Home for the Holidays

  By Christi Smith Hayden


  All Gargoyles characters the property of Disney and Buena Vista Television.
  All original characters and plots copyrighted 1998 by Christi Smith Hayden.

  (Author's note: This story picks up six months after the events in "Faith" and a year after "Despair and


        A high-pitched shriek caused the heads of the adults to look up. Chubby
 Austin was teasing Omaha with a discarded length of glittering garland
 and she had just pounced on it like a cat with a ball of yarn. Crim lay on
 his blanket a few feet away watching the action under the careful
 supervision of Moraine.
        Somehow, the older hatchling had realized that  unlike herself and her
siblings who had gone from hatching to walking and talking in a year, Crim's
premature hatching and part-human nature had made his development slower.
Shy Moraine was very protective of him, even to the point of uncharacteristically
pushing her siblings away and scolding them loudly when their play became too rough.
         Hudson smiled at his favorite as she gravely offered the end of a red
 ribbon to Crim and began a gentler tug-of-war with him. "See there?" He
 pointed. "That's th' sign of a good rookery mother, that is. Mark my
 words, that's what Moraine is destined for."
         Avery leaned on her hand and smiled too as she watched the littlest
 gargoyles at play. "She's a good baby-sitter, that's for sure."
         "Aye, she is. Austin and Omaha will be th' warriors but Moraine will be
 th' rock that keeps them steady. That's as it should be." He tapped a talon
 on the yellow legal pad in front of Avery. "Now where were we, lass?"
         "Hmmmm, Broadway's handling the food, Goliath's going to tell a
 Solstice story, Brooklyn and Lex are doing the entertainment, Angela's
 going to decorate and I'm going to go shopping for the kids at FAO
 Schwarz with Owen and Alex tomorrow."
         "I dinnae think we've forgotten anything."
         Avery leaned over the table and batted her eyelashes at him. "And what
 are you going to do?"
         "An elder's responsibility is to supervise," Hudson said archly. "Supervision
is th' biggest part o' any job." He raised his brow ridges smugly. Avery merely
rolled her eyes and laughed at him.
  * * * * *
          Dominique Destine barely glanced at the festive holiday windows as she
 dodged the shoppers crowding the sidewalk. She glared at them and
 muttered, "Human sentimentality."
         She was beginning to regret returning to New York at the height of the
 Christmas rush but it couldn't be helped. Her absence over the past year
 had been explained away as her having decided to drop in at all her
 offices worldwide foron-site inspections and operational reviews. The
 subsequent terror that the news of her unexpected arrivals had caused had
 been most satisfying. Still, it was necessary to re-establish herself in the
 head offices of Nightstone Unlimited and frankly, she was getting tired of
         Macbeth had long since settled back into his Brooklyn Heights residence.
 He had pursued her for a time after their abrupt departure from Avalon,
 still in a vain hope of breaking the bond between them and ending their
 cycle of immortality. He was a fool to trust Oberon's witches at their
         Avalon. Dominique fought back the instinctive snarl that arose as she
 thought of the events that had led to her there, the weeks of being
 Macbeth's prisoner, and the extreme indignity of being roped like cattle by
 Brooklyn's half-breed mate. The pathetic little thing probably had no idea
 how terribly, terribly offended Demona had been at that ignominious
 defeat. Over the past year, her thoughts had turned again and again to
 revenge over the diminutive little freak but it had to be something
 personal. Something that would scar her and fester in the depths of her
 soul so that she would know had deeply she had injured Demona's pride.
         "Nana!! Nana!!" a high-pitched child's voice shrieked, causing Dominique
 to wince. "Lookit! That's what we need to get for Austin and Omaha!"
         A red-headed tot pulled a blonde woman in a navy coat to a window
 display of inflatable swords and shields. The woman laughed and patted
 the boy affectionately. It was the sound of her voice that caught
 Dominique's attention.
         "Why, Alex! That's perfect!" She hugged the boy up against her hip.
 "You've been such good help today."
         If Dominique needed any further confirmation of the pair's identity, she
 got it in the form of the bespectacled blonde man striding up to them.
         "Master Alex," Owen Burnett said sternly, "I really wish you'd curb these
 impulsive tendencies of yours. Your bodyguards cannot keep track of you
 and Miss Bishop in this crowd."
         "I'm sorry, Owen. Alex and I can't help it if we're a little on the short
 side." She laughed and nudged Owen with her elbow. "As for impulsive,
 isn't that the pot callin' the kettle black, hmmm?"
         Owen actually smiled at that comment. Dominique blinked her eyes in
 disbelief. Many things had changed in the past year it seemed. She
 watched as they went into the toy store and followed at a discreet
 distance, slipping into an adjoining aisle to eavesdrop on their
         "Nana?" Alex askedin his piping little voice, "Do you still love me?"
         "That's a silly question, Alex. Of course, I love you."
         "Just as much as Omaha an' Austin an' Morrie?"
         "Just as much and more. You will always be the number one kid in the
 castle, y'know."
         "Even more than Crim?"
         There was anaudible pause. "Well, Crim's a little different now, isn't he?
 He's my own baby and that makes him special to me, just like you're
 special to your mother. Don't you think that your mommy loves you best
 of all the other things she likes?"
         "Yes," Alex agreed reluctantly. "I guess so. But you used to love just me
 an' now you got lots more."
         His nanny laughed and clothing rustled. Dominique risked a look between
 the stacks of insipid pink doll boxes and nearly gagged at the nauseating
 sight of Alex being swept up into a big hug.
         "That's the funny thing about love, Alex. The more things you love, the
 more your heart stretches to fit it all in." Again the gentle laugh. "This is
 the best time in the world for me, watching all of my kids growing up. I
 don't want to miss a moment of it."
         "Cross my heart and hope to die." There was a muffled thump as she set
 the child down. "Now let's finish our shopping and get some lunch,
         "Jurassic Pizza!! Yay!!"
         Dominique tapped her finger on her chin and smiled Grinch-like at the
 unseeing eyes of the dolls on display. Unwittingly, the half-breed nanny
 had just given her the germ of a brilliant idea. "Cross your heart and hope
 to die?" she murmured thoughtfully. "You'll certainly wish for death when
 I'm through with you."
  * * * * *
  Solstice Night
          "Now, Crimmy... don't wiggle!" Avery stuck her tongue in the corner of
 her mouth as she concentrated on closing the snaps on her son's velvet
 jumper that matched her own midnight blue dress. It had been tricky
 enough threading his wings through the holes in the back of his little
 white shirt. Right on cue, Crim giggled and squirmed, lashing his tail
 around his mother's wrist just to add to the difficulty factor.
         "Ooooh, you little imp!!" Avery gave a mock scowl which just made Crim
 laugh more. She snagged his three-toed feet and gave them a noisy bzrrpt.
         "E-e-e-ee!!!" Crim squealed.
         Avery swooped him up in her arms and Crim spread his wings
 instinctively as she swung him around. He had doubled in size in the past
 year, growing slightly faster than a human child of the same age but still a
 long way from catching up to his rookery siblings. "I don't care what the
 others think, Crimmy," Avery said as she snuggled up him up and
 breathed in the sweet scent of his fluffy blonde hair. "I wanna enjoy your
 baby years for a long, long time."
         Crim smiled sheepishly and twined his crimson fingers in his mother's
 long blonde hair as it splayed across her shoulder. Avery tucked a fuzzy
 woolen shawl about them both and carried him outside. The Hatchlings
 had recently moved out of the rookery and into one of the sheltered
 courtyards. It had the air of a medieval playground since the young
 gargoyles had yet to learn the fiercesome poses of their elders.
