Lyre, Lyre

by Christine Morgan

Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney
and used here without their creator's knowledge or consent. The
Rockaway belongs to Christi Hayden, and I promise, no serious lasting
damage was done to it (I'll pay for any broken furniture.) This story has
some violent content; reader discretion advised.

(Matt Bluestone, voice over) "Previously, on Gargoyles ..." From "The Eurydice Project" --         He went to a small table, which held two ancient crumbling scrolls, a bound copy of all the spells from his own Grimorum Arcanorum (and wouldn't Goliath be pissed if he knew about _that_), and a golden musical instrument. "The lyre from the Hall of Antiquities Arcanum. The lyre of Orpheus." From "Romances, Part Three: First Date" --         Robyn shifted her gaze to her, slowly taking her in. Fresh, innocent, hopeful features bespoke a small-town girl with big-city dreams. The diamond earrings and fur coat marked her as a wealthy man's mistress or plaything. And the swell of her belly ...         At that, Robyn's gaze came accusingly to rest on her younger brother. Jon smiled coldly. Together, they mouthed the litany that their father had ingrained into them from the time they were old enough to speak. From "Baby Makes Three" --         The last Hunter and prophet of the Quarrymen turned slowly. "Bluestone. So you've caught up with me at last. Come to kill me, the way my father killed yours?"         "No. I've learned the lesson your family never did. Generations of revenge have brought you nothing but death. I won't fall into that trap."         "So what are you going to do?" Canmore sneered.         He opened his coat, withdrew something of metal that was not a gun, and set his fingers to the strings. "I've had a busy day, but I've saved my best for you."         Then, with all the power that was his, Orpheus Bluestone began to sing.

                APRIL 3, 1999. 23RD PRECINCT.         "God, I hate paperwork," Elisa Maza sighed. "Especially filling out all these endless forms."         "Then you shouldn't fire at suspects," Rick Alvarez said, reasonably enough. "Even if they _are_ Quarrymen."         "They shot first." She rubbed her bandaged shoulder, wincing as she did so, already wondering how she was going to explain it to Goliath without sending him into a homicidal rage.         "And if they hadn't, you'd be in even deeper salsa with the captain than you already are. Come on, finish them up and I'll take them down to processing."         "Thanks, Rick." She finished her account of events, then scrawled her name. Just her luck she'd gotten tagged on the right shoulder; she was trying to write with her left hand and it made her report come out sloppy.         As she was handing the paper over to the acknowledged hunkiest officer on the force, she heard a commotion by the door to the squad room. Through the middle of it came her partner, looking like he hadn't slept all night. But he was beaming proudly, handing things out, and getting clapped on the back by the rest of the badges.         "Aren't you off today?" she called over the noise.         Matt walked right up to her and popped a cigar in her mouth. "Guess what?"         She plucked it out and saw the plastic band with blue letters, procaliming gaily, "It's a Boy!"         "Edie had the baby? Matt, that's great! When?"         "Ten forty-six this morning." He dealt out a hand of Polaroids, of an exhausted woman and a wrinkled bald red infant.         "Oh, Matt, he's ... uh ... precious!"         "What's the matter with his head?" Rick asked, leaning over Elisa's desk to look.         "The doc says it'll be regular-shaped in no time." Matt laughed. "Yeah, I know, he's not exactly cute, but he's got lungs on him like you wouldn't believe! Here, Rick, have a cigar."         "Did you finally decide on a name?" Elisa asked.         "Orpheus."         "You've got to be kidding!" Rick protested. "You can't saddle a kid with a name like that!"         Matt shrugged. "It's what Edie wanted."         "He is going to get picked on at school, just watch," Rick said.         "Bluestone!" Captain Maria Chavez appeared, smiling. "I heard the news! Congratulations! But what are you doing here?"         "Had to come and show off." He thrust the pictures at her.         "Don't worry, his head will flatten out," she said. "Carmen was just like that when she was born."         "Oh, Captain, I'm on for tomorrow, and I was wondering if ..."         "Say no more, Matt. Thanks to the new policy, you get twelve weeks family leave, with pay."         He blinked. "Wow, how ... progressive of us!"         "Twelve weeks with pay?" Rick echoed. "I've got to have a kid!"         "You've got to have a wife first, studly," Elisa teased.         "Watch it, Maza, that could be construed as sexual harrassment," he came back with a wink.         "The policy does only extend to married couples," Captain Chavez said.         Elisa grinned. "That so?"         "Something you need to tell me, Maza?"         "No, Captain," she said hurriedly. "No chance. What I meant was: what's the department's policy on marriages not recognized by the state of New York? Just in case."         "We'll worry about that if and when the time comes. Are you done with your report?"         "Yeah, I just gave it to Rick."         Matt noticed the bandage for the first time. "Hey, did I miss something?"         "Quarrymen." Elisa made a face. "Vandalizing a nightclub. Lucky for them, they did it before the place opened. I've heard some weird things about the folks who run the Rockaway, and there might not have been anything for us to do but pick up the pieces if those hammer- toting jerks had gone there after happy hour."         "Why'd they bust up a bar?" Matt asked.         "Gargoyle sympathizers," Rick said. "Apparently, they play a lot of Scarlet Angel music, and there've even been some gargoyle sightings in the vicinity."         "It must just bug the hell out of those guys that they can't get close to the clan." Matt shook his head. "Well, hey, since I've got all this leave time, I'm going to get back over to the hospital."         "I'll tag along," Elisa said, standing up. "I'm done for the day, and it'd be nice to see Edie again."         "Not so fast, Maza," Captain chavez cut in. "Have you seen Michelby yet?"         Elisa sighed and rolled her eyes. "I'm okay, Captain. I don't need to visit the department headpeeper." But, seeing Chavez's eyes darken ominously, she sighed again. "All right, all right. But tomorrow, okay? I promise. First thing tomorrow."         "And you're on desk duty until the investigation is complete," Chavez pressed on. In a lower, gentler voice, she added, "I know how you feel about the Quarrymen, Elisa, but if you're going to react like this in every situation, I'm going to have to pull you off the GTF."         "You can't!" she burst out, then took a deep breath.         For a few moments there in the firefight, she'd been more like Demona than herself, wanting the kind of revenge that ends up driving a hearse. She'd been almost _glad_ when the Quarryman shot her so she'd have an excuse to return the favor. And that was the kind of behavior that wouldn't just put her life and her job in danger, but would bring the disapproval of the whole clan.         "Sorry. You're right. Desk duty's fine."         Maria Chavez nodded, satisfied. "Tomorrow. I'll tell Dr. Michelby to be expecting you."                 *               * MANHATTAN GENERAL HOSPITAL.         "Would you like to hold him?" Edie offered.         "Sure!" Elisa cradled the tiny boy in her left arm, carefully, mentally comparing him with the lively sturdy toddlers her niece and nephew had become. It was hard to remember just how small and fragile the twins had been -- and, come to think of it, she'd been wounded the first time she held them, too. Not a good thing to make a habit!         Orpheus looked up at her with dark, solemn eyes from beneath the brim of a knitted cap. He didn't resemble Matt much at all, except around the chin.         "He's darling," Elisa said. "Your mom must be thrilled!"         "She's on her way down from Vermont even as we speak," Matt said. "I think she's planning to stay for a month, at least!"         Most women might have quailed at the prospect, but Edie only smiled serenely. "At least then you'll have decent meals! I didn't take very good care of you these last few weeks, and all I wanted to eat was feta cheese!"         Matt shuddered extravagantly. "I was living on take-out," he told Elisa. "But Mom'll cook, clean, fuss, and bustle to her heart's content."         The baby yawned, then made a soft crooning sound. "I think he wants to go back to his mother." Elisa handed him back to Edie, who smiled adoringly down at him. Matt, standing beside the hospital bed, slipped an arm around her shoulders, and the three of them looked so happy and familial that Elisa's throat tightened with half-acknowledged envy.         "I'd better get going," she said with an automatic glance at the windows -- she used the hue of the sky more than her watch to tell time these days. "Enjoy your time off, partner! Call me if you need anything."         They said their farewells, and Elisa strode down the hall of the maternity wing, breathing in the scents of powder and formula and all those baby smells, hearing lullabies and indignant crying.         She paused by the elevator and sighed. Her shoulder hurt, and she was having those thoughts again. Those decidedly un-Elisa-like thoughts. She closed her hand around the smooth pendant Elektra had given her, the teardrop of amber supposedly imbued with Avalon's magic.         Aiden had confirmed that it did have an aura of power to it, and as far as Goliath was concerned, that would be enough. Enough to let them defy genetics and conceive a child of their own. She had agreed to it, but secretly doubted that Elektra's gift would do the trick. But ... oh ... sometimes, like now, she wished that it would.         She heard wailing ascending beneath her -- someone in the elevator. As it dinged to a stop at this floor, she stepped back.         "It's going to be fine," she heard a man say, and icy fingers played xylophone on her spine as she recognized the voice. She slid around the corner just as the elevator doors opened.         A wheelchair rolled out, containing a very pregnant young woman with a fluffy halo of auburn hair. She was gasping and clutching the handrests, sweat beading her face, green eyes dark with pain.         The man pushing the chair was blond and arrogantly handsome, his eyes cruel blue. Jon Canmore.         A flock of nurses closed around them, efficiently taking over and steering them into one of the delivery rooms. Against her better judgement, Elisa edged closer. But her red jacket and blue jeans stood out against the white uniforms and pale salmon of the scrubs, and Canmore saw her.         They stared at each other for a short but weighty moment, then Elisa's eyes shifted to the woman. No, to the girl. She couldn't be more than seventeen.         "Yes, detective," Canmore said in that haughty affected accent of his. "There always will."         "I ought to run you in for statutory rape," she snarled.         One of the nurses glanced over worriedly, but Canmore only smiled. "My wife is nineteen, and I fail to see how that is any interest of yours."         "Jo-o-on!" the girl howled. "It hu-u-urts!"         "She's already crowning!" a physician's assistant reported.         "Who's her doctor?" the worried nurse asked.         "She doesn't have one. We were planning to have the baby at home, but when the pain got to be too bad ..." he shrugged. "And the midwife never showed."         The nurse clucked a little, disapprovingly, and turned her attention to her patient as they wheeled her into a delivery room. Elisa and Jon Canmore were momentarily alone in the hall, and now he let his mask drop. His hatred struck her like a splash of acid.         "I heard about the dust-up this afternoon. Which of my men branded you, gargoyle-lover? I'll want to reward him most generously."         "Buy him a big book of crossword puzzles, then," she replied coldly. "It'll pass the time in the hospital."         "Police brutality."         "Self-defense."         "Betraying your own kind."         "Terrorist hate crimes."         His lip curled. "Those monsters of yours, their luck won't hold forever!"         "There will always be a Guardian." She didn't know what made her say it, but Canmore's reaction was gratifyingly shocked. He was just winding up to deliver a scathing remark, when the squall of a newborn filled the air.         "The baby!" Canmore turned on his heel, leaving Elisa fuming. She clenched her fists, and the hot spear that jabbed at her injured shoulder pierced her anger.         She hurried back to Edie's room. Matt was holding his son as if he feared little Orpheus might shatter on contact.         "Forget something?" he asked.         "You'll never guess who's got the same birthday as your son," she reported disgustedly. "Jon Canmore's child."         "Another Hunter." Matt scowled.         Elisa ran her left hand through her hair. "Everyone's having kids. First Xanatos, then Talon and Maggie, then Owen of all people ... and the clan's planning a breeding season for this fall! It's like 'Gargoyles: The Next Generation' around here! Now even the villains are getting in on it!"         "Which means you're next," Matt grinned. "And don't tell me you haven't thought about it. I heard what you were saying to the Captain."         "The point is, what are we going to do about Canmore?"         "What _can_ we do? You know we've got nothing concrete on him. Those Quarrymen are practically cultists. They won't say he told them what to do, even if they're facing ten years in prison."         "Well, there is one thing I can do." Elisa picked up the bedside phone and dialled. "Jason? Hi, it's Elisa! You'll never guess who I just ran into at Manhattan General ..."                 *               * MAY 19, 2022 THE STERLING ACADEMY.         "... are the future of America, and the future of the world."         Papers rustled all through the auditorium as people set down their programs, impressed into service as makeshift fans on this unseasonably warm day, to applaud.         "Thank you, Senator Chavez," the school dean, Cordelia St. John, said.         She was one of only two among the assembled crowd who looked as cool as if she was having iced tea on a shaded porch. Her lilac gown was crisp and fresh, the lace at her throat and wrists was snowy, and if there was silver in her platinum hair, it didn't show.         The other, predictably, was her daughter Patricia. Orpheus could see Trish from here, whispering something to Alex that made him grin.         He knew what was next. He straightened his tie, winked at his dad, and prepared to rise as Ms. St. John announced him.         "And now our class valedictorian will say a few words. Ladies and gentlemen, Orpheus Bluestone."         Trish's brother Sebastian, sitting behind him, bounced a balled- up program off his back as he rose. Orph threw him a quick warning look, thinking once again that he just couldn't figure Sebastian. Most of the time, he was as humorless and reserved as his father, Owen Burnett, but every so often, like a volcano building up pressure, he had to let off a little wacky energy.         More applause, loudest from the row of his guests. Grandma, Percy (his sister couldn't _stand_ to be called by her real name), Mom, Dad, Uncle Rick (not really related; the title was an honorific), Alex, Trish, Detective Sarah Henderson (the senator's daughter), and Captain Morgan.         Guardians, most of them. Back when Orph was small, the outfit had been called the Gargoyle Task Force, but Guardians had a much nobler ring to it. Too bad none of the gargoyles could attend. But Cordelia St. John, even though she knew about them and owed them a great debt, wasn't going to rearrange Sterling Academy tradition for anything short of Judgement Day.         There was one other face in that row, a face that managed to look proud and sorrowful all in one. Amber had come, even after he dumped her. He wasn't sure how he felt about that, and he didn't have time for introspection         He approached the podium, pausing to shake hands with Senator Chavez as he did, and the secret smile in her eyes let him know that she still hadn't forgotten the time he'd gotten sick in her office just before a meeting with the mayoral committee. She'd never let him spin around in her chair again.         As he turned toward the audience, he noticed a black-suited man standing at the back of the auditorium, as if he'd come in too late to get a seat without disturbing the ceremonies. The man was watching him with an intensity that Orph found a little unsettling. And there was something familiar about him too, as if Orph had seen him more than once but never met him.         His years on the debate team, in which he'd led Sterling to national championships three times, left him calm as he faced the attentive crowd.         He delivered his speech flawlessly, stirringly. There was scarecely a dry eye in the house when he was done, and as always he was left with the odd sensation of mingled satisfaction and discontent, as if there was still something more, something missing.                 *               *         "Congratulations, Orph!" Trish hugged him without seeming to touch him, in that airy way she had. "Now if Sebastian could just get through school ..."         "He's a year ahead of me, need I remind you?" Sebastian said, unconcerned.         "So, what's next for you?" Alex asked. "I'm still in the market for a lawyer, especially one with your talents!"         "I didn't go to all the trouble of getting my degree in criminology just to go to work bailing you out of trouble and getting you the permits to build that mile-high castle," Orph said with a grin. "Though I admit, the minor in criminal psychology might help me understand you!"         Alex laughed and clapped him heartily on the back. Only around him and Trish and Sebastian did Orph feel fully at ease. He didn't have to be constantly watchful, constantly held back, when he was with them.         "Sorry, son, he's coming to work for me," Captain Morgan said. "Going to be a detective, best we've ever seen, just like his dad!"         "Hey, you said I was the best you'd ever seen," Sarah Henderson protested.         "That was when I was the police commissioner, still his boss," Senator Maria Chavez pointed out. "He was being polite. It still amazes me, Sarah, how someone who could lose her glasses six times a day ever passed the exams."         "I was just trying to get you to buy me contacts ..."         Orph laughed along with everyone else, then found himself looking for Amber.         "She left right after," his dad told him, with a knowing look that managed not to be disapproving. The whole family had been crazy about her, and his mom had cried harder than Amber herself after the breakup.         Alex insisted on taking everyone to dinner at the Golden Apple, a posh place that was rumored to be booked up clear until 2028. But Alex walked in like he owned the place, and once he and Orph's dad had passed a few quiet words with the maitre'd, they were all shown to a table as if they were royalty. Just one of the many perks of being Illuminated, Orph knew.         