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COMPARING GARGOYLES

Posted on October 24, 2013

Here's a comparison of the differences between the Graham book written 14 years ago and the reworked version. The following is Chapter One. First, is the old version.

Terra Squirma
The mud was comforting. Graham adored how it tried to hold his feet prisoner with each step. The squishy suction playfully reminded him that the stable ground did not stray too far from his feet. It helped him forget that his first flight was fast approaching. He was dreading the arrival of Friday, only four days away. Graham was not ready to take to the air. His puny wings did not fill him with confidence. He pictured himself tumbling off the mountain, rather than soaring deep into the clouds. Besides, he was doing just fine on the ground. Terra firma felt so stable. Just looking up at the sky made his stomach feel light and queasy.

Graham reached down to pluck several more mukka roots out of the mud fields. The lumpy, pink vegetable was the main crop of the clan of trolls who lived next to his village. The other gargoyles avoided the trolls, claiming they were dirty and stupid. Graham didn't believe that. His best friend was a troll. Graham glanced behind him to see his friend, Ot, working feverishly to catch up to him.

"My basket's almost full, Ot. How are you doing?" asked Graham, pausing a moment to stretch. His tiny wings flapped ever so slightly.

The troll looked up and smiled. "Yes, but I'm half as muddy as you are. Perhaps you should consider less splattering. Looks like a dip in the waterfall might be called for."

Graham scooped up an extra moist clump of mud and tossed it at Ot. The troll, moving surprisingly fast for someone so stubby and plump, dodged the mud pie. "My goodness, your aim is terrible today. That's the fifth time you've missed me."

Graham rolled his eyes and resumed plucking the roots from the sloppy ground. One of these days, he'd manage to hit his target, he thought as he wrapped his fingers around a particularly stubborn mukka root. "I have time for one more basket, then I have to get home. Grandfather has something important to tell me."

Ot nodded, his smile withering into a more serious expression. "Is it about his crossing over? Is it time?"

Graham dropped his basket and trudged over to his friend. "Who told you about that? Who?"

"Your sister, Flenn. She was at the waterfall and she just started blathering on about all sorts of things, the weather, the flowers, how your father was growing frustrated with the council. I tuned her out. Honest, I did. Except... " Ot's eyes darted from side to side.

"Except?"

"Well, she started to cry. I felt sorry for her. She started telling me about your grandfather, about how gargoyles age, about the ritual of crossing over."

"She is such a blabbermouth." Graham threw up his hands and stomped back to his basket. He picked it up and flung the carefully collected mukka roots onto the ground. Graham was about to hurl the basket into a nearby patch of trees when his friend spoke softly, almost as if his voice would shatter the fragile air around them.

"Is it true?"

Graham sat down on a nearby rock and exhaled sharply. His voice was slightly shaken when he spoke, "It's true. As gargoyles age, our bodies calcify, slowly turn to stone. Grandfather can still move a little, but is bedridden for the most part. He's saving his strength for the crossing. He must have enough flexibility to climb a mortal church and... "

"So he really does have to return to Earth?" Ot's face wrinkled in fright.

"Yes, it's tradition. Our bodies harden and we become guardian statues. Our presence on a church is supposed to scare away evil spirits." Graham picked at a patch of dried mud on his orange skin.

"Why didn't you tell me before?"

"My sister and I just found out last week. I didn't want to worry you."

"Why would that worry me? You're not turning to stone anytime soon, are you?" Ot looked intently at his friend, afraid if he looked away Graham would indeed turn to stone.

"No, that's not it." He paused and looked up at his friend. Graham's eyes watered up. "He's the only one who... "

"What?"

At that moment, Ot was hit from behind by a very large mudpie. Graham and his friend looked up to see their worst nightmare approaching. Blord the village bully and his gargoyle band of misfits were zeroing in on them.

"I figured I'd find you rolling around in the mud with your troll friend, Graham," spat Blord, as he beat his immense wings with vigor.

"Blord, just go away. I don't want this right now."

"Want what? Surely you'd rather hang out with me instead of some oafish runt." Blord gestured for his fellow gargoyles to arm themselves. The boys swept up large palmfuls of mud. Graham noticed that Blord did not dirty his own hands with a mud projectile.

"Ot is a friend."

Blord's eyes narrowed. "Ready."

"Don't involve him." Graham stepped in front of the troll and crossed his arms. He was now blocking them from pelting his friend with more mud.

Blord's eyes flared in anger. "Aim."

The gargoyles held their mud-filled hands high.

"You're going to regret this," Graham said, attempting to sound strong and confident, not squeaky. Graham didn't think he had succeeded. His voice still sounded nervous and twittery.

"Fire!" Blord beat his wings in joy as his gang bombarded Graham and his troll friend with volley after volley of mud missiles. "Let the mud fly! Ha-Ha!"

