Although Gargoyles were considered to be magical creatures, in truth they had little use for magic, and most liked it even less. The Geas 'Stone by Day, Flesh by Night' had been placed upon them so long before that the origin of it had long been lost in the mists of time. All they knew was that, at some point, they had been the victims of a curse that left them confined to night's shadows and rendered them helpless by daylight. Also, during the age of myth and magic, when sorcerers and wizards sought fame and wealth, many Gargoyles became targeted by mages who simply did not understand that the fearsome creatures of fable wished merely to live their lives in peace. Because of this, as time passed, Gargoyles grew to mistrust magic in all its forms.
Even when the form was that of a Gargoyle child.
Within most Clans, it was rare for a Gargoyle to be born with magic, but it did happen. Such hatchlings were usually regarded with fear and suspicion and many were ridiculed and rejected. More often than not, they ended up leaving the clan that did not understand them. Most became loners. But that was about to change.
Somewhere in Britain - 562AD
The young Gargoyle female looked fearfully out of her cave as the noises moved nearer. They had been going on for some time now and she was beginning to wonder as to their cause.
At first, it had sounded like a hunt. That wasn't unusual. She lived in a cave in the heart of the forest and deer were plentiful. Humans often came to hunt. Sometimes they made a lot of noise, other times they made no noise at all and she knew about it only when she caught the scent of fresh blood upon the wind. But those hunts were always swift and in the dead of night. Even the noisy hunts never lasted long, and were usually over before the moon rose. The humans would stay until they caught enough and then they would leave again. But not this time. This hunt had been going on for most of the night. Also, the sounds weren't quite right.
She heard bows twanging from time to time, but the sounds were harsh and hurried, not the quiet, careful shots she was used to hearing. Also, the men were crashing through the undergrowth. That wasn't unusual at the start of a hunt, for it served to drive the deer into motion, but usually the hunters quieted after the initial noise, so they didn't scare their targets away. It was almost as though they didn't care if their quarry escaped them. Or perhaps their fear was affecting their actions, making them clumsy and heedless of their noise.
That was what made her wonder if it was a hunt. Normally the hunters were bold and confident. But these men were afraid. The scent of their fear filled the night and she shivered as the scent became stronger for a moment, as a couple of the hunters passed only a few feet from the mouth of her cave. For a moment she was afraid that they would see her, but they passed by without incident and she relaxed again. Then the wind caught up their words and brought them to her, shocking her to her core.
"We'll have that winged demon soon enough. It will rue the day it harmed that boy."
"It has no place to run, not with its wing cut through. Throwing a stone at a child, the coward!"
Her shock became bewilderment tinged with fear. They weren't talking about her, they couldn't be. She had not been out of the forest since she had arrived, three moons earlier. She had harmed no one and her wings were fine. Somewhere in the forest though, another was not so lucky.
She hesitated for a moment, her compassionate heart warring with her cautious mind. She knew it was dangerous to leave the cave, and there was no guarantee that the creature the humans were hunting would accept her help. It could even turn on her, if it were so vicious as to strike down a child! Still... she well remembered the fear that had driven her into the forest. If she could ease another creature's fears, it would be worth the danger. At the very least, she should find out what was going on. She knew she was making excuses because she wanted to go. Still, they were valid.
With a soft sigh, the female moved slowly out of the cave. When she was a short distance from it, she turned and traced a swift sign in the air with one hand. The mouth of the cave shimmered slightly and vanished as though it did not exist. Turning again, the female began to follow the sounds of pursuit.
The young Gargoyle male pressed himself against the tree, panting for breath as he clasped one arm tightly with his other hand. The wound where the arrow had pierced his flesh burned like fire and he felt ill from the pain. He had to force himself to remain standing when all he wanted to do was curl up on the ground and go to sleep. If he did that though, he knew that he would never wake again. The humans would find him and they would have no mercy on him. Not after what he had done. Even though it had not been deliberate.
