, providing him with light enough to jot down notes with his stylus upon the wax tablet in his hands. He studied the stars, and periodically consulted a set of worn papyrus scrolls lying upon a marble stand at his right elbow.
As the night progressed, eerie rumblings sounded from the northern sky, and occasional flashes of blue and red light lit it up, off in the distance. The old man watched the odd spectacle, and shivered as he did so. He thumbed through the scrolls until he came to a certain passage in them, which he read twice. A look of dread overcame his features as his eyes scanned the words penned upon the surface.
At last, he turned, and hastened down the stairs leading from the top of the tower, into the palace below. He stumbled through the torch-lit corridors until he finally came to a large door, and pounded upon it desperately. "Sire!" he cried. "Sire!"
"Who is knocking at this hour?" asked an indignant-sounding, and more than a little groggy, voice from within.
"Aristomedes, sire," said the old man. "Your court augur."
"Well, Aristomedes," said the voice sharply, "you had better have a good reason for awakening me at this hour of the night."
"It is an excellent reason, my lord," said Aristomedes. "Admit me at once, I beg you! These tidings are urgent!"
The man within sighed. "Enter," he said.
Aristomedes opened the door, and entered the royal bedchamber. Leitos, High King of Atlantis, sat up in his bed, rubbing his eyes by the light of the oil lamp that sat on his bedside table. "State your business quickly, soothsayer," he said. "Or come at some less ungodly hour."
"I cannot delay until the morrow, my liege," said Aristomedes, bowing low. "I have seen the portents in the heavens, and they bode ill for us all. This very year, all of Atlantis will be destroyed!"
"What?" cried Leitos, jumping to his feet at once.
"It is the truth, sire," said Aristomedes. "The stars never lie. Before the moon has made another cycle in the heavens, this kingdom will be no more. The gods will destroy it."
"The gods, you say?" asked Leitos, frowning. "This will be their work?"
"They will destroy Atlantis, just as they have laid waste so much of the world in their great war," the augur said. "They will reduce it to utter ruin, so that only its memory shall remain. The very land shall be overwhelmed by their wrath."
"And you are certain of this?" asked Leitos.
"I have checked my findings twice," said the augur, "and that is what they tell me. Which of the gods will perform this deed, whether Zeus or the Dark One, I do not know. But perform it one of them will, and Atlantis shall perish."
King Leitos frowned in silence, and remained thus for a few minutes. "Have you told anybody about this?" he finally asked.
"No, sire," Aristomedes answered. "Only you."
"That is good," said the High King, walking over to a bell on a pull-rope that hung on the wall beside his bed. He tugged on the rope, and the bell rang twice. A few moments later, two guards entered the room, and nodded in obeisance to their royal master.
Leitos gestured to the aged soothsayer. "Take him from here," he said. "You know what to do to him."
"What?" stammered Aristomedes in horror. "No - no, my liege! What are you doing?"
"You know well enough," said Leitos coldly, as the two guards dragged the old man out of the room. "Or you should, if you can read the hearts of men half as well as you can read the intents of the gods. Be thankful that I will need to close no other mouths."
The door slammed behind the guards, and Leitos nodded with approval. He then walked over to a chest in the corner of the room, opened it, and drew a purple mantle and scarlet tunic from it. He hurriedly dressed in them, muttering to himself all the while.
"I knew that something like this was going to happen," he said to himself. "It was almost inevitable, in truth, considering how they have conducted the war. The gods' fighting has been nothing but a plague to Atlantis ever since it began. If it was not for the fact that it has distracted Athena from our own war with her pet city - ".
He grimaced to himself, as he buckled on his sword at his belt. "The spell is our last hope," he said. "It must succeed."
* * * * *
The sudden flare of the Phoenix Gate lit up the garden for a moment, and then faded. As the flames departed, Brooklyn and Sata blinked, gazing about at their new surroundings and blinking.
Sata suddenly let out a moan, and bent over for a moment. Brooklyn rushed to her side, and did his best to support her. "Are you all right, my love?" he asked her concernedly.
"The pain is not too great, Brooklyn-san," she replied, although she gritted her teeth as she spoke. "I will survive."
"Well, it's definitely not Manhattan again," Brooklyn sighed. "When I saw the gardens, I was hoping for a moment that the Gate had landed us in the arboretum at the castle, but it seems that it hasn't. This place is just too warm for New York."
"The stars seem strange, too," said Sata, looking upwards. "Their patterns are mostly familiar to my eyes, but there are some that seem askew. I have not beheld them so altered before."
"Me neither," said Brooklyn. "Now, those three stars up there are supposed to be the Summer Triangle, but they're not quite in the right places. The constellations seem a bit out of whack." He sighed. "I wish that Lexington was here. He's the science whiz; he'd be able to explain it all to us."
"At least we know that there must be people dwelling in these parts," said Sata. "A garden must be tended; it does not exist in the wilderness."
"Yeah," said Brooklyn. "But the big question is: who are these people? And what do they think of gargoyles?"
Before he could say anything more, they heard voices approaching, and then torchlights threading their ways over the paths, approaching them.
"It seems that we are about to discover the answer to that question, my love," said Sata grimly.
The figures bearing the torches came into view, a small party of men wearing Grecian-style cuirasses and horsehair-plumed helmets, with swords at their belts. They suddenly halted as they saw the two gargoyles, and stared at them with fear and awe in their eyes.
"What manner of beasts are those creatures, Captain?" one of the soldiers asked, finally finding his voice.
"I - I do not know," replied the leader, his own voice quavering. "But the High King will want to see them. Take them, men!"
"Oh, perfect," grumbled Brooklyn, adopting a battle stance at once. Sata drew her katana from its sheath, and growled, her eyes glowing crimson. The two of them stood against the five guards as they closed in about them.
With a sudden lunge, Brooklyn charged straight for the captain, pushing him onto his back. A second guard rushed at Sata, but she struck his sword from his hand with her katana, and then lifted him off the ground and hurled him into the bushes. The remaining three guards hesitated, then finally advanced upon the gargoyles together.
"Boy, you guys just don't know when to quit," said Brooklyn, knocking one of them off his feet with a sweep of his tail. "Awfully picky, too, aren't you? In case you hadn't noticed, we stayed off the grass all the time, we didn't pick any flowers, we didn't leave any litter behind us! And if this is about us not paying any admission fee - well, who could see that sign this hour of the night?"
Sata brought down the last of the guards, and the two gargoyles turned to look at one another.
"Well, at least we know where we are," said Brooklyn. "Somewhere in ancient Greece again, judging from the way that these guys are dressed."
"I am more concerned with what will happen to us if we linger here, Brooklyn-san," said Sata, looking down at the defeated guards. "They will surely come to soon enough, and we do not want to be there when that happens."
"I think that you're right, my love," said Brooklyn. "Time to head for the hills."
The two gargoyles rushed down the garden path, leaving the guards still unconscious behind them.
* * * * *
King Leitos knocked loudly on the door. He then listened quietly, until a voice spoke from within. "Who is it?" it asked.
"King Leitos," said Leitos sharply. "I want to speak to you at once, Deucalion. Let me in, now!"
The door opened, and a man with fiery red hair stood there, dressed in a long, white robe with a blue mantle. "Your Majesty," he said, with a bow. "What brings you here so late at night?"
"I have come to ask you how your work is progressing," said Leitos, entering the room without even bothering to acknowledge the bow. A dark-haired woman dressed in a similar white robe and blue mantle turned from the workbench that she had been standing at, looking over some notes on a papyrus scroll, to give the High King a similar obeisance. "Are you almost done with it?"
"Yes, Your Majesty," said Deucalion. "But there are some aspects to this spell that we have recently begun to notice. We cannot help but worrying over them. It seems that - "
"I am not interested in these aspects," said Leitos impatiently. "What concerns me is this. Will this spell work?"
"It will, Your Majesty," said Deucalion. "But it may work too well."
"Given the situation," said Leitos sharply, "there can hardly be any such thing as 'too well'. My Lord Deucalion and Lady Pyrrha, you are trying to save Atlantis. That is the important matter."
"That does not change the fact that we are very much concerned over these possible side effects," said Pyrrha at once. "Your Majesty, you must listen to us about them."
"Have these side effects of yours been confirmed yet?" Leitos asked her.
"No," said Pyrrha. "But we still have good reason to believe that they are real."
"Then I am not concerned about them," said the High King dismissively. "What concerns me is this war. For nine years now, the gods have been fighting each other all throughout the world. We already know what they've done elsewhere. Consider what they did to Hyperborea. We do not want the same fate to befall Atlantis."
"But - " Deucalion began.
"What I need to know is this," said King Leitos. "Will the spell be completed by the time of the summer solstice? You've already confirmed that that is the only day on which its magic may be invoked."
"It will indeed be ready by then," said Deucalion. "But I still believe - "
"What you believe is not important," said the High King. "This spell is important. We need it to defend Atlantis from destruction. And that is all that I have to say about this."
And with that, before either Deucalion or Pyrrha could say anything to him in return, he turned and left the workshop, closing the door behind him and leaving the two of them to stare perturbedly at each other.
* * * * *
"No sign of them," said Brooklyn, peering around the hedge. "I think we've lost them."
"That I am glad to hear," said Sata. "I do not want to meet any more guards tonight."
Brooklyn studied the night sky, frowning. "It's getting close to sunrise," he said. "We should start looking for a safe place to perch. Preferably one where those guys won't be able to find us."
They continued to make their way cautiously through the garden, looking at the various beautiful but strange flowers that grew in the beds all about them. Sata seemed particularly impressed by them. "I have never seen such flowers before," she said, stopping to gaze at one small group, white translucent flowers shaped vaguely like bells. "They are certainly lovelier than even the finest in our gardens at Ishimura. What place is this?"
"I wish that I knew," said Brooklyn. "If we ever get back to Manhattan, I'm going to see if the castle library's got a good book on flowers, and look those up." He thought it over for a bit, then added, "Of course, for all that we know, they might not even exist in the 1990's. That's the trouble with time travel."
They emerged into a courtyard paved with marble flagstones, in the center of which were a great fountain. Water gushed out of the mouths of tritons, mermaids, and dolphins in the fountain's center, and dominating these sculptures was a representation of a powerfully-built bearded man holding aloft a trident. The courtyard was surrounded by more flowerbeds and slender, graceful trees, whose leafy branches arched towards the heavens. A few curved stone benches stood by the side of the fountain.
"This would make a very pleasant place to remain for a time, Brooklyn-san," said Sata, looking about her. "It is a pity that we cannot do so."
Brooklyn nodded. "I ought to have a word or two with Xanatos when we get back home about having a place like this installed in the castle. Just so long as Bronx doesn't try drinking out of the fountain. I certainly can't complain about the looks of this place."
"There they are!" cried a voice. And then, from all sides of the courtyard, guards like the ones that Brooklyn and Sata had fought earlier appeared, bearing torches and spears. They surrounded the fountain, blocking off all retreat for the two gargoyles.
Brooklyn and Sata readied for an attack, but it never came. For at that moment, the first rays of the sun appeared over the eastern horizon, and the two of them froze instantly into stone.
* * * * *
The guards stared at the transformation of the strange winged creatures in shock and disbelief, and it was a while before any of them could speak. At last, one of them broke the silence.
"They turn to stone in the daylight, Captain," he said. "What are they? Are they demons?"
"I do not know," the Captain replied. "They may indeed be servants to the Dark One and the Titans in his following, for aught that I know. But I can say no more. This I do know, however. These are very rare creatures indeed. We should present them to the High King at once. Take them away to the throne room."
* * * * *
"So, Eteocles?" asked King Leitos, seated on his throne and staring down at the Captain of the palace guard. "What tidings can possibly be so urgent that you insist upon declaring them to me before I have even had time for breakfast?"
"Behold for yourself, sire,' said Eteocles, bowing low before the royal presence, and then gesturing towards his men, who were now bringing into the room Brooklyn and Sata in their stone sleep. At his gesturing, they placed the two gargoyles upon the floor before the dais.
