When the dust had cleared after the collapse of Sunnydale, Xander had felt a very strong desire to be somewhere that was else. Some place where he wouldn't be reminded of Anya's death every time he set eye on Andrew, or see that flinch in Buffy's expression every time she noticed his patch. Someplace where he could do something that would matter, without being in the shadow of the others. Accepting the title of Watcher from Giles and a Council paycheck to go with it had been better than anything else he could have hoped for; he'd even been allowed to pick his own destination.
Willow had wanted South America, and Buffy, who'd felt she deserved a little in the way of recompense after all her years of fighting, had chosen the more civilized lands of Europe. Robin and Faith had decided to set up on the Cleveland Hellmouth and keep an eye on the American front in general, and Chao-Ahn wanted to lead a deputation of Slayers back to Asia (where the language barrier would not be such an issue). Most of the other surviving Slayers and Watchers had been deputized to one or another of those groups, or to the new Council mothership Giles was setting up at his British home in Bath. That had left Africa and Australia both wide open-- and if he was to do his assigned job properly, what place was more appropriate than the homeland of Sineya, "First of the Ones"?
Xander's first stop on the Dark Continent had been to a shaman Giles knew, to get amulets of warding and blessing to counteract (as Willow put it) his natural tendency to be a demon-magnet. She'd offered to do it herself, but the last thing he needed was to walk those ancient lands with a metaphysical stamp on his aura tying him to the most powerful witch in the world; after her little display of activating all the world's Slayers, the demonic community would probably be ecstatic at the prospect of either a hostage to use against her or a subject on which to take revenge. The guidance coin he carried, which Giles had carefully imbued with a bit of the Scythe's energy as a Slayer tracking device, was enough of a temptation as it was.
It might not have been the best idea ever to insist on making the journey by himself, but he'd managed well enough. He had the skills and experience, even without stereo vision, to take care of just about any human threat, and the demonic ones would be more likely to ignore a normal man alone than one that traveled in the company of supernatural beings. As a concession to his friends' concern, though, he had agreed to carry a GPS transponder and satellite phone so that he could request assistance if he needed it, call in with research questions, or even just check to see what grade Dawn got on her last math test. It helped, too, that whenever he stopped somewhere the postal service was reliable he always picked a random gift and a name to stick on it. He'd much rather that when they thought of him it was along the lines of "He sent me an mbuna fish when he was in Malawi" than a stack of worries about what he was eating and if he'd been shot at and how many demons he'd killed.
The answers to those questions were, in order: whatever he could get his hands on, several times, and too many to keep track of. Usually, the actual demon-hunting only happened while in the company of a new Slayer, as they tended to live near or be drawn to sources of supernatural energy anyway and it made an effective demonstration that the crazy white man was telling the truth. A few times, however, Xander had been forced to defend his neck while out on his own; the latest of those episodes had left him banged up enough to seek out someplace civilized for a bit of a rest. He'd been circling up through North Africa at the time, passing through the still-turbulent Sudan, and had decided to push across the border to Egypt and stop at Aswan.
It was there, by chance, that Xander heard rumors about a "Daughter of Sekhmet" roaming out in the sands with one of the tribes who still resisted the influence of modern society. He couldn't exactly call himself fluent in Arabic but he'd picked up several important phrases in the language in the last several months, enough to recognize a Slayer reference when he heard one. According to Giles, Slayers in primitive societies were usually seen as being either gods-blessed or demon-cursed, and the older man had given him a list of well-known female deities with warlike attributes to listen for. Sekhmet was one of them, an ancient Egyptian goddess known as the eye of Ra, the power that protects the good and annihilates the wicked.
It was possible that Xander might have run into the girl eventually using his guidance coin for direction, but not terribly likely, as nomadic as her people apparently were. Not to mention the fact that he doubted a traditionalist tribe would take well to a lone white outsider even speaking to one of their young women, much less trying to train her or take her away from them. So he waited around long enough to secure the services of a guide recommended by Giles' contacts, and packed for an extended trip into the desert.
Two days' journey out from Aswan they finally picked up the trail of the group they were looking for. Or, rather, the tribe heard of their pursuit and sent a detachment of warriors back to dissuade them. To a man, they were all heavily tattooed, riding excellent horses, and armed with swords and guns that looked frequently used; there would be no getting past these guys without their freely-given consent.
Xander had never been the most patient person in the world, especially when nervous, but he'd learned when it was best to speak and when to hold his silence. He let them circle threateningly around him a few times without making any kind of challenge. Finally, the one who seemed to be their leader rode up to speak with him directly. He was tall, much taller than his tribesmates; Xander estimated the man was at least a couple inches over his own six feet in height. He had the olive complexion and black hair common to the others, but his eyes were a startling blue; it was plain he had some Western blood.
"As-salaam alaykum," Xander greeted him in Arabic, then took a chance and switched to English. "We come seeking the daughter of Sekhmet whose presence graces your tribe."
"Don't you mean Slayer?" the man growled in response. "We don't want your kind here, Watcher. She is ours, not yours, and we will fight to keep her."
Xander took a mental step back at the other's vehemence. He'd thought it possible, from the man's appearance, that the tribe might have had more contact with the Western world than the rumors in Aswan had made it sound, but he'd never expected this kind of response. They must have had at least one Slayer show up before, then, and probably had a bad encounter with the Council of the time.
"Whoa, whoa, I'm not here to take her," he said firmly, crossing that option off his mental list. He'd left more than one Slayer with her people in the past; that wouldn't exactly be a problem. But he couldn't just give up without even trying to tell her about the kinds of things she would likely face and what exactly had happened to her. "I know the old Watchers weren't nice people, but they got blown up last year in London. The new Watchers are all about the Slayer power; I'm just here to give her information, tell her how to find us if she needs us."
"She is Medjai. She will never have need of any help you could give her," the man replied, his tone derisive. "Go back where you came from, and tell your Council that the fate of Ardeth Bey's niece will not be shared by his great-granddaughter."
"I'm only here to help," Xander said, as calmly as he could. "I can tell her about the things she'll face, about the enemies that will come looking..."
The Medjai laughed, flashing white teeth at him. "Go back to your books, Watcher, and look up the name Eveyln Carnahan O'Connell. We who are her descendants are no strangers to supernatural mayhem."
"But nothing. We told your kind never to return here the last time they visited; you will not survive the next attempt."
Xander knew an ultimatum when he heard one. "I understand," he said, then watched with a frown as the black-robed men formed up behind their leader again and disappeared back into the concealment of the deep desert.
Back to Aswan it was, then.
Not for the first time, Xander cursed the loss of the original Council's library. He wasn't exactly the king of research himself, but this was the kind of thing it would have been useful to know beforehand. He'd be calling Giles tonight, for sure, to talk about the Medjai's claims.
Hopefully, they really were as experienced as the man had implied. It would bother Xander less to give up on her if he knew she had back-up. No Slayer deserved to have to fight alone.