The Sun and the Serpent - Part 3

Written by: Rahsaan Footman

Story concept by: Rahsaan Footman and Nicodemus

Illustrations by: Amber

 

Previously on TimedancerÖ

Goliath: "Time is like a river making corrections for any changes we might make."

~ Future Tense ~

* * * * *

Meryt snorted again, "The first time Brooklyn came here, he stayed for nearly three years. The gate is unreliable."

~ The Sun and the Serpent - Part 1 ~

* * * * *

"You are the servant of prophesy." the one with golden hair stated emotionlessly.

"You will dance to the music of the ages." the sister with black hair said.

And lastly the white-haired one spoke, "Forever throughout all time."

Brooklyn nearly screamed in anger and frustration, because of their words, and of frustration because he couldn't get loose from his magical bonds.

"What makes you think I'm going to do anything for you?!" Brooklyn asked incredulously.

"You cannot refuse."

"You have no option."

"Prophesy has chosen you, Timedancer."

~ The Dance ~

* * * * *

"We shall release you, Timedancer." A voice taunted melodiously. It came from nowhere and everywhere.

"When you agree to do our bidding." A second voice chimed in.

* * *

"You have been chosen as Guardian of the Phoenix Gate. It is your duty to shepherd it, to care for it as it dies."

"Wait a minute," Brooklyn broke in. "Do you mean to tell me that the Gate is alive?"

The sisters nodded sadly. "It is a living prison housing an entity of great power. You must keep the gate safe, protect it and protect others who might inadvertently hasten its demise. Only when the gate has left this plane may you return to your own time."

~ The Devil's Deal ~

* * * * *

Meryt looked up into his eyes. She leaned up and kissed him. Brooklyn looked surprised, but soon closed his eyes and leaned into the kiss. They remained liplocked for an eternity before Brooklyn pulled away. Meryt smiled at him.

"I guess your heart has decided?"

~ The Sun and the Serpent - Part 2 ~

* * * * *

Sun and the Serpent - Part 3

* * * * *

Alexandria, Egypt, 1952

The wind from the portal blew out the torches. The room was still illuminated by the coalescing light from the magic portal, changing from angry red back to a tranquil blue before closing, taking Brooklyn with it. The chamber was plunged into darkness.

Meryt moaned as she sat up. "Brooklyn? Sata?"

Glowing red eyes stared at her and a low growl rumbled through the dark. "Traitor!" Sata shouted. The room sparked as Sataís katana glanced off Merytís metal body. Meryt gave a yelp of pain.

"Brooklyn trusted you and you betrayed him!" Sata shouted, swinging around for another strike. Sparks flew again.

"Yeeeow," Meryt yelped, "I didnít betray Brooklyn. Khensu was waiting for us."

There was silence for a moment, and then Sata struck from behind. A growl rumbled out of Merytís throat. "Fine! Have it your way!"

The metallic gargoyle dropped to all fours. She strained her hearing. When she sensed Sata approach, Meryt spun around, sweeping the Japanese gargoyle with her tail. She pounced on her, before Sata could scramble away. Grabbing Sata by the front of her kimono, she lifted her a couple of feet off the ground.

"Listen carefully, because Iím only going to say this once more: I DIDNíT BETRAY BROOKLYN! I could never do such a thing to him."

"Because you love him," Sata spat out accusingly.

Stunned, Meryt released Sata. The green gargoyle sprang to her feet, scanning the darkness, ready to fight. A tiny light flickered. Soon, a brazier was lit. Merytís head hung low as she lit the second brazier.

"Yes, I loved him, still love him." Meryt looked up at the jade green gargoyle. "But I would never betray him."

"Even if you could get him in the bargain?"

"Is that what you think? That Iíd trick you both so I could have Brooklyn?" Meryt drew herself up to her full height. "I would never debase myself like that and Iíd never break up a mated couple."

"No, you just sing to him and look at him with wanting eyes."

"Who are you to judge?" Meryt shouted back, "Iíve regretted for EIGHT THOUSAND YEARS not following my heart. Do you know what that means? Night after night, year after year, century after century, eon after eon alone. Yes, I wanted to relive the old nights with Brooklyn. They were the best times of my life, but that time is past, and I canít reclaim them. I just wanted to remember them for a night."

"And getting Brooklyn to steal for you?" Sata asked, though her voice lost some of its heat.

"I never twisted Brooklynís arm!" Meryt defended. "He choose to come here, because he understands whatís at stake. Something you might understand if you could get past being the jealous mate for thirty seconds."

"Gaijin!" Sata spat

"Barbarian!" Meryt shot back.

They both fell silent. Brooklyn would have filled that silence with some glib remark and they both knew it. They looked at each other, then turned away. Finally, Meryt broke the pregnant pause with a light chuckle.

"You know, I called Brooklyn a barbarian so many times."

"Same here, only with gaijin. It means the same thing," Sata said neutrally. Another pause followed. Meryt took the initiative.

"You know, if Brooklyn were here, he wouldnít want us fighting. Heíd want us to save his crimson hide."

"Brooklyn is our main concern." Sata nodded. "That is true, but how do I trust you?"

Meryt took a step forward. "You trust Brooklynís judgment? If he can trust me, why canít you?"

Sata spoke in a calmer tone, "It looks as though I must. If you know of a way to save him, then I will follow."

Meryt nodded in agreement.

"But Iím watching you. Donít mistake trust for gullibility." Sata warned.

Meryt nodded again. "Then we must go."

"Go where?" Sata looked up to the departing gargoyle.

"To see an old friend."

* * * * *

"The problem with heroes is that youíre so predictable," the wizard said without mirth, without glee, seemingly without life.

"Iíll just have to do better next time," Brooklyn said wryly.

"Thereíll be no next time for you," Isfetís voice came from the background followed by a maniacal chuckle.

Khensu didnít waste words. He pulled off Brooklynís pouch. Brooklyn tried to stop him, but received a punch in the beak. Brooklyn looked up at the wizard, stunned more than hurt.

"Get in my way and Iíll destroy you, friend or no," Khensu said in a dispassionate voice. He found what he sought, placing the fragment in its place on the Aten. The crack glowed bright white before sealing itself. The Disk of the Sun was now whole. He tossed the pouch back at Brooklyn. The brick-red gargoyle finished rubbing his beak and put the pouch back on his belt.

"So now what?" Brooklyn challenged, "Destroy Cairo? Raise Apep?"

"No reason we can't do both, but for now we wait for a loose end." Khensu studied the Aten more closely. "You should have dealed."

Brooklyn harrumphed, "Yeah, like you know how to control the Phoenix Gate."

"Actually, I do. Which makes your situation all the more regrettable. I would've to send you home, but we all make bad decisions, sometimes."

"Enough of this!" Isfet stepped out of the shadows. "Youíve got what you want. Now, itís my turn." Isfet smiled nastily, her leather gloves creaking as she balled her fists.

"Hold!" Khensu said sharply.

"Oh, no! That is what you want." She pointed to the Aten. "This is what I want."

