Chapter 7 Reflections
Heights had never really bothered Xander. That was a good thing, as he was currently suspended hundreds of feet in the air over a rich green land. Hearing a chattering behind him, he turned and smiled at the winged skeleton holding him up. "Yes, it is beautiful," he acknowledged with a smile. Down below, villages dotted the land, smoke rising from chimneys. There was no sign of trouble, though he could see small patrols of soldiers on horseback. Their bright hair gleamed in the morning sun. Up ahead, there lay a castle, towers shining. All in all, it was a beautiful sight.
The Skeleton circled and came down on one of the battlements. Xander looked over the countryside, so achingly familiar, even though he had never been there before. "So strange, and yet, I feel like I know this place." He looked down at the courtyard, watched as a slender, beautiful man with long gray hair ran away from a young woman.
"Yes, you do," his thoughts were interrupted. He turned to face the stranger, his old friend. Sir Conrad smiled at him. "But you should not be here right now. The chaos magic reincarnated you far to early; you are already here." He pointed into the courtyard.
Xander followed his gesture to a young man on horseback. Out of all the many colors of hair he could see, the young man was the only other with black hair. He was wearing what looked to be a Japanese schoolboy's uniform. "That's him, huh? So young to have such a burden placed on him."
His companion snorted, looking at him with a grin. "And you are so much older and wiser? You both have seen and done things far beyond your years. Still, you are too early to be here. That time may not come for a thousand years, if he is lucky." He nodded towards King Yuuri. "I'm not sure the castle would survive TWO of you here."
Xander just laughed. "That would definitely be confusing. And I sure wouldn't want to deal with Wolfram." He smirked. "How are they getting along now?"
"Not too bad. They are still bickering, but that seems to be a permanent thing." Conrad smiled, and then sighed. "You'll have to go back. Just remember, the multiverse is infinite. There are more destinations than you can imagine. Just remember that when the time comes, and choose your own path. And don't forget us."
Suddenly, Xander's vision grew white, and he started to sway. He fell forward, but instead of the hard stone, he hit...a pillow? He groaned in realization. Just another dream. He'd been having more of them since that Halloween, mostly of Yuuri's life, but this one was different. He'd never been himself there, and no one had addressed HIM directly before. Strange. Well, it was the Hellmouth, and stranger things DID happen, but if he was going to start getting prophetic dreams like Buffy, he'd darn well find someone to make a complaint with. Or maybe he'd find Ethan Rayne the next time he showed his face and beat him up, just because.
He smiled, reflectively. His last year at high school had been very different from before. Sure, it hadn't been all hugs and puppies; there was danger, lots of scary moments, and angst. Despite Buffy's efforts to put on a brave face and smile through the pain that first day Kendra arrived, she hadn't immediately gotten over her loss. If not for Kendra, and having the support of the group, Xander was worried that she might have bailed on them.
Hmm, Kendra. Now THAT was a shock, having two Slayers. As time went by, the gang had slowly begun to adjust to her presence. Sh was a great buffer for Buffy; they tended to balance each other out. Each brought something the other lacked: Kendra brought discipline, while Buffy brought life. Kendra taught Buffy more respect for their calling, while Buffy showed her the life she could have beyond the night. They complemented each other and together became stronger. That's not to say that Buffy suddenly became serious, or that Kendra started ditching patrol for the Bronze, but together, they shied away from some of the extremes.
Kendra also brought a sense of peace to the group. Having a neutral outside opinion of the Angelus affair helped the group set aside any resentments still harbored towards Xander. At the same time, she made sure to rip him a new one over his carelessness. Her devotion to protocol and proper information gathering and exchange had Giles beaming.
