1. a state of complete emptiness or destruction.

2. anguished misery or loneliness.

Chapter 1: (Not)Empty Battlefield


That's what he awoke too. He wasn't entirely sure what had happened, but all he knew was that it looked like everyone he cared for was gone. In the darkening shadows of sunset, he slowly stood and checked himself over for injury. He had none, but when he started looking around the battlefield, he felt his brow furrow in confusion, ears pinning back as dread began to turn his stomach to knots.

In the large meadow he awoke in, he was surrounded by statues. There had to be ten or so of them. He was near the outskirts of them, but as he slowly moved towards the center, his wings hiked up higher on his back, tail curling closer to his ankles in fear and self defense.

Something was wrong here. Dreadfully so. He could feel life around him, sense it with his own life force keenly inside, but nothing moved. His acute hearing couldn't detect any breathing, not even when he strained, but there was nothing dead, either; he could smell no death, no blood, nothing. Well, not nothing, per-say.

Just stone and the lingering scents of adrenaline, fear, sweat and a little blood; long since dried, and with his acute senses, it could easily have been from a scrape or nick of accidental claws or a busted lip.

As he started looking up at the faces of the statues, the nearest few, that seemed to be fighting something . . . his heart froze and stuttered.

Vanessa . . . it was Vanessa Grey! Body frozen, his eyes numbly looked her up and down. Long, graceful, strong legs of a horse, human face twisted into a sharp shout of rage as she galloped towards the center of the meadow, where a heavier contingent of statues stood, a hand held in front of her, reaching out, hair frozen fluttering, streaming out behind her like her long, strangely unbraided horse tail . . . .

. . .all in grey stone.

A brave, tall, loyal creature, a young woman, a young horse, a Centaur; with hopes and dreams and a future husband. The lad slowly walked up to her. Reached up as high as he could, just managing to lay a hand on her horse chest, not quite reaching the sweater'ed human one. There was no heartbeat pulsing inside, no breath. And yet . . . .

. . . .and yet he could still sense the life underneath, trapped just behind the stone, unable to break free, as he could. He could feel it draw back in surprise at his touch, then press back hopefully, a phantom feeling of warmth emanating from the stone, that was otherwise so cold and lifeless.

The emotions emanating from within were hard to pick out. It was a hard mess of energy and fear and stubborn bravery, besides terror, horror, some panic, and fierce, hot anger for whoever did this. The last one was almost drowned by the rest, but noticeable all the same. And pain . . . pain from a bleeding gash in her right shoulder, a bitemark on her flank . . . .

. . .snake-bitten. He could sense the sluggishness that had already started to overtake her, starting to drag her mind towards unconsciousness while the venom seeped through every vein to her lungs, Forcing her breaths shorter and fewer between, slowly suffocating . . .

He drew back, shaking his head in numb horror. He looked where his friend was looking, spotted her own best friend and future husband, laying not ten feet away.

Timothy Goodwing. The smart, strong Griffin, was on his back, large eagle head turned towards his right flank, beak wide in a silent cry of pain, a stone arrow frozen in one joint, where wing met shoulder blades. The position looked unnatural, as if he had been in midflight, struck just before whatever strange magic had turned him to stone, leaving him to fall, never ready to land, frozen forever in . . . .

The deep gouge in the earth only seemed to mock the Griffin that lay in it, had created it, only able to create such a wide swath of destruction as a stone creature, one frozen. To the boy, everything about this was wrong. He could feel it, deep in his bones; well, he wasn't sure if he had bones, but deep down inside. . . .

Stepping forward, the ten-year-old gently lay a hand on Timothy's flank, feeling the same thing; seemingly cold, lifeless grey stone, but with the soul-energy pulsing just underneath. Rather than draw back in surprise, it surged angrily, painfully, against it's stony prison. Not towards the young gargoyle, but towards what had done this to him, trying to tell the young gargoyle to be wary, cautious, urging him to find a way to reverse this, or if not, destroy what did this. Begging, almost . . . .

No wait . . . he was, hard as is was to see the proud Griffin beg for anything.

Begging to be freed; freed from the agony in his wing, freed the fear of being ground-bound when he belonged and ruled in the skies, but hiding it under a burning anger; but even such hot flames could drown out the deep-felt, resonating despair from deep inside, the injured moan of a lame bird, never to fly, of an injured lion, to lay alone on the ground and starve, withering away into nothing, but in solitude; dreading the solitude of it all.

All rolled together with very human panic and fear, desperation and the faint remaints of hope, barely holding on. The boy shuddered, hard, wings shaking. He winced from his own wound, on his own wing, and for a moment, leaned into the touch on the stone creature, sharing it's pain in a different way, but shared all the same.

The life-force inside responded, surprisingly, almost setting down it's own burdens for a moment. He felt a flicker of surprise from the creature he barely knew before, who never knew how he had suffered several long nights, almost a full year, before a remedy was found. Before he could function like a normal little boy, free of physical pain, if not the memories of how he started suffering.

