Chapter Four -- Tangled Webs
“How can you go out there?” Hippolyta asked upon
waking one evening to learn of Daniel’s trips across the mountains to Seattle.
“They will still be searching for you, meaning to kill you!”
“I know. But, damn it, Hippolyta, I can’t spend the rest of my life in hiding.”
“What do you mean to do?”
“Now that you know all of it. Now that you know they plan for you to be President.”
He blew out a breath as he fixed himself a brandy. “Good question.”
“They cannot use you as an unknowing pawn any longer …”
“But … well … it is not my place to say, and I know so little of this world … but it seems to me that you would make a fine leader.”
Daniel slumped into a chair and chuckled ruefully. “Friend of mine always said that anyone who wanted to be king shouldn’t be
allowed … so going by that, I’d be perfect for the job.”
In that moment, he reminded her poignantly of Corwin … so gifted with advantages yet not arrogant, not filled with a sense of his own
“What do you want of your life, then?”
“Another good question. I’m thirty-five years old and haven’t figured that out yet. I tried sports, I tried the military, I tried the theater,
I tried business … and all of them were good for a while, but the excitement always wore off and I needed to go looking for the next new
thing. Variety, new experiences, that’s what I want.”
“Yes!” she said, sitting up straighter. “To never settle for only one thing but test yourself always with new challenges!”
“We must be kindred spirits.” He raised his glass in an amused toast.
“Would ruling the country not give you that?”
“It might, but at the expense of my freedom. An entourage of Secret Service, press secretaries, God knows who all, following me around.
Unable to pick up and go away for the weekend, even for the afternoon, without making a huge production out of it. Tied down to so many
duties and responsibilities, the nation and the world always watching my every move … I’d feel stifled.”
“Yes,” she said again. “I know very much what you mean.”
“But it would only be for four years. Maybe the novelty wouldn’t wear off right away.” He tossed back the rest of his drink and
“Have you decided?”
“I’ve decided that I don’t want to stay in tonight and drink too much brandy and feel sorry for myself. Let’s go out.”
“Down into Leavenworth. You should see the town.”
“And should they see me?” She gestured at herself, partly fanning her wings for emphasis.
“Chickening out on me?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
It was, of course, just the right thing to say. And so it was that an hour later, Hippolyta found herself in the passenger seat of his car as
they drove along a snow-lined road toward the colorful jewel box of lights ahead.
She was uncomfortably warm in the heated vehicle, bundled as she was in a long woolen skirt, overlarge fleece-lined boots that hid the
shape (if not the size) of her feet, gloves, and a fur-trimmed hooded shawl-cloak of a garment. With the hood pulled low over the spiky
tiara of her brow ridge, and a scarf wrapped around her neck and chin, her disguise was complete enough to allow her to pass for a human.
In very dim light and from a distance, at least.
But she pushed her misgivings aside, thrilled at the prospect of an outing. She had seen very little of this land, all told, as most of her time
had been spent belowground at the Coalition, in training. To be out among the humans, right there amid them in one of their towns, was
Leavenworth was nothing if not picturesque. Nestled in the foothills of the white-frosted Cascades, it was a village that seemed to exist
solely for the purpose of having visitors come and enjoy its shops and scenery. The buildings all shared what Daniel said was a Bavarian
design, with decorative woodwork and scalloped eaves.
This deep into winter, the town was done up for the human holidays. Strings of lights outlined roofs, doors, and windows. Wreaths and
swags of evergreen added rich color to the snow. Tall pines were covered in ornaments.
It took her breath away, the dazzling wonder of this manmade magic. She emerged from Daniel’s car like one in a dream, slowly turning
about to take it all in.
Although it was after dark, the streets were busy. Happy humans bustled about, their breath forming clouds around their heads. They
were all as bundled up as she, if not moreso. They strolled briskly from shop to shop, arms filled with purchases and gaily-wrapped parcels.
On a stage near the largest of the decorated trees, musicians and singers gathered and filled the night with wonderful music. Hippolyta
stood like one entranced, too swept away by the beauty of their song to do anything more that wish that Deborah and Laertes, with their
love of music, could hear this.
She drew hardly any attention. Daniel was often and instantly recognized but largely left alone, out of some unspoken niceness of manners.
Or perhaps it was that he was so well-known to the locals that they did not need to approach him, and so regarded with awe by the visitors
that they dared not.
“I love coming here at Christmas,” he said. “Oktoberfest is more lively, but seeing it all lit up like this … it’s magical. And what I really
enjoy is bringing someone here for the first time, seeing it again through their eyes. It makes everything seem so new. Especially someone
like you, Hippolyta. Almost everything in our world is new to you.”
He took her gloved hand in the bend of his elbow and they walked together through the lightly-falling snow. At first, she hung back when
he tried to lead her into the shops, but he insisted and she gave in, and her senses were struck anew by the array of wonders and delights.
She marveled over clever toys, clothiers, candy stores, displays of artwork.
Daniel noticed her lingering to admire a gold pendant in the shape of a castle in miniature, its towers and parapets reminding her of home.
“Would you like that?”
“It is lovely,” she said.
“Let me buy it for you, and a chain to put it on.”
The shopkeep approached, hearing this, and gasped as he glimpsed Hippolyta’s features beneath the hood. But rather than the fear she
would have expected to see, the elderly man’s face broke into a surprised smile. He said nothing to the effect, but she gathered that he was
pleased as could be to have a gargoyle in his establishment.
This so overwhelmed her that she could not protest when Daniel purchased the pendant and a fine gold chain, and urged her to put it on.
Next, he took her to a place that made and sold gingerbread and sweet baked goods. She yielded to her species’ fond craving for such
things, letting him buy her a bagful of temptation.
“What do your people do for the holidays?” he asked as they walked a festive street past a building whose murals showed moments from
child-fables. “Do you celebrate Christmas?”
“The Magus told us of the human holidays. But the three of them, the Magus and the Princess and the Guardian, kept their observances
small and to themselves. If there were gargoyle holidays, they did not know of them and could not teach us. But we made celebrations of
our own for the longest and shortest nights of the year, and for our Hatching-Time.”
He mulled that over. “Do you believe in God?”
