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.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

After A Millennium A Renewal:
Puppet Strings

By Kudara


Chapter 17

Kendra and the two spirits had barely disappeared behind Demona when the form of the Irish Elk spirit and Macbeth appeared out of the mists before her.

"Demona," Macbeth scowled as he said it, but there seemed to be less venom in his words tonight than last night. He also seemed to be tense and his eyes glanced frequently towards the drifting mists around them suspiciously.

"Macbeth," Demona greeted him evenly, ignoring his manner, at least he wasn't glaring at her as he had last night. "Ancient One," she greeted the great stag, as if this were the first time she had seen the spirit this night instead of the second.

The Irish Elk spirit dipped his head toward her in acknowledgement before saying, "Let us begin with the arrival of the humans and gargoyle eggs from Wyvern seeking refuge in Avalon." The stag lifted his antlered head and snorted, the shadowy land and mists around them wavered and reformed into a large barge with three fey women standing upon it. Demona instantly recognized them and the barge. This was where the Weird Sisters had taken Macbeth and her to hand over the Eye of Odin, the Phoenix Gate and the Grimorum Arcanorum to the Archmage.

"Where are we…?" Macbeth demanded, only to fall silent as he caught sight of the Weird Sisters.

"Stand aside and let us pass," the voice of the Magus drew the gargoyle's attention. By the way everything was outlined in red, Demona knew her eyes were flaring with her anger. This was the foolish human who had used the Grimorum to put a spell on her and had set into motion the events that led up to the Vikings sacking the castle and killing her clan.

"You know better than that Magus," the Weird Sisters replied their arms stretched out, denying the two boats and their occupants' entrance. "Oberon has named us guardians of his island. No magic's may enter here save Avalon's own."

"You cannot make us go back or the princess could die, the eggs could die," a young defiant voice drew the gargoyles attention to the third boat. She instantly recognized the two humans in it. It had been many centuries since that night when the young boy had wanted to play with the trio and his mother had thrown a stick at Brooklyn, but she still recognized the woman and boy. The burlap-covered mounds in each of the boats had to be the clan's eggs Demona realized.

"You screech like barn owls," the Weird Sisters said, "Meaningless chatter of meaningless lives." They raised their arms whipping up the waves and causing the ropes that held the boats together to snap, threatening to dump the humans and the eggs into the lake.

"Magus do something," Princess Katherine cried in fear.

"So owls you will be," the Weird Sisters said as they increased in size, towering above the barge and glowing with greenish fey energy.

The Magus was flipping desperately thru the Grimorum, "Per iussum meum fierateres ut optare," he said just in time, holding up the Grimorum like a shield as the Sisters directed the fey energy they had build up towards him.

When the Weird Sisters turned into barn owls and flew off screeching, Demona found herself reluctantly impressed with the Magus's quick thinking. There was no way he could have stopped the three Fey had he tried to do so by pitting his magical strength against theirs, so reflecting their power back on them was a very smart choice on his part. The gargoyle smirked in amusement as she watched the human mage send the three owls who had attempted to attack him tumbling in the air with three well-placed staff blows. Black, yellow, and white feathers were flying everywhere, it wasn't quite as bloody as she would like, but watching the Weird Sisters' humiliation was certainly satisfying even if it was the Magus handing it to them.

"Magus you did it," exclaimed Princess Katherine as she stepped into the young mage's boat from the one she shared with a blonde woman Demona did not recognize.

The Magus was still staring toward the large barge where the three Weird Sisters turned owls had flown. "I cannot go with you to Avalon. I cannot bring the Grimorum." He picked up the book from the bottom of the boat where he had dropped it when the owls attacked him. "This book is as good as a map to Avalon. If Constantine or his sorcerers get a hold of it…"

"Then leave it," said the unknown blonde woman.

The three of them, the stag spirit, Macbeth and she watched as the small group decided to split, the blonde woman and the woman who had thrown the stick at Brooklyn taking the Grimorum with them so the other three humans and the gargoyle eggs could seek safety on Avalon. As much as the peasant woman had angered her by attacking the three young gargoyles and calling them monsters, Demona felt a pang of sympathy for the human as the stout woman stared back through the mists for a last look at the young son she was leaving behind. She knew only too well the pain of being separated from one's child.

The sudden appearance of the two Archmages brought the gargoyles attention back to the barge where they were standing. One Archmage looked as she remembered him from when she was his apprentice; the other Archmage possessed the Eye of Odin and the Phoenix Gate. The Archmage with the Eye and Gate transformed the three owls back to their original forms.

"Oberon will not be pleased," said the blonde sister. "He entrusted us to guard the gates of Avalon," said the black haired sister. "And now we are banished from that fair isle by a magician's parlor tricks," finished the white haired sister.

"Might I suggest an alliance," proposed the Archmage possessing the Gate and the Eye.

Selene arrogantly answered, "We make no pacts with sorcerers."

The Archmage asked slyly, "Not even if I can promise you revenge against these mortals?"

The Weird Sisters looked thoughtful, "We are listening."

"This will take some time," the Archmage responded coolly.

"What is time to an immortal," the white haired Luna replied with equal chill.

"Then I will see you again in twenty five years," the Archmage said with a smug smile, "and soon we will all have our vengeance." He held the Phoenix Gate on his chest and disappeared in the fiery orb of its effect. The Weird Sisters disappeared soon afterward as well.

The scene around them stilled, "This is the first event of a chain of events that will eventually end in your agreement to let the Weird Sisters create a magical bond between you," the great stag said, "the formation of the alliance between the Archmage and the Weird Sisters. The Archmage seeks revenge against Demona, Goliath, their gargoyle clan and the Magus for opposing his plans to kill Prince Malcolm and take Castle Wyvern. The Weird Sisters seek revenge for their humiliation and banishment from Avalon against the Magus, Princess Katherine, the young human called Tom, and the gargoyles."

Macbeth was looking back and forth between the Irish Elk and Demona, "I don't understand, how did I get pulled into this?" he asked confused.

The great antlered head turned in the former king's direction, "I observed the events you have just witnessed during one of my many visits to Avalon. As the time approached that the human sorcerer spoke of, I returned and followed the Weird Sisters closely, waiting to see what occurred."

The scene around them shifted again, now they were standing in a field with mounds of hay, from the chill in the air and the bare trees it was winter. The sounds of battle reached her sensitive ears and Demona turned to look in the direction the noise came from, she saw herself and other gargoyles of her clan fighting against human soldiers. The small battle was taking place next to one of the stone fortifications that the humans used to store food; they were watching one of the many raids she had led to secure food for her clan.

"That female gargoyle once served as my apprentice. She betrayed me!" the Archmage's voice drew Demona's attention away from the fight to where the two Archmages stood observing it.

"She's not an ally, she's cannon fodder," the Archmage with the Eye and Gate commented coldly. "Trust me we're not doing her any favors." The two figures of the sorcerers reddened as Demona's eyes burned in anger and she almost missed the appearance of the three Fey. The Weird Sisters and both Archmages watched as her younger self finally broke down the door of the food silo and she and another gargoyle carried away as much food as they could carry.

The scene shifted again as they followed the Weird Sisters. Now they were standing on the battlements of Moray Castle watching a young Macbeth learning from his father how to swordfight. The teenaged Macbeth ended up on his back in a muddy puddle as his father chuckled.

"Don't tell me this young pup is another recruit," said the grey robed Archmage.

"Macbeth will become a great warrior…," said the Archmage with the Eye and Gate, "if he survives to manhood."

The two Archmages turned toward the Weird Sisters who stood behind them. The Archmage with the Gate and Eye formed likenesses of Macbeth and Demona in his hands and showed them to the three Fey. "Protect these two. Guide their courses."

The three Fey were silent as they examined the sorcerer intently, finally the white-haired sister spoke, "Oberon's law magically forbids us from directly interfering in human events."

The Archmage smiled grimly, "The law that cannot be broken can surely be bent."

The Weird Sisters glanced among each other silently, finally the blonde one smiled, "This is true," she observed slyly.

The two Archmages walked a short distance before the one with the Gate and Eye turned around and spoke once again to the three Fey, "Watch for the Grimorum, the Eye of Odin and the Phoenix Gate."

"But you already have the Eye and the Gate," observed Selene in a confused tone.

The Archmage laughed heartily, "But I didn't have them until you three brought them to me. We will meet again at the watery door to Avalon in 975 years." Moments later the two Archmages disappeared as the more powerful of the two used the Phoenix Gate, the Weird Sisters followed moments later turning into cloudy shapes that dissipated in the wind.

The scene around them shifted and they were once again at the barge, the Archmages and Weird Sisters were there. The Archmage with the Eye and Gate was laughing, "I forgot something, special instructions for our two warriors." He stopped laughing and continued in a cold tone, "Ensure they both remain powerful warriors until we require them. Make sure they do not become contented with the immortality you will grant them so they live until it is the proper time for our revenge. They should not be concerned with descendants or lovers that might make them soft and compassionate. They should have no ties to anyone but each other, and that the ties that bind them together should be ones of enmity. Bitterness and hatred make warriors that are hard and merciless, and that is the type of warrior we want them to be when it is time for them to serve us." As soon as he finished he gripped the Gate once again and was gone. The three Fey stared at where he had been for a while longer and then seemed to confer silently with one another. A few minutes later they too disappeared.

"Wait," Macbeth said before they could follow the three Fey. Demona noticed that his tone was pleading instead of commanding. "I don't understand. I won't say I was a bad warrior because I wasn't, but I doubt I was the best warrior that this Archmage could have chosen."

The Irish Elk dipped his antlered head, "You are correct, you were chosen because you were chosen."

"What?!" exclaimed Macbeth.

Demona was confused as well, but she had experience with the Gate and knew that it interacted strangely with time.

"It is a side effect of how the Phoenix Gate artifact interacts with time," lectured the spirit, "You were chosen by the Archmage possessing the Gate because before he possessed the Eye of Odin, the Phoenix Gate and the Grimorum Arcanorum, he watched as the Archmage that did possess them chose you. The Gate has caused a circular causality loop in the time stream in which you are chosen by the Archmage because he saw you being chosen before by himself."

That hurt Demona's head, it made sense in a strange kind of way, but it hurt her head to think of it. Of course, it looked as if it hurt Macbeth's head even more, she thought as she looked at the deep frown upon his face.

Without any notice, the scene around them changed from the sunlit barge to darkness and cold. They stood on rocky ground next to a cliff; there was the opening of a cave only a few feet away from them.

"Do you think the humans want peace? Peace, we are all that are left of our kind in this world, and the hunter begrudges each of us our lives." Demona heard her voice say from the interior of the cave, "I will not let him win." It was enough to spark the gargoyle's memory; she knew when and where they were.

The Weird Sisters appeared at the cavern entrance, their forms wavered and changed into three very old gargoyles stand there, one with black hair, one with blonde and one with white, "We bring word of the hunter," the yellow haired one announced.

The Demona of this time greeted them from inside the cavern, "I do not know who you are, but you are welcome among us. Give me your news."

The black haired gargoyle spoke next, "He stalks a new human target at Castle Moray."

Then the white haired gargoyle, "If you and Clan Moray ally against your common enemy you can defeat the Hunter."

Demona whispered the words she had said next along with herself, "I need no human allies, let the hunter strike at his target. For as he does he becomes the prey, my prey." She was not surprised when the scene around them wavered once again and now they were once again at Castle Moray up on the battlements.

The despairing cry of "Father!" came from the courtyard below them. Demona didn't bother to follow Macbeth over to the edge of the battlements to look below; she looked instead into the sky seeking her younger self. She remembered this, she had dallied at the cave pondering the old gargoyle's words after they had disappeared, and had arrived at the castle just in time to see the young Macbeth cry out and kneel at the edge of the parapet reaching helplessly after his father who the Hunter had just thrown to his death.

"No please," Demona heard Gruoch cry out as she finally caught sight of herself diving from the sky. She stepped to the edge of the battlements to watch herself stop the Hunter from striking down the young Macbeth from behind. Shocked at how old and thin she looked, she silently watched the battle between the Demona of this time and the Hunter.

She grimaced when she saw the Hunter throw the young Macbeth at the Demona standing on the parapet below, that Demona used her tail to keep Macbeth from tumbling into her and sent the young man almost flying over the battlements. As it was, he was desperately holding onto the stones, hanging over the same drop that had killed his father just minutes before. Gruoch ran to him and grabbed onto his arms, trying to help, but was obviously not strong enough to pull the boy up.

Demona knew the Weird Sisters were somewhere about; otherwise, the Irish Elk spirit would not have been here to see these events. She altered her sight looking for fey magic upon the other Demona and was surprised to see that there was none. She saw herself hesitate, torn between killing the Hunter and saving the two young humans who were slipping over the edge of the battlements, saw herself chose to save them as the Hunter took the opportunity to escape. This had been her free choice, Demona realized, she hadn't been certain any longer what had been her choices and what had been influenced by the Weird Sisters, but choosing to save the two young humans instead of taking her vengeance upon the Hunter had been her untainted choice. The realization left her strangely satisfied.

The Demona of this time snarled in frustration once she realized the Hunter had escaped and left, flying back toward the cavern where she had left the others. Demona watched her leave from the battlements above, she had forgotten how hard life had been for them before joining with Macbeth. How many times had her clan woke with gnawing bellies and turned to stone in the morning even hungrier. Seeing how old, thin and weak she had been reminded her only too starkly of the reality of this time.

The scene around them changed once again and now they were standing in a richly appointed room, a young dark haired man paced anxiously in front of three large windows. "Duncan," growled Macbeth identifying the man instantly.

Demona examined the dark haired young man more closely; she had never seen Duncan during this time, only as a mature human several years in the future. There was a knock at the door, Duncan turned instantly toward it as it opened. The Hunter entered. She growled upon seeing him, at the same time Macbeth straightened abruptly and exclaimed, "This is what the old crone referred to when she said that Gillecomigan was quick to do Duncan's bidding."

Demona looked at Macbeth who was glaring with gritted teeth at Duncan; it took her a second to make the same connection her old ally had made. She had almost forgotten the black haired old gargoyle saying something about the death of Macbeth's father and the strange globe she had given Macbeth. Of course, now she knew that the old gargoyle had actually been the Weird Sister called Selene.

"Prince Duncan," the hunter greeted cordially.

"At last," Duncan said, "What news of Clan Moray, Gillecomigan?"

"Findlaech, high steward of Moray," the hunter said while drawing out a golden medallion from his doublet, "is dead. As you commanded." The hunter bowed as he handed over the medallion to Duncan.

"And Macbeth?" asked Duncan looking with satisfaction at the medallion in his hands.

"He lives," the hunter said while drawing off his hood revealing the scarred face of Gillecomigan.

Demona stared at him intently, she knew the hunter blamed her for the scratches upon his face, but honestly, she didn't remember giving them to him. She knew the original wounds couldn't have been that bad or the human would only have one eye, so obviously she hadn't meant to hurt him that badly. The scarring from the original scratches was very noticeable, however, and she guessed that the wounds had become infected, leaving more scarring than they should have upon the human's face.

"Oh, no matter," said Duncan, he stepped over to Gillecomigan and laid a companionable hand upon his shoulder, "Finlaech was loved, with his support his son could have been king, but without his father Macbeth is just another poor relation." Duncan turned toward the double doors at the opposite side of the room and clapped his hands loudly, "Bring food and drink, this is cause for celebration." The doors opened wide revealing three feminine forms that looked suspiciously familiar with their yellow, black and white hair.

"The Weird Sisters," growled Demona recognizing them even though they currently appeared to be human females. Suspicious, she examined Duncan and Gillecomigan once again, this time for traces of fey magic. The tell tale green strands were there, more on Gillecomigan than Duncan. "Did they arrange all this?" Demona asked the Ancient One.

"They did not cause Duncan to make the decision to kill Findlaech, nor did they manipulate Gillecomigan into killing him," the Irish Elk commented, staring at the two men in question. "The Fey did manipulate Gillecomigan to hesitate in killing young Macbeth to give you time to arrive and into leaving when he did instead of staying and attempting to kill you and Macbeth. They also manipulated Duncan into not ordering the hunter to go back and kill young Macbeth."

"They ensured that he remained alive," Demona said, glancing over out of the corner of her eye at Macbeth.

Her old ally looked as if he were about to reply, but Duncan saying, "You have done well my Hunter, your reward is the stewardship of Moray," drew Macbeth's attention instead. He glared at Duncan with clenched fists looking as if he would like to do nothing more than leap upon the man and pummel him.

The scene around them froze with Gillecomigan smiling in satisfaction and Duncan looking pompously pleased as the three Fey set the table for the two men's celebratory feast. When it changed again, Demona recognized the main hall of Castle Moray. It was filled with humans; she looked around for some clue as to what was happening.

A strangled cry from Macbeth drew her attention; he was staring fixedly at one end of the hall. She followed his gaze to see Gillecomigan standing with Gruoch; a priest was standing behind them in full robes. Gruoch's father was there as well as Prince Duncan and three human women in pink gowns that suspiciously had blonde, black and white hair. With a pang of sympathy for him, she realized what they were witnessing, the marriage of the hunter and Macbeth's Gruoch. She had known while they were allied that Gruoch had previously married Gillecomigan in accordance with her father's wishes. Not surprisingly, neither Macbeth nor Gruoch referred to it often.

"A happy beginning," she heard the blonde one say. She recognized the voice; it was indeed the Weird Sisters. Why were they here, what did they have to do with the wedding, were they just watching or did they have a part in what was happening here?

"Not all would agree," said the black haired one, glancing over toward a chair at the other end of the hallway where a dejected young Macbeth sat staring at the stone floor.

"Certainly not our hero," finished the white haired one.

"Why are we here?" asked Macbeth in a harsh tone, staring hard at the Weird Sisters in the corner and then at his younger self sitting in the chair.

"Because they," the stag lifted his head in the direction of the three Fey, "had a part in this, they influenced Gillecomigan to ask for Gruoch to be his mate and they influenced her sire to accept."

Macbeth's face revealed his shock, "Why?" his expression changed from shock to anger, "Why would they do this to my love, my Gruoch, and to me?"

"Because," the scene around them changed once again, and now they were in the main dining hall of Castle Moray. It was dark outside and the table looked as if a ravening horde had been through, bits and pieces of food littered the table and the floor around the table. Only Duncan standing by the fireplace and Gillecomigan sitting in one of the chairs next to the fire were still present. "They wanted you angry enough to kill Gillecomigan without giving him a chance to tell you who had sent him to kill your father," the great stag explained, "or to tell you who had asked that you also be killed."

"There is just one more bit of business that needs doing," Duncan said as he moved from the fireplace to sit in a chair across from Gillecomigan.

"And what would that be, my prince," the scar faced man responded.

Duncan put one booted foot on the table and leaned back in the chair, "To arrange an accident for my cousin Macbeth."

Gillecomigan finished his drink before responding, "Nay milord, Macbeth is and heir to the crown, and much beloved by the people." Duncan sat up straight at this staring angrily at him, "Besides, it might lead to some uncomfortable questions about his father's demise, and who demanded it."

Duncan rose, pointed an angry finger at Gillecomigan, "Think well before you defy me," he warned.

Gillecomigan sneered, "Think well before you risk my defiance, Prince Duncan."

The scene stilled and the stag spirit continued, "The Weird Sisters needed Duncan to remain alive, it was important to them that you not discover the truth of who was behind your father's murder until they chose to tell you."

Macbeth stood stiffly with his hands clenched into fists, "So they made Gruoch marry a man she did not want or love, and they made me hurt her by telling her I did not want her anymore because I could not ask her to go into exile with me."

Demona stared at him; she had not known the last and couldn't really imagine how he had managed to get Gruoch to believe him. She had often been envious of the two of them and their obvious love for one another, especially then when Goliath had been in his stone sleep for so many years and she had been alone. She couldn't imagine how much Macbeth must have hurt while watching Gruoch take another as mate. Actually yes she could, she thought, staring at the rug underneath her talons, all she had to do was think of Kendra with another to imagine his pain. She didn't see Macbeth turn and stare at her for a long moment, it was the spirit realm, one felt the emotions directed toward them.

The Ancient One did not respond, instead the scene around them changed and they were back at the room where Duncan had received Findlaech's medallion from Gillecomigan. Duncan was standing at the fireplace staring into it, the three Weird Sisters were present as well posing as there nursemaids holding the infant Canmore. There was a knock at the door and young Macbeth entered, "You summoned me milord?"

"Please cousin, enter," Duncan said, waving to the three Fey sisters for them to leave. "I'm in need of your council. I've learned the true identity of the mysterious Hunter." Duncan turned back to the fire, "It's terrible," he said lifting his arms in the air for emphasis, "shocking."

Demona heard Macbeth growl, she didn't blame him, it was a masterful performance and Duncan was setting up the young Macbeth to get rid of his problem.

"You know who killed my father?" the young Macbeth asked hopefully, approaching Duncan with his hand held out in supplication.

Duncan turned around to face his cousin, "It was…is…" he hesitated as if having difficulty uttering the next word, "Gillecomigan."

"What?" the young Macbeth recoiled.

"Och, he fooled me completely. The wrongs I've done you cousin," Duncan he held up his hands helplessly.

"At least you weren't lying about that part," Macbeth growled from where he stood near the Ancient One.

"Were it not for this blackguard," Duncan continued his acting, "you'd be high steward of Moray and have Gruoch for your own." He paused to let that sink in, "I dare not attack him openly. It could start a war between Moray and the rest of Scotland. All would suffer, what can be done?" he asked plaintively.

Demona could hear Macbeth grind his teeth at this; she could have probably heard it even in her human form.

"Leave that to me," the young Macbeth swore furiously while gripping his sword. "With your permission milord I will take my leave to return to Moray."

"Of course, cousin," was all Duncan needed to say to have the young Macbeth turning about and striding purposefully out the door. The young man never saw the satisfied smirk on Duncan's face as the prince stared after him.

Everything around them froze and Demona glanced over at Macbeth. He was still staring at Duncan, raw fury evident in his eyes. Their surroundings changed, now they were standing once again outside the cavern where Demona's small clan was located.

"The hunter will resurface tonight at Castle Moray. We offer you another opportunity," Demona heard one of the Weird Sister's say. She stepped closer to the opening so that she could look into the cavern, the three Fey were masquerading as old gargoyles once again.

The Demona of this time interrupted them, "to destroy my enemy!"

"To ally yourself with Macbeth of Clan Moray," the yellow haired one corrected her.

"Never, to ally with a human," Demona turned away, put her hands on the cavern wall. The Demona standing outside watching remembered her thoughts at this time, she had been thinking of the Captain of the Guard as she stared at the rock that formed their home. "Never again," the Demona inside the cavern said softly.

"The hunter is enemy to you both," argued the black haired ancient looking gargoyle.

"Together you can defeat him," added the white haired one.

"But separately," the yellow haired one started.

The Demona inside the cavern interrupted them, "I make no promises," she said turning to face them.

The words were sooner said than the world around them changed again and they were at Castle Moray watching the fight between the young Macbeth and Gillecomigan. Macbeth's anger almost cost him the fight before it had barely begun; only Gillecomigan toying with him allowed the young man to keep his life. On the other hand, perhaps it was the influence of the Weird Sisters making sure he lived, thought Demona, as she looked around in vain for any sign of them.

A gasp of dismay from below had the gargoyle looking back down, Gruoch had stepped out onto the parapet and Gillecomigan immediately grabbed her, using her as a shield and a threat to Macbeth, forcing the younger man to surrender his sword.

"But what is a Hunter without his prey," Gillecomigan boasted as he pulled on his hunter's mask. Demona looked above them toward the tower she remembered watching all this from. Yes, there she was with her mace swooping down to knock Macbeth out of the way of Gillecomigan's descending sword, blocking the blow meant for the human with her mace.

"Still laughing Hunter?" the Demona on the parapet asked Gillecomigan, "Come meet your doom."

The Hunter still had Gruoch hostage, "You want her, take her," he said sending the woman toward Demona. The gargoyle on the parapet caught the woman and then thrust her off to the side watching the Hunter who came rushing immediately after the human female with his sword upraised.

The Demona watching from above snarled in annoyance, "what is it with me and these battlements," she complained as she watched Gruoch barely stop herself from falling over the edge, only the young Macbeth's quick action saved the woman from falling to her death. Why she couldn't have been a bit gentler with the young woman, she thought with annoyance, watching herself. Then she remembered the sorcery the Magus had placed upon her, she altered her vision, there it was a black mass of magic influencing her emotions and actions, causing her to react rashly whenever she became angry.

The fight below between herself and the Hunter continued until she had him over the edge of the battlement. She ripped off the mask over his face, "Look closely creature, tis your handiwork," Gillecomigan accused the gargoyle that held him, "done when I was but a boy, remember?"

Demona stared at his face once again searching her memory just as the gargoyle that held him was doing, once again she came up blank, but then were many gaps in her memory of the time right after the massacre at Wyvern Castle and that would have been when she encountered a young Gillecomigan.

"No," said Demona from below, her voice carrying her conviction.

The Hunter glared at her, "You," he growled as he gripped the gargoyles arms and pulled her over with him.

Demona remembered what happened next, her surprise at seeing the young Macbeth leaning over the battlement, reaching down and holding onto her wrist to prevent her from falling. She remembered seeing the strain on his face, knowing that he was not strong enough to hold her for long especially with the Hunter holding onto her legs. She had felt Macbeth's grip give and in desperation had struck the Hunter with her tail as hard as she could. He had fallen, screaming the entire way until the sound ended abruptly. Macbeth had pulled her up back onto the parapet. She looked below, Gruoch was rushing into Macbeth's arms, and they embraced.

The Demona below placed a taloned hand on young Macbeth's shoulder, "Thank you."

Demona remembered saying that. It was one of the very few times she had ever said thank you to a human until Kendra.

"I owed you," Macbeth replied simply.

"Then we're even, good," Demona responded brusquely, before flying off.

The landscape changed again, and now they were in a small round room. Judging from the sunlight streaming in through the window it was late afternoon. Duncan was sitting in the casement of a narrow window watching something outside the room and holding his infant son. The three Weird Sisters, posing as human nursemaids, were present as well.

"There will always be a Hunter my son," Duncan said to the infant in his arms holding up the hunter's mask. He handed the boy over to one of the Weird Sisters. Duncan put on the mask, stared out the window, "And there will always be the hunted."

Duncan didn't see the three Fey turn and smile in satisfaction at one another, but Demona did. Acting on a hunch she looked for the tell tale green of fey magic, there was more present on Duncan than the last time she had looked for it, and to her appalled shock there were enchantments upon the baby in the black-haired Fey's arms. The child had been alive for only a few months and already they were manipulating him. She looked over at the great stag, the spirit's brown eyes met hers and his majestically antlered head dipped in silent acknowledgement.

The room disappeared and now they were standing upon a thin path winding up the edge of a steep cliff. Demona recognized it; they were very close to one of the many caverns her clan sheltered in during the day. "Their cousin's they should be friends," Macbeth's voice from further down the path drew Demona's attention. He was a few years older now she saw, the same age she judged as when they had become allies. He was walking with a much older looking Duncan who now had a golden crown upon his head.

"Yes, well…some cousin's are not that close," said Duncan staring at the land around him as he walked up the path, carefully gripping the rocks on the side of the path away from the sheer drop on the other side. Unexpectedly the stone beneath his feet cracked as the rock underneath him gave way, leaving him hanging on desperately to the remaining rock as he danged over a dangerous drop.

Macbeth threw himself forward grabbing at his cousin's hand just as Duncan's grip gave way.

"I should have let him fall," growled Macbeth from beside her, she glanced over at her former ally surprised that he was standing as close as he was; he had been keeping his distance from her since this first began. She turned her attention back to the scene in front of them in time to see the younger Macbeth pull Duncan to safety.

"Macbeth, you saved my life," Duncan said a surprised tone.

"I'm sure you would have done as much for me," Macbeth of this time assured him lightly.

Demona glanced over at the Macbeth standing beside her; she wasn't surprised when she saw the disgusted expression on his face.

"This dispels any doubts about your loyalty to me and to the crown," Duncan said with a pleased expression, but Macbeth wasn't paying attention to him, he was looking at something else. "What is it?" said Duncan, his expression changed to surprise, "Gargoyles?!"

Demona started down the path toward the cavern entrance; ahead of her, both men entered the cave. She got there in time to see the young Macbeth standing protectively in front of her stone form. Duncan had a large rock in his hands, obviously about to smash her. "My lord! I beg you spare them," Macbeth pleaded, "There was a time when human and gargoyle fought side by side, this one and I have a similar history."

Duncan dropped the rock he was holding, "As you wish, we owe you our life. We will grant you theirs, for your sake." He stepped closer to one of the gargoyles, a slender male, "We only hope that we do not come to regret your council," he said coolly staring at the stone form. He turned and strode quickly out of the cave, "I tire of this outing."

Demona took the opportunity to glance inside the cavern; she had a feeling that she remembered this day. Yes, this was the place she had woken with the Hunter smashing her clan, and now that she knew Duncan was the Hunter… "He came back later in the day as the Hunter, it was only the sun setting that prevented him and the humans with him from killing all of us."

"It was that event that prompted you to accept the Weird Sister's offer to bind you to Macbeth," the Ancient One said.

Demona turned around and looked up at the great stag, her eyes wide in realization, "Of course, they manipulated Duncan into being the Hunter, once he found my clan the Weird Sisters knew he would come back to kill us. I hadn't seriously considered the three old females proposal until this night when he and his soldiers attacked us. There were only three my clan left, I was desperate, no matter what I did to keep my clan safe, there seemed to always be another Hunter and I was becoming older and weaker and less able to protect them every year. I made the decision this night to seek out the three old gargoyles that keep visiting me to see if they could help what remained of my clan."

"We should follow them," Macbeth interrupted grimly, indicating the direction Duncan and his younger self had taken, "I'm about to meet the Weird Sisters for the first time."

