Thanks go to Weebee for acting as the beta and sounding board for this chapter. And for providing the title.
Wisp furiously flapped her way across the city, quickly leaving her pursuers behind. While she managed to gain ground, she slowed down once the castle faded into the distance, which allowed the others to keep her in sight. Of course, once she was free to think a little, she realized that she had no idea where to go to blow off some steam. The only two places she knew were Demona’s estate and Xanatos’ building. She needed to find a place where mindless destruction would not be frowned upon overly much. Someplace where her current destructive urges could be put to constructive uses. Someplace like that condemned building down there. Wait… condemned building… Wisp began spiraling down.
One advantage to her unique wing structure was that she could effectively control the surface area of her wings, allowing her to go into a controlled dive. Twenty feet above the surface, she flared her wings in a powerful down sweep, arresting her motion completely mere feet above the ground. Dropping the remaining distance, she landed in a crouch and folded her wings back. The most inconvenient part of having wings as long as hers was that, where most gargoyles could manage a cloak effect, her wings were too rigid and long to pull the effect off without the result looking very bulky.
Making her way into the building, Wisp grinned. This building was not just condemned, it was also a nest. Nothing relieves stress quite like killing a large number of vampires. And as an added plus, it made the world a slightly safer place. The further she stalked into the building, the more feral her grin became. Now, all she had to do was find the vamps, and any ‘food’ they hadn’t killed yet. Well, she wouldn’t be able to play bait in this form, so that just left hunting.
Wisp made her way through the building, slashing apart walls with her wings and striking out at random pieces of any remaining furniture, leaving much kindling in her wake. Most of the vampires she came across didn’t get the chance to see her before they were dust in the wind. Of those that did see her, many thought she was a demon, as she had much more demonic features than the Manhattan clan. These fools often tried to reason with her and offered her whichever of the victims Wisp wanted. Vampires that fell into this category had much longer and more painful deaths.
The final group of vampires recognized Wisp for what she was, a Gargoyle designed specifically to kill. A true predator that left them with two choices, fight or flight. Several of those who immediately fled survived, if only because their less cowardly and/or intelligent brethren slowed Wisp down enough to prevent her from hunting them down. One of the fighters even got in a lucky shot, getting through her nonexistent defenses to stab her in the heart. Luckily for Wisp, the sub-dermal plating did what it was meant to do and stopped the blade from penetrating to anything important.
In the three seconds the vampire had left, he decided, in retrospect, that pissing off someone who had blades along her twelve foot wings was not at all a good idea. Wisp folded one wing against her back, extended her other wing and pivoted in place, in the center of the room, quickly and repeatedly. In essence, the entire room became one large blender. The walls were destroyed to such an extent that only the superstructure of the building kept the ceiling from caving in. Considering that this was a condemned building, there was no guarantee how long that would last.
Back at the Eyrie Building, Goliath was having significantly less fun than Wisp was, even taking her wound into account. Sheila, Fox, and even Eliza were surrounding him, glaring at him with all their power. While he would never admit it, that Sheila woman hit harder than he thought she could, and, by hitting the same spot repeatedly, she had managed to make it actually sting a little. “What is wrong with you?” Goliath demanded gruffly. “A little girl like her has no conception of what it means to be a Gargoyle, even if she does have the right body.”
“And just what does it mean to be a Gargoyle?” Sheila demanded.
Before Goliath could muck things up even worse, Eliza summarized, “Gargoyles protect. Demona may be good now, I’m not going to believe that she’s turned good without proof, but, even when she was evil, she always tried to protect, even if what she was protecting changed.”
“Gargoyle’s protect, huh?” Sheila asked, giving Goliath another hard look. “If that’s the case, then Wisp is most definitely a Gargoyle.”
“What do you mean by that?” Fox asked. Even if she wanted to go find her power armor and smack Goliath around a bit, this was quite an interesting development.
“I’m ashamed to say that I never noticed it until after Demona came, threatening to take Willow away from me, but Sunnydale is not safe,” Sheila began. “You saw her, so I’m sure you noticed how different she is from the rest of you. Mr. Insensitive here got a first hand demonstration. Oh, and that wasn’t intentional; Willow’s never been the violent type.”
Goliath stared at Sheila incredulously. “Not violent?” he demanded. “I say something she doesn’t like, and she slices my cheek open. How is that not violent?”
“It was you’re cheek,” Fox pointed out with a vicious grin. “She could have aimed lower. I would have.”
“I don’t think she even noticed she did it,” Eliza commented. “If she had meant it, Demona would have had something to say about it, if only to gloat.”
“Of course she didn’t mean to do it,” Sheila reasserted. “She’s only been a gargoyle since Halloween. She hasn’t completely gotten used to her body yet. Now, as I was saying, Sunnydale is much more dangerous than you’d think, so Wisp is obviously built to better protect it.”
“So she is built to protect. That does not mean she knows what it means to protect,” Goliath stubbornly maintained.
