Timedancer: Deals and Exchanges
Story Outline by Rahsaan Footman
Written by Rahsaan Footman and Alan "Ordell" Coleman
* * * * *
Previously on Timedancer:
"So he's the one chosen by the prophecy." The voice was unemotional. Brooklyn covered his ears in pain. The voice reverberated off the entire void like one huge stereo system on the highest volume. Then another darker voice spoke.
"He could ruin everything!" This one had more emotion to it, more hatred.
"Or he could make everything work..." The voice was more good-natured than the other two. Now Brooklyn was sure that the three voices were female. They weren't low and gruff as male's voices tend to be, but rather light and musical.
The impartial voice spoke again, "In any case he's in our domain now."
Then all three voices spoke, chilling Brooklyn to the bone with their lone statement...
"And he's in our control."
~ Out of Joint Pt 1 ~
* * *
"There must be another way. Don’t be a slave to Apep!" Brooklyn pleaded.
"And what? Be a slave to the fay, like you?" Khensu retorted calmly.
"I’m no one’s 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 you’re free."
"I am!" Brooklyn’s 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 you’ve encountered has one offered to send you home? No.
"Still believe you are not a slave?" Khensu asked.
"This is an important duty!"
* * *
"…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. That’s why I’ve never held anger at you, old friend. You are just a witless pawn to their designs."
~ The Sun and the Serpent Pt. 3 ~
* * * * *
Deals and Exchanges
* * * * *
New York City, 2163 AD
"Happy Father's Day!" glowed brightly on holographic banners floating over each table in the Great Hall. The traditional 'Fathers' Day' banquet at the castle was a long-standing one, going back almost a century and a half.
All families employed by XE were invited. The impressive display of food and entertainment was evidence that no expense was spared. Artus, leader of the Manhattan Clan, sat at one of the white flower tables, marking him as a father-to-be. Broadway sat next to him.
"So son, how does it feel to be at the 'big kids' table?" the elder Broadway asked.
"Expectant. I know it will be a few more years before I join you vets, but I can’t wait for our child to hatch. How about you? Have you gotten used to being called gramps yet?" Artus joked. They both shared in a chuckle before Broadway's face grew serious.
"Any word from your sister?"
Artus shook his head. "I talked to Captain Siddiq. He can't call it a missing person’s case. Gwenyvere is of majority age and she stated her intentions to leave quite clearly." Artus frowned, remembering that last argument.
"But it's been almost a year." Broadway’s voice was tinged with worry.
"I know, father, but Gwen is an adult. If she chooses not to have anything to do with us, hunting her down will hardly help things.
"I suppose," Broadway agreed reluctantly.
"There you two are." Persephone came up to them. Both males stood up from the table. Artus swept his mate up in a warm hug. Broadway couldn't hide a grin at those two. The two mates had been amorous since she laid her egg. Persephone returned the affection then took a step back to talk to both of them.
"How are you enjoying the night?"
"We’re enjoying it very much. Have you seen Alexander?" Artus asked his mate.
"He’s fine. Halcyon, Anna and Stacy have a private dinner planned for him. He'll stop by later to greet everyone. Have either of you seen Sata?" the orange-gray female asked. "I invited her to the banquet."
Broadway shook his head. "Great minds think alike. I also asked her to come, but she said she wanted to stay in tonight."
"It isn't right for her to spend all her nights closeted in the rookery. I'm almost tempted to sick Estrella on her."
"Be understanding, love." Artus wrapped his arm around Persephone. "She lost a mate. Coming out tonight, with so many fathers and families, might be painful."
"I know, but how long can she stay like this?" Persephone pondered.
"As long as it takes…" Broadway heaved a sigh and walked away. "As long as it takes for Brooklyn to return," he said quietly to himself.
* * * * *
Near the back of the rookery, Sata sat on the hard stone floor, knees tucked to her chin and her tail wrapped around her feet. Tonight, like every night for the past five years, she spent the early evening in the rookery. She sat and stared at her eggs, but mostly she remembered. She remembered her mate, retracing every crimson feature from memory, recalling every quirk of his odd sense of humor. It was painful to remember, especially on this night, but it was even worse to forget.
Sata gave a heavy sigh. "Father's Day… Each year, I hope that your father will be here to celebrate it with us."
Sata stood up and paced the length of the rookery, going from one side to the other, before coming back to her eggs.
"I have told you all I know about Brooklyn several times, but there is so much only he can tell you, that he can show you-- his confidence in the face of adversity or the infuriating way he makes light of every situation. My words are pale reflections of your vibrant father."
Sata stopped in front of her eggs. "If only I had help to bring him back." Sata's eyes glowed slightly as she stared upward towards the Great Hall.
"If only there was a way." Sata paced the length of the rookery, returning to her eggs. "But the Gate is so erratic. It seldom returns to the same place let alone the same time. The two times I remember the Gate ever returning were my home, Ishimura, and…"
Sata's wings unfurled as an idea hit her. "Yes… it just might work. If he's still around, he could do it."
Sata whirled around and hurried toward the rookery’s exit. "Sleep well my children, I'm going to get your father back."
* * * * *
Broadway sprinted through the corridors of the castle, nearly knocking some late night wanderer to the ground. As he burst into his room, the elder gargoyle keyed his commlink into the video screen. The wall-size screen in front of him flashed to life, connecting the call.
"Daughter, is that you?" Broadway asked just as an image of a aquamarine gargoyle with blonde hair appeared.
"Of course it's me, dad. Happy Fathers' Day!" Gwen smiled back.
"Where are you? Where have you been?"
"Oh, I've been around - here and there; done a few things," Gwenyvere replied.
"And why haven’t you called us?" Broadway said in an admonishing tone. "We've been worried about you. Are you okay?"
"Please, dad, not another lecture," Gwen responded with a growing frown. "I'm a big girl. I can take care of myself."
"I know. I know." Broadway calmed down. "So why did you call?" he inquired, trying to sound casual.
"I couldn't let Fathers' Day go by without saying something."
"You could have called on Mothers' Day, too," Broadway commented, broaching the touchy mother-daughter issue.
"You're the one who said if you can't say something nice to someone you shouldn't say anything at all."
"Do you think that low of me?" Angela asked in a quiet voice. Broadway turned to see his mate framing the doorway with Artus and Samson behind her.
"Hello, Angela," Gwenyvere said in a stiff, barely civil manner.
"How have you been?" the elder female asked as she entered the room.
"Fine," Gwen replied with cold distance in her voice.
"Gwenyvere? Are you all right, sister?" Artus asked.
"When are you coming home?" Samson asked right behind him.
"Yes, I'm fine, and no, I'm not coming back."
"You'd abandon the clan?" Angela asked, shocked.
"Where do you get off sounding like a traditionalist? Weren't you the one who advocated the individual over the clan? Well, I'm my own person, Angela. I choose to be on my own."
"Daughter…" Angela started.
"No," Gwenyvere cut her mother off. "I didn't call to talk to you. I just wanted to wish my dad a happy Fathers' Day. Good-bye, father, brothers…Angela."
The screen went blank. Leaving the family silent for a moment. Samson let out a low whistle.
"Absence hasn't made her heart grow fonder," he quipped.
"I think it's a good sign," Artus stated optimistically. The others turned around, facing him.
"What brand of banana oil are you selling?" Samson asked. "She’s as angry as when she left."
"At least she called. We know she's okay. That's a start."
Angela looked very despondent. Broadway took her in his arms and hugged her as she began to sob. The two sons needed no prompting. They quietly exited.
"I wish we could do something." Samson pondered as they walked down the hallway.
Artus tapped his commlink. "Communicore, trace the signal that just came in for Broadway."
"Yes, sir," came a crisp reply over his commlink.
