Notes: Okay, so I’ve been playing Hellgate:London.
Nothing like slaughtering a few zombies and demons to help you unwind. The setting is just too twisted to resist - so I sent the Scoobies in to play …
Disclaimers: The Slayer and her Watcher is Joss Whedon’s creation, not mine. Hellgate:London is published by EA Games and that isn’t mine either, alas. I’m just borrowing the two to see how they fit together.
The sky was leaden and overcast. The air was heavy, pooling out across the shattered tarmac like rotting molasses spilled from a broken jar. A warm, damp wind was tugging at the tattered posters, painting their fluttering edges with a slick of unholy slime, and the scent of hell stained the kerbstones, rising from a sticky residue of old blood splattered across the paving and up the lamposts with casual indifference. The battered ruins of abandoned cars decorated the bleak landscape, some of them boasting the lingering hints of once gleaming paintwork. Their stark shapes added to the sense of desolation that haunted the streets; rubble and debris lay tumbled in front of shattered shop windows and the once busy and bustling streets lay silent under the sullen sky.
Distant leviathans floated lazily over the ruins of London like obscene whales, trailing shoals of darting, dancing demons. A rank, oderous rain dripped from their bloated bodies, adding to the city’s miseries - and monsterous, mishapen creatures crawled out of the shadows to dance in the downpours, feasting on the gobbets of hell flesh that occasionally tumbled from a leviathan's flanks.
Remnants of older times still lingered in the decaying streets; lamposts stood in twisted defiance of the fall of civilisation; broken bus shelters displayed tattered timetables for buses that were long overdue; and parking ticket machines were mocked by the rusting hulks of vehicles that would never move again. In the heart of Picadilly Circus, beneath the looming ruins of neon and shattered glass, Eros lay in fallen splendour amidst the ruins of his fountain; the winged warrior had been struck down from his pedestal and his bow was broken beyond repair. There were revenants drifting in his hunting grounds, their ghostly auras painting his bronze patina with a ghastly hue and drawing the shambling dead into their languid dance.
All was quiet; gloom lay over the city like a shroud, muffling the stumble of dead feet across broken glass and crumbling pavements. The occasional howl of a ravager echoed in the distance, and strange lights were dancing up into the sky somewhere down by Tower Bridge, but the circus itself was silent, a ruinous postcard offered up for the occasional tourist in hell.
One such tourist was creeping along the edge of Shaftesbury Avenue, staying within the shadows of the ruined buildings and trying not to attract the attention of the drifting ghosts. The figure that slipped through the gloom was small and slight, a slender body dressed in figure hugging armour that somehow enhanced, rather than restricted its movement. The armour’s surface was swirled with camoflaging patterns that allowed its wearer to blend into the gloom. The helmet that concealed the warrior’s unseen face was patterned in the same way, as were the equipment belts that clung to its slender form. The jut of a sword could be seen rising above one shoulder, and the sweep of a second was clasped warily in one hand. The other hand was cradling a small device, allowing the figure to occasionally an even smaller display screen.
“This won’t be hard, he said,” the figure was muttering softly, moving forward with the studied caution of someone well aware that death lurked around every corner. “Just map the area, find out which roads are open, which ones are blocked … he
doesn’t have to tiptoe around in the middle of the revenants spawning ground. Must be breeding season. The zombies are swarming like flies…”
Another step – and hell erupted, the sepuchral form of a tentacled Fury boiling out of a broken doorway with a triumphant shriek The figure leapt backwards with an agile twist, barely avoiding the demon’s entangling clasp as it lunged for what it had clearly expected to be easy prey. The drawn sword swept down, slashing semi-etherial tentacles and releasing a splutter of lightning that sent the demon reeling back. “Oh no you don’t, sister,” the warrior declared, shoving the hand device onto a belt clip and reaching for the second blade. This one flared into instant fire, green flame flickering and dancing along the steel with lurid hues. “I never hug on a first date.”
The Fury clearly throught otherwise. It lunged forward again, releasing another of those murderous shrieks. Three drifting revenants were sent spinning by the sound, and stone shattered somewhere on the other side of the road. The armoured figure brought both blades up in defence, severing one flailing tentacle and dancing out of the way of the rest.
,” the warrior complained, shaking its head to dispell the disorientating effect of the Fury’s cry. “I hope no-one’s offered you a recording contract. You’ve got a voice that would wake the dead. Oh,” came the instant realisation, “that’s the general idea, right?”
Elsewhere in the square the shambling zombies had paused, heads turning towards the source of the sound. The nearest revenants flickered and then shifted
, beginning to move in the general direction of the fight.