         Austin had spent the day with his tongue sticking out at Omaha who was
 frowning back with her hands on her hips and her chin jutting out.
 Moraine's gentle hand was poised over Bronx's broad head as the gargoyle
 beast let her pet him, his hindquarters raised and tail froze in mid-wag.
         Hudson wasn't the only gargoyle with a renewed sense of purpose since
 the eggs hatched. Bronx was always close at hand, a four-legged
 baby-sitter and guardian that was always ready to play.
         Hudson and Lexington were on the battlement walls overlooking the little
 courtyard. The web-winged gargoyle had only arrived the night before
 with Tina on the train from Boston. They had both had another good
 semester at M.I.T. Avery smirked a little as she looked up at Lex. No
one had said anything but they all suspected there was more going on
 between Lex and Tina than either one of them would admit. Goliath's only
 comment on the subject was that the clan would respect Lexington's
        After their disagreement the previous fall that led to Lex's moving to
 Boston to go to school, Goliath had been very careful not to make the
 same mistake twice.
         At last the sun dipped beneath the horizon and as one, the gargoyles of
 Castle Wyvern greeted the longest night of the year with vibrant roars.
 The high-pitched yelps of the Hatchlings reverberated off the courtyard
 walls. Omaha gave an extra snarl while she stretched. Austin yawned and
 scratched his belly, imitating his uncle Broadway without realizing it.
 Moraine blinked her large dark eyes and looked around expectantly. She
 smiled when Hudson touched down in their midst and went running to
         "Gumpa!!" She jumped up into the old gargoyle's arms and snuggled in as
 she had since her hatching days.
         "Iz name Hud-son," Omaha said sourly. She and Austin rolled their eyes.
         "Now, now," Avery scolded gently. "We talked about this. That's
 Moraine's special word for Hudson and he doesn't mind so neither should
         Omaha sighed dramatically. She kept her disdainful pose for exactly half
 a minute -- until Lex sneaked up on her from behind and launched a tickle
 attack. Omaha giggled and pounced on her uncle, giving back as good as
 she got.
         "Nana?" A gray hand tugged on her skirt and Avery looked down into
 Austin's wide blue eyes. "'Appy Sol-tish," hesaid somberly.
         Avery rewarded him with a sunny smile and sank down to give him a hug.
 "And a very happy Solstice to you, sweetheart! What a clever thing you
 are to remember!"
         Austin's only response was to wrap his chubby arms around her neck and
 rub his brow ridges against her temples. He was the most openly
 affectionate of the older hatchlings. Crim reached out from the folds of
 the shawl and lightly smacked Austin's cheek. Austin simply stroked
the baby's brow with a careful finger and Crim burbled happily in return.
         "Yes, that's very good, Austin," Avery crooned. She was always very
 careful to praise the other children when she had Crim in her arms.
 Omaha and Moraine were not a problem but Austin and Alex both still
 had little spells of jealousy to be worked through.
         "Hey! Where's my family?" Brooklyn said cheerfully as he came into the
 courtyard. "I've got a big Solstice hug for two lucky gargoyles!"
         Crim squealed at the sound of his father's voice and laughing, Avery
 stepped into his arms. Brooklyn wrapped his wings around all three of
 them and held them tight.
        "Happy Solstice, babe."
         "Happy Solstice, darlin'." She laughed as Crim tugged on Brooklyn's
 braid. "Somebody wants your attention."
         Brooklyn chucked his son under the chin. "No worries there, Crim. We'll
 have fun tonight, won't we, bud?"
         "Hey, guys!" Tina shouted from the arched doorway leading into the
 castle. "Goliath says it's time to start!"
         Lexington grinned at her as he untangled himself from Omaha. "C'mon,
 kids. Let's go see what's waiting for us in the Great Hall." He, Hudson and
 Bronx started shepherding the hatchlings inside.
         "Everything ready?" Brooklyn murmured as he delicately nibbled on her
         "Mmmm-hmm!" Avery sighed blissfully. "You keep that up and things
 are liable to get real festive."
        "That a threat or a promise?"
         Brooklyn chuckled. "Then we'd better get the clan festivities out of the
 way so we can slip off to do a little celebrating of our own, hmm?" He
 slipped his arm around his mate's shoulders and followed the sounds of
 the Hatchlings' excited squeals echoing in the Great Hall.
  * * * * *
          A single drop of the purest oil floated on the surface of the spring water.
 The heavy crimson draperies were pulled back so that the Solstice moon
 shone brightly upon the shallow silver bowl. In the distance, over the trees
 of the park, the Eyrie building rose like a stabbing finger into the night
 sky. Demona smiled coldly at it.
         She turned back to her enchantments.
                 "Halfbreed mother of gargoyle son
                 Behold! -- Thy world is now undone
                 I take from thee all that ye love
                 Cry thy sorrows to the stars above
                 By the power of the Solstice moon
                 Dark Spirits, grant my boon!"
          Demona picked up a smooth gray stone and held it before her, sighting
 it like a loaded gun at the Eyrie building. An eerie glow seemed to seep
 from the common rock as she focused all her powers on it.
         "She is near," Demona said softly. "The lodestone senses her. The second
 the light touches the stone, it will be activated. The moment her fingers
 touch it...." A vicious smile crossed her face. "I only wish I could be there
 to watch it."
  * * * * *
          Bits of wrapping paper flew everywhere. The Hatchlings, under Alex's
 excellent tutelage, had gotten the hang of present unwrapping very
 quickly. Omaha had Lexington blowing up her sword and shield
        Austin was laying on his tummy busily making motor sounds with his new
 train set. Moraine had taken her new storybook and climbed into Hudson's
 lap with it. They sat there reading next to the crackling Yule log, in a
 mid-winter's night party of their own. It was the most perfect holiday
 setting that Avery could have ever hoped for.
         Avery blinked and gave a little start. "Sorry, Tina. My mind was
         "I can't possibly imagine why." Tina laughed and handed her a small box.
 "Happy Solstice."
         "Aw, you shouldn't have, cuz. Us Bishops will still be having Christmas,
         "I know," Tina replied, "but I thought this would be more appropriate to
 give this to you tonight now."
         Avery opened the box and gazed at the large amethyst brooch with its
 interwoven silver leaves. It took on a radiant inner light as she took it out
 and held it to the light.
         "Well, well," she murmured, "welcome home."
         "You're right, Avery. The Memory Stone lets you know when it wants to
 move on." Tina shrugged and smiled, dimples dancing in both cheeks. "I
 really should have passed it back a long time ago."
         Avery carefully pricked her fingerand performed the age-old transferal
 ritual out of habit before pinning the Avalon-made brooch just over her
 heart. "I think family heirlooms make the best gifts. Thank you, Tina."
         Lex came up behind Tina and wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling her
 ear. "I find females in general are attracted to bright shiny things," he said
 slyly, "just like magpies." Tina simply smiled and put her arms over his,
 the light catching on a bright sparkling something on her left hand.
         "Ho, ho, ho!" crowed Brooklyn. Crim was up against his shoulder, batting
 at the end of the jaunty Santa's hat his father was wearing.
         "Yuir mixin' up th' holidays again, lad," Hudson complained. "Just how
 many eggnogs have ye had?"
         "Not nearly enough!" Brooklyn answered back amiably.
         Broadway was clearing off the gift table to make room for more food. He
 was tossing torn paper into a bag when he uncovered a small box in shiny
 metallic paper.
        "Hey, hey!! Looks like we missed one!" He folded back the tag delicately
 between thumb and forefinger talons. "And the lucky winner is.... Avery!"
         Giggling, Avery took the box from Broadway's hand. "Lucky me! More
 goodies!" She examined it closely. "Hmmm, doesn't say who it's from."
