I am a child of the night, a cross between two legendary creatures, and a murderer. I cannot stop running, and I will not stop running. It's not like anyone would have believed me anyway, so I should not feel any guilt. But I do, and I am to blame, for the fact that if I had acted before, another family would not be dead tonight. But it weighs on me, because I was afraid, and someone else paid the price more heavily than ever. So I keep running and I hope the sun finds me sooner than the assassins do.
Several centuries ago I was born in a clan of gargoyles in a small town in France. They called me ReyAn. From a small egg, I was born in the belfry of the church of St. Martin and the Condemned. I was pale, with hair like a bloody ruby, and eyes like a small lilac flower. I had small wings, a chubby tail, and fangs, and seemed like a normal gargoyle babe. Growing up, I took care of the gardens behind the high walls of the yard and tended a few farm animals that lived in the stables. We are taught to guard our territory as children and to learn to lead as young adults.
I liked my clan, more or less. My brothers and sisters had been intelligent, and brutal. I did not like to fight, and I hid with the clan elder and the only brother who was kind to me, Ronyan. He and his clan mother were refugees from a village near the border of France, but on the other side of it. His French was good, very much so, but his language lessons were part of his leadership training, and once I was discovered he had his lessons with the other rookery leaders. I was not permitted to train for our army, nor for any leadership positions.
Among my people, I am considered a freak. I am of two very different lineages, of two different species. Human doctors call such mixings in animals “mules,” as they are unable to reproduce, and their bloodlines die with them, even though their parents are compatible enough to reproduce. I look like my kind, walk, and talk like my kind. I even think like them betimes. That factor alone allows me to live within our clan fairly unmolested, although my mother and I live on the outskirts of our clan’s home. The people we protect have no idea we exist, although there was a television show about our kind. We are written off as fiction, myths, and called various, mostly unflattering names.
Ever since Goji, our Patriarch, was killed by St. Romanus and the Condemned many years before I was born, his head separated from his body and mounted upon the walls of the Church of Rouen, we have fled into hiding, most choosing the safety of slumbering in a stone cocoon encasing our bodies as opposed to seeking vengeance by terrorizing and burning villages, only to be hunted to extinction in their family lines. Those who chose to fight became larger, with longer necks, wingspans, and tails, and broader all over later became known as draconem, or dragons. Those of our blood who chose to slumber in stone became smaller, although no less powerful, and were known as gurgulio, and later in architecture, as Grotesques.
We are Gargoyles. We guard our homes. We persevered. We chose safety over outright war, yet now my clan reconsidered their passiveness all those centuries later, over me. Over who my mother chose. Over WHAT my mother chose, above all the eligible males who were offering unions and protection for not only their clan, but ours, as a chance of keeping the bloodlines pure and continuing to survive as a species. After my mamān was wooed and impregnated, my father was killed by his desire to protect Mamān and his unborn, me, from his own kind, and from hers. We spent many years in our little town, but after World War I we were decimated, and our ton destroyed. We were forced to have ourselves shipped to the United States of America, and determined permanent residency in Chicago with a cousin clan and their allies. We all had to learn American English at that point, but my mother spoke formal British English, so I speak both. I used my knowledge of languages borrowed from library book and changed my name to ReiAnne. I nearly was caught returning the books many, many times. I’ll never know why the Elders of Chicago agreed to allow me and mamān to stay with them, but we have been safe thus far… until a few days ago.
We change our sleeping places periodically, about every three days or so. If we wear heavy coats and hats, we can often appear as human, although years of inbreeding have taken their toll, and some of us are fairly disfigured, lending credence to the term “grotesque.” Sometimes we rent many apartments, from regular humans to outcast fairies to renegade werewolves. People with things to hide, and to hide from. We have many contacts in the modern world, mortal and immortal, many of which have saved us, or presented us with quite profitable opportunities. From our work as watchers, bodyguards, fiction cover models, muses for art, and enforcers, we have amassed such wealth that even the most rich, gold- and jewel- laden creature would envy. We take all the modern paper money, coins, the odd diamond and emerald, necklaces, earrings, and gold. We recently have also begun taking VisaGold, Mastercard, and our human computer wizard is working on something called a Pay- a- Pal. So odd, that just a few hundred years ago, humans relied on jewels, trade work, and paper money as the moderns do now on plastic and the “enter-net.”