Demona looked toward where Duncan and the younger Macbeth had gone; she frowned when she saw the two smaller forms with them. She hadn't realized that the two men had their son's with them; she hadn't seen the children earlier. There was a thick fog hanging just above the ground making it difficult to see the two men and their son's, but it kept clearing just enough for them to keep following them.

"Double, double, toil and trouble," they saw the three Weird Sisters, this time pretending to be there old human females, about the same time as the four they were following, "fire burn and cauldron bubble."

"This was real?" exclaimed Demona, surprised, she had just thought it was in that offensive and horribly inaccurate play that the humans liked so much.

Macbeth snarled, "That playwright didn't get it entirely correct, I still don't know how he knew about this. Duncan must have wrote it down somewhere, or young Canmore perhaps."

"All hail Duncan, King of Scotland, father of the king hereafter," the three old crones were greeting Duncan.

"All hail Macbeth, King of Scotland, father of the king hereafter," the three crones greeted the young Macbeth as he stopped beside Duncan and his young son Canmore.

The two men turned to look at one another, and Demona could see the confusion on the young Macbeth's face. Apparently so could Duncan, "You speak treason, old crone!" growled Duncan, as he took a few threatening steps toward the three Fey.

"You are but half right, good mothers," Macbeth said as he came forward to stand beside Duncan, "Duncan is the right and proper king."

"King now he is, but each of you shall in turn be king," said the white haired old woman.

Macbeth held up his hands, warding away their words, "I say thee nay, Weird Sisters."

The older Macbeth standing beside Demona watching made a surprised noise, "I don't remember saying that," he whispered, as if to himself.

The younger Macbeth was still attempting to explain things to the three old women, "Prince Canmore is destined to be king after Duncan."

"You would lecture us on fate?" said the white haired one just before the fog around them increased and the three Fey disappeared.

Young Macbeth, obviously desperate for his cousin to believe that he wanted no part of this, said, "My king, we must not take seriously the ravings of three old bedlams."

"You speak wisely, Macbeth. Its utter nonsense," replied Duncan turning away, "of no consequence," he finished, but Demona could see that neither of the two men believed that.

"And so they set Duncan and I at each other," said the older Macbeth in a grim tone as the scene around them froze, "Though in truth we had always been, though I didn't know it at the time." He turned toward the Irish Elk spirit, "Were they truly telling us the future? Do those three have the power to do that?"

Demona was already shaking her head. There were too many events where the Weird Sisters had already shown they were unaware of the future for them to be able to see into it as they had just claimed.

"Why do you believe they cannot…Demona," the stag hesitated a second before saying her name and the gargoyle knew the spirit had stopped himself from saying my chosen. Macbeth turned toward her, a thoughtful frown upon his face.

"They didn't know that the Magus would defeat them," she began listing off the events they had been unaware of, "they didn't know about Macbeth and I before the Archmage pointed us out to them, and they didn't know that they were the ones to give the Archmage the Eye of Odin, the Phoenix Gate and the Grimorum Arcanorum. Their pretending to be the three fates, and perhaps they have always been the three fates that humans speak of, but they are manipulating events to happen as they want and as they say. They aren't predicting the future and then sitting back and letting things occur without interference as they would be able to if they could truly see into the future."

"Their foretelling the future and then making sure it happens the way they said it would," growled Macbeth, staring at the place where the three Fey had been.

"You are both correct," replied the giant stag spirit, satisfied.


Chapter 18

"Their foretelling the future and then making sure it happens the way they said it would," growled Macbeth, staring at the place where the three Fey had been.

"You are both correct," replied the giant stag spirit, satisfied.

The land around them rippled and reformed into the main hall of Castle Moray, it was night and Macbeth was standing by the fireplace pushing at the logs in it with a poker. Gruoch's father was just entering the room from the winding staircase. He came up to the fireplace and stood by Macbeth. "You have news for me, Bodhe?" the Macbeth asked.

"King Duncan's army moves against you," announced the old man.

"But why? I saved his life," protested Macbeth.

"He must have some reason to fear you," said Bodhe thoughtfully, stroking his beard.

Macbeth clenched his fist, "Well…If it's a fight he wants…"

"Be reasonable Macbeth," Bodhe cautioned him, "Your retainers are loyal, but no match for Duncan's forces. The clan will be at his mercy." The old man gripped the younger's shoulder, "But if you surrender now, Duncan might agree to spare my daughter and grandson."

As if cued, the two in question entered the room, Luach was bearing a bowl of fruit, which he placed on the table at the side of the room. His mother was bearing another, which she placed beside it. The boy wasted no time before grabbing an apple and biting into it.

"Perhaps your right," sighed Macbeth.

Gruoch approached the two men, "We thought to lighten your stern discourse with this sweet fare."

Macbeth walked up to her and drew her into his arms, "Always remember, I love you," he gravely told her.

"Husband, what is wrong?" she pulled away alarmed at both his tone and action.

He didn't respond, but knelt and held his arms open, inviting his son into them. The boy smiled happily and ran to hug his father, "Mind your mother always," Macbeth told his son. He ruffled the boy's hair affectionately and rose to his feet.

Gruoch grabbed his arm as he moved to leave, "Macbeth, tell me what is going on," she demanded, concerned.

Macbeth raised one hand to stroke her red hair, "Oh, it's nothing, I go to see my cousin, the King," he spoke reassuringly. "Gruoch, be of good cheer, hmm," he spoke with forced lightness as he hugged her once again. "The journey will be brief," he said with a touch of grimness that he couldn't hide and kissed her goodbye. He turned to leave and this time she did not stop him, but stared after him with a concerned visage.

"You suspected he would have you killed," Demona said to the man standing beside her.

"I was almost certain of it," Macbeth confirmed staring longingly at Gruoch and Luach as everything around them froze except for themselves.

Tentatively, Demona placed a taloned hand on his arm attracting his attention, "You always were an excellent mate and father to them."

"At least until I was no longer able to be a husband and father," he replied bitterly.

Demona lifted her hand away from his arm. She didn't know why he had decided to leave Gruoch and Luach after recovering from being killed by Canmore instead of staying with them. However, the likelihood that her decision to betray him to Canmore played a part in it was certain. She turned away from him to stare at Gruoch and Luach; she knew how much he had loved both of them. It had been so long, so many centuries since they had been alive, there was nothing she could do now to undo the decision she had made then no matter what she might wish now.

Macbeth looked over at the sky-blue gargoyle uncertainly as she stared at his wife and son. He turned to look at the spirit pleadingly; surely there was something else they should be watching right now. He didn't know quite what to do with this quieter, calmer and regretful Demona.

"There is one thing you should know before we leave this time," the great stag stated, "Your mate's father has been enchanted by the Weird Sisters. He speaks for them this night and on other nights to ensure that you follow the path they desire."

Macbeth turned and stared at the old man, "I had to leave to seek out Duncan. Otherwise I wouldn't have met Demona on this night to become allied with her clan," he realized.

Demona turned and looked at Bodhe as well, "We were both desperate this night," she said, "you because Duncan was moving against you, and me because Duncan was hunting my clan. Desperate enough to accept almost any bargain that gave us the hope of saving those we were sworn to protect," she met Macbeth's grey eyes, "desperate enough to accept when the Weird Sisters offered what appeared to be help."

The scene around them changed, it was dark and foggy and they stood on rocky ground with hills all around. He knew this place, had expected it after what they saw at Castle Moray and what they had discussed, this was where he and Demona were bound together.

"I need your help again," he heard his younger self say from nearby, it didn't take him long to spot his younger self pleading with a white haired Demona to join with him. He had forgotten how thin and old she had looked then. She had aged rapidly over the years since he had first seen her as a young man he realized with surprise, but then life had apparently not been easy for her or her clan.

"I beg you help me defend my clan," the younger Macbeth asked.

She turned shaking a fist, "And what about my clan?" she asked.

"Help me now and I swear to keep them forever safe," the younger Macbeth swore. Macbeth winced, he had forgotten that he had sworn so much for her aid, but he had been desperate. He knew what Duncan would do to him if he surrendered and he hadn't been ready to die. Also, he hadn't been entirely certain that Duncan would spare his son Luach.

The old gargoyle crossed her arms, "You sing an old song. How do I know you will keep your word," she asked doubtfully.

In a gust of wind that had both the young Macbeth and the old gargoyle looking around startled, the three Weird Sisters arrived.

"This is more than chance," the young Macbeth said wide-eyed.

The older Macbeth barked out a bitter laugh, "Oh lad, you don't know the half of it," he said to his younger self. He remembered that he had seen them in this time as the old women he had seen with Duncan. Now though, he saw them as they really were, three young women with slightly pointed ears. Curious, he turned toward Demona, "I saw them as three very old women then, did they appear that way to you?"

"No, they appeared as three old gargoyles to me," she responded absently, staring at the scene before them.

"What do you desire," the black haired Fey asked the old Demona.

Her fists clenched, the snowy-white haired gargoyle replied, "My youth restored, so that I may continue to lead my clan."

"And what would you be willing to trade, Macbeth of Moray," the blonde Phoebe asked.

Macbeth responded immediately, "Anything to save my family."

"The bones are cast, let us begin," said the white haired Luna with a satisfied look.

The Weird Sisters joined hands around the young Macbeth and Demona, forcing the two to stand almost back to back to fit in the center of their linked arms. "Across the mists of space and time, we propose this covenant sublime." The wind circled fiercely around them; the young Macbeth and the old Demona were now solidly back-to-back.

The three Sisters spoke again, "Macbeth his youth doth offer here, to make this one a force to fear." Young Macbeth and Demona began to rise up in the air, "While she, with fang and claw and wing, doth swear sweet death his foes to bring."

"I don't really remember this next part," Demona whispered to Macbeth.

"Neither do I," he whispered back just as quietly.

"By their acceptance are they consigned, unto each other's fate resigned, forever and eternal bound, and each the other's pain resound." The Weird Sisters finished, the two figures were hurled to the ground, Macbeth white haired and Demona restored to her youth. The Sisters moved to stand together, "The pact is made. Our work is done." They turned to leave, Luna added over her shoulder, "Make haste, the storm is coming."

Selene turned and created a small sphere in the palm of her hand, "And know this, when Duncan spoke Gillecomigan was quick to do his bidding." The sphere floated over to Macbeth who cautiously held out his hand for it, "Duncan ordered your father's murder."

"What?!" exclaimed the newly old Macbeth, trailing after the black haired Fey who disappeared into the mists before he could close the distance between them.

"So, they kept the knowledge from me until they felt it was time for me to kill Duncan and become the next King of Scotland," said Macbeth grimly, "thus fulfilling the first part of their supposed foretelling."

Demona drew in a deep breath, recalling what the Ancient One had said the night before, that she would not have betrayed Macbeth if not for the interference of the Weird Sisters, "That implies that they would also ensure that the other part of their prediction would take place as well," she said grimly. She met Macbeth's gaze for a long moment as they eyed each other warily. In a marked change from their interactions for the past nine centuries, it wasn't in wariness of each other.

Macbeth turned toward the great stag, "I believe I know where and when we are going next."

"Indeed," commented the Irish Elk in a deceptively mild tone as the world dissolved around them, "Then we will bypass the Weird Sister's presence at your coronation ceremony to watch the fulfillment of that portion of their prophecy," the stag said as they appeared in mid-air, "and proceed directly to this time."

Macbeth yelled in shock, and automatically Demona flared her wings and grabbed for Macbeth's arms only to realize belatedly that they were not falling. Immediately she released him and glared in annoyance at the giant stag spirit. The Ancient One only flicked his ears back and forth at her with an amused look in his great brown eyes. He lifted his head directing her attention off to the left.

Demona looked in the direction he indicated and saw herself gliding in the air. She followed her other self's logical flight path and saw below them Moray Castle, on the battlements stood a broad shouldered waiting figure that could only be Macbeth. "This is the night that I overheard what I thought was Macbeth preparing to betray me to the English," she realized.

"I wasn't going to," Macbeth said in an annoyed tone, "I was just making a point to Luach about listening to every advisor, even the ones who were saying something you didn't want to hear."

Demona stared at him searchingly, trying to decipher the truth of that night. All she saw was honesty in his grey eyes. "Bodhe!" Demona exclaimed angrily, turning back to look down at the castle and remembering the words the Ancient One had spoken just minutes ago about the old man being enchanted by the Weird Sisters. "He was the one who suggested you betray my clan just as he suggested you surrender to Duncan," she looked back at Macbeth, "He's the Weird Sisters voice in this, saying what they want us to hear when they want it heard, so that we would dance to their tune."

"This will have to be carefully planned," a familiar voice to the right of their position had them all turning to look in that direction.

"She has grown contented here," Phoebe commented.

"It will be difficult to persuade her to break the alliance," Selene said.

The Weird Sisters were all watching the castle and Demona turned that way to watch as well. She was just placing Macbeth back on his feet after twirling him around her in her exuberance at the battle she had just fought for him. Something in his manner had given her pause that night, caused her to wonder what business he needed to attend to that he was not inviting her as his primary advisor to attend with him.

"Yet break it she will, for have we not foretold their future," the coolly amused voice had Demona glaring over to see which one of the three had spoken, it was Luna, the white haired one.

"So you overheard old Bodhe suggesting that the Hunter would leave us alone if I forswore your clan," Macbeth said to her ignoring the Weird Sisters now floating in the air near their location.

Demona turned back to him, looked down at where he was staring at the Demona of this time who was clinging to the stones of the castle outside a large window. In that room, Macbeth was meeting with Bodhe and Luach.

"How could you believe that I would be so naive and foolish as to think that the Hunter would leave me alone if I broke my oath to protect your clan," Macbeth said angrily, turning toward her, "Bodhe didn't know that we were all but certain that the Hunter was actually young Canmore. We both knew that it was he that stole the hunters mask from you when you stopped him from trying to attack me as a boy." Macbeth stared at her, his eyes hard, "Canmore was using my alliance with you to get English aid, but that wasn't his real goal, his goal was my crown. I was fully aware that breaking our alliance would not only make me an oath breaker, but also far worse off tactically; I needed every man and gargoyle I could get to fight on my side. I was hardly going to do something that would cost me part of my forces."

Troubled by his words, she looked back towards the castle. Why had she jumped to the conclusion that Macbeth was going to betray her? "I think that despite the years that we fought together," she said hesitantly, "I still suspected that you might someday decide to save your own life and the lives of your clan by letting us be killed just like the Captain of the Guard at Castle Wyvern." She finally turned and faced him, "When you didn't disagree with him and when you didn't tell Luach that you weren't going to betray us, I thought you were seriously considering his words. I knew how much you listened to his advice over the years, and how often you followed it."

Macbeth looked disturbed by her words when she finished, but before he could respond one of the Weird Sisters drew their attention.

"This is unexpected," the blonde Fey sounded displeased.

"They must not meet," said Selene, frowning as she looked down toward the castle.

"Or all will be undone," finished Luna.

Curious, Demona turned her attention toward the castle as well, wondering what was occurring that disturbed the three. She saw herself flying high circles over the castle and remembered that she had thought for a long time about what she should do before finally deciding to go to Canmore to bargain for her clan's safety. She looked down at the castle and saw Luach on the battlements looking upward at the Demona of this time and trying to attract her attention. "I don't remember this," she said frowning, she was certain she would have remembered seeing Luach again that night.

"That is because you were never allowed to notice him," the Irish Elk announced in his deep, wise voice.

The three Fey began chanting a spell, "More forces thy king needs to be allied," Phoebe began, "So before the dawn thou hast far to ride;" Luna said next, "Thou hast no time this night to waste," Selene spoke, "So to thy horse thou must make haste," Luna finished unleashing the energy they had formed toward Luach below.

The young man stopped waving at the blue-skinned gargoyle flying in the sky above him and turned to go inside, presumably to go to the castle stables and then to get the allies his father requested.

"What was my son doing before they stopped him, why was he trying to get Demona's attention?" Macbeth asked the Ancient One.

"As he walked by the window, he thought he saw the glow of a female gargoyle's red eyes. Concerned that it was Demona that he had seen, and that she had heard what was said, he went looking for her to persuade her to talk to you," the great stag spirit replied. "He knew of her temper, and her habit of making rash decisions when angry, and was rightfully concerned about how she might interpret what was said."

Macbeth turned to glare at the Weird Sisters, "So they stopped him."

Demona was paying attention to the discussion between the Irish Elk and Macbeth but she was also watching herself still flying in high circles above the castle. Her eyes narrowed as she saw herself swerve and begin a downward glide. She looked down at the ground trying to see what had drawn her attention. Luach was leaving the castle with three soldiers, riding out obtain the reinforcements his father wanted and the Weird Sisters had enchanted him into immediately seeking.

"Our gargoyle thinks too much of him," Selene observed watching the Demona of this time who was swooping down to fly over the small group on the road leading out of the castle.

"If he had wings and a tail she would take him into her clan," Phoebe commented.

Demona turned to stare at her, frowning, why would the Fey say that? She didn't really remember much about Luach except that Macbeth and Gruoch had loved him very much and that he had been a very decent warrior.

"It must be undone otherwise she will not betray Moray," Selene warned. The three sisters turned to look at one another, silently conferring for a moment.

"Concerns for the young Prince's safety in the upcoming war," Phoebe began the spell, "Must weigh on your heart no more," continued Luna, "Thy past with the young Luach thou must forget," said Selene, "So to Canmore thee can go without regret," finished Luna.

Demona followed the path of the greenish fey energy to where the Demona of this time was gliding. As soon as the spell was finished she saw herself turn away from the road and head south toward where the Hunter and the English were camped.

"I don't understand," Demona whispered, "I don't remember anything about a past with Luach." She turned toward the great stag seeking an answer. She knew that all the enchantments on her had been broken, so why couldn't she remember something that would give her a clue as to what the Weird Sisters had been talking about.

"Memories are like clearings within a thicket," the great stag explained, "to get to the clearing there must be a path. You possess the memories, but you no longer possess the path to get to them. It has been nine hundred years since you remembered them; the path has been overgrown and lost."

"Over the centuries I wondered why you deserted not only me, but Luach and Gruoch as well," Macbeth said, "I had thought we were more than just allies after watching you with Luach when he was a boy and then later when you helped teach him how to fight." He shook his head, "It was one of the things that drove my bitterness and hatred. I couldn't understand how you could just turn your back on all of that as if it meant nothing."

"I…" Demona's voice trailed off, she could not remember anything about Luach as a boy much less teaching him how to fight. She turned toward the great stag, "Ancient One is there no way to remake the paths to those memories?"

"There is," the great stag answered as he swung his antlered head around to look at her.

She met his wise, brown eyes and abruptly there were memories. She was standing on the battlements of Castle Moray with Macbeth discussing where to find more gargoyles to increase the number of her clan. Young Luach came running to his father, grabbed him around his leg and looked up at her with a grin on his face. "Can you fly?" he asked.

His open friendliness and lack of fear disarmed her, "We glide," she corrected him.

He let go of his father and looked up at her hopefully, "Could you take me sometime!" he asked excitedly. She just stared at Macbeth's hatchling nonplussed, never had any human asked her to take them gliding.

She was standing in the great hall next to the fireplace, discussing the training of Macbeth's soldiers with him and how to change it so they and her clan could fight together more efficiently. She had just finished an apple and tossed the core into the fireplace, she was still hungry and had looked briefly at the bowl full of fruit on the table, but had decided to wait until she was finished speaking with Macbeth to get another. A light touch on her wing less than a minute later had her looking down; it was young Luach holding up an apple for her. She accepted it with quiet thanks, noticing the approving look Macbeth was bestowing on his son for his thoughtfulness.

Luach was still looking at her appraisingly; she looked down at him curiously. "You're pretty, I like your hair," he announced. She noticed Macbeth smirking out of the corner of her eye.

Before she could reply Grouch called for the boy, "Luach come here and leave your father and Demona to their discussion." To the gargoyle's surprise there seemed to be no anger or concern in her tone. She looked at Macbeth's wife; the woman was smiling in amusement.

She was standing next to a pell practicing with her mace; she could see Luach over to the side watching her intently. He was a little older now and had his short practice sword belted around his waist. She paused, looked over at the youngster watching her, "Would you like to practice with me?" she offered and watched as his face lit up with pleasure at the invitation.

More, many more memories followed those, of her continuing her training of the youngster, of him turning into a young man and then into a man over the years of her alliance with Macbeth. Always he had a ready smile for her, and never did he seem to think of her as being any different or any less than the humans at the castle. They had become friends, and she had come to care about him, perhaps even more than she cared about some of the members of her clan.

"Luach!" she cried, her eyes filled with tears and she fell to her knees in her grief; it had leapt upon her along with her memories. She rose to her feet, not noticing Macbeth's hand upon her shoulder, turned toward the direction Luach had gone.

The Ancient One stepped in front of her, blocking her way. "This is not real, you cannot go after him or yourself and stop what has happened," he said with gentle understanding.

Grief turned to rage and with a scream, she turned toward the only targets she had for her anger. She sprang across the distance that separated them and savagely attacked the Weird Sisters. They disappeared, tattering like mist as she slashed them with her talons. The landscape round them faded into the spirit realm, the shadowy land underneath her feet and the shadowy trees rising around them.

Demona sunk to her knees, her rage gone as swiftly as it had come, "Why?" she asked plaintively.

"If you had not left Moray and taken your clan with you Canmore would have not been able to kill Macbeth. Luach would have never become king, nor would he have been slain in turn by Canmore so that Canmore could become king after him," the Irish Elk answered.

A warm hand fell on her shoulder; she looked up to see that it was Macbeth looking down at her with a mixture of sorrow and anger. "So they destroyed my family, they destroyed Demona's clan all to make their prophecy come true."

"That and to fulfill the Archmage's instructions for you," responded the majestic stag spirit grimly.

"Bitterness, hatred, and enmity for one another," Macbeth said grimly, "Well they certainly achieved that."

"I'm sorry," said Demona quietly as she rose to her feet, the restoration of her memories of Luach and the knowledge that her actions had led to his death made her feel as if someone had torn out her heart. He hadn't been clan, but he had been the human she had felt closest to until Kendra.

Macbeth regarded her indecisively, "For what?" he finally asked.

"For deciding that you were going to betray me, for going to Canmore," Demona said, her voice filled to the brim with her regret, "for the loss of your family."

Macbeth sighed, his expression softened as he regarded her, "And yet you didn't leave for Canmore's camp until after the Weird Sisters made you forget about Luach," he observed, "so neither of us knows what you would have done without their interference."

Demona stared at him, "I…," the flame-haired gargoyle hesitated, not wanting to lie about this. She searched her newly relocated memories and feelings, trying to determine what course of action she would have taken so long ago. "I would have spoken to Luach," she was finally able to say decisively, "I would have been worried about his safety."

"And he would have insisted that you talk to me," Macbeth followed unhesitatingly on her words, "And I would have explained that I was not planning on breaking our alliance and the reasons why."

She met his grey eyes, "And I would have eventually killed Canmore."

"And that they could not allow," cut in the Ancient One grimly, causing both Demona and Macbeth to turn and look at him.

Demona stared at the spirit for a long moment lost in her thoughts, "That does not ease the burden of guilt I feel," she admitted, "I cared for Luach, he was human, but he was my friend, to know that my going to Canmore lead to his death is a bitter thing to accept."

The great stag shook his antlered head, "Do not accept what is rightfully the Weird Sister's burden of guilt in these events," the spirit advised her. "Normally you would indeed be responsible for your own decisions and actions. At this time and place, however, you were not in control of decisions, nor fully in control of your actions resulting from them. Had you deviated in the slightest bit from what they had planned they would have simply tightened their control over you."

Demona flinched, she understood what the Ancient One was leaving unsaid, there were plenty other times and places when she had been in full or at least partial control of her own actions and decisions.

"Did you not count me as a friend as well?" Macbeth unhappily asked her.

Demona glanced over at him, "Yes, you were a friend as well as an ally Macbeth, but Luach and I had a different relationship than you and I did."

Her old ally nodded understandingly, "He treated you like an older sister or perhaps an aunt I think."

"I did feel like a clan elder to him," Demona admitted, "though I would have vehemently denied it at the time."

The Ancient One interrupted before they could reminisce more, "It is time for both of you to leave this place, staying here for too long is tiring for the physical body." The great stag turned his massive head to look at Macbeth, "The remaining enchantments upon you have been dispelled. There are also several days worth of memories that the Weird Sisters blocked that have been restored to you; you will remember them once you waken from this dream."

"What?" said Macbeth, startled, he stared at the great stag spirit for a moment, "That two week period that I lost after fighting with Demona after her broadcast, I ended up in Paris with no memory of what I had been doing. Shortly after that I met Dominique Destine for the first time," he glanced frowningly toward Demona.

The flame haired gargoyle was once again embarrassed at the mention of the incident, "I am sorry for that, I regret now ever going along with Thailog's plan. Of course now I suspect he actually planned all along for us to kill one another and for him to end up in control of both of our fortunes," Demona growled.

Macbeth's grey eyes widened, "He gave me that weapon."

The gargoyle's eyes flashed red, "That settles it then, he wanted us to permanently kill one another so he would end up with your and my money and sole ownership of Nightstone. He must have intended it all along when he first began suggesting the plan to me."

"Well," he said slyly, "Thanks to Detective Maza killing you, he didn't succeed."

Demona looked as if she had tasted something bitter, "I'm well aware of that, Macbeth. Don't worry, I no longer have any interest in Elisa Maza." The bitter look faded as she commented with dry amusement, "I hope she enjoys dealing with Goliath's arrogance and thick-headiness, and that they have a long life together. They seem well suited to one another."

Macbeth stared at the blue-skinned gargoyle in astonishment. He knew that the two didn't like one another, and suspected it had everything to do with who was and who was not currently with Goliath. But he had never expected Demona to decide that she didn't care anymore that Goliath was one, with another woman, and two, that woman was human.

"I am sorry that I must interrupt this," the great stag broke in, "But there is little time left for you to safely remain here and I have more to discuss with you." As soon as Demona and Macbeth turned their attention to him, the spirit continued, "Macbeth, you are no longer bound to Demona in any manner. However, you are not protected from the Fey enchanting you in the future. You should be wary of accepting offers of aid from them and be diligent against attempts to enchant you against your will. Wearing a charm made of iron will aid in this. I believe you have within your possession a book that describes such a charm."

Macbeth gave a short bark of bitter laughter, "Oh, you don't have to worry about me ever doing that again, I thank you for the warning though. As for the charm," he paused looking thoughtful, "I do believe I have come across a picture of such a charm. I'll make one for myself as soon as possible." He glanced over at Demona, "I don't want them doing to me what they did to my son and Demona." He hesitated just a second before continuing, "That reminds me, what about you? Do I need to make one up for you as well?" he asked the gargoyle.

Demona looked at him in surprise; the level of animosity between them had steadily decreased as they observed past events and understood more of how the Weird Sisters had manipulated them. It had especially decreased once they had learned that the three Fey had to block her memories of her friendship with Macbeth's son before she would betray her alliance with Macbeth, but she was still shocked that he would offer.

"She does not," the great stag spoke before Demona could find her wits enough to respond, "I have arranged for her to find a suitable charm before she leaves my lands."

Demona turned toward the Ancient One, surprised at this news until she remembered the bogus amulet Kendra and she were going to make with Rachael. That must be what the spirit was referring to because as a chosen she wouldn't need a protective charm.

"Very well then," Macbeth said, he hesitated for a long moment before glancing over at Demona uncertainly, "perhaps we can get together sometime," he offered quietly. "It would be nice to talk with someone that remembers Gruoch and Luach."

She looked searchingly into his grey eyes; they held wistfulness that to her surprise she found herself sharing. She nodded, "I think I would like that as well," she allowed. So much for living completely separate lives, she thought to herself wryly amused at her thoughts of only a few days ago.

Macbeth's shadowy form wavered and disappeared, she turned to the Ancient One. "I'm assuming the charm you referred to is the false amulet we are making?" she asked.

"Yes, it seems as if it could fill multiple purposes. Perhaps another should be made for the young Jaguar since it seems as if she wishes to learn how to fly with you," the great stag suggested.

Demona looked up at him, her eyes narrowed in thought, as she tried to figure out why he had made the suggestion. "If anyone from Goliath's clan sees her flying with me they will insist on meeting the new gargoyle they don't recognize, and they will probably insist quite forcefully," she decided ruefully. "They'll assume I'm corrupting her and will be intent on saving the new gargoyle from me. They won't give up until they realize who it is, and then they will need a suitable reason for how Kendra can transform into a gargoyle. The amulet will give them an explanation that they will accept without searching any further."

The Ancient One dipped his head in agreement, "That was my thought as well." He turned and began walking towards where Kendra and the two spirits were working on the winged were-jaguar form. "Tomorrow night we will study life and nature magic further, beginning with the very basic of lessons, how to use life magic to heal and how to use nature magic to create light."

The flame-haired gargoyle whipped her head around to stare at him, "Heal?" she repeated in disbelief. Light wasn't that difficult to create using sorcery, it was just that the cost usually wasn't worth using sorcery instead of a candle. Healing, however, was very difficult and had a very high cost associated with it and the Ancient One was calling it a basic lesson in life magic? The great stag's ear flickered toward her, "you will need to study to become proficient at it, but the method is simple," he assured her. She just continued staring at him.

"Demona," Kendra's voice had the gargoyle reluctantly dragging her attention away from the spirit striding serenely beside her. She looked at her lover, noticing that only the Eagle Owl spirit remained with her. "What do you think?" Kendra asked, indicating the winged form next to her.

The broad wings were glossy black and feathered, was the first thing Demona noticed. The second was that the face of the figure had changed slightly, the muzzle was even less pronounced than before. "I like the wings," she said as she walked toward the figure to examine the face more closely. "You've changed the face, why?" she asked turning toward Kendra.

"Jaguar pointed out to me that I wouldn't be biting much of anything unless I made the muzzle more pronounced, so I should either go more that way or just go with a more human appearance," the black haired woman explained.