“I believe in many, and have seen them. Anubis, Zeus, Freya, Coyote … there are many gods on Avalon now. But not this one over-god
of yours, who sends ghosts to do his breeding for him with the mate of another male.”
Daniel burst out laughing. “What a way to put it!”
“My brother Pericles, our scholar and star-gazer, says that at one time there must have been gods of the gargoyles as well. Like the Dragon
in the night sky that watches over us, or the statue that stands near the grove of the Entombed Lady. But as we were raised by humans, we
had no elders to pass down their lore.”
“Maybe you should ask Goliath. His clan has an elder, I think.”
Hippolyta swallowed. “Ask Goliath? Oh, no, my friend … I could not do that.”
“He’s not as fearsome as he looks,” Daniel teased.
“I assure you, I find his looks not in the least fearsome,” she said frankly. “But it is as I said before. I cannot go to them … I cannot rejoin
my clan, nor petition for a place in theirs. Although it was never my will to do so, my actions have made me an outcast.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“If they are linked with the Illuminati, as your parents say, how would they accept me when I have been in league with the enemy?”
“That wasn’t your fault. Goliath comes across as strict, but I’m sure he’s fair-minded. If you explained --”
“Explained in detail how I dishonored my clan?” She shook her head vigorously, then brushed her errant braids back into her hood. “It is
better that, if they hear of me at all, it is that I died in battle. It was a battle I was not supposed to be in … and I was disobedient of our leader.”
“As I understand it, if you hadn’t disobeyed her, all four of your brothers would probably have died.”
“That is not the point.”
“I think it is, and if it isn’t, it should be.”
“You are the fair-minded one, Daniel. Our ways may be less forgiving.”
“I also think you’re underestimating your own kind.”
“How is it that you can claim to know us better than I can myself, when I am one?”
“Because I’m looking at it from the outside,” he said. “You’re too busy beating yourself up on the inside to be objective.”
“It does not matter. I cannot return to them. Not to Avalon, certainly. Not to Tourmaline, even if I could find them – their journeys may
have taken them anywhere by now! And least of all to Goliath’s clan … I would not be welcome there. I was once unkind to Elektra.”
“Families argue. Look at mine.”
“I know what you seek to do, and I value it … but my course is set.”
“That makes it sound like you’re planning to leave.”
“I cannot stay at your parents’ home forever. They are most hospitable, but I know they do not truly wish me there.”
“Where will you go? You don’t want to be alone.”
“No,” she said, looking down. “But there must be a place for me somewhere, a place where my misguided past will not bring shame upon
me, a place where I can start afresh.”
“You’re not going to do anything dramatic like disappear mysteriously into the night, are you?” he said with exaggerated suspicion. “You’ll
at least give me a little warning, say good-bye?”
“I can do that much,” she said, smiling despite herself.
“I guess that’ll have to do.”
At his urging, she agreed to dine in one of their restaurants, although there was no way to do so without attracting notice. But he arranged
forthem to have a private corner booth, removed from the inquisitive stares of those around them, and as the hour had grown late they had
the room muchly to themselves anyway.
Following a meal the likes of which she had not enjoyed since Avalon, her belly full of roasted meat and rich ale, he bought them a ride in
a carriage. They toured the town, hearing more singing and passing under rainbow stars of light, pulled by a massive white draft horse whose
hooves clopped a slow beat while the bells on his harness jangled merrily.
When that was done, Daniel grudgingly suggested that it was time they go back, and only then confided in her that he’d gone without telling
anyone and Mr. Dawes would be climbing the walls in frustration.
“But he is your honor-guard!” she said, aghast. “You did not tell him?”
“They need to realize that even if I decide to go along with their wishes, I’m still my own man. I won’t be babied, and I won’t be controlled.
The Illuminati may have shaped me into who I am, but it’s still my choice what to do with it, until and unless they come up with some sort of way
to sap my free will.”
“I hope for your sake that they do not.”
As expected, Mr. Dawes was livid when they returned to the house in the mountains. The senior Harmonds were waiting up as well, and
greeted their offspring with looks of severe disapproval when he came in unapologetic and challenging.
Hippolyta understood very clearly that this discussion was no place for her. With a polite expression of thanks to Daniel, and a silent message
of strength and well-wishing conveyed in the squeeze of her handclasp, she left him to do what he had to do.
She woke the next night to find that the Harmonds
had all flown to Seattle for the day, and she had the house to herself
with the exception
of Mrs. Asherby, the housekeeper, and the young doctor.
From Daniel, she’d heard the strange tale of Dr. Sevarius …
“About seventeen years ago,” he’d told her, “before they were succeeding with sheep and cows, a secret scientific foundation decided to
research human cloning,” he said. “One of the scientists in charge of the project was Anton Sevarius, and when he realized he was close to a
breakthrough, he decided to use his own genetic material for the experiments. It took a couple of years of trial and error, but they finally
brought a viable embryo to term.”
Hippolyta had shuddered. “That seems so unnatural.”
“Which was why they were doing it in secret, and why the public still doesn’t know. The arguments would go on forever about the ethical
issues – for instance, what if they cloned Hitler, Hussein, Babcock? Is evil a genetic trait? Most of the scientists felt that the answer to that was
no, that personality develops with upbringing, environment, and experience. A clone would be genetically identical to the original, but would
be very different psychologically. But for Anton Sevarius, that wasn’t an acceptable answer. He wanted to create an exact duplicate of
For some reason, that had made Hippolyta think of the Archmage and how he’d been in two places at once, doubling himself to better
strike against them. She’d shuddered again.
Daniel had nodded. “Creepy, isn’t it? So Sevarius, using primitive memory encoding and hypnotic techniques being developed by his
brother, effectively recreated his own life experiences in the mind of the infant clone. The boy grew up believing he was, and to all intents
and purposes, being, another Anton Sevarius.”
“So that is he? The youth?”
“Exactly. Fifteen years old, but with the mind and memories of a much older man. He resented being treated as an experiment and
escaped with the help of another scientist, a friend of my mother’s. As far as we know, the original Sevarius has no idea what became
Ever since hearing that, she had been even less at ease in the presence of the younger version. Not that she’d ever been before; everything
in the way he looked at her stated that he saw her as a specimen to be examined and analyzed.
