Heart of Stone Ch. 21

bypsyche_b_mused©

"Of course we will." Ramona said.

Plans were made quickly to wake the final two gargoyles. They decided on attempting the first waking in an hour, the second in four days. Meris had been designated as the one gargoyle who would deal with the media, though Mary wasn't entirely certain how that decision was made. She was fairly certain that it was because he was the only one who said he would do it. Robbie and Quentin both had contacts in major news agencies so they spent the time discussing the best ways to bring the news out.

Mary spent the time relaxing and preparing to wake another. The waking was the one thing she wasn't certain of. Cerex had been awake for such a short time and she wasn't sure how the scarred female, or any of the others, was going to deal with public attention. She knew Aiden was right though, and she had to trust him on this.

Aiden carried her to the garden. She was sure that hearing Nigel articulate the delicacy of her condition had worried him.

Without incident, they wakened an elderly male named Arris. He seemed fascinated by Mary's pregnancy, to the point that Mary was almost embarrassed. Esme assured her it was because of the confusion of waking.

The next few days sped by, and it became clear that Esme had been right. It was also clear that Arris was far more physically frail than the others. By the second night, he had acquired a stout limb which he leaned on heavily.

"Can he hunt?" Mary asked Esme the next evening. She and Cerex usually spent time with Mary every evening. It helped Cerex with her English and provided Esme a chance to make certain Mary was alright.

"No, but that happens to many of our kind who reach advanced age. We will care for him." She said.

"He seemed so confused in the beginning."

Esme smiled. "You want to know if his mind is sound."

Mary felt bad for asking the question. She couldn't quite meet Esme's eyes. "Sometimes that happens to human beings, maybe it doesn't-"

"It happens to us as well." Esme nodded. "For Arris, I am certain it was the confusion of waking again after so long. He has shown no signs of it since."

Arris's English was progressing much more slowly than anyone would have expected, but four days later Aiden decided it was best to go ahead with the final waking. They'd all been monitoring the buzz online, but nothing more definitive had come out. There was certainly nothing in the mainstream media. Aiden didn't want to risk waiting. They made arrangements with Robbie and Quentin's contacts. Mary tried to just stay out of that part of it. She knew she couldn't be of any real assistance and she wanted

Again, he brought Mary out to the site. Mary was glad that this part was finally going to be over. She hated the uncertainty of it, and lately the wakings themselves took so much out of her.

The waking itself happened without incident. As usually, the young male they woke took a defensive, angry stance. Unlike all the others, he attacked Aiden. Mary screamed and tried to rush forward. Robbie and Nigel both stopped her. Aiden easily fended off the attack. Calvus and Jerel held the new one still. Aiden exchanged a few words with them. They took the new one off into the darkness and Aiden approached Mary and the others.

"You're hurt!" Mary's couldn't take her eyes off the three thin scratches on his chest, crimson blood was beginning to drip down from them.

"It is nothing, child." He stroked her cheek gently, and then managed a smile. "Perhaps it is a sign I should begin training again."

"What happened?" Robbie asked.

"Keldon is a juvenile. In your terms, an adolescent. Our adolescent males go through a period of making displays of dominance and unfortunately, Keldon is going through that phase. Waking after so much time and his drive to assert himself suppressed his wisdom momentarily. I do not think he would attack anyone else, but I do not feel it is wise that he meet any of you just now." Aiden explained.

"What will you do with him?" Veronica asked.

"I will give him the fight that he so desires and teach him his place. He will not be harmed by it, but he will learn." Aiden said firmly.

*~*~*~*~*~*

When Aiden returned later that night, the thin scratches had been cleaned and there were no other injuries that Mary could see. It put her a little more at ease. The next night when they met Keldon for the first time, the young male was quiet, respectful, and sporting several large bruises. Still he appeared to be unharmed, just as Aiden had said. The crowd was still present, and still advancing on people trying to enter, but they had lost of their single-mindedness since the curiosity-seekers began arriving and mingling with them.

The days were a blur of research and hurried discussions. When the evening finally arrived Mary felt like it was too soon. She was waiting in the library with Aiden and trying to control her trembling.