"Thinking of going out to wherever Gwen is and knock some sense into her?"
"Nothing like that, Samson. Just keeping an eye out for her."
The commlink beeped back. "Communicore here. Sir, the signal was routed out of the East African Communication Nexus. It fades out from there. We can't locate its source."
"Thank you." Artus clicked the commlink off.
"That's a large area," Samson commented. "Everything in-between Nairobi, New Olympus and Nova Gaza."
"She's covering her tracks," Artus sighed. "I guess she'll show up when she wants to."
"Artus!" A security chief intercepted the clan leader. Artus gave his younger brother a nod good-bye and joined the chief in a discussion about the new security protocols.
"There has to be some way to get the family back together," Samson contemplated, staring back at his parents' quarters. "There just has to be."
* * * * *
Henan Province, China, 2008 AD
A village 100 miles upriver of the Three Gorges Dam
The Yangtze River had an eternal quality, a glimpse at forever. Fishermen with trained cormorants plied their sampans through the waterlogged canyons. They carried on a resilient, centuries-old tradition in the face of the dramatic changes in their world. The numerous shoreline villages that once dotted the river were now underwater, swallowed up one by one by the rising waters from the Three Gorges Dam.
A black gargoyle stood on the wharf of the last remaining village. The river lapped the wooden pylons, each wave gaining a little more height. As the sun vanished behind the high walls of the valley, he watched the canyons turn a spectacular shade of red and orange before vanishing into the darker hues of evening.
"You can not tame a dragon without paying a heavy price," he commented, watching the river rise. "I should know."
"Still waxing poetic about taming the yellow dragon?" a sultry feminine voice asked. The gargoyle didn't look back at the speaker. "It's enough to drive a person insane."
"You have your instructions. I suggest you see to your tasks if my company is not desired."
"Yes, O smart one. Let’s just hope your source is reliable, for your sake."
Isfet crossed her arms. The black Egyptian gargoyle still did not turn around.
Knowing she wasn't going to get a rise out of him, Isfet disappeared into the growing night. When she was gone, Harthoth opened up an ebony leather tome, thumbing through its pages. "I'd say my information comes from a very reliable source." He closed the book, a symbol of the Phoenix Gate on the cover glinting in the orange glow of the rising full moon.
"Now we just need one more player and this little drama can begin."
* * * * *
Three Hours Later
Phoenix fire flared up from a tiny point of brilliance into a roaring fireball. Brooklyn fell out of the time portal, beak first into ankle-deep water. He came up sputtering. It took a moment for the red gargoyle to wipe the water from his face then he found himself on a wharf that was submerged under the lapping waves of a river. He scanned the abandoned waterfront bathed in silver moonlight, looking for higher ground. At first, he saw nothing, then….
"Welcome to China," a deep voice greeted him from above. Brooklyn snapped his head up to see a familiar black and gold gargoyle.
"It’s good to see you again, old friend," Harthoth said with an ironic tone in his voice.
* * * * *
New York Transcenter, 2163 AD
Sata took her seat and prepared for departure. The trip from New York to Cairo took about two hours. As the transport waited for clearance, she tried to relax by watching the news.
"Corporate probes launched early this year are expected to reach Uranus by mid-August next year. In related news, solar flares are being blamed for the latest communications blackout with Mars…" a news anchor reported.
Sata turned off the news. She was heartily sick of hearing about outer space and aliens. In her native time period, the other side of Japan seemed like the other side of the world and the lands across the sea like China and Korea were alien worlds to her. During her timedances, she'd seen her share of aliens: people from Norse lands and frontiersmen in America, Caribbean pirates and French noblemen. Sata didn't see these aliens from the sky any differently than the variety of people she'd met in her time travels.
The transport took off. Sata took a deep breath, trying to relax, but thoughts of Brooklyn kept popping up in her head. Sata let out a sigh as she felt a small wave of grief wash over her heart. "I hope this works…it must."
* * * * *
The Heliopolis Transcenter in Cairo was extremely busy. From here, transports conveyed people to every point in Africa. A troupe of corporate managers marched past Sata on their way to the economic powerhouses of Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan. The Japanese gargoyle got caught in a tide of tourists headed for the pleasure spots of Mozambique and South Africa. Seeing so many families happily making their way through the transcenter brought a lump to Sata's throat. She managed to slip out of that crowd and head for an information alcove.
Sata checked the kiosks for hotel arrangements. Normally, gargoyles could stay with the local clan, but Egypt had no native clan. She found a hotel resort with a winged icon indicating gargoyle accommodations were available. She linked to the hotel and started to make the arrangements when she felt a slight twitching in her tail. She quickly looked around to see if she was being followed, but with so many people moving about, she couldn't tell. She straightened her swords in her obi out of nervous habit, finished conducting her business and headed for the pedestrian exit.
* * * * *
"Yes, sir, I've spotted her," a man talked into a commlink. He kept one eye on Sata across the bustling terminal and the other on a copy of the data communication from the green gargoyle's kiosk. "The samurai is staying at the Rising Moon hotel. Your orders?" he asked.
"Deliver the invitation," the deep voice on the other end directed.
"Yes, sir," the man answered and quickly departed, following Sata out the same exit.
* * * * *
The change in time zones and the short summer nights brought an early dawn for Sata. She got to the hotel just as the sky lightened to a pale periwinkle. She hurried to the hotel lobby, not noticing the romantic Victorian style of the hotel. The night clerk was in the center of the lobby waiting for her.
"Everything is prepared for you," he said with a bow to Sata. "The garden is this way."
"I thank you." The Japanese gargoyle followed him to the atrium garden in the center of the hotel. As they entered the center garden, a page walked up to them.
"Ma'am, this came for you." The bellboy handed her a package. Both the page and the clerk left. On the night clerk's cue, the blinds surrounding the atrium were lowered as consideration for Sata’s privacy.
With the few minutes of night remaining, Sata opened the package. It was a scarab beetle of gold. She picked it up and inspected it. The underside had carved hieroglyphics that Sata couldn't understand. The package also had a sheaf of papyrus. She took the rough yellow sheet and read the elegant indigo script. The letter was signed with a cartouche shaped ink mark.
"I know you seek me out. You will find me at our peoples' monument shortly after moonrise. Bring what I have given you."
The sun rose and turned her to stone with a surprised look on her face.
* * * * *
China, 2008 AD
Brooklyn climbed the walls of a boathouse. Harthoth lent him a hand up to the roof.
"Right on time," Harthoth commented. "Hello, Brooklyn."
"What are you doing here?" Brooklyn demanded.
"Poor manners seem a constant with you. Too much to return a simple hello?"
Brooklyn peered at his former friend in surprise. "Sorry, hello."
"Better." Harthoth produced a black leather book.
He began flipping through the pages. Brooklyn took this moment to get a good look at his old friend. Little about Harthoth had changed. The black and gold gargoyle stood tall in his traditional dress; the white skirt, gold jewelry and serpent shaped armbands. The few differences were minor. The topknot on his shaven head was a bit longer. He wore a glowing pendant of amethyst among his many gold chains and beads. The most telling difference was his face. There seemed a harshness that wasn't there before.
After a moment, Harthoth found the page he was looking for. He made a mark on the page and closed the book. The Phoenix Gate on the cover gleamed in moonlight, catching Brooklyn's notice, before Harthoth hid it away.
"It is nice seeing you again, Brooklyn. I wish I could stay and catch up on old times but I have business that needs attending." Harthoth abruptly turned and left. The black gargoyle took off, gliding across the village.
"Hey, wait, where are you going?" Brooklyn chased after him. "Wait!"