She had turned down his requests for more blood and tissue samples as politely as possible – he’d surely taken plenty when examining
her upon her arrival -- and did her best to divert or avoid his probing questions about herself and her clan. But, undeterred, he kept asking
at every opportunity, and when faced with no other company than him, she elected to seek her own entertainment.
The mountains beckoned, so from the window of the guest room she slipped out and climbed to the roof and then dove into the refreshingly
icy air. The night was clear, the moon turning the snow to mystic silver and casting her shadow liquidly over the drifts and valleys below.
It had been a long time since she’d had the chance for unconstrained gliding and she reveled in it. She swooped low to skim the surface
of the lake, which was ringed with ice but not frozen over. A few fish snapped at her dangling tail – had she been Fia, she could have snatched
them from the water with expert skill.
When she needed a rest, she perched amid the trees and swayed with them as the wind whispered through the evergreen needles, loosing
their piney scent. Twice, she saw tracks, and once the deer themselves, but rather than take aim, she let them pass unhampered.
Hunting would be good here, and the land was majestic … it would have made a good home for a clan. But the longer she glided, the more
keenly she felt the absence of others. Such a fine place for gargoyles, and she was the only one.
When the sadness of this outweighed the joy she felt in gliding, she returned to the house. She found the library unoccupied, built high the
fire and sank into a deep leather chair to read by the dancing orange light.
She tried to engross herself in a book, but it was a collection of tales of the Sleeping King, which only reminded her all the more of the clan
she’d left behind. It did no good to think of them, to imagine how Fia would love that lake or Malachi would relish hunting the dark forest. It
did no good to remember games of skill played with her sisters, games of love played with her brothers.
They were lost to her now, and she to them, and by thinking of them she would only bring herself pain.
But oh, what a difficult resolve to make!
She chose another book at random, and as it was about a comet hitting the Earth and the struggles of the humans to survive, found little in
it to remind her of her woes. She was still reading when she dimly heard the sound of the Harmonds returning, and when Daniel peeked into
the library to say hello.
“How was the …” she strove to remember the word. “Nutcrack?”
“Nutcracker,” he said. “Disturbing … last year, we saw it with Karen Wyatt, the pop psychologist, and after listening to her analysis of it
as a tale of an old toymaker’s twisted lech for his nubile young granddaughter, it makes it difficult to watch in a wholesome, family holiday
tradition sort of spirit. And Mother was irked as usual, because Father fell asleep, as usual.”
He took the chair opposite her, and tipped his head back as if he meant to take a nap of his own. Hippolyta wondered what his elegant
mother had thought of her husband’s lapse in manners, grinning to herself as she pondered it.
Daniel did not seem inclined to talk further, so she left him to his rest and went back to her book. The comet had struck, and disaster
ruled rampant, and if that wasn’t enough, now the heroes were facing a cannibal army.
Riveted by their plight, she found herself raising the gold chain to her mouth, resting it against her lower lip and sliding the pendant back
and forth. She took some obscure soothing in the sound/vibration of the metal against itself -- vreep-vroop-vreep-vroop – and the tingle
She gradually realized that she was being observed, and glanced up from her book to see Daniel looking at her with a strange intensity.
Her hand paused, the chain indenting the fullness of her lower lip, as their eyes locked.
When Michelle Jessec had looked at Corwin that way, Hippolyta had found it funny in an endearing, pitiful sort of way. Not only, after
all, did Corwin yearn little for females, but Michelle was a human and he was a gargoyle, and aberrations like that which had spawned Elektra
aside, everyone knew that simply wasn’t right. Like Carnelian and Elswyth and their hopeless pining for Oberon’s Children.
And yet …
And yet suddenly there was nothing funny at all in having Daniel look on her that way …
The pendant slipped from her nerveless fingers and thumped gently against her breastbone. Her breath seemed caught in her lungs, her
face felt warm. She could not break the gaze, trapped by his grey-blue eyes.
All at once, she was seeing him not as a human but simply as a male, a revelation that shocked her almost as much as the knowledge
that he was seeing her as a female rather than a gargoyle.
For a male, yes, he was appealing in many ways. Well-formed, handsome of face, graceful of movement, with an air about him to
suggest he would be considerate of a female’s desires rather than a selfish rutter.
Neither of them seemed able to speak. It was as if a force was building in the room, building between them, and a single word might
unleash it with devastating consequences.
They might have stayed that way for hours, if from elsewhere in the house a silvery trill of laughter from Cecily Harmond hadn’t broken
the spell. They both jumped, and Hippolyta stared at the book in her hand with barely an inkling of what the printed symbols on the page
Daniel coughed weakly against his fist. “Ah. Hmm. That was certainly …”
“Odd,” she finished.
“You mean you don’t often have that effect on men?” His tone was light and bantering, but there was a seriousness underlying it that
brought back all the tension of the moment just passed.
Not humans, she was about to say, but stopped. That would be the wrong thing. As she deliberated, he looked her again in the eyes.
“Do you know,” he said, “how beautiful you are? How powerfully erotic?”
A melting quiver ran from the nape of her neck along the joinings of her wings to the base of her tail. “Would you like to make loveplay
“God, yes!” Daniel laughed, shattering the intensity of the mood. “Who wouldn’t? The most sensual, exciting …”
“I spoke in seriousness. Would you like to? Now, tonight?”
It was his turn to be struck speechless, as if what she’d said was utterly beyond his comprehension.
“Because,” she went on, “I would like you as my lover. If you are willing.”
He slowly rose from his chair. Still in the finery he’d worn to the opera, missing only the tuxedo jacket and tie and having loosened the
collar, he was undeniably human … and yet, somehow, that was part of the attraction.
She stood too, wings caped and falling around her in leathery-velvety folds. Wondering if she, all talons and tail and spurs and ridge,
with her copper skin set aflame by the firelight, looked at once as alien and exotic to him as he did to her.
His answer to that unasked question was to step toward her, and lift his hand to stroke gentle fingertips from her temple to her jawline,
his expression one of awe and growing desire.
Hippolyta copied his gesture, feeling the fair skin so much finer than hers, the almost undetectable rasp of his chin.
Daniel caressed the soaring crown of her brow ridge, then cupped her face in his hands and brought it closer to his. Their lips neared, the
kiss imminent –
And then, from much closer in the house, came his mother’s musical laugh again, followed by her voice. “Daniel? Where has he gotten to,
They froze, only inches apart.
