February 12, 1901
The portal dumped me out over more grass and this time I tried rolling with the landing.
First mistake. It blew up in my face. I tumbled over ice and stones galore and suddenly the ground disappeared beneath me. I twisted to face down and instinctively flared my wings.
Mistake number two. My left wing slammed into a rock wall with a nasty crunch and I screamed as something bent a way it shouldn’t. A second later, my right wing did the same thing.
Mistake three; I rolled again to face back up. I don’t think I’ll ever know why, I just did. Several long and painful seconds later, I hit the ground. Very hard. On top of my wings. With a whimper that might have been meant to be another scream, I blacked out.
“I tell you, I heard something!” a male voice insisted in Russian. Hooves clattered on stones as a dark figure, poorly illuminated by only the moon and stars, moved to look down into a stone gorge. A second figure, slightly smaller but a similar shape, moved to join the first. It gasped and pointed down. “It seems you’re right. There’s something down there!”
The first being bent down. “Something... or someone?”
The second shrugged. “Does it matter? Lower me down and I’ll check.”
My return to consciousness was slow and rather painful. The first thing I realized was the ground, for being as punishing as it was earlier, was pretty soft. Then I realized I was on a – bed? sofa? couch? One of the above. Next came the revelation that I was under blankets (lying down on my stomach) and my wings were held at an uncomfortable angle. A female alto muttered something that sounded like a cat hacking up, and I heard the shuffle of feet.
“Do you speak English?” the voice asked. I pulled myself from the last traces of sleep and looked up. The woman in front of me reminded me of Arin. She had the head of a fox and a rust red/brown pelt, with splashes of white and black on her ears and cheek fur. She even had the fluffy tail of a fox. The only problem I had was what was between her feet and her tail...
Another set of feet.
The first thing that came to mind was tales of centaurs, and all the related Greek myths. This gargoyle (???) was a lot like that. But instead of half human and half horse, she was half gargoyle and half gargoyle beast (Jay calls ‘em doggoyles, but that’s not exactly accurate). But she didn’t have wings. I stared, not even registering the woman’s words. She said something else, again sounding like a cat with a hairball.
“Uh, English,” I finally said.
“Ah.” She nodded. “I am Katya. Welcome. It has been long since we met a Separated. Where is you Other?”
I blinked. That last part didn’t make much sense. “I’m Megan. What do you mean, ‘other’? I’m not mated.” Then I remembered my wings. “Ohmigawd, my wings, am – ”
Katya held up a hand. “Calm, please. They are splinted. ”
Whew. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. “When’s sunrise?”
“A few minutes. You stone sleep?”
Argh. #&$^%$#* language barrier. “Yeah. I turn to stone. Whatever I’m on better be sturdy.”
The – Centoyle? Gargotaur? What d’you call these people? – nodded. “Do not worry.”
Riiiight. Like that was gonna happen. Before I could come up with a snappy retort of some sort, the sun rose and sent me back to sleep.
Katya stared down at the strange Separated with mixed emotions. Other then the two with the tribe, she had never seen one. And this Separated was stranger then any she’d heard off. For a moment, she toyed with the idea that this “Megan” was from a tribe that had always been Separated. But that was impossible. There were only a one or at most two born every generation that way. An entire tribe of such? Simply not possible. But that theory didn’t explain why Megan was so surprised at her appearance. Ah well. It would have to wait until sunset.
I woke the usual way; with a yawn/roar and stretching. There was a snap and I froze. If that was my wings... But something dangled off of them, rather then my wings going in ways they shouldn’t. I twisted to look and found the remains of splints on them. Whew. A break like that generally puts you out of commission for at least a few nights. I was sore, but okay. Guess it had been reasonably clean.
I finally got a decent chance to look around. The room I was in couldn’t have been more then twelve feet on each side. The bed was at one end and the door at the other. It looked like someone tried to stuff everything they owned (from a moderately sized apartment) into it. The largest thing (other then the bed) was the dresser on one of the walls. I frowned and bent down for a closer look at its feet. They looked like they were bolted in place...
