An unnamed castle, Britain - 1084
"When darkness fills the land and wild winds fill the skies,
There shall come to Ravenstone a child with golden eyes.
On raven's wings to soar, through raven's eyes to see.
In stone his life, in stone his gift, in stone his destiny.
But he shall be the last to stand in Ravenstone's great hall.
For it shall be within his time that Ravenstone shall fall.
Sorrow shall weigh upon his heart and no peace shall he find,
Until love's light can pierce the shadows deep within his mind."
The female Gargoyle sank to the stone floor in exhaustion as the prophecy ended. The chieftain of their small clan gently lifted her in his powerful arms. He nodded to the human knight who ruled the castle, before carrying his mate out to the battlements for some fresh air. She leaned against his broad chest gratefully, trying to catch her breath.
It was the most vivid vision she had ever seen, and the most detailed prophecy that had ever come to her. She had never felt the magic flow so strongly before. She had also never before been so certain that the prophecy would come to pass. Although, she had a feeling that it would not be for several centuries. That in itself was unusual. Her gift usually showed her fleeting visions or prophetic warnings about things in the near future. No, there had been nothing ordinary about this vision.
Her eyes closed as her exhaustion drew her into sleep. When she awoke, she would remember dreaming of a young male Gargoyle with serious gold eyes and hair and wings as black as the golden-eyed raven perched on his shoulder.
Back in the great hall, the knight looked thoughtful. "Ravenstone..." He slowly smiled.
Ravenstone, England - 1508
The cruel winter wind howled outside the ancient stone building, its mournful cry becoming more distinct as the front door burst open. A swirl of wind-borne snow, a blast of frigid air, and a tall figure stooped from the cold, entered the main hall. The figure struggled to close the door, needing all of his considerable strength to prevail against the determined wind. As soon as the door was firmly closed though, he did not pause to catch his breath, or greet any of the hall's occupants, or even to remove his cloak. Instead, he strode swiftly across the hall towards the stairs.
A slender figure stepped in his path, her hand rising automatically to rest on his chest as she stopped him. He looked down into her sad, weary eyes and knew. "No..." He shook his head, attempting to deny the truth that he could read in her sweet face. He tried to move past her, but she moved into his path again, her eyes catching his and refusing to break the contact.
"She is gone."
He could barely hear her soft voice over the pounding of his heart against his ribs. A strange sort of fog seemed to surround him, blanketing him so that all sights and sounds were muted. As if in a dream, he moved to the stairs; the female letting him pass with an understanding sigh. He didn't notice the awkward climb, or the long walk down the hallway, but he did notice the boy sitting huddled against the wall outside the room.
The boy was barely six years old and small for his age. His dark hair was a tousled mop on top of his head, with one lock falling continuously down over his dull brown eyes. He was dressed like all the other servant children in the castle in a simple tunic over coarse breeches with the sturdy shoes that the castle's Lord provided for all of his people, servants and tenants alike. But there was something different about this boy. The young male had noticed it the first time he'd met the child, but it had taken some time for him to work out exactly what he was sensing. The boy had the feel of magic about him.
The young male stood staring at the child for what seemed like forever before the boy looked up.
For a moment the child did nothing but stare in shock, but then his eyes narrowed with fury. He flung himself forward, his small fists striking whatever was within his limited reach. As he lashed out, his eyes screwed up tightly against the pain and he cried out in a wordless, keening cry. For several moments, the child raged without pause until finally, his strength spent, he fell back against the wall. Glaring at the figure, he spat out, "She's dead! Mama's dead! You said you would be back in time! You lied! You all lied! Now she's dead! It's your fault! I know it's your fault! I'll never forgive you! You killed her! She's dead and you killed her! I hate you! I hate all of you!" Turning away, the boy ran down the hallway. The figure closed his eyes and released a heavy sigh, but made no move to follow.
A hand dropped onto the figure's shoulder. "Do not take his words to heart, my friend. He is in shock. At such times, humans often say things they do not mean to say."
The figure shook his head, his eyes filled with anguish as he turned to look at his long-time friend, the current Lord of Ravenstone. "No, he is right. It is my fault. I took far longer than I should have. Because of me, his mother, my dear friend, is..." His voice broke and he turned away, his talons clenching around the vial of precious herbs that he had flown halfway across the country to get.
