“Hhhhhhuuuuuu,” was the sound accompanying Dawn’s awakening gasp, coupled with several other shocked sounds coming from her surrounding audience. Her simultaneously wrenching forward left others stunned out of their wits as she panted for breath.
It occurred to Angel that she must not quite be out of her sleep yet, as her eyes were wild with blind panic, her eyes not fixing on any object.
“Dawn! Dawn, wake up,” he said, her blue irises trying to realize who he was and what he was saying. Clarity finally dawned, no pun intended; and she wasted no time in ignoring the worried looks and calls she was getting as she stumbled up and over to the scene of the spell-casting.
The jewel. She had seen it shatter. When she was asleep, it had broken. But there it was: hanging just as she remembered leaving it before she went to find Lorne. She looked over at the group that was staring at her. She was looking for a face. Which one...
Aragorn. He saw the jewel shatter. He was there in what she saw. He was different, but the same. What did this mean? All of her thoughts were coming into her head all at once too quickly for her to sort them out.
She felt a trickling down her forehead and reached to smear the blood slightly to see how much there was.
“What happened?” she finally asked them all, her mind still trying to remember herself.
“You got knocked the hell out,” Connor offered. Her eyes went to him quickly.
The usual bite didn’t get into her voice: she was still too confused, even though sarcasm was her second nature. First, even.
“I was going to finish your spell, sugarmuffin,” Lorne volunteered. “It was going okay and then you walked in the door and the lighter turned you into an identified flying object. I followed it perfectly. You must have gotten some of your hair in your mixture. Maybe your chant was inaccurate.” Her frowned creased as they group dared to move closer to the counter where she stood.
“No,” she said. “I was too careful. That spell was perfect,” she said miffed, her eyes still fixed in confusion at what was left of the spell. She did not like the insinuation that her spells were anything but. “I don’t understand.”
“Hey,” Fred suggested, “maybe your spell was fine, but you were just in the way went in tried to go out and it collided into you. That might have stopped the spell, right?” This satisfied her more than the previous theory, but she still did not like that her spell had failed. She nodded her head, deciding to agree with that.
“Right,” said, eyebrows still furrowed. They softened with her next thought. “I’ll just do it again. It shouldn’t take that long.”
“Uh…” Lorne said, “About that. You might want to take a rain check, pumpkin.”
“Why?” she questioned warily.
“Well, in our hurry to get to you… well… you amber rock kind of… well… got broken.” She immediately looked to the counter to see if he had seen right. She found evidence that he was on the floor. She sighed as she picked up.
“Well, there goes that,” she said, tossing it over her shoulder, listening to the rest of it break as she went to clean up the counter.
“Here,” Cordelia said, going to put a band-aid on the cut on her forehead. Dawn paused for her to do so.
“It’s all right, Dawn,” Wesley said. “I’m sure we’ll be able to fix the problem on the next run. Until we can get another.”
Dawn hung her head, disappointed in herself. Gandalf had to feel pity for her. She looked so put out by the failed spell, it was almost comical… almost.
Connor had watched his skulking companion properly skulk off to the room the two of them shared between their bedrooms. It was where they kept the video games, movies, television, desktop computer, and Dawn’s limited library. The crew had jumped on calling Sunnydale and continuing to make phone calls to all their contacts. Lorne called in a favor from one of his customers to be on the look out in the demon underground for anything to do with a kidnapping. The trio of foreigners felt utterly and completely useless. They hadn’t expected an entire crew using all of their resources to find their king’s missing daughter when he first decided to depart. Wesley asked Aragorn to write down everything he could about his daughter, daughter’s kidnappers, any other languages of his world, what he could remember of the chant used to send him to their world, etc. Fred finally found her book on existing worlds to try and find the incantation for Middle-Earth. Legolas and Gandalf set to work copying all of the characters they could think of down, in case someone ran across it in one of their books. (It should be noted that they were quite taken with the ball-point pen.)