King Leitos stared bewilderedly at the statues. "This is what you wish to present to me, Eteocles?" he asked. "A pair of statues? And statues of strange monsters, at that? If this is a gift, I find it a most peculiar one."
"They are no mere statues, sire," said Eteocles. "Last night, they were living creatures, with the same shape that you now see them in. But when dawn came, they were transformed into stone, as surely as if they had stared a Gorgon in the eyes. We do not know what manner of beings they are, but we felt that you should be informed of them at once."
"You have not been helping yourself once too often to the wine-jug, Eteocles, have you?" the High King inquired.
"No, sire," the Captain protested. "I assure you that this is no delusion. My men can attest to that. Last night, those beings were as much flesh and bone as you or I. By Poseidon, I say that it's the truth!"
King Leitos frowned. "Bat-winged creatures that turn to stone in the daytime," he said. "This has the smell of the servants of the Dark One about it. Perhaps he sent them hither to spy upon us. But no, perhaps there is another reason for it."
"What should we do with them, Your Majesty?" asked Eteocles. "We await your orders."
Leitos thought for a bit. "Take them to Lord Deucalion and Lady Pyrrha," he said at last. "They may know more of such strange creatures than do any of us, and it is likely that they will be able to identify them."
The Captain nodded, and turned to his followers. "Bear them to the workshop," he cried.
The guards did as he commanded, hauling the two statues away. King Leitos watched them leave, and frowned.
"First, Aristomedes reports that the signs of the heavens forebode Atlantis's death," he muttered to himself. "At least he will not be able to alarm the people with such prophecies now, and his secret is safe with me. But now these two - two - I don't know what to name them - appear in my own palace. What can this mean? Are they truly messengers from the gods?"
His frown deepened. "And if that is so, then do they know about the spell? If they do, then Atlantis may be in even graver peril than I had imagined."
* * * * *
Deucalion and Pyrrha stared at the two statues that the guards had just placed before them. "Captain Eteocles," said Deucalion at last. "There must be some mistake here. Surely the High King knows - "
"The High King demands that you solve this riddle," said the Captain stiffly. "You are the premier mages of Atlantis. Surely you can tell him what these creatures are."
"But we have a spell to complete," began Deucalion.
"That may be the case," said Eteocles. "But you are also ordered to study these strange beasts, and identify them." He bowed low. "Good day, my Lord and Lady," he said, and with that, turned and left the room, accompanied by the other guards.
"As if we had not enough work on our hands already," said Deucalion, with a sigh. "Well, let us see what we can do."
"At least the guards gave us a useful clue," said Pyrrha. "They turned to stone at daybreak. That does sound vaguely familiar."
She walked over to the bookshelf, pulled a scroll out from its box, and unrolled it. "Ah," she said in a satisfied voice, after looking through it for a few minutes. "Here it is. The strange inhabitants of the Riphaean Mountains in Hyperborea. The ones known to the Hyperboreans as gargoyles."
"Gargoyles?" said Deucalion in astonishment. "I knew the stories too, my wife, but I never thought that there was any truth in them. After all, Hyperborea is so filled with travelers' tales and legends. I thought that the gargoyles were just one more example of them."
"But it does fit," she said. "Gargoyles turn to stone throughout the day, and revert to flesh at night to hunt. They stand upright like a man, but have wings like those of a bat, through which they can glide upon the night winds." She handed him the scroll, pointing out the appropriate passages in it as she did so. "It all answers to their description."
Deucalion nodded. "But what are gargoyles doing here in Atlantis?" he asked. "They have certainly never been seen here, and particularly not in the palace grounds."
"Maybe they fled here," said Pyrrha. "After what Hyperborea has already gone through at the hands of the gods, they may well have deemed it unsafe to remain there, and sought new hunting grounds elsewhere." She frowned. "Though Atlantis would be an odd choice. It is too densely inhabited by humans, too cultivated. From all the reports that we have, gargoyles prefer the wilderness. There are surely other parts of the Eastern Lands that they could migrate to. This does not make sense at all."
"Perhaps they can tell us when they awaken tonight," said Deucalion. "Assuming that they are capable of speech and rational thought."
"It's more than likely that they are," said Pyrrha. "They wear garments, for one thing. Mere animals would not do that. And some tales - admittedly, a very few - suggest that gargoyles have intelligence, and can speak human tongues. Perchance these can do so." A sudden look of excitement stole over her features. "Do you realize what this means, my husband? If I am correct and gargoyles do indeed have thoughts comparable to those of humanity, then think of what it will mean when they awaken, and we can speak with them. We will be able to talk to rational beings that are not humans. Think of the wonders of that experience, Deucalion! How do they view the world? What do they value most? Do they have gods, even as we do? What are their customs, their ceremonies, their rituals?" She then sighed. "I wish that these two could have come to us in happier times."
"Well, we will simply need to be patient," said Deucalion. "Tonight, our questions will be answered."
* * * * *
The last rays of the sun departed, and Brooklyn and Sata broke free from their stone casings, roaring and stretching. Then, they looked around them, both feeling very much bewildered.
"There's been a change of scenery here," said Brooklyn troubledly, examining their new surroundings. Instead of being in a garden, they were now in a fairly large room. Two humans were standing in front of them, looking quite impressed, but not afraid, as they stared at the gargoyles. One was a man with fiery-red hair, and the other a woman with long dark hair. Both wore white robes with blue mantles, and looked somewhere in their thirties.
"So you are indeed living beings, and not mere statues!" cried the man eagerly. "Just as we had hoped!"
Brooklyn advanced towards him, an indignant look in his eyes. "All right, mister!" he said. "We'd like some explanations! Where are we? Who are you? And what are you trying to do to us?"
"So you can talk, after all!" said the red-haired man, all the more fascinated. "That proves it, then. Your kind truly is an intelligent race!"
"I beg your pardon?" said Brooklyn, halting and staring at the man bewilderedly.
"My apologies," said the man, smiling a little. "In my excitement, I had quite forgot my manners. Well, if it will make you happier, my friend, I will answer. You are in the royal palace of Leitos son of Thoas, High King of Atlantis. My name is Deucalion, and this is my wife Pyrrha. We are both mages in the High King's service. And as for what we are trying to do to you - "
"Whoa, wait a minute!" said Brooklyn, cutting in. "Time out, mister, okay? Did you say 'Atlantis'?"
"Indeed I did," said Deucalion.
"As in - Atlantis the Lost Continent?" Brooklyn continued. "The one at the bottom of the ocean floor?"
"The ocean floor?" asked Deucalion, looking puzzled now, as was Pyrrha. "I fear that I do not understand you, my friend. Please explain yourself."
"Yes, Brooklyn-san," put in Sata. "What is this - Atlantis? I have never heard of it before."
"I'll explain to you later, my love," said Brooklyn. He turned back to Deucalion. "Um - sorry about that. I guess that it hasn't happened yet, then."
"What has not happened - " Deucalion began. Then he checked himself. "Well, as to your third question - I believe that that needs answering most of all. And this I wish to assure you. We do not plan to do anything to either of you, my friends. All that we wish to do is ask you a few questions. You are the first gargoyles that we have ever met, and there is much about you that we do not know."
"Oh, great," said Brooklyn, a trifle annoyedly. "Look, Deucalion, we just got through one case of a pair of mad scientists trying to use us, and we're not going through this again if we can help it. How do we know that you're not the Atlantean version of Payne and Winters?"
Deucalion and Pyrrha both looked at the gargoyles concernedly for a moment, in silence. Then Pyrrha spoke.
"It appears that you have been ill-treated by other humans, then, before you came here. If this is the case, then we do not hold your suspicion of us against you. But we are not our enemies. We are merely curious about you. Until this very evening, we were not even certain that gargoyles were anything other than legends. We are pleased to learn that we were mistaken, and would like to know more about you. Are you both truly from Hyperborea?"
"I've never even heard of Hyperborea before now," said Brooklyn. "Where's that?"
"The land here on this map," said Deucalion, taking a chart down from the wall and showing it to the two gargoyles. It depicted a rough map of Europe and North Africa, centering on the Mediterranean, but with outlines that differed somewhat from the coastlines that Brooklyn had seen in maps in Manhattan. The most prominent difference was in the region of the British Isles. Instead of the familiar shapes of Great Britain and Ireland, there was a single landmass labeled "Hyperborea". And in the middle of the Atlantic, to the west of the Strait of Gibraltar, was a larger landmass labeled "Atlantis".
"This part of the map, according to our latest reports, is somewhat out of date, I fear," Deucalion continued, indicating the region of Hyperborea as he spoke. "Our sailors have informed us that this land was greatly changed by the war of the gods, not long ago. Hyperborea has now been sundered into at least two smaller islands, and maybe more. But we've had no time as yet to have it updated. Truth to tell, it will be a long while before we have the opportunity to do so, thanks to this struggle among the divine ones."
"War of the gods?" asked Brooklyn. "What's that about?"
"You do not even know of it?" said Pyrrha in amazement. "Every land in the known world has heard of this conflict. How is it that it has escaped your awareness?"
"Um - it's a bit complicated," said Brooklyn. "We'd rather not talk about it just now. Just tell us about the war, please."
"Zeus and his brother, the Dark One, are at war over which of them shall rule the gods," said Deucalion. "And their battles have laid waste many lands. Hyperborea was only the latest of their victims. Even Atlantis has not been untouched. It has been a terrible time everywhere."
"I can imagine, then," said Brooklyn grimly. "I saw enough of the gods in Kemet to know that those guys can be trouble."
"Kemet?" asked Deucalion. "You have been to Kemet?"
"And you have met with the gods there?" added Pyrrha, sounding impressed herself.
"Well, yes," said Brooklyn. "It was some time ago, though. And I'm not sure that it's the same ones. I mean, it was Ra and his folks that I met there, not Zeus. But never mind that." He suddenly halted. "Oh, and I guess that we might as well introduce ourselves. My name's Brooklyn, and this is my mate, Sata."
"We are honored to meet you both," said Sata, with a very formal and graceful Japanese bow.
"The honor is ours, our friends," said Deucalion, and he and Pyrrha bowed in return. "So you are from Kemet, then?" he continued. "I had not known that there were gargoyles dwelling in Kemet. Certainly our administrators there had not reported them to us."
"Well, we're not from Kemet, actually," said Brooklyn. "I'm from Manhattan, and Sata's from Japan. Um - I don't think that you'll have heard of those places. They're islands very far away from here. We just do a lot of travelling. That's how Sata and I met."
"So there are gargoyles in places besides Hyperborea," said Pyrrha. "It would seem that your race is more widespread than we had thought. This is most fascinating."
"And what brought you to Atlantis?" asked Deucalion. "And to the city of Poseidonis, in particular? From what little I had heard of your kind, I had believed that you were not particularly fond of human cities."
"Well, that's not quite the case back in Manhattan," said Brooklyn. "When I lived there, my clan and I lived in a big city, one full of humans. We even went out at night to protect them."
"Protect them?" asked Pyrrha, sounding all the more interested.
"Yeah, protect them," said Brooklyn. "We'd stop criminals from hurting or robbing innocent people, and things like that."
"And you?" Pyrrha asked Sata, turning to her. "Is that also the custom in your own homeland in - Japan?" She pronounced the name a trifle hesitantly.
"It was in Ishimura," said Sata. "Although we had to protect the village against bandits and raiders as well."
"But anyway," Brooklyn continued, "I really don't think that we can explain right now just why we came here. It's a bit complicated, and I don't really feel like talking about it at the moment."
"Well, we'll not press you further for now," said Deucalion. "We pray you, forgive us both. But as I told you, we have never exchanged words with actual gargoyles before. And for two mages such as ourselves, the opportunity is truly irresistible."
Pyrrha's eyes suddenly fell upon the pouch at Brooklyn's belt where he habitually kept the Phoenix Gate. "I do not mean to pry, Brooklyn," she said, "but - does that pouch often behave thus?"
"What do you mean?" asked Brooklyn, then gazed down at the pouch. It was now growing with an eerie crimson radiance. Hurriedly he opened it, and pulled the Phoenix Gate out, then stared aghast at it. The talisman was shedding sparks in all directions, and hummed like hundreds of bees all buzzing in unison.
