If you've visited here for a while, you know that I have a love of Greek and Roman myths. Norse myths come in a close second. If you've read the story of Medusa, you know she was punished for being arrogant. No one challenges a goddess to a contest and comes out a winner. She pushed her luck and she paid for it. But so did her two sisters. No one ever said Greek goddesses were reasonable. So I asked myself, what would the sisters do? How would you go through one life after another, immortal, as a Gorgon? And this story was the result. Hope you enjoy it.
1st Ally & Dante novella
To Ann Staadt, who shared her dream of gargoyles & churches with me
And told me to write the story
Ally walked as fast and as far from the restaurant’s parking lot as possible. Rattled. Everything had happened too fast. Why had the warlock attacked her? Is this what happened to Stheno? Her sister hadn’t survived.
Ally’s flowing skirt flapped around her ankles. Her snug, white shirt glowed in the street lamps. Why hadn’t she worn black? She wanted to disappear in the evening shadows. She needed distance between her and the body. She tried to walk flat-footed, so that her sandals slapped less on the cement sidewalk. She’d been tempted to wear something other than her usual attire. Now she was glad she hadn’t. She could shift back and forth with no damage, except for the undies. Damn. She was wearing her sexy blacks. Now, they were only scraps.
She shook her head. The mind was an odd thing. Who cared about undies when she’d nearly died?
A group of patrons walked out the restaurant’s front door, their laughter billowing toward her. They turned to find their cars. She heard them gasp at the body sprawled in the lot. Her bad luck. If he’d been a vampire, he’d be dust. Warlocks weren’t disposable.
She glanced across the street. People mingled at a sidewalk café. They hadn’t picked up on the nearby drama. Ally crossed to look at the menu taped to the café’s window, trying to blend with them. She glanced through the specials of the day—mushroom-filled ravioli in a brown-butter sauce, chicken club pizza, and sausage rolls. She peeked back at the group gathered around the corpse. A woman pressed her body into a male’s, shielding her face from the grisly scene. A man had his cell phone pressed to his ear. Still no screams or fussing. She moved on. She turned the corner and heaved a sigh of relief. Her heart rate slowed, its beat more steady. A close call. Someone could have seen her.
To her right, the Botanical Gardens took up the next block. The huge cathedral loomed across from it—both closed, the street empty. Ally gazed skyward, fighting for calm. Deep breaths, she told herself. All she’d wanted was a night out, a little fun. Was that too much to ask? She’d lived a quiet life, never bothered anyone, but Stheno had lived in a cave, damn it, and someone had found her.
Tears stung her eyes, as usual, when she thought of Stheno. It was so unfair! They didn’t deserve to be punished. She wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand and took in the three-quarter moon, then spied Orion. She’d met the handsome giant once…before his body was placed among the stars…and before she was changed.
She grunted. Changed. That put a nice spin on it. But she tried not to call herself cursed anymore. She tried to be positive.
Ally was about to turn to the left, to make her way closer to the city, when a stone gargoyle carved on the far corner of the church’s roof caught her attention. Larger than usual, almost life-sized. Two more adorned two other corners, each different than the other. The last corner sat empty. She frowned. She was sure there were always four of them. Weren’t there?
Sirens wailed on Jefferson Street, and her nerves jangled to life. She turned and hurried toward the court house and more restaurants, more people to lose herself in. What would the cops say when they found a warlock, facedown, with dozens of puncture wounds on his face and upper body, deep gouges where her claws had slashed, and signs of the poison that shut down his system? The bastard got exactly what he deserved. But how could they know that? Did she leave any evidence behind? DNA? What would hers look like?
She stepped under a striped awning at a jewelry shop on Calhoun Street. With her acute hearing, she could pick up things a few blocks away if she concentrated. A car door opened and closed. Footsteps paced the parking lot. “This one’s different from the one over there,” a cop said.
The one over there? Ally strained to hear more. Two bodies? She’d only killed one.
A second set of footsteps moved from one side of the lot to the other. “This guy’s naked, probably a Were of some kind. Shifted back while he was dying. Someone snapped his neck.”
“Not so easy to do with a Were,” the first cop said.
“And this guy…” His partner paused. “Lord, I’m glad I’m not him.”
“So what does that? I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Darts?” his friend asked. “Giant, poisonous mosquitoes?”
“And the scratches? Look at the size of those claw marks, almost ripped him in half.”
The cop laughed. “You’d think someone would notice that. If it were a Were, though….and shifted back….”
“What’s the deal anyway?” the partner asked. “The para don’t usually kill each other.”
“Sure, they do. There’s good and bad them, and there’s good and bad us. I just don’t know which is which. Are we looking at dead friends or dead foes?”
“Beats the hell out of me. I’m just glad they take care of their own. You need to let Dante know what happened.”
Dante? Did Summit City have a paranormal squad of crime fighters? And where would this Dante put her—as friend or fiend? Ally didn’t want to find out. She turned and kept walking. She didn’t stop until she reached the rooms she rented farther down the street, across from the city/county building and above a pawn shop.
Once inside, she studied her reflection in the hall mirror. She used to look worse after a battle, but she’d learned from experience. Chopped her dark hair—short curls stuck out like corkscrews, but weren’t nearly as bad as the mass of tangles she used to deal with. Her dark eyes looked a bit pinched at the corners. Worry did that. But her shirt had stretched and returned to its original shape, bless the miracle of Spandex, and the bottom hem of her long skirt was barely rumpled where her tail had pushed past it. Nothing anyone would notice. And her sandals….well, you couldn’t win them all. Her long, curved nails had ruined another pair.
Nuts. She usually wore her cheap ones, but tonight had been special. She was meeting someone. A sexy, lanky, funny someone….who never showed up.
Wait. She stared hard at her reflection. Her heart gave a painful twist. That was coincidence, right? It wasn’t a setup? Jason couldn’t possibly know about her, what she was. Could he?