Not A Typical Night
The Road Of Good IntentChapter 2:
Not A Typical Night.Disclaimer:
The “Nights” concept belongs to Methos, who very kindly let me play in his universe once before, and now let me borrow it again.Disclaimer:
Xander belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Wicked belongs to Universal Studios, and the Gregory Maguire.Notes 1:
This is based on the Musical Wicked, not the book. Given the rather large changes between the book and the musical, the two can't be easily reconciled.Not A Typical Night
It was, Buffy thought to herself, not a typical night in Cleveland. The spell that had awakened the Slayers worldwide had created a veritable army of super-powered girls, many of whom had been more than willing to take up the banner of the their calling and join her, Faith and the Potentials in fighting vampires and other demons. Unfortunately, the spell had not gone unnoticed by the forces of evil, who reacted in a very predictable manner to the raising of a Slayer army. They went ahead and raised armies of their own.
Demons who hoarded their mystical powers had used them freely to establish portals to demon dimensions, setting aside traditional demon rivalries in order to bring in reinforcements, while many of the elder vampires, and quite a few of the younger ones, had begun a policy of mass-embracing to create shock-troops to deal with the army of Slayers. The first few years after Sunnydale had not been pleasant for either side of the war.
Willow estimated that almost three thousand Slayers had been activated by her spell. Within twelve months, over half that number had been attacked and murdered by demons and vampires fearful of letting them join the increasing ranks of Buffy's army. The survivors of the yearlong battle had made their way to Cleveland sooner or later, and from there had began to organize and head outward again, taking back cities from vampire infestations in groups rather than as single fighters.
There were a lot of cities though, and with the vampire population increasing as fast as it had, they had been forced to spread their Slayers thin, and the result of that was that once again Buffy found herself anchored to a town with a Hellmouth. All the strongest demons now came to Cleveland, so she and Faith had elected to remain there, along with a few other slayers. Not only did it mean that the most dangerous spot was protected by the strongest warriors, but Buffy continued to provide a rallying point for the Slayers who had yet to make contact with them.
Buffy and Faith had attacked the vampire population of Cleveland with a vengeance, and an almost exhaustive drive, and after several years of constant battling, had finally managed to clear every major vampire presence out of the city. In deference to Xander's bar and its policy that everyone was welcome if they kept to the rules, a few vampires had been allowed to remain in the city. These were vampires who neither desired to end the world, nor wanted to end up lackey's to older and more powerful vampires, and they knew that they were being watched, at all times. They were allowed to stay on two conditions, that they not feed of humans, and that they not harm humans. If they broke either of those two rules, then they were finished.
Which was, Buffy reflected, why this was not a normal night in Cleveland. She was currently creeping through a warehouse, following a quartet of vampires who were obviously new to town. New enough at least, that she'd overheard them talking about getting some lunch, and was sure they didn't intend to go just for a fresh pig. Especially not in a warehouse like this. She'd lost them briefly as they entered the warehouse, mostly because she wanted to make sure that she wasn't seen. After all, if they were breaking the rules, then she intended to wipe out the entire nest in one go and tipping her hand early would give them a chance to escape.
Or at least it would until her own allies managed to get into place. She knew Faith was approaching the warehouse from the opposite side, with Willow and Kennedy backing her up. On this side of the building, Buffy's back was being watched by two of the more unusual émigré’s to Cleveland she'd had the pleasure to meet. Both were travelers who had arrived in Nights, and who Xander had taken a liking too. So when it turned out they couldn't go home again, he'd diffidently suggested that they might want to try helping his friend, the Slayer. That had been almost half a year ago now.
Fiyero was, to all intents and purposes a living scarecrow. He had never divulged how that came to be, but she knew he hadn't started out that way. He was however, one of the better shots with a crossbow, which he claimed came from his upbringing as an Arijiki prince, and his stint as captain of the guard of a major city he had never given her the name for. It was very frustrating in a way, how little he talked about himself, but there were plenty of things he simply wouldn't talk about.
