There was still work to be done. First Evil dismissed, Wolfram and Hart’s power base shattered, several vampire armies knocked down… And still evil reared its ugly head in countless place.
Willow dealt with what she could; and, in turn, dealt with personal projects. Magical stuff, mostly: things she could better deal with. She’d stopped a couple of incursions from other dimensions, as well as delivered stern warnings to a handful of dark sorcerers.
She’d managed to get a name for herself among demon communities. Maybe not as feared as the Slayer yet, but give her time. Witchcraft had its uses.
There were several things Willow had on her to-do list, a whole host of things she wanted to deal with. Eventually she came to one she’d regarded with some trepidation. Alone, she set up the ritual on the tiled floor of the bathroom: sketched a rune, lit the candles, recited the chant.
A puff of distinctly sulphuric smoke, and a demon popped up. He spoke in a deep, rather theatric rumble.
“Behold! It is I, D’Hoffryn, Lord of Arashmaharr, he who-” a pause. D’Hoffryn lowered his arms: than, rather more normally, “Oh. Hello, lovely to see you again Miss Rosenberg. How can I help?”
“D’Hoffryn,” Willow said; quickly steeled herself.
D’Hoffryn always did a good job at hiding just how dangerous he was. Willow couldn’t afford to forget that; she still remembered how he’d hunted Anya. Regardless, she was dangerous too.
“I want you to set down some ground rules,” Willow said, hoping her attempt at authority didn’t sound fake. “For your vengeance demons: cans and can’ts.”
“Now, now,” D’Hoffryn said, “I’ve no control over the activities of my girls, they don’t ask permission. They just-”
“They listen to you,” Willow said: and called upon a little magic to make her voice drop. It was a tone she occasionally used when calling upon more intense magicks. Such power had a strange effect on her vocal cords.
It was a cheap attempt at intimidation, but a successful one. D’Hoffryn knew of her dark side. A couple of years ago he’d teleported in to present her with a medal for Warren’s flaying, which had apparently been voted on by some demonic committee as good quality.
She’d refused, of course, but the knowledge served her. D’Hoffryn jumped, just slightly, at her deepened words.
“Uh, ok then,” he said, “I’ll do my best. Any, uh, particular suggestions?”
And suddenly he was all ears. Quickly, trying to still appear suitably dramatic, Willow turned to fetch a roll of paper she’d left on the cistern.
She’d thought this through: there were several pages worth of thoughts on what changes and guidelines should be set down. Colour-coded, too. Green highlighted were the unquestionable statements, yellow were the ones she was willing to concede some ground on, blue were actions to be taken rather than rule changes…
“Here you go,” she said, handing the sheet. A slightly goofy smile; “Get back to me, k?”
“No need,” D’Hoffryn said, “I’m rather fond of contracts. You get used to them, as a demon,” he gave a remarkably casual shrug, before lifting the paper.
He flicked through it at astonishing speed. Still, Willow caught his eyes flicking to her occasionally. He was scared of her. It was useful, she had to admit, but never a comfortable feeling.
“It seems acceptable,” he said. “I can do most of this. I’ll get back to you in a week, tell you how it’s gone,” he paused, “Ah, quick question. What’s your stance on alternate universes?”
“Some good stories,” Willow said, “I like coffee shops- wait, what universes?”
“When sufficiently major wishes are made,” D’Hoffryn said, “The fabric of reality alters to compensate. Several such wishes are still in effect. Many were destroyed, such as one featuring a rather fetching vampire. I assume you don’t want me to do away with all those?”
He was right. There was no way to tell what would happen if those realities were ended: perhaps this conversation might never have happened. Perhaps those worlds were worse.
It was hard to say. Surely some people, sometime, had made good wishes?
“How many are active?”
“Three or four,” D’Hoffryn said: shrugged. He extended a hand, and a scroll appeared in a puff of smoke. “I’ve got the list here. Now, see… Laryania, 46 BC, Before Cerberus, granted the wish that some Julius would never have met her. Morestun, 1024 AC, client was impaled by a unicorn and wished they never existed. Dreadful, really. And lastly…”
There, D’Hoffryn paused.
“Interesting,” he said, slowly.
“What?” Willow said.
“The next wish,” he said. “It’s signed off by a vengeance demon of some success. From what I can gather, it caused quite a major change to the way things are.”
“What is it?” Willow said.
D’Hoffryn, wordlessly, turned the scroll around. Despite the antiquated medium, the style was an official-looking, easy to read grid.
The column entitled ‘vengeance demon responsible’ was filled with just a name. Two ancient-looking full names for Laryania and Morestun, and at the bottom, Willow Rosenberg.
She was a vengeance demon. Well, not her, but alternate-reality her. Willow paused; looked up. Started breathing.
“Where can I find the full story?” she said.
She needed to know. She needed to know the story of all the changes, actually; make sure none of them were actively causing harm. But this one… this one especially.
“Touch the scroll,” he said, “We demons are really quite advanced, you know. Where do you think humans got the idea for the internet from?” he shrugged: “You can keep it. I’ve got plenty. Bureaucracy is something hell dimensions have plenty of.”
Willow nodded. Still a little stunned, she took the scroll from D’Hoffryn’s hand. Her finger brushed her name; immediately the text changed.
“You can go,” Willow said, far less imposingly. “Remember what I said.”
“Of course,” D’Hoffryn said. “It’s been a pleasure, Miss Rosenberg.”
He bowed his head, and vanished in yet more smoke. Just outside the door, Willow heard the fire alarm start wailing: idly, she hexed it off. She could deal with that later.
Not just yet. Willow returned to her room: hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, and sat herself up in her bed. It was a while before she’d be needed for anything. She’d set a lot of time aside, in case D’Hoffryn would want to negotiate.
That was good. It meant she could take her time: not miss anything.
And, slowly, Willow began to read.