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Two Unlikely Lovers in an Unlikely Situation
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the gargoyle with the golden spectacles began. The three stood on the doorstep of a grandiose mansion; torches burned at the sides of the great wooden door. It was the dead of winter, and a pelting snow hammered at their bald grey heads. “I am Ewold. We were called here because of a confused and lovestruck sorcerer in disarray?” He cocked an eyebrow quizzically at the tall, lanky, and well-dressed man in the doorway.
“You’re g-g-g-g-g-g-gargoyles!” Exclaimed the man in shock, fidgeting with his hands nervously.
“So I’ve heard. Is this the dwelling of Barclay the Dreaded?” Ewold questioned calmly and with great patience.
“G-g-g-g-gargoyles! We called for help, not more problems!” The man stammered, taking a step back into the mansion. Ewold advanced a step.
“Now listen here mister.” Ewold put one foot forward and pointed a finger in the man’s face, all traces of his calmness having vanished. “Your sorcerer requested help. Help came. Now you can take it or leave it, but here we are.”
“Barclay will be furious.”
“Barclay will have to get over it then. Excuse me.” Ewold shoved the man aside and stepped in the doorway followed by his two companions, Burk and Ellis. Burk was your stereotypical gargoyle: strong as a bull, short and squat with stumpy horns, and dumber than a stick. Ewold was the brains in the trio, and got them through many sticky situations. And Ellis was there with her open mind, to keep peace and show the world just how great gargoyles really were. She also helped to keep Ewold from killing Burk in his sleep, though there had been several occasions where Ewold had nearly followed through with the murder.
The trio made up ‘The Gargoyle Squad,’ designed to take control of sticky situations, and prevent magical mishap. They had dreams of becoming renowned heroes in their realm; however this was their first case.
Reluctantly, the tall thin man followed the three gargoyles indoors. From the outside, the residence seemed to be dark and lonesome, though rather pretty in a morbid sort of way. But the inside betrayed any coziness one would have anticipated, if any at all. The walls were barren, a cold, dark grey overbearing of stone. The floor was stone too, and the place was dark and gloomy. The perfect place for a sorcerer in self-conceived agony.
Ellis smiled heartily, and almost convincingly. “Oh, what a lovely place. It is really quite suitable for a sorcerer of such great power and-”
Burk interjected in his gruff voice. “Burk cold. Burk hungry. Burk-”
This time, Ewold butted in. “Burk,” He began with a sigh. “Shut up.”
Burk looked genuinely hurt, and Ellis put an arm around his wide shoulders to comfort him.
“If you’ll excuse me a moment.” The tall thin man stepped past Burk’s wide form to face a doorway. Within the room adjacent to the doorway there was a low rumbling, and a small pool of water slowly formed at the foot of the door. The man snapped the door open and stepped in, snapping the door shut again behind him. Burk put his ear to the door and muttered something insensible as Ewold complained about being cold, and Ellis nervously played with her robe, wondering how she could make everyone happy. After about a minute, the tall man abruptly opened the door in the same brisk manner as before, and stepped into the lonesome hall. His fine suit was completely soaked, and his hair dripped. The man shivered, but only Ellis felt sympathy for him.
“Well?” Ewold tapped his foot impatiently.
The man shivered, though it was unclear whether it was due to the chill of the place or his being so high-strung. “Yes, yes. My master wishes to see you... Over supper.”
Burk leaped into the air, flapping his stubby wings with excitement. Ewold groaned, as he was already growing bored of the mansion and had no appetite. The puddle beneath the door was now large enough to nearly reach his clawed feet, and he stared at it intensely, as if daring it to draw just one inch closer.
“Well isn’t that kind! We’d love to stay for supper; we are all quite exhausted and a good meal would do us all some good.” Ellis simply beamed at the man, who uneasily returned the smile as he wrung out his sopping sleeves.
The three gargoyles sat in a stark waiting room. The thin man came and went, offering such courtesies as lukewarm water in grimy mugs, and some stale bread of questionable origin. The less-than-worthy butler tried to reassure them that it was the best they had to offer at the moment, though Ellis found herself brushing off a thick layer of dust from the loaf and could not help but think of it sitting out on a counter for several months.
Ewold rejected the beverage with a pitiful smile and a shake of his head, though Burk seemed to rather enjoy the stale bread and ate a vast majority of the loaf. Ellis, out of sheer kindness and respect, choked down a piece of the rock-hard bread with an attempted smile. Yes, even Ellis began to grow bored. The sheer desolation of the place was enough to drive even a madman mad, or rather madder than he already was. It was no wonder that the butler was such a nervous and snide man.
