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Living As Lenore

Chapter Text


Sunnydale, California
May 7, 2002


One moment Willow’s shirt was splattered with a red liquid. The next, Tara felt her world darkening into shadow. Time did not exist; all she knew was that she was in the presence of a long, blackened tunnel that led to a speck of pulsing light. Instinct urged her to head down the well-traveled road but her love for Willow kept her glancing over her shoulder. Tara was not sure where she was, but she could feel Willow calling for her. Pain laced her voice and sobs interrupted her words.

”Come on, come on. Tara…Tara…Tara! Come back to this world! I command it!”

The pulsing light disappeared like a snuffed candle and Tara felt herself encased in darkness. Something clutched her middle and she felt herself plunging downward…

*****************************************


Liberton, Scotland
May 7, 1672


Hot sweat dripped down Margaret McLeod’s temple as panted from the exertion of childbirth. Her newly delivered babe’s cries pierced the air and Margaret almost wept with joy – the birth had been painful, complicated, and she had feared that her babe may not have made it. Heavy-lidded eyes struggled to focus on her midwife Elspeth as she presented a tightly wrapped baby to Margaret.

“Tis a girl, as I predicted,” Elspeth Blackie declared with a crooked smile. It was not often talked about openly, but Margaret knew that her cousin was a practicer of witchcraft; several months ago she had happily informed her that Margaret would finally receive the daughter that she had always wanted. After all, few women could be happy with only four boys and no daughters.

A sob, one that had been held inside her until the very moment, broke out as Elspeth laid the child - her child – in Margaret’s arms. She gasped at the sight of her babe opening up her eyes and instantly Margaret felt the connection of motherhood with this new life in her arms.

“What’ll you’ll be callin’ her?”

Margaret gave her daughter a gentle smile. “Angus and I decided on Eleanor…but we’ll call her Lenore, like me mum.”

Chapter Text


Liberton, Scotland
October 31, 1688



Eleanor ‘Lenore’ Amelia McLeod lived a rather normal life for a girl of sixteen years of age. She lived with her mother and father, Margaret and Angus McLeod above her father’s tailor shop in the small downtown area of the village of Liberton, just several miles from the bustling city of Edinburgh. She had four older brothers, Fergus, Edgar, Ennis, and Blane, that were, respectively, eleven, nine, eight, and six years older than her. Fergus, as the eldest son, had apprenticed with their father and now worked in the shop downstairs alongside with him. Edgar and Ennis were shoemakers in Edinburgh and Blane had traveled to England for work long ago. Father often muttered under his breath how his youngest son was also the most foolish and likely drunken in a ditch in seedy London somewhere, but none of them knew how Blane truly fared because he had not sent a letter in five years.

Each morning Lenore cleaned her father’s shop and spent her afternoons working in her second cousin’s herb garden. Her cousin, Elspeth, was like a second mother to her and once she had noticed Lenore’s keen skill in coaxing even the most troublesome plants to grow, she had quickly enlisted Lenore to work for her. Her mother was quite wary in the beginning and had ordered her not to get involved in witchcraft like Elspeth, but it wasn’t quite like that for her. Lenore simply wanted to spend time in Elspeth’s garden because it brought her a great deal of happiness – to her there was nothing better than working in the dirt and seeing life being created in front of her very eyes.

…Of course, she did enjoy being in the presence of her cousin’s magic as well.

“Lenore!” her mother called from the front room where she was laying out samhnag on the window sills. “Have ya finished carving that turnip? We need at least one more samhnag for the back windows.”

She waved her completed candle lantern in the air. “Yes, Ma. Can I go to Cousin Elspeth’s now? She wanted me to harvest some items for tonight.”

Her mother turned away from the window and focused her calculating blue eyes on Lenore. “Darlin’, you know I love my cousin like she was my sister, but I don’t know if I want you to be at her house today, of all days – as I’ve told you already.”

Lenore rolled eyes. “Ma, you know I don’t have any interest in that.” Which was a lie. Lenore had secretly spied on her cousin doing spells with her coven many times. There was just something about the feeling of the magic…it called to her. If her mother hadn’t raised her as a staunch Christian then Lenore would have succumbed long ago; only fear of her wrathful Lord prevented her from doing so.

However, the temptation had been getting greater as of late and was becoming quite difficult to ignore.

There was a moment of silence as her mother observed her closely. Finally, once she had passed inspection, her mother sighed. “Alright Lenore, I believe you. Just do me a favor and stay in the garden today. I don’t want you getting caught up in any of Elspeth’s Samhain rituals.”

Since Samhain was the day when the veil between the living world and the otherworld was thinnest, it was common knowledge that the holiday was the premier day to perform magical ceremonies.

“Of course, Mother,” Lenore promised sweetly as she gave her mother a quick peck on the cheek and skipped out the door.

Little did her mother know that Lenore had her fingers crossed behind her back.

 


Samhain was an important day in their community. On a positive note, today they celebrated the harvest and gave thanks to God. However, lore said that Samhain was an ancient holiday that also marked the thinning of the veil and the power of the otherworld, so many precautions had to be taken. Candle lanterns were placed in windows to ward off evil spirits, people wore masks to copy the evil spirits in order to hide from them or placate them (depending on the spirit), and at night a great bonfire would be lit and the entire village would participate.

However, what Lenore was most interested in this year was witnessing one of her cousin’s spells. Previously, she had been unable to spy on the Samhain ceremonies or acts of divination, but this year she was determined to watch. She was powerfully drawn to the magic that she felt in Elspeth’s home and it reminded her of something that she couldn’t quite put her finger on…something that whispered of a past long forgotten but Lenore could not decipher that idea. Like smoke, it would yield nothing when she attempted to grab onto it.

As she approached the back door of Elspeth’s home, she heard raised voices coming from the kitchen. The smell of something sour tinted the air and she wrinkled her nose in disgust. Curiosity led her to place her back against the wall and her ear near the window in order to discern what was going on.

“Cousin, I’ve been studying with you for years and I think that I am more than capable of handling this summoning.”

Lenore’s eyes widened in shock. Her brother Fergus was an affable man but she had always thought he had secrets about him. However, it wasn’t until this moment that she realized that his secrets must have to do with witchcraft.

“A bloody crossroads demon, are you mad? The only folks who need to be summoning one of those are fools blinded by greed and gluttony,” Elspeth’s terse voice vibrated with anger.

“Dammit Elspeth! Do not worry about me – I can handle myself. But I need the spell. It’s important.”

There was a moment of silence and Lenore was afraid that maybe they knew she was eavesdropping.

“My answer is no Fergus. Now go make yourself useful and gather the herbs for tonight. I don’t know if Maggie will be allowin’ Lenore to stop by today.”

“Fine,” Fergus answered harshly as Lenore scrambled past the weeping willow tree and began harvesting the rosemary.

The door banged open loudly as Lenore nonchalantly filled up a cloth bag with rosemary. She glanced up and smiled at her brother, although inwardly she was wondering why on god’s green earth was her brother trying to summon a demon, of all things.

“Lenore! I didn’t think you were coming by,” Fergus grinned at her as he walked down the porch and came to hug her. “How is my favorite baby sister doing today?”

She rolled her eyes and mock-glared at him. “I’m your only baby sister, Fergus.”

Fergus nodded thoughtfully. “I know. You’re lucky there’s no competition,” he teased with a slight smirk as he ruffled her dark blond hair. “Who knows how you’d fare otherwise?”

She punched his arm lightly. “You’re mean,” she stated matter-of-factly as she stuck her tongue out at him.

Her twenty-seven year old brother raised his eyebrows at her juvenile behavior. “Goodness, Len, with that sort of lady-like behavior it is a wonder you’re not married yet,” he sarcastically observed.

Glaring at him, she folded her arms against her chest. “What have I said about calling me ‘Len’? It sounds bloody awful.” Fergus had been calling that for as long as she could remember and she found it annoying. However, Fergus was the only one allowed to call her that since he was her favorite brother. Although he was much older than her, since he worked at the tailor shop she had still spent her entire childhood with him. Plus, Fergus was the only one in her family besides Elspeth who didn’t treat her like an incompetent child. Not to mention, his sarcastic humor never failed to amuse her.

Fergus snatched her hand and playfully smacked it. “Language, Len,” he scolded with a quirked lips as she let out a mighty huff of frustration.

“Anyways,” he added, “what are you doing here? I thought mother was saying that she wasn’t going to let you over on Samhain.”

“She wasn’t,” Lenore grinned. “But I gave her many reasonable explanations since last night as to why I should visit Elspeth and she finally agreed.”

“I am not surprised,” Fergus smiled fondly. “You are quite the saleswoman, you know.”

“I know,” she smiled happily. Between her quality education that Elspeth had given her – her widowed cousin was firm in the belief that it was unwise to fully depend upon your husband’s intellect – and selling tailoring services for her father in the town square, Lenore was quite good with words.

“Well,” he said as he glanced over the garden, “since you’re here I’ll be leaving so I can take care of a few things. I’ll see you tonight at the bonfire, okay?”

“Can’t you stay?” Lenore asked with her perfected pout; one that had suited her well in her role as the youngest child. “I don’t want to do this all by myself.” Truth of the matter was, she loved working in the garden by herself. However, she was hoping if she spent more time with Fergus maybe she could figure out what his conversation with Elspeth was about.

Of course, she also enjoyed spending time with him – there weren’t enough opportunities for that as far as she was concerned. With few village youth her age Lenore could get greatly lonely sometimes.

Fergus took a long look at her and sighed heavily, even as his eyes shone with amusement. “Oh fine. I bloody hate it when you look at me like that, you know.”

She gave him a wide smile and pecked him lightly on the cheek. “Oh, I know!” she sing-songed happily.

 


The day passed quickly and unfortunately Lenore was never able to tactfully figure out a way to ask her brother why he wanted to summon a demon – a ‘crossroads demon’ to be specific. Instead they just discussed his wife Molly and his nine-year old son Gavin; apparently Gavin had been as troublesome as always lately and Fergus was noticeably annoyed with the child. Lenore thought her brother was an interesting man – he was always warm and loving with her but she had noted on many occasions his inability to show the same consideration to others. Idly, she wondered if it had anything to do with his interest in witchcraft; except that Elspeth was one of the kindest souls in the entire village.

Eventually Fergus departed and Lenore was left canning and shelving herbs in Elspeth’s cellar. By the time she had finished, her cousin was entertaining two townswomen who were asking for their fortunes to be told. Lenore had seen this type of activity before – sometimes Elspeth dropped egg whites into a glass of water to see how many children the woman would have or peel an apple to predict the first letter of the name of their future husband.

Once Elspeth was finished she glanced quickly to the side and spied Lenore watching from the kitchen doorway. “Child, you do realize that while you have attempted many times to move like a ghost in this house, I do know you’re there, right?” she said with an amused smile.

Lenore bit her lip and felt her cheeks coloring. Oh god, had Elspeth known how Lenore secretly watched her all these years? “W-well, I-I d-didn’t m-mean t-to l-listen,” she stuttered; an unfortunate tick that always seemed to arise when she was very nervous.

Elspeth sighed, closed her eyes, and shook her head. “Yes you did, lass. You know better than to lie to me.”

Her voice was edged with disappointment and something else that Lenore could not decipher. It stung her and she became suddenly afraid that she was in trouble and would never be allowed over again. Without her work on Elspeth’s garden Lenore would be stuck with dreadfully boring tasks at her father’s shop and being under her father’s eye more often would remind him that it was time for her to marry – something that she did not desire at all. No one in the village interested her and when Lenore dreamed of her future mate she always saw the bare back of a faceless being with shoulder-length red hair and porcelain skin – there was a part of Lenore that knew she was meant for that person and she refused to settle for anyone less.

“Are you going to tell my mother?” Lenore asked in a small voice; her eyes focused on a fading rug floor that sat under her feet.

Elspeth’s footsteps sounded towards her but Lenore was too distressed to look up. There was a soft sigh and then Elspeth cradled Lenore’s chin in her hands and forced her to look up. “Lass, I won’t be tellin’ your mother. If she knew I know she would never allow me to see you again – ‘tis only the fact that, after her own mum died, that she lived with me growing up that allows her to let me be close to you. I know she disapproves of my choices and would be horrified to know that you share my interests.”

Lenore shifted uncomfortably under her cousin’s heavy stare. “I know it is wrong for me to be so interested, but it calls to me – for as long as I remember. I-I feel like magic feels familiar to me, even though I don’t know why.”

Placing her hand on Lenore’s shoulder, her cousin gave her a gentle squeeze. “Did your mother ever tell you that I knew she would give birth to a daughter?” she asked softly, in an almost testing, cautious way.

“No,” Lenore shook her head, puzzled by the question. “How did you know?”

“I did a spell to discover the sex of Maggie’s babe. You know, your mother wanted a daughter so fiercely that I just had to ask the spirits to give me some sort of news. During a card reading I discovered the sex of my cousin’s babe…but also much more,” she finished in a hushed whisper.

Lenore’s back stiffened. The spirits had told her cousin something about her? “Was the reading positive?” she asked in a quiet voice as her mind rushed to process the statement. At the same time, her gut clenched at the realization that she should not even give the mystical reading any of her time. Their priest notably said that God forbade any sort of magical mischief and that to do so was to walk down a path into darkness.

Elspeth gnawed her lip and her forehead scrunched in deep contemplation. “I shouldn’t be tellin’ you this…but I also feel as if it is important for you to know.”

Lenore stayed silent and waited for her wavering cousin to make a decision. Finally, she grabbed Lenore’s hand and let her to the cellar. “Where are we going?” Lenore asked in bewilderment.

“You always wanted to know my secrets, lass. I suppose ‘tis about time for you to learn them,” Elspeth replied as she placed an open palm on the cellar wall, a stone that was seventh high on the western wall.

Domus,” she spoke in power-drenched voice and the stone began to shine with an inner white light, soft at first but soon it expanded to a blinding light and with a rush of air the wall slid aside to reveal a large underground room. Tapestries depicting druids, gods, and goddesses covered each inch of the wall, a plush black rug showcasing silver, shining stars laid unfurled on the floor, and seven candelabras flickered to life on the walls.

Yet, those were not the first things that Lenore noticed about the room. What she first felt was a rush of primal power that soaked into her lungs with her first breath and inflamed her veins. It engulfed her like the smallest flame onto a jar of oil and she felt like she was going to explode. A sharp resounding cry cracked through her lips and reverberated within the walls of this mystical room. She fell to her knees shaking and for a moment she glimpsed that red-haired lover – only this time the person turned to face Lenore and she realized it was a woman, a beautiful woman with green eyes that sparkled brighter than Dog Star, sweet lips that simultaneously seemed capable of whispering sweet nothings and speaking words of power, and a lithe frame that promised it was stronger than it appeared.

“Lenore! Lenore!” Elspeth shouted frantically as she shook her violently. The image of the red-haired woman faded and Lenore realized that her throat ached with a burning pain (did she really scream that much?) and that she was lying backside on the push rug.

“Elspeth, I’m fine,” she reassured her in a scratchy voice that sounded like the polar opposite of her statement. Slowly she sat up and squeezed her cousin’s hand. “I’m fine,” she repeated, her voice slightly stronger this time around.

“Dear god, child! What happened? This room has never had such an effect on a person before.” Elspeth’s eyebrows were furrowed in confusion and her mouth was taut with worry.

“I’m not sure…the power in this room overwhelmed me,” she answered in a thoughtful voice. However, she did not mention the red-haired woman. After all, Lenore knew that witchcraft was forbidden by the church but even worse was to feel such deep attraction for a person of the same sex!

“You feel the power of this room?” her cousin asked curiously as she helped Lenore’s limp body sit in a dark oak chair that sat at a wide circular table.

“Yes,” Lenore nodded, her voice still a bit shaky. The surprise affect of the room had worn off but she could still feel its power pulsing in the air; effectively causing her arms to break out into goosepimples.

Elspeth cradled her cheek in her hand and inspected her thoroughly. “I always knew that you had magic within you, lass, but I never realized how much until now.”

“What do you mean?” Lenore asked, feeling suddenly afraid. Yes, she had always been drawn to magic and curious about it but after experiencing its power she was unsure if using it was a good idea. This power, while it was enticing, scared her at the same time.

“Prayhaps I should be startin’ at the beginning,” Elspeth mused. “As I said, before you were born I did a reading with the cards – these cards, actually,” she added as she got up and retrieved an old tarot card deck from a cabinet. Shuffling the cards, she found the one she was looking for and laid it down face-up.

“This was the first one – the Queen of Swords. I knew that Maggie would be havin’ a girl then, but this card demonstrates quite a bit more. With her sword raised in her hands, this woman is a person of great power, yet her crown of butterflies indicates her sharp intellect and freedom of thought – this is a woman who knows when to use her weapons and when to refrain. The white clouds behind her indicate her clarity of thought and keen knowledge of her own mind, yet the dark clouds hovering in the corner threaten to disrupt all of that.”

Lenore blinked; she had no idea one card could tell so much. Yet, at the same time she did not consider herself a person of great power and certainly no one as great as this grave-looking queen. “I don’t understand what that means, Elspeth.”

“You are young now, but your experience just now indicates that your spirit is deeply attuned to the mystical forces, lass. I would think in time, and with practice, you could become quite powerful indeed,” her cousin sagely informed her.

“But why? Why me?” Lenore asked in sudden stomach-squeaming rush of nervousness. “I don’t want to be powerful.” She knew that power led to evil, without proper moderation and observation. In fact, the village minister was a powerful man in the community and, while no one ever discussed it, it was known that he took advantage of people for his own purposes.

“I cannot answer that question lass; it is hidden even from my keen eye.”

“Is there more?”

Her cousin nodded and shuffled through the cards and laid a terrifying image over the Queen of Swords. “This card, the Devil, covers you.”

“Covers me?” Lenore squeaked out at the terrifying prospect. If tarot cards involved the Devil, then perhaps her mother was right about magic being a dark art!

Elspeth nodded grimly. “It represents the obstacles that you will face; the temptation to do evil. See how the two naked human-looking demons are chained to his throne? You will someday face a demonic force that will seek to enslave you in a similar manner.”

Her voice was soft as she told Lenore this, but it in no way softened the blow. Lenore’s fingers tightly grasped the fabric of her dress and she felt a coldness seep into her heart as her chest tightened. “What else?” she asked, almost going mad from a desire to learn more.

Giving her a pitying look, Elspeth laid a new card to the right of the Devil and the Queen of Swords. “The next card – which indicates your distant past – that I drew for you sixteen years ago was Death.” Off her frightened look, Elspeth explained further. “However, it is not as simple as indicating death itself. This card represents a number of things, but in this case I believe it means rebirth, which is represented by Death’s black banner of the mystic rose that he carries.”

Elspeth smiled at her fondly and took her hand. “When I delivered ye from your mother’s womb, I looked into your eyes and saw an old soul looking out. Many believe in the act of reincarnation, lass, and I’ve always believed that this isn’t your first life. Perhaps you carried your magical abilities from a previous life.”

Eyes widened in fright, Lenore shook her head violently. This was becoming too real, too fast. “No, I don’t believe it,” she vehemently declared. “That isn’t possible. Everyone knows that after death your destination is either heaven or hell.”

Elspeth released her hand and shrugged casually. “Perhaps. Perhaps not. Death is a mystery to all, even your precious Minister O’Neil.” The scorn was evident in her voice at the mention of the man; Lenore knew that her cousin only attended Sunday services because it was expected of her, but she had no respect for the duplicitous man.

Lenore stilled and took a deep breath as her mind tried to understand this all. “You said the cards told you a great deal – was there anything more?” she finally asked.

Elspeth laid a new card to the left of the Devil and stated that the card represented her future. On it was an angel christened with luxurious blond hair that was blowing a golden trumpet. Below the angel were grey-skinned deceased-looking humans standing in crypts with their arms raised up while a massive wave threatened to topple over them.

“This is the Judgment card, which features the archangel Gabriel, the Messenger of God. This card indicates that a heavy judgment lies in your future. It is often used as a reminder that Judgment Day may arrive at any moment and that one should live their life as if it may end tomorrow. However – and I think since this card represents your future and its known that all beings will receive judgment at the end of their life in the future – this card can also be interpreted to herald the coming of individuals from your past.”

“Like who?” Lenore asked curiously in a hushed whisper.

Elspeth simply shrugged. “My interpretation, after considering this reading for the last sixteen years, is that people from your past life may meet you in this one.”

“But how? Would they be reborn like I was?” Lenore inquired, thinking of the mysterious red-haired woman as she did so.

“I can only assume so, unless they are still alive,” her cousin stated thoughtfully.

Then she laid out a card underneath the Devil card, and the Queen of Swords that the Devil card covered. This card depicted yet another angel who stood with one foot on land and the other foot in a pool of water, and he was shown pouring water from one goblet into another. “This card depicts your strengths and assets in the battle against your obstacle, and is named Temperance. Within the tarot deck, this card stands between Death and the Devil and is thought to guide the souls of the dead to judgment – however, since the Devil is your obstacle I am inclined to believe that this represents a being who will help you stand against your demon. In addition, this card tells me that your strengths will lie in your ability to be in two worlds at once, as indicated by the angel’s footing, and that you will posses the ability to bring balance to the world.”

Lenore let out a choked laugh. “Elspeth, this is madness! How can you tell so much from one little card? Not to mention, this all sounds unbelievable!”

In a swift movement Elspeth captured Lenore’s jaw with one hand and held her firmly as she caught her eyes. Dark brown eyes bore into hers and a thrill went down Lenore’s back as she recognized the power that her cousin held within her. “My child, I have contemplated this reading for sixteen years. On several occasions I have even done different readings for you, but the cards have always stayed the same. I know this may be hard to believe, but you were the one to request the truth. There is great power within you, lass, and I’ve recognized it since the beginning. After all, it was my motivation for getting you to work in my gardens – so that I could educate you in reading, writing, and someday, magic.”

Elspeth released her then and Lenore gaped at her in surprise, suddenly seeing her in a new light. The forty-year old woman always appeared rather mousy with dark brown hair, mud-colored eyes, and a slouched appearance with a lopsided smile that only lent to the off-hand observation that the woman’s features were asymmetrical. But now Lenore saw sheer magical energy pulsing within her and an aura appeared over her that was lit with brilliant shades of pinks, blues, and greens. Her hair seemed fuller and her eyes shone with intellect and beauty. All at once Lenore was frightened by her cousin’s impressive presence, yet also frozen in sheer admiration.

“A-all a-along…all along you wanted me t-to spend time w-with you because of your c-card reading?” she stuttered in awe.

Elspeth smiled and her aura dimmed, revealing the mousy-looking woman that Lenore had grown up knowing. “Lenore, my darling, I love you as if you were my own daughter,” she said in a painfully tight voice. Long ago, during travel to Edinburgh, Elspeth’s husband and twin daughters were murdered in a robbery and she knew that her cousin Margaret’s children were the closest thing to children that Elspeth had left.

Elspeth continued, her voice less pained at this point. “I wanted you here so I could watch over you, to see if my reading held any truth. As time went on I noticed how your aura brightened when the scent of magic was in the air or when you were ‘secretly’ watching me do spellwork. It became clear to me that I had to ensure you were educated – I knew that your father never saw your education as important since he thought you needed to work on your womanly duties. However, education is very important in the art of magic – one must be able to read and write in order to do spells and understand them.”

Letting out a shaky sigh, Lenore gave her cousin a long look. “I have many questions, but this one is first – what do all these cards mean? What is my ultimate fortune?”

With a sigh, Elspeth laid down one more card above the Devil card. It featured a lightning-struck tower cast in flames with two people leaping fearfully off of it. Lenore gasped at the image and instinctively knew that it was a card of crisis. “Dear god, Elspeth, what does this mean?”

Biting her lip and frowning, Elspeth gestured to the card. “The Tower is a card of chaos and change. It represents revelation and ruin, either one or the other, or both. The lightning indicates a sign from God, a powerful message of truth descending from the heavens. Flames represent aggressive change and ruin – for nothing can live after a blazing fire. Finally, the two falling figures stand for conflicting thoughts and actions that ultimately lead to an eruption.”

Lenore gulped. “So you are saying that the only thing in my future is the presence of failure?”

No,” Elspeth stated strongly. “The cards give us a glimpse, but the future is ever-changing. You are young, my dear, and I suspect that is why the readings have never given you different cards before. The time of decision-making has not yet arrived; however, once it does you are able to take this reading into account.”

“Into account?” Lenore repeated critically. “By Elspeth, by this reading I am supposedly a reborn individual capable of great power who will face against a demon, meet people from my past life, be assisted by some unknown stranger, all to have my life result in ruin, mostly likely from this demon. How am I supposed to face that? That is, if this is even accurate?” she added skeptically.

Elspeth let out a heavy sigh as she listened to the frustrated and scared teenager’s words. “The future is ever-changing, lass. Nothing lies in stone. All of this may come to pass, only some of it, or none of it at all. The purpose of the cards is to give one insight; the rest is up to you.”

Lenore buried her face in her hands. “I regret telling you that I wanted to know the truth,” she stated forlornly, her voice muffled against her skin.

A comforting hand rubbed her shoulders. “I know, my darling. Knowledge is often an unwanted gift.”

“So what does this mean, now?” Lenore finally asked after a long period of contemplative silence. “Am I to study magic with you and Fergus now?”

Her cousin’s eyes flashed – was that anger? Or fear? – and she quickly shook her head. “Do not do magic with your brother, Lenore. You may study with me, if you decide to go down this path, but never with him.”

Lenore’s eyes widened in surprise. “Why not with Fergus? I know he practices magic with you…um, I overheard you two this morning,” she admitted guiltily.

Elspeth’s eyes narrowed and she took in a deep breath of air. “Did you hear what he requested to learn from me?” she asked cautiously, her piercing eyes scanning Lenore’s expression.

“Y-yes…H-he wanted to summon a crossroads demon,” Lenore stated. “But, but he didn’t really mean it, did he? Fergus isn’t bad, is he?” she asked in a small voice, like a little girl who was afraid of her false illusions shattering into shards of piercing truth.

Elspeth’s jaw tightened and she looked away from Lenore’s pained expression. “Fergus has been studying with me for several years, but as of late his interest has turned to the darker nature of our craft – one that I do not participate in – and he worries me. His interests grow increasingly selfish and I am afraid of where it may lead. That is why, my dear, you must not practice with him – he will be a bad influence on your instruction. In fact, it would be better if he, nor anyone else, knows that you will be practicing with me. Agreed?”

Lenore desperately wanted to ask more questions about Fergus but by judging Elspeth’s tone, she knew that was not allowable at the moment. Instead, she just nodded. “Agreed, cousin.”

Her decision was not made lightly – she feared greatly that by learning witchcraft she was going against her Lord and Savior, but after her card reading the desire to learn what this all meant was too strong to ignore.

“Good,” Elspeth declared as she stood up and gently kissed Lenore’s forehead. “You shall start your studies today; Samhain is an excellent day to begin learning the craft.”

As Elspeth pulled a thick, leather-bound book off a bookcase shelf Lenore realized that her life had dramatically changed today – and she wasn’t sure if it was for better or worse.

 

 

Chapter Text

Liberton, Scotland
March 22, 1694


Lenore pressed her father’s newly sewn clothes with lackluster movements, her thoughts far and away. Standing, bent over the table in the tailor shop’s back room, she was fully alone with her thoughts. Much had happened over the last week and she felt feverish with the direction that her life was heading in.

“A shilling for your thoughts?” came an amused voice from the doorway. So surprised by Fergus’ silent arrival, she gasped and dropped her iron; wincing as it clattered to the floor and spilled boiling hot water.

“Fergus! Goodness, you move like a cat,” she exclaimed in annoyance as she picked her iron back up and continued pressing the grey button-up shirt.

“‘Tis not my fault if you are so engrossed in your thoughts that you cannot notice my arrival,” he smirked as he walked to stand across the table from her.

She said nothing and just continued ironing.

“Hey,” he said softly as he placed a gentle hand on her arm. “What is it, sister? You look as if Death is staring you in the face.”

Lenore fought to stay strong and to not reveal her turmoil. “I’m fine,” she stated, but her voice cracked slightly at the end.

Fergus frowned and went around the table to take the steaming iron from her hands and grab each of her hands with his own. “Lenore, you’ve been acting distant all week, ever since dinner with Minister O’Neil. I suspect I know what it is, but please tell me. I hate to see you suffer.”

She laughed harshly at her thirty-two year old brother. “Fergus, you never care about the suffering of others. You beat your son for the smallest of infractions and I would not be surprised if your dear Molly suffers from similar abuse.”

In the last five years Lenore had become skilled in her craft, although she was still only an apprentice to her cousin Elspeth. However, she was keenly in tune with auras and the one surrounding her brother spoke of wickedness, and had for the past six months. There was no doubt in her mind that her brother had managed to find a way to summon his demon – for what she did not know – because there would be no other reason why his aura would be awash in a blood-red color of evil.

Since then their estrangement had begun, although there was a part of her that still desperately loved her brother. He was still her most beloved sibling, regardless of his actions – it pained her that she loved her brother unconditionally; it hurt too much to see him travel down such a dark road and not be able to do anything about it.

However, she had never been brave enough to say anything to him…until now. Stress and worry had taken hold of her emotions and loosened her tongue in the process.

Fergus’ expression darkened and his hands gripped hers so tightly that she gasped in pain. “How dare you judge me, sister,” he stated in a low, dark tone. “You have no idea of the stresses of my life. That child of mine is supposed to be my legacy and he is an idiot not deserving of my name. I suspect sometimes that he is not even mine – that Molly whored herself out at some point fourteen years ago, like a common tart.” Anger bled into his voice, yet his tone was tight and controlled.

That was Fergus – he lived off controlling others and maneuvering them into positions that benefited him, unfortunately.

“Let go, you’re hurting me,” she pleaded as she tugged, with fruitless results, away from him.

Fergus blinked and she saw his eyes flash with painful surprise. Immediately he let go of her and held up his hands in a show of surrender. “Dear god…Lenore, I’m sorry.”

She bit her lip and looked away – it was too painful to look at him right now. “Are you? After all, why should I be any different from anyone else that you supposedly love?”

“Dammit, Len,” he hissed between clenched teeth. “Stop being so difficult. You’re my sister, I love you, and I would never intentionally hurt you. I came here to ask how you were doing, not to get lectured about things you don’t understand.”

She looked at him again and felt her heart clench painfully at the sight of his forlorn expression. In his way, he truly did love her. She just wished it was enough to turn him away from his dark path. He still did not know that she was a practicing witch, besides which, he no longer practiced magic with Elspeth. However, Elspeth had discovered that it was no longer possible to save Fergus from the darkness that cast his aura in shadows of evil and death – the cards had told her that his soul had already been claimed.

Perhaps if Lenore had been feeling stronger she would have confronted her brother further about his dark choices but at the moment her energy was spent. So much effort had gone into struggling to figure a way out of her situation that was just too tired to fight with Fergus.

“Fine then, brother,” she stated with a resigned sigh. Looking up, she saw the tension leave his shoulders. “We shan’t speak of it any further today.”

Fergus regarded her for a moment and nodded – that discussion about his morals and behavior was effectively over. “Now, would you like to tell me about why you have been acting like the walking dead this week?”

Her lips quirked at his description of her. “I don’t want to be married to Minister O’Neil,” she informed him after deciding to cut to the meat of the matter.

“I figured as much,” Fergus shrugged. “However, you are far past the age of marriage – if it hadn’t been for the lack of men in the village and Elspeth’s effective techniques at helping you to avoid suitors, you would have been married long ago.”

“I am twenty-one years old – that is not old!” she muttered irritably. Well, actually it was and she knew it, but there was a part of her that thought that was wrong – that women shouldn’t be forced to be sold into marriage like traded cattle. The world thought women to be weak, but she knew different. Sometimes she dreamed of a world where women were strong and powerful – they were magistrates, doctors, and even leaders of armies and countries.

A silly idea, she knew. Something like that would never happen. Men ruled over women; that was the way it had always been and always would be.

However, that did not mean that she had to like it!

“Lenore,” Fergus rolled his eyes. “Minister O’Neil is only ten years older then you – he is not so terrible. Besides, you will become a minister’s wife! That is a position of prominence and it will benefit the entire family for you to hold it!” Her brother’s eyes gleamed with interest; she had no doubts in her mind that he was already thinking of how her position could benefit him.

“But I do not want to be a minister’s wife,” she admitted. Truth be told, she was unsure if it was right for her to hold such a position of spiritual significance in the community. Her views on religion and God conflicted greatly. On one hand, she practiced magic and prayed to various deities, like Hecate, to aid her. Yet on the other she attended church weekly and still loved her Lord, who she thought of as the true God. Of course, how these differing perspectives were able to exist simultaneously in her mind was quite confusing and Lenore currently had no idea what was right or wrong when it came to religion.

“In addition,” she added in an annoyed tone, “I do not want to marry that man. He is wicked. He takes church funds to live a lavish lifestyle and I have heard many accounts of him seducing young girls to bed and explaining it away as him needing to test their morality. They all fail, of course,” she snorted.

Fergus started to say something and Lenore interrupted. “Not to mention, he’s fatter than a sow in the heat of summer!”

Fergus chuckled at her remark; no one could deny that Minister Connor O’Neil was the largest man they had ever met.

“True, he is rather unattractive. God knows I could never imagine having sex with him,” he shuddered with a smirk in her direction.

“Fergus!” she exclaimed in shock, in part because her brother had mentioned sex and in part because he made a joke about having sex with a man.

“What?” he asked with wide-eyed innocence. “It is true, after all.”

“Do you imagine having sex with many men, King William?” she teased in a wry voice, a part of her taking refuge in such a moment of normalcy with her favorite brother – one where she didn’t have to think about him being in league with darkness or a cruel person to others. In this moment he was simply her eldest, loving brother.

“Occasionally,” he shrugged casually as his eyes practically glowed with mischief.

Lenore choked on air. “Fergus!” she exclaimed in a hushed whisper. “That is such a sinful thing to say!”

Fergus began laughing and shaking his head. “So says you.”

Instantly she was on guard. “What do you mean?”

One critical eyebrow rose high on his forehead. “You left your sketchbook out once, Len, and I decided to take a peek.”

“Fergus!” she gasped in a scandalized tone. “How could you?”

“Len,” he sighed heavily as he gave her an exasperated look. “It is not a big deal. I was just curious as to what you were always drawing during your alone moments in Cousin Elspeth’s herb garden as you sat underneath her willow tree.”

Lenore shifted uncomfortably at the realization that her brother had managed to discover a secret that even Elspeth did not know.

“Who is she, by the way? The woman with the green eyes and blazing locks of hair?” he asked curiously. “Is she a lover of yours? I assume so since several sketches were of her nude form. After all, that would make sense why you are not interested in any men here.”

“I-I am interested in men,” she protested. Well, that was mostly true. Some had caught her eye but no one made her feel like the woman that she often dreamed about. At this point, Lenore could only surmise that this woman was from her past – the past that Elspeth’s tarot card reading had hinted at. “A-and I’ve actually never met the woman, I just dream about her.”

Fergus just hummed in response as his eyes searched hers for the truth. “How often do you dream of her?”

“Often enough,” she told him truthfully.

“That’s interesting,” he mused in a distracted manner.

“Yes, well, please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want them to think me nutters, after all,” she asked nervously while she toyed with the sleeve of her dress.

Fergus sighed heavily again. “Len, I just told you that I would never intentionally hurt you. Do not fret, I shan’t tell a soul.”

Lenore let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you. Now, if there was only a way you could get me out of my wedding, then I would be set,” she joked weakly.

Fondly mussing up her hair, he gave her a sad smile. “I wish I could, Len. I wish I could.”

 


Liberton, Scotland
June 13, 1699


God was punishing her. That was the only explanation.

Five years into her marriage to Reverend Connor O’Neil and three children (Alexander, Elizabeth, and Dawn, ages four, three, and one) later, Lenore’s heart was dark with grief.

Connor was as horrible as she had thought prior to their marriage and Lenore regretted that neither she nor Elspeth could do anything to get her out of her marriage. Father had insisted that she get married and with no other available suitors, the minister was her last resort. Of course, she was sure that Father enjoyed the surplus of business that he received from being the father-in-law to the well-thought-of village minister as well.

With so much of her time dedicated to wifely duties as a minister’s wife and mother to three young children, she had little time to spend practicing her craft. Furthermore, Connor greatly disliked Elspeth, likely due to the (true) rumors that floated around about her cousin’s mystical pastimes, and he forbade Lenore from spending too much time there.

Unable to spend much time connecting to her magic, Lenore often felt lost in the world. However, her new immersion into the work of the church gave her new perspectives on God and she wondered if this was His grand plan for her – that by forcing her to marry this horrible man she would suffer punishment for her sinful hobby and become a better Christian in the meantime.

The theory had a solid foundation and her realization of such an idea did stop her from practicing her craft as often. Lately she only practiced divination or did spells perhaps twice a month.

However, the lack of doing so always left an hollow place in her heart.

Of course, the children were a great source of her distraction as well. Lenore had never thought about what it would be like to be a mother and she was surprised at just how much it sparked her passion. Of course, she supposed she wasn’t terribly surprised. Every now and again she dreamed of comforting a teenage girl with wide blue eyes and light brown waist-length hair (who, of all the strangest things, wore trousers like a man). Even now, as she watched her daughter Elizabeth play with a rag doll, she wondered if perhaps she had dreamed of one of her daughters in the future. Both had blue eyes, although she supposed they may darken as they age – the eyes of babes often did so over time.

“Mama! Mama! Unka Fergie is here!” Alexander gleefully declared as he raced awakwardly from the window to where she sat cradling Dawn in her beloved rocking chair.

Careful not to jostle Dawn from her peaceful sleep, Lenore gently laid her youngest daughter in her crib and went to the door. Fergus had said he would be dropping off some food that Molly had cooked for Elizabeth’s third birthday party tonight and she supposed it was almost time for the small family gathering.

Opening the door, she greeted her brother with a hug. Several years ago she had a vision of Fergus engulfed flames from the pits of hell and it was then that she got over her anger at him for toying with the black arts and instead took pity on him. Never had he revealed the true story to either her or Elspeth but they had assumed, thanks to tarot card and aura readings, that Fergus had sold his soul to a crossroads demon and was thus a damned soul. That shocking revelation of his fate and then ‘seeing’ his soul being tortured made her realize that Lenore needed to make each moment with him on earth count – she knew that she could not change his fate but at least she could provide him with good memories to cling on to in the afterlife.

Of course, he had never known why her attitude around him had changed, he had simply accepted it and moved on. Fergus was rather unflappable in that way.

“Afternoon, brother. Is that haggis I smell?” she asked with interest.

“Molly’s mother’s personal recipe,” Fergus smiled charmingly as he held up a blackened pot. “Shall I place it in the over to stay warm?

“Yes, please,” she answered as she shut the door.

“Unka Fergie! Unka Fergie!” Alexander whooped as he toddled over towards his favorite uncle. Since Fergus was still Lenore’s favorite brother (Edgar and Ennis only visited monthly at most and a letter three years ago informed them of Blane’s death from a poorly outmatched tavern fight) and Connor was an only child, that made Fergus the favorite uncle of her children.

“Fug, fug!” Elizabeth giggled wildly as she meandered towards the waiting arms of her uncle after he set the haggis away. She had taken to calling Uncle Fergus ‘Fug’ sometime back and wouldn’t call him anything else, no matter how much he begged her to at least call him Fergie – which was a name that he also greatly disliked.

Lenore thought that was quite appropriate since he had been calling her by that dreadful nickname ‘Len’ for so many years.

“Hullo there, you little monsters,” Fergus grinned as he pick up a child in each arm and spun in a circle, much to their screaming pleasure. It always amazed Lenore that Fergus could be so gentle with her children. After the poor way that he had raised Gavin (both father and son actually despised the other, which always led to uncomfortable clan moments), she had just assumed that Fergus hated children. However, he was wonderful with her brood and she wondered if maybe Fergus did hate Gavin because he didn’t consider him his son due to a suspicion that Molly had been unfaithful, as he had once stated years ago.

Oh well. Fergus could be a right bastard to most folks when he wanted to, but as long as he kept her children happy she wouldn’t worry about it. Life was short after all.

Or was it? As she went about setting up for the party while Fergus entertained Alexander and Elizabeth, her mind wandered to the notion that she had a past life (or perhaps more than one, for all she knew). If that was true, then perhaps life wasn’t as short as they thought. Rather, it was like a neverending circle of creation and death.

Bollocks, this was frustrating. Eleven years of not only practicing magic but also praying to God, and she still could not see past the veil and into her past life. Twice Elspeth had performed a tarot card reading for her and each time Lenore had been dealt the same cards. Clearly nothing of significance had changed in her life that would result in a decision that would affect her much debated future and she was becoming tired of the suspense. One would think that at the age of twenty-seven she would be able to figure this out. As of now, all she had were dreams of the red-haired woman and occassionally other people, but the images were ghostly and momentary – never did they talk to her or do anything of significance. All she ever saw was herself hugging the teenage girl, being treated like a servant from a father-type character, walking in a cemetary with a bubbly blond, and engagng in, um, unseemly activities with the redhead.

Unforunately, none of those visions had given her an epiphany.

She was almost at the point of wondering if Elspeth’s readings were wrong and that there was nothing abnormal about her.

…Well, that was not quite true. Although she hid it from everyone but Elspeth and three other coven members, her skills as a witch had drastically improved. Things like levitation, aura-reading, divination, and many difficult spells came easy to her now.

Lenore sighed. Unfortunately her witchcraft was not helpful when it came to dealing with her dreaful husband who was dull when he wasn’t being cruel, which was not much of a trade-off. Elspeth had suggested cursing him but Lenore forbade it. Although he was wicked (she had come to verify that he did indeed steal from the church rather than use the money for the chuch ministries and she suspected that he had slept with several village girls and women since they had wedded), he was still a man of God and it was not within their rights to punish him – that was for the Lord to do.

She just hoped he did so sooner rather than later.

 


Liberton, Scotland
January 1, 1700


Bitter winds pierced through their skin like daggers coated in ice overseeing the village was the best place to perform the spell and Lenore would do anything she had to in order to see it succeed.

“Brigid, Goddess of Fire,
We seek you now when all is dire.

Embers of hope are all we face;
The hope that you will lend your grace.

We beesech you to help Dawn heal,
From Death that looks upon her with zeal.

Brigid, hear our plea,
Give Dawn your Blessed Be.”


Lenore, Elspeth, and the other members of their coven – Shannon Montgomery, Ellsie Buchanan, and Kensie Boyd – finished their chant around the fire and Lenore reached into her bad to throw out the offering of sand taken from the northernmost Scottish beach. Once the offering was made, the spell would be complete and hopefully Dawn would be healed before death overtook her. She had been ill for the past two weeks and few doubted that the baby would live another week.

“I knew it!” a furious male voice echoed over the hill. Each of the women’s eyes looked up to see Lenore’s husband of almost six years, Reverend Connor O’Neil, stride towards them furiously with three of his most trusted goons (otherwise known as the church elders).

Lenore frantically tried to fling the sand into the fire but James Sheppard threw a wool blanket over the fire, thus destroying their last chance to save her daughter from certain death. “NO!” she cried out in horror as her own father, Angus McLeod grabbed her arms roughly.

“I warned you to avoid Elspeth and look what has happened,” Connor spat in rage; spittle flew into the air due to the force of his words. “I had suspected Elspeth of witchcraft and then today Ellsie’s husband confessed that he overheard that his wife ‘and four other witches’ would be here today doing a spell – and it is true!”

Ellsie’s jaw dropped in shock and her jade eyes shone with tears. “William told you?” she gasped. “He betrayed me?”

“The only betrayal is the one committed by you against your Lord and Savior,” Connor cooly replied. “Besides which…James may have encouraged him,” he smirked.

“Why, Eleanor?” her father asked her sadly. “Why did you have to follow down this road to hell and engage in the black arts? Why?’

“These arts are not black, Father! I am not that kind of witch. In fact, this spell was to save Dawn!” she pleaded with him, noting out of the corner of her eye that the other women were being rounded up and that her husband was approaching her.

“You were making a compact with the Devil to save Dawn?” Connor asked scornfully. His black hair was tied back but the fierce wind threatened to undo it. His iceicy blue eyes surveyed her coldly and she only saw contempt in them – it was then she knew that her husband would not show her even the smallest bit of kindness, no matter if she was the mother of his child or not. For the past few months he had been inspired by the witchhunts in neighboring villages and was admant that he would discover the witches who dared to practice in ‘his’ town. Now that he had succeeded in his task, she only saw a fiery death in her future.

Which meant that her children would grow up without her. Instead, everything of the world they would learn from their indifferent and distant father who spewed fire and brimstone during church services but spoke coldly at the dinner table.

Not to mention, without the proper spells it was inevitable that little Dawnie would succumb quickly to the infection that resided in her lungs.

“No, not the Devil!” Lenore then refuted angrily; ablazed with anger that he would even suggest that she would consort with a being of hell. “Don’t you understand? Without me finishing this spell our daughter shall surely die!”

A meaty hand landed across her face and Lenore felt her jaw crack under the weight of it. “You despicable whore! It is because of your dealings with Satan that our daughter is dying! God is punishing you for your foolish decisions!” he declared pompously and angrily as his index finger was jabbed in her direction.

“If anyone has betrayed God, it is you. Thief of the ministry and adulterer!” she screamed – for the first time in her life uttering those words to her husband. Fear of retaliation had prevented her beforehand but now she was furious with his hypocrisy.

Another meaty hand was swung at her, but this time he hit her lower abdomen. The air rushed out of her lungs and she fell, choking, to the ground. Pain blossomed over the area and with a rush of grave insight Lenore knew that this injury had just killed her unborn child.

Worst of it, she had just told Connor last week that her midwife, Elspeth, had informed her that she was two months pregnant.

Sorrow soaked into her very bones and her limbs felt weighted with lead. A sob erupted from between her split lips and she turned glassy, grief-stricken eyes towards her husband. A brief smirk played over his lips and a cold satisfaction entered his eyes – he knew what he had done.

And he was proud of it.

The realization of what extreme wickedness actually lay within her husband sent a flood of sharp pains stabbing within her chest. She contemplated cursing him with something dark, but a booted foot kicked against her head and soon Lenore was contemplating nothing at all.

Chapter Text


Liberton, Scotland
January 1, 1700


She awoke that afternoon in the bowels of the church, a dark and dank place that smelled sour by nature and currently smelled like five frightened women. Each of them were shackled against the wall and forced to sit in their own waste products. Each of them bore signs of abuse and each of them wore a forlorn expression. Even Elspeth, the strongest of them all, appeared at a loss.

“Cousin, what is going on?” Lenore asked frantically upon waking. “What have they decided to do with us?”

“Connor has decided to burn the five of us at the stake in the morning,” Shannon answered when Elspeth didn’t. “The whole village must know about it now – including our children.” Shannon had two teenage sons and her despondent voice indicated that she was thinking of them now.

“B-but, surely someone must be agains this?” Lenore asked in a pleading voice. “Our families at least?”

Ellsie let out a choking sob. “I overheard Connor say that our families are too fearful to stop him, lest he declare them witches as well.”

Oh god…Lenore was never going to see her children again. This was it. She wondered if this was what her mother had felt before she died during Lenore’s seventeenth year.

Wait…her mother was still alive. Where had that thought come from?

Lenore sighed. Regardless, it did not matter at the moment. She focused her magic to snap open the iron chains that bound her, but nothing occurred. “My magic!” she shouted in both surprise and fear. “I cannot access it!”

Kensie, silent until now, nodded. “I saw Connor surrounding us with crystals; they are laying on the floor. I believe he is using them to suppress our powers.”

“And thus he has sealed our doom,” Elspeth finally sighed. “As long as these crystals surround us, we are helpless.”

Lenore just squeezed her eyes shut and tried to tell herself that this was just another one of her lucid dreams – dreams that felt so real but were just the byproduct of her overactive imagination.

But it, unfortunately, wasn’t a dream.