The floor rocked and the door opened, sending my sprawling back onto the bed. Ooo, the night was looking good.
It was the centoyle from last night, Katya. She nodded and gave me a cautious grin. “I see you can walk. You care to see our camp?”
Considering that I was technically her guest and also prisoner, it didn’t look like a smart idea to say no. “Sure.”
I followed the centoyle out the door, uncertain of what I was going to see. I was prepared for almost anything other then what I saw.
Katya and I were standing on a small porch of a brightly colored wagon, like the ones belonging to gypsies you see in movies all the time. The entire... encampment looked like it was from one of those movies. There were about ten of the wagons, circled around a campfire where a crowd of beings sat, stood, or danced. Most were gargoyle centaurs like Katya, but with the normal variation I saw in my own clan. Sprinkled into the mob were several humans. All of them, centoyles and humans both, were dressed in bright colors and gold decorations like stereotype central.
“Wow,” I breathed, gawking like a country rube. I’d never seen this many gargoyles in one place before. Okay, so they weren’t gargoyles, really, but close enough.
Katya gave me a toothy grin. “Our tribe is largest ever. What is your tribe?”
Tribe. Centaur gargoyles. Ooo boy, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Duh. “My... clan is in Connecticut.” Her only response was a very confused look. “Uh, U.S. of A.... United States... America?”
The look finally changed to surprise. “I did not know...,” she muttered.
“Where am I?” So sue me, I couldn’t take the pressure of not knowing any longer.
Now I was getting a serious ‘you are weird beyond comprehension’ look. “You travel here but....”
We obviously weren’t getting anywhere with the language barrier. “Hang on just a sec....” I turned around to go back in to get the book before remembering where I was and that these people prolly didn’t stop to grab it.
Eh heh. Guess what. It was sitting right on the dresser, with the Manhunters on top of it. I mean, reading my thoughts is weird enough, but following me around.... Um. Not exactly a reassuring thing.
Anyyyyway, I remembered right; there was a spell of Tongues there, and if it wasn’t for language, I do NOT want to know what it’s for. So I took my chances and read it off.
Nothing. No sparks, no bright lights, not even a peep of slightly magical music. So I tucked the guns out of sight (me? Paranoid? Hell yeah!) and went back outside. But now all the background chatter made sense. Whoo hoo! It worked!
“Are you right?” Katya asked me.
“Sure. Just peachy keen.”
That surprised her. “I thought you didn’t – but you were only speaking English!”
I grinned sheepishly and shrugged. “I needed to get help translating. Amazing what magic can do.”
She didn’t turn a hair at the mention of magic. “Ah. Well, I’m glad you did. My English isn’t very good.”
I snorted. “It might not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than my – what are we speaking, anyway?”
“Russian,” she laughed. “Tell me, how did you travel from... Connecticut...-” she stumbled over the unfamiliar word – “to Russia without knowing where you are?”
Russia? Ooo shit. We are WAY off the charts now. “Well... magic.” Ugh. Why do I get the feeling I’m going to be saying that way too often from here on?
Surprisingly, Katya just nodded and accepted it. Weird. Instead she took me to one of the fires and got me a bowlful of stew (home cooking at last! Shanna and Toby have – had – will have? Dammit, I hate time travel! – absolutely no cooking skills, and their idea of a good meal is throwing something into the nuker – micro-waving at its best – and hoping it doesn’t burn to badly. McD’s is good once in awhile, but grease all the time... ugh. Not to mention soykaff. Gimme normal coffee any day. Please!) while she went off and chatted with two more centoyles (note to self: find better/real name!). One was a bear-like individual with some serious piercing complex. Prolly afraid of kitchen magnets. The other was as much of a standard gargoyle (ignoring the extra set of legs) as you could get around here; dark red skin, heavy eye ridges, and a single horn spiraling from his forehead and a sort of Klingon head ridge. They were shooting lots of looks my way, but I was more concerned with stuffing my face and people watching.