Ewold could see he had his work cut out for him, but he did not complain; they were being paid good money for their services.
After what seemed an eternity a tall and somber figure appeared in the entryway to the room. It was fortunate gargoyles were such timeless beings; even the impatient ones had more patience than the average human. They had been waiting for over two hours, and at this point even Ellis was growing antsy.
The tall figure, clearly the sorcerer, threw back the hood that shadowed his face to reveal an old yet handsome, angular face. Then he spoke.
“I am Barclay,” he explained. “This is my home, and I hope you find yourselves quite welcome here.” He spoke cordially and like a man with great manners. Then he flicked a long, crooked finger and the dark and barren room sprang to life. Instantly the hard stone benches the gargoyles sat upon became soft, plush sofas. An antiquated table popped up beside Ellis and a softly glowing lamp appeared atop it. A fireplace arose from nowhere and settled against the wall, giving off a kind and warm heat.
“I apologize for this place I call home; it is really quite an eyesore. I found that the dark and gloomy feel of the place was more befitting a sorcerer, but I cannot deny my company a nice place to stay. Please, make yourselves at home.”
“Why thank you Barclay, that is really quite sweet of -” Burk cut Ellis off.
“Oh, but how rude of me to keep you waiting! Quick, follow me!” Barclay hastily ushered the gargoyles out of the room and down a hall. Ewold noticed that now the place had fine wooden floors and intricate pieces of art hung all about. He was tempted to even say he might like the place.
Barclay the Dreaded led them into a great dining hall. Rich tapestries hung from the high walls, portraying images of Barclay dueling other witches and sorcerers, or conjuring some terrible hellish beast into being. Here too was a large fireplace, crackling delightedly despite the cold weather outside.
Burk did not notice the tapestries, nor the ornate vases from various regions about the globe. He did not see the hearty fireplace, and the massive stained-glass window did not even cross his path of vision. The thing he saw first was the numerous platters of roast duck and crumbly cakes. He rushed to the table and found a seat with a nametag titled ‘Burk.’ Voraciously, he sat down and began to chow, though the others were polite enough to wait for Barclay to offer them seats. Burk was delighted when he saw a large keg of Dwarven ale at his place-setting, and he greedily ripped off the top and guzzled the strong beverage.
Ewold, with a grimace, turned away from Burk and tried to ignore the spatterings of gravy and cake that Burk sent flying in all directions.
“So, Mr. Barclay,” Ewold began in his sophisticated tone. “You summoned us?”
“Yes, yes. It is a bit of a personal problem of mine, and it’s rather hard to explain.” He had a worried look in his eye, and he pulled back the sleeves of his purple robe. “I am such a powerful sorcerer and all, and I can bend the rules of magic at my will without the slightest effort. But there is one rule I’ve found I cannot bend.”
“And what might that be?” Asked Ewold as he leaned in, interested.
“Love is a more powerful force than I can control.” He blushed upon speaking this. “And I have found that I am in love. But, being a sorcerer she is naturally terrified of me. It’s for some odd reason, like ‘I killed her parents’ or something like that. No big deal, you know?”
“Actually, Barclay…” Spoke Ellis with a warbling tone. “As a woman, I believe I should say something here. We fine ladies, we… Let’s just say we aren’t too keen on men who savagely murder our families.”
“Well it wasn’t a savage death. I only beat them then peeled off their sk-” Barclay tried to sound reasonable, but Ewold cut him off.
“Barclay, look. You seem to be a gentleman, and I feel no regrets in being honest with you, so listen to what I am about to say and take it into consideration.” Ewold took a deep breath. “You need to think of a woman as you would think of a crab.” Barclay gave him a bewildered look.
“Ewold!” cried Ellis, shocked.
“Please, let me continue. See, a crab has a hard shell and it takes a lot of work to get through. But once inside, you’ll find the meat very delicate and savory, and really quite tender.” Ewold adjusted his glasses, awaiting Ellis’s reply.
“EWOLD!” cried Ellis again, louder.
“No! It’s not like that! I meant to say that a woman requires a lot of work to get to. She may have a hard exterior, and she may seem disinterested in you. You need to be stubborn. If this is the woman that you want, then you need to do all that you can to convince her to love you back.”
“You know, I have to say… I know some women with soft exteriors, but inside they are quite alarmingly bitc-” The snide butler entered the conversation as if it concerned him. Ewold nearly jumped out of his seat, for he had not noticed the man standing still as a statue near the hearth.
