DISCLAIMER: All the characters appearing in Gargoyles are copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. All original characters are the property of the author.
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After A Millennium A Renewal:
Kendra shook herself as the castle in Avalon faded from around her, she hadn't been privy to Demona's thoughts, but watching what had happened and what those present had said had been both chilling and eye opening. Hearing the Archmage's instructions to the three fey had prompted an unwelcome thought to surface, had the Weird Sisters had anything to do with the Canmore families' pursuit of Demona? Was the vendetta entirely her ancestors' decision, or had they too become one of the playing pieces in the Weird Sisters intrigues?
Demona sunk to the ground with a groan, pulling Kendra abruptly from her thoughts. The black-haired woman pushed her own concerns away, if it had been hard for her to watch as a third party observer she could guess at how much harder it had been for the gargoyle to relive. "Demona?" she knelt by the blue-skinned gargoyle, her heart aching for her, and gently placed her hand on the gargoyle's shoulder.
The flame-haired gargoyle looked up at her; the green eyes were hollow, lost. "My life, all these centuries I have fought and survived, have been nothing but the Archmage's revenge," she whispered.
"Not true," the stag spoke authoritatively, "You never stopped fighting against the enchantments they placed upon you. It was your determination to resist the compulsion the Sisters placed upon you that helped lead to the Archmage's defeat upon Avalon."
Demona looked up at him, "You were with me," she stated as if realizing something.
"I broke the enchantment upon your memory," the great stag responded gently, "it was necessary for me to mediate their return." He lowered his head and gently brushed her forehead ridge with his muzzle, then blew out a warm breath ruffling her wild mane of hair. "You have a strong soul and a strong will; otherwise you would have never continued to fight against their compulsions for so long. Do not begin questioning your own strength because of what you have remembered; it was that strength that allowed you to resist killing your clan's children."
Demona looked stunned, and Kendra wasn't certain whether it was due to the giant stag comforting her or the words the stag had said, probably both she decided.
"Please tell me that man is dead," Kendra did not want to interrupt, but she needed to know whether or not he was still a threat.
Demona responded, "Angela said when Goliath tore the Eye of Odin from his head he lost control of the Grimorum Arcanorum's magic and it consumed him."
The stag lifted his head, "That is what occurred, the magic burned through his mortal body when he lost the power of the Eye."
"Good," Kendra responded, pleased. That concern out of the way, she regarded Demona thoughtfully, her mind meandering through the memories of what she had seen and heard. "There is at least one thing in your life that I don't think they planned, or even anticipated."
Demona turned her green eyes toward Kendra, and the black-haired woman was relieved to see a spark of curiosity in them. "Nightstone," she answered, "I don't see how it furthers their goals at all." She paused, "At least I don't think it does, it doesn't make you bitter or angry does it?"
The immortal gargoyle shook her head, "No, most days I look forward to going into work, it gives me something useful to do, and I often spend most of my nights and weekends working on Nightstone business as well."
Kendra nodded, she had suspected as much, "And I suspect it doesn't make you alone either, you are talking with or interacting with someone for most of the day, even if they are humans."
"Your right," Demona straightened, "Thailog and I pooled our resources together to incorporate Nightstone Unlimited after what happened on Avalon. It's possible the Weird Sisters don't even realize it exists," she theorized.
"Nightstone is yours then," Kendra said emphatically, "Something that you created, something that gives your life meaning. It makes you less angry, less bitter and less alone; you've already started to unravel the Archmage's revenge."
Demona looked hopeful for a moment, and then with startling abruptness she slid into anger. Her eyes glowing red she rose and snarled, "And that will last how long? Only until those three fey decide they have need of me again, and then they will destroy everything."
"That is what that does," the owl spirit's satisfied voice interrupted the flame-haired gargoyle before she could rant further.
The red eyes faded slightly as Demona stared at the owl, "That is what, what does?" she asked aggravated.
"One of the enchantments I did not recognize. One of the ones more subtle in nature than I'm used to associating with the Fey, it amplifies your anger, specifically it seems to double it." The owl spirit answered.
Demona stared at him for a moment before her eyes flashed bright red and she screamed, "Are not even my emotions my own?"
The great stag snorted and took a step back at this display, the unexpected movement setting the owl upon its antlers flapping. "Perhaps this is one of the first spells we should teach her how to dispel."
"That would seem wise," agreed the owl mildly after she had her balance again.
"Not that I do not want your help, but that will last how long?" Demona protested, her eyes glowing slightly with her anger, "I could not stop them from placing these enchantments on me before, what is to stop them from simply replacing these once they have need of me again. You heard what the Sisters said; they let me go only because they thought I might prove a useful tool in the future," she spat the last bitterly.
"I promised that you would not stand alone against them." The great stag spirit reminded Demona regally, "There are things that can be done to protect you from being enchanted once again."
"You can teach me ways of protecting myself?" Demona asked, the red in her eyes fading.
"There are multiple ways of achieving that end," the great stag said, "I have not yet decided which method is most suitable for you, nor do I know which you will find agreeable."
At these words, the owl hunched over and stared at the giant deer, apparently finding what he had said startling. The great stag shook its head slightly, setting the owl bobbing briefly. The owl straightened, blinked once, "Yes, there are various ways to be considered I see, we will have to consult on what is best for you. And of course what you think is best for yourself."
"I will need one day to decide," The great stag spoke. "Tomorrow we will discuss this matter further and what choices you have to make," the great stag directed to Demona. His next statement seemed directed toward the owl spirit, "Tonight we need to teach her how to see the enchantments upon herself and guide her in dispelling the two we have identified completely. Then they must leave, their bodies are growing tired, they risk damage to themselves if they stay much longer."
"Two?" the owl spirit questioned, "Oh yes the anger amplification enchantment and the enchantments they placed on her to persuade her that the only way to protect other gargoyles was by driving them away. Simple enough," she finished.
The great stag cautioned Demona, "Do not touch any of the enchantments no matter how angered you may feel. It is quite possible for you to injure yourself beyond all hope of aid if you dispel the wrong enchantment." He paused and stared at the gargoyle sternly, "If you cannot do this, it would be better for me to dispel the enchantments for you, but I would rather teach you how to do so. Can you promise not to act on your anger; will you wait for our directions?"
Demona clenched her talons in determination, "I promise, I will not act until you direct me where and how." It was easier to accept such restrictions on her actions now that she understood the Weird Sisters had meddled with her emotions as well as her actions.
The great stag's brown eyes caught and held her own gaze, "Then learn how to look deeply into the world and see the fey's work where it is present."
Green, sickly green strands of magical energies weaving around each other, and there were so many of them. No wonder Kendra had recoiled when she first sighted them, Demona wanted to recoil from herself. "What have they done to me," she raged quietly, keeping the stag's admonition foremost in her mind.
The great stag and owl didn't respond. They didn't need to; the answer was rather obvious, quite a lot.
A hand wrapped around her clenched fist, Demona glanced over and met Kendra's compassionate sapphire blue eyes, "You'll be free of all of it, it will just take some time, patience, and deliberately considered action. It's nothing I haven't seen you do already in your business decisions." The black-haired woman said, deliberately reminding the gargoyle of how she acted when it came to her company. That was where the immortal gargoyle exhibited calm, well thought out planning.
It was a timely comment. "The Weird Sisters don't have any enchantments on me that affect how I run my company," Demona realized. The realization calmed her; she did run her company well. Otherwise, Nightstone Unlimited wouldn't have become the third largest company in Manhattan within less than two years.
"Let's work on reducing some of these enchantments," said the owl spirit. "First think of holding an iron knife in your hand, feel the weight of it, the handle in your hand and the short length of iron blade. It doesn't need to be very sharp; it's the iron that does the dispelling."
Demona closed her eyes and concentrated upon creating a knife to destroy the enchantments the Weird Sisters had placed upon her. She felt her talons close around its handle, the solid weight and heft of it. She opened her eyes and looked down; the knife was heavy, the handle solid and thick as she gripped it, the thick blade almost twelve inches in length.
The flame-haired gargoyle heard an amused snort from beside her, "Kill it, kill it dead?" Kendra commented.
A grin formed on Demona's lips as she looked at the knife she had willed into being, it did seem like it could get the job done.
"Well that's a bit larger than what I was thinking of, but it will do," the owl spirit commented dryly.
The great stag spirit spoke, "I will highlight and draw out the enchantments this time. In the future we will teach you how to do this yourself, but you have neither the time nor the energy to learn tonight." One of the pulsing strands of green energy wrapped around Demona's chest began burning more brightly.
"Let's pull that out a little more so you can get at it better," the owl spirit murmured, she made a motion with her wing and the energy thread pulled slightly away from the others.
"Take your iron knife and slide it under the fey enchantment and continue pulling it away from the others," instructed the giant stag.
Demona carefully maneuvered the length of the blade as the stag instructed, realizing belatedly that perhaps a smaller knife would have been easier to use.
"Wrap the enchantment around the blade three times," the stag continued his instructions.
The immortal gargoyle carefully maneuvered the knife until the green strand was coiled around the blade three times.
"Now pull it free from you," the noble stag ordered.
Pulling sharply Demona ripped the enchantment from her, grimacing at the brief moment of disorientation that accompanied the action. The green strand hung briefly free around the blade then seemed to lose cohesion, dimming rapidly and then disappearing as if it had never been.
"That's it?" the flame-haired gargoyle asked disbelievingly.
The great stag and owl stared at her quizzically for a moment before the owl spirit offered, "You can chant a few words in Latin if you want, but it's not really needed. While nature can be loud and noticeable, it is more often quiet and unobtrusive."
Before Demona could formulate a reply to this, the great stag spoke, "Wise One, look at where that enchantment was attached, what do you see?"
"Hmm," murmured the owl before craning her head forward, "Well what is this?" she asked, and a moment later she answered herself, "Very old sorcery very old. The amplification spell was originally layered on top of it I guess and the Fey obviously kept renewing their enchantment, but the original sorcery was left to decay."
"What are you talking about?" asked Demona looking down and trying to see what they were seeing. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kendra coming closer to look as well, a concerned frown upon her face.
"We will have to teach you how to see sorcery, before you can see what we are looking at," the great stag stated. It took only a few moments for Demona and Kendra to learn the variation it was not complicated, just slightly different.
"It looks wispy, like a thin black cloth that's been frayed and torn," observed Kendra.
To Demona it looked more like the barest wisps of black cloud, but she could see the resemblance to what Kendra was describing. More important to her was when it had been placed and what it had done, "Did the Archmage cast this when I was his apprentice?" she wondered aloud.
"No way of knowing without some research," the Eagle Owl spirit answered, "Given where it is and what was cast on top of it I would guess that it did the same thing, but I might be wrong. It's not doing anything now it's too old. We can use the remains however, to discover who cast it and what it did."
Demona nodded, her mind was now whirling with more questions. She didn't like the idea of leaving it there, but she could see the owl spirit's point. If the remains were harmless and could lead them to the caster, it was best to leave it alone for now.
"We will address that later, for now we need to dispel the other enchantments and then they must leave," the great stag spoke with some urgency.
"Of course," the Eagle Owl responded, "let us move on then, now these are the enchantments that make up the compulsion they placed upon you to drive away other gargoyles. They tied them into your natural instinct to protect and then warped that instinct by persuading you that you were the danger. There are multiple enchantments, but we will deal with them in the same way, just choose one strand and begin there." A multi-stranded enchantment lit up and pulled away from the others.
The immortal gargoyle didn't need any further instructions, starting on the easiest strand to get to and dealing with it as before. As each enchantment was uprooted and dispersed, she promptly began on another. She understood the great stags hurry; she could feel herself tiring rapidly.
As the last strand faded the Eagle Owl spoke, "I believe it will be best if you remain in the wilderness for another few days while we deal with the enchantments the Weird Sisters placed upon you. You will likely have several distractions present themselves immediately upon your return. Those charged with enforcing the law will need to speak with you about what happened and you Demona will have responsibilities toward your company. One of my chosen has her home on the shore of the lake southwest of your current location. If you remain here she can bring supplies to make the stay easier."
"That might be a good idea anyway, if they ever find the plane they will know what distance we had to cover to make it back. It might be a good idea if we stayed away enough days to make it seem like we traveled a reasonable amount each day instead of the fifty to sixty miles we did travel." Kendra pointed out, giving voice to a concern of hers.
Demona looked back and forth between Kendra and the two spirits, "You believe we can dispel most of these within the next few days?" she asked indicating the tangled web of fey magic within her that was only slightly decreased by the removal of the two enchantments.
"Most of what remains appears to be the enchantments that bind you and the human male called Macbeth together and grant each of you immortality, and the more recent enchantments that allow you to become human during the day. I believe we can determine what of the remaining fey magic are manipulation or compulsion enchantments and remove them within the next few days," stated the great stag confidently.
Demon nodded reluctantly, "Very well, I just hope those idiot managers of mine don't believe I've died."
"No, they are looking for you even now," the Eagle Owl stated, "The chosen I spoke of has heard about the search for you."
The immortal gargoyle glanced at Kendra, "The chances of them finding the plane are high then," she turned back to the owl spirit, "When did you want us to come back?"
The great stag spoke, "Come at the beginning of each night after the sun has set. Farewell"
"Farewell," echoed the owl, the spirit realm began disappearing into mist.
"Wait what are you?" Asked Demona staring into the great stag's eyes
"My kind never had a name when my children were living, but the humans now call us Irish Elk or simply Giant Deer," answered the great stag's voice even as he disappeared.
The gargoyle found herself drawing in a deep breath of steam-filled air, as she heard Kendra's drumming come to a stop. She realized they had left the spirit realm and were once again in the living world as she opened her eyes and saw the interior of the lodge.
Kendra pulled further open blanket lodge door and crawled out, only pausing to look around and verify that they were still completely alone. Then with a gasp, the black-haired woman plunged into the cold water for a quick moment and then grabbed a blanket and went to sit by the coals where she began to build up the fire again.
Demona stared at Kendra in astonishment for a moment then followed her example, to her surprise after being over heated in the lodge the water was a brisk shock that was not unpleasant. Demona shook the water from herself and then went to join Kendra in letting the warmth of the fire dry them off while the survival blanket kept them from getting too chilled.
Kendra handed Demona a food bar, the black-haired woman was already eating her one of own, "Eat this, in a bit I will go and start something warm for us to eat."
Demona accepted the bar gratefully she was rather hungry. Kendra got up after finishing hers, dressed and went back to the shelter to begin cooking. After awhile Demona covered the lodge fire, reclaimed the blanket covering the lodge opening, and started back toward the shelter. It was warmer in the forest than it was near the river, the gargoyle noticed as she wound her way through the pines. As she approached the roughly made shelter, Demona eyed it critically; perhaps they should considered building something more permanent since they were to be staying here a few days.
Kendra had finished preparing the stew and had placed it among the coals to cook, she then came over to Demona and asked, "Mind if I sit with you?" Demona opened her blanket and Kendra layered her blanket with it then snuggled against Demona while they waited for the stew.
Demona had been silent since Kendra had asked to sit next to her, enmeshed in her own thoughts, but she finally commented quietly, "You didn't need to ask Kendra, I like having you near me. I would think you would know that after what we experienced in the spirit realm."
Kendra smiled gently, "I know we felt each other's emotions, but you said you wanted to keep this casual and I didn't want to take things for granted."
Demona shook her head, "You know I feel " the gargoyle paused, she couldn't continue, how could she when she didn't know how she felt. Finally she admitted, "I want more than just a mutual satisfaction of our physical needs. I never mean to imply that it was just for one night Kendra. I just don't know "
Kendra filled in, "Don't know how not casual you're feeling exactly? It's nice to know I have company in my confusion if that's the case."
Demona smiled wryly, "You have company. My emotions are a jumbled mess at the moment."
"Not really surprising considering everything," Kendra commented and leaned her head on Demona's shoulder. The two sat in companionable silence. "By the way," Kendra said after a few minutes, "I thought those enchantments would be more difficult to get rid of too. I don't know what I was expecting, but something more than weeding."
Demona snorted in amused surprise and then chuckled aloud at the word choice. "But that's what it was, wasn't it," she realized.
"Pretty much," responded Kendra. The black-haired woman was silent for a moment, before turning to the redhead next to her and asking seriously, "How are you doing?"
The immortal gargoyle drew in a deep breath, and then slowly exhaled it. She didn't answer immediately, "I don't know," she finally answered softly. "I should be angry, but I'm starting to think maybe something was damaged when I removed that amplification enchantment. I can feel some anger, but it's so much less than what I would expect given the circumstances."
Kendra frowned thoughtfully, "I wonder," she mused, and the redheaded gargoyle turned a curious gaze her way. The black-haired woman continued, "I wonder if it's just the fact that you're used to feeling a much greater amount of anger. You probably got used to it over the centuries, feeling that much anger each time I mean. So now that you're feeling a normal amount, well it just probably seems like too little because it's not what you got used to anymore," she offered.
Demona frowned thoughtfully, "That could be I guess, it certainly sounds reasonable." She looked relieved. She gazed into the flickering flames, her face marked by sadness, "Otherwise I feel lost, confused, its " she sighed, "It's very hard to accept that for almost all of the past thousand years they've controlled almost everything I've done, the things I've felt, and all for their and the Archmage's revenge. So many deaths, so much pain, so many, many bitter lonely years," her voice became bitterly self-mocking, "And for most of it I thought I was pursuing my vengeance against the humans how completely wrong I was."
Kendra shifted to face the redhead, she stroked through the silken wild hair, and cupped the beautiful face, "And yet there is the promise of better times ahead for you, a chance to undo all their revenge."
Demona leaned into the caress, her eye fixed on Kendra's face, "How do you undo a thousand years of revenge?" she asked, her voice was bitter, but she also looked as if she hoped Kendra possessed the answer to her question.
"They wanted you to be angry, bitter and alone. If you are none of those things, then they have none of their revenge." Kendra answered simply.
"That simple?" Demona asked her voice doubtful.
"No," Kendra replied gently, "I know it's not that simple, but it's the only place you can start. The past is the past, it's only the present and the future that we have to work with, and is there anything that wrong about being happy, fulfilled, building friendships and perhaps even more?"
Her eyes are so blue, thought Demona, as she stared into the black haired woman's face and considered her words. "No I guess there isn't," she whispered in reply as she leaned closer. She hadn't expected to feel any desire after what happened tonight, but here it was rising swift and hot within her. Their lips met briefly before Kendra pulled away, Demona retreated immediately confused.
Kendra's hand upon her shoulder stopped her, the black-haired woman said, "I want to, but honestly I don't want to subject you to being that close to me until I've bathed and had a chance to rinse out the various micro flora and fauna setting up housekeeping in my mouth."
Demona blinked, and then began laughing. "Too true," she admitted thinking of her own state. She frowned, they were using the only container they had to cook the stew, "I guess after we eat we can warm some water for you, I can stand the cold of the stream to wash, but you can't."
"Mmm, before tonight no, but I can now," Kendra said, "Most of the lessons the priestess taught me last night were about how to control my body. I can deal with the cold for long enough to bathe providing we eat afterward." She leaned forward and peered at the stew, "Why don't we go now, this should be done by the time we get back."
They hadn't discussed what Kendra had been taught, so this information caught Demona by surprise. "Alright," she agreed belatedly, they rose and started toward the river. The gargoyle glanced at the woman walking beside her and wondered what exactly she had learned from the priestess.
The clear, swiftly moving water of the stream was cold. No matter one was a gargoyle and the other a shamaness with the ability to increase their body heat, both hurried about their business rinsing their mouths, and using their fingers to roughly clean their teeth, then rubbing briskly at their bodies cleaning as best they could without soap.
Demona chuckled as she followed Kendra's swiftly moving bare figure through the forest. The woman hadn't wanted to put her clothes on her wet body so she was streaking through the trees, and the gargoyle was quite shamelessly enjoying the view though she was having trouble keeping up Kendra was moving so quickly.
Kendra was wrapping the survival blankets around herself when the immortal gargoyle stepped into the small area lit by their fire. "I've got a better idea," Demona said huskily, extending her wings forward and holding out her arms invitingly. Kendra rose, letting the silvery blankets fall to the ground and stepped into her arms. The sapphire blue eyes closed and a sigh of pleasure escaped from the rose-colored lips as Demona pulled the black-haired woman against her and wrapped her wings about them both.
Kendra's skin was surprisingly warm, Demona had expected the woman's naked flight through the cold night air would have chilled her. The soft press of breast and thigh against her skin instantly rekindled the immortal gargoyle's desire. However, the aroma wafting from the cook pot intruded before she could act upon it.
Kendra turned her head toward the fire, "We need to eat," she said regretfully. She reached up and touched Demona's lips with one finger, trailing it lightly along their fullness, "Hold this thought though, this feels " she closed her eyes for a moment and smiled, "absolutely wonderful," she finished huskily. She opened her blue eyes and with a protesting groan pushed away from the flame-haired gargoyle's warm embrace. "Food, then " she muttered to herself kneeling by the fire and grabbing one of the shallow bowl/plates that had been inside the campfire cook pot when they found it in the survival kit.
Oh yes, Demona thought to herself, watching the play of firelight over the dusky bare skin, the flickering highlighting of breast and length of smoothly muscled thigh, the hidden shadowing of flat stomach. Food and then.
Kendra apportioned the stew into two servings, handed one to Demona, and then pulled one of the survival blankets around her as she sat next to the fire to eat.
Demona ate, but her mind wasn't on the stewed meat she was consuming. She couldn't keep her eyes off Kendra; the flickering light of the fire was inexorably reminding her of another scene by another fire. In the gargoyles mind the memory replayed, firelight flickered over muscular shoulders and the arms raised above the woman's head. It gleamed off the black hair spread wantonly across shoulders and bared back. It highlighted the play of muscles under the dusky skin as Kendra moved in slow sensual writhe and soft panting breaths as she pleaded in her dream. The slow sensual baring of the woman's neck, the soft yielding submissiveness of her pose so at contrast to the graceful, strong fierceness Demona knew the woman possessed.
"What are you thinking," Kendra's whisper drew Demona from her memories. The black-haired woman had finished her stew; the empty plate was sitting on the forest floor next to the fire.
"Your dream, I haven't been able to get out of my mind," the flame-haired gargoyle admitted, "You don't know how close I came to making it a reality that night, I had to leave."
Kendra drew in a sharp breath and her blue eyes darkened, "And now," she asked, her voice held a hint of challenge.
A swift rush of desire urged Demona to rise and claim Kendra, but she fought it, she couldn't commit to that type of a promise. "I can't. I'd be lying if I claimed I could make that type of commitment to you right now, and I know you aren't ready either. Less than an hour ago we admitted that we wanted whatever is between us to be more than just casual, but weren't certain what else we wanted it to be. Neither of us is ready to promise forever." Her voice held her regret; she really wished that she could promise that, her body definitely wanted her to. The startled look on Kendra's face following that statement revealed the other woman's surprise.
"Claiming me tonight would be something like an engagement or marriage?" Kendra sought clarification.
The gargoyle blinked, hearing it put bluntly like that she wasn't as certain anymore what it would mean between them. "Something like that," she answered hesitantly. "Between two gargoyles it would." At least between a male and a female gargoyle it would, her mind added.
Kendra looked troubled, "Demona," she started then paused frowning thoughtfully, "I need to order my thoughts here for a moment," she said frankly.
Uncertain why what she had said had disturbed Kendra, the redheaded gargoyle caped her wings about herself nervously.
The black haired woman started speaking again after almost a full minute of silence. "First," she gazed directly into Demona's green eyes, "It wouldn't mean that to me. Quite honestly, that sounds too much like ownership assertion to me." Kendra paused letting that point sink in for a moment. She took in a deep breath, before continuing, "I want you to claim me, to dominate me," she admitted, "but I don't want you to own me or think that you have the right to. I'll never want that. Each time I let you claim me it will always be for only that time, it will never mean you have some type of right or expectation of that in the future."
Kendra's words made Demona very aware of the fact that the black-haired woman wasn't only human. There was the untamed spirit of a jaguar in there with the human and right now it was making itself very clearly known. Kendra's sapphire blue eyes held all the untamed wildness and strength that had attracted Demona so strongly to the woman in the first place.
The immortal gargoyle nodded, "I can understand and accept that. I guess I've never really thought much about the inter-personal dynamics of my past relationships. Things were very " she paused, thinking about Goliath and Thailog, "traditional in my two previous relationships." Very traditional, she thought to herself as she reflected on how both Goliath and Thailog rarely paid attention to her opinions and desires and how their decisions had always been the final ones. Since Thailog was a clone of Goliath, it really shouldn't have been surprising to her that the two males acted almost exactly alike in that respect.
"Very traditional?" asked Kendra staring at her with a puzzled look.
Demona grimaced, "They rarely listened to me and their word was the final one in any decision making."
"You don't really strike me as the type to go for that," Kendra remarked bemused.
The immortal gargoyle snorted, "No I guess I'm not, both relationships ended rather badly." She chuckled dryly, trying to kill her first ex and holding the second to keep him from escaping as they both fell into a fiery inferno did count as ending badly didn't it?
Kendra cocked her head slightly, and gave the gargoyle a curious look, but let the moment pass. She would much rather discuss what might happen between them, rather than what had been between Demona and any previous lovers. "I would rather have a relationship between equals, where we listen to one another and where our decisions reflect the fact that we care about each other's point of view."
Demona's eyes widened in surprise, she hadn't expected this subject to come up so soon. "That sounds appealing," she admitted, and it did, it sounded very appealing as well as being rather novel. Tentatively she asked, "And fidelity?" no longer wanting to take that for granted, but really hoping the answer was yes. She didn't think she could deal with the idea of Kendra being with another while with her as well.
The black-haired woman snorted, "Reputations have a hard time dying don't' they," she reflected, "Yes, right after my mother died I did go through a few girlfriends, but I never cheated on any of them. That phase in my life didn't last for very long. I think I was trying to drive away my feelings of loss by being with them, but not surprisingly, since I didn't love any of them and they didn't love me either that didn't work out very well. I haven't been with anyone for two years now."
Demona hadn't actually known this; she had just seen the pictures, not known exactly when Kendra had been with any of the women. From what Kendra had just said, the immortal gargoyle deduced they had all been within a rather short time span. It didn't really matter to her, Kendra had just given her the answer she needed, and the knot of worry that had started to form in her chest unwound.
Kendra continued, "As far as I'm concerned, I'm involved in the very beginning of a relationship with you and you have the right to expect me to be faithful to you while we figure out where this is going between us and how permanent we want it to be. I hope you feel the same way," she eyed the gargoyle questioningly.
"Yes, we are in a relationship, and yes I will be faithful to you," Demona had no trouble answering without hesitation. She might not be certain exactly what she felt for Kendra, but considering she hadn't been intimate with anyone but Goliath and Thailog, to her last night mean that she and Kendra were now in a relationship.
Kendra eyed her thoughtfully, "I won't be owned, but that has nothing to do with my ability to be faithful. Fidelity is about trust in a relationship. People who feel they have to possess someone to make sure they stay faithful are really saying they don't trust you to be faithful unless they can directly control you, that they can watch and verify that you're not being unfaithful." She continued, her voice taking on overtones of outrage, "That's not real trust, and if the two you were with treated you like that like they had to possess you, to own you, then they didn't really trust you like they should have, or like you deserved to be trusted." She added less angrily, "At least that's my opinion on the subject."
