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An Ordinary Plan

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"I'm getting tired of the Illuminati, Owen."

Owen Burnett was rather used to rhetorical statements from his employer by this time. While from all theatrical appearances aside David Xanatos valued his most faithful employee far more than to treat him as a mere 'yes-man', he also realized many times the man merely wanted a sounding board while he aired out his ideas. Many times, Xanatos would work out his plans and ideas to fruition in secret, which delighted Owen's inner personality when they unfolded and surprised him. At other intervals, however, Xanatos wanted to air out his thoughts before making them concrete.

As usual, both sides of Owen were more than willing to assist his employer in this. "Indeed. Yet dare I not point out the obvious by saying how difficult it is to be ignored by them once catching their interest, sir."

At the moment, Xanatos wasn't even looking at him - he was gazing across the room at Alex, who was busily building, destroying, and then re-building a castle of blocks over and over again. In a distracted way, he was a little concerned for his son. The boy was only about six months old by now, yet his philological development spoke of a child of about eighteen months. Perhaps this was only a positive side-benefit to being partially of the Third Race. Perhaps not. He needed to gain more information from a reliable source.

Somewhere to his right, Owen was tidying small plush animals into a bin. Xanatos appreciated the irony of having his personal office filled with children's toys. He couldn't be moved to care at the moment. In an amused voice, as if the subject were not as grave as it could have been, he reflected, "I need to lose their interest somehow then, shall I?"

A childish cry of glee punctuated - or further disjointed - their conversation. The castle had fallen once again. Xanatos' expression widened into a broader smile. Arching his fingers together into a characteristic gesture, he mused almost idly, "Or, perhaps more to our liking, someone else should capture their interests instead."

Owen straightened, stone arm laden with the small, comical toys, his face remaining well and truly impassive. Even Xanatos had difficulties discerning his mood at times, for as long as he had known the disguised fey. And such a mood could be quite bipolar, all things to be considered. He nodded his head, as if to say, 'Go on,' so Owen allowed, "Indeed."

Xanatos sighed. Perhaps Fox would add more delightful input into this conversation.

 


 

Some distance away from New York and David Xanatos' musings, two of the highest-ranked members of the Illuminati discussed the man. Duval scowled, his lined expression sharpening at the expression. The only reason such a low-ranked member interested them so was the reason the man yet remained so lowly held within the Society's esteem - the man was not to be trusted. They, the silent observers and mechanics of the world, were very familiar with Xanatos' manner of scheming.

"We cannot allow him to evade us forever," Duval said in a weary voice. "Were it not for his activities involving the Stone of Destiny, I would think his loyalty towards us is entirely suspect."

Quincy Hemings, the other 'number Two', nodded, but in almost a distracted manner of fashion. He was far more inclined to think the CEO could be manipulated towards their own ends. "He does not truly evade us, remember. He fears the repercussions too greatly to spurn our notice. Otherwise, he would not have so readily met our summons."

"Pendragon reached the stone after it was secured by Xanatos," Duval growled out. "Such an act has to be more than simple coincidence."

"Not at risk of the destruction of Coyote," Hemings pointed out. "It was not a mere smash-and-grab operation, yet I believe it became clear his mechanizations were to manipulate and deceive those gargoyles existing there, and not us. Why else injure his 'beloved' clan's two members?"

"Why indeed," Duval speculated, lost in thought.

"Besides, no-one could have predicted the arrival of Macbeth."

"We should have been observing Pendragon far more closely. Would we not have seen them together, I wonder?"

Hemings was silent at Duval's almost rhetorical statement. To be honest, he was becoming suspicious at the zeal the other number two sought out artifacts connected to the Once and Future King. Were it not so readily confirmed and accepted by the head of the Illuminati, he would suspect Duval acted entirely out of his own interests, rather than that of the Society's.

"Perhaps, then, it is time to give our friend Mister Xanatos another assignment."

