The Harsh Light of Day, pt. 3
Written by Alan Coleman Waltrip
Story by Alan Coleman Waltrip
Art by Revel, Lynati, and Lain
Egypt - December 2173
Sata, Samson, and Angela stood in a brightly lit hallway, completely oblivious as to where they were supposed to go.
"Their trail is just gone," Samson said, looking back at his mentor and his mother.
"Do not think the worst, child," Sata said calmly. "I do not believe they will be harmed."
"How do you know?" Angela asked, worry in her voice.
"It is not his way," Sata told her.
Sata saw Angela stagger significantly, almost falling to the ground. She went to her side, helping her to stand on her feet. "What is wrong?"
Angela shook her head. Her pupils had grown much too large. "I donít know. I feel... something."
"Mom, what is it?" Samson asked.
"Itís... this way," Angela said, her voice suddenly clear. She stood up straight, pointing ahead of them.
"What? Artus and Alex?" Samson said, trying to get her to make sense.
"We have to go this way. I can feel it."
She broke loose of Sataís hold and walked forward. She did not look back to see if they were going to follow her.
"What is going on?" Samson asked.
"I wish I knew. We have to follow her," Sata said.
"Of course we do," he said, catching up so he was just a few paces behind his mother. Sata looked around, eyeing a video camera that had been watching the entire exchange. She waved at the lens and then fell in line behind her comrades.
* * * * *
Egypt - 2168
Gwenyvere sat across from her mate, playing idly with the food on her plate. She could see Demona sitting next to her in her peripheral vision. They were all in their true forms. She looked up to Harthoth and smiled. She mouthed something to him, her eyes cutting towards her grandmother.
Can we tell her now?
Harthoth motioned towards her with his hand, as if to say: By all means.
Gwenyvere smiled. "Grandma," she said. "We have something to tell you."
Demona put down her silverware carefully. "What is it, dear?" she asked, a certain amount of fear in her voice.
"Itís nothing bad," she said, putting her hand over Demonaís own. "Weíre pregnant."
Demona looked at her eyes, a smile slowly creeping on her face. "Thatís wonderful," she said, pulling her granddaughter into an embrace. Harthoth watched them from the side, immersed in their image so much that he did not see Demonaís hand reach out to him and pull him into the hug.
When they released, Harthoth looked at both women. "I have done things throughout my life. Things I am not proud of and things I would never change. I have to tell both of you these things, because they are who I truly am."
And Harthoth told them of his deeds, and Gwenyvere loved him all the more.
* * * * *
Egypt - December 2173
"So you know..." Brooklyn said, his voice trailing off. "You know what he really is." His voice was neither accusatory nor critical.
Gwenyvere smiled. "I know that underneath what the world sees him as, he is a sweet and kind soul. He is somebody who I am happy to spend my life with."
Brooklyn nodded. "If youíre happy with him, Gwen, then Iím happy for you."
"Weíre going to name her Dominique," she said, looking towards the door.
"What do you mean?" Meryt asked. She had remained quiet during the girlís story.
"The baby. Itís a girl. I wanted to name her Demona, but my grandmother wouldnít let me. She said that nobody should have bear through the pain that comes with that name."
"I can understand that," Brooklyn told her.
Meryt stood up, her hand reaching for her dagger. Of course, her weapons had been gone from her body for a long time. She knew that some habits could not be broken, though. "Someone is coming," she told them.
Brooklyn stood, reaching for his own pulse pistol. "How do you know?"
"I can feel it."
Gwenyvere held out her hands. "Settle down. Weíre safe in here. You shouldnít worry."
The door opened with an almost silent whistle. Brooklyn turned slowly, the image he saw surprising him only a little. Still, he knew that everything Gwenyvere had worked for was about to come crashing down on top of her.
"Or maybe they should," Angela said, her voice clouded with near tears. Brooklyn saw Samson and Sata standing behind her, and he only wished they had not come for him.
Gwenyvere turned, seeing the figure of the woman she had never wanted to see again. "Hello, mother," she said, her voice strong with her own free will. "How have you been?"
