In the world we know gargoyles are associated with architecture. Before modern times their practical function was to serve as drain spouts. To help save a building’s masonry rain water was thrust away from the walls. Thus, the longer the gargoyle the better it served its purpose. At the same time, the stone spouts were heavy and sometimes broke away from the walls they were designed to protect.
Gargoyles, as they related to churches, in some instances served as guardians to ward off evil or as a reminder that evil existed outside the structure’s walls or both. Sometimes meaningful and other times ornamental, sometimes humorous and other times grotesque, gargoyles have had large impact on architectural history.
In this world.
In fantasy writing there are many other worlds.
It’s called world building.
In the world I’ve created there’s an enormous continent known as Ontyre. Near its center is Hartise, the last refuge of human civilization and all that remains of the Emprensen Empire that long ago dominated the continent.
In Hartise, gargoyles serve a slightly different purpose.
Native to the mountain regions in the Old Empire provinces of Canyar and Pythe, gargoyles were brought north to Hartise long ago. A market exists for them and in most cities it’s common to find breeders in a square with the creatures caged. A breeding pair, though a considerable investment, are worth the money, especially if you live in the country.
Two breeds exist, Browns and Grays, their appearance and coloring depending upon the region where they originated. Browns are known for milder temperaments and trainability. Grays, which are slightly larger, are more fierce. On average, gargoyles measure 24-30” tall with wingspans over 4 feet.
Fortunately, after the initial investment gargoyles are relatively inexpensive to keep. Once trained, only one will leave the rooftop at a time, taking wing at night to hunt small rodents, reptiles, and insects.
They’re thought to be distantly related to imps, but that’s another story…
Instead, let’s return to the gargoyle market.
Especially for those living in the country, the dangers are many in Hartise. Aside from predators (bears, wolves) and other humans (thieves, brigands) there are werewolves, changelings, grips, vapors, the Ministry’s practitioners, and groln bands. In other words, a “normal” home isn’t secure enough. People require a mini fortress.
Thus, for just such a purpose were fortified homes created.
The usual design is a 2-3 story structure, hopefully with a wall surrounding the compound. The best homes have mysquan in the outer wall because it holds spells well and have hired a wizard to cast a spell for repelling visitors.
Outer walls aside, the fortified home is the last line of defense and key to that defense is having gargoyles on the rooftop to scan the countryside for danger. If danger materializes the gargoyles are trained to swoop down from the roof and attack. A large family armed with bows and gargoyles possesses a considerable defense.
Any attack that reaches the lone door must navigate a narrow approach and small entrance door where they must survive family members armed with bows firing from high, narrow windows. Make it past the doors and you find that the family has retreated to the second floor and retracted the staircase. From the second floor they can rain arrows upon you via strategic slots in the floor. If they have neighbors in hearing distance they might have a bell on the roof for sounding an alarm.
Without a doubt the upward retreat within the home is a desperate measure. The hope is that you’ve greatly thinned your attackers. Werewolf packs rarely number more than four or five. Groln bands number nine unless they’ve already lost members. A healthy vengeroost, or group of gargoyles, can number three or four total after one mating.
Thus, if you ever travel to Hartise and are in the market for a country home you now know what to do to make it safe and secure.
Don’t waste any time traveling to the closest market to purchase two healthy gargoyles. But do remember: they bite.