"Faith claims that she is something called a Slayer, that she has been chosen for an unfortunate and dangerous destiny," Thailog offered to the rest of the Los Angeles clan. "She also said that she has purchased the warehouse where we had been resting, the one used by the artist Keller."
"Do you believe her?" asked Corra.
"You say she is the Slayer? How interesting...." mused elder Tanglemane, her claws combing at the long twists and tangles of her hair. "I have heard that term before."
"So what is a Slayer? And is there more than one?" asked Pisce.
Tanglemane chuckled, "A warrior-woman. Empowered by an ancient working of magic, given strength, resilience and speed beyond any human. They fight demons and foul magic."
"What about gargoyles?" Amon looked to their elder.
"I have spoken to three of those who are to be guides to Slayers, and one Slayer, long ago when I was still a youngling of the clan. The Slayer told me that they protect those who can't protect themselves, that they protect from things that most humans no longer believe real. That she never attacked an unknown unless she had seen it attacking a human first. But other Slayers have been swifter to attack those who were not human."
"Can we trust this Faith?" fretted Capran.
"Slayers have never been known for being subtle. She has not attacked you, has she?" Tanglemane turned to face Thailog.
"No. She stated that she did not attack unless she was first attacked, or if she saw something attacking someone. She also said that from the looks of us by sunlight, she would rather not be picking fights with gargoyles," Thailog smirked.
"You believe her," Tanglemane turned the words into a statement.
"I believe that she gets into enough fights already. That she considers us dangerous. That if she had wanted to attack us, she would have already tried," Thailog offered.
"Sensible enough," Amon shook his head. "So, will we return to the warehouse and see if we can live with Faith in a way similar to how we lived with Keller?"
The resulting discussion was lively, loud, and lasted for several hours before anything resembling a decision was reached.
end part 1.
Faith took possession of the warehouse around noon. That sounded impressive, but it turned out to be no more than collecting a ring of keys from Penelope, testing them each - the little brass one went to the chain on the door, and the three identical silver ones went to the door itself. Faith then took her duffel into the building and looked around, feeling a sense of relief at having her place instead of a rented room with too-thin walls between herself and the neighbors.
Large portions of the interior were open space, broken with the occasional support pillar. The far wall was covered with layers of boxes, some of them no bigger than shoeboxes while others looked big enough that Thailog could have been standing upright inside with room all the way around him. Some of the boxes were labeled with collections of numbers and letters, but none of them meant anything to Faith.
She could recognize some of the equipment in the nearer areas, in front of the boxes. There were big sections of canvas, some of them set on easels. There were blocks of stone and collections of hammers and chisels and files. Another section had a potter's wheel, several shelves with an assortment of pots and vases and bowls, and a large blocky thing that might be some sort of oven-type thing. Faith thought the term for a ceramics-oven was kiln or kilt, but she wasn't quite sure.
A couple hesitant questions had produced the information that Jeremy Keller had been an eccentric artist, that he had a modest bank account and investment portfolio that went to his estranged son, but the warehouse and all the contents were of no interest, so it was being sold 'as-is'. That Keller had been the victim of a drunk-driver, who'd lost control and flipped their car into the front of a grocery store, hitting three people and causing another four to be injured by debris. Keller and one other person had died, the third now had a permanent limp, and the drunk driver would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Faith thought the drunk had got off lightly.
A much smaller area of the inside had been sectioned off into rooms, with a second floor and a storage area added in over the rooms. There were three upper rooms, one of them with a bed, one with a futon, and one with some rolled up sleeping bags and shelves holding clean sheets and blankets, as well as towels. The bedroom with a bed had an attached full bathroom with a rounded tub big enough to soak inside. Between the futon-room and the room with spare blankets was another bathroom, this one with a sink, toilet and huge shower, though no tub. The shower just might be big enough for a gargoyle. Below the sectioned bedrooms was an area converted to a kitchen, semi divided by long counters, some of the counter space with backless barstools. A few couches, chairs, and some end-tables and lamps rounded out the living area, with some bookshelves and area rugs.
There was no television. No big stereo, though there was a portable little CD player radio near the kitchen sink. There were some dishes, silverware, and assorted cups, but the refrigerator was bare of everything except a box of baking soda.
The first thing Faith did was arrange for the utilities to get turned back on, which killed a few hours. She did some sweeping and dusting during those hours, and made a list of what she’d need to buy.