She pulled a glove hand back for a punch. It was caught in the grip of Khensu. Isfet struggled, but the wizard stayed her hand, his eyes unwavering. Isfetís eyes flared bright blue, then faded out.

"Fine!" She shook off his arm and stalked back into the shadows.

Brooklyn mumbled, "Thanks."

"Donít thank me, Brooklyn. Youíre alive, because I know your death would make Meryt and your mate more determined to stop me. I have no intention in letting any of you disrupt my plans."

"Why? Why all of this?"

"Because Iím in the same boat you are in, Timedancer, cleaning up messes left by the Third Race."

* * * * *

Unnu, 6071 B.C.E

Three years after Brooklyn's arrival

Brooklyn awoke with the other sphinxes along the Avenue of Thoth. The western sky was a blushing scarlet from the sunís passing. Brooklyn stood on his pedestal and watched the color recede into nighttimeís darkness. The other sphinxes gave Brooklyn a brief greeting before getting dressed and going about their routines. Brooklyn looked at his own clothes and frowned. He had adopted Kemetic dress, wearing a cotton skirt over his loincloth and a wide gold collar marking his service to Thoth, but it was the set of hair beads in his hands he looked at glumly.

"Why is this so different?" Brooklyn muttered to the colorful beads.

"Introspective tonight, my friend?" Harthoth asked, joining him.

"Hmm? Yeah, I guess." Brooklyn closed his fists over the beads, hiding them from Harthoth.

"Looks like woman troubles," Geb spoke from between the pylon entrance.

"Is it that obvious?" Brooklyn smiled weakly.

"Only to one looking in your general direction." Harthoth clapped Brooklyn on the shoulder.

"Maybe you should pray to Hathor for assistance," Geb offered.

"Uh, thanks, but no thanks. I donít think anyone can help me with this."

"Well, I can think of one thing that might help. Come on! Let's clear your thinking." Harthoth guided Brooklyn down from the pedestal.

* * * * *

"When you said, I should clear my thinking, I was thinking *ouch* something along the lines of meditation. Not *oomph* hand-to-hand combat." Brooklyn winced as he blocked one punch, but another connected with his side.

"How many times do I have to tell you? Thinking comes from the heart. The head makes snot." Harthoth spun around with another tail sweep. "Get your heart pumping and you can get rid of those ill humors."

"Aside from that, it teaches mastery over your body," Geb added from outside the wrestling ring. "You can train someone to use a sword or a pike, but without mastery of himself, heís next to useless."

"I remember a holy man saying as much once." Brooklyn blocked a punch and landed another. He had to admit, he was feeling better. His current problems seemed minor after a few aches and bruises. This was the second priest he knew as a capable fighter. There were some parallels between Harthoth and that priest. He taught weapons and fighting as well as literacy, but also magic.

Harthoth also had a keen insight into people. Harthoth could look in someoneís eyes, see what was troubling them, and offer some good advice. That's what made him such a good friend and next to Meryt, Brooklyn's best friend. It started out wit Harthoth guiding him through the ways of ancient Egypt, but it grew into a strong friendship. Harthoth would have fit in nicely with Lex and Broadway.

Harthoth took advantage of Brooklyn's momentary lapse and flipped him with his wing. Brooklyn landed flat on his back, staring up at the starry sky. Harthoth looked down over Brooklyn. His black face had a wide smile.

"You always come undone by that move," Harthoth commented.

"I'm still waiting for you to teach it to me," Brooklyn replied.

"When you're ready," Harthoth teased. He offered his hand to help the red gargoyle up.

"I think my 'thinking' is sufficiently clear," Brooklyn said, mimicking Harthoth's precise speech.

"You want to tell us what's wrong?" Harthoth asked.

"It's kinda of personal." Brooklyn started.

"Then lets have another round," Harthoth offered his arms to start.

Brooklyn looked around, "What about Geb? You haven't thrashed him in a while."

Geb waved Brooklyn, "Don't drag me into it. Besides, I have a dinner date. If I have your leave, Harthoth?"

"Yes, of course." Harthoth nodded. "Give her our best regards."

Geb smiled sheepishly, but said nothing. He hurried on his way to his rendezvous. Harthoth and Brooklyn both shared knowing smiles. They both knew Geb's date was Nuit. They both stated empathetically that they were just friends. Though Geb's reaction and the smile he got whenever her name was mentioned, proved otherwise.

"An interesting pair those two," Brooklyn commented.

"Humans and gargoyles caring for each other isnít unheard of." Harthoth shrugged, "Okay friend, you've stalled long enough."

Brooklyn grumbled, but grabbed Harthoth's forearms in a warrior's handshake. This signaled the beginning of the wrestling match.

Wrestling wasn't the same as Brooklyn had seen on TV back in New York. This wasn't a contest of strength, rather one of balance and leverage. The goal was the same; topple your opponent, but once locked, each contestant tried to push the other off balance. It required sensing your opponent's center of gravity and his weight shifts. Punches and slaps were used to get them off balance rather than to harm your opponent. Harthoth and Brooklyn kept tight eye contact on each other as they looked for clues to the other's moves.

Normally, Brooklyn lasted longer than any other sphinx in the temple. His years of combat experience gave him advantage. But in his distracted frame of mind, Harthoth took him down in a few minutes. This time, Harthoth didn't even bother using his special tail maneuver. He just pushed him over.

"You know Brooklyn, I'm starting to tire of beating you like this. Are you going to tell me what is wrong between you and Meryt, or will I have to thrash it out of you?"

Brooklyn groaned, "I donít think my body can take any more. Okay, I'll tell you. Itís this."

Brooklyn pulled out a number of beaded hair braids.

"Meryt gave them to you?" Harthoth asked.

Brooklyn nodded. "Last night, and then we got into this big fight."

"Sounds like thereís more to it than that," a womanís voice intruded on their conversation. Harthoth and Brooklyn looked up to see the dark-haired, dusky brown Ma'at sitting on the low wall of the wrestling ring. She was a frequent visitor to Thothís temple. There were rumors about a tryst between her and Thoth, but none mentioned it in the temple.

Brooklyn looked to Harthoth and Maíat as he related the tale. "She gives me the beads. I say thanks, but she keeps looking at me, like sheís expecting something more. We go to eat and sheís in a bad funk all through dinner. When I finally ask her whatís wrong she says ĎNothingí in that tone that means something. Then we get into a big fight."

"HmmÖ" Maíat rubbed her left jaw with the back of her fingers. She looked to Harthoth. He returned it with a look of his own. Brooklyn frowned at the exchange.

"What?"

"Are you still carrying the Phoenix Gate with you?" Harthoth asked.

"Of course." Brooklyn pulled out the talisman.

"Ah-ha," Maíat smiled. "Now it makes sense."

"Do you mind sharing?" Brooklyn asked.

"She wants you to stay," Maíat said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Brooklyn still wore a perplexed look. Maíat gave a suffering sigh universal among woman, that said 'Men!'

Harthoth explained." Her attempt to change your dress is her way of persuading you to stay in Kemet. Remember all the trouble you two had over your skirt."

