Prologue, Transylvania, 1887
The mob streamed through the forest towards the dark and foreboding castle. Their torches cast eerie shadows among the leaves. The battering ram was heavy, but the fervor of its carriers made it seem light.
As the mob battered against the castle gate, Doctor Victor Frankenstein finally triumphed over death. His creature was alive!
The doctor knew he had to escape before the mob breached the castle, but his escape was impeded by the very man who had paid for the instruments that had allowed his creature to be 'born'. Victor soon realized that the man, the Count, had a terrible purpose for the creature.
Victor was horrified by the thought of such evil. He shouted for his assistant Igor to help him against the count, but Igor was a traitor. Victor grabbed a sword to hold the Count off, but he was astonished when the man impaled himself upon the sword. Victor screamed as the count's face turned into that of a monster. He heard a door slam as Igor ran away.
The count drained his victim, and he dropped what was left of Victor Frankenstein to the floor. He wiped his lips with his hand as he walked towards the table where Frankenstein's monster lay. He was mildly surprised to find the creature was gone. The monster threw a piece of machinery at the Count, causing the vampire to fly backwards into the over-sized fireplace with a burst of flame.
The creature was unhappy to find his maker hurt. He picked Victor up to run away and hide. However, Igor shouted out the doctor's name, alerting the mob to their presence. The mob followed the creature to a nearby windmill.
Back in the castle, the Count threw the huge piece of machinery off of himself with ease. He stepped out of the fireplace while still in flames, but those were quickly extinguished. His blackened flesh healed instantly, and with an almost bored look, he flicked a lock of hair out of his face. The flickering shadows on the wall showed his transformation from man to monster.
Frankenstein's creature pushed his way inside the windmill, closing the door just as the first members of the mob reached the windmill. Outside the instigator of the mob screamed out to the burn down the windmill.
As the creature climbed upwards he broke bottles of alcohol that littered the stairs of the abandoned windmill. The mob threw their torches into the building. The ancient wood, coupled with the flammable liquid, caused the entire building to burst into flame immediately.
The creature couldn't understand what was going on, and he screamed at the crowd. An old woman fainted, but at the same time a noise was heard from above.
The mob realized their vulnerability. They ran screaming because of the winged creatures above them. The instigator stared as the vampires flew through the darkness towards them.
The creature looked down at his maker one last time before the burning windmill collapsed, taking both of them down into the fiery depths of the building.
The Count landed on the ground already morphed into his human guise. His three brides followed, their white gowns fluttering around their bodies. The brides screamed and cried, huddled together behind an unhappy Count. Each one was upset that their purpose had been thwarted.
“Whoa,” Xander quipped, grabbing the attention of the room’s occupants as he barreled into the school library. “Full house.”
Grinning to Oz, Willow and Buffy he made his way over to his girlfriend’s side. His smile slipped slightly as he noted the presence of the large brunette vampire that he hated above all others. The teenager really didn’t care if the creep had a soul or not, in Xander’s mind there wasn’t a lot of difference between the two versions.
With Xander’s entrance, Buffy turned to Giles. “So what’s the what, oh, watcher, mine? How come we all got the big summons? Apocalypse? World end-age? End of year clearance sale at the mall?” Buffy chirped perkily.
Faith stood off to the side, hating her inability to find her place within the group but longing to be a part of something. Every time she tried to get a handle on the slayer gig, she found herself being pushed to the sidelines because whatever she was doing things. Everyone was used to Buffy’s style. This left Faith floundering. She wasn’t Buffy. Of course her way would be different, but that didn’t seem to matter to the majority of the group she now found herself linked with. It wasn’t right. Her gut told her that this wasn’t the way things were meant to be.
Rupert Giles removed his glasses as his mind attempted to arrange his thoughts. He was working with little or no information, and it irked him. With a resigned sigh he attempted to illuminate the group with what little he knew.
“This afternoon I was visited by an… er… individual that, I believe, Buffy and Angel are familiar with...” Giles lifted his gaze to meet his charge he clarified. “...Whistler.”
Angel and Buffy exchanged shocked glances, before turning back to Giles and silently indicating that the ex-watcher should continue.