“No,” Sheila agreed. “But working to protect people for nearly a year while merely human does.”
“So she was a vigilante,” Eliza stated. “She should have left fighting crime to the police.”
“Trust me, the police would not be able to handle what my daughter has fought,” Sheila said proudly. “You might be able to handle it, considering we’re having this conversation at all, but I can’t see most police officers dealing well with the supernatural.”
Recalling her experiences with the Mists of Avalon, Eliza had to agree, at least in part. “And how did Willow become involved with the supernatural?” she asked. She felt it would be best to get the entire story before coming to any conclusions about Wisp and this situation.
“Well, Sunnydale is what is known as a Hellmouth.”
Nearby, Owen was discretely observing the conversation. At the mention of the Hellmouth, he said, “Your daughter grew up on a Hellmouth? She must be far more resilient than most.”
Xanatos quirked an eyebrow at that. “You know what a Hellmouth is, Owen?”
“Yes,” Owen replied. “Among other things it is a place you will never bring young Alex. It is a weak point in reality where malevolent energies gather and, if conditions are right, can connect this world with one that can only be described as a hell. Many demons are drawn to and choose to reside in such locations.”
“So this Wisp is some form of demon,” Goliath growled. “Only Demona would try to trick us into accepting a demon as one of our own.” He was completely surprised when he was slapped across the cheek, hard, right over the cut Wisp had given him.
“How dare you call my daughter a demon?!” Sheila was truly furious. This gargoyle had rejected her daughter when she came to meet the clan for no true reason, and now he was calling her little girl a demon. Only a demon would not find that offensive.
Goliath reared back from the blow, more from surprise than from actual pain, though that slap was rather painful. Obviously, Demona had brainwashed the poor woman. Why else would she allow what was so obviously a demon to masquerade as her daughter? He would have to do something to help her escape from Demona’s clutches.
Owen straightened his glasses and said, “She is not a demon. If she were, she would have been removed already.”
“Thank you, Owen,” Xanatos said. “It is very reassuring to know how seriously you take my son’s safety.” Turning to Goliath, he said, “I’m sure you can trust that Owen wouldn’t do anything that might hurt Alex, even if you won’t trust anything else.” With a smirk, he added, “And, despite how humorous it may be, watching you getting beaten by Mrs. Rosenberg is a tad embarrassing. To think of all the trouble you’ve caused me in the past, and here you are, being laid low by an angry mother.”
“Goliath,” Eliza sighed, “you really need to think things through, especially where magic is concerned. Just because she lives on the mouth of Hell does not mean she’s evil. And even if she is a demon, we’ve dealt with enough of Oberon’s children to know that they can be both good and evil.” As an afterthought, she added, “Or just mischievous. Damn Coyote.”
“Now, as I was saying,” Sheila said, to bring the conversation back on track, “It all started when this Bunny girl moved to Sunnydale. She is some type of mystical warrior that her sister referred to as a Slayer. Apparently these girls are chosen to fight against demons, without any real help, until they die. I think the average life expectancy is around two years or so.”
“Who would send girls to fight like that without the proper support?” Fox demanded, angrily. Even if she had been fighting with the Pack from a relatively young age, they were always there to support each other. To have girls fighting even worse odds without even that was ludicrous.
“There is a group in England called the Watcher’s Council that is supposed to guide and train the Slayer. Bunny’s is the school librarian,” Sheila explained. “According to Willow, he tried to keep her and Xander away until he realized it was futile. Anyways, Willow and Xander couldn’t let Bunny fight alone, so they helped where they could, including being on site when the Hellmouth opened.”
“As we are all here, I believe we can assume that it was closed,” Owen dryly commented.
“Yes, they did manage to close it, but Willow and Demona agree that this is probably what caused such a radical change in Wisp’s form.”
“Yes, I suppose the power output of a transdimensional tear would be impressive, especially when added to the energy that probably saturates the area already,” Xanatos commented. “It’s not all that surprising that it changed her form from a Scottish Gargoyle into what she is now.”
“If I had to fight anything as a gargoyle, I’d much rather have Wisp’s general body shape than one of your clan, Goliath,” Fox added. “Regardless of what she’s fighting, she’d do better than you.”
“I’m not sure how well Wisp can fight,” Sheila admitted. “At least not against anything she can’t kill in one hit or something that can avoid her blades. That’s part of why we’re here; Demona mentioned that your clan, and specifically a gargoyle named Hudson, could help her train properly.”
“Ah, yes, Hudson,” Xanatos cut in before Goliath came up with more ways to shoot himself in the foot. “He wanted to be called when you arrived with Demona and Wisp. Owen, why don’t you go fetch him. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed that he missed her.”
“Yes sir,” Owen said as he politely dismissed himself.
Through a combination of strange luck, a fire trapping a number of children on the roof of a building, and Macbeth trying to kill Demona yet again, Angela was the first to find Wisp, who was sitting on the roof of a very dilapidated building. “Hey, Wisp.” Once Wisp acknowledged her presence, Angela asked, “Are you alright?”