"No. It is not your fault." The female who had stopped him earlier approached. She lightly touched her hand to his chin, lifting his face until their eyes met. A sad smile rested on her face. "You did not send her out into the storm. You did not cause her to lose her way in the snow. You did not cause her to become ill, or to keep silent about her illness until it was too late to do anything for her."
Her gentle hazel eyes glimmered with unshed tears. "You went out into the snow to look for her as soon as you realised she was missing. You found her and brought her home again. When you learned she was ill, you braved the raging storms to fetch the herbs that had only a slight chance of healing her. You did all that you could. Do not blame yourself for that. If you seek to blame anyone, then lay your curses upon me, for it was my healing that failed her."
"No!" The protest sprang to his lips instinctively and he hesitated, shaken by the realisation that she was right, and yet he knew in his heart that she had done everything in her power to help. She was not at fault. Did that mean that he was not either? He did not know and, for the moment at least, it did not matter. His mind shifted to more important concerns. "The boy... he is upset. He should not be alone."
The female smiled gently. "I will go to him."
The young female Gargoyle moved off down the hall and the young male found himself turning to watch her progress. How was it that he had never noticed before how calm and gentle she was? He immediately became disgusted with himself. It was hardly the time to be noticing something like that!
Something of his roiling emotions must have shown on his face because a soft chuckle came from behind him. "She is certainly something. She is also right, you know." The young male turned in confusion to his friend.
Lord Ravenstone smiled slightly. "It is not your fault. As usual, you are being far too hard on yourself. No one else thinks anything of the sort!"
The young male turned away, staring down the hall. "The boy believes it."
"He is young. Be patient with him. Nargoth will understand the truth when he is older."
Ravenstone, England - 1520
"No! Nargoth, stop! Do not do this!" Lord Ravenstone's voice was almost drowned out by the rapidly rising wind, but he refused to give up on the boy who had been like a son to him for the past twelve years. As he stared in shock at the young man standing so calmly on the other side of the battlements though, he was forced to acknowledge what he had, deep down in his heart, always suspected. The streak of cruelty he had glimpsed every so often over the years was just a small sample of the evil that the embittered young man was capable of.
Nargoth's eyes gleamed with fury as he glared at the aging Lord who had always treated him with such pity it made him nauseous. "Why should I stop? He cost me my mother! It is time for him to pay! We will soon see how he likes losing someone precious to him!" His lips twisted into a cruel sneer as his muscles tensed in preparation for movement.
"No! Nargoth! It wasn't his fault! He did everything he could! As did I! Would you see us both punished for something that was beyond our control?" The female Gargoyle struggled in the grasp of the young male, but he held her securely and she could not break free.
"I would see all of you wretched beasts destroyed for what you have done to me! Starting with this one!"
The two Gargoyles gasped in shocked horror at the youth's words, but it was his actions that caused the female to cease her struggles and flinch back against her mate in fear. Throughout the years, they had both sensed a dark magic growing somewhere near, but until that moment they had never guessed at its source. Now, as Nargoth raised his hand and the mage-wind responded to his command, they knew. They were looking at it!
Nargoth had obviously found the ancient grimoires kept in the castle library. The Gargoyles had gathered the books over the centuries, from all of the Dark Mages and evil spellcasters who had attempted to invade the castle in the five hundred or so years since its construction and the Gargoyle Clan's arrival. The books contained much power; all of it twisted and moulded to serve evil.
As they looked at the youth preparing to cast their precious egg into the heart of the windstorm, the two Gargoyles knew that the power had corrupted the once happy child by feeding on the pain and rage that the death of his mother had brought him. He had long since passed any point of return. There could be no reasoning with him now. Still, for the sake of the friendship he had once had with the boy's mother, the male Gargoyle tried.
"Nargoth! Listen to me, please! This is not the way! If you seek revenge, take it out on me, but not her, or the innocent life that has yet to see this world! Kill me, if you would, but spare them! You know they don't deserve this!" When the youth merely laughed, the male knew he had failed to reach him.
"You still do not understand. It is not your death I seek. I wish to cause you the same pain that you caused me!" The young man's eyes gleamed and he suddenly whirled, his arm flinging the egg, the helpless, fragile egg, into the wind!