He raced after the airborne Harthoth. They sailed over the drowning village. Brooklyn only gave it a glance as he pursued the Egyptian. Harthoth didn't slow down nor did he look back. The red gargoyle caught an offshore breeze that propelled him in front of the black gargoyle.
"Wait! You can send me back. You can tell me how to control the Phoenix Gate. Remember, back in Cairo?"
"Yes, I remember and I also remember you turned down that offer. You, now, have nothing my master needs and nothing I want. Sorry, Brooklyn, you blew your chance."
Harthoth continued on his way, but Brooklyn wheeled around and blocked the Egyptian gargoyle again.
"Then help out a friend. What do you say?"
Harthoth raised his arms, the gold serpent-shaped armbands glinting in the moonlight. "This is what happened the last time I helped out a friend. Do you really want to invoke friendship?"
That caught Brooklyn by surprise. He recovered from the stinging remark, but Harthoth was ahead of him again. Brooklyn pursued. At the base of a hill, Harthoth landed in front of a set of carved stone steps. Brooklyn dropped in front of him.
"Please," Brooklyn pleaded, "I'm asking as a friend. Give me control of the Gate."
"Why? In Cairo, you called this," he pointed to the Phoenix Gate in Brooklyn's pouch, "your duty."
"Some duty," Brooklyn grumbled. "It only cost me everything I hold dear."
Harthoth scrutinized Brooklyn with another look. "So you're finally learning."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m just a puppet," Brooklyn hurriedly admitted. "Can you help me?"
Harthoth shook his head. "You don't want my help."
"Yes, I do," Brooklyn argued. "Please, I'm begging you."
Harthoth said nothing. Instead, he started walking up the stairs. Brooklyn sprinted up the stairs after the black gargoyle. He tried a different tactic.
"I've got to say I'm a little disappointed in you, old friend. The Harthoth I knew would help. In fact, he'd spring at the chance."
The stairway grew darker as tree boughs intertwined into a thick canopy, hiding the full moon. Harthoth didn’t stop silently climbing the mountain slope.
"Trying to appeal to my ego, Brooklyn?" the black gargoyle spoke. "That's a little too obvious, even for you."
"I seem to remember a certain black gargoyle helping Geb and Nuit get together even when the elder sphinxes forbade it. I don't see how my case is different."
"They were in love, they needed to be together." Harthoth didn’t cease his climb.
"Sata and I are in love," Brooklyn argued.
Harthoth didn’t comment.
"Please, I need your help," Brooklyn pleaded. "If you help me out with this, I’ll do anything you ask."
Harthoth turned around. The stairway was almost completely dark. His face was lit by the glow of his eyes and the amethyst pendent around his neck.
"A desperate man is a poor bargainer, Brooklyn."
The brick-red gargoyle looked at him puzzled.
"When I offered a way out of timedancing before, you turned me down. Now, you look to abandon that duty. Not very honorable. What would your mate say?"
"I don't know. Why don't you send me to her and I'll find out?" Brooklyn replied, a small growl in his voice.
"And what about your masters? Shouldn't you seek their permission?"
Brooklyn let out an exasperated sigh. "Harthoth, what will it take to get you to help me?"
"The truth," Harthoth said simply and coldly. "Every time I help you, I pay a heavy price. So if I'm going to help you again, I want to know why. You said the Phoenix Gate was your duty, a worthy cause. Are you now saying it isn't worth it?"
Brooklyn paused before answering in a slow deliberate voice. "You know there are times when I wake up and the only New York I know is from a dream. It frightens me that there are times I can't even recall Goliath, Lex, Broadway or Angela by name. I'll remember some wise saying and it may be days before I realize it was something Hudson said first. Then there are the times when I try to remember Sata and all I can see is her lying near death in a hospital bed and for what? This hunk of metal! NO!" Brooklyn said through clenched teeth, "It isn't worth it."
In the gloom, Brooklyn saw Harthoth's eyes glow angrily, then dim from sadness. Harthoth looked down at his armbands. "Some sacrifices are small indeed," the black gargoyle mumbled to himself.
"What?" Brooklyn asked.
"Nothing," Harthoth said quietly. "There may be hope for you yet."
"Does that mean you'll help?"
"I'll help you find what you need," Harthoth replied, resuming his climb up the dark tunnel.
"Thank you," Brooklyn sighed with relief. "Thank you." He followed the Egyptian gargoyle up the stairs.
* * * * *
Egypt, 2163 AD
Sata emerged from her stone sleep with a cougar-like roar. She straightened her kimono then reread the note from last night. The surprise had faded. From what Brooklyn told her about Harthoth, she should have been surprised if he didn't know she was in Egypt. After a quick meal at the hotel, she glided over Cairo towards the Giza plateau and the Sphinx.
She landed on the stone causeway surrounding the statue. Curiously, there was no one around the popular tourist attraction.
"Where are all the people?" Sata wondered aloud. She figured he had it arranged for their private meeting.
She walked the stones surrounding the monument. As she came around the Sphinx's forepaws, Sata saw the stone slab marking the secret entrance inside. The samurai looked around, still no one had arrived.
"Maybe he meant to meet him inside the monument," she speculated.
"Or perhaps he meant for you to wait as he instructed."
Sata whipped around and saw nothing. She scanned the area, finding a person on top of the Sphinx's left paw. He was dressed solely in black and moved with stealth.
"Ninja," Sata breathed under her breath.
"No," the man jumped off the Sphinx's paw, landing in a crouch, "but I thank you for the compliment. Master Harthoth sent for you. I will take you to him."
"Why did he not come himself?" the jade green gargoyle asked. Harthoth's emissary did not answer her question.
"Master Harthoth sent a gift along with the invitation. Do you have it?"
Sata's hand slipped into her obi and withdrew the gold scarab. The man examined the beetle with a laser light. Fluorescent green marks appeared on the beetle. He nodded in satisfaction.
"Come with me." The man started walking towards the river. Sata followed, but loosened her swords in their sheaths, just in case.
They both boarded a launch on the river. He set the vessel to hover and they skimmed upriver at high speed.
"You still haven't answered my question," Sata shouted over the roar of the wind and the hum of the engine.
"I'm not here to answer your questions," the man shouted back. "My job is to follow orders and my orders are to bring you to Master Harthoth."
There was a pause.
"That will seriously cut down on chit-chat," Sata shouted back. The man gave Sata a querying look. The Japanese gargoyle tried her best to manage a Brooklyn-esque smile. Her escort just shook his head and returned to piloting the vessel.
"Next time, I'll leave the wisecracks to Brooklyn," she said to herself.
* * * * *
An hour passed and Sata had little idea where they were. The Nile valley passed in a blur as they flew. At some point they turned up a tributary of the river. On the horizon, Sata saw a large floating structure on the water. Within a minute, the skiff slowed to a hover alongside the platform.
The platform was a portable launch pad. The hi-tech apparatus onboard, like the rail-gun launcher and the satellite payloads, completely mystified Sata. The mysterious man kept a wary eye on Sata and steered her through the platform to the offices in the back, to a waiting room.
"Wait here," the man ordered. Sata frowned at his brusque manner, but complied. The room shuddered as another satellite was launched into orbit.
The man disappeared into the room. As the minutes dragged on, Sata took in her surroundings. The waiting room was like many she had been in the past five years: a few stuffed chairs, each with web-net terminals. On the opposite wall was a blank display screen. The one difference from those doctors’ waiting rooms was a large bookcase filled with black leather volumes.
Out of boredom, Sata pulled one of the tomes out. It had an embossed Phoenix Gate on the cover. This put a curious expression on the Japanese gargoyle's face. She opened and started to read.