But if Fiyero was a good shot, and virtually immune to vampires due to his condition as a living scarecrow besides, Elphaba was the one that creeped Buffy out. It wasn't the green skin that bothered her, after all, she had known plenty of demons that had been friendly who had green skin, Lorne not least amongst them. No there was just something disturbing about the girl. She wasn't terribly talkative about most things, but once she started she was a veritable freight-train of words, and unlike Willow who was a babbler herself, Elphaba tore into topics of discussion the way a vampire tore into a meal, taking no prisoners. She was caustic and sarcastic, but had more than proven her worth as a researcher. She had some innate magic, but for some reason they hadn't been able to figure out, it didn't blend well with Willow's magic, and so Elphaba had spent most of her time helping the Scoobies by doing research.
Except for nights like this, she thought with a slight frown. She had made it abundantly clear that if Fiyero went, so would she, and there had been no convincing her otherwise. At first, Buffy had simply accepted that, and told them that they should both stay behind then, but Elphaba wasn't the kind to sit on the sidelines when there was a fight to be found. She might not have been very physically strong, but she had a good eye for tactics, and was smart enough to stick near Fiyero most of the time. What's more, Buffy couldn't deny that what magic the green girl had managed to learn from Willow had been very useful on more than one occasion, and so she tolerated Elphaba's presence on patrol, especially after Xander had quietly pointed out that neither he, nor Willow had any powers when they started coming with Buffy to hunt vampires.
Refocusing her mind on why she was actually here, she continued her forward creep until she finally caught sight of the vampires, and she swore under her breath to realize that the minutes she had lost finding a quiet way into the warehouse had been too long. One of the vampires was standing over a bound and quite obviously drained victim. She noted that the three vampires facing the fourth one didn't look at all happy with them, but Buffy really didn't care.
"Hello boys," she said, her voice tight with anger as she left her concealment. "Is this 'You Suck' party open for anyone?"
The four vampires turned to her in surprise, and recognition flared on the face of the leader. He licked his bloody lips and gave her a grin. "Slayer," he growled.
"Vampire," Buffy growled back, matching his inflection almost perfectly. "I don't know if you're new, or just stupid, but it's the last mistake you'll ever make." She stepped towards the leader, and the other three looked acutely nervous, even as they began to encircle her. It was better tactics than she'd been expecting, but she could live with that as well. Between her finely honed battle-instincts, and her Slayer sense, she knew exactly where all four of them were, even the one behind her.
"You're a fool Slayer," the leader said. "Not just to come here when there's four of us, and one of you, but to let us surround you." He grinned at her again, "And now I get to feast on your blood too."
Buffy gave him a blinding smile in return. "Hate to break it to you fangly, but I didn't exactly come her by myself.” she raised a hand in a two fingered salute, and as she flicked it, the leaders eyes widened even as a solid thunk sounded in the warehouse. The vampire had just enough time to look down at his chest where a crossbow bolt was lodged, before he began crumbling to dust. Buffy never even paid him the slightest bit of attention, as she had known that what Fiyero aimed for, mostly he was going to hit, and even as the bolt clattered to the ground, she spun to her left and lashed out with a vicious spin-kick that lodged her heel into the face of the vampire there, who went down immediately.
Letting the Slayer take over, she blocked a strike from the third vampire, and kicked the legs out from under the fourth even as she drew her stake. "You didn't really think you guys could win, didya?" she asked as she staked the first vampire, and watched him crumble to dust. Her delay in watching almost cost her dearly as the vampire she'd knocked to the ground surged up to try and bite her, only to stagger sideways and scream as a crossbow bolt slammed into his head. It wasn't fatal the way a heart-shot would have been, but even for a vampire having a six inch, wood capped, steel bolt hit you in the head was debilitating. Certainly by the time Buffy's stake found his heart, he was almost grateful for the release of death.
