Disclaimer: Highlander: the Series and all related concepts, events, and characters are the property of Rysher Television, Gauamont, Panzer/Davis Productions; they do not belong to me, and no money is made off of this. You know the drill.
Disclaimer: Gargoyles: the Animated Series and all related characters, events, and themes are the property of Disney Studios and Buena Vista Television; and are the creation of Greg Weisman, they do not belong to me. They are only being borrowed for entertainment purposes, and will be returned intact once I'm done with them.
Note: An answer, of sorts, to a story challenge posted by Desdemona at the Seventh Dimension Highlander Fanfiction Archive's message board. Gunthar Norman and Bryce Whitlock are characters of my own creation.
"Quicksilver" by Karrenia
The museum's long gallery of British Isles Antiquities soaked up shadows created by moonlight filtered in through the lead-paned floor to ceiling windows. The stately old building felt cold and empty without the lights that were normally turned on during visiting hours, and the sporadic times when the board of directors closed up to rotate exhibits, or to renovate the various wings. A tall, big-boned man, the hood of his jacket pulled down to cover his face, weaved through the hallways and rooms.
He held a flashlight in one hand, pausing to recall the map museum's layout he had committed to memory. He hoped he had also bypassed the security system. He did not want to be tripped up by the silent alarms and security video cameras.
Dealing with the security guard proved to be far easier than he had anticipated; simply holding a rag soaked in poppy seeds to his nose. Gunthar Norman shook his head in reflection, it had not taken as much as the substance as he'd anticipated. The guard had his eyes closed, already nodding off in his chair by the time he had crept up behind him.
After a few moments of mental inventory, Gunthar nodded in satisfaction, and continued on his way.
Unknown to Gunthar, ensconced under an accumulating pile of books, manila file folders, and assorted documents, a research associate by the name of Bryce Whitlock was working late on translating a manuscript written in Latin, determined he would finish it before he left the museum.
Gunthar Norman contemplated the events of several centuries ago, seeing these relics of the past, that might as well have been his present. "I can feel it," he whispered to himself under his breath. "It's almost within reach.
All these centuries of searching, of running into one dead end after another; I'm finally close to achieving my goal, and the ghost of my ancestor, Hakon, will at long last have his long deserved revenge against those Gods be cursed-gargoyles who killed him." Gunthar chuckled, a low rumble at the base of his throat.
"Wouldn't it be ironic if all those urban myths I've been hearing about since I arrived in Manhattan were true? Real live gargoyles protecting the city."
Gunthar paused to admire a sword in glass-fronted display case, while with his free hand he patted his own blade, safely hidden underneath the folds of his cloak. He was distracted a moment later by the sound of shuffling footsteps and a dry cough.
"Who the hell are ye?" the man snarled, irritated that this insignificant person would show up at just the wrong moment to ruin his perfect plan as he whirled around in alarm, mentally kicking himself for not having sensing the approach of someone else in the room with him.
"Nobody," the nervous and dead-tired research associate gulped, his Adam's apple bobbing in his skinny chest. Bryce back pedaled as far as he could go until he backed into his own desk. Bryce hedged around the stranger careful to maintain eye contact with him. Bryce did not have to see hard physical evidence of a gun, or another weapon, he instinctively knew that that this man could be considered armed and dangerous.
Bryce stumbled and almost fell over. He was able to recover in time to hit the silent alarm, and sighed in relief, as the intruder momentarily seemed oblivious of his presence. It didn't last very long.
Bryce fell into his desk chair, trying to hide his movements from the other man, reaching into the drawer where he kept a .38 caliber gun, which he told himself he had only bought for the last leg of the commute to his grungy apartment in the Bronx. New York wasn't actually the safest in the world, so he'd bought a gun to be on the safe side. He hadn't expected to actually have a need to use it at work.
The intruder lunged forward, a nasty looking knife in hand; a dark coiled fury in his dark eyes, making a stab at Bryce where he hid behind the desk. In the split second of that would have seen the glittering silver blade plunged into his chest, Bryce lifted his hand holding the gun in a white-knuckled grip and he pulled the trigger.
The bullet sped through the air and found itself lodged in the intruder's collarbone.
The resulting shock, and recoil of the gun's firing, was finally too much for Bryce to take and he fainted.
When he came to Bryce discovered that the security guard had responded to the silent alarm.
"Is he dead?" Bryce Whitlock stammered his face pale and his heart hammering like a blacksmith striking the metal of his anvil.
The security guard bent down next to the prone body, his hand shaking as well. He reached out a hand by increments to feel for a pulse. The bullet had entered at an angle, and apparently lodged itself in the clavicle. The man he had shot was tall, dark-haired, and wore equally dark clothing. A small crimson stain extended out from his shoulder blades. The guard folded back the hood of the cloak the man had worn, the flesh already going cold in rigor mortis. For a few tense seconds, the body seemed to move, but he dismissed that as his mind playing tricks on him, and pressed his suddenly clammy fingers to the man's neck feeling for a pulse. Nothing. The guard wiped his hand off on his denim jeans, and stood up again to answer the obviously shaken academic. "Yup, he's dead. We'd better call the authorities."
"Of course, there's a phone in my office," Bryce said. "I'll go make the call."
