Fire and Ice
A Timedancer Story
Written by Alan "Ordell" Coleman with additional material by Jonathan "Entity" Cotleur
Outline by Jonathan "Entity" Cotleur and Carolynn "Aerie" Marie
Artwork by Jessica Entis
* * * * *
Previously on Timedancer:
Payne had snapped as he fired and damaged his work. Then something sparked, and Brooklyn approached where the time portal was to have been made. As he did, a small blue ball of icy fire came into being, and began to expand.
The madman's eyes glossed over. "It works... IT WORKS!" He broke out into a run and knocked Brooklyn to the side as he leapt into the homemade time portal, just as a crucial piece of machinery exploded.
The blue flame closed in on him and vanished, taking the doctor with it.
----Trust No Future----
* * * * *
"Well, well, well," he said dryly. "Itís the Timedancing Winged Wonder. I was wondering when my ride would get here."
Brooklyn froze, his eyes dilated as he took the picture in before him. "Payne Ö"
----I am Become Death----
* * * * *
Loki ignored the whining. "I have decided to go along with your idea and let you have my strength. You will agree to use it towards the goal of freeing me from the Phoenix Gate."
"All right. I agree. Once that is accomplished, we'll go ahead and do a few more things together."
"Yes. We'll drink a toast to freedom, and to gargoyle hunting." Loki looked startled for a second, then laughed. It was the most chilling noise Payne had ever heard.
"Yes, we will. A grand idea. Now listen, this is important. You have said you agree to this, but you must accept my power completely or things will go very wrong for you."
"Okay," Payne huffed impatiently, "I understand. Let's get to it."
"So be it."
The two of them stood there for another second, before Payne insisted, "Well?"
Loki narrowed his eyes on the impudent scientist. "It is coming."
At almost that instant, Payne felt something rise in him, a surge. It was a geyser going off in his chest, spreading to all his limbs -- then the feeling of the balloon inflating in his head again, only this time, it wasnít constrained.
Payne clenched his teeth. "Wh-whatís happening?"
"There is a part of me already inside you. It is seizing control. Let it or it will kill you."
Payne managed a nod, only to regret it as his neck tightened and convulsed. His mind began to splinter, to crack, and something seeped through: a memory. But not from his point of view...
..Project Chronos was successful. Yes, that brilliant, incandescent sphere of blue crackling energy. That marvelous, endless vortex. The culmination of his work. It had worked.
...He wasnít the only one to notice. From within the Phoenix Gate, something had been stirred to life. The machine had drawn from the Gate, and in so doing, had drawn its occupant out. But not all the way. It had a second, no more. A second in which...
...To leap from its prison into Dr. Isaac Payne. Payne, its passage to freedom. But only a fraction of itself made it before its prison was unplugged, before it was re-sentenced to eternal dormancy by its escorts.
...And dizzying plunge into the depths of time, the depths of the human consciousness, into a nook in a corner recess of his new vesselís mind... forced there for it had no means of surfacing without being bidden... it could not take possession without permission...
At last, Payne snapped out of his delirium.
----Nor Iron Bars a Cage----
* * * * *
Fire and Ice
August 24, 79 A.D.
The waters of the Mediterranean Sea were pure black in the night. Only three types of creatures were out at this time of night: the fish, the fisherman, and the demons, of course. The demons were always out, but the sunlight seemed to drive them away. Egeus sat in his small boat, a fishing pole in hand as he wondered why he was here. His partner, Spectio, sat on the other side, half-awake and listening to the sounds of the night.
"Are you with me, my friend?" Egeus said, stirring his companion into consciousness. Spectio grunted and looked.
"I think we have enough," Spectio said, "Should we head home?"
Egeus nodded, grunting slightly. "Our catch was small today, almost pitiful. The fish have been so scarce lately."
Spectio laughed, "There are highs and lows in any business. Most of the fishermen have been fairing badly these days."
Egeus nodded again, when the sky suddenly erupted over their heads. A fire hung suspended in the air, no more than ten feet away. Both men felt the heat on their skin, as the hair on the backs of their necks rose and their minds reeled at the incredible sight.
Egeus turned to Spectio, panic in his eyes, and yelled something, but over the engulfing sound of the fire neither man could hear his own voice. Spectioís knee buckled and he stumbled, almost falling over. Egeus caught him by the arm, and the boat rocked, sending out heavy ripples.
Finally, the fire dissipated, carried away by the winds. The night returned to normal, but the fishermen still sat frozen in terror. They almost didnít notice the two large splashes that caused their boat to rock violently forward.
"What was it?" Spectio cried.
"A sign from the gods," Egeus whispered.
* * * * *
The red glow of the Phoenix flames subsided to impenetrable black. Brooklyn immediately felt the absence of ground beneath his feet and grabbed for Payne as he attempted to unfurl his wings.