Brooklyn grinned sheepishly as he remembered. They argued for three months. It threatened to derail their budding romance. He never understood why she was adamant his about wearing their clothes.

"So she thought I was going to stay?"

"You wear the dress of one of a guard. All youíd need is the beads and youíd look like any other sphinx," Maíat answered.

Brooklyn let out a breath; so many things fell into place now.

"Iíve got to talk to Meryt."

"Well, go then," Harthoth smiled, "I can handle things here. Go!"

"Yeah, thanks, friend." Brooklyn turned to Maíat, "And thanks."

"Always at your service," Maíat smiled.

Brooklyn climbed the pylon and glided toward Isisís temple. Playing it over in his mind, it all made sense now.

* * * * *

"Whatís wrong with you?" he asked.

"Nothing!" Meryt said for a second time.

"Come on, dear." He tried encircling his arms around her. She pulled away.

"You really donít understand do you?"

"Well, maybe if you just spelled it out, I would get it!" Brooklyn said irritated. Meryt looked like she was on the verge of telling, then turned around in a huff.

* * * * *

Brooklyn angled higher to avoid the air traffic over the marketplace. This was part of a long-standing argument between them. Meryt wanted him to stay here in ancient Egypt. Brooklyn wanted her to go on his time travels. He remembered the first time he brought up the subject. They were lying in her special grove outside Unnu, watching the stars fall from the sky.

* * * * *

"Go with you?" Meryt asked, horrified at the thought. "What would happen to our kas?"

"What do you mean?"

"Beloved, when our body dies, our ka, our soul, joins with our ba in the underworld. But if we die outside of Kemet, without the proper guides and rites, our ka is lost to oblivion."

Meryt shivered at the thought, snuggling closer to Brooklyn. "Besides, this is our home." She kissed and nuzzled his neck. "Wouldnít you rather stay here with all your friends? And me?"

* * * * *

Deep down, Brooklyn felt certain Meryt would change her mind, felt it was destined. In the future, Kodiak and Gwenyvere mentioned a mate. It had to be Meryt. Who else it could be? But that small voice in his head that loved to bring up unpleasant truths spoke, "What about Merytís future in the 19th century? Her soul was trapped in a metal statue. That is her destiny."

Brooklyn squashed that voice. He worried about that, but in nearly three years, nothing remotely like that had happened to her. Theyíd many adventures, but nothing that involved Merytís soul being transferred into a metal construct.

"And no, Iím still not going to tell her about it!" He growled angrily at that voice. He decided long ago not to tell her about her future. In the end, what could he tell her? He didnít know when this tragedy would happen or under what circumstances. And he prayed every night, that this was one history that could be altered.

* * * * *

Brooklynís arrival at Isisís temple was commonplace. Brooklyn petted the cats and waved casually to all the ladies in the temple. The girls smiled and waved back. He had long passed the drooling stage being surrounded by women. Meryt was the only one for him, though they were another convincing argument for him to stay.

Not just the females, but all the sphinxes. There were more gargoyles in Unnu than in the modern world he left. Instead of humans hounding them like the Hunters and the Quarrymen, the Kemetics were the most accepting people heíd ever seen. Even the gods were cool, not anywhere near as troublesome as Oberon or Puck or the Weird Sisters. Aside from the harmless prank by Bes or the latest scheme from Sekhmet, the others helped out as much as everyone else. With Meryt, this was truly a paradise. Why give it up?

Brooklyn found Meryt on the training ground with a gaggle of girl hatchlings. Each temple took a number of hatchlings to train for the Rite of Adulthood trials. Meryt's back was to him, as she instructed the young ones on how to use their talons. The girls looked bored, until they spotted Brooklyn. One girl spotted him and nudged her neighbor. Soon, broad smiles broke out on every face. The girls loved Brooklyn for two reasons. One, he told the best stories. Every temple he visited, the young gargoyles would ply him for stories about his battles with Vikings, and clones, the Pack and renegade mutates. The second reason was because the girls knew Meryt was sweet on Brooklyn. Whenever he showed up, classes were promptly dismissed and they could go. Brooklyn was a deliverer from boredom.

Brooklyn put his finger to his lip, gesturing for them to keep quiet as he moved stealthily onto the practice grounds. The girls stifled their giggles, splitting their attentions between Merytís lesson and the approaching Brooklyn. Meryt droned on about keeping your wrist straight on a downward slash.

Brooklyn was right behind her when Meryt kicked up a pole with her toes.

"And now, Iíll demonstrate how to use a staff."

She swung behind her wings, catching Brooklynís side, and then she made a jab into his stomach. Finally, she twirled around with a beautiful leg sweep. Brooklyn tried to get up, but Meryt had the end of the staff pressing down on his chest.

With a gleeful smirk, Meryt looked over her shoulder to the class. "But I will teach this when you all are a bit older. Class dismissed."

The girls let out a cheer before stampeding into the temple. Meryt watched them leave with a fond smile.

"Uh, beloved, mind letting me up?" Brooklyn gasped, the staff still pressing on his chest.

Meryt looked down at Brooklyn with a playfully devious look. She tapped her finger against her chin, considering it.

"Okay!" His eyes picked up a playful gleam of their own. He lashed out his tail and tripped up Meryt. With a half-yelp, she came tumbling down. Brooklyn caught her and let her down beside him. The red gargoyle propped himself on his elbow.

"Now we're even." Brooklyn started to laugh. Meryt began chuckling too, then swatted Brooklyn.

"Iím still mad at you," Meryt said, but couldnít wipe the smile from her face.

"I think I know why. Itís about the Phoenix Gate, right?"

Meryt nodded, her smile fading from her face.

"Beloved, weíve gone around and around on this for nearly three years." Brooklyn took a deep breath. "Itís time we settled this. Iíve made a decision. I donít want us to be apart and I donít want to take you away from the place your heart calls home."

"Do you mean it, beloved?" Meryt looked up with hope-filled eyes.

"I do!" Brooklyn said with a firm nod. "Iíll stay with you."

Meryt reached up and kissed him so passionately it made his tail curl. Brooklyn returned it with equal intensity. Finally, they both came up for air.

"What about your duties?" Brooklyn asked, panting.

"The lessons are done for the night. I have the whole evening free. Any ideas on how to use it?"

* * * * *

Isis lounged back in her divan as Uraeus entered her chamber. He asked to speak to her on a matter of some importance, but wouldnít say anything until they were alone.

"You may speak." Isis gave a languid flick of her hand.

"The matter I wish to speak to you about is Ra," Uraeus began. He paused, waiting for a reaction.

Isis remained unconcerned. "Go on."

"Day by day, he grows weaker. Many have grown fearful that he may expire when we need his power the most."

"Do those you speak of have no faith in my powers or the powers of the other gods?" Isis asked in a low voice, sounding much like the rumble of distant thunder

"Faith does not apply here, my Lady, for it concerns Apep. If the dark serpent should return again, what can the gods do against him?"

"I have the Aten," Isis said with confidence she didnít really feel. She remembered being at the dragonís mercy. She never wanted to feel that helpless again.