“He just asked that I contact everyone here and ask them to be present this evening. It is my understanding that he will return presently with more information for us all,” Giles concluded unhappily.
“So who is this guy?” Xander was the first to break the uncomfortable silence that followed Giles’ announcement.
“Creepy little demon guy that’s supposed to work for the Powers that Be,” Buffy answered her friend unhappily. As far as she was concerned nothing good could come from a Whistler visit. The last time she’d seen him, he’d been the one to tell her how to kill Angel and stop Acathla. She planned to make good on her threat to turn his ribcage into a hat if he had more bad news to share.
“He’s a balance demon working directly for the Powers. He’s the one that led me to Buffy.” Angel offered softly as he smiled with loving sadness at the small blonde slayer.
“All the more reason to hate him,” Xander snarked maliciously, responding to the brunette’s words.
“And here I thought we could be such good friends, too,” Whistler announced his presence while he responded to Xander’s comment. Stepping fully into view from his position near the book stands, Whistler moved closer to the steps that led down to the main library floor. Lifting his hands up in the universal sigh for ‘I come in peace’, the balance demon quickly circumvented Buffy’s angry questions by offering the reason for his visit.
“The Powers want to see you all. They think it’s time to tell you what your place is in the greater scheme of things. They want to clear up the confusion with the whole two slayer story. They especially want Buffy, Faith, Angel and the Watcher to understand exactly what it is they have been chosen for.”
“But…you said…um…why do they want to see the rest of us?” Willow stumbled nervously.
“You’ve all been chosen, Doll face. Now you get to find out what for.” With a wave of his hand a bright white vortex opened.
The entire roomful stood momentarily frozen staring at the swirling opening. Uneasy glances flicked from eye to eye. Rolling her eyes in annoyance, Cordelia Chase was the first to move, swiftly heading to the portal. “Come on, people. I have better things to do with my time than spend it standing around with you losers.”
With a look of shocked disbelief, Buffy watched the cheerleader strut through the opening and disappear ‘Stupid Cordy…making me look like a scaredy slayer,’ Buffy thought with a huff before following the statuesque brunette into the light.
Whistler watched them go and thanked the Powers that he wouldn’t be around when they came back – he liked his ribs where they were, thank you very much! With a flash of light the portal closed and the balance demon disappeared, leaving the library to the silence of the night.
Buffy looked around quickly making a silent head count. ‘Angel – check; Giles – check; Willow and Xander – check; Oz – check; Faith – check; stupid Cordy – check; Amy and Mom – check…wait…back up, huh?’ “Mom? Amy? What are you…?” Buffy voice trailed off when a groan of pain reached her ears. Turning towards the sound she noticed two unknown men, one looking like a younger version of Giles and the second clutching his head. Before she could voice the stream of questions she suddenly needed answers to, the new guy with the apparent headache was loudly complaining in a weird accent about something that sounded like visions and inconsiderate bosses that didn’t give him any time to process said visions.
“Will someone shut the bloody mick up? Can’t you let a man suffer through his hang-over in peace?”
The pitiful whine came from behind, and Buffy felt like she was moving in slow motion as she turned. “Spike?” she gasped in shock at the sight of the miserable looking blond vampire that she hadn’t seen since their truce.
For the first time in a very long time Buffy Summers had absolutely no idea what to say. Neither, apparently, did almost every other member of the gathered group.
“What have you dragged me into this time, Slayer?” Spike pouted unhappily.
“Me?” she squeaked out indignantly. “Since when did I get to be your ‘let’s-blame-Buffy’ doll?”
Standing abruptly and ignoring the pounding in his head, Spike growled as he stepped into her personal space and glared accusingly at the little blonde. “Let’s see, shall we?” he snapped sarcastically, ticking off fingers as he continued, “wheelchair, Angelus, Dru.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes and slammed back with disdain, “You started it when you kidnapped my boyfriend. He’s your family, and it was your choice to hook up with the loony ho-bag.”
“You are, without doubt, the most infuriating, annoying, aggravating, exasperating…”
“Oooh! Look at you, Mr. Thesaurus,” Buffy mocked with amusement. “And right back at ya, bleach brain.”
“If you are quite finished, perhaps we can get started,” an irritated voice pierced the confines of the secluded universe that the glaring blonds had managed to transport themselves to.
