- This chapter was inspired by Jinni’s Poetry Challenge #17 on TTH. I read the poem and just had to write this (I had to figure out some way to get an immortal to say it)... In fact in many ways this whole series is inspired by that poem. I had the first few chapters... and this one... and needed to get between them. Though since then the whole thing's got bigger than I thought it would. Anyway a Merry Xmas to one and all. Aren't you glad I couldnt sleep tonight so finally got around to editing this old thing?I Did Not Die
Wandering through the gravestones in search of prey, Buffy finally ended up at the spot that she’d unconsciously been headed for the whole night. Here was the fresh grave of yet another victim that she had been unable to save. Another face to add to the millions of people slayers had failed. She paused for a moment to search for the twinge that would indicate a vampire ready to rise, finally allowing a slight smile to grace her lips as she felt nothing beneath her.
Buffy was about to continue through the deserted paths of graves, when the engravings on the headstone caught her eye. There was no name or dates. Nothing to indicate the identity of the one lying beneath the soil as is traditional on gravestones; just a few simple lines the meaning of which was surprising considering where they were.‘Do not stand at my grave and forever weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and forever cry.
I am not there. I did not die.’
She stood looking at the italic script carved in stone, trying to discern why something so contradictory would be written on a Headstone.
“Weird, wonder where that came from” Buffy muttered to herself, finally shrugging to dismiss yet another of life’s small mysteries, and was about to move past; on to yet another graveyard in her search for an opponent when a voice came out of the shadows.
“It’s part of a longer verse”
The words floated across the graveyard through the crisp air of a European winter, light of the stars and new moon in the clear sky adding atmosphere to the already gloomy surroundings. Buffy turned around to see the figure of the woman that should be in the grave.
As soon as the voice had started, the same sensation that she had felt the night before just before seeing the woman flooded over her, as if a shroud had suddenly been lifted. Something in the back of her mind begged to be acknowledged, reminding her of when she had felt this before, but she pushed it down; needing to concentrate on the present.
As she took in the woman’s features properly for the first time, she moved away from the headstone to give herself a free path of attack. With her dark hair standing out against stark white clothing Buffy didn’t know how she’d missed her when passing by the tree she stood casually behind. Though there really wasn’t a need to ask that; the slayer could sense magic being pulled as if by magnetism to the woman, replenishing what had been spent.
She warily watched the figure in front of her fingering the knife at the small of her back in anticipation of any attack, but unwilling to pre-empt a battle with someone who had seemed to want to help her the previous night.
“Whenever I have friends who don’t know about Us, I have that on my grave. I hope it brings them some comfort, even though they will never know how true the lines are.”
Buffy looked at the being in front of her in confusion, she was talking as if Buffy understood what was happening, as if it was normal for a dead woman to be walking around the next day… Well in Buffy’s line of work it was relatively normal for them to be walking; but not for the sound of their heartbeats to be thudding in her ears as her caution caused all her senses to go onto hyper alert.
“How did you manage to sneak up on me?”
She warily eyed her opponent, moving to position herself on a slight rise so as to get an advantage in a fight.
“I am able to mask my Quickening and myself from sight, but it requires my complete concentration. I suspected that you might turn up here so I lay in wait for you.”
“And now that you’ve found me?”
She asked warily, strengthening her grip on the blade, but for the moment leaving it sheathed. It was unlikely that this woman… demon… whatever she was, was lying in wait for the Slayer for a non malevolent reason. Noticing the change in the Slayer’s stance and the new tension in her posture, the woman hastened to reassure her, finding something amusing in Buffy’s tense attitude.
“Do not worry, young one. I will not challenge you now. The time of the gathering is not yet upon us and we may still co-exist in harmony.”
“Gathering? Challenges? I don’t know what you are, but if you intend to fight me let’s get it over with.”
She pulled the knife out and got into a fighting stance. The woman in front of her drew a long blade, as if from nowhere, pulling it out from underneath her flowing white coat, and gracefully settling into a defensive stance with the air of one used to the sword.
“Peace, child. This is consecrated ground. Surely your Teacher told you to never battle on Holy ground?”
Buffy laughed ironically, “That shows how little you know about slayers. I spend most of my time fighting in graveyards.”