'The Timedancer appeared again in Nottingham, England in 1192 AD. During his two week stay, the Timedancer spent most of that time in the company of future echelon member Robin of Locksley…’
"Timedancer? Robin of Locksley?" Sata looked up. She read on. The account covered Brooklyn's time in Sherwood Forest as she remembered him telling it. Curiosity increasing, Sata pulled out another book and skimmed through it. This book chronicled adventures Brooklyn had in the 17th century. Near the back of the book, she recognized one adventure she and Brooklyn shared in the Caribbean. She stopped to read the full account. This one didn't read like a report as the Robin Hood one had. It was more like a personal narrative.
'We arrived in the middle of the ocean and were picked up by Captain Davis and her band of pirates…'
"What does all this mean?" Sata asked with astonishment as she read on.
* * * * *
Harthoth watched over a surveillance video as Sata pulled a third book and read it from cover to cover. The door behind him slid open and the man in black came out dressed in dark red business attire. He saw the gargoyle reading the books on the monitor and gave a distressed look to his employer.
"Forgive my impertinence, sir, but this shouldn't be permitted."
Harthoth said nothing for a moment. The young man elaborated. "When you charged me as chief of security, you stated frequently that these books are my top priority. Allowing this outsider to read them…"
"It is all right, Sang. Believe me when I tell you that there is no danger in letting this gargoyle read them. If anything the opposite is true."
"If you say so, sir," the young man replied.
"The samurai has met all your security measures?"
Sang nodded, "She isn't being tracked, nor has she contacted anyone since coming to Cairo. She is on her own. Very foolish on her part."
"You don't approve?" Harthoth turned to face his subordinate.
"No, it's just very foolish. She is lightly armed and completely vulnerable."
"It's a sign of the times. The world as a whole is very complacent. It fits with my master's design. A fattened, lazy enemy is an easily conquered one, but that has little to do with tonight’s business. Send the samurai in."
* * * * *
Sata was reading a black tome with a hieroglyphic symbol on the spine. This tome related Brooklyn's time in ancient Kemet. She just reached a chapter titled 'The Festival of Hathor' when the door opened. Judging by the way he moved and his general height and body shape, Sata guessed this was the same man who had brought her down here. This time she could see all his features. His face was a mixed heritage of African and Asian. His lean frame was concealed in the business dress of the day.
He looked at her and frowned. The room gave another shudder.
"Master Harthoth will see you now," Sang announced in an icy tone. Sata shelved the book she was reading and moved past the young man, entering the office. It was less bright than the waiting room, but it had enough illumination to reveal the black and gold gargoyle sitting behind a desk.
"Konbanwa, samurai." Harthoth gave a gracious smile. "What can I do for you?"
* * * * *
China, 2008 AD
Brooklyn stubbed his toe on a step for the fourth time.
"Ouch! Blast it! How much farther?"
"Not much farther," Harthoth answered as patiently as he had the last three times. The answer didn't improve Brooklyn's mood. Although gargoyles had improved night vision, the bamboo and tree branches gave the tunnel an added gloom.
"Brooklyn, how much do you love your mate?" Harthoth asked seemingly out of the blue.
The brick red gargoyle answered without faltering, "With all my heart. I'll do anything to be with her again."
"We'll see about that," Harthoth whispered under his breath.
"It is the truth," Brooklyn argued. "If you can get me back to her, I'll do anything you ask." He thought about his words for a moment. "No one will be killed, will they?" he added.
"No, I know you wouldn’t want to kill anyone in cold blood. It’s doubtful death will be needed, but someone may get hurt. If that bothers you, I suggest you head down now. Once we start there is no turning back."
"May get hurt?"
Harthoth turned around and faced Brooklyn. The purple glow of the pendant made his scowl even more fearsome.
"I said I'd only help if I heard the truth. You said you were willing to do anything. Is that a LIE?"
"No!" Brooklyn denied. "It’s just that I thought you'd read a spell from a scroll and I'd be on my way. I didn't know pain would be involved."
"I don't have the scroll with me. We'll have to use… alternative means."
"And these alternatives require hurting someone?" Brooklyn asked.
Harthoth nodded. "If you want control of your destiny you're going to have to wrest it away from your masters. I don't imagine they will relinquish you voluntarily."
"Wait up-- take on some of Oberon's Children? What about your first rule of magic: 'Don't cheese off the great powers'?"
"I believe my exact phrasing is, 'There are powers in this world greater than you. Do not offend them’," Harthoth corrected. "If you're afraid to challenge your masters that is understandable. Slavery is largely based on fear."
"I'm not a slave and I'm not afraid," Brooklyn shouted back. "I just want to make sure you know what you are doing. This isn't exactly Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather we're talking about."
"I'm well aware of who we are dealing with." Harthoth fixed an intense gaze on Brooklyn. They exited the tunnel near the top of the mountain. A simple pavilion, washed in moonlight, stood on a flat ledge. Its five stone pillars supported an ornate pagoda-like roof.
Inside the temple, three braziers burned brightly, illuminating a workbench with several bowls and artifacts. One large bowl contained dried brown leaves.
The other three smaller bowls contained finely ground powder of white, gold and black. Two artifacts, a moonstone pendant and circular, silver tray with inscriptions on the edge, occupied the far end of the table.
"What's all this?" Brooklyn asked.
Harthoth picked up the silver tray. "This is the mirror of Artemis." Next, he lifted the moonstone pendant. "And this bauble is called the tear of Lachesis. The powders over there were used by the Norse magicians for their scrying of destiny, ‘Essence of the Norns’ as they called it."
"You certainly have done your homework," Brooklyn remarked, beginning to wonder how Harthoth knew to have all this set up. Brooklyn shook his head to get rid of that doubt.
"I'm not letting anything stop me from getting back to Sata," he muttered to himself.
"Having doubts, Brooklyn?" Harthoth asked.
"No," Brooklyn answered. "No," he said again with more certainty. "So what do we do?"
"This magic works in groups of three. There are three braziers. I'll use the powder to make three circles. I have the mirror and the pendant. I just need one more item associated with the Fates to complete the triad."
Harthoth looked at Brooklyn expectantly. The red gargoyle realized what he was implying.
"The Phoenix Gate?"
Harthoth nodded. Brooklyn was seized for a moment with the impulse to protect his ticket out of there, but that moment passed. He grabbed the Gate from his pouch and glowered at it.
"Take it," Brooklyn said with some spite and relief in his voice. "And good riddance."
"Don't worry, I won't need it long." Harthoth placed the Gate along with the other artifacts and grabbed the bowl of leaves, tossing a couple of handfuls in each brazier. The pavilion began filling with a peppery smelling smoke. Next, the black and gold gargoyle took the bowls of colored powder and poured them in three interlocking circles of white, black and gold. Brooklyn was watching him finish the last circle when he gave a violent sneeze. He recovered just before another sneeze hit, then another.
"I'm sorry, Brooklyn, I forgot that tanna smoke does that to you," Harthoth apologized.
Brooklyn sneezed again and nodded. The red gargoyle exited the temple for cool fresh air. After a couple more sneezes, Brooklyn felt better, but the buzzing in the back of his head still persisted. There was something about this situation that seemed vaguely and uncomfortably familiar, something about magic and using it like this.
"I'm not going to quit," Brooklyn told himself as he stared out over the valley shrouded in fog. "I'm not going to let a pang of conscience keep me from Sata!"
"Brooklyn?" Harthoth called from inside. "It's clear to come back in."
Brooklyn returned to find three smoky bodies hovering above the interlocking circles of powder. The mirror, the pendant and the Phoenix Gate were in the center of each circle and glowing with a radiant light. Harthoth had a scroll in one hand and a staff in the other. Brooklyn peered at the scroll hoping it was a Roman sheepskin or Egyptian papyrus, but it was Chinese bamboo.
