Foreword: Welcome, readers, to the next installment of my "Eternal Quest"
saga of Gargoyles and other series' fanfiction stories. This one's another
Marvel crossover guest starring the Rose. Hope you like the story, and
send me feedback about it. The star system does have its merits, but it
should not replace criticism, praise, and other forms of feedback that
can be sent by e-mail and better tell me what I'm doing right and wrong
as far as writing these stories goes. Not to mention inform me what you
think of all the plot and character developments every story has within.
Thanks if you do send feedback, thanks for reading this even if you don't.
Just let me give the appropriate disclaimers and the tale shall begin.
The TV show Gargoyles, and all its concepts and characters (including Brooklyn, Goliath, Elisa, Matt, Macbeth, Demona, Xanatos, etc.) , is/are the property of Disney and Buena Vista, and was/were dreamed up by Greg Weisman, Michael Reaves, and their affiliated writers and other staff. Graeme, Arianna, and any other TGS characters in this story as well as all the concepts and ideas pertaining to them referenced herein are the property of the TGS Staff. All Buffy-related concepts and characters in here belong to Warner Bros and Joss Whedon. The characters of Aiden Ferguson, the Grandmaster/JP Duval, and most of the Avalon clan’s members (including Tourmaline) also belong to Christine Morgan. The Cigarette Smoking Man is owned by Fox. All characters and concepts related to Quickling/Highlander-style immortals belong to Rhysher. Any Marvel characters and concepts in here likewise belong to Marvel and Fox Network. Columbia Tristar owns Senator Mitchell and his staff. I am in no way affiliated with any of these people or companies, I'm just borrowing their characters, concepts, and ideas for a story in which I continue the stories they began and tell my own through the insertion of my own plots, ideas, concepts, and characters. Said ideas, concepts, and characters include Rachel, Seth, and whatever other characters and ideas are not the property of someone else in the story below. These ideas and characters remain my property, as they were created by me though I got inspiration from others for them. I draw no monetary profit from writing this story, the fact that people are enjoying reading my work and possibly sending me feedback on it, and that I am enjoying writing this, is enough for me. Thanks to all my readers again, special thanks to Lisa "Kitainia" Telman, who helped me write this more than words can say.
This story takes place a few weeks after the end of my last story, "Goblins." Time frame is early July, 1999. Let's get into the tale.
Rachel (on voice-over) Previously in the Eternal Quest saga...
“Where are we going, mama?” Tom asked.
“To Oberon's mystic island of Avalon,” the Magus answered. “He'll never reach us there.”
Mary looked skeptical. “Are you sure you know the way?”
“With the right spell,” Magus replied, “Avalon can be reached from any body of water. Vocate venti fortunate ex rege Oberonis et hic navis flugem regate ad orae Avalonis!”
“We would perhaps better understand your pronouncements,” Goliath said to the stranger, “if we knew who you are.”
“We are Oberon,” was the reply, “lord of the third race, ruler of Avalon. This lady is Titania, our once and future queen. We have returned to reclaim our own. And if intruders will not leave our realm, then they may stay, as part of it.”
- “Ill Met by Moonlight.”
"Quite a nightmare," Goliath said. "Did it come to pass?"
"No," Silvan replied, shaking his head slowly. "Not yet, but it will. I sensed then that the vision would come to pass thousands of years in the future, and not knowing how Nicholas would survive that long but wanting to give him a sense of hope that he would one day regain his throne, I told him of it. I was a fool. For when Nicholas heard what I had seen, and who I was, he revealed himself to me as the greatest tyrant the world has ever known. The Lord of the Unseelie Court, with Maeve really turning out to be his queen, and Garlon his most trusted steward and knight. Nicholas himself was the twin brother of Oberon, who Oberon had had to fight for his throne a few centuries before I was born. Madoc Morfyn."
"Oberon had a twin brother?"
“Has. He's still alive, unfortunately. Their war was over the succession primarily. Their father Avallach perished in the war between the fay and the dragons twelve thousand years ago, and the Council of the most powerful fay chose Oberon to rule them next. Oberon's stance on the younger races, gargoyles and humans, however, was rather unpopular among many of the fay. He believed that they should be left alone, to grow and develop as they would, while the fay concentrated on their own business. This view was different from his father's, who thought the fay should nurture and protect the younger races, help them to grow and change. And different from Madoc's, who wanted to rule the humans and gargoyles, seeing it as the manifest destiny of his race to wield power over theirs. This attitude was partially brought on by the fact that his father had been slain by a human wielding iron and fighting alongside the dragons, because of that Madoc believed the younger races were becoming rebellious towards the fay, their natural masters. Thus he came to the decision that the younger races needed to be kept in line, ruled by a tyrant with an iron fist, and he was just the one to do it. He gathered a large army of fay that agreed with him to his banner. Fay such as Herne, who enjoyed hunting humans and gargoyles for sport. Tricksters such as Loki and Discord, who enjoyed playing magical pranks on humans just to inspire chaos and amuse themselves, and could never see it as wrong. Lovers of human war, pain, and bloodshed like Hutzipochtli and Sekhmet. And wendigos, onis, redcaps, frost giants, formorians, dark elves, all the sorts of faerie and creatures like them human myths associate with evil things. It was these creatures I had seen grouped behind Nicholas in my vision.
"They went to war with Oberon, trying to wrest the throne with him. In a series of great cataclysms that shook and destroyed the earth, setting human development back to the primitive age and forcing gargoyle clans to move their rookeries underground for safety, the Seelie Court under Oberon fought a long and hard battle with Madoc and his Unseelie. In the end, Madoc and his servants were defeated, and cut off from the Weave of magic from which the fay draw their power, forced to live in the world with magical energy that was no longer limitless."
"I thought energy was energy, whether created by sorcery or science."
"True. It's the same in this case. Ordinarily, a fay or any other weaver of spells can draw magical power from the Weave of it that surrounds and permeates our world, that binds it together. This energy is limitless, and they can draw upon it through the appropriate conduits whenever they are at rest. They can recharge their batteries, so to speak. After the great war of succession, Madoc and all the other Unseelie that survived were cut off from the Weave, in essence they were left with the magical energy they had within them, and could never gather any more. They were like cars with sealed fuel tanks, batteries that could never be recharged, and thus without the ability to replenish their power, Oberon saw them as powerless."
"Because they could not challenge him, could no longer even try to claim the throne."
"Correct. They were reduced to staying in human form most of the time, any magical energies they used were gone for good, so they had to conserve their power, hold it back. Not all of them were smart or cunning enough to do it, many Unseelie burned themselves out wasting too much of their energy too fast and not being able to replenish it. Madoc, Maeve, and others like them were able to conserve their power, though, and because they retained their invulnerability to everything but iron, stay alive. Many in their court received additional punishments as well. Loki was trapped within the Phoenix Gate, Garlon turned into a mouse for a thousand years, Herne forced to assume the form of a white stag and let humans try to hunt him every full moon. Madoc himself was cursed to never be able to cast a harmful spell on anyone without fay blood again, only beneficial spells such as immortality, resurrection, or healing. They still could harm the mortal world, greatly, though. They retained their cunning and guile, and those can be greater tools than any magic if used well.
"When I told Madoc of my vision of him regaining his power, and he revealed himself to me, he then cursed me. He said that if I had been banished from Avalon, as he had, I too should bear a great pain. Thus, he cursed me to have to help bring about whatever events I saw in my visions. Forced me to use my powers to work towards restoring his power, and that of his court. I was angry at what he had done at first, and refused to help him. But then I discovered the curse was irresistible, and resigned myself to it. My next vision showed Oberon destroying a gargoyle clan, the same gargoyle clan that Cain lived with. I saw him impersonating his brother, telling the gargoyles to surrender their human child to him, before he slew all he could on his blade. The curse forced me to tell Madoc of the vision, I could not speak a lie to him. And liking the idea, he rode forth and carried out the events I had seen. The events I told you of that forced Cain to go back to his father."
"So it was this Madoc who destroyed his clan."
"Yes. O'Neil knows that now, as he knows my part in it. And he has forgiven me, understanding that I had no choice. I kept an eye on him the next few years after his clan was destroyed, I had seen him in a vision earlier, saving the world many times over. Thanks to the curse, I also had to make sure that vision came to pass. Then I had another vision with Cain in it, I saw him and his brother Abel being made immortal, and helping a secret society led by me to take over and control the world."
"So you manipulated Madoc into making Cain immortal," Goliath conjectured. "He was one of the fay who spoke to Cain on that day and cursed him to be unable to die ‘until Earth has two moons.’"
"Yes. Then I had Madoc resurrect Abel and cast the same spell on him. As a side effect, it wiped his memory, and Abel was forced to become a new man. You know him, I believe. Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, replacement for Abel."
“Was in fact Abel brought back to life," Goliath said, leaning on his cage bars, and Silvan nodded.
"Today he is Seth Figaro, Illuminati exile and friend to your clan."
"Just one minute, Brooklyn," Titania waved him off. "I don't know everyone here, you've obviously made some new friends." She turned her eyes to Rachel, who had been standing against the wall and listening, not entering into the compensation. "Who is this young lady with such a vibrant magical spark in her veins?"
"Um," Xanatos began, looking at Fox for approval. His wife shook her head, and Xanatos nodded, echoing her sentiments. Alex Xanatos nodded as well, his thoughts that it was best not to tell Titania about his sister simultaneously flashing in the minds of his family and the clan.
They were all equally shocked when, ignoring her brother's advice, Rachel walked up to Titania and held out her hand.
"My name's Rachel Xanatos," she introduced herself. "And you're my grandmother, right?"
"Seth, you don't understand!" O'Neil begged him. "Listen to me!" But Seth only lunged at him, and before O'Neil could dodge or throw up a hand to block it, the Spear of Destiny was buried in his chest.
"No, Cain!" Seth yelled as he drove it in deeper. "No more of your stupid talk! You are weak, brother! You don't know the time for action! I came here to kill you, I'm killing you and you aren't even fighting back!"
"I can't fight back, Seth," O'Neil gasped out, ignoring the pain of the spear in his heart. It was not killing him, as Seth had expected, though it would definitely scar his flesh. "Do you realize what you represent to me?"
"Yeah. The first man you killed."
"No," O'Neil told him, deciding to pour out his heart, tell Seth the feelings he had held inside for nine thousand years. The feelings only Silvan and Laura knew. "You represent a lost chance. A chance I had to have a good and healthy relationship with my brother. You're my family, Seth, I love you."
"Do you always kill what you love?" Seth asked him, twisting the spear as he drove O'Neil back against the wall.
"No," O'Neil said. "I care about you, but I didn't care about Abel. I hated him, Seth. I hated my brother, and he hated me. Because of that mutual hate we denied each other so much. I knew Abel, Seth. He was not the kind of man you want to be!"
"We serve the Queen of Avalon," said Phoebe.
"At her request, and with her help, we have imprisoned you," added Luna.
"You will never threaten anyone, especially those who do not deserve it, while you are in here," completed Selene.
"Damn you bitches!" Seth railed at them. "Let me out! I have to kill him, I have to help people, I have to avenge my death!" He grabbed at the bars, feeling spikes extend from them and bite into his palms, drawing blood. Blood?, Seth thought. But I don't bleed. The wounds aren't healing. Which means..., oh my holy Jesus.
"You are no longer immortal," Selene confirmed his suspicions. "Your torch has been passed to another. Hopefully, she will use her powers more wisely than you have."
"You are still alive, Seth," Phoebe said. "Do not forget that. Your brother and his mate are alive as well, and until Earth has two moons, they will surely be so. Perhaps if you think about your life, who you are, and who you want to be, you will realize the truth of what he told you. And then you will want to do what is right. You may not get a chance to do it if you hold onto your anger."
"Even your brother's time on Earth is limited," Luna picked up the thread. "Soon he will become mortal once more, and if you wait too long he will be dead. And so will millions of others, without you to save them."
"You will stay in this cage," all three spoke with one voice, "until you are able to let go of your rage, to understand who you were and who you are. And decide how you should be. Sleep now, Seth son of Adam, and dream of your history. When you are no longer a danger to the people you swore to protect, then and only then shall we let you go."
-“End to the Rage.”
"Everyone," he said, Angela moving to stand next to him, "before dawn, Angela and I have an announcement to make."
The clan nodded in expectation. "Go ahead, Broadway," Goliath said. "What do you have to say?"
"Well," Broadway began sheepishly, a blush spreading across his face, "as you all know, Angela and I have been very close for the past couple years. And now, uh, we..."
"We want to formally become mates," Angela finished for him. Everyone instantly broke out into cheers and congratulations, the men walking up to slap Broadway on the back.
"Maybe someone should go to Avalon in person to bring Tom and Katherine here," Brooklyn mused. "If we just told them by e-mail, they might get the wrong idea."
"Let me and Angela worry about that," said Broadway. "We'll wait till preparations are nearly ready for the ceremony, then leave. I hope the magic of Avalon will bring us straight back here after we pick everyone up."
- “Slayer Senshi.”
July 5, 1999.
Washington, DC. 5:20 pm.
“What is this about, Bob?” Senator Bill Mitchell asked, waving
a hand at the door before turning back to the balding gray-haired man in
the charcoal suit who had just requested a private conference with him.
“I have reporters out there waiting for me. They’re talking to Ellen right
now, but she can only hold them so long. They really want to talk to me.”
“I know that,” Bob Alexander replied, a smile on his stern features as he addressed his bespectacled, brown-haired, and gentlemanly boss. “I just wanted to tell you that Alan and I got it all set up. The Sunshine deal went through perfectly. You won’t have to worry about your finances any when you make the run.”
Mitchell returned his chief of staff’s smile. “That’s great, Bob,” he said. “I have my issues, I have a good staff, I have my finances, and I have my running mate. I say it’s time to tell the press what they’ve been waiting to know.”
The other man nodded. “I think so, sir. Harry has already arranged the mass-producing of your campaign memorabilia. He, Alan, and I are ready to go any time you are.”
“Good,” Mitchell replied, turning and walking towards the door. “By the way, Bob,” he turned to add halfway, “what do you think of my choice of running mates?”
“Congressman Nance is alright,” Bob answered with a frown. “But are you sure he’s the best choice for the position?”
“Of course. He’s a very honorable man. A Boy Scout, if you will. A man like that next to me on the ticket adds great credibility to my campaign. The public loves him, too. And Ellen loves him. So I love him. What do you think?”
“If you say he’s right, I’m sure he is. I’m just a little concerned given that he used to be from our opponents.”
“Used to be, Bob. He switched parties after becoming disgusted with the Republicans’ corruption. Gary Nance is a Democrat now, he’s on our side.”
Bob nodded. “Right. I think you have a good chance to win, Bill. The Democrats don’t really have anyone else besides Al Gore who wants to run, and no one’s going to want that dullard as the party spokesman. The Republicans are scrambling for a candidate now that Bush is out, I’d be surprised if they decide on someone by November.”
“Whoever it is, Bob, I’ll beat them. I have a feeling about this.”
“Right. You can depend on Harry, Alan, and me to help.”
The Senator nodded, then went out the door of his chief of staff’s office and then through the front hall of his campaign headquarters, ready to face the gathered press. His wife Ellen stood in front of them, and he spared her only a glance as he turned exultantly towards the reporters. Pictures were snapped, questions were yelled, and cheers were raised. Mitchell waved for silence, then shouted that he had an announcement to make.
“Go ahead, Senator,” said a blonde woman in the front row. She motioned to the cameraman next to her, who nodded that he was already aiming at Mitchell’s face.
Mitchell smiled at Nikki Holliday and then strode to the podium Ellen was ready to relinquish to him. Ignoring his wife’s look of slight displeasure, he beamed at the reporters and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, for a long time I have been talking about my desire to run for the White House next year. I have also been putting measures into effect to see if doing that and winning would be possible. Now that my financial base is clearly secure, and I have chosen my running mate, I am very confident in my ability to finally make a decision.”
“And that decision is?!” a rude reporter yelled from the back.
Mitchell grimaced and then smiled, deciding to pretend like he appreciated the man’s eagerness. “The decision is, ladies and gentlemen, positive. I think that it is safe to say I will be running for first the Democratic nomination and then President of the United States. Until a few months from now, my campaign will not officially begin. But I think I can say now that this is the next step I want to take in serving the American people. All of the American people need to be united as one, no matter their ethnicity, race, creed, gender, or species. Once we are united, and we all have equal rights without discrimination, we will have a better society. It is my belief that as President, I can make this society a reality. The voyage to this dream begins today.”
The cheering increased in volume at hearing that, and Mitchell smiled along with it. And I will hear them cheer even louder, he thought. I’ll hear it when I win the election. Which I am going to do. I am going to complete this voyage, no matter what it takes.
Manhattan Harbor, 10:04 pm.
In a city a few hundred miles north of Washington, several hours
later, a voyage of the less metaphorical sort was also beginning. A small
white cabin cruiser was docked at a pier, and standing on the concrete
walkway beside it were two gargoyles and a human. “The harbor master says
you’re cleared to go,” a darkbearded man said to the portly blue-skinned
gargoyle nearest him as he hung up his cell phone. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“Thanks, Xanatos,” Broadway replied, turning to the lavender female standing beside him and looking forlornly out to sea. “Are you ready, Angela?” he asked his intended mate.
“Of course,” Angela smiled back, turning to face Broadway. “It will be good to see Avalon again.”
Broadway nodded. “I’m looking forward to seeing it for the first time myself. If it’s half as beautiful as your stories and Goliath and Elisa’s say…”
“It’s even more beautiful,” Angela said. “Trust me.”
“Well, it can’t be as beautiful as you.” Angela smiled and gave him a kiss. Xanatos politely turned away just as a puff of smoke went off near him, accompanied by a loud bang.
