Open on Angelus, Spike and Druscilla seated on various crates and shelving in an abandoned warehouse.
Spike glowered at Angelus. “You couldn’t just kill her, could you? You had to toy with her and have your fun. Now look what’s happened. We’re homeless.” He snorted derisively.
Druscilla simply stared past both men to the large set of doors that were opposite them. Moon and street light glimmered underneath and then started to shimmer unnaturally. A chill suddenly coursed down Dru’s back as she watched a mist slowly creep into the warehouse and around the boxes toward them. She let out a small whimper.
Spike looked over to her, “What’s the matter, pet?” He reached for her but noticed the mist first and stopped.
Angelus’ eyes widened and he began to look around in desperation.
The mist coalesced on top of a high crate and a small child of about seven years stood there. Long brown hair cascaded down her back from pigtails and piercing green eyes peered out from under her bangs. In her arms was a rag doll. She was dressed in a t-shirt, overalls and sneakers. All in several shades of green.
She opened her mouth and a soft voice escaped, “I am his avatar come to quest.” She looked each one of the three in the eyes as she spoke. “Will you swear fealty unto him? If so, you will garner not his wrath. If not, your fates are sealed and you are doomed.”
Spike looked at her in utter disbelief. “Swear fealty? Not in this bloody lifetime?”
Her gaze fell on him like the soil of the grave. “You deny him? Then your fate is such that you are bound forever in fear.”
Understanding dawned on Spike as he watched Dru cower even more and the little girl lift her finger. “Wait. Are you talking about who I think you are? Lycan is a myth. He doesn’t even bloody well exist.”
For the first time, Angelus spoke. “That’s what you think. Believe me when I say he exists and he’s not very nice when he’s mad,” the tension clear in his voice.
The girl lowered her finger and tilted her head to look at Angelus from an angle. It was almost as if she were reading his thoughts. The girl spoke again in the same soft voice, “Will you swear featly unto him?”
Angelus swallowed audibly. Spike considered his options. While Druscilla whimpered weakly.
The girl then focused on all three of them again and said, “You have three days to decide your fates. When dusk breaks on the night of the full moon, I will return to hear your answers.” She paused slightly. “Choose wisely.” With that, mist gathered around her and she melted away.
Spike blinked several times, looked down at his wheelchair and then said, “I think I would rather fight the brassed-off Slayer.”
Buffy trudged into the library with a thoughtful look on her face.
Giles came out from beyond the sacks and stopped dead when he saw her. Cordelia halted her litany of complaints, Xander stopped singing to himself and Willow stopped typing on her laptop.
Buffy glanced up from the floor at the four sets of stares. “Why is everyone staring at me?”
Giles started into motion again and said, “Well, you, you had a thoughtful look on your face. That, in my experience, doesn’t occur very often.” He glanced back down at the book in his hand.
Buffy frowned a moment but continued on. “Well, the reason why is last night I came across a group of vampires scared out of their wits. Instead of wanting to fight, they practically begged me to kill them. One of them even threw himself on the stake I was holding. I was totally wigged the rest of the night.”
“Maybe they should get a vampire hotline?” Cordelia commented.
“Oh, sure, Cordelia,” Xander answered sarcastically, “Are you a suicidal vampire? If you are, call 1-800-2KI-LLME for help.”
Giles suddenly looked up from the book in his hand and at Buffy while he blinked rapidly. “Did you say he threw himself onto your stake? You mean, you didn’t stake him intentionally when he came at you?”
“No.” Buffy suddenly looked her feet and then up again. “He kind of caught me off guard. Suicidal vamps are so not what I’m used to.”
Giles turned to several demonology books on the table. He rifled through them in haste and picked a particularly fat one. He opened the book to a marked page and quickly started to skim through it, muttering audibly yet incoherently.
Buffy walked over and peeked over the book’s side to the page.
Xander studied Giles carefully then looked at Willow. “Giles have you … finally lost it?”
Giles gaze flickered up momentarily. “No. The behaviour Buffy just described reminded me of something I had read in here. About twenty-five hundred years ago, a Slayer came across a small group of vampires who were bowing down to a little girl. The girl asked them for their fealty and gave them three days to decide their fates. The girl vanished into an unnatural mist. According to the Slayer, the vampires practically wept for joy when they saw her. Several of them asked her to kill them so they wouldn’t have to serve Lycan. One even went so far as to take the stake in her hand and drive it into his own heart.”
Willow scrunched her face up in confusion. “Serve who?”
Giles looked at Willow questioningly. “Hmm?” he asked.
“Serve who?” she stated again.
“Oh, yes, yes. Uh, Lycan.” He frowned slightly as he paged through the rest of the chapter.
Buffy frowned at Willow and Giles. “Wait a minute. Is this Lycan guy some sort of demon or what? I mean are we dealing with another Eyghon here?”
Giles took a deep breath. “It doesn’t say. But this,” he stated quietly, “is Lycan’s avatar.” He placed the book onto the table, opened to a picture that covered both pages. Depicted in the picture was the little girl in period clothing, holding a ragdoll surrounded by kowtowing vampires. Behind her was a multi-coloured mist.
“What’s an avatar?” Xander asked into the silence.
Giles scratched his head as he answered. “An avatar is sort a representative of a higher power, usually a god. Although, demons themselves have had them at times. They usually attain a portion of their master’s own power …..”
Buffy cut in suddenly, “How do I kill it or do I want to try?”
Willow stood up and chimed in, “Well, this thing obviously isn’t very nice to vampires so maybe it’s on our side. Um, that didn’t sound very encouraging, did it?” She winced.
Giles took off his glasses to clean them. “I’m not entirely sure we even want this Lycan to know we’re here. I mean, if it is a demon and it hates vampires, it may hate Vampire Slayers even more so. I have an idea. Willow can you use that,” he pointed to her laptop, “contraption to send mail away to an acquaintance of mine in London? I have his computer address around here somewhere?” With that he went to find it.
Willow’s jaw dropped at the mention that Giles had such a thing anywhere near his person.
“Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing. Rupert Giles actually joining those of the 21st century?” Xander admonished.
Willow gave a non-committal shrug then sat back down to create a new message.
Giles came out of the cage with a very rumpled piece of paper in his hand and handed it to Willow.
She punched in the name and address, then turned to Giles, “What should I ask him?”
Giles, mind still on the problem, glanced over and said, distractedly, “Uh, simply that I need whatever information he has connected to this Lycan. And, um, illustrations as well, should he come across any, especially.”
Giles turned back to Willow, “When will we get his answer?”
Willow shrugged, “If he sends it today we should have it three minutes after at most.”
Giles nodded, “Good, good.” The bell rang. “You all get to classes and I’ll see if I can find anything else useful.”
Buffy and Willow walked into the library as Giles uttered the words, “Oh dear.”
Buffy stopped, “I really hate it when you say that. Especially today.”
Giles looked up from the book he was skimming through. “I, uh, found a legend that might just have to do with Lycan.”
Xander walked in just at that moment, “A legend? Sounds old.”
Giles rubbed his eyes. “It is Xander. It predates that start of the Chinese empire, which is over six thousand years old.”
“Ouch,” Buffy asked as she sat down beside Willow at the table.
Giles looked up. “Uh, yes. Apparently this Lycan was attempting to gather a legion of demons, vampires, werewolves, and the like. In here, it states that Lycan’s avatar, ’Messenger,’ came to those he believed worthy and gave them a choice. They could either join his army or die by a terrible fate befitting their nature. She gave them three days to decide and on the third day if they didn’t agree, he came and killed them himself.” Giles paused. “Or so it states.”
Willow frowned. “You put everything in the past tense.”
Giles nodded. “Yes. Yes I did. Because, evidently Messenger hasn’t been seen in over two thousand years.”
Xander shrugged. “So? Maybe Lycan got tired of having to feed all those mouths and told everybody to go home,” he said as he stuffed a twinkle into his own mouth.