"Alternative means," Harthoth commented at Brooklyn's questioning glance. He began chanting from the scroll.
Harthoth continued chanting as he took up his staff, twirled it slowly three times and brought it down at the point where all three circles met. The ground rippled like water and the circles spread apart like flotsam. A howling wind rose up. As the circles spread farther apart, the wind grew louder. With a start, Brooklyn noticed it wasn't the wind that was howling, but three voices - screaming.
The circles continued spreading; each barely touched its companions now. The howling filled Brooklyn's ears. He looked at Harthoth. The Egyptian gargoyle showed no signs of pain or discomfort. The smoky figures that floated near the ornate ceiling were pulled down towards the circles' centers. The smoke grew more solid and Brooklyn could see them writhe and squirm. The screaming had come from the smoke, reaching its highest pitch just before the circles separated completely.
When the circles broke from each other, the screaming stopped. Everything was silent for one heart stopping moment, then the powder ignited. The gold dust burned into a blue flame with golden smoke. The black and silver powder sizzled with similar blue brilliance and smoldered into smoke of their respective colors. The colorful smoke mingled with the gray, tanna smoke. The smoky figures grew in size and took on human features. Brooklyn began seeing their faces when the artifacts suddenly flashed with a blinding light. When Brooklyn could see past the spots floating in his vision, the smoke and the circles were gone. Only the artifacts and the braziers remained.
For a moment fear gripped Brooklyn. "We killed them," he whispered.
"No we did not," Harthoth answered. "On the contrary, they are very much alive."
"Then where are they?" Brooklyn asked.
"They are around. We'll have to find them, but rest assured, the Weird Sisters are alive, and more importantly, powerless."
"How does this help me get home?" Brooklyn demanded.
"I can return their powers to them at any time," Harthoth explained. "We will exchange their freedom for yours. It will be in the Fates' best interests to see you returned to whatever time you desire, if they ever want to see Avalon again."
"And if they refuse?" Brooklyn asked.
"Then we'll have to be more persuasive. First, we need to round them up. I'll search up here, you search the village."
Before Brooklyn could argue, Harthoth jumped over the mountain ledge and glided into the mist. Soon only a hazy ball of purple light marked his passing, and soon that too disappeared. Brooklyn chose not to glide through unfamiliar fog-shrouded terrain. It was too easy to collide with something. Again, a part of Brooklyn nagged him, wondered how Harthoth could be so comfortable flying through these hills.
Brooklyn shrugged it off. Harthoth could have been here for weeks, even years. It didn't matter. What mattered was to find the Weird Sisters and get them to send him to his mate. Everything else pushed that goal away. He stopped thinking about it as he took the stairway down into the darkness.
* * * * *
Egypt, 2163 AD
"Greetings, Harthoth," Sata said a bit stiffly.
Harthoth stood up and gestured for her to take a seat. Sata just folded her arms across her chest and remained standing. The black gargoyle nodded understandingly.
"Warrior-direct. I can appreciate that. Let me reciprocate by being equally direct. You are here because you want my services in returning Brooklyn to you. Correct?"
Sata let out a breath. "Yes."
Harthoth sat back down. "Why?"
"Why what?" Sata now rubbed her arms against a nonexistent chill. "I want Brooklyn back because of our children."
"Those two eggs out of sync with the rest of the Manhattan rookery?" Harthoth inquired.
Sata sucked in a low growl. She was uneasy that he knew so much about her children, but she swallowed it.
"Yes. They will hatch soon and need guidance. They will need their father." Sata stated her case. "I am asking you to bring back Brooklyn for their sake."
Harthoth sat back in his chair, linking his hands across his muscular midsection and tapping his thumbs against his sternum.
"What about your adoptive clan?" he asked. "You and I both come from times when the clan was family, but modern gargoyles believe in individual families. Surely they can give your children guidance."
Sata hesitated. "The clan will be there, but children need special attention, attention only a mother and father can give."
"What about you alone? It's not unheard of for single parents to raise their children, even among gargoyles."
Sata frowned in annoyance. "I came to you for help, not parenting advice. Will you offer it?"
"If I hear the truth..." Harthoth answered sharply.
"I’ve told you the truth. My children need their father."
"Is that why you came? When your eggs are five years from hatching? Please samurai, lies befit neither of us."
"I haven't lied to you," Sata denied.
"Then why did you come to me?"
Sata hesitated. The room shuddered as another launch took place. At last she replied, "You know magic and the Phoenix Gate."
"…So does Angela, so does Demona, so do any number of so called 'magicians' in the Manhattan protectorate. While their working knowledge of the Gate isn't as intimate as mine, why haven't you asked them?" Then Harthoth's gained a shrewd look as he hit upon something. "Or have you?"
Sata’s posture became ramrod stiff. "It was a mistake to come here." She turned around.
"Perhaps," Harthoth continued, "but you came down here for a reason and it wasn't as altruistic and noble as you pretend. Lie to yourself, if you must, but don't lie to me."
Sata started for the door and just before she crossed it she turned around. "I came for the sake of my children." Her hands gripped and released her swords' hilts.
Harthoth shook his head. "Then we have nothing to talk about. You may go." He turned around in his chair. "And do not seek me out again," he added.
The door behind Sata opened and Sang was waiting for her. The Japanese gargoyle spun around with a vicious snap of her tail.
Sang moved at a slight jog to keep ahead of Sata as she walked along the port side of the platform. Her face remained in a tight scowl. The launch awaited them up ahead. Sang was about to board when he stopped and placed a hand on his ear.
"Yes," he said to someone on the other end of his communications link.
"Yes, one moment." He turned to Sata. "Another pilot will take you back to Cairo. Please wait here."
Sang departed, leaving Sata alone with her thoughts. She sat in the boat looking out over the water.
"He wouldn't have helped. He would have refused," Sata tried to convince herself. "What does he know? What do any of them know? They've never lost a mate like this; to wonder if he's alive or dead, if he'll ever come back, or if he can, or wants to."
Sata fell to silence as she remembered that day four years ago.
* * * * *
New York, 2159 AD
Artus and Persephone were going over the latest patrol rotation when Sata barged into the office.
"What is the meaning of this?" Sata exclaimed, waving a data tablet in front of them.
"I’m not sure what you mean," Artus replied calmly.
"This!" Sata tossed the slim plastic tablet on the desk. It read in flashing red letters: "Data Request Denied. See Administrator."
Artus looked up to Persephone. She gave a subtle nod in understanding. The orange-gray gargoyle tapped her commlink behind her back.
"It looks like you tried to access privileged information," Artus said casually, examining the tablet.
"I got this message trying to access historical records. What is so privileged about that?"
"It shouldn’t be," Artus said with an exasperated tone that expressed he didn’t want to get into this. "I suggest you see Operations about it."
"I did and you know what Lex said? They were sealed per your orders!" Sata’s eyes took on a slight glow.
"Was it general or personal history?" Persephone asked, trying to diffuse the situation.
"What difference does it make? You said that every resource was at my disposal."
"It is, believe me, but this wasn’t my call."
"Then whose was it?" Sata demanded.
"Ours," Angela answered. She and Broadway entered the room. Angela had a care-worn look on her face.
Broadway spared a look to Artus and Persephone. "Thanks for calling us. We’ll take it from here."
Sata stood resolute. Her jaw firmly clenched. Angela approached as cautiously as if they were enemies.
"I told Lex to seal any records pertaining to personal histories about the clan."
"As a timedancer, you know there is a danger from knowing too much. This is to remove the temptation altogether. To keep you from doing exactly what you tried to do: finding out about Brooklyn’s destiny."
Sata seethed. "What right have you to do this? Brooklyn is my mate. I should be able to learn whatever I can about him."
