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|I wish to dedicate this stroy to a very special person who was an overwhelming help on this project I undertook. I want to dedicate this to Sylvia Baker for being such a great, and overwhelming help and inspiration in making this story. Thank you greatly, M'lady.||
Max Sterling sat comfortably in the leather chair of the briefing room of the science lab. He was listening to the two scientists explain to him what would be happening to him when he stepped through the trans-warp portal they had developed.
" . . . so when the mass decelerated, it will coagulate and rebuild," one of the scientists was saying. "Uh, do you understand what I am saying?" He looked a bit uncertain at Max.
"Could you explain it one more time. Just say it like you were talking to a five year old," Max said as he rubbed his head. He understood some of what the scientist was saying, but could not quite grasp the entire concept, even with the scientist attempting to explain it.
The scientist paused for a moment in thought. He looked at his colleague. "Weíre going to send you though this end of a gateway and your body is going to be thrown across time and space to another dimension where youíll stop," the second scientist responded.
"Finally, a simple answer," Max responded cheerfully. "Now thatís out of the way, letís get onto more pressing things. You said the other world was inhabited, so what types of creatures are there? Is there a culture?"
The scientists moved from the display board and took the seats in front of Max. One handed Max a folder. "Have a look," the second stated. Max began browsing through the pictures. "As you can see, there appears to be a race of humanoid creatures. We have dubbed them ĎGargoylesí because of their resemblance to the stone statues that were predominant on castles and such larger buildings. All seem to have a pair of wings with varying wingspans and a large tail. Both seem to be relatively proportional to the size of the Gargoyle. We cannot determine if the wings are used for gliding or actual flight. We cannot say much else about them aside from the fact that there appears to be two genders, male and female."
"Understood," Max stated as he closed the folder. "What can you tell me about the environment?"
"Same atmospheric composition as our," The first scientist answered. "We werenít able to get a secure soil sample but we believe that the soil will be drastically similar to that of this planet."
"What about material you would suggest I carry over there?" Max inquired. "You said I might not be coming back, depending on the circumstances of the visit." Both scientists suddenly looked very agitated. "Whatís wrong."
Both got up and headed for the door. "Come with us," the second scientist stated.
"You guys going to tell me what this is about or am I not going to like it?" Max asked.
The scientists lead Max to a closed door, one of them keyed in a 4 digit sequence and the door hissed open. "We were given these materials and told that the volunteer must use these."
Max walked into the room and gazed at the materials. There were enough weapons to provide for a small guerrilla army. There was everything to automatic-reload energy firearms to heat-sync armor vests. "Who the heck gave you this stuff?" Max inquired. "I signed up for this as a helpful hand, not a killing machine."
"You have to go through with this," the second scientist said feebly. "You signed the contract."
"The contract said that I had to give a signal back here to whether the place over there was inhabitable or not. Nowhere did it state that I had to terminate everything with extreme prejudice." Max looked angrily at the pair of scientists. He knew that this was a military project to try and jump dimensions. Trying to sidestep to a similar, parallel world that sits next to the existing one and live in the new one.
"D-do you have a better suggestion?" the second scientist stammered. Looking slightly intimidated by Maxís muscular build on his five foot nine inch frame.
"Give me a transmitter," Max said. "Have the transmitter continually sending messages to the computer. If it keeps going for more than a given period of time the world is safe and people can come to it. If it stops sending signals, then the world could be said to be deadly and nobody should be sent to it. Sound fair?"
"It s-seems plausible." The second said.
"Good," Max stated firmly. "When did you want me to ship over there?"
"Itís at your call," the first scientist said. After a long pause he asked, "Donít you want take any of these weapons?"
"No," Max returned. "Give me about three hours. I will need it to collect several things. By then I will be ready to make the jump."
"OK," Both scientists said together.
* * * * * * * *
Three hours had passed and Jon was standing at a table with the two scientist he had spoken with earlier that day. There was a large knapsack at the end of the table with a multitude of items spread along the tableís length. Max was packing the items into the knapsack.
"Why are you bringing these things?" The second scientist inquired as he picked up a small hand-held flashlight. "The people there wonít know what these things are."
"How do you know?" Max inquired.
"We donít, not fully," the other scientist returned. "We think they people are in a stage of development similar to that of about the medieval or dark ages of earth history. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries."
"Then Iíll be an even bigger oddity there," Max said with as smirk. He tucked a book into the knapsack, followed by the hand-held flashlight. "I already look different. Might as well place myself as somebody that knows how to survive."
"Then why do you need a book of Shakespeareís works?" the first scientist asked.
"I wouldnít want to get bored, now would I?" Max said with a smile. He tied the knapsack closed. "Now where do I leave?"
Behind you," the first scientist said calmly. He went over to the control panel on the far wall of the room and punched in the command sequence. There was a loud bang and almost blinding flash of light. When the noise subsided, all three looked into the portal where solid steel was only moments before. The area now showed a brightly moonlight night sky. Peering deeper into the spectacle, Max was just barely able to make out the form of what might be a forest in the distance, but otherwise a relatively open area.
"Whereís the tracer?" Max asked as he turned away from the edge of the portal.
"Here," the second scientist said as he handed Max a pen-shaped devise. "It will be able to transmit your general location over the distance of the gateway, even when it is closed." Max took the devise and tucked it into a side pocket of his pants. "It will continually send a signal back here, at three second intervals."
"Just remember," the first scientist reminded. "If it breaks, even accidentally, you will be stranded there without any help."
"Taken." Max slung the knapsack over his shoulder.
"One last thing," the first scientist said. "You might feel a bit of disorientation when you come out the other side. But it will pass momentarily."
Max stood there in front of the portal-gateway that bridged the two worlds. He took one last breath of the Earth air that he might never inhale again, before he jumped through and felt the world and all its colors and life flash past.
* * * * * * * *
Barely as soon as it began, it stopped. Max exited gateway into the near-blackness he had seen through the portal. All that lit the night sky was a crescent moon and several twinkling stars. He felt that he had not exited on solid ground, but rather in mid-air. The feeling of disorientation pulled away leaving the sensation of falling to set in.
Frantically looking around him, he saw that he was indeed falling. Looking down, Max saw the ground quickly climb toward him as he felt the wind whistle past his body. "Oh, man," Max said to himself with a hint of regret in his voice. His eyes adjusted to the dark and even through the dimly-lit night, saw that there was various different plantlife scattered over the wide area.
As his decent continued, Max glanced around, for anything that might help slow him down or break his fall, but saw nothing. Nothing except a pair of green dots and a form that was slightly darker than the sky around him that raced toward him an he raced toward the ground. The dots grew slightly bigger and slightly larger and as they got close, Max began to believe that they were eyes. Eyes of some unknown creature. But what type of creature has glowing green eyes?
Suddenly, Max felt his plummet toward the ground halted by a set of mysterious arms. His knapsack almost got jerked off him in the stop. The creature made an audible grunt when it halted his fall.
Max sucked in a breath of air. "Thatís going to leave a mark," Max said as he tired to turn himself around and look at who had saved him from becoming a red smear on the ground.
"Will it?" a feminine voice curiously asked. Max assumed it was the creature who had captured him.
"Iíll lay even money on it," Max commented. "Thatís assuming Iíll live getting to the ground."
"Donít worry," the female voice said in a friendly tone. "Iíll take you down safely."
Looking around and then at form of who had him. Max said, "Iíll trust you on that one."
The two made a descent to the ground. Letting go of Max, the woman (he thought it was a woman) asked, "Who are you?"
"Mind if I have a look at whom Iím talking to?" Max countered. "Not to sound rude."
"Come with me," the woman stated, almost playfully.
She darted around and headed toward the forested area. Max followed close suit. She lead him to a small alcove with an almost tiny pool of water in it and next to it, a small fire that illuminated the space.
Looking at what he thought was a woman, Max saw that it was not just a woman, but so much more. She had chocolate-brown skin and a pair of large wings that she slowly wrapped around her shoulders. Her wings connected over her chest and hooked together with a pair of two small talons at the upper point of her wings. Max saw that the inside skin of her wings were a bright, solid red, but the outside was a brown darker than her skin. Max noted that she was wearing a rich, royal purple loin cloth and a bikini-like top of the same color. She was about six feet in height, only three inches taller than Max, but he felt dwarfed by her stature. Her legs were long, lean and powerful, in the stance that had her standing, and possibly walking, on her three large toes. Almost like the stance of the wolfís hind legs. She sat down on a rock and her large tail was casually brushed to one side.
"Who are you?" Max asked curiously. He was almost hypnotized by her form. He approached his savior and sat beside her. He looked at her face. It was triangular in shape with five horns extending upward from the top of her forehead. The center horn was the longest, followed by two tiny horns, and next to those, two longer horns, almost the size of the center horn. It almost looked like a crown that had been gifted and bestowed upon her by some king or queen. Her dark black hair came down behind her ears, which fanned out like the wings of a bat. Her hair was either dark brown or black, Max couldnít tell in the light. And it came down to her shoulders.
"My name is Silver," she answered. "Who are you? What are you? Where did you come from?" Silver sounded like a quizzical child.
Max chuckled lightly. "Not so fast," Max said with a smile. "My name is Max Sterling. I am human. I came from Earth, I think, to this place. I donít know what this place is called."
"You are human?" Silver asked quizzically again. "There hasnít been humans on Earth for centuries. You are here because of the light in the sky arenít you?"
"I came here through that," Max paused for a second in thought, "Iíd call it a gateway. It somehow bridged my Earth to your Earth. I canít really explain how I got here, but if you give me a few days I might be able to explain why. Is this where you live?"
"Oh no, of course not," Silver answered as she looked into Maxís blue eyes. "What made you think that?"
"Itís that this place seems so snug, so peaceful, like it was meant for living in."
"True," Silver answered. A twinkle came in her dark brown eyes. "I come here to get away from the clan. I find it more relaxing." Silver touched Max on the shoulder. She had three large, powerful fingers and an equally powerful thumb on her hand. "If I hadnít been here, you might be dead by now."
"And I am grateful for it," Max returned solemnly. "Thank you."
"Too kind," Silver said. "It is the duty of a Gargoyle to protect."
"Is that what you are?" Max inquired.
"Is there not Gargoyles where you come from?" Silver inquired.
"No, no there isnít. The only gargoyles there are on my Earth are stone figures on castles." Silver looked disappointed, almost heartbroken. "Whatís wrong?"
Silver took a deep breath. "Itís that I though there might be Gargoyles like my kind somewhere out there," Silver said as she motioned to the starry sky.
"There isnít any like you that I know of," Max consoled. "But there are worlds out there that are yet undiscovered that may hold more Gargoyles like you."
"You said that you had a clan?" Max inquired. "Is it nearby?" Silver nodded, seeming for a split second almost child-like.
"Silver?" A deep voice came from somewhere in the forest. Looking around Max noticed another Gargoyle, this one a male, stepping into the clearing. He towered over Max by more than a foot. His skin was tinted an unusual shade of green. Two horns were folded back over the top of his head, over his dirty blond hair. He too, was wearing a loin cloth, and what seemed to be a crude undershirt. Max felt completely intimidated by the rounding muscles on his arms. This contrasted to Maxís medium, yet muscular, build at five foot, nine inches in height. He looked at Max. "Who is this?" He asked Silver. He didnít give Silver time to answer. "Who are you? And what are you doing with Silver?" he asked, almost demanding, as he stepped toward Max. His blue eyes flared a complete white. "TELL ME," he said with an animalistic growl as he picked Max up as if he were a small child. He held Max about a foot off the ground.
"I was just talking with Silver," Max said in defense.
"LIAR," the male Gargoyle said. In anger, he forced Max onto the side of a nearby tree.
Max felt a bare branch press thought his shirt. He herd a wet noise and felt a wave of hot pain come through his right shoulder. Max looked at his shoulder and saw that the tip of the branch was pressing through the front side of his shoulder. "Believe me, Please," Max said as he tried to grapple for the wound, but to no avail.
"OBERON, STOP," Silver yelled with a growl of large jungle cat as she tore him away from Max. "He is telling the truth. And look what you did." She tried to gently pull Max from the tree and set him standing on the ground. Max clutched the wound at the front of his shoulder but knew that it looked much worse from behind. "He needs help. We have to bring him to the castle."
"You will do no such thing," Oberon said as he scolded Silver.
"He needs help," Silver pleaded. "Out here he will die. Even you know that."
"Where is the honor is helping him?" Oberon asked grimly as he pointed on of his three large fingers at Max.
"Where is the honor in knowing you killed an innocent?" Silver countered. Oberon hesitated for a moment and then turned and left. Silver waited a moment before she helped Max to his feet and brought him to the rock that she was sitting on. She pulled a handful of leaves and vines from the trees. She wrapped the leaves to the wound with the pieces of vine, to help halt the flow of blood. "How you feel?" Silver asked.
"Still hurts," Max answered. "Iím going to need medical attention for the shoulder or Iím as good as dead."
"I know," Silver said compassionately. "There is someone at the castle that could help you. Do you think you can make it?"
"How far to the castle?"
"About three miles from here. If I glide we can be there in minutes. If we walk, maybe an hour."
"You canít fly?" Max inquired as he got up to stand next Silver.
