Ever since the Year of Glory, strange men in robes had rubbed Buffy's nerves the wrong way. Caleb and the Bringers had only made the phobia worse; the only good thing that ever came her way from people dressed like that was Dawn herself, and even then, Buffy had issues with the way the monks had arranged things. So when she saw a matched set of such men coming out of Paolo's offices one day, vaguely Middle Eastern of feature and bright-eyed with excitement, muttering something like 'Under Tip', she was instantly concerned.
When she asked Paolo about the men later over a light meal, he merely furrowed his brow a little, then gave an embarrassed laugh and shrugged his shoulders expansively. "You have caught me out," he said. "As long as I have lived, I have seen many things go into the ground, but there are things even older than I, and for me they hold a certain fascination. My visitors, they were archaeologists; they have uncovered a new step pyramid, and must have been comparing it to the original, built by an ancient architect called Imhotep."
She accepted a kiss from him, smiled and exchanged witty nothings for the remainder of the date, but the incident and his answer were not forgotten. She'd originally struck up an acquaintance with the Immortal for one very important reason, one that all the flirting and dating and dancing were only window dressing for: there might be no Willy to beat up for rumors in the Eternal City, but there was a focal point for supernatural traffic, and Paolo was it.
That evening after patrol she called Giles' flat in England and reported both sighting and conversation. Her long-time Watcher was silent for several seconds, long enough for her to frown at the receiver and wonder if the line had gone dead; then she realized she was hearing something, the faint sound of fabric scratching over glass.
Buffy sighed. "Go ahead. 'Oh Dear Lord' me, I'm a big girl."
"It's rather worse than that, I'm afraid," Giles said gravely.
Buffy started; she'd expected some kind of Big Bad or other, but from the tone of Giles' voice this was going to be at least a seven point five on the apocalypse scale. "I take it we're not looking at some long-dead pyramid building guy?"
He chuckled, mirthlessly, over the line. "No. We are, in fact, looking at a mummified High Priest of Osiris who was buried nearly fourteen hundred years later. You would recall, an Urn of Osiris was used in the ritual to return you to life?"
Mention of her resurrection still made Buffy wince, but the sting of heaven lost had long since faded away like any other wound gone to scar. "So we're talking about an enemy that can't die," she surmised aloud. Those were always the worst kind.
"Oh, he can," Giles replied, negatively. "But it takes either the power of a god or the Egyptian Book of the Living; the former is unavailable to us, and the latter has been lost since 1933 when he was last defeated."
"Great," Buffy rolled her eyes. "Next thing you're going to tell me, if I don't stop them before they bring him back, he's going to wipe out the whole world?"
This was an old joke between them; Giles wasn't really in the mood to play, but she could hear a faint smile in his voice as he replied. "How did you know?" he asked, making an effort to sound surprised.
"That's always the story," she said, lightly, then took a deep breath. "Okay. I'll poke around, ask Dawn to do a little digging on the Internet. Are you going to send me a Watcher with musty books?"
"I'm not sure that will do you much good in this case," he told her. "You would be better warned by looking up the Ten Plagues of Moses in the Bible; the Creature is capable of summoning each of them once fully awakened, in addition to wielding considerable telekinetic powers. I will send you Willow instead, and... a pair of unofficial field agents who may come in useful."
"What kind of field agents?" she asked, frowning.
Giles didn't usually send Watcher personnel out to meet her anymore; Andrew was her main tie to the Council, and sometimes Xander when he managed a call out of central Africa. She'd met a few of the researchers, and of course she remembered the black ops team that had come after Faith back when Faith was wearing her body, but neither type would be useful in a fight against a Glory-level threat. The fact that Willow, the Big Gun herself, was traveling with them implied a lot about the type she was going to get.
"A librarian and a former soldier," Giles answered. "Who just so happen to have fought against him in 1933, and also in 1923 the first time he was awakened."
Buffy frowned, adding dates in her head. "Demons?" she had to ask. Not that she wouldn't work with them-- after Spike and Clem and Anya, she'd finally learned to see the world in shades of gray-- but if her prospective allies posed any kind of threat or, worse, had gross bodily habits, she wanted to know ahead of time.