"You’re trying to take a peek at Fate’s cards. You can’t cheat that way," Broadway explained.
"More of your meaningless double talk about history and destiny?" Sata railed against the couple. A ghost of a smile flickered across both Broadway and Angela, replaced quickly with sorrowful understanding.
"It is terribly unfair, but it is just. Everyone must make their own choices without knowledge of future events." Broadway placed a hand on Sata’s shoulder. She jerked away from him, but seeing his old saddened face, a part of her understood that this wasn’t what they wanted either. Sata closed her eyes knowing hot tears were coming.
Angela tried to comfort her. "Please Sata, tend to the present. You have two eggs that need you. Put your energies there."
"Assuming they survive," Sata said, her voice thick from a closed throat. "The information you deny me may be a factor in saving them."
"You’re not making this easy for Angela and Broadway," Artus replied.
"I’m not going to," Sata snapped back. "My mate is gone and my children are dying. And my supposed clan refuses to help! Why should I make anything easy for any of you?"
Sata stormed out of the office as violently as she came in. The four gargoyles looked to each other, but found no absolution between them.
* * * * *
Egypt, 2163 AD
Sata rushed back through the passageways, bursting into Harthoth's office.
"If you want the truth, here it is!" Sata blurted out before the black gargoyle could respond." I did ask Angela for help and she refused. Everyone else won’t help because Angela and Demona told them not to. They aren't telling me everything and I'm afraid that is because they know Brooklyn is never coming back. I need your help because you are the only one who can. Please, help me. I want Brooklyn back!" The last part came as a sob as Sata broke down and cried.
Sang entered the office. He grabbed Sata by the shoulders, but Harthoth ordered him to stop. He got up out of his chair and walked over to Sata.
"So you want my help for selfish reasons?"
The green gargoyle gave a shuddering breath. "Yes."
Harthoth bent down to lift her up. "That is the truth I needed to hear."
But as Harthoth continued, Sata's image was etched in stone for the remainder of the day. His amethyst pendant sparkled in the light as Harthoth walked over to Sang.
"See that our guest is moved to more comfortable quarters. And one more thing." Harthoth walked out to the waiting room. He fingered his way through the shelves of black books, coming to one he wanted. He handed the tome with the Phoenix Gate symbol to Sang.
"Ensure that the samurai has this for early evening reading."
"Yes, master," Sang nodded and left to carry out his orders.
Alone with Sata’s statue, the Egyptian gargoyle studied her sad face. "Brooklyn," Harthoth shook his head, "If you only knew how much this one loves you."
* * * * *
China, 2008 AD
Brooklyn trotted down the stone steps, coming to the water’s edge. The rising river water had claimed even more of the village. At this rate, there would be nothing left come dawn. Brooklyn waded through the calf high water and climbed the closest building. From the vantage of the roof, he scanned for the Weird Sisters. At first he saw nothing.
"I’m starting to wonder if Harthoth is trying to snow me," Brooklyn grumbled. "This whole thing stinks. What if the Weird Sisters aren’t responsible for this?"
Just then, Brooklyn heard a faint splashing followed by screaming. It came from the river. Brooklyn hopped and glided to the warehouses on the waterfront. The moon lit the black water enough to make out the person, a blonde maiden screeching and thrashing in the water.
Brooklyn sprang to action, gliding out over the water. He reached down to pluck Phoebe out of the water, but the Sister panicked and pulled Brooklyn into the water with him.
"Aiiiii!" Phoebe screamed as she climbed on top of Brooklyn, trying to keep her head above water.
"Calm down, I’ll help you," Brooklyn growled, but Phoebe didn’t comply. She just kept screaming and struggling.
"Fine, have it your way." Brooklyn took a breath and dove underwater. He came up a few meters away from the hysterical fay. He swam close enough to wrap his tail around her waist and started for shore. Phoebe’s screaming slowly subsided. By the time they reached the village, it was a dull whimper.
Phoebe looked like a drowned cat. Her golden locks clung to her face in wet mattes. Her soaked clothes caused her to shiver. Brooklyn helped the Weird Sister out of the water and got a slap across the face for his trouble.
"How dare you!" she shrieked.
Brooklyn stared at her with glowing eyes. "You would have drowned if I hadn’t saved your miserable life."
"And who put it in danger in the first place?" Phoebe accused.
"Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black. You make me this timedancer, put my life and those I care about in jeopardy. Now that the tables are turned it’s unfair," Brooklyn shouted back.
"You will release us from this horrid condition, NOW!" Phoebe shrieked.
Brooklyn’s scowl grew deeper. "Oh, I will, but not before you do something for me first. Come on!"
He got behind Phoebe and pushed her towards the stairs. Phoebe started to struggle, but the river surged producing a wave that knocked her off her feet. Brooklyn helped the sputtering fay to her feet. She pulled away from the gargoyle and moved imperiously towards the stairs and high ground. Brooklyn just gave an impatient snort and followed.
* * * * *
Luna tried to clear her head of the ringing. "Whoever dared summon us will pay dearly," she said sourly.
"Then look no further," a deep voice boomed out of the woods. Luna spun around, her diaphanous silver gown rustling with the movement.
"I summoned you," Harthoth said, emerging from the shadows.
"Release me gargoyle or I’ll…"
"You’ll do what?" Harthoth challenged. Luna’s face darkened into a scowl and lifted her hands to strike her opponent down with magic. Her grimace turned into surprise when nothing happened.
Harthoth aimed his staff at the Weird Sister. "Were you trying to do this?" He muttered a phrase in Kemetic and a bolt of lightning struck Luna, knocking her off her feet. He knelt down and cupped the silver-haired maiden’s chin to look at her. Rage and fear were etched on every inch of her face.
"You and your sisters have a role to play in this drama, but I have another purpose for you. I want you to take a message back to your Lord. Something my master wants delivered… in pain."
* * * * *
Selene hung from a tree at an odd angle. As soon as she realized she couldn’t levitate, she began to panic. Her thrashing shook her loose from the tree. She fell unceremoniously, the moss-covered ground breaking her fall.
She stood up and looked around fearfully.
"Sisters?" Selene whispered in a trembling voice, "Sisters?"
A rustle in the trees caught her attention.
The bushes exploded as a blue-black body bolted towards her. Selene started to scream but was knocked down before she could take a breath. The Sister hit the ground on her tailbone, yelping pain. She looked up and saw Isfet standing over her.
"Hello," Isfet said with a hint of a laugh in her voice. "I’m so glad I ran into you. I have some questions that need answering and you’re going to help me."
"I have nothing to say to you, dragon spawn."
Isfet tapped her finger to her chin. "Well, that is a shame. It means we have do things the hard way."
Selene sprang up and started to run. Isfet gave a laugh and chased after her. Selene was knocked to the ground again. She scrambled to turn around, just as Isfet’s foot came down on her chest. The dragon woman smiled.
"I know your kind can not die easily," Isfet reached into her cloak and pulled out two iron spikes, "but by the time I’m finished with you you’ll wish you could."
* * * * *
"What have you done to me? To my sisters?" Phoebe demanded.
"No worse than what you three have done to me," Brooklyn growled back. He grabbed the blonde’s arm. She jerked away from him.
"Don’t touch me!"
Brooklyn grabbed her again, this time pulling her arms behind her in a police hold.
"Things look a little different when you’re on the receiving end, don’t it?" Brooklyn ranted. "Playing with people’s lives. Treating them like toys. Their pain, their suffering, it’s all a big joke to you three."
Phoebe said nothing. This angered Brooklyn even more.
"Answer me. Where do you get off putting me through so much pain?" Brooklyn demanded.
"Where do you?" Phoebe answered back. Brooklyn’s eyes, glowing white hot up until that moment, dimmed back to normal.
