November 29, 1864
Tonóéva, the Season of Falling Leaves, had ended and Aénéva, the Season of Snows, had begun. The wind blew bitterly cold. Nonoma’e’e, Thunder Woman, lay on ground that was hard with frost. Blood ran from her wounds and soaked into the earth. A .69 caliber ball from a 12-pounder mountain howitzer shell had severed her spinal cord and she could not move her legs or lower body. She could turn her head to see the corpses lying all around, see the Long Knives killing, and see them mutilating the bodies of the fallen. She could hear the shots, and the screams, and Vó’kaa’e Ôhvó’komaestse singing his death song.
“Nothing lives long except the Earth and the mountains. Nothing lives long…”
She heard the crack of a rifle shot and saw Vó’kaa’e Ôhvó’komaestse, White Antelope, fall on his face in front of the teepee. The two flags presented to the tribe by Major Wynkoop cast their waving shadows upon the body of the old chief.
She could not see her teacher Éne’evávoomóho, He Who Watches Them, the man from the Grandmother’s Land; but she could hear his voice raised in anger.
“You bloody, murdering, bastards! Barbaric idiots! So this is how the army of the United States honors a peace treaty and a white flag? Your men are savages, sir, murderous butchering savages.”
White Ghost Captain added his voice to that of He Who Watches Them, berating the Vé’ho’e commanding officer, but the man only laughed.
“Kill them all,” he shouted to his men. “Kill the squaws, kill the children. Nits make lice!”
Nonoma’e’e lay still. Her Beaumont-Adams revolver, given to her by He Who Watches Them, had fallen from her hand when she was hit and had bounced far out of her reach. Her steel axe and her stake were still in her teepee for she had not thought that she would need them in the camp, when the sun was already rising, and there had been no time to return for them. She had slain only one Long Knife before the cannon shell had exploded beside her. It was a poor tally for the girl who had slain the Iron-Skin Ogre, and Méhne the River Monster, and many Taa’eveameohtseo’o, Night Walkers. Perhaps there might be a chance to add more before she died. To do so she would have to play dead until the Vé’hó’e soldiers came close.
Come close they did. First they fell upon Pavooma’e, Good Robe Woman, who was crawling away nearby. They struck her upon the head with the butt of a rifle. One turned her over and then cut open her belly with his sword. Another cut off her fingers.
Others moved on to Nonoma’e’e. She stared at nothing and did not move her eyes as one bent toward her. As he came within reach she thrust up with her hand, and caught his throat, and wrenched. She tossed his dead body aside and grabbed for another. She heard a bang, and felt something strike her chest, and her hand fell back without reaching its target.
She could see only darkness now. The power of the Slayer would leave her, and go to another, and He Who Watches Them or his brothers would teach that girl as he had taught her. She hoped that it would be another girl of the Tsétsêhéstâhese, the People, who could use the power to wreak vengeance upon the Vé’hó’e for this…
She died. Her eyes stared sightlessly up at the men who sliced at her with her knives. She felt nothing as they took her scalp, cut away the hair between her legs, and severed her breasts. She did not see He Who Watches Them shed tears and utter bitter curses.
One thousand five hundred miles away, in Virginia, a girl named Lucy Hanover heard a voice in her head saying ‘Are you ready to be strong?’- - - - -One hundred and thirty seven years later…- - - - -
“Osiris!” Willow called. She winced at the pain from the mystical gashes that were appearing on her arms and her incantation faltered. She paused for a moment, gasped for breath, and then continued. “The warrior of the people. Let her cross over.” She shrieked in sudden agony.
“She needs help!” Xander cried.
“Xander, she’s strong. She said not to stop, no matter what. If we break the cycle now, it’s over.” Tara bit her lip and stared anxiously at Willow.
Anya cocked her head. “What’s that noise?” The distant roaring sound distracted the others for only a moment. All eyes returned to Willow as she began to vomit snakes.- - - - -
In Kiowa County, Colorado, a fragment of bone vanished from the bed of Sand Creek. Another fragment, that had supported part of the roof of a marmot’s burrow, suddenly was not there any more, and the rodent squeaked in alarm as dirt rained down upon its head. A tobacco pouch made from a human breast, part of a grisly collection of barbaric trophies kept in a back room at the Smithsonian Institute, disappeared.- - - - -
Xander laid Willow down with her back against a tree. “Willow? Willow? You okay?”
Willow opened her eyes. “Did it work?”
Xander shook his head. “I’m sorry. I guess those demons jinxed it. The urn of cirrhosis, it, uh...”
“The urn of Osiris?”
“Yeah. It got kind of… broken.”
Willow gulped. “Broken? But… it can’t be.”
“Hey, we’ll get another,” Xander said. “Anya will get back on the web…”
Willow closed her eyes. “No,” she whispered. “There are no more. It’s all over. Buffy’s gone. She’s really gone.”- - - - -
She was not there, and then she was. Nonoma’e’e opened her eyes wide. It was dark. There were strange noises. Smells. She stood on grass. The wind was warm. A stone rose from the grass beside her. It was smooth, and flat, and had been shaped by tools. There was enough light for her to see that signs had been carved into the stone. The letter symbols of the Vé’hó’e. He Who Watches Them had taught her the meanings of the signs, or some of them, but she could not understand the message.