"It's never done that before!" he cried. "What's going on here?"
Sata looked at it concernedly herself. "I hope that the entity within is not about to escape," she said. "Marie Laveau warned us of what would happen in such an event."
"Entity within?" asked Deucalion, pricking up his ears. "What is this all about?"
"That's another long story," said Brooklyn.
"If there is something trapped within it, that has the possibility of escape, then we must learn of it," said Pyrrha. "And especially if you fear such an event taking place."
"Well, all right," said Brooklyn. "This thing is called the Phoenix Gate. And a very wise woman told us that there was a really nasty being - a god, I suppose - imprisoned in it, who's just waiting to get out. If he ever does get out, it's gonna be big, big trouble."
"That is all that we need," said Deucalion. "The gods have already come close to destroying the world with their war as it is, without such an entity as you describe gaining his release. From your description, he could well be a servant of the Dark One."
"But how came one of the Dark One's vassals to be thus imprisoned?" Pyrrha inquired. "Do you know, Brooklyn?"
"Not yet," said Brooklyn. "Believe me, if we ever find out how that guy got stuck in there, we'll let you know - if we can get in touch with you at the time. But - ".
There was suddenly the sound of approaching footsteps in the corridor outside, and then a loud knock on the door. Deucalion turned to Brooklyn. "Put that - Gate - of yours away at once, my friend," he said. "I'd rather that the High King not know of it for now."
"You don't have to tell me twice," agreed Brooklyn, stuffing the Phoenix Gate back into its pouch. "Believe me."
The knock repeated itself. "My lord and lady!" said an impatient voice. "Are you within?"
"What is it, Eteocles?" Deucalion asked.
"The High King demands your presence in his chambers at once," said the man. "He desires a full report from you of the creatures that he asked you to study."
"Very well," said Deucalion, with an unhappy sigh. "Tell him that I and Pyrrha will arrive shortly."
"Creatures?" asked Brooklyn sharply to the two humans. "So you really were just studying us, weren't you?"
"Not in quite the way that you imagine," said Deucalion at once, "nor in the way, for that matter, that King Leitos would wish us to. You must understand, my friend, that the High King and we do not always agree on a great many matters, and you are one of them. I fear that he sees you more as strange beasts, curiosities from a distant land, rather than as thinking beings such as ourselves. We'll do our best to persuade him otherwise, but I doubt that he'll be ready to listen."
"So what do we do while you two are away?" Brooklyn asked.
"I would advise you to stay hidden," said Deucalion. "The long war among the gods has not left Atlantis untouched, and the citizens have now become very much uneasy where anything out of the ordinary is concerned. If they saw you, their response would not be very pleasant, I fear."
"Yeah, we're kind of used to that sort of thing," said Brooklyn with a sigh. "Unfortunately."
"We will do what we can to protect you both," said Pyrrha. "And we shall not be gone long - I hope." And with that, she and her husband left the workshop.
Brooklyn turned to Sata. "Well, what do you think?" he asked.
"I believe that we can trust these particular two humans," she said. "But I am not so certain about the other humans here."
"I'm with you on that, my love," said Brooklyn, nodding.
"Now," she continued, "you said that you would tell me more about this 'Atlantis'."
"Well, I just know a little about it," said Brooklyn. "It was supposed to be this lost civilization thousands of years ago, that sank in a big disaster. This Greek guy called Plato wrote all about it. That's all that I can remember."
"Well, Brooklyn-san," said Sata, "I trust that if this 'big disaster' of which you speak is drawing near, that we will not be here when it takes place."
There was suddenly a rattling noise at the door. The two gargoyles tensed, and listened. They could hear voices on the other side of the door, speaking.
"Dare we enter the workshop, Captain?" asked one, with a nervous twang. "We would be intruding on the quarters of the two greatest mages in the land."
"It's a necessary risk, Neleus," the voice of Eteocles replied. "The High King has bidden us to enter, that we might make certain of what it is that Deucalion and Pyrrha are doing. In particular, he wishes to learn what provisions they are taking in containing those monsters."
"Maybe they're still stone," said Neleus hopefully.
"And maybe they are not," Eteocles answered. "It would be like those two soft-hearted fools to permit such perilous beasts to roam their chambers at liberty. These are the same mages that protested the High King's efforts to quarantine those grotesques, remember."
"Maybe we'd better not hang around here," said Brooklyn to Sata in a low voice. "Those two will probably be getting in here any moment, and I don't feel in the mood for another argument with the guards right now."
"Is that wise, Brooklyn?" Sata asked. "Our hosts advised us to remain hidden, and we can scarcely do that if we leave this room."
"Well, if they get that door open and break in, we definitely won't be able to stay secret at all," said Brooklyn.
Sata nodded. "What you say makes some sense, my love," she said. She pointed to the windows set in the wall opposite the locked door. "We can take flight through these."
Brooklyn nodded, and the two of them climbed up the wall, and out through the windows. Spreading their wings, they leaped off the sills and into the night sky, letting the air currents carry them as they would.
The door finally opened, and Eteocles and Neleus entered, gazing about them. "No trace of the beasts," said the Captain of the palace guard at last. "Maybe the two mages have more wits than I'd thought."
Neleus nodded, gazing uncomfortably about him, saying not a word.
* * * * *
"So what have you learned about the two creatures?" asked King Leitos, gazing across his desk at the two mages standing before him.
"First of all," said Deucalion, "Your Highness, they are not creatures. They are gargoyles."
"Gargoyles?" repeated the High King. "That has an uncouth sound to it. Almost as though it came from one of our colonies."
"That is the word for them in Hyperborea," said Pyrrha. "There are many gargoyles that dwell there - or did, before the war between Zeus and his brother came close to destroying it. I do not know how many survive there now."
"The Hyperboreans never struck me as being especially cultivated," said King Leitos, with a shrug. "I should have known that such beasts would dwell among them. I can imagine no more fitting a home for them than an uncouth province which never, even before the gods split it in two, yielded any tribute worth having."
"They are not mere animals," said Pyrrha at once. "They are intelligent beings, with the gift of reason. You wrong them by judging them to be nothing more than beasts."
"Then they must be spies from the gods," said the High King, frowning. "The Great Ones often employ servants of an unearthly nature. You have not told them, I trust, about the spell that you are so close to completing?"
"No, sire," said Deucalion.
"Then that is something of a relief," said King Leitos. "If Zeus or the Dark One were to learn of that weapon, they would move against us at once, before we were even ready to use it. We must keep that spell secret, until it is ready to cast. Our survival depends upon it." He looked closely at them both. "You are almost finished with it, I hope?"
"Yes," said Deucalion. "But as we told you before, there are certain aspects of this incantation that we do not like."
"What you like or dislike is no concern of mine," said King Leitos. "All that I am interested in is whether the spell will be ready by the longest day of the year. That is all that matters."
"But it may do more than prevent the gods from doing any further harm to us," said Deucalion. "We cannot be certain of this as yet, but it seems very possible that it may actually annihilate them."
"Annihilate?" asked Leitos, appearing intrigued.
"All of them," said Pyrrha. "The entire divine race may die from our casting this spell."
"And your point would be?" said the High King.
"We have no right to buy our safety through the destruction of the gods," said Deucalion.
"The gods are less particular about it, I would say," King Leitos replied. "You both know what they have done to Atlantis, nay, to the world. Hyperborea was fragmented by their wrath. Ultima Thule was almost buried in ice. And here in our own kingdom, our crops have been blighted, buildings leveled, and even our own subjects transformed into hideous monstrosities."
"Which you have banished to a remote part of the city," said Pyrrha. "You show no more compassion for those unfortunates than have the gods that made them thus."
"The unaltered citizens were afraid of them," said Leitos calmly. "They feared for their lives at the hands of the victims of the wrath of the Great Ones. What else was I to do?" He almost shrugged. "In this secluded part of our city, they can live out their lives quietly without endangering themselves or us. There is nothing wrong with that, is there?"
"There is if you deny them their dignity and freedom," said Deucalion. "King Atlas would never have treated them so."
"King Atlas was a worthy man, but he lived in a different time," said Leitos. "He did not foresee such matters as the war of the gods or its consequences. In the present situation, to survive we must take certain steps to ensure our safety. In any case, the transformed citizens are not the issue here. The issue is the gods, and what they are doing to us."
"It is true enough that neither Zeus nor the Dark One have showed any concern for us," said Deucalion. "That much I will accept. But there are others among the Great Ones who have compassion for us mortals. They have taught us and guided us. Atlantis would never have enjoyed the beauty and learning that she has achieved without their assistance. They have even attempted to restrain Zeus from his rasher acts. For their sake, I pray you, reconsider."
"For whose sake?" asked King Leitos. "Give me a few names, Deucalion, if you please."
"There is Athena, for one - " Deucalion began.
"I would rather not consider her," said the High King quickly. "Name another."
"Yes, I understand that she would not approve of your desire to conquer the very city that she adopted," said Deucalion, a trifle sharply. "That's partly it, is it not? You want to prevent her from interfering with your war upon Athens?"
"It will be easier to achieve our conquest of that annoying city-state without her interference," Leitos admitted. "But that hardly matters. Most of the gods are not like her, in any case. They treat us as if we were their playthings, and then discard us when they break us. The world has endured their trouble long enough. It is time to take a stand."
"As did Balinos the Mad?" Pyrrha asked. "He joined the Great Worms in their war upon the gods, and gave old Cronos his mortal wound. And all of Atlantis knows what befell him."
"I believe that I've heard enough for now," said King Leitos, beginning to sound impatient. "May I impress upon you that this is a matter of survival that we are engaged in? Either the gods will destroy us, or we will destroy them. It is as simple as that. As the greatest mages in all of Atlantis, surely you understand."
"We understand," said Deucalion. But from the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes, it was clear enough that he was using the word in a different manner than had the High King.
* * * * *
"This is a truly magnificent sight," said Sata, as she and Brooklyn soared over the city outside the palace walls. "Even the Tenno's home in Kyoto cannot be as splendid as this."
"Well, after having lived in New York for two and a half years, ancient cities like this one aren't quite as impressive to me," Brooklyn admitted. "But it's not that bad, I must say."
The city below them had been built in the shape of a succession of concentric circles, centered around the palace and the walls that enclosed it. There were five of these circles, three of which were watery canals, and two of which were land, on which streets and buildings lay. Bridges crossed over the canals, guarded with gates and towers, to allow traffic from one circle of land to the next. And intersecting all these circles was a single great canal, making its way almost to the palace's enclosure to the west, and eastwards out towards the sea. Where that great canal cut through the city, a multitude of ships, generally resembling ancient Greek triremes, lay at anchor. Evidently, the canal served as the city's harbor.
The buildings themselves were also built in a style reminiscent of the classical world - which, Brooklyn had to remind himself, wouldn't exist for several thousand years - and varied in size, shape, and opulence. Some were almost as splendid as the royal palace of the High King, while others seemed like humble cottages. They were dimly lit by what appeared to be oil lamps, although Brooklyn and Sata did not get too close a look at them. So far, they had carefully kept to the shadows, to avoid being seen. "After all," as Brooklyn had pointed out, "most folks here probably won't be too fond of us."
"So how long should we remain out here?" asked Sata. "Remember, the sun will rise in a few hours. And I do not think that we want to be caught out here at dawn, with no safe roosting places to be found."
"Good point," said Brooklyn. "Maybe those searchers will have gone away, and it'll be safe for us to go back."
Before Sata could reply to that, they suddenly heard what sounded like panicked cries down below. "We'd better take a look, and see what's going on," said Brooklyn. He dived down in the direction of the noise, Sata by him.
In the street below, three rough-looking men in ragged tunics were closing in around two smaller figures, raising clubs as they advanced. Of the two smaller figures, one was a fair-haired girl, about fourteen, with a pair of feathered wings protruding from her shoulders, almost like those of an angel. The other was what looked like a boy of around ten, but with the head of a calf rather than of a human. Both were shrinking back against the wall in terror from their assailants.