Giles stared at Xander for a moment or two and then started to shake his head, “No, Xander, I don’t believe so, for the very reason of sheer numbers. If Lycan had been creating an army of evil for even just a few centuries and then decided to disband it, there would have been a great battle somewhere. And there hasn’t been. At least, not one whose purpose has not been explained and proven.”
“Even if he was very choosy about who got to join and who didn’t?” Willow asked quietly.
Buffy nodded her head. “Yeah. Willow’s right. The vampires I fought last night weren’t exactly jumping for joy at joining his party.”
“That is something else that bothers me, Buffy. Vampires, and especially demons, as a rule, do not kowtow to anyone without a good reason. And yet, throughout the known history, this Lycan inspired fear in them, but nothing is known of him or even so much as hinted at.” He picked up the book and held it out to them. “The man who wrote this was also a Watcher and he’d seen many things in his time. But he couldn’t even make an educated guess as to what Lycan was, much less what he planned to do with his army. He professes as much in the entry.” He placed the book on the table and fell into a chair beside it.
A sudden beep made everyone look up.
Willow checked her laptop. “It’s from London. And it’s got an attachment but there isn’t anything else.” Willow called up the attachment and opened it as everyone leaned in to look.
On the screen was the same picture they had looked at that morning, with one very big difference. Instead of there simply being mist in behind the girl, there was also a very tall humanoid figure with one of its arms outstretched over her. Following the picture were several screens of text.
“Willow can you print this up on paper for me?” Giles asked quietly.
“Sure. Did you want the picture too or just the text?” she asked quietly.
“Everything. There may be clues in the picture.” He answered. Willow started on the printing.
Buffy frowned, “I still don’t get it.”
Giles looked from the screen to Buffy. “What don’t you, er, get?”
“Like, why would vampires be afraid of a little girl, especially a group? I mean it’s not like she’s a miniature Slayer or anything.”
Giles took off his glasses. “You weren’t listening earlier. I said that avatar’s sometimes attain a portion of their master’s power and abilities. If this Lycan is a demon of some sort, than the little girl is as well, or perhaps an imp or familiar.” He fell silent for a moment but waved his hand in the air. “Anyhow, suffice it to say she might be more powerful than even you can handle.”
Buffy clasped her hands together and sat on the edge of the table. “So what do we do?”
Giles picked up the sheets that Willow had printed out so far. “Let me look these over and I may be able to tell you. In the meantime, why don’t you all go have lunch?”
Xander stood up and started for the door, “Good idea. Let’s go.”
Buffy picked up the picture and stared at it for a moment.
Willow tapped her on the shoulder. “Aren’t you coming?”
Buffy looked from the picture to Willow and then back again. “No. I think I’ll help Giles.”
Giles looked up from the pages he held and stared in concern at Buffy. “Wh … What did you say?”
Buffy turned to Giles. “It’s hard to explain but this is very weird somehow. I don’t know if it’s good weird or bad weird. Personally, I’m counting on bad but …. The sooner I know what I need to know the better off I’ll be. Right?’
Giles smiled slightly at the notion that Buffy wanting to be prepared, again. “You do realize that this means you’ve got to do research?”
Buffy nodded her head and held out her hand.
Giles split the sheets in his hands and handed half of them to her. “Well then, let’s get started shall we. We haven’t much time before you have to be back in classes.”
Willow looked at Xander and then took some of the pages from Buffy. “I’ll help,” she said quietly.
Xander looked closely at Buffy. “The vampires from last night really scared you, didn’t they?”
Buffy stood motionless for a moment. Then, “Yeah, they did.”
Xander nodded his head once and took a number of pages from Giles.
“Well, then. Let’s see if we can uncover the mysteries behind this Lycan, shall we?” Giles said.
With that, the four of them sat down and began to read through the text.
Later, after Cordelia had joined them.
Cordelia rubbed her eyes. “I’m going cross-eyed here.”
Willow smiled slightly. “Welcome to the wonderful world of research.”
Cordelia smiled back ruefully.
Xander held up his hand and said, “Hold the phone, I think I’ve got something.”
“Read it aloud,” Giles looked up from a page and everyone else sidled a little closer.
“It isn’t text. It’s a picture.” Xander said slowly as he placed the sheet in the middle of the table.
Everyone leaned in. The picture was black and white, but the imagery was pretty clear. A tall dark figure stood in the dark, dingey alley with a glow encircling one wrist and what appeared to be an off center eye. In front of the figure yet another portrait of ‘Messenger’ with her rag doll and pigtails, this time in clothes from the early fifties.
Xander looked to Giles, “There’s some fine print right here,” he pointed the faint script out to everyone, “that says April, 1952 and some signature, but I can’t make it out.”
Giles blinked several times as he picked the page up and looked more closely at the signature. “It’s by Wend Sommers.”
Buffy scrunched her face up, “Who?” she asked.
“Wend Sommers was a famous artist in the 1950’s.” Willow offered. “He was known for his dark portraits.” Willow frowned and thought hard for a moment. “Wait a minute. Wend disappeared during 1952.”
“Precisely,” Giles explained. “In April, to be exact.”
Buffy took the picture from Giles. “So this Wend guy is probably either dead or he’s one of Lycan’s soldiers. How does that help us?”
Willow eeked. “If Wend saw Lycan, then maybe Lycan was just trying to keep him quiet.”
Giles took a deep breath. “No, it tells us that Lycan is still building his army, for whatever his reasons. Wend had been turned into a vampire the year before. So Lycan was offering him a position. And obviously,” he pointed to the image, “Wend accepted.”
“This is very confusing.” Xander stated as he shook his head vigorously.
Giles took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I imagine, Xander, that it is going to get much more confusing the further we delve.” Giles got up from his chair and began to pace, with the arm of his glasses in his mouth. “We know Lycan has been around for at least six thousand years.”
“Because of that legend you found this morning,” Cordelia put in.
“Exactly,” Giles continued on. “We also know from that legend that he is building an army for a purpose. We’re assuming not a good one.”
Xander put up his hand and said, “We know he’s got an avatar, at least that old too, who can scare vampires with just her appearance.”
“And that neither of them has been that active in the last two thousand years.” Willow added.
“Or so we thought.” Buffy commented. “He turned this Wend guy into one of his own and we’ve just figured it out now. How many others have gone that way?” She looked to the other four.
Giles stopped pacing for a moment, “That’s a very good point, Buffy.”
A confused expression crossed Buffy’s face. “But that doesn’t explain why Lycan left a clue of his existence behind. I mean if the point of the last two thousand years was an extremely low profile, why leave this?” She gestured to the sheet.
“As a warning?” Willow offered tentatively.
“To others who think he’s gone and are looking for power.” Xander put in.
Giles and Buffy looked at each other and nodded in unison. “Yes. That sounds like a good explanation.” Giles added.
“So it’s safe to assume he’s not a vampire?” Cordelia asked.
Willow chewed a lip. “So that would make him some sort of demon, right?” Her expression questionable.
No one moved. Then Giles sighed in frustration. “Let’s not assume anything.” He glanced at his wrist watch and then up at the rest. “Well, lunch is almost over, why don’t you all start for your classes and I’ll see what else I can find pertaining to Lycan.”
Buffy nodded, “All right, but only because I have to actually show up for my next class. Principal Snyder said he would be checking on me to make sure I was there.” She glanced at Willow, Xander and Cordelia. They each in turn, retuned the face, as they headed for the door.
Willow suddenly stopped and grabbed Buffy’s arm. “Hey, why don’t we get together tonight and do the veg fest thing?”
Xander’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. “Everyone who agrees say ‘aye.’” With that he raised his hand and said, “Aye.”
Buffy smirked slightly, tilted her head and raised her hand. “Okay, aye. My house, my mom’s gotta work late so …. Pizza sound good?’