The flicker of emotion turned to anger towards who started it; longing to take back taunts and jibes about gliding and wobbly flight; place more gentleness into playfights; more caution into mentioning family in conversation. It brought a tiny, hopeful smile to the boys face. The flicker of emotion seemed to mirror his hope, before a fierce bolt of determination and self-righteous anger burst from inside.

Tired, it seemed to recede to a steady but slighter fainter pulse beneath his palm and fingertips; alive and there, but asleep. Turning to the cluster in the center, he slowly stepped forward, breaths coming quicker. There was a deep, underlying tension in the air, something he couldn't quite lay his clawed finger on. Something terrible had happened, he just knew it . . . he wasn't sure he wanted to find out what happened, or what caused it.

But that didn't stop him. Almost as if that anger or determination had seeped into him from his almost-friend, or perhaps he just had to know the extant of the damage, he couldn't stop. He tried to be brave, but courage almost seemed to evade him, not allowing him to feel it's might. Maybe might wan't needed; maybe gentleness now was the key, not more violence.

He shook his head and walked on.

As he grew closer, he could pick out more and more faces. A large, serpentine figure, it's tail snaking and writhing across the ground, but human from the waist-up with snakes for hair, appeared to be frozen in the act of lunging forward or rearing back; he couldn't tell which. All he knew was, that along the length of the very long tail, another Centaur was trapped; upon looking closer, though, the unnatural angle it was at and the way he was being held . . . .

He'd been turned to stone already. Looking even closer, standing on tiptoes, he realized that there were some similarities about that young face, one he hadn't seen before. Something about the way he held himself, even in a frozen state; chin held up high and a bit of a smirk on his lips, though his brows revealed he was troubled . . . with a jolt, he realized that he was like Miss Northwest, the elder Centaur in the group.

With a jolt, he realized that this must be the son she occasionally talked about, who disappeared years ago. Horror and fear warred inside, and after several long minutes of staring blankly while every possible worst scenario raged through his head, he shook himself. He carried on, tippy-toeing, trembling slightly and straining his ears for any sound.

Holding her down -for the face he could tell it to be a girl on the snake thing- was a normal enough looking man; when you ignored the way his body seemed to be morphing.

Earl Ramirez. A man with a lot at stake, a lot he left behind, and a lot he did in his efforts to find a cure for them all; or, at least, all who wanted it.

Clay Golem; man made of clay, able to change the shape of his body to anything he wanted; though he typically kept the way he looked as a human years ago. He'd apparently created a large hole in his middle, which the Gorgon -snake lady- was staring through. As he came around to look up at her, he saw her face twisted in rage and fear, a wordless scream frozen on her lips.

He tentatively reached out to touch her; only to recoil and stumble back immediately. Her spirit was crashing against the walls with a violent, killing rage, struggling to break free so as to smash and destroy every last statue of his friends and family, killing them rather than just entrapping them.

He cautiously moved around Earl, and saw a young Cervitaur; like a Centaur, but half deer instead of horse, the males growing antlers -once they'd "come of age"- and all having deer ears rather than human ones, unlike their Centaur "cousins". This one was familiar, small and antler-less, and he felt a sharp pang of sorrow strike him.

He was holding a large mirror, appeared to be diving behind the clay-man, holding it out towards the hole now appearing in his chest. Ears laid back, face twisted in terror and fear and determination all at once . . . .

. . .to see the twelve-year-old, Max Grey, the very youngest of the Grey family residing in their shared home, look so scared . . . .the young child broke into tears, lunging forward to gently hug his friend, stroking lightly just behind the right ear, knowing this as a calming mechanism, from some nerve or other, for all Cervitaurs. He could sense the surprise and fear in the spirit as it yearned and stretched and pushed to reach him, the self-sacrificing act he had done, to save everyone else.

He could feel the minimal hope and comfort he was bringing to his best friend/older brother, but could feel none of it himself. He could feel his friends life force strain to reach out and comfort him, tell him he was alright, to not give up and keep on going, that it would be okay as long as he kept trying.

That as long as he never gave up, everything would turn out all right in the end. That he'd save his friend and everyone else as the young Cervitaur had; a young boy and barely a fawn, had hopefully saved not only his group, but all other creatures threatened by the Gorgon, who he had foolishly looked upon too soon, before she had turned fully to stone.

He could barely recall what happened, but as it slowly came back to him, bit by bit . . . .

. . . .he sobbed all the harder.

Night had fallen. He wasn't sure when, but the moon floated overhead, and stars created a pretty picture above him in the sky. He'd nearly dozed off when he heard the voice.

"Kaden?" a familiar voice called in surprise and hope.

The lad turned, a sobbing little boy made of stone, large, bat-like wings wrapped tightly around himself, tail curling around his feet and knees pulled to his chest.

He was a gargoyle; he retained a fully human body shape, of an eight-year-old boy, with large, bat-like wings sprouting from his shoulder blades and a tail above his rump, toes and fingers ending in sharp, grey-black claws, a mouth full of sharp teeth, two small, pointed horns poking above his wild gold-orange hair and nearly hiding inhumanly pointed ears.