The evening wrapped up early because most of them had far to go before they slept. Percy had successfully lobbied to spend the week with Grandma, so it wound up being just Mom, Dad, and Orph driving back to Manhattan. Alex offered them a ride in his mini-jet, but Dad was eager to show off his new aircar.         "We are so very proud of you," Mom said.         "Proud enough to buy me my own car?" he teased, carefully, carefully, making sure it was a joke and not a suggestion.         His dad pretended to choke. "After all we had to shell out to put you through school, you have the nerve to ask for a car?"         "Hey, Dad? Did you see the man standing at the back of the auditorium? The man in black?"         The aircar swerved and Matt corrected quickly. "Man in black?"         "He seemed familiar, and he left as soon as I got my diploma. I was just wondering ..."         Matt sighed. "Can you keep a secret?"         "Can I keep a secret?" Orph repeated, laughing. "Mom's the mythic Eurydice, you're one of the Illuminati, some of our best friends are gargoyles, Alex is the heir to Avalon, and you wonder if I can keep a secret?"         "Okay, okay. Good point. Orph, that man in black was your grandfather. My dad."         "I thought he died years ago!"         "Everyone thinks that but the three of us. He's got a top-secret job, and he risked a lot coming to see you graduate."         At Orph's gentle urging -- gentle because he wanted to know but didn't want to force his father to tell him and deepen that discomfort with which everyone viewed him -- Matt began unwinding the long tale of John Bluestone and his encounter in the Vermont woods so many years ago.         Orph was about to press for more details, when a Silencer mini-jet streaked overhead, much too low, searing the treetops. The Silencer's engines were no louder than a motorcycle, and the car shook from its passage.         The aircar swerved again. "What the hell?!" Matt braked by the side of the road. "Was that Alex's jet? Showoff little --"         "It wasn't Alex's," Orph said, craning his neck to follow the jet. "His is red and gold. That one was blue. Look, it's coming back."         "Matt!" Edie grabbed her husband's hand and pointed. "There!"         "I see it!" he said grimly, and started the car again.         "A gargoyle!" Now Orph, too, saw the dark shadow just ahead of the jet, in a desperate losing race. A series of tiny bright flashes etched lines in the sky, then punched holes in the tarmac as it crossed the road. "They're firing! Don't they see us?"         "They see us," Matt said, still grim. He sped up, drawing his gun. "They just don't care."         "Quarrymen, you mean." Now Orph heard that grimness in his own voice.         He had been fully educated in the lore of the enemy, even though there had been hardly any appreciable Quarryman activity for better than ten years. These days, it seemed like they contented themselves writing hateful letters to the paper and appearing on talk shows rather than blowing up buildings. But it looked like that was about to change.         A stark pulse of blue-white erupted from the jet's forward pulse cannon. It struck the fleeing gargoyle square in the back and briefly turned the figure into a winged X-ray, all outlined bones.         The gargoyle was flung forcibly forward. Edie screamed and Matt stood on the brakes. The gargoyle hit the road just in front of them, bounced up hard enough to make the aircar's compresssion unit crumple when it hit the underside, and then Orph saw it rolling in a boneless tumble behind them.         He was out of the car even before it shuddered to a stop and sank wheezing to the ground.         "Orpheus, come back!" his mother cried.         It was a female, one he didn't recognize. The unabraded parts of her skin were blue, her hair was a deep red that seemed to glimmer with an inner flame, and gold glinted at her brow.         "Damn," his father said, coming up beside him. "I was afraid of that! Demona!"         Orph stared. "Angela's mother? But I thought ..."         "Nobody's heard from her in years, not since that egg business."         "And now she's dead." He dropped his head in mourning and respect, even though he knew she hadn't been much of a friend to the clan.         "Sorry to disappoint you," the gargoyle groaned as she stirred and pushed herself up from the pavement.         "It's a long story," Matt said, seeing the look on Orph's face. "The main thing is, we've got trouble. We should get out of here before the Quarrymen show up."         "What about her? Aren't we Guardians? Sworn to --"         "Oh, spare me," Demona said sourly, wincing as she sat up. Incredibly, her skin was already healing, and her limbs, which had looked snapped and mangled, were straight. Orph remembered something he'd heard once, about her being immortal. He hadn't believed it at the time, but ... "I don't need your help, Bluestone!"         "Want it or not, you've got it. As my son said, we're Guardians. Of all gargoyles. Even you."         "I'm not an endangered species!" she snapped.         "But you are, demon. You truly are." It was punctuated by the sound of a hammer whistling through the air, a comet with a crackling white head, that slammed into a tree and left an explosive crater.         "The Hunter," Matt and Demona said together.         "Drop it!" Matt added, adopting a shooter's stance.         Orph, looking at the Hunter's reflective visor, thought to himself that all his schooling still hadn't prepared him for this.         "You've led me a merry chase, demon," the Hunter said. "Now it ends."         "Hold it right there, Canmore," Matt said.         "You're not calling the shots here, Bluestone," the Hunter said. "I've come for the demon. Don't make me drag you into this as well."         "Come on, then!" Demona invited, flexing her claws. "Or aren't you brave enough without your mini-jet and laser cannons?"         The Hunter sprang lightly down the slope, heedless of Matt's gun swiveling to follow him. "Oh, I think I'm brave enough. It's time to put an end to you."         "You can't kill her, you dope!" Matt cried in exasperation. "When are you going to get that through your head?"         "Spare me your preachings on tolerance. I can, and I will."         "I didn't mean it that way! I meant you can't! It's impossible!"         "My predecessors may have failed, but they didn't have the resources that I did." He slung the hammer over his shoulder and produced a matte-black gun with a long thin barrel.         "Damn it, Canmore, I _will_ shoot you!"         "He's mine!" Demona began to advance.         