Sunset freed them from their sleep, and Thailog flung his wings and arms out with a roar. The waking cries of nine gargoyles echoed along the streets, startling a flock of birds to fly up and away, though they would soon settle down elsewhere to sleep.
"What did you decide about the woman?" Amon's voice carried through the night air, filled with other questions.
"She moves like someone who hunts, and with no sign of fear," Thailog began, uncertain how to explain the woman who'd called herself Faith. It would have been far easier if he was certain what to think of her himself. "While I was trying to follow her, I saw... two creatures, lean and bony things. They had killed one of the homeless folk."
"More demons," Corra hissed, talons flexing. "As dangerous as the humans can be, and less predictable."
"You attacked the demons, as any gargoyle warrior would do. What happened then?" Amon walked towards the edge of the roof, his arms folded and his wings pulled straight behind him.
Thailog felt himself smirking as he remembered how that had unfolded. "As it happened, she also attacked the demons, and she had a sword."
"A sword? But humans gave up on swords," yelped Pisce, the clan's only youngling, who still had a decade to go before he would be counted as an adult.
"She had a sword, and she knew how to use it," Thailog growled. "She wasn't quite certain where they were most vulnerable, but she did as much damage to them as I did, and took fewer injuries."
"What sort of injuries, Thailog?" Amon had a frown now, the worried look of a clan leader fretting over a possible weakness in his warriors.
"They had claws, and they were close to ten feet tall, with long arms. Little cuts. Any wound alone would have been nothing, but when you pick up a few dozen because they have such long arms and I had no weapon..."
"She didn't attack you after the demons," Once again, Amon wasn't asking. "What did happen?"
"She asked what I was, and why I was flesh then when I had been stone before. She was... wary, but willing to listen to what I
would say," Thailog replied.
"And what did you tell her?" Corra asked, looking over the city.
"Only truth, but not all the truth," Thailog moved to the little wall that ran around the roof, and sighed. "I said that I was a gargoyle, that we were another species. A species of dwindling numbers. That I don't know why gargoyles are stone by day. And that my name is Thailog, and she told me that she was Faith."
"Is she dangerous?" Tereza's voice was low, and she ran her fingers through her hair.
"Dangerous in that she is a confident and skilled warrior, yes. Dangerous to us? I'm not certain. I don't think that she'll make the first attack," Thailog murmured.
"If she knew that you had been stone and were now flesh, she saw us asleep. We must either find a new sleeping place or trust in her not attacking while we sleep," Amon shook his head. "I will not choose our fate without hearing what the rest of you think."
Thailog hid a wince as the argument began. "While you discuss this, why don't I go see if I can find where the woman is now and what she's up to. For my own thoughts, if she didn't come after us today, she's obviously not planning to do so unless something changes."
As he took to the air, he wondered if they'd have reached a decision by sunrise.
end part 1.
Faith walked along the sidewalk, feeling the stake in her boot rubbing against her anklebone. She was definitely going to need a better way to stash those. It was just too bad that stakes thin enough to hide by sticking them in her hair like those fancy sticks were too flimsy to use as anything other than a last resort. Also too bad that life didn’t work like that one television show with the immortal people carting around swords under their trenchcoats – all through the year, with no revealing long solid parts, no inconvenient metal detectors, nobody noticing that they’ve got a sword under their coat… But it would be a great trick if she could do it.
She felt the vampire before it attacked. It was lean and feral, mad yellow eyes glaring at her with straggly hair falling in messy dreadlocks to thin shoulders covered in a ragged shirt with a cracked peace sign. It looked like a scrawny, unwashed hippy protestor from a few decades back, and fought like crazy. Nasty claws, horrible breath… The initial pounce smacked her into a wall, giving her the momentary thought that maybe it was a good thing she didn’t have a bar of metal across her spine.
It wasn’t easy to kill. It writhed and clawed at her, leaving several gouges in the wall, some long slashes in her heavy denim jacket, a couple that had scored her shoulder underneath that, they’d rolled over a set of concrete steps that Faith was sure would leave bruises across her hips and elbows, as well as thumping her head against the wall. The damn vampire seemed to have a rubber spine and double jointed everything, and Faith had to stab it three times before it finally fell into dust.