 


 

Fox always found she came up with her best ideas while working out. In this way, it was part stress relief, part brainstorming session, and recreation all rolled into one. Today her usual sparring partner was leaning against the doorframe some distance away, admiring her form yet remaining dressed in designer suit and tie. He had to leave for a meeting in fifteen minutes, but thought to air out some of his ideas before he left. She gave another vicious kick to the heavy bag.

"That is the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard," was her first reaction; her tone was a bit disbelieving, but more amused than anything else. She had been doing this for some time, causing Xanatos to wonder if the punching bag wasn't liable to pop a seam once again. Ah well - easily replaced. She continued, "Asking you to steal - what exactly is it, again?"

"You know very well," Xanatos replied, smiling widely. He was watching the woman rather closely, but did not move from his spot against the door, realizing the temptation such a situation held. A pity about that meeting. But there were always other times.

"The Cauldron of Annwn," she said, her voice skeptical. A few more hits to the bag - it swayed a bit, and she dodged the swinging sandbag while waiting for it to lose its momentum. "Isn't that the Cauldron of Life? You destroyed it."

Xanatos shrugged. "I incorporated the remains into the fourth version of Coyote," he corrected. "But this is not the same cauldron. In older tales of Arthur Pendragon, Annwn's bestowed wisdom, not immortality."

Kicking the bag again, Fox searched her mind for memories of old Welsh poetry - a subject she never particularly relished as a child. The exact details escaped her recollection. Instead, she asked, "Do you know where it is?"

Smirking, he answered, "I believe I do. The question is, how much do they want me to fail?"

Wham, kick, wham. "Is there any problem with just letting them have it?"

A wry chuckle, then, "Only that Owen says it is technically the property of Oberon. Not those such artifacts are particularly hard to come by."

Stepping away from the bag again, Fox swiped a hand across her brow, feeling a little winded. She looked over her shoulder at her husband, returning the rueful expression. "Or that such a thing has stopped you before. Just what are you up to, David?"

Xanatos gifted her with a rather mysterious smile. "Perhaps I'll tell you later. I'm going to be late for my meeting."

 


 

"How can we trust this information?" Arthur Pendragon asked warily, giving his knight a cautious glance, then transferring his gaze towards his two rookery siblings. Into the Mystic was rather quiet this evening, the shop's windows displaying a dark and empty street through the slit between the curtains. While Leo was looking over the letter carefully, Griff paced the room, muttering to himself. Una pulled a book from her shelves and leafed through it, a considering expression upon her long face.

Griff shook his head. "We can't," he replied. "I hate to admit it, but it sounds too much like a setup." A thoughtful rumble issued from his brother, and he turned his head sharply to look at the gargoyle. "Oh, now what? You're always going on about how I act too hastily."

Shrugging slightly, Leo appeared still to be re-examining the letter, tapping the page with one long claw. "You've neglected to remember one thing; the last time he let us win."

"Oh, now we're debating semantics. Fine. We got to the ruddy stone," Griff said, waving his arm dismissively. "But it was still in the hands of the bloody Illuminati. And why should we care about this cauldron, anyhow?"

"Because it is the rightful property of the Third Race," Una interjected, her calm voice issuing for the first time during this conversation. All three men looked towards her, and she bowed her head slightly, still holding a rather thick book. "It belonged to Annwn, and could hold tremendous power. Your Majesty, had you managed to obtain the cauldron in reality?"

Arthur answered, "No, Lady Una. And may I say, Annwn himself is a fearsome figure. Though I doubt, with all of Oberon's Children recalled to the Isle of Avalon, he would be watching over his property in a museum."

"I still don't trust it. I mean, certainly it wouldn't be right to let some random blighter have some powerful, magical artifact? So ..." Griff stopped his tirade, considering his own words. He sighed, his wings slumping. "But who else is going to protect it?"

Leo stood, nodding, his expression grave. "I do hate to interfere with the affairs of the human world, but we cannot ignore this. You were right. Britain is our protectorate."

"In a way, I feel a sort of responsibility for the Cauldron," Arthur agreed, also standing. His face was a little tense in his own thoughts. "If it has slept dormant in such a museum for ... how long has it been in its collection?"