I guess it’s just another example of the difference between hearing something and experiencing it. I mean, logically, I knew there were (are? Ah, fuck it. Whatever tense it really is, live with what you get) other gargoyle clans out there, but... actually seeing others, even if they didn’t exactly look like normal gargoyles, it’s.... I dunno. Mind boggling is the closest I can get to a decent description. Suddenly realizing that your clan – your family – isn’t alone, that there really are more like you in the world, it’s – incredible.
Anyway, back on track. When I finished eating, Katya came over with her friends and suggested we go for a private talk. Again, I decided to go with not irritating the people and we wandered off a decent distance from camp. They settled into a weird half sitting position, fore-paws (hope that’s the right term) upright so their lower bodies looked like pets sitting at guard.
The bear centoyle made the first move, clearing his throat and shifting slightly. “I’m sorry if we seem rather... cold, but we hadn’t thought any Separated clans still existed.”
I shrugged, trying not to show my confusion. “Well, it’s mutual. And I’ve been there, uh....”
“Sorry. Now I’m even forgetting my manners. I am Boris, historian, lore keeper, and general story teller of the Narod.” He apparently saw my confusion. “The name our kind chose long ago for our people.”
Boris gestured to the other – um, actually, I’m happier with centoyles, but that’s probably because I could at least pronounce that – narod. “And this is our tribe’s leader, Vlas.”
The leader nodded (barely). “Happy to meet you.” Yeah. He was just jumping for joy, I’m sure.
Boris caught that too and coughed. “So, you didn’t know of our kind?”
“Not a thing. All I know – knew – whatever – ” Augh!!! It’s spreading! “were normal gargoyles and the... gargoyle beasts.” Open mouth, insert foot.
Thankfully, they didn’t seem that bothered. “Then perhaps you would be interested in our history?”
I shrugged. Not like I had anywhere else to be right now. Boris took that as an open invitation.
“Once, long before recorded memory, there was only one race. Eventually, that race split into three; the humans, the children of Oberon, and gargoyles. The gargoyles split once more, into the winged ones and the beast-kin. The winged ones resembled the humans they protected, while the beast-kin looked like the creatures humans tamed as their pets and allies, although the beast-kin were much more intelligent. As time passed, some of the beast-kin envied the winged ones ability to fly. Some beast-kin eggs hatched with wings, but it did not satisfy many, as there were so few hatchlings like that. Meanwhile, some of the winged ones grew to dislike the lifestyle of protecting and desperate to see the sun in a peaceful world away from humans. A tribe of these malcontents left their clan to wander the world, until one Solstice, they met and saved a great sorcerer from death at the hands of a traveling band of humans. As thanks, he tried to grant their desires, but the men the tribe had saved the magician from attacked again, ruining his spell before it could be finished. Magic ran amok, killing most of the humans, while changing the gargoyles. In the end, the winged ones and beast-kin became one race. But some escaped that change, becoming the Separated. They were twin-born, winged one and beast-kin, that share a link closer than blood. They kept the ancient curse of stone sleep, while the magic in our blood twisted our shape but allows us to see the sun.”
“The few humans that survived were also changed, magic seeping into their very blood and bones. Since neither human nor gargoyle could last a week without each other, they pledged allegiance to each other and joined into one tribe.” The storyteller gestured to the camp. “And so we have survived while our Separated kin have died off, clan by clan. To our knowledge, they had all been destroyed.”
I shook my head. “Nuh uh. There’s at least two in America, one in Guatemala, one in England, one in Japan, and one... somewhere else.” I wasn’t about to get into a long discussion of Avalon (especially when I don’t understand it).
“And your clan?” Vlas finally put in.
I shrugged. “Classic colonist story, I guess. Came over with some early human settlers, and stuck it out.”