“Sometimes, you shouldn’t give peace a chance. What sort of devious vampire thought turning political activists was a bright idea?” Faith wiped at her legs, hoping that no large bits of trash were clinging to her, and winced as the smaller cuts on the front of her shoulders stung. “Damn, now I’m bleeding…”
Those claws had caught her skin, drawn blood. Apart from the fact that God only knew what sort of nastiness had been on those filthy claws, the scent of blood would draw vampires and demons like nothing else. “Looks like patrol tonight will be busy…”
An hour later, she’d killed another ten vampires, two lamprey faced demons that stank of old seaweed and dirty gym socks, some sort of half rotted dog-lizard thing with six legs, spines along its back, and double rows of sharp teeth, and managed not to kill the drunken idiot who thought she was a whore. Her jacket was probably a lost cause, repeatedly slashed by vampire claws, covered in blood, vampire ashes, bits of rotting dog-lizard, and the damp muck that had been in an alley behind a bar – Faith really didn’t want to know what it was.
More frustrating, she could feel that something was following her. She just had no idea what it was, where it was, or what it wanted. That annoyed her.
She’d just have to take that annoyance out on the vampire lurking in that alley over there, the one dressed like a cheap tramp and looking about thirteen – damn but there were some sick bastards out there. It almost made her feel sorry for the vampire, or the girl that she’d once been. Not sorry enough not to slay, but…
Sorry enough not to notice the other vampires trying to circle around behind her until they’d blocked off the end of the alley. Almost a dozen of them, looking just worn and shabby enough to be ignored if they weren’t grinning just like they were now, and cracking knuckles of big hands and trying to loom at her, to scare her.
Damn, she hated getting surrounded.
End part 2.
Thailog had followed Faith for over an hour, watching as she fought and killed demons and vampires. She was a very skilled warrior, and he was certain that she was far stronger than a human woman should be, from the way that a few of the demons had been thrown into walls. Such a warrior could either be a deadly foe or a useful ally…
Movement caught his eyes, and Thailog frowned as he realized the movement was caused by more vampires. They seemed to be surrounding Faith, and he wondered what was drawing them to her. There weren’t usually so many that caught his notice in a night, but he had already watched Faith kill almost a dozen tonight. To see so many vampires now preparing to surround and ambush the woman… While it was sound strategy, he disliked vampires.
As the vampires tried to intimidate her, he swooped down, waiting until they were almost close enough to touch before he roared, knowing that the sudden sound would throw them off balance. He could take advantage of their surprise to claw and strike. One fell to ashes after he clawed across its throat, while the others reeled back, swearing and hissing.
“Nice timing,” Faith called, stabbing a vampire in the back with a sharp piece of wood.
“I thought there might be enough for me to have a few without depriving you of your fun,” He didn’t want to ruffle her pride by saying that she looked in need of rescue. Not only would that irritate most warriors, he didn’t know how she would react to such irritation. He also wasn’t certain it would be wise to admit to following her.
She laughed as she kicked a vampire, stabbing another who had tried to circle behind her in the same motion. “By all means, but get them while they last. You either need to dust ‘em quick or they scuttle away like cockroaches when someone flips on the lights.”
Between the two of them, they managed to kill all of the vampires, not letting any of them escape. Thailog was also certain that Faith was stronger than she should be, and harder to injure. He’d seen what vampire fists could do to humans, and Faith had been hit several times. None of her bones had broken, she hadn’t collapsed to the ground, gasping for air. One of them had caught his wing, leaving the joint sore and stiffening. It was nothing that the stone sleep couldn’t heal, provided nothing killed him before sunrise.
“This is the second time I’ve seen you out hunting for demons,” he commented, not quite facing her. “It seems like a dangerous habit.”
“Not so much a habit as a destiny,” she murmured. “And I can’t trade it in for a new one.”
“A destiny? How… odd,” Thailog wondered what she could mean by that. “Perhaps we should go somewhere less… exposed and talk?”
For a few moments, she considered him, her eyes full of emotions and danger. Then she gave a quick grin, “Lead the way.”
End part 3.
They ended up sitting on the top of an abandoned warehouse. As a gargoyle, Thailog liked the height and the feeling of the air over his wings, and it was isolated enough that Faith didn’t need to worry about people eavesdropping on their conversation. She was also fairly certain that there weren’t any demons or vampires in the warehouse at the moment.
After a few quiet moments, Thailog decided that he’d break the quiet. Glancing at Faith, he stated, “You mentioned a destiny when you said it wasn’t just a habit to hunt vampires. What did you mean by that?”
