Chapter Eleven – Born of Fire
Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, or any of the Norse Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
-== Chapter Eleven – Born of Fire ==-
Xander walked away from the mayor’s office with a dark frown etched on his face. A feeling of dread had settled into his gut in the wake of Jormungandr’s parting words. Somehow, he knew that he’d made a mistake or overlooked something. He had the sinking feeling that his brash, and seemingly successful, plan to trick Wilkins into agreeing to a truce was going to back-fire on him spectacularly.
To his great surprise, Eve was waiting for him precisely where he’d left her. “I think I screwed up,” he said immediately, “I’m just not sure how yet…”
“I felt Jormungandr draw on the old magicks, what did he do?” the Valkyrie asked in response.
“We entered into a truce, a binding magical contract,” he answered. “I figured that was the best way to deal with him for now. Neither of us can attack the other for as long as Odin’s curse remains in effect.”
After a moment’s consideration, Eve nodded slowly. “That was a wise choice, Alexander, provided you did not enter into a written contract. There are magicks that may alter such an agreement when it is bound in writing.”
“No, we kept it strictly verbal,” he sighed, “but I think Jormungandr played me. He wants me out of Sunnydale and threatened that I’d regret staying, even after the contract was sealed.”
“What, exactly, did you each swear to?” A look of grave concern crossed her face and then worsened as Xander repeated the exact wording of the contract. “You have, indeed, fallen prey to a grave error,” she chided a moment later. “You are safe from his attacks and possibly even from the attacks of his minions. But you did not bargain for the safety of those you care about. Attacks may come in many forms, but the magick used is quite specific and very literal.”
“Damn it!” he exclaimed, rushing to a pay phone. “He’s going to go after the people I care about. He’ll hurt them to force me to leave Sunnydale.”
“Where are you going?” she asked as he ran and she followed.
“I need to warn Giles,” the young man said. “He’s the most likely first target since he’s the only one of my friends still in Sunnydale at the moment.” He could only hope the Watcher would heed his warning.
A few minutes later, Xander was at a loss. Neither the school library, nor the Watcher’s home phones were answered when he called them. “Where else would he be?” he asked aloud wracking his brain for an answer. “Oh God, he must’ve gone on a date with Ms Calendar…”
Eve closed her eyes for a moment, as though she were thinking hard. “They are indeed together, in Los Angeles, Alexander. They are beyond the reach of your foe for the time being.”
“I’ve got to figure out a way to fix this,” he said after a momentary sigh of relief. “There has to be something I can use to force him into a new agreement…”
“I’m afraid that you have traded away the only leverage you had,” she answered sadly. “Unlike you, Jormungandr would be un-phased by attacks against his lackeys and minions. Even his most trusted lieutenants are at best pawns to be sacrificed on a whim.”
A ripple of powerful magic washed outward from the vicinity of City Hall, causing the hairs on the back of Xander’s neck to stand up. “What on Earth is he doing?” he asked puzzled. “None of my friends are in Sunnydale right now…”
A scream of sirens tore through the early evening air a moment later as both the Sunnydale Police department and the Fire department sprang into action. Xander watched in shock, his mind racing in an attempt to understand what his opponent was up to until it suddenly clicked. “Oh God, Willow’s house is that direction!” He broke into a run, chasing after the rescue vehicles as a great cloud of black smoke rose over the town and a terrible explosion tore through the air.
Xander rounded a corner and drew up short as a great, towering pillar of flame rose from the ground on the next street over. It towered some 20 or 30 feet in height, remaining utterly still for a long moment. And then it changed, moving and shifting against the wind until it had assumed a vaguely human shape. “What is that thing?” he shouted at Eve, whom he assumed was right behind him.
When no answer was forthcoming, he shot a glance over his should to find that Eve had vanished once again. “Great,” he muttered, willing Mjolnir into his hand and running once more toward the disturbance. He rounded the final corner onto the street where Willow lived and was immediately confronted with a raging conflagration that had clearly begun at a building that used to be a gas station. He watched in horror as just beyond that, the giant flame monster and a handful of other, man-sized ones moved inexorably away from the inferno, setting ablaze everything in their path.
The giant turned slightly, heading in a different direction than Xander expected, clearly intending to draw him away from Jormungandr’s real target: Willow’s house. It was a poor ploy, he decided, since the giant was actually doing much less damage than the group of smaller creatures. Ignoring the cries of the rescue workers to keep back, he strode forward with a determined look in his eyes. The heat and the smoke were intense as he passed through the fire, enough to kill an unprotected human, enough to blister exposed skin and burn flesh from bone. Xander, however, was made of tougher stuff.