"What's going on, Timedancer?" Payne screamed, thrown into a panic by the sudden lack of footing.
Brooklyn grabbed Payneís arm and pulled the doctor closer to him. "Brace yourself," the gargoyle said as the two dropped into warm blackness.
They hit the lukewarm water like sacks of grain, plummeting deep beneath the surface. Brooklyn scrambled madly for the surface and opened his eyes to look for Payne. He panicked when he realized that he no longer felt the scientistís arm in his hand.
* * * * *
Both of the fishermen heard the splash. Something had fallen, that was for sure. Spectio grabbed an oar and began to frantically move the boat towards the sound. He stole a glance at his partner, who was sitting at the other end of the boat, his arms around his knees, talking to himself.
"Could it be? A sign from the gods? Have they finally chosen me to help fulfill their plan? My life will finally have some purpose," Egeus went on, until Spectio intervened.
"Quiet!" he yelled, "We must find what has fallen. If it is something sent by the gods, we must recover it."
Egeus compiled his thoughts and put them aside in his mind. Spectio was right; they did have a purpose. He grabbed the other oar to help his partner. "Perhaps," he mused aloud, "it is riches. OrÖsome great being, a messenger of the godsÖ"
Spectio thought over the prospect. "That sounds just like a test of virtue the gods would bestow."
* * * * *
Brooklyn relocated Payne -- barely. The shadow of the scientistís retreating form caught his eye just as it was drifting out of view. He swam forward, awkwardly, attempting to utilize his tail and wings as best he could, and grabbed the scientist.
With the doctor now safely in tow, he turned to what he hoped was the surface. It being night, it was hard to tell. He quickly grew frustrated with himself as his destination inched closer. Payne was already unconscious. Another minute under water and heíd drown.
When his head emerged from the icy waters, the gargoyle filled his lungs with fresh air, pulling Payneís head up too. The air, he noticed, wasnít actually that fresh. It reeked of salt and dead fish.
Before he could set his sights on land, a great rumbling began. The waters shook, creating larger waves. Brooklyn fought against them, but he was out-matched. One big wave swept into him, knocking Payne out of his grip and carrying the scientist away.
His mind racing, he decided to try getting around the waves by ducking under water. His eyes widened as soon as he submerged and entered a violent realm -- great underwater shock waves colliding with each other.
* * * * *
"An earthquake," Spectio said, astonished. "This truly is a sign from the gods. We must act quickly."
"Spectio, what is that?" Egeus asked, pointing to a figure floating in the water. The light reflected off of it, making the figure seem divine and tremendously opaque.
Spectio merely nodded and began to row faster, telling his partner to do the same.
* * * * *
A great bout of joy washed over Brooklyn as he finally felt solid land beneath him. Slowly, exhaustingly, he pulled himself out of the water and collapsed onto the shore. He felt the texture of the mud in his hands. It was one of the most stunning feelings he had ever had. He lay on his back a moment, catching his breath and hoping that no one was in the general area, then rolled over, opened his eyes and saw the sun in the horizon. The gargoyle screamed in frustration as stone overtook his body for the day.
* * * * *
The two fishermen stared in awe at their discovery, this sign that had been delivered to them from the gods, as he continued to float in the water. Egeus looked him over, noting the lack of hair on his head and his large brow. He began to reach out to the figure, when Spectio grabbed his arm.
"Stop. He is of the gods. You cannot touch him, my friend, for you do, you will most surely die," Spectio said.
"I realize that. But, if he is a god in human form, he will die in the water. We must save him," Egeus said as he pulled Payne out of the water and into the boat. The doctor was out cold, and neither of the fishermen touched him after he was safe. Spectio clearly looked troubled, as if something were going to happen to them both.
"Pray he isn't dead," Spectio said, not seeing Payneís small, unnoticeable breaths.
"And if he drowned?" Egeus asked nervously.
"May the gods punish us mercifully."
Egeus winced at the truth, and began to make the journey home. He and Spectio said nothing more to each other the rest of the trip. Neither even paid any attention to the fact that the earthquake had subsided.
* * * * *
That was all Doctor Isaac Payne wanted right now. He wanted the Timedancer dead. He also wanted to be home, with his colleagues, with his inventions. In those places was where he felt most comfortable. It had all been his fault. But the doctor had come up with a way to get back at that notorious creature, and no matter what happened to him, he would make sure the Timedancer would die.
Payneís eyes shot open as he suddenly became aware of his surroundings. He had been falling through the air, cursing that blasted gargoyle, when he had hit water. That had knocked him out cold, he rationalized. And, he thought further after a few seconds, he was still sick from his last journey. No, that wasnít it. The headache Ė that was something different. He winced when he tried feeling his scalp. He must have suffered some kind of head trauma.
He sat up, discovering he was in a small cot.