"Uh, what do we do with the body?" He was anxious to get away from the man he had killed.
"Dunno," the guard replied.
"Somehow," Bryce grimly replied, "That does not do much to reassure me," He tossed over his shoulder as he walked over to his office, the door he had left ajar.
Somewhere in mid-town
The lights were turned down to a bare flicker, except for the lamp mounted in its bracket over the metal slab. The doctor whose duty rotation meant he had to stand the graveyard shift in the morgue, arched his back, shifting around to get gain a more comfortable position in his metal swivel chair, filling the last of many of forms following the conclusion of his autopsy on the latest body to be delivered to the morgue. Despite, this one being a John Doe, he had some information gleaned from the autopsy.
'White Male, approximate age30-35, 220 pounds; black hair worn shoulder length, apparent nationality Western European, big-boned. Probable cause of death, a bullet wound lodged in the clavicle, and pierced all the way through with enough force to shock the victim into severe blood loss, the resulting internal bleeding indicates that death occurred at approximately 10pm the previous evening.' Doctor Hamilton rattled off all in one breath as he filled in the corresponding blanks on the medical form.
Gunthar awoke with the taste of rusty nails in a dry mouth along with a throbbing headache. He wondered how his flawless plan of obtaining the documents pertaining to the Stone of Destiny's whereabouts, along with the key to unlock its power, could have gone so horribly wrong. Shifting position on the chilly metal surface he had a least some evidence to go on: He finger-combed his lank black hair, and after a few moments gave it up as an exercise in futility. Rubbing the sleep grit out of his blue eyes.
Just then the body resting on the metal gurney twitched and began moving. Minutes later the 'deceased' sat up and glanced around, taking stock of his surroundings. The white sheet fell to the floor, unnoticed.
"What the hell?" How? You're dead!" Hamilton stammered, sweat beading on his forehead.
"I was dead, I got better," Gunthar grimly replied. "That's all you need to know.
"Do us both a favor, you fill out that death certificate, file the report, and then 'continently' forget that you ever saw me come back, or that any of this ever happened."
Unable to speak, Hamilton simply nodded.
Gunthar grinned, and scooped up the bag containing all the possessions he had on him when he was killed and brought into the morgue, methodically dressing, and leaving behind one very confused doctor, having decided against killing him, Gunthar slammed the door behind him as he walked out into the night.
The red and white classic car pulled up in front of the front entrance of the Eyrie Building, a large marble block with the stark black letters bigger than life, Xanatos Enterprises, on its surface.
"They used to say that the real estate agent retained by Steven Spielberg's production studios remarked once that his house with its high ceilings wouldn't be big enough to contain his ego," Matt Bluestone observed to no one in particular. "This takes the cake."
"We're here," Elisa announced. She turned the key in the car's ignition and unbuckled her seatbelt. That done she turned to her partner and fellow detective, holding up a hand a few inches from his mouth. "Not another word, Matt. Unless it has do with the case at hand?" She smiled, her dark eyes crinkling at the corners, and a mischievous grin curving her lips. "I've just had all I can take for one night."
Matt Bluestone, his red hair plastered to his face from the light drizzle that had been falling all night, returned her grin, and nodded. "Okay, okay. I get it So, if our conversational topics are limited to the case or the weather; how do you suppose a John Doe managed to get up off its slab, check itself out of the morgue, and walk out the hospital and make its way all the way across town, and then return to the scene of the crime?"
"I really don't know," Elisa replied, finger-combing the snarls out of her waist-length black hair, and then zipping up her red-leather coat to provide more protection against the cold and dampness of the rain. "Maybe talking to the guys will provide a fresher perspective on the case."
Entering the sky-scrapper, they tried to avoid appearing overwhelmed by the monument to exuberant wealth possessed by Xanatos and his uninhibited arrogance and in the extravagant way he had of showing it off. Being unimpressed was easier said than done.
Moving over to the bank of elevators that led to the upper stories, by mutual agreement they both took long, deep breaths preparing for the even longer climb up the stone stairs to the roof, and from there the ruins of the Dark Ages fortress that Xanatos had air-lifted by helicopter lock, stock, and gargoyle when he had constructed The Eyrie Building and taken possession of the crumbling fortress in Scotland.
Legend had it, that a clan of real-life gargoyles had been spent the last 10,000 years in enchanted sleep that rendered them stone by and by night. He had been skeptical, of course. He had an interest in the old castle for its economic and architectural value,' a welcome surprise had been to learn that local legends were true; that the gargoyles were living, vibrant, and feeling beings.
David Xanatos had once believed he could exploit the gargoyles to serve his own ends; and for a while they had been enemies.
Not until both sides had been forced to work together to save the life of his son, Alexander. That incident showed Xanatos that he they had so much more to gain be working together instead of at cross-purposes. A truce had been agreed to, and now he and the Manhattan Clan of Gargoyles were at least on speaking terms. Goliath, bless his noble heart, believed in Xanatos' promise, but somehow Elisa firmly believed that old saying that a leopard never truly changed his spots, and she would trust Xanatos any further than she could throw him.