“Butler, that is quite enough. This is not your business, and these guests are trained professionals. Please, excuse yourself.” The butler bowed with respect toward Barclay, though his finicky manner displayed anything but respect for the man.
For the next three days the gargoyles stayed at the mansion. Their rooms were spotless and cozy, but they soon learned that Barclay was in fact a very sad man. He spent a majority of his time locked up in his meditation room sobbing. Though the stone walls were thick, they also resonated spectacularly and the sound of the sorcerer’s angst could be heard from any room about the place. On the third night, the three had decided on how to solve the problem. Or rather, Ewold decided how arbitrarily.
So the following day, before the others had arisen from their chambers, Ewold set out for the village. It was snowy, but not so much that it bothered him. He rather enjoyed the gentle crunch of it beneath his hooves, hooves which he was quite proud of. His mother had been a mule, which was regarded as a holy creature to his race. Every once in a blue moon, a mule and a gargoyle would somehow be compatible and the offspring of this union always grew to be a respected individual. Ewold sighed in a full-of-himself way. He was proud of his plan to aid Barclay, and knew that he would receive many thanks in return for solving the problem so quickly and thoroughly.
Stepping into the village he paused a moment to absorb the sunlight. Gargoyles could survive solely off the supreme energy of the sun, going for days without food or water. And at night they would turn to stone to absorb and retain the cool, balanced energy of the moon. They were very balanced beings, gargoyles; however there were exceptions. Like Ewold, for example, who was too pompous to see the reality of things.
As the sun slowly rose, horrid human faces appeared in foggy windows behind long, pointy icicles. Ewold glared back at them, his vision casting a menacing curse upon the village. Not literally though.
His gaze fell upon a young maiden, who could be seen as quite beautiful by human standards. Ewold, grimacing, strode over to her.
“Look lady,” Ewold started in a nasal yet commanding voice, waving his hand for some unclear purpose. “I need you to come with me to the sorcerer Barclay’s mansion.”
“Umm. I think you have the wrong person.” She grimaced and turned away, taking a stride down the road. Ewold came up behind her and tossed her effortlessly over one shoulder, and carried her kicking and screaming into the woods.
“Hey, Barclay!” Ewold pounded at the door of the mansion. The butler answered the door with a cynical and doubtful expression. He did not question the gargoyle; he simply stepped aside and pointed him to Barclay’s ‘meditation room.’
The stone walls were cracked and they creaked with the strain of Barclay’s angst. The room shook singularly, somehow set apart from the house’s structure. Ewold rapped at the door and called out to Barclay. The girl over his shoulder groaned in boredom.
“Barclay, open up! I’ve got a surprise!”
“You do realize that he has no interest in me?” The girl complained with a casual tone, as if she was used to being treated like so.
The wizard finally opened the door, and looked at Ewold with horror when he saw the girl.
“Oh! It’s hideous!” Barclay shrieked as if he had seen a rat. Ewold set the girl down and she ran off.
“Look, I was only trying to help. My apologies, I’ll help get you the girl.”
It took another three days for Barclay to admit that the girl he loved was not even a human. As a matter of fact, the ‘girl’ Barclay spoke of was actually a pig. A big, fat, hairy one with black splotches across its stomach. Ewold, though somewhat appalled, was not disappointed in the sorcerer’s choice. Any sane gargoyle would sooner love a pig than a human.
The fact was though, that the pig did not understand human emotions. Though the sorcerer had great feelings of love for her, she could not return the love. Ellis made an attempt to lure the pig to the mansion, but it was disinterested. They needed an individual that thought like a pig; totally brainless, food-crazed, and dirty.
And that’s where Burk came in.
Burk, on Ewold’s request, walked into the town on the seventh day. By this time the villagers had grown accustomed to the ghastly-looking gargoyles presence, and did not halt from their duties. Burk loped about dumbly, searching for the pig. And that was when something shoved him from behind and knocked him over.
Burk whirled; startled by whatever it was that had struck him. His jaw dropped when he saw it was the pig Barclay had described just days before – pink, tubby, and with black splotches across its stomach.
“Hey Girlie. Burk won’t hurt you. Burk nice and gentle, no hurt fly or ant.” Burk used his best wooing/coaxing voice, stroking the pig softly between the ears.
Girlie, as Burk had officially named the pig, was delighted with him and her tongue lolled out, hanging from her jaw like a drapery.
“Come Girlie. Strong man want you at house. He very nice, and you will like.” Burk walked, and Girlie obediently followed him though the woods to the mansion.
