By Kimberly T.
April 16th, a few minutes before dawn, and the perceptibly lightening sky revealed a gathering of gargoyles and humans on the ramparts of Castle Wyvern. Normally, the gargoyles would've been occupied with choosing their perches for the day, and striking the traditional fearsome poses (After months of experimentation, small Aiden had finally found a stance that was fierce enough to win even Hudson's approval.) This dawn, though, the perches were still unoccupied, with everyone gathered around Elisa and Goliath, and the tiny pink-blanket-wrapped bundle held close in Goliath's arms.
Baby Amber, just a few hours old, yawned and blinked her eyes up at her proud father. Hudson glanced at Goliath, looking back down into his daughter's eyes, and knew that it would be useless for Goliath to even try to muster a proper scowl for his pose this morning; it would likely be several nights before that wide, stunned smile faded from his face, the face of someone whose greatest wish had just come true before his very eyes. Elisa, with one arm around Goliath's waist and one of his wings holding her close, had a similar smile though a far more tired one; giving birth to Amber had taken a lot out of her, more than she wanted to admit. The doctors had wanted her to remain in bed, but she had flat-out insisted on getting up for this occasion, so Dr. Kurt Masters hovered just outside the circle of gargoyles, keeping a professional eye on both mother and child.
Elisa's brother Talon and her parents had left for their homes a few hours ago, to spread the word of Amber's birth to the rest of the Labyrinth dwellers and to get to their own beds. The Xanatos family had also gone to bed, Alex having first insisted on giving Amber her very first toy, a baby rattle (but not a gold-plated one, as Elisa had privately bet herself.) (Xanatos privately wondered if they'd ever find out that the beads rattling inside it were actually precious and semiprecious stones.) Lex and Broadway had each held the rattle in their tails and shaken it for Amber, for their turns to hold her earlier; now it rested in Elisa's pocket as she leaned over and kissed the downy-soft sable hair on Amber's head, a goodnight kiss--or good-sleep kiss, to be more accurate.
" 'Tis almost time," Hudson finally said as he tapped the others gathered round on their shoulders and wings, gesturing towards the battlements. It wouldn't do to be caught by sunlight clustered together like so many toadstools, after all. Even so, he too found himself glancing over his shoulder as he chose his perch, for one last glimpse of their newest clanmember.
Goliath sighed as he reluctantly opened his wing, and Elisa echoed his sigh as she took her arm from around his waist. Her flesh wouldn't change as his would, and she knew from hard experience that spending all day stuck in a stone embrace was not at all fun. Her lips twisted in a wry smile as she remembered that time, shortly after she and Goliath had become lovers; sunrise had caught them both by surprise after a night of passionate lovemaking, and she'd spent the day with him on the floor of her apartment, pinned to his chest by one massive arm and wing. Goliath had been horrified at his carelessness when he'd woken up that night, but she'd brushed aside his fervent apologies in a mad scramble for the bathroom. Another hour trapped like that, and she was certain she'd have ended up imitating a pigeon!
After a brief kiss and softly murmured "Sleep well," Goliath stepped up onto his usual perch, but instead of taking his usual aggressive pose, wings and claws out and ready, he sank down on one knee and brought his wings forward, to better shelter Amber from the stiff dawn breezes. Elisa stepped up behind him onto the battlement, putting her hands on his shoulders to steady herself, and peered over his shoulder at their child. Goliath cradled her closely, but was also careful to hold her high enough that she could be retrieved from his arms by reaching over him, if necessary. This was Amber's first dawn, and they simply didn't know for a fact yet that she would sleep in stone as her father did. Electra had done so from the night she'd been hatched, and could "deny the day" only by supreme effort of will, but her egg had come from a gargoyle mother and human father. Amber was the first gargoyle born of a human mother, and they had to allow for every possibility. Dr. Masters had wanted to keep her downstairs in the nursery for observation, but surprisingly, both Elisa and Goliath had decided against it. The clan witnessed mating and breeding season ceremonies together, egg hatchings together, and the first flights of hatchlings together. This moment of truth would be witnessed by the clan together, and that was that.
The first of the sun's rays gleamed over the horizon, and all around was heard the soft crackling sound as the gargoyles of Wyvern Clan turned to stone. Goliath and Elisa had eyes only for their daughter, watching anxiously for the first hint of gray. Even as Goliath felt the familiar stiffening coming over him, he smiled to see the tiny fist sticking out of her blanket turning to stone as he did. Stone sleep would prolong her lifespan over the years, and heal her when she was hurt; his legacy to her, along with her lavender wings.
Elisa gripped Goliath's shoulders tightly as she too saw the first signs of transformation. For an instant her heart leaped, as she remembered that one miraculous time Goliath had actually drawn her into the sleep of stone with him, to heal her of almost-fatal injuries done to her while saving her newborn niece and nephew. If she stayed close enough, and prayed hard enough, would it happen again?
A long moment later, she had her answer. The solid muscles beneath her hands and the dear tiny face before her eyes turned to stone, but her flesh stubbornly stayed flesh. She felt the sting of tears in her eyes and choked back a sob. For just that moment, she bitterly regretted being human, bitterly regretted being separated from her baby for the length of the day, for even an hour, by this transformation.
Dr. Masters, watching silently from a short distance, heard the choked sob the wind brought back to his ears and understood, even more than Elisa herself; Elisa's body, worn out from birth and still ravaged by hormones, was making her far more prone to sudden depression and emotional swings. He and Dr. Johnson would keep close watch for the next few weeks, in hopes of preventing a full-blown case of "baby blues."
Elisa stepped back down from the battlement, and let the
doctor gently guide her back to the stairs and to her own bed waiting for
her in the rooms below. As she shed her clothes, she noticed a small TV
monitor sitting on the nightstand, with a joystick mounted on a pad next
to it. Puzzled, she turned the monitor on, and was surprised to see a view
of the city from the roof, with a stone wingtip in one corner of the frame.
A hookup to one of Xanatos' many security cameras, evidently. She moved
the joystick to bring the wing's owner into view, and found it to be Goliath,
with just a glimpse of tiny Amber cradled in his arms. She knew then that
the setup was a gift from Owen Burnett, and was moved almost to tears again
by the thought behind it; a father himself, the fey-turned-human understood
a new parent's urge to see the newborn child sleeping safe and sound. Leaving
the monitor on, she slipped into bed and turned the screen to face her.
After a few moments of watching with a contented smile, she lightly kissed
a fingertip and touched it to the glass, then rolled over and slipped into
dreamless sleep. She knew she'd be up again in plenty of time to greet
them at sunset.