With those thoughts running through her head, Elisa stopped on the threshold of the old castle's double doors, curling her hand around the metal door knocker, gasping for breath. Ever since she had befriended the gargoyles when they had awakened after a ten thousand year stone sleep, she was certain of one thing, being their friend and ally was certainly good for keeping in shape.
"Goliath!" she called out, as she swung wide the doors and entered the entry hall, Matt treading on her heels.
"Elisa!" Goliath called out to her, his bass voice rumbling, threatening to chip loose ever more of the crumbling masonry surrounding them.
Hudson glided forward, his old joints creaking, Bronx on his heels. A wrinkly smile on his wide, expressive face, he enveloped first Elisa and then Matt in his wings, and gave them a smothering hug. "Aye, tis a sight for these old eyes of mine to see the both of ye again."
"You old fuddy-duddy, a century hasn't passed by," Matt laughed, when he had recovered his breath. "Still, it's nice to be remembered."
"Hudson, stop it," Elisa. "If you're not careful you'll having him believing that you're going soft and senile, which is obviously not true."
"What's going on?" Broadway yelled from the open door of the kitchen that branched off from the main hall, holding Angela's hand, and a large submarine sandwich in the other, on his heels were the other members of the Trio: Brooklyn and Lexington.
"Elisa and Matt are here!" Goliath yelled back. "As much as I enjoy seeing you, is something wrong?"
"Nothing wrong so much as it’s puzzling as hell. We're in the midst of investigation. On the surface, it is pretty straight forward. I would call a standard breaking and entry at the Museum of Medieval Antiquities. The prep was shot and killed by a .38 caliber gun carried by a young research associate working late on translating a few manuscripts, " Matt launched ahead with his explanation.
"We've been trying to get a lead in this case, and so far it's getting us nowhere. It doesn't help matters that the body in question managed to get up under its own power, walk out of the morgue, and make another stab at stealing something called the Scepter of Alba and the Stone of Destiny," Elisa added.
"This walking corpse have a name?" Broadway asked.
"Nope," Elisa replied, "Which makes it all that more frustrating."
"We thought you have some more insights to share with us," Matt said.
"It is worth, what is the expression," Goliath grimly said, his dark wings folded around his massive shoulders so that it draped down to the stone floor of the castle parapet like a cloak. "Oh, yes, staking out again. If there is one thing I have learned since our 'awakening' in Manhattan, is that criminals often return to the scene of the crime."
"You'll get no argument from me," Elisa replied. "This might interest you, apparently the thief was after something the museum curator referred to as the Scottish Stone of Destiny, along with the Scepter of Alba, both originating from the late Dark Ages in Cumbria, what's now Scotland. Ring any bells?"
"Indeed," Goliath replied, "although the pivotal times where the Stone of Destiny played a pivotal role came after our time. It was reputed to possess magical powers."
"Then I'd lay odds who was after it," Elisa replied. "You know how obsessed Xanatos has been about securing immortality for himself.
"Agreed. Send the Trio," Hudson rumbled from his seated position in front of the television along with the garg-dog, Bronx curled up at his feet, big dark, intelligent eyes staring up at him, for all that he was the only one who could not speak in words.
"Macleod," Bryce greeted the older Scottish man, the fine lines around his eyes formed by genuine good will and an over tendency to smile at the oddest moments. He enjoyed being surrounded by things of the past. He had always been a firm believer that the past, as dry and dusty and it sometimes seemed to him; there were lessons to be learned, and he enjoyed digging them up, discussing with those of like minds. It didn't hurt to get now and then and enjoy the company of his small circle of friends. Even though, Macleod lived on the other side of the country in Seattle, it was nice that they corresponded on various matters, including the subject of his research.
"Bryce," Duncan Macleod returned the smile and pumped the smaller man's hand up and down in a firm handshake for all he was worth. "It's good to see you again."
"Likewise, Mac," Bryce replied, rubbing his hand once Duncan released it, and stuffing into the jacket pocket of his corduroy pants.
Richie, standing to one side, tightened his mouth, trying to hold his laughter in, having had experience of being on the receiving end of an equal forceful handshake. Mac just didn't realize his own strength sometimes. He waited while they exchanged pleasantries; and news of something or other that Mac was having Bryce research for him; and waited to be introduced.
He hadn't been paying attention, and tugged at the black silk tie Macleod insisted he wear to the unveiling event. He glanced at his reflection in a mirror hanging on the wall across the way from him. In the back of his mind, some wayward part of him knew he looked good in a suit, but another part.- How many parts of me are there? He wondered how anyone in their right mind would where one of these constricting torture devices disguised as neckties.
Richie inspected the exhibits, noting the suits of armor set upright as if they really were knights about to sally forth on parade; halberds raised at parade rest, swords hanging from their belt notches. Individual blades were displayed in glass-fronted cases; some pulled halfway out of their sheaths. Others were bared completely out, and gleamed in the light of the fluorescent lights.
"Richie," Duncan began.
Richie could practically see the pained expression on Duncan's face.
"Huh?" Richie replied, distracted from his thoughts. "I'd like to introduce you to Bryce Whitlock, an old friend of mine."
Richie, winning smile plastered on his face, turned around and firmly shook hands with the other man. "A pleasure."