"We can only glide," Silver said as she doused the flame with water from the small pool of water.
"Whichever way you can get there faster," Max said.
Silver helped Max to the edge of the forest, spread her wings, caught the wind, and headed toward the castle of her clan. Max admired her wings, they were about twenty feet from one end to the other. With three ribs in each wing. One at the elbow of her wing, one between the rib from the elbow and the outer rib, and the outermost rib.
When they arrived at the castle, there was about a score of other Gargoyles waiting for Silver and her newfound companion. Silver landed onto the floor of the castle and the others moved out of her way. They seemed to be more interested in her companion. Max took a step away from Silver to regain his balance. The looked at him with wonder, awe and fear. Max looked back at them. Nearly all were about Oberonís height, seven feet. No two Gargoyles looked alike, they all had different skin and hair colors. Some had horns on their heads, other didnít. Almost like looking at a rainbow, Max thought.
Silver stepped to the right of Max, draped her wing over his shoulder and looked at the crowd. Max could barely feel the two small talons of the wing rest gently on his good shoulder. "He will speak when he is ready," Silver said to the crowd. She looked again at Max, then lead him into the castle.
* * * * * * * *
Max woke up in a large bed that could have easily let two Gargoyles sleep comfortably. A heavy blanket was pulled up to his chest. Fresh bandages were across his chest and over the wound. A strong smell of some sort of disinfectant held the room. Several oil burning lamps were placed sparsely in the room but did a superb job in illuminating the entire room.
Max sat up and massaged his shoulder with his good hand. The arm of the wounded shoulder felt numb and limp. Like it was a lump of lead that had been attached to his body.
"Heís awake," a womanís voice said cheerfully. Max looked at who it was and was surprised. It was a white, mare-like, Gargoyle. Her richly golden hair fell well below her back. She had her wings, which were covered with white feathers, held folded like bird wings against her back. She was wearing a sleeved pink dress that had two slits that came up to her hips. A gray belt sat snugly at her hips. She had solid blue eyes that spoke of pain and compassion. Her lips were as pink as her dress. Max suspected she had on some sort of gloss over them.
"How long was I asleep?" Max inquired.
"About two days," She said. "How do you feel?" She walked over with a wooden cup to Max, her hoofed feet making clicking sounds against the stone floor. She handed it to Max. He nodded a thanks. Tasting the liquid Max found it was water and drank it greedily.
"Like I was trampled by a heard of elephants," Max responded. The female Gargoyle just smiled. He looked around for his trousers, spotting them on the chair on the far side of the room he asked. "Could I ask if you could pass me my trousers?" She just nodded and smiled politely at the request. "Sorry if I embarrassed you. I donít really want to walk around almost naked."
She smiled, went over and took the pair of green colored military-print pants and brought it back to Max. "Does your kind have a fear for showing too much of their body?" she asked.
"Could I ask your name?" Max asked. Bringing the pants under the blanket he tried to pull them over his legs and fasten them up.
"Una," she answered with an extended hand. She had the three large fingers and one thumb on her hand that seemed to be the norm of the Gargoyle species. Max extended his left hand. Una shifted to use her left hand.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Una," Max said. "My name is Max Sterling."
"I know, Silver told me."
"Sorry to make you shift hands, humans normally greet each other using their right hands as well. My right arm feels like a block of lead."
"The wound will heal," Una told. "But you may have to relearn how to use the arm. Luckily you were not injured to where the nerves were cut. The feeling might take some time to come back. Surprisingly, the bones were not damaged either."
Max nodded in understanding. "To answer your question, no," Max answered. Una looked momentarily confused. "Well, not really. Just that there are some limits to covering the body that the human society does observe. That, and I do not wish to walk around nearly naked."
"Afraid to show something?" Una asked curiously, not trying to sound offensive, but rather friendly.
"More like I want to be polite," Max answered. He swung his legs out form under the blanket and got up. "I was beginning to think my muscles were going to cramp," Max commented as he slowly walked around the room. "By the way, have you seen my shirt?"
"The top you were wearing?" Una inquired. Max nodded. "Silver took it. She said she wanted to wash it, but that was two days ago."
Max slid his feet into his thick soled boots. "One question," Max stated. "Where do you sleep?" He bend down and tried to tie laces. But only came out with moderate success.
"We have little need for sleep," Silver began as she came through the large wooden door of the room. She carried a bowl of fruit in one hand and a neatly folded piece of dark cloth in the other. "During the day, we turn to stone and awaken at dusk and are very much alive during the night." Max looked confused at Silver. "Do not worry, you will see for yourself come dawn." She handed Max the bowl of fruit. "Here I though you might be hungry so, I brought you something to eat." Her wings hung loosely from the sides of her shoulders like a cape.
"Too kind," Max commented. Silver smiled. He took large apple out of the bowl and took a bite. "Mmph, where did you pick these?"
"In the forest, why, donít you like them?" Silver sounded almost hurt. "I could get you something else."
"No, no, you donít have to," Max came. He took another bite. "Mmph, itís delicious. Mustíve taken you all night to find these."
"Not really," Silver said. "Here," Silver handed Max the neatly folded piece of cloth, "I stitched the holes in your shirt. So you know, I have the sack that you came with in my little work room."
Max unfurled the cloth and found that it was indeed, his black shirt. She had neatly washed the shirt and sewn the holes closed. Max also noticed that the hole on the back was partly stitched with a piece of purple cloth. "Silver, you shouldnít have," Max complimented. "I donít know what to say. Thank you."
Silver smiled and ran her fingers through her dark brown hair. "Not a problem."
"Silver, youíve been really kind," Max started. "You saved my life twice. You brought me something to eat and stitched up my shirt, how can I ever repay you?" Max pulled his shirt over his head and tucked it into his pants.
She smiled, "you will. In time." Silver took a long piece of cloth from the table on the opposite of the room from the bed. She tied two opposing ends to make a sling. "Here," Silver began, she quietly and gently lifted Maxís weak arm into the sling and lifted the upper end over his head. The sling sat snugly around his neck and gently cradled the arm with the wounded shoulder.
"Looks like you may have a protector," Una said with a smile.
Silver blushed. "I am merely doing what is right."
"Lady Destine asked to see him the moment he woke up," Una reminded Silver. "You should not keep her waiting."
"We shall go now," Silver answered. "Come, Max. The leader of the clan wishes to speak with you."
"Lead the way," Max said. As he motioned for Silver to go ahead of him. She opened the door and waited for him in the hall. Taking a breath of the air in the hall Max said, "Finally some fresh air."
Silver waited for Max to begin and walked steadily beside him. As they made their way through the castle Max noticed that there seemed to be numerous more Gargoyles than what he had seen two nights earlier. Many of the Gargoyles just stared for a brief moment and looked quickly away. Silver again extended her wing around Max, as if trying to shield him from the stares. Max saw that there was only a few young Gargoyles within the hallways. The two that he did see him just smiled and waved. Max returned the smile and waved back.
* * * * * * * *
"Just remember, call her Lady Destine," Silver told Max.
Both Silver and Max walked into a large room where another Gargoyle stood. The Gargoyle was of a powder blue skin and had red hair. She had two horns that folded back over her bright red hair. She was wearing what appeared to be a scarlet colored top that rested on the sides of her shoulders and exposed her midriff. Her skirt, also of the same sold crimson color, fell to just an inch off the ground. She wrapped her blue wings around her shoulders and looked at Max.
The room itself was quite spacious with several pictures and tapestries hanging alongst the walls. There were a few tables within the room. However, what predominated the room was a large, solid stone chair at the opposite end of the room.
"Lady Destine," Silver introduced with a respectful bow. "This is the one who you wanted to see."
"And who are you?" Lady Destine asked politely as she stepped toward Max.
Max bowed in the same respect that Silver showed. "My name is Max Sterling," Max said. "I was told that you wanted to speak with me. Is there something that I have done wrong?"
Silver took a step back and stood silently. "I wanted to see you and speak with personally," Lady Destine said smoothly. Her tone had not changed from the warm politeness that she had initially spoken with. "I trust that you are feeling well."
"My shoulder is numb and my arm feels like a block of lead," Max stated, "But otherwise alright."
"Oberon has told me what he did," She said. "Would you see him punished for what he did to you?"
"Why do you ask that?" Max answered.
"Silver spoke in your defense," Lady Destine said. "She told that Oberon acted without cause and that he harmed an innocent. It is deserving of discipline."
"I am sure that he was doing only what he believed to be in the best interest of your kind. I donít believe that he should be punished for that." Lady Destine nodded an agreement.
"Look around you, what do you see?" Lady Destine motioned to several of the tapestries that held pictures of long-dead humans in royal battle armor or in a pose from some now-forgotten era.
"Pictures, tapestries, depictions of people like myself," Max answered. "Apparently I am the odd one out because there doesnít seem to be too many of them left."
Lady Destine smiled slightly. "You are the only human known to be on this world for centuries. How have you come here?"
"Through a light in the sky," Silver interjected. Lady Destine gave Silver a stern look.
Max looked over at Silver. "Silver probably said it best," Max answered. "It was, or rather is, an experiment by my people to colonize other dimensions."
"Pardon me?" Lady Destine said, confused. She slowly walked over to the stone chair and sat down.
"Sorry," Max said. He lifted up a finger. "You would agree that if you drew an imaginary line from the tip of my finger in any direction, it would continue on forever."
"I will agree with that."
"Because you could draw a line in each direction will go on forever we can say this universe is whole, one."
"Okay," Lady Destine said slowly. "Will this lead somewhere?"
"Iím trying to," Max said curtly. "The scientist on my planet have found that there are parallel universes in existence. These are universes that are sitting next to each other."
"Like a stack of leaves!" Silver again interjected.
"Exactly," Max confirmed.
"Speak out of turn again Silver and you will be punished," Lady Destine told Silver.
"Donít scold Silver, surprisingly sheís right," Max continued. "Imagine a stack of leaves as parallel universes. Each universe is represented by a single leaf. Each universe goes on for ever within the knowledge of whatís in the universe. With this I mean that in each universe, the beings of that universe does not know there is a universe sitting right beside it. The universe beside the other is close to it and far at the same time."
"I can understand what you are saying," Lady Destine said. "But what do you mean the universes being close to each other and far apart at the same time?"
"Itís purely theoretical. Iíll try and explain it, but it may take a few days," Max answered. "Anyway, the scientists on my Earth found a way to bridge the distance and send people through."
"Is that what Silver saw? The gateway between your world and this one?"
Max nodded. "Yes, it was."
"How can we know if you are telling the truith?" Lady Destine asked. She looked serious.
Max pulled the transmitter out from his pocket. "This is a transmitter that was given to by my people before I left. It sends a message back to where I came from that I am alive."
"Itís enchanted," Lady Destine said solidly.
"Close," Max answered. Lady Destine looked confused. "Too difficult to explain. Moving forward, in a week from arriving here more of my people will come and settle here. That is, if they know if the world is safe. They will know that this world is safe because this thing I have says I am alive here on this world. They will not come if I have died. If this is destroyed, they will assume I have died. Whether I have or not, they do not know. They know I knew the risks before I agreed to do this."
"Your human friends leave you to fend for yourself," Lady Destine said.
"We are a determined people," Max looked over his shoulder and saw Silver smile. Max dropped the transmitter on the stone floor and crushed it beneath his boot.
"Why did you do that for?" Lady Destine asked. "If what you say is true, you cut yourself away from your own people."
Max stood proud. "I have, for a good reason," Max answered. "The reason my people wanted to colonize parallel worlds was because my Earth is dying, it cannot support the people on it and what we have done to it. People are looking for new worlds to live in. I do not want them to reach this world and destroy it."
Lady Destine leaned forward. "Why not?" she asked.
"I have received a warm reception here," Max answered. "Despite people staring at me and what Oberon has done, I have had a good impression of your kind. Silver saved my life twice. She brought me here to heal, where you could have had me killed while I slept. You are talking to me now, which makes me think you have some compassion toward me and curiosity about me."
Lady Destine stood up and walked up to Max. Her wings seeming to flow almost as freely as a cape. "You are quite a wise person," she said. "I welcome you to the clan." She placed her hand on Maxís injured shoulder. He pulled out from under her hand with a hiss.
"Please not that shoulder," Max asked. "It stings."
Lady Destine asked, "what did you say your name was?"
"Max Sterling, Silver may have already told you."
"Welcome, Max Sterling, to Clan Destine," Lady Destine said as he placed her other hand on Maxís left shoulder. "You have free passage throughout the castle and protection within its walls."
"Thank you kindly."
"Silver," Lady Destine said to Silver.
"Yes?" she asked respectfully.
"Escort Max around the castle and introduce him to the clan."
"It would be my honor."
"I will see to it that no one of the clan will take you for an enemy," Lady Destine said. Max nodded. "Go ahead, you have spent enough time idling with me." Max waited for a moment before turning and heading for the door. "Max," she called. Max turned. "Please call me Eve. The entire clan does."
"I will . . . Eve," Max said with a smile before he followed Silver out the door.
"Is it true that you disowned your own kind?" Silver asked curiously. The slowly walked down the hallway. The entire building, which was huge in itself, was make out of large stone blocks. The hallways were lit by torches that were hung systematically along the walls.