With matching looks of irritation at being interrupted, Buffy and Spike turned towards the voice and noticed the three newcomers for the first time.
Buffy’s expression turned to shock as she recognized all three.
“Darla, I thought you were dust?” Spike asked in surprise. Looking at the other two. he realized only one of them was familiar. Turning his confused features to Buffy he asked the question that his recognition demanded. “Isn’t that the Island bint, Slayer? The one Dru offed?”
“Um...yeah. And the other one is Jesse. He died before you and I met.” Buffy replied dazed, her mental confusion not registering the sudden lack of animosity between her and her mortal enemy.
“What the bleedin’ hell is goin’ on here?” Spike demanded of the three, somehow instinctively knowing that they would have his answers.
Holding up his hands to quiet the babbling of questions that Spike’s had spurred, Jesse waited for their silence. “We appear in these images because they are known to the majority of you. We are the Powers That Be.” Indicating his companions, the Power in the body of Jesse continued, “Darla holds the Powers for Evil, Kendra for Good, and I hold Balance. I am the bridge between the two, so to speak. While they exist, I can be maintained.”
With a slight wave of his hand comfortable arm chairs appeared behind each individual. “This may take a while. We may as well be eased while we talk.”
The three Powers sat and waited for the rest to follow their example.
Once all were seated, Jesse continued. “We have much to discuss. Each of you are here for a reason. We ask that you show patience. It will be rewarded.”
Cautious nods followed his request.
“First we will address the matter of slayers and the Council.” Jesse began with a penetrating glance at Buffy, Faith, Giles and the man that Buffy had recognized as a younger version of Giles. “Over the centuries the Council has allowed itself to be manipulated by unscrupulous leaders, and the job and teachings of the Council has been changed because of this. The fact is that the job of the Council is to provide its head, The Slayer, with support and advice. She does not work for the Council; the Council is there for her.” With a nod of understanding at the unified gasp from the four he was addressing, Jesse continued. “When Buffy died at the hand of the Master, she not only fulfilled the prophecy that allowed for the slayer line to split, her resuscitation began the prophecy of the coming of the Order of Light.”
“But the Order of Light has been around for centuries,” Giles interrupted, confused.
Jesse nodded in agreement. “That is true, but the Order of Light are immortals. They are not bound by time and space. They are called the timeless warriors for a reason. They exist in the past because they were called in the future. The many apocalypses they have thwarted they have done so because they already know the outcome.”
“And this has something to do with Buffy?” Joyce asked tentatively, unsure of her place. She was determined to understand what was happening with her daughter.
“Yes,” Jesse agreed solemnly. “Kendra was called and, following her, Faith. Faith is the present slayer. Buffy has moved on to her rightful place in the scheme of things, and now is the time to bring that into being.”
“What, so Faith gets a death sentence, and I have you screwing up my life more?” Buffy demanded in frustration. Why did these so called powers think they had the right to mess with her life? It wasn’t right.
“You were chosen originally because, of all the girls in the world, you were the one with the greatest love for your fellow man. You had the greatest spirit of protection. You had the need and desire to stand up for what was right. All the parts of you that make you the greatest slayer that has ever lived come from the girl you are. You constantly complain that you have had ‘normal’ taken from you and yet you fail to realize that even without the power of the Slayer, you would never be ‘normal’ because you are extraordinary. We recognize this and celebrate the person you are becoming. Why don’t you?” the Power that wore Kendra’s face asked with gentle curiosity.
Buffy’s face flushed in pleasure at the unexpected praise. “Oh! Um…never thought of it that way,” she mumbled shyly. When she heard the snicker from the chair to her left she sent the amused vampire a glare that, if it could have, would have dusted him on the spot.
“As to your other statements,” Jesse continued unperturbed by the interruptions. “A Slayer can only die if she is killed. At the age of twenty five she stops aging. The reason so many before you have not lived longer is because the Council teaches each slayer that she must fight alone. This is not true. As you have discovered, Buffy, fighting with a team ensures that you don’t have to. We have called the people that will be Faith’s team here. This way she too will be protected so that she can protect those she needs to.”