He wasn’t happy with that. Well, so sue me for being succinct (yeah, right, don’t you wish). But I was saved by the arrival of an exhausted looking lion-ish narod (why do I feel like the Swedish Chef when I say that?). He headed straight for Vlas. “Leader?” he gasped. At his nod, the lion guy continued. “I am Yuri from the Raven Wing tribe. My sib and I have been traveling for nearly three days now after a band of humans that caught two younglings of our tribe. We managed to hear enough the first night to make out that the humans are Rasputin’s men, taking our kin to the Czar’s court to prove their master’s power and magic abilities are all he claims.” He sighed and shook his head. “We... were not able to catch up after that point. They take new horses at every village, and carry our kin in a wagon. There is no way we could catch them now. Since we knew your winter camp was near, we decided to come warn you. Take your tribe elsewhere, the humans will be after us in force soon. Hide. If they catch nothing, perhaps they will lose hope of our existence.”
“I... thank you for your warning,” Vlas rumbled. “If we are to escape, we shall need to move quickly.”
Yuri took that as a dismissal. Vlas sighed and spat out something that wasn’t English or Russian, ‘cause it sounded foul but unintelligible.
“Well, it’s been fun, but I gotta run.” Vlas, Boris, and Katya stared at me like I’d just declared I was trying to grow another head. “He just said he couldn’t catch the humans, but that’s by land. I can fly. Shouldn’t be very difficult to make up for lost ground.”
“No,” the leader snapped. “We can’t risk having any more caught. You’re too vulnerable during the day.”
I snorted. “Well excuse me, but since when did you have any say about what I do? I might be a visitor here, but I’m not part of your clan. Tribe. Either way, I’m going after them.” I didn’t see any need to mention that since I couldn’t recall a gargoyle-hunting season in any country at any time, something must’ve happened to the narod before they got to the Czar’s castle or whatever it is czars live in.
There was an uncomfortable silence, which Katya broke by bolting for the camp. Great. So much for my ally. Boris coughed and stood. “You’ll need some supplies,” he said, as uncomfortable with this as I was. He led me back to the wagon, leaving Vlas back to sulk or something.
Whew. Boris believes in taking everything with you. He tried to pile enough food and ‘basic supplies’ into a backpack to keep an army happy. Somehow I managed to convince I wouldn’t need all that (hell, I wouldn’t be ably to get off the ground with all the stuff he tried to give me!) and escaped outside. Katya and Vlas were outside the door, deep into an argument.
“- but as the Guardian, it is my duty and right to go!” Katya snapped. “I’m obligated to help!”
“Fine! Abandon your Tribe! Go!” Vlas yelled back, then started ranting at her in some gibberish that wasn’t English, Russian, or anything else I understood.
When the Leader was done chewing her out to his satisfaction, he stalked off. we watched him go. “So,” I finally said. “What was that about?”
“I’m coming with you.”
“Um. Look, I’m grateful for the help and all, but I’m flying. You’re walking. Therefore you can’t keep up.”
She crossed her arms and glared at me. “I am the Guardian. I’ll keep up at any means possible. Besides, you need protection during the day. I am coming.”
Even I know when not to argue. Living is a nice hobby I wanna continue. Also I figured I’d just outdistance her easily enough. “Oh kay. Let’s go.”
While I climbed to the top of one of the wagons, Katya grabbed a big double headed ax with a haft of dark wood (or maybe metal) decorated with what might have been carvings (too dark to really see), the silvery-gray blades embossed with blue designs. In a casual move that told me she was more than used to using it, she slid it into a scabbard/holster/carrying pack/whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it set up in a saddle-bag style along her rump so the grip was in easy reach.
Maybe she would be useful in a fight.
I took off, keeping a careful eye on Katya. It took me a bit before I realized that not only was she keeping up with me, she was even starting to get ahead. Somehow, she was managing a ground-devouring lope that went on like she could keep it up for hours. It didn’t take a rocket genius or the faint blue glow from her sheathed ax to scream ‘magic!’
“May we join you?” a voice asked from my rear left.
“Gah!” I replied intelligently, rolling and turning as best I could without killing myself.
Hel-lo! For all of Boris’s ranting about ‘the Separated’ it didn’t really hit me until about then that there might be a few of those wandering around. Such as the two that were following me. I got the matched set!