“I guess you already know that humans aren’t the only smart things out there, and you know about vampires and demons,” Faith began, pausing for a few moments. “Normally I have to start with covering that part to someone.”
“I’ve always known that humans weren’t the only intelligent beings, though the vampires were an unwelcome surprise,” Thailog admitted.
“Scattered here and there are people who fight them. Most of them are just… normal people, maybe better trained with weapons, and maybe they have someone who knows a bit of magic, but humans. Then there’s the Slayer. I was told that it’s supposed to be one Slayer in all the world, that it’s been that way forever. But I don’t know if I trust them about there only being one before B’s little accident and forever just means since before we started keeping records. For now, I’m the Slayer.”
“Little accident? One in the world… What exactly is a Slayer?” Thailog was frowning as he tried to follow Faith’s explanation.
“A Slayer is the Chosen one, picked by Fate or Destiny or whatever you want to call it. I lost at the cosmic dice. As a Slayer, I’m stronger, faster, tougher and I can feel the demons and vampires. All the better to hunt and kill them. It keeps going like that until I die and then someone else gets the job,” Faith was staring at her sleeve, fingers fiddling with a loose thread. “I don’t know how a Slayer is Chosen, but I didn’t have the chance to refuse. I was just stronger one morning. You can’t refuse, and you can’t quit.”
“Medicine is much better than it once was. How dead does someone need to be to make this work? If someone was treated in a hospital…” He let his mind shuffle through what he knew of medicine and treating injuries and accidents.
“She drowned, for a few moments. One of her friends gave her CPR and she pulled through, but that was enough to pass on the bad destiny. I wonder if that was the first time a Slayer ever had someone close enough and worried enough to try to save her when the odds caught up to her. A bunch of stuffy people who don’t much care for any given Slayer are supposed to keep track of the demons, to help guide and teach Slayers what they need to know. I was told there was only one Slayer, but if there’s more than one, why would we need to know that? I mean, if we think that we’re the only thing standing in the way of the end of the world, we might work a bit harder than if it was us and half a dozen other people across the world, you know?” One hand brushed over her stomach, and for a moment she was silent before whispering, “Sometimes it’s better not to know how bad injuries were. Maybe there’s more now.”
“How do you decide what to fight?” Thailog asked, needing the information to better protect his clan.
“Well, they generally get put on the ‘slay now’ list if they attack me, or if I see them trying to eat humans. The ones that are evil have… I guess an evil feeling to them, it makes my bones feel like they’re shivering. I didn’t get that from you guys. I like not getting the evil vibe from people, especially not when they’re all big, strong and have sharp claws,” Faith gave him a weak and lopsided smile.
Thailog had to chuckle at her comment, “I can see where that might be comforting. As I was told, we are warriors, meant to protect and defend our clan, our territory, and our allies. Now, gargoyles have fewer allies, and must hide from most humans.”
“So where do gargoyles come from? Did someone create your people with major magic, like Slayers were created, or… did gargoyles just happen, like how humans are here? God, or evolution, or aliens seeding the planet, or whatever,” Faith asked.
“The stories vary. Hudson once said that when the world was new, the humans were weak and in great danger, and so God took pity on them, and shaped some of the stones into gargoyles to defend them in the darkness. That this was why our flesh becomes stone, and why we seek to protect. Amon tells a different story, that when the earth was still being shaped and the stone that forms the bones of the earth was being split apart to form soil, some of the pieces were larger, and grew into the first gargoyles. A human that I once knew believed it was all a matter of evolution and science. As for the truth, who can tell? Gargoyles have existed for thousands of years of recorded history,” Thailog spoke, and as he gestured, his wings moved, causing him to hiss as the movement caused his wing joint to throb. “Blasted vampires…”
For several long moments, Faith was quiet, turning over his words and what she’d seen and felt from him. Her words were soft, “Allies are always good. Especially if there’s swarms of vamps like that running around. I bought that warehouse, the one your clan was sleeping on. Maybe we can watch each others’ backs.”
“I like the idea,” Thailog smiled, “and I will tell the others when I get home.”
“Might as well head back together, since we’re going to the same place,” Faith stood up, brushing at the back of her pants.
Both of them were hoping that they weren’t making a huge mistake, hoping that they had found someone that they could trust. Neither of them willing to mention their past failings and misdeeds, both ready to start fresh.
End part 4.
End Wings of a Prayer 2: Reaching Out.