* * * * *
In darkened spaces, it became unable for Artus to keep track of time. He could feel that it was still the same night it was when he had been captured, because he still felt the drugs running through his veins. Artus tried to picture the room in his mind, but even with his enhanced night vision he could not see. The gargoyle closed his eyes in breathed in slowly, holding his breath. He tried to clear his mind and picture Persephone, waiting for him back in Manhattan. It was a calming technique he had learned as a child.
Artus heard another breath in the room, and opened his eyes. "Alexander?" he asked.
"Iím here," the human said. "I just donít know where here is. Canít you do that glowy-eyed thing?" Artus knew that Alex would be making jokes as he died.
"That is a product of adrenaline. Iím still too weak to do it voluntarily. Donít you have some type of light source on that suit of yours?" Artus asked.
"Several, actually. Weíd be set if I had my suit. It was gone when I woke up. Iím sure your sword is gone as well."
"I wouldnít know. My arms are bolted to the wall."
"I guess weíll be here for a while, then." Alex was silent for a moment. "You want a candy bar?"
Artus found himself laughing in spite of all that was going on.
"Your friend is quite right, Leader," they heard a voice say. Whether its origin was within the room or through an intercom, neither could be certain. "Iím afraid you will be here for some time."
"Harthesen." Alex said.
"Yes. Although I have never liked the name. You may both refer to me as Harthoth, if you wish."
"If you hurt any of the others Ė" Artus started.
Harthoth cut him off. "I let the others escape because it fit my plans. I am afraid you two are not so lucky."
The room lit up. Alex saw his friend pulling his chained arms forward all his might, illumination bursting from his eyes. His restraints did not budge from the wall.
"Do not waste your strength. You will need it in the morning. Iíve promised a colleague of mine an appointment with you. When she is done with you, you will be glad that you turn to stone."
No sound came from the room.
"See, I said you could do that glowy-eyed thing," Alex said after some time.
* * * * *
The silence of the room was something Brooklyn could not stand for long. They all simply stood there, looking at one another. He looked at Angela, for once seeing the age that lined her face, and the tears that were forming at the sight of her daughter. Samson was there also, although the Timedancer could see no emotion in his eyes. And Sata...
Before he could register her appearance, she was holding him, whispering in his ear that she was so glad that he was okay. Brooklyn put his hand on the back of her hand, feeling the softness of her hair. It made him smile.
"I knew that Harthoth would not hurt you," she said.
The name struck him hard. He had heard it for many years, but coming from her mouth made him flinch. Brooklyn still did not know what had happened between them, but now was not the time for such things.
He let go of her embrace, turning to see the scene before them. Meryt stood in the corner, knowing that none of this had anything to do with her.
Angela walked a bit closer to her daughter, a look of scorn and anger on the younger gargoyle's face. They both knew that this moment might come at one point, and neither knew exactly what to do. Angela held out her arms, but Gwenyvere stood back.
"Do not come near me," she said, her words short.
Angela closed her eyes, trying not to cry. Gwenyvere stepped closer. She slapped her mother in the face, the sound echoing in the room. It made Samson jump a bit, but he did not move.
"Okay, that's enough," Brooklyn told them, stepping between the two generations. He turned to Angela. "We should get going. I don't think Harthoth was holding us here for any reason other than to have a good laugh."
"He is not like that," he heard Sata's voice say. Brooklyn shot her a look, seeing that she meant it. The look in his eyes told her to be quiet, and that they would discuss things later.
He took his Love's hand and turned to face Gwenyvere. "I'm glad that you're happy, and I'm glad that you're safe. But everyone back home is hurting more than you can ever know. One call a year to your father isn't enough. Let them know where you are."
Gwenyvere nodded. "I love you both so much. You know that, right?"
Sata took Gwen's face in her hand, making her smile. "We know, my child. I am so glad you have found your place in the world. It is an accomplishment that some souls never find."
"You did so much for me, Sata. More than you can ever know."
"Perhaps one day, you can tell me."
The Timedancers turned to leave.
Samson walked up to his sister, and the two hugged. "I know, in your mind, Mom deserves that. She's changed, though. We've all changed," he said. They let go of each other, and Samson exited the room.
"I should join the others," Meryt said. She came to Gwenyvere. "I used to be able to go anywhere in Egypt, and now I am stuck in the borders of Cairo. You have so much anger in you, my friend. Please, come talk to me whenever you want to. I'll be around."