Connor found his target a few hours later pouring over books at the desk she kept, looking more and more like a watcher by day. She just needed glasses and a tweed skirt.
“Geekoid,” she replied, not looking up.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
“Middle-earth,” she said. “I’m trying to see if I can find anything about time differentiation between our worlds. It doesn’t look like we have anything on it. I only found one little chapter in this book,” she said, indicating a red leather text at her right with her pencil.
“What did it say?” Dawn tossed down her pen, tired of holding it, and leaned back in her chair, resting her arms on that of the chair.
“That we probably aren’t going to find anything else on it.” Connor sighed. He watched the girl lean back further in her chair, rubbing her eyes as the stiff bones in her back cracked loudly.
“Hey,” Connor said. “We’ll get a new amber rock, and we’ll try it again. It’ll be good next time.” She frowned, not looking away from her fixed line of vision as she thought. “Is that… not… good?” he asked.
“That spell was perfect, Connor,” she said again. “Lorne couldn’t have messed it up, either. It was foolproof. I always write down exactly what I’m going to do before I do it. Maybe because of her gift, maybe her kidnappers have a shield, maybe there’s some x-factor I don’t know about yet. Either way, I don’t think a locator spell will work.” Connor looked at her, soaking in what she was saying.
“Why do you think it ran into you?” She shrugged.
“Had no where else to go, and I was right there in the door way. Maybe because of my… key… thing… the magic was attracted, I don’t know.” He watched as her morale sunk even lower.
“Hey,” he said, walking up and putting an arm around her, “we’ll find something.”
“Yeah, something,” she said lightly. Connor frowned.
‘Why so serious about this one?” he asked. “It’s just another case, remember? We’ve done plenty before, we’ll do plenty after.” Dawn look at the closest thing she had to a brother and smiled.
“No,” she said. “This is different.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “At least, I can’t explain. It’s just, when he gave me that necklace to do the spell, I just felt… I don’t know. Like some of his pain passed to me somehow. Nothing magical.... it was just… in his face. In his eyes. It felt like I could feel some of what he was feeling. It was just this… suffocation. It was like drowning and inch below the surface. If I could just… do that spell and help him get his daughter back, I wouldn’t… feel so… well, you know.”
“Silence of the Lambs? She hears lambs screaming in her dreams unless she helps people. Based on emotional dealing with her father, etc.”
“That was very psychoanalytic of you,” Dawn said, allowing a smile.
“Well, I try,” he said smiling, allowing a moment of levity. “Maybe seeing him care so much about his daughter connects with you because your real parents never came looking.”
“Well, a hell god had *me* kidnapped at infancy,” she said. “I wouldn’t have made it past that if the monks hadn’t found me and given me to Joyce. I can see how that would be hard to follow up on. I don’t even know if the monks even let them keep their memories of me. Sometimes I wish I had something more from them… well, besides a blanket or whatever I was wrapped up in when the monks got me,” she finished slowly, then seemed to snap back into thought. “But you’re right. If I help him… that’s one less child who never knows their parents.”
“We’ll find her,” Connor said. “We always do. “
“Except when we don’t,” she said with a weak smile. Connor laughed.
“Right: except then.” Two quick knocks interrupted one of their more serious talks.
“Connor, Dawn,” Wesley said. “We called Sunnydale.” Dawn sighed, half in relief, half in hope.
“Uh, well, nothing to do with this, but yes.” She huffed disappointedly but listened anyway.
“What’s up?” Wesley got out from the door way and into the room.
“A dream demon recently showed up in Sunnydale,” he said.
“Yes. This is a different breed. Much more dangerous. He manipulates people with their nightmares and they become his slaves. He got Anya to almost kill Xander by making her think she was in a field of rabbits.” Dawn cringed.
“Oooo,” she said. “Poor Anya.”
“Indeed,” Wesley said. “They have reason to believe it is headed here.”
“It said it that Sunnydale was boring and it was going to L.A.”
‘Well, at least he left little room for misinterpretation.” Wesley nodded in confirmation.
