The Oath

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Gargoyles: Dark Ages #3 by Clayton Crain

"The Oath" is the third issue of the Gargoyles: Dark Ages comic by Dynamite Entertainment. It was released on September 20, 2023. [1]


Solicitation

LET SLEEPING GIANTS LIE! As Angel languishes in chains, Mentor comes to the rescue — but this escape attempt may cause more harm than good. Meanwhile, construction continues on Castle Wyvern, but the noise awakens something that was better left undisturbed!

Writer and Gargoyles creator GREG WEISMAN and artist DREW MOSS (Red Sonja) continue their epochal exploration of the Gargoyles’ origins in this third issue of Dark Ages, whose 40 pages include a new text story from Weisman and all cardstock covers featuring art by CLAYTON CRAIN, ALAN QUAH, MIRKA ANDOLFO, KENYA DANINO, ERICA HENDERSON, and more!

The Story

Opening Quote

All is one with the wind.

Chapter Story

On the cliffs near King Culen's Mountain Stronghold, a lone gargoyle sleeps during the day. When it is nightfall, the Wyvern Clan's second-in-command awakens from the spot and leaves to report back the enemy's position. He quick return is silent, pointing only to his brow to the clan's Rhydderch, who returns the gesture. Nearly every able-bodied warrior, human and gargoyle alike, awaits for the next step.

At the Mountain Stronghold, Angel is chained by her wrists to the floor. Stone skin shards litter the floor. She is observed by the King and his retainer, Menteth. Outside, Prince Kenneth and his allies have arrived on the cliffside where Wyvern Clan's second slept. The gargoyle leader points to a wood stable and points his brow in the direction of the Archmage, who understands the cue. The human sorcerer opens the Grimorum Arcanorum and casts his spell: "Fulminous Venite!" Lightening strikes the stable.

Inside, Culen interrogates Angel with derision, asking her how she came about her golden tiara. Taking it off her brow, he declares his intention to melt it down to make a rattle for his infant son, Prince Constantine. His scornful antics are cut off by Menteth, who reports the stables are on fire. King Culen is unconcerned, ordering him to have soldier put it out. But it is not just the stables for long; the Archmage strikes again – this time with bolts strong enough to damage the stone walls of the stronghold. Culen shouts his orders to put out the fires. Smoke begins to fill the room, making Angel cough.

The clan's Rhydderch sees his opportunity to attack, and orders Angel's love to advance. Before they can move, a rookery daughter of the clan leader shouts for them to wait, wanting to join them on the offensive. The Rhydderch tells her to stand down, reminding her of the cost of her previous disobedience. Pointing out his rookery son is "sufficiently motivated", he prepares to leave, but his decision is also questioned by Prince Kenneth and the gargoyle's second-in-command. They both wonder why he doesn't send all the full might of their combined warriors. The gargoyle leader tells them to have faith, he will keep his oath.

With the stronghold on fire, a door crashes down with the two gargoyles coming in on all-fours. Still clutching Angel's tiara, King Culen is terrified at the sight of the gargoyle leader suddenly appearing in the fiery fortress. Coughing in the smoke, he begs for the Rhydderch to stay back, but the gargoyle shows no mercy. Meanwhile, with a slap of an unfurled wing, his rookery son makes short work of Menteth. The thane is thrown across the chamber, losing his sword. He finds his Angel in the smoke and begins trying to break her chains, which prove to be too strong for the young gargoyle. Angel begs for him to leave, but he proves to be just as unyielding as the chains. Turns his attention to the stone floor, he exerts all his might to ripping the chains out.

As the stronghold continues to be consumed by flames, Prince Kenneth, his men, and the gargoyles arrive at the scene. From the fire emerge four, and four alone: three gargoyles and a baby. Walking up to Prince Kenneth, the gargoyle leader reports that Culen is "no more". Handing Constantine to the prince, he explains that the baby has committed none of King Culen's crimes, which Kenneth agrees. Turning to his rookery daughter, the gargoyle leader returns the golden tiara to Angel. Still shaken from the ordeal, she promises never to disobey her rookery father ever again. Not far away, Lieutenant Robert expresses how horrific it must be to meet one's death by fire. Angel's love informs the human: "Not a man within perished by the flame."

