Chapter Sixteen

Leo stood outside the stable door. He'd changed into the dark purple tunic that Gideon had sent so that he blended in with the night. It was going to be tricky orbing into an area of the castle that wasn't occupied, and after a moment of thought, he decided that the staircase to the tower that Emaline had spoken of was probably the safest. And so with his destination in mind, he orbed.

The castle was as dark within as it was from the outside. The passage way leading to the winding staircase didn't have a single torch lit to show the way, causing Leo to fumble along the stone walls with his hands. And when the walls curved, and the steps to the tower began, he tripped over the first one. Picking himself up, he carefully felt for each step until he was moving up the spiral staircase with some amount of ease. The staircase was growing narrow when he turned to stare into the darkness behind him. He thought he'd heard something. Just a rustle, but it was enough to cause him to stop and listen. Probably just a rodent, he thought. He took another step, and was about to take another when suddenly there was the swooshing of air and he found his upper-arms clasped; and before he knew what was happening, he was lifted in the air and flying blindly upwards through the blackness.

After the initial shock, Leo looked up to see what held him. But in the darkness he could only see the faint black outline of wide wings, the flap of which was almost silent, almost leathery as it whipped the air. And then, with Leo in its clutches, it shot out of one of the wide openings above the roof of the hall and into the starry night.

xXx

He was flying over the treetops, making wide circles. And then the creature dove, and Leo closed his eyes as the ground came up to meet them.

When he opened his eyes, he was lying face up, looking at the stars. But then a shadow leaned over him and two slanted, orange eyes glared down on him. And there was no doubt now what the creature was, although he'd never seen one face to face. Gargoyle, his mind whispered as Emaline's warning replayed through his head from that afternoon. Show him your Light, she'd said. So he slowly lifted his hand and the orb appeared, revealing the devilish creature in all its hellish form, from the folded bat-like wings, to the ferociously, long, curved teeth, to the steel-like talons that had clasped and held him in flight. Even as the creature stared down on him, Leo had a difficult time believing it was real. No demon or monster he'd ever come across had been as grotesque as this creature; it was torture meeting its penetrating and fiery eyes.

The creature bared his teeth and Leo turned his head away. It was only after the gargoyle leaned back on its massive haunches and its eyes lost their killing-intent that Leo realized that the creature wasn't snarling at all, rather it was grinning, as if Leo amused it.

Leo relaxed and sighed. "Are you going to let me inside the castle, now?" he mused aloud.

And in one fluid motion the gargoyle leapt from its haunches and clasped Leo's arms, and once again they were flying through the star-lit sky; this time toward the dark mountain-like castle.

xXx

(Note: Next chapter: Phoebe's return (sort of)…for all you Phoebe fans out there.)

Love & Light to You,

—Anna