Mother and daughter stood alone in the room. Angela wiped the tears away from her face. "There aren't enough words to say how sorry I am." With that, she turned to leave.
"You're not sorry that you took us away, you're sorry that I'm so angry at you for it," Gwenyvere said. Angela did not turn back around. "I've had ten years to think about this moment. Now that it's over, I think that someday we might be friends. We can never be mother and daughter again, but maybe someday... we can be friends." She stopped, her voice harsh from emotion. Angela left, not saying another word.
The door shut with an almost silent sound, and Gwenyvere sat down on her couch. She let herself cry, something she had not done for a very long time.
Some time later, she was never sure how long, the door opened again. She looked up to see her husband standing there. She smiled at this sight, thinking how much she loved him. Despite the things he had done, she loved him. Harthoth came and sat down next to her. Gwenyvere leaned against his frame, letting him support her weight.
"Were you able to do what you wanted?" he asked, stroking her hair.
"I think so. Maybe. Iím not really sure how this will turn out."
"It can only go uphill from here."
"Your project is almost done, right?" she asked, changing the subject.
"I still donít know why you canít tell me about it," she said.
"It is just business, Love. Nothing more." Harthoth reached over and kissed her. "I love you," he told her.
"I love you, too," Gwenyvere said, her eyes closing with fatigue. A few moments later she was asleep.
Harthoth stood, careful not to wake her. He laid her out on the couch, covering her with a blanket. He stood over his love for a moment, simply looking at her. He smiled, knowing what was coming in the hours ahead. Harthoth left quietly to do his work.
* * * * *
Brooklyn led the group in silence, none of them really wanting to speak of the events they had just witnessed. He imagined that Angela would want to get back to her mate as soon as possible. They approached the opening in which they had entered, the natural light of the stars and moon coming into the building only slightly. Each of the gargoyles stepped outside, feeling the natural air and breathing a small sigh of relief. The fact the Artus and Alex were not with them did not go unnoticed, especially to Samson, who could feel in his soul that his brother and friend were still inside the building somewhere.
The Timedancer turned to Meryt, whose frozen beauty was even more apparent under that stars. "You don't have to come with us."
"I will accompany you to your transport and make sure you leave safely," Meryt said.
"You could come back to Manhattan. I'm sure there someone that can break -"
Meryt cut him off. "I can not even leave Cairo any longer."
"I don't understand. What about the rest of Egypt?" Brooklyn asked.
"I can no longer leave these borders. It is a long story. I am needed here, most of all."
"Come on," Samson interrupted them. "We need to go."
They ran, unable to pick up enough height to take flight. Brooklyn saw the massive transport ahead of them after some time and came to a stop. He turned around; Harthoth's building was only a spot on the horizon.
"They aren't here," Samson announced.
"We have our orders," Angela reminded him.
"What? We can't leave Alex and Artus here," Brooklyn said, realizing what was going on.
"They gave explicit instructions, my love," Sata said.
Her words were almost inaudible as the wind began to blow harder. It whipped up the sand around them, causing Brooklyn to squint his eyes in order to see.
"We must go," Angela said. "Something is coming."
Meryt approached Sata. "Thank you for trying to save me," she said quietly.
"You would have done the same for me," Sata said. The two hugged quickly. Meryt jumped up on the transport, eyeing Brooklyn one last time. She would only see him once more in her lifetime. Without a word, she jumped off into the night air and was gone.
"Who was that, exactly?" Samson asked as he opened the entrance to the transport ship.
"I'll tell you on the way home," Brooklyn said.
Artificial light came from the ship, making it a little easier to see the vast desert that surrounded them. Brooklyn took Sata's hand as they turned to go back home. If not for his voice, it might have been considered a good day.
"Brooklyn, wait," Harthoth said, causing him to turn around.
The Timedancer saw the figure of his friend, sand surrounding him almost to the point that he was not noticeable. "I wanted to at least see you before you left."
Brooklyn did not speak. He only walked over to his friend and punched him in the face. The sound of the impact made the others cringe. He turned and boarded the transport. "Come on."
Angela and Samson looked at Harthoth, and then to Sata. They boarded the transport without saying a word.