Hours passed and eventually an unknown woman with dark brown hair that hung in loose waves around her face walked in with a large tray of food. “Greetings, prisoners!” she called out cheerfully. Surprised to see another face - especially an unknown face, Lenore inspected her carefully. She had beautiful unblemished skin, wore typical servant apparel, but noticeably wore a grant emerald pendent encased in gold – something that was quite atypical for a servant.

“Who are you?” Elspeth asked sharply.

“Oh, just your friendly neighborhood prisoner feeder.” Off their bewildered looks the woman happily chatted on. “I was sent from Edinburgh to help with the church sacrifice, er, execution, or whatever you call it. Anyways, I’m here to look after the prisoners.” She held up a loaf of bread with a cheery smile. “Hungry, anyone?”

Lenore’s mouth salivated at the idea of food. She had fasted, as did the others, twenty-four hours prior to the spell and was now starving for nourishment. “Yes, please,” she rasped; her voice was dry from lack of water.

The woman clucked her tongue lightly as she delivered food to each woman. “Honestly, I just cannot believe that your husbands are letting you get murdered because you’re witches! You know, back in the day you would have been worshipped and admired. Such a shame.”

“Yes…” Lenore trailed off in confusion. She was unsure why a woman sent to help lead them to their deaths, likely by the main church in the city, would feel sympathy for them!

Actually, what Lenore felt was strangest of all was how this woman felt familiar to her. She couldn’t remember ever meeting her but there was something about the way she spoke that niggled at the back of her brain. Most oddly of all, when Lenore looked at her the image of floppy-eared bunnies appeared in her mind!

“Yes, I cannot believe that William betrayed what he had heard. No matter how much that evil man pressured him, I still cannot believe that he betrayed me!” Ellsie sobbed in a torn voice.

“Men,” the woman scoffed. “Don’t you just wish he got what was coming to him?” she inquired with gleaming eyes.

“Oh, I surely do,” Ellsie said darkly. “I wish—”

“Ellise, stop!” Lenore suddenly commanded, and all eyes turned to her in confusion. “This is a vengeance demon - Anyanka! Make no wishes around her.”

Lenore had no idea why she knew that this woman was a vengeance demon – honestly she wasn’t even completely sure what one was – but the moment Ellsie said “I wish” terror dripped down the base of her neck and she had a flash of insight. Whatever she knew from her past life had pushed its way past her mental barrier, and Lenore knew who this woman was and that she made people’s wishes come true – but in the most awful way imaginable.

Anyanka sighed heavily and placed her hands on her hips as her right foot tapped incessantly in annoyance. “Geez lady, I’m trying to help you girls out here. These men are going to kill you – don’t you want to wish them dead?”

“It is not our way to consort with a demon – no matter what the villagers may say,” Elspeth stated proudly; supporting Lenore’s sudden statement. “You may as well leave now, demon.

The woman just rolled her eyes. “First off, ‘demon’ is quite demeaning you know. I do have a name, after all. I am Anyanka, Patron Saint of Scorned Women. But you see, the new century just started and I need to get a jump-start on my quota in order to maintain my position as the top sales agent of the vengeance demons,” she explained in a determined voice.

“A ‘quota’?” Shannon asked in confusion.

“You know. I have to help so many scorned women,” Anyanka snapped in annoyance, clearly bitter that they were not jumping at her offer of help. “Now, this is the slow season – during the heat of summer is when business is booming – and you girls will probably be my last opportunity to get some business in for next few weeks.

“So, all you have to do is make a wish against the men and I’ll grant it, no matter how big or how small. And don’t forget – this is a limited time deal!” Anyaka added gleefully as greedily rubbed her hands together.

“Because,” Anyanka grinned, “otherwise in twelve hours you’ll be dead,” she (unnecessarily) explained.

“No,” was Elspeth’s stern reply as she drew herself to sit up.

Anyanka frowned in frustration. “So you would rather die then? And let these men live, even though they may kill more women – innocent women? Children even? You do realize that some villages are declaring children to be witches and either drowning them or burning them.

Lenore could see her cousin’s decision begin to waver like a finely constructed mirage exposed to the harshness of blunt truth. Elspeth never wanted to do dark magic or consort with dark creatures, but there really were no options at the moment.

“I think we should!” Ellsie declared. “After all, Anyanka is right – what if more people die because we did nothing but accept our deaths? Connor is evil and must pay – no offense to ye, Lenore,” she added almost in an after-thought.

She shrugged. “My husband has always been a bastard, ladies – ‘tis no secret,” she stated sadly. “I only regret that his wickedness has spread like a disease to infect your lives as well as mine.”

Anyanka gazed at her with interest and knelt in front of Lenore. Her proximity was unnerving – and also strangely satisfying. Her familiarity made Lenore feel, for the first time doing something other than magic, truly comfortable in her own skin. She could also see herself being…friends with this creature.

Yet, why would Lenore have befriended a vengeance demon in her past life? Perhaps, god forbid, she had been a demon as well??

“Wow, you hate your husband don’t you? Let me guess – he smacks you around? Has a barbed tongue that rips through your emotions? You know, those religious types are usually the worst,” she stated sympathetically.

Lenore lightly brushed her now swollen cheek with one hand and laid another upon her stomach. Blood had pooled between her legs from the miscarriage and her lower abdomen throbbed with pain. Anyanka’s statements were truer than Lenore would have preferred. The last five, almost six, years had been difficult indeed. Connor had only wanted her because she was the youngest girl in the village who was of marrying age and his deceased wife had not produced any heirs, so he needed children. He cared nothing about her personally and, by god, if she did not think it was sinful to curse a man of God she likely would have long ago.

In fact, in the beginning she almost had…but when she found out that she was pregnant with Alexander she was afraid to rear a child on her own. Then came Elizabeth and Dawn, and suddenly the same beings who were the brightest stars in her universe were also the chains that kept her shackled to Connor O’Neil.

“He has never hit me before today, but alas today he struck me cruelly…my babe died in the womb from his attack,” Lenore admitted woefully.

“What?” all four of her coven members exclaimed at once; even Anyanka looked particularly vengeful at the admittance.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Elspeth snarled in anger - none was directed towards her, however. Lenore knew that it was all meant for Connor.

Lenore shrugged sadly. “My friends, our death approaches us and I did not want to lay any further burdens upon you.”

“Well this changes everything,” Elspeth stated in a hard voice. “Connor must pay. Anyanka, I wish to take you up on your offer.”

Lenore winced at her decision, but knew it was for the best. She could not leave her children alone with that man.

The demon jumped up like a merry child being awarded a present from under the Christmas tree and clapped her hands. “Oh goody!” Anyanka exclaimed. “What is your wish?”

“I— ” Elspeth began to say but dim, yet frantic, screams traveled down into their holding area from outside. “What on earth is going on?” she questioned out loud.

Anyanka cocked her ear and grimaced. “Oh dammit, if someone got to them before me I’m going to feed their genitals to the Loch Ness Monster,” she grumbled under her breath.

Glancing at the witches she smiled nervously. “You all just keep thinking vengeful thoughts and I’ll be back real soon!”

With a pop, she disappeared. The screaming, however, did not.

“Good god, what is going on out there?” Kenzie mused softly.

Lenore exchanged a look with her cousin. “You don’t think that Fergus is still practicing, do you?”

Elspeth bit her lip. “I did not think so, but perhaps he is working some magic to free us…”

Part of Lenore hoped that was true. She desperately wanted to return home to her children and get away from this malevolent place.

With a loud pop, Anyanka reappeared. “Well, looks like all the men who were involved in planning your deaths are dead,” she grumbled like a disappointed child.

“All of them?” Ellsie gasped.

“Sure. Your husband, Lenore’s husband and father, James, and John; the whole batch. Apparently Lucifer came and congratulated them in front of the entire village assembly at successfully capturing the innocent women for the sacrifice tomorrow. Of course, the rest of the villagers assembled a mob and proceeded to burn each of the men alive.”

“T-the D-devil was h-here?” Lenore gasped alongside her fellow coven members.

“Pssh,” Anyanka waved her hand casually away. “Everyone who’s anyone knows that Lucifer got locked into the Cage by his big bro long ago, so it wasn’t him.” She looked thoughtful for a moment and then continued. “Actually, I couldn’t sense a demon anywhere…although I did sense a pagan god,” she sniffed in annoyance as her eyes lit with a revelation.

“LOKI! YOU GET YOUR TRICKSTER ASS OVER HERE RIGHT NOW, YOU GOOD-FOR-NOTHING BARBARIAN MESSING WITH MY DECLARED VICTIMS!” Anya suddenly screamed out as she stamped her foot with each syllable.

“Loki?” Lenore repeated as she looked wildly at the others. “The Norse trickster god?” Any witch worth her salt knew of each of the major gods and goddesses and Loki was well-known for his malicious, though sometimes just, pranks.

A man shimmered into the room and gave Anyanka a lopsided grin. His eyes twinkled with amusement and he exuded a tremendous amount of power. Lenore noted that when he arrived into the room he accidentally crushed one of the crystals barring their powers, and she felt her magic stretch alongside her spirit again. With a mere thought, she quickly snapped each woman’s chains in case this fight between the pagan god and demon dissolved into dangerous territory.

“Anyanka, baby, you don’t call, you don’t write,” he trailed off in a hurt tone as his lower lip puckered out. “I was thinking you didn’t like me anymore.”

In a flash of movement Anyanka yanked Loki’s bottom lip and pulled him roughly forward with it. “I don’t like you anymore!” she declared vehemently. “You’re always stealing my victims, darn it! For the love of D’Hoffryn, can’t you find your own stupid victims?”

He smiled – or, well, smiled as best he could with his lower lip clasped between Anyanka’s thumb and forefinger. “Aud, you know tha’ I ohn-ly do tha’ ‘ee-cuz I vant ta’ shee you,’ he explained as best as he could.

Anyanka – or was that Aud? – let go of Loki and folded her arms defiantly against her chest. “Loki, you’ve become a real pain in my ass,” she huffed in exasperation.

Sighing, Loki walked behind Anyanka and stared wistfully at her backside. “Am I? Well that is good, because I do miss your ass,” he sighed forlornly, but his eyes were lit with amusement.

Letting out a grunt of annoyance she smacked his arm. “Hey! Stop oogling the goods, mister. What do I look like? A common London tart? Or worse, Cleopatra?”

“Trust me, Cleo has nothing on you,” Loki stated confidently as he gifted her with a sly wink.

The words fell from Lenore’s lips before she even had a moment to think about them. “A pagan god and a demon…coupling? Isn’t that wrong?” Immediately, she mentally smacked herself as the two powerful beings turned towards her. It was just, the Trickster God had such a brilliant white aura that she could not imagine him with an evil demon.

“Hey kid,” Loki gave her a menacing look and Lenore cowered. “Watch your mouth when you talk about Anyanka. She was human once and isn’t a true demon—”

“—Loki! Stop saying that! I’m the demony-est!”

“—Anyways, she’s some inter-dimensional hyrbid and thus not any worse than a pagan god, for example. So stop being all judgey – after all, that is my job,” he smiled wickedly as he tapped her lightly on top of her head.

Lenore felt her adrenaline rush at his calculating look;; every part of her screamed that she should run away from this powerful being that she had, unfortunately, aggravated. “I-I’m sorry. I-I w-was j-just surprised s-since your a-aura is just so p-pu—” but Lenore was never able to say “pure” because her scratchy voice cracked and suddenly her voice was gone.

“What did you do to her?” Elspeth demanded to know.

Loki shrugged nonchalantly. “Humans should only speak when spoken to,” he stated with a smirk, but Lenore saw panic in his eyes – panic that he quickly hid.

“Fix her now!” Elspeth demanded.

“Hey!” he called out in a warning tone. “Don’t go all Mebd on me now, Elspeth! Your cousin will have her voice back, as soon as we are out of hearing distance from her scathingly annoying voice.

“We?” Anyanka asked in skeptical tone as she tossed her wavy locks haughtily over her shoulder.

Suddenly Loki was there holding Anyanka tightly in his arms – and of all things the demon began blushing! “Come now, Aud. Let me make tonight up for you. After all, I helped you with that troll transfiguration spell so long ago – I’m not such a bad guy, am I?” he asked hopefully with innocent puppy-dog eyes.

Anyanka huffed and rolled her eyes, but her lips twitched slightly upwards. “Damn you, Loki. If you weren’t so damn good in bed I’d have killed you by now.”

“Sure thing, my sweet honey bear,” he grinned knowingly. Then with a snap of his fingers they were both gone.

Leaving five bewildered witches left in their wake.

Chapter Text


Also: Fanart by the amazingly talented and entirely generous Christytrekkie. This can be found at Fanart, Fear Not the Multiverse.

 

Liberton, Scotland
January 2, 1700


One day had passed since Lenore’s life had been thrown into upheaval and she was struggling at home to care for the sickly Dawn – who was becoming increasingly pale – as well as her other two children, on top of still suffering from her painful miscarriage. The spell to save a dying babe could only be done under certain circumstances and preparation, so they would not be able to attempt the spell again until next week…and Lenore feared that would not be soon enough for her daughter.

At least her husband was dead, along with the others. Their fellow villagers had ‘rescued’ them quickly after Loki and Anyanka disappeared, falling all over themselves in apology for what had almost occurred to the women. Apparently Anyanka’s description yesterday had been correct. During the village meeting to discuss the witch hunt a great man with spiraling goat’s horns and hoofed legs appeared in front of them and embraced each of the men involved, explaining that he was thankful for their sacrifice and their service to him. Without further ado a mob had quickly formed and rounded up the men to be burned at the stake.

The witches surmised that the Trickster God was true to his name and had played an ironic trick on the men by creating an illusion of Satan. Elspeth had been relieved that Loki’s involvement meant that she hadn’t needed to make a deal with a demon, although they were still not sure why Loki had arrived.

Dawn let out a soft cry and Lenore rocked her slowly in the rocking chair. She began singing an old Celtic lullaby that her ma had sang to her, and after two songs a man’s voice interrupted her.

“Dawn’s an odd name, isn’t it? I haven’t met too many folks in this century with a name like that; least, not this part of the world.”

Alarmed, Lenore looked up and saw the Trickster gazing down at her with a mild look. Fear seized her heart and she mentally prepared spells that may be able to evict the pagan god from her home if she decided that he posed a danger to her or her sleeping children.

“Relax,” he reassured her with a lopsided smile. “I’m not here to do anything bad. In fact, I don’t think you’ve even thanked me yet for assisting you with your crazy-evil husband problem.”

Surprised, Lenore found herself stuttering again. “I-I’m s-sorry. T-thank y-you v-very much for h-helping us, Loki,” she said with downcast eyes as she tightly held onto her babe.

“You’re welcome, kiddo,” he smiled as he plopped casually into a chair facing opposite of her. “Although you should thank your brother – he’s the one who summoned me. While Anyanka would have gotten the job done, it’s likely that innocent people would have died along the way. Last time she dealt with a witch hunt she cooked the entire town, besides the woman who made the wish, in a gigantic cauldron.”

“My brother summoned you?” was her initial response. She had not seen Fergus – he was on bed rest due to some injury.

“Oh, yes. Seems he cares a great deal for his little sister, as well as for his cousin and mother,” Loki mused thoughtfully. “Strange though, to meet a human that is void of true emotion for all but three people in his life – heck, even his son and wife are not loved by him,” he snorted.

Her heart warmed at the realization that her brother had saved them and a smile graced her lips. She would have to go see Fergus as soon as she was well enough to do so and thank him. Elspeth would be told as well so she could properly give thanks. Of course, Lenore’s mother mustn’t find out. She still did not know of her two children’s involvement in witchcraft and and Lenore knew that her ma was still reeling from the fiery execution of her husband.

Of course, Lenore was not terribly upset by her father’s untimely demise. She had never been close to him; he was a very controlling man that had been the one to force her to wed Connor, after all. However, she knew that her mother cared for him. Last night after her mother had returned the children to Lenore’s care, she had looked so lost without Angus.

Lenore resumed her rocking as she began studying the pagan god before her. What was he doing here?

“Aren’t you curious as to why I helped your soul-selling brother, Lenore?” he asked after a pause.

“Yes, I suppose so…but then again, I thought that humans could only speak when spoken to,” she threw his words back at him with a hint of dry amusement.

Throwing his head back, Loki’s laughter rumbled out of him. “Touché, my dear, touché,” he grinned devilishly.

Lenore had to admit, there were not many men who struck her fancy but this pagan god was most alluring. Of course, that had to do in part with his stunningly pure aura that radiated from him.

And, well, perhaps the fact that she had been feeling very lonely for a very long time. It was only her dreams of the mysterious red-haired woman that gave her hope, but after her marriage to Connor she had started to lose the hope of ever finding her; ending up loveless in the pursuit.

“So why?” she asked quickly as she made herself stay focused to the task at hand and not her maudlin musings.

“He begged me,” Loki shrugged. “I initially declined because I had no desire to help some worthless fool who’s stupid enough to sell his soul to a demon. But I asked if he would give up what he had gained for his deal with the demon in exchange for my help. He initially refused – shocked that I would even ask for such a thing – but as I walked away he shouted “Take it! Just take it then!” and I decided to help. First I snipped a bit here and there, and then I set out for the village council meeting.”

“Snipped?” Lenore asked in confusion.

Loki rolled his eyes in exasperation and Lenore was struck by his many human mannerisms. He either had picked up the habit long ago to blend in or had spent so much time with humans that those mannerisms were a part of him now. “By my lady, that brother of yours is a fool!” he stated with a shake of his head. “Did you know that he sold his soul to just get an extra three inches?” he asked incredulously.

Lenore blinked in confusion. “Three inches…?”

Loki let out a snort of laughter. “You know, three inches for his special man-place,” he smirked with waggling eyebrows.

“Oh.” And then, “Ew!” she exclaimed in disgust. “That’s awful! By god, that is foolish!”

She took note of how Loki twitched, like he had a nervous tick, when she said the word ‘god’. Interesting. Did it offend the pagan god to use the word ‘god’ in vain?

“Yes, indeed. But, alas! He has it no longer,” Loki grinned and winked. “In fact, I cut the entire thing off. ‘Twas quite a bit of blood but he’ll live and still has a hole to pee out of,” Loki shrugged.

“What?” Lenore shouted, and immediately regretted it because Dawn let out a cry of annoyance. She lowered her voice to a soft serpentine hiss of anger and continued. “You’re the reason why my brother is bedridden? How dare you injure him so grievously!”

“Please,” Loki scoffed. “That philandering man did not need to use his dick anymore than he already was. It’s not like I strayed from the bargain or any such nonsense – he did say “Just take it then”, thus meaning that I was allowed to take it all. Besides,” he laughed, “I know that his wife is quite glad of his condition and Fergus will indeed live – so why should you be upset? His sacrifice was necessary for me to help him?”

“Why?” she demanded angrily. Lenore hated to think of her brother disfigured and in pain – even if a part of her did know that his sacrifice was perhaps deserved due to his actions in this life.

“Hel-lo-oo?” he asked with a dumb expression as he pointed to himself. “Trick-ster!” he sounded out the word like she was addled. “That’s the game, kid. I screw over assholes who deserve it by giving them their just deserts.”

Lenore stilled as she contemplated his words. “Then why are you here to see me?” she asked cautiously.

Loki held up his index finger. “And that, my dear, is the right question to ask. See I’m here to help you out. Or, more specifically, help out Dawnie here.”

“Why?” she asked him suspiciously, even though she was overjoyed by his offer of help. “Why would you want to help us?”

Lounging back, he smiled at her reaction. “Dawn’s an apt name for your little girl. What made you call her that, anyways?”

Lenore frowned. “Well…it’s an odd story, actually.” She didn’t want to tell this pagan god that she believed that the name came from her past life.

“Trust me, I’ve heard – and seen – some odd stories, kid,” he chuckled as he leaned forward in anticipation.

“Well, I named all my children after dreams I had. I am not sure who those people are but the names have floated to me in the dark seas of my dreams: Alexander, who I often am tempted to call ‘Xander’ yet Connor never allowed me to use such a ‘silly’,” she scoffed, “name. Then there was the name Buffy, but again Connor would not allow such a trivial and foolish-sounding name so we compromised on Elizabeth. Finally, there was Dawn.” Lenore shrugged. “Does that properly answer your question?”

“For the most part,” he mused. “So you have no idea why you dream of these strangers?”

“No,” she replied with a half-truth. She knew that the people likely came from her previous life but she had no idea why she dreamt of them so often.

“Hmm. Well, as I said, Dawn is an apt name for your daughter – for she will be the dawn of your descendants. From her, a strong line will flourish – a line that will bring about balance in the world, one way or another.”

Balance.

The Temperance card had indicated that she would bring balance to the world. Is this what the card had meant?

Heart racing, she asked the trickster a question. “How do you know this? And why will it be Dawn’s descendants?”

Loki sighed and rolled his eyes. “Come now, I thought you were a powerful witch. Surely you understand prophecies?”

“Y-yes. Is there a prophecy about me? Or my children?” she inquired hesitantly.

“Kiddo, one thing you need to learn straight away is that there is always a prophecy – and in your life there’s going to be oodles of them.”

Lenore chewed her lip as she contemplated his words. “Why will there be so many? I am just a simple woman.”

Loki let out a snort of laughter. “Simple is one thing you are not, Lenore. And don’t worry – the answers will come to you when you are ready for them.” He shrugged. “Or not. Certain folks don’t care much for the feelings of humans, if you know what I mean.”

Then he took his index finger and middle finger and pressed his fingertips against Dawn’s fevered temple. “There,” he whispered. “She’s healed.” He gave her a significant look. “Take care of yourself, Lenore.”

“T-thank you,” she managed to gasp in amazement. Dawn’s forehead was cooling under her touch and her breathing no longer sounded as if liquid was trapped in her lungs; rather she was breathing normally now.

He shrugged. “No problem. Just, er, consider it an exchange of favors.”

Lenore’s back straightened. Damn. She knew that it was troublesome to seek favor from pagan gods, especially a trickster. “What?” she asked warily.

Loki laughed and shook his head in amusement.

Hmm, Lenore was so glad that the trickster god found her to be such an amusing human.

Then his expression sobered and he spoke in a serious tone. “It is nothing that bad, Lenore. Just do me a favor and never mention to anyone what my aura looks like – and don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about because you almost spilled the beans in the church – or that I healed Dawn tonight. Do that, and I will cancel your debt.”

Questions about his aura lay on the tip of her tongue but his eyes, tone, and posture indicated that she would be extremely foolish to question him about it at the moment – or ever. “I agree to your terms, Loki,” she stated instead.

“Smart girl,” he grinned, yet he made no move to leave. Instead his body remained tense, even as he tried to appear at-ease.

Her heartbeat sped up slightly as she took in his features. Loki had an unassuming form – he was short for a man of this region, his hair was a dark blond but underneath the flickering flame of her candles she noticed golden highlights that were streaked through his hair. His dress was modest and at first glance he blended in like any other human. But his eyes…oh, they were a warm amber, like heated maple syrup. His eyes were the most expressive part of him and she was drawn by how they could switch from twinkling with amusement to shining with ferocity so quickly. He radiated this pure sense of power that she had never felt before and it led her to feel conflicting emotions of both fear and safety in his presence. A part of her feared him and what he was capable of doing, yet another part of her yearned to know him and decipher the puzzle pieces that he had carefully laid over his true form and nature.

Noticing that a sly smirk had worked its way onto his features, Lenore felt her cheeks blush at the realization that she had been staring and she quickly turned so she could place Dawn in her crib. After all, her babe would need a good deal of sleep after such an exhausting two weeks of illness.

When she turned around Loki was still standing there in silent observation with his hands held at his waist. “Well, I suppose I’ll be departing,” he said as he tipped his head in her direction.

Something within her spirit screamed at her to get him to stay. ‘He is powerful; he might know more about your past and your future that he would be willing to tell,’ a voice within her reasoned. However, there was a part of Lenore that feared there was a different part of her being that wanted him to stay for selfish reasons.

“Loki? I understand that it is late and after healing my daughter, it would be only courteous for me to offer you a meal, and a bed if you desire,” she invited him formally.

He gave her a considering look and then his eyes glowed with mirth. “Why, I would be pleased to accept your offer of a meal and a bed, but I have one question – will that bed be your own?” he asked with a sly look and waggling eyebrows.

Immediately her cheeks became inflamed and she found herself backpedaling at his forward comment. “I-I, I mean, t-that i-isn’t w-what I m-meant,” she stuttered; silently cursing herself for not getting overcoming that bad trait. “Th-there’s an extra bed now that Connor i-is gone.” Like most married couples, they shared separate bedrooms. Not all families could afford to do so but that was a perk of living in the minister’s house.

Loki chuckled softly and winked at her. “Your virtue is safe, fair maiden. I was only teasing you,” he grinned devilishly.

“Oh,” Lenore said as she clasped her hands awkwardly in front of her dress. Now that she knew he had only been teasing her she suddenly felt foolish. How silly of her to think that such a powerful being desired her in that way!

Although…whispers told her that at one time a powerful being did love her deeply…but once again these whispers spoke in riddles and gave no real answers as to her past so she ignored them.

Now, suddenly feeling annoyed that Loki had made her feel foolish (and yes, also to take out her anger and annoyance at not understand the riddles her mind taunted her with when it came to her past life), Lenore could not help but deliver a sharp-tongued retort. “I am glad you were only teasing, Loki. Since you surely spent last night with that demon Anyanka, you attempting to climb into my bed would make you a man-tart of Cleopatra standards,” she wryly observed.

Loki’s mouth dropped open slightly. “Did you just call me ‘man-tart’?” he asked in clear amusement.

“If the shoe fits,” she smiled innocently at him as she began the walk to her kitchen so she could reheat the stew that her sister-in-law, Molly, had brewed for her. Since it was winter they kept ice boxes outside that could store meat and already cooked food, and it was a simple task to reheat the item over the wood-burning stove.

Letting out deep,throaty laughter, Loki followed her. “And just what is a ‘man-tart’ my fair Lenore? And is that an appropriate word for a lady of your standing?” he teased again.

While a part of her smiled inwardly at him calling her his ‘fair Lenore’ – after all, a man had never paid such compliments to her and the woman from her dreams was only a dream – she gave him a smirk of her own. “You forget yourself, good sir. I grew up with three older brothers, all of whom have filthy minds and mouths. ‘Tis only natural for me to talk like that when I want to.”

Loki laughed and surprised her by setting the table as she brought the fire to a low blaze and began reheating the stew – Connor had never helped her with meals. “That is understandable, I suppose,” he acknowledged. “Yet I am still confused by this new term of ‘man-tart’.”

Grabbing a rag, she began cleaning the dining table – after all, it was a tad bit nerve-wracking to cook a meal for a god! – and glanced up to see his amber eyes focused on her. His lips were curled in amusement and looking at their softness made her chest tighten involuntarily.

Oh god, what was she thinking? Clearly her mind was overwhelmed from the events of the previous day, in addition to suffering over five years with an unromantic and unattractive husband. Not to mention, she had never spent time with an attractive and interesting man in such close proximity – or, at least, one who was not married.

Then again, the tales of the Norse gods did say that Loki was married and had several children.

She met his smile with one of her own and answered his question. “Well, the way I see it, only women are called tarts and men, even if they are sexually promiscuous never face societal punishment, therefore I think that such men should be called man-tarts – or, at least, until a better word can be created,” she added self-consciously.

Loki sat in the chair at the head of the table appeared amused by her statement.

“What is so funny?” she boldly asked him. As soon as the words left her mouth she wondered if she had made a mistake speaking so informally to a god, but equality between the sexes was an important subject to her and she felt personally offended that he – god or no god – thought that her concept of equal persecution was trite.

Giving her an apologetic smile, he simply shrugged. “I do not mean to offend you, Lenore. I am only amused because your pattern of thoughts is most unconventional for a woman of this day and age. There are past societies that viewed the sexes equally but within Europe that ideal was buried long ago. Tell me, where did you come to understand, or desire, this concept of equality?” he asked with an intrigued look.

Now it was Lenore’s turn to shrug as she stirred the stew over the fire. “I am not sure – perhaps my cousin Elspeth and from hearing stories of Queen Elizabeth.”

“I can tell when you lie, Lenore,” he spoke in a stern, yet understanding, voice directly in her ear. Startled she jumped up and almost toppled against him, except he stopped her descent by calmly grabbing her by the shoulders and righting her. The skin underneath the fabric of her dress warmed at his touch and her breath caught in her throat.

Slowly, he turned her around and looked her in the eyes. “I may know more than you think, Lenore, but unfortunately there are certain things I can only answer if I am asked or know of. Therefore, it would be beneficial if you did not keep your secrets from me. Do you understand me?” he asked her in a serious tone.

“Y-yes,” she replied. “I think so. But, wait. Why couldn’t you answer my earlier questions?”

He rolled his eyes, released her shoulders, and smirked. “I said I can answer ‘certain things’, my dear, not everything.”

She let out a groan of frustration and returned to her stew. Yes, now she could understand Anyanka’s negative reaction to the trickster yesterday – he was a maddening fellow.

If you must know,” she began tersely, “I dreamed about it long ago and have many times upon occasion. A world where woman dressed like men and held numerous important positions, like magistrate. Some even flew into outer space on a mystical white bird! These women were independent and many did not marry until their late twenties. It,” she sighed sadly. “It was a glorious image and ever since then I could not get the idea out of my head. After all, why is it that we do not live in that world? Why must women be second-class citizens?” she huffed in annoyance as her anger caused her stirring to pick up speed.

“Well, well, aren’t you strong like an Amazon?” he commented, seeming amused by her frustrated rant.

Lenore dropped the wooden spoon into the spoon and took a shaky, drawn out breath; it felt like solid iron had slammed into her stomach. A flash of that red-haired woman, this time crying, crossed her mind’s eye…she knew that she was crying because someone had died, someone important to them and Buffy and Dawn and Xander and Anya. Tears leaked from her eyes and her hands began shaking. Oh god, the veil had been lifted just slightly, and just for a moment, but she craved more. Who had died? Who were those people? And most importantly, who was this woman that she was in love with?

“Lenore?” Loki said; a part of her was surprised that a pagan trickster god could sound so gentle at times. “Are you alright?”

Her back still to him, she picked up her spoon and returned to stirring. “Yes, I’m fine. I just had a sudden pain leftover from my, um, incident.” She didn’t know if she could truly trust Loki and telling him her vision felt too personal at the moment. Besides, her incident was a good excuse.

Lenore still couldn’t out loud say what had truly happened to her – that she had had a miscarriage. It made everything feel so real, that she had lost her baby.

Luckily, for her, Loki returned to their previous conversation without further comment.

“Well, what makes you think that the world you speak of is so much better? After all, if women marry so late it cuts into their personal timetable to give birth and grow their families,” he suggested in such a manner that Lenore got the distinct impression that he was testing her; playing devil’s advocate.

Well she would show him.


“In my dream women still had babies – they just did both. I don’t know how it is all possible for them, but I do know that women are unfairly treated in our country, and surely around the rest of the world. God made Adam and Eve as partners to serve as stewards over this world – it is not his will that women are treated so poorly.”

Loki’s eyebrow rose skeptically. “What is so wrong with the life of a woman today? She is cared for by her husband and only has to rear the children and tend to the household. It certainly seems easy enough.”

Lenore frowned at him and, without realizing it, stirred the stew so quickly that it splattered all over her dress. “Oh bollocks,” she cursed under her breath as she set the spoon down and inspected her dress.

“Perhaps what I said angered you?” he inquired with a knowing and amused look.

She just glared at him and began wiping away the strew using a dish rag.

“Lenore, my apologies,” he said contritely and she almost believed him, but she was quickly realizing that this trickster was of both sharp wit and dark humor; it was constantly difficult to gauge his true intent. As she pondered this, he snapped his fingers and suddenly the stew she had been wiping away disappeared off her dress!

“How did you do that?” she asked in amusement.

“Lenore, you’re such a bright lass but then sometimes you say the dumbest things,” he said with a deadpan look. Gesturing towards himself he said, “Me, Pagan God. Me have magic. Me can make things appear or disappear,” he said in a guttural and slow voice.

Lenore blushed. She was more or less enjoying his company but he possessed this annoying ability to make her feel foolish more often than she would have liked. “Alright,” she said with rolled eyes. “I get it. You don’t have to do that Tarzan voice at me,” she chided him as she carried the pot of strew to the dining table.

Loki almost dropped his bowl in shock. “What did you just say?” he rapidly questioned her.

“Ah, I’m not sure…just that you did not need to explain yourself like I’m stupid,” she said in a puzzled voice. “Why?”

Her companion just simply laughed and shook her head. “Tell me, Lenore, how do you know what ‘Tarzan’ sounds like or what one even is? Not to mention, do you even know who Tarzan is?” he asked with one raised brow and he ladled stew into her bowl and then his.

“I-I, um…I suppose I do not know,” Lenore finally admitted as she nervously played with the hem of her apron as she sat to Loki’s right at the table. “That happens upon occasion,” she remarked thoughtfully in a small voice. “I’ll mention something that I have no knowledge of, nor does anyone else.”

“And what do you think it means?” he asked her pointedly, most likely curious to know just how much she understood.

Lenore turned unwavering blue eyes towards him and told him the story of Elspeth’s tarot readings. Throughout it all Loki gave her his rapt attention and, besides Fergus, she could not remember the last time a man showed genuine interest in something of meaning that she had to say.

Of course, Loki was not a man. It was best for her to remember that and to stay wary around him.

“So you believe you’ve been reborn?” Loki surmised at the end of her story. His tone was neither believing nor skeptical – he truly seemed interested in her opinion on the matter.

“Yes,” she nodded. “At this point, that seems to be the only explanation for my lucid dreams and knowing about things that I shouldn’t had I just been raised here in Liberton. However,” she sighed, “I have done everything possible to lift the veil and see my old life, but nothing has worked – no cards, crystals, or even praying to God.”

“You pray?” he repeated in surprise; almost choking on his spoonful of stew at the same time.

“Well, yes,” she answered him in an offended tone. “Why not?”

He shrugged and then his eyes began studying her like a captive animal. “I have never met a Christian witch before. Tell me, how do you balance your worship of pagan deities with the Christian God?”

Lenore felt uncomfortable around the intensity of his stare. “That is a very personal question, sir.”

He raised an inquiring eyebrow and his lips quirked. “Ah, but seeing that I’ve saved your youngest child from certain death, wouldn’t that place us on a personal basis, Lenore?”

She frowned. He was too curious about her and that bothered her. Instead of feeling flattered, she felt worried. What did this being know about her, exactly? And why did he want to know more?

“Perhaps, sir, but that debt is moot since I will be keeping quiet about the very odd pure aura that a pagan of mischief and wickedness exudes,” she carefully explained as she met his eyes and straightened her back. She did not appreciate Loki throwing his favor back at her – in no way did she want to be in debt to a god.

His warm amber eyes cooled and narrowed at her. His presence of power pushed outwards and almost suffocated her; it was heavy and old – much older than she would have anticipated from a Norse god. In response, she wrapped her magic around her like a tight cocoon and likewise placed magical shields around her children, and then met his icy stare with a blazingly defiant one. After all, he was in her home where her children slept and if he even dared to bring harm to any of them she would make him suffer.

Two long and arduous minutes passed until finally she felt his power deflate from the air and back into his being. Then he broke their stare and his head fell back with a laugh. Lenore stared at him, perplexed, and tried to understand his odd actions. Then it struck her and she scowled angrily at him.

“You were, you were testing me!” she hissed as she stared at him in shock.

Loki shrugged and gave her a lop-sided smile. “Guilty as charged.”

She continued to stare at him, aghast. “But why?” Honestly, he was the most peculiar of creatures!

“To see how you’d react,” he responded in a trivial tone. “You know, most witches would not even allow a deity such as I into their home. I am, after all, no Hecate. But you did so and, for the most part, seem unafraid of me, even thought I’m far more powerful than a mere mortal. I find that intriguing.”

Still scowling, she picked up his empty bowl and began cleaning off the table. “You are in the house of my children, Loki, and I will not allow anyone – be thee man or god – to threaten them.”

“Duly noted,” he shrugged. “I promise I won’t do that again,” he vowed sweetly, with all the innocence of a child who promises to stay away from the biscuit can after their mother scolds them.

She turned to him and crossed her arms as she bore witness to his genial smile. “No, you won’t,” she said flatly. “Because you’re leaving. I thank you for your assistance and I will keep up my end of the bargain. However, I cannot allow anyone in my home who is foolish enough to undertake a play of power in the presence of my sleeping children.”

Loki’s mouth opened in surprise. “Y-you’re kicking me out?” he asked in shock. Clearly the deity did not often get kicked out by many mere mortals.

“Yes,” she responded shortly. “I’ll show you to the door.”

Then, hoping that the anger that fed her bravery would extend just slightly longer, she began walking to her front door. Footsteps sounded behind her and she made sure to walk confidently with her head raised and her back straight as a rod. She quickly opened the door and stared at him expectantly.

Face blank, he gave her one more look-over. “I do apologize for my actions, Miss Maclay.”

Her forehead wrinkled in confusion. “I suppose I am no longer a ‘Missus’ now that I am widowed, but I certainly am no ‘Miss’, either. Not to mention my last name is ‘O’Neil’, sir.”

He gave her a sly grin. “Whatever you say, Lenore.” He pulled her right hand into his own and gave the back of it a gentle kiss. Surprised by his sudden gentlemanly move – the commoners in her village did not display such behavior – she just stared at him.

As his lips left her hand, he looked up at her with a serious expression. “When your thirst for truth has left you parched, forget not what resources you have.”

Without another word he stepped out her door, snapped his fingers, and blinked out of existence.

Taken aback by his sudden disappearance and odd parting words, she stared outside for a moment longer before she shut the door against the freezing cold January wind. However, as she shut the door she realized that there was something in her right hand that fell as she shut the door. Suspiciously, she bent down to better inspect the item and saw a frail Forget-Me-Not flower lying mysteriously on the floor.

Chapter Text

Liberton, Scotland
October 1, 1700


“When your thirst for truth has left you parched, forget not what resources you have.”

Lenore could not get Loki’s final words out of her mind. For the last ten months she had debated with Elspeth (the other coven members had never been told about Lenore’s past life) about the Forget-Me-Not flower that Loki had given to her. Clearly he had given her the flower as a way to remember her past life, but the two of them had debated multiple issues that went along with the situation.

For one, how was she supposed to use the flower to remember? Did she eat it? Or make it into a potion? Or do a spell with it? Or weave into her hair? There was no clear answer and if they chose the wrong answer, like eating the flower, then there would be nothing left to try again.

On the other hand, could they truly trust Loki? He was a dangerous creature and responsible for the deaths of five men in their village, and certainly hundreds more throughout Europe. More so, the trickster enjoyed, well, tricking people and who was not to say the flower would bind her to him or something else horrifying? Yet, during his time with her he had never seemed truly dangerous except once, and that had been a test of her own power and will.

Then there was one more question that Lenore did not have the answer to: Did she verily want the truth? After twelve years of wondering of the past, dreaming of the past, sketching the past, was she truly prepared to know? After all, she had responsibilities that demanded her focus.

Since Connor’s death she was forced to move out of the church’s minister’s house and instead moved in with Elspeth. After the death of their father, Fergus inherited the tailor shop and their clan home. With him, Molly, and their mother living above the shop, there was no room for her and the children. Fortunately, that worked out well because Elspeth loved having the children in the house and it gave Lenore easier access to do magic in the privacy of her cousin’s cellar.

However, while their living arrangements had worked out well, Lenore still had to provide for her children. Marriage was absolutely out of the question and Elspeth’s herb business was only profitable for one person. Therefore, Lenore worked ten hours a day in Fergus’ tailor shop sewing, cutting, and fitting. She had a moderate talent in the area and quite a bit of creativity to please their customers, but it was certainly not her passion and the work was hard.

Not to mention, Fergus’ attitude had noticeably soured since January. While he had initially stated that his loss of organ was worth it to save her and Elspeth from certain death, he became bitter when he learned of Anyanka’s presence and that his help had not truly been needed. Lenore had assured him that it had because otherwise Anyanka likely would have destroyed the whole village, but he was still unsatisfied with her words. She of course felt awful about his unhappiness, but she was getting tired of his increasingly short temper. He was outright rude to people constantly and while he was still the nicest to her and the children, he would even snap at her more often than she liked.

Therefore, working in the shop was not very pleasant.

And if she learned about her past life, what then? What if that changed everything and she felt compelled to leave her family and find the woman that she dreamed of?

There was just too much at stake.


…And yet…It was painful not to know. To have a glimpse into a life that she didn’t have anymore or even understand felt like a shallow needle prick each time it occurred. Then to have numerous glimpses but still walk away uneducated felt like a knife wound to the chest.

She had to know. After all, Elspeth had always said that knowledge was powerful. What if she learned something that could help others? After all, that flash of knowledge about Anyanka had greatly helped them. What if more pertinent information lay past that veil?

Oh for the love of Hecate, this was maddening.

Most maddening was her inability to make a decision. Did she leave the flower in its jar or did she use it?

For the rest of the night Lenore could not sleep as she tossed and turned in her bed. Finally, she decided to take the plunge and use the flower – and just hope that God watched over her as she did so.

Silently she walked through the dark house, careful to wake no one. She knew that Elspeth would want to be here with her but Lenore felt that she needed to do this on her own.

Lighting a candle in the kitchen, she walked down the cellar steps and used magic to open their coven room. She slid inside and breathed in the ancient smell of magic in the air. Now a practicing witch for a dozen years, the power of the room no longer overwhelmed her. Now she found it comforting and familiar; it pleased her sometimes to just sit in here and relax. Elspeth had said that the room had been used by witches in her clan for centuries and judging by the flavor of the room she would have to agree.

Very carefully she extracted the jar containing the Forget-Me-Not out off of the shelf and placed it in front of her on the table. This flower symbolized several things, but most intriguing to her was that it was worn by lovers so they would not forget one another, specifically when the man went off to war. Of course the red-haired woman came to mind and she was wondering if that was why Loki had chosen this flower.

Lenore sighed as she rested her head onto cradled hands. Now she just needed to determine the best way to use this flower.

“When your thirst for truth has left you parched, forget not what resources you have.”

Well, she had finally made the decision to discover the truth about herself, so she supposed she was parched for knowledge. Obviously the Forget-Me-Not was her resource, but that still didn’t identify how she needed to use the flower.

After an hour of silent questioning she let out a grunt of frustration and went back upstairs to get a jug of water from the kitchen. Maybe she was just tired and needed to be refreshed – a drink would do that.

A drink.

Oh Lord, she was stupid. Of course if she was parched for knowledge she would need a drink, and what did one do with dry leaves and flowers but make tea?

It was all so simple now. Quickly Lenore grabbed the water jug and went back to the room where she dumped the liquid into the cauldron and began boiling it. Trembling with excitement she crushed the dried flower in her hand and sprinkled it into a tea cup. Once the water was finished she poured it over the flower and let it sit for ten minutes – quite possibly the longest ten minutes of her life. Finally it was cool enough to drink and she placed a tea leaf strainer over it.

She raised the glass up the heavens and said a silent prayer with closed eyes. Then, with trepidation creeping through her veins and excitement spiraing through her body, she took a small sip and then gulped the rest of it down.

Shoulders tense, she set the cup on the table and waited for the memories to come. Here it was, the moment she had been waiting for…

A minute passed, then five. Then ten, fifteen, twenty, and then thirty.

And nothing happened.

It looked like in the end the Trickster had tricked her.

Dejected, she scooted back her chair and began re-shelving the now-empty jar and cup. Frustrated, she kicked the table leg and practically growled. All this, and she had nothing to show for it, nothing at all. She would never know who she, Eleanor ‘Lenore’ Amelia McLeod, really was.

She was Tara Maclay.

Daughter of Sarah Campbell Maclay and Kevin Maclay; sister of Donald Maclay.

She had lived in Hooper, Utah until she had moved to Sunnydale, California…where she had truly come to life.


Lenore’s mind exploded with colors and images so intense that a choking gasp was ripped from her throat. Falling forward towards the table, she caught herself with trembling hands. She opened her eyes but she couldn’t see the room in front of her. Instead, dozens, hundreds, thousands, and millions of images blinked across her mind’s eye. Whispers spoke to her of names, songs, and stories that quickly coalesced into one never-ending scream. As her brain began overloading with information her trembling increased to full-body convulsions and she fell twitching to the floor.

It was too much…too much information…


Unconciousness was a welcome distraction.

 


Lenore dreamed.

She was in a room scented with the musky aroma of incense and several paintings on the wall. A knock sounded, echoing through the empty room. Feeling oddly apprehensive, she opened the door and saw Her.

The Her. Her mystery woman.

Lenore’s breath caught in her throat and she was blinded by the brilliance of her smile. God, she had dreamt of that smile so many times. And her eyes – they were like small emeralds shining under the sun’s rays and Lenore wanted so badly to bask in her light. A nervous smile played along her lips and she gave Lenore an expectant look as she held up a flaming candle.

“No candles? Well, I brought one. It's extra flamey.”

Oh God, the sound of her voice was heartbreakingly lovely. Never before had Lenore heard her speak. She spoke as soft like a pixie and as quickly as their wings beat against the wind.

Lenore was silent and she stepped forward to give her the candle and then closed the door behind herself.

“Tara, I have to tell you...” Lenore was not sure who Tara was but this goddess could call her Bob for all she cared.

“No, I-I understand. You have to be with the person you l-love,” she found herself saying.

The goddess before her smiled, and it was no longer a nervous smile, but an excited one. “I am.”

Her breath was stolen from her. This woman loved her? Never before had she been loved – either in her past or present life had she felt that emotion.

“You mean…?”

“I mean,” the woman stated significantly. “Okay?”

“Oh, yes,” she said in soft wonderment.

The goddess continued speaking. “I feel horrible about everything I put you through. A-and I'm gonna make it up to you. Starting right now.”

Lenore smiled, still basking in amazement that this woman loved her. “Right now?”

She smiled and nodded, and Lenore blew out the candle. They were shrouded in darkness and she felt very nervous – her previous dreams had never gotten to the point of kissing! But then the woman’s lips were on hers; it was a soft kiss, an unsure kiss. Oh, but it sent shivers down her spine. Her hand cupped the base of the woman’s neck and she opened her mouth slightly to truly taste her.

Suddenly a flood of memories arose in Lenore – meeting this woman at the Campus Wiccan group, practicing magic with her, falling in love with her, working with the Scoobies, fighting with her, taking her back into her arms…and then the final image of blood splattered over her white shirt.

“Willow,” she moaned softly as her mind spiraled further into an abyss of memories past.

 


Sleep covered her like a thick quilt and Lenore was experiencing difficulty uncovering herself. Heavy-lidded eyes struggled to open and her limbs felt like they were weighted down with boulders. There was a rustle of movement to her side and she heard her brother’s voice.

“Lenore? Good god, woman, are you awake?” he asked in hushed concern.

Cracked lips opened to speak but only a croak emerged from them. Dry coughs erupted out of her mouth and she felt herself pulled up; Fergus’ arm supported her and she felt him sitting at her left side. Something cool touched her lips and she felt it fall down her throat. Initially she choked and Fergus patted her back.

“There now, don’t choke. You need this, Len.”

Len. So many times the sound of that name had annoyed her to no end, but now she greeted it warmly. She was back, back from wherever she had been; back to a brother that loved her and not one that verbally abused her.

A little bit more liquid slipped past her lips and then she felt Fergus pulled her tightly against him. “Dammit, Len. I thought you were going to die. What the hell were you thinking?” he asked gruffly.

“Fer—” she tried to say but she coughed instead. Her eyes blinked open once, twice, and on the third time she was able to take in her environment. She was in her room in Elspeth’s home lying on the bed. Fergus was the only other occupant but she thought she heard movement down the hall.

Lenore remembered what had happened. Loki had been true to his word and the Forget-Me-Not had worked. She had dreamt of everything, every last detail of her former life as Tara Maclay. The information was overwhelming but she had attempted to sort it in detail during her dreams.