"My lord," he heard the voice of a young man in the room. "You must lay down. You are not yet well." The man began to walk towards him.
There's an understatement, Payne thought, smiling inside. "Where am I? Who are you?" he asked the stranger. Payne looked him over. The man was young, no more than thirty --much younger, in fact. His curly white-blonde hair topped his head, a few strands falling into his eyes. He pushed them back as he came towards Payne, making sure not to make contact with him.
Odd, Payne thought. Where has the Timedancer brought me now?
"You are in the city of Pompeii," the man said. "My name is Egeus, a freedman."
"A what?" Payne asked crabbily.
"A freedman," Egeus repeated. "Ever since I was a child, I worked in the fields, but an older friend of mine, Spectio, paid for me to be set free. Now we run a fish stand together in the market."
Egeus swallowed nervously. "SpectioÖhe was the one with me when we found you. You landed in the sea after we saw a large flash of fiery light." His voice picked up a more reverent tone at this point, which annoyed Payne further. "It was not lightning; no, this was as if the sky was burning, if only for an instant."
Egeus paused, then asked in excitement, "Were you sent from Jupiter?"
Payne let it sink in. He was still confused. "Where did you say we were again?"
Egeus answered hesitantly, startled by the manís lack of recollection. "The city of Pompeii."
Pompeii. He searched his mind. He knew that Pompeii had been destroyed more that two thousand years before he was even born. Frustratingly, that fragment was all that he could remember about the city. That meant that he had been brought nearly two millennia into the past.
Jupiter. The boy had asked him if he was from Jupiter. Why would he ask if Payne was from another planet? Did they even know about other planets in this time period? Payne threw his attention back to the boy, who was simply starring at him. The doctor finally spoke.
"Why would I be from Jupiter, you blistering idiot?"
Egeus looked disappointed, but he started to advance towards Payne once again.
"May I?" he asked. The doctor, still somewhat disoriented of his surroundings, didnít have time to react to Egeus reaching out to him. His hand touched Payneís arm, and the scientist pulled back in a mixture of shock and surprise. He stared at Egeus as if the boy had just stabbed him.
"You're real," Egeus murmured to himself, astonished.
"Don't touch me!" Payne yelled, shooing Egeusí hand away.
"I'm ... I'm sorry. Please forgive me," Egeus said apologetically, cowering away.
"Fine, fine," said Payne. He got on his feet, and the blood rushed out of his balance points, throwing his equilibrium off. The doctor reeled for a moment, then collapsed to the ground.
"Oh, no," Egeus said. "You can't go anywhere," he released his fear of touching the man and allowed himself to help Payne back into the bed. "You need your rest. If the gods sent you, you'll heal quickly, but youíve still got a fever." Egeus left the room, leaving Payne alone.
"Gods?" Payne repeated, then shook his head. "Impressionable zealots," he muttered, but as he did so, a sharper pain arched up through his whole body, and he remembered Loki.
Gingerly, he laid back down on the cot. "Might as well take advantage of the boy," he sighed as he made himself comfortable, "even if he is incompetent. Iíll just have to make sure he doesnít slip any leeches onto me or try bleeding me..."
After a few more moments, he began drifting off into sleep, dreaming about how he would have his revenge on the Timedancer. He smiled, his future awaiting him.
* * * * *
Brooklyn smiled as he looked at Sata. She smiled back at him, those beautiful lips, those vibrant eyes... And their children, their children were there, too. They laughed and they danced, their voices echoing far and away, so far away as Brooklyn leaned in to kiss her. Her eyes closed... and a wall of flame erupted in front of her--
The sound of seagulls filled Brooklynís ears, as he opened his eyes to the sight of the beach. The waters churned mere feet before him. He unknotted his satchel and brought out the familiar gem.
"Spera," he breathed, as the last of the misty evening rays shined on it, reflecting his resigned face back at him. He put the stone away and focused his attention on his surroundings. He needed to look for something, or someone...
"Jalapena!" The gargoyle gulped. His eyes traveled the length of the shoreline in each direction. He found no sign of the scientist. He remembered the night before. Heíd been unconsciousÖthe tremors had separated them...
With one final look across the beach, he decided it for certain. Payne was gone.
He stood and stared at the vanishing horizon, the last of the seagulls fleeing with the day. Then he abandoned his stone sheddings to the next tide and started up the beach.
It rose uphill to an overlooking cliff-line that stretched the entire shore. All along the base were pieces of fallen masonry, Brooklyn wagered from the earthquake the night before. It looked like the rubble of street pavement. If there were streets, there was civilization.
* * * * *
Brooklyn wound his way through the dark, narrow streets with his wings draped around him like a cloak and his tail wrapped close around one leg to hide it. So far, to passersby, he just seemed to resemble another stranger as long as they didnít get a close look. So long as he kept his head down and stayed in the shadows, he was safe.
