Everything either belongs to Joss or it should, no infringement is intended and no profit is to be made. When you get right down to it I’m not really worth suing anyway unless you want a share of an underpaid civil servants wages and it just wouldn’t be worth the hassle trust me.
Banner by Carnen Shadow Valley Vineyards – April 2003
The fighting stopped as swiftly and abruptly as it began, one second it was steel clashing on steel and then inexplicably the Bringers simply backed away into the shadows of the vineyard cellar leaving Buffy, Spike and their small cohort of Potentials suddenly unmolested.
A figure stepped from the shadows into the light. He was dressed in black as a clergyman, collar and everything, and seemed to have a spark of faith in his eyes as well as a somewhat superior and knowing expression. ‘Well, now, you girls are just burning with righteousness, aren't you?’ he said addressing Buffy and the potentials. ‘Problem is you think you're blazing like suns, when really you're burning like matchsticks in the face of the darkness. You having fun?’ he asked sardonically. ‘Now, I hope my boys haven't worn you out too much - I need you fit for when I purify you.’
Buffy had heard far too many threats, veiled and otherwise, from wannabe big-bads to take this one any more seriously than all the previous Bond-Villain like speeches directed her way. The evil preacher thing was an interesting variation but not really that
imaginative when you came right down to it. ‘Save the sermon, padre. I heard you have something of mine’ the Slayer responded to Caleb’s words in a tone that clearly got the message across that she didn’t take him too seriously. When would these jerks learn she wondered? She was the Slayer
for pity’s sake, she’d beaten an actual God
into submission, a mere man of
God just wasn’t in her league, heck as the great Sam L Jackson would say he wasn’t even playing the same damn sport.
Caleb chuckled at the vampire slayers bravado, she was a feisty one all right. ‘Well, I do now. You liked my little message, did you? You know, I ruined a perfectly good knife on that girl. Got her soiled blood all over the place. I may have to get a new truck’ he said in mock regret. ‘So, you're the slayer. The slayer. The strongest, the fastest, the most aflame with that most precious invention of all mankind - the notion of goodness. The slayer must indeed be powerful’ he reasoned.
Without warning the apparent man of the cloth threw a lightning punch connecting with the slayer with a force that sent her hurtling through the air to land in a heap. It was a blow the likes of which she had not felt since Glory, stunning, awesome, titanic power.
‘So what else you got?’ Caleb asked smugly, looking around at the shocked expressions on the faces of the potentials and even the turncoat vampire Spike who himself looked like he was about to spring to the attack putting his vampire game-face on ready to pounce in a split second.
Instead of the ensouled vampire making his move another figure, this one female, intervened, stepping between them and looking Caleb up and down with distain. A double pace behind her a serious looking man who had entered at the same time regarded him with an expression that was rather more guarded.
‘So who would you be darling?’ Caleb asked the newcomer, eyes twinking. ‘You look kinda old to be a potential I’m thinking’ he said. ‘Another of the slayers sidekicks come to give her a hand?’ he asked looking her over. From the length of her skirt she was surely another dirty temptress anyhow, just prime for the righteous judgement.
‘I am sidekick to no one’ the woman told him. ‘They,’ she said, nodding her head to the side to indicate the still prostrate Buffy, ‘as you’ she continued, ‘are nothing more than the slime beneath my feet’ she declared.
The dark padre laughed. ‘Well ain’t you a peach’ he said and viciously backhanded the woman with almost as much force as he had just used to knock down the slayer.
Caleb’s jaw dropped at the result of the blow but the woman herself certainly didn’t. In fact from his perspective, and more precisely judging from the pain in his hand, it felt pretty much like he’d just tried to bitchslap a ten ton granite block rather than a slightly built woman in her twenties. Her head did rock to the side with what should have been the bone shattering impact of the blow, but she was soon looking him straight in the eyes once again, seemingly unfazed by a level of force that would have killed anything short of a slayer or a strong vampire outright.
The woman’s right arm suddenly snapped forwards to grab Caleb by the throat, simultaneously her clothes, indeed her whole appearance changed as they morphed into what looked like a suit of red leather armour. Her hair and even areas of her skin took on shades of blue, the colour matched by her almost glowing eyes. She leaned her head to the side as if seeking to look him over once again from a slightly different perspective.
With no apparent effort the demon woman lifted Caleb clean off his feet with the one hand, squeezing hard and almost choking the life out of him. His expression now one of near panic he pulled a vicious looking hunting knife from his pocket and slammed it as hard as he could into the arm that was holding him aloft.
The blade shattered leaving behind a small wound that began slowly dripping blood as the shards of steel fell to the floor in a shower of shiny fragments. A shocked Caleb released the hilt of the broken knife to let it fall as well.
She eyed the minor injury dispassionately.
‘Qwa’Ha Xahn’ she said, turning her head to address the figure stood behind her ‘this one has some strength and the temerity to cause me harm, albeit insignificant harm of little consequence’ she told him. ‘I will play with it a while outside before making a trophy of its spine’ she declared then looked around in distaste.‘The walls in here grow close’ she commented in a far less imperious tone, almost one of nervousness.
‘Who? What?’ Caleb gasped, looking down at the creature holding him aloft so effortlessly.Another
Buffy flashed into view alongside Caleb and cast a clearly disquieted look over the scene.
‘It’s the First’ the original Buffy stated, rising to her feet and equally shocked by the sudden turn the battle had taken.