Standing, Jesse indicated that Faith should stand, too. “You have much to offer the world, but your inner imbalance makes that difficult for you. You have not yet been given the opportunity to find out who you are as a slayer, and this festers within you. Now is your time, Faith, and we will furnish you with all you need to aid you.” Indicating the un-named man, he introduced her, “Wesley Wyndam-Price, your watcher.”
With a slight smile the two shook hands.
“Wesley, you are untried and unsure. We have chosen to give you a gift so that your slayer will have the best guidance. In your future you will become the man she needs you to be. So, we have decided to give you that knowledge of self, but we do not wish to hurt you or those you can and will come to love. So, while we will give you the nature you will develop, we will not give you the memory of how you developed it. It would upset the balance were that knowledge available to you.”
Touching Wesley’s forehead lightly, Jesse bestowed their gift.
Everyone watched, some in amazement, as the stiffly standing man seemed to relax into a softer pose that screamed of security and capability. No one doubted for a moment that this man would well be able to handle himself.
Slighting lifting an eyebrow, Wesley made a sardonic observation. “The Council is not going to be happy.”
Jesse indicated that the Brit should re-seat himself and responded even as he turned to the next team member. “The Council will be dealt with.”
“Allen Francis Doyle,” Jesse introduced the Irishman to Faith. “He is your seer. He is your link with us.”
Buffy pouted. She didn’t have a seer.
“Amy Madison, your witch.”
Amy gave a shy little hand wave, really glad that she’d had the opportunity to have this all explained to her before hand.
“Amy, you have great potential, but you lack knowledge and control,” Jesse said before reaching out and touching her forehead. “We give you both.”
Amy reached to her head as she plopped back down on her seat. ‘Whoa! Hadn’t been expecting that.’ she thought, shocked.
Jesse moved to face the final member of Faith’s team. “Your vampire protector.”
“Wait! No! I mean…I’m Buffy protector,” Angel stood and faced the Power, confusion marring his features.
“No. You are the Slayer’s protector. The Slayer is Faith.” Jesse replied coldly before turning to the Power in Darla, “You explain it to him.”
Darla stood and faced the frowning brunette vampire. “To gain the redemption you seek, you must continue to fight on the side of good. You have many lessons to learn, and so far you have not done well at all. You were offered a chance to redeem yourself by protecting the new slayer of the time. That happened to be Buffy. However, instead of coming openly to the Slayer and her Watcher and standing by their side to face all threats, you stood off to the side and watched. You offered cryptic information when you knew all. You hid your nature and concentrated on the seduction of a minor rather than do the job we had offered you. You surrounded yourself with mystery and lies rather than open truth. You attempted to teach and guide, undermining the position of her watcher, rather than protect as you had been charged to do. You are lucky that you are being given this chance. This slayer,” she said, pointing to Faith, “knows you are a vampire with a cursed soul. She knows that if you have a moment of happiness you will lose the soul. She also knows that you are to be her protector, not her watcher or regulator. You will not be able to manipulate her as you have Buffy and you will not be in charge. Your job is to fight at her side every night and That. Is. All.”
“But what about Buffy? Who is going to protect her?” Angel demanded, incensed.
“Buffy is no longer your concern,” Jesse announced with finality. With a wave of his hand a portal opened behind the group and turned to Faith. “This is your team. Take them back to the library, and you will be met by Whistler. He will get everyone settled.”
Faith nodded eagerly, ready and willing to get on with the rest of her life and the mission she was called to do. Grabbing Angel and pushing him ahead of her she felt comfortable giving her first order. “Come on, lack brain, you heard the man. Move your broody ass.”
The group of five were through the portal, which had closed after them before Buffy registered they were leaving. She had been desperately trying to deny the very real and honest interpretation of the host of accusations Darla had leveled at Angel. She really hated when people dragged her, kicking and screaming, out of Egypt. Reality sucked on occasion. This really put a damper on the whole Angel being her destiny theory.
“Is this where you tell us about the whole ‘Order of Light’ thing-y?” Willow asked nervously.
Jesse smiled benignly at the little witch and nodded in agreement.
“The Order of Light are a group of immortals that travel through time and space righting wrongs and keeping the balance. They represent all factions of the Powers. They are chosen and yet choose to be chosen.” Kendra stated simply while turning to Buffy. “This is where you choose, Buffy.”