"Brooklyn!" Harthoth called down from the mountaintop. "Did you find anything?"
"Yeah," Brooklyn shouted back up. "We’ll be there in a sec."
He turned to Phoebe. "Look, all I want is to get back to my mate and then get back to my own time. Help me with that and you and your sisters can go free."
"How compliant would you be to coerced threats?" Phoebe asked coolly.
"I’ve been carrying the Phoenix Gate for years. You three certainly didn’t leave me many options. So I’d say I’ve been compliant to your coercion."
Brooklyn nudged her up the stairs. The blonde sister acquiesced, stumbling up the dark tunnel.
Brooklyn found Harthoth with another sister tied up in the pavilion.
"…give that message to your lord," Harthoth finished as Brooklyn entered with Phoebe. The Kemetic gargoyle brought ropes over and started tying up the blonde. She recoiled from such treatment, but Harthoth shoved her to the ground.
While Harthoth dealt with Selene, Brooklyn examined Luna. The silver-haired woman looked cowed and sullen, like she had been put through the wringer, but she had no scars or bruises. He tried to touch her face, but she flinched away.
"What did you do to her?" Brooklyn demanded. Harthoth was finishing the last knot on Phoebe’s binds.
"Nothing of lasting harm. As soon as they get their powers, they’ll heal themselves and be as cryptic and petty as they always are. I hope you aren’t feeling pity for them?"
When Brooklyn didn’t answer Harthoth turned around.
"You pity them because they are vulnerable. Did you harbor such compassion when they set you on this strange quest? Did you pity them when the Phoenix flame took you away from your mate? Remember, they are ones who wronged you."
Brooklyn said nothing but looked uncertain. "I guess. We’d better find the third sister and get this over with."
A battered Selene was tossed into the pavilion. Luna and Phoebe looked at their injured sister with alarm, then looked up in the direction she came from. The blue-black scaled body of Isfet came swaggering into the light.
"A good screamer, if a bit stubborn. Oh, hello, Timedancer. I’m looking forward to see if they can scream in three part harmony."
"Isfet!" Brooklyn growled, eyes ablaze.
"Your instructions were to bring her back alive," Harthoth admonished.
"She is…barely." Isfet nudged the unconscious Selene with her foot.
Brooklyn felt his stomach turn. The iron burns on Phoebe were horrendous. Angry red welts covered her face and arms. This injured being looked nothing like the harridan Brooklyn blamed for his troubles. He watched the other two Sisters huddle protectively around their injured sibling. The fear in their eyes and their shivering bodies made them look more like frightened children. Something in Brooklyn snapped. This was wrong: this had to stop.
Harthoth knelt down to the cowering Sisters. "I will release you if you perform a service. Release Brooklyn from his duties as the Timedancer. If not, I’m sure Isfet would enjoy having a go at all three of you."
"No!" A red hand clutched Harthoth’s arm, "Release them. NOW!" Brooklyn ordered.
Harthoth looked into Brooklyn’s growling visage. "Finally grown a conscience?"
"Torture was never part of the bargain."
"I told you he wouldn’t have the stomach for it," Isfet sneered.
Brooklyn didn’t listen to her. He rushed to the artifacts lying on the ground. Grabbing the pendant, he threw it on the ground, smashing it. He looked over at the Weird Sisters, but nothing changed. Brooklyn grabbed the mirror and bent it until it snapped in two. They were still captive. Brooklyn spotted the scroll. He grabbed it and pitched it into the brazier. Confused, Brooklyn looked to Harthoth.
"Do you think I’m a slipshod sorcerer like Demona or the Archmage? My spells aren’t that easy to unravel."
Brooklyn grabbed Harthoth. "Release them now!"
"No, I warned you once we start we don’t stop."
"I’ll stop you."
"I’m sure you’ll try." Harthoth broke free of Brooklyn’s grip. Brooklyn got into a fighter’s stance, ready to duke it out with his former friend. Then Harthoth did something unexpected, he bolted out of the pavilion, gliding into the night. Brooklyn blinked and chased after him, diving into the mist. Isfet alone remained with the three Sisters, an evil grin spreading on her face.
* * * * *
Egypt, 2163 AD
Sata awoke with a loud roar. The first thing she noticed was she wasn’t in the same place she had turned to stone in. She shrugged it off, knowing Harthoth had the means to move her while she slept. Next she noticed that the periodic shaking of the platform had stopped.
A small table and chair were off to the side of the room. On the table sat a small breakfast, fruit and a carafe of juice, and another black book. This one had the same Phoenix Gate on the cover. Sata slowly sat on the floor and opened the book. She absently ate an orange as she skimmed the book. This story was again in first person.
"'We danced into what we thought was the far future,'" she read aloud the tale of her and Brooklyn's dealing with Dr. Isaac Payne. She shivered at the memory, but continued reading until she came to the end, when she heard Harthoth enter the room.
"Interesting, is it not?" Harthoth asked her when she closed the book.
Sata hesitated, but at last nodded. "It is very detailed."
Harthoth took a piece of fruit and sat in the chair.
"This is what you want?" Sata asked him.
"Always down to business." Harthoth nodded. "While you slept, I checked my resources. I can’t bring Brooklyn to you. I can affect the Phoenix Gate if it is here, but not while it is in another time. I, however, offer this as an alternative: knowledge for knowledge. A look at these tomes now in exchange for your delivery of them at some time in the past."
"That is an alternative? You ask me to betray…"
"What? To whom?" Harthoth stopped peeling another orange. "Betray history? Isn’t that what you sought to do not so long ago? I won’t put blocks in your way like your clan."
Sata was silent for a moment. "I don't think I can. It would be betraying my mate."
"A convenient excuse," Harthoth stood up. "The service I ask of you puts neither you nor your mate in danger. Information for information; an equitable deal, I would think."
Sata sighed. "This isn't what I asked for."
"I know. But it's as close as you’re going to get, samurai. My time is at a premium and I don't have time to indulge in your qualms. You can either agree or not."
"And if I refuse?" Sata asked boldly.
"What makes you think you have?" Harthoth said, tapping the book she cradled in her arms.
"For now, this is the best I can offer you. It is your choice."
Sata stared at the book in her hands. Harthoth excused himself, leaving her to deliberate on this weighty decision.
* * * * *
China, 2008 AD
Brooklyn landed hard on the flooded streets. He took a step and winced at the pain. He had collided with a tree on the flight down and scraped his leg. Water streamed between the empty homes and shops. A light mist rose from the water, obscuring everything.
"You lied to me, Harthoth!" Brooklyn shouted. "You just wanted to torture the Sisters."
"You lied to yourself." Harthoth’s voice seemed to come from everywhere at once.
Brooklyn sloshed up the streets trying to follow the echo..
"You begged for my help, said you’d do anything," Harthoth’s voice rang out.
"I was wrong. I don’t want your help anymore," Brooklyn shouted back.
Harthoth replied, "This is what you wanted-- a chance to be free."
"Not at the expense of others."
"Let see if your actions prove out your convictions." Harthoth’s voice lost its echo quality abruptly and a sharp breeze blew the mist away revealing the black gargoyle waiting for him.
"I don’t want to fight you." Brooklyn shook his head.
"If you don’t, you won’t free your masters. And how long do you think they will last with Isfet babysitting them?"
Brooklyn gave a sigh, then lunged for Harthoth. The black gargoyle moved quickly, blocking the attack. Harthoth then tried for a double strike. Brooklyn dodged the first punch, but got hit by the second. The red gargoyle recovered and aimed a kick at Harthoth’s midsection. The black gargoyle gave a grunt as the wind got knocked out of him. Brooklyn lost his balance in the thigh high water, going down with a splash.