‘Buffy Anne Summers. 1981 – 2001. Beloved Sister. Devoted Friend. She saved the world a lot.’
Nonoma’e’e turned away. She did not know where she was, or why, but she could sense that nearby there was battle. That was where she, the warrior of the People, belonged. She aimed toward the source of the loudest of the strange noises in the distance and began to run.- - - - -
In the lands of the Vé’hó’e the teepees were made of stone. Mo’ôhtavetoo’o, Black Kettle, had told them this when he returned from those lands and spoke of how the Vé’hó’e were too powerful for the People to fight. He Who Watches Them had spoken of even greater wonders. The Vé’hó’e teepees that Nonoma’e’e had seen with her own eyes, at Fort Weld and Fort Lyon, had been of wood but she knew that stone teepees existed. She did not feel alarmed when she saw them in front of her. Nonoma’e’e gazed upon the road of black stone, and the strange wagons that stood upon it, and she was not afraid.
She saw a strange beast of iron. Smaller than a horse it was, but it roared louder than Náhkôhe the bear, and it bore a rider upon its back. Not a man, not even of the Vé’hó’e, but a Heávohe. A demon.
She did not recognize the type of the Heávohe. It did not matter. It fell from its steed when she sprang upon it, and its neck snapped under her fingers, and it died. The beast ran on for only a few feet without its rider and then it fell over on its side and ceased its roaring.
No. Not a beast. It had wheels. It was a small wagon that needed no horses and neither did it need rails of iron. Another marvel of the Vé’hó’e. Nonoma’e’e looked at it for only a few seconds and then turned her attention to the dead Heávohe. Did he have weapons that she could use?
Indeed he had. A knife of steel. She tested its edge on the neck of her fallen foe. The knife was sharp and the head came free almost immediately. This Heávohe would not rise again. She stood and moved on.- - - - -
There were many Heávóh’e assembled. The largest of them stood in the center of the group and spoke in the tongue of the Vé’hó’e. “A symbolic act commemorating the new order around here,” he said, “and ridding ourselves of any not-so-pleasant reminders of the old.” He held up a gun. A pistol with a revolving cylinder, similar to her Beaumont-Adams, which would be a great prize. Nonoma’e’e quickened her pace.
The chief of the Heávóh’e placed something into the cylinder of the gun and pushed the cylinder into position in the frame. She did not see him positioning a percussion cap but the way he held the pistol changed. He acted as if it was ready to fire. There were rifles that used cartridges of metal, containing the percussion cap within the cartridge, and perhaps this pistol was the same. She would act as if that was the case. Not to do so would be foolish.
The Heávóh’e had a prisoner. A Vé’ho’á’e woman with yellow hair. There were metal chains fastened to her wrists and ankles. She would be tortured, for Heávóh’e were crueler even than the Vé’hó’e – or at least as cruel – and they lived to inflict pain. Yet the woman did not seem to be afraid.
The enemy chief spoke again. Nonoma’e’e did not wait to hear what he said or to give him a chance to see her and fire his pistol. She threw the knife. It struck him under the chin, and the blade sank in to the hilt, and he staggered back. The pistol fell from his hand. Nonoma’e’e marked where it fell and ran forward.
A smaller Heávohe stepped in front of Nonoma’e’e. She smote it with her clenched fist and knocked it down. She ran on.
Another punch. A kick. She ducked under a blow from a Heávohe wielding an axe and seized his arm. A wrench, a tug, and the Heávohe had a broken arm and Nonoma’e’e held the axe. For the first time since she had emerged from her teepee in the camp on Sand Creek, and had seen the Long Knife soldiers approaching, a smile came to the lips of Nonoma’e’e. None could match her in the use of an axe.
Or a pistol. She struck out at a Heávohe who sat astride a two-wheeled iron beast, killing him as he bent to grab at one of the prisoner’s chains, and then she reached the gun dropped by the biggest of the Heávóh’e. She snatched it up, aimed, and pulled the trigger.
Her deduction about the metal cartridge had been correct. Flame spurted from the barrel. The recoil was powerful, even more so than that of the Beaumont-Adams, but it was no problem for her Slayer strength. She changed targets and fired again. And again, and again, until six shots had been discharged and the gun was empty.
Yes. The Heávohe had carried it with the hammer resting on an empty chamber, as was a sensible precaution, and the bullet that she had seen him inserting had been to bring the pistol to its full capacity of six. She noted that for future reference even as she killed.
The chieftain was not dead, only wounded, and he pulled out the knife from his throat and cast it away. His fingers ended in metal claws that resembled blades and he used them to attack. Nonoma’e’e struck him with the pistol barrel, for the gun was of fine solid construction like the Beaumont-Adams and would not break like the Army Colts of the Long Knives, and then chopped down on his head with the axe. Now he was dead.
