a TGC rewrite by Christine Morgan
Author's Note: this story came about when the writers on the email@example.com mailing list decided to get together and see if we couldn't do a better job than the writers of TGC, using the "official plot synopses" off the Buena Vista site as our guidelines. This is my contribution. The characters are used without their creators' knowledge or consent.
" -- vowed to continue their campaign to destroy the gargoyles. This is Travis Marshall, at the convention center. Back to you, Elaine." Goliath exhaled heavily as the scene shifted. His fists curled, digging furrows along the armrests of Hudson's favorite chair. "I told you that you wouldn't like it," David Xanatos, leaning casually in the doorway, remarked. "Night after night, we protect them, and still they regard us with fear and loathing. And now this! This convention! Did you see what they were doing?" "Yep. Smashing you in effigy. Very nice. Where _do_ they get those statues?" "Will it never change? Will we never find a place among these humans?" "We're not all so bad, remember?" Goliath looked at him. "Hmph. You used to be." "And sometimes you still wonder. I know, I know." Xanatos chuckled, then sobered. "Listen, Goliath. This will blow over. I know you don't believe it, but it's true. It might take some time, but sooner or later the Quarrymen are going to give up. They can't hold the public interest by just breaking statues. As long as you and the others lay low --" "I will not have it!" Goliath was on his feet, glaring angrily at the television. "We've spent years trying to earn their trust. If we'd wanted to hide away, we could have done so from the beginning! We are not mice to cower! We are gargoyles, and gargoyles protect! Although sometimes I wonder if it would have been better to not have been born a gargoyle at all!" Xanatos held up his hands in a pacifying gesture. "I'm not telling you to quit protecting. I'm just saying you should keep your heads down until the media get their new flavor of the month." "It won't matter. Even if there were no Quarrymen, we would still be hated and feared. More often than not, the victims we rescue run from us with just as much terror as the criminals themselves! We will never be accepted among humans!" "You can't think like that," Brooklyn said, coming in. "What about Elisa? Matt? There are good humans, Goliath." "I know." He shook his head. "But sometimes I wonder if we make any difference at all." Brooklyn grinned and held up a communicator. "Want to make a big difference to some Quarrymen? Angela just called in. She and Hudson found one of their hideouts." Xanatos frowned. "That has trap written all over it. Especially with this convention going on." "We should not take the battle to them," Goliath said. "It will only add fuel to their fire." "But we can't sit around and wait for them to come after us! Somebody's got to do something about these guys, and if not us, who?" The communicator spat static and then Angela's voice filled the room. "Brooklyn! Come quickly! Hudson's in trouble!" * * Goliath scanned the scene quickly, seeing with pride that Hudson had made a good accounting of himself before being outnumbered. The Quarrymen circled him with wary respect, their hammers spitting blue sparks. Several of their number lay motionless. "Come on, then," Hudson challenged from below, waving his sword. "Which of ye's not afraid to die?" "Why did you leave him?" Brooklyn demanded. "Why didn't you fight at his side?" "They had him in a net!" Angela replied hotly, pointing at the strands of broken cable still draped around the old warrior's shoulders. "He ordered me to go for help!" "No time for bickering," Goliath cut in. "We must act while we have the advantage of surprise." "If we do. Xanatos was right. This is another of their damn traps!" Brooklyn snarled. "Would you have me ignore Hudson's plight?" Not bothering to wait for an answer, Goliath spread his wings and dove. One of the Quarrymen came forward with something that looked like a rocket launcher and leveled it at Hudson. He never fired, though, because Goliath slammed into him with enough force to send the man cartwheeling several yards. Goliath rose to his full height and roared at the rest. They reacted swiftly but thoughtlessly, charging at him. Not a one so much as looked skyward, which proved their undoing. Angela and Brooklyn were on them instantly. Hudson didn't waste a moment but started earnestly laying about with his blade. The edge couldn't penetrate the Quarryman armor, but the force was sufficient to drive them back. Now immersed in glorious battle, Goliath gladly lost himself. He seized two foes by the neck, brought their heads together with a sound like a bowler making a very clean strike, and flung their limp bodies at their oncoming fellows. "Goliath! Look out!" Angela cried. The one with the rocket launcher had only been stunned, and was bracing the weapon to fire. For a brief but alarming instant, Goliath found himself looking directly down the deadly black opening and saw the fire begin to grow. Then his daughter was on the man, knocking him back. Smoke erupted underneath them as the projectile shot out. It struck the wall over Goliath and exploded. An avalanche of broken stones came down. He ducked and threw his wings protectively over his head, but a glancing chunk hit him in the back of the skull and the pavement