Change of Direction
She watched as the plumes of smoke rose up into the sky, carrying the peculiar stench of burned flesh. The whole village was burning, and perhaps the fires would consume the bodies before the scavengers came. She didn't particularly care if the human bodies were burned up or gnawed by the beasts.
Only a few moons before, there had been a clan of gargoyles living in the hills near this human village. But sickness had come to the humans, and when the Gargoyles didn't grow sick as well, the humans had blamed the Clan. Filled with hate, they had seethed, until some of them had journeyed into the hills, sought out the caves where the gargoyles had sheltered. They'd struck while the sun had burned in the sky, slaughtering the entire clan, even smashing the eggs. Some of the broken stone heads had even been brought back to the village and mounted on poles in the square.
The outrage of it had been horrible. But there had been nobody in the village to speak for the slain gargoyles, nobody to offer them reprieve or sanctuary. And the humans had shown no mercy.
Which was what she'd given them. After her spell to look into the past and see what had happened, she'd felt such a burning anger inside of her... It took practice to become a proficient archer while flying, but she'd spent long nights doing just that. It was why she'd been one of the better warriors and hunters of her clan. Between that practice , the human's night blindness, and the fact that they never seemed to expect and attack from above had let her shoot many of them before they'd even known what was happening. A few fire arrows into the thatched roof-tops had taken care of those capable of organizing a defense. She gave them the same mercy that they'd given the clan - none. Her arrows struck down the women, the children, and especially the men.
And so she watched the village burn. It should have made her feel better, more triumphant, but it didn't. The fires and smoke just reminded her of fallen Castle Wyvern, and her shattered clan.
"Quite an accomplishment, my blue one." D'Hoffryn's voice was mellow as he looked at the burning village. The fire glimmered on his eyes and his horns, catching and reflecting on his teeth.
She looked at him, and tried to smile. "I should feel that way as well. But... It just seems somehow lacking."
"Are you having second thoughts about the vengeance?" His eyes found hers, and there was a hint of menace under his almost fatherly question.
"No, it isn't that." She tried to put the feelings into words. "Their deaths - the whole village - it feels as if it has accomplished nothing. I feel as if I have missed something somewhere, something that would make this work more effectively."
"Ahhh, is that all? Perhaps I can help you then." He was smiling once more, and his hand was hot on her shoulder. "Come with me to Arashmahod, and study some more magic. Once you have some more spells, more tools to work with, you may be able to find something that feels more satisfying."
"How do we get there?" He'd not spoken of this to her before, only mentioned that she would be joining his family.
"I will take us this time. There is a small spell that you will soon learn that will permit you to pass from here to there."
With those words, his eyes changed, swirling into pools of ink that swallowed up the firelight and made her feel dizzy. The world felt like it was spinning, and she couldn't take her eyes from his. And then the smells of burned flesh and smoke were gone, and they were in a large cavern, and a soft orange light seemed to flow from the stones.
“Welcome to Arashmahod.” His voice was a smug rumble that echoed a little against the rough stone walls of a giant cavern. There was a dull orange light that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere – maybe the rocks? His hand was hot on her shoulder, but his tone was like that of a father speaking to their child. With a gentle pressure on that same shoulder, he began to lead her through the stony corridors.
She looked in fascination at the other beings that they passed, some with horns, or tails or vividly hued skins like gargoyles. Some of them even had all three, but there was no other with wings. Each of them showed respect to D’Hoffryn, as to a wise elder or a battle leader.
After a short while, they came to a chamber that was filled with shelves and tables that were covered with books and scrolls and even a few clay and stone tablets. Oil lamps burned, changing the soft orange light to something closer to amber or honey, and a corner of her mind wondered if this was what sunlight looked like. There was a woman with brown hair and light green skin with a pattern of darker veins at the table, staring at a scroll.
“Anyanka, this is another one of my new Vengeances. I hope that the two of you may study together profitably.” With a smile, he turned and walked away, whistling a cheerful tune.
Anyanka looked up, eyes widening slightly as she saw the wings. Her hands began to braid her hair, and she spoke, her voice holding no malice, only a curiosity as blunt as a hatchling. “I haven’t seen anybody else here with wings. And he didn’t give a name for you.”
“I’m a gargoyle, of course I have wings.” She tilted her head as she studied this woman. “As for a name, those are a human convention, not a gargoyle one. We call each other friend, or sister, or aunt.”
“What would I call you?” Anyanka had produced a slender cord that she was now tying off the braid with.
She shook her head, thinking once more of her Goliath, now lost to her forever. "Most of my clan called me blue sister. My mate called me his Angel of the Night."
“Hmmm… My mother tried to tell me to stay away from gargoyles. Something about they don’t wear trousers.” Anyanka’s voice held more curiosity. “Are they as impressive everywhere as the shoulders are?”
When it occurred to her just what Anyanka was hinting at, she felt very hot as her cheeks turned purple. “Gargoyles are proportionate. And there are very few adult gargoyles that are not close to D’Hoffryn’s height.”
“Ohhh….” Anyanka’s eyes glazed and blurred as she drifted into thought. “Can I have one?”
"The numbers of gargoyles are shrinking, due to the humans." She rubbed at her temple, once more seeing her clan shattered at her feet. “My whole clan was lost in a Viking raid.”
There was an oddly wistful quality in Anyanka's voice as she asked "Was he faithful to you? Your mate, I mean.”
"Absolutely. Gargoyles don't have the same amount of worry and fear of wandering mates that humans hold. And there wasn't another female of the clan who could catch and hold his eyes beside me." She knew that the last bit had sounded smug, but she couldn't quite resist.
“Lucky you.” Anyanka sighed, leaning her chin on one hand. “My husband… he chased after all sorts of women. Maybe I should have known, but I didn’t realize that he would keep… It hurt.”
“What did you do?” The chance to learn more was tantalizing, and if all Anyanka had done was weep and fret, then she wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be one of D’Hoffryn’s children.
“I cast a spell and turned him into a troll.” Anyanka shrugged as if the answer was fairly obvious. “Then D’Hoffryn offered me the chance to be here, to offer vengeance for other women scorned and betrayed and abandoned by their men.”
“So, you’re here to learn ways of making human men suffer horribly?” Images of the Viking raiders mingled with the hostile farmers and the angry mutters of the Wyvern guards, and the smug arrogance of Prince Malcolm.
“Yes.” Anyanka’s voice was almost smug.
“Maybe you and I will get along much better than I’d thought.” She smiled, thinking that she might be able to learn a few things from this woman.
“That would be nice.” Anyanka smiled, and offered her hand. “So, friends?”
Slowly, she reached out, her own talons gently closing around Anyanka’s fingers in the human gesture. “I think so. Friends.”
End Blue Angel’s Fall 2: Change of Direction