As he wandered through the metropolis, he grew increasingly full of despair. Payne, though an annoyance, had been someone to keep him company. Heíd come so close to finally being relieved of his journeys in his last dance, so close. But could he have felt at home there? His heart longed for Sata, longed for the future, where his children were, or would be. He had two homes, really, the other being with his Clan back in Manhattan.
He grinned. The name sounded foreign to him: Manhattan. Either of those places were home, and home was where the heart was.
"That was corny," he mumbled bitterly. He shook away his thoughts, upset with himself, and focused on the present.
The first order of business was food. He located a bakerís cart up ahead and made his way toward it. The aroma enticed him as he came nearer. One little swipe and heíd have breakfast.
He eyed a half-loaf of bread sitting to the side. He was going to take another step closer, when he felt the weight shift in his belt pouch.
He looked down to see the top flap open, the Phoenix Gate staring back at him. Only the Phoenix Gate. His eyes darted through the throng of people. A small form retreated into a back alley. Brooklyn spotted it and dashed after it.
The thief, seeing that he was being pursued, sped up. He rounded a corner, and Brooklyn was about to follow, when he realized there was an open plaza. He stopped short of revealing himself, bending over to catch his breath. Then he caped his wings around him again and peeked around the corner. He feared the thief was already far away, but to his surprise, he wasnít.
The thief, a boy of about ten, was standing outside a large temple.
"Celer!" came an adult voice. A stout, chubby man walked out of the temple entrance to meet the youth, grabbing him by the neckline of his shirt. "Where have you been? Itís time for the evening prayer. Come, boy."
"Silence!" the adult yelled. Even Brooklyn cringed at the command, ducking his head back behind the wall. When he risked another peek, he saw the adult dragging the boy into the temple.
Bingo, Brooklyn thought. He took another deep breath, noting exactly where he was for future reference.
The older man had been wearing a tunic, as had the boy, only simpler. The architecture was definitely ancient Roman. He remembered something of the layout of Roman buildings from his early dances. He nodded. From the manís words, he knew exactly where the boy would be. Brooklyn shook his head, weighing his options. The Gate stared at him from inside his pouch. He needed to get that gem back, Pandoraís gem. But what if his time here didnít last long enough?
He pounded the wall in frustration, letting out a grunt. Resolutely, he rounded the corner of the building, making his way toward the temple. Maybe heíd just get lucky.
* * * * *
Just as in the city, Brooklyn stayed in the shadows as he ventured through the temple. He grinned ironically. Ever since he had begun the timedances, it seemed that he existed in both worlds, human and gargoyle, but lived in neither. His eyes adjusted to the torch-lit hallways easily enough, though he had the feeling he was missing something. Brooklyn let out a breath as he rounded yet another corner, running into Ė
Two men in light togas. The gargoyle awaited their reactions, every muscle tensed.
"Demon," one whispered. A heartbeat passed, which seemed like a lifetime to Brooklyn, "Demon!" the man yelled. The sound of running feet trailed down the corridorís opposite end and Brooklyn ran for it.
But the echo had confused him, and he ran right into the oncoming guards. Four stood ready as they intercepted him, their swords raised, but their faces blanched.
"Quick service," Brooklyn muttered. He eyed the one in front, clearly the leader. Sweat was dripping into the manís eyes, but it didnít seem to faze him. He charged Brooklyn, bringing his sword down towards the gargoyleís throat.
Brooklyn met the blow and repelled it, knocking the soldier to the floor. The other three followed, and Brooklyn prepared to take them on, when he glimpsed the boy at the end of the far corridor.
In his distraction, the pair of guards who originally intercepted him were able to sneak up behind.
* * * * *
Celer made the decision to ignore the commotion behind him. He was already in trouble, and if he were to look behind him, he would surely be punished immediately. As he and his master walked through the halls, the jewel he had taken from the monster fell out of his pouch, clanging on the marble floor.
His master looked at the gem on the floor and then at Celer. "Whatís this?" he asked, picking up the magical item. Celer was speechless. "What is this?!" he demanded, yelling at the boy this time.
"IÖ IÖ" was all the slave could muster out.
"Stealing from the templeís treasury? Is that what you said?" his master accused.
"Silence!" he ordered. "Youíre a thief, my boy. You were a thief when I found you, and you will be a thief until the day that you die. Come, letís go," he grabbed Celerís arm and dragged him the rest of the way. The boy hung his head, as if to show shame in his actions. He felt none.
* * * * *
Payne sat up in his bed, feeling nothing. No pain, no fever. "Amazing," he told himself. "It has stopped."
"Iím sorry?" Egeus asked, sitting in a chair next to the bed. Payne guessed that the fisherman had been watching him the whole time, which the scientist found truly pathetic.