Willow raised her hand. “Aye. I’ll bring the snacks.”
Xander frowned at Willow, “Nothing healthy, right?”
Willow shook her head at Xander and laughed.
Cordelia looked at the three of them and said quietly, “Mind if I join you guys?”
Xander stopped laughing and nodded sincerely. Willow smiled invitingly. And Buffy said, “Sure.”
Xander wrapped an arm around Cordelia’s shoulders. “Then the aye’s have it. See ya later G-Man.” He looked back at Giles only to find him entranced.
The others glanced back and stopped.
Giles turned to the table and slowly picked up Wend’s portrayal. He stared at it a few moments.
Buffy glanced at Willow and then walked over to Giles. “What is it?” she asked him quietly.
Giles looked up slowly. “Xander said, ‘The ayes have it.’ And he’s right.” He glanced down at the paper in his hand. “Willow, you said that Wend was known for his dark portraits. But he was also known for his uncanny ability to portray the meticulously hidden. And his eye for accurate detail.”
Buffy raised her eyebrows slightly, “So?”
Giles gestured for the four of them to come back to the table. “The picture shows Messenger as slightly smaller than most children. Which would coincide with the period from which she came. The human species wasn’t as large or tall as it is now. But Lycan is shown as very tall, possibly seven feet or more in height.” He pointed to the figure they assumed was Lycan.
Cordelia scrunched up her eyebrows. “I don’t get it.”
Giles looked up and over into Cordelia’s face. “What I’m getting at is that if Lycan was born human more than six thousand years ago, he would only be about Buffy’s height, if not shorter. And yet, Wend has portrayed him as quite tall which would mean he is.”
“But what does that have to do with eyes?” Willow asked quietly
“Many people believed, and some still do, that the window into a person’s soul is through their eyes. Only the left eye is shown in this picture. It could very well mean that Lycan only has one eye. I read once of an experimental spell that included the sacrifice of a vampire’s eye to make him or her humane again. And the rituals involved must be performed by a very strong and powerful witch in order to succeed. But the spell was said to usually go awry for one reason or another. Half the reasons were said to have to do with the soul of that person in question.” Giles took a deep breath. “Most of those that the experiment were performed on were not exactly what you would call worthy.”
Buffy’s face had become very determined. “You mean you knew of a way to bring Angel’s soul back, possibly even make him human and you never told me?”
Giles turned to Buffy. “Buffy, the spell was never said to return a soul or to make a person human again. Merely humane. Angel was already that with his curse.” He pushed up his glasses with an index finger. “And you didn’t even let me finish. The vampire involved had to at least be reasonably humane in life in order for the spell to work. And the eye in question was not simply cut out,” he glanced around as Cordelia and Willow made a face and Xander shuddered, “But left and magic was used to extract it. Very painful and it apparently left horrid scarring on those who were not worthy,” he paused for a moment, “as well as leaving them quite mad.”
“The consequences of the spell out-weighed the benefits in many cases.” Giles took another deep breath. “There were very few witches with the strength and power to perform the rituals. If, and I do mean if, Lycan was a vampire, he must have enlisted several witches, found the spell, found a place to perform it where no one heard about it and survived.” He looked directly at Buffy. “And may I add the little fact that if Lycan is a vampire, he may very well be more powerful than an army of Slayers could handle.”
“Because of his age?” Willow asked.
“Exactly. Messenger is at least six thousand years old. Lycan would probably have to be at least twice that if not more simply to have an avatar.” Giles answered. “At least according to everything I know of avatars and their masters.” He glanced at his watch and started to fish in his pocket for something. “You’re all late. I’ll write up excuses for each of you so that you aren’t in any trouble.” He scribbled out the excuses for each and waved the four teenagers out the door. He then took a deep breath, strode back to the table, picked up the picture again and then gathered the rest of the papers. “What is your master’s plan?” As he stared at the picture he thought he saw the drawing of Messenger smile for a moment.
The site of Jenny Calendar’s grave that evening.
A shadow fell over the stone. A sprinkle of glittering dust fell over the grave and a soft accented voice spoke:
“Although you are dust
Your spirit still is.
Although you are buried
Your spirit still rises.
Although you lay down
Your spirit still stands.
Although you are senseless
Your spirit still senses.
Rise so we may speak.”
At the last word Jenny semi-materialized out of the ground. She looked around and then turned to the figure in front of her. “Why did you bring me here?” she asked, her eyes slightly wide.
“To talk, Janna. To offer you a bargain.”
“How did you know my name?”
“You are far from unknown to me.”
“Okay.” She paused. “What kind of bargain?” she asked warily.
"The kind that would help you and your loved one,” the voice answered.
She looked around the graveyard. She was vaguely aware that she was supposed to be dead. At Angelus’s hands no less. “Why me?”
The figure moved slightly. “Because you are a witch of the 20th century. Not a rare thing but … certainly not common.” The voice paused for a moment. “And you are also one of the Hellmouth’s latest victims. Very important for a bargain.”
Jenny stared at the figure for a moment and then smiled strangely. “Tell me more.”
Buffy’s living room, same time.
Buffy, Willow, Xander and Cordelia sat on the couch and floor engrossed in yet another foreign movie.
“Would someone please tell me where the pigeon comes into all this?” Cordelia asked cautiously.
“Um, later. I think.” Buffy frowned at the television and then down at the bowl in her hand. “I’m going to get more popcorn. Anybody want anything?” She got up off the floor.
Xander raised his eyebrows as well as his glass to her. “Please?”
Buffy paused as she looked between the glass and his face. She shook her head mildly and took the glass from him. “Same as before?”
Buffy headed into the kitchen, opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of pop to fill Xander’s glass. She unscrewed the bottle and poured. As she listened to the sound of the fizz slowly ebb away, an eerie sound replaced it. The sound of whispering. As if several people were talking in several languages at once. She thought she caught the words ‘Janna’ and ‘Hellmouth’ but nothing else. Her face deepened into a frown as the whispers faded out and a buzzing sound took its place and slowly got louder and louder. Buffy didn’t see her hand let go of the bottle and it tumble down to the floor. She didn’t see the floor suddenly rush up to meet her, face to tile.
She stood in the graveyard near the main road. She looked cautiously around. A slight movement in front of her caught her attention. She quietly and carefully made her way to the general area of the movement. There, in the center of the graveyard on a stone bench placed under a weeping willow, sat Messenger.
Buffy took a quick breath. The little girl was turned away from her. She wasn’t sure how to handle this particular situation. But if she had to …. Before the thought even finished in her mind, the girl turned around. She was dressed in shades of green with a rag doll in her arms. Her eyes were like lush grass after the rainfall. Her hair was almost a mahogany colour and done up in two pig-tails on either side of her head. But what caught most of Buffy’s attention was the doll. It was the exact same one as in the portrait by Wend and the one in the earlier picture, she was sure. A doll that old would have turned to dust by now. Right?
The girl smiled up at her. “Hello.”
“Uh, hi.” Buffy was at a loss for words. “Are you Messenger?”
The girl smiled gently. “Yes.” Her voice so soft and slightly accented. She motioned for Buffy to come sit with her on the stone bench. “You are the Slayer.”
“Yeah. I kind of get that a lot.” Something about the girl’s voice set Buffy at ease. “What are you doing out here by yourself?” she asked as she sat down by the little girl.
“Watching,” came the reply.
“Mind if I ask what?”
“Did you know the dead have power?” came an off kilter response.
Buffy blinked several times as her mind processed the unexpected information. “No, I … never really thought about it. How do you know?”
Another off kilter answer, “Yes. Even those who have been gone for years have power. Power over the undead.”
Buffy stopped a minute and pursed her lips. “That’s good to know actually.”
Messenger practically beamed in response.
Buffy kept her lips pursed. Possibly dangerous but only one way to find out. “Did that spell with the window to the soul work for him?”