The following night at Scone, Kenneth II swears by the Stone of Destiny "to protect Scotland and serve her people" all his days. As his first act as King, he bestows the title of Prince of Wyvern to his brother Malcolm. He then announces that, as a sign of peace, he will raise the infant Constantine alongside his son, Maol Chalvim, and his nephew, Kenneth. Maol Chalvim can't help but roll his eyes.

Meanwhile, Robbie walks with his daughter Alesand up Wyvern Hill. She tells him how she wanted to see the coronation, but he explains that some things are more important than a coronation, and that they need to pay their respects. He informs her that without the gargoyles, there wouldn't have been a coronation to begin with. "We owe the gargoyles our loyalty. We owe them our very lives. Remember that," he tells Alesand, "Remember this night . . ." The human father and daughter arrive at the unlit pyre, where the Rhydderch's mate and the other gargoyles that died fighting Culen's men have been prepared for the Wyvern Clan's Wind Ceremony. At the foot of the pyre, a warrior-priestess begins the rite, with the Rhydderch and his second-in-command holding torches at her side. The warrior-priestess explains that tonight they hold vigil while "the fire claims what our clan could not hold" until the fire has run its course. Taking the first handful of ashes, she proclaims: "Ashes to ashes or dust to dust . . . all is one with the wind." At the top of the hill, Robert and Alesand watch as the entire Wyvern Clan – even the beasts – take the ashes of their fallen loved ones and leave them to the skies, forever uniting the clan with all those that have perished before them.

Some nights later, Prince Malcolm meets with the clan's Rhydderch at the top of Wyvern Hill, who has heard of the prince's new title. Malcolm shares that both he and his brother the King want to build a castle on the hill, explaining it strategic importance. The gargoyle leader figures that his clan is about to be displaced.

Down the hill, the Archmage approaches Angel, asking the gargoyle for a word. She demands to know what he wants and he explains how he merely wanted to express his sympathies after witnessing her ordeal as Culen's captive. He shares that he has petitioned to be Prince Malcolm's primary advisor, but Angel continues to be short with the human, asking what this has to do with her.

At the top of the hill, Prince Malcolm clarifies that he wants the gargoyles to remain, believing that their mutual protection, day and night, will strengthen their alliance. The two clasp arms as the gargoyle agrees to the idea, sharing that his mate would also approved. Below, the Archmage tells Angel that he will need an apprentice, and offers an education that will offer the opportunity to never be powerless again. Angel considers the proposal, seeing her rookery father and human prince continue their partnership. She accepts the Archmage's offer.

Celebrating the moment, Prince Malcolm asks the gargoyle leader to imagine the future, but he struggles once more with the Rhydderch's lacking a name. The gargoyle rolls his eyes and asks what the human would suggest. Prince Malcolm thinks about it, acknowledging the gargoyle's mentorship to both he and the King. He suggests the name Mentor. The gargoyle finds the name fitting. Celebrating the moment once more, Prince Malcolm asks Mentor to imagine the future castle: "It will be a marvel to behold, while bringing good fortune to our alliance. This I promise you!"

Elsewhere, a giant eye opens, alert.

The Tale of the Three Brothers

The scribe Alesand describes how the Players performed a comedy on their third night at Wyvern Hill. Despite her joy from the main performance, she describes her enthusiasm more captivated by the anticipation of the storyteller's tale that followed:

Duff and Kenneth II soon march to Edinburgh and demand Indulf's unconditional surrender. Indulf’s upper hand is shaken when only Katharine is found. When his son, Culen, returns from his search of the castle with no sign of Malcolm, Queen Katharine orders the King to open the gates and let Duff and his troops in. That, or see her jump from the tower, robbing Indulf of both his hostages. Indulf ultimately abdicates and he and his son are granted safe passage to Ireland. Katharine and Robbie race to the castle’s small cemetery, unearthing a buried-alive (with wooden breathing tube) Malcolm. Finally free, Malcolm meets his older brothers.

