As when a man who by some strange fate is brought to the Bridge of Sighs(53) for the second time, and sees again the sky, and as he exhales in hope and joy is dragged once again back into the gloom, so I sighed as we walked to Wesley’s car, only to be surrounded by a group of men clad in black, who aimed sticks of unknown power at our bodies.
As the wolves(54) come forth from the forest by one and two and three and the rest stand snarling, bending eyes and muzzle to the ground, and what the first does, the rest do, pressing up behind it if it stops, quiet and alert, and do not know why; so I saw them start to come forward following a regal Lady dressed in the deepest of reds, the color of old blood dried on a twisting shroud. Her hair was gathered with writhing dark green ribbon upon her head and upon her neck was a necklace serpentine(55). Her manner and appearance put me to mind of the stone woman(56), who with her sighs had so distracted me from my path.
Wesley and Gunn glanced at each other, their eyes filled with the significance of prior knowledge. Wesley shook his head slightly and then stepped forward, the men in black made strange clicking noises with their black sticks. “Hello, Lilah, this is an unexpected honor.”
“I don’t know why?” said Lilah, “Famous dead writers wandering off on their lonesome.” She gestured at me with her right hand, her fingernails were long and red, strange colors in the light, “Did you know that the city of Florence have been trying to get this one’s corpse since he died? Seems like they’re about to get the real thing.” She smiled and her voice was smooth as poisoned honey glistening on a lion’s rib(57), “Much as I’m not enjoying this, move away from the dead white guys.”
Bracing himself as did the brave Mouse(58) before riding forth to face the Samnites , Wesley stood firm and said is a soft low voice, “This is a public street. People are starting to go to work. You daren’t shoot us. It would draw too much attention to yourselves. Bad publicity.”
Lilah pointed at my Master. “What I don’t think you’re taking into account here is just how much an experienced underworld guide like the Roman is worth to the Senior Partners. It’s never too early to prepare for a performance review.”
I glanced at my Master whose face was pale and seemed smitten with self reproach. My heart grew heavy in my chest at this further delay. He paced this way and that in his anger and frustration and muttered about one named Lindsey, whose time was apparently past.
Lilah made a small gesture. Two men moved forward and grabbed me by my arms, and although I struggled and managed to lay low some of their company, for in my time I have been a soldier too, I was overcome, weary as I was from the long journey. Two other men tried to grab my Master. Three times they clasped their arms around him and as often brought them back to their breasts(59).
Wonder, I think, was painted in their looks, at which Lilah sighed. “Cheap rented minions. Stop. As long as we have the live one, the dead guy will follow. Let’s go. I have manicure appointment.”
The men started to drag me towards an alley and I feared all was lost. “Oh my dear Leader, who seven times and more hast restored my confidence and drawn me from great perils that confronted me, leave me not alone in this foreign land in the company of these savages.”
And my Liege said, “Do not fear, for none can hinder or halt our passage, by such a One is it granted us. Comfort your weary spirit, for I will not forsake you in this land of lost souls.” And so saying he moved to stand before Lilah. “Who do you think that you are to deny passage to those who travel where will and power are one?”
“I’m a lawyer.”
“This insolence of your kind is not new then,” said my Master and turning to me, “This bird wears a maiden’s face.”
And in the face of my despair at being barred from home, I said, “And foulest filth she drops(60).”
“God, dead people are annoying,” said Lilah, and even as I struggled, they dragged me away.
“When in peril, how long it seems till help comes,” I said.
“Do not loose heart,” said my Liege, “for one already descends the steep and passes without escort.”
Lilah glanced at Wesley. “Actually, I’m disappointed. I had hoped Angel would be here rather than just the cast of the English Patient.” She glanced at a bracelet on her wrist, “Oh, wait it’s almost sunrise. I hope that’s frustrating for him.”