"Please, sirs!" said the girl, in an almost frantic voice. "We meant you no harm at all. We've done nothing to anger you. Spare us, please!"
"You should have thought of that before you left your quarter of the city!" replied one of the men grimly. "It's time that you monsters learned your place! We don't want your kind around here!"
"Oh, yeah?" asked Brooklyn, swooping down upon him, eyes blazing white. "And how about our kind? I'll bet you don't want us around here, either!"
The three men looked up in shock and terror at the two bat-winged creatures that had suddenly arrived, one beaked, crimson, and white-haired, the other green and dark-haired, and that one wielding a drawn sword. "Demons!" stammered one of them, lifting his club defensively with one hand and making an odd gesture, presumably designed to ward off evil, with the other. "Demons from the pits of Tartarus!"
"Not quite," said Brooklyn sharply. "But we can still make life pretty unpleasant for a bunch of bullies like you."
"You are cowards without honor," put in Sata, hurling herself at another of the ruffians and sending his club flying from his hand with a blow from her katana. "No other manner of men would dare threaten the lives of defenseless children. Face us, if you have any courage in your hearts."
"Messengers of the Dark One!" said the first ruffian, just before Brooklyn hoisted him off the ground by his tunic, and threw him against the third one. The two men started to their feet, and with their friend, turned and fled from the gargoyles, crying out in terror. They quickly faded into the darkness.
"You're safe now," said Brooklyn, approaching the two children. They were still cowering in the corner, although now from the gargoyles; the girl had her arms wrapped protectively around the boy. "Don't worry," he continued. "We won't hurt you. We're the good guys."
"What - what manner of creatures are you?" asked the girl, in a timid voice. "Are you truly servants of the Dark One? Or more victims of the wrath of the gods?"
"Neither," said Brooklyn. "We're gargoyles. I'm Brooklyn, and this is Sata."
She nodded hesitantly. "My name is Astraea," she said. "And this is my brother Asterius." The minotaur-boy nodded silently, without saying a word.
"Why were those humans attacking you?" asked Sata.
"They view us as monsters," said Astraea with a sigh. "So does everyone else in this city. Even our parents."
"Your parents?" asked Brooklyn. "They aren't - um, like you, then?"
"No," she said, shaking her head. "In truth, we were not as you see us now until a few days ago. Then, while we were out playing in the fields beyond the city walls, we were caught in a storm raised by the gods. Before we could escape, we were altered, in some manner that I cannot explain, to what you now behold."
"I don't suppose that there's some way that you can get changed back, is there?" Brooklyn asked.
"There is none," Astraea replied. "No spell created by mortals can undo the work of the gods. And it would be blasphemy to even make the attempt. No, we have become like this forever, unless the gods relent."
"But why would the gods turn a couple of kids into - well, what you are now?" Brooklyn asked.
"They have transformed many people in this city in just such a manner," said Astraea. "My brother and I were not the first to undergo such a fate, nor the last. Others have been altered, many into even stranger creatures than we."
"Well, you're the first that we've seen," said Brooklyn. "But then again, we're new in town."
"They've all been secluded in a distant part of the city," said Astraea. "The High King decreed it, and all who have been altered by the gods have been sent there, to remain. We would have joined them there but - we were afraid to go. We thought that we could remain here in hiding, close to our old haunts, but we have not fared well."
"We've had to steal food," put in Asterius, speaking for the first time. "And we've slept in alleys, too. It hasn't been fun. Nobody will play with us anymore."
"Maybe we can help," said Brooklyn. "Well, not us exactly, but we know some people who could. Perhaps we could take you to them?"
"What are these people?" Astraea inquired uneasily. "Are they more - gargoyles - such as you?"
"No, they're humans," said Brooklyn. "Their names are Deucalion and Pyrrha."
"Deucalion and Pyrrha?" asked Astraea. "But - but they are the chief mages to the High King, and live in the royal palace itself! We can't go there! If King Leitos discovered us there - "
"Trust me, he won't," said Brooklyn. "And Deucalion and Pyrrha are okay people. They won't treat you the way those three thugs did. They'll do something to help you."
"Well, we will trust you," said Astraea cautiously.
"Can you fly with your wings?" Sata asked her.
She nodded. "I made the attempt the night after I gained them, and found that I could soon master them. But my brother - "
"I'll carry him," said Brooklyn. "Just scramble up on my back, kid," he said to Asterius. "I'll need to climb one of the walls here to get high enough to glide back, so hold on tight."
The young minotaur nodded, gripping tightly to Brooklyn as the gargoyle began to scale the wall, Sata close behind him.
* * * * *
"He truly has become unreasonable," said Pyrrha with a sigh, as she and her husband walked back to the workshop.
"I agree," said Deucalion. "I only hope that we can find some way to solve the problem that we have now been placed in. Although I have seen no solution as yet."
"Nor I," Pyrrha began. But before she could say more, or her husband answer, they reached the door to their laboratory, and found it standing open. They rushed in at once in alarm.
"Captain Eteocles!" cried Deucalion. "May I ask what is the meaning of this?"
The Captain of the Guard turned and stared guiltily at the two mages standing before him. "Your honors," he said hurriedly. "Please forgive me; I did not intend to appear an intruder."
"Nonetheless, that is precisely what you are," Deucalion said sternly. "Has the High King given you leave to search our workshop?"
"No, sir," said Eteocles. "But I deemed it wisest to visit it in your absence, merely to ensure that the two savage beasts were still held safely captive by you. We cannot have such creatures escaping to roam through the city, you must understand. The people are troubled enough by the omens and portents of late without the presence of monsters in the streets."
"We can assure you, Captain, that the gargoyles are no menace to any citizen of Atlantis, unless provoked," said Pyrrha at once. "They are not the wild animals that you mistake them for."
"They are also not here," said Eteocles. "Have either of you any explanation for this?"
"They are being kept safely elsewhere at present," said Deucalion. "We can assure you, upon our honor as mages of Atlantis, that they will do nobody any harm. You have nothing to fear."
Eteocles looked doubtful still, but finally turned and left the workshop, Neleus close behind him. Once the door was closed behind them, Deucalion locked it and turned to Pyrrha.
"It's as well that they did not discover our friends here," he said to her. "But I wonder where they are now."
"Right here, actually," said Brooklyn, descending through one of the windows into the room just then. He held a nervous-looking boy with a calf's head tightly in his arms, but yet so carefully as to do him no harm. Sata and a winged girl followed close behind, the maiden also appearing a little apprehensive. "We - brought a couple of new friends back here with us," he added. "We hope that you don't mind."
Deucalion and Pyrrha stared at the new arrivals for a moment. "You are among those who were touched by the gods, are you not?" Deucalion said to the two youngsters, at last.
The winged girl nodded in silence. Brooklyn proceeded to break the silence.
"These are Astraea and Asterius," he said. "They've been changed into - what you see here - by the gods. We brought them back here in the hopes that you could do something for them."
"I see," said Deucalion. He and Pyrrha looked at the two children in silence for a moment, expressions of friendly interest upon their faces. "Do not fear us," he said to them at last. "We promise to keep you both safe."
"Can you change us back, as well?" asked Astraea.
"I do not know," said Deucalion. "Even the most skilled mage would be hard-put to reverse an act of the gods. I very much fear that there is nothing that we can do for you. However, we will see what lies within our power."
"So how'd it go with the king?" Brooklyn asked.
"Not very well," said Deucalion. "He is very unhappy about a certain project of ours, which he wants us to complete. And it seems now that this particular spell is one that we would do well not to cast."
"Really?" Brooklyn asked. "Why's that?"
Before Deucalion could answer that question, the first rays of the sun appeared in the east, filling the workroom. The two gargoyles hardened to stone at once. Astraea and Asterius shrank back in alarm at the strange sight.
"There is nothing to fear, I assure you," Pyrrha told them. "They become like this at dawn every day. They will both awaken from their sleep this evening. You'll see."
"Stay hidden with us for now," said Deucalion. "We can keep you from the sight of King Leitos and his servants, while we search for a cure for your condition - if there is one to be found."
"Thank you, my lord and lady," said Astraea, nodding. Asterius said nothing, but his eyes showed clear approval of his sister's words and sentiments.
"Now, let us to work," said Deucalion.
* * * * *
In the city outside the palace enclosure, a normal day began. The citizens awoke, got dressed, broke their fast, and went about their regular business. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred, until close to noon.
The ground suddenly shook, as if from an earthquake. Buildings trembled. A few statues adorning the roofs of the houses of the wealthier citizens toppled off their places and shattered upon the paving-stones of the streets below. The citizens halted in their activities, and clustered in troubled circles, talking with each other about what these events might mean.
Then, in the sky above, figures mounted on what appeared to be flying horses appeared. There were two groups of them, one in pursuit of the other. They were too far up for the crowds below to discern their features, but it was clear enough that they were fighting each other. The pursuers shot bolts of brightly-colored energy at their quarry, which sent blasts of power back at them in exchange. Stray pieces of magic descended upon the city below, and wherever they fell, the havoc grew worse.
Stalls in the market-place suddenly erupted into blue flame, as the vendors and their customers managed just barely to flee from them. Animals stampeded, breaking loose from their pens and running wildly through the streets. A pair of stone hawks perched upon one of the bridges came to life, and swooped down upon some playing children, who fled from them, screaming in terror.
The combatants in the heavens finally broke away from each other and disappeared, but the panic and confusion that they had brought with them did not depart. The citizens talked to each other in frightened voices, once enough order had been restored for them to be able to discuss the just-concluded events.
"This was even worse than the last time," said a weaver. "The attacks are growing more destructive each time."
"The next time, they could destroy us all," put in his wife. "The gods have gone mad!"
"The High King said that he'd protect us from their fury!" cried a blacksmith. "Why did he not prevent this? What is he doing to keep us safe?"
"Yes!" cried the weaver. "What is he doing about them? We must know!"
The throng of frightened citizens swarmed from the ruined market-place towards the palace.
* * * * *
"My lord!" said the servant, bowing low before King Leitos.
"Well, what is it, man?" the High King asked. "Speak!"
"Many of the citizens have assembled outside the gates of the palace," said the man. "The city has just been visited by the gods once again, and even more damage has been done than before. There is much panic among the people."
"I have little time to deal with such protests from the commoners," said King Leitos impatiently. "They were told earlier that my mages would soon bring an end to such god-wrought destruction. But it seems that they simply were not listening." He sighed. "We will simply have to try something else."
"Your orders, sire?" asked the servant, deferentially.
"Go to Captain Eteocles, and tell him that the perytons are needed," said King Leitos grimly. "He will understand."
The servant nodded, and left the room at once.
* * * * *
"What is King Leitos doing about the gods?" cried the citizens, massing about the palace gates. The helmeted guards standing duty there kept them at bay with their spears and shields, but still the frightened and anxious people thronged about them. "They've come close to destroying the city again!"
"They may return and wreak more woe upon us!" shouted a woman. "They may even turn us all into monsters! Why has the King done nothing?"
"I beg to differ with you, my lady," said Captain Eteocles, walking towards the palace gates just then. "He has done something." And with that, he drew his sword, and held it aloft, as if signaling with it. "Now!" he cried.
And at his command, a wedge of winged stag-like creatures, with armored guards mounted on their backs, holding couched lances, swooped down from the walls upon the crowd. "Drive them from here!" Eteocles ordered his men. "Do whatever you must to rout them!"
The citizens turned and fled in terror, as the perytons and their riders fell upon them. The stag-like beasts struck at the hindmost, trying to gore them with their antlers, while the guards thrust their lances at them. Most of the people fled back to the outer circles of the city, but a few were not so fortunate, and fell upon the ground, moaning.
"And let that be a lesson to them," said Eteocles grimly. "The commoners have grown too much above themselves of late. They need reminding of who their masters are." He watched the last of the crowd running across the bridges, gave a satisfied nod, and then turned and walked away.
* * * * *
"He did what?" Deucalion looked at his wife incredulously.
"He sent the elite peryton riders from the palace guard to drive off the citizens," said Pyrrha. "Neither the High King nor Captain Eteocles will deny this act. Far from it. They even boast of it."