Her mother had been a powerful witch but after her death she – or rather, Tara – had left home right after graduation to go to school far away in California. There she had met Willow, a woman whose aura had shined with the multi-faceted brilliance of a rainbow. With her Tara helped the vampire slayer Buffy fight demons with their other friends, Xander, Anya (who she now recognized was the same Anyanka from the church cellar), Mr. Giles, Spike, and Dawn. Her end had been sudden and unexpected – a wound through the chest by an unknown assailant.

The process of learning all of this was very traumatic. She still had many questions…specifically, why in the heck was her past life born in the 20th century yet her second life was born in the 17th century?

Fergus gave her some more water and she swallowed it with more ease this time. His tone became annoyed and defensive, which he only did when he was really worried. “Bloody hell Len, I didn’t give up my bits and pieces in exchange for your life only to have to try to die on me less than a sodding year later.”

She smiled, and then inwardly winced as her chapped lips cracked with the effort. “Wouldn’t want you to be both penis-less and sister-less,” she joked dryly in a raspy voice.

“Exactly,” he grumbled, but his voice sounded relieved now and he gave her a quick squeeze before laying her back down on the bed.

“How long have I been asleep?” she whispered as he returned to his seat.

Fergus opened his mouth to speak and then just shook his head in astonishment. “Seven bloody days, Len. Seven days. If Elspeth hadn’t told me that your soul was still in your body, I would have thought you dead.”

“Seven days?” she choked.

He nodded. “By all accounts you should be dead – no one can survive without a drink for this long and live. I even asked Elspeth if she performed a spell to keep you alive but she said that was ‘dark magic’ and denied doing one,” he rolled his eyes. Lenore could tell that he didn’t care about dark magic and its consequences very much.

Fergus sighed. “I should get Elspeth. You’ll need a meal quickly. Do you have enough strength to see the children now?”

Her children. God, they felt like a lifetime ago. It was hard for her to keep both lives separate and after spending so much time in her previous life she had forgotten about them.

“Send them,” she croaked.

Once he left she let out a long, painful sigh. The mere idea that she had forgotten about her children – even only momentarily – made her wonder if her decision to drink that tea had been worth it.

Only time would tell.

Chapter Text

Liberton, Scotland
October 16, 1700


Samhain was approaching. With it came the death of yet another season and the end of the year, as her Celtic ancestors had once celebrated. What once had been alive with color and ripe with life was now in the midst of dying. Trees commenced with their annual death and bronzed autumn leaves carpeted the ground. Flowers shriveled, as if to huddle against the coming cold, and eventually returned back to the earth. Crisp winds shepherded the summer warmth away and heralded the coming arrival of old man winter.

In a way, Lenore felt that she was in a similar situation.

The old her, the one who was so much more innocent, was dying. Like the trees, her former self was withering on the branches of her mind and just waiting for the right amount of wind to scatter her across the earth’s floor.

Lenore McLeod was not the same and never would be again.

As much as she longed for her simpler life, it would never be hers again. She was cursed with the knowledge of what was to come. Her mother’s death in an automobile accident, Buffy’s death and resulting resurrection with dark magical ramifications¸ Mrs. Summers’ death, Willow’s fading into magic, all the many apocalypses, and so much more. None of which she could stop.

Worse – imminently worse – she would never find her Willow again.

The blessing of remembering her lover’s caress and voice and personality were most cherished. For years Tara had known that a red-haired woman loved her but she had always yearned to know who. Yet, now Lenore did know who she was…but she would never live long enough to know her. Instead she would spend the rest of her life with the faint memory of Willow’s embrace but she would never be able to hold her in her arms again.

It was cruel.

Why must she have a past life? And if others did as well, why didn’t they remember it? Why must Lenore be cursed so wickedly? There was no sense in this dilemma, to give her a glimpse into what had been and will be without allowing her to make some sort of impact.

Even more frustrating was she was going mad over deciphering – yet again – her tarot reading.

The Queen of Swords had indicated that she would have power, intellect, and freedom; yet there was a darkness that threatened to disrupt everything in her life.

This was easily understood. Lenore was a witch of great power and now with her memories of spells performed in the future her abilities had expanded. However, she did not know what dark force approached her…unless it had to do with a demon.

The Devil had marked a demonic force as her obstacle in life and that it would attempt to enslave her.

As ‘Tara’ she had encountered a wide variety of demons (which had been quite educational since neither she nor Elspeth knew much about demons or vampires). It would be more Dawn-like and less Tara-like to get captured by a demon, but she supposed that could happen.

Death had indicated her past life.

Which was, as her old friends would have stated, ‘hello Captain Obvious.’

Judgment, the card of Gabriel the Archangel, had shown her future and that individuals from her past would appear.

This was the card that confused her. ‘Tara’ had died three-hundred years into the future…how could she ever find her friends again? More importantly, how could she ever see Willow again? This card gave her a false hope that angered her to no end.

Temperance showcased her strengths of bringing balance, having a powerful being to help her battle the demon that threatened her, and that she had the ability to stand in two worlds at once.

Loki had said that her daughter Dawn’s line would bring balance to the world so she could only assume that answered for the Temperance card. After all, she didn’t have an ability to directly bring balance, did she? When it came to who might come to her aid against the demon that threatened her, all she could think of was a vampire slayer. Perhaps the Watcher’s Council Headquarters was nearby? And as for standing in two worlds at once, that made sense since she was very clearly standing in the memories of two lives from two different time periods right now.

And finally her last card in the reading was The Tower, which indicated that chaos and aggressive change, perhaps led by a message from God and brought about by conflicting thoughts and actions.

Once again, she still had no idea what this card meant. And once again, she was frustrated.

Ye gods, she was again regretting her gain of knowledge. Ignorance was indeed bliss.

“Mama, mama, mama!” squealed Elizabeth as she ran outside to where Lenore was meditating underneath her Willow tree…er, Elspeth’s willow tree she supposed…

Lenore opened her eyes and smiled at the rambunctious four-year old scampering towards her. “Come here, darling,” she said as she held out her arms. She sighed as her daughter fell into her and tightened her hold. For the first two days she had a great deal of trouble remembering certain things about this life – and that included much about her children. Living with the memories of two lives was incredibly difficult and, quite frankly, it had scared her how much she had forgotten about her babies.

“Now, what are you doing out here on your own?” Lenore inquired as she pulled Elizabeth back to inspect her. “Shouldn’t you be with Elspeth?” Her cousin was busy canning apples inside while Lenore rested for the afternoon – she needed a great deal of rest these days.

Elizabeth’s eyes lit up as she let out a joyful giggle. “Cousin Elspeth let in a very nice man and then she went to sleep!”

Instantly Lenore was on alert. “What? Who is he?” she asked fearfully. Was this the demon that the cards had spoken of? Elspeth never would have fallen asleep unless a spell had been cast on her.

Or…was it Loki? She hated to admit it but she had missed him these past ten months. He had been more enjoyable to talk to than most people she knew; besides her coven and Fergus and Molly she had no friends. Even though he had frightened her that night and she had kicked him out, she was now grateful to him for gifting the Forget-Me-Not – regardless of how many times she had second-guessed using it.

Elizabeth’s light blue eyes brightened as they shone with an intellect that Lenore had not witnessed before. She touched her tiny forehead against Lenore’s and whispered so softly that she had to strain her ears to listen. “He’s an angel, mama.”

Lenore let out a short, skeptical laugh. Her daughter could be so odd sometimes. Regardless, before she said another word she picked up Elizabeth and raced inside the house, worried about who could be inside.

Her mind and magic at the ready, she stalked into the home quietly and ordered Elizabeth to go into her room. Then, making her way into the sitting room she first noticed that Elspeth was fast asleep on her sewing chair, Dawn was still in her cradle, and Alexander was…playing tag with the stranger?

Alexander five-year face shined with happiness as jumped from a chair in front of the man, slapped him on the knee, and shouted, “Tag! You’re it!” and then dissolved into giggles as he began running circles around the man. For his part, the stranger’s clear blue eyes were widened in confusion as he observed the running child and his stiff posture indicated that he felt quite uncomfortable.

Lenore was just about to shout at Alexander to get away from the man when Elizabeth ran between her legs and jumped up and down in front of the man and her brother. “I want to play! I want to play! I want to play!” she chanted, her hops accenting each word.

“Elizabeth! Alexander!” Lenore snapped angrily. “Get away from this man!” Her shoulders straightened and she instantly covered her children with magical shields in case this man tried to hurt them.

The man in question turned his luminescent blue eyes upon her and the weight of them took her breath away. Involuntarily she peeked at his essence and was blown away by the purity of it. It reminded her greatly of Loki’s and she wondered if this man was also a pagan god.

“Mama!” Elizabeth whined as her chubby fingers curled around the man’s hand. “Don’t be silly. He’s my friend.”

The man looked at her in surprise at being called her friend, and then a soft look entered his eyes as he smiled slightly.

Then Alexander, not wanting to be outdone by his younger sister, grabbed the stranger’s other hand and gave his mother an almost defying look. “Yeah! I want him to play tag with me!”

Lenore, too worried about this powerful creature in her house to pay her children much heed, whisked them away telekinetically next to Dawn’s cradle on the other side of the room. Her children yelped in surprise and annoyance but she silenced them with a severe look as she crossed her arms. Then she turned her powerful gaze onto the man and spoke in a deep voice that hinted at her power – power that had greatly increased now that she knew of her past life and magics not yet known in this part of the world.

“I will not ask you again, sir. Who are you?”

The man gazed at her with a fathomless expression. Then he spoke in crisp clear tones that hinted at his own reserve of power. “I am Castiel.”

Lenore blinked in surprise. She didn’t remember that name from mythology. What sort of pagan god was he? “Okay…and what exactly are you?” she asked; noticing how her meshed memories of this century and the twentieth had begun changing her way of speech. Hmm. She hoped she didn’t start talking like Buffy – then everyone in her village would think she was addled, or mad.

“I am an Angel of the Lord,” Castiel declared – causing Elizabeth to clap her hands and go, “I told you mama, I told youuuuuuu!”

“A-an a-angel?” she sputtered in surprise. Of course Lenore believed in the Holy Scriptures but for some reason she had never really imagined that angels were real. Then again, if the Hellmouth, vampires, demons, and more were real, she supposed angels could be as well.

“Yes,” Castiel nodded with a small movement as he gestured towards her children. “Your daughter has the Sight and recognized me. Some humans have that ability and can witness my true form.” He frowned. “I had thought you were capable of that as well, Lenore McLeod.”

“She has the…Sight?” she whispered as she glanced at Elizabeth. Were her children destined to have magical abilities as she did? Lenore was unsure how she felt about that – she wanted to simple, happy life for them.

“Three is a powerful number, Lenore. Your children have been blessed,” Castiel nodded. His expression remained stoic and Lenore couldn’t help but feel very confused about this peculiar creature.

Lenore nodded. “So when I see your aura, I am seeing your…?”

“My grace.”

“Ri-ight,” she nodded. “So that’s why I’m supposed to believe that you are an angel and not a pagan god?”

Castiel’s eyebrows furrowed – the first time since their conversation began that he looked surprised. “Why would you think such a thing? Pagans are creatures of darkness and their aura should express itself as such.”

Lenore opened her mouth to speak before she remembered Loki’s words. Just do me a favor and never mention to anyone what my aura looks like – and don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about because you almost spilled the beans in the church – or that I healed Dawn tonight. Do that, and I will cancel your debt.

Hmm. Something mysterious was afoot. Perhaps Loki was not who he pretended to be? Nonetheless, she could not mention it to this strange Castiel angel, lest she anger Loki and nullify her debt.

“I, well, I could tell that you were powerful and few creatures on this earth have that much power,” she explained to him; keeping her eyes downcast as she did so that Castiel would not see the lie in her eyes.

“Mama, I’m bored,” Alexander suddenly whined. “Can’t Castiel play with us now? Castiel, will you play tag with Lizzie and me?”

Castiel looked taken aback. “I know not what this ‘tag’ is.”

“Oh!” Alexander said in surprise. “Don’t you play tag up in ‘eaven? It’s really fun, see first someone’s ‘It’ – that’s you – and then they have to chase everyone. The first person they tap is then ‘It’ and it’s their turn to chase everyone and the person who gets to ‘ome wins! It’s super really fun and me and Lizzie are so bored because no one else will play with us—” he explained excitedly before his sister cut him off.

“—Because our daddy was a bad man that did things for the Devil,” Elizabeth finished sadly.

“Oh, Lizzie,” Lenore sighed sorrowfully. While the villagers ‘knew’ that Lenore and the others had been just innocent victims and not witches, unfortunately the other village children rejected Elizabeth and Alexander for their father’s ‘deal’ with the devil. Ignoring the strange angel who was staring at her children as if he were looking for something, she pulled Elizabeth into her arms as her daughter began to cry.

“Everyone’s s-so m-mean to us,” Elizabeth whimpered as tears began rolling down her cherub-like cheeks.

Lenore closed her eyes and rocked her daughter back and forth as she stood near her other children. Dammit, she loathed Connor O’Neil and the very memory of him.

“May I?” she heard Castiel speak. Looking up, she saw him extend his arms out as if he wanted to hold Elizabeth. Lenore gauged him carefully but she realized that it was silly to fear an angel. After all, they were from heaven.

Carefully she put the crying child into Castiel’s arms and watched as he pulled the girl close to his chest. With a gentle finger he forced Elizabeth to look at him and then he captured her grey eyes with his own piercing blue ones. For a minute they just stared at one another while Lenore stood, tensed, off to the side. Finally Elizabeth ceased crying and Castiel set her on the floor, where she quickly scampered to take hold of Alexander’s hand.

“What ‘appened, Lizzie?” Alexander asked in concern, although she could see by the way that he glanced at Castiel that her son was also feeling quite jealous as well.

Elizabeth giggled and spoke in a hushed – yet loud enough for Lenore to hear – whisper. “Castee-el said that we shouldn’t worry about the other village chil’ren because Fre’rick O’Malley still wets his bed and Jenny McCormick is gonn grow up with big teeth!” she laughed and Alexander started snickering.

“Now, come on. Castee-el said that he and mama had to talk alone. Let’s go,” Elizabeth ordered as she tugged her older brother out of the room.

Perplexed, yet amused, by the recent events, Lenore crossed her arms and leaned against the doorway. “Are angels allowed to tell secrets about bed wetting to other children?” she inquired with a raised brow.

His eyes darted around, as if he felt guilty. “I, ah, just cannot bare to watch children cry. Especially the females. It-it makes me nervous.”

Lenore stifled a laugh. A nervous angel? This was amusing. “So you like kids?”

Castiel glanced at her with his forehead wrinkled, yet again, in confusion. “Kids? You mean young goats?”

Lenore laughed – she realized that she had regressed (or was that progressed?) into her twentieth-century speech). “I meant children. You like children?”

“Oh course,” he said while giving her the look like she was the dumbest person on the planet – quite like Loki in that way. “They are one of my Father’s greatest gifts to the world.”

“Speaking of which…why are you here? Doesn’t an angel have much more important things to do?”

“You are my charge. I will be watching over you.”

Lenore blinked. “Right. And why would that be again?” Then she remembered the Temperance card that promised to help her against the darkness that faced her…and the image on that card was one of an angel. Was Castiel the answer to that aspect of her tarot reading?

“You have remembered your past life, correct?”

“Yes…” she replied. “What does that have anything to do with it?”

“You have knowledge of great future battles against the forces of darkness. You, Lenore McLeod, are a Prophetess of the Lord.”

“…HUH?” she managed to get out of her gaping jaws and befuddled expression.

Once again, Castiel was looking at her like he had really been expecting her to be smarter than this. “You are a Prophetess of the Lord,” he repeated slowly.

Lenore’s hand went up to starve off further words by him. “Whoa. Wait a moment. Castiel, was it? Listen, I’m sorry but I’m not a Prophetess. Besides,” her voice lowered, “you all do know that I’m a witch, right?”

Castiel cocked his head to the side as if he were trying to understand her better. “You do not engage in demonic worship or sacrifices, do you?”

Her forehead wrinkled as she tried to understand him. “Well, no – of course not. I do not engage in wickedness or black magic.”

“Then you are a good witch,” he nodded. “Both as Tara Maclay and as Lenore McLeod you have worked for the side of light – and most especially in your past life. Then you were a warrior against evil.”

“Oh, no. Nooo,” she shook her head. “I wasn’t a warrior. Buffy was, and Willow. But not me. I just helped.”

Castiel fixed her with an unblinking stare. “You were a warrior – and such sacrifices do not go unnoticed. Regardless of the minor deities that you perform your incantations to, you are still known as a Christian woman, Lenore. You have been Blessed to be brought into this life so that you may write of the future and properly warn the warriors of light against the forces of darkness.”

Lenore sat down. “B-but, aren’t there already prophecies about stuff like that? I mean, there was the one about the Master killing the slayer, and the Key, and that one that Willow told me about regarding Angel’s Shanshu prophecy…” she trailed off in confusion.

“Not yet, but there will be,” Castiel stated with a significant look in her direction.

“Oh,” she said in a small voice. “So…I’m the one that writes those prophecies?”

Castiel nodded.

“Why me?” she finally asked after a moment of silence.

“Each Prophet of the Lord learns of events in their own way. For many it is visions but for you, it is your previous life’s experience. The Last Guardian of the Hellmouth is an important figure in the battle against evil and she will need to know of what is to come in order to mold her and keep her safe for the final battle. You have been appointed with this duty, Lenore McLeod.”

Lenore put her head into her hands – this was all quite a bit to take in. She was a Prophetess? Of the Lord?

Then again, hadn’t she been angry earlier about having this curse of knowledge and not being able to do anything about it? Well, she supposed now she could do something about it.

But there was still one more thing…

“Alright”, she said as she looked up into Castiel’s bottomless blue eyes. “But I have one question – if I am to write these prophecies that will take time away from the tailor shop. Tell me sir, how am I supposed to provide for my family?”

Castiel’s gaze softened. “Have faith, my child.”

Then, accompanied by the sound of fluttering wings, he was gone.



Liberton, Scotland
November 27, 1700


Over a month had passed since Castiel had come into her life. She had not seen the angel since then but a part of her sensed that he was always near. Her life had changed slightly due to her revelation since then. Lenore no longed worked in the shop with Fergus – who was none too pleased but she had waved it off as being too weak from her illness that had made her comatose to work for a long while. Then she spent her days with the children and her nights writing prophecies.

That was still a bit odd to get used to – that she wrote prophecies. However, it made her feel good that she could help her friends…even if she never would see Willow again.

Of course she had told Elspeth about Castiel since her cousin was her mentor in all things. Elspeth had not been as greatly surprised as Lenore that angels existed – to her it made sense that the forces of good needed warriors of their own. However, Elspeth had been none to pleased that the angel had knocked her out in the process.

It was late afternoon and winter had arrived with a ferocity. Lenore shivered underneath her thin coat as she made her way to the tailor shop in order to drop off some porridge for her mother – Margaret McLeod’s health had been steadily weakening since Angus had died and now a watery cough invaded her lungs. Lenore was greatly worried about her mother and feared her death. While on one hand she logically understood that all creatures who lived must one day die, on the other – as a daughter – she could not imagine her mother dying...again.

Opening the shop door she rushed inside and had to use a good deal of strength to push the door closed – the wind was dreadful today. Fortunately for her, the fireplace was blazing and she let out a happy sigh as she stood in front of it. “Mmm, yes,” she murmured softly as she rubbed her hands close to the fire.

A throat cleared behind her and Lenore jumped up to see Fergus smirking at her from his kneeling position as he stood next to Mr. Williams, the town butcher, who was standing on a stool and getting a pair of pants fit. The latter was staring at her as if he was suddenly very regretful that he was no longer a young man anymore.

“Oh! Er, hello,” she greeted sheepishly as she straightened herself.

“Len, perhaps you should go upstairs and see mother. I’m afraid if you stay here any longer Mr. Williams’ heart may finally give out,” he suggested in a humorous tone.

“Um, right. She bent her head hastily in their direction. “Lovely seeing you, Mr. Williams!”

“Y-you too, dear,” he choked out.

After Lenore fed her mother – who thankfully was at least well enough to eat – she watched her as she fell asleep. The porridge that she had made also carried a healing potion and she prayed that it would work its will on her mother. Currently her life was too unstable – between an angel saying that he would protect her, the cards saying a demon was after her, being a mother, and writing about her past life that was actually in the future – and Lenore needed her mama right now.

“She asleep?” Fergus’ voice asked from the doorway.

“Yes,” Lenore replied as she quietly snuck out of the room and closed the door. “She finished her meal so I hope that means she’s getting better.”

They began walking down to the empty shop. “Did you fix a potion for her?”

Lenore gave him a sharp look – they had never spoken of magic before. “Why would I do that?”

Fergus rolled his eyes and snorted. “Hush Len, I’m no fool. It wasn’t too hard to figure out years ago that Elspeth was tutoring you – likely hoping that you would turn out better than I.”

“Ah, I see,” Lenore said as she wrung her hands nervously. “Are you mad that I never told you?”

He leaned against the wall and looked into her eyes. “Honestly? Sure, I was a bit buggered at first but I know how our cousin can be when it comes to secrecy about the craft. But now I’m hoping that one of you can create something to help ma.”

Lenore shrugged. “There’s a few healing potions that I know of and we’ve been feeding them to her, but it’s still hard to say if it is working.”

He nodded and made a humming noise.

“Fergus!” called Molly from the kitchen. “Is that Lennie that I hear?”

Lennie – ugh, something even worse than Len. She enjoyed Molly, she really did, but she took too much enjoyment in treating Lenore like the little sister that she had never had.

Fergus smirked – he loved annoying Lenore even more than his wife did. “Yes, she’s in the shop.”

A frazzled-looking Molly with her black curls bouncing around her shoulders, walked in wearing a flour-covered apron. “‘Ello there, Lenore. You stayin’ for supper?”

“Sorry, I’ve got to get back. I just wanted to check in on ma,” Lenore shook her head.

“Ah, such a shame,” her sister-in-law frowned.

Things had been *much* better between her brother and his wife since Gavin had run off to work in Edinburgh and Fergus had his ‘incident’, but she knew that Molly preferred a group of people rather than Fergus’ alone. Her brother was much the same way. With Gavin gone he did not have the source of his animosity around to constantly remind him that his son may not be his son and thus he was much nicer to Molly – although it was clear that he still did not love the woman, nor she love him.

The bells sounded and a cold blast of air indicated that the shop had a new arrival. Fergus painted on his best ‘salesman face’ and greeted the hopeful customer. “Good day to you, sir, and welcome to McLeod and Sons Fine Clothing. What can I be doin’ you for?”

The man, well-dressed in all black, noticeably sniffed as she surveyed the humble shop with its two rows of clothing and yards of fabric laying out. “My name is George Hartford and I am the solicitor for the estate of Lord Cornelius O’Connor, Baron of Summerford. I am here to speak to the widow of the Baron’s eldest nephew, Connor O’Neil. A Ms. Lenore O’Neil?”

Fergus’ eyebrows shifted in surprise as he gave Lenore an incredulous look. “Lenore is my sister, sir, and she’s right here.”

Mr. Hartford gave her a scrutinizing look before he nodded in her direction. “Greetings, Ms. O’Neil. Do you have a place where we could speak privately?”

Lenore nodded, rather dumbly, and led the solicitor into the back room of the store. She couldn’t help but wonder…what on earth would this man want with her?

Chapter Text

Liberton, Scotland
January 30, 1701



“Greetings, your ladyship,” smirked Fergus as bowed low in her direction as soon as Lenore had shut the house door behind him and Molly. They dusted the snow off of their coats within the foyer of Elspeth’s house and shook the pesky white flakes off of their shoes before Lenore took their outerwear to hang up.

Molly let out a snort of laughter and likewise curtsied. “Baroness O’Neil, how good of you to have us over.”

“Oh sod off,” Lenore rolled her eyes as she took the pot of Molly’s famous haggis and began walking to the kitchen.

“Dear me,” Fergus said lightly with a cluck of his tongue as they followed her. “I daresay, is that any way for a lady of your station to speak?”

Lenore dropped the haggis onto the dining table and turned around to glare at him. “Honestly, Fug. Aren’t you ever going to get tired of that?”

Fergus scowled at her use of Elizabeth’s pet name for him. “Certainly not, Len.”

“Oh, will you two children cease your bickering?” Elspeth grumbled as she waltzed into the kitchen with a harried expression. “I’ve already been dealing with quite a bit of troublesome children already today,” she explained with a gesture towards the sitting room.

“He started it,” Lenore snapped, out of habit, as Fergus simultaneously stated “She started it.”

“Molly?” Elspeth asked with an arched brow as she placed her hands upon her hips.

“It was likely Fergus,” Molly replied to Elspeth. After all, her sister-in-law was no fool – few lied to Elspeth and got away with it.

Like lightning, Elspeth smacked both Lenore and Fergus’ hand. “You two act your bloody age. Maggie’s upstairs more ill than ever, the birthday boy is playing kings and bloody knights in the living room with a branch he found, Elizabeth is playing ‘hide and scare’ where she keeps hiding and then jumping out at me, and Dawn is toddling all over.”

Lenore winced at her cousin’s stressed appearance and rant. The children were being a handful today for Alexander’s birthday party and her mother was here to attend, but she was too ill to leave the washroom at the moment. “Sorry Elspeth.”

“Fergus and I will watch the children,” Molly said sighed. “Come along, Ferg.”

Fergus rolled his eyes – he had always hated following orders – and headed towards the sitting room.

“Is there anything I can do, cousin?” she asked when it was just the two of them.

“Yes,” Elspeth sighed distractedly as her busy hands began organizing several pots. “I just remembered that I forgot to pick up the cake that you ordered from the baker. Hmm. Could you pick it up, please, before Edgar, Ennis, and their wives arrive?”

“Of course, Elspeth.”

Lenore bundled up in her woolen outer garments and began the snowy, yet for once not windy, trek to the bakery. It was certainly times like these that she really wished she lived in California again – too bad that no one would be discovering it for another hundred years or so.

Although, on the plus side, if they had discovered California by now then at least she would be able to afford the travel arrangements.

Mr. Hartford’s visit back in November had been a fortuitous one – and one that she certainly knew had come by the grace of God. Apparently her no-good husband had been good for something – his family tree. Within the last year a branch of his tree had passed due to dueling, illness, or by accident, and his uncle – the Lord Cornelius O’Connor, Baron of Summerford – was left without any children to pass his estate to. Connor O’Neil, named after his maternal uncle, had been the only remaining member of the family. Even though Connor had passed – into a fiery inferno – the estate had gone to Lenore.

However, while Lenore was immensely thankful to not have to worry about money anymore she certainly did not enjoy being called a ‘Baroness’ or ‘Lady Lenore’. It felt quite…strange. She was unworthy of such a title, if she were to be honest.

Lenore laughed softly and turned her focus back onto the road, where the path was thick with snow and the air was masked with thick flakes. Here life was truly strange and she supposed the she should start getting used to it. Reincarnation, witch, prophetess – what was next? Should she try to invent electricity? Or perhaps Post-Its?

Hmm – now the latter was not a bad idea…

Still giggling to herself, she almost did not hear a crunching in the snow – like the sound of something heavy walking through the drifts. Her blood pressure spiked, but she took a calming breath and maintained an at-ease demeanor. Lenore’s ears strained to hear something in the silence and her narrowed eyes peered through the scarves wrapped around her head (quite honestly, if she didn’t want Alexander to have a fabulous sixth birthday party there would be no way that she would walk outside in this foul weather). Then she subtly reinforced the magical shields around herself, enough so that she would be protected by a sudden attack yet not enough to draw attention.

There was something out there. She heard its footsteps thickly crunching through the soft packing snow off the road. Its steps were at least ten feet behind her, yet otherwise keeping an even speed with her steps.

She swallowed thickly. A dark power lay curled in the air, like a jungle cat tensed on shadowy branches as it calculated its prey’s movements before uncurling in a whip of death. Once isolated to just her right, now she felt it on both sides – it was flanking her, like warriors who thirsted to completely wipe out their opponent.

Lenore’s breathing heightened. There was something off about what existed out there – it reminded her of the feelings she had gotten during Sunnydale patrols.

Demons.

The crunching to her right stopped and Lenore called upon her great powers to shield her from the predator that she knew was flying through the air. Then, from a power outside of hers, there was a flash of light, a terrifying scream of pain that abruptly ended, and then another black movement lunging for the white force.

Conditioned by Sunnydale, even if it was only a memory to her now, Lenore jumped forward and crouched out of sight behind a mound of snow. Her eyes, shadowed with worry, peeked nervously over the snow. Twenty feet off she saw – although they were moving almost too quickly to honestly comprehend – Castiel fighting a creature of human appearance. The demon – for she knew it was not a human – had dark skin that contrasted starkly against the falling snow and dreadlocks that whipped around her head as she pirouetted away from the angel. Castiel carried a gleaming silver sword that shone like the moon underneath the clouded sky, but with the way he wielded the sword it appeared more like a shooting star.

The demon was graceful – a convoluted movement of long limbs and torso – and she easily evaded the sword, unlike her fallen comrade whose blond decapitated head was barely visible underneath the snow. Yet her grace was still not enough to deliver a blow to the angel and within minutes she allowed a window of opportunity and the deed was done. Her head – with glassy eyes that defied death even in its moment of greeting – spiraled off of her neck and landed with a wet smack in front of Lenore.

The gag reflex was immediate but Lenore managed to hold the contents of her stomach. One would have thought demon fighting in Sunnydale would have hardened her, but her twenty-eight years of life here had softened her instead. Shaking with the adrenaline that had not yet realized her ‘flight or fight’ moment had passed, she looked up into Castiel’s clear blue eyes. He was suddenly in front of her, helping her up, and then making the bodies of the demons disappear with a snap of his fingers.

“You should not be outside. It is too dangerous,” he informed her in his gruff voice. His manner of speaking reminded her of a man long used to battle; a man whose very life was lived in the garrisons.

Shaking herself slightly, she gathered her wits. “Dangerous – that’s a bit of an understatement. What were those things?” she asked in a hushed voice; almost as if she were afraid someone would overhear her speaking of such madness.

“Vampires.”

An incredulous snort of laughter passed her lips. “I know vampires. They turn to dust and are definitely not that powerful. So let’s try that again – what were those creatures?”

Castiel sighed and for the first time she saw his shoulders sag with an unspoken burden. “The vampires that you know of do exist, yes. These that you just witnessed are often called vampires because they live off blood. However, they are an old race of demons; a very powerful race. Their numbers have dwindled significantly but their existence is still known in certain parts of the world.”

Lenore took a deep breath and then focused at the task on hand. “Okay, so they’re not real vampires—”

“—Technically at one point in the past one of these demons had an unholy union with a human, and the vampire that you know of was born,” Castiel explained in a way that reminded her of her freshmen history professor who loved to lecture more than teach.

“O-kay,” she nodded. “And why were they attacking me?”

His face was stoic but Lenore noticed a subtle stiffening of his posture. “Do not worry. You are my charge and I will protect you.” Then Castiel grabbed her arm, she heard the sound of fluttering wings, and suddenly she was standing outside of Elspeth’s house again. “Stay inside until I tell you it’s safe.”

Castiel made a movement to leave but Lenore yanked onto his arm. “Hey! You can’t just pull a Harry Potter and pop me over here! I need to pick up Alexander’s birthday cake!”

“Who is Harry Potter?” Castiel asked in confusion.

“That’s not the point,” she huffed. “It’s Alexander’s birthday and I need to pick up his cake from the bakery.”

“Ah, yes. I know of that tradition,” he nodded thoughtfully.

“Yes, good. Then you know how important it is,” Lenore said slowly. “So can I go get the cake now?”

“No,” he shook his head. “It is too dangerous.”

Lenore made sure to keep a hold onto his arm so he couldn’t flutter away. “Okay, then how about you pop me over there and then pop me back. Okay?”

Castiel looked up to the heavens – whether he was questioning her request or silently asking why God had given her to him, she didn’t know. Finally, he nodded and fulfilled her request. When they had returned again to Elspeth’s house she quickly asked a question before letting go of his arm.

“Castiel, please. Why were those demons after me?”

“It would be best if you didn’t have to worry, Prophetess. Please continue with your writing and I will keep you safe.”

Lenore frowned. This was getting frustrating. After all, she wasn’t a shy girl with a stutter named Tara anymore, nor an only mildly powerful witch who lacked knowledge about the darkness of the world. She was shiny and new – something different, something more. Lenore was now a combination of both of her lives and while she often struggled with distinguishing certain things, she was powerful in both magic and knowledge now. She deserved to know.

“Castiel, please don’t go all ‘Angel’ on me with the cryptic messages”, she chided as she remembered funny stories from Willow. “I need to know these things, to keep my family safe.”

Castiel closed his eyes and the smallest of sighs escaped his lips. “I have my orders, Lenore. I am sorry.”

Then he was gone.



Liberton, Scotland
April 30, 1701



“Len, what’s wrong?” Fergus’ voice cut through the extended silence of their meeting.

Lenore’s eyes shifted down to her hands that she had folded primly on the table; they were now slick with sweat and she rest them instead on her thighs. Clearing her throat, she looked around the magical room hidden in Elspeth’s cellar and made quick eye contact with both her brother and her cousin. She had called them in for a meeting and this was the most private room for the talk that she was about to give. Since it was just one meeting with no magic involved, Elspeth did not dispute Fegus’ presence in the room that she had long ago declared off-limits to him.

“This is something that Elspeth knows a little of, but I am afraid that I have been keeping another secret from you, brother,” she hesitantly began.

His eyes were more alert at those words and as she began to tell him about her past life, Castiel, and her nights spent writing prophecies, his eyes grew in surprise and he leaned forward in interest. Eventually she came to the crux of the matter but apprehension made her pause in her speech. This was not a conversation that she wanted to have and she knew the moment that she told her family the whole truth her life would change.

“Okay, so you’re a bloody prophetess – what of it?” her brother, unsure of what the big deal was, commented with a shrug. “Seems to me like you’ve done well with this deal, Len. Look at you now! Wealth, a title – what more could you want?” he asked in a voice that subtly betrayed the envy that he felt.

Elspeth just remained silent as she rested her chin upon steepled fingers. “I reckon if things were going smoothly then Lenore wouldn’t ‘ave called us down here, Fergus,” she said softly as she focused on her younger cousin.

Now her brother’s eyes narrowed as he looked at her in surprise; Lenore had been careful to pretend like nothing was out of the ordinary and only Elspeth knew of everything she was going through.

“The day of Alexander’s birthday, when I ran out to get the cake, I was attacked by two demons.” Lenore looked up to judge the faces of her family. Elspeth knew of the attack and it was no surprise to her, but what Lenore would be saying next would be news to the woman. Fergus paled considerably and she saw his fingers clench around the edges of the table.

“Demons? What kind of demons? And what did they want with you?” he asked in a tight, worried voice.

She laid her hand upon his. “They’re a form of vampire. Since then they’ve been after me but thus far Castiel, my guardian angel, has protected me from them. I don’t know why they are after me but I assume it has to do with my prophecies – after all, I do write mostly about vampires.”

“Can this Castiel fellow keep protecting you?” Fergus asked.

Lenore chewed her lip nervously. “He came to me last night and said that the forces of darkness are planning to converge here, in Liberton. He promised that he could protect me but that he would be likely unable to protect anyone else…and that if I don’t leave you all are in danger.”

There was a beat of silence before both of them erupted.

“Well, we’re witches, aren’t we? Gon’ take quite a bit o’ effort for them fanged bastards to get us!” Elspeth snarled protectively as her clenched fist hit the table.

“But what if you leave – and they still come?” Fergus questioned in concern. “How can we kill these bastards for good?” There was something about his question that made Lenore think he was interested in something more than just killing the vampires that were after her.

Lenore held up her hand for silence. “I don’t want to leave – I don’t. But I don’t see any other way. If something were to happen to the children…well, I couldn’t bear it,” she held back a repressed shudder. “Likewise, if anything were to happen to the both of you.

“As for what will happen when I leave, I assume that they will follow, Fergus. If not, Elspeth and the coven would be able to hold any creatures off as long as they stay here, within the walls of the coven home.”

Elspeth grabbed her hand tightly. “Lenore, I do not like this plan. I have a bad feeling about it.”

Lenore kept her emotions in check, but a large part of her wanted to fall into her cousin’s arms as she had when she was a child. Now that her mother had passed from illness in March – after the death of her husband Angus she really didn’t have much of a desire to live – Elspeth was the only mother figure she had left. She placed her hand against her cousin's cheek and exhaled deeply. “Elspeth, you laid out the Temperance card for me, where it showed an angel protecting me against the Devil. I am sure Castiel will care for me.”

Elspeth placed her hand over Lenore’s and sighed as well. “The cards can always be read incorrectly, my dear. What if he cannot?”

“Then I have been blessed not to live just one life, but two,” she smiled gently as she looked from Elspeth to Fergus. “And that I have been blessed with an abundance of love and family in this second life.

“Besides,” she added, “once this vampire threat has passed – trust me, vamps have small attention spans – I will return. This separation will not be permanent.”

Lenore ignored the part of her that said otherwise. The deep, gnawing fear that something would go wrong with Castiel’s plan. However, her devotion to her family had made her decision for her last night – she could not put them in danger’s path. Already she had done so more times than she would have liked these past three months.

“And who will care for the children? And where will you be going?” her ever-so logical and strategic brother asked as his expressions shifted into something unreadable.

“Elspeth…if you would accept, I was wondering if you would care for the children as your own – and Fergus, if you would help?” Lenore hesitantly asked. She hated putting burdens on others but she knew this was the best case scenario.

Elspeth smiled and shook her head at Lenore. “Don’t be daft, girl. Of course I’ll look after the children; they’re like my own grandchildren they are.”

“Fergus?” she asked as she turned towards her brother. His head was bowed and she could see sweat forming at his temple, above his thinning black hair. Her brother was only thirty-nine but it seemed of late that something – his demon deal, perhaps? – was weighing heavily upon him.

He turned dark brown eyes towards her and frowned slightly. “Of course I will, Len. I’ll do what I can…for as long as I am able.”

She read his face at that moment and a piece of her heart broke off in response. He had the eyes of a man standing upon the gallows, waiting for his execution and sorrow was etched in face. Lenore realized that while she knew that her brother had sold his soul to a demon she didn’t know just how long Fergus had before that demon reclaimed what was his.

Lenore blinked back a tear – her brother hated weakness and pity, after all – and nodded with a jerk of her head. “Thank you, Fergus,” she said softly.

He gave her a soft smile and Lenore felt rage bubble within her at the thought that something was going to hurt her brother. As soon as she was able, she would start researching how to get a soul back from a demon deal. Thanks to her past life’s knowledge, she had a great deal more resources at hand and figured there had to be something out there.

Elspeth sighed heavily and spoke her next words slowly, as if she was protesting the fact that they needed to be said at all. “So when do you leave?”



Summford Manor
Falkirk, Scotland
June 21, 1701


“More tea, my lady?” Magdalene, her favorite servant, asked her with a bow of her head.

Lenore turned away from the grand oak writing desk that she used for writing prophecies and smiled at the pretty eighteen-year old girl. She had thick copper hair that fell to her waist and that, along with her widow’s peak and fair complexion, reminded her of a young Willow Rosenberg. Magdalene was the daughter of the manor cook and had grown up her whole life at Summerford. When Lenore had arrived many of the servants had given her a chilly reception – she was, of course, a mere commoner who had only received the title by luck – but Magdalene had been exceptionally kind.

Although, it may have been her resemblance to Lenore’s long-lost lover that had softened Lenore towards the girl as well.

“Yes, Magdalene. Thank you.”

Although Summerford was only a mere thirty miles away and the neighboring province of her family home, she had yet to see any family members in the last two months. While the journey would not be terrible on horseback, she just did not want to take her chances. The vampires were still after her and while she had not felt any nearby in the last two weeks it wasn’t that long ago that she had felt Castiel fighting off a large group.

Of course, Castiel, her tight-lipped Guardian Angel, never got around to telling her any of this however – Lenore always had to guess using her magical abilities. Apparently the angel had ‘orders;’ not to worry her and that meant not telling her a bloody thing.

Lenore sighed and went back to re-reading her letter from Elspeth and the children. The goodbye the night before the Festival of Beltaine had nearly broken Lenore so completely that by the time Castiel had popped her over to Summerford she was sobbing uncontrollably. For his part her angel was utterly perplexed by her and, for the record, sucks at comforting a crying woman. The extent of his comfort was a couple pats on the back and a “Do not cry. It will all be better.” Then when she had asked “Really?” he had shrugged and said “It will likely not…But isn’t that what humans are supposed to say to one another in times of crisis?”

Needless to say, Lenore had not been comforted by the eternal being.

But at least she had been keeping busy here. When she had received her inheritance she had put the solicitor in charge of the manor and servants until she was ready to leave Liberton. Once she had arrived a great deal of work awaited her – she never would have thought that a Baroness had it so rough!

On top of all that, her writings had been keeping her busy. It bothered her that her writings probably would not taken so long had Castiel not been adamant that she translate each prophecy into a difference language – apparently the angels wanted to make sure that her prophecies did not use the modern speech of the twentieth century and looked ‘authentic’.

Just to spite them, she was awfully tempted to throw in something extra for the Master Resurrection prophecy, like “P.S.: Buffy, do not have sex with Angel – I don’t care how much you think his undead body is hot!” or “P.S.: Xander – trust me when I say that summoning dancing demons is not a good idea.”

Or even one like: “The Last Guardian of the Hellmouth shall arrive on the eve of the world, and she will wield wit and snappy comebacks as her Watcher merely cleans his glasses and sighs.”

Lenore snickered. Oh yes, the temptation to do fun was certainly there. She could just imagine all of the befuddled tweed-wearing watchers analyzing the text and unable to properly understand those last lines. Ah well. Too bad she always was rather responsible. Besides, she was just about done with the final major prophecy – the one about the Key and Glory and the next ones on her to-do list were minor, like the second vampire with a soul.

Well, she had never heard of any prophecy like that but she did, more or less, like Spike and figured that if Angel got to have a prophecy than the platinum-haired Brit deserved one as well.

So she finished re-reading her letter and returned to finishing the Key prophecy for the rest of the night. Eventually, dusk fell and she looked at the cloudless night with a soft hum of resignation. Today was the Summer Solstice and she wished that she was back home with Elspeth – today was a powerful day for all good witches and an important celebration. However, it didn’t feel right to celebrate here alone – especially with all the servants around. If they knew that she was a witch then they would surely rise against her.

Lenore heard a flutter of wings just then and turned around to face Castiel with a sigh. “Castiel. How may I help you?” she asked wryly, because every time he showed it was not to update her on the vampire situation or even explain it, it was always to check on her progress.

Castiel stood with unease near her unlit fireplace. His worried face was illuminated by the silver moonlight that shone through her window and the soft flickering of a single candle. As she examined him further she noticed that his hair was unkempt, his clothes in a disarray, and that his arm was bleeding.

“Dear…” Lenore successfully refrained from using God’s name in vain in front of the angel. “What happened to you?”

“Danger looms,” he stated in a gravelly voice that rolled over her with the weight of a boulder. “I miscalculated the vampires. It appears that they desire you more than we previously thought. I must take you to safety.”

Lenore began breathing heavily as she listened to the clear words that cut fear into her. She glanced outside the window and then looked over her main first floor parlor. “Castiel, no more games. Tell me. What is going on?”

“There isn’t time!” he rasped and she cowered for a moment against the authority in his voice before she mustered up her strength.

“There’s always time! I can’t just leave these people for death!” she said with a wave of her hand. “Tell me – maybe I can help fight back.”

Castiel shook his head. “No, you will not be able to do much. I have called forth my brethren, but few have vessels available to them at the moment; if they do, they are otherwise occupied. You and I cannot contain this army alone.”

Her chest constricted painfully. “Army?” she whispered.

Castiel frowned and then sighed in a very human what-the-hell sort of way. “The Alpha is the one behind the plan to apprehend you. We think that he wants you because he has heard of your vampiric prophecies and wants you to give him your knowledge. He has been sending his minions – beginning with his powerful and very old lieutenant back in January – to test my defenses. Tonight he brings an army of at least thirty-five vampires.”

“Thirty-five! Well, now that’s not that bad,” she quickly said as she drew herself up and began pacing. "Tonight is the Summer Solstice and fire spells come easily to witches today, of all days. Plus, you’re an angel, Castiel. I’ve seen Buffy take on half a dozen vampires at a time – this should be nothing for you.”

He sighed and his shoulders visibly sagged. “The Alpha accompanies his company tonight – he is the first of all vampires and incredibly powerful. His warriors, as well, are all much more powerful than the half-breeds you’ve dealt with. I…I do not think I will be able to fend them off as well as you think.”

Lenore stilled as she listened to his soft-spoken words that fell like pebbles into a pool – they seemed to be just a small splash at first but quickly set off a chain reaction within her. Maybe Castiel was right – perhaps there was no way out alive tonight unless she left. But…

“If we leave now, then I will be running for the rest of my life,” she managed to utter as her voice caught on her next words. “It would not take too long for this Alpha to kidnap my family and use that leverage against me.”

Castiel turned and she caught his gaze – and saw regret in his eyes. “You are wise for a human, Lenore. It is true that that will probably happen.” He stated his words in a factual tone but he derived no happiness from them. In fact, he looked like someone had just kicked his puppy.

“I have failed you.”

“No,” Lenore said quietly as she shook her head. She grabbed the angel’s hand and squeezed it – never before had she touched him freely but it felt needed at the moment. “After all, I am not dead yet, am I?”

He gifted her with a weak – very weak – smile. “No, you are not. But you see, I was not the one originally assigned to your case and therefore am inadequate to properly protect you. You were not scheduled to remember your past life until your thirty-third birthday.”

Lenore took a step back. “Scheduled?” She felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her but Castiel continued, not noticing her negative reaction.

“Yes. You see, all prophets are placed under the care of an archangel. However, the other archangels already have charges that they are caring for and thus you fell to me. Throughout my existence I have served my Father faithfully and I have finally been awarded with the opportunity to protect the life of a human charge.” Castiel sighed. “But I am unsure if I am powerful enough to protect you, Lenore – I am not as strong as my older brothers.”

Lenore’s eyes clenched shut as she felt a stab of betrayal run through her very soul. She had heard everything that Castiel had said, yes, but it was his first words that reverberated through her mind. “So I was not…scheduled…to remember anything until a certain age?”

Castiel looked at her in surprise, finally hearing the pain that laced her tone. “Why yes. Upon your thirty-third birthday one of the archangels, either Raphael or Michael, would have lifted the veil over your eyes and your memories would have returned.” Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “Strange that the veil was lifted beforehand; powerful magic held it in place.”

“So…you all toyed…with my mind?” Lenore questioned in a sharp tone as she struggled to find the necessary words. Castiel looked at her in surprise as she turned dark, accusing eyes towards him.

“Lenore, that is the way of things. It was not control, per say. We did that to better control the timeline and to ensure that an archangel could be assigned to you.”

She raised an accusing finger in his direction. “But didn’t you ever think about how maybe I deserved to know earlier? How I had dreamt of snatches of my past life for years and nearly went mad from not knowing? How I longed to know the red-haired goddess that waited for me each night when I fell under the sandman’s shadow?”

Castiel started to speak but she cut him off. “You all used me! I can’t believe this…I thought angels were supposed to care about people but all you care about is meeting your own ends. You tried to control me…like Willow did, like Glory did,” Lenore finished in a softer voice.

“Lenore, please. That is not the way to look at it,” Castiel said with a puzzled expression.

Lenore shook her head. It was clear that the expressionless angel would never understand the betrayal that she felt. Lenore – or rather, Tara – had her mind violated thrice before. Once when Glory sucked her sanity away and left her a mumbling mess, once when Willow had betrayed her by making her forget a fight, and once when Willow did a spell to make everyone momentarily forget who they were in an attempt to get out of a promise she had made.

No. She couldn’t believe that the angels…that God...had chosen to make her suffer a fourth time.