“I am never going to get the hang of that,” said the darkhaired young woman who had just appeared, straightening her gray jacket, jeans, and dark blue vest as she stepped out of the smoke. “Teleportation may be cooler and faster, but give me flying any day.”
The other three smiled politely, watching as Rachel shrugged the backpack off her shoulders and tossed it aboard the boat. “Are you still sure you want to go?” Xanatos asked his daughter as she turned back to face them.
“Dad, come on,” Rachel replied smugly. “We talked about this last night. I want to go see Grandmother’s home. You, Mom, Broadway, Goliath, and Oatmeal all agreed it was okay.”
Xanatos nodded. “Alright. It’s just that you’ve only been home two weeks. You’re heading out to Avalon now, and God only knows how long you could be gone.”
Rachel shook her head, giving him a look that said her father should know that she could take care of herself very well despite her youth. “Dad.”
“Alright,” David said quickly, “I’m not going to worry. Broadway, you and Angela take good care of my daughter.”
“We will,” Broadway nodded, checking his watch. “Goliath and the others promised they’d come see us off. I wonder where they are.”
“A short distance behind me, probably,” Rachel replied. “I was practicing teleportation and got ahead.”
Angela nodded, understanding Rachel’s impulsive nature. “Brooklyn and his family are also coming with us to see Avalon,” she recalled. “I hope they get here soon.”
“They will,” Rachel assured her. “They got off to a late start, though. That man Brumley showed up and started trying to Brooklyn have Ari stay behind.” She adjusted her voice slightly, doing a near-perfect imitation of the doughy-faced Watcher. “The Slayer is needed here, not on some far-off mystic island!” Broadway, Angela, and David shared a chuckle which Rachel continued before going on. “Brooklyn and Sata told him that ‘where you need to be’ stuff and he gave in. I think the old goat wants us to end up in Cleveland or St. Louis after we leave Avalon. According to the Daily Tattler, those places have quite their share of vampire problems.”
“Polynesia too,” Broadway added. “Not that one should believe everything in the tabloids of course.”
“Then Zack started an argument with Aunt Elisa,” Rachel continued. “About bringing Richard Fisk to trial.”
“Oh boy,” Broadway whistled. “Not that again.”
Rachel nodded in agreement. “I’m afraid so. They both have good points, you know. Before and especially after the Goblin attacks, we have found a lot of evidence linking Fisk and his companies to the Rose’s operations. But Aunt Elisa’s right in that almost none of it will stand up in court.”
“Yeah,” Broadway agreed. “And until we get some that will, the guy can’t even be arrested.”
“I think Zack knows that,” said Rachel. “He just hates to admit that it’s true. The argument got pretty bad this time. In the end, Goliath, Demona, and Sata all had to intervene and break it up.”
Angela sighed heavily. “I hope we can get the Rose soon. Then these arguments can stop for good.”
Xanatos flashed them a smile. “Look on the bright side, guys. At least things are going the right way here. You’re not letting the Rose interfere in what should be everyone’s happiness at the upcoming mating ceremony, and you’ve decided Fisk will answer to justice instead of vengeance. If times were different, the same might not be true.”
Broadway nodded. “Right. If Seth were still around, it might have already been decided.”
“Please, Broadway,” Angela interrupted before he could say anything further, “don’t mention that man.”
“Sorry,” Broadway replied, remembering the way Seth had acted and the things he had done the last time Angela had seen him. He had not been there to see them, but the stories of his clanmates who had were enough. His thoughts were interrupted by the noise of descending jet engines from Fox’s battlesuit and the flapping wings of gargoyles, signaling that the rest of the clan had finally arrived.
Goliath landed first and immediately walked over to embrace his daughter. Angela returned the hug and then stepped out of it, ready to accept the one Demona was offering next. “Uh, you two are going to let her go, right?” a small beaked gargoyle with green skin asked.
“Of course,” Demona smiled, stepping away from Angela to let Elisa run up and give yet another hug to Angela after Brooklyn set her down. “What made you think we weren’t?”
“I don’t know, maybe the way you held on to her so tightly.” Graeme grinned, then instantly ducked as a bo stick swung out his way. “Ari, quit it!”
“Next time don’t dodge,” his sister quipped. “Maybe I will.”
Graeme shot her an angry glare. “Mom!”
“Arianna-chan,” Sata said as if by rote, walking over to them. “Please don’t hit your brother.” Ari rolled her eyes and stuck out her tongue at Graeme, a gesture he quickly returned. Xanatos, who now had Fox standing beside him, smiled at Rachel and the toddler in his wife’s arms, his eyes saying that he was glad they never acted like Graeme and Ari often did.
Angela stepped out of Elisa’s hug and looked around at the clan. “Where are Zack, Lex, and Hudson?”
“Our police band picked up a report of people holding a bar at gunpoint on the way over,” Brooklyn replied. “They went to check it out. They should be here shortly.”
“Good,” Broadway nodded. “I’m not going off without telling them goodbye.”
“Of course not,” his rookery brother grinned, taking the duffel bags Sata handed him and walking on board the boat. “You sure this ship is big enough for the Avalon clan, too, Xanatos?” Brooklyn asked as he opened the cruiser’s cabin and placed the luggage inside.
“You probably won’t be bringing the Avalon clan back with you, Brooklyn,” Xanatos answered. “Rachel told me she can convince Titania to teleport them in.”
“Oh,” Brooklyn replied. “And if she can’t?”
“Don’t worry about me,” Rachel smiled. “I have my ways.”
The red gargoyle nodded knowingly, turning back to close the cabin door. “You didn’t tell us about this, Rachel,” Broadway said as his rookery brother jumped back onto the dock.
“I was going to on the way,” the girl answered. “Sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Angela said. “So who will be piloting the boat?” she asked Xanatos.
“I thought I’d take care of that,” Brooklyn spoke up. “It looks like a simple outboard motor, I can handle that.”
“The console at the bow controls it, Brooklyn,” Fox said. “You’ll find an owners’ manual right under it, in the drawer.”
“Thanks,” Brooklyn said. “I’m sure that will come in handy.”
“Yeah,” Graeme smiled. “Especially since Dad can’t pilot worth…” His father’s hand shot out and closed his beak.
“I’m sure you can handle a trip or two to Avalon and back,” Angela told Brooklyn. “Right?”
Brooklyn nodded and smiled. “Of course. By the way, Xanatos, does this boat have a name?”
Xanatos shrugged. “Why don’t we let the soon-to-be newlymates give it one?”
Angela pursed her lips for a moment. “How about the ‘Ocean Traveler?’”
“I don’t know,” Broadway said. “That’s a little generic. What about the ‘Casablanca?’” He smiled at Angela. “Here’s looking at you.”
“Whatever,” Angela smiled, recalling the film of which her mate spoke. “As long as it gets us safely to Avalon and back, I don’t care about the name.”
Xanatos nodded. “Casablanca it is then. I’ll have the name put on when you get back. Hope it doesn’t herald anything amiss for your future.”
Broadway smiled and pulled his intended close. “I wouldn’t worry about that.”
“Ahoy then, maties,” Brooklyn quipped. “While we’re waiting for Hudson and Lex, let’s get ready to ship out.”
Dockside Bar, 10:16 pm.
“Well, well,” Edward Salton said some time earlier, waving his
henchmen to silence as the five young people who had just entered the bar
approached their table. “Johnny,” he smiled, raising a glass of wine in
toast. “It’s been a long time.”
“Shut up, Salton,” snapped the black-haired youth wearing jeans, leather jacket, and dark glasses who stood in front of the group of vigilantes. Salton’s half-shaven face blanched for a moment, but then he nodded and leaned back, waiting expectantly. The two youngest members of Johnny Ireland’s group, a black teenage couple named Zip Cassidy and Chrissy Holmes, fanned out to the table’s sides, keeping an eye on the five punks who sat with Salton as they held their hands ready at their hips. Longhaired Larry King and blonde-bearded Rex Barnes stayed close to their leader, each holding the pistol butt that stuck out of the right pockets of their jeans. “Where is he, Salton?” Johnny asked, putting his hands on his hips and getting right to the point as he glared at the Blood.
“Where’s who?” Salton asked in reply. The three punks nearest him- Greenhead, Gaul, and Roman- chuckled politely until glares from Rex and Larry made them shut up. The other two punks, a large-nosed man called Jackdaw and a short bald Puerto Rican with tattooed arms, kept their eyes on Chrissy and Zip.
“You know who I’m talking about,” Johnny snarled angrily. “We’ve been looking all over the city for him for months now. Now we’ve found you, and we know you know where he is. You’re his lieutenant, after all. So where is he, Salton? Where’s Muscles Malone?”
Salton met Johnny’s glare with equal intimidation. “What makes you think I’m gonna tell you?”
“Look, Eddie,” Rex broke in, “Muscles killed Johnny’s family, and his best friend. We just want to make him answer for his crimes.”
“I’m not telling you where to find him,” Salton replied. “I am an intelligent person, Rex. Johnny and me may be old friends, and so may me and you, but that’s not enough for me to help you put my boss get a life term in prison.”
“We are not friends, Salton,” Johnny growled. “That ended the day you killed Uncle Mark.” He leaned closer and put his hand on the table. “Anyway, who said anything about prison? I think that’s too good for Muscles, don’t you? I don’t want him in jail for his crimes, Salton. I want him dead.”
“Still,” Salton said calmly, “even if I knew where Muscles was right now, I have no reason to tell you.”
“Then maybe I ought to give you one.” With that, Johnny drew a pistol from his jacket pocket and aimed it at Salton’s head.
A hush seemed to instantly settle in the small tavern, all eyes turning towards the Bloods and the Sparks. The bartender and four large men seated on stools before him got up and looked like they were about to approach, but Larry drew the machine pistol from the small of his back and told them to keep away. Zip and Chrissy’s guns came out as well, covering the five punks. Rex meanwhile put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder, shaking his head. “Johnny,” he said, “this is not a good idea. Let’s be reasonable, okay? Kara wouldn’t want you getting into a gunfight if she was here.”
“Kara copped out of this, Rex,” Johnny shot back. “Bill too. They don’t get a vote here.”
“Well, then the rest of us do, Johnny?” Chrissy asked. “Right?”
“And we decide against you, pal,” Zip agreed. “Let’s not spill any blood here if we don’t need to, okay?”
“Go ahead and kill me if you want to, Johnny,” Salton bravely grinned. “I’m worth as much dead as I am alive. Muscles will collect my life insurance I so loyally set up for him and be able to be lots of new weapons.”
“Shut up,” Johnny growled, cocking back the hammer as he pushed his pistol’s barrel into Salton’s brow.
“Kill me if you want to,” the Blood repeated. “Your choice. I really don’t care.”
“Johnny,” Rex said, “we’re not going to get anything out of this guy. He doesn’t know where Muscles is, that’s obvious. Let’s just go, okay? We have to patrol.”
“No,” Johnny replied. “I’m not leaving until I get my answers.”
“Well, you’re not getting any from me,” Salton shrugged. “What about the rest of you?” Roman, Gaul, Jackdaw, and the Puerto Rican all shook their heads.
“I’d love to help you, Johnny,” Greenhead smiled. “But I don’t know where Muscles is tonight. I just got back into this gang a few months back, and they don’t trust me that much. So I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, Max,” Johnny nodded. “I’m sorry too.” His finger tightened on the trigger, but then he moved the pistol away from Salton’s head and lowered it to his side. “Let’s go, guys. Salton, I’ll see you on the street.”
“See you there, Johnny,” Salton smiled cheerfully. “Later.” Sparing him nearly a glance, the five Sparks turned and walked out. After a few comforting words from Salton, the Bloods returned to their drinks.
“You did well, Johnny,” Rex said as they walked out. “Sorry we didn’t get anything.”
“It’s alright, guys,” Johnny sighed. “There’ll be another time.”
Suddenly the flapping of wings came from overhead. Two gargoyles, one small and green and the other mahogany and graybearded, landed before them, a crow-faced blonde man in a black spacesuit-like exoframe descending on quiet jet engines nearby. “Hello, Lex,” Johnny said as they stood up and turned to him and the other vigilantes. “Zack, Hudson.”
Zack Sheppard pointed at the tavern they had just exited. “We just heard a report that some men were in that place holding a group at gunpoint. Want to go in and help us handle it?”
“We were the men you heard about, Zack,” Larry quickly confessed. “Some Bloods are in there and Johnny tried to get them to tell us where Muscles was. Don’t worry, though, we’re gonna move on now. Nobody got hurt.”
Lex and Hudson raised their eyebrows, looking at each other. “Alright,” Lex finally said. “Just don’t go shooting anybody tonight, okay, guys?”
The Sparks nodded. “We won’t unless we have to,” said Rex.
“Fine, lad,” Hudson sighed. “Shall we get back to Angela and Broadway then?”
Lex and Zack nodded, the latter looking like he wanted to try to apprehend the Bloods before they left. A quick glance from Hudson reminded him they didn’t have time if they wanted to see off the travelers, and Zack nodded. Then he turned and jetted off, Hudson and Lex climbing the building nearby and taking off themselves as the Sparks watched.
After they were gone, Johnny sighed and nodded at his fellow Sparks, waving to the van parked nearby. “I wish Seth were still here,” Zip said as they opened the doors and got in. “He could probably find Muscles in a matter of hours, like he found the Rose back during the big gang war. If he was with us, we could have solved this by now.”
“Yeah, Zip,” Johnny agreed. “And you wouldn’t have a six month backlog of videogame problems to deal with either. Let’s forget about Seth, guys. He may have been a good friend to us while he was here, but now he’s gone. We’ll just have to manage without him. I don’t think he’s ever coming back.”
Manhattan Harbor, 10:48 pm.
“We almost didn’t think you were coming,” Brooklyn remarked a
few minutes later as Zack, Lex, and Hudson descended from above.
“Oh, be quiet,” Sheppard sighed, shutting off his suit’s jets and walking over to stand by Xanatos and Fox. Hudson and Lex ignored the exchange, walking over to Angela and Broadway instead.
“See you guys when you get back,” Lex said to them. “Have a great time on Avalon.”
“We’ll try,” Broadway replied. “Hope Oberon doesn’t give us much trouble.”
“He shouldn’t,” Angela said. Then she paused and glanced over at Rachel, who was standing on the boat’s deck talking to Ari, Alex, and Graeme. “Broadway, are you sure we should be taking her with us?”
“I share your concerns, my daughter,” said Goliath, who was standing beside them. “But if Xanatos and Fox feel confident in her, I see no reason why we should not as well.”
“I think she’ll be alright,” said Xanatos. “Owen said she has the power to take on Oberon if necessary.”
“And I’m sure my mother will help her if anything happens,” Fox agreed with a sigh in her voice. “We discussed it last night. Rachel’s going.”
“Don’t worry,” Broadway told Fox. “We’ll protect her. I’m sure the Avalon clan will, too.”
“The lass hardly needs anyone’s protection,” Hudson commented dryly. “She’s proved that every night we’ve fought together.”
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Demona agreed. “You should concern yourself more with yourself and your intended, Angela.”
“Of course, Mother,” Angela nodded. She turned back to the boat as Sata walked out of the cabin. “How’s it going, Brooklyn?”
The red gargoyle, who had gone back to flipping through the boat’s manual after noting Zack, Lex, and Hudson’s arrival, looked up. “I think I got most of what’s in here,” he said, tapping the manual and then setting it down beside the boat’s controls. He conferred briefly with Sata, then nodded. “And the bags are all stowed. Ready when you are, guys.”
“Alright,” Angela nodded, then turned back to the others still on the dock. “Well, we better get going. Goodbye, Father.”
Goliath bent forward and hugged his daughter one more time, as did Demona. Elisa nodded at Angela and said, “Have a nice trip,” then gave her own embrace. “See you when you get back.”
Angela thanked her, embraced Lex and Hudson, then nodded at Sheppard and the Xanatoses before stepping onto the boat. Rachel said her own goodbyes then, as did Brooklyn and his family. “Don’t forget to feed Nudnik,” Graeme reminded Hudson.
“I won’t, lad,” the elderly gargoyle said, waving a fond farewell.
“Take good care of my daughter, Broadway,” Goliath said. The portly gargoyle nodded that he would, embraced each of the clan, and then stepped onto the boat beside Angela.
“Time to go, Alex,” Fox called to her son. The redhaired child nodded, and after bidding his friends farewell levitated back to his parents’ side.
Graeme and Ari cast off the lines, Brooklyn started the engine, and seconds later the boat was underway. The gargoyles and humans who were remaining behind watched their departure, some looking pensive as the boat headed out to sea. “Are you sure we should be letting them go like this?” Elisa asked Goliath. “I mean, without us they’re going to Avalon and then god knows where…”
“They are part of our clan, Elisa,” the gargoyle leader replied. “And as such we must trust them, and have faith in their abilities even though we worry about them as well.” Everyone nodded at his wisdom, and then for a long time stood on the dock, watching as the boat bearing their clan members reached the horizon and then disappeared over it, hoping that their friends and family on board would soon return.
En Route to Avalon, 11:12 pm.
“Vocate venti,” Brooklyn intoned loudly a half hour into their journey.
“Fortunate ex rege Oberonis et hic navis flugem regate ad orae Avalonis!”
In the cabin beneath the boat’s deck, Rachel Xanatos scarcely heard the words, instead listening to Angela as she talked of Avalon and what life there had been like. Graeme and Arianna continued to ask her questions, each talking a mile a minute as the expression went. Angela patiently answered each question as Broadway sat still and listened, looking appropriately happy or thoughtful as his mate delivered each response. Rachel did the same, smiling inwardly as she thought of how they would soon be seeing all the things Angela described.