“Damn!” he whispered. “I can’t … not here, not in my parents’ house!”
A primal urge, perhaps bestowed in her by the spirit of the Amazon queen for whom she’d been named, almost made Hippolyta simply
seize him and bear him away as her prize and conquest. But she mastered it and backed away, finding her chair and grabbing up her book
just as Cecily Harmond stepped into the room and switched on the light.
It was like nothing Hippolyta had ever known
before. In her previous loveplay encounters, the offer was taken up and
quite promptly. There was no need to wait, no need to prolong the inevitable. Instead, she and her brothers tended to leap headlong into the
delights of the flesh.
That was not how it was to be with Daniel, and it left her feeling vexedly impatient and at the same time, curiously inflamed. The anticipation,
the delay of fulfillment, these were new things to her.
Soon, she was nearly to the point of leaping upon him, parents’ house or no. Shredding the clothes from him and finding out once and for
all just what the differences were … and more importantly, what were the similarities. Could he bring her pleasure? Could she do the same
Where did one caress a human, anyway? With no wing joints, elbow spurs, brow ridge, or tail, she was at something of a loss. There had
to be at least a little preliminary before she went right for the root of the matter, so to speak.
Her nights passed in an increasing, pleasant discomfort. Circumstance didn’t allow another private outing, and sometimes it seemed to
Hippolyta as if the rest of the humans were conspiring against her. For the man Dawes was often finding some reason to be nearby, or Daniel’s
mother had some function he needed to attend.
Whenever they were together, though, they stole what moments they could. These served to only heighten their condition. A quick touch in
the hallway, a lingering look over dinner when all else were oblivious, the smolder of promise in each other’s eyes …
He found her one night as she was standing on the deck overlooking the lake, her hair dusted with powdery flakes as she watched the
snowfall. She looked at him, all challenge and invitation, and saw his yearning response.
“Aren’t you cold out here?” he asked, sweeping his gaze over her and the summery dress that was all to stand between her skin and the
His mother had found a trunk of old clothing in the attic, items left behind after a visit from Daniel’s cousin Julianna. With some slight
modifications, they fit her well enough once the backs were cut out of the dresses.
Hippolyta found wearing them to be at once disturbing – the woman to whom they’d belonged was dead – and consoling – the woman
to whom they’d belonged had been beloved of a gargoyle.
“The princess always told us that the cruellest winters never much troubled our ancestors, so I find this little bit of cold to be no bother
at all. But you … where is your coat?”
“I saw you out here, and didn’t think to go get it.” He came closer, and she moved to meet him. “Damn, I wish I didn’t have to go to
Olympia tomorrow! But I rsvp’d to that Christmas party two months ago, and I suppose I’d better attend.”
“You’ve decided, haven’t you? To do as they wish?” She brushed snow from his shoulders, more an excuse to touch him than anything
else, as more of it kept falling and rendered her efforts futile.
“I don’t know.” He glanced at the dark mirror of the lake, then back to her. His fingertips stroked her cheek. “Lately, I can hardly think
of anything but you.”
“Have you any idea,” she said, voice dropping to a throaty growl, “how close I am to just carrying you off of this balcony to some
hideaway in the woods?”
“I don’t know how well I’d perform while freezing my --”
“I’d keep you warm.” She slid her arms around his waist and folded her wings forward to envelop him, pressing the heat of her body
They were of almost an exact height, face to face, and she knew that the time had finally arrived for their long-awaited kiss. His lips
were softer than she expected, tasting faintly of his after-dinner brandy.
It began gently, but Hippolyta’s long-deprived passions overtook her. How long had it been? Since before the breeding season …
months ago that suddenly seemed like years. She clung to Daniel fiercely, kissing him with the fire that she’d once bestowed on her brothers.
Beneath the concealing cloak of her wings, his hands moved. Not to her back, where the membranes of her wings met, but to her breasts.
Almost as good! She arched into him, encouraging him to touch her more firmly.
She reached up to his back, got no response, and corrected by sliding down to grasp his buttocks. No tail springing from above them,
but his muffled groan of joy was encouragement enough.
Their lips parted to allow them a much-needed breath.
“What do you like?” he whispered. “What makes you happy?”
“Here,” she said, guiding his hand up her spine. “Pet me here. What do you like?”
“What you’re doing is just fine!” he assured her, and kissed her again. “That idea about carrying me off into the woods, that’s sounding
better and better all the time.”
“Don’t tempt me.”
“Don’t I already? Because you tempt me almost more than I can stand.”
“Oh, you do, you do! There are so many things I want to do, I’d hardly know where to begin! I want to nibble over every inch of you,
feel you kiss your way along my wing struts, wrap my tail around your waist …”
A pager went off.
Without missing a kiss, he pulled it from his pocket and tossed it over the rail. It spun off into the snow, a string of indignant beeps trailing
Moments later, however, they had to leap apart as Mr. Dawes flung open the back door. “Mr. Harmond?”
“Here, Dawes,” Daniel said, breathless and sounding highly annoyed.
Hippolyta caped her wings and raised her chin, attempting to look unconcerned, but by the narrowed glint of Dawes’ eyes she realized
they hadn’t been quick enough to keep him from seeing.
“I tried to page you.”
“The batteries must be dead.” He lied with great facility, but Hippolyta could still hear the faint beeps coming from somewhere downhill
and imagined that Dawes could as well.
“Your mother says that if we’re going to leave at six tomorrow, we should all turn in early.” Dawes glared pointedly at Hippolyta.
The magic word – mother – had been spoken. Daniel grimaced and sighed, and Hippolyta bid a sad farewell to her arousal.
“Fine,” Daniel said curtly. “I’ll be in soon.”
Dawes nodded and retreated, but the door did not close all the way and his shadow betrayed him as he tried to listen in.
“Do you ever have the feeling that they don’t want us to spend any time together?” Daniel said, and beneath his isn’t-that-a-silly-notion
tone was sincere irritation. “I’m a grown man, not a little boy.”
“After all this time, they still do not trust me,” Hippolyta said, deliberately misunderstanding him. “They think I may still try to harm you.”
“I don’t think that’s it at all.” His blue-grey gaze told her he wasn’t fooled by her pretense. “Why don’t you come with us?”