Even as Buffy spun for the last one, she heard the sound of shattering glass and realized he was making his escape. She sprinted towards the window and dove through it, rolling back to her feet outside the building only to find she needn't have hurried. The vampire was hanging about three feet off the ground, trying desperately to find some way down. Buffy looked around, finally spotting Elphaba standing at the mouth of the alley near where she and Fiyero had entered the building, her hands outstretched towards the vampire. One look at the green girl made Buffy realize that she was trying once again to use the magic Willow had been trying to teach her, and that it was difficult for her, but since Buffy had known her, difficult had never stopped her, and she quickly made her way to the vampire.
"Please." the vampire begged as he saw the Slayer approach. "It wasn't my fault, Denny did that by himself, we would never have killed a human here."
He sounded sincere Buffy thought, but it really didn't matter. The only way the situation in Cleveland remained under control was if it was completely and utterly clear that any vampire that harmed a human, or participated in harming humans would be slain. No quarter given, even when asked for.
"Then you should have stopped him. Just cause you didn't kill the human, doesn't mean you're innocent," Buffy said, wondering for a moment why she was bothering to explain. She raised her stake, and the vampire almost whimpered.
"Please, we had orders not to kill anyone, just let me," whatever he had been going to offer became irrelevant as Buffy plunged the stake into his heart, and watched him disappear and his remains be blown away in the Cleveland wind. Off to her side Elphaba's hands dropped to her side, and she shook her head as if to clear it. Buffy could hear the arrival of Faith and her group in the warehouse, and saw Fiyero appear and join Elphaba, and decided to put the vampire out of her mind. He'd broken the rules, and he'd paid the price and that was the end of that.
Two blocks away, Alaine growled in anger as he observed the death of the last member of the group at the hands of the Slayer. He wasn't angry at their deaths so much as he was angry that they hadn't followed orders, and of what they might have told the Slayer before she killed them. Alaine knew it had taken his boss months of work to quietly and without being noticed set up a small support network in several of the towns surrounding Cleveland. He was trying very hard to avoid attracting attention of the Slayers, and fools like Denny weren't helping.
There was nothing he could do at the moment though, because his boss had made it quite clear that none of his childer were to approach the Slayer under any circumstances. The single burst of power six months ago that had alerted the boss that someone who had been touched by the power of the Grimmerie had arrived in Cleveland hadn't repeated itself, and he refused to expose himself to the Slayer, and the danger she represented until that person and the book had been found.
With one final hateful thought towards the incompetence of the vampire formerly known as Denny, Alaine disappeared into the night. They still hadn't found any trace of the book, or been able to identify whomever it was had been touched by it, but the boss would want to know about Denny's death. After all, a new team would have to be put in place in Cleveland now. He just hoped the boss wasn't too angry with him for being the messenger.
"Hey G-Man," Faith said as she strolled into the common room of the building that had become the home for the group from Sunnydale. Rupert Giles, former watcher looked up from the book he was reading to nod to her, and then quirked an eyebrow.
"Were you successful in finding the nest?" he asked. Standard protocol these days was that whenever one of the Slayers went after a specific target, they checked in before going n just to be on the safe side, so he had heard about Buffy's aborted patrol from Faith who had called him using her cell phone.
"Done and dusted," she replied with a grin. "Only B was getting a little eager, and didn't leave any for us." she dropped into a comfortable chair, not the slightest bit put out despite what she had said. Her days of unfriendly competition with Buffy were long over, and even with these four, Faith still had a total Cleveland lead of 8 vampires. It had always been a close thing, but rather than despair at the number of vampires she, Buffy and Kennedy had to clear out of Cleveland, the three slayers had decided to make it something of a game. Faith had held the lead for sometime, only very narrowly edging out Buffy, and beating Kennedy quite soundly, but as tonight had proved, there would always be a chance to change the score sooner or later.
Giles was about to ask her about the evenings activities, when the sound of arguing began to permeate the hallway, and looked at Faith in question.
"It's just Elphaba and Buffy," she explained with a shrug. "Seems the last of the fangsome foursome suggested he was taking orders from someone, and Elphaba thinks Buffy should have interrogated him rather than just staking him."