"I wouldnít say I disowned my kind, but for me, I told them to stay away."
"As I told Lady Destine, uh Eve," Max stated, "my kind wants to try and live here. I donít want them to."
Silver looked curious. "How come?"
"My kind always been a destructive one." Max said. "We raid, loot and plunder without second thought. I feel a bit guilty about the idea of allowing them to destroy this beautiful planet. Itís almost like a paradise." They stopped at a junction in the hallway. "By the way, where are we going?" Max inquired.
"I have a room for my things, I want to show you what I like doing," Silver answered.
Max looked at his wrist and then at Silver. "I had a watch. Any idea what happened to it?"
Silver let out a nervous giggle, "The small device you had on your wrist?" Max nodded. "I took it. I wanted to know how it worked. So I took it apart. I apologize." Max smiled.
"If you didnít dismantle it too much, I might be able to put it back together," Max said.
"Youíre not mad?" Silver inquired.
"Over a relatively trivial item such as a watch?" Max inquired. "In the grand scheme of things, it isnít even worth a footnote. Donít feel too guilty for taking it." Silver just smiled.
The two of them stopped at a large wooden door. "Here we are," Silver said. She swung open the door and stepped inside the room. Max followed suit. He was amazed at the fact that even though the room itself was small, it seemed large in spite of the large work table that displayed the contents of his knapsack. Silver walked over to where she had Maxís watch laid out.
The underside was taken off and the mechanism was taken out, but it otherwise seemed undamaged.
"Doesnít look like you did too much damage to it," Max said as he came around the table to stand beside Silver. Max looked around the table, spotted his pocket-sized tool kit and reached for it. Opening it he took out a small, almost tiny, screwdriver. Max reassembled the watch and used the screwdriver to fix the mechanism that locked the pieces together. "There, good as new. Would you mind helping me put it on?"
"Iíll try," Silver said. Max laid his left arm on the table, slid his watch under his wrist and Silver attempted to fasten the strap. "Itís a bit tricky."
"Just think of it as fastening a belt, but only much smaller," Max encouraged as he watched Silver try to tie the strap.
"Done," Silver said.
Max looked at the time, it read 5:45 in the morning. "What did you say happens to you when dawn comes?" Max inquired.
"I almost forgot," Silver said. "Dawn will be here very soon. Come with me, I have to be on the roof with the others." She hurried out of the room and down the hall. Max followed suit.
"Why what will happen to you when dawn comes?" Max called after Silver as he chased her down the hall. Soon he found himself on the roof where he was two days before. The score of Gargoyles he had seen two days earlier were each standing on a stone that acted as a pedestal. Looking closely, he did not see Una, but did see Silver. Hurrying over to her, he called "Whatís so important when dawn comes?"
"We all turn to stone," Silver answered. "We stand guard during the day as statues but are alive during the night."
Max nodded. "I remember you telling me that."
"Dawn is upon us," Silver said as she looked toward the horizon. She spread her wings and struck a pose as if to display she was in the midst of combat.
Max could not believe what he saw next. As the first rays of light ran across the castle, Max saw Silverís skin harden and turn to stone. Within a moment she was nothing more that a solid stone statue. He looked at her face, her delicate and strong features, were perfectly cast in stone. Her clothes, hair, everything, as it were just carved out of solid stone. Transformed by the dawn light form a warm body to cool stone. Will the reverse happen at dusk? Max wondered.
* * * * * * * *
Max quietly walked into the room where he woke up, he memorized the path he and Silver had taken. He looked over at Una, she too was cast in stone. Max stepped over and took a better look. Instead of a dramatic attack pose, like the Gargoyles on the outside walls of the castle, Una was on one knee. She had one hand on her knee, the other on her chest. Her head bent down as if in the midst of saying a prayer, her wings lying on her back with her hair falling between them. Like her counterparts, everything about her was now in cool gray stone. He looked closely at her. Even as stone, everything was remarkably detailed. Her wings displayed every one of the feathers on them and her hair had ever one of the loose curls she had when she was flesh.
Not just exposure to light causes them to turn to stone, Max thought. Must be with the breaking of dawn itself. Max picked up the bowl of fruit and thought for a moment. He placed the bowl back on the bed and tucked two of the large apples into the space of his sling. "Guess this sling is good for something," he said quietly.
Max grabbed the last apple, took a bite and headed out of the door. He looked around and decided to go to Silverís workroom. Max spent the better part of the day organizing the tools and items within the room. At quarter past six oíclock in the evening, Max guessed that it would be nearing dusk and headed for the roof of the castle. There in the perfect stillness of the evening, every one the Gargoyles standing in their stone vigil. He quietly walked over where Silver was standing and took seat along the wall next to her pedestal. Max waited patiently, although he didnít have to wait long.
When the daylight dimmed to dusk, Max herd faint cracking from Silver, or more accurately, Silverís statue. He looked over. Sure enough, she, as the statue was cracking. The cracks grew bigger, longer and began connecting with other cracks along her stone body. Within moments the cracks covered her body. It moved. Then the pieces exploded outward closely follow by a deep throated jungle-cat scream he herd from Silver when she pulled Oberon away from him. Max lowered the arm that he threw up to protect his eyes from the flying pieces of stone. And standing on the pedestal, where the statue stood moments before, was Silver. Max could hear loud bellows, if not screams, from the other Gargoyles as they went thought the same process.
Silver looked at Max and hopped down from pedestal. "Donít tell me you were sitting there all day?" She said.
Max shrugged and smiled. "OK, I wonít." Silver just gave Max a friendly look. "Actually I wasnít. I spent most of the day cleaning up your little work room."
"Did you have enough to eat and drink?" Silver asked.
"I ate the entire bowl of fruit before noon," Max said. "I felt like a fruit salad when I finished it." Silver giggled. "And I drank the pitcher of water that was in the room where I woke up."
"So you are all right?" Silver took a few steps around to stretch her muscles.
Max stood up. "Iím a bit hungry, but otherwise, Iíll live." He noticed Oberon walking over to them.
"Good evening Oberon," Max said cheerfully. Oberon just kept his solid, almost grim, expression and gave Max a nod of recognition.
"How are you?" Silver asked Oberon with a smile.
Oberonís expression warmed up and he smiled at her. "Iím fine Silver. I trust you are all right."
"Iím feeling all right," Silver answered. "Max, would you like something to eat?" Silver asked as he looked back at Max. "Come with me, Iíll show you where there is more food in the castle." She walked over to the rooftop entrance into the castle.
Max looked over at Oberon and saw that he was still looking at Silver, even as she approached the entrance. "You like her?" Max asked Oberon.
"I would like her to become my mate," Oberon said as he turned to face Max.
"Have you asked her?"
"She would never accept," Oberon quickly responded. "And many still believe she betrayed the clan." Max raised an eyebrow in surprise, but said nothing.
Max shrugged. "I donít know either of you well enough to comment on that. But Iíll give you a piece of advice as a friend, if you really like someone, tell them before the fall for someone else."
"I donít need your advice," Oberon said solidly.
"I donít mind whether you take it or not," Max answered. "Iím just telling you something that has been my experience." He walked over to Silver, who was waiting at the entrance.
Oberon didnít respond. He just stood there for a few moment longer looking at Silver before he left to do his own tasks.
"What was that about?" Silver asked as Max came close. The began walking through the castle.
"Nothing much." Max shrugged. "Although, we were getting a little better acquainted."
"Did he apologize?"
Max shook his head. "No. And I suspect that he may take a while to. But I donít mind."
"You are a very forgiving character," Silver said as she patted Max lightly on the shoulder.
"You think so?" Silver nodded. Max smiled. He stopped and tapped his injured shoulder, it didnít hurt. "I think my arm is a bit better," he said curiously. He pulled his arm out of the sling and then the sling off his head. Max flexed the fingers on his right hand and moved his arm slowly through the range of motion.
"How does the arm feel?" Silver asked as she watched Max.
"A rather funny feeling," Max answered. "The arm feels like it isnít there, yet I can control it. Like playing with a toy. My arm feels like Iím controlling it from outside of my body." He used the arm to tuck the used sling into his pocket. They continued on their way. "Iím curious about something, Silver."
Silver looked concerned. "Curious about what?"
"Iím not really curious, more like fascinated by something." Max corrected.
"Are you eventually going to tell me what it is or not?" Silver said with a playful tone in her voice. Max noticed that she had a friendly, melodious and smooth way about speaking.
"I am really fascinated about your silver cuffs and necklace." Silver looked at the silver cuffs that went from her wrists to just below her elbow. On her elbow there was a small claw-like appendage that looked like it could make her forearms more streamline. She tapped the thin, but strong, band of silver around her neck.
Silver shrugged, "I never really notice them much. I think itís because Iíve nearly always worn them."
"Like the little chain I have," Max said as he held up his right arm. It had a quarter-inch sterling silver chain sitting loosely around the wrist. "Iíve had this for years. My dad gave it to me years ago and I never bothered to take it off."
Silver led Max into another large room. It was larger than any heíd had been in. Looking around, Max saw what looked like an old wood stove, a large wooden table and a lot of handing pots and pans. "Hereís the kitchen," Silver said. She went over to a closet and opened it. "Most of these cupboards are either filled with spices and herbs or plates."
"Kind of like the one at my house," Max commented. "Overflowing with stuff that half of which never gets used." Silver giggled.
She reached down to a large basket of fruit that was sitting to one wall. "Thereís some more fruit if you want. If you want meat, the you have to out and hunt it yourself," She said as she handed Max several large pieces of fruit. Max bit in a green apple that was larger than his fist. She sat down on a stool near a table, Max followed suit.
"I would like to ask you some thing, Silver," Max said as he dropped the fruit on the table in front of him. "I herd from Oberon that many of the clan still believe that you betrayed them. Those are his words, but they seem a little out of place." Silverís happy expression soured as she looked down from Max. "Is there some truth to that, Silver?"
"There is," She said meekly.
"It was because of something that happened in the past that she was not wholly responsible for," a woman said from the entrance of the kitchen. Both Silver and Max looked over and saw Una.
"Good to see youíre awake, Una," Max said.
"Pleasure," Una sad with a nod and smile. "Would you like to tell him, Silver? Or would like me to do it?" Una tried to sound friendly, rather than menacing.
"No, I will," Silver said. Silver seemed almost devastated.
"So what exactly happened?" Max asked.
"It was several years ago," Silver started, "I almost brought destruction upon my clan. I was made to believe, by a member of clan Coldstone, that I could do the clan a great favor and, by my fault, lead them into a trap."
"It was not entirely your fault," Una said as she patted Silver on the shoulder.
"It was," Silver protested. A tear fell down her cheek. "If it wasnít for me believing what he had told me, we would have never had to go into battle." Silver got up and pushed her way for the door, her voce breaking with pain. "Please leave me alone."
Una and Max stood there for several long, quiet moments looking at the now empty doorway. Max got up, "I better go see if she needs help."
"Donít," Una said. "This is something she must understand for herself." Max slowly sat back down. Una poured herself a cup of water and sat on the stool Silver was sitting moments earlier.
"Could I ask you something, Una?" Max inquired.
"What is that Sterling?"
Max chuckled. "Just call me Max, no need to be formal. I was curious to know how you came to know these events of Silverís past?"
"What do you mean?" Una sounded confused.
"Not meaning to be rude," Max stated, "but you look as different from what Iíve seen of the clan as I am of your kind. Everyone of the clan has a face more like mine and no feather on their wings. You on the other hand, you look more of a while mare with wings like an angle." Una smiled at the description. For single moment, a twinkle flashed across her sorrowful blue eyes.
"You are observant," Una stated. "Itís a rather long tale, but Iíll try to make it brief. I am the sole survivor of a once proud clan, Clan Leo. This clan, had an allegiance with mine for many generations. Anyway, many years ago, my clan was attacked and many warriors from Clan Destine came to aid, including Silver. She was on her first mission with the warriors. The warriors from Clan Destine unfortunately came too late, many of my clan were already killed in battle. The were able to stop the warriors for the clan that attacked mine. I was tending to the fallen and wounded of my kind when I was told by the warriors of Clan Destine that fight was over. Two-third of my clan died in battle that day. Nearly all of the wounded died of their injuries. I could barely ease the pain their wounds. Some of the survivors of the battles could not take the shame of the loss and took their own lives. The few that remained died from old age. Being the one of youngest of the clan, I was spared the ravages of that battle." Una spoke with utter calmness, her voice weighed heavy with the guilt of seeing her entire clan wither out before her. Max listened to the tale intently. "Those that had survived the attack were allowed to stay here under the protection of Clan Destine until they grew old and died."
"How long have you been without company of a member of your own clan?" Max asked.
"Three years, maybe four." Una took a sip of water and wiped the tear from her eye.
"Iím so sorry to hear that." Maxís heart went to Una. "My deepest sympathies. It must be torture for to retell the tale."
"Thank you," Una stated. "There was one point where after the battle that I wanted to join my clan in death."
"What would that be?" Max asked. "If you do not mind me asking."
Una smiled a bittersweet smile. "I donít. If you really wish to know, it was seeing the body of my beloved Griff in the midst of those who had died in battle. Bless his soul. He said he would emerge from the battle alive. I cried for weeks and still carry the guilt of not saying good-bye."