Of course, all this positive group mentality hadn't left them with swelled heads about how great they were. They still had their little failures, most notably that Deputy Mayor, Fitch or Finch, whatever his name was. Who could believe the luck with that? The dude tried to bring information to sell out the Mayor, and nearly got killed by a vampire hit squad. Then, in the fight, Buffy grabbed him and tossed him to Kendra, to get him out of the way. Fortunately, Kendra could tell the difference between a human and a vampire. Boy, the look on her face when she chewed out Buffy over her carelessness! Her accent had gotten thicker and thicker, until all they could understand was the emotion behind it. Her actions had almost gotten a man killed.
Well, at least it hadn't been the girls that had killed him. Unfortunately, the guy had not exactly been in the greatest of shape, add to that the sheer terror of the vamp attack, and being thrown around...the stress on his heart had simply been too great. By the time the girls had finished off the vamps, he was on the ground clutching his chest and wheezing. According to the girls, his last words had been "It's the Mayor...he's...be careful." Ironic, that. The first time in his life he tries to do the right thing, and it gets him killed. Xander couldn't really get up much sympathy for the man, though. He had chosen the life he had led, and had no one else to blame.
At first, they were uncertain as to what kind of threat the Mayor posed. They only had a few bits and pieces to follow up on. Kendra the research maverick had been the one to find the first clue. Being an outsider, she was the one to realize the fact that there had never been a mayoral election, which had led to the discovery of Mayor Wilkins the First, Second, and Third, who, surprisingly enough, all looked identical in their news photos.
Mayor Wilkins, the First, Second and Third, over a hundred years old and still going on strong. A man who, according to the Books of Ascension they had temporarily possessed, was going to attempt to ascend to a 'higher' state of being by eating, of all things, giant spiders. Now THAT was an unusual meeting when they'd found that out.
* * *
"Ok, so it says here that a warlock or demon sorcerer may ascend to the status of a true demon by following a very specific ritual. Some of the steps include...ew! He has to eat a bunch of giant spiders from some mystical box." Willow shuddered. "Oh, and the ritual culminates on a day when the sun goes dark."
"So, I'm thinking an eclipse?" Xander asked. "And what do they mean by a true demon? We fight demons all the time. What's so special about this one?"
Kendra stood up. "What we fight here are not de true demons. In de beginning, when man firs' drove out de demons, dose were de true demons. De last of de Old Ones, de true demons, mixed his blood wit' a human, and dat's how de demons of this world came to be. Dey are not completely demon, dey are all partly human. De true demons are nothing like what we face."
Everyone looked at each other, growing quiet. "Well, if what we fight aren't real demons, what's a real demon like? and how do we kill it?" Cordelia was being sensible for once.
With a sigh, Giles held up a book, open to a picture of a snake. "The last time that an Ascension was completed, this was the result."
"Ok, a snake. Why would anyone want to be a snake? Anyway, why don't we just kill him before he ascends? Or Kendra and I can chop off his head after he does." Buffy was unusually direct and to the point that day.
"Buffy, the problem with that scenario is that once he has started the ritual by consuming the spiders, the Mayor will be immortal until he ascends. Then, once he does, he will be on a scale far greater than can be handled with a sword. I believe the last time this particular demon was seen on Earth, it took a volcano to destroy him." Giles sighed and shook his head.
"Right, ok, so no mayor assassination and no swords. Anybody got any other ideas?"
Everyone except Oz shook their heads. After a moment's reflection, he offered, "Hummus."
* * *
With the exception of the hummus suggestion, there had been no ideas that day. While they did live in California, the possibility of creating a volcano or earthquake was not exactly possible. And if that was their only solution, they were toast. Fortunately, a bit of Giles' Ripper years had come through in a pinch. Having lived in England for years with the threat of IRA bombings, he had made the suggestion of creating their own version of the inside of a volcano. The biggest problems had been figuring out when and where to put it, as well as how to lure him close enough to barbecue him.
The easiest problems to solve had been the when and where. A simple check of the calender had showed that the next eclipse would be on graduation day. Hmm...graduation day, big hungry demon needing a big snack, yep, life sucked. They couldn't even have a normal graduation without some supernatural ugly joining in the party. Well, they'd deal with that when the time came.