“The most beautiful part of Avalon is the garden Tom called Eden,” Angela was saying now. “And I agreed with him that it was beautiful. Except for the ancient blackened husks of two trees at its center. I know not how they came to be there, but perhaps Titania could tell you if you asked her.”
“I’ll do that,” Graeme said. “I’ve heard a lot of legends about the Garden of Eden. It will be interesting to see how much they’re true.”
“Do you have any questions, Rachel?” Angela asked, turning toward the young Halfling girl. “You’ve been quiet, and I thought you’d have the most curiosity about our destination of anyone.”
“Well,” Rachel shrugged, “Graeme and Ari have already asked just about everything I wanted to. I’ll save the other questions to be answered when I see Avalon for myself.”
Broadway nodded. “Alright, but aren’t you curious about anything?”
Rachel thought for a moment, then nodded. “I know my grandmother, but I don’t know Oberon. Puck’s told me a lot of horror stories about him, but I don’t know if I can believe them all. And Grandmother hasn’t been very forthcoming in her e-mails to me about Oberon. Angela, can you tell me what he’s like?”
Angela grimaced. “Well, I never did get a chance to know Oberon that well, but I did meet him a few times. After I met Father and Elisa.”
Rachel nodded. “I know. What was he like when you met him?”
The female gargoyle shook her head. “He wasn’t a very nice person, Rachel. I think the stories Puck told you were probably more than half true.”
A knock sounded on the nearby door to the deck above. Ari opened it to admit Sata. “Brooklyn requests your presence above, Angela-chan,” the Japanese gargoyle said. “He feels we need a guide through the mists that now surround us.”
“Brooklyn shouldn’t be worried,” Angela smiled. “All he needs is to maintain a steady course and we’ll soon arrive at Avalon’s shores.”
“Thank you,” Sata said. “I shall tell him.” She turned around and, shutting the door behind her, walked back towards the helm.
“Hope Dad can get us there safely,” Graeme said. “If I remember the last time I saw him pilot a boat…”
“I’m sure my dad made sure this boat has enough features to help even your dad get us there, Graeme,” Rachel broke in. “Let’s have a little confidence, okay?”
“There aren’t any sea monsters in the waters around Avalon, right, Aunt Angela?” Ari nervously asked.
“Not that I know of,” Angela replied. “We may meet the Wyrd Sisters, though.”
“I can deal with them if we do,” Rachel smiled. “I’ve been practicing transformation magics.”
“Doing what the Magus did to get past the sisters might not be a good idea, Rache,” Broadway said. “With Oberon so close by, and…”
“Never mind,” Angela cut off her mate. “If they challenge us, we can pass peacefully. I’ll just claim my right as a member of the clan that forms Oberon’s honor guard.”
Rachel nodded. “That should work.”
The door opened again, this time to admit Brooklyn. “I think we’re coming up on Avalon,” he said. “Want to come have a look?”
Everyone nodded, then got up. Broadway and Angela walked onto deck behind Brooklyn. Ari grabbed her bo stick and followed immediately. “I’ll be up there in a second,” Rachel told Graeme. “Gotta get the binoculars out of my bag.”
Graeme nodded. “See you in a second.” He turned and followed his sister. Rachel grabbed her backpack and pulled it open, hunting around inside with one hand. I could just use a vision-enhancing spell, she thought. But field glasses are less straining on the eyes, and I can also share.
After twenty seconds of hunting, Rachel’s fingers closed on a metal object of strange texture. “What’s this?” she asked herself, pulling the object out. She gasped as it was revealed to be a strangely shaped golden plaque with a gold and blue bird of some kind embossed on the cracked front. “The Phoenix Gate,” Rachel realized, sensing the great magic locked within the object she held. “What’s it doing here?”
“Rachel, come on!” Graeme shouted from above. Better not tell them about this, Rachel quickly decided. Since I don’t remember putting it in my bag, the Gate must have appeared there of its own accord. If I’m lucky it will leave by its own power as well. I’ll worry about it later, no need to tell Brooklyn or anyone else it’s showed up yet. Shoving the Gate back into her backpack under some spare clothing, Rachel grabbed her binoculars and ran up towards the deck.
Shores of Avalon, 8:40 pm Avalon time.
“How breathtaking,” Graeme whispered up on deck as the mists before
them parted and the island of Avalon finally came into view. Everyone nodded,
acknowledging that indeed it was. Though only a medium-sized island, Avalon
boasted a number of different environments placed together for enormous
beauty and effect. A rocky beach stretched around its perimeter, bordering
the mountains of Vengard, a small desert, the gardens of Eden and their
nearby clumps of deciduous and coniferous trees mixed in with palms and
other plants from the Guatemalan rain forest. Plains stretched around the
island as well, bordering a small lake, the great castle of the clan, and
Oberon’s palace, as well as the rocky clump of the Hollow Hill. The beach
had only one open stretch that the gargoyles could see, a sandy strand
with two large braziers and several wooden boats drawn up on the shore.
“So this is Avalon,” Rachel said, coming up on deck and looking over the island as Brooklyn turned them towards the beach. “You gotta admit, it does look like a nice place.”
“Can I borrow those for a sec?” Ari asked, indicating the binoculars. Rachel nodded and handed them to her, then walked to the boat’s rail beside Graeme.
The young green gargoyle scanned the sky with his sharp vision, noting eight winged shapes flying low over the mountains toward the beach. “That must be the clan,” he said.
“Yeah,” Broadway agreed. “I’m looking forward to meeting them.”
“I as well,” Sata said. “But we should worry about them first.” She pointed to another boat, one of the wooden skiffs from the beach, heading towards them. Three strangely identical women stood inside it, each wearing a long blue dress. Except for their hair colors, the guardians of Avalon looked exactly the same, down to the stern expression on each hauntingly beautiful face.
“Who comes here?” the darkhaired one asked as their ships drew close.
“What business have mortals on Avalon?” the blonde one added.
“And why should we permit you to trespass upon its shores?” the silver-haired one concurred.
Rachel raised her hand, but Angela pushed it down and stepped forward. “I am Angela of the Avalon clan,” she said. “These are my friends. We come to visit those of my clan who live on this island.”
The Wyrd Sisters nodded. “You may pass, Angela of the Avalon clan,” they spoke as one. “Lord Oberon and his lady Titania would wish to bid you welcome. Be sure to pay your respects to them.”
“I shall,” Angela nodded.
“We all will,” Brooklyn agreed, trying to hide the obvious reluctance in his tone.
“That would be wise,” Selene told them.
“Lord Oberon will want to speak with one of your companions,” added Phoebe.
“To know where she has been hiding herself all these years,” agreed Selene.
“I look forward to meeting Lord Oberon,” Rachel challenged them. “Hopefully we will gain a prosperous relationship.” The Sisters nodded, then faded away.
“Are you sure you should have said that, Rachel?” Graeme asked as they drew closer to the beach.
“Why not?” she shrugged. “It’s not like I can avoid meeting the guy, and besides would they have let us pass if I hadn’t given a positive response?”
Brooklyn nodded, agreeing that she had a point. “Ignore my brother,” Ari advised Rachel. “He just worries too much because he has a crush on you.”
“I do not,” Graeme countered.
“Guys, please,” Rachel interrupted before Ari could make a comeback. “If Ari’s right, I’ll be very flattered, but I don’t care if she is or not. And in any case, nobody likes it when you guys fight each other. Let’s try to have a good time on this trip, okay?”
The twins nodded and backed off from one another. “Thanks, Rachel,” Brooklyn whispered, Sata nodding as well.
“No problem,” the young Halfling smiled, reveling in the great feeling of magic in the air as they got closer to Avalon’s shore. Angela called out cheerful greetings as the gargoyles they had seen earlier swooped down and landed before them just as they drew level with the sand. Brooklyn cut off the engines and the group stepped out of the boat onto the beach. The group of eight gargoyles, six of which were obviously descended from the Wyvern clan and the other two looking Mayan in origin, smiled and approached them.
“Angela,” the blue-skinned and golden-haired male who led the group smiled as soon as he saw them. “So good to see you after all this time. Welcome home, my sister!”
“Hello, Gabriel,” Angela replied, leaning forward and sweeping her rookery brother into a hug. “Everyone,” she said as they broke the embrace, “this is Gabriel, my brother and leader of the Avalon clan.”
“Greetings,” Gabriel nodded at them. “If you are friends of Angela, you are surely friends of mine. May I have your names, please?”
“I’m Brooklyn of the Manhattan clan,” Brooklyn introduced himself. “This is my mate Sata, and our children Arianna and Graeme.”
“I’m Broadway,” Broadway said, grasping Gabriel’s forearm in a warrior’s handshake. “Also of the Manhattan clan.”
“Rachel Xanatos,” Rachel nodded, smiling at the glances from the Avalon gargoyles.
“A pleasure to meet all of you,” Gabriel said. “This is Ophelia, Andrew, Corwin, Miriam, Tourmaline, Jadeh, and Turquesa of my clan.”
Broadway, Brooklyn, Sata, Rachel, and the twins each shook hands with the gargoyles, smiling as Angela embraced them. “I’ll get the bags,” Graeme offered, heading back to the boat’s cabin after his father’s nod.
“You did get our message,” Angela stated. “Right?”
“Of course,” Gabriel said. “Queen Titania introduced us to the human creations called ‘e-mail’ and ‘internet’ soon after her return here. They are quite interesting things. We got your message only two hours ago, though, so that precluded any major celebrations of your arrival.”
“The time difference,” Angela nodded. “Of course.”
“I think I know you,” the slender fin-eared Corwin said to Brooklyn. “Queen Titania showed us an image a few days ago. You were on it, in a primary role.”
Brooklyn nodded. “Yeah, that tape was made about six months ago, our time. Did Titania show it to anyone else?”
“Our entire clan,” Corwin answered. “Guardian Tom and the Princess as well. And several of the fay. Odin, Thoth, Bast, Isis, Coyote, Nought, Thor, Lapin, Krishna, Raven, Marduk, and a few others.”
“Right,” Brooklyn smiled. “That’s good.”
“Tell me something,” the tall and burly gray gargoyle Andrew broke in. “All that stuff in the image, is it really going to happen?”
“You’re not the only one who wishes it won’t,” Brooklyn shook his head. “But we can’t stop it, all we can do is handle the situation when it comes.”
Ceratopsian-browed Ophelia nodded. “And our clan will be ready to aid in the ‘handling’ of it.”
“Thank you,” Brooklyn said, turning back to Angela and Gabriel as they continued to talk. Graeme returned with the bags and passed them out, handing Ari and Sata their backpacks and Broadway his own duffel bag.
“Here’s your bag, Rachel,” Graeme said. The Halfling took it and thanked him, then went back to listening as Gabriel started questioning Angela about Manhattan and the health of the other gargoyles from her clan.
“Those questions can wait a while,” Ophelia broke in to suggest. “Let’s get back to the castle where they won’t have to repeat themselves. Okay?”
Gabriel nodded. “Alright. You will be staying a while, Angela?”
“Yes,” Angela replied. “One night and day at least.”
“Good,” Gabriel smiled. “Come then, let’s go to the castle. There we can gather the clan and you can make that announcement your message mentioned.”
“Sure,” Angela said, everyone else nodding that they would also come along. “Brooklyn, the boat…”
“I don’t think anyone’s going to steal it,” Rachel interrupted. She put her hand on the bow and whispered a magical litany, causing the ship to briefly glow with an eldritch light. “There, it’s warded. Now nobody can touch it but us.”
“Thanks,” Brooklyn smiled. “Shall we go then?” Everyone nodded and, hefting their bags, they headed off across the pathway leading up from the beach, towards the looming castle of the Avalon clan.
Castle of the Avalon clan, 9:42 pm.
“And so that is why we have come here,” Angela said to the gargoyles
and two humans gathered around her in the castle’s grand hall as their
cheering died down. “Broadway and I intend to be mated, and would very
much like you all to attend.”
The cheers broke out again and as soon as they had quieted, the elderly Princess Katherine spoke for all the Avalon clan present. “Of course we will come, Angela,” she said. “I would nae dare to miss the mating of one of my eggs.”
“Aye,” the armored man Tom agreed. “From the looks of him, Angela, you’ve chosen well. And you are a lucky man, sir.”
“Thank you,” Broadway replied, trying to keep his face from going into a blush.
“So when will the ceremony take place?” Gabriel asked. “As you know, time in Avalon passes on a much faster scale than in the mortal world. And if it’s to take place there…”
“It is,” Angela said. “But don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll be able to arrive on time. I’ll send you another message like the one you got saying I was coming here a few hours of your time beforehand. Then, if Queen Titania agrees, we can have her transport you all to Manhattan.”
Gabriel nodded. “Good. That sounds like it will get us there.”
“Speaking of Titania,” Rachel interjected, “shouldn’t we go see her now? Get it out of the way, I mean? That way we can be sure your travel plans are secure.”
“Of course,” Ophelia nodded. “You’ll find her in Oberon’s palace more than likely. Shall I guide them, Gabriel?”
The Avalon clan leader nodded. “Certainly. Thank you for volunteering.”
“I’ll go with you,” Broadway said. “Someone needs to tell Titania about the ceremony.”
“She already knows,” Rachel replied. “I sent her an e-mail. But if you wish to come along, you’re welcome.”
Broadway nodded and got up. “I’ll be back soon, Angela,” he said.
“Okay,” Angela smiled. “I’ll stay here and tell my clan about Manhattan while you’re gone.”
“I’ll come, too,” Brooklyn said. “Sata?”
Sata looked up from her conversation with Turquesa and two other Avalon females and said, “I’ll remain here.”
“Alright,” Brooklyn said, turning to follow Rachel, Broadway, and Ophelia out of the castle. Graeme ran across their path just then, pursued by Ari, a playful web-winged Avalon clan member named Jacob, and Boudicca, the Avalon clan’s gargoyle beast. Graeme screamed and fell over as the latter tackled him.
“Get off!” he wailed as Ari and Jacob chuckled at Boudicca licking his face. “Off!”
Brooklyn reached down and separated the beast from his son, smiling as he did so. “I see you’ve made some friends.” Graeme nodded.
“We’re going to see Oberon and my grandmother,” Rachel said. “Want to come along?”
Graeme glanced at his sister, who tapped her bo stick suggestively and grinned. “Uh, sure,” he said.
“Chicken,” Ari teased. Graeme shot her a glare.
“You stay here, Ari,” Brooklyn said. “We’ll be right back.”
“Okay,” she nodded, then waved and ran off with Boudicca and Jacob in hot pursuit. Brooklyn shook his head as he watched them go and then followed his son, Rachel, and Broadway as Ophelia waved them on.
The ceratopsian-browed gargoyle led them out of the castle and onto a dirt pathway heading towards the splendid multicolored towers of gem-studded stone that made up Oberon’s palace. Wisps and other small fairies flitted past them as they walked, some smiling or frowning but most ignoring the newcomers. “Most of the fay are on other parts of the island right now,” Ophelia said as they drew closer to the palace. “The Gathering is still continuing, but by now its attendees have broken off to each do their own thing, as Jacob would say.”
“Whatever helps them find fun,” Brooklyn nodded. “I imagine Oberon doesn’t let them get out much, so they can get cranky.”
“True,” Ophelia agreed. “But Oberon disciplines his Children well. We have not had any problems with them since their arrival.”
“That’s good,” Rachel said. “So what’s Oberon like?”
“What’s he like?” Ophelia mused. “Well…” She frowned, wondering what to tell Rachel. “He’s a nice person, if you can stay on his good side. Angela told us you’re related to Titania and good friends with her, so that should be easy for you. Uh, if I were you, I would also be respectful to Oberon. He will expect that, especially if the things Angela told us about you are true.”
“They are,” Rachel said. “I hope this guy doesn’t dislike me.”
“He shouldn’t,” Brooklyn told her. “As long as you don’t tick him off.”
“Right,” Ophelia nodded. “You should be careful. Oberon angers easily.”
“Rachel’s not afraid of his anger,” Graeme chuckled. “If Oberon gets mad at her, she’ll just blow him out of existence.”
“Um, no I won’t, Graeme,” Rachel countered, trying to hide the smile on her face. “This is Oberon we’re talking about. He’d be very difficult to deal with.”
“Well, hopefully, we won’t have to deal with him,” Broadway said. “It’s Titania we want to see.”
They walked on in silence for a little longer, until they reached the large wooden doors that led into the palace. The two shee knights who stood guard looked them over, seeming startled by Rachel’s appearance as well as the strange gargoyles. Rachel nervously adjusted her backpack straps as she looked back at them. “Um, hello,” she said.
“Greetings,” one of the shee replied.
“We’re here to see Titania and Oberon,” Brooklyn said.
The shee nodded, still looking at Rachel. “Of course,” he said. “Uh, welcome.” The other knight made a gesture and the doors of the palace slid open.
“Thank you,” Rachel said, walking past the two shee and into the palace with her gargoyle companions following behind. They walked across the strangely empty front hall, stopping as they reached another set of double doors. These opened to admit a tall floating man in a black suit, greatcoat, and top hat, his face covered by a shadows and a white mask.
“Hello,” the obvious fay greeted them, giving Brooklyn the ghost of a smile. “Good to see you, Timedancer.”
“Hi, Nought,” Brooklyn said. “How are you?”
“I’ve been well,” Nought replied, glancing over the beaked gargoyle’s companions. “Who is this?” he asked after sizing Rachel up with his blank gaze. “I thought all the fay who could had already returned to Avalon.”
“Well, I’m not a fay,” Rachel explained, extending her hand. “Rachel Xanatos, Titania’s granddaughter.”
“Ah,” Nought said, bowing formally and pressing the girl’s outstretched hand to his lips. “Welcome, Rachel.”
“Thank you,” she said. “You and Brooklyn know each other?”