Demona almost replied, almost said something about Goliath and Thailog, almost said something about how Goliath had not done that he had just taken her for granted once they were together. She didn't though; as charming as she found Kendra's outrage on her behalf, she didn't want to get sidetracked into a discussion about the two males. Not out in the middle of the woods in the cold, and definitely not while Kendra was sitting naked with just a thin blanket around her huddled by the fire. She crossed the few feet of distance that separated them, and knelt down beside the black-haired woman.
"I suspect your right about that," that was all Demona wanted to say on the subject for right now, as there were much more important things on her mind. "I don't want to own you, I " she stopped, uncertain how to explain what she wanted when the desire she felt for Kendra was so different from anything else she had ever experienced before.
Sapphire blue eyes looked questioningly into her own; she reached out a taloned hand and ran it through the silky midnight black long hair. "The first time I saw you in my office I was surprised by how beautiful you were and how much strength and power I could sense from you. The second time we sparred I was drawn by your strength and gracefulness, and when I pinned you on the mat." She shifted closer, lowered her lips to Kendra's.
The kiss started out hesitantly, then Demona felt the woman in her arms shift and Kendra's arms wound around her neck. The lips underneath hers returned her kiss passionately as she gathered the woman closer and caped her wings about Kendra to shield her from the cold night air. She broke the kiss, ignoring the black-haired woman's protesting moan and trailed kisses across her jaw to her ear. She took the lobe between her teeth and nipped it gently.
"I thought I was rubbing in my victory when I told you to surrender," she whispered in Kendra's ear. She felt a shudder run thru the woman in her arms at these words, "And then you did and I realized how much you were willing to surrender to me." Demona pulled back enough to look into Kendra's passion darkened blue eyes, "Something happened that had never happened to me in a thousand years." The blue eyes widened in surprise, Kendra apparently hadn't suspected this. Demona continued, "I wanted to stay there, I wanted to hold you down, I wanted to touch you, I felt desire for a human for the first time in my life."
Kendra stared at her for a moment, and then she whispered, "Let's stay out here. The wind has died down. It won't be much warmer in the shelter than it is here by the fire and we can bring the blankets out here as well."
Demona glanced around the clearing, Kendra was right the wind had died completely down and if they stayed next to the fire they would probably be warmer than in the shelter. "Alright," she agreed.
As Demona pulled the silvery blankets and arranged them by the fire, Kendra placed more wood onto the fire. The wood caught fire quickly, the renewed flames casting a bright warm glow about the small clearing. "Besides, I want to see you," the black-haired woman said huskily, her eyes locked on the gargoyle's form.
Demona felt a thrill of arousal shoot through her; it wasn't just the words, but the desire filled look that accompanied them. Her hands went to her halter-top and then her loincloth, dropping each to the ground, "Then look." Kendra's gaze was like a heated caress across her body, every nerve ending seemed to come alive and prick as the darkened sapphire blue gaze wandered over her.
"You are so beautiful in either form," Kendra's voice was low and roughened with need. She crossed the few feet that separated them, leaving only a few inches between their bodies. Demona was actually slightly taller than Kendra now, the transformation having added several inches due to the physical differences between the gargoyle foot and the human foot. "I still can't see all of you," she whispered as her fingers lifted to the beaten gold band that covered the gargoyle's brow ridge, she hesitated waiting for permission.
Demona tilted her head down, "go ahead," she whispered. Macbeth had been the last person to see her bare forehead ridges she realized, but no one except for Goliath had ever touched her there. Thoughts of how it would feel to have the Kendra's fingers trailing over her ridges had her hoping the black-haired woman would be the second.
Kendra carefully pulled the golden band away from Demona's brow, exposing the bony ridge above the gargoyle's green eyes. It took a brief moment to kneel and place the band carefully upon one of the silvery blankets next to the fire. Demona was still standing with her head tilted slightly downward, her tail moving in a lazy arc behind her. Kendra reached up and trailed her fingers lightly over the ridges exploring them. She breathed in a breath when the flame-haired gargoyle closed her eyes in pleasure and leaned into the touch.
"Is this sensitive because you keep it covered, or is it just sensitive and that's why you keep it covered?" Kendra asked softly, not wanting to disturb the current mood.
Demona grinned lazily, her eyes still closed, "Brow ridges are sensitive, but mainly I use the band to keep my hair out of my face."
"Ah," Kendra murmured as she continued stroking Demona's face eye ridges then she trailed her fingers along the rigid spine that formed the upper edge of the gargoyle's ears. She heard Demona's soft moan as she stroked along the gargoyle's ears and she smiled, obviously this felt good for both humans and gargoyles. She pushed her fingers into the mass of flame red hair and covered Demona's red lips with her own, pressing against the gargoyle's warm body. Demona's arms wrapped around her and then she felt Demona's wings fold around her encasing her within their warmth. She shuddered as she realized that she was literally surrounded by her lover. Heated tingling arousal shot through her as if something had sparked trails of fire along all the nerve endings and she groaned into Demona's mouth.
Demona pulled away from the black-haired woman's soft lips long enough to comment, "You really like having my wings around you don't you." She growled softly when Kendra bit lightly upon her chin.
"Yes," Kendra whispered into the gargoyles skin, she could tell that it was thicker than her own human skin, but it was soft as well, and she wanted to test its resilience to her teeth as well as its taste with her mouth. "You realize," she bit lightly on the gargoyle's jaw, "that you surround me," she trailed her lips up to the gargoyle's ear. "That I'm," she bit lightly near the earring evoking another soft growl then flicked her tongue over the same area, "wrapped inside of you."
Kendra's words caused the muscles deep within Demona to clench, tightening and coiling in desire. She could feel herself grow wet and slick in reaction to them, her heart pounded in her chest, and without conscious thought, her hands moved lower. She just remembered not to grip too tightly with her talons as she ground her hips into Kendra's. She hadn't ever thought about it that way, but Kendra was right she was surrounded by the gargoyle's body. Demona became hyper aware of the feel of the woman in her arms, the press of breast and thigh, and the feel of soft tender skin against the membrane of her wings. She had reveled in these same sensations earlier, but she hadn't placed it in the same context that she did now, now it felt profoundly intimate in a way it hadn't before. She didn't want to let Kendra go, she wanted to take the woman like this, wanted to feel her cry out and shudder in pleasure while wrapped inside her wings.
But how? Demona's mind wrapped around the problem, she already knew she couldn't use her talons as she had used her fingers in her human form, and she had already thought about how her tail to please Kendra. This was more of a logistics problem, before she had imagined Kendra on her stomach underneath her, now she wanted to be able to touch the woman while holding her inside her wings. Her mind sorted through various possibilities, discarding each as too difficult or more often too uncomfortable for one or both of them.
"What are you thinking so hard about," Kendra asked, amusement clear.
Demona smiled down at her, "How to do this while holding you, but I think I have an idea now." She knelt slowly, supporting Kendra's back with her wing forearms, and guiding the woman's hips so that she sat on top of the gargoyle's parted thighs. Kendra's legs were on the outside of her own, and her own legs were parted enough for her tail to easily slip under and up between them. Demona stared down at the woman on her lap, taking in the breasts with their stiffly budded nipples, the shadowed intimate softness spread so open for her touch between Kendra's parted thighs. "Oh, yes," she whispered huskily, "I think this will work quite nicely."
The flame-haired gargoyle let Kendra fall backward slightly while pulling her hips closer; bringing the woman's soft breasts within reach. She bent her head and drew one of the stiffly budded nipples into her mouth being very careful of her fangs and rolled her tongue around its stiff prominence.
"Demona," Kendra sighed. Her hands played restlessly among the gargoyles thick flame colored locks, caressing and running her fingers though it, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly betraying her alternating pleasure and impatience for more contact. After a few seconds she hissed, "Oh yes," she arched her back and begged, "harder please."
Demona smiled against the soft dusky skin, she reached up and carefully began gently pinching and pulling upon the other nipple. Kendra moaned, and she glanced upward taking in the half-closed eyes, and the open pleasure upon the woman's face. She kept up the gentle torment, being gentle with one breast while hovering on the edge of pain with the other. When the nipple she was pinching felt slightly heated and reddened, she switched, gently laving the abused nipple while tormenting the other.
"Oh goddess," moaned Kendra passionately, her hips began slowly rocking back and forth upon Demona's lap.
The heady aroma of Kendra's arousal rose between them; Demona drew it in, inhaled it and categorized the different scents of it as she would a fine wine. She growled softly against the soft swell of Kendra's breast, she had to taste her; she had to taste her softness, the tender and so sensitive skin she had felt with her human fingers the day before. She wrapped one arm around Kendra's back and leaned forward. The black-haired woman let out a startled breath as her shoulders came to rest upon the ground, separated from its coldness only by the furthermost span of Demona's wings still underneath her.
Without any more warning, Demona lifted Kendra's hips and instructed, "Put your legs over my shoulders." The darkened blue eyes widened for a moment before the black-haired woman did as she asked. Beautiful, Demona thought as her eyes wandered over the intimate flesh now revealed to her as Kendra's thighs naturally fell apart exposing her to the gargoyles heated gaze. So delicately rose colored, so tender and so glisteningly wet. She leaned closer, and inhaled the rich musky fragrance of her lover.
A shudder ran through Kendra's body, and Demona eyes moved away from the sweet flesh near her mouth to the passion glazed blue eyes. The immortal gargoyle could see the anticipation in them, see how much Kendra wanted this, she nuzzled the soft black curls with her lips. She heard the indrawn gasp and felt the stillness in her lover's body as the woman waited for the first touch of the gargoyle's lips or tongue. She smiled, deciding that it wasn't time yet for that, the anticipation should definitely be drawn out. She trailed her lips and nose teasingly over the silky curls ignoring the entreating movements of Kendra's hips, and let her tongue seek out the musky fluid clinging to them.
"Please Demona, please," Kendra finally begged after a several seconds of this teasing.
The depths of need revealed in the almost sobbing tone inflamed Demona; she pressed her lips against the silky black curls, and growled possessively. A wrenching cry was drawn out of the black haired woman as she bucked convulsively against the gargoyles mouth in reaction. Memory rose in the gargoyle, she looked into Kendra's eyes and hoped she was right about the desire in them as she asked, "Is this mine?"
The sapphire blue eyes widened, Kendra drew in a breath, her body shook at the words, "Yes," she answered, "Oh, yes." Her eyes closed and she arched her back, drawing her legs up and opening herself even more to Demona's gaze, offering herself, "Yours," she cried softly.
"Mine," Demona agreed huskily feeling her own sex clench in sympathetic need. She groaned as she finally allowed herself to taste the musky fluid of Kendra's arousal. Soft, so tender and delicate here, so many folds to explore with her tongue, Demona knew it wouldn't take long she could feel the tension, the twitching clenching of the flesh under her tongue. Her lips closed in on the small human nodule of flesh, thinking of how much smaller than her own it was.
Demona suckled on the swollen pearl, drawing it and the delicate flesh around it up into her mouth. She played with it, laving her tongue over it and around it, until she felt the tension in her lover's muscles that signaled her imminent release, and then she growled a deep, vibrant growl. She wanted to touch, to hold within herself, no matter how briefly, all of the strength, the gracefulness, the fascinating mixture of tenderness and untamed wildness that defined who Kendra was to her. She put all of her desire, all of the need to touch and claim Kendra's soul just for a fleeting moment, into the growl, letting her lips resonate her claim possessively into the tender flesh trapped between them.
A wailing cry of, "Demona," rewarded her as Kendra shuddered and bucked in her pleasure against her mouth.
The immortal gargoyle held onto Kendra's hips tightly, preventing all but the barest movement. She could feel the flesh between her lips and against her chin clench and release rhythmically as her lover climaxed. She waited, her eyes hooded in pleasure, reveling in her lovers release until she could feel only the smallest of twitches before releasing the possessive hold she had on the flesh between her lips. Gently she nuzzled the tender flesh and then began exploring the intimate folds all over again; she was hardly done with Kendra.
After only a short while, an aroused whimper and the renewed welling of moisture rewarded the gargoyles efforts. Demona waited until the gentle rocking of Kendra's hips against her mouth heralded the true return of the woman's passion before gently lowering her lover's hips and using the strength in her wings to lift the woman's body until she was seated upon her thighs as she had been before. She silenced Kendra's protesting moan with her mouth, letting the black-haired woman taste herself upon Demona's lips.
Her tail snaked underneath her, into the space she had left between her thighs just for this purpose. "Don't worry I'm not stopping," she said huskily, "but I believed there was something else you wanted from me." She let her tail rest against Kendra's inner thigh, not wanting to startle the woman too much.
Kendra stiffened in surprise, her eyes glanced downward, she took in a breath, released it. She looked back up, meeting Demona's green eyes, "I want to touch you as well," she whispered relaxing once again. Her hands trailed along the gargoyles strong shoulders, stroked downward along the smooth slope of the gargoyles breasts to the raspberry colored nipples that had so fascinated her earlier.
"Have I mentioned before that I really, really like the color of your skin?" Kendra asked as she began gently cupping and stroking the gargoyle's breasts, pausing at the tips to lightly squeeze and pinch the erect nipples.
Demona leaned back on her taloned feet, arching her back to give the black-haired woman better access, "No," she paused to groan in pleasure, "No I don't believe you have," she managed to finally say.
Kendra smiled, "Well I do." She started to slide off Demona's lap.
The gargoyle's wings closed around her stopping her movement, "Where are you going?" Demona asked with a sexy grin. She let her tail trail upwards, brush lightly over the silken curls picking up the moisture upon them.
Instinctively Kendra arched into the contact, "I," she paused to whimper in pleasure as the gargoyle's tail stroked over her center, "wanted to touch you, to taste you," she finished with a moan as Demona's tail brushed along center teasingly once again.
"If you really want to," Demona paused to tease her lover again, savoring how the silky wet flesh felt against her tail. "But I would rather do this," she teasingly inserted the just the tip into the warm passageway. She leaned forward and trailed her mouth along Kendra's shoulder letting the woman feel the tips of her fangs drag ever so carefully across the tender skin until reaching the thicker muscle where the shoulder and neck met. She paused there, bit down lightly, careful not to break the skin, not yet. Kendra moaned softly and a quiver ran thru her, Demona kissed the spot and whispered, "And I'd like to do this, to fulfill your dream tonight."
Kendra shifted closer, bowed her head resting it upon the immortal gargoyles shoulder exposing the length of her neck. "Yes," she whispered, turning her head to stare into Demona's eyes.
Demona growled softly in pleasure at the answer, slowly she eased her tail further into the yielding warmth of Kendra's entrance. "No don't turn away I want to see you," the immortal gargoyle urged her lover as the black-haired woman turned to bury her head in the gargoyle's shoulder. Obediently the blue eyes turned back to her and Demona knew her own face was mirroring the pleasure so visible upon Kendra's as more of her tail was enclosed within the moist, heated depths. Finally, she felt the very tip of her tail just brush against flesh again and she stopped, the warm channel greedily clenched along the length of her tail as if to pull it in even further. Ever so slowly, she withdrew her tail, enjoying the way the velvety walls clung to it as if reluctant to let it go. Then pushed ever so slowly inward again, stretching and refilling the intimate passage. "You feel so good, so soft, so warm, so tightly gripping me," Demona whispered, "I love being inside you."
"Oh goddess, Demona," Kendra responded to the heated words, "It feels so good, so very good," she rocked her hips forward and begged, "more, just a small bit more."
Cautiously Demona pushed in a tiny bit more, the very last thing she wanted to do was accidentally hurt Kendra when she was inside her. A gargoyle tail was occasionally used as an appendage, but more often as a weapon, it wasn't really designed for delicate tasks such as this.
"Yes, there," Kendra hissed as she rocked back and forth upon the thick length of tail stretching and filling her so fully.
Demona reached down and gripped around her tail where it entered Kendra as soon as she realized what her lover wanted, giving her tail some needed stability and providing a second source of contact for Kendra to rock against. The feel of soft seeking fingers between her own legs completely surprised the immortal gargoyle; she hadn't even felt Kendra's hand moving from her shoulder.
"Oh how nice, lucky you," the black-haired woman murmured throatily upon finding the gargoyle's rather larger clitoris. From what she could feel, it was at least a half an inch in diameter if not wider and currently was protruding about an inch from the surrounding flesh. Demona was very wet and Kendra's fingers slid easily over the intimate flesh, exploring and stroking every inch she could reach. The smooth hairless outer lips had surprised her for a moment until she realized that except for the wild mane of red hair the gargoyles skin was entirely hairless, that obviously extended to here as well.
The softly stroking exploring fingers were ratcheting up the immortal gargoyle's arousal very quickly; she could tell that it wouldn't take very much for Kendra to take her over the edge. She tightened the circle of her fingers around her tail; limiting the distance it could enter inside Kendra to a safer length, and began thrusting slowly in time to her lover's movements. "Go very slowly in touching me, I want us to come together and it won't take much for me," she admitted to Kendra.
Kendra gasped, "That's alright." She whimpered, and ground down particularly hard against Demona's hand. The gargoyle could feel her lover's inner muscles clenching more tightly about her tail. Kendra turned her head away and rested it against the immortal gargoyle's shoulder, "Demona," she whispered imploringly.
The gargoyle wrapped her wings more tightly around Kendra, holding the woman firmly as she began gently biting at the offered shoulder and neck. Desperately she strove to hold off her own pleasure as Kendra's fingers began to stroke up and down the short swollen length of her. "Are you sure," she forced herself to ask, "I'll break the skin it might hurt."
"Yes," hissed Kendra, "take me."
Demona growled deep in her throat and sped up the tempo and force of her strokes into Kendra's warm tight passage. The flame-haired gargoyle whispered, "Like this?" she thrust into Kendra possessively.
Kendra cried, "Oh goddess, yes, yes."
Demona bit more firmly across the nape of Kendra's neck and growled as she had before. Kendra reacted to the sound by bowing her head down more, softening her posture in surrender and crying out quietly. Demona closed her eyes loosing herself to the multiple sensations bombarding her senses. There were the softly stroking fingers on her most sensitive flesh, the clenching warm flesh of her lover's intimate depths enveloping her tail, and then there were the soft sounds of Kendra's surrender.
"Demona, Demona," Kendra cried out her name with desperate need.
The immortal gargoyle felt Kendra begin to jerk erratically, and the woman's inner passageway clenched tightly about her tail. Demona thrust deeply, filling her lover and this time didn't withdraw.
"Give yourself to me," Demona commanded as she bit deeply into the thick muscles where Kendra's neck and shoulder met.
Kendra yowled hoarsely, "Demona!" sounding remarkably cat like. She shuddered, convulsing strongly in her pleasure and the immortal gargoyle gasped at the feel of the woman's intimate depths tightening in clenching rhythmical waves around her tail.
That was enough to send Demona over the edge; she released Kendra's shoulder as the beginning crest of her orgasm caught her. She barely registered Kendra's movement as the woman lifted her head; turned, and bit into the same place on Demona's shoulder where the gargoyle had bitten her. The sweet, lancing pain of the mating bite hammered into Demona and she cried out Kendra's name and arched into her lover as her pleasure intensified and deepened.
Soft gentle licks over the bite marks on her shoulder brought the immortal gargoyle back. Even her wings were still quivering Demona realized as she drew in a shaky breath still recovering from the intensity of her release. Incredulous she looked over at her lover, confused as to how Kendra's human teeth had managed that.
Kendra's sapphire blue eyes met hers, "It worked," she whispered looking at the bite marks on Demona's shoulder.
The gargoyle saw the flash of fangs within Kendra's mouth, "What exactly worked?" she inquired looking blankly at her lover's mouth, unable to believe what she had seen.
"Partial shape change, another thing the priestess taught me the other night though I gathered she hadn't really explored that ability very much," the black haired woman answered. "Still it's not that important right now, hold me?"
Demona realized the quivering she was feeling was not entirely from herself. She looked at Kendra's shoulder in concern and saw some blood there, but the bite marks were already healed. Concerned, Demona asked, "Are you alright?" the topic of partial shape changes and fangs could be addressed later the gargoyle decided this was much more important.
Kendra replied, "I'm still shaking inside."
Demona pulled Kendra more tightly to her body, "Did I hurt you?"
Kendra shook her head, answering hoarsely, "No, no you didn't hurt me at all. I've just wanted that for so long and no one could give that to me until you." Kendra wrapped her arms around Demona and held her tightly.
Demona said softly "No, I guess your other lover's couldn't do that for you could they?" Kendra shook her head and then buried her face in Demona's shoulder and started crying softly. Demona cradled her, rearranging her wings so that they covered more of her lover's back, "Why are you crying," she asked softly.
Kendra shook her head, "Too too many things to feel at once. Too strong just hold me, protect me for right now."
A sweet welling emotion filled Demona's chest, the immortal gargoyle reassured the woman cradled in her arms, "I've got you. I'll keep you safe."
Kendra's tears dried after another minute, she admitted softly, "I've never surrendered any part of myself to anyone before, it was sort of frightening, but it felt so freeing at the same time, not to have to always be in control of myself." Kendra sighed and fell silent.
Shortly afterward, Kendra's breathing changed and Demona could feel her slip into sleep. Demona kept her wings tight around them both protecting Kendra as she slept and only moved to pull up the blankets to cover them both.
Demona did not sleep, and in the dim light she pondered Kendra's words. At first she had thought that Kendra meant that she was the first to be able to do the mating bite, but then she realized that the woman was talking about surrendering. It moved her deeply to hear that she was the only one Kendra had ever surrendered herself to. That Kendra felt Demona was strong enough that the black-haired woman didn't have to be in control all the time.
The immortal gargoyle looked down at the woman wrapped in her arms and stared into her sleeping face, stubbornness, strength, honor were all revealed there in the square lines of jaw and chin. Tonight she had given Kendra what they had both wanted and in a surprising turn had received just as much. She had dominated and Kendra had willfully surrendered, and they both had been shaken by the passion and intensity of the moment.
All of these thoughts flowed disjointedly though Demona's mind, the last remaining with a sudden clarity. At the last when they had held onto one another desperately, in the moment that they both had shuddered in release, just who had surrendered to whom? In that moment hadn't they simply held onto each other, needing the strength and solidity of the other? In that moment, had they both experienced the same thing? When the world seemed to fall away and the protective walls shattered had both of them felt that curious mixture of vulnerability and freedom?
Elisa stepped up the castle stairs to the battlements, it was almost dawn and the clan should be back from their patrol soon. She hoped they would get back in enough time for her to fill them in on the information the RCMP had sent earlier in the day about Dominique Destine's kidnapping. The detective didn't know whether to interpret the information she had found out earlier as good or bad, the more details she heard about this kidnapping the less it made sense to her.
Reaching the top of the stairs, she wandered across the flagstones of the courtyard and leaned against the parapet, it had been another long night in a week of them and she was looking forward to getting home and getting some sleep. Matt and she were getting closer to the Quarrymen, to understanding their organizational structure, and to learning where exactly Jon Canmore aka John Castaway was getting his funding to supply them with weapons. With the information their investigation had recently uncovered it probably wouldn't be that long before she would need to bring out her alter ego Sally. The detective wasn't looking forward to the days and nights of undercover work with those gargoyle-hating fanatics, but with any luck, what she learned from the inside would break the case and get the Taskforce the information they needed to bring down the organization.
So deep was she within her thoughts, as she stared over the city, that she didn't immediately notice Hudson coming up the stairs behind her. It was Bronx bounding up the stairs behind the old gargoyle and running over to her that stirred Elisa out of her thoughts. "Hey boy how are you doing tonight," she asked as she rubbed his head and ears affectionately. She looked over and noticed Hudson standing a few feet away, "How are you this evening Hudson?" she asked.
He smiled, "I'm doing well, lass." He looked at her curiously, "What was dwelling in your thoughts so heavily that you didn't notice me when I came up the stairs?"
"The Quarrymen investigation, Matt and I are getting close to discovering where the money they are using to fund their organization is coming from," Elisa answered.
Hudson nodded, "That's good then," his tone made the statement more of a question.
"Very good," she affirmed, "with any luck we will be able to shut them down soon." The arrival of the rest of the clan winging over the battlements interrupted their conversation.
"Elisa," Goliath greeted her warmly, but there was concern in his eyes and she knew it was because of the kidnapping. The rest of the clan landed in a lose semi-circle behind him.
Elisa's eyes went to the feminine form standing behind the large clan leader. Angela appeared worried, and Broadway was regarding her with a concerned expression as he stood supportively beside her. The detective sighed; this entire situation was not going to get any easier, "The Royal Canadian Mounted Police informed us this afternoon that they found the missing plane, and that the storm that swept in from the Hudson Bay forced it down. The searchers found the bodies of the three kidnappers in the cockpit; all three men died instantly when the plane crashed." She continued quickly before anyone could interrupt after hearing that alarming news, "They didn't find Demona or Kendra Canmore, but they did find the cage they had been kept in and it was damaged enough in the crash for them to get out. The search team said that the plane had been thoroughly ransacked for supplies and that Demona and Kendra took survival gear and food rations with them as well as the kidnappers' weapons."
"So mother took Kendra Canmore with her?" Angela looked surprised.
"All the evidence points in that direction," Elisa admitted.
Hudson asked, "Do you think this was a real kidnapping or something Demona arranged that went bad?"
Elisa hesitated, there were things she was hearing from the Taskforce's Quarrymen investigation that caused her to suspect that the organization was linked with the kidnapping. Matt hadn't mentioned it to the detectives investigating the kidnapping yet, but he might have to soon, and that would bring up some uncomfortable questions about why the Quarrymen had targeted Dominique Destine who was not a known gargoyle sympathizer. "I think the kidnapping was real, and that Jon Canmore and his Quarrymen were behind it."
"But Kendra Canmore is his kin," Hudson protested, "Surely he wouldn't want to harm her."
"He blamed you guys for his shooting of his brother. I don't think he's that mentally stable right now and if she was with Demona " her voice trailed off meaningfully.
Angela questioned, "So you think Kendra being with Demona would have been enough for him to forget that she is of his clan?"
Elisa said grimly, "There was one cage in that plane and the searchers found both red hair and black hair in it indicating that both women were imprisoned in it. So yes, I think it was enough."
The entire clan was silent for a moment as they considered that shocking idea.
"But I don't understand," Lexington spoke up going back to the first piece of information, "Demona hates humans, what so different about Kendra Canmore that Demona would take her with her?"
"Yea," Brooklyn added, "first she agrees to spar with her now this. What could Demona need Kendra Canmore for that she would go through so much trouble to keep her around?"
Elisa shifted uneasily, there had been one thing she had thought of, but the Angela had found out about Demona's scheme rendering that idea very unlikely.
"Elisa?" Goliath's inquired evidently having caught sight of her expression.
She shook her head, "Nothing really, I did think of a possible explanation, but then Demona pulled her scheme with the Assassin so the idea I had doesn't make sense anymore."
A flash of pain crossed Angela's face at this reminder of her mother's betrayal; it quickly disappeared, replaced with resolve. "What explanation did you think of?" she asked determinedly.