A woman’s scream pierced the silence just then, and Lenore ran to the window. The sight of a marching army of vampires attacking every human in their path made her gasp in fright. Castiel was right – there were many of them. At least thirty. “Castiel, I thought you said there were thirty-five. Where are the others?”

Castiel’s brows furrowed in thought, but then he grunted in pain as a sword, now glistening with blood, hung through the front of his chest. Behind him was a cruel looking bald man with a smile that revealed rows or pointed teeth and hands that resembled talons with long, curved fingernails.

“Right here,” he stated in a low and sinister as he motioned for the four vampires flanking him to run for her.

Dammit. Sunnydale should have taught her better about saying certain things out loud.

Castiel yanked the sword out his back and heaved it through the air to strike the commanding vampire – perhaps he was the Alpha? – but he was no where to be seen. Quickly Lenore created two balls of fire with a spell and flung them at the closest vampires. They screamed in agony as they began melting on the spot, but Lenore didn’t have a moment to celebrate. Suddenly a female vampire yanked her arm hard and she felt her shoulder dislocate with a pop. Luckily, Castiel beheaded her attacker and kicked the remaining vampire against the wall.

“Come,” he said as he reached for her hand, likely intending to pop them far away, but a shadowy blur sped into him with the speed of a train. The manor shook from the impact as the two literally plowed through a section of her wall and fell into a heap five yards from the house.

“Castiel!” she screamed fearfully. Yes, she may be angry with the angel but in no way did she want to see him injured.

Dozens of vampires were running towards them now and six were already on top of Castiel; the seven of them were flashes of movement and swordplay. Lenore moved forward to help but a vampire – the one that Castiel had kicked – yanked her back.

“You’re coming with us, Prophetess,” he growled.

Lenore growled in response. These fanged bastards had forced her to leave her children and the rest of her family – if they thought she was going without a fight then they sure were wrong! “Fuego!” she shouted and the vampire screamed in surprised pain as flames rolled off of her and onto him.

She breathed in deeply. God, she could feel it calling to her, the primitive powers of the earth. Today was the longest day of the year, when the sun beat its fiery waves upon the earth for hours upon hours. She could feel all that energy just beneath the earth, waiting for her to use it. It longed to be set free, to burn away this scourge upon the earth.

Taking deep breaths she concentrated and began lifting it up with her magic. Sparks of flame appeared over the land and she rolled them all together in a somersaulting ball of fire that she sent at the now twenty vampires that were attacking Castiel - even though he had already destroyed ten they seemed to have a neverending wave of new vampires ready to attack. As the fire came over the creatures, each vampire rolled into the flaming ball, like rolling packed snow, and screamed in earnest. Castiel flashed a grim smile and approached her wilting form – that spell had taken a considerable amount of energy. There were still vampires left but she hoped that she had bought them enough time to pop out of here.

Lenore gasped in pain as she felt something sharp rip through her forearm. Looking down she saw that her arm had been delivered a grievous wound and was bleeding generously.

“Lenore! Run!” Castiel shouted as he rushed towards her…but he didn’t make it. A blinding flash of white light shot into the air and enveloped him greedily. By the time the light had faded, he was gone.

“C-castiel?” she asked shakily as her eyes scanned the space where he had been.

A low chuckle echoed through the nearly empty room. “He’s gone, little Prophetess.” Lenore looked at the speaker with trepidation, her body now shaking with fear. There, with his hand over a bloody symbol finger-painted onto the wall – made out of her blood, she realized – was the bald vampire that had attacked them first. He smiled genially and walked slowly towards her, as if he had all the time in the world now. Fruitlessly, Lenore tried to summon more fire, but her magic was spent. Considering that she was losing a good deal of blood and her shoulder was dislocated, Lenore had no chance of fighting him off.

When the vampire pounced onto her with his rows of flashing teeth she quickly thanked God for the memories of her past life and the life she had led in this time.

Then there was just mind-shattering pain and she was no longer capable of thought.

Chapter Text

Unknown location,
July 1, 1701


Flames licked at the inside of her stomach walls and Lenore screamed as she curled into a ball on the dirty floor of her jail cell. Nausea bubbled up her throat and she began to violently dry heave. Curled on her side, clad in nothing, the cold stone floor grated irritably against her bare skin as she convulsed. Dozens of small, sharp incisors erupted through her gums and she whined like a beaten dog from the pinpricks of pain that announced the arrival of her fangs. Her arms were curled protectively over her stomach but her touch gave her no relief – she was not suffering from a mere stomachache like a child who had eaten one too many sweets.

The bloodlust was upon her.

She had been in this prison for days at least, tossed in after the Alpha vampire had mercilessly bitten her. Lenore had thought that she would be fine – after all, in Sunnydale there was a ‘whole big sucking thing’, according to Buffy, that began a vampiric transformation. Sadly, she was wrong. These demons could infect with a mere bite and the change had taken Lenore swiftly.

At first her senses increased – she could easily hear her guards discussing someone named ‘Aurelius’ all the way past her cell walls and down the hall. Then her eyes were able to focus steadily in the pitch black darkness of her cell, allowing her to see the spider that made a corner of the ceiling its home and the splatters of blood against the wall. Then she had been able to smell the tangy scent of dried blood most acutely, and her fangs had sprung from her gums – most unlike the Sunnydale vampires.

Since then she had fallen into madness.

Her captors, the two olive-skinned vampires who guarded her cell, had repeatedly tried to offer her food but she had vigorously denied. The scent of fresh blood had been tempting, oh god ever so tempting, but there was no way that Lenore would bite into the live bodies that they were providing.

She would not be a killer.

Her strong will was strengthened by memories of her past life as Tara. She had known two vampires that lived off animal blood, Angel and Spike, and she was determined that she would do the same. Of course, her real reason for not feeding on humans was her Willow. It would sicken her former lover to think that Lenore had killed humans and therefore she would abstain from their blood.

Because now, even as so many aspects of her life lay shrouded in shadows, a beacon of hope had emerged for Lenore. While she mourned the loss of her humanity and despised her weakness for blood, she realized that God – in a very twisted way – had given her a chance to see her Willow again.

Had Lenore remained human she would have died, probably in thirty years or so if she were lucky, and never met Willow until perhaps the afterlife. But now? Now Lenore was immortal. She could – and would – live until the year 2003. At the moment of her – Tara’s – death, Lenore would swoop in and show Willow that, in a way, she was still alive. They could be together again!

It was that one hope that kept her sanity intact and kept the bloodlust at bay.

 


Unknown location,
August 2, 1701


Lenore faintly heard the scrapes of footsteps over the stone floor but she didn’t have the energy to turn her head to see who had arrived. Her body lay prostrate on the floor, sprawled face-up in the middle of her cell. As before she was still nude and malnourished but now her body was weakening to the point of death. Her dehydrated skin had tightened around her bones until she resembled a skeleton. She could feel her cells feeding off her own body in an attempt to provide enough nutrients to survive. Each time she moved it was painful, as if her body was shouting in anger at her foolishness to take human blood, to take a life.

But Lenore wouldn’t. She couldn’t. Not only would Willow hate her but she would hate herself. After fighting monsters for so long she refused to become one herself.

Yet…there was a small part of her…a part that grew more insistent with each day of bloodlust…that said it would be okay. That maybe she could just kill the evil humans, if nothing else. Because…she could feel it…she would die if she didn’t feed. And if she died, she would never see Willow again.

Her mind was decaying further with each moment of hunger that she had. Sometimes she was coherent. Other times she was not. Her world was fiery hot pain that felt as if she had plunged into the depths of an active volcano and began drowning in the molten, churning lava. She didn’t know which way was up or which was down, just that she was lost in the pain.

“Lenore,” a low, almost gentlemanly voice said in a chiding tone. “I left to ensure that angel of yours could not follow us and now that I’ve returned I’ve been told that you refuse to feed.”

Lenore wanted to speak, to tell the Alpha to drop dead, but she knew it was useless. Her tongue was drier than sand, and tasted like it to. However, she did manage one grunt of anger to answer him with.

The Alpha made a soft humming noise as if he was analyzing her. “I felt you try to use magic to get out of your new home in the beginning, you know. Did you wonder why it did not work?”

Why yes, she did. Lenore had been perplexed that she had been unable to access her magic. However, she wasn’t telling him that…even if she could speak.

“I am your Maker, and not just your Maker but the Alpha of all vampires. I have a psychic connection with each of my children, you know. It is very simple to hide that magic from you.” She could hear the smile in his voice. God, how she hated him.

“Now, my dear, I need you to feed,” he sighed as his voice sounded closer to her…almost as if it were in her very mind. “The transformation will only be complete if you feed, otherwise you will die soon.”

Good. Let her die.

Wait, did she mean that? But what about Willow?

Well, what about her? Willow had tried to control her, just like the angels had. She couldn’t be trusted; she didn’t truly love her.

No, she did. Willow was her true love, her sun. Tara revolved around her.

Except she wasn’t Tara. Not really. She was Lenore. And Lenore had never met her. Lenore couldn’t eat a person just so that she could meet Willow in three-hundred years. Imagine all those people that Lenore the Vampire would need to eat in the meantime.

But…you only need to eat one person. Then you can do the pig’s blood deal like Angel and Spike.

And if she lived? Would Willow even want Lenore? Would she still love her even if she were a demon? No one wanted Buffy to date Angel or even date Spike…would they want Willow to date her? No, Lenore was no longer worthy for Willow.

But Willow loved her madly. She would still love her. Hell, Willow had dated a werewolf!

A fresh scent wafted under Lenore’s nose and she sniffed several times. Oh god. Another human. It smelled delectable. Her fangs shot out of her gums forcefully and saliva swelled in her mouth. It was so strange how the scent of human blood could make Lenore so hungry – it was sweeter than the smell of freshly iced cake and she instinctively knew that it would be thicker than wine and fall smoothly down her throat, coating her insides with pleasure and ecstasy and god, the smell was so good and would it really be so bad if she were to bite?

“My Lady!” an aghast voice called out, her shrill voice hurting Lenore’s sensitive ears. “Are you alright? I’ve been kept prisoner since that night but I had no idea you were here as well until the man took me down here. He said that I had to take care of you, that you were sick. Are you alright, my Lady? What can I do for you?”

Lenore did not need to open her eyes to know who was now clutching her hand tightly. She knew Magdalene’s voice well, but now she realized what a deliciously soft voice the girl had. And she babbled! How very Willow of her…

Her head was in the servant girl’s lap and Lenore felt a salty tear drop onto her forehead. “Oh Jesus, my Lady. Please tell me you’re alive. Wake up!” she commanded through a tear-soaked voice as she gently shook Lenore.

Unfortunately, she shaking was awaking her, alright…awakening her primal response. She wanted to lunge at the girl and rip her neck open and lap up the blood with her tongue and then cover herself with the life-giving liquid…

Lenore opened her eyes and used all of her resources to rasp out, “Leave!”

Magdalene’s pretty green eyes – a pale jade unlike Willow’s darker shade – widened in surprise. “Not without you, my lady. I swore to serve the family of Summerford Manor. I shan’t leave you.”

Now Magdalene was laying Lenore gently on the floor and took off her overshirt so that Lenore would have a pillow. God, Lenore wanted her to leave. The scent was…intoxicating. She tried to call upon one of the meditations that she had been using since her capture but nothing came to her mind but the sweet smell of blood.

Her servant bent low over her and gently cupped Lenore’s cheek. “My Lady, tell me what I can do for you.”

Lenore’s eyelids fluttered open and when she breathed the full scent of Magdalene’s life filled her nostrils and slid heavily down her throat. The girl’s face was only a few inches from her own, looking at her with such a caring face, and Lenore found her bony hand creeping up to slide behind the girl’s neck. Magdalene was so sweet, so caring; gentle as a lamb.

But lambs were meant to be eaten and by God Lenore was so hungry and her stomach convulsed at the sweet temptation of a meal and her mouth filled with the scent and she just knew that it would be so warm and Lenore was so cold and she needed that warmth, needed it more than anything she had ever needed before. More than her children, more than Willow. It was a Need. Ancient. Primal.

Her hand moved of its own accord and slammed Magdalene down with an unknown strength. The girl’s neck rested in front of Lenore’s face and she savagely bit in. Distantly she heard screaming but the blood – oh God the Blood! – filled her with such undulating waves of ecstasy that Lenore’s mind was carried out of that room and someplace else. She saw wild plains with thick grass that could hide a predator. Animals roamed free and small fires burned vividly under a star-filled night. Huddled around the fire were humans, simple barbaric creatures who glanced suspiciously into the darkness behind them, knowing that she was there but praying to whatever deity they believed in that they would be saved. But while they were praying she was preying and she snatched the largest human away from the safety of the village and fed with gluttony like a savage animal. Yes, she despised these humans but they were of use to her.

They were food.

 


Lair of the Order of Aurelius
Belfast, Ireland
February 3, 1702



Bloated with human blood, Lenore sank down onto the bed that she shared with Aurelius. The sun was high in the sky and while it did not affect her kind, it still weakened them. Luckily their home was underground and thus far away from the sun. Thick tapestries depicting demons and human sacrifices colorfully decorated the walls of their twenty by thirty foot richly decorated bedroom, plus they insulated the wall and kept her warm. Although she was still a living, heart-beating being unlike the half-breed vampires, she often found herself colder than others. If a human’s temperature was ninety-eight point six degrees than her kind was likely two degrees cooler. Imperceptible to most, but not to a supernatural being.

That was just one of the changes in her life now. The others were that Lenore was strong, very strong, and incredibly fast, especially after a feeding. Her senses were excellent. Unlike the other half-breed vampires that were common in this world, she did not require an invitation to enter a house, was not allergic to crosses, and was incredibly hard to kill (only a beheading would be sufficient). However, she had a new weakness – dead man’s blood. If she drank the blood of a dead man she would severely weaken, if left alone she would be easy for even a human to kill.

Lenore pulled the covers over her head and yawned as she began to feel the drowsiness of the day take hold of her. While she could go for days without sleeping if she needed to it was preferable that she sleep at least four hours a day, or seven if she had time.

The door clicked open and she realized that Aurelius had entered. Automatically her limbs stiffened and she prayed that he would leave. Hadn’t he done enough to her for one day?

“Lenore,” his voice murmured softly as he lightly stroked her thigh. “Have you had any visions recently?” The voice of the Alpha Vampire was cultured and smooth, so unlike what she had heard the day she was attacked.

Lenore yanked the covers off her head and shot him a heated glare. “Not since the one about the Anointed One last month,” she snapped irritably.

Aurelius, also known as the Alpha of their kind, thirsted for all the knowledge that he knew she could bring him. Quickly after her transformation in August he had set about coaxing prophecies out of her. At first she had refused because she did not want to give him any information that could harm Buffy or the others, but then she realized that she could truthfully (because he could always smell a lie) tell him prophecies in a way that would not hurt Buffy.

So she began by telling him of the Master vampire who will claim his seat on the Mouth of Hell and recently she told him of the Anointed One. Of course, she was careful to pretend that they were random prophecies and not figments of her past life – that would result in Aurelius torturing her to get ever last drop of information out of her. At the same time, she also had to be cautious to space her prophecies out; if she ran out then he may have her killed.

Not that a part of her didn’t want to die already, though.

Each night Aurelius or one of his cronies forced human blood down her throat against her will; not since Lenore’s ruthless and crazed murder of Magdalene had she harmed another of her own free will. It disgusted her, this monstrous behavior. But worse, she was disgusted by her own weakness – that she loved the taste of the blood. It didn’t make her ill, it made her feel fabulous. It was only afterwards, seeped in guilt, that she felt sick about her actions.

Once again, it was only the hope that she would someday break out of here and see Willow that kept Lenore going. If only Aurelius had not used his mind control - why must this be Lenore’s Achilles’ Heal constantly?! – then maybe she would be able to access her magic and escape. Unfortunately, she was powerless. Without magic she was just another fledgling vampire and no match for any of the guards here or, especially, Aurelius himself.

Speaking of which, the Alpha vampire sighed heavily as he tore the quilt off of her and began stroking the lines of her body in a seductive manner. “Come now, Lenore. Surely you are powerful. The angel would not have been sent to watch over you otherwise. Tell me, what do you see?”

Lenore shrank away from him. From an objective perspective, one could consider Aurelius lovely to look at – he was powerfully built with thick curvaceous lips and dark lustrous skin that shined brilliantly under candle light – but his presence sickened Lenore. He had claimed her to be his mistress – not his mate, however, since vampires mated for life and thank God she wasn’t going to be stuck with him for that long – quickly after she had transformed and now spent almost every night he was at the Lair with her.

It was like Connor O’Neil all over again. As with her husband she was forced – and Aurelius beat if she didn’t – perform ‘wifely duties’. Just as Elspeth’s tarot reading had shown, the Devil had a chain around her neck and she was his slave in all ways.

Aurelius began fondling her right breast and when she tried to jerk away his eyes lit up as he twisted to keep her still. “Lenore, really,” he scoffed. As if she a fool to continue to struggle against him.

She knew it was coming and that she wasn’t strong enough to fight back. Therefore, she resorted to a card up her sleeve.

Her eyes rolled to the back of her head as she began convulsing violently on the bed – imitating the perfect prophecy so the bastard would leave her damn well alone.

 


Lair of the Order of Aurelius
Belfast, Ireland
September 3, 1703


Their underground cavern was lit with blazing torches that were adhered to the wall. The shadows of forty vampires – five who were half-breeds and the others who were like her – played along the stone walls. At the far end of the circular room sat a mighty throne carved out of granite and polished until it shimmered faintly under the firelight. It was as silent as a graveyard – a graveyard during a hunt but not after, of course. Vampires could be sloppy eaters and rather noisy.

“Who is it that seeks an audience with me?” Aurelius called out in a formal tone.

“It is I, your most loyal and humble servant, my Lord. I come to bring you goods from America, the new land,” a man with a rough voice spoke reverently as he bowed before the Alpha vampire. Behind him a small blond vampire, a hulking blond vampire, and two dark-haired male vampires bowed their heads respectfully.

“Arise, Heinrich,” Aurelius boomed with a carefree gesture. “Tell me, what riches lie in the colonies?”

Heinrich stood up and Lenore, standing to Aurelius’ left side, frowned in distaste. The vampire possessed a terrible visage to behold – his skin was wrinkled and pale with pointed ears sticking out of his bald head. Without a doubt she knew this man had to be the Master that she had heard so much about.

“A new world full to people to eat,” Heinrich grinned widely, showcasing his sharp teeth, as everyone laughed. “They have a different breed of humans there called ‘Indians’ that have thick honey-like blood that runs hot. I brought several of them for you to enjoy, my Lord,” he said with another bow of his head.

Aurelius smiled wickedly and clapped his hands twice. “Excellent, Heinrich. As always, you are a shining star among the half-breeds that plague this earth. I wish that others would share your passion for order and servitude towards serving the Old Ones.”

In response the other vampire just bowed his head in thanks.

“Now, who are the other members of your party?”

Heinrich introduced them to be James, Ewan, Luke, and…Darla? Lenore began coughing as the vampire-soon-to-be-known-as-the-Master introduced Angel’s future sire and the known madwoman. Aurelius threw her a glare so she quickly recovered from her surprise and then watched the new group closely.

In the last year or so she had quickly learned that Aurelius was not only the Alpha vampire for all of their demonic breed, but a politician or regal figure of some sort to all half-breeds as well. Most of their kind looked down at the half-breeds who were often stupid and easy to kill, but with some powerful ones Aurelius embraced their existence. No one had directly told Lenore, but she had figured it out – their breed was dying off. It was getting harder to hide from humans and their numbers had never been large to begin with. But the half-breeds, although weak, expanded like guppies throughout the world. Their numbers were great and thus Aurelius made sure to form partnerships that world benefit him, and his kind.

Once the tiresome display of sucking up was over with, Aurelius began to tell Heinrich his own news – news that he was quite excited about and that she unfortunately had a part to play in it.

“Lenore, step forward and bring the book,” Aurelius ordered with a superior flick of his hand.

Lenore followed orders from this bastard only because there was no other option – not even death because Aurelius would never let his pet prophetess leave him. She presented the book to Heinrich, who accepted it reverently.

“This book contains my writings and the prophecies of Lenore, Heinrich. I give it to you as a gift in honor of your servitude and hope that it will serve you well,” Aurelius explained.

Heinrich smiled and Lenore shrank back from the sight of his fangs protruding over his non-existent lips. “Thank you, my Lord.” He cast a sidelong look at Lenore and then looked back to his master. “I had heard that you acquired a prophetess, my Lord. May I offer my congratulations at such a fine acquisition?”

Aurelius leaned forward and smiled broadly and his clawed fingers clung to the sides of his exquisitely carved throne. “You may. Thank you, Heinrich. Yes, she was a marvelous find – a true Prophetess of the Lord,” he smirked. “You should have seen the angel’s face right before we stole her from him and expelled him back to Heaven.”

The entire room began laughing but Lenore remained silent; her tensed shoulders were the only sign that she found their so-called master’s words distasteful. She swore that she would get her revenge on this beast one day.

 


Lair of the Order of Aurelius
Belfast, Ireland
September 4, 1703


Almost the entire Order was out hunting at the moment, which was an unusual circumstance. Typically only a few vampires hunted for all of them a night, much like packs of lions operated, but tonight Aurelius wanted to celebrate Heinrich’s last night in Belfast before the twisted-looking vampire took his flock to recruit in Eastern Europe. Therefore the only occupants of the lair were Lenore and two guards to watch over her – Aurelius, of course, did not trust that she wouldn’t try to escape.

Lenore had, actually, attempted to escape half a dozen times already in the last two years or so but each attempt had failed. Due to the psychic connection that Aurelius had with their entire breed, since he was the Alpha, he could easily find them if he desired, in addition to being able to suppress her magic. She was sure that there had to be a way to sever the connection between her Maker but she had yet to discover it. Even if she did discover it she knew that magic would be involved and without her ability to tap into the earth’s magic she would have no way to work the severing spell.

It was indeed a conundrum.

Lenore settled comfortably at the desk in her shared room with Aurelius – although she despised the creature she was pleased to at least have her own private room when he wasn’t around, unlike everyone else who shared two large rooms with beds of straw. Pulling out her sketchbook she began sketching Willow’s face just to pass the time. Thus far she had filled dozens of sketchbooks of Willow drawings; it was her only solace here. As time went on a sweet smell filled her nostrils – she smelled honey cakes. Perplexed she stood up from her desk and sniffed carefully. Aurelius did not allow the other vampires any human examples of decadence (even if he very hypocritically kept some for himself) and no vampire would have brought human sweets into the lair. What was it?

Her nose led her to the nightstand on her side of the bed. Curiously, she pulled open the single drawer and peered inside in surprise. Typically she did not keep anything in here but suddenly there were several items. Glancing suspiciously about, Lenore carefully pulled the drawer out and set it on her bed. Cautiously she pulled out each item and inspected it – there was a vial of blood, a dried Forget-Me-Not flower, several bags of herbs, and a small dagger no larger than a letter opener that bore the etchings of strange geometric symbols on the blade. Underneath all of this was a piece of paper that looked as if it had been torn out of a blank sketchbook in a hurry.


Lenore,

If you want to escape, drug Aurelius with the Dead Man’s Blood. This will weaken him severely, as it is hundreds of years old, and he will lose his hold over suppressing your magic. Then, complete this spell. It will sever your connection to him and free you from his hold.

After that, run like hell.


The note was unsigned but did carry instructions for the spell. However, the dried flower was not a spell ingredient, although the herbs and the dagger were. A ghost of a smile graced Lenore’s face as she realized that the Forget-Me-Not was there to tell her the identity of her mysterious benefactor – Loki. After he had left her home three years ago – well, after she kicked him out – she had begun to feel a good deal of guilt for the way she had treated him. He had, in the end, helped her recover her memory. Even more so, he had given her the *choice* of deciding when to have her memories recovered, unlike the angels who had her on a ‘schedule’.

Then again, if she had been on a schedule then an archangel would have been her guardian angel and she wouldn’t be in her current mess anyways.

Ah, well. Fate was a tricky thing.

Lenore memorized the spell direction and prepared the ingredients in a bowl. Then she waited.

 


Lair of the Order of Aurelius
Belfast, Ireland
September 5, 1703


It was three in the morning and several hours had passed since the Order had gone hunting. Lenore had been waiting patiently, covering her unease with sketching, and was in the bedroom when Aurelius entered.

“Lenore, my little Prophetess,” he smiled widely, proudly displaying his bloody teeth. “Have you missed me?”

Lenore cleared her mind of anything having to do with escape and shot back a quick retort. “No.”

Laughter rumbled from deep in his belly as he approached her from behind and squeezed her upper arms. “You are young. Over time your silly sense of remorse will expire and you will truly become one of us.”

“Release me, sir,” she growled lowly as she set down her pencil.

Instead Aurelius plucked her up and tossed her onto the bed with great force. Quickly he climbed above her and tore off her threadbare top – the Order did not believe in wearing designer clothes and instead they all dressed worse than peasants. Lenore took in a shaky breath and struggled beneath him as he then whipped off his shirt and pants.

“Lenore,” he spoke in a gruff voice as he ripped off the rest of her clothes. “You know you enjoy this.”

Tears came to her eyes. She knew she had to leave and had the means to leave, but this moment wasn’t right. She had to wait until he was completely unaware – Aurelius was too powerful to trick otherwise. “No, I don’t!” she whimpered as he entered her roughly.

Aurelius, ever taking joy in taking her whenever he desired, threw his head back and laughed deeply as he clutched her hips in a tight vise. “I do. There is nothing like taking a Servant of the Lord and making them my whore.”

Fury washed over her and she became filled with a different sort of bloodlust – one to murder and not to feed. As Aurelius began to pick up speed her hand slid underneath her pillow in a show of steadying herself, but instead she grasped something metallic and cold. Finally, Aurelius let out a satisfied grunt and as he began to collapse upon her, her new dagger caught him in the heart. Her Maker let out a short cry of pain, but it was nothing that his servants would notice since they assumed that the Alpha was raping her again.

Lenore quickly shoved him off of her and twisted the blood-coated dagger inside his chest. She was tempted to kill him but he was powerful and she didn’t know how much longer she had before the Dead Man’s blood wore off.

“Len…what did you…do?” he rasped, his breath bubbling up with blood.

“Interesting to see that even the Alpha vampire is affected by Dead Man’s Blood – especially when it’s shoved directly into your heart,” she smiled coldly at him before retrieving her spell ingredients.

“You…bitch,” he spat weakly.

Lenore growled lightly and cut her wrist with her fingernail in order to drip blood into the bowl. Then she ripped open Aurelius’ forearm – in the exact same spot that he had cut her two years ago – and stole blood to pour into the bowl as well. With the dagger that was now dripping with Dead Man’s Blood and her Maker’s blood, she stirred the substances together.

Lenore summoned all of her power and magic just then and broke out into tears of happiness when she realized that it was no longer suppressed by the Alpha’s dark magic. Finally, finally she felt whole – her magic was a part of her again. Aurelius tried to say something to her but she silenced him by doing a quick spell to sew his lips shut. His eyes bulged in fright; he knew that she was reclaiming her power.

Focusing on the bowl in front of her, Lenore began to chant the spell that Loki had given to her.

"With blood of the Maker and blood of the Servant,
Sever the Child from the Parent.

Two become one, one becomes two,
Sever them without issue."

After repeating the chant twenty-six times – one for each month she had been bound to him – the ingredients in the bowl lit with a bright blue fire. Lenore backed up in surprise and then had the peculiar sensation of an egg cracking over her and covering her in metaphysical protection. The ties to Aurelius that she had always felt in the back of her mind now vanished and for the first time in over two years Lenore let out a sigh of relief.

“I’m free,” she whispered softly.

“Not-for-long,” Aurelius grunted as he stood unsteadily to his feet.

“I’m not afraid of you anymore,” she sneered at him. “In fact, I’m going to kill you,” she added matter-of-factly as she summoned her magic to encompass her.

The door burst open in a terrifying display of splinters and revealed at least a dozen of her vampire breed, as well as the other vampires, including Darla. Damn. He must have had the strength to summon them all here psychically.

“Did you really think that Dead Man’s Blood would hold me for long, little Prophetess?” he chuckled darkly. “I am the beginning…and I am your end.”

He leapt for her but she threw a blazing fireball at him, forcing him to be pushed back hard against the wall. Then she concentrated to extract a smaller ball of fire from the original and plowed through the row of waiting vampires in the doorway. Without hesitation she ran through the now-open pathway, past the screaming and burning demons, and began to make her way through the maze of underground caverns.

Lenore was soon panting, and it wasn’t from the effort of running. She had not used magic in a very long time and doing two powerful spells – the severing spell and the fireball spell – in a row had taken a great deal out of her. However, she didn’t have a choice; it was either that or die. Hopefully that fireball would effectively pin Aurelius to the wall long enough for her to leave but she still had to deal with the now thirty vampires searching for her.

When encountering some of them she dealt physical blows, in an attempt to store up her magic, but with others (like the Master) she had no choice but to use magic. The upkeep of her fire spells were tiring and her body was feeling sluggish but she kept running and running until she finally reached the stairs that led her out of the hellhole. As soon as she climbed up she breathed the fresh air in deeply and scanned her surroundings. She was in a forest surrounded by thick, tall trees – excellent. Lenore performed a successful severing charm that caused a nearby tree to collapse onto the entrance of the Order’s lair.

For the first time in years she laughed– she may just make it out of this ordeal alive.

Chapter Text

Liberton, Scotland
September 25, 1703


Twenty days. She had been on the run for twenty days from Aurelius and his Order. Lenore had used every trick in the book – breaking into a magic shop to steal ingredients for a spell that would mask her scent (her breed of vampires primarily hunted by scent), sleeping only an hour a night at most, and finally she led her tracks to Galway and bought a ticket to an American ship under the close eye of Sarah, one of Aurelius’ main lieutenants that had successfully tracked her that far. Heinrich, the Master had been sent onto that ship with Darla and several others; it was her hope that they believed she had decided to hide in America.

However, Lenore was no fool. No creature was craftier than the Alpha and he would still be searching for her with a fiery intensity that threatened to burn her to ashes. Carefully she had made her way by foot, horse, and the occasional carriage to a small village on the border of the Irish Sea. From there she swam – and ye gods it had been cold! – to the Isle of Man, near Port Erin. After a day of much-needed rest she trekked to the other side of the island, a city named Douglas, and then swam northeast fifty miles to Seascale, a small English village. From there she took a combination, again, of traveling by foot, horse, or carriage to reach her hometown.

It amazed her, really, at how much her vampiric body could take. Lenore had no idea that vampires were this powerful. She was unsure if half-breeds had the same amount of stamina – perhaps in the future she’d ask Spike – but she found it most interesting. Of course, about thirty miles into the sea she had tired but her buoyant body was able to float for an hour until she had regained her strength to finish.

Of course, this also scared Lenore…because if she was this powerful then she wondered just how powerful the older vampires were – especially Aurelius.

The worst part of her travels, however, was not her lack of sleeping accommodations or her intense cardio, but her Need to feed. It gnawed at her constantly and while thus far she was able to sate her thirst with animal blood, she found the taste positively disgusting. The first time she had drank from a stray dog outside Belfast she had thrown up. Following that episode she had been able to keep the blood down but it still disgusted her. Thoughts of human blood haunted her and the desire lay at the fringes of her mind – only her fear of being captured overrode the thoughts of blood and death.

Lenore honestly didn’t know what to do. Spike had never seemed that disgusted by pig’s blood. Perhaps she was doing it wrong? Oh God, what she would give to hear some advice on the subject.

Actually, Lenore was hoping to hear some advice on all of this…from Elspeth. She knew that after her escape Aurelius may desire to kill her remaining family members and Lenore had to return and warn them.

Well, alright…that was only a half-truth. In reality she longed to see her family more than anything. Her heart had been weighted with sorrow for the last two and a half years since she left them for Summerford. That was a long, long amount of time for a mother to be away from her children and the longing to embrace them almost made her feverish.

She wondered what they looked like now. Alexander would be eight, Elizabeth seven, and little Dawnie five. Good God…the last time she had seen her youngest child Dawn had been only thee – what if she didn’t remember Lenore anymore? That was a long time for a child to remember…

But the absolute worst thing that Lenore feared was that she wouldn’t be able to control her hunger around her children. Elizabeth was so klutzy – what if she accidentally cut herself? At this stage in her life Lenore wasn’t sure if she could control her hunger if the smell of fresh blood was in the air.

No, scratch that. Lenore knew she couldn’t control herself if she smelled blood. While it was true that she had not tested that theory yet, there was no way that she wanted to put it to the test. Human blood was still in her system after less than three weeks and she could easily recall its delicious, satisfying taste; like sweet and thick honey wine warmed under the hot rays of the sun…

Lenore halted her steps on the hidden path that took her to Elspeth’s house. Thinking of all these ‘what if’ scenarios were filling her with dread and only making her hungry. She was in no condition to see her children today. No, none at all.

But she didn’t want to be alone. Lenore was so lonely…she had been alone for years and all she wanted was to feel loved again, to feel like she mattered. Not force fed bled or beaten or raped. She was tired of pain and misery and craved loved right now. The need for that was almost as strong as the need for blood.

After contemplating a moment more, Lenore made the decision to see Fergus. He was the safest bet. She knew her brother would take her in – after all, if he wasn’t squeamish about selling his soul to a demon than her sure as hell could deal with the fact that his sister was a vampire.

After trudging another mile under the cover of darkness, she finally arrived at the tailor shop and old family home. There was only one candle burning in the kitchen and the rest of the house was blanketed in darkness. Lenore took a deep breath and faintly smelled the scent of her brother, as well as a strong whiff of alcohol, but Molly was nowhere to be found. Strange. Where would her sister-in-law be so late at night?

Lenore sniffed the autumn air again for clues and this time the scent of sulfur traveled to her nose. She winced in disgust and looked around, but she could see nothing. Far off she heard a dog howl but that was the only noise on this otherwise peaceful night.

No matter. Lenore would figure it out later. Right now she just wanted to see her brother.

Tentatively, she knocked at the back door that led out of the kitchen; the door that was often used to dump out old cooking water and other waste products. She heard the scrape of a chair across the floor and a glass filled with liquid being set onto the table with great care. However, her brother did not make a move to walk to the door. Impatient, she sighed heavily and stomped her foot – God, why did her brother always find ways to frustrate the living daylights out of her?

“Fergus! It’s Lenore. I’m back. Now open the door,” she called softly, just loud enough for him to hear but quiet enough so it wouldn’t attract any further attention.

She heard Fergus’ breath hitch and even heard his heart speed up just slightly. “L-len?” he stuttered in surprise.

“Yes, it’s me,” she rolled her eyes. “Now let me in. It’s been far too long, Ferg,” she smiled.

Fergus stood up and she heard him walk to the door and place his hand on the door handle. Slowly he opened up the door and gave her a pained look. “Are you here to usher me into the afterlife, Len?”

Brows furrowed in surprise, she walked in gave him a peculiar look as he firmly shut the door. “Huh?”

Fergus made his way back to the table and poured himself some more Craig, his favorite whiskey for as long as she could remember. “Just let me finish my bottle, baby sister, and I’ll be ready to leave wit’ you,” he slightly slurred. Had she not possessed superior hearing she probably would not have noticed; Fergus had decades of drinking under his belt.

Lenore sat down and gazed at him suspiciously. “What, no hug?” she asked in a light and amused voice. Her brother’s actions were worrying her, plus his reaction sure was an awful let down. She had been expecting joyous laughter and hugging and him twirling her in the air like he had when she was young!

Throwing the rest of the whiskey down his throat, Fergus glared at her. “Look here, demon,” stated in a low and threatening tone. “Just because you’ve taken her form doesn’t mean you are her, so sod off.”

Gasping in surprise at his words and tone, Lenore felt her eyes sting with brimming tears. She bit her lip and quickly wiped away the first traitorous, salty drop from her cheek. This reaction was most unexpected – how could Fergus said such hateful things to her? Yes, she was a vampire but she was still his sister…right?

“Okay then,” she said in a small voice. “I’ll leave.”

Fergus glanced up at her in surprise. “Really?” he asked suspiciously. “After ten years of our deal you’re going to let me keep my soul that easily?”

Now it was her turn to turn a suspicious gaze onto him. “Wh-what? Fergus what on earth are you talking about? I don’t want your soul.”

She could hear his heart beat at a furious rate as he sat back into his chair to stare at her. His dark brown eyes narrowed at her in confusion but then widened as comprehension grew in his mind. Thin lips twitched nervously, as if he wasn’t sure if he should smile or not, and he clutched his drink tightly in his hand. “Wait. Lenore…that’s really you? Not a demon possessing your dead body?”

A relieved smile broke out on her face as she rushed to his side and knelt in front of him. She grabbed his right hand and touched it to her cheek. “Yes, you doofus it is me.” Well, maybe not quite. As far as she knew, her breed of vampires kept their soul but she wasn’t sure how much of a ‘demon’ was in her.

Fergus took in a deep breath and then broke out into laughter as he leaned down and hugged her tightly, even going so far as to pull her into his lap to hold her even closer. Lenore snuggled into her older brother’s embrace – she remembered how he had done this for her many times when she had been younger. He seemed much as she remembered but his face was gaunt and when she held him she could feel his bones protruding. It made her wonder why he hadn’t been eating – stress about his demon deal she supposed.

He broke away from her and held her face in his hands as he examined her, his eyes running across her features. With a soft smile he said, “You haven’t changed since I last saw you.”

Lenore laughed nervously – it was amazing the anti-aging efforts of vampirism.

“I’ve missed you,” she said quietly as she held his hand, once again reverting to her girlish days of when Fergus was the only person in her family that really seemed to enjoy taking care of her. Back then she would cry on his shoulder about Stephanie Scotts who always made fun of Lenore for walking around with a dreamy look on her face or tell him about her exciting dreams of people walking on the moon. Fergus had always been there for her – no matter what she would always love him.

Fergus frowned and averted his eyes a moment before returning to her. “I’ve missed you too, Len.” Then he grinned and corrected himself. “Lenore; I suppose you aren’t a little girl anymore.”

She giggled. “You can call me Len,” she allowed. Yeah, she hated it in a way but it sounded so wrong for him to call her by ‘Lenore’.

He rolled his eyes at her comment. Then his expression sobered as he gave her a curious look. “Len, what happened? Summerford was attacked by demons, or so said the few remaining servants. Elspeth and I thought you died – especially when we never heard from you again. Hell, Elspeth even tried to find a spell that would summon an angel so she could talk to that Castiel being, but she couldn’t find anything.”

Lenore’s teeth bit into her bottom look as she debated what to tell him. After his initial reaction she was suddenly nervous. Casually she got off his lap and went to pace on the other side of the room as she fiddled with the sleeve of the dress she had stolen off a closing line in Seascale. “W-we w-were attacked by d-demons,” she stuttered.

“Len, what happened?” he asked cautiously as his eyes gave her a closer examination.

“Do you remember how the vampires were after me?” she asked with lowered eyes.

“Yes.”

“They came for me, led by the Alpha of their kind – the most supreme vampire,” she answered as she looked up to watch his expression. “I used magic to kill some and Castiel killed some as well, but the Alpha did his own spell that, I don’t know,” she shrugged. “It made Castiel disappear; some sort of symbol with my blood drawn on the wall. And then…And then he bit me.” Lenore held her hands to her eyes as her body began trembling. “I-I changed. He f-forced me t-to drink h-human blood a-and then…and then he f-forced m-me to do other things as well.”

As the words left her lips she was reminded again that her life was different now – she may have taken refuge in her big brother’s arms for a moment but Real Life had come back and slapped her in the face. She began crying as she spoke, breathing hysterically as sobs racked her frame and she crumpled to the floor. Twenty-six months. Twenty-six months of pure hell and now she had nothing to experience but hell – at least until it was time to see Willow again.

“Len, don’t cry,” her brother softly commanded as he sat beside her and let her lean her head on his shoulder. He patted her head awkwardly – while Fergus was always the one to comfort her in her family, he was very uneasy around crying. Like Castiel, he never seemed to know what to say.

Of course, no one was as bad at comforting a crying girl as her former Guardian Angel.

For what seemed like an hour, Lenore cried and released all of her emotional baggage from her past two years. Finally, she sniffed and accepted the handkerchief that Fergus offered her. “I’m sorry,” she muttered, her voice muffled against Fergus’ chest. “I shouldn’t burden you with all of this.”

“Oh sod off, he muttered, and she could practically hear his eyes rolling. “Ever since you were a babe I promised that I’d take care of you, luv. Cousin Elspeth said that you were special, even all the way back then, and I believed her.”

“Yeah,” she snorted. “And now I’m just a demon.”

Fergus twitched at the word ‘demon’ and shook his head. “Well, you don’t bloody want to kill folks, now do ya?”

“Well, no.”

Well then, bugger it all! No one says you have to. Think about it, at least this way you’re immortal. That’s pretty neat.”

A weak laugh passed her lips. “Yeah,” she acknowledged softly.

Then her mind processed his earlier words. “Brother, why did you think I was demon possessed earlier?” she asked as she drew back to carefully inspect him.

“Ah, that,” he shrugged. “Time’s up, luv. Ten years ago to the day, today is.”

Lenore wet her lips. “T-today?”

Fergus gave an unaffected shrug. “Yup. Deal’s a deal.”

“No!” she uttered with force as she stood to her feet. “I won’t let them take you!”

Her brother gave her a wry smile. “Come now, baby sister. Aren’t I the one that should be protecting you?”

Lenore folded her arms against her chest and shook her head. “Listen Fergus. I know we’ve never talked about this deal of yours but you know that I know and I know that you know that I know. Bottom line is, I don’t care why you did it or anything – I’m not letting Hell take your soul.”

Fergus ran a hand through his thinning hair. After a moment of silence he said, “I was drunk.”

“Huh?” she asked in surprise.

“Yeah,” he snorted. “Me and Jimmy the blacksmith, remember him?” She nodded. “He got the crazy idea in his head and I agreed. I tried to get the spell out of Elspeth but when she denied me I went looking for it myself. By the time I found it a couple of years had passed but Jimmy was still interested. ‘Course, we were nervous though so we drank quite a bit beforehand,” he smirked with a shake of his head. “Let’s just say by the time we summoned the demon we didn’t have our goals very well outlined by then.”

Lenore sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. “Listen Fergus, I’m not about to tell you that you were a complete and utter sodding moron—”

“—Thanks,” he stated sarcastically.

“But that doesn’t matter. Somehow we’ll—”

A howl cut through the air and Lenore gave a frightened look towards the door. “What was that?” she gasped as another howl, closer this time, sounded.

In response Fergus just got up, picked up the half-empty bottle of Craig, and then proceeded to chug the entire bottle. When he was finished he burped and then gave her a shrug. “Hellhounds, darling,” he answered. “They’ll be my eshcorts,” he slurred.

Lenore let out a disbelieving laugh at his casual reaction and gave him an incredulous look. “Seriously? Seriously? You’re just going to let them take you?” she shouted.

Fergus shrugged again and gave her a serious look. “My darling Len, my beautiful baby shishter, I love you. I’m very happy that I got to see you once more. But honestly? There’s no way to get out of this. Believe me, I’ve looked. So the way I see it, I’ve got to go. However, maybe once I’m down there I’ll figure out a better deal.” He shrugged. “Who knows? I am a rather cunning bastard,” he smirked.

A large figure smashed into the back door and the wood bowed beneath the creature’s weight. Past the door she heard a terrifying and unearthly howl that had shivers running down her back.

Lenore raced to her brother and cupped his cheek. “No,” she stated vehemently. “I will not allow it! I’ve seen enough death, Ferg, and I’m not going to see yours!”

He gave her a sad look and then bent down to gently brush his lips against her forehead. “I’m a survivor, Len. I’ll figure something out. Don’t worry ‘bout me.”

She drew in a shaky breath as tears began rolling down her cheeks in earnest. God! She had gone years without barely allowing herself to cry – she hadn’t wanted to give Aurelius the satisfaction – and now it seemed that she couldn’t stop! “Fergus, but what am I going to do without my big brother?” she asked in a small voice.

Fergus gave her a lopsided smile as the door finally burst open. “Live.”

Then something plowed into him – a hound with matted black fur and a snout covered with dried blood – and he fell to the floor. “No!” she shouted as she used her vampiric strength to toss the hound against the wall, causing it to emit a high-pitched whine. A second hound ran through the door – and this one was large, standing at four feet – and dug its teeth into her shoulder as it spun her into the air and she was whipped against the wall.

“Lenore! Just leave!” Fergus grunted. As the hound clawed his chest and bit his hand clean off, her brother let out the most ungodly sound that she had ever heard.

Lenore, heavily bleeding, shouted a fire spell at the two hounds that were now on top of her brother, but the flames did nothing to them – she should have known that hellhounds were impervious to fire. Moron! Instead she hastily jumped on top of the larger hound and threw it off of her brother and kicked the second hound. Peering into her brothers pained eyes, she saw his light dimming as he twitched in pain. Sinking down slowly she placed her hands onto his bleeding chest without thinking. “Fergus—”

Then her brain finally recognized the sweet smell of his blood and she looked upon her hands in horror as her fangs extracted painfully. Oh God. The Need was back. It called to her like a siren; deadly and duplicitous it desired nothing more than to turn her into a beast that would feed upon her very brother. The blood was thick on her hands and the scent of fear mingled in with the blood created a sweetness that reminded her of a plump grape. Yes, her brother was like a plump grape, fully ripened on the vine, pumping full of red delicious liquid. Liquid that would truly satisfy her, unlike the swill that she had been drinking for the past twenty days – the twenty longest days of her life.

So wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t even notice when one of the hounds pounced again onto Fergus and sank its gruesome jaws into her brother’s neck, finally releasing his spirit. With haste the two hounds departed, and she was alone.

Alone with her brother’s body and his blood on her hands.

The hands that she couldn’t stop looking at. They were soaked with his blood and its redness perfectly highlighted each faint line on her palms. Her mouth was watering and his scent perfumed the air. Suddenly Lenore was feeling claustrophobic and she wanted to leave, no she needed to leave, but it wouldn’t let her. The Need was calling upon her to just lick her fingers, just to lick them clean, mind you, because it would be so inappropriate to walk around town a bloody mess. Besides, it’s not like she would be drinking from Fergus – he was dead now and that blood was no good. But the blood on her hands was from before and thus was allowable. And, he was already dead. It’s not like he would mind her having a little taste.

Her strength was floundering against the Need and Lenore succumbed weakly to it. Her tongue began licking every inch and crevice of her hands like a frenzied cat and she shuddered and moaned in happiness. Oh yes, human blood was so good. So, so good. Animal blood was far from its equivalent.

A sharp intake of breath startled her and Lenore looked up through the open doorway; the door was lying in front of the frame and was scattered to the side. There, her features barely lit up in the dark of night and the single candle flame, was her cousin Elspeth.

Lenore smiled licked her lips. She was so happy to see Elspeth again! Her cousin had her graying hair tied back into a braid and she wore a simple blue dress that contrasted prettily under her pale complexion. “Elspeth!” she cried out joyfully as she stood to her feet.

Elspeth gave her a horrified expression and summoned magic to provide her with a mystical shield. “Back, you demon!” she shrieked. “Get away from the lad and get out of my cousin!”

Lenore frowned…and closed her eyes in revulsion as guilt knotted her stomach. Oh God, Lenore was covered, face and hands, with Fergus’ blood. With his dead body right behind her Elspeth must think that she killed him. Even worse, Elspeth didn’t know that the other breed of vampires did get to keep their souls – she thought that Lenore was possessed by a demon as well.

“Elspeth,” she said nervously in a quiet voice. “It wasn’t me, it was the hellhounds. And I’m still Lenore!”

“Lies!” Elspeth shouted angrily and before Lenore even realized it was happening her cousin summoned a ball of fire at Lenore. The flames tentatively licked her skin and then clung to her body as Lenore let out a scream of pain and used her own magic to extinguish them.