"Apep is a potential threat and Ra is in declining health. The Aten is not the power that Apep fears. If you could harness Ra's power, we would be forever safe."

Uraeus reached into his sleeve and withdrew a scroll. "I've come into possession of a scroll from Thoth's House of Life. The spell enables the user to become a vessel for another's power. If you can obtains Ra's power, you can insure Kemet will stay safe."

Isis examined the papyrus scroll. She didn't bother asking her high priest how he acquired the scroll. It could deliver what Uraeus promised, but would the Council allow it?

"The Council would never consent to this," Isis said aloud, "They love Ra. This would be viewed as a theft, stealing his very essence."

"Then, my lady, it may be necessary to take certain steps."

"What sort of steps?"

"Ra is mortal with the blood of gods in him. Perhaps you could bear another such as he."

Isisís eyes flared bright violet.

"Do you think I would so wantonly betray my husband? And with a mortal! Iím not as perverted as Thoth!"

"Forgive me, my goddess. I meant no offense." Uraeus immediately ducked his head, dropping to a kowtow.

"Well you have!"

"I just thought that if you gave birth to such a man, heíd be under your control. Your influence would be supreme." Uraeus spoke quickly.

Isis checked her rage. Uraeus struck a point, even if it was repugnant. Her craving for power didnít diminish with possession of the Aten. Her influence among the other gods increased, but it didnít come close to Raís. They were devoted to him, in a way she wanted. The key was keeping Apep in check. Possessing the power to keep the dragon trapped would insure that devotion.

"A shrewd plan, if misguided." Isis sat back in her throne, but her eyes still held a hard edge.

"My profuse apologies for the offense." Uraeus backed away. Isis held up her hand.

"Do not fret, you were considering my interests. These are bold plans, but I can not consent to such actions. Thank you for bringing it up."

"Of course my lady." Uraeus stood up and left. The papyrus scroll disappearing in his robe's sleeves.

Isis remained thoughtful as he left, the wheels in her head turning furiously.

* * * * *

Uraeus went to the lower chambers of the temple. It wasnít precisely a dungeon. Criminals in Kemet were either pressed into servitude or executed. The idea of prison and prisoners was a foreign concept, but the one down here was a unique case. Uraeus moved past the guards, down the stairs, and entered the converted storage chamber. Isfet stood in human form in a sphere of glowing blue-green energy. She was talking to herself, again. When Uraeus entered the chamber, a small grin spread across her face.

"You spoke to Isis?" she asked.

"Yes," Uraeus replied neutrally.

"And her reaction?"

"Appalled. You expected something different?" Uraeus eyed the woman suspiciously.

"No, I didn't," Isfet chuckled to herself. "She craves power but wonít do what is required to obtain it."

Power was the reason Isis kept Isfet alive. Isis wanted the power from Isfetís dragon side, to learn the mysteries of dragon magic. Isis rationalized this by saying it was to establish a defense should the dragons return.

Isfet and Uraeus both saw through such thin deception. Uraeus kept his loyalties to himself. He was far too crafty to side with the defeated Isfet, but Isfet was planning something, and he saw the chance for gain.

"Iíve done my part. It is time you reciprocated." Uraeus demanded casually.

"Very well," Isfet nodded. "Isis hated both suggestions, but one offended her the most. Use that to push her toward the other alternative, feed her appetite for power, then come back here."

* * * * *

Next Night

"Give up the Phoenix Gate?" Thoth clicked his beak in surprise. Harthoth, Geb and Nuit were in Thoth's private chambers when Brooklyn made his announcement. Meryt had duties at Isis's temple.

"Why not? Iím tired of timedancing and Iím sick of dropping in places completely clueless as to whatís going on. I think settling down here would be kinda nice. Iíve gotten used to living in this century."

"But what about going home?" Harthoth asked.

"If I go home and that's a mighty big 'if'. The Weird Sisters keep stringing me along with riddles and cryptic sayings, but I donít think they have any intention of letting me go home. They just want an errand boy."

"But returning to Manhattan is your fondest wish," the black and gold gargoyle pressed.

"Not any more," Brooklyn said simply. The statement knocked Harthoth back on his heels.

"Look, Iíll miss Goliath and the others. I havenít forgotten about them, but itís been seven years. They must have gotten on without me. Itís time I get on myself."

"This is about Meryt?" Harthoth guessed.

"Maybe," Brooklyn got defensive. "But this is my decision. Why are you so against it?"

Harthoth started to reply, but Thoth put a hand on his arm. "He just wants to make sure you are making the right decision. We all do."

"I, for one, am glad you are staying." Nuit got up and gave Brooklyn a hug. "I think this is glorious news."

"Agreed." Geb joined Nuit and clapped Brooklyn on his shoulder. "Does this mean youíll finally start sleeping like a respectable sphinx instead of standing up?"

"By the Dragon, no," Brooklyn laughed. The couple joined him as he left Thothís chamber.

Harthoth gave his lord with a worried look. Thoth saw them depart with a watchful, bird-like gaze.

"Why did you stop me?" Harthoth asked Thoth, when they were alone.

"This is not our concern," Thoth said cryptically.

"How can it not? Brooklyn is my friend and he saved your life last year. Why donít you tell him the truth?"

"It is a lesson he must learn." Thoth turned from the entrance to his high priest. "History is immutable."

"So tell him that!" The black gargoyle was adamant.

"I canít." Thoth sat down on his throne.

"Why?" Harthoth shouted.

"Because he is the Timedancer."

"But masterÖ"

"Enough! Harthoth, you are not to pursue the matter further. Brooklyn has made his choice, now he must live by it."

Harthoth stood mute, swallowing his word. He had served Thoth all his adult life. He had never once gone against him, but this was wrong. How could his lord treat a friend so callously? The Egyptian gargoyle stormed off.

* * * * *

A Week Later

Brooklyn and Meryt spent half the night in the marketplace. The Festival of Isis was coming up and Meryt wanted something special for the occasion. This was one of the ten thousand little differences between his old clan and his adopted Egyptian one. Back in his castle days, every gargoyle had one, maybe two change of dress and it was very simple. In contrast, the Egyptian sphinxes, who broke out of their stone shell, clothes and all, were as vain about fashion as any man or woman.

The festivals were high times in Unnu. Each god had a few feast days dedicated to him or her. Isis put on an elegant affair, not nearly as wild as Hathorís festival last full moon, thank goodness. It gave Unnu time to recover. Brooklyn smiled; he knew New York raves that were tame in comparison to Hathorís parties.

The young couple was at Neithís shop. Brooklyn was playing ĎHounds and Jackalsí with one of her magic carpets, while he waited. How a carpet could play was beyond him. The carpet captured Brooklynís last piece. Brooklyn growled in frustration.

"Iíve beaten rugs before but this is the first time a rugís beaten me." Brooklyn commented. "Howís it coming, beloved?"

"Patience," Neithís voice came from behind a flax curtain over the doorway. "You can not rush beauty."

"Just a few more moments, beloved," Meryt voice rang out sweetly.