She'd then made heavy use of the car that she'd rented for the week, buying some new clothing and a lot of groceries. She wasn't the world's best cook, but she could do some things, and it was a lot better that trying to find a restaurant or calling for pizza every time she was hungry.
"Not too shabby for my very own place," Faith grinned.
Tomorrow would be soon enough to get the things that Dick had left for her. For today...
For today she'd need to do a bit of cleaning. Not too much, for a building that had been shut up for over a month, it was remarkably clean.
Then again, she thought that there was a roof access. A roof access plus gargoyles hanging out on the roof...
Sure enough, the roof access had the exact same lock as the front doors. Faith had the suspicion that there was a fourth key to her place, and the fourth key was held by the gargoyles who'd been resting on the rooftop.
"Just how well did you guys know each other, and who's idea was it that they had the key?" Faith looked again at the non-living statues. And then she wondered just how gargoyles multiplied - did they have little gargoyles? Start out as statues and become alive? Grow from spores like mushrooms?
Snickering at the last one, Faith decided that they probably had no connection to mushrooms at all, and went back downstairs.
She wondered if they'd come back.
end part 2.
Faith slept late, waking somewhere around one in the afternoon. Making her way to the kitchen, she poured herself a bowl of cereal and started back upwards. This time, she was heading for the roof, to take a look at the area. Get a sense of the place, enjoy the sunshine… not look at the same inside walls. Maybe she’d sit near all the smaller sized gargoyle statues and enjoy her cereal.
Among the smaller statues were two big ones. Statues that hadn’t been there yesterday, but had been the first day she’d seen the place. In fact, one of them looked remarkably like Thailog…
“Wait, didn’t he say stone by day?” Faith moved closer, looking at the big stone shape. Same shoulder armor. Same long hair and proud nose, same square chin. Either it was Thailog, or someone had made a remarkably good imitation and put it onto her roof without waking her.
“Okay, that’s a bit weird.” Faith shook her head, and settled on a stone bench, looking at the two big shapes while eating her cereal. They didn’t talk, didn’t move, didn’t give any sign that they weren’t stone statues, just like the smaller ones. “Weird and a little creepy.”
The second statue-gargoyle was a female, and Faith thought that this one looked older. Her face had deep creases around her eyes and beside her mouth, as well as… Faith couldn’t find a better way to describe it than to say that her cheeks looked a bit like a dried apricot, sunken in and wrinkly. Her hair looked like dreadlocks to her waist, with big not quite flat earrings and a similar looking arm band. Her expression was the sort that looked stern and smart at the same time, the way that old time school teachers and governesses were supposed to look, or maybe like the not so evil queen mother in a fairy tale.
Faith decided that watching them just be statues was too weird. Especially when a seagull landed on Thailog’s shoulder. With a small shudder, she picked up her empty bowl and went back inside. Halfway down the stairs, a thought occurred to her – “I wonder what happens at sunset?”
Tossing the bowl into the sink, Faith decided that she’d just have to watch and find out. Until then, there was more cleaning to do for her new home. If she finished that and had nothing left to do, she could always start poking into those boxes. The down side of having her own place, by herself – at least, mostly by herself – was that nobody else picked up.
Faith finished taking care of all the dishes, and sweeping away the dust from the furniture and the floor, as well as using a vacuum over the carpet. She hadn’t been sure what to think that a vast majority of the dust was less the fluffy household dust and more something closer to powdered concrete. Maybe it had to do with Keller’s artistic ways, or maybe the gargoyles on the rooftop. She had towels in both bathrooms, as well as having made certain that there was soap and toilet paper. That had been more than enough cleaning for the day, and she’d gone up to the roof to watch the sunset, and see what happened with Thailog and his friend when the sun went down.
It was actually pretty neat to watch. First, it looked like hundreds of tiny cracks formed in the stone, growing wider with a hint of something that wasn’t quite light or dark. Then they seemed to flex, and the stone shattered away from them, not quite a direct fall but not quite an explosion. The shards reached a few feet away, with tiny fragments and dust going much further. At the same time as the stone shards popped away, the gargoyles both roared, their arms flinging backwards, wings and tails flexing. It was almost as if they woke up prepared for an attack.