Deucalion shook his head in disgust. "They truly are madmen, then," he said. "No wonder that Atlantis has felt so abandoned by the gods. Who could expect them to approve of our rulers' deeds?"
Pyrrha nodded sadly, and glanced at the sleeping Astraea and Asterius in a corner of the room. The two youngsters had accepted the food and drink that the mages had given them, eating it with almost greedy eagerness - it was clear enough that they had had little to eat since their parents had abandoned them following their transformation - and had fallen asleep upon a pair of straw pallets that their hosts had provided for them in a corner of the room thereafter. She also looked at the two gargoyles, still stone, in the center of the room.
"It's bad enough that King Leitos treats gargoyles and the folk of the Eastern Lands as he does," she said unhappily. "But to take up arms against his own people...."
"I know," said Deucalion. "Old King Atlas would never have done such a thing."
He finished looking over the scroll before him, and then spoke to his wife. "It is time to test this incantation," he said to her. "Then we can be certain of how it will work when we use it against the gods."
He spoke a few words, and a shimmering image appeared above the workbench, a living map of Atlantis, the ocean that surrounded it, and the lands to the east that the Atlanteans had first explored, then conquered and colonized: Hyperborea, Ultima Thule, Hesperia, Ausonia, Hellas, Kemet, and many others. Small figures appeared within the living map as well, some like gods, glowing with a silvery light, and others humans. Then he lowered the scroll down over the image of Poseidonis, and spoke a few more words. Then he and Pyrrha stared down at the living map, and waited.
A crimson glow erupted around the miniature Poseidonis, and then quickly spread outwards, first through Atlantis itself, and then outwards, until it filled the entire map. And wherever the glow came, the gods that were caught in it cried out and then disintegrated, leaving no trace behind. And so also did many of the humans, who slumped to the ground, and died. The map then dispersed into nothingness.
"This is worse than we had expected," said Pyrrha. "I must confess that I had not even dreamed that the results would be of such a nature."
"Nor had I," said Deucalion. "Well, this makes one thing certain. We cannot cast this spell. Even the safety of Atlantis cannot justify such a monstrous purge."
"So which of us tells King Leitos that?" asked Pyrrha, an uneasy smile upon her face as she spoke.
"Yes, that makes it all the harder," said Deucalion, nodding. "He will not approve of such a refusal. And we do not even have a good excuse to avoid casting it. The day after tomorrow is the very day of the summer solstice, and we both know that that is the one day of the year that the spell may be cast upon. We will have to cast it then, or wait another year, and the latter will not be acceptable to the High King at all."
"Well, it will be sunset in a few hours," said Pyrrha. "And then, we can speak with our friends, and take counsel with them."
There was suddenly a knock on the workshop door. "My lord and lady?" asked Captain Eteocles's voice outside.
"What is it, Eteocles?" asked Deucalion, sounding anything but glad to hear the officer's words.
"The High King demands your presence in his study at once," said the Captain. "And he also commands that you bring your work with you."
"Very well," said Deucalion with a sigh. "We come." He turned to Pyrrha, and said unhappily, "It comes too soon."
"Well, we will do what we can," she replied. "Perhaps we can stall him long enough to return and talk over these matters with the gargoyles."
He nodded, and rolled up the papyrus scroll as he walked towards the door.
* * * * *
"So your work is completed," said King Leitos, nodding with satisfaction.
"Yes, Your Majesty," said Deucalion.
"Then there is no time to waste," said the High King. "Upon the day after tomorrow, at noon, I want you to cast this enchantment, and destroy the gods at last."
"With all due respect, sire," said Deucalion at once, "that we cannot do."
"What?" asked King Leitos sharply. "You dare refuse a royal order?"
"Our findings have confirmed what we feared," Deucalion said calmly. "If we cast it, we will destroy the gods utterly. None of them will survive. Not one. All of them will perish."
"I told you before, and I will say it to you again," said Leitos. "We cannot afford to be merciful to them. Surely you heard what damage they wrought in the city today."
"Indeed we did," said Deucalion. "Just as we heard what response you made when the people came to you, asking you what you intended to do about the destruction."
"That was a necessary disciplinary measure," the High King replied in a dismissive fashion. "I hardly think that we need to discuss it, not when we have greater concerns. And I still say that the mere fact that this spell of yours will destroy all of the gods is not an adequate reason for refusing to make use of it. What do we need the gods for? If the people need something to worship, the priests can invent a fresh pantheon for them to present their offerings to. It's hardly beyond their ingenuity, not when you consider how many 'miracles' they've successfully carried out."
"But it will do more than just destroy the gods," said Deucalion. "The magic will also affect any human with divine blood flowing in his or her veins. Think of how often the gods have mated with mortals, to produce halfling children. Should we bring about their deaths as well?"
"A necessary price for our survival," said King Leitos. "They will have sacrificed their lives for a worthy cause."
"You're descended from Poseidon yourself, my liege," said Deucalion. "He was the father of your ancestor, Atlas the Star-gazer, first High King of Atlantis. Surely that gives you enough god's blood to make you susceptible to the spell."
"That was several generations ago," replied Leitos unconcernedly. "The divine heritage of Atlas's descendants has long since been diluted through marriage with full humans. I doubt that I will be in any peril, therefore."
"But it is not just halflings who are in peril, but also all who have practiced or studied the magical arts in any form," said Pyrrha. "The spell is a bane to all magic, Your Majesty. It had to be, to be used against the gods, for magic is the very essence of their being. And the uttering of this incantation will destroy every mage and wizard in the world, as well as the gods and their descendants."
"Ah, I see," said King Leitos, a bitter smile upon his face. "So you have qualms now that you know that you would be among the casualties. I ought to have known. You have no sense of sacrifice, no willingness to lay down your lives to protect the Atlantean Empire."
"You mistake us entirely, sire," said Pyrrha sharply. "What concerns us is that this spell will destroy many innocent humans, humans who have no part in this war at all. We will not be responsible for their deaths."
"I hold with my wife," said Deucalion. "If we were to cast this spell, how will we be different from Zeus or the Dark One?"
"We will be different in that we will be alive," said King Leitos. "It is as simple as that. Survival and self-preservation are our first duty."
"There must be other ways to survive," argued Pyrrha. "Ways to preserve Atlantis that do not involve the indiscriminate slaughter that you counsel."
"And do you have one of those alternatives at hand?" asked the High King.
"No," she admitted. "But if you will but consider - ".
"We are running out of time," said King Leitos, holding up his hand and staying her. "We do not have the luxury to consider other means of avoiding the destruction that the gods may soon visit upon us. You are going to cast that spell, my lord and lady, and that is all that I have to say on the matter. You are both dismissed."
Deucalion and Pyrrha left the study, both sighing sadly.
* * * * *
The sun set, and Brooklyn and Sata broke free from their stone shells. Once they had finished yawning and stretching, they looked about them.
Deucalion and Pyrrha were conferring by the workbench, speaking in low, troubled voices. Astraea and Asterius were standing to the side, listening but saying nothing.
Deucalion turned towards the two gargoyles. "Ah, you have awakened, our friends," he said. "And just in time, too. We have been conferring over what course to take regarding this spell, and we thought that we could do well by asking you for advice."
"Well, we don't know that much about magic, actually," said Brooklyn doubtfully. "So I don't know that we can help that much."
"It's more a matter of morality than of magic, in truth," said Pyrrha. "Perhaps we had best begin with King Leitos's original command to us. He issued it two years ago, when Atlantis experienced its first devastation from the war of the gods. He instructed us to find a spell that would defeat or nullify both factions in this struggle, before they destroyed Atlantis itself.
"After much research, we finally devised what appeared to be a likely spell. But it was far more efficacious than we had expected. If we cast it, it will destroy all of the gods, and all who are part god by birth, or who know the arts of magic. Needless to say, we recoiled from using it as our solution; we will not save ourselves from destruction through the death of an entire race. But King Leitos has refused to listen to our objections. He wants us to cast it, and he will not hear otherwise from us."
"Definitely sounds like an unreasonable guy to me," Brooklyn commented. "Still, I don't see what the problem is. I mean, you can simply refuse."
"It is not so simple as that," said Deucalion. "If we refuse, he will most likely simply take the spell from us, and employ another mage, less concerned with matters of right and wrong, to cast it for him. That is how he would probably respond, from what we know of him."
"Can you not destroy the spell?" asked Sata.
"We considered that," said Pyrrha. "But our research has indicated that burning the scroll upon which the incantation has been written may be dangerous. It seems, at present, that the only way to prevent the spell from being cast is to find some way of placing it beyond the High King's reach. But that will not be easy to accomplish, not as long as Atlantis rules nearly all the known world."
"We could hide it for you," Brooklyn offered. "I mean, we have ways of getting a lot further from Atlantis than King Leitos could ever reach."
"That is one possibility," said Deucalion. "But it is a perilous mission that you are undertaking, if you indeed choose to volunteer for it, my friend. A scroll with such a spell inscribed upon it is a treasure that many ambitious and powerful men will wish to take, and you will have to guard it with your lives, that it never fall into their hands."
"We're used to that sort of thing," said Brooklyn. "We've already had to go through it with the Gate."
Deucalion was about to speak, when there was suddenly a faint humming in the air. Then, a pillar of fire sprang up in the middle of the room, swirling about. Six pairs of eyes watched it in silent wonder and awe, as out of the flame emerged a tall man with fiery red hair, clad in a Grecian tunic and mantle, a troubled look in his eyes.
"Prometheus?" said Brooklyn, staring. "What are you doing here?"
Prometheus looked at the red gargoyle, appearing a little puzzled. "You know me by name, my friend?" he asked. "How is this?"
"We met in Greece, remember?" asked Brooklyn helpfully. "Pandora? Medusa?"
"I am afraid that I have no knowledge of the names that you mention, good sir," said Prometheus, frowning thoughtfully.
`"Sorry," said Brooklyn, suddenly understanding. "I guess that it hasn't happened yet." Turning to Sata, he added, "That's one of the problems with time travel. It can make meeting old friends very confusing."
"You are the Lord Prometheus?" asked Deucalion, he and Pyrrha having received the red-haired fay's arrival with the greatest awe of all. "You do us much honor, to visit us."
"I am afraid that my visit was prompted by need rather than by desire," said Prometheus, turning to the two mages now. "I have come to warn you both. Atlantis is doomed."
"Doomed?" asked Deucalion. "So Atlantis truly will be destroyed by the gods?"
"That is indeed the truth," said Prometheus, nodding sadly. "But not in quite the manner that you have expected. The spell that King Leitos commissioned you to create was the cause of the trouble, in fact. Oberon learned of it, and he was not pleased to know that the means existed to destroy all of the Fair Folk, both his children and the rebels under his brother."
"Oberon?" asked Pyrrha.
"You know him as Zeus, just as you know his brother by the name of the Dark One," said Prometheus helpfully.
"Oberon and Zeus are the same?" said Brooklyn, who would have arched his eyebrows at that had he any eyebrows to raise. "I should have known."
"In any case," said Prometheus, "when he learned of your spell, he determined to destroy it at once, to ensure that it could never be cast. But, being Oberon, he chose to rid himself of the peril by destroying all of Atlantis. That way, he can make certain that the incantation will be lost forever."
"He's mad, then," cried Pyrrha in horror. "He would destroy this land just to dispose of a single scrap of papyrus?"
"I am afraid so," said Prometheus. "I argued with him that there were other ways to solve the problem, ways that did not involve such unrestrained havoc, but he ignored me, and proceeded with his plans. He's now set the events in motion that will soon destroy this island. In twenty-four hours, his full wrath will descend upon Atlantis, and nothing of it will remain."
"Is there anything that you can do to stop him?" asked Deucalion.
"Not directly," said Prometheus. "He has already worked his will upon the elements, and the processes that will undo Atlantis are too far advanced by now for anybody to reverse them. Even Oberon could not recall them at this point, even if he had the will to do so. No, Atlantis is already doomed. I came hither instead to warn you of this cataclysm, that you would be able to save all those among the people in this land that you could."