Made entirely of stone and capable of motion, hardly susceptible to physical attacks while weaker to magical ones. And while he may be even outside of some Gargoyle norms -like being born and growing, rather than an actually enchanted and brought to life statue- he was, in a nutshell, still a little boy. Not meant to fight yet in battle or war.

Kaden turned slowly, large, pure sandy-gold eyes, seeing perfectly in the near-darkness; senses of a gargoyle. He knew no darkness where others were blind.

"Wh-whisper?" he called out in a small, trembling voice.

The other, a human, strayed nearer, holding her arms out in front of her to ensure she wouldn't run into him, having extinguished her light.

"Sh, sh, it's okay, it's all going to be okay now." she ensured, though her voice was trembling, too, as if barely believing her own words. Murmuring under her breath, she summoned a small flame into the middle of her palm; a fire charm, completely harmless and easy to control besides, plus lighting up their surroundings. Why she had blown it out before, Kaden wasn't sure.

Seeing him quickly, she hurried over and dropped to her knees beside him, a twenty-year-old human woman, un-turned as he was, and quickly leaned forward to embrace him. He tentatively returned it, always acutely aware of his immense strength; first turned, he nearly broke his saviors legs in his panic and fear. And she was a human; so delicate, and vulnerable, compared to him, where he could practically drag a young, freshly-killed buck into a tree whereas a human never could alone, nor so high.

"She chased after you . . . you screamed . . . .I wanted to get you out of the battlefield, make sure . . . . but I couldn't . . . ." she had tears in her eyes. Whisper should never have to cry. She was always so sweet and kind, to creatures outside her own species, holding no discrimination over anyone, not just her three siblings. He remembered what she spoke of, and understood why she hadn't; she was to help the wounded back home, not run back and kill herself over trying to rescue another "alive" creature; painful as it had been.

When she pulled back, she seemed to fully notice the young Cervitaur and gasp. She reached out a slow hand -her right, not the one holding the flame- but didn't touch.

"M-max . . . no . . . I th-thought that . . . no . . ." tears cascaded down her cheeks, and Kaden remained silent until she seemed to pull herself back together. He lay a hand on his friend. Felt the spirit inside pulse in excitement and worry over the older sister he sensed, straining to reach out and hug her, let her knew he was okay. That out of all of them, he was barely injured. A small comfort.

Kaden gently pulled her hand down, until it was on Max's stone flank, too. "He's still alive . . . don't you feel his spirit pulsing underneath?" he asked.

She shook her head slowly, mouthing the word "no" over and over again. "Being a gargoyle . . . did you sense similar in the others?" she asked softly, carefully. . .. . . .cautiously, not wanting to hope to hard, nor to little.

Kaden opened his mouth to reply, then shut it. This wasn't a simple "yes" or "no" answer. "I found Vanessa, and Timothy, and touched the snake-lady, and Max," he finally replied, wincing when he realized that he had just confirmed and shredded a glimmer of hope in the woman's eyes; she lost not one, but two siblings in this fight.

"Each time felt a little different. The emotions were different, their reactions were different to my touch, but they were all alive. . . ." he paused, sorting through his thoughts.

"Vanessa was in a jumble, but felt surprised to see me. Timothy was raging for justice, as usual, but I felt the griffins despair at being ground-bound, and his urging for me to find a way to help fix all of this. The snake-lady wants to escape, constantly struggling, wishing death and destruction on all . . . and Max sacrificed himself to stop her, and doesn't want us to give up hope. Right now, he wants to comfort you, straining to reach out and hug you."

Whisper stared at him in disbelief, but a glimmer of determined hope lay in her eyes now. "I don't feel anything but stone, but I believe you, Kaden." she said softly, just above a whisper.

The boy nodded in reply. "We'll find . . ." he choked up. "We'll find a way to fix this, I promise." he told her stoutly, with as much conviction as his small, ten-year-old being could.

She nodded and gave him a tear-soaked smile, gently scooping him up. She raised the flame to her mouth and blew it out. She leaned over and placed a hand on her brothers head, gently stroking it.

"Don't worry, little bro . . . I promise, we'll find a way to fix this. No matter how long it takes, I'll make sure to fix this. I'll get you both back . . . you and Vanessa." she said softly, just under a breath of air.

Rising, she hugged the young gargoyle close and started to walk home, knowing the way well.

Leaving behind what was once a happy place, filled now with loved ones, both trapped and shattered.

Leaving behind what was once a peaceful haven, but now it was filled with horror.

Torn. Torn was their family.

Lonely. Lonely were the souls trapped, together yet alone in their own personal prisons, strewn about the field.

Desolate. Desolate was the once-happy meadow. . . .

In all meanings of the word.

Start of a story for Gravity Falls, continued from my drabblefic "Lost Tales of the Falls", who some people asked for more on. Enjoy, and please review!