 She rattled it and narrowed her eyes speculatively. "Could be jewelry."
         "Well, don't just stand there!" Angela called as she helped Broadway.
 "Open it!"
         "All right, all right!" Avery pulled off the bow and stuck it on the top of
 Omaha's head as she passed by. The fastidious hatchling hissed but didn't
 pull it off immediately; instead she admired her reflection in a shiny silver
 urn filled with hot cider.
         Avery peeled off the paper and stuck her tongue in the corner of her
 mouth while she tried to open the box. "Boy, this lid's on tight!"
         "Want me to open it?" Brooklyn asked, extending one of his talons
         "No," Avery replied, grinning. "Here it comes! It's--" She looked in box
 and made a puzzled face. "What's this? A rock?" She reached into the
         --and an electrifying nimbus of explosive combustion surrounded her.
         Avery had time for one terrified wide-eyed look at Brooklyn before the
 light engulfed her. As suddenly as it appeared, the mysterious lightshow
         The box fell to the floor.
         And Avery was gone.
   * * * * *
        The air became hot, so hot Avery could hardly breathe. She could feel
 the smooth oval stone clenched tight in her fist tingling like a live wire.
 Her hair whipped around, stinging her face. Dimly, she became aware of a
 strange murmuring like dozens of voices all talking at once. The glow
 around her began to change from a brilliant white into a softer shade of
 luminous purple.
         Like being cast into a dark, star-spangled pool, she was abruptly released
 from the mysterious fireball into a velvety night sky. A curiously
 disconcerting wave of vertigo swept over her and for a few seconds,
 Avery had no idea which way was up or down. She tried to extend her
 wings and catch the wind but she found herself falling.
        The ground came rushing up at her faster thanshe thought possible.
         "Hang on!"
         The strange voice barely registered before Avery landed in the cradle of
 two strong arms. The impact drove the air from her lung with a gasp and
 she was too busy trying to breathe to notice much else until they touched
 down in a field of tall prairie grass. The dry stalks crunched beneath their
 feet and smelled of summer.
         "Hey, are you all right?" her rescuer asked. "You're lucky Harley and I
 were late going up to the lake or I would have never seen you falling."
         Avery looked up into an awfully familiar-looking face. The new gargoyle
 reminded her a lot of Brooklyn; same wings, height, a little lighter shade
 of terra cotta red. Blonde hair curled around his back swept horns and
 wisps of blond hair highlighted his brow ridges. He looked at her with
 curious gray eyes tinged with purple as he puckered up his beak to speak.
         "Crim?" Avery stared at him in horror for a few seconds.
         Then she fainted dead away.
  * * * * *
  Wyvern Castle, present time
         "Where did she go?" Brooklyn demanded as Crim wailed in his arms.
         "Owen! Talk to me!"
         "How curious," Owen commented in a mild tone of voice, oblivious to the
 anxiety around him. "I didn't detect any magical emanations from this
 package when it arrived earlier."
         "Do you have a return address on it?" Elisa asked sharply. "The original
 wrapping paper?"
         "No, it arrived by courier," Owen answered, "with several other packages
 from Saks Fifth Avenue. Mrs.Xanatos had been shopping and I assumed
 that she had bought something for Alex to give Ms. Bishop."
         "Is there anyway you could find out who sent it?" Goliath asked.
         "I hardly think the usual resources will work in this instance," Owen said.
 He carefully folded up his glasses and put them in his pocket. "However,
 perhaps Alex and I can use this opportunity for a magic lesson."
         Alex looked up from his perch on Fox's lap. "Unca Puck?"
         Owen winked over his shoulder and spun around as Puck. He promptly
 lifted his feet off the ground to sit cross-legged in mid-air. "Come here,
 my boy. It's time you learned Magick Sniffing 101."
         Obediently, the little red-headed boy came over to the floating fay and
 Puck carefully set him in his lap so that they were both floating. Puck
 gestured and the empty pasteboard box levitated towards them.
         "Now, Alex, pay close attention," Puck said patiently. "All magic leaves a
 certain signature behind. The trick is to see without seeing."
         "Like dreaming?"
         Puck pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows as he considered the child's
 logic. "Yes, very similar. The person who cast this spell left behind a
 dream image. We're going to find it. Ready?"
         "Close your eyes halfway until everything looks fuzzy. Now look at the
 box. Do you see a faint glow around it?"
         "Yes." Alex's voice became sleepy as the little boy began to slip into a
 trance-like state.
         "What color is it?"
         "Red." He frowned. "Ugly red. I don't like it."
         Puck folded his arms around Alex. "It's all right. I'm with you and nothing
 will hurt you. Now look a little harder. See the glow leave the box and
 take a shape. What does it look like?"
         Alex squinted and leaned forward. "It's fuzzy, I can't see it's face."
         "That's all right. Tell me what you can see."
         "It's got legs an' arms an' lots of hair on its head. It's got a blanket wrapped
 around it." His eyes widened. "An' it's got a tail."
         " 'Blanket wrapped around it,' " Angela repeated. "Alex? Does the image
 look like this?" Angela caped her wings around her shoulders, letting
 them drape over her body.
         Alex nodded and looked up at Puck as he pointed at Angela. "It looks just
 like that!!"
         A black look crossed Angela's face as she shot a quick glance at Goliath.
         "Mother," she said bluntly. "Mother's behind it."
         "Demona?" Goliath rumbled. "But what would she gain by attacking
         "An' tonight of all nights?" Hudson interjected. "'Tis tradition for all
 gargoyles to be as one on this night."
         "But Demona doesn't consider Avery to be a true gargoyle," Brooklyn said
 angrily. "I remember how Demona talked about Avery when she was
 MacBeth's 'guest' all those weeks before they went to Avalon. Avery hurt
 Demona's pride when she caught her. That's something Demona will
 never forgive."
         Angela sighed bitterly. "As much as I hate to admit it, that is something
 Mother would not forget about either and she has time on her side. It's a
 wonder that she hadn't retaliated sooner."
         "Very well," Goliath said, "Angela, you and Broadway go to Demona's
 townhouse and see if she's there. Lexington, you will come with Elisa and
 I to the Nightstone building."
         "Wait a minute," Brooklyn said sharply, "I'm coming too. Avery's my
 mate and Demona is going to answer to me." He tried to hand Crim off to
 Tina but the little gargoyle sobbed and twisted his fists into his father's
         "No, Brooklyn." Goliath shook his head. "We must proceed cautiously if
 we are to get Avery back. You are too close to the situation and
 sometimes your temper gets the best of you."
         "Besides, laddie," Hudson added gently, "yuir son needs you now. We
 must think o' th' wee ones." He gestured to the Hatchlings clustered
 around Kay Bishop on the sofa. They had calmed down some from their
 initial shock of seeing their rookery mother vanish but Austin's lower lip
 still trembled and Moraine was softly sobbing. Omaha huddled close to
 her rookery mates with a half angry, half upset look on her face.
         Crim gave a whimpering hiccup and tucked himself under Brooklyn's
 chin. "All right," he said reluctantly, "but you'd better bring back my mate
 or Demona's head."
         Oblivious to the gargoyles' discussion and subsequent departure, Puck and
 Alex were still examining the box."Curious," Puck said absently. "There's
 a touch of Avalon's magic in this. How odd. I would have thought
 Demona wise enough not to mix magicks like that."
         "Is that bad?" Alex asked wonderingly.
         "We will see, my boy, we will see."
  * * * * *
  Bishop Ranch, future time.
         Voices wafted in and out of the fuzzy gray void.