“To the senator’s party?” Her brow ridges climbed high. “I couldn’t do that!”
“Why not? It’s not until night after next. We’d have tomorrow evening to get you fitted for a gown, and since Courtney and I have so
publicly broken up, I don’t have a date. You could come with us in the plane tomorrow --”
“I’ll be sleeping in stone.”
“If we’re leaving at six, it won’t be dawn yet,” he countered. “You can sleep during the flight.”
“And then what? Send men with a truck to move me from the airport to your hotel?”
“I … should think about it,” she said. “Part of me would love to go and see such an event of finery and celebration, and it is on the
longest night of the year, a special one to us … but part hesitates.”
“Well, all right. You have until five in the morning to think it over.” He snapped a glance at the door and scowled at Dawes’ lurking
shadow. Rather than risk a kiss, he touched his forefinger to his lips, then hers. “I’ll see you then.”
“Sleep well,” she said.
He went inside, and she turned to the lake again. She tried to concentrate on the falling snow, the silent majesty of the white-shrouded
trees, instead of what Daniel might be doing … undressing in the amber lamplight of his room, burrowing beneath a down comforter, resting
his head on a pillow … murmuring her name into the darkness as he remembered how she’d felt in his arms …
The lake, look at the lake, think about the lake.
When she had finally succeeded in regaining control, she went back into the house. All was quiet in the kitchen, though the low drone of
a television and a line of faded blue light came from under the door to Mrs. Asherby’s room. The dining room was dark, the living room
But the door to the library was standing ajar, and firelight glowed through. Her heart skipping a beat, Hippolyta ventured that way. In
her mind’s eye she could see the very images she’d been trying so hard to suppress … Daniel, waiting for her, meaning to finish what they’d
She eased the door the rest of the way open and stopped, drawing in a hiss of air.
“Hippolyta,” said Gregory Harmond. “Do come in. Sit down. I need to speak with you.”
Brimming with not-unfounded apprehension, she took the chair he indicated and arranged her wings and tail neatly.
It had been almost two weeks since she’d been brought here and in that time he’d hardly said a hundred words to her. But he watched
her, oh yes, with an evaluating detachment.
She knew that in the past he had been a soldier himself, a leader, a hero. He looked it as well – a striking older man whose resemblance
to his son was very evident but hardened somehow by brutal experience.
Tense pauses and long awkward silences were among those things Hippolyta disliked most, so when he showed no sign of beginning,
she rushed in. “Is something the matter, Mr. Harmond? Have I done something?”
As if he’d only been waiting for her to speak first, he smiled thinly. “I was hoping you could tell me. Just what is your relationship with
Her breath snagged. Humans and their taboos … “We are friends.”
“I mean him no harm, I swear to you.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, it is so.”
“Why?” she asked. “What have I done to make you think otherwise?”
“Oh, it’s not that,” he said expansively. “I’m sure, as we all are, that if you meant to do any physical harm, you already would have.”
“Mr. Dawes is concerned with my son’s physical welfare. That’s his job, and he is, generally speaking, good at it. He erred in not being
with Daniel that one night, and for that, he will be some time making amends. But there are other sorts of harm, Hippolyta.”
“I don’t understand what you mean,” she said warily.
“My wife, for instance, suspects you have something more devious in mind. She knows Lorraine Diamant, you see. She wouldn’t put it
past Lorraine to have staged the entire attack just to get you close to Daniel, so that you could win him over and then break his heart. She’s
worried about his emotional welfare.”
Hippolyta realized her mouth was agape and closed it sharply. “I --”
“I think that Cecily is giving Lorraine too much credit. Cecily thinks that’s what is happening because that is what she would do if the
situations were reversed. Besides, you gargoyles, for all of your many admirable qualities, lack a talent for subterfuge. You’re no seductress
with only cold motive in mind.”
“No, of course not!”
“I’m prepared, therefore, to take the events of that night at face value. You were supposed to kill my son, you had a change of heart, and
“But that could be, couldn’t it, exactly what the Coalition was counting on?”
Lost again, she only looked at him in confusion.
“That you would go against them, be taken into our confidence.”
“And then what?” she asked. “Return to them with knowledge of your secrets?”
“Possibly.” But he dismissed it with a flutter of his hand. “More likely, your defection was a secondary plan. Because, you see, Hippolyta,
they might have reasoned that Daniel would be attracted to you. A man like him would have a weakness for any beautiful female entering his
life in such a dramatic fashion. And you can’t deny, it was dramatic. He described you to me as a gargoyle version of the Diana, the Roman
goddess of the hunt … I knew he wanted you before he knew it.”
“Is there a point to this?” She was still mystified, but that didn’t stop her from being offended.
Not the least of which was that part of her took umbrage at the comparison – she’d met Diana/Artemis, plank-chested athletic chastity-
obsessed adolescent that she was, and aside from archery, they had nothing in common!
“The point, Hippolyta, is that while Mr. Dawes is concerned about Daniel’s physical well-being and my wife is concerned about his emotions,
I have his best political interests in mind. While he is going to be a candidate for tolerance and acceptance, those only stretch so far. To have
him linked with a gargoyle would be a telling blow to his aspirations.”
“You mean … you mean …”
“That if word got out he had a gargoyle for a lover, it would destroy his Presidential future and undo everything we’ve been working toward.
That is the Coalition’s back-up plan. If killing him didn’t work, try ruining him with scandal. Which is a sloppy way to do things; the Illuminati
tend to approach matters in the reverse order and then only if all other efforts fail.”
The sheer enormity of what he was saying simply would not sink in to her stunned, protesting mind.
“I like you, Hippolyta, I do,” Gregory Harmond went on. “I believe that you’ve stumbled into a situation too big for you, but that’s no fault
“You don’t want me to be Daniel’s lover.”
“Exactly.” He beamed, pleased she finally understood.
“What about what he wants? Or does that not matter? Has it ever mattered? You speak of his aspirations, his future … you mean yours.”
“Semantics. It doesn’t make a difference.”
“You’ve used him all his life!”
“I’ve guided his path toward something far greater.”
“And you think that if he and I were lovers, no one would vote for him.”
“Now you see my point. While it’s all fine and well to support gargoyle rights, and we do, the country’s not ready to face interspecies affairs.