“Slayer? You’re the Chosen One?” The brunette questioned sharply. The all-knowing tone that had so far dripped from her voice disappeared before her current confusion, even lowering her blade in surprise.She didn’t know who I was?
“The one and only. Now do I have to fight you, or should I go find some vampires?”
It was becoming obvious that the woman was no threat, but the tension of staying poised to fight for so long without any follow through was beginning to grate on the slayers high energy levels. She would have been getting antsy by this point of the night with no kills anyway and the adrenaline that had begun pumping when the woman first spoke wasn’t helping matters.
“B..but that’s impossible. A slayer can never become immortal.”
All the arrogance had gone out of her voice as she murmured almost to herself, self doubt something she had not expected. Buffy smirked at the irony of her words.
“I guess I just don’t stay dead.”
“You really don’t know do you? I’m sorry; I assumed you had been taught our ways, with the skill you displayed last night dispatching those vampires. You don’t even have a sword on you tonight do you?”
She had finally regained her composure and the patronizing tone had returned to her voice. It was the same one that Angel, and to a lesser extent Spike had used when they talked to her of things they had learnt in their long lives. The voice a parent uses when talking to a young child, not expecting them to understand, but patiently explaining. It grated on the slayers’ nerves.
“Believe me when I say that I can take care of myself.”
“Who do you think you are child? Slayer or not you will die by the sword if you‘re not equipped to defend yourself.”
Buffy looked at the lady in distaste, tiring of her mysterious hints at superiority. What gave this woman the right to demand answers from her without offering any in return?
“I am Death”
A flash of anger and hatred crossed the lady’s face, turning the stunning visage into something twisted and horrific. Then just as quickly as it had come, it vanished. The brunette muttered to herself in a long dead tongue, and then looked up mockingly.
“That name is not yours to use little slayer. There is one far older than you who would not appreciate you taking liberties with it. You will, no doubt, pay for your arrogance. I ask you again, what is your name?”
Buffy had long outgrown the time when she allowed anyone to talk to her like that, using the exact same tone and lowering her barriers so the power of the slayer and age of her soul seeped out she advanced on the woman. Despite the nearly foot difference in height in the woman’s favour, the slayer somehow seemed to tower over her; the energy radiating around her making Buffy larger than life.
“I have no name.” Buffy switched from Italian that they had both been using to the ancient tongue she had been insulted in, “I live in the action of death, the blood cry, the penetrating wound.” changing to Latin, a language she still associated with power, even after centuries unaffiliated with the Roman Catholic church “I am destruction. Absolute. Civilizations have risen and fallen since I first walked this world. Forests have grown in the desert. I’m bound to the earth, the first champion. I defeated the last true demon and banished it to hell. I’ve fought for longer than you’ve drawn breath, and will continue to long after you’re gone. I am The Chosen One.”
The waves of power coming off the slayer overwhelmed the psychic immortal. Even Methos’ Quickening, with 5000 years behind him, had only a fraction of the strength of that from the petite blonde in front of her. Years of pain flowed off the slayer, memories that had become imbedded in her power.
Her entire aura screamed of death, more than Methos’ ever had. The hollow eyes daring her to make a single move out of place made her realise that this image of innocence and light had earned the horseman’s name long before he had taken it. Stumbling backwards, for the first time since her confrontation with the horsemen, fear pumped through her veins.
“Who and what are you? Is there any reason why I can’t kill you?” Buffy was growling as she attempted to regain control of the slayer in her that called for her to prove her dominance.I will not become that person.
“I am Cassandra, Witch of Donan Woods. I mean you no harm. As for what I am, I am an immortal.”
Cassandra used The Voice, forcing the power of persuasion into her words in an attempt to calm the slayer enough that she could slip away with no further confrontation. Unfortunately the Voice seemed to have no effect on the girl.
“She says like that explains everything…” Buffy sighed and looked up at Cassandra, obviously expecting her to elaborate.
“Immortals cannot die, healing almost instantly from most shallow wounds and eventually reviving after death, except from beheading.”
“Why is it always beheading…” The slayer mused idly before fixing her gaze back on the Immortal, “So you thought I was one of you? That’s why you came after me?”