Sata walked over to Harthoth quickly. The older gargoyle held his jaw in his hand, gently rubbing the pain away. "Are they alive?" she asked.
"You have my word."
"He knows. Please do not come to visit me anymore," Sata told him, turning to leave.
"You have my word on that, as well, samurai."
Harthoth watched the transport's door close with a mechanical whirring. It lifted into the air and shot off into the night. He waited until he could not see the craft any longer, and then returned to his work.
The time was almost here.
* * * * *
Brooklyn went forward and sat quietly for a while. Eyes closed. Thinking.
* * * * *
Samson stood against the hull of the transport, setting his pulse pistol to reload. He was not sure if he would need it before they reached Manhattan, but he wanted to be ready. Thoughts of his brother clouded his mind, and he did not try to push them out. He put the gun in its holster, hearing his mother's soft cries come from around the corner.
He approached her cautiously, knowing that the events she had just been put through had torn her up inside. She held her face in her hands, not trying to hide her emotions. When they got home, his father could help her. But for now, Samson would do what he could.
He sat next to her, putting his arm around her and letting her fall into this chest. Samson closed his eyes, feeling his mother's weight on him and knowing that she was strong, that she could get through this.
"They're going to be okay," he said, letting her head come up.
Angela looked at her son and smiled. "I know. Artus has the will of Goliath, and Alexander the cunning of David. Together they can get through anything." She wiped tears out of her eyes and from her cheeks.
"Are you going to be okay?" Samson asked.
"In time, sweetie. We should all be okay in time."
"We shouldn't have left them there."
"We had a mission. We completed it. Your brother gave specific orders. I don't know where he gets his stubbornness from."
"Yeah, that's a big mystery there," Samson said jokingly. Angela smiled again, pushing some hair out of her face. "Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?"
"Just don't leave me."
Samson nodded. "I won't. I promise. Not in a million years."
* * * * *
Persephone stood on a loading dock and watched the transport pod as it descended slowly. She did not know who had made it back from Egypt, and she could only hope that Artus would be there. The pod landed, the hydraulics letting out with a hush of air. The door opened, and she saw them.
Brooklyn stood first, a sad look on his face. He walked up to his rookery niece-in-law and they hugged. "It's good to see you again," Persephone said.
"It's good to be home." He looked in her eyes. "Artus and Alex... stayed behind," he told her, searching for the right words. "They should be okay, but..."
"I understand," she said.
Sata and Angela came up to them. "Where's Samson?" Persephone asked.
"He's okay. He's still on the pod, gathering some things," Angela said.
"Where is everyone?" Sata asked.
"They're at the party," Persephone told them. Brooklyn looked at her, a confused look on his face.
"It's New Year's Eve, Brooklyn. You picked a bad time to get kidnapped." She looked at Angela. "You're limping, dear. Come on, I'll take you to see Dr. Abrams. You should go to the party. It's almost midnight."
Brooklyn nodded. "Yeah. A party seems like a good idea."
* * * * *
Demona sat in the corner of the gathering hall in old Castle Wyvern, watching her clan as they chatted and danced, waiting for the new year to come. She brushed her talons through her hair, looking to see if Benedick was somewhere close. When he appeared at her side, she grabbed his hand and made him sit down with her.
"Are you all right, Beloved?" he asked, seeing the sadness in her eyes.
"This time of year is just... hard for me. It simply reminds me of how old I am. My life just keeps going on. All those years ago, I had a purpose, however misguided it was. Now I'm just... here."
"You're here with me," Benedick said, taking her hand.
"I know," she said.
"Come on. Let's dance. It's almost midnight." Benedick stood, taking Demona by the hand and guiding her up. She didn't need it, but she adored the attention from him.
* * * * *
Brooklyn, Sata, and Samson came into the party, nobody noticing that they had arrived. Everyone was concerned with themselves, as it should have been at that time of year. Brooklyn waved to Demona and Benedick, who smiled at his presence. Samson broke off from the couple, blending into the crowd of humans and gargoyles immersed in the festivities.
Brooklyn took his mate's hand, guiding her over to the window. They looked out over the Manhattan skyline. Sata put her head on Brooklyn's shoulder.
"It's beautiful in its complexity," Sata commented.
"It always has been."