As we found our place in this time, we have been able to pay for comfortable, guarded apartments and rooms where we could change and sleep without fear of discovery, using fencers and men of disreputable positions in society who deal in goods and monies to exchange the priceless gems we had for easier, more transferable, funds. We knew the shopkeepers were not cheating us, as no one dares lie to a gargoyle, but we were truly lost until Ronyan came across a young man, running from men who were chasing him. We protect the innocent; it is in our blood. So it came to be that we adopted this human, Wesley, into our clan, and he became our translator, and a friend to some of us. He and Ronyan are fairly inseparable, and an odder pair is rarely found. I cannot be near Wesley, out of my clan’s fear I may develop my father’s need for blood, and replacing Wesley would be nigh impossible.
These past few days, we had been living in a safe house, a once- hotel building on the outermost edges of Chicago, far from brightly glittering lights, and in a rarely visited area with vandals as exceptions. We had two floors of werewolves between the lower floors and where we slept. The werewolves were charming, and fascinating to watch. I enjoyed their presence and odd attentions immensely, and they in turn tolerated me, due to my clan. They allowed me to train with them, since I was not allowed to train with my brethren, and encouraged me to do what my mother didn’t want me to do.
I had been wanting to petition the Elders, again, for permission to join the graduating Evzōnos, our warriors, on their inaugural flight to the surrounding areas and training in a field until sunrise, which would mean being away from our safe haven, to prove that we were unafraid to do what was necessary. It would have been my graduation, if I had been born full blooded, as each trainee is vetted and trained for at least two to three hundred years before joining as full members. She believed that the Elders would never grant my request, and that I would cause our family more embarrassment. I believed it was an embarrassment not to try. Mamān never raised her voice.
“Non, ma cher. Les anciens ne le permet pas et ni la volonté I.” She spoke in French when she was upset; it wasn’t the only indicator of emotion she showed. Her slender, pale body barely moved. Only her wings shivered on her back. Tall, elegant, yet so fragile- maybe that is why my father fell in love with her. When I was younger, I saw a doe during a snowstorm. She looked regal, even in the blanket of white, and she reminded me forcibly of my mother, except for the eyes. I inherited my eyes from her, a pale, almost washed-out lavender that made humans gawk and stare. Mamān took a breath and stated in accented English, “Your wings would not be able to handle such a distance, petite.”
One effect of having a vampire father is that I do not have a full gargouille form, and had a noticeably smaller span than others my age. They tired if I had to fly over too long a distance, leaving me all- too- vulnerable in case of an attack. “Maman that is why I studied the martial arts with the werewolves so diligently, and…” she cut me off with a whirl and the snap of her wings spreading.
She snarled in creole, my father’s tongue. “Sainte Atemis, Bondye fanm, ban m' pasyans!”
I had cried “Damn your Blessed Goddess! And be damned yourself!” as I ran out the door and leapt through the opened window, I heard her intake of breath and then a sob before the rushing of the wind sang in my ears and the savage joy of pure adrenalin pulsed though my body. I was careless, and didn’t think anyone would be around to see me, nor did I actually care. I flew until I could go no farther, and fell in a small meadow, only She knew how many miles away from the safe house. If I could weep, I would have, but gargoyles have no tear ducts. I sat instead and listened to the quiet, whisper-filled air around me. Nearby, animals chittered and insects hummed undisturbedly. I contemplated my life so far, five hundred years of living with my clan and mother. Four hundred years of being covertly shunned, of being so conspicuous and of being hidden when potential mates came to woo my rookery sisters. I had found fair few of them attractive, but I would have welcomed any attention. I longed to be a part of the dances and engage affections with another. Ronyan hadn’t even looked at me after his private lessons were finished, and he wouldn’t be an option for me anyways, being a “close” clan brother. He had been initiated into the clan after the first fifty years or so, and became off limits to our rookery females, which truly was a shame. I wondered if even my mother would welcome his advances.