Bryce laughed and returned the hand shake, "You've done wonders with this one, Macleod, if I didn't you know any better I'd say he was born to smooze with the rich and famous."
Richie silently cursed the double curse of blushing and a fair complexion. "Hey, enough with the laughs at my expense!"
"I suppose, it's only fair," Duncan laughed. "Bryce, did you find those manuscripts I asked for last summer?"
"Actually, I did," Bryce replied, gesturing with his hand to the open door of his office. "Why don't we look them over? Since I'm only an associate, I'm not responsible for organizing the events, the parties, and security. That headache's been left up to the director."
"And here I thought your ambitions were much higher than that," Duncan nodded agreeably, following him into his office, Richie bringing up the rear.
"The origin of this famous Stone is shrouded in myth. According to legend it came from the Holy Land were Jacob supposedly used it as a pillow in Biblical times. Transported through Egypt, Sicily, and Spain, it was taken to Ireland, where St. Patrick himself blessed this rock for use in the crowing of kings of the emerald isle," Bryce said.
"On November 15, 1996 the Stone of Destiny, which Scottish kings were crowned since time immemorial, was brought back to Scotland 700 years after the army of King Edward, the first of England, carted it off to Westminster Abbey in London." Macleod took up the story.
"I know where that is," Richie said. "Sounds like they were trying to get away with the logic that possession is nine tenths of the law."
"Okay, wise guy," Macleod continued, not missing a beat. "But do you know this? It was safely ensconced in Edinburgh Castle, and it weights approximately 152kg, the rock is known in places other than Scotland as the
"Stone of Scone" and has joined other Scottish regalia -crown, scepter, sword, and jewels-as a collection."
"Conflicts abound still about whether the stone that rests secure in Edinburgh Castle is the genuine article," Bryce said. "After so many centuries, it is hard to be sure anymore. Most of what we know is based on recorded legend and oral tradition. In other words, stories passed down from generation to generation, and only now written down."
"That's what we're here to find out," Duncan encouraged. "I'm dry. I don't supposed you have any gin in here?"
"No," Bryce replied, "but when we're through here, I'll take you both out, on me." He looked at Richie, you are old enough to drink?
"Urgh," Richie replied. "Yeah, I'm old enough to drink."
"Yes, well," Bryce cleared his throat. "Other legend suggests that the original Stone of Destiny was white marble instead of sandstone and carved with decorative figures- in no way resembling the plain slab of yellow sandstone with its single Latin cross carved into it."
"To make matters more confusing, "Duncan continued. " There may have been several copies, including the one that figured so largely in the fortunes of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Battle of Culloden in 1783."
"He was the last of the Stuart Monarchs," Richie said.
"It is entirely within the realm of possibility that some canny Scots fobbed off a fake on Edward the first seven hundred years ago, hiding the original coronation stone where it would never be found."
“Even if the fabled Stone of Destiny is fake, "Bryce said, "it qualifies as a historical relic in its own right."
"What's that?" Richie cocked his head, completing a 180-degree turn, his red hair plastered to his face. "I thought I heard something."
"You hear odd things now and again in this place," Bryce soothed, "It's probably nothing." He paused to reconsider "Then again, it's probably the crewmen from the contractors we're using to renovate the east wing."
On the roof
Brooklyn glided to a stop on the tiled roof of the museum, trying to maintain his balance, as Lexington bumped into him from behind.
Broadway and Angela were still behind them by several yards, being more engaged in making lovey-dovey eyes at each other, and rising and swooping on the rising thermal air currents, then they were on investigating criminal activity on medieval antiquities. I guess, Brooklyn thought to himself, he couldn't blame them. He probably would have acted the same way, "Hell even though I've haven't found the "One" If I could find a reasonably attractive female gargoyle that would return my love. Listen to yourself, Brook, you're getting maudlin in your old age. Keep your mind on business. We''re here to keep the Stone of Destiny from falling into the wrong hands. "
Angela and Broadway broke off from what they were doing, and joined Lexington and himself on the rooftop.
"Now what," Lexington asked, looking up at Brooklyn, "You're the second in command, what's the plan?"
"I'm working on it," Brooklyn cheerfully replied, smiling down at the smallest of his rookery brothers. Lexington just gaped at him, and shook his head, trying to recall the layout of the museum's interior he had memorized when he'd brought it up on his laptop computer back at the castle. "I just hope it isn't a plan that translates: I'm making it up as I go along." he thought to himself, levering up a portion of the roof, making the sure the resulting opening was large enough for them to pass through.
"Okay, guys, down to business. We have an in," Brooklyn whispered to his companions and dropped through the gap to land on the floor of the gallery, his black wings folded spread to control his descent, as Angela, Broadway, and Lexington followed along in his wake.
Brooklyn shook himself, checking by hearing rather than with his eyes to be sure of the others whereabouts relative to his own. When he recovered, he learned that they were not alone in the art gallery. Three humans, one short and blond, and very skinny, wearing wire-frame glasses; the second taller and red-haired, wearing a leather jacket, looked like he could put a good fight. The last was taller, and more muscular, he also looked he'd been spoiling for a fight his entire life. "Not bad odds," Brooklyn whispered to Broadway who stood on his left side.