Thailog was revealed as his dark purple with white haired self, and the older woman was a russet orange, with her hair being mostly grey with a few dark brown streaks and threads.
Thailog turned towards her, and offered a small smile, “Faith. Evening… have you been here long?”
“I was up here earlier, but it was a bit creepy just watching the pair of you be stone,” Faith shrugged. “So I came back up for the sunset and to figure out just how you go from complete stone – you had a seagull land on your shoulder – to flesh and blood.”
The older gargoyle made a small noise and glanced over her arms, “Should I ask how you know about the blood?”
“Those bony demons the first time I met him,” Faith pointed at Thailog and gave a small shrug. “They had wicked nasty claws, and got him more than a few times. He bled. And I bet it hurt.”
“It was not the most pleasant experience,” Thailog admitted.
“Fights with demons never are,” Faith shook her head. “So, does this mean the lot of you are coming back here, or are you just trying to figure out if I’m safe?”
Thailog chuckled, “I already know you aren’t safe. But I think if you were going to b a threat to us, you would have already acted.”
“I get into plenty of fights already, being a Slayer kind of sucks like that.” Faith leaned back against the bench, her eyes drifting over the waist high gargoyle statues that hadn’t changed. “And I have to admit that the idea of maybe a little back up has some appeal.”
“And it doesn’t bother you that we aren’t human?” the older woman asked.
“It would have freaked me out a few years back,” Faith admitted. “What should I call you? He’s Thailog” she tipped her thumb towards him, “but I don’t know what to call you. Hey you sounds a bit rude, you know?”
“Not all gargoyle clans have adopted the practice of personal names. In those clans, I would simply be called Elder. But our clan has used names for a few generations, though we don’t approach them in the same way that humans do. I will answer to Elder, or to Tanglemane,” she replied.
“There is still concern about you among the clan,” Thailog admitted.
“Makes sense,” Faith murmured. She didn’t want to admit that it stung a little not to be trusted. But this wasn’t personal, it wasn’t because of what she’d done, or because she was the second Slayer. It was because she was human, and humans had been a danger to gargoyles. “I can put together another first aid kit to keep up here, if… do you even use the same medicines, or are there things to stay away from for you that are fine for me?”
“Most work very much the same on gargoyles, we can watch for the exceptions if everything is clearly labeled,” Tanglemane assured Faith.
“Fair enough. I’ll probably stash it under the bench, where nobody’ll trip over it. I’m guessing someone has a key to the door,” Faith paused to see if either of them would say anything, and grinned as Thailog shifted his weight in what looked to her like a guilty tell. “Behave, clean up after yourselves, keep it down if I’m asleep, and we should all be five by five.”
“Very welcoming of you,” Tanglemane gave a small smile.
“Yeah, well… I might put some of you to work helping me figure out what’s in all the boxes. The place was sold as is, and there’s… a wall of boxes ranging from itty bitty ones to great big boxes. Some of ‘em have letters and numbers on them, but that doesn’t tell me anything,” Faith sighed, and kicked at a shard of stone that had come from one of the gargoyles.
“Probably not something to do while you’re sleeping,” Thailog gave a grin.
Faith considered that for a moment, and shuddered, “Probably not. Are we five by five?”
“I believe we have come to agreeable terms,” Tanglemane replied.
“And I think I might go with you for some of your patrols. If nothing else, you have knowledge that would be good for our clan to know, ways to fight these demons,” Thailog added.
“I already know that you’re good back-up in a fight.” Faith gave a sudden grin, “Thailog, know how to use any weapons?”
Tanglemane began to chuckle.
Thailog sighed, and stared at his toes a moment before mumbling, “Not of the older type.”
“S’alright,” Faith reached out, her hand resting on his elbow-spike. “Like I said, you’re already pretty impressive back-up, and I have the weapons. I can help you pick up a little. Crossbows are a lot like pistols.”
“Do you go patrolling every night?” he asked her.
“Unless I get beat up bad or have other stuff come up, at least every other night,” Faith admitted.
“Perhaps you could take tonight off and explain a few things to us instead?” Tanglemane asked.
“I guess I could. Maybe inside, so I can grab some books and maps?” Faith offered.
“Of course,” Tanglemane gestured towards the door.
Faith decided it felt good not to be alone anymore.
End part 3.
End Wings of a Prayer 3: Fragile Beginnings