It would make a statement for you two to be seen together, but it’s the wrong time for that statement.”
“What if he doesn’t want to be President?”
Harmond chuckled as if she were a child who’d just told an amusing joke. “It’s what he’s been raised to be, even if he didn’t know it. If you
didn’t know you were a gargoyle, you’d still protect. It’s in your blood, your instinct. Daniel’s the same way. He can’t help it. It’s his destiny.”
“You would force him to give up his own wishes and happiness for what you want?”
“My wishes are for his happiness. He’s going to have a life of accomplishments and good deeds, steering this country and indeed this world
toward a bright new future. His Presidency will be to the benefit of all, gargoyles as well as humans. You can’t expect that he’d choose an affair –
even with someone as exotic and exciting as you – over that.”
“What would you have of me?” she asked hotly. “That I spurn him, push him away?”
“Knowing you as I do, the moment I forbade you to have anything to do with my son, you would in the spirit of youthful headstrong rebellion
seek to do just the opposite. So I forbid nothing. But I hope to make you understand, Hippolyta, how selfish an act it would be. Daniel could
bring about a drastic change in the welfare of gargoyles, could bring them hope, justice, rights. Are you going to be the one to take that away
She jumped up from the chair. “Why must the welfare of gargoyles rest always on my head? First Diamond, threatening to use me as the
example to bring harm on the rest, and now this!”
Harmond was unperturbed by her outburst. “You know that Daniel could be a great leader. He could help your kind in a way that no one
else could. But not if the people see him as a gargoyle-lover in the literal sense of the world. A deviant, a pervert, if you’ll pardon the terms.”
“And am I one as well, for lusting after a human?” She spat the word with every bit as much venom as ever she’d heard Tourmaline muster,
and was rewarded by seeing Harmond blanch.
“That’s hardly the same thing. This is my son we’re talking about, after all.”
“If it is no shame for me to desire him, then it is no shame for him to desire me,” she stated. “And what we do together is no one’s business
but our own.”
“Typically impetuous response,” he said. “The young are ruled by their hearts and other less-mentionable organs. Whether it is anyone
else’s business or not, that isn’t the way this world works. Not these days. The lives of the famous are the stuff of magazine articles and late-
night monologues, and Daniel is famous. He will be more so. How do you think it would look to the people of this glorious nation if he turned
up on the cover of V.I.P. kissing a gargoyle?”
“So it isn’t that you care what he does, only what it is known that he does?” she asked incredulously. “Is that what matters to you?”
“In politics, it’s all that matters to anyone.”
“Very well, then!” she said, feeling that the only way through this mess was like the solution to the story of Alexander and the knot, to
cleave right through the middle and be done with the foolishness. “We will do as we will but let no one else know!”
“Oh, my poor sweet gargoyle child,” he laughed. “It’s not that easy. It’s nowhere near that easy. Discretion is all fine and well but you
can’t expect to keep something like that a secret. Then, when it is found out, it’s a scandal all the juicier because you were trying to hide it.
That was Clinton’s problem … that he lied and tried to hide the truth. If he’d just stood up and been a man and said ‘yes, I did have sex with
that woman,’ the people wouldn’t have lost nearly as much faith in him. It was the weaseling that undid him.”
“I neither know nor care who this Clinton is and who he sexed with,” Hippolyta said. “What are you saying? That it is not good enough to
have my vow of discretion?”
“That’s just what I’m saying.”
“Rrrargh!” She swatted a brass desk lamp off of the table. “How dare you!”
“You said yourself you were an oathbreaker,” he pointed out smugly.
“I … you … rrrargh!” This time, she spared the furnishings, but fisted her hands so tightly that her claws impaled her palms. If she’d had
her bow –
“That was unkind on my part,” he said. “What I meant is that I’m sure you would have the best of intentions, but mistakes happen. One slip,
one shutterbug in the wrong place, and it’d all be over.”
Her blood was thundering, thundering. She saw Harmond through the red film of her own blazing eyes, but he just sat there unconcerned,
as if there was no chance at all she might lunge at him and pull out his larynx in strings and clumps.
And as he sat there, looking serenely into her scarlet gaze, she gradually felt her pulse ease, because he was right. That wasn’t about to
She blinked and the room was normal again. “Then what is it that you want?”
“What’s best for my son, this country, and all the humans and gargoyles in it.”
“What do you want from me, you aggravating man! That I make no more loveplay with your son?”
“Don’t you think that would be best for all concerned?”
“I see … it’s not enough to give me an order. You must make me agree, as if it was my own decision!”
“That’s preferred, yes.”
“Am I to leave?”
“I’d hate to turn you out when you have nowhere to go, but you do understand the complications of having you here. We don’t really have
an official capacity for you.”
“Unless I were to volunteer to work with Dr. Sevarius?”
“I doubt you’d much care for that, but if you insist …”
“I do not!”
“At any rate, I’m not going to ask you to leave tonight. You did save my son’s life and you gave us much invaluable information about our
enemies, and for that I owe you a considerable debt. Please stay on as our guest for a while, but think about what I’ve said. Think about it
very carefully,” he advised as he rose from his chair.
“I will,” Hippolyta said. “You can have no doubt of that!”
As the rest of them slept, she wandered. She trudged
afoot through deep snow, since her wings felt leaden with the weight of
It occurred to her once that she was leaving tracks that might alarm any hiker or hunter, but by then she had already walked so far that it
would be pointless to retrace and erase her steps.
She replayed her conversation with Gregory Harmond in her mind as she went. Or, rather, his lecture to her … she didn’t recall actually
Having him tell her at every turn what she was thinking of doing rather took the wind out of the sails of doing it. What was the point in
rebelling when the one she’d be rebelling against had already predicted it? She’d be doing precisely as he expected …
Or was it his plan to tell her that, know that she’d be contrary, and do something else, which was truly what he wanted?
What he’d said about the Coalition … could he be right? Had Diamond planned it just this way?
How she yearned for Avalon and her own clan! The devious machinations of these humans made even the scheming and pranks of
Oberon’s folk seem tolerable by comparison. Titania herself might have had trouble matching wits with these conspiring mortals! The
straightforward ways of her own kind might seem simplistic, but at least they made sense!
