Old and New
CHAPTER SEVEN: Old and New* * *
Miranda followed Ethan Rayne into the terminal. He brought her efficiently and courteously through the sunny waiting area and out to a waiting Lincoln Town Car.
Handing Miranda’s baggage to the driver, who appeared silently at Ethan’s elbow, Ethan assisted Miranda into the back of the Town Car, sliding in beside her.
“Mr. Rayne,” began Miranda, “whom did you say sent you to meet me today?”
Rayne smirked at her. She was tempted to clobber him just to see what would happen. “I didn’t,” the man said, oily amusement fairly oozing from his pores. “But, since you must
know…” He reached slowly into his inside jacket pocket, withdrawing a business card and handing it to her.
Miranda slid her sunglasses up onto her head, the better to see in the dim coolness of the car. The card was printed in a dense black ink on fine, creamy rag stock, with a set of intersecting lines around the edge in gold and burgundy. International Museum of the Occult, London, UK
, it read at the top. But it was the next bit that confused, and, she had to admit, alarmed her.
The name of the person who, presumably, was this Ethan Rayne’s employer. Quentin Travers, IWC, Executive Director
The blonde’s eyes snapped up to see that Rayne was watching her, a little like a large, bored housecat watches the little mouse.
“Why in God’s name would Quentin Travers
have anything to do with this?” she demanded. A lightbulb suddenly went off in her head as Rayne continued with his silent scrutiny. It can’t be…
Miranda was fairly quivering with rage. “And I recognise you now, Mister Rayne
,” she continued slowly, but with a savage thread in her voice that actually widened Ethan’s eyes a bit.
She gave him her shark’s grin, the one that made her competitors fairly soil themselves in terror. “Oh yes, I do
remember who you are,” the woman whispered, as Rayne’s fists clenched tensely. “Such a naughty boy, you were, Ethan! So tell me, heard from Philip? Or Deirdre? Or…Rupert
Miranda Collier might have only been six years old at the time, but she knew what her older half-sister and her friends had been about.
How Deirdre, and her friends Rupert Giles, Philip Chalmers-Haight, Randall Ellingson, and…Ethan Rayne
…had been into demon-summoning for fun and power. ‘The ultimate high,’ she had heard Dee call it. And how those summonings had ended in Randall’s death, when the group could no longer control the demon.
The man sitting beside her flinched as she finished speaking, a look of angry recognition coming over his face.
“Oh, sodding, buggering hell
,” Ethan snarled. “It’s bloody you
, isn’t it? Little Randa. How bloody marvellous
.” He muttered curses on Quentin Travers’ head under his breath, a look of sullen fury twisting his handsome features.
To his traveling companion, it was truly wonderful to behold, and Miranda had to force herself not to laugh in his face. The man was practically pouting
“Well, Ethan, old boy,” she sneered, “any idea why dear old Uncle Q wanted you, the failed Watcher, to look after little me?”
Gobsmacked. Utterly, entirely gobsmacked. Ethan Rayne, for once in his life, had absolutely nothing to say for himself.
“What’s the matter, dear, cat got your tongue?” Miranda spat.
At that moment, the driver started the car, and they began to move.
The two passengers gave each other a final glare, and finished the ride in angry silence. * * *SHS Library, Evening
Rupert Giles sat happily drinking a fine Darjeeling tea, brewed nice and dark, with just a touch of sugar. He was at the large round table that the Scoobies usually used for meetings, a veritable small city of ancient books stacked around his teapot and cup. The book open in front of him commanded his entire attention.
It was none other than the Arms and Arcana
, and he was perusing the chapter on the Witchblade. Since his Slayer was not only the Chosen One, but also the Wielder of the ‘Blade, Giles felt it a good idea to know as much about it as he could learn from this book.
The writer, MacLeish, had been quite a world traveller, Giles discovered. He had gone to every major weapon-making centre in the known world of his time, the 17th century of the Common Era. The Scot had travelled to Damascus; to Toledo, Spain; to Japan (an amazing feat for a Westerner, since the Japanese government had not allowed “foreign devils” on their soil until the 1900s); to Norway; and to Bavaria. Everywhere he had gone, he had brought back either some sort of weapon, or a legend – and in one case, he’d brought back both. Bladvak
, the Blood-Axe of Oslo, was, according to Giles’ Watcher Chronicles, another mystical weapon, like the Witchblade. Bladvak
, however, could only be wielded by a man. MacLeish wrote, “I only hope to be found worthy, or, if I be not worthy, that I may find he who shall be fit to bear the Bladvak.”