raced up to smack him in the face. And then darkness. * * Something was beeping. Persistent. Annoying. Right next to his ear. He sensed a presence nearby, heard a click, and the beeping stopped. And then a hand was on his shoulder, shaking gently. "What's the point of having an alarm clock if you're just going to sleep through it?" a familiar female voice teased. He groaned, not yet opening his eyes. "Elisa?" She chuckled. "You were expecting maybe Demi Moore? Get up, you're going to be late for work." He heard her moving away, a door opening and closing. Something was wrong. He felt peculiar. He opened his eyes and saw a strange room, with blue drapes across the windows and Ansel Adams prints on the walls. He started to rub his temples, and froze. What was wrong with him? His face was ... different somehow. He looked at his hands and his mind reeled at the sight of ten brownish-tan fingers with short, blunt, useless nails. He tried to shift his wings and nothing happened. No wings. No tail. Legs that seemed all wrong, ending in wide flat stubby-toed feet. He explored his features. No brow ridges. No fangs. Soft skin, scratchy and bristly along the jaw. "I'm ... human?" he whispered. He sat up and was about to get out of bed when Elisa came back in. She was wearing a cranberry-colored silk nightshirt that ended halfway down her lovely golden thighs. She smiled at him. "Good morning, sleepyhead!" Goliath shrank back, pulling the covers around himself. He'd just realized that he was unclothed. He quickly tore his gaze from Elisa's skimpy garb and the flesh it revealed. He looked down at his hands instead, and then he saw the wide band of gold. A ring. A ... wedding ring? Elisa, who impossibly didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary when _everything_ was out of the ordinary, pulled open the drapes. Light flooded in, bright, warm, making him squint and blink. He'd only ever seen anything like it once before, in Norway when his foolishness had caused him to play around with the Eye of Odin. That winterlight, pale and filtered by the northern sky, was nothing like this. He marveled at its splendor. "Elisa ..." he began, not knowing what he was going to say. She came closer, and closer yet. Right up to him as he sat on the edge of the bed. Then she did the most incredible thing ... she leaned over and kissed him on the lips. Again, this was something that had happened only once before. Just like last time, he was too stunned to respond until it was over and she was straightening up. "Sleep well?" she asked. A cascade of thoughts tumbled through his mind lightning- quick. This wasn't real, couldn't be real, had to be some sort of a dream. And since it was a dream, what harm was there in indulging his most fondest wish? Instead of answering, he reached up and stroked the side of her face, then sank his fingers into the midnight of her hair and drew her face close to his again. He kissed her lightly at first, part of him unable to believe that he was actually doing this, amazed at his nerve. But that shocked, protesting part could not stand against the love he'd held mostly concealed for so very long. His lips found hers more firmly, tasting her, discovering her. Her arms went around his neck, mostly for balance, and he let himself recline, pulling her with him onto the bed. Although the tangle of blankets were between them, he could feel the warmth of her body against his, not witholding but pressed lovingly close. When at last he released her, she propped herself up on her hands and grinned down at him. "Wow! What was _that_ for?" "Because I love you," he said, finally uttering the words he'd waited what felt like a lifetime to say. Unable to resist, he kissed her again. The silk of her garment whispered under his fingers. Her hair was a dark cloud around their faces. He was lost, lost in this sweet dream, and in that moment would have been happy never to awaken. He had begun by touching her reverently, hardly able to believe that this was really Elisa in his arms. But soon he found himself responding in another way, similar but more heated, more desiring. He wanted to explore her, to love every delicious inch of her. A dream. A sweet fantasy. What harm in it? Emboldened by that conviction (yet at the same time troubled, for he'd only once before had a dream this vivid and it hadn't turned out to be a dream at all; but he pushed those thoughts out of his mind), he crushed her closer in a passionate embrace. She paused. "The kids will hear us," she murmured. "Kids?!" he blurted. Elisa grinned again. "Yes, kids. Remember?" She flicked the end of his nose with her fingertip. "And they'll be hollering for us any minute." It was a good thing he couldn't speak, because he had no idea what would have come out of his mouth. "But tonight," she purred, bending to kiss his exposed chest, "we'll finish what we started. That's a promise." "Mo-om! I can't find my other shoe!" a boy called. "See? Right on cue." She rose from the bed and left the room, leaving the door standing ajar. "Did you look under your bed?" The boy again. "Yeah, and I found that sandwich you were asking about --" Elisa wailed in disgust. "God, Keith! I've told you a hundred times about leaving food in your room ..." Goliath sat up again, slowly. His blood was thundering in his veins and he feared that if he moved too quickly, he might black out. He