It all made her head ache, as if a tight band of iron was clamped from temple to temple, just trying to figure things out. About the only
thing of which she was sure was that Daniel was her friend, was attracted to her, and she returned the feelings.
But now, all of a sudden, what had seemed so plain a thing –one act of loveplay, no great feat, a mere frolicsome encounter – was
layered with meanings and consequences the likes of which she would never have considered. Strange that so much, the fate of the world
if Gregory Harmond was to be believed, hinged on whether or not she and Daniel gave in to their attraction.
Humans, Hippolyta decided as she flopped on her back to make a snow angel without even trying, worried far too much about the
ramifications of sex. She’d always been peripherally aware that they considered it something to be ashamed of, something dirty, this most
natural of urges. They built it up in their minds with far too much meaning and import, instead of letting it be only the pleasure it was meant
Why else would their human parents on Avalon have been in such a mess? Even as adolescents, she and some of her siblings had
speculated on it. The Magus loved the princess, that was clear. The princess felt fondly for him as well, but only gave her bodily affections
to Guardian Tom. And then only in secret, in private, never showing a hint of passion when anyone else was around. If not for the accidental
discovery made by Malachi, Ruth, Gabriel, and Angela, the clan might never have known what their various parts were for!
Thinking that, she laughed aloud in the silvery-indigo night. No, she was sure that they would have figured it out sooner or later, once the
advent of maturity had brushed them and wakened them to new possibilities.
The Magus, when pressed for details, had grudgingly admitted to them that their gargoyle ancestors had not been shy about their actions,
particularly during the breeding season. Some might seek privacy now and then, should the mood so strike, and sometimes they would defer
to the prince out of courtesy for the so-easily-offended human sensibilities, but in general they had not been afraid, nor ashamed, to do what
Why was it such a great concern to the humans? Why were they mortified by nudity, as Michelle Jessec had been at the sight of the unclad
Cassius? Why did they, as she’d frequently observed from the magazines and television, spend such time and energy fretting over what others
Incomprehensible. Yet she had to try and understand it, because for some reason it seemed to matter so vitally to Gregory Harmond what
transpired between herself and his son.
It wasn’t as if she meant to take Daniel as her mate, for the Dragon’s sake! It wasn’t as if she meant to try breeding with him! What harm
could a bit of loveplay do?
But as she thought about that, she recalled her own first reaction upon realizing that the human Elisa Maza meant more than a friend to great
Goliath. Hadn’t it brought down the legend of him a little in her eyes? Hadn’t she disdained him, him, ever so slightly for it? And hadn’t her
thought upon learning of Elektra’s parentage been the same – a sour recoiling of the spirit at the idea of a gargoyle female breeding with a human
Staring up at the sky, feeling the cold of her snowy bed begin to sink into her bones, Hippolyta began to feel the first stirrings of understanding.
As she had looked with scorn (ever so slightly, let us remember, ever so slightly) on Goliath for his strange habits, or the pitying-but-mocking
tolerance with which her clan had regarded the lovestruck Elswyth or Carnelian, smitten as they were with those of the Children, so might the
humans look upon Daniel.
She chuffed indignantly, blowing a frosty cloud into the air, then caught herself. That’s different; I’m a gargoyle, had been the thought forming
in her mind, and she recognized it immediately for the arrogance that it was. It was more the sort of thing she would expect to hear from the lips
Different, but no better, no worse.
That was the key. Gargoyles were not better than humans … the Third Race were not better than gargoyles (though she could just see herself
saying as much to any of them, because they had taken arrogance and made it into a way of life).
“In general, of course,” she whispered with a grin, seeing her words take form in the thin tendrils of her breath. In general the races were
largely even … but individuals of each might tower in all ways over individuals of the other.
Her pride thus mollified by that qualification, Hippolyta rose from the snow and shook a crusting of it from her wings.
She returned to the house in the wee small hours, aware that she had come no closer to solving the problem but had at least taken some steps
toward understanding it. Although it was only four-thirty in the morning, darkness still holding a solid black reign over this part of the earth, some
lights were already aglow.
Hippolyta took care to stamp and shake the rest of the snow from her before she went in, not wishing to make extra work for the housekeeper
by tracking all across the floor. She heard the dim hiss and thunder of a shower, the soft strains of a violin from deeper in the house.
Those sounds grew louder as she made her way to her own room. A door opened, and although Hippolyta could have sworn she’d been quiet
as a cloud moving across the moon, Cecily Harmond smiled and said, “Hippolyta! I thought I heard you out here. Come in, dear, come in and sit
with me while I get ready.”
She did as she was asked, and stopped in amazement at the sight of Cecily’s chamber. Or, chambers in the plural, for it was a suite consisting
of a bedroom, a luxurious bath, and a dressing room. Everything was done in creamy white, a light pink that reminded her of her sister Miriam,
and gold. It looked more like something that would be seen in a dollhouse than in life, yet here it was.
The dressing table alone was enough to capture and hold the eye. All of white with knobs of gold in the shape of flowers, it had a marble top
nearly lost under more cosmetics and beauty aids than Hippolyta had ever imagined could exist. A mirror, large enough to serve as a glass-topped
table if laid flat, was outlined in bulbs.
In front of this mammoth shrine to beauty was a bench, with a pink velvet cushion resting on graceful curves legs of gold. Cecily Harmond,
swathed in a white satin robe, perched upon this seat and began rubbing lotion into her skin as she spoke to Hippolyta’s reflection.
“I understand you’re coming to Senator Levesque’s party with us.”
“You … I … what?” She met the woman’s reflected eyes, saw them crinkle faintly at the corners with mirth.
“Poise, Hippolyta. Poise makes a lady. Clothing and accessories help, mind, but in the end it’s the poise that they remember.”
“I cannot go to this party. Your husband --”
“Oh, that. Gregory’s been leaping to his conclusions again, has he? The trouble with his big picture, if you’ll allow me a photographic bon mot,
is that he’s only looking at the negatives.”
Whatever she was saying sailed far over Hippolyta’s head. She watched in trepidation as Cecily lifted a pair of tiny silvery tongs to her eyebrow.
Her expression was most peculiar as she deliberately plucked out a hair.
“What are you doing?” cried Hippolyta. For a moment it flashed in her mind that Cecily had been taken over by some spell and would torture
herself to death.