Brooklyn let out a sigh, looking at the magic carpet. "What do you say, rugman? Feel up to another game?"

The carpet hurriedly put the pieces in start position. Brooklyn was about to make his move, when someone entered the shop. Looking up, Brooklyn frowned. It was the wizard, Khensu. This time he was a shorter man with a shiny baldpate and bushy eyebrows. Khensu took on different forms, rarely appearing as the same face twice. Two things remained constant, his icy blue eyes and his voice.

"Greetings Brooklyn," Khensu said affably.

"Hello, yourself," Brooklyn said coldly.

Khensu ignored Brooklynís brusque manner. The past three years hadnít endeared Brooklyn to the wizard, though the wizard did nothing to earn it. In point of fact, Khensu helped out on a couple of adventures, usually saving Brooklyn and friends from some peril. Even after all that, Brooklynís memories of what heíd done in the future and the near destruction of Cairo told him to keep this guy at armís length.

"That didnít stop you from getting close to Meryt," That little voice of Brooklynís taunted. Brooklyn squashed that voice.

"I hear you are planning to stay in Kemet," Khensu said casually.

"Whatís it to you?" Brooklyn said defensively.

"I just think it is a rather bold step. What will happen to the Phoenix Gate?"

"I left it with Thoth. Hopefully, it will dance and stay lost in time. I donít want another poor fool trapped like I was."

"You donít think there are any other repercussions to consider?"

"Like what?"

"Remember when we helped Hapi over by the first cataract of the Nile? The people of Kush and Nubia tried to dam the Nile."

"Yeah, they wound up flooding a whole valley. So?"

"Do you think a force like time can be so easily dammed? It will seek its level and if itís denied one avenue it may seek another, maybe more damaging than just letting it take its course. Just like the Nile which flooded that valley seeking its course."

"More cryptic, decoder-ring, mumbo-jumbo I get about time travel. ĎHistory is immutable. The past canít be changed.í If thatís the case, then whatís the point of living in the present? Itís just someone elseís past and I have no choices. I donít buy that! This isnít the past for me, it is MY present and Iím going to make the most of it!"

"Peace, Brooklyn, peace. I am just creating small talk."

"Well, donít." Brooklyn went back to his game.

"Why do you hate me so? Iíve done nothing to you."

"Not yet!" Brooklyn mumbled.

"And you would punish me for things I have yet to do? Sounds like I have no choice in the matter of my destiny."

Brooklyn was caught.

"Call it experience." Brooklyn said after a moment's thought. "Iíve been burned by enough wizards, sorceresses and magic folk not to trust one of you out of hand. "

Meryt and Neith emerged from the back rooms. Meryt looked stunning in a filmy lavender gauze wrap, with streamers connecting her wrist with her wingtips. Brooklyn gave Khensu one quelling look, then moved to join Meryt. Khensu grabbed his arm.

"Please, Brooklyn, consider what I have said. Time finds a way."

Brooklyn shrugged off the arm and went to compliment Meryt on how lovely she looked. Khensu slowly shook his head and left the shop.

* * * * *

The Following Night

For appearances, a shroud of mystery surrounded the Council meetings. Will-o-wisp messengers, complicated scryings, everything to give the populace the impression that mysterious godly ways were at work. In truth, the Council meetings were held on a regular interval, the second day of the full moon at Ra's palace.

The only difference this time around was that the meeting was held in Isisís temple instead of Raís palace. The Council met at Raís in consideration to their leader's health. But the Festival of Isis, a major event, took all of the goddessís time and they accommodated her.

The temple glowed brightly from torches, braziers and magical lamps. The pulsing beats of drums, lutes and reed pipes filled the air as the residents of Unnu gathered at the Temple of Isis to watch the ritual and spectacle.

In Isisís private chambers, Tem, Khepera, Shu, Khnemu, Osiris, Thoth and Ra took their places at a table, Ra in the center, the gods, sphinxes and humans on either side. Thoth stood inconspicuously in the back, papyrus and quill at the ready to take down what was discussed.

Uraeus served date wine to the sphinxes and the human representatives and mead to the gods and Ra. He took special care with Raís cup, serving it with reverence. He pointedly didnít offer anything to Thoth. Thoth took the snub stoically, waiting for the meeting to begin.

The discussion went quickly. Everyone wanted finish things up to see the dancers and other performers playing outside. There was one particular sphinx that captured everyoneís heart with her grace in dancing. They were halfway through the meeting when Ra closed his eyes. Everyone noticed, but said nothing. Ra was over four thousand years old, longer lived than any man. Dozing off wasnít unusual for him. There were no major disputes for Ra to arbitrate, so they let him sleep. Tem watched him as the rest of the council continued with business.

They were wrapping up the meeting, when Ra started moaning. His eyes fluttered rapidly. Tem nudged the elderly Ra to wake him. Ra couldnít be roused. His moans grew louder attracting everyoneís attention. Ra gave a cry before passing out entirely. He fell on the table, his goblet clattering on the floor.

* * * * *

The upper echelon of Unnu society got to see the dancing sphinx. "Itís good to have connections." Brooklyn smiled to himself. He sat between Harthoth and Meryt-Isis, doubly invited, by High Priest Harthoth and Captain of the Guard Meryt. Harthoth wore his finery, jewelry, and makeup. Meryt wore her outfit, streamers fluttering in the soft wind blowing off the Nile. Brooklyn felt a little plain wearing only his skirt, collar, and braids.

Brooklyn had heard a lot about this dancer, but never seen her perform. She was a sphinx from the temple of Nephthys. She hadnít earned a name yet. Brooklyn could see why. Her beauty was indescribable. He doubted any name could do it justice. She had split wings, like Coldfireís. Her wings were a black, red, gold and white design like a butterfly. Her body was a soft velvety black, with a face as luminous as the evening star.

The musicians began a haunting melody. The dancer stretched out one long leg, then the other. Next, she bent backwards in a slow, arcing somersault. The players struck up the beat and the dancer sprang into the air. She twirled in a colorful cyclone of orange and black.

Brooklyn put his arm around Meryt, settling in to enjoy the performance. Meryt toyed with one of his braids. She gave him a beaming smile and a whispered, 'I love you', when two glowing globes floated in front of Meryt and Harthoth. One flashed bright purple. The other formed the shape of an ibis. Meryt bolted upright.

"My mistress calls," Meryt said in a serious tone.

"So does my Master, it must be the Council meeting." Harthoth got to his feet. "Better come too, Brooklyn."

The brick-red gargoyle gave a low growl of frustration, then got up and ran to catch up with Harthoth and Meryt sprinting into Isis's House of Life.

* * * * *

The three gargoyles came into a scene of chaos. The gods were rushing about. Bastet and Selqet had been summoned. They tended a comatose Ra, but from the worried glances they passed each other it didnít look good.

"What has happened?" Harthoth asked. Thoth approached, giving the three a brief account of what happened.

"Isis wants the temple cleared as quickly and as discreetly as possible," Thoth relayed the goddessís orders to Meryt.