Giles removed his glasses slowly, chewing absently on one earpiece as he thought on that. He hadn’t heard of any museums in possession of the Bladvak
, or anything resembling it. Had it found a bearer? The writer’s description did not state that it was a weapon for Good or for Evil. However, Giles was just cynical enough to know that a weapon generally did not care whom it injured.
A sound behind him made him turn around from his cup and book.
“Hi, Giles!” Willow, Buffy and Xander chorused from the doorway of the library, hurrying over to him with grins on their faces and their arms loaded with fast-food bags.
“Oh, you started without us,” Willow said with disappointment, eying the book-henge.
Xander pulled several wrapped packets out of one of the bags, followed by a small stack of heavyweight paper plates. “We know your refined English palate, G-Man,” he began, grinning. “-Do not call me by that infernal nickname, Xander, I implore you,” Giles interrupted, smirking a little.
“-And, we decided that it needs a little fine-tuning,” the dark-haired youth continued obliviously, winking at the two girls. Filling a plate, Xander presented it to Giles with a paper napkin draped over his forearm and a small bow.
Giles looked down at the assortment of food, and had to smile. Neatly arranged on a Chinet dish were a large, steaming piece of fried fish; a generous pile of thick, steak-cut chips; a small plastic cup of rich, dark malt vinegar; and several packets of ketchup. A plastic fork and knife and a paper napkin completed the setting.
“We thought you might be homesick for fish and chips,” Buffy smiled, assembling her own plate (three chicken burritos and a Chalupa Supreme) and beginning to eat. Xander had the twin of Buffy’s meal, and Willow had a chicken quesadilla and a tub of vegetarian chili.
The plate did, indeed, smell wonderful. Placing his napkin neatly in his lap, Giles took up his knife and fork and cut off a piece of the fish, dunking a corner of it in the vinegar and popping it in his mouth. Ah, bliss.
“This is really quite good,” Giles praised, neatly decimating some of the chips, “and no newspapers required,” he grinned. “Thank you very much, indeed, children.” In no time flat, he had finished the fish – a sweet flaky haddock, with just enough breading – and was mopping up the last of the ketchup with the last chip.
Buffy whistled low in awe. “Wow, Giles, did you even chew?” she teased, her eyes twinkling. Her own plate stood, empty and forlorn in front of her without even a trace of food remaining on it.
The Watcher smiled at his Slayer indulgently, leaning back in his chair and sipping at his fourth cup of tea. “That was lovely, quite the best I’ve had anywhere in America,” Giles said sincerely.
Xander grinned, crumpling the wrapper of his Burrito Supreme Mark 3 and depositing it neatly in his empty bag. He sprawled comfortably in his own chair and took a vigorous sluck of his extra-large Mountain Dew.
Buffy craned her neck to see some of the titles of the books Giles had been going through, and smiled when she saw the Arms and Arcana
on the top of the stack. “Researching my little friend?” the Slayer asked with a grin, holding up her right hand and waggling her fingers. The Witchblade gleamed in a fashion that Giles could only deem as contented, if such a thing were possible.
“Indeed,” smiled the Watcher, green eyes twinkling as he replaced his glasses on his nose. “And our Mr MacLeish, as well.” He explained some of what he’d learned, and the academic in him was quite pleased to hear the reactions of the three young people, which varied from “Wow, cool!” to “Ooohhhhh!” and
“Way and excellently cool, G-Man!”
“So, MacLeish actually got to go to Japan at the turn of the 17th century, Giles?” Willow asked excitedly. “That’s just unheard-of, isn’t it?”
Giles replied, “Quite, Willow. The Japanese did not permit gaijin
, or foreigners, on their holy island at that time, so MacLeish would have had to have the favour of the shogun
, the ruling lord of the place he visited. Otherwise, he would have been killed on sight.”
The redhead visibly shuddered at the thought, which only reminded the Watcher of how young the three of them still were.
Fed and watered, the quartet began scanning through and discarding the books, until the only volumes left on the table were MacLeish's work, an equally obscure early 20th-century text by a man named Ellis, and the piles of notes that Giles and Willow had taken. * * * *
"Ow, my brain," moaned Xander. He pushed the heels of his hands into his temples and massaged lightly.
"Poor Xander," commiserated Buffy. She winked at Willow, who blushed. The Slayer shook her head a little. Honestly, those two,
she thought. Xander is gonna wake up too late...
The consensus among the four was that they had learned precisely bupkis
, and should come back to it fresh the next evening.
"All right, children," said Giles, on the end of a surprisingly large yawn, "we shall meet back here tomorrow, after school?" He made it a question, giving them the opportunity to make suggestions.
Willow, Buffy, and Xander looked back and forth with one another, then said in unison, "Four o'clock, works for me!"
With that, the three teens gathered their things and bid Giles goodnight. * * *