But Cecily only laughed. “Something you needn’t worry about. Now … about your gown. I’ve taken the liberty of sending your measurements
to Richard’s of Olympia --” she pronounced it ree-shar’s – “and arranging for a hair stylist to meet us at the hotel early in the evening before the
party. I’m not sure about the shoes, though.”
“Wait. Please. Lady Cecily --”
She laughed again. “How I do like the sound of that! No one has called me Lady Cecily since I met that charming con man in Beaumont Sur Mer
… he thought he could fool me, imagine! Oh, I did have my fun with him …”
“I am not going to this party. I cannot.”
“You certainly can and you certainly are.”
“But your son --”
“It was his idea, and I wholeheartedly agree.”
“Your husband does not.”
“Like I said, Gregory sees only the negative. Let me guess. He thinks that if you and Daniel appear in public together, the press will brand
Daniel a gargoyle-lover in the literal sense of the word and all of our plans will just flutter away like so.” She hooked her thumbs together and
mimed a bird flapping.
“So I gather.”
She picked up a small pot and began dusting her cheeks with a powder that smelled of lilacs. “How like him … but as usual, there are
things he’s failed to take into account. Gargoyles are very chic right now, and the press is simply mad to know more about this mysterious
savior – you, my dear. If Daniel takes you to the senator’s mansion, it works on many levels.”
“I don’t follow.”
“To begin with, the senator will have the prestige of entertaining a gargoyle … an heroic one at that. The paparazzi will be in heaven. Your
picture will be in every paper from here to New York.”
That made a fist of ice close slowly around Hippolyta’s heart. “It will?”
“Daniel cannot go to this affair without a date on his arm. As he and Ms. Fischer are no longer an item, it’s only polite of him to extend the
invitation to the young lady whose bravery saved his life. That’s the way it will be seen. As an expression of gratitude.”
“Your husband does not approve of my keeping company with your son. Don’t you know that?”
“Of course I know that. But for heaven’s sake, Hippolyta … it’s only a party. Yes, people will talk if you’re seen dancing together, but
without proof, talk is only hot air, sound waves, and a little bit of spit.” She began brushing at her eyelashes with something that looked like a
spider’s bristly leg coated in ink. “It’s not like he hasn’t danced with gargoyles before.”
“Yes, Elektra. He told me of it. But your husband was so certain it would be damaging … and now you seem so certain it wouldn’t be …
who am I to heed?”
“Me, dear. It might look like a male-dominated society, but that’s only because we let them think so.”
She smiled serenely, and it suddenly struck Hippolyta that this, this easy cultured elegance and silken-gloved power, was what Lorraine
Diamant strove for but couldn’t quite attain. Diamond’s words and actions had always felt forced, full of pretense, as if she was trying to make
of herself something other than what she was.
“Those who don’t care for gargoyles,” Cecily said, “are already going to hold that against Daniel because of his friendship with them, and in
most cases those opinions are outweighed by all the other reasons they have for admiring him. With the few exceptions of fanatics like the
Quarrymen, his interest in gargoyles will be regarded as nothing more than a minor quirk.”
While that did somewhat echo her own thoughts of only a short while before, it rankled Hippolyta to be dismissed as a quirk … and a minor
one at that! She opened her mouth to say as much, but Cecily interrupted her with a soft chuckle.
“My, that didn’t come out as very flattering, did it? What I meant was only that it isn’t as if he were going to marry you.”
“No,” Hippolyta said, touched by insight. “You have that planned out already too, don’t you?”
“Since he was eight years old, but that has nothing to do with the Illuminati or the Presidency. That’s just being a mother who wants only the
best for her son.”
“Who is the fortunate female?”
Cecily wagged her finger. “Ah-ah-ah … and have you go tell Daniel? He’s just the sort to take a disliking to her on purpose, for no other reason
than to thwart me out of some foolish idea of rebellion.”
“So it’s someone you mean to forbid him to --”
“Reverse psychology? Do give me a bit more credit than that. They’ll meet on their own, fall in love on their own, and make the decision all
without any input from me.”
“Do you not find it callous how you do this?” Hippolyta blurted. “He is your son, not a piece on a board to be moved to your best advantage!
This is his life, his heart, his happiness … and you toy with them as you will!”
“I don’t expect you to understand our ways. I love my Daniel, and mean to do all that I can to see him lead the life he deserves.”
“By taking away his freedom! You’ve made him a slave to what you think is best … but at least a slave knows he’s chained! This illusion of
choice you give him is worse!”
“I’m sure it seems that way to you.” Cecily went to work on her lips with a fine plum-colored pencil, somehow still managing to speak clearly
as she pursed and drew. “But really, Hippolyta, we’re all slaves to some higher power. We all wear chains. Some are just more obvious than
“What chains you?”
“That’s far too complicated to go into just now. I didn’t ask you in here to have a debate, by the way. I thought you’d be pleased to be invited
to join us.”
“I am not pleased to be a part of your games, whatever they may be. If I go to this thing, I go because Daniel asked me.”
“I hope you’ll still accept the offer of the gown and the stylist. Since you’ll be representing your people, I know you’ll want to make a good
“My people … that is another thing! I have lost my clan, I have shamed my kind, and you expect to trot me about as a representative of my
people? No … I go only as Hippolyta, better or worse. That is who I am, that is all I am.”
“While you might think that, you should be prepared for what everyone else will think. And they will be judging all of gargoyle-kind by your
example. I’m sure it was the same for Elektra. She conducted herself like a princess. I hope you’ll do the same.”
“She has the bloodline for it,” Hippolyta muttered. “I am all warrior.”
“We’ll see what you think once Richard and Consuela have had a chance to work on you.” Finished with her face, Cecily turned from the
It was quite amazing, really … while Hippolyta had stood there and watched her do it, the effect was one of having done nothing at all to
achieve that flawless complexion and natural-seeming comeliness.
“So,” Cecily said. “I can count on you, can’t I, to not disappoint me?”
“You’ll have the best of my manners as did Lord Oberon’s court,” Hippolyta said, which she inwardly knew meant that she’d be on her best
behavior until provoked, but then would be capable of giving even a god a bruise to remember.
Continued in Chapter
Five -- The Longest Night