The countdown began, and the two gargoyles turned to watch the celebration.
In the infirmary, Dr. Abrams looked over Angela's leg, Persephone standing by her side. It would be all right by the next nightfall, but if she felt any discomfort after that, she should come and get some medication. Angela agreed.
In his quarters, Dr. Isaac Payne was watching something on his television. Celebrations did not entertain him. They were distracting at the very least. He had taken the day off, but that was as far as he would go. Come tomorrow, he would return to his work, and everything would return back to normal. Although, normal was not the way things should be.
In their cell, Artus and Alex did not speak. They did not sleep. They only thought. They could get out of this, even though they could not discuss their escape plan. There was no telling who was listening. Both knew that Brooklyn and the others were safe, and that was good enough for them.
In the desert, Meryt cried. She did not like to express her emotions in that way, but no one was around to see her. The air on her skin, or what passed her skin, felt good. She was free, although she had simply exchanged one prison for another. Someday, she knew. Someday she would be granted death.
In her room, Gwenyvere slept. She dreamed of her life as it was, and knew that she was happy.
In his office, Harthoth smiled. Only seconds now. Only seconds.
Demona and Benedick danced.
Samson watched the ceiling as it prepared to drop balloons and ribbons.
Broadway was overjoyed. He watched his clan. His son was there, his wife was alive. His daughter was happy. His rookery brother was safe. Broadway smiled.
Brooklyn and Sata cheered along with the rest of the group. They kissed as the music started to play. This was what living was about, Brooklyn knew.
Then the lights went out. A thousand voices spoke at once.
Brooklyn grabbed Sata's hand and the two went to the window they had looked out of earlier.
Manhattan was black. It was no longer beautiful in its complexity. It was now terrifying in its simplicity.
Darkness fell, and no one knew what to do.
"What's going on?" Sata asked, starring into the void, the moon and stars hardly shining.
"My God..." Brooklyn put his hand up to the window. "He did it. He finally did it."
Sata did not ask what he was talking about.
"He shut off the world."
Brooklyn ran to find Persephone. She would be needed. She was in charge now. But the doors were all automated, everything in the building run by computers.
And the computers were down.
The doors did not open.
* * * * *
Maeve cradled back into Nicholas' lap, laughing uncontrollably as she sipped wine from a glass in her dominant hand. The two kissed, hearing the public celebrations as they happened outside in the city. Nicholas looked at his watch as the second hand approached midnight, giving it an odd look when it stopped seconds before it reached the top. The lights around them went out, the screams of terror and confusion filling Nicholas' den from the population outside.
He and Maeve stood, she going over to light the candles that lay about the room. Nicholas walked to the window, feeling the light of the moon as it hit his face. People outside were scared, he could feel it in his bones. It made him smile.
"Can you feel the magic in this, my love?" he asked as Maeve came up to window, wrapping her arms around his waist.
His love nodded. "I am surprised we could not feel it coming?"
"Indeed. Someone went to a lot of trouble to keep it hidden."
"No worries, though," Maeve said, leading him back to the chair they were sharing only moments before. "A few spells here and there, and this place should be as good as new. The screams and panic outside should provide us with adequate entertainment for the rest of the evening."
They both laughed.
"Still, this is quite an interesting development," Nicholas said, reaching over to kiss Maeve. Entangled in one another, they could hear the wolves howling outside.
* * * * *
The dragon was overjoyed. He felt the wetness of his hole change as magic covered the world, the way it should have stayed since the days of his kind. The unnatural light hurt him, made him insane with rage. But now... Now the only light outside was that of the moon and stars and fire.
Just like him.
Apep threw his claws into the soil above him. He would make a grand entrance back into the world, one that would strike the fear and respect he deserved into the humans. Oh, how things would change after tonight. His reign would be one of fire.
He could smell his city about him as the soil broke free. The center of Cairo erupted in ancient earth. Air that had not been breathed by humans in eons came out into the night. The sun would rise soon, but that was of no worry to the dragon any longer.
Apep flew into the sky, his wings stretching out in all their glory. He roared with joy, hearing the screams of the humans. Already were they worried about the loss of their precious energy, and now they would have to deal with him. They would make perfect slaves in the days to come.
She could not have been more right.
* * * * *