Elspeth stared at her in a mix of shock, dismay, and fear, but her next words were stated strongly. “Listen to me demon – you stay away from me and the children or next time you won’t be able to put out the flames.” Then she threw a glass vial at the floor that exploded and threw Lenore back several feet into the stove. She heard Elspeth climbing onto a horse and racing away, but Lenore wouldn’t follow. Why should she? Elspeth was a powerful witch and she knew the true nature of vampires – they couldn’t be trusted.

And after feeding off of her own brother, Lenore had to agree.

Eager to leave this house that stank of death behind, Lenore ran outside and just kept running until she reached the forest one mile away from the village. Then she slowed her pace and leaned against a tree. Her eyes were stony and her face was drawn – Lenore had no more tears left in her.

She was finally, utterly, truly alone in this world.

She wasn’t sure how long she was there –many hours at least – but she could feel dawn approaching. No longer black, the sky in the east was now a dark blue and she began wondering what she should do about shelter for the coming day.

“I wondered how long it would take you to come back home,” a cool voice stated softly.

Looking up towards the west Lenore saw Castiel standing there in his typical outfit of a green plaid kilt and light wool sweater. “Castiel!” she said happily. “I thought you had died! What happened?”

Castiel frowned and shuffled uncomfortably. “That spell expelled me back to heaven and the process to get back takes a while,” he answered gruffly

Lenore bit her lip and took a step forward, then stopped herself. “Well, I’m glad you’re okay,” she said.

“Yes.” His eyes faced downward as he averted her gaze. “I am sorry that you are not.”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I really am not,” she acknowledge sadly.

“I apologize that I could not protect you.”

She gave the angel a soft smile. “It’s okay. You did your best. The trouble with fate is you can’t outrun it or outwit it. I guess this was meant to happen – at least I’ll be able to see Willow now.” Lenore’s voice was soft but to be honest, after losing her brother to hell and having her mother-like cousin cut her off, she didn’t even have much hope in seeing Willow anymore.

“I’m sorry, but you will not be able to do that.”

Lenore glanced at the angel sharply and noticed that he actually looked sad, yet resigned, about his words. “Why? Why can’t I see Willow?” she hurriedly asked with a voice that was pitched higher than normal.

“You are an abomination now, Eleanor Amelia McLeod. Someone of your talents must not be available for the side of evil.” A sleek silver sword appeared in his hand and Lenore shrank back fearfully.

“B-but I don’t want to kill anyone – I won’t!” she protested as Castiel began to advance.

He looked at her sadly. “But you already have – Magdalene – and you will again. Tonight you displayed your weakness by feeding upon your dying brother. I am sorry Lenore, but you are an abomination. I must end you.”

“No!” she screeched. No matter what happened or how she felt about things, Lenore knew that she didn’t want to die.

A popping noise sounded behind her, she heard a surprised yelp, felt arms grabbing her around the waist, and suddenly Lenore felt herself yanked out of the village and into somewhere strange and new.

Chapter Text

Reine, Norway
September 26, 1703


Lenore gasped as her feet landed on solid ground and she took in the sight before her. Lush green grass sparkling with dew stretched on for as far as her eye could see. She was located at a higher elevation and thus could see a dozen homes in the valley below her, many of them just starting to release smoke from their chimneys. The air was crisp and chilly but it felt very clean and pure in a way that Lenore wasn’t used to, even in Scotland. The sky was awash in a peach and pink hues that signaled the arrival of dawn and not one cloud marred the perfection of the clear sky. To the west was a thick forest that seemed to teem with life; she noticed dozens of birds fluttering above it.

Almost afraid to turn around and see who had taken her, Lenore reluctantly faced the person who had rescued her from Castiel. Her eyes widened in surprise. “A-Anyanka?”

The brunette vengeance demon wore a finely cut dress with a plunging neckline that showcased her emerald pendent very well. Her hair was in an elegant up-do made up of spiraling curls that were kept in place by golden hairpins with an emerald set in at the tip. Her face was one of frustration, annoyance, and a great deal of fear; Lenore could tell by the way her hands were gripping the fabric of her dress.

“Yes, it’s me,” she grumbled. Then she turned around and Lenore gasped as she realized the were standing at the foot of a large, glacier-topped mountain. Then Anyanka opened her mouth and shouted, “LOKI!”

Lenore was taken aback – just what were Anyanka and Loki doing helping her?

“No need to shout, Aud,” a smooth voice sounded to their right. Lenore’s right hand went to cover her heart as she stared at the trickster god in surprise. He looked the same as last time, although the highlights in his hair seemed to stand out more in the golden sunrise. Today he was wearing thick brown leggings and boots, a white shirt, and a brown furred cloak. As always, he was in a constant stake of ‘smirk-ness’, that only seemed to grow as Anyanka glared daggers at him.

“L-Loki?” Lenore breathed out softly.

He turned to her and his smirk disappeared for a moment as a sad look entered his amber eyes. “Hey there, kiddo.”

“Loki,” Anyanka hissed. “When you called in this favor first of all I was having breakfast with the former Tsarina Evdokiya and trying to get her to curse Peter. Then when I go and kidnap the vampire I had to take her from an angel – a freaking angel who, oh I don’t know, could have killed me with just one single smiting glare!” Anyanka’s hands were curled up into fists and she was nearly out of breath from her screaming rant as she glared severely at Loki.

“Aud, Anyanka, baby – you gotta look on the bright side. You just dicked over one of those feathered bastards and got away with it!” Loki grinned.

“For now,” she snapped. “I don’t see why you couldn’t get her yourself.”

Loki laughed and gave an exaggerated shrug of his shoulders. “Because – those guys can kill me!” he chuckled in amusement.

Anyanka just slapped him.

Loki sighed forlornly. “Okay, maybe I deserved that.”

“Damn straight!” she said tersely. “Now we’re even on the whole Baldur deal – right?”

“But of course,” Loki bowed lowly. “Thank you, my most gracious beauty.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Anyanka snorted. Then she shot Lenore a severe look. “And you, you stop getting into trouble, missy.” Then she flung her arms up and disappeared into a cloud of smoke.

Loki chuckled as he shook his head. “Vengeance demons – they just love making an exit.”

“Yeah…” Lenore trailed off in an unsure voice as she cautiously looked at the pagan god. Her shoulder seemed to be throbbing even more after the teleportation spell and Lenore moved her hand to cover the bloody wound.

“You’re hurt,” Loki commented in surprise as he looked her over. “That winged bastard do that to you?” he asked in voice that simmered with anger.

“N-no,” Lenore stammered as her mind flashed back to the moments in her brother’s house. “It was a hellhound.”

“Ah,” he said in an understanding voice after a moment’s pause. “Well then, let’s get you cleaned up, Lenore,” he added as he began walking towards the base of the towering mountain.

The terrain was uneven but quite grassy and pretty. As she began following Loki she wondered where they were heading. Just ten feet ahead the mountain seemed to jump up at a near vertical incline and the area was made of smooth rock.

“Um, are we climbing up?” Lenore asked tentatively as they reached the smooth wall.

He gave her an incredulous look. “Are you kidding? It’s cold up there.” Loki gestured towards the area of the mountain in front of them and suddenly a section of it slid up, revealing some sort of darkened cave. “This is what I like to call ‘home sweet home’,” he grinned as he stepped inside.

With a snap of his fingers an immense chandelier above them exploded with light, revealing every inch of the sumptuous room in all of its glory. Another snap later and a fireplace that was taller than her lit up in a rush of crackling flame. Underneath everything was a thick Persian rug that was colored in earth tones. Arrayed around the room were several exquisite couches and lounge chairs surrounded by a dark mahogany bookcase that bordered two walls and several sculptures that Lenore suspected were stolen from the Vatican, because an art history class taught her about Michelangelo and Bernini and their styles. Plus, she was pretty sure that the one sculpture was ‘Moses’ and was, during the time when she was ‘Tara’, located in a Roman church somewhere.

“Wow, nice place,” she managed to say in the midst of her wonderment.

Loki shrugged. “It works.” Then he shot her an amused grin. “But just wait ‘till you see all the other rooms, Lenore. Then you’ll be impressed.”

Lenore just nodded as she felt drawn to the bookshelves, which featured many leather-bound books as well as several dozen scrolls made out of what appeared to be thin papyrus. She breathed in deeply in astonishment, and then was surprised to also smell the scent of rich mahogany. Wow, Loki sure knew how to live.

“I’ll go grab some bandages. Be right back,” she heard Loki say but Lenore was quite immersed in reading the book titles. There were so many languages displayed here – some she recognized, few she understood, and there were even several that she wasn’t even sure if anyone still spoke that language anymore.

“C’mere,” Loki suggested as he set a bowl of clean water, a clean towel, and white cloth bandages on a low mahogany table that was bordered by the rich blue couch he sat on and a smaller love seat on the other side.

Feeling like she was in a dream – and honestly just feeling shell-shocked by the events of the last eight hours – Lenore complied and sat to Loki’s left.

He began to tear off the sleeve of her dress and Lenore jerked away violently on instinct. Her heart was suddenly pounding like the drums of hell and she found herself panting without knowing why.

“Lenore?” he asked in a puzzled voice. “I need to clean the wound fully before I can bandage that. Don’t worry about your dress, I’ve got plenty of spares laying around,” he said with a wave of his hand, thinking he had correctly guessed the reason behind her reaction.

But Lenore didn’t care about her dress. This was just something she had stolen while on the run. She just…God, she couldn’t explain her reaction.

Slowly she sat down and braced herself as Loki finished ripping off her sleeve. He dipped the towel into the bowl of water and began to carefully wipe away the blood from her wound.

“Lenore, you’re trembling,” he said in a soft voice as he cleaned the torn flesh. “Is the pain that bad?”

His voice was so soft, so unlike what she had been experiencing lately that it was a knock-down drag-out fight to not cry. “I-I’m fine, L-loki.”

“What’s wrong? Are you hurt elsewhere?” he asked kindly as he placed his hand on her wrist in a reassuring manner.

Lenore jerked away from him and gasped, “Please don’t touch me.”

“Lenore?” he asked in surprise as he sat still.

She stood up and began leaning from one foot to another as she hurriedly answered, “I just don’t like to be touched. N-not anymore.”

It took her a minute to understand her reaction but the only time she was touched anymore was by Aurelius ra—hurting her or his cronies force feeding her human blood. Even before that, Connor had routinely forced wifely duties upon her. The only man who’s touch felt okay was Fergus’ because he was her brother.

Well, was her brother.

Loki stared at her for a long time, like he was trying to find answers to unspoken questions, before he nodded. “Alright. How about I’ll show you to the spare room and you can feel free to dress your own wounds there.”

Her expression turned suspicious. “Why are you helping me? I mean, not that I am not thankful or anything for the spell to escape from Aurelius and for sending Anyanka for me, but why? And why let me stay here?”

Loki paused and the normal glow of amusement that his eyes seemed to constantly have faded into some darker emotion that she couldn’t decipher. Then he forced a smile and shrugged. “I get bored sometimes and like to pick up pet projects.”

“So I’m what? Your project?” she repeated slowly.

“Or my pet!” he grinned charmingly. “Now come on, milady. Your room is this way.”

 


Reine, Norway
September 29, 1703




Lenore didn’t leave her room for the next three days.

As rooms go, at least it wasn’t a bad one. In fact, it was pretty darn nice. She had a four-poster canopy bed that was covered with emerald green sheets and blanket – her favorite color actually. A smooth mahogany desk filled with various blank notebooks, quills, and pencils sat in one corner and a small bookshelf full of various books, ranging from the topic of magic to classic novels, was next to the desk. The room was kept warm by a small fireplace that seemed to burn by a constant magic. A wardrobe full of a dozen dresses from various cultures – some were made of tartan cloth, some trimmed with exotic fur, and there was even a kimono!

Lenore opted for the kimono but wore it more as a robe and did not deal with the difficult obi, or sash. Every day she just stayed in the kimono as she laid in bed and tried to forget all about her life and how awful it as.

Oh sure, Loki had tried to check on her but she had asked him if she could please just be alone and he, surprisingly, obliged her request. Lenore felt quite rude, treating him like this, but she just couldn’t bare to see anyone right now, much less talk to anyone – especially if he wanted to ask her about anything that has happened to her life in the last two years.

She sighed. Hopefully Loki understood.

Several hours went by as she got lost in a book about magic against supernatural creatures. It was Lenore’s hope that maybe she could find a spell that would take away her bloodlust so that way she could see her children again without consequences Sadly, there only appeared to be spells that helped to kill vampires – which was still helpful but not what she wanted the most.

A knock sounded at the door and Lenore stilled. “Yes?”

“Lenore, may I come in?”

“Um.” She paused. “Maybe later?”

A sigh. “Lenore I understand your need to be alone but you’ve been here three days. Don’t you need to feed?”

Now it was her turn to sigh. Oh yes did she need to feed, but she didn’t want to. Never again did she want to indulge the Need. After all, the last time she did her dear cousin had found her drinking the blood of her brother.

“No, I’m fine.”

Her vampire senses could almost hear Loki’s eyeballs rolling in their sockets. “Fledging vampires can’t go long without feeding. If you don’t feed today you’ll be too weak to hunt tomorrow.”

“”I-I’ll be fine.”

“I’m coming in!”

“No—” but it was too late, Loki had already opened the door.

He eyeballed the room slowly and took an extra amount of time to take in her disheveled appearance and rumpled kimono. “I like the look,” he smirked.

She glared at him for making fun of her. “Good, I’m glad that you’re a fan of the ‘no-shower’ look.”

His smirk turned sly as he corrected her. “Naw, I was thinking the ‘disheveled post-sex look.”

Lenore tightened her kimono and frowned at him, even as a part of her was fairly amused. “Sometimes I can’t tell if you’re the ‘trickster god’ or the ‘god of love and lame come-ons’,” she rolled her eyes.

Loki made a disgusted face. “Ugh, I am most happily not the god of love. That’s Baldur.” He said ‘Baldur’ like it was a dirty word and recognition struck.

“Isn’t that who Anyanka mentioned when she talked about her favor?”

“Yeah,” he grinned. “She was dating him for a while until she realized that the mangy bastard is called the god of love for a reason – she found out he had several other women on the side. Of course,” he shrugged, “since she can’t answer her own wish she asked me for help. So I killed him.”

“W-what?” Lenore gasped as she sat up straight.

“Eh, don’t fret kiddo. It’s pretty damn hard to kill a pagan god and there are still folks who worship the bastard so I’m sure it’s not permanent. Anyways, that’s beside the point. You need to hunt.”

“N-no! I don’t want to kill humans,” she stated firmly.

Loki rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know. You’re the soft-hearted do-gooder type. But haven’t you tried animal blood?”

“Er, well, yeah. After I escaped that’s all I drank.” She frowned. “It’s bloody awful though.”

“Well yeah it is, especially if you’re feeding off livestock and stray dogs. No, I’ve got something better for you.”

She stood up and looked at him apprehensively. Lenore wanted to feed, no doubt about it, but her depression was commanding her just to stay in the shadows of this room and never leave.

Loki snapped his fingers and suddenly they were outside in a wooded area. The canopy of trees hid the moon from them but her eyes could see easily in the dark. Looking down she realized that she was now clad in a man’s outfit – boots, leggings, and a loose-fitted shirt. “Hey! You changed me.” Lenore wasn’t sure to feel grateful for clothes that would make hunting easier or violated because he changed her.

“I just magicked you something new; no touching and no looking.” He gave her a wide smile. “I guess I’m kind of like your fairy godmother or something.”

“Or something,” she snorted.

“Hey now,” he said in a warning tone. “Don’t make me send you back to the angels.”

“Sorry,” she mumbled quickly.

“No problem!” he said cheerfully as he eagerly rubbed his hands together. A howl pierced the night and Lenore jumped high in surprise.

“Wh-what was that?” she asked Loki as she found herself drawing closer to him. Her teeth began chattering as a sudden chill settled upon her. Flashes of Fergus getting torn apart by the hounds kept passing through her mind’s eye.

Loki made a motion like he was going to touch her in reassurance but then pulled back, for which she was grateful – Lenore still didn’t want to be touched. “Don’t worry, those aren’t hellhounds. Just your average wolf pack.”

“Oh,” she said in relief. “Oh,” she added in worry a moment later. “Will they attack us? I’ve, um, always been afraid of wolves, ever since Fergus read me the story of Little Red Riding Hood.”

Loki started laughing so hard that she almost saw tears in his eyes. “Oh damn, Lenore. I’d keep you in my house forever just to hear whatever crazy thing you’d say next.”

Hands on her hips she gave him a dirty look. “And just what do you mean by that, Loki?”

“Lenore,” he sighed with an amused smile. “You’re a vampire you know. More likely than not the little wolves are going to be scared of you.

“Oh…yeah.” Lenore found herself smiling and gave an apologetic shrug. “So what now? I hunt wolves?”

“No,” Loki quickly replied. When he saw her surprised expression at his reaction he shrugged. “I like wolves. Anyways, I was thinking you should hunt a moose. Your shoulder has healed already, yes?”

“Um, yes. But… a moose? I’ve never seen one but aren’t they…big?”

“Oh yes. ‘Bout six feet tall, sometimes seven. Weigh anywhere from eight-hundred to fifteen-hundred pounds.” Loki grinned. “It’ll be fun.”

“Fun?” she squeaked. “That thing is huge!”

“And you’re a VAMPIRE!” he shouted for emphasis. “Darn it Lenore you need to get that fight back into you again. A life or death match with a powerful antlered beast is just the ticket.”

“I think I hate you,” she said petulantly as she folded her arms across her chest.

“And you’re just the loveliest creature,” he smiled mischievously. “Now come on – let’s hunt!”

Lenore followed Loki stealthily in-between the towering trees. Or well, she tried to be stealthy but Loki kept correcting her. Although she had been a vampire for two years she had never been taught to fend for herself since Aurelius wanted to keep her chained to him, powerless. But Loki was a good teacher; he showed her how to track her prey, how to carefully observe the clues of the forest, how to stay silent, and also just about the wildlife in general. A few hours of hunting had passed but it flew by so quickly that Lenore didn’t even realize the length of elapsed time. Hunting didn’t exactly come naturally to her – she had never been interested as a human, in either of her lives – but Loki made it interesting, enjoyable almost.

“Stop,” he instructed and Lenore halted in place. “Strain your ears. What do you hear?”

Carefully Lenore extended her senses and off to the distance she heard a bubbling brook of some sort. “Water.”

“And that means...?”

“Food. Something will be drinking there.”

“Excellent,” he smiled warmly. “Lead the way?”

Lenore nodded and immediately began sprinting towards the water source. Along the way she took heed of Loki’s earlier advice and her supernatural eyes scanned the forest floor and she was careful to avoid dry leaves, branches, and anything else that may make noise. She ran so quickly that her feet barely touched the ground, which helped her to remain silent. Finally she reached a clearing and there, as she had predicted, a giant moose was walking to the brook.

She wet her lips nervously. “What now?” The beast was impressive looking in size and his antlers looked deadly.

“You kill him.”

Lenore tossed her new mentor an incredulous look. “Kill him?” she repeated archly. “Thank you Captain Obvious.” Hmm. Using Sunnydale slang made her heart pang in remembrance of Willow and her old friends.

Loki’s lips twitched into a lopsided smile as he shook his head at her. “Just go and try it. I’m sure you’ll surprise yourself.”

“Or take an antler through the heart,” she muttered.

He shrugged. “At least the only way you can die is by beheading, so think on the positive side. Only a maiming, not death, lies in your future!”

“Thanks,” she muttered sarcastically as she began to creep towards the animal. His antlers spread out in an arc at least two feet on each side of his head and they erupted in a series of sharp edges – seven on one side and eight on the other side of its head. It was certainly large at six feet and she imagined it weighed about a thousand pounds. Lenore inspected its hooves – Loki had told her to watch out for those. When she attacked the moose would return fire with his antlers and hooves.

Lenore slid from shadow to shadow as she sought to find the best place to attack. However, her moose stilled for a moment and then began running to the east. Damn! Loki had warned her that animals usually had a sixth sense when predators were around. Like lightning Lenore followed it and easily caught up to the animal, although now she wasn’t sure how to attack it. While she was strong and fast she was still small so tackling the beast wasn’t a great plan.

So Lenore leapt on top of it, intent on just biting the creature’s neck. Her hidden fangs ran through her gums and her stomach practically growled in hunger. She bent down and bit into the creature and it made a noise of pain. Taking her by surprise the moose stopped so suddenly that she was flung off and ended up smashing into a tree.

“Ooh, bad idea,” she muttered. Then she heard the moose make a very *angry* sound. Digging its hooves into the ground it charged her, antlers forward, and Lenore very quickly had to roll out of the way or perhaps end up with her head cut off her neck.

It charged her again and Lenore thought quickly. Using her supernatural speed and strength she evaded the antler by jumping to the side and then she grabbed hold of the bony growth and ripped off the left half of the moose’s antlers. It let out a shriek of pain that made her feel horrible and guilty inside. She sought to end his pain so she raised the antler to pierce its jugular when Lenore was caught by surprise by the right half of the antlers catching her under her ribs and throwing her up into the air with force. Since they were in a forest trees surrounded them but luckily she lessened her impact against a thick evergreen by kicking off of it . She landed on the ground hard and the moose loomed over her, intent on crushing her skull with its hoof, when she jammed her stolen antlers into the underside if his neck.

Fluidly she somersaulted backwards and evaded the hoof, ignoring for the moment her bloodlust. The moose let out a guttural groan as it swayed unsteadily on its feet, before falling ten seconds later. The fall of its massive body echoed through the forest and Lenore leapt to it and used that moment to break the animal’s neck, in order to put it out of its misery. Then she fed hungrily – and was quite surprised at how much better the blood tasted. Not human-good at all, but much better than her previous four-legged victims.

By the time she was done she was more full than she had ever been – moose carried a heck of a lot of blood in their systems – and she sank, sated, to the forest floor.

“How was dinner?” Loki asked, appearing out of nowhere like always.

“Good.” Her eyes narrowed as she wiped the blood from her face. “I almost died though – where were you?”

He shrugged and smiled secretly. “I was watching. You were fine.”

Lenore bit back a retort because she knew he was right – she had done it fine enough on her own. “Just fine?” she asked, interested in knowing if she had gained his approval.

He let out a barking laugh. “Nearly getting killed makes you ‘just fine.’ Maybe when you manage to not get broken ribs and tossed around like a tennis ball I’ll give you a higher mark.”

Lenore couldn’t argue with that. “My ribs are killing me,” she admitted grudgingly.

“You can dress them at home.” Then he did the oddest thing – he threw his head back and let out a wolfy howl.

“When did you turn into a werewolf?” she asked uneasily as Lenore’s eyes raked over him in an assessing manner.

An answering howl could be heard and then another. “It would be a waste to leave this animal here. Let the wolves have him.”

Already Lenore could hear them approaching. “Don’t you want to take him back? People love to eat deer back home.”

Loki made a disgusted face. “Meat is not my thing, kiddo. I tend to prefer sweet mead or anything else that’ll ruin my teeth.”

“Isn’t that an odd trait for a pagan god? I thought you lot were rather bloodthirsty.”

“You ask too many questions,” he grumbled before he snapped his fingers and they were back at the house; the conversation was effectively ended.

Chapter Text

Reine, Norway
May 7, 1714



Lenore was finally starting to understand just what it meant to be immortal. Vampires were, unless beheaded, ageless creatures that could survive until the end of time. While she had, in the beginning, theoretically understood what that meant, now she was gaining the realization of what immortal truly meant: Time lost its meaning for she was past that now; there was nothing to tether her to the mortal world.

Almost eleven years had passed since Loki had taken her in as his ‘pet project’ and in that time she had settled into a routine of sorts. It had taken a lot for Lenore to deal with all the major changes in her life but she had dealt, mostly thanks to Loki’s help. However, the entire time the most she had ever felt was content with her life. The true passion, true lust for life that she had felt when she had been with her children or, as Tara, been with Willow, was no longer available to her.

Until today.

Because today Lenore finally felt that spark again…




Reine, Norway
November 11, 1705


Every few days she would go hunting in the never-ending forests and lowlands that covered the former Viking territory – sometimes she hunted big game like a moose or even a polar bear and occasionally she went for small ‘snacks’ like an arctic fox. Of course, by Loki’s request, she never harmed wolves. In fact, Lenore had befriended the various packs in her hunting areas in a way, forming a unique partnership. She would hunt and drain an animal of their blood and the wolves would harvest the remaining carcass. In return the wolves would announce the presence of any humans in the territory by emitting a howl that could travel up to five or six miles to reach a human’s ears and thus a bit farther even to reach her own. Thus Lenore was properly warned if any tempting humans stumbled to close to her territory.

But other than those nights that she went out hunting – always with Loki – Lenore sought the sanctuary of her room and never left. Her time was spent daydreaming, sketching, reading, and writing. Whenever she read all the books in her personal bookcase the next day after she awoke there would always be a new set – and always on topics that interested her like magic, art, and history. Loki never pushed for her to socialize with him or to talk about what had happened to her, and for this she was thankful. Because in all honesty Lenore couldn’t face the ‘real world’ just yet. No, she was perfectly content just putting up a wall against all of her trauma and pretending that it never happened.

Of course, walls can only be held up for so long before something stronger crumbles it to ruins.

It was day and she was sleeping, as usual. Often Lenore would dream and for the most part her dreams were about her past life. Today, however, she dreamt of something else – of a furious and tumultuous sea tossing a boat from one gargantuan wave to the next. The boat shuddered and let out a death rattle as its mast collapsed onto the deck, rocking the boat further until finally the entire ship capsized. Hundreds of people – mostly men but also some women and children – fell into the unmerciful sea. Cruelly, Lenore bore witness to a young man of twenty-six years of age plunge into the cold sea – her nephew Gavin McLeod.

Her brother Fergus may not have gotten along well at all with Gavin but Lenore had always loved the boy – he was her flesh and blood. Suddenly she knew that what she was witnessing was no mere dream but a witness account to her nephew’s untimely demise. The revelation choked sobs out of her and like a sponge being squeezed she felt tears fall in a wave from her grief-stricken eyes.

“Lenore, Lenore. Wake up,” a soft, yet strong, voice commanded her.

Too much death. Too much death had been witnessed by her and dealt by her. And this would not be the last. No, Lenore was immortal. All of her children would die someday. And while Lenore had not seen them and was afraid to see them because of Elspeth’s misguided wrath, the realization that someday her flesh and blood would leave this earth grieved her greatly.

She awoke in Loki’s arms, almost in a seizure from her gasping sobs, and he gripped her tightly around her arms and torso in an attempt to still her. Her nightgown was soaked in cold sweat, her sheets were twisted about, and she had broken the headboard with the strength of her movements.

“L-Loki!” she managed to gasp out as her body ceased flailing and her seizure just dissolved into uncontrollable shivers.

“Shh,” he murmured as he settled into a sitting position and pulled her against him. Her cheek pressed against his chest and her arms automatically wrapped around his waist as she burrowed herself against him.

At one point Lenore could never imagine another man touching her again but right now, right here, she needed to feel safe again. And somewhere along the line Loki had become her safety net.

Her face was slick with salty tears and she hiccupped once or twice as she sought to take control of her body again. Her crying eventually stopped but the shivers were persistent – it felt like her body had plunged into the wintry sea along with her nephew. Throughout it all Loki rubbed her back reassuringly and Lenore took comfort in the warmth of his body and his heartbeat against her ear. Finally she stilled, yet neither of them made a movement to leave.

“What was it?” he asked softly.

Lenore tensed like a wild animal backed into a corner; mind racing to survey her options. “You once said I don’t have to talk about things if I don’t want to.”

He sighed and Lenore felt guilty for how she kept him out – especially after all that he had done for her. “You’re right, you don’t,” he acknowledged. “But you can if you want.”

Lenore was quiet for a long time – but then again, time had no meaning to either of them. Finally she spoke in a voice softer than a mouse’s steps. “If I talk about it, then it’s real.”

“Yeah it is kiddo. But I think that you and I both know that a lot of things are real, even if no one ever talks about them.”

She turned watery blue eyes up at him and smiled weakly. “Can’t I just be an ostrich and hide my head in the sand?”

He smiled warmly. “Sorry. Turns out that’s just a myth – I checked it out once on vacation.”

Lenore sighed heavily but finally sat up a little straighter, although she was still in Loki’s embrace. “I had a dream, but I already know that it wasn’t a dream. It was a vision of something that’s happened – recently.” Nervously she began toying with the hem of the white linen shirt that Loki was wearing. “I saw my nephew, Gavin, drown on his way to America.”

Loki frowned as he squeezed her shoulder. “I’m sorry Lenore – both for your loss and that you had to see it. I didn’t realize you received visions like that.”

She shrugged. “I haven’t before but I’ve always been sensitive to the otherworld, even before I became a,” she snorted and made finger quotations, “‘Prophetess of the Lord’.”

Was it just her imagination or did Loki twitch ever so slightly when she said that? Hmm. Lenore had just assumed that he knew she was a prophetess, but maybe not.

“But what’s more,” she continued, “is I think I finally realized what it’ll mean to watch my children age as I remain the same; what it’ll mean when they die and I’ll still be living for hundreds of years.”

His hand found hers and she inhaled deeply. “It’s not going to be easy, I wish it was. But you’re strong, Lenore. You’ve always had a strong spirit and I don’t expect that to change now.”

Lenore’s heart warmed slightly from his compliment but she still let out a harsh, disbelieving laugh. “Strong? I’m weak and always have been. I was too weak to leave Connor, too weak to fight off Aurelius, too weak to keep from drinking my brother’s own blood, and finally too weak to fight and explain to Elspeth that I’m not evil so I can see my children again – except I can’t do that because that would be a lie! My bloodlust makes me weak, makes me a servant shackled and bound to Aurelius and his ways, even if I no longer serve him directly!” Her words began softly but soon erupted into a scream of rage and undiluted frustration as she tore away her hand from his and threw her arms against the ceiling.

Her face was turned from Loki and she was panting like a caged rabid dog. The wall that held her memories and fears was crumbling and good Lord almighty she was trying to stack the bricks back up but nothing would stick!

There was just the sound of her heavy breathing for a long moment and then—“You’re not weak.”

Lenore’s head whirled to him in surprise. “Didn’t you just hear what I said?” she asked incredulously, not understanding why he was contradicting her.

“Didn’t you just hear what I said?” he repeated archly with a well-timed gesticulation of his right finger pointing to his chest. “Listen Lenore, trust me – I know weakness. I know cowardice. I understand what it’s like to leave the people you care about because you can’t face them anymore. But you?” He shook his head. “You’re not weak. You’ve faltered, sure, but weakness isn’t in failure – it’s in falling and failing to get back up again.”

She started to say something but he interrupted.

“I know I don’t know the whole story of your life but your former husband? He was a bastard but what were you supposed to do – kill him? Were you really capable of that?” he asked with wide eyed intensity.

“Well no, but I could have left, with the children,” she added as she shifted uncomfortably under his penetrating eyes.

“And done what?” he asked with his head cocked to the side. “You may have visions of a future where a woman with children doesn’t need a man, but that ain’t this century.”

“Well, yeah, maybe,” she conceded with a sigh.

“As for Aurelius…” Loki shrugged. “You really didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of escaping.” He looked away. “When I heard through the grapevine that the Alpha had caught himself a Prophetess, I knew it was you. I tried looking for you but that old bastard keeps his lair pretty secretive. Even when I did find you I knew that you had to be the one to do the spell; I couldn’t really help.”

Drawing her knees up close to her chest, Lenore peered silently at the pagan god. She had no idea that he had actually spent time looking for her. Actually, she had never really known why his package had arrived, she just counted her blessings and kept on moving. “You looked for me?”

He looked surprised by her question, perhaps even surprised by his own admittance. His head ducked in a bashful manner, shrugged, and spoke gruffly. “Yes, of course.” Then he looked up. “But that’s not the point. The point is you still managed to kick ass and get away from the Alpha – the only vampire that I’ve ever heard of successfully doing that, by the way—”

“—Glad I didn’t know the success rate beforehand,” she muttered sardonically.

“--And I know you wish you could be farther in being able to control your bloodlust but you gotta remember- you’ve only been a vamp four years and two of those were spent feasting on humans. Basically, you’re barely a toddler in vamp years so you can’t help your lack of self-control. But you’ll get there.”

Lenore shrugged and stared at her toes. “Yeah, maybe,” she said softly.

He bumped his shoulder into hers playfully. “What’s that thing you said to me once, when we were out hunting? ‘Do or do not, there is no try’, young padawan.”

Lenore snickered. During their hunts she had told Loki some stories about her past as Tara – because that was a different life and definitely not as screwed up as her current one – and he was most amused in the random bits of knowledge that she had gained from Xander.

“You’re kind of a dork,” she informed him wryly, feeling lighter than she had in ages after their talk.

Loki waggled his brows. “I go by many titles, fair maiden. Trickster, ‘dork’, sex god…the list goes on and on. In fact, I’ve shown you two out of the three – perhaps a full showing is called for?”

Her response was a pillow in her face as she laughed at his sputtering reaction. Loki was kind of a charmer but she never took his come-ons seriously – after all, she was a vampire and he was a god. However, they always did manage to amuse her.

Although sometimes…just sometimes…she liked to pretend that he was being serious, that he wanted her. A part of her longed to feel wanted after years of neglect and abuse…and sometimes she thought that Loki could maybe fill the hole that Willow left in her heart.

But while Loki may have become her moon – her constant nighttime companion who could make her spirits soar like the rising of the tides with his kind words and amusing antics – he wasn’t her sun. Willow had been her sun so long ago and Lenore yearned to feel that warmth upon her again, to revolve around a pulsing, passionate love.

It was almost a constant struggle to remind herself each day that that she only had slightly less than three-hundred years to see Willow again.




Reine, Norway
March 21, 1707


Lenore was thumbing through a book on Norse mythology, written in Old Norse, and attempting to understand the archaic language that died out in the 1300s. After four years of companionship with Loki she still didn’t know much about the pagan god. Finally today she had found this text hidden behind two other, thicker, books in Aramaic and was struggling to figure out her friend. He had left a couple days ago – suddenly without explanation, as he was wont to do – so she was seizing the opportunity to research him.

He may have hoped that she had forgotten, but Lenore still remembered his visit to the cellar beneath the church and his impressively pure and radiant aura. During his visit to her home he had asked her not to mention it to anyone, but that fact remained lodged in her own memory. Further complicating her musings about him was the fact that Castiel had a similar aura and had specifically said pagan gods possessed auras of darkness. Of course, now that Loki knew her penchant for aura viewing he had kept his carefully hidden so had not been able to further inspect it.

Scanning the Germanic words on the page, Lenore was unable to make out much on the section about Loki but she did understand the pictures. It seemed that Loki had children! There was one sketch of a thin woman, a wolf, and a snake that bore the caption ‘Hel, Fenrir, and Jörmungandr’. There was also a picture of a beautiful woman and handsome man with the name ‘Loki and Sigyn’ underneath it. The pictures gave her pause – she knew that all the old gods had spouses and children but the thought that Loki did have a life outside of her made her feel weird, almost jealous but not quite. It more so confused her – after all, if this was his family then why didn’t he live with them?

Hmm. The gods were very strange indeed.

She wished she could read this language. Then maybe she could better understand her friend and why his aura was different from other pagan gods. Even though their friendship had grown greatly over the last four years he never discussed his personal life. His tricks, sure, but nothing about his family or childhood.

“Honey, I’m home!” called out a jubilant voice, deepened by the mead that Lenore could already smell wafting off the returning trickster. He appeared in the middle of the living room and took a seat across from her, crossed his legs, lounged back, and smiled. “Interesting reading material, my dear vampire,” he commented casually as he glanced at the book in her hands.

“I found it,” she shrugged. Lenore honestly didn’t know if Loki would care or not that she was trying to read about him – his mood swings, she had discovered, could be tricky things. Sometimes he was vibrant and carefree, other times solemn (especially when he was training her how to hunt and live as a ‘good’ vampire), sometimes angry, and occasionally a look of profound sadness would enter his eyes.

“Hmm.” He sat up straight and caught her eyes. “I didn’t realize you read Old Norse.”

“I, er, don’t. I was just looking at the pictures,” she admitted.

“Find anything interesting?” he inquired.

Lenore wet her lips nervously. “Yes, actually. Loki did you…do you…have a family?”

Pain flashed through his bright eyes, but it was gone before she could barely make note of it. He took the book from her hand and gazed at the page she had been on. “These pictures always make me look like such a tool,” he snorted. “I mean, is my nose that big?” he asked her.

“No,” she smiled. “But it also makes you look a lot taller than you are, too.”

Loki glared at her over the top of the book before he tossed it down next to him. “Honey child, I can appear in any form that I wish. If I wanted, I could have purple skin and bulbous pink eyes or be eight-foot tall and more muscle-bound that your average gladiator.”

“So why this one?” she challenged him with a hand gesture.

“Throws people off,” he shrugged with a smile. “Besides, I’ve been told that the ladies happen to enjoy the look of it. Your thoughts?” he asked with a sly smile.

Lenore rolled her eyes and tried to avoid blushing. Luckily she needed to go hunting today so it wasn’t like she had a ton of spare blood to travel to her cheeks anyways. “It’s alright.”

“Just alright?” he feigned hurt as he covered his heart with his hands and swayed against the back of the couch. “You wound me, Miss Lenore.”

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine,” she smiled. “So…does Sigyn like this form of yours?” she asked in an attempt to get back onto her original topic of conversation.

He sighed heavily. “So what, you live with me for a couple of years and all of a sudden you want to know my sob story?” he asked with a drawn face.

Lenore shrugged. “It’s just, you never talk about yourself. And for the longest time I was too stuck in my own depression to really care, but now I’m interested.” Which was true. It wasn’t until after her vision of Gavin’s death that Lenore began to overcome her own issues – of course, she is still a work in progress.

“My life really isn’t that interesting, kiddo.”

“Well that can’t be true. Judging by the ‘mead breath’ I’d say it must be fairly interesting at times.”

Loki laughed. “Oh yeah, yesterday was a good time. Dionysus and Eostre threw a huge day-long party to celebrate the equinox and everybody was there.”

“Everybody?” Lenore asked curiously. She found the idea of a gathering of gods most intriguing. The fact that the God of Wine and Revelry and the Goddess of Spring were the hosts was not surprising.

He winked at her. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

“Loki!” she protested. “Don’t tease me – give it up.”

“I haven’t been called a tease since the incident with Luna down in Rome a millennia ago,” he smirked. “So, you want to know more about the gods, eh kiddo? Have to say, I was surprised it took you so long to ask. You always were such a curious thing.”

“Well, I didn’t know if you would talk about it.”

“You never asked.”

“Oh, okay. Tell me, who was at the festival and what did they do?”

Loki cupped his chin and appeared in deep thought before he shook his head and stood up. “Naw, I’m not gonna tell you.”

“What!” she shouted indignantly. “But you just—”

“—Uh, uh, uh,” he wagged his finger. “I just said you never asked. I never said I would tell.”

Lenore glared at him. “I remember wondering how Anyanka could always get so annoyed with you – now I can easily emphasize with her.”

He smiled and playfully ruffled her hair. “See ya.”

Then he once again snapped himself out of existence and Lenore was left alone wondering even more why he never talked to her about his personal life. Was it because he didn’t think she was a friend and didn’t trust her? Or was it something else?




Reine, Norway
January 12, 1708


“I’m bored,” Loki groaned as he stamped into the den like a petulant child as she laid on the couch relaxing.

Not bothering to look up from her intriguing book on protection spells Lenore replied, “Well go do some of your tricks on some poor, unsuspecting fool.” On one hand Lenore did think his tricks – occasionally over the years he had talked about them – were cruel, she also usually approved of them since it was one of Loki’s tricks that got rid of her wicked husband.

His sudden weight on her stomach made her go “Ooof!” and she gave him a deadly glare as he snapped the book out of her hands and set it back into the bookcase. “I hope you marked my page.”

He rolled his eyes but didn’t bother getting up. “Come on. The weather here is awful and I’m tired of the snow already. Let’s teleport to Australia and go surfing! You can even try some new game – I heard kangaroo blood sure has a ‘kick’ to it,” he snickered.

Lenore giggled and attempted to push him off of her. “No, Loki. You know I don’t like leaving the area. So, I don’t know, get off and find someone else to be your playmate.”

Amber eyes glowed with mischief as he leaned in close to her face with an amused smile. “But what if I want you to be my playmate?” he said in a throaty voice that sent a tremor of excitement through her.

Shaking herself away from the very bad thoughts that she was imagining and knew that Loki had not really intended, she suddenly sat up and Loki fell onto the couch. “Well that’s all fine and good, except I’m not leaving the area,” she said lightly, silently cursing him for teasing her. Loki was a natural flirt but as of late it was really starting to affect her – and she didn’t like it. Lenore knew, after all, that Loki just saw her as a sister-type – he had to, she assumed.

Loki pouted and gave her puppy dog eyes that flickered with sadness. “Come on, Lenore. You can’t ignore the world forever.”

Letting out a haughty sigh, she folded her legs underneath her body and leaned back into the couch. “And if there are humans around? Loki, you know I can’t control myself.”

Tilting his head to the sigh, he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “You’ll never be able to if you don’t start practicing. Think about it – if you practice your tolerance maybe you’ll finally be able to return home and see your family. Besides,” he added as he saw hope flicker across her features, “I’ll be there. I won’t let you hurt anyone.”

The sudden hope that maybe he had a point, that maybe she could see her family again, made her agree quickly.

And surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard to control herself as she had expected. Of course, that may have been thanks to Loki’s support.




Reine, Norway
December 12, 1710



“Thordis, go!” Lenore shouted as she leapt ten feet in the air to swing up onto a branch and then began bounding from tree to tree.

The alpha female howled in agreement as she leapt up to grab her prize from the mound of packed snow and then began racing behind Lenore, who was careful not to outrun her friend. Her keen ears heard paws hitting the earth in ferocity so Lenore flew down, landing easily on her feet, and grabbed the attacking black-furred wolf around the middle before it could leap onto Thordis. Then Lenore let out a short howl and quickly Vigdis, Sigurdis, and Alva were flanking them as they raced to their destination.

A sounding howl from the other wolves reached her ears and she heard Thordis growl loudly. They were a mile from their target when Vigdis was taken down without warning by Dagur and Lenore had to fall onto her back just to narrowly miss Tyr’s leap towards her. Alva attempted to capture the alpha male but the more experienced wolf easily evaded his attempts and instead locked his jaws around Alva’s neck.

But Lenore didn’t bother to watch. It was over for Alva. She had to stay on the mission.

Now it was Thordis, Sigurdis, and Lenore racing between tress and over heavy foliage. She could hear Tyr and Dagur swiftly following them and Lenore couldn’t help but wonder where their third opponent lay in wait. Most likely at the destination, the bastard. She grimaced – he wasn’t making this easy.

The snapping of teeth instinctively had Lenore somersault forward, easily missing Dugur’s bite. Sigurdis was on him instantly as he faltered.

Thordis didn’t even hesitate before he clamped his teeth over Sigurdis’ leg.

Lenore cursed and made eye contact with Thordis. The wolf was agile and swift and Lenore would need both hands to fight once their final opponent came out of his hiding place, but it was also true that Lenore would have an easier time of outrunning Tyr.

Decisions, decisions.

They were near their final destination now, a mound of snow past the shadows of the tress. The ground suddenly collapsed underneath them and both the wolf and vampire fell four feet. Lenore cursed out loud as Tyr leapt onto Thordis’ back and she swiftly snatched the prized object out of her friend’s mouth and leapt straight up.

She was only twenty feet away from her prize when a gust of wind smashed into her and pushed her backwards onto the ground.

“It’s just you and me now,” he uttered in a deadly voice as he gauged her sudden fighting pose.

“Is this the winner take all fight?” she asked as her lips quirked up.

“Don’t hold back,” he warned with a wicked smile.

Lenore placed her stolen possession into the top of her boots and gave her opponent an amused smile. “Oh, I won’t if you won’t.”

The two supernatural beings flew at each other and the world became a blur of arms and legs as she struggled to hit him. Lenore’s fist flew forward but he leaned back on his knees and kicked up, although luckily she already leapt over him and was closer to her goal. Instinct drove her to duck as he suddenly appeared in front of her and did some martial art move that she just barely evaded. Now laying on the ground, Lenore propped herself up with her hands and swung her legs in a circle but she just barely avoided sweeping him under. His foot went to stomp on her and she was forced to roll backwards, and thus farther away from her goal.

She stood quickly. “You’re holding back,” she smiled.

“So are you,” he grinned.

Their dance begun anew, with him trying to make contact with her and force her away from the mound of snow, and Lenore trying to touch him and/or leap over there. Finally she was getting fed up and tired so she pulled a trick from under her sleeve.

A wolf growled behind her opponent and he whirled in surprise, which allowed her to leap onto the mound of snow and plant her flag successfully.

The image of the wolf disappeared as Lenore threw her hands up and let out a howl of victory. Soon the entire wolf pack rejoined, with her side led by Thordis barking happily while Tyr’s side gave wolfy smiles at the fun they had but clearly wishing they had won.

Loki, for his part, glared at her. “Hey! We never said anything about magic!”

Lenore leapt down and gave him a satisfied smile as she waved the flag in his face. “One, you never said we couldn’t and two, you told me not to hold back.”

He glared a moment longer before throwing his head back and laughing. He swung his arm over her shoulder and smiled. “Finally, you’re starting to understand how to fight!”

Lenore laughed with him. As part of the plan to reintegrate her back into society so she could see her children again, Loki was teaching her both fighting and magic skills – after all, she may need them if she ever met up with the Alpha or any of his cronies again.

Of course, Loki would be the one to decide that an excellent test of her skills would be in a game of Capture the Flag. Lenore went to her wolfy companions and sank to her knees as they nuzzled their faces against her body and she petted them gratefully. Seven years of helping this specific pack closest to her and Loki’s home with their hunting had made her an accepted member of the pack. Loki, of course, already had some special relationship with this pack and was the one to teach her how to communicate with them. When Loki had suggested that the wolves play this particular game with them she had been skeptical but, judging by their reaction and Loki’s face as he listened to Tyr, she had a feeling the wolves would want to play again very soon.

They both were pretty sore losers, after all.

 




Reine, Norway
February 14, 1714




The moon was a waning crescent high in the sky, thus allowing Lenore to take in the brilliance of the starry night. She was sitting at the top of their mountain peak – the nice thing about being almost un-killable was that you didn’t worry about little things like heights – and observing the night in silence. A meteor streaked through the night unexpectedly and Lenore cheered like a little girl as more began streaking through the sky.

“Have you made a wish?” a voice spoke near her ear and Lenore involuntarily swatted the pagan god.

“Haven’t you ever heard that it’s impolite to sneak up on people?” she grimaced.

Loki chuckled and laid back onto the polar bear fur blanket that she had brought up here. “Let’s see, if I don’t count the nine-hundred thousand and eighty-four requests from you then let’s see…only twice, I think.”

Lenore rolled her eyes but kept watching the meteor shower that her astrology had predicted. “I thought you were out for the day, what with Valentine’s Day being a big day for you trickster types.”

“Oh yeah, I had some fun today,” he grinned – and she didn’t think she wanted to know what was so fun. “But humans get boring at night when they’re sleeping so I thought I’d come back home.”

She looked away from the sky to smile at him. “Well, welcome home. And to answer your question, yes.”

“What did you make a wish about?” he inquired as he turned to look at her; Lenore could always feel the heat of his gaze when he turned it on her.

Biting her lip, she reluctantly answered him. “That the year 2003 would come as quickly as possible.”

“Ah,” he sighed. “Your Willow.” Loki knew all about her at this point in their friendship. At first she had asked if his culture was against her being in love with a woman or if he thought it was unnatural and he had only given her a sly grin and said that it was ‘hot’. Then he had given her a more serious answer: that all the gods that he knew just cared if a couple loved another, gender wasn’t in the equation in order to have their grace.