Messenger’s smile brightened impossibly and she giggled. “Yes.”
“So Lycan was a vampire at one point,” Buffy surmised.
“No,” came the unexpected answer. With just a hint of a smile, the girl turned and tilted her head towards Buffy as if she were reading her thoughts. “He was not like anything else that was before or since.” She turned back to the graves in front of her.
Buffy turned back to them as well. She noticed that all the graves in front of them were the graves of children and infants. She frowned slightly and looked back to the girl only to find her carefully retying a green ribbon around the doll’s neck. When she was done she studied the ribbon for a moment and then hugged the doll fiercely to her as a faint smile returned to her face.
“Did he make you?” She didn’t know why, but Buffy had the strange feeling that it was a very important question.
Messenger looked up from the doll into Buffy’s eyes with the same faint smile. “Yes. Would you like to meet him some day?”
Before Buffy could answer her, Messenger glanced over her shoulder. Buffy followed her movement and looked over her own shoulder.
Angelus strode down the road toward the graveyard. He hadn’t noticed the two of them. Yet. He kept glancing from side to side as if looking for something.
Buffy quickly looked back to Messenger. “We’ve got to hide before he spots us.” She tugged the little girl’s hand and ushered her behind a rather large tombstone. The girl offered no resistance and seemed much more fragile than Buffy would have expected.
Angelus stopped just outside the graveyard and looked intently into the cemetery. Searching for who knew what, he stepped stealthily in. He crept along the path Buffy had vacated and stopped for a moment to look around. Then started again.
As he walked through, both Buffy and Messenger moved so that the stone was always between them and him. Messenger looked up and tugged slightly on Buffy’s arm. When she had the teenager’s attention she said, “He searches for you. He wished to play nasty games and hurt you as he hurt the mad one,” she said. “He also thinks of making you a vampire. ’Ware the demon inside.” With that she backed slowly out from under Buffy’s arms as she watched Angelus’ movements and then dashed across the rest of the graveyard and seemed to vanish from sight.
As Buffy went to lunge for her, she noticed Angelus had caught sight of the little girl. She backed up quickly and managed to stay hidden when Angelus suddenly burst into a run to catch his latest victim. Having thought the girl vanished across the way into the park, Angelus followed fast behind.
As his foot falls faded away, the buzzing came back and she could no longer feel the rough surface of the stone under her hands.
She opened her eyes and white hot pain slashed through them. A light shone from her left and she immediately covered her eyes until they adapted. She then tried to raise herself up on one elbow but the room began to spin and lurch quickly and bile rose in the back of her throat. She let herself fall back onto the pillow and almost regretted that action as well. Willow, Xander, Cordelia and Giles filed into the room. All four looked exhausted and rumpled. Willow glanced up and burst into a smile.
“Buffy! You’re awake.”
“Oh man, did you scare us.”
They all rushed over to her and hugged her.
Still very groggy, Buffy croaked out, “Where am I?” Buffy looked to each of the four in turn.
Willow took a deep breath. “You passed out or fainted or something and when you didn’t wake up an hour later, your mom brought you here. To the hospital.” She flinched slightly on the last word.
Cordelia raised her hand slightly and offered. “I’ll go get your mom. She’s been really worried.”
Giles put his hand to his forehead. “Buffy do you realize that you have been … unconscious for over five hours?”
After the words sank in, Buffy’s eyes widened. “What? Five hours? But we only talked for five minutes. How could it have been five hours?” Buffy exclaimed, although rather quietly.
Xander held up his index finger. “Who’s ‘we’?” He held his hands in question.
Buffy looked at Giles as she thought for a moment. It was hard to think straight. “I spoke to Messenger. I think.”
Giles blinked rapidly and started to say something several times. “Messenger? You spoke with Messenger?” he finally managed to splutter.
Buffy nodded her head slightly and painfully. “We’ll talk about it at my house. Right now, I just want out of here as fast as I can.”
Giles looked up at Willow and Xander. “Buffy, you have a concussion. The doctors would like to keep you here for the night at least until they’re sure there isn’t any permanent damage. They were worried because of how long you were unconscious.”
Buffy looked from Giles to Willow and then back again. “You’re serious?”
Willow nodded her head vigorously. “Very.”
Just then Cordelia came back with Buffy’s mother right behind.
Joyce leaned over her daughter and checked her temperature. “Buffy you’re awake. Thank god. I thought you were never going to wake up.” She stopped babbling for a moment and took a deep breath. She then smiled tightly at Buffy. “I’m sorry. I was just so worried.”
“It’s okay, mom.” Buffy squeezed her mother’s hand reassuringly. “Just a little bit of a headache is all.”
Her mother nodded. “I know you don’t really like hospitals, Buffy, but the doctors want to keep you overnight so they can make sure you’re okay.”
Buffy let out a depressed sigh. “All right. But just one night. Got it?”
Her mother smiled again and nodded. “I want to go talk with the doctor.” She gave her daughter’s hand one more squeeze and then left.
After the door shut, Giles placed his hand on Buffy’s shoulder. “Take it extremely easy right now. The fact that you actually have a concussion is extremely unusual.”
“Right,” Buffy responded quietly.
Xander patted Buffy’s hand. “Hey, you’re the Slayer. You’ll be as good as new by tomorrow. No problem.” He looked over into Giles’ dubious gaze. “You know she will.”
Cordelia smiled as well. “Yeah. I mean it’s in the rules, right?”
Giles looked back down to Buffy and smiled encouragingly. He then stood up and waved everyone to the door. “Let’s leave Buffy to her rest.”
Later in the hospital.
Buffy slept fitfully. Her head pounded a continuous and rather painful beat. The door to her room opened and a shadow slipped in and closed it silently. Then walked over to her bed and sat carefully down on the edge. A shadow hand reached out slowly and steadily to touch her forehead.
Buffy flinched slightly under the cool touch, the pounding in her head slowly eased away. She opened her eyes and found a blurry but kind face looking back at her.
One eye was the most fascinating blue she had ever seen. The other was covered by a very old fashioned patch that had straps crossing the cheek and the forehead. The smile that creased the mouth was tender. The hand slid across her forehead to her temple and the slight pain and nausea Buffy had felt since coming to faded away. A gash that Buffy had been unaware of healed itself.
Tranquility slowly slid Buffy’s eyes closed. She fell into a deep and healing sleep.
The shadow watched her sleep for a few moments as it held her hand, then stood and left the room as quietly as it had entered.
Morning arrived and with it Joyce to take Buffy home. Despite the argument Buffy put up about feeling perfectly fine, the doctors approved her release but advised Buffy to take it easy for the day. On a Saturday of all days.
“This couldn’t have happened during a school day, could it?” Buffy ranted quietly from the couch in the living room. “I could be out shopping right now.”
“Them’s the breaks.” Willow said and smiled as she handed Buffy a glass of water and sat down beside her.
Buffy’s mom poked her head around the corner. “Willow, I wanted to thank you again for staying with Buffy today. I would have, but the emergency at the gallery is just too serious.” She turned to Buffy, “Remember, take it easy and don’t forget to take a nap today. The doctors said that would be the best thing for you.”
Buffy nodded her head slowly. “Yes, I remember. Go, mom.”
Joyce stared intently at her daughter for a moment and then opened the door just as Xander was about to knock. Cordelia standing behind him.
“Mind if we come in?” Cordelia asked.
Joyce waved the two teenagers in and then waved one last time at Willow and Buffy. “Have fun,” floated into the living room.
Xander looked from the door to Buffy and Willow and then back as Cordelia took a seat in the chair.
“Emergency at the gallery,” Willow supplied.
Xander nodded his head sagely and then asked, “So, how do you feel this morning?”
Buffy shrugged nonchalantly. “Fine …,” a knock on the door concluded the sentence.
Since he hadn’t taken a seat yet, Xander reached across and opened the door. “Welcome to Grand Central Station,” he greeted.