“We’ve met,” Brooklyn confirmed. “During my travels.”
“This must be one of the children your mate was carrying when last we saw each other,” Nought said, smiling at Graeme. “Hello there, young one.”
“Hi,” the gargoyle youth replied. “I’m Graeme.”
“A pleasure to meet you,” Nought said, shaking the offered hand. “And you are?”
“Broadway,” Broadway replied, looking slightly unnerved by the strange fay’s gaze. “We’re here to see Titania.”
“Of course,” Nought said, pointing behind him. “You’ll find her in the throne room with Lord Oberon. Straight down this hall.”
“Thank you,” Broadway said, nodding at Nought as he walked around the fay and on through the palace. The others followed as Nought left them and drifted away.
“You were a little rude to him, Broadway,” Ophelia said.
“Sorry,” the portly gargoyle apologized. “I’m just a little eager to get back to Angela.”
Brooklyn nodded in understanding. “Right. I want to get back to Sata, too.”
“Then come on,” Rachel suggested as they reached the last set of doors. “Let’s get this over with.”
The others nodded and they pushed through the last set of doors, into the opulent palace throne room. Ranks of shee knights stood at attention along the gaily decorated walls, beside the red carpet leading up to the two thrones on which sat Oberon and Titania. The blue-skinned and white-haired fairy king looked up from the book he had been perusing, the mystical light from overhead playing off his red-gold armor and dark blue cape as he noticed the newcomers’ arrival. The redhaired fay in a revealing green and blue dress beside him, Queen Titania, was not startled in the least. She smiled at Rachel and the others, an expression Oberon did not miss as he turned to look at them.
“Greetings, Lord Oberon,” Ophelia said, stepping forward and bowing to the two fay rulers. “I bring these visitors to your court.”
“Thank you, guardian,” Oberon deeply intoned, regarding Rachel and the other three gargoyles with a stern gaze. “You may return to your clan.”
“Yes, my lord,” Ophelia nodded. “See you back at the castle, Brooklyn, Broadway.”
“Right,” Brooklyn waved as she walked off. “Later.”
Oberon stroked his chin as he looked over the visitors. “Hello, Rachel,” Titania said, trying to break the ice.
“Hi, Grandmother,” Rachel replied, smiling in gratitude. “And you are Lord Oberon,” she added, formally curtsying. “A pleasure to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you from my friends.”
Oberon frowned, turning away from the girl to look at Titania. “Who is this person?” he asked.
“This is Rachel,” Titania replied. “My granddaughter.”
“Granddaughter?” Oberon nearly gasped, ignoring Broadway, Graeme, and Brooklyn as he turned back to look at Rachel. “You fathered another child during our time apart?”
“No,” the faerie queen answered. “Like Alexander, she is also the child of my daughter Fox and her husband David Xanatos.”
“I see,” Oberon mused. “Then where were you?” he asked Rachel. “I do not recall you coming to your family’s defense when I challenged them three human years ago.”
“I wasn’t born then,” Rachel replied. Oberon gave her a look of puzzlement. “It’s a long story,” she said.
“Tell it to us,” Oberon commanded. “Whatever business you and your friends have with us can wait until we know more about the new locus of magical power in our midst.”
“Alright,” Rachel said. “I’ll give you the condensed version.” Brooklyn and Broadway patiently waited as she told Oberon of how she had been kidnapped several months ago, then had her body altered by the geneticist Dr. Sevarius while her mind was tutored in magics by the Illuminati sorcerer called Silvan Farrow. Graeme listened to the story, nodding as each significant point was reached. Titania did the same. When Rachel had finished, Oberon grimaced, then cleared his throat.
“Well,” he said, “it seems that the things humans can do with their science are even more amazing than we thought. It disturbs us, though, that you have trafficked. He is one of the Banished Ones, after all.”
Rachel nodded. “Yes, Silvan told me. I know a lot about him. And you.”
“Yes,” Oberon said. “Therefore I assume you are here to do the right thing for one of our kind. Come home and remain on Avalon.”
“No,” Rachel shook her head. “I’m just here to visit my grandmother and see this place. I may come back to it another day, but I don’t want to stay here. I have commitments back home, family.”
“Yes,” the faerie king agreed. “Of course you do. Still, Rachel, you should know that the best place for one with as much fay blood and ability as yourself is here on Avalon.”
Rachel looked confused. “If you believe this, then why are many fay banished from ever setting foot here?”
Oberon grimaced. “They challenged the rule of Avalon’s rightful lord, who is myself. For this and their other crimes against my state, they were stripped of most of their powers and forever banished from Avalon’s shores. You have committed no such transgression that I know of, so you are welcome here.”
“Thank you,” Rachel said. “I hope to keep on your good side, as they say, my lord.”
The fay ruler smiled, then made a sweeping gesture. “So tell me, what is it you do in the mortal world?”
“Well, I’m still in school,” Rachel answered. “But I also help people. I patrol with my friends in the local gargoyle clan whenever I’m in New York, and I’m also a junior member of the X-Men.”
“An organization of people like myself. Gifted with some degree of magical power. The humans call them mutants.”
“Ah, yes. We have heard of these ‘mutants’ appearing among your kind.”
“Right,” Rachel nodded. “My organization is devoted to helping people. The X-Men use their powers to aid and protect. Other mutants use their powers for less beneficial motives, and most of our energy goes toward thwarting them.”
“I see,” Oberon nodded. “That is quite important work. I suppose you should stay in the mortal world, if you are indeed helping people. I am surprised, however, that you can use your powers effectively. After all, you are very young.”
“I’ve been very well-trained,” Rachel said, cutting Graeme off before he could make a comment. “By both Puck and Silvan.”
“But Puck can only use his powers to train Alexander Xanatos.”
“That’s right,” Rachel agreed. “But I learn a lot through observation.”
“Hmm.” Oberon frowned, then nodded. “Alright. Now what business do you and your friends have here, other than introducing yourself to our court?”
“I’ll answer that,” said Broadway. “Angela and I are going to be mated, and we want the Avalon clan to attend the ceremony. We were wondering if Queen Titania could transport them all to Manhattan when it takes place.”
“I will be very happy to provide that service, Broadway,” Titania smiled. “My congratulations to you and Angela. I assume in return I may attend the ceremony as well?”
Broadway nodded. “Of course. I’m sure Angela and I would be glad to have you.”
“Good,” Titania replied. “Then it shall be done.”
“Hold on,” Oberon cut in. “You are my consort, and the Avalon clan my honor guard. You should ask me for permission before you make a decision to be away from this island, even if only for a short time.”
“I thought we agreed,” Titania countered. “I can go where I please.”
“You may,” Oberon nodded. “But my guardians…”
“With all due respect, Lord Oberon,” Rachel interrupted, “aren’t you one of the most powerful beings on Earth? You can surely go without the Avalon clan protecting the island for a few hours. Right?”
The faerie king frowned, then nodded. “Of course I can,” he said with a smile. “Very well. The Avalon gargoyles have my permission to depart from here, and attend this ceremony if they so wish.”
“Thank you,” Broadway replied, bowing formally. “We’ll send you an e-mail, Titania, so you can get everyone there before the wedding starts.” Titania smiled in thanks.
Oberon nodded and gestured again. “Alright. Is there anything else?”
“No, sir,” Brooklyn said. “If you’ll excuse us, we’ll be getting back to the clan’s castle now.”
Oberon waved towards the door in dismissal. “Enjoy Avalon while you are here,” he said as they stepped back. “Rachel, I hope we will see you again before your departure.”
“Count on it,” Rachel smiled back, bowing again before following Broadway, Graeme, and Brooklyn out of the throne room.
“That guy wasn’t as bad as Puck said he would be,” Graeme observed as they walked back towards the palace gates. “Maybe he was in a good mood.”
“If that’s true, I hope he stays that way for a while,” Rachel agreed. “Until we leave, at least.”
“He should,” Brooklyn guessed. “As long as nothing bad happens.”
“Let’s get back to the castle,” Broadway said. “I imagine Angela’s clan has lots of questions they want to ask me.”
Brooklyn nodded. “Sounds like a good idea.”
“You guys go on,” Rachel said, smiling at the two shee knights at the palace entrance as they passed by. “I want to look around Avalon a bit. I’ll catch up with you later.”
“Can I come with you?” Graeme asked her. “If I go back to the castle, I’m worried Ari will come after me again. That girl needs more vampires in her life.”
Brooklyn smiled. “Alright. You two stay out of trouble. Don’t go anywhere that looks too dangerous, and try to get back by two hours before dawn.”
“We will,” Rachel assured him with a smile. “C’mon, Graeme, let’s go see Eden first.” The gargoyle youth nodded in anticipation and then ran after her across Avalon’s fields.
“Are you sure it’s alright to let them wander this place alone?” Broadway asked Brooklyn.
“Avalon isn’t that dangerous,” Brooklyn replied with a grin. “They’ll be alright.” Broadway nodded and then they walked on, back towards the castle of the clan.
Avalon, 11:16 pm.
“This place is so amazing,” Graeme whistled several minutes later,
walking beside Rachel through the gardens of Eden that dominated Avalon’s
Rachel nodded as a group of brightly colored birds flocked chirping past them, then reached down to pick a flower from the trail nearby. “It’s a dandelion,” she identified it from memory, waving it towards her friend’s nostrils. “Want to blow on it and make a wish?”
“That’s a crazy superstition.”
“Maybe.” Rachel gave him an unconcerned shrug. “But just do it anyway, all right?”
Graeme shrugged and nodded, unable to refuse the look in her storm-gray eyes. Good thing I never knew her when she was Glamayre, he thought, remembering when Rachel had first gotten her increased powers and used them to terrorize the city at the whim of an insane gang leader and his punks. She got out of that fast thanks to Professor Xavier, Graeme recalled, what a relief that is. I don’t know if I could take the girl who’s my best friend turning out to be a bad guy again.
He blew on the dandelion Rachel held out, causing her to smile as the stems blew away. “I wished I could someday see something more beautiful than Avalon,” Graeme told her.
“Nice wish,” Rachel said, flinging the dandelion stalk over her shoulder as they walked on down the garden path. “I hope it comes true someday.”
“Me too,” Graeme replied. They continued through the garden for some time, a rabbit giving them a strangely intelligent look as he hopped past. Rachel sensed a fay hiding in the creature’s form, but whoever it was seemed apparently too busy to stop and chat. She shrugged her shoulders and walked on, Graeme following. Eventually they rounded a clump of beech and ash trees and the center of the gardens lay before them. Surprisingly it was the one black spot on the otherwise beautiful place, a patch of eternally cracked and desolate ground crowned by the burned-out husks of two dead trees.
“What do you suppose happened here?” Graeme asked as he walked forward and looked the trees over. “Ouch,” he gasped, pulling his hand back after touching one of them. “This bark is cold as ice.”
“Legends about the garden of Eden say the trees of life and knowledge were at its center,” Rachel speculated. “We know the garden’s real now that we’ve seen it here on Avalon. Maybe the trees were real, too, and somebody destroyed them.”
“Maybe,” Graeme said, looking around and noticing that no birds or animals flew nearby. “Rachel, this place gives me the creeps. It was beautiful at first, but now that I’ve seen this…”
“You feel it too, huh?” Rachel asked. Her companion nodded. “Okay, let’s get out of here. We’ve seen the gardens, what do you want to see next?”
The young green gargoyle shrugged. “I don’t know. Hey, how ‘bout we check out that place where King Arthur was asleep all those years? Maybe he left something cool behind, you never know.”
“Maybe,” Rachel grinned. “But whether or not, the Hollow Hill should still be interesting. Let’s go have a look at it.”
Graeme nodded and they headed out of the gardens, back the way they had come. Soon they were walking across Avalon’s plains, going towards the Hollow Hill that dominated the island’s northwestern cliffs. A few fay, including a strange black-feathered birdman and a white-bearded figure in Viking garb on an eight-legged horse, passed them on their way, but despite Rachel’s friendly waves none stopped to chat. After a half hour of hiking they reached the lake in front of their destination. Walking along its shores, they waved to a maiden with cream-colored skin and lily-white hair they could see swimming in the depths. She smiled and returned the gesture, not seeming to be bothered by the unfamiliar visitors.
“I think Oberon or Titania’s already sent out a telepathic message telling all them about you,” Graeme remarked as they crossed a short wooden bridge.
“I guess so,” Rachel agreed. “It seems strange, though. If they know who I am, why aren’t they saying hello?”
“Maybe they’re afraid of you. I mean, according to Puck you have more power in you than over half the fay here, and you don’t have to worry about iron.”
“That’s true. I guess I can understand if they’re worried about me. They should know they don’t have to be, though. As long as they don’t threaten or harm anyone, I’m okay with what they do.”
Graeme nodded. “I know that. But I doubt you just telling them will prove anything.”
Rachel shook her head. “Nope, it never does.” She stopped as they finished crossing the bridge, looking up at the great hill before them. The cave mouth at its center stood wide open, the briar-flanked path beside it seeming strangely untouched. “Something tells me no one’s been here in a while.”
“Yeah,” Graeme agreed. “That’s probably good. It means the place will be undisturbed.” He walked past Rachel and up the hill into the cave. The Halfling girl followed, nerves bristling with slight anticipation.
Nothing greeted them as they walked inside, only a stone bridge leading to the titanic pillar carved with druidic runes that extended out of the Hill’s cavernous depths. The slab in the center of the flat platform topping the pillar was empty, nothing there to mark the great king who had once rested on it. Graeme sighed heavily as he traced a line on the slab and found no dust. “This is kinda disappointing.”
“What’d you expect to find?” Rachel asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. The outline of Arthur’s body, some holy light shining on the slab, anything but the nothing that’s there.”
Rachel smiled and walked over beside him. “Well, I can still sense a lot of pent-up magic in this place, so at least there’s something. Maybe it was more spectacular before King Arthur woke up.”
“Yeah,” Graeme nodded. “Wish I could have seen it then.” He sighed and walked over to the edge of the stone platform, looking down at the depths. “I wonder how deep this goes.”
“I don’t know if we should find out,” Rachel said. “I remember Owen telling Alex and me scary stories about the miles of dark caverns underneath Avalon. The gods of the earth and the dead are supposed to have their homes down there.”
“Cool,” Graeme smiled, causing Rachel to shake his head. “Let’s go check them out. Maybe I’ll get to meet Anubis.”
“Anubis isn’t the only death-god among the fay, you know,” Rachel pointed out. “Some of them are supposed to have serious bad attitudes. There was this one guy Puck told me about, called Thanator, who…”
“That’s no problem. If one of them attacks us, you’ll blow ‘em away. Right?”
“Uh, I don’t know if Oberon and Grandmother would like that.”
“It would be self-defense, they’d understand. ‘We’re just children,’ right? Come on.”
Rachel sighed. “Okay, fine. But we’re teleporting back to the castle’s great hall by the time your dad said to.”
Graeme nodded agreement. “I know. We’ll do that. I just want to see some cool stuff in…” he checked his watch, “the four or so hours we have left.”
“Okay,” Rachel said, looking down at the black expanse beneath the platform. “It looks bottomless,” she observed. “How do you want to get down?”
“There’s a stairway over there,” Graeme replied, pointing to a set of steps descending from the pillar into the Hill’s depths.
Rachel waved her hand, casting a quick spell of divination. “We are not walking down there,” she said. “It’s over twenty thousand feet.”
“Holy cow,” Graeme whistled. “You can tell that?” Rachel nodded. Her companion shook his head slowly, then dropped a pebble from his belt pouch over the platform’s side. No sound was heard as it streaked down towards the bottom.
Rachel licked her finger and held it up. “There’s wind here,” she said. “I don’t know about down there.”
“Don’t you know a feather fall spell? Aiden does.”
The Halfling girl smiled and nodded. “I guess we can use it,” she said. “If you’re determined. I’m more worried about oxygen.”
“There should be some down there,” Graeme guessed. “I think fay have to breathe same as us.”
“Probably not,” Rachel shrugged. “But I guess we’ll find out.” She waved her hands over Graeme, surrounding him with a brief eldritch light. The green gargoyle smiled as it faded and then jumped off the side of the platform, extending his wings to catch the chasm’s wind. Rachel smiled and then leaped off to float down beside him, waving at Graeme as they slowly drifted down the sides of the cave.
“This feels so cool,” Graeme whispered, reveling in the feel of the wind streaming past him as they fell.
“I guess it’s why skydiving’s popular,” Rachel chuckled in agreement. A few minutes later they touched down in a dirt passage at the bottom of the stairway, Graeme whistling at the sheer depth of blackness above their heads.
“Thank goodness for your feather-fall spell,” he told Rachel. “I did not want to climb down this far.”
“You’re welcome,” Rachel smiled, waving at a wide tunnel across from them that shone with a strange white light from golden gems placed in the walls. “Shall we start exploring this place from the bottom?”
Graeme nodded. “Let’s.” With that they walked into the passage, Graeme leading as Rachel followed, keeping her magically enhanced senses extended in case the feeling of oppression all around them manifested itself into actual danger. A smile adorned Graeme’s face as they rounded a bend in the passage, her friend not seeming tense about their surroundings at all. Great, Rachel thought. Now I’m really worried.
A strange lingering cry suddenly reached their ears. “Who’s there?” a man’s voice shouted. “Who’s down here?”
“What’s that?” Graeme asked, stopping cold in the passage and noticing in the same instant that it opened into a wide chamber ahead of them. “That voice sounded familiar.”
“Who’s there?!!” the shouter called once more.
“Graeme, I’m worried,” Rachel said, grabbing her friend’s arm. “Let’s go back.”
“No way,” Graeme snapped in reply. “I want to find out what this is.” He jerked his arm out of Rachel’s grasp and ran on down the tunnel, heading for the shouter as he once again called out his question of who was there.