"Nothing," Payne told him, not knowing if the disappearance of the illness was good or bad.
"Here," Egeus said, handing him a plate of fish with some red sauce splattered over it. "Itís called garum, my lord. Itís not much, but all I can offer next to bed and my roof. My friend Spectio said he would come by after he is done with the fishing tonight."
The doctor realized it was night outside, which meant the Timedancer was awake, most likely looking for him. He took the plate, expecting to ingest every last bit, but set it aside instead. Suddenly, he had no desire to eat anymore.
Payne lost himself in thought. He didnít notice Egeus starring at the plate in grave disappointment. From anyone else, Payneís refusal would have been an insult, but this man was of the gods.
"Iím sorry, my lord," Egeus mumbled humbly. "Would you like another type of fish? Or perhaps something to drink--"
"Shut up!" Payne responded sternly. "Tell me where I am and who you are."
The fisherman nodded, not understanding why this man - this godling - wanted to know this information again. "Yes, my lord. You are in Pompeii, a city near Herculaneum and Oplontis. I am Egeus, a fisherman. My friend Spectio and I sell our catch on the street of Via dellíAbbondanze by the Sarno Gate near the sea at the western end of the city every day during the light. We fish during the dark, as I said. Itís a humble life, I must say," Egeus realized he was rambling now, but couldnít stop talking, "As of late the fish have been scarce, and hard to sell and cook because the wells have all but dried up. I donít know--"
"Indeed," Payne said, making the fisherman stop. "I asked for your name, not your life story." His mind was clearer now and he rememberedÖnow that he wasnít feverish and being tossed around the timestream. He delved back into the snippets of history that he remembered. Pompeii would be destroyed by MountÖ MountÖ he stumbled for the name of the volcanic mountain that would eventually destroy the town. Vesuvius. That was it. The doctorís thoughts turned to the Timedancer once more-- his ticket to safety.
"My boy," he said to Egeus. "When you found me, was there anyoneÖ or anything else with me? Itís vital I know."
"No, my lord. Iím sorry. When the gods sent you, we only saw the light, and heard the splash. We found you in the water, most weathered from your journey. Spectio and I brought you here for the day."
The Romans and their insolent mythology, the doctor mused. But, he realized, what he viewed as mythology this boy viewed as his religion. Egeus thought of him as a god.
Payne sighed and laid back down, his mind going back to the Timedancer. This time, his thoughts were joined by another. It was the voice of Loki, and it whispered to him.
* * * * *
Brooklyn sat in a small, dark room, his legs crossed, meditating on how to escape from the four guards holding him at spear-point.
Finally, the door opened. The man that waddled in was short, fat and bald. It had to be the same man that had taken the boy into the temple, though now he was adorned more imperiously. He wore a white toga, which must have meant the wearer was an official of some kind. The outfit didnít compliment him all that well, though, and Brooklyn found himself stifling a laugh.
One of the guards walked over and greeted the newcomer.
"Sir," he said, bowing lightly to the man. The newcomer did the same, but with less sincerity.
The guard glanced warily to Brooklyn. "I believe this creature was sent by Apollo, or perhaps Neptune, judging by its appearance," the guard offered ."We found this in itís pouch." He proffered the Phoenix Gate to the man.
"Ah," said the man. "Iíll take that."
Brooklyn made a strangled gasp, but was quickly silenced by a spearpoint held to his throat.
The man smiled at the gargoyleís reaction and nodded to the guard to continue.
"I think it would be wise to offer it as a sacrifice to the gods," the guard continued. "Maybe it is even causing the earthquakes we have been experiencing."
Brooklyn rolled his eyes.
"Nonsense," the newcomer said, pushing his way past the guard. "I have come across a creature such as this before." The man walked over to the gargoyle, who looked up warily.
"Greetings," he said pompously. "I am Pompidius Grandius. And you, I trust, are a gargoyle." The man kneeled to meet Brooklynís gaze, which substantially widened.
The gargoyle offered something that could be considered a smile as he pulled his arms behind his back and flexed them. The guards came closer, spears at hand. "Careful boys, Iím just stretching." The guards didnít move.
"I am a priest of this city," Pompidius informed him.
"Good for you," Brooklyn shrugged. He wondered what this manís game was.
"Did you know Caesar?" the priest asked abruptly.
"What?" Brooklyn asked, confused. The name jogged memories of his early dances. In fact, his first dance. "I met the man once, a long time ago."
"Then I trust you knew Primus," Pompidius concluded confidentially.
Brooklyn stared at the man. More memories were flooding him. The flight they had taken together, the scroll the magus had given him -- which was now lost in 1920s London. "Yes, I did," Brooklyn said, this time standing up. "But itís been many years." It pained him that Pompidius referred to Primus in the past tense.