Three voices cried out. It was all the human Lord could do, but the two Gargoyles tried to do more. They launched themselves forward, trying to fly in the powerful winds that buffeted the castle. But the young mage merely laughed and waved his hand again, increasing the power of the winds until the Gargoyles were forced to sink down to the battlements again in defeat. They clutched each other in despair as they watched their oh-so-precious egg being tossed through the air, moving ever nearer to the dark heart of the maelstrom. Once it entered, they would never see it again. Their son or daughter would never live! The thought pierced the shock and pain in the young male's mind.
Glorying in his certain victory, Nargoth laughed. He didn't notice as, one by one, the stars darkened as though they were giving their energy to a greater purpose. Lightning flashed through the air as the winds howled, their force causing the stones of the castle to tremble. The bellowing roar caught his attention a moment before he registered the stone shifting beneath his feet.
As the stone became liquid and flowed over his boots to trap him, he gasped. He struggled against the impossible bonds and then gazed in shock at the young male Gargoyle, standing strong and tall in the midst of the whirling winds.
There was a faint golden aura around him as the winds swept by without touching him. His eyes glowed molten gold with sparks of red and, when he stretched his massive wings to their full width, the mage was stunned to see that the usually dark grey feathers were now a deep gold. Raising his head, the Gargoyle released a second cry. The mage's eyes widened as he felt the magic that he was drawing on stir in response to the creature's call.
"No! You cannot stop me! I will not allow it!" Nargoth raised his hands, intending to increase the winds even more, to a point where not even the powerful Gargoyle chieftain could stand against them. But he paused as the female Gargoyle suddenly uttered a startled cry. She was looking up at the egg. Thinking that it had surely entered the maelstrom and the battle was won, Nargoth looked up. He gasped in shock. The egg was glowing. It was also hovering, unmoving, only a few feet from the magestorm's heart.
At first, Nargoth thought it was the male's power affecting the egg, but when he glared at the young chieftain, he realised that wasn't the case. The young male was just as surprised as Nargoth! But there was more to come.
It started with a single pebble. The pebble rose up and flew to the egg, where it began circling. The pebble was joined by another pebble, then another, then a larger stone, then another even larger stone, until the egg was being circled by a band of stones. The egg glowed. The stones glowed as if in response. They began to whirl faster as the band divided into two. The bands begin to shift vertically as well as horizontally, moving faster and faster until it appeared as though the egg was completely encircled in stone. Throughout it all, the egg never moved. It was as though the winds were nothing but the slightest breeze. Then the egg began to descend. The encircling stone protecting it from the howling gale that could do nothing but pass by harmlessly.
"No!" Nargoth raised his hands. The male Gargoyle leaped towards him, but the wind slowed his movements and he was only halfway across the battlements when a streak of black raced from the shadows to the mage, using the wild wind currents effortlessly to build its speed.
The mage cried out as something struck him from behind. He crumpled to the ground in pain, his hand lifting to the back of his neck. He stared in shock at the blood covering his hand. His blood. A low croaking sound made him look around. A raven stood on the stone behind him. It glared balefully at Nargoth with shining gold eyes. Gargoyle eyes.
For as long as anyone could remember, there had been ravens living in odd places all over the castle. At first, Nargoth thought that one had simply been caught up in the winds. It had been a mere coincidence that it had struck him. But those eyes... He could not look away from them. They were not the eyes of a raven.
The raven's gaze suddenly shifted, releasing the stunned mage from their hold as the raven looked up. Nargoth instinctively followed the creature's gaze and was stunned to see that the egg had almost made it back down to the battlements. Scowling, he prepared another spell. If the mage-wind hadn't worked, then he'd just have to do it the old-fashioned way. He'd boil the egg with a fireball!
Before he could release his spell though, the stones encircling the egg began to slow. Suddenly, they whipped away from the egg, heading for the mage! He had to duck to avoid being struck by the flying projectiles. His loss of concentration caused the winds to drop for a moment. In that instant, half a dozen large black forms took flight. The ravens surrounded the egg and, to the shock of the four watchers suddenly began to peck it savagely!
Nargoth laughed. "It seems even the ravens want to get rid of your egg!" He lowered his hands, enjoying the sight too much to want to interfere. He did, however, set a shield spell so the Gargoyles could not approach the egg. He didn't want them to stop the ravens.
The two Gargoyles watched helplessly as the birds pecked at the egg. The female cried out as pieces of the stony shell began to float to the ground. But the male tensed, the look in his eyes suddenly turning thoughtful. He pulled his mate close and moved his head next to hers. To Nargoth it looked as though he was consoling her, but actually, he was whispering to her. "How could ravens peck through a Gargoyle egg?" The female's eyes widened as she realised what he meant.