saw a maroon bathrobe draped over a chair near the bed and struggled into the unfamiliar garment. It fit perfectly, obviously his. Good. He didn't need to complicate matters by having Elisa catch him trying on her things. Belting it shut, he went to the dresser and peered into the mirror. Human. He was human. Not unattractive, he supposed. His proud mane of sable hair was cropped short, his jaw thick with beard stubble. He looked smaller and weaker, although still muscular. Someone was watching him. He turned, fists clenching. Elisa had left the door ajar, and there was a child standing by it. Goliath caught his breath at the sight of her. She was a dark pixie, with huge solemn black eyes and long braids. Her face lit up in a brilliant smile when she saw him looking at her. "Hi, Daddy!" she chirped, and ran to him. He knelt and she flung her little arms around him and planted a kiss on his cheek. She smelled of baby shampoo and Cheerios. Beneath her "Esmeralda" T-shirt, she was slight and fragile and delicate. Tears stung his eyes. He gently hugged the girl. "Good morning ..." and realized in horror that he didn't know her name. But parents, he'd observed, sometimes used nicknames for their children. The first one that came to mind was "angel" but he rejected it at once. "... princess." "Did you even _look_ in your closet?" Elisa was saying as she came back in. A boy of about seven came after her, hopping on one foot while trying to tie his shoe. Like his sister, he was dark, but sturdy rather than delicate. There was a cheerful, impish air about him that reminded Goliath of Lexington. "No, why? I never put my shoes in my closet." "Well, maybe if you did, you'd always know where to find them." She glanced at Goliath. "And you, mister, had better get ready for work. Keith, take Salli downstairs and you can watch cartoons until we're ready to go." "Okay. Morning, Dad!" "Hello ... son," Goliath said. He held out a hand, not sure what he was going to do, pat the boy's head or sweep him close, but Keith promptly gave him a high five and then scooted for the hall with the little girl -- Salli -- close behind. Small feet thumped down a flight of stairs, followed shortly by the sound of a television loudly advertising chewy fruit-flavored snacks. Elisa began unbuttoning her nightshirt. He flushed and looked away guiltily, then remembered that it was all a dream so it was all right to look, then faltered because dream or no he really _didn't_ have the right, then tried to recover before she noticed anything strange because she, after all, would be expecting him to act like her husband and he certainly couldn't tell her the truth, not yet, not until he'd figured out what was going on. "You, shower!" she ordered. "We've got to have the kids at school by nine if we're both going to make it to work." This was the third time she'd mentioned work. He desperately wanted to ask what job he held, what task he could possibly perform among humans, but couldn't. But he couldn't show up at some job that required skills he didn't possess. To give himself time to think, he went into the bathroom and showered, finding it a much easier task without wings getting in the way. Looking glumly at the razor resting on the shelf below the steam-clouded mirror, he rubbed his chin, took a chance, and said, "I'm thinking of growing a beard." From the other room, Elisa's reaction was instant. "Not on your life, buster!" Sighing, he clumsily maneuvered through the shaving ritual, hissing each time the blade sliced his skin and supressing a howl when he splashed on the after-shave lotion. Commercials made that experience look refreshing, when it really felt like he had just doused his chin in acid. If this was a dream, why would it include such mundanities as shaving, and such pain? This couldn't be real . He wasn't human. He wasn't. He was a gargoyle. This had to be a dream, then. A dream or ... something else! "Of course!" he said aloud, staring into his reflection's eyes. "Of course!" "What, dear?" Elisa opened the bathroom door. He grabbed frantically for a towel and tried to cover his nudity. She frowned. "Are you all right? You're acting kind of weird today." "I ... I don't think I slept well," he stammered. "Elisa, I must go to the Aerie Building." "I already said I'd drive you to work, remember? I'll be glad, though, when they get your car fixed. All this commuting is giving me a headache." "No, I must speak to Xanatos," Goliath said. "You mean you're finally going to ask him for a raise? It's about time. They're only paying you half of what you're worth." From downstairs, their son yelled, "Mom! Grandma's on the phone!" "Oh, I hope she can still watch the kids this weekend!" Elisa hurried out. Goliath turned to his reflection again. "I work ... for Xanatos?!" * * The Fairlane pulled up in front of the Aerie Building. "Here you go. See you at five," Elisa said. He reluctantly opened his door. The drive had been nothing short of wonderful, listening to the children chatter excitedly about their friends at school and their upcoming visit to the grandparents. Wonderful, but difficult, as he worried constantly about saying something wrong and arousing Elisa's suspicions. But his very lack of conversation had triggered her sense of observation. She knew something was bothering him, but of course would not in a thousand years have guessed what. Before getting