As they approached, the rich and woody scent of smoked bacon assaulted their nostrils. It was coming from the house, and Burk felt his mouth water when the aroma reached him. He looked at Girlie to see if her mouth watered too, but she just stared back at him admiringly. But as they got closer, her nose started to twitch. Then she recognized the scent of her parents being cooked, and squealed, hurling herself at Burk and bolting into the forest.
Angrily, Burk stood and stormed into the house. He met Barclay and his snooty servant in the kitchen, a slaughtered pig on the counter.
“You dumb! I find Girlie; she smell bacon. She run into forest, no find her!” Burk was clearly distressed, but that was nothing compared to Barclay’s instantaneous transformation into disarray. He panicked, and used a charm to mask the savory scent of the bacon. Burk and he ran outside. Girlie was watching them from the edge of the forest, her eyes watering. Burk ran to her and scooped her up into his arms, trying to comfort her. It is not easy to love a man who’s preparing your parents for breakfast, with the intention of eating them.
Burk plopped the pig at Barclay’s feet, and she hissed and growled at him. Burk used comforting tones to convince Girlie that he was ‘nice man, no hurt you like your mommy and daddy.’ Barclay, blushing, reached out a hand to stroke her fuzzy head. Upon contact, the pig squealed and again bolted for the forest. Burk looked concernedly at Barclay, who was now weeping with remorse.
Barclay had eaten early, which gave the three gargoyles a perfect opportunity to discuss a strategy over dinner.
Ewold spoke first.
“Burk, from what we’ve learned it seems this pig – er – Girlie has taken quite a liking to you. Maybe infatuation would be a better word. Now we can take this several different ways. We could just give up hope, but that is not what we are being paid for. Or we could look at it in a different light: maybe Barclay will gain exposure to Girlie through you, and she may grow to see that he is a loveable guy. We’re here to solve the problem, and so we shall.”
“Keep in mind – though that is a great idea – that Girlie has fallen for Burk. Love is not something that can be manipulated so easily. Magic cannot control it; it can be the strongest feeling in the world. Let us not try to break its rules.”
“Burk hungry. Burk tired. Burk -” The bulky gargoyle sat, emotionlessly stating all of his discomforts.
“Shut up Burk!” Ewold cried losing his patience faster than usual.
“Ewold, really… Calm down, it’s not his fault.” Ellis often took a motherly position over Burk. He was not the sharpest crayon in the box. Or is that brightest crayon in the box. Either way; Burk was not it. He needed an inspirational figure to maintain his security as an individual, and Ellis played the role oh-so well.
“Burk understand. Burk know how to -”
“Really Burk, now is not the time,” Ewold sighed, frustrated.
“Ewold, let him speak. He may be of help.”
“Right, like that ever happens. You and I both know he’s just a burden to us. He’s strong, sure. But he has a brain the size of a pea. He’s of no use to people like us. This is my job, and I do not want to be made a fool by having a partner like him. Really, we’re best off without him.” Ewold picked a pea off his dinner plate and crushed it between the claws of his forefinger and thumb. Then he took a last bite of his meal and left.
A solitary tear rolled down Burk’s face. He did not understand much of what Ewold had said, but the harsh tone was clear and he had heard his name several times.
Ellis rushed to his side to comfort him.
“Burk, look. Ewold is just in a bad mood; he did not mean any of those mean things! He would be sad if you left, though he’s afraid to admit it. You’re good to have around Burk. And you’re a good friend.”
Burk smiled dumbly, his eyes watering. Ellis kissed him on the cheek and went back to her seat. While they ate in silence Ellis tried to come up with a plan.
But Burk already had a plan, one which he was sure would work.
Since nobody had listened to him at dinner, Burk found that his plan was best executed without the others knowing.
In the dead of night, he stole away form the mansion. It was hard for a gargoyle of his stature; his shoulders brushed either side of the wall as he made his getaway. But he managed to do it unbeknownst to the others.
He headed for the town. Snow pelted him in the face, and his eyes grew tired of squinting. It took a good hour to reach a farmhouse on the outskirts of the village, and there he stopped. The heady, assaulting scent of pigs was about the place.
He opened the creaky door carefully, and there he saw dozens and dozens of pigs. Fat ones, skinny ones, light ones and dark ones. They all squealed at the sight of him and retreated to the back of the barn.
It did not take long for Burk to discern from the other pigs which was Girlie. She was the one that jumped toward him out of the darkness like a tiger or panther might, but without predatory intentions.
“Hey there Girlie. Ewold an’ Ellis not know about me talk to animals. They… not knows secret.” Burk struggled to articulate his thoughts.