"Hello," Duncan drawled, stalling for time.
"Hey," Broadway tried, breaking up the suddenly tense atmosphere. "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the museum. What to hear about it?"
"Broadway," Angela warned, "This is neither the time nor the place for jokes."
"Uh, you the welcoming committee?" Lexington said.
"Usually criminals would be running away in fear by now," Broadway added.
"Wow!" Bryce Whitlock shouted, pointing a trembling index finger in the direction of the gargoyles. "What are those?"
"Bryce," Duncan began, a warning note in his voice. "Head for your office and lock the door," he added, sending the smaller man stumbling back in the direction of his office. "Don't argue with me; just do it."
"What you see, kiddo," Angela replied. "We're here to serve and protect the people of this city, including you. That is," she shrugged. "Unless you're the ones trying to harm people or steal the relics in the museum, than we're here to stop you."
"Interesting," Duncan replied, absently, distracted by the dull "Buzz' that began at the base of spine and worked its way up to the back of his neck, causing all the dark short hairs to stand on end. He exchanged a glance with Richie, noting that he to felt the 'Buzz, that signaled the presence of another Immortal. They both took a quick glance around in a 360 degree circumference, noting the locations of all possible entrances and exits; and trying to make the best guess of where the other Immortal would emerge.
Duncan, his hand resting on the hilt of the sword hidden beneath his leather coat, felt another sensation coming from where the creatures, who called themselves gargoyles, clustered in a tense semi-circle, he felt an itch, not unlike the one when Richie had first intruded into his four hundred year life; by breaking and entering his dojo. He shook his head to clear of the fogginess, and tried to convince himself that he must be mistaken; but the feeling persisted. It couldn't be that one of them is a pre-immortal? Could it? Okay, file at away, and concentrate on the task at hand." Duncan thought to himself.
Just then Gunthar Norman came into the room, his pale face turning ghostly white as he saw he was not alone, the telltale "Buzz" that signaled the presence of another Immortal overlapping. "Great, two of them." he muttered under his breath.
"Well, well?" Brooklyn drawled, "Look what have here. I don't know or care how you managed to walk around causing trouble when you should have been decently dead and buried by now," he paused to let the full effect of his glowing white eyes daunt his opponent, "but I got a news flash for ya, you're going down!"
"So the urban legends are true. Gargoyles do reside in New York," Gunthar remarked, casually drawing his sword from its sheath. "If memory serves, the terms of the spell cast by the Magus is that the Gargoyles would freeze you lot in a stone sleep for a thousand years until the castle rose above the clouds'. Gunthar moved forward slow step by slow step, drawing to stall for time, until he could achieve his objective.
"Who the hell are you?" Duncan demanded.
"Gunthar Norman." The man replied, with a small bow, in the formal way Immortals introduced themselves to one another.
Not to be outdone. "Duncan Macleod of the Clan Macleod," his sword all the way out of its sheath. "What do you want here?" he demanded.
"I hate déjà vu." Gunthar replied, avoiding the question, and casting his thoughts back to a similar incident that occurred almost a thousand years ago.
Midnight, 994 AD Scotland
A lone figure, his features covered by a dark hood, shoulders hunched the downpour of rain, cursed to himself and wished that there would be a break in the weather any time soon. As accustomed as he was to the dampness and cold of the Scottish moors in late fall, it was a nuisance. The only positive spin he could put on the situation was the fact that the rain kept the sentries off the walls and aided in his task. He levered open the servant's heavy side door, wincing slightly as the iron bolts that held it closed, creaked in protest. He made a mental note to have that situation remedied, and the offending servant flogged as soon as possible. Passing through the door, Gunthar climbed the stone stairs leading the art gallery where the ancestors of the present ruler, Prince Malcolm II of Castle Wyvern, collected his family heirlooms.
Passing to catch his breath on the landing, Gunthar passed through the open doorway and peered inside the open rotund, noting with a sardonic grin the thick coating of dust that sifted over his boots. Seemed that no one had been in here for a while now; either servants or the nobility. He supposed he could chalk that up to the current border tensions between Cumbria and the Viking Warlord, Hakon. The castle had been under siege going on four months now, with no sign of a letup any time soon.
"Who's there?" a voice called from the dim interior.
Coming out of his doze, Gunthar rocked back on his heels, startled. Just then, a form detached itself from a chair in the center of the room and moved towards him.
Gunthar drew his sword, narrowing his eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness. Whoever, or whatever it was, that faced him, seemingly did not suffer from that particular handicap. "You might do me the courtesy of telling me who you are first."
The stranger laughed, "No one important. I got bored of being under house arrest down in the rookery, and thought I'd come up here for something to do. Neat stuff they've got here," he continued in a conversational tone.
"The Eye of Odin, the Grimorium Arcanorum,' he trailed off, and cocked his head to one side, thinking something through. "As I mentioned, interesting stuff, tell me what someone like you would have in this stuff?" he added, the tone of his voice subtly altering from light to serious.
"Came here to look at the artifacts," Gunthar tried to stall for time, when his eyes adjusted to the darkness and see the other's eyes glowing white.