"Since the 1930s," Una answered, patiently. "Yet other artifacts have slept for far longer, only recently gaining the attention of humanity within this era."

Resigned, Griff nodded, his beak set into stubborn resolve. "Right, then. We'll have to keep them from getting their hands on it. No matter what."

 


 

Few people, David Xanatos reflected, were as predictable as Goliath.

Approximately an hour after sunset, the large gargoyle burst into his office, his expression stern and - can we say - stony, storming towards his desk before standing before it, fuming. In the hallway behind him, barely able to be seen due to Goliath's bulk, Owen peered in and raised an eyebrow. Xanatos raised one back. His employee understood the message, and left.

"I demand to have an explanation for this!" Goliath bellowed. Beginning his lecture, treating the man before him as if he was nothing more than a mere hatchling, he continued, "You deliberately led the English clan and King Arthur into a trap. You endangered their lives and helped to steal a priceless artifact. Worst of all, you appeared to be assisting them in negotiating the object's release from the hands of those - Illuminati," he said the word with distaste, "Only to turn the tables upon them once again."

As Goliath continued to list his 'crimes,' the details of the elaborate heist and subsequent attempted arrest of Arthur Pendragon - only the former of which happened to be a success - Xanatos sat quite impassively. He did not hide the fact he was almost amused by the clan leader's reactions. Nor did he hide his lack of surprise at the gargoyle's knowledge. As predictable as Goliath might have been, he wasn't a fool. And the man had long since ceased attempting to play him as one.

At last, Goliath finished with, "You may have called a truce with our clan, Xanatos, but you should not allow yourself to believe this will leave you to endanger other gargoyles unpunished. If these are your intentions against the clan of England, or indeed against gargoyle clans as a whole, consider our truce to be broken."

Xanatos chuckled. "On the contrary, my friend. Please, sit down."

Goliath stood. Goliath always declined his offer to sit, even though Xanatos kept sturdy, backless chairs within his office for just such purpose. Even if it had the added bonus of keeping human clients rather wary, 'on the edge of their seats' as it were, when Xanatos left those chairs within his office by daylight. The man inclined his head towards the gargoyle.

"The cauldron is useless," he stated. Goliath blinked, his expression tensing, but Xanatos interrupted him. "I would have no way of knowing this - in fact, no human or gargoyle could have known, had I not inside information into the situation."

"Puck," Goliath said, quite unnecessarily.

Continuing as if uninterrupted, Xanatos said, "The Illuminati would have gained the necessary means to infiltrate the building with or without my assistance. By becoming involved in their affairs, I had enough knowledge to warn Arthur Pendragon and the England clan before hand."

Though Goliath wanted to interrupt, Xanatos wouldn't let him speak. "However, the Illuminati also know of my connection with the gargoyles. I found it necessary to assist them, but also betray them, or else my motives would be suspect. Instead, his attentions are now merely entirely concentrated upon Arthur Pendragon - who, I believe, would have been his target in either event."

The large gargoyle growled. "They are all too suspect, Xanatos. You cannot suppose such a thing."

But he went on with his explanation despite that. "However, in having temporarily captured Griff, this allowed a great enough distraction to allow my associates to ensure the cauldron was in fact genuine. We also confirmed it was now useless."

Goliath's anger was momentarily distracted by surprise. "Useless?" He echoed.

Xanatos nodded. "Completely and utterly useless. Duval had arrived after my associates' departure to test such a thing himself. Fortunate for us both, he also knew the cauldron was genuine. Yet his ire concerning its lack of power in the present day was ... considerable. Were it not for his fury, I doubt your friend would have been able to escape without further assistance."

For a long moment, man and gargoyle considered each other. After a pregnant pause, Goliath simply stated, "You had taken a great risk, in supposing a man of Duval's standing would make such an uncharacteristic error."

Shaking his head, Xanatos could only smile enigmatically. "Not at all. Everything had gone according to plan."

However, just how he had known, he wouldn't say. One of these days, Goliath reflected, he would discover just how much of Xanatos' mechanizations were true magnificent genius - and how much of it was merely the luck of the devil.