He walked unharmed through the blaze and hurled his hammer at the nearest flame creature. It struck the beast squarely in the back with explosive force, extinguishing the wreath of flame that had surrounded it. Beneath the fires, it was a man shaped figure of superheated rock and earth. Mjolnir’s impact caused the creature’s chest to shatter, spraying dust and molten rock outward in a pyroclastic mist as its undamaged limbs collapsed to the ground, unsupported.
An instant later, Mjolnir returned to his hand as the other five man-sized fire beasts turned toward Xander. The closest of them moved faster than Xander was ready for, slamming a fist of stone and flame into the young man’s chest and sending him flying through the air. He slammed into the hard brick wall of a nearby house with sufficient force to make it cave slightly inward before he bounced off it, falling roughly to his knees on the ground.
“Is that all you’ve got?” Xander shouted back as he reached up and tore his now burning shirt off, casting the flaming garment aside. He got to his feet and hurled the hammer at the one that had hit him in a single smooth motion before charging across the ground at it. Somehow the creature managed to sidestep Mjolnir, which reappeared in Xander’s hand just as he swung a massive, two-handed blow down on it. The hit destroyed the monster’s head and chest, driving its legs into the ground like nails into a board.
Spinning, he threw at the farthest creature, smiling grimly as the hammer hit it perfectly and crushed its head. Before the weapon could even reappear in his hand, Xander punched the closest of the beasts with all of his considerable might, sending it smashing into one of its comrades so hard that they both collapsed into a single heap of broken pieces.
A blast of flame lanced out from one of the remaining pair of creatures and slammed into Xander’s chest, driving him to the ground. The sudden, intense pain tore a scream from his lips as the skin of his chest blistered under the magickal assault.
“They are elementals, Alexander,” Eve suddenly shouted as she appeared in the air overhead, armed with shield and spear, wearing the traditional armor of a Valkyrie. “’Ware their fire, its magic can harm you.” In a rapid series of powerful strokes, she drove her spear into the beast several times, severing each of its limbs. “They cannot die while the fire that spawned them still burns,” she pointed at the gas station inferno.
“Great,” he shouted back, watching as one of the elementals put itself back together. “What about the big one?”
“A Fire Giant,” she shouted back. “I will slow it down. Call the storm, Alexander, quench that fire and these elementals will perish.”
He climbed to his feet, harmlessly swatting away another blast of flame with his hammer. Calling on the power within the weapon, he summoned up a storm, pouring his strength into it to overcome Jormungandr’s resistance. Only this time, there was no resistance. The wind whipped up around him as the sky almost instantly darkened with thick, black storm clouds.
Power surged through him as the storm rapidly gathered strength. A bolt of lightning, responding to Xander’s thoughts, arced down to strike the hammer before blasting out to strike one of the elementals with explosive results. Focusing his power, he called down a series of lightning strikes against the elementals as the sky grew heavy with the taste of water and ash.
Then the deluge began, water pouring from the sky in thick sheets. The heavy rain almost immediately affected the elementals as it diminished the source of their flames, weakening them. It wasn’t enough though, Xander realized quickly. The rain would take far too long to completely extinguish the fire. Concentrating, he whipped the wind around the gas station into a frenzied vortex, sucking the air away from the fire.
Within minutes, the flames expired, deprived of the oxygen they needed to burn. As the last of the fires died out, the elementals perished, their physical forms turning to ash that was quickly washed away by the falling rain. Immediately, Xander released the storm, feeling it diminish almost instantly to a simple rain shower. In the distance, the glimmering fires of the giant still burned. Xander ran toward it, thinking to help Eve defeat it.
As he ran, it finally occurred to him where the monster was heading and the young Aesir poured on a desperate burst of speed. The smaller elementals had been the distraction, a feint to keep him occupied and he had fallen for it completely. Xander drew up short, stopping dead in his tracks as he came upon the giant and the Valkyrie.
Just beyond them, Xander saw the wreckage of what had been the only home he’d ever known, reduced to a burning hulk. He heard Eve shout something and dive in, stabbing the giant viciously with her spear before darting away. But all Xander could think of was the fact that his parents had been home when the giant attacked.
Ignoring the battle raging between the airborne Valkyrie and the fire giant, Xander sprinted into the wreckage to find his parents.