"Can't you just - well, wiggle your fingers and get everybody off?" asked Brooklyn.
Prometheus shook his head. "Oberon would detect my work if I acted openly, and once he knew that one of his own race was working against him, he would act more directly, to destroy Atlantis in so direct a fashion that nobody would be able to survive it. But if I can deliver you a quick warning, you may be able to arrange for the evacuation of your fellow humans, and their safe escape to other lands, without Oberon being the wiser. Besides, I've always felt it wiser to give mortals the tools to help themselves, that they may be able to learn and grow. You cannot help people to mature and gain in wisdom if you always do everything for them. I have done my part; now it is up to you to do the rest."
"Arranging an escape for the people of Poseidonis will not be easy," said Deucalion, frowning. "At least, not so close to the destruction of the island. We will be cutting it very close." He sighed. "I mean you no disrespect, Lord Prometheus, but I wish that you had delivered the warning to us earlier."
"I only learned of what Oberon had planned for Atlantis just now," said Prometheus. "He took special pains not to let me know about it; I am hardly surprised, either, seeing that he knew that I would never have approved of it. But I have observed you both," he continued, looking at Deucalion and Pyrrha, "and know you to be capable and resourceful. I have a great deal of faith that you can achieve this task. I wish you well." He now faced Deucalion, looking the man directly in the eyes. "My blessing upon you, my son," he said. And with that, in a burst of flame, he was gone.
"Your son?" asked Brooklyn, staring into the air where Prometheus had stood only moments before. He then turned to look at Deucalion. "You know," he added, "I thought that that red hair of yours looked familiar."
"Perhaps he meant it only as a metaphor," said Sata. But she did not sound especially convinced.
"No, I doubt it," said Deucalion. "In truth, if Prometheus was my father, this would explain much. My father vanished not long after I was born, and those who knew him have told me that there was always something different about him. And what they said about him does indeed answer to what I have heard told about the Fire-Bringer."
"Whatever the case may be," said Pyrrha, "it was very brave of him to defy his king's wishes and give us this warning. I only hope that Zeus does not learn of his deed and punish him for it."
"I'm certain that Prometheus was aware of the risk, but chose to undertake the task nonetheless," said Deucalion. "Well, he has done what he could for us. Now we must do the same for ourselves, and complete the work."
"Okay, but we've got a few problems to worry about," said Brooklyn. "For a start, we've got to get enough ships together to be able to evacuate the people around here. And we've got a twenty-four hour deadline. That's gonna be pretty difficult to pull off."
"Not necessarily," said Deucalion. "There are a great many ships in the harbor, already provisioned for a long ocean voyage. If we can obtain them for the citizens, then we have a means of escape."
"That does sound unusually convenient for us," commented Sata. "How did it come about?"
"Thank our High King and his wars for that," said Deucalion. "For the past three years, he has been trying to conquer the city-state of Athens in Hellas, which alone of all the lands bordering upon the Inland Sea has refused to acknowledge Atlantis's overlordship. The last that we have heard, the Athenians defeated King Leitos's army, and he has been mustering fresh troops to send to Hellas as reinforcements. Those ships are intended as transports for those fighting-men. But hopefully, they may also serve as a means for us to rescue the people of this city."
"Yeah, but there's still going to be one little catch," said Brooklyn. "Suppose the King doesn't like that change in plans?"
"That is indeed very likely," Deucalion admitted with a sigh. "However, Pyrrha and I will meet with him, and see if we can convince him to use that fleet to evacuate the city instead. Surely he must see reason there, and understand that we are right."
"And if he doesn't?" asked Brooklyn. "Do we have a 'Plan B'?"
"We could secure the ships if he refuses to grant permission," suggested Sata. "Wrest them by force, if he will not listen. But we will need assistance there. No doubt, the guards posted to guard that fleet will greatly outnumber us."
"You're right about that, my love," said Brooklyn to her. "We're gonna need reinforcements. Got any ideas?"
"I have one," piped up Astraea just then.
They turned to her. "Tell us it, I pray you," said Deucalion, in a not unkind voice.
"I have told you earlier of those others who became altered like myself," said the winged girl. "Many of them are surely as strong in body as are the gargoyles, and would be able to help us if we had to fight. We can obtain their aid, if we seek them out and persuade them to help us."
"That is well-thought," said Pyrrha, nodding approvingly. "We will need to warn and rescue the transformed citizens just as surely as the others, in any case. Brooklyn, Sata, meet with these folk, please. Speak to them, and urge them to help us. Deucalion and I will go to meet with the High King."
"That sounds like a plan to me," said Brooklyn. "Astraea, Asterius, you come with us. You can help us out while trying to talk to those people. Besides, you'll be safer with us than here on your own."
The two youngsters nodded, and followed the gargoyles to the window. Brooklyn carried Asterius again, while Astraea flew by her own wings. Deucalion and Pyrrha watched them glide off into the distance, then turned and left the workshop in silence.
* * * * *
King Leitos frowned as the two mages stood before him. "You say that Atlantis will be destroyed by Zeus shortly?" he said.
"That is the truth," said Deucalion. "We learned it but a few minutes ago. That is why we came to warn you."
"So I take it that you will be coming to your senses and casting that spell after all?" asked the High King. "Now that you see what the gods intend to do to us, you hardly have any choice but to act against them."
"Our minds have not changed," said Pyrrha. "And, for that matter, you might well be interested to know that it was precisely the creation of this spell that caused Zeus to decide to visit his wrath upon this land. No, we are still not going to do as you advise us."
"In that case," said King Leitos, "why have you come here? I hardly need your words to tell me of the peril that my kingdom stands in."
"We must save the lives of the citizens," said Deucalion. "King Leitos, we urge you to put your fleet to work in helping them flee to safety. We still have time enough to get the people on board the ships, that they might find refuge in the colonies in the Eastern Lands."
"Use the royal fleet to help those civilians escape?" said the High King, frowning perturbedly. "I beg to remind you, Lord Deucalion, that those ships are meant to send fresh troops to Athens, to punish it for its defiance and bring it to subjection. I cannot abandon this war for the sake of rescuing the commoners."
"The 'commoners' are your own people!" Pyrrha protested. "You cannot be thinking of deserting them, leaving them to their own fate, just so that you can prosecute a pointless war!"
"I will do as I please with them," King Leitos said. "In any case, there are always the subject people in the colonies, to take their place. The loss of the peasantry here in Atlantis will hardly be that great a setback for our empire."
"And what about you?" asked Deucalion. "I take it that you have no intent of perishing along with Atlantis itself, Your Majesty."
"Hardly," said the High King, with a slight smile. "I intend to lead my army to Athens, to command the field in person. And when I have conquered that city, maybe I will convert it into my new capital and rule from there. It may appease Athena a little, even, to see her favorite city-state become the center of a great empire. Although it hardly matters, seeing that she will have ceased to exist by them - if you have followed your instructions."
"You still cannot do this!" protested Deucalion. "You have a duty to your subjects, Your Majesty! If you let them drown, then you will have failed in that duty!"
Leitos appeared almost bored. "My duty?" he asked. "And who is going to hold me to account over that? I am High King of Atlantis, remember. The laws are mine, and mine alone. No man has the power to call me to court over anything that I do, as though I were just another citizen. Surely you should both realize that."
"The gods will have a few things to say about that," said Pyrrha.
"The gods have already decided to bring Atlantis to an end," said Leitos. "It is rather late for Zeus or Poseidon to begin concerning themselves with any so-called 'transgressions' of mine. And now, if you do not mind, I have decided to call this audience to an end. And make ready your spell. You will still need to cast it two days from now."
"What difference will that make?" asked Deucalion. "It will come too late to save Atlantis. The island will have been destroyed by then."
"That is true enough," said the High King. "But we can make certain that they do not ravage what remains of the world after that. I am not going to risk having my colonies go the same way as the motherland herself. We have to guard against further activities of theirs, and the spell will see to it that they engage in none. And now, as I told you before, this audience is over. Leave, both of you, and begin packing."
Deucalion and Pyrrha nodded silently, and left his study.
* * * * *
"This is the place," said Astraea, as they landed on the rooftop.
Brooklyn and Sata looked about them, gazing upon the quarter of the city that they had just arrived in. It was less well kept-up than any other portion of the city that they had seen. The houses were all cracked and crumbling, most of them little more than rough stone huts, plain and unadorned. Weeds sprouted amid the cracks in the streets. There was no sign of movement below their perch.
"Doesn't look too pleasant to me," said Brooklyn. "I'm a little surprised that anybody would want to live here."
"The people here were given no choice," said Astraea sadly. "The High King ordered them to go there once they were changed by the gods, and they had to obey him."
"And the citizens permitted him to do so?" Sata asked.
"Most of them felt the same way about those who had suffered our plight as did he," answered the girl. "Besides, he is the High King of Atlantis, direct in descent from Atlas the Star-Gazer and Poseidon himself. We cannot go against his will."
"That still doesn't give him the right to do things like that," said Brooklyn grimly. "What I wouldn't give for a few words with him just now. The guy's got to be as big a jerk as Castaway."
"Who's Castaway?" Astraea asked.
"I'll tell you another time," he replied. "So where is everybody?"
"I believe that I can answer that," said Sata, pointing to a column of smoke rising some yards before them. "That must come from a bonfire of some sort. And if there is a fire, there will be people there."
"Then we'd better go there," said Brooklyn. "I just hope that we don't scare them out of their wits."
"That need not be," said Astraea. "They might believe you fellow unfortunates, like ourselves. At least, they might do so at first."
"We'll take your word for it, then," said Brooklyn, spreading his wings. "Let's go."
They glided towards the fire. As they drew closer, they saw a crowd of people gathered about the great bonfire, but people who were clearly not ordinary Atlanteans. They were centaurs and fauns, satyrs and minotaurs, harpies and cyclopses, snake-people and people with wings, people with single horns growing from their heads like human unicorns, and even stranger folk. Brooklyn's eyes widened at the sight of them. "A whole colony of New Olympians!" he said to Sata.
"A colony of what?" Astraea asked. But this time neither of the gargoyles answered her.
The people looked up at the gargoyles as they landed, and stared at them in shock, many of them retreating in fright. Astraea alit beside Brooklyn and Sata, and stepped forward. "We come in peace," she said to them.
After some low murmuring amid the crowd, one of the centaurs came forward, a fierce-looking one with dark brown hair and beard. "Who are you?" he asked the four new arrivals. "And what business have you here with us?"
"Our names are Astraea and Asterius, good sir," said Astraea to him, indicating her brother alongside her as she spoke. "We are citizens of Atlantis who have been transformed even as you have. And these are friends whom we have made," she continued, indicating the gargoyles. "Their names are Brooklyn and Sata, and they are gargoyles, from abroad."
"Gargoyles?" said the centaur dubiously. "I heard of some such beings living in the wilderness of Hyperborea, when I was posted there five years ago. Before I was turned into the creature that you behold now, and dismissed at once from the High King's army, without any form of compensation." He scowled in anger. "But what business have you both in Atlantis?"
"We've come to give you some help," began Brooklyn, "Mr. - um - I don't believe that I know your name."
"My name is Nessus," said the centaur. "And I am the leader of this community of outcasts. Now, what manner of help do you offer us? A means to restore our human forms? If so, you should have come to us a long time ago, just after we were cursed." He glowered at them.
"It's nothing like that at all," said Brooklyn. "We've come to warn you. The gods are about to destroy Atlantis. We're going to help you get off the island before the big disaster hits."
"The gods will destroy Atlantis?" said Nessus, with a very horse-like snort. "I should have known. They've wreaked great devastation upon it already. It was only a matter of time before they would destroy it. But how do you know this? Are you sent by them?"
"No," said Brooklyn. "But we found out about it from one of them, anyway. We and our friends are trying to evacuate the island, or at least this city. We've got an escape route planned, but we're going to need your help."
"Our help?" said the centaur. "So that is it? You only come to our aid because you need us?"