"If itís any consolation," Max said. "He probably died protecting what he most cherished, you."
"Too kind," Una said as she took another sip of water. She looked over at Max and smiled sweetly. "Eat up, or youíll starve to death." Max took another bit of the apple with a smile.
"Thanks for the concern." Max answered. "Could I ask you one other question." Una nodded. "How did you come to know of what happened with Silver?"
Una put down the cup and took a deep breath. "Not long after I began to interact with this clan I was taken aside by Lady Destine and quietly told of what had happened to her. She told me the story in much the same manner I am telling you mine. Silver also told me what had happened to her, but she took time telling me, for as you saw, she is still in guilt about it."
"Well, if you would ever like a shoulder to cry on," Max stated, "or a friendly ear, I am willing to help."
Una placed a hand on Maxís, "you seem like a noble knight. Thank you. I will remember it."
* * * * * * * *
Max waited at the pedestal of where Silver was standing the night before. It was almost daybreak and Silver had not yet returned.
"What is wrong?" Max heard Oberon ask from behind him.
Max looked over at Oberon. "Silver isnít back yet and itís almost daybreak. Arenít all Gargoyles supposed to be at the castle before daybreak?"
"That is true," Oberon stated. "However, Silver can spend days at a time loosing herself in the forest. Many of us tell her that is very unwise of her to do so. But she still goes off to the forest, quite often, without telling anyone."
"Do you think sheíll be safe?"
Oberon chuckled and put his hand of Maxís shoulder. He smiled slightly at Maxís concern. "She can hold her own. However, I, for one, feel that she would be safer here at the castle during the day." He looked over to the eastern horizon. "The sun is rising." Like Silver a day earlier, Oberon smoothly turned from warm flesh to cool stone. His smooth transformation to stone looked like the stone was being washed over his body like a smooth wave of water.
Max stepped out from under Oberonís now stone hand. He rubbed his chin and felt the growth of hair on it. "I need a shave, bath and some rest," he said to himself as he walked into the castle. He quietly walked into the castle and proceeded to clean he hair off his face and the dirt off his body.
* * * * * * * *
That evening, Max made his way back to the roof and waited for the others to awaken from their stone slumber. He didnít have to wait for long for them to awaken from it. The stone form of Oberon shattered in front of Max with a loud bellow.
He noticed that some of the other Gargoyles were not staring at him as they once had done several nights before. He assumed that they were getting more accustomed to seeing him.
Max waited for Oberon to finish before he approached. "Oberon, May I ask a favor of you?"
Oberon just looked sternly at Max. "What do you want?" he finally asked.
"Could you fly me over to the edge of the forest?"
"I appreciate it," Max returned. "Uh, do you have anything to do or can we make the trip now?"
"We can make the trip now," Oberon said, his voice never really wavering from the hardness, but he tried to sound a little more friendly. He walked to stone wall and stepped up onto the ledge.
"Where are you doing Oberon?" another Gargoyle said as she walked over to Oberon. She was of a soft pink skin and had a horn that seemed to encircle her bat-like ears. She had on a one-piece yellow dress that seemed to befit her. She had a matching yellow hairband that held her dark hair to her head. Her stature was proud, but a bit reserved. She stood as tall as Oberon and Max noticed that she casually glanced between both he and Oberon, more often than not at Oberon. She had her pink wings wrapped around her shoulders and hooked across her chest with two tiny horns that were along the edge of her wings.
Oberon turned around to look at her. "I was about to bring Max to the edge of the forest where Silver often goes," he answered as he pointed to Max.
"Hello," she said with a nervous chuckle and a sweet smile.
"Hi," Max answered. He extended a hand for a handshake. "Iím sure you already know, but my name is Max. Pleased to make your acquaintance." Max looked into her eyes, he noticed that her irisí were as pink as her skin.
She took Maxís hand. "My name is Cassandra," she said nervously.
"Donít be nervous around me," Max stated. "Iím nothing to worry about. I wonít do anything to hurt anyone. I donít bite." Her tension seemed to ease a little.
"Youíre going to look for Silver, arenít you?" Cassandra asked.
"I am," Max answered. "Now, if youíd kindly excuse me, I would like to be on my way." He stepped over to ledge with Oberon.
"Shall we go?" Oberon asked.
"Ready whenever you are." Oberon grabbed Max from behind in a bear hug, stepped off the edge of the castle and spread his wings. "Woah," Max exclaimed. "At least tell me when you are going to do that."
Oberon smiled and said, "donít tell me that you do not trust me."
"Itís not whether I trust you or not, itís more of the fact that I would like to be forewarned about what is going on." Oberon again smiled and headed toward the edge of forest.
Within minutes they had set down at the edge of the forest.
"If you travel for a few minutes that way into the forest you should come across where Silver usually stays," Oberon said as he pointed into the forest.
"Thank you," Max said as he looked into the forest. "I owe you for this." He turned and stepped into the forest.
"Max," Oberon called. Max stepped back out of the forest and looked at him. "I wish to apologize."
"I wish to apologize for injuring you as I did. I should have better trusted you and Silver."
Max smiled. "Itís OK Oberon, I figure you were acting in the best interest of the clan. So donít worry about it."
"You are not angered for what I did?" Oberon sounded confused.
"Iím one of those people who doesnít get mad at others easy. Anyway, I better get going."
"See you back at the castle."
Max smiled, waved and stepped back into the forest to go looking for Silver. Almost instantly, Max herd Silverís familiar voice, "What are you doing here?"
Max looked directly at where he herd the voice and saw Silver standing in the shadows. "I was hoping to find you. Care to talk?"
Silver nodded. "Sure, come along."
She and Max walked to the small clearing where they had first met. Silver sat back down on the large rock and Max rested against a tree.
"Silver, if I drug up old feelings back at the castle yesterday, Iím sorry." Max stated. "I shouldnít have been so blunt about it."
"It was my fault," Silver stated, still sounding hurt for what had transpired the night before. "I should have told you sooner. It was my fault that my clan was almost killed."
"Silver," Max said with a compassionate smile. "Chin up, I donít believe it was your fault. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If it wasnít you, it might have been somebody like Cassandra or someone else."
Silver looked up with a smile. "You met Cassandra?" Silver asked in a happier tone.
"I did, just before I left the castle," Max answered. "I only talked to her briefly, but she seems like a nice young woman."
"She is my rookery sister," Silver stated with a proud smile. "She is very nice. We always used to play together."
"I am assuming that Gargoyles are not really born," Max cautiously stated.
Silver hook her head. "No, we hatch in a rookery. We only grow within our mother for thirty days before our egg is placed into the rookery with the other eggs. After about a hundred and twenty days, we hatch from our eggs." Max suddenly looked around himself. "Is there something wrong?"
Max felt the presence of another person nearby. He had this type of Ďsixth senseí all his life, yet it was unfocused, it only seemed to come to him when there were people he didnít know around. It was gut feeling that there was something out of place, something extra, something that wasnít there before. He scanned the trees around him. "I think there is someone else here in the forest with us," Max answered.
"Itís just Oberon keeping a watch on me, he does it sometimes," Silver said with a nonchalant tone.
"It isnít him," Max said. "He turned around and headed for the castle before I stepped into the forest."
"Positive," Max said. He kept scanning, but with the small fire sending shadows dancing around the nearby trees, it was almost impossible to see if anyone else was there. "Well, never mind that," Max said as he relaxed his tense muscles and sat down with is back against a tree. "You must have looked incredibly cute when you were a little hatchling." Silver smiled.
"So I have been told," she responded.
"Could I ask who gave you the name of Silver?" Max inquired.
"It was my fa . . ." Silver didnít have time to finish the sentence. A large white-skinned Gargoyle stepped into the clearing. He was like most of the male Gargoyles Max had seen; large, barrel-chested and muscular.
"I had given her the name Silver," he said. His face was pointed at the chin like Silverís and he had the same type of crown-like horns coming form his forehead like Silver. His black hair fell to his shoulders. His wings, which were also ribbed like Silverís, but had the skin on the inside and outside jet-black in color. Like just about all male Gargoyles Max had seen, he too was clean shaven. A long, thing reddish-pink scar ran down from the top of his forehead, over his left eye, and ended on his left cheek. This gave a real menacing and powerful look to him.
Silver looked at the stranger with wide eyes, not from fear, but from a recognizeation of someone from her past. Her face paled slightly and her mouth opened as she stared at the Gargoyle.
Max just looked at the unexpected visitor. He stood just at the edge of the clearing with one hand behind his back. "Could I ask who you are?" Max inquired, not taking his eyes off the visible part of male Gargoyleís partly-hidden arm.
He slowly pulled his arm out from behind him to reveal two dead rabbits. Silver gasped slightly at seeing the dead animals. "Would you mind if we discussed this over a meal?"
"By all means," Max said.
He wasted no time skinning the dead creatures and putting them on two wooden spits and roasting them on the small fire Silver had going. Silver sat attentively at the strangerís side. Staring at him, trying to remember exactly where she knew him from.
"Anyway," Max said. "Could I ask who you are?"
He sat down next to Silver. "My name is Pollux. I was once a member of Clan Destine, now I inhabit these forests."
"Pollux . . ." Silver said with her lip quivering, her word barely audible. She seemed as if she was going to either cry or faint. "F-father? . . . Is that you?" She reached out and touched his arm.
He looked over at Silver, took her hand in his and smiled sweetly, "Yes child, it is." Silver broke down into tears. "Daughter, why do you cry so?" He held her close to him. Silver rested her head on his shoulder, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her horn getting tangled in his black hair.
"It has been a lie," she answered. She wiped tears away from her eyes. "Ever since I was a hatchling I was told that you had died away from the clan. All my life I believed you were dead. And now I found you. Why did you leave me?" Silver asked as she sobbed.
"A great number of years ago," Pollux began to retell the story, "I was once one of the finest warriors of Clan Destine. But one night, I was to lead the warriors into battle in aid of another clan. The battle was won, but the others who accompanied me died before the battle was finished." Silverís sobs subsided slightly, tear still streaming down her cheeks.
"Which clan were you going to aid?" Max inquired.
"Clan Taurus," Pollux answered. "I could not bear the shame of telling the members of my former clan that their finest of warriors had died. That was when Silver was but a child. I could not bear the shame of being the only survivor. I felt that the clan would not accept me for allowing those from my own clan die. So, I have hidden myself in this forest ever since. I have long to see my daughter and hold her ever since that day."
"Father," Silver said as sat up and wiped the tears from her eyes. "Everyone thinks you are dead. Please come back to the castle with us. You can rest with us at the castle. We can be together again." Silver tried to sound cheerful but her voice betrayed her intent.
Pollux looked over at Max. "And who, might I ask, are you?"
"Father," Silver said sympathetically, "this is Max Sterling. He came from a place far away. He walks the halls of the castle with the Gargoyles."
"He is human," Pollux stated harshly.
"Father," Silver consoled, "donít get mad. We know, it is a long story. He has only been with the clan for several days, however, I will say that he is trustworthy."
Pollux got up and walked over to Max. He too, stood up. "If my daughter trusts you, I will trust you as well." He held out a hand in friendship.
Max took his hand. "I thank you," he said. "I will not betray your trust, or Silverís."
Pollux smiled and went back over to sit next to his daughter. He pulled one of the cooked rabbit carcasses from the fire and bit into it. "You wanted to know how Silver received her name?" he said as he wiped a streak of grease from his chin. Max nodded. "Do you want some food first?"
"Please," Max stated. "Iíve had enough fruit over the past couple of days to turn me into a fruit salad." Silver chuckled. She had one arm around lovingly around her father. Her tears had stopped for the time being. Silver seemed intoxicated at the Gargoyle that was her father.
Pollux just smiled as he handed the other carcass to Max. "Eat up." His dark brown eyes were warm and friendly, like those of his daughter.
"Want some Silver?" Max asked.
"No thanks," she said politely. "Father, please tell Max how I got my name."
Pollux got comfortable. "It began with the egg Silver hatched from. It was of an unusual silver color. Many thought that it couldnít be a real egg but rather a rich ornament that should be put on display. Her egg looked like it was carved out of the finest of silver. When she hatched, everyone said that she must have been a precious gift, given by those who came before, because she came from an egg of silver color. And because of her egg, I named her Silver."
Silver seemed intoxicated by the story. Max didnít know if it was the story of itself or that she was just listening to her fatherís voice, he decided it was more of the latter.
"She must been really the hatchling to love," Max commented.
Pollux smiled. "After she hatched, it seemed that everyone wanted to be around her. I though that she was the most beautiful hatchling in her entire rookery."
"Thatís very understandable," Max confirmed with a smile. "When I first saw the horns on Silverís head, I actually thought that she must have been wearing a crown that was bestowed on her by some member of royalty."
Pollux grinned. "Thatís something I have not heard in all my years, Silver being royalty." Max shrugged. "Perhaps you have a point, after all, she did hatch from an egg of the most royal of elements."
Max finished his meal and stood up. "Would you like to come back to the castle Silver? Iím sure youíre being missed."
Silver smiled and as she looked over at Max. "Do you mean that?"
"I certainly missed you." Silver smiled sweetly.