“Fine,” Rachel sighed. “Don’t listen to me.” She rolled her eyes and clutching her backpack ran after Graeme, knowing that if her best friend was running into trouble it would probably be up to her to get him out. The caller shouted again as she caught up with Graeme. Rachel ignored his smile at her presence, feeling her nervousness grow as they crossed a strangely wide but empty hall, circling around a heap of what looked like crumbled dark stones.
“Who’s there?” the voice shouted again, and now it was clear that its owner was in a room down the tunnel across the chamber. “C’mon, tell me!”
“Let’s go,” Graeme whispered. Rachel nodded, the light from the tunnel’s crystal playing off the apprehension set on her face. Still she followed Graeme on past the heap of stones, through the room she sensed must have once been the abode of some powerful evil, and on into the tunnel behind it. “We’re coming,” Graeme shouted at the voice’s owner as he called for them again. Seconds later they rounded another bend and found a room before them that contained a large cage of brass and stone. The man inside it looked up at them, his jaw dropping as he eyes lit up with recognition. “Oh my God,” Graeme gasped in response, Rachel stepping back as she did the same. “Seth.”
Castle of the Avalon Clan, 12:47 am.
“And then I told her,” Broadway was saying at the same moment
to the Avalon clan members grouped around him, “that someday we and humans
would live in harmony, that I was sure of it. Then she kissed me and at
that moment I knew.”
“Good show,” Tom laughed, clapping the portly gargoyle on the back. “It seems that Angela has made as fine a choice as you have.”
“I hope so,” Broadway sighed, glancing over at where his mate was conversing with Katherine, Ophelia, and several other Avalon clan females. She’s so wonderful, he couldn’t help but think. I don’t know if I deserve her, if I can be the good mate she needs, but I think I’m going to try. Sighing again, he turned back to the males clustered nearby. Brooklyn flashed him a smile and a thumbs-up which Broadway shyly returned, glad he had friends who trusted him.
Brooklyn shook his head as the portly gargoyle began his next story of Manhattan, thinking of his own mating and the happiness he’d found with Sata. Took me a while to do that, he thought, and every day I’m more glad I did. He was reminded of the main reasons he was glad as he felt a hand on his arm and turned to face its owner. “What’s up, Ari?” he asked.
“Boudicca and I are gonna go find Graeme,” Ari replied. “You want to come?”
“Your brother’s fine, Ari. He’s with Rachel.”
“I know that,” his daughter smiled, her expression suggesting she thought Graeme and Rachel were having the time of their lives and thus it was her responsibility to ruin it.
“Alright,” Brooklyn said. “I’ll come with you.” He got up, gestured at Broadway that they’d be right back, and then followed his daughter and her new beast friend towards the castle exit.
“Timedancer,” a voice called out to them as they got close. Brooklyn and Ari turned to face Queen Titania.
“Hey,” Brooklyn replied. “What’s up?”
The faerie queen stepped into the great hall, glancing around at the gathered gargoyles and humans. “I need to speak with you,” she said. “About the coming events.”
“Okay,” Brooklyn nodded. “You run on, Ari. I’m sure you can find Graeme without me. Stay out of trouble, okay?”
“Sure, Dad,” Ari said, dashing off with Boudicca behind.
“Don’t worry about her,” Titania told Brooklyn. “I informed all my subjects about your visit, and advised them not to bother any of you. She and your other child will be alright.”
“I know,” Brooklyn agreed. “So what do you want to talk about?”
“You know as I do of the dangers that are coming soon. My son Silvan sent me a message before he died, telling me the details of his many prophecies. Many dire things will soon fall upon your clan’s protectorate, Brooklyn. The Awakening of Dormamu, the Rage of Dragons,…”
“I know,” Brooklyn cut her off. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll be able to handle them. I haven’t informed Goliath of what’s coming, but that shouldn’t be a problem when the events take place.” He sighed and met eyes with Titania. “I’m more worried about the man you’ve had in your custody since Shadow Island. How’s he doing?”
“He’s alright,” Titania replied, “I think. I’ve been trying to send him the appropriate dreams, hopefully they’ve been provoking the right thoughts in his mind. We know he has a role to play in the coming events, Brooklyn. He can’t play that role if he’s still the man he was on Shadow Island. If he is…”
“If he is, we’ll handle it,” Brooklyn said. “I don’t want him to be but I doubt he’s changed much yet. After all, he has only been here a week.”
“You’d be surprised how a week can change a person,” Titania pointed out, “if they have enough time alone.”
Brooklyn nodded. “I know, and I know I can trust you to have done something to help him. I just hope the things you did worked the right way.”
Beneath the Hollow Hill, 12:48 am.
The large blonde man in the cage stood up, leaning against the
bars and gripping them loosely as he regarded his visitors. Graeme and
Ari stared back at him, still surprised by the appearance of the man who
had once been their enemy and before that their friend. “You look terrible,”
Graeme whistled, noticing the dirt heaped on Seth’s jeans, dark red T-shirt,
and brown duster as well as the matted several days’ growth of beard that
covered his scarred lizardlike face.
“Thanks,” Seth Figaro whispered, wiping a hand across his blue eyes as though he were trying to get a better look at them. “You guys,” he said as he recognized them.
“That’s right, Seth,” Rachel said. “It’s us, Rachel and Graeme.” She stepped back and looked over the three walls of bars and rock wall that kept Seth hedged in. A pool of blue water and a smelly hole in the ground seemed its only comforts. “So this is where my grandmother put you,” Rachel guessed.
“Grandmother?” Seth asked. Then he nodded. “The redhaired lady who was with you on Shadow Island. Of course.”
“Rachel, look at him,” Graeme said. “What’d Seth do to deserve this?”
“Don’t you remember what he was doing the last time we saw him?” Rachel reminded her friend. “He killed a lot of people that day. He also nearly killed Goliath, Zack, Laura, me, and you.”
“Oh, right,” Graeme nodded, turning to glare at the man in the cage as he remembered Seth’s fletchettes bouncing off his vest and tearing into his skin. He had been hurt but not killed and then fled the fight, letting his mother run past him to handle Seth herself. But even she had not been able to defeat him and in the end only Titania’s magic had saved them from the immortal vigilante’s rage.
Seth coughed and looked at them, seeming strangely helpless in his cell. “You guys have any food?” he asked. “I haven’t eaten since before they put me in here.”
“Food?” Graeme replied confusedly. “I thought you didn’t need to eat.”
“I used to not need to,” Seth sighed, the look on his face showing slight nostalgia.
“My grandmother took away your immortality,” Rachel recalled. “Guess you must be pretty mad at her.”
Seth nodded. “Mad? Of course. But I can understand why she did it. I was going crazy.”
“Going crazy?” Graeme repeated. “I’d call that an understatement.”
“Yeah,” Seth agreed, staring away from them at the far cave passage. “Me too. So have you guys come here to rescue me?”
“Rescue you? No, we didn’t even know you were down here.”
Seth rolled his eyes and stepped back from the bars, flinging up his hands as he turned away from them. “Well, that’s just great!” He sighed and turned back. “Look, guys, I know you have no reason to trust me anymore. I did something terrible. Something I shouldn’t have done. A lot of things I shouldn’t have done. I’m sorry.”
Rachel and Graeme looked at each other, then back to Seth. “Alright,” Rachel said. “You’re sorry. Tell that to Goliath, to Zack. To the woman you nearly raped and murdered. Tell that to your brother, Seth.”
A heavy sigh answered her. “I wish I could,” Seth told them. “But they’re not here, are they? You are. Back on Shadow Island, I hurt both of you. You’re here, I’m giving you my apologies. I’m sorry.”
“It’s alright,” Graeme replied. “Our wounds healed. And you’re right, you were crazy. That doesn’t explain what happened on Shadow Island, though.”
“Right,” Rachel said. “We know who you are, Seth. Silvan told some of us, Weston and your brother told others. What I’m wondering is how did you find out, and why did it make you do the things you did?”
Seth shook his head slowly, his features full of remembered shame. “Gina told me,” he said. “She was my friend in the Illuminati. I used to be a member of them, you know. They threw me out for doing the same things that got me in here. Going nuts all the time. Gina was my friend, she kept me informed on the Illuminati’s activities when I needed to know. The day before Shadow Island, they killed her.” He sighed, his voice tinged with sadness and emotion as he continued. “Before Gina died, she called me. I had to listen to her last words. She also sent me a message. An e-mail. It contained the Illuminati files on me, Shadow Island, the Commandos, and my brother. I read over them, and I found out everything. I found out the name of the man I used to be, and what happened to him. I found out who Agony was, that he was my brother. Then somehow I knew I had to go after him.”
“You wanted to avenge your own death,” Rachel guessed.
“Right. All the stories I’d heard said Cain was a bad guy, that he killed Abel out of spite. And since I was Abel, well, I’m sure you can guess how I felt once I found out.” He sighed again, leaning against the bars as he stared at them. “All my life until now I’ve been immortal. I’ve known someone wanted me to stay alive, someone put a spell on me to keep me around. What I’ve never known is why.”
“I thought you found your own reasons for existence,” Graeme said. “You helped people.”
Seth nodded. “Yeah. I helped people. But once I found out I was someone else, that I wasn’t just Seth Figaro, I felt a need. I needed to kill Ares O’Neil, I needed to kill Cain. I needed to go after my brother.”
“You really thought you could kill him, huh?” Graeme asked.
“I thought,” Seth agreed. “But at the time it didn’t matter whether I could kill him or not. I had to try. It was practically all I could think about. Avenging my death, and how I was gonna do it. I had to raid the island, kill the Commandos serving under my brother so they wouldn’t get in the way, then find my brother and kill him. I had an artifact that I thought might be able to do it, the Spear of Longinus that killed Jesus Christ. But in the end even that didn’t work.”
“You went in there not even knowing what you were doing, didn’t you?”
“Oh, I knew what I was doing. Right up until the moment I confronted my brother. I made a plan, I followed through. I got a vacation from Doc, I said goodbye to the judge, I sent you guys the file on Shadow Island so you could go there and rescue Goliath if I didn’t come back. I wasn’t expecting you to come to the place so fast, though.”
“Goliath is our leader, Seth, and our friend. We came at the first chance we got.”
“Right. Anyway, then I got my stuff, stole a boat, headed for the island. I arrived, I swam in their drainage system, I got ready once I was inside. Then I started killing the Commandos. I couldn’t stop myself from doing it either. I knew what I had to do, and I was removing all obstacles. I guess I thought that whoever it was had brought me back from the dead and made me immortal not just to help people but to avenge my death.”
“And you were wrong,” Rachel said.
“Yeah, though I didn’t know it at the time. I just had to kill him. But I couldn’t, and he wouldn’t even fight back when I tried. Instead, O’Neil of all things tried to reach out to me.” Seth sighed and shook his head. “I never have been able to understand that guy.”
“He was glad his brother was alive,” Rachel said. “He thought you could be friends the second time around instead of enemies. He couldn’t believe what you were doing, but at the same time he wanted to calm you down, not kill you.”
“I guess you’re right,” Seth agreed. “But I couldn’t take it. I had to get him. I was angry, and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t kill him, so I went after his woman. I almost did something unthinkable for me.” He lowered his head, refusing to look at them. “Your grandmother was right to put me in here, Rachel. I deserved it. As for her taking away my immortality, well, I suppose I can deal with that. I just hope I have enough time left to do something with my life.”
“You already were doing something with your life, weren’t you?” Rachel asked.
Seth nodded agreement. “I was. If I get the chance, maybe I can do it again. It’ll be more dangerous now, but it’s still what I want to do. I made a series of terrible mistakes. I was not supposed to kill my brother, I wasn’t even supposed to try. Tell me, guys, have either of you done something for which you will always be ashamed?”
Rachel and Graeme looked at each other, wondering if the man they were speaking with was the same Seth they had known. “Yes,” Rachel answered. “I think every good person has, at one time or another.”
“Good. Then maybe you can understand. You know, I think that’s all my brother’s wanted this time. Understanding. That woman Laura understood him, so did Silvan. That’s why he served Silvan so unscrupulously, so well. They were friends, they could understand each other. My brother wanted me to understand him, too.”
“Do you think you could, Seth?” Graeme broke in. “Understand your brother, I mean? If you saw him again?”
Seth shook his head. “I don’t know. The files Gina sent me told me all about me, and all about him. The one person they didn’t tell me about was Abel. I still don’t know why my brother killed him.”
“Didn’t you believe the legends? The ones that said he killed his brother out of anger and spite?”
“At first I believed them. Now, with all the thinking I’ve done in here, I’ve realized there had to be more to it. When I tried to kill him, my brother said something about Abel being a spoiled bully, someone who deserved to die. I still don’t know what he was talking about. I guess I never can, since Abel’s dead. But I’m still here.” He sighed once more, then turned to look up at them. “My brother is sorry for what he did, I know that now. That, and the wrong, is nine thousand years old. I shouldn’t have tried to right it. I guess I even I need a statute of limitations sometimes.”
“So could you forgive him?” Rachel asked.
“I don’t know. First I’d have to see him, talk to him a while. I need to know all the circumstances of Abel’s death. Then maybe I can make the choice.”
“But you don’t want to kill him or those he loves anymore.”
“No. Right now I just want to get out of here. I want to get back to my home, my friends, my life. I used to be immortal, now I’m not. I may not have much time left, before I go I want to do something with my life. I want to leave something behind other than memories and a trail of dead. I caused this to happen to me, and now that I’ve realized what I did, I’m sorry.” Seth turned away from them. “I don’t even know how long I’ve been in here.”
“We haven’t seen you in about seven months,” said Rachel. “Of course, since you’ve been on Avalon, for you it’s only been a week.”
“A week, huh? It feels like more than that. I guess it’s true what they say. A week in solitary confinement is like a year.” He nodded as if in understanding. “So I’m on Avalon, huh? The home of the Third Race.”
“Right,” Graeme said. “I’m surprised you’re still alive.”
“Well, it’s not like I haven’t been well. I’ve had all these weird visions of who I was, my memories of Agony and Silvan, the things I’ve done. It’s all a blur in my mind, so much I can hardly recall.” He looked at them again. “Do you guys have any food? I’m really starving.”
The two young people looked at each other. Rachel nodded at Graeme and he took a foil-wrapped package out of his belt pouch. “Here,” he said, holding it out to Seth. “Chicken sandwich.”
“Thank you,” Seth said, taking the package and unwrapping it. Rachel and Graeme watched as he ate the sandwich in five quick bites. “That was good. Can you get me out of here?”
“Sure,” Rachel replied, stepping forward and raising her hand.
“Hold on,” Graeme said, stepping in front of Rachel to stop her. “Giving him food is one thing, but letting him out like this, I don’t know. Shouldn’t we ask Titania first?”
“Haven’t you been listening to him, Graeme?” Rachel asked. “Seth’s not a danger to us anymore.”
“Rachel, he shot you, remember? You almost died!”
“I healed, and he’s sorry,” Rachel declared. “Aren’t you?”
“Yeah,” Seth nodded. “I’m sorry. I know you probably can’t forgive me, but…”
“I do,” Rachel interrupted him. “You weren’t yourself then.”
Seth shook his head. “No, I wasn’t. Look, if it makes you breathe any easier, I don’t have any weapons in here. My knife was taken from me shortly after I arrived, and I left everything else back on Shadow Island. Besides, I’m a little weakened. I don’t think I could attack you if I wanted to. Please, get me out of here.”
“Alright,” Graeme sighed. “But as soon as we do, we’re taking you to see my dad. He’ll decide what to do with you.”
“Brooklyn’s here, too?”
“A lot of us are here,” Rachel said. “Broadway and Angela are going to be mated, we had to invite the Avalon clan. Graeme and I were exploring the island while the others visited, we found you.”
“Makes sense. What do you think Brooklyn will want to do with me?”
“First you might want to tell him everything you told us,” Graeme answered. “Then maybe he’ll want you to tell Titania and Oberon.”
“Oberon?” Seth asked. “There’s a guy named Oberon here?”
“Of course. He’s the ruler of the Third Race, their king.”
Seth looked down for a minute, then nodded. “I hope I can speak with him before we leave. Agony said he was the one who made me immortal. I need to know why.”
“Then come on,” Rachel said. “Let’s find out.” With that, she waved her hand and the bars around Seth vanished.
“Thank you,” he said, stepping forward and nearly collapsing as Rachel and Graeme threw out their arms to catch him.
“Don’t mention it,” Rachel replied as they supported Seth. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Fine,” Seth gasped. “Just adjusting to the sudden lack of enclosed space.” He brushed off their hands and stood up, taking a few steps to get his footing. Then he nodded and walked back to them. “Okay,” he said. “I’m better now. If you have another one of those sandwiches, I’ll take it.”
“Sorry,” Graeme said. “I only brought the one.”
“And mine are in the bottom of my backpack,” Rachel added. “We’ll just get you more food when we get back to the Avalon clan’s castle, okay?”
“Yeah, sure,” Seth nodded. “I’d like a soda too, anything to drink besides water. No alcohol, though. I think I might want to give that up.”
“Probably a good idea,” Rachel agreed with a smile. “Alright, now I’ll be teleporting us back to the castle, so you may feel a slight disorientation. Okay?”
Seth nodded and took the hand she was holding out. Graeme took his other hand. “Ready,” Graeme said.
“Okay,” Rachel replied, holding up her other hand and drawing magical energy into it. “Here we go.” She let more of the energy slide into her, feeling her body and those of her friends glowing with it. Thinking of the Avalon clan’s castle’s great hall, Rachel focused the energy into a one-way portal big enough for her, Graeme, and Seth. She was about to say the words that would complete the spell and teleport them when Graeme gasped in shock. “What?” Rachel asked, holding the energy still as Seth looked at them with a confused expression.