"No, that's not it at all," Brooklyn replied. "Well, partly, yes, but we also need your help anyway. Just keep your shirt on, Nessus, and listen to what we've got - "
"So you need us in some way to save the people of Poseidonis," said Nessus. "And why should we help them? Have you asked yourself that, gargoyle? What reason have we to come to their aid? They call us monsters, and pen us up here as though we bore the plague! They beat us and throw stones at us whenever they come upon us elsewhere! They deny us our rights, as if we were beasts rather than men! Why should we care whether they perish at the hands of the gods?"
The other transformed Atlanteans nodded in approval, many of them seconding their leader's words with loud cries. Brooklyn and Sata looked at each other troubledly. "This does not look good," he said to her. "What're we going to do now?"
"Talk to them," said Sata. "Convince them to help us."
"I've already tried that," he replied. "You saw what good that did."
"Then continue to make the attempt," she said. "I have confidence in you, my love. Show me that it is well-grounded."
He nodded, and turned back to Nessus. "Listen," he said. "I can understand how you feel about the people around here. I come from a human city where my clan and I chose to settle. The humans there hated us as well - at least, most of them did. When they found out about us, they hunted us as if we were wild animals. They banded together and tried to kill us. And even a lot of the ones that didn't want us dead wanted us locked up in cages. They barely gave us a moment's rest.
"But we didn't abandon them. We stayed and did what we could to protect them from danger. Oh, there were times when we must have all felt like just giving up on them and running away to somewhere safe - sometimes we even wished that we were ordinary humans like them rather than gargoyles. But we stuck through the hard times, and did our job. We did it, because it was the right thing to do."
"My mate speaks the truth," said Sata. "And in my own home village of Ishimura, humans have learned to respect our kind, and dwell beside us in peace. We have always seen this as a sign that not all humans are ready to mistreat us, that there is hope for their race. Cannot you do the same?"
"Two of the humans were kind to us," Astraea added. 'Deucalion and Pyrrha, the High King's mages. They gave us shelter at the palace, and wanted to rescue you before Atlantis was destroyed. Please help us for their sake."
The altered Atlanteans murmured to each other in puzzlement, and it was a while before any of them spoke to the four newcomers. But at last, Nessus turned back to them, and addressed them.
"I do not feel entirely convinced by what you have told me," he said. "But - we will help you, and give the humans a trial at least. Now, what do we have to do?"
"Just follow us to the harbor," said Brooklyn. "We'll tell you there."
* * * * *
"Well, we had already suspected that the High King would not cooperate with us," said Deucalion with a sigh, as he and his wife began to pack in the workroom. "So it scarcely comes as any true surprise that he refused our request."
"It is all up to the gargoyles now," said Pyrrha, rolling up a few parchment scrolls and placing them carefully in a large sack. "I only hope that they have persuaded the transformed humans to come to our aid."
"We still have to leave the palace enclosure," said Deucalion. "And I very much doubt that the High King will permit us to do so freely. His guards will see to it that we remain here, where he can see us and direct our actions. Unless you have some solution, that is."
She nodded, and picked up a packet of powder from the table. "The Dust of Hypnos," she said. "It will be enough to lull both the High King and his guards into slumber, long enough for us to take flight. By the time that they awaken, we will be in the city itself, and beyond their immediate reach."
"Then let us use it," said Deucalion. He carefully raised his mantle to his nose and mouth, taking a deep breath first. Pyrrha did the same, even as she threw the powder into the heart of the brazier in the center of the room. As the powder began to burn in the flames, the fire itself turned a pale green, and a smoke of the same color crept out from it, filling the room.
"Now!" said Deucalion, throwing open the door. He and Pyrrha rushed down the corridor, even as the enchanted smoke began to fill the palace. They turned a corner, to face three guards that confronted them with lowered spears.
"Halt!" began one of them. "Stand where you are, my Lord Deucalion and Lady - ". Then, the three guards yawned, dropped their spears and shields, and slumped to the floor. Deucalion and Pyrrha cautiously made their way past the snoring men, and continued on.
* * * * *
It had not been quite so difficult to get Nessus's people to the harbor as Brooklyn and Sata had at first expected. The streets were deserted in the night, and by moving silently and stealthily, the small army of former humans had soon made its way through the city until they approached the canal docks where the ships lay at anchor. Halting, they looked at their target.
"You want us to seize the ships from King Leitos's men?" asked Nessus.
"Only if you have to," said Brooklyn. "Deucalion and Pyrrha are trying to talk the High King into using the ships to get everybody to safety. We only move in if he doesn't agree."
"Then that means that we will most likely have to do just that," said the centaur, scowling. "If I know the High King, he'll never agree to that. He won't bid farewell to his dreams of empire so easily."
"Maybe," said Brooklyn. "Now, do you think that you and the other Olympians will be able to help us drive the guards away?"
"Olympians?" asked Nessus, sounding bewildered. "Why did you call us that?"
"Oops," said the crimson gargoyle. "Sorry about that; I guess I was just thinking out loud. It's just that I've heard things about people like you, who were called 'Olympians', and I was just thinking of those stories."
"Olympians," said Nessus thoughtfully. "I rather like that name. It sounds better, certainly, than what we've been called before."
"It's all yours, then," said Brooklyn good-naturedly. He turned to Sata, and added, "Looks like we've just gotten ourselves into another time loop."
"So what do we do now?" asked Nessus.
"We wait, until we hear from our friends," said the gargoyle. "Let's hope that we find out what's going on with them before sunrise."
"Why?" the centaur inquired. "What does happen to you at sunrise?" He looked at them sharply.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Brooklyn replied, with a wry look on his face.
They waited for several minutes in the shadows, when suddenly they heard a small commotion behind them. The two gargoyles turned around, to see Deucalion and Pyrrha, both carrying leather bags, standing before a group of fauns and satyrs. The goat-people were questioning them sharply, as a small crowd of Olympians - as Brooklyn and Sata now knew they were or would be called - formed about the new arrivals.
"Yes, we are friends," Deucalion said patiently. "We come in peace, and wish to have words with the two gargoyles that allied themselves with you. Brooklyn and Sata are their names."
"We're here," said Brooklyn, coming up. "It's okay, Varruns. They're our friends."
"Ah, Brooklyn, Sata," said Deucalion. "Greetings, to both of you. You've certainly both been busy, I see."
"Yeah," said Brooklyn. "The Olympians are on our side now."
"Olympians?" asked Pyrrha, looking puzzled, as did her husband.
"It is the name that we have given them, and one that they have taken to heart," said Sata. "So how went it with you? Did the High King listen to reason?"
"I am afraid not," Deucalion replied. "He intends to use those ships to escape the disaster himself, and leave Poseidonis and its people to their doom. He would certainly not approve of what we are about to do."
"I hope that he's not going to interfere, then," said Brooklyn.
Deucalion shook his head. "He will not, for a while as yet," he said. "We used a spell that sent him, and all of his palace household, into an unbroken sleep for several hours. They will not awaken until after dawn, and by then, we will have begun our work."
"Well, that's something good to hear," said Brooklyn. "I just hope that they don't cause us too much trouble when they do wake up."
"So do we," said Pyrrha, nodding.
The ground suddenly shook beneath their feet. They staggered about for a couple of minutes, but then the tremor passed.
"It is beginning," said Deucalion grimly. "We must make haste. Who is the leader of the Olympians?"
"He is," said Brooklyn, indicating an approaching Nessus.
"That is well," said the Atlantean mage. "I must have words with him. We have not a moment to lose."
* * * * *
"Another earthquake," muttered one of the guards, seated on the ground by the harbor. "I don't like this at all."
"Next time I'm off duty, I'm going to the temple, and offering some proper sacrifices to Poseidon," said another guard. "Maybe they will appease his anger."
"What have we done to the gods, that they should be so angry at us?" said the first guard puzzledly. "For the last few years, it's been nothing but trouble. The priests have done everything that they can to mollify them, and they still send misfortune upon us. What could have angered them so?"
Before his friend could answer that question, the night air was broken by an eerie screeching sound. The two guards looked up, and gaped, aghast, at the sight confronting them. Two bat-winged creatures with glowing eyes were swooping down upon them.
"Monsters!" cried the first guard, raising his spear. "Get back!" he shouted frantically, swinging his spear at the apparitions. "Get back, I say!"
"That we will not do," replied a grim voice to their right. The guards turned their heads in that direction, to see a half-man, half-horse creature charging towards them, followed closely by a few people with snakes' tails for legs. The two sentries cried aloud, dropped their spears, and fell back.
The bat-winged creatures landed before them, and advanced upon them. "We want those ships," said one of them, a white-maned and beaked red demon. "Are you gonna let us have them, or are things going to have to get ugly?"
"They're yours!" stammered the guard. "Take them! Just don't harm us!"
"We won't," said the beaked creature. "And thank you for your cooperation."
* * * * *
Some minutes later, Brooklyn, Sata, Deucalion, Pyrrha, and Nessus met on board one of the ships. Astraea and Asterius sat close by, having remained near to Deucalion and Pyrrha during the recent clash, and still unwilling to stray far from them or the two gargoyles.
"It went well," said Deucalion. "We secured the ships and routed the guards without having to resort to bloodshed. Not a life was lost."
"There are certain advantages to being feared by humans, it would seem," said Nessus, nodding in satisfaction.
"But our work is not yet completed," said Pyrrha. "Next we must assemble the citizens of Poseidonis, and urge them onto the ships. Then we can escape with them."
"And let us hope that this time, the High King will not interfere," said Deucalion.
"I think that you're gonna have to do that next part without us, though," said Brooklyn, looking up at the sky. "The sun's just about to - ".
At that moment, the sun rose, and both gargoyles hardened into stone. Nessus stared at them in disbelief, and made the Atlantean symbol against evil.
"You needn't fear," said Deucalion. "It is a perfectly natural process. I would gladly know more about how it works, I might add."
"We should store them carefully for now," said Pyrrha, "to make certain that they come to no harm during the daytime. And once that is done, we shall proceed to warn the other citizens."
* * * * *
King Leitos opened his eyes and sat up in his chair. "What am I doing," he said to himself aloud in bewilderment, "sleeping here, rather than in my bed?" He rubbed his eyes sleepily, as he looked about him.
After puzzling over this mystery for a few minutes, he stood up, and rang the bell. A groggy-looking servant stumbled into the study shortly afterwards, stifling a yawn. "Yes, my liege?" he asked, bowing low.
"Have you been sleeping on duty?" King Leitos asked him sharply.
"Not by intention, my liege," said the servant. "My profuse apologies if I have transgressed, sire."
"Has anybody else been sleeping in the palace?" asked the High King. "And by that, I mean - only just now."
"I do not know, sire," said the servant.
"Then find Captain Eteocles, and tell him that I wish to have words with him at once," said the High King. "Also, find Deucalion and Pyrrha. I have a few things to tell them."
The servant nodded, and left. Leitos seated himself again, but had only just settled in when the ground trembled beneath him. An ornamental vase tumbled off one of the ledges in the room, and shattered upon the floor. The High King stared at its fragments in stunned silence for a few moments, then groaned.
"It is beginning," he said to himself. "Now I truly need those two mages."
* * * * *
The small earthquake that had troubled King Leitos had also been felt by the citizens that morning in the market-place. They stared up at the heavens with troubled expressions on their faces. Dogs howled and ran; babies woke, cried, and had to be soothed by their mothers or nursemaids. Before long, perturbed conversations began to spring up all about, puzzling over what it all meant.
"It's the wrath of Poseidon," said one citizen. "Although I do not know why. We have always sacrificed to him at the appointed times."
"No, it is the work of the Dark One," cried another. "Or if not he, then one of the Titans that serve him."
"It may be Zeus himself," offered a third. "But why? What have we done to offend him?"
Two white-robed figures, one a man and one a woman, suddenly entered the market-place, and moved to a prominent place where they could address the troubled crowds. "People of Atlantis," said the man, "listen to us! We are the Lord Deucalion and the Lady Pyrrha, and we have grave tidings for you."
The crowds fell silent as soon as the two mages declared themselves, and listened, as Deucalion continued. "Zeus has determined to destroy Atlantis," he said. "Even now, the first signs of his wrath can be felt. Those who would live must flee."