"Hmm," the other murmured, "the Relic Hall is open during the day and the evening, but given the position of the moon coming in through the ceiling windows," he flexed his shoulders, and bat-wings with red and black highlights unfurled. "You are a thief, or at best a deserter looking to for easy pickings of loot. Not going to happen."
Gunthar took a few cautious glances around at the available options; only one way out, down the stone steps, the way he had come from, a retreat. "Damn, a gargoyle. What's the thing doing in here, when it should be defending the castle according to the pact it's kind has with Prince Malcolm?" He dismissed the thought as he would swat a fly, and concentrated on keeping his footing and maintaining his grip on his sword.
The gargoyle, for that was what the stranger was, lunged forward and barreled into Gunthar, who reflexively brought his sword into play in a defensive thrust., ending up getting the hilt stuck in the wings. Releasing the grip, he failed to recall how many steps lay between him and the open door leading to the stone steps and out of the rotunda. He stumbled and went careening down the stairs. "You haven't seen the last of me!" he shouted.
Gunthar was looking for the one called Goliath. None of the gargoyles he saw, matched the description of the lavender skinned, seven foot leader of the Wyvern clan, who been the cause of death for his ancestor, Hakon, and the Captain of the Guard whom had fallen to their deaths all those centuries ago.
To make matters worse; the hackles on the back of his neck were standing on end from the presence of two others in the room. "Blast it all to bloody hell, what are a pair of Immortals during here? If I didn't know any better
I think they were in collusion together against me.") As these thoughts flashed through his mind like liquid mercury, the wheels were already turning in his mind as how to turn these events to his advantage.
The apparent leader was brick-red with black highlights in his wings; it bothered Gunthar no end, that this particular gargoyle was vaguely familiar.
The big one with the potbelly was deep blue and stood protectively by the side of a female gargoyle. She wore her brown hair in a tight braid that hung all the way down her back..
Gunthar exchanged mutual stares for a few tense heartbeats, measuring an exchanging the relative strengths of each other. He curled his right hand into a fist, glancing around at the assembled gargoyles, unable to match faces with the description given to him by late great and then some ancestor, Hakon. Beside them, stood two Immortals, neither of whom he recognized. He dismissed the shorter red-head as a relative newbie, and gave closer inspection of the tall dark-haired man. Definitely someone to be reckoned with. The Buzz simmering down as he finished taking stock of his surroundings.
"Uh oh," Broadway murmured, "This can't be good."
Gunthar, with the speed and dexterity of a magician whipped the Stone of Destiny from where it rested in his pocket. Unwrapping the canvas strips he had carried it in.
"A fine joke on History, and with the Stone of Destiny in my hands, I will be able to change the outcome to one of my own choosing." That said, he crouched down near the glass display case where a jeweled scepter gleamed in the reflected light of his flashlight. Embedded in the apex of its cross was a crystal orb the size of his fist, and in the center was a ruby.
"Uh, Brooklyn," Lex whispered, "I'm no expert on sorcery, but is that thing supposed to be glowing like that?"
"I don't know," Brooklyn replied.
Gunthar removed the Stone of Destiny, holding it aloft until its facets caught the light of moonlight through the high arched windows. Slowing rotating it right and then left, he allowed them all a good view of the legendary stone, is ruby gem in the apex glowing like blood. Seeing them, tense up, Gunthar laughed, his voice hoarse. "At long last I will have revenge and my ancestor, Hakon, will finally rest in peace!" Bringing the stone level with his own beating heart, Gunthar began chanting in an odd mixture of Latin and Old Norse.
Richie heard him mutter, "I really hate this magic stuff, it's not good or evil in itself, I believe that; it's the character of the wielder that determines the outcome; but I don't have to like it."
Scintillating silver light, moving far faster than they eye could see or the mind capture into a coherent picture. To Richie, it was like staring through the top of a kaleidoscope tube and watching the various geometric
colored bits of glass go around and around until they finally resolved themselves into a pattern that made sense. Crouched in wary pose beside Richie, the one called Brooklyn, confronted the stranger, his eyes glowing with a silver-white light. "Tell me again about deja-vu," he growled.
"You will just have to wait your turn," Gunthar replied.
"I've had it," Duncan declared, moving forward, sword in hand. "If it's all the same to you, I will take my turn and your head."
"Uh, Mac, is that such a good idea?”" Richie, worried about his friend and teacher.
The whirling colors coalesced, sparks spitting from the stone and from the floor of the gallery. Everyone in the room had to shield their eyes from the glare to prevent going blind. When it subsided, there seemed to be less oxygen in the room to breathe; they were being slowly smothered in some slow, cruel, trap making it harder to think, or to move.
Duncan slammed straight into an solid, but invisible wall, cursing under his breath, but sheer stubborn will drove him forward, with an equal measure of desire to see Gunthar's smirk wiped off of his face. Duncan could faintly hear Richie yelling behind him, but blocked it out, and plowed through the barrier.
Gunthar broke off his chanting, the hand with the Stone of Destiny falling to his side, his face beaded with sweat, an astonished look on his face replacing the confident grin. "You really should not have been able to do that. I was just about to get to the good part."
"And that would be?" Duncan demanded.