"No," Giles said. "They're both very human. Evelyn was briefly killed during the struggle in 1933 and brought back to life with the Book of the Dead; as a unexpected side effect of the process, she afterward ceased to age. Her husband, Rick, was himself empowered as the Champion of Anubis when he killed the Scorpion King that day; though he instructed Anubis' army to go directly to hell, beginning a process that leveled the oasis and buried the Creature along with it, it did not change the fact that he had become the living hand of an ancient deity. Despite renouncing the title, he retains a few aspects of that status, immortality being one of them."
Buffy tried to imagine a world in which Willow's resurrection spell had made her eternally twenty-one, where Spike had survived the collapse of the Hellmouth and they'd gone on being champions together for another seventy years. Then she winced and shook her head, blinking away tears. "Okay," she said. "First-hand experience with the Big Bad, always a plus. They'll have my address, right? I don't have to pick them up?"
Giles murmured an agreement. "They should arrive with Willow in the early afternoon, provided I am able to reach them in time."
"I'll call you again when they get here," she replied, then exchanged goodbyes.
Buffy spent the rest of the night and most of the following morning hunting robed bad guys all over town. It helped that she and Dawn had long since located most of the buildings Paolo owned; if she'd had to search all of Rome, she'd have been forced to call in several of the baby Slayers also based in Italy, and that would have attracted unwanted attention at this stage of the game.
She finally tracked them down in a block of flats not very far from the local Wolfram & Hart offices. Several of Paolo's minion-types were unobtrusively on guard; it was a good thing she was expecting them, because if she hadn't been paying attention they might have seen her. Mixed in with them were a few other soldiery guys she didn't recognize, and at least one magic user of evil lawyer vintage she'd run up against several months before. It looked like the two biggest powers in the town were joining forces on this one.
Either Wolfram & Hart didn't know the full truth about what this Creature-Imhotep could do, or they had figured out some way of keeping a leash on him. Either way, things were probably about to get very messy. She knew from Angel's stories of Darla that the firm had a way of bringing dead things back wherever they wanted to, which meant Paolo wasn't going to have to find the magic sand dune or whatever and dig the mummy out of it first.
She drew a red X on a copy of the local street map she habitually carried so she could show the others where it was without having to get all "Past the third cafe on the left" about it, then trekked back to her place to catch a nap and wait for the cavalry.
Buffy woke to Willow's voice in the living room talking quietly with several other people around tea-time. Not quite "early afternoon", but close enough; she doubted the bad guys would move before dark. Evil usually had a complex about hiding its work in the shadows, and Wolfram & Hart was no exception.
She threw on a set of patrolling clothes in shades of cream and brown leather-- better than black for blending in when she had to be out both before and after dark on the same day. Her hair had grown out a little since she'd left Sunnydale, so she secured it back with a matching leather tie and threw on the minimal amount of make-up required for guests, then went out to greet her new allies.
Buffy spotted the man first-- Rick, Giles had called him?-- flipping through a stack of papers on the kitchen counter with a frown on his face. Probably the research she'd asked Dawn to work on when she first got home. He was wearing modern jeans hugging an impressive pair of glutes, paired with a white linen shirt and an ancient-looking set of leather suspenders: a comfortable mix of clothing from his era and hers. His brown shaggy hair hung in his face a little, though it did nothing to hide his moderately attractive features; he had a leather bracer wrapped around one wrist and at least one pair of pistols on his person. He probably had more weapons, too, tucked away out of sight.
Near him, seated at the dining table, was a woman with long dark hair and a hint of the exotic in her bone structure. She, too, wore jeans, paired with brown leather boots, a low-cut brown shirt with a gold Egyptian necklace hovering above the neckline, and a lighter-colored over-shirt rolled up a little at the cuffs. She had outlined her eyes in a dark shade of kohl, and she looked no happier to be there than her husband. She had been holding a conversation with Willow, but she looked up at Buffy's approach, a subdued smile of greeting tugging at her mouth.
Buffy smiled in return. Her first instinct was to like this couple; hopefully, that would hold through the battles sure to follow.
"Hi, I'm Buffy Summers," she said, and stepped forward to shake hands.