Title: On Gurnenthar
Author: Beer Good
Word Count: ~850
Fandom: Buffy, s5 (circa "Into The Woods")
Summary: Who was Gurnenthar, how did he ascend, and what does it have to do with Christmas?
The weeks before Christmas are exhausting for customers and shopkeepers alike. But on Sunday they closed up the Magic Box a little earlier and started walking home. Xander (who had been bribed into helping out every day of the last two weeks with hinted offers of sexual favours he had usually been too tired to take complete advantage of) was taking deep breaths to clear his mind of magic items and customers, and Anya was all abuzz with the excitement of having sold so much that they would have to start Monday by calling every magic wholesaler in California; after all, there were 7 more days of shopping to go. And as fascinating a subject as that was, Xander had been stocking shelves and bagging charms for 10 hours per day, and the second he got a word in edgewise he tried to steer the conversation in another direction. (The fact that they were walking down Main Street and Xander was pretty sure that with Anya this hyper, the conversation would turn to intimate sexual details pretty soon, probably played in as well.)
"So... who's Gurnenthar?"
"And the hellebore root is just flying off the..." Anya frowned. "Gurnenthar? Why?"
"I was just wondering... That banner we hung in the store, wishing people a happy Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Gurnenthar’s Ascendance. I’ve never heard of that last one."
"Oh, it’s just an old demon legend. Sort of like a demonic Christmas, except with beheadings instead of carols. Speaking of beheadings, we really need to stock up on those shrunken -"
"Demonic Christmas? That sounds... interesting." Xander put his arm around her shoulders as they walked. "I bet there's a story behind that, huh?"
"Sure," Anya leaned into him and matched her steps to his, "but you never like it when I talk about demon stuff."
"Well, I... like that you like it."
Anya gave him a curious look, then shrugged. "Fine, I'll tell you. Back in the fourth century there was this Gothic warrior named Gurnenthar, who was strong and brave and feared throughout the blah-de-blah-de-blah as those guys always were. He and his fellow barbarians were killing and robbing their way through Greece when he heard about this mighty wizard named Agios Nikolaos, who was supposed to be very rich and generous. So being an enterprising man, Gurnenthar naturally he thought he could convince Agios to be generous to him."
"And I’m guessing he wasn’t going to use big blue Bambi eyes to convince him?"
"Well, duh. So when they got there, Agios took one look at their battle axes and offered them a deal: if they let him live, he’d help Gurnenthar and his eight most trusted men ascend to pure demonhood."
Xander flinched. "Pure demon? As in giant people-eating mayoral snakes?"
"Same principle, different demon. Agios told them that as pillaging barbarians, they would have a great time being chaos demons, since it wouldn't really be much of a change. He gave them this whole peptalk about how mighty they would be, ‘all slime and antlers new torment to bring, crimson of muzzle and swift of wing’, yada yada yada. Only he ‘forgot’ to mention that obviously, chaos demons cannot be pure."
"Well, obviously. Because... um..."
"...Because purity requires order, Xander. Chaos is never pure."
"I knew that."
"But anyway, they bought it and agreed to let him turn them into demons, and of course they ended up as his minions. I think he used them as pack animals or something."
Their own street was a lot less crowded than Main Street, and with darkness beginning to fall and Christmas decorations lighting up the windows, the stress of the last few days was almost forgotten. "So," Xander summed up, "Gurnenthar didn't so much ascend as..."
"...get screwed big time."
"And demons celebrate this?"
"Well, demons aren’t much for happy endings. Stories of spite and vengeance are much more fun."
"But why on Christmas?"
Anya shrugged. "That’s when it happened."
They had just reached the apartment, when suddenly Xander stopped with his hand on the doorknob. "Woah, hang on a second. Be kind, rewind. Did you just say that," he counted off on his fingers, "Gurnenthar got turned into a demon that has antlers, a red nose, can fly, and works for a generous man named Nicholas on Christmas?"
"And this would be what kind of chaos demon, exactly?"
"I think it's called a Ryu’dolf."
Xander just stared at her.
"What?" Anya frowned. "Is this one of those pop culture things again?" She allowed him to stew in his own how-do-I-explain-this-without-sounding-condescending juices for a few seconds, then smiled and put her arms around his neck. "Relax, Xander. I'm just pulling your leg. And in about 10 seconds I'm going to thank you for helping out all week by pulling other parts of your body as well, so you better get that door open if you don't want your neighbors to see."
Suddenly, Xander was in a big hurry to get them both inside.
* * *
Mr Roberts, the janitor, frowned as he heard the sounds from the apartment above his. God, did those two kids everstop? Never mind; he had work to do. He went over his inventory of cleaning products once more, re-checking the list of stuff he had to buy before the stores ran out. If he ever found out who dumped buckets of sticky slime around the chimney every goddamn Christmas, he'd make that bastard pay.