Gargoyle eggs are made of living stone. They can be broken only by tools capable of breaking stone, like mallets or chisels. No bird's beak would be strong enough. There was only one time when the ravens would have any effect on the egg. When it was already hatching! The birds weren't trying to destroy the egg, they were trying to hasten the hatching so it would be over before the mage even realised that it had begun!
Nargoth cackled in glee as the stone egg began to crack. "Not long now!" He had barely finished speaking when the stone egg broke open; the outer shell falling to the ground as the raven's gathered in even more closely. The mage was laughing so hard that he didn't notice as the ravens started to descend. The birds were struggling to keep a hold of the small Gargoyle hatchling they held carefully in their talons.
When the group landed, the six ravens were joined by the seventh, the one who had attacked Nargoth earlier. As one, they turned and glared at him. Sensing their eyes upon him, he glanced down. His laughter died off to a choking gasp.
Six of the birds were ordinary ravens with ordinary bright black eyes. The seventh raven, the largest of the group, had golden eyes. In fact, its eyes were identical to those of the Gargoyle hatching sitting calmly in the middle of the ravens, his black hair and feathered wings still damp from being in his egg.
Nargoth stared in shock at the child for a long moment before his eyes narrowed in rage. "So... it seems those birds weren't trying to destroy the egg after all. They made a mistake if they thought you'd be safe from me if you were out of your egg though. That just makes you all the easier to destroy!"
The furious mage raised his hands, but he never got a chance to complete his spell. The ravens cawed and the little hatchling blinked before he made a soft cooing sound. Behind the mage, a large stone rose into the air. The baby laughed and clapped his hands happily as the stone moved forward just a little before dropping down. Right on top of Nargoth's head! The mage collapsed unconscious to the ground, his spells dying out as his magic faded.
Lord Ravenstone blinked at the small hatchling in shock. Before he could say anything, the two adult Gargoyles had rushed to their child, the female swinging him up into her arms. He snuggled against her happily as the ravens watched calmly, showing none of their usual wariness around the larger winged creatures. The male Gargoyle looked thoughtfully at them before nodding. "Thank you for your assistance, small cousins." The ravens cawed once, as though in reply, before taking to the air and flying off into the night. All except one.
The largest raven flew up, and circled for a moment above the three Gargoyles. Much to the male's shock, the raven then swooped down and landed on his shoulder! He sat there calmly, blinking down at the small hatchling. His odd golden eyes began to glow. The adult Gargoyles watched in stunned fascination as their son laughed up at the bird, his eyes glowing as well. When the glow faded, only the child still had golden eyes. The raven now looked like any other raven. The two Gargoyles traded a glance as Lord Ravenstone hesitantly approached, keeping a wary eye on the unconscious mage.
"Would one of you mind telling me what just happened?"
The young male allowed himself a small smile. "Which part?"
Lord Ravenstone smiled wryly back. "The part where your egg suddenly developed powers the like of which I have never seen before. Quite an accomplishment considering some of the things I have seen your Clan do," he added thoughtfully.
The female also looked thoughtful. "Yes, it is very unusual for a hatchling's powers to show themselves so suddenly, and at such an early age. However, it is not unusual for a gift to reveal itself in a time of danger. Indeed, that is how many of our Clan first learned of their talents."
"True. But I was actually referring to the gifts themselves. At least... I am right in thinking your young one has more than one power, am I not?" Lord Ravenstone asked quietly. "He called the stone, he guided the egg safely through the wind and then there was..." He waved his hand at the Raven still perched on the male Gargoyle's shoulder. The male blinked at the Raven as though he'd completely forgotten about it being there.
"Ah. Yes, he definitely has more than one gift. The calling he gets from me." He smiled proudly at the child in his mate's arms before looking up into his mate's beautiful hazel eyes. "The guiding... that would come from your line, my love. But..." He frowned slightly and eyed the raven again. "I must confess, I have no idea where the raven comes into it."
The female held the precious child close and looked worriedly up at her beloved. "I have heard of it. The gift is called the Spirit Sight, and it has not been seen in this world for some time. It is a very rare gift that is said to come from one of the oldest of the old magics. It allows a being to look through the eyes of another, usually an animal with which the being has a strong bond."
She looked down at the child, her voice growing soft. "My mother knew a human witch with the gift, and she told me of it. As far as I know though, it is only human magic-users that have it. I have never heard of a Gargoyle with the gift, until now."