The gold gargoyle nodded and sent a messenger to find Nuit. Harthoth and Brooklyn turned to Thoth.

"What do you want us to do?" Harthoth asked.

"For now, thereís nothing we can do, but I may need you. Stay close." Thoth returned to the cluster of gods and mortals.

Harthoth and Brooklyn looked at each other. Standing around and doing nothing didnít sit well with either sphinx. Brooklyn and the black gold gargoyle started wandering around the spacious chamber. Brooklyn saw worry etched in his friendís face. Ra was the glue that kept Unnu and all of Kemet together. He kept the small flare-ups small and the friction between the races to a minimum.

Brooklyn came to the table the council sat at. A gold goblet lay on the floor. Brooklyn picked it up. He smelled mead. It was hard for him to forget that scent, but there was something odd about it. The sweet fragrance also had a smell of nuts, like acorns. Brooklyn dipped his finger in the cup and took a taste. He spat it out immediately. The taste was terribly bitter.

"What do you think youíre doing?" Uraeus's strident voice caused Brooklyn to jump.

"I, uh, that is, um," Brooklyn stammered.

"Brooklyn was just helping me." Harthoth quickly came to his aid. "In all the excitement, my lord dropped his records of the meeting. He asked Brooklyn and myself to fetch them."

Uraeus looked at Brooklyn, then the cup. "Since when do you find papyrus scrolls in drinking vessels?"

"Uraeus?" Isis called for him. The high priest gave Harthoth and Brooklyn a withering glance, then snatched the cup away. He joined his goddess.

Brooklyn watched as Uraeus tossed the drinking goblet in the nearest brazier on his way to Isis. She spoke animatedly with him, then he handed her a scroll. Isis took the scroll, looked at Uraeus. She gave a solemn nod, and then she pushed her way into the crowd.

"I wonder what that was all about?" Brooklyn asked.

"I wish I knew," Harthoth replied.

Nuit and Geb arrived. Both looked drenched. Harthoth raised a questioning eye-ridge.

"What happened to you two?" Brooklyn asked.

Geb looked abashed. "I fell," he grumbled.

"In the cistern. He was trying to prove to me he was as graceful as Nephthys's dancer." Nuit started to giggle, but saw the confusion all around her and became serious.

Harthoth quickly appraised them of the situation. Geb and Nuit left to help Meryt. Brooklyn was about to join him, but Harthoth asked him to stay. The two gargoyles watched as the drama unfolded.

* * * * *

"I canít banish what ails him," Bastet said as the glow faded from her hands.

"What can we do?" Selqet asked.

"Leave this to me," Isis said confidently. She pushed roughly between the two and knelt next to Ra. Isis glared at the two. Bastet acquiesced and gave her room. Selqet followed suit and kept the others at a distance. Isis gave one look at all those gathered and bent over to whisper in Raís ear.

"Ra, can hear me?"

The old man cracked open his eyes. He stared at Isis with pain filled eyes.

"You are dying. Your magic has turned against you. It must be cleansed. If you give me your power, I can cleanse it. You must not die. For the sake of Kemet, tell me your name."

Ra looked up with glazed eyes. His skin glistened with sweat. He gave a slight nod of his head and turned over. Isis looked on Ra with pitying eyes. He was in a lot of pain and it showed in his twisted limbs and painful pinch in his face. Isis leaned closer as Ra spoke weakly into her ear. She nodded and pulled away.

"My love. My brother. Attend me!"

Osiris and Seth complied coming to stand on either side of her.

"Our leader is ill and we must save him. I will need your help. Speak your name when I say."

Isis opened the scroll and began chanting the spell, not waiting to see if they agreed.

"In the name ofÖ" Isis looked to her husband.

"Osiris," The green skinned man dressed in white said in a clear voice.

"Isis," she spoke, then looked to her long eared brother.

"Seth."

"Let the power of Ra, flow into this vessel."

The words caused a pale aura to rise up out of Ra. The nimbus of energy gathered in to the form of brilliant falcon and flew into Isis. She gave a cry of pain before sucking in a breath of air. Her face was awash with pain and pleasure as she felt the surge of power flow through her. Osiris steadied her. He asked her something in a quiet voice; she nodded in response.

"Yes, I can feel it. His magic was tainted by poison. By drawing his magic to me, I pulled the poison away," Isis explained.

"Are you alright, my wife?" Osiris asked.

"I will be. This poison can not kill me, but I should rest. By sunset tomorrow, I will be able to return Ra's power to him."

Bastet and Selqet inspected Ra. His pulse fluttered but was there. He stopped sweating. It looked like he would recover, but somehow he seemed paler, drained. Everyone was relieved by Ra's recovery, but Brooklyn looked at Isis, then at gaunt-faced Uraeus. Something about the guy gave him the creeps. Especially when he heard poison was involved. Brooklyn pulled the partially melted goblet from the brazier. He hoped he wasn't right about this.

* * * * *

"So, all went well?" Isfet asked. Uraeus shared a knowing smile.

The high priest was more elegantly dressed this time. Gold hung from every limb and fine red fabrics covered his skeletal frame. The most noticeable was the Wes staff. The staff had a bent head and a three-pronged base. It was a magical device reserved only for the gods.

"It went well indeed," Uraeus smiled, holding up the staff. "Isis has been hailed the savior of Kemet, gaining prominence. My 'quick thinking' and 'timely assistance' was greatly appreciated by my lady."

"And what about me?" Isfet crossed her arms over her chest. "Are you minded to be generous to the one who made it possible?"

Uraeus stood thoughtfully at the edge of the glowing blue-green sphere containing Isfet. "I would be generous if I knew such generosity wouldnít earn me a knife in the back. Let us both be clear, dragon child, you didnít do this for my benefit. When you were first captured, you wanted me to intercede on your behalf, to spare you from the godsí wrath. I have fulfilled that part of our bargain as your continued existence is proof."

"So I am to further feed your hunger for power to be free?" Isfet didnít look surprised, just a trifle annoyed.

"What makes you think Iím not content with what I have now?" Uraeus kept stern eye contact with the woman. Isfet gave a small half smile.

"I know men like you, Uraeus. Youíre never content. How long before you begin to crave Isis's power? Or Osiris's? Or all the gods? How secure can you feel knowing that on her whim all you have can be taken away?"

"My lady would never do so to me," Uraeus argued.

Isfet smiled. Uraeus turned to walk away. She pushed her advantage.

"You know ambitious people canít stand their own kind. How long do you think Isis will tolerate her priestís longing for power, before she takes action?"

Uraeus kept walking. Isfet spoke to his departing back, "What would you do if you were in her position?"

Uraeus said nothing as he climbed the steps out of Isfetís cell. Below, Isfet sat back against the bubble, a thoughtful smile playing on her lips. "I can see what you mean, father. Playing to their weaknessÖ"

"And be patient," Apep's voice spoke to her mind.

"I'm tired of waiting. But knowing what will happen next, eases that a bit."

"It does for me, daughter."

* * * * *

Uraeus just left the dungeon stairwell when a sphinx guard came running up to him.