Silver tuned to face her father. "Father, please, come back to the castle with us," she pleaded. "You can tell the others what has happened. Thereís a chance for you to lead the warriors into battle again." Tears began to well in her eyes.
"Silver," Pollux said as he took her hands in his. "I canít. Everyone believes that I am dead. I do not wish to bring more grief onto the clan." Silver looked as if she was about to cry again. He touched her chin and raised her head to look into his daughterís eyes. A tear fell from her eye. "Donít cry, my daughter. I will always be here. I love you more any father does. I always have. When you ever need me, I will be here."
"I love you too, father," Silver said as she closed her eyes and rested her head on her fatherís chest. She gave him a hug. The brown tips of her horns just barely brushed her fatherís chin.
Max decided to leave Silver hand her father together for the moment, so he got up and walked to the outside edge of the forest. He waited for some time before Silver emerged, drying her eyes in the fingerless purple gloves that came from under her silver cuffs. "Feel any better?" Max asked as Silver stepped past. She nodded wit a smile.
"Why did you leave?" Silver asked as she looked at Max. Her face was a mixture of sorrow and joy.
"It was a personal moment with family," Max answered. "I didnít want to disturb." Silver smiled. Her warm eyes saying silent thanks.
"I learn something about you every night," Silver said.
"Well, Silver, I offer this as a friend, if you want a shoulder to cry on, Iíll listen," Max said.
"Youíre too kind."
"I mean it," Max repeated. "If you need any help, believe me, I will do my utmost to help you."
"Thank you," Silver said warmly.
Max and Silver walked briskly back to the castle. Along their way the neared a large pool of water.
"Looks like a small lake," Max said.
"Many of us come here to wade in the cool water during the hot summer months."
Max pointed to a pair of figures that were struggling together in midair. "Any idea on what thatís about?" One of them fell, neither could tell if that figure was actually pushed down had fallen. The figure stuck the surface of the water and began to sink. The other that remained appeared to look down upon what it did and fled.
"Heís heading back to the castle!" Max said.
"What about the one in the water?" Silver said her voice now clear with a purpose. "We canít leave him or her in there."
"Go to the castle, tell Lady Destine and get Una," Max said as he jogged to the edge of the water. "If weíre lucky the one in the water is going to need help." Silver stood there looking at Max, who was already knee deep in water, for several moments. "Go!! Iíll pull whoever is in the water out." With that, Silver took off toward the castle.
Max headed into the lake. He swam over to where he saw figure into the water and dived beneath the surface. Everything was pitch black. Max was barely able to see anything inches away form his face. He surfaced to take another breath and returned underwater. After another frantic search, he surface again. Max went down beneath the surface once more, this time he found a body. Max grabbed it and pulled it to the surface. It was warm, but just barely, the chill in the water was cooling it fast. With his right arm across the chest of the body, he swam as fast as he could to the shoreline where he had entered. The swim took several minutes, and when he was at the shore, Lady Destine, Una and Silver were standing in wait.
Max dragged the body onto the dry land. He looked down and saw that it was one of the young gargoyles he had seen earlier. It was the young girl. She was wearing a plan brown tunic that ended at her knees. Max held his fingers along the side of her neck.
"Thereís a pulse, but itís weak," Max said to the others. He tilted her head back with her mouth open, placed both his hands, one on top of the other, on the center of her chest, pushed down three times before leaning over and listening for a breath.
"What are you doing???" Una said as she bent down to look at the child.
"Trying to save her life," Max responded as he looked at Una. Hearing no breathing, he pressed his mouth to the young childís blew his breath into her and tried to press down on her chest again. She emitted a cough. More followed. The young Gargoyle coughed up the water that had filled up her lungs only moments before. She spent several moments coughing and gasping for air. She stood up and looked at the small crowd who stood around her, she shivered.
"Are you alright?" Una asked. The young Gargoyle nodded with a cough. She ran her fingers through her wet, red air. It contrasted nicely against her blue-gray skin.
"You need to keep an eye on her for the next few days Una," Max stated as he sat down, still trying to calm his unsteady breathing. "She still may have water in her lungs."
"I do not," the young Gargoyle stated between chattering teeth.
Una took her gently by the arm and said, "Iíll be the judge of that."
"Whatís you name?" Eve asked as she knelt beside the little one.
"Ariella," She said sheepishly. "Am I in trouble?"
"You will be," Eve answered. "Who were you with?"
"Jax," she answered. "My rookery brother. We where fighting and . . . and . . ."
"Quiet now," Eve said as she stood up. "We will go back to the castle and discuss it there."
Una, Eve and Ariella spread their wings and let the wind to carry them off into the air and headed toward the castle.
Silver knelt next to Max. "Are you able enough to continue back to the castle?"
"Yeah," Max said. Silver gave Max a hand up. Max stood there, dripping wet. He reached down, picked up his shirt, and pulled it over his head. "Sheís one lucky kid," Max commented.
"What did you do to her to make her cough up so much water?" Silver asked as they began to head back on their path toward the castle. "Did you give her part of your life?"
"Itís called CPR," Max answered. "I forget what it stands for. But it tires to force the person to breathe in and out. If someone can do it within a few minutes of another who has been under the surface of the water, it is nearly always successful."
"It was a very brave and noble thing what you did," Silver said as she patted Max on the back. "Eve would most like give you honor for what you did tonight." Max shrugged. "Can you teach me that?"
"I will," Max answered. "Mainly, to prevent things like that from happening again."
Silver and Max reached the wall of the castle.
"How do we get in?" Max asked.
"From the roof," Silver answered. "Grab hold of me."
"Put your arms around my chest," Silver repeated. "Iíll carry you up."
"You know better than me," Max said as he went behind Sliver and put his arms around carefully under her wings and around her chest. She dug her powerful claws into the stone of the castle wall and scaled, with Max, up the side of the castle. It took only a few moments before they were climbing over the edge and stood on the roof.
"Thereís never a dull moment, is there?" Max commented. Silver smiled.
"Where have you two been?" Oberon asked. "And why are you dripping water over the floor?"
"Max saved a hatchling from drowning in the lake," Silver said.
"WHAT??" Oberon almost shouted.
"Come Oberon," Silver said as she motioned for the three of them to go inside, "I will explain."
* * * * * * * *
Max was sitting on the bed with his back turned to Una. Fresh dressing and ointments sat to Maxís right. His shirt was sitting on the bed to his left. Una was carefully removing the bandages that she had placed over Maxís wounds.
Una pulled the final bandage off and carefully inspected the wound of the shoulder. "The wound has healed nicely. However it has left an interesting scar." She looked over at Silver, "Silver come and have a look at this." Silver came over and had a look. "Doesnít this look like something?"
"Your right, it does," Silver answered. "Max, youíll never believe it, but your scar looks like a five pointed star."
"Youíre kidding me," Max commented. Silver sat down on the bed and faced Max.
"Itís true," Una said. "Let me show you." She carefully traced the edge of the scar with her finger.
Max felt Una run her finger over the back of his shoulder, "Oh my, youíre right."
"What is so fantastic is that it is an almost perfect star," Una said. She picked up a small brown jar of a reddish-pink ointment form beside Max. She dipped two of her fingers into it and placed the cool ooze-like ointment onto the scar. Max twitched because of the coolness. "Careful," Una cautioned, "I donít have much of that ointment left."
"Sorry," Max returned. "It was cold thatís all."
"This will help strengthen the muscles of your shoulder," Una told. She gently rubbed the ointment into the wound.
"Una, did I ever tell you that you have the warmest hands that I have felt?" Max said humorously.
Una chuckled slightly. "No you didnít." She paused for a second. "How many other people used to rub ointments into your back?"
"I used to go for a back rub every now and then," Max explained. "I used to try and work my muscles out and about once a month or so I would go out and get my muscles kneaded because they were so tense."
Silver giggled. "No wonder you look so good."
"How much of me did you get a look at when I was asleep those first two days?"
Silver smiled. "Nothing that you would be offend by me doing." Max couldnít help but smile and nod.
Una lightly patted his shoulder, "Iím finished. You can put your shirt back on."
Max reached over, grabbed his shirt and pulled it over his head. He climbed off the bed and stood next to Una.
"Lady Destine said she wanted to give honor to you tonight for what you did yesterday. Let us not keep her waiting," Una said.
"Sure," Max answered. "Letís go."
The three mad their way out of the room. Silver lead them down several hallways to a large set of double doors.
Silver opened the doors and stepped through, Max and Una followed suit. Max was surprised to see all the Gargoyles of the clan sitting down on wooden benches that faced a stage to Maxís right. They looked from the stage to Max when he entered. Lady Destine was standing with the young Gargoyle he saved the pervious night. The room was lit with a few oil lamp stands located in the corners and on the stage.
Lady Destine held out a hand to Max. "Come Max. We are here tonight to give you honor." Max slowly headed over to the stage and up the steps on the side. All the time he felt the eyes of the rest of the clan rest on him. As Max made his way up the stage he saw a table set out with what was close to a feast. Max stood to the left of Lady Destine while the little Gargoyle stood to her right. Her seven foot stature, like most of the Gargoyles, towered over Max. "Friends, we are here to honor this man," Lady Destine put her hand on Maxís shoulder, "Max Sterling, for saving the life of one of our own. He rescued a hatchling from the lake and gave her new breath."
At first only a few people clapped, Max noticed that Una, Silver and Lady Destine were the first three to start. But after a few moments the entire room was filled the thunderous applause of the clan. Several minutes passed before the applause died down.
"By this act of his," Lady Destine continued, "he as proven himself worthy of our trust and respect." She turned to Max. "As leader of this clan and on behalf of everyone, I wish to give my profound thanks for what you did for one of our young." Max smiled and bowed down his head his head in respect.
The little Gargoyle stepped over to Max and waved for him to bend down to her. Max knelt down on one knee to level himself with the little one. He noticed that she had two pairs of tiny horns along her hairline that were just above the outer corners of her eyes. Her dark red hair seemed to fall behind her like flowing wheat, ready for harvest. She gave Max a loving hug. She stepped back. "Thank you," she said. Several of the audience chuckled at this gesture.
"Youíre nameís Ariella, isnít it little one?" Max asked. She nodded. "Well then Ariella, youíre most welcome. It was just the right thing to to." She smiled gleefully and went off the stage and sat down next to the other small Gargoyle, who was sitting in the first row.
"Do you wish to address the gathering?" Lady Destine asked as Max stood up.
"If I may." Lady Destineís eyes sparkled for a split second as smiled and motioned for Max to speak to the others. Lady Destine stepped off the stage and sat in an empty seat that was waiting for her. Max looked around the gathering and tried to relax. "I hope youíre not waiting for a long-winded speech," Max told, "because, unfortunately I didnít have one ready." The crowd chuckled. "I thought instead I might talk to all of you about me and get to know each other a little better, since itís just between us." Many of the crowd laughed. "But first, I would like to thank a few people. First off, I would like to thank Silver for saving me. I came here from a place far distant and somehow ended up falling to Earth from the sky. Silver caught me before I ended up as meat sauce on the ground." Max looked over at Silver, she smiled sweetly and blushed. "Then I would like to thank Una. After I met Oberon I ended up with a wound that she has healed," Max said as he looked at Una, she merely smiled and nodded respectfully. "Finally I would like to thank Lady Destine for allowing me to speak here," Max said as he motioned to Lady Destine. "Do you really mind if I call you Lady Destine, or do you prefer Eve?"
"It is up to you."
"Fair enough." Max stated. "Anyway, I would like to say it has so far been marvellous being allowed to stay here. I have come to the conclusion that you are a fantastic people." Many of the clan members began to cheer. "I will speak relatively freely about myself, but if anyone has a question, just get my attention and Iíll do my best to answer it." Almost instantly several people waved for Maxís attention. "Hey, hey, thereís only one of me." Max pointed to someone to his left who was waving at him, "Have a question?"
"Where are you from? And are there more like you coming?"
"Iím from Earth. But not this one. On the Earth I am from some people managed to send people to places very far distant. I just happened to be sent here. Itís merely a test. Unfortunately for me, I have no way of getting back home. I donít think other people like me are coming. But I cannot discount the idea that many more will come to take this planet as their home."
"What do you mean?" a voice called out.
"My equals are a very destructive people," Max told. "We have completely destroyed all the beauty of where I am from and they are looking for other placed to make a home. I would like to make sure that I can set up some sort of message to those that might come, not to. This is to prevent the destruction of this world too."
"Isnít there any good in your people?" Silver called out.
Max turned to look at Silver. "Thatís what is so ironic about humans, or at least the humans I know. We can be so militant and destructive to everything, including ourselves. But we also have those that can make beautiful music, or great works of art. We can be so destructive and careless that we do not see our potential for bringing out the best in us. I try desperately to se the good in others and be kind to others, but like, Iím sure, just about everyone here, I have had those off days where I was very close to hitting someone. For us itís almost instinctive, we have it built in ourselves. I hope that answers your question."
Max again looked around the room and spotted someone he had met the evening before. He stepped over to the edge of the stage and bent down to a young pink-skinned Gargoyle sitting in the front row. "And how are you this evening Cassandra?" Max asked her.
She blushed and smiled shyly. "Iím alright, I suppose."
"Donít be to embarrassed or shy of me," Max said. "I donít bite. Silver has told me that you are her rookery sister."