Ignoring Buffy entirely, the eponymous First Evil stared in apparent astonishment at the slightly built blue haired female, who herself turned her head towards it and regarded the incorporeal being with what was clearly a form of mild amusement. She turned back to Caleb with a superior smirk growing across her face. ‘I am Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, Shaper of Things’ she told Caleb haughtily. ‘This timeline continues to develop far more to my liking’ she continued off-handedly to herself.
A voice from near the entrance to the cellar spoke up ‘You know you did
ask “what else you got”’ Faith pointed out reasonably to Caleb from the position she’d taken sitting at the bottom of the steps. She had followed the other pair down into the cellar earlier, telling a puzzled Xander to stay put outside with the other potentials, and had then remained at a distance to observe the unfolding scene, wishing she had remembered to bring some popcorn along. ‘You were
kinda tempting fate don’t you think?’ she asked Caleb rhetorically.
Standing behind Illyria, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce nodded in agreement with his former charge. ‘You see what we had as a backup was a Deus ex Machina of the most literal kind’ he told Caleb with a ironic chuckle before, wiping his face clear from even a hint of expression, he reached both hands inside his brown leather jacket and smoothly pulled a pair of automatic pistols from the shoulder holsters concealed underneath.
With a practiced eye and sure hands Wesley raised and aimed the twin handguns then without verbal warning, nor even a suggestion of a change in demeanour, he began pulling both triggers repeatedly. The rogue demon-hunter systematically and ruthlessly gunning down the Bringers who, initiative never really being their strong suit, had up until now remained partially cloaked in the shadows unsure what to do without guidance from above, or more accurately perhaps from beneath.
The sound of Wesley’s dual pistols was quite deafening in the enclosed space, each booming gunshot report echoing into the next, but it didn’t take too long before his near perfect aim bought the First’s foot-soldiers to a swift and bloody demise and the thunder ceased. One Bringer managed to get in reasonably close in a last ditch attempt to save Caleb by flinging itself and its sword into action but it was grabbed mid way by Spike who simply used its momentum against itself, turning it slamming head first into the wall taking the hapless creature out of the game in a snap, or rather a snapped neck.
Meanwhile the perplexed potentials who had been standing around watching, Rona and Molly flinching considerably at the gunshots, were now also wondering why the hell they
didn’t carry guns too if it was quite that easy. Pulling a trigger had to be easier than swinging a damn axe right? The unfolding events more generally were just too unexpected for them to really get to grips with them properly, they were newcomers to the hellmouth and were yet to learn to roll with the random acts of supernatural weirdness. First the mythically all-powerful slayer had been sent sprawling by a single blow and then a blue, skinny self-declared “God-King” woman had wholly swung the course of battle back the other way. Even the invariably self-assured Kennedy was rendered speechless by the situation and feeling entirely out of her depth she cast an eye on Buffy for guidance but found her looking none the wiser, albeit tensed and ready for action if necessary.
Only Faith seemed to be remotely in tune with events and gave Kennedy a cheesy, exaggerated thumbs-up when, turning her gaze from Buffy, the potential had looked to the other slayer for direction instead.
Ignoring the combats, confusions and contemplations of lesser beings Illyria lowered Caleb, and then in a single crisp action she spun him around, put him in a headlock, and began dragging him backwards towards the stone steps leading outside. The fallen clergyman kicked, flailed his arms and screamed in distress as Faith stood up and moved aside to allow them to pass.
En-route to the exit, and to Spikes surprise, the skinny bint with the serious strength who had been ignoring everyone else until then gently nodded to him in acknowledgement of his presence. ‘Half-Breed’ she addressed him in a not completely condescending tone, which for her meant friendly, being inwardly pleased at her pets swift and effective dispatch of the enemy warrior.
Spike blinked. ‘Umm… Hi Blue’ he responded, not actually having so much as a clue as to who she, or it
, actually was. Normally as a rule he’d be hitting something that looked like that, or else being hit by it, getting what seemed to be a familiar greeting instead was a whole new experience for him.
Wesley holstered his pistols and put on his most authoritative voice. ‘If the potentials would like to follow us outside they might find the display instructive’ he said, spinning on his heels to follow Illyria and the struggling Caleb up the steps, the ex-watcher striding commandingly, hands now linked behind his back like a soldier at parade rest.
Spike and the potentials all looked to Buffy for a cue who shrugged her shoulders in response and with a look of utter bewilderment written large across her face she started to pursue Wesley towards the way out, if that really was
Wesley, she wondered, because he sure looked and acted different. Maybe he
was going to change colour as well she thought, all that stubble turning blue would look pretty bizarre a little voice in the back of her mind observed.
The others followed her lead and trotted along behind the boss like good little troops.
Waiting for Buffy by the foot of the steps as Caleb was dragged past her, and leaning oh so casually against the wall just out of the reach of his flailing arms, Faith was still grinning ear to ear. She had definitely known something in advance that she hadn’t let on to anyone else Buffy decided, narrowing her eyes at the other slayer and made a mental note to have words with Faith regarding need-to-know information. The so-called Dark Slayer winked at the real Buffy before directing her attention elsewhere and condescendingly gave the First Evil the finger as he continued to stand there as a nonplussed Buffy doppelganger.
If Caleb had been looking for some assistance from that very same First Evil he was badly let down by its response, as ignored by all but Faith, who was still directing obscene gestures at it, it stood exactly where it had been watching the Old One continue to haul the First’s increasingly loud, obscene and desperate “good right arm” into the open air so the ancient God-King could pulverise him in a more salubrious environment outside under the stars.
The First grimaced. ‘Okay now this just sucks
’ it said in a pitch-perfect rendition of Buffy’s most piqued and flustered tones.