There was a female, with long, dark hair, light coral pink coloring, bright purple bat wings, slightly feline features, and hands down the most human looking gargoyle I have ever encountered. She was dressed in a gypsy getup that nearly had my in stitches, just waiting for her to tell me she was named Esmerelda and hang out at Notre Dame with Quasi all the time (Or maybe Disney’s just taken over my brain, your choice).
The male was a big, burly fella who, frankly, looked like a minotaur with wings. We are talking the whole kit and caboodle from cloven hooves to fur to cow-like face to a massive pair of horns ready to gore. His wings were brown feathered, and he had the same gypsy theme to his clothes.
“Uh....” Ok, so it’s not exactly the best response I could come up with, but I wasn’t expecting to meet any other gargoyles, gypsy centoyle folklore aside.
“May we join you?” she repeated.
“Sure. Um, I’m Megan.”
The female nodded a greeting. “I am Oksana, bond of the Other Anastasia.” Maybe it was the weirdness factor or her haughty tone, but I was starting to not like her.
It took some prompting, but the male finally rumbled, “Ivan. My Other is Sergei.”
After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Oksana finally cleared her throat. “And your Other is...?”
“I keep hearing that, but I still don’t get it. Wha’d’you mean, Other?”
Ya know, I am really getting tired of the funny looks I’m getting. It’s becoming annoying.
“Your... Other,” Oksana stuttered. “Your other half, the beast-kin... the other you...”
Oh! Duh. The Separated... there’s the talking half, then there’s the other part. These people are too freaking literal.....
“Sorry, I don’t have an Other. I’m the original model.”
“Really.” Her tone could’ve frozen water if it wasn’t already about a hundred below zero.
More silence. Finally I had to break it. What can I say, I’m easily bored. “So, um, Katya mentioned she was a guardian. Pardon me for being stupid, but what’s the deal with that?”
“Not a guardian, the Guardian,” Ivan answered.
Well that was informative. “Uh huh.”
“It’s a ceremonial position that she cheated to get,” Oksana added.
I turned to glare at her. “Was I asking you?” She harrumphed and took off. I waited until she was out of earshot and shook my head. “Jeeze! And I thought Shanna was on eternal PMS. She’d take the crown any day.”
Ivan actually laughed. “She’s simply jealous.”
He shook his head. “She’s disliked Katya ever since she was refused as Guardian. She’s jealous of you.”
I think my jaw reached to about my knees at that. “Say what?!”
He gave me a measuring look. “As you said, you’re the original. While we look like gargoyles, we aren’t. We’re simply the memory of the race, to keep the old tales alive.”
I had to shake my head. “I... don’t get it.”
Ivan sighed. “While the narod are descended from gargoyles, they – we – are a different race entirely. Occasionally, an egg hatches into a... a throwback, if you will, to when we were: those like myself and Sergei, or Oksana and Anastasia.”
“Throwback’s a pretty harsh term.”
“Not really. Just true. The narod are the perfect combination of winged one and beast-kin. Sergei and I are not one as they are, but we are still connected in ways you couldn’t imagine. While I am here, a part of me – my mind, my soul, my being – is out there - ” he pointed behind us where the beasts were laboring to catch up - “running along, simply enjoying the wonder of the night and the chase. Come sunrise, that part of me will continue until it has reached the stone statue that is also me. In a way, it is one being in two bodies. Not quite, but that is the nearest I could possibly describe.”
Freaky. As in very. Very. Weird. “Um. So... your... Other doesn’t change into stone?”
He shook his head. “No. Not unless they wish to. So in a way, I have been lucky enough to have seen the sun.”
“Ah.” Well, what d’you expect me to say?!? “So. Uh. You said something about Oksana being ticked ‘cause she got turned down as Guardian?”