"High Priest Uraeus!" the female gargoyle reported, "Isis demands your presence. Ra is dead!"

The high priest wore a stunned look as he presented himself to his lady. She was already weeping in the arms of her husband, Osiris. Meryt came up to him and explained.

"He just expired," Meryt explained shaking her head. "ÖJust died."

"It was my fault." Isis wailed, "I killed him."

"Not my love," Osiris asserted, "You tried to save him."

"But I took away his power. I took his essence. Without it to sustain himÖ"

"Your husband speaks truthfully, my Lady," Uraeus added. "There was no way you could have known the effects of the spell."

Uraeus turned at the stairwell and frowned, "No way at all."

* * * * *

Alexandria, 1952

"What do you mean, 'messes'?" Brooklyn asked.

"Your servitude to the 'Weird Sisters', mine to Apep." Khensu said with a hard glare, "The result of actions by others thousands of years before we were hatched. I was willing to end your slavery. You refused. So I will end mine, by freeing my master."

"There must be another way. Donít be a slave to Apep!" Brooklyn pleaded.

"And what? Be a slave to the fay, like you?" Khensu retorted calmly.

"Iím no oneís slave!" Brooklyn argued.

"Self delusion doesn't suit you," Khensu said in a disappointed tone. "You are as much a slave as I am. The only difference is that I acknowledge my service. You still think youíre free."

"I am!" Brooklynís eyes glowed.

"Did the Weird Sisters give you a choice when you were whisked off by the Gate? No. Did they give you choice in carrying the Gate? No. And of all the fay youíve encountered has one offered to send you home? No.

"Still believe you are not a slave?" Khensu asked.

"This is an important duty!"

Khensu chuckled like this was an infinite jest. "They really fed you the lines. Let me guess some of the other things they told you. ĎSome great evil is in the Gate', 'Great harm will come to the world if he escapes' and 'only you can contain it.í They played on your sense of nobility like a well-tuned lute. Did they bother to tell you why this being is in the Gate when they filled your head with these notions?"

Brooklyn shook his head. Khensu stood up. "I thought so."

He turned and walked away. Brooklyn followed the wizard out of the backroom, into a larger storage room. Brooklyn was free, but Isfet hung close by. The gleam in her eyes said she wanted him to try and escape. Brooklyn stuck with Khensu. The room they entered was filled to the rafters with boxes, crates and shelves of artifacts and antiques.

Brooklyn pressed Khensu, "So are you going to tell me about the Gate?"

"You know it is a living prison for a member of the Third Race?"

"Yeah, an evil spirit, a troublemaker and very powerful."

Khensu scoffed, "I've seen worse. Remember the ĎGreat Warí the gods talked about. The one before Ra and the others founded Kemet. The ĎGreat Warí that brought about terrible destruction. We were led to believe was over good and evil. I found out the truth. Why were civilizations destroyed? Why did millions of innocents died? Pride. This ĎGreat Warí was over wounded pride. Two fay brothers got into a dispute over their pride and brought such horrific carnage to the world.

"It would be like you and Broadway destroying Manhattan over Angela and being Second-in-Command. For a sibling rivalry, the Third Race destroyed countless clans, millions of humans, and devastated this world. Being magical and immortal, the Third Race suffered lightly. A lost servant here, a bruise there. In their leisure, one or two of them regretted the terrible harm they put the world through. The victors cast out the losers. One of them, this troublemaker, they contained in the Phoenix Gate, but none of their Race wanted to take responsibility for it. Never mind this was their problem and their duty. They couldn't be bothered with that. So they enlist some poor soul, playing on his greed, his pride or some overdeveloped sense of heroism." Khensu looked at Brooklyn, "And fool them into carrying the Gate. The Fairfolk are very good at tricks. Their best is making you think you are doing something worthwhile, when it is something they would not do themselves. Thatís why Iíve never held anger at you, old friend. You are just a witless pawn to their designs."

Brooklyn looked gut-punched, trying to absorb all this. Could what Khensu was saying be true? Khensu was about to add something else, when a glowing sphere floated into the room. It hovered in front of Khensu, then took on the shape of an ibis, before floating away.

"You must excuse me, Brooklyn, I must deal with this loose end." Khensu looked to Isfet. "He is to remain here."

"Yes, master," Isfet said mockingly.

Khensu turned to Brooklyn. "You are familiar with Isfetís bloodlust; donít give her cause to kill you. Think about what I said. Whether you believe it or not is your choice, but at least you have a choice with me. Can you say the same of your Fairfolk masters?"

Khensu disappeared into the shadows of the townhouse. Brooklyn left to consider his words.

* * * * *

Meryt watched the ball float back to her palm. She wasnít a magician, but even she could manage such a common spell. She looked across the belltower at Sata. The Japanese gargoyle's suspicious gaze never wavered. Meryt frowned as she dispelled the luminous elemental.

"The meeting is on at the Amphitheater," Meryt explained.

"And you trust this Ďold friendí?" Sata asked.

"I saved his life once." Meryt gained a vacant expression. "You had best stay here. He doesnít take kindly to foreigners."

Meryt climbed down to the street. She looked up and saw Sata remain at the church. Meryt dropped to all fours and sprinted down the dark streets of Alexandria. Sata let her get around the corner, before taking wing after her. Flight allowed Sata to keep up with the sprinting Meryt.

Sata followed the golden gargoyle east until they came to a park. The jade green gargoyle landed in the trees and followed on foot, through the patterned gardens. She tracked Meryt to a Greek amphitheater. The bowl shaped theater had a stage at the bottom. Sata watched Meryt go down to the stage. The jade gargoyle found a spot behind a palm tree to watch.

For a while, Meryt just paced the length of the stage. It looked like her friend wasn't going to show when a wind rose up on the stage. The roaring of the wind preceded a magic portal opening. A black and gold gargoyle emerged from the aperture.

* * * * *

Harthoth began. "Stealing the Aten was an obvious move. What were you thinking?"

"I wanted to save the world from Apep," Meryt said hotly. If she were flesh, her cheeks would have flushed from shame.

"Well, we both know that intentions donít always yield the fruit we desire," Harthoth said knowingly.

"I didn't come to reopen old wounds. I came for a favor."

"Brooklyn?"

"Is he still alive?"

"Oh, yes," Harthoth answered casually, "He is at the townhouse. You are free to pick him up any time."

"That's it. No tricks or traps."

"No." Harthoth answered neutrally.

Meryt looked at the black gargoyle for a moment. "Why?" she asked cryptically.

"You have to ask. Weíve both lived thousands of years beyond our time. I wish to put an end to it."

"And the rest of the world? The last time Apep was loose, Unnu was nearly destroyed."

"If I have to take the world with me for some peace, so be it."

"Thatís not right," Meryt said simply.

"Of course it isnít. But living another eight thousand years in this torturous mockery of life, is not a choice I am going to take. Weíve seen the death of our clan, our time, and our world. Iíve searched the world and found our people dwindling to nothing. We are a dying race. Even if by some miracle, the gargoyle species survives, it will eventually die out. Everything dies. I have no intention of being the last of our race. Do you want to see that extinction?"

