Part 1 of 7
Faith & the Master of Beasts
(Episode 3 of “Slayer No More”)
By Philip S.
Summary: Faith is starting to settle in, just when St. Louis gets a surprise visit from the rulers of all vampires, the infamous Vampire Council.
Timeline: Post Season-7 for BtVS. Set after ‘The Killing Dance’ in Anita Blake’s world, AU from there.
Disclaimer: Faith belongs to Joss Whedon, everything from the late Anita Blake's world belongs to Laurell K. Hamilton. No profit is made from this story.
Rating: RPart 1 of 7
The funeral of Anita Blake was held in the early evening hours, shortly after sunset. This had less to do with the fact that Anita Blake had, in life, been an animator, who worked mostly after dark, but more with the fact that several of her closest acquaintances would not have been able to attend during daylight hours, so the service had been pushed after dusk.
There were many superstitions regarding the deaths of animators and necromancers. There were all kinds of horror stories about what would happen if another animator would try to raise a dead colleague as a zombie. In fact, there had been one case, not too long ago, where an animator had managed to bring himself back to life after death as a zombie, soul intact and all, thanks to a previously prepared spell.
Anita Blake had wanted no such thing to happen to her, so she had left instructions that her body should be cremated after her death. No one was to raise her again. So it was not a coffin, but rather a small urn that was carried to rest this dark evening.
Faith was not a hundred percent certain why she was here. She hadn’t known Anita Blake at all. The woman had died but minutes after Faith’s arrival in this strange new world, killed by the very demon Faith had been following here. Unfortunately she had arrived too late to save Blake. That was the main reason she was here, truth be told. She felt guilty. Faith had a lot of experience with that emotion, but it didn’t get any easier with practice.
She already knew that Blake had been important to quite a few people here in this city of St. Louis and that was not counting her actual family. Faith had briefly been introduced to the Blakes at the start of the service. Father, step-mother (no one had told her that, but it was obvious by the differences in age and looks), siblings, and various more distant relations. They were all present, all shed tears, but it was obvious to Faith that they hadn’t been close to Blake in life. They mourned, but it was evident in their body language that they’d rather be anywhere but here.
Faith recognised several representatives of the St. Louis werewolf pack, whose Lupa Anita Blake had been. Lupa meaning pack mother or some such thing. Over the last two weeks she had brushed up on werewolf lore quite a bit. She had said hello to Richard, the pack leader of St. Louis, earlier this evening, but they hadn’t exchanged many words. Richard was here to see the woman he’d loved laid to rest. It wasn’t the right sort of event for long conversations.
Also present were several vampires. Even though she was no longer a Slayer, Faith was still fully capable of picking the undead out of a crowd. The group of vampires remained apart from the rest, quite a few of whom looked upon them with barely hidden suspicion. They’d arrived in a black limousine shortly after sunset. One of their number, whose face was hidden underneath a wide hat, sat in a wheelchair. Faith would have bet quite a few dollars that this was Jean-Claude, the elusive Master of the City she’d heard so much about by now. He, too, had been in love with Anita Blake, or so she’d been told. Her death had hurt him as much as it had Richard.
A gathering of cops and fellow animators completed the gathering. Faith hadn’t exchanged words with any of them. The detective she’d met before, Zebrowski, had given her a brief hello, but he hadn’t been in the mood for more, either. His wife and he were now standing quietly, listening to the words of the priest.
Faith had tuned out the words. She’d been to too many funerals in her young life already, she could recite the sermon by heart. Also, for some reason she couldn’t quite figure out, she was jumpy as hell. There was something in the air tonight and it wasn’t the full moon, either. That had come and gone nearly a week ago. No, this was something else. Something that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and the god wolf inside her pace restlessly.
Communicating with the deity - if that was the correct word for the creature that empowered her now - had gotten a bit easier, but only a bit. Direct communication was still hampered by the god wolf’s lack of anything a human would recognise as language. Faith had gotten better at interpreting the various impressions and emotions she could feel from him, but most of it was still guesswork.
Tonight, though, the one impression she was getting over and over again could be put into words quite simply: Danger approaches.
Unfortunately without anything further to go by, Faith had a hard time figuring out what to do about it. As it was she was just killing time at the moment. Despite apparently having a home back in Cleveland in this weird dimension, she’d decided to stay here in St. Louis, figuring it’d be easier for Red to find her again if she stuck to the same general area she had first appeared in. Money wasn’t a problem at the moment, her only enemy was boredom. It would seem, though, that this was about to change.
The service concluded and after another round of condolences and meaningless words of sympathy Faith left, heading back to the parking lot. Her black hummer waited for her there and she got in, feeling more agitated by the moment. Something was happening, something dangerous, but what? She could feel it prickle across her skin, some kind of malevolent presence. Where, though? And what?
Closing her eyes, Faith almost imagined that she could hear a voice on the wind, telling her to head for a certain place. Something about the voice had her bearing her teeth, growling. The voice was the enemy. She wasn’t certain how she knew this, but it was clearly true.
She shrugged. Well, if the voice wanted her to come someplace, maybe she should. Turning the key in the ignition, she headed out without any clear idea where she’d end up.
Back at the cemetery Damian kept his eyes on the departing guests. Jean-Claude, his master, was currently saying a private farewell to the woman he’d loved, so his people left him alone for a minute. The master had made a slow recovery during the last two weeks. He was still weak and quite obviously deeply heartbroken, but he would survive. He just needed time.
Most of the guests, including the family and the wolves, had already left. Damian saw Faith head out toward the parking lot. Over the course of the last two weeks they had met several times. These all-too brief encounters had been the sole source of brightness in these dark days for him. Not only because of what occurred under the sheets, though that was quite enjoyable in its own right. No, being with Faith, talking with her, had helped Damian shoulder the responsibility that had fallen upon him since that disastrous battle against the Eater of the Dead. Damian doubted he’d have managed to hold things together during Jean-Claude’s slow recovery if not for Faith’s encouragement and support.
Thankfully Damian’s fear that someone would try and take advantage of the crippling blow dealt to the St. Louis vampire community had not come true so far. Quite the opposite, it seemed. The mass slaughter of vampires at the hands of the Eater had apparently turned St. Louis into a very unpopular spot for his kind. They hadn’t had so much as a single new arrival during the last two weeks. Also, he’d heard from Malcom, the head of the Church of Eternal Life, that the church’s recruitment numbers were the lowest they’d been in years. Apparently eternal life as a vampire wasn’t so appealing anymore, now that people had seen what could happen.
Damian didn’t mind. He’d never been a fan of Malcom and the less new vampires at the moment, the better he liked it. He had a hard enough time being the de-facto leader of the shrunk community they had at the moment. Everyone else could just wait until the master was back at full strength as far as Damian was concerned.
Sadly a thousand years of life had taught Damian that the world didn’t much care what he wanted. In fact, most of the time it seemed to go out of its way to make sure that he got everything he didn’t want, going all the way back to the fateful night a millennium and more ago when he and his band of Viking marauders had raided the wrong castle. And it seemed the world wasn’t done with him yet.
The ringing of his cell phone was the first sign that something bad was going on. Vampires were pretty much technophobes in general, especially the older one. Damian carried the phone out of necessity, simply because he wasn’t a master and didn’t have the same kind of connection to the other vampires of St. Louis that Jean-Claude had. So far, though, it had never been necessary for him to actually use it.
“Yes?” he answered, steeling himself for the worst.
Moments later he knew that the worst had indeed come. One of the people left back at the Circus had just informed him that they had visitors.
It seemed the Vampire Council had finally decided to pay a visit to St. Louis.
TO BE CONTINUED