Guess he was glad to go to a (hopefully) safer topic too. “Boris told you of how our kind came to be?” I nodded. “The magician responsible for the change survived the... accident of rampaging magic, but barely. Even he was affected, changed into a creature not human, gargoyle, or even anything near. He was dying. When he saw what had happened, he made the humans and narod swear an oath of peace and friendship. He called one of the narod over and ordered him to take his ax and end the magician’s life. Of course, the narod refused. But after much pleading, he was finally convinced, so he unsheathed his weapon and did as ordered. When the weapon – a simple tool, used for protection and little more – hit the magician’s body, there was a flare of light. When the people could see again, the magician was gone and the ax was on the ground. It is said that they heard the magician once more, saying ‘this is for the Guardian of your tribe. It shall be wielded in their defense by a human, gargoyle, or the ones I have created, but only the true Guardian shall be able to wield it’. And so the entire tribe attempted to take the now magnificent and obviously magical weapon, but as was said, only one could lift it. It has passed from Guardian to Guardian when they die. Now it is mostly ceremonial; we’ve had little threat or need of such a warrior in many generations. Oksana thought it would help her, give her more prestige than she already has, but when Katya was the one, it elevated her to – technically – the same standing as we have.”
“You’re born with wings, and she picked up an ax. Yeah, I see how that works.”
He laughed again. “Well, we do have positions of authority – traditionally the Separated are the judges, leaders, etc., while the Guardian serves as the warrior to the thinker we supposedly portray.”
“Wings and sense. Riiight.” Yeah, I know, keep your mouth shut and you don’t offend anyone, but when did I ever follow the rules?
“Well, it does have roots, in that we are less prone to make emotional judgments.”
“Huh?” Ooo, don’t I have just riveting conversational skills?
“The Separated are throwbacks.” I couldn’t help but to wince. That still sounded so harsh. “We were meant to be like the Narod. We are only born by flukes in the bloodline. No one’s figured out why we are born different, we simply are. Because we are such an... aberration, we are like mules: beings with many of the good traits of our parents, but unable to breed.”
“That would explain the lack of emotional attachments, then wouldn’t it?” But it sure as hell wasn’t something I’d expect.
Ivan let me drift off, leaving me alone with my thoughts. ‘Throwback’ was a harsh term, but then again, living like that must be harsh. Growing up almost completely alone, except for your other self – which prolly isn’t much company anyway – and knowing that there’s never going to be another being like you, unless Nature’s being a bitch? Even then, that they’re going to go through the same thing as you did. It is harsh. It sure as hell is a lot more than I could go through, particularly so calmly, accepting that things have been this way for years, and would most likely go on this way for many more. I’d be going buggy for a way to change.
Maybe I had been a bit too judgmental about Oksana.
Shortly before dawn, we met up with Katya in a little hollow. Even with the rest stops and breaks for food, we were all beat. Sunrise was a welcome event, but I went to sleep still worrying at the thought of what the Separated were going through.
Feb. 13, 1901
Just after sunset, somewhere in Russia
Well. Breakfast was... interesting. Not the food; that was just some rock hard bread and a few rabbits Katya caught. I’m talking about the company.
I was trying to be nice to Oksana, who was being as much Ice Queen as last night. Ivan was slightly disturbing, but I can’t put my talon on why. Katya was anxious to get going, but civil.
The beast-kin were weird. Yup. They finally caught up with us... sometime. It was eerie how much they were like their counterparts: Anastasia was a lion-like critter with the same coral coloring and exaggerated spikes at her joints and mane. Sergei was massive, built like a small (I think) copy of the monsters you find in bullfights in Spain, ya know, the hulking, ‘pardon me I’m gonna go gore me a stupid matador’ bull. It was really disturbing to see him tear into the rabbit. Not exactly an experience I want to repeat.
Since we found the human’s trail, hopefully we can get this done quickly. I’m ready for the normal weirdness of home.
Feb. 15, 1901
Still stuck in #@$%^& Russia. Lucky me.
Three freaking nights we’ve been chasing these bastards, and we only caught up last sunrise. I am so not having fun.