There would be three of the enemy remaining, by her count, and she turned to attack one of those. It would not be necessary. The prisoner woman had wrapped her chains around the neck of that Heávohe and was strangling it. Her strength must be great for the Heávohe could not break free. Nonoma’e’e dipped her head to acknowledge the woman’s prowess and then charged at the injured Heávohe from whom she had taken the axe. He fell at a single blow. Only one of the enemy remained, and he was fleeing on an iron beast, and so Nonoma’e’e threw the axe. That was the end of the battle.
The captive woman unwrapped her chains from the neck of her dead foe and smiled at Nonoma’e’e. “Hello,” she said. “You’re naked. I mean, really.”- - - - -
Nonoma’e’e recovered fifteen cartridges and a holster for the pistol from the body of the dead Heávóh’e chieftain. She loaded the pistol with five metal bullets, leaving one chamber empty for the hammer to rest on, and she carried the remaining ten in a pouch. The holster was worn at the shoulder, which seemed strange to her, but its straps would fit in no other fashion and so she followed suit. A belt stripped from one of the fallen held the knife and the axe.
She would not wear clothes taken from the Heávóh’e. They were unclean things and, even though it was not fitting for a girl of the Tsétsêhéstâhese to be naked in public, being unclad was the lesser evil. Perhaps she could obtain clothing from the girl whom she had rescued.
The very strange girl. Nonoma’e’e had never met a Vé’ho’á’e of anything close to her own age before, and had spoken only a few words to the older Vé’ho’á’e at the forts, but she had never imagined that they might behave like this.
“My name is Buffy,” the girl said. “I Slay vampires. What is your name?”
“Nonoma’e’e,” the Tsétsêhéstâhese girl replied. So this Vé’ho’á’e was the Slayer who had been Called after her death? That explained the strength and the lack of fear.
“I am not programmed with that name,” said the girl called Buffy. “Say it again so that I can record it.”
“Nonoma’e’e.” Programmed? What was that word? He Who Watches Them had not taught it to her. She complied with the request nonetheless.
“Thank you, Nonoma’e’e,” the Vé’ho’á’e Slayer said. She spoke the name perfectly. It had taken days for He Who Watches Them to be able to do the same. “You need clothes. I am injured and need to be repaired. I am programmed to go to Willow when I need repair. My homing device locates her when I am injured. Willow is moving. I can not predict an accurate interception course. There are clothes at home. Willow will go home. If we go home we will find Willow.”
“I need clothes,” Nonoma’e’e agreed. “I will go to your home with you.”
“Your voice is strange,” said the Vé’ho’á’e girl. “It’s hard to understand you. I’m not very good at things like that. Willow will understand. Willow will repair me.” A huge smile suddenly appeared on her face. “Spike will be at home. You will like Spike.” She spun around and began to walk away. Her gait was awkward and unsteady. There was no sign of any blood but her statement that she was injured was obviously correct.
Nonoma’e’e followed her. There did not seem to be anything else to do. She did not know where she was, or where to find her people – those who had survived – or the way to Fort Lyon. Once she had clothes she would find out those things. And then she would go to Fort Lyon and kill many Vé’hó’e soldiers.- - - - -
The inside of the stone teepee was very strange. It was full of things that Nonoma’e’e did not recognize. She could make no guess as to their purpose. There were rooms up above the ground, reached by steps serving the same purpose as ladders, and it was up those unfamiliar steps that the Vé’ho’á’e girl led her.
“You are taller than any of us,” said the girl Buffy. “Tara’s clothes are the longest. I will give you those. Tara is nice.”
“Good,” said Nonoma’e’e. She accepted the items that Buffy handed to her but could only stare at them. These were clothes? Where did they go? Then Buffy gave her a garment that she could recognize. A cloth dress that was similar in shape to a Vó’aehnoestôtse. Nonoma’e’e removed her belt and holster and donned the dress. It was tight across her shoulders but not by so much that it would hamper her in a fight.
“You’ve forgotten the bra and panties,” Buffy scolded her.
Nonoma’e’e did not understand. Eventually the meaning became clear. They were clothes to be worn under the dress. The panties were easy enough but the other garment, the ‘bra’, was impossible. She threw it down and donned the dress once more. “Thank you, Buffe’e.” She fastened the belt around her waist, replaced the holster under her left arm, and tucked the edged weapons into the belt.
“Willow is approaching,” Buffy said. “She will service me. I was close to systems failure and was unable to disengage from combat.”
There was a noise from the lower level of the stone teepee. There was a scraping noise, and footsteps, and wood striking against wood. There were voices.
“Don’t care what you bloody thought you heard, Bit. You go running off into danger like that again and I’ll rip your sodding head off one-handed and drink from your brain stem.”
“It’s Spike!” Buffy exclaimed. That wide smile appeared on her face once more. “He’s back. And he’s brought Dawn.”
Nonoma’e’e pulled the axe from her belt. There was an unmistakable sensation in her stomach. The being that had entered the stone teepee was not a man. He was a Taa’eveameohtse. A Night Walker. Vampire.
The enemy.- - - - -
Disclaimer: the characters in this story (other than Nonoma’e’e) do not belong to me but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.