Giles stepped in hesitantly and then glanced around the living room. After several attempts to come up with something suitable, Giles simply settled on, “You spoke to Messenger?” He looked inquiringly at Buffy as he set a book on the coffee table.
Buffy smiled slightly. “Yeah and that spell you told me about was cast on Lycan. But apparently he isn’t and wasn’t a vampire.” She frowned slightly at the information.
“How do you know that, Buffy?” Cordelia asked.
“Messenger told me, sort of.”
Giles leaned in, “What do you mean?” He held up a hand to stop her before she started. “Start from where you passed out.”
Buffy gestured Giles and Xander to be seated. “Before I passed out I heard whispering, I think it was in several languages. And I think I heard the words ‘Janna’ and ‘Hellmouth’ but I’m not sure. When it passed, a strange buzzing sound took its place and I passed out, I guess. I found myself just inside the graveyard and I saw something move and went to investigate. And there she was, dressed in green and holding a doll. She said hi and we had a conversation about the dead having power and the spell that worked. In a weird sort of way. Then Angelus came along and we had to hide. She grabbed his attention and then I woke up in the hospital.” She rested her hands in her lap.
Giles scrunched up his eyebrows and leaned forward. “The spell that worked?” Hoping she would elaborate.
“The same spell you described today, I mean yesterday.”
Giles was silent for a moment. “You say Messenger confirmed it worked for Lycan?”
“Yup. Talk about out of the mouths of babes. She was more fragile than I expected her to be. It was almost as if she were a real six or seven year old. Not a six thousand year old or a demon.” She thought a moment on the conversation. “She said that the dead have power. And that even those that died years ago have power over the undead. Is that important in any way, Giles?”
Giles looked intently at Buffy. “Yes. It gives us a piece to the puzzle that is Lycan.”
Willow glanced at Buffy. “How?”
Buffy shook her head. “Yeah, how?”
Clearing his throat, Giles responded, “It tells us that Lycan’s plan has something to do with the Hellmouth and some of those dead because of it.” He took a deep breath. “Janna was Jenny Calendar’s real name. And the fact that you heard both words whispered probably means that Lycan has made her a part of his army. However unlikely that may seem. We also know now that the spell of humane restoration was cast on him and that he survived it and was worthy. Which in turn tells us that he may be more for our side than any vampire or demon’s side.”
“Terrific,” Buffy commented, not believing it for a moment. She looked down at her hands and remembered. “This may or may not be important but, Messenger’s doll is the exact same one as the one we saw in Wend’s portrait and the earlier picture. I’m sure of it. But it didn’t look old. It just looked like … a beloved toy.” She wasn’t sure where the phrase came from but there it was.
“You say it didn’t look old merely loved?” Giles pondered this fact for a moment. “I don’t see it’s relevance as yet but that may change as we receive the last few pieces.” He pondered in silence for a moment.
Buffy looked down at her hands again. In one of them was the green ribbon she’d found that morning while still at the hospital. Like the ribbon in Messenger’s hair or the one around the doll’s neck. “And I had this in my hand this morning when I woke up.” She handed the ribbon to Giles for examination. “I’m not really sure how I got it, but I think someone was in my hospital room last night.”
Giles immediately looked up from the ribbon in alarm. “Any idea who?” As he spoke the rest of the Scooby gang exchanged worried looks.
“Not really. All I remember was a cool touch to my forehead and temple and the pain and nausea from the concussion going away.” She stopped for a moment. “And the colour blue.”
“The colour blue?” Giles asked as he traced some of the illegible runes on the ribbon.
Yeah. Blue.” Buffy nodded her head. “Now we just have to figure out what his plan is and what, for that matter, he is. Right?” Buffy asked.
“Essentially, yes.” Giles agreed.
“Well, we’ve had confirmation that he wasn’t and isn’t a vampire.” Willow pointed to Buffy. “Messenger told you that herself. So if he wasn’t a vampire, then why the spell to make him humane?” She looked questioningly at the four around her.
Giles lifted a finger. “I may have the answer for that.” He opened the book he had laid on the table to a marked page. “This is the entry about the spell itself and its known history.” He flipped to a picture of a woman kneeling down before an old crone with a bolt of white light in her hand. Encompassing them was what looked to be Stonehedge. From the sky, several more bolts of lightning hit the various sculptures of stone. The ground on which the woman was bent was criss-crossed with a myriad of hieroglyphs and runes set in several concentric circles. The crone herself stood outside them and seemed to be lined with a pale colour. “The spell doesn’t specify that the …,” he paused a moment for the right words, “ensorcelled has to be a vampire of some sort, not necessarily even human, just genuinely good in nature at some previous point in life before such evil befell them.”
“So … Lycan could have been cursed or something by a demon or a witch or something. Right?” Buffy lifted her eyebrows in expectation as she studied Giles reaction carefully.
Giles’ forehead furrowed and then he nodded. “Uh, yes, as a matter of fact, he could have. But the very idea itself is almost ludicrous considering our estimate of his age.”
“Then we’ll just have to ask him, won’t we?” Buffy said quietly.
Spike looked up from his wheelchair. “So, what can we expect from Lycan? How will he attack us?” He looked at Angelus with one raised eyebrow.
Angelus glanced over the sofa at him as he continued to pace. He shook his head desperately. “I don’t know. But he will come.”
“How?” Spike asked again as he held his hands wide, expecting the answer.
“I just said I don’t know,” Angelus roared as his *game* face appeared. He stopped his pacing and growled in frustration.
Spike looked away from him as he rolled his eyes. “Wonderful. One of the few of us that’s actually ever met the myth and you don’t know.” He shook his head, smiled ruefully and then started to wheel himself to another part of the manor they had ‘procured.’
Angelus snarled as he turned in Spike’s direction, then vaulted over the furniture between himself and the other, and stopped Spike cold. He leaned down so that he was eye to eye with his ‘son.’ “I never said I met him. No one ever meets him, not face to face, and lives to tell of it, that is.” Angelus inched closer to Spike’s face and then pushed him back as he stood up. He smiled unpleasantly at Spike as he strolled over to the window. “One night, this little girl asked me if I would swear fealty to him. At the time, we were at some bash for a higher-up on the political scale. I thought that’s who she meant. I laughed in her face and walked away.” He paused for a moment as if reliving the memory. “Probably the biggest mistake of my life. So, three days later he comes to me. With friends of his. He came in the form of a wolf. At the head of a pack. They chased me to the gypsies and then gypsies ushered me into their little curse.” He smiled sardonically. “A few years after that, Messenger returned to ask the same question. Except this time I accepted. I’d heard whispers that he was trying to do the world some good but there were never any details as to what exactly he was going to do. And I wanted to ‘atone’ for what I’d done.” Angelus looked back at Spike. “So you see, Spike, he will come and I really don’t think it’s going to be all that pleasant for any of us.”
Spike cocked his head. “What did he ask of you?”
Angelus, his face human again, looked up from the floor as his pacing slowed leisurely. “Nothing.” He held his hands out, palms up, a smile from ear to ear plastered on his face. A giggle escaped.
Spike’s face fell. “Nothing?” he said ever so quietly.
Angelus smiled snidely. “Nothing. I never spoke to anyone that called themselves his to command except Messenger. But then everyone speaks to Messenger at some point or other. Hell, I’ve spoken to her three times in the last hundred years alone. How many vampires can say that?”
Spike pursed his lips as he kept himself quiet, Druscilla glided into the room, unnoticed by either. “Who cares? We have to figure out a way to avoid this. We certainly can’t swear fealty to him. And …”
“Not even in deceit.” Her small voice whispered. She looked up at both of them with palpable fear in her eyes. “He’ll stake us to the ground outside and watch as piece by piece we burn up in the sun’s hated rays.”