“Have you ever loved someone, Loki?” she queried curiously. “I know you explained once that you and Sigyn were more arranged than anything else and never see each other anymore. Have you ever met anyone else?”

Loki was quiet for a long time and Lenore began to feel guilty for asking – he was still notorious about his privacy.

“I fall in love pretty easily,” he admitted.

“Anyanka?” she guessed.

“Nah,” he answered. “A ‘fun’ kind of girl, if you get my drift—”

Lenore snorted in amusement.

“—But not really the one for me.”

“Then who?”

He was silent for another moment. “I had quite the affair with a goddess from the Hinduism pantheon but it’s been about fifty years since we’ve talked to each other.”

Wow. Loki was actually opening up to her! “How long did you date?” she asked as she laid on her side and watched him with interest. He was right next to her, his breath could be felt on her face, and she watched every flicker of emotion that crossed his face – Lenore couldn’t help it, she was cursed with curiosity.

“Date?” he smirked. “I don’t know if you could call an on-again, off-again affair of a thousand years dating.”

Her jaw dropped in surprise. “Jeez, you’re kidding me!” she gasped.

He laughed and leaned over on his side to look her in the eyes. “That’s what it’s like to be immortal, kiddo. Everything about your concept of time and life changes in its expectations.”

“Wow,” she mused. “That’s crazy,” she repeated. “So what happened to you two?”

Chuckling, his brow lifted in amusement. “Do I look like I’m a giggling schoolgirl between the ages of fourteen and sixteen?” he inquired.

She bumped her leg casually against his. “Come on, it could be like a sleepover!” she laughed.

“A…what?” he asked with a puzzled expression.

“In my past life we had those. It can be for anyone but usually it’s a group of female teenage friends who spend the night at one girl’s house and stay up all night gossiping and eating junk food.”

“So…not sleeping? Then why is it called a sleepover?”

Lenore started laughing at his befuddled expression that was lit with the cool silver reflections of the moon with an occasional burst of warm reflection from a shooting star. It always made her happy when she understood something that the ancient god didn’t.

“Are you laughing at me?” he pouted. “Do I ever laugh at you when you don’t understand something?”

“Uh, yes,” she snorted. “How about all the time?” Then she started laughing at him some more, just for good effort.

“Why you—” he mock snarled before he laid his leg over both her legs in order to effectively capture her and then began tickling her sides.

Damn. She may be a super strong vampire but tickling was still her weakness. She began laughing uncontrollably as she struggled underneath Loki but his pagan strength far outweighed hers.

“Stop! Stop!” she struggled to say in-between giggles and she was grateful when he paused. Now, after her struggles and attempt at wrestling away from him, he was completely on top of her. Loki’s legs straddled her legs and his upper body pressed against hers. They were both panting from exertion, their faces only a few inches away from one another.

“Do you give up?” he smirked.

His smile disarmed her for a moment and suddenly all that she was aware of was his nearness.

“Yes.” Her eyes bore into his and she wet her lips nervously. “Please let me go, I give up,” she added when he didn’t move and a serious look entered his eyes – a look that scared her because it threatened to disrupt her entire world.

“And if I don’t want to?” he murmured as he face dropped down just a couple inches and his lips hovered above hers.

Her heartbeat began accelerating and she stopped thinking – she couldn’t think!

Thank God, she was saved from her world imploding by a loud whistling noise and a meteor crashing into their mountain, causing the ground beneath them to shake and Loki to fall off of her.

The rest of the night they spent apart, for which she was grateful. She had no idea what had happened or almost happened but just chalked it up to Loki being his weird flirty self and her being alone on Valentine’s Day when she missed Willow so much.




Reine, Norway
May 7, 1714



Lenore woke up around five in the evening and, after getting ready for her day, strolled out into the den. The fireplace was already lit – no matter how warm it may be outside it was always chilly in here and they both liked the heat – and the room was empty, but Lenore heard Loki moving around somewhere. Shrugging, she went to her favorite couch, sprawled out, and began reading a spell book written in Sumatran – yes with a lack of a personal life and a lot of free time on her hands over the last eleven years Lenore had begun picking up some new languages.

Old Norse was still a pain, however.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” Loki shouted as he popped into the room, and suddenly ten men with musical instruments began playing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song as Loki sang in his unique off-tune way.

In this case, ‘unique’ was a nice way of saying he sucked at singing.

When Loki and the musicians that he had created out of thin air finished, Lenore clapped her hands and smiled at her friend. “Thanks, Loki. But are vampires even supposed to celebrate birthdays?”

Loki snapped his fingers to make the musicians vanish and plopped in the seat across from her. “You say that every year and every year I tell you I don’t care,” he rolled his eyes. “Anyways, happy forty-second birthday!”

She shook her head in dismay at his refusal to go without celebrating even the most minor of days – Loki loved an excuse to party – but she was smiling regardless. “Thanks. Let me guess – you’re going to make me celebrate?”

Don’t get her wrong – Lenore used to love celebrating her birthday…when she was alive. Now it just seemed so silly.

“Yes,” he grinned as he rubbed his hands furiously together. “I’m taking you on a trip to India to go tiger hunting. Then I’m going to make you a tiger-skin rug and bring back the meaty goodies for the kids.” The ‘kids’ he referred to were his pet name for their wolf pack. “Then I was thinking an epic game of Capture the Flag – Tyr and Thordis already agreed. They’ve got some yearlings that they want to test their strength, so it’s a good deal for them.

She smiled in spite of herself. “Alright, that sounds like fun. I’ll go change.”

“Excellent! Wear a fur bikini or something.”

Lenore gave him a well-school look of annoyance. “Why on earth would I do that, Loki?”

He shrugged and gave her a sheepish look. “It’s, er, what they wear in India. Or so I’ve heard.”

Her response was to telekinetically send a throw pillow flying at his head before going to her room, smirking at his muffled cry of “Hey!”

A moment later as she was in her room changing, Lenore heard a knock on the outer door. That was odd. Only dressed in her underwear, Lenore leaned close to the door to listen to the new arrival. No one ever visited Loki – who could it be?

“What are you doing here?” he asked suspiciously as the cavern door scraped open.

A velvety woman’s voice answered him. “I was called long ago. I thought it was time to visit.”

“No. Not now.”

“Why?” the woman asked in amusement. “Don’t you want to share your pet?”

Silence. Then, “She’s not mine to share.”

“Good.”

Confused, Lenore hurriedly got dress and had to make an effort to calmly walk down the hallway and into the den. She looked towards the door and the sight before her stole her breath away.

There, standing ever-so casually was a woman of Indian descent with dark brown skin and thick black hair that curled around her shoulders. Full lips were curved in a secretive smile and her eyes were lined with kohl and featured black irises, interestingly enough. She was garbed in a traditional Indian dress, a sari, that was trimmed in gold thread and such a deep blue that it was almost black. As Lenore stared at her clothing longer she could almost feel herself falling into something, into another world, where it is dawn or perhaps it is twilight, but regardless of the time of the world there exists only the woman before her.

Her name exits her mouth so softly and so suddenly that Lenore almost doesn’t realize that she is the one speaking.

“Kali.”

Chapter Text

Reine, Norway
May 7, 1714


In the corner of her eyes she saw Loki glance at her in surprise but Lenore’s true focus was the being in front of her. The being whose aura was blacker than the darkest night, but it is not one of malevolence but simply one of existence, saying to her that Kali is beyond the reach of normal comprehension.

Kali gave her a gentle smile and Lenore felt her heart lighten as if the goddess’ smile granted feathers to her sorrow-stricken soul. “Lenore.”

Her voice was husky and low and sent all sorts of shivers below. A spark flared within the core of Lenore’s being and an ache spread through her body.

“Uh, since when did you two know each other?” Loki asked with interest as his amber eyes darted almost nervously between the two women.

Lenore doesn’t answer him because she simply doesn’t know but Kali speaks and for that she is grateful.

“When Lenore was in the process of her transformation into a vampire she meditated on my mantra.” Her right brow rose slightly in – what? Surprise? Amusement? – “I do not often receive glory from Westerners.”

Recognition sparked suddenly:

Om Krīm Kālyai namaḥ ,
Om Kapālinaye Namah,
Om Hrim Shrim Krim Parameshvari Kalike Svaha


Lenore bowed her head humbly and suddenly she felt like Tara Maclay during her freshmen year of college all over again, tongue-tied over the exquisite red-haired woman who had attended the Campus Wiccans group. “M-my mother had a book of the goddesses w-when I was young, Goddess. The chapter on your being always fascinated me and I memorized the mantra. When I was trapped by the Alpha it was the only mantra that came to mind when I needed to meditate in order to focus on something other than the Need.” Of course, that specific mother had been the great witch, Sarah Maclay.

Head still bowed, Lenore only saw Kali’s sandaled feet approach her slowly with provocative steps that both excited and scared her. Two smooth fingers were placed under her chin and gently lifted her head up. Immediately Kali’s black eyes locked onto Lenore’s and it took all of her focus to not fall into the abyss that existed beyond them.

“It was I that starved off your transformation, my child – no human has ever denied the transformation that long without indulgence or death finally taking them. I heard your thoughts past the Maya and in that moment of your immersion into the mantra I claimed you.” Kali sighed heavily and the smile slipped off her face. “Had the Alpha not arrived and cut off my carefully hidden ties to you, then perhaps you would have survived long enough to find a cure.”

“There’s a cure?” Lenore found herself asking even as her heart and head are wondering what it meant to be ‘claimed’ by a goddess.

Loki spoke up as he stepped closer to them. There was something about the way he spoke that made Lenore think that he wanted to remind the both of them that he was still here and that he shouldn’t be forgotten. “Yes, there is a cure. It’s not easy, however. You have to use the blood of your Maker before you feed.”

“Oh.” Lenore felt her eyes stinging with tears at the realization that her life could have been different, that she could have had a chance – even as she knew that stealing the Alpha’s blood would have been next to impossible.

A tapered, tanned finger gently wiped away her tears and Kali placed her tear-coated fingers into her mouth. While Lenore did not understand why the goddess would want to taste her tears, she also felt a part of her heat up at the erotic sight and suddenly she was wondering what it would be like to touch Kali…

Dark eyes caught hers and Lenore caught a twinkle in them, like a distant star far into the blackness of outer space. “Loki, I need to talk to your,” she frowned as she tried to think of the most appropriate word, “pet, for a moment. Alone.” The last word is stated in such a final way that Lenore doubted the Goddess of Eternal Energy was ever denied of her desires.

Loki frowned and Lenore found herself curious as to why he seemed so upset. “Kali, no. Go play your games somewhere else with someone else.”

She revolved towards him in a languid manner, like a tiger in the heat of the jungle acknowledging another predator that stumbled so foolishly into her hunting territory. “Loki,” she stated in a warning tone. “Please do not interfere. Besides, do you hear the girl denying my request herself?” she added coolly, casually.

The air suddenly felt suffocating as she could tell that the two pagans were testing each other with their powers. Loki gave Kali a pained look and then finally shrugged his shoulders. “Fine,” he stated without vehemence, as if he didn’t really give a damn one way or another. “I need to catch up on my tricks, anyways. Later.” Then he was gone; snapping himself out of the cave.

And leaving her alone with Kali.

Lenore swallowed heavily as Kali turned towards her. Her throat was dry and her palms were sweaty and Lenore didn’t know what to say or what to do or what Kali even wanted of her.

Kali took Lenore’s hand in hers and led the girl to the couch nearest the fireplace. She sat down and crossed her legs demurely and Lenore copied her behavior. “You probably wonder why after I’m here.”

She answered “Yes” but that is not her primary question, truthfully. The question foremost in Lenore’s mind is why does this goddess make her feel the way she does right at this moment?

The goddess’ fingers began combing through Lenore’s long, dark hair and she let out a shiver of delight as every nerve in her scalp tingled. “You were not ready for me in the beginning. You had to overcome your other battles first – Loki was best for you then.”

Lenore nodded. Yes, she could understand that. In the past eleven years Loki had helped her face who she truly was – a vampire – and helped her to control her urges and learn how to fight against attackers.

“But when you called out to me thirteen years ago, Lenore, I saw into you. I saw your soul living through two different lives and you intrigued me. Few have seen through the Maya, the grand illusion, yet you have.” Kali’s head cocked to the side and a slight smile came to her face. “You have the most haunting blue eyes, Lenore.”

“T-thank you,” she stuttered under the goddess’ stare.

There was silence for a moment as the two of them stared into each other’s eyes. Kali broke it when she asked, “What do you see when you look at me?”

Lenore wet her lips nervously, a bad habit of hers, and tried to find the right words. “Goddess, when I look into your eyes I see the abyss – that which is the beginning and the end, all wrapped into one.”

“Does it scare you?”

“Yes,” she answered truthfully. “But I also find it fascinating. I find you fascinating,” she corrected herself.

Kali allowed herself a small smile and Lenore got the impression that the goddess didn’t smile often enough. Which was a shame because when she smiled it reminded Lenore of Willow. Their lips were not the same, no. But the feeling that Lenore got from witnessing it? The same.

“Come,” Kali said as she stood up and held out her hand. “I have something to show you.”

What could Lenore do but take it?

 



Calcutta, India
May 8, 1714


Moments later they were standing on the banks of a river tinged green by algae and the humidity hit Lenore so suddenly that she gasped. The air was thick and the smell of spices hung heavy in the air like a perfume. Although it was early morning here, it was still quite hot. Lenore turned slowly to examine where they were and saw a small temple a hundred feet away off the foot of the river banks. Dozens of people wearing saris or tunics and loose-fitting pants were flocking around the temple and their intermingling chants rose into the air like a symphony of luscious sounds.

“What is this place?” Lenore whispered. For some reason it seemed inappropriate to speak loudly at this place of worship.

“Kavi Kankan Chandi – my temple.”

Lenore looked to the goddess in surprise but Kali only stared straight ahead at the burgeoning crowds. The expression on her face was one like a loving mother; serenity holding back a powerful sense of protectiveness.

Kali began walking forward and Lenore, with her hand still being held by the goddess, followed her. “I brought you here to show you something. These people,” her hand gracefully gestured towards them, “are not so dissimilar to you.”

Lenore frowned, not quite understanding. “Are they vampires as well?”

Her lips twitched into the remnants of a smile. “No. Is that how you identify yourself primarily, Lenore?”

“Well, yes,” she answered uneasily. “I am a vampire.”

She waited for Kali to say something but the goddess was silent.

“I mean, I am damned now, I suppose. I’ve become one of the things that I used to hunt. My bloodlust outweighs my common sense. Now, after a few years of practice, I can control it to an extent, but not enough that I’d trust myself around a human that matters.” Her children, for instance. “Others must die in order for me to live,” she added sadly.

“All who live must die,” Kali commented matter-of-factly.

Lenore looked at the goddess in surprise at her callous response. “That doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to kill them!” Her voice was hushed because a part of her feared this being but her outrage led her to respond this way regardless.

Kali glanced at her out of the corner of her eye and Lenore got the impression that she was amused. “What is the purpose of life?”

Lenore frowned. On one hand she didn’t understand Kali’s comments and she was getting frustrated. On the other hand she knew that there had to be something more to what the wise goddess was saying but Lenore just couldn’t comprehend her greater meaning.

“The purpose is…to help others. To live a good life,” she answered at last.

Kali stopped at the outskirts of the crowd and turned to Lenore. “Souls enter a cyclical pattern of life and death, but it is what they do in-between the two that matter most and will shape their next life.”

She ran Kali’s words through her head as she sought to understand. “So…if I am cursed in this life than I must have done something wrong as Tara in my past life. Why else would I be forced to suffer this way?”

Sighing, Kali cradled Lenore’s cheek. “All souls are caught within the never-ending cycle. The sun will always rise and set just as the moon will do the same. But what came first: the sun or the moon?”

“I-I don’t know,” Lenore mumbled as a feeling of vulnerability passed through her as Kali’s eyes watched her intently.

A soft smile graced her face. “You do, but that knowledge is not yet needed.” She brushed lips as soft as a rose over Lenore’s lips, and the vampire shuddered in response. Lenore’s heart leapt in her chest and for the first time in this lifespan her knees weakened from a simple kiss.

“Come. I want you to meditate at my temple.”

Lenore’s eyes widened in alarm. “No!” Kali arched a brow. “I just mean…” Lenore bit her lip and lowered her voice. “I can smell them. I don’t want to, er, eat any of your followers.”

“Focus on my mantra and you will not.” Kali gestured for her to join the huddling masses but Lenore hesitated. Finally after a long moment Lenore let out a deep breath, began internally chanting, and joined the crowd.


‘Om Krīm Kālyai namaḥ ,
Om Kapālinaye Namah,
Om Hrim Shrim Krim Parameshvari Kalike Svaha’



The smell was overwhelming. Succulent and sweet, their blood mixed into the heavy, humid air and Lenore felt as if she were swimming through blood. The tips of her fangs jutted out, but Lenore contained them.


‘Om Krīm Kālyai namaḥ ,
Om Kapālinaye Namah,
Om Hrim Shrim Krim Parameshvari Kalike Svaha’



She could do this. Kali believed in her. And call her crazy, but the fact that Kali believed in her meant a lot. The memories of being trapped in the Alpha’s prison assailed her for a moment as she thought about the first time that Kali brought her peace. When Lenore had begun meditating to drown out the bloodlust she had involuntarily picked Kali’s mantra – it had just come to her. During those meditations she had been able to starve off the bloodlust but Lenore never realized that divine intervention had been the cause.

It was making her question everything now. Did anything in her life happen by chance?

Lenore knelt at the altar for a long time and meditated. Her head cleared of all thought and she simply was. Her existence became a blinking star in the solar system, surrounded by the billions of souls that existed on this plane. Souls that lived, souls that died, and souls stuck somewhere in-between.

The image came suddenly, breaking her peaceful meditation without warning.

Her brother’s soul screaming in agony strapped on a rack in the depths of hell. Fergus twisted as a silver dagger began peeling off his flesh in long strips by a spirit that was blacker than the darkest night.

Lenore woke with tears on her cheek. It was dark out and all the other worshipers were gone.

“You saw past the Maya, past this world,” Kali commented softly as she knelt and softly brushed the fallen tears off her cheeks. “What did you witness?”

“My brother, in hell.” Lenore squeezed her eyes tightly. “I knew he was going there but I never understood what that really meant for him. So often preachers speak of fire and brimstone but I don’t think I ever really understood the meaning of hell.”

Kali held her close against her soft breasts and Lenore clung to the goddess with all of her strength. “Can I save him?” she finally asked.

Kali’s hand ran through Lenore’s locks and her voice was soft. “You carry with you the ability to save all you love, Lenore. It just may not be in the way you imagine.”

“How can I save Fergus?” she asked as she pulled back. Although as soon as she pulled back she was already missing the feel of the goddess against her.

“A sister’s love is enough.”

Angry, Lenore stood up. “But what does that mean? You give me riddles but what I need are answers! Fergus is my brother and I’ve already failed him once – I won’t again.”

Kali’s eyes flickered in surprise. “I’ve angered you.”

Lenore was silent, her stony façade answer enough.

Kali sighed. “I am death and destruction but therein lies my grace. I cannot brush aside the Maya so easily, even for a supernatural creature.” Her own face froze for a moment before anger flashed across her features. “Even I can be tricked by the Maya.”

But then her expression became serene and she stepped closer to Lenore. Her beauty was intoxicating, but it was more than just her appearance that appealed to Lenore. It was her essence, her aura. Kali was a black hole drawing her in slowly, a shining star all alone in the universe, and no matter how much Lenore could try, she would never be able to pull away.

More so, she didn’t want to.

“Your soul calls to me, be it named Lenore McLeod or Tara Maclay. There is a likeness to you that I find in myself and…I am find it most compelling.” The right hand of the goddess slowly laid a trail down Lenore’s arm and the vampire shivered.

Kali’s head cocked to the side and spoke in a throaty voice that heated the spark that flared when she had first seen the goddess. “May I have you?”

Lenore licked her lips in surprise as she discerned the meaning of those words, and then her heart flared with warmth at the sudden feeling of what it was like for a partner to ask and not to take. She blinked back the unexpected tears and nodded as she tentatively cupped the goddess’ cheek with her own hand.

“Yes.”

 



Reine, Norway
May 9, 1714


Lenore was in a deep slumber when Kali teleported them home. She was slightly roused from sleep when Kali set her in her bed but her senses alerted when loud voices made it past her fog of sleep.

Feeling quite content, Lenore stretch out on her bed like a cat; perhaps feeling the most relaxed than she had felt in her entire life. But she could hear Kali and Loki arguing so she stilled her heartbeat so the pagan gods would still think she was slumbering, and then listened carefully.

“You had no right Kali, no right!”

A spiteful laugh. “No one gives us the right, Loki. We take it.”

“No. I’ve been taking care of Lenore for too long to let your presence disrupt her recovery.”

“I am not disrupting her, I am aiding her.”

“That’s my job!”

A pause; Lenore heard soft footsteps and then a low voice. “And just why is it your job, Trickster? She called out to me long ago; she is mine.”

“Oh really? Then where were you all these years? Why come now?” he snarled.

“Oh, you know how easily I lose track of time, Loki,” she sighed in a burdened voice.

“I think there’s a different reason for your sudden appearance, Kali,” he hissed.

Following an extended moment of silence Kali spoke in an amused tone. “I never would have figured you for the type.”

“What type?” he asked cautiously.

A snort of laughter. “The jealous type. It doesn’t suit you, Loki.”

“I-I’m not jealous!” he sputtered defensively.

Oh God. Lenore realized now just who Kali was to Loki…this was the goddess that he was in love with. What had she done?

“I know you better than you know yourself.”

“I doubt it.”

“Think what you will,” Kali stated lightly, and Lenore could hear the smile in her voice. “Regardless, Lenore told me last night that she wants to learn from me.”

“What?” Loki asked in a stricken voice.

“Loki, come now. Did you really expect her to stay in this cave of yours forever? The girl has a purpose in this world. I will help her find it.”

Loki’s voice was softer now, hurt. “But…she’s happy here. And her purpose, it’ll only end in destruction.”

The memory of Tara’s tarot card reading flashed through her mind’s-eye – The Tower, herald of chaos and destruction. Fright gripped her tightly as she wondered what Loki meant…and if he knew something then why didn’t he tell her?

“Therefore it is more appropriate that she learn with me.” A mocking laugh. “Don’t worry, Loki. I’ll take good care of her.”

The ground shook; an earthquake. Lenore leaped out of bed and ran into the den to see the two pagan gods staring at each other, one with a look of amusement and the other a look of hatred. Loki’s fists were curled and his body tense while Kali casually stood, uncaring about his display of power.

“What’s going on here?” Lenore tentatively asked as she looked from one god to the next.

Loki strode to her quickly, angrily. His power pulsed in the air, thick like a constricting snake, and Lenore became worried.

“So one night with Kali and now you want to leave? Is my home not good enough for you?” he asked with cold eyes that cut into her very soul.

“No, no. It’s not like that Loki,” she tried to assure him. “I just, well, Kali said she could teach me how to find my path and I just want to learn from her. That doesn’t mean I want to leave you!”

“You can’t live here if you’re with her,” he angrily spat out, and Lenore felt like she had been slapped.

“Loki, I’m sorry,” she said in a tightly controlled voice, lest she start crying from the look in her friend’s eyes. “I didn’t realize that Kali was your lover, the goddess you were talking about. I didn’t mean to hurt you – I would never hurt you.”

Hardened amber eyes ruthlessly assessed her. “Well, you did.” His lips curled into a mocking lopsided smile. “But that’s my fate in life, isn’t it? To get betrayed by those I love,” he said as he glared at Kali.

She merely rose her eyebrows in defense.

Lenore drew close to Loki and grabbed his hand impulsively. She could feel her friend drawing away from her and in the pit of her stomach she was afraid. The thought of losing Loki, especially over such a petty thing, scared her more than she could have ever imagined.

“Loki, please,” she pleaded. “You’re my best friend. Please forgive me.”

His eyes softened as pain washed over them and he shook his head sadly as he pulled back. “You even smell like her,” he muttered painfully as he yanked his hand away from hers.

“Kali, you win. Take her,” Loki stated forlornly with one last look in Lenore’s direction. Then he snapped his fingers and Lenore was flung into Kali’s arms and both of them were expelled from Loki’s homes.

She swore that she could hear the wolves howling mournfully as they departed into the abyss.

Chapter Text

Calcutta, India
November 5, 1717


She speaks before Lenore even has an opportunity to protest. “You are ready.”

Silent, Lenore only nodded and looked out into the valley of the Hooghly River. Her sharp eyes took note of the Kali’s devotees preparing the Kavi Kankan Chandi Temple for the Festival of Kali Puja. There are ten of them hanging red hibiscus flowers – Kali’s favorite – and lanterns. None of them realized that their beloved goddess overlooked them and Lenore wondered what they would think if they knew the truth.

But past the temple and down the river there are demons that are preparing to disrupt tomorrow’s festival. These creatures are unlike anything she saw during her time with Willow and Buffy. All bore braided hair tied back with the dried human skin, each had eyes that glowed red with hate, and their stature of seven feet towered over all living beings in this valley. Their weapons were the sharpened ribs of human victims and they were garbed in animal skins – tigers and wolves for the most part.

Lenore wondered what it said about her that she was more angry about their wolf victims than their human ones. Perhaps Kali had been correct – she was starting to lose touch with her human side after fourteen years of being isolated from them.

A malevolent smile twisted the features of her lover’s face as Kali gestured below. “Tonight I shall once again dance on the bodies of demons.”

Then they were both running swiftly through the trees. Kali could teleport whenever she desired but Lenore knew that she loved the hunt almost more than she loved the kill. Over the past year and a half she had begun teaching Lenore many things – primarily Kali’s own version of the Kama Sutra for the first three months. But Kali’s true lust for life was in death and destruction and Lenore quickly discovered that her new lover was a demon slayer at heart.

It amused her to no end how one of her college courses on World Religions painted Kali as more demonic than anything else. Kali was in fact the slayer of the Indian sub-continent, along with many of her brethren, and was responsible for wiping out the unholy populations that desecrated their land and murdered their people. Her most famous slaying was the demon Raktavija who had been impossible to kill for years due to his magical boon that whenever a drop of his blood spilled he was replicated. It was not until Kali drank every drop of his blood and devoured his duplicates that he was finally killed.

After learning that, she understood a bit more what the goddess had in common with a vampire like Lenore.

As Lenore waited in the tall reeds near the river she eyed the twenty demons that were boasting of their plans. Their leader was the demon Sumbha, brother of the deceased Raktavija, who wanted revenge against Kali and plotted to take it in the form of murdering her thousands of followers tomorrow.

Needless to say, Kali had not been happy when she had discovered his plans.

Lenore’s mind tickled and she knew it was Kali signaling her. Like lightning, she struck the nearest demon without warning and cleaved his body in two with her ruby-encrusted broadsword – a gift from Kali. Battle cries were sounded and both females went to work hacking away their opponents – and in Kali’s case sometimes ripping their heads off of their bodies.

Kali had declared soon after she had taken Lenore from Loki that Lenore needed to share in Kali’s love of demon hunting. After all, Kali had seen during their moment of mental connection back in the Alpha’s prison of Lenore’s past life’s adventures demon hunting with the Scooby Gang and thus knew that Lenore would be an excellent companion for her. Lenore had been unsure in the beginning. It was only because of her need for blood had she become a hunter of animals – she was not a death dealer at heart. But Kali had been persistent – er, in many NC-17 rated ways – and Lenore had complied.

She was surprised by how good she was at it…and she kind of even liked it. Was that the demon in her? Or was this an untapped aspect of her human personality, as both Tara and Lenore? She wasn’t sure…thinking about such things made her head ache with uneasiness.

Kali’s laughter rang out into the air like a thunderclap and the earth rumbled as she delivered a powerful kick at Sumbha and he was thrown onto the ground. Lenore quickly went to work on the remaining three demons as Kali spoke in a blood-filled voice.

Yes, another fun fact about Kali that Lenore discovered is how much the pagan goddess enjoyed the taste of blood. Blood and raw flesh were her snacks of choice – very much unlike Loki yet more in tune with Lenore’s concept of a pagan god.

“Sumbha. You were a fool to come here, to my center of power. Your lust for revenge has shrouded your judgment,” Kali spoke in a frosty matter-of-fact tone.

Sumbha stood up and raised his four arms, each gripping a sharpened rib-dagger. Dozens of pointed teeth gleamed under the full moon and he laughed in return. “No, you are the fool, Kali. You think that your dalliance with this vampire went unnoticed?”

Lenore looked at the demon sharply as she killed his final remaining minion.

Kali’s anger wilted the grass around her, leaving her standing in a perfect ten foot diameter of brown grass. “Do not speak of what you are not worthy to voice, demon,” she seethed.

Suddenly four arms gripped Lenore tightly around the middle and the vampire dropped her sword. She groaned out loud as her ribs were broken in the constrictor hold.

“Don’t move, Kali,” Sumbha gloated. “Or my brother will kill her.”

“Nisumbha,” Kali greeted coldly as her powerful arms hung limply at her sides. “I thought that Sumbha was the only one resurrected.”

“You thought wrong,” the demon behind her hissed happily. “That message you received? It was meant to draw you out, Kalika.”

Kali bristled at him referring to her by the name of her darker aspect. “And what is the plan now? To kill me?” she scoffed. “That is beyond your reach.”

“You consumed our brother and we know that all things consumed by you live within you,” explained Sumbha as he carefully stepped closer to Lenore and his brother. “Bring him back.”

“You must think me a fool,” Kali laughed outright. “That plague of humankind can never be released.”

Nisumbha squeezed tighter and Lenore gasped as she felt a broken rib rip through her right lung. “Are you willing to bet your lover’s life on it?” he sneered.

Lenore’s watery eyes met her the goddess’ and Kali’s gaze softened as she looked at her lover. Their bond was unique and the time spent with Kali were the happiest of her cursed existence. However, they never exchanged words of such things – Kali hated ‘sweet and sappy’ – but Lenore knew that the goddess loved her.

What she didn’t know is if she was willing to bet her life on it. She trusted Kali but the Goddess of Eternal Energy had a much different viewpoint on death than most – Kali did not see it as a bad thing.

Kali’s gaze hardened as she looked at the demons. “Lenore is a phoenix – from her flames will come ashes and the cycle of death shall continue.”

Phoenix. That was her pet name for Lenore. She was trying to tell her something…but Lenore was in so much pain that thinking was difficult…One of her ribs had subtly pierced her heart just a centimeter but it was enough to weaken her and cause mind-numbing pain. The pain was so hot that it felt like she was on fire…

Fire.

Lenore caught Kali’s gaze and winked, just as Sumbha let out a roar of frustration. “Fine then. Nisumbha, kill her!” he cried as the demon surged forward at the goddess.

Using ever last bit of magical power available to her critically ill body, Lenore concentrated and flames roared over her skin – a fun trick she had known as a human and one that Kali helped her to perfect. Nisumbha wailed in pain and released her. His body was more flammable than a half-breed vampires and as Lenore directed all the flames from her body to his, he erupted into a fiery inferno that ended in ashes.

Sumbha stabbed at Kali savagely while she just laughed and evaded his fury-fueled endeavors. “I’ll kill your whore!” he swore.

A dark and savage look flitted across her face as Kali cut off all four of his limbs with two strokes and then cradled his skull in her hands. “Do not speak ill of Lenore,” she chided in a murderous tone. Then she slowly squeezed his head – for Kali it wasn’t a ‘fun’ kill if there wasn’t pain involved – until Sumbha’s head went *plop* like a wet, juicy grape.

“And take that!” Lenore laughed weakly from his position laying in the dry grass. His chest blossomed with pain and the color red danced in front of her eyes. Kali grabbed her hand tenderly.

“It hurts,” Lenore whimpered.

A cool hand laid over her forehead. “This too shall pass, my Phoenix.” Kali picked Lenore up and cradled her against her chest. “I shall take you home now to recover.”

“Kali,” she managed weakly as her vision began darkening. “Would you have let me die?” Lenore was afraid to ask, afraid to know the truth – that Kali meant more to her than she did to the goddess – but her heart cried out for that knowledge regardless.

“I may be your lover, but I am not your God. Your soul does not follow my ways and thus I would be restricted from seeing you in the afterlife,” she sighed sadly, in a way that made Lenore realize that Kali had given this great thought. “And I if I cannot see you in the afterlife then I can only see you on this side of the Maya. So no, I would not have let them kill you.”

The goddess turned her eternal gaze onto Lenore and smiled softly. “After all, I love you.”

Lenore smiled through watery tears of mixed pain and joy.

 


Liberton, Scotland
April 11, 1729


Rain trickled softly from the skies and the fresh water mixed with the tears on her cheeks. She stood silently outside Elspeth’s home, cast in shadows, as she watched her grown children through the windows. Somewhere in there Elspeth was dying – Lenore had seen visions of it during her mediations – and there was nothing she desired more than to see one of the most important people in the world to her before she passed.

Of course, Elspeth had kept her word from all those years ago – the house was covered with impenetrable wards that blocked out all demons, including Lenore.

A warm hand was placed on her shoulder. “I can momentarily disrupt the wards so you can enter. Would you like that?”

Lenore gave her a thankful smile. As soon as she had received the vision Kali had offered to take her back home. Lenore was wary of being around her family but after spending more time with humans in the last couple years and following Kali’s mantra she felt more confidence than before. “Yes, please.”

As Kali went about the deactivation spell, Lenore kept her eyes, nose, and ears focused on the house. She could smell the decay of coming death and knew that her cousin did not have time. However, it made her happy to see the house full of people and Lenore knew that Elspeth would leave this world loved. It was apparent to her that Elspeth had kept her word – she had raised Lenore’s children as her own.

Her heart warmed as she saw her three children – all in their twenties and thirties – hold each other close in the kitchen. The hug was brought on by one of the girls crying and Alexander comforting them both. She could hear what they were saying and the names they called each other by, but it was Lenore’s ability to see their auras that identified her children to her.

Alexander was a strapping man of thirty-four with a brilliant red and purple aura that hinted he was well-versed in magic and combating the forces of darkness. Idly she wondered what exactly he did. His jaw was strong and his eyes dark, but he had a smile that lit up the entire room and Lenore knew she had been correcting in naming him after Xander.

Elizabeth was a dark-haired beauty but her face was solemn and the worry that creased her features made Lenore sad. It appeared that Elizabeth had a heavy weight upon her shoulders and Lenore thought there had to be more to that than Elspeth’s illness. Her aura was such a light blue that it was almost white and Lenore was curious what her daughter was like.

And Dawn, the youngest of them at twenty-nine, had deep blue eyes and sandy blonde hair, much like her father. While she was sad now Lenore got the impression that her daughter was light-hearted by nature. When she moved it was with confidence. That, combined with a dusty red and brilliant purple aura, made Lenore very curious as to what her daughter was like.

She could tell that all three of them had powerful magical abilities and reckoned that Elspeth had taught them well. Likely they had been warned of their demonic mother so Lenore would have to tread carefully during this visit.

The snapping of wood cracked through the air so loudly that Lenore thought it was thunder at first, but realized that an old crone of a woman had emerged from the center of the willow tree in the backyard. “Who dares to disrupt these words?” her voice boomed, thick with power.

“Hecate. I should have known you were responsible for this,” Kali stated in an even tone.

Hecate gave the other goddess and Lenore a suspicious look. She walked from the tree and with each step the lines slipped off her face until she was a young woman. Her hair was a mass of red curls and she was dressed simply. “Kali. What on earth are you doing here?” Her tone was emotionless and Lenore wasn’t sure if this goddess was friend or foe.

“I need to see someone. It is only for a moment.”

“Then go. But the demon,” she hissed, “is not permitted. The four witches inside completed many spells worthy of my protection.”

“That’s my family!” Lenore shouted suddenly. She was so close, so achingly close, that she couldn’t turn back now. “I’ve prepared myself for twenty-eight years for this moment! I’ve harnessed my need and I am ready now. I won’t hurt them, I swear it.” Her fists were clenched close to her sides and her jaw tightened as Hecate looked her over.

“So. You’re the new little pet of the gods these days. Lenore, is it?” she smiled – but it was not a terribly nice smile.

Not knowing how to respond to that she simply answered, “I am Lenore, yes.”

“You may have a soul and think you are not evil, but that’s just a lovely façade my dear. I know evil – women have been requesting my power for centuries to both protect against evil and do evil – and I see it within you. You are not worthy to pass my wards.”

“Hecate,” Kali said in a low voice. “I myself vow that I will not let her harm one of the humans you have granted protection too.”

“I haven’t drank from a human since I was ran away from the Alpha,” Lenore added. “I refuse to take a human life.”

“Life can be taken in many different ways, Lenore. You don’t need to kill someone to end their life.”

“What do you mean?” she asked curiously.

“A single bite of your venomous jaws will transform a person into something like you.”

“I would never do that!” Lenore declared indignantly.

“You say that now. But what will you do when you see your loved ones, your family, dying all around you?” Hecate asked with a neatly trimmed eyebrow rising in amusement. “You are young and thus untested. Besides, no demon of your nature has managed to survive without dealing death for long.”

Lenore paused and her shoulders slumped in response to the Greek goddess’ words. She had never thought of that. But she would never turn someone – would she?

“Please,” Lenore begged. She had to see Elspeth again. To apologize, to explain, to hold her again. Just something!

Hecate sighed loudly and folded her arms across her chest. “You give your vow?” she asked Kali.

“Yes.”

“In return I demand a favor from each of you – to be called on by me whenever I wish.”

Kali hesitated. The granting of favors to other gods could prove disastrous sometimes. “I agree to your terms.”

“As do I,” Lenore supplied.

Hecate waved her arms and Lenore felt the magic in the air evaporating. “Go and be quick about it.”

Lenore went without another word.

 


Lenore flittered from shadow to shadow in the house until finally she stood in the darkened corner of Elspeth’s bedroom. Her surrogate mother was no more than a shriveled prune with deathly pale skin hung in loose folds over her thin bones. Her mousy brown hair lay around her shoulders and appeared recently brushed; its shine was evidence that Elspeth was being well taken care of.

Easily laying a silencing charm over the room so no one could overhear them, Lenore stepped from her hidden spot and the creak of a floorboard announced her arrival.

Weary brown eyes glanced in her direction and the surprise on Elspeth’s face was evident. She opened her mouth to scream but Lenore was sitting at her side in a moment with her hand gently laid over her cousin’s mouth.

“Elspeth, please,” she begged. “Do not be afraid. I would never hurt you.”

“You killed Fergus, your own brother!” Elspeth accused in a croaking voice once Lenore took her hand away.

“No,” she shook her head. “That was the night his demon came to collect his soul, care of two hellhounds that I tried to fight off – but failed.”

Those eyes that Lenore bitterly remembered as loving now narrowed at her in a mix of loathing and fear. “Then why were you drinking his blood, demon? I know about your kind. My Lenore was killed the moment she was turned. Her soul is gone now.”

“Elspeth,” Lenore sighed in frustration. “That is only true of the half-breed vampires – I’m more demon than ‘real’ vampire. I have a soul. I’m still me. And I didn’t kill Fergus…but I was a young vampire back then and the smell of the blood did drive me to temporary madness,” she tried to explain.

Elspeth’s eyes squinted as she shook her head. “No, I don’t believe you,” she stated but there was something else in her tone – hope that maybe she was wrong. “Now leave here and don’t harm the children!”

Lenore dropped her face into her hands and choked back a frustrated sob. “Elspeth, how can I make you believe me? I left you all those years ago and failed to argue my innocence because I was a danger at that time. I was young and foolish and a slave to my bloodlust. But I’ve only drank from animals since then and meditation has helped me to concentrate on ignoring the need for human blood. I swear upon the lives of my children!”

Elspeth was silent so Lenore turned to her with tears in her eyes. “What must I do, Elspeth – what must I do?” she asked her former mentor sadly.

“If you are truly Lenore then you know my stance on demons. If you want to prove your innocence then you will leave – leave and never return. I’ve told the children about you and they know how to protect themselves against all sorts of demons. In fact, Alexander and Dawn are Hunters who help protect our lands against your kind. So, demon, know that you are known here. Nothing you say can change the truth.”

Lenore’s eyes slid shut with a silent wail of agony as she processed Elspeth’s matter-of-fact but hurtful words. She stood silently and looked down at her dying cousin, her dearest relative, with love and compassion. Logically, Lenore had expected this sort of speech…but emotionally she had been hoping for a different reaction.

“As you wish, my dearest cousin. I will love you always,” she whispered. Lenore bent down and brushed her lips softly over Elspeth’s clammy forehead. The scent of Elspeth’s blood wafted up to Lenore but it took no effort to ignore it – her bloodlust was cordoned off by the emotional pain of this situation. “May God protect you and take you into his grace.”

Elspeth’s tired eyes caught Lenore’s and she saw a softness flicker within them for a moment, but her cousin remained silent.

Lenore deftly climbed out of the window and jumped down from the second story. Landing easily on her feet she glanced once more at Elspeth’s window and then turned to make her way back to Kali.

Yet surprisingly there was a figure in her way – Elizabeth. Lenore’s throat closed up as she wondered if not one but two rejections would greet her homecoming.

“Mother,” Elizabeth greeted in a calm voice.

Lenore was taken aback. “Y-you know me?”

Elizabeth nodded and her solemn expression momentarily brightened. “Of course.”

Then Lenore remembered Elspeth’s words. “Ah. Because of what Elspeth told you?”

“No,” she responded with a small smile. “She did tell us about you but I never really believed it, unlike Dawn and Alexander.”

“Why not?” Lenroe asked warily as hope flickered within her heart.

“Do you remember the day that Castiel first visited us, mother? How I knew what he was?”

“Yes.”

Elizabeth smiled shyly. “I know things. Sometimes they come to me in a dream or a vision. I also have a talent for seeing auras – Elspeth told me that you did as well.”

“That I did,” Lenore smiled, proud that her daughter had inherited her traits. Her daughter was so beautiful in her unique way and suddenly just looking at her made Lenore want to cry with happiness.

“I can see you – truly see you for what you are.” Noticing Lenore’s pained expression she elaborated. “Yes, I can see that you are a demon. But there is a light within your aura that shines of heroism and goodness. Elspeth is wrong – you are not evil.”

“Oh, Elizabeth,” she sighed happily as she drew nearer to her daughter. “Your words bring me great peace.”

Elizabeth smiled softly but her calm expression cracked as Lenore approached her. A well of sadness shone through her eyes and she bit her lip to keep from crying. “Oh mama, I wish that you had been here. I’ve missed you so much.”

Fluidly Lenore slid over to her dear grown daughter and held her close, rocking her slowly back and forther while murmuring loving words. After a while she pulled back and tenderly pushed back a stray hair that was hanging in her daughter’s face. “My dearest daughter, my beautiful sweet Elizabeth, I am so proud of you. Proud of your talents and your wisdom. I wish I could have been there for you. I’m sorry that I failed you,” she said tearfully.

“It’s okay, mama,” Elizabeth said in a small voice as she stared into her mother’s eyes. “I love you.”

“I love you too, my darling.”

“Elizabeth! Where are you?” Alexander’s voice rang out into the night. “Elspeth needs us – I think her time is coming.”

They both looked towards the front door from where Alexander was shouting – luckily he did not notice them in the shadows of the oak tree. Lenore sighed and hugged Elizabeth tightly again as Alexander went back inside. “I should go. Take care of your cousin and siblings and children,” she said with a tight smile.

“Do you…do you have to leave? What if I explained everything to Alex and Dawn?” Elizabeth suddenly looked as young as she had when Lenore had left and it broke her heart.

“No, my darling,” Lenore shook her head. “It will be better if I am away. I bring danger with me – I do not want to bring it upon your families.”

“But—”

Lenore laid her finger over her daughter’s lips. “I love you.” Then Lenore fled into the night and forced herself not to look back. She couldn’t look back. Because if she did she would have seen her entire family and maybe would be selfish enough to make the decision to stay…but Lenore realized that living with her mortal family and watching them die one by one would be worse than never seeing them again.

Much worse.

Chapter Text


May 7, 1729
Calcutta, India


Lenore sat at the window, unblinking, as she stared over at the Hooghly River. Soft moonlight illuminated the small cresting waves and she thought it was a very peaceful sight. Yet, its presence did nothing to dispel the cyclone of grief within her.

Elspeth’s passing had been less than a month ago but Lenore was finding it incredibly difficult to make peace with the death of the woman who was such a fundamental aspect of her human life. Her daughter Elizabeth’s acceptance of Lenore did improve her spirits yet the realization that Lenore could never make contact with her family – lest she irrevocably disrupt their lives – saddened her greatly.

A warm hand came to rest on her right shoulder. “Lenore, my darling. I have a gift for you.”

Lenore glanced up in Kali’s warm eyes and shivered in spite of herself. Even after fifteen years with the Hindu goddess she was still surprised by how much she loved her. Their connection often felt destined to Lenore – at this point in her life she just could not imagine coping without the goddess. Kali had taught her so much – magic, philosophy, languages, hunting – but more so she had made Lenore remember what it was like to be loved…something she had only previously experienced with Willow.

It was because of her great love for Kali that Lenore forced a weak smile in her direction. “Kali, I am not much in the mood for gifts,” she sighed.

Kali frowned and her delicately shaped brow rose slightly. “Today is your birthday, my love. More importantly, today marks our first meeting fifteen years ago.”

Lenore lowered her eyes shamefully. She knew that Kali could not really comprehend the loss that Lenore was feeling – the Goddess of Eternal Energy understood the cruel logic of the world: that all who live must one day die. The wheel of life was relentless in its pursuit of balance in the world and it was a harsh truth to accept.

Currently, Lenore was not really accepting this harsh truth.

Kali sank to her knees before Lenore’s sitting form and gave the vampire a sweet kiss on the forehead followed by pecks on both cheeks and then a final lustful kiss on the mouth. Her hand came to cradle Lenore’s cheek and she leaned into Kali’s touch. “I know you grieve, my darling. But today is a day of celebration. Will you give that to me?”

Feeling guilty, Lenore nodded. “I’m sorry, Kali. You would think by now I would be used to death,” she shrugged slightly.

“The passing of Elspeth has been hard on you, I know. Even more so after your cousin decided not to accept your explanation. But remember the words of your daughter – she saw a light within your aura that shines of heroism and goodness. Do not prove her wrong.”

Lenore’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “What do you mean?”

Kali cocked her head to the side and gave Lenore a long look. “For fifteen years we have hunted demons together in my lands. You have proven yourself to be all that your daughter said. However, since our return from Scotland you have become withdrawn. If you cannot find the strength to leave our home then how can you further do good in this world?”

Mouth agape, Lenore was at a loss for words. Her initial reaction was to bristle at Kali’s speech – after all, if she wanted to grieve for her cousin then she very well could! – but then she bit her lip as understanding began to pass through her mind. “Perhaps my daughter thinks too highly of me, Kali. I do not consider myself a hero by any means.”

Kali gave a graceful shrug and gestured out the window. “I imagine there are many out there who are thankful for your demon slayings, my love. And your life is yet young. There is much more that you can accomplish.”

Letting out an incredulous laugh, Lenore shook her head. “Kali, I am no Buffy. I don’t imagine myself to be this incredible fighter, although you are kind to say so.”

Standing up and crossing her arms, Kali gave Lenore an exasperated look. “Your lack of self-confidence is occasionally enduring but currently irritating. I assure you that no soul is ripped through the fabric of time such as you without possessing an important part to play in the world.”

Lenore frowned and defensively crossed her arms as well. The problem with ‘dating’ an ancient being was that Kali could make her feel like a child at times – just as Loki had before. “But what role? Hmm? I’ve asked you before and you’ve never answered me – you know I heard Loki’s words about my purpose ending in destruction and you agreeing. Tell me, what is it?” she asked irritably.

This was an old fight of theirs; one that would arise ever year or so. Kali feigned ignorance but Lenore knew there was something more. The goddess was not omniscient but during their moment of mental connection in Aurelius’ dungeons, Kali had seen everything her soul had experienced in both Tara and Lenore’s lifetimes. Coupled with the fact that Kali did have seer abilities, Lenore assumed she knew more than she was letting on.