"The part where I use the Stone of Destiny to re-enact the spell of Eternal Stone Sleep began ten centuries ago by the Magus, that allowed the gargoyles to survive, and reawaken in the present. I will literally, rewrite history, so it will be as if it never happened, and at last I will have my revenge."
"As my student would no doubt say at this point," Duncan grimly stated, "That is so not going to happen. I neither know nor care what kind of bone you have to pick between you and these gargoyles, "
"Since when did this become a spectator sport," Gunthar asked, gesturing with the opposite hand in the direction of the cluster of watchers standing in tense attitudes on the opposite side of the barrier.
"That your way of getting out of a fight?" Duncan causally held his sword hilt, so it's cutting edge was held parallel to the floor. "If you hadn't so helpfully outlined your intentions, I would have naturally assumed you were head-hunting; but I guess that's not the case."
"No it wasn't," Gunthar replied, shoving the Stone of Destiny back into its casing, and pocketed it. "I'm willing to make an exception."
"Fine by me." Duncan responded by flexing his shoulders, to loosen up the kinks in his muscles, at the same time sizing up his opponent. “Big, muscular; appears quick on his feet despite his size. No worries here,’ Duncan thought to himself.
Gunthar lunged forward his own sword levelled, his two-handed grip enabled him to keep control as he swung the sword in wide arcs. Duncan leapt backward and took advantage of an opening in the other's defense. The other man had a tendency to lean too far forward on the follow through; ending up with his feet crossed beneath him.
Gunthar grinned, showing all his teeth, and began circling forcing Duncan to counter, keeping his left shoulder exposed to his opponent's blade. Duncan tuned out the shouting from his audience, as it was either a distraction or Richie's well-intended advice.
Duncan tried a whistling arc with his katana blade and angled the cut past the enemy guard. He attempted a fient which was parried, and then another lunge; the blow landing with the chill ring of metal on metal. Gunthar tripped up, making the mistake of getting caught with his feet crossed, and Duncan immediately exploited his advantage. Duncan's slender katana sword and Gunthar's heavy Claymore spun in and out in an intricate but deadly dance of silver light. Duncan feinted again, knocking Gunthar's sword from his sweaty grip, placing the blade against the other man's neck. "Guess who won?"
Gunthar slumped to his knees, and looked up into Duncan's eyes. "Kill me, now. And make it a clean death, Macleod. I was foolish to believe in a legend of the Quicksilver, no doubt has lost much of its potency over the centuries."
Duncan stared down at the man wondering how anyone, even an Immortal could place the outcome of a battle on a centuries old talismans. Nodding his head, he delivered the coup de grace, removing Gunthar's head from his body. Gunthar toppled over, and lay still.
Duncan sunk to his knees on the floor, waiting for the inevitable transfer of power from the Quickening, ironically hoping that the magical barrier, Gunthar referred to as the "Quicksilver." would protect the others from the coming electrical barrage. As it was, he still lost his grip on his sword as the storm of the incredible energy enveloped him, ran its course, and then subsided.
"Now what?" Angela asked, bending over the dead body.
"We'll call the police, let them deal with it," Broadway answered, ignoring Brooklyn's arched white eyebrows. "Good enough."
"In the meantime I think we should make ourselves scarce," Brooklyn added. "It won't take long for the police backup to get here, and the sunrise is less than two hours away."
"Guys," Elisa looked up from where she and Matt were conferring in low tones, "Go. We've got things covered here. Elisa glanced over at Duncan and Richie, "I think that's your cue to leave also."
The night after
Duncan stood on the parapets of Castle Wyvern, feeling a mixed sense of longing for days gone by and vertigo. He made the mistake of staring down at the congested concrete streets of upper Manhattan, many hundreds of feet below him. Although, he had witnessed it with his own eyes, he still had a bit of difficulty wrapping his mind around a couple of facts: One, that the castle stood here at all, atop one of the tallest modern ivory towers he had ever seen in his four centuries of life; and two, the fact the its inhabitants were living, breathing gargoyles trying to protect and serve in the modern era, hailing as they did from a Scotland as it was almost a thousand years ago.
"I hate to burden with another concern after everything that has happened, "Goliath began, "But you have a look about you of a person who has been many different places and seen a great deal." he trailed off.
"What did you have in mind?" Duncan asked.
"I was wondering if you had previously encountered any other gargoyle clans, and if so, if they thrive, as we have," Goliath said.
"Goliath, I've heard a great deal about you," Duncan began, noting the look in his eyes, "Don't worry, I believe in taking that proverbial grain of salt, your troops admire you a great deal, as does Detective Maza. He trailed off,
"Don't let her hear I said that, or she might be inclined to rearrange my features by breaking my nose."
"Indeed," Goliath rumbled in amusement: “Although, Elisa has never felt the urge to improve my looks by breaking my nose. Brooklyn, on the other hand has had several close encounters with sharp-edged objects threatening to remove his beak."
"His beak?" Duncan echoed, startled, "Oh, his nose. But getting back to your original question, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you; until two nights ago, I've never run into gargoyles before, not live ones at any rate." The fact that they spent those intervening ten centuries trapped in a magical stone sleep wasn't lost on him.