“You are… as far as I can tell. Every immortal has what we call a Quickening, their life force so to speak, which increases with age. When another immortal is nearby their Quickenings interact and we can sense one another.” She looked up at Buffy, taking her in with more than a mortal’s five senses and once more being astounded by what she felt, “You have a Quickening, one more powerful than any I’ve ever felt, though you seem to know how to hide it so it merely feels the strength of one a few decades old.”
Buffy smiled grimly. “It’s a life force that increases with age… that makes sense” she muttered almost to herself, raising Cassandra's curiosity as to why. Why this wasn't more surprising to the Slayer, why did she almost seem to expect this. She didn't manage to voice her thoughts before Buffy continued her questioning, “But I still don’t get why I need a sword.”
“As I said the only way for an Immortal to die is beheading, when an Immortal takes another’s head their Quickening goes into the victor, increasing their power. All immortals take part in what we call The Game.”
“So this game? You fight each other for… Quickenings? What does the winner get?”
“No-one knows. Ultimate power perhaps. The knowledge to rule the world. It is said there will be a gathering. All Immortals will be drawn to a specific spot at a given time and will fight until only one remains.”
“The last one rules, right?” A farfetched look came into Buffy’s eyes “It must be lonely. Watching friends die. Killing the only ones who could keep you company.” An image of Angel giving his reasons for leaving her reminded her of the irony of her new abilities. She could finally spend eternity with him, but couldn’t bear to be in the same room.
Cassandra was shocked by how well the girl understood the immortal life, the sorrow that resonated through her voice. She had to find out the true story of this girl, but in order to do so she knew she would have to maintain her interest, reassure her that the immortality she had obtained wasn't the curse she seemed to believe.
“Not necessarily. I know of many immortals that co-exist peacefully, taking comfort in each others company. They would never fight without provocation. Also it has become traditional for an older immortal to mentor a younger one. Teaching them our ways and how to fight with a sword, so that they can protect themselves. Often resulting in lifelong friendships. Unfortunately there are also head-hunters, immortals that actively seek other immortals for the addictive power of their quickening and will kill a youngling or even pre-immortal on sight merely to eliminate competition. As with mortals, there are both good and evil immortals, and everything in between.” Cassandra smiled grimly at the memories of her earlier centuries as an immortal in the company of the four horsemen, “If an immortal challenges another, that challenge must be met, and from the resulting fight only one will walk away.”
“You were going to teach me to fight?” Buffy seemed genuinely amused at the idea.
“There’s more to it than that. As you said the life of an immortal is lonely; you pass agelessly through the centuries as those you love wither and die. An older immortal can help the younger ones to deal with what they will go through if they are strong enough, skilled enough to survive. Teaching them how to remain anonymous, to change identities, how to live.” Cassandra saw hope flare through the depths of pain in Buffy’s green eyes, “You will need to carry a blade. If I was mistaken, others will be as well, and many if not most will wish to harm you.”
Buffy sized up the brunette, fully extending all her senses. Cassandra felt something sweep over her, probing so deep it seemed like her soul being read and judged by the girl, her worth assessed. It was impossible to tell the outcome from the blonde’s features, her face remaining impassive throughought. Finally Buffy looked back at the gravestone that stood to the side of the pair, reading the words and taking in the new meaning of the poem. Thinking of the thousands of gravesites, most now gone and forgotten, that stood in her name.‘I am not there. I do not sleep.’
She had never truly left her grave in Sunnydale, though she had clawed her way out of the earth. ‘The Slayer does not walk in this world.’
She needed to learn to be a part of the world once again. Remember why she had so vehemently denied that statement; somehow rediscover that burning need to live. It was one thing to pretend to her friends, hoping that the next apocalypse would be her last, but if she was to survive eternity Buffy would have to do more than pretend. Perhaps this immortal could change that. Maybe she could help her live. It was time to wake up.
She looked back at the immortal, who was cautiously studying her face for a reaction, “Will you teach me to live?”
From the moment she had realised what the girl truly was her curiosity, something that had lain dormant for so long, had sparked. Cassandra desperately wanted to know how the Chosen One had gained immortality, but there was an ancient emptiness inside this Slayer that she didn’t know how to combat, and only one person she knew who could hope to understand.