Demona nodded as she reached out to stroke the glossy black feathered wings, as she had expected they were not particularly soft, but they were very smooth to the touch. "Perhaps we can do a beginners gliding class tomorrow," she suggested softly. "You will need to build up your muscles and skills for it, so we shouldn't do much more than thirty minutes of training to start off anyway."

Kendra responded with a pleased smile, "That sounds like a plan. I need to make sure I got all the attachments and underlying musculature in the correct places anyway and that there are enough of both to adequately support the wing structure." She reached out and touched the winged were-jaguar; it wavered for a second and then disappeared into her.

Demona asked curiously, "Did you create any others?"

"Um hmm," Kendra responded absently as she stretched, "one with the membrane type wings like yours." She gave Demona a searching stare, "You look tired," she noted, "and I know I'm tired, so let's get going?"

The gargoyle nodded, "I am tired and we still have to reheat the stew before we can eat again." She turned toward the Irish Elk spirit, "Thank you…" more words were beyond her fatigued mind so she looked into his brown eyes and hoped that he would understand. Though it had been hard to go back thru the events they had tonight, it was worth it for the understanding and for the memories of Luach she had gained even with the grief they brought with them.

The Ancient One took one stride towards her, easily covering the intervening distance with his long legs and dipped his head. Without hesitation, she leaned against his broad muzzle and rested her head against his for a few moments, taking in the solace and comfort he offered. When Demona straightened, he lifted his head enough to ruffle her fiery hair with a well-placed exhale. She smiled as the spirit realm and he faded away and turned to face the worried blue eyes of her lover.


Chapter 19

The Ancient One took one stride towards her, easily covering the intervening distance with his long legs and dipped his head. Without hesitation, she leaned against his broad muzzle and rested her head against his for a few moments, taking in the solace and comfort he offered. When Demona straightened, he lifted his head enough to ruffle her fiery hair with a well-placed exhale. She smiled as the spirit realm and he faded away and turned to face the worried blue eyes of her lover.

"Hey," Kendra said softly, reaching up to run her fingers through the gargoyle's red hair, "How about you stay in here while I go reheat the stew."

"It's alright, I want to get up and move around some anyway," Demona reassured her, "I just found out about another rather significant number of memories that the Weird Sisters blocked."

Kendra drew in a startled breath, "Again?" she said in disgust. Then more gently she asked, "What were they about?"

Demona sighed, "Let's start heating the stew and I'll tell you about what I learned tonight," she said, zipping open the side of the sleeping bag so she could slip out. They had warmed the stew, taken it back into the tent with them and finished it before the flame haired gargoyle finished relating the condensed version of everything she had learned tonight.

"He sounds like a real charmer, I bet he had plenty of young women sighing over him when he grew up," Kendra said, speaking of Luach.

Demona thought back, she smirked, "He did, they got quite annoying at weapons practice trying to attract his attention."

Kendra chuckled, "Oh I can guess." She smiled thoughtfully, thinking back to those overheard conversations of her high school days by the girls watching the basketball players, "Ohh," she fluttered her eyes, "Isn't he just the dreamiest hunk you've ever seen, look at how hard he can hit the pell. I'm sure he could singlehandedly defeat any one foolish enough to attack the castle," she cooed.

The gargoyle stared at her wide eyed, and then she started laughing.

The black-haired woman made a disgusted face, "Bimbettes strike in the medieval ages, I gather I'm pretty close to what actually happened."

Demona nodded, still chuckling, "I used to have to growl at them to get them to go away, Luach tried, but their antics were distracting to even me with all their sighing and chattering." She smiled softly obviously remembering the past. It faltered as sorrow flashed in her green eyes and she clenched her hands. "I don't understand why this is bothering me so, Luach has been dead for a very long time and it wasn't as if I didn't know about his death."

Kendra regarded her thoughtfully, "Yes, but you haven't been aware that your friend died on the same day for very long at all," she said, her voice filled with compassion.

Demona stared into Kendra's blue eyes, struck by her words, "No…I guess I haven't, have I?" she said softly. Finally, she surrendered, stopped fighting against the grief she felt, she lowered her head and permitted the tears to come as Kendra's arms wrapped around her. She allowed herself to be pulled close, let herself lean against her lover's strong body, and rest her head upon Kendra's shoulder.

When Kendra awoke in the morning, she was surprised that Demona was still in the sleeping bag with her. On every other morning, the gargoyle had risen with the sun to transform into Dominique. She reached out to touch the gargoyle's shoulder and when her hand met stone instead of soft flesh, she jerked upright in startlement. It took a half second for her mind to realize what must have happened. Demona had woken at sunrise, but instead of getting up to transform she had gone back to sleep and turned into stone.

In the dim light that filtered into the tent, she leaned over and looked at the gargoyle's sleeping face. The stone obscured some of the finer details of Demona's expression, but she could still see weariness and grief upon her lover's face. "It's no wonder you just turned over this morning and went back to sleep," Kendra said softly reaching up to trail her fingers gently over Demona's stone features, "these past few days have been hard on you haven't they," she said sadly.

"I guess I'll be making breakfast for just myself then," Kendra commented to herself, staring at the gargoyle's stone form. Something was nagging at her memory, something to do with stone sleep and…sunlight. The discussion about the mutates and Sevarius's comment about sunlight being absorbed by the gargoyles during the day as a source of energy came back to her. She nibbled on her lower lip as she considered this, if she were careful enough while moving Demona it certainly couldn't hurt her to be out in the sunlight instead of in the tent.

With the help of the tarp, ten minutes later Kendra had carefully slid the sleeping bag with Demona in it out of the tent and into a patch of morning sunshine. She looked up at the slivers of clear blue sky she could see through the deep green pine branches, thankful that it looked as if it were going to be a clear sunny day. "I'll have to chase around the sunny spots, but that shouldn't be too hard now that you're out here," she said as she fully unzipped the sleeping bag and opened it, exposing the gargoyle in her stone sleep fully to the light. With a fond smile, she reached down and touched one spiky lock of hair, marveling at how the silky mane had transformed into this unyielding stone.

Mid-afternoon, as Kendra was washing the dishes she had used for breakfast and lunch in the stream, she paused and looked north. A faint sound came to her ears; she cocked her head to the side and listened for a few seconds before turning to the dishes and hurrying her cleaning of them. There was a plane somewhere in the north, and from the sound it was getting closer. She ran for the camp, there were a few things she needed to cover less their reflective surfaces catch someone's eye.

The plane never flew close enough to worry about it spotting the camp. Kendra suspected though that it was only a matter of time before they flew over their location because from what she had heard the plane was flying a search pattern. She stared at the empty fire pit with its newly stacked supply of deadfall; it wasn't likely they could risk lighting it any time soon. It would probably be a few dark and cold nights for them.

Several hours later, Kendra watched both the stone form of her lover and the darkening sky above waiting for sunset to… Actually, she wasn't certain what would occur at sunset, only that something would happen that would change Demona back into living breathing flesh instead of inanimate looking stone. The slightest sound of stone cracking had Kendra's gaze focused on her lovers form. Hairline cracks rapidly widened and then Demona literally burst out of what now looked like a thin stone covering with a roar and reddened eyes.

The red glow faded quickly as Demona took in her location, her reclined position, "I feel asleep again," she realized.

Kendra knelt beside her, careful of her wings, "That's my guess; I pulled you out here just in case you did need sunlight." As Demona rolled to her feet, the black-haired woman rose with her. Kendra studied her lovers face and was pleased to see that the flame-haired gargoyle looked relaxed and rested. "You look like a day in stone sleep did you some good," she observed as she reached up and ran her fingers through Demona's wild mane of red hair.

Demona took stock of how she felt, Kendra was right she did feel better. She felt completely rested, and less stressed than she had in days. When she thought of Luach it still hurt, but it was not the sharp pain it had been last night. "I do feel better," she said surprised.

Kendra's lips twitched and her sapphire eyes danced with laugher, "So…" she drawled, "I guess that means that sometimes you just need to sleep like a rock?" she said with a snicker.

The flame-haired gargoyle mock glared at her, "Ha ha," Demona said, "I bet you think your very funny don't you."

The black-haired woman put a thoughtful finger up to her lips, "Hmm," she commented making a production of giving the question serious thought. "Why yes, yes I do," she nodded decisively after a few seconds, smirking at the gargoyle.

Demona shook her head, a smile curving her lips, "Come here," she requested huskily.

Kendra took a step closer, standing just a few inches from Demona, "Here?" she asked with a teasing smile.

"Not quite," said the flame haired gargoyle, as she placed her hands on Kendra's waist and pulled her closer. "Here," she whispered as she wrapped her wings around them both.

Kendra half closed her eyes as she felt Demona's wings wrap around her, it felt so good to be held by her lover like this warm, sheltered, surrounded. "Mmm," she murmured, "you're right, here is better." Demona's lips met hers and she fell silent, occupied with a much more interesting activity than talking. It was all Kendra could do to keep her hands on the gargoyles trim waist, as their lips met, touched, and teased. She wanted to explore the slim, muscular back and she especially wanted to see exactly how Demona would react to having her wing joints caressed. However, they had things to do tonight that couldn't be delayed for an hour or two no matter how much she wanted to, and there was a pot of soup on the stove cooking. Reluctantly she pulled away enough to murmur, "Dinner's on the stove, I need to check it, and unfortunately…really, really, unfortunately," she grumbled, "we have things to do and places to go tonight."

Demona allowed her lover to pull away, she was hungry and…her eyes lit up as she remembered what they had planned to do tonight before going to the spirit realm. "Flying, you're trying your winged form tonight."

"Yep," Kendra said as she stepped out of Demona's winged embrace, "time for me to actually try transforming into a were-jaguar for the first time." She turned toward the stove, missing the startled look on the gargoyle's face.

"I hadn't realized you haven't tried that transformation yet," Demona said, concerned.

Kendra lifted the lid and stirred the stew inside; she glanced over, catching the worried look on her lover's face. "No worries," she said lightly, "I'm not concerned about the transformation itself, I'm more concerned that I don't have the wings quite right."

Demona looked over at her searchingly; Kendra met her eyes with reassuring confidence. "Well then, I guess I'd better start going over a few things before we make the attempt." The flame-haired gargoyle began, "Gargoyles are gliders; we don't have enough muscular strength in our wings to provide the downward force to fly as birds do for any appreciable distance. There are two main ways to get airborne and to remain airborne, if there is enough air current or wind you simply adjusting the angle of your wings so you have lift on the underside of the wing as you glide into the wind, the second way is to find rising air currents to provide lift. There are three sources of lift, slope lift where the air currents flowing along the ground rise to go over an obstruction such as a steep hill, thermal lift where heated air rises faster than the cooler air around it, and lastly there is mountain wave lift which I'll leave till last since it's frequently hard to find."

Kendra listened closely as she served the stew. In between mouthfuls, Demona described how to pay attention to wind direction and scan the ground below for terrain and objects that might cause the air currents to rise as they passed over it. The gargoyle described how to look for the cauliflower shaped cumulous clouds that often marked the location of thermal lifts and lastly she discussed wave lift. Mountain wave lift occurred when air currents literally bounced along the ground after descending swiftly on the leeward side of a mountain. The trick with them was to catch the upward bounce and avoid the downdraft in the trough of the air current wave.

"This isn't the most ideal time or place to learn how to glide," Demona said frowning at the snow on the ground. "Ideally, we would start off a wall or cliff facing into the wind and with lots of open ground in front. We're lacking either of those in this area, and its winter so I doubt we will find any handy thermal lifts." She trailed off thinking, "It's usually windy down by the stream that might work, especially if we can find something to give you some height."

Kendra was surprised; she hadn't thought it would be as hard as Demona was indicating. After all, the gargoyle hadn't had any issues with getting airborne during their hike down from the plane crash site. "You didn't seem to have any troubles getting airborne on our trip down here, will it really be that hard?" she asked.

Demona smirked, "Oh, you'll be surprised at how little lift you need to get and stay airborne after you've learned how to glide. That's after you know what you're doing though, for your first attempts you will need some help."

The black-haired woman's face cleared, "Ok, so clean up the dishes and store the stew and then down to the stream?"

The flame-haired gargoyle nodded absently, "That sounds good." Her mind wasn't on the dishes, it was on their trip down here, searching for a good place for them to practice, "Didn't we pass some cliffs on the east side of the stream just before we stopped here?"

Kendra's eyes went unfocused as she recalled their trip here, "I think so, maybe half a mile north?"

The location identified for the nights gliding practice, the two hurried to finish dinner and tidy up the camp before they started north to find the rocky cliffs they remembered passing a few days ago.

The night was now very dark, the sun had fully set and the new moon had been last night. Tonight, only the merest sliver of it shown in the sky and it barely brightened the darkness of the night. They picked their way carefully through the pine forest headed for the stream. Demona looked over curiously at Kendra, most humans would have problems seeing tonight, but she didn't seem to. "Can you see? It's very dark out tonight."

"It's a bit dark, but I can see well enough," Kendra answered glancing over at the blue gargoyle, "I haven't had any problems seeing in the dark since my first transformation."

Demona's memory flashed back to that night when Kendra had been talking to Detective Maza, the moment when the car lights had reflected off her eyes, reflected greenly instead of red like a human's eyes. "Your eyes reflect light greenly, like a cat's eyes or a gargoyle's," she remarked surprised that she hadn't remembered that until now.

Kendra nodded, "It's usually only on the nights immediately before, during and following the full moon. Otherwise, unless I'm concentrating on it, they're just like any other humans. Tonight I'm concentrating on it," she said with a small grin indicating the inky black darkness of the forest.

They stepped out of the forest into the open area bordering the stream; it was a little lighter here. The stream was a darker ribbon in the center, as usual the wind picked up slightly near the cooler water. "Good there is a better breeze here," Demona commented, "I'll scout ahead and find the cliffs we saw, see if they will work for tonight." She extended her wings, "Now is as good a time as any to watch my wings and see how I do this, pay attention to the angle of my wing compared to the air currents."

The black-haired woman watched as the gargoyle climbed up a nearby tree and then launched herself from it. She noted how the gargoyle's wings cupped the air as they moved down in a powerful sweep and then rotated back and around, always maintaining a twenty to thirty degree angle against the wind. Only two strokes were needed for Demona to gain the height she wanted, and then the gargoyle started gliding north her wing at ten to fifteen degree angle to the wind. Kendra started running north along the stream, splitting her attention between watching the ground for obstacles and the gargoyle in the air drawing further away from her.

The gargoyle was almost out of sight when Kendra saw her winged form start circling. She picked up her pace guessing that Demona had found the cliffs. As she drew closer, the flame-haired gargoyle landed waiting for her, now she could see the rocky cliff they had passed just over four days ago. She judged the shear rough limestone cliff to be around forty foot tall.

"This is almost perfect," Demona said as Kendra jogged up, "You will have to angle so that you fly up the stream, but there's defiantly enough of a lift at the top of the cliff for this to work." The gargoyle eyed the windproof outer jacket and pants and fleece her lover was wearing, "I guess you'll have to go without clothes until we get home and I can make you something."

Kendra nodded, "Yea, I knew I would when I made the form larger." She smiled at the flame-haired gargoyle, "I'm glad you're offering to make something for me, I barely know enough to thread the needle and mend holes."

Demona smirked, "Somehow that doesn't surprise me," she commented. The gargoyle turned her attention back to the cliff, "Now seems as good a time as any to see if your claws are sharp enough to dig into stone." She turned back to Kendra, "If they're not then they will need to be, there's too many places in the city that you will need to climb up the side of a building to get enough airspace to get airborne."

Kendra looked first at the stone of the cliff and then down at her hands considering, "I don't know, I didn't think about it." She started unzipping the windbreaker, "I guess we will have to see if I can won't we."

The gargoyle didn't miss how Kendra was staring at the cliff as she undressed almost as if it were a foe to be overcome. As more and more of her lover was bared to the night air, Demona watched the muscles flex underneath the dusky skin of Kendra's arms and shoulders, the tensing of the quadriceps in her thighs, and the play of muscles in her back. The flame-haired gargoyle sighed; she wanted to touch her lover so badly she ached with it. As much as she wanted to make love to Kendra however, she also wanted to see how her lover looked in the winged were-jaguar form. So she stood still, clenched her taloned hands at her side and counseled herself to patience, there was always later tonight and tomorrow. Besides out here in the cold was definitely not the place to start anything.

Kendra hung the last of her clothing over a convenient limb of a small scrubby looking pine at the base of the cliff. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath, calling up the image of the form she wanted. Both were humanoid so it was easy to imagine her human form inside the form of the were-jaguar. She felt her form begin to shift. Her legs and feet shifted toward the cat end of the spectrum, her knee joint shifted forward as her heel rose to form a hock joint and the balls of her feet and toes changing into paws. From her back, the feathered wings erupted at the same time as her skin darkened and fur grew out. Lastly she felt her face and head change shape. She opened her eyes, the world was slightly brighter than it had been before, the slitted cat-like pupil of this form's eye was simply better suited to gathering and focusing what little light there was than a human eye, no matter how enhanced.

She looked down upon herself, one of the first things she couldn't help but notice was that this form was relatively flat chested compared to her human form. Still it made sense, since this form was a mixture of jaguar and human characteristics. Her pelt was intentionally fully as thick as that on her jaguar form, knowing that she was going to be flying in all types of weather she had thought it best to have as much protection from the elements as possible. She bent one wing around staring at its structure and the glossy black feathers that covered it in satisfaction; she flexed the three wing claws, both together and separately, marveling at having a second set of fingers. A flick of the tail, yes it was there. A flicker of ears, yes they were there as well. She examined her hands, and extended her claws and then relaxed them so that they withdrew back into their sheaths. "I think I'm ready," she announced looking up at Demona.

The gargoyle was staring at her, and Kendra had no trouble deciphering the aroused look in her lover's green eyes. Discontentedly, she wondered if Demona found this form more attractive, after all she now looked more like a gargoyle. She took a quick inventory of her emotions, was she even interested in sex in this form? She hadn't really considered the idea before; she was used to not having any sexual feelings as a cat except for a short period during the summer when her jaguar form came into season. To her surprise, she realized there was a slight sexual interest, enough to find Demona's stare interesting, but she wasn't certain if she could get aroused enough to allow her gratification.

"Kendra?" Demona's concerned voice drew Kendra out of her frowning introspection.

"I guess you like this form then," Kendra responded with forced lightness, she was surprised when her wings twitched and caped around her responding automatically to her unease.

They weren't very good at hiding their uncertainties from each other were they, Demona mused, of course, perhaps that was a good thing. "Kendra I was staring at you before you changed, watching you disrobe it was all I could do not to reach out and touch you," she said, meeting the blue-eyed gaze with complete honesty.

The were-jaguar was surprised, "You were?" She stared searchingly into the gargoyle's green eyes, remembering their passionate kisses back in the camp just before dinner. She did know that Demona found her human form attractive, but that didn't mean that the gargoyle didn't find this form slightly more attractive.

"Yes I was. Am I wrong in thinking that you find both my gargoyle and human forms attractive in different ways?" Demona inquired.

Kendra shook her head, "No, you aren't. I find you very attractive in either form."

"Then why does it surprise you that I find both your human and this new form equally attractive?" the gargoyle asked softly, emphasizing the equally.

Kendra dipped her head, breaking the eye contact between them briefly before lifting her head and seeking out the gargoyle's green eyes once again. "I just thought it might be easier for you to find this form attractive because I look more like what your used to, more gargoyle like."

"Do you find my human form more attractive than this," Demona indicated herself. "Is that why we make love more often when I'm human?" She knew that wasn't the case, after all, it hadn't been her human form that Kendra had been fantasizing about in the cave that first night.

"No!" protested Kendra immediately. "That's only because we are in the spirit realm every night and then tired afterward. We've been making love during the day because that's the only time were both rested and have the time. Trust me, I find you just as attractive now as when you're human," red color bloomed on Kendra's cheeks, "actually, maybe a little more," she admitted, "the differences between us when you're a gargoyle intrigue me."

Demona smirked, her suspicions confirmed, "And you don't think I'm finding the differences between us just as intriguing? Yes, you are a very beautiful and attractive were-jaguar, but you're no less beautiful and attractive to me as a human. And I find the differences between us intriguing as well."

A pleased smile formed on Kendra's face as Demona's sincere tone registered. It faltered however as she grimaced, "That does bring up a complication."

Demona frowned, "complication?" she repeated questioningly.

Kendra shifted from foot to foot uneasily as she explained, "The jaguar doesn't normally feel any sexual desire except for a few days during the summer."

The flame-haired gargoyle stared at the woman before her in dismay, "You mean you don't feel anything for me right now?" a frown formed on her face that just didn't seem right. Demona looked into the feline looking face; into the sapphire blue eyes with their cat-like pupils so noticeable framed as they were by the midnight black of Kendra's fur. She knew she wasn't imagining the affection and warmth in Kendra's eyes.

"No, no," Kendra hurried to explain, "My emotions for you haven't changed any; it's just that I don't feel as aroused as I would if I were human. I mean, I'm more interested right now as a were-jaguar than I would be as a full jaguar, but still not nearly as much as if I were human."

Demona stared at her lover, took in the taller, more muscular form, the deep blackness of her fur, the glossy darkness of her wings. She cloaked her wings behind her and stepped up to Kendra, slipping her arms inside the feathered wings and around her lover's waist. As Demona had hoped, Kendra immediately uncapped her wings from about herself to wrap them around the gargoyle. "Are you sure?" the flame-haired gargoyle asked, staring into her lover's face. She hoped that Kendra wasn't certain, because the feathered wings now wrapped around her felt just as good as she had thought they would.

Kendra stared musingly down into the beautiful face of her lover, was she certain? She closed the short distance between them and pressed her lips against Demona's dark red ones. Their lips brushed and pressed against each other. Kendra felt the first tentative touch of her lover's tongue as the gargoyle sought to deepen the kiss and opened her lips allowing it entry as she tightened her wings around Demona's body. The gargoyles hands moved up her back and began gently stroking along her wing joints. It certainly wasn't unpleasant, like any joint, where her wings joined her back the skin was slightly more sensitive just as the bend of her elbows or knees were more sensitive. However, she suspected she wasn't as sensitive as Demona was there given how the gargoyle had warned her away from the area the night before. Kendra could sense that Demona was getting more and more aroused as they continued kissing, however, as she had suspected it would, her own arousal level had already plateaued.

With a frustrated groan, Demona pulled away from Kendra's lips, she could sense that her lover wasn't reacting as she had hoped. She looked up into the blue eyes, saw the regret and worry there, "So sometime in the summer," the gargoyle forced herself to say lightly, pushing down the disappointment she felt.

"I'm sorry that I didn't consider this earlier," Kendra apologized. "I didn't think beyond the fact that I would like to wrap my wings around you and glide with you," she said guiltily, "and I really should have."

"Kendra," Demona broke into her lover's self-recriminations sternly, "it's alright, after all it's not like I can't make love to you. I just can't when you're in this form. Having you hold me like this and be able to glide with me is so much more than I thought we would be able to do together before now. Don't start regretting making that possible, because I don't, not in any way."

Kendra didn't believe her, oh, she believed her about not regretting the gliding and the winged embrace, but she had already seen the disappointment in Demona's green eyes about the lovemaking. She did appreciate, however, the effort Demona was making to make her feel better about the situation. "I don't regret it," she assured the flame-haired gargoyle. She had seen how much Demona was a creature of the air during their trip here; being able to share that part of the gargoyle's life was worth this one unanticipated disappointment to her. Besides, there was no reason why she couldn't make love to Demona, and there were certain things about this form that were designed with that in just that in mind. She just hadn't considered that Demona would like to reciprocate. It was something that in hindsight she knew she really should have definitely considered even though there was nothing she could do to rectify the problem, but it simply hadn't crossed her mind. She just didn't think of herself as a sexual creature when she was in her jaguar form and that had carried over in her mind to the were-jaguar form.

Unaware of the thoughts in her lover's mind, Demona placed one last kiss on Kendra's lips before pulling away and turning back to the cliff that was their reason for being here. "Let's see if you can climb to the top of this," she said briskly.

Kendra, after a quick intense look at the gargoyles back as she remembered how Demona had stroked up and down her wing joints, filed that information away for later usage. She turned her attention to the cliff in front of them, and stepped up to it staring up at the rough limestone. Tucking her wings behind her, she jumped and extended her claws reaching out for the stone of the cliff, at first they scrapped along the stone, only slowing her descent. She dug her claws in deeper and was relieved when they cut narrow gouges in the stone until they finally caught and brought her to a halt. She stared at her hands, the claws biting into the stone, "Dang, they are that sharp," she commented in astonishment. Amused laughter from next to her had her turning her head to the left, Demona was there hanging from her taloned hands beside her.

"They do seem to be," the flame-haired gargoyle said smiling, "Now try to climb with them like this." Digging her talons into the stone, the gargoyle began climbing hand over hand up the cliff.

It took a few tries for Kendra to determine how to duplicate what the gargoyle was doing. It ended up that the best way was for her to partially extend her claws first, and then force them into the stone using the strength of her hand and forearm while fully extending her claws at the same time until they were fully unsheathed and embedded into the stone.

When they arrived at the top of the cliff, Kendra pulled herself over the edge, rose and looked down upon the stream below. She could feel a constant slight breeze up here and extended her wings to get the feel of it. With her wings extended, Kendra was rather surprised at the amount of force the wind was exerting upon them, and it was suddenly easier to believe that such a slight air current would be enough to keep her airborne.

"Now," Demona began, "Ideally I would have you start off gliding straight down from the cliff, but there isn't quite enough open area for you to do that, so instead we will start off at an angle facing northward. The idea is for you to glide as long as you can up the stream. I'll go first so you can get the idea of how to launch yourself to get airborne. Now watch and stay here, I'll circle around and come back," she instructed as she extended her wings, cupped them slightly against the air. She paused a moment to let Kendra take a good look at how she was angling her wings and then sprang up and forward into the air.

Kendra watched, trying to take in every detail as Demona glided a short distance and then dipped her wing to make a tight turn and head back to the top of the cliff. The gargoyle extended her legs, swept her wings down to slow herself and came to a neat landing a few feet away.

"Don't try turning and coming back for now, just glide as far as you can north up the stream," Demona instructed her, "I'll be right behind you, or did you need me to demonstrate again?"

"No, I think I've got it," Kendra said absently as she lined up angling northward, extending her wings to feel the air currents.

"Just try and land on your feet," Demona added before she could take off, "and if you end up rolling grab your shoulders with your wing claws."

Kendra turned her head to shoot her an offended look, "I am a cat you know."

Demona smirked, "Which is why you should try and land on your feet."

"Humph," Kendra made a little dismissive sound before extending her wings as the gargoyle had done and leaping out into the air. She knew better, from both gymnastics and ice-skating, than to think too much about what she was doing, in many ways her body knew better than she did what it was doing. Instead of thinking about what her wings were doing, she paid attention to how the air felt on them, how much pressure there was from the wind on the underside of her wings and how high in the air she was rising. The forest began to look smaller and smaller as she glided north along the stream, she frowned, she might be rising slightly too much.

"Flatten out the angle some, your gaining too much altitude for right now," Demona's voice came from slightly behind and above her, confirming her suspicion.

Carefully Kendra changed the angle of her wings until she could see that she was no longer rising. She took note of how the wind felt against them, telling herself to equate this feeling with maintaining altitude. She took a few moments to appreciate the sheer joy of what she was doing; she was airborne, gliding along with almost no effort at all. "Did you want me to descend some?" she finally thought to ask.

"Very slowly, I'll be ready to catch you if something goes wrong," Demona instructed, and though Kendra didn't dare look back she could imagine the concerned and protective look on the gargoyle's face.

Incrementally flattening out her wing relative to the wind, Kendra watched closely as the forest below began to get closer. A sudden downdraft had her flaring her wings in surprise as she abruptly lost altitude, too late she realized her mistake as the move cost her most of her forward momentum, "shit," she muttered. "Let me try," she called as she flattened her wings and began diving to regain momentum. She kept a wary eye on the ground now rapidly approaching as she picked up speed.

"Kendra," Demona tense voice warned just before she altered her wing angle to regain altitude now that she had enough forward momentum once again. She fought to hold her wings steady as the strain on them suddenly increased, pulling at the muscles in her back. Either she had the muscles right, in which case they would hold, or she didn't, in which case they wouldn't. Kendra exhaled in relief as the muscles in her back easily withstood the strain and the ground began to recede beneath her once again. She thought she heard a relieved sigh from behind her as she did so, "Am I giving you grey hairs?" she called back brightly.

"I'd prefer not to see you take a header into the ground," Demona sounded upset and slightly angry, "pulling your dead body from that cage was once enough for me."

Kendra sobered quickly, "I'm sorry," she risked turning her head to look around for the gargoyle. The flame-haired gargoyle did look upset; Kendra turned her attention back to watching where she was gliding. "I am sorry," she repeated, "but this isn't exactly the safest thing I could be doing. I need to learn how to get myself out of trouble if at all possible," she said it gently, but also firmly.

Demona didn't immediately respond, and when she did, it wasn't on that subject, "Since we've come so far let's see if you can do a wide turn and head back toward the camp." The flame-haired gargoyle came into Kendra's sight as she took the lead. "Watch and do what I do, it's essentially a gradual lean, we will be going to the right." Kendra followed Demona, gradually leaning her body to the right as they did a large circle over the forest back to the stream and straightened back out to follow it. "We're now flying south and flying with the wind instead of against it," the gargoyle called back, "it's not much different from flying against the wind except you usually pick up more speed going with the wind, if you look down you will notice we're going faster than before."

The were-jaguar looked down, the trees of the forest and the ground did seem to be moving past faster than they had before when they were flying northward against the wind. "Do you know how fast we're gliding?" she asked.