out of the car, he turned to face her. "Elisa ... what do you know about ... gargoyles?" She rolled her eyes. "Don't start about gargoyles. I hear about gargoyles all day long at work. The great gargoyle crime wave. It's driving me crazy. Everybody in New York thinks he or she's seen a gargoyle, but does anybody have proof? Hah! There are no such things, and if there were, I wish somebody would just shoot one so we'd have some evidence!" He recoiled, but she didn't see his expression of abject shock. She hammered the heel of her hand on the steering wheel. "Bad enough that I've got to be partnered with a guy who sees gargoyles in every corner that doesn't have an Illuminati spy lurking in it! The last thing I need is for you to buy into the whole thing too!" "I was just asking," he said weakly. "I'm sorry," she relented at once. "Why am I taking it out on you? It's just ... you know what a hassle this has been." "Yes," he said, touching her shoulder. "I shouldn't have brought it up." "S'okay. Go on, climb that corporate ladder." He nodded and got out, and watched her swerve smoothly away into traffic. And then, briefcase in hand (but he hadn't had a chance to look inside to see what kind of papers might be contained therein), he slowly looked up and up, to the top of the towering edifice of glass and stone. The sun beat down on the ancient, weathered stones of Castle Wyvern. Goliath squinted, but he couldn't be sure if the shapes he saw were part of the battlements or stone figures. The answer was here. He had no intention of trying to fake his way through a nine-to-five shift as an employee of Xanatos Enterprises. Not only was he even more likely to be exposed, he found the entire idea personally appalling. True, the Xanatos he knew had demonstrated a change of heart, but to be suddenly reduced to this ...! He entered the building. The security guard nodded, recognizing him, and he had no trouble reaching the elevator. A few other people, all unfamiliar, got into the small moving box with him. It was the first time he'd been so surrounded by humanity in such a casual manner. Nobody looked at him oddly. Nobody ran screaming or tried to attack him because he was a monster. He was just another human in the crowd. Accepted. Accepted by humans. Loved wholeheartedly by his family. He had a wife that meant the world to him. They had two delightful children. A happy, comfortable household. Peace. Prosperity. A normal life. Maybe he would be wise to just let it stay like this. This, whether dream or trick, was his fondest wish come true. How tempting to cleave to it, relish and cherish it. But it wasn't real! It wasn't him! To be a lackey for Xanatos! Unthinkable! He could muddle along until he found a new job, one more to his liking. He and Elisa would build new memories to replace the ones he did not have ... No. No, it was wrong. He wasn't the man Elisa thought she had married. To take advantage of her in that unforgiveable way ... he could not in honor do it. But ... suppose this _was_ reality? Suppose that what he thought was the truth was really the dream? If that were so, it meant he was insane. Only madness could conjure such vivid detail, a lifetime of recollections. Madness, and amnesia. No. It couldn't be. The elevator stopped, bringing an end to his conflicting thoughts. He looked out into a vast foyer with a floor of shining tile, fluted columns supporting a high ceiling, blocks of planters and ferns and fountains. A wide staircase curved down from an upper level, and descending that staircase was David Xanatos. Expensive suit, neat beard, ponytail, eyes as hard and sharp as arrowheads. Goliath started right for him. "Xanatos!" While it lacked the massive resonant force of his usual bellow, in the businesslike hush of the room, it was loud as a jet plane. Xanatos turned his disbelieving gaze upon him. He leaned back and spoke over his shoulder and out of the corner of his mouth, like a con passing a message in the prison exercise yard. Owen Burnett moved into view from behind Xanatos and replied in a low tone. Goliath couldn't hear it all but his ears were still inhumanly keen enough to catch the last. " -- drones from Sector 7-G. Married to the _detective_." "Ah," Xanatos said. At the sight of Owen, however, Goliath shifted targets. "Never mind Xanatos; it's you I want, trickster! What is the meaning of this? What have you done to me, Puck?!" Owen's habitually placid countenance was shattered. His eyes darted in sudden trapped horror from Goliath to Xanatos and back again. "What is going on?" Xanatos demanded. "Owen?" "Look what he's done! Look at me, Xanatos!" He felt himself losing his temper, cracking under the strain, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. "Look at me! I'm a human!" Owen still hadn't recovered. His throat moved as he swallowed nervously. That, plus Xanatos' honest confusion, awakened a dark suspicion in Goliath's heart. "He doesn't know?" he asked Owen. "What has happened? What has happened to the world?" "Permit me to handle this, Mr. Xanatos sir," Owen said shakily. He brushed past his boss, took Goliath by the arm in a companionable-looking sharp pinch, and steered him away. Xanatos stared after them, frowning, eyes narrowed. He drew a finger down the bridge of his nose, over his lips, and ended by stroking his beard thoughtfully. * * "Why don't you believe me?!" Goliath raged. He