I sighed. I was being childish and selfish. I was sitting out in a meadow while my mother probably sat crying in our room with my baby quilt she made for me in her lap, mourning over my lack of gargoyle normality that caused us to be outcasts, and missing my father, her one true love. I had probably ought to return to her. I had been sitting long enough for my wings to recover, and stretched them out to my fullest span. I admired myself in my minds eyes for a moment, a dangerous, sinuous protector that gleamed like a fine spider’s web in moonlight, eyes a softer lilac than pastels could capture, with semitransparent wings and strong boning framing them, and hair as red and black as fresh hearts blood. I knew, however, that most gargoyles would see the hair, the skin, and the relatively small span and know I wasn’t pure, not fit to continue any blood line. I resembled my father, so I supposed, although I had never heard him described. Very odd, considering my mother claimed to be in love with him in defense of her condition.
My ears caught an unfamiliar noise, a shock compared to the stillness I was in, but I relaxed as I recognized the rustle of wings beginning to fold on a descent. I didn’t turn but acknowledged the newcomer with a nod of my head. Heavy footfalls came from my back and circled to my front. Leather creaked as he bent down to sit on a nearby rocky protuberance. How he managed a jacket around his wings, I’ll never know.
“Reianne. Your mother is worried. She asked me to come get you.” I felt his claws running gently through my hair, causing a curtain effect around my face, leaving it bare to him. I flicked my eyes to his face, and a jolt of fondness and a sense of loss ran through me. It was Ronyan. He had been the only one growing up who hadn’t excluded me entirely until he was forced to, and yet he almost never seeking me out, but here he was now. I knew why he hadn’t chosen any of the women from outside clans or even our host clan, I thought, but right now, what mattered was that he was here in front of me, when I needed a friend. That hope died when he continued, “The elders were looking for you. What were you thinking, requesting to be allowed to graduate in the Evzōnos? You would not be able to handle the pressure, and…”
I cut him off by jerking my head away from his paw and whirling around to get a running start for takeoff. White- hot anger and pain washed through me, and I unfurled my wings, but Ronyan was in front of me, suddenly and quietly. He swiped for my wrist, but I twisted and skidded to the side. He leapt at me, claws outstretched, and I twirled, slamming my tail into his torso with all my might. He grunted, stepped back, then pressed forward using his wings to try and knock me over. I slid to one side, using his wing to block his vision and leapt on his back like a small monkey would. I wrapped an arm around his neck, but lost my grasp and he threw me across the clearing with a bellow. I skidded on the dirt, grass, and rubble, coming to rest a ways away. Spots danced in my vision, and it hurt to breathe.
“UP!” I heard Ronyan roar, and I was suddenly forced to my feet, his face inches from mine. “YOU THINK YOUR ENEMY WILL GIVE YOU TIME TO RECOVER? AND YOU WANT TO JOIN OUR SOLDIERS…!” His tone went from that of an enraged bull’s bellow to surprise, and shock. When he had grabbed me, it gave me the leverage I needed to tear a thin strip of a boulder hidden in the grass, creating a crude but effective weapon. I had one edge to his throat, my free paw cupping his neck, claws gently pricking his skin and forcing his neck closer towards the shiv. I felt a rush of adrenaline, and of pride. I had done it! I had beaten the most skilled and most powerful gargoyle my clan had fostered and produced, and then… Suddenly I was scared, and ashamed of my actions. I had attacked my own friend, no matter how long since we had been together, who was only trying to help.
As I stood there trembling, he slowly slid his hands down my shoulders to my ribs, enveloping me in an embrace, a respectful, cautious hug. He looked fully into my eyes and breathed lightly, as though he had not just exerted a large amount of force and energy. He was happy, proud, and there as something darker, something undefinable but primal that made me warm and dizzy. I had never felt this way, but the novels of the time I read described an emotion called “lust,” and another called “desire” that I was sure were currently running through me, although I had no way of determining their accuracy.
Or… suddenly, a thought of being one of those many heroines that I spent so much time reading about and resenting for the ease at which such opportunities were presented, and I had one such here. The question was, should I take it? Would I?