"So you selfishly want to end everything, just to end your misery?" Meryt accused.

"Selfish is it? How are you and Brooklynís mate getting along?" Harthoth countered.

"What does that have to do with anything?"

"It must really burn in you to see them together. To know they have shared nights together you only hold in your most cherished memories now, to imagine him whisper her name in love instead of yours, to think that if things were different, it would be you and not her as his mate. You loved him so much."

Meryt closed her eyes, giving a shuddering breath. From above, Sata watched with sharp eyes. She could see the pain etched in Merytís metallic face.

"Now tell me how selfish it is to end misery?" Harthoth added.

Meryt said nothing. The pain on her face caused him to stop. Harthoth came close to Meryt. He looked like he was about to hug her, but pulled away.

"Meryt-Isis, let me end this long journey for both of us. We can see our old friends again: Geb, Nuit, Neith, even Ammut and Ba."

"How can I face them, knowing I let their deaths be for nothing?" Meryt sniffed back a sob.

"The Third Race, our so-called gods, let them die for nothing. We did all we could."

"You wonít allow this to happen," Meryt stated. "Thereís still good in you."

"Donít!" Harthoth commanded. "Appeals to some better nature in me lost their effectiveness long ago."

"Then why tell me all this?" Meryt asked.

"I still owe you for saving my life. And I believe freedom exists in choices. Now you have one: try and stop Apep's return or save your former love. Which will it be? I'm fairly sure which one you will pick."

Harthoth spoke a few ancient words and the portal opened up again. The black and gold gargoyle disappeared and the portal irised out, leaving Meryt alone on the stage. Meryt dropped her metallic head in sad contemplation. A scraping sound caught her attention. She looked up and saw Sata.

"Which will it be?" she asked the golden gargoyle

* * * * *

Isfet sat on one of the stacks of crates, twirling her staff in one hand. It was the length of a cheerleaderís baton. The green metal on each end hummed and glowed as the staff spun around.

"Personally, I'm glad you didn't bargain, Brooklyn," Isfet said mockingly. "Just knowing you'll wander aimlessly through time warms my heart."

"Who said you had one," Brooklyn mumbled under his breath.

Isfet frowned for a moment, then smiled. "I know the spell Khensu was talking about, the one that can control the Gate. It's such a simple spell."

Brooklyn knew she was teasing him, goading him. He tried ignoring her.

Isfet laughed, "You had a chance and you blew it. You refused and where did it get you? We have the Aten and you have nothing. Actually, I hope the Phoenix Gate whisks you away sooner than later. Leaving your companion to her fate, it just feels soÖfamiliar."

Brooklyn's eyes glowed with rage. Isfet grinned widely, tempting him to wipe the smirk of her face. "Think!" Brooklyn thought. Brooklyn looked at the crate Isfet was perched on, then at the taller stacks surrounding her. A desperate plan formed in his head.

Brooklyn kicked the first stack over, then ran and pushed another stack on the woman. Brooklyn didnít wait around to see if she was buried. He bolted for the far end of the storage room. Just as he entered the shadows, he ran into Isfet.

"Pathetic, Timedancer," Isfetís eyes glowed bright blue, "but since you refuse to wait nicely, Iíll have to make sure you never leave."

* * * * *

Khensu returned to the storage room and at once knew something was wrong. He heard Brooklynís muffled groans and then Isfetís gloating voice.

"Come on, Brooklyn, you had such a lovely scream last time." Isfet prattled on.

"Whatís that? No snappy comeback? No surprise explosions or last minute plans? I wonder if your mate will offer more spirit."

"No!" Brooklyn croaked. *Thwack* Brooklyn went down again on the floor.

Isfet sighed disappointedly. "It is a pity you die so easily. Otherwise I might have a sense of satisfaction now." She lifted her staff. The metal contorted to serrated blade. "Let's see how well you fly without those wings."

"Leave him alone!" Khensu entered the room. Isfet looked up just as Khensu flung her across the room. Khensu chanted a couple words in ancient Kemetic, pinning Isfet to the wall.

"I did as you asked!" she spat at the black wizard, "I didnít strike until he tried to escape. Donít spoil my fun."

"This isnít fun!" Khensu looked at the ensorcelled Isfet, then at the injured Brooklyn. Brooklyn looked bad. Parts of his body were already purple from bruises. One of his wings hung limply out of joint. From the cuts and scrapes, Khensu figured Isfet did her best to prolong the pain.

With expert fingers, Khensu popped the wing back in joint. Brooklyn let out an anguished scream. Isfet smiled indulgently. Khensu looked for any other injuries. Nothing Brooklyn couldnít survive alone, but all together? It looked doubtful heíd survive the night. Khensu grabbed the Aten.

"Moonbeams filtered through the clouds,

Create from light a healing shroud"

A warm deep blue glow spread from the Sun Disk through Khensu onto Brooklyn. The glow covered Brooklyn like a blanket. The New York gargoyle stiffened for a moment then gave a small sigh and relaxed. Khensu watched Brooklyn a while longer then turned to Isfet.

"We are going now." The quiet way he said it chilled the room. The magic hold on Isfet vanished. She fell with a thump. She picked herself up with an acid remark on her tongue, but Khensu was right on her, her wrist in his hand.

"I am too close to my goal to have it ruined by your bloodlust." He squeezed her wrist, feeling the bones snap. "You will do what I say, when I say it. Am I clear?"

Isfet tried pulling away, but the pain got the better of her. "Crystal," she yelped.

Khensu held her wrist a moment longer then let it go. He cast the same healing spell on her wrist. Isfet frowned. He was flaunting his power, showing her he could heal and hurt her. Khensu opened a portal and he and Isfet vanished through it.

* * * * *

An Hour Later

The door exploded into splinters, Sata and Meryt ready for anything, except for what they saw.

"Brooklyn!" they cried in unison.

They ran for him. Meryt was faster. She reached out to him, then yanked her hand back with a yelp. Meryt grasped her hand in pain.

"Magic!" she cried at the blue cloud covering Brooklyn.

Sata reached down and cradled her mate. The bruises and lacerations looked terrible. Meryt watched on with a sad, resigned look. She looked at her metal hands. Sata could touch him because she was flesh. She could not because of who she was. Harthoth's words rang in her head, Ďtorturous mockery of life.í

"By the Dragon!" Sata said with wonder. Some of the smaller cuts were healing themselves and the deeper bruises were starting to fade. It was slow, but it looked like he was on the mend.

"Dawn is upon us," Meryt said hollowly. "Take care of BrooklynÖ for both of us."

"What do you mean by that?" Sata looked up. The sun froze both gargoyles in stone.

As Brooklyn turned to stone, the cloud faded away. Meryt bent down at the petrified Brooklyn. "I wish with all of my being we could have been together." She kissed her fingers and touched them to Brooklynís stone beak. She stood up again and clenched her fist. She headed out of the townhouse and began running eastward.

* * * * *

To be concludedÖ