While Alesand tries to argue with the young woman that the story is far from over, and she agrees: "Few things ever just end." Alesand recalls how her father, who knew the story from personal experience, playfully ask what happens next, only to be told, "That is a story for another night . . ."

Review

The war with Culen concludes in this issue, but in so doing, sows the seeds of more adventures and tales in the "Dark Ages" period.

Goliath and Mentor rescue Angel from Culen's castle in a dramatic strike (assisted by the Archmage and his trademark "fulminus venite" spell). The opening pages effectively begin the account of the attack without a single word spoken (until the Archmage utters his spell). In a just-as-effective touch, although the bulk of the fighting happens off-stage (we see "Mentor" advancing upon a terrified Culen and Goliath sending his last major supporter, Menteth, flying across the room), we learn afterwards that Culen and his men were slain by the gargoyles, in a terse line from Goliath. Goliath rescues his "angel of the night" in an impressive feat of strength. Only one of Culen's people survives the attack: his infant son Constantine, whom "Mentor" rescues (the same Constantine, though neither the gargoyles nor Kenneth suspect it, who will murder Kenneth twenty-four years later and whose usurpation will lead to Princess Katharine fleeing to Avalon with the eggs).

The real highlight of this issue, however, is the Wind Ceremony (held for "Verity" and two other gargoyles who had evidently fallen in the battle with her). Many years ago, Greg Weisman had described this funeral service of the gargoyles; now we behold it at last, and it lives up to our expectations. (In an especially lovely touch, as the gargoyles glide through the sky at the end, they carry the gargoyle beasts with them, allowing the beasts to take part in this solemn occasion.) We also see Robbie and his daughter Alesand (the narrator of "The Tale of the Three Brothers" pieces at the end of each issue, now appearing on-stage for the first time) attending the ceremony (passing up Kenneth II's coronation for it – though we get a few glimpses of the coronation itself, including another cameo from the Stone of Destiny), to see Robbie's friendship and loyalty to the Wyvern Clan.

At the end, we see the seeds for two major new events for the Wyvern Clan. Prince Malcolm shares with Mentor the need to build a castle atop Wyvern Hill, to strengthen the alliance between humans and gargoyles, which Mentor accepts. (Malcolm also bestows the name "Mentor" upon the gargoyle leader – and the scene successfully gives it its own tone, different from Hudson assuming his more familiar name over a thousand years later in "Awakening: Part Three".) And the Archmage takes advantage of Angel's vulnerability to lure her into becoming his apprentice.

And as Prince Malcolm talks eagerly about what is to come, we get a glimpse of an enormous eye, boding trouble to come....

This issue continues to be a treat for those who, like this reviewer, had especially enjoyed the medieval background of Gargoyles.

First Appearances

Location

Miscellaneous

Tidbits

Rejected Gargoyles: Dark Ages #3 by Drew Moss. Like Elisa lying in a pool of her own blood before it.
Gargoyles: Dark Ages #3 by Drew Moss
  • In May, 2023, Drew Moss's incentive cover was revealed and used for the solicitations of the book. For unknown reasons, the cover was revised in July, 2023.
  • Prince Malcolm's wish for the infant Constantine, "May the sins of the father never fall upon his head" is a reference to the biblical passage, "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16)
  • While a Wind Ceremony was first mentioned by "True" during Brooklyn's initial TimeDance in the issue "Tyrants", this is the first story to demonstrate the specifics of the ceremony.


Cover Gallery

Dynamite Gargoyles Dark Ages 3 Gallery1.jpg
Dynamite Gargoyles Dark Ages 3 Gallery2.jpg


Links

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