“We need to be on the look out for the next couple weeks.”
“Did you find anything else?”
“Uh, no,” he said. “Lorne just left to get back to Caritas, but he said he’d visit a friend of his tomorrow. He would know of any kidnappings going on in L.A. We still need to figure out the time lapse between Middle-Earth and our world.” He checked behind his shoulder, closing the door behind him. “We really need to find it. You already mentioned the possibility to Aragorn that his daughter is no longer and infant, but I do not think he understands how big that possibility is. There is bound to be a text somewhere in town on time gaps. Fred said she might be able to calculate it, if she finds out where this universe is located in relation to ours.” Dawn nodded.
I’ve looked through all my books,” Dawn said. “I still have to look through the ones downstairs, though. And I still need to check the internet. I found this little description of it so far,” she said, turning the book around for Wesley to see. Connor rolled his eyes as Wesley put on his glasses. They were going all nerdy now. Wasn’t it about time to patrol? He decided it was as he slipped out of the room, unbeknownst to the bookworms. “This is a semi-comprehensive encyclopedia of known worlds. I found a chapter on Middle-earth, so I hope this is where they are from. It goes through some basic information like locations and races, but that’s it. It only goes on to say that travel between this world and that particular one is limited due to universal distance between them.” Wesley skimmed the few pages until he came to some others written in a language he couldn’t understand. Dawn noticed what he was looking at. “That, I don’t know if it goes with that passage or is something entirely different I was going to as one of them if the recognized it.”
“No time like the present,” Wesley said as he headed toward the lobby. Dawn drug herself up out of the chair and followed him.
The two trailed down the stairs, immediately finding their guest, but missing the head of the house.
“Where is Angel?” Wesley questioned.
“He, Gunn, and Connor just went for a quick swipe through the cemetery,” Fred said. The watcher accepted this with little pause as he made his way over to their guest, who seemed to be restless at the moment.
“Dawn found this in one of our texts,” Wesley said. “She found a chapter on a ‘Middle-earth.’ That is correct, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Gandalf confirmed. Wesley flipped the book for him to see.
“Then I assume this is familiar?” Gandalf took a moment over the material of the pages.
“Yes,” he answered. “Men, Elves, Orcs, and Hobbits are all peoples of Middle-earth.” Wesley nodded in confirmation, turning the page.
“And this?” he questioned. “Dawn thought to ask you if you knew this language before trying to translate it.
“It is Elvish,” the wizard said. “It gives the same information as the Common Tongue passage. Description of Men and Elves and Orcs and Hobbits.” It was what Dawn had expected. Well, at least she had something to study for lingual purposes so she wouldn’t have to go back them every five minutes.
“Cordy?” Dawn questioned as she finally reached the lobby, sitting down at her laptop.
“Yeah?” she said, looking up from a mirror she was checking her reflection in.
“Can we order some pizza?” The brunette sighed.
“I suppose it can be arranged. I don’t feel like cooking tonight anyway.” Dawn momentarily frowned. When did she ever cook, let alone feel like cooking? The teenager shook it off as she did most similar comments said by her favorite Mae Queen. Dawn let her fingertips fly over the keyboard as they usually did, looking for anything and everything they could find about Middle-earth.
The days passed pretty much the same for the next few weeks. Research upon research was piled up in their brains, none telling them how to get back to that dimension. No prophecies on any child from that world. It all seemed fruitless.
Dawn kept pretty much to herself. She found very little the internet or any other of her resources. She read mainly about some sort of magic ring that seemed important, and of a few wars here and there. Nothing about a prophecy child.
From the breaking light was a child born,
And from that breaking light shall a child be found.
Dawn tossed shifted in her sleep, unconsciously changing the arms she was sleeping resting her head on, which in turn, was resting on her desk.
A dark haired man was reading. Not reading to anyone in particular. He was reading to any one who was listening. To her. With pointed ears and a regal brow, he was telling her something. What was he saying?