Now here's the new version:

Terra Squirma
Graham tugged at the mukka root with both hands, his coarse skin giving him added grip. His brow rimmed with horns furrowed as he wrestled with the stubborn plant. Despite a downpour last night, the soil was still hard. If he wanted mukka root stew tonight, he'd need all his strength in his lean physique.

He bit his bottom lip as he strained. His tiny wings fluttered, adding little to his exertion.

His friend Ot, a short stout troll, as if there were any other type, worked two rows down and almost had his basket filled. The troll yanked another root out of the ground, sending his spiky sprout of white hair atop his head springing back rather comically.

"Two more to go," Ot chimed in. His bright yellow skin was speckled with mud.

"Easy for you. That part of the garden looks much looser. I got the drier patch," Graham said. He wrapped his fingers tighter and pulled. The root slipped free too easily and he knocked the back of one hand against his small chin tusks. The left tusk broke the skin. Graham stashed the root in his basket and sucked on his injury briefly.

Ot laughed. "That's one way to keep your chin up."

Ot loved spouting off colorful sayings, a trait he inherited from his dad. Graham had not made many trips to the nearby village but enough to know that the troll father and son were close, much closer than he and his own father.

He crawled forward, pleased to find the ground much wetter. His clawed toes sunk into the moist soil. He found the suction created by the mud comforting. He liked staying close to the ground. It made him feel safe. Being mired in such fertile soil helped him forget what was coming up on Friday. In four days he would have to take his First Flight. As a Level Five student, it was a rite of passage, required by all gargoyles halfway through the year in order to graduate. Graham was not ready to take to the air. He had done little preparation beyond the basic wing exercises. Why should he? He already knew his puny wings would let him down. While others his age used the launch platforms at school and sprinkled around the village to practice their take offs and landings, he had avoided all of them except one. Not that he had used that platform as it was designed. It had become more of place of solitude, somewhere he could get away from the pressure of being the son of one of the more outspoken council members.

He pictured himself tumbling out of the sky rather than soaring deep into the clouds. He'd splash into the Isis River for sure, another First Flight failure. What did he need with taking to the air? He was doing fine here on terra firma. Just looking up at the sky made his stomach feel light and queasy.

Graham reached down to pluck another mukka root out of the row. The lumpy pink vegetable was one of the main crops of the neighboring clan of troll. The other gargoyles avoided the trolls, claiming they were dirty and stupid. They detested how Ot's people clung to the ground and embraced the earth with such passion. Graham didn't believe any of it, which was why he was spending this evening helping his friend. While the rest of his classmates worked away on their homework or practiced yet another flight he was here harvesting roots for Ot's family and his own.

Graham eased out four more roots and placed them in his basket, dripping mud on his legs. "Only need two more and my basket's full. How are you doing?" He stretched, flapping his tiny wings ever so slightly.

The troll paused in his labors and wiped at his broad torso, cleaning off a small portion of earthen splatter. "Yes, but I'm half as muddy as you are. Perhaps you should consider more finesse in your uprooting. Looks like a dip in the waterfall might be in order for at least one of us."

Graham snickered. He knew Ot loved visiting the waterfall just a forest or two away but not because the troll was a meticulous bather. Trolls as a whole liked being close to Mother Earth. They enjoyed a little dirt on their skin. If they went to the waterfall, Ot, at the most, would simply just dip his feet in and not much else. The dirtier he arrived home, the prouder his parents would be. Graham wished his own parents felt that way. He wiped at a large clump of mud, its dark coloration a sharp contrast to his own bright orange complexion.

Ot stood and slapped his palms together, spraying his gray vest with mud. "Supposed to rain again tomorrow. Want to go mud sliding?"

Graham sighed. "Maybe."

Ot said, "C'mon, since when do you not jump at the chance to get good and dirty?"

Graham scooped up an extra moist lump of mud and tossed it at Ot. The troll, moving surprisingly fast for someone so stubby and plump, dodged the mud pie. "My goodness, your aim is terrible today. That's the fourth time you've missed me."

Graham rolled his eyes and worked on the last root before him. The plant's purple leaves stood upright and were very large, a sure sign that he was about to unearth a succulent root. "We can do one more basket, but then I have to go. Grandfather wants to tell me something important tonight."

Ot nodded, his smile withering into a more serious expression. "Is it about his crossing over?"

Graham kicked his basket over as he stood. He trudged over to his friend, knowing the tips of his tiny horns along his brow were probably tinged red from his anger. "Who told you that? Who?"

Ot didn't back away. He kept on his knees, but maintained his stable pose. "Your sister. Flenn was at the waterfall the other day and she just started blathering on about all sorts of things, the weather, merry cones, sagbottom root, lava beetles, how your father was growing frustrated with the council. I tuned her out. Honest, I did. Except. . ." Ot's eyes darted from side to side.

"Except?"

"Well, she started to cry. I felt sorry for her. Then she let it all out. She told me about how gargoyles age, about the ritual of crossing over."