Her lips pressing together in a thin line, Kali shook her head. “I have told you – I do not know. I can only assume that a fallen prophet of the Lord turned demon would be faced with dark trials. Such curses often involve such things.”

Lenore looked away from her lover and out the window. “That is not an answer.”

Through the window she saw black clouds roll in swifter than a tsunami wave as nearby lightning struck the earth with a resounding clap of thunder. Startled, Lenore looked up at Kali and saw the goddess’ hands curled into fists and anger emanating dangerously from her.

“As of today you have lived fifty-seven years yet you are still no more than a child!” she shouted. “I swear, those years with Loki made you regress to be as immature as he is!”

Jumping to her feet, Lenore glared at her lover. “Oh, of course. I’m ‘just a child’ and thou art so wise, Kali,” she huffed sarcastically. “Maybe it’s because you treat me like a child at times! Withholding information and whatnot. Maybe I would have been better off staying with Loki!”

Kali’s black eyes widened and the goddess looked stricken. With a deep breath she schooled her features and sneered slightly as she spoke in a calm voice. “Fine, go then. Go to your precious Trickster. I know that your heart misses him.”

Lenore blanched at Kali’s words – she had never brought anything like that up before. “Well, o-of course! He is –was– my best friend!” she sputtered indignantly. “And I gave him up for you.” Her heart panged; thoughts of Loki were incredibly bittersweet. She had not spoken or heard from him since he expelled Lenore from his life.

“Unfortunately it is the only part of my plan that has gone as desired!” she muttered angrily.

Pausing, Lenore gave Kali a deep look. “What do you mean by that?” she asked in a soft voice.

Kali seemed surprised, as if she had not meant to utter that line in the heat of their argument, and tried to wave it away. “It meant nothing.” She turned to leave the room but Lenore yanked her wrist and spun her around before pressing her against the wall so she couldn’t leave.

Dread was filling her chest like acid, threatening to erode everything that Lenore had based her new life on. Did Kali not love her?

“I will not ask again Kali – what did you mean by that?” she asked in a dark voice that trembled. “What was your ‘plan’?

The goddess closed her dark eyes and a single tear leaked, dripping silently over her right cheek. Kali’s clear remorse at what she was about to say only further worried Lenore. “Tell me!” Lenore urged.

“When we…connected…long ago during the time of your transformation, I saw you. I saw who you were as Tara Maclay and who you had been thus far as Lenore McLeod. I was interested in you and your uniqueness at that point. When I felt through our thin connection that you were with Loki, I decided to bide my time until a later point to come for you.”

“Why?”

Kali opened up glistening eyes to look directly at Lenore. “He…betrayed me. I wanted to make him feel the pain of betrayal as well.”

Lenore back away in shock. “So…you…used me? Used me to get back at Loki?”

Kali raised a hand to touch Lenore but the vampire jerked away. “Yes, that was my purpose initially. But after meeting you…there was something more to it. I fell in love with you, Lenore – that was not in my plan. Yet it occurred nonetheless.”

She took a shaky breath and struggled to stay calm. So Kali did love her…but her original purpose in stealing her away was to only slight Loki, to make him jealous that his lover was taking his new friend to her bosom. Lenore did not know what to think about this.

Strong hands gripped her arms and Kali’s magnetic stare forced Lenore to look up at her goddess. “My original plan to hurt Loki does not change the past fifteen years we have experienced. I love you, Lenore. That is not something that comes terribly easy to me. In my long life I have only truly loved my consort Shiva, Loki, and you. With the first two I have spent hundreds and thousands of years with – but with you it has all been experienced within the blink of an eye. In spite of that I have still come to love you. You are special to me.”

Her words lightened Lenore’s heart considerably but she suddenly felt a new round of guilt for the role she had played in hurting Loki. Yet, she did love Kali.

Lenore sighed. “It saddens me to think of your success in hurting Loki, but I forgive you…I love you, too.”

Kali gave her a soft smile and sealed their words of love with a deep kiss.

It wasn’t until much later that Lenore realized she never learned just what Loki had done to betray Kali.

 



March 15, 1738
Calcutta, India


The brick three story building that Lenore and Kali were approaching was quite impressive. The British presence in India had been growing rapidly since the East India Trading Company had formed their headquarters in Calcutta and the architecture of this building represented that. It was located in the bustling English-speaking part of the city and the street was swarming with humans. It was late afternoon so Lenore wore a headscarf that matched her green sari so that way the bright sunlight would not soak up too much of her energy. Kali wore a blue sari – her favorite color – and parted through the crowds easily. It was almost as if the humans understood on some level that Kali was indeed a higher being that should not be touched.

At that moment a British man, wearing khakis and a loose-fitting button down shirt, stumbled into Kali and began apologizing profusely. “Good madam, my apologies. I can be a clumsy fool at times – especially in the face of such great beauty,” he smiled.

Kali sneered and killed him by breaking his neck with a flick of her wrist. She continued walking as his corpse fell to the ground and Lenore struggled to catch up.

“Kali! What on earth are you thinking?” Lenore questioned in surprise. “How can you just kill a human on a busy street in the middle of the afternoon?”

“He displeased me,” she replied as they reached the ornate cherry wood doors of the brick building. A well-dressed man in black standing next to a gold engraved sign that said ‘Wolfram & Hart’ opened the door for them and they entered.

Lenore shook her head and frowned as their footsteps clicked over the marble floors. “Kali,” she hissed quietly, so that the dozen humans milling around couldn’t hear them. “That behavior is unacceptable. All he did was bump into you!”

Kali whirled around on her. “After almost twenty-four years you should be accustomed to my ways, darling. Besides, I saw into that man’s soul. He works for that damn East India Trading Company and is betraying his wife by keeping a mistress. Now with his death his wife will inherit a good fortune and his young son will be able to grow up without the negative influence of a distant father, thus keeping the young boy from a path of wickedness.” She raised one elitist brow. “Is that acceptable to you?”

Lenore sighed in irritation and reluctantly nodded. “Yes.” The contrasting morals of her human memory, vampiric nature, and relationship with the Goddess of Destruction were often mind-numbing at times. The multitude of greys that made up her world made her long for the days of black and white from her childhood.

Kali smiled and gave her a light kiss. “Even if you are wrong, it does not always displease me when you question me. Most are too frightened to try and I find it refreshing.” She glanced at a man approaching them who had slicked back hair and a finely tailored suit. He looked sweaty and nervous at their arrival and Kali let out a low laugh. “Of course, I do rather enjoy it when others are frightened.”

The man gave a low bow and was careful not to make eye contact with either Kali or Lenore. “Kali, great Goddess of Destruction. We are honored by your presence at our humble law firm. My name is Augustus Manners, CEO of the Calcutta branch of Wolfram and Hart. How may I be of service to your Excellency?”

Kali gave him a cold, assessing look and Lenore had to be careful not to laugh at the man’s clear fear at being in contact with a pagan goddess. “I spoke to a representative of yours – a Ms. Padma Patil. She knows what I require. I will speak to her.”

“O-of course, Goddess. But, well, you see, I am the CEO in charge here and it is customary for me to handle all of our important clients. Ms. Patil is just a low-ranking office clerk,” he struggled to explain as his sweating palms rubbed together.

Kali took a threatening step forward and caught his eye. Augustus’ mouth widened in horror under the full weight of her stare. “I find it already foul that you Westerners have desecrated my land and set up shop here. I will not further embolden you by speaking to foreigners. I require that I speak to a person of my land and I have chosen Padma Patil.” When Augustus’ pale face did nothing but just stare back at Kali she hissed, “Get her”.

Immediately Augustus backpedaled and hurriedly bowed along the way. “Of course. Whatever you desire, Goddess.”

Lenore smirked at her lover. “Was that really necessary?”

Kali tossed her a sly smile. “No, but it was fun,” she laughed darkly. “Besides, I am truly tired of these Westerners. I would be tempted to kill them all if it wasn’t for what I saw in your future as Tara – that my people would become stronger than the chains that hold them and fight peacefully for their land, and spark such revolutionary thoughts that the world will change.” She smiled in a bittersweet way. “Yes, someday it will be with it.”

“It will,” Lenore agreed as she leaned into Kali and wrapped an arm around her waist. She knew that it grieved Kali to watch silently as the British control over her people grew greater with each decade. “It is a shame that you won’t get a chance to make them pay yourself,” she added.

“How do you know I won’t?” Kali smiled secretly.

Dumbfounded, Lenore asked, “What do you mean?”

“Your memories of history textbooks stated the work of Mohandas Ghandi would spark my people’s revolution – I may very well have a hand to play in it.”

Lenore frowned. “But…” she trailed off.

“But I am not mentioned?” Kali laughed. “Darling, I doubt your textbooks will know of my work."

“Well, yes,” Lenore smiled sheepishly. “But what I was thinking was that Ghandi and other succeeded in gaining their independence from Britain. So if you know that they’ll already be successful then why would you help?”

Kali clucked her tongue and tapped Lenore’s temple with two fingers. “That is why time travel is such tricky businesses, my love.” She smiled. “The Butterfly Effect is often unpredictable. Perhaps the reason why my people are successful is because I give aid to them, all because I learned through our psychic connection what was to occur.”

“Oh.” Lenore mulled that over. “That does make sense…it’s just rather complicated.”

“Indeed. Food for though,” Kali smiled mysteriously.

“Goddess, how may I be of service to you?” a petite dark-skinned Indian woman addressed Kali. She wore a traditional sari in vivid colors of oranges and reds.

“Padma,” Kali greeted her with an endearing smile. Padma was a devotee of Kali and that was how Kali knew she could trust the woman to help her. “Do you have the items that we discussed?”

“Yes, my Goddess,” the woman bowed humbly. “Right this way.”

Padma led them to a conference room where two clay jugs sat on the polished table. They sat in cushioned chairs of red velvet and the Wolfram and Hart woman began speaking nervously.

“I retrieved the Holy Oil for you through our connections with a family of djinn in Jerusalem. They are authentic; our local sorcerers have concurred on that fact.”

“Thank you,” Kali said as she laid a warm hand over Padma’s. “You have served me well, my child. I hope that your future in this office will be brighter thanks to our connection.”

Padma blushed. “Thank you, Goddess. I do hope so, but Mr. Manners was fairly upset at being overlooked by you. However, I hope it will be enough that the Senior Partners will notice my work.”

“Indeed,” Kali smiled.

Kali had explained the background of Wolfram and Hart to Lenore the previous day. They were an inter-dimensional law firm ran by ancient demons. Branches of their office were located in each major city in the world and they specialized in all areas of darkness – from dealing with human criminals to demons and even occasionally settling the odd pagan god dispute. Besides their law work Wolfram and Hart were adept at procuring unusual objects and thus for this reason Kali had sought them out.

With the explosion of British nationals into India they were bringing Christianity with them. The density of Christians was sure, as Kali figured, to bring Angels with them. Since, as far as they knew, Castiel still wanted to kill Lenore, Kali wanted to prepare for any angelic arrivals. The Holy Oil, when poured around an angel and lit, was able to bind them – if they tried to leave the circle their human vessel would be destroyed. Kali had also showed Lenore another trick on expelling angels from an area that used human blood to draw a Enochian symbol, the ancient language of the angels.

Apparently Kali and the other pagan gods were not terribly fond of angels and had painstakingly created these traps ages ago. Nothing was more powerful than an Angel of the Lord and more than a couple pagan gods had met their final death at the hands of one. Only these tricks were capable of protecting someone from an angel.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?” Padma asked with the fervent glow of a true devotee ready to do anything Kali required.

“Yes,” Kali responded as she glanced at Lenore. “My companion would like to open an investment account. She is immortal – a vampire – and wishes to set up an appropriate account.”

Padma’s eyes brightened – Lenore figured that immortal bank accounts were a major bonus to the supernatural law firm. “Of course, my Goddesss!” She turned to Lenore with her a bright smile. “What are your investment interests?”

Lenore gave her a wry smile. She felt silly to be doing this – after all, she had never heard of Angel or Spike having a bank account – but Kali had talked her into it. Kali’s wealth came from her devotees and sheer power, but Lenore would need monetary wealth since she was only a vampire.

Well, a vampire and quite the powerful witch after practicing the craft for about fifty years, but it was Lenore’s decision long ago not to reveal her powers. She was already fairly well known because she was Kali’s demon lover – a true mystery for those that actually knew Kali – and she enjoyed having surprises up her sleeve in case someone tried to bring harm to her or Kali.

“I have some funds” – thanks to Kali – “that I would like to invest in Franz Ketterer of the Black Forest,” Lenore explained as she laid two heavy bags of god onto the table in front of Padma.

“Oh, okay,” Padma agreed, confusion evident on her face. “ A Mr. Franz Ketterer you said?”

“He is going to invent a unique clock this year and I want to invest in his business,” Lenore smiled. She knew that this girl likely thought her crazy for such a strange request but thanks to her (as Tara) late mother’s love of cuckoo clocks, Lenore knew a great deal about them.

“Also, I’d like to invest in the American colonies. I’m not sure what exactly at this point” – Lenore wished she knew more American history! – “so I would appreciate your firm’s assistance in finding good companies.

“The American colonies?” Padma’s nose crinkled in confusion. “But my Lady, wouldn’t you rather invest in a British company? The Americans are still a savage land,” she explained in a stage whisper.

Lenore laughed. “Yes, well, I trust things will turn out well for them,” she smiled enigmatically.

“Oh, yes,” Padma nodded several times. “Of course my Lady, I did not mean to question—”

Kali silenced her with a wave of her hand. “Fear not Padma, you have been more than accommodating to us.” Kali picked up the two jugs of oil and smiled kindly at the woman. “Thank you for taking care of our business.”

“Yes, thank you,” Lenore smiled at the woman who looked stricken with joy by Kali’s attention.

“Yes, of course my Goddess, my Lady,” Padma bowed. “I would be honored if you thought of me for your future needs at Wolfram and Hart.”

“We will be sure to do that,” Kali smiled as they walked out of the door, many pounds of gold lighter and two jugs of Holy Oil heavier.

Chapter Text



August 20, 1745
Calcutta, India


Flashing lightning illuminated the towering mortar and brick walls surrounding the interior buildings of Fort William, the base of the English East India Trading Company. Torrential monsoon rains fell from the skies in buckets and the few military personal stationed on top of the walls could barely see more than five feet in front of them. Rolling thunder deafened the guards and interior personal, making it impossible for them to hear one another.

It was a perfect time to sneak into the base.

Kali and Lenore deftly leapt to the top of the rain slick walls and then smoothly jumped down to the other side like jungle cats. Without words they made their way to the Government House in the center of the fort. Few men were stationed outside due to the weather but they knew there were supernatural creatures here that disliked the rain no more than they did. Yet it was with skill or luck, or a healthy combination of the two, that they arrived without trouble at their destination.

Lenore inhaled deeply outside the door of the Government House. “There are four humans inside, at least two demons, and…” A worried look crossed her features. “Three vampires…my own kind.”

Kali gave her a careful look. “You have not crossed your own kind since your escape. Are you prepared for such a confrontation?”

Her fingers shook slightly but Lenore nodded ‘yes’ anyways. The scent of her own kind brought back a flood of memories from her days as Aurelius’ enslaved personal prophet and it made her feel suddenly ill.

“Good,” Kali nodded, but not before she squeezed Lenore’s hand for good measure. Then she kicked the door open – she loved making an entrance – and used her telekinetic powers to throw each being against the wall. Lenore slammed the door shut behind them, stood to Kali’s right side, and surveyed the room.

Two men wore traditional British military garb but the other two wore professional business clothes – they likely were the men working for the East India Trading Company. Near them were two of the most beautiful women that Lenore had ever seen – and the ones with most foul aura that she had ever witnessed. They were female rakshasi demons that had the ability to change their shape into gorgeous women. Rakshasis preferred to eat babies and pregnant women, but were known to commit all matter of horrid crimes. Needless to say, they were certainly on the ‘slay’ list.

To Lenore’s right were the three vampires. Two of them were dressed like Company men in tailored suits; British by origin with a haughty look that came attached to men of noble birth. The third appeared to be British as well but he was dressed like a commoner in comparison to the other two. In addition he bore a purple bruise under his left eye. What disturbed her most about this third man were his piercing blue eyes that locked onto hers; they flared with hope at her arrival and struck a chord within her that she didn’t quite understand.

“Gentlemen, demons,” Kali stated coldly with a matching smile. “I am the unfortunate bearer of bad news today.”

“Who the hell are you, you dirty whore coming in here—”

Flames burst from Kali’s fingertips and the one businessman burned to ashes within less than five seconds. The other humans and vampires quaked with fear but the rakshasis feigned an ambivalent attitude.

“I just hate being interrupted,” she announced dryly as she set her black eyes on the other occupants of the room. “As I was saying, I am here to bring you ill tidings. You see,” she began as she casually strolled around the room, “I heard that you – the foul British – have teamed up with this group of demons. Apparently you’ve promised these beasts one hundred Indian souls in exchange for more power for your little company.” Kali rose one haughty brow. “Is this correct?”

“Get away, Kalika!” one of the rakshasis hissed malevolently. “You have no business interceding here!”

“Oh, I don’t?” Kali laughed mockingly. “You seek to make deals in the backyard of my power center and think that I have no right to intercede? You are a fool, Foul One.”

“What if we propose a deal?” offered one of the well-dressed vampires. “The East India Trading Company gives two hundred souls and half of them will go to you?” He gave Kali a genial smile and Lenore fought not to roll her eyes at his stupidity.

Like Kali was even in a need to make deals.

But for the sake of dramatics she pretended to ponder that proposal before a wicked smile lit up her beautiful features. “I think not. Lenore, kill the vampires. I will take care of the others.”

To give them a sporting chance Kali released all the beings from her telekinetic hold and the fight began in earnest. The rakshasis were powerful fighters and Kali always enjoyed a challenge. Lenore gave her vampire opponents a grim smile while she silently cursed her lover for forcing her to combat her own kind. Just even seeing them made her have flashbacks of Aurelius raping her…

Without really thinking about it her sword sailed through the air and cut off one vampire’s head. Hmm. Perhaps Kali had indeed made a wise decision – this was making her feel a bit better!

The second vampire, the one who had made the proposal, bared his fangs at Lenore while the third surprisingly hid behind a desk. Prioritizing her foremost threat, Lenore deftly wielded her sword but was surprised to see that there was more to this vampire than talk. He moved skillfully around her in a deadly dance that made Lenore wonder just how old he was.

“You are vampire,” he sneered. “What are you doing with this pagan? How dare you go against your own kind!”

She avoided his front kick but he managed to knock her sword out of her hands; it clattered onto the desk. “My own kind?” she snarled. “You disgust me with your murder of innocents. You are not one of mine!” Lenore struck the other vampire’s nose with the heel of her hand and thick blood began to drizzle down his face.

“Traitor! What kind of fool vampire doesn’t murder?” he asked with a mocking laugh as he grabbed her hand before she could punch him and snapped her wrist. Lenore let out a hiss of pain that turned into a groan as he kneed her in the stomach and then the face. He threw her against the wall and then crouched over her sputtering form as she tried to wipe the blood from her eyes.

His hands gripped her neck tightly and Lenore felt her throat close up. “I’m going to pop your head off like a dandelion,” he chuckled evilly.

Lenore was about to use a wordless spell on him when her sword whistled through the air and cleaved the vampire’s head off. Standing above her was the third vampire who bore a pinched expression of worry as her sword swung to his side. She wrenched herself free of the dead vampire’s cold fingers and stood up slowly.

“Thank—” she started to say but then had to scream as Kali’s enraged form descended upon them and tried rip the other vampire’s head off. Lenore had to grab the goddesses arms and push her back. “Kali, stop! He saved me,” she explained.

Kali stood up, covered with the blood of the three humans and two demons, and stared at her in surprise. “Saved you? He is vampire. He must die.”

Lenore glanced back at the other vampire and his sky blue eye caught hers again. Fear was evident in his eyes, as well as confusion. She carefully took her sword from him. “What is your name?”

He licked his lips nervously. “They call me Eli.”

“Eli, how long have you been a vampire?” Lenore inquired.

“Two months, ma’am. I was sent here as an indentured servant to these men at the Trading Company. Turns out they, er, weren’t men though.” He appeared ashamed by his words.

“They turned you?”

“Yep. Said they needed a servant and couldn’t trust me if I was just a human,” he explained sadly.

“Lenore, enough talking,” Kali snapped in irritation. “Men will come by to check on their superior officers soon so we must leave. Kill the vampire and be done with it.”

Lenore turned to her lover in shock. “B-but he is innocent! They turned him against his will.”

“Do you think there are many vampires who request the transformation? No. They are all mostly changed against their will. For that matter the evil demons we slay are born into their wicked lives and do not, essentially, choose their path yet we till slay them. Just as you must slay this abomination of man,” Kali explained in a tired voice.

At the word abomination Lenore flinched. “Is that how you think of me?” she asked in a small voice, akin to a young girl who just learned that Santa isn’t real.

Kali gave her a pained look and shook her head. “Of course not, my love. You are different.”

Lenore glanced back at Eli, who appeared very worried about his imminent future. “But why am I special? I am a vampire just like him. Eli,” she addressed him. “Do you want to drink human blood and kill?”

Eli blanched for a moment as he mulled over her words before he shrugged. “It tastes…wonderful…but I feel wrong when I do so – it’s like I can hear my priest’s voice in my head. But…isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Drink blood?”

“You can live of off animal blood. I could show you,” she stated eagerly. Lenore hadn’t expected to make all of these promises to this strange man but they were now just flowing off of her tongue like sweetened molasses. Perhaps it was because Kali thought Eli was better off dead, perhaps because Kali had subtly showed Lenore (unintentionally, of course) that Lenore was just as bad. Regardless, the offer was made.

“I don’t want to die,” he said quickly. “And I don’t feel real right about killing folks either. I would appreciate your help most kindly if you can help me figure out a way to do both.”

“Lenore!” Kali hissed. “You cannot be serious about this?” she asked in an appalled tone.

“I am,” Lenore replied.

Noises could be heard outside and Kali rolled her eyes in exasperation. “Fine. But we leave now.”

 



August 27, 1745
Calcutta, India


Lenore came back from hunting a tiger with Eli to find Kali waiting up for her. The goddess didn’t even bother to greet Eli and instead directed her focus at Lenore. “We need to talk.”

Apprehension trickled down her spine. “Alright,” Lenore replied in a voice devoid of emotion. She had sensed this talk coming. Kali despised having Eli here and had not tried to hide that fact. “Eli, why don’t you go upstairs and practice your meditation?”

Eli simply nodded and went to his temporary room. He was a man of few words but he wasn’t addled – he just knew it was smart to avoid a confrontation with Kali.

Once he was gone Lenore sat down at the rocking chair and neatly folded her hands in her lap; an attempt to hide her nervousness. “Yes?”

Kali began pacing the length of the room. “You know that I resent that demon in my home, Lenore.”

“I know Kali, but where else can he go? Until he can learn to control his urges he must stay with me,” she explained for the hundredth time.

“You keep saying that but don’t you understand how his presence fouls my house?” she asked in frustration. “I can feel the wickedness wafting off of him and it turns my stomach. I slay demons Lenore, not have them as houseguests.”

Lenore let out an angry sigh. “Kali, I was no different than Eli when I first showed up at Loki’s. In fact, I was worst! I was a dark creature who fed off of her most beloved brother! But I had people – both you and Loki – who helped me on my journey to find the strength to satisfy my bloodlust with animals and to control myself around humans. That’s all that Eli needs as well.”

“You are different! You have a purpose. You were brought back for a reason. Eli, he is no more special than the stones beneath my feet!” The goddess towered in her anger and was truly a terrifying sight to behold. However, Lenore had witnessed Kali’s temper more than enough in the last thirty-one years and she didn’t scare so easily.

“And just what is my purpose, Kali? You claim not to know. Tell me – have you ever thought that maybe my purpose is to redeem my race?” Lenore spoke the words slowly because they were just now coming to her. It was as if a layer of the Maya, the veil, had been lifted for her and it was all making sense now.

Kali sputtered at what she clearly thought was a ludicrous idea. “Wha-what? You speak nonsense, Lenore. Vampires are not meant to be redeemed!”

“Why not? My race has souls. Souls, Kali! Perhaps I am meant to lead them away from temptation and help them find the strength to live a good life, as I was taught!”

“No, no, no,” Kali shook her head. “That is insane. Are you telling me that you plan to take in stray vampires like some…some common nun or other such nonsense?”

“Yes,” Lenore answered – and there was a tug in her gut that told her she spoke the truth. “I don’t know what happens to vampires when we die. Heaven, Hell, I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t plan on letting Hell take any more souls. They already got my brother. I owe them some revenge; to bring more souls to the side of Heaven.”

Kali knew that Lenore considered herself part of the Christian faith – it was why the goddess had been so afraid of Lenore dying and leaving her. And while it was most unusual to be lovers with a goddess of a different religion when Lenore still believed in God and his Son, she did. Lenore still believed after all of these years. Her beliefs had surely been tested to the brink of breakage but they remained.

Kali exhaled deeply and placed her face in her hands. “Oh Lenore,” she said sadly. “I wish you hadn’t said that.”

“What is it?” she asked as she set her hand on Kali’s shoulder. Her anger had dissipated at the distressing tone of Kali’s voice and now all she felt was worry.

Kali looked up slowly with eyes that sparkled with pain. In a flash of movement she grabbed Lenore and pressed her up against the wall. Her hands were everywhere – pretty much literally – and Lenore moaned as Kali gave her a deep kiss that sent her lower regions throbbing. Lenore’s hands fisted in Kali’s hair as she pulled the goddess closer and circled one leg around her waist.

Reluctantly, after a moment that seemed to last forever, Kali pulled away panting. “That was a goodbye kiss,” she stated in a tight voice.

“A…a what?” Lenore asked in a hesitant voice, sure that she had heard wrong.

“You’re right, Lenore. You have found your path in life. I saw the truth of it explode in your eyes and felt it tighten in your chest. You have a noble goal.”

Kali sighed. “You just cannot do it here.”

“What?” Lenore gasped. Something cracked in her chest and tears lurked in the back of her eyes. “No, what do you mean? Why not?”

Evading her eyes, Kali answered. “I cannot abide demons in my home, Lenore. And if you are serious about helping others of your kind you will need to travel anyway.”

Lenore grabbed Kali’s hand in a tight vise. “Well, that doesn’t mean…I mean, this is not the final goodbye, is it? Because your voice…i-it makes it sound like it is, b-but that’s just silly, right?” she stammered nervously.

Tears fell from the abyss that lurked in Kali’s black eyes. “You are ready to be on your own, my darling. You know combat, you know magic, but you do not yet fully know yourself. You need to be on your own now. I knew this day would arrive eventually…I just selfishly hoped I would have more time with you first.”

“W-well you can!” Lenore argued with tears streaming down her cheeks. “I’m right here, Kali! I’m not dead. You can have me…you already have me!”

“Lenore, please,” Kali said with a breaking sob. Lenore had never seen the goddess so emotional before and it made her heart break with a resounding crack of pain. “I don’t want to let you go, but I must. I see it now. You must…you must do what you need to do. I cannot be a part of it – I could never so freely associate with common vampires.”

“Kali,” Lenore whispered. “This will just be temporary then, right? I can still visit you…”

Kali shook her head. “A clean break would be best, my love. Perhaps someday I will see you again…but it will not be for a long time.”

Lenore’s chest shook as she tried to contain the sobs that were building within her. Kali was her life. She couldn’t just never see her again!

Her body shaking, Kali placed a gentle kiss on Lenore’s forehead and stepped backwards. “I will leave for one week. Do whatever you need to in order to prepare for your trip. Use your funds from your Wolfram and Hart account. Most of all…be safe.”

“Kali, no!” Lenore begged.

Her lover turned sad eyes downward and then teleported out of the house in the blink of an eye.

And all Lenore could do was sink to the floor and cry.

Chapter Text


June 12, 1765
Arles, France


Lenore stood in one of the galleries of the Arles Amphitheatre, the exquisite smaller replica of the Roman Coliseum that was built here during Rome’s rule over Gaul. Eli was at her right side and the dozen vampires of her clan milled freely in the arena area below. Alongside her clan were the fifteen new vampires who had come to hear her speak. Many of them were from the surrounding area and most made this small Southern France town home.

“I have walked this earth for ninety-three years,” she began in an authoritative voice. Lenore hated – no, despised – public speaking but after twenty years of it she was getting better. “For seventy-seven I have been a witch and for sixty-four I have been a vampire. And for sixty-two of those years I have been feeding off of only animal blood.”

Several of the newcomer vampires smirked at one another – likely they were much older than her and were wondering why they should listen to one of her age. Others seemed disgusted that she would feed off something lower on the food chain. “My name is Lenore and I am here to share my enlightenment with you – that it is possible to live in harmony with humans.”

A bald vampire who appeared to have been turned in his early forties laughed outright at her. “Why should we even care about living ‘in harmony’,” he guffawed, “with humans? They are beneath us. Nothing better than cattle.”

Several other vampires voiced their agreement and Lenore held her hand up for silence. “The world is changing. I have seen it in visions.” Which was more or less true. “Human technology is advancing each year and their capabilities to detect and to hunt us are growing.

“I am sure many of you have heard of the Hunters that kill our kind – the ‘mere’ humans – with swords and Dead Man’s Blood. Some of these Hunters are infamous – Daniel Holtz, for example. We may think that these humans are beneath us but already Holtz has killed three-hundred of our kind. Tell me – have you ever seen a cow murder three-hundred humans?”

The crowd went silent and even the one outspoken vampire appeared contemplative at her words. Lenore’s purpose in ‘saving’ vampires from their baser instincts was fueled by her spiritual beliefs. However, while many humans were religious in this century many vampires were not. To turn them to her side Lenore had to appeal to their common sense.

“No, you haven’t. Humans are more advanced than cows and their technology is jumping by leaps and bounds. First we were hunted with swords and now guns and soon they will create even more tools of destruction. As the human world gets more civilized it will be even harder for our kind to hide. Therefore, our only option is to hide ourselves – by feeding off of only animals and not humans.”

“But won’t humans notice if all of their animals are dying?” one female vampire dressed in a petticoat asked in a dry voice.

“Not if we are nomadic and are careful about where we hunt. Furthermore, when we hunt wild animals – deer, moose, and others – we leave the bodily remains for the local predators, like the wolves. Therefore the humans don’t become suspicious by dead animals devoid of blood,” Lenore explained.

“But humans taste goddamn good!” shouted a bearded vampire with a wide smile. The crowd laughed and Lenore allowed herself a small smile. After all, she knew exactly what he was talking about, sadly enough.

“True, true. But our evolutionary process dictates that to survive we need to ignore humans – lest we finally be hunted down and meet the true death,” she remarked gravely.

Knowing that her speech was over as several vampires began to look restless, Lenore performed a summoning spell and a pack of twenty lions appeared in the middle of the arena. Wolfram and Hart had procured the animals for her and hid them away in the underbelly of the arena so that her summoning spell would not be too strenuous. Of course, such a spell made her look most impressive since likely tonight’s attendees would assume she transported the animals here all the way from Africa.

And when you were trying to convert new followers it was always smart for them to be impressed by you.

“Ask questions of my clan about our lifestyle choice. We are happy to accept any who wish to join us and provide them the support they need. Now, hunt and eat!”

As the lions roared in fear – all animals could sense the darkness of a demonic predator – her vampire guests roared back in anticipation and the hunt began.

Lenore sighed and leaned into Eli’s shoulder. He had become her confidant over these last twenty years since they had left Kali and he was her right hand man in all clan issues. “So?”

Eli wrapped one comforting arm around her. “It was good.”

She let out a snort of laughter. “And?”

“Out of the fifteen I saw at least six seem very interested. Out of those we should get three to join us and likely one will make it past the first year.”

Lenore nodded. It was no easy task to convert other vampires to their ways and it was even harder to get them through the human blood detox program. “I was surprised to feel the presence of two half-breed vampires here,” she commented. “Since those vampires are soulless it is very uncommon for them to willingly drink animal blood.” Actually, unheard of completely at this point since Spike hadn’t been born and fallen in love with Buffy yet.

“Really?” Eli mused. “Where?”

“Over there engaging in the almost carnal display of affection over the bloodied body of that male lion,” Lenore gestured. The man had shoulder-length brown hair and wore a large overcoat while the blond woman was the same that had questioned her earlier, the woman in the petticoat. The man was on top of the woman and pushing her skirt up now…and Lenore looked away when she realized they were having sex.

“Strange.”

“Indeed. Well, I suppose I should mingle. Keep watch over the area? My wards are resistant to human bypassers but one can never be too careful.”

“Of course.”

Lenore gave Eli a smile and leapt off of the gallery into the hard dirt of the arena. Ever since she had taken Eli under her wing he had been very supportive of her cause and adopted it as her own – it was nice to not be alone in all of this.

Even if he didn’t come close to filling the hole that Kali left – or even Loki for that matter.

Twenty years and still no word from Kali. She had said she had wanted a clean break and she had gotten it. Loki was still just as silent – it had been fifty-one years since she had seen her old friend. She often found herself wondering what either of them were doing. Kali had said she had only loved two others besides Lenore – her consort Shiva from the Hindu pantheon and Loki. Was Kali with Shiva again? Or had she and Loki made amends? Perhaps Kali and Loki were together right now, laughing at how they had gotten the silly vampire to fall in love with them.

‘Fall in love with Kali,’ is what she meant to think. Kali’s absence in her life was now a dull ache after so many years but it still occasionally felt fresh and stung with pain.

At least Lenore was closer to seeing Willow again. Yes, she had fallen in love with another woman but her feelings for the two were very different. After all her experiences she still loved Willow and dreamt of her. Willow would be born in 1981, just 216 years from now. Of course, that was still a long time…but at least it wasn’t three-hundred years anymore!

“So you are just going by Lenore now, not Prophetess any longer?” an amused female voice asked her.

Lenore whirled to her right and had to fight not to gasp. The woman speaking was the half-breed she had pointed out to Eli – and she realized it was Darla, the Master’s child that had visited Aurelius’ lair so many years ago. The man standing next to Darla gave her a smirk smeared with blood and Lenore realized she was looking at Angel – or rather, Angelus.

“I go by many names. Some even call me God,” she responded coolly.

“God?” Darla asked in confusion as she licked away the last remnants of blood off the lion leg she was holding.

Her mind began twisting with thoughts. If Darla was here she could rat Lenore out to the Aurelius. But Lenore couldn’t kill Darla or Angel because then she would interfere with the future as she knew it. But at least she knew that Darla and Angelus were rather sadistic bastards that would appreciate some good snark their way – and hopefully be too afraid to cross her afterwards.

“Yes, but it’s rather informal. It usually goes something like this, “Oh my god, please don’t rip off my pathetic demon head,” Lenore replied snarkily.

Darla’s laughter sounded like the tinkling of bells and Angelus chuckled darkly. “I thought you said this one was a mouse back in the day, luv. She sounds more lioness now,” Angelus commented in a thick Irish brogue.

Darla lapped up one last mouthful of blood and dropped the leg unceremoniously. “I do enjoy the taste of lion,” she smiled.

Lenore let her arms rest easily at her sides. She was certainly not afraid of these two. Angelus had to be no more than a decade old as a vampire and even though Darla was close to two-hundred years she was no match for Lenore’s magic. “What brings two half-breeds such as yourself here? I know of your reputation – I doubt either of you are interested in a wildlife diet.”

Angelus wrapped his arms around Darla’s waist and leaned his head on top of hers. “Well now, we heard you were serving up lions tonight – we thought it would go rather well with the lambs we had for breakfast.”

Bristling at the implication they ate human children earlier, Lenore gave them each a hard look. “We don’t deal with soulless half-breeds, especially ones of your reputation. I suggest you leave.”

Angelus appeared before her in a show of speed that Lenore had to admit was quite good. “But the party is just getting started now, luv,” he whispered as he trailed one calloused finger down her cheek.

Knowing she couldn’t kill the bastard but that there was nothing against inflicting pain, Lenore grabbed his finger and crushed it in her bare hand. He gasped in pain as each tiny bone broke and Lenore shot Darla a threatening look so she wouldn’t step any closer. “One thing you should remember, Angelus, is that my kind is much stronger than your pathetic half-breed body. I am a truer demon than the one that exists where your soul once dwelled and thus I have enough power to kill both you and Darla before you have a moment to beg for forgiveness.”

Angelus gritted his teeth and snarled at her.

“Now leave here and never come near my clan again,” Lenore ordered as she released Angelus and kicked him backwards. Vampires of their reputation only understood one thing – pain.

Both of them bared their fangs and ‘game faces’ of crinkled forehead flesh, but they left quickly. Lenore only hoped that she didn’t have to worry about them showing up for revenge at a later point.

 



June 14, 1765
Arles, France


They were living for the time being in the Camargue Forest outside the town of Arles on the banks of the Rhone River. Since Lenore’s speech two nights ago four vampires had joined their clan and tonight was a celebration to welcome them into the fold. For the special occasion Lenore obliged her new family by purchasing several unique reptilian animals from another dimension through Wolfram and Hart. The cost had been severe but she was a woman of means thanks to her insightful investments (the cuckoo clock was a hit in Europe!) and it pleased her to make others happy. The road that her clan travelled was a difficult one and celebrations were necessary to keep up morale.

Besides, the ‘Mortemzilinas’ had delicious spicy blood, were six feet tall, full of fangs and claws, and overall a very fun hunt for everyone.

“Oh my god!” their newest member, Anne, sighed as she swallowed her first mouthful. “My lady, this is maybe even better than human blood!”

Lenore smiled at her enthusiasm and wiped her chin of her meal. “I am glad you think so. This breed is excellent – although I am afraid it is only for special occasions. I hope you will find the strength to be satisfied with our more typical fare of deer and cows.”

Anne laughed happily as she drank further. “If it means I get this every once in a while, I think I’ll be good!”

The tightness in her chest that always arrived upon the acceptance of new members eased slightly. Anne had the enthusiasm for life that often foretold an ability to abstain from humans and stay committed to their lifestyle. Lenore was pleased by this.

Several hours later when the moon was high in the sky they began packing. Her clan never stayed in one area for too long and tonight they would head deeper into the Camargue Forest. It was imperative that their newest members be severed from human contact for the first thirty days if they were to make it in this lifestyle.

Of course, Lenore was tempted after those thirty days to head north , past the Cévennes Forest, to the French province of Gévaudan. Rumors stated that ferocious wild wolves were attacking a number of humans. In the past two years seventy-five people were attacked and the majority of them killed – by being eaten. Needless to say, Lenore was curious if the attacks were the work of werewolves and if so, she wanted to see if she could help.

Oh, alright. Maybe after all these years and one lifetime she still felt guilty about poor Oz finding out that Tara was ‘with’ Willow like that. She kind of felt like she owed the werewolf population something.

“Lenore, I cannot find Anne,” Eli whispered to her, breaking her internal musings, as Lenore cleared away their campsite.

“What do you mean?” she asked sharply.

“She is gone,” he shrugged. “I’m afraid she may have deserted us even sooner than normal.”

“No,” Lenore said quietly as she shook her head. “There was something special about Anne – I was predicting good things from her.”

Eli was quiet for a moment. “You have been wrong before.”

Lenore winced. Their twenty years of converting vampires to animal blood had certainly not been without its share of mistakes. “Perhaps,” she admitted. “Or,” she added as she remembered something. “Perhaps Darla and Angelus have decided to wreak havoc. It would be like them.”

Eli sighed. “Should I warn the others to watch out for the half-breeds?”

“Yes. Also—” But Lenore’s words died in her throat as an arrow embedded in her heart. She looked down at her white peasant blouse and experienced a sense of déjà vu as blood blossomed over her shirt.

“Lenore!” Eli yelled in fear as he caught her falling form. Arrows began to rain down from the skies and her clan members began screaming.

“Hunters,” Lenore gasped as she ripped the arrow all the way through her chest – the sooner she did that the sooner it would heal, but damn did that hurt! “Lead them Eli. Deep into the woods. I’ll use magic. They must think us half-breeds if they’re shooting arrows,” she laughed weakly.

“But—”

“Go!”

Eli gave her a resentful look, clearly despising his orders to leave her behind, but he did as she requested. Already her wound was healing and Lenore performed a spell that she had actually learned from Willow – she thickened the air so that the arrows slowed as if they were caught in honey. Angry male voices sounded behind her and she heard the hooves of horses in a mighty gallop headed in her direction.

Her vision became spotted – she had never been stabbed in the heart before! – and fiery pain spilled through her chest. Lenore coughed up blood as she gathered her strength for another spell. She did not at all want to kill the hunters – even though she stayed away from them Lenore tracked her family tree and knew that Alexander and Elizabeth’s lines consisted of Hunters. God forbid she accidentally kill her own descendent! No, she had to use defensive magic.

Pressing her palms to the earth Lenore concentrated as hard as possible and created a ten foot deep moat around her location in a thirty foot radius. She heard the whinnying of horses and knew that the Hunters must have arrived.

“Dammit! She’s a witch. And a pure vampire!” snarled an angry man.

“But Mr. Holtz, how do we kill her?” asked another.

“Dead Man’s Blood,” the first man, Holtz, whispered.

Lenore felt her heart hammer in her chest. She was weak, terribly weak and wasn’t sure if she could handle anymore magic for at least the next ten minutes until her reserves were filled back up from her first two spells.

She raised her head to look at her attackers and saw a grim faced man raise a bow with a notched arrow dripping with blood. Lenore jerked to the side but the tip still dug into her right arm. She jerked up to run away and her heart burned as she coughed up more blood. Another arrow hit her and another…

And then there was nothing.

 



June 14, 1765
Arles, France



Lenore awoke bleary eyed and bound to a wooden beam. She felt burning hot and as she glanced around she saw that she was in a barn surrounded by flames. The two vampires from the other night, Darla and Angelus, were arguing as Darla climbed on top of a horse and galloped out of the barn and to safety. Angelus was cursing her as a flaming beam fell on top of him and he quickly shoved it off and then rolled around until the flames had gone.

With a groan Lenore tried to yank off the chain link metal that kept her tied to the beam but realized that her strength was still tapped from the Dead Man’s Blood in her system. Dammit. Her body and mind were weakened by this poison and since she had never been attacked with it before, Lenore had no idea how long it would affect her.

“Help me!” she called out weakly to Angelus. After all, he was obviously going to live through this experience so she may as well tag along.

Angelus glanced at her and scoffed. “Sorry lass, but I need to figure a way out of here myself!” he shouted in annoyance as a burning beam fell and blocked the door.

Lenore felt herself start to sweat and decided she couldn’t wait until the day Angelus was stupid enough to feed off of that gypsy girl. “Break my chains and I can help!” Well, she would try. Concentration was an important ingredient in witchcraft and currently this Dead Man’s Blood had her brain feeling like she had just downed a bottle of liquor in a single shot.

Fierce staccato barks and growls could be heard through eastern wall and Lenore looked towards the flame-coated area in surprise. Suddenly the wall exploded inwards as a massive wolf bounded inside the barn. He was black as coal and his eyes glowed with intelligence. If that wasn’t strange enough, then his size was even more breathtaking. Lenore’s mind was a bit screwy at the moment but she estimated that the animal stood at least four feet tall and sinewy muscled was stretched under his thin fur.

He looked at her and leapt over quickly, easily avoiding a section of the floor were burning hay threatened to singe him. The wolf’s teeth came to snap above her head and for a split second fear squeezed her chest as Lenore thought she was going to die. Instead, the wolf snapped her chains with his teeth and then he carefully picked her up with his mouth. She felt a pressure against her torso but he was not, oddly, hurting her.

“Hey! I want out of here too!” Angelus shouted angrily as he ducked close to the floor to avoid falling debris.

The wolf snarled and Lenore weakly touched its snout. “Please help him,” she whispered. She wasn’t sure which way was which anymore but she did know that Angel couldn’t die. And if she was supposed to help make sure he didn’t…well, she’d do what she could.

The wolf made a noise of annoyance and reluctantly lowered to the floor so Angelus could climb on top of him. Then with his sheer strength and determination the wolf fled the burning barn and took them along for the ride.

At some point during their journey Lenore passed out from the poison in her system and when she awoke she was deep in the Camargue Forest, just outside the campsite of her clan. The wolf was gone, as was Angelus, and Lenore was baffled by the night’s events.

Just what sort of creature had saved her? And why?

Chapter Text


October 11, 1769
Zografou, Greece


Lenore awoke gasping great mouthfuls of air as she jerked up in her simple bed of hay. She glanced around the abandoned barn her clan of twenty-three vampires had found a week ago and was relieved to see that everyone else was sleeping – she didn’t want anyone to see her in this state.

Lurching upwards Lenore groggily left the barn and walked into the brightness of the sun. It did not burn her but it did sap her strength, however she didn’t care about that at this point. Lenore needed to feel the warmth of the sun on her face; to feel something other than the coolness of the lonely dark nights.

When she first dreamt of her nephew Gavin’s death earlier this century she had thought it had been a fluke. But over the years she had dreamt of the deaths of others – her older brothers Edgar and Ennis, Michael the son of Elizabeth, Jesse the son of Alexander, and several other grandchildren that had died from either natural causes or accidents. Several of Alexander and Dawn’s children had died during Hunting trips. Each of these dreams stung her spirit and she hated the curse of seeing each member of her bloodline die.

Even if sometimes she thought it was a blessing as well – to know what happened with her family.

But today…today’s dream had brought giant rolling tears down her cheeks and she shivered in the warmth of the warmth of the sun.

Alexander O’Neil had been of seventy-four years of age and sleeping when death took him last night. He was in bed alone; his wife Jessica had passed away ten years ago. He slept in the master bedroom of Summerford Manor which was also home to his eldest son Duncan O’Neil who lived with his wife and youngest daughter Elspeth. She had moved there after her husband was killed during a Hunt and had brought her teenage daughters Mara and Brigid with her; overall they were a happy family.

This strange snapshot into the life of her son made her happy in a strange way –happy that he had lived such a long and productive life – yet it still grieved her to know that she could not be there for him in the end. He was the first of her three children to die and the surprise of seeing his life end was painful.

Maybe one day she could see her family in person. One day when she had saved enough vampires from killing humans and felt less like the cursed creature she was. Until then she could only console herself by sending money for the funeral arrangements through her Wolfram and Hart account.

 



January 5, 1821
Stockholm, Sweden


Vampires flourished in the north. Although it was cold and their kind preferred warmer climates, the long dark days of areas close to the Arctic Circle provided a great deal of incentive to live here. Stockholm had a large vampire community and Lenore had just finished up her final diplomatic mission of visiting the various vampire groups. Each meeting consisted of her explaining her clan’s lifestyle and persuading the other group to join, but that was easier said than done. Many of the vampires here in Sweden were several hundreds – two of them even a thousand – years old. No matter how much practice she had experienced in the last seventy-six years, not even she could persuade these guys.

Actually, Lenore was just glad that the older vampires hadn’t done something bad to her. It puzzled her that Aurelius hadn’t attacked her yet or sent word to his minions to capture and/or kill her. Clearly he must know that the vampire seer converting others to animal blood had to be her. The only reasoning behind his lack of action were the several rumors she had heard about him. Aurelius, it seemed, had gone underground. A few believed him dead but most just thought that he was hibernating – ancient vampires were known to do that from time to time. As they passed the thousand year mark many of them would get weary living and slumber until they found the world interesting again.

At any rate, she heard that The Master was the new leader of a cult devoted to Aurelius and his teachings – including her prophecies.

Lenore snorted with laughter. She couldn’t wait to see the Master use her prophecies only to end up getting staked by the slayer he killed.

“You have two letters, Lenore,” a soft voice informed her as she stepped into her hotel room.

Lenore smiled at the younger vampire and gave her a quick kiss. “Thank you, Maria.”