doubled his fists and brought them down on the desk, making the lamp and telephone jump and rattle. The angrier and more frustrated he got, the calmer Owen became. He placed some forms in front of Goliath. "These merely require your signature. The health and well-being of the employees is of the utmost importance to Mr. Xanatos." He slapped them aside. "I do not need counseling, nor a leave of absence! I need to understand why you've done this!" "And I've told you," Owen said, unruffled, "that I do not know what you are talking about." "I'm supposed to be a gargoyle!" Goliath insisted. "A gargoyle." "I _am_ a gargoyle! Xanatos brought this castle and my clan here, broke the spell that held us. I know all of it. I know about you, Avalon, Oberon, everything! Haven't you been listening to me? How could I know these things if I wasn't who I say I am?" Owen blanched again at the words Avalon and Oberon, but stayed firm. "Have you been under any undue stress at home?" "Home?" he repeated. "Home is ... perfect." He realized how wistful he sounded, but couldn't help it. He gazed into the distance for a moment, seeing nothing, but remembering Elisa's warm embrace, the bright smiles of their children, the study he'd barely glimpsed on his way out the door but that had looked like a place a man could spend many happy hours reading and relaxing. Then he snapped his attention back to Owen. "Too perfect." "I hope you understand that I cannot have you going about spouting such nonsense. For one thing, you are an employee of Xanatos Enterprises and as such are subject to many confidentiality contracts. Further, there is the simple matter of knowing your place. You are hardly in a position to accost Mr. Xanatos in such a belligerent manner." "What are you going to do, fire me?" "That is within my power," Owen replied blandly. "However..." The door hissed open and four men came in, all clad in the grey and red of Xanatos' personal goon squad. "Take him to one of the seclusion cells," Owen ordered. Goliath tensed, knowing that in this form he could not handle four of them at once but determined to give it a try. They weren't going to take him without a fight! On the other hand, he thought as one of them pegged him with a tranquilizer dart, maybe they were. * * Once again, he groaned and opened his eyes, and once again there was a female there to greet him. But this time it was not his dear Elisa. "Demona!" He lunged against the metal manacles holding him to the wall. Her lip curled. "You're right," she said to the shadowed form of Owen. "He does know about us!" "What are you doing here?" Goliath glared hatefully at her. "Are you in on this trickery? Is it your sorcery that's done this to me?" She took a half-step back. "What?" And then two big steps forward, her claws ripping through his shirt as she hauled him to the near arm-breaking limit of his bonds. She shook him like a rag doll. "How do you know about that?" "Don't hurt him," Owen cautioned. "We cannot afford to damage him." Goliath moved fast. His arms were chained but his legs were not, so he brought his knees up to his chest and then pistoned his feet at Demona. She fell sprawling, the breath knocked out of her, and he took a brief but vicious satisfaction in the sound her head made connecting with the floor. His satisfaction switched to shock as a large, low-slung blue form lunged out of the darkness and slammed him against the wall. "Bronx!" he gasped as the beast stood over him, all slavering jaws and blazing eyes. "How do you know his name?" another gargoyle snarled. "Brooklyn! No -- this cannot be!" Demona rose and shook her head groggily. "I see you've met our watchdog," she said. "And my second-in-command." "He knows our names!" Brooklyn said feistily. "What has she done to you," Goliath asked him, horrified beyond all measure. "You hate her most of all!" "Quite the contrary," Demona chuckled, running her talons through Brooklyn's white mane in a playful, sensual gesture. "This is proving itself to be a very large problem," Owen said. "I must inform Mr. Xanatos." "No!" Demona said sharply. "A decision must be made. His wife is going to wonder what's become of him, and you don't need me to remind you how persistent that woman can be." Goliath's blood ran cold, recalling that Elisa would have expected to meet him at five o'clock. "We can do this ourselves, without bringing Xanatos into it. Or are you that eager to tell him your little secret?" "I'll get the others, and we'll keep a lookout for the police," Brooklyn offered. "Should we try to capture the detective before she starts nosing around?" "No!" Goliath cried. An icicle of fear pierced his heart. Not fear for himself, enver that, but fear for what might happen to Elisa and the children. He thought suddenly of Salli, the tiny dark pixie, and Keith, her cheerful older brother, the children that he loved so dearly though he'd only known them less than a day. The idea of anything happening to them because of him was unthinkable! "Elisa is our friend!" he continued desperately. "She has always been a loyal defender of our clan!" "Our clan?" Demona echoed. "He's clearly a madman, Burnett. You'd do humanity a favor by thinning the herd of this one!" "He knows so much, though," Brooklyn mused. "How? And how come his wife doesn't?" "It's some sort of a trick or a trap," Demona said. "No. No. Listen to me." Goliath kept