It gave Harthoth time to catch his breath and attack. Brooklyn caught a glimpse of the attack and moved fluidly in a block that Sata had taught him. He grabbed Harthoth’s wrist and pulled him off balance. Using the black gargoyle’s momentum, Brooklyn brought him to ground. Brooklyn pulled him up out of the water and pinned him up against a column
"Cute," Harthoth commented. "But I taught the Ishimuran clan that technique. And how to break it."
Harthoth slipped out of the pin, tagging Brooklyn sharply in the beak. The red gargoyle gave a yowl as he cupped his bruised beak. Harthoth spun around for a kick, but the river surged into the village, and waves knocked both combatants off balance. Brooklyn recovered first and made for Harthoth. The Egyptian gargoyle’s tail splashed water into Brooklyn’s face, blinding him. He didn’t see the double-handed swing until it connected.
"Think about what you’re giving up," Harthoth spoke between swings. "Your mate…your clan…your life…why?"
"Because," Brooklyn growled, dodging Harthoth’s last swing, "it is worth it."
Brooklyn fought back with more ferocity. The years of training with Sata came to his aid. Attacks and punches coming unbidden as he fought his former friend. Harthoth was similarly skilled, but lacked the fire. Soon he was on the defensive, blocking fierce punches and furious kicks. Harthoth missed one punch and was down in the water. Brooklyn stood over him.
"It is over!" Brooklyn shouted with glowing eyes.
Harthoth eyes glowed once as his tail whipped out and caught Brooklyn behind the knees. Before he knew what happened, his knees buckled, he fell back and now he looked up from the water as Harthoth stood over him. He had his foot on his chest.
"Now it is over," Harthoth said imperiously. They stood like this for a while, catching their breaths.
"You could never counter that move," Harthoth said simply.
"So what are you going to do now, old friend, kill me?" Brooklyn asked between pants.
"No, something much worse. You had the right idea. Destroying the artifacts will break the spell, but you have to break all of them."
"What?" Brooklyn asked perplexed.
"The Phoenix Gate. Break it, if you really feel your masters need your protection. Of course, that may leave you stranded here in this time."
Harthoth spoke some ancient words and a sphere of light appeared. "Isfet! We are leaving!" he spoke into the orb.
"I was just starting to have some fun," she complained.
"Do as I say!" Harthoth ordered.
"Why?" Brooklyn asked. "Why all of this?"
"Maybe you’ll figure it out some night," Harthoth turned around to face Brooklyn. "Go back to your duty, continue being a lackey to the Third Race, but remember it was your choice to be a slave. You’ll never get this close again."
The black gargoyle snapped his fingers and a portal opened up. With one pitying glance back at Brooklyn, he disappeared through.
* * * * *
Manhattan, 2163 AD
As evening wore on into night, Sata returned to her routine of brooding in the rookery. There was a message from Anna Xanatos, but Sata didn’t feel like talking to her friend. All she could think of was last night. She tried to find comfort in what she gleamed from the encounter, but it didn’t ease the aching emptiness inside.
As she turned a final curve in the rookery to her eggs, she found a black book between them. The book had a Phoenix Gate on the cover. A moment of fear clutched her heart. Someone had broken into the rookery.
Sata was about to call security, when she stopped. She checked her eggs for damage. There was none. She decided to keep this to herself. She opened the book and a note fell out.
"Because children should know their father," Sata read the note aloud. Eyes brimming with tears, she started to read about Brooklyn’s early life at Castle Wyvern. As she read, she cried a little, but felt better than she had in a long, long time.
* * * * *
China, 2008 AD
"I sure hope this works," Brooklyn said as he took the Phoenix Gate and broke it in half. A stiff wind blew through the village. The flooded streets became white caps as the wind howled.
When the wind died down, he fitted the Gate pieces back together. "Please work." The pieces remained dormant for a second, then a golden light burned along the crack, sealing it whole again.
Brooklyn returned to the empty pavilion. The Weird Sisters were gone. All that remained were the table, the broken artifacts and broken dreams.
"I was so close. I hope you’ll understand, Sata," Brooklyn sighed just as he felt the Gate stir. He gave a resigned shrug as the Phoenix Gate activated and carried him away.
* * * * *
From another mountain peak, Harthoth watched the Phoenix fire blossom, then vanish.
"Now that it’s over with, what was this little performance supposed to bring us?" Isfet asked the Egyptian gargoyle.
"Just a lesson to a friend about the value of things."
Isfet frowned. "What? You dragged me all the way out here for a morality play?"
"Yes," Harthoth answered without flinching.
Isfet glared at him with murderous rage, but just as quickly changed her mind. "Well, I had some fun at least."
"I was counting on that. It will help deliver my master’s message to Oberon. Come, we have other business to attend to."
* * * * *
King Oberon and Queen Titania held court with their children. Before them, was a man in a fedora and black cloak, called Naught. He related to his liege the success of finding an Unseelie. Queen Titania listened with a distracted look, while Oberon wore a thinly veiled look of displeasure. Few whispered about the incident that happened a few moments ago when the Weird Sisters vanished. Oberon was clearly upset to be short his servants, but carried on anyway.
When the Weird Sisters returned, physically they looked as they always had, but everyone could see the change. It showed in the closed way they carried themselves and in the haunted look Selene tried to hide. Athena noticed the scent of iron on them. The Sisters walked down the aisle to the throne room, ignoring all the gossip and snickers about them.
King Oberon halted Naught’s account. "You left without my leave. That is clear disobedience. Is there any reason why I shouldn’t punish you for that?"
He lifted his hand to mete out whatever justice he felt fit, but Queen Titania stayed his hand.
"My lord, their departure wasn’t voluntary. Someone used magic to forcibly abduct your children. Maybe we should find out who?"
Oberon considered his wife’s words, then nodded, lowering his hands.
"What has happened to you?" Titania asked her handmaidens with something concern in her voice.
"We bring a grave message to you," the sisters said in unison. There was a pause before Oberon gestured for them to continue.
"Enjoy the moments you have, for they are fleeting," Luna said alone out of the three. With that, the sisters departed. The rest of the court looked at each other and began gossiping wildly. Oberon sat back in his throne staring with an unseeing gaze at the retreating Sisters.
* * * * *
Cairo, 2163 AD
Harthoth sat down at his workstation. From one desk drawer, he pulled out a special black box and
removed a gleaming black data disk from within. He fed the disk into the computer. The machine
whirred as it read the disk and displayed ancient Japanese characters on the screen. From another
desk drawer, Harthoth took out a stylus, ink and a black leather tome. This one did not have a
Phoenix Gate on the cover. Dipping the stylus in the ink, he began translating the ancient script
into the book.
As he worked, a door slid open with a soft hiss and someone stepped inside. He gave a silent sigh as he caught a whiff of perfume, a heady aroma. He heard the slight rustle of her clothes and the shimmer of reflected light from its luminescence.
She slid her soft delicate hands up and over his shoulder, gliding down over his chest. She planted a kiss on the nape of his neck. Harthoth relaxed as she continued her ministrations.
"How was your business trip?" she asked, whispering in his ear.
Harthoth took her delicate hand and kissed it lightly. "I won’t know for some time, but it looks
"The satellites are up and away."
Harthoth nodded, "Yes, now the tech people have to test to see if everything will work."
Well," she said, "I'd say you've earned some R&R."
Harthoth turned his chair around and pulled her to him. She gave a yelp and she fell into his lap.
She pushed away her blonde hair and smiled at him.
"I’d say so too, my love. So what would you like to do?"
She smiled back with a mischievous look in her eyes. "Oh, I’m sure we can think up some
interesting things right here."
Harthoth smiled again, kissing her fully on the lips.