         "Omigawd," a softly accented female voice said. "You always said I
 looked like her, but I never thought ...."
         "Yeah," a familiar male voice answered, Crim's voice, Avery realized. He
 sounded a little like Brooklyn, perhaps a little more tenor and smoother.
 "I've always wished you could have known her as much I did. She was ...
         "Did you tell Dad?"
         "Yeah, Robyn went to fetch him."
         Avery blinked and winced, bringing her arm up to shade her eyes. "Oh ...
 what happened? Where am I?"
         "You're at Canyon House," Crim answered. "We were on our way to
 Eagle Lake when we saw this bright light in the sky and saw you falling."
 He tucked his head and smiled sheepishly, just as he had when he was a
 baby. "I guess I gave you a bit of a start, huh, Mom?"
         Biting back tears, Avery took a deep breath. "Yes, baby, you could say
 that." She started to sit up and take stock of her situation. She was lying
 on the living room sofa in her old home, except that it wasn't exactly the
 same. Most of the old furniture was there but re-arranged with new
 decorations around the room.
         An adolescent female gargoyle, wearing a soft pink sweater and blue
 jeans, was crouching by the sofa with Crim and Avery was struck by her
 features. She was a soft blend of purples and peaches with paler shades on
 her face and darker on her wings and tail. The most curious feature was
 the tangle of narrow spikes that covered her head instead of  hair. They
 fell softly around her heart-shaped face, framing it. Her eyes were the
 same purplish-gray as Crim's.
         Her son had followed her gaze. "Mom," Crim said tentatively, "this is
 Harley." He reached over and took Avery's hand. "This may be a little
 awkward. Robyn thinks you've come forward in time and I'm not sure just
 how much to tell you."
         A worried look crossed Crim's face but he squeezed her hand. "She's a
 friend of the family, Mom." His beak curled up in an irrepressible smile
 that gave Avery a certain insight about this yet-unseen Robyn. "A very
 good friend. She should be back soon and I think we might be able to
 straighten this whole mess out."
         "Oh, admit it," Harley said impishly. "You're silly about her and you
 know it."
         Crim cocked one brow ridge sarcastically at her and snorted.
         Avery looked at them and sniffed as tears came to her eyes. It was
 apparent to her that her family had grown some over the years-- or was
 going to. She forced down the irrational panic she felt as she saw the
 worried look in her son's eyes. "It's okay," she told him. "I guess you're
 not an only child, are you, Crimmy?"
         "Crimmy?" Harley giggled nervously. "No one's called you Crimmy in
         He rolled his eyes. "It's not too late to stop having kids with me, you
         "Now, now, don't tease your sister." Avery said, breaking into her first
 genuine smile since arriving. She reached out and stroked first Crim's
 brow ridges and then Harley's. "I always wanted to have a little girl too."
She brushed an errant spike from Harley's face. "This is what I would have
 looked like if I was more gargoyle. You look like a pretty version ofyour
         Harley was flustered. "You think I'm pretty?"
         Avery swung her feet to the floor and sat up, reaching out to take Harley's
 hands. "Honey, I think you're beautiful. Don't let anyone let you different."
         "Told ya, tomboy," Crim said smugly. "Once you get out of the garage
 and away from those hoverbikes, you clean up real nice."
         "And look at you, Crim," Avery said, giving her son a long appraising
 look. "I was wondering how you'd turn out and just look at you! So
 handsome and you've got your father's profile. We didn't know if you'd
 grow a beak or not."
         "You mean he used to have a flat face?" Harley looked at her older
 brother and laughed. "Crim? Old snoot-by-the-foot?"
         "Knock it off, dread head."
         "Beak geek."
         "Mop top."
         "Kids!!" Avery said firmly, "Both of you, behave yourselves! Play nice!"
 She pretended to be stern but her eyes were amused. "What about the rest
 of the clan?Are they here too?"
         "Well, of course they are!" Harley started ticking off on her talons.
 "There's us, Alex, Omaha, Austin, Moraine, Trenton, Amy and Abby,
 Robyn, Samson, Gwennie, Bethany, Tahlequah..."
         "Hush now, girl," a voice said from the doorway. "You'll jinx things if
 you tell her too much now, y'hear?"
         Avery's mouth fell open at the newcomer. There was a dark-haired young
 woman standing there. She was thin-featured and vaguely pixish in
 appearance, with a straight nose and vivid blue eyes. Crim sprang up from
 his haunches and crossed the room in three steps that were almost leaps.
         Avery glanced at Harley. "Robyn?"
         Harley laughed. " Hope you're not diabetic or the lovebirds will put you
 into sugar shock."
         "Oh, knock it off, bristleburr," Crim commented as he took Robyn in his
 arms. "You sound like a broken record."
         "Harley, darlin'," Robyn said gently. "Why don't you nip on out to the lake
 and fetch the others? I expect they'd like to visit with Avery too."
         "Sure!" The young female beamed as she sprang to her feet. "I'll be right
 back!" She bounded out of the room, footsteps thumping hollowly
 through the house and ending with the bang of the screen door.
         "Avery?" Robyn asked as she touched the doorway and it flared bright
 green. "There's someone who wants to see you if you're up to it."
         "Oh!" Avery pushed herself up off the couchand stood up, straightening
 her dress. "Yes, of course." She looked up and froze.
          Old. Brooklyn was so much older. Avery couldn't believe her eyes and
 that strange wave of vertigo swept over her again. She shook
 uncontrollably as she walked towards him and took in the strange armor
 he wore and the faint lines in his face but mostly it was the hard, cynical
 look he was giving her. It was not the look of the loving mate who had
 been with her earlier in the evening and it chilled her to the bone.
         "What is this?" Brooklyn snapped out. He glared at Robyn and Crim. "Is
 this some sort of illusion? If it is, I don't appreciate it at all."
         "Dad," Crim began, "don't you recognize her? It's her, it's really her."
         Brooklyn's talons tightened into fists. "No, it can't be. She's gone from us
 -- gone from me forever!" He squeezed his eyes shut and turned his
 beaked face away from them.
         "Darlin'," Avery said softly, "Don't be that way." Hesitantly, she reached
 out and caressed his brow ridge with the backs of her fingers, letting them
 drift into his feathery white hair. She found a thin plait hidden from view
 and smiled. "You kept the braid."
         "What would you know about it?" he asked harshly, still not looking at
         "It was our first Halloween together," Avery said, continuing to stroke his
 brow ridges, calming him. "You'd swiped a bottle of champagne from
 Owen and we were drinking it in my room. We were pretty silly by the
 time we finished it." She laughed. "Someone at the party had been dressed
 up like 'Braveheart' and you said only Mel Gibson could look sexy with
 braids in his hair. So I sat on your lap and put that braid in your hair." She
 put both hands on his beak and turned him, unresisting, towards her. "You
 remember what we did after that, hmm?"
         Brooklyn trembled as he looked at her, his eyes wide and white-rimmed
 as he stared at her. He reached out and stroked her hair, his talons pausing
 over the raised edges of the scar where he accidentally knocked her into
 the hard flagstones of the battlements high up on Castle Wyvern. "I don't
 know, I--"
         "Please, Brooklyn!" Averythrew her arms around him and burrowed in
 under his chin. "You have to remember.You have to know me. You're the
 first familiar face I've seen. Two hours ago Crim was a baby in my arms
 and now he's all grown up and I missed it! I missed it all!" She burst into
 tears and sobbed as the weight of the night's events all came tumbling
         Helplessly, Brooklyn put his arms around her. He took a deep, deep
 inhalation of her scent and gave a ragged,heartrending cry, pulling her to
 him in a tight embrace. "Oh, Avery! I thought I'd never hold you again!"
Burying his face in her hair, he let go of long pent-up tears.
         "Dad?" Crim called cautiously. "Mom?"
         "They'll be fine," Robyn answered. "C'mon now, let's give them some
 space." There were sounds of the room clearing and then the door shut.
         Brooklyn led her back to the sofa and held her, gently rocking until the
 worst was over for both of them.
        Avery sniffed and asked breathlessly, "I was afraid to ask before but what
 year is this?"
         "It's 2039."
         "Forty years!" Avery stared at him wide-eyed. She swallowed hard. "This
 is too weird. If the Ghost of Christmas Future or Rip Van Winkle shows
 up, I'm going to scream."
         "What's the last thing you remember before coming here?' he asked softly.
         "It was Solstice Night," Avery answered, "and Broadway found one last
 present with my name on it. All that was in it was a rock." She looked
 around and found it laying on the coffee table. "That rock. There was a
 big flash of light, and then I was here, falling from the sky."
         "That's all?" Brooklyn frowned. "I'm sure there must something else to it."
 Avery shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine." She prodded his
 chestplate. "And what's with the armor?"
         "Things have... changed in New York. The streets got meaner, the thugs
 got tougher and the weapons got bigger. Finally, Nina offered Canyon
 House to the clan. We moved the rookery and the younger gargoyles out
 here for safekeeping. They help out with the ranch and it's a good
arrangement." He sighed. "I stayed in Manhattan because... because..." His
 eyes said what he couldn't.
         "Oh, Brooklyn," Avery breathed. "I haven't been around for a long time,
 have I?"
         "No."He swallowed painfully. "I'm not going to tell you how or why or
 when, but the day you died, a part of me died too. If it hadn't been for the
 fact that the clan needed a leader and with Crim and Harley's egg in the
 rookery to take care of, well, there were moments at sunrise that I
 seriously thought about just leaning forward and taking that long fall to
 the streets below."
        He shook his head. "I just couldn't do it. It would've been like letting you  down."
        A tear ran down the curve of her cheek. "I'm so sorry."
         "It's not your fault," Brooklyn replied hoarsely. "I used to wish every
 Solstice that I could see you again." He grinned, the same rakish grin
 Avery knew so well. "I guess wishes do come true sometimes, huh?"
         Avery laughed through her tears and kissed him. She closed her eyes and
 breathed in his scent, tasted his desperate, wanting kisses and knew this
 older, more world-wearyBrooklyn as her mate. Even though her world
 was a lifetime away, for a moment she felt safe in the familiar arms of one
 she loved.
  * * * * *
  Wyvern Castle, present time.
         The tiny fist in his hair finally began to ease its grip on about his tenth
 rotation as Brooklyn paced the length of the Great Hall. The red gargoyle
 gave a little sigh of relief as he gently disentangled Crim's fingers and
 settled his son into a more comfortable position in the crook of his arm.
         Crim was normally so good-tempered,  save for his intermittent periods of
 teething, that Brooklyn had been a little alarmed by the baby gargoyle's fit
 of hysterics. A muffled sob escaped but Crim kept sleeping.
         Brooklyn tucked the edge of his wing around his son and padded back to
 the gargoyles' suite. The hatchlings were gathered around Hudson
 listening to a Solstice story. Kay was in the act of covering a dozing Tina
 with an afghan when she paused and turned her head in his direction.
         "Who's there?" she asked softly.
         "Brooklyn," he answered just as softly. "Crim's asleep. Could you take
 him for a while?"
         Kay smiled and held out her hands. "Of course, hand that grandbaby
 over." Her forehead wrinkled with worry. "You're going after the others,
 aren't you?"
         "I have to," he answered. "I can't just stay here and do nothing."
         "Be careful." She lay a cool hand against his beak. "And bring our girl
 home again."
  * * * * *
  Bishop Ranch, future time.
         A bonfire was blazing in the front of the carriage house when Brooklyn
 and Avery emerged from the house. She was pale and shaken at the things
 Brooklyn had told her and at the things he refused to tell her for fear of
 altering the future. As they walked closer, faces both strange and familiar
 looked their way. Avery tightened her grip on Brooklyn's arm.
         "It's okay, babe," Brooklyn said lightly as he squeezed her hand. "It's just
 the kids."
         "You're kidding, right?" Avery said with a nervous laugh. An enormous
 gray male gargoyle lumbered towards her. He towered over her and
 Brooklyn both at eight feet tall, his bald head crowned with a spiky ridge
 of horns.
         Sinking down on his haunches, he tilted his head and looked wistfully at
 Avery with large eyes the color of robin's eggs."Happy Solstice, Nana."
         "Austin?" Avery touched his face wonderingly and he nuzzled her hand.
 "Oh, Austin! How you've grown!!"
         Brooklyn snorted. "We thought he would never STOP growing."
         "I'd hug you, Nana, but I'm afraid I might break you." Austin laughed, a
 booming version of his childhood giggles. "Were you always this small? I
 always think of you as being bigger."
         "Oh, silly boy!" Avery impulsively put her arms around his neck and
 kissed his cheek. "A good hug never hurt anybody!" She found herself
 swallowed up in the tree trunks that were Austin's arms.
         "Careful now, brother," a new voice called. "Don't bruise her before we've
 had our turns."
         As Austin released her, Avery watched as two females came closer. One
 was golden-skinned with sleek dark hair and walked with a feline grace in
 a simple white halter and skirt. The other stooda head taller and was dark
 green with ram's horns curling back through her blonde hair. She was
 garbed in a green and brown patterned dress with a worn leather belt with
 a bronze buckle -- a strange-looking accessory until Avery recognized it.
         "Oh, my....," she breathed, putting a hand to her mouth. "That's Hudson's
         The green female nodded sadly. "Gumpa gave it to me. I swore I'd never
 part with it."
         Avery's eyes widened. "Moraine! She held her arms out. "Omaha! My
 girls! You're gorgeous!!"
         Austin snorted. "Don't say that too loud, Nana. That's the sort of thing that
 goes straight to Miz Kitty's head."
         Omaha curled her lips back in a playful hiss. "Behave yourself, you big
         "Make me."
         "Omaha! Austin!" Avery looked between them aghast. "You're not still
 fighting, are you?" The big gray male and the golden female looked at
 each other and then at her and laughed.
         "Don't mind them, Nana." Moraine patted Avery's shoulders. "They bicker
 all the time and they love it."
         Avery started to grin. "You don't mean---"
         "Yup!" Austinsaid cheerfully as he tucked Omaha under his arm. "She's a
 bad-tempered, pointy-eared little thing with hairballs but she's mine."
         Omaha punched him playfully in the gut. "You're just lucky I like my
 males big and dumb, you big goober, you."
        He laughed and lifted her up for a kiss.
         "Come and meet the others, Nana," Moraine said graciously. "Everyone's
 been waiting to meet you."
  * * * * *
  Demona's townhouse, present time.
         The fire popped and crackled as Demona stirred it with the poker. She
 kept the Solstice as she had for untold ages, a solitary figure by the
 fireside indulging in rich chocolate-covered pastries and mulled wine to
 chase away the memories until dawn. A smile danced around her lips as
 she contemplated her deeds over the past years and those yet to come.
         The French doors on her balcony crashed open.
        "Mother?" Angela called. "Mother!!"
         Somewhat muzzy from the wine, Demona merely flipped the safety off
 the gun in her lap. "Here, my dear," she answered. "How nice of you to
 come visit me tonight. Happy Solstice, daughter."
         Demona raised a brow ridge. "Really, daughter. Would it hurt to greet me
 properly tonight of all nights?"
         Angela took a deep breath. "A good Solstice to you, Mother."
         "That's better. Now tell Broadway to come in off of the balcony. This
 contemporary builders of this place didn't construct it with him in mind."
 She cocked the gun, the small sound echoing through the room. "And stay
 where I can see you."
         Grumbling, Broadway came into the room. "Why not just shoot first like
 you always do, Demona? This isn't like you."
         "It's Solstice Night," Demona said, saluting them with the wine in her
 other hand. "All gargoyles are one on this night." She laughed. "I'll spill
 no ~gargoyle~ blood tonight." The emphasis she put on that word
 incriminated her more than any confession.
         "It ~was~ you." Angela closed her eyes, shaking her head. "I kept hoping
 the others were wrong the whole way over here but you did do it, didn't
 you, Mother? You were the one that sent that gift to Avery."
         "And how is the little half-breed? Still crying her little eyes out?"
         Broadway and Angela glanced at each other.
         Demona laughed again, a mad cackle. "Oh, I heard her the other day,
 going on about how much she loved watching her children grow.She's
 regretting her words now, I wager! I would've given anything to see her
 face when she saw her child age before her eyes!" She took another long
drink of wine.
         "Mother?" Angela said carefully. "That's not exactly what happened."
         "Nonsense," Demona retorted. "The second she touched the lodestone, the
 spell was to bring her mongrel offspring in her arms to full maturity." She
 set down the wine and fingered the polished oval stone next to it. "I felt
 the spell complete itself through the matching stone here. It worked. My
 spells always work."
         "There's something screwy going on here," Broadway muttered.
         Angela nodded. "That sounds very interesting, Mother," she replied
 mildly. May I see that stone?"
         "Why not?" Demona flipped the stone across the room in an easy
 under-handed throw. "Not even Puck can undo what I've done." Her
 laughter was cruel and mocking.
         Angela pursed her lips together. "That's presumptuous, isn't it, Mother?
Every spell has a counterspell, the Magus said so."
         "The Magus was a fool," Demona said derisively, "but what he said is true
 enough. Any spell can be countered if one is willing to sacrifice what they
 can for it."
         "Thank you, Mother," Angela said thoughtfully. "If you'll excuse us, I
 think we'll be going."
         "As you will, my dear," Demona said idly and poured herself some more
 wine. "Do come back again."
          Brooklyn intercepted them less than a mile from Demona's house.
         "Well," he demanded. "Was she there?"
         "Oh, Demona was there all right," Broadway replied, "but she's had the
 better part of a wineskin. She's beyond caring about anything tonight."
         "Brooklyn," Angela said carefully, "Alex was right. Demona did cast a
 spell on Avery."
         "Why, I'll---" Broadway caught Brooklyn before he could get away.
         "But," Angela continued, "the spell didn't do what it was supposed to.
 Something went wrong and we need to find out what."

  * * * * *
  Bishop Ranch, future time.

         Avery hardly wanted to close her eyes for a second.
        Part of her was in agony knowing that her babies were all grown up and
 she was nearly in tears more times than she cared to admit. A small part of
 her, however, was fascinated and intrigued.
         "So many new faces," Avery said to Brooklyn and Moraine.
         "In spite of everything," Brooklyn said, putting his arm over her
 shoulders, "the clan has prospered. Even though we've lost Hudson,
 Goliath and Elisa, there's been others to fill their places."
         "Gumpa would have liked this," Moraine said softly. "He lived long
 enough to see the second set of eggs hatch and there's a third set waiting
 to hatch in the rookery now."
         "Sounds like you guys have been busy," Avery commented. She watched
 as Harley dodged around the adults, heading for some younger gargoyles
 on the far side of the crowd.
         Brooklyn followed her glance. "So, what do you think of her?"
         "I always wanted a daughter as well as a son," Avery said wistfully. "I'm
 guessing I wasn't there for her birth."
         "No." Brooklyn's hand tightened on her shoulder. "Harley's a child of the
 clan but we never let her forget who you were, just like you never forgot
 Spike." He managed to smile a little. "She's a little impulsive like I was
 when I was young but she's got your strength," he rubbed his cheek
 against the top of Avery's head, "and she's got your good looks."
         "Well, Crim's got your handsome profile," Avery said, regarding her mate
 archly. "I'd say we've done good, darlin'."
         "Yeah." Brooklyn hugged her shoulders. "I guess we have."
         Harley bounced over with her rookery mates in tow, a web-winged
 turquoise male with a white crest of curly hair and Lexington's dark
 brown eyes and a lavender barrel-chested male munching absently on a
         "This is Trenton," Harley said cheerfully as she pushed the web-winged
 gargoyle forward. "And this is Samson." She patted the sandwich eater on
 the stomach. "There really is food left. He didn't eat it all."
         Samson cast a dirty look in her direction but continued to munch on his
 snack. Trenton rolled his eyes at them and held out his hand. "It's an
 honor to meet you, Avery. I've heard so much about you from my parents
 and others from the Manhattan clan." He ran his other hand over his head
 nervously, ruffling his hair up to quiver in the breeze. "I really should be
 calling you 'Aunt Avery' since you and my mother are related."
         Curious, Avery started to question him further but a shadow passed over
 them. Moraine looked up and a big smile spread across her face. "He
 made it!" she crowed and dashed up the hill where a tan gargoyle with
 bovine longhorns and hooves was landing. The newcomer was wearing
 faded denim jeans and a Stetson cowboy hat.
         "Good gravy," Avery commented. "It's the Lone Star Garg."
         "He's been called that," Crim agreed, coming up behind his parents. "Uncle
Dennis found Rowdy hanging around Dallas twenty or thirty years
ago. He's a bit of a loner but when some of us moved back to Texas, he
started coming by to visit."
         Harley giggled. "Especially if he knows Moraine's here."
         A blur of blue butterfly wings buzzed around Avery's head. A tiny female
 figure hovered in mid-air right in front of Avery's nose, studying her with
 wide, blue eyes.
        She leaned in and chirped, "Avalon! She smells of Avalon!!" The faerie
 once again became a blue blur orbiting the Stetson on Rowdy's head, all
 the while trilling, "Avalon!! Avalon!! Avalon!!"
         "What are you going on about, BlueBonnet?" Rowdy asked irritably.
 "That's no way to behave!"
         "Wait a minute," Robyn said thoughtfully. "That actually makes a lot of
 sense. This wouldn't be the first time Avalon's sent something through
 time to take them where they need to be."
         Crim smiled and threaded his fingers through hers. "True enough,
         "And I've got proof of Avalon's involvement."
         Everyone looked up the hill at the man silouhetted against the moon. For
 a few seconds, Avery actually thought it was Xanatos, unaged and
 unchanged, walking towards her. It wasn't until he came closer that she
 realized he was a Xanatos of another color.
         "Alex." Avery bit her lip.
         "Hi, Nana." Alexander Xanatos had inherited the best of his parents'
 devil-may-care looks -- his father's killer grin and his mother's blazing red
 hair. "It's good to see you again. How are you holding up?"
         "Fine, I think." Avery took a deep breath. "It's been awfully confusing. I
 don't know how I got here or why."
         "I believe this will answer all your questions," Alex said, brandishing an
 ivory envelope with an eye-and-pyramid seal on it. "A courier from the
 Illuminati Society delivered it today. I was told to expect a traveler from
 the past and to help in any way I could."He laughed. "Of course, I was
 waiting for you to show up in New York, not out here in Texas."
         Avery took the envelope and took the slightly wrinkled letter inside over
 to the bonfire to read it.
        She chewed pensively onher lip while everyone held their breath and
 waited. Her eyes widened and her mouth twisted as she tried to get a grip
 on her emotions.
        Finally, she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths before throwing
 the note and the envelope into the fire.
         "Brooklyn?" Her voice sounded very small in the unnatural stillness.
         The red gargoyle stepped forward and Avery held on to him as if she
 never wanted to let go. "I have to go back," she whispered into his fluffy
 white hair. "If I don't, she'll never be born."
         "I thought as much," he whispered back with a sobbing catch in his voice.
         "As lonely as I have been since your passing, I would never ask you to
 trade your life for hers."
         "You know me too well."
         "I loved you with all my heart and I always will." He rubbed his brow
 ridge against the side of her head. "You're stronger than you know,
 beloved. Don't worry about leaving me behind. I'll be fine."
         Avery raised her luminous eyes to his and for a few seconds, that look
 said things more profound than mere words could convey in a lifetime.
 She closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek against his beak for a moment
 before letting Brooklyn go.
         The faces of her loved ones looked at Avery expectantly. She managed to
 squeeze out one last sunny smile for them. "As you might have guessed, I
 have to be going now." She started going down the row, touching faces
 and brushing brow ridges with her knuckles. "I'm just tickled pink to see
 y'all like this.All a nanny ever asks is to know that the children she cares
 for will grow up to be healthy and happy and I can see that y'all have."
         Austin dipped his head bashfully. "Do you have to go, Nana? Can't you
 stay a little longer?"
         Avery shook her head. "If I stay, sweetie, I might never want to leave and
 there's important things I need to do." She kissed his cheek. "Everything's
 going to be all right."
         "No matter how little you are," Austin said soberly, "you'll always be big
 to me."
         Patting Austin's arm, Avery continued to move down the line, accepting
 hugs from Omaha and Moraine. Rowdy gave her a tip of the hat while
 BlueBonnet twittered at her from her perch on his shoulder. Alex let his
 cosmopolitan veneer drop just enough to sweep her up in his arms.
         "There aren't enough riches in the world to pay you back for being my
 nanny," he murmured in her ear. "Thank you, Avery."
         "You just paid me back with interest, Alex." Avery gave him an extra
 squeeze. "You're still the number one kid in the castle."
         At last, the little blonde hybrid came to Crim and Harley. Brooklyn joined
 them, putting a hand on each of his children's shoulders. She looked into
 two pairs of eyes so much like her beloved father's that she wanted to
         Crim swallowed and said hoarsely, "It's okay, Mom. Having you back for
 even just a little while has made this the best Solstice ever. I love you."
 He hugged her so tight she could barely breathe. Avery swayed a little
 when he released her.
         "Mom?" Harley said wistfully. "It isn't fair. I never got to know you
 before and now--" her eyes brimmed and a tear rolled down the side of her
 face, "--now I won't get to know you at all!"
         "Yes, you will." Avery took the female's hand and unpinned the Memory
 Stone from her velvet dress. She pricked Harley's finger and let a single
 drop of blood fall on the amethyst gemstone.
                  "A tree has many a branch and limb,
                 So the bloodline changes through chance and whim.
                 Here stands one of flesh and bone,
                 To become She Who Holds The Stone."
          The blood disappeared into the Memory Stone, glowing from within
 with a glorious light, lighting the faces of mother and daughter.
         "This is my gift to you," Avery said softly as she pinned the brooch on
 Harley's pink sweater. "On this night of giving, I deliver your birthright.
 Listen to your dreams. They'll tell you how to use the Memory Stone. The
 light of the full moon at certain times of the year will let you speak to
 those who have gone before."
         "Even you?" Harley asked, wonderingly.
         "Even me." Avery smiled and embraced both her children. "I've always
 wanted a son and a daughter. What a wonderful thing it is to know that I
         "You did," Brooklyn said. He laughed. "Or is it 'you do?' I'm getting
         "Hon, I've been confused since the whole thing started," Avery said,
 putting her hand in her pocket, "ever since I touched this rock." She
 brought it out and the plain stone took on a polished gleam in the
         Robyn and Alex both gave it a closer look. "A lodestone?" Robyn asked.
         "Looks like it," Alex agreed. "Do you suppose it's still holding a charge?"
         Avery cocked an eyebrow at them. "Huh? What are y'all talking about?
 It's just a plain old river rock, see?" She held it out. Before the magic
 users could examine it, a perfect circle of light spread from the center of
 the stone to surround Avery in a globe of pearlescent white light. As
 gentle as a leaf blowing in the breeze, she was swept away.
  * * * * *
  The parapets of Wyvern Castle, present time
         "--Th' lad was off before I knew he was gone, Goliath," Hudson said
 anxiously. "I hope he doesna do anything rash."
         "Brooklyn's not the same reckless youth since he became Avery's mate,"
 Goliath rumbled. "Still, perhaps Lex and I should go after him."
         "Don't bother," Lex called from his perch on the parapet wall where he'd
 been talking quietly with Tina. "Here he comes with Angela and  Broadway."
         The group assembled outside watched as the three gargoyles touched
 down. "Well," Goliath asked, "was Demona responsible?"
         "Yes and no, Father," Angela replied. "She did send the package to Avery
 and she did cast a spell on it but something went wrong."
         "You keep saying that," Brooklyn snapped irritably. "Why couldn't we
 just make Demona undo the spell?"
         "Because Demona couldn't walk a straight line right now," Broadway
 answered. "There's no telling what would happen if she cast any spells
 right now. Drinking and magic is a bad combination."
         "Listen to me, Brooklyn," Angela said. "The spell Demona cast was
 supposed to age Crim before his mother's eyes. It wouldn't have hurt him
 but it would have broken Avery's heart. That was Mother's intent, not
 making Avery disappear."
         "Curious," Owen said as he walked up with Elisa. "I was not present when
 the incident occurred. Something must have happened that affected the
 spell. Does anyone remember?"
         Goliath and the others looked thoughtful for a moment. "The Yule log
 was lit and I was preparing to tell the Hatchlings about our Solstice
 legends," the clan leader said. "They had just opened their presents."
         "Presents!" Tina yelped. "Omigosh! The Memory Stone!"
         "What was that, Miss Harris?" Owen inquired smoothly.
         "It's this amethyst brooch that Avery's had in her family for years. Her
 father gave it to her. She gave it to me for safekeeping when we had all
 that fuss with the Quarrymen." Tina twisted her hands nervously. "This is
 going to sound kind of crazy, but it wanted to go back to her so I made a
 present of it."
         Owen raised his eyebrows. "A piece of jewelry told you to give it back to
         "Ye weren't there when Avery told us th' story behind th' Memory Stone,
 Owen," Hudson said. "Th' Memory Stone was given to one of Avery's
 ancestors by Titania itself. It can only be used by the females of her
         "That would explain it," Owen mused. "There was a definite taint of
 Avalon's magic when we examined the gift box."
         Brooklyn moved towards the blonde man, eyes faintly glowing. "What do
 you mean? Where is my mate?"
         "Part of Demona's spell involved a lodestone," Angela said. "She was
 monitoring the spell through an identical stone. I thought perhaps Puck
 and Alex could use it to bring Avery back."
         "Do you have it with you?" Owen asked sharply.
         "Yes." Angela reached into her belt pouch and retrieved it. "Here."
         Moonlight struck the rounded stone on her out-stretched hand. A corona
 of pure white light arose from it in a perfect glowing sphere, growing
 larger with every passing moment. A second sphere bloomed within the
 first and began to open like a iridescent flower. When the edges of the
 spheres touched, they shattered into an effervescent shower of stardust.
         When the bedazzled vision of all those present cleared, they discovered
 one extra in their midst. Avery stood looking at them with her amethyst
 eyes wide and startled. She dropped the polished rock in her hand and
 rushed into Brooklyn's arms.
         "Oh, thank heavens, I'm home!!"
         "Avery!" Brooklyn wrapped his wings about them both. "It's all right now.
 Shhh...." He looked over her blonde head at the others. "I don't care if it's
 Solstice or not, we've got to make sure Demona never does anything like
 this again."
         "I agree," Goliath said firmly. "I will return with Angela and Broadway
         "No!" Avery exclaimed, pushing out of Brooklyn's embrace. "No, I won't
 have it. This is Solstice Night. All gargoyles are one, remember?"
         "But, babe," Brooklyn said gently, "Demona's already admitted to casting
 a spell to hurt you. What if she tries it again?"
         "Not if she doesn't know that it didn't work," Avery replied. She glanced
 at Hudson. "Didn't you once tell me that you guys let her believe that she
 had poisoned Elisa when in fact, she had failed?"
         "Aye, lass, we did," Hudson admitted. "But she'll find out eventually. She
 always does."
         "Let her." Avery looked at them all with shining eyes and a bittersweet
 smile. "Demona may have not meant to, but she gave me a rare gift
 tonight. I got to see a little glimpse of things to come and that's not a bad
         "Avery," Tina asked curiously. "Where's the Memory Stone? You're not
 wearing it anymore!"
         Avery absently patted the place with the magical amulet had been. "I gave
 it to my daughter. She needed it more than I did." Avery turned and
 smacked Brooklyn playfully on the arm. "You named her after a
 motorcycle! What were you thinking?"
         "What?" Brooklyn sputtered. "Why am I in trouble for something I didn't
 do... yet?"
         "Oh, I don't know." Avery impulsively hugged him. "Just promise me
 we'll always love each other like there's no tomorrow, all right?" Her eyes
 shimmered with tears. "Please?"
         Brooklyn gave her a puzzled look. "Okay," he said softly as he cradled her
 in his arms, "I promise."
  * * * * *
                  "Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
                 Momma gonna buy you a mockingbird.
                 If that mockingbird don't sing,
                 Momma gonna buy you a diamond ring..."
          Halfway through the last verse, Crim stiffened in her arms and turned to
 stone with a sleepy little smile on his face. Avery continued to sit with
 him in the rocking chair, slowly rocking back and forth. By all rights, she
 should be exhausted but she wasn't. Instead, she was wide awake as she
 watched the morning sun crawl up her bedroom wall.
        She hadn't told the clan everything -- she didn't dare, for risk of changing
 the future.Goliath and the others were satisfied knowing that the clan had
 prospered and that there were new generations waiting to be born.
        Avery traced the outward curve of Crim's mouth. The beak that would
 have developed in the egg was just now starting to form. She smiled,
 remembering what a handsome fellow her adult son had been.
         "Oh, Crimmy," Avery murmured. "What a weird thing to be thinking of
 what you're going to look like when you're all grown up." She finally
 settled him on the rag rug in the corner of the room.
         Yawning, Avery wandered over to the bed. She took her stationary out of
 the nightstand and fingered the ivory paper thoughtfully before taking out
 a sheet.
        Uncapping a pen, Avery began to write:
          "This has been the strangest night. Demona tried get her revenge on me
 tonight but her spell backfired. It meant to do something else but I was
 wearing the Memory Stone and it has always protected its keeper. I went
 forty years into the future, to a Solstice Night where I no longer exist but
 my children live and in that, I am happy.
         "The others wonder how I could be so quick to forgive Demona. How
 could I not? She gave me a gift, a rare and wonderful gift. She was the
 vehicle the Memory Stone needed so that it could be passed on to my
 daughter. If what my future Brooklyn has told me is true, Harley will need
 the Memory Stone more than I will.  I'm writing this in past while my
 memories are fresh to warn myself in the future. Pass on the Memory
 Stone. It will make everything right. I don't know how many years I have
 left; frankly, I don't want to know. All that does matter is that I've gotten a
 glimpse of things to come and it's up to me to love everyone as hard as I
 can, 'cause it's gotta last a long, long time."
          With a shaking hand, Avery signed her name and sealed the note inside
 its matching ivory envelope. She took a deep breath and wrote on the
 envelope, "To be delivered to Alexander Fox Xanatos, Winter Solstice,
         Yawning and stretching her wings, Avery leaned back against her pillows.
         "My, I'm so sleepy all of a sudden. I'll just rest my eyes for a bit."
         An hour later, a discreet rapping came at her door. The door opened
 cautiously and Owen Burnett entered, his footsteps barely making a
 sound. He crossed the room and carefully covered the sleeping figure with
 a quilt from the foot of the bed. Something caught his eye and Owen
retrieved the envelope laying mere inches from Avery's curled fingers.
         Reading the inscription on the envelope, Owen's right eyebrow went up.
         "Hmmm," he murmured, "if you will allow me, Ms. Bishop, I believe we
 should send this courtesy of the Illuminati post."
         Owen tucked the envelope in his pocket and quietly left the room.
  * * * * *
  Bishop Ranch, future time.
         The stars in the purpling sky suddenly rippled as their reflection was
 disturbed by the tip of Harley's wing dipping in the cold waters of Eagle
 Lake as she touched down on her favorite perch. It was a large slab of
 reddish stone that extended out into the water. Her late Uncle Dennis
 always called it 'Spike's Rock' and the night he had shown her the place
 where her grandfather's talons had cut into the stone was one of her
 earliest memories.
         Recent rains had turned the end of the slab into an island and Harley
 hopped easily over the low spot covered with water. She settled herself
 cross-legged onto the higher outcropping and reached down to touch the
 talon marks, a bit worn with age but still there. No one had noticed her
 sneaking away from the Solstice party and for that Harley was grateful.
 Lately, Trent and Sam were forever hanging around her, acting all moony
 and stupid. Harley rolled her eyes and made a rude noise. After the night's
 unexpected events, this was one time that she really needed to be alone.
         Harley leaned forward and looked at her reflection in the water. All her
 life, she had wondered about her mother. When she had been old enough
 to ask, Brooklyn had told her all about Avery, how they had met, and their
 life together. One by one, from her brother Crim to her Great Uncle
 Leroy, people had told her so many stories about her mother that Harley
 was a little envious. After meeting Avery face-to-face, Harley could begin
 to see why everyone felt the way they did. Avery didn't look like anyone
 special but she had a way of making others feel special, by a touch or a
 look or just the way she listened with her whole heart. Harley missed her
 mother more at that moment than she thought possible.
         She unhooked the amethyst brooch from the front of her sweater and
 studied it. The fading moonlight caught its faceted edge and Harley
 almost thought she could see something flickering in its depths.
         "I wish," Harley said softly, "I wish I knew how to work this thing. Crim
 said she used to sing him to sleep and my mother never sang me a
         A bright light formed in the depths of the Memory Stone, swirling upward
 and outwards like a flower unfolding. Harley's mouth fell open and she
 straightened up in surprise. The pale purple streamers of light swirled
 around her like ribbons in the wind. A clear soprano voice rose up,
 echoing like a summer's birdsong against the craggy rocks around Eagle
                 "Hush, little baby, don't say a word,
                 Momma gonna buy you a mockingbird.
                 If that mockingbird don't sing,
                 Momma gonna buy you a diamond ring..."
          Halfway through the song, the soprano was joined by a deeper male
 voice, complementing the simple lullaby with a thrumming counterpoint.
         Mermerized by the miracle of music from beyond, Harley barely noticed
 the pale pink sky above her.
         The winter sun glinted off the Memory Stone and the light it shone on
 Harley's smiling stone face was glorious.

The End.