speaking to Brooklyn. "Don't let Demona's sorcery fool you. I am Goliath! Your leader! Don't you remember the fall of Castle Wyvern, and the Vikings? Princess Katherine? The clocktower? How would I know these things if I wasn't your friend?" Brooklyn looked helplessly to Demona. "Anyone could research the history of this castle, but what's this clocktower he's talking about?" "Proof of his madness. Goliath! What a ridiculous name!" "Let me talk to Xanatos, then," Goliath said desperately. "Hasn't he spoken enough of the debt he feels he owes me, for saving his son?" Blank looks crossed all three faces. "Son?" Owen said. "Mr. Xanatos is childless." "What? What happened to Alexander? What happened to Fox, his wife?" "Is he talking about that woman from the Pack?" Brooklyn asked skeptically. "The one that I killed when she tried to escape me by holding a gun on another human?" Demona laughed harshly. "As if I should value the life of a human above my revenge!" "No ..." Goliath breathed. "We're going to have to tell Mr. Xanatos something," Owen said. "The detective is stubborn enough to insist on speaking directly to him when she learns that her husband is missing." "He could be found," Demona suggested with a cruel smile. "This might even give us an opportunity to deal with Tony Dracon. If he were to be implicated in such a murder ..." "Yeah!" Brooklyn agreed. "The cops have been trying to get something on him for years!" "She's made a killer of you?" Goliath blurted, more disturbed by what he saw in Brooklyn's eyes than in the clear threat to his own life. He lashed out at Demona with his feet again. "What have you done to my clan, you vicious heartless witch?!" "Beware your tongue, human, lest I rip it out by the roots and slap you across the face with it!" "We cannot chance eliminating the husband of a police officer without express permission from Mr. Xanatos," Owen said, stepping between them but managing to stay out of striking distance of both. "For now, we'll have to keep him locked up. Not here; the men that brought him are trustworthy but there's no sense in testing that trust needlessly. Take him to the dungeons." Demona nodded sharply at Brooklyn. "Do it. I'll talk to Xanatos myself." She followed Owen out and began arguing with him the minute they were out of sight. "Brooklyn, my friend," Goliath said, trying to be calm, "you must believe me!" "I don't have to believe anything you say, human!" Brooklyn unlocked the manacles and jerked him to his feet. "You're pretty big, but I don't think you're stupid enough to try to escape. And just in case you are, let me remind you about him." He pointed at Bronx, who was growling low and ominously. Goliath let himself be directed to the long curving flight of stairs, all the while speaking urgently to the young gargoyle. "Hear me, Brooklyn. None of this is real. We've been tricked by some sorcery. I am a gargoyle, one of your clan, your leader. How could I invent a lifetime of memories? Don't you remember how we came to be here in Manhattan? How I sent you and Lexington and Broadway to the rookery, so that you escaped the destruction of our clan when Demona betrayed us to the Vikings? How could I know these things if I wasn't who I say that I am?" "You've done your homework, but you've got some of the facts wrong," Brooklyn said. "Demona has been our leader since I was just a hatchling. She never betrayed us. She led our clan to safety so that the Vikings could come and capture the humans, and once the humans were gone the castle was ours, the way it always should have been." "No," Goliath said. "That's what she wanted, but that is not what happened!" "I'm telling you, it is!" "Then how do you come to be here, now, in the twentieth century?" "We were betrayed, but not by Demona! The Vikings came back! Their leader Haakon wasn't content with leaving well enough alone. He wanted to wipe out our entire clan. If Hudson hadn't felt guilty about failing to protect the humans and led some of us after them -- " he shook his head angrily. "I don't know why I'm telling you this!" "And Demona?" Goliath pressed. "She was furious when she found out we'd gone and followed us, but she was too late. The Magus blamed us for the attack even as we were trying to rescue them. He put a spell on us and turned us to stone. He refused to undo it, no matter what Demona did to him. By the time she got back to the castle, the rest of the clan was destroyed!" "The princess? What became of her?" "Never mind! I've said too much already." He opened a door and shoved Goliath through. "Brooklyn, wait! I know this isn't what is in your heart! You've always been a brave and true warrior. Don't be blinded by Demona's hatred!" "She's the only one of us that ever saw clearly!" Brooklyn retorted. "Humans can't be trusted!" "Yet you trust Xanatos?" A calculating smile, totally foreign, crept across Brooklyn's features. "He thinks we do, and that's good enough for now!" With that, he slammed the door, leaving Goliath in the dark. "No!" He threw himself against the door, beating his fists upon it. When it proved to no avail, he rested his back against it and slid downward, burying his face in his hands and closing his eyes. It was a dungeon, all right. Dank moldy straw littered the floor, and he could hear the scuttling of what might have been rats. Trust Xanatos to have rats in his dungeon, even if he had to import