Kendra could see Demona look down, after a few seconds the gargoyle called back, "No idea really, but faster than a horse can gallop. At this rate we will be back to the camp in a few minutes." Noticing the cliffs she had jumped off of to begin this little adventure pass by underneath them, Kendra did not doubt it. "The trick will be," Demona began speaking again, "to decrease altitude and slow down in preparation for landing."

Kendra noticed that she was now slightly above the gargoyle and gaining on her, apparently Demona had begun doing both as soon as she mentioned it. She flattened her wings slightly and started decreasing altitude, but she was still moving faster than Demona.

"Curl the back edge of your wing down slightly," the gargoyle called out from behind her, "but not too much or you'll slow down too fast."

Like the flaps on an airplane wing, Kendra realized, as she followed Demona's suggestion. She noticed the rate of the ground flowing by underneath her decreasing she was slowing down. The flame-haired gargoyle came up beside her and slipped back out in front again.

"Straighten out your wing again, and try and maintain your distance behind me as we come in for a landing," the gargoyle called back. "I'm going to move to the left, don't follow behind me I want you to have space in front of you when we land so we aren't on top of one another."

As instructed, Kendra didn't follow when Demona slid to the left slightly. She focused on maintaining her distance behind the gargoyle, decreasing her altitude and speed as soon as she noticed Demona was either lower or closer than she had been. They were currently gliding perhaps fifteen to twenty feet above the ground, and looking around at the stream and forest, Kendra thought they were almost at the camp.

Almost as if responding to her thoughts, Demona called back, "We're almost to the camp, watch me land and when you're ready do the same." A few seconds afterward, she dropped in altitude several more feet, then bending at the waist she flared her wings, brought her legs forward and neatly landed.

Kendra saw the gargoyle turn and watch her as she followed, descending until the ground was about ten feet away. She flared her wings and brought her legs down and around reaching out for the ground. This felt so much like landing from the high bars in gymnastics that she instinctively rotated her arms against her forward momentum, and bent her legs when they touched the ground taking a hop forward to kill the remaining momentum, but sticking the landing. Of course, as soon as Kendra straightened and realized what she had done she felt rather silly; she turned and looked back at Demona. The gargoyle was staring at her with a puzzled frown. "I landed on my feet," Kendra observed brightly, hoping against hope that the gargoyle hadn't ever watched a gymnastics competition and thus wouldn't recognize what she had done.

Demona nodded, "Yes you did," she agreed, sounding distracted "That was..." the gargoyle stared at her, "a…" she stopped again and gazed at the were-jaguar, "was that from your gymnastics training?" she finally asked in a completely puzzled tone.

Kendra ducked her head, ran her fingers though her hair and rubbed the back of her neck in embarrassment, "yea," she responded monosyllabically. She glanced up through her eyelashes at the gargoyle; a slow grin was forming on Demona's red lips.

"Should I find some paper and start giving you marks," asked the redhead slyly, her tail twitching lazily behind her, "I believe that was termed sticking the landing?"

The were-jaguar was glad that her skin was too dark to show how much she was flushing, "yea, it felt a lot like coming off a high bar, it was instinctual, I wasn't thinking about it. Bit silly looking I guess."

Demona eyed her, noticing how embarrassed her lover was for the first time. She decided to drop the teasing, at least for right now, "Well at least you didn't end up on your face or tumbling end over end," she commented. "Tomorrow night perhaps we can go back to the cliff and I'll demonstrate a few landings. While that one worked, it would leave you vulnerable to an attack. There's been a several times I've been either attacked or gone into battle immediately upon landing so I want you to learn to land the same way I do."

Kendra stared at the gargoyle, seeing how serious she was, "Alright, I'd like that. I'd say my training in gymnastics and ice skating is helping me in the air, but I obviously have some new skills to learn."

"I hadn't considered that," Demona responded thoughtfully, "that your training would help with gliding that is," she clarified in response to Kendra's confused expression. "You did much better than I thought you would."

"Thanks," Kendra said smiling briefly. She grimaced, "I've still got a lot to learn though, that jerk back response to that downdraft was exactly the wrong way to react in the air."

Demona nodded her face clouding as she remembered what happened immediately afterward.

"I'm sorry I joked about it, I didn't realize that you were worried," Kendra said quietly.

The fiery-haired gargoyle directed an angry look toward her until she realized her lover was sincere. "You said you weren't certain about the muscles in your wings, whether they were right or not. I didn't know if they could withstand the strain of pulling out of that dive and I wasn't certain there was enough distance between you and the ground for me to get to you if they weren't. I was afraid that I was about to watch you die and be able to do nothing to stop it," she said feeling upset once again as she remembered the moment of intense fear when she realized the strain pulling out of the dive would put on the untested muscles of Kendra's wings.

"Oh," Kendra said feeling stupid and insensitive. It wasn't quite the same, but she imagined that it wasn't too different from the helplessness she had felt while her mother was slowly dying and she could do nothing. She crossed the distance between them and drew Demona into her arms, wrapping her wings around the gargoyle, "I didn't think about that, I was just trying to get enough forward momentum going," she said stroking her fingers slowly through the fiery tresses.

Demona allowed herself to be drawn into Kendra's arms. She rested her head against her lover's chest and closed her eyes, listening to the strong steady beat of Kendra's heart and enjoying the affectionate stroking of her hair. She knew that Kendra had been right when she said that she needed to learn how to get herself out of trouble. Nevertheless, that didn't mean that the gargoyle's heart hadn't been in her throat as she watched the ground get so close that she wasn't certain she could react in time if Kendra hadn't been able to pull out of the dive.

Demona didn't know how long they stood there quietly together. Kendra's thick wings and warm body kept the chill of the night away and the sound of her heart along with the soothing rumbling purr and the slow stroking of her hair made Demona want to just remain there with her lover's wings surrounding her. She couldn't though, the Ancient One was expecting her and she did want to learn how to heal. She sighed reluctant to move even though she knew she had to, "We need to go to the spirit realm," she said rubbing the side of her face against Kendra's soft, thick pelt enjoying the feel of it against her skin.

She felt the purring sound underneath her ear break up as Kendra chuckled, "you sound so enthused," her lover observed.

The gargoyle grinned, "I am, I want to learn how to heal," she forced herself to lift her head away from Kendra's chest, "it's just very nice being held like this."

Kendra leaned forward and placed a brief almost chaste kiss on the red lips, "This won't be the only time, I plan on doing holding you like this quite frequently you know."

"You do?" Demona asked, she heard the wistfulness in her voice and felt embarrassed at being so needy.

"Definitely," Kendra promised her warmly, her blue eyes fixed upon Demona's green ones'.


Chapter 20

Rachael was waiting for them in the spirit realm; standing beside her was a tall tanned man with short salt and pepper hair. The Owl's chosen looked surprised for a moment when she first saw them, and then she smiled approvingly, "Nice look Kendra, I like it."

"Thank you," Kendra's cheerful voice came from behind Demona, "I rather like it myself."

The Cree woman turned to the tall lanky man standing beside her, "Demona, Kendra, I'd like you to meet Wayne Robinson one of Wolf's chosen, he's with the FBI," she introduced him.

Demona met the human male's gaze, the tentative welcoming smile on her face died as she recognized the hard evaluating look he was giving her. She had seen the same look in Goliath's eyes so many times in the past few years. The gargoyle felt Kendra step up beside her, saw the males blue-grey eyes shift slightly and a wary look cross his narrow face. It didn't take much intuition to guess that her lover was giving him a warning look, and considering that Kendra had stayed in her were-jaguar form the glare was probably even more intimidating than usual.

Rachael sighed in annoyance, "Wayne you know what the spirits, including Wolf, decreed," her voice carried her disapproval.

Demona shifted her gaze to the Owl's chosen wondering exactly what the woman was talking about.

The hawk nosed man turned to look at Rachael, and to Demona's surprise he looked appalled at the Cree woman's accusation, "I am not disagreeing with them," he protested, "they're right, she shouldn't be held accountable for the actions the Fey manipulated her into taking." He turned his gaze back to the fiery haired gargoyle, "I'm just not as sure that she won't decide to take up her vengeance again if something happens to the gargoyles from her clan or Kendra. I don't believe that teaching her about nature magic is a good idea right now, I think the Ancient One should wait a few years until she's showed that she can control herself when under pressure."

The gargoyle's green eyes narrowed, "So instead of judging me for what I've done, you're going to judge me for things I haven't yet done?" she asked lashing her tail angrily. She hadn't expected to meet this attitude from the other chosen; she was used to it with her old clan, but not here. She had gotten used to being accepted, she should have know it couldn't last.

"No," Wayne looked back at the gargoyle, "I'm just saying that we shouldn't be handing you a loaded weapon when you've already shown yourself to be liable to use it when you're angry until you've proven that you can control that anger instead of it controlling you."

Demona opened her mouth to snap back when she realized she had no idea what he was talking about, what loaded weapon was she being handed? Moreover, she was uneasily aware that his accusation about her temper and the trouble it had gotten her into in the past was only too accurate.

"She doesn't realize does she?" Wayne said, the hardness in his eyes easing, "The Ancient One hasn't told her, she doesn't know that what can heal can also harm."

Rachael shook her head at him, "She's not human Wayne, she hardly needs to use magic to kill someone when those talons she has can cut into rock and she's about three times as strong as a human," she said exasperated.

"Wolf's chosen," the deep resonant voice of the Irish Elk preceded him as he stepped out of the swirling mists that surrounded them. "Owl's chosen, young Jaguar, my chosen," he greeted them as he walked toward them. He turned his majestic head toward Wayne, "I understand your concern for yourself and your fellow chosen, however, I know my chosen and she is not in danger of misusing the power I have given her."

The Wolf's chosen and the great stag spirit stared at each other for a long moment before Wayne finally looked away, "I hope that you are right Ancient One. I don't ever want to…" his voice trailed off, and he shook his head. He looked back over toward Demona, "Anyway that isn't why I'm here, neither the Canadians nor the FBI has any evidence indicating that you're anything but human. You don't need to worry about them finding out unless whoever kidnapped you decides to publicize it."

"That might be a problem," Kendra commented, "the kidnappers were Quarrymen and they're led by my cousin Jon Canmore who doesn't seem to be entirely sane these days and we suspect he's enchanted as well."

Wayne directed his attention toward the Jaguar's chosen with a sharp look, "I heard about your family, I didn't know that one of them was leading up the Quarrymen though, I thought the guy's name was John Castaway."

Demona watched quietly as Kendra and Wayne discussed her cousin and his change in name and looks. It was obvious to her now that there was something she didn't know about the Wolf's chosen. She hadn't realized it at the time, but despite how Wayne had looked at her, there hadn't been any matching judgmental emotions directed toward her, which there should have been if his thoughts were directed toward her. She hadn't felt anything from him though until he had told her that no one knew Dominique Destine was a gargoyle and then she had felt only reassurance from him. His comments to the Ancient One suggested that if she misused her powers he would become involved in some manner, and she was starting to suspect it was more that possible involvement that was concerning the Wolf's chosen rather than the actual possibility of her misusing her powers.

"We got a call from your Gargoyle Task Force asking if we had heard of any of the organized crime groups we keep an eye on had been directing money toward the Quarrymen," Wayne was saying when Demona's attention returned to the discussion. "We hadn't heard anything, but I'll add them to our list of organizations we keep an eye on. I was thinking about doing that anyway, but their attempt against your lives just gives me that final reason." He nodded toward Demona and Kendra.

This was the helpfulness Demona had expected when she first saw him here; to say she was baffled by him was definitely not an understatement.

Wayne rubbed his hand over his short hair, "Look I know I'm not the best guy for a sensitive conversation…" A snort from Rachael interrupted him; he scowled in her direction before turning back to Demona and continuing. "I really don't think you're a bad sort. You just have a temper to go along with your hair, and I don't want anything bad happening if you fly off the handle and go all apocalyptic on people even if they do deserve it, because we're the ones that will get called in to disable your powers and try and clean things up. I don't want to see you in that situation," it could have sounded like a threat, but it didn't, instead it sounded and felt like a plea.

Demona stared at him, her tail twitching restlessly, responding to her uncertainty, "I don't want to see me in that situation either," she responded after a moment, "but why would you be called into deal with disabling my powers?" She glanced over at the Ancient One questioningly.

"What is given is not so easily taken away," the spirit responded, "and in most instances that response is not necessary."

"Usually all that's needed is to take someone's powers away until they've have a chance to cool down, deal with their anger or grief or whatever's pushed them over the edge," Wayne explained, "then we take the blocks away."

Demona felt Kendra's hands upon her shoulders and the soft, warm press of her chest against her back as her lover stepped close, "So if you're taking all the guns and sharp knives away until it's safe to give them back, what's the big deal? Other than of course the person in question probably really needs some help to get through whatever happened to put them in that headspace in the first place."

"That second one," Wayne responded grimly, "And the fact that a lot of damage can happen before we can get there."

Kendra's thumbs rubbed soothing circles into the muscles of Demona's neck as the were-jaguar softly responded, "I sort of thought that might be the case. You've seen such situations go bad I gather."

An expression of pain ghosted across his lean, narrow face, "yea I have." All of them were silent for a moment as they absorbed that piece of information. "Well, I've got to go," Wayne said looking sad and tired, "I'll let you know if the situation changes."

"Thank you," Demona said to him quickly having the sense that he wanted to leave immediately.

Wayne nodded in reply, and then faded rapidly until he had completely disappeared.

Rachael sighed, "He's never going to get over Alice is he," she said quietly, "not that I guess I blame him."

Demona asked, "Who was Alice?"

"It was about eighty years ago now?" Rachael turned toward the Irish Elk.

"It has been eighty three years since the Crow's chosen took her life," the Ancient One replied.

Kendra's hands on her shoulders stilled at this, Demona asked in dismay, "What happened?"

"Her daughter was raped and killed," Rachael quietly took up the story, "Alice found her in the woods when she went looking for her after she didn't show up for dinner. The men who had raped her had cut her open and left her to bleed to death."

Demona barely felt Kendra's hands tighten on her shoulders she was too busy remembering. The two women in the woods had died like that; she had been horrified when she had found their bodies in front of their cottage. She couldn't imagine how much more horrified a mother would be to find her daughter that way.

"She went after the killers," Rachael continued.

"Surely that's understandable," broke in Demona angrily, remembering how she had killed the men who had done that to the two women, "that a mother has the right to avenge her daughter's murder!"

Rachael frowned pensively, "I don't necessarily disagree with you Demona, but that's not why her powers were blocked by a pack of Wolf's chosen."

"What did she do?" Kendra asked quietly.

"She didn't stop with them; she decided to make sure no one else's daughter suffered what her daughter had suffered," Demona grimaced; she could guess where this story was headed. Images of people turned to stone by her ill-conceived spell danced in her mind; she knew only too well where unchecked vengeance could lead one. Rachael continued, "That was when Wayne and several other Wolf's chosen were sent to block her from her powers."

Demona asked, "What went wrong?"

The Owl's chosen drew in a deep breath, "They got there well ahead of the others sent to help and bound her powers. Unfortunately, none of them thought to keep watch over her other than to make sure she didn't hurt anyone else. She hung herself; Wayne was the one who found her."

Demona flinched, unless you did it exactly right hanging was a slow and painful death. Over the years, she had seen enough humans hanging other humans to know that, and she had almost been strangled by hunters a few times herself.

"So he's blamed himself ever since for not thinking that she might be a danger to herself without an external target for her anger and grief," Kendra commented.

Rachael nodded, "they all did," she added.

Demona asked after a few seconds, "What did you mean by a pack of Wolf's chosen?"

The Cree woman turned her attention to the gargoyle, "Wolf's chosen are stronger when they do their magic in a group each supporting the others. A large enough group of them is strong enough to bind any other chosen, which is why they were given that duty."

"That was not the only reason;" the Irish's Elks voice interposed, "Wolf chooses those that are naturally inclined toward maintaining law, order, and tradition. Those characteristics along with their ability to augment their magic by performing it as a group made them our first choice for such a difficult duty."

"Like Wayne, most of them are in some type of law enforcement organization," Rachael commented.

"That makes sense," Kendra responded. The words law enforcement jogged her memory, and she recalled something she should have mentioned before now, "That reminds me, I heard what I thought was a search plane this afternoon."

"Most likely," Rachael replied, "You will have to be careful from now on with your camp fire. The woods are too dense for them to spot the camp from the air, but they would probably be able to see the smoke from a fire rising above the forest."

Kendra's hands left Demona's shoulders as the were-jaguar stepped around her to stand by her side, "Yea, I already figured that out," she grumbled.

Rachael smirked, "Darn those people trying to rescue us when we don't want to be found just yet."

Demona joined Kendra in chuckling at the quip. She met the Ancient One's eyes; she knew it was time for them to go. "Time for me to go to training," she told Kendra, "Are you staying here or?" she asked glancing over at Rachael. She didn't know if the other woman was staying or leaving tonight.

"I'll stay here," Kendra said, "I need to work on my claws some more, I wasn't anticipating needing to climb up stone and concrete. I felt the strain on them when we climbed that cliff, and from what you're saying I'll need to climb much higher."

The sky-blue gargoyle nodded, "At least three to four times that height to be safe," she confirmed.

Kendra blinked, "Well, alright then," she said, "I guess its back to the drawing board on the claws."

"I've got some time tonight," Rachael offered, "Not sure how much help I'll be though."

"Let us begin," the Ancient One's deep voice drew Demona's attention as the great stag turned and headed into the mists, leaving her no choice but to follow. "Do not be concerned about your young Jaguar," he said as she caught up to him, "the Wise One will arrive shortly, she will find the young Jaguar's problem too interesting to not join her chosen in helping solve it."

"She's not mine," Demona corrected him quietly, feeling the fluttering of uncertainty in her stomach. The thought of Kendra being her mate filled her with equal amounts of joy and fear. She remembered only too well how much Goliath's promises of forever had worked out. The one human friend she had made after her alliance with Macbeth, Michael, who was better known now as Nostradamus, had prophesied when the enchantment on Goliath and the others would be broken. She had waited for four hundred and sixty two years for David Xanatos to be born and obtain enough wealth to raise the castle above the clouds and the first thing Goliath had done was after telling her the centuries had made her hard, unforgiving and not as he remembered her was to leave her to go visit a human.

Goliath wasn't aware of the fact that she had followed him that night. He didn't realize that she had noticed how he looked at the human woman when Elisa reached up and made him look at her upon that rooftop. He might not have realized what he was feeling for the human but she certainly had realized what that look meant after his rejection of her actions in front of the remaining clan. In that moment she had realized that she had suffered all that time alone, she had fought and run from the hunters that would not cease trying to kill her, she had evaded Macbeth during the times he felt suicidal instead of letting her old ally find her and end their shared misery, that she had survived all those lonely, hard years just for her mate to betray her for a human woman.

The irony of her current situation certainly hadn't escaped her. Goliath had his human female lover and now she had hers, and her human lover was rapidly winning her heart. Just as, she guessed, Elisa Maza had won Goliath's. Kendra's loyalty, her understanding, her humor, her gentleness, her fierceness and strength and honor…the list of Kendra's attractive qualities could go on and on, even the fact that Kendra was human had become something that the gargoyle appreciated. As for being her mate, however, they had barely known each other for two weeks. Granted it had been an incredible two weeks, and she felt closer to Kendra right now than she had ever felt towards Goliath, but it was just too soon to think of such things. Why, she and Goliath had courted for years before declaring themselves mates, it was just too soon for her to think of Kendra in that way, Demona told herself. The gargoyle noticed they were almost to the stream, "Where are we going?" she asked the stag spirit.

"The tree that you took flight from was injured by your talons, your task tonight will be to heal the damage," he responded.

"Injured…" she repeated and then fell silent troubled by his words, it hadn't crossed her mind to consider what her talons were doing to the tree when she climbed it to get airborne. They stepped out into the open and turned north; the tree was fairly close for she had taken to the air as soon as they reached the open space. Demona frowned as she stepped up to the shadowy image of the tree, even in the spirit realm she could easily see where her talons had punctured through the bark as she climbed. Resin was seeping out along the injured areas sealing them. She focused her sight and was immediately confused by what she was seeing; she could tell the tree was injured from the discordant flaring of life energy around each wound in its bark, but that was not what was puzzling her. She stared at the closest wound, then above and below it where the unwounded bark was, it almost looked as if tiny motes of life were attacking the wounded area. "Am I seeing bacteria?" she finally hazarded a guess.

"The small motes of life attacking the damaged area?" the spirit inquired, "Yes, they are what the humans call bacteria, they are seeking out the sap of the tree for energy. Unfortunately, in doing so they will cause more damage and the decay of the tree's structure as they multiply and spread among its tissues. To combat this, the tree will form several layers of tissue to wall the bacteria and other organisms away from the damaged area. The tree has already begun to do so; if you look at the area directly above and below the wound you will see that the tree has already walled off the tubes that would transport sap through the affected area so that the bacterial cannot spread through its vascular system."

Demon paid close attention as the Irish Elk spirit continued to explain how the tree would heal itself. She could see the steps it had already taken to protect itself; it was almost like a tiny battle, the bacteria attacking and the tree putting up defensive fortifications to prevent any further incursions.

The Ancient One continued to instruct, "Look at the nature magic around you, whereas all life magic is held within living things nature magic is not. You will notice small amounts of unclaimed energy available in the air and land around you, reach out your will toward it and call it to you."

The flame haired gargoyle altered her sight, examining the nature energy around her, searching for what the Irish Elk was describing. She hadn't noticed any excess nature energy when they were having their lesson on nature magic a few days ago, but then she hadn't been looking for it. Now though, specifically searching for it, she could see the motes of energy floating all around her almost like dust in a sunbeam. She reached out her will to them, and called them to her. Slowly at first and then faster they flowed into her, she felt a tingling inside her that grew and grew. It didn't feel unpleasant but neither did it feel soothing, it felt restless as if she needed desperately to do something with it, to run about madly or jump or…

"Chosen," the stag spirit said sounding amused, "let the energy know you have enough."

Oh yes, she definitely had enough energy, Demona thought, becoming uneasily aware of the fact that even her thoughts seemed to be chasing themselves around restlessly inside her head. As the energy flow into her slowed and finally stopped, the fiery haired gargoyle realized her tail was lashing from side to side betraying her agitation.

Seeing that his chosen had stopped the energy flow the Ancient One continued, "Unfortunately you cannot heal the tree from the spirit realm; you must go into the living world. For me to instruct you once you have reached this tree you will need to know how to span the two realms, to remain in the living realm while being partially in the spirit." The stag spirit stared at his chosen taking in the restless way she shifted from taloned foot to taloned foot, the twitching of her wings and agitated lashing of her tail. "Perhaps it would be wise to take in less energy next time," he offered dryly, his ears twitching. Demona stared at him, from the way his ears were flicking back and forth, she had the definite impression that he was laughing at her. "You can ground excess energy into the earth, simply place your hand upon the ground and let some of your energy bleed away through the connection," the Irish Elk directed her.

"You could have mentioned that earlier," the gargoyle complained as she did as he suggested. The great stag spirit did not reply, he merely watched as she grounded enough of the energy so that it no longer felt as if it were trying to crawl out of her skin.

"Chosen," the Irish Elks deep voice drew the gargoyles attention; her green eyes went to his brown one's. Realizing that he wished to impart knowledge to her, Demona met the stag's gaze. Information flowed from the spirit to her as he showed her how to span the two realms so she could talk to him while in the living.

"I should go tell Kendra what's happening so she doesn't get pulled out of the spirit realm when I leave the tent," Demona said as soon as she understood.

The great stag dipped his antlered head, "I shall remain here and await you."

Demona went to all fours and began running swiftly back through the forest to the clearing where Kendra and Rachael were located. When she arrived, as the Ancient One had predicted, the Eagle Owl spirit was there as well.

"Demona?" Kendra questioned, worried at the way the gargoyle had rushed into the clearing.

The flame-haired gargoyle quickly explained what she needed to do, and that she hadn't wanted to disturb Kendra when she slipped out of her arms and left the tent.

"Actually," said the blue eyed were-jaguar, "We're done with my claws, and I'd like to see this if you don't mind the company."

The Wise One remarked, "There will likely be little to see, but none the less it may prove interesting."

"I don't know what there will be to see," Demona admitted. Turning to Kendra, she said warmly, "I don't even know what I'm supposed to do yet, but I certainly won't mind your company."

Kendra grinned, "I guess we will find out when we get there then. Rachael, Wise One, thank you again for your help with these," she extended her claws which glittered in the dim light.

Demona stared at the sharp talons that now shone like obsidian; she reached over and grabbed one of Kendra's hands before her lover could retract her claws. "They didn't look like this before, what did you do to them?"

"Changed the composition of the claw itself to make it harder so that it could dig into stone or concrete easier, and made the tendon that extends the claw stronger," Kendra explained.

"Demona, Kendra," Rachael said, drawing their attention, "I need to get going, unless something changes I'll see you in three days, I should arrive just after noon."

Demona nodded, "We'll have everything packed and ready." Her green eyes widened as she remembered what the Ancient One had said about making a second amulet for Kendra, "Rachael, we will need the materials for a second amulet, will that be difficult?"

The Owl's chosen gave her a bemused look, "No, but why?"

"The Ancient One suggested that Kendra will need one for herself for the same reason I need one," Demona looked over at her winged lover.

Kendra's sapphire blue eyes widened in realization, "To explain how I could change to this," she indicated her current form, "If the clan sees me."

"Very forward thinking of the Ancient One," the Eagle Owl said approvingly, "it is likely you will eventually encounter that situation and have need of such an item."

Rachael nodded, "I'll have two amulets ready for Thursday night," she assured them with a smile. She turned toward the Eagle Owl, "Good night Wise One."

"Good night to you my chosen," the Owl replied.

"Thank you Rachael," Demona just had time to say before the Owl's chosen disappeared.

Kendra turned toward the Eagle Owl, "Good night Wise One, and thank you for your suggestions they were perfect."

"You are welcome young Jaguar," the Wise One replied.

"Why does almost everyone call me that instead of Jaguar's chosen?" Kendra finally asked.

The Wise One clicked her beak together a few times, now Demona was almost certain that was the owl's version of laughter. "Because those who are chosen by the Jaguar, and chose the Jaguar, are more intertwined with the gift of his spirit than are most other chosen. Your human spirit and the jaguar spirit inside you are becoming one; you are more than just chosen, you are jaguar and human." The owl's luminous yellow eyes regarded Kendra intently, "Most of you go feral after enough years, choosing to spend all their time as a jaguar. I do not believe, however, that will be the case with you," her gaze shifted briefly to meet the gargoyle's, "I think you will have reason to keep your humanity dominant rather than submerge your humanness within the solitary jaguar."

Demona's eyes widened as she took in this information, some part of her had already realized that Kendra was different from either she or Rachael. She just hadn't realized exactly what the difference was between the black-haired woman and them.

"You might be right," Kendra replied quietly to the Owl spirit, blue eyes turning toward the fiery haired gargoyle.

The warmth in Kendra's blue gaze it seemed to go straight to Demona's heart where it lit a sweet aching yearning. Recalling her reason for being there in the first place, the gargoyle cleared her throat, "We should go; the Ancient One is waiting for me."

Kendra nodded, her form wavered and disappeared leaving Demona alone with the Wise One. She hesitated a moment, "Solitary?" she asked the owl spirit.

"Jaguars mate once a year, but they do not remain with their mates. They raise their young alone and remain alone almost their entire lives. Humans however, like gargoyles, desire and need mates with which they can form a bond with that spans their entire lifetime," the Wise One responded.

Demona nodded thoughtfully, "Good night Wise One."

"Good night Ancient One's chosen," the Eagle Owl spirit replied. Feeling a sense of satisfaction, the Wise One watched as the gargoyle disappeared. Everything seemed to be proceeding as she and the Ancient One had hoped it would proceed. Already the changes in temperament and attitude she noticed in the gargoyle since the fiery haired one had first appeared here were striking.

As for the young jaguar, it looked as if Jaguar's experiment with choosing a human who was not from the tribes who had worshiped him was reaping unexpected benefits. The humans mind was as quick and agile as her body. No one before her had explored the limits of their shapeshifting abilities as she was and the Wise One knew the Jaguar was impressed with her developing abilities. Her developing relationship with the gargoyle female was surprising, but it seemed to be working out for the betterment of both chosen and the Wise One hoped it would continue to flourish and mature.

Becoming aware of the warm body, and strong arms and wings wrapped around her once again, Demona allowed herself a few seconds to just enjoy the scent and feel of her lover. Kendra's arms tightened around the gargoyle and Demona turned her head enough to be able to rub her cheek against the soft thickness of the were-jaguar's fur. A rumbling soft purr began in the chest underneath her ear, and the gargoyle's lips curved into a smile. The ability to purr was one of the unique things about Kendra that the flame-haired gargoyle particularly enjoyed. Gargoyles could produce a low rumble in their chest that was almost a purr, but it really wasn't anything like the true sonorous feline purr she was hearing and feeling now.

"We need to get going," Kendra's reluctant voice echoed underneath the gargoyle's ear.

Demona stifled the grumble of disappointment she wanted to make, the Ancient One was waiting for her and she did want to learn how to heal. The little she had learned earlier only made her more interested in finding out what else the great stag had to teach her tonight. Four minutes later, they arrived at the pine tree she had climbed only two hours before. Demona looked upon the ugly gashes her talons had left in its reddish bark with a feeling of regret. She hadn't meant to damage the tree she had only wanted to show Kendra how to get airborne and finding the cliff they were seeking.

Kendra examined the bark of the tree seeing the damage Demona's talons had left in its bark when the blue gargoyle climbed it earlier. She glanced over at her lover, and seeing the troubled look on the beautiful face offered, "I wouldn't have thought about it either Demona. I can't even tell you the number of trees I've sharpened my claws on over the years." The were-jaguar smirked, "I guess I'll have to make myself a very large scratching post to use instead."