With sight from her blood, and strength from within,
Her power shall spill from a God Hell-bound.
Dawn gasped as she jerked her head up off her desk. The first thing she saw was her 3D Flower Box screensaver bouncing around on her monitor. She let her eyes look at that until she was fully awake. Finally stretching out her limbs and tossing a glance at her clock, she realized she must have been asleep for a few hours. It was 1:23 AM. Well, she wasn’t going to sleep anymore tonight.
Slowly but surely she crept downstairs. It was the fifth time perhaps in 15 days that she had left her room. Well… more than five… but the majority of her days were spent in her workroom; so entrenched had she been in translation after translation that she forgot to get up. What could she say? She was the mini-Wesley. Knowledge was her passion and power. It did feel to get a moment of fresh air, though.
She froze at hearing a noise from one side of the lobby. Aragorn? What was he doing up?
She didn’t have to try very hard to make her presence known as he had the whole… stealth… detect-y… thing. A fact she had discovered during his stay through subtle actions. Turning his head slightly always at obscure noises. And other stuff she couldn’t quite pinpoint. It was just in his manner. Aragorn wasn’t some stuffy old politician king: he had definitely kicked some ass a time or two.
“What are you doing up?” she asked, genuinely curious. Aragorn looked up from the mechanism that had kept him occupied for the past week. Of course, Dawn had been up in her room, and was not aware of the fascination the king had developed for it.
“I was… um… watching this machine of this world…”
“Also known as the television,” Dawn said with s slight smirk. No one was immune to the hypnosis that was the television, not even a king. Aragorn was not sure why he had the urge to hide the habit. Perhaps it was the Lady Winifred’s warning of the addictive attributes of the instrument when he had first investigated it.
“I would think it kind of weird you out,” Dawn said a-matter-of-factly, heading toward to the kitchen. Aragorn, with little other companionship, followed her.
“Lady Winifred explained… attempted to explain the process. Many pictures are sent through the air and lights in the machine displays the pictures.” Dawn was impressed.
“Yes, well, that’s eighty years of technology summed up in a few short sentences, but it works.”
“Lady Winifred said it would be best if I simply accepted it and got used to the advantages of this world.”
“Entirely good idea,” Dawn said, pulling out the gallon of ice cream from the freezer. “What have you been watching?”
“The… um. ‘channel’ –I believe they are called– that shows the past events of this world.”
“History Channel!” Dawn said excited, turning around from the cupboard to look at him. “Great choice! That’s my favorite channel to watch, too.”
“Your people must be very informed with so much information available to them. Only scholars have access to the history books of Middle-earth.” Dawn looked grimly as she placed two bowls on the counter.
“Um… not as informed as you might think. Most people are indifferent to anything beyond their daily lives. I guess I understand. Things in history and the news are never happy, so why would you want to hear it? I’ve just always liked studying it. Do you want some?” Aragorn had watched as she had retrieved two bowls from the cupboard, and figured it would be rude to refuse whatever she was planning to put into them.
“What is it?” he asked curious.
“Ice cream. Only the greatest of inventions in this world. This is Fudge Royale. The best of flavors.” Aragorn watched as she scooped the substance out of its container and placed it in the bowl for him.
Dawn, for one, was glad to see he was currently occupied with something other than his daughter’s kidnapping. Of course, he was still thinking about it. Some part of his mind was contemplating anything else he could do, but he wasn’t brooding, at least.
“I haven’t had ice cream this late at night in years,” she said, thinking out loud. It wasn’t an incredibly insightful comment: simply something to start conversation. Aragorn found himself smiling slightly.
“Is it only for special occasions?” Dawn chuckled.
“No. Mainly a stress reliever. The last time I can remember was with my sister.” The King of Gondor did not miss the slight in her voice, but he could not stop his question before it had already fallen past his lips.
“Oh? And where is your sister now? In this Sunnydale?” A flash of pain crossed her face, but it disappeared before he could examine it. She turned her attention to replacing the ‘ice cream’ back in the freezing device. Clearing her throat, she turned around.