Aiden pulled her gently into his lap. "This is the right thing to do."

"I know." She snuggled against him. One of his large hands stroked her swollen tummy.

"Tell me what you fear."

The rumble of his voice was comforting. "I'm afraid someone is going to feel so threatened by your existence that they're going to hurt you or one of the others. I don't know what I would do without you."

"You will not lose me, child." He was stroking her arm and the side of her stomach. His touch and the sound of his voice seemed to soothe the baby. He was still inside her at the moment.

"People do awful things to other people who are different. Other sentient beings-"

"And there are just as many who offer kindness to all. We must let this happen and see where it takes us. I worry for you."

"Me? I'm fine."

He chuckled. "My son sleeps under your heart, I would worry about you for that reason alone." He sighed. "Aside from that though, you will bear the brunt of the criticism. It is different for us. This is our nature. You made the choice to be my mate, and to birth a baby that is not fully human or fully gargoyle. I worry your kind will see that as a betrayal of your humanity."

She shrugged. "I can't control what they say, or what they think. As long as you still love me and the baby, I can deal with whatever they say."

He kissed the top of her head. "Until I am returned to the Earth." There was a hitch in his voice.

Before Mary could say anything else there was a sharp knock at the door. Robbie entered.

"Everyone is set up just off the back terrace." He sounded more nervous than Mary had ever heard before. "Are the two of you ready?"

Mary looked at Aiden and struggled with a smile. "As ready as we'll ever be." He kissed her softly.

"We had agreed that I would speak first, just as a general welcome. Then you, Meris and Esme will arrive and I will leave the introductions to Meris. He's prepared a statement and will then take questions. Aiden, you and Mary can choose to answer questions if you like, or you can leave that to Meris and I. Is that still how you want things to go?" He asked.

Aiden nodded. "I believe that is the best way."

Robbie looked at her. "Mary?"

"Aiden's right."

"Shall we then?" He smiled and helped Mary to her feet.

The entire group was waiting in the hall. Aiden started up the stairs to wait with the other gargoyles. Mary took a deep breath and walked out onto the terrace with the others, her head held high.

She let Nigel steady her while she sat, and tried not to stare at the sea of people in front of her. She didn't think she had ever seen so many cameras or lights. The faces in the harsh glare were expectant and skeptical at the same time. She had no idea what Robbie and Quentin had said to get them all there, but to see so many, she was sure that it had been something dramatic.

Mary knew he was going to say something general, so she didn't bother listening. She was certain that everyone could hear her heart pounding. She didn't even know Robbie's announcement had ended until she heard the leathery flapping that she knew would signal the arrival of the gargoyles. Everyone looked toward the sky. The three of them landed just in front of the gathered crowd. Someone in that sea of hardened faces screamed. Still cameras flashed, video cameras came to life.

Mary could only see the three backs, but she could tell that all three were nervous from the way they carried their wings. For a moment, they stood still. When Aiden nodded, he moved behind Mary. Esme stood next to him. Meris began to speak.

"Thank you all for coming and allowing us to meet you." He used no notes, but his voice was calm. Looking at the audience, Mary could see that the shock still hadn't worn off. "My name is Meris. The other male I arrived with is Aiden, and the female is Esme. We are gargoyles. It is our nature to become stone during the day while we rest and flesh at night. For centuries, we shared your world with you. You protected us as we rested, and we protected you and your lands when darkness reigned. There were those who felt threatened by our very existence, and those people endeavored to destroy our kind completely. They almost succeeded. There were humans who kept a few of us safe during those dark times and through the intervening centuries." He gestured to Mary and her group. "These are the descendants of those brave people. The have brought us back from oblivion, and now we are ready to share your world again. We are not monsters, and have no thoughts of being conquerors. We want nothing more than to quietly coexist with you as equals. I thank you for listening. If you have questions, I will do my best to answer them."

There was silence. For a moment, Mary wasn't certain that there would be any questions at at. Her heart was still pounding in her ears. She looked up at Aiden, and that's when everyone began shouting questions at once.

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