“Your backpack,” Graeme said, pointing at Rachel’s shoulder with his free arm. “It’s…” His words were cut off as a ball of Phoenix fire suddenly surged up and enveloped them into its depths.
Avalon, 1:59 am.
“Hey, Dad!” Ari was saying in the same instant, waving as her
parents, Jadeh, and Turquesa glided down to land beside her and Boudicca.
“Hello, Ari,” Brooklyn replied with a smile, glancing around the star-lit plains. “Have you found your brother yet?”
“No, but there’s still a lot of Avalon to explore. Boudicca might have his scent, we’ve been trying to track him.”
“Well, if you don’t find him, I’m sure it will be alright,” said Sata. “Graeme-kun still has two hours before he’s supposed to return to us, and he’s with Rachel-chan. They’ll be fine.”
“I hope so,” Ari said with an evil grin. “I get worried about Graeme when he’s not around me.”
“Right,” her father grinned back. “By the way, Jadeh and Turquesa here were gonna show us the rain forest they planted. Want to come see it?”
Boudicca barked happily and Ari pursed her lips for a moment, then nodded. “Sure.”
“Alright then,” Jadeh gestured. “You can find your hermano later. Come along and see some natural beauty.”
Ari nodded in expectation, then followed the adult gargoyles up a nearby hill and took off gliding after them with Boudicca following on the ground below. The Avalon rain forest should be interesting, she thought as they headed towards it. I’m looking forward to the guided tour. Wish Graeme were here to see it with me, though. I always feel a little bit happier when I know that he’s safe. Oh well, I’m sure he’s fine, I need not be worried. Soon he and Rachel will be back, and I can pester them once more. She chuckled and flew after her parents, wondering if Jadeh and Turquesa had brought any rain forest animals to Avalon along with the plants.
Western Germania, c. 6982 BC.
“…Phoenix Flame!” Graeme was wailing in the same instant as he,
Seth, and Rachel tumbled through the magical fire, making a hard landing
in a clump of bushes surrounded by plains and a nearby clump of trees.
“Whoa,” Seth said, shaking his head as they picked themselves up. “You were right, Rachel. That was a little disorienting.” He looked around and grimaced. “Hold on, this doesn’t look like a castle.”
“It’s not,” Rachel sighed, massaging her brow as she got to her feet. The sudden release of magical energy had given her a headache.
Graeme worsened the shock by leaping at his friend and grabbing her by the collar. “What happened?” he shouted at Rachel. “What did you do?”
“Calm down!” Seth snapped, walking forward and separating them with his hands. “Alright, Rachel, what happened to us? Where are we?”
Rachel sighed again, shrugging off her backpack and bringing it forward. “This isn’t my fault,” the Halfling girl said as she began rummaging through it.
“We’re not trying to assign blame here,” Seth calmly told her, glaring at Graeme with an expression that meant be quiet. “Just tell us what happened, if you know. Right now.”
Rachel nodded. “I know what happened.” She pulled the Phoenix Gate out of her backpack and held it up. “It was this.”
“Where did you get that?” Graeme asked, surprise evident in his voice.
“I found it in my backpack on the boat,” Rachel explained, “when I was getting my binoculars. I assumed it had just appeared there by accident, I didn’t expect it to…”
“You should have told Dad!” Graeme sharply interrupted her. “Don’t you know how dangerous the Gate is?”
“Whoa!” Seth broke in. “I’m missing something here.” He pointed at the Gate. “What is that? What are you guys talking about?”
“It’s the Phoenix Gate,” Rachel answered. “A magical time travel device.”
“Time travel?” Seth repeated skeptically.
“It’s out of control,” Graeme told him. “Works randomly. Rachel, you should have told Dad.”
“ I know,” Rachel sighed. “I just thought it was only with me for a little while, and nothing could go wrong, and…” She sighed once more, obviously angry at her mistake.
“That’s the thing that sent your family on its Timedancing, right?” Seth asked. Graeme nodded. “Right, now I remember it. How does that thing work again?”
“It’s supposed to respond to an incantation,” Rachel said, clenching the Gate tightly in her hand. “Desflagrate murae tempe et intervalia.” The Gate flared up with light for a moment, then went dark. “It’s not working.”
“Of course it isn’t,” Graeme replied, taking the Gate from her and examining it. “This must be the Gate before it got Dad. It’s out of control, if it takes us home it will have to do it randomly. I hope it opens a portal back to Avalon soon, I don’t want to inherit the family business.”
Seth nodded in agreement, apparently accepting the explanation. He looked at the plains and trees that surrounded them. “So do either of you have any idea where we are?”
“Maybe the more important question is when,” said Rachel, glancing at a hill a short distance away crowned by two small piles of wood. “Someone’s coming,” she added, hearing voices in the distance.
“We better hide,” Graeme suggested.
“Right,” Seth agreed. “The natives of this place and time might not be friendly.”
“Okay,” Rachel said. She then gestured over them and whispered a few words. “There. As long as we don’t make a lot of noise, they won’t notice us.”
“Good,” Seth thanked her, crouching down in the bushes just in case. Graeme and Rachel did the same, watching as two men walked forward from just behind the twilit horizon.
“It’s getting close to dawn,” Graeme whispered as they walked closer. Rachel immediately put her hand on his forehead and mumbled a few words.
“There,” she whispered as Graeme felt magic flashing across his skin. “You’ll be awake till noon with that on you.” The green gargoyle nodded his thanks.
Rachel smiled back, watching as the men’s features became clear in the growing sunlight. Both had tanned skin, were dressed in rough hides, and looked to be in their early twenties. The taller of the two was walking behind the stockier, and Rachel could see that he was a gaunt man with black hair and a clean-shaven Romanesque face that looked familiar. He was carrying a basket of what looked like fruit and vegetables on his shoulder, looking as though he was in no great hurry. The other man, a large specimen with blonde hair who was carrying a dead lamb and a pile of kindling, seemed to be urging him on with taunts and insults. “Come on, brother!” the blonde man waved at his companion. “You’re going to miss the dawn! God won’t like you sacrificing at the wrong time!” The darkhaired man only glared at him, and they continued to walk towards the hill topped with firewood.
“Seth,” Graeme whispered. “That blonde guy. He…”
“I know,” Seth whispered back. “He looks like me.”
Rachel barely listened to the exchange, concentrating on what the men were doing. They stopped at the hill, the darkhaired one smiling as he set down his bundle. “Why so happy, Cain?” the blonde one asked. “You know you’re not going to get anything out of this.” Cain ignored him, instead unpacking the fruit and setting it down on one of the piles of wood.
“Cain,” Seth whispered, continuing to watch them from their concealment. “Then that other guy must be…”
“You, Seth,” Rachel made the connection. “Abel.”
“Yeah,” Seth agreed, recalling that the first time he remembered meeting Agony, the man had been known as Jude Thaddeus. The darkhaired man unpacking the fruit was Agony, there was no question about it. And since he was Cain, the other guy had to be Abel. The man Seth had been before he’d died and been made immortal. “Am I about to witness history?” he asked quietly, unable to keep such a question to himself.
“Be quiet,” Rachel whispered. Seth nodded, continuing to observe the events occurring a few feet from their hiding place.
“Come on, brother,” Abel was saying, missing no opportunity to taunt Cain as they both set their loads onto the piles of wood. “You’re falling behind!”
“I don’t see you working,” Cain calmly replied, placing the last stalk of corn on his woodpile and then tossing the basket aside after removing two pieces of rock.
Abel chuckled in response, adjusting his lamb slightly on the pile of logs and then setting up the kindling around it. “You need to borrow some kindling for your fire?” he mockingly asked.
“No, thank you. This should burn easily. Shall we get on with it?”
“Sure,” Abel shrugged. “Probably a good idea. We both have chores to do this morning. Father’s not going to be happy if you’re late again with yours.”
Cain nodded, a slight knowing smile on his face as he made a final adjustment to the pile and then knelt in silent prayer. Abel shook his head slowly, chuckling as he took out his own pair of rocks and rubbed them quickly together, creating sparks. “Lord God,” Abel said as if by rote, “in acknowledgement that every result of our labor comes directly from you, and in hope that my family’s labor will continue to bear good fruit, I make you this sacrifice.” He clicked the rocks again, dropping sparks on the pile of wood before him and making it burst into flame.
His brother did the same an instant later, standing up and clicking his rocks together as he repeated the words Abel had said. Surprisingly nothing happened, no sparks emitting from the rocks and landing on the wood or the fruit and vegetables packed amongst it. “What’s going on?” Graeme asked confusedly.
“Someone’s using magic,” Rachel whispered back, staring hard at the woodpile before Cain with storm-gray eyes. “That pile of wood and fruit has been enchanted so it won’t burn.”
“But why would…”
“Ssh!” Seth sharply silenced them, continuing to concentrate on the scene with an expression of growing amazement. Cain was continuing to strike the rocks together, his surprise increasing as no sparks came.
“Maybe you’re not doing it hard enough,” Abel taunted him, gesturing at his roaring sacrificial fire and then at Cain’s with an expression of contempt.
“God, please be with me,” Cain whispered, reaching forward and making a slight adjustment in the woodpile. Then he clicked the rocks together again, harder than he had before. Still nothing happened. Cain repeated this action twice more, his brother egging him on all the while. Rachel could not help but notice the set of Seth’s jaw as he watched them, the anger flashing in his eyes. “Please,” Cain whispered again, shaking his head as he set the rocks aside after one last try to create a spark.
Seth nearly gasped as Abel stepped back from the hill, continuing to laugh as Cain snatched a burning log from the other sacrificial fire. “That’s mine, brother!” Abel yelled. “What makes you think it’s gonna work?” Cain ignored him, instead throwing the log onto his pile of wood. Nothing happened, the torch flaring up for an instant and then instantly going out. “See?” Abel continued to jeer as Cain snatched corn off his pile and in desperation started throwing it onto his brother’s. Even amongst the obvious flames it would still not be consumed. “I told you this wouldn’t work!”
“Man, Seth,” Graeme said. “You were a real jerk, weren’t you?” Seth did not even bother to glare at him as Rachel was doing, instead riveted by the scene.
“Come on, you idiot," Abel was jeering as Cain made one last attempt to light his pile. "Did you really think God would support the demands of a foolish weakling demon-raised child like you? No, he's wiser than that, he knows what's best for you, Cain. You're going to stay with your family."
Cain’s jaw clenched angrily and then he continued clicking the rocks together and shaking his head in disbelief. Seth nearly dropped his jaw when Abel suddenly drew back his fist and slapped Cain hard in the face. "You hear me, brother?"
Instantly Cain leaped up, roaring in rage as he crashed into Abel and knocked him over. Soon they were rolling on the ground, exchanging anger-filled blows as beside them Abel’s sacrifice continued to burn. Seth and Graeme both leapt up, obviously wanting to run to the aid of one or the other combatant, but Rachel put up her arms to hold them back.
The scuffle went on for several minutes, Abel finally throwing Cain off and then struggling to his feet. Cain snatched a log from his woodpile and struck his brother hard across the face with it, knocking Abel back down. Before Abel could recover, Cain had leapt onto him and was pummeling him about the head with the log, screaming his rage to fuel each blow. By the time he stopped, Abel’s face was so covered in gore that one could not make out its features. He briefly moaned painfully and then laid still.
“No,” Cain gasped, dropping the log as he crouched by his brother. “No. What have I done?” Instantly he put his hand on Abel’s neck, shaking his head when he felt no heartbeat. “No! No!” Seth grimaced as he watched Cain pull a pouch from his belt, then take plants out of it and squeeze a juice out of them onto his brother’s bloody face. The juice dripped off, not reacting even as Cain tried to rub it in while whispering a prayer. “No.”
“No,” Seth repeated, shock in his eyes as he watched Cain stand up crying.
“No, no, no!” Cain wailed, banging his fist against his knee. “No.” He picked up something from beside the dying fire, Graeme thought it looked like a crude wooden shovel. “Stop it,” Cain said as he turned back to face the corpse of his brother. “Not no. Yes. It’s happened. I killed him. I killed my brother. Now I…” He hesitated and almost dropped the shovel, then nodded in assent. “Now I can leave. At least now I can leave. No more beatings from you, Father. No more taunts. No more from you either, brother. Now I can leave.” He repeated it like a litany as he began digging a hole in the hillside, a grave for Abel. “Now I can leave. Now I can go home.”
“Go home,” Seth softly whispered, turning away from the scene and lowering his eyes to the ground. “My God, no.” A tone of great sadness rested in his voice.
“Seth?” Rachel asked, keeping her voice down even as she looked at the obviously troubled man. Graeme stood beside her, confusion on his beaked face. “Are you alright?”
“Fine,” Seth replied, looking up at her with a face stained by tears. “I understand now,” he said to them, his voice twinged with remorse.
“What?” Graeme asked, his eyes flicking towards Cain as the darkhaired man continued digging. “What do you understand?”
Seth sighed, then nodded. “My brother,” he said. “I understand why he killed Abel.”
Graeme looked back at him confusedly. “Don’t you mean why he killed you?”
Seth shook his head. “No.” He pointed at the body Cain was burying, watching as the tall darkhaired man shoveled quickly, his effort fueled by the stress. “That was not me.”
“What are you saying?” Rachel asked.
“I’m saying I understand,” Seth snapped, turning away from them to glance towards the forest. “Everything he said to me on Shadow Island, everything I dreamed and thought about while I was in that cage. Now that I’ve seen this, it all makes sense. I made a terrible mistake.”
“You’ve said that already,” Rachel reminded him.
“I know,” Seth smiled. “Now I believe it. What Cain did just now. In the same situation, I would have done the same thing.” He sighed and turned back to them. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
“We can’t,” Graeme reminded him. “The Gate, remember? It’s random.”
“Oh yeah,” Seth sighed, glancing back towards his brother as Cain pushed Abel’s body into the small hole he’d dug, then began filling in the grave.
“We need to go,” Rachel said before he could do anything. Her expression conveyed extreme urgency. “We have to get out of here right now.”
“Rachel, the Gate,” Graeme snapped.
“I know,” Rachel shot back, snatching the Gate from Graeme’s hand and stuffing it in the pocket of jeans. “There’s someone else here, someone besides Cain and us. We have to get out. Hurry.”
“What are you talking about?” Seth asked. “I thought we were hidden by your magic. And I don’t see anyone.”
“They’re using the same spell we are,” Rachel explained. “And they’re more powerful than I am at magic. I can sense it. Run!”
Seth stared at her for a moment, then nodded. Graeme did the same and then took off, his crystal pendant flashing in the sunlight as he ran for the woods. Rachel grabbed Seth’s arm and ran after him, the blonde man continued to ask her what was happening. Behind them a loud voice shouted words at the person they’d been watching. “Cain! Cain! Where’s your brother, Cain?”
“What is happening?” Seth asked as they reached the forest and kept running through it. He pulled his arm from Rachel’s grasp and ran beside her. “What is going on?”
“I’ll explain in a minute,” Rachel replied. “Just run.” Graeme looked back at them over his shoulder, and Rachel waved to urge her friend onwards. The young gargoyle nodded and they kept running, stopping only when they reached a clearing surrounded by large oppressive-looking pines.
“Is this far enough?” Graeme asked, stopping short and gasping for breath.
“I think so,” Rachel said, stopping and looking around at the trees. “Yeah, I guess it’s okay.”
“Good,” Seth nodded, sighing as he glanced back the way they had come. “Now what were we running from?”
“I told you,” Rachel answered. “There were at least three powerful magic-users watching Cain, like we were. I think one of them noticed us.”
“Powerful magic-users?” Graeme repeated. “Who…?”
A polite cough suddenly startled them. The three turned to see a nondescript man with mousy brown hair dressed in hides standing across the clearing and looking at them. Graeme and Rachel instantly fell into ready combat positions. “Well, well,” the strange man smiled as he raised one hand and formed a ball of green energy on it. “I caught you. Now it’s time to shut some prying eyes.”
Avalon, 5:51 am.
“No sign of them at Oberon’s Palace,” Ophelia reported, gliding
up beside Brooklyn, Ari, and Sata as they continued their own search. Gabriel,
Jacob, and Tourmaline were just behind her. “I wonder where they are.”
“Dad,” Ari warned her father, “if you say they’ll be fine…”
“I’m not going to say that,” Brooklyn snapped, glaring at the lightening Avalon skies. “They should have been back hours ago, what could have happened?”
“You should keep a closer watch on your children,” Tourmaline sharply reprimanded them.
“Perhaps we will next time something like this happens,” Sata hissed back. “The important thing now is finding Graeme-kun and Rachel-chan, not worrying over what mistakes we could have made in letting them go off alone.”
“I’m sure they’re alright, Sata-chan,” Brooklyn assured his mate. “I just wish they were here. Where could they be?”
“I hope they haven’t gone to some other time period,” Gabriel said. “You told me your family has a tendency of doing that and there are a few areas on Avalon where strange and chaotic things happen whenever magic’s used. The Magus called them wild magic zones. If your hatchling and that girl stumbled into one and she cast a spell,…”
“That couldn’t have happened,” Brooklyn interrupted. “I learned about wild magic on my travels and even though it can be powerful, there’s no way it can open a time portal. The only thing that could was the Phoenix Gate and it’s been destroyed.”
“Then there’s only one place on Avalon we haven’t looked,” sighed Ophelia. “The caverns beneath the Hollow Hill.”
“Caverns?” Brooklyn asked.
“There are miles of caves and tunnels under this island,” Gabriel explained. “The Hollow Hill is the gateway to them. Dwarves, gnomes, fay associated with the earth and death, all sorts of strange things have began inhabiting them since the Gathering began. Our missing children could have gone down there.”