Demona's jaw dropped for a moment at the image that popped into her mind, and then she started chuckling, "That will have to be some scratching post to withstand the claws you have now," she observed.

Kendra extended her claws and stared at them thoughtfully, "Hmm, it will have to be won't it."

The gargoyle shook her head, smiling; she turned her attention back to the tree, "I need to get going, he's going to be wondering what's taking me so long." Demona closed her eyes and concentrated on reaching out to the spirit realm while keeping her consciousness within the living. It took her a few tries, she knew how to do what she wanted thanks to the Irish Elk spirit, but knowing how was the easy part, it was the concentration required for accomplishing what she knew how to do that was hard.

She knew she had succeeded when she heard the voice of the Ancient One greeting her, "Chosen."

She opened her eyes; the sprit realm appeared laid on top of the living world, turning the trees a shade greyer than they had been in the dark. The great stag spirit appeared as a shadow to her sight standing majestically beside the pine tree. "Ancient One," she returned his greeting.

"Let us begin," he said briskly, "for this is much more draining than being fully in the spirit realm, and I do not wish you to injure yourself."

Demona nodded, "what should I do?"

"First focus your attention on the injury closest to the earth," the Irish Elk instructed, "you now understand how the tree will heal itself. Your first task is to assist the tree in its natural healing process. Concentrating on the energies appearance, release the nature energy you took in into the wound as life energy. As the life energy flows into the tree will it to assist the tree in healing as you envision the healing process in your mind."

The gargoyle altered her sight so that she could see the life magic around her; the tree appeared more brilliantly golden here in the living realm than it had in the spirit realm. The wounds in its bark were also more noticeable; the life energy around each wound was flaring in what almost appeared to be pain. "Do trees feel pain," she asked quietly.

"What?" she heard Kendra say in surprise just before the spirit answered.

The great stag met her gaze, "All living things know when they are injured. However, if you are asking if the tree feels pain as you would, then no, it does not have a nervous system or brain to interpret the injury in that manner. It does have chemical reactions that let the entire tree know that it is injured and where the injury is and that is what you are seeing."

Reassured, Demona laid her hand over the gnash in the tree's bark and willed herself to see golden light moving from her hand into the injury. When the golden light began flowing, she thought about how the tree made a barrier around the injured area, protecting itself from further damage and rot.

"Very good," the great stag praised her, "look upon your work chosen."

The gargoyle let her sight go back to normal and looked at the gash, it looked months old now instead of new. The bark around it had healed and the small amount of exposed pith that had been bleeding resin was now a hard, smooth barrier of wood.

Kneeling beside her Kendra reached out and touched the bark around the healed injury. Her blue eyes turned toward Demona, and the gargoyle could see that her lover was impressed. Seeing the results of her efforts the fiery haired gargoyle was rather impressed herself, her lips curved upward with a small, pleased smile.

"Color me impressed," said Kendra.

The gargoyle turned her head to look at her lover, she hadn't heard that particular human idiom before and wondered if it were just rhetorical or there was a actually color associated with being impressed like white with purity and red for courage.

Before she could ask, the Irish Elk said, "The next healing will be more difficult; instead of encouraging the tree to heal on its own; you will provide enough life energy to knit together the pith and bark until it is whole once again."

Demona whipped her head around to look at him, "How am I supposed to do that?"

The spirits ears flicked rapidly back and forth once, "You will need to take in more nature energy before beginning," he advised, "however, before you do so let us discuss how you will bring about this healing." The great stag had her examine the uninjured bark and pith nearest the injured area closely. She needed to know exactly how each tissue was composed because she would have to shape the life energy to match the uninjured tissues exactly. Once she had the energy in place, she would weave the energy among the damaged tissues and then pull them together just as if she were stitching a wound closed.

Now that she understood what she was to do, Demona altered her sight so that she could see the nature energy around her. There seemed to be more of it here than she remembered, but perhaps that was because she was not reaching from the spirit realm into the living. She began drawing in the energy; as soon as she began to feel the itching sensation underneath her skin, she willed the energy absorption to stop not wanting a repeat of the first time she had done this.

"What are you doing?" Kendra asked curiously, "you're acting very…fidgety all of a sudden."

Demona looked over at her lover; the were-jaguar was observing her intently her head cocked slightly to the side as she stared at the gargoyle with a puzzled expression. "It's because I've absorbed some nature energy, it makes me feel as if I itch all over," the gargoyle explained. She placed her hands around the edges of the gnash in the pine bark, concentrating on what she needed to do. A few minutes later she gazed in amazement at the undamaged bark of the pine tree, there was no sign now of the ugly rip in the bark that had been there before. She knew she had done this, but she was still left with a sense of unreality as she looked at the evidence of her work.

"Wow," the awe in Kendra's voice as she reached up and ran her finger over the now unblemished reddish bark filled Demona with pleasure tinged with embarrassment.

The confusing mixture of pleasure and embarrassment only increased when the Irish Elk added quietly in his deep, resonant voice, "Very well done chosen." The great stag waited until his chosen's gaze went to the remaining talon marks, "Leave the others to heal naturally, over the next few days watch and learn how the tree heals itself. Now for your last lesson this night, pull a small amount of nature energy into yourself," he instructed. When she had done as he asked he continued, "Focus upon the energy and will it to form itself into a sphere of energy in your open hand. You do not want to burn yourself, so when you will it to create light think of light that gives off no or little heat."

Light that gives off no or little heat, Demona repeated the stag's instructions to herself as she stared at the ball of nature energy that now floated just above her outstretched hand. Cold light, blue light, her mind answered, no sooner had she thought it than the energy sphere lit up with blindingly brilliant blue-white light. Demona flinched away from the bright light closing her eyes against it and there was a protesting yowl from Kendra at the same time. The gargoyle's concentration broken, the light winked out of existence. Spots danced in front of her eyes when Demona opened them.

"Ok, that would be a useful weapon at night," Kendra commented after a moment.

"I'm sorry," Demona apologized, still blinking her eyes trying to recover from the sudden light, "I didn't realize it would be that bright," she mumbled embarrassed. She heard Kendra's quiet chuckle just before the were-jaguar's strong arms wrapped around her waist and she was pulled into a warm reassuring hug.

"You definitely did it though," her lover noted, amusement clear in her tone.

The gargoyle had to join the were-jaguar in her amusement at that comment, "I guess I did, didn't I. Let me try for less light this time." Kendra let her go and the gargoyle held out her hand once again, concentrating on reforming the energy ball, this time though she carefully thought about creating a dim blue light. This time though the light was barely brighter than a candle.

The Ancient One said, "You can control the intensity of the light by focusing your will upon it."

Demona concentrated upon the light floating above her palm, it slowly increased in brightness until it was as bright as a lamp and cast a cool blue light upon the forest around them.

"Are you doing that?" Kendra asked, Demona looked over at her and noticed there was a delighted smile on her lover's face as she watched the globe of light.

Demona's expression lit with a matching smile, "The Ancient One's teaching me how to control it," she confirmed.

The great stag said, "You can control its location in the same manner. Move the light around you chosen; it does not have to remain in your hand."

Demona stared at the globe of light in her hand and willed it to rise. Obedient to her will it rose a few inches into the air and halted, she lowered her hand and stared at the glowing globe in wonder. This was so different from sorcery, the gargoyle thought, with sorcery you spoke the spell and the globe appeared and would follow you, but you didn't really have direct control over it. This though, this she had direct control over, Demona willed the globe to rise and move to the side. She smiled delightedly as the globe smoothly obeyed, moving to exactly where she wanted it.

"Coolness," Kendra exclaimed, and then looked embarrassed at the gaucheness of her outburst.

The flame haired gargoyle couldn't help it; she began laughing merrily at her lover. The sound of it rang in the cold night air, light and joyous. Kendra smiled delighted at the gargoyle, her blue eyes crinkling up at the corners as she enjoyed the sight of the gargoyle laughing so unreservedly.

"I believe you are familiar with the idea that light is merely a type of emitted energy?" the spirit asked as soon as his chosen had stopped laughing.

Demona turned her attention to him, "I am," she confirmed becoming more serious as she turned her attention back to the Ancient One.

"The nature energy you used to create the globe is being transformed into this type of emitted energy, the light will last as long as there is energy to supply it," the Irish Elk explained. "Now that you understand the basic…"

While the Irish Elk was speaking, a sly look came over the were-jaguar's face, "Can you make it bigger and disk like?" she asked completely unaware that the stag spirit was speaking.

Demona held up one finger, "Just a second, the Ancient One is speaking," she said quietly, moderating the admonishment with a quick smile for the were-jaguar. Kendra eyed the empty space where her lover was staring intently, it was odd knowing that Demona was seeing and hearing the Ancient One in the spirit realm when she could not.

Apparently unperturbed by the interruption except for a brief flicker of one ear the majestic stag began again, "Now that you understand the basic method for producing light, be aware of the fact that I had you created it as cold light only to keep it from burning your hand. You may use the light as a heat source as well, though this will use up the nature energy supplying it more rapidly."

As soon as he finished, Demona looked at the globe and willed it to increase in size and change shape, she looked back at her lover inquiringly.

Kendra started chuckling, "Can you make it look like one of those flying saucers from the fifties shows?"

Demona smirked, she did happen to know exactly what Kendra was referring to having watched about ten minutes of one of the ridiculous black and white movies one Sunday afternoon before changing the TV channel. The disk thickened and sported what looked like windows along its edge, and as a final touch she sent it spinning wobbly.

Kendra began laughing, in between bouts she gasped, "You realize we could take this on the road and start a new UFO craze right?"

The gargoyle looked at the disk spinning irregularly on its axis, she shook her head, "I don't think you're supposed to be tempting me to do cruel things to humans," she commented chuckling. The gargoyle glanced over at the giant stag spirit who was regarding the still chuckling Kendra with interest, one of his ears cocked toward her.

He looked over at his chosen and shook his antlered head, apparently choosing to not address their antics, "If you will modify the globe so that it emits heat our lesson will be over for this evening."

She willed the globe back to its original shape brought it closer and concentrated. Its color changed to a more natural light, the gargoyle lifted her hand toward it and felt the warmth it was now giving off.

"Congratulations, chosen," the Irish Elk said. "Tomorrow night we will investigate the Weird Sisters appearances during the night when you cast the sorcerous spell to turn the inhabitants of the city to stone. Perhaps you can divine a meaning to their words and actions that I could not."

Demona caped her wings about herself, she didn't really want to see or hear anything about that time. She would frankly rather forget it had ever occurred, but she knew that wasn't possible. She looked up at the great stag; he was gazing at her steadily. She saw nothing judgmental in his eyes only a sternness that she sensed would permit no shying away from this task on her part. She nodded.

"Go wholly into the living realm my chosen;" the great spirit said gently, "I will see you again tomorrow."

"Good night Ancient One," Demona replied before she let her consciousness return completely to the living realm.


Chapter 21

Demona was quiet as they returned through the woods to their camp; Kendra glanced over at her, wondering why the gargoyle's mood had suddenly changed from laughter and happiness to this. They entered camp and she went over to the stove to heat up their second dinner.

"I wish we could start a fire and sit next to it," Demona said, finally breaking the silence.

Kendra considered it for a few seconds, "If we had enough dirt to cover it in a hurry we could, I can hear the planes from far enough away."

The gargoyle glanced over at her surprised; she hadn't meant what she said as an actual request. It had been more something to say to break the silence. She knew Kendra was concerned at her sudden change in mood, but she didn't really want to speak about what was bothering her. She looked over at the empty fire pit considering the idea, reluctantly she shook her head, "We can't risk it, how would we explain all this," she indicated the camp with a sweep of her hand, "If they did notice the fire?"

The were-jaguar grimaced, Demona was right it would be a foolish risk to take, "You're right. I just wanted to…" her voice trailed off in a discontented sigh. She shrugged irritatedly seeing her plans for this night going down the drain, and at the same time was angry with herself for being so selfish.

Demona stared at her lover; jarred out of her own concerns by the way that Kendra was acting. She walked up behind the were-jaguar and slipped her hands under the dark feathered wings and around Kendra's waist. She rested her head against her lover's back and asked softly, "What's wrong?"

Kendra let out a bark of laughter, she glanced over her shoulder, "I would think that would be my line," she responded pensively.

The flame haired gargoyle sighed, "The Ancient One wants to go over the Weird Sisters actions the night I cast that spell to turn people into stone."

"Oh," Kendra said softly on an exhaled breath, she rested her hand upon the arms wrapped around her waist and squeezed gently. "Maybe you'll be able to figure out what they were up to." She hesitated, she was fairly certain Demona's answer would be a quick no, but she had to make the offer, "did you want me to go with you?"

Demona felt an icy chill go through her at the thought of Kendra seeing the callous, mocking manner in which she had acted that night, "No!" She felt the were-jaguar flinch at the answer. "No," she said again in a much softer voice, "I don't want you to see the way I acted that night," she admitted, "I said and did things that I'm ashamed of now, and it's hard enough knowing that the Ancient One saw it all." She felt the were-jaguar draw in a deep breath and release it, and waited quietly for Kendra's response.

"Alright," Kendra replied quietly, "I won't."

"Thank you," Demona whispered burying her face in the thick black fur and drawing in a deep breath. Her lover's scent was heavier and muskier in this form, closer to Kendra's scent when she was a jaguar. The silence this time was a more comfortable one, punctuated only by the occasional scrape of the spoon against the side of the pot as Kendra stirred the stew so that it would heat evenly. Demona didn't move away from Kendra, remaining where she was resting against the were-jaguar's back and Kendra's hand remained upon the gargoyle's arm holding it where it was around her waist.

Twenty-five minutes later, they had eaten, scoured out the dishes and pot with snow and returned to their tent. "Brrr, I can tell I'm going to be cold already," complained Kendra, kneeling on the top of the sleeping bags and caping her wings around herself.

"Changing back?" inquired Demona.

"Yes," Kendra responded distractedly. She closed her eyes and concentrated, her face revealing her discomfort as her body began changing back to its human form. Her wings shrunk and disappeared at the same time as her fur thinned and then disappeared altogether. The color of her skin lightened until it was its usual dusky olive tone and her body became slightly less tall and muscular as she returned to her normal height.

Demona waited until Kendra's change was complete before insisting, "Get into the sleeping bag, I can use what I learned tonight to heat the tent for us." The gargoyle watched as Kendra slipped into the sleeping bag, grimacing at its coldness against her bare skin. "One of the last things the spirit told me was that I could not only create light but heat as well."

Kendra said, "I thought the globe seemed to be giving off heat when its color changed, but I wasn't sure and then you dismissed it."

The gargoyle nodded, "It was," she confirmed as she altered her vision and looked around for available nature magic. It was everywhere as Demona was coming to expect, and she wondered how available it would be in the city compared to the abundance of it here in the wilderness. She began summoning it, pulling it in well past the point of comfort before willing it to stop. Stretching out her hand she willed the energy to gather in a globe there eager to get rid of the intense itching restless sensation that made her both want to scratch bloody furrows in her skin and run around the forest wildly. The itching, restless sensation faded as the nature energy gathered into a swirling golden globe of energy floating about an inch above the palm of her hand.

"I can see it," Kendra's startled exclamation caused Demona to look away from the globe and toward her lover.

"You can?" the fiery haired gargoyle responded, startled.

"Not well, but I can see something above your hand its distorting the air just a little bit," explained Kendra from where she was huddled in the sleeping bag.

Demona turned her attention back to the golden globe of energy with its brightly swirling motes of green, gold, brown and grey dancing through it. She wished Kendra could see what she saw for it was truly beautiful, but they each had been given different gifts.

"What are you seeing?" the black haired woman asked softly.

Demona answered just as softly, "A golden globe with motes of forest green, earth brown, brilliant gold and stone grey dancing within it."

Kendra's sapphire blue eyes widened at the description, she stared at the shimmering in the air trying to imagine what Demona was seeing as she looked at it. As she was staring at it, the globe began glowing with a soft reddish-white light and incongruously she was reminded of her words to Rachael just two days ago. That Demona needed to learn how to feel an appreciation for the world and the living things upon it. That she needed to cherish something and find it of worth and of value enough to nurture and protect it.

The black-haired woman slipped a hand out from underneath the shelter of the sleeping bag and held it out toward the glowing globe, there was heat radiating from it. She stared at it, her mind considering the thought that the gifts given to Demona might have been given for more than one purpose, and one of them might have been to give the gargoyle reason to appreciate and cherish the world. She thought back to how Demona had reacted to the injuries she had done to the tree, the quiet asking if it felt pain. Kendra didn't know what the answer to the question had been, but it was significant that the gargoyle had asked it at all and had cared about the answer.

"There that should heat up this area nicely," Demona's satisfied tone drew Kendra's attention. The gargoyle was staring at the glowing globe with satisfaction, a pleased smile curving her lips. Kendra's eyes rested upon those red lips, remembered the night that they had made love by the fire, remembering how those lips had claimed her so intimately. She saw them open slightly revealing the whiteness of teeth and fang, a pink tongue darted out to moisten their fullness. Her gaze rose and met the gargoyles widened green eyes. She pushed herself up to rest on one elbow and forearm, her eyes dark and intent, "Are you tired?" she asked huskily.

She saw Demona's chest rise with a quick indrawn breath and the long, sinuous tail twitch before the gargoyle answered, "No, after today's stone sleep I won't need to rest except for a few hours in the morning."

"Good," Kendra responded simply, let her eyes wander over the gargoyles body, admiring once again the slim, lithe, strength revealed in every limb. Her eyes went to the gargoyle's wings, the dark lavender of the outer wing membrane that was almost black in this light, and the lighter lavender of the inside of the wing. She remembered how the gargoyle had tried to arouse her by the cliff by stroking and rubbing lightly along her wing joints. "It's a pity I didn't know about your wing joints the other night by the fire," she observed quietly.

Demona drew in a sharp breath and the gargoyle's wings quivered briefly in response. Kendra shifted, rising gracefully from where she had been leaning on her forearm to a seated position. "It's already starting to get warm in here," she observed. There was a muffled snort from the gargoyle that sounded suspiciously like laughter. Kendra's lips curved up in a smile, acknowledging the unintentional double entendre. She gazed at the gargoyle kneeling in the center of the tent; Demona was still and silent, her eyes dark and waiting. "I want to touch you, to explore every inch of your body and learn how to give it pleasure," she said meeting Demona's green eyes directly.

Demona stared at her, her eyes glazed. It took a moment for the gargoyle to find her voice, "I would be more than willing to show you," she finally replied.

Kendra's full lips curved in an utterly wicked smile, "Oh no, I don't want you breathe a word unless I touch or am about to touch you in a way that you don't want me to or doesn't feel good. I want to find out for myself what pleases you." Demona's eyes darkened at that and she nodded, moistening her suddenly dry lips with her tongue. The thought of Kendra exploring her body, searching out the places that would please her, caused a slow steady yearning ache to start deep within Demona's body.

The black haired woman looked around the interior of the tent. The two sleeping bags they had zipped together to make one large enough for both of them were on one side of the tent, while around the edges they had folded and stacked the clothing Rachael had brought them on top of the silver survival blankets. "Let's move the sleeping bags to the center of the tent so I have enough room."

Demona wondered exactly what Kendra planned that required so much room as she willed the reddish globe to move from the center of the over to the side, keeping it well away from the wall of the tent. She moved out of the way and helped the black-haired woman slide over the sleeping bags. Once the sleeping bags were in place, Kendra patted the center, "sit here and let me undress you."

Careful of her talons, the fiery haired gargoyle obediently knelt upon the sleeping bags, curious to find out what her lover intended. Kendra knelt behind her, brushed the shoulder loop of her halter-top off her shoulder and placed a kiss there before lifting it up over her breasts. Demona lifted her arms and allowed her lover to pull the halter over and off. She expected the black-haired woman to begin touching her breasts, but Kendra only rested her hands lightly on the top of her shoulders and pressed a kiss against her shoulder once again. To the gargoyle's surprise, the next thing her lover did was to unfasten and remove the gold hoops in her ears. Those were laid aside carefully, and then Kendra's fingertips brushed slowly along the outside edge of her ears and briefly caressed each earlobe where they had been. The next pieces removed where her armband and the anklet around leg, each was laid aside and each place where they had been was caressed gently.

Demona was not particularly surprised when Kendra's hands went to the gold headband next, she was also getting the feeling that her lover planned to take her time, for each move Kendra made was slow, deliberate and very gentle. Demona's eyes closed in enjoyment as Kendra gently stroked her fingers along her exposed eye ridge leaving tingling trails in their wake. When the black-haired woman's hands went to her shoulders once again and pulled gently back, the gargoyle leaned back and rested against Kendra's chest.

There was only one piece of clothing left; Kendra allowed her hand to trail down Demona's stomach slowly till she reached it. She undid the buckle and slowly pulled the loincloth and belt from around the gargoyle's slender waist.

Demona drew in a deep breath, waiting to see what her lover would do next. Strangely, given the skimpiness of her usual attire, she felt very exposed without her tiara without any jewelry or clothing. Kendra shifted closer so they were melded back to front; one arm went around Demona's slim, muscular waist and held the blue gargoyle firmly against the black-haired woman while the other reached up underneath the gargoyle's wings and between Demona's breasts to rest her hand on the gargoyle's chest above her heart. It rested there, almost as if it were cradling the gargoyle's heart within it while Kendra began nuzzling and kissing the gargoyle's neck and closest shoulder.

The fiery haired gargoyle allowed herself to relax into her lover's embrace. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of her lover behind her, the warmth of her and the contrast of softness and strength. She breathed in and out slowly, Kendra's arm wrapped around her waist and the hand over her chest holding her securely, safely. She felt tears prick at her eyes, and the sensation surprised her, she wasn't sure why she felt close to tears except that Kendra's hand resting so gently upon her chest seemed to be silently promising that the woman would treat her heart the same way.

The silence was broken by a whispered, "Would you prefer to start out on your back or stomach?"

Demona slowly opened her eyes, considering the question and the implicit promise in it that she would eventually be on both. "My back," she responded finally. Kendra released her and moved back to the edge of the sleeping bag to give the gargoyle room.

"Keep your wings as close in as possible," Kendra directed quietly, "I'll need to move around you."

Wondering what Kendra intended that she would need to move around her, Demona lay down on her back being careful to arrange her wings beneath her so she was comfortable and so that they didn't extend very far. To the gargoyle's surprise, once she was settled Kendra knelt at her head, leaned over, and began massaging the tense muscles in her neck.

"This would be much better if I had massage oil, but I'll see how I can do without it," her lover murmured as her fingers rotated and pressed into the tense muscles.

Demona stared up at her for a surprised moment before telling herself to relax and enjoy what was happening. She hadn't been expecting to get a massage, indeed this would be her first one. She had heard about them of course, but before Kendra would have hardly let a human touch her in this manner and gargoyle hands weren't exactly suited to it. Demona closed her eyes once again, choosing to focus on what her lover's hands were doing as they kneaded down her neck and began working on the muscles of her shoulders and upper chest.

Kendra felt the muscles she was working on become loser as Demona relaxed into the massage. The gargoyle's green eyes were closed and the black-haired woman could tell from the pleased look on Demona's face that the gargoyle was finding the massage soothing. It was time to switch her stroke from pure massage into something that would arouse, she started back at the neck and ran her hands caressingly down across the gargoyle's shoulders then back lightly over the collarbones and down once again.

Demona opened her eyes slightly when she felt Kendra's touch change from a muscle relaxing massage to light caresses along her shoulders. Her arousal, which had been decreasing as she relaxed into the soothing massage, rose once again. Through her half closed eyes she saw her lover's face descend, a moment later soft lips touched hers, lightly, caressingly once, twice, a third time and then they were gone. She heard and felt Kendra shift and move, out of the corner of her eye she saw the black-haired woman move around her and kneel once again by her waist. Demona closed her eyes as the massage began again at her shoulder; slowly the kneading, pressing and rubbing fingers worked their way down her right arm.

When Kendra reached her hand she felt it being lifted, fingers interlaced with hers and Demona felt the palm of her hand being stretched outward, nothing else happened for a long moment as the tendons in her hand grew accustomed to being stretched in a way they hadn't before. Kendra's fingers relaxed, ending the stretch and then Kendra's thumbs began rubbing in firm circles along the fleshy parts of her palm. The gargoyle let out a breathy sigh, what Kendra was doing felt so good, she would have never guessed that her hands would appreciate being touched in this manner.

From Demona's palms Kendra moved onto massaging up one taloned finger, at the tip she massaged the fleshy pad for a moment then her strokes turned caressing as she circled around the tip of Demon's index finger, carefully up the talon and back down again and then repeated the motion. With feather light circular caresses she made her way back down the gargoyle's finger, then, her touch firming she went on to the next finger and began to massage it. Demona was having a hard time deciding which she liked more, the massage or the sweetly arousing caresses, the combination of both was causing her to feel an intriguing combination of relaxation and slowly increasing arousal.

The one arm and hand finished, Kendra quietly moved around to the other side of the gargoyle's body and began at the shoulder once again, repeating the entire process as she moved down Demona's left arm, and ending with the hand and fingers. This time instead of placing her hand back by her side Kendra brought it up to her mouth and began delicately brushing her lips against the inside of the gargoyle's wrist. Demona opened her eyes and met her lover's darkened gaze, lips pressed against her wrist, parted showing white teeth. Her blue eyes still locked with Demona's gaze Kendra dragged her teeth slowly and lightly down the gargoyle's wrist and then pressed one final kiss against the pulse point there before lowering the gargoyle's hand to her side.

Demona let out the breath she hadn't been aware she had been holding, she hadn't been aware that the skin of her wrist was so sensitive. Not that Goliath, or even Thailog when he was in the mood to be gentle, had been bad lovers, but they had pretty much kept their caresses to the usual places. Kendra however, seemed to be intent on touching every inch of her.

Kendra hadn't failed to notice the held breath or the look of surprise in Demona's green eyes when she caressed the gargoyle's wrist, in fact she was getting the impression that Demona had never been touched like this at all. "Have you never had a massage before?" she asked softly.

Demona shook her head slightly, "No I haven't."

Kendra smiled crookedly, "Now I really wish I had some massage oil so I could do this properly. When we get back I promise you I'll give you a proper massage."

The flame haired gargoyle's stomach fluttered slightly at the thought, what Kendra was doing now felt very good, how much better it would feel with Kendra's hands sliding smoothly over her oiled skin. "I'll be sure to remind you," the gargoyle said a little breathless.

The black-haired woman smirked at the reply, as she looked over the gargoyle's body trying to decide where to go next. Normally, she would have started the massage with Demona on her stomach and done her back first and then the arms and legs, however, with the wing joints being sensitive that wasn't going to work for her gargoyle lover. Legs next she decided, rising to her knees she crawled backwards until she was at Demona's feet. Laying one hand on the top of a sky blue foot she said, "I need to kneel in between your feet."

The need in Demona's lower belly coiled even tighter at her words and the thought of what her lover would be able to see so clearly once she parted her legs. Silently she moved her legs apart, making room for Kendra to kneel there. She felt the fleshy lips below part, moistened as they already were with her arousal, and knew how fully she was exposed to her lover's gaze. Demona saw her lover's nostrils flare and her sapphire blue eyes focus on the source of the aroma, "You are beautiful," Kendra whispered and shifted her gaze to meet Demona's eyes.

Demona felt a melting warmth in her chest at the almost worshipful tone of the words and warmth in the blue gaze. Her lips parted and her breath caught in her throat when Kendra leaned forward and her hands went to the top of the gargoyle's thighs. She stifled her moan of disappointment when all Kendra began to do was massage the muscles of her upper leg.

Kendra fought to steady her breath, this was the first time she had seen the gargoyle so intimately. Just as with her breasts, Demona's sky blue coloration was both darkened and redder there, an enticing reddish purple that drew Kendra's gaze and caused her fingers to tingle with the desire to touch the moistened, tender flesh. She fought with the desire, subdued it, it wasn't time for that yet, not yet. She continued massaging the well-muscled upper thigh, down across the knee with a gentle touch and then began working on the short calf muscle. She could tell Demona was relaxing into the massage once again, the gargoyle's breathing had steadied into a deep slow rhythm, her eyes were closed and the muscles underneath her hands were relaxed. She glanced over at the steadily burning globe hanging in mid-air, she wasn't certain how Demona was maintaining it, but she was thankful it was there both for the light it gave off and the steady heat it emitted warming the inside of the tent against the cold outside.

She finished massaging the gargoyle's calf and looked at the taloned feet, uncertain of how strong a touch to use, "are your feet ticklish like a human's?" she asked.

Demona forced her eyes open long enough to look at Kendra and shake her head.

Kendra grinned at the completely relaxed response and stroked down Demona's foot. As with the gargoyle's hands, she began massaging it, digging her thumbs into the muscles and using her hands to stretch it with a downward pressure on the top of the foot while lifting the sides with her fingers.

Demona groaned in pleasure as Kendra's hands massaged her feet, it wasn't that they hurt, but the feel of Kendra's firm touch alternately deeply stroking and then stretching out her foot was truly wondrous.

When Kendra finished with one foot she promptly began working on the other leg, massaging down it, giving it exactly the same attention she had given the other. Kendra finished with the gargoyle's second foot, and softly called out "Time to turn over."

Demona muffled a moan of pleasure at the thought of what was to come; she slowly turned over onto her stomach, stretched her wings out and rested them against the floor of the tent.

Kendra knew there were few choices about where to position herself, she could either kneel by the gargoyle's side or straddle her legs. Straddling her legs would be the best position since she wouldn't have to twist awkwardly in order to massage the gargoyle's back. She heard Demona draw in a breath as she moved into the new position, her calves tight against the gargoyles outer thighs.