Maria was a vampire of fifty years that Lenore had found just days after her transformation in 1771. Maria had attached herself to Lenore and she had personally taught the former southern Spanish gypsy woman everything she needed to know in her new life. Almost immediately Lenore had suspected that Maria loved her on a deeper level than Lenore felt for the new vampire, but she had only thought of her as a pupil and then a friend. Then ten years ago something had changed. An attacking vampire clan had practically left Maria for dead during a battle – sadly Lenore had made quite a few enemies over the years – and it was then that she realized how much she cared for Maria.

Since that moment their relationship was taken to a new level. The love Lenore felt for Maria was not close to what she still felt for Willow or Kali but Lenore did love her…and she was tired of being lonely.

Lenore skimmed the first letter. It was from Eli, sent over from eastern Russia, where he had taken fifteen of their clan members. While some of their members had left their overall clan and others were killed in attacks by hunters, demons, or other vampires, their numbers had grown greatly. So much so that they had to branch off into sub-groups – after all, if eighty-five vampires were roaming together in one group then surely someone would notice! Lenore led one group, Eli led another, and there were five other group leaders, all of whom were dedicated to their lifestyle.

Of course, Lenore missed Eli a great deal. They still kept in touch and several times a year the entire clan would congregate but it just wasn’t the same.

At least she had Maria.

Tossing Eli’s letter onto the dresser, she began reading the second one. This one was from her Wolfram and Hart representative, Parvati Patil (a descendent of Padma’s) and was an update on her investments. The nineteenth century was thus far a tumultuous one as numerous colonies sought liberation – Greece from the Ottoman Empire and nearly all of Spain’s colonies in Latin America (Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela, and more). However, since Lenore knew ahead of time that each of those countries would be winning their independence sometime soon she was putting forth the proper investments. According to her letter the revolutions were going well and her investment should prove worthy soon.

It was times like now that Lenore loved her past/future life and all the memories that came with it.

“Any news?” Maria asked as she settled comfortably onto the couch. Her lithe dancer’s body was clothed only in her peach-colored corset that lit up her dark skin beautifully and a matching set of panties. Lenore allowed herself a long moment to take in every detail of her lover before answering her question.

“Eli sends his regards. His group is doing well and took in one new member, although Patrick was maimed during an unsuccessful polar bear attack. And Parvati just messaged me on money issues.”

Lenore let the letter drop carelessly to the floor as she began undoing the buttons of her dress. “I’ve given each of the Stockholm groups a week to decide if they want to learn anything from us. Two leaders seemed interested but the others just laughed in my face.”

“Hmm. A whole week? What shall we ever do until then?” Maria asked with a flirting smile as she sat up slowly and pressed her arms to her sides, thus emphasizing her large breasts.

“We’ll have to get creative, my dear,” Lenore smiled in anticipation before she lost herself in Maria’s love.

 



January 13, 1821
Stockholm, Sweden


“Well the trip here has been a bust,” Alice remarked sadly as Lenore led a caravan of seven of her clan members through the early morning hours. Alice had been with Lenore since 1819 and was the more surly member of the group, likely because she had been turned at the age of fifteen. However, she was a good girl overall when she wasn’t complaining about something. “We visited at least forty vampires and none of them joined!”

Lenore wrapped her arms around the younger vampire and squeezed gently. “The vampires that roam the north are notorious for being quite a bit more bloodthirsty than most. Their replies are not surprising but it is good that we came to sow the seeds of our mission. Over time those seeds may grow and we may see them again.”

“I suppose so,” Alice grumbled. “So where to next? Oslo?”

Oslo. The capital of the country of Norway – a country that Lenore had not seen in 117 years.

“There are two groups of vampires known to be living there, so yes,” Maria replied. She gave Lenore a cautious look and immediately Lenore wiped her expression clean of sadness. The only friend of hers that knew about Loki was Eli – for some reason she had been unable to bring herself to tell Maria or any other others. She didn’t know why exactly…perhaps just thinking about him made her sad.

“I heard that they have huge wolves there!” Alice chatted happily, her mood switching quickly as always. “Mmm, I can’t wait to try them!”

“No,” Lenore responded quickly. The others looked at her in surprise and she shrugged. “I’ve…been to Norway before. The wolves were my allies. Please do not harm them.”

Mostly everyone nodded in agreement; Lenore didn’t request many personal favors of them after all. But Alice was an eager little thing and loved to pester her with questions.

“Is that why you never eat wolves? Why were you friends with the wolves? Is that why that huge wolf saved you a long time ago? Is he one of your friends?”

Lenore let out an exasperated sigh and shushed the teenager with a wave of her hand. “Yes, that is why I never eat wolves. Yes, we were friends. No, as the legend goes I have no idea who that giant wolf was, so no, he was not my friend either.”

“Well—”

“Alice, please,” Lenore spoke as she struggled to refrain from allowing her irritation at the girl enter her voice.

Alice became quiet and so did everyone else. That made Lenore feel a little bit guilty but she was already incredibly nervous about heading towards Loki’s homeland. What if he was there? What if he saw her? Did he still hate her?

The last thought made her want to cry. All these years later and she still thought of him as her best friend.

She missed him.

 



February 13, 1821
Oslo, Norway


Since Stockholm she had taken to spending most nights by herself. Maria was confused and a little bit hurt but Lenore just needed some alone time. Being this close to Loki’s home was grating on her nerves. A part of her yearned to see him while another part wanted to run away, in both fear that he hated her and the guilt she felt at sleeping with the love of his immortal life.

It was perhaps four in the morning when she heard a ghostly wolf howl echo through the cobbled streets of the neighborhood she was meandering through. Lenore stiffened and her senses went on red alert. Loki had taught her the language of wolves long ago and that howl seemed to beckon, "Come here, Lenore.

Lenore debated the situation but figured that she was powerful enough, both physically and magically, to take care of most things that went bump in the night. She began running quickly through the darkened streets towards the wolf’s call. It howled again, farther this time, and she left the city limits and headed for the fields outside of it. The snow was thick, at least three feet, but she was running so quickly that she never sunk into it.

A final howl sounded even closer. She looked in the direction of the sound and saw a high, rolling hill covered with snow. The full moon lit the hill up perfectly from its position behind the crest of the hill and for a moment Lenore was afraid that there may be a werewolf waiting for her. However, the howl sounded more animal in nature…

She ran up the hill and was surprised to see the giant wolf that had saved her back in 1765 appear. He looked majestic and proud and the bright moon made his black fur shine brilliantly. Lenore swallowed heavily as he set his keen eyes upon her and she shivered as she felt the power roll off the wolf. This was no mere wolf but it was not a werewolf either.

She had no idea what it was.

But it wasn’t killing her now and it had saved her before, so she was trying to think positive thoughts.

“H-hello,” she stammered nervously. Its power seemed to curl around her, testing her. It was ancient and the taste of it weighed heavily on her tongue as she breathed in deeply.

The wolf sat and regarded her for a moment. He barked ‘Look at me’ and she did. Lenore stared into eyes the color of the bark of a redwood tree and just as old. Once eye contact had been established she could hear him speak in her mind, which was nothing like she had ever experienced with another wolf.

’You are Lenore McLeod?’

“Yes,” she spoke out loud, because answering in her head felt silly – even if her life couldn’t get sillier at this point.

‘I saved you from certain death fifty-six years ago at the request of my father. Now I need you to perform a similar task for him, for he is imprisoned where I am not permitted to tread.’

Lenore’s heart started to pound as bits of information began to string together in her head. Her mind knew the answer to her next question, yet she had to ask it regardless. “Who is your father?”

He gave her a stern look, as if he knew about her betrayal and did not approve of his need to ask for her help. ’Loki.’

Chapter Text


February 14, 1821
Reine, Norway


The wolf that she knew to be named Fenrir (although he did not give his name but she remembered reading about Loki’s children many years ago) allowed her to ride upon his back. His feet barely touched the ground as Fenrir’s mystical body endured the thousand miles at full speed until they reached their destination the next morning. As they came upon the epically beautiful landscape Lenore felt a strange blend of bittersweet happiness while she took in the sparkling bay, towering mountains, dark greens of the forest.

Fenrir was silent as his feet padded softly towards the foot of the mountain. They were not near the door to Loki’s home but they were close. “Where is Loki?” she questioned as the wolf laid down so she could climb off.

‘Up there,’ he spoke in her mind as their eyes met. ‘Demons have captured him at the top of the mountain.’

“Okay. Well what do I need to do? Who is it and why are you prevented from helping?”

Fenrir growled. ‘Dark demons with mystical powers. Not the kind of this world, the black-eyed ones, but ones from another dimension. Spells prevent all of those with god-blood from climbing the mountain.’

“Why just god blood?”

Lenore got the impression that Fenrir thought she was an idiot, if his mental tone meant anything. ‘Who else would help a pagan god in trouble? That is why I needed you. No go – and hurry.’

She hated to admit it, but the giant wolf scared her. Nodding, she cracked her fingers and took in the impressive mountain. It was small compared to others but still 8,000 feet high – not an easy climb.

But Loki was counting on her. Failure was not an option.

Lenore attacked the mountain with a ferocity previously unknown to her as she climbed, jumped, and ran wherever needed. The air became thinner as she ascended but since she didn’t need to breathe it did not bother her. However, the presence of powerful and dark magic brushed against her skin with the density of a whale. It made her catch her breath for a moment, about 5,000 feet up, as she pondered what the hell was going to be waiting for her, these creatures that could subdue a powerful pagan god.

But she continued onwards. Loki was counting on her.

Many hours later with her body coated with the falling snow, her lips as blue as a clear sky, and her limbs exhausted, Lenore arrived only dozens of feet from the summit. The snow was thick and much of the mountain wall was slick with ice this time of year. The only thing she had going for her was that the thick clouds this high up covered her body from the draining effects of the sun.

Lenore took a moment to catch her breath and perform a warming spell on herself – cold limbs were not useful in a fight – and then climbed to the top of the summit. The area had a circumference of maybe forty feet and was covered with jagged rocks. There were no demons in the vicinity but Loki was here…and what she saw rocked her mind.

Loki was standing with his back turned towards her and his hands curled into fists. He wore his a cape made of black bear fur and it billowed in the high mountain winds. But what shocked her was the ring of fire that he stood in.

Holy Fire.

That knowledge knocked her over the head as she took an experimental sniff and realized she smelled Holy Oil, like the kind Kali had purchased. Suddenly all the puzzle pieces that Loki had so carefully disclosed from her began connecting.

During her imprisonment by Connor she had seen a pure white aura radiating from Loki. When she met Castiel she saw something similar and had been confused when he stated that pagan gods do not posses pure auras. And Loki’s power – it was far greater than he let on and a heck of a lot older, too. The sadness in his eyes, the amount of discomfort he exuded when his ‘family’ was brought up…

Dear God…Loki was an angel!

Lenore tried to contain her flabbergasted reaction and returned to the present problem of Loki being trapped by demons – demons who must know his true form. She hauled herself to her feet and Loki whirled to stare at the latest intruder. Upon seeing Lenore his face lit with disbelief and all they did was stare at each other, neither of them knowing what to say after going 107 years without contact.

“How?” Loki finally asked, his amber eyes flaring with something that she wanted to believe was hope, although feared was anger.

“Your son, the wolf, came for me,” she spoke stoically. Even though the temperature was below freezing she began to feel feverish.

“Fenrir.” Loki said the name of his son like it was a curse word as he looked down at his booted feet. Then he glanced up at her. “Hurry. Put out this fire. The Rey’tal will be back soon and trust me kid, you do not want to face them alone.”

“O-okay,” Lenore said shakily, not quite understanding why she suddenly felt nervous. She began walking over to Loki when suddenly her body plunged through the rock of the mountain like it was quicksand, with only her head peeking out as the rock hardened once more.

“What?” she gasped as she struggled to free herself.

“Vampire,” came a mocking laugh. Lenore looked up to see three humanoid creatures wearing crimson leather from head to toe. A black emblem of a snake woven around a crown was sewn over their left breast. Their skin was blacker than the darkest depths of the ocean and their eyes were red slits akin to a serpent. Two of them were bald but the one had a single three-inch strip of black hair that was woven in a tight braid. Curved swords hung on their backs and their height of eight feet and muscular build declared without words that they were formidable fighters.

“Is this who you send for help?” the same creature – the leader of these ‘Rey’tal’ she assumed – continued to speak. “A mere vampire?” The three of them laughed with great humor.

“No,” Loki spat. “Never seen the girl before in my life. Probably just some mountaineer, you know,” he lied easily.

Within a second one of the bald demons had a sword to her throat. “Indeed?” the braided demon asked in amusement. “Then you will not mind if we kill her.”

Loki made a motion to step out of his ring of fire, but he stopped himself in time. Which was good, because Kali had said that any angel that steps out of Holy Fire will have his body destroyed. “Stop!” he snarled, but not before her neck was nicked with the sharp sword. “Leave her alone. You already have me. That is enough.”

“Perhaps,” the leader mused. “But I can feel a good deal of power from her. She can control magic…she may be a good specimen to bring back to my father.”

Lenore’s lip curled up as she bared a multitude of sharp fangs. “I am not going anywhere with you. Leave us!”

The leader chuckled softly as he knelt down and yanked her chin upwards. His fingers traced the outside of her fangs, as if he were studying her, and his strength was so great that she couldn’t bite down on him. “I have been travelling with my two knights for a long time now, vampire. We bring back all manner of exotic creatures to my father’s kingdom. Your friend here was a unique specimen back when we thought him only a pagan god. Once my spell correctly identified him, he became quite the prize.”

He stood up and smile. “And a vampire who is a witch will be an excellent addition as well.”

Lenore snarled at him and used her fury to telekinetically yank the leader through the air and over the Holy Fire. Loki used his body as a bridge to pass over the fire and snapped her out of her rocky prison. The two of them glanced at each other and smiled as the three Rey’tal got into battle formation.

“Let’s kick some ass,” Loki cheerfully declared with raging eyes.

The next ten minutes were a whirlwind of activity. All of the Rey’tal were powerful fighters and magic users but they were nothing compared to Loki. Lenore’s assistance was not even needed when there as a furious pagan god/maybe angel on their side – although she did try to help a little.

Moments later, with their bodies turning to ash in a funeral pyre that Loki created, Lenore turned to her old friend nervously. Covered in black blood, her own blood, snow, and ice, she was feeling incredibly self-conscious. Her old ‘Tara’ traits were coming back to her as she rubbed her hands uneasily and avoided making eye contact with Loki.

“So,” she said, not really sure what to say.

“So,” Loki drawled. She could feel the heat of his gaze assessing her but she was feeling a combination of terror and guilt that prevented her from looking him in the eyes. What if he still hated her for stealing Kali? If she ever saw that same look of anger that he gave her on the day he kicked her out years ago, Lenore didn’t know what she’d do.

“Wanna come to my place for some hot chocolate?” he asked her in a light tone that sounded slightly hesitant.

Surprised, she looked up and smiled at him. “Sure,” she simply replied.

Loki snapped his fingers and suddenly they were at the foot of the mountain outside his home. Fenrir was waiting in front of the threshold with a relieved expression. He let out a happy bark and jumped on top of Loki before licking the pagan’s face with his large, lolling tongue.

“Jeez, get off me ya mutt,” Loki grumbled but his eyes were lit with mirth. “I don’ wanna get rabies from you.”

Fenrir playfully growled but did as his father requested. The wolf glanced at Lenore and he nodded, as if to acknowledge the role she played in helping his father.

Which…Lenore was still having a hard time adjusting to the fact that Norse mythology was completely true and Loki - her Loki – had a wolf as a son.

“We’re going to go warm up, Fenrir. You staying around or heading out?” Loki asked his son.

Fenrir barked several times.

“Alright. Well…thanks kiddo. You did good,” Loki smiled sheepishly at the wolf.

Fenrir let out a deep playful bark before eight-hundred pounds of wolf bounded into the forest.

Loki opened the door and Lenore realized that his home had not changed much in the last hundred years. A couple of the Bernini statues were gone but they were replaced with some new art pieces. “So, uh, if you want to get cleaned up your old room and bathroom are still back there,” he informed without looking at her.

“Yeah, okay,” she said as she glanced down at her dirty clothes and body – she really did need a bath.

Loki didn’t reply but just went to his own room. Probably, she figured, to shower as well. She was sure that it didn’t have anything to do with him hating her…

With a sigh Lenore retreated into the familiar hall and into her old room. Nothing had changed since she left. The bed was in the exact same state of disarray and the entire room was coated in a thick layer of dust that tickled her nostrils. Frowning, she wondered if she had made Loki so angry that he couldn’t even bear to enter her old room. If so, she didn’t expect today to go easily.

She did a simple spell that cleaned the surfaces of the room and retrieved a dusty towel from the dresser (that she also needed a cleaning spell for). Then Lenore entered her former bathroom and ran the water. There was a showerhead in the bathtub so she chose to wash off all of the dirt, blood, and snow before allowing the bathwater to run so she could relax. Lenore knew that she should hurry up and dress but she wanted to prolong their reunion until she got her nerves under control.

Besides, there was a bottle of bubble bath solution and who could resist a bubble bath after a fight to the death?

A few sharp raps against the door brought her out of her reverie a while later. “Lenore? You alright?”

“Y-yeah?” she asked in a startled voice. “Oh, uh, yeah. I’m good. Just real tired. I think I might have dozed off.”

“Okay, well I have some clean clothes for you if you want them.”

“Sure, bring them in.”

Lenore was used to living in close quarters with at least twenty other people at this point so while she was certainly not an exhibitionist she was used to more than one person using the bathroom at once. However, she cursed her force of habit as Loki opened the door because she certainly hadn’t meant to invite him to come in!

Quickly she pushed all of the thick bubbles to cover the important parts of her body.

Loki glanced at her in the bathtub and a ghost of his old flirtatious smile appeared because he abruptly locked it away. He tossed a bundle of clothing onto the chair beside her. “These are yours. You left them back when…well, you know.” He didn’t look at her as he told her this and his voice sounded distraught to her finely tuned ears.

“Oh,” she nodded. “Thank you for, um, saving them.”

Loki just nodded and walked out the room.

Feeling ashamed Lenore quickly dried off and dressed. This was clearly a bad, bad idea. She should have just left as soon as Loki was safe. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Her bare feet padded softly down the hallway as she made her way to the den. Next to the roaring fireplace Loki waited for her on the loveseat. On the table in front of him were two steaming mugs of hot chocolate and a plate of pastries. Wordlessly she slid into the couch on the opposite side of him and curled her legs under her. Loki reached for a mug and gestured for her to do the same.

“Here’s to kicking demon ass,” he smirked as he held his mug up, but his eyes didn’t sparkle with the warmth that they usually did.

“Here, here,” Lenore gave him a small smile as she clinked his glass and took a sip. Vampires needed blood but it was possible for them to ingest things other than that. However, most didn’t prefer to do so. Lenore made an exception to hot chocolate – something that Loki had introduced her to within the first year of her living with him.

God that felt so long ago.

Lenore uneasily sipped her drink and wondered what to say. It appeared that Loki felt the same; his eyes were focused on the table between them and the atmosphere was fraught with tension.

“How are you feeling?”

Loki’s head jerked up in surprise and he forced a smile that she knew to be false – even after all these years she was still able to discern some things about him. “I’ve been better.”

There was a moment of awkward silence as she internally debated what to say next, just anything to fill up the space between them, when Loki spoke again. “And you? This isn’t really tourist season for mountain climbing, after all.”

Lenore shrugged. “Still warming up, but I’m okay.” Since her body was cool by nature it took a long time to warm up from hours in the blistering cold. She could survive in the cold, sure, but it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

Loki snapped his fingers and a furred blanket covered her lap and legs. “Thanks,” she said with a small smile.

He just nodded and looked into the fire.

Lenore really wanted to ask him about the whole Angel-Holy Fire business but was afraid to bring up a sensitive subject. Clearly if Loki never told her then he didn’t want her to know. Besides, she was still finding it difficult to discern if he still hated her or not.

Time passed in silence as they each finished their mug of hot chocolate. Lenore was worried that maybe Loki was going to kick her out when she was done but he filled up her mug with more hot chocolate and did the same for himself.

Finally Loki turned to her and spoke. “Thank you. I never would have expected that you of all people would come for me.” His amber eyes sparkled with sincerity and it took her a moment to fight the impulse to hug him.

The long years had fooled her into thinking she didn’t miss Loki as much as she truly did.

“Of course!” Lenore said with an incredulous look. “Once Fenrir told me you were trapped by demons I had to help.”

Loki just looked sheepish. “After how we ended things I wouldn’t have blamed you from looking the other way.”

“Loki.” Lenore bit her lip; she wasn’t sure what to say. “No matter what happened with our friendship I couldn’t allow anything bad to happen to you. Besides,” she smiled, “your son indicated that it was owed from the time he rescued me.” Yes, Lenore had been very intrigued by Fenrir’s comments on that topic.

“Wha-what?” Loki sputtered, and as always a part of her was amused at her ability to surprise him.

Lenore just raised an eyebrow in response. “He said he did it at the request of his father. Did you order him to save me?” There was a part of Lenore that hoped he would say yes because that would mean that he didn’t hate her!

“What? No – that’s crazy talk.” Loki’s eyes rolled in exasperation at her look of disbelief. “Hey, are you going to believe me or some overgrown talking dog?” he asked with a lopsided smile.

Lenore just laughed at the absurdity of his comment and of their overall situation. Anyone else would say ‘no’ but her life really was this insane. Loki started laughing too and their laughter intermingled as the tension evaporated from the air.

Loki shook his head with a smile and shouted in the direction of the door. “Next time I see you mister, you’re grounded!”

Lenore’s keen ears could hear an answering howl sounding from far away.

“Smartass,” Loki muttered.

“Well, thank you,” Lenore smiled. “I don’t think I would have survived that.”

“Yeah, guess we’re even now,” Loki responded with a careless shrug.

She decided to bite the bullet and address the pink elephant in the room. “No. We’re not.” He looked at her in alarm and she forced herself to plow forward. “I feel so guilty about what happened…with Kali. Taking her from you. If I had known beforehand that she was the woman you really loved I never would have taken up with her, you have to believe me!”

His eyes squeezed shut painfully. “Yeah. I, uh…yeah.” Loki cleared his throat. “That wasn’t easy to witness, you leaving with her.”

Lenore fought herself to look directly at him and confront the emotion there. His eyes were like saddened honey pots and his jaw was tightly clenched. She bit her lower lip nervously. “Can you ever forgive me?”

A beat passed, and then another. Her throat constricted and she ordered herself not to cry as the moment elapsed.

“Of course I forgive you. Hating you would be harder than going without chocolate for a day,” Loki finally said, and her heart warmed at the twinkle in his eye.

A relieved smile blossomed over her face. “Thanks, Loki.” Then she laughed. “Harder than going without chocolate for just one day? If it was anyone other than you saying that I’d have to say I was offended.”

He chuckled and took another drink of his cocoa. A contemplative look passed over his face as he cleared his throat. “But, uh, really…I was kind of a dick that day. Honestly, Kali just pissed me off and, uh, I kind of took it out on you. I shouldn’t have been such an ass, I’m sorry. Forgive me?” he asked.

The apology wasn’t easy for him to utter and Lenore got the impression that the Trickster didn’t have to apologize to others very often. She gave him a soft smile and leaned over to place her hand on his. “I won’t lie and say that the day we left each other wasn’t one of the worst days of my life, but I forgive you. It’s all water under the bridge now.”

A relieved smile crossed his face as he held out his mug for another cheers, to which she eagerly clinked her mug against his.

It felt like a weight was lifted off her shoulders at the realization that Loki forgave her and that he actually asked her forgiveness. That was far more than what she was expecting from him. Her gratitude decided right then and there to not ask him about his potential Angel-ness. Their friendship was precarious and she didn’t want to push him by asking about something he clearly wanted a secret. Lenore just hoped that someday Loki would choose to confide in her; that he would come to trust her enough.

“So, speaking of…whatever happened with you and Kali?” Loki asked lightly in an uncaring voice that didn’t fool her in the lightest.

“We, um…it lasted for thirty-one years. Then once I realized my calling and she kind of…we broke up,” Lenore finished quickly. She didn’t want to get emotional about her ex-lover, especially in front of Loki of all people.

“Yeah, I heard about that,” Loki said with an apologetic look. “Did you…did you love her?” he added in a cautious voice.

Lenore bit her lip because she didn’t want to lie to Loki but she felt awkward discussing their mutual ex. “Yes…I think I loved her before I even knew her,” she stated softly.

A stricken look passed over Loki’s face but he quickly smoothed it out. “And her? Did she love you, too?”

“Loki,” Lenore said uneasily as her eyes darted around the room – anywhere but at him.

He held up his hand. “I promise I won’t get mad. I just am curious.”

“She said she did…yes, she did,” Lenore amended as she looked into the roaring fireplace. A tear started to fall from her left eye and she hated herself at that moment for being so weak – unable to speak about Kali decades after their break-up without crying.

Loki was suddenly sitting at her left side and gently brushed her tear away. His eyes were filled with remorse and something else she couldn’t interpret. “I’m sorry. Kali’s always been one to play games – when she first took you that’s all I thought it was. To know that you loved her…” he winced. “I’m sorry that she hurt you.” He laughed weakly. “Trust me, after a thousand years of knowing her I know what that’s like.”

Lenore leaned into the warmth of Loki’s hand and enjoyed the moment of solidarity – it reminded her of their friendship before. “Does the heartbreak ever get better?” she asked sadly.

He sighed. “Not in my experience, Lenore. But I hope in yours.” Then he wrapped his arms around her and held her close to him, and she clung on just as tightly.

Silent hours passed like that. After all, time lost its meaning when you ceased to age. Finally Loki spoke up.

“Hey, um…do you want to stay for the night? It is kind of late. I can teleport you back to your clan tomorrow morning.”

“You know about my clan?” she asked curiously.

“Well, yeah,” he snorted. “You’ve got quite the reputation as the evangelist, Lenore McLeod; bravely saving the souls of vampires by getting them to quit drinking humans.” He shrugged at her look of surprise. “People talk.”

“Hmm.” That was interesting. “Well…yes, I’d love to stay. I should message my clan first.”

“No problem.” Then he gave her his first truly genuine smile of the day. “Hey, there’s a new wolf pack in the woods that you don’t know but they might be game for some Capture the Flag. You wanna?”

Lenore laughed and nodded. “Yes, I’d like that.”

Chapter Text


December 25, 1849
Rome, Italy


It was the wee hours of Christmas morning and children across the Western world imagined that Santa Claus was flying over them to distribute gifts. The popularity of Santa Claus and gift giving were not at the heights of twentieth century expectations, but in the last thirty years or so the myth of Santa Claus had certainly grown.

Lenore had arrived in Rome earlier this night to begin preparations for her clan’s New Year’s Eve Ball. It was one of the few nights of the year that all of them congregated in one place – their clan was too large to travel together anymore. In the 104 years since she left Kali to begin her ministry Lenore’s efforts had found a good deal of success. Yes, many other – especially older – vampires laughed at her and not all who entered their clan were able to control their Need, but her group had grown to over two-hundred souls.

She credited Loki with part of that success. Since their friendship rekindled twenty-eight years ago she felt a new appreciation for life that transcended into her ministry work. They met up at least once every few months – with him teleporting to wherever she was – and Lenore enjoyed their time together immensely.

Not many of her friends had met Loki though. He preferred to keep a low profile but seemed to like Eli. Sadly, he hadn’t liked Maria at all…actually the one time they had met a fight had almost broke out. Lenore had invited Loki over to meet Eli and Lenore a year after they reunited because, crazy her, she had thought it would be good for all of those she cared for to meet one another! But mid-way through the evening she had stepped out for just a moment to speak to a messenger from another vampire clan. Once she had walked inside, Loki and Maria had almost come to blows and neither of them would discuss what it had been about.

That had hurt, to see them not get along, but it didn’t matter in the long run – her and Maria only lasted a few more months after that. It was sad but Lenore had just lost interest in her former lover. Maria had left to lead another branch group of their clan and while they were both friendly, there was no more love between them.

Since then Lenore had a couple flings with other female vampires but none of them had flared that spark within her. But when a woman was waiting for the love of her life to be born in about 150 years, it was hard to for others to stack up in comparison.

Lenore tore herself away from her musings and glanced at Signora Isabella Bellini, Director of Wolfram and Hart’s Entertainment Department. The woman wore a revealing corset dress in tones of red and her thick brown hair was piled high on her head. They had been meeting for the last hour to finalize plans and were just wrapping things up.

“Baroness Lenore, I do believe we have-a the preliminary arrangements completed. The Fields of Damascus outside the city will play host to your party, forty Mortemzilinas will be imported from the Qur’Toth Dimension, plus several dozen assorted wild animals, and a…” Isabella squinted as she peered at the paper. “And a ‘disco ball’ will be provided.”

Lenore stifled a laugh. “Yes, that will not be too much trouble for your department to create one based off my descriptions?”

“Oh no, Baroness, no!” Isabella declared incredulously in her thick Italian accent. “In fact, I think I like-a this idea verrrry much. Have you thought about patenting this idea?”

“Um, I don’t know about that,” Lenore shrugged self-consciously. “It’s kind of someone else’s design.”

“Someone else?” Isabella spat over her right shoulder. “Who? I spit on them. No, you are ze designer now,” she declared outrageously. “I make-a you verrrry rich.”

Lenore laughed. She really did love thick accents, not to mention Wolfram and Hart’s single-mindedness at turning a profit. If they weren’t the only agency able to help her immortal self she would probably leave on account of them being evil, but she didn’t have much choice. Besides, not every employee was evil.

Like, maybe five of them…

“I will think about it Signora Bellini. Thank you for taking care of this.”

“Of course. Here at Wolfram and Hart we make-a all of your dreams come true no matter who we have to kill or what dimension we need to use a virgin sacrifice to enter!”

“Uh, yeah,” Lenore winced. Wow, she really needed to look into new representation.

Isabella began leading her out but a young teenage boy approached her in the lobby. He wore tailored pants, a vest, and a suit jacket with slicked-backed black hair. “Baroness McLeod?”

“Yes?” For formal interactions, such as Wolfram and Hart, many called her by the old title she had inherited right before she was turned. It didn’t bother her as much as it did in the beginning but she didn’t care for it much – it made her feel weird.

The boy bowed and presented her with a letter.

Frowning, Lenore looked down at the letter. It was a large cream-colored envelope with a red wax seal affixed to it. She opened it up carefully as Isabella waited patiently next to her (anyone who spent and invested as much money as Lenore always got plenty of excellent customer service here).


Baroness Eleanor Amelia McLeod O’Neil,

I know that you recently arrived in Rome and I wished to extend my formal greeting.

I have heard of your adventures throughout Asia, Europe, and Africa and must say I am curious to meet you. Would you do me the honor of attending my annual ball tonight?

Send word back with my servant. I will then send further instructions.

Sincerely Yours,
The Immortal


“Who the heck is the Immortal?” Lenore asked in a puzzled voice.

Isabella gasped out loud and clutched her chest while the boy looked at her in surprise. “My Lady! Don’t you know of ze Immortal? Ay, he is,” she licked her lips with a lustful look. “He is-a a longtime patron of Roma but he travels as he pleases. He is an immortal, though none know of his true heritage.” Isabella leaned in close. “I saw him but-a once at a festival and I assure you he is-a the most attractive man I have ever-a witnessed.”

“Oh, okay,” Lenore chuckled. She usually didn’t go for men – actually she never been with a man yet, even if she had been attracted to a few in her life – so she doubted she would enjoy this Immortal as much as Isabella. “But what does he want with me?”

“I cannot know for certain,” Isabella shrugged. “Ze Immortal is neither on the side of light or dark, rather he does as he pleases. He is a wild card, a wolf removed from the pack, a stallion without ze bridle.”

She shrugged casually. “Ze Immortal, he like-a meet ze new supernatural power players in town. He-a like to know-a what is a-going on-a in his city.”

“Uh huh,” Lenore raised her eyebrows in amusement before she turned to the servant boy. “Tell your master that I will attend his ball.”

Grazi, Baroness,” the boy bowed before leaving.

Lenore just hoped that this Immortal guy wasn’t interested in causing any trouble – she was already stressed enough by her Christmas plans for tonight and planning her own ball.

 


A knock on the door sounded and Lenore smiled at herself in the mirror. She dressed up naturally – in both of her lives she had always been a fan of skirts and dresses – but tonight she had styled her hair and done her make-up. After all, it was the holidays – wasn’t it sort of expected? Not to mention she had this mysterious ball to attend.

She opened the door with a wide smile and was engulfed in a huge bear hug. Loki twirled her around as she giggled uncontrollably. “Lo-ki! Put me down!”

He obliged with a cheeky grin. “I love that I can make a 177 year old vampire giggle like a little schoolgirl.”

Lenore rolled her eyes and took Loki’s coat. He was dressed in the Italian fashions of the day, tight grey slacks and a long black jacket, and she couldn’t help but laugh.

“What?” he asked her suspiciously.

“Your clothes,” she smirked.

“Hey! These came straight from Castangia, which I’ll have you know is only the elite tailor house of the city!” he stated defensively as his hands ran up and down the smooth lines of his jacket.

“Okay, okay,” Lenore said as she held up her hands. “I’m just saying, I really cannot wait for the twentieth century fashions to come.”

Loki eyed her own outfit and smirked. “Like you’re one to talk.”

Lenore looked down at her carefully selected dress . It was similar to most dresses of the time and had a wide hoop skirt with flaring sleeves. The Jacquard woven silk fabric was cream with dark blue floral patterns. Its wide neckline that showcased her shoulders and fell right above the line of her cleavage. Matching bows were set in her hair and she even had a delicately sewn shawl that went with the dress.

“You don’t like?” she pouted.

Loki gave her a gentlemanly bow and kissed the top of her hand. “I love it, Lady Lenore.” He grinned as he stood up. “In fact I haven’t seen you this dressed up since the Summer Solstice about a decade ago.”

Shrugging her shoulders, Lenore sat down on her hotel room’s loveseat. “Well it is Christmas. I figured, why not?”

Something sparked in his eye at the word ‘Christmas’ and Lenore had to restrain herself from saying anything. Almost three decades into their renewed friendship and he still had yet to say anything about his other identity. Lenore was trying real hard to remain respectful of his decisions but her curiosity was killing her.

“Also,” she added, “I got invited to a ball tonight.”

“A ball? Tonight?” he questioned suspiciously. “Who the heck could be throwing a ball on Christmas?”

“Someone named the Immortal,” Lenore shrugged as she stood up to randomly straighten a painting on the wall.

“What?” Loki shouted. “What’s he want with you?”

Lenore glanced at him in surprise. “Geez, Loki. Overreact much?”

Loki approached her and grabbed her upper arms. “Lenore, the Immortal is not someone to be trifled with. Not to mention, he’s a giant dick. Why are you going?”

Now she began to feel nervous about her plans tonight. “Well, I was at Wolfram and Hart—”

“—Hmmph!” Loki made a noise of disgust. He hated that she had an account with them but he had never provided a better alternative for her, so too bad for him.

“—And I got a letter from him inviting me because he heard I was in the city. Apparently he considers this, according to my Wolfram and Hart representative, to be his city and I bet he wants to meet me before the End of Year Ball that I’m hosting. After all, nothing like two-hundred vampires in your city to freak you out.”

Rolling his eyes, Loki sat down. “Maybe,” he snorted. “But I don’t like the kid – he’s an arrogant sonofabitch.”

“Tell me how you really feel,” Lenore commented dryly.

Loki tossed her a glare. “Fine,” he then sighed reluctantly. “You can go to this ball but I’m going with you to make sure he doesn’t start trouble.”

Her first impulse was to be happy that Loki was going to the ball with her – they never went to public events together. But as his words seeped into her mind she found herself grimacing. “Oh, gee, thank you for your permission, Loki,” she hissed angrily as she crossed her arms. “I’m so glad I have you around to help me make my decisions.”

“What?” he asked in confusion.

“Loki! I’m almost two-hundred years old and certainly do not need your ‘permission’ to attend, nor do I need your assistance.” He opened his mouth to speak but Lenore cut him off. “I’m strong and I know how to fight using both my body and magic. Don’t you think I can take care of myself?”

“Well, yeah, sure! But it’s not that that I’m worried about,” he defended himself as he shifted uncomfortably.

“Well then what?” she rolled her eyes at the pagan god.

“The Immortal is kind of a…man-tart,” Loki explained with a shrug.

“A…a what?” Lenore laughed.

“You know! He just likes to sleep with every infamous babe in history! Trust me, the Immortal is not to be trusted,” Loki grumbled.

Laughing, Lenore sat next to Loki on the love seat. “Loki, you’re being silly. I’m sure the Immortal doesn’t want to sleep with me,” she scoffed. “Besides, I’m not really an ‘infamous babe’.”

“Trust me Lenore, you’re definite ‘babe’ material,” Loki smirked with a long look over her body. “And infamous, too.”

“Oh you sweet talker you,” Lenore silenced with a smack on his arm as she rolled her eyes.

“Don’t you know it.” Then he got serious. “And okay, fine, I am taking away my ‘permission’ for you to go. Now, may I please join you at tonight’s ball?” he asked with all the nicety of a young child begging to stay up past their bedtime.

Lenore pretended to think it over before she smiled. “Okay. I suppose I should be nice since it is Christmas, after all,” she smirked.

“Speaking of Christmas, do you have my prezzie?” he asked excitedly as he lightly bumped his shoulder against hers.

“Is that all you think about?” she laughed. “I didn’t even think you celebrated Christmas, Mr. Pagan God.”

“Silly, silly Lenore,” Loki sighed as he patted her hand fondly. “Don’t you read your history?”

“Well,” she began with a raised brow, “I have read the Bible many times over and quite a bit of history.”

“Don’t you know where gift giving came from?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“The Magi? Those guys who gave baby Jesus presents?”

“Nope!” he declared with a grin. “It’s actually a Germanic tradition derived from, oh, I don’t know – Norse mythology!” Lenore laughed as he stood up and did a little victory dance.

“Do tell,” she said curiously.

“Legend says that my old friend Odin used to ride around on an eight-legged horse and all the good little children were encouraged to leave food for him and the horse. In exchange, Odin would leave prezzies.”

Loki rolled his eyes. “The Catholic Church is adept at exploiting pagan traditions in order to convert the locals,” he explained.

“Uh huh,” Lenore mused. See, it was times like now that Lenore figured she had something wrong about her hypothesis. Every once in a while Loki would say something against the church or religion that made her think he couldn’t possibly be an angel. “Well that’s interesting.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Enough talking, more unwrapping,” he waggled his eyebrows.

With a dramatic groan, Lenore reached to the side of her love seat and picked up a small wrapped box. “Merry Christmas, you crazy pagan god,” she smirked.

Feigning disappointment, Loki sighed.

“What?” Lenore asked hesitantly. “You haven’t even opened it yet!”

“I know. I was just hoping my prezzie was going to be you jumping out of a cake nude or something,” he leered.

“Oh for the love of…just open it!” Lenore huffed. Honestly, Loki hadn’t changed from the day she first met him.

His eyes widened in surprise as he opened the box, in awe of what she had given him.

“I figure we met 150 years ago – well, come January first will be our technical ‘anniversary’ I ‘spose –so I wanted to give you something special.” He didn’t say anything but just continued to finger the contents of the box, so she continued to speak nervously. “I mean, hey! Pagan gods are pretty hard to shop for, what with them being able to create whatever they want out of thin air and all, so I figured I should make you something.”

She leaned closer and carefully pointed out different parts of the item. “See, I figured that most of our time together has been under the moon, especially hunting and all those Capture the Flag games with the wolves. So I created this spell that gathered the light of the moon during each full moon, hardened it, and turned it into rock. The silver chain that holds up the moonstone pendent has protective spells etched into the metal. I mean, I know you can protect yourself, hello pagan god, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.” Realizing she was babbling, Lenore snapped her mouth shut and waited for him to say something.

“Lenore…how long did this take to make?” he whispered as he delicately fingered the moonstone. It glowed a soft white, was in a perfect circle, the shape of the moon itself, and was about five inches in diameter.

“Um, not really that long,” she stammered in an embarrassed voice.

He gave her a sharp look. “How long?”

“Um…Well the spell took several years to figure out and the moonstone took…um, twenty-five years to form,” she answered with averted eyes.

“You’ve been working on this gift for that long?”

“Y-yeah,” she shrugged self-consciously. “I mean, it’s not a big deal or anything. I just, well, you scared me when those demons had you so I wanted to create a protective charm for you. The moonstone can emit no light at all or will release a light that burns anything impure – at the discretion of the wearer, of course.”

Loki put the pendent over his neck, kissed her cheek, and hugged her. “Well, damn. Thank you Lenore. This is the best gift anyone on Earth has ever given me. Hmm. The only bad thing is my gift doesn’t match up at all!” he said sheepishly.

She waved away his concern. “I’m sure I’ll love anything that you give me.”

“No way! I can’t let the vampire show up the pagan god in the gift giving department, can I?” he grinned. “How about this? I give you my original gift as a consolation prize and work on something much more kick ass for later?”

“Okay,” Lenore shook her head with a smile. “Gosh, you’re so competitive.”

“Duh. I am only the most competitive person in the world!”

Lenore just let out a heavy sigh. “Why are we even friends again?” she asked in a tired voice.

“Cause you love me!” he retorted with a lopsided grin and twinkling eyes.

 


Lenore and Loki stood outside a magnificent villa made of rich marble with a sloping roof and high columns. Lit torches identified the entrance and as they walked in a servant took their cloaks. The mosaic floor was home to a multitude of ancient statues, notably in the form of several Greek and Roman gods according to the bronze plates attached to the statues’ base, if Lenore’s Greek and Latin was correct. Another servant led them down a long hallway until they came to the center of the villa, which was filled with dozens upon dozens of milling partygoers. Flickering torch flames lit the expanses of the room, a string quartet played in the back corner, and a bountiful table was filled with typical party food, as well as very atypical items such as deer hearts, a pitcher of blood, and a bowl of live kittens.

The last item made Lenore shiver in disgust – it also made her wonder if Spike’s friend Clem had a great-grandfather around here somewhere.

“Interesting party,” Lenore commented as she took in the various humans, human-esque, and straight out demonic denizens of the place.

“Yeah, real interesting,” Loki said in a distracted voice as he looked towards the center of the room.

“What is it?” she asked as she followed his eyes. There, in the center of the room, were a group of laughing men and women – some of the most beautiful people she had ever seen in her life. One man caught her eye in particular. He had rich black hair that swayed along with his laughter and bright blue eyes that sparkled under the firelight. His finely tailored suit encased over six-feet of broad-shouldered muscled man – a sight so divine that had even Lenore second-guessing why she usually preferred women over men.

It was then that those twinkling blue eyes swiveled to meet hers and suddenly her throat felt dry. His face was classical Greek; chiseled and handsome with a straight nose, thin lips, and a healthy, tanned complexion. Wisdom lurked in his eyes but so did a good deal of passion that she suspected was often at odds with the former. He smiled at her then, said parting words to his companions, and made his way towards them.

“Oh great, here he comes,” Loki muttered. “Freaking walking like a peacock, that one.”

“Loki, hush. He’ll hear you,” Lenore hissed.

When he stepped up to them to kiss the back of her hand, Lenore fought to deny the shiver that ached to run down her back. “Baroness Lenore, I am the Immortal. It is a pleasure to finally meet you,” he spoke in a soft accented voice. “I am pleased that you decided to accept my invitation.”

Lenore found herself giggling in response, which was something she normally never would do but she couldn’t seem to help herself. “Of course, thank you for the invitation.”

The Immortal glanced down at Loki next to her. “Ah, you brought a little friend. How nice,” he stated lightly but she could tell he was perturbed.

“It’s Loki, you ass. Don’t pretend like you don’t recognize me.”

A slow smile slid across his face. “Loki. Of course. You just seem shorter than when I saw you last.”

“You and I both know I could take the form of an extremely pissed off polar bear wearing freaking armor if I wanted to right now,” Loki said in an irate voice.

Lenore clasped his elbow. “Loki, calm down,” she begged. Huh, maybe this was the reason why they never socialized with others.

“It’s alright, Lenore,” the Immortal grinned. “Loki and I go way back – ever since I slayed the foul Jörmungandr back in the day.”

“Jörmungandr?” Lenore whispered as Loki began shaking in rage.

“My son,” he spat with burning eyes as his hands curled into fists.

“Oh,” Lenore whispered as she looked between the two. Now she remembered that Jörmungandr, a great serpent, was Loki’s other son with the giantess Angboda, if what she had seen in that old Norse mythology book years ago was correct.

“Loki, come now. Surely you must be over that? Jörmungandr was threatening to destroy the world,” the Immortal scoffed.

“He never would have done it; kid was all talk!” Loki muttered. “Asshole.”

“Suit yourself, Loki,” the Immortal sighed.

“As you say, Heracles,” Loki stated snarkily.

Fire flashed through the Immortal’s eyes as he took a threatening step towards Loki. “Watch yourself Trickster. None know of my true past and that is how I wish it.”

“Hmm. Would be a shame if I accidentally shouted it out loud then, wouldn’t it?” Loki grinned evilly as he, too, took a step forward.

As Lenore debated on what she should do, while also wondering just who ‘Heracles’ was and if he had something to do with ‘Hercules’, a ravishing young woman appeared between the two, placing her palm on each of their chests. She wore a cleavage-baring gown, had thick curly blond hair that cascaded over her shoulders, and mischievous blue eyes.

“Calm yourself, gentlemen,” she ordered with a flirting smile in Loki’s direction.

“Aphrodite,” he whispered in surprise as his eyes traveled over her attractive form. “I didn’t know you’d be here.”

The woman – who Lenore was guessing was the Greek Goddess Aphrodite but couldn’t really believe it – suddenly gave Loki a deep kiss that left the other pagan sputtering stupidly.

“I…wha…wow,” Loki sighed as he stared at her.

Lenore was felt a wave of displeasure wash over her at the realization that these two knew each other in an intimate sense. Geez, who hadn’t Loki slept with at this point?

Well, okay…so far she had only met two goddesses, but still…

“My brother told me he invited the Vampire Saint, so I assumed that you would be travelling along with your pet,” Aphrodite smiled as her hand curled around Loki’s left bicep.

“Wait, Vampire Saint? And, I’m not his pet!” Lenore declared with folded arms. Honestly, what was with gods and goddesses thinking of people – mmkay, vampires – as pets?

Aphrodite gave her an amused look. “Many stories associate you with Loki, as well as Kali. I just assumed you were the pet of the gods, Lenore.” Then she directed a salacious look between her brother and Lenore. “But perhaps you are interested in a new master?”

“I have no master,” Lenore stated sternly. “And please do not call me a ‘Saint’,” she added in embarrassment.

“It is what they call you,” Aphrodite shrugged, much like she didn’t care one way or another. “The Prophetess of the Lord who struggles to redeem her fallen vampiric race.”

Then Aphrodite turned her batting eyelashes to Loki as she ran her hands over the front of his shirt. “Loki my love, it has been too long. Perhaps you would like to ‘catch up’?”

Loki gulped and barely spared Lenore another glance. “See you later, Lenore,” he called as Aphrodite led him away.

The sight of them leaving sparked a strong feeling of jealously within Lenore. Not that she cared for Loki like that…at least she didn’t think she did. Sure, she found him plenty attractive and sometimes she found herself recalling that Valentine’s Day moment on the mountain where a part of her wondered what would have happened had that comet not crashed into the mountain …but…no. She didn’t. And she couldn’t. He was her best friend – their love was perfect as it was.

Not to mention she knew Loki didn’t and couldn’t love her. He was just a friend, that was all.

Yes, she was just jealous because Loki was her friend and here was this floozy Goddess of Love carting him off and leaving her alone with the Immortal. Speaking of which…

“Would you care for a tour of the grounds, Lenore?” the Immortal asked with a charming smile as he held out his arm for her.

Lenore found her heart beat stronger at his nearness – goodness the man was a perfect example of male beauty – and answered him almost shyly. “I would like that.”