"Well as I said it doesn't really make much sense now, but Kendra knows all of the Canmore family history. She knows about the hunters and the reasons behind why they've hunted Demona for all this time. Kendra's very passionate about the fact that the Canmore's are responsible for almost all of it, that they had no reasonable justification for going after Demona in the first place." Elisa looked back at Angela, "It crossed my mind that perhaps Demona was keeping Kendra around so she could tell this to you."
Angela's frowned angrily, "She was planning on using Kendra to persuade me to feel sympathetic towards her you mean, to believe that her hatred of humans is justified."
Elisa nodded, "But as I said that doesn't really make sense now, not with what happened."
Lexington commented, "So why did Demona take Kendra with her?"
Elisa shrugged, "I don't know," she said. "But knowing why isn't the most critical issue right now. The plane went down three hundred miles north of the nearest town. They've got three hundred miles of snow-covered, rough terrain to cross with very few supplies. Demona did Kendra no favors by taking her with her; they would have been rescued today if they had just stayed with the plane." The detective paused, gave a frustrated sigh, before she continued, "I can understand why they left though, they had no way of knowing rescue was coming." She shook her head, "Three hundred miles though, there's no guarantee that Kendra can make it that far even if Demona is actually trying to help her, much less if she doesn't really care."
"So how long before " Broadway's voice trailed off for a moment as he glanced at Angela in concern, "how long do they think it will take them to travel that far?" he restated his question.
"The Mounties are hoping they will be able to find them with their search and rescue planes. If they can make it themselves the earliest their estimating their arrival is in six to seven more days." Elisa answered.
The clan stared at one another. Brooklyn shook his head sadly, "that's a lot of days." It was all he said, but everyone knew what he wasn't saying, it was a lot of days for Demona to decide that it wasn't worth it to continue helping a human.
"Yes, that's a lot of days," Elisa agreed worriedly.
Goliath stirred finally. The detective thought he looked as confused by this turn of events as she was. None of them had foreseen this, and it made her wonder what they didn't know about Kendra Canmore that Demona did. On the other hand, it was more likely there was nothing and Demona would walk out of the Canadian wilderness with a tale of how Kendra had suffered a tragic accident along the way, the detective thought with a flash of anger. She glanced toward the one gargoyle she expected to be having the most difficulty with this news. Angela was leaning against Broadway, the young female's wings were caped around her body and she looked miserable. Broadway had his arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders.
"Then we will hope that they arrive safely," Goliath stated, drawing Elisa's attention away from the younger couple, "for there is little else we can do. In the meantime dawn is coming," he turned toward the lone human standing among them, "and you should sleep Elisa, you look tired."
"I'm going to do that now," the she agreed as she turned to leave. She wanted to stop and say something to Angela, but she didn't know what she could say to make this situation any better for the younger female.
"Breakfast is ready," Dominique's voice woke Kendra. The black-haired woman stared disoriented for a moment at the shelter walls before she remembered waking early in the morning when Demona's painful dawn transformation had intruded upon their sleep. Afterwards they had moved the blankets and themselves back inside the shelter.
She grabbed her clothes and crawled out of the shelter, pausing to stretch out her neck and back which were protesting the lack of a mattress. "Morning," she greeted Dominique with a warm smile, her thoughts unerringly going to the night they had shared.
The redhead kneeling by the fire looked up, "good morning," she responded. The welcoming smile upon her face shaded into amusement as she regarded Kendra who was still as naked as she had been the night before. Definitely, she thought to herself, admiring the strong, limber lines of her lover, she does not have a strong nudity taboo. Then she caught the faintly repulsed look on the black-haired woman's face as she regarded the clothing in her hands. "I'm hoping that supplies includes clothing," Dominique commented, referring to the eagle owl spirits promise that one of her chosen was bringing them supplies today.
"One can hope," Kendra replied, as she resignedly put on the same clothes she had been wearing for the past four days. She had rinsed them in the river, but still it wasn't the same as actually washing them. "Thanks," she said as she accepted the plate of stewed meat, she eyed it without much appreciation, she liked meat, but four days of nothing but meat and ration bars was about two days too many. "I wonder if he or she will bring some food," she looked at the forest, "or maybe they know enough about this area to tell us if there's edible roots or something that we can add to our meals."
"Are you telling me you don't like my stew?" asked Dominique sounding piqued.
Kendra stared at her uncertainly, "No, of course not," she added apologetically, "I really appreciate that you got up this morning and cooked it for us. I just meant that " her voice trailed off as she caught sight of the redhead's sly grin. "Aww, very funny Demona, you can't tell me you don't want something to eat besides caribou meat and ration bars too."
Dominique stared at Kendra for a moment; then she chuckled, remarking, "You know that's the first time you've called me by my true name during the day when you weren't calling it out in pleasure," she ended smugly.
The black-haired woman blushed, she asked shyly, "Would you rather I called you Demona?"
These odd moments of shy uncertainty always caught the immortal gargoyle by surprise; Kendra was usually so self-confident and bold with everyone. She realized she had never seen Kendra act shyly around anyone else, only she, and she found that rather endearing. "When we are alone, yes I would actually," the redhead answered.
Kendra nodded, "Alright then," she replied and turned her attention to the stew.
Dominique regarded her thoughtfully for a moment before turning back to the cook pot and for her own breakfast. She frowned at the brown soup, Kendra was right a meat only diet was not that appetizing, but then again she knew from bitter personal experience that it definitely beat starving. She sat down with her plate and eyed Kendra curiously, "So, partial shapeshifting?" she asked.
The black-haired woman nodded, pausing to clear her mouth before answering, "Apparently those with the jaguar spirit are very skilled in controlling their bodies and their shapeshifting ability. It has something to do with the jaguar's chosen being warrior centric and solely focused on physical abilities."
"Apparently?" commented Dominique surprised, "You don't know? I thought you said the priestess taught you everything she knew?" she frowned, concerned.
Kendra got a faraway look in her eye, "I thought she had, but the more I think about what I learned the less I'm certain that she did. I'm really starting to get the impression that jaguars are expected to be self-starters and she gave me the equivalent of basic swimming lessons and then threw me into the pool to see what I did with them."
Dominique stared for a moment, "So you're just supposed to figure it out for yourself now?" She asked, her voice betraying her incredulity.
"She did give me a lot of information," Kendra responded her tone slightly defensive, "like how to increase my metabolism to ignore the cold, how to control my healing ability if I get hospitalized and need to hide it, how to heal faster, how to be stronger, faster and quicker than I have been in my human form." Kendra paused to take a breath, "In short she gave me a lot of information about how to modify my human body to have most of the same abilities I do when I'm in my jaguar form." After a short pause for that information to sink in Kendra continued, "In regards to shapeshifting though, she gave me the basics and I think the rest of it is up to me to explore depending on whether or not I feel like experimenting with it."
"Experimenting how," the redhead asked, more intrigued now than annoyed on Kendra's behalf.
Kendra pursed her lips thoughtfully, "Well I know I have to stay within the basic jaguar body shape, no going around looking like a lion or tiger, but outside of that " she trailed off and shrugged. "I managed to only change my teeth last night which confirms that I can do partial body changes. I suspect that I can also choose other jaguar coat colors, it's just that black," she pointed to her black hair, "will always be the one most natural to me. I suspect if I had been born a blonde my natural jaguar form coat would be yellow with dark brown spots."
The green eyes were a bit wider now, "Anything else?" Dominique asked her eyes intent on Kendra's blue ones.
"Well " Kendra hesitated uncertainly, "after the incident in the temple I did a lot of research into jaguars in general and Olmec and Mayan mythology about jaguars and jaguar deities. I did some more research once the dreams began and when I actually transformed. What I keep thinking about are the Olmec statues archeologists found of were-jaguars. They depict shamans in various stages between human and jaguar."
Dominique drew in a sharp breath, her eyes thoughtful, "And now you think the statues depict real shamans, that this is something you can do as well."
Kendra nodded, "I've been thinking of my transformations as either or, either human or jaguar. Perhaps I need to start thinking of the process as a gradient instead, a sliding scale so to speak between human and jaguar."
"Like the mutates," the redhead commented softly more to herself than Kendra.
The black-haired woman frowned, puzzled, "Mutates?"
Dominique sighed and began what was a rather lengthy explanation.
"So David Xantos hired Sevarius to develop these mutates as gargoyle like mercenaries. Sevarius made them by combining their DNA with various large cat species, and they look like were-forms of the species they were combined with." Kendra summarized the redhead's explanation.
Dominique added, "With bat-like wings, the ability to fly and the ability to store and discharge electrical energy in the form of electric bolts."
"Right, electric eel DNA as well," Kendra corrected herself thoughtfully remembering that detail.
"Sevarius worked for me at Nightstone for a period of time. I asked him about it once and he told me he had added the eel DNA so the mutates would have the necessary energy to allow them to glide like gargoyles. His hypothesis was that gargoyles stored the sun's energy during their stone sleep to allow them to glide at night, otherwise he couldn't account for the amount of energy we would require." Dominique commented.
Kendra looked thoughtfully at her, "And yet you don't do that and you manage to glide just fine," she reminded the gargoyle in human form.
Dominique looked surprised; she stared at the black-haired woman bemused for a few moments. Apparently, she hadn't thought about how her own lack of stone sleep might disprove Sevarius's idea. "Perhaps Puck's enchantment compensates for that?" she proposed uncertainly.
Kendra shrugged, "I just brought it up because maybe Sevarius isn't completely right about the energy requirements." She continued, "As for the mutates, it might be nice to see what they looked like, but otherwise I won't be really like them at all. I'm not blending my DNA just blending my two forms." Kendra stopped abruptly and frowned, "Actually I don't really know that, I've never looked into what my DNA is like when I'm in jaguar form. I don't know if it's still human or jaguar or what. Without knowing that I guess I really can't say whether or not my DNA might be a blend if I'm in a form in between the two."
Dominique smiled, "That will be easy enough to determine once we get back to the city. Nightstone has all the necessary equipment."
Kendra nodded thoughtfully, "I'm not sure if the information will be that important to know in regards to my shapeshifting abilities, but I'm curious to know the answer now that I've thought about it."
"Then we will find the answer for you," Dominique promised and Kendra gave her a warm smile in response. The redhead returned her attention to the last of her now cold food. A few minutes later she placed the plate by the fire, she would wash it and the plates in the stream later. Her attention returned to her lover who was now staring into the forest with a thoughtful look on her face. "So how are you going to go about exploring your shapeshifting abilities?" the redhead asked drawing Kendra's attention back to her.
A deep sigh answered her, "I'm not sure, that's what I was just trying to figure out," Kendra admitted. "Maybe I'm over analyzing it, I mean I don't have to think about how my insides change when I become a jaguar I just think about which 'I' is predominant and draw that to the outside."
Dominique spent a moment trying to understand that idea, it was so different from how she viewed her own transformation. Of course, her change wasn't voluntary, it was triggered by the sun and she didn't think much of anything at all during the process except for the pain it caused her. The first few weeks after Puck placed his enchantment on her she had viewed her day form as almost alien, refusing to look at herself during the day. Over time she had come to accept that she was still Demona, still a gargoyle no matter what she looked like on the outside, and she had definitely come to appreciate the advantages her human day form gave her no matter how physically weak she found it. Kendra's explanation though hinted that the black-haired woman saw herself as having a dual personality, the jaguar personality and the human, and at the same time it was clear that she saw both personalities as being her, that they were unified in some manner.
Kendra mused, "Of course the priestess did say the human and jaguar were becoming more integrated. I hadn't really thought about it recently, but she's right the two parts of me have become merged in a way they weren't when I first began my transformations."
Maybe Kendra was thinking too much about it, Dominique thought, after all she had already managed a partial shift once. "What did you do last night?" the redhead asked.
Kendra turned a thoughtful gaze her way, "I just imagined myself with fangs instead of eye teeth and pulled that on top of my human form, but that's not quite the type of form change I'm looking for it didn't really give me any extra physical abilities just the two teeth."
Dominique raised one eyebrow, "So you want to shapeshift just enough to gain all of your jaguar abilities," she asked, "but not actually transform fully into your jaguar form?"
"Something like that," Kendra answered absently. Her gaze focused on the redhead, "I suspect I haven't explored the limits of my abilities in either form, what she taught me about modifying this body," the black-haired woman waved a hand up and down herself, "can also apply to my jaguar form." She added after half a second, "I think."
The red-haired woman's jade green eyes widened at the statement. "Then I guess you do have a few things to figure out don't you," she said after a moment.
Kendra nodded; she came over to the fire and picked up the pot and plate there, adding them to her own. "I'll go wash these since you cooked."
"I'll go with you," Dominique offered, the morning wasn't that cold and the sun was shining brightly through the trees. Underneath the dark green needles of the pines were thick patches of white snow that brilliantly sparkled where the gleaming spears of sunlight shot thru the thick canopy. The redhead glanced at her companion as they strode through the forest, she wasn't certain what was bothering her, just that it had to do with what Kendra had said by the fire. Finally, as they reached the edge of the forest, she understood what was troubling her; Kendra found her strength as a gargoyle attractive, what would happen now that the black-haired woman would be able to be stronger than Demona?
Trying to distract herself, the redhead looked around the open area that bordered the wide stream on both sides as Kendra cleaned the pot and plates. The sun had kept the snow from piling up along its banks, and though the grass was brown right now, Dominique could tell that it would be lush and green during the summer months. The air was crisp and clean, so unlike the air of Manhattan, and everything around her reminded her just a little of Scotland so long ago, pristine and untamed.
"It's beautiful isn't it," Kendra commented softly. "I'd love to come up here in summer and see what it looks like then."
Dominique watched her for a moment, Kendra's eyes were closed her head tilted toward the sun and she had the barest hint of a pleased smile upon her face. She felt and echoing smile upon her own face as she watched the swiftly moving stream. "I don't see why we can't," she offered hesitantly, and a pang of uncertainty caused the smile to slip away as if it had never been.
The sapphire blue eyes opened and focused upon her keenly, "That would be nice," Kendra responded. She turned her head slightly and regarded the redhead with a slight frown, "What's wrong Demona?"
If she had wings, she would be caping them about herself protectively about now Dominique knew. She wasn't particularly happy with the fact that she was having these feelings of insecurity at all. "I guess I can't expect to win anymore of our sparring matches," she blurted then cursed herself for being so obvious.
"I wouldn't do that," Kendra grinned, "I want to beat you on my own." She frowned puzzled when all she got in return for her jest was a weak smile from the redhead. She couldn't fathom why the prospect of her being stronger was upsetting the other woman so; she took in the slump to Dominique's posture the almost defeated way the redhead stood as she stared at the stream. A fleeting remembrance of their lovemaking last night caused her blue eyes to narrow, surely that wasn't it? She glanced at Dominique once again, perhaps it was, and even if it wasn't the redhead deserved to know for how long she had been fascinated with her, "I've waited for an opportunity to meet you ever since you tried that takeover of Murton Electronics over a year ago." The redhead turned surprised green eyes her way, "Learning that Dominique Destine, the woman that had all the old boy CEO's shaking in their shoes after Nightstone's meteoritic rise from obscurity after only a year of existence, was also Demona just gave me the impetus I needed to travel down to Manhattan and actually arrange a meeting."
"I remember that, I didn't know that you had a financial interest in Murton Electronics though," Dominique commented intrigued.
"Old business partner of my father's, I left the investment there when dad died," Kendra explained.
Dominique smirked, "Good work in keeping the share prices stable."
"It wasn't easy, and quite frankly luck was with us. You had it well planned out; you should have been able to force a buyout." The black-haired woman admitted frankly.
The redhead nodded, "I was surprised when the share prices didn't drop," she acknowledged. "So that's when you first became interested in me," Dominique said, she had never suspected that Kendra's interest in her predated the woman finding out her true identity.
Kendra nodded, "That's when I started keeping track of you and your company, both for self-preservation of my own investments and also because I was interested in you. If you hadn't suspected already I have a thing for redheads, and after my first look at a picture of you I was well " she blushed, "definitely interested."
Dominique raised an eyebrow amused, "So it's just the hair is it?" Her earlier uncertainty, if not gone, was at least being overshadowed by her interest in the current conversation.
The blue eyed woman took a step closer, her gaze filled with warm appreciation, "No it's not just the hair," her voice was husky almost a purr as she spoke. "When I first saw you in your office doorway in your perfect business suit with that white high-collared shirt, your flame red hair tied back and tamed you looked so regal, so beautiful and elegant, and so very, very sexy."
Dominique was starting to feel slightly hot under the combined effects of Kendra's searing blue gaze and sultry voice. "So it's the tailored suits then," she teased.
Kendra grinned roguishly, "They certainly make me want to muss up them, and the woman wearing them, but no, it's not just the suits."
So that had been what was in those blue eyes when they raked her up and down that day and left her in no doubt that the rumors in the report she had received about Kendra Canmore being interested in women were true, Dominique thought. "So if it's not just the hair or the suits what is it?" she asked flirtatiously.
"Most people react in one way when it's the full moon and I'm feeling very jaguar. Almost everyone is scared, and they react to that fear by either retreating or being aggressive. Very few people don't react that way, and you were one of them." Kendra stated seriously.
The change in tone caught Dominique by surprise, as did the words. "I sensed a subtle threat from you, and it surprised me, but no, I wasn't afraid of you."
"No, you were within your domain, your territory, and in so many ways you let me know that you were the undisputed ruler of it and that I was the interloper and expected to behave unless I wanted to be summarily driven away." Kendra smiled, "Mind you I didn't consciously interpret it that way, it was only later that I had time to analyze your reactions and my responses that I recognized what had been going on."
Respect, Dominique recognized something else unique about how Kendra interacted with her besides the odd bout of shyness; she had never seen the black-haired woman look at anyone with the open respect that Kendra gave her. "Nightstone is my company; I don't let anyone forget that fact," she finally responded.
"I know," Kendra whispered, "I was just letting you know that the strength that I see in you isn't your physical strength. The strength in you that turns me on so much, that makes me want to surrender to you is the strength you have inside you." Her voice turned sultry once again, "Its why even now you could push me to the ground, and claim me for your own."
It took a second for Dominique to process what Kendra had just said, for a few seconds she wondered how the black-haired woman had known what was troubling her, and then she decided that it really didn't matter. She took a step forward, crossing the small distance between them and pulled Kendra's lips down to meet her own.
It was a few minutes before either of them paid attention to the sound of an engine in the distance. Kendra was the first to pull away, staring southward with an intent expression, "I hear an engine," she said, she turned her head toward the sound, "a fairly small one and on the ground not in the sky."
"Let's go back into the trees," Dominique pulled on Kendra's hand to get the woman to follow her, "see who it is before we reveal ourselves just in case it isn't who we are expecting." Kendra stared towards the south for a few seconds before nodding and following the redhead to the tree line.
In a few minutes, a dark green ATV with a small trailer hitched to it approached from the south traveling alongside the stream. Kendra couldn't tell the sex of the rider underneath the thick winter clothes and the full helmet, but there was something familiar about the figure, something that caused her to be certain this was who they were expecting. She rose and stepped out of the wood line.
"What are you doing?" hissed Dominique angrily from behind her.
Kendra paused, "Stay there just in case, but I'm pretty sure this is who we were expecting," she said without looking at the redhead, she didn't want to give away Dominique's location if this wasn't the right person. The ATV slowed as it approached her and Kendra was able to get a better look at the items in the trailer behind it. A tent, three propane tanks and what looked like more camping gear reassured her. The rider of the ATV pulled off their helmet revealing the weathered face of an older woman. Darker skin than her own, braided dark hair, wise dark eyes that studied her keenly, a slightly rounded, square-jawed face, to Kendra's eyes she looked decidedly Native American.
"Kendra Canmore, Jaguar's chosen," the woman greeted her calmly.
Kendra chuckled, "I'm guessing you're the one the Eagle Owl told us to expect then." She heard a rustle behind her and guessed that Dominique was coming forward.
"Demona," the older woman greeted the redhead politely. "I am Rachael Wabagano, senior among the Owl's chosen," she introduced herself.
"Demona," the older woman greeted the redhead politely. "I am Rachael Wabagano, senior among the Owl's chosen," she introduced herself.
Rachael indicated the supplies in the trailer behind her ATV, "I've brought a few things I thought you might appreciate having for the next few days."
Dominique eyed the older woman uncertainly; she wasn't used to humans knowing her true name. She understood this woman had learned her name from the Eagle Owl spirit, and that this human possessing such knowledge most likely wasn't a threat to her, but still it unsettled her. There was also the fact that she could sense the power the woman possessed now that she was closer. It was not the leashed, primal energy Kendra so effortlessly exuded, it was quieter and calmer, but it was power nonetheless.
"This is for later tonight when hopefully we will have something to celebrate," Rachael pulled out a white, long circular container from a corner of the trailer, it looked vaguely familiar to the redhead, "it will need to settle from the ride, but it will be alright in a few hours." She handed it to Dominique who hesitantly accepted it, the container was labeled, Oban Single Malt Scotch Whisky aged 14 years. No wonder the container seemed familiar; this was one of the whisky distilleries near Wyvern Hill and the one that she liked the best. She had bought a few bottles of Oban scotch over the years, and had some much older than this stored in her cellar. Exactly how much did this Owl's chosen know about her past, the immortal gargoyle wondered with rapidly growing unease as she stared at the scotch container in her hands.
"That is the right area isn't it? When I asked Owl told me you were born on the western coast of the Highlands, in the castle that now sits atop a skyscraper in New York." Rachael inquired of the frowning redhead. Owl had described this one's temper as being as fiery as her hair, and said the gargoyle had about five times as much dislike of humans in general as Rachael had of the white tourists who came to visit the tribe's community and gawk at her people as if they were exhibits on display. After what little Owl had told her of the gargoyle's history, she could understand why, but that didn't mean she wanted to run afoul of either the redhead's temper or whatever mines lay in wait among the remaining fey enchantments.
Dominique incrementally relaxed, "Yes it's the right area," she responded. "I have different vintages of this brand of scotch stored in my cellar aging," she found herself volunteering somewhat to her own surprise.
The older woman smiled, pleased, "Oh good, I wasn't certain that you would even appreciate it, but I decided to take a chance that you might. I have so few people around with whom I can share my appreciation for single malt scotch " she hesitated for a moment before adding darkly, "at least people that I can share it with safely and without feeling as if I'm doing something morally wrong by drinking at all."
Kendra, who had been poking around in the trailer exploring what items the woman had brought them, looked up at this, "Are you Native American?" she asked, somberly.
"In Canada we refer to ourselves as First Nations people or indigenous people, but yes I am of the Cree Nation," the older woman responded, "My tribe lives at the southern end of Lake Mistassini." She turned toward the trailer, unhooking the bungee cords that held everything down, "We can start moving things to your camp while we talk. I brought everything that I appreciate having along on the hunting trips I arrange for the tribes youth, so we have a few trips to make."
Rachael lifted out a long grey nylon bag and handed it to Dominique, "A tent." She then went around and lifted out a large tan rectangular carrying case with the brand name Coleman on the side, it looked as if it were heavy the way she lifted it. This she handed to Kendra who had a puzzled look on her face as she accepted the item. Rachael said, "There's a portable water heater in it." Blue and green eyes fastened with startling intensity upon the tan container, they barely heard the woman continue, "I've got tarps and a hose with a shower head so we can set up an outdoor shower for you to use. It only does five gallons at a time, but it's better than cold water or heating a pot full of water on the fire."
There was a moment of silence when the Cree woman stopped speaking. Her dark eyes tracked from the blue-eyed jaguar's chosen to the redhead and then to what they were both staring at, she grinned, "We can set up the shower first if you want," she offered.
The two sets of eyes swung up and back to her, Kendra spoke first, "I don't suppose you brought any clothing for us with you?" she asked hopefully.
The slightly almond shaped, dark brown eyes warmed understandingly, "Yes, I was able to figure out your approximate sizes from what Owl showed me. I brought you three changes of underwear, two sets of fleece pullovers and one set of water and wind resistant shells for both of you."
"Thank you," Kendra's appreciation was quick and heartfelt; Dominique's was slower and stiffer, but nonetheless just as truly meant.
An hour later, they had set up the new camp, instead of a rough shelter with pine boughs cutting the wind there was a blue and grey three person, four-season tent with an inflatable mattress and two sleeping bags inside. The hollowed out fire pit with its protective ring of stone was still there, but now beside it was a low plastic table with a propane cook stove. Stacked underneath the table were various canned vegetables and soups. Beside it was a cooler containing milk, eggs, coffee, and a few loafs of bread. Off to the side in the woods there was a rough shower with tarp sides. They had dug a deep trench along the shower's tarp sides to guide the water away from the camp and down the hillside. Rachael was staying this one night with them before starting back and had pitched her bright yellow one-person tent on the other side of the camp from theirs.
While they had set up the camp, Rachael had told them about her past, she had been born in 1761 and had been twenty-three years old when the first smallpox epidemic from the tribes contact with European explorers had spread like wildfire though all the tribes in the area. By the time the last tribe member had been buried over seventy percent of her tribe had died. The remaining tribal members had grieved and carried on as best they could with their lives. They survived by trapping and hunting deer, moose, caribou, beaver, and hare, and gathering wild plants as they had for centuries. They also traded with the other tribes and with European settlers at the Hudson Bay Trading post.
Life continued almost unchanged for Rachael and her tribe until the early 1900's when over trapping by white trappers resulted in population depletion of the game animals the tribe depended upon for both their livelihood and food supplies. Increased contact with the white Europeans also brought a fresh round of diseases the tribe had no natural defenses against. The following twenty years were very difficult for the tribe with both disease and starvation taking their toll of the tribe's members. Finally, in 1948, the Canadian government had limited trapping in the Mistassini's hunting lands; it took another ten years for the tribe and the land to begin to recover. More recently, following the James Bay Agreement in 1975 in which the tribes were compensated for the development of hydroelectric power on their tribal lands, and new government sponsored services such as education and health care were begun, life had once again begun to improve for her people.
"Now I take the youngsters out into our hunting grounds each fall and teach them how to be Cree hunters. I teach them how to know the habits of each animal so that the hunter may find it, how to understand how each animal thinks so the hunt is successful, and how to respect the gift of the animal when they give themselves to the hunter. I teach them of balance, the reciprocal obligation the hunter has with the earth and the animals to provide the conditions for their growth and survival just as they provide for our growth and survival." Rachael concluded as they finished stacking the last of the supplies the woman had brought them.
It had not escaped Kendra's notice that the longer Rachael talked about her past, the more Dominique had relaxed around the Cree woman. Considering how prickly and wound up the immortal gargoyle had been initially around the older woman, this was a definite improvement.
"Interestingly enough I find that most chosen, no matter who their mentoring spirit, instinctively hunt with the same or a very similar philosophy. Kendra, I assume that you hunt?" the older woman's question caught the black-haired woman by surprise as she had been watching Dominique and not paying strict attention to the older woman.
Kendra focused on the Cree woman, "Yes, I hunt once during each full moon," she responded uncertainly.
"I've not had a chance to ask any of the large predator cats chosen these questions; this should be quite interesting to see if the trend I've noticed continues," the older woman said enthusiastically. "How do you find the animals you hunt? Once you find them how do you ensure your hunt is successful? And is there anything you do to make sure your on predation doesn't negatively impact on the population of your chosen prey?" The Cree woman quickly rattled off her questions.