A twig cracked nearby and he looked around for the source, certain that he would see a human pointing an arrow at him. But there was nothing there. Breathing a sigh of relief, he collapsed against the tree again and winced as the movement caused pain to shoot through his body. He carefully eased the pressure from his left side and the arrow wound that was still bleeding slightly. There hadn't been time to see how bad it was, but he knew it couldn't be too bad. He was still standing. The wound to his wing was causing him more concern. It was throbbing and he knew the sword cut was deep. He would not be able to fly on it again tonight. It would heal during the day though. Provided he could stay alive that long.
The humans were coming closer. He could hear them thrashing through the forest towards him. Closer, a rustle of leaves had him looking up in fear again. This time, he knew he wasn't imagining things. He still couldn't see anyone, but there was a strange scent on the breeze. "W...who is there?" He silently cursed his faltering voice and the fear it held.
The rustling came again, directly in front of him and he flinched back. "P...Please... do not hurt me... I... I did not mean to hurt the child! Truly! He... he scared me and... I could not stop the stone..." His soft voice trailed off as he shook with the memory. He couldn't remember ever being so scared before. He was a Gargoyle. He was supposed to be strong and tough, but he didn't feel it.
Something brushed against his hand then grasped it lightly. He gasped as the world around him suddenly became overwhelmed by fog, the eerie mist leeching the colour out of everything except for the female Gargoyle standing in front of him. He blinked at her in shock and then looked down to where her hand held his. Completely lost, he looked up at her again. Only then did he notice the fear in her eyes. "W...who are you?"
She looked away, towards the humans making their way through the bushes nearby. "We have to go." Her voice was so soft he could barely hear it. Too stunned to even think about disobeying, he allowed her to lead him away.
As she tended his wounds, she told her story in a soft, halting voice that he found himself straining to catch. Her tale was short, simple and sadly familiar to him. She had been born with magic and the rest of her Clan had shunned and exiled her because of it.
He was the same.
Her 'curse', as she called it, was that she could create a shield around herself, another, or something inanimate. While the shield was in place, nothing could see through it. He did not doubt her story because he had seen her power in action. She had been shielding them both during their return to her cave. They had passed within inches of a hunter at one point and he had not noticed them at all!
His 'curse' was different and, as he told her sadly, not nearly as useful as her gift. She seemed stunned to hear it called that but, compared to his ability, it was. He could call stones. Usually though, he didn't so much 'call' them, as they came of their own accord whenever he was startled. More often than not, that caused a lot of trouble. He explained about how the little boy had startled him, and how his power had caused a stone to fly up and hit the child on the head, knocking him unconscious.
The female was curious. She had never met another of her kind with magic before. But she wondered why he couldn't control it. She was able to control her shields effortlessly. But it hadn't always been that way, she remembered. She hesitantly told him of the trouble she had caused when first learning to use her ability. How it had taken her some time to gain complete control over the shields. She had persevered only because she had needed them. They were the only protection she had after being exiled from her clan. They were part of her now and, she admitted thoughtfully, they were far more useful now that she knew how to use them.
The male looked at her in surprise for a long time before quietly admitting that his Clan had forbidden him to use his magic. He'd been taught to be ashamed of it. By the time he'd been exiled from his clan, concealing his ability had been second nature for him. It had never occurred to him that he should try to learn how to control his ability. The thought that perhaps his 'curse' could also be used as a 'gift' shook him as much as the same thought had shaken the female.
The two clan-less Gargoyles talked until dawn. When the first light of the new day shone down on the forest, it found two stone statues facing each other, smiling happily.
Somewhere in Britain - 578AD
The young male blinked down at the small hatchling looking fearfully up at him. "What... what did you just call me?"
The boy blinked. His fear eased at the tone of the older male's voice. Surprise, not anger. Surprise was good. He tried a hesitant little smile; ready to duck if it enraged the male like it sometimes had the males of his old clan. "Chieftain." His smile faltered as he wondered if he'd made a mistake. "You are my chieftain now, right? You... you did say that I could stay..." The older male's stunned look was starting to worry him.
The young male blinked and seemed to come out of his daze, although he still looked rather distracted. "Of course you may stay! You are one of us now." He paused, as though struck by his statement. "One of... us..." he repeated softly, more to himself than to the child. Shaking his head, he smiled at the boy. His hand reached out and he lightly ruffled the child's hair. The boy smiled and relaxed, leaning into the gesture. A week earlier he had whimpered at the same touch. The young male's smile widened.