“Graeme-kun does like caves,” Sata mused.
“We don’t have time to search those caves now,” Brooklyn sighed, glancing once more at the approaching dawn. “Graeme and Rachel must be in trouble. Even if they got lost down there, Rachel could still teleport out.”
“Queen Titania will have some of the fay looking for them during the day,” Gabriel said calmly. “Jadeh and Turquesa can look as well thanks to their pendants. Maybe they’ll have better luck.”
“I hope so,” Brooklyn said as they flew back toward the castle. Soon they landed on the battlements beside Broadway, Angela, and the rest of the Avalon clan.
“Did you find them?” Broadway asked.
“No,” Brooklyn sighed. “We’ll have to do some more looking tonight.”
“We won’t leave without them, Brooklyn,” Angela said.
“I know,” Brooklyn nodded. “I just wish we could find them. I hope they’re okay.” With that, he sighed and turned to face the rising sun.
Western Germania, c.6982 BC.
“Garlon,” Graeme growled as the nondescript man stood before them.
“Have we met?” the stranger inquired, idly tossing the ball of green energy between his hands.
“We will,” Graeme answered. “In a few thousand years.”
“You know this guy?” Seth asked, standing still as he looked from his friends to Garlon and back again. “Who is he?” Rachel nodded, asking the same question.
“A general of the Unseelie Court,” Graeme replied. “Evil fay.”
“Evil?” Garlon repeated. “Well, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. But it doesn’t matter what you think of me, I have been ordered to make sure you are not alive to remember what you saw.” With that, he threw the ball of light at them. Instantly it crackled and disappeared, failing against the shield Rachel had instinctively thrown up to block it. Garlon only had time to raise an eyebrow as the Halfling raised her arms and shot several green energy bolts back at him, knocking the nondescript Unseelie to the ground. “Impressive,” Garlon smiled, readying another energy bolt as he got back up.
“Stay back, guys,” Rachel told Graeme and Seth, stepping forward as an outline of waving blue fire surrounded her body. “I got this.”
“Okay,” Seth nodded as an identical outline surrounded Garlon and he threw a bolt of fire that Rachel easily dodged. “He’s all yours.”
Graeme looked around for more Unseelie, pulling a knife out of his pocket and handing it to Seth in the same motion. He drew his slingshot in the next instant, loaded an iron pellet, and then started trying to get a clear shot at Garlon as he and Rachel dodged and parried each other’s spells. “Come on!” Rachel teased as yet another of the nondescript Unseelie’s energy blasts fizzled against her shield. “Is that all you’ve got?”
“I might ask you the same question,” Garlon replied, holding out his arms and drawing energy into the space between them. Rachel threw bolts to break his concentration, but they dissipated when they hit Garlon’s shields, and soon he was launching a whirlwind of sparkling energy at her. The shields around Rachel were rent asunder by it, and Garlon’s final wave knocked her down. He threw in another spell, binding his opponent with bands of yellow light. Then Garlon stepped forward and raised another energy bolt. “Now for the coup de gras.”
In that instant, Graeme launched the readied iron pellet and hit Garlon in the face. “Augh!” he screamed, falling over as his skin grew wrinkled and his hair turned stark white. The energy bolt he’d held ready dissipated instantly and Rachel smiled as she wiggled her nose and the bands of force vanished as well.
“Thanks,” she said to Graeme, turning away from where Garlon was struggling to his feet.
“No problem,” Graeme smiled back, scanning the clearing. “You think there are any more of them around here?”
“That one’s not dead yet,” Seth reminded them, standing ready with knife held out as Garlon got back up and glared at them.
Rachel backed up as her companions moved to flank her, readying another shield around all three of them. “You best give up,” Garlon said, the color already back in his hair and skin. “I may not have that much power to spare, but I can still finish all of you.”
“You’re going down, pal,” Graeme shot back, readying another iron pellet and taking aim at their adversary’s chest. Garlon dodged his shot and fired back with a ball of lightning, grimacing as it fizzled upon hitting the shield.
“This is ridiculous,” Garlon spat, gathering another storm of energy. “Come on and die!”
Seth drew the back his knife for a toss, but Rachel put a hand up to stop him. Graeme smiled, noticing the glow coming from her jeans pocket. “We’ll see you in a few thousand years, Garlon!” he shouted, throwing the Unseelie a friendly wave as the Phoenix flame surged up and swallowed them.
“No!” Garlon shouted, dispelling the energy as he watched them disappear. “Blast it! Lord Madoc isn’t going to like this.” He lowered his hands, then sighed and turned away.
Castle of the Avalon Clan, 6:57 pm.
The Phoenix fire dissipated, unceremoniously dumping Graeme, Seth,
and Rachel onto familiar battlements on which stood even more familiar
gargoyle statues. “We’re back,” Graeme smiled, recognizing their surroundings.
Then he saw his family in stone and sighed heavily. “Oh great. I wonder
how long we were gone.”
“I don’t know,” Rachel replied, glancing at the sky and noticing the coming sunset, “but we’re not going to be away any longer.” With that, she drew the Gate out of her pocket and threw it off the battlements. It splashed as it hit the water below.
“Amen,” Seth smiled his agreement as a cracking of stone caught their attention. They stepped back and instinctively each put up a hand to shield themselves as the Avalon clan and the five Manhattan gargoyles on the battlements awakened and broke free of their shells.
Brooklyn shook fragments off his skin and glanced at Sata and Ari, glad to see they were alright. “Dad!” Graeme called out. “Mom! Hey Ari!”
His three family members and the other newly awakened gargoyles instantly spun around, some nearly dropping their jaws in surprise when they saw their visitors. “Graeme,” Brooklyn said, smiling as though a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders, “you’re back.” His son nodded, stepping forward to embrace Brooklyn, then Sata.
“Where’d you go, Graeme-kun?” Ari snickered, giving him a playful punch on the brow.
“Ouch,” Graeme winced. “Hey, we weren’t gone that long, were we?”
“Yeah, were we?” Rachel asked.
Brooklyn glanced at Sata, Angela, Broadway, and Gabriel, then back at his son. “You didn’t show up when you were supposed to last night, we got worried. Jadeh, Turquesa, Katherine, and Tom are still out looking for you along with some of the fay. When did you guys get back to the castle?”
“Just now,” Rachel replied. “We kinda had an adventure.” She motioned for Seth to step forward into the light and he did so, causing Broadway and Angela to gasp in recognition.
“Seth,” Brooklyn said, causing all the Avalon clan members to look at him. “What are you doing here?”
“That’s a long story, Brooklyn,” Seth carefully answered, glancing nervously at Broadway, Sata, and Angela as they shot him warning glares.
“He’s not here to hurt anyone,” Graeme spoke up before anyone else could. “We found him in a magical cell deep under the Hollow Hill. Queen Titania apparently stuck him there for a time-out.”
“A time-out?” Broadway asked confusedly.
“Some time by myself,” Seth supplied, “to think about what I did and decide what I was going to do with my life.”
“Oh,” Broadway said, slight disbelief etched in his voice as he continued glaring at Seth.
“What are you doing here, Seth?” Angela broke in angrily. “You can’t expect us to have forgotten what you did the last time we saw you!”
“I don’t,” Seth said calmly, lowering his eyes to the ground. “You’re not the only one who remembers it well.”
“Did you let this man out of his prison, Graeme-kun?” Sata asked her son.
“Well,” Graeme said hesitantly, “it was Rachel that cast the spell, but I thought it was okay. We talked with Seth before we let him out, Mom. About what he did on Shadow Island. He’s…changed a lot since then.”
Brooklyn and Sata looked towards Seth, each of their faces furrowed into an expression of concern. Beside them, Broadway was doing the same while Angela tried to explain who Seth was to the slightly confused Avalon clan. “Guys,” Rachel said as they all began looking at her with shocked and worried expressions, “it’s okay. Seth doesn’t want to hurt people anymore.”
“Rachel,” Brooklyn countered, “even if he says that, we can’t ignore what Seth did the last time we encountered him. Don’t you remember how he killed all those people, how he tried to kill us?”
“Yes,” Rachel nodded. “He apologized to me, Brooklyn, and I forgave him. Seth was confused then, angry, not himself.”
“Oh,” Broadway interrupted her. “And now he’s regained his senses, right? Well, that doesn’t erase all the things he caused, the hurt he caused. It’s not going to bring back Zack and Weston’s friends.”
“I know that,” Seth said, surprising everyone as they turned to face him. “Look, guys, what Rachel’s saying may not be the best explanation, but she was right. What I did on Shadow Island was terrible, wrong. I shouldn’t have done it, and I’m sorry. And I’m not sorry because I’m supposed to be, I really am. Okay? I’ve been punished for what I did, severely. It’s caused me to do a lot of thinking, and I have decided that nothing like what happened on Shadow Island is ever going to happen again. At least not with me as the cause of it. I made a mistake, and I’ve learned from it. I will not make that mistake again.”
The gargoyles stared back at him for a moment and then began nodding, recognizing the truth and conviction in Seth’s voice. A slight smile crossed Broadway’s face as he thought about Seth’s words, next to him Angela was still looking worried but ready to accept Seth’s change nonetheless.
“I believe you, Uncle Seth,” said Ari, her beak in a half-smile as she looked up at the blonde man’s eyes. Sata instantly put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, the tilt of her lip showing she was still angry about the things Seth had done but also believed that he was sorry for them.
“You say you found this man in a cell in the Avalon caverns?” the dark blue and willowy Tourmaline asked angrily. “Why didn’t you leave him down there if you knew of his crimes?”
Gabriel stepped in front of her with a raised eyebrow, his expression asking his rookery sister if she had been listening to the recent exchange. “It is not our place to judge this man, Tourmaline,” the Avalon clan leader said. “His crimes were against the Manhattan clan, and the ‘Commandos.’”
“Queen Titania put him in the cell,” Brooklyn reminded everyone. “I think she’ll have to judge whether he gets out or not.”
“Just take me to her,” Seth said. “I can handle things from there.”
“We’ll do that in a minute,” Brooklyn replied, motioning his children close as he and the other gargoyles looked at Seth. “For now, I think my son and Rachel believe your apology, and since I trust them and have listened to what you said, I believe you, too. Anyone who doesn’t think they believe him?” No one spoke up, and Brooklyn nodded. “Good. Alright, Graeme, Rachel, now I want you two to explain why you took so long to get back.”
“First we talked to Seth for a while,” Rachel answered. “Then the Phoenix Gate flared up, and…”
“Hold it,” Brooklyn cut her off as the adult gargoyles looked at Rachel surprisingly. “You had the Phoenix Gate?”
Rachel nodded. “Yes, but don’t worry. It only took us on one trip, then dropped us off here. I threw it off the battlements as soon as I saw where we were.”
“Okay,” Brooklyn sighed in relief, his smile calming most of the others’ concerns. “So where’d you go?”
Rachel glanced at Graeme and Seth, then launched into a retelling of what had happened to them, Brooklyn and others jumping in with questions every now and then as she touched on each important event. Graeme and Seth helped fill in details wherever they could, the latter’s voice full of sadness as he recounted his reaction to seeing what had really happened to the man he had once been. By the time he was finished, everyone looked like they believed Seth had changed and was no longer a danger to them. Tourmaline and a few others still seemed a little confused, but their expressions showed that even they did not think Seth should go back to his cell. Brooklyn and Sata looked surprised and worried when Rachel recounted their battle with Garlon, but sighed in relief after being assured everyone was unhurt.
“Alright,” Broadway said when they had finished the retelling, “I guess someone needs to call back the search parties, let them know everything’s okay.”
“I’ll do that,” Ophelia volunteered. Corwin and five other Avalon clan members nodded that they would come with her, and they all glided off the battlements toward the Hollow Hill.
Brooklyn smiled as he watched them go, then turned back to his children. “Okay, you two are staying with me until we leave, okay?”
Graeme nodded. “No problem, Dad.”
“I’ll stay close to you, too,” Rachel agreed.
“Good,” Sata said, her expression telling Ari that she better not run off either. The young red gargess smirked and looked away.
“Seth,” Brooklyn said, and the blonde man turned to face him. “Are you ready to see Titania now?”
“Of course,” Seth replied, frowning as he looked back at the Timedancer. “The sooner I’ve talked to her, the sooner I know I don’t have to go back to that cell, right? Look, when this is over, I can come back with you to Manhattan, right?”
“We’ll see,” Brooklyn answered worriedly. “If you do come back, Goliath and Demona are going to want to have a long talk with you.”
“Right. I do want to come back, though. A lot of people are probably worried about me.”
Broadway nodded. “You’re right about that.”
“For now let’s get you cleaned up,” Angela suggested. “There’s a pool and waterfall near the castle, you can wash there. I think Guardian Tom has some clothes you can borrow for a while. Then we’ll take you to see Titania. Okay?”
Seth nodded. “You got a deal.”
Avalon, 9:40 pm.
Two hours later, Seth was dressed in a simple leather jerkin and
pants and running a hand across his wet hair and freshly saved face as
he followed Angela, Broadway, Gabriel, Sata, Brooklyn, Graeme, and Rachel
down the road to Oberon’s Palace. Guardian Tom walked ahead of them, having
earlier been told Seth’s identity and situation along with what had happened
to Rachel and Graeme. Ari and Boudicca trailed behind, the former looking
eager to see the inside of the palace for herself. Seth’s expression showed
he had no such feelings. Instead he looks concerned, Angela thought as
she glanced at the big blonde man, worried about what Titania will say.
Maybe he really has changed. Mother will be glad to hear that, she and
Seth were good friends.
The lavender gargess pursed her lips as they walked on, wondering whether she would be glad of it or not. Seth was never really a friend to her clan, though he had often helped them out in major fights. We could have used his help in that big gang attack back in March, Angela thought. We did just fine without him, but maybe Seth could have ended it faster. Of course, if he does come back to Manhattan, he won’t be able to help us as much as he once did. He’s lost his immortality. If I know Seth, he’s still going to try and protect people, but he’ll have to be more cautious now and thus he won’t have the edge he once did over the bad guys. I hope he knows that, if he does and still goes into combat willingly I might admire him. He probably still has all the skills he built up over the centuries, so if he does fight I bet he’ll do just fine. I guess if he does come back, I’ll be alright with it. His presence might help a lot of people. I’m more concerned about what Father will think. She frowned and walked on, wondering what Titania would decide as Seth’s fate.
Soon they had reached the palace entrance. The two shee knights standing there glanced at the group uncertainly, then Rachel stepped forward and smiled at them. “We’re here to see Titania,” she said.
“Of course, Lady Rachel,” one of the shee bowed. The other waved to open the doors. “Go right in.” Rachel thanked them and walked past, the others following.
“’Lady’ Rachel?” Graeme asked, his eyebrow raised.
“Grandmother must have told them about me,” the Halfling girl said, smiling as they passed through the front halls and on into the nearly deserted throne room. The lone fay servant polishing the chairs looked up to greet them, seeming a little surprised by the amount of visitors intruding on his chores.
“We’re here to see Queen Titania,” Tom said to him. “Can you call her, please?”
“Certainly,” the servant replied, smoothing away one last spot with his dust rag and then vanishing. Brooklyn nodded his thanks to the Guardian and then glanced around the room, motioning for Seth and most of the others to stay back while he, Gabriel, Angela, Broadway, and Rachel stood before the thrones. The group nodded and each member took its position as Titania flickered into being on the left chair.
“Hello again, Timedancer,” she said. “Greetings to you as well, Rachel, and you, Gabriel, leader of our honor guard. It is good to see you as well, Angela. I am sorry I did not say hello to you last night. Allow me to give my congratulations on your choice of mate.” She nodded at Broadway.
“Thank you, Queen Titania,” Angela replied, returning the fairy queen’s smile. Titania nodded at her, then turned to address Rachel and Brooklyn.
“It is good to see you have returned, granddaughter,” she said. “I see your son back there, Brooklyn, and am glad he has returned as well. Tell me, where did you go? Servants of my court spent nearly the entire day searching for you.”
“It’s kinda a long story,” Rachel answered. “Basically, Graeme and I were under the Hollow Hill and then we accidentally got sent back in time. But we’re back now and everything’s okay.”
Titania nodded. “Very well. I’m glad you weren’t gone as long as Brooklyn was on his time travels, and that you were not affected adversely by the experience. Is that correct?”
“Yes ma’am,” Graeme answered, stepping forward and smiling at Titania. “It was rather fun, in fact.”
“Well, that’s good. I sense you have something else to discuss with me, though. What is it?”
Rachel and Graeme looked at each other, then returned the nods directed their way by Brooklyn. “It’s this man, Grandmother,” Rachel said, gesturing for Seth to come forward. “We found him while exploring the caverns under Avalon.”
Seth stood before the thrones and knelt, formally bowing to touch the floor and then looking up at Titania. “Greetings, your Majesty,” he said. “I think we know each other.”
Titania smiled wryly, glancing from Seth to Rachel and back again. “So it was you that freed him,” she said.
Rachel nodded. “Yes.”
“The Sisters detected the termination of the spells that held him, I was worried about how he had escaped. Tell me, why did you release him? Don’t you remember how dangerous this man was to you and your clan?”
“Graeme and I talked to him. He’s not a danger anymore.”
Titania raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure of that?”
“Yes, we are,” Brooklyn answered. “We’ve talked to Seth, too.”
“Hmm,” Titania said, turning to meet eyes with Seth as he glanced back at her. “Well, Seth, what do you have you to say in your defense?”