A tight smile flitted across the Hunter's face and he squeezed the trigger. A pencil-beam of dark energy shot from the end of the gun.         Demona leaped to the side. The beam struck the tree behind her. There was a hissing sound -- *sssssnip* -- and a large smooth- edged crescent was eaten out of the trunk. All three of them: Matt, Orph, and Demona, gaped at this with varying degrees of concern and dismay.         "It's a disintigrator ray," the Hunter said smugly. "How very sci-fi, wouldn't you agree? Now, demon, immortal you may be, but what happens if I blast you into your component atoms?"         "Let's not find out," Demona replied, and went at him in a low run. She jumped high at the last moment, over the next beam that made an oblong crater in the earth, and came down with both hind talons splayed to rake the Hunter's chest.         He fell on his back and she pinned the wrist with the gun. His bodysuit might have been made of impenetrable fabric, but his gloves were not, and her next move was to rip her claws into that wrist and maul it like a pitbull. The Hunter shrieked but did not yeild.         His other hand brought the hammer around. Uncharged, it still packed a punch as it impacted with the side of her head. Demona flopped sideways into a bed of ferns, and lay there unmoving.         The Hunter rose triumphant, still gripping the disintigrator despite the condition of his wrist.         He pulled the trigger a half a second too late, because Matt's bullet tore through his mangled hand and left it a shapeless, dripping ruin. The Hunter reeled back, clutching his forearm, his face a rictus of agony.         "You're under arrest," Matt said as evenly as he could under the circumstances.         "On what charge?" the Hunter replied through gritted teeth.         "You don't need to impress me with your tough-guy routine. There's still time to get you to a hospital."         "Not while my work is unfinished!"         "Fanatics," Matt muttered. "Canmore, give up! You've lost!"         The Hunter moved fast, much too fast for someone who should have been in unendurable pain. An old-fashioned 9mm handgun was drawn and fired before Matt could react. But the Hunter didn't fire at his prey, lying motionless only a few yards from him.         He fired at Matt.         The bullet took him square in the chest and pitched him backward like he'd been kicked by a giant, blood already drenching his shirtfront.         "Dad!" The only thing that could have worsened his horror was what he then heard, the sound of his mother screaming for her husband from inside the aircar. She'd seen!         "I'll decide when I've lost!" the Hunter declared.         "No, I will," Demona said.         She paused just long enough to let him whirl and meet her heartless mocking gaze, and then she shot him with the disintigrator he'd dropped during their fight.         That pencil-beam hit the Hunter between the eyes, and his head vanished in a red and grey mist. His body fell in a series of crumplings like a slow-motion stack of child's blocks, and he lay dead at Demona's feet.         "There," she said, packing a wealth of satisfaction into that one word. "At last!"         "It's not over, demon!" a new voice, wracked with anguish, cried out. "You may have killed my father, but I will finish his work another night! You have my word on that! The word of Bryce Canmore!"         Demona slapped herself in the forehead. "Not another one!" She started to go after the receding running footsteps, but stopped when the mini-jet's engines began to race.         Orph threw himself to his knees beside his father. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his mother rushing toward them, weeping so hard that it was a miracle she didn't run into anything.         "Dad, it's okay, hold on," Orph said. "You're going to be fine!" He put every ounce of emphasis he could into it, but the power of suggestion wasn't going to stop the inevitable.         "Orph ..."         "Just hold on, Dad." He applied direct pressure, even though he knew it was no use.         The mini-jet rose through the trees, giving them a brief glimpse of a red-haired man about Orph's age at the controls. He was wearing a dark blue bodysuit that shimmered faintly as if it was woven with filaments of metal. By the corner of one eye, he had a small tattoo of blue slashes like claw marks.         Demona ducked into the shadows, snarling at the sight of the enemy escaping         "Oh, Matt!" Edie sobbed.         "Edie ... I ..."         "I know." She smiled through her tears and kissed his hand. "I love you too. You've earned your place in the Elysian Fields, my husband."         Matt's breath rattled. "Orph ... you're a Guardian, son. Go see the Grandmaster. End this craziness. _Your_ way."         "Yes, Dad. I will."         "Take care of ... Percy ... and your grandma." He smiled one last time at his wife and son, and then life fled from his eyes and his hand went slack in Edie's grasp.         "I will," Orph whispered. "And you, too, Mom ... Mom? What's happening?"         "I followed him up from the Land of the Dead," she said, and her voice had taken on a hollow, ghostly quality that chilled Orph's soul. "He didn't look back, not once. And now I'll follow him down again."         She seemed to be fading, turning transparent. He could see through her, see Demona's incredulous expression.         "You ..." he couldn't finish.         "We'll be together," his mother said. "Always together ..."         "Mom, no!" He reached out, and his hands passed through nothing more than a cool puff of air. She was gone.         He knelt for a long time with his head bowed. Not crying, because to cry would be to shed his grief and lose part of his parents, part of himself.         A clawed hand settled softly onto his shoulder. "I know what you're feeling," Demona said, and coming from her, they were not empty words of comfort. "Everyone I've ever loved has turned from me or been taken from me. But you still have your revenge."         He raised his head. "No. I still have my love. That didn't die when my parents did."         "And out of love for them, you must avenge them! Your father died protecting me --" She sounded like she still had a hard time accepting that. "Come with me, and we'll find that last Hunter, find him and finish him!"         "Find him, yes. And finish him, yes. Finish him as a Hunter. But not kill him, and not out of revenge." He stood and looked evenly at her. "Don't you see, Demona? It's a cannibal, eating away your soul."         "No ... it's ... all that I have," she said, uncertain.         "But is it all that you want? Think about it."         "I will," she promised, looking surprised at herself as she did so. "What are you going to do now?"         "What my father told me. I'm going to see the Grandmaster."                 *               * MAY 23, 2022 OFFICE OF THE GRANDMASTER.         "Come in, Orpheus. Tea? It's Earl Grey."         "Thank you, sir," he said, taking the indicated seat and reaching for a cup. "A little early in the day for it, though?"         His father's joke fell flat and lay on the carpet like a dead bug.         The Grandmaster of the Fifth Circle sat across from him and studied him at length. Orpheus did the same in return, though not quite so openly.         He knew the Grandmaster had to be at least seventy years old, but he looked fifteen years younger than that estimate. His eyes were as piercing as ever, his carriage as confident. He still favored wine-red smoking jackets over black trousers, still kept lionfish drifting in the spherical tank bulging from the wall of his office.         "I cannot begin to tell you how sorry we are over the loss of your parents," the Grandmaster finally said. "Your father was one of the most dedicated men I ever knew."         Orpheus smiled. "As I was told, it was his life's dream to find the Society."         "He was a little brash and abrasive those first few years," the Grandmaster said in a tone that conveyed more admiration than disapproval. "And after he joined the Fifth Circle, he and Davd Xanatos used to have some of the worst arguments!"         "That wasn't just here," Orph replied. "But I think they liked each other all the same."         "Yes, I'm sure they did. How did it go with the authorities?"         Orph shrugged. "I'm the only witness, and ... well, they're inclined to believe me."         "I imagine they are. How did you explain your mother?"         "I had to bend the truth there," he admitted. "Once they tested the Hunter's weapon, though, they accepted the story that Mom had been shot with it and that's why they couldn't find a body."         "And your father sent you to me."         "Yes, sir. He wanted me to end all this. _My_ way, he said. The only time he ever mentioned it directly, though he had to know. Everyone knew."         "Yes, everyone knew. Your parents did what they could to raise you to use it wisely, and the Society watched over them to see that you didn't abuse your power."         "By which," Orph said dryly, "you mean using it in some way the Society didn't approve."         "Your father taught you a little too well, I see."         "I just don't see how I'm to use it to stop the Hunter. I can't change someone's mind, make them do something they're opposed to. I can only ... nudge them toward something they want or are neutral about. Influence them, not ... compel them."         "That is why your father sent you to me," the Grandmaster said. "I've been saving this for you." He went behind his desk and set a large cloth-wrapped bundle on it. "The power of suggestion is in your voice, Orpheus. But the power of compulsion is here, in this."         The cloth fell away, and gold gleamed in the way that only gold could.         "A lyre," Orph said.         "Not just any lyre. This is the Lyre of Orpheus, your namesake. It was with this lyre that your father was able to brave the Underworld and bring your mother to this one." The Grandmaster gave it to him.         He took it into his hands as if it belonged there, and ran his fingers lightly over the strings. A ripple of melody issued forth, and the Grandmaster nodded approvingly.         "So ... you mean, with this, I can ...?"         "Yes. Provided that you learn to play it properly. Your father never practiced, and it was only blind luck and his own bull-headedness that got him through his journey."         "I do know how to play. Mom made me take lessons when I was a kid. Do you know how hard it is to find someone to teach the lyre in New York City?" He picked out the first few bars of a Beethoven melody that had always held special meaning for the Guardians and the clan (but which was impossible to write without an umlaut ...).         "Now it is yours," the Grandmaster said. "I know I can trust you to use it wisely."         "Quite an instrument to be carrying around. It won't exactly fit in my pocket."         "Yes, well, the Harmonica of Orpheus doesn't have the same ring to it. More tea?"                 *               *         The Sterling Academy had formerly been devoted mainly to the arts, with a smattering of history and literature thrown in for good measure. Over the past decade, it had grown and evolved, thanks to generous donations by the Xanatos Foundation and the Lennox Trust, and now offered a complete range of degrees.         The campus, however, hadn't changed all that much. There were a few new buildings, in the same style as the other halls and made to look as if they'd been here since early in the last century. The manor housing the Illuminati was no longer apparently abandoned, but few of the students noticed it was there or thought to go inside, courtesy of some spellweaving by an alumnus from the Class of '99.         Orpheus walked down one of the brick paths, thinking to himself how different the place looked to him already. Only a week ago, he'd been a student here. Now, he was a graduate, and felt about ten years older than any of the others who had taken advantage of the gorgeous weather to relax in the grassy quad and bask in the sun. The underclassmen still had two more weeks of school, unlike the seniors, who were now free.         He easily picked out the pale blondness of Sebastian St. John- Burnett, who was the sort of person who wouldn't tan even if he spent a week strapped into one of those beds. Sebastian was standing to the side, watching with a faintly condescending bemused smile as a handful of drama students rehearsed their lines.         This year's play was "A Midsummer Night's Dream," despite the ongoing efforts of Professor MacDuff to have the works of Shakespeare banned, and it had gone so well that a rep from the Derry Shakespearean Society had invited them to hold a four-week run at this summer's festival.         "I hear they offered you a part," Orph said, coming up beside Sebastian.         "Yes, but not the right one. They wanted me to play Oberon." He snickered, then masked it before someone could see him. "They thought I'd bring a 'stiff dignity' to the role."         "Does your father know you took an acting class?"         "Of course! It was his suggestion that I take at least one course from every department, to be prepared for anything." He broke off as the young woman playing Titania slithered by, and a fey gleam shone in his ice-blue eyes.         "Don't," Orph cut in.         "Don't what?" Sebastian looked wounded. "I was only going to say --"         "Something about bringing a 'stiff dignity' to her role, I bet."         "Caught me. Ah, well. Father says it's best if I get it out of my system while I'm young, so that he can groom me into the perfect assistant for Alex. Family tradition, don't you know."         "Speaking of which, have you ever seen this before?" Orph showed him the lyre.         Sebastian nodded. "Great-Uncle's been holding on to it for a long time. I'm glad he's finally given it to you."         "And it's ..." Orph wiggled his fingers a little.         "Bright as a bonfire," he agreed. His expression sobered. "How are you doing, Orph, really?"         "Getting by," he sighed after a lengthy pause. "Better than Percy. She and Mom had an argument the night before it happened, so she feels like it's her fault."         "Is she going to stay with your grandmother? Alex told me to tell you that you're both always welcome to stay with him and Trish."         "Tell him I appreciate it, but I haven't decided yet."         "Orpheus?" a female voice said from behind him.         Sebastian's gaze flicked over Orph's shoulder, then back to him. "If you'll excuse me, I have some business to attend to."         Orph turned. "Hello, Amber."         He hadn't seen her this close up for a long time, and had forgotten how the sun struck sapphires from the depths of her jet-black hair and lent rich color to her skin.         And just the fact that he was thinking about her in such poetic terms told him that despite his numerous attempts to convince himself of the contrary, his feelings were still strong.         "I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am," she said, not quite able to meet his eyes. "Your parents were always very nice to me, and I know how much you'll miss them."         "Thank you. They were crazy about you."         "But you weren't."         He sighed. "It's not that --"         "I know, I know." She sounded more sad than angry, but there was an undercurrent of temper if one knew to listen for it. "You can't go through life without letting anyone get close to you, Orph! People need each other! You spend all your time with Alex and Trish Xanatos; what have they got that I don't?"         Magical mindshields, he thought but didn't say. How could he explain to her that he didn't dare get too involved? Not just with her, with anyone! He'd never know if her actions and emotions were genuine or influenced by his talent.         Amber relented when he didn't answer. "Orph, I'm sorry! Not even a week since ... I shouldn't be yelling at you. I just wish I understood!"         "I do, too," he said. "I wish someone did."                 *               * SEPTEMBER 5, 2032. EASTERN MAINE MEDICAL CENTER.         He sang, and the power of his voice combined with the music of the lyre to make something stronger than both.         Bryce Canmore stopped in his tracks, transfixed. The young nurse with him tilted her head dreamily to the side, and the sun flashed on her earrings. Silver, abstract, three slashes and a hammer-shape.         The mark of the Quarryman, Orpheus Bluestone thought. Just like the tattoo on his cheekbone. That's how she knew him, why she helped him escape. What thanks would she get, I wonder? Brood mare to birth the next Hunter?         Not if I can help it.         He sang, and the world held its breath.         Below him, beneath this vast expanse of concrete that formed the roof of the hospital, he knew everything was in turmoil. The televised chase-crash-firefight that brought Canmore here, the disturbance caused by Dominique MacLachlan's delivery, the sudden and utterly inexplicable (to everyone else, that was) total eclipse ... and to think, it had been such a quiet Sunday morning!         He sang of an end to hatred, compelling Bryce Canmore to forego the quest that had been his father's and grandfather's and untold ancestors' before him.         Canmore wept like a child, sensing even through the song of compulsion that something worse than his life was being taken from him. His life's purpose, the entire reason for his conception and birth and upbringing, was stripped away.         Never again would he look on a gargoyle, any gargoyle, with loathing.                 *               *         "We're in your debt," MacBeth said, offering his hand.         Orpheus clasped it. "My duty, sir, not your debt."         "What about the Hunter?" Dominique asked, cradling her newborn son to her breast. "Is he dead?"         "There is no more Hunter. No more Quarrymen, eventually. I had to find their leader to put an end to them. He eluded me for ten years, a long time. Do you remember the night we met?"         Dominique nodded. "I never forgot it. That night changed me, started me thinking about what you'd said. The futility of revenge." She laughed softly and stroked Moray's tiny cheek, and he turned his mouth toward her. "I'd heard the same thing time after time from others, but it never sank in before."         "Thank you for this great gift," MacBeth said, and Orpheus knew he didn't mean just the end of the Hunter.         He nodded. "Have you settled things with the hospital, or would you like me to speak with them?"         "We were just on our way out," Dominique said, smiling up at MacBeth. "They were most understanding after my husband promised to kill them all if necessary."         "I'd be happy to give the three of you a ride," Orpheus said. Then, because he couldn't resist, he added, "My work here is done."                 *               * APRIL 3RD, 1999 MANHATTAN GENERAL HOSPITAL         Brianna was sleeping the sleep of the drugged, and Jon Canmore was sitting by the window with his son in his arms when he sensed he was no longer alone.         "Well, well. If it isn't my dear brother and sister."         "Jon, what have you done?" Jason wheeled his chair into the room.         Robyn closed the door behind them, and spared a pained glance at the young girl in the bed.         "What have I done? I take it you're not here to congratulate me. The charming Miss Maza must have called you. For shame, Jason, that you'd turn your back on our heritage, that you'd forgive our father's murder, all for the sake of a pretty face. And she snubbed you! Snubbed you in favor of one of those beasts!"         "Jon, you don't know what you're talking about."         "But I do, brother mine. I do. I actually find it quite deliciously ironic, that the woman you had in mind to bear your children -- don't give me that look, Jason, you know it's true as well as I do! -- is instead sharing her bed with a gargoyle!"         "What's happened to you, Jon?" Jason asked sorrowfully. "You used to be the kindest of us. You tried to convince me not to attack Goliath's clan. It was the demon that was our enemy, and theirs as well! We could have joined forces, you told me. But now you want to exterminate their entire race!" Jason laboriously levered himself out of the chair, standing erect but unsteady on trembling legs.         "Yes, bit of a turnaround, isn't it?"         "And another thing! Would you give up the phony accent?"         Robyn touched his arm, coaxed him back into the chair. "We can't allow this to continue, Jon. All you're going to do is get yourself killed, and condemn your son to follow in your footsteps."         "It was good enough for you!" he shot back. "Good enough for ten centuries of our predecessors! Now you'd have me give it up?" The baby, upset by Jon's raised voice and tightened grasp, woke and began to cry.         "We're trying to help," Robyn said. "You still have time to do what's right."         "And what might that be? Turn myself in? You'd have my son grow up with a convict for a father? While those monsters are still on the loose? I think not!"         "We'll turn you in," Jason said. "With both of us testifying against you, there's no way you'd win."         Jon stared at him. "Et tu, Jason?"         "We don't want to do it, Jon!" Robyn said. "But if you turn yourself in now, while public opinion is still undecided about the gargoyles, you might get an easier sentence."         He sighed and looked down at his son's face.         "It has to be today, Jon," Jason said. "We've let this go on long enough. I heard the news, about that bar? You've let this get too big. When it was just our family, it was easier to manage. But you've got fanatics all over the country, out of control."         "Fanatics who care about the future of humanity," Jon pointed out.         "Some of them, maybe," Robyn said. "But most of them are creeps and lowlifes who'll take any excuse to beat somebody up."         "All right, all right, I can't think with both of you badgering at me! Just give me a moment, please, by myself."         They exchanged a glance, then agreed.         As soon as they were gone, Jon wedged a chair in front of the door. He pulled a cellular phone from his pocket, dialed, spoke briefly into it. Then he swaddled his son in many blankets and looked down at the sleeping Brianna.         "Ta-ta, my pet," he said, and blew her a mocking kiss. "Excellent work!"         He opened the window.                 *               *         "So he's thinking it over," Jason Canmore said.         Elisa sighed. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this, but I thought if anyone could talk some sense into him, it'd be the two of you. That girl ... if she's eighteen, I'll eat my jacket ... I doubt she has any say in this as far as your brother's concerned."         "She's just a child," Robyn said.         "Do you hear that?" Jason asked. "Sounds like -- a helicopter!" He spun his chair toward the door and shoved on it. "He's barred it!"         Hospital staff came hurrying to see what the matter was, only to get treated to the sight of Elisa and Robyn kicking in tandem. Something heavy squeaked across the tile and the door opened enough of a wedge for them to squeeze through.         Robyn went first, and her blond hair was swept around her face in the rotor-whipped draft from the open window. "Jon, no!"         Her brother was standing on the ledge, one hand on the ladder hanging from the bottom of the copter, the other wrapped firmly around the baby. "Farewell, sister dear! I've thought it over, and to hell with you both! There will always be a Hunter!"         "Canmore!" Elisa drew, realized that even if she didn't hit the baby, he'd be sure to plunge four stories to the parking lot, and cursed in frustration.         The helicopter lifted away from the window, Canmore swinging below it.         "Is he nuts?" a nurse cried. "He's going to drop the baby!"         "No, he won't," Jason said. "That's the one thing he won't do."                 *               *         "How you holding up, partner?"         "Tore my wound open kicking that darn door," Elisa replied. "Still, if it had to happen, I suppose a hospital is as good a place as any."         "You should get over to the castle. Goliath's going to be worried sick."         "I want to finish up here."         "There's nothing to finish up," Matt said, picking up her jacket from a nearby chair and holding it out to her. "The cops have come and gone, the media's come and gone -- well, I did think I saw Travis Marshall still snooping around, if you want to talk to him some more -- and everything's over."         "Not for that girl. Brianna. He used her, took her baby, abandoned her."         "Yeah, well, we knew he wasn't a nice guy. She'll be okay. I got someone to cal her parents. They're flying in from Nebraska tomorrow."         "Oh, God," Elisa said, seeing it all too well. Young girl drawn to the big city. She was almost lucky she'd wound up with Canmore instead of getting knifed in an alley or strung out on cocaine.         "Did she say anything about where they lived?"         Elisa nodded. "He was keeping her in an apartment on the Upper West Side. She doesn't know anything about the Quarryman hangouts."         "Are you sure she wasn't lying to protect him?"         "The man took her baby! She's devastated, Matt."         "I can imagine." He looked over at Edie and Orpheus, both of them sound asleep. "Don't you think it's kind of ... weird? That they should be born on the same day, just down the hall from each other?"         "I hope you're not seeing an Illuminati plot in this."         "Don't be silly."         "Me, be silly? You're the one talking like there's some strange mystical connection formed between them, linking their fates and destinies!"         Matt laughed. "Okay, I give up! For what it's worth, I hope we never see Canmore or his kid again."         "I hope so too," Elisa said. "But I wouldn't bet on it."                 *               * The End.