"GoodÖ good," the man said. "Now for the important questions: where are you from and why were you in the Temple of Apollo?"
Brooklyn sighed, thinking of the best way to give Pompidius the least information possible. "Iím from up north," he said. "Someone took something of mine. A boy, a servant of yours I gather. I was trying to get it back. It belongs with that," he said, nodding toward the Phoenix Gate.
"You mean this?" Pompidius asked, pulling out the Spera gem from the insides of his robe.
"How did you get that?" Brooklyn asked. "I have to have those back. Theyíre both very important to me." He risked his next sentence. "MyÖ destiny depends on it."
"I know," Grandius whispered to him, smiling. Brooklyn glared at him, his face etched in a combination of surprise and anger as he turned to stone for the day.
"Do you see?" the priest asked the guards. "Apollo shows us his dissatisfaction for desecrating his house with this creature. He turns the thief to stone as he rides his golden chariot across the sky. Undeniable proof from the gods."
"Thief?" one of the guards asked from behind. "What did he take?"
"These talismans," Grandius said, holding up the gem and the Gate. "Obviously, he took them from the temple treasury, and the servant he speaks of was trying to return them. The creature must have been trying to get them back, or steal something of greater value."
"What shall we do with it?" another guard asked.
"Apollo has sent his punishment to those who insult him," he stated, still looking at Brooklyn. "Get rid of it. It will take all four of you, possibly more."
Grandius left, tucking the gem and the Gate back inside his robe. The guards all looked at each other, and then began the task of moving thisÖ thing outside.
* * * * *
When the blast came, none of the people in Pompeii were expecting it. Spectio had been setting up the stall for that day. He was angry with himself, as he had not had the time to go and see their visitor after the fishing that evening. He had no idea how Egeus was holding up.
When he heard the noise, Spectio and his booth were blown back up against the wall. He was knocked unconscious, though he didnít know it. He felt no pain, at least, not at the moment. Everything after that was surreal to him.
* * * * *
Spectio stands. People are all around him, and his store is in tatters. He looks up, and marvels at what he sees. He thinks it is snow at first, sent from the gods. Then he remembers that it is August, and that this snow is gray. A young women runs into him, and he stops her.
What happened? He asks.
Look, she tells him. She holds her pale hand up to the mountain that overlooks the city, and Spectio shudders in fear. It spews ash and lava, and death and destruction. The day becomes night. The humble fisherman remembers experiencing the opposite thing only a few days ago. The gods are punishing us, the woman tells him. She runs away then, in fear, towards the main gate of the city.
By the gods, Spectio whispers to himself, leaving behind his possessions to run with the other doomed citizens of his city. Others push past him, but he doesnít notice. The fisherman turns into an alley, to gather his thoughts. If he turns around, he can make it to the sea, where there might be ships and other means of escape. Spectio begins to make his way towards the docks.
* * * * *
Doctor Isaac Payne was not one to take change well. When he had been dragged into this, that was a change that he had not taken well. First, he was home, then Hiroshima, and London, then in a freezing ice pit, where he had taken on the biggest change of all. Payne smiled to himself as he looked out the window, watching all these people -- these mortals -- flee in terror.
This fascinated him, knowing these peopleís entire fate. He also knew his, that he would seek his revenge and live forever. He heard Egeus come in, and turned to meet him. The fisherman had a donkey with him, supplies draped over its back. Egeus was ready to leave.
"We must leave, revered one," he told the doctor, who simply turned back around and looked out at the city. "It started this morning after breakfast and has been raining ash all day. The gods are punishing us for our disobedience. Please, I beg you!" Egeus grabbed Payneís arm, and the scientist drew it away, glaring at him. Egeus cowered back, apologizing. "Ask Jupiter to stop this! It is the end of the world, it must be!"
Payne had turned back to the window, and remained silent, his expression growing colder as he stared at the devastation.. He did not care about this boy, he only cared about the Timedancer, and his revenge.
"Please, we must leave!" Egeus pleaded. Payne turned around, holding his hand out. Ripples of blue energy escaped from his hand and flew through the air, throwing the young man against the wall. Ice blue energy surrounded Payne as he turned around completely.
"Yes," he said simply. "I think you were right.
"I am a god."
* * * * *
It was dark and gray when Brooklyn awoke. He immediately kicked into a coughing and sneezing fit, and noticed where he had been put: a garbage heap. Figures, he thought to himself. Ash was falling all around him and the gargoyle got to his feet. Brooklyn cringed as he finally realized where the Gate had brought him. He put it all together as he remembered watching a TV special with Hudson one evening when there had been nothing else to do. Pompeii, about 80 A.D.