“What are my options?” Buffy snorted inelegantly, positive that her choices would by sucky and suckier.
“If you choose to become the leader of the Order of Light, you will continue to fight. As the battles have already been fought and won, you would have the distinct advantage of knowing the outcome. You would never need to feel alone again. Choosing this path will lead you to your destined mate; one who is truly your equal; one who loves as deeply as you; one who will love you with his entire being.” Kendra offered with a grin. “If you chose against this, you can officially retire. We will remove your slayer powers, and you can go on with your life. You can search for ‘normal’ without the distraction of slaying.”
Buffy dropped her head and really considered her options. The whole idea of being a normal girl again tempted her beyond belief, but the idea of giving up her powers held her back from immediately jumping for joy and grabbing the opportunity. If she was honest with herself she would have to admit to liking not only the strength and super fast healing, but sometimes she kinda liked the fighting, too. Without that she would have to learn how to deal with normal strength all over again. She would never again be able to stop a bully from picking on someone and really, if she stuck with the non-denial, she didn’t really want to stop being able to protect people. ‘And bonus, finding someone who will love me without the certain knowledge that his demon hates my guts is an unexpected chocolate moment.’ Lifting her eyes to meet the comforting brown of her old friend, Buffy clearly and firmly gave her answer, “I choose to lead the Order of Light.”
“And so it begins,” Jesse stepped forward smiling. “Watcher, do you willingly join your charge in her destiny?”
“I do,” Giles stated firmly, stepping to Buffy’s side.
Jesse leaned forward and tapped Giles’ forehead. “You are the Father. Knowledge is your field, and now all that you need you know.”
Giles gasped as he realized exactly what he now knew and what was still to come.
“Joyce Summers, do you willingly join your daughter in her destiny?” Jesse asked the surprised woman who stood quickly to join her child and Giles.
“I do,” she answered firmly, not allowing her daughter the chance to object. She stood still as the Power for Balance tapped her head.
“You are the Mother. Love is your field, and now you can heal all you love with your touch.”
“Willow Rosenberg, do you willingly join your friend in her destiny?”
“I do,” she stated firmly before stepping up to join the others and waited patiently for the forehead tap that everyone else had received.
“You are the Witch. Magic is your field, and it can be hazardous. Absolute power corrupts absolutely unless it is wedded with compassion and wisdom. You are born with compassion but wisdom requires time.” Waving his hand three necklaces appeared suspended in midair before the little witch. Pointing to each, Jesse gave them a name. “Power; Wisdom; Time. Which do you choose?”
Willow thought hard about the choices, and as she did an idea formed. She reached for her chosen necklace. “I chose time,” she started, placing the necklace around her neck before reaching for a second necklace. “Because with time you can acquire wisdom,” she said with a grin, slipping the second necklace around her neck and watching as it fused with the first.
“Do you not wish to try for Power, too?” Jess asked lightly.
“I have power. Now I’m wise enough to know that I don’t need any more,” she said with a shy grin.
Jesse threw back his head and laughed. “You are well chosen, little witch. You do us proud.”
Turning back to group Jesse continued, “Daniel Osborne, do you willingly join your friend in her destiny?”
“Absolutely,” Oz replied stoically while he moved to join his girlfriend.
Jesse tapped him lightly and grinned. “You are the Wolf. We give you control. Now when you need to use your inner beast your mind will be in charge.”
“Alexander Harris, do you willingly join your friend in her destiny?”
“Always,” Xander jumped to take his place and waited for his gift.
“You are the Weapons Smith. Your field is creation. You now have the knowledge to ensure you can make any weapon your group will require in any time.”
“Cordelia Chase, do you willingly join your friend in her destiny?” Jesse smiled at the beautiful brunette.
“I so better get something good out of this,” she grumbled as she took her place. There was no need to let them know that the idea of being eternally gorgeous played a big part in her decision making process.
“You are the Seer. Visions are your field and now, as conduit for the Powers you can warn of impending threat.”
Darla stepped forward, taking Jesse’s place. “William of Aurelius, Spike, Slayer of Slayers, do you willingly choose to follow your true destiny?”
“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR BLEEDIN’ MIND?”