"Umm," Kendra frowned, "well there really isn't much to finding them. I only own three hundred acres and I generally know where my deer herd is bedding down for the night on the nights that I hunt. Prior to the hunt, I select which deer that I'm going to hunt for that month based on my herd management goals. From there it's more of a case of separating out that deer and bringing it down as quickly as possible on the actual night of the hunt."
Rachael stared at the black-haired woman for a moment, she obviously hadn't been expecting this type of answer, "So you have a single prey animal that lives in a well defined area," she frowned thoughtfully, "As you can probably guess that's very different from how we hunt here."
Kendra nodded, "Your last question is much more relevant to my situation, with only three hundred acres my efforts are much more focused on maintaining the herd numbers and health. When I first started I only had two hundred acres, I've added the other hundred over the past seven years to give the herd more room. Their currently at a healthy population for their habitat size at forty-three deer with thirty being does and the remainder bucks. Since I'm currently maintaining that population, I hunt does and bucks fairly evenly during the year."
Dominique found the conversation surprisingly interesting; she hadn't given any thought to the question of whether or not Kendra had hunted prior to their experiences here, though given her lovers skill in bringing down the caribou she perhaps should have guessed. From what Kendra was saying, she had turned into quite the naturalist as a result of her being chosen by the jaguar spirit. "I understand that the chosen are required to live in harmony with the earth and try to protect the environment," she said recalling what Kendra had told her of what the priestess had said, "but exactly how active are the chosen expected to be?" the redhead asked Rachael curiously.
The Cree woman smiled, "A very good question, and one without a clear answer for you unfortunately. It really depends on the animal spirit, some require more active efforts others less." She nodded towards Kendra, "The Jaguar spirit is one of the spirits that does not have specific requirements in regards to the environment. Instead, the Jaguar chosen are expected to be excellent warriors and gifted war leaders. Owl requires us to be rather active in protecting both the environment and the various owl species; we also teach others how to live in harmony with the earth whenever possible. In addition, Owl encourages us to gain new knowledge about the world every day."
Kendra regarded Rachael with a puzzled expression, "Gifted war leader? What does that mean? I don't recall being taught anything about anything like that."
"It does not have to be taught, it is something you already are as one of Jaguar's chosen," explained the Cree woman. "For instance, Lion's chosen are charismatic by nature, they have the gift of persuading large groups of people that they are good all around leaders. Jaguar's chosen are charismatic as well, but their abilities are more specific. They are good at persuading individuals and small groups that they are capable of dealing with challenging situations successfully. And they are as a rule correct, Jaguar's chosen are unusually gifted in instinctually reading such situations and making tactically sound decisions that lead to victories much more often than not, their gift is such that it's rare they come across an unwinnable battle. Outside of such situations though, Jaguar's chosen aren't normally that interested in leading, so they often make only average administrators."
"They are troubleshooters, but not managers," Dominique commented thoughtfully. She could easily see Kendra excelling in that type of position. Then her green eyes narrowed, for a moment she wavered between annoyance and amusement before settling on rueful amusement. She had always wondered exactly how Kendra had managed to get her to agree to spar in the first place, even though she was very thankful that the black-haired woman had; now she suspected she had her answer.
"Demona, what is it?" Kendra asked staring at her puzzled.
"Just thinking about our first meeting, and how you persuaded me to agree to spar with you." The redhead admitted. "Between you being a human and a Canmore, I really should have thanked you for your investment and sent you on your way instead of agreeing to spar with you."
Kendra looked bewildered for a second before her eyes widened and then she looked appalled as she made the same connection.
"Don't apologize," Dominique ordered her sharply, regretting that she had said anything, "don't even feel bad about it because it looks like it's turning out to be one of the more fortunate decisions I've ever made." The redhead paused, surprised for a moment by the astuteness of her own words. "It's lead directly to this," she continued determinedly, indicating the fire and the women around it. "If it hadn't been for me agreeing to spar with you I would have never found out about the enchantments on me, much less had the chance to do anything about them. I would have lived for centuries continuing to sabotage any chance of a relationship with my daughter, with anyone." She stared into Kendra's blue eyes willing the other woman to believe her, to know that she was thankful that Kendra's gift of persuasion had influenced her to agree that day.
"Alright," Kendra was still troubled, but she could see that Dominique was serious about what she said.
"It is your responsibility how you use your gift and your responsibility not to misuse it, but Demona is right, in this case its use has lead only to good. Do not regret that, especially since you were unaware of even having it at the time," Rachael added.
Kendra grinned and held up her hands in a gesture of surrender, "Alright, alright, you two don't have to gang up on me anymore, I get it."
Dominique suppressed a flicker of resentment for the presence of the Cree woman. If it weren't for Rachael's presence, she would have been pleased to use other more persuasive means of showing Kendra exactly how much she didn't mind the current state of events. However, they wouldn't have a nice tent and a hot shower if it weren't for their guest either so Her gaze went back to the shower, "If no one minds I'd like to try out the shower. I'm really tired of wearing these clothes," she said.
Kendra smiled, "Go ahead, I'll take mine after you're done."
Rachael rose from where she had been sitting by the fire, "I'll show you how to use the shower," she offered. As they were leaning over the water heater the Cree woman said in a low voice, "You two don't have to hide your relationship from me, I don't want to feel as if I'm making either of you uncomfortable with my being here."
Dominique glanced at her startled.
Rachael explained, "Owl told me you two were together, yet I haven't seen either of you act as if you were, so it occurred to me that you were hiding it. It's sad that gays have to do that to protect themselves, but I just wanted you to know that you don't have to do that around me." As if the previous low voiced conversation had never occurred, the Cree woman began to explain the workings of the propane water heater in a normal tone.
As she bathed, the redhead thought about what Rachael had said to her, it was true, Kendra had subtly pulled away from her when she reached out to stroke her hair while giving her a regretful look. Recalling the two women in the forest so many centuries ago, Dominique had instantly understood that Kendra wanted to be cautious around their guest. Things hadn't changed much for lesbians over the years until now. Too many humans still believed such feelings were wrong and evil, being gay wasn't as dangerous as being a gargoyle, but it wasn't that safe either. It had been polite of Rachael to let her know that the Cree at least wasn't one of those humans.
Dominique had to be careful with the water as there was only five gallons for her to use, but it was heavenly to have actual soap and warm water to wash her skin and hair, to feel clean all over once again. Afterward, as she put on clean clothing for the first time in five days, she found another thing for which to be grateful. By the time Dominique stepped out of the shower, her mood was greatly improved.
Kendra grinned as she watched Dominique come out of the shower, her wild red hair hung in damp curls about her face and the woman had a rare smile upon her face. She looked heart achingly beautiful to the black-haired woman. To her surprise, the redhead walked directly over to her, reached up and pulled her head down, and then pressed her lips against Kendra's in a firm possessive kiss. At first, Kendra stood stiffly, her eyes rotated over worriedly toward the third woman by the fire; Rachael though didn't seem to be reacting to the kiss as if anything unusual was going on at all. Finally, she relaxed and wrapped her arms around Dominique returning the redhead's kiss in full measure.
Much better, Dominique thought as she reluctantly pulled away from Kendra, "Let's go get water for your bath." She hadn't liked the distance between them even as she understood and agreed for the reasons behind it. She knew there would be too many times it would be necessary once they returned to New York, but she didn't want to start now especially when Rachael had let her know it wasn't needed.
"Alright," Kendra agreed bemused. Once they were away from the camp, Dominique related what Rachael had told her. "How could I have forgotten that most of the native cultures had no problems with homosexuals," groaned the black-haired woman. "There's even a Two Spirit group in New York City, I've seen their ads in Gay City News."
"Two Spirit Group?" questioned the redhead.
"I'm not certain if all of the different tribes believed this, but from what I understand at least several of them did, they believed gays possessed both male and female spirits and that was what made them homosexual. Gay men could dress as women and were treated as women, women could decide they wanted to dress as a male and were treated as men. I think a lot of tribes tried to channel gays into shamanism because they thought that two spirit people were better at it." Kendra explained. "Some of that tolerance has waned under the influence of Christianity and the mainstream culture disapproval of gays, but I really should have considered that Rachael, given when she was born, would have no problems with our relationship."
While Kendra was bathing, Dominique asked Rachael something she had been wondering about ever since the woman had first introduced herself, "How many chosen does each spirit have?"
"It depends," answered the Cree woman with a grin.
Dominique commented dryly, "Let me guess, it depends on which animal spirit?" That seemed to be the standard answer when it came to the spirit realm.
Rachael chuckled, "Yes, it depends on which animal spirit. Owl currently has eleven chosen, some of which have been given different gifts. Jaguar as far as I know has two chosen, Kendra and one other, a man whose name I do not know, but I know he lives in Belize. There are some animal spirits that do not have any chosen; and there are some that have more than even Owl, like the Eagle spirit."
"What do you mean by Owl gives different gifts?" the redhead asked curiously.
"That not all of the Eagle Owl's chosen have the same gifts." Rachael answered, "I am the only one to have the gift of immortality, and young Robert and I are the only ones who have been given the gift of transformation. The other nine chosen can come into the spirit realm and gain insight and wisdom from the Eagle Owl spirit that they take into the living world with them."
Dominique eyed her shrewdly, she had no doubt that those nine benefited from the association, but it was clear that they didn't benefit nearly as much as Rachael and this Robert. The information also suggested that there was a limit on how much power each spirit had to spread among their chosen. "Is each spirit's power limited then?" she asked curious to know if she were correct.
The Cree woman nodded, "Different spirits are more or less powerful, but they are all limited in how much power they can give to their chosen."
Realizing that she still didn't have the most basic piece of information, Dominique asked, "What exactly are the spirits?"
"Finally," Rachael said, her eyes crinkling with amusement, "a question for which I have a simple answer. They are the life energy of all their kind that ever existed or ever will exist. If you will, they hold the souls of their kind when they are not inhabiting a body in the living world."
"So if I go exploring will I find spirit of Tyrannosaurus Rex in there?" Kendra asked from the shower, making it clear that she was listening in on the conversation.
Rachael began laughing, "Only a cat would go looking!" she exclaimed.
There was matching laughter from the shower enclosure, "What can I say, I am what I am," Kendra acknowledged.
Even Dominique joined in on the laughter that followed that statement. Once the merriment had died down, Rachael answered, "No, you won't. Spirits that have no ties to the living realm go elsewhere. Not even Owl is certain where they go, only that they go elsewhere after a period of time."
"So why is the Irish Elk still there," Kendra asked as she stepped out of the shower, beating Dominique to the question by the barest margin.
"Because the Fey are still here," Rachael commented solemnly. "The Irish Elk were strong, swift and compared to other deer species, smart. They were challenging prey for the Fey, which is why they preferred to hunt them above all the others they could have chosen. He has never forgiven them for hunting his kind to extinction; it is his interest in them holds him to the living realm and thus to the spirit realm."
There was one thing that troubled Dominique given her experiences with the Fey, "How do the chosen know who will welcome becoming their successors when they are ready to die. Kendra didn't mention ever being offered a chance to either accept or decline being chosen by the Jaguar's priestess as her successor."
"I accepted," Kendra immediately stated, "I definitely accepted, it might not have been a formal process, but I was always aware that it was my choice to accept what was happening to me the year I started having the dreams."
"It is still your choice," Rachael commented, "you could choose today to reject the gift and go back to being a normal human."
Kendra was appalled, "Never," she stated firmly.
The Cree woman smiled. "Does anyone want lunch yet?" she asked sensing Dominique's questions were answered for the moment.
When the three women settled down around the fire once again, it was with bowls of stew filled with hearty chunks of meat, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and green peas along with thick slices of the bread Rachael had brought.
Kendra asked Dominique curiously, "Where in the Highlands were you born?"
"I was hatched in the caves of Wyvern Hill in 938," the gargoyle corrected her. "My clan had lived there for thousands of years, even the oldest of us did not know for how long gargoyles had lived in the caverns beneath the hill. The only humans around at that time were farmers and herders. We lived at peace with them and they with our clan, some of them even became friendly with us and traded cheese and milk for the game we hunted."
The redhead continued, her voice becoming bitter, "At peace until one of the humans whose family we regularly traded with came to us with his lord, Prince Malcolm, and persuaded our clan leader to ally with the Prince and his brother against the human currently upon the throne of Scotland. Culen had killed their father and taken the throne by force of arms while the two brothers were too young to oppose him. In exchange for our clan's aid in their battle, Prince Malcolm promised that his line would protect our clan during the day. With our clan's aid Prince Malcolm and his brother defeated Culen, and Kenneth III became the King of Scotland. The humans built a castle on the lands above the caverns where our clan's rookery was so that they could protect us as they had agreed, our clan even assisted them with the building of it using our strength to move and place the stone blocks and timbers."
Dominique's fists clenched and she glared into the fire, remembering the old pain and anger, "It did not take the humans long to begin calling the castle that we helped them build their castle and the lands surrounding it as their lands." She realized what she was doing when her palms began to hurt; she unclenched them and looked up meeting Kendra's sad, compassionate gaze. It calmed her, reminded her that this was all in the past; she gave the black-haired woman a small smile before continuing.
"It was during this time that I accepted the Archmage's offer to learn human sorcery." A low, angry growl distracted Dominique; Kendra's eyes were narrowed slits of blue at the very mention of the mage's name.
Rachael glanced uncertainly at the Jaguar's chosen; it was unsettling to be so near to the blue-eyed woman while she was seething with anger, however muted. "Owl told me of this one and his role in bringing the attention of the Fey to you for his revenge."
Dominique assessed the Cree woman with a swift glance, then nodded, "As I said he agreed to teach me how to read and then to teach me sorcery." She rubbed her arm remembering, "He was not a kind teacher, but he was the only human to offer to teach a beast."
"He was the beast not you," Kendra growled angrily.
Dominique glanced at her lover, finding her anger on her behalf rather endearing, her lips twitched in amusement, "If you don't quit interrupting with your growls I'll never get through telling this."
Kendra stared at her noting the signs of affection and amusement on the redhead's face. She humphed quietly to herself and settled for scowling at the fire, regally ignoring the snort of amusement from Dominique at this behavior.
"I was barely out of my hatchling years when I began learning how to read under the Archmage's teaching, and I'll admit the way he treated me affected how I viewed all the humans at the castle. I was his servant, cleaning whatever he ordered me to, gathering what plants he wanted from the countryside, and sometimes I was his thief, stealing items he wished to possess."
"The Phoenix Gate," murmured Kendra.
"Yes, the Archmage ordered me to steal it from Prince Malcolms intended bride Princess Elena. I did, but instead of giving it to the Archmage I broke it in half and gave one piece to Goliath as we watched Prince Malcolm's wedding as a token of our love." Dominique shook her head at the memory; neither of them had lived up to the naively optimistic promises they made that night. "Interestingly enough that action lead to the gate being reunited in 1995 at Xanatos' wedding to Fox, I used it and ended up transporting Goliath, Xanatos, Xanatos' father, Fox and myself back to 975. I tried to warn my younger self about the massacre of our clan in 994, but the only thing I managed was to confuse my younger self. Time it seems, is not so easily changed."
"What happened?" Kendra asked softly, staring at the redhead in concern.
Dominique could not meet her gaze, how could she tell Kendra about the role she played in getting her clan killed by the Vikings. That she had been more than willing to trade the lives of the humans in the castle for the safety of her own clan, and how everything had went wrong and both the humans and her clan had ended up destroyed. "I'd rather not talk about it," she whispered harshly.
Kendra's gaze sharpened on the hunched over figure of the redhead, she could see the guilt and anguish betrayed by Dominique's posture as easily as if the woman had admitted it aloud. It was clear to her that whatever had happened in 994, the gargoyle felt that she in some way was to blame for it, and that she expected them to blame her as well if she told them what had happened. Her gaze went to the Cree woman who was also staring at the redhead with knowing eyes. "Who do you think cast the sorcery spell on you," Kendra asked deciding to change the subject, she would bring this up later after Rachael had left when she had a better chance of getting the immortal gargoyle to discuss it.
Dominique looked up, startled by the abrupt change of subject. She was more than willing, though, to have the focus of conversation off the previous topic. "If my memory is correct there was a spell that had that effect in the Grimorum Arcanorum, it was a battle spell designed to be used against a superior opponent to cause them waste their forces in ill considered attacks. It was supposed to influence people to both be easily angered and to act rashly when angered." As she recalled more about the details of the spell her face became grimmer, who had cast such a spell upon her and why?
Rachael asked intrigued, "Who would have had access to this Grimorum before the Weird Sisters enchanted you?"
"The Archmage," answered Kendra quickly.
Dominique scowled, "the Magus as well, he was given it to use to cure Prince Malcolm and he kept it afterwards," she added. She was certain that he had been the instigator of much of the dislike the humans began feeling toward the gargoyles even before Prince Malcolm's death.
Rachael waited a few seconds, "Do we have any other suspects?" she asked.
The phrasing of the question was interesting, Dominique thought, apparently Rachael was treating this like a crime. "I am not aware of anyone that I came into contact with that also had the Grimorum," she answered after considering the question carefully.
"So we have our crime, the spell, and our weapon, this Grimorum which I gather is a spell book?" Rachael inquired. Dominique responded with a short nod. Cree woman continued, "And we have two suspects, the Archmage and the Magus. Now we need to determine who had a motive to commit the crime."
"The Archmage wanted Demona to be angry as a part of his revenge," Kendra offered.
Dominique shook her head thoughtfully, "That's true, but the timing is wrong, that was the cause of the Weird Sisters enchanting me. Both the Eagle Owl and Irish Elk spirits were certain that the sorcery spell predated the Sister's enchantment."
"So what motive would this Magus have to casting such a spell on you?" Rachael asked.
The redhead stared at her bewildered; nothing immediately came to mind beyond the young mage's general dislike of her clan.
Kendra stared into the flames thoughtfully, "Maybe it might be better to ask," she looked up into Dominique's green eyes, "if you noticed any point in time where you abruptly began to lose control over your temper, or began to make rash ill considered decisions. If we know when then maybe we can figure out how such behavior could have benefited him."
Dominique felt ill, yes, there was just such a time, and now they were back on the topic of the Viking's attack and her role in it. She couldn't seem to escape it. "Prince Malcolm's daughter was always afraid of our clan because when she was young her father threatened to give her to us if she misbehaved." The redhead shook her head in remembered disbelief, "As if we would have done anything to harm the child, and yet he made her believe that we would. Our clan leader protested, but Prince Malcolm would not listen and when the Prince died and Princess Katherine became leader of the humans at the castle things had become strained between my clan and the humans before that, but after they became much worse."
"The Princess made it very clear that she believed us to be monsters and that she did not want to maintain the alliance her father had promised to us in return for our aid to him in restoring his brother, Kenneth II, to the throne of Scotland. It was not long before the humans in the castle forgot why the castle had been built, that it had been built to fulfill Prince Malcolm's vow to protect us in return for our aid in his brother's battles. Instead, they regarded us with fear and hatred; they began whispering among themselves of driving us away. Driving us away from the land we had lived on for thousands of years. They were the ones who came to us, they were the ones who proposed the alliance to gain our aid, and they were the ones who sought us out. We did not need them; we were safe until we were foolish enough to believe the Prince's empty promises of his clan protecting ours." She could clearly remember the sense of betrayal, her anger at Hudson for believing in the human's promises, her feelings of helplessness at what was happening around her.
Then Kendra's hands were upon her shoulders, bringing her back to the present, and her lovers blue eyes were sympathetic and understanding. "I had an egg in the rookery," she said to Kendra, "and the humans were always talking about how much food we ate and how much better off they would be without us, that they no longer needed us to protect them. They whispered, forgetting our hearing, about us being monsters and that we would turn and attack them some night. They whispered about the new eggs in the rookery, how many more of us there would be when they hatched some of them whispered if they were permitted to hatch. I knew they were thinking about destroying our eggs, but Goliath who was my mate and the new clan leader would not listen to me. He told me that we just needed to be patient that the princess would get over her fears and understand that we protected her and the castle. That it was our duty to protect them. Goliath forgot it was their duty to protect us, our clan had already paid for the human's protection by helping Prince Malcolm's brother become King."
Kendra drew the upset woman into her arms. She could only imagine the fear and anger Demona had felt at the time, believing the clan's unborn children were in danger and she could not get her mate and clan leader to listen or act to protect them. She rubbed her hand in slow soothing circles on the redheads back, waiting for her to calm. "So you chose to act because it seemed as if no one else would and you had to protect your children from the humans. Something went wrong didn't it, and instead of protecting your clan you played a part in their deaths and probably a lot of the castle's human inhabitants as well," she said gently. Dominique's head rose so quickly that Kendra had to jerk back to prevent her jaw from being struck by it.
"How?" the redhead asked, her voice strangled.
"Because she knows that there isn't much that a mother would not do to protect her children," Rachael's troubled voice intruded.
Kendra nodded, "I can't think of a better way to get hurt than to be stupid enough to go after a mother protecting her young. I take a wide birth around the deer with their young in the spring because I know it's the one time of year the does will attack me if I come too close to their young. It doesn't matter how big or frightening I am, a mothers need to protect her young is a strong instinctual drive." She looked into green eyes, "I'm not standing in judgment of your actions because I can tell that you felt desperate and Goliath not acting when you brought your concerns to him probably just added to that desperation. Combine a mother's desperation to protect her young from harm with that spell from the Grimorum and I'm not surprised that something happened that you have obviously regretted for over a thousand years."
Dominique's green eyes filled with tears as she nodded a silent admittance of her guilt. She wanted to claim it was the all the humans fault as she had for so many long years, but the truth was she had always silently known of her own crushing responsibility for what had happened. Her open, lashing anger at the Captain of the Guard for failing to protect them as he had promised and at the Princess for her calling them monsters and for encouraging the other humans in the castle to hate them had always hidden the anger and self-loathing she felt for her own part in killing her clan.
She rested her head against Kendra's shoulder, feeling the flickering of hope that Kendra wouldn't turn away from her in disgust as Goliath and the clan had once the black-haired woman found out the entire tale.
It was quiet in the clearing except for the occasional popping sound of the wood on the fire and the light wind sighing through the pine forest. Eventually Rachael quietly asked, "What about that time makes you think that was when the spell was cast upon you?"
Dominique cleared her throat and turned her head, which was still resting on Kendra's shoulder, so that she could see the Cree woman. "Because I can now tell that was when I first began feeling the level of anger and fear that I grew so used to feeling over the centuries until the owl spirit taught me how to remove the enchantment that amplified my anger last night."
Kendra straightened, "I bet that if we could look at Princess Katherine we would see signs of the same spell," she said, her mind making possible connections between the discrepancies in how Demona described the younger Princess Katherine and how the elderly Princess had acted in the returned memories Kendra had witnessed.
The redhead sat up, her face thoughtful, "I never did understand how the person Angela described as the woman who raised her could even be the same spiteful human that I remembered from the castle. If she were also under its influence that would explain why she was so different on Avalon from the woman I remembered her as."
"So now we have two possible targets of the spell?" inquired Rachael.
"Three," corrected Dominique wearily, "the Captain of the Guard who was the clan's most faithful friend, he also began acting angrier and more reckless than usual around the same time as I."
Kendra met Dominique's green eyes gravely, "Maybe you should tell us what happened so we can figure out why Magus would have orchestrated such a powder keg of a situation as you described."
Resignedly the immortal gargoyle began, telling them about the raids of the Vikings, the refugees the castle had taken in that had strained relations between the gargoyles and humans to the point of open violence between them. She told of how the gargoyles had woken one night with the Vikings within the castle itself and on the verge of victory, until the clan's waking at sunset had turned the tide of the battle and they had routed the Vikings completely.
"The Princess called for a feast to celebrate the victory over the Vikings, but when the Captain of the Guard had Goliath and I accompany him to the feast because it was our clan that saved the castle from being defeated " Dominique paused, a snarl of rage on her face as she remembered the insult. "The Princess told him to take the beasts away because we had no place at her feast. The castle dogs were in the feast room eating scraps from the tables and she told him to take us away. Without us defending them they would have been dead or the Vikings prisoners by then!"
Kendra shook her head at this; she couldn't fathom what could have possessed the Princess to have acted so stupidly, spell or no.
"As we were leaving, the Princess ordered the Captain to report to the Magus from that moment on, that the Captain was no longer to speak to her. I can still remember the look of triumph on Magus's face at that moment; it made him the Princess's only advisor," Dominique said, her eyes narrowed. "I'm certain he was the source of some of the Princess's maliciousness against us, he was always there whispering to her about how viscous and dangerous we were and about how the Captain couldn't be trusted because he cared more for us than for the humans in the castle." She paused, and then continued grimly, "He was right, that night the Captain came to me with a plan to rid the castle of its human occupants and leave it to us. He would go and meet with the Viking leader, Harkon, and arrange for him to attack the castle again the next night. He would then trick Goliath into leading the clan against a diversionary force so we would be safely away from the castle while the attack occurred, and by the time we returned the Princess and her people would be gone and the castle would be ours."
"The Captain set the plan in motion the next day; however that night Goliath insisted that only he was required to scare away the Vikings. He refused to take anyone but Hudson, the old clan leader with him no matter how much I pleaded with him to take all of us." Dominique's voice trailed off for a moment, "The Captain insisted that the plan would still work, that the Vikings could attack during the day while he kept us safe in our stone sleep. I was uncertain, but I allowed him to persuade me." The immortal gargoyle closed her eyes, tears slipped out from between the closed lids, "I was so angry with the Princess with the humans of the castle that I just wanted them gone and away from the clan, from the rookery and our eggs. By the time that I reconsidered my decision it was too late, dawn was upon us and the Vikings were already moving into position to attack. I left the castle and went into my stone sleep upon the beach at the edge of the cliff, I suspected that something would go wrong, but in my fear of what my rookery brothers and sisters would think of me I did not warn them. When I awoke the castle was deserted and my sisters and brothers were in shards."
Kendra gathered the now sobbing woman into her arms, what a horrible train wreck of a situation and all apparently because a man had wanted more power and influence, and hadn't thought about any of the possible consequences of his setting so many people against one another in his quest to get it.
Rachael waited until the redhead's grief had worn itself down before she spoke. "If we are all correct and the Magus placed the spell on the Captain, the Princess and you then he is more at fault for what happened than any of the three of you, for without the spell and his whispering poison into the Princesses ear none of the events which lead up to the Vikings attack during the day would have ever occurred. I do not know if I could even say how much you are responsible for your own actions in the tragedy because of the nature of the spell placed upon you. Without its influence you would at least have known that the Captain, no matter how good a warrior, could not have protected you from an entire raiding group of Vikings if they decided to destroy you."
"That does not ease my guilt," Dominique responded wearily after a few seconds of silence. She pulled slowly away from Kendra's arms and stood, "I need to be alone for awhile; I'll be down by the stream." Her face wan, she turned away and walked into the forest.
Kendra debated silently on following her anyway to watch out over the redhead, but instinct told her that now was not the time, that the gargoyle needed time alone to think. She was aware of the Cree woman watching her closely, but she ignored her staring instead through the trees where Demona had disappeared.
"Do you think she deserves to be punished for her part in her clan's deaths and the deaths of the humans in the castle?" Rachael asked her.