"That is true."
Max smiled at her. "Would you believe that Silver speaks very highly of you?"
"She does?" Cassandra was taken slightly aback.
"She does." Max confirmed. "She also told me that you and her used to play together when you were just hatchlings."
"That is also true," Cassandra said. "Now I tend more to the books that are is the castle library while Silver spends her time in the forest."
"Then you are the castle scholar?" Everyone seemed to chuckle, including Cassandra. "Mind if I look though the books of the castle library later?"
She smiled, her pink skin seemed to soften her tender features. "I am not the scholar yet, but I would like to be. And yes, you can read the books of the library."
Max stood up. "There is a famous author that was alive about six hundred years ago on my earth. His name was William Shakespeare. His plays and sonnets are printed in every language and are everywhere, where I come from. When I herd your name, I was reminded of a passage from one of his works I studied."
"And what was the passage?" Cassandra politely asked.
"Well," Max began, "in the play, a character was joking with another character about going to a masquerade ball. And since he didnít really care how ugly people might think he looked he sad Ďa visor for a visorí. In his case it meant Ďan ugly mask for an ugly faceí. But if he was ugly or not, nobody really knows, itís a fictious character. But for your name, I will say a Ďa visor for a visorí. In your case I mean that your beautiful name fits a beautiful person."
"Thank you," Cassandra said sheepishly. "Perhaps you could scribe a tome as to your experiences with the clan."
"I might." Max smiled. "Iíve actually noticed one thing about everyone since I came here," Max motioned to everyone. "Every male here looks extremely powerful, loyal and proud." Mild cheers from the crowd. "I have also noticed that all the ladies look overly gorgeous." The males seemed to cheer even louder. When they died down, Max pointed to the food, "out of curiosity, are we going to feast or is the food there to tease us? It looks like a feast fit for kings."
"It is a feast, for us in honor of what you have done," Lady Destine called back. "Do you want to eat now?"
Max shrugged. "I wouldnít mind something to wet my lips but Iíll wait until I have finished before I eat. I donít mind if anyone here eats."
Some of the Gargoyles immediately stepped over to the table. Lady Destine poured a drink into a large chalice and brought it over to Max. "To long life," she said as she handed it to Max.
Max took the chalice and lifted in toast, "then to longevity." He took a sip and felt the strong alcohol scrape the inside of his throat as it slid down. "Strong stuff," Max said with a cough. Lady Destine was back to her seat before Max was able to compose himself again. He turned back to the crowd. "Good ale, back where I come from it can be used to two things, stripping paint off walls and killing brain cells." The clan burst out laughing. "Any more questions?"
"To what age can a human live?" a voice came.
"About ninety years. What about Gargoyles? How old can a Gargoyle get?"
"Close to two hundred years," Una said.
"Seems reasonable," Max stated. "I have begin to think that a Gargoyle would live about twice as long as a human is because they are only alive about half of the time, the nights. Half the time a Gargoyle is as stone. Therefor it seems reasonable to say that a Gargoyle would age at about half the speed of a human. Iím 30 years old, which would make me about 70 years old, if I were a Gargoyle."
"Do humans eat?" another voce called.
"We do," Max answered. "We have to eat. Usually a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and meats does the trick. We also need to sleep. But with us, since we are alive during the day, we could chose to sleep any time we wish. Socially we are exactly like you. We have our leaders," Max motioned to Lady Destine. "We have our healers," he pointed to Una, "our scholars," pointing to Cassandra, "and our soldiers, warriors like Oberon." Max stood there for several moments in silence, he looked around and saw that quite a few of the Gargoyles in the audience had begin to eat on pieces of meat or other delicacies from the table of food. "Any more questions?"
After a momentary silence, Max lifted the chalice and said, "Well then, I propose a toast, to good friends, good health and long life for everyone." A rowdy cheer came from the audience. "If anyone wants to talk to me, please just talk to me." Max said before he stepped off the stage and headed to Una and Silver. "Well, I think everyone is beginning to warm up to me." He took another sip of the ale.
"Just give it time," Silver returned. "You are rather an outspoken individual, so Iím sure that people will come to you and talk."
"If the ale is too strong I could mix water with it for you," Una said.
"Itís quite alright, Una," Max said with a smile. "Itís just that I donít drink that much. Although, itís a bit stronger than what Iím used to."
"What are you going to do in the castle library?" Silver asked.
"First off, I want to see if I can read the books," Max stated. "I gather that humans once lived on this planet alongside of Gargoyles. If I can, I would like to find out what happened to them. There must be some record of what happened."
"Why?" Silver blatantly asked.
"Curiosity," Mick answered. "I would like to know where they went."
"They died," Una stated.
"I believe that is a little more than obvious Una," Max said with a smile. Silver giggled at the comment. He sat down next to Una. "The question for me is how. Was it a disease, a plague of some sort? Was there a massive war? If there was people that many people to coexist with Gargoyles, they couldnít have just disappeared."
"You never stop thinking," Silver complimented.
"Thanks," Max said. He got up. "Now if you donít mind, Iíd like to turn in a bit early. The ale is making me a bit groggy."
"Iíll come with you," Silver said with a smile as she followed Max out of the hall.
* * * * * * * *
Max sat at a desk in the rather large room. The entire room was lined with bookshelves that reached from the floors to the ceiling. The shelves were crammed with books of all sizes and shape. The odd sheet of paper was sticking out between some of the books.
He was looking at one of the larger tomes that was apparently written by a human centuries earlier. Cassandra was sitting in a large chair looking at a much smaller book.
"This book that you let me read is very entertaining," Cassandra said as she looked over at Max. "What did you say this personís name is?"
"William Shakespeare," Max answered. "He wrote one of the largest collections of comedies during his life. He also wrote quite a number of tragedies. My particular favorite of his is Macbeth."
"Too gruesome," Cassandra stated. "I didnít really like it."
Max smiled and shrugged. "This is interesting," he said.
"Iíve been looking through some of the old records of when humans were still alive on this planet," Max began. "Half of the records are records of families with births and deaths listed in great detail. Boring as mud." Cassandra smiled. "But this apparently is a book written by someone who saw many of the humans in this castle and the surrounding area slowly die off."
"Who wrote it?" Cassandra asked as she put the book down on a small table next to her seat.
"He doesnít really go into detail about himself," Max answered. "He talked a little about himself in the first couple of pages, but didnít give a name, age or much about himself. Anyway, as he continues in explaining many of the activities and several castle incidents, he notes that more and more people are getting seriously ill and dying."
"Does he say what of?"
"I havenít come across any terminology to say so," Max said. "He indicates and explains, rather thoroughly, several common cases. I have only gotten about halfway through this book of his, but he does describe several general scenarios of how people are dying. Some people seemed to literally age a lifetime within a few days. Cause of death incidentally is old age. Some perfectly healthy people get serious illnesses and die of such things as pneumonia, heart attacks, massive internal bleedings. What I am currently reading takes the cake. Some people somehow manage to contract a flesh-eating disease, and their flesh, quite literally, rots or more accurately, almost melts, off their body in a matter of about two weeks."
"Disgusting," Cassandra said.
"I know. He goes into graphic detail of their disease and all the symptoms. I guess he wanted to leave some sort of record. The only thing I have really noticed is that he hasnít found a connection between the deaths."
"What do you mean?"
"He states the deaths of these people yet he doesnít really show if there has been anything to give these people the diseases. They just seem to crop up. He hasnít noted any particular fruit or animal that may be causing it, nor anything else such as drinking water from the same well or such. He hasnít really touched on the topic of if these victims of disease had any close contact with each other."
Cassandra sat back and scratched her head. "Seems odd."
"I know," Max returned. "Everything seems rather random. Every disease follows a certain pattern like attacking a spicific group of individuals, with this, there seems to be complete randomness. Every man woman and child was affected. The only this is that, so far, no Gargoyles have been mentioned to have died."
"Do you think those diseases will come back since you are here?" Cassandra asked.
"To tell you the truith Cassandra," Max said as he leaned back in the chair. "I donít have the foggiest clue to what these ailments truly are, let alone where originated from. As soon as I can guess what it is that caused everything, I might be able to figure out where it might have come from. I canít even say if these diseases died with the last human. By the laws of the nature, I could have been dead already."
"What do you mean?"
"Usually, when an organism," Max began, "a creature, goes into a new environment, they would end up running the environment or dying. If the animal, or in my case person, goes into a new environment, such as this place, I could have been easily killed because your kind is much more powerful than mine. The slightest indiscretion could have been my death. However, on the other side of that argument, if I was the only creature who knew how to walk, talk, make tools and so on, I might live to a ripe old age."
Cassandra looked surpassed, still trying to fully absorb the information. "How on Earth do you know all that?"
"Apparently you read a lot," Cassandra stated. She paused. "Could I ask you a bit of a personal question?"
Max looked at her, and shrugged. "Fire away."
"How do you tell someone you really like them?" Cassandra asked cautiously, nervous to Maxís reaction.
Max raised an eyebrow, but remained neutral in his expression. "Really like them, how? Thatís a bit of a open-ended question, there can be a lost of answers."
"Really like them as you have a fancy for them," returned Cassandra. "How would you tell that person you liked being with them and you wanted to be with them more?"
Max felt dumbfounded. "I really donít know how to answer that. Many people would give you many different answers. For me, just pull the person aside, just casually, and ask if you could talk to them. Perhaps go for a walk and then tell them how you feel."
"But what if the person you had a fancy for had a fancy for someone else?" Cassandra asked.
"I really cannot answer that," Max stated. "People handle things differently, youíll have to take a bit of a leap of faith on that and hope that it could turn out the way you hope." He waited for a moment before turning back to the to book in front of him.
"Could I ask you another question?" Cassandra interrupted the silence.
"Go right ahead," Max said without looking up from the book.
"If you did become ill with one of those diseases, what would you do?"
Max looked right at Cassandra. "Iíd try to live every moment to its fullest."
"What about leaving a message for others of your kind, if they ever come here?"
"I would begin making weapon designs and sketches that could aid in the defense of the castle and the protection of Gargoyles with a message to continue to improve on the designs and use them in the defense of the castle."
"Are you always this determined?"
Max smiled. "I am one of a very determined kind. There are stories and fables of our determination crossing from this life into the next." Cassandraís eyes widened slightly. "Donít believe it fully Cassandra, they are more fable than anything else." The door opened and Silver stepped through. "Ahh, greetings, Silver, how are you?"
"I am well," Silver replied with a warm smile before she turned to face Cassandra, "Cassandra, it is almost dawn. We should be on the roof."
"Is it nearing dawn already?" Silver nodded. Cassandra got up and walked over to Silver. "We better get to the roof." She looked at Max, "I hope that you find what you are looking for."
"I hope so too," Max responded. "Better get to the roof you two."
* * * * * * * *
"What are you doing?" Silver asked as she came around her worktable to have a look at what Max was doing. She looked down and saw that Max had drawn up several sketches.
"Trying to make some weapon designs," Max stated.
"What for?" Silver again asked as she picked up several of the sketches and looked at them. "What are these weapons?"
"Those are called crossbows," Max answered. "Know what a bow and arrow is?"
"Who doesnít?" Silver countered. "I was never very good with them. Although there are some of the clan that are superb archers."
"This takes the bow and arrow one step further." Max told. "It uses the same idea as the bow and arrow. But it puts the bow on its side and can keep the arrow held against it with a slight mechanism. It isnít really that hard."
Silver sat down next to Max. "What does that do?"
"It keeps the arms for getting tired," Max answered. He handed Silver several more sheets of sketches. "Here, look. I did some sketches of the internal mechanism. Once an arrow has been placed in the bow and pulled back, it locks into place. But when the trigger at the bottom is pulled, it release the string which, like in a regular bow, shoots the arrow ahead."
Silverís eyes widened. "I think I could build several of these," she said positively.
"Of course," Silver answered. "Ever since a hatchling I have liked to build things, I like using my hands." Max just looked rather surprised at Silver. "What? Not all my time is spent in the forest."
"Itís not that," Max said. "I just didnít really see you as the builder type." Silver smiled. "By the by, when did you start wearing that pendant?"
Silver looked down and grabbed the small purple crystal that was hanging on a thin leather strip from her neck. "This? I wear it every once in a while. It was my motherís."
"Could I ask what happened to her?" Max asked.
"She died a couple of years ago," Silver said with a saddened tone. "She gave this to me before she died. Every time I felt lonely I carried this with me. It made me feel better. What about your family?" Silver piped up. "I havenít herd much about your family. Tell me about yourself." She sat down on a stool, placed her arm on the worktable and looked at Max.
"There isnít much to tell," Max told. "I was born an only child. My father was a solider and died two years ago in some of the various battles his battalion was in. My mother is now at her house, widowed and missing her only child." Max reflected briefly to himself. "She must be devastated."
"She doesnít know you are here?" Silver asked.
"No, she doesnít," Mick answered. "I wasnít supposed to tell anyone about being sent here. I wish I told her so she would know that, But I did something to comfort her."
"What was that?"
Mick looked into Silverís eyes. "I set up a message so that if I didnít stop it form being sent, It would go directly to her and tell her that I was safe and she shouldnít worry about me."
"At least you tried, right?"