The gargoyle managed to struggle out in the open, despite his better judgment. The air was heavy with ash, and he couldnít see more than a few feet in front of him. He had to find the gem and Gate and hope that he could get out before the whole city went under. Brooklyn leaned up against a building and dug his claws into it. He climbed to the top and leapt off, trying not to breathe in anymore than he had to. The ash and rocks falling from the sky brought him down almost immediately.
As he pulled himself to his feet, Brooklyn saw a small figure on the ground ahead of him. He ran to it, helping it to gain its balance back. The ash was so thick the gargoyle could barley see the figureís face. But he could make it out well enough. It was the boy who had robbed him.
"You?" Brooklyn asked in surprise, holding onto the boy tight.
When Celer realized what he had gotten into, he cringed and tried to run, but Brooklyn had to good of a grip on him. "Iím sorry, really I am. I needed the talismans to be set free. But my master abandoned me," he was yelling now. "Iím going to die here."
"No youíre not," Brooklyn said. "Iíll get us out of here. Can you lead me to the temple? The one were you were taken last night?"
The boy thought for a moment. The monster might truly be one of the gods or their agents. If he helped this being, they might look favorably on him and allow him to survive. He decided. "Of course. That is where my master has me work. I can get us there quickly."
Brooklyn simply nodded. "Letís go." They started to run in a direction that Brooklyn could not decipher, but he followed the boy anyway. "Whatís your name?" he asked.
"Celer. I was taken from my home during a raid on Greece when I was only a baby. They sold me to my master, and he used me to pay off his debt to Grandius, the priest of Apollo," the boy was running all the while.
"Yeah. Weíve met," Brooklyn interjected.
"I never knew my mother and father, but master Grandius tells me they were killed in the raid," the boy had a tone of harshness in his voice, which Brooklyn respected. His own child might not grow up with a father. The gargoyle quickly discarded the thought and continued to follow the boy.
"My name is Brooklyn. Iím from Scotland," the gargoyle said.
"I donít know where that is," Celer admitted.
Brooklyn didnít hear him, and the two were almost at the temple. They ignored the hordes of people around them, and most people ignored them. All anyone wanted was survival, monsters in the street were not as scary as the monstrous mountain looming above.
* * * * *
Payne wandered through the streets of the doomed city. He was no longer really human, though he could pass as one. Part of that creature was inside him, and he could feel in coursing through his veins, becoming one with the human shell.
The Gate was calling out to him, telling him to let the being inside free, to complete his end of their pact. The doctor pushed his way through the people, his eyes glowing the ice blue color his entire body had taken on. Some screamed at his presence, some, thinking he was Neptune, beseeched him to save them, others ignored him all together and continued to run for their lives. He finally reached the Temple of Apollo, and the voice of the Gate became louder. Payne walked inside, ready to destroy anything between him, the Gate, and the Timedancer.
* * * * *
Grandius wailed at the statue, pleading it to stop this madness. A congregation of people was behind him. They threw jewels and other items of value at the foot of the alter, pleading with Apollo to brighten the sky and make the death stop. The priest pulled out the Phoenix Gate and Spera and prepared to throw them on the altar, the ultimate sacrifice to the sun god. He didnít hear Brooklyn and Celer come into the room, but he sensed the sudden looming presence of the gargoyle.
Grandius whirled around, his face a parody of itself. It was burned horribly down one side, and the gargoyle couldnít bear to gaze directly at it. "You!" the priest yelled. "Get rid of them!" he yelled at the guards.
Celer stepped forward. "This creature is of the gods!" he yelled at the people, motioning towards Brooklyn. "They are angered that Grandius has treated him with such disrespect. You took away what rightfully belongs to him." He said this all while eyeing the Gate and gem in Grandiusí hands.
Brooklyn took his cue from the boy and allowed himself to get angry, making his eyes glow with white light. "See," the boy yelled, "his eyes glow with Apolloís fire!" Grandius screamed, clearly in terror, and threw Gate and gem towards their true owner. Brooklyn caught them, his eyes fading back to normal. He grabbed Celerís arm and turned to leave. As they turned, the gargoyle heard the voice of one had thought gone.
"Timedancer," Payne said, his voice echoing throughout the entire room. "Finally, Iíve found you."
"Payne," Brooklyn greeted, too much in a hurry to be grateful -- not that he would have been in any other situation. "This place is about to blow. Weíve got to get out of here."
The doctor stood in front of the only exit, ripples of blue energy coursing across his body. "The Gate, Timedancer. Give it to me."
Brooklyn took a step back, his eyes going wide with horror. "The sickness," he said, suspicion growing in his mind. "It did this to you, didnít it?"
"More or less," Payne said, smiling.
Grandius bowed before Payne, and wailing loudly and yelled, "Forgive me, great one. I did not mean to give the talismans to this demon."