Kendra shook her head, this she was certain about, "I think she has had too much experience with anger and vengeance, too many centuries of punishment already at the hands of the Archmage and the Fey. I suspect she has punished herself now for a thousand years for what she did and that she has ripped into herself for it for far too long. She needs to learn new skills not more of old ones. She needs to learn how to build and create instead of destroying, how to feel an appreciation for the world and the living things upon it instead of the blackness of anger and revenge at the world. She needs to learn how to cherish something and find it of worth and of value enough to nurture and protect it, and she needs to learn how to protect without leaving only scorched earth behind her."
Silence from the Owl's chosen finally caused Kendra to look at her curiously.
Rachael had and odd expression on her face, "I think I ought to be grateful that Jaguar found you first instead of Owl or I might have had to share him with you."
Kendra shook her head, "I suspect I'd be too active for Owl, I only have these seriously thoughtful moments once every year or so," she commented with a wry smile.
It was close to sunset and Dominique had still not returned. Kendra stared out into the forest indecisively for a few minutes longer before coming to a decision. Even though the redhead had asked them to leave her alone until she was ready to return, Kendra didn't think Dominique wanted to ruin the new clothes Rachael had brought by transforming in them. The Cree woman looked up but didn't say anything as Kendra rose and walked into the forest headed in the direction Dominique had gone in over two hours ago.
She spotted the flaming red hair immediately as she stepped out of the forest; Dominique was sitting by the stream staring at its rapidly flowing waters. She walked across the winter-browned grass and crouched beside the redhead, and stared with her at the flowing water for a few seconds. "You know you never see the same stream from second to second, its constantly changing as the water continues to flow downstream. In a way a stream or river epitomizes the fact that everything changes, even those things we think are static are constantly changing even if only at the atomic or subatomic level." Kendra quietly commented.
Dominique turned her head to stare at her lover, bemused by her words. She hadn't expected a short lesson in philosophy or perhaps it was quantum physics when her lover had knelt beside her.
"The sun will be going down soon; I thought you might want to change out of your new clothes before then," Kendra added glancing at the orange-red color of the setting sun.
The redhead was startled that so much time had passed while chaotic thoughts whirled about in her head. "Thank you, I would have been upset if I had destroyed them," her face wavered briefly at the word destroyed, right now the slightest thing was enough to bring back memories of holding her rookery brother's broken face in her talons.
"Come on," Kendra rose and offered her hand to Dominique, "let's get back so you can change."
Dominique took the proffered hand and allowed the black-haired woman to pull her to her feet.
"I don't recall seeing much of the Magus in the memories you had of Avalon," Kendra commented as they walked through the forest to the camp.
"He died fighting the Weird Sisters." The redhead snarled, "I would have liked to discuss with him exactly why he cast that spell on all of us, but I'm denied that pleasure. At least he died doing something useful," she finished bitterly.
Kendra was fairly certain that discuss was probably another word for pummel or kill, or more likely pummel and then kill in this case. It was a good thing the man was already dead, that meant she wasn't faced with the task of trying to talk the gargoyle out of going to a fey infested island to dismember him. She understood why Dominique felt that way, but somehow she doubted the Magus had ever meant for the situation at the castle to spin as far out of control as it had, no doubt the sacking of the castle had come as a completely unexpected surprise to him. Then there was the fact that killing him would accomplish nothing except adding to the burden of destruction that the gargoyle carried already and end the life of a man who, given that he had died protecting the clan's children, had probably been trying to atone for his deed ever since the sacking of the castle.
"He could have kept the Grimorium, left Princess Katherine and the gargoyle eggs, and found another lord to serve if he wanted to keep seeking power and influence. Given that he didn't, perhaps his protection of the clan's children on Avalon was his way of trying to atone for the destruction his actions lead to," They had stopped walking and Kendra weathered the redhead's angry glare to finish, "even up to giving his own life for them."
"How can you defend him?" Dominique hissed.
"I'm not," Kendra responded calmly, "What happened was a tragedy Demona. He couldn't have meant for what happened to happen, he wanted more influence with the Princess and instead his actions got the castle sacked and its defenders killed. No one involved in any of the events, except for the Vikings, got what they intended to happen. You, the Captain, the Princess and Magus all ended up losing everything, and the Magus got to live with the knowledge that ultimately it was because of his actions, his greed. I can't think of one reason for a power hungry mage to stay on a deserted island and protect a woman, a child and lots of gargoyle eggs, can you?"
Dominique didn't answer she only stared at Kendra angrily.
Kendra continued, "On the other hand I can think of several reasons for a man suffering from a guilty conscience to do so in an effort to atone for his acts."
The redheads face twisted in anger or pain or perhaps a mixture of both, "I'm not ready to forgive him, not now, not so soon. I can't."
"I'm not asking you to, I'm just asking you to not dwell on thoughts of vengeance against him," Kendra assured her soothingly. She glanced around them realizing with alarm how dark it had gotten. "How close are we to sunset?" she asked hurriedly.
Dominique glanced at the slivers of sky she could see through the pine needles, her green eyes widened, "Too close."
"Get out of your clothes," Kendra ordered her, "I'll get your stuff and bring it back here."
Dominique stripped quickly, realizing she had not a moment to spare. She barely had time to shiver in the cold as she handed the last of her clothing to Kendra before the pain of her change overwhelmed all other sensations. She took a deep breath of the clean, slightly pine scented air and caped her wings around herself as soon as the transformation was complete.
"Can I hug you or are you too angry with me," Kendra asked quietly.
Demona uncapped her wings, and held out her arms, "Please." She responded.
Kendra stepped into them and slipped her arms around the gargoyle, she buried her face into the blue neck as Demona's arms and wings wrapped around her. "I care about you, I care so much about you already that it's somewhat frightening to me. I don't want you to lash out in anger and end up hurting yourself as much or more than the target of that anger and I don't want you to do something out of anger that you would regret later," she murmured against the blue skin.
Demona felt a twinge of pain, for some reason Kendra's words caused her to think of the plans that had so recently gone awry with the Assassin. She had lashed out at Goliath and plotted to have him killed so she could take over the clan and protect them, only to have everything go wrong. Instead of saving her daughter, she had caused what might be an insurmountable rift between Angela and her. She tightened her arms around Kendra, "I don't want that either," she admitted, adding silently to herself, at least not any more. "And you know I care very much about you too, more than I would have thought possible even three days ago." She added, surprised when she realized it was only too true. So much had changed in just the past few days that it was almost inconceivable to her and she was the one who had lived through it.
Kendra chuckled, "It has been a rollercoaster of a few days hasn't it," she acknowledged lifting her head. She kissed Demona's narrow chin, "I need to go get your halter-top and loincloth."
Reluctantly Demona let her go, watching as the strong, agile figure disappeared through the trees. Kendra was right the last few days had been very chaotic, and there didn't seem to be much of a chance of things calming down very soon for tonight she would find out how the Irish Elk and Owl planned to protect her from the Weird Sisters.
Kendra returned a short time later with Demona's halter-top and loincloth. "Rachael's making food again; she wants us all to eat as much as we can before going into the spirit realm tonight. She says she's expecting it to be a long visit tonight."
Ninety minutes later, all three were ready for the night's journey. They would not be using the sweat lodge this time, as Demona had a fair idea of how to make the transition. With Rachael and Kendra's guidance, only the drumming would be needed for all three of them to travel to the spirit realm.
As soon as they appeared in the shadowy realm, Demona saw the Irish Elk and Eagle Owl spirits already waiting for them.
"Wise One," Rachael greeted the Eagle Owl spirit warmly.
"Rachael," the owl spirit responded, "excellent deductive work earlier," the owl praised. "I have already traveled to Avalon and verified your hypothesis; there are the markings of a similar spell upon the human woman. It will just take me a second now that Demona is here to verify that the spell remains are the same and that they were cast by the same person." The Eagle Owl turned her attention to the gargoyle and examined her in silence for a few seconds before bobbing her head up and down once, "Definitely, the same spell and the same caster," she commented satisfied. "And it has the stench of the Grimorium Arcanorum upon it as well; I didn't think to look for it earlier until Rachael mentioned you believed such a spell was in that book."
Demona was not surprised, "So it was the Magus," she said grimly. Her tail moved restlessly behind her as she received this final verification of the mages responsibility.
"Given the evidence, and the fact that the spell is from the Grimorium Arcanorum, the only other that could have cast it would have been the Archmage," the owl stated, "And you have verified that you did not begin to feel the effects of the spell until after the Grimorium came into the possession of the Magus. Therefore he is almost certainly the one who cast the spells upon you and Princess Katherine."
The immortal gargoyle nodded abruptly and then glared into the spirit realm's misty borders, her tail lashing slowly from side to side.
Kendra waited until it was clear that no one else had anything immediate to say before asking, "What do you mean by the stench of the Grimorium Arcanorum? Do spells have a scent to them?"
"In a manner of speaking," the owl turned her attention to the Jaguar's chosen, "Spell books contain great power, in a way they almost become living entities of their own because of the magical energy contained in their pages. The nature of the spells written on the spell books pages determines the nature of the book, and the Grimorium Arcanorum contained mostly spells to manipulate others such as the spell the Magus used, and spells to destroy things. Therefore, the nature of the Grimorium Arcanorum was both manipulative and destructive. Spell books can tempt those that hold them into using their spells if the person is susceptible to that particular type of temptation and you can guess what the Grimorium Arcanorum tempted its holders to do."
Kendra's blue eyes widened, "Manipulate others and destroy things, was it destroyed when the Archmage was?"
"It was," the Irish Elk answered.
"Good riddance then," Kendra remarked firmly.
"Indeed," agreed the Eagle Owl, "that's why it's much safer to leave spells upon single scrolls, that way you don't run the risk of creating a semi-sentient magical entity."
Demona turned around at this piece of information, her anger briefly eclipsed by her interest in the conversation. She had read speculation that Grimoriums had a magical energy of their own, but no one had been able to verify it. "Sorcerers have speculated that was the case, but I wasn't aware of anyone being able to prove it."
The owl turned toward her, "You now have the ability to see sorcerous energies, if you looked at a Grimorium it would be obvious to you."
The immortal gargoyle nodded, her thoughts went uneasily to the binder of spells she had been collecting over the years. Perhaps it might be a wise idea to separate them into their own scroll cases. "What type of scroll casings would you recommend?" she asked.
"Lead lined, preferably lead lined pine or cedar scroll cases," the owl spirit answered immediately.
Demona nodded, lead lined pine cases at least would not be too difficult to obtain, and while she was going through her spells there were several that she should just destroy.
"Demona," the great stag addressed her, "let us take a walk together you and I, there are things I must ask you before I can determine which of the two possible choices I have decided upon is the best way to proceed."
The flame-haired gargoyle felt a flutter of unease in her stomach at these words. The Eagle Owl's trip to Avalon made it clear that the two spirits were aware of the conversation earlier in the day about what had happened at Wyvern Castle, and Rachael's link with the owl spirit was most likely how the spirits knew. Still the stag had said there were two choices, so learning about her role in the clan's massacre hadn't changed the spirits mind about helping her.
Kendra gave her a warm, encouraging look and Demona felt her spirits rise at seeing it, she smiled in return before following the stag into the forest. Walking beside the giant stag gave Demona more of an appreciation for exactly how huge the spirit animal was, the top of its shoulder was over a foot higher than her head. She felt short next to it. The two of them walked through the forest until they could not see the others.
"You need to know the following information before I ask you my questions." The Irish Elk spirit halted and turned to face the gargoyle. "The members of the young Jaguar's ancestral line that hunted you and that still hunt you have been enchanted by the Weird Sisters. Their hatred is in part their own, but the strength of it and their determination to pursue you is due to the enchantments the Sisters placed upon them."
Demona felt as if someone had kicked her in the stomach, all the years of being hunted, all the years of hatred of the Hunters, all the clans the Hunters had wiped out. She didn't say anything for a minute, and then she said, "You must tell Kendra, it hurts her to hate them."
"The Wise One is telling her now, though she thinks that Kendra suspects already. It is not difficult to see how the Hunters served the Weird Sister's purposes," the giant stag responded. "You care for the Jaguar's chosen."
"I do, very much," she acknowledged, she might have said more, but she was still reeling from the information the stag had just given her.
The giant stag flipped its ears at this, and Demona thought she saw satisfaction in the Elks brown eyes before the stags demeanor turned serious once again. "Now that you know about the Hunters enchantment, do you still hate humanity, are you still their enemy trying to destroy them?"
The gargoyle stared at the stag, "How do you know about that?" she asked with wary concern as she caped her wings around herself.
"I watch the Weird Sisters quite frequently; I followed them to the city where you live. I saw the sorcery you did that night turning its inhabitants into stone and I watched as you destroyed several of them. From the Jaguar spirit, I learned about the illness you planned to use to kill all of the humans." The stag responded calmly.
Demona couldn't respond immediately, the stag had seen what she had done that night and was still willing to help her? "You saw me, you heard me mock them as I smashed them as they have smashed us for centuries " she stopped unwilling to continue. Most likely, none of the random humans she had killed had ever even tried to harm a gargoyle, and there was only the slightest chance that one of their ancestors had ever killed or tried to kill a gargoyle. She couldn't continue the lie, not after what she had learned yesterday and today. "You know what I did and you are still willing to help me?" she restated staring at the ground. She couldn't meet the stag spirits gaze, not knowing what had happened to his children and what she had attempted to do.
"Yes," answered the Irish Elk spirit, "The Fey have tormented many humans and gargoyles over the course of time, but never has anyone suffered their torment for the length of time that you have. No one has ever been the subject of so much manipulation that not even I can tell which actions are your responsibility and which are not. Everything you have done since the Weird Sisters enchanted you has been tainted by their spells, and today you and we learned that even before the Archmage and Weird Sisters interfered in your life that a sorcery spell had been cast upon you to affect your emotions and judgment." The great stag paused for a moment to let the gargoyle think before continuing, "So I ask you. Now that you are free of two of their manipulation spells, and now that you understand your and other's past actions better, do you still hate humans enough to continue to try and destroy them?"
Was she still the humans enemy? Demona asked herself. As little as a week ago, she would have unhesitatingly answered yes. After becoming involved with Kendra, she probably would have still answered yes, but for Kendra's sake she wouldn't trying to kill them off anymore. Today though today had shattered all of the reasons, the justifications she had held onto so tightly for ten centuries.
She had hated the humans at Wyvern for the massacre of her clan for almost a millennium. She had blamed the Princess and the Captain for what had happened to her rookery brothers and sisters as much as she silently blamed herself. Only today she had found out that the Magus, seeking more power and influence with the Princess, had played such a central role in all the events, that the Princess, the Captain and she had all been under the effects of a spell he had cast to manipulate their emotions and thoughts to his own ends. The Princess hadn't been as responsible for her hateful words and actions as Demona had always believed her to be. The Captain hadn't betrayed them, but under the influence of the Magus's spell had let his anger goad him into rashly promising something that he could not fulfill. Finally under the spells influence, she had agreed to the Captain's plan to rid the castle of the humans who lived there and had when the Captain had changed the plan at the last minute had failed to realize until too late that the Captain could not possibly protect her clan in their stone sleep during the Vikings attack.
The Hunters had epitomized in her mind the very worst of humanity; they had been in a large part responsible for her hatred of all humans, for her belief that it was impossible for humans not to kill gargoyles. However, they had been pawns of the Weird Sisters, tools for them to bend and use to their own ends just as she had been used by the three fey. There had been so much death and destruction on both sides because of the Sisters enchantments.
"No, I won't try to destroy them anymore," she was finally able to respond.
"Do you still feel that they all deserve your hatred?" the great stag asked.
The gargoyle glanced up at him quickly, her thoughts turning first to Kendra, but she suspected that her relationship with the Jaguar's chosen wasn't what he was after. She sighed, there was always Maza, the clan's human, the human that had always defied her expectation that all humans betrayed given enough time. A memory of a newspaper article niggled at her mind, she remembered sneering at it in disbelief at the time, what had been that groups name? P.I.T? They had become the target of the Quarrymen because they believed humans and gargoyles should live together in peace. The Quarrymen had attacked the groups meeting and put several of them in the hospital from what she remembered of the article, but it hadn't dissuaded the group from their beliefs.
"No," she answered, "Not all of them wish to harm us." Her eyes flashed red briefly, "But that doesn't mean that I will idly stand by and allow those that do to succeed without trying to stop them."
The stag spirit shook his head, "I would not expect you to, I would only ask that you consider all the possible consequences of your actions."
Demona growled in annoyance, this was twice today, did everyone think she was incapable of responding in a rational controlled manner? "I will," she promised grouchily.
The Irish Elk stared at her searchingly for a long enough time for Demona to feel uneasy under the intense regard. "I am satisfied with your responses," he finally said, "I wish to offer you the choice of becoming my first chosen."
"What?" Demona stammered when she recovered her voice, she had expected lessons not this.
"I wish you to become my chosen," the Irish Elk spirit said calmly, "I wish you to be my link to the living world."
Recalling what Rachael had said of the spirits offering and requiring different things from their chosen the gargoyle inquired, "What exactly would that mean? Would you grant me immortality like Kendra and Rachael? What about my transformation to a human during the day and would I have to transform into an Irish Elk each full moon?"
The stag dipped his head and blew gently into her hair, "It is good to ask these things, you have been unpleasantly surprised in the past by such agreements. I will grant you immortality and dispel the enchantment that the sisters have placed upon you. As for the human you are linked to, I will grant him immortality as well, if he should chose it, for it is not right that he should be negatively affected by your choice here. You will no longer be linked to his pain nor will he be linked to yours."
Demona felt ashamed that she had forgotten about Macbeth in all of this. She knew he was currently enjoying being a professor of history and certainly didn't deserve to lose his immortality just because she was getting the enchantment that bound them together removed.
The stag spirit continued, "I will replace the spell the fey Puck placed upon you to transform you into a human with my own gift, you will have the ability to chose which form you wish to be in at any time, gargoyle or human. Know that if you chose to be a gargoyle during the day and you fall asleep you will immediately go in your stone sleep and not waken until sunset like any other gargoyle. Unless there is an extreme situation, such as you confronting a Fey in battle, you will not have the ability to transform into my shape; such a transformation from a being of your size into one of mine would be extremely difficult and painful for you."
The gargoyle breathed out a sigh of relief, she had seen Kendra change and knew it was painful when mass was lost. She couldn't imagine the agony she would suffer going from something as large as the Irish Elk was to her normal size.
"I will also teach you about the life energies in the living world, how to see them to touch them and use them in beneficial ways to heal, and to protect. In return for these gifts I expect certain things from you." The Irish Elk said sternly.
"Never take life to sustain yourself without respecting the life it gave for you to live. Revere Mother Earth for giving and sustaining all life, in all things seek to protect her and live in harmony with her. Know that each life has inherent worth and never harm a life for harm's sake. Avoid practicing magic on another without their full consent and if possible teach them how instead of doing yourself." Demona repeated what she had learned from Kendra feeling uncertain that she could promise the third. She might have given up her war on the human race, and she definitely felt some of them had inherent worth, but all of them?
The stag dipped his head, "Those are expected of all our chosen, I understand the third one will be difficult for you. Other chosen have their personal reasons for that promise being difficult for them to fulfill as well. The Eagle Owl's primary chosen has many reasons to hate those who came to settle in this land after her people. I expect from you what the Wise One expects from her: strive to honor that promise."
Strive; she could do that, Demona decided, especially considering everything she was gaining in return.
"In addition there are two other tasks I wish for you to willingly take upon yourself," the Irish Elk added.
Demona stared at him warily, "What tasks?" she asked her tail beginning to twitch restlessly behind her.
"Your anger and hatred, though amplified by both the Magus and Weird Sisters were and are still your own emotions. They have caused much harm and destruction to both yourself and others over your long lifetime. I know that your part in the destruction of your clan still weights heavily upon you, and that you bear a burden of hatred toward yourself for your actions and failure to warn your clan." The stags tone was gentle even if his words were not.
The flame-haired gargoyle flinched, coming so soon after this afternoon the stags words were especially painful. "I do," she acknowledged harshly.
"Would you accept a task from me to atone for your actions?" he asked.
Demona stared at him, what could he require that would make up for what she had done? "What task would be enough to make up for the destruction of my clan?"
"Become a true protector to the worlds remaining gargoyles," the great stag responded.
The immortal gargoyle's green eyes widened as the scope of the task the spirit was asking of her sunk in. Still she had wondered what task would be difficult enough to atone for what she had done, and if she could save even a few, it would in some way make up for what she had done so long ago. "Where would I start? I know of a few surviving clans, but am not certain that I know of them all, and how will I know which ones need my help?"
"You will not be left without guidance in this task, I and the Eagle Owl will help you determine where the most immediate need is and our thoughts on what the most beneficial course of action might be," the Irish Elk assured her.
Hearing these words, Demona felt more optimistic about the task. In fact, the more she thought about it the more she began to feel a certain anticipation to begin, "I accept, and the second task?"
The Irish Elk spirit said, "You become a wise steward and guardian of your domain."
Demona frowned, "I don't understand, what domain?"
"Your domain is Nightstone, you are responsible for land and for the people who work for you are you not?" the stag inquired.
The flame haired gargoyle eyed the spirit uncertainly, "I'm responsible for maintaining the building, but I'm not responsible for my employees. I pay them and offer them competitive benefits, but that's all," she finished warily.
"It is my understanding you provide for their medical care, is it sufficient? Are they healthy? Are they cared for properly when they are wounded or taken ill? Do you treat them fairly and justly as their leader? Do you treat them in such a way that you acknowledge they have inherent worth and not harm them for harm's sake? Does the way you manage your domain show your respect for Mother Earth and your attempt to live in harmony with her? Do you protect the environment?" The stag reeled off the long string of questions while Demona stared. "The Wise One assured me this would be a challenging task for you while remaining competitive and growing your business," the gargoyle swore the spirit actually sounded slyly amused as he added the last sentence.
Demona grimaced at the list; at least some of the requirements were ones she would have had to fulfill anyway. The owl spirit was right it would be difficult to do all those things and remain competitive. "The Wise One is correct it will be very difficult because those will require me to assume expenses that other companies do not have, I'm not certain that it's possible to do all those things and remain competitive." She had to admit.
"You are not required to meet all of the requirements immediately, remember the tasks are ongoing challenges, you will never fully complete them. You are only required to strive toward accomplishing them, to become a wise steward and guardian of your domain." The Irish Elk reassured her. "Also I believe you will find the Jaguar's chosen and several of the Wise One's chosen will be eager to assist you with this task."
Demona stared at great stag, all she had to do was agree to the last task and the spirit would free her from the Weird Sisters and Puck's enchantments, replacing them with his own. Did she want to trade their control over her life for his? "What would happen if I did not want to become your chosen?" she asked hesitantly.
The great stag's ears flickered briefly, "Then I would give you two choices. I could leave the transformation and immortality enchantments and remove the remaining manipulation enchantments and teach you some basic methods of protecting yourself. However, your chances of preventing the Weird Sisters from enthralling you once again would be low given the hold they have on you with the immortality spell. The other choice would be for me to remove all the fey spells upon you, leaving you mortal, and as any other gargoyle you would stone sleep during the day. Your chances of protecting yourself from the Fey re-enchanting would be better if you took that option for they would have to trick you anew into accepting their aid."
The flame-haired gargoyle let out the breath she had been holding, now she knew all of her options the question was which one did she want to take? She stared searchingly into the great stag's eyes. Could she trust him or as with the three fey would there be hidden requirements revealed later once she had accepted his aid?
"As with all chosen," the great stag interrupted her thoughts, "You will have the choice of ending your role as my chosen at any time. We do not force any to remain bound to us if they no longer desire it. If you ever wish to be released from your role as my chosen I will withdraw my gifts and you will be mortal and you will be as any other gargoyle."
She now remembered Rachael saying something about that to Kendra and the black-haired woman vehemently denying that she would ever give up the Jaguar's gifts. Her stomach full of nervous fluttering, Demona made her decision. "I accept your tasks; I will become your chosen Ancient One."
Her stomach full of nervous fluttering, Demona made her decision. "I accept your tasks; I will become your chosen Ancient One."
"I will not betray your trust in me," the great stag assured her gently.
The stag's intuition dumfounded Demona before she remembered an essential characteristic of the spirit realm, the object of one's emotions felt them. The Irish Elk spirit had known of her fear all along and had done what he could to allay it.
"There are certain preparations I need to make and I need to visit the human bound to you. Return to the others and I will join you when I am ready," the stag said before turning and walking into the forest where he disappeared into the mists that swirled everywhere beyond fifty or so feet.
The gargoyle retraced her steps through the shadowy forest staring musingly into the fog like mist that coalesced into the shadowy reflection of the living world as she walked along. Kendra's words by the stream earlier in the day came back to her and she paused to reflect upon them. Change, everything was in a constant state of change, and right now her life was certainly an example of that. It was unfortunate that she had not met Kendra and gotten kidnapped and dumped in the wilds of Canada weeks ago before her plans with the Assassin had ever been conceived, Demona thought with a sad smile. Given her daughter's last angry words, Angela would see anything Demona told her now as another performance, a lie designed to manipulate her into forgiving her mother. She could only hope that with time Angela would see that she had changed, that her daughter would come to her and ask why and give her a chance to explain about the Archmage and the Weird Sisters and what they had done to her. Demona gave a resigned sigh and started walking towards where she had left the others once again.
"Make the fingers thicker?" Demona heard Rachael say though she could not yet see the camp.
"I'll have to, otherwise there's not room for the claws to sheath like their supposed to," the gargoyle heard her lover say.
Curious as to what they were discussing Demona picked up her pace, only to halt in surprise as soon as she entered the clearing. The Eagle Owl spirit, Rachael and Kendra were all clustered around the shadowy outline of a humanoid figure. Stepping closer she realized what was happening; Kendra was creating a new shapeshifting form.
"Ugg," Kendra complained, "Now the claws work right, but the hands look deformed."
Demona walked up to the group examining the ghostly figure floating in the middle, in many ways it looked like a mutate, but without wings. She could see the figure was based on Kendra's human form, having the same size, shape and musculature, but the skin was black and covered with a fine coat of black fur. The face was a mutate-like cross between a jaguar and Kendra's features, but closer to human than jaguar and reminding her somewhat of the mutate named Maggie. Jaguar ears pricked out through a thick mane of black hair that matched Kendra's hair.
"Demona?" Kendra regarded the blue-skinned gargoyle inquisitively as soon as she saw her.
The flame-haired gargoyle examined the offending hands of the ghostly figure; the fingers definitely looked out of proportion. "Maybe if you increased the body size until the proportions were right?" she suggested.
Kendra turned back to the figure, "that might work," she agreed after considering it for a moment. She looked back at the gargoyle in concern, "you ok?" she asked quietly.
"He offered me the choice of becoming his chosen," Demona responded just as quietly.
Kendra's blue eyes opened wide, her mouth opened and then closed without a sound; it was obvious that she had no idea of the Irish Elk's plans.
Demona began to chuckle, Kendra's reaction was priceless.
Kendra stared for a moment at the laughing flame-haired gargoyle, and then she smiled. "You can stop laughing now," she mock groused, "and tell me whether or not you accepted!"