them. He could also smell rust, dampness, and despair. * * After what seemed a very long time, he sensed that he wasn't alone. "So, I've company," a voice said. "Forgive me for not tidying the place up." Goliath slowly raised his head. "It can't be ... MacBeth?" "You know me?" that selfsame fellow said, noticeably surprised. "Who are you?" His eyes had adjusted to the gloom, and Goliath could now see the other man. Haggard and filthy, but still undeniably MacBeth. "I ... am called Goliath," he said uncomfortably. "But what are you doing here?" "I came looking for an old enemy." "Demona," he nodded knowingly. "Of course. She couldn't kill you, or her own life would be forfeit." MacBeth's tone of surprise shaded into shock. "Who _are_ you?" "I thought I knew. Now I am no longer sure." He thought of Elisa, summoned up her dear lovely visage in his mind. Before he knew he was going to do it, he found himself unburdening the entire tale to his cellmate. MacBeth listened to it all with remarkable tolerance, but then, he was a man whose own life had been fraught with unusual events. "So, you see," Goliath finished, "I do not know what to believe anymore. Should I trust what I see around me, or what I know in my mind?" "If it is a spell you are under, then I must be afflicted as well. For I have never met you, as a man or a gargoyle. I tracked Demona here to New York years ago, and was taken prisoner in our initial encounter. I've not trapped gargoyles, donned the mask of a Hunter, been in Paris, nor any of these other things you remember of me." "You could be under the same spell," Goliath mused. "Or part of some strange conspiracy against me, although you would have no reason. But everyone? Brooklyn, Xanatos, even Elisa? And how to explain the children? No, it cannot be that." MacBeth smiled ruefully. "You could be dreaming, but if so I wish you'd awaken. I've spent quite a long time in this dungeon as a part of someone else's dream." "If it is a dream, it is the most real I've ever known. Only once before have I experienced something like this, when the trickster Puck wished to take the Phoenix Gate from me. But there seems no purpose to this. I have no artifacts left to give up, and Puck, while perhaps no friend, is not an enemy." "You may be about to find out," MacBeth said as the sounds of footsteps drew near. A flashlight beam stabbed through the iron grille in the center of the dungeon door. "Hey!" "Elisa? Elisa!" "Shhh!" she hissed. "There you are! My God, I've been out of my mind with worry!" "How did you get in here?" "Did you find him, sis?" "Yeah," she said grimly. "Xanatos is going down this time for sure!" "Talon?" Goliath said, crowding up to the grille. "Hunh? Talon?" In the backsplash of light, he saw Elisa and her brother, but not her brother as Goliath knew him best. Not Talon, but Derrek Maza, human and unchanged. And confused. "What's he talking about?" "Hush, both of you." Elisa handed the flashlight to her brother and began fiddling with the lock. "Let's just get him out of here!" "Elisa, no! It is too dangerous!" "I said shut up. We don't have time to waste. Xanatos will figure out pretty soon that we haven't left the building, and then he'll have his goon squad hunting for us." "They're the least of your troubles!" Goliath insisted. "Demona, and the other gargoyles --" "How many times do I have to tell you to knock it off with this gargoyle crap?" She beamed the light right into his eyes, but he could still see the deep hurt on her face. "What's the matter with you, anyway? Are you losing your mind?" "No ... Elisa ... I ..." he stammered. The lock clicked. Goliath looked back over his shoulder. "Come with us," he said to MacBeth. "Who knows when you'll get another chance at escape?" "I'm in your debt." They left the dungeon behind gladly enough and crept stealthily through the corridors. Goliath tried to lead, for he knew this castle as well as ... well, not the back of his hand, given the current situation, but well enough. Elisa had other ideas. "You just stay close," she whispered. "I don't know what's going on, but as soon as we're out of here, you're going to tell me everything." "I don't think so," Demona said. Lights snapped on, one after another, revealing the scarlet- haired gargoyle standing in the center of the hall, flanked by her loyal clan. One look into their eyes, all showing flat and deadly malice, and Goliath knew they weren't under a spell. Derrek and Elisa froze in horror, gasping in a unison that might have been funny other under circumstances. "Forgive me," Goliath said to MacBeth, and punched him just as hard as he possibly could. His head whipped back, and so did Demona's. They both fell unconscious. For a moment, gargoyles and humans stared at each other, all unsure what was supposed to happen next. Then Elisa and her brother, still acting as if they were one mind in two bodies, drew their guns. "Nobody move!" Elisa cried, her voice made high and shrill by her fear. "Wait!" Goliath glanced quickly around. "Where's --" Bronx hurtled through the air and hit Elisa from behind with the force of a professional linebacker. She crashed forward, her gun skidding and spinning forward, until Brooklyn's foot came down on it in a hard crunch. Lexington, smallest and most agile, took advantage of Derrek's distraction and swarmed over him, his tail coiling around Derrek's wrist and jerking so that