Payne rolled his eyes and extended his hand. Ice shot out of his palm, a deep blue in color. Brooklyn watched as it fell over the priest, freezing him instantaneously. The doctorís eyes never left the gargoyle. The remaining worshippers screamed in horror and ran out of the temple. Payne moved out of their way -- he had what he wanted. Only Brooklyn, Payne and Celer remained.
"Celer, run," Brooklyn said, surprisingly calm. The boy stood still. "GO!" Brooklyn yelled, as Payne jumped through the air towards the gargoyle, his eyes still the color of blue ice. The boy yelled in fear.
* * * * *
When Spectio had found Egeus, his friend had already died. From what little he knew about human anatomy, Spectio guessed that some type of head trauma had killed his friend. The fisherman cried when he found his young friend but quickly moved on, trying to survive himself.
Spectio eventually reached the sea alone, coughing and wheezing from the ash and fatigue. The ash just kept falling, but he would soon be free. The sight of the docks and the sea should have been glorious, but the fisherman fell to his knees, weeping at the sight.
"No, he whispered to himself. "It wasnít supposed to be like this." He caught once last glimpse before he started having trouble breathing. Rocks filled the water, making a soupy black mess desolate of any life. There were no boats left. Everyone who could had fled. Spectio held his head in his hands, crying. He coughed miserably and awaited the coming of darkness.
* * * * *
Brooklyn and Payne crashed into the wall with so much force it cracked. Brooklyn growled, the light from his eyes contrasting Payneís all-around blue glow. Celer had escaped to a corner, then managed to slip out the door. Brooklyn freed himself from the space between Payne and the wall, and punched the doctor in the face. The scientist stumbled backwards, but he held onto his balance.
"I want to go home, Timedancer!" Payne told him. "And youíre not dancing anywhere else. Youíre going to die here, and the Gate will be mine."
Brooklyn dodged a blast of energy, which slammed into the wall behind him. The wall froze from the blast, chunks of fresco shattering with the impact, but Brooklyn didnít notice. He ran towards the exit, the Phoenix Gate and Spera held tightly in his hand.
"No, Timedancer!" Payne yelled at him, not moving. "I made a pact with the devil to get home. Iím not going to die here!" He continued to fire blasts of energy from his hands, but each missed Brooklyn as he got closer to the exit. The blasts hit the walls around them, rocking the temple to its foundations. Payne looked to his left, seeing a marble pillar swinging unsteadily. It finally toppled, and Payne was to slow to move out of itís way.
If fell on him, almost crushing his legs in the process. "No! Not now! Not like this!" Payne screamed from under the pillar as the ceiling began to crumble on top of him. Brooklyn took one last look at the doctor, grimaced, and bolted out the door.
Isaac Payne, the creature that he now was, lay under the marble pillar and a variety of other things. The ceiling had successfully fallen into the building, but Payne could still see the ash falling from the sky. It fell onto his skin, burning it. The doctorís eyes glowed a darker blue now, and the marble and stone that touched his skin froze with ice.
"Iíll get you, Timedancer!" he yelled. "Weíll get you!" His body continued to be surrounded by ash and soot. And Payne knew that the lava would soon come. He continued screaming at the Timedancer until the extreme heat silenced his voice.
* * * * *
Celer was waiting for Brooklyn outside, trying not to breathe in the dark air around them. They followed the general crowd towards the top of a nearby hill. People were still coming, and Brooklyn knew their entire fate. No one reacted to the gargoyle amongst them, they were too occupied with saving their own lives. They saw the volcano, Vesuvius, erupting at full strength. Celer gasped at the sight.
"Come on," Brooklyn told him, still holding onto his arm. "We have to keep moving or weíre finished." Celer allowed himself to be led.
The boy tripped as the ash started to fall more heavily. Brooklyn stopped and helped him, the two looking back briefly at the volcano. Celer was crying, and whispering to himself. But Brooklyn could hear him clearly enough. "I donít want to die. Gods, please donít let me die."
"You wonít," Brooklyn said as winds of sulfuric acid began to descend upon the remains of the destroyed city. He felt a familiar tingle. The gargoyle grabbed the boy and drew him close, wrapping his wings around them both.
The Phoenix Gate erupted with fire, one of the few occasions that Brooklyn felt that it had had great timing. Just as Brooklyn and Celer were whisked away, a large rock slammed the ground they had been standing in. Screams of the people left behind echoed in their ears.
They could be heard until the bitter end.
* * * * *
The first thing Celer saw once the fire dissipated was the sun, the bright shining sun that turned Brooklyn to stone almost immediately. Celer stepped back from his new friend, thanking the gods that he was free. He looked at the bits of ash around him, guessing it had been around them when the fire had taken them. He was confused, tired, frightened, and had no idea where he was. Exhaustion caught up with him all at once and he slumped down in the grass, leaning up against Brooklyn, slowly falling asleep. But one last thought ran through his brain as he slipped into unconsciousness:
He was free.
* * * * *