The gargoyle glanced at the other's present, the Eagle Owl spirit looked smug she decided. Rachael on the other hand looked as interested in her answer as Kendra did. "I accepted," was as far as she got before Kendra grabbed her about the waist with a loud whoop and swung her around in a wild circle. Demona clutched wildly at Kendra's shoulders, her wings flaring instinctively at the unexpected movement. When Kendra lowered her to the ground, she stared in astonishment at her lover before a smile spread across her face.
"Congratulations and welcome," Rachael wished her with a warm smile.
Welcome, the word stuck in Demona's head, she was becoming one of them, a shaman. The reality of her acceptance hadn't sunk in; at least it hadn't in this way. What were the shamans to each other? Did they know each other? Did they work together?
"Indeed let me add my welcome to my chosen's, and my promise that I will assist you in whatever way I can with the tasks the Ancient One has given you." The Eagle Owl spirit promised. "I strongly suspect that my several of my chosen will also be interested in assisting as well," she added swiveling her head to look at Rachael who was standing beside her.
"Tasks?" Kendra inquired, looking at Demona curiously.
Demona's first reaction was to feel uncomfortable that they had even been mentioned, the tasks after all were her atonement for her past actions. Then she remembered the great stags words, Kendra and Rachael would be eager to help, he had essentially instructed her to seek their assistance. Mastering her reluctance, she shared the two tasks she had agreed to undertake.
"Challenging and interesting," Kendra commented her eyes bright with her enthusiasm, "I'd love to help if you want some. I've been following some technologies that have just come into commercial production the past two years that might be of interest to you when you start converting Nightstone into a more environmentally friendly company."
"I too would be like to be involved if you wouldn't mind Demona," Rachael offered, "I'd have to do it long distance, but I'd be happy to help especially with any researching. I also know of a Work Life Effectiveness consultant that could help you with your second task, her name is Margaret Jackson and she's one of Bison's chosen. We email each other quite regularly as she is a member of the Comanche Nation, and I happen to know she's wanted to visit New York and go to some of the shows on Broadway."
"Work life effectiveness?" asked Demona blankly, she had never even heard of such a field.
"She helps employers develop job benefits that help their employees balance the demands of their personal lives," Rachael paused to frown reprovingly at the gargoyle.
Demona grimaced, she knew she had been scowling at the idea, she preferred her employees to leave their personal lives at home. That, however, obviously wouldn't work anymore, not if she wanted to fulfill her obligations to the Irish Elk spirit. "Such as," she forced herself to ask without growling the words resentfully.
"As I was saying," Rachael continued, "To balance the demands of their personal and work lives while increasing their work efficiency."
That caught Demona's attention, "What types of benefits?" she asked.
"I don't know all of them, it's not my area but I remember her talking about pre-tax child and elder care accounts?" Rachael frowned as she tried to remember the specifics.
Demona nodded to indicate that she understood, she didn't exactly, but pre-tax anything was definitely a benefit.
"Employee discounts at accredited child and elder care providers, programs to encourage telecommuting, and flexible work hours and schedules. Those are just the ones I remember right now from our emails. I know she works with the companies to determine which benefits will increase employee efficiency the most while working within the company's budget." Rachael finished.
The gargoyle frowned; she couldn't immediately see how such benefits would increase employee efficiency.
"I know that flexible work schedules do increase employee efficiency," Kendra commented, "I was in on the discussion at Murton Electronics when they implemented it." Demona, Rachael and the Owl spirit all focused their attention upon the Jaguar's chosen inquiringly.
"Well," Kendra said, "It does take some more overhead by management, but take for example a family with school age children. The children are in school by 8:00 and then get out at 2:30. If both parents work the standard 9 to 5 then they have to either pay for child care or worry about what their kids are up to for the three hours they aren't home to supervise them. With flexible work scheduling, one parent can go to work early and get off early enough to be home in the afternoon when their children are at home. This benefits the company because the employee is no longer at work worrying about their children and calling to check up on them etcetera because they've already worked their eight hours and have headed home to meet the kids at the door. Consequently you have better employee work efficiency when they are at work because work and their duties as a parent are no longer trying to compete for the same slot of time."
That made sense to Demona she had certainly scowled at enough people in the afternoons for being on the phone trying to control their offspring. Before she had felt that those employees only proved her point about humans breeding like vermin when they were not able to care adequately for their children, but right now she felt she was hardly in a position to judge them. After all, unlike her, at least they were trying to keep their children safe and secure. These self-accusatory thoughts came to an abrupt halt as the Irish Elk spirit appeared out of the mists with the shadowy figure of Macbeth following behind him.
Demona wasn't certain what to think, it was obvious Macbeth wasn't really in the spirit realm, at least not in the same way Rachael, Kendra and she were, they were solid here like the spirits. Macbeth was here as the land and forest were here, an image of the living realm, but not actually present.
She could see the scowl on his face grow as soon as he saw her, "Demona," he growled, "Why are you in my dream and what is this about breaking our bond?"
So that was why he appeared to be a shadow image, Demona realized, he was dreaming. "I can only guess that breaking the bond between us requires both of us to be here," she replied coolly as she caped her wings protectively about herself. Macbeth's angry, hateful look was unsettling enough, but the anger, hatred and unexpectedly the hurt she was feeling from him were much more disturbing.
Demona wasn't certain anymore that he had intended to betray her clan. Knowing what she did now, she was willing to consider that perhaps it had been she who reacted too angrily and hastily. Macbeth after all hadn't said he was going to betray them to the English, only that a good king considered every option. Of course, she wasn't as certain anymore about the true causes of anything over the past thousand years, not after learning that the Weird Sisters controlled not only her but also the Canmores. It left her wondering what else over the centuries they had orchestrated to serve their own ends.
The warmth of Kendra's arm around her shoulders was unexpected, but very welcome. She looked over at her lover, expecting to see a reassuring smile only to realize that Kendra was giving Macbeth a narrow-eyed and rather unfriendly stare. "Kendra," she said sadly, "he has reason to hate me, I treated him very badly not that long ago." Sapphire blue eyes turned her way in surprise, "It was after the events on Avalon when our memories were blocked by the weird sisters. It's a long story for another time, but suffice to say he didn't know I turned into a human during the day, and I used that to pretend to be someone I wasn't." Demona's gaze turned back to Macbeth, "And worse I pretended to love him when I did not. It's something I regret doing now, especially since I'm no longer as certain as I was then that you betrayed me." Demona finished, now speaking directly to Macbeth. "I know you may never forgive me, but I am sorry for what happened in Paris."
Macbeth stared at her, an angry and bewildered expression upon his face, "What trickery is this?" he asked.
Demona stared at him for a second in confusion before she realized what must have happened, "No trickery Macbeth, in this place if you feel something about someone they are able feel it as well."
The great stag spirit interrupted before either Macbeth or Demona could say anything else, "Macbeth was not planning on betraying your clan to the English, but neither would you have betrayed him to Canmore if it were not for the interference of the Weird Sisters to ensure that their version of the future came to pass. However, this is not the night to search for the truth of those events; it is time to break the bond that binds you to one another."
"Yes Ancient One," Demona readily agreed, she had heard the promise in the spirit's words, not tonight, but another. Kendra's arm tightened for a moment around her shoulders and then released her, but Demona still felt the warmth of her nearby, she didn't have to turn to know that her lover was standing protectively behind her.
"Wait!" protested Macbeth, "What do you mean those three old witches ensured their version of the future came to pass?"
Demona glanced over at Macbeth, saw the shock and disbelief on his face. Emotions she was certainly familiar with lately, but unlike Macbeth, she had at least had a day or two to get used to the idea that the Weird Sisters had been more active in her past than she had ever imagined. This was the first time he had heard of this, and she remembered how much it had felt like a hard punch to the stomach. "Ancient One," she requested, "when we explore those events may Macbeth come here again as well? He was affected by the Weird Sisters no less than I was, he should know the truth of their actions as well."
The great stag looked from her to Macbeth, "That is so; however, without a connection between you, such as the fey enchantments that bind you to one another, I cannot bring him here."
"Leave enough between us tonight for him to return and then after we are done remove the remaining enchantments?" offered Demona.
The Irish Elk spirit swung his massive head and regarded Macbeth inquiringly, "Is this acceptable to you?"
Macbeth stared at him suspiciously for a few seconds, then his face become indifferent and he shrugged saying, "Very well, it's not like it matters this is just a dream."
The great stag's ears flipped a few times at this statement, but the spirit didn't say anything so Demona stayed silent as well. Macbeth could think whatever he needed to think to rationalize what was happening she reasoned.
"I will leave the bond that allows both of you to feel the other's pain, that will be sufficient to allow me to bring you here tomorrow night, and tonight I will replace the Weird Sisters enchantment that grants you immortality," decided the giant stag.
Remembering how quickly the spirits could deal with fey enchantments Demona concentrated as she had been taught the previous night. Green strands of energy appeared inside Macbeth and the gargoyle watched as an entwined mass of them, much larger than either of the one she had removed last night from herself, separated out from the remainder of the fey enchantments surrounding them. The single lines that bound the mass to Macbeth began to disappear as the stag spirit dissolved them and within a very short time, the entire mass disappeared. Demona glanced quizzically at the remainder of the enchantments within Macbeth's shadowy figure; all of these were required for them to feel each other's pain?
"More enchantments are there than just the ones that transfer their pain between them," Rachael commented knowledgably.
The Eagle Owl spirit bobbed her head in agreement, "Indeed there are," she commented staring intently at Macbeth.
"What are you talking about?" demanded Macbeth irritably, "and what are you looking at?"
Demona felt a grin tug on her lips, at least someone else was the center of attention this time.
"And what are you smiling about," he growled.
"At least no one's commenting about what a smorgasbord of enchantments you have on you and look there's even some they don't recognize," Demona protested.
Rachael looked down at the Eagle Owl spirit standing beside her, "Wise One you didn't," she half protested, half laughed.
"I did apologize," the owl complained ruffling her feathers.
"You did Wise One, I'm just pointing out to Macbeth that it could be much worse," the flame-haired gargoyle explained glibly.
"Enchantments? What enchantments?" Macbeth demanded, scowling.
Seeing and feeling her old allies annoyance, Demona's brief moment of levity fled, "their talking about the fey enchantments still upon you, hopefully tomorrow will help identify exactly when they were placed and what they do. And even if it doesn't you will still be rid of all of them tomorrow night," she reassured him.
He regarded her suspiciously for few seconds, and then abruptly nodded, "Very well then, if that is all " he hesitated for a second staring up at the giant stag, "Ancient One."
Demona had the feeling he just wanted to escape this increasingly confusing situation, and she couldn't really blame him. She wondered idly for a moment how he would interpret all this in the morning when he woke. The Irish Elk dipped his head and the figure of Macbeth dissipated and drifted away like smoke upon the wind. Demona stared surprised at where he had stood for a moment longer before returning her attention to the great stag.
"Demona," it was a summons and she stepped forward to stand in front of the Irish Elk spirit. The majestic antlered head rose, and the great stag's gaze shifted from her to behind her, and she got the impression the spirit was surprised. Demona turned around and looked, wondering what was happening that would surprise the spirit.
Kendra was there, her blue eyes warm and proud, and Rachael and the Eagle Owl, but beyond them out of the mists, others were appearing. A great lean bodied wolf, the solidly huge form of a bison, landing among the branches of one of the pines was a keen-eyed eagle; the more she looked the more animals she saw, a fox, a crow, the slender form of a deer. Her gaze was drawn the large black jaguar that padded up beside her lover and sat down regally. The Jaguar spirit's green-eyed gaze examined her and she felt an odd tug of affection for the magnificent cat, it reminded her of Kendra. Her gaze went from the seated cat to the woman standing beside it and met the sapphire gaze, no, as much as she liked the jaguar inside of Kendra, it was definitely the whole woman that was her lover.
A gusty breath through her hair had Demona quickly turning back around to face the Irish Elk spirit. She wasn't quite certain what to think of the audience that was forming, Kendra had never mentioned anything like this happening to her.
"You are the first chosen I have taken, and the first of your race to be chosen," the great stag commented.
Demona stared into the spirits brown eyes; somehow, she hadn't considered that she might be the first gargoyle to be chosen.
"Let us begin," the Irish Elk spirit spoke pulling Demona out of her thoughts. She had a moment to realize that the spirits gaze was focused upon her and then she was broken into an infinity of pieces and reformed and made whole at the same time she was a tree and a bird and the land and grass and a deer feeding and an ant following a scent trail home and the swift flow of a stream and the great depths of ocean and the sleek torpedo shape of a shark and she was a gargoyle leaning against the great antlered head of the spirit she was herself, and yet she was more than she had been only an instant ago.
The only thing preventing her from falling to her knees was the fact that she was leaning so heavily against the stag's head. She stayed there for a few seconds longer reorienting herself after the Demona was at a loss she had no idea how to even define the experience she had just had, if she didn't know better she would have thought she had a drug-induced hallucination, a very intense one. Finally, she was able to steady herself and pull away from the spirit's support.
"It is done," the great stag sounded rather pleased with himself.
"Demona," Kendra's concerned voice came from immediately behind her, and then a warm body pressed against her back and arms wrapped supportively around her waist. "Are you alright?" she sounded puzzled.
"Yes, I'm fine," Demona assured her, placing her hand on the arms wrapped around her midsection and squeezing them reassuringly, "only not entirely certain what just happened."
"I dissolved all the remaining fey enchantments upon you, linked your life energy to mine to grant you immortality and the power of transformation between a human appearing form and your natural gargoyle form, and attuned you to the energies of nature and life. It was most likely the last that was disorienting to you," the Ancient spirit explained.
Attuned to the energies of life and nature, Demona remembered the strange confusing sensations of being other life forms and even more bewilderingly of being water and land. She remembered the moment when she knew she had been broken and remade as more, now she knew what the more was or at least she thought she did. For a brief moment she felt a bit outraged that the spirit had done this to her without explaining beforehand exactly what the brief comment about giving her the ability to do nature magic meant, then she remembered that whenever she chose she could back out of this agreement and be returned to normal. Something inside her rebelled at the thought, she didn't know exactly what being attuned to nature and life energies meant, but she already knew didn't want to give up whatever it was she had gained.
"Jaguar's chosen," the Irish Elk requested, "Would demonstrate transforming to my chosen?"
"Certainly," Kendra agreed, she briefly squeezed the trim muscular waist her arms were wrapped around before releasing the flame-haired gargoyle. Glancing around she noticed that the assembly of spirits had departed as quickly as they had arrived except for the Jaguar spirit who was sauntering over to look at the half-completed form she had been working on when Demona had returned. "Alright," Kendra paused to order her thoughts and decide exactly how to proceed. "Examine the human and jaguar spirits inside of me; see how the jaguar form is enclosed within the human form right now." Kendra waited as the gargoyle studied her intently for a full minute before Demona nodded her head. "Now watch as I transform," Kendra instructed.
Demona concentrated on watching how Kendra managed the transformation, her lover had told her about this, but watching was much more instructive than any verbal description could be. Kendra pushed the Jaguar form out over her human form and then matched herself to the image. No wonder she always looked over herself to make sure she had made no mistakes, Demona thought as she examined Kendra's jaguar form and saw how now the human form now rested inside of the jaguar. "I believe I understand how you are transforming, it doesn't appear to be that difficult." At least Demona hoped it was as easy as it seemed to be.
Kendra insisted on transforming back and forth a few more times to make sure Demona understood completely before she decided it was finally the gargoyle's turn.
Demona could see within herself the form of her human persona Dominique Destine currently enclosed inside her true gargoyle form. She struggled with the two forms using what Kendra had done for a reference and finally managed to pull her human form out and over her gargoyle form. Once she did so she realized that she had done it, there was no need to hold onto the mental image she had successfully managed the transformation she now appeared human.
Kendra smiled, "You did it, congratulations, now to just master the process."
"Very nicely done, you learned how quicker than I did," Rachael added her complements.
Demona nodded, a smile of pleasure at her accomplishment and praise on her lips, and concentrated on moving back and forth from human to gargoyle, verifying that she had everything correct after each change. She transformed one last time from human to gargoyle and looked inquiringly at the black-haired woman.
Kendra nodded, "You have it. When we get back to the living world you should transform back and forth at least once to make sure there you don't have any problems with the actual process."
"Alright," Demona agreed, wondering how painful the process was going to be. Recalling Kendra's transformations she guessed that there would be little to none going from human to gargoyle and then some pain going from gargoyle to human.
"Chosen," the great stag spoke.
"Ancient One," the gargoyle turned around and looked at the spirit inquiringly.
"There is still time tonight for you to have your first lesson in nature magic. Let us move away from the others so that they may concentrate on the form the young jaguar is building," the Irish Elk suggested. He strode away from the others and Demona followed, they did not go far just far enough for Kendra and the others to disappear in the mists.
The stag stopped and turned to face the gargoyle with surprising grace for his size, "Everything upon this planet possesses nature energy, even those made by man because they too are made from natural materials. The energy that grants you, the young Jaguar and Owl's chosen immortality and the ability to change forms is nature magic. Your first lesson tonight will be in how to see this type of magic."
A short time later, Demona was examining what had replaced the Weird Sister's enchantments. The first thing she noticed was that nature magic was colored differently, fey magic was almost florescent green in color. Nature magic was golden with motes of forest green, brown and stone grey dancing through it. The next thing she noticed was how different the spirit's enchantments looked from the previous ones. The Weird Sisters enchantments had looked just as they were -constricting, immobilizing, almost like parasitic vines wrapped around her. The stag's enchantments looked completely different; the lines of the magic were open, branching reaching outward and upward.
"Life magic flows through every living thing, from the simplest to the largest and is a closely related to nature magic," the Irish Elk continued, "To see life magic specifically you must shift your focus so "
In a moment Demona was staring at herself in wonder, she had noticed almost a haze of energy around herself when she had been looking at nature energies, now it was as if that haze had been cleared away. Life magic was brilliantly golden, like a beam of sunlight, with motes of a deeper gold color and the same forest green motes she had noticed in nature magic dancing and swirling through it. There was so much of it, lines and lines of it, all interconnected and branching. The only thing remotely like what she was currently seeing was a picture in an anatomy book showing the blood vessels and veins in the human body.
"You can study life and nature magic for a thousand years and still not know but a fraction of all there is to know about it. I have studied both for over a hundred thousand years and I still have much to learn," the stag spirit commented to her. "Now for the last lesson, examine one of the trees around us, these are but shadows of the living realm, however, if you concentrate upon one of them you will be able to see its life energy."
Demona turned to the nearest pine tree, focusing on the shadowy outline of it, concentrating on seeing the life energy within. She started back for a moment when it the trunk in front of her seemingly burst into brilliant lines of energy. Her eyes followed the thick bands of energy upward, looked in awe as they branched out along every branch, every twig, every needle. She stared for a moment at the tree's crown lit in fine lines of brilliant gold, then looked down at the ground. She could see the trees root structure outlined by the life energy in each root, from the thick roots that anchored the tree to the earth to the finest feeder roots.
"Demona," the stag's voice cut through her fascination with what she was seeing, and she had the impression that perhaps the spirit had tried to get her attention more than once. "It is time for you to leave this realm."
She did feel tired and hungry, Demona realized with surprise, she had been so interested in what she was seeing that she hadn't realized. They returned to the clearing, the Owl and Jaguar spirits along with Kendra and Rachael were still clustered around the were-jaguar form Kendra was making. Demona noticed that the figure was now taller and bulkier than Kendra's human form, and that the fingers and hands were now properly proportioned in relation to the rest of the body. Everyone turned at their entrance and Demona got the distinct impression that they had been waiting for them to return.
Kendra and the Jaguar spirit exchanged a long silent glance before the black-haired woman nodded and reached out and touched the were-jaguar form. The form wavered and flowed into Kendra, "Thank you," she said to the Jaguar spirit.
"You are welcome my chosen," the Jaguar spirit replied.
The three women glanced at each other, it wasn't necessary to say anything they were all feeling the strain of too much time spent out of their bodies. In the next instant Demona was back in her body sitting next to Kendra with a sleeping bag wrapped around them both. Rachael was across the fire from then, wrapped within her own sleeping bag, the older Cree woman rose and checked the cooking pot resting by the fire, which had the leftover stew in it, that they had left warming for now. Demona forced herself out of the warm cocoon, rising and going to assist Rachael in putting together a simple meal for them.
A warm bowl of stew and a thick slice of bread improved the three women's energy levels and mood immensely.
"Are you feeling up to changing?" Kendra asked.
"Now I am," Demona commented, she was glad Rachael had thought of making enough stew for two full meals tonight. The gargoyle made a mental note to remember how draining it was to go into the spirit realm for any length of time; once Rachael left, she would need to make sure they had a meal ready for afterward. The gargoyle closed her eyes and relaxed into the trance like state that Kendra had taught her and imagined her gargoyle form shrinking until her human form covered it then willed herself to match the image of her human form. The pain of the transformation was far less than what she was used to from Puck's spell and when Demona opened her eyes she glanced at herself. She had succeeded she was in her human form. She immediately began shivering as the night was very cold and she was wearing her gargoyle clothing.
"Very good, and very quick too," Kendra noted approvingly.
"Very cold," Demona complained, she hated this aspect of being human, she didn't notice it so much in New York, but here, with it being so much further north she definitely noticed the cold when she was human. She hurriedly examined herself to verify that everything was in the right place and without waiting closed her eyes and focused on transforming back into her true form. She was right; the transformation in from human to gargoyle didn't hurt at all, Demona thought, as she shook out her wings and verified that she had the proper gargoyle parts.
As soon as she settled back underneath the sleeping bag with Kendra, Rachael pulled out the bottle of scotch and three small glasses. She poured out three shots worth, and then passed the glasses around. "To our newest and first gargoyle shaman," Rachael proposed her toast.
"To our newest and first gargoyle shaman," Kendra seconded, raising her shot glass in Demona's direction.
The gargoyle raised her own glass to them, taking a moment to admire the amber color of the scotch before taking a sip and letting the smooth fiery liquid burn down her throat.
After recovering from the fiery burn of the amber liquid, Kendra stared into her glass meditatively searching for the right words. Finally, she raised her head and looked at Demona, "The last few days have brought about many changes in your life. May you look back in the years ahead and be as thankful for them as I have been with mine."
"Indeed," Rachael agreed softly. She looked across the fire at the flame-haired gargoyle, "May you be as thankful for them as I have been with mine."
Demona felt her throat tighten with emotion; she knew both Kendra and Rachael would not trade their shamanism and their relationship with their respective spirits for anything. Thinking back to earlier in the evening when she had become the Ancient One's chosen and what he had shown her afterward she replied, "I believe I shall."
Macbeth splashed cold water on his face and stared into the mirror bleary eyed. Usually he didn't remember his dreams and he was thankful for that, but the strange dream he had last night was stubbornly remaining in his memory. Every detail of the dream was as sharp and fresh in his memory as his memory of waking up fifteen minutes ago. The gigantic stag had come to him and asked if he wanted to be free of his bond with Demona, he hadn't even needed to think about it before vehemently agreeing. They had traveled through mists to arrive in a forest clearing; he remembered how odd everything had looked, as if he were seeing shadowy images.
Demona had been there, along with the woman he had seen on the television reports of the kidnapping, Kendra Canmore. There had been another woman there and beside her had been a Eurasian Eagle Owl. He remembered glaring at Demona, and he remembered Kendra Canmore stepping up behind her and unmistakably giving him a clear warning look that promised painful retribution if he did anything against the gargoyle. Then, as if the idea of a Canmore protecting Demona wasn't shocking enough, the gargoyle had apologized to him for her deception in Paris. Apologized and meant it, he could still remember the sorrow, the regret, and shame he had felt from her.
"Impossible," he growled to his reflection in the mirror, Demona hadn't changed in a thousand years why would she change now.
Still he thought uneasily about what the stag had said that tonight he and Demona would learn about what the three old witches had done to ensure that their vision of the future came to pass. He remembered their words on that day when he had saved Duncan. He had rejected their prophecy promising Duncan that he had no wish to become King, but he could see that his cousin didn't believe him. And then everything had come to pass as the three old witches had prophesied, he had been King after Duncan and then his son for a tragically short time before Canmore had killed Luach to become King after him.
"I'm no longer as certain as I was then that you betrayed me," Demona had said to him, what was it that she suspected, why had she negotiated for him to come again tonight, and who was the stag to her that she spoke to him with such respect.
"Damn it," he complained to his reflection, "I'm acting as if talking giant stags are real, it was just a dream is all."
Still he felt uneasy as he turned toward the shower to begin his day.
Dominique reluctantly stirred from her sleep not wanting to leave her dream, only to realize that the light teasing touches were wonderfully real. She moaned and spread her legs wider, offering herself to Kendra's touch. "Shh," her lover whispered, even as she slid her fingers home into the tight warm welcoming depths. Warm lips covered the redhead's and swallowed the sighing groan this action elicited. "We don't want to wake Rachael."
Rachael, Dominique's mind struggled for a moment before remembering the Cree woman in the tent on the other side of the fire from theirs. The redhead stifled she moan rising from her throat as her hips arched up to meet the fingers stroking so deeply inside of her. She opened her eyes and looked up into the wickedly smiling face of her lover. Kendra's fingers began doing truly wonderful things as they teased, touched and stroked. "Evil woman," she hissed quietly knowing that the black haired woman was not going to make remaining quiet easy for her.
Kendra leaned closer, nipped at her ear, "Would you want it any other way?" she whispered huskily, sending shivers down Dominique's spine.
Even as she arched into the tenderly tormenting touch and bit on her own lips to keep quiet, Dominique knew the answer to that question, no, she wouldn't want it any other way. Somehow having to remain quiet seemed to make the sensations all the more intense and it wasn't long before the redhead reached the pinnacle of her release with Kendra's lips upon hers swallowing up her pleasured cries as she clutched desperately at her lover.
Her heart rate was still slowing down and her breathing evening out when Kendra moved to hover above her, "bend your leg please," she whispered.
Curious Dominique did as she requested, when Kendra pressed against her thigh and began rocking steadily against it the redhead was tempted to let her continue. After all certain things were within easy reach and looking up into her lovers beautiful face so marked with pleasure as she moved against her was certainly enjoyable. However, there was really no reason for her to deprive herself of one of her favorite experiences and certainly no reason for Kendra to get off, literally, so lightly this morning.
With an amused smirk, she ignored her lover's soft protest as she straightened her leg, "Shh, don't wake Rachael," she whispered as she scooted further down into the sleeping bag. Like dangling ripe fruit, she thought looking up at the dusky skinned breasts, and who was she to resist such temptation, Dominique thought to herself as she pulled Kendra down closer and took one into her mouth. She heard her lover's stifled moan with satisfaction.
A few moments later she pulled away long enough to whisper, "Do you know what I like best about touching you?"
"No?" Kendra whispered back after a second when it became clear the redhead would not continue until she answered.
"Here," Dominique whispered, she ran her hand down her lovers back and around and then down and in between her thighs. Her lover whimpered in response and the redhead smiled in satisfaction, "You feel so soft, so tender here. Hmm and so very wet for me, I love touching you, running my fingers over you," she kept her whisper barely audible knowing that Kendra's hearing meant that her lover could still hear her, "feeling how sensitive you are." Kendra arched and shuddered in pleasure, "Yes, especially when I touch you there," Dominique whispered letting her fingers circle and tease mercilessly for a long moment, enjoying the way Kendra twitched and shuddered in response to her every touch.