She started once again with at Demona's shoulders, stroking gently inward until both hands met at the gargoyle's neck. She placed her hands in a prayer position and then stroked firmly down the gargoyles back. She was quite amused to see that Demona's wings quivered slightly as her hands glided between them. As she came closer and closer to Demona's tail, the signs that the gargoyle was anticipating her touch there increased. Kendra cocked her head to the side wondering, there had been clear signs of arousal when she had been near the gargoyle's wings and then Demona's breathing had settled for a few seconds only to increase again the closer she got to Demona's tail. A wicked smile on her lips, Kendra eased up on the pressure of her stroke and made sure to brush close, but not directly against the appendage. She grinned at the soft aggravated sound Demona made as she carefully resisted brushing against her tail.

Demona was becoming more and more certain that Kendra was intent on torturing her, not that she wasn't enjoying it but the slow pace Kendra was setting was becoming maddening. It was unlike her to be so passive, but Kendra's massage and gently exploring hands had relaxed her so much that she felt unwilling to move at the same time as they had aroused her to the point that she was acutely craving Kendra's touch.

Kendra's eyes went to the two large wings looking at the muscular wing arms, keeping her touch light she began close, but not at the wing joint, and carefully massaged her way up the wing arm pausing at the wing talons to give them a brief massage as well. She carefully repeated the process with the other wing, by the time she was finished, the gargoyle's wings hung limply from her back, their weight completely resting upon the floor. It was definitely time to remind Demona that this massage wasn't entirely about relaxation, Kendra thought as she looked down at her relaxed lover with a smile. Starting from the wing talons, Kendra gently caressed gently and slowly back down the wing arms toward the wing joints. Kendra remembered very well the careful way Demona had gently caressed her wing joints out by the cliff. "Let me know if anything feels uncomfortable," she whispered just before she stroked across where the wing joined into the gargoyles back.

Demona arched into her touch and gasped out a strangled, "Yes," as Kendra touched her wing joints. The massage and gentle stroking touches had made her skin feel hypersensitive, and this first soft caress on a truly sensitive part of her body felt almost too pleasurable she was so aware of it.

Though Kendra had been expecting a reaction, the strength of Demona's response surprised her. Kendra drew in an unsteady breath, she had rather successfully been keeping her own need under control up until this point, but the sounds Demona was making were rapidly changing that. She finished stroking down the top of the wing joints and then curved her hands around their lower edge and stroked back up the underside of the joint. Kendra closed her eyes concentrating on the feeling of touching her lover and listening to the increasingly aroused sounds Demona was making. "I think this area must be more sensitive than even your breasts," she whispered to the gargoyle as she began gentle circular motions with her fingers along the top of the wing joints.

Through her pleasure, Demona heard the words; she drew in an unsteady breath, "before tonight I would have thought they were equally as sensitive." She felt the warm press of skin against her tail and buttocks as Kendra lowered her body, and then she felt a warm breath across her back just before soft lips joined the gentle stroking fingers. She moaned, her tail twitched and she felt the brush of curls and the slickness of moisture as it brushed across the evidence of her lover's own arousal. "Dragon," she uttered as she instinctively arched her back and lifted her rear to increase the contact between them. She felt Kendra inhale sharply and then more of her lover's weight pressed briefly and satisfyingly against her before she felt Kendra shift and lift away from her.

"If you want I'll be happy to give you something to judge that by," Kendra whispered huskily, "if you kneel I can touch both."

It took a few seconds for Demona's mind to piece together what Kendra meant, and when she did she had to swallow against a suddenly dry throat. Careful of her knee spurs, Demona rose from where she had been lying on her stomach and knelt upon the sleeping bag. She felt Kendra move and kneel right behind her, then her lovers arms were around her pulling her against Kendra's warm body behind her. Demona could feel the soft press of Kendra's breasts against her wing joints, she breathed out a long sigh at the feel and then a louder moan when the black-haired woman's teeth found and began nipping along the top of her shoulder.

"Oh Demona," Kendra whispered as she slid her mouth up the gargoyles neck, Demona leaned her head to the side giving her complete access, "so beautiful, so desirable, I wish you could know how much I want you, how much I…" Kendra inhaled sharply, stopping herself from saying the word. It was too soon, no matter how much her heart ached for the gargoyle it was too soon to say that word.

Demona's eyes opened in surprise, she could guess what the black-haired woman had been about to say, Kendra's arms tightened fiercely around her to the point of discomfort before they loosened again. She could feel her lover bury her face into her hair and then Kendra was moving away. Before the gargoyle could protest, she felt soft lips brush against her wing joints and Kendra's hands were slipping up under her wings and around to her breasts. Her body couldn't decide whether to arch into the fingers caressing around and squeezing her nipples or the mouth exploring her wing joint with lips and tongue. Demona's wings flared and trembled and her body quivered in response to the dual stimulation. After a minute or so of the delicious torture, she threw up her head and let out a screeching yowl. Drawing in a breath she pleaded, "Kendra, oh Kendra," Demona didn't know quite what she was pleading for; she certainly didn't want her lover to stop what she was currently doing. There was an answering rumbling growl from Kendra that vibrated against the sensitive skin of her wing joint, and suddenly Demona knew exactly what she wanted.

"Kendra, please I need you now," Demona begged softly, she felt her lover still and then she heard her groan.

"I want to taste you," Kendra said her voice low with desire.

Demona moaned at her words. Neither Thailog nor Goliath had ever done that for her. It seemed to be almost no time before she was lying down upon the sleeping bag, Kendra hovering over her, the woman's blue eyes dark and hooded with desire. Her midnight black hair hung down around her face, and the muscles of her arms stood out in relief in the dim reddish light as she supported her weight upon them. Kendra lowered herself, bringing up a knee to help support her weight, their lips met in a long slow kiss. When their lips parted, Demona opened her eyes and looked up into her lover's sapphire blue ones; it had been so long since she had seen such tenderness, warmth and desire in another's gaze for her.

She tilted her head back as Kendra's lips traced their way down her throat and lower, when they closed around one nipple she groaned and arched her back seeking more, more contact, more of her lover's touch. By the time Kendra left them to nuzzle her way down the gargoyle's toned stomach, they were stiff and throbbing from the attention lips, tongue and teeth had given them. She felt the first brush of Kendra's mouth against the fleshy outer lips of her sex, she cried out softly, bending her knees and parting her thighs further, opening herself to her lover's touch. She could feel how wet she was, how thoroughly the massage and gentle caresses, and then the attention to her wing joints and breasts had aroused her. So soft, so warm Demona thought as Kendra's lips brushed gently over and around, and then they were upon her. She cried out her lovers name at the first brush of those lips over her so intimately, and then Kendra began exploring her as thoroughly as Demona had explored the black-haired woman that night be the fire.

Demona fisted her hands not wanting to tear up the tent or sleeping bag underneath her; she forced her eyes open to look down her body at the woman giving her such pleasure. Intense, dark blue eyes met hers, Demona stared into them, saw the pleasure her lover was taking in loving her. Lips closed around the most sensitive part of her and she could keep her eyes open no longer, her hips began rocking against the wonderful sensations Kendra's mouth was giving her.

By the dragon, she wanted, she needed, "I need you inside me," she managed to utter hoarsely. Kendra's mouth paused against her as the woman shifted and then Demona felt fingers enter her and begin slowly thrusting. It was not enough, "More," she asked, the fingers inside her withdrew and returned, it felt better than before but it was still not enough, she wanted Kendra to fill her. She ground herself against Kendra's hand, and groaned in frustration, "Oh Kendra, more, I need more." The fingers inside her paused for a moment and then began a wonderful twisting movement insider her.

The fiery haired gargoyle felt Kendra withdraw her fingers as she murmured, "I don't have any fingers left to add so I'm glad you're as wet as you are or I wouldn't dare try this without lubricant."

Demona opened her eyes and looked down wondering what Kendra meant, then she felt her lover's hand at her entrance again, there was pressure and a twisting sensation and then suddenly she was wonderfully filled. She threw back her head and roared her satisfaction only to have her lover stop what she was doing. Demona felt like screaming in frustration until she saw the tense worried look on Kendra's face and realized that her lover thought she had hurt her. "Don't stop, you didn't hurt me," Demona said a little desperately as she rocked her hips and looked pleadingly into her lovers face. Kendra exhaled a long relieved sounding breath and began the short twisting thrusting motion once again.

"By the Dragon, yes," hissed Demona as the exquisite twisting sensation began once again, she looked down and gaped a little as she realized that she was seeing Kendra's wrist disappearing into her depths. No wonder she felt so delightfully full the gargoyle realized, her lover's entire hand was inside her. Twisting inside her, her mind corrected as she rolled her head back and concentrated on the wonderful sensation. Every slow twist in one direction and then back in the other caused her to gasp and writhe in pleasure, "Oh Kendra, oh that feels so good," she moaned helplessly. She felt silky hair brush against her thigh, and then her lover's mouth was upon her again and the sensation of her warm lips and tongue suckling and caressing the short length of her sensitive nub merged with the fullness and the wonderful twisting within her. Both sensations together were steadily building the white heat of her pleasure to the point that it was all she could focus upon and it was overwhelming her.

Then Demona did grab the fabric underneath her in desperation, it was either that or Kendra's head and she didn't want to risk harming her lover. Her first orgasm rolled over her like a tidal wave and she roared her pleasure into the night, still Kendra did not stop and the gargoyle was stunned when her body clenched in yet another and another and then another lesser one. Demona opened her eyes, dazed realizing she was gasping for breath and her heart was hammering wildly in her chest. Kendra's hand inside her had stilled and there was a moment of discomfort as the woman carefully withdrew it. A gentle kiss was placed upon her and she heard Kendra mutter in a low growl, "not again until I have some lubricant."

Demona licked her lips, trying to get some moisture into her mouth, "It's alright it didn't hurt," she was finally able to say.

Kendra crawled back up the gargoyle's body and careful to not lean upon a wing, pressed a soft kiss upon the blue skin of Demona's shoulder. "Thirsty?" she inquired. The gargoyle nodded silently and the black-haired woman sat up, looking around for the water bottles they stored inside the tent to keep the water from freezing so easily. She retrieved it, and handed it to the gargoyle who rose up enough to lean on one elbow as she took the container and drank from it thirstily.

Demona returned it much lighter, and as Kendra was taking a few sips from it, the gargoyle looked down at the sleeping bag underneath her. "Damn," she said as she saw the punctures in the fabric her talons had made.

"What?" Kendra's asked, concerned.

Demona indicated the punctures, "it was either this or you," she explained bluntly.

Kendra eyed the punctures and then looked at her lover, she smirked, "thanks for choosing the sleeping bag."

The flame haired gargoyle returned the smile, "You're welcome." Then more seriously she said, "thank you, I…" her voice trailed off briefly before she continued, "I've never had anyone touch me that way before," she admitted softly.

Kendra frowned slightly not certain right away what Demona meant, "you've never had anyone go down on you?" she guessed.

Demona shook her head, "No, not before tonight."

A flicker of surprise showed in the sapphire blue eyes before Kendra replied with a slow smile, "I trust you enjoyed it?"

The gargoyle smirked, "you didn't get that idea already?"

"I just like to make sure I don't disappoint," Kendra grinned, her white teeth showing between her lips.

"Oh you didn't," Demona assured her on an exhale as she remembered how Kendra's mouth had felt upon her.

Kendra smiled at the reply, pleased, "come here I want to hold you," she requested with a meaningful tap of her shoulder. Demona sat up and moved her wing out of the way and then laid back down, her body pressed against Kendra's and her head upon the woman's shoulder. Kendra wrapped her arms around the gargoyle and pressed her cheek against the fiery hair. "I like showing you how much I care about you, how much I like pleasing you," she whispered quietly, quite serious now.

Demona felt relaxed and contented with Kendra's arms around her, her lover's words, however, reminded her that there was something just as pleasant that she should be doing rather soon. She looked over at the burning globe and altered her sight, there was still plenty of nature energy swirling around to supply it she saw with satisfaction. "Let me up," she requested softly. Kendra's arms immediately released her and the gargoyle sat up and then straddled her lover. She looked down at the woman, at the black silky hair pooled underneath her head, the olive skin that had a dark ruddy tint in the reddish light of the burning globe. She looked into Kendra's questioning blue eyes; she lowered her head, met the full soft lips and whispered against them, "I want to please you as much as you just pleased me."


Chapter 22

Dominique awoke reluctantly; a whispered, "I'll shower and then get breakfast ready for us," and the warm press of lips upon hers informed her what had disturbed her sleep. The redhead smiled and opened her eyes, looked up toward the opening of the tent in time to see Kendra zipping it closed again behind her. It was very bright inside the tent, indicating that the sun had risen some time ago and she wondered just how late they had slept in today.

Of course, they hadn't gotten to sleep until very late indeed, the redhead thought with a smirk as she arched her back and raised her arms above her head in a long luxurious stretch. Once she was done, she relaxed once again her arms above her head in the cool winter air, and the rest of her body cocooned in the warmth of the sleeping bag. For a long moment she simply breathed in and out quietly, enjoying the fact that she was alive on this fine morning. She could hear the wind moving through the pine boughs and the sound of a few birds chirping and singing; she could also hear the sound of a propane heater and water from where Kendra was showering.

A shiver and a tingle ran through Dominique's body as she remembered the night and the hours of lovemaking they had indulged in, by the end of the night Kendra had indeed found every sensitive place upon her body. They had been so exhausted by the time they stopped that Demona had transformed into her human form before falling asleep to make sure that she didn't accidentally trap her lover if she failed to wake up and went into stone sleep. She sighed and tucked her arms, which were getting chilled, back into the sleeping bag debating on whether or not to just go back to sleep until Kendra woke her for breakfast. Her stomach chose that moment to rumble demandingly at her, informing her in no uncertain terms that it had been entirely too long since she had last eaten. She groaned protesting, not really feeling like getting up, but if she wanted breakfast sooner she knew she needed to get up and help Kendra prepare it.

Two hours and some minutes later they had both showered, eaten, cleaned up the dishes from breakfast, stopped by the pine tree to see how its injuries were healing, and were now sitting idly by the fire. Dominique shifted restlessly; she wasn't used to having nothing to occupy her time. They couldn't go gliding there was too much of a chance that a rescue plane might fly over and see them in the air, and the concealment of night would not come for five more hours. She glanced over at Kendra; the black-haired woman was sitting in a patch of sunlight her eyes closed and a peaceful, almost meditative look upon her face. The redhead smirked, at the moment her lover's jaguarness was definitely apparent.

She glanced at the forest around them searching for something to occupy her time. If she only knew more about trees and plants she thought wistfully, looking at the variety of evergreens around her. Not all of the trees were pines, Dominique knew enough about them to identify spruces, junipers and the odd cedar among the trees she could see from where she was sitting. Unfortunately, except for what the Irish Elk had told her about how trees healed, recognizing the different species was about the extent of her knowledge. Being able to see life energy did not magically give her any understanding of what she was seeing, so watching the life energy in the trees was quickly becoming rather frustrating because of her lack of knowledge.

It wasn't that she hadn't picked up a basic understanding of biology, chemistry and physics, because she had, if only so that she understood what her researchers were writing in their weekly progress reports. This type of specific knowledge though, she had never had a need to learn before now. At least that was one useful side effect of the human's need to name and understand things, Dominique thought. Their species had made much progress in understanding how the world around them worked; all she needed was have access to all that knowledge to get a better understanding of what she was seeing. Unfortunately for her current boredom, however, none of it was available to her right now.

With one last annoyed look at the forest for not providing her any distractions, she glanced back over at her lover and thought about their return to New York in three days. She smirked, she would bet on the fact that the clan would be amazed to see them both return. Doubtless they had assumed that she would either kill Kendra or leave her behind to fend for herself, and they couldn't be further from the truth. The smirk disappeared and a regretful look replaced it as she thought about one particular member of the clan whose opinion was more important to her than the rest. Her deception with the Assassin probably meant that the clan was now unanimous in their opinions of her. She gazed at her lover's peaceful face, perhaps when they both returned Angela would be curious enough to keep find out what her mother was doing, see the changes she was making in her life.

Thoughts of the clan brought up thoughts of their and the Detectives inevitable attempt to contact Kendra and what they might tell her about the past. Dominique grimaced ruefully; it was truly pitiful that she was so bored that she would consider a discussion with Kendra about her mistakes with the clan to be an acceptable distraction. She had told Kendra almost everything she thought the clan would bring up in an effort to drive the black-haired woman away from her, but there was one incident she hadn't mentioned that one clan member might bring up. She hated interrupted Kendra's doze, but this lack of anything to do was driving her crazy. She cleared her throat, her lover's sapphire blue eyes opened and focused upon her.

Dominique said, "Since we have nothing to do for the next five hours but fix dinner, I thought now might be a good time to tell you why Brooklyn of all the clan members hates me the most, and is least likely to forgive me for my past actions," she noticed she had Kendra's complete attention. "I don't know that he will bring up how I betrayed the trust that had been between us, but he might." She paused, her thoughts going to the distant past.

"Who is Brooklyn? I've heard the name before, but I don't know which one that is," asked Kendra remembering the one detective mentioning that the gargoyle blamed Demona for everything that went wrong.

The redhead looked over at her, surprised; she hadn't realized that she hadn't described the clan to the black-haired woman. "Have you seen any of them?" she asked hoping that Kendra had, it would make it so much easier.

Kendra responded, "I've seen pictures of them as they left the police station clock tower after my stupid cousins attacked it." She shook her head bringing her thoughts back to Dominique's question, "One picture had a large light lavender male who I suspect is Goliath," she paused as the redhead nodded.

"Goliath is light lavender and the largest of all the males," Dominique confirmed.

"Behind him was a lavender female who I'm sure is your daughter Angela," Kendra continued, barely pausing to acknowledge the redheads confirming nod before continuing, "then were was another picture of a white-haired red colored male with a beak…"

"That's Brooklyn," interrupted Dominique.

The black-haired woman nodded thoughtfully, setting his appearance in her mind, "he was carrying a smaller greenish colored male in his arms," she continued.

Dominique said, "Lexington, and from what I've heard he's adapted very well to this time. He has an unusual gift with understanding modern machinery and likes computers."

"Interesting," said Kendra, thinking of how bizarre the gargoyles must have found modern life after being asleep for nine hundred years, the world was so different now compared to what they had known. She brought her thoughts back to the one remaining picture her cousin Jon had sent her, "The last picture was of two gargoyles, one of which was carrying what looked more like a gargoyle dog than anything else and had no wings."

"Broadway, Hudson and Bronx," said the redhead, "Broadway is aqua colored and overweight, Hudson is the former clan leader and Bronx is a gargbeast. That's the entire clan that's left from Wyvern except for the young gargoyles on Avalon," she said sadly.

She shook herself, forcing her mind off that guilt-ridden thought and onto the original subject of their conversation. "To understand why Brooklyn felt so betrayed by what I did I need to tell you about the relationship he and I had at Castle Wyvern while he was growing from a young hatchling into one of the best warriors of his rookery hatching. Neither he nor I had names then, but I saw in the red beaked young male so much of myself. He had a temper to match mine, he was impetuous and impassioned, and even as young as he was he had the makings of a fine warrior."

"So you decided to mentor him," Kendra guessed.

Dominique nodded, "I taught him how to fight on the ground and in the air. How to dodge the arrows we would often face from the castle's attackers. Whenever he had a question I was the elder he brought it to, when he and the other two young males he was always with practiced I watched and corrected any mistakes. Whenever he did something right it was my approval he looked for first even before Goliath's."

The redhead's lips narrowed in anger at herself as she remembered what she had thrown away, "From the time he left the rookery until the Magus cast his spell on him I was the elder that he sought out the most frequently and I was the one that he trusted the most after Goliath. So when I learned of a spell in the Grimorum Arcanaum that I could use to control Goliath's mind, I knew immediately whom I could use to bring my former mate to me. I knew that Brooklyn would still listen to me despite the fact that I had attacked the clan a few days earlier."

Kendra wanted to ask about the earlier attack, but she didn't want to sidetrack Dominique so she filed the information away for later and simply listened.

"I watched the trio for several nights in a row while they worked on putting together a motorbike in one of Xanatos's garages. Or rather I should say Lexington did, that's how I learned about his gift. It's almost magical how he's able to understand how machines work without any training and only minimal access to manuals." Demona still remembered staring at the trio in astonishment as she watched the young web winged male who she knew had never seen modern machines until a week ago, make a working motorbike from one wrecked one they had found and spare parts.

I followed him as he went on his first motorbike ride, and when he found a motorbike gang and approached them, I waited, suspecting they would attack him as soon as they realized he wasn't another human. When they did I helped him fight them off, it was enough for me to persuade him to listen to me. I took him around the city and pointed out the worst human actions I could find as evidence of why Goliath's dream of humans accepting us was not possible." She gave Kendra an apologetic look.

"It's alright," Kendra reassured her, "New York City has enough crime to jade even the most optimistic optimist. I imagine it wasn't hard for you to shock him, though one would think he had seen humans killing and mistreating each other before. I would think humanity really hasn't changed that much in a thousand years."

"True," Dominique acknowledged, "but he was still reeling from all the changes in the world since he had been turned into stone by the Magus. He had been resentful of the humans at Castle Wyvern and doubtful that they would ever change their ways and come to accept us as Goliath hoped, so I knew it would be easy to persuade him that these new humans weren't any different. I told him there was a spell in the Grimorum I could use to make Goliath listen to me and had him steal the book from Xanatos's collection and bring it to me."

She went on to describe how Brooklyn had brought Goliath to her at the Cloisters, how once the spell had been cast and Goliath was turned into a mindless slave that Brooklyn had fought with her. He managed to take back the Grimorum, but not before Demona ripped the counter spell from the Grimorum and destroyed it. With the book in his possession, Brooklyn controlled Goliath's actions and he had ordered his clan leader back to the Castle. There Elisa Maza had the idea to command Goliath to act as if he were not under the spell's control breaking its hold on him.

"The Weird Sisters strike again," said Kendra noted bitterly after the redhead had stopped speaking. "In one fell swoop you knocked yourself off the pedestal Brooklyn had you upon, abused his trust of you and used him against his clan leader, guaranteeing that he wouldn't trust you or want anything to do with you anytime soon."

Dominique stared at her, she hadn't thought about her actions in light of what she had learned so recently. "I hadn't considered it," she admitted, beginning to feel the stinging pain of yet another loss the three Fey had caused her.

"Oh come on," Kendra protested thinking the look on Dominique's face meant that the redhead didn't believe her, "Brooklyn immediately realized what you had done to Goliath, so unless the other gargoyles are really dense they would have noticed the same thing as soon as they saw him. I don't think your actual objective in doing that was getting control of the clan because you had to have known that it had zero chance of succeeding." Dominique was still looking stunned so Kendra continued, "If however you were driving Brooklyn away from you then it succeeded admirably," she finished softly.

The redhead drew in a shuddering breath and it occurred belatedly to the black-haired woman that what she had seen on Dominique's face hadn't been stunned disbelief but stunned pain. "Oh hell," Kendra cursed herself, "I'm sorry Demona, I should have found a better way to say that I didn't mean to hurt you," she said regretfully. She got up and went over to the lost looking woman, hesitantly placing a hand on the redhead's shoulder.

Dominique looked up at her, waved a dismissive hand, "It's alright I just haven't thought about that night in a long time, and not since I found out about that enchantment. I guess it's just something else that I have to add to the list of injuries those three have caused me over the centuries."

Kendra sat down next to Dominique and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, "Surely there must have been some bright spots in the last thousand years?" she asked hesitantly hoping that that was indeed the case because she wanted to distract the redhead from dwelling on the incident with Brooklyn.

The redhead looked thoughtful, after three solid days of such revelations she was only too eager to find a distraction from this last one, "Well there was a human in the early 1500's that I called a friend, Michel de Nostradame." When Kendra looked startled she grinned, "Yes, Nostradamus, he had a foreseeing of Xanatos would raising the castle above the clouds and break the enchantment on the clan. That's how I knew to come here and look for Xanatos in 1993."

"You knew Nostradamus," Kendra questioned disbelievingly.

Dominique chuckled enjoying the awed look in Kendra's eyes, "I think I just said that didn't I?" she teased. She began telling the tale of the human who had found her sick with the Black Plague and had nursed her back to health in his own home, and of how that meeting had turned into a friendship that lasted until his death.

Later that night they were gliding back to the camp, Kendra's new claws had performed very well, slicing into the limestone of the cliff with much less effort than the night before. They had practiced taking off from the cliff and then gliding around in a circle to land once again near it before climbing back up and repeating the process. With each landing, Kendra improved her technique until Demona announced herself satisfied, though the look in her eye promised several more training sessions.

"I never thought I'd get tired of eating one type of meat," Demona commented staring down at the pan cooked caribou steak on her plate. "Right now though I'd really like some chicken or fish," she said wistfully, "I've gotten spoiled by modern grocery stores."

Kendra chuckled, "I can't say that I'm tired of it, but I wouldn't turn down some cow or pork about now. Luckily we only have tomorrow to make it through and then the next night we will be at Rachael's." She stifled a yawn, "By the way how long do you think tonight will take?"

Demona shrugged, "I don't know. I'm not certain what all the Ancient One has planned for us to do tonight." Looking at the tired countenance of her lover, she hoped it wouldn't be that late, Kendra wasn't the only one feeling fatigued tonight. "Are you coming to the spirit realm tonight?" she asked.

The black-haired woman nodded, "Just for a little while to see if Rachael or Wayne shows up," she grinned, "otherwise I'll just make sure you stay warm while you're working."

The flame-haired gargoyle smiled in reply, "I just don't want to think of you being bored," her voice trailed off and she looked uncomfortable, reminded of just why Kendra wasn't accompanying her tonight.

"It's alright," Kendra assured her gently, "I understand."

The gargoyle looked at her searchingly, seeing reassurance in her lover's blue eyes she nodded.

Only the Ancient One was waiting for them when they entered the spirit realm, "Ancient One," Demona greeted the great stag. She looked over at her lover, her thoughts racing, she didn't really want to do this alone, but she didn't want Kendra to see how she had acted that night.

"My chosen," he returned her greeting.

"Ancient One," Kendra greeted him as well. "I guess nothing significant has happened that we need to know about," she commented.

"Indeed," commented the great stag calmly, "Will you be accompanying us young jaguar?"

Kendra shook her head, "No not tonight," she answered.

"Wait," Demona blurted.

Confused blue eyes turned her way, "What?" Kendra asked, crease forming between her brows as she frowned.

The gargoyle turned toward the Irish Elk spirit, "Were the weird sisters present when I was killing the humans?" she asked her eyes sliding uneasily away from his great brown ones in her shame.

"They were not chosen," he replied calmly.

Demona breathed in a sigh of relief; she turned to Kendra, "Would you like to go with us?"

The frown on Kendra's face smoothed as she realized why Demona had asked the Ancient One that question, "Of course, maybe together we can make some sense of their actions."

That is something to be desired," commented the Irish Elk in a dry tone that had both of them glancing with questioning looks at the spirit. "These particular Fey delight in obscuring their motives with cryptic utterances at any time," the land around them changed and they were standing inside a room, a large vault door stood wide open along one wall. Goliath stood motionless next to three men tied up inside what looked like money transfer bags and a woman with short dark hair that was kneeling and looking up at the stern looking gargoyle with fear. The spirit continued, "During these events they were more cryptic and obscure than usual."

Kendra looked around at the frozen people in fascination for a moment before she turned back to the spirit, "So your saying trying to figure this out is giving you a headache?" she said with a slight smile.

Great stag turned his head and regarded her for a moment, his ears flipped back and forth once before he responded, "if such a thing were possible for me I would undoubtedly have one."

Demona, who had been paying the familiar looking three girls standing along the wall more attention that the stag spirit and her lover, looked over at this comment and smiled at their bantering. She turned her attention to the window and looked out at the multitude of police cars outside the building, their motionless lights casting a red glare over everything. "A hostage situation?" she asked, returning her attention to the room.

"Correct, chosen," said the Irish Elk.

Suddenly the scene around them came to life, "We will go now. The police can deal with them," announced Goliath turning and leaving the four humans.

Kendra watched the gargoyles with interest, able to identify now the four males as Goliath, Brooklyn, Broadway and Lexington. Seeing them in real life, as it were, instead of two-dimensional pictures was much different. She had a better sense of their size and evident strength. It helped her understand why so many people seemed to be afraid of them, she glanced over at the smaller green male, well at least most of them, she corrected herself.

"The cause is everything until her own life is threatened," the dark haired girl in what looked almost like a school uniform came forward and said to Goliath as he passed the three. "Still it's good that you saved her."

"If you forgot what she's forgotten, that every life is precious. Then you'll be no different from her," said the blonde one.

Demona choked, her eyes flashed red in anger as she stared at the three unable to believe that they had the gall to say such things after everything they had done to Macbeth and her. The gargoyle was so angry that she almost missed Goliath's answer. "I'll never be like this terrorist," he said indignantly.

"We were not talking about this terrorist," the white haired one corrected him. Demona scowled at them, though she could not disagree with the title they had just given her considering what she had done later this night.

Goliath turned around to stare at the now cowed looking woman next to the three bound men. The Weird Sisters took the opportunity to disappear so that when he turned back the looked around in vain for them asking where they had went.

The scene froze with the four gargoyles trying to figure out what they had seen and the two human hostages in the room telling them there had never been any children there. Demona even recognized the two humans, Brendan and Margot Yale, she shook her head, the Assistant District Attorney had a definite gift for running into the clan considering how big the city was and how many humans were in it.

"Considering their own actions it's more than slightly ironic to hear such sentiments from these three," noted Kendra dryly. "What are they playing at? They have absolutely no respect for mortal lives so this has some purpose behind it that serves their own selfish interests."

Demona had no idea herself, her memories of the time in between her fight with the clan and Macbeth and the restored memories the stag had given her were chaotic. She remembered what the Weird Sisters had said to her to get her to reveal the new password and her anger at being tricked, then nothing until her memories from the time she was controlled by the three Fey began.