"I wish I could go back and do more." Max turned back to the papers and began working on them.
"Do you think youíll ever see your home again?" Silver asked as she looked over Maxís shoulder.
"Silver, now, I really donít know if Iíll wake up in good health tomorrow morning," Max said. "Last night I read through a book where a previous human resident of this castle watched many others die because of diseases that seemed to crop up. He didnít, or couldnít, find a connection between the diseases and anything. Cassandra, pointed out a good fact to me that the diseases may not have died out with the last of the humans. They may still be floating around. For all I know, I have been poisoned by one of those diseases. For all I know, I am dying."
Silver was slightly taken aback by Maxís statement. "What did you read?" She asked.
"When the humans inhabited this castle," Max began, "There were a few who were recordkeepers. One recordkeeper kept diligent records of the withering away of the last humans in this area. The people were afflicted by some sort of plague. I think he succumbed to one of the diseases before he could figure out how to stop it."
"He wrote all that?" Silver asked, half astonished.
"He wrote about five hundred pages of notes and passages," Max answered as he looked at Silver. "I have yet to make sense of it all. Right now, I would like to get some of these weapons built to defend the castle."
"Against my own kind."
"You told them not to come by destroying the transmitter," protested Silver.
"With many of the people who wanted to live in a new, fresh, clean world, do you think something like that would stop them from coming?" Max answered.
"They have no honor."
"Thatís what is so agonizing about my kind," Max told. "When we want something, we want it now. We donít care who gets hurt in the process. We spent centuries killing each other over pieces of land that half the time wouldnít hold all the dead." Silver just stared, shocked, at Maxís description.
"What could you do to stop it?" Silver said.
Max shook his head. "I donít know if I can. But if they do come, Iím going to give them a run for their money."
"In for a penny, in for a pound, Eh?" Silver said jokingly. Max chuckled and nodded. "If I can get you materials to build some of these weapons, could you?"
"If you get me enough," Max returned. "I could probably build enough for about half a dozen Gargoyles to use."
"Will you need help?"
"All the help I can get," Max returned. "I can only do so much. Any help will be more than gratefully accepted."
"What materials do you need?" Silver asked as she looked at the sketches. She studied the sketches as best as she could guess.
"Wood and steel," Max answered. "Wood mainly for the handles, strong, but sturdy steel for the bow and the mechanism. And a lot of small springs, they would be the greatest asset for these things. Weíll also need a lot of wood for the arrows. Weíd be going through those things like crazy if there is an attack. And see if anyone could find coal and any type of rocks or powders that might explode or ignite when lit."
"What for?" Silver curiously asked.
"I have a wild hunch," Mick returned. "And if you can get some, great. We would then need some containers to put them in, but letís save that for later. Iíll tell what I could use it for later."
"Iíll see if I can talk to the others to get the needed materials," Silver told Max. She got up and headed for the door. Silver stopped and turned to face Max. "May I ask you something, Max?"
"If others of your kind were to come, what would you do?"
Max thought for a moment. "I would do everything possible to have a peaceful resolution to the situation. But I am preparing for the worst possible case."
Silver smiled. "You truly have a fighterís spirit. You might have been a warrior if you were a Gargoyle." She turned and left Max working on the sketches alone.
* * * * * * * *
Silver and Max tediously worked on two of the first crossbows. They had spent the past three nights building, testing, dismantling, measuring, rebuilding, retesting, changing, and perfecting those two crossbows. They mapped every inch of the instruments and measured every component. Making detailed notes on every piece, recording the designs, in hopes to pass on the knowledge of these devices if they ever were destroyed.
"Do you ever plan to use these?" Silver asked as she put down the crossbow she was working on and looked across the table at Max.
Max finished placing two pieces of the crossbow together and looked up at Silver. "Not unless I have to," He answered. "Why do you ask?"
"Just curious," Silver responded. She looked cautiously at Max. "If you ever had to use one of these, would you ever use it to kill?"
"I couldnít do that," Max answered. "I vowed never to kill anyone. I really donít know what I would do if someone died by my actions."
Silver smiled. "I believe you. And I believe that if you do not wish to hurt anyone, you wonít."
Just then, the door of Silverís workroom burst open, Oberon standing there in the space. "Silver, come hurry outside, there is an attack! We are under attack!"
"Whoís attacking?" Silver shot back in surprise.
"Clan Coldstone," Oberon said, impatience overtaking him.
"Why? What do they want? What did we to them?"
"We donít know. And who cares?" Oberon told. "COME ON! Help defend the castle!" He darted back out into the hallway and hurried to the outside of the castle.
Silver got out of her seat and chased Oberon. "Oberon, wait!" she called. "Why do they want to attack us for?" Max herd Silverís questions slowly fade into the background as she followed Oberon out of the castle.
He turned back to the near finished crossbow that he was working on and began to hurry, almost frantically, to finish putting it back together. He held the finished crossbow in front of him. He began checking the mechanisms, testing the string and seeing if all parts of it was correctly in place.
Una looked into the room as she hurried by and saw Max still there. "What are you doing?" she asked as she stepped into the room.
Max pulled the trigger which released the string of the bow. A sold twang was herd. "Iím fixing this crossbow up to give it a trial run." He picked up one of the light wooden arrows that he had designed for the crossbows. "Could you pass me that little pouch over there?" Max asked as he pointed to a little table to Unaís right.
Una picked up the little brown bag made of a thick cloth. It was no bigger than about half the size of Maxís fist and tied neatly closed with a piece of string. "This little thing?" she asked. Mick nodded. Una passed it to Max.
"Thanks," Max said. He opened the small pouch and took a sniff of the contents. He then quickly pit a piece of sting into it and tied the pouch back close, part of the string was still hanging out of the bag. "I hope this works." Mick said as he tied the little sack to the front of the arrow and cocked the arrow into the crossbow. Max slung the crossbow over with strap it had over his shoulder as he got up and walked past Una out the door and jogged to get to the roof of the castle.
"What are you going to do?" Una called after Max as she chased after him.
"Try and stop something before it gets out of hand," Mick called over his shoulder. He made it to the rook and scanned the horizon. He found where the battle between Clan Destine and Clan Coldstone was taking place. It was in the open field that was between the castle and to the side of the forest. Max looked at the battle. He saw about two score, if not many more Gargoyles locked in combat. Max silently cursed to himself.
Una came up beside Max. "What did you say would you do?"
"Do you have a dagger?" Max asked.
"Here," Una said as she handed a small dagger to Max, it was about three handspans long. Shorter than he had expected for a world of swords and daggers. "I grabbed this on this way up. Take it. I never used one and hope to never use one."
"Thanks," Mick said. He tucked the dagger in one of the pockets of his pants. He looked down the side of the castle and back at Una. "Get your medicines ready. I fear that there might be some casualties." With that, Max climbed over the side of the wall and disappeared. Una closed her eyes and hoped that Max didnít hurt himself. Max dug his fingers into the stone that Silver had made earlier and slowly lowered himself into the ground. Una looked over the side and saw Max standing at the bottom of the castle wall.
"What if there are casualties already?" Una called down.
Max looked up, already looking a bit flustered. "Then . . . just then bring some things that you feel that you would need and lots of bandages. Bring some cloths to carry any of the seriously wounded." Max didnít wait for a response but turned and jogged off in the direction of the battle.
His jog lasted a good ten minutes before he begun to hear the sounds of the yelling of the battle. Max looked at the battle. The moonlight illuminated the area well enough for him to see many of the Gargoyles, but no real details. Some torch fires burned to give some light to the battle, but many of those were lying half smothered on the grassy ground. Few Gargoyles swung the torches ahead of them in hopes to drive back their opponent. Even some of the Gargoyles were airborne and were locked in hand-to-hand combat on a level that would be potential lethal for the one who fell.
Max took the crossbow from his shoulder and pulled a lighter out from one of his pockets. "I never thought that this would be useful," Max said as he looked at the small hand-held lighter. He gripped the crossbow and lined it up to fly over the heads of the airborne Gargoyles. "I hope this works," Max whispered as he light the small piece of string that hung out from the small pouch. He again held up the crossbow and watched the flame slowly travel to the little bag while keeping one eye on the battle of the Gargoyles in flight. Max squeezed the trigger, releasing the arrow carrying the bag through the air, over the heads of Gargoyles on the ground. "Fire in the hole!" Mick called. But no one herd the call above all of the shouting.
As the arrow traveled through the air, the flame got closer and closer to the neck of the pouch. As the flame finally sunk into the pouch, the powders inside ignited. A bright and thunderous explosion was herd, sen and felt. The Gargoyles that were in flight were thrown to the ground by the force of the blast.
Once the ringing of the explosion died away, the Gargoyles that were laying on the ground from the explosion or otherwise slowlypicked themsef off the ground. Everyone began looking around themselves in silent confusion. Max slung the crossbow back over his shoulder and tucked the lighter back into his pocket.
"WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE TRYING TO PROVE?" Max yelled as he walked up to the crowd of Gargoyles. The all just stared at him as he approached. Some stepped out of his way as he made his way to the center of the crowd. "What are you fighting for?" Max again called. "What is this fight about? Did somebody step on somebody elseís toes?" Silence. "Did somebody make a casually remark that somebody else made took offence to?" A few muffled murmurs erupted. "What caused this fight seems so trivial. Everyone here was going to try to decimate the other clan, for what? More land? Defend honor?" More murmurs erupted. Max looked around at the faces of the Gargoyles, some of which he remembered seeing in the castle. "You were going to fight and kill for something as trivial as a mistaken idea or comment. If thatís the case, all of you are dishonorable. All of you were going to teach your hatchlings to hate their neighbors because they were done some minor offence to you. You would slaughter innocents to regain honor." Max continued looking around at the faces of the Gargolyes. They were in complete silence. "THERE IS NO HONOR IN ACTING DISHONORABLY." Max yelled. He pulled the dagger out of the pocket, grabbed the back edge of the blade and held the hilt out. "Hereís a dagger. If everyone here is so intent on killing innocents, kill me first." Max slowly walked around with the hilt of the dagger out to anyone who would take it. Everyone he approached backed away from the offer of the dagger. "Come one. SOMEBODY TAKE IT. Show how much you believe in your honor of killing innocents. Cut my heart out if it so please you. Show that you are willing to carry through on what you believe. I forgive the one who does." All the Gargoyles around Max stood in silence. Some looked around to see if there was any from their ranks that would take the offer.
"I need no dagger," a strong female voice called. A female Gargoyle stepped out from the crowd. She wasnít one of the Gargoyles he had seen in the castle so Max assumed she was a member of Clan Coldstone. She was carrying a torch which illuminated the immediate area around her and Max. She had on a purple-blue bathing suit that contrasted against her grey-beige skin. She also was wearing an open red jacket that hung to just below her ribcage and the sleeves stopped at her elbows. Her wings opened out from behind her and displayed a single, fluid skin of an off-white color. Her pure white hair came wildly down the back of her head. Max noticed that on either hand she had metal gloves, segmented at the knuckles that provided her to cut through flesh of her opponents but allowed her to hold objects. She tossed the torch to the ground which sent up shadows of amazing proportions. "I will kill you right now," she said as she lunged toward Max. Max threw up his arms in defense, but didnít feel the three blades slice through the flesh of his forearm of his right arm.
"Get away from him," Silver screamed, very defensively, as she crashed into Mickís attacker. Silver pushed the jacketed Gargoyle to the ground and began wildly giving blows. Both were in a tangle of screams, growls, fists and fury.
"Silver, SILVER," Mick called as he tried to get a hold of Silver and pull her from the other Gargoyle. Max eventually managing to pull Silver away form the other.
Silver moaned as she rolled onto her back, her wings laying limp on the ground. She held her belly. Max looked down and saw many large, perhaps deep gashes across her belly.
"Oh god, no!" Max exclaimed as he looked at Silverís wounds, blood slowly pooled and trickled between her fingers. He put his hands over her belly to try and help slow the loss of blood. "SOMEBODY GET HELP!" Max called to the crowd.
"Let me through," Max heard Una call through the stillness of the night. "Oh, no." She said as she saw Silver lying on the ground with Max over her. Un knelt down next to Silver as she dug into a bag and pulled out cloths and small jars of ointments. Una pulled out a vial of liquid and handed it to Max, "have her drink this." Max didnít question the statement but held it down for Silver to sip at the liquid. Between globs of ointments, Una applied layers of bandages that soaked up blood from Silverís middle. Max looked around, some of the Gargoyles had left, but many stayed in the circle and stared at what was happening. After a while, the bleeding of Silverís belly slowed and seemed to stop. Una looked at Max, "she will probably not make it to sunrise. If we were at the castle, maybe, but not here."
"Then we bring her to the castle," Max said definitely.
"Sheíll never make the trip to the castle," Una protested.
"We have to try," Max countered.
Una pulled a long, thick sheet from the bag, turned and grabbed the arm of one of the Gargoyles of Clan Destine. "Help carry Silver back to the castle," she told him, he nodded in agreement and stood in wait. Una spread the sheet out on the ground next to Silver. She went over to Silverís feet and looked at Max, "help me get Silver onto the sheet." Max nodded and took Silver careful by the shoulders and heaved her as gently as he could onto the sheet. Max motioned to the Gargoyle that Una had signaled out and motioned for him to carry that end of the sheet. He came over and picked up the sheet at Silverís head while Una held the sheet at Silverís feet.