A black shape fell from above like a man who was also a bat and standing, revealed itself as another not-man like Spike. Although this one was taller, broader, like the one who wrestled with serpents when only a moment old(61). “I wouldn’t say frustrating,” said the not-man, who was clad entirely in black, wearing a leather cloak like Spike’s. He shot an arrow through one of the men at close range. “Gotta love those North South exposures. Sun won’t hit this alley for hours yet and I think this will be long over by then.” Dropping the cross bow, he grappled with a man in black and quickly snapped his neck. Wesley and Gunn soon entered the fray and it was a mass of struggling limbs.
Lilah stood there and as the wife looks on as her beloved husband describes once more that immense fish which he almost caught, she appeared filled to the brim with boredom, “Oh, look the cavalry.” She snapped her fingers and more men in black appeared, swarming down the alley walls on knotted ropes.
As I tried to break free of my captors, I spoke to my Master, “Who is this creature that even now struggles to save us. Is he, like Spike, a demon with a magical device in his head that perhaps struggles for redemption for love of a beautiful Lady or not depending upon the theory that the speaker ascribes to.”
“Hey,” said the not-man as he threw a man in black in a perfect arc over our heads. “I’m nothing like Spike. I have a soul.”
My Master, as he tried to poke one of my captors with a finger, said, “What this being, whose name is Angel, Angelus (after the Latin) or Liam, depending upon his emotional state says is true. He serves the Emperor as one of the great king’s appointed champions and is similar, but entirely unlike the Slayer, of whom there is only one at a time.” My Master tried holding his hands in front of my captor’s eyes while I kicked, to no avail, “Except, of course, currently, when through a curious loophole, there are two Slayers. But no matter. Angel/Angelus/Liam, has within him a triumvirate of motivations: a demon soul, a human soul, and a human Spiritus.” He counted them off on his fingers, “Like all triumvirs, they struggle within him for power.” I struck one of my captors with my head, which then throbbed and rang like the Duomo’s great bell after mass. My Teacher continued to speak. “When the demon soul is in ascendance, Angelus is obsessed and violent. When the human soul is in primacy, Angel is sad and regretful. When his Spiritus is at its apex, Liam capers like a clown.”
“I don’t caper,” Said Angelus, or perhaps it was Angel, as he seemed stricken with sadness as he slammed a man in black up against a wall. “Do I?”
My good Father glanced briefly at Angel and said to me, “However, you are correct my son to see some parallel between Spike and Angel in that they are both demons, Angel is both Yoda and Sire to Spike and both turned towards active pursuance of good for love of the Slayer.”
“The love of the Slayer is powerful indeed,” I said, my heart burning within my chest at the thought of these poor tragic creatures and yet so blessed and well guided by love.
“Why does everyone keep going on about Buffy. It’s been years. Move on already,” said Angelus, for surely the demon soul was in ascendance to so discard the adherence to an eternal love and I sighed to think of Beatrice dead these nine years and more and steeled myself against glancing at this lawyer Lilah, with her dark hair and eyes, which could turn a man to stone.
“Indeed what he says is true,” said my Teacher, “It has been three years since their parting, except, by strict adherence to truth, for some slight adventures in which their paths crossed after that time." Angelus threw a black clad man through my Master, "And also, as well, his possession of a soul is taken to be crucially important in the whole redemptionista debate, which like birth before the coming of the king gives him the option of reformation and so too a lack of soul, like dying before the coming of the king, brings certain condemnation to the land of sighs, except of course for the Chosen of Israel and Cato and some Roman Emperors and, of course, for some reason Saladin(62) dwells with us and…yes, well I have no definite opinion on reformation. What say you Angelus?"
Angelus wincing at a lightening bolt cast from one of the weapons of men in black, said, “Wesley, remind me again why we’re helping these guys?”
Wesley grunted as a man in black struck him in the abdomen and like the mast at full sail which snaps in half in a fierce wind, he fell to the ground, “If they don’t return home, the Divine Commedia will never be written.”
“At this point,” said Angelus, as he kicked a man in black in the knee cap, “I’m thinking that might not be such a bad idea.”