Whatever remotely friendly orientated things I might’ve thought about Oksana, she managed to blow those to hell and back. Oil and water. It’s a miracle we haven’t killed each other yet. Although even if she tried I’d kick her tail. The thing that really gets me is the suspicion that during the day her Other (which is just as annoying) might be marking me. I don’t have any proof, but I’ve stepped in Anastasia’s little ‘presents’ a few too many times to be comfortable either.
Ivan is one cold fish. I mean, he laughs in the right places, smiles at the right times, looks ticked near morning, but there’s something definitely mechanical about it. His comment about no emotional attachments keeps coming back to me in a bad way. Maybe he’s just hardwired differently, or the fact that he’s essentially alone – something he would have to change, not the world – really does get to him. Dunno. That and the general creepiness keeps me from doing more than giving Sergei suspicious looks.
As for Katya, she and I are actually hitting it off. Might be because she’s the most... gargoyle, but I’m not sure. Whatever.
The past three night have been miserable; if it’s not snowing enough to make flying dangerous and walking a general pain in the ass, it’s cold enough to bother me, and I’m a Connecticutian gargoyle born and bred. And it turns out that whatever I might have said before, I’m the one holding things up. Sure, my wings might’ve healed up, but any break to the wings is bad. After about an hour of steady gliding they starts burning, but at least half an hour after that all feeling disappears entirely. Whee ha ha. Katya just runs at that inhuman (or whatever) speed, while the doggoyles go ahead during the day. I’m starting to feel like the fifth wheel.
Anyway, as for our little human friends, this morning was a disaster. We caught up about three minutes before nap time. Like Yuri said, it was a band of about a dozen humans on horses, with a sturdy cage on wheels holding a pair of the centoyles (come on, I just want to be able to pronounce it!), neither much more than a hatchling: a horse-like (including the head) female and a yellow, scaly male, both looking gangly and slightly unsteady in their prison. Nobody noticed us until, despite some frantic signaling not to on my part, Katya charged in, ax flailing and... well, let’s not get into it. It was a fiasco. Bad juju.
So the humans are still out there, with the captives or whatever, and they know we’re after them. I’m the only one around here who seems to have the slightest clue about the word ‘tactics’, and I’m not getting along with anyone, and I’d be just as happy going home, but that’s about a century away.
Sucks to be me, don’t it.
Well, enough whining. Back on subject.
Katya was practically bouncing around when we woke up. “Come on, if we hurry we can catch up!” she demanded.
That other head better start doing me some good, ‘cause otherwise it’s just there for people to stare at. And everyone was staring. Beats me why.
“What?” Oksana finally asked.
“No,” I repeated. “No, as in neit, nien, no way Jose, just forget about it. En. Oh. No.”
“You’d let them get away?!” She was shrieking now. “If we don’t leave now we’ll never catch them!”
“If we hadn’t attacked just before sunrise they’d be plugging along without knowing they’re being followed!”
Katya winced at the reminder of her goof. Great. There went my only ally in this godsforsaken wilderness. “We need to plan!” They probably weren’t going to listen to me, but oh well. I had to at least try.
“Then what would you suggest?” Ivan asked. He was calm, reasonable, and making sense. Then why was it so annoying?
“Well, they know Katya’s chasing ‘em, right?” They nodded, although they obviously wanted to know where I was taking this. Honestly, so did I. I’m used to being a co-conspirator, but not the planner. “Then she’ll attack again.”
“There’s... no guarantee it will work better this time.” Katya was quiet, but at least she had the guts to admit she’d goofed. Wha hoo.
“Right! They’re expecting one cen- narod, not a narod and three back – ” Anastasia barked. Stupid mutt.... “ – five back ups, three of them flying.”
Thank the dragon, the light bulb finally went on for them!
“Hold your horses, people. One more thing.”
“Together we can free our kin. What more needs to be planned?”
A way to remove my fist from Oksana’s face.... “The little fact that any humans that get away are going to run straight to their leader and report the fact that there are monsters running around the countryside that need to be killed.”
“They’ll have to escape first,” Katya added.