“Damn,” the warrior cursed. “You guys really
don’t fight fair, do ya.”
The Fury lunged again, a hungry mouth opening to display serried rows of pointed teeth. The warrior didn’t try to avoid it this time – both blades danced in instead, a swirl of devastating steel and fire that shredded demonic flesh with masterly speed and skill. A revenant drifted close enough to brush a feeding feeler across armoured shoulders – and immediately backed away, the appendage quivering and smoking as if it had been dipped in acid.
“Dumbass,” the warrior muttered, focusing on tearing the Fury into several distinct pieces. “You’d think these things would know about blessed armour by now … “
Another furious strike seperated the Fury’s head from barely substantial shoulders and the warrior spun in time to slice the wounded Revenant in two. “Or maybe not.” The zombies were moving in en masse, drawn by the sounds of conflict and the Fury’s death throes. “Time to get outta here, I think.”
The warrior charged straight towards the nearest clump of cadavers. Sword blades went snik snack
, and booted feet lifted the figure into a leap and a twist that bounced it over the advancing horde and landed it in the middle of the road. At least three corpses were down, beheaded with ease; the rest shuffled round and began to stumble in pursuit. The armoured figure took off at a run, dodging another revenant and slicing its way past several more zombies as it did so. The chase headed down Shaftesbury Avenue, past ruined theatres and long abandoned hotels; a screamer shrieked down from the sky, only to tumble, in neat divisions, across the tarmac. Some of the zombies stopped to snack on its bleeding flesh. Others were drawn out from the surrounding buildings and joined the pursuing pack.
A turn into Wardour Street, and then again, dodging round the burnt out hulks of buses to charge back past the Trocadero and into the Haymarket. The steps down into the underground were barely a hundred yards away; the warrior picked up the pace, barrelling past shambling undead that groped and then recoiled as the blessings on the armour seared into undead flesh.
” the warrior yelled, vaulting over the rail and dropping down onto the broken steps below. Another figure, much taller but equally armoured, stirred in the depths, stepping out just in time to raise a metalled sheild and deflect the sudden splatter of demonic fire that speared down from above.
“Good Lord,” the new figure exclaimed, staring up at the gathering of hellflesh that loomed over the rails and had began to stumble down the steps. “Hell hath no Fury, hmm?”
The shorter warrior snorted. “Right in one. You heard that, huh?”
“Buffy,” the taller of the two said archly, “ they heard that
in Aldwych. And that’s a lot of zombies.”
,” came the indignant answer, “you were the one lecturing us on how London was built on the bodies of the dead. More cemetaries than Sunnydale, you said. It’s not my
fault the Hellgate’s raised every corpse from here to - to Highgate.” She flung her hand out to indicate the necessary direction, the sword in it managing to behead the two zombies that had ventured down far enough to reach them.
“That’d be Kensal Green,” her companion corrected absently. “Highgate’s a little further north ... Excuse me a moment.”
He stepped forward, up half a step, and lobbed something into the middle of the seething mass – then hastily turned and raised his sheild again, sheltering the two of them behind it. Light flared – a bright, burning light that peirced every shadow. With it came a whole chorus of ungodly shrieks, howls of pain and grunts of distress. When the shield was lowered there was nothing in the stairway but a few crisped corpses and a scattering of grave goods; a few coins bounced down the steps to land ringing at the smaller warrior’s feet.
“Cool,” Buffy said, sounding impressed.
“Yes,” her companion answered, “well – don’t count on too many of those. They’re not that easy to make – and the power source takes forever to recharge. Did you get what we came for?”
Buffy nodded. “Uhuh. And the Templars had better pay well for the next part of the job. There’s a hell rift open in Regent’s Street. We’re gonna have to close it.”
“Yeah – that’s … what I said. Only more so. Picked up a buzz from the things guarding it though – at least one relic, maybe two. That’d make the trip worth it, right?”
“Almost undoubtedly. All right – ready to go back, plan our attack?”
She sheathed her swords in one fluid, easy motion. “Yup. You fire up the portal thingy, and I’ll see what presents the party guests left us.” She bent to gather up the fallen coins and then paused and looked up. “Giles?”
“Promise me something?”
He hesitated, hand half extended to activate the portal runes that lay buried beneath the station’s tiles. “If I can.”
“Promise me … when we get back? And we … manage to stop what those bastards did to Dawn? You’ll bring us here? To see the lights. Visit the theatres? See it the way it’s meant
Agile fingers danced in an intricate pattern, triggering a swirl of energy and creating a gateway into the safer levels of the underground. “I will,” her Watcher promised, packing a great deal of emotion into the two simple words. “Even if I have to fight my way through Hell to get you there …”