The Ancient one shook his great antlered head, "I am not certain besides the fact that such sentiments caused Goliath to prevent Macbeth from taking his and Demona's life while she was unconscious."

The gargoyle's green eyes widened, she had no idea that Macbeth had come so close to getting his wish that day.

Kendra said thoughtfully, "I don't usually advocate reading the end of the book first, but in this case I think it might help us understand what's going on better."

The scene around them changed as soon as she finished speaking, they were standing beside a large indoor pool in the center of a carefully landscaped garden. A wide walkway was suspended along the sides of the atrium like area; one part of the walkway went through the center of the area, suspended above the large pool in the center. The walls of the building on this level were solid glass with large pylons along the outside to support the weight of this floor. They stood on the center span of the walkway, stairs leading down on either side to the center section that crossed over the pool. The center section was covered with concrete debris, the figures of Demona and Macbeth lying among them.

"Macbeth threw down a grenade that melted the floor," said Demona pointing to the ceiling far above them. "I remember falling through the air, Macbeth was holding onto me preventing me from being able to glide."

Macbeth rose first, he looked down upon the unconscious gargoyle and an expression of rage crossed his face. He picked Demona up in his arms; her wings hung limply, dragging along the ground as he walked over toward one piece of debris that had broken off pipes sticking up from it.

A low threatening growl, drew Demona's attention from the scene to her lover, Kendra was glaring at the scene her blue eyes narrowed. The gargoyle placed one hand on her forearm; the black-haired woman's head swung her way, the blue eyes instantly softened and the growl stopped. "I'm right here, not there," Demona reminded her gently. Kendra nodded once and turned her attention back to the scene below. The gargoyle stared at her strong profile for a second, taking in the straight nose and strong jaw and chin, her lips curved in a small smile, warmed by the protectiveness her lover displayed for her.

Her turned her eyes away from her lover, intending to watch the scene below, but the Ancient One, who was regarding them with keen interest, caught her attention. His gaze was upon her taloned hand resting so comfortably on Kendra's arm and she could almost hear the thoughts in his mind, not your young jaguar indeed.

No!" shouted Goliath drawing her attention firmly to what was happening below them, "Killing her won't solve anything."

Demona blanched to see herself helpless and unconscious in Macbeth's arms her body suspended above the sharp end of a broken pipe. How close her old ally had come, all Macbeth had to do was release her body and they would have both died.

"Death never does," finished Goliath.

Macbeth hesitated at the lavender males words looking uncertain, and then the three Weird Sisters appeared. They were adults now and looked completely modern in their three-inch heels, purple hose, very short skirts and midriff baring jackets. "He's right Macbeth, Duncan was afraid that your father would make you king," said one of them.

Luna continued, "Did your father's death stop you from becoming king?"

Macbeth turned toward them, "No," he answered angrily.

"You wanted revenge for your father. Did Gillecomigan's death settle that score?" asked Selene.

"No," Macbeth answered his tone not angry this time but resigned.

"Did your own death save your son Luach from Canmore," asked the blonde sister.

"No," whispered Macbeth looking defeated.

"Death is never the answer," Goliath said to him his hands raised in supplication, "Life is."

Demona snorted and shook her head, there her former mate was playing the part the sisters gave him perfectly, not that she didn't appreciate still being alive right now instead of dying almost a year ago.

"I'm just so tired," said Macbeth lowering the unconscious Demona to the ground and backing away.

The Weird Sisters gathered around him, "Then sleep Macbeth," they said in unison. A second later Macbeth slumped to the floor unconscious.

Kendra watched silently as the Sisters manipulated Demona into giving Goliath the access code, alone. Her eyes narrowed and a wave of rage and revulsion washed over her as she saw the tears in Demona's eyes as the gargoyle said the access code. She had never hated anyone as she hated these three callous Fey; if they ever came within range of her claws they were dead.

Demona shook her head sadly as she watched herself rage that she had been tricked, that none of what occurred was her fault, it was the humans were responsible for everything. Not that she had been entirely wrong then given what the Magus had done, but a share of the blame for what had happened at Castle Wyvern definitely rested upon her own shoulders.

"You have learned nothing," said Goliath sadly.

The Demona below hissed at him, "Nothing but your lies." She flared her wings, "I will still have my revenge!"

The Weird Sisters, once again appearing as children, restrained the gargoyle who looked amazed that they could hold her. "You are tired," Luna bade her, "sleep." The Demona below wavered, closed her eyes and slumped to the flagstones of the walkway near Macbeth's slumbering body.

"What do we do with them?" Goliath asked scratching the top of his head.

"We have written their stories. They are our responsibility. They are our children," said the Weird Sisters as they took up points around Demona and Macbeth.

Demona snarled, "At least their acknowledging their responsibility for what they did to us, but Macbeth and I are not their children."

The Ancient One let the scene play out as he spoke, "No you are not, nor are you under their control any longer chosen." The scene froze right after the Weird Sisters disappeared, taking Demona and Macbeth with them.

Kendra eyed the spot on the walkway where everything had taken place, there were a few things about what she had seen that were bothering her, "Ok so they set Goliath up to help persuade Macbeth not to kill Demona, that's easy to see. What I don't understand is why go through all that effort? Since they had their hooks into both of them already why didn't they just take Macbeth and Demona whenever they wanted without all this drama?" she waved a hand to indicate everything around them.

"That is a source of puzzlement to me as well young jaguar," admitted the great stag spirit.

Demona looked over at her lover, startled by her words. Kendra was right, why had the three Fey gone through all this effort when they could have taken them at any time. She stared at the walkway spanning the pool thoughtfully, if she were evaluating the moves of a business rival she would be asking herself what the rival had to gain by their actions. "What did they have to gain by doing this?" she asked herself aloud.

"Exactly," responded Kendra, "They must have gotten something out of it."

The three of them stared at one another silently, Demona sighed, "I guess that means none of us has an idea what they had to gain. Maybe if we go back to the beginning and watch their actions something will make sense?"

The stag spirit dipped his head and they were standing upon the street, a siren wailed behind them, but Demona's attention was upon the three Fey who stood watching a bank of televisions inside a store window. "Isn't this exciting Luna it begins again," Phoebe said.

They began walking down the street, "Concentrate sister or it ends here as well," said Selene.

"Phoebe, Selene have patience, we have waited 975 years, we can wait a little longer," commented Luna.

The scene around them froze, Kendra offered, "It begins again, I guess they mean that things are happening again that will lead to them meeting up with the Archmage? He did tell them it would be another 975 years last time they spoke."

Demona nodded, "That would be my guess as well."

"Those were my thoughts as well," said the Irish Elk. In the next moment they stood in the middle of a street, it was nighttime and in the direction they were facing they could see the silhouettes of two gargoyles approaching.

Demona drew in a sharp breath, her heart actually seemed to skip a beat as she turned around in horror and looked upon the shattered human forms. This was not something she had wanted Kendra to see; at least the Demona of this time was already gone.

Her attention drawn by the distressed sound, Kendra looked over at her lover, she hadn't thought it possible for the gargoyle to pale, but Demona's face looked pale right now. She turned following the gargoyle's gaze and saw what had disturbed her so greatly, piles of rubble upon the street and on either sidewalk. No there were some pieces of people still standing she saw that had not been completely destroyed, a set of legs, a woman without any arms. They must have surely died when the spell that made them stone was broken, Kendra thought. She heard two thumps behind her and turned back around; the silhouettes had been Goliath and Brooklyn, the thumps the sound of them landing upon the street.

The two gargoyles stared appalled at what they saw. "It's like the massacre at Castle Wyvern," said Brooklyn quietly.

"Has Demona learned nothing," Goliath said his voice full of anger and sorrow, "every life is precious," he said, repeating the words of the three Weird Sisters while staring down at a pile of rubble that had once been a human. His attention drawn by something in a toy store doorway he walked over and crouched down. Kendra followed; he was looking at three statues that she immediately recognized as the three Weird Sisters still in the form of children. Oddly, they held dolls in their arms.

"Demona, over here," she said getting the gargoyles attention and pointing out what Goliath was staring at.

"One of these could be Elisa," said Brooklyn taking a handful of rubble.

"Never," growled Goliath, turning to look at him. The huge lavender gargoyle rose, anger clear upon his face, "We will put an end to Demona's evil, once and for all," he vowed.

"Yes she must be stopped," Kendra turned to look at the three statues whose eyes were open now showing a strange blue light, "but remember your own words Goliath. Every life is precious; take care not to become what you fight against. Vengeance begets nothing but a vicious cycle of further vengeance."

Kendra turned away from the talking statues to stare at the piles of rubble on the street; there was something important here some connection that her mind wanted to make. She heard the two gargoyles continue down the street, but she ignored them, kneeling down and picking up a piece of rubble and turning it over. It was a nose and mouth, she ran an inquisitive finger over it and then it came to her, the connection she had wanted to make. "It's so easy isn't it," she said meditatively, "no blood, no gore, no pleas, no begging, no tears. The last man I chased down that night in Central Park he fell and tried to scramble away on all fours. He cried out 'no, no, please don't hurt me,' but his pleas didn't mean anything to me, I killed him anyway.

"Kendra," the gargoyles voice sounded torn, and Kendra felt the weight of her hand upon her shoulder.

She continued, her voice remorseless, "When I changed back I was covered in the blood of the four men who had attacked me. I went over to the bushes and threw up until there was nothing left inside me. It was bloody, it smelled, and there was no way I would have reached into what was left of one of them to pick a piece of them up." She rose, turned toward Demona and the great stag with the piece of stone face in her outstretched hand. She looked into Demona's green eyes and held out the piece of stone, her face showing her reluctance the gargoyle eventually accepted it. "If that were a piece of flesh, actual lips and nose ripped bleeding from someone's face would you have taken it from me?" she asked calmly.

The gargoyles green eyes widened in shock, the piece of stone fell from her taloned hand and shattered upon the street.

Kendra nodded, "that's what I thought," she said evenly.

Demona stared at Kendra still shocked by the black-haired woman's question; it took a few moments for her to realize that the blue eyes didn't hold condemnation but compassion and understanding. She stared down at the small pieces of rubble that had been the fragment of face Kendra had handed to her, and then she looked up and down the street at the piles of rubble.

"If they had been flesh, if they had been able to plead for their lives would you have killed them?" Kendra asked her, "You must have flown over these streets nightly, why this night and not another?"

The flame haired gargoyle took in a shaky breath as she looked down the street at what she had done that night, "I don't know," she said quietly, "perhaps not. I was thinking of the massacre at Wyvern, I wanted to do to the humans what the Vikings had done to us."

Kendra looked up and down the street; she turned and began walking toward the rest of the piles of rubble. Behind her she could hear the sounds of Demona's talons on the pavement and the Ancient One's hooves as they followed her. It didn't take long to get to the end of the piles of rubble, there was only about a block of them. Confused Kendra looked down the side street at the untouched statues and then she turned around and looked back at the single block of destruction. She looked over at the gargoyle, a slight frown upon her face, "Why did you stop?"

Of anything she could have asked that was not a question Demona was expecting.

"I mean," Kendra looked back down the street, "You must have been dreaming of something like this for quite awhile. Yet when you had the chance you," she started counting the piles along the street, "you only killed sixteen or so people."

Slowly the gargoyle turned up the street in the direction she had been smashing the humans that night and looked at the frozen forms of the two humans that had jarred her out of her thoughts of vengeance.

Kendra followed the gargoyle's gaze and her eyes fell upon the statues of a mother and teenage daughter, the mother was well dressed in a tailored suit, her long hair caught back in a braid, the daughter had been caught smiling up at her mother, her face innocent and carefree. Looking at the daughter, her long hair caught back in a simple ponytail, Kendra guessed immediately what must have happened, "She reminded you of Angela," she stated with certainty.

Demona nodded, pensively staring at the two stone humans, "I decided to go and make sure Xanatos didn't shut off my transmission instead of smashing any more of the humans."

Kendra glanced at the stone woman and her daughter one last time before turning to the great stag, "Is that the last of the Weird Sister's appearances?" she asked him.

"No," there is one other one, he responded. Their location shifted to the inside of a building, police in the blue uniforms were moving all around them. "Someone tell me please what happened?" the voice drew Kendra's attention she looked over to see a man surrounded by three female police officers. No, the Weird Sisters she realized looking at them closer.

"Don't worry sir, we're here to help," Phoebe said.

Kendra shook her head, "What are they doing here?" she asked.

"This is the 23rd Precinct building, Maza's precinct," Demona realized looking around the room.

"They were keeping tabs on her?" Kendra questioned, sounding puzzled.

There was chaos around them; several people were demanding that the police tell them what had happened during the night. When Kendra turned around to look at the three Fey, they had disappeared. "Was this the last time?" she raised her voice to be heard over the din of noise inside the station.

The Irish Elk dipped his head, "It is," his deep voice cut easily through the noise.

"Then can we go back to the first sighting?" Kendra asked. She breathed a sigh of relief at the quiet when they reappeared in the room with the four terrorists and the three Fey posing as children.

"What are you thinking?" Demona asked, intrigued, stepping up next to the black-haired woman as she stared at the three motionless Fey.

"I'm wondering how they knew to be here. How they knew they would need to make sure Goliath stopped Macbeth from killing you. How they knew you would do something that Goliath would get so angry about that he would be tempted to not stop Macbeth," Kendra responded.

Demona's eyes widened slightly as she met Kendra's gaze, her gaze sharpened and she turned to look at the three Fey with narrowed eyes. "Your right that does imply that they had some knowledge of what I was going to do and that Macbeth was going to play the Hunter this night. They didn't want their toys to kill each other before they had the chance to use them on Avalon," she finished bitterly.

Kendra turned to the Ancient One, "Did they leave Avalon at any other time just prior to this? Or did they have a means like the Archmage used in the pool to watch events here?"

He dipped his great antlered head, "They had the same means, and they did spend much of their time watching the actions of Demona and Macbeth. Though they were not on Avalon at this time as Oberon's decree that all Fey were banished from Avalon until he decided otherwise prevented them from setting foot on that isle. It was only under the guise of assisting the Archmage that they were able to bend that decree for a short time."

The black-haired woman nodded thoughtfully, adding this piece of information to the ones she already had about the Fey. "Do you know if they had anything to do with Macbeth or Demona a few months or so before they showed up here?"

"You are wondering if they had anything to do with manipulating these events?" the Irish Elk spirit asked shrewdly.

"It did occur to me," Kendra admitted. She turned toward Demona, "When did you find out about the spell that you used this night?"

"A few months earlier," the gargoyle answered thoughtfully, "I found out about a spellbook being sold at an estate auction in England and arranged for a buyer to obtain it for me. I wasn't certain the book would be useful, but I've made a habit of obtaining such things over the centuries."

Kendra turned back toward the Ancient One, "did you hear or see them having anything to do with arranging for Demona to find that spellbook?"

The great stag lifted his head, his gaze unfocused as he thought, "Perhaps, they did scry for several spell books just before these events began." Before Demona or Kendra could pounce on that he continued, "However I cannot say for certain that the books they scryed had anything to do with the one my chosen found. I do not recall them discussing anything that would cause me to suspect they were involved in its finding."

Demona snarled softly, "We have more questions than answers, and I can make no sense of their actions with the knowledge we currently have. Kendra's raised an excellent question, why didn't they just take Macbeth and I, their waiting for all of this to play out makes no sense," the gargoyle said turning to the great stag.

Kendra stared at the forms of the three Fey in irritation, Demona was right they didn't have enough knowledge to answer the questions that had been raised by the Weird Sister's actions and statements. "Well there is one thing," she commented amused as she turned toward them, "I now have a headache for the Ancient One since he's unable to have his own."

The Irish Elk snorted and his ears twitched briefly, "That was not the purpose of this night."

Kendra sighed, "Nevertheless that seems to be all we have accomplished."

The scene around them faded into the familiar landscape of the spirit realm, the great stag turned toward Demona, "I do not understand why they did not enchant you and Macbeth earlier," he responded to her earlier statement. "That question had occurred to me previously as well, as had the question of how they knew what was to take place upon that night and how to guard against Macbeth taking both your lives."

"So we accomplished nothing," complained Demona, caping her wings round herself.

The great stag turned to look at her, "I would not agree my chosen. Several things have been accomplished this night. For one you now have knowledge of their actions and events that you did not before." He left unsaid that there might be other things the gargoyle had learned tonight.

Demona met his calm gaze, and thought of Kendra's jarringly blunt statements. Her lover had been right; she would have had a much harder time killing the humans if they had been flesh instead of stone, if they had bled instead of shattered, cried in anguish instead of remaining silent. As it was, her vengeance had proven to be hollower than she had anticipated. The sight of the rubble left by her mace had reminded her of the Wyvern massacre in more than one way, and by the time she had spotted the stone human that reminded her of her daughter she had been fighting to not see the stone remains of her brothers and sisters in each pile she left. That had been one of the reasons for her mocking the humans as she killed them, to remind herself that she was supposed to be enjoying what she was doing, that she had been dreaming of this revenge for centuries. Trying to distract herself from the fact that every pile of rubble only reminded her of every gargoyle she had seen killed this way throughout the centuries. "You are correct Ancient One," she finally replied.

Kendra watched Demona's changing expressions closely, wondering just what was going through the gargoyle's mind. When sadness and regret overshadowed the fine, regal face of her lover and she told the spirit he was correct, Kendra walked over to the gargoyle and gently pulled her into a hug. Demona leaned into Kendra and rested her head against the black-haired woman's.

The Ancient One observed them for a few moments before saying, "tomorrow we will continue our lessons in life and nature magic."

Demona lifted her head, "we are done for tonight?" she asked.

"We are chosen," the Ancient One confirmed.

The gargoyle nodded, relieved, images of piles of rubble haunted her; it had not been an easy night. "Good night then Ancient One." Kendra echoed the sentiment and then they were in the dark tent.

"I'm sorry that I shocked you, I should have probably found a more delicate way make my point," Kendra whispered quietly in the darkness.

"No," replied Demona just as quietly, "I doubt a more gentle way would have made as much of an impression on me. It's probably your gift kicking in and helping you say just what I need to hear," she offered, and the more she thought about it the more likely the idea seemed, "If you're blunt then its only because nothing less would get me to listen."

"Maybe," Kendra responded, her tone doubtful.

They settled down in the sleeping bag, and for once Demona preferred to be held rather than holding, scooting further down so that she could tuck her head underneath Kendra's chin. The gargoyle wasn't certain she could fall asleep; her mind was full of racing thoughts. Kendra began to softly stroke her hair, and Demona was tempted to grumble that she was not some hatchling to be calmed, but she didn't. Right now, the soft stroking on her hair felt too good and soothing to for her to want it to end. She didn't realize how little time it took after that for her breathing to even out in sleep.

Kendra pressed a kiss on the top of the gargoyle's hair and settled down to try and fall asleep herself. Seeing the evidence of what the Magus's power seeking, the Weird Sister's plotting as they sought their vengeance, her own ancestor's murderous actions, and Demona's anger had led to grieved her. Those people hadn't deserved to die anymore than Macbeth and Demona deserved to be targets of the Archmage and Weird Sisters twisted machinations. She had already forgiven the hurting gargoyle in her arms and tonight hadn't changed her feelings on that one bit. If anything, it had solidified her feeling that forgiveness was the right response, but as she had said to Demona before those who died deserved to not be forgotten for they were innocents caught up in the results of the Weird Sisters scheming.


Chapter 23

The wind howled through the boughs of the trees and slapped the rainfly in an irregular beat against the tent wall. The day was overcast, very windy, and very cold. The two women huddled together with the sleeping bag pulled up almost over their heads. A burning globe of nature energy in the center of the tent kept the interior at a barely tolerable temperature due to the cold wind leaching away the heat as fast as the globe could produce it.

"Less than one day left," Kendra offered, listening to the wind outside.

"Thank goodness," said the redhead, "I can't wait to get back to civilization. You will love my bath at home its large enough for me to sit in with my wings extended."

"Goddess," moaned Kendra, "you, a hot bath and a warm room, that sounds like heaven right now," she buried her nose in the fiery red tresses of her lover.

Dominique's lips curved in a smile that did sound like a very good idea right now. The smile faded as she listened to the wind outside, she sighed, unfortunately the reality of it was still a few days away. It was still only midmorning; they had several hours to go until the evening.

"I'd change into my were-jaguar form for the fur coat, but I don't want to go out there and cook the food I'd need to sustain it," Kendra grumbled.

The redhead grimaced, remembering how enjoyable making breakfast had been, it seemed like it had taken forever for the simple meal to cook and they had huddled near the open side of the propane stove to help keep the wind from blowing out the flame. She searched her mind for something to do besides listen to the wind outside, after last night she didn't feel like discussing the past today, it would have to be something else. "What technologies were you talking about that I might be interested in for Nightstone?" she asked her mind finally seizing upon an acceptable topic. Her lips curved upward and her eyes lit with amusement as she saw the bemused expression on her lover's face.

"Umm," Kendra said and then stopped with a frown.

Dominique began chuckling.

"Yea, yea, you do better without any preparation or research," Kendra groused with a smile. "I'm trying to remember here…" she got a faraway look in her eye, "let's see there are a few different types of light sources their working on to replace traditional and fluorescent lights that use much less electricity and then there's the different types of fuel cells that are under development."

The redhead's eyes narrowed in thought, "I believe I've heard something about hydrogen fuel cells, they use liquid hydrogen and produce water vapor as waste correct?"

Kendra nodded, "there are different types of fuel cells though, and the one I'm thinking about for Nightstone is the one that uses biogas as a fuel."

"Biogas?" Dominique asked, "You mean like methane?" she guessed.

The black haired woman nodded, "exactly, and I happen to know that New York City has been considering renovating one of its sewage waste treatment centers into an anaerobic digestion facility to help cut down on the amount of organic waste that they burn and ship out to landfills."

Dominique leaned back and eyed her suspiciously, "you aren't seriously suggesting that Nightstone get involved with sewage treatment?" her voice held disbelief and a touch of indignation.

"Why not?" Kendra replied calmly, "if you do decide to that fuel cells are of interest to you then it would help to have a method of obtaining cheap biogas to fuel them, and even if you don't it's an investment in the environment. I've been thinking of investing in both technologies simply because I think their development needs to be encouraged. The world's oil won't last forever and besides its terribly polluting to the environment. We need to find other ways to produce the power we require."

"You're serious," Dominique said, eyeing her thoughtfully.

Kendra nodded, "I am, I know the fuel cells still need some development, but they hold such promise Dominique. If the lifetime of the components can be doubled or even better tripled, and the cost to manufacture them can be cut, they hold the promise of producing energy for substantially less than the cost of current methods. Think of the effect on prices if the energy cost to produce any item from start to finish was cut by one quarter."

Dominique was thinking of it, and there were several interesting scenarios running through her mind. However, everything depended on whether or not the fuel cells could be developed to the point that they produced energy for substantially less than that produced by current technologies. "You really think that can be done?" she prodded, trying to see how certain Kendra was about this idea.

The black-haired woman shrugged, "I don't know for sure that it can be, but I don't see why a company that can develop hand held laser weapons can't manage to engineer a cheaper and more efficient fuel cell. I've heard of your laser rifles and to produce a coherent laser beam you must have a very powerful and efficient power source in them."

The redhead's eyes narrowed, this time in true irritation, "Those are highly sensitive military contracts; no one working on them should be talking about them so how did you hear about that?" she asked sharply.

Kendra grinned lazily, unmoved by her lover's show of temper, "I told you I've kept up with what Nightstone's been doing. You know you can't keep something that interesting completely under wraps. Besides, I haven't heard anything specific, but then again I don't need to. There are some things that one just has to know some basic physics to understand, and the amount of power needed to produce a laser beam is one of those."

Dominique let go of her temper with a sigh, what Kendra was saying was true, all someone needed to know was that a hand held laser weapon had been developed to know that a matching advance in power sources had to have been developed as well for a working weapon to even exist. "So you think the technology Nightstone developed to supply enough energy to produce a laser beam can be adapted for fuel cells."

"I don't know can it?" Kendra inquired, arching her eyebrow at her lover. "I don't know anything specific about what Nightstone developed, just that your company had to have made such an advance."

"Find out, come and work for me," Dominique asked impulsively.

Kendra stared at her, surprised, "And do what?" she asked, not agreeing or disagreeing as yet.

The more Dominique thought about the idea the better it sounded to her. "You said you wanted to help me fulfill the tasks the Ancient One gave me. Help me figure out if there's any promise in these new technologies, help me figure out how to the help the other gargoyles."

Kendra's eyes wandered over the delicate features of her lover, she asked quietly, "we haven't discussed how much we want to see each other when we get back, are you sure you want me around every day?"

Dominique stared at her uncertainly, "I hadn't thought about it…I just assumed we would spend as much time as we could…would you rather not?"

Warm blue eyes met and meshed with green, "no, I'd rather spend time with you. I just wanted to make sure you had thought about it before offering me a position where we would be seeing each other in a boss employee setting every day."

"Will that be a problem for you?" the redhead asked hesitantly, "Me being your employer?"

"Just so long as you don't go getting any ideas about how much control you have over me once we leave work," Kendra commented

Dominique smiled wryly, "even at work I suspect you will have your limits."

Undoubtedly," agreed Kendra with a smirk.

The redhead snuggled closer to the black-haired woman's warm body, "Special Projects," she said suddenly, and then she grumbled, "no wait, I already have one of those."

"What?" asked Kendra, confused.

Dominique responded, "I was trying to figure out a position for you, I already have a Special Projects Division in Research and Development so I can't use that," she frowned. "New Technologies…" she shook her head, "no that wouldn't cover everything." Her face cleared, "New Technologies and Special Projects Director…perfect."

She could feel Kendra chuckling silently beside her, "Nice title, but what would such a person do?"

"Explore the viability of new technologies out on the market to see if they're of interest to the company and other projects that would require specialized handling such as helping the various gargoyle clans," Dominique replied.

Kendra was intrigued; having an official position at Nightstone Unlimited to do what she planned to do anyway would definitely make things easier.

"You like that idea don't you", said Dominique satisfied

Kendra grinned, "it does sound interesting," she admitted, "why don't we see how it goes for both of us, maybe a trial period of a couple of months?" she offered.

Dominique nodded reluctantly, she wanted to make the position permanent, but could see the sense of seeing how everything worked out. "I'll announce it as soon as I get back to Nightstone and work out a salary offer for you."

"Mmm," Kendra murmured snuggling down further into the sleeping bag, "I'll work for stock options too; I have confidence in Nightstone with you at the helm."

The redhead looked over at her, her cheeks flushing in pleasure at the compliment.

It was the tenth day, it was night, and Dominique and Kendra were crouched behind pine trees as they watched for Rachael to indicate that it was safe for them to approach her home. The only thing that truly concerned Kendra was the few dogs that she could see wandering around the small town, they seemed to be having their own social a few yards down the street from Rachael's home.

Kendra's attention returned sharply to the red brick single story home, there was movement in the doorway; it was Rachael motioning for them. Running in a low crouch, they made their way to the door and slipped past her into a small entryway. One hesitant bark indicated that one of the dogs had seen or smelt them; it was followed by a few more. As Rachael shut the door behind them they straightened, and gave almost simultaneous relieved sighs, they were back to civilization. The dogs outside barked a few more seconds before settling back down to whatever they had been doing before the interruption.

Rachael turned towards them, "I bought some jeans and sweaters for you a few days ago if you would like take baths and change into something clean while I heat up dinner."

Thoughts of immersing herself in warm water filled Dominique's mind, "That sounds nice," she said gratefully.

The Cree woman smiled, "I thought that might be the case, especially after the temperatures dropped yesterday." She stepped back and pointed down the hallway to her left, "your bedroom is the last door down this hallway, and the bathroom is the last door on the right. Take your time, I have a chicken that I need to put in the oven to cook so it will be about an hour until dinner is ready."

One very warm bath later, Dominique paused in the door of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her to kiss Kendra. "I hope I left enough hot water for you, I tried not to be too greedy with it," she smiled.

"And I thank you for that," Kendra replied with a matching smile. She looked up the hallway toward the rest of the house, "Rachael needs help with dinner once you get dressed. I set the table, but there are still a few things left to do before it's ready. She's got quite a spread planned for dinner, we're going to be stuffed."

Dominique inhaled, "it already smells wonderful." The thought of eating a dinner that wasn't cold in five minutes and then slipping into a real bed with Kendra beside her was sorely tempting. However, they needed to make the amulets tonight for first thing in the morning they would be pretending that Rachael had just found them hiking into town after ten days of hard travel through the wilderness. "I'll go and see what she needs done as soon as I dress," she assured the black-haired woman, "now go take your bath." Kendra grinned at her and shut the door slowly, forcing the towel wrapped redhead to retreat to keep it from touching her.

Dominique made a face at the door before smirking in amusement and turning toward Rachael's guest bedroom. A few minutes later, she walked back wearing stiff new blue jeans, thick socks on her feet and a soft cowl necked cream-colored sweater. She walked down the hallway looking around curiously; blankets, which she guessed were locally woven, hung on the walls adding a warm touch to the simple white walls. Next to them were simple charcoal drawings, they varied wildly in their subject matter from landscapes to animals to simple portraits. Dominique leaned closer to one, curious as to whom the artist might be, but she couldn't see the name it was hidden by the frame.

The redhead followed her nose and was soon stepping into the kitchen where Rachael was slicing tomatoes. The Cree woman looked up from her task and smiled, "You look more relaxed and comfortable."

"I am," Dominique acknowledged, "thank you for the clothes." She hesitated, Rachael's home indicated the woman was not poor, but certainly not as well off as she was, "If you will let me know how much you've spent on us I'd like pay you back."

Rachael shook her head, "the clothing is a gift from me to you," she said firmly. Seeing the argumentative look on the redhead's face she added, "If you feel the need to give a gift in return you could always donate to the tribal youth fund, it's what pays for the equipment I use when I take the children out into the bush. Something's always being damaged and needing to be replaced."