“She died,” she said, a little soberly. Aragorn looked down.
“Forgive me, I didn’t know.” She smiled a little.
“Don’t be. It was almost two years ago. I’ve gotten used to it by now.” She smiled wistfully for a moment. “There was this… guy she used to… court,” she said, changing her vocabulary, “and she wasn’t meant for him, I guess, so he left.” Her smile widened a little. “ I found her in the kitchen that night. We are almost the whole the carton. Well, she did.” Aragorn smiled at the memory that obviously brought the girl happiness of sorts. If her sister had been about the size of her, it was humorous thinking of the two of them consuming that much of the sweet and stick substance. He found he enjoyed its taste immensely.
“Your friends have been worried about you,” he stated after a few minutes of silence. “You’ve been in you room so much and hardly come out.”
“Oh, I just… I know they worry all the time. I just get… too wrapped up in research sometimes. I forget to come out or… other stuff… sometimes. I think I’m over it now.”
“Have you found anything?” he tried to ask off-handedly. Dawn looked down.
“Most of what I’ve found on Middle-earth is on wars and… some kind of ring. It’s really vague.” She knew Aragorn reacted to the mention of that, but couldn’t read it. “But… um,” she continued, hesitant to do so, “there’s an eye,” she said. “It’s… really scary. It’s all fiery and… do know what I’m talking about?”
“Yes,” he said, without elaboration.
“What is it?”
“A great evil of my world. Did you read about it?”
“When I did that spell… I, um… saw it. That and… I saw the necklace, the one that belongs to your kid… I saw it breaking. You were there. You dropped it.” Aragorn stared at her very hard and very long. She didn’t want to meet his eyes.
“I had the same vision,” he said. “A little over a year ago. My wife was dying at the time. It was a nightmare I often had. How did you see this?” he questioned.
“I must have gotten it in the magic of the necklace through the spell,” she said. “Images like that can often be passed through objects of a magical nature.” She looked down for a moment. “I’ve just been thinking about it a lot. I wondered what they meant.” Aragorn nodded. The reminder of the vision of his once dying wife struck a little too close to his heart. How she must be agonizing as he was. Every moment spent without her and his daughter became increasingly painful.
He watched the teenager clean up their dishes and he saw her in that strange light always confused him, like when Angel had told them that she had tried to bring her mother back from the grave. At that very moment she seemed less like a teenager that said everything that whizzed through her mind without caution and more like a young woman that had lost her mother and, now he knew, sister. What had happened to them? He suddenly felt a burning desire to know.
“I do not mean to pry,” he said, “but do you mind my asking what happened to them?” He did not need to elaborate. There were a few long moments of silence and he thought she meant not to answer.
“My mom got very sick…” she said, looking down at the counter, pretending to wipe it off with a dishrag. “A few years ago. There was nothing the doctors could do, and she died.” She took a deep, cleansing breath before going on. “My sister… she… died in battle.” She didn’t need to go any further, Aragorn thought.
“Forgive my questioning, I shouldn’t have asked.”
“No, it’s fine,” she said. “I guess it would be weird that I’m living with a 250 year old vampire to someone else. One has to wonder.”
“Yes, I was wondering if you had any other family. It is strange. Master Angel seems very capable, just… not like the father kind.”
“Yeah, I guess. He’s been the best to me since they died. I couldn’t ask for a better guardian. Giles –he was a good friend of the family– tried locating my birth parents before I came here, but couldn’t find them. Joyce was actually my adopted mother.”
“Why were you adopted?” Dawn sighed very quietly, smiling a little.
“I think that’s a story best saved for another day,” she said, trying to laugh it off. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to try and give you my life story.” Aragorn could tell she didn’t wish to discuss her adoption further, and let her laugh it off for his benefit.
“Nothing of the kind, my lady. I thank you for your conversation. You have been a most welcome distraction.” Dawn smiled.
“Yeah, well, that’s what I’m good at: distraction.”