"Flee?" said somebody. "But flee where? And how?"
"We have ships prepared in the harbor," said Pyrrha. "They are prepared for a long sea voyage eastwards. You can all find shelter in the colonies to the east."
"Gather what you can, and come with us to the harbor," said Deucalion. "Only thus will you be able to survive the destruction that is to come."
The crowd murmured in response, people talking to each other in troubled voices. Deucalion and Pyrrha looked at each other concernedly.
"Will they come?" asked Deucalion aloud.
"Before Hyperion's chariot has set in the west, we will know the answer," she replied.
* * * * *
"Deucalion and Pyrrha both gone?" said King Leitos sharply to Captain Eteocles. "And all else in the palace subjected to a mysterious sleep that they cannot account for?"
The Captain nodded.
"This is not good," said the High King. "Those two must have fled, and temporarily incapacitated us with a sleeping-spell, to prevent us from stopping them." He ground his teeth in anger. "Those traitors! We must make them pay!"
"It gets worse, my liege," said Captain Eteocles. "Most of the servants, and many of my guards, have already fled the palace grounds."
"Fled?" asked King Leitos. "Why?"
"The earthquakes," said Eteocles. "These tremors began before dawn, and have grown steadily worse throughout the day. Many are convinced that it is an omen of great evil."
"They may not be far from the truth," said the High King grimly. "Have you any other tidings, Captain?"
Eteocles nodded. "I've just received a report that your fleet has been captured by - by monsters."
"Monsters?" asked Leitos, his eyebrows raised. "Creatures serving the Dark One?"
"It would seem not," Eteocles replied. "Rather, they are the citizens whom you so wisely quarantined, after the gods inflicted horrible transformations upon them. They seized the ships and drove the guards away. And they were led by the two bat-winged creatures that we encountered but a few days ago."
"Well, recover those ships at once," said Leitos. "Do it, man!"
"It won't be easy, my lord," said the Captain. "A great many of my soldiers have already deserted, you will recall. They can be replaced when the expected reinforcements arrive from the provinces two days from now, but I doubt that we have that much time."
"We most certainly do not," said the High King, frowning. "This is Deucalion and Pyrrha's work. I can recognize their hand in this."
"So what would you that I should do?" Eteocles asked.
"Are the perytons still here?" asked the King.
"Yes, my lord," said Eteocles. "None of them escaped, thanks be to Poseidon."
"Then we will make use of them," said King Leitos. "Have them prepared once more. We will deliver an assault upon the rebels using those winged beasts. And we will arrest those two accursed mages. Once they have been captured, the rebellion will be left without its leaders, and we will be able to restore order quickly."
"And the monsters, my liege?" said Eteocles.
"They are too dangerous to be kept alive," said the High King. "Kill them. All of them, and not just the two demons. We've tolerated their existence for too long, and now we see the fruits of that. Not one of those creatures must be spared."
"Very well, my liege," said the Captain.
"And one more thing," said King Leitos. "I will accompany you on this errand."
"You, my liege?" Eteocles asked. "Why?"
"My presence will show to Poseidonis where I stand on this insurrection," the High King replied. "By seeing me take part in this act, my subjects will know that to aid those two mages is to be guilty of high treason against the throne."
The Captain nodded. "I will muster the troops at once," he said. He bowed low, and left the room.
He was only just out the door when the ground trembled again, even harder than before. A growling noise emanated from below, and pieces of plaster fell from the ceiling onto the floor. The High King stared up at the damage, and did not speak for a few minutes.
"And I hope that I can be off this doomed island before the final destruction arrives," he finally said to himself.
* * * * *
All that day, the tremors had grown steadily worse and worse. They had occurred at irregular intervals, but became more numerous as afternoon progressed and turned to evening. Houses, shops, public buildings, and temples collapsed into rubble, or crumbled into semi-ruin at best. The frightened citizens had crowded into the harbor, bearing what possessions of theirs they could bring along with them, and now huddled in small groups. Deucalion and Pyrrha were busily gathering them into some sort of order, gradually helping them onto the ships, saying things to calm them down and keep them from panicking. Like everyone else, however, they looked noticeably uneasy whenever another one of the earthquakes struck.
"It will soon be nightfall," said Pyrrha. "And then the cataclysm that Prometheus warned us of will be close at hand. I pray that we will be far away from here before it takes place."
"So do I," said Deucalion, nodding. "At least we have the last of the ships almost loaded. We can soon cast anchor."
"Let us hope that the voyage will be a peaceful one," said Pyrrha, looking worriedly at some of the Atlanteans still standing on the harbor. They were eyeing those of the Olympians that had not yet embarked upon the ships with a mixture of fear and distrust. "We cannot spend the journey eastward continually breaking up fights between the passengers."
"We can at least lessen the risks by having the Olympians travel on separate boats," said Deucalion. "I would not approve of such separation, under most circumstances, but I doubt that we have any real choice. When Brooklyn and Sata awake, they will be able to help us, which is good."
"And they should do so shortly," said Pyrrha. "The sun has almost set." She walked towards the first of the ships, her husband accompanying her, and boarded it. They made their way through the crowds to their private cabin, quickly opened the door, and entered. In one corner of the little room were the two stone gargoyles, that had gone there to sleep shortly before dawn.
They had just closed the door behind them, when cracks appeared over the surface of the two statues. Then Brooklyn and Sata woke, roaring and stretching. They shook the stone fragments off themselves, and turned to look at Deucalion and Pyrrha.
"Good evening," said Brooklyn. "So how's things?"
"We're almost ready to leave," said Deucalion. "The earthquakes have grown worse, but the disaster that Prometheus warned us of has not yet occurred. We may still have time enough to escape from here."
"And have you had any trouble with the High King?" Sata asked.
"Not as yet," said Deucalion. "But we've had sentries posted to alert us if he or his men arrive."
"That's good news, at least," said Brooklyn.
A knock suddenly sounded on the door. Deucalion turned around. "Who's there?" he asked.
"My Lord Deucalion?" said Astraea's voice. "We are almost ready to depart. All who can get on board have done so. We will be ready to cast off in just a few minutes."
"That is good," said Deucalion, nodding.
Before he could say more, however, a howl rent the night air, in the distance, but approaching. It was followed by another, and then another. Brooklyn's eyes widened. "What on earth was that?" he asked.
"The High King's perytons," said Deucalion. "And approaching, by the sound of it. It seems that we have much to worry about, after all."
"What are perytons?" Sata asked.
"Mounts for the palace guard," Pyrrha explained. "They are creations of past mages, with sadly very little concern for ethical matters. They are like winged stags, but fiercer, and eaters of meat."
"Seems like you've got your own versions of Sevarius around here, then," said Brooklyn. "That sounds right up his alley."
"Sevarius?" Deucalion began, then checked himself. "The perytons will attack the ships," he continued, "to prevent our flight. We must find some way to hold them off long enough for the fleet to get clear of Atlantis."
"I've an idea," said Brooklyn. "Those things can fly, can't they? I mean, if they've got wings."
"Yes, that is indeed the case," said Deucalion.
"Then we'll just have to head up there, and even the odds a little," said Brooklyn. "Get the word to all the Olympians who've got wings and some fighting ability. We're going to be heading His Majesty off at the pass."
* * * * *
King Leitos reined in his peryton, and gazed back at the troops behind him under Captain Eteocles's command, all mounted up. "We are ready to attack," he said. "Now here are your orders. Do no harm to the ships if you can help it. We will have need of them afterwards. And do not slay or harm Deucalion or Pyrrha. I need them alive. There is a very important service for me that only they can perform. Is that understood?"
The guards nodded. Leitos smiled in satisfaction, then continued.
"Now as to the monsters that have allied themselves with these two false mages. It seems that I made a mistake in sparing their lives so far. They are too dangerous to us. We must destroy them all, to guard against further such events. So I give you this command now: show no mercy to those creatures. Put them all to the sword. Once they are dead, they can no longer trouble us."
"It shall be done, my lord," said Captain Eteocles.
King Leitos drew his sword. "Then, forward!" he cried. And the peryton that he rode spread its wings, and flew upwards over the canal. The other perytons flew behind it, howling eagerly as they approached the ships.
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Sata glided towards the peryton riders, at the head of a small contingent of winged Olympians. Some were winged humans of the sort that would someday produce Boreas, although Astraea, of course, was not among them; the girl waited below on the ship bearing Deucalion and Pyrrha, alongside her brother. Others among their companions were harpies and sphinxes. All, however, looked ready to face the High King and his men.
"Now," said Brooklyn, gazing back at them, "let's make one thing clear. We're not here to beat these guys. We're just here to delay them long enough for Deucalion and Pyrrha to get away. Once it looks as though we've held them long enough, you folks turn and head back for the ships."
"And you?" asked a harpy.
"Sata and I might be joining you, Podarge," said Brooklyn. "But we're not certain about that." He stole an uncertain glance to his pouch as he spoke.
"There is no more time for talking, my love," said Sata. "They are almost upon us!"
The guards came into sight, all riding winged stags with dark green feathers and sharp teeth that seemed more appropriate for wolves than for deer. The perytons snarled at the gargoyles facing them, and tried to gore them with their antlers. Brooklyn ducked his assailant, while Sata fended off hers with some sharp blows to the antlers with her katana.
The aerial battle unfolded about them, as Olympians and gargoyles fought against perytons and Atlantean soldiers alike. And for a time, both sides appeared evenly matched. But then, the experience of the perytons began to show itself. Most of the Olympians were still new to their winged nature, and uncertain as to how to make use of their ability to fly. The perytons and their riders took full advantage of it, lashing out at them with teeth and antlers and hooves, swords and spears. More than one Olympian fell back, wounded.
Brooklyn turned towards his followers, seeing their trouble, and spoke quickly, almost frantically, to them. "Fall back, all of you!" he cried. "Go back to the ships! They're almost clear of the city by now! Sata and I will deal with these guys!"
The Olympians turned, and flew towards the ships, which were now heading outwards towards the sea. The wind blowing from the west since evening had grown more violent, and it filled the sails of Deucalion and Pyrrha's fleet, sending it away from the city all the swifter.
"They retreat!" cried King Leitos eagerly. "The night will soon be ours! We have but to slay these two demons, and then the pursuit can begin! Forward!"
Brooklyn and Sata braced themselves, Sata holding her katana ready for battle. But just as they were about to close in, a roaring sound filled the air. The guards paused their winged steeds, and looked back. Brooklyn and Sata stared straight ahead, and their eyes widened in disbelief at what they saw rushing towards Atlantis from the west. It was a gigantic wave of water, bearing upon the island.
"A tidal wave!" Brooklyn cried in horror. "That's what Oberon's let loose!"
The massive wave swept over what remained of Poseidonis after the earthquakes, sweeping buildings away, and even crashing into the palace itself and shattering it. Fierce winds filled the air at the same time, hurling the perytons and gargoyles about uncontrollably. Bolts of lightning stabbed down from the sky, striking the ground, and even greater earth tremors rent Atlantis than before. The land began to sink beneath the waves.
Brooklyn held out his hand to Sata as she was whirled past him, and she clutched it firmly. But just as they clasped hands, she cried out, and doubled up in pain again.
"Sata!" cried Brooklyn in alarm, holding onto her even tighter than before. "What's wrong?"
"The time is drawing even closer, Brooklyn-san!" she gasped. "Our child - "
Brooklyn barely noticed Leitos and Eteocles hurtling off the back of their perytons into the depths of the sea, flailing helplessly as they vanished beneath the chaotic waves, nor Deucalion and Pyrrha's fleet fading even further into the east, blown by the fury of the winds. All of his thought was directed now towards his mate, and their child whose coming was surely closer than he had thought now. "Hold on, Sata!" he cried. "Just hold on! Everything's gonna be - "
But his words were interrupted just then by the sudden flare of the Phoenix Flame, which shot out from his pouch and engulfed them both. And Atlantis and its death-throes vanished from their sight.
* * * * *
* * * * *
"Critias" - the Atlantis story as told by Plato: