Kathy Lowe (AKA The Gatekeeper)

Disclaimer: Gargoyles and their characters are owned by Disney and Buena Vista Television and are used without permission. This
story was written for enjoyment and is not intended for profit.

I would like to thank my husband for putting up with my obsession with Gargoyles and being my patient editor.


February, 1986. Somewhere in the midwest.

"Weather conditions have steadily deteriorated over the past hour in the mid-state area. Motorists are advised to postpone
any planned trips until the blizzard warnings are lifted. If you are on the road, you are advised to find shelter until the roads
are clear. The highway department has announced that plowing will be suspended until after the storm has passed."

As if to emphasize the radio report, the front wheels of the car plowed into a snowdrift. Owen Burnett wrestled with the wheel, barely
keeping the car on the road. His employer, David Xanatos, grunted from the back seat of the car as he was tossed about.

"Sorry sir," Owen apologized when he had the car back under control again. "The storm is getting worse. I'm afraid I can only see
about thirty feet in front of the car."

"Some day, I'll have enough money to be able to fly my private jet right into any town I want to." Xanatos stated. "Lousy timing, this
storm, and the only way to get where we're going is by small plane or drive. I can understand being in the middle of nowhere for safety
reasons, but do they have to be hours away from any major airport?"

"Even a private jet pilot would have opted not to fly into this storm," Owen pointed out.

"Kill joy." Xanatos frowned. "Even so, at the rate I'm going, I should be able to have that private jet in less than a year. Provided, that is,
I can get to this meeting tomorrow."

"Perhaps you should start making other plans, sir," stated Owen as he slowed the car. "It looks like we will be forced to make an
unexpected stop."

Ahead of the car, the Highway Patrol had set up a roadblock. An officer was signaling for Owen to stop. Owen pulled up and rolled
down the window.

"Sorry folks," the officer said. He paused to shiver despite the heavy overcoat he was wearing. "We have to close the highway here. The
drifts are getting so high that the trucks have blocked the road up ahead. There's a motel at the bottom of the offramp that may still have
some rooms available."

Owen thanked the highway patrolman as Xanatos grumbled from the back seat about not being able to afford a jet yet so he wouldn't have
to go through things like snow storms, or having to even travel to other business. "Some day I'll make them come to me," predicted Xanatos
with finality as Owen made his way into the rather full parking lot of the motel.

"I have no doubt that you will," said Owen as he turned off the car's engine.

Fighting the wind, Owen managed to get the door of the back seat open to let his employer out, and the two men struggled to the lobby
doors. Inside the overly warm lobby, Owen frowned and took off his steamed-over glasses. Producing a handkerchief, he wiped the
condensation off the lenses as Xanatos addressed the desk clerk. A television newscast could be heard in the background.

"We have a report that a busload of 19 children has been lost in the blizzard. Apparently their bus broke down before the blizzard
started, while taking home the first and second grade children from the Roosevelt School. The driver left the bus on foot in an
attempt to reach help, but became disoriented in the snow. Fortunately, he wandered onto a main road where he was spotted by
a snowplow operator. He is currently in serious condition at General Hospital suffering from hypothermia and frostbite. Since he
had been driving in near-whiteout conditions, the bus driver is unsure as to the exact location of the bus; all that is known is that
it is somewhere on Avenue 243. Authorities are attempting to locate the missing bus, but they say that they will soon have to
suspend the search due the worsening conditions of the storm."

Owen blinked and realized that Xanatos was addressing him. "I'm sorry sir, I was distracted." he said, "what was it you were saying?"

Xanatos looked at his aide curiously. He hadn't known the blond man for long, but in that short time, he'd learned that Owen was seldom
distracted by anything. The news report had apparently hit a nerve. "There was only one room available, and it has just a single queen bed."
Xanatos repeated. "I'm willing to share, provided you don't snore."

"That won't be necessary Mr. Xanatos. I can fend for myself," Owen stated. "I'll bring your bags to the room."

Xanatos proceeded down the warm hallway to his room. Moments later Owen appeared carrying their luggage and shaking the snow off
his coat and hair.

"The temperature has dropped at least twenty degrees in the last half hour." Owen reported as he set about unpacking. "There is a restaurant
next door, but when I looked in they were locking up and sending the last of the employees home until the storm breaks."

"That's all right." shrugged Xanatos, "Lunch was rather large, and if I get hungry, I'll make do with snacks out of the candy machine. Going
without dinner will probably do me some good."

Owen produced a couple of bags of chips and a soft drink can from his overcoat pocket. "I took the liberty of purchasing these as I came in.
I am sure that with the restaurant closed, the machines will be empty quite soon. The lobby is starting to fill with stranded motorists. Will you
be needing me for anything more, sir?"

"Call Mr. Pickering and tell him that we will be a little late tomorrow."

"I already have. He said that, based on the current weather conditions, the company probably won't be in operation at all tomorrow. He has
postponed the meeting until the day after tomorrow and sends you the message to keep warm."

"In that case, I won't be needing you any more tonight, Owen. You aren't planning to spend the night in the car, are you?" Xanatos asked as
Owen made his way to the door.

"No, I won't be spending it in the car. Good night, sir."

Puck floated over the stark white, snow covered land, his hair gently fluttering in a breeze that was in sharp contrast to the gale force winds
that surrounded him. He was watching the ground intently as he diligently searched, his flight spiraling out in ever-growing circles. Finally he
spotted what he was looking for and dove down to a snow-covered mound.

Inside the school bus, the young children huddled together for warmth. Some were crying softly in fear while others had long since cried
themselves out.

"Hey! Is this where the all-night party is at?" cried out Puck as he appeared in a cloud of smoke, accompanied by balloons and confetti.

Several of the children screamed and they all ducked down behind the seats. Puck looked around with a puzzled expression on his face,
ignoring the frightened children, then pulled folded paper out of his tunic. As it was unfolded, the paper turned into a map so large that it
draped over several of the front seats. Chin on his elbows, Puck hovered over it, studying it very intently.

"Humm, I knew I should have made that left turn at Albuquerque," he said, mostly to himself but loud enough for the children to hear.

Slowly, some of the kids began peeking over the back of the seats to look at the strange new arrival. He looked about fourteen years old, with
pale skin and long white hair. Long pointed ears were poking through the hair. Unlike the children, who were bundled in heavy jackets and
snow suits, he was wearing clothes that belonged in a medieval court, not a 20th century bus. The lightweight short-sleeved red tunic was
covered by a bright purple toga that hung just below his hips. His leggings that were a purple slightly darker than his toga and he wore soft
leather boots. Seeming to notice the children for the first time, he gave them a big happy smile.

"Itís a little cold in here, donít you think?" Puck asked. "Why donít I just turn up the heat a little?"

The children watched in amazement as a thermostat suddenly appeared on the wall of the bus. Puck floated over to it, twisted the dial, and
the bus was suddenly toasty warm. Some of the children smiled tentatively as they warmed up.

"Much better," smiled Puck, rubbing his hands together as he took a quick head count. "Seventeen?" He counted again. "I thought there
were nineteen; who's missing?"

The kids looked at each other for a moment before one girl decided to speak up. "Tom and Jimmy left to try to find the bus driver."

"Oh dear," frowned Puck. "Donít go away, Iíll be right back."

He vanished and reappeared outside the bus in the storm. Since he had names to work with, a finder spell would do the job quite nicely.
"Tom and Jimmy are lost in the snow, show me a sign so I know where to go."

About a mile away from the bus, a large neon arrow appeared flashing the words, "LOOK HERE, STUPID!"

"Hey, watch your language!" Puck said to the blowing winds. "Those kids got farther than I expected."

Puck winged his way toward the sign. The impolite neon apparition disappeared when Puck got to the spot. Waving his hands, he cleared
away the mounded snow and exposed two small boys huddled together. Puck quickly landed and checked the boys. They were very cold,
one definitely showed signs of hypothermia, but they were still alive.

"Tom and Jimmy, I presume?" asked Puck as he conjured some blankets to wrap around the small figures. One boy looked up and nodded
but the other was too cold to even notice. "Letís get you two back to where it's warm."

Quickly popping back to the bus, Puck set the pair of boys on an empty seat. Removing their mittens, shoes, and socks, Puck carefully
checked their very cold hands and feet for frostbite. One of the boys yelped a bit as Puck allowed his hands to warm the boyís feet. For
the other boy, he had to mutter a soft spell before the deathly white, shriveled skin took on some color. "That's all I dare do," he breathed
to himself, very much aware of his king's decree about not interfering with the lives of humans.

"OK, who likes to play doctor and nurse?" Puck cheerfully asked the assembled kids.

A girl spoke up, "I wanna be a doctor when I grow up."

"Excellent! What's your name?"


"Good. Anyone want to help Dr. Cindy?"

"Sure, I will. My name is Becky." spoke up another girl.

"Wonderful," cheered Puck. "Doctor or nurse?"

"Emergency paramedic," Becky answered and Puck upended with a very surprised look on his face. "That's what my daddy is," she supplied.

"Even better," said Puck recovering his equilibrium. "Come on over here, girls. I want you to take care of Tom and Jimmy for me."

Intoning a quick spell, Puck converted the steering wheel of the bus into a couple of thermoses of hot water, then told the two girls how to
get the wayward boys warmed up again. While Puck was teaching them, one boy came over and said he wanted to help too.

After he got everything settled he turned back to study the rest of the kids. They, in turn, had overcome their fear of him and were getting

"Are you an angel?" one asked, timidly.

"Nope, sorry, no such luck. I'm a Child of Oberon," Puck said. He was greeted by blank looks and sighed. "OK, I'm a fairy, but I don't like
to use that word. I prefer fey."

"You mean like Tinkerbell?"

"Where are your wings?"

"I thought fairies were girls."

"Whoa, hey, one at a time," protested Puck holding up his hands. "First off, I'm not like Tinkerbell, she's a sprite." his voice was slightly
condescending. "I'm a full fey." Puck puffed up his chest and polished his fingernails proudly.

"Secondly," Puck ticked off two fingers and changed his voice to a bit of a sneer, "I don't need no stinking wings."

The children laughed as he floated above them doing summersaults, barrel rolls and making faces at them. He finished by sitting cross-legged
on the ceiling of the bus.

"And lastly, there are lots of boy fey, including me."

"I still think he's an angel," whispered one of the children to her companion.

"Can you send us home?" asked one of the children. The boy's question was followed by a chorus of yeses.

"I was afraid you would ask that," Puck sighed righting himself and floating back to the floor. "Look kids, I'll level with you. I've got a bunch
of rules that I have to follow or I'll be is super deep trouble with my King. One of them is that I can't send you home. As it is, I'm stretching
things a bit to stay with you and keep everything warm until someone finds us." Puck suddenly brightened, "But, I can bring you something
to eat. Who's hungry?"

The bus suddenly exploded in cheers. "Hot dogs, Pizza, Macaroni and Cheese, Cookies, Candy," came the requests.

"Personally I vote for hot dogs," decided Puck. "I'll be back in about fifteen minutes."

"You mean you can't make the hotdogs appear?" asked one of the kids.

"I'm not a genie. I've got to have something to make something, and if I turn the bus seats into hot dogs, they'll taste really terrible." Puck stuck
his tongue out in disgust and made a face. "If there were any nearby fast food joints open, I could teleport some here, but this storm has
everything shut down. Besides, that's stealing, and that's not right is it?" Puck paused expectantly until the kids nodded in agreement. "So, I've
got to go several states west and get out of this storm, and find someplace that's still open, (time differential don't you know), to buy something."

"You mean you have money?" one of the kids asked astounded.

Puck smiled and flashed a green credit card at them. "American Express, don't leave home with out it."

Puck looked around, "Let's see... I need a mirror." One of the kids pointed at the rearview mirror above the drivers seat. "A little small, but
it should work." Puck decided. "Back in a flash." Puck dived toward the mirror and disappeared.

"That was way cool!" one of the boys commented.

"Do you think he'll come back?" asked a girl.

"He said he would," answered another. "He brought back Tom and Jimmy, didnít he?"

"I'm still scared." said a small voice. "What if no one else finds us?"

"The fairy said he'd stay with us until someone came."

Far west of the storm, the mirror of a pickup truck parked on a deserted street suddenly brightened and Puck popped out.

"Ah much better," he said. "Never did like snow, it sticks in my hair. Now let's see what's on the shopping list." He pulled a scroll from his
tunic and let it unwind. The roll cascaded down about 4 feet before it reached an end. "Hot dogs, French fries, hot chocolate, cookies,
apple pie. Who wanted apple pie? Oh yeah, I did. Poor Davy, stuck with a couple of bags of corn chips and can of soda. Oh well, it was
his choice to drive into that lousy storm. Let 'im suffer." Puck laughed, made the list disappear in a burst of confetti, and looked around for
an open bakery.

Around the corner from the bakery, Puck found an empty alley. He landed on the pavement, and closed his eyes. In a matter of seconds,
his hair shortened and changed from silver to blond, his ears shortened and rounded, and his height increased from a modest four feet to
a more substantial six feet. A minute later, Owen Burnett stepped into the bakery and looked over the racks of baked goods. After selecting
four dozen cookies, mostly chocolate chip, but with a few oatmeal and peanut butter thrown in for good measure, as well as the pie, Owen
asked where a nearby hot dog stand could be found and if he could use a phone. He called ahead with an order for twenty hot dogs and
and a like number of bags of French fries, then left to find a market where he could get packages of hot chocolate and cups. Shortly thereafter,
loaded down with several bags of food, Puck found another convenient mirror and transported himself back to the busload of eagerly waiting

David Xanatos munched on a corn chip as he studied the files on his upcoming business meeting. He had read them so many times that he
could practically repeat the details by heart, but he was still looking them over, searching for anything that might would make the deal
successful. An extremely heavy gust of wind blew ice against the motel room window and the whole building shook. The lights flickered
once and then went out.

"Power failure. Just perfect," Xanatos complained to no one in particular. "I should have listened to Owen and stayed at the airport hotel
until this storm blew through."

Xanatos didn't expect the lights to come back on immediately, but after five minutes he began to get impatient. It was only eight o'clock,
much too early to go to bed, and besides, the room was beginning to get cold. The room heaters were electrically powered and, while
noisy, were the only thing to drive out the cold. Lifting the phone, he tried to get the lobby, but the phone line was dead as well.

Remembering that Owen had also received a survival kit when he had rented the car, Xanatos pulled on his overcoat and headed out of
his room to find where the car was parked and get a flashlight. In the hallway, he fell over someone's legs.

"Hey! Be careful," a man complained.

"Sorry," muttered Xanatos. He thought he had heard rather strange sounds outside his door, and now he knew why. The kind-hearted
manager was letting stranded motorists wait out the storm wherever they could find a place to sit.

Some resourceful people had flashlights, and Xanatos was able to make his way down the hall without falling over anyone else. He decided
to make a detour by the front desk and find out about the power before going out into the storm.

"What's the word on getting the electricity back?" he asked the rather harried-looking manager.

"Oh man, I wish I knew." was the answer the man gave him. "The news was saying that there are power lines blown down all over the
place, and the power company wouldn't be able to send out repair crews until morning - assuming the worst of the storm was over by then."

"Doesn't this place have a backup generator?"

"Yes, I've been trying to get the darn thing started, but the only person who knows anything about that old diesel is the owner, and he's not
here. I'd call him, but the phones are dead."

"Old diesel, huh? Not what I'd choose for a backup," Xanatos mused. "Mind if I take a look at it? I used to be pretty good with those things."

"Would you? I've already passed out all the blankets this place has. It'll be freezing in here by midnight if we can't get any power going." The
manager came out from behind the desk. "It's this way."

Xanatos was lead out the back door and along an outside wall to a small shed at the back of the property. The wind was blowing so hard
that he could barely keep his feet, and by the time they were able to force the shed doors shut against the wind, his muffler was packed
full of ice.

"And I thought Maine storms were fierce," commented Xanatos. "Does it always blow this hard around here?"

"This is the worst storm we've had in a couple of winters. Well, here it is." The manager shined his flashlight over the engine.

Xanatos whistled. "When you said old diesel, you weren't kidding. This one looks like it came from the same surplus lot that my father bought
his at."

"You know how to get it started?" the manager asked hopefully.

Xanatos had taken the manager's flashlight and was looking the engine over. "Yes, but these things are pretty temperamental; they don't like
to sit around for long periods of time. When was the last time it was started?"

"Not sure. It's been a couple years since the last power failure."

Xanatos groaned. "That means the injectors are probably clogged. Do you have any tools?"

"There's a box over in the corner."

Xanatos found the box and looked the contents over. "It's a start. It'd help if we warmed things up a little in here. You wouldn't happen to
have a kerosene heater?"

"I'll look around. Why do you need it?"

"Aside from the fact that I'm about to freeze my fingers off cleaning the injectors, these diesels start better if the fuel isn't at twenty below."

Presently the manager came in lugging a small heater. Xanatos directed him to set it up near the fuel lines leading from the storage tank. The
manager then settled in to hold the flashlight while Xanatos worked on the engine. Two hours later, Xanatos reconnected the battery, adjusted
a couple of valves, crossed his fingers, and pressed the "START" button. The old engine cranked a few times, each successive revolution
getting slower and slower. Just as it seemed that it wasn't going to catch, the diesel rumbled to life.

"Whew! I thought for a minute I was going to have to hijack another battery from the car," breathed Xanatos as he made several adjustments
to smooth out the engine's idle.

"But there's still no lights!" the manager wailed.

"The generator's not on line yet. Where's the fuse box for this place?" He asked the manager. "We can't just load this thing down all at once,
and I'll bet every heater in the place is on..."

Cheers and fresh hot coffee greeted Xanatos and the manager as the walked back into the lobby. "I knew that all those years on pop's boat
would come in useful some time," Xanatos commented to no one in particular as he gratefully accepted a cup.

The kids in the bus breathed sighs of relief when Puck reappeared out of the bus's mirror, laden with good smelling food. With a flourish he
floated hot dogs, cups of hot water, and packages of hot chocolate mix to all the kids before checking to see how Tom and Jimmy were doing.

The two boys were doing much better. Puck said a quick spell over a can of chicken soup and the can popped open, its contents already
warm, and poured the soup into two bowls. Hungrily, the boys dug in.

"You did a great job," Puck complimented Cindy and Becky. "I think your patients are well enough to take care of themselves now, so go
on and eat. Oh yeah, your paychecks." Puck produced a couple of chocolate bars for the girls.

Seeing that everyone was eating, Puck settled cross-legged on the back of a bus seat. The kids watched wide-eyed as Puck proceeded to
happily squeeze three packages of mustard onto a hot dog floating in front of him.

Puck looked up and saw the kids staring at him. "Hey, I happen to like mustard," he said around a mouthful of hot dog.

"Didn't your mommy ever teach you not to talk with your mouth full?" asked a boy.

"Didn't your mommy teach you to use a napkin?" Puck shot back and made a napkin wipe the boy's face off. The boy grabbed the napkin
out the air with an indignant look as the surrounding kids laughed.

When the kids had finished their hot dogs, Puck sent around the boxes of cookies while he dug into the apple pie. He had a brief argument with
one boy, who wanted some pie too. The argument was settled when Puck gave in and let the boy have a slice. He managed to finish the rest
of the pie in peace.

At least there was peace until the kids had finished eating.

"I'm bored,"

"I want to watch TV."

"I want to go home."

"Let go of my hair!"

"He pushed me!"

"Did not! You started it!"

Puck looked about himself in astonishment, then, putting his fingers between his teeth, blew a sharp piercing whistle. "That's better," he said
as the kids stopped fussing. "Obviously warmth and a full belly isn't going to keep you kids satisfied. How about a story?"

"Not TV?" asked one kid.

"TV will turn your brain into mush," scoffed Puck, "Besides, my stories come in three dimensions."

"All right," the kids agreed.

"Let's see now, a story..." Puck leaned back and thought a minute, stroking his chin. His eyes brightened as he spread his hands and a glowing
nimbus formed in front of him.

"Once upon a time there was an island." The nimbus coalesced into a patch of blue ocean with a little brown island. A palm tree suddenly shot
up through the ground of the island and promptly dropped a coconut. Cartoony sound effects followed the action.

"A larger island." Puck corrected.

The island expanded to form beaches, rolling hills and a mountain. "Much better." approved Puck.

The children gasped as the effect expanded until it surrounded them. They felt like they were sitting, like giants, in the middle of the picture; but
they could still feel the walls and the floor of the bus.

"Over here is a forest." Puck pointed to an area and trees sprang up out of the earth. "Not a dark and gloomy forest, but a good, bright forest,
where flowers bloom, birds sing, squirrels play and deer wander through the trees."

The children could see fawns scampering around their mothers. Birds could be heard chirping in the trees. "Look, it's Bambi!" one girl pointed.

"There's a softly bubbling creek running through the forest." Puck continued using a finger to trace the path of the creek. Behind his finger a
ribbon of blue appeared as water began bubbling over rocks and forming small pools here and there. "See the fish?" The view zoomed in and
brightly colored fish could be seen swimming in the calm pools, snapping at bugs.

Suddenly a cracking noise disturbed the calm sound of the gentle breeze. Puck looked up just in time to be hit on the head with a falling tree.

"Ok, who let in the beavers?" Puck asked rubbing his head.

A pair of beavers were on the opposite bank of the creek. One was rolling in laughter, while the other was giving her mate a stern look while
saying they were sorry.

"All right, you can stay. We've got other places to go." The beavers waved goodbye as the view moved out of the forest.

"Just outside the forest is a meadow where rabbits play amongst the pretty flowers." Puck continued as a meadow appeared covered in white
and yellow flowers. "And what are flowers without butterflies?"

Puck opened his hand and showed the kids a very colorful butterfly. He let it crawl over his fingers a little before holding it over the meadow.
Blowing on it gently, the butterfly flew from his hand, then burst into a million other butterflies, each taking a single color of the original butterfly.
The butterflies began to flit from flower to flower in the meadow.

"Hey, what's this?" Puck asked and pointed to the edge of the forest.

A young female deer suddenly burst from the forest into the meadow. She was followed closely by a young buck. The buck jumped around
the deer trying to get her attention but the doe just stuck her nose in the air and ignored the buck. A green cloud appeared in the meadow and
when it blew away a small winged figure with light green skin and pointed ears could be seen. The new arrival drew an arrow from a quiver
on his back, knocked it and took careful aim at the doe. The instant he let the arrow fly, the doe suddenly jumped and the arrow passed under her.

"Cupid! You missed! Again!" criticized Puck.

"I did not miss," answered Cupid, "the doe leapt out of the way. I'll have you know that I never miss."

"Sure, sure," scoffed Puck. "What about the time when youÖ"

"Hey, I sneezed! Oberon knows I'm allergic to primrose, but he sends me in anyway. Besides you're not mister perfect either, Trickster."

"Oh yea?"

"Yea, what about the time you walked in on Oberon and he wasÖ"

"Hey! There are children present."

"Oh?" Cupid shaded his eyes, looked at the gathered kids, and waved. "Hi kids, I'm Cupid."

"Hi," the children answered back.

Cupid turned back to Puck. "You realize you've ruined my reputation, don't you, cousin? Like I said before, I don't miss. Now listen kids,
let me tell you about the time when I was out looking for the perfect match for..."

"Uh, cousin," interrupted Puck, "if you want to tell stories, find your own bus full of stranded children. This is my gig."

"Ok, ok. Donít get your hair in a tangle. Ta." The little fairy vanished with a pop.

"Hey!" Puck yelled after him. "Your arrow turned one of my flowers purple!" He pointed at a bright purple flower surrounded by pure white ones.

"Oh gee," came back an echoing sarcastic voice. "I'd tell you to use it wisely, but I'd be wasting my breath."

"He really can't hit the broad side of a barn." Puck whispered to the kids.

"I heard that."

"Was that really Cupid?" one of the kids asked.

"Naw," answered Puck. "Last time I looked, the real Cupid was over in Hollywood stirring up one night stands for the rock stars."

Puck zoomed the image out and pointed to the other side of the forest. "Over here is a typical, old fashioned, human village." Under his hand
a village appeared, the thatch roofed houses and shops lined up in neat rows. People could be seen walking down the streets, going in and
out of the stores or stopping to converse with one another. A group of children were playing in front of the schoolhouse.

In the center of the village square, a group of young women were seated around a fountain doing the laundry. An average looking man walked
over to them and started talking to them, gesturing in an exaggerated and grandiose way. The young women covered their mouths to hide their
giggles. On the street, older villagers saw the young man, but didnít even try to hide their laughter. Puck noticed the commotion and looked
over at the group.

"Excuse me," Puck said a little annoyed. "What do you think you're doing? I'm trying to tell a story here."

"I happen to be making my grand entrance," the young man said snobbishly. "You told me that I was the star of this story, after all."

"I said no such thing," contradicted Puck. "First off, just because you're in this story doesn't mean you're the star, and secondly, you're not
even supposed to be in this scene. Now scram!"

"Well," the young man huffed. He turned back to the young women at the fountain and executed a very flowery bow. "Fair ladies, I bid you

The young women blushed and giggled openly as the young man turned and regally walked toward one of the houses. That is, until Puck
made a small bush appear in front of him. The young man fell over the bush and landed face first in a mud puddle.

"Ham actors," muttered Puck, loud enough for the kids to hear him. "You give them a few lines, and suddenly they think they're running the show."

Puck changed the view so the entire island could be seen once more. He floated over it studying his handy work. "Let's see, theres something
missing here," said looking it over. "We've got a forest, a village, a meadowÖ Oh yes, a castle."

This time, instead of waving his hands, Puck simply pointed. From the end of his finger shot a stream of gold sparks. The sparks encircled the
top of the mountain and when they died away a very large, pink castle could be seen. There were a lot of towers with cone-shaped roofs.
Above the peaks of the roofs colorful pennants waved in the breeze.

"A grand castle with a draw bridge and a moat." said Puck bringing the view back in to where the castle dominated the scene. "There are
even monsters in the moat."

A serpent-like head rose from the water and roared. "Nice monsters," Puck told it sternly. The moat monster suddenly batted long eyelashes
at him and mewed. "Much better," Puck approved. "Oops, I almost forgot the gargoyles."

Here and there along the castle walls, ferocious stone figures appeared. "What's a castle without gargoyles, huh? They're sleeping right now.
Don't worry, they're not nearly as ferocious as they look. They will wake up at sunset and probably go off and do their own thing. I could tell
you lots of stories about them, but this story isn't about gargoyles. This story is about the king and queen of the castle. Let's go inside and
meet them, shall we?"

Puck made the view move like his audience were birds and swooped in toward the castle gates. On the other side of a spacious courtyard
were a pair of massive doors. Two elf-like Sidhe guards bowed and pulled the doors open. Beyond them was a large and ornately decorated
throne room. The room was deserted save for a pale-blue skinned man sitting in a chair on a raised dais on the far side of the vast marble floor.
The chair next to him was empty. He did not look terribly happy; in fact he was slouched over, deep in thought, with his chiseled chin resting
in a hand.

"This is Oberon, the King of the Faeries," introduced Puck. "Handsome devil isn't he? Like with most kings, his word is law. Then after he
has said his word, he reserves the right to change his mind. Keeps you on your toes, I must say. He also can be demanding, arrogant, jealousÖ
Uh, please don't tell him I said that, OK? The last thing you want to do is make him mad. Trust me on this one."

The kids nodded in agreement.

Puck took a close look at Oberon. "Looks like we've chosen a bad day to visit." he mused. "Usually when he is in a mood like this, it is over
one thing: the Queen. Let's go drop in on her, shall we?"

The view exited a side door and went down a hall a short way and entered another chamber. The room was well lit, with an abundance of
flowers decorating it. A light-green skinned lady sat in front of a mirror having her long, red hair brushed by an attendant. Several other
attendants were lounging around the room on pillows or couches. Most of the attendants were pale-skinned, like Puck, but their hair was
a rainbow of colors.

"The lady in the chair is Titania, Queen of the Faeries," pointed out Puck. "She likes everything to be absolutely beautiful. She's also extremely
graceful in everything she does. As with all kingdoms, the King rules the Faeries, but the Queen rules the King. Kind of like your parents,
probably. Your father is the master of the house, but your mother is the boss, no doubt about it." Puck winked at the kids. "This is actually
where our story begins."

Titania rose regally from her chair and, followed by her attendants, walked toward the throne room. When she reached the room, she didn't
mount the dais to join Oberon, but stood in front of it in a defiant posture. It was obvious to the children that the two fae were speaking to
each other, rather angrily, but they couldn't hear anything. Puck narrated over the view.

"Right at the moment, Oberon and Titania are having a bit of an argument. It's one of those normal grownup disagreements; I won't bore
you with the details."

The queen suddenly turned and swept out the throne room, leaving a seething Oberon standing on the dais. Titania's attendants made hasty
bows to Oberon before retreating with their Queen. Oberon shouted something that could be interpreted as 'well fine, leave!'. As Titania
made her way out of the castle and down the mountain toward the forest, the skies turned cloudy and were shot through with thunder and

Puck saw a few of the children shrinking away from the lightning, and hastily killed the light show.

"Well, as you can see, the Queen went stomping out without so much as a 'by your leave'. The King was furious and made the rain and
thunder follow Titania all the way to the forest. Soon, he tired of the bad weather and let everything return to normal. After that he called his
faithful servant.

"That's me!" a small voice, just like Puck's, piped. With a flash of pyrotechnics, a miniature version of Puck appeared on the fae's shoulder.

"Hey, watch it with the fireworks," Puck said irritated. "You'll singe my hair."

The miniature Puck took an insolent pose, "Well, sorry," he said drawing out the word. "I wouldnít have thought you would be so vain about
how your hair looks." The little fae took several strands of Pucks hair and began to braid them together, adding several colorful ribbons as well.

"Stop that," protested Puck, batting at his tiny twin.

"Whatís the purpose of having long hair if you donít do anything with it?"

"Chicks like the way it blows in the wind." Puck said briefly striking a Fabioesque pose, complete with windblown hair. "Now, I need to get
on with my story, and if you donít get down there, his lordship is going to get mad at you too."

"OK, Iím going, Iím going."

The little Puck vanished in a cloud of smoke that engulfed the larger Puckís head. Puck coughed and waved the smoke away. When the smoke
cleared the kids broke out in laughter.

"What?" asked Puck, his hands on his hips.

The kids laughed harder and pointed to his head. When he reached up to investigate his eyes grew wide at what he felt. With a growl he
produced a mirror and looked at himself. His hair was done up in very girly curls, braids, and pony tails and adorned everywhere with large
pink bows.

"Oh, Iím going to get you for that," he told the little Puck, who was now entering the throne room in the image. Puck started to undo the mess
of his hair while the little Puck turned and grinned up at him. He stuck his fingers in his ears and made a face at the larger version before bowing
elaborately to the king.

"Now then, where were we?" asked Puck, his hair returned to its normal state, "Oh yes. Oberon called his faithful servant, me by the way, as
that little trickster said. Oberon told me that he wished to teach the Queen a lesson. Do you remember a little while ago when Cupid took a
shot at that doe?"

"Whatís a doe?" one kid asked.

"Thatís a girl deer," another girl supplied.

"Thatís right," agreed Puck, "you know Ďdoe a deer a female deerí." He sang briefly. "Recall that Cupid missed and hit the flower, turning it
purple." He turned the picture back to the meadow so the kids could see the flower.

"Well, Oberon was watching as well, and he knew what Cupidís arrow had done, and he told me what it would do." The scene returned to
the throne room with the little Puck attentively leaning forward listening to Oberon. "You see, that flower turned purple with the passion of
love." Puck clasped his hands together under his chin and stared wisfully off into space, batting his eyes. "After the king told me this, he
instructed me to go get it for him."

The little Puck bowed to the king; then vanished in a cloud of butterflies. A moment later he reappeared on Puckís shoulder.

"I spend more time fetching stuff for that guy, you know that?" protested the little Puck. "But then, who am I but a lowly servant of the king?"

"Actually, I spend a lot of time fetching stuff for Davy, too, but then he has more diabolical plots." The larger Puck agreed, rubbing his hands
together. His eyes gleamed. "There was one time when he and FoxÖ Oops, sorry. Wrong story, and you have work to do."

The little Puck took a swan dive off the large Puckís shoulder and sped back toward the picture. Soon he was skimming across the field and
landed next to the purple flower. Carefully picking it, he headed back to the castle. Once there, Puck handed the flower over to Oberon,
who sniffed it delicately.

"Oberon then told me the rest of his plan," Puck continued his narration. "The nectar of the flower was a powerful love potion. Do you know
what nectar is?" he asked the kids. Several heads shook no. "Nectar is what the bees gather along with pollen to make honey." Puck explained.
" But this flower had magical nectar. If you squeeze this nectar onto the eyelids of a sleeping person, they will fall madly in love with the first thing
they see. Oberon told me that he was going to use the flower on Titania, then wish that she falls in love with a warthog or something." In the
picture the kids could see Oberon smile deviously while the little Puck clapped and laughed with glee.

Puck shifted the view to the forest. "Oh yes, did I mention that it was nighttime?" The sky over the forest darkened and the moon shot up with
a sproing. Roars could be heard in the direction of the castle. "Sounds like the gargoyles are awake. Now in the forest, there is a little glade
that the Queen likes to sleep in." The view zoomed in to a clearing, next to the creek. Titania could be seen walking into the glade, while her
entourage bustled around sweeping fallen leaves out of the way and making sure that all the flowers were in full bloom. As Titania lay down,
one of the attendants carefully mounded some moss to make a pillow for her head. As the queen fell asleep, her attendants drifted off into
the forest.

"Oberon knew that she would spend her night here, so he quietly sneaked through the forest with the flower." The view shifted to show
Oberon walking along a path while the little Puck flitted about the trees behind him. "I followed along to watch the fun. But something
sidetracked me."

The little Puck could be seen stopping before floating off in another direction. The view followed behind the little Puck and came upon another
clearing, very close to where Titania was sleeping, where five humans from the village were standing and talking. One of the humans was
the one who had talked back to Puck earlier in the story. "These villagers had come into the forest to rehearse this really, really awful play.
Or at least they were trying too. This fellow here, Bottom I think his name was," Puck pointed to the one that had talked back to him, "acted
like he was the gods' gift to actors. He wasn't, really."

Bottom was strutting around the others, showing them how he thought their parts should be done.

"Well, I thought to myself, if he's going to act like an ass, he might as well be one."

There was a sharp intake of breath from several kids and Puck rolled his eyes. "What are they teaching you kids these days? I mean ass as
in donkey, not someone's big fat behind!"

The kids giggled in anticipation then.

"I waited until he walked into some bushes, out of sight of the other villagers, and then turned his head into a donkey head."

In the picture, they could see the little Puck come up behind Bottom, then with a wave of his hands, Bottomís head reshaped into a donkeyís head.

"Aw, you can't turn anyone's head into a donkey," one boy interrupted.

Puck dissolved the pictures and put his hand on his hips. "Oh I can't, can I?"

"Naw. You couldn't even do the cookies. The box says Arnieís Bakery."

Puck looked at the boy indignantly then his eyes started to glow and a green aura formed around him. "This young cur doth like to brag,
change his head to that of a nag."

Several children screamed, but the rest laughed as the boy's head became a donkey head. Wide eyed, he looked around in surprise, then he
wiggled his ears and let out a loud bray. A smile grew on the donkey's face. "You have got to try this," he said.

Puck floated over to an abandoned box of peanut butter cookies, and nibbled on one while humming "Old MacDonald". Around him the bus
was filled with barks, mews, neighs, oinks and moos as a bunch of kids with animal heads scampered around. Puck cancelled his spell after
he finished a second cookie and the elated kids settled back into their places.

"As I was saying, I turned this guy's head into a donkey head," Puck shot a look at the boy, but the kid stayed silent this time. Puck reformed
the forest scene. "Unlike you guys, Bottom was too stupid to figure out what I did to him, so he walked back out of the bushes like nothing
strange had happened, to do his next line."

Bottom walked back into the glade in a classic cartoonish dramatic entrance. The other villagers saw Bottom, and ran screaming into the forest.

"Naturally, the other, (ahem) actors, were frightened by what I had done to Bottom and ran away, Bottom, well, he was so dense, he didnít
have a clue as to what was going on, even when a couple of the other actors crept back and pointed out what had been done to him."

Two of the villagers poked their heads out of the underbrush and pointed at Bottoms head. Bottom looked at them, bewildered, and shrugged.
When he tried to speak to the others, they shivered and disappeared again.

"Bottom thought that the others were playing a joke on him, so he began to sing; I guess to show that they couldnít fool him. His singing was as
bad as his acting, by the way. Be thankful that Iím not using sound for this story, his voice sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard."

Puck made like he was running his fingers down an imaginary chalkboard, and several of the kids winced involuntairly.

"Meanwhile Oberon went to Titaniaís side and let some of the nectar from that purple flower drip onto her eyes."

The view shifted a little way to where Titania was sleeping. Oberon tiptoed into the glade, knelt down and held the flower over the sleeping
faeís face. There was a tinging sound as a drop from the flower fell on one eyelid and then the next. Oberon tucked the flower into his tunic,
then rubbed his hands together with a laugh before vanishing in a cloud of sparks.

"Well that awful caterwauling of Bottomís woke Titania up. She thought it was the most beautiful singing she had ever heard, so she came to
see what was making it."

The view showed Titania sitting up with a smile and listening for a moment before getting to her feet and walking from her glade into the glade
where Bottom was standing. When she saw Bottom her face split into a big smile and her eyes sparkled.

"You remember that Oberon cast a spell on Titania with the flower, right?" Puck continued. "Well, Bottom was the first soul she saw, so Titania
fell madly in love with that ugly beast. Bottom is taken by how beautiful Titania is, but he brags that someone as good looking as himself could
not help but to have every fair maiden in sight fall in love with him."

Bottom struck a heroic pose, then the donkey face twisted as he brayed at the Queen. Titania practically melted when she heard the sound,
then ran up to Bottom and hugging him, showered the donkey head with kisses. Waving her hands seductively, she made a garland of flowers
appear around Bottomís head.

"I hid in a tree and watched all the things that Titania was doing for that fool, and it was all I could do to keep from falling out of the tree in
laughter." The kids could see the little Puck perched on a tree branch, holding his sides and laughing as hard as he could.

"Bottom wanted to leave the forest and find out why his friends had run away, but Titania wouldnít let him leave. Instead she led him to her

Bottom could be seen pointing off in the direction of the village, but Titania took his hand, and with pleading eyes turned him toward the glade
where she had been sleeping.

Bottom settled down in the middle of the glade and Titania sat beside him and kissed and scratched his long ears.

"Pretty mushy isnít it?" asked Puck making a face. "Titania fed Bottom fruit and honey while she sang to him and wove more flowers into his
mane. Bottom, seeing that Titania would do anything for him, started to demand things and had Titania rushing all over the place filling his request.

The scene showed Titania vanishing and reappearing with jars of honey, a bowl of peas or an armload of hay.

"Oberon came back to see if the spell worked."

The view followed Oberon striding through the woods until he came to the glade. Titania was weaving flowers into the mane of Bottomís donkey
head and scratching his ears while he was contentedly munching on the hay.

"Oberon, when he saw what the Queen was doing to that beast, started to make fun of her and Titania got really embarrassed. She apologized
to the King for their earlier argument, which the king did accept by the way, but couldnít leave Bottom alone because of the magic spell. After
making a few more nasty comments, the King left and went to find me and get the rest of the amusing details."

Oberon left the glade and was joined by the little Puck just beyond. The kids could see the little Puck dancing around and waving his hands
as he told the tale. The smile on the Kings face grew.

"Of course I told him everything, while at the same the Queen was singing Bottom to sleep."

Back in the glade Bottom could be seen yawning as only a donkey could yawn, then he pillowed his head in his arms and went to sleep.
Wrapping her arms lovingly around the donkey-headed man, Titania also fell asleep.

"But then the king started feeling a little sorry for Titania." Oberon's smile faded as he looked back toward the glade where Titania was
sleeping. Then motioning for the little Puck to follow him, he walked back to stand over the Queen.

"Oberon took the spell off Titania, then woke her up. She looked at Bottom lying next to her and couldnít believe that she had fallen in love
with such an ugly creature."

Titania gave Bottom a look of disgust; then moved away from the sleeping man in the manner of someone who was trying very hard not to
be sick.

"Oberon told Titania about the flower and the spell, and why he had done it."

The king was seen showing the flower to Titania, who took it and gave it a cautious sniff before tucking it into her hair.

"The Queen, now in complete control of herself, apologized again and the King asked her if she would rejoin him at the castle."

Titania curtsied to Oberon who bowed and swept his hand in the direction of the castle. The two joined arms and stated walking from the glade.

"Just before they left, Oberon ordered me to remove that donkeyís head, and cast a forget spell on Bottom."

Oberon paused and turned back to the little Puck who nodded and bowed. The little Puck turned to the sleeping Bottom and waved his hands
over the sleeping form. The donkey head shimmered and flowed back into a humanís head. Then the little Puck nudged the sleeping form with
his toe before flying up into the trees.

"The forget spell I cast went all the way back to where I first changed this guyís head, so when he woke up, he thought he was still rehearsing
that gosh awful play."

Bottom made the same comically dramatic entrance, sans donkey head. Then he stopped and looked around bewildered.

"Bottom didnít realize that most of the night had passed, so he got a little mad at his friends for having sneaked off on him. So he went back to
the village to find them and scold them about leaving him alone in the woods."

Bottom walked out the woods toward the village and the little Puck flitted down out to the tree to the center of the glade. He bowed to the
children as the scene around him faded to nothing.

"If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended." The little Puck started to recite.

"Hey! Leave that two bit English hack out of this!" Puck told his little counterpart.

The little elf floated on his stomach in front of Puckís face, his chin resting on the back of his wrists, his heels in the air. "Two bit hack? Then
why are you still carrying around that original script?" he asked in feigned innocence.

"Thatís none of your business!" retorted Puck. "Now vanish, these kids need some sleep."

"But the story isnít finished! The Bard left out a few last details."


"If you donít tell them, I will." The little Puck turned back to the kids and took a deep breath. Puck reached out and grabbed him.

"All right, all right. You win," he growled. "But Iíll tell it. Who knows what you will say?"

"Fair enough," said the little Puck. "Bye, kids." The little Puck waved then disappeared in a flash.

The kids looked expectantly at Puck. Then a disembodied voice said, "I canít hear you."

"Give me a minute," said Puck, "I donít really like this part, you know."

Puck waved his hands and reformed the scene of Titaniaís chambers. Titania could be seen standing regally in front of a kneeling Puck. Her
face was twisted in anger and scorn.

"The next day Oberon told Titania that I had cast the donkey head spell and made sure that Bottom would be the first being that she would see.
She couldnít get mad at Oberon, because he had done this whole thing to teach her a lesson; so she got mad at me instead. Somewhere, itís
in the job description that servants get the blame. You know, 'the butler did it' and all. So in her anger, she cast a spell on me that enchanted
me to her bedroom mirror, of all things."

Titania waved her hands above the kneeling Puck and a beam of green energy leapt from the mirror to him. Puck was swept off the floor as
the energy swirled around him. Then the scene faded out.

"After the spell was finished, she sent the mirror into the world. Now, for anyone who finds that infernal mirror and knows the proper words,
Iíve got to do whatever they want until they let me go again. Kind of like the genie in the bottle. Fortunately, nobody has found that mirror for
quite a while. But thatís another story. It's getting late, and you guys need to hit the sack."

There was a chorus of aw's but Puck would let it sway him. "Come on, I bet it's way past your bedtimes, and you want to be well rested when
they find you tomorrow morning, don't you? Don't make me use a sleep spell."

Puck pulled a flute from somewhere in his tunic and began to play some soft tunes. The kids actually were quite tired, and soon they were
sleeping. Puck looked over his charges, and sighed contentedly as he carefully polished the wood of the flute with a soft oiled cloth. Making
the flute vanish, he pulled out an oversized pocket watch.

"Eleven thirty. Now what do I do?" he muttered to himself. "Owen Burnett, there are times I regret ever dreaming you up. A night as myself,
stuck in the middle of nowhere, and all I can think of doing is catching up on my paperwork." he growled. "What is this world coming to?"
Snapping his fingers, a plain leather briefcase appeared before him. Opening it up, he removed a folder and began to study the contents.

"Darn, I can't concentrate like this." Making the folder levitate in front of him, he reached into his tunic and produced a pair of very large, pink
framed glasses with butterflies molded into the corners. He put them on; then hastily pulled them off and rubbed his eyes. "No correction, if you
don't mind." he said to no one in particular and put the glasses back on. While Owen was slightly myopic, he was not. "Ah, that's better." He
returned his attention to the document, making notes on a pad with a large quill pen.

The sound of soft sobbing drew Puck's attention away from the reports he was studying. Dropping everything back into the briefcase and
returning the outlandish glasses to his tunic, he floated over to find out what was wrong. In a seat by herself a girl was quietly crying.

"Hey, what's wrong? Are you cold?" Puck asked.

The girl shook her head. "I want my mommy." she sobbed.

Puck settled into the seat beside her and lifted the girl on to his lap. She threw her arms around his neck and buried her head in his shoulder.

"It's all right," Puck soothed, somewhat put out by the growing wet spot on his tunic. That thing was "dry clean only" after all. "What's your name?"

"Tanya," was the sobbing answer. "I want my daddy, too."

"Don't worry Tanya, by tomorrow morning this storm will be over and someone will be here to take you home."

Tanya sniffed, "Are you sure? Mommy and Daddy have enough to worry over with Darnell without having to worry about me too."

"Sure I'm sure. I took a peek at the news while I was getting dinner." Puck suddenly sighed. "It must be nice to have someone to be concerned
about you."

"Isn't your mommy worried about you being here with us instead of at home?"

Puck looked startled. "I'm a lot older than I look, kiddo. I've been taking care of myself for several hundred years now. Besides, I never knew
my mother."

"Is you mommy dead?"

"No, at least I donít think so. No one has ever told me who my parents are."

Tanya stopped crying looked at Puck curiously. "Why not?"

"I'm a trickster." said Puck matter of factly. When he saw the confused look on Tanya's face he went on to explain. "Among the third race, being
born a trickster is not necessarily a good thing. It's considered a disgrace on the family line. Kind of like if you were born with three eyes. So we're
sent away at birth to be taken care of by anyone who wants to bother. I just got lucky that Oberon decided to take me on."

"You don't know any of your family, then?"

"Well, I do know what my families are, but I donít know who is in them, except for my triplet half-sisters. They broke the rules by telling me I
was related, but, then, they kind of make their own rules."

"That's not right," Tanya pronounced after some thought. "That's how a lot of people treat my little brother Darnell. He's got Down's something
or other."

"Down's syndrome?"

"Yea, that's it. And just after he was born, everyone was telling Mommy that she should send him away to an, an inst-tution. But she and Daddy
said that they didn't care if Darnell was different, and they would never send him away. Mommy says that everyone deserves a chance to be loved
and cared for by their own parents." Tanya snuggled deeper into Puck's tunic.

"You know kid, your mother is probably right." Puck said softly as the girl drifted off to sleep in his arms.

The warmth of the morning sun shining through the snow brought Puck to full alertness. Extending his perception, he could hear machinery
approaching in the distance.

"Wakey, Wakey. Rise and shine." Puck called out clapping his hands.

"Do we hafta?" several of the kids groaned. "Just a little more, please."

"Help is on it's way," announced Puck. "I can hear it coming down the road."

The kids were suddenly fully awake and cheering.

"Save that for later," said Puck. "Right now I've got to get this place cleaned up and you guys have to get back into your jackets, I'm going to
turn off the heat."

Puck snapped his fingers, and all signs of last night's dinner vanished, and the interior of the bus returned to the condition it was in when he had
found it. When Puck saw that everyone were snug back in their jackets, he lowered the temperature of the bus till it was just a little warmer
than what it would have been under normal circumstances.

"Well kids, I gotta go. It's been fun. You take care of yourselves, OK?" Puck said and dove through the mirror.

A minute later the doors of the bus were forced open and a surprised rescue worker was greeted by a lot of loud cheers.

"Hey!" he called to the other rescuers, "They're all here, and they look all right!"

"Come in," David Xanatos called in response to a soft tap on the door.

"Good morning sir," Owen said as he stepped into the room and set a container of hot coffee on the table beside his employerís elbow. "I trust
you slept well?"

"Well enough. No paper?"

"I'm afraid not. The roads are just now being plowed." Owen went through the room and began packing away Xanatos' possessions. Coming
to a pair of trousers draped over a chair, he held them up and sniffed carefully. "Diesel fuel?" he questioned.

"Let's just say I had an interesting evening." answered Xanatos. "My overcoat will have to be cleaned as well."

"I see," answered Owen as he found a plastic bag in which to isolate the soiled pants, and after a short pause, added the shirt Xanatos had
worn as well.

"When will we be ready to go?" asked Xanatos as he finished the coffee.

"It will be a while. The car is under five feet of snow. I will have to dig it out first. I understand that the restaurant will be open as soon as the
parking lot is plowed."

"Breakfast can wait." Xanatos stood and started pulling on a heavy sweater. "I'll give you a hand with the car; I can use the exercise."

"Topping the news is the miraculous rescue of that busload of missing children. Rescuers found the nineteen first and second graders
early this morning in good health and spirits. The children have extraordinary stories about how they managed to survive the night
without freezing. We now have footage of an earlier interview with some of the children shortly after they were reunited with their

"He was an angel." a little girl said to the camera.

"Was not. He was a fairy, he said so himself. Besides angels have halos and donít have pointed ears," a boy standing next to her rebutted.

"He brought us hot dogs and cookies to eat and made it all warm and told us stories and cast magic spells and everything." finished
a third boy. "It was real neat, like a slumber party. But he didn't want to share any of the apple pie."

David Xanatos watched the television with interest as the view returned to the news anchorman. Behind him he heard Owen entering the room.

"Angel, fairy, or just good Samaritan, we have this unknown individual to thank for keeping these children safe through the night."
The announcer finished.

Xanatos muted the television and looked quizzically at his aide. "So that's your weakness."

Owen calmly hung up Xanatos' freshly cleaned overcoat and trousers. "I was not aware that a sweet tooth was a weakness." he said dryly.

Xanatos raised an eyebrow and smiled. He recalled a trap he set several months ago to catch the individual who kept eating the last of the ice
cream. He had liberally laced a carton with cayenne pepper. A loud yell in the middle of the night had brought him into the kitchen to see a
fairy hovering in the center of the room, pouring a large bucket of water down his throat. "That was very, not funny, Davy" the fairy had told
him before vanishing in a burst of wind and fire. About a week later, Owen had served him an authentic Cajun dinner, but didn't warn him in
advance of his first taste of the gumbo.

"So why did you do it?" David asked referring to the children.

Owen gave the vaguest hint of a shrug. "The children needed protection, and there are no gargoyles in this part of the world."

"Gargoyles?" David leaned forward with interest. "Tell me more..."