The sounds of arguing cut off after a few moments, and Buffy fairly well stalked into the room and threw herself into a chair. "That woman is the most aggravating, stubborn person I've ever met."
"Yeah, but was she right B?" Faith asked, and for a few moments, Buffy said nothing. Then with a short jerk, she nodded as if she wasn't even willing to concede that much. "She makes at least one good point that if the boss was the lead vampire, then why would he order his minions not to kill anyone, but cheerfully kill someone himself." the blonde haired slayer finally admitted. "But what's done is done, and her reminding me about it every three seconds isn't helping." Buffy intentionally shouted the last part of the sentence loudly enough that if Elphaba was anywhere in the house, she would hear her.
Giles managed to suppress a chuckle, but not the grin it brought to his face. Buffy was a past master in the sarcasm department, and was probably better at it than Elphaba, but their house-guest was no slouch herself, and unlike Buffy didn't always manage to keep a truly mean note from entering her jibes. Giles respected Elphaba's formidable intelligence, but she entered into everything she did with passion and conviction, which made it very hard for her to give in at all, let alone gracefully.
He probably knew more about their visitors than anyone else in the house did, possibly save Xander. Fiyero and Giles had bonded somewhat over their shared love for strong women, and on occasion the scarecrow had let things slip that had allowed Giles to start putting together the pieces of their pasts that they didn't usually talk about. He knew that Elphaba had been a rebel of some sort in their homeworld, but even he didn't know what she had been specifically. He had a suspicion that Xander knew where they were from, if for no other reason that a completely innocent comment might at times make him laugh, only to be silenced by a ferocious glare from either Fiyero or Elphaba, but Giles had never pressed him for details.
What he had learned from Fiyero helped in some ways, because it made him understand their reticence in speaking about their past. The young man obviously loved Elphaba deeply, and so it was likely that whatever rebellion she'd participated in, he had as well. It would be only natural not to tell anyone about it who didn't have a pressing need to know, and Xander had assured him that the only baggage they were bringing with them was what fitted in the carryalls they had brought with them. It was that assurance which had finally convinced Giles to not push, because he trusted Xander's opinion. The insecure young man he had first met had grown into a competent and perceptive adult whose opinions, while still peppered with comedy, were well thought out. Owning Nights had been very good for him.
Even as he thought that, the door to the common room opened again, and an obviously agitated Elphaba was pushed in by a resigned looking Fiyero. The Scarecrow still had the crossbow that Faith had given him as a Christmas gift strapped to his shoulder as he pushed Elphaba forward again. The green girl turned her head and glared at him, but there was no heat in it, so Fiyero ignored it.
"Buffy," he said, his voice deep and melodic, completely at odds with his straw-filled countenance. "Elphie has something she wants to say to you."
"No, Elphie doesn't have something she wants to say to you," Elphaba snapped, then took a deep breath. "But I do have something I have to say to you. I apologize for losing my temper." As apologies went, it was pretty minimal, but again that was something they had become used to from her. She didn't like apologizing, but if she did, then she invariably meant it sincerely. Buffy did notice that while she had apologized for getting angry, that was all she had apologized for, and she silently congratulated the girl on finding a way to apologize without actually dismissing anything she'd said.
Buffy sighed, "That's okay Elphaba, we all fly off the handle sometimes. No big," Buffy responded, noting that her eyes seemed to narrow almost dangerously at the phrase 'flying off the handle". "And besides, I'm beginning to think you may be right about there being something else behind it. We'll just have to wait and see."
Elphaba nodded at that, and left the room, Fiyero just shrugged his shoulders at the three of them and left with her.
Alaine grimaced as he finished giving his report, and the ancient vampire sitting in the comfortable chair in front of him gazed at him impassively. He was old, even as vampires counted such things, and if he hadn't been amongst the first brood, he had been amongst the second. During the final battle for this dimension, when the portal had begun sucking the demons back through it, one of them had seized a mortal man, killing him in the process, before being ripped away, and a few drops of the demons blood had fallen on the humans lips. That night, back in the hell-dimensions they had called home, the demon had realized that it could still sense the dead human through the blood he had left behind. His name was lost to history, but it had allowed him to transfer his essence through the dimensions and into the human's body, and he had risen, the first vampire.