his gun went flying. Apologizing again although it went unheard, Goliath hefted MacBeth's body and flung him at Broadway and Hudson. As a human he was weak, and MacBeth was heavy despite his years of imprisonment, so the throw fell short (but Demona's body convulsed gratifyingly on the bounce) and Goliath found his former mentor coming at him with sword in hand. "Run!" he called frantically to Elisa. She managed to squirm out from under Bronx, but her panicked escape brought her right into Brooklyn's hands. The red gargoyle grabbed her, bodily hefted her, turned ninety degrees, and hurled her through a narrow stained-glass window. "No!" Goliath went past Hudson, knocking the incoming sword blow aside with his forearm in a habitual and skillful gesture. He leaned out and saw Elisa clinging to a narrow ledge with the streets of Manhattan hundreds of feet below. He reached. She slipped. "Elisaaaaaaaaa!" She was tumbling away from him, her hair a black cloud around a face that was nothing more than terror-wide eyes and mouth. He dove after her, and it was only then that he remembered that he was human. She fell, and this time there was nothing he could do to save her. Nothing but watch in horror as she plunged toward the unforgiving streets below. Elisa landed on the roof of her own car. It crumpled beneath her like a bed of satin, molding itself to her shape. And there she lay, silent, motionless, a broken doll carelessly cast aside by a cruel child. He suffered one moment of unutterable, all-encompassing grief, and then numbness as he opened himself to welcome the final, fatal impact. * * The world around him was grey and cloudy. "What?" he blurted, turning in a circle. There was nothing to see but swirling mist, and then a small green-gold sparkle that suddenly expanded into a female shape. The wasp-waisted, uncannily beautiful queen of Avalon stood before him. "Titania?" he said unbelievingly. "Hello, Goliath." Her voice, as always, was smooth and cool and confident. "This ... is _your_ doing?" He held out his human hands as if showing them to her, then raised them to wipe the tears of his loss from his human face. "Why?" "I granted your fondest wish," she said with a smile. "I gave you what you desired. Freedom from the burden of an ungrateful society. Freedom from being hunted. A home, a loving wife, a family. It's a wonderful life, isn't it, Goliath?" "I don't understand! Wonderful? Elisa --" he choked on a sob. "Elisa is dead!" "You wondered if the world would have been better off if you'd never been born a gargoyle." She shook her head. "Without _you_, Goliath, your clan would have followed Demona into unholy alliance with Xanatos. Katherine of Wyvern would have died, and the rookery eggs would have had no one to care for them. My own daughter would be dead at Demona's hands. Renard, who I do in my own way care for, would have chosen power over honor in Prague. And countless other repurcussions that you could not begin to comprehend. What I showed you, Goliath, was the world you wondered about." "This wasn't what I wanted. Some of it, yes, dreams that I hardly dare to dream, but not like this. Not at the expense of my clan, my friends." "It could be real," she tempted. "I could turn back the clock by a day and let you awaken again as a human. You could choose to do things differently than you did this day, and live happily as a mortal man. With your secret knowledge, you could quite make something of yourself. What do you say?" He eyed her suspiciously. "Why do you even make such an offer? It would not save your daughter, or Renard, for it is already too late." "As a favor to you, Goliath." "I do not trust your favors," he said bluntly. "And I cannot accept. Live as a human? No. Whatever form I may be, in my heart I am a gargoyle." "I can make you forget." She reached to caress his cheek. He drew back, but not far enough. "No," he said again. "I would not lose who I am. If you do me any favor, it will be to return me to normal. Let me be who and what I am meant to be!" She flicked her fingers casually at him and he felt his body shift and alter into his familiar gargoyle form. He flexed his wings, examined his hands, and looked at Titania. "Don't thank me," she said, as if he was actually going to thank her for undoing what she had done in the first place. "But do, Goliath, remember!" He briefly closed his eyes, knowing that he would never forget, even if he wanted to. The bitter, yes, plenty of bitter as he thought of Elisa falling to her death. But also the sweet, his treasured memories of children that would never live anywhere except in his own heart. * * When he opened his eyes again, he saw Angela leaning anxiously over him. Behind her were Hudson and Brooklyn, and the smoking wreckage of the Quarrymen. Red lights chased themselves over the buildings. "Goliath, we have to go," Angela said. "It's the police!" He stroked her sable hair, so like his own. In the false world of Titania's illusion, Angela had never been. He found that an unbearable thought. "My daughter," he said, his voice thick with emotion. "How proud I am of you." She flushed, pleased, as she helped him to his feet. Yes, he saw, the police were drawing near. It was time to go home. But before he made ready to leave, he gathered the three of them close in an embrace. "How proud I am of all of you," he declared. "And to be one of you." * * The End