Wisp whipped around and harshly demanded, “Do you think I’m alright? Goliath just said that half of what I am isn’t real! How would you feel if he said a part of you doesn’t exist?”
“It took over a month for us to get him to acknowledge me as his daughter,” Angela said with a well deserved huff as she settled down next to Wisp. “And that was after we found out for sure.”
“It took him a month?!” Willow exclaimed. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He takes being a gargoyle very seriously,” Angela began. “He said that hatchlings, like us, belonged to the entire clan, with the entire clan as parents. So, in his eyes, I was the Clan’s daughter, not his.”
“So he has his own ideas on how gargoyles should be and won’t adapt,” Wisp mused. “No wonder he and Màthair could never get along.”
“Father can change,” Angela asserted. “But it takes a lot to do it. It took Eliza’s mother to get him to look at me as a daughter.”
“So what will it take for him to see me as a gargoyle?” Wisp asked. “I’ve already saved the world!” At Angela’s odd look, she sheepishly amended, “Well, I helped.”
“That should do it,” Angela admitted. The two sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes until Angela asked, “So, why were those people running out of here screaming?”
Wisp waved a hand dismissively and said, “Oh, they’re the ones that got away. Màthair and I will hunt them down later.”
Horror filled Angela’s eyes as she stared at her sister. “I thought you and Mother were going to be good! You’re even worse than she used to be!”
“What are you talking about?” Wisp asked, clearly confused.
“You monster! How could you hunt down all those people like that?! You’re supposed to have been human!”
“What?” Wisp asked again, before everything sank in. “Oh! Those aren’t people, they’re vampires. Vampires kill people, so my friends and I kill them.”
“And why do you get to decide that an entire race deserves to die?” Angela demanded. “How are you any better than the humans that think that all gargoyles should be killed?”
“Simple, people think we’re evil, but we know vampires are,” Wisp said. With a sigh, she slumped down. “Look, I know I’m not going to convince you right now, and you will never convince me, so let’s just drop it for now, okay? I’ve got some stuff I need to show the Clan, and vampires are part of it. I don’t want to ruin our relationship over something like this, especially when we're both right, given our world views.” Standing up, she ruffled her wings a little before saying, "Come on, we might as well get back."
"Yes, I suppose that would be best," Angela agreed.
"Crap! I forgot the victims!" Wisp exclaimed, turning back to the roof access. "We can't just leave them here!"
"Victims?" Angela asked as she quickly followed her sister into the building. "What victims?"
In a deep, dark cavern, a man wearing a white collar struggled ineffectually against his bonds. "What do you people want from me?" When his blindfold was roughly removed, he had to wonder at the scene before him. On a raised slab, about waist height, there lay a girl, probably no older than ten, with a little bit of blood on the corner of her mouth. "Please tell me you're not a bunch of quacks trying to do a ritual from a White Wolf book," he pleaded. "It didn't work the last five times I've been kidnapped, and I doubt this'll be any different,” he added.
"Well, Pops, you're in luck, then," Spike said, pushing the priest forward. "Don't have any books here. My Dru's making it up as she goes."
"That's even worse!” the priest complained. “And what are you trying to accomplish, bringing me down here to be sacrificed with this little girl?"
"Don't worry 'bout that," the blond vampire advised. "Dru said to not 'arm you, so you'll be free to go when we're done with you."
"And the girl?" the clergyman demanded.
Spike shrugged. "Not sure what'll 'appen to 'er," he admitted. "She'll still be alive, at least. I think. More than I can say for the 'bit's sister." Slicing through the priest's bindings with the nails of his right hand, the peroxide blond shoved him forward towards the table. "Now, Pops, all you've got to do is recite the prayer to that St. Michael bloke, and you'll get out of 'ere alive."
"Why do you need the 'Oratio ad Sanctum Michael?'" the priest asked, not seeing how a prayer to the patron saint of warriors would tie in with anything involving a young girl and a severely hypothermic man. The man should be unconscious by now at the very least.
"'Ell if I know." Pointing to the girl, he commanded, "Go start praying. I'll be over there, trying not to burn.."
"Fine," the priest sighed, making his way over to the girl. "Here's your prayer." Softly resting a hand on the girl's head, he intoned, "Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude. Amen."
"'Ey, mate, thanks," Spike said, walking back over to the priest, smoking slightly. On his way over, he flicked a switch, causing some overhead exit lights to turn on. "'Ere, follow those and you'll be right as rain, you will. I've got me some things to do now, so see yourself out, 'ear? And leave the nibblet. My Dru would not be 'appy if I 'ad to find 'er again." The priest shakily nodded, having not expected a bright green flash during the prayer, especially not with a queer undertone he couldn't describe and that reminded him of his foray into metaphysics before he joined the clergy, and slowly made his way out of the chamber, finding himself emerging in one of the cemeteries.
Down on the stone slab, Dawn slept.