Her mate shrugged and smiled slightly, a smile tinged with sorrow. "That does not mean it has not happened before. Our kind is not exactly known for keeping track of such things, after all." The female nodded in response.
A groan from behind them interrupted their discussion and made the three adults turn around. Nargoth was still unconscious, but he was beginning to stir. Lord Ravenstone shook his head. "We need to do something with him." He sighed heavily, sorrow in every line of his body, as he seemed to sag. For a moment, he looked every one of his sixty-four years. "I should have known..." he muttered, too quietly for any other human to have heard. But then, his companions were not human.
The male Gargoyle rested his hand lightly on the human's shoulder. "Do not blame yourself, my friend. We have sensed the dark magic growing for some years now, and yet we did not recognise the source until tonight." He returned his attention to the unconscious youth and his sigh echoed his friend's. "To think that it should have come to this... But there is nothing to be done now. He has made his choice and must pay the price for his actions this night."
Lord Ravenstone nodded wearily. "Death?" he asked softly. It was a high price, but a fair one considering what could have happened. The two Gargoyles knew it, but still they hesitated. The Death price might have been the way of other clans, but it had never been so with theirs.
The male knew of the risk. To send the young mage away would surely serve as a catalyst for the evil within him. It would grow, consuming him even more than it already had, since he would have two reasons instead of one to hate the Ravenstone Gargoyles. There was no doubt in the young male's mind that Nargoth would return. He would surely be more powerful too. But, as he looked down at the happy child in his mate's arms, the male knew it was the right decision.
He could not bring himself to make the death judgement on the son of a friend. It would also be going against everything their Clan believed in and would cause division and confusion. As long as their Clan stood together, the young chieftain was confident that they would be able to counter anything the young mage could ever throw against them. Especially when the newest member of their Clan had the strongest magic the male had ever sensed in a Gargoyle.
The female nodded, her eyes shining with confidence in her mate and with her own belief that his choice was the right one. Lord Ravenstone managed a slight smile and nodded his agreement. "I'll make the arrangements immediately."
Later that night
The young male prepared for the first light of day in his usual way. First he made sure that the rest of his clan were in their positions, then he gathered his mate in his arms and they stood together to await the coming dawn. Tonight though, there was something different. Tonight, for the first time, another joined them.
The tiny hatchling lay sleeping peacefully in his mother's arms, his black wings folded around him like a human baby would be wrapped in a blanket. The two parents looked proudly down at their child and marveled at how perfect he was.
The female leaned back against her mate, content. The male smiled and lightly kissed the top of her head, but his thoughts were distracted and she could sense it. "You did what you had to do, my love. It was the right choice."
"I know, in my heart. But my mind warns me that we have not seen the last of Nargoth. He will return and the next time it could be the entire Clan in danger." He sighed softly.
"If he does, we will face him together. We three, and our Clan with us. We are strongest when we are together and I do not know of any force strong enough to stand against our Clan."
"Yes. You are right. Thank you, my love. As always, you help me see clearly." He held her close, his mind and heart eased by her wise words. Together, they raised their eyes to the horizon in time to see the first rays of a new day.
The dawn's light shone upon the Ravenstone Gargoyles, turning their flesh to stone as it did every day. Normally, this change went unseen by anyone in the castle, for the Gargoyles perched in rooftop alcoves where no human could easily reach. Tonight though, the change did not go completely unseen.
Familiar the Raven watched with unblinking black eyes as the geas took hold. He waited patiently until every Gargoyle had changed, then spread his wings and glided down to take his chosen place on the shoulder of the Gargoyle Chieftain. He blinked down at the three statues, his mind reflecting on the events of the night.
He had not expected to be bonded in this way again. After his mistress's death, he had thought his days of magic were over. He had accepted his return to being an ordinary raven, even though the other ravens did not accept him. But then this place, these Gargoyles, had called to him. He had sensed their magic and been drawn to it. When the young one had called, all the ravens had heard and answered, but only he had the power to really help.
The raven had sensed the gift in the hatchling. It had been faint, a mere trace of power, but it had been enough. Familiar had done the rest. When the child was older, he would be able to sever the connection, if he so wished. Until then, Familiar would watch over his new master and the rest of the Clan. He had allied himself with the Gargoyles now and he would do everything in his power to ensure that they remained safe.