The Last Hope

World News

The frustrated gargoyle threw the broken pickax against the tunnel wall, not caring who heard the sound. He had been digging for over three days now, and his strength, like the pickax, was exhausted. He slumped against the tunnel wall and tried to calm himself.

As he stared blankly at the floor, his thoughts turned to those he had left behind. They were good beings who did not deserve their fate. Life had been like this for as long as he could remember. Only the eldest of the gargoyles remembered the time before the conquering. Those stories almost sounded like a child’s tale now, the very idea of a free life so far beyond his comprehension.

There was no such thing, he thought bitterly, only those with power can truly be free. He cursed immediately for even thinking that way and punched his hand into his open palm. No! There had to be a way to reclaim their home. He would not let his kind live like this.

There were others, he knew, digging like him. Hoping to find a way out. Hoping to find help. They had overheard the controller’s talk of fighting an enemy, and the few gargoyles who had evaded capture figured that any enemy of these foul beasts might be an ally to the gargoyles. But they had also learned how gargoyles in these other lands were perceived… as monsters to be slaughtered for treasure and fame. They had no choice, though. Something had to be done, and this was the last hope.

The leaders had organized small bands of gargoyles to dig in specific locations, hoping to find a way through the seemingly infinite expanse of mountains. Despite their strong wings, no gargoyle could fly high enough to break past the impossibly high peaks. Those few that tried had never returned. The gargoyles sometimes hoped that maybe one had made it across, but they all knew better. The mountain winds had claimed them, but at least now they were free. The gargoyle allowed himself a small smile and said a silent prayer for those brave, if foolhardy, friends.

He remembered his other friends, the four who had been digging with him only a few days ago. They had been caught by the controllers, but thankfully the master’s lackeys had not found the cave entrance. The gargoyle knew what fate awaited them and shuddered at the thought. They were probably already back in the city, no doubt unaware of who they were or what they stood for. The lackeys were efficient with their work. No gargoyle who had been “re-educated”, as they called it, had ever been restored to his previous state. They were now warriors in the army of the controllers, willing and ready to obey any command, and ready to kill another gargoyle without a moment’s remorse.

The ultimate insult to the pride of a gargoyle, he thought bitterly.

But that pride had to be swallowed in times such as this. The gargoyles had tried many times to retake their city, but once the mages began using their own kin against them, the battles gained the gargoyles nothing. The gargoyle grimaced as he recalled the last battle, remembering the revulsion he had felt as he’d personally slain three of his own kin. He knew he had been given no choice, that his fellow gargoyles had been beyond help, that he had done the only thing he could have to save them from their torment. But still it pained and angered him.

He pictured the controllers, living in the once proud gargoyle city as if it was their own home, and his anger intensified. That city, with its sweeping staircases, beautifully carved stone, marble paths, and impressive towers should belong to the gargoyles, not these foul creatures. He had never known the city as his true home, having grown up in the wilderness, constantly hiding from capture. But in his heart, in his soul, he knew that that wondrous city was where he and his kin were meant to live.

Picturing his own kin in chains, the once beautiful city infested with red robed mages, and what was left of the proud gargoyle race reduced to mindless drones for the one they called the master, was more than he could bear. The gargoyle stood and pounded his fist powerfully into the wall where he had been digging. He jumped back as he heard the stones groan suddenly, and then had to shield his eyes as the wall fell away, opening into the bright sunlight. The gargoyle stood staring, stupefied, at the new entrance to his once forgotten land, too many emotions filling him to make another move.

The tunnel was complete. But would help arrive?

From the Britannia News Network - The Journal of Ultima Online, October 4th, 2001.