Seth lowered his eyes for a moment, then looked back up. “Your Majesty, I know why you put me down there. And I understand your reasons. It was necessary, I had made a series of grave mistakes that resulted in the deaths of a number of people and the endangerment of several more. These events came about because of me. I was confused, told information about my past that I was not ready to handle. Rather than think about what I now knew and then decide what I should do, I acted purely on impulse. I was angry at my brother, and since I knew where to find him and wanted to avenge my death, I followed through. You know what happened after that. I fought with my brother but was unable to kill him, then Goliath and his clan fought me alongside him, and finally you stripped me of my immortality and imprisoned me beneath this island.”
“That is correct,” Titania echoed. “Now that you’ve spent about a week in that cell, what are your thoughts?”
“My thoughts?” Seth asked. “Well, while I was in there I did think a lot about what had happened to me. I had a lot of strange dreams when I was asleep and visions when I was awake that provoked this. I assume you sent me at least some of those.” The faerie queen nodded. “I thought so. As I said, they helped me think a lot. And eventually I decided that what I had done was wrong.”
“You did?” Titania replied, her expression suggesting she already knew what Seth was going to say next.
“Yes. And I’m sorry for it. I should not have tried to kill my brother, it was impossible. Many people died unnecessarily as a result of my insane crusade, and more could have had you not stopped me. I understand that now, because I have taken the time to think about it. I swear, lady, that if you let me back out into the world, nothing like what I did on Shadow Island will ever happen again.”
“That is partly due to the fact that you are no longer invincible,” Titania pointed out. “What about the people you have wronged? What are your intentions towards them?”
“Goliath and his clan were just trying to stop me,” Seth answered. “I fought with them because I was angry and couldn’t understand they were trying to help. Now that I do understand, the next time I see them I am going to apologize to them as I have already apologized to Rachel, Angela, Broadway, and Graeme. Then I will hopefully never raise arms against them again, but instead always fight by their side.”
The gargoyles in the room smiled as Seth continued. “As for the Commandos that remain, if any, I intend to apologize to them as well. The fight between myself and their organization was started and continued by me, I could have stopped it at any time but I was too angry. I wanted to take care of my brother, and I didn’t want them getting in the way. Rather than merely subdue them, I let my rage take control of me, and they became casualties of war. I should not have attacked them, I made a terrible mistake and I’m very sorry for it. I never intend to do anything like it again. I hope the ones that are still alive can understand that.”
“That will be up to them to decide,” Titania declared. Seth nodded in understanding, waiting for her to ask the next question. “What about your brother and the woman who now carries the power you once held?”
Seth frowned, his eyes downcast as he answered. “I made an especially terrible mistake with them. When I attacked him, when I was ready to kill him and all he cared about, my brother didn’t try to stop me. He tried to reach out to me, welcome me as a family member. I couldn’t believe it, I was convinced that he had hated me. Since I couldn’t let go of my hate and I couldn’t kill him, I decided to make him hate me. At the time, it seemed a quick and easy solution. But of course it was the wrong one, I know that now. I should have tried for peace with my brother, now that I know why he killed Abel and I understand the situation better, if I see him again I will try.”
“You know why he killed Abel?” Titania asked. “Are you sure?”
Seth nodded. “He went back in time with us,” Rachel explained. “We witnessed the end of the man Seth once was.”
“The man I am not now and never intend to be again,” Seth agreed, the conviction obvious in his voice. “My brother may never be able to forgive me, nor may the woman I tried to kill, but if I see them again, I still intend to apologize. I can only hope for a good result.”
“Very well,” Titania said after a momentary pause. “I hope you do encounter him again, Seth. I have a feeling Cain is greatly worried about you. For now, I think you have learned your lesson. You have been punished for your crimes, and I now think you are ready to rejoin the society you left.” She glanced at the gargoyles. “Are we in agreement on this?”
Brooklyn glanced at Gabriel and Angela. The former nodded. “I think we can handle having Seth back in New York,” Angela said. “Father and Mother will have to hear what he just told you, but I think they will forgive him. As for our friends Zack and Weston, I’m not sure. But I’m willing to forgive him.”
“I think Seth’s changed enough to not be a danger,” Brooklyn said when Titania turned her eyes toward him. “However, with your permission, I’d like to volunteer to watch over him for a while. Be his probation officer, so to speak. If he goes off the deep end again, I’ll handle it.”
“I’ll back you up on that,” said Broadway.
“I will as well,” Sata added. Angela, Rachel, and the twins nodded that they would do the same.
“Don’t worry, guys,” Seth assured them. “I appreciate what you’re doing, but it won’t be necessary. You have my word.”
“Just in case,” Brooklyn replied. Seth nodded in understanding.
“Alright then,” Titania said. “Seth, you are free to go. I hope you do good things during the time you have left.”
“I’ll do my best,” Seth promised, standing up and smiling. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” the faerie queen said, nodding at Seth as he stepped back. She opened her mouth to ask if there was anything else, but was interrupted by the sound of the opening doorway.
“There you are, my queen,” Oberon said, stepping into the room and giving the barest glance to the humans and gargoyles. “The door guards told me that our missing children have returned, and that you were receiving them.”
“We’re right here,” Rachel said, Graeme smiling as Oberon turned towards them. The faerie king nodded and then turned away, seemingly uncaring about where they had been.
“Seth,” Graeme whispered as Oberon walked past them towards Titania. “That’s Oberon.”
“Him?” Seth replied, staring at the king as he sat down beside his wife and started talking softly with her. After a few seconds, he shook his head. “No, that’s not the guy.”
“What are you talking about?” Brooklyn asked them.
“Agony told Seth that Oberon made him immortal,” Graeme explained.
“My brother must have been mistaken,” Seth said, pointing towards the faerie king. “That’s not the fay who resurrected me. Looks a lot like him, but different. The fay I saw wore red and black armor, not red and gold. His cape was black and kind of batlike, not blue. His hair was also shorter, and he had a thin mustache. Then there was his face. A face with more pent-up hatred and anger in it than I’d ever seen, dominated by cruel eyes. I’ll never forget that face.”
Brooklyn grimaced, realizing he knew who Seth was talking about. “Maybe you should ask Oberon about the fay who made you,” he said. “He and Titania might know where you could find him.”
“Maybe,” Seth nodded, stepping away from them and walking back towards the thrones. “Excuse me,” he said.
Oberon and Titania turned to face him, the former’s face blanching as though he couldn’t believe Seth’s presumption. The faerie queen only smiled. “Yes, what is it?” she asked Seth.
“Who is this man?” Oberon jumped in before Seth could reply.
“He who was once timeless,” Titania calmly answered. “Surely you remember the prophecies of the Sisters and Silvan regarding him.”
“You know how I feel about the prophecies of your half-alien son, Titania,” Oberon frowned. “How came this human to our shores?”
“I brought him here,” Titania replied.
“And I hope to leave very soon,” Seth added. “Before I go, though, I wish to ask you a question.”
Oberon shrugged. “Speak, mortal. We shall answer and then you will remove yourself from this premises as soon as you can. Is that clear?”
“Yes,” Seth replied, obviously annoyed by the faerie king’s attitude but not voicing his displeasure. He instead chose only to look at and address Titania. “Your Majesty, one of your kind made me immortal. I saw him and would like to know who he was.” He described the face he would never forget, causing Oberon to grimace.
“That one is an exile,” Oberon said when Seth had finished. “You will not find him on this island, and I would frankly be surprised if you find him easily in the world of your fellow mortals.”
“I do not think you should look for him, Seth,” Titania added. “The man who raised you does not matter. What’s important is what you decide to do with the life he gave.”
Seth nodded. “That’s right. Thank you.” He nodded at the fay and stepped back, Oberon looking slightly relieved. “Come on, guys,” the blonde man said to Brooklyn, “let’s get back to the castle. I think I may have overstayed my welcome here.”
“We’ll need to be leaving soon anyway,” Brooklyn agreed. “It’s already been over a month for the others since we departed New York.”
“Alright,” Angela said. “Broadway and I will get packed and ready to say goodbye. We’ll depart shortly after midnight.”
“And I’m coming with you,” Seth added. “Right?”
“Of course,” Broadway said. “Come on, let’s get back to the castle.” The blonde man nodded and then walked out of the room, Gabriel and the other gargoyles following close behind.
“Please stay for a while, Rachel,” Titania called out as the Halfling girl and Tom moved to also leave. “I wish to speak with you.”
“Of course, Grandmother,” Rachel said. “See you at the castle in a while, guys.”
“Alright,” Brooklyn replied. “See you in a minute.” Graeme and Ari waved goodbye, and then ran on after the rest of their group. Rachel turned back to Titania, noticing Oberon had vanished from beside her.
“So, Rachel,” Titania said, ignoring her husband’s absence, “have you enjoyed your time on Avalon?”
“Very much,” Rachel replied. “I hope to visit again, sometime. This is a wonderful place.”
“Yes, it is,” the faerie queen agreed. “I will be looking forward to seeing you again, when you do come.” Rachel smiled, then glanced away. “What troubles you?” Titania asked. “Is it Seth?”
“No, Seth’s fine,” Rachel said. “It will take me and the others a while to get adjusted to him, but there’s no problem. I was just thinking about the fay who raised him. I thought our kind couldn’t give life.”
Titania pursed her lips. “Perhaps it was not a fay that called Seth back from the grave, but something equally as powerful disguised as one. The figure Seth describes, though, sounds disturbingly like someone Oberon and I know all too well.”
“Who?” Rachel asked.
“A member of our race,” Titania replied. “My husband’s brother Madoc.”
“The same Madoc Silvan told me about?”
“Yes. As Oberon said, he has been banished from Avalon, never to return. But he still desires to possess your world, and one day will greatly threaten it.”
“Could Seth be a part of that threat?”
“I do not know, child. I do not think he is, but one can never be sure.” Titania frowned. “Please, let us talk of something more pleasant. Tell me how things are in Manhattan. Your messages are informative, but often not as detailed as I would like.”
Rachel smiled and nodded, then began to answer her grandmother’s questions. Yet even as they talked, worry about the whereabouts of the fay who had resurrected Seth and exactly how powerful he was remained foremost in her mind.
Zenthran Imperial Palace, Time Unknown.
“We have just passed into the Milky Way galaxy, Lord,” the large
black figure in the purple robe intoned, gesturing respectfully with its
four insect-like hands. “You asked to be informed of this.”
Madoc Morfyn nodded, a smile on his face as he looked back at his servant’s bulbous oval-shaped head. The alien’s golden compound eyes, pair of curved antennae, six limbs, and sharp mandibles in place of a mouth combined with its gossamer-thin wings and slightly hunched-over posture to give it the appearance of a giant insect. The similarities ended there, the Zenthran’s black-scaled skin, five-taloned hands, and loose purple robes showed one its alien origins, the compound eyes glimmering with intelligence making one sure.
“We are continuing our journey,” it continued. “The destination shall be reached very soon.”
“Excellent,” Madoc told it. “You may go now.” He smiled wryly as the Zenthran bowed and then walked off.
“Amazing, my lord,” said the nondescript brown-haired human who stood beside him. “They follow us so easily.”
“Believe it, Garlon,” Madoc laughed, his red and black armor clinking slightly as he leaned on the balcony rail. “One enchantment on their ruler, and they all serve. If only the wills of our world were as easily swayed.”
Garlon chuckled, his brown eyes glimmering as he regarded his lord’s harsh blue features. “We’re almost there,” he said. “Almost home.”
“Yes,” the other fay agreed. “Finally we return to the right galaxy. In just a few more of their years, the mortals will meet their new ruler.”
“Aren’t you worried, sir,” Garlon asked, “about Lady Maeve and the others we helped banish? They might not like seeing you again.”
“They will follow me again when I restore their powers to them,” Madoc shrugged nonchalantly. “And if they do not follow gratitude, I will take steps to ensure they follow out of fear. If necessary, I can destroy them. With all the might of Zenthran and the forces my son is gathering at my disposal, the army I once had will only be mildly useful. I may not even require them.”
“Of course, my lord,” Garlon nodded. “I do doubt, though, that you will not want at least some of them.”
“And those some I shall have,” Madoc declared. “The others can die if they stand in my way, or live uncaring under my rule. It will make no difference.”
“Lord Morfyn,” a voice caught his attention. Madoc turned to see another Zenthran standing on the balcony. Garlon grimaced, slightly unnerved by the insect-people’s universally silent approach.
“Yes?” Madoc asked.
“Lord Tainethal has arrived at the palace. He wishes to speak with you.”
“Thank you,” the Unseelie lord said. “I will speak with him now.” He gestured for the Zenthran to lead the way.
“I still hardly believe how much you trust that demon,” Garlon told Madoc as they walked through the hive-like palace halls.
“He has helped us for a long time, Garlon,” Madoc replied, “and never asked for anything in return. Without him we could have not fulfilled half the demands of Silvan Farrow’s prophecies, and thus the Rising would not be able to take place. I value him as a powerful ally.”
Garlon nodded. “He has been of some use to us. I’ve certainly appreciated the magical energies he has transferred into our bodies when necessary. I worry, though, about what he eventually will ask for. You know what they say about deals with the devil.”
“What mortals say, Garlon, does not apply to us. Do not be concerned about our Gehannian ally. If it becomes necessary, I can deal with him the way I will deal with any other resistance. Think of our future instead, think of the millions of lives who will soon bow before their rightful masters.”
The nondescript fay shrugged and followed his master, trying to concentrate on the hope that they would soon be ruling their home planet of Earth.
Avalon, 1:40 am.
“All loaded up, Dad!” Graeme called as he shut the door of the
boat’s small cabin.
“Good work,” Brooklyn nodded, waving for him to come back onto the beach and say goodbye. The red gargoyle then turned to the other people standing around him. “Thanks for your hospitality,” he said to Katherine and Tom. “I only wish we could stay longer.”
“We understand that you must leave,” Tom replied. “Your home needs you.”
“Please do give Goliath our regards,” the Princess added. “And Elisa as well.”
Brooklyn nodded that he would, watching as Angela hugged Gabriel and Ophelia one last time before her departure. “I will miss you all,” she said to them and the other Avalon clan members. “Hopefully I can see you again soon.”
“We will see you at your mating, Angela,” Gabriel assured her. “Broadway, take good care of my rookery sister.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” the portly gargoyle smiled, putting an arm around Angela. “It was great meeting you all. Bye for now.” The Avalon clan nodded and once again congratulated them, then stepped aside to let Broadway and Angela step onto the boat beside the waiting Seth.
Rachel watched them from nearby, where she was standing with Titania. A few others of the fay hung back from them, for whatever reason not wanting to intrude on the conversation. “Good bye, Grandmother,” Rachel said, accepting the faerie queen’s offered hug. “I’ll see you again soon. Hopefully next time I can get to meet some more of our kind.”
“I hope so, Rachel,” Titania agreed. “I’m sorry few of them approached you while you were here.”
“Graeme said they were nervous about me.”
“Perhaps so. I will do what I can to rectify that.”
“You’re welcome See you later, Rachel. Don’t forget to write.”
The Halfling girl nodded. “I won’t.” She then turned and stepped on board the cabin cruiser, crouching at the rail beside Seth as Sata followed Broadway and Angela up on deck, her goodbyes already having been said.
“See you guys again soon,” Graeme said to the Avalon clan, nodding as they replied with their own farewells. “Come on, Ari!” the young gargoyle shouted when the last had been given, obviously eager to get back to Manhattan.
“In a minute, Graeme,” his sister called back, bending down to give Boudicca another farewell pat. “Good bye,” she said to the Avalon clan and Titania, turning to face them.
“We enjoyed meeting you, Arianna,” said Jacob, the others nodding agreement. “See you again at Angela’s mating day, okay?”
“Right,” Ari smiled at him, turning to climb onto the boat. Brooklyn got on beside her, throwing the Avalon gargoyles one last series of waves as Andrew, Corwin, and Gabriel gave their boat a push out into the surf. Rachel, Graeme, Angela, Broadway, Ari, and Sata joined him at the railing, waving as those standing on the beach waved back. “I’m gonna miss this place,” Ari said as Seth started the boat’s engine. The others waving beside her nodded that they would as well.
“I’m not going to miss it,” Seth declared from his place in front of the piloting console. “Thanks to that cell they put me in, I’ll be glad it I never come back. The rest of the island was nice, but not that place.”
“Well, it was your fault that you had to spend so much time in it,” Broadway reminded him.
“Right,” Seth agreed, turning them on a heading towards the nearest patch of mist. “As you know, I won’t be going back there again. That’s partly because of you guys, of course. So before I forget,” he turned to face them and smile, “thanks.”
“No problem,” Brooklyn smiled back along with the others. Seth returned their grins, then nodded and kept the boat on a steady course, grimacing as the mists of Avalon closed in.
“Where do you think we’ll end up?” Graeme asked as they traveled through it.
“Manhattan, right?” Seth replied. “That’s where I want to go, anyway.”
“I’m afraid that’s now how it works,” Rachel said. “You leave Avalon, it doesn’t send you where you want to go. It sends you where you need to be.”
“What?” Seth asked, looking surprised as he turned away from the console.
“You heard her,” Angela answered, flashing him a bemused smile. “Avalon may be sending us on a quest for a while. Hopefully not too long, you’re not the only one who wants to get home.”
Seth nodded. “Where you need to be, huh?” he sighed. “That’s just great!” The others laughed, causing the blonde man to smile and join in. With that they headed on into the encompassing mist, ready for whatever trials it would bring them after they passed through.
Afterword: And so this tale closes. Hope you enjoyed it, thanks for
reading. To those of you who are wondering about the possible new world
tour the characters may be going on, don’t worry, it’s not going to be
that long. <grin> The next story in the saga is called Protected Species,
it will feature the Ishimura clan as well as the main characters from this
story. Hope to get it out very soon. In the meantime, I will appreciate
you sending any feedback on this and my other fics to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to soon be reading your thoughts. :)
- Doug Elder.