Wonderful. They’re also psychopaths. Help. “Not necessarily. I don’t suppose you would’ve seen Crocodile Dundee?” I got some more blank looks. “Oh kay then. All right, d’you happen to know if Boris packed any wine or beer?”
Roughly twenty minutes to sunrise.
FINALLY! Things went as planned, for a change. When we caught up with the humans, Katya attacked first, charging into the tired group of men with a yell not quite gargoyle battle-scream, not quite human war cry, and most defiantly not English, Russian, or anything else I could understand. I’ve seen humans fall apart when they hear me use a battle-scream, and Jay’s complained about how freaky it is, but I never realized the impact it has until I heard Katya’s version.
No wonder a lot of the crooks are scared shitless of us.
The humans acted predictably. They jerked their exhausted horses – who most definitely wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else – around, to find a monster nearing seven feet tall pounding towards them with a big ass ax, glowing the same blue as the monster’s eyes. From our circling position about twenty feet up, even I wasn’t sure if she was just acting or if she was just as happy tearing out their throats.
When the beast-kin joined in the havoc, several just gave up and ran. Ivan followed with a flask of potent, heady wine (did I mention Boris believes in packing everything?) to give them a good dousing (it still surprised me that I even needed to suggest it. Must be Steve and Frank’s influence). Oksana and I joined the fight with our own battle-screams, and it was pretty much a given conclusion.
We kicked some major ass, captured us some humans, and gave ‘em all a good bath before setting them free (with, of course, a ‘sporting few minutes before chasing after them’. They bought it though). Now all we have to do is calm down the kids and head for home.
Shortly before sunrise.
Hopefully not Russia for much longer
I wish I could say how close to sunrise it is, but my watch insists it’s somewhere around 11:56, so I’ll just go on internal alarms. The kids are free, the cage’s been converted to a wagon, and the Separated are preparing to spend the ride back as stone. As for me... I wanna get home. I’m done playing hero, I just want to be around the weird gargoyles that are able to joke and kid me and don’t look at me with this awed expression and start giving me titles I can’t even pronounce. I don’t think life in my clan could ever be termed normal, but that’s what I want.
To be home.
After I said my goodbyes, threw in as many warnings about the world wars and communism as I dared, and packed everything in the backpack, I said the magic words. I prayed that there would be something familiar at the end of the tunnel, but there was only darkness....
I never intended for the Narod (or centoyles, if you prefer: at this point, I could care less :) to be more than a one use extras. I got the picture during a particularly boring study hall and knew I had to write something, but they never managed to grab my obsession. So that means if for some wild fluke of insanity, you want to use them in your own fic or whatever, go right ahead. All I ask is that you tell me first, so I can link to it and gloat. Oh, and you can’t use the pic of Katya, ‘cause that wasn’t drawn by me.
Well, once again, many thanks need to go to my beta-reader, Datafage, who somehow puts up with my miserable first tries and whining about having to write more, ;) not to mention my spelling goofs. Thanks, chummer.
And if course, muchas gracias to Iria Nyte for letting me use her cool pic (if you didn't see it, just go back to the top. It takes awhile for it to load. But it's worth it!!!).
Also, a thank you and hiyas to Mendon, who helped me with names, not to mention the miserable history report that inspired the Russian setting, such as it was. (Famous battle cries in History: “For Queen and Country!” “Viva la France!” “Remember the Alamo!” “Thesaurus!”)
The first entry Part 1
The previous entry Part 4
The next entry Part 6
Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive
Any questions? Complaints? Screams of outrage that I actually consider myself a writer and/or dared to show this in public? Tell me! Send it all to Norcumi@backtick.net! I love mail!!!!
The picture of Katya was drawn by mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Therefore, it belongs to her and you can’t use it. Got it? Good.
Except for a bit of lore and the gargoyle race in general (which are respectfully used from the Great Mouse/Buena Vista without permission), and the centoyles (see disclaimer above) everything in here belongs to me. That means you can't use it without asking me first.