Spike quickly wheeled himself over to her. “Now pet, we’ll find a way to get out of this. We always do, you and I.” Angelus didn’t miss the exclusion of himself from the sentence.
Druscilla looked up at Spike and then to Angelus. “But what about Angelus?”
Spike looked back at his adversary. “He got himself into this. He can get himself out. I’m more worried about you and me, pet. We can’t fight Lycan. I know that without a doubt. But maybe we can ….”
Angelus chuckled. “If you’re thinking you can run from him, don’t bother. You run, he'll follow. You run long enough and he’ll get angry,” Angelus arched an eyebrow at the other two. “And like I said when Messenger showed up, you don’t want to see him angry.”
Druscilla, ignored by the other two once again, began to look around as if for someone. Her eyes lingered on a darkened hall for a few moments and then continued around the room.
As Angelus and Spike continued their ‘discussion,’ a small shadow moved almost indistinctly amoung the hall’s other shadows. The silhouette of a little girl with two pig-tails, fell across the scene. She stood still for a few moments and then looked up to her right. Another much taller, silhouette glided out of the shadows and placed its hand on her shoulder. The head turned downward as if to speak to the girl. The girl’s silhouette smiled up at the other then turned around and walked down the hall. The tall figure stayed and watched with growing interest. Where a left eye would have been located, a soft rainbow glow emanated and then slowly subsided.
Giles’ apartment. About the same time.
Giles quickly placed the hot cup of tea on the table and settled down, various reference books in front of him. Several of them on past mythical species. Others on present mystical species in the world. He opened one book to a picture of what looked to be a dragon. Giles shook his head as he unfolded the four additional pages. And then still shaking his head, immediately refolded and turned the page. Before he could even read the title of the next species, a knock on the door resounded throughout the small space. Giles turned to the door, concern etched on his face. He picked himself up out of the chair and hurried to the door as he mentally puzzled out who it could be. Buffy shouldn’t be out. Willow was with Buffy. Cordelia and Xander were who knew where, doing who knew what. So he honestly wasn’t expecting anyone.
Giles opened the door and there stood a trio of truly comical proportions. The three men rather reminded Giles of the Three Stooges, Larry, Moe and Curly. In fact the men could have passed for the actual persons, so identical were they. Giles would have burst out laughing except for the small but distinguishable pendant that hung from the middle man’s neck. A small triangle with an eye placed in its exact center within a sun. The symbol for the Watcher’s Council.
Giles turned slightly and then turned back. “How may I be of assistance?” he finally sputtered out.
‘Moe’s’ face turned very stern the moment Giles opened the door and a very proper English accent escaped his throat. “You may invite us in so we may speak privately, to begin with.” He crossed his hands in front of his belly and waited impatiently for Giles to comply. “We certainly don’t have all day.”
Giles sputtered a little more and then moved aside as he waved the three men into his home. “I’m very sorry. I simply wasn’t expecting anyone. Especially anyone from the Watcher’s Council.” He glanced around the living room and then pinched his forehead nervously. “Oh dear,” he muttered to himself.
The three Watchers filed in in order of apparent rank. ‘Moe’ was first, ‘Larry’ was second, and ‘Curly’ was third. Both lesser Watchers sat on the couch as the other flittered around the room and rummaged through the books and papers. Seemingly anything that even remotely resembled research material. Giles closed the door and turned to them, but before he could utter a word, ‘Moe’ spoke first.
“I received word that you are attempting to locate information regarding the being known as ‘Lycan.’ I wish to know the exact reason why and what you intend to do with said information. Remember, your first priority is to the Council. So, leave no pertinent information out. There could be serious consequences if you do not cooperate completely,” ‘Moe’ waggled his index finger during his entire lecture. After several moments, he turned and placed his hands back on his belly and waited. The stern face never left. The other two Watchers remained completely mute during the discourse.
Giles frowned. He already didn’t like what the man implied about him. He liked him even less considering the topic of discussion. But he was a Watcher after all. He would acquiesce. For now.
He gestured for ‘Moe’ to seat himself but the other declined, so Giles merely picked up his tea and leaned against his desk. “Two nights ago, the Slayer encountered a group of vampires, rather happy to see her, they begged that she kill them before Messenger returned for them. One of them even went so far as to throw himself onto the stake in her hand.” Giles took a deep breath. “She recounted the entire experience to me the next day after which I quickly had a friend in England e-mailed, to send me any information he possessed on Lycan, since what little I have on said being is of little use to anyone.” He stopped for a moment and eyed a satchel on Curly’s lap. “The research arrived around lunchtime and the Slayer, three of her friends and myself began to read through to see what we could learn of him. One of the teens found a portrait by Wend Sommers that depicted Messenger and who I believe to be Lycan in an alley. We surmised that Lycan was still building his army even then and that Wend was now part of that army. The Slayer, later that night was visited by Messenger through a vision. She …”
The last sentence brought Moe out of his reverie. “You say the Slayer met with Messenger?” His face darkened to a deep purple. “The Slayer met with Messenger and you informed no one of this event? You call yourself a Watcher and you simply let something like this pass? Where are your research materials? The ones you received earlier from London?” Moe’s face never lost its vivid colour.
Giles stared at the man for several seconds and then after harsh prompting answered that it was in the School Library. Moe instantly headed for the front door, muttering something about incompetence all the way. The other two quickly fell into step right behind him and followed him out the door. Giles glared after them and then hastily followed.
Cordelia and Xander poked their heads in the door as Buffy turned off the television in frustration. Xander sauntered in. “Fighting the boredom bug?”
Buffy smiled wanly, “Yeah.”
Willow looked up from her laptop and smiled encouragingly at Buffy. “It’s just for one day. It’s to your benefit in the long run.”
Buffy grimaced. “I know. But …. You know me.”
Willow nodded her head in understanding. “No luck with anything on Lycan on the net. I even tried some of the … more obscure sites for anything in them. And the London information doesn’t seem to hold anything else besides what we already found.” The redhead looked mildly frustrated at her lack of success. “I wish I’d brought the rest of Giles’ papers with me. Maybe cross reference, at least then we might find something.”
“And this sitting around wouldn’t seem like such a waste of time,” Buffy said as she looked at Xander and Cordelia.
Giles led the other three into the library. “I’m afraid I don’t understand why we’re here.” He looked up to find Buffy, Willow, Xander and Cordelia seated around the table with the London information scattered all over the table, as well as other books and papers. He was going to ask what she was doing here, but given the company, thought better of it.
“Hi Giles. We thought …,” Willow looked up smiling, then stopped. Her face dropped instantly when she saw the three stern figures behind him. “Who are they?”
Xander looked up, began to smirk but stopped when he caught the seriousness on Giles’ face.
Giles looked to Willow and then to Buffy.
Moe stepped in front of Giles before he could even begin to answer. “It matters little who we are. What does matter is who you are and what you think you are doing here?” Moe looked from teen to teen, the scorn in his eyes building with each face until, at last, he settled on Buffy. He harumphed and walked over to the table and began to confiscate the sheets from their hands and the surface. He also closed several books and placed them on the furthest corner away from the group. “Now, the three of you who are not the Slayer will cease, desist and leave the library this instant or I will have you escorted out.” He glared daggers at them. “You will not discuss anything you have read with one another or anyone else and you will not contact the Slayer under any circumstances hence forth. Is that understood?”
Giles face was livid. “Now see here,” he started.
Moe turned an angry glare onto Giles. “This matter will now be handled by myself until a less … inept Watcher can be found to take over permanently. For the moment consider yourself under suspension and be ready to head back to London for an inquisition on the question of your loyalties. As for the Slayer, she will be remanded to another, who will finish her training appropriately and promptly. He nodded his head to Larry, who bowed slightly. He then took the satchel from Curly, placed it on the table and began to remove several more volumes from its interior. Moe turned to Willow and the other two. “What are you still doing here?” His bellow reverberated throughout the school.