Giles stepped forward quickly and placed his hands on the shoulders of the freaked blond vampire, knowing exactly what he had to do. “I claim you as my son. You have family. I pledge to you my loyalty and support. You are mine.”
Joyce followed her own urges and quickly replaced Giles as the older man stepped aside for her. “I claim you as my child. You have family. I pledge to you my loyalty and support. You are mine.”
Xander, Willow, Oz and Cordelia stepped forward as one, each reaching to touch the shaking vampire. “We claim you as our brother. You have family. We pledge to you our loyalty and support. You are ours.”
Spike collapsed to his knees, his emotions overwhelming him. Tears pricked at his eyes. The love and support that he now felt surging through him from his newly stated family was making his William side cry in relief and his demon purr with happiness. He belonged. He finally belonged.
The vampire didn’t notice as his new family stepped aside to allow Buffy space. Kneeling in front of the weeping blond, the tiny girl slipped her hands into Spike’s. “I claim you as mine. You are family. You are my left hand. I pledge to you my loyalty and support. You are mine.”
“Yours,” Spike whispered, cementing the bond.
“I ask again,” Darla said stepping forward. “Do you willingly choose to follow your true destiny?”
“Too bloody right, I do,” Spike sniffed and rose to his feet, still clutching the hands of his slayer.
Darla smiled and tapped his head. “You are the Guardian. You fight to protect them all. You will walk freely in daylight and no longer fear the weapons of faith. Your blood will pump so that your demon will be satisfied. No longer will you need to consume it. William has returned to you and will not suffer for your actions. You have chosen your destiny, Warrior. You have surpassed our greatest desires. You make us proud.”
Spike widened his eyes in awe. “Bloody hell.” He held his hand over his now beating heart that pumped his blood throughout his body. He felt himself warming up.
“Just cause you’re family doesn’t mean I have to be nice to you, dead boy,” Xander quipped with a grin.
“I should bloody well hope not, mate. Where’s the fun in that?” Spike joked automatically, holding onto Buffy’s hand as if it were his life line.
“So,” Buffy grabbed everyone’s attention with her perky intervention. “Where are we off to first?”
Vatican City, Rome
Headquarters of the Knights of the Holy Order.
Van Helsing slipped into the confessional and tiredly opened with the usual dialogue. “Bless me Father, for I have…”
“Sinned? Yes, I know. You’re very good at that,” Cardinal Jinette interrupted smugly as he opened the partition between them. Sending his emissary a look of resigned disgust he added his complaint. “You shattered the Rose window.”
“Not to split hairs, sir, but it was Mr Hyde that did the shattering,” Van Helsing replied while trying not to show his amusement.
“Thirteenth century, over 600 years old. I wish you a week in hell for that,” the cardinal responded petulantly.
Van Helsing’s expression turned to stone. “It would be a nice reprieve.”
“Don’t get me wrong, your results are unquestionable,” Jinette quickly placated. “But your methods attract too much attention. ‘Wanted’ posters? We are not pleased.”
“Do you think I like being the most wanted man in Europe? Why don’t you and ‘the Order’ do something about it?” the large brunette snapped indignantly.
Cardinal Jinette quickly opened the grating between them before answering the enraged man. “Because we do not exist.”
“Well, then neither do I,” Van Helsing snapped before abruptly standing to leave.
Tapping the button by his side, Cardinal Jinette watched dispassionately as a metal grating dropped into place, barring Van Helsing’s exit. “When we found you crawling up the steps of this church half dead, it was clear to all of us that you had been sent to do God’s work.”
“Why can’t he do it himself?”
“Don’t blaspheme,” Jinette snapped as he opened the hidden rear exit of the confessional booths. “You already lost your memory as penance for past sins,” he continued to talk as he turned and left the box, expecting Van Helsing to follow in his wake. “If you wish to recover it…I suggest you continue to heed the call. Without us the world would be in Darkness. Governments and Empires come and go,” he spoke as they walked down the stairs to the large basement area that housed the working machinations of the Knights of the Holy Order. “But we, we have kept mankind safe since time immemorial. We are the last defense against evil.”
“Actually, I think that would be us,” Buffy chirped with amusement as she and her team stepped out of the darkness.