"As I suspected, lad,” Hudson added, moving over to stand beside them. "Goliath at one time took a magical 'world tour,' and encountered a few remaining gargoyle clans; At one time, there were clans all over the globe, but human distrust of what they perceived to be 'monster's, and general attrition caused our people to all but die out."
Duncan glanced at Richie, who leaned against another outcropping of rock that he had been told was where the gargoyles took up positions during the day when they turned to stone to sleep; and was engaged in chatting with one of the younger gargoyles, Brooklyn. The confusion of the last several days prevented Duncan from mulling the matter over in more detail, but a feeling nagged at the back of his mind and refused to go away. It was a faint trance, but it was entirely possible that Brooklyn was a pre-immortal. "The magic of the Stone o Destiny wasn't quite what Gunthar Norman had evidently expected, and it turned on him." he remarked to the old gargoyle, Hudson, who stood beside him.
"That is why I've never held much stock in sorcery, lad," Hudson said, nodding, "I prefer to trust in what I can, see, hear, smell, and touch. Like my good steel blade here. Much like yours," Hudson added, gesturing with his left hand to where Duncan's katana sword was resting in its sheath.
"So what's it like?" Richie asked, rocking back on his heels, shifting from one to foot to the other.
"What?" Brooklyn asked, fingers combing through the fall of his snow-white hair.
"You know? This, 'We're gargoyles, we protect and serve the city and its people?" Richie rattled off all in one breath, recalling something that Angela had said when they were fighting Gunthar Norman.
"Like everything else, it has it ups and downs. More of the former and less of the latter, ever since we got some of the more vehement anti-gargoyles enemies off our backs," Brooklyn replied, grinning and showing all of his sharp white teeth.
Richie stared at him for a few heartbeats, not certain if Brooklyn was being serious or yanking his chain. He had shown a tendency to show off a dry sense of humor, one that Richie instinctively liked and could appreciate. "I guess so. Richie smiled, "I hate to sound corny, so is this the start of a beautiful friendship?"
"Hah!" Brooklyn laughed, almost falling down. "Funny you should ask that, because that's the same thing Elisa said when she first stumbled on us, literally."
"Goliath," Duncan called the big leader over to where he stood. "There's one more matter that I wished to discuss with you before we head for home.
"Of course," Goliath replied. "What is it?"
"Your second in command," Duncan replied, wondering just how much he should tell Goliath about Immortals, or the his impressions about Brooklyn's pre-immortality status. Thinking about it, he had held out as long as possible when it how come to Richie's circumstances. Richie hadn't been one of the easiest kids to live with and train. In fact he had been a royal pain the ass," Duncan thought with some mixed fondness and irritation, Look at how far he's come now.
"You are going to think this is crazy to begin with, then again it's probably not the strangest thing that's ever happened to you," Macleod said aloud. "Until almost three days ago, I wouldn't have believed that gargoyles were anything more than Medieval water-spouts carved on religious edifices to educate and frighten the masses, then again…"
"I understand where you're coming from," Goliath nodded encouragingly. "You were saying, about Brooklyn?"
"It's like this, you see I am one of many others who have a very long life-line,' Macleod said, feeling his way as he spoke the words. "We're Immortal, and we can't die unless some takes our heads, and with our power. We can die," Duncan added, seeing the skeptical look form on Goliath's head, his brow furrowing with tiny lines. "There are others like us, some good, some evil. We're only safe on holy ground."
"As fascinating as all this is," Goliath interrupted, raising a hand to stop him, "Let's say, for the sake of argument, I believe you. Trust me on this one, Mr. Macleod, I'm not stranger when it comes to sorcery and the supernatural. Are you familiar with someone called Demona? She's Immortal to a degree, due to a spell cast by the Weird Sisters a thousand years ago."
"Never heard of her," Duncan replied, wondering this was going.
"All I am saying is, if Brooklyn is an Immortal, how come we haven't seen it yet?"
"He hasn't had first death? Shown any signs of aging at a slower rate than is usual for your people?" Duncan asked, waving a hand vaguely at Brooklyn's fall of snow-white hair.
"No, the white hair is natural for him," Goliath laughed. "He's had several close shaves, been caught in the crossfire of panicked criminals with guns, threatening to fire at hi. Other than that, nothing unusual."
"Well, If I could ask you for one favor," Duncan said.
“Name it," Goliath nodded.
"When Brooklyn does realize that's he's Immortal, call me," Duncan added, handing a white card with his name and the address of his dojo in Seacouver, Washington, "He'll need someone to help him through the growing pains. OH, and if I'm not available, please call the other name on the card. My kinsman, Connor Macleod. Same clan, different vintage."
"I believe that I understand," Goliath grinned, and rustled his wings to remove the kinks from his shoulder muscles. "If it's agreeable to you and Richie, I would like to say that we have made some excellent allies this evening." He paused, "Scratch that, good friends."
"Good friends. While we're on the subject: There are many rules, and the number one rule I want you to help reinforce in him:" Duncan stopped for breath, and continued. "Make absolutely sure he doesn't lose his head."
"You have my word," Goliath promised, exchanging conspiratorial winks and a firm handshake. "Let us return to the party."
"As long as you have brandy stored somewhere in this rock of castle you call home," Duncan agreed.