Lilah, who had been examining her nails throughout the battle, said, “I think I chipped a nail,” and nodded at one of her men, who shot a stream of water at Angelus’ face from a brilliant green and orange device.
“Not in the face,” said the Liam. He hopped about, smoke pluming from his skin. Gunn took off his jacket and tried to dry Liam off.
“Looks like that stings.” Lilah tapped a long finger nail on her cheek. “Hmmm…so, let’s see, you’ve got fists and I’ve got a battery powered water pistol, a multitude of minions and a lot of guns. I guess I win. Oh, and Angel, c is for crossbow. D is for distance weapon.”
Gunn shook his head, “You know this never happened when I had my posse.”
At seeing my defenders so overcome, my heart filled with sorrow. To add to my fear there came a fearful sound that set the stones to trembling and shaking, like the wild bull of Crete(63) that lives beneath the ground and as he rages at his captivity, he sets beasts and men to flight.
Then with a cool breeze, the earth ceased to shake and aged Tithonus’ eternal bride(64) began on folded wings to make her entrance in the balcony of the east; the clouds above us tinting pink and gold to herald her arrival and I heard a new voice, “Excuse me, am I late? There was a pile up in the World without Shrimp and the commute traffic was just incredible.”
I turned to face the new voice and I saw an incredible sight. A strange beast, over six feet tall, black as night and yet shiny as if he contained a light within. He was covered in spikes and spines like a great black beetle and in his hand he held a slight wand which sparkled in the morning light.
“And who do you think you are?” said Lilah.
“Well, my badge says Agent 99, but I prefer to go by Skip.” He waved his wand at Lilah and the men in black, who froze in place.
Skip glanced at us, “You might want to leave now. You’ve just be rescued. Oh, and you might need this.” He tossed Angel a thick woolen blanket and in a flash of light, Skip was gone. And as if that light touched some deep buried part of myself, my mind stopped and I fell into a dream.
And here the close reader, may look into the substance of my words to perceive the pattern that lies hidden within the weft and the weave. Looking both to what has come before as well as those words, which come after.
I stood upon a vast desert and I saw the sun grow dark, giving the stars a color that would have made me swear that they were weeping. Softly the stars sang that song which begins, "When the Dark Wood Fell Before Me."(65)
I saw two women with disheveled hair facing one another across a fire. One was the Slayer and the other was a Lady unknown to me, dressed in a winding cloth, her face painted in mud, who I knew to also be the Slayer. A third woman, tall with black disheveled hair, who was also the Slayer, pointed at the painted Slayer and said, “I am her voice. She existed before speech.”
“That’s right.” said the painted Slayer, “Now, don’t make me come back there and repeat myself. Death is your gift.”
“Death is my gift?” I replied and realizing how short life is, even if one is healthy, I wept silently about the misery of life(66).
“Oh, stop crying. I had to sleep on a bed of bones and you don’t see me all weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth. Anyway,” said the painted Slayer, pointing at the Slayer, “death is her gift with the purchase of a shiny new life. You only get one.
“But I’m on my third,” said the Slayer. “I want to return it for a better one. Maybe one with ice-capades.”
The painted Slayer handed the Slayer a card with the image of a key all over verdigris upon it and continued speaking. “As I was saying, your gift is your burning heart, which she ate.”
“Wait a minute. B ate his heart?” Said the dark haired Slayer.
“Yes.” The painted Slayer paused, “No. B as in Beatrice, not B as in Buffy.”
“You know, you could get to my prophetic vision quest thing any time there or I will eat someone’s heart,” said the Slayer.
“Way to get testy big sis. I think someone needs a time out,” said the dark haired Slayer. And then it was day time and I saw two men skipping rope and I realized that one of them was Spike, although he was not wearing the black coat. Instead both men wore matching suits of brown. Spike turned to me and said, “Would you like a copy of the Watchtower?”
“Watchers know how to count,” said the other man, “See, one, three, nine.”