“Great. How are things with Barclay?” The average gargoyle would have been stupefied at the fluent language the two unlikely creatures shared. And the average human would have shrugged it off as they are wont to do, assuming there’s a likely explanation for it.
“Barclay love you.”
“Well, I’ll have you know that I am quite fond of him myself. He needs to talk to me though; be a man. He can’t possibly expect to have a relationship with me if he’s not even willing to talk to me in person!” Her pink snout twitched, barely noticeable in the pale moonlight.
The snow outside had subsided during their talk, and Burk spoke: “Burk do what he can,” and then he left.
In the morning, the three gargoyles met over breakfast. Ewold acted as if Burk was not there the entire time. Ellis glared at Ewold the entire time. Burk ate the entire time, oblivious to the others.
“So.” Ellis began.
“Look, Ellis. I’ve got it figured out.” Ewold broke the beefy silence. “This pig…Girlie… she doesn’t love Barclay. Sometimes two people… I mean… two creatures…err… two things... are just not compatible with each other. He may love her, but she may not love him back. Trust me, I’ve seen this before. I think we just need to tell him the honest truth: he needs to move on.” Ewold always seemed intelligent even though half the time he was dead-wrong. The unfortunate thing was that nobody understood this because he was just such a great speaker, cleverly crafting his words into an eloquently worded nonsense. His word, however, was the truth to Burk, no matter what. Except under the extreme circumstance that Burk was right; and this time he was.
“Oh, but he’ll be so sad. We came to help him figure this out and gain her affection. I’d hate to leave him with such a heartbreak!” Ellis said passionately. She felt a strong emotional attachment to the kind sorcerer.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right. We’ll lose our jobs if we fail this one, and that’s what is really important. Snuffed out from the start. But I guess we don’t really have much of a choice.” He sighed heavily. “I’ll talk to him later today. It’s best we end this soon.” Ewold pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and excused himself from the meal. Ellis and Burk shared a light conversation about the loveliness of the snow for the rest of the hour; Burk half-listened as he ate an entire roast turkey. He had it all figured out, and for once he would prove Ewold wrong.
“Barclay! Burk have important news.” Burk hesitantly stepped through the doorway of the sorcerer’s meditation room.
“Yes, what is it?” The tall, aging man said, lifting his head from a thick dusty tome of arcane-ness. The floor was covered sporadically with puddles of the sorcerer’s bewitched tears, and his eyes were bloodshot and swollen. He had been crying again.
“See, sometimes you not know if woman love you or not.” Burk began, a silly grin on his face. “Maybe Girlie love Barclay and not say so. Maybe Barclay should talk on Girlie. Maybe Girlie like Barclay.”
“Burk, that’s awful kind of you. But I spoke with Ewold earlier and I think that he was right: it’s time to move on.” He sniffled, and gave a grateful smile from behind his metaphorical cloak of sadness.
“Barclay, I help. Ewold not know what Burk know. Go, find Girlie. You maybe have chance. Trust Burk; Burk know.” Burk had on his best pleading face, an attempt at a sad puppy expression that ended up looking like a bear giving birth to several watermelons simultaneously.
And to Burk’s surprise, the great sorcerer Barclay the Dreaded set down his old dusty tome and stood up. There was a new spark in his eyes, a dream reflected ever-so-slightly for all the world to see. Barclay stood and brushed the dusty imprints off his robe that the book had left behind.
“Okay. I’ve nothing to lose.” Barclay tried to say it casually as he wiped a stray tear from his confident jaw, but he could not hide the grin from his face.
They left the meditation room and strolled down the hall, Burk waddling behind Barclay on his stumpy legs. They passed Ewold and Ellis, who were absolutely perplexed at the sorcerer’s smile.
Barclay opened front door and stepped out. There stood Girlie, standing knee-deep in the snow and looking rather cold, though her expression was warm. Barclay stumbled a couple of steps and blushed, and only Burk could read the uneasily love-stricken smile on Girlie’s face.
“Hey,” stuttered Barclay.
“Hey,” Girlie stuttered back. Everyone was surprised that she spoke in an understandable tongue. Barclay winked at the gargoyles, “It’s a charm.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you in person,” said Girlie.
“Yeah,” Barclay said. Then he realized that ‘yeah’ wasn’t even a halfway-decent reply and went on awkwardly until finally he let the words spill out, “wanna come by for dinner tonight? We’re having BLT’s.”
It was only after the words had escaped his mouth that Barclay realized he’d invited a pig to eat bacon sandwiches with him. He gasped, covering his mouth in shock of what he’d said.
“No, it’s fine; I love bacon.” She blushed and kicked at the snow by her feet. “Guilty pleasure.”