Moe, without turning to Giles, stated, “Your Slayer should be out staking vampires. Not being coddled by her Watcher.”
Giles slowly turned to the head Watcher and glared daggers himself. Fortunately, Moe never even turned around. Willow looked between the two, a question clear on her face. Giles shook his head in frustration. “The Slayer is not out for two reasons. The first is she has sustained a severe concussion, however unlikely it may seem. And the second, vampires would not be out yet because it is not sunset yet.” He smiled tightly at the Watcher lackeys.
Giles voice rose slightly. “These gentlemen are going to solve the matter of ‘Lycan.’ They are unhappy with the way I have handled matters concerning ‘Messenger.’” He rubbed his forehead and glanced from teen to teen. He wasn’t at all happy at what had transpired. He was even less happy at Moe’s attitude towards Buffy’s friends.
Willow glanced at several of the titles of the books that had been removed from the bag. All of them were books Giles had no hope of ever getting his hands on, much less have read through. Anger seethed. Willow’s face hardened at the man’s harsh tones and hardened still more at his unfounded words. She picked up one particular title of which there were only three copies of in the entire world. “How are you supposed to handle a situation like this when you don’t even have access to the materials to research it?”
But before she could open the book up, Moe snatched it out of her hands and hugged it to himself like a life-preserver. “I will …,” Moe began.
Buffy instantly recognized the voice. She glanced around but didn’t spot the avatar. Just about everyone else in the room quickly scanned as well. It wasn’t until Giles looked behind him that the source of the voice was revealed. He quickly stepped to the side. “Good Lord,” was the only appropriate thing he could think of to say. It was one thing to speak of avatars, another altogether to speak to them.
There, in front of the doors that lead to the rest of the school, stood Messenger. She was dressed in the exact same outfit as the night Buffy spoke to her. With her doll clutched tightly under her arm. The only thing missing was the ribbon around the doll’s neck.
Buffy quickly searched her pockets and found the ribbon that had been in her fist the day before. She stepped over to the little girl and kneeled down to tie the ribbon back on. “I think somebody forgot this.” She smiled at the doll and girl when she was done.
Messenger smiled back, took Buffy’s hand in her own small one that held the doll and then wriggled her tiny fingers into Giles’ hand and led the two over to Moe. “Show them,” was all she said to the indignant Watcher.
Moe looked from the girl to Giles, to Buffy and back to the girl, incredulously. “If you think for one moment that I am falling for this ploy, you can think again. Why should I believe this is Messenger?”
“Because she is his avatar come to quest. As she has for the last 14 millennia.” A soft voice floated from the stacks. And out of them emerged a very pale and thin man. “And if I were you I wouldn’t question her.”
It was Moe’s turn to glare daggers at both Giles and the young man.
Willow instantly recognized Wend from several pictures taken before his disappearance. And he didn’t look a day over twenty-six. The age he’d been in 1951. She looked over to Buffy and Giles. “Guys meet Wend Sommers. Wend, meet Giles, Xander, Cordelia, Buffy and,” she gestured lamely at the three older men, “Watchers.”
“Larry, Moe and Curly,” Xander muttered into the silence.
Wend smiled politely and bowed slightly to Buffy, Giles and the Slayerettes. He paid no attention to the other three. “You forgot someone,” he indicated Willow herself.
Willow’s face went blank for a moment. “Oh yeah. I’m Willow.” She smiled goofily.
Moe’s eyes were wide as plates. He swiveled his head so as to glare at the Slayer. “Well, what are you waiting for? He is a vampire. You are the Vampire Slayer,” he gesticulated wildly at Wend. “Kill him.”
Buffy glanced from the Watchers back to Wend. A theory forming in her mind. “Lycan gave you your soul back after you swore fealty to him.”
This time, Wend’s smile was genuine yet sad. “Yes.”
Buffy looked back at Moe. “You want him dusted, you stake him yourself.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared a challenge at Moe.
“This is unacceptable! Mr. Giles, you have absolutely no control over your Slayer! All the more reason for you to be replaced as soon as possible.” Moe looked back up to Wend and then started for the stairs, book still in hand.
Before he reached the second level, a multi-coloured mist drifted in behind the vampire and throughout the stacks. Buffy and the other four watched cautiously while two of the three Watchers cowered in fear. The third, Moe, stood his ground, although a little uncertainly. Wend and Messenger never even flinched.
A melodic voice with an unfamiliar accent radiated from the stacks with power to spare. “Is this what I have fought for all these eons? Embittered little men who would much rather stab each other in the back then help one another? Who would do evil’s work for themselves? Messenger?” Although the question was serious, the tone was gentle
Messenger smiled slightly as she looked between Buffy, Giles and the Slayerettes. “Not all,” she gestured to Willow, Xander and Cordelia. “They have risked their lives and their souls for the Chosen on numerous occasions. And would do so again without thought or payment.” She looked up at Giles and smiled brightly as she held his hand. “This one has even given us the benefit of the doubt, even though he does not believe in you.” A giggle escaped her. Giles blinked in profuse confusion.
Xander piped up quietly, “Just a wild guess here but I'm thinking that’s Lycan,” he waved his hand vaguely towards the stacks before Cordelia elbowed him in the ribs.
A soft chuckle emanated from somewhere within the stacks. Wend himself, offered up a shy smile. Buffy’s eyebrows knit together as something else seemed to fall into place. “You were in the hospital room with me. I thought it was Messenger, but it was you.”
Another chuckle. This one even softer than the first. Messenger giggled again. Wend smiled broadly this time.
As the others were occupied by the three mystical figures, Larry slowly reached for a crossbow set just outside the book lock-up while Curly pulled a stake from his belt. Larry eyed the vampire standing in front of Moe as Curly targeted Messenger, still situated between Giles and Buffy. Neither had any idea what they would do about the mist. But they would worry about it once the other two were out of the way.
Giles, having found his voice, asked, “Why are you all here?” he gestured to Wend, the stacks and then Messenger. “You have been a mystery for, forever and now you have answered several questions in a matter of minutes.” He shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t understand why.”
Messenger leaned slightly into Buffy. The little girl barely came up to her hip.
“Consider it a favour returned,” Lycan answered. “The five of you have done me the favour of stopping the Master before he could have his Harvest. And for destroying him when you had the chance. Much time and effort would have been wasted if he had succeeded in even his Harvest. Also for thwarting the Anointed One’s plans for this place.” He paused for a moment, and it seemed to everyone in the room that he looked at Messenger as a proud father does his child. “And because some of this place’s inhabitants reminds Messenger of home, so long ago.”
Messenger squeezed Giles’ hand and hugged Buffy’s hip a little more tightly.
Willow looked from Buffy, Giles and Messenger to the stacks. She raised her hand slightly. “May I ask a question?”
Another chuckle. “Of course. Ask anything you like.”
Willow tied her fingers together nervously as she finally noticed the voice had a faint echo to it. “Well, Messenger said Giles didn’t believe in you. What exactly does that mean? I mean, what *are* you?”
In answer, Moe’s arms began to slide up, or more precisely, the book in his hands. His eyes widened to plates once more and he immediately let go. The other two Watchers scuttled behind him, weapons still in hand, so as to avoid any direct wrath from Lycan. The book itself glided through the air into Willow’s outstretched but shaky hands. It opened when she had a firm grip on it. She glanced over the pages. At first, it seemed that the text had been written in blocks of varying spaces. But text and illustrations slowly floated to the surface of the pages in the spaces left.
“I trusted a human Watcher long ago with my true nature, only to find out his own Council had betrayed him and me. A good friend was lost and I have not had any inclination to trust another of that kind since. That book in your hands, young Wicca is the only one of its kind and all there is referring to me or mine as we truly are. It has not been read in its completion in a very long time.”
Willow frowned. “But wouldn’t they try to copy this for the other Watchers? Or find out what all the blanks were?”