"But as much as I like touching you here though there is one other place I enjoy exploring more," the redhead felt a surge of carnal satisfaction at her lovers bit off cry. "So warm, so yielding to me, and once I'm inside how you clench around fingers as if to resist my leaving." Kendra whimpered above her, "I can't resist doing it over," her actions suited her words, "and over again just to feel how you yield to me so welcomingly and then try to keep me inside you." She could hear Kendra's harsh breathing as her lover attempted to remain quiet as she arched to meet every movement of the redhead's hand. "Sometimes I accept the invitation and stay to explore awhile, as there are such interesting places to occupy my attention," Kendra shuddered and ground herself against Dominique's hand as the redhead's fingers found and caressed a particularly sensitive spot inside her.
"Goddess," Kendra hissed, her lovers whispered words weaving a spell of arousal around her. Kendra hadn't doubted that the redhead enjoyed making love to her, but she hadn't been sure if Demona would have enjoyed it more if she had been male like the rest of the gargoyles past lovers. Her lover's whispered words, however, made it quite clear that Demona was taking pleasure in the fact that she was a woman.
Dominique fell silent as she concentrated on driving her lover over the edge and to completion; she could feel Kendra was close from the way her lover's body was reacting to her touch. She occupied her mouth with what she had been enjoying earlier, lightly nipping and suckling at the dusky swells swaying so temptingly above her. It wasn't long before Dominique was holding Kendra tightly as her lover silently screamed in a long exhale and shuddered in release above her. The black-haired woman collapsed on top of her briefly, before they rolled over to rest side by side. Their lips met, the kisses tender, slow and loving as they entwined together, basking in their closeness and the sensations following their lovemaking.
Dominique rested her head against Kendra's chest listening to the steady beat of her lover's heart. She felt comfortable and relaxed in the warm cocoon of the sleeping bag they shared and was in no immediate hurry to leave it for the chill of the Canadian winter outside their tent. Kendra was both feminine softness and curves, and lithely muscled thighs and arms and very comfortable and soothing to lie against and be held by.
"Are you two ready for breakfast yet?" Rachael's amused voice outside the tent startled both of them out of their comfortable doze.
Kendra stretched, "Sure," she acknowledged the Cree woman. She squeezed the redhead in her arms and brushed a kiss across her forehead. "Do you want to shower first?" she asked Dominique.
Thirty minutes later, they had both showered and were sitting down by the fire. Kendra was slightly embarrassed to learn that they were having the fish Rachael had caught earlier in the morning. Either the Cree woman had actually wanted fish for breakfast or they needed to work on being quieter.
"I need to leave soon," Rachael announced after they finished cleaning up from breakfast, "it's about a four hour journey to my house from here and I need to get back before anyone notices I've been gone. I'll leave the trailer here, there's no reason to haul it back and forth and we can hide it in the woods. In four days, I'll be back to get the supplies and pick you two up. My house is back in the woods away from the other tribe members so you can stay there overnight. We'll say I met you two walking in the next morning, and took you in for showers and fresh clothing before calling the tribal police." She looked at the two of them thoughtfully, "You will need to say that you found two sets of survival gear otherwise there's no way that one of you wouldn't have frostbite from being out in this for ten days. Work out what you want to say to the police about your journey, it will be believable for you to have traveled twenty-five miles a day if you walked for ten to eleven hours a day. Your feet might be hard to explain, but hopefully no one will think to notice that you don't have any blisters like you should from walking that far and that long without proper boots and socks."
"So when we are found on the eleventh day no one should be suspicious about how fast we traveled," Dominique commented.
"That's what I was thinking," Rachael confirmed.
"Do you know what the police know about the kidnapping?" Kendra asked quietly, thinking of her cousin and what the Irish Elk had said about the Canmore's being enchanted. She now wanted a chance to see if Jon had fey magic influencing him before deciding what to do about him, maybe if they broke the enchantment he would decide to give up the hunt. She wasn't going to bet on it, but at least he should be given the chance.
"Oh," Rachael sounded embarrassed, "I can't believe I forgot We haven't talked at all about that have we. The last I heard just before I left was that they had located the kidnapper's plane where it crashed."
"Wow," Kendra remarked, "I'm surprised they found it that quick, how in the world did they even know to look for up there?"
"The news said something about an eyewitness at the airport in New York seeing you being loaded onto a plane," Rachael explained, "The police traced the plane from there to Alma where they transferred you into the plane that crashed. The Mounties had the flight plan the plane filed in Alma and from there it was probably a simple matter to follow it and find the plane. They are flying search and rescue missions for you now, I'm sure their efforts have been concentrated further north, but they will be moving south following the path they expect you to travel. You might want to be careful in the next few days about staying out in the open," she cautioned them.
Dominique asked, "Is there any way you can find out more information before we allow ourselves to be found?"
Kendra added, "We need to know if they suspect Jon and his Quarrymen yet, if they do their going to ask what connection Dominique Destine has to the gargoyles." She grimaced, "Actually we need to make sure the police don't have any idea that Dominique is Demona or even that a gargoyle was involved."
Dominique nodded, "That would not be a good situation to walk into unprepared," she said grimly.
Kendra reassured her, "At least now that will be an easy one to disprove."
The redhead realized with surprise that Kendra was correct; Dominique Destine didn't have to disappear at sunset anymore. If Jon Canmore tried to claim she turned into a gargoyle at night, all she had to do was appear in her human form after sunset.
Rachael commented, "I should be able to get that information for you; I have a friend or two on the tribal police that I can ask about what the Mounties know. In the American side, the FBI is in charge of the investigation. One of Wolf's chosen works for them; I can ask him if they suspect anything. I noticed that Wolf was there when the Ancient One made you his chosen so all of Wolf's chosen should know about you by now just as all of Owl's chosen know."
The Owl's chosen's expression turned even more solemn than before, "Demona there is something you need to consider in the next few days and let me know as soon as you come to a decision."
"What is it?" Dominique asked, concerned about Rachael's manner.
Rachael looked them both in the eye with a very serious expression on her face as if to impress upon them the importance of whatever she was about to say before beginning to speak. "Most of us chose to share very little about our shamanism with others, only perhaps our immediate families. The spirits both do and don't understand our concerns, to them it was only a short while ago when shamans were honored members of the community and such gifts as we have were accepted by our communities in most parts of the world. In the places where they weren't accepted, such as parts of Europe and America, it was easy to stay out of sight or simply pretend to have eccentric religious beliefs. Things have changed though in the past hundred years, it's become much harder in this age of computers and government record-keeping to hide our abilities, and almost all of us fear that our gifts will bring us unwelcome attention if they become known." She paused to take a breath, "As I said the spirits both do and don't understand our fear, so they don't mandate that we keep our shamanism a secret. Currently it is up to each individual chosen how much, and with whom, they share it. That said, no one knows about my shamanism except for the other chosen and I suspect Kendra has also told very few if any people," Rachael looked inquiringly at Kendra.
"Demona was one of the first people I told even a little about it to, and at first that was only because she noticed it when we were sparing. Of course, I didn't know about the chosen then either, I've just learned about all of this myself recently, but I know don't feel very comfortable with people knowing, it just seems safer for me if they don't," Kendra admitted. "I don't want people hounding me to do stuff just because they think I should, and I really don't want the government knowing about my immortality and ability to heal."
"I suspect you probably wouldn't have even approached me if you knew what you do now," Dominique remarked quietly.
Kendra winced, "I'd have thought about it a lot more," she reluctantly admitted.
Rachael turned back to the redhead, "I know there is a rift between you and the rest of your family because of what happened at Wyvern Castle and your actions since then, and that if you told them something about what has happened to you here might help mend that rift. What I need you to consider is how much, or even if you will share with them, because it will affect how safe it is for the other chosen to openly interact with you."
Dominique did not even have a moment to begin to consider the implications of this before Rachael continued, "Kendra brought up an essential point when she mentioned that it would be easy for you to disprove that you're a gargoyle. With the rest of us, unless someone saw us transform or do something that most humans couldn't it is easy to hide our changed nature. With you, the fact that you can walk around as a human at night is going to indicate that something about you has radically changed. And chances are you will need to do that to protect your dual identity."
The Cree woman held up a restraining hand when it looked like Dominique was about to speak, "Let me discuss just one more rather important concern of mine before you respond." She paused a moment until the redhead nodded for her to continue, "I don't know of any other chosen that had the attention of the Fey before becoming chosen. You are immune to any spells they try to place upon you as they did in the past, but you are not immune to their destructive spells and those have the ability to permanently kill you just as we have the ability to permanently kill them."
Kendra straightened, alarmed, "You mean they might try to kill her if they realize she's broken free from their control?"
Rachael looked grim, "I don't know what they might do, and honestly the more I hear about these three Fey the less I like them. They seem to care even less than most Fey about mortals. Given what they did when working with the Archmage just to get their revenge against the Magus, who knows how they will react to Demona breaking free from their control and becoming a shaman?" She stared into the redhead's green eyes, "As I said I don't know how they will react, but my advice is that you learn as much as you can about protecting yourself from fey attacks before they have a chance to learn that you aren't under their control anymore."
Dominique's green eyes narrowed in concern, "What about Kendra? Doesn't she need to learn how to protect herself as well?"
Kendra answered before Rachael could, "Part of what the priestess taught me was how to resist offensive fey spell casting. I just need to practice my martial arts, my defense will be how fast I can dodge their attacks and close with them to kill or knock them out."
Rachael chuckled wryly, "She's a Jaguar. They have pretty much one way of reacting to any threat."
"Kill them," responded Kendra calmly, "or if I don't deem them a threat, subdue them."
Dominique's smirked at her lover, she commented dryly to Rachael, "I gather then that I'll have somewhat of a more complex or at least varied response?"
"Your learning life and nature magic correct?" Rachael asked. When the redhead nodded she said, "You will have several different ways you can react depending on the situation. I don't want to interfere with whatever training plan the Ancient One and Wise One have for you so I won't say any more, but I don't think you will be disappointed with the depth and variety of your options," the Cree woman's eyes twinkled.
Dominique stared at her wondering exactly what she meant. Whatever it was it sounded like there was quite a lot she had to learn about nature and life magic. "At the very least then I need to keep my shamanism a secret until I can protect myself if need be, do you have any idea how long it will take for me to learn what I need to know?" The gargoyle could see that Rachael was giving her question considerable thought; it was at least a full minute or so before she responded.
"I'd guess at least two or three months if you put some serious effort into it every day, but I'd guess with your company, and," she paused to glance at Kendra, "your new relationship that six months would be a more accurate guess and you would just know enough to survive against those three. With Kendra's help, you would be able to drive them off, perhaps even do some serious damage to them."
The redhead took in a deep breath; she didn't want to neglect either Kendra or Nightstone. They were both important to her, "So six months minimum then." Kendra frowned, but before she could protest Dominique said, "No, I'm not spending every moment away from work studying, I want to spend time with you."
Kendra stared at her for a moment frowningly, and then her face softened, "Alright, I don't really want to not see you for two or three months either," she admitted, "even if it might be safer if you concentrated on your magic." She looked over at Rachael, "I think we need to come up with something the clan would believe about how Demona can be Dominique at night just in case it's needed for whatever reason." She turned back to Dominique, her blue eyes warm, "And even if it isn't needed to protect your dual identity, I'd like to take you out to eat at night or to go see a play or out dancing without having to worry about being seen by someone associated with the clan."
Dominique looked at her in surprise; she hadn't considered remaining in her human form at night just to go out and do things. She smiled, the thought of doing them with Kendra was enticing, "I don't know how to dance," she admitted. It had always seemed like too much of a human thing to learn, but if Kendra wanted to dance with her, she would consider learning how.
"I'd love to teach you," Kendra responded sincerely.
"So something that it's believable that the effect is reusable or permanent," Rachael said with a smile at them. "What about a magical artifact?" she suggested.
"Where would we find one?" asked Dominique nonplused, one simply didn't find powerful magical artifacts lying about. She should know she had spent several hundred years looking for them.
Rachael grinned roguishly, "Why we make one of course, after all it doesn't have to actually do anything; it just has to appear as if it can to anyone with the ability to examine it for magical properties."
Kendra chuckled, "We're making a bogus artifact?"
Rachael's eyes danced, "Let me get some stuff together and we can do it the night you stay with me. We'll have Bogus Artifact Making 101."
Dominique stared at them both in bemusement; it hadn't occurred to her that they could just make something that would appear to be a magical artifact. She had wondered how much the chosen interacted with each other, and what Rachael was offering to do was an example of how they helped one another. Did she want to give this up on the chance that the clan, that Angela, would even believe her? She remembered her thoughts earlier that her daughter would not believe anything she claimed right now, especially if what she said sounded like an excuse for her actions. She could either make it more difficult for the chosen to help her with only the slightest chance that Angela would believe her, or she could do what she had decided to do earlier, let her actions speak for themselves that she had changed and wait for her daughter to come to her. She didn't need to reveal the full truth to Angela, she could tell her daughter that she had finally decided to give up her war with humanity and make some changes in her life. Given enough time, and lack of any plans to destroy humanity on her part, and Angela would eventually believe her.
Did she even want to tell the clan? Demona asked herself. She knew her daughter would never keep the truth to herself, if Goliath asked she would tell him and he would tell the others and Maza and then who knew else they would tell. It would make it almost impossible for the other chosen to feel comfortable or safe in being associated with her when she couldn't even say who would end up knowing that she was a shaman.
With that thought the redhead made her decision, "I already know what my answer is; I'm not going to be telling the clan. Angela won't keep such a secret from her father and clan leader even if she did believe me, and he would tell others. So I won't be able to tell her anyway."
"Are you sure? You might be able to rejoin them," Kendra said softly.
Dominique shook her head resolutely, "I don't want to, once Goliath knew the information would be shared with too many other people, I won't put myself, you, or the other chosen at risk like that. Besides, I was having trouble with Goliath's leadership even before the massacre and them being turned into stone for almost a thousand years. After being a clan leader myself and after being alone as many centuries as I have, I won't go back to following Goliath's leadership. I don't believe in the things he does and frankly I think he's a foolish dreamer whose actions are going to get the clan and my daughter killed." Dominique looked sad, "Angela is more Goliath's daughter than she is mine. She is like him in so many ways. She belongs with the clan, and I," she hesitated briefly before continuing, "I don't fit in there if I ever did."
"You've always been different," Kendra commented thoughtfully, "with wanting to learn how to read and do sorcery."
Dominique stared at her for a long moment before answering, "Yes I guess I have, I've always wanted to know more than my rookery brothers and sisters were interested in learning." She didn't mention that it was more the fact that she craved knowledge because she felt it gave her power, and power wasn't something a gargoyle was supposed to desire, that set her more apart from her rookery brothers and sisters than a craving for knowledge. It was one of the reasons that Nightstone Unlimited meant so much to her, her company gave her the power and control she had always craved.
"I was always different from the rest of my tribe as well," Rachael commented, "it was one of the reasons the tribal shaman picked me to teach. He wasn't a chosen, just wise in the way of our lore and the use of herbs to heal, but I never felt understood until the Wise One chose me. Not even the tribal shaman could understand my hunger for knowledge, only the Owl spirit did."
Dominique's eyes went curiously to Kendra wondering if she too shared this characteristic.
Kendra chuckled, but there was little humor in it, "I think every gay person feels different from their peers. You start realizing it when you're young and it only gets stronger as you grow older and realize that you actually are different from them." She took in an unsteady breath, "My father had just died and my mother was handicapped and in constant pain from her spinal cord injury when I realized I was gay. I never told her, I wasn't sure if she would be able to accept it and I didn't want her to worry about me. I always thought she would get better that there would be time for me to tell her, but then she died in her sleep one night."
Without any conscious decision, Dominique pulled her lover into her arms and held her tightly, she knew how it felt to keep secrets from ones clan because you feared their rejection if they knew the truth about you. She could tell this still hurt Kendra deeply, the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not her mother would have accepted or rejected her.
Kendra wrapped her arms around the redhead and held on to her tightly, after a moment she continued, "It would have been so much harder on me if it hadn't been for the dreams and then the Jaguar spirit merging with me. There was an acceptance of who I was...of everything that I was...that I desperately needed at that time."
"I'm sure she would have accepted you, even if it took her some time. A mother's love for their child is not so easily put aside," Rachael said gently.
Kendra took in a deep breath and nodded, "I know, I don't actually think that she would have rejected me. I just wish I knew for certain, that I had told her." She pulled gently away from Dominique with a sigh and glanced up at the sky, "You need to get going don't you?" she said to Rachael.
"Yes I do," Rachael acknowledged. "As soon as I learn anything I'll try and catch up with one of you in the spirit realm to let you know. I'm assuming you will be there every night working on your were-jaguar shape?"
Kendra stared at her bemused for a moment, "I hadn't actually thought about us being able to do that. Yea, I'll be working on it every night probably unless Demona wants me to go with them tonight." She frowned, "Speaking of Macbeth and keeping things secret, how is that going to work? I know he thinks it's a dream right now, but when he learns more tonight what's to keep him from figuring things out."
Dominique stiffened in alarm; she hadn't considered how Macbeth's involvement and knowledge of what was happening might affect whether or not she could keep her new status as a shaman a secret.
"Just ask the Ancient One to obscure his memories so that he doesn't remember enough about last night and tonight to piece it together," Rachael said, "He will remember the important parts: that he and Demona are no longer bound together and what the Weird Sisters did, but he won't remember much of anything else. If he does suspect it's real, he won't remember it in enough detail to know anything other than the fact that some anonymous spirit decided to help Demona and he break free from the Weird Sisters. I've seen this done before; the Ancient One will take care of it if you let him know that's what you want."
Dominique took in a deep breath in relief, she didn't want Macbeth's knowing about their bond being broken to take the decision of whether or not to keep the fact she was a shaman secret away from her. She also didn't want to regret asking the stag to show both of them the truth tonight. She had no interest anymore in fighting with Macbeth, or having to worry about him attacking her. Her old ally knowing the truth would hopefully mean that they could just ignore one another and finally live their own separate lives.
"Alright," Rachael said looking up at the sun, "I really must get going now. Look for me in the spirit realm each night; I'll let you know what I find out as soon as I learn something."
When Rachael left, Kendra gave her a quick hug and heartfelt thanks for everything she had done for them. Dominique certainly didn't give the Cree woman a hug, but the forearm grasp and the warmness of her thanks told their own tale of the gargoyle's changed perception of the Owl's chosen from just a day ago.
No sooner had the sound of Rachael's ATV faded in the distance than Kendra turned to Dominique with an intent gleam in her sapphire blue eyes.
"Kendra," the redhead said reluctantly, she didn't want to do this, the thought of it chilled her and filled her with dread, but she needed, she had to do this. She had to tell Kendra about her past, she couldn't let herself become any closer to the other woman without knowing whether Kendra would reject her once she knew about her past.
"Demona?" the gleam in her eyes faded as Kendra took in the uncertain, fearful expression on the redhead's face.
"I " Dominique hesitated, for a moment, took in a determined breath, "I need to tell you..." her voice trailed off wavered before she firmed it by sheer force of will, "I need to tell you about some of the things I've done in the past."
"You don't have to," Kendra assured her gently, "It's in the past before the enchantments were removed "
Yes I do," interrupted Dominique before Kendra could say anymore. "If I don't I'm certain the clan will tell you about what I've done the first chance one of them gets," she said bitterly, "and I don't want the possibility hanging between us that I did something you can't " she looked away glassy eyed as she fought her emotions.
"That I can't forgive?" Kendra filled in softly.
Dominique nodded; she couldn't bring herself to say the words. Images of the frozen stone forms of humans on their way home from work from shopping crushed into rubble by her mace filled her mind. Kendra could have easily been one of those humans that night, trapped by her spell, shattered carelessly as she mocked and laughed in pleasure at the damage she was doing. She found it hard to meet her lovers her human lover's blue eyes. What would Kendra think of her; could she forgive her for that night?
"Alright," Kendra acquiesced seeing how serious and upset the gargoyle was about this. "Let me put more wood on the fire and we can get out the sleeping bag and sit by it."
Kendra pulled the sleeping bag around herself, it was cold today, but thankfully the sun was shining warmly and the trees kept the wind down. Dominique sat down beside her and pulled the material of the sleeping bag around herself, looking more as if she were shielding herself than seeking to keep warm. The black-haired woman shifted closer until their knees touched, and reached out to take one of the pale hands that played nervously with the fabric of the sleeping bag. She knew Demona had killed people, and probably a large number of people over the centuries. Even if the gargoyle had only killed one a year that would add up to over nine hundred, and only two nights ago Demona had talked about the years she had pursued what she thought was her vengeance against humanity, only to find out it was all the Archmage's revenge. That indicated that the immortal gargoyle had most likely killed more than one human a year so the number was probably much more than nine hundred.
"Demona," the green eyes finally looked up to meet hers, "I know you've killed people, both the guilty and the innocent, and that you've probably killed more than a thousand of them, but the Ancient One accepted you as his chosen. To me that means that whatever you did is forgivable or that he thought you weren't responsible for your actions. I can see your worried that whatever it is you have to tell me will upset me so much that I won't want to be with you, but I really don't think that will be the case. I'm not inclined to question his judgment in this, he didn't find you unforgivable and I just don't see myself having any valid reason to decide any differently."
Dominique could see the sincerity in Kendra's gaze, and it gave her hope. There was one thing however, that she felt needed immediate clarification. She didn't want Kendra thinking she had been on some type of bloodthirsty rampage for nine centuries. "I wouldn't say that I've killed more than a thousand humans though, the battles we fought when I was allied with Macbeth were very small by today's standards, maybe twenty to forty warriors on each side."
Kendra stared at her for a moment, rather surprised; she had expected a higher number given that Demona had claimed she had been at war with humanity for nine hundred years. Apparently the war had been a very low-key one, or the gargoyle hadn't been as interested in it as she made it sound like she was. "Ok, when you said you were seeking your vengeance against humanity I sort of thought it was a bit more active than your indicating now," she said puzzled.
Dominique grimaced, "That was before I found out I had a daughter and that she had left Avalon and came to Manhattan to be with her father."
"Ah," the one word had wealth of understanding packed in it. Kendra was starting to see why Demona had dusted off and gotten re-interested in her plans for wiping out humanity. It was that scorched earth form of protecting that the gargoyle needed to learn how to control. She stared at the redhead waiting for her to speak, however Dominique didn't seem very eager to begin. "Demona I already know about the virus and I'm obviously willing to forgive you for trying to kill me and every other human, is what you have to tell me so much worse than that?" Kendra decided not to mention her doubts about whether or not the gargoyle's virus would have been effective or not. After all, for all she knew it might have worked.
"I did a spell to turn everyone in Manhattan to stone at night and then I took the mace I took from a hunter and I used it and a laser rifle to smash the humans I found on the streets," Dominique blurted out suddenly.
"A hunter," Kendra said, feeling sick. She dropped her eyes to the ground remembering what the Owl spirit had confirmed last night. Demona had used a mace on humans that one of her ancestors had used to kill gargoyles, used because of the Weird Sister's compulsion.
Dominique realized where her lover's thoughts had gone with alarm, she hadn't told Kendra about this for her to feel guilty about the actions of the Canmore hunters. She leaned forward and placed her hands on her lover's shoulders to get her attention. When the sapphire blue eyes rose and met hers she said, "Kendra you are not responsible for the hunters, you are nothing like them." She paused and grimaced, "and they weren't even completely responsible for their own actions courtesy of those three damned Fey."
"But if it weren't for the hunters you wouldn't hate humans so much," responded Kendra quietly.
The redhead sighed in frustration, she couldn't disagree with the statement, but the hunters hadn't made her cast that spell. She had spent centuries wrongly blaming the humans for everything, for what happened at Wyvern Castle, Macbeth for what happened to her clan at Moray, she wasn't going to do it anymore. "No, probably not," she agreed, "but the humans I killed that night weren't responsible for any gargoyle deaths either, they didn't deserve to die because of my hatred for the hunters."
Kendra could hear the regret in Dominique's voice, there wasn't a lot of empathy there for her victims, but there was regret. "What did the Ancient One say?" she asked, taking for granted that the stag spirit knew about it.
"That he was there following the Weird Sisters around, and that he could not tell what actions were my responsibility and which where theirs," Dominique answered feeling disappointed that Kendra was not giving her own opinion on her actions, but seeking out the stag spirit's.
Kendra frowned suspiciously, why had those Fey been there, how did they benefit from what had happened. Her thoughts halted when she caught a glance of the gargoyles face, Dominique looked as if she were about to cry. "Demona?" she asked, alarmed.
"You can't forgive me can you?" Dominique whispered desolately.
"What?" Kendra responded, dismayed that the redhead had interpreted her question that way. "I asked because I wanted to know if his opinion mirrored mine."
Dominique looked at her hopefully and Kendra was upset to see the fragileness in those green eyes, "I won't say that I can forget about what you did, the death of innocents is never something that should be forgotten. However, knowing about the enchantments on you and my ancestors, and understanding their and your history, I can forgive you for what you did if you promise never to do anything like that again," the words were stern, but the tone and look in Kendra's blue eyes were not, they were caring and understanding.
"I won't," Dominique promised, acutely relieved. It was an easy promise for to make, after all she had already promised as much to the Ancient One.
"I know," Kendra replied gently, "Come here," she invited the redhead with open arms.
Dominique immediately went into them, and resting her head against Kendra's shoulder enjoying the warmth of the strong arms holding her. She was feeling almost euphoric about Kendra having forgiven her. That night had been the one thing from her past that she felt the clan could try to use to persuade Kendra to leave her. There were still more things she needed to tell Kendra about, but that had been the one she had truly been frightened that the black-haired woman might not be able to forgive.
Kendra always enjoyed holding Dominique, but she was worried about the insecure way the redhead was still acting. "Demona I wish you wouldn't worry so much about this. I'm more interested in what you are doing now and what you will do in the future than in anything that you did in the past." She hugged the redhead in her arms, "You're already such a different person than the prickly, hostile woman I met that first day. I suspect you were already changing when I first met you, and it's only accelerated now that your free from the enchantments those three Fey put on you."
Dominique considered her lover's words, "Have I really changed that much already?" she asked uncertainly, not sure how she felt about the possibility.
"Yes you have," Kendra said gently stroking the long, fiery-red hair, "Is it really so surprising considering what you've found out about your past and what's happened in the past few days?"
Dominique lifted her head to look musingly at her lover as she considered the question, "Perhaps not. I'm no longer just a puppet for the Weird Sisters to pull the strings and make me act according to their whim. And now I know the hunters were just their puppets as well."
The two of them fell silent, Kendra stroking Dominique's red hair and the gargoyle allowing herself to relax and enjoy the attention. Eventually Kendra asked, "What did you mean by the clan would take the first opportunity to tell me about your past?"
The redhead grimaced, "I know that Elisa Maza or Goliath will seek you out once we return to New York and try and persuade you to have nothing to do with me. They will tell you about all the horrible things I've done, and that I'm manipulating you and only keeping you around because I have some use for you. They'll probably warn you that once I have no use for you I might kill you."