Max looked down at Silver. Her expression showed that she was in pain but also that she passed into and out of conscience. He saw Silver tilt her head to him and smiled half sweetly, he really didnít know if it was because she was trying to tell him something or that she was in a dreamworld of her own. Una and the second Gargoyle spread their wings, the Gargoyles around them stepped back to give room, and made the now treacherous journey back to the castle.
Max looked back at the Gargoyle who had attacked him and wounded Silver. She glared at him, her steel gloves dripping the vital blood of Silver. A few long moments passed before a large, barrel-chested male Gargoyle stepped out of the side that she came through. He seemed to tower even over his seven foot jacketed companion. He put his hand solidly on her shoulder.
"I am Coldstone," he said in a hard, flat tone. "Where is Lady Destine?"
"Here," Eve said as she stepped into the clearing. The two leaders looked at each other for for seveal long moments.
"He is human," Coldstone said pointing to Max, " yet he speaks with some wisdom."
"He does have a certain way of thinking," Eve answered. "He walks the halls of my castle and has proven to be, at times, insightful."
Coldstone gave a grim smile. He turned to the female Gargoyle, "Delilah, you dishonor the clan."
"But . . . ," she protested.
"We head to our castle," Colstone called to the rest of his clan. "You will explain yourself there," he told Delilah. The Gargoyles of Clan Coldstone spread their wings and headed back the way they came. The Gargoyles of Clan Destine began doing the same. Some picked up still-lit torches on the way.
Eve stepped over to Max. "You should be proud of yourself, Max. You put your life up for us and stopped a battle that could have killed many of us."
"Yes," Max said grimly. "But look what happened to Silver. I never wanted that to happen to her. Nor to any of you."
"Shall I take you back to the castle?" Eve asked Max.
"Please," Max said. Eve took Max by the shoulders, spread her powder blue wings and carried Max back to the castle.
They were met on the roof by a grim faced Una. Eve let Max down onto the roof before dropping herself and allowing her wings to fold around her shoulders. "What ails you Una?" Eve asked, trying to sound friendly.
"This needs only for Max to hear," Una returned grimly. Eve nodded and headed into the castle.
"Is Silver dead?" Max asked. Una looked unsure.
"Not yet," Una told. Max let out a slight breath of relief. "She still holds to life, but by a thread. She may not make it to dawn. If she does, the time as stone will help her. But donít hold your faith for that."
Maxís expression soured. He sat down on the edge of the wall. "I shouldnít have done that."
"Done what?" Una asked.
"I am guitly of getting Silver injured," Max told. "I was trying to prove a point and Silver got hurt because of it."
Una tried to smile. "From what I was told, Silver got injured defending you. Not because of your fault."
"But if I hadnít tried to make the point I wanted to, Silver wouldnít be on her deathbed," Max returned.
Una came over and put her hand on Maxís shoulder and looked down. "Look, your bleeding," Una told Max as she noticed his bloody forearm. Max looked down and saw that his right forearm was bleeding for the gashes he got form Delilah. Una reached into her bag and pulled out a jar of ointment and a roll of bandages. Una gingerly applied the ointment and then wrapped the bandaged around his arm.
"I canít face Silver even if she survives," Max said. "I canít bear to show her my face after alowing that to happen to her."
"Max, Silver wanted me to give you something," Una told as she finished wrapping the wound and sat down next to Max.
"Whatís that?" Mick asked.
Una reached into her bag, pulled out her fist, held it out to Max palm side up, and unfruled it. Resting on her palm was Silverís purple crystal pendant. "Silver said that she wanted you to have it if she died. Here, take it."
Max picked it out of her hand and looked at it. "You said she still lives, right?" His face still grim.
"She does," Una returned. Max closed his eyes and tilted his head back, he wished he could be near death, not Silver. "Max, listen," Una tried to console, "you offered me you compassion once. Let me do the same for you; if you want to talk about it, I am here." Max smiled and nodded thanks. "Take my word on this," Una said as she took Maxís hand, "donít do this to yourself. She doesnít blame you. Donít blame yourself. Nobody does. You have actually helped Silver by trying to help her here."
Max tucked the pendant into one of the pockets of his pants, handed the crossbow to Una and said, "put this into Silverís workroom." He then turned and began to climb down the the side of the castle wall.
"Where are you going?" Una asked as she looked over the side at Max.
Max looked up at Una. "I need time on my own. And thanks for the friendly ear, I wonít forget."
"You are welcome," Una returned. She got up and headed back to her patient.
Max walked toward the forest. Only about halfway to the forest did he then turn and look at the castle. Should I go back? he thought. How would Silver take me knowing that I caused her to go to her deathbed? Could she ever forgive me?
* * * * * * * *
As the sun sank into the horizon, the Gargoyles at the castle began to awaken from their stone sleep. All the Gargoyles of Clan Destine were outside when the sun sank and awoke to the freshens of the cool night air, but for two. These two were inside the castle. One was a white mare with angle wings robed in a pink dress. Her name was Una. She had stood like she had done so many times before; one knee on the ground, her hand over her heart, her head bent down as if to say a prayer. The other was her patient. She was lying on the bed of thick blankets. Bandages, which turned to stone when she did, were wrapped around her flat belly.
Both Gargoyles awoke in the same manner. First small cracks came across their stone forms, the cracks grew and connected and ran the full length of their body. Then without warning, the pieces burst outward from the person with a loud bellow from them.
Una stood up and walked over to Silver. She listened to her hoofs making clapping sounds as the fell against the stone floor of the castle. She looked down and saw that Silver was indeed alive, after being so close to death the night before. "How are you Silver?" Una asked.
Silver looked up and blinked clear her eyes. "Tired," she answered. "Very tired. But otherwise alive."
"You are a very lucky Gargoyle," Una complimented.
"How am I lucky?" Silver asked as she sat up.
Una pointed to the bandages. "Because of your injuries, you were on the verge of death."
"You canít be serious," Silver said with a slight laugh in her voice. She rubbed her belly, it was sore but nowhere as near as throbbingly painful as the night before.
"I am serious," Una told. "Max help with getting you here, but he didnít come by because he said he couldnít face you."
"Why?" Silver asked as she realized that he wasnít there. "Where is he? Where did he go?"
"He felt that he was responsible," Una answered Silverís first question. "I donít know where he is now. I do know he left the castle last night to clear his thoughts." Una watched carefully as Silver took the bandages off from her belly. Una felt proud, not only did Silver survive, but there was almost no visible scarring of the wounds.
"Did you see where he was headed?"
Una shook her head. Silver got up and headed for the door. "Where do you think youíre going?" Una asked in a stern motherly tone. "I want to keep an eye on you because of your injuries."
"Una, thank you," Silver said. "Iím alright. Please, I need to go find Max. If I feel weak or ill, I will come right back here."
Una stood there for a moment in thought, then nodded. "Itís against my better judgment, but go."
Silver smiled and raced out of the castle and into the fresh air of the night. She inhaled deeply. "It feels so good," Silver said to herself. She stopped at the edge of the castle and thought for a moment. She then spread her wings and headed for the forest. She stopped at the beginning of the forest and called out, "Max, are you here?" She didnít get an answer, she didnít expect to get one.
Cautiously, Silver walked into the forest and began making her through the forest. Every sound and movement caught her attention. Every slight distraction was looked into. Silver spent hours chasing after sounds made by rabbits running through the trees and breaking the twigs underfoot or the bird rustling the leaves from moving out of its nest. It seemed like an eternity as Silver slowly made her way though the forest. The starry sky lit the night well, but in the forest, outlines, shadows and noises rule.
"Max, are you here?" Silver called out again. She stopped, dead in her tracks, and turned. Silver felt she knew when Max would have hidden himself. She stopped her search in the part of the forest and headed towards her small nook of the forest. She didnít know how or why, but felt that, in some strange way, Max would be there.
Silver stepped into the small clearing. She knew where everything was, where the small pond was located, where the circle of stones was that held the fire, the large rock that she used as a seat from nature. Even in the near pitch blackness, Silver knew that there was someone else here. She went over to where the circle of stones were and picked up two of the stones and struck them together, sparks flew. Good, Silver thought. She reached around and piled some dried leaves onto the pile of sticks and twigs that were used as kindling. She struck the rocks again, again sparks flew. Again Silver did this, this time some sparks were caught by the leaves. The leaves caught fire and it spread. Within minutes the fire was up and the little forest nook of her was fully illuminated.
Silver looked around and sure enough, her hunch had paid off. Max was sitting by the stone, back to the center of the area and slouched over, asleep.
She went around and looked at Max as he slept. "Max," Silver said softly. No answer. "Max," Silver said, this time a bit louder. "Max," Silver said for a third time with her hand on his shoulder. Max woke up with a start. Without saying a word, he looked at Silver, got up and walked to the edge of the clearing. Silver took his guilty stare to heart. "Max, please," Silver called to him, "please donít go."
"Why?" Max answered his voice broken with an angry guilt. He had Silverís crystal pendant clasped in his hand. "How can you look at me after what I did to you?" Max was angry at his guilt and himself. He felt guilty of not being able to avoid getting Silver harmed.
"What did you do to me?" Silver asked.
"I nearly got you killed yesterday night," Max angrily told.
"No you didnít," Silver told. "I was protecting you. You were being attacked, I stopped you getting hurt."
"Silver, if it wasnít for me, you would never have been hurt at all," Max said. His voice now just filled with guilt. "I was trying to make a point. Because of that, you got yourself hurt. I never wanted you to get hurt. I wanted to make sure that no one got hurt. You saved my life twice and I canít believe thatís how I repaid you. If I never tried to do what I did, you would have never gotten hurt. I am responsible, I started it. You ended up on your deathbed because of it. I almost killed you. I canít believe I did that to you. I would have been your murderer. I wish I was there on my deathbed, not you."
"Max," Silver said lovingly. She stood up and looked at Max. "Please sit and listen to me, thatís the least you could do." Max grudgingly walked over to the stone and sat on it. Silver got on one knee in front of him and placed her hands on his shoulders. "Max, please listen to me. Whatever sin you believe you did to me, I forgive you. I do not hold you in any way responsible. For me, donít do this to yourself. I like you too much to see you do this to yourself. You did not injure me. You were not the cause. Believe me, I see you are a noble knight. Believe in yourself. You did not cause my injury. You are not to blame." Silverís eyes began tearing over.
Maxís grim expression warmed slightly and he smiled. "Why are you doing this, Silver?"
"Because I see that you cared deeply for me," Silver answered. "I see goodness in you. I see you as a noble knight who is afraid he made a bad mistake. Iím telling you that you didnít. I care for you. I donít want to see like this, I would rather see you back at the castle."
"Mean that?" Max asked.
Silver smiled, her chocolate brown eyes giving warm conformations. "I do," Silver answered. She reached over and gave Max a loving kiss and a warm hug. Max fell into Silverís arms and returned the hug. He felt that Silver was right. "Do you want to come back to the castle?" Silver asked as she finished the hug with Max.
Max smiled. "Of course." He held up Silverís crystal pendant. "Want this back?"
"You donít want it?" Silver countered.
"It isnít mine yet," Max answered. "And purple is really a color more for you." Silver smiled.
"Put it on me," Silver said.
"Sure," Max said warmly. Silver tilted her head forward to allow Max to put the pendant over her head. He carefully placed the thin cord of leather over he horns and carefully pulled over the back of her head, feeling Silverís silky smooth hair. Silver tilted her head back and looked up at Max as he let the pendant rest around her neck.
Silver surprised Max with another passionate kiss and both of them ended up falling in a heap on the ground beside the large rock that was Maxís seat. Both couldnít help but burst out giggling and laughing at their predicament.
"Feel better," Silver asked Max between bouts of giggles. She picked herself up to be resting on one arm as Max laid on his back next to her.
"Much," Max answered.
* * * * * * * *
Max and Silver sat on the edge of the castle wall. Silver had her arm over Maxís shoulder and held him close. Both of their legs hung from the wall as they gazed off at the horizon.
"I realized something," Max said.
"Whatís that?" Silver asked.
"Remember I said that your horns looked like they could be a crown?" Max inquired. Silver nodded. "And I got to thinking about your color of choice."
"Prurple? Whatís so special about purple?" Silver asked curiously.
"When dye was first discovered for clothes, it was the color of purple," Max began. "Only the rich, sometimes only the royalty, could afford to get some purple cloths. That is what gave way to the term of Ďroyal purpleí."
"So my clothes say I am royalty," Silver said. "As well as my horns looking like a crown."
Max looked over at Silver and smiled. "If you want Iíll say you ARE royalty." Silver chuckled.
"You donít have to do that," Silver said with a heartwarming smile. She stretched out her wing and delicately laid it over Maxís shoulder. Max closed his eyes and drifted off into sleep. Silver couldnít help but smile. She carefully gout up off the ledge, picked Max up and brought to the room where he first slept. Once there, she laid him in the bed and pulled the sheets over him. She sat down on the edge of the bed to watch Max drift into dream. "Sleep well, my knight," Silver said before the stone transformation took hold of her.
|The Caring Stepmother|