The green eyes narrowed, meeting the brown ones of the senior Owl's chosen in a brief test of wills before Dominique nodded, "Very well. Now is there something I can help you with?"

Rachael nodded and reached up into the cabinet bringing out a box of Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie mix, "Would you like to make the brownies for desert?"

Dominique's eyes widened, feeling slightly embarrassed she admitted, "I've never actually made brownies I've always bought them from the bakery down the street."

"That's alright their easy, you're just adding water, oil and an egg to the mix and then stirring in the fudge, and I'm right here if you have any questions," Rachael assured her.

The redhead accepted the box from her, glancing down at the back where the instructions were clearly laid out, "Where do you keep your mixing bowls?" As Dominique pulled a mixing bowl from underneath a counter, she added with a smirk, "Besides I've been missing real chocolate, those meal replacement bars may have claimed they had a chocolate coating, but it tasted suspiciously like chocolate flavored paraffin."

Rachael chuckled, "I can assure you those brownies will not taste like that."

It was the tenth night since her mother and Kendra Canmore had been kidnapped, Angela had expected news tonight when she had awoken. However, as with the previous night and the night before that there had been none. She had come out onto the battlements to get away from the dour looks of Brooklyn and her father at the continuing news that neither Demona nor Kendra Canmore had been found though the Canadians were still diligently searching for them.

She had asked Lexington how cold it was where the plane had crashed and his answer had troubled her. It was cold in New York City tonight at 33 degrees, but where the plane had crashed it was minus ten degrees. She didn't really feel the cold tonight, but she had no doubt that if it were as cold here as it was there that she would be feeling it, gargoyle cold tolerance only went so far.

How were her mother and Kendra Canmore surviving in such conditions? The young gargoyles thoughts faltered as she acknowledged her own strong doubts that Demona would actually help a human across 350 miles of rugged, cold terrain. Yet it had been ten days now without sign of either of them, and Angela could only think that so much time had passed without either being found because Demona was traveling with Kendra Canmore and they were limited to the human's pace.

She knew that her father, Brooklyn, and Elisa thought that Kendra Canmore was already dead, either by Demona's hand, or because Demona left Kendra behind while the immoral gargoyle made her way back without the much slower human. However, each day that passed without news made Angela more certain that both would be found, and more certain that her mother had important plans she for which required Kendra Canmore. The young lavender female didn't know why her mother needed the Canmore woman, but she was certain that sooner or later the clan would find out, and that whatever scheme her mother was planning that the immortal gargoyle would try once again to persuade her daughter to join her.

Angela breathed out an unhappy sigh; no matter what her mother tried, no matter what lies she told this time, she would be ready. Her mother using her to try and kill Goliath had finally shown Angela that the rest of the clan had been right all along, her mother could not be trusted and she would not forget that bitter lesson.

The three women had adjourned to the living room after their dinner where a fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. Dominique and Rachael were enjoying small glasses of ruby port, while Kendra pronounced herself, after one sniff of the port, happy with another glass from the second bottle of white Bordeaux they opened with dinner.

The sound of the stove timer went off in the kitchen; both Rachael and Dominique put down their glasses and began to rise. The two women looked at one another indecisively, Rachael said, "I need to show you how to check for doneness anyway."

Kendra rose and followed them, she leaned on the door and watched as Dominique pulled the rectangular pan out of the oven and placed it on the cooling rack. The smell of chocolate filled the air as Rachael inserted a wooden toothpick in the center and pulled it out, showing the redhead the clean end. "If there had been batter still uncooked you would need to put it back in for five minutes and check again until it's cooked all the way through. Now it needs to set for fifteen minutes and then we can slice it into squares."

The way Dominique was staring wistfully at the brownies was too cute, Kendra decided, the redhead obviously had been missing her chocolate fix. Still it would be fifteen minutes before the brownies were ready. "When are we going to make the amulets?" she asked curiously, reasoning that it was a good question to distract the two women from watching the timer impatiently.

"We can start at any time," Rachael answered. "It won't be that hard, but it will require each of you to transform at least once, so I wanted to wait until I'm sure there won't be any unexpected visitors tonight before starting. Unless it's an emergency no one will visit after ten o'clock, so after that I'll turn off the lights and we can be fairly certain of being uninterrupted while we work."

"That sounds like a prudent idea," observed Dominique. "What exactly will we be doing and why do we have to transform?"

"The amulets are supposed to be the means by which you shapeshift. I want you to watch what happens to the life and nature energy in each of you while you transform. Once you do, it will become fairly obvious what energy signature the amulets need to carry for them to appear as if they are allowing you to transform," Rachael explained.

Dominique frowned thoughtfully, trying to imagine what the Cree woman was describing, she still wasn't certain how they would get the energy signature into the amulet though she had an idea of how it might be done. Two nights ago the Ancient One had shown her how to mend the small rips she made in the sleeping bag by manipulating and repairing the lattice-like structure of the nature energy that formed the material of the bag. It wasn't that hard to imagine that you could overlay more energy onto the nature energy lattice of the amulet or even slightly change the structure of the amulet's nature energy itself.

"Trust me," Rachael said, "it will make sense once you watch Kendra transform."

A knock on the front door startled all three women.

"Darn it," swore Rachael softly, "here take your glasses and go to the guest room I always keep that door closed so it won't look suspicious."

They grabbed their glasses and turned to leave, behind them they heard the Cree woman mutter, "thank goodness we already cleaned up from dinner, that would have been hard to explain away."

As they went by the living room, Kendra looked inside double-checking that they hadn't left any evidence that Rachael had company tonight. The bottle of wine and the bottle of port were sitting on a side table; Kendra took a quick detour inside the room and grabbed the wine bottle. Dominique, who had been staring after her with a puzzled frown, nodded and mouthed silently, 'good catch.' They hurried down the hall and closed the door behind them as the Cree woman went to the door.

Through the closed door, they heard her say, "Good evening Chief, what brings you by tonight?"

A gravely male voice answered, "Those two women who were kidnapped, the Mounties think that if their still alive they might be somewhere north of us by now. They asked us if we could send out a few search parties to look for them. The search planes haven't spotted them, but if their hiking through the forest it would be hard for them to find an open spot to even signal a plane."

"You want to know if I'm interested in going?" Rachael asked.

"That," the male voice hesitated, "and if you had heard anything from the wind people about them. With the weather as cold as it has been and with nether woman familiar with living in the bush, I'm just not sure…"

Rachael interrupted him, "They are still alive James, the animal spirits are guiding their steps in their journey and it will end when the spirits guide them out of the bush."

Dominique was surprised that the Cree woman had given the man so much of the truth, she frowned, Rachael hadn't said anything about this James being one of them.

There was a long moment of silence before James spoke again, "when I asked you to go to the spirits and ask that they guild their path to safety I was not expecting the spirits to take such an interest in them. They are not Iiyiyuu."

"The spirits are of the land not our people and they may speak to anyone with the ears to listen and the heart to hear their message," Rachael said in a chiding tone.

Dominique bowed her head; Rachael's words seemed to be meant for her as much as they were for the one she called James. The gargoyle was only too aware that it was only because of a series of unrelated events that led her to having the open ears and heart the Owl's chosen was speaking about. She felt Kendra shift beside her and the black-haired woman's arms were around her pulling her tight to her lover's warm body. She turned so that she could fit more comfortably against the other woman and rested her head upon Kendra's shoulder.

"Yes elder," his voice sounded abashed. There was another moment of silence, "I can't exactly tell the Mounties that the spirits are guiding them. I didn't believe in the spirits as anything but tribal tales until that blizzard that almost killed me, and the wolf spirit lead me to safety."

Rachael responded, "Then simply don't tell them, I'm sure Dominique Destine and Kendra Canmore won't mention anything directly either."

"Probably not," he agreed, "they told me it was exhaustion and the onset of hypothermia that caused me to hallucinate."

"But you've never thought that, the first thing you did when you got out of the hospital was come to me," Rachael said.

They heard him chuckle, "I know I didn't have a clue where I was by the time the spirit came to me, so there's no way a hallucination of mine could have lead me through that blizzard directly back to the village. I came to you because I knew you were the one who could teach me how to thank the wolf spirit for saving my life, and that's why I'm glad you've agreed to join us tomorrow." There was a short pause before Dominique and Kendra heard his voice again. "I've got a few more houses to visit tonight so I need to get going. I'll see you around eight in the morning?"

"I'll be ready," Rachael assured him. The two women heard the door open and then shut again a few seconds later. Dominique pulled reluctantly away from Kendra as they heard footsteps come up the hallway. The door opened, Rachael sighed, "Well I guess you two will be waking me up pounding on my door to get in from the cold earlier than I had originally thought," she said with an amused chuckle.

"Does that mean you won't have coffee ready for us then?" asked Kendra cheekily.

Rachael stared at her for a moment in surprise before breaking out in laughter. When the laugher died down she said, "I should show you the amulets I made, they turned out rather nice I think."

She led them down the hallway past the living room and to the opposite end of the house from the guest bedroom. The room was as different from the rest of the house as could be imagined, the floor was covered with large white tiles and workbenches along two of the walls were covered with different types of equipment. Along the walls, shelves were hung with what looked like jewelry in various stages of production upon them.

"You cast metals," Dominique said sounding intrigued.

Rachael turned and looked at her, "You've cast silver before?"

The redhead nodded, "and gold and copper. I have a similar room in my house, though I don't have quite the extensive setup you do."

"I make jewelry pieces to sell at the gift shop," Rachael explained. She picked up two pendants on one of the shelves, one black and silver and the other dark red and gold. They glittered in the light as she handed them to the two women.

Dominique looked down at the simple oval pendant; there was a large dark reddish stone with bands of white running through it, which she suspected was treated sardonyx. The oval stone was set in an elegant gold setting, and carved into its surface was the outline of a female human. The lines of the carving were simple and yet they managed to convey the sense of the elegance and beauty of the woman. She looked over at Kendra's pendant, it was similar to hers except that it was set in silver and the stone in the center was black with white lines and was probably onyx. Dominique wasn't surprised to see the image of a jaguar carved into Kendra's stone. The way the carvings were drawn looked familiar, but she couldn't place the context.

"It's beautiful," said Kendra sincerely staring down at the carved jaguar image. "You did the carvings yourself didn't you, they remind me of the charcoal drawings you have hanging up."

Rachael nodded, "I've been drawing for many years now, first with charcoal on birch bark and then with paper and pencil. I still prefer charcoal though; sometimes the pencil just makes too harsh a line."

"These are very beautiful pieces," agreed Dominique examining once again the carving on hers. Now that she knew Rachael had drawn these, she could easily see the resemblance between the carving and the drawings she had noticed earlier.

Rachael looked at the watch on her wrist, "In another hour we can start, it should be late enough then that no one else will drop by to see me."

Early the following morning it was time for their deception to begin and Rachael was much more awake than either Dominique or Kendra. "Ok, I've got some sweats here for you two to change into after your baths," the Cree woman announced. "I'll put the survival gear you were wearing into the washing machine along with a second set that's close enough in appearance for it to have come from the same place. When their done I'll ask you if you want them back and you will tell me no, then I'll put them with the rest of the winter gear we keep for the camp. They'll get mixed in and no one will be able to tell which pieces were yours."

"You keep spare winter clothing around?" asked Kendra curiously.

Rachael nodded, "I keep spare clothing in the shed for the children to use while we are out in the bush. They grow so fast that it's just easier that way rather than their parents buying expensive hiking gear every year."

Dominique took the last sip from her mug of coffee, "Alright," she said, "So I guess the next step would be for us to take quick baths?" Both Kendra and she were wearing white robes, their clothes already having been appropriated and thrown into the wash to be mixed in with Rachael's clothing until they got ready to leave.

The Cree woman nodded, "As soon as one of you is done and the other one in the bath, I'll call up the tribal police to tell them you showed up on my doorstep about thirty minutes ago and were both not particularly interested in talking to anyone until you had baths, fresh clothing and coffee."

"That would have been accurate enough," Dominique agreed with a smile. She shuddered, "I can't imagine how horrid those clothes would have been after ten straight days in them." She looked over at Kendra, "You want to go first this time?"

Sure," the black-haired woman agreed easily, rising from her chair and placing her coffee cup in the sink. Dominique turned to watch her walk gracefully down the hallway on bare feet, then again everything her lover did was graceful she reflected. She turned back to the table; Rachael was watching her with a small smile upon her lips.

"I can see that you two have become even closer," the Cree woman noted, "Have you talked about what will happen once you return to New York?"

"She's coming to work for me to help me with my tasks," Dominique responded. She smiled, "I'll be making up a new department just for her, New Technologies and Special Projects, they will do research on companies and technologies that Nightstone might be interested in acquiring as well as troubleshooting."

"You're planning on using her gifts then," Rachael commented perceptively.

"On the tasks the Ancient One gave me, yes, I am. I'd be a fool not to," the redhead stated firmly. She continued in a grimmer tone, "I wouldn't put it past Goliath to warn the clans about me if he heard or even suspected I was trying to make contact with them. Chances are I'll have to send Kendra to deal with the clans rather than going myself. At least she'll have a chance at getting them to listen to her whereas I might not if Goliath does what I'm almost certain he will. Hopefully after a year or so he'll decide I'm not evil incarnate anymore and I won't have to worry about it."

Rachael winced, "I didn't know it was that bad between you and your clan."

"It is," Dominique replied sadly, "even between me and my daughter." After a quick glance at the clock, she began telling Rachael about what Kendra had referred to as the last parting gift from the Weird Sister's enchantment. The plans she had made with the Assassin to deceive the clan and kill Goliath that had fallen apart so badly the weekend just before the kidnapping. As Kendra walked back into the kitchen she was saying, "The human I had hired told them everything, Goliath escaped and the last thing my daughter said to me was to save what I had to say to her for my next performance," Dominique said sadly. "So now you know why I said that attempting to tell them about what's happened during the last week wouldn't get me anywhere, they simply wouldn't believe me."

Rachael looked like she was having difficulty finding something to say in response.

Dominique chuckled sadly, "It's alright. I wouldn't believe me either if I were them." She looked over at Kendra, "And I see its time for me to start my bath," the redhead returned her attention to Rachael, "and for your phone calls to begin."

Rachael and Kendra heard her mutter sarcastically as she left the kitchen for the bathroom, "This should be fun."

Kendra chuckled quietly at the comment.

"Are we ready?" Rachael asked picking up the phone

"I think it's more of a ready or not situation," observed Kendra dryly, "since I don't think we can sneak back to New York and pretend we were never missing."

Rachael chuckled, "that would be much easier wouldn't it, but unfortunately too many people know." She started dialing a number, "Hello," she said into the phone, "Is Chief Winters there?" A moment later she said, "James, I was out checking my gear for the search party today and guess who I found walking out of the forest."

Kendra could clearly hear the shouted, "You found them!" from where she was sitting across the table.

Rachael jerked the phone away from her ear, "James, my hearing is just fine, no need to yell," she said grouchily.

From the phone in Rachael's hand, Kendra heard the distinctive gravelly voice from last night ask, "Dominique Destine and Kendra Canmore are at your house?"

"Taking warm baths as we speak, and I'm about to make breakfast for them," Rachael confirmed raising the phone to her ear once again. "For some reason anything other than food bars sounded good to them," she added in a dry tone.

The Cree woman listened for a little while longer before saying, "they look alright to me, and I've already checked their hands and feet for frostbite before letting them bathe. But you're probably right it would be a good idea to get Dr. Meadows to look them over." She listened for several more seconds then said, "Alright I'll expect you and the doctor in about thirty minutes."

Rachael hung up the phone and turned back to Kendra, "Eggs, bacon and biscuits sound good?"

"Wonderful," responded Kendra with a grin, "what can I help you with?"

Four hours later, Dominique heaved a sigh of relief as the door shut behind the two detectives from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Tribal Police Chief Winters. Dr. John Meadows had left several hours ago after pronouncing himself surprised at their excellent health considering the conditions they had hiked through for ten days. Both Dominique and Kendra had downplayed the lack of any injuries, merely saying that they were both in excellent health when the journey had begun and that had obviously helped them survive it. The snowy haired doctor had shook his head and told them they were both incredibly lucky as well, good health and conditioning did only so much when stacked against cold weather.

Kendra looked the elderly man in the eye and replied, "I know we are lucky, I knew something was watching out for us when we crawled our way out of that cage they put us in and we found the kidnappers dead in the front of the plane. We probably should have died there but we didn't, and we were incredibly lucky to find good places to shelter and get warm every night."

Dr. Meadows sat back in his chair and stared at her, "The spirits must have been watching over you," he finally replied, "being able to warm up every night is probably what saved you from getting frostbite."

Knowing that the tribal police chief was watching them keenly, Kendra and Dominique allowed themselves to share a long look. "I'm certain that they were Doctor," the redhead finally replied, "And I'm very grateful to them that they decided to help us," she finished sincerely.

The doctor seemed surprised at her words while James Winters nodded as if they had answered a question for him.

Dr. Meadows left immediately afterwards and they had sat down and waited for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police detectives while having round of coffee. Once the two detectives had arrived and joined them at the kitchen table the questions about the kidnapping and their journey began.

With Rachael helping they had come to an agreement on what story to give the authorities last night. Except for a few changed details it was essentially the truth. They had been talking in Dominique's office before heading down to the gymnasium to spar when the helicopter had shown up outside the building. The helicopter door had opened and they realized someone inside was pointing a weapon at them just in time for the glass to shatter. Kendra had noticed the gas grenade, but had been unable to get to it before falling unconscious from the gas. The next time the two women had awoken, they were in cages in the hold of a plane. Yes they had seen one of their kidnappers, but he had been wearing a mask and didn't speak to them he had just given them a food bar and a water bottle and left once again. When the plane landed, he, or someone else about his size, had shown up again and shot them with tranquilizer darts. The next time they woke the plane had crashed and they were freezing but the cage had been warped enough for them to force their way out.

Neither of them said much about the trip except to say that they had covered as much ground as they could while it was daylight and then found or made shelters during the nights. It had been difficult, but with the compass they had headed due south through the woods where it was warmer. Yes, they had heard the planes a few times but they hadn't seen them due to the thickness of the tree canopy. The past two days had been hard with the colder weather, but they had pushed though realizing from the topographical map that they were at last close to a town and the end of their journey.

After the questions were done, the RCMP detectives asked them to make themselves available for future questions and to please not discuss the case with the news media as it was an ongoing investigation of a federal crime in both Canada and the United States.

All of that had taken approximately four hours, and now it was just she, Kendra and Rachael once again.

"So," Rachael's voice had Dominique opening her eyes once again, "now that their gone did you two want to go shopping for something other than sweats?"

"That would be nice," Kendra responded promptly.

The redhead looked down at the worn sweats she was wearing with a frown at the idea of appearing in public with them on, she sighed in resignation, "I guess it would look odd for you to have bought us clothing before we arrived wouldn't it."

The Cree woman grinned, "I got the jeans and sweaters in Alma so no one would associate my purchasing them with your arrival, but no, there's no way you can show up in them this morning it would look too suspicious."

"Let's get going then," Kendra said, glancing over at Dominique, "the faster we buy something the sooner we can wear something else."

The redhead wracked her brain; there was something she knew she was forgetting. Her green eyes opened wide, "Nightstone," she exclaimed, "I haven't called them yet."

"Opps," chuckled Kendra, "I guess that would be a good idea wouldn't it, and we need to go ahead and arrange for transportation back to the city as well."

"Candice can do that," Dominique said, heading back toward the kitchen, she paused for a moment looking back at Rachael, "this shouldn't take me long, but I need to let them know I'm alright and will be at work and expecting updates next week."

The Cree woman waved her hand in a shooing motion, "I'll go work on some jewelry orders, come up and get me when you're ready."

Dominique nodded; she looked over inquiringly at Kendra.

Kendra picked up the newspaper, which had been placed on a table just inside the front door when James Winters and Dr. Meadows had arrived, "I'd like to take a look at the newspaper, find out what's been happening in the world."

The redhead glanced at the newspaper in her lover's hand, that was a good idea, but it was something she would have to do later today. She walked to the kitchen and was pleased when Kendra followed and sat down at the table with the newspaper.

She dialed her secretary's desk number and waited impatiently, on the fourth ring it was picked up, "Candice Greene…"

Dominique didn't wait for her to trot out the standard greeting, "Candice its Ms. Destine, I need you to arrange for transport tomorrow from Alma Quebec to New York, just after lunch would be preferable, and inform the division managers I expect reports from each of them on my desk Monday morning first thing," she said briskly. A quiet snort had her glancing over at Kendra with an arched eyebrow and inquiring look.

The blue eyes were dancing with laughter, but Kendra just shook her head and looked back down at the paper.

Candice still hadn't replied, there was absolute silence on the line. Dominique frowned at it wondering if the connection had been dropped when her secretary finally responded in a very hesitant questioning voice, "Ms. Destine?"

She was about to snap irritably when she looked up and saw Kendra watching her, she sighed, reminded of her promise, "Yes Candice its Dominique Destine, I assure you I'm quite alive and well even though it was a bit of a hike to find a phone," she said dryly.

There was another amused snort from the one person peanut gallery.

There was silence once again before her secretary asked hesitantly, "Was that a joke Ms Destine?"

Dominique rolled her eyes, "Apparently not a very good one," she responded wryly. "Now that we have established that I am indeed alive did you hear what I said before?"

"Yes…" the initial answer didn't sound as certain as she would have liked, then Candice's voice firmed, "you need me to arrange transportation for you from Alma, Quebec back to New York City tomorrow around one to two in the afternoon, and to inform the department managers that you expect reports for each department on your desk Monday morning by ten am?" the last a question.

"Ten will be fine," Dominique confirmed, "Is there anything I should know about right now?"

She listened intently while her secretary filled her in on what had happened during her absence. There hadn't been much; apparently everyone had been waiting for news on the search and rescue operation. The different departments had coasted along working on the last projects she had handed out before the kidnapping. It could have been much worse she reflected, they could have assumed she was dead and started fighting among themselves over who was in charge.

"Oh two other things Candice," she said deciding to get some things started so that she could get Kendra's position mostly set up on Monday. "Tell Research and Development to rename the Special Projects division to Research and Development Special Projects division. There's going to be a new executive level division that has special projects in its name and I want to make sure there's no confusion between the two. Also set up a meeting with the head of Human Resources on Monday at," she hesitated a moment thinking of how long it would take her to get through at least some of the work that had certainly piled up over the last eleven days, "eleven o'clock."

Her secretary asked tentatively, "A new executive level division?"

Dominique could imagine the interest on the woman's face; a new executive level division was fairly big news. "Yes, New Technologies and Special Projects," Dominique responded, reasoning that it wasn't a bad idea for the gossip to go ahead and make its way around the company. That way HR would be ready for her on Monday morning, "Ms. Canmore will be heading up the new division for me."

"Ms. Kendra Canmore?" Candice asked her surprise clear.

"That would be the one," Dominique confirmed. "When you talk to Mr. Cleveland let him know that part of what I would like to see from him on Monday will be an appropriate executive management level salary and stock option offer for Ms. Canmore," she knew that Candice would pass on the emphasis she had placed on the words executive management level.

"Yes Ms. Destine," her secretary responded promptly.

"Thank you Candice," Dominique replied, congratulated herself for remembering not to use her usual crisp 'that will be all' at the woman.

"Yes…" Candice's voice trailed off and Dominique frowned wondering what was wrong, "Umm… I mean you're welcome Ms. Destine. Where may I contact you to let you know the transportation arrangements from Alma?"

Dominique raised an eyebrow at the hesitant response before replying, "You may contact me at this number, if I'm not here just leave a message on…" she paused trying to remember Rachael's last name, but it wouldn't come to her, "just leave a message on the answering machine here," she finished.

"Yes Ms. Destine, I'll start making those arrangements for you now," Candice assured her.

"Very well, goodbye Candice," Dominique said impatient now to end the phone call.

"Goodbye, Ms. Destine," her secretary responded, and with a relieved sigh Dominique hung up the phone.

"Did you realize we missed Thanksgiving?" Kendra asked.

The redhead stared at her in surprise; she glanced at the calendar noting today's date, Thursday, December 4th. "No I hadn't," she said, "I don't celebrate it, it's just a day I have to pay people for not being at work." She frowned, belatedly aware of what the statement said about her attitude towards the idea of her employees taking holidays. Macbeth had never resented the days his people celebrated the various human holidays, he had seemed to take as much enjoyment in them as they.

"Take it one thing at a time," Kendra advised her gently, "your attitudes towards humans have been built over centuries, they won't change in one day or week or even months."

Sometimes, Dominique thought ruefully, Kendra was startlingly intuitive when it came to knowing what she was thinking. "Shall we go tell Rachael that we're ready to go shopping?" she asked.

"After ten days of search and rescue efforts Dominique Destine and Kendra Canmore walked into the small Cree village of Mistassini, Quebec early this morning. The Canadian Mounted Police say that despite having hiked across over 350 miles of rugged snow covered terrain both women are in excellent health. The RCMP declined to release any details about what the two women had to say regarding their kidnapping citing their on-going joint investigation with the FBI."

The brief news bulletin on the radio had Professor Lennox MacDuff looking abruptly up from the paper he was grading toward the radio. The dreams he had from a few nights ago would not leave him alone, he couldn't get out of his mind Demona's anguished cry of "Luach," and the tears of grief she had cried when the spirit had restored the memories the Weird Sisters had blocked. The dream had been so vivid, had felt so real. He couldn't shake the feeling that it had been real in some way, that some spirit had taken pity upon them both and freed them from the Weird Sisters enchantments.

It wouldn't be hard to find out if it were true, he reasoned to himself, just one moment of pain would answer the question of whether or not the link between them had indeed been broken as the spirit claimed. Besides he wanted to see her again, see if the hardness in her eyes had changed as he remembered from the dream. If it were indeed possible that after all this time they could become friends once again, that there would be someone with which he wouldn't have to pretend to be Lennox Macduff.

"Here we are," Rachael said as they pulled up in front of a small cinder block building. Behind it was a single runway with a few hangars along its side for the few planes that were kept here. Dominique eyed the small jet waiting on the runway. It was the only jet there and she guessed it was the one that Candice had chartered for them.

She looked over at Rachael; she had been considering this since they had left, but didn't know if the Owl's chosen would be interested. After all, they had taken up quite a bit of Rachael's time in the past week. "Solstice is coming up soon," she broached the subject, "As the shortest night of the year, it was the only holiday that my clan celebrated. It served as both a new year's celebration and when we would give thanks for the good fortunes of the past year." She looked away from Rachael's wise dark eyes, "I haven't celebrated winter solstice for a very long time," she said quietly, "it's simply been too bitter a reminder of all that I've lost over the centuries," she admitted.

Kendra's hand squeezed her shoulder, "that's not the case this year," she commented quietly.

Dominique lightly gripped the hand on her shoulder and held it there as she turned and smiled back at the black haired woman. "That isn't the case this year," she agreed. She turned back to Rachael, "If you don't already have something planned, I'd appreciate it if you would come and celebrate it with…" she glanced back at Kendra questioningly.

Kendra snorted, "You are so funny, no I wasn't planning on going anywhere over the Christmas holidays."

Dominique smiled, she glanced back to Rachael once again, "If you would celebrate it with us," she finished asking.

Rachael smiled, "I need to be back for Christmas Eve, but otherwise than that I don't have anything planned for the days right before then."

"Excellent," Dominique said happily, "Winter Solstice is the 21st this year; I'll charter a plane to pick you up on the nineteenth or twentieth?"

"The nineteenth will be fine," responded Rachael with a smile of her own.

"On the nineteenth then and bring you back on the twenty-third," the redhead said, "I'll have a use for the first time for my guest room."

They got out of the jeep and went around to the back to get the two duffle bags that held the purchases they had made at the village, and the jeans and sweater Rachael had bought for them.

Kendra was the first to turn to Rachael and hug her, "Thank you," she said simply, her blue eyes echoing her gratitude for everything the Cree woman had done for them.

When Kendra stepped back, Dominique didn't hesitate to take her place. She had already made a generous donation to the youth fund as Rachael had suggested, but it still didn't feel like enough to convey her thanks for what the woman had done for both of them by traveling several hours though the cold to bring them supplies and then again to bring them to her home. The redhead stepped back, "Thank you for everything, and if there is anything I can ever do for you let me know."

"Get to know Robert," Rachael answered immediately, "his aunt and uncle see to his material needs, but I don't get the feeling that they really care for him. He needs someone closer than me to talk to and who can take him out shopping or to get something to eat without making it feel like he's a burden to them."

Dominique's eyes narrowed in anger at what Rachael's words implied about Robert's life. "I will," Dominique promised, "I'll contact him this weekend."

"We both will," Kendra added.

Rachael looked over toward the building, "I think your pilot's waiting on you," she said nodding toward it.

Dominique turned and looked in the same direction, there was a man standing in the doorway looking at them uncertainly.

As soon as he saw her looking in his direction, he walked toward them, "Ms. Destine?"

"Yes," Dominique responded crisply, "are you the pilot of the plane Nightstone chartered?"

"I am Ma'am, may I take your bags for you and stow them on the plane?" he asked politely.

"Be careful with them," the redhead instructed him, "they have some breakables in them."

"Yes ma'am I will be," he assured her as he took their bags, "will you be much longer? I was wondering when to start my final flight check."

"Go, I'll see you on the nineteenth," Rachael said.

"I'll dust off a bottle of my fifty year old Oban for us to enjoy," Dominique commented.

Rachael's eyes lit with interest, "I'll look forward to it."

With final waves, the two women followed the pilot into the building and then out to the tarmac and onto the plane for their journey back to New York.

When the plane became airborne, Dominique looked out the window at the dark green of trees and the occasional brilliant white of snow. She was going to miss it in a way she realized with surprise.

"I do want to come back during the summer," Kendra said from the seat beside her.

Dominique nodded, "So do I."

The End

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