Kendra smirked, "Well you do have a use for me, so I guess I'll just have to make sure you don't get tired of me."
Dominique chuckled, "I doubt they will even consider that, as far as I know there's never been a gay gargoyle. It won't ever cross their minds that it's a possibility. I didn't even know that such a thing existed at all until I happened to see two human female's with each other one night."
"I guess any gays would be pretty well closeted back then if they dared act on their feelings at all," Kendra said, "but surely after three years in New York City they must have come across the concept by now."
"Probably," Dominique allowed, "but they still won't consider it, after all you're a human and I'm supposed to hate humans, and you're a Canmore as well."
Kendra shook her head, "Wouldn't they get the idea thought that you don't hate me after we both return to New York alive and well?"
The redhead sighed, "They'll probably just wonder what scheme I'm planning that I'm keeping you alive and around for."
Kendra looked down at the redhead in her lap in disbelief, "Why would they be so determined to think the absolute worst of you?"
Dominique sat up, "I guess I'd better tell you the rest," she said reluctantly.
Dominique sat up, "I guess I'd better tell you the rest," she said reluctantly.
Thirty-five minutes later, "Those three Fey bitches," Kendra swore, "that damned enchantment they cast on you so you would drive those you cared about away," she growled.
The redhead was surprised by the cussing as Kendra hadn't really sworn around her before, but she was warmed by the emotions provoking it. "Now you know why telling my daughter about what's happened won't help me any. It's too soon; she would just think I was trying to deceive her again. I'll just have to hope that eventually she will see that I've changed and come to me on her own."
Kendra nodded unhappily. A few seconds later, her eyes narrowed as a thought occurred to her, "You know that does bring up an interesting point about Thailog, why didn't you drive him away?" she asked.
Dominique stared at her, her mind a complete blank, "I I don't know, I should have shouldn't I," she realized.
"Maybe you did know on some level that he was lying, that he didn't actually love you," Kendra offered hesitantly.
Dominique sighed, "Perhaps, the fact that I didn't drive him away indicates that I never really loved him either, or the fact that he was a clone meant that I didn't really consider him to be a true gargoyle." She caught sight of the slight frown on Kendra's face; it didn't take much thought to divine a reason for it. "It's a good thing the Weird Sisters didn't think I could ever care about a human or I would have been canceling our sparring sessions after the second one."
The frown was replaced by a smile and Dominique knew she had been right, "Kendra," she waited until she had her lover's complete attention, "Never doubt that I care for you very much, I've told you more about myself and my past already than I've ever told anyone else including Goliath. I always suspected that he wouldn't love me if he knew the real me, and so I hid the things about myself that I wasn't so proud of away from him. I don't think he ever realized, but I knew our mating wasn't as close as it should be almost from the start." She grimaced briefly, "Knowing that the clan will certainly tell you if I don't, makes it more imperative that I tell you about my past, but I'm also telling you because I want you to know all of me." She looked into Kendra's blue eyes, "I never want to feel as if I need to hide parts of myself from you for you to accept me."
"I never want you to," Kendra replied immediately, "and it's not like I don't have my dark side as well. I know we're supposed to see everything as having innate worth, but when I deem something a threat, I will kill it without the slightest bit of remorse. It's one of the reason's I learned martial arts, so that I could avoid being placed into that situation, it helps me back off defining someone as a definite threat."
Dominique was surprised, despite her occasional talk about killing, Kendra just didn't seem like a cold-blooded killer to her. The woman cared too much to kill without remorse. Then her logic kicked in and she realized what Kendra was saying, the jaguar in her took over when it determined there was a threat and jaguars preferred to kill instantly. "I think I understand, it's the jaguar in you isn't it?"
Kendra nodded, "I killed four men that I could have subdued had I know what I know now. I don't know if they intended to just take my wallet or something worse, but I didn't take the time to find out. I was scared that I couldn't defend myself; I transformed and killed them all. Two of them ran once I killed the other two, I tracked them down and killed them anyway."
The redhead could see the regret in Kendra's blue eyes, "You're not remorseless, or you wouldn't regret killing them," she said softly.
"That's the human part, the other part of me doesn't regret it at all," Kendra said and Dominique suddenly understood part of the sorrow she was seeing in her lover's blue eyes was because Kendra didn't wholly regret killing them.
"Then I'll try and help make sure you're not put in that position again," she found herself promising, "Not unless there really is no other choice." Demona was surprised to find that she meant it. The idea of killing humans that were threatening Kendra or she certainly did not bother her, but since it troubled Kendra she was willing to make the attempt to subdue if it didn't endanger either of them.
Kendra looked surprised as well, "Thank you," she responded after only a brief moment of silence, "I know how skilled you are, so I appreciate that." The wind chose that moment to pick up causing Kendra to shiver. She looked up at the sky and could see that the sun was nearly overhead, "We need to make lunch and then why don't we move into the tent. I don't know about you, but these late nights have been taking it out of me. I could use a nap before tonight."
"That sounds good, I'm tired as well," Dominique immediately agreed. These long nights in the spirit realm were draining physically, mentally, and, considering some of the things she had learned, frequently emotionally as well. She certainly wasn't expecting tonight to be easy in any way. She wasn't sure what she and Macbeth would learn, but she was certain that whatever it was the Ancient One had to tell them wouldn't be pleasant.
After a quick lunch they moved the sleeping bags back into the tent, the wind had increased from the occasional gust to more of a steady breeze with the occasional stronger gust and they were both glad to get out of it. The sky was also clouding over and it was starting to look as if it might snow later.
Dominique could hear the wind outside the tent as it caused the rainfly over the tent to rustle, outside it was cold and windy, but in the tent it was quiet and still except for the sound of their breathing. The down-filled sleeping bag was thick around them and warm, and Kendra's body pressed sweetly against her back, thigh and leg, and one of Kendra's arms was wrapped around her waist. She heard her lover draw in a deep breath, "You feel good," Kendra whispered into her hair.
The redhead rested her arm on top of Kendra's and hugged it tighter to her, "So do you," she acknowledged with a happy smile, lying with her lover like this did feel very good. The woman behind her shifted and she felt the brief press of lips against her temple before Kendra settled again. She felt her lover's body relax and the sound of her breathing even out in sleep, but her thoughts kept her awake. So much had happened during the past three days. Certainly she had experienced more intense grief, after the massacre at Wyvern, and Canmore's betrayal of their agreement and the death of her clan at Moray came immediately to mind. She had never however, in her almost thousand years of life, experienced such an intense mixture of emotions in such a short period of time: anger, sorrow, regret, joy, happiness, and at the back of her mind there was the whisper that added love.
Before meeting Kendra and the Irish Elk spirit, learning about what the Weird Sisters had done to her would have probably sent her seeking Macbeth and death. Now however, though the scope of the tasks she had agreed to do were daunting, she had no desire to seek oblivion. Instead, she felt cautiously optimistic and hopeful when she thought about the future; and that in itself was such a radical change for her. The last time she had truly felt optimistic about the future had been when she was allied with Macbeth, and even then it hadn't been this strange giddy, nervous anticipation she felt now.
Yes, there were things that she was not looking forward to; she was not looking forward to the long months of the clan and her daughter's suspicion and distrust of her motives. She was not looking forward to them trying to turn Kendra against her, and she was almost certain they would make the attempt. Of course, she was also certain that they would fail. Kendra had forgiven her for killing humans that one night, she had understood and forgiven her for her part in her clan's massacre by the Vikings, she knew about Paris and Macbeth, Thailog and the clones, and the Assassin, everything else she had done was relatively minor compared to those things.
None of those difficulties, however, decreased in the least bit the anticipation she felt when the thought about returning to New York and getting started on her tasks. Nor did it diminish the pleasure and happiness she felt when she thought about doing things with Kendra. She wanted to do the things she had heard her employees talking about on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings that used to send her to her office seething with hatred. She could now admit to herself that behind that hatred had been large amounts of jealously, resentment and envy. Jealously and resentment that they were able to do those things without fearing for their lives, and envy that they had someone they wanted to do them with when she did not. Now that the stag spirit had given her control over her changes she could do all the things she had wished she could do, she caressed Kendra's arm around her waist, feeling a sweet upwelling of happiness and joy, and now she had someone to do them with as well.
Dominique remembered Kendra's words, that the best way to defeat the Archmage's revenge was for her to be happy and not alone, well why not. She wanted to go out to eat together and then go to the theater or to a play or perhaps, after she learned how, even out dancing. She wanted them to go to the concerts in Central Park in the summer. She wanted to watch Kendra ice skate she never noticed when she finally fell asleep with a small smile on her lips and her arm firmly over Kendra's.
Her internal clock telling her it was sunset woke Dominique. Kendra was still asleep and barely even stirred when the redhead slipped out of the sleeping bag; she looked down at the black-haired woman fondly and decided not to wake her. There was time yet before they needed to go to the spirit realm, and she needed to fix enough food for them to have dinner and a substantial meal after they were done. She slipped out of her fleece clothing and quickly into her halter-top and loincloth, and then quietly unzipped the tent and crawled out into the small vestibule formed by the outer tent rainfly. Shivering in the cold air, she resealed the tent behind her and quickly unzipped the outer exit.
She paused briefly in surprise to stare at the fresh layer of snow that blanketed the ground, she grimaced at the thought of having to stand in it barefoot, but there was really no other choice, the tent wasn't quite large enough for her to transform inside of it. Hissing at the cold of the snow, she tiptoed out far enough from the tent to transform. Once the transformation was complete Demona caped her wings around herself to further protect herself from the weather, it was still snowing and the occasional gust blew more from the pine needles above. She glanced at the fire, not surprisingly, it was completely out and she decided against getting another started. They would not be sitting out in the open with it snowing while in the spirit realm tonight, they would have to remain in the tent. She carefully pulled off the grey nylon tarp that covered the stove and food and began preparing dinner; it would have to be stew again, that was the easiest thing to reheat later.
She cut up the meat, browned it and pulled out a bag of frozen stew vegetables. A quick assessment of the remaining food in the cooler showed they had enough vegetables and soup stock to make four more large pots of stew; Rachael must have anticipated that it would be their primary meal. She emptied the dried soup stock into the pot along with water, meat and frozen vegetables, brought it to a boil and then reduced the flame underneath it until the soup was simmering. She covered it, now it would be thirty more minutes before dinner was ready. She pulled out some bread and wrapped it in aluminum foil and set it on the propane stove to warm for them to have along with the stew.
What to do for the next half hour? Well she had intended to explore the Ancient One's lesson's further, but between Rachael's news and discussion and then her need to tell Kendra a few things about her past she hadn't had the time. Recalling the lesson, she attuned her vision to see life energy, in an instant the world turned from greens and browns and white patches of snow into brilliant streams of golden light. Demona gasped, turning around and gaping in amazement at what she saw all around her. Life energy, all the trees around the clearing were lit up with it, reaching up toward the darkening sky and down toward the life giving earth.
Movement in the forest caught the gargoyles eye and she stared at the small brilliantly glowing form in confusion before realizing what she was seeing. It was a hare feeding off the bark of one of the pine trees; she let her vision go back to normal and looked again for the hare. Even with her excellent night vision, she could barely detect the animal as it had a white coat that allowed it to blend almost perfectly into the snow surrounding it, the only thing that betrayed it were the small black spots on the tips of its twitching ears. She altered her vision once again and watched the feeding hare for a few minutes before turning her attention back to the forest around her.
Kendra woke immediately noticing the complete darkness of the tent and the fact that she was alone. There wasn't even the glow of the fire to be seen and when she listened she could hear nothing, but a very slight noise that might be a propane stove. Fighting down her unease, she rolled out of the bag and dressed in fleece and the windproof jacket and pants.
Crawling out of the tent, she first noticed the fresh snow on the ground, but it only held her attention for a moment, she was more interested in locating Demona. It wasn't hard to spot her; the only question in Kendra's mind was what in the world was the gargoyle doing? She glanced around the camp. It had been the propane stove that she had heard from the tent, there was a large pot on the lit stove and she could guess that it had stew in it. She looked back at the motionless gargoyle crouched by the base of one of the pine trees that bordered the clearing and frowned in puzzlement. As far as she could tell Demona was intently studying the trunk of the pine tree, the tip of gargoyle's tail flicked up and back down and then was still for a few seconds before repeating the motion again.
Kendra studied the gargoyle for a few more seconds, completely bemused by her behavior before walking quietly over to crouch beside her. She stared at the tree trunk, it was a pine tree trunk rather like all the others around, the bark was reddish-brown, deeply ridged and scaly. Sections of the bark looked like they had flaked off revealing newer reddish bark underneath, and snow clung to it on the side facing the wind. Kendra could see nothing about this particular tree that warranted such intent study. "Demona, what are you doing?" she finally asked, completely baffled by her lover's behavior.
Demona looked up abruptly as if startled by her speaking; the gargoyle stared up at her silently an expression on her face that Kendra found difficult to decipher. Awe, wonder, she decided though she could not figure out why the gargoyle would look at her that way. "Demona?" she asked again, her tone slightly worried.
"Watching life energy," the gargoyle finally answered in a soft tone, she rose and turned to face Kendra reached up and cupped her lover's face. There it was much stronger now that the distance was less, "Our life energies reach out toward one another, when I touch you they even mesh slightly."
Kendra had a sudden sympathy for Demona over the night when she first told about the gargoyle about the fey enchantments on her. It was disconcerting to have someone look inside you and see something that you couldn't see. "What does it look like?" she asked softly, matching Demona's tone.
"Like golden streams of sunlight with motes of deeper gold and forest green," Demona said, she caressed the side of Kendra's face careful of her talons. "When I touch you fainter wisps of energy branch out toward me, and mine toward you," she stepped closer, looking intently at where her hand rested upon her lover's skin. "Fascinating, some of the motes are actually moving back and forth between us," she said, a soft smile lighting her face.
Kendra watched her lover's face, feeling a slight pang of envy over Demona's ability to see what was obviously an amazing sight given the gargoyles awed expression.
"I wish you could see," Demona said, and now Kendra had the impression that the gargoyle was looking at her rather than within her.
Kendra smiled wistfully, "So do I it sounds beautiful."
"It is," Demona assured her.
Kendra thought about the things she had learned from the priestess and the Jaguar spirit, and then about Rachael's estimate that it would take two months of hard studying for Demona to learn just the basics. She grinned, "My talents lie in another direction. I'll leave the life and nature magic and the associated studying to you."
The hand that had been touching Kendra's face dropped back to the gargoyle's side as Demona chuckled softly and gave the black-haired woman a wry look, "You would have to remind me of that part, all I can do with it right now is see it."
"You'll learn," Kendra said confidently, "From what Rachael hinted, I'm sure in a year or so you will be doing things that amaze me."
Demona nodded, "Hopefully," she said in a thoughtful tone. She turned and looked toward the propane stove, "The stew should be done by now, we should eat and go." She looked up at the sky, "It's stopped snowing, but I thought we would remain in the tent tonight?"
"Probably a good idea, it seems like it's colder than last night," Kendra agreed with a glance at the thin slivers of cloudy sky she could she through the pine canopy. She walked over to the stove and carefully lifted the lid of the pot letting the steam escape out the far side, "smells ready to me," she commented.
The two of them returned to the tent to eat their dinner. Afterward Demona went briefly back out to scrub the dishes with fresh snow, store the remaining stew for later, and secure the tarp back around the stove and food. When she returned to the tent, they curled up together inside the sleeping bag once again. This time Demona held Kendra, one wing tucked beneath her and the other wrapped over them. The gargoyle's green eyes half closed in pleasure as she felt Kendra stroke the inside of her wing gently with her fingers. If they weren't expected in the spirit realm tonight, she might entice Kendra to explore some of the differences between their bodies more; she was looking forward to having her lover's gentle fingers caress her wing joints and other sensitive areas like the upper part of her tail. However, they did not have time for it tonight, and the thought of what the stag was going to show Macbeth and she put an immediate damper on her ardor. "As good as that feels, I need to go meet the Ancient One," she reminded Kendra softly.
The fingers stroking the inside of her wing stilled and in the dark she saw Kendra turn her head and look back at her, "Something I should remember?" she heard the interest and amusement in the woman's voice.
"Mmm," Demona smiled, "you haven't really explored my true form yet." The smile faded as she recalled yet again what was on the agenda for this night.
Kendra's said softly, "I'll keep that in mind for later. Let's get going, I can see you're worrying about tonight."
The gargoyle didn't bother denying it; she closed her eyes and began breathing in deep even breaths. She did not need Kendra's assistance tonight; traveling to the spirit realm this third time was as easy as calling up a detailed mental image of her home or office. She looked around as soon as they emerged into the shadowy realm and was grateful to see the Ancient One waiting for her along with the Owl and Jaguar spirits, but without Macbeth. Rachael was not present either, and Demona guessed it was too soon for the Owl's chosen to have news for them.
"Good evening Wise One, Jaguar," she greeted the other two spirits respectfully before turning to her own patron, "Ancient One, I wish to speak with you about Macbeth and how much he will remember of this," she indicated the shadowy realm around them, "And you and I."
Demona heard Kendra's greetings to the waiting spirits behind her as the great stag regarded her intently for a moment, "You do not wish him to remember that you are my chosen," he said perceptively. "Show me your reasons for this request." The wise brown eyes caught her own as they did when the spirit was teaching her, but instead of information passing from the spirit to her there was a sense of waiting. It took her a few seconds to realize what the Ancient One was waiting for, hesitantly she thought back to the conversation with Rachael earlier in the day. It was an odd sensation to feel the information almost pulled from her, but she had to admire the efficiency of it, it took a very short time for the entire conversation to be reviewed in this manner.
"The Wise One's chosen is not aware of the fact that Oberon has commanded that the Fey remain on Avalon. The Weird Sisters are not an immediate danger to you, but he is fickle and they are skilled at evading his rules without actually breaking them," the Ancient One said once the gargoyle was done. "As for your other concerns, I have not studied humanity enough to judge whether or not your fears have merit, however, I am aware that many of the chosen have recently decided to keep their identities hidden because of similar concerns. Therefore I will defer to your judgment in this; I will ensure that Macbeth does not remember anything that will allow him to realize you are my chosen."
"Thank you," Demona replied, "The human's have a saying, it is better to be safe than sorry. It would seem to apply to this situation."
The Irish Elk spirit's ears twitched and Demona wondered yet again if that indicated amusement or some other emotion. "I will return soon with Macbeth," was all the stag said before he turned to leave.
She watched as his majestic form disappeared into the mists and then turned toward Kendra and the other two spirits. The were-jaguar form that Kendra had pulled into herself the previous night was once again standing motionless next to her lover and the two spirits. She moved closer, she hadn't had an opportunity yesterday night to get a good look at the were-jaguar form Kendra was working on.
"Now duplicate this form and let us begin working on the winged version," the Owl spirit said as Demona stepped up next Kendra. The gargoyle whipped her head around to look at the woman beside her in astonishment.
A smile played around her lover's lips, Kendra turned her head enough to look at Demona out of the corner of her eye, "Surprise."
Demona stared at her for a moment longer, feeling her lover's mischievous humor, then turned back to the were-jaguar form and stared at it, trying to imagine it with wings. It wasn't hard, after all the mutates all had them, Kendra would probably end up looking somewhat like the mutate called Talon the gargoyle decided. The Eagle Owl spirit standing on the other side of the figure twitched its black and white barred wings at that moment and the gargoyle realized that Kendra might chose to go with avian like wings rather than gargoyle like wings. "What type of wings are you using?"
"I don't know yet, I haven't chosen between feathered wings or gargoyle like wings," Kendra admitted. "Do you have a preference?"
The slight husky note in Kendra's voice had Demona turning to look into her lover's blue eyes. The warmth in them, and the feelings she was sensing from Kendra, made it quite clear why her lover was asking. Demona's mind went blank as she stared at the motionless were-jaguar figure. Did she have a wing type preference? Satiny smooth feathers, bare warm skin or perhaps even a silky soft covering of fur wrapping around her body and pulling her close to her lover.
"Have I broken you?" Kendra's amused voice brought Demona out of her disjointed thoughts.
The blue gargoyle looked over at her lover, noting the broad smile and mirth filled, yet warmly affectionate, sapphire eyes that matched the emotions she was sensing from the woman. "Of course not," she replied loftily, settling her wings into a cloak like form with her wing claws on her shoulders. "I was just trying to think of what you would look like with avian type wings instead of gargoyle wings," she claimed trying to keep the smile off her own face.
"Mmm," Kendra smirked, "if you say so." She eyed Demona's wings, "Of course, that's a reason to go with gargoyle style wings, I don't think I could arrange avian wings in the different ways I've seen you do with yours."
"That is correct you could not, avian wings are different from gargoyle wings," the Owl spirit commented, "for that matter so are bat wings."
Demona thought about it for a moment, she glanced over at the Eagle Owl's wings for confirmation, "I'd have to agree, the main thing that's different about gargoyle wings versus avian or bat wings is that the humerus is of an equal length to the radius and ulna of the forearm of the wing instead of being shorter. That's what allows us to arrange our wings to look like a cloak with the wing claws holding onto the shoulders or around our shoulders like a cape with the wing claws clasped together in front." she said. "If you make that one change it shouldn't really matter what your wings are covered with, I've met gargoyles with feathered wings and ones with furred wings, though the membrane type wings like mine are much more common."
Kendra turned to stare frowningly at the were-jaguar form, she lifted her hands and placed the fingers on the figures forehead and then drew her hands apart. The form wavered for a second and then duplicated itself and separated, one following Kendra's left hand, the other following her right. Once they were about a foot apart, Kendra removed her hands and then she reached out and drew the left most figure into herself.
The gargoyle didn't comment, though she found it interesting that Kendra was keeping a non-winged version of the were-jaguar form. It also caused her to wonder just how many different forms the black-haired woman could make.
"Could you hold out your wings for me?" Kendra asked Demona. The blue gargoyle obediently extended her wings, knowing that Kendra wanted to get a good look at their structure so she could duplicate it on her were-jaguar form. Kendra moved around to stand in front of Demona, taking in the structure of the gargoyle's wings and the proportion of wing to body mass. She then moved around the gargoyle, reaching out to touch the outermost wing bone as she did so and letting her fingers trail along its edge as she began examining the wing structure closely. She examined the three small wing claws closely and grinned as they briefly gripped her fingers before releasing them. She then moved her attention to the wing's forearm, letting her fingers feel the radius and ulna beneath the skin and flesh. "You realize that you actually have four arms right?" she asked the gargoyle. Demona turned her head and glanced back at the black-haired woman inquiringly. "In birds and bats the front limbs evolved into wings, but you have both arms and wings," Kendra said.
"I hadn't actually thought about it," Demona admitted looking at Kendra's hand on her wing forearm, "but I guess we do don't we."
Kendra nodded, and continued her visual and physical examination of the wing underneath her fingertips, moving onto the humerus.
If they had been alone, Demona would be very tempted to let Kendra continue touching her wings and discover for herself what parts of them were sensitive. However, they were not alone and so she needed to stop Kendra before her hands drew any closer to her wing joint and everyone present got an education in the erogenous zones of gargoyles, "Kendra, remember when I said that I would like for you to explore my wings?"
The hands on her wing hesitated, "Yes ?" Kendra strung out the word in a puzzled tone.
"Now isn't really an appropriate time and your getting rather close to where my wings would be very sensitive to your touch," Demona quietly informed her. Movement from the two spirits with them drew the gargoyle's attention, but when she looked their way both the Owl and Jaguar were staring intently at the were-jaguar figure.
"Oh," Kendra said abruptly and pulled her hands away from Demona's wing feeling both embarrassed and interested as she looked at the joints, which connected the wing to the gargoyle's back. That area was the only place she hadn't touched so she had a fairly good idea where the sensitive area Demona was referring to was located. Kendra cleared her throat and forced her thoughts away from where they had been headed, "Could you move your wings around then so I can see how the joint moves?"
Smirking, the flame-haired gargoyle began moving her wings back and forth as Kendra watched intently. After a full minute of moving her wings slowly back and forth, Demona crossed her arms across her chest and asked, "How much longer do I need to do this?" She stared in amusement at Kendra who had knelt and was now directly underneath the gargoyles wings so she could see how they moved from both the front and back.
Kendra's blue eyes met her amused green one's, and the black-haired woman blushed, "Oh sorry, umm, just one more thing," she said standing back up and stepping around the gargoyle to stand at her back. "If you could bring your wings as far back as possible and hold them please." Kendra stared intently at how the muscles moved as the gargoyle did as she asked and then stepped to the side to see how the muscles in the shoulders looked. "And as far forward," she said stepping around to the back again as Demona swept her wings forward. "Ok I think I've got it," she said absently as she moved over to the were-jaguar form.
A soft clicking sound drew Demona's attention to the Eagle Owl spirit; she was snapping her beak together rapidly. The Jaguar spirit sitting next to her was regarding his chosen with what the gargoyle was ready to swear was amusement in his green eyes. Her attention was pulled from the two spirits to Kendra as the woman touched the back of the figure in front of her and then drew her hands apart, in between them black gargoyle wings formed. Kendra had gone with the same type of wing claws as she had, Demona noticed seeing the three digits.
"A bit wider I think," Demona suggested.
"A hands length more to get the proper amount of wing area for your mass," the Owl spirit suggested at the same time.
Kendra glanced at both of them before turning back to her creation and doing as they suggested.
Demona moved until she was standing directly in front of the now winged were-jaguar form. The wingspan wasn't quite as large as Goliath's, but then the were-jaguar form wasn't as bulky or quite as tall as her ex-mate either. "That looks right," the gargoyle gave her opinion.
"Alright, let's see if I've got the muscle attachments right then," the were-jaguar wing's relaxed from fully extended to a more natural arrangement with the wing arm forming half arcs on either side of the figure's head.
"Demona," the Ancient One's voice summoned the gargoyle from the mists.
The flame-haired gargoyle stared in the direction the voice came from, but could see nothing. She frowned puzzled until realizing that the great stag had probably brought Macbeth with him and didn't want her old ally to see Kendra and the other two spirits. She turned toward her lover, "I need to go."
Kendra nodded, looking off in the direction from which the voice came from, "I should probably stay away for this one, to keep myself out of Macbeth's memories. Give the Ancient One less work to do."
Demona's eyes showed her thanks for Kendra's understanding why she wasn't asking the black-haired woman to come along with them tonight. She stepped around the were-jaguar figure in between her and Kendra and pulled her lover into her arms, "Thank you," Demona said softly as Kendra's arms wrapped around her waist. She pressed her lips against the black-haired woman's in a soft sweet kiss before pulling reluctantly away, "I'll let you know what I find out," she assured her as she turned away and began heading toward where the stag's voice had come from.
A wave of supportive strength and warm caring emotions wrapped around Demona, she paused, turned around, and looked back at the source of the feelings directed at her. Kendra's sapphire blue eyes met hers, a sweet ache filled Demona's chest as she saw the emotions she was feeling mirrored in her lover's eyes. The gargoyle allowed herself a moment to take in the support Kendra was offering her before turning resolutely back to the mists and to where the Ancient One was waiting for her. Demona knew she wasn't going to like what she was going to learn tonight, but it was easier now to face it, even though Kendra wasn't physically with her, she wasn't alone.
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