Slowly at first, he killed others, feeding them blood to allow others of his kind to come through. Considered the lowliest of demons in their native dimensions, the vampires had felt an odd sense of euphoric power at the realization that they could return, even when the old ones themselves were barred from this dimension, and together with his first brood, the vampire had set about increasing its numbers. It didn't take long for the humans to realize that something had gone wrong, and a small group of mages had conspired to augment a human girl with demonic powers of her own to fight them. The Slayer had been born, and a battle that waged on unto this very night had begun.
But the first vampires had been much stronger than the diluted blood that modern vampires had, and they had also been in possession of a fit of irony. Rather than just select random humans to feed on, and to embrace, they had selected their targets with care, taking the best of the human warriors and generals including where possible, those humans who had led the battles that banished them and their brethren from this dimension.
Teftan had been such a victim. The successful battlemage who had closed the last of the Hellmouths was taken and turned into a vampire. It was, Teftan felt, a very ironic twist of fate, and one that the human he had been might even have appreciated. He wasn't sure however, as at his age, his memories of his earliest years as a vampire were hazy, let alone his brief period as a mortal. The ancient vampire was a skilled mage as well, and he had used his magic ruthlessly, but not carelessly. He used his magic to keep his countenance looking mostly human, whereas other elders such as Kakistos and the Master of Aurelius had turned into monstrous shapes. He used his magic to bind his childer to his blood, ensuring their obedience and fealty, and he used his magic to search for his missing book.
The Grimmerie had vanished the day he was turned, and in all the millennia since he had never been able to find it. To be sure he had found a trace of it, here and there over the eons, and even though his memories of his earliest years were unreliable, the distinct flavor of the magic of the Grimmerie was so far embedded in his consciousness, he would never be able to forget it. But it had been centuries since he had last felt the astral vibrate with its presence, until six months ago. Even then it hadn't been the Grimmerie itself. If that was in the city and being used, he was sure he would know, but someone who had used the book extensively had appeared.
And so he had come to Cleveland, to find that person. However he was not only old and powerful, but he was also smart enough to realize that setting up shop in a town with the two most powerful Slayers in recent history, and arguably the third most powerful one, was a bad idea. And those concerns didn't even include the witch, Willow Rosenburg, or any of the other allies the Slayer might have. So he had set up his plans outside of Cleveland, in Mentor on the Lake, a small town just north of the city, and had taken great pains not to be noticed. His followers were forbidden to kill while feeding, no matter how difficult it was for vampires to stop, and he had used his magic surreptitiously to allow him to slowly charm most of the people in the local neighborhood into docility while his people moved into the houses, and used them for food.
It wouldn't do to alert the Slayer of their presence after all. However now, thanks to that fool Denny, it appeared that his secrecy might be in jeopardy. After all, the Slayer would have no doubt demanded information from Denny and his band before slaying them, and that meant that his entire plan might be at risk. He could leave the city, and return to his power-base in Europe, where between his control of industry, and carefully selected and bound mortal servants he was nigh untouchable, but that would mean giving up on a lead to the Grimmerie, and that he could not do. The book haunted him, day and night with the promises of power that it held within. It had haunted him for millennia, and if someone in this city knew where it was, then maybe he needed to take what was so quaintly known as, a calculated risk.
"You did well to report this to me Alaine," he finally rumbled. Alaine looked relieved, knowing that even his status as one of his favored childer wouldn't have saved him if Teftan had thought he had done wrong. "However I think that if our cover is indeed compromised, then it is time we consider a more direct approach. After all, I just want the book, and as long as whomever it is that has used it tells me where it is, no one need come to harm."
He stood from his chair and walked to the window, where he could just begin to see the faintest glimmer of dawn beginning to appear. "Prepare a delegation Alaine. It is time I met with the Slayer."