"She's just a blabbermouth." Flenn was a Level Three student. She wasn't supposed to know any of that, but his parents had filled them both in since they were about to experience it with their grandfather. It must have been too much for his sister. She had blurted it all out to Ot. That was better than telling her classmates before they learned about it officially in Level Four. "Don't listen to her." He threw up his hands and stomped back to his basket. He picked it and flung the carefully collected mukka roots onto the ground. Graham was about to hurl the basket into a nearby patch of bushes when his friend spoke softly, almost as if his voice would shatter the fragile air around them.

"Is it true?"

Graham sat down on a nearby rock and drew his knees close to his chest. His voice was slightly shaky. "It's true. As we age, our bodies calcify, slowly turn to stone. Grandfather is close. He can still move about but is now bedridden. He's saving his strength for the crossing. He must be flexible enough to climb a mortal church. . ."

"So he really does have to return to Earth?" Ot's face wrinkled in fear.

"Yes, it's tradition. Gargoyles are very particular about following all the rules laid out by previous generations. Once atop a church steeple or roof ledge, we allow our bodies to harden completely and become guardian statues. Our presence on a church is supposed to scare away evil spirits." Graham picked at a patch of dried mud on his forearm.

"Why didn't you tell me before?"

Graham stiffened. "My sister and I just found out last week. I didn't want to worry you."
"Why would that worry me?" Both of Ot's long tapered ears bent downward. ""You're not turning to stone anytime soon, are you?" The troll looked intently at him. Graham sensed that Ot was afraid if he looked away, Graham would indeed turn to stone.

"No, that can't happen. I'm too young. I have a lot of life ahead of me." Graham's voice tapered off as he spouted a quote often offered to him by his grandfather. He paused and looked up at his friend. Graham's eyes watered. "He's the only one who. . ."

"What?"

At that moment, a large mud pie hit Ot square in the back of his head. Graham and his friend spun around to see their worst nightmare approaching. Blord the village bully and his gargoyle band of thugs stepped into the garden, situating themselves on the driest patch of earth. Reginald and Skynrd were always at Blord's side. Reginald was tall and gangly while Skynrd barely surpassed Graham in height. What the small gargoyle lacked in stature, he more than made up for in his weight and mouthiness.

Skynrd said, "Looks like we interrupted a little moment, huh?"

Blord ignored his lackey's comment. He crossed his sizeable arms and glared at Graham. His fellow gargoyles imitated his menacing pose slightly less successfully. "I figured I'd find you rolling around in the filth with your little troll friend, Graham." The bully beat his immense wings with vigor.

Blord was Graham's nemesis. The gargoyle stood nearly three head taller than him. While both were in the same class, Blord outclassed Graham in every way physically. The squat horns that framed the gargoyle's jaw on either side came to sharp points, something Blord worked hard to maintain. While he had never cut any of his classmates with them, Graham always feared he would be on the receiving end of them one day.

"Blord, just go away. I don't want this right now."

The bully feigned surprise. "Want what? Surely you'd rather hang out with me instead of some oafish troll runt." Blord pointed to the ground and nodded at his companions. They instinctively knew what he wanted from them. Or they had already discussed how this encounter would unfold, Graham thought.

The two gargoyles edged over to a moist patch, leaned down, and scooped up handfuls of mud. They patted them into projectiles. Graham noticed Blord did not dirty his own hands.

Graham said, "Ot is a friend, more than you'll ever be."

Blord's eyes narrowed. "You should keep to your kind, Graham."

"He's not done anything to you."

Blord smirked. "He enrolled at our school thanks to your father's influence. Now everyone has to put up with a filthy troll roaming the halls. You let one in, more will come."

Graham knew many gargoyles resented Ot's presence at school. The troll had only been at the gargoyle school for a month now, about the only request Graham had made of his father that had ever been delivered on. While most tolerated Ot, a few wanted him gone. So far Graham had shielded the troll from most of the animosity. "He's not a threat. We can learn about his people through him. There's more to Cascade than just our village."

Blord flared his nostrils. "Ready."

Reginald and Skynrd hoisted their mud pies over their heads, angling themselves so they could launch their projectiles at Ot only.

"Don't do this. He's never done anything to you." Graham stepped in front of the troll and crossed his own arms. The effect was far less impressive than Blord's guarded stance. He now blocked them from pelting his friend with more mud. It was one thing when he threw a handful of mud at Ot. There was no malice behind it. "Go home."

Blord's eyes flared in anger. "Aim."

Reginald extended his free hand offering up an upright thumb to help him properly sight his target. Skynrd did the same, but closed one eye to make even more of a show of his preparation.

"You're going to regret this," Graham said, attempting to sound strong and confident, not squeaky. He didn't think he had succeeded. His voice still sounded nervous and twittery.

"Fire!" Blord roared. The bully beat his wings in joy as his gang bombarded Graham and his troll friend with volley after volley of muddy missiles. "Let the mud fly! Ha-ha!"

So, what does everyone think?

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