He was still smiling when he entered the cave a short time later. Crossing to his mate where she stood fussing over their egg, he embraced her. "Well, what has put you in such a good mood?" she laughed as she leaned back against him.
"The new hatchling just made me realise something." He turned her around in his arms so he could look into her eyes. "When did we become a Clan?"
The female blinked. She started to reply, but then paused to consider. Her eyes widened and she looked at him in shock. "We are!"
He smiled wryly and nodded. "Yes. I have no idea how or when it happened, but we are definitely a Clan now. Not only that, but the new hatchling apparently considers me to be... the Chieftain."
"Well, of course you are! Who else would it be? It is because of you that all of us are here, safe and sound." The amused voice came from the mouth of the cave. The two Gargoyles broke apart to peer into the night. They relaxed when they saw one of the older males. They had rescued him from a sticky situation. He had been up to his neck in a swamp bog. He had been the first to join them, but he had not been the last. Word had spread surprisingly quickly about a group of Gargoyles that welcomed not only Gargoyles with magic, but also any Gargoyle who wanted to join them.
"I did what needed to be done, no more, no less." The young male shrugged, but the older male shook his head, smiling slightly.
"We all know that is not true. You two could have left me to die. Even after you got me out, I was surprised that you let me stay, especially since I do not have any magic. It was the same for all the others. You found them, or they found us, and they stayed. We became a Clan without your realising it, and you became a Chieftain the same way. Accept it and give up trying to get out of it." His dark eyes twinkled with laughter and he smiled broadly at them.
"I have no choice, do I?" The young male sighed, smiling slightly.
"None whatsoever," his friend cheerfully agreed.
Somewhere in Britain - 788AD
The adult Gargoyles gathered around the fire, looking serious. The Chieftain was the first to speak. "That makes five now. Five hatchlings to be born since we became a clan. All five were born with magic, and all five have gifts related to those of their parents. This proves it. The magic does follow bloodlines, as we suspected."
The eldest of the group, a magic-less female who had been exiled from her clan for daring to tell her quick-tempered chieftain that he was an idiot, smiled slightly. "I do not know why everyone is so upset about it. We have discussed this before and we all agree that, just because our kind have always done something in one particular way, it does not mean that is the only way to do it."
She looked around at the group and her smile became astonishingly gentle, considering how sharp her tongue usually was. "We all know what it was like to grow up not knowing who our parents were. Being looked after by everyone in the clan. Some of us were luckier than others, and there was at least one adult who seemed to love us, but for others, the adults seemed to see it as just another duty. All children need love and care. They need someone to hold them when they are afraid and comfort them when they are sad. We can all still guide them, watch over them, and teach them what they need to learn. But I say we do it differently to the other clans. So they keep all of the eggs mixed in together so no one knows whose egg is whose. So all the adults care for the hatchlings equally. Who says that is the way it must be done?"
Everyone was nodding in agreement. They had discussed this before. But before they'd always been too reluctant to make the change. The Chieftain looked around. "So... are we decided then? Will we keep track of parentage from now on? Will we raise our hatchlings more independently? The humans call it 'family'. That seems like a good word to me. All in favour, raise your hand."
He looked around the circle. As one, all the adult members of the clan raised their hands.
"Family it is."
As they were preparing for their day in stone, the Chieftain embraced his mate from behind and looked over her shoulder at their son. He smiled. "I am glad the others agreed. I rather like looking after this little one. When he is not disappearing on me," he added with a soft laugh.
His mate laughed with him. "He has more control than I did at his age. More power too," she admitted more quietly. She held the little one close as she leaned back against her love. "All of the hatchlings are stronger in their gifts than their parents, have you noticed?"
"Yes. I think it is because their parents know how to control their gifts." At his mate's questioning glance, he rested his head against hers. "As we use our magic, it gets stronger. What if that effects the strength of it in the hatchling?"
The female nodded thoughtfully. "So... every generation should have stronger magic..."
The two turned and looked at each other as they realised the implications of that for the first time. "Our clan... it is going to be very important some day," the female whispered, almost afraid.
The young chieftain kissed his mate lightly and smiled. "It already is, my love. It already is."