Another chuckle. “They have tried young one. But the protection spell placed on the binding and it’s pages will not allow any kind of copy to be made or any spell to reveal what is missing. The Watcher who wrote it thought it best for all involved. In hind sight, I am relieved he did so.”
Messenger giggled. Her child-like smile held no malice only innocence and joy.
Moe glared scathingly at Messenger and decided enough was enough. “This is a fiasco, Mr. Giles. And as for these,” he paused for the right word and to point to Messenger, Wend and the stacks, “characters, we’ll see what you really are.” He then proceeded up the stairs, shoved Wend aside and stalked into the rows of books. The glow shifted from multi-coloured to pitch black.
Buffy’s eyes widened in alarm and she tried to go after the Watcher. She was brought up short and looked back behind her to where Messenger still stood with an almost death grip on her hand.
The little girl shook her head. “No. The man will not come to harm but he will learn a valuable lesson about the Old.” She turned to the stacks and waited in silence.
Buffy looked to Giles and then to Willow. Willow shook her head emphatically. Xander added his own opinion just as silently. Cordelia shrugged, unsure of the entire matter. Giles stared hard at Buffy. His eyes said it all. Moe wasn’t worth angering Lycan. And Messenger had said he wouldn’t come to harm. The little girl, again, leaned into the teen.
After a few moments, an eerie moan echoed through the library and then … silence.
The two lesser Watchers couldn’t take anymore, dropped their weapons and ran for the library door as fast as their feet could take them. Forgotten on the table, were the books and the satchel.
Willow crept over to the table’s farthest corner, put down the book she’d held so Giles could see and quickly scanned the Watcher’s books for anything useful. She stopped suddenly and snatched up a small volume encased in a blue velvet cover. She opened it to the first page and skimmed it. Her eyes widened as she read through and she quickly scuttled back to the others. She showed them the title of the book and read the first page.
Giles instantly took the book out of Willow’s hands and began to read thoroughly. A motion caught his attention and he quickly looked back up to the stacks.
Moe staggered out of the rows. He stumbled down the stairs and then stopped in front of the table, weaving slightly. Where moments before was just black hair, now literally, stood stark white. He was several shades paler then before and his eyes held a faraway look to them that told everyone he wasn’t quite all there in the head. The mist returned to its original colouration.
“Note to self: Don’t approach any multi-coloured mist,” Xander stated to no one in particular.
Buffy nodded slowly. “I second that note.”
Messenger stepped up to him and stared at him. She opened her mouth and an even softer voice than usual escaped. “I am his avatar come to quest. Will you swear fealty unto him?”
Moe looked down at the little girl with that same faraway look and stared for an awful long time. Messenger stared right back at him. “You have three days to decide your fate. When dusk descends on the third, I will return to hear your answer,” she paused slightly. “Choose wisely.” Moe simply nodded stupidly and then slid down to the floor with a loud thump.
Messenger turned back to the group. “I must go now. It is dusk and there are three to decide their fates tonight.”
Buffy nodded her head. “Let me guess. Druscilla, Spike and Angelus.”
Messenger nodded solemnly.
“Angel had already sworn his fealty but when the demon arose, all ties were lost,” Wend responded.
“You do realize that Druscilla and Spike aren’t going to swear fealty to you,” Xander pointed out to the mist.
There was an almost eternal pause. “Then they will forever be bound in fear.”
The group turned uncertainly at Messenger’s words.
The little girl gazed back solemnly. “There are rooms with no doors,” was the off kilter answer. With that she turned and headed for the stairs and the row of books beyond and disappeared. Wend bowed formally to the group and followed. The mist began to retract in on itself.
Giles raised his hand marginally. “Just a moment, if you please, er, Lycan.” When the mist stopped, Giles continued. “What exactly will happen now? What I mean to say is, you’ve given us much of the answers,” he gestured to the books, “to the riddle you represent. What would you like us to do now?”
The mist seemed to smoulder a bit. “I ask that you keep all that you have learned here tonight to yourself. When in the most dire of needs we will return. But for the meantime, I ask that you not speak of our presence to anyone. There are beings who could use much of the information you now have against me and mine and unravel much of what we have strived for in the last few millennia.” There was a moment of silence. “Keep the books close to heart for when you close them none else shall be able to read what you are privy to. For that is the spell’s intent. To share with those who need not exploit the information it keeps.”
Buffy fidgeted nervously. “What are you going to do about Angelus, Druscilla and Spike?”
The mist retracted more until it was almost gone. “We shall see soon enough,” echoed back into the library’s lower floor. And then nothing but shadows filled the stacks.
Cordelia chewed her lip slightly. “I guess that’s that.”
Xander shoved his hands in his pockets. “Yeah.”
Willow frowned a bit, “Did anybody see where the other Watcher went to.”
The gang scattered around, searching for Moe. When they came up empty, Giles suggested Buffy patrol with the others to make sure no vampire was making dinner of him.
Everyone agreed and made their way out into the new dusk.
After a night of wandering the general area around the school, Buffy and the others returned to the library. The four trudged into the main area and stopped beside the check-out counter, still shaking off the remnants of the few vampires they had run into.
“No good Giles. No sign of him or even the other two. And you’d think they’d stand out here in Sunnydale,” Buffy commented lightly.
Giles nodded his head in acknowledgement, “Yes, well maybe they decided to cut their losses and leave while still able. They may have had the impression that Lycan would come after them sooner or later. And he may very well might. After all, Messenger can appear at will, it seems.”
“What I don’t get is how three Watchers like those guys would be of any use to Lycan if he’s some demigod or whatever.” Cordelia huffed.
Willow bounced up onto the checkout desk along with Xander. “Maybe he wants to use their connections with the Watcher’s Council to know when it’s safe to make his moves. It’s like chess. You have to feel out your opponent.” When everyone turned to stare at her, Willow shrugged and found a nice tile to study.
Giles shook his head again as he removed his glasses. “Whatever his reasons, Lycan is thinking in terms of centuries and millenia regarding the future as opposed to months or even years. I think for the time being we should consider this event as simply another day. Although Messenger never asked directly, I have a feeling we have become a part of Lycan’s plans whether we want to or not.” Giles paused as he chewed an earpiece thoughtfully. He shook his head and turned to the others. “Well, consider it a night. Go home, rest up tomorrow and I’ll see you on Monday.”
Everyone said their good nights and started for the door. Before anyone could move further though a howl reverberated through the halls. The sound of scurrying feet moved closer to the door until the doors themselves burst open as a familiar figure tumbled into the library.
Buffy’s eyes widened in shock and she stood paralyzed. A bloodied and battered Angelus turned to face the group at the door and seemed to suddenly freeze, his eyes glowed with a bronze sheen and he then toppled to the ground like a puppet with its strings suddenly cut.
Buffy exchanged glances with Willow before she cautiously approached the still form. Wary of Angelus’ idea of fun, she reached behind her to grasp the stake she kept there as she reached out to turn him over to face her.
Eternity seemed to crawl by before the vampire cracked open his eyes. “Buffy?” In the vampire’s eyes everyone could plainly see guilt and shame at war with each other for dominance as he remembered everything he’d done. Including the murder of Jenny Calendar by his own hands. Even though he didn’t think he would be granted it he asked anyway. “Forgive me,” he whispered before unconsciousness claimed him.
Druscilla curled into a ball as the sun broke again over the lip of what seemed to be a deep well in the ground. She screamed in mortal terror as the sun immolated her body. Only to laugh in maniacal madness as the sun disappeared behind the other side. Not even ten minutes later the process began anew.
And as Druscilla cowered elsewhere, Spike clawed and paced. He seemed to be in a tomb of some sort but had no idea where. The place had absolutely no way in or out. He